27 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:21

This is the twenty first section of the second chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

The chair under Malka lurched. A second later it did it again and again. She wasn’t sure if it was any better that the whole room was doing the same.
“Is the real thing expected to be this bad?” she asked
“Probably worse” came the reply from a random lieutenant. “A harder slam and then no recoil. That might make it better though no-one really knows.”
“Great, so what’s the scenario?”
At this Gwen chipped in from her observation post “There is no scenario.”
“Fine” sighed Malka, “What are the known data?”
“A new star appeared yesterday on an extra solar trajectory” replied one of the tracking officers “Engine signature implies a fusion drive, probably a ramscoop type system running on collected and stored hydrogen.”
“Anything else?”
“Lots, they bombed the moon this morning.”
Malka looked at the young tech with some scorn in her eyes “Bombed the moon?”
“Aye, some sort of singularity. It dropped in intensity from its departure from the ship right until it impacted and melted a few thousand square meters. That wasn’t so bad, but the moon quakes have caused serious damage to the settlement.”
“Any casualties?”
“No, but that’s more through fortune than good design”
“Okay maybe they’re trying to soften up our outer defenses. Anything else?”
“They’re carrying on their braking manoeuvres. They appear to be using a circular corrected pattern to strafe our communications satellites”
“Explain, I’m not familiar with that technique.”
“Well the exhaust of an effective engine is a stream of very high energy particles. If you’re heading to a planet and need to brake you have to thrust in the direction of the planet. On a drive this powerful the exhaust would be deadly to the planet so you don’t thrust directly at the planet if you want the planet to be useful after your arrival, so you normally thrust not directly at the planet but slightly away from it. You normally set your tradjectory to be slightly off on your approach so by the time you’ve thrusted off axis then you’ve done your correction burn and are nicely in orbit without damage to anything”
“Except they seem to be trying to do maximum damage to our orbital infrastructure.”
“Correct, they seem to have targeted dead centre of Earth and are effectively strafing progressively each orbit. We’ve lost all of the geostationary satellites and three space stations. The LEO automated platforms are still in tact, but it’s only a matter of time. As they get closer they’re attacking lower and lower orbits.”
“Any other hostile action?”
“They have not attempted communication”
“Have we?”
“Yes, although it is possible they’re not making it past the noise generated by their exhaust.”
“When do we meet them?”
“At current rates of acceleration they’ll be in high orbit in a little over an hour.”
“And how long before we can meet them there”
“We’ll be in place in a little over twenty minutes”
“Good, hopefully they’ll have seen us”
“It’s almost impossible they won’t have seen us coming.”
“What support do we have?”
“None, the other two Professors that were launched failed at takeoff.”
“That figures.”
“Never mind. Let’s go meet these guys.” Malka thought for a moment “Any chance of launching any more Professors?”
“No,” interrupted Gwen “They’re held in reserve”
“Just me and unknown hostiles.”

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