Friday, April 6, 2018

Halfway to Nowhere

My latest creation -Operation Starfall: A Strange Mission Against Time, went live on RPGNow yesterday. Without giving too much away a Word War Two Special Forces team in the Aleutians comes across a space hopping and time hopping ship and must prevent it from falling into enemy hands (there's much more than that). It runs 87 pages with 21 pages of tactical maps of the ship, renders of machinery, weapons and gear -all for $5 American! Get it now before I become famous and popular and conceited and maybe will charge you $6!

Anyway one of the themes deals with a dodgy FTL drive. If you read this blog at all you know I love making up weird stuff to confound space travelers. Ghost ships, non-biological entities, wild psi talents. Part of it is because at the present time, FTL travel is wish fulfillment and, if you read any stories about wishes or ever got a wish in a roleplaying game, you know wishes always have a downside.

Andre Norton is also to blame (and Winchell Chung for reminding me of her). I cut my SF teeth on her Solar Queen stories and they had an impressive amount of spooky lore. My personal favorite the New Hope, a ghost ship always sighted by ships in dire distress, its 'deadlights' shining through eternity. No idea how ships that were lost got the message out about the New Hope showing up, perhaps they wrote it in their logs. 'Sighted the New Hope but confidence and morale remains ... Get it off! Get away!-aaaaagggh' (Got to love verbal transcripts in a horror setting.)

I'm also kind of into dieselpunk right now and I am sticking to a Solar System setting (not necessarily our Solar System or timeline) so taking an FTL leap would be the equivalent of helming your sailing ship towards the area of the map where they drew all those funky monsters.

Another share of blame goes to the glut of paranormal books that came out in the 70's and 80's. In one book (Atlantis Rising I think by Brad Steiger) I read about the Philadelphia Experiment.

So for all you people who started reading this and immediately said "Ahah! He saw Event Horizon!" Well, yeah, but this sort of stuff has gone on in my head for years before that. I think the latest contribution to the Science Unleashes Hell Upon Us All is the Cloverfield Effect; which I wanted to like dammit! But they should have subtitled it The God Awful Particle after the story (but I couldn't like it and they even had Roy from The IT Crowd in it, and I love Roy.)

So I invented the Halfway. The crew makes it halfway, not in terms of distance but in terms of returning to this Universe. Some are wraiths that are barely visible or shadows. Some got a fourth dimensional shuffle and returned as ... I'll let you find that out for yourself.

Of course with Stranger Things the idea of a twisted representation of our world, with inimitable life forms that makes their way here is almost mainstream. Stranger things is quite good and enjoyable but it is not original. Evil parallel worlds abound in SF, the most famous being Star Trek's Mirror Universe, but even Lost in Space had an evil Antimatter Universe. The Justice League had Earth Three, and you had Doom's Gateway to Hell at a research base.

Science deals with probing the Unknown in a rational manner. The Unknown however is under no obligation to be rational.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Dieselpunk Manifesto Part 13: River Dragons

This review deals with strips Buck Rogers strips 120-29 found  here.

Flying over the Mississippi near the ruins of Davenport, Buck is surprised by a ... well he says it better than I can:

Presented as written. Seriously Buck?

I think Buck and Wilma need some more couple time. Be that as it may he descends into the Dragons' underwater base. You have to admire the Han's civil engineering. A couple of scientists build an underwater base and two super weapons and support apparatus, all on the low down. Despite the danger descends ready for a scrap. Wilma even says it's terribly dangerous -I think she's screwing with Buck at this point and giving the Dragons a little payback for gassing her (this is the second time after all.)

Buck soon discovers that Morke Ka-Lono and Om Ka-Zoril were contrite about their little misunderstanding.

A kind word can get you far, a kind world and a brace of rocket pistols will get you even farther!

They quickly turn things over to a subordinate and move their really sweet gear and projects to the fort at Elmira the Americans have set up for them. I have to say they are two of the more respectable 'villains' I've read of. They keep to their word, make a savvy alliance and everyone winds up happy.

Consider: the Golden Dragons want to get rid of the Emperor, a democratic government and have no interest in troubling the Americans. The Americans want the Emperor gone and no more raids so everyone will be better off. Except that Emperor who is going to take it in the neck but considering he's a drunken would be rapist -who cares about him?

Seriously, the man set out an ongoing mission for the Han Air Force: you see any hot babes, you grab them for me! Probably even gave them a list of preferred looks.

Anyway: the two scientists are set up with automated sensors and defenses and presumably under Niagara's air defense grid so they can effectively moon the Emperor with impunity if they desire. A huge air fleet shows up (American) and a proper garrison. It's another sign that American might is growing. Over the next few days Buck and Wilma are brought into the Golden Dragon's network and taught many of their secrets. Everyone is having fun when MacGregor sends word electronically to return home as Niagara is in a grave crisis!

MacGregor explains that the city is overrun with spies. A treaty with the Navajo Orgzone is gone, a colonel whacked, and plans for the new super rocket gun have vanished! Apparently the Han have activated a very competent and large spy network. It is another sign that as I said there was some mixing of Americans and Han in cities on both sides.

Mac has thrown a air and ground guard around the city. No one is to be allowed out until those darned spies are caught! Buck and Wilma will do the catching of course. In fact their orders are to be instantly obeyed!

There's an initial setback in the form of a dagger thrown at the pair when they exit MacGregor's office. You have to wonder how the spies got word of these developments so fast. maybe they monitored Mac and knew he was sending for them or by this time the Mongols have standing orders to just kill Buck immediately. Anyway, it misses. Buck takes Wilma out the back way to avoid the crowds and a knife in the back.

Wilma seems visibly shaken. It was established in the past that she was a competent soldier and no card but unfamiliar with low tech weapons. Apparently she's fine facing disintegration or being blown to bits, but not getting shanked. The two make a leap to another building but Wilma falters and misses, plummeting to the streets far below and possible death. Maybe Buck should have given her a minute to get herself together? Leaping and rebounding between the buildings he grabs her and manages to grab a ledge. On the ground once again he goes looking for the assassin while Wilma goes home to lay down after nearly dying twice.

Wilma suffers from the eclipse syndrome common to most sidekicks here. She is weaker, slower and more timid when the hero is around otherwise the strip would be about her. there's also the 30's female stereotypes at work here.

Buck soon finds an ugly character and is about to question him (profiling pulp style!) when his suspicions are confirmed by another dagger whipped at him. You have to wonder what's with all these daggers? It's the 25th fracking century. Thrown daggers are not the most effective weapons, even in an expert's hands.  Buck ducks and then gives chase (maybe the spy is out of daggers?) The assassin boards a tube car and Buck grabs onto the car as the doors shut and is carried along!

The assassin gets off in an affluent suburb of Buffalo. Rogers trails him and is surprised by Lanlu!

Interestingly the Navajo Orgzone has a treaty with Niagara. Niagara is the big cheese but there are a number of org zones that are powerful or useful and the Navajo are one such independent entity. Also interestingly the Mongols steal plans for advanced rocket weaponry so they obviously feel the Americans have technology that the Han are vulnerable.

More importantly the Han are no longer openly attacking Niagara but instead seeking out weaknesses and using sabotage against the city state.

Next Time Buck encounters the head of the Niagara spy ring! Hilarity ensues (as well as some torture).

Friday, March 23, 2018

We Has Met the Enemy Part Three

The Martians had small attack saucers. These were force multipliers. A ship was limited in the number of turrets it could use effectively. Power was only one consideration, and not as big as some thought. The firing arcs were a major consideration. The bulk of a ship would allow only some turrets to fire at a fixed point, Getting all the turrets to fire at the same fixed point involved rolling the ship. This meant ships were accelerating, dodging and spinning during a fight. The more turrets the more spinning was involved. Plus turrets took up a nontrivial amount of mass for machinery to rotate the turret quickly and then stabilize it for a shot. The upshot was you mounted one turret per 1000-1500 cubic meters of hull. The Triumph class would have 12 triple speed launchers. A fighter would carry a single turret due to considerations of hull strength but you could carry a bunch of fighters in 1000-1500 as opposed to mounting a single turret.

Then there was the matter of ground support. Fighters were good at it and ships were not. Losing a fighter in support of ground troops was one thing, losing a destroyer or frigate another.

The days of miniature electronic brains were over (or not quite here yet, dieselpunk, remember). So fighters required a human brain and life support came with that. A body came with that too. The brain in a jar designs had a marked lack of volunteers for pilots. Life support systems were more efficient the larger they were. So were engines and weapons.But the image if brave fighter pilots holding the line caught the public imagination. To the electorate that meant votes, so there would be fighters and pilots.

Much of the electorate knew nothing off engineering. Space fighters were easy enough to knock out. Pilots were recruited. It was a fraction of the cost of the program to develop the Triumph battleships. The number of engineers involved was ... nontrivial. this was noticed when someone finally asked, "What are we doing for carriers?"

The solution was to have the Triumphs carry fighters. The two additional Triumphs being rushed to construction were marked for modification. Simple.

The engineers didn't think so. Carrying fighter meant either an open framework with racks for the birds to ride on or a large interior bay and probably both. this required a complete redesign.

At the Flying Dutchman expansions and upgrades were progressing rapidly. The Martians thought the Earth people were a bunch of energetic imbeciles and they did nothing very well, but even the dourest Martian had to admit that they worked fast. The Triumph was going to undertake her maiden voyage to the Flying Dutchman to show the flag and Admiral Buckner was pretty sure disaster would follow. No one was sure what the spark would be to touch of a Mars-Earth war but this looked pretty close. Additionally the Triumph would arrive without fighter escort. There were delays in transporting the craft to the Belt.

The Flying Dutchman had some fighters: Thunderhead class, air space superiority craft. They might even reach Mars if you sent a propellant bus with them. they had wings that were just wasted mass unless you were hitting a target under atmosphere.

This fact was not lost on the Martians either.

Admiral Buckner called in Megan Detwiller and asked if she could arrange fighter escort for the Triumph.

Megan replied that she could. Just send the Triumph's course and schedule to the Martians and they would be sure to send plenty of fighters after the Triumph. Megan was working 36 hour days lately, lost her last scrunchy, and had taken to wearing her electric slide rule in her hair.

Admiral Buckner's reply was spirited and unprintable. So was Megan's response. Then the riot act was not read so much as broken over her head. Whatever they could do to help the Triumph along they, meaning she, would do. She was taken off all other projects. Besides it was time to see just how big a mess the Earth Defense Council made by ordering these fighters.

Megan fabbed up several models of the Triumph and a Thunderhead fighter and began examining docking strategies. Most were slightly less damaging than enemy fire. Clearly the Triumph would not play nice with smaller ships so much as sit on those attempting to dock. Then she had a drink. Then she had another. She was pretty much sold on the idea that docking a Thunderhead to a Triumph would be very hard on the fighter pilot but much harder on the battleship and in particular its Gamma outrigger pod. There were things in Gamma that did not react well to collisions.

They were the same things that were in the other three pods.

Nevertheless, a few hours later she was down in the canteen celebrating her brilliance. Admiral Buckner soon turned out because celebrating her brilliance apparently involved dancing on a table  and engaging in gyrations that her anatomy would find painful in a full gee field if she was sober.

Buckner got her off the table and called a bright young ensign to secure the engineer. The ensign inquired as to whether the engineer to be secured should be listed as: flammable, explosive, or volatile?

That got the ensign a dopeslap. The ensign left with Megan under one arm. That was grandstanding. In a tenth gee Megan could do the same with the ensign if she wasn't passed out and snoring softly.

Admiral Buckner swaggered over to Megan's office. It was hard to swagger in the low gravity but he managed it. She had to be happy about something. He found it, right after he found the empty fifth.

The next morning Megan had a meeting with the Admiral who informed her she was being cut off since she was crazy enough cold sober. She admonished him for the 'Sensitive Material' label stuck open her behind. The admiral said he had a much shorter name for her. Several in fact. Then she showed him her work.

Basically she had chopped a meter off each wing of the Thunderhead. This was no mean feat, since the Thunderhead's engines were mounted on the wings as well as landing gear, antigravity drive stabilizers, control surfaces, antenna for sensors and vents for said engines.

Buckner did a little flying in his time. The thing looked like it could dock. The question remained, would it be able to do anything else?

Megan thought it would. You just needed a pilot bat shit crazy enough to be first to fly it.

There was no shortage of bat shit crazy pilots, Buckner replied. They were more common, and less trouble than bat shit crazy engineers. Buckner freed up a detail and armed them with hacksaws to modify a pair of Thunderheads. He also modified an ore hauler into a fighter tender (meaning it carried propellant, and could do little else for the fighters).

Megan noted that with all the problems the Earth Defense Council caused a hardening if the Space Fleet that made facing an off world enemy relatively simple. Then she went off to resume her hangover and be thoroughly sick.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Viva the Shuttles

Metal armored pontoons just sounds wrong. It did to the admirals and the Earth Defense Council.

The Earth's new Space Fleet needed shuttles though and Admiral Buckner's one time protege and now ally, Captain Destry of the Special Forces, was lobbying for this unlikely design.

The Viva (working name) was small, fast and easy enough to build. Four solium powered rocket engines would get her to orbit and fast. Breakthroughs in metalizing and crystalizing hydrogen led to newer safer methods of storing the solium. Larger ships refined and manufactured the stuff as it was needed. The shuttle didn't have the energy reserves for that.

The lack of a reactor meant the Viva had a more energetic re-entry than ships with anti-gravs (though not as terrible as the old chem engines the used re-entry to shed all their velocity). Instead of landing gear, the shuttles had pontoons for water landings and take offs.

That was the crux of the brass' misgivings. Would pontoons survive re-entry and be watertight afterwards?

Eventually, was the answer. Two prototypes had mishaps before the pontoons were sufficiently thick and sturdy enough to survive their rigors. It wasn't as difficult as it sounded. Wet navy battleships floated with heavily armored hulls. The pontoons were made of the same stuff as the rest of the hull (a little thinner). Most of the shuttle was taken up with liquid hydrogen and would float a while without the pontoons. They learned their lesson after they sunk one of the two prototypes.

Landing gear was harder to install and maintain than pontoons. Spaceports on Earth were almost all near bodies of water. The same was true of Venus and Mars (canals -remember? They fed to reservoirs in many areas.) Mercury and Luna were a problem,

Vivas could reach geo synch orbit or Luna with minimal cargo. A boat that could reach the Moon but not land was a problem. Using a separate lander would defeat the purpose of the Viva in the first place. Having a pool for landing and keeping it filled with water in a vacuum would be a neat trick. Older vessels had used paved strips with magnetic brakes installed underneath and some of the older Lunar engineers remembered them and had a fairly simple fix. Who said the pontoons had to land in water

Going meta for a moment, this is a possible forward ramp. I need a dorsal hatch as well and for docking. I've not yet channeled the VVA-14 fully. That may wind up considerably larger as some sort of patrol ship.
The Lunars reactivated several of the old strips with the magnetic brake devices and they were soon  covered in finely pulverized dust to a depth of several meters. The dust was fine enough to behave like a somewhat thick fluid. Dust was the bane of Lunar colonists for years and it felt good to get some use out of the stuff. Surprisingly it worked (metal pontoons, remember?) After a few remarks about 'smart-assed Lunars' the Mercurians followed suit.

There were some mishaps. Viva-367 struck a rock everyone missed, landing near Lunapolis. The pontoons had a self sealing feature. It sealed the pontoon and the Viva returned to Earth with a pontoon full of vacuum. this actually worked pretty well till it imploded and the shuttle floundered.

Viva's now have air pressure sensors in their pontoons preventing similar accidents. If the sensors are working. Such is life in space.

Monday, March 19, 2018

New Speeder

So I started with an image:

I couldn't find the original image. There was a series of abandoned Soviet installations and vehicles. It was the dead of winter in that photo and somewhat indistinct. So I filled in the holes (figuratively and literally). A lot of Soviet stuff looks sort of dieselpunk. Their mad science is legendary. 

I gave the poor bird wings and several engines. I was tired of antigravity. This bad boy was going to burn metallic hydrogen and be fast

I went with two versions to start. The one with the mirror canopy (left on top, right on bottom) has extended wings. These are racers. Given the power of the engines and the energy density of sodium (my unobtainium version of fuel) there are two main circuits, Trans Atlantic and Trans Pacific. As in you fly across one or the other.

Spacecraft use special antigravity fields to keep their rocket engines from melting. These speeders don't have that luxury. Instead as they race, they have to constantly watch engine temperature. They fly as close to the redline as possible and have a small quantity of liquid hydrogen onboard to use in emergencies. Or they can try to save it for a last dash close to the finish line.

There's more to be done of course, landing gear, control surfaces, lights, and greebles! I'm also toying with making this a modified shuttle for my battleship design.

I am not sold on the bubble in the back. Was it originally a turret? Observation dome? Should I just armor over it? It'll come to me. So rocket racing for your SF setting! Let's make this a thing. Also saw an interesting engine design I may use for inspiration when rendering my showy magical rocket engines.

Friday, March 16, 2018


We knew there were extrasolar planets out there. Mars, Earth, Luna, everyone wanted them without knowing why.

Slower than light was no good. An expedition had to go to another star and return while the administration that launched it was still in office. Preferably right before elections. Space had to be removed, folded, persuaded to GTFO of the way. Many people worked on it.

Then research announced a breakthrough, a drive that would could insure a landslide election victory and coincidentally cut down travel ties to the stars from centuries to weeks. Several ships were lost testing the Drive. That was bad enough. But then the Artemis returned. Some people thought that might be even worse.

The Luna was in range to make an intercept. We hung on for dear life as she shed velocity dumping it on Sol, Mars and Vesta, as her radiators glowed red under field drive. Her tactical rocket engines shed the last few kilometers per second of velocity difference and we came to rest a kilometer off. Normally the field drive would bring us even closer together but that was out if we had no idea what her drives would do.

Artemis didn't answer hails. Her interior lights were on and flickered. A search and rescue was ordered. Search and rescue team would consist of Tornado and me. I was a wormhole victim already and had skipped the last few centuries. therefore I was unlikely to recognize ordinary drive machinery, let alone the miracle machine they had plugged in over there. Moreover, like I said I had transited a wormhole already, just like Artemis. I might have some quality that would prove useful.

Tornado was a badass. Need I say more? Any hypothetical aliens over there had better be prepared to communicate in a polite fashion or T-man would hand them a first contact they'd never forget.

We'd rappelled (winched? pulley'd?) across the grapple cable and found the lowest deck open to space.  The entire lowest deck was an airlock. A sturdy metal door and an airtight hatch leading upward. We entered, floated to the deck and closed the hatch after fiddling about with the seals and making sure they wouldn't quit on us. The outer hatch had opened after all.

Nobody stopped us.

We pressurized the deck and opened the inner hatch. The gauges read 1/2 atmosphere, same as our suits and the airlock back on the Luna we'd run/float/climb to in a pinch. The hatch opened and we climbed the ladder, leaving our suits on and sealed.

I spent a bad moment or too wondering could there be things here that made wearing a space suit irrelevant? I got over my daydream quick. This was where the gravity field of the ship was generated. The deck we'd walked a minute before was now the overhead here as gravity reversed. My stomach did a small flip flop.

"Gravity is going ... about a half meter squared. Not too bad. No crew yet. But ... this deck is often left unscrewed in flight. It messes with your inner ear after a while."

So we climbed to the next deck: Power. No one there either. Or on the next deck, Machine Shop and Airlocks. Empty

That was what I told myself. They were empty. I had no idea what Tornado told himself.

The next deck was crew quarters and tornado allowed me a slap on the shoulder s and small smile. As we emerged his smile faded fast. The deck squished under our boots. The lights were on emergency mode: red lit. Tornado slipped a little in the uncertain footing. Then I got to the light switch and snapped on the normal lights.

It looked like ...

roadmaps? Each spread around a large red concentration or city.

Plastered on the deck and some walls but ...

the outline was of a person.

Blood vessels. We were walking on people's circulatory systems, the ones on the deck anyway. I froze and regarded the human wall decoration closest to me, embedded in the wall. Then its eyes opened.

Tornado was shaking me, roughly. You can't slap a person wearing a helmet and visor. Not well. He said softly but sternly, "Mr. Spooner ... Tyson. You just climbed a kilometer of cable with me in open space. I know you're not a coward or weak. We got eight more decks to check on. You gotta get yourself together. I can't drag you around."

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Let it loose slowly. It caught in my throat several times. I opened my eyes and said, "Ye-e-e-ah. If anyone made it back, we can't leave them here."

Tornado nodded. "Right. But these poor bastards ... didn't make it."

I shook my head, also not very well because of the helmet. I was watching those eyes. We couldn't even end their suffering with a bullet. Where was their brain?

"No,worse than that," I said. "They made it halfway."

Coming soon to a Alt-History near you!
Operation Starfall will detail a Special Forces team sent to investigate strange doings on a remote Aleutian Island. The team finds a mysterious derelict and must secure it from a Japanese landing force. except there are things aboard that do not want to be secured.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

We Has Met the Enemy Part 2

The work on the Triumph continued with some major hiccups. The structural engineers were not happy but they were never happy because a) they knew everyone should build spherical ships for the greatest hull strength, volume to surface ratio and b) after turning out a perfectly nice hull, the avionics, weapons, propulsion and operations monkeys just swarmed putting holes in it for avionics, weapons, propulsion, and operations (well airlocks mainly).

The propulsion group had a new greeble that carefully and forcefully adjusted the anti-gray for fine maneuvering. This could save many tons and dollars for a cold gas style reaction control system. This also led to a brief flare up of the old civil war between the reactionless and reaction drives departments.

The new greeble was a long probe mounted atop each outer pod with various vanes and panels extending. It seemed fine until the weapons team said the optimum placement of the missile turrets would be right under them. From her new HQ on an asteroid called Flying Dutchman Megan Detwiller got word of this, snorted and said it was a great set up as long as you didn't fire missiles forward or didn't care about the mother of all greebles.

The weapons division said the missiles could be jiggered to go around the panels and such. Fire them, they'd boost a little to the side, loop out, and come back on course!

The structural engineers laughed themselves sick and said there wouldn't be this sort of problem if you used a goddam sphere.

The weapons group got a surplus turret, mounted it on the Triumph, and fed it a bunch of their well trained sidestepping missiles. They fired eleven missiles and did well until missile number 12, which decided it was going to teach its creators some humility even at the expense of its own existence. Number 12 slammed right through a very expensive field variation panel, sending shrapnel through other panels and the main greeble. The structural engineers laughed their asses off yet again. For a while, the structuralists didn't get invited to any engineer parties. The Triumph's test crew, after losing stabilizers and having to shut down their engines to prevent a cascade failure, had rather harsh words for engineers in general.

"That poor greeble was just two weeks short of retirement!" -Megan Detwiller
Megan Detwiller was sent the video by a friend (probably one of those structural engineers) and remarked maybe they should have used a surplus greeble as well as a surplus turret? This led to one of the weapons guys calling her a name usually only used by women to refer to a woman and then behind closed doors. Megan Detwiller sent him a message daring him to call her that with less than a second's worth of time lag.

By then Admiral Buckner told the ground team to rotate the loving greebles so the loving panels were out of the loving way and stop sending these loving puerile messages and get back to their loving jobs, and the next idiot using such loving language on Ms. Detwiller, or anyone else, would get a senior officer's size 13 boot lodged where you'd need a loving medical probe to find it.

The Admiral didn't use the word 'loving' in the actual memo.

All four big mother loving greebles were detached, rotated to have their vanes face inward and rewired and remounted. About this time the operations team got into a fight with the weapons team because their wonderful extendable airlock extended right through one of the gun barrels shearing it off and wrecking the turret. The airlock was repositioned but it was still too close to the launcher in the view of the weapons team.

It was a design feature insisted the operations team. A final defense against boarding actions. Sometimes property had to suffer for principles. The structuralists said the way the guns were positioned they were also a pretty good defense against a mutiny and a swell self destruct system at no extra cost!

Some people traced that last comment back to Megan Detwiller which did not help, but eventually a compromise was reached. They moved the turrets.

This also was not nearly as easy as they thought. The weapons engineer issued an apology to Detwiller. Detwiller issued a kiss to Admiral Buckner that merely bent protocol. Then she got back to work and began mounting anti-grav drives on truly huge chunks of ice and rock.

The project was a simple one. Earth needed a number of secure fueling depots to support actions against Mars and to allow further exploration of the outer Solar System. Defending those bases was a whole budget issue. defending earth and Luna was the highest priority and the Belt was regarded as a backwater, even though it could easily hold the key to strategic operations against Mars.

Earth ships battling at Mars would have to go about 200 million kilometers to return to Earth for more propellant, spares and repairs. An asteroid base (or three really) would that down by half or more. this could save lives and definitely saved propellant used in avoiding missiles, beams and other hostile emissions.

The planners were the same people who didn't understand Megan Detwiller's explanation of mass ratios and delta vee a few weeks earlier.

Megan's solution, supported by Admiral Buckner, was to fit a number of icebergs with anti-grav drives and position them in various 'easy to reach' orbits. Each 'depot' would have a small engine, reactor, basic mining equipment and a fuel refinery plant. Aside from a few short bursts of energy and heat when they boosted into an orbit they would have virtually not heat or EM signal and would probably stay secret till earth had need of them and could defend and upgrade them.

It might occur to less honorable, more inhumane minds that these mobile icebergs would also make dandy world wrecking weapons.

It occurred to the Martians immediately.