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|
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.