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I have the idea to have the engineer of a spaceship discover a "microfracture" in the ship's key structural framework (that was overlooked when prior battle damage was fixed) that has been slowly getting worse every time the ship "jumps" (you know, enters warp, FTL, crosses out of normal space, whatever you wanna call it). This means that the ship is stuck, and can no longer jump without risking the ship ripping itself apart. This microfracture was small and in a difficult to detect area, so the shipyard that fixed the ship didn't notice it, and even though it's gotten bigger, the only reason they found it was because the engineer is of a species that has heightened senses and noticed something off with the vibrations of the ship, especially during the last jump. I know I've given pretty basic details here, but does this sound plausible to you? And if not, what would make it work?

Edit: I should probably also mention that the ship's repairs were cut short. Half the weapons aren't even functional, for instance. Essentially, the people in charge decided that they couldn't spare a fully functioning warship for the task this crew gets sent on, so they rush the yard to just finish the "necessary" stuff, pull the ship out as soon as they can, and send it off understaffed. (yes, a terrible idea; yes, the ship's captain was furious). So this might help explain why the yard wasn't as thorough?

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closed as off-topic by JBH, Frostfyre, Cyn, Confounded by beige fish., bilbo_pingouin Mar 13 at 8:21

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding SE! Please take a look at the Tour! In regards to your question: As long as the problem is plausible in-story, there is no problem. If the reader thinks, "Hey, that's plausible", everything is fine. At the moment, I fear your question will be flagged as "Too broad", so maybe you can give us more details about your story? $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Mar 7 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's totally plausible. I don't know how your space jumping works and I don't really need to know - if the engineer tells me "the damn greasemonkeys at the port didn't do their damn jobs and didn't see a crack the size of their brains. Now we can't jump without risking the ship fucking tearing itself apart like their moms trying to get to the two all you can eat burger houses at the two sides of the milky way!" (all technical jargon, I assure you) I'm going to believe this engineer. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Mar 7 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ Given that an overlooked microfracture causing an unexpected delay in the deployment of the Manticoran battlecruiser Nike is a major plot point in David Weber's Short Victorious War, and the book sold several hundreds of thousands copies, I'd say that it is proven that the idea is acceptable. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 7 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ This is also called metal fatigue, and is a major cause of crashes of military aircraft in training exercises. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Mar 7 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ I apologize, but I must vote to close as too story-based (TSB). Our help center states, "When asking questions keep in mind that the goal of the site is to help you build your world, not to tell your story." I opted for TSB, but now that I think about it, I could have also voted to close as "not about worldbuilding" because you're not asking about a rule of your world or an application of a rule of your world. Worldbuilding (on topic) is about rules and systems. Storybuilding (off topic) is about circumstances - and this question appears to be asking about circumstances. $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 8 at 1:29
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Yes and no

Yes because this is the story of the de Havilland Comet, the first commercial jet airliner. Fractures developed around the windows that caused it to crash and several did so before they managed to trace the problem.

No because sensing the vibrations is something that's done as a routine part of maintenance, even old steam engines had someone whose job it was to tap all the wheels to listen for fractures.

Some fluke event that causes them to discover this problem, yes, but not something that could be considered under routine maintenance like vibration testing or sensitivity.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you can attribute the failure to detect the microfracture as a drop of the maintenance quality, something unfortunately more common than it should be. People cutting costs to save money, and having a ship parked costs money. $\endgroup$ – Stormbolter Mar 7 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ so, basically the vibrational effect of the damage to the structure would have to be a more recent development due to the damage being made worse by several "jumps" since it left the yard in order for this to be believable? The more noticeable effects the damage causes during jumps I think I can get away with since the ship didnt have time for any test jumps after repairs were "finished" (see my edit to the original post) $\endgroup$ – M. S. Frave Mar 7 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ @M.S.Frave, in that situation you could have half the crew running around looking for this problem after every jump because the (experienced) captain knows it's a risk after the ship has taken a big hit. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Mar 7 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix That's essentially what happens. The engineer realizes something is wrong and everybody runs around trying to find what until they finally locate the issue. The reason the engineer noticed first is that they have superpowers (to keep it brief) and even the more "noticable" effect during jump isn't really recognizable using normal human senses. I've been playing with having all the ship's general electronics be essentially useless during the immediate moment entering/exiting jump space, hence why it might not be possible to detect this issue with equipment at those points $\endgroup$ – M. S. Frave Mar 7 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ @M.S.Frave, I feel proactively looking for it is better than reactively looking for it but at that point you're into plot and character, so by the stack rules you're on your own :) $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Mar 7 at 9:53
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While I fully agree with Separatrix'answer, there's a wrinkle that I think is worth considering; scale.

If your ship is effectively some sort of small yacht or cargo carrier, like the space equivalent of a Ford Transit or Renault Trafic, then your engineer is far more likely to know the ship well and sense a vibration that could cause trouble.

If your ship is more like a massive cargo or personnel carrier, like the Exxon Valdez, then less so. This is not because the engineer's skill is lower, but simply because larger ships are going to have creaks and groans anyway, and identifying a creak that just happens to indicate a very small tear (which is now a MUCH lower percentage of the size of the ship) from the more conventional noises of microshifts in the structure is going to be much more difficult.

So, I'd argue that one of the key probability factors in being able to sell the plausibility of what you're describing would in fact be the size of the ship itself.

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Have the ship rip itself apart.

Being afraid something might break is kind of a wuss reason to be stranded. Having it dramatically break is a great reason to be stranded. They jump and their FTL drive keeps going. The ship falls out of hyperspace, minus the drive and some other parts.

You can have the engineer be sensitive. You can have the engineer warn the captain about the consequences of the micro fracture. "The ship canna take it, Captain!". Except the engineer is right.

Not your question, but I envision the engineer disappearing with the FTL drive and most of engineering when the ship breaks apart. If you need your stranded characters rescued, the engineer can show up at the end of the story with a ship it has built around the FTL drive.

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    $\begingroup$ The idea of the microfracture being exactly at the mount point of the FTL is nice, so the next jump, instead of the complete ship, only the drive jumps into Hyperspace, leaving the rest of the ship behind. This is of course only possible given some behaviour that the FTL drive normally takes everything physically connected to the drive onto the jump. $\endgroup$ – Markus Appel Mar 8 at 13:41
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Make it a micro fracture in the hyperdrive itself.

More specifically, make it a fracture in the mountings for one of the MacGuffin arrays (Named for engineer Michael MacGuffin, inventor of the Hyperspace Stabilisation Equations)

The fracture is tiny at first. Completely irrelevant to the operation of the ship. With each jump, though, the fracture widens, pushing the MacGuffin array further and further out of alignment until it's almost outside its design tolerances. After the last jump it is outside its tolerances, and any further attempt to jump without a brand new set of MacGuffin array mountings will result in the ships destruction.

Luckily for you one of your engineers has superpowers and can detect this misalignment simply by being close enough to the hyperdrive during the last jump. He picks up on it and one thorough drive diagnostic (involving several labour intensive manual checks and dismantling parts of the hyperdrive) later it is discovered that the MacGuffin array is now well outside of tolerance, and it's just blind luck that the ship made it this far.

"But why wasn't this picked up in the shipyard?" I hear you cry.

There are two reasons that work together:

1: That kind of drive check is hard to do, since it requires dismantling and then reconstructing the hyperdrive.

2: This kind of fault is the kind of fault that generally just blows up the ship on the first try, since it's very rare for misaligned MacGuffin arrays to be out by such a small amount that a jump can still be completed successfully.

With both those points in mind: Why would a rushed repair and refit job bother diverting resources to run a drive diagnostic on a drive that clearly worked well enough to get the ship to the shipyard?

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