a system that controls the flight of a spacecraft with little or no human intervention; any system or technology for the unsupervised control of a vehicle, environment, etc.
Snap and I were in control of the ship. For temporary periods the automatics would handle the gravity-shifters. I could operate them here from the turret.
‘Fire!’ And the ship roared sharply up and out of the asteroid belt, its powerful rocket engines—designed to move twenty times the weight of the scow alone—straining to drag the ponderous cargo hulk behind it. Soon the initial speed lessened, and they were roaring along at an easy thousand K. P. S. The captain rose and set the automatics; tried to shake some of the blood from his legs into his head. He could rest now.
The prompt reaction of the automatics in rolling back every floor, and plunging every person into the deceleration chambers of each section—that saving reaction was abruptly augmented as the deceleration chamber was flooded by a special type of gas.
‘Why was the door open with the gas on?’ ‘I told you—we were checking the intakes. If you close the door, it starts the automatics. Then you can’t get it open till the cycle’s finished.’
Thus far, it was routine homecoming for a starscout. It was only when the BB-3 entered the detector field that the automatics on the scanner-satellite stations began to shrill the alarms for human help.
It is conceivable, of course, that a planet might be asleep at the switch. We could believe it, I suppose, if it seemed that the first-choice planet somehow didn’t pick the ship up when this longliner came into radar range. In that event, of course, it would orbit once or twice on automatics, and then select for its first alternate target—which it did.
He was tense but completely confident. Better brains than his—brains of metal and crystal and flashing electron streams —were in charge of the Centaurus now. If necessary, he could take command, but he had never yet lifted a ship manually and never expected to do so. If the automatics failed, he would cancel the takeoff and sit here on Earth until the fault had been cleared.
I rolled off the belt and looked around. The whole space was packed with automatics; the Blue Tower was a self-sufficient city in itself. I recognized generators, heat pumps, air plants. None of them were operating. The city services were all still functioning, apparently. What it would be like in another ten or twenty years of anarchy was anybody’s guess. But when the city systems failed the Blue Tower could go on on its own.
Meshler gave an exclamation and thumped a fist against one of the dials on the board. Its needle quivered a fraction but did not turn. Then he went to work, snapping levers, pushing buttons. There was no answering alteration in their course. ‘What’s the matter?’ Dane was enough of a flitter pilot himself to know that the craft was now acting as it if were locked on automatics, on a set course, and that the ranger could not break to hand control.
She said, ‘The gate’s shut already!’ He peered ahead, instinctively accelerating the truck. The gate was indeed closed. Flipping off the automatics, he steered the truck until its nose was thrust hard against the wire-shielded pole now barring the gateway.
The Femocrat ship has delayed deceleration. Projections show they’ll have to pull a steady four gees when they begin, which will bring them here within six weeks. Probably keeping most of their personnel in Deep Sleep and doing it either with automatics or a volunteer skeleton crew.
‘Put on the rescue beeper,’ Pyanfar said, thrusting that dire news to a far recess of her mind. ‘The Pride can home on it. Let her automatics take you.’
And it means that O.J. won’t insist on putting the flyer on illegal manual control when they go home; Cassie is terrified without the automatics, especially after dark, and terrified that they’ll be caught; it makes her furious that O.J. complains about the potential for disgrace when she doesn’t come out first in some trivial social competition like being best-dressed, and then risks the total disgrace of being arrested for endangerment of traffic and flying under the influence of controlled substances.
The space ships were now on automatic in their stable orbits. Not much fuel was required for the occasional adjustments but to deprive the automatics of that little would be disastrous at some future time when the uncorrected orbits decayed and the ships plunged as burning meteorites on to Pern’s surface.
Working on the principle that whatever can go wrong will, I have been weighing up the possibilities that our house automatics have rusted into a single unusable mass, crumbled to a fine powder or unexpectedly declared themselves sentient, necessitating the destruction by fusion warheads of our entire house, Sept and possibly planet.
Last modified 2021-09-21 15:23:47
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.