This is the ninth section of the fourteenth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
The Oppenheimer continued to gain speed and altitude it’s companion ships slowed down their acceleration and formed a battle formation in a medium orbit. Being the first ship the Oppenheimer carried on to rendezvous with the incoming fighters.
“So we’re the guinea pigs then?” asked Malka over the radio. She waited for the reply, fractions of a second at the moment but it would grow soon enough.
“They’re almost on top of us though,” came the reply after a short delay ”we’ll have literally seconds from your engagement until we have the last chance to stop them.”
Malka looked at the displays of her sister ships, they may have been a lot bigger than hers but they were still the same design at heart. The heart of the ship looked like the outside of a chemical plant. Covered with pipes and water tanks and various bits of shielding. No crucial systems, leaving them below the plate of armour underneath that. The main feature on the outside were the fighters. In themselves they were massive ships but they were dwarfed by their carrier craft. At the front of the carrier was a thick steel dome. designed to protect against stray fire and could probably even withstand a single nuclear explosion, although it would have to be a small one. Primarily it was envisaged to hold up to short bursts of laser attack.
The rear of the ships were most evident though. On huge shock absorbers was the pusher plate. It was this plate that was pushed forwards in bursts by the shockwave from the nuclear bombs that were thrown out of the back. Over the course of the program huge strides had been made in making shaped nuclear charges that would direct most of their force along the axis of thrust. Mounted to the pusher plate were huge tanks of water that in the atmosphere had been acting as extra absorbing mass to cushion the extra energy the atmosphere had imparted to the pusher plate. Over their now brief coasting period the water was being pumped around the ship to form a primitive shield both from debris, lasers and small missiles. As the water flowed into place it quickly froze forming a shield against most small particles. It could later be dumped or re-used as reaction mass as the mission required.