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Strategos (A Great Captain Roberts Tale!!)

Chapter 25 - Around the Maypole (Part Three)

Space Navigation is all…

…about the math.

A mix of calculus and trigonometry. The right angle and velocity and you go roaring off into deep space, go too slow, and you're captured in orbit, wrong angle and your orbit hits the atmosphere spectacularly… IF it doesn't drive you into a lithobraking maneuver.

At relativistic velocity.

Which isn't good.

This isn't used a whole lot in the 31st century, not with fusion engines and sunlight navigation being so well developed. It's a method mostly used in the distant past, when interplanetary voyages were done with electric-ion thrusters, calculus, and time.

In the modern 31st century, you still might plot a parabola, and there's the awareness of gravity and velocity, but there's bloody little use for maneuvers developed when 'mass limits' meant a lot more than they do today.

The refinement of Fusion rocketry and resulting simplification of training to 'don't do that' has all but rendered the complex methods of minimum-thrust navigation about as useful, as knowing how to drive a horse and buggy is in a modern arcology with mass transit systems in place.

In short, most of the human race handed it to the computers to handle course pathing into orbit, or out of it, and those computers were given a nice, wide margin of safety that doesn't include this sort of high-risk maneuvering.

After all, there's not a lot of use for such things when delivering soldiers to planetary surfaces, or in orbital bombardment missions, and it's extremely limited when seeking a decisive, set-piece battle.

Military equipment and training often focuses on optimum applications and neglects low-value, low-usage, exotic techniques that put billions, or even trillions, of taxpayer money at risk for what could be achieved just by running on overthrust for a few more hours.

This doesn't mean the techniques are forgotten, only that they're often so overlooked that they move from commonplace, to so rare that safety measures are built in to avoid them.

Sensors on the Evanescent are being distorted, as she slams through charged particles in the uppermost atmosphere of a gas giant, accelerating both on engine power, AND gravity. The bow-shock is visible, given the speed she's moving.

Meanwhile, the Helm officer on the SLS Lynnwood has had to trip an override to stop the ship's course management software from applying full braking thrust to avoid what the software's safety margins insist is a maneuver that will put the ship in danger.

He probably shouldn't have done that.

Because he did, he didn't realize that the deceleration to match frame of reference with his target has put the ship at a poor angle. The thing about overrides, is that they work until they don't, and if your nation is as advanced as the 28th century Terran Hegemony, with ships forming the backbone of the Star League Defense Force

Someone's going to protect the public's investment.

Lateral thrusters fire, as the thrust nacelles housing the powerful main engines, alter their balance of thrust. The Nanny-state software engaging anyway, to adjust the ship's course in a way that won't result in a planetary collision event with a gas giant that almost qualifies as a brown dwarf.

The same couldn’t be said of the fighters released to pursue their prey.

THOSE guys didn't get the Nanny-state software overrides.

A half-dozen fighter pilots found they were on a crash course for the next lower layer of the gas giant's atmosphere, blinded by static discharge and plasma wavefronts generated by their own entry angle.

The fighter pilots didn't get to pull out, instead they discovered the concept of 'crush depth' in a super jovian atmosphere.

The ship was shaking…
With booms, god wanted in bad. "Steady Mister Samuel…" They were temporarily blind as charged particles slammed a wavefront in front of the ship, and turbulence to all sides.

They were also exceeding some of the structure rating out of the yard with this. Everyone on board was being pressed down and pulled to the side by a combination of the super giant's gravitation, and their own acceleration curve augmented by the gas giant's gravitation.

"Heat curve's rising, Captain."

"Hold her steady, and start amping up the thrust," she said. "Bring us to one-fifty percent."


The plasma cleared and they were in free space again. "Where's the Lynnwood?" Amanda demanded.

A few seconds of frantically bringing up sensors and telescopes, looking back along their path…

"There. He pulled up," Larry pointed out. "He didn't play your game of chicken."

"Yeah, well, it was a risk. Helm reduce thrust and prepare for turnover, and if we did it right, we'll be crossing the fourth moon's orbit, can you 'adjust' our course please?"

"Another slingshot?"

"Yah. Minimum fuel use, we're still trying to force this guy to burn hydrogen and wear his crewmen out before we let him match frame of reference. While we're waiting, I want DC teams to look over our ship and make sure we didn't break anything vital with that."

"He did," Larry noted.


"Six traces into the gas giant's atmosphere, no traces out-he must've launched fighters, and they didn't pull out in time…see?"

"Huh… lucky us. Lori, send to the enemy captain, Too bad about your aviators." Amanda said savagely.

"More taunts?" Larry asked.

Amanda nodded, "More taunting. He just lost six of his fighters, maybe, and that might make him hesitate or think and we do not want that. We're…" she froze for a second, then, "we're still thirty minutes from last ETA for Illusive, and the enemy's still getting combobulated after a near brush with a gas giant. He'll need to overthrust to break that orbit, we've got time…everybody, by shift and position, grab food, head visit, whatever."

There are…

…few things more humiliating to a proud man, than someone saying 'it's not your fault'. He'd lost the entire fighter wing. All six Hammerheads, and it was his fault. That was Bart Inslee's certainty. The tactical manuals had prescribed sending a strike when the enemy's back is to a planet, one of the few situations where there's an objective 'down' and a limitation on what directions are available to an opponent.

His aviators paid the price for that, and it was eating him alive inside.

Worse, the abort had kept the Lynnwood from being caught in the trap-at the expense of burning their accumulated velocity down to a stable orbit far too close for comfort to the gas giant's upper atmosphere.

The heat sinks hadn't enjoyed it either, and BITEs were showing damage to the power distribution from the abort, and computer faults were piling up, mostly listed as 'registry conflict' and 'invalid operation' alerts.

"I…got overconfident." he finally said, "okay, Engineering, get these PDU and computer problems sorted, helm, start working on a plan to get us out of orbit without overtaxing the engines, Sensors? which way did they go? If you don't find them immediately with telescopic sweeps, calculate their ballistic path and extrapolate."

Roberts had drawn first blood, and did it without using her weapons.

Because they have pop-guns and tinfoil for armor. He sighed. I will never live this down.

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