Get your fill of sci-fi, science, and mockery of stupid people
* FAQ    * Search   * Register   * Login 
Want to support this site? Click

Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 55 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-19 04:27pm
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
This is my first time trying to do this so bear with me. I'm going to try and do about a chapter a week or so.

I'll start with a brief overview of the author and the series' backstory (as far as humans are concerned). Star Carrier is a four-book military science fiction series by William H. Keith, Jr. under one of his several pen names. Keith was a Navy corpsman in Vietnam, then worked for several game companies like FASA and Games Designers Workshop. About two-thirds of his writing is expanded universe (everything from BattleTech to Doctor Who) or shared universe (he wrote a couple Bolo and Retief stories), but since the late nineties he's focused mainly on original IPs. Prior to Star Carrier his last big original series was the triple-trilogy Galactic Marines series. After Star Carrier he moved on to another original series, Star Corpsman.

Star Carrier started in 2010 and ran for four books. Earth Strike, Center of Gravity, and Singularity form a trilogy, while Deep Space is set after a twenty-year time skip and deals with some Chekhov's guns the Earth Strike trilogy set up. What I like about the series is primarily the world-building and verisimilitude: particularly how well the various bits of phlebotinum are thought out, implications and all, and especially the effort Keith goes to in making space fighters believable in a relatively hard-SF setting. He does have the occasional infodump but he doesn't make David Weber's mistake of sticking a huge dump in the middle of an important action scene and killing the pacing for a couple pages.

In the backstory to Earth Strike humanity reached the stars in the late 21st/early 22nd century (the series isn't clear which) but was still involved in a lot of infighting. By the second Sino-Western War we were up to World War V (World War III was everyone v. radical Islam and was touched off by the nuking of several major cities; the first Sino-Western War is never explained), which ended when a Chinese starship set three asteroids on a collision course with Earth. Two were stopped, but part of the third, dubbed "Wormwood" after a term from the Book of Revelation, splashed down in the Atlantic and killed half a billion people. In the aftermath most of Earth's nations came together to form the Terran Confederation of States, and humans began to colonize planets in nearby star systems.

Fast forward to the 24th century and humanity makes first contact with a merchant people called the Agletsch and start trading profitably with them. This comes to an end when the Agletsch deliver an ultimatum from their masters, a vast empire called the Sh'daar, that the Confederation is to cease development of GRIN technologies and take its place as a Sh'daar vassal race. There was some disagreement on that point, and when Earth Strike picks up, the offworld colonies are being overrun one by one by more warlike Sh'daar races.

The series primarily revolves around a Confederation carrier battle group led by the United States of North America's deep space fighter carrier America, and the efforts of CBG-18's commanding officer, Admiral Alexander Koenig, to turn back the Sh'daar.

Let's get started with Earth Strike, when CBG-18 arrives in the Kuiper Belt of the Eta Boötis system at 0310 hours on 25 September 2404. Today I'm just doing the prologue and the first segment of chapter one, which sets up a lot of the setting and phlebotinum and introduces the two primary viewpoint characters.

Page 1-2 wrote:
She was ... enormous, by far the largest mobile construct ever built by humankind, a titanic mushroom shape, the kilometer-long stem shadowed behind the immense, hemispherical cap that was both reaction mass and radiation shielding. Her twin counter-rotating hab rings turned slowly in the shadows. <snip>

Around her, the other vessels of the America Battlegroup emerged from the enforced isolation of metaspace as well, some having bled down to lightspeed velocities minutes before, others appearing moment by moment as their emitted and reflected light reached America's sensors. Some members of the battlegroup had scattered as far as five AUs from the star carrier in realspace, and would not rejoin her communications net for as much as forty minutes.

The ship's pitted and sandblasted forward shield caught the wan glow of a particularly brilliant star -- the sun of this system nearly seventy-one astronomical units distant. The data now flooding America's sensors were almost nine and a half hours old.

Description of TC/USNA CVS America. The cover art for Earth Strike is a very good likeness.

On the subject of tech, Confederation sensors are limited by lightspeed, and fleets tend to be considerably scattered upon coming out of Alcubierre drive (it's named as such later). Fleets also have to emerge a considerable distance from the sun.

Page 2-3 wrote:
Star: Eta Boötis

<snip>

Alternate Names: Mufrid, Muphrid, Muphride, Saak, Boötis 8 (Flamsteed)

<snip>

Distance from Sol: 37 ly

Binary Companion: White dwarf, mean orbit: 1.4 AU; period: 494 d

Planetary System: 14 planets, including 9 Jovian and sub-Jovian bodies, 5 rocky/terrestrial planets, plus 35 dwarf planets and 183 known satellites, plus numerous planetoids and cometary bodies...

Rear Admiral Alexander Koenig was, in particular, interested in the planetary data for just one of the worlds circling that distant gold-hued star: Eta Boötis IV, known formally as Al Haris al Sama, informally as Haris, and more often and disparagingly within the fleet as "Ate a Boot".

The particulars of the Eta Boötis system. I've cut out the stuff about its coordinates and the stats of the star (Keith got them from NASA, probably). Ate a Boot is the fleet's target.

Also, I found the mention of slang terms for the planet amusing. Having your military use slang adds versimilitude IMHO.

Here, also, we're introduced to Admiral Koenig, one of the series' two main viewpoint characters.

Page 3 wrote:
"God," he said as he watched the planetary data unfold. "What a mess."

America's AI did not reply, having learned long ago that human statements of surprise or disgust generally did not require a reply.

Humans have AI, and it's smart enough to tell the difference between something important and side comments.

Quote:
Eta Boötis IV was not even remotely Earthlike in atmosphere or environment -- greenhouse-hot with a deadly, poisonous atmosphere -- a wet Venus, someone had called it. What the Arabs had seen in the place when they put down a research station there was anybody's guess.

Description of Eta Boötis IV.

Quote:
America's delicate sensors could detect this hiss and crack of EMP -- the telltale fingerprints of nuclear detonations and particle beam fire -- even across the gulf of more than seventy AUs.

"All stations, we have acquired Objective Mike-Red, " the fleet commander said. "Launch ready-one fighters."

Confederate sensors are sensitive enough to pick up nukes and directed energy weapons from 71 AUs away.

Also, something else I find interesting. Unlike the Honor Harrington series which, a lot of it is Age of Sail terminology in space, the Confederation uses terminology more from real world navies of the current era. Reminds me a bit of nBSG.



That's the prologue. Moving on to chapter one.
Page 4 wrote:
Lieutenant Trevor Gray watched the numbers dwindle from ten to zero on his IHD, as the Starhawk's AI counted them off. He was in microgravity at the moment, deep within the carrier's hub core, but that would be changing very soon, now.

<snip>

Acceleration presed him back into the yielding foam of his seat, a monster hand bearing down on chest and lungs until breathing deeply was nearly impossible. At seven gravities, vision dimmed...

... then flashed back as the crushing sensation of weight abruptly vanished. It took the Starhawk 2.39 seconds to traverse the two-hundred meter cat-launch tube, and as it emerged into open space it was traveling at just over 167 meters per second relative to the drifting America.

"Blue Omega Seven, clear," he announced

"Omega Eight, clear," another voice echoed immediately. Lieutenant Katie Tucker, his wing, was somewhere off his starboard side, launched side-by-side with him through the twin launch tubes.

Our other main viewpoint character, Trevor Gray of the VFA-44 Dragonfires. Starhawks are launched in a conceptually similar fashion to current aircraft carriers.

Also, IHD, I'm guessing based on later stuff, is short for "Internal HUD" or something to that effect. There's a lot of stuff about characters "thoughtclicking" items.

Page 5-6 wrote:
"Okay, chicks," Commander Marissa Allyn said over the squadron comnet. She was VFA-44's CO, and Flight Leader for this op. "Configure for high-G."

Each of the Starhawks had emerged from the diamagnetic launch tubes in standard flight configuration, a night-black needle shape twenty meters long, with a central bulge housing the pilot and control systems, and the mirror-smooth outer hull in a superconducting state. At Gray's command, his gravfighter began reshaping itself, the complex nano-laminates of its outer structure dissolving and recombining, drive units and sensors folding up and out and back, everything building up around the central bulge in a blunt and smoothly convoluted egg-shape with a slender spike tail off the narrow end, and with the fat end aligned with the distant, golden gleam of Eta Boötis.

"Blue Omega Leader, Omega Seven," he reported. "Sperm mode engaged. Ready for boost." Gravfighter pilots claimed their craft looked like a huge spermatozoa when they were in boost configuration. His fighter was now only seven meters long -- not counting the field bleed spike astern -- and five wide, though it still massed twenty-two tons.

Starhawks use nanotechnology to enable variable geometry. They mass 22 metric tons.

Also, ha ha at the pilots deciding their fighters look like sperm in high-G mode. Reminds me of a line in a James Alan Gardner novel, Expendable, that goes something like "Given enough time, military personnel will assign sexual references to everything."

Page 6-7 wrote:
"And gravitic boost at fifty kay," Allyn continued, "in three ... two ... one ... punch it!"

A gravitational singularity opened up directly ahead of Gray's Starhawk.

He was falling.

In fact, he was accelerating now at fifty thousand gravities, falling toward the artificial singularity projected ahead of his gravfighter, but since the high-G field affected every atom of the Starhawk and of Lieutenant Gray uniformly, he was not reduced to a thin organic smear across the aft surfaces of the cockpit. In fact, he felt nothing whatsoever beyond the usual and somewhat pleasant falling sensation of zero gravity.

Outwardly, there was no indication that within the first ten seconds of engaging the gravitic drive, he was traveling at five hundred kilometers per second relative to the America, his speed increasing by half a million meters per second with each passing second. The stars remained steady and unmoving, unwinking in the night.

After one minute he'd be traveling at three thousand kilometers per second, or 1 percent of the speed of light.

And in ten minutes he'd be pushing hard against c itself.

In strike fighter combat, speed is everything.

Starhawks use a singularity drive (hence the term "gravfighter"), and can go from zero (relatively speaking) to near-c in ten minutes.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-19 06:46pm
Offline
Sith Marauder
User avatar

Joined: 2011-04-22 11:04pm
Posts: 4512
Location: Ocularis Terribus.
Well, for what it's worth I think this is a fine start. When I first started off I cited page numbers but later found it unnecessary and too bothersome.

I've never heard of Star Carrier but it sounds moderately intriguing, certainly 50,000 Gs is a hell of a lot of accel. My major question (assuming more information on the alien enemy and future humanity will come as you continue) is what is GRIN technology, and why is it so important to the Sh'darr that humanity not mess around with it?

I recall variable-geometry nanotech fighters from Orion's Arm and that singularity drive sounds similar to another Weber thing (Path of the Fury, IIRC.) Anyways, it's more-or-less impossible to have a truly original idea, what matters is what you do with it and if it's interesting.

So, welcome to the mad reviewer's corner, I'm looking forward to next week.



"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-19 07:03pm
Offline
Jedi Council Member
User avatar

Joined: 2003-03-30 06:41pm
Posts: 1861
Location: Northwest England
Ahriman238 wrote:
My major question (assuming more information on the alien enemy and future humanity will come as you continue) is what is GRIN technology, and why is it so important to the Sh'darr that humanity not mess around with it?


Genetics, Robotics, Nanotechnology and the I which I can't recall what it stands for. As to why they don't want humanity - or anyone, for that matter - messing around with those techs, that is ... kind of difficult to actually explain without major spoilers.



"I do not say the French cannot come. I only say they cannot come by sea." - Admiral Lord St. Vincent, Royal Navy, during the Napoleonic Wars

"Show me a general who has made no mistakes and you speak of a general who has seldom waged war." - Marshal Turenne, 1641

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-20 02:19am
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Ahriman238 wrote:
Well, for what it's worth I think this is a fine start. When I first started off I cited page numbers but later found it unnecessary and too bothersome.

So, welcome to the mad reviewer's corner, I'm looking forward to next week.

Glad you're enjoying it! :D

Quote:
I've never heard of Star Carrier but it sounds moderately intriguing, certainly 50,000 Gs is a hell of a lot of accel. My major question (assuming more information on the alien enemy and future humanity will come as you continue) is what is GRIN technology, and why is it so important to the Sh'darr that humanity not mess around with it?

Black Admiral has the right of it: GRIN is Genetic, Robotic, Information, Nanotechnology. According to a brief Wikipedia search the acronym was coined by journalist Joel Garreau in 2005. And yeah, why this is important to the Sh'daar is a big deal later on in the series so I won't spoil it just yet.

Quote:
I recall variable-geometry nanotech fighters from Orion's Arm and that singularity drive sounds similar to another Weber thing (Path of the Fury, IIRC.) Anyways, it's more-or-less impossible to have a truly original idea, what matters is what you do with it and if it's interesting.

The title you're thinking of is In Fury Born for the singularity drive, and yes, it's basically the same thing.

This is also a bit where Earth Strike suffers from some early-installment weirdness. Here it's just the fighters that can use it (anything bigger than 80 meters or so uses an STL version of Alcubierre drive), but starting with book two it gets retconned to where all ships use a singularity drive and reaction thrusters for sublight travel. The fighters retain the acceleration advantage, though.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-20 09:49am
Offline
Padawan Learner
User avatar

Joined: 2011-08-23 07:49pm
Posts: 382
Location: Chicago IL. formerly Livingston TX.
I'm reading this book right now I think it's ok. I've also read the Galactic Marines series, personally I found the first 8 books in the series to be quite interesting and generally good reads. Things really slowed down in Semper Human and I kinda lost interest.

Come to think of it I'm not sure if I actually finished it.



"It is just such a question as has been left times out of mind in this Old World to the decision of the sword. The sword will be the arbitrator in the New World too; but the event teaches us plainly enough that Republics and Democracies enjoy no exemption from the passions and follies of humanity."
~ The London Times May 30, 1861.
http://omniopolios.myminicity.com/ind
http://omniopolios.myminicity.com/

We're all intelligent, level headed people here. Except for Batman, he's perfect in his own special little way. :P

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-21 01:27am
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
I got bored and decided to finish chapter one. Back to Koenig's POV for the next segment.

Quote:
The America's Combat Information Center, located just aft of the bridge, was large, but had a tightly packed, almost cluttered feel. Located at the carrier's hub, it was designed to function in microgravity. CIC personnel were tucked into workstations that let them link electronically with the ship and with other stations. Curving bulkheads and the shallow dome of the overhead displayed seamless images of the sky surrounding the huge ship, relayed from CCD scanners on the rim of the shield cap forward. The local space display was on the stage at the center of the compartment. By moving his hand within the glowing and insubstantial console projected in front of him, he could rotate the sphere and enlarge a portion of it, checking the ID alphanumerics.

Altogether, some twenty-seven ships made up the task force, including heavy cruisers and a battleship, four destroyers, half a dozen frigates, a small flotilla of supply and repair vessels, and a detachment of eight troop transports, all empty. Of all those, only nine ships were linked in so far.

Ah! Good. The railgun cruiser Kinkaid was visible now, two light minutes abeam, at 184 degrees relative. They would need the Kinky's massive kinetic-kill firepower if the op degenerated into a fleet action ... and Koenig was certain that it would. And the destroyers Kaufman and Puller were on-line now as well. They would be vital if -- no, when -- the Turusch va Sh'daar spotted the battlegroup and deployed their heavy fighters to meet it.

That made eleven so far.

Near as I can tell it's a pretty sensible design for a flag bridge/CIC. Nestled behind the shield cap it's decently protected, and the hologram gives the admiral a good 3D view of the battlefield. Also, there's no artificial gravity on the America's CIC.

Also, we have the composition of CBG-18 and our first mention of the primary firepower used by human ships: railguns. Finally, the first mention of the enemy for this book, the Turusch, one of the major Sh'daar vassal species in our corner of the galaxy.

Also, apparent math goof on William Keith's part. That looks to me like it should be twelve ships linked in, not eleven.

Quote:
John Quintanilla, the battlegroup's Political Liaison, floated upside-down, from Koenig's perspective, clinging to the back of the admiral's couch.

"Shouldn't we be accelerating or something?" the civilian asked.

"Not until the rest of the battlegroup forms up with us," Koenig replied.

"Your orders from the Senate Military Directorate," Quintanilla said, his voice low, "require you to reach Gorman's force in the shortest time possible. Time is critical! He can't hold out very much longer."

"I am very much aware of that, Mr. Quintanilla."

"Those fighters you launched aren't going to have much of a chance against a Turusch war fleet. Your orders --"

"My orders, Mr. Quintanilla," Koenig snapped, "include the requirement to keep my battlegroup intact ... or as intact as combat allows." Koenig moved his hand, calling up an AI-generated image of the planet nine and a half light hours ahead, outlined in green lines of latitude and longitude. "We will not help General Gorman if we piss away the ships of this battlegroup a few at a time!"

"But --"

"This is what's waiting for us in there, Mr. Quintanilla," Koenig said, interrupting. The sphere at the center of the CIC display enlarged sharply, and a number of red pinpoints sprang into sharp relief against the green background. Each red dot was accompanied by alphanumerics showing mass, vector, and probable id.

"Fifty-five vessels that we've been able to detect so far," Koenig told him. "So far. There are, no doubt, others on the far side of the planet that we haven't picked up as yet. We will be seriously outnumbered in this engagement, sir, and I will not divide my fleet in the face of a superior enemy!"

<snip>

"You know what is best, of course," Quintanilla said, his face stiff, expressionless. "At least from a tactical perspective. "My job is simply to remind you of the ... of the political ramifications of your decisions. General Gorman is an extremely important person in the Senate's estimation. They want him rescued and returned safely."

Koenig made a face. He detested politics, and he detested playing politics with brave men and women. "Ah. And Gorman's Marines?"

"Of course, the more Marines you can pick up, the better."

"I see, and the Mufrids?"

Quintanilla gave him a sharp look. "Certainly, any of the colonists for which you have transport berths can be brought out, especially any with information on Turusch capabilities. But I'll remind you that General Gorman's rescue is your prime consideration."

Quintanilla, the political officer. He's an idiot, but for the most part an ignorable idiot (unlike certain other kinds of political officers I could name). Why the Confederation uses political officers is coming up shortly. Also, he's a civilian, not a military man.

On another note, the Turusch outnumber the Confederates by at least two-to-one, and Koenig wants to be able to hit them with all the force at his disposal instead of in dribs and drabs, so that he has at least a chance at winning.

Finally, I'm having an interesting time imagining the two of them arguing like this when they're upside down to each other. :mrgreen:

Quote:
More ships were popping up on the display's expanding battlespace globe, including the Ticonderoga and The Spirit of Confederation, the first a heavy cruiser, the second the task force's single line-battleship, with heavy kinetic-kill railguns that could pulverize a planet.

Unfortunately, the Confederation task force could not pulverize the planet ahead, not without killing some five thousand Marines of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the colonists they'd been deployed to protect.

I'm personally not inclined to take the "pulverize a planet" line particularly seriously (most likely hyperbole), although I suppose it's possible with repeated impacts. We don't get a whole lot in terms of hard firepower numbers in the series.

Quote:
Located beneath Koenig's station was the section of the CIC known as "the orchestra pit" and, more usually, simply as "the pit." Twelve workstations nestled within the pit, where America's CIC officers stood their watches. One of them, Commander Janis Olmstead, the primary weapons control officer, caught Koenig's eye and arched an eyebrow. "Since when did micromanagement become Navy SOP, sir?" she asked.

"Mind on your links, Weps," Captain Randolph Buchanan's electronic avatar said. He was America's commanding officer, and Koenig's flag captain. Physically, he was on the bridge next door to CIC, but the compartment's electronics projected his image to the command dais next to Koenig's couch.

"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."

"She's right, you know," Koenig told Buchanan, but he texted the words to Buchanan's screen, rather than speaking them aloud. He would not criticize Buchanan's running of his ship and crew, not publicly. "It's not going to be the Sh'daar that defeat us. Or their client races. It's going to be the damned Confed politics."

The space navy equivalent of passing notes in class. :mrgreen: Also, upon a second reading I'm oddly put in mind of Star Destroyer bridges, you know, with the big walkway overtop of the crew pit.

Quote:
Buchanan seemed to hesitate, and then the avatar looked at Koenig. "How the hell do we fight a galactic empire, Admiral?" he asked aloud.

Damn. Buchanan should have kept the conversation private, exchanging text messages. Glancing down into the pit, Koenig could see that Olmstead and the others were carefully watching their own link channels and displays, but they'd obviously heard. The conversation would spread throughout the America by the end of the next watch.

"I don't believe in 'galactic empires,'" Koenig said. He snorted. "The whole idea is silly, given the size of the galaxy."

"Well, the Sh'daar appear to believe in the concept, Admiral," Buchanan's image said. "And I doubt very much that it matters whether they agree with you on the point or not."

Now if only that one guy in HHGTTG had tried to power his ship with gossip instead of bad news. :mrgreen: Also, I think there's a couple interpretations of Koenig here. He either doesn't give credence to the claimed size of the Sh'daar empire, or he's putting on a brave front for his underlings. Plus there's Buchanan, which, snarky underlings always crack me up.

Also, William Keith apparently groks the concept that space is fucking HUGE, unlike certain other recent writers I could mention. *hacking cough that sounds suspiciously like "J.J. Abrams"*

Quote:
It had been ninety-two years since humankind had made contact with the Sh'daar, or, more precisely, since they'd made contact with the Agletsch va Sh'daar, one of an unknown but very large number of technic alien species within what was somewhat melodramatically called the Sh'daar Galactic Empire. Quite early on, the Agletsch -- some humans still referred to them as "Canopians," even though that brilliant, hot F0-class supergiant could not possibly be their home star -- had explained that they served the "Galactic Masters," the Sh'daar.

Then, fifty-five years later, an Agletsch delegation had tentacle-delivered a message to Earth, inscribed in English, Spanish, Russian, and transliterated Lingua Galactica, purportedly from the Sh'daar themselves.

They claimed to be the overlords of a galaxy-spanning civilization. After five and a half decades of peaceful trade between the Confederation and the Agletsch Collective, the Sh'daar now stepped in and "suggested," with just a hint of velvet-shrouded-mail fist, that the human Confederation submit to them and take their rightful places as a star-faring species -- under the hegemony of the Sh'daar Masters.

And until that happened, the humans were forbidden to have any contact whatsoever with the Agletsch.

The problem was, in fifty-five years an active and spirited trade had sprung up between the Agletsch worlds and the nearest star systems colonized by humans. StarTek and Galactic Dynamics, the trading corporations involved, hadn't wanted to give up their lucrative contracts for Agletsch art and basic technical information. A Terran naval task group had been deployed to protect human trade routes in the region, and the Confederation Diplomatic Corps had made overtures to the Agletsch Collective about maintaining trade and diplomatic contact apart from Sh'daar oversight.

The result had been the disastrous Battle of Beta Pictoris, in 2468, the equivalent, in human eyes, of reaching out to shake hands and pulling back a bloody stump.

Recent history of the setting. Don't you just love it when people's reason for doing something dumb is, "But, but, MONEY!"

Also a reference in the second-to-last paragraph to the major twist the series puts on the "merchant race" trope. Any given star system has more than enough resources to fabricate anything, so the Agletsch trade in primarily art and information, stuff that is hard to duplicate in the first case, and requires a ship to carry it across the interstellar void in the second.

Quote:
In 2367, the Terran Confederation had incorporated 214 interstellar colonies and perhaps a thousand research and trade outposts on planets scattered across a volume of space roughly one hundred light years across and perhaps eighty deep, a volume embracing almost eight thousand star systems, the majority of which had never even been visited by humans. And after less than four decades of bitter fighting, Confederation territory had dwindled by perhaps a quarter.

The scale of the Confederation, and how much they've lost in the war so far.

Quote:
The sheer impossibility of the Confederation fighting such an overwhelmingly vast and far-flung galactic power had strongly affected human culture and government, deeply dividing both, and affecting the entire Confederation with a kind of social depression, a plummeting morale that was difficult to combat, difficult to shoulder.

And one symptom of plunging morale was the increasing micromanagement out of C3 -- Confederation Central Command -- on Earth. All military vessels now carried one or more Senate liaisons, like Quintanilla, to make certain the Senate's orders were properly carried out.

If anything, direct Senate oversight of the military had made the morale problem even worse.

And that's why an overall net waste of O2 like Quintanilla is aboard. And as usual, military folks dislike being analyzed by "armchair military" civilians.

Quote:
"The scuttlebutt is that his Marines captured some Tush officers. If so, that could give us our first real insight into the enemy psychology since this damned war began."

"Tush" or "Tushie" was military slang for the Turusch ... one of the cleaner of a number of popular epithets. He saw Olmstead's head come up in surprise at hearing a flag officer use that kind of language.

"Yes sir," Buchanan said.

"So we play it by the op plan," Koenig added, speaking with a confidence he didn't really feel but which he hoped sounded inspiring. "We go in, kick Trash ass, and pull our people and their prisoners out of there. Then we hightail for Earth and let the damned politicians know that the Galactics can be beaten."

He grinned at Buchanan's avatar. He suspected that the Captain had spoken aloud specifically to give Koenig the chance to say something inspiring. A cheap and theatrical trick, but he wasn't going to argue with the psychology. The crew was nervous -- they knew what they were in for at Eta Boötis -- and hearing their admiral's confidence, even an illusion of confidence, was critical.

More slang. Also, and this is important, the leathernecks managed to take some Turusch alive. And Koenig's doing what he can to keep people's spirits up in spite of the fact they're outnumbered two-to-one.

On another note, one of the things Keith does really well in this series IMHO is alien psychology. He comes up with minds that are comprehensible to the average reader but still utterly alien, and justifies it with evolutionary details. We'll see some of that later in the book, but he alludes to it here.

The book now shifts back to Trevor Gray. The time is now 0421 hours.
Quote:
Lieutenant Gray checked his time readouts, both of them. Time -- the time as measured back on board America -- was, as expected, flashing past at an insane pace, thirteen times faster, in fact, than it was passing for him.

In its high-G sperm-mode configuration, the SG-92 Starhawk's quantum-gravitic projectors focused an artificial curvature of spacetime just ahead of the ship's rounded prow -- in effect creating a gravitational singularity that moved ahead of the fighter, pulling it forward at dizzying accelerations.

Accelerating at 50,000 gravities had boosted his Starhawk to near-light velocity in ten minutes. For the next hour, then, he'd been coasting at .997 c ... except that the mathematics of time dilation reduced the time actually experienced on board the hurtling fighter to 0.077402 of that -- or exactly four minutes, thirty-eight point six seconds.

First paragraph's just a fun little detail. Two clocks, one of which keeps track of subjective time for the pilot, the other time for the mothership.

Quote:
Through the Starhawk's optics, the universe outside looked very strange indeed.

Directly ahead and astern and to either side, there was nothing, a black and aching absence of light. All of the stars of the sky appeared to have been compressed into a frosty ring of light forward by the gravfighter's near-c velocity. Even Eta Boötis itself, directly ahead, had been reshaped into a tight, bright circle.

And, despite the expectations of physicists from centuries ago, there was a starbow -- a gentle shading of color, blue to deep violet at the leading edge of the starlight ring, and deep reds trailing. Theoretically, the starlight should all have appeared white, since visible light Doppler-shifted into invisibility would be replaced by formerly invisible wavelengths. In practice, though, the light of individual stars was smeared somewhat by the shifting wavelengths, creating the color effect known as a starbow.

<snip>

When the fighter was under acceleration, the sky ahead looked even stranger. Gravitational lensing twisted the light of stars directly ahead into a solid, bright ring around the invisible pseudomass in front of the ship, even when the craft was still moving at nonrelativistic speeds.

What the night sky looks like at .997c. I don't have the physics to tell if this is accurate or not but it sure reads cool.

Quote:
He felt ... lonely.

Technically his fighter was still laser taclinked with the other eleven Starhawks of Blue Omega Flight, but communication between ships at near-c was difficult due to the severely Dopplered distortions in surrounding spacetime. The other fighters should be exactly matched in course and speed, but their images, too, were speared into that light ring forward because their light, too, was traveling just three thousandths of a percent faster than Gray's ship. Some low-level bandwidth could be held open over the laser channels for AI coordination, but that was about it. No voice. No vid. No avatars.

Just encircling darkness, Night Absolute, and the Starbow ahead.

The hell of it was, Gray was a loner. With his history, he damned near had to be. By choice he didn't hang out much with the other pilots in the ready room or flight officers' lounge. When he did, there was the inevitable comment about his past, about where he'd come from ... and then he would throw a punch and end up getting written up by Allyn, and maybe even getting pulled from the flight line.

Better by far to stay clear of the other pilots entirely, and avoid the hassle.

But now, when the laws of Physics stepped in like God Almighty to tell him he couldn't communicate with the others, he found he missed them. The banter. The radio chatter.

The reassurance that there were, in fact, eleven human souls closer than eight astronomical units away.

Fighters moving at transluminal velocity are basically cut off from each other.

Quote:
He'd been on the lounge of the Worldview, a civilian bar adjacent to the spaceport at the SupraQuito space elevator. He and Rissa Schiff had been sitting in the view blister, just talking, the Earth an unimaginably beautiful and perfect sphere of ocean-blue and mottled cloud-white gleaming against the night. The two had been in civilian clothing, which, as it turned out, had been lucky for him. Lieutenants Jen Collins and Howie Spaas had walked up, loud and uninvited, also in civvies, and both blasted on recs.

"Geez, Schiffie," Collins had said, her voice a nasal sneer. You hang around with a Prim loser like this perv, you're gonna get a bad name." Spaas had snickered.

Gray had stood, but he'd kept a lid on it. Allyn had lectured about that the last time he'd gotten into trouble with other squadron officers ... the need to let the insults slide off. The shipboard therapist she'd sent him to had said the same thing. Other people could hurt him, could get through his shields only if he let them.

"Who asked you, bitch?" Gray had said quietly.

"Ooh, I'm afraid," Spaas said, grinning. "Hey, Riss ... you need to be careful around creeps like this. A fucking Prim monogie. You're never going to get any ..."

It had been worth it, decking Spaas. It really had. It had been worth having the Shore Patrol show up, worth the off-duty restriction to quarters for a week, worth the extra watches, even worth the searing new asshole the skipper had given him. Commander Allyn could have put him up for court-martial, but she'd chosen to give him a good old-fashioned ass-chewing instead.

We see Gray's major sore spot: Being called a "Prim" and/or "monogie". This goes back to his backstory, which is tied into Earth's history. We get into that in more detail later but for now, I'll leave you with the words from which the slurs are derived: "Prim", from "primitive", and "monogie", from "monogamous". Where Gray comes from, they eschew most of the trappings of modern society ("primitive"), including free love, which in some segments of society translates to extended family sex circles ("monogamous").

On another note, space elevators.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-21 05:26am
Offline
The Doctor
User avatar

Joined: 2004-12-12 11:55pm
Posts: 8181
Location: In a 1960s police telephone box somewhere in Australia
I briefly read the first few paragraphs, but can I describe this sci fi as America kicks alien butt, or the nations of the Earth team up to kick alien butt. After China killed one third of the population.



Never apologise for being a geek, because they won't apologise to you for being an arsehole. John Barrowman - 22 June 2014 Perth Supernova.

Like Dr Taylor on Facebook
Crowd funding a charity of Matt Taylor's choice
Female friend of Matt Taylor who made the shirt speaks out
Matt Taylor shirt sold here

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-21 09:52am
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
mr friendly guy wrote:
I briefly read the first few paragraphs, but can I describe this sci fi as America kicks alien butt, or the nations of the Earth team up to kick alien butt. After China killed one third of the population.

Well, if you wanted me to describe the series in one sentence ... more or less. Except, despite Koenig's assertions the Sh'daar really are a galaxy-spanning empire so they can't really do it by brute force. Their enemies are functionally unlimited in troop strength; humans are decidedly not.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-21 11:28am
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Another metaphor popped into my head a minute ago. The series is basically humans kicking alien ass, but the humans break several bones in their feet in the process.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-26 07:40pm
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Okay, here comes chapter two. It is now 0428 hours. Koenig's POV.
Quote:
Two of the naval transports had never checked in ... which might mean they'd suffered malfunction or disaster en route from Sol, or, more likely, that they'd emerged from Alcubierre Drive more than 1.3 hours from the America.

It would be the transports, he thought -- the entire reason for coming to Eta Boötis in the first place. Still, if they'd made it this far, they'd follow the task force in. Gray [sic] couldn't hold up the mission any longer waiting for them.

Over the course of the past eighty minutes, the task force had been slowly pulling together, until most occupied a rough sphere half a million kilometers across. All were now electronically linked tacnet, though the most distant vessels would lag fifteen minutes behind in receiving any signals from the flagship.

What did we learn on Star Carrier tonight, Craig?
  • Murphy's Laws are just as applicable to future militaries as current ones.
  • Confederation ships coordinate with laser comms.
  • Bill Keith apparently has problems keeping his protagonists straight.

Quote:
The principles of the Alcubierre Drive had been laid down by a Mexican physicist in the last years of the twentieth century. It was old tech compared to the artificial singularities employed by modern gravfighters, but it used the same principles. Essentially, drive projectors compressed spacetime ahead of each vessel, and expanded spacetime astern, creating a bubble in the fabric of space that could move forward at any velocity, ignoring the usual constraints imposed by the speed of light because everything within the bubble, imbedded in that patch of spacetime, was motionless compared to the space around it.

Practical considerations -- both size and mass -- limited Alcubierre acceleration to five hundred gravities. At that rate, America would be pushing the speed of light after sixteen hours, thirty-seven minutes.

However, after that length of time they would have traveled almost sixty astronomical units, which meant they wouldn't have time to decelerate in to the target.

Instead, they would accelerate constantly for just over nine hours, at which point they'd be moving at .54 c, then reverse their drives and decelerate for the same period.

They would arrive in the vicinity of Eta Boötis IV ten hours after fighter wing Blue Alpha had engaged the enemy.

And until that time, Blue Omega Strike Force would be fighting the enemy alone.

Infodump on the Alcubierre Drive's sublight functionality. Confed capital ships' max acceleration is about the same as Honorverse capitals', 500 Gs.

Also, just to reiterate: Twelve fighters will be up against 53-plus Turusch capital ships for ten hours before any backup at all is forthcoming.

We now skip to 1015 hours and rejoin Trevor Gray, now 46 AUs closer to target.
Quote:
His AI had last updated his target data from America's CIC just before the squadron had boosted, which meant that his information about the enemy's strength and dispositions around Eta Boötis were now a full seventeen hours out of date. That was the tricky aspect to near-c deployment; once you boosted to relativistic speeds, you couldn't be sure of what you were getting into until you were nearly there.

So, not only are they absurdly outnumbered, they're flying completely blind.

Quote:
His Starhawk's forward sensors, at this speed, were all but useless. Radiation from ships around Eta Boötis IV was strongly distorted both by relativistic effects and by the "dustcatcher," a high-gravity zone maintained ahead of the fighter at near-c even when the ship wasn't accelerating, to trap or deflect dust and gas in the gravfighter's path. Any information that made it to the fighter's sensors was lost in the light-smeared ring representing the star dead ahead.

Required Secondary Powers for lighthugging, and their main drawback. But there's a way to get a better view.

Quote:
On the mirrored black surface of his Starhawk, three sensor masts detached from the hull and swung out and forward, each two meters long at the start, but unfolding, stretching, and growing to reach a full ten meters from the ship. The receivers at the ends of the masts, spaced equidistant around the fighter, extended far enough out to let them look past the nebulous haze of the dustcatcher. As Gray watched, the inner circle of light on the cockpit display grew sharper and brighter. Incoming radiation was still being distorted by the Starhawk's velocity, of course, but now he could see past the distortion of the singularity, and even take advantage of the dustcatcher's gravitational lensing effect.

Bright flashes silently popped and flared across the display now, however. Extended, the sensor masts were striking random bits of debris -- hydrogen atoms, mostly, adrift in the not-quite-perfect vacuum of space and made deadly by the gravfighter's speed. Impact at this speed with something as massive as a meteoric grain of sand could destroy the mast; his AI had to work quickly.

Reading this, I'm put in mind of tornado-propelled straw and cardboard getting stuffed through a tree, and this picture I saw once of a tiny little scrap of nylon fired at orbital velocity putting a huge crater in a block of aluminum. Except magnified.

Quote:
Resolution was poor. Only a few ship-sized targets -- the most massive -- could be separated from the distortion-induced static. The AI did its best to match up the handful of targets it could see now with those that had been visible to America's sensors hours earlier. By combining the America data with this fresh, if limited, glimpse, and predict where they would be -- assuming no changes in orbit -- in another 136-plus minutes, objective.

Fifteen targets. Gray had hoped there would be more, but it was something with which to work. Fifteen large starships appeared to be in stable, predictable orbits around the target world, their orbital data precise enough to allow a clear c-shot at them. Of those fifteen, six, the data predicted, would be on the far side of the target planet 136 objective minutes from now, so they were off the targeting list. The remaining nine, however, were fair game.

The actual targeting and munitions launch were handled automatically by the AI-net, requiring only Gray's confirmation for launch. So long as there was no override from Commander Allyn, all eleven Starhawks woul be contributing to the PcB, the Pre-engagement c Bombardment.

So, out of 55 known hostiles (mentioned in a line I skipped over), Gray's sensor masts discerned nine targets. Also, details on how AI is integrated into combat. In the past I've described the way it works by corrupting a line by EDI in Mass Effect 2: The human crew decides who to shoot. The AI decides how to shoot.

Also, Keith goofed the number of ships involved again. He said twelve earlier.

Quote:
Additional red blips flicked on, a cloud of them, indistinct and uncertain, centered around and over Gorman's position. Those marked enemy targets for which there was no orbital data and that most likely were actively attacking the Marine perimeter. Or rather, they had been 136 minutes ago, when the photons revealing their positions had left Eta Boötis IV. For all Gray knew, the perimeter had collapsed hours ago, and the squadron was about to make a useless demonstration at best, fly into a trap at worst. He shoved the thought aside. They were committed, had been committed since boosting clear of the America. They would know the worst in another few subjective minutes.

Psychological impact of hitting a moving target (literally and figuratively) when the last data you had was hours old. Keith does "thinking out the full implications" very well in this series IMHO.

Quote:
Planet: Eta Boötis IV

Name: Al Haris al Sama, (Arabic) "Guardian of Heaven"; Haris; Mufrid.

Type: Terrestrial/rocky; sulfur/reducing

<snip>

Surface Gravity: 1.85 G

Surface Temperature Range: ~30°C - 60°C.

<snip>

Biology: C, N, H, S8, O, Se, H2O, CS2, OCN; Sessile photolithoautotrophs in reducing atmosphere symbiotic with various mobile chemoorganoheterotrophs and chemosynthetic lithovores...

Gray broke off reading at that point, shaking his head. The squadron had been briefed on the native life forms on Haris, but he'd bleeped past the recorded lectures. He wouldn't be on the planet long enough to worry about any native life forms.

Hell, from what he had picked up at the briefing, it was mildly bizarre that there was any life on the rock at all. One point seven billion years ago, the stellar companion of Eta Boötis had burned up its hydrogen fuel stores and entered a red giant phase before collapsing to its current white dwarf state. Planet IV had probably formed farther out than its current orbit within the star's habitable zone, but migrated in closer as friction with the outer layers of the red giant's atmosphere both baked it dry and slowed it down. The current ecosystem could not have even begun evolving until about a billion years ago ... an impossibly short time by cosmological standards.

Mufrid, its biology, and the minor miracle that it has any. Another thing about this series is that Keith doesn't restrict himself to Earthlike planets for life-bearing worlds. For that matter, there is nothing in the series you could duplicate with a rubber forehead: the closest he ever gets is the Nungiirtok, whom we'll meet in book two.

I tried to translate the technobabble up there but all I got was "chemosynthetic lithovores" = "critters that eat rocks and crap chemicals".

Here's where the fun begins.
Quote:
Another minute crawled past. Then, "Deceleration with strike package release in five ... four ... three ... two ... one ... release. Commence deceleration."

At the precisely calculated release point, a portion of the Starhawk's outer hull turned liquid, flowed open, and exposed a teardrop-shaped missile nestled within. The fighter's AI fired the missile, then triggered the spacetime-twisting intensity of the drive singularity, this time astern of the Starhawk's spiked tail. At fifty thousand gravities, the Starhawk began slowing; the strike package pod kept accelerating and, from the gravfighter's perspective, flashed forward at five hundred kilometers per second squared, the dustcatcher winking out just long enough for the teardrop to flash past unimpeded, before switching on once more.

Ten seconds later, the gravfighter's velocity had slowed by five thousand kilometers per second. After a minute, he was down to .87 of the speed of light, and his velocity continued to decrease.

Six hundred thousand kilometers ahead, the strike package, still accelerating and moving at better than .997 c, began to deploy.

At this point on the timeline, the Turusch at the planet half an AU up ahead would still be unaware that the Confederation task force had even arrived.

They were in for one hell of a surprise.

This is the traditional opening move of a strike fighter attack that repeats throughout the series. Fire a kinetic-damage missile as you close and brake hard. At these speeds kinetic energy causes more damage than the weapon's own mass of antimatter, so hopefully you catch the enemy before they can maneuver and even the odds somewhat.

Now we switch to a Turusch perspective, Koenig's counterpart Emphatic Blossom at Dawn, whom I'm going to chop down to EBAD anytime I have to talk about him outside a quotation.
Quote:
Tactician Emphatic Blossom at Dawn
Enforcer Radiant Severing
1241 hours, TFT

Emphatic Blossom at Dawn had been named for a species of hydrogen floater on the homeworld that stunned its prey with an electric charge fired through trailing, gelatinous tentacles ... emphatic indeed. It was a tactician, and a gurgled suffix on the Turusch sound-pulse translated as "tactician" carried the added meaning of a deep tactician ... very roughly the equivalent of a general or an admiral in the enemy's fleet.

The phrase Emphatic Blossom at Dawn also implied stealth, relentless determination, and a sudden strike at the end, all qualities of mind that had contributed to its being designated a deep tactician.

There was little stealth involved in this operatio, however. The enemy was hemmed in on the planet's surface, huddled beneath its enclosing force-bubble as Turusch particle beams and thermonuclear warheads flared and thundered. For nearly thirty g'nyuuu'm now, the Turusch fleet had been hammering that shield, and it was showing signs of imminent failure.

Details of Turusch homeworld fauna and the first hints at the complexity of Turusch language. Also, the Marine base is protected by a theatre deflector shield.

What the various Turusch units equate to in metric is never explained IIRC.

Quote:
"Tactician!" a communicator throbbed from a console-shelf overhead. "Enemy ships, range twelve thousand lurm'm!"

The news chilled ... and excited. Emphatic Blossom had hoped the enemy would deploy its fleet. At that range, it would have taken light nearly five g'nyuu'm to reach the fleet's sensors. And that meant --

"All vessels!" the Tactician pulsed. "Disengage from the enemy! Power deep! Ships in orbit, change vector now!"

Everything depended now on the Turusch hunterforce having the time to change course and speed. The enemy force would have launched their fighters within moments of dropping out of superluminal drive, which meant those fighters, and any kinetic-kill devices they'd released long the way, would be just behind the light-speed wavefront bearing the news of the enemy's arrival.

How fast were the approaching kinetic devices traveling, how close on the heels of light? How far behind them were the enemy fighters? That depended on the enemy's technology -- how fast they could accelerate -- as well as on how quickly Turusch scanners had detected the enemy fleet in the first place. Five light-g'nyuu'm were a great depth. Many, many g'nya might have passed before Turusch scanners -- or even the automated systems they controlled -- had noticed the enemy's arrival. How long had they been out there?

EBAD spots the humans and scrambles to get the fleet reacting.

Turusch sensors are light-limited just like humans', which means that the attacker has the element of surprise.

12,000 lurm'm = 5 light-g'nyuu'm, not that that really means anything useful. If Keith had specified whether the Turusch had picked up the Blue Omegas, their kinetic strike, or the battlegroup (or some combination of the three), we'd be able to translate it.

Quote:
"Enemy kinetic-kill missile has just passed our tail!" the scanner throbbed. "Speed --"

And then the Languid Depths of Time exploded in a white-hot glare of vaporizing metal.

In another instant, three other Turusch hunterships exploded, and two dazzlingly brilliant stars appeared against the surface of the planet, expanded, blossoming. The claw-transport Victorious Dream of Harmony staggered as a portion of its tail vanished in a flare of silent light, the shock setting the massive vessel into an uncontrolled tumble.

Lasered messages began flashing back to the flagship, speaking of projectiles passing through the fleet at just a m'ruum less than that of light itself.

Bill Keith stops just short of giving us enough data to decipher Turusch units. 0.997c base velocity for the strike package, accelerating at 500 km/s^2 for (~1241 hours - (1015 hours + 11 subjective minutes)). Now if only we could figure out what a m'ruum was. Damn you, Keith, for cutting off the Radiant Severing's AI before it could give a number.

Out of nine targets, four warships totally destroyed and one reduced half the ship it used to be, and two stray shots hit the planet. Not bad for targeting data 136 minutes old.

1245 hours, Gray's perspective.
Quote:
Gray's Starhawk was still slowing swiftly, still traveling at nearly eighteen thousand kilometers per second -- a mere 0.06 c, a snail's pace compared to typical high-G transit speeds.

In principle, speed in combat was as important as it had ever been in the long-gone era of aerofighters and atmospheric dogfights in the skies above Earth. However, if your closing velocity was too high relative to your opponent, there simply wasn't time to react, even with electronic senses and AI reaction times. The target was there and gone before you could do a thing about it.

Gray's down to merely very, very fast speed as opposed to ludicrous speed. And the second paragraph oddly reminded me of the warp-strafing discussion from the SWvST section of the site.

Quote:
At Gray's command, the Starfighter began rearranging itself once again, adopting standard combat configuration -- a blade-lean crescent, slender black wings drooping to either side of the thicker central body, the crescent tips stretched forward as if to embrace the enemy. Sleek streamlining wasn't as necessary at these velocities as it was when plowing through near-vacuum at near-c, but there was always the possibility in these sorts of engagements that a fight would drop into planetary atmosphere, and then streamlining was very necessary indeed.

Minutes earlier, as he dropped past .5 c, Gray had released the dustcatcher, sending a microscopic speck of collected dust and hydrogen atoms compressed into a neutron microbody hurtling ahead at half the speed of light. If it, by sheer, random chance, hit an enemy spacecraft as it zipped through the system, so much the better, but there was no way to aim it. Like the vaporized whiffs of any A7 strike packages that had missed their targets, the dust balls released by the infalling fighters would remain interstellar navigation hazards for eons to come.

Data flooded across Gray's navigational and combat displays. As he glanced this [sic] across the screen, his in-head display opened windows, showing magnified views.

More nano-variable geometry. Starhawks are capable of atmospheric flight. And IHD stands for "in-head display", not "internal HUD" as I thought earlier.

The dust ball line reminded me of this guy:


Quote:
So ... five hits total. Not bad, considering the Kentucky windage involved from sixth [sic] tenths of an AU out. That left fifty enemy vessels to deal with ... correction, fifty-three. Three others must have been either masked by the planet when America had first scanned the inner system, or had arrived in the objective hours since.

The kinetic strike reduces the odds from 53-plus capital ships to ... 53. That's ... not much of an improvement.

Interesting use of terminology here. According to the almighty Google, Kentucky windage is sharpshooter slang for adjusting for wind. Cute metaphor.

Quote:
Enemy warships were scattering from the vicinity of the planet, a swarm of nest-kicked hornets. Turusch vessels were characteristically large, bulky, and clumsy-looking, the space-going equivalents of fortresses painted in bold swathes of either green and black or a starker red and black. Even their fighters, painted in green-and-black stripes, had the look of lumpy potatoes, each four to five times the mass of a Confederation Starhawk.

Despite appearances, they were fast and they were deadly. Gray caught one huge capital ship with his eyes and held it as he triggered a weapons lock. The Starhawk's offensive warload consisted of thirty-two VG-10 Krait smart missiles, a StellarDyne Blue Lightning PBP-2 particle beam projector, and for very close work, a Gatling RFK-90 KK cannon. At long range, smart missiles were always the weapon of choice.

Loose description of Turusch ships and fighters, and the armaments carried by the SG-92 Starhawk. I'm assuming he left out the A7 strike package because Gray fired it already.

Quote:
The missile streaked from beneath the embrace of Gray's wings, the heat dump from its miniature gravitic drive gleaming like a tiny sun as it streaked through space.

The other Starhawks were all there, still in the circle formation they'd adopted out in the system's Kuiper Belt. The circle was opening now as the fighters applied lateral thrust and spread themselves apart. Other pilots were calling Fox One now, the code-phrase that meant they were firing smart missiles. More missiles flashed into the gulf ahead, tracking and dogging enemy warships, each accelerating at close to one thousand gravities.

Missiles powered by gravitic drive, capable of 1,000 Gs.

Quote:
His missile and two others were closing with the big green-and-black enemy warship -- a Tango-class destroyer, under the standard Confederation nomenclature for enemy ships. The enemy was dumping sand -- blasting clouds of tiny, refractive particles into space both to defeat laser targeting systems and to serve as a physical barrier against incoming kinetic-kill or high-velocity warheads.

Turusch anti-missile countermeasures.

Quote:
One missile hit the expanding sand cloud and exploded, a ten-kiloton blast that pulsed in the darkness, but the other two missiles plunged through the hole vaporized in the Turusch ship's defensive barrier, striking its magnetic shielding and detonating like a pair of close, bright, savage novae.

Enemy shield technology was a bit better than the Confederation could manage yet. Neither nuke penetrated the envelope of twisted spacetime sheathing the destroyer, but enough of the double blast leaked through to crumple a portion of the warship's aft hull. Atmosphere spilled into space as the ship slewed to one side, staggered by the hit.

Shields rely on spacetime manipulation to deflect or destroy incoming ordnance. It's not foolproof: two 10 KT blasts at close range cause enough energy to leak through for physical damage. Turusch shields are noticeably tougher than Confederate shields.

Since humans don't know/can't pronounce the names of enemy ships, they give them alphabetical names, like NATO did with Soviet submarines.

Quote:
The half of the sky in the direction of planet and sun was filled now with red blips, the icons marking incoming enemy missiles. Turusch anti-ship missile technology was better than human systems, and their warshots packed bigger warheads.

This, Gray thought, is where things get interesting.

"Define 'interesting'."
"'Oh God, oh God, we're all gonna die?'" :mrgreen:

That's it for chapter two.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-29 03:54pm
Offline
Sith Marauder
User avatar

Joined: 2011-04-22 11:04pm
Posts: 4512
Location: Ocularis Terribus.
I do like the sand, it probably eats up a lot of mass, but it should work. Always nice to see authors thinking these things through.



"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-01-29 07:37pm
Offline
Padawan Learner
User avatar

Joined: 2011-08-23 07:49pm
Posts: 382
Location: Chicago IL. formerly Livingston TX.
Ahriman238 wrote:
I do like the sand, it probably eats up a lot of mass, but it should work. Always nice to see authors thinking these things through.


It's not the first time this author has used sand in space. In a previous novel he rendered a planet uninhabitable when he crashed a ship full of sand into it at high fractions of c.



"It is just such a question as has been left times out of mind in this Old World to the decision of the sword. The sword will be the arbitrator in the New World too; but the event teaches us plainly enough that Republics and Democracies enjoy no exemption from the passions and follies of humanity."
~ The London Times May 30, 1861.
http://omniopolios.myminicity.com/ind
http://omniopolios.myminicity.com/

We're all intelligent, level headed people here. Except for Batman, he's perfect in his own special little way. :P

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Chapter 3 PostPosted: 2014-02-03 03:04am
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Here we go. Chapter 3. Gray's POV, 1251 hours task force time.
Quote:
Throughout his gravfighter training back at SupraQuito, they'd hammered away at one essential lesson of space-fighter tactics: always, when an incoming warhead reached your position, be someplace else.

Gray had been in combat twice before, at Arcturus Station against the Turusch and at Everdawn against the Chinese, and knew the truth of that statement. There was no effective way to jam incoming warheads. The missiles used by both sides were piloted by brilliant if somewhat narrow-minded AIs, using a variety of sensor systems to track and home in on an enemy target. No one set of standard countermeasures could blind all of an enemy's sensors -- heat, radar, mass, gravitometric, X-ray, neutrino, optical.

Nor was it possible to outrun them. Turusch anti-fighter missiles could accelerate faster than a Starhawk, at least for short bursts. They operated on the tactical assumption that if they couldn't kill you outright, they could chase you out of town, forcing you into a straight-run boost out of battlespace to where you no longer posed a threat.

Description of current missile guidance and how it's functionally impossible to break. And even if you don't kill the fighter outright, you've still made it waste valuable time.

Also, in and among being invaded by aliens, the peoples of the Earth still find time to shoot at each other. Finally, Gray's still fairly green. This is only his third time in combat.

Quote:
He accelerated toward the incoming missiles, hard, then threw his Starhawk into a low-port turn, as tight as he could manage at this velocity.

Vector-changes in space-fighter combat were a lot trickier than for an atmosphere fighter; they were possible at all only because gravitic propulsive systems allowed the fighter to project a deep singularity above, below, or to one side or the other relative to the craft's current attitude. Intense, projected gravity wells whipped the fighter around onto a new vector, bleeding off velocity to throw an extra burst of power to the inertial dampers that, theoretically at least, kept the pilot from being squashed by centripetal acceleration.

Enough gravities seeped through the straining damper field to press Grey back against the yielding nanofoam of his seat; stars blurred past his head.

Basically the way maneuvering a gravfighter works is, you use your singularity drive to generate a gravity well in the direction you want to turn, and use that for a gravity assist. Unlike the 50,000 G boost from earlier, doing so requires inertial dampers (which, naturally for a setting that has basically made the fabric of spacetime its bitch, seem to be another piece of gravitic tech by implication).

Quote:
"Six missiles still locked on and tracking," the AI voice of his tawhawk told him with emotionless persistence. "Time to detonation nine seconds ... eight ... seven ..."

At "three" Gray grav-jinked left, firing passive sand canisters. The enemy missiles were now a few thousand kilometers off his starboard side, using their own gravitics to attempt to match his turn. He kept pushing, kept turning into the oncoming warheads.

Blinding light blossomed from astern and to starboard ... then again ... and yet again as three missiles struck sand clouds and detonated. Three down, three to go. He punched up the Starhawk's acceleration to 3,000 gravities, turning again to race toward the planet.

How to foil an AI-piloted missile: lure them onto a decently predictable vector, then pop sand and let 'em fly into it.

Quote:
He might not be able to outrun Trash missiles in a flat-out race, but in most combat situations, outrunning them wasn't necessary. Most missiles held their acceleration down to a tiny fraction of their full capability. If they didn't, they wouldn't be able to match a low-G turn by their target, and they would wildly overshoot. So the remaining missiles on Gray's tail were putting on just enough speed to slowly catch up with him.

"Two new missiles now locked on and tracking. Terminal intercept in twenty-four seconds."

And that was the other half of the equation. Standard Turusch tactics were to fire whole swarms of missiles, sending them at him from all directions, until no maneuver he made could possibly jink past them all.

It's got nothing on Honor Harrington but it still relies on saturating the defenses (in this case the ability to evade and dump sand).

Quote:
Gray moved his hadn through the control field and the Starhawk flipped end-for-end, bringing his particle accelerator to bear. The three closest missiles appeared as a triangle of red blips, the alphanumerics next to each flickering as range and time-to-impact swiftly dwindled.

His eyes held one, and a red square appeared around the blip at the triangle's apex, signifying target lock. He moved his hand and a stream of neutrons turned the missile into an expanding cloud of plasma. He shifted his attention to a second blip, and watched it explode as well.

The third had vanished.

"Ship!" he said. "Confirm destruction of all three missiles!"

"Two anti-fighter missiles confirmed destroyed," the AI's voice said. "Negative confirmation on third missile. Two missiles of second salvo still locked on and closing. Terminal intercept in sixteen seconds. Third salvo fired, locked on and tracking. Terminal intercept in thirty-seven second...."

The "pee-beep", as the pilots like to call it, in action. Neutron bolt, huh? Also, I wonder what happened to that third missile? Fratricide maybe?

On a side note, I've clearly been watching too much Star Trek lately because in my head the AI is voiced by Majel Barrett. :lol:

Quote:
He pulled the Starhawk around until it was again traveling straight for the planet ahead.

"This is Blue Omega Seven," he called. "Request clearance for PCO launch on this vector."

"Omega Seven, Omega One," Allyn's voice came back. "You are clear for AMSO."

"Firing PCO in three ... two ... one ... Fox Two!"

In space fighter combat, Fox One signaled the launch of any of a variety of all-aspect homing missiles, including the Krait. Fox Two, on the other hand, signaled a sandcaster launch -- Anti-Missile Shield Ordnance, or AMSO. An AS-78 missle streaked from beneath his cockpit, accelerating at two thousand gravities. After five seconds, it was traveling one hundred kilometers per second faster than Gray's Starhawk and, when it detonated, the individual grains of sand -- actually sand-grain-sized spherules of matter-compressed lead -- were released in an expanding cloud of grains, each traveling with the same velocity and in the same general direction. Sandcaster missiles were dumb weapons as opposed to smart; protocol required requesting clearance for launch, because a grain of sand striking a friendly fighter at several thousand kilometers per second could ruin the day for two pilots, him and his unintended target.

Over the tacnet, he could hear other Omega pilots calling Fox Two as they slammed sand at the incoming missiles.

In a few more seconds, the sand cloud had dispersed to the point where it created a physical shield several kilometers across. His initial velocity after his turn-and-burn with the enemy ship-killers had been just over twelve thousand kilometers per second; he increased his speed now by an extra hundred kps, slipping up close and tucking behind his sand wall and drifting at the same speed.

White light blossomed ahead and to starboard, dazzling even through the stepped-down optical filters of his fighter's sensors.

A second nuclear blast, ahead and below ... this one close enough that the shell of expanding plasma jolted his ship and sent hard radiation sleeting across the Starhawk's electromagnetic shielding.

They don't just dump sand in this series, they shoot it at you in missiles! Also, we're treated to what the "sand" actually is: tiny granules of compressed lead. It's also hazardous to navigation, understandably. (This is very important later.)

Quote:
The near presence of the planet complicated things, but more for the defenders than for the Blue Omega Strike Force. The planet's bulk now blocked the line of sight to a number of the Turusch warships in low orbit, provided the gravitational mass for free course changes, and in this world's case even added an atmosphere that could be used either as a defensive screen or for simple delta-V.

The other fighters of Blue Omega were scattered across the sky now, each operating independently of the others. Gray could hear the cockpit chatter, but had to focus on his immediate situation. His wingman ... where the hell was his wing?

There she was -- Blue Omega Eight, two thousand kilometers aft and to starboard. Katie Tucker was engaging a big Turusch Echo Sierra -- an electronic scanner vessel. That, at least, was what Intelligence thought those monsters might be, with their far-flung antennae and hundred-meter sensor dishes.

Confederation tactical doctrine suggested that pilots work together in wings for mutual benefit, but standing orders didn't require it. One Starhawk could kill a Turusch capital ship as easily as two, and a single one of those thermonukes they were tossing around could take out a pair of gravfighters if they were too close together.

"This is Blue Seven," he reported. "I'm going to try to get in close to the objective."

Tactical implications of fighting close to an atmosphere-bearing (but hardly Earthlike) planet. The realities of fighting in a chaotic 3D environment by shooting kiloton-yield nukes at the enemy turns "Ya never, ever leave your wingman," (thanks, Michael Ironside) into "Try not to but don't work overhard at it, and don't commit fratricide either."

And another thing, the implications of fighting a decidedly non-humanoid enemy with little to no HUMINT possible: They're not even completely sure what some of the enemy's ships are even for.

Quote:
Gray loosed another half dozen missiles, then spotted a special target. Three thousand kilometers ahead, a Turusch fighter transport lumbered just above the planet's cloud-choked atmosphere, fighters beginning to spill from her bays.

"Blue Omega Leader, Blue Seven," he called, bringing the nose of his Starhawk around and accelerating. "I have a Fox Tango dropping Toads. Engaging...."

"I copy, Blue Seven. Blue Five! Blue Four! Get in there and give Blue Seven some backup!"

"Ah, copy, Blue Leader, On our way...."

The Turusch heavy fighters codenamed "Toads" by Confed Military Intelligence were big, ugly brutes thirty meters in length and half that thick. Less maneuverable than their Confederation counterparts, they could accelerate faster, and individually, could take a hell of a lot more punishment in combat. As Gray swung onto an attack vector with the transport, the Toads already released had begun boosting onto intercept courses.

"Fox One!" Gray shouted over the net as he released a Krait. "And Fox One ... Fox One ... Fox One!"

The red-and-black Toad transport was a prime target, easily worth the expenditure of four nuke-tipped Kraits. Confederation fighter pilots steadfastly refused to refer to the Fox Tango transports as "carriers." They insisted that the code name Fox Tango, in fact, was short for "Fat Target" rather than the more prosaic "Fighter Transport."

Missiles released, Gray snapped out an artificial singularity to port and rolled left, breaking off of the run. The enormous transport was throwing up a cloud of defensive fire -- sand, gatling KKs, particle beams, and point-defense HELs.

Meet the Fox Tango and the Toad, the Turusch counterparts to America and the Starhawk respectively. It goes more for the mighty glacier to the Starhawk's fragile speedster: tougher, better straight-line accel and bigger warload, but easy to outmaneuver.

Not sure what HELs stands for, maybe "high energy laser" or something.

TL;DR of the second-to-last paragraph: "That's not a carrier. That's a carrier!" (said in Paul Hogan's voice)

Quote:
By now he'd bled off most of his velocity, and was dropping towards the planet's nightside at a relatively sedate eight hundred kilometers per second. Using full reverse thrust, he slowed still further as his Starhawk's crescent shape flattened and elongated somewhat for atmospheric entry. He was moving at nearly thirty kilometers per second, eight kps faster than the planet's escape velocity.

Variable geometry for atmosphere.

Quote:
"Alert." The ship's computer voice somehow managed to convey the illusion of sharp emotion. "Shielded anti-ship missile closing from one-eight-zero, azimuth plus zero five! Impact in six ... five ..."

The lost missile, coming in from dead astern. There was no time for maneuvering, and no way to outrun the thing with the bulk of Eta Boötis dead ahead. Gray flipped the fighter end-for-end, searching for the telltale red star of the incoming warhead.

There! Twenty kilometers! Lock ... and fire...

The missile detonated in the same instant that he gave the fire command.

Oops. Not fratricide after all. It hid itself somehow. Eek.

Also, proximity detonation range of 20 km.

Quote:
Seconds passed before Gray blinked back to full awareness. Motion-streaked stars alternated with blackness spinning past his field of view. "AI!" he cried out. "Situation!"

There was no immediate response. Possibly, events had momentarily overloaded it. He didn't need a ship AI to tell him the situation was bad. He was in a tumble, power and drives were out, and he was falling through thin air towards Eta Boötis's night side at an unknown but fairly high velocity.

Very soon, the Eta Boötean atmosphere would be getting thick enough that the friction would incinerate him.

He was still getting sensor feeds, but life support and other ship's systems were out. IC was down, com was down, attitude control was down.

The SG-92 Starhawk had a robust and highly intelligent SRS, or self-repair system. Advanced nanotech modules allowed broken or burnt-out systems to literally regrow themselves, dissolving into the ship's hull matrix, then reassembling. When he checked the details on the dead life-support system, it told him it was 75 percent repaired, and that number jumped to eighty as he watched it. Power and control systems, too, were moments from being back on-line.

He directed the system to give priority to power and flight control; there was enough air in his personal life support to last for quite a while, and the temperature inside the cockpit was not uncomfortable yet.

The operative word being yet. The external temperature was at five hundred Celsius, and rising quickly.

"Blue Omega Flight, this is Blue Seven," he called, not with any real hope of establishing contact. Communications, according to his IHD, were also down, though there was always the possibility that it was his display or even the ship's AI that was faulty rather than his lasercom. There was a set list of things to try in the event of catastrophic multiple-system failure, and attempting to reach the other members of the flight was high among the priorities.

As he expected, however, there was no response. He directed the repair systems to lower the priority of the com network in order to focus more of the available power to power and control.

Abruptly, the dizzying alternation of star streaks with planet night halted, the shock of acceleration jolting him hard. He had partial attitude control now, though the main gravs were still out and only a trickle of power was coming through from the zero-point modules. The fighter shuddered as the keel cut thickening atmosphere, shedding more and more velocity.

Results of taking a kiloton-range nuke at 20 kilometers, use of nanotechnology for in-flight repairs, and the "Oh shit" checklist. The control systems for the SRS seem to be compartmentalized away from everything else. Smart.

Also, a mention of the power source used in the 'verse: Zero-point modules.

That last paragraph kinda reminds me of the scene in Serenity where Wash is struggling to get power back after that Reaver hits them with EMP.

Quote:
He searched the sky display for more missiles but saw none. That didn't mean they weren't out there, closing in on him. The warhead that had just blasted him into an uncontrolled planetary descent had been shielded and smart, using the sensor-blinding flash of a nuclear detonation to drop to a velocity just faster than the Starhawk without being seen. It had stalked him then, for long seconds, reappearing on his displays only when it began punching through atmosphere, growing hot and leaving a visible contrail.

Turusch anti-fighter missiles, it seemed, were getting smarter and smarter.

How that missile snuck by him.

Quote:
With manual control restored, he could hold the Starhawk in an entry glide and adjust its attitude, but the gravs were still out, meaning he was falling like a somewhat aerodynamic brick. In any case, primary gravitics were worse than useless in a planetary atmosphere. A 50,000-G singularity would gulp down molecules of air so quickly it would become star-hot in the process, and explode like a tiny supernova. There were weapons -- so-called gravitic cannons -- that used the effect, and no fighter pilot wanted one of those detonating right off the nose of his ship.

What he did have were his secondary gravitics, drive units built into the structure of his spacecraft that could generate about ten to twelve gravities, and which allowed the Starhawk to hover. Carefully, Gray began feeding power to his secondaries, adding their drag to the already considerable drag of the atmosphere to further slow his descent.

Going to full burn in atmo is a bad idea. But you can use weaker versions to slow yourself.

The next paragraph is two thirds of the page, mostly covers what it feels like to be braking at ten-plus gees without your inertial dampers (not fun, especially with the fighter sticking him full of IV needles to keep him from blacking out completely), and then we get to:
Quote:
Then, like a drowning man reaching the surface and gulping down fresh air, Gray struggled from the dark and the smothering pressure. The fireball surrounding him dissipated, and he emerged into open air.

And his flight systems were coming back on-line. He had half power now, more than enough for anything short of generating a fifty-K boost. Weapons were on-line, full sensory input, IC, AI, it was all there. Relief burst through him like the golden morning light on the horizon ahead. Voices crackled and called over his audio circuit, the other members of his squadron.

"Blue Ten! Blue Ten! I have Tango fighters inbound at five-zero, Azimuth minus four-one!..."

"Copy, Ten! Breaking right-high!"

"Here's the merge! I'm on him, Snorky!"

"Fox One! Fox One!" Static flared and crackled, and with it, a brilliant flash from somewhere above and astern. "Jesus! Did you see that?..."

"Flame one Bravo-Bravo!"

Gray's fighter's mostly functional again. Also, in and among the chatter we get a mention of a "Bravo-Bravo" being killed. BB, probably meaning "battleship".

Like in most 'verses with fighters (or LACs if you're in the Honor Harrington thread), fighters here are glass cannons. You can do a hell of a lot of damage in a short amount of time and you're difficult to hit, but one solid hit, or even an inconveniently timed near-miss, and you're pushing up daisies.

Quote:
"Blue Omega Leader, this is Blue Seven," Gray called. "Do you copy?"

"Copy, Seven!" The voice was tight and unemotional -- probably Allyn's AI avatar rather than the squadron CO herself.

"I got toasted a bit and chewed air down to the deck. Systems are back on-line now, at eighty percent. Moving towards the Mike perimeter."

"We copy that, Blue Seven." That was the real Commander Allyn's voice. "Excellent job, Prim. Get in and offer the Marines whatever help they need, channel four-niner-three Zulu. The rest of us will be in there as soon as we can work through."

Gray felt wildly contrasting emotions, a sharp thrill of pleasure at the atta-boy from his CO, and anger at her use of his detested ready-room handle.

Didn't really have an opportunity to bring it up before but personal AIs can do a passable imitation of the person they're associated with. Not enough to pass the Turing Test if you're really paying attention, but good enough to take a message and even carry a conversation if you're busy.

And I would've thought Allyn would have the sense not to use a term she knows pisses Gray off. It's always interesting what you get to see of people in high-stress environments.

Quote:
Gray adjusted his ship's hull-form again, sculpting it for high-speed aerial flight, absorbing the deep entry keel and extending the wings farther and deeper into their forward-canted configuration. Behind him, a sudden burst of shooting stars marked another cloud of sand or debris entering atmosphere, a barrage of silent flick-flick-flicks of light.

He let his AI target on the Marine beacon, bringing the SG-92's prow left across the horizon, then dipping down into a plunging dive. He opened his com suite to the Marine frequency and began sending out an approach vector clearance request.

He hadn't crossed seventy-one AUs and survived a near-miss by a thermonuke to get shot down by the damned jarheads.

How many forms do these things have, anyway?

On another note, it's oddly comforting to see that the interservice rivalry is still going strong 400 years into the future. The more things change... :mrgreen: BTW, this is a Navy brat speaking. Dad was Class of '78 at the Naval Academy, Mom was Navy ROTC, and they actually met on the USS Briscoe.

And now for someone completely different: General Gorman. Time, 1259 hours.
Quote:
Major General Eunan Charles Gorman looked up as another incoming gravitic round struck the perimeter shields with piercing thunder. The deck of the headquarters dome rocked with the impact, and both lights and display monitors dimmed and flickered as the screens strained to dissipate the surge of energy pounding out of the sky. It wouldn't be long before the screens overloaded; when that happened, the defense of Mike-Red would come to an abrupt and pyrotechnic end.

The large three-view in the center of the HQ dome currently showed the Marine beachhead -- a slender oval five kilometers long and perhaps two wide, sheltered beneath the shimmering hemisphere of an energy shield array six kilometers across. They were well-situated on high, rocky ground, but the terrain offered few advantages at the moment. The enemy was attempting to burn them out, pounding at the shield with nukes and heavy artillery, some fired from space, some fired from emplacements surrounding the beachhead and as far as a hundred kilometers away. All of the ground immediately around the Marine position was charred and lifeless, the sand fused into black, steaming glass. Incoming fire was so heavy the Marines could not lower the screen even for the instant required for a counter-battery reply.

That was the worst of it -- having to sit here day after day taking this hammering, unable to shoot back.

Demonstration of the gravitic cannon Gray mentioned earlier, and a description of the Marine base. Key point here: you can't shoot from the inside of a shield, so if the enemy keeps their rate of fire high enough you're basically stuck there waiting for the end to come.

Turusch surface artillery can hit you from 100 km.

Snip the part where Gray tells the leathernecks to open the door and:
Quote:
General Gorman looked at the small man in civilian dress standing beside him. "Well, Jamel. We may have help in time after all."

Jamel Saeed Hamid gave Gorman a sour look. "Too little, too late, I fear. We have lost the planet, either way."

"Maybe. But we'll have our lives."

Jamel Saeed Hamid, sort of the colonial governor. Not very important right now but he provides exposition on the series' backstory later.

Quote:
Gorman was a Marine, and he would have preferred Marine aviators out there ... but right now he would take any help he could get, even damned Navy zorchies. If they could take just a little of the pressure off, there was some hope that the Navy transports would make it through, and they could begin the evacuation.

Gorman starts to get his hopes up that he might make it out of this with his head intact, and more interservice rivalry jokes.

Quote:
"Looks like a general engagement in local battlespace, sir," Bradley added. The colonel was standing behind two scanner techs, watching a glowing sphere representing nearby space, highlighting planetary schematics and the slow-drifting red and green blips of spacecraft, Turusch and human.

"Who's winning?" Gorman asked.

"Hard to say, sir. The Navy boys hit 'em pretty hard with that first pass, but they're starting to lose people now. Two ... maybe three fighters have been knocked out."

"Understood."

A handful of gravfighters had no chance at all against a major Turusch battle fleet. The hope was that they would be able to maul that fleet badly enough that the capital ships could take them out when they arrived in another nine or ten hours. Better yet, if the fighters hurt the Tushies badly enough, they might withdraw before the Confederation fleet arrived.

Roughly twenty minutes into the engagement, the Blue Omegas are already down two or three ships (likely counting Gray). And again, the initial fighter wave isn't expected to win the battle, just do damage and sow chaos.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 04:12am
Offline
Jedi Knight

Joined: 2008-11-14 01:47pm
Posts: 871
Location: Latvia
I'm not familiar with Star Carrier serries, but from this analysis it seems that ton pert ton fighters are fare more effective than large heavy warships. Had there be few hundred of attacking fighters it seems reasonable enebmy fleet would be badly crippled and/or forced to retreat.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 01:26pm
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Sky Captain wrote:
I'm not familiar with Star Carrier serries, but from this analysis it seems that ton pert ton fighters are fare more effective than large heavy warships. Had there be few hundred of attacking fighters it seems reasonable enebmy fleet would be badly crippled and/or forced to retreat.

As long as their ammunition holds out, certainly. Once they run out of Kraits, though, the odds change dramatically. The pee-beep and Gatling railgun are primarily dogfighting and ground attack weapons and aren't really powerful enough for fighting capital ships unless you can hit weak points (which does happen).

But remember, I haven't shown any capital-on-capital fighting yet (that starts in chapter four or five, I forget which), and it's just as much of a brutal slugfest as we've come to expect from sci-fi.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 02:16pm
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2002-07-09 04:51am
Posts: 13707
Location: Looking for another drawer
The damn Kraits don't seem to be all that powerful anyway-a double hit on a mere destroyer is, at best, a mission kill, and sounds a lot more like the ship is somewhere between severely inconvenienced and slightly wounded, and we so far don't know what if anything happened to the not-a-carrier.
For all I know the series (or at least the humans in the series) use the same asinine classification system as the Wars EU where everything corvette and up is considered a 'capital ship' and the fighters can actually do jack all about real capital ships.
You have to admit though that the statement ' One Starhawk could kill a Turusch capital ship as easily as two'-taken at face value- does raise the question that if that is actually the case, why bother with capital ships to begin with? The fighters can get there massively faster, represent a much smaller investment in both men and material, and would-all other things being equal-be both quicker and cheaper to produce than full-up starships.



'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kids with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 03:07pm
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Batman wrote:
You have to admit though that the statement ' One Starhawk could kill a Turusch capital ship as easily as two'-taken at face value- does raise the question that if that is actually the case, why bother with capital ships to begin with? The fighters can get there massively faster, represent a much smaller investment in both men and material, and would-all other things being equal-be both quicker and cheaper to produce than full-up starships.

Biggest problem I can think of without digging through the books is the fact that the fighters are too small for an Alcubierre drive, so getting them to where they can hit an enemy requires a carrier or an in-system base.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 04:19pm
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2002-07-09 04:51am
Posts: 13707
Location: Looking for another drawer
Oh you absolutely need a carrier. What you don't need are cruisers, battleships and the like*, especially as if fighters were as efficient as that one quote indicates if you used an equal tonnage of fighters instead, by the time the capships finally lumber into fighting range, the battle is long over.

*since there's nothing saying that you can't be on the receiving end of that kind of fighter attack it would make sense to retain full-up starships other than carriers for defensive purposes, but so far it looks pretty much like the real world USN-your main offensive weapon are the fighters, and the main purpose of the rest of the battlegroup is to protect/support the carrier.



'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kids with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 05:56pm
Offline
Jedi Knight

Joined: 2008-11-14 01:47pm
Posts: 871
Location: Latvia
Also given the size of carrier America it looks like it could easily carry at least thousand fighters. Especially since in space setting you only need hangar space to do repairs and maintanance, but operational fighters can be stored outside on a docking clamp. Taking into account how effective was surprise attack with only few fighters it seems similar suprise attack with several hundred fighters would be totally devastating to enemy fleet.
Battleships would only make sense if there are targets that can't be cracked even with massed attack from fighter scale weaponry.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 06:37pm
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2002-07-09 04:51am
Posts: 13707
Location: Looking for another drawer
Err, yeah, no. Fighters bolted onto the hull can't use the catapults, getting them where they can use the catapults is probably going to require more voluminous and convoluted (and thus more error-pone) facilities than simply expanding hangar space in the first place.
The surprise attack by one wing of fighters managed to (at least as per available evidence so far) kill/mission-kill all of three enemy ships of an unknown nature, the one quantified attack we're shown at best managed to mission-kill a destroyer.

The 'a fighter can kill a capship as well as two' comment would make a lot more sense if it were in reference to the KK packages the fighters released a hell of a lot earlier, as one of them, assuming it manages to connect, is going to instakill the target. Unfortunately by the time that comment is made the fighters are down to worrying about staying close enough together for several of them being taken out by a single countermissile and using Kraits.



'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kids with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 07:09pm
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Batman wrote:
Oh you absolutely need a carrier. What you don't need are cruisers, battleships and the like*, especially as if fighters were as efficient as that one quote indicates if you used an equal tonnage of fighters instead, by the time the capships finally lumber into fighting range, the battle is long over.

*since there's nothing saying that you can't be on the receiving end of that kind of fighter attack it would make sense to retain full-up starships other than carriers for defensive purposes, but so far it looks pretty much like the real world USN-your main offensive weapon are the fighters, and the main purpose of the rest of the battlegroup is to protect/support the carrier.

Oh, I get it. That makes sense, and it fits with the makeup of the fleet as described in chapter one (mostly smaller ships like destroyers, a couple cruisers, and just one line battleship).

Sky Captain wrote:
Also given the size of carrier America it looks like it could easily carry at least thousand fighters. Especially since in space setting you only need hangar space to do repairs and maintanance, but operational fighters can be stored outside on a docking clamp. Taking into account how effective was surprise attack with only few fighters it seems similar suprise attack with several hundred fighters would be totally devastating to enemy fleet.
Battleships would only make sense if there are targets that can't be cracked even with massed attack from fighter scale weaponry.

I'm trying to find a number for the America's total fighter count but it's somewhere around 100 to 150. Trouble is, not all of the ship is fighter capacity. The front chunk, call it 100 meters for the sake of argument, is taken up by the shield cap (stores water for shipboard consumption, maneuvering reaction mass, and radiation shielding for relativistic speeds), and IIRC a fairly large percentage of the stalk is drives and the quantum power tap (you'll have to forgive me for vagueness; it's only my second time through the series). Most of the ship's facilities, including the hangars, are in the habitation rings.

And yes, there are most certainly targets that fighter weapons have trouble cracking. Chapter five gets into it more but the Turusch like to build their really big ships by hollowing out kilometer-range asteroids and sticking engines and shields on them. Even massed capital ship weapons have trouble with those. And as the Turusch demonstrate, theatre shields can take a very long time for even capships and surface emplacements combined to bring down.

As far as launching them is concerned, there's actually two methods. There's the forward catapults that the Blue Omegas used in chapter one, and there's this trick where they basically stick them on the edge of the hab ring and let centrifugal force fling them out.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 07:19pm
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2002-07-09 04:51am
Posts: 13707
Location: Looking for another drawer
I'm frankly dubious either approach is worth the bother given the linear acceleration the fighters are capable of once they're underway.



'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kids with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-04 09:13pm
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Batman wrote:
I'm frankly dubious either approach is worth the bother given the linear acceleration the fighters are capable of once they're underway.

Well, don't forget we're dealing with singularity drives here. I'm thinking that it's mostly just to get the fighter to a safe distance for the carrier before they start boosting under their own power.

From a Doylist perspective I'm thinking Keith was working under Rule of Cool with that, to evoke the image of fighters launching from a seagoing carrier, only different.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Chapter 4 PostPosted: 2014-02-05 01:56am
Offline
Jedi Knight
User avatar

Joined: 2011-07-22 10:46pm
Posts: 985
Location: North Carolina, USA, Earth
Chapter 4. 1301 hours TFT, Gray's POV.
Quote:
Trevor Gray held his gravfighter snug against the deck, streaking across open water a scant twenty meters up. His velocity now down to eight kps, he was still throwing up a hypersonic shock wave that dragged across the surface of the shallow sea, sending up a vast, white wall of spray stretching out in a knife-thin line for over a hundred kilometers behind him.

The Marine perimeter was five hundred kilometers ahead.

Talk about terrain-following flying. 20 meters up at a little less than 18,000 mph is nuts. Also, liquid water on the surface of Ate a Boot. Which is appropriate: Average temperatures are below the boiling point of water at 1300 mmHg (the number was in an infodump in chapter two that I snipped up, not realizing it could be important later).

Quote:
The surface was gloomy after the brilliant sunlight above the cloud deck. Haris -- Eta Boötis IV -- was shrouded in thick clouds, a solid blanket tinted red, orange, and yellow by various sulfur compounds in the atmosphere, and those colors were echoed by the oily sea below. The surface temperature was hot -- hotter than the world's distance from its sun would suggest. The cloud deck and airborne sulfur compounds created a greenhouse effect that substantially warmed the planet -- not nearly to the extent of Venus back in the Sol system, perhaps, but enough to render the place less than desirable as real estate, even if humans could breathe the air. What the hell had the Mufrids seen in the place, anyway?

The temperature outside his hurtling Starhawk, he noted, was 48 degrees Celsius -- a swelteringly hot day in the tropics back on Earth, and it was only a short time past local dawn.

A wet Venus, someone in the fleet called it. Pretty accurate description.

Quote:
Targeting data flowed through his IHD, appearing in windows opening against the periphery of his visual field. God ... the Marines had listed hundreds of targets out there, far too many for one lone gravfighter.

But he began dragging down targets with his eyes and locking on. He heard the tone indicating a solid lock. "Mike-Red, Blue Omega Seven. I have tone on the first six targets on your list. Request firing clearance."

"Blue Seven, hell yeah! Slam the bastards!"

"Copy. Engaging." He lifted his fighter slightly higher above the water, up to eighty meters, to give himself launch clearance. "Fox Three!"

Six Krait missiles dropped clear of the Starhawk's keel, emerging from exit ports melting open around them in the hull, then accelerated. Fox Three was the firing code for targets on the ground, or for extremely large ships or bases in orbit. <snip how Fox One through Three meant something else in the 20th century>

Guided by their onboard AIs, the six Kraits streaked ahead of the Starhawk, their grav drives glowing brilliantly as they plowed through the dense atmosphere. Gray banked left and accelerated slightly; Turusch sensors in orbit would have spotted that launch even if they'd missed his fighter, and they would be trying to target him now.

A blue-white detonation flared at his back, searing a tunnel down through the atmosphere and vaporizing a stadium-sized chunk of seawater. A second blast ignited the sky to his right. He was traveling too fast for the shock waves to catch him, but he cut right and slowed, riding the fast-expanding wave front of the second explosion in order to take advantage of the mushroom cap of superheated steam overhead. Those shots had been from a Turusch orbital particle cannon; each shot ionized air molecules and tended to momentarily block sensors trying to read through the muck.

It's tricky to spot small stuff from orbit but launching six grav drive missiles will get the enemy's attention.

And if I'm not mistaken, with that "stadium-sized patch of water" line, we've got something we can get ballpark firepower numbers from at last! I'm just going to pick Yankee Stadium pretty much at random, which this guy calculated as 24,315,600 cubic feet in volume. Assuming pure water, Wolfram Alpha gave me 1.75 x 10^12 kJ for that particle beam on enthalpy of vaporization alone. That's a lower limit of 418.3 kilotons from a capital ship particle beam. Quite respectable.

Additional data: According to the infodump on Ate a Boot's physical characteristics in chapter two, the surface pressure on Ate a Boot is about 1300 mmHg, and we just learned the surface temperature is about 48°C. Wolfram Alpha gave me the boiling point of water at that pressure as 116°C. So the beam also had to heat that absurd volume of water by roughly 68 degrees. But at this point I'm butting up what I can remember from chemistry without consulting a textbook (which I don't have handy ATM). I know I need to do something with delta-T and the specific heat of water but I don't remember how to set up the equation and Wolfram isn't helping.

On a completely unrelated note, I had to feed that Wolfram URL through TinyURL because the BBCode wasn't cooperating.

Quote:
"Target fifteen on the Red-Mike targeting list ahead, coming into range," his AI announced. His IHD showed the target as a red triangle on the horizon -- some kind of Turusch gun emplacement or surface battery. It was already too close for a Krait lock-on; he switched to his PBP, his particle beam projector, or "pee-beep," as it was more popularly known.

At his AI's command, the nose of his fighter melted away half a meter, exposing the projector head. "Fire!"

A beam of blue-white light stabbed ahead of his gravfighter, intolerably brilliant; a high-energy UV laser burned a vacuum tunnel through the air, followed a microsecond later by the proton beam, directed and focused by a powerful magnetic field. Twenty-some kilometers ahead, a surface crawler, a squat and massive floater nearly one hundred meters long, was struck by a devastating bolt of lightning before it could fire its next gravitic shell. Secondary explosions lit up the sky, visible from the Starhawk's cockpit as Gray broke hard to the left.

Inner workings of the pee-beep, and the result of shooting it at a Trash self-propelled artillery piece.

I notice it fired a two-part beam this time instead of just a neutron bolt like he used to destroy those missiles during the fight in orbit last chapter. Possibly indicative of different firing modes for atmospheric and space combat.

Quote:
His AI began loosing Krait missiles, each locking onto a different target on the Marine list. More energy beams and high-velocity kinetic-kill slugs slammed into the sea a few kilometers astern. Gray increased his speed and began jinking, pulling irregular turns left and right to make it harder on the Turusch gunners some hundreds of kilometers above him. At a thought, a half dozen decoys snapped clear of the Starhawk and streaked in various directions, trailing electronic signatures like an SG-92.

Electronic warfare drones, and the Trash are spamming where they think he is with beams and KK rounds.

Skip the part where Gray's nukes hit and he fires off his last missiles and:
Quote:
"Red-Mike, this is Blue Omega Seven. I'm Echo-Whiskey and coming in toward the perimeter."

"Copy, Blue Seven," a Marine voice said. "We're getting drone evals on the eggs you laid. Good shooting. Looks like you tore the bastards up pretty good. Nice shooting!"

"Almost up to Marine standards," Gray quipped.

"I didn't say you were that good, Navy...."

Friggin' jarheads... :P

Quote:
The Turusch particle beam stabbed down out of the cloud deck, a violet-and-blue bolt meters across, scarcely ten meters off Gray's starboard wing. Static shrieked from the electronic interference and blanked out the displays in Gray's head. The shock wave caught him from the side, tumbling him over wildly. His AI intervened with reflexes far faster than a human's, engaging full thrust and pulling up hard before the blast could slam him into the sea.

Then his power system shut down, and with it his weapons, his primary flight controls, and his life support. He had just enough juice in reserve to put full thrust into his secondaries before they, too, failed and he began dropping toward the alien sea. Slowed now, to less than a kilometer per second, he tried to pull his nose up for a wet landing, but then everything went dead, leaving him in darkness.

Oh shit. Capship pee-beep ten meters off produces enough EMP to completely fry a Starhawk.

Quote:
"Eject, eject, eject!" his AI was shouting in his ear before its voice, too, failed. The Starhawk's ejection system was self-contained and separate from other ship systems. He grabbed the D-ring handle on the deck, twisted it to arm the mechanism, and pulled.

The cockpit melted away around him, the nanoflow so quick it was more like an explosion than an opening, the blast of wind shrieking around his helmet. Rocket motors in the base of the couch fired, kicking him clear of the falling spacecraft seconds before it slammed into the surging red waters of the sea.

With his inertial compensators out, the jolt of acceleration rattled his bones and brought with it a stab of terror. Despite both his flight training and numerous experiential downloads, Gray didn't share the seamless relationship enjoyed by the others in his squadron. He couldn't. For a long moment as the couch carried him in stomach-wrenching free fall, panic clawed at the back of his mind, and he struggled to control it.

The eject sequence, fortunately, was entirely automated, a precaution in case the pilot was crippled or unconscious. Scant meters above the surface of the sea, braking rockets fired with another jolt, slowing him suddenly, and then gray splashed down in the shallow, oily water.

Smoke boiled from the sea a kilometer or two away as his Starhawk dissolved, its nano components turning suicidal and melting the rest of the ship so that it wouldn't fall into Turusch hands ... or whatever they had that passed for hands.

Description of a Starhawk's ejection sequence. Interesting technological whiplash: we go from high-tech melting of the cockpit roof (Goose doesn't break his neck), to low-tech chemical rockets to get you clear, just like in current fighters. Then instead of a parachute (probably useless at this altitude anyway) it uses retro-rockets. And of course the entire system is automated and isolated from anything else, which is just sensible. This message, er, gravfighter, will now self-destruct.

Also, the third paragraph mentions something we discussed in the Space Wolf and "40k canon policy" threads: knowledge downloads that don't necessarily translate into a behavior change and that have to be practiced.

Quote:
He struggled to free himself from the chair's embrace. He felt heavy, dragged down by the planet's gravity. The water, he was surprised to note, was only about a meter deep. He'd come down perhaps a kilometer from the shoreline -- he could see an orange-cloaked land mass toward local north -- but the seabed here was extremely shallow -- a tidal flat, perhaps. Eta Boötis IV had no moon, but the large sun exerted tidal forces enough, he knew, to raise substantial tides.

Gray tried standing up, leaning against the chair, and nearly fell again. The artificial spin gravity on board the carrier America was kept at around half a G -- a reasonable compromise for crew members from Earth and those born and raised on Luna, Mars, or Ganymede. The surface gravity on Eta Boötis IV was 1.85 G, almost four times what he was used to. Another low swell passed, hitting him waist-high, and he did fall; the water was heavy, with a lot of momentum behind it. He landed on his hands and knees, struggling against the planet's dragging pull.

His e-suit would keep him alive for days. Skin-tight, pressure sealed, and with a plastic helmet almost invisible in its clarity at optical wavelengths, it was colored bright orange to help rescue craft spot him, though on this red-orange world, they would have to rely on other wavelengths to see him. A nanobreather pack was attached to his right hip, with its small bottle of oxygen beneath. The unit would recycle oxygen from CO2 for days, and in an atmosphere, even a toxic one like this one, could pull oxygen and other gases from the compounds outside, extending the unit's life, and his, indefinitely.

None of that was likely to help, though, if he couldn't reach friendly forces. He'd been shot down several hundred kilometers south of the Marine base -- exactly how far, he wasn't sure. Using his radio might well call down the Turusch equivalent of fire from heaven, so he wasn't anxious to try that. His couch should have sent out a marker code when it touched down, a burst transmission, meaningless -- he hoped -- to the enemy, but indicating a successful ejection and landing.

The question, however, was whether to stay with the couch or try to reach the Marine perimeter. Red-Mike was a long hike, but, on the other hand, he was nakedly exposed here on this tidal flat, and there would be clouds of Turusch drones moving through the area very soon, looking for him. And the drones would bring larger, more dangerous visitors.

Better, he decided, to be moving. He could work his way closer to the Marine perimeter, and give friendly forces a better chance of picking him up. If they could find him...

Description of Gray's survival suit. Shot down behind enemy lines, Gray decides he's safer on the move.

Also, they keep the grav on America at half Earth to accomodate folks from other planets and moons.

Quote:
The back of the couch opened up to reveal a compact emergency locker. Inside were extra bottles of oxygen for long-term excursions in hard vacuum, an M-64 laser carbine, medical and emergency survival packs, and a spider.

The spider was the size of a flattened football, with four legs folded up tight. When he activated the unit, it began unfolding, each extending for over a meter from the central body. Immediately, the unit moved behind him, put the tips of two legs on his shoulders to steady him, then began to snuggle in close, the main unit snuggling up against his spine, each leg adjusting and reconfiguring to conform exactly to his body. In seconds, it had adhered to his e-suit, clamped tight at ankles, knees, and hips. There was a vibrating whine of servos, and the unit straightened up, pulling him upright.

He stood now in knee-deep water, supported by the exoskeletal unit, or ESU, and when another heavy wave surged slowly past, it adjusted with his movement, shifted with his weight, and kept him upright. He took a sloshing step forward, and then another. He still felt like he weighed 150 kilos -- he did, after all -- but he could stand without feeling like his knees were about to buckle, and the spider on his pack fed his servos power enough to counteract the drag of gravity. The extensions secured to his arms were flexible and slack at the moment; if he tried to lift something, however, they would match his movements and contribute with support and lift of their own. Wearing one of these rigs, a person could do anything he could do in his normal gravity field, including running, jumping, and lifting heavy objects. The word was that with practice he could run a Marathon and not get winded. They were standard issue to civilian tourists from low-G worlds like Mars.

Med kit and survival gear snapped to clamps on the spider, and the carbine slung over his right shoulder. He wouldn't need the O2. There was plenty of oxygen in the atmosphere, bound up with carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbonyl sulfide, and a witch's brew of other gasses, and his suit would have no trouble processing it to keep him alive almost indefinitely. The little unit would handle his food and water requirements as well, so long as he fed it CHON -- shorthand for carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. He needed to add an occasional handful of dirt or organic matter to provide trace elements like phosphorus and iron, necessary for the nanufacture of certain vitamins and amino acids.

Gray's emergency kit contains a collapsible exoskeleton. Nice to see people think ahead like that. And his suit can fabricate food, water, and breathable air from nonbreathable air and dirt.

In fact, nanotech is the main way anything is manufactured in this setting. I'm almost certain the word "nanufacture" up there isn't a typo (and if it is, it's an appropriate one).

Quote:
His personal e-hancements, computer circuitry nanotechnically grown into the sulci of his brain, had downloaded both the ghost-shadow of his fighter's AI and the position of the Marine base in those last seconds before he'd crashed. As he turned his head, his IHD hardware threw a green triangle on the horizon ... in that direction, toward the beach.

That was where he had to go, then. Taking a last look around, he started wading toward the shore.

Gray's off and running, erm, walking. Also mention of how his IHD works. It's grown right inside his head with nano.

Switching over to Koenig's perspective for the next segment. 1330 hours.
Quote:
Admiral Koenig checked the time once again. The fleet had been traveling for 9.4 hours, accelerating constantly at 500 gravities. They were nearing the midpoint now, halfway between the Kuiper Belt space where they'd arrived in-system and their destination. Their speed at the moment was .77 c, fast enough that for every three minutes passing in the universe outside, only two minutes passed within the America.

Fleet's position and speed.

Quote:
He checked the time again. The Dragonfires had been mixing it up with the bad guys for forty-five minutes already, an eternity in combat. It was entirely possible that the fighting was over.

If so, twelve brave men and women were dead now -- dead, or trapped in crumpled hulks on high-speed, straight-line vectors out of battlespace.

Lightspeed lag alone would make it impossible to know what was happening. The Dragonfires are still fighting but Koenig has no way of knowing that.

Quote:
"Admiral?" the voice of Commander Katryn Craig, the CIC Operations officer, said in Koenig's head. "Mr. Quintanilla is requesting permission to enter the CIC."

Koenig sighed. He would rather have given orders that the civilian be kept off the command deck entirely, but he was under orders from Fleet Mars to cooperate with the jackass, and playing the martinet would not smooth the bureaucratic pathway in the slightest.

Politics. He made a sour face. Sometimes, it seemed as though his job was nothing but.

Koenig hates his political officer. Film at eleven.

Mr. Q asks "Are we there yet?" Koenig says "Halfway," thinks "Go away." (Okay, I made up that last part.)
Quote:
The carrier task force had no way of receiving telemetry from the fighters it had launched nine and a half hours earlier, of course, not while its ships were encased in their Alcubierre bubbles, but if everything had proceeded according to the oplan, the Dragonfires should have reached the vicinity of Eta Boötis IV some forty-five minutes earlier.

"Does that mean we're going to do a skew-flip, Admiral? To start decelerating?"

"No, sir, it does not. You're thinking of the gravitic drives on the fighters. The Alcubierre Drive works differently ... an entirely different principle."

"I don't understand."

Koenig wondered if that man had been briefed at all ... or if he'd been given a technical download that he'd failed to review.

Quintanilla seemed to read Koenig's expression. "Look, I'm here as a political liaison, Admiral. The technology of your space drive is hardly my area of expertise."

Obviously, Koenig thought. "The type of gravitational acceleration we use on the fighters won't work on capital ships," he said, "vessels over about eighty meters in length. With ships as large as the America, projecting an artificial singularity pulling fifty-kay gravs or so ahead of the vessel would cause problems -- tidal effects would set up deadly shear forces within the ship's hull that would tear her to bits.

"So for larger ships, we use the Alcubierre Drive. It manipulates the fabric of spacetime both forward and astern, essentially causing space to contract ahead and expand behind. The result is an enclosed bubble of spacetime with the ship imbedded inside. The ship is not accelerating relative to the space around it, but that space is sliding across the spacetime matrix at accelerations that can reach the speed of light, or better."

"That makes no sense whatsoever."

Koenig grinned. "Welcome to the wonderful world of zero-point field manipulation. It's all pretty contra-intuitive. Free energy out of hard vacuum, artificial singularities, and we can reshape spacetime to suit ourselves. No wonder the Sh'daar are nervous about our technology curve.

Exposition on the key "impossible" tech of the setting, spacetime manipulation.

Quote:
"Why only one squadron? That's ... what? Twelve spacecraft? But you have six squadrons on board, right?"

Koenig blinked, surprised by the abrupt change of topic. He'd been expecting another physics question.

"Six strike fighter squadrons, yes," Koenig replied, cautious. What was the civilian hammering at? "Plus one reconnaissance squadron, the Sneaky Peaks; an EW squadron, two SAR squadrons, and two utility/logistics squadrons." EW was electronic warfare, specialists in long-range electronic intelligence, or ELINT, and in battlespace command and control. SAR was search and rescue, the tugs that went out after high-velocity hulks, attempting to recover the pilots.

That's the number I was looking for earlier. 60 fighters counting the Dragonfires/Blue Omegas, a recon squadron, EW squadron, SAR ships, and utility/logistics. Call it 132 auxiliary craft in all.

Quote:
Quintanilla shrugged, the movement giving him a slight rotation in microgravity. He reached out awkwardly and grabbed the back of Koenig's seat. "Okay, twelve fighters against over fifty-five capital ships, then. It seems ... suicidal."

"I agree."

"Then why --"

"Every man and woman of VFA-44 volunteered for this op," Koenig told him. He could have added that Koenig's own contribution to the plan hashed out by Ops had called for three squadrons, half of America's strike-fighter complement. Ultimately, that had been rejected by the Fleet Operations Review Board at Mars Synchorbital. His was still the final responsibility.

Koenig wanted to send half his fighters on the near-c strike, not just the Dragonfires. He got overruled by command.

Quote:
"But you could launch the rest of your strike squadrons now, couldn't you? We're a lot closer to the target. It would take them --"

"No, Mr. Quintanilla. We could not."

"Why not?"

Koenig sighed. Would it serve any purpose whatsoever to educate this ... civilian? "I just told you how the Alcubierre Drive works, Mr. Quintanilla."

"Eh? What does that have to do with it?"

"As I said, each ship in the fleet is imbedded inside a bubble of warped spacetime, contracting the space ahead, expanding behind. The bubble is moving. Right now America's bubble is moving at about three quarters of the speed of light. But each ship in the task force is imbedded within the spacetime inside its bubble and is relatively motionless compared to its surroundings."

"So? Why can't you just drop out of this bubble and launch more fighters?"

"Because we would drop back into normal space with the velocity we had when we engaged the Alcubierre Drive, out in this system's Kuiper Belt, something less than one kilometer per second. We would then have to begin accelerating all over again. If we started decelerating at the halfway point, our total trip would take twenty-five and a half hours. If we keep accelerating, we'll reach Haris in a total of eighteen and some hours. At that point we'll be zorching along at one-point-oh-eight c, just a hair faster than light, but we'll cut the Alcubierre Drive and drop into normal space at a modest one kps."

Ack. That last paragraph pretty much directly conflicts with the second passage I quoted from chapter two, which said that they have to decelerate in to the target after the halfway point. I get the impression Bill Keith hadn't quite mentally finalized his phlebotinum's rules and his editor didn't catch the continuity fuckup.

Quote:
The hell of it was, however, that Quintanilla was right about one thing. The oplan should have called for more fighters in the first strike. The mission planners on Mars, however, had feared the consequences if America didn't have a sufficient defensive capability once she started mixing it up with the Turusch.

Had it been up to Koenig, he would have launched all six fighter squadrons from the Eta Boötis Kuiper Belt, and trusted the destroyer screen to keep the carrier safe.

But, as he'd told the damned civilian, it was too late for second-guessing the mission plan now.

Koenig's mental plan was even more aggressive than the one he actually pitched to the planners. Confirmation of six squadrons, sixty fighters (the phrasing of the last quote that brought it up was a bit ambiguous).

Shifting to Commander Marissa Allyn, leader of the Dragonfires, for the last page and a half. Time, 1335 hours.
Quote:
A nuclear fireball blossomed a hundred kilometers ahead, and Commander Marissa Allyn twisted her gravfighter hard into a tight yaw. A trio of Turusch fighters flashed past her starboard side, bow to stern, particle beams stabbing at her Starhawk. She sent three Kraits after them, then followed that up with the last two Kraits in her armament racks, locking onto an immense Turusch battlespace monitor just emerging from behind the planet.

Allyn's out of missiles, having sent her last pair after a command and control vessel.

Quote:
Golf-mikes -- gravitic missiles -- were looping through the battlespace, their sensors locking on to any powered target not transmitting a Turusch IFF code. The damned things were next to impossible to shake, and there were so many of them in the battle now that the Confederation pilots were having to concentrate on evading them more and more.

"This is Blue Eleven! Breaking right! Breaking --"

The voice cut off with a raw burst of static. The icon representing Oz Tombaugh, Blue Eleven, on Allyn's tactical display flared and winked out.

I'm not entirely certain if golf-mikes are the same kind of missile we saw earlier or something different that you just spam into the battlespace and hope the IFF is foolproof. Blue Eleven's gone.

Quote:
"Omega Strike, this is Blue Omega One!" she called. The squadron's expendables were almost gone, and there was little more serious damage they could do to the Turusch fleet with what was left. "Let's get down on the deck! Make for the planet and home on Mike-Red!"

Eight members of the squadron remained in action, including Allyn.

And they still had more than nine hours to go before the relief forces arrived.

The squadron boosts for the Marine base and relative safety, roughly forty minutes after deploying their strike packages. Discounting Gray who we know is more or less all right, albeit short a Starhawk, three fighters disabled and/or destroyed.



Image
Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback

The Vortex Empire: I think the real question is obviously how a supervolcano eruption wiping out vast swathes of the country would affect the 2016 election.
Borgholio: The GOP would blame Obama and use the subsequent nuclear winter to debunk global warming.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Star Carrier by Ian Douglas: Analysis and Talkback PostPosted: 2014-02-05 07:03am
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2002-07-09 04:51am
Posts: 13707
Location: Looking for another drawer
Quote:
"The type of gravitational acceleration we use on the fighters won't work on capital ships," he said, "vessels over about eighty meters in length."

Looks like the book does use something like the Wars EU definition of 'capital ship'.

And how do you get 60 fighters out of six squadrons when the one squadron they actually bothered to launch is rather explicitly the traditional 12?



'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kids with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

Top
 Profile  
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 55 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Covenant, Mr CorSec and 4 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group