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aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

"Per regulation, as an astrogator I am compelled to raise a formal objection if nobody else is, however my objection can be overruled by a superior officer at any time," he says. "Best of luck to you, Alarus."

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The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



The Commander nods, remarking, "Footage of this briefing will undoubtedly be reviewed during my court martial. It reflects poorly to have empty statements entered into the record. However, your objection is noted."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She’s quiet on the matter for the moment, then her eyes roam the rest of the crew in attendance, seeing the doubts. Amidst some personal conflict, she makes the decision to back the commander’s play, which means she needs to quell doubts, speaking up, “It’s a matter of weighing priorities accurately. We have two critically important tasks that may exclude us accomplishing one another, and if we don’t know what is contained in that data cache, we can’t judge if it is more important to deliver the intelligence or risk probing the mass shadow. I don’t like breaking the encryption, but at the moment, we need to know if we hold the keys to stopping another Earth, or if we simply have on-site surveillance from Remonde.” She does the mental legwork for her audience, helping them rationalize, “If the data cache was entrusted to us to transport, then there was a calculated risk that we might access it. We all have experience with sensitive information. This is an extraordinary circumstance, and I’m certain a post-operation investigation would see the prudence.”

Moon glances to the commander then leans back – she may have been selling it to any dissenters but that doesn’t mean she’s fully convinced herself.

I don’t know if Public Speaking – 12 would be useful here, or if it would be modified by reputation or appearance, but there you go. Moon is trying to get everyone on the same page, whether she agrees with that page or not.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

"Moon, I hope you're right for your own sake, but I'm against this. Commander, you can note that I object to this action. I'm not comfortable breaking the rules like this. I assume there's a good reason why we aren't allowed to know what intel we picked up. " He didn't like to go against the Commander, but at the same time he wanted to follow the rules on the matter. When it came to side with the Commander or the rules, he went with the rules. He did hope that those who wanted to do this weren't judged too harshly for their actions.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus nods to the Commander. "I'm with you 100%, Commander. Given the critical nature of our findings and the probability that the communique may have intel related to the possible Dreadnought the only clear choice is to try to open it. The situation more than warrants it. We'd be fu.." Alarus realized midsentence that cursing on the record may not be the best idea and muffled it with a fake cough. "Mmm, excuse me we would be doing a major disservice to the UGM effort not to find out what it says and if it can help us figure out what the large mass is and what it is there for. Red, can you please prep the e-warfare suite with a full isolation protocol?"

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"Stop making assumptions and start decrypting the payload," the Commander says, obviously irritated at Alarus's presumption, "I may come to regret doing this, and not for disciplinary reasons. Adjutant?"

Officer Remael speaks up, "We'll need some time to find a suitable location further into the system where we can launch the time-on-target attack, and then we'll perform a series of ultra short range jumps inside the staging box to conceal our final location. Okeanos estimates at least two hours to reach our initial attack position. From there, it will take six combat displacements of around 15 minutes each to deliver the required number of munitions. We can relocate the carrier between each."

Ilyusha nods, "Understood. 425, prepare to sortie. Officer Za'al, you can continue your work on the payload while buttoned up. Good hunting."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She stands and snaps a salute to the commander – ‘Understood’ - then exits the briefing room. She lingers just outside, checking over the fit of her suit, while making sure the rest of her crew is following and not staying to make a scene. Su keeps a brisk pace to the bay – allows herself a deep breath and an appreciate look over the ship. Turning back to the other three, she gives a little reassurance, “The stakes are high but compared to what we did on Remonde, this is simple. We have everything plotted out, firing on a stationary target. We just have to execute. And if it works, we’ll all be super big heroes or something. Questions, comments, fears, trepidations?”

She looks up – a habit of searching for person without a location, “Red, do you have Remael’s summary?”

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus blinked a bit at the scolding from the Commander. So much for trying to give her some vocal support. He immediately began testing the isolation protocols to ensure any mistakes would not damage the Okeanos systems or Red. He stopped as he prepared to get down to business to answer Moon. "Nope, I'll start working now and let you know when I get the package open. If you don't hear anything and copious amounts of blood and brain matter start leaking from my nose then I'll see you guys when they pull me from the Regen pod." Alarus starts the hacking process as soon as possible, closing his eyes and murmuring a smattering of curses as he tries to crack the encryption on the communique.

Getting down to business. Cryptography 13, Hacking 15, programming 15

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

Preferring not to provoke the Commander's wrath, Marek stayed quiet through the rest of the briefing. When he knew he was out of earshot of the Commander he spoke up,

"That intel wasn't meant for us. There's a reason why people like us aren't allowed to read it." He shook his head knowing nothing would come of what he said.

"I also think the plan of just bombing that dreadnought is a bad one. We need more information. Maybe there's more to this situation then what we know right now. We don't even know if the thing is manned. It might have been abandoned here. Imagine if it was abandoned and we were able to salvage it. That'd be a hell of a haul don't you think?"

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

“It wasn’t meant for us, but now we have two pieces of valuable intelligence – the data cache, and the dreadnought’s location.” She shrugs, “We have to weigh which is more pressing, and to do that, we have to know the worth of the mystery box.”

“As for salvage… Even if this wasn’t the middle of a war zone, I refuse to believe something like that is left unattended. That’d be like if the UGM just pulled out of Mu. These things are rare. Salvaging it is beyond dare-to-dream territory.” She tries to smooth things over after speaking to Marek’s concerns, “We have a window to make an attempt to destroy or cripple the vessel, and if it fails, then we disperse. There’s a chance that doing this could attract the attention of some Web vessels but it’s worth it. We can do this.”

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

"I don't think they'd leave a strategic asset like a dreadnought simply unmanned - it would have multiple AIs to deal with anything short of it being scuttled into that star," Carl says in reply as they head out of the room. "I doubt that even the full UGM fleet would have the resources to dedicate to actually commandeering such a vessel." He thinks back to Moon's attempt at making conversation immediately post-briefing. "I think that as far as we're concerned, we should have a pretty straightforward flight plan, but anything can happen, so I'm holding my judgement for this until after we're out and back into the cradle. You know how it is. Assumptions are the devil, but expect everything to go wrong." He shrugs. Being an astrogator lends itself to pessimism.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

"Yeah, you both are right. I'm just worrying about nothing. I think the fact that its just sitting in orbit apparently doing nothing combined with our lack of information regarding it is just putting me on guard. Making me think there's more to this then what there really is."

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

"You have every right to be, Officer Capek," he says, relieving some tension in his shoulders with a roll of the head to and fro. "Either way, we're going to force their hand with this operation, and maybe that data payload is actually related to what we're up against after all."

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



While the rest of the crew begin preparing for combat, Alarus begins his task of opening the payload.

Any intelligence officer would take a least a few days to crack the payload, for two very good reasons. First, because the file is polymorphically encrypted and designed to present many plausible decryption paths that must be parsed out to find the real information. Second, because the payload is not a static puzzle, but a living program that must be run to unlock it. In many ways, it verges on intelligent. And its first line of defense against tampering is self-erasure by randomization.

However, he has privileged information about the design of its safeguards that gives him the edge. He can apply brute force techniques that any black-box hacker would never try because of the risks involved. By the time the Okeanos has entered its pattern of deceptive jumps in the staging area, he has broken through the encryption and extracted the contents. Then, Okeanos and Red help him decipher the contents.

It is a technical plan for the construction of a massive solar sail over a million kilometers long, made of single-link artificial atoms and extending a massive cold plasma field to catch the radiation pressure of a star. But not any star, not a main sequence dwarf. The object at the center of the sail is only 10 kilometers across but masses as much as two suns. A neutron star. The sail is designed to tether to such an object and turn its massive outflow of charged particles into a thruster that can slowly alter its path through space over the course of decades. It is a stellar engineering project that surpasses by an order of magnitude anything ever attempted by the garden worlds.

The purpose of the project is not included in the data. The information does not seem immediately relevant to the mission. The closest neutron star is over a hundred light years from Trieste, and it's unclear what the sail would even accomplish if it were to be constructed.

"Hunter 425, we've reached the mission start position. Report status and prepare to displace," Officer Remael's voice comes over the comms as the Okeanos makes its final hop and then powers down all emissions to maintain stealth while the attack ship is deployed.

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

This terrible plan was about 80% your idea, so just remember: you did this to yourself. Sitting in the gel, her interface is, for once, clear of any distractions, any entertainment, any tangentially related research papers. Just the plan, the schematics of Hunter 425, the mass reading of the target and her only indulgence, her experimental Web forces predictor algorithm running in back corner of Red’s system. Why does it all of a sudden feel like I’m in charge? I’m too young to be in charge. I didn’t even get a new title. Oh well, Su. You did this to yourself.

She looks ‘over the shoulder’ at Marek’s feed, then Carl’s. Right. Good. She reaches out to skim Red’s active processes. Her link to the sapience is unusually quiet, Moon in no state to chatter as she usually does, but reminding herself that the AI is there is comfort enough. “We’re all green on this end, Remael. Except Red who –“ She stops herself. It was a dumb joke. “Red’s fine. Alarus is just finishing up on his project, I think. Right? Hunter 425 is ready.”

Her clear ‘voice’ rings through the shared neural link, “Alright. The motions are simple: we just need to fly it fast and tight, and unload our munitions at each stop as quickly as possible. Nothing flashy, but it has to be smooth, has to be snappy. Focus on doing that, and I'll deal with the 'What Ifs'. Remember, everyone: big heroes. We’re the best in the business. We're naturals. We've got this. ” It’s going to work. It’s going to work.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus sat in the shock pod gel, his eyes closed as he focused intently on analyzing the data as it flowed from the communique. He put together the disparate pieces into a seamless package feed as Red fed him the processed information, "Holy poo poo.....holy loving poo poo...." He said as the plans unraveled onto multiple panels displayed on his neural interface. "What in the loving hell are they going to use this for?" he asked, rhetorically. Alarus fed the information to the rest of the crew and the Okeanos "Commander, package is open. Doesn't have anything to do with the Dreadnought, but it's some crazy stuff." Alarus then switched the E-Warfare suite to combat mode and waited for deployment.

Jenkem Delivery fucked around with this message at Feb 24, 2015 around 06:24

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

"425 astrogation on standby. Flight coordinates have been transmitted to control and we are ready for catapult. All systems go," he says alongside Moon's chatter. You deal with the 'what ifs' however you want, Moon, but I'm flying back in one piece, he keeps to himself. The virtual screens superimpose over each other, cycling through the various escape vectors and ripcord timing. "Heroes are written about posthumously," he reminds Moon, before his focus both becomes needlepoint sharp and expansive to every nook and cranny of the ship's external sensors. It was flight time.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

The mission seemed pretty simple. Hit the dreadnought with a powerful opening salvo and keep hitting until it becomes neutralized. Areas of the dreadnought to be targeted have been prioritized. Weapons are online and ready. Everything is the way its supposed to be for this mission. Marek felt less ready for this mission then the one against Redmonde.

"The what ifs? What kind of what ifs are you prepared for?"

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

Equipment failure, unexpected contact with Web forces, unexpected contact with UGM forces, unexpected contact with debris, countermeasures, that sort of thing. In good humour, she keeps her reply less depressing, “Officer Capek, please. The last thing you really should ask me at this point is to list all the things I’ve thought of that could go wrong.”

She works over the schematics Alarus dug up and lets her imagination sort of run with the notion as she starts to determine the function, “So, it’s like some sort of Starpusher.” Why not, after terraforming, rearranging stars seems like the next step. Still, being as they are at war, and she’s sitting in an attack ship, she can’t help but imagine some of the more nefarious uses. Unsettling. Still, not the time or place.

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"Star puller is more accurate, Officer Moon," Red quips.

"I have been in accelerated conference with Okeanos since the decryption was completed. It's a fascinating design. The technical schematics and deployment plan in particular are quite detailed; much more so than if this were a design study. It is reasonable to assume that this artifice has been or is in the process of being constructed. It may even be possible to identify the target star by analyzing the design's assumptions about mass and particle outflow. Eventually."

"However, we are unable to determine the military value of the technology. We agree with Officer Za'al. This information doesn't seem directly relevant to our current situation."

There is a brief silence on the communications net.

"Alright, the AIs and my adjutants have had a look and they can't figure out why this was even flagged for total compartmentalization, much less how it's militarily important," the Commander cuts in, voice taut. The implication is clear: the breach of protocol here won't be justified by a miraculous strategic coup. In all likelihood, Ilyusha's career will end with this deployment.

She clears her throat on the comm and continues, "Doesn't matter. We proceed with op plan one. Displace to phase line green and start your attack."

The main advantage of the time-on-target attack is that it places the attack ship at zero risk while it is firing off a salvo. Making the attack doesn't require close proximity to any particular object in the system, which enables the entire plan to be carried out without intentionally contacting the enemy at effective engagement distances. The entire magazine can be emptied in a matter of minutes, and Hunter 425 is back in the cradle before anyone can detect the ship's presence and react.

The main disadvantage is that it leaves the Okeanos exposed and unable to jump while each phase of the attack is executed. After each sortie, the carrier completes another series of displacements to conceal its resting location from observers: observers who now know for certain that a carrier is in the area, that it has detected something hiding in Trieste's primary star, and that for some reason it is executing an attack plan without the support of the main UGM fleet operating in the system. That much is made obvious by the attack ship itself.

But with a short window of exposure and a very conservative evasion plan, all bets are hedged. It takes an extra hour to complete the attack pattern due to Web patrols advancing on the carrier's location that necessitate several extra relocations, but all goes according to plan. The following sorties' origins and displacement pseudovelocities are adjusted to compensate. Over fifteen thousand armor piercing rounds are on course to hit the dreadnought simultaneously, coming from multiple vectors and at varied closing speeds. Just before impact, they coalesce into a strike pattern designed by the AIs to maximize damage and minimize the routes the ship can follow to escape.

The last sortie is flown only a few tens of thousands of kilometers above the photosphere, deep inside the star's corona. If the dreadnought has both a functioning AI and a reasonably sensitive mass detector, it probably knows by now that it's under attack with only a few minutes left to evade. Hunter 425 ripcords back to the Okeanos, now hiding five light-minutes out from the star. The UGM attacks have continued unabated throughout; they are either waiting for the result of the attack or simply don't consider the dreadnought a priority. Web forces are too heavily engaged to make any response but a few token pickets.

There is nothing left to do but wait and watch the clock and the grainy image of a mass shadow the Alarus is still tracking.

With sixty seconds left, the communications net goes silent. The humans are holding their breath. The AIs are simply too busy monitoring for any sign of reaction on the target.

With ten seconds left, the image flickers ever so slightly.

Red reports, "Aspect change on the target. Nose repointed zero zero three degrees to stellar Nor..."

The mass shadow vanishes.

"Mass shift in progress," Red continues, "Plasma infill into the vacuum cavity. Target has displaced."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

Her neural link is deathly still as her heart rate increases. Anticipation. The rounds are moving too slowly, she can feel it. And then the dreadnought begins to turn and that pit in her stomach opens up. Target has displaced. She stubbornly checks the integrity of the mass readings and imaging they’re receiving, in spite of Red’s assurance, then finally relents. Then she waits for word of some reprisal.

She finally breaks the silence, “It was a long shot in every sense of the phrase.” Unclear if she’s consoling herself or reassuring the crew. Did she really think it was going to work? Not entirely but it seemed worth the risk. So now they have a piece of intelligence with seemingly little immediate actionable value (she’s not so quick to agree to that) and mass readings of an object believed to be a dreadnought that is now gone. It’s typically hard to bring down Moon’s spirits for long but this does sting. They still had the success at Remonde to look back towards, right?

“Not a total loss.” Just close to it. “We forced out a maneuver of the vessel using a sole attack ship. 0,0,3° N, was that a random heading?” Probably. Doubtful the AI or astrogator making the call would give away information with a heading, even on the off chance they were panicking over incoming fire.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

Alarus cursed as the ship displaced. "Son of a bitch, were we picked up? Why the hell did it just displace and not fire on us? Red, can you fire off a scan with the Okeanos? Something that big is gonna stick out like a sore thumb. I'll analyze the data in the E-Warfare suite." Alarus was pissed, the Commander was going to get a ton of poo poo for opening the Intel and it may blow back on him. The least they could do was bag a dreadnought and see if that would be enough to cover their asses. "Let's find this thing, we can't risk it linking up with a Web force and doing some major damage."

Electronic ops: sensors 12. Intelligence analysis 13.

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

He waited. After the initial volley hit, he kept expecting a retaliatory strike in return. The dreadnought was a tough customer and it would probably take a lot of ordnance to take it out. And there was no way it would just sit there and take it. He got anxious waiting for the ship's response because only when the ship responded could he then figure out the next step. The next step being another attack to push the offense forward. The dreadnought then reacted.

"What the hell?" The ship wasn't there anymore. It took off the moment they knew they were found, but why didn't they even return fire? Its not like the dreadnought would be lacking in weapons capability. Maybe it wouldn't last a prolonged conflict, but it could do significant damage. Maybe they're holding something too valuable to risk in a fight. Special cargo or something special about the ship.

"I think they ran to keep us from something."

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"Mass sensors are online, Officer Za'al. We will detect the dreadnought if it displaced to within within a radius of over a light hour," Red says helpfully.

Officer Remael cuts in over the ship-to-ship communications line into the cradle, "Alarus, I kept working on the star sail with Okeanos while you guys were engaged. I think we've got something. Take a look. All of you should see this."

Okeanos has produced a computer model of the sail's deployment parameters to simulate how it would be used in practice. But there are design details that, on the type of close inspection only an AI is capable of, give a critical clue to how the sail is meant to be employed: too much reinforcement and too many compensators for charged particle wind, far more engineering tolerance than makes sense. The model has been evolved to find a suitable reason, and it found one.

A neutron binary. The sail is meant to be deployed around one member of a neutron binary star.

"Now watch this."

The model runs forward, a legend indicating that months and then years are passing by. The sail pulls the star into a closer orbit with its twin, and turns it so that its poles point along the galactic plane rather than out of it. The model indicates that the exact timespan will vary depending on the exact orbital details of the binary, but the result is inevitable: the two neutron stars collide. The tilting star pulls mass from its binary partner until it passes the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit and collapses into a black hole. But as it does so, the accretion of degenerate neutron star matter pouring into the new singularity generates a massive burst of gamma radiation that flashes out from the star's polar axis.

The merger, collapse, and gamma ray burst take less than ten seconds. In those ten seconds, a significant fraction of the rest-mass energy of the stars is converted into a pure, focused, annihilative beam.

"We ran the numbers. It would sterilize any habitable planet along two degrees of the beamline and within about 8,000 lightyears."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

Her frown deepens – not visible because she’s sitting in goo, but still. Finally, after Remael’s simulation plays through, she sees something that lightens her mood a little, her voice chirping in through the neural link with a tinge of smug satisfaction, “The stars! It’s pushing them together.”

The report she’d have to file on the dreadnought debacle is put aside for a moment, as she chases the new idea, “Well, that’s terribly monstrous and all,” nonchalance is her middle name, “but at the very least, the nature of that usage limits the stars the UGM could look for, if this sort of thing is even under construction.” Less importantly, the possible usage of a ridiculous 8000 light-year range extinction weapon elevates the information from ‘novel’ to ‘important’ again, and could be used to vindicate the decision to open the data store, “Needless to say, we shouldn’t go posting about this on our status updates, and it’s critical again to pass this along to command.”

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"There are thousands of neutron binary stars in the Milky Way," Officer Remael says, a bit listlessly, "The ousters built the dreadnoughts in secret. What if they already built one of these things? Or ten? There's no defense."

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

The pilot was very still when the displacement warning came in, and he remained quiet as the information comes in regarding the sail. Sounds like it was tactically relevant payload, after all. Eight thousand light years is from the burned husk of Earth to the Sagittarius constellation. It wouldn't just be a single planet that was rendered uninhabitable - the magnitude of impact would be enough to destroy entire systems. It would be trivial to use this interstellar death ray to neutralize a Garden World. It could be done far and away from anywhere the UGM could strike. If these plans weren't new, they could run a beam directly through Trieste and there's no way they'd be able to know about it. They would just need a sufficient enough bait to call on the combined arms of UGM in the area to make it worthwhile, if that plan was already in motion. When he opens his mouth, words come out slow, but like a locomotive, he picks up steam.

"Web always likes doing it big," he says, crossing his arms in the shock pod. "Red, I understand that the nearest binary neutron star is about 90 light years away from here. While it isn't clear what the displacement capability of the dreadnought that just left, are there projections on what the resources required to manufacture this thing would be? Moreover, what would the deployment and setup take in terms of time? This is purely theoretical, of course, but suppose this could be manufactured on a mobile factory - dreadnought sized, if you catch my inference - then deployed to any valid star within tactical range of a Garden World." He felt a headache coming on. Interstellar warfare didn't just take place in a single generation of humans anymore. Who's to say that these plans aren't already in motion in some other part of the galaxy in Web domain?

He mutters under his breath. "You could even design a set of AIs to facilitate the entire project at scale, probably, and then it wouldn't matter - just set them to go and execute the plan in a place that is blind to normal detection..." He tilts his head back, adjusting his orientation to the top of the pod.

"Very fancy thing that you've uncovered, Alarus."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She mentally rolls her eyes at Remael’s assertion. Clearly, you limit for effective range to reach practical targets, and then check that with candidate stars that are easily accessible to Web, so on so forth. But it’s Carl’s notion that sends her back to looking over the schematics, “There’s got to be a resource chokepoint somewhere along the line. They can’t just… large scale automate removing swaths of the galaxy. That's... It's extreme.”

“All the more reason to hurry up and pass it along. We have stuff that needs to be known.” She wants to reach up and rub at her eyes. This is all getting bigger than she wants – they’re the crew of an attack ship, not High Command. Silence for a bit, “What’re our orders going to be looking like, Remael?” Not being on Okeanos, she can’t get a feel for what’s up over there but maybe he’d be willing to be share.

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

He turns off the auto-orientation in the pod and assumes a horizontal position, putting his hands behind his back as Moon throws some conjecture out. "That's not actually a real reason, Moon. Why wouldn't you, is the question? Web engineers and UGM both have tools necessary to level entire planets. Even if there was a resource chokepoint somewhere, you're basically looking at a slow non-FTL propulsion system. You could resolve the resource checkpoint by expanding to places that the UGM can't even go right now. Similarly, the Web only needs to remove a very small portion of the galaxy - if even more than one of the Garden Worlds was neutralized simultaneously, the resulting collapse of the UGM would be beyond reasonable recovery. Combine the strategic importance and scale of a weapon like this and add the same type of redundancy that makes a Web dreadnought so difficult to destroy if you don't disable its jump drive - it's a winning strategy."

He rolls his head from side to side, working out the tension in his shoulders. "I would recommend, since this is all likely being fed back to the Commander, that we disengage from Trieste back to a Garden World and await further instructions. If UGM intel is expecting this data, they know more than we do, likely, and this may even be part of a larger strategy."

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"The strategic value is questionable, Officer von Brandt. Few theorists accept a time scale of millennia as acceptable to the design of weapons due to the uncertainties involved in war over such lengths of time. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating design," Red says, "The raw materials are extracted from the neutron star itself with a particle fountain constructed out of a series of artificial singularities that bleed matter fro... wait one."

"New contact, bearing two zero one, six degrees off axis. The dreadnought has reappeared. Distance is eight light minutes."

Sensor contact data floods the link. There's a huge mass signature. Optical sensors are still slewing around to get a look at the bogey when the omnidirectional infrared picks up a massive emission of energy. Red narrates, "It's a thermal laser. Peak discharge is in the tens of petawatts, probably the dreadnought's main battery."

The sensor analysis suite is already picking out smaller pinpoints of even greater energy flaring up all along the line of the beam for tens of thousands of kilometers. The energy signature is unique, with peak responses at wavelengths that correspond to the incineration of exotic laminates and the artificial elements used in the construction of jump drives.

"Secondary emissions. The dreadnought has engaged and destroyed a portion of the UGM main fleet. Three thousand, one hundred and fifteen carriers vaporized. Ships out of the beam path may also be destroyed or disabled but not emitting sufficient bleed infrared to be detected at this distance."

The optical telescopes finally come around and pick up the first visible light image of the enemy. Two hundred and ninety kilometers of ivory-white armor come into focus, traced with a copper-green inlay of heat sinks and thermal rejection panels. There may be a functional reason for the spiraling designs that cover the ship, but the aesthetics are obvious. The visual evokes the corroded metal of a garden gate or metal trellis, wrapped around an ancient sycamore tree. It's beautiful. One of the cameras zooms even further, picking up a symbol that is patterned in the coppery metal near the nose. Three interlocking circles, with gradient line-weights and a slashing arc that passes through all three. Analysis software finds a relevant match in the ideographic pictoglyphs of the ousters: it communicates a rule in aerospace combat maneuver that, when closing on an enemy in a nose-to-nose confrontation, to turn and run is to squander the kinetic energy needed to fight, or to escape, and guarantee destruction. Retreat is possible only after a first pass and refusal to merge. Simultaneously, the pictoglyph equates the reality of this rule of kinetic battle to the attitude that soldiers must adopt in order to successfully execute its demands.

Honor the Threat.

Then the image goes blank except for the stars. The dreadnought has displaced once again.

The Oldest Man fucked around with this message at Feb 28, 2015 around 05:27

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

"The sons of bitches did it, they actually did it. They created the superweapon..." Alarus said, trailing off as the data came through the E-Warfare suite. Multiple projections ran across his Neural Interface. The Star Weapon destroying various Garden Worlds, from Mu to Iberia. He clenched his fist and punched it against the couch in the shock pod gel. Sure there wasn't much impact but it made him feel better. Alarus radioed back to Remael "We've got to hope they haven't deployed one of them yet. Is there any way we can use the plans to scan the possible stars to see if the radiation signs are off kilter? We'd be able to tell since the sail would be affecting them, right?"

Alarus viewed the data stream as the Dreadnought popped in and out on its kill run. "God dammit, if we can't disable the jump drive this thing is going to carve up the UGM fleet. Red, any way to extrapolate the next possible jump site by comparing previous Dreadnought sorties against the UGM target probability map for the Trieste system? Maybe we can get lucky and figure out it's next landing point and surprise the motherfucker. Maybe we can even get close enough for me to get a shot at getting into its systems..."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

She stays silent throughout the display of force, committing the image of the dreadnought’s exterior to memory, filing it away with the burning surface of Remonde, her first time in the suit preparing to enter the shock couch for an attack ship, arriving at the academy on Mu, leaving New Songdo - other things like that. The iconography is appreciated even before Red’s analysis explains it – she’s good with things like that.

They should’ve… They should’ve integrated with the Trieste forces, attempted to make contact, turn over the data, something. When they spotted the mass shadow, they should have informed the fleet. Should’ve informed them immediately. This… It’s on them, isn’t it? It would have emerged at some point, surely. How had nobody else in the UGM noticed the mass shadow? If Okeanos had contacted the rest of the fleet, could have they have addressed it in time? All those crews. She wonders if she'd just seen anyone she knows die. An inappropriate pang of homesickness comes up in her stomach, nagging her to just… get out of here. Go home.

Being unable to adequately express herself through body language leaves a lot of reaction pent up and bleeding out through the neural link. Alarus goes through his response – apparently fight won out over flight. Through will alone she steadies and projects her ‘voice’, colder and more measured than before, “Calm down. Officer Za’al, we’re not going to salvage anything out of this by flinging ourselves at the ship that just destroyed a sizable piece of the all forces in the Perseus arm with a single shot. We don’t have a magic bullet, and we’re not going to inflict enough damage at this point to any critical system with any munition we have. Be reasonable. We have to…” …take our intelligence and retreat to a UGM position where we can actually liaise and relay it. “…wait for orders.” Orders from the Commander. What is the commander even thinking right now? It is probably unfair but it is hard not to feel some sort of resentment for the commander for finding themselves here, spectators to destruction. Resentment for Ilyusha, and the orders so far. Resentment for herself, for daring to craft such a stupid plan.

She repeats, for herself, “We have to wait for orders.”

Ambivalent fucked around with this message at Mar 1, 2015 around 00:08

DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

"Yeah, Moon is right. We need to wait for orders. There's nothing else we can do now. At least nothing else productive we can do now." But he wished that wasn't the case or that someone would contradict him. He found it hard to comprehend the amount of devastation this new weapon could cause. This weapon had the potential to annihilate the entire human race. Was that how this war was going to end? If the Web starts using this, don't they realize the UGM is going to retaliate with what ever they have available? The UGM might not have the kind of firepower that the Web has, but being backed into a corner its not going to hold anything back.

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

It was already clear where the discussion was headed - he couldn't launch off into the fray even if he wanted to, for a lot of reasons (many of them very excellent ones). "Red, what is the estimated fleet fighting capacity? That's a non-negligible number of carriers that are no longer able to fight. With a dreadnought fully operational, this engagement is decidedly no longer in our favor. It's likely that we will need to follow what I had advised originally before we made it to Trieste and either attach to a battle group, which would put this carrier in danger, or fall back to deliver the new strategic data."

He sets the internal communication channel to standby with a link open for the Commander's orders to cut in. Usually, he can see when she's just about to start the feed for another round of briefing even if he's not paying direct attention, but given the circumstances he enlarged the viewport so there's no way he'd miss the prompt. "Also, Red, just because it's not a popular strategic model to think on that large a timeframe doesn't mean it isn't valid. There's also no specific reason I can think of why they wouldn't just be able to create this solution anyway like a nuclear deterrent system - planets can't just dodge out of the way of something like that, so even if it is tens of generations before such a system was active, it would take place unimpeded. Similarly, there is nothing that doesn't suggest that this is a prototype sail design - I would assume that AIs or engineering teams have found better iterations that can shave off appreciable time for propulsion, as ridiculous as that sounds. I digress, though - I'm starting to get hung up on this."

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"Ilyusha here," the Commander says over the open link, "This dreadnought is a major threat, but it's facing down the entire Perseus Front. In light of the fact that our intelligence payload is not of immediate use, we're linking up with General Kshatryia's tactical group or the closest UGM force that we can contact and passing the information up the chain. The main force is certain to detach pickets to carry our information back to the intelligence service along with scans of Honor the Threat."

"As for ourselves, we're needed here along with every single attack carrier."

The dreadnought flickers into existence again, this time only a few light minutes away. Another shot from its main gun vaporizes another UGM battle group. This time, it's only a few dozen ships. The fleet is already changing tactics and scattering to minimize the damage any single attack can inflict. Such a strategy is less than ideal for coordinating attacks against the rest of the Web forces in the system, and opens the UGM to a much greater rate of attrition, but it's far better than suffering thousands of losses at a stroke.

Officer Remael adds, "We have a chance to link up with the main fleet's command. There will be damaged ships at the sites of these attacks. We can render assistance and use the opportunity to synchronize our encryption and identification protocols and reintegrate with the main order of battle. However, our scans are already several minutes out of date. Okeanos predicts an extremely high chance that you will have to engage Web forces immediately after jumping in."

"Hunter 425, prepare to sortie," the Commander, "Establish tight-beam contact with the first operational UGM ship you can locate and find us a fleet rally point. Engaging enemy forces or rendering assistance to disabled ships is at your discretion."

Ambivalent
Oct 14, 2006



Moon

Finally. She’s grateful to be doing something rather than thinking. “Understood, commander.” She brings up displays that she’d put down since they received the briefing from Remonde. “Prepare to reintegrate, Red – we’re going to need you to get real friendly very quickly, I want to be on the same page as whoever we join as soon as possible.”

Her voice over the link regains some of it’s composure as she falls back into line, pulling together disparate data and issuing assessments out to the rest of the crew, “Alright, you heard them. Integrate, engage, discretion, so on.”

Her neural activity ramps up, greenlighting and eliminating options for each member of the crew, “Alarus - all likelihood we’re heading into a lot of friendly and unfriendly company. We want to identify each, let the friendly know where we came from and who we are, and the unfriendly to know as little as possible. We don’t know what sort of protocols General Kshatryia’s using, but we’ll figure it out in a hurry, I’m sure. I’ll help with comms and sensor data, and leave you to what you do best. You know the drill.”

“Marek, until we integrate, it’ll be up to us to flag foes and respond accordingly. I’ll be with you and Red on sensor and recognition duty.” Sounds simple than it is, but Marek knows the Hunter’s munitions better than she does, so she can only help him figure out which direction to aim.

“Carl – I got nothing for you. We won’t know what we’re dealing with until after the jump so… I guess let’s ‘honor the threat’ and just resolve not to wind up staring down the nose of a dreadnought.”

“Objections and suggestions?”

Gonna be leaning on Sensors – 13 or Leadership – 13 when we make the jump.

aldantefax
Oct 10, 2007

ALWAYS BE MECHFISHIN'

Carl

"I copy," he responds, bringing his flight array back online. External cameras dominate the backdrop - if he can see something out there that Alarus and Moon's sensor sweeps don't immediately pick up, they were just as valid a candidate as anything else. "425 all green, ready for catapult. Officer Remael, I'll take the advisory to heart."

I have control, he says over the shipboard intercom, signifying that they're in full manual flight mode after launch.

Carl affords a moment to recenter and reorient himself mentally and physically. Hardly his favorite situation to fly in, but one that, as the last grip of sorties has indicated, is one he's familiar with.

Jenkem Delivery
Feb 8, 2005

Death created time to grow the things that it would kill

Alarus Za'al

"Copy that, Commander. Prepping for wide sensor scans and possible sorties. Encryption handshake protocols are in place in case we can get to a Capital-class ship, and I also have the intel payload ready for possible transmission." Alarus pulled up some more data on possible Web forces they may encounter. "If we jump into the enemy's lap, I've got the standard disrupt protocols ready to go." Alarus used the neural interface to activate the Hacking Module, the Scanning Module, and the Encrypted Transmission modules all ready to cover the various possible scenarios they may face. He fingered his charm for good luck. poo poo, if they didn't jump into a firing solution with Honor the Threat they'd be in good shape. Although part of him wished they did, so that maybe, just maybe he could get a shot at hacking into the Big Boy and find out how the hell it got built and what it was doing here. It all felt like part of something so much larger...

E-Ops Sensors 12, E-Ops E-Warfare 14, Cryptography 13

The Oldest Man
Jul 28, 2003



"Destination set," Red says. A series of thumping noises echo through the hull, "B Magazine has been removed and replaced with our boarding module. Officer Everett and the marine platoon are onboard in case we need them."

The jump drive begins spinning up behind the attack ship cradle. The spindle extends to touch the ripcord contacts. Exactly how a jump drive or a ripcord device work are matters for physicists and machines, but the entire UGM fleet doctrine is built around three facts. First, that an attack ship allows the projection of force without risking the destruction of a jump drive or its carrier ship. Second, that the carrier cannot jump while its attack ship is deployed. Third, that if the attack ship is unable to return, it takes over an hour to desynchronize the drive and replace the ripcord device with a dummy.

It's a doctrine built on economics and scale of force. But, like any strategy, it makes assumptions about the nature of the enemy. The assumption implicit in the design of the carrier is that it can evade the enemy while still conducting offensive operations with its attack ship. That assumption has been proven true again and again in decades of battles, even before the war started.

But if the Web is prepared to sacrifice millions of its ships in a losing battle of attrition so that one ship with an incredibly sensitive mass anomaly sensor can track the arrivals and movements of thousands of carriers, the assumption fails. Every hiding place becomes known. Every escape becomes temporary. For a while, at least.

"Displacement in three, two, one, displacement su- proximity alarm. Point defense activated," Red says as the ship is shaken by kinetic rounds.

The jump has taken Hunter 425 into a massive debris field. An expanding cloud of hot gas and metal fragments is blowing outward into the remains of several thousand carriers that were only grazed by the beam. Around those, several thousand attack ships are engaged in battle with some hundred thousand or more Web drones. The ship's point defense lasers are already working overtime in autonomic mode as nearby ships turn to attack. Slugs are glancing off the ship's armor from every direction, lacking the closing velocity needed to punch through but carrying enough energy to set the ship ringing like a bell.

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DocBubonic
Mar 11, 2003

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis

Marek

He didn't reply to Moon. Instead he began to focus his attention on the mission at hand. As the others talked, Marek went over the ship's armaments to make sure they were ready for the new mission. It wasn't a necessary task, but doing this got his mind off of other matters.

After the jump, Marek looked for targets and found plenty among the debris. He tried not to think about the massive amounts of debris floating around and why it came to be. It wouldn't be productive. There was nothing he could do for those people now.

"I'm seeing plenty of threats, but I plan on focusing weapons on only the most immediate threats."

Per-12, Electronics Operation/TL12 (Sensors) -11 to identify immediate threats.

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