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.