I didn't want to dive into that technical discussion until I ahd a story post ready to go too- and I do now, so this is it.
The first thing to emerge from hyperspace at the rendesvous point was what was supposed to be the fleet tender's escort, the Vainglorious- class frigate Nerveless. (Most of the good names- ruthless, relentless, fearless and so forth, were already taken.) In fact her crew most usually called her the Brainless.
Mounting five single forties, the Vainglorious class were assembled- converted- by the procedurally simple expedient of filleting a Dreadnaught heavy cruiser, in all reality actually a medium frigate despite what the marketing department had to say.
Rip off the outer skin and most of the weapon and shield mounts, remove the habitation blocks, haul out the primitive, enormously manpower- intensive reactors, the absurly antique- looking low spec hyperdrive motivators, most of the power grid, the bioarcana of the very, very old school life support system;
replace the power and drive systems with modern equivalents, update the life support to something suitable for this millennium and for the size of the crew, seal the thing up and add better guns and shields, without bothering to add any of the soft tissue back.
The result was a much more credible combat vessel, but it was probably about as expensive as a new- built heavy frigate anyway. The main benefit was the removal of a shambolic old clunker from the fleet lists and the availability for other employment of the thirteen thousand spacemen a Dreadnaught needed but a Vainglorious did not.
Which was just as well, considering that the local force she hailed from was suffering a remarkably high friendly fire casualty rate at the moment, at least among the upper echelons.
Anoat sector was basically barren wilderness, dubious habitability but mineral rich- possibly the result of too many novae about a million years ago. The sector group was largely notional, far below nominal strength, and mainly there to stop the various gas miners and other resource extractors from sabotaging each other.
Also to stop the Alliance getting a foothold in the sector. Oops. Heads had already rolled- as usually tended to happen after a lightsabre decapitation- and more were liable to, as the top command of the sector frantically tried to save their skins by blaming each other.
The normal pyramids of patronage, of cronies, toadies, bootlickers and butt- kissers, were coming apart, and nobody quite knew what to do. Ol' Brainless was either quite lucky to be out of it and doing something useful for the heavies from Coruscant, or thought they were until they got the details.
Piett had arranged it himself, certainly not out of affection for his hated half- brother's lunatic friend but because it would undermine Ozzel, move a shade nearer to getting rid of the blundering fool.
Not that he really wanted the top job himself- being Vader's flag captain was bad enough- but having almost anyone other than Can't-Do Kendal Ozzel in nominal charge could only make his job easier. So embarrass him by making his own plan work where the harrassed, wits' end nominal commander of the squadron himself could not.
That might at least get Ozzel administratively transferred out rather than spread thinly over the bridge decking, which was otherwise his most likely fate. The next major operation was always going to be make or break time for the tubby, neurotic little man, and if it had been wise to place bets Piett- the tall, skinny neurotic one- would have bet on his breaking.
Not that the flag captain particularly wanted the admiral dead, or for that matter had any strong opinions the other way, but definitely would have preferred him out of the loop where the mistakes Ozzel was making could no longer compromise his own chances of survival. Accidentally doing Jorian Lennart a favour was regrettable but a small price to pay.
Besides which, there was always the chance that it would all go entertainingly wrong.
The radiation blooms of the mines were fading away, and the fighters present had got bored and started chasing each others' tails- literally, there were several mock dogfights in progress. Nothing better to do; the shooting gallery had been shot, the frigates rigged and pointed at somewhere unimportant and off to the left a bit. Might as well shake it out.
One thing none of the fighters had was a serious translight sensor capability; they were all hyperdrive capable, could find their way on the other side of the barrier, but real to hyperspace sensing was done basically by hooking an oscilloscope up to the motivator and watching for induced twitches.
They could detect a mass shadow in open space fairly close to- maybe a light year off, but given the size of open space that still basically meant you had to guess where the enemy was going to be, and could sense only really far enough to confirm it. In the strong curvature and noise of a system, it was harder.
A larger ship like one of the -1930's could basically use it's fuel tanks as a tachyonic cloud chamber, but even a jump capable fighter's fuel pods were too small for that. All in all the sensing capacity was closer to a warning receiver than a real scanner; still possible to tell when something was going to emerge on top of you, though.
Actually, two somethings. Two incoming mass shadows, and a moment's prediction- what idiot had given them exactly the same coordinates for the emergence point? One or other of them would have to be quite quick about manoeuvring clear. Assuming they didn't arrive at exactly the same time.
That was the problem with being in the middle of nowhere; there was nothing around that could be used, for instance, as a handy mass shadow generator. They probably didn't have enough- or for that matter any- tractor beam power between them. Oh well. Have to improvise.
Senior officer present with the bomb and fighter wings was Quarrin Vattiera; moved up from exec to commander on Olleyri's retirement behind a staff desk (which was apparently driving him nuts), he had been the officially sensible one as the group adjutant, and could still do the 'procedure' thing.
The plan amounted to see who came out first, and yell at them. Not going to be much in it as the two mass shadows raced each other to the drop point; distortion building, flare of light- not a massive one, larger and less neat than it should have been but not in the class of a fleet tender.
On the bridge of HIMS Nerveless, things were going from bad to worse. They emerged back into realspace, erratic exit with sidespin, and found no ship waiting for them, just a large force of fighters in the middle of nowhere, scanning them- the ship's EW and ECM systems were in theory quite good, but elementary mistakes were indeed made.
If they ever really had been at their best, it wasn't now. think of it This way; your boss has screwed up, spectacularly. His boss has been executed, put to death, gone and splattered for it. His boss blamed someone else way above your head, who you report to. He wants to save his skin, he's looking around for somebody to put the blame on.
Now this. How much was actually your fault- how much can you defend? Do you have a good enough excuse to save your life? Can you avoid the blame your superior officers are trying to lay on you, can you at the same time make your junior officers (who now hate and far you, they can see what's going on and wonder whch of them you'll choose to try to sacrifice)- do enough to actually save your skin?
In a fleet composed of cannibals, how do you manage to be one of the ones who doesn't get eaten?
That was the only good part about human high culture; it made that metaphorical instead of literal. HIMS Nerveless' bridge team were not a team any more, they were a collection of rivals, none of them prepared for this, none of them on sure professional footing any more. Stress like that was how capable officers were ruined and turned into dead weight, burdens for the rest. Piett had chosen them for that.
They assumed that the ninety-six Imperial type fighters in front of them, broadcasting Imperial beacon codes, trying to contact them on Imperial frequencies, where they were supposed to be rendesvousing with an Imperial destroyer- it was a rebel trick, it had to be. They were very sneaky, rebels.
Instant fight or flight; the wrong decision was death. The right decision slowly was death at the hands of one's own side. No-one trusted anyone enough to simply let them get on with it, none willing to depend on each other's judgement, everything turned into a clash of personalities. The captain, trying to hold them all together, had everyone else's neuroses to support too- he was closest to the edge.
Going to battle stations on emergence wasn't that unusual a move- too late, if anything- and included doing some useful things, like getting some way on, accelerating away from the drop point, and bringing up sensors and internal systems. So far do good, but- waitamoment, guns heating up, and no com traffic? No response?
The energy pattern from the ship was, in a word, shambolic; rough hyperdrive exit, uneven neutrino bleed, residual hotspots, magnetic signatures indicated people getting to their duties in a loose gaggle and no real order; not looking good so far, Vattiera was thinking- fire control online and bearing direct? That goes past simple incompetence.
'Pull back out of gun range. I don't think they have their crud together at all.' Brainless was showing every sign of living up to her nickname; all gun fire control sensors- that were working anyway- went active, even the five mains.
They weren't a threat; a wizard of anticipation like Pel Aldrem might be able to connect with a gnat with the million pound dreckhammer, but if this lot were to perform at the level of skill they had demonstrated so far they probably couldn't hit the broad side of a star. Even so, better not give them the chance to try.
The old Dreadnoughts had a large array of anti- corvette guns, heavy for chasing fighters with but they could do a decent grid shoot at range; the Vainglorious class had better point but much weaker area defence, the threatened radius was not large. It was easy enough to pull back out of the danger zone.
Stopping the bomb and fighter wings going and looking for trouble was the hard part, even if he had at gut level actually wanted to. The few that had been acquired returned locks on the frigate; then their friends and squadronmates backed them up. If I don't cool this down we probably are going to end up launching on the idiot, Vattiera realised.
'Group, hold fire. Local force frigate, we are elements of the 721st Strike Wing; stand down-' and then it did occur to him that weirder things had indeed happened- 'or we will be forced to consider you a rebel vessel.'
On board Nerveless, things were not shaping well at all. On emergence, in the middle of nowhere that should have been completely empty space, maybe a blastboat with a "follow me" sign, there had been a horde. Com- scan couldn't actually have taken the time to verify before making the snap decision that they were Rebel fighters, it was an ambush.
Large numbers of deep space fighters- had to be Rebel. The sector group was being filleted for failures to contain such things already; doctrine even suggested that it was better to suffer a few friendly fire casualties from time to time than let the enemy deceive you.
Even if they had made a mistake- it may have been too late to admit it. Better err on the side of caution- and of doctrine- than look a complete fool which was a short route to an interview without recaff, but with lightsaber. They had to be hostile. The Rebs used stolen Imperial fighters often enough, didn't they?
There was some shouting on the bridge- the junior scan officers protesting that they were about to commit friendly fire, which was rather less important than just short of five hundred concussion missiles and over seven hundred and fifty standard B torpedoes which could be coming the other way if they got it wrong.
Most of the crew hadn't the faintest idea what was going on; the scuttlebutt was flying fast, talk about mixed metaphors, all they knew was that battle stations had been sounded, and a fair proportion of those who knew did not care.
Gunnery were probably the least disenchanted, and they were the ones who could actually see out; all they were getting was green blips, though- a large loose formation of Imperial type fighters with ID transponders that verified as being on their side, no valid targets.
That could be manually overridden, of course, and on some ships it would have been by now, but the automatics' reluctance bought the humans a shred more thinking time. Vattiera took the sensible option first- call the parent ship. 'We've got a problem- the escort frigate has misidentified us as a rebel strike force. Weapons active, no shooting yet but imminent.'
Lennart fielded that one himself. 'Plan A, calm them down- we can't conduct replenishment ops with a berserk frigate bouncing about. Do what you can to talk sense into them, we're sending a message drone.'
to Ob Wathavrah, he asked 'What's working, if anything?'
'Torpedoes.' The gunnery officer stated. 'New off the shelf, we haven't had a chance to bugger about with them yet, should be functional. The grav projectors, assuming the state they're in counts. We haven't worked up a doctrine for playing with both of them together yet but we can probably improvise.'
'Practically our motto. Expect long range if it comes to that, our shielding in this state.' Turned to com- scan. Thinking about it afterwards, he decided that at this point he had made a mistake; used to thinking in split seconds, not considering how long the decision cycle on a ship in poor order might be. Accidentally applying more pressure than he had intended.
The shouting match on board Nerveless had reached a peak; the exec had made it to the emergency bridge in the after part of the ship, decided that what they were facing was indeed an Imperial fighter group. Odd verging on lunatic, which probably made it all the more important not to annoy them.
Captain had passed through anger into denial; was still saying that it couldn't be, that they had to be rebels, but he was more or less now pleading with fate. Then their parent ship intervened.
'Nerveless, this is Black Prince Actual- what the kriff do you think you're playing at drawing down on my fighter wing? Explain yourself now, and it had better be good.' That was the voice transmission. The text accompanying it said the same thing in proper naval language- at least, formal naval language.
It as the voice transmission that mattered, though, and that was the sound of an angry man perfectly capable of returning ill for ill. The authenticators, the identifiers checked out- they were famous, for that matter.
On the other hand, Black Prince Actual was also a notorious looney. Nerveless' captain lunged for one of the gunnery consoles on the bridge, intending to override and fire. Possibly thought of it as a last attempt to uncover the ruse; Imperial fighters, if they really were, would evade. Rebels, once firedon and their cover blown, would attack.
For once the ship was lucky, in a peculiar sense of the term. If he had got a shot off that actually hit or came close to hitting one of the fighters, Vattiera would have called for torpedo return fire. Defend your own and be damned to the rest of the fleet, would have been the thinking, if any. Nerveless was, however, lucky. Some of the fighter wing had noticed an imminent bow shock; that was when the tender chose to arrive.
Huge spheres-within-frame thing, five module heavy tender- three fuel, a stores container rack and a workshop that was almost a dockyard bay in its' own right; descended from hyperspace just as Nerveless' increasingly panicked commander managed to wrestle his way past the surprised gunner and get a shot off.
Impacted on part of the framework around no 2 fuel pod. There was a horrible long frozen moment when everyone waited to see how serious the damage was, if there would be a rupture, a cascade, if the incredible error could have equally incredible consequences.
From one of the main guns, could have happened. From a heavy fighter- class laser, not quite, not that spectacularly unlikely. Certainly the dromedary noticed though; started screaming that they were under attack from a rebel frigate.
Before the fleet level com circuits could explode in angry cross-traffic, Nerveless' executive officer had the sense to signal 'This is Nerveless- we have had a negligent discharge, we are loyal to the Empire but have suffered a negligent discharge, we are standing down.' The emergency bridge crew, aided by the chief engineer, managed to power down the ship's weapons, anyway.
Lennart was thinking that this could be a blessing in disguise, could be used to tie up and solve one loose end. 'Got a bleedoff jump worked out yet?' He asked Brenn, as if the answer wasn't going to be yes- question was how many.
'This is the best one.' A two stage move to the final RV, the first to over a quite credible small outpost of TaggeCo- Lennart didn't like them anyway- and the second to the actual final rendesvous point, where they would do the fuelling and software engineering.
The first run was likely to end in a big stupid energy flare, so might as well have it happen close to- but not directly on top of, they weren't actually trying for kills- somebody who could cope with a little rebel attention. The final point had been within the search cone earlier anyway, so it was clean.
'We have somewhere else to go in the meantime- there's that brainless idiot of a frigate captain to sort out. Send squadrons Epsilon, Theta, Alpha and Eta to the final RV directly, and give those as the coordinates to the dromedary. Jump to point D1 for bleedoff, then to point A, signal the multirole to go to A.'
Order given and executed; no sense catching the fighter group in what promised to be a quite spectacular explosion- this time the wing remembered to fire off a probe droid to be there before they arrived and record it all. "For telemetry," they said. The outpost crew panicked and ran for the shelters, but by that point they were already away again.
There was another one of the guest quarters occupied, by someone who had spent far too long brooding and had too much to think about. A knock on the door.
'Commander Raesene? Good. How do you feel about going back to the line, taking over command of a Vainglorious- class frigate?'
Right, the techno- bit; the reason I keep going on about Gauntlets is that they carry their torpedo launcher in the turret too, it's not fixed forwards. They don't have to "stay on target", they can effectively do drive- by shootings with it, fire from any angle- would have made potting the exhaust port trivial, really, and most precision strikes much easier. Problem is they're even slower than a Y-wing, they turn with more life in them than a B-wing but otherwise pretty similar. That's the drawback; they can dodge ship and station defensive fire with ease, but the defending fighters can catch them. Skiprays have LTL class ion cannon fixed forward, which is- hm.
Two things I have been playing about with, one of them Pad Factors. Much blog- reading has convinced me that this is how the real world does it- the footprint of one fairly standard aircraft, spacecraft in this case, becomes standardised as one pad factor, and you judge how many you can fit on board and how to park them and manoeuvre them from that. I think in the USN now, one pad factor= the deck footprint of one F/A-18.
I haven't done that. Something like, but not exactly. I made the assumption that one Pad= one 20x20m square and calculated accordingly, only worked out a couple of ships in full but it gets interesting.
A line- standard Imperial Star Destroyer, with the late- period complement wing of three /ln, two /sa and one /int squadron, takes up ten pad factors for its' fighter wing.
The ground force vehicle complement, assuming no oddities, the standard twenty-five AT-AT, thirty AT-ST, takes up 15.83 pad factors- and five landing barges between them take up 11.25, so 27.08 for stompers and dropships. Interesting comparison of how much each matters. Both are dwarfed by space to space transport, the collection of assault boats, transports and shuttles that the things carry- which pads out at a rather more impressive 49.25.
Of a grand total of 86.33 pad factors, the fighter wing takes up ten, and space assault just less than fifty. Hm.
The old Venator class, I may need to redo because I got the dimensions of one of the fighters wrong, doing it on the hoof- but on the assumption that you could always park some on their tails or something, the Venator's space to space payload takes up just over sixty pad factors- with the eta-2 Actis, sixteen squadrons, taking up one pad factor per squadron (less than some single space transports), the sixteen squadrons of longer thinner Nimbus slightly less, but near enough- just under fifteen and a half- and the three squadrons of ARC-170s taking up almost as much space as both of them combined, at 30.5 pad factors. No wonder they didn't last in Imperial service, utter spacehogs on the flight deck.
The rebel alphabet soup scarcely does better- a three squadron Rebel wing, two of X and one of Y, flying from a Mon Cal cruiser take up 13.5 pad factors. Bloody Incom, bloody wingspans, have none of these people ever looked at a carrier, grumble grumble, etc. Basically they take up so much space on deck they come pre- outnumbered even in what should be a straight fight.
Black Prince's deployables? Pad factors of 27 for fighters, bombers and multirole, 60.5 for space transport, 8 for space to surface, 182 for assorted ground vehicles a sixth of which is artillery. Workshops, crew quarters, fuel and ordnance bunkers, etc have been left unacalculated in the interests of fudge factoring.
"I beseech thee, In the bowels of God, think it possible that you might be wrong."
-Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, 1647
"It is good to keep an open mind; but not so open that your brains fall out." Attributed to James Oberg
Not part of the board consensus; here for mainly science- fictional reasons
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2012-11-29 09:35pm, edited 1 time in total.