Dec 5 2011, 10:06 PM
Cleaning up my Email, I happened to discover this ancient gem in my Drafts. It's a story I started working on back in 2006, which would be around the time I moved into my own place and out of my parent's. Honestly, I'd thought everything about this story had been lost, it's amazing to see I still retain copies of it.
So, since I doubt I'll ever revisit this work, I've decided to share. Yes it's not Transformers, but consider this my Christmas Gift to the Chronicle. Enjoy the first three (four if you count the Prologue) chapters of the Science Fiction story THE QUEEN'S ROGUES. (I'll post a Chapter a day, and then follow up with the technical documentation and time line I had written for the story).
“The Admiral is here.”
The First Lawmaker of the Pemen Order sighed heavily. His well-tailored tan suit almost hung off his skinny, pasty body, and his immaculately groomed brown hair complimented his gleaming green eyes, which were intensified by his almost sickly pale skin tone. He reached a bony finger over to his intercom button and pressed it in, clearing his throat as he did.
“Send him in, Maggie.” His deep (some would say booming) baritone voice had just a slight hint of strain to it.
The solid oak door, which had been imported from Earth, opened to reveal a broad shouldered man of about thirty years, at least physically. Genetic manipulation had allowed Humanity a new extension of their natural lives. Admiral Thomas Yelsin was eighty-five Earth years old, which put him just over middle age for the average Pemen citizen’s life span of one hundred and sixty years. The Admiral stepped into the room and quietly shut the door behind him, his green and tan dress uniform glittering with a prismatic quality as a light fixture caught the pendant on his right breast at the right angle. Admiral Yelsin was young for his rank in the Pemen Space Force, but he was also the single most decorated officer in the fleet, so the fast promotion to flag rank made sense. He was also a staunch realist, and one of the First Lawmaker’s closest advisors.
However, that did not mean his advice was any easier to swallow, and today was going to prove no exception.
“Tom, good to see you.” The First Lawmaker said with a smile and gesturing towards the large wingback chair, one of a pair, that sat on the other side of the Lawmaker’s desk.
“And you, Andrew.” The Admiral took his seat, and he sank in a bit even for his thick body. “You’re looking well.”
The Lawmaker chuckled. “For a dead man, don’t you mean? Oh yes, I know the doctors say they’ve halted the disease’s spread, and the nerve rejuvenation is going well but I’ll believe them when I stop looking like a damn ghoul.”
The Admiral winced. He’d known Andrew Michaels since they were both children, and the First Lawmaker wasn’t but two years younger then he was. But the effects of Genetic Manipulation weren’t absolute and ‘misfires’ were known to occur. Andrew just happened to be one of those cases.
“Regardless, I think that’s enough small talk.” The First Lawmaker said after a rather uncomfortable pause. “I called you in to ask you to comment on the Foreign Ministry’s report. I trust you’ve read it?”
The Admiral nodded and shifted in his chair a bit. “I’ve breezed through it. As always, those white blooded bureaucrats couldn’t find their way out of a dark cave with both hands and a glow-in-the-dark ball of string.”
Michaels chuckled humorlessly. “I know, I know. Their two dimensional thinking gets tiresome after awhile, but they do make a valid point. So far, the Federals have only been building defensive ships to combat any aggression we might start. To them, and myself, that seems to indicate their own populous isn’t so gung-ho about going to war as ours is. Wouldn’t that give us an edge?”
“You’re forgetting sir,” Yelsin replied, a faint accent giving off his ancestry more than his mere name ever could. “That the FM is operating under the assumption that when the shooting starts, the Federals will stand alone.”
“The Neutral Territories won’t get involved.” Michaels waved his hand dismissively. “Earth and Eden have too much manpower and ships invested in supplying us as well as them.”
“But at the same time, the Federals are making more bulk requests then we are.” Yelsin countered. “Our own self-sufficient industry is hurting us in the Neutrals more profitable endeavors. Not to mention, the Federals have all but commandeered the Paradise Shipyard to churn out their light fighters, and they are supplying the Independent worlds with patrol squadrons.”
Michaels sank back into his chair and put his hand to his lips. He let a long sigh escape and his eyes glazed in thought. Yelsin reclined in his own chair, patiently waiting for the leader of the Pemen nation to come out of his thoughts.
“The Federals are making primarily one-man fighters and escorts, aren’t they?” He said, at last.
Yelsin nodded. “Yes sir. The Phalanx class is an Escort ship; it has an Impact Drive and is G-Sail capable. Their main force is made up of the Minuteman class, no Impact Drive, just standard propulsion.”
“So the main Federal Fleet is comprised mainly of in-system attack fighters?” Michaels asked, thoughtfully.
“That’s what our intelligence has gathered, thus far. Given the Federal line of thinking, I can’t see them building Cruisers or Galleons like we are, even though our ships out-mass theirs by several million tons.”
“So why aren’t you in favor of going to war now, Tom?” Michaels asked, leaning forward on his desk.
“Because, First Lawmaker,” Yelsin sighed, and used his long-time friend’s official title to drive home his point. “There are far too many variables. While our ships out-mass and outgun theirs, the Federals have some pretty advanced technology. Our missiles might have a hard time locking onto them. Lord knows our cannons won’t be effective. Then there’s the improbable, but still possible, consequence of the Neutrals pulling their PMVs off Pemen trade routes. After all, Eden’s all but ceded to the Federals and Earth has no reason to love us.”
The comment about the Pemen Order’s old home made the First Lawmaker touch the small pin on his suit jacket. It was a single ivory star surrounded by two bands, one red and the other blue. Pemen history was very detailed when it came to their origins. In the Old Calendar year 2110, the old nation United States of America had grown so corrupt that each state revolted against the federal government and had every member of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the President and his cabinet put to death. The aides and support structure of the Federal Government was then assigned to one of CosmaTech’s Prison Ships by order of the Federation of States. When Earth’s economy spiraled out of control and an all out land war erupted, CosmaTech launched the Prison Ships, and their cargo of sleeping prisoners, into the vastness of space. Fortunately, they didn’t do so without proper amenities. Each ship’s computer was to identify a habitable world when it came to it and awaken the ship’s compliment of criminals, rightly convicted or criminals by mere association, to be given the option to start over anew.
As not all ships had an equal ratio of males to females, they also came equipped with full cloning facilities (Illegal, by standards of the day, but who gave a damn about the legality of technology when survival was on the line?) and a full genetic databank of all CosmaTech employees and floral and animal life. The first few years after the founding of Washington, those aboard the “Political” Prison Ship took the name Pemen, a play off the word P-Men, which stood for Government Agent and they used the cloning facilities to churn out thousands of babies and livestock to create a new living.
Of course, schisms were bound to develop. One side argued that it was Earth’s fault we had been banished from our home planet, and the Federation of States had no right to eject average men and women working for the government for a simple paycheck. The other side countered with the fact it was only logical to remove the corruption, not matter how innocent it seemed, and it was only right, as the government had forgotten it was only a civil servant, not a ruling lord. Eventually, things broke down to the point the two factions split. Those who believed in the wrongful ejection from Earth remained the Pemen; those who believed in making amends would later found the Federal Republic.
Relations between the Pemen Order and Earth had been strained the moment Earth learned of the Pemen’s history, and their unwillingness to forgive and forget. Indeed, an unexpected ‘bonus’ to war with the Federals would be that Earth was dead in the middle between the two galactic powers.
“Alright, I see your point.” Michaels finally said and sighed. “But what can the Neutrals do? All they produce are raw materials and PMVs.”
“Intelligence suggests they might be working on making Independent Combat Ships, varying in size from an escort to a cruiser.” Yelsin said gravely. “There’s also the wild card of any military operation: The Emporium.”
The Emporium, the mysterious power of the galaxy that had given all Humans: Pemen, Federal, and Neutral alike, the power of interstellar travel without the need for Cryogenics in the form of the G-Sail Drive. No one knew if the Emporium was another Prison Ship’s offspring (Which seemed unlikely, given the number of inhabited systems compared to the historical records detailing the number of Prison Sleepers match almost perfectly), or an extra-terrestrial power. One thing that was for certain was the fact their featureless, bottle shaped ships had been appearing more and more as of late.
“I can’t see the Emporium getting involved in any major conflict.” Michaels replied. “They’ve been strangely aloof for almost a hundred years since they first revealed themselves.”
“Regardless sir, we have no information about what weapons systems they might operate or even if they use the G-Sail like our ships do. None of their ships have ever been cataloged going through on of the Gravity Arrays.” Yelsin said. “There’s also the fact they gave us the G-Sail Drive. They might see it as some sort of precedent to intervene if we start blowing each other up using it. If we are going to jump into a war with the Federals, we should jump in with a known advantage. But that means delaying war just long enough to get some aces up our sleeve.”
“Alright Tom, I’ll bite.” Michaels folded his fingers across his chest and leaned back into his chair. “What kind of aces?”
“Operation Frankenstein, sir.” Yelsin replied, and Michaels shot up, stiff in his chair.
“If news that we were conducting that research ever got out…” Michaels replied, his voice a raspy whisper.
“Then we’ll take extra precautions, sir.” Yelsin said, his voice calm but firm. “It’s my opinion that Frankenstein is the only proven, effective advantage we could level against a worst-case scenario combination of the Federals, Neutrals, and Emporium.”
“Proven only in theory.” Michaels shot back, then let out a long breath. He closed his eyes. “Get to it, Admiral Yelsin.” He said almost in a whisper.
Michaels didn’t even here Yelsin snap to attention and leave the room. His mind was far removed from his body, weighing the consequences that small little order might have to the future survival of his nation.
Dec 6 2011, 06:03 PM
‘Captain’ Joshua Maclaren walked down the long hallway that was his ship and brooded. He was twenty one years old, extremely young in a society that lived to be an average of a hundred and sixty to be in command of anything, much less his own ship. Fortunately, when it came to running Private Merchant Vessels (or PMVs), age wasn’t a usual factor in terms of the command, but Maclaren was feeling it today.
He was captain of the PMV Queen Lily, a good old ship that was forty years old. She was one of the first generation of PMVs, meaning she was extremely small for PMVs of the modern day, boasting only enough room for a six-person crew. While almost half a kilometer long, half of Lily’s overall tonnage was devoted to cargo space. Empty cargo space, Maclaren thought bitterly. He’d inherited the ship and its operations from his mother, a merchantwoman of some regard as he’d come to know, but one that made plenty of enemies. And her son was beginning to think he’d barely scratched the surface of her rogue gallery.
He scratched his stubbly face in frustration and pushed his wide-rimmed glasses back up on his nose. Their cargo hadn’t been anything special, mainly water coolers and air filtration systems for one of the deep space mining operations. Maclaren figured he could barter them for a cargo bay loaded with whatever they were mining. Instead, the supervisor of the base had taken the entire cargo as ‘repayment of past debt owed by Lily Maclaren’. Josh fumed, as he doubted his mother had owed that pond scum anything. But Maclaren had relented; after all maybe the ass would be willing to trade when…if…he ever returned.
Josh paced the long corridor that made up the bulk of his ship. PMVs were bullet shaped, with a ring shaped drive system at their rear. PMVs had a two-piece ship construction, with the bottom half of the body being able to separate. The bottom half was the cargo bay; the upper half was the bridge, living quarters, and one massive hallway. The hallway itself was stacked with rows and rows of shelving units containing everything possibly imaginable. Foodstuffs and medical supplies sat beside replacement work suits and engine parts. Josh sighed mentally as his magnetic boots caused him to almost shuffle his way down the corridor. He was always an avid fan of science fiction when he was a kid, and he had to laugh that as early as the twentieth century, old calendar, people thought by this time in the future they would have made artificial gravity. Instead, they had magnetic boots and got regular shots of muscle stimulants to keep tissue degradation to a minimum.
He glanced up one of the shelving units and spotted a familiar dull brown and white shape amid the green painted shelving and tan boxes. Josh smiled at his mother’s old guard dog, a pure bred German shepherd and almost twenty years old. Josh smiled again at the thought that he would live to be at least a hundred and forty years, and yet a dog living past twelve or thirteen years was still a rarity to behold.
Ears, as the dog was named, was an old space hound. Josh’s mother had bought him on Old Earth and then the dog barely ever went planet side again. His mother had paid a good fortune just to get the dog, and then turned around and had more money put into the dog with the addition of magnetic soles to his paws. Josh had to admit, it had certain advantages on a space ship. Nobody would ever think of looking for a dog attack from above.
Ears perked up at Josh’s approach, but as he watched the young skipper of the PMV Queen Lily wander past, the old dog just half grunted, half coughed, and hung its head near its paws, contently laying what would appear to be vertically to anyone with another perspective.
Josh sighed again, looking around at the rusting walls and what looked like (what he hoped was) moss growing from certain corners of his battered ship. The old PMV was on her last legs, but Josh wasn’t willing to trade her in quite yet. One because the history of the ship, and Two he wasn’t positive anyone would want to trade for this old sack of bones.
He probably would have continued brooding on the subject when the lighting in the hallway changed from white to red, and a school bell like ringing went out throughout the ship. Immediately, Maclaren started back the way he had come. The PMV Queen Lily may have been an old ship with an outdated cargo bay for hauling cargo, but Josh’s mother had seen to it her self-titled ship had other qualities as well. Not the least of which was an ‘early warning system’ for approaching ships.
Josh broke into what passed for the bridge of the PMV at a trot and quickly took his seat on the right wall. The bridge was white washed, with six workstations scattered about it. There was a centralized catwalk, which led onto the bridge and acted as a sort of natural divider between the Engineering and Damage Control workstations. Both Mike Bleu and Merci Dukeheart manned those two stations. To the right of the door to the bridge was a secondary computer terminal, which Josh had stationed himself at. To his left on the wall was the communications station, vacant of any person. To Josh’s right on the wall was the navigational ‘alcove’, as it had come to be known as for it imbedded, walking room tracking computer and tactical board. Again, this station was unmanned. Directly above Josh’s station (Or what appeared to be directly above, depending on how you looked at it) was the helm, manned by the Lily’s long time and very competent pilot, Ron Ulysses.
Josh was disappointed to see that neither Marcus nor Sarah had shown up yet, but he removed himself from his chair and, with a quick tap on his wrist to disengage his magnetic boots, floated quickly over to Navigation’s alcove and began running a sensor sweep. He smiled a bit as the readings came back.
“Merci, you want to take over communications for a bit?” He asked as he floated back down to his terminal.
The dark skinned woman manning damage control glanced up at her captain; a light smile graced her lips as she nodded. “Alright boss.”
Josh returned the smile and eased back into his own chair. “Mike, hoist the skull and crossbones.”
Mike Bleu nodded, his full head of brown hair trailing a few seconds behind him as he flipped a switch. “Hoisting the Jolly Rodger!”
Josh grinned as his supposedly secondary computer station’s readouts changed to those of a tactical computer. The bridge of the Lily wasn’t her true bridge. It didn’t have the flair of it. Most PMV bridges had two trenches separated by a catwalk and staircase that lead to a magnificent command couch. Josh’s mother had relocated her PMVs Bridge to one of the seldom-used storage rooms in order to make room for the ship’s other modification. As her story went, shortly after getting the ship fresh off the assembly line, Lily Maclaren had been hauling some medical supplies to a backwater shipyard that couldn’t pay her for the delivery because they’d fallen on bad times. So instead, she took one of their derelict Impact Cannons, the same weaponry used on Cruisers for the Pemen Order, and enough ammo to last a year. To mount it onto her tiny PMV, she had to convert the old bridge into a retractable mount for the cannon; complete with scramblers to make sure nobody knew from sensor scans what was exactly in where the bridge should be. The Cannon had fueled the Lily’s business by adding a nice little side bonus…piracy. Though she never called it that; she called it ‘Shotgun Brokering’.
Generally, the mere sensor detection of a weapon coming online hot was enough to make most PMV captains signal surrender. What was unique about the Lily was her victims generally came back for seconds. It was an unwritten rule that the Lily never took more than one percent of the total income value of the cargo aboard another ship, and even then point the ship in the direction of the best known price for said cargo, if they weren’t already heading there. Most of the best sellers came from systems where piracy was high, and what better escort than another unassuming PMV with an Impact Cannon just happening to be heading that way?
The hissing noise of the opening door hatch drove Josh’s eyes off his screen to see Marcus Harris, a large man with a mop of hair and a beard, followed by the petite and blonde Sarah Donalds. Josh noticed, not for the first time, both their clothes were rumpled and they seemed sweaty.
“You two are late.” Josh said with a half grin.
“Sorry.” Marcus replied, not sounding the least bit sorry. He floated over to the Navigation Alcove as Sarah relieved Merci on Communications.
“Well, now that you’ve decided to grace us with your presence,” Josh said, the teasing in his voice evident. “Care to bring up the image of our target?”
“Yes, Boss.” Marcus replied as he reached over and turned on the Lily’s external cameras. Screens came to life on everyone’s console, showing them the regal looking gold and scarlet ship coming out of G-Sail in front of them.
Ron snorted from his station, and he ran his hand through his light cropping of blonde hair. “He certainly has been doing well.”
Josh nodded and smiled. “I’ll second that. That’s a big one too, has to be one of the newest models. Caboose class?”
“Sensor net classifies it as a Titanic, just so you know.” Marcus said with a low whistle. The Titanic class of PMV was about as large as a Pemen Cruiser, itself almost ten kilometers long. Most of that space was devoted to Cargo, which meant much richer transactions for those who could afford one.
“Nothing like painting a target…” Merci muttered over the choice of color schemes for the ship.
“Well, no sense keeping the old bat waiting. Take us in, Ron.” Josh said.
“Already on an approach vector.” Ron replied, smiling.
The PMV Queen Lily was absolutely diminutive compared to her cousin ship, the PMV Yom Kipper. Where as the Kipper was a representative of the newest class of Private Merchant Vessels available, the Lily was a representative of the oldest, the Express class. But that just meant, for the Lily, they could take a cargo hold full of whatever the Kipper was hauling and still not even dent the one percent cap Lily Maclaren had employed so long ago.
Ears ran ahead of the six person crew of the Queen Lily, eager despite his old age, for the dried piece of bacon the skipper of the Yom Kipper always had ready for him. Josh had to smile as the wrinkled, bent over old man merely gave a toothless laugh and scratched Ears on the crown of his head as Ears worked the bacon with a fever to make Pavlov proud. Yom Kipper, owner of the PMV Yom Kipper, was similar to the Lily’s guard dog in many ways. Not the least of which was he was older than his ship by a good hundred and seventy five years. Kipper had survived longer than the Human average, and although he looked like a shriveled potato, he showed no signs of death being anywhere near him yet.
Yom glanced up at the crew of the ‘pirate’ ship and frowned deeply. While he’d been doing business with Lily Maclaren almost as soon as she’d gotten that damn cannon, he couldn’t help but feel age creep up on him as he now only recognized the dog. Oh sure, he knew Lily’s son, but that still didn’t offset the…wrongness…he felt not dealing with Lily or her crew.
“Well, I suppose you’ll want to be heading to the cargo holds now?” He asked in his aged, toothless hiss.
Josh shrugged. “We’ve got all the time in the world.”
Kipper merely sniffed at that. “I may over two hundred years old, boy. But I could still strap you over my knee and spank that punk ass red!”
Josh reddened a bit and stifled laugher, his crew not as successful as he. “I don’t doubt it, sir.”
Kipper lead the way, his own hobbled steps slowing the group somewhat, but eventually the reached the cargo bay. Josh took the time to examine the inside of the most luxurious of PMVs. Instead of dark green colored steel racks holding supplies, the Kipper had cabinets built of a steel composite, with potted plants, benches, and relaxation alcoves taking up the space that usually the bulky racks would have. Josh recalled reading that the Titanic class could be used as a luxury passenger liner and he doubted Yom would pass up such an opportunity.
“Been hauling bodies back and forth between Sol and Centauri for a few months.” Kipper said, as if reading Josh’s thoughts. “It’s a nice, safe business with a decent enough profit to get me and my crew by.”
“How large is your crew?” Mike wondered aloud, and immediately reddened. One thing a ‘pirate’ never did was asked aloud how large a crew company was. That gave the other party the impression that their ship might be “borrowed”. Fortunately, Yom had been playing this particular game with the Lily for nearly forty years. He didn’t even flinch at the question.
“The usual six man crew most PMVs operate on.” Yom said. “Along with about twelve engineers to keep the girl in tip-top shape. Also my twenty person medical staff.” He shot the group an impish grin. “Apparently, I’m getting old.”
Josh smiled. “That’s a lot less then I would have expected out of a ship this size.”
“Oh,” Kipper waved his hand absently as he turned his back to the group. “I’ve got a whole horde of butlers, cooks, and work crews on reserve half-pay for my body runs. But I certainly didn’t need them wasting space on this run.”
As the group entered the absolutely cavernous cargo bay, Josh let out a low whistle. Stacked floor to ceiling were the highest quality cargo containers on the market. Immediately, his crew set out to work, checking the manifests and surveying for the best possible ‘merchandise’. Josh took the time to walk with the frail old man his mother had been briefly involved with, and took in the sights of the massive hold.
“You could fit my ship in this thing.” Josh commented.
“On the contrary, I could fit two of them in here.” Yom smiled. “I actually broke her in doing Minuteman runs from Colin to Eden.”
Josh nodded in understanding. For the past several months, tensions between the Pemen Order and Federal Republic looked as though it was going to come to a boiling point, with the Neutral Territories caught right in the middle. The Federal Republic’s entire navy consisted of a very loose organization of regional commanders and fighter squadrons based at local facilities. Josh supposed they had to keep it that way to continue to operate as freely as they had in Neutral space. The Minuteman was the Feds most visible ship, second only to the G-Sail capable Phalanx Escort Fighter. Looking similar to a twentieth century fighter craft, the Minuteman used a specialized mixture of chemicals to produce the same propulsive thrust as a conventional Impact Drive. While all Impact Drives could produce the same amount of propelling power, larger ships required more “build up” detonations of their fusion drives (Hence the name “Impact”) to get moving at any substantial speed. Minutemen fighters were off almost instantly as near-top acceleration. The speed advantage alone had scared off all but the most daring of possible threats, and even those did nothing because the Feds had the ace of their ships never seeing effective combat.
Josh mused at how normally, that would cause anyone to be more than a little hesitant on trusting them with the defense of a Neutral system. But the Feds also had the Emporium in their corner, though they never publicly admitted to any sort of agreement with the shadowy empire that gave mankind the ability to travel amongst the stars. Mystery, Josh decided, was the most powerful selling tool the Feds had. Not sound from a tactical standpoint, but the rich “dowry” the Feds paid to the systems that let them have a patrol base more than made up for any misgivings of the combat effectiveness of a fighter. And since the fighters weren’t ‘Tunnelers’, those with PMVs large enough to ferry the fighters and their crews to their assigned picket were paid handsomely.
Josh’s thoughts on the subject were interrupted as Mike walked up smiling, holding something in his hand.
“So what’s the old bat hauling this time?” Josh asked, smiling at Yom as he made the playful jab.
Mike threw the object he was holding at Josh and, thanks to the zero-gee conditions; it lightly floated towards Josh as he stared at it.
“Potatoes? He’s hauling Potatoes?” Josh asked, stunned.
“Not just any potato, lad.” Yom said, plucking the Potato from the air and twisting it, revealing the potato to be nothing more than a careful concealed container. “Gold potatoes.”
Josh didn’t want to, but he couldn’t help it. He licked his lips as he stared into the opened potato casing and the gold nugget shining inside looked back. He gave himself a mental shake, then looked at Yom. “You know, the Hagar system has been looking at raw materials for a new export trade?”
“Has it now?” Yom replied, licking his own lips at the prospect. “But pirate activity is high there, and the Feds have yet to make a picket.”
Josh gave the old man a playful look. No matter how many times they did business, Yom always hammed up the part of ignorant merchantman and piracy victim.
“It just so happens Mr. Kipper,” Josh said with all the finely tuned grace he could muster. “That my ship just happens to be going your way.”
Dec 7 2011, 05:48 PM
Admiral Thomas Yelsin of the Pemen Order paced the bridge of his flagship with a bit of unease. While the CNV Roughrider was not in an actual combat situation, Yelsin was all but acutely aware of the political situation brewing in his home system. The American System boasted a single habitable planet, named Washington, and a large asteroid field called the District of Columbia for reasons that escaped Yelsin. The Admiral had been born on a lunar colony, Washington’s second moon Jefferson. Washington’s first moon, Jackson, was little more than a subdued gas cloud, which had formed into a sphere. The fact that the rest of the system was home to asteroid fields, rogue comets, and a gravitational disturbance made even the most patient of men tense. What should have been a unified organization of men and women after their arrival in their hostile system, all there had been was finger pointing and senseless bickering. Yelsin silently cursed his own ancestors for not siding with the Federals, but it was a moot point.
Outside the always-chaotic political situation, the American Systems host of natural enemies in the form of comets and the like had lead the Pemens to adopt a ‘larger’ attitude when it came to ship construction. The end result, Yelsin thought bitterly, was the problem of Pemen ships suffering from TDB syndrome (or, in layman’s terms, all their ships were Too Damn Big). The Roughrider alone was in the range of seven million tons of warship. One of the Pemen Galleon class ships, it boasted one hundred and forty missile tubes, fifty Impact Cannons, and seventeen Planet Killer class torpedoes. While it certainly could wipe ships and small astral bodies out of existence, Yelsin realized the calculated maneuver his counterparts in the Federal Navy made when they decided to go with In-system fighter craft and Escorts. A Galleon could knock out capital ships, to be certain, and her missiles could lock onto enemy fighters and blow them out of the sky, but torpedoes were too slow and their Impact Cannons were useless on fast moving targets. A group of Minutemen could swarm Yelsin’s ship and while he was most likely going to bring down a lot of them, the Fighters could evade and strafe to their heart’s content, and easily go for the massive ship’s drive system.
Yelsin grimaced at the thought. While the Impact Drive had propelled Humanity into the stars, it was still a dangerous Achilles heel. An Impact Drive was merely a giant ringed fusion reactor strapped to the back of a starship, intentionally causing explosions to propel the ship inside a solar system’s gravitational limit. And while the ring maintained the safety margin of those explosions, it also held the reactor mass needed to sustain it. If it were breeched, the end result would be taking a flamethrower into a magazine room. There would be nothing left, not a single piece of scrap metal. Fortunately, he was out here to ensure nothing the Federals threw at his ships would be enough.
Operation: Frankenstein was a multi-headed beast. Almost all of it dangerous and illegal in the eyes of the star systems at large, but all of it had already been developed on paper, at least. Funding had been a problem since the designs were finished almost a decade ago, but approval from the First Lawmaker had freed up the necessary manpower and materials to pay for the prototypes. Already Liberty Fleet Yards were constructing the main prototype, but some of its systems needed to be field checked themselves before integrating with the main system.
Yelsin walked towards the tactical plotter and frowned at the two green dots, which indicated the ‘pre-planned’ points in which the Legionnaire and Amazon were lying in wait. The problem was their stealth system was so good, not even the Roughrider could find them.
Yelsin allowed the corners of his mouth to quirk in a small smile. Both ships had been constructed specifically for these trials. Not only did they carry the next generation Stealth systems (The only thing of Operation: Frankenstein that wasn’t illegal), but they also housed the experimental Gravity Pulse Cannon, which had been whimsically called the Javelin. Just as Pemen Impact Cannons operated off the reaction mass explosive force of an Impact Drive to send projectiles towards their targets, the Javelin used a variation of the Gravity Arrays that powered the G-Sails of interstellar travel. The Javelin used a Near Light Speed engine to create a mass distortion, which is passed through a tube holding the right mixture of chemicals to cascade into a beam of energy, which is focused through the barrel of the weapon, creating a make-shift travel tunnel that larger ships use to transverse intergalactic space ways. The temporal distortion and mass change results in a near instantaneous fire-to-hit ratio, as the beam would register as a gravitational distortion only a second before impact with the ship. And a ship exposed to that beam without G-Sails deployed to bleed off the gravitational forces, not even mentioning the chemical reaction that produced the beam in the first place, would be torn to shreds in seconds.
That is, Yelsin thought with a grimace, if it worked. Which is why the Roughrider was here, sitting by the Gravity Array which lead into the desolate Onyx system. Onyx was nothing but asteroids and a red dwarf, a transit system on the way to Pemen space that pirates often occupied to attack PMV shipping. As they would today, except those Pirates would actually be two Pemen Light Cruisers, and if they didn’t kill the PMV convoy passing through, it would fall to Roughrider to ensure they never lived to tell anyone about the attempt.
“Time to transition?” Yelsin pivoted to the sensors operator.
“Coming up on fifteen minutes, Admiral.” The sensors operator replied.
Yelsin nodded. “Communications, tight beam transmission to the pre-planned coordinates of Legionnaire and Amazon. Update the time table.”
“Aye sir.” The communications officer said, and leaned over her station to get to work.
“Coming up on G-Limit.”
‘Captain’ Larry Kaupmann nodded and ran his hand through his white hair. He sat on the luxurious command couch of the PMV Beautiful Dreamer and looked at his sensor display. He was the lead ship of a three-man convoy bound for the Lords system. He disliked passing through Onyx, especially with three Titanic class PMVs loaded with colonists for Lords newly founded colony on its third planet. He took little comfort in the two Phalanx Escorts the Federals had provided. He hadn’t been commanding PMVs for fifty years without knowing the pirate mentality. If somebody wanted to hit them, they could easily do it. Especially after coming out of the G-Limit.
The G-Limit was the ‘stop’ of the G-Sail drive. The drive itself was a combination of good old fashion gravity pulling from Gravity Arrays (They themselves nothing more than NLS drives that remained stationary), Energy bleed-off from the sails themselves, and a temporal ‘travel tunnel’, which cut transit times down from years to months. But as a ship coasted out of the last Gravity Array, at the Gravitational Limit of a star system, there was a moment of ‘Temporal Disorientation’, in which the ships were blind and dumb to attacks.
Kaupmann rubbed his sweaty palms on his trousers. He knew what juicy targets Beautiful Dreamer, Kingdom Come, and Diamond in the Rough would look to pirates. He hated to think what might happen to the colonists if the pirates realized it was nothing but a meat wagon.
The Beautiful Dreamer shuddered as she hit the G-Limit of the Onyx system and every display froze. It was only a second, but Kaupmann held his breath. Then, as quickly as the displays had frozen, they returned to work. But all the blood drained from Kaupmann’s face as he beheld the massive ship looming just beyond the array.
“Transition complete. Reading three Titanic class PMVs and two Phalanx Escorts.”
“Thank you, Ops.” Yelsin grimaced. He knew about the convoy and its cargo, but he hadn’t been informed the Feds were sending along escorts. This complicated matters, but only a little. “Communications, advise the convoy the Pemen Order sends its welcome and also a warning that this system is being used as an experimental testing ground. They should make their way to the Lords Arrays through the route sensors is downloading to them.”
“Aye sir, sending the message.” Communications said, her lips twitching slightly in a grin.
Yelsin watched on his own display as Sensors downloaded the course for the convoy, which took them directly into the jaws of the waiting Legionnaire and Amazon.
“Experimental testing ground? What a load of horsejive!”
“It is their system, Major.” Kaupmann tried to sound calm as he had a videoconference with his two escorts. “It’s also an out-of-the-way system for them. It only makes sense.”
“Out of the way system for them, maybe.” The second escort growled. “But this system is a vital trade route. Why in the hell would they be using it to test fire new weapons unless it was an intimidation ploy?”
“Ploy or not, gentlemen, they did station a Galleon at the G-Limit and gave us the safest route through. I’d say that’s enough.” Kaupmann said.
“Um, Mist…I mean Captain?”
Kaupmann looked up from his display to see a young woman, no more than nineteen, standing beside his chair. She was a new addition to Kaupmann’s crew, and he gave her a warm smile.
“Um, sensors are getting some really weird readings, sir.” Emily replied. “I don’t know how to explain it, but its like there’s a section of space where stars just…cease to exist.”
“Cease to exist?” Kaupmann blinked in confusion, but his two escorts widened their eyes.
“Stealth systems!” One of them rasped. “It’s a Trap!”
A beam of pure white energy lanced out from the Legionnaire, revealing its black as space coloration and gun barrel shape. The Javelin beam screamed towards its target in the blink of a human eye, and the PMV Diamond in the Rough simply ceased to exist.
“jive!” Kaupmann grabbed onto the side of his command couch as his own PMV lurched as the Diamond erupted. Emily remained upright only due to the fact her boots were sealed tight, and kept her anchored to the floor. “Evasive maneuvers!”
“We’re too slow!” Navigation screamed out. “We can’t build up enough of a reaction to turn and make a run for it back the way we came!”
“Then push on towards the Lords system!” Kaupmann hissed as he watched the escorts break away and attempt to locate the source of the fire. His eyes widened as both escorts simply ceased to exist, but as they did, he got a good long look at their attack’s transponder signature.
“We’ve got no way of knowing if there aren’t more of them out there!” Navigation yelled out.
“Mister Kaupmann!” Emily yelled from sensors. “The Kingdom Come is jettisoning her cargo hold and turning around!”
“That bastard’s just going to leave the colonists out here?” Kaupmann went to his feet, his face red with anger.
“Sir! If we don’t do the same, we’re never going to be able to get out of here!” Navigation shot back. “The attacking ships have stopped firing, maybe the cargo holds are confusing their tactical sensors?”
Kaupmann bit his lower lip and sank back into his command couch. If he didn’t jettison the cargo hold and the five hundred people he was hauling, they’d all die. But if he could escape…
“Jettison.” He said in a weak voice. “Then bring us around.”
“They’ve dumped their cargo holds.” Sensors said. “Amazon has ceased her attack.”
“Communications transmit orders. Have Legionnaire secure the cargos. We need them for Operation: Frankenstein.” Yelsin pivoted in his command chair. “We can take care of the two PMVs.”
“Sir!” Sensors gave his admiral a panicked look. “One of the PMVs isn’t coming back this way!”
“Shouldn’t we advise the Kingdom?” Navigation asked.
“No. Give them two targets to go after, instead of one.” Kaupmann replied, coldly. “The Galleon can protect Kingdom. We’re going to the old Gravitational Array.”
“Sir,” Navigation looked up from his trench. “You do realize that Array doesn’t have a G-Limit to it? We could be killed when we tried to exit.”
“I’m well aware of that.” Kaupmann snapped. “But I’m certainly not going to dive for the Lords system and even closer to that damn thing!”
“Coming up on the old Gravitational Array to Sol now.” Navigation said, his voice near breaking.
“Deploy G-Sails and get us underway immediately.” Kaupmann hissed. “The Federals need to know about this.”
“PMV has vanished from our sensors!”
Yelsin smiled without looking up. He watched his plot, as Roughrider’s own missiles vaporized the PMV Kingdom Come, even while she was broadcasting an SOS to his ship. Whoever the captain of the third PMV was, he knew what he was doing. He’d split up the convoy after the escorts had been destroyed by the Amazon, even though her sister had suffered a major malfunction after its attack and was useless in combat for the time being. He’d also retreated to the old G-Array to Sol. It was gutsy, as that array transit system didn’t have a G-Limit, but it let him slip away from Yelsin and the Amazon as well. But all in all, outside Legionnaire’s malfunction, the Javelin had performed remarkably well, and Yelsin had secured a thousand bodies for Frankenstein’s…less pleasant…experiments. And, like any good tactician, he’d ensured his two ships had false transponder codes. He felt a small heartstring of pity for the crew of the ship he’d chosen from the Array’s memory banks. But it was only a small string.
Larry Kaupmann’s eyes burned with hatred as he looked at the frozen tactical screen in front of him. Three ships and a thousand people had been lost, and that was even assuming the Kingdom Come had gotten out of the system herself. But at least he’d gotten away, and at least he had the transponder of the son-of-a-bitch that did this. And they would pay.
The crew of the PMV Queen Lily would pay dearly.
Dec 8 2011, 10:40 PM
Joshua Maclaren leaned back in his chair on the bridge of his ship. They’d been in space for almost two entire months after breaking company with Yom Kipper in Hagar. From there, they’d made the entire trip from Hagar to Eden, passing through Lords and Passage, without stopping. Needless to say, the edge on the crew was extremely visible. An Express class PMV wasn’t built with amenities in mind, and it wasn’t a huge ship to go and get away from everybody. Maclaren was fortunate to have assembled a crew from close friends and, in Ron Ulysses case, inherited from his mother. But even their friendliness and teamwork didn’t mean they wouldn’t get sick and tired of looking at one another after awhile.
“Coming up on G-Limit.” Ron announced.
“Thank God.” Sarah Donalds murmured from Communications, and reddened as everyone turned to regard her. “Sorry.”
“No, Sarah, I think you spoke for all of us, there.” Josh replied, smiling. “Once we return to temporal reality Ron, set in a course for the Paradise Shipyards. We could all use about a three-month vacation. I think our profit from this last mission more than justifies it.”
Truth be told, the last mission had made every single one of them filthy rich. And that said something, since their cargo had been ‘heisted’ from Yom Kipper’s vast cargo hold. If they were filthy rich, Kipper had enough money to buy out the Neutral Territories, lock stock and barrel. But Josh didn’t dwell on the thought for very long as his ship made it back into the Temporal Reality of the Eden’s system. An after effect of utilizing the G-Sail Drive, and the NLS Engines that powered the G-Sail’s Gravitational propulsion, was time slowed down in the ‘travel tunnel’ created between Gravity Arrays. As a result, any exiting to the G-Limit of a star system required a second’s worth of ‘temporal realignment’, where all the ships built in chronometers and computers were readjusted to the return to the so-called Temporal Reality. It was unavoidable consequence of interstellar travel; it also presented a small but deadly time for pirates to pounce on the unwary.
Josh punched up a visual of the system from his terminal, and smiled as he beheld the Eden System from this far away. A light blue star pulsed softly as five planets rotated around the sun. The planets were a sight to behold as well. The one nearest to the star was a light tan color, a vast desert that still had an atmosphere to support Human life. The second planet of the system was a rich blue color indicating it was totally covered with water, and the sea-born life that went with it. The third planet of the Eden system was an Earth Standard planet, so Earth standard in fact, it had been named Gaia in honor of Earth’s sometimes used ‘alternate’ name. The fourth and fifth planets were just all-lush greenery, but where as the Fourth planet was lush plain, spotted with some massive lakes, the fifth planet was an entire rainforest. The existence of a star system
And that's all that was written. Technical Documentation on the G-Sail Drive and Historical Timeline coming tomorrow.
Dec 10 2011, 12:47 PM
The technical documentation for this work's "G-Sail Drive", known here under its original name "T-Sail". The science is likely a load of absolute hogwash, but my view is as long as you can keep yourself consistent about the technology and its limitations, suspension of disbelief will carry a reader along.
-The T-Sail Drive-
The technology for the T-Sail Drive has existed for centuries, but theories about it put a hamper on its use until Humanity began to build drives to approach the Speed of Light. Einstein’s theory held that the faster a vessel approached the speed of light, the slower the passages of time on the vessel while the larger its mass. This was, in both cases, true and Humans quickly discovered that faster-than-light Travel, not to mention just approaching the Light Speed Barrier, was a hazardous and impractical endeavor.
However, in experimentation with Near Light Speed (NLS) Drive Systems, scientists of CosmaTech discovered not only did the ship increase in mass and time slowed to a crawl, but the space around the ship also increased in mass and time seemed to slow for the surrounding space as well. Using this theory as a basis, CosmaTech built a series of relay stations that acted as oversized NLS Engines from their fleet shipyards around the Denver Asteroid to the independent shipyard in the Eden System. The basic idea was to equip a ship with “Sails”, special fiber-optic meshes that were specifically designed to resonate with the massive Engine Platforms to act as an accelerant for the ship passing through the center of two of these stations, which rotated clockwise to one another to keep a “travel tunnel” maintained. Their first attempt was a catastrophic failure as gravitational wells inside the Eden System disrupted their attempt at establishing a constant travel tunnel. The pulls of various planet bodies in the system oh-so-slightly moved the Arrays out of sync with one another, causing the test ship and her crew to be lost through the after-affect of the massive drive engines. Thus resulting in the creation of both the G-Limit (Gravitational Limit) and the theory of the Temporal Reality.
Since the Engine Arrays are acting as massive energy boosts to propel a ship with a T-Sail to near speeds of light, and as a result causing the mass of the area between the two Array Stations to increase to the point the ship traveling through their center is not being carried along, but more akin to a surfer riding a wake, a wake of mass generated by the quick generation of near-light speed and then the immediate shut down of that field (This is also how the Engine Platforms can operate without being carried along with the ship passing through its energy field). The T-Sails catch this ‘Temporal Wake’ and pull the ship along with it, similar to how Terrestrial Sails catch wind to propel the ship. A ship without the T-Sails deployed that tried to go through the center of a pair of Engine Arrays would find itself like a terrestrial ship caught upon rapids, the forces exerted upon the ship would swat it around and cause severe damage, if not the total destruction of the ship.
As the wake begins moving forward to the next Array set up, the ship is hurled into near light speed, in which time slows down for the space between the Array stations and causes a tunnel like temporal distortion. The result is a near Wormhole like travel system, with the passage of time down the Engine Arrays at a near stand still. This Temporal Distortion is yet to be fully explained by the sciences of the day, but the result is the ONLY passage of time for ships and the tunnel system is when the ship’s Temporal Wake is depleted and the time it takes the coast towards the next Engine Array. This results in travel times that take months, rather than years. Why this seems to be the case (As the space outside the array is not affected by the forces at work) is as of yet unexplained, but no one complains much…it’s an effective method of travel.