This is the sixth section of the ninth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Apologies for a few days without a post, here's a few at once to catch up.
The Captain watched the screens as the images of the chaff that they had released earlier arrived at the anticipated mine field. As expected the proximity triggers on the mines were triggered and the area around the predicted location lit up as the screen’s filters activated to protect the viewers.
“Well” said the Captain “If they weren’t guilty of stealing those engines they certainly had something to protect” he pressed a few buttons on his console “How long before we turn on the Ks?”
“About three hours Sir” replied a junior officer
“Refrigeration laser firing” rattled off another.
“Captain, may I have a word” asked Laurence.
The Captain waved over Laurence to his private room at the side. “Go on”
“You want me to look after the engines on this ship, what the hell are you doing with the Ks?”
“Sterilizing the area.” replied the captain “Look you told me the AM drive was a bit flaky and delicate well the Ks are tried and tested, stick them onto full power and angle them at around the insertion area. It should be enough to clear out any combatants that could have moved in waiting for us and any dust left over from our little strike back there”
“I see” said Laurence “I wish you’d let me know these things”
“Why? Normal military drives well within their parameters”
“You’re using AM injection, nothing proven about that.”
“Well maybe, still it gets the job done. Just worry about your drives and leave the rest to me” The captain turned to leave
“One more question,” asked Laurence “I trust you’re not relying on the AM drive once we get there are you?”
“Best particle weapon ever invented why wouldn’t I use it”
“Because it’s also stupendously vulnerable.”
“What are you talking about”
“Come on Captain it’s a delicate tube stretching out in front of us, we’re supposed to be moving with that thing not sat here like a sitting duck. If it was the proper one we could fold it up, but for now it’s there like a christmas tree that a single shot to would kill us and we can’t even turn properly with it there.”
“Yeah good luck trying to manoeuvre with a five mile long line sticking out the front”
“You designed this into a battleship?” the Captain asked incredulously.
“No I designed this for a colony ship, whichever bright spark dragged a prototype into a warzone designed this. You can use the exhaust of the AM drive as a weapon and a hell of a weapon it’ll be, but if you come to a stop the enemy will be able to pick us off no trouble.” The Captain tried to interrupt but Laurence spoke over the top of him “Before you worry the AI is fully aware of this, it’s been worrying about it for a good time now. Come to a stop and we’re dead and even if they don’t hit us we can’t manoeuvre fast enough to use the output of that drive as a thermal lance.”
“I was kind of counting on that.”
“Yeah well tough no forty terrawatt laser for you.”
“Hang on couldn’t you just keep the reaction chamber and point that”
“If we’d have had time to install things properly then yes. If we’d have had built engines specifically for this ship yes. Can we do so with a gerry-rigged drive unit cobbled together and hastily adapted from an experimental prototype in the few hours remaining to us. No. What were you planning to do with a forty terrawatt laser anyway”
“I think the better question is what couldn’t you do?” smirked the Captain.
“Aim it at the moment. Well regardless. we have to stop this deceleration, drop off our landing craft and then accelerate away”
“I’m not leaving men behind.”
“You won’t be with the relative positioning of Venus and the speed of this boat we’ll be able to pick them up in a matter of hours. You’re still thinking in terms of what the old ships could do. This thing is very very fast if you push it.”
“No I’m not leaving men without cover.”
“Captain they are supposed to provide cover to you under hostiles not the other way around, they are expendable, this ship isn’t.”
“You’re giving these jumped up rats too much credit”
“No you don’t realise who you’re up against or how vulnerable you could be.”
“You are not a military strategist”
Laurence bit his lip, “I don’t think you’re aware of all the facts.”
“And thanks to you I now am, now if you’ll excuse me I have a battleship to command.” the Captain walked off.
“Now why” Laurence asked himself walking out. “Did I decide that lifeboats in space were pointless. Sure I’d be just as dead later but at least my remains wouldn’t be mixed up with that idiot.”