The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Sunday, August 29, 2010

King Maurice I class BBG

King Maurice I class Guided-missile Battleship

Type: BBG
Manufacturer: Recife Arsenal
Crew: 750
Produced: 2007
Built: 4 planned
Length: 260 m
Power: Gas Turbine
Range: 11,000 km
Armaments: 2 x 2 200mm chain gun turret
4 x 1 20mm PDS
30 X 4 VLS (40 multipurpose, 40 anti-ship, 40 anti-sub)
40 x 4 VLS (anti-air)
Speed: 50 kps
Cost: 1 bin Guilders
Ships: King Maurice I, Prinz van Oranje, Queen Beatrix, Empress of Brazil

The King Maurice I class battleships are the second generation of guided missile battleships. It is also the first class to employ the expensive 200mm chain guns. These are half the size of older battleships guns, but make up for that by firing between 60 and 100 rounds per minute, either of high explosive or armor-piercing sabot. These multi-barrel chain guns are also why each BBG will cost slightly over one billion Guilders. The missile compliment of the BBG consists of 160 SAMs, 40 ASMs, 40 Anti-sub, and 40 MPM. The multi-purpose missile have no moving parts in the warhead. Instead, the tip of the missile carries several tungsten darts, that will slam into their targets at hypersonic speeds, punching through aircraft, armor and concrete, destroying with kinetic energy.

The BBG is designed for naval supremacy and not short bombardment. The MPMs and shells from the chain gun can destroy land-based targets, but this would only be after naval threats were eliminated, and in support of cruisers equipped with ground attack missiles, or the future Arsenal Ships that are planned to be built by 2020. The new class of BBG is also highly automated, requiring fewer crew to man them.

Wing Commander reboot, part 7


Improvised War

With both of the major players in the Kilrathi War pausing for a breath and attempting to rebuild their forces, the smaller players of the Frontier were still in action. Leading various worlds that fall outside of Confed’s border is the most powerful of the Frontier worlds, Landreich. The Free Republic of Landreich Navy accounts for more than 70% of all frontier ships. With a jumble of make-do ships and Confed cast-offs, the Landreich has fought the Kilrathi to a standstill. Despite their bravado, the Landreich would easily have been crushed if the Kilrathi launched a concerted effort against them. Instead, Landreich ships tackle what the Kilrathi would consider their own secondary ships.

In land combat, the Kilrathi soldiers view humanity as prey. As such, they tend to treat all soldiers the same way. The guerilla warriors of the Frontier fully exploit this, using patrol members as ‘wounded’ bait, to cause the Kilrathi to charge in recklessly on all fours. Afterwards, one of two things would happen; the Kilrathi would run into a minefield, or they would be gunned down by frontier’s men waiting for them. Either way, and with several other ambushed, the Kilrathi losses on the ground were always far higher (proportionally speaking) than Terran losses, and were only doubly worse against non-Confed worlds.

The Landreich, and other systems, have backdoor contacts within Confed and quickly began to snatch up the obsolete Confed fighters, to augment their own home-grown products. The most popular of these acquisitions were hundreds of Firecats. The Landreich took the agility of these light fighters and installed additional armor and more powerful shields out of scrapped Wildcats and even some Warhammers. To compensate for the additional mass, larger engines were installed. Over the course of time, the modified fighters were put into mass production, giving birth to the Talon light fighter. In a fair fight, it still could not go up against a Kilrathi heavy fighter, but the Landreich never pretended to fight fair.

For capital ships, the Landreich addressed the issue of a lack of carriers by taking several pairs of old Confed destroyers, and connecting them via a flight deck. This kludge of a light carrier became known as the Delphi-class light carriers. They made poor weapons of fleet engagements, but were perfect for the hit-and-run tactics of the Landreich. By Confed standards, the Delphis were obsolete before they entered production.

War at Home

The Home Front during the early part of the war was one filled with panic. During the first five years of the war, there was every bit the possibility that the Kilrathi would breakthrough the line and invade the Sol Sector. Any unidentified flying object was reported as a "scout ship" by the worried public. The situation was even worse in the parts of the Vega Sector that remained under Confed control. They really did see scout ships. Civilian Defense Corps were established on every inhabited world to man anti-aerospace weapons. Privately owned ships were armed by the owners, and Confed put in the expense of installing communication equipment on these impressed ships. Civilians served as pickets, shouting warnings when the Kilrathi appeared.

World governments in the Vega Sector quickly took control of key industries and put them into use for planetary defense. There was loud protests to this. The Governor of Enyo II, in 2638, replied to the loss in profits by asking "And when the Kilrathi kill us all, then who will buy your products?" They could not unilaterally seize private property, and Confed law demanded the owners be compensated for their loss of business. This, as well as the massive buying of war goods by Confed drove the Confederation’s deficit through the roof. In turn, higher taxes and planetary tariffs were imposed to compensate.

The general public in the Sol Sector accepted the high costs of living, but people living in systems opposite of the Kilrathi Frontier were wondering why they were paying higher taxes. In the distant Carina Sector, there was a degree of protest against the war. Many wanted a negotiated peace, not quite understanding Kilrathi culture or war aims. Protests accompanied all sectors, but these were more against tighter rationing and higher. Rationing was not universal, for each world had its own level of production. Worlds that were forced to import foodstuff in order to maintain their populations did suffer the most from rationing. Fuel was not a big deal, since all ships were powered by fusion reactors. Need fuel? Just open up magnetic scoops and skim the mesosphere of a gas giant. Consumer goods were not rationed, just in short supply. Every factor in the Vega Sector and Epsilon Sector, as well as most in the Sol Sector (and a lesser degree in the Enigma Sector) were geared over to war production.

Operations in Hubble’s Star

In March of 2641, the first Confed Marines entered the Hubble’s Star System. They entered from Xanadu, using a much narrower jump point. While most are 173 meters (this being the maximum diameter that can traverse the point), the jump point at the L-1 point for Hubble’s Star and Hubble I, was only half the size. A task force of smaller warships and transports jumped into Hubble’s Star under the very radiation of this F-type star. Their goal was not to liberate Hubble IV, for too many Kilrathi were on and around the planet. Instead, they secured Hubble I, and were followed by engineers and construction workers.

Surface installations were built around the poles of this airless, low gravity world. These were mostly barracks, for the massing of Marines to act to secure landing zones, as well as hundreds of thousands of soldiers of the Confederation Army that would be required to liberate the system. Six orbital fortresses were built around the equator of the planet, with an addition two smaller ones in higher, polar orbits. These fortresses were kept small, just mainly guns and reactors, in order to elude Kilrathi attention.

Installations were completed with six months, and soldiers began to slowly fill into the system. The jump point was too small for larger TCN ships to enter, which would be forced to come via the Vega or Hell’s Kitchen jump points. Both were mined by the Kilrathi, and the Vega jump point was soon discovered to have the Kilrathi’s system headquarters nearby, as well as several warships permanently stationed around it.

Hubble I was put to immediate use by smaller ships. Destroyers capable of carrying a small compliment of fighters operated in the outer system, attacking Kilrathi shipping flying between the Port Hadland and Rostov jump points. The Kilrathi thought the system so secure, that they had not bothered placing escorts for shipping. After losing three convoys, one carrying twenty thousand soldiers, the Kilrathi began to dispatch Ralathas to investigate. The Kilrathi destroyers managed to destroy the TCS Dragonfly.

Further attacks by small Confed ships hit and destroyed a fuel station in orbit of Hubble V. Again, the Kilrathi dispatched ships to search for the attackers. The question of why the Kilrathi did not investigate the jump point inside of Hubble I’s orbit has never been satisfactorily answered. It is entirely possible the Kilrathi were unaware of the jump point. It was seldom used, and its proximity to Hubble’s Star made it less than desirable. Few civilian charts would have mentioned it, and military charts would have been destroyed during the invasion. No matter the reason, Confed ships continued to use this jump point, as well as Hubble I to continue to harass the Kilrathi for months on end.

Raid on Tamayo

The only major action by the Kilrathi in 2640, took place against the Tamayo System in the Vega Sector. The Kilrathi lacked the forces to secure any of the planets. Instead, they made a raid of the system. Tamayo Station was bypassed, and struck at the surface of Tamayo II. Kilrathi bombers dropped fusion warheads (yielding 50 kT) on several of the industrial areas of the southern hemisphere. This raid killed twelve million Terrans, as well as eliminated the entire electronic’s industry on the planet within the range of the EMP.

The worst loss was that of Tamayo Labs and Douglas Aerospace’s Tamayo production plants. The former was one of the manufacturers of the guidance system for IR (Image Recognizing) missiles, and the latter was responsible for producing the new Rapiers (one of several plants scattered throughout the Confederation). The destruction did much to harm the system’s own defenses, as well as shatter civilian morale. For months after the raid, the fear of invasion caused a general rumble of panic on Tamayo II.

The Kilrathi attack specifically targeted war industries. Unlike Confed, the Kilrathi had a very centralized industrial base. The Imperial Pride controlled most war industries, which were located in the Kilrah System, and the Council of Eight controlled the rest, which was situated on their own Pride worlds. Despite the insistence from the Ki’ra Pride, the Emperor believed Confed operated along the same lines. Kilrathi Intel learned about a new heavy fighter coming on line, and targeted the nearest Douglas Aerospace assembly line, believing it to be the primary line. Sadly, the one of Tamayo was one of the company’s smallest assembly plants, and had minimal impact on the output of the F-44 Rapier.

Consolidation of the VOC

By 1877, the VOC climbed to the number one spot for shipping in the world. Its climb back to the top included absorbing two smaller shipping companies, and more importantly, their ships and contracts. The first was in 1870, followed by the second in 1883. By the time of its second acquisition all VOC ship were steam driven, with masts and sails only as auxiliary. Given a good wind, captains would still rather have a free push from the air than to burn through fuel. The Company approved of still using sails, but mostly for cost-effectiveness than from nostalgia of a by-gone age. Its return to the top in 1877, also made the VOC the first billion guilder company in the Dutch Commonwealth.

Another bit of technological progress that the VOC grabbed originated in America. The telegraph (and later telephone) were quick in supplanting written messages. The VOC formed VOC Communications to take advantage of this new form of communication. In 1861, the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable snaked its way from Dunkirk to Cayenne, in northern Brazil. More cables were lain by the VOC, on both the land and in the sea, linking states and colonies of the Dutch Commonwealth by the 1880s. The VOC was not the only communication company, but because of its diverse portfolio, quickly became the largest. The company purchased a copper mine in Brazil in 1874, to secure a steady supply of the metal for its cables.

By the end of the century, more than 30% of all Dutch commerce was being shipped by the VOC. Lower rates undercut the competition, and though bad for competition, low rates always go over well with the consumer. The VOC’s own private navy, though small by its predecessor’s standards, still offered the protection in dangerous waters that smaller companies just could not manage. Along with telegraphed messages, the VOC opened its own private post office as part of VOC Communications in 1892.

The VOC almost always caught on to new technologies quickly. However, in the case of oil, it was slower to take. Standard Oil of the United States already dominated the kerosine market in America before the VOC began to investigate it. Before, oil was processed from whales. It did not take a modern marine biologist to understand that whaling on an industrial level was not sustainable. Thus, the VOC paid little attention to oil. When oil began to be extracted from the ground in Pennsylvania, the Company saw it as a fluke. When oil fields were found all over the world, the Board began to pay attention. When a kerosine byproduct, gasoline, began to show promise, the VOC moved into action. In 1895, the VOC managed to purchase Royal Dutch Shell, and renamed it VOC Oil. It proved a wise move, though the VOC was unable to dominate the oil industry, it did secure for itself a fuel source, as well as a product for sell throughout the 20th Century.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Excerp of Stardust: Towne

The first part of Chapter 1 of Stardust: Towne.

The red sun lighting his way, Andreas continued his slow cruise down many of the land’s rural roads. Many roads lead into the land once known as Goai. Years before, The State invaded and annexed the land, quickly spreading The Party’s ideology and settling the land with The People. At the moment, the war raging across a great deal of Towne was of little concern to Andreas. His only goal was to find a paved road and continue his drive into Showna, and avoid the vigilant eyes of the Knights of The State.

Shownastadt, known as Pi Showna before The State came, evicted the populous not considered The People, and colonized it with Navenians, shown ahead. The farms surrounding the dirt road gave not lumination, even at this time of the morning. He would expect the farmers to already be in their fields, but still, somebody must be in the houses. Andreas dismissed it with a simple thought; no electricity. This was not the first stretch of land powerless he ever saw. After all, this certainly was not Tropico.

Many farms were without power; the utility companies not considering it worth their profit margins to extend their power lines. The Party might dictate every aspect of life, but they left their economy very capitalistic. Survival of the fittest, and nuts to the rest. Andreas snorted at the thought. As long as the power companies did not interrupt the megalithic State works, say by diverting power to unnecessary sectors, The Party left them alone. Left the companies alone that is– the employees were subject to the same invasiveness as the rest of The People.

Andreas finally arrived at the intersection of a paved highway. To the south, this road lead to the border with Endopia, and was tightly sealed. Though The State was at war with Endopia, it had yet to invade it. Most of their forces were pushing through its neighbor, Langoon. No minerals in Langoon that were worth fighting over, just farmland. Andreas assumed The State’s true goal was to take Rhodes, and its port– maybe even its navy. After that, they would hit Tropico. The State and Tropico were ideological opposites, all the excuse extremist on one side need.

Andreas yawned, feeling fatigue creep up on him. It was a long night, and hard drive. He switched from one rural road to another, back-tracking and zig-zagging just to cross the border. If not for the contract his ‘company’ had signed, Andreas would have none of it. Truth was, he was one of the few Sapiens employed by Golden Hammer Enterprises, and The State had no use for non-sapiens. They awarded him this job by default.

Traffic this morning was light, as it had been for the past couple of days. Keeping to the back roads as soon as he entered artillery range of the front, Andreas seldom had a single auto pass him to his right. It had been a long two days, with little rest in between. Thing about navigating through a warzone; if one remained stationary for too long, one became a target. He had the option of switching with his colleagues down south, but not since they crossed into The State’s occupied territories. It was his show, and his alone.

His lumbering LMW ‘Mule’ kept a gradual pace of forty kilometers an hour. It was the workhorse down south, the most numerous small truck in production. Its capacity was limited so the Golden Hammers crammed it full of crate, allowing only enough room for a man to walk through to open them. Andreas insured each four cubic meter crate was secured. The last thin he wanted was for his cargo to be cranky when they arrive. All-in-all, a real challenge, considering the Mule drives like a drunken tortoise on the best of roads.

Once on a proper road, the rest of his trip went smoothly. To his right, endless fields of grains. To his left, the Jaipur River and an adjacent railroad. Between rails and water, the slums of Shownastadt. Many were displaced to make room for colonist, and not just non-sapiens. Anyone The State deemed unworthy either fled the area of ended up in the forest of lean-tos. Shanty towns were isolated, sealed off from the rest of the world by both river and fences. The State pinned up many in these ghettoes, thus controlling their movement. Only a select few could get past the checkpoints and enter the city, and that was only for the most remedial and lowest paying of work. The undesirables did work beneath The People.

Andreas entered the town as the railroad veered off sharply to the west. An old bridge, perhaps two hundred years of age, held massive trains above the river. It was an ugly structure, a suspension bridge that used hideous I-beams instead of graceful cables. A sharp, and dramatic contradiction to the elegant, snow-capped peaks to the east. Already the snow glowed a faint red as Towne’s sun cleared the horizon. Andreas read many an article about that red star, and how planets like Towne should be tidally locked, yet the planet still rotated. Nobody knew why, but most experts speculated the hundred million year old machines buried at both poles played a part.

Andreas felt a sharp jolt as he passed over train tracks. By the hoarse sounds in the back, he was not the only one who felt it. His ‘cargo’ were just a sensitive to bumps as him, if not more so. He had a seatbelt, they did not. His job was to deliver this cargo to the University of Shownastadt. Delivery boy was the perfect cover. After all, nobody would think twice about cargo dropped off at the university’s renown physics department. It was so renown, that Gold Hammer Enterprises were contracted to– extract certain notes from certain labs. Andreas knew it was something big. He might not be a scientist, but he read his share of magazines.

Traffic grew marginally denser as he entered city limits. Shownastadt was rebuilt when The State took over. They upgraded much of the infrastructure, including in their budget the addition of traffic lights. They were a bane in the existence of anyone who loved driving, always turning right as one reaches them, but it was far better than having traffic cops. If The State set soldiers, or worse, the Knights of The State, out on every corner, eventually one might get curious as to Andreas’s cargo. Far better dealing with the automated irritants.

Aside from lights on most every corner, the only other thing that bugged Andreas, was the housing. These were not elegant structures, or rustic, or anything with character. They were simple, mass-produced breadbaskets, all with horizon siding. Truly an eyesore. They alternated between few colors, all of those drab. That was about the only good thing he could say– at least they were not eyesores painted a gaudy color. Houses in Tropico were like that, very bright and vibrant. One had to pay a lot extra to live outside of the high-rise tenements.

Andreas endured several minutes of stopping and going. Not so much because of traffic, but because of the idiot who programmed the lights. One could not travel more than a couple of blocks before stopping. This was killer on his fuel efficiency, and he would need every drop to get out of here once his job was finished. With some luck, or what the dwarves call ‘a bit of skill’ they should infiltrate the lab, grab the papers and be on their way out before the university even opens.

He turned the LMW down onto the first numbered street he could find. It was the same with most of The State’s urban areas; east to west streets are numbered, and the north to south ones are named. He sought out Echo Drive, for that would take him to the lab. He hit the road and drove straight on towards the university. Thirteenth Street was up ahead, on the corner of Echo and Thirteenth, there was where he found the loading dock.

Like everything else in Shownastadt, it was quiet. Andreas backed his auto into place, docking the truck with the interior loading dock. His cargo was too– controversial to be out in the open. The lab was northwest of the three main buildings. Each stood three stories in height, and were built from bland red bricks. Windows were nearly evenly spaced at four meters apart. The building was too utilitarian for its own good. Andreas would go stir crazy living in such a bland town. What did The State have against a little decor?

Andreas pushed the door open, and dropped on to the concrete ground. Many patches showed a variation of color, light and dark grays. One thing was sure, this building has seen plenty of traffic. Andreas glanced around, spotting only a single man standing watch. He was an old man, too old to serve in the army, but not old enough to retire. The graying man looked up at Andreas, bored, or perhaps tired. He certainly did not expect a delivery yet.

"What a shock, an early delivery," the old loader said with a dash of sarcasm. He was accustomed to late, to teamsters who ran their shifts without a single shred of consideration for anyone else. Andreas knew a few of those, the type who take up most of the road and travel half the speed limit– or maybe the type that speed while driving through a downtown not designed for their bulk. Yes, they were certainly a selfish bunch. He was also accustom to sloppier dress. Such fine clothes raised only a tinge of suspicion. If a driver wanted to dress fancy, the old man could care less– just as long as the job gets done. Andreas wondered why The State, sticklers for efficiency, have not yet rectified that particular situation.

"I could come back in an hour," Andreas retorted, just as sarcastic. "That is if I’m interrupting your busy schedule."

The old man was far from busy. He looked to be sleeping under the morning sky. Cool air blew in from the east, chilled by a night in the higher altitudes. Mountain air always refreshed Andreas, especially after days of stuffy atmosphere. "No, it’s no bother at all. Gives me one less thing to worry about." He took a hard look at Andreas, and Andreas could guess his thoughts; ‘this man was too sharply dressed to be a driver’. "Papers?"

Andreas nodded. He pulled out several papers, each one being two pieces sandwiching a piece of carbon paper. "Certainly."

The old man looked them over. Nothing out of the ordinary here, just some centrifuges and transistors. "Appears all in order. Nothing personal, just like to do things by the book." To which Andreas simply replied with a short shrug. The State did love its protocol. He wasted no more time. He walked over to the loading dock, unlocked the door and let Andreas in.

The interior was quite cluttered. Too many goods and not enough space. Crates of all shapes and sizes. Even a few were marked ‘urgent’ and ‘important’, but were mixed in with the rest. Whomever was in charge of the university’s warehouse certainly did not care for order. If his own employers ever saw a mess like this, they would pitch a fit. Worse yet, if The Party ever inspected the place—

The dock between truck and building rolled up, leaving only the truck’s door as a barrier between him and his cargo. The old man started to walk off, presumably to get a lift. Andreas no longer needed his help, and decided to relieve him of his duty. With a short, sharp strike to the back of his head, Andreas knocked the only man down cold. "Nothing personal." Non-lethal response was quite satisfying. After all, no point in whacking a man for doing his job. Andreas and his crew were all armed, but it was best not to fire them off here. A general education center was located on campus, fortunately in another building. He would not want to fire off rounds at guards while a bunch of little kids were in class.

Andreas threw up the door to his Mule, removing the last barrier between him and his cargo. Of all the crates, only three mattered. Andreas walked up to the first, grabbing the crowbar off the truck’s wall. He approached the first such crate and knocked on it. "You awake?"

A muffled growl came in response. It was quite menacing and would scare most, but all Andreas did was laugh. He stabbed the crate’s front, a pulled the cover off. "About time!" a short, stout man stomped out of the crate. Like Andreas, he wore a shiny black suit. Unlike Andreas, he carried a stout brief case.

Andreas looked the dwarf over. "You came out a little worse for ware, Ghulam."

Ghulam snorted. At one hundred, seventy years old, his seniority was almost a century and a half ahead of Andreas. He was under Golden Hammer employment before Andreas’s parents were even born, and almost as long as Golden Hammer Enterprises existed. "Free the others."

Andreas nodded, and did just that. The second one freed, another dwarf by the name of Copper, stumbled out with less grace than Ghulam. Copper was not his birth name, but he went by it for so long, he almost forgot his real one. He earned that nickname by the color of his hair. Such red hair was unusual for a dwarf, and almost hinted that one of his recent ancestors was a hybrid.

The third one freed, simply strolled out of his crate like he was strolling out of the highest class joint in Tropico. He was by far the most dangerous of the three dwarves. The middle-age dwarf went by the name ‘The Secretary’. His name had nothing to do with his clerical skills, and far more to do with his temperament. Went provoked, Secretary would set off his Atlus Submachine gun the same was a secretary would set off on a typewriter. However, when an ASM went off, it shot streams of lead, not rows of words. Its clanging sound gave it the nickname ‘the Loonburg Typist’. Andreas heard the weapon at full force before, and could scarcely tell the difference. So much so, that he once nearly jumped out of his shoes when a real typist started hammering away at her clerical machine.

The three pygmaeus and one sapien wasted no time with pleasantries. All knew that only a limited time remained before somebody got curious. The State would kill them all, same as they would for employees of any other company. The Golden Hammers were but one such company in what the press colorfully dubbed ‘the dwarven mafia’. The dwarves scoffed at it, saying they were perfectly legit. After all, it was not their fault that The State, and a few others, have embargoes against Tropican Cigars and their rum. The governments might not like it, but the people, they demanded the products. And where there was a demand, somebody had to fill in and supply it.

Finally out of the dark warehouse, Ghulam took a look each way down the hall. "Alright Andreas, where’s this lab?"

"First floor," Andreas replied, as if there was no other answer. After all, where else would one put Laboratory one-seven? There was no seventh floor, so that left only one logical option. The real question was, did he want to go left or right to find this lab? The nearest door, other that the one simply labels ‘warehouse’ had the numbers one and fifteen.

Ghulam just snorted again. "Well, right or left?"

"This way," Andreas jerked his thumb towards the left. Left, right, what was the difference? The halls were looped, so either way they would reach the lab.

The quartet of made men cruised down the hall. They produced little noise, but they did not try to sneak. They strode like they owned the place. In fact, they did. The place remained empty, so much so that not even janitors were out. They finished their jobs the night before. Perhaps they lucked out and arrived on a day off. Whether their luck was good or ill, was let to be seen. If today was a day off, surely somebody would notice the lights on– and report it.

Like everything in The State, the hall was quite bland. Simply checked black-and-white linoleum covered the floor. Even the interior walls were made of bricks, and not a single picture hung on the wall. The doors were gray steel with a single square window on the top. Each window was labeled with white numbers. Andreas noticed the numbers counting down; thirteen to eleven to nine. Yes, this was the right track. They stopped at number seven.

Andreas launched his hand out before Secretary could smash the window with his loaded briefcase. Sure enough, the door came open with ease. Andreas jumped back with a bit of surprise, at first thinking somebody was leaving just as he was entering. When the door swung inward, revealing an empty room, his three dwarven pals could only laugh at his expense.

Andreas took his turn to snort. "Better that then tripping every alarm in the place," he glared at Secretary when he said that. Andreas was a tough nut himself, which earned him a little respect from the trigger-happy dwarf. Because Secretary respected the sapien, Andreas was one of the few people to get away with it.

"Mind your manners, boy," was all Secretary said as he stomped into the lab ahead of Andreas.

Andreas followed, keeping his peace. He was slightly puzzled at the room. If this was a lab, then he was Marlaonian Prince. No centrifuges, no test reactors, not even a beaker. Not a piece of machinery aside from a monestrous mainframe. The computer took up the back half of the room. It was a metal beast, so large that one could walk inside. Often, one had to, just to replace a burned out part. Not so often now than when they used vacuum tubes. Tubes were easier to replace, being about ten times the size of transistors.

Most of the surface comprised of polished aluminum. Only a few monitors broke up the monotony, along with large typing boards. Unlike typewriters, which pounded ribbon, these typing boards hit switches to enter numbers and symbols into computer. Just like typewriters, the boards often jammed. Andreas could see the use of computers, but sometimes they sounded like more trouble than they were worth. Engineers predict that transistors can be shrunk to the point that one day computers would only take up the area the size of a desk. Andreas would believe it when it happened.

Aside from the computer, the room was filled with desks. Sure enough, each desk owned its own pile of paper. Most were stacked neatly, but a few were shuffled messes. Andreas hoped they held the notes he sought. At least nobody would notice a little more shuffling. The way luck worked, the tidiest desk with the most detailed of scientist would hold their quarry. Its departure would also be noticed immediately.

"Too bad that contraption was off," Ghulam grumbled. Like most dwarves, he had no use for what he deemed ‘gnome toys’. However, Sapiens embraced new things the way the gnomish half of pygmaeus did. "We could just record the data on one of those tape deals."

"Too bad indeed," Andreas replied. Computers were great for crunching numbers, but that was about all. The moment main power was cut, all the electrical impulses inside vanished. Instead of shrinking them, engineers really should find ways to store data– aside from those awkward tape recorders. Just like the movies, it could only play from start to finish– useless when seeking random bits of memory.

"Think this is what they want?" Copper asked. As usual, he spoke only when he had to– that was just how Copper worked. Sure, he would chat over a mug a lager, same as any dwarf, but when it came to a job, he was all business.

Andreas nodded. "Couldn’t hurt to snap a few shots." Copper did just that. He withdrew the microfilm camera from his jacket’s interior pocket. The device was not much bigger than a flask of rum, and shaped the same way. Copper screwed a bulb into its top and snapped away at the blackboard. Hopefully the contractees would understand these formulas. Andreas had trouble figuring out where it began and ended.

"Nothing here except reports," Ghulam said. He took to rummaging through the desks, while Secretary kept watch. All hoped he would find nobody, for if he did, he would whip his ASM out from the briefcase and type away.

Andreas spent about fifteen more minutes searching the desks before arriving at the same conclusion. Naturally, Ghulam jabbed him. "See, if you’d listen to me when I said so, we’d be out of here."

Andreas shook his head. "No, we wouldn’t. We still have to find Dr. Hawk’s office." No doubt he would keep his most important research notes there, in a secure location. Since the lab was not locked, Andreas did not anticipate running into any safes. All the same, Ghulam was ready to crack them. Before he took up employment with the Golden Hammers, he was a top safe-cracker. He was so proficient, he did not even need to hold his ear to the safe. He could feel the gears through his stubby fingers.

"Ok you guys, take what looks complicated and shut the door behind you," Ghulam told the other two dwarves. Andreas might have driven them here, but Ghulam was in charge. Copper nodded, and took a few shots of charts and formulas he found here and there.

Copper was last one out, and he closed the door as gently as it had opened. He brought up the rear as the gang headed for the nearest stairs. Andreas was not so sure where Hawk’s office was located. He looked around for a directory, which most universities have, but found nothing. Since these were physicists studying some rather explosive theories, their location might just be kept under wraps. Nobody knew how their contractees came up with his location. Nobody wanted to know. Those who hired the Golden Hammers for this espionage had the power to make their operations within their country– difficult to say the least.

They quickly ascended two flights of stairs, no effort for Andreas but a bit of a work out for the short-legged pygmaeus. Unlike the quiet lower floors, some activity rang on the third. Andreas reached into his jack, feeling his Bison ‘957. Just touching his nine millimeter slug thrower made him relax. He glanced back at the dwarves, Secretary already cracking open his briefcase. Within a second, Andreas knew the dwarf could crack out his ASM and start typing.

Andreas shook his head at him. No way soldiers or Knights of The State were up here. This was an administrative level. Nothing but offices, filling reports and pushing papers. "Probably just an early bird." Andreas whispered. At the top of the flight, he peaked around the corner. A few lights were on, but nobody was out in the open. A bit of sneaking would be required, and his dwarven friends were not the best at walking softly. It will be tricky to avoid contact–

Contact, that might just work. Andreas, nor any of the dwarves, know the location of Hawk’s office. Perhaps, whomever is in early knows. Andreas waved the dwarves back as he started forwards. Ghulam cleared his throat. "Where do you think you’re going."

Andreas looked back and grinned. "I’m going to ask for directions."

Ghulam snorted. "That’s not very stealthy."

Andreas shrugged. "Don’t need to be." He straightened the collar of his shirt, as well as his jacket. With a single run through his hair with his hand, he was ready. "What’d you think? Don’t I look all business?"

Ghulam scoffed. "Ha! You look like a thug."

Andreas waved off his remark. "Trust me." His dwarven fellows could only frown. They trusted him to do his job, there was no doubt there. What was in question was Andreas’s diplomatic ability. He was just as likely to punch as to talk.

Andreas walked down the hall, glancing around for the first university employee that came into view. All the while, he mind cooked up a story. Hawk was a famous researcher, and The State has gone to great lengths to keep its research anonymous. So, if somebody sought out Hawk, then he must work for the government. That was a thought to turn his stomach. Work for a government, not a chance. He would not even work for Tropico, despite the fact the Golden Hammers had good relations with them.

A courier was a good tale. If Hawk was to be kept hidden, then one could not simply telephone him. Telegram would work, but Andreas was overdressed for a simple messenger boy. It must be an official correspondent. The only advantage of conning inside The State was that those still ‘free’ had sense enough not to ask too many questions.

Andreas did not have to walk far before he found help. Inside the room marked ‘Basic Educators’ he spotted a well-fashioned teacher leaning against a desk, looking down at papers. Andreas admired her figure, rounded in all the right spots. With a grin on his face, Andreas tapped against the open door. "Excuse me, ma’am."

His voice caused the figure to jump, her hair bouncing in the process. It was a silky fabric, dark red in color, and far prettier that Copper’s red hair. The teacher turned around, staring at Andreas with warm brown eyes. Was she suppose to be in here, or was she snooping? Perhaps everyone was a bit jumpy in a land where The State can come knocking without a moment’s notice.

"Yes? Can I help you?" She asked, her voice strained. Obviously she expected nobody to walk in on her at this early hour. No stranger anyway.

Andreas tried not to eye her up and down. If he did, then he was not a very professional courier. "Do you know if Doctor Hawk is in?"

The teacher’s reaction showed she knew him, and showed she knew others were not suppose to know. "No, he’s not." She said, leaving it at that.

Very well, she was not interested in being helpful. "No? I have a message for him. If he’s not here, then would you be so kind as to point me to his office. I’ll just leave it on his desk."

The teacher frowned. "I’ll be happy to deliver it to him–"

Andreas held up his hand, waving his finger at her. "Not this letter. It’s marked for his eyes only." He patted the breast pocket of his jacket. He let it open just enough to reveal part of the harness beneath, the type of harness that held a holster, and a concealed weapon.

"Very well," she replied. She was not pleased about being pulled away from her own desk. She lead the way from the general office and back into the hall. Andreas followed her, keeping an eye on her walk. Yes, she was certainly a fine looking specimen. Andreas knew he could not live without women– he also knew there was no way he could live with them. His experience taught him they were a double-dealing, back-stabbing lot, incapable of saying what they mean or meaning what they say. In the back of his mind, he held doubt about this one too. She might just lead him right into a trap, or call the Knights while he made his ‘delivery’.

For once, his luck with the ladies held. She lead him to a door, clearly marked with a plaque saying ‘Dr. Hawk’. Andreas reached for the knob, pushed the door open. Like everything in here, it was unlocked. Andreas wondered why. Did they trust all their neighbors, or where they to scared to lock their doors in case The Knights come asking why they locked it? In a society when three doors down might be house to a Party snitch, Andreas doubted the former.

The office was quite tidy, and dimly lit by the rising sun. One whole side of his office were lined by books on a shelf. He hoped the papers were not hidden there. All day would pass and half of tomorrow before he found it. He casually glanced around, not wanting to peak the suspicions of an already suspicious teacher. Andreas let out a sharp, short whistle. It might sound like he was impressed, but the dwarves would not here it that way. They knew exactly what it meant.

He looked down at the desk, spotting a few binders stacked on it. That was all he found. Any papers, pens or even paper clips, were all stored neatly out of sight. Each of the binders were labeled, and Andreas knew his luck was running high. One was marked ‘articles’, one was ‘quantum’, another ‘ultima’ and the bottom two ‘results’. Perfect. Andreas pushed the top one aside and flipped open the one housing notes on Ultima Radiation.

His teacher guide watched him rummaging through sensitive materials, while trying to avert her gaze. She did not want to know that which she was not suppose to know. Life in The State was just so much simpler went kept in ignorance. This courier was a bold one though. She suppose one authorized to deliver Hawk’s mail had clearance to look at his secret notes. She looked away just enough to catch something from the corner of her eye. Three somethings in fact, and three that should be nowhere near Shownastadt.

"Hold it right there, sheila!" the lead dwarf said. He was unarmed, as was the red haired one. A third, already threw his briefcase away and waved a mean looking machine gun at her. It was not just any gun, but a typist, the type gangsters use. How did they get in here– more importantly, what were they doing here. She gasped at the sudden feel of a cold barrel against her back.

"It’s in all of our best interest if you just keep quite," Andreas told her. Without turning around, the teacher simply nodded.

"Find what you’re looking for?" Ghulam asked.

"Oh yeah," Andreas replied. "These binders hold enough goods to fulfill our contract."

Ghulam nodded. "Copper, give him a hand– and I don’t mean applause." Copper chuckled as he picked up the last three. Ghulam gave a sharp look at the teacher. "What’ll we do with the sheila?" Secretary looked anxious to fire off a few rounds.

Andreas derailed that though. "We’ll take her, let her go once we’re well on our way."

Secretary scowled, and Ghulam was not pleased. He expected Andreas had a soft spot for this female sapien. Ghulam could not blame him; he would not cap a lady dwarf unless in self-defense. "Fine, but listen here lady, you make any sudden noises and it’ll be the last you make, got it?" Again, she only nodded. "Ok, let’s get out of here."

Wing Commander reboot, part 6


The Fifth Year

The fifth year of the Kilrathi War, already lasting far longer than either side had initially, and optimistically, predicted, was to be the pivotal point in the early war. Kilrathi forces had massed a fleet the same size as their initial invasion fleet, five year previous, in the Kharak Tur (called Venice by Terran cartographers) System with the aim of breaking the Alliance-Hubble Line. Attempts to flank the line by taking the Hubble Star system resulted in the Kilrathi Army becoming bogged down in a quagmire. Unlike humanity, the Kilrathi’s solution to the problem had been to wipe out the guerilla’s support; i.e. exterminate the human population in areas of resistance. This had only caused the entire population of said area to rise up in rebellion– which tended to result in bombing from orbit of the town or city, removing it from the map. Just why the Kilrathi did not wipe out the entire population is unclear, though the cost in manpower (catpower?) would have been one reason.

Kilrathi strategy called for a full-scale assault on the middle of the line, at Enyo. The reasons were not fully strategic in reasoning. Enyo was also the sight of their defeat in late 2634, and the Kilrathi planned to avenge their earlier humiliation, before moving on to Proxima, then Sol. The attack reduced Kilrathi reserves sector-wide, as well as pulled of ships from defending systems they already held. The Kilrathi would use as eight carriers in the Vega Sector, as well as have over a million soldiers ready to land on Enyo II, and secure important regions of the planet. The Kilrathi Emperor decreed that the Empire’s soldiers shall be marching on Earth by the next Sh’rik.

The Enyo Engagement

The Enyo Engagement, also called the Second Battle of Enyo, or just Second Enyo, kicked off on February 3, 2639, when three Ralatha-class Destroyers entered the system and fired upon the new fortress built near the jump point. A spread of anti-ship missiles fired as soon as the ships jumped into the system, caught the defenders of Fort Relief off-guard, and caused considerable damage. The fortress was all but destroyed when several more destroyers, along with two Fralthi jumped in to add their firepower to the battle. Distress calls were sent and warned Confed of what was approaching. The moment Kilrathi carriers entered the system, they threw up a fighter screen to avoid a repeat of First Enyo.

As with earlier in the war, code-breakers had already determined the Kilrathi were moving on Enyo. In anticipation, Admiral Turner had four carriers on station, three of the new Vanguards and the TCS Victory. Intel correctly guessed eight enemy carriers were on their way, and reinforcements were being sent to Enyo. However, the distance between jump points in-system makes reinforcing the system a slow process. Turner immediately ordered the fighters of his carriers, and Enyo Station, to launch. As soon as the last of the strike force was clear, he ordered his fleet into a solar orbit, some two million kilometers away from Enyo II. His ships would not be caught in orbit when the inevitable Kilrathi counter-attack happened.

Even at cruising speeds of 5 PSL, the strike force took several hours to reach the Kilrathi. Slowing to combat speed, they were met by nearly six hundred Kilrathi fighters of every make. Even with the addition of a hundred fighters from Enyo Station, the Confed fighters were seriously outnumbered. Scimitars cut a swath of destruction through ranks of Dralthi and Salthi, allowing for sixty-three Raptors to commence attack runs on Kilrathi capital ships. Many of these ships were destroyed by a concentrated anti-spacecraft screening from all Kilrathi ships, but a number of anti-ship missiles did score hits, including the destruction of seven destroyers, one Fralthi as well as a Kilrathi carrier. Two other carriers were damaged, but were still able to launch and retrieve fighters.

Confed ships returned home as fast as possible, for the Kilrathi had their own bombers ready to launch, and out for blood. Two hundred of the fighters covering their fleet were sent forth to escort the bombers. These fighters were enough to deflect Turner’s own fighter screen. With many of the earlier attackers returning to Enyo Station for refueling and rearming, Confed was down more than a hundred fighters. Kilrathi bombers proved to be more devastating than Confed’s, partly for the reason that Kilrathi bomber pilots and crews would stay on course and launch, even as their own ships were being shot out from around them. Despite the brutality of the Kilrathi, the discipline of their pilots earned them a grudging respect from their Terran counterparts.

These single-minded attacks resulted in more destruction on the smaller Terran fleet. The carrier Vanguard and battleship The Seventeen Provinces were destroyed outright, along with three cruisers and seven destroyers. The carriers Victory and Saratoga were heavily damaged, with the former’s flight deck knocked out. The Kilrathi continued to swarm until the last of their anti-ship missiles were fired, before returning to their own fleet. With such damaged sustained, Turner was forced to pull his fleet back from Enyo II to Fort Tycho, on the opposite side of the system.

The Kilrathi’s second attack struck at Enyo Station itself, with devastating results. The station was not destroyed, but its offensive weapons were knocked off-line, as well as its flight decks. A third attack escorted Kilrathi shuttles and boarding pods to Enyo Station, where hundreds of Kilrathi "marines" boarded the station. The Battle of Enyo Station would last three days, and even with a steady stream of reinforcements, the Kilrathi failed to capture the station. Kilrathi soldiers would abandon the attempt by February 9, taking hundreds of Terran captives with them.

The Kilrathi fleet entered orbit of Enyo II on February 7, and proceeded to bomb the planet, softening up invasion sites. The Kilrathi landed forty thousand soldiers around the city of Celestria (population 250,000). The city was stormed, as was its spaceport, with minimal effort, falling on the first day of the invasion. Additional land forces began to jump into the system. However, several of these ships were destroyed after running into a recently laid minefield at the jump point. A flight of Raptors snuck around the Kilrathi fleet, mining the jump point. These fighters flew from the TCS Arc Royal (was it already destroyed?), which operated behind Kilrathi lines, destroying supply ships and transports, as well as pulling two Kilrathi carriers away from Enyo II to hunt them down.


At Fort Tycho, both the damaged carriers were repaired to the point that flight operations could once again take place. Other damage was temporarily fixed with simple patches. On February 7, while Enyo II was facing invasion, Turner was reinforced by Admiral Wright, and the carriers Ranger, Tennessee River and Resolution, as well as the battleships Simon Bolivar and Alexander, nine cruisers and fifteen destroyers. This new force combined at Tycho Station and set off to save Enyo II. Turner came up with a unique route to strike at the Kilrathi. Since standard space combat takes place within a system’s elliptic plane, Turner would send the fleet high above, and strike down the north pole of Enyo II, hopefully catching the Kilrathi where they were not looking.

Turner’s gambit did, in fact, catch the Kilrathi by surprise. Raptors launched from the new carriers, including a wing commanded by Captain Geoffrey Tolwyn off the Tennessee River, struck directly at the Kilrathi carriers. Most of the Kilrathi fighters were inside the atmosphere, bombing Terran targets, and unable to return to orbit in time to save their ships. With their ships in orbit, the Kilrathi could not maneuver to their advantage, and were hostages to orbital mechanics. Confed bombers took advantage of this, hitting all the Kilrathi carriers, as well as half their cruisers. Of the carriers hit, three were destroyed, with one exploding outright, and a further three crippled. Of the crippled, one had its engines destroyed.

When the Kilrathi fighters returned to orbit, they were greeted by Confed fighters. The Kilrathi were at a severe disadvantage in climbing out of a gravity well. Scimitars intercepted the climbing fighters, chewing them to pieces. Though a small portion of the Kilrathi’s total fighter stock was destroyed, the loss in skilled pilots was far larger. To encourage their pilots to do their best, Kilrathi fighters tended to lack ejection pods, so when a fighter was destroyed, so was a pilot. A second wave of Confed fighters finished off another carrier as well as shot down many landing craft that had just reached Enyo II.

On February 8, the Kilrathi Admiral, a Mentruk nar Kilrah, ordered his fleet to break orbit and head back to Kilrathi controlled space. A small force was left behind to cover whatever transports could leave the planet and bring retreating soldiers with them. The Kilrathi soldiers did not retreat empty handed. Thousands of Terran civilians within Celestria were taken by the Kilrathi, many offered up to Sivar in an attempt to appease the angry war god. The rest would be put to good use in the Kilrathi war effort.

Balance of Power

The Enyo Engagement effectively broke the back of Kilrathi offensive power in the Vega Sector. After the battle, the Kilrathi would be unable to launch an offensive in the Vega Sector for years to decades. Confed’s own losses in the battle– apart from a carrier and battleship, and two damaged ships, the Kilrathi did manage to track down and cripple Arc Royal, and Kilrathi pilots left behind (due to lost carriers) made suicide runs on Confed ships, heavily damaging the Ranger and Resolution– made it impossible for them to immediately capitalize on the stunning success at Enyo.

Both Kilrathi and Confed fleets retreated to their own sides of the front lines, repairing damage and replacing ships. For the first time in years, Earth and the other inner worlds could breath a collective sigh of relief, as imminent destruction was no longer their leading fear. Attempts to negotiate a cease-fire failed, in that any peace feelers sent across the frontier simply never returned. With peace not an option, Confed had to make its own plans for retaking lost worlds and pushing the Kilrathi back to the Kilrah Sector.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Suez Canal

The VOC’s role in the construction of the Suez Canal was minimal. With so much of its holdings in rail, any new canal was potential competition. However, when a group of British and Dutch business interests and government organs gathered together to form the Suez Canal Company, the VOC’s Board of Holders saw yet another opportunity. The VOC did buy into the SCC, eventually taking upwards to 29% of the shares at the height of their investment. They were not the largest investor, for with its securing the lands for the canal, the British government amassed 40% of the SCC shares.

The Canal was even more vital to the Dutch than the British who proposed it. It offered a shortcut from the United Provinces into India. It would also open up trading posts of the old VOC to development. The VOC reopened long forgotten trading posts, including one in Mogadishu, which would serve as regional headquarters for the Company. The new flow of trade opened up the Somali coast to great commerce and development. It also opened the Red Sea to one of maritime commerce’s oldest banes.

New Amsterdam Referendum

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Life-Eater Virus

Biochemical Test Facility
Sorn II
Sorn System, Mshrak Sector

Natkva nar Che’ri hated what she had to do, but her Pride were some of– no, the best biochemists in the Empire. None could match the Che’ri Pride in their ability to engineer genetic material. She hated this particular material, but when the Kilrah Pride issues a command, none are strong enough to ignore. She growled as she looked at the latest reports on her failing computer. Billions for genetics, but not a single coin for a descent backlit monitor. Since all this equipment came from Kilrah, naturally it used the red light of the Homeworld. The Che’ri Pride’s planet orbited a much brighter star, and her eyes were accustomed to something greater than this glume.

To kill when threatened, be it territory or cubs, was one thing, but what the Emperor had in mind was quite another. It was killing on a scale that boggled the mind. She expected indiscriminate killing from any male, but even the brutes on the frontline would be appalled by this. They wanted to get their claws bloodied, to crush the skulls of their fallen victims beneath their boots. They would be crushing many skulls once Life-Eater was perfected; plenty of lifeless bodies. How could the Emperor order such a weapon– no, this was no weapon. The Terrans have a word for it; ‘murder’. They had to borrow it from their language, for the Kilrathi are not a people to kill enemies from the shadows, without issuing a challenge. Prey perhaps, but never enemies.

Prey or not, the Apes deserved better than this. Natkva looked over at her sister, Mrisha, who finished typing her own report. "Status, my sister?"

Mrisha, whose hair was a few shades darker than Natkva’s own golden-brown, glanced at her with a board expression. Or perhaps depressed. "Life-Eater has proved 100% contagious in the limited tests, but we will need a much larger population to get solid numbers."

Natkva bowed her head in shame. More victims. A shipment of Terrans arrived on world a few days ago, some two octaves of the Apes were set up in a pen. The walls were tall enough to prevent them from escaping, but not so tall as to skew test results by trapped pockets of air. The planet’s warm air will blow the virus all about. It will be a good test, one that will see just how lethal the virus could be in an open environment.

Natkva quietly cursed the war. Like all of her Pride, she too has lost cubs to the Terrans. Out of five males she has born over the course of ten years, only two are still alive. The younger of the two served with the Imperial Guard. She thought of him with some pride, despite having no love for the Imperial Pride. To be selected to serve in the Kilrah Pride’s own fleet was the highest honor, accorded only to the best.

Her oldest– she did not like to think about him. He was sent to Repleetah, that slaughter house of a planet, and was taken under the wing of a veteran. Last she knew, both were on the rebel planet of Ghorah Khar. If he still lived, he was lost to her anyway. She did not wish to lose any more cubs to this war, nor did any of her sisters. If this virus could end the war, and prevent more of Che’ri Pride’s sons from dying, then perhaps it would be worth it.

She looked over some of the stills of the slaves. They looked new, recently captured from who knows where. The Terrans did a masterful job of pushing the Kilrathi out of the Enigma Sector. "These are new captives?" she asked her sister.

Mrisha snorted. "Of course. The Emperor doesn’t care how many sickly Apes Life-Eater will kill, only how many healthy ones."

Natkva tried to inquire the computer system as to their origin, but received no reply. They looked to be young, at least by Terran standards. The way some marched, still trying to maintain their dignity despite the shame of imprisonment, made her believe they must be warriors. Perhaps ejected from one of the numerous Terran ships destroyed in Enigma. She briefly wondered about the Terrans’ own mothers. Did they mourn their losses the way she did her own cubs?

Terrans might not be as cultured as a Kilrathi, but even the mothers of the lowliest species would fight to defend their offspring. And, at least she had the comfort of knowing her cubs died in battle. Terran mothers would never know their own children died as nothing more than experimental subjects. Died as laboratory rodents, and their deaths would no be nearly as quick as that of prey.

"The subjects are in place?" she asked her sister.

Mrisha tapped a few buttons on her keyboard. "Just about, give it a moment."

Natkva snarled, not at her sister but the whole situation. "Tell the guards to hurry them up. I want to get this test done and over with." The sooner the Apes were dead, the sooner she could push them from her mind.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

VOC Cruise

During the 1840s, a series of revolutions across Europe sent hundreds of thousands of people streaming across international frontiers as homeless refugees. There was neither land or jobs to be spared in the United Provinces, thus Dutch, as well as Germans, French and other groups, set out for the New World. The first choice of almost all of these people was America. Brazil came in a close second place. The VOC saw this wave of immigration and knew it would not be the last. Famines, revolutions, even full scale wars would create refugees, and those people would wish to travel far and wide in search of opportunity.

To start with, the VOC converted a number of freighters into simple and rudimentary passenger ships. The first ship designed specifically for a trans-Atlantic trip was launched in 1843, and served to take passengers from Rotterdam to Recife. These passenger liners were marginally profitable, for though they left Rotterdam fully loaded, the left Recife with only a few on board. The flood of refugees in 1848, sparked off a rush across the ocean. In order to meet the demand, the VOC opened new shipyards in Amsterdam, not far from their 18th Century yards.

In order to speed the voyage, and return for another load faster, the first steamer was launched from the VOC’s shipyards in 1851. The Pride of Amsterdam was the largest ship of its day, capable of cramming several hundred refugees within its 120-room hull. The ship was not designed for luxury or even comfort, but people who road upon it reached the New World alive and ready to set forth on their new lives. The ship could cross to Recife in just under ten days, or reach New Amsterdam or Philadelphia in less than a week. Most of the VOC Cruise department’s ships made runs to Brazil, and between 1840 and 1890, VOC ships carried some two million immigrants to the Empire of Brazil.

Monday, August 16, 2010

VOC Rail

In the 1820s, the advent of steam engines lead to a new method of transportation: the railroad. The British had already made great use of the rail, but business interests in the United Provinces were divided by it. Canal owners and shipping magnate swore that the railroad would destroy the economy by putting out of business dozens of canals and hundreds of captains. A fight for the future of the railroad broke out in the Staaten-General as canal interests lobby against the laying of railroad tracks. Most shipping companies were against the rail and saw it as a threat, save one. The VOC saw the railroad as an opportunity.

The new VOC was not about to make the same mistakes as its predecessor, and Maarten Minuit decided the company should diversify. He had a great deal of clout with the Board of Holders, despite his attempts to convince them to re-enter the cinnamon trade. In 1835, due to persuading by Minuit, the VOC took out a loan (so large that the entire company was put up as collateral) and bought into the railroad industry, acquiring the Amsterdam-Hague line, as well as other small tracks connecting to it. By 1837, the line was extended to Bruges and in 1838, to Arnhem.

The rail proved to be more than a passing fad and rather profitable at that. By 1840, the loan had been repaid in full, and the VOC continued to lay track across the United Provinces. It did weaken the canals, and put a few shipping companies out of business, some the VOC purchased on the cheap. The railroad proved to be a far more profitable way to ship things within the United Provinces than did ships themselves. By 1843, the VOC Rail operations were the largest railroad in the United Provinces, with hundreds of kilometers of track lain.

In that same year, the first tracks of the VOC Rail were lain in Brazil. Brazil was a massively larger state than the United Provinces, and railroads would be the future of Brazilian commerce and the key to developing parts far from the coast nor accessible by rivers. Brazilians, once crowded along the coastline, soon spread out to new lands in the interior. These newly available lands also drove immigration from Europe, bringing millions of people to Brazil over the next fifty years. By 1850, thousands of kilometers of VOC track were lain not only in the United Province sand Brazil, but colonies such as southern Africa, Ceylon and even India. The rail venture was a gamble, but not only did it succeed, but it also put the VOC back on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, with the company being took public in 1849, causing new investors to sink millions of guilders of capital into the company.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Project Galileo

Project Galileo was launched by the United States in 1985 as a follow-up to the fly-by of Jupiter by the Pioneer Probes. The primary concern of the first Galileo mission was that of studying the planet Jupiter itself. A small probe, designed by the French Space Agency, hitched a ride on Galileo I and was ejected for a one-way trip through Jupiter’s atmosphere. As it happened, the probe hit one of the driest spots in the planet’s atmosphere, detecting only trace amounts of water vapor. Galileo did take pictures and readings from the Galilean moons as it passed. Even after Pioneer, which where not in the proper place for decent pictures, the moons were assumed to be uninteresting. Galileo I’s biggest shock was that of volcanic activity on Io, and what appeared to be a copy of the Arctic Ocean on Europa. Further Galileo missions were launched to study the moons in the 21st Century, first from Earth, then later from the surface of Luna.

Galileo I (1985): First orbiter of Jupiter. Launched atmospheric probe. Was later turned to focus on the moons as their attributes became widely known.

Galileo II (2001): Passed through the Jupiter-Io flux tube and had its communications disabled.

Galileo III (2008): Carried the Io lander, which successfully landed near a lava flow. Functioned for three hours.

Galileo IV (2008): Carried Europa lander, which crashed and was unable to send back data. Galileo IV entered orbit around Europa and further mapped the planet and its ocean.

Galileo V (2020): Launched from the surface of the moon. Delivered a submersible that was successfully landed on Europa and melted through the ice. Discovered evidence of biological activity, though no indisputable evidence of life.

Galileo VI (2034): Sample return mission for Io.

Galileo VII (2034): Ganymede lander; sample return rocket failed to ignite.

Galileo VIII (2054): The Europa Biochemical Laboratory successfully touched down on Europa and began a five year mission. A small rover collected samples from cracks and faults in the ice. Biological activity confirmed, yet again no samples of lifeforms discovered.

Wing Commander reboot, part 5


Frontier Floods

At the start of 2638, the Kilrathi have already effortlessly rolled across most of the Epsilon Sector. This is more due to lack of Confed presence beyond it shallow border in the sector than Kilrathi efforts. At any given time, no more than two Kilrathi carriers are in the sector. Most of their forces remain in Vega, on a more direct route to Earth. The Council of Eight, as well as powerful planetary Prides, were in an uproar. They had expected the war to be over already, and with it stalling, the opening of a new frontier had also been delayed. To quell internal difficulties, these Prides planned to deport dissatisfied portions of their fief’s populations to newly conquered worlds.

It was only the lack of a free press (and news media in general) that prevented the average Kilrathi from knowing the amount of resistance this supposed prey species was capable. The fight for Hubble IV, though it was effectively in their hands, was still raging as bands of Confed guerillas launched their own hit-and-run raids against Kilrathi outposts and convoys. Not even the most eager of powerful Prides thought it a good idea to begin colonizing the planet. Other worlds, such as McAuliffe VI and Munro III, were seeing the first Prides arrive as early as 2636, when even the most pessimistic of Kilrathi planners anticipated the war being over. Carlin II, already devoid of Terrans, was wide-open to Kilrah’s undesirable Prides from the beginning.

The Frontier worlds were not completely helpless. A sense of betrayal by Confed did grow in its population. But rather than being resentful, the settlers banded together for common defense, now knowing they could not depend upon Earth for any aid. Leading these self-organizing governments was the Free Republic of the Landreich. Landreich was already a de fact independent state existing well beyond Confed’s official borders. However, Landreich did occupy a good position for any future invasions of the Enigma Sector. By 2638, the Kilrathi had only launched a few scouting expeditions into Enigma, raiding commerce and generally acting as pirates.

The Landreich faced similar raids. Their own homegrown industry was not capable of putting out the quality of weapons that Confed took for granted. Landreich also purchased, or "obtained" older, obsolete Confed ships. The Landreich would modify their ships to suit whatever needs were at hand. Many old freighters simply had pulse cannon turrets graphed onto the hull. These ungainly ships did well against the pirates and militia of the Kilrathi frontier, but as of yet had to stand up against frontline warships.

Rostov Raid

Confed was still incapable of launching any offensive to retake the Vega Sector, but new ships and weapons gave them the ability to strike deep within Kilrathi territory. In May of 2638, TCN launched an attack on the Kilrathi starbase recently completed in the Rostov System. It was not their sector HQ, but it was a vital staging area for further strikes against the Alliance-Hubble Line. Three carriers, the Vanguard, Ranger and Saratoga, all knew carriers, formed the nucleus of the raid, which also included battleship The Seventeen Provinces as well two Belgrade class cruisers and four new Monarch-class cruisers. These new ships caught the Kilrathi off-guard

Such a surprise would not be so for humans, who redesign things on a regular basis. This is not to say the Kilrathi are stagnant, far from it. Instead of total redesigns, they tend to keep the same general configuration for centuries on their ships, but with regular upgrades of hardware. The Fralthi of the start of the war looked pretty much the same as the Fralthi of the end of the war on the outside. The same went with fighters. When Kilrathi bombers were launched from Grn’tahk (Rostov) Station, the pilots were fully versed on the Wildcats they expected to intercept them as well as the Firecats that served as point-defense fighters. When the eighty bombers and their own escorts were intercepted by over a hundred Scimitars, the pilots were at a loss.

At a loss, at least until their own bombers began to explode. Kilrathi Dralthi found themselves equally matched by these new Terran fighters. The fact that Kilrathi seldom changed designs before their war with Earth played further to Terran advantage. IR (image recognition) missiles could be preprogrammed with their targets and fired without waiting for a lock. Many costly defeats would plague the Kilrathi, before their engineers figured out how the "stalker" missiles as they called them, were so successful. It would take only minor cosmetic changes to throw them off.

Of the Kilrathi bombers launched, only a handful of bombers made it through to the fleet. These were intercepted by only recently acquired F-36 Hornets. These point-defense fighters were designed specifically with data obtained about Kilrathi bombers in mind. In the words of surviving Kilrathi pilots, these new fighters were worth two Firecats each. However, no defense was ever perfect, and anti-ship missiles did reach their targets. Many naval personnel were killed and ships damaged, but no ships were lost.

Raptors launched against the Kilrathi starbase were also a surprise for the defenders. Though a few were destroyed by Kilrathi fighters, the Raptor’s own defensive and offensive weapons were more than a match for enemy fighters. More than twenty anti-ship missiles were launched and all but two hit Grn’tahk. The starbase was not destroyed, but its repair facilities were, as well as communications. Supply depots put in a loose orbit around the station went up in spectacular explosions as anti-ship missiles set off all the munitions stored within. While the starbase was not destroyed, it was crippled. A second strike was planned, but the sudden arrival of Kilrathi warships prompted Rear Admiral Turner to quit the system while still ahead.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stardust: Apocalypse, chapter 9

Chapter 9 of Stardust: Apocalypse is now up on its site. And no, it is not about the end of any world.

On board the Absolution

For the rest of it, click here.
Pilot’s Quarters
TCS Absolution
Granita System

Lieutenant Colonel Brenell Zollern, head of Absolution’s security, stood over the corpse of one Lieutenant Edgar Mainz. Cause of death was fairly clear. The stench of charred flesh and bone has yet to be filtered out of the quarters by the ship’s life-support. It was a smell that brought back many memories, none of them good. The thirty-one year old Marine was veteran of several ground pounding engagements before the wound he received from a nasty slap by a Kilrathi soldier in the trenches of Repleetah. After rehab, he transferred to fleet security. He had enough of the trenches, and by the time hit vat-grown left eye had been fully accepted by his body, most of the men under his command on that Godforsaken planet were already transferred off, or dead. Which was just as well, Zollern had enough of up close and personal with the Cats.

He glanced over at Lieutenant Commander Mirat, one of the ship’s doctors. She was a fair lass, if he did say so himself, a petite blonde with the face of an angel. Reminded him of his own daughter, though she was only three years of age. Since Ellie died while she was visiting her parents on Sirius Prime, during that damnable “truce”, Zollern had not much time for women. He suppose he should thank God for minor miracles, as the Catholic chaplain of his old T.C.M.C. outfit would say, that Serena was left with his parents back in the Luyten System. Otherwise she too would be a rotting corpse under the shine of Sirius.

After the bio-attack on Epsilon Prima ten days ago, along with the subsequent evacuation of the Absolution task force to the Granita System, it was not a wonder that more suicides had occurred. He has seen enough of this as well back on Repleetah. Some Marines just could not handle the day upon day, month upon month of death. He briefly touched the three scared gouges across his left cheek bone. That planet cost him an eye, and cost many of his men a great deal more. If not for his own wound, he might have died with the rest of them on that planet, be it by the Cats or his own hand, he could not say.

“What’s the verdict, doctor?” he said, his slightly Germanic accent raising its head again. Since he joined the Corps, and spent so much time around all these English speakers, his own accent was slowly fading from Luytener Deutsche.

“He’s dead,” she said as a-matter-of-factly. Zollern knew for a fact she did not require a fancy full-body scanner to tell that. The fact that part of his head was missing was sort of a giveaway.
Zollern scowled. “No kidding.”

Mirat glanced over her shoulder at him, shooting him a look of reproach. “Suicide; self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. It was a pulse weapon, but you would know more about weapons than I.” Mirat was not fond of war– who was?– but she was of the impression that Marines were a little bit on the death-hungry side.

Zollern could not admit to innocence to that, at least back when he first signed on. Kicking the Cats out of the Enigma Sector cost the lives of a majority of his graduating class; out of fifteen graduates of the Luyten Academy that enlisted that week, only Zollern and two others were still breathing. They were all lolly-ho about the war, at least until all of them ended up as replacement officers in Repleetah.

“I need details, Commander,” Zollern told her. He felt no particular reason to explain his actions to anyone, but with a dozen other items on his daily agenda, he wanted to wrap this investigation up. “I have a report to write up, and Captain Powers is a bigger stickler for the regs than even me.”

This time Mirat did not even bother looking at him. “Self-inflicted shot to head from a pulse pistol. Judging by the coolness of the wound, I’d say his time of death was less than an hour ago. That would have been just before he was scheduled to go back on patrol, I assume.” Mirat knew little about the operations of Old Abby’s fighter compliment, a squadron of Epees. Zollern knew the schedule; after all, the wing commander was the one who reported Mainz missing. It was a silly report, as far as Zollern was concerned. Missing? Just where on this ship was he suppose to go?

As always, he took the direct approach and headed to the pilot’s quarters, assuming the W.C. overlooked the Obvious. Sure enough, he was there, dead on the floor. After that, Zollern summoned medical personnel, and informed the captain. Powers was none too pleased. “Can you certify suicide?” This time Mirat looked back at him, questions in her face. “I’ve already scanned the pistol; only Mainz’s fingerprints were on it. I need one of the medical personnel to certify it before I commit it to paper.”

Mirat gave a most unladylike snort. “Are you suggesting somebody killed him?”

Zollern shrugged. “I wouldn’t be much of a security chief if I ever discounted the idea.”

Mirat shook her head. “No, this man was a suicide, count on it.”

Zollern said nothing. The captain was not one for counting on anything short of solid evidence. He was already angry over the loss of a second pilot in a week. The previous one was a Lieutenant Hatford, and she was K.I.A. while the task force was “evacuating” the Epsilon System. Evacuating my foot, Zollern had thought. The Cats just pasted Epsilon Prima with the Life-Eater and the Commodore of this little flotilla decided to escape before one of the locals brought the disease on board. They were running, no two ways about it.

“What do you know of Mainz?” Zollern asked. “Aside form his medical record?” Zollern knew nothing about the pilots defending this old battleship, save what was on their files. They all kept their noses clean, and as a ground pounder, he had little desire to mingle with those hot shots. Still, it could have been worse. The last pilot to die took her fighter with her. At least Mainz did not take his Epee with him. Zollern had known of more than one pilot to go out in blaze of glory.
“No,” Mirat admitted. “I’ve never spoken with him outside of sickbay. Here’s a thought; you could go ask his fellow pilots.” She said with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

Zollern had no immediate comeback, snappy or otherwise. Instead, he turned to leave the quarters. “If you find anything out of the ordinary, do let me know,” he said, leaving the room without waiting for her to have the last word.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stardust: Mylo

Alpha Centauri B-II (Mylo)
Type: F3 (84 %)
Gravity: 7.9 m/s2 (0.810 Earth)
Pressure: 830 mb
Atmosphere: 54% Nitrogen
30% Oxygen
15% Helium
01% Argon
Lots of Greenhouse Gases to keep thin air warm
Distance: 0.67 AU
Diameter: 10000km (0.783 Earth)
Mass: 0.496 Terran Units
Volume: 0.483 Terran Units
Surface Area: 0.615 Terran Units
Density: 1.026 Terran Units
Axis Tilt: 0 +/- 7 degrees
Moons: N/A
Temperature: 305 K
Day: 28.600 hrs
Year: 258.407 days (0.707)
Population: 40 min (humans) 2 min (gobli) 50k (dragon)
Settled: AY 2896, circa 13500 B.C.E.
Tech Level: Iron (Pre-industrial)
Life Level: Neozoic/Transient

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Great Lakes Theater, 1913

Battle of Mackinac

Also called the Battle of Mackinac Strait or Battle of Fort Mackinac, this battle was the first British-Canadian counter-offensive following the declaration of War. Part of Britain’s own war plan against America called for it to drive American Naval forces from the Great Lakes. This called for bottling up much of the American Great Lakes’ Fleet on Lake Michigan while the British took control of the other four lakes. Not only would this allow the British, and the Canadians, uninterrupted supply lines for armies operating on American soil (none at the time), but it would also force the Americans to withdraw from the York Peninsula and cut off their iron mining regions in the west from the steel mills in the east.

Under the command of Vice Admiral Walter Cowan, a British fleet of two battleships (on BB and one BC), three cruisers, nine destroyers and ten smaller vessels, sailed ahead of a marine flotilla destined to occupy Mackinac Island. The British plan called for surprise, which was shattered on June 30, 1913, when the submarine Swordfish, commanded by Commander Edward Fitzgerald, spotted the British fleet and moved in to attack. A torpedo managed to hit the battlecruiser Leopard, but caused only slight damage, a rupture in the midship that was easily patched. In return, British destroyers hunted down the primitive submarine and sank it. At the time, Cowan was not aware if U.S. subs were equipped with the newly invented wireless transmitters. Though primitive, they were capable of transmitting a morse code pulse to warn that the British were coming.

On July 2, the British fleet entered Mackinac Strait and began to bombard the fortress upon Mackinac Island at 1133. A century ago, a British fleet made the same move and forced the fort to surrender before taking control of Lake Michigan during the Second Anglo-American War. Fifty years later, during the Third Anglo-American War, the British again attacked the fort, but this time took it by assault. Cowan planned to be the third to take the island in just over a century. Unbeknown to the British, Fitzgerald did get a signal back to Chicago, and the American fleet stationed their sortied.

The United States Navy split its forces on Lake Michigan into two columns. The western column, commanded by Rear Admiral Charles Vreeland, consisted of two battleships, two cruisers, four destroyers, seven frigates and torpedo boats. The eastern column, commanded by Commodore Robert Doyle, consisted of a lone battlecruiser, another lone cruiser, three destroyers along with a dozen torpedo boats. When the two columns converged on Mackinac Island, midday on July 3, Vreeland took overall command for what would turn out to be a short battle.

Given British superiority in overall firepower, Vreeland played his own gambit. He would send ahead the torpedo boats and smaller craft to launch their torpedoes at the British. He expected to loose many of the boats, after all, Destroyers were designed to destroy torpedo boats. However, he had hoped to open a breach in the British formation to exploit. At a distance of ten kilometers, the British guns began to open up on the Americans. At that distance, their aim was poor, and only a handful of near misses gave the Americans cause for alarm. The U.S.S. Columbia, a battlecruiser, did have a shell land close enough to cause minor damage to its hull.

In design, the British and Canadian Great Lakes Battleships were fifteen percent larger than their American counterparts, and sported 300mm guns, as opposed to the 203 and 253 mm used by American Great Lakes Battleships and -cruisers. Their armor was thicker as well. British cruisers had close to the same advantage against their American counterparts. American warships were lighter armed and armored, but also traveled faster than their enemies. American gunnery tended to be better on the Great Lakes, as was shown when shells from the Oregon made contact with a British destroyed that strayed too close, and tore it to pieces.
Before the opposing capital ships could get into more effective range, Cowan had to run the gauntlet of small torpedo boats. As was typical of a Royal Navy man, Cowan looked upon these lightly armed, glorified fishing boats with disdain. The idea that a boat could damage, much less sink, a Royal Navy battleship struck the Admiralty as absurd. This did not, however, prevent the Canadians from building their own torpedo boats to ply the Great Lakes. Cowan’s pride was about to receive a deep bruise when the American boats entered firing range. As was doctrine, the larger ships ignored the boats while the destroyers dealt with them. Two torpedo boats were destroyed before they could launch their torpedoes, but an addition thirteen breached British lines and launch two torpedoes each before retreating. Of these, and addition three boats were destroyed.

Many of the torpedoes missed, either be dodged, or simply sailing beneath the enemy bows. However, the bulk of the torpedoes were aimed at the largest ships; battleship Port Royal, battlecruiser Leopard and a cruiser steaming close to them. Seven torpedoes did hit, including one that took out the Leopard’s rudder. Two more torpedoes ruptured the battleship’s hull, reducing its speed by half. The cruiser received such a lashing, that it began to list. Before the day was out, it would be abandoned and capsized. With one capital ship mortally wounded and the other crippled, Cowan now had to face the Americans at a disadvantage. No British admiral had ever retreated from battle against the Americans on the Great Lakes, and Cowan did not wish to be the first.

When the American battleship and battlecruiser came into range, they quickly changed his mind. Shells from the Oregon and Susquehanna destroyed three destroyers and broke an addition cruiser in half. British shells caused their own damage, sinking an American destroyer and crippling two more, along with a cruiser Columbia even received hits, knocking out one of its two turrets. It was the fact that the Royal Marine transports would be within range of American guns within a day that caused Cowan to retreat. The transports were lightly armed, fast destroyers that would have stood little chance against the Americans. He would not condemn so many marines to their death just to save his own pride. At 1605, Cowan gave the order to withdraw. Not retreat, but to withdraw. He had every intend on returning as soon as his ships were repaired, and reinforced by ships from Lake Superior and Huron.

The Americans would not give Cowan, or any British admiral, a second change to seal Lake Michigan. Within a week, addition torpedo boats have arrived on seen, and damage to most of the ships was repaired. The Columbia did have to return to Chicago for repairs, but it would be replaced by ships arriving at Mackinac from Lake Superior. Addition soldiers were rushed to reinforce Fort Mackinac, and a small airstrip was built on the island. It could not project power against the Royal Navy, but would serve to base scouts. Addition guns were placed on the island in the following month, as were fortifications on either side of Mackinac Strait. Admiral Vreeland would not give the British a second chance to take Mackinac. As soon as he was reinforced, he took the fight to the British on Lake Huron.

Battle of Lake Huron

Following their victory at Mackinac, the America Great Lakes Navy took up pursuit of their British counterparts once Mackinac Island was reinforced. By September of 1913, Vreeland set his fleet out, reinforced by two cruisers and the battleship Minnesota, across Lake Huron to hunt down what was left of Cowan’s fleet. Seaplanes launched from the northern shores of Michigan scoured the lake for the British fleet for a week before the first signs were detected. On September 7, Cowan’s fleet was spotted nearing Georgian Bay. Cowan had hoped to shelter in Owin Sound and repair the damage his ships sustained. At this point in the war, scouting planes were, if armed at all, very lightly armed. Bombers did not come into serious play for a couple more years. Had the Americans had these bombers, they might very well have sunk the British fleet from the air.

Instead, Vreeland ordered his fleet to sail across Lake Huron towards Georgian Bay. Cowan’s own scouts learned of the American’s approach. A squadron of five torpedo boats made runs on the Americans, missing the battleships at the cost of three of their own. One ship was eventually abandoned, but the fifth returned to Owin Sound with word of an American fleet approaching. The term fleet is used very loosely on the Great Lakes, for what Vreeland commanded would have been a glorified squadron on the high seas. Cowan had little choice but to put his whole fleet to sail, including the damaged Leopard. The British Admiral had no reinforcements aside from a few gunboats that nominally defend the naval base at Owin Sound. These followed Cowan towards their destined fate.

On September 15, 1913, just a few days over a hundred years since the Battle of Lake Erie, the American and British Great Lake Navies clashed some twenty kilometers of the northwest tip of the Bruce Peninsula. The battle was joined at 1103, when the Port Royal fired the first shots of the battle. British torpedo boats charged the Americans under the cover of the big guns. The shells fell short and wide, hitting a destroyer, ironically named the USS Oliver Perry. The destroyer was knocked out of action by hits from the British battlecruiser’s functioning turret, and began to list at 1108. The torpedo boats finished off the Perry and hit three more destroyers. The destroyer screen was tight enough that British boats could not penetrate to threaten the two American battleships and two battlecruisers.

By 1145, the playing was over and both formations began battling each other at ranges less than two kilometers. A British and American destroyer destroyed each other at under 300 m distance. Just before midday, Vreeland passed between Bruce Peninsula and the British Fleet, crossing Cowan’s ‘T’. All heavy caliber guns fired upon the lead ship, the battleship Port Royal. Of the shots fired, seven hit the battleship, including one just below the bridge’s superstructure. Cowan and his command staff were killed in the explosion. More hits punctured the aft and destroyed the rudder. The Port Royal began to turn to the port, no longer under human control. Seeing this, the following ships changed course, not realizing just what happened.

Both fleets lined up broadsides against each other. Several of the British shots hit their mark, damaging the Minnesota and killing its own captain. Over a hundred were killed when a boiler exploded onboard the Susquehanna. The damage to the Americans was painful, but not life threatening. Three destroyers were gutted during the exchange, with the loss of several hundred more sailors. The British losses were far worse. The earlier wounds on the Leopard were opened again by a torpedo run by one of the American destroyers lost. Explosions below the water line broke the back of the battlecruiser, which snapped in half at 1205. Only a handful of survivors, and none of them officers, were plucked from the lake. The out-of-control Port Royal was hit five more times, with two shots ripping open spontoons and causing the ship to enter a dangerous twenty degree list to its port. At 1211, the battleship capsized and went down. An addition royal cruiser and four destroyers were lost in the fight. By 1300, the British fleet on Lake Huron was effectively annihilated, and the remaining wounded ships limped away from battle. Two destroyers steamed towards Detroit in hopes of breaking through to Lake Erie, but the remainder of the ships headed towards Owin Sound.

The two destroyers were sunk by shore batteries attempting to cross over to Lake Erie, and the remaining ships were bottled up in Owin Sound. Vreeland sailed his own fleet within range of the Sound and began bombarding the naval base. Little damage was caused to the base, and none of the warships suffered any more serious damage, though a light cruiser was hit and ended up beaching itself. Vreeland sailed back towards Lake Michigan, victorious in clearing Lake Huron of British forces. Several American submarines set up a blockade of Owin Sound, and supply ships used the Huron side of the York Peninsula to resupply American forces in Canada. The Great Lakes were cut in half, and British and Canadian naval forces on Lake Superior remained isolated. American warships sortied into Lake Superior and hunted down the British cruiser and destroyers stationed upon it by the middle of 1914. Taking control of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario would not be as easy.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Since Cinnamon was already here, I had to bring her daughter, Ginger to the Weblog. I am training her how to deal with monkeys.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Television News and Political Lean in AHN USA

American Broadcasting Company: Democratic Party until the early 1980s, when it switched over to a heavy Libertarian lean.

Business New Channel: Libertarian Party

Cable News Network: Socialist Party

Columbia Broadcasting System: Progressive Party

Columbia Cable News: Progressive Party

Fox News Network: Democratic Party

National Broadcasting Company: Socialist, but with a considerable Progressive lean by some journalists.

People’s Broadcasting Network: Socialists Party

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wing Commander reboot, part 4


Fall of Hubble’s Star

In January of 2637 A.L., the reason the Kilrathi had been so quiet the previous year became painfully obvious. A fleet of some four carriers and ten cruisers, accompanied by various smaller craft, jumped into the system from both Port Hadland and Cheng-Cu. The two prong attack caught Confed off guard. When the first fleet arrived from Cheng-Cu, TCN defenders moved quickly to intercept it, despite being outnumbered two-to-one in respect to carrier strength. The first Kilrathi attack was a feint, designed to lure the Confed ships away from Hubble IV as well as Hubble Station in the L-2 point between Hubble IV and Hubble’s Star.

When the second Kilrathi force jumped into the system, roughly the same size as the first, the Terran defenders soon found themselves trapped between two fleets. Tough Confed gave a tough fight, taking a Kilrathi carrier and cruiser with them, the Carrier Adrianople as well as battlecruiser Viceroy, four cruisers and seven destroyers were all destroyed with few survivors. Those who reached escape pods were fortunate in that the Kilrathi ignored them as they headed for Hubble IV. Their next victim was Hubble Station itself.

The battle for the station was short, for the Kilrathi had no intent on capturing it. Over a hundred fighters defended the station, but the Firecats were of little match against the Kilrathi’s Dralthi and Salthi. Only a few TCN fighters escaped destruction to land on Hubble IV. Hubble Station had spent most of its effort in preparing for a boarding action than redoubling its countermeasures. Instead of boarding pods, Kilrathi bombers struck the station, delivering several anti-ship missiles towards their target. Hubble Station was destroyed with more than ten thousand on board.

The Kilrathi invasion of Hubble IV, the primary population in the system, took place with the minimal of interruption. Three days were spent by Kilrathi fighters and bombers inside the atmosphere of the planet, destroying whatever fighter cover remained, as well as air defenses around the landing zone of Drakeston. As the first wave of forty thousand Kilrathi were landing, Hubble militia destroyed the Drakeston Spaceport and the civilian population began to flee the city. The planet’s population in the census of 2630, was around two hundred million, with a further three million scattered around the rest of Hubble’s Star. The planet was home to a great deal of industry, most of it civilian and pressed into war service.

The Kilrathi took Drakeston, only to find the city abandoned. Kilrathi engineers were sent in with the next wave of invasion, along with machines for clearing the wreckage of the spaceport. While the Kilrathi were still thin on the ground, Confed Army units on the planet struck at the city, effectively laying siege to the very city they had abandoned. When additional Kilrathi ships attempted to land, the Army would throw all of its artillery into destroying transports, preferably while still in the air, but would settle for them on the ground as well.

The Kilrathi attempted a second landing some fifty kilometers north of Drakeston, in an attempt to crushed the Confederation Army between its two forces. This landing fared worse than the first, with twenty-seven percent of the transports destroyed by ground batteries as well as atmospheric aircraft. Privately owned space- and aircraft were pressed into service along side militia craft. Anything that could fly was equipped with FF missiles and pulse cannons. The second invasion flew into a school of pirana. However, this did not stop tens of thousands of more Kilrathi from stepping foot on Hubble IV.

By the third week of the invasion, enough pressure was taken off Drakeston for the Kilrathi to repair the spaceport and begin expanding it, all the while hundreds of Kilrathi transports were setting down on the planet on a weekly basis. The ad hoc air cover of the Terrans was slowly dwindled down as Kilrathi fighters spent most of their time in the atmosphere, and destroyers began pounding locations from orbit. The space between both initial Kilrathi landing zones was laid waste by several annihilation warheads, creating a link between the two Kilrathi forces. By the end of the fifth week, over three hundred thousand Kilrathi were on the planet.

Kilrathi reinforcements did not enter the system unopposed. TCN sent raids into the system repeatedly, targeting transports, freighters and any other logistical craft. This tactic forced the Kilrathi to divert its in-system forces to escort duty. It also diverted assets from across the Sector. Taking one of the systems in the Line was vital to Kilrathi war aims. When the Kilrathi could have launched another sizable attack on the line, they were instead forced to funnel more resources to take Hubble’s Star. This allowed only one large raid to take place in the Vega Sector.

By week ten, the Battle for Hubble’s Star was in full swing with over a million soldiers fighting for control of the planet. The Kilrathi, finally with air and space superiority, began a slow but relentless march to victory. The battle was officially won by the Kilrathi after five months of fighting, when the remaining Confed forces broke up and scattered into the wilderness. What would follow would be years of guerilla warfare and resistance against Kilrathi occupation. Hubble IV would continue to be a drain on their Vega Sector operations for years to come.

Securing the rest of the system was a simple enough task. What locations they did not want, or would not serve a strategic purpose, the Kilrathi simply destroyed. More than 2.5 million Terrans off of Hubble IV were killed during the conquest of the system.

Proxima Raid

After jumping quickly into Proxima from Munro, a Kilrathi task force centered around a light carrier (the only ship that would eventually not see action in Hubble’s Star) as well as four cruisers headed straight fro Proxima IV. It was the less populated region of the system, but steered well clear of Proxima Station and its compliment of several hundred fighters and bombers, as well as ships of TCN. Proxima IV and the asteroids that orbited it, was home to industry in the system as well as ten million Terrans. The Kilrathi had no intend on capturing the planet, and instead struck at factories built on the asteroids, including the largest fighter plant of McCall Industries in Vega Sector. The raid was clumsy, for the Kilrathi were not use to wars that were entering their fourth year, nor use to strategic warfare. However, by the time Confed sent interceptors to Proxima IV, the Kilrathi had already left the system.

The Mandarins and Catholics

Kilrathi occupation of planets such as McAuliffe VI, had taught the local humans that there was no beating the Kilrathi. They could not be killed without massive retribution. They could not be coerced. They could not even be bribed. In the ruined city of Forester, a man by the name of Alfred Mandar decided the Kilrathi could not be beaten. Publicly, he taught that the people should submit to Kilrathi rule, and that all the Confederation should surrender. This made him a traitor in the eyes of Confed. Privately, he taught that humanity should put itself in the good graces of the Kilrathi, be spread across their empire, then– when the Kilrathi were complacent, to rise up and overthrow them. He wanted to defeat the Kilrathi from within.

The Society of Mandar, or just plain Mandarin Society, spread across the occupied worlds. Because it openly taught submission, the Kilrathi authorities allowed their missionaries to move from world to world. Their teachers were not the only doomsayers, though the only ones who desired a surrendered. The forty-nine century old Catholic Church had its own fringe elements that believed the Kilrathi were punishment from God for the hubris of man. The majority of the Church held the official line that man should stand up and vanquish the godless beasts. As soon as the Church heard of Kilrathi defections, they immediately petitioned Confed for access to the isolated Kilrathi, so that they may spread the word of the gospel to these aliens.

New Hardware

In 2637, the first of the Vanguard Class Carriers, the TCS Vanguard and TCS Ranger were commissioned at the Shipyards of Mercury. These two carriers, as well as several new Concordia Class carriers could barely replace the loses in the Vega Sector. Concordia production was ceased that year, and their shipyards retooled to produce more Vanguards. Already, various design agencies were developing a newer, larger strike carrier to replace the Vanguards.

As well as the new carrier class, two of the four new fighters rolled off the assembly line in 2637. The A-14 Raptors, slatted replace the slow Warhammers. These new attackers would have the same bomber capability as the Warhammers, but would carrier the missiles and guns of a heavy fighter, as well as the agility. Second to come off the line are the venerable F-105 Scimitars (Confed’s fighter designation is rather arbitrary and comes from the manufacturer instead of TCN) which would replace the Wildcats as both bomber escorts and interceptors. Both of these new fighter classes were designed with the Kilrathi in mind, and incorporated aspects of Kilrathi fighter weakness, learned from refugees, into their overall design.

In the same year, new battleships were on the drawing boards. These are not battleships in the traditional sense, but a throwback to the arsenal ships of millennia past. These new BBGs as they are officially designated are little more than missile barges, carrying thousands of FF missiles and anti-ship missiles. The engineers promised that each ship could fire a salvo of over five hundred FFs in under a minute. Critics of the Arsenal Ship program argue that for the price of one of these ships, several hundred smaller fighters and bombers could have been built.