Covered In Bees

HURRICANE-CLASS DRONE BATTLESHIP (CARRIER)

Operated by: Empire of the Star
Type: Drone Battleship, General Operations
Construction: Palaxias Fleet Yards

Length: 2.3 km
Beam (avg.): 0.8 km
Dry mass: 2,900,000 tons

Gravity-well capable: No.
Atmosphere capable: No.

Personnel: 1,294

  • 396 crewers
  • 514 flight operations
  • 384 espatiers
  • Thinker-class AI

Drives:

  • Imperial Navy 3×3 “Neutrino Dawn” antimatter pion drive
  • Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 4×4 “Nova Pulse” fusion torch

Propellant:

  • Deuterium slush/metallic antideuterium
  • Deuterium/helium-3 slush blend

Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 5.6 standard gravities (5.2 Earth G)
Peak (unsustainable) thrust: 6.6 standard gravities (6.1 Earth G)
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c (rated, based on particle shielding, with flight deck doors closed)

Drones:

  • 43,200 x AKVs (loadout varies by mission, typically Daggerfan-class)
  • Associated thrust packs and modular swapout payloads, by mission
  • 64 x “Buckler VI” point-defense supplementary drones, Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 32 x “Rook” tactical observation platforms, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective (with supplementary IN hardware)
  • 64 x general-duty modular drones (not counting flight operations hardware)

Sensors:

  • 3 x independent standard navigational sensor suite, Cilmínar Spaceworks
  • 6 x [classified] enhanced active/passive tactical sensory suite, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective
  • Imperial Navy tactically-enhanced longscan

Weapons (Auxiliary):

  • 96 x “Slammer III” dual turreted mass drivers (local-space defense)
  • Artifice Armaments, ICC “Popcorn” point defense/CQB laser grid

Other systems:

  • 3 x Artifice Armaments, ICC cyclic kinetic barrier system
  • Biogenesis Technologies, ICC Mark VII regenerative life support (multiple independent systems)
  • 3 x Bright Shadow, ICC custom-build megaframe data system, plus multiple EC-1140 information furnaces for sectoral control
  • AKV repair facilities
  • 3 x Extropa Energy, ICC “Calviata” second-phase fusion reactors
  • 6 x Imperial Navy AKV tactical management suite
  • 3 x Imperial Navy DN-class vector-control core and associated technologies
  • 3 x Nanodynamics, ICC “Phage-a-Phage” immunity
  • 6 x modular swapout regions (large)
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies, ICC high-capacity thermal sinks and dual-mode radiative striping; 3 x deployable droplet heat radiators
  • Tactical bridge

Small craft:

  • 4 x Nelyn-class modular cutters
  • 2 x Ékalaman-class pinnace/shuttle (atmosphere capable)
  • 16 x Élyn-class microcutter
  • 32 x Adhaïc-class workpod

(You’ll notice the obvious similarities to the Leviathan-class dreadnought in systems installed, which should come as no surprise; these two came off the drawing board at roughly the same time. And if you’re wondering why a BB-sized carrier has a DN-sized vector-control core – well, you’ll note that the much more tightly packed supplies of, for example, bunkerage plus AKV bunkerage, plus the need to propel all those AKVs, make it mass significantly more than a Leviathan in practice. Carriers tend to be thus.)

The core hull of the Hurricane-class drone battleship (carrier) is divided into five segments: from bow to stern, the flight operations section, the AKV bunkerage, the command section, the bunkerage, and the propulsion bus, laid out tail-lander style. The flight operations section, by design, is a hexagonal prism, flat faces to dorsal and ventral, and the other ship segments follow this pattern.

Attached to this on the starboard side, extending to dorsal and ventral of the core hull, and running from 100 m ahead of the flight operations section (to give AKVs exit and entrance cover) back to cover the first 100 m of the bunkerage, is the starship’s “buckler”. The core hull of the Hurricane-class is relatively lightly armored for an IN vessel, since carriers are intended, doctrinally, to stay out of CQB and mass conservation supervenes. However, to provide protection against long-distance fire in the outer engagement envelope, as a less maneuverable ship class, the buckler – heavy armor plate connected to the core hull by shock-absorbing trusses – covers and extends slightly beyond the two starboard facets, providing additional protection for as long as the vessel maintains the proper attitude.

The flight operations section at the bow, taking up the first half-kilometer of the ship, is effectively a single large flight deck, opened to space by an armored spacetight door in the for’ard hull. (Unlike smaller flight decks, this region cannot be pressurized.) The 43,200 carried AKVs occupy hexagonal cells clustered on the inner hull to port, starboard, dorsal, and ventral from which they launch themselves, while a small conventional flight deck at the aft end of the section provides space for the Hurricane‘s small craft. The after hull of the flight operations sections is heavily armored, to provide what protection it can against a lucky shot penetrating the flight deck.

Immediately behind the flight operations section is the AKV bunkerage section, which houses fuel and propellant, along with ammunition and other consumables, for the carried AKVs, permitting refueling and rearming. This is the most protected area of the ship, as AKV fuel and ammunition tends to be highly volatile.

The command section, the primary habitable area of the starship, is a relatively small area sandwiched between the AKV bunkerage and the carrier’s own bunkerage, also protected behind the buckler, and housing both the starship’s own operations and the majority of the outsize flight operations department. From dorsal and ventral, sensor towers extend beyond the buckler, allowing line-of-sight sensing and communications with the battlespace without exposing the core hull.

(As a side note, the Hurricane-class, like most large carriers, is an example of the IN’s dual command system. The starship itself is commanded by a Flight Commander, ranked Captain [O-7], from the line branch, while the AKV wings are commanded by a Group Captain, an equivalent rank. Overall command of both is held by a Mission Commander, ranked Commodore [O-8].)

Aft of these, a conventional bunkerage section and propulsion bus, equipped with droplet radiators for primary cooling, fills out the remaining length of the vessel.

Scattered about the length of the vessel is the same heavy-duty (“Popcorn”) point-defense grid used on the Leviathan-class dreadnought, along with 96 small turreted mass drivers – similar to those used on lighter IN classes – for heavier local-space defense.

(They are not intended as offensive weapons; the carrier has 43,200 of those in its AKVs, and would-be Flight Commanders who can’t resist the urge to take their ships into close-quarters battle are redirected towards frigates, destroyers, and other roles where such is (a) tactically useful and (b) much less likely to get one either cashiered for gross incompetence or relieved of command by an XO for whom it is not a good day to die.)

 

On the Role of the Dreadnought

Just to clear up a few misconceptions that may have crept in:

David Weber, alas, has done me no favors by convincing much of the SF-reading world that the standard interstellar badass is the dreadnought.

And, yes, you may remember me saying “it sure would be nice to build nothing except dreadnoughts [for ships-of-the-plane]” back when we discussed ship types, but what I did not say is that if they did, they wouldn’t be dreadnoughts. They’d be battleships, because the modal ship classes for engaging in big set-piece space battles are always designated as battleships. Says so right in the name. Battle. Ship.

Or, to put it another way, there are a lot fewer dreadnoughts than there are battleships. (And a lot more cruisers than there are battleships, for that matter, because most missions don’t have any major fleet engagements in them. But that’s another story, already told.) This is principally for economic reasons: when you examine the requirements for a ship of the plane, the battleship sits right at the bang/buck sweet spot, so that’s what you build.

A dreadnought (and to an even greater extent, a superdreadnought) has four virtues, which is why they’re built at all:

  1. It benefits in internal space from volume increasing faster than surface area, which makes it a convenient class to carry extra stuff, from complete flagship suites through shipyard-class repair facilities for its cohorts and prisoner-of-war blocks to all that is required for the many, many specialized variants on the books.
  2. It can afford a hell of a lot of extra armoring, so you are significantly less likely to get your admiral shot off and your fleet coordination suffering if you give him a DN to ride around in.
  3. It can mount a Really Big Gun of the kind you’ll rarely need to use, but you might miss if you didn’t have any of in your plane of battle.
  4. It’s bloody terrifying. When naval architects are told to draw up plans for a DN or SD, the unspoken requirement is that it dominate the battlespace like Conan the Barbarian at a convention of preadolescent pacifists: it dreads nothing, and everything dreads it.

So there aren’t all that many in service, relatively speaking. There don’t have to be – say, speaking non-canonically and off the back of the envelope, eight squadrons in the Capital Fleet (mostly in the Sixth Flotilla, which is the IN’s heavy-hitting force), four squadrons in Home Fleet, two for Field Fleet Spinward (which borders on the Seam), and one for each of the other field fleets: say, 228 in total, not counting specialist classes and the reserve.

You can assume at least four times that in BBs.

 

Leviathan, Awake

LEVIATHAN-CLASS DREADNOUGHT

Operated by: Empire of the Star
Type: Dreadnought, General Operations
Construction: Palaxias Fleet Yards

Length: 3 km
Beam (avg.): 0.8 km
Z-Beam (avg.): 0.6 km

Dry mass: 2,500,000 tons

Gravity-well capable: No.
Atmosphere-capable: No.

Personnel: 6,736

  • 4,968 crewers
  • 1,768 espatiers
  • Thinker-class AI

Drives:

  • Imperial Navy 4×2 “Neutrino Dawn” antimatter pion drive
  • Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 4×4 “Nova Pulse” fusion torch

Propellant:

  • Deuterium slush/metallic antideuterium
  • Deuterium/helium-3 slush blend

Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 7.2 standard gravities (6.7 Earth G)
Peak (unsustainable) thrust: 8.4 standard gravities (7.8 Earth G)
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c (rated, based on particle shielding)

Drones:

  • 144 x AKVs (loadout varies by mission, typically Daggerfan-class)
  • 144 x add-on thrust packs for AKVs
  • 72 x “Buckler VI” point-defense supplementary drones, Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 72 x “Rook” tactical observation platforms, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective (with supplementary IN hardware)
  • 72 x general-duty modular drones

Sensors:

  • 3 x independent standard navigational sensor suite, Cilmínar Spaceworks
  • 18 x [classified] enhanced active/passive tactical sensory suite, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective
  • Imperial Navy tactically-enhanced longscan

Weapons (Primary):

  • 4800/2400 mm custom axial heavy mass driver, Artifice Armaments, ICC

Weapons (Secondary):

  • 4 x 4800/2400 mm custom heavy mass drivers, Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 4 x “Black Lightning” axial grasers, Artifice Armaments, ICC

Weapons (Tertiary):

  • 64 x 2400/1200 mm turreted mass drivers (32 capable of broadside use), Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 8 x 2400/1200 mm turreted mass drivers (rear-firing for kilt defense), Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 32 x “Flashburn” turreted heavy lasers, Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • Artifice Armaments, ICC “Popcorn” point defense/CQB laser grid

Other systems:

  • 3 x Artifice Armaments, ICC cyclic kinetic barrier system
  • Biogenesis Technologies, ICC Mark VII regenerative life support (multiple independent systems)
  • 3 x Bright Shadow, ICC custom-build megaframe data system, plus multiple EC-1140 information furnaces for sectoral control
  • Class IV starship repair facilities
  • 8 x Extropa Energy, ICC “Calviata” second-phase fusion reactors
  • Flag bridge
  • 4 x Imperial Navy command communications/tactical networking suite
  • 4 x Imperial Navy DN-class vector-control core and associated technologies
  • 3 x Metric Engineering, ICC “Gloaming” ray shielding system
  • 3 x Nanodynamics, ICC “Phage-a-Phage” immunity
  • 32 x modular swapout regions (large)
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies, ICC high-capacity thermal sinks and dual-mode radiative striping

Small craft:

  • 8 x Reaver-class starfighters, with own AKVs
  • 8 x Nelyn-class modular cutters
  • 4 x Ékalaman-class pinnace/shuttle (atmosphere capable)
  • 16 x Élyn-class microcutter
  • 16 x Traest Sargas-class troop transport
  • 32 x Adhaïc-class workpod
  • 32 x Marlinspike-class boarding torpedo
  • 32 x Sledgehammer-class drop shuttle

From without, the Leviathan-class dreadnought resembles a slender wedge, a dagger-blade without a hilt. It is, of course, rather larger than virtually all equivalent dreadnought classes and even some superdreadnought classes seen elsewhere, in keeping with the Empire’s naval construction policy of “shock and awesome”.

This should come as no surprise to anyone, since the realities of armoring such a vessel mandate such a glacis, and as such virtually all ships of the plane, of whatever origin, share this common feature. The Leviathan mixes this up slightly, having a change in ratio along its length that gives the hull a subtle curve and the ship entire a forward-leaning, sleek and hungry look.

(Although those who serve aboard Leviathans, especially back in the maneuvering sector, tend to describe their workplace as the ship’s “fat ass”.)

As is also usual, the apparent outer hull of the vessel is entirely composed of armor plating, which in the case of the Leviathan is a little over 30m thick, comprised of multiple layers of heavy plate, Whipple foam, radiation-absorbent material, thermal superconductors, dilatant shock gel, flexible spreader trusses, and other necessities for survivability in the modern high-energy battlespace, many of which remain classified.

(The important thing to remember about this armor plating is that it is not there to protect against a direct hit from an opposing capital ship. No practicable material will do that. It’s there to protect against the spallation debris left behind after your point-defense grid sweeps the sky like the hand of an angry laser-spewing god.)

This armor serves as a backup to the triple-layered cyclic kinetic barrier system with which the Leviathan is equipped, along with the likewise triple-layered ray shielding to protect against photonic attack.

The majority of the space within this outer hull is unpressurized volume, occupied by machinery space, bunkerage, stores (tanks and unpressurized cargo holds), accessways, robot hotels, and magazines. The habitable volume is represented by a relatively small (roughly equivalent to a 232-storey building, laid out tail-lander style) cylinder buried deep within this, above the axial passage for the primary mass driver, with two attendant counter-rotating gravity rings providing space for gravity-requiring special facilities. Below and to port and starboard of this passage can be found the eight fusion reactors providing non-thrust power to the Leviathan.

In addition to the primary (axial) heavy mass driver, the Leviathan mounts four secondary heavy mass drivers of only slightly lower power along its dorsal-ventral centerline, spread out at 15 and 30 degrees off-axis (although with off-bore firing capability), along with four heavy grasers clustered around, and aligned to, the axial primary.

Tertiary weapons systems consist of 64 turreted mass drivers and 32 turreted heavy lasers, of which half can slew far enough to be capable of broadside firing. An additional eight turreted mass drivers are mounted on the stern for kilt defense, should the prospect of attacking through, or at best in close proximity to, the emissions plume of the Leviathan‘s 24 torch drives not be sufficient deterrent. Finally, the Leviathan is equipped with the Artifice Armaments “Popcorn” laser grid for point-defense and CQB purposes, ensuring that anyone foolish enough to close to point-defense range will have mere microseconds to contemplate their folly before vaporizing in one of the most spectacular coruscations known to sophontkind.

Also pressurized are portions of the “docks and locks” sections to port and starboard, 500 meters for’ard of the drives, which house the Leviathan‘s small craft complement. These are buried beneath the starship’s outer hull armor, which is designed to retract under non-combat conditions to provide ingress. In light of this, the multiple AKV wings and drones are launched via dog-leg tubes through the dorsal and ventral armor, and recovered – if this is necessary during an engagement – when circumstances permit turning broadside to the enemy and recovering through the far-side landing bay.

As a dreadnought, the Leviathan is equipped with a flag bridge and communications/tactical mesh suite for task force command; with the capability to effect repairs on smaller vessels of its task force; with the ability to deploy starfighters for patrol or remote operations missions; and with a substantial espatier force and the means to deploy them, whether in boarding operations or for groundside raids.

 

Hornéd Moon-class starfighter

(Note: for the avoidance of confusion, this is not the same starfighter class as Raymond McVay has been posting over on the G+ fan community; so don’t be confused by the differences…)

“It looks like a blueberry croissant.”

“Blueberry croissant… of DEATH!”

– overheard at Golden Groves (Principalities) starport

HORNÉD MOON-CLASS STARFIGHTER

Operated by: Empire of the Star (Imperial Navy, Imperial State Security, & Imperial Exploratory Service; reliable UARC-sponsored mercenaries)
Type: Starfighter, Orbital and Near-Space Operations
Construction: Ashen Planitia Fleet Yards

Length: 24.8 m
Beam: 60.4 m

Gravity-well capable: Yes
Atmosphere capable: Yes (depending on loadout)

Personnel: 2 nominal, as follows:

Flight Commander / Sailing Master
Flight Engineer

AI expert system support.

(Can operate with a single pilot.)

Additional life support capacity exists to support four passengers in addition, although this requires hot-bunking in three shifts.

Drive: Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 2×1 “Little Sparky” antimatter-catalyzed fusion torch drive
Propellant: Deuterium slush / metallic antideuterium
Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 10.2 standard gravities (9.6 Earth G)
Peak (unsustainable) thrust: 14.0 standard gravities (13.2 Earth G)
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c (based on particle shielding)

Drones:

4 x hardpoint mountings for AKVs, typically Slasher-class

(Hardpoint mountings can also hold single-legionary drop pods, Piton-class, or covert ops equivalents.)

Sensors:

1 x standard navigational sensor suite, Cilmínar Spaceworks
1 x enhanced passive tactical sensor suite, miniature, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective
1 x enhanced-resolution planetary surface-scan sensor suite, Imperial Exploratory Service (spec.)

Weapons:

“Flyswatter” point-defense laser grid, Artifice Armaments

Other Systems:

Artifice Armaments cyclic kinetic barrier system
Cilmínar Spaceworks Mark III long-duration canned/semi-regenerative life support
3 x Bright Shadow EC-780 information furnace data systems
Ashen Planitia 1-SF vector-control core and associated technologies
Cilmínar Spaceworks high-capacity thermal sinks and integrated radiator system
Aleph Null Systems tactical communications suite

Small craft:

None.

The Hornéd Moon-class is a small starfighter intended for fast attack and fast insertion missions in planetary orbit and deploying to the surface. As such, it has atmospheric capability, and even the ability to land.

In overall form, it resembles – as the quotation indicates – a croissant or crescent moon of flying-wing conformation, with the thin “inside” edge of the crescent facing forward. The two forward-facing points of the crescent are rounded, and rise to a near-cylinder at the for’ard end, and a rectangular section of the central section is “humped” at the rear; this contains the drives, whose nozzles protrude from this rectangular shroud aft.

Atop the starfighter, paired hardpoints on the dorsal hull to port and starboard hold the AKVs, when mounted. Additional mountings near them permit jettisonable fairings to be used to permit atmospheric entry or departure when non-streamlined AKVs are carried.

In between them, atop and for’ard of the drive shroud, radiative striping mounted directly atop the hull, beneath protective shutters, provides heat dissipation. To provide additional control (to the reaction wheel system) when in atmosphere, a number of multiple-purpose aerodynamic control surfaces are mounted along the leading edge of the hull, and to two small vertical stabilizers at the port and starboard edges of the drive shroud. Deployable rollagon landing gear are fitted ventrally in a multiple tailwheel configuration.

The main body of the ship is entirely devoted to fuel storage, with multiple deuterium tanks wrapping around the small antimatter cryocels for maximum protection. Meanwhile, the starboard near-cylinder provides housing for the ship’s avionics, including (beneath the forward-mounted radome and associated shuttered ports) for the triple sensor suites and tactical communications systems.

The starship’s small habitable area is located in that to port; the forward-facing airlock (whose outermost section is covered by a retractable streamlining fairing and extendable airstair) at far port gives onto a short corridor providing access to, in order, the ship’s bridge (behind an open viewport for close-maneuvering use), a two-pod sleeping area, a small room tripling as galley, fab shop, and rest area, and a single-person ‘fresher at corridor end. Limited avionics and life support access is possible through panels in this area; however, there is no pressurized access to the main avionics bay in the starboard near-cylinder or to engineering systems; such access requires EVA. Likewise, if drop pods are carried, access to those (for pre-deployment boarding, say) is only possible through EVA.

 

Fleet Communications

A commenter raises an interesting point with regard to fleet communications, which as we have seen in various places, tend to look like this:

FROM: CS GRITFIST (FIELD FLEET RIMWARD)
TO: FIELD FLEET RIMWARD COMMAND (CS ARMIGEROUS PROPERTARIAN)

*** ROUTINE
*** FLEET CONFIDENTIAL E256
*** OVERDUE FOLLOWUP

REF: TASK GROUP R-4-118
REF: OVERDUE STATUS, CS GUTPUNCH

  1. AS PER TASK GROUP ORDERS ORIGINATING CS UNDERBELT, HAVE PROCEEDED WITH COHORT, CS GOUGER, TO LAST KNOWN POSITION CS GUTPUNCH, MALTEVIC SYSTEM.
  2. NO TRACES OF CS GUTPUNCH OR RECENT SIGNS OF COMBAT APPARENT OR RECORDED IN SYSTEM LONGSCAN BUOYS. TRANSPONDER LOGS CONFIRM OUTBOUND GATING TO NARIJIC SYSTEM IN ACCORDANCE WITH PATROL ROUTING.
  3. RESPONSE TO FORWARDED QUERIES TO SYSTEM ENTRY BUOYS IN NARIJIC AND KERJEJIC SYSTEMS INCLUDES NO HIGH-ENERGY EVENTS.
  4. CS GOUGER WILL PROCEED FORTHWITH TO NARIJIC SYSTEM AND COMMENCE SEARCH GRID SWEEP.
  5. SELF WILL PROCEED FORTHWITH TO KERJEJIC SYSTEM AND COMMENCE SEARCH GRID SWEEP.
  6. MORE FOLLOWS.
  7. AUTHENTICATION MORAINE HAMMOCK VAULT SIMMER GOLDEN PAWL / 0x9981ABD43E3ECC22

ENDS.

…to wit:

One thing about these: while I understand the stylistic motivation of using all-caps (reminiscing to WW2-era (and later) communiqués, in Isif’s world, that makes no real sense. In WW2, the all-caps was a result of having no distinct-case (and some bright chap thinking it was better to have all-caps, even if they are a lot harder to read).

I do not have a ready solution to carry the “fleet communiqué” vibe easily, but I think just the rest of the format (headers, enumeration, the “Ends.” trailer) would be good enough™.

Well, here’s the reasoning behind it. But first, I will note that not all communication to and from fleet vessels looks like this. We also see some that comes over more normal channels, which looks like this:

From: Executor Major Garren Melithos, Uulder Shore Constellation Adhoc, Imperial Exploratory Service
To: Cmdr. Leda Estenv, Flight Administrator, CS Iron Dragon
Subject: Checking up

Your Mr. Sarathos is shaping up as well as can be expected here after his transfer. Per his request, we put him to work on the hush-hush clean-up of Ekritat’s atmosphere after his oops, and he’s doing a good job there so far. Chastened, but competent.

My colleagues have some similar projects lined up for him after this. If all goes well, we might just manage to salvage him and his career.

-gm

…so what’s the difference and why the stylistic change?

Protocol.

The latter is just plain old extranet e-mail, sent out over SCP (Secure Courier Protocol), and which works the same way as any other e-mail, which is to say while rather more complicated than ours (involving the use of presence servers to first link name to location, and then routing protocols to link location-of-mobile-subnet – which is to say, starship – to current-network-location), is nothing special and can transmit arbitrary formatted data. It’s routed at standard-traffic priority, being routed over light-speed links between stargates until it gets to its destination system, then over laser tightbeam between relay stations and finally to the starship’s own receiver. Since it’s going to a military destination address, the protocol probably coerces the notrace, noloc, and deepcrypto bits on, but yet.

The former, on the other hand, is an action message, being sent over the Navy’s own GLASS PICCOLO system, which piggybacks on the extranet for some routing purposes but doesn’t use standard protocols. That’s because it’s optimized for speed, security, distribution without presence servers if need be (for starships running in communications silence), etc., but most of all minimal size, because the GLASS PICCOLO system uses the IN’s private tangle channel backbone wherever it can appropriately do so for speed, but once a tanglebit has been used in communications, that tanglebit is gone forever. It can’t be reused, only replaced. And if you’re coordinating a war, you don’t want to find yourself running out of tanglebits to do it with.

So it does have some relevant constraints. Not so much lack of distinct case – think of it more like the ELF communications the US Navy used to use, except the constraint is not speed of transmission, it’s the potential permanent consumption of the transmission medium.

GLASS PICCOLO messages are converted into five-letteral code-groups – which is why the language in them tends to be stilted, because you aren’t reading what anyone actually wrote, you’re reading the computer transliteration of the code-groups – signed, compressed, encrypted to the recipient key, and squirted out on the GP network as a single-packet datablip. The recipient’s communication computers reverse the process.

All of which is to say: it’s a deliberate stylistic choice, yes, but the reason I’m invoking those very different-looking historical communication formats is to suggest to the reader that these messages indeed ain’t like those messages.

(One side note: it’s not a matter of lacking distinct case, I append for those who aren’t keen minutiae-watchers, because none of the three major Eldraeic alphabets – runic, pen, or brush-optimized – actually have a concept of letter case. Which of the alphabets either of the above would be displayed in depends on the personal UI customization of the comms officer reading them.

There might be a tendency for slight runic to predominate, since as its hexagon-based letterals and numerals are all identical in size, it was the alphabet used by the people who designed the original fixed-width computer terminals and predecessor devices, but everyone *there* has had a WYSIWYG system for more years than humanity’s had writing, these days…

But from a Doylist perspective, all-caps makes a convenient Translation Convention.)

 

Marlinspike-class MAV

So, since I’ve just described the nature of boarding actions, I might as well go ahead and describe the ship used to carry them out when necessary, the Marlinspike-class MAV.

And yes, this does mean that it’s horrible diagram time again.

…or rather not, because Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets made much better diagram of the Marlinspike-class, which I’m now using instead:

marlinspike

The thing to bear in mind in considering the design of the Marlinspike-class is that it’s built to be disposable: much like the Sledgehammer-class drop shuttle and its kin with their habit of lithobraking, getting there is hard enough that survivability is up front and reusability takes a very distant back seat. And as such, the Marlinspike is about as stripped-down as a small craft can be and still function in role.

The basic hull form is exactly as the name suggests: it’s a narrow-tipped, heavily armored, slender spike, designed to hammer its way into the body of the boarding target and stick there. Its bow (1) is a hardened penetrator whose surface is configured as a contact-fused explosive plasma cutter; i.e., a shaped breaching charge. That’s designed to soften up the outer and pressure hulls of the target such that the momentum of impact (at the several hundred mph differential velocity traditional to this sort of maneuver) can drive the MAV in.

(That initial velocity, incidentally, is provided along with power and attitude control by a strap-on thruster pack (2), which is designed to detach and eject itself at the point of impact – because it has most of the expensive stuff in it, and can be salvaged and reused. Control up to this point is remote, from the parent craft, with limited local AI in the event of communication jamming.)

Once it’s penetrated the hull, the four strips of grip-track (3) located around the hull at 45 degree intervals come into play. Their job is to grab onto the wreckage around them and shove the MAV forward, powered by the onboard accumulators at (6), further into the ship, until it gets to the optimal – or at least a less pessimal – location for the squad of espatiers aboard to disembark. Said espatiers are located in a chamber in the center of the Marlinspike (4), sealed into their own armor (which provides their life support), doped up on anti-g and combat drugs, and strapped into racks in what amounts to a tank filled with concussion gel to protect them from the rapid acceleration and even more rapid deceleration of the ram-and-board maneuver.

Once one of the embarkation hatches (5) – a pair at the fore and aft ends of the chamber to both starboard and port, and a pair amidships to both dorsal and ventral, to allow for the inevitable mismatch between the MAV’s positioning and the target’s internal layout – is in a good position both for disembarkation, and vis-a-vis their target, the squad leader stops the MAV’s advance, detonates the shaped antipersonnel charge embedded into the outboard side of the embarkation hatch (basically the equivalent of a Claymore) to clear the way, then blows the hatch and leads his men out.

Victory or death!