Nemo Me Impune Lacessit


Ledger Embiggening, this is the captain of the armed vessel currently on intercept with you. As you have noticed, we have our weapons locked on you. Your options are these: cut your engines immediately, heave to, and permit us to board and claim whatever passengers and items of cargo we wish… or don’t, and we’ll slag your drive, then take your ship by force and have them anyway. You have until I get tired of waiting to decide. Over.”

“Unknown armed vessel, this is Ledger Embiggening. All our off-site backups are up-to-date and we have enabled our proximity-triggered spite charge, as required by the terms of our charter insurance carrier. I am legally required to advise you not to approach within 10,000 miles of this vessel under any circumstances. Your move. Ledger Embiggening, clear.”


“And that’s how I lost this leg,” the former pirate slurred. “Also one kidney, three-quarters of my liver, both spleens, fifteen feet of assorted intestine, and a not inconsiderable portion of brain tissue.”

Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for ec429 ec429 says:

    Reminds me a little of Poul Anderson’s Margin of Profit :slight_smile:

  2. 10000 miles seems big for the radius of even a nuke, is that just the radius where they start charging at the enemy to get them in the radius of the presumably megaton to kiloton nuke they have on board? Also I’m surprised the captain got injured, in this setting space combat seems to be a mostly all or nothing affair, either you survive intact of you’re utterly dead.

  3. Those two observations sort of explain one another, I’d think. Even with soul backups, you can’t learn very well from the experiences of a dead version of you.

    A damaged but functional version, otoh… say one that got a glancing blow from a nuke just at the edge of survivability…

  4. I’m pretty sure the spite charge is only supposed to guarantee destruction of the ship proper and any ships docked right next to it. The 10000 mile radius is probably due to radiation concerns, which would also explain the partial losses to the captain’s organs.

  5. A quick back of the envelope calculation suggest that you’d get (at the very most) about a Joule per square meter of radiation (assuming a 1 megaton nuke at exactly 10000 miles, converting all of its energy into ionizing radiation)

    Assuming no shielding: a humanoid body has about a square meter of surface area (and masses around 50 kg), so our hypothetical pirate (and each of the members of their crew) would only get hit by 0.02 Gy of radiation.

    And further assuming that it was all in neutrons at their most effective energy level, it looks like that’s only half a Sievert of equivalent dose. Since it’s short term, it looks like that’ll cause (at worst) radiation sickness, but it’s below lifetime limits for human astronauts, so I’m fairly sure that it wouldn’t cause quite as much damage to our pirate.

    So, even under way to optimistic conditions, it doesn’t look like the damage could be caused by radiation. Even a perfect neutron bomb with only distance attenuating the radiation would have to get into the 5-10 MT range to spit out enough radiation for radiation at 10000 miles to cause the described damage.

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