Monday, December 4, 2017

Borsten's Folly

The Battle later called Borsten's Folly unfolded as follows:

Borsten's Leap was a going concern. It was a sole point of refueling on a longish route linking two pockets of civilization and ergo trade and money.

It also had a piracy problem. Actually its piracy was causing a problem for nearby worlds. The pirates running a refueling operation at Borsten's Leap practiced a strict code of not shitting where they slept. the few surrounding worlds, just beginning to industrialize and still sort of hung over after their Long Night bore the brunt of the pirates, harassing the traders trying to just trade.

It took little knowledge of interstellar relations and recent history to know Borsten's Leap had a history of pirates. It even had a Sargasso in orbit, ships that were looted there and left when the frontier began moving on.

So the surrounding worlds pooled their lunch money and began financing a Patrol. The Patrol Commander -Abednego Fisque was a clever sort and quite proficient in in situ resource utilization. Unfortunately he regarded the contents of other people's wallets as a resource.

Fisque quickly took station and began harassing the pirates who used used several asteroid bases for refueling. The harassment consisted of demanding a cut of their profits. He also began intercepting traders coming to the Leap and assessing various fines, demanding payoffs to avoid lengthy systems inspections. His ship was the biggest warship for a few systems around and everyone had to pay up. Worse he wasn't doing the job he was paid to, because it no longer paid enough for him to bother with it.

The pirates were not happy.

The Leap's government was not happy.

The local cluster leaders got together and decided Borsten had to go. He was a worse nuisance than the pirates. Pirates after all had to reign in their activities lest they destroy the people they were preying upon and draw the attention of the Fleet. Fisque was the Fleet locally at least and he could ruin everyone and move on to another cluster or retire with what he already had.

Then Fisque began bothering the Belters and government and pirate alike held their breath and got out the popcorn.

Belters to quote the cabevison  series, "Don't bother." They gather. In this case they had gathered a lot from that star system and even had a Sargasso of their own. It orbited the largest failed planetoid in the Belt called the Lodestone. Belters with ships too worn out or shot up to bother with stuck them in orbit to be scavenged at leisure or melted down. In the absence of a recognizable seat of government Fisque went to the Stone to begin his shakedown. He had entered weapons range when the Belters told him pointblank to leave their locality. Fisque was making for a fat ore processor ship that was moving to keep the Stone between Fisque and themselves.

Suddenly there was a jerk on Fisque's cruiser, Acquisition (the name should have been a red flag but cultural references vary even when everyone speaks Basic.) Then the cruiser began accelerating towards the Stone. Fisque ordered full reverse and the pull slowed but remained. So He ordered full lateral on a heading that would establish an orbit. Simultaneously he ordered the gunners to begin laser bombardment of the Stone.

He knew he was snared in a tractor beam. He also knew tractor beams didn't work at any level of technology he'd ever encountered. The reason was simple: if you exerted a force on say, a ship, that ship exerted an equal force on your beam projector. Either your tractor beam was ripped from your hull or you spent so much mass and expose on reinforcement that your ship was a dog slow heap and vulnerable to other guys who ignored tractor beams in favor of launchers and other conventional weapons. No one ever made it work otherwise.  He knew his ship would be able to break any such beam. Moreover at a few thousand kilometers no missile would be moving fast enough to hit him. the tractor beam would drag it back down to fall on Lodestone.

The Stone, however, had many, many such projectors, reinforced and spread out. The force ot the Acquisition on any one of them was easily countered. They normally used the projectors for simulating gravity. In terms of maneuverability being reduced: hello, asteroid!

The Belters moved to shelters and scoffed at the laser barrage. It mostly melted surface ice and once it melted enough ice the barrage itself was dissipated. A wave of missiles came next and the Stone fired up all manner of transmitters and jammers to mess the missile's electronics up. As for the few that got through, damaging a spaceship hull is far easier than damaging 'surface installations that still had a meter of crushed rock above them.

The Acquisition continued accelerating from its forced orbit and was slowly moving away from the Stone. The force on them was weakening as well. In space combat the inverse square law was your big brother.

That was when the asteroid opened up with its mass drivers.

Fisque wasn't terribly worried. Mass drivers were poor weapons and easily dodged by any ship with a working maneuver drive.

A stream of steel buckets each bearing 50 kilos of crushed rock  was streaking through space at 20 kilometers per second. The wide and diffuse network of gravity beams would hardly slow them down and the assault waited till the Acquisition was in the middle of a network of beams meaning the projectiles would avoid most of the effect.

Oh wait.

Fisque was one of those rare commanders who actually ordered 'Abandon ship!' In some accounts he didn't order it so much as the crew got the idea when they saw him running and most managed to keep up. It was also a rare case of a ship being depressurized by weapons fire. Until it no longer resembled a ship.

Traders, Belters, and pirates all complained about the bits of half me;ted debris that fouled Stone's near space for a few weeks before drifting further away or being vaporized by Belters who were civic minded or bored and had a laser. Fisque made it to Borsten's Leap and was promptly jailed and charged with every piracy related offense under the stars. He exited jail decades later a broken man.

Long before that Borsten's Leap took up a collection to have the melted hulk that was the Acquisition towed to into orbit as a warning. The Belters did it free of charge for once.

Even your ultra efficient Belters do some things for the soul.