This is the seventh section of the fourth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
The world swam back into focus as Malka felt the chair unplugging itself from her implants, in their last act they would have flooded her system with a cocktail of drugs to bring her back up to full alertness levels in a fraction of a second. For a moment the world seemed to be groggy and slow then for what must have been seconds the world seemed to be too slow as her body adjusted to being awake again.
In her first few seconds with the effects of the wake up drugs she was able to glance over the main displays in the bridge and before anyone said a word had a good idea of what was waiting for them. It was almost eighteen hours later, her crew had followed their training to the letter and had left her undisturbed in the absence of any emergency. The main crew had swapped shifts three times as per the scheduled rotation to make sure everyone was up to date and now the primary crew were back at the bridge. All around her were readouts of the situation. Over three billion bodies had so far been counted, given the efficiency of the AI algorithms and the on-board telescopes it was probably the entire population of the Habitat had been dumped. They were at the tipping point of the voyage, whilst they could under maximum burn decelerate sufficiently to dock with the Habitat they could also continue to accelerate into an attack posture.Numerous standard messages had been sent to the Habitat without a response. Over half the human race were dead. Most humans in space to one degree or another depended on the exports of the Habitat and whilst she knew there were self sufficient colonies in the asteroid belt millions if not billions across the solar system would die because of the loss of resource the hostility of the Habitat would cause. And that was all without the Habitat going on the offensive.
She knew she had two options, if the Habitat was truly aggressive the human species was dead unless she could stop it here and now in a single strike. If something else had happened and it was not hostile then humanity was still in a huge amount of danger but without the Habitat they could still rebuild. If she attacked this possibly friendly Habitat and succeeded then humanity would survive, if she failed then a friendly habitat would by its own stated moral code only hold her responsible for her actions.
The only possible situation where she should not attack would be a friendly Habitat that had for unknown reason butchered at least half of its inhabitants and then her hostile actions would cause it to become an unfriendly Habitat.
Malka swayed slightly as her perceptions caught up with her reawakened consciousness. the world slowed down to normal pace. She blinked for a moment and continued “Understood. Transmit the following message ‘Habitat we have monitored the human bodies you have thrown into space. We see this as not a hostile act, not as a war crime but as an abomination against sentience. You are to surrender to us via this channel you will then be boarded by ships from the Solar Navy who will assess the situation in person. You will submit to this demand immediately and you will then comply with all further demands. Weapons are already being engaged you will be met with all force available. Respond now.’ Get that sent now. Then arm all weapons target with missiles only the hub of the Habitat. Then put us to full acceleration, I want us at two hundred milliseconds now. We’ll overtake the missiles we’ve launched but no matter. In thirty seconds start having one in about six appear to misfire to hide the fact they’re bombs aimed to strike the counterweight plate. If the Habitat intercepts all our missiles I at least want to have something taking out the counterweight plate, we’ve no idea what’s there but it’s our best shot.”
Around her the crew jumped to relay those instructions to the ship, Malka listened to her lieutenants update her on the rest of the situation that hadn’t been available on the screens. Much as she expected the Habitat had been silent since ‘The Event’ as the crew had taken to calling it. One unexpected thing however was that the Habitat had begun to fold itself up again.
“Yes sir, it’s shrinking at quite an alarming rate; the plates have folded up alongside the central pylon and now it’s starting to collapse that too to form what looks like a dense cube.”
“Meaning?” she asked.
“Meaning that by the time we get there there’ll be nothing of the structure we know left just a hard central core.”
“I’m out of date on the research into Habitat technology, anyone more familiar than me?”
“Yes Sir” interrupted one of her weapons officers. “Latest tests indicate each drone has a potential laser output of approximately eighty terrawatts in bursts no more than ten seconds a piece but no known limit to duration. Recharge in less than a second. This from a twenty kilogram structure. Shielding capable of surviving at least a two hundred megaton explosion at five hundred meters. Early drones were destroyed by a fifty kiloton blast at one hundred meters so it is unknown how many have this shielding. No tests of repeated explosions.”
“Well memorised, so they’ve got some impressive shielding. We don’t know if that impressive shield can work that well over this new collapsed Habitat but it’s fair to assume the collapsing is a defensive measure to allow such shielding. It’s also a fair assumption that the larger the shield the weaker it will have to be.”
“That’s not true Sir, it could get stronger, without an understanding of the technology it’s also fair to assume that the shield is based on a localised spacial disruption in which case the larger the area shielded the more effective it would become.”
“In which case we’re doomed to fail. All we can do is attack with everything we have. We need to try out a number of techniques so that later forces can succeed. Get a salvo ready with as many bombs as can be disguised to arrive together at once then plan a succession of bombs at varying intervals. Maybe we can find the beat frequency of this shield or some such thing.”