Building the Imperial Navy: Strategic Assumptions

Building-a-NavySo, up next for you, the first in our six-part series on Building the Imperial Navy, using the model outlined by David Weber and Christopher Weuve in various places, such as the afterword to House of Steel. For the details of the model, see the diagram at right.

In this first part, we’re looking at the Strategic Assumptions, the starting place that defines the context within which the IN operates. This is divided into two parts – the Security Environment (the general threats to be countered) and the Fiscal Environment (the resources available to pay for it).

Security Environment

Let us consider galactography. The Worlds are ~10,000 star systems scattered across a volume of space that contains perhaps ~100 million star systems in total. The Empire, by contrast, is composed of ~175 star systems sitting right in the center of said 100 million, plus another ~100 scattered through the ecumene, ~275 in total, further plus a number of sub-planetary exclaves here and there. At that, it’s the biggest polity in the worlds: its nearest competitors, the Photonic Network and the League of Meridian, are only 120-150 world polities. Most of the worlds is made up of a variety of polities from that size on down to multiple hundreds of single-system polities.

The Worlds, however, directly abut the Voniensa Republic, which contains ~8,000 star systems. Fortunately, the Republic has a considerable technological disadvantage (for reasons elaborated on elsewhere), but it does have a fleet befitting its size, and the same reasons behind its disadvantage also make it hostile. (One might have gathered from certain aspects late in The Core War some hints as to why exactly it needs such a fleet and why it has internal reasons not to throw all of it at the Worlds, but this is an area in which, well, spoilers.)

As for the worlds themselves, all the polities which make them up aren’t exactly unified (for a variety of reasons, from fundamental cultural and biological disagreements up to various efforts, the Empire’s not least among them, to spike any notion of evolving galactic governance). They vary in makeup from firm Imperial allies, through other major powers that are at least reliable (say, the Consolidated Waserai Echelons) down through a motley collection of malcontents and rogue states.

So what are the resulting security concerns?

  1. Hot war with the Republic.
  2. Hot war with major Worlds powers.
  3. Brushfire wars among the states of the Worlds, especially as they impact:
    1. Trade: the Empire has a huge merchant fleet, and disruptions of trade are most unwelcome;
    2. And the stargate network: which while it extends throughout the Worlds, is primarily owned by Ring Dynamics, ICC, an Imperial starcorporation.
  4. Piracy (likewise for its trade impact) and terrorism.
  5. Perversions erupting from inadvisable seed AI experiments.
  6. Internal-void threats: subluminal attacks from worlds not connected to the stargate plexus, such as the skrandar berserker incident.
  7. RKVs, relativistic kill vehicles, an appallingly dangerous planet-wrecking technology that even relatively primitive starfaring technologies can built, albeit with a longer time-to-kill.

Fiscal Environment

By and large, the IN – and the Imperial Military Service in general – does not have to worry about money.

It’s not unlimited, budget-wise – even a post-material-scarcity society can’t manage that – but the theoretical ceiling on its budget is so far, far above what they already spend to be basically irrelevant. The Imperial governance collects a 3.6% rake in the shape of the Empire Services fee (plus fines, donations, and purchases of titles of privilege); of that, the Admiralty gets maybe 12-14%. Of the Admiralty budget, the IN gets roughly 48%. Which is to say, in re these last two figures, that battleships are kinda expensive even when the majority of payout goes to personnel, outsourced services, and exotica.

The most relevant part of the former figure, on the other hand, is to say that the Empire, in time of war, can raise the Service Fee by a factor of five-and-a-half while still staying within the Imperial Charter’s previously agreed constraints on what’s permissible, So, yeah, there’s a lot of upside before running into a hard constraint.

(Unless, of course, the shit-fan convergence reaches the point at which the Council of the Star is willing to sign off on CASE ADHAÏC PARASOL, which turns the demons of autoindustrialism sleeping in the depths of Fortress’s well loose, thus allowing autonomous AI battleships to self-replicate and fork more and more autonomous AI battleships on an exponentially rising curve…

…while they have been carefully designed not to violate any of the rules – or indeed commonsense safety guidelines – where oopsing heggie swarms into existence are concerned, ADHAÏC PARASOL does skim close enough to the limits and other people’s nightmares about that sort of thing that it would take some real serious shit-fan convergence to be worth initiating it, though.)

Rather, the chief constraints are twofold: personnel, inasmuch as there are only so many sentinels looking to take up a Navy career during peacetime, and while the Navy does recruit digisapiences just as eagerly as it does everyone else, there is a limit to how much it wants to substitute with non-sophont AI. (CASE ADHAÏC PARASOL notwithstanding.) Fortunately, the IN has no trouble filling the ranks of its peacetime complement, because per the above, it has no trouble offering generous salaries, providing excellent training, and so on and so forth.

The other is “political”: on the one hand, the Empire’s firm belief that it isn’t, or at least doesn’t want to be, a giant military fist poised over everyone else’s face. It doesn’t have the self-concept of a military power – not for many centuries – and doesn’t particularly want to develop one, preferring to believe in its, really mostly justified, status as a neutral power that’s friendly with the Worlds, or at least that portion of the Worlds that isn’t 100% dicks.

On the other hand, it’s equally firm belief that si vis pacem, para bellum, or in less formal terms, that the way you ensure the peace is by being such pants-wettingly terrifying bastards that no-one this side of sanity would seriously consider attacking you.

It is the ebb and flow of this particular somewhat schizophrenic belief-pair that has had, historically, the most influence on the size and scope of the IN.

Technologically speaking, the IN can generally be assured of technical superiority over its opponents, for reasons which can partly be summed up as “moon-sized space brains” and can partly be summed up as “mad scientists gonna science madly”.

Indeed, the major issues faced by the Admiralty in the technical arena is ringmastering the tendency over at BuInnov to want to stick all their latest innovations on whatever the newest starship class is, and occasionally reminding them that neither ‘punching holes in the universe’ nor ‘cracking a planet in half and frying it like an egg’ is a currently desired tactical capability over at BuPlan.

Naval Organization

So, as a preamble to other naval posts, let me take a moment to post some notes on the internal organization of the Imperial Navy that I’ll be referring to later. 

(Pray pardon the hand-drawn diagram and dodgy formatting; I’m still at the con and posting from my smrtphn.)

  

At the top, you have the Second Lord of the Admiralty, whose function is – in conjunction with the other Lords of Admiralty – to formulate naval policy in the context of overall military policy. The rest of the organizational structure of the IN, while providing advice, is mostly purposed to implement said policies. 

The top-level division is the semi-formal one between the Space Lords, whose responsibilities are for the Navy’s “teeth” – all that happens out in the black – and the Shore Lords, who are responsible for its “tail”, station-centered support functions. 

The First Space Lord, almost always an Admiral of the Fleet, is responsible for overall strategic direction and the deployment of mobile units, through the Fleet Commands (for the Capital Fleet, the directional fleets, and so forth). While direct operational control in time of war is exercised through Core Command, its appointed Warmain (who commands all IMS units, not just IN ones), and his Theater Command, all under the First Lord of the Admiralty, these units belong to Fleet Command and the First Space Lord. 

The First Space Lord also has direct control of the Nightfall Operations Command, which includes all those special units I could tell you about, but then I’d have to kill you and anyone else you might have spoken to in the interim. 

The Second Space Lord is in charge primarily of doctrine development and operational planning, via the Naval Strategy & Tactics Board and the Type Commanders (who specialize in individual ship types) and their departments, collectively known as the Bureau of Planning (“BuPlan”). 

They also control the Medical Command – which operates hospital and rescue ships, general medical functions being outsourced to IMS Medical under the Eighth Lord of the Admiralty – and the Naval Reserve.

The Third Space Lord commands the fixed defenses – Perimeter Security Command, which owns the Empire’s border-crossing stargaze garrisons, deep-space monitoring arrays, and anti-RKV systems; Fortress Command, which commands monitors, orbital defense grids, and other heavy fixed system defenses; and Tripwire Command, which controls various fixed monitoring satellites, primarily the Interface Defense Matrix at the edge of the Imperial Fringe and the Borderline Defense Matrix where the Worlds meet the Republic. 

Among the Shore Lords’ departments, the Bureau of Ships (“BuShips”) deals with construction and support of the IN’s starships as materiel – incorporating Station Command, which includes all the IN’s space stations and satellites; Cageworks Command, which is shipyards and construction; and Refit and Repair Command, which coordinates maintenance, repairs, upgrades, and yard dog bitching about the state starships were brought to them in. 

The Bureau of Innovation (“BuInnov”) is exactly what it says on the tin. 

The Bureau of Logistics (“BuLog”) is, as its sub-org names imply, just a plug-in to the personnel and logistics services provided by the Eighth Lord of the Admiralty’s Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics. 

And the Bureau of Training (“BuTrain”) contributes training for the IN’s officers and men, including both the Naval Academy section of the Imperial War College, and the Operational Training Command, which coordinates extended post-Academy training aboard ship, and unit work-ups. 

Those looking for conspicuous absences from this diagram will, at this point, have noticed both intelligence (Admiralty Intelligence is one step up, a peer of the IN as a whole, on the org chart) and legal functions (outsourced to the Watch Constabulary, the Office of Investigation and Pursuit, and/or the Three Departments of Impropriety as required, because they hate redundancy…)

Military Matters

(Sorry, folks – I had really meant to give you the next section of Darkness Within today. Unfortunately, I’m feeling pretty plague-ridden right now and can’t really give it the degree of attention it deserves, so instead, I’m giving you some non-fic notes on the evolution of the Imperial Military Service.)

One of the minor things that came up with reference to Trope-a-Day: Semper Fi, in a comment on the G+ share of that post, was the traditional interservice brawl; and something mentioned in my answer to that was the Empire’s lack of any Army-equivalent to fight its Marines-equivalent legionaries. And this, I figured, might give rise to some curiosity as to Just How Things Got That Way, both with the lack of one, and which one turned up lacking.

So let’s look back in history a ways.

Specifically, let’s look back to the Union of Empires, which predated the founding of the actual Empire by 42 years or so. Among the many pieces of geopolitical reasoning that went into motivating this particular unification was a military one: one component, the island-bound Empire of Cestia, had – through its sub-polity, the Alatian Kingdom, the finest fleet on the planet. The other, the continental, mountain-bound Moon-Worshipping Empire of Selenaria had the finest army on the planet. If you were to compare the two, respectively, to the British Royal Navy and the Roman legions at their respective heights, you’d be in the right ballparks.

Naturally, the thought of putting the legions of the one onto the ships of the other, overcoming Selenaria’s geographical boundaries and Cestia’s difficulties operating away from water, and thereby conquering the whole damn world put many, many smiles on the faces of both the admirals in Ethring and the generals in Iselené.

These two organizations became the forerunners of the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Legions, respectively.

(Which is not to say those were the only contributions at the time of the Empire’s founding. Of the other founders, the Deeping had its appropriately terrifyin’ warrior-priests, Veranthyr had some of the best light forest scouts in the business, and the Silver Crescent, in particular Leirin and Telírvess, provided more than its share of what I believe are called quote deeply scary-ass axe-wieldin’ motherfuckers unquote, but the two big professional military elements were the above.)

And then, of course, things evolved over time.

The Legions became more of a Marine-like force very quickly, of course, given that amphibious backstory, and that most of the early Empire’s wars did involve close cooperation with the Navy. That in turn, induced something of a fragmentation: one of the first reorganizations split apart the legions that spent most of their time makin’ war offensively from those with a primarily defensive role, the latter of which became the Home Guard, which in turn evolved into a citizen militia with those units serving as its core and cadre.

And time passed, and the Empire expanded, and the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Legions basically borged all the new forces and their units they acquired in the process into their own organizations: sometimes via methods that required great restructuring and retraining, and sometimes by methods as simple as handing out a new Imperial Star to add to their battle standards and informing the Ancyran Devil Dogs that they were now “the Empress’s Hundred-and-Second, the Devil Dogs”.

And more time passed, and military technology were advanced, and portfolios were shuffled, and people invented the notion of an Air Force, which became the Fourth Lord of Admiralty’s purview for the next considerable time, and so it went on…

Up, at least, until the really big post-space-era reorganization. In which several large changes were made over a relatively short period – of which the most major was combining the Imperial Navy and its air forces – both of which had interests in space and relevant specializations – into a single unified force, filling each others’ competence holes, and whose primary business was space. (And, indeed, which lost most of its air-only and wet navy responsibilities, too.) The legacy of that reorg is still visible in their mixed set of traditions, and the quirk in rank structures that explains why an IN O-5 in the Engineering Branch is a Lieutenant Commander, but an O-5 in the Flight Ops branch is a Squadron Leader.

This also made the Imperial Legions even more Marine-y, as it were, because you can’t invade anywhere in space without the IN taking you there – and because it is sheerly impractical to invade planets across interstellar distances by main force, so the sorts of operations they are specialized for are much more in what we might consider the “marine” mode than the “army” mode. The Empire doesn’t have an army suitable for long-term warfare and occupation, because it is firmly of the opinion that it doesn’t need one.

(This also reassures more than a few of their neighbors, which is a nice side-effect.)

And that brings us up to the modern era. So how does it look now?

Well, the man on the street would probably say, all casual-like, that there are two main branches of the Imperial Military Service, the Navy (in SPAAACE!) and the Legions. And on a very casual level, he’d be right. But there are actually eight, under the nine Lords of Admiralty…

The First Lord of the Admiralty, Protector of the Starways, Warden of the Charted Void, Warlord of the Empire (all of which looks so much nicer on a business card than “Secretary of Defense”) is the one that doesn’t have a branch of his own. He commands the central Admiralty itself, (that having won the nomenclatural coin-toss with the General Staff, back in the day), filling both the equivalent posts of the SecDef and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Core Command, which oversees the Warmains, the appointed supreme-commanders-on-the-spot for each permanent or ad-hoc Theater Command. He’s the most senior military officer, who may be appointed from any of the eight branches, and has full operational command authority.

The Second Lord of the Admiralty is the most senior non-operational officer for the Imperial Navy, as the Third Lord of the Admiralty is for the Imperial Legions, usually both O-14s – Admiral of the Fleet and Captain-General of the Legions, respectively.

The Fourth Lord of the Admiralty is, in the modern era, the O-14 (Lord High Stratarch) in charge of the Stratarchy of Military Unification. That, in turn, amounts to the “department of misc” – in the final reorganization that created the IN and IL in their modern forms, this Stratarchy acquired all the military functions that didn’t fit in either of them: the Empire’s remaining specialized air forces and wet navy forces, for example, along with a variety of other functions too specialized to fit well in the IN and IL, along with some other oddity functions like “privateer liaison”, and so forth.

And then there are the stratarchies created by further modern-era additions.

The Fifth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Data Warfare, which is responsible for making the Empire’s enemies deeply regret that they ever plugged anything into the extranet, and quite possibly that they ever invented electronics.

The Sixth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety, which is in charge of assassinations, sabotage, economic warfare, ecological warfare, financial warfare, and pretty much everything else from the big book of dirty tricks that doesn’t fall under the purview of…

The Seventh Lord of the Admiralty, whose Stratarchy of Warrior Philosophy houses war-lawyers and military memeticists whose function is to use misinformation, meme-attacks, psychological warfare, cultural propaganda, and outright toxic memes to find the strands holding an enemy’s morale, military, economy, society, religion, culture, etc., etc., together and basically unravel them. When your plans for a nice little war are rudely interrupted by a multi-way civil war breaking out at home, it’s the Seventh Lord who strokes his mustache and indulges in evil laughter.

The Eighth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics, which is exactly what it says on the tin, and ensures that everyone else has exactly what they need when they need it, even – or perhaps especially – if it hadn’t occurred to them to ask for it yet.

And the Ninth Lord of the Admiralty, the Commandant of the Guard, commands the Home Guard (remember them?) in maintaining defensive garrisons, fortifications, and facilities and training services for the citizen militia.

Commission

From the Office of the Admiralty
with the Voice and Authority of those Appointed as
Lords of Admiralty
and charged with executing the Aforesaid Office under Power of Authority
descending From Their Imperial Majesties, under the Great Seal.

Ríän Múranios-ith-Murann Elisná

We do hereby constitute and appoint you to the rank of

Sublieutenant

in Their Divine Majesties’ Navy
Requesting and Requiring you in the Voice of their Divine Majesties
and in Accordance with the Imperial Charter
in that rank or in any higher rank to which you may be promoted
to comport yourself as an Officer of the Empire and a Daryteir,
to faithfully observe and execute the Imperial Rules of War,
and Admiralty Instructions for the Governance of Their Divine Majesties’ Naval Service,
and, as the exigencies of war require,
all such Orders and Instructions as you shall from time to time receive from Us
or from your Superior Officers for Their Divine Majesties’ Military Service;
and likewise Requesting and Requiring all Officers, Spacehands, and Spacecraftsmen
subordinate to you according to the said Rules, Instructions, or Orders
to conduct themselves with all due Respect and appropriate Obedience to you,
under the Rules of War.

Given under Our Hands and the Seal of the Office of the Admiralty
this day Gradakhmath 17 in the 7921st year of the Empire

Trope-a-Day: Red Alert

Red Alert: In the Imperial Navy, played with realism (also with the Most Annoying Sound, inasmuch as the alert klaxon is custom-designed to irritate the nerves of every possible sophont listening, simultaneously):

“General quarters!  General quarters!  Set condition one throughout the ship!  This Is Not A Drill!

The Admiralty, Core Command and the Theater Commands in particular, prefers to use Defcon Five as its system, as do the Imperial Emergency Management Authority for states of civil emergency, and the Imperial Security Executive for local security warnings (a.k.a. our “terror alerts” and their “recommended paranoia levels”).

Military installations, the Constabulary, the EMA, hospitals, etc., do often have a bunch of color-coded response codes (“alerts” and “conditions”) to instruct everyone exactly which immediate situation they ought to be responding to, however, so the “emergency squad scramble” aspect of this trope is played straight.

Imaginary Hazard to Navigation

“So, we were about three weeks out from Tanja – that’s in the Glimmerstars, don’ch’know – with the Blood and Gold, us in the Fifty-Eighth, just heading back from some little out-system where we’d been doing the hearts-and-minds thing. Glimmerstars was one of the Expansion Regions back then, for all it’s staid and civilized now.

“I was a green corporal in supply – green right down to the scales – and on the outs with the lads after a little slip-up with the coding that got us a couple of hundred gallons of the standard cleanser we use for the Havocs – our combat exoskeletons – but the perfumed civvie version, and those tight-wires in admin made us use it. The whole damn armory smelled like a startown house o’commercial affection for weeks, but that’s by the by.

“Anyway, on this run one of the vacuum-suckers working maintenance down near our section – this was on the Kinetic Didaxis, and an old nsang ex-merc, as it was the 58th – had decided he didn’t want to be in the Navy after all, but was only five years in, so he figured his best chance was to get out on an incapacity, if y’know what I mean, and the first gimmick he’d thought up was the imaginary skimmer, right? Whenever he was going anywhere more’n a couple of feet he pretended he was riding this thing – start it up, drive it where he wanted to go, shut it back down, signal when he had to turn corners, the works, right down to the last detail. Sounds, too. And he always remembered where the thing was when he wasn’t on it, and soon enough everyone in the section knew where he’d left it. Half of them reckoned they could even see the damn thing.

“So about half a year went by while we shuffled around the outworlds; he’d added a bunch of other stuff to his repertoire by then, and eventually they threw him out, but not on an incapacity, and when he was being marched off he drove his skimmer up to the airlock, shut it off, threw the keys in the recycler – claiming that he wouldn’t need it any more – and that should’ve been the last of that.

“Half the lads in the section could still see the thing sitting there, though – the chiefs weren’t at all happy when they kept walking around it – so in the end a bunch of them went down there in the night-cycle and mimed spacing the damn thing just to put an end to it.”

– MSgt. Vivek mor-Rakenn anecdotes

Meat Machines

CS Drachensvard
holding position 120,000 miles from uncharted drift
Corfeth (Vanlir Edge) System

The sound of retching broke the silence on the bridge. Midshipman Lochran-ith-Lanth, currently manning the tactical/payload position. He’d already clamped his hand over his mouth by the time I glanced over at him, though, and got his reflexes shut down in only a second more. Good man, well trained.

Not that anyone could be blamed for throwing up, seeing this for the first time. Clavíë at Data Ops had penetrated the station’s network without breathing hard, and the images coming back from the internal sensors were enough to turn anyone’s stomach.

Slavery persists in backwater parts of the Periphery, and even the Expansion Regions, much to our embarrassment. But then, we’re the Imperial Navy, not Éjavóné Herself. We can’t vaporize everyone who deserves it all at once.

And everyone knows the reasons: sophont servants, flesh toys, test subjects, cannon fodder, pet victims, and so forth. This, though – this was a very distinct perversion, characteristic of where high technology met low.

After all, it takes a relatively high – and expensive – technology to weave the topological braids of a hard-state neural net processor, or to program an effective software emulation of all of its subtleties. It takes an advanced biotechnology to grow and educate a cortexture that can perform advanced cognitive tasks. But while it takes a firm grasp of sophotechnology to learn how to repurpose an existing neural network…

…it turns out that any transistor-stringing moron can actually do it.

Take a sophont. Preferably an intelligent one, and young and strong enough to survive the process for a long time. “Simplify” them – by which they mean remove any inconvenient limbs, or hair, or anything else not needed in their new role. Dose them up with catacinin, or some other mind-killer drug, and neural plasticizers, then saw off the top of their brain-case, insert the interface electrodes, and seal the hole with sterile plastic. Hook up the life-support system, and box them up. ‘No user serviceable parts inside.’ A week or so of imprinting, and you have a neural-net processor – worth ten-thousand gPt, maybe twenty-five kgAu in one of these backwaters. It’ll last maybe ten years before the flesh gives out, and it’s an order of magnitude cheaper than less ethically defective hardware, unfortunately.

“Communications from the station, Skipper. They – ah, they protest our unprovoked attack, and wish to offer surrender.”

“One response, Máris: ‘Dármódan xalakhassár hál!’ Mr. Lanth, load the primary with AMSM warhead.”

“Captain?”

“You heard me, Mr. Lanth.” At his shocked look, I continued. “There’s nothing that can be done for the ‘cargo’, son. Everyone over there to rescue’s had their brain pithed with a dull knife. The best we can do for them is make sure the ones who did this don’t do it to anyone else. Now: load primary with AMSM.”

“Aye, sir. I mean – aye-aye, sir.”

I tapped the view-mode switch, and watched as the exterior of the slaver station replaced the pitiful sight on the for’ard viewer.

“Primary loaded and standing by, sir,” he reported.

“Fire.”

Consequences

FROM: CORE COMMAND (STRATEGIC READINESS DIVISION)
TO: ADM COMMANDING, HEAVY CAPITAL FLOTILLA
RELAY TO: ALL UNITS, HEAVY CAPITAL FLOTILLA

***** ROUTINE
***** FLEET CONFIDENTIAL E2048
***** STRATEGIC ACTION MESSAGE

FLT ADM QUANDRY, COMMANDING HEAVY CAPITAL FLOTILLA:

  1. THIS MESSAGE CONSTITUTES AN EXERCISE ORDER.
  2. AS OF THE RECEIPT OF THIS MESSAGE, YOU ARE DIRECTED TO PROCEED WITH ALL UNITS UNDER YOUR COMMAND TO THE TAKAVOL (CRESCENT NEBULA) SYSTEM, THERE TO RENDEZVOUS WITH OTHER UNITS OF THE IMPERIAL NAVY. YOUR ARRIVAL IN THE TAKAVOL (CRESCENT NEBULA) SYSTEM MUST OCCUR NO LATER THAN DAY 54 OF YEAR 5919.
  3. UPON ARRIVAL IN THE TAKAVOL (CRESCENT NEBULA) SYSTEM, YOU WILL PLACE YOURSELF UNDER THE COMMAND OF FLT ADM TIRIS DALAEL-ITH-DALASTEL, STRATEGIC READINESS DIVISION.
  4. UNDER THE COMMAND OF FLT ADM DALAEL-ITH-DALASTEL, THE HEAVY CAPITAL FLOTILLA WILL PARTICIPATE IN A SERIES OF WAR GAMES, AGAINST EXPERIMENTAL OPFOR PROVIDED BY OMRD STRATEGIC WEAPONS DIVISION, DESIGNATED IRON MOTHER. THE PURPOSE OF THESE WAR GAMES IS TO TEST FLEET READINESS TO CONTAIN AND CAUTERIZE AN EQUIVALENT-TECHNOLOGY INFESTATION OF BERSERKER PROBES. FURTHER DETAILS WILL BE PROVIDED UPON ARRIVAL.
  5. OPAREA FOR IRON MOTHER IS DESIGNATED AS CRESCENT NEBULA AND ASSOCIATED/INCLUDED VOLUME OF DEEP BLACK.
  6. GOOD HUNTING!
  7. AUTHENTICATION: SILVER GLACIER ORCA SCALPEL WIZARD VOLCANO / 0x99CDB31A8873445D

ADM/FLT CIVÍR VERANTHIDES
FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY

The Drake: Revealed

So let’s talk about the layout of that mainstay of the Imperial fleet, the Drake-class frigate. (The numbers are for deck plans. My own sketches are far too horrible to publish, but… well, there they are.)

External

Like most starships, one could conveniently divide the Drake-class into a pressure hull and a drive bus. It’s a little harder to spot the connection than it is on many ships (like, say, the Cheneos-class freighter) because of the armor, but it’s still there.

The pressure hull is, essentially, the front half of the ship, a round-fronted, slightly-flattened cylinder, for the most part unbroken in its organic curves except for the few openings (stellarium, gun port, airlocks) mentioned below, for the six geodesic spheres – three on each side, arranged fore-to-aft along the mid-line – clamped to the hull, which contain redundant sensor suites, best not placed inside the armor, the four paired cheek-mounted light mass drivers to for’ard, the ship’s secondary weapons, and an antenna suite projecting from the dorsal pressure hull near its after end.

Behind this, the pressure hull stops, but the armor which covers it continues on past the aftmost pressure bulkhead, broadening the hull to port and starboard even as it narrows into the starship’s stubby “wings”. (Which are of course not wings – they’re the secondary radiators; double-sided radiative striping under transparent light armor, encapsulating more bunker space. These are considered the secondary radiators because they’re designed to carry only the life-support and low-power heat load.) The armor back here serves as a cowl wrapping around the propulsion bus, which is the usual tangle of structural trusses, cryocels (for the ship’s limited supply of afterburner antiprotons), spherical and cylindrical tanks (for deuterium/He3-slush fuel and heat-sink goo), auxiliary machinery, and at the aftmost end of that (such that the bunkerage provides additional shielding for the crew), the fusion torches sticking out the open back of the cowl.

(This is, of course, a weak spot in the starship’s armor, but such would the drives be wherever you put them. In practice, the argument goes, when you’re in the furball – well, million-degree drive plasma provides a poor approach vector even for a kinetic weapon, and when you’re not – well, just watch where you point your kilt, okay?)

The external parts of the primary radiators sit on top of and below the cowl; they’re liquid-metal droplet radiators, which extend perpendicular to the secondaries when in use. They’re intended to support full power-and-some-more on the reactors, such that you can make a fast retreat and chill down your heat sinks at the same time.

The lowest deck extends, squared-off and flat-bottomed, a little below the main body of the pressure hull and extends back some way below the cowl; as the large doors at front and aft would indicate, it’s the landing bay.

The hull itself is gorgeous in shimmering military indigo; naturally, leading edges and other salient points are highlighted in intricate swirls of embedded gold-filigree brightwork, just because the IN can and wishes to emphasize that small point. (Close inspection will also note the apertures of attitude-control system thrusters, especially to outboard for the largest moment arms, and scattered black, glassy domes concealing the point-defense laser grid.)

Internal

Internally, the Drake has five decks dorsal-to-ventral. It uses the classic belly-lander arrangement because it’s considered possible to land a frigate planetside, or at least small-planet-side, or operate in atmosphere. (In the latter case, under the “with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine” principle.) Frigate captains rarely want to, though.

Despite that, there’s no artificial gravity on a Drake; while in space, the starship operates in microgravity.

Communication between decks is provided by a pair of elevators/shafts running between decks 1 to 4, and a staircase providing access to deck 0, along with various maintenance ladderways and such (especially in engineering). The elevators don’t run under microgravity conditions; they’re only for use under gravity. Rather, the elevator car is open-topped and is locked down on deck 4 in flight, allowing the shafts to be used as any other passageways.

As far as possible, auxiliary machinery, further storage tanks, etc., are wrapped around the outside of the ship, between the decks and the hull, to use as additional protection in the event of an armor-penetrating strike.

Deck 0

Deck 0, “the loft” is the smallest deck, squeezed in between the ceiling of deck 1 and the hull. Fortunately, it contains (for the most part) spaces which will be unmanned at general quarters or higher readiness states.

Specifically, at the fore end, there’s (1) the captain’s cabin, including a small office and private ‘fresher, from which a central corridor runs aft past (2) and (3), VIP staterooms which include the ‘fresher but not the office, ending at (4) the auxiliary sensory and communications room (approximately beneath the antenna suite mentioned above. Outside this room, a foldaway spiral staircase (i.e. serving as a microgravity shaft in flight) descends to the main corridor of deck 1.

Deck 1

Deck 1 is the first of the three “main” decks of the pressure hull.

Starting from the for’ard end, we begin with (5) the stellarium, which is literally the only room on the ship with windows, of which it has a continuous strip around the periphery and overhead. It also, being intended to entertain visitors and provide somewhere to get away from inside for a moment, comes with comfortable microgravity-adaptive seating, a few potted plants, and a wet bar.

More important for military purposes, while the windows are tough, they aren’t that tough, and as such the armor layer passes comfortably behind it, and access is through a sequential pair of spacetight doors. Naturally, it’s unmanned at general quarters or higher.

Behind this, another central corridor runs aft past (6), a conference lounge to port, and (7) an office for ship’s business – usually the Flight Administrator’s domain – to starboard, reaching the for’ard entrance to (8) the bridge/CIC, which takes up the full width of the ship in the center of the deck.

The aft entrance to the bridge/CIC opens into a second central corridor, this time passing (9), the server room containing the ship’s primary “dumb” servers and avionics systems to port, and (10), the ship’s AI’s cogence core and primary mentality substrate to starboard, terminating in a five-way junction containing the access to deck 0. To port and starboard, a cross-corridor terminates at the elevators/shafts, each with a ‘fresher located adjacent; aft, a door provides access to (11) the maneuvering room, in the form of a well-insulated gallery overlooking (12) the engineering space, which spans all three main decks.

(Secure backups for the cogence core and the substrate also exist buried in the middle of the propulsion bus section.)

Deck 2

Deck 2 is the central deck of the ship, and to a large extent is divided into two non-communicating parts. As a frigate, the Drake-class is built around its main gun, which occupies the axis of the ship and thus the center of the deck. While access is possible to the mass driver chamber (which can even be pressurized, with the gun port in the bow closed, for maintenance), it’s normally kept evacuated and is not, in any case, a very comfortable place to be.

The mass driver runs down the center of the deck from the gun port at the bow to (13) its “breech”, which sits directly against the engineering space bulkhead. Straddling it on either side are (14), the magazines for its k-slugs, which are also kept evacuated under normal conditions for ease of autoloader operation.

Starting this time from the aft end of the ship, at far port and starboard against the engineering bulkhead are the elevators/shafts and the associated adjacent ‘freshers, and the accesses directly to the engineering space. Corridors lead forward from these against the inner hull until they pass the magazines, at which point they turn inwards to reach, and proceed to the bow against, the central mass driver (for ease of accessing the driver coils for maintenance from these corridors).

On the port side, the majority of the space for’ard of this corridor is given over to (15) the medical bay, and at its for’ard end (16), the nano/cryostorage unit, used both for patients in need of return to fuller hospital facilities and doubling as the ship’s brig.

(It should be noted that the medical facilities are quite limited; the nature of the space combat environment is such that the window between “fine” and “chunky salsa” is quite narrow, and as such the medical bay is oriented more toward treating illness and minor injuries among the crew than it is to handling massive combat casualties.)

On the starboard side, the equivalent space is used for (17), a combined laboratory, workshop, and engineering support area.

The remainder of the space for’ard of these, behind the avionics area at the bow, contains the equivalent of two small rooms on either side (18, 19, 20, 21), connected by double spacetight doors; this is the modular function area. With sufficient engineering support and at a yard, these independently-encapsulated areas are designed to be disconnected from the ship’s infrastructure and framework, pulled out as a whole – along with their associated outer-hull plate and armor – and replaced with other modular capsules of equivalent specification. This feature permits the Drake-class to be customized for special functions – such as the electromagnetic radiation shielding we saw at the Battle of Eye-of-Night – much more flexibly than would otherwise be possible.

As mentioned, main access to the (12) engineering space is on this deck, although catwalks lead up and down to the lower level and to the maneuvering room gallery. The nearer part of the engineering deck contains a variety machinery, although also housing to port and starboard the two auxiliary fusion plants used to provide power to the starship when the drive is shut down. Beyond it, a half-octagon wraps around the bulk of the vector-control core and the reaction wheels, containing in their own sections the (22) life support systems to port, and the (23) robot hotels for the ship’s mechanicals to starboard.

Amidships between these, a small airlock and external robot hotel provides access to an unpressurized maintenance crawlway running through the propulsion bus. Normally, this is only used by robots or for occasional yard maintenance; radiation levels are unhealthy back there with the drive running, to say the least, but access may be necessary in emergencies.

Deck 3

Deck 3 is primarily the crew deck. At the for’ard end, along the centerline, is the (24) mindcast receiving room, allowing visitors received as infomorphs to borrow one of the ship’s spare bodies for the duration of their visit; aft of that, a cross-corridor links the (25) port and (26) starboard airlocks, each of which is accompanied by a small conning station (usually disabled) for use while docking.

Aft of that, another small room serves as a quarterdeck/reception area and security post. From there, a central corridor leads aft through the (27) crew quarters – the corridor itself is lined with access hatches to what are, in effect, double-sized personnel capsules – to the (28) comfortably furnished mess deck, which incorporates a (29) standing galley to port, and the (30) ship’s locker to starboard. Beyond the mess deck, hatches to port and starboard – a design choice permitting a large screen to be mounted on the mess deck’s after bulkhead – lead through inner-hull-hugging corridors past the (31) accumulator room to port, and the (32) auxiliary control room and (33) a small gymnasium to starboard, to another cross-corridor against the engineering bulkhead, providing access to the elevators/shafts and the ‘freshers on this level. However, there is no routine access to the engineering space on this deck.

Deck 4

Deck four, slung beneath the ship, is primarily its (33) landing bay; one large space, extending fore to aft. Space is reserved at port for the (34) armory, used to equip shore parties if necessary, and at starboard for a (35) second workshop space. These are each located for’ard of the elevators/shafts which open into a small hallway offering access both to these, and to an airlock opening into the landing bay. There are no associated ‘freshers on this deck.

A Drake-class frigate is typically equipped with a single cutter, an interface vehicle, or both; the relatively large landing bay permits it to also store the frigate’s complement of drones, and to serve as a cargo bay to such extent as space permits. Overhead manipulators permit vehicles to be moved to engage with either the fore or aft mass catapult for launching, reshuffling of the cargo, or retasking of the cutter, as desired.

Flight operations are handled from the bridge/CIC. The bay can be pressurized with both doors closed, but at general quarters or higher readiness states operates unpressurized to expedite operations and avoid unnecessary risks.

(For those paying attention to the implications: yes, the very same vector control tech that lets you make kinetic barriers lets you make nice air curtains that would hold air in even with the door open, while still letting you fly in and out. [Well, mostly: for molecular statistical reasons, they leak, but it’s manageable.] Some civilian ships use those for the convenience. Military ships prefer not to have unexpected depressurization incidents when someone gets a lucky shot in on the emitters when they don’t have to. Sure, it’s a pain to have to wear a skinsuit all the time, but you’re in the Navy now! Also, you’re less likely to get brained by a flying spanner if there were to be a curtain oops.)

Ships of the Fleet

So, in today’s piece of worldbuilding, have an analysis and explication of the different classes – or the different types, rather – of military starships operated by the Imperial Navy. (The basis for the ternary plot I’m using is, of course, Winchell Chung’s analysis here, so you might want to go read that first if you’re not familiar with the concept, then come back here.)

Types

shipgrid05The chart on the right illustrates the differences between the various types and classes of warship in common use by the Imperial Navy by their P/D/W ratio – i.e., the relative trade-off between propulsion, defenses, and weapons (i.e. offensive armament):

“in common use” should be read as “not counting all the weird-ass specialist ships we build for special cases”; also, it doesn’t include auxiliary vessels (oilers, hospital ships, etc.) since they’re not operated by the IN, but by the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics.

Battleships, Dreadnoughts and Superdreadnoughts

“I am an Imperial Mandate-class dreadnought, and you are within a million miles of me. Ergo, you continue to exist solely on my sufferance.”

an early experiment in AI captaincy

Battleships, dreadnoughts, and superdreadnoughts (B, D, S on the chart) are capital or supercapital ships mounting heavy long-range firepower as their primary function.

These types, the ships of the wall, are the kings of the outer engagement envelope, engaging each other with powerful weaponry at ranges of up to two light-minutes, and rarely closing beyond one to two light-seconds range (a zero/zero intercept at this residual range is considered a “set-piece” battle). They are the purest of all naval vessels in function, existing simply to counteract each other in the battlespace of major fleet actions, or to own the volume of space they can dominate if not opposed; the ultimate argument of star navies.

The principal difference between two of the three types is simply mass and volume; doctrinally, the majority of the ships of the wall of any given time should be of battleship classes, with their larger cousins the dreadnoughts providing heavier stiffening formations to the wall and occasional nasty surprises.

Because while it sure would be nice to build nothing except dreadnoughts, even nearly-post-scarcity economics doesn’t stretch to overbuilding everything just in case.

Superdreadnoughts, while sometimes referring to particularly large dreadnought classes, more typically refer to ships falling in the dreadnought type by mass, while using much of their internal volume for specialized systems: typical examples would include the command superdreadnought, the information-warfare superdreadnought, the anti-RKV superdreadnought, and so forth.

Mauler Superdreadnoughts

One example of this listed separately (L on the chart) since its P/D/W ratio moves it well outside the standard range is the mauler superdreadnought. In this case, the specialized systems in question are a very, very large mass driver or laser, with propulsion and defensive systems stripped back to accommodate it.

Mauler superdreadnoughts are not considered ships of the wall, but rather are specialized vessels used to attack specific hardened targets. Since their low speed and weak defenses render them vulnerable “glass cannons”, they are typically operated as part of a task force including close-in point-defense cruisers, and only brought up once opposing fleets and mobile defenses have been cleared away; however, in their specialty role of cracking hardened fixed bases, they’re unequalled.

Hyperdreadnoughts

The “hyperdreadnought” is a peculiarly unique version of the superdreadnought type, of which the Empire fields three, each unique within its class; Invictus, Imperiatrix, and God of War.  In order, they are the home of Admiralty Grand Fleet Operations, the Imperial Couple’s personal flagship, and the literal embodiment of the archai/eikone of war.  Any one of them turning up in the battlespace would have implications that, by and large, no-one wants to think about thinking about.

Battlecruisers and Cruisers

The backbone of the fleet, battlecruisers and cruisers (C on the chart) are middle-weight combatants, more heavily armed than destroyers and frigates, and yet more maneuverable than battleships and larger ships of the wall. Most cruisers also maintain limited AKV facilities. They are perhaps the best balanced (between operational aspects) of any of the Imperial Navy’s standard types. The distinction between cruisers and battlecruisers is simply one of mass and volume, with battlecruisers identifying the significantly larger and heavier classes of the type.

In fleet operations, battlecruisers and cruisers serve as screening elements and operate on the fringes of the close-in battlespace, maneuvering aggressively for advantage. For the most part, however, these middle-weight combatant types are intended for patrol operations and long-endurance “space control” missions, sometimes alone and sometimes in flotillas, as well as serving as the IN’s go-to types for independent missions of almost any type. In areas of heavy patrol activity, cruisers may lead destroyer or frigate flotillas into action.

Cruisers are also the type within which most variation exists, and cruiser classes may wander quite far from the indicated P/D/W ratio. Of particular note here is the point-defense cruiser (“pd” on the chart), the one type which you might see as a ship-of-the-formation, stripped of most of its offensive armament in exchange for point-defense enhanced to the point of augmenting that of other ships, but many other specialized varieties exist: the assault cruiser (optimized for planetary assaults, i.e., heavy on the ship’s troops and capable of launching drop shuttles and drop pods into atmosphere; some of these are aerospace cruisers, which atmospheric interceptors can sortie from before there’s an orbithead established); the diplomatic cruiser (a big stick to transport the softly-speaking); and the interdictor cruiser (specializing in the volume-security mission, which is to say, to chase down, capture and board other starships).  The primary battlecruiser variants are the command battlecruiser (optimized to carry the admiral commanding a CC/BC task force) and the carrier-battlecruiser (which carries AKVs – see below – as well as its internal armament; this is the type of battlecruiser usually found operating alone, due to its significantly enhanced operational envelope and capabilities).

Due to their versatility, the IN maintains a greater tonnage of battlecruisers and cruisers in commission than starships of any other types.

Destroyers and Frigates

Destroyers and frigates (D, F on the chart) are small, fast, maneuverable ships used for screening larger vessels, as escorts, and for patrol work. On their own, their capacity is severely limited, for which reason they typically operate in flotillas assigned together.

As with the above two types, the most obvious difference between destroyers and frigates is their mass and volume. That said, the strict difference between these two types is that while a destroyer may possess very limited broadside armament, due to its limited volume, it does possess it. A frigate, however, possesses no broadside armament; its spaceframe is essentially constructed around its primary gun.

Like cruisers, destroyers and frigates are designed for the “close-in” battlespace – with the understanding that close-in, in space terms, means anything under one light-second of separation. Indeed, these types arguably dominate this battlespace, since they form the majority of the IN’s screening forces, whereas cruisers are largely incidental to “set-piece” naval engagements. In this area, they use their superior maneuverability to both engage each other with wolf-pack tactics and to swarm larger ships at close-in range. Their lesser defensive capabilities than their larger cousins reflects the intention that they should substitute speed and maneuverability, avoiding being hit, for the ability to withstand taking one.

Destroyers and frigates are also intended to serve in escort and patrol roles in relatively safe space, where antipiracy patrol is the main concern (a flotilla of destroyers or frigates is considered an effective counter to a single cruiser-class vessel, which would be a rare high-end encounter under such circumstances); and in small numbers and specialist classes as scouts, avoiding engagement entirely.

Some frigate classes, uniquely among naval vessels, are capable of atmospheric entry and landing. Such frigates occasionally serve an additional role with Imperial Naval Intelligence.

Autonomous Kill Vehicles (AKVs)

AKVs (A on the chart) – autonomous kill vehicles – are extremely smart multi-bus, multi-munition, multi-mission missiles. An AKV is, in effect, a small, stripped-down, AI-piloted starship – capable of much higher acceleration and greater maneuverability than a standard design, albeit with much less endurance – designed to act in multiple roles: as a mobile reconnaissance platform; as a “fighter craft” used to swarm and destroy larger starships from inside their own point-defense zones; or, when it loses all other fighting ability, as a kinetic energy weapon in its own right.

As indicated on the chart, AKVs have essentially no defensive weapons of their own; the intent is that they should substitute their vast advantage in speed and maneuverability for armor and point-defense.

Monitors

A monitor (M on the chart), in essence, is a fixed base – an orbiting station or asteroid base – used for local defense. Their W/D ratio is skewed more towards defense than the ship-of-the-wall types, since unlike those, they lack even minimal maneuverability to avoid incoming fire or to retreat from the battlespace; on the other hand, their lack of concern for acceleration or other propulsive matters means that there is effectively no upper limit on the mass of the weapons or defenses that a monitor can mount, and asteroid-based monitors may make extensive use of the asteroid’s mass as armor and heatsink both.

Carriers

Carriers (V on the chart) are battleship or dreadnought-sized vessels which eschew armament of their own in exchange for carrying a large number of AKVs, along with AKV replenishment supplies, strap-on AKV thruster packs, observation platforms, etc. Since they are not generally maneuverable enough or well enough protected (the massive flight deck of a carrier is essentially a corridor through the armor into the heart of the vessel) to survive heavy attack, they are usually held back from engagements, and as such their designs heavily emphasize point- and local-space defense over additional propulsion.

Assault carriers

Assault carriers – i.e., those carrying dropships rather than AKVs – also fall into this category. The same general operational rules apply; they are held well back from any engagements, and do not move in to the target area until the high orbitals have already been cleared of the enemy.

Starfighters / Scouts

Starfighters (“sf” on the chart) are not manned fighter-class vessels. (The intersecting rules of physics, economics, and tactical effectiveness do not, in the general case, support a fighter-class of spacecraft in direct analogy to fighter aircraft. Rather, such craft can be replaced trivially by an equivalent vessel removing the biosapient pilot, their life support, and the ensuing limitations on maneuverability, acceleration, and computational performance, and replacing them with a computronium block; in effect, converting the spacecraft into an unmanned AKV.)

Rather, starfighters and scouts are essentially mini-carriers, suitable for operation by a very small crew, or even on occasion a single sophont, dedicated to the special operations and reconnaissance roles. They are small, no-frills starships designed to carry a limited, but still useful, number of AKVs or observation probes in exterior clamps. On arrival at their target, the AKVs or probes are then released to carry out the mission, while the starfighter itself serves as a command post, repair and replenishment depot, and coordination node in the tactical ‘mesh.

Couriers

Couriers (“o” on the chart) are simply militarized (in construction standard) versions of the equivalent civilian type. While remaining, for the most part, “all engine”, military couriers add limited defensive and extremely limited offensive capability to give them at least minimal survivability in the event that they must pass through an engagement envelope; doctrine, on the other hand, demands that couriers should avoid engagement at all costs utilizing their superior acceleration and maneuverability to any other warship type.

The Breakfast Of Champions

DROPSHIPS: EMPIRE OF THE STAR

The final entry in this section, affectionately known to the Imperial Legions as the “Big Ugly Breakfast 1” – and less affectionately known to almost everyone else as “Good gods, what is that thing?” – is the Flapjack-class cavalry dropship (Eye-in-the-Flame Arms/Artifice Armaments). Uniquely among Imperial starship designs, the Flapjack has adopted the rare “disk” or “saucer” hull form. It does this because the Flapjack-class is equipped with not merely a single, but a pair of nuclear-pulse drives, using the relatively environmentally friendly laser-fusion or (in the Flapjack II) antimatter options, the descent and deceleration drives; the dorsal and ventral hulls of these ships are in effect simply the pusher plates for these drives. The main body of the vessel, suspended between these on hydraulic dampers, is a short, wide cylinder, heavily structurally reinforced and itself surrounded by  “sidewall” armor as thick and refractory as the pusher plates.

The intended usage of the Flapjack is orbital insertion of armored vehicles, en masse, into hot zones. To enable this, after being decoupled from a carrier in the high orbitals of a planet under attack, the Flapjack uses its descent drive to accelerate downwards through the atmosphere, minimizing dwell time within range of orbital and anti-air defenses. In addition, while the descent of a Flapjack obviously has far too bright a sensor signature to be concealed, the combination of the radiation hash from the descent drive’s thrust bombs and the plasma sheath formed by its hypersonic atmospheric transit together render it extremely difficult for weapons systems to attain successful guidance lock, and terminal guidance (especially to the fine degree necessary to insert a weapon into the narrow window of vulnerability between the pusher plates and the sidewall armor, even if the weapon is capable of surviving and maneuvering in the immediate environment of an active nuclear-pulse drive) virtually impossible.

At the end of its descent trajectory, the Flapjack uses the more powerful thrust bombs of its deceleration drive to perform a “suicide burn”; i.e., maximal deceleration at minimum altitude, compatible with lithobraking in a manner which preserves the integrity of the ventral pusher plate. This deceleration burn serves the additional functions of preparing the drop zone for the arrival of the dropship by flattening any structures or prepared defenses, and eliminating any but the most heavily armored, secured, and radiation-proofed resistance in the immediate area. Once the ground is reached, multiple armored cargo access doors with integral ramps and excavation drones permit the Flapjack to be actively discharging combat vehicles within minutes of a successful landing.

A proposal for an infantry dropship along the lines of the Flapjack, tentatively designated the Pancake-class, has been advanced by Eye-in-the-Flame Arms, but at the present time the high-radiation aftermath of such a vessel’s landing is not considered viable for personnel wearing M-70 Havoc combat exoskeletons or N45 Garrex field combat armor, the current legionary standards. While this would not be a problem for troops equipped with the specialized N45r Callérás high-rad field combat armor, its associated disadvantages and the expense of refit ensure that, for the foreseeable future, infantry will continue to be landed via drop shuttle (q.v.)

– Naval Starships of the Associated Worlds, INI Press, Palaxias, 421st ed.


1. A statistically improbable number of combat drops take place at planet dawn.

Trope-a-Day: Space Is An Ocean

Space Is An Ocean: Partially played straight, partially (and in all the scientific ways) averted.  In rough order of examples:

The Imperial Navy does use some wet-naval terminology and protocol – but then, that’s only logical, because it was the wet navy that had all the experience in running small-town-sized vessels in hostile environments for extended periods of time, with little direction from home – just like starships.  But if you were to examine this matter in detail, IN terminology and routines are probably about one-third wet navy, one-third air force, and one-third unique to their new environment.

(Also, while there are some class analogies to be made… and while there may not be schooners and canoes, there are clippers among the lighthuggers, and there are Space Junks, of exactly that kind, among the free traders… there are no lifeboats, escape pods, etc.  Since Space Does Not Work That Way.)

Space is definitely not two-dimensional.  In fact, one of the major impetuses for even fairly backward and morphological-freedom-hating species (of non-aquatic or non-avian heritage, anyway) to get with some of the transsophont program is that splicing the ability to handle the third dimension, at least, into your brain is one of the things most useful in preventing your fleet from losing horribly to anyone with a better head for strategy.

Space, obviously, does not have friction.

The IN does use naval ranks (except in the Flight Ops department, which uses air force ranks – translated British-style), but doesn’t use naval command structure (see here).  And the IN’s ship’s troops aren’t marines, because the Empire doesn’t have a separate service for such; they’re just that portion of the Imperial Legions that happens to serve on starships, and as such, they’re still just called “legionaries”.

The Bridge is always located as close to the center of the vessel as possible, with the only proviso being the need to keep it a decent distance from the backup bridges.  And has no windows.  Only an idiot puts their bridge somewhere it’s likely to get shot off.

And since most military vessels are in inertially-damped microgravity, internally, the decks are in whatever layout is most convenient, whether tail-lander, belly-lander, or more outré, with no particular need to match each other, never mind a consistent orientation to the direction of flight.  Likewise, there is no distinction between “top”, “bottom”, or indeed “sides” on anything that doesn’t do planet landings – shipboard directions such as “port”, “starboard”, “dorsal” and “ventral” are defined by angle around the thrust axis – and indeed, radial symmetry is probably more common than bilateral in ship designs.

While there are some (artificially engineered) Space Whales, space is definitely not chock full of them.  And there is also a distinct shortage of Negative Space Wedgies like ion storms, etc., hanging around.  Mostly, space is full of empty.  That’s why it’s called space.

Non-Standard Starship Scuffles

(So there’s this trope which I missed when I originally put my list together (and which I will no doubt get to again in due course).

It’s called Standard Starship Scuffle, and it pretty much encapsulates every TV-scifi cliche imaginable. So, y’know, since I now have various fictive people critiquing it in my head with extra sarcasm, here’s some metafictional commentary on the way things actually work:)

Detection and Stealth

Before you can engage the enemy, you must first detect the enemy. Paradoxically, this is both extremely easy, and rather difficult.

To begin with, detection itself is easy. There is, to sum up many an armchair strategist’s lament, no stealth in space. Running the life support alone makes a starship stand out 300K hotter – for warm-blooded oxygen-breathers – than the background of space. Using power plant, thrusters, weapons systems, or anything else aboard only makes it more visible. Starships stand out plainly against the near-absolute cold of space, even across entire star systems, and this is inescapable.

Stealth, such as it is, would be better described as masquerade. One cannot avoid being detected; but one may be able to avoid being identified, or identified correctly. Performing such masquerades by altering one’s sensor signature is an important part of the function of a military starship’s defense drones.

It is difficult, on the other hand, because light, that sluggard, imposes an absolute limit on the currency of the data available. No sensor yet developed is capable of detecting objects in real time at a distance: at best, one can see what the situation was when light left that region.

Longscan

The answer to this is longscan.

Shortscan is what one’s own starship’s sensors, passive and active, are reporting.

Longscan, on the other hand, is the informational gestalt of that shortscan information along with all informational available from other sources (other starships in one’s formation or elsewhere in the system; tactical observation platforms; civilian navigation buoys or stargates, when available; and so forth), along with AI predictive extrapolations of what each starship or other object visible in longscan has done since the last update and/or will do, based on further extrapolations of what their longscan is telling them – and projections, likewise, of what they can know about your actions.

(Establishing this is in turn complicated by the nature of the tactical networks that provide that informational gestalt; modern navies provide their ships with tangle channel FTL communications between themselves and their own observation platforms, but since tangle-channel relays are point-to-point, this does not apply to most civilian sources except, in wealthier systems, as relays between STL EM communications buoys. Determining the “shape of the information wave” – who can know what, and when – is one of the most complex problems a warship’s tactical department faces.)

All of this information is displayed upon the tactical display, along with probability and reliability estimates, in graphical form. Learning how to read these tactical displays at a glance is, in itself, a significant part of naval officer training.

Observation Platforms

One of the greatest advantages one can have, therefore, is expanding one’s informational gestalt. Thus, virtually all military starships carry observation platforms with them for ad hoc deployment; and indeed, most navies routinely seed their own systems (and neutral systems in which they may operate) with dormant, concealed observation platforms awaiting activation when necessary by starships on the scene.

It is, of course, much harder to sneak concealed observation platforms into the sovereign systems of other polities, current enemy or not, and as such the information advantage in invasion scenarios is almost always with the defender.

Information Warfare

The nature of this data environment highlights the importance of information warfare in naval operations. One of the most valuable things it is possible to achieve, when still maneuvering for engagement, is to successfully infiltrate the tactical network of the opposing force. While direct stealth in space is impossible, the ability to distort one’s sensor signature, inject fake signatures, and otherwise falsify the information upon which one’s opponent is basing their tactical decisions is extremely valuable.

As a result, any major naval engagement is invariably accompanied by high-intensity information warfare, as each side attempts to corrupt the tactical networks and other data systems of the other.

An even greater coup, of course, is to penetrate the internal networks of an opposing starship and, having established a degree of computer control, simply order it to drop its kinetic barriers, shut down its point defense, vent its fuel, disable its life support, or otherwise change sides. Although remarkably difficult to achieve at the best of times, such a victory is almost always complete.

Offensive Systems

Mass Drivers

The main weapons system of most military starships, mass drivers propel solid, dense-metal slugs at extremely high velocities (a respectable fraction of c). These are usually pure kinetic energy weapons (KEWs); at the velocities attained by the projectiles, the damage done by KE alone renders most warheads superfluous.

(While provision is made on some larger vessel classes to add antimatter warheads to mass driver projectiles, it is usually thought that the increased potential for damage is more than offset by the additional potential risk posed by a magazine full of antimatter.)

Of these, the primary is usually a spinal mount weapon (since a longer accelerator barrel is capable of achieving higher terminal velocities, and therefore greater impact), aimed by pointing the entire ship, although most of these are capable of firing between 30 and 40 degrees off-bore by magnetic field adjustments. Larger ship classes include banks of “broadside” railguns, capable of firing both forward and to the side, for additional flexibility.

Lasers

Usually considered the secondary weapons system, the majority of military starships also mount banks of “broadside” lasers separate from the point-defense laser grid, intended to pump heat into targeted enemy vessels. Due to the nature of modern armor (see below) they rarely do significant direct damage, but contribute significantly to the task of wearing down one’s opponent.

AKVs

AKVs – autonomous kill vehicles – are extremely smart multi-bus, multi-munition, multi-mission missiles.

An AKV is, in effect, a small, stripped-down, AI-piloted starship – capable of much higher acceleration and greater maneuverability than a standard design, albeit with much less endurance – designed to act in multiple roles – as a mobile reconnaissance platform; as a “fighter craft” used to swarm and destroy larger starships from inside their own point-defense zones; or, when it loses all other fighting ability, as a kinetic energy weapon in its own right.

Other

For the sake of completeness, it is also worth mentioning two other potential offensive systems. These are:

First, gravitic weapons: which are not a specific weapons system in themselves, but which constitute repurposing standard tractor-pressor functionality in order to grab, shake, crush, shear, etc. other vessels. These do possess a slight advantage inasmuch as they cannot be shielded against other than by precise counteruse of one’s own gravitics, and as such software for this is included in most tactical suites. However, since using such weapons requires closing to a range far below even “knife-fight” range and placing oneself not only within the inner engagement envelope but deep within the point defense envelope of one’s opponent, they are almost never of any practical use.

Second, one’s drive, the high-temperature emissions from any reaction drive in use being very readily weaponizable; anything in the danger zone when such a drive is activated tends to melt like wax under a plasma torch. Its practical limitation, however, for any drive smaller than a lighthugger’s, is again that one must close upon the enemy to an unacceptable degree before this use is possible – although leftover superheated and/or radioactive emissions may pose an environmental hazard in a “knife-fight range” battlespace.

Defensive Systems

The innermost of a starship’s defensive systems is its armor. The primary armor is a multilayer (“honeycomb”) system over the core hull, composed of multiple vacuum-separated layers of refractory cerametals, sapphiroids, and artificially dense metal nanocomposites, strapped together via flexible, shock-absorbing forms. Atop this, a thick sprayed-on layer of foamed-composite ablative armor (whose vaporized form is designed to scatter incoming energy weapon fire) provides additional protection.

To provide thermal protection, each of these layers is threaded through with a mesh of thermally superconducting material, preventing heat input from lasers or other energy weapons from creating localized “hot spots”. This mesh spreads out external heat inputs, and ultimately dumps them into tanks of “thermal goo”, an artificial substance of very high specific heat capacity. Under normal circumstances, this heat is disposed of via the ship’s radiative striping and external radiators, but if necessary, the thermal goo can be vented to space, taking its heat (and, unfortunately, its heat capacity) with it.

Outside the armor, starship defenses come in three more layers:

First and innermost, the kinetic barriers. These are not a single, all-encompassing bubble; rather, they are a grid of plates of gravitic force, instantiated as needed to intercept incoming material objects. (They cannot shield against massless radiation.) They don’t attempt to directly retard incoming projectiles; rather, their job is to “slap them aside”, imposing enough sideways vector on them to generate a miss.

Outside that, the defense drones: a military starship at general quarters surrounds itself with a “cloud” of small defense drones, serving multiple purposes: as electronic warfare platforms to obscure its signature; as participants in the kinetic-barrier generation and point-defense grid; as additional sensors; and ultimately, as sacrificial platforms capable of physically intercepting incoming projectiles or AKVs before they reach the ship itself.

Outermost is the point-defense zone guarded by the point-defense laser grid, extending substantially outward from the ship itself. Composed of phased-array plasma lasers which can be generated across large regions of the starship’s hull, the point-defense grid is used to vaporize incoming projectiles (or to use partial vaporization to decelerate incoming projectiles for the kinetic barriers and armor to deal with more effectively) and to force AKVs operating nearby – which have relatively little heat-dissipation capacity – into thermal shutdown.

The point-defense laser grid can also be used as an offensive weapon against any other starships unwise enough to stray into its range, but few captains are stupid enough to bring their starship into another ship’s point-defense zone.

The final defensive system that any starship has is drunkwalking: when at any alert state higher than peacetime cruising, every military starship engages in a pseudo-random “drunk walk” of vector changes around its station-keeping point or base course. This ensures that the starship is almost impossible to achieve a firing solution upon from a distance, since its movement since your most current observation of the target is unknown, and further increases the difficulty of achieving a solid firing solution in close.

(Of course, this depends greatly upon the quality of your drunkwalk algorithms and that they have been kept secure from the opposing force, which again underscores the importance of information warfare in the modern battlespace. A starship whose base course is identifiable and whose drunkwalk algorithms are known is a sitting duck even in the outer engagement envelope!)

A Note on Classes

The armament mix described above is accurate, in a well-balanced form, for cruiser and battlecruiser class military starships. These have been chosen as representative for the purpose of tactical illustration, as the classes designed specifically to operate independently.

Other, more specialized classes have different armament mixes (comparing, for instance, the mass driver-heavy armament of a battleship or a destroyer with the AKV-heavy armament of a carrier) intended to operate in interdependent squadrons. Operations involving these classes will not be covered in detail at this level, although certain specific details will be mentioned where relevant.

Engagement Envelopes

All battles in space take place at what are, by groundside standards, extremely long ranges, measured in ten-thousands, hundred-thousands, or millions of miles. Not only do these battles take place outside visual “eyeball” range, but even starships in the same formation are outside visual range of each other, being hundreds or thousands of miles apart. (Closer formations would pose both an unacceptably high risk of collision under battle conditions, when ships in the formation are drunkwalking independently, and would be likely to cause point-defense fratricide.)

The only exception to this rule are AKVs themselves (even when not acting as auxiliary KEWs), which often come within single-digit mile distances of their targets; i.e., operating effectively inside the innermost point-defense zone.

Outer Envelope: The Wolves at Hunt

The outer engagement envelope begins, depending on various environmental factors, at between one to one-half light-minutes range.

Battles taking place in the outer engagement envelope are essentially always inconclusive. While historical examples of lucky hits from these ranges do exist, the probabilities of such are sufficiently low that no-one would count on them; and at such ranges, it is virtually always possible for the weaker opponent to disengage at will.

(The exception being, of course, when someone has managed to sneak an observation platform in close to the opposing force without them noticing it, which gives them a great – albeit temporary – advantage in generating long-range firing solutions.)

Rather, the purpose of engagements in the outer envelope is to wear down an opponent closing upon one’s inner envelope, forcing them to generate heat and expend point-defense resources; and to herd opponents away from the danger zones generated by one’s fire.

While it is impossible, without both fortunate geometry and superior acceleration, for a single force to bring an opposing force to battle if it is actively trying to refuse such, it is sometimes possible through strategic outer-envelope engagement and misdirection to force them to pass through the inner engagement envelope of one of a set of multiple forces (including, for this purpose, fixed system defenses). This is the end to which tactics are directed in the outer engagement envelope.

At these ranges, the primary weapons are the spinally-mounted mass drivers of larger ship classes. Carriers may attempt to use “missiles” – actually strap-on, discardable thruster packs – to deliver AKVs close in to the opposing force, but many captains prefer to reserve their AKVs for inner-envelope battles where they can be better supported.

Inner Envelope: Let’s Dance

The inner, close-range engagement envelope – in which actual battles are fought – begins at roughly a light-second of separation. This reflects the difficulties of accurately targeting an opponent engaged in active evasion (drunkwalking, ECM, etc.) when the light-lag is greater than that; essentially, you have to close to within a light-second to get a firing solution whose hit probability is significant.

Reaching the inner engagement envelope implies either that one party is attacking or defending a specific fixed installation (such as a planetary orbit, drift-habitat, or stargate), or that both parties have chosen engagement. It is relatively rare for such battles to take place in open space otherwise, since in the absence of clear acceleration superiority, it is usually easy for the weaker party to disengage before entering their opponent’s inner engagement envelope. The only way to guarantee that an opponent will stand and fight is to attack a strategic nexus that they must retain control over.

Within the inner engagement envelope, all weapons come into play. Light lag becomes low enough that information warfare can come into play in full force, firing solutions are usually possible on all craft, and AKVs have the range and maneuverability to be committed.

As the opposing forces enter the inner engagement envelope, larger ship classes typically keep their distance, maintaining formation and lateral drunkwalk evasion, as they engage in mass driver artillery duels.

Cautious admirals also hold their screening forces back at this point, preferring to weaken the enemy force before pressing further. More aggressive admirals press in immediately, moving their lighter squadrons into the center of the battlespace and deploying AKVs likewise.

Unlike the larger ships, cruisers maneuver aggressively for advantage, forming the characteristic “furball” as fleets intermingle; once this stage is reached, it becomes very difficult to retreat in good order. Cruisers attack each other with close-in, off-bore mass driver projectiles and heat-pumping lasers; the highly maneuverable destroyers and frigates engage in “wolf-pack” tactics throughout the battlespace, both targeting each other, and swarming damaged larger ships at relatively close range.

Knife-fight Range

Any battle in which the battlespace is smaller than a tenth of a light-second in diameter is referred to as taking place at “knife-fight” range. Such engagements usually occur around fixed points when the attack is pressed hard, are short and vicious, and typically result in extraordinarily high casualties – usually for both sides.

Defeat

Unlike starship armor, neither the point-defense laser grid nor the kinetic barriers are subject to direct attrition; if subjected to low-volume or low-power incoming fire, either or both could continue to destroy or repel it essentially forever.

In order to defeat these defensive systems, it is necessary to swamp them; to concentrate incoming fire to the point at which the defensive systems are unable to handle it all simultaneously. At this point, attrition may take effect as kinetic effectors and laser emitters are destroyed, but more importantly, it generates heat.

Heat is the primary limitation on combat endurance. Maneuvering burns, the use of high-energy equipment such as the point-defense grid, the kinetic barriers, and so forth, as well as the ship’s normal operation, all produce heat. In combat – when the ability to radiate heat is limited, usually to radiative striping and small (and exhaustable, if the starship is forced to maneuver) droplet radiators alone – military starships generate heat more rapidly than they can radiate it to space. As heat increases beyond the critical point, the efficiency of onboard equipment begins to fall (processor error rates rise, for example, and tactical officers must conserve their remaining heat capacity), some equipment goes into thermal shutdown, and the crew spaces become increasingly uninhabitable.

While some starships in any major space battle are destroyed physically, reduced to hulks, the majority of starships are defeated by either heat-induced equipment failure, or by being forced to surrender and deploy radiators lest their crew literally cook.

– excerpted from “An Introduction to Elementary Starship Combat Tactics”,
37th ed., IN Civilian Press

Trope-a-Day: Military Moonshiner

Military Moonshiner: Played straight for some reason, despite the fact that neither the Imperial Navy nor the Imperial Legions is a dry organization.

(Also in the Imperial Exploratory Service, which contains the expected number of people who consider “can we make booze out of it?” to be one of the mandatory tests worth performing on alien plant life.)

Giving Flak Some Flak

Don't do this. Don't ever do this.

Don’t do this. Don’t ever do this.

There is one other small point to make, it occurs to me, regarding lasers and appropriate uses of same.

One of which is that the Imperial Navy, by and large, uses carefully targeted laser weapons for short-range point defense, the intent being to vaporize small projectiles, blind sensors, overheat close-in AKVs and send ’em into thermal shutdown (being small, they have precious little heat-dumping capacity, relying instead on avoiding being hit), and convince missile warheads (for those people who feel the need to use missile warheads, kinetic energy being plenty of fun on its own) to explode before they actually get to their target starship.

Some folks (the screenshot on the right is from Battlestar Galactica) are of the opinion that an even better way to do this would be good old-fashioned flak. Mount point-defense turrets on your ship, and fill space around you with enough projectiles that anything incoming gets shredded by those before reaching you.

What those folks forget is that Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space!, ’cause all those projectiles – all those clouds of projectiles – will keep moving, with all their kinetic energy, until they hit something, and ruin its day. If you’re lucky, that will be whatever poor bastard is next to you in the same formation, weapons and small craft you’re trying to use, or your own ship on some future occasion, and you’ll only manage to hurt yourself. If you’re unlucky, they’ll just carry merrily on hitting things completely unrelated to the original target at random and providing people with casus belli, atrocity fodder, and other reasons to whup your ass for the next ten thousand years or more.

Cleaning up the debris after a space battle to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen is already a giant pain in the ass (the kind that there’s even a dedicated class of fluffship – crewing which is generally thought to be the worst job in the IN – to handle) when all you have to worry about is hulks, spallation debris, ricochets and accidental misses, and such-like, without deliberately making the problem a million times worse by filling the sky with high-KE flak. You don’t fire anything without a firing solution attached to it. Here endeth the lesson.

Or, as Mass Effect 2 put it in a somewhat more pithy manner:

Trope-a-Day: Flaunting Your Fleets

Flaunting Your Fleets: Even more than routine commerce protection and anti-piracy operations, this is why the Imperial Navy bothers to run patrols from the Core out to Fleet Bases Coreward, Rimward, Spinward, Trailing, Acme, and Nadir – and, not coincidentally, why every other Great Power, with the exception of the Photonic Network, has their own set of similar patrol routes.  A little bit of showing the flag and making the presence felt provides discouragement altogether disproportionate to its size to all the crazy people/organizations/polities who might otherwise get ideas.

As a side note, this is also why the Empire invests money into making all its ships look that sleek and shiny and covered in lovely polished brightwork.  A little bit of “we are wealthy enough to afford to be able to do this, and moreover, we can do it without impairing combat performance” also goes a long way.

Military Uniforms

Among the things I have finalized recently in my notes are the details of the field dress uniforms for the Imperial Legions and Imperial Navy, and since I have them all finalized and polished up as of now, I present them for your envisioning pleasure:

Field dress (Imperial Legions & Home Guard)

The basic field dress uniform of the Imperial Legions consists of the following elements:

Beret: The velvet beret is worn in branch colors (dark crimson and gold for the Legions, emerald and silver for the Home Guard), with the serviceman’s unit crest in front. Non-commissioned and warrant officers add a silver oak-leaf cockade, and officers a gold oak-leaf cockade, around the unit crest.

Tunic: The thigh-length tunic, belted at the waist, is also worn in the branch colors (dark crimson with gold trim, or emerald with silver trim), single-breasted, with a high stand-up collar to protect the wearer’s neck[1] and five brass buttons impressed with the Imperial crown-and-star. The front of the tunic actually overlaps completely – the inner layer fastens at the opposite shoulder to the outer layer’s buttons, thus doubling the protection over the wearer’s vitals, and making it impossible to slip a blade through the seam. It is worn over a double-layered silk shirt.

For rankers, brass collar-pins on the gorget patches also show the crown-and-star, whereas for officers they hold rank insignia, in silver for non-commissioned and warrant officers, and in gold for higher ranks. Rank insignia is also worn as a knot in matching cord on the left breast. Ribbons and knots for medals and other awards are worn on the right.

Runér, exultants, and praetors may wear certain insignia related to their associated rank and office on their tunics in accordance with service regulations; most typically, their family or personal arms may be worn on the left breast, adjacent to the rank-knot.

Detachable shoulder-boards are added to the tunic to show unit affiliation, on a black background for regular units, a crimson background for units designated as Guards units, and a gold background for units designated as Coronal’s Guards. The design on the shoulder-boards is the battle flag of the unit to which the legionary belongs, or the ship’s crest in the case of ship’s troops.

Sword-Baldric: The legionary sword (a teirian) is worn on a wire-reinforced braided synthetic leather baldric hung over the right shoulder to hold the sword at the left hip. The hanrian and sidearm, conversely, are worn on the tunic belt, at the right hip. The baldric also contains attachment points for grenades, replacement heat sinks, and powercells.

Breeches: The breeches, black regardless of branch, are worn tucked into the boots, and have piping to match the tunic’s trim, bordered with silver braid for officers, or gold braid for flag officers.

Boots: The high (mid-calf), glossy black boots have no buckles or snaps, and are made of internally-reinforced synthetic leather.

Cloak: In wintry conditions, a heavy wool cloak may be worn over the field dress uniform.

Special note: Heavy legionaries who do not wear the uniform when in the field wear instead a surcoat[2] over their combat exoskeleton in circumstances that would ordinarily call for field dress, bearing rank insignia, battle honors, etc., as the tunic does for conventionally dressed legionaries.

Field dress (Imperial Navy)

The basic field dress uniform of the Imperial Navy consists of the following elements:

Hat: Imperial Navy officers wear tricorne hats in the Navy’s silver-trimmed midnight black, a tradition inherited directly from its wet navy precursors. Naval tricornes bear the ship’s crest at front right, surrounded by a silver cockade, or a gold cockade for flag officers.

Unofficially, naval officers who are members of various IN internal societies and clubs may wear a variety of feathers in their hats to denote this, according to their own internal traditions, something broadly tolerated even on formal occasions.

Non-commissioned officers and men do not wear hats.

Shirt & Jacket: The single-breasted naval jacket, of black wool and leather trimmed with silver, is worn over a simple black silk shirt. Rather than buttons, it seals to itself along its edge, in a similar manner to many vacuum suits.

Since the naval jacket has a down-turned rather than a high collar, rank is indicated not by collar pins but rather by the arabesque-embroidered cuffs of the jacket, including either silver or gold rings to indicate basic rank, and colored rings to indicate departmental specialty. As with the legionary uniform, rank insignia is also worn as a knot in matching cord on the left breast; in the case of enlisted ranks, this knot surrounds the symbol of their rating. Qualified pilots (in the Flight Ops department) wear their wings above the rank knot. Ribbons and knots for medals and other awards are worn on the right.

Runér, exultants, and praetors may wear certain insignia related to their associated rank and office on their tunics in accordance with service regulations; most typically, their family or personal arms may be worn on the left breast, adjacent to the rank-knot.

The ship’s crest is worn as an embroidered badge at each shoulder.

Trousers: The trousers of the naval uniform are of heavy black wool. For officers, they have silver braid piping, or gold braid piping for flag officers. Sidearms are worn on the belt, as is the naval sword on formal occasions.

Boots: The naval boots are low, black boots, without buckles or snaps, made of internally-reinforced synthetic leather. They include soles designed to interlock with the gratings used in starship engineering sections, and magnetizable clamps for use elsewhere.


[1] A communication transceiver is often woven directly into the collar, into which a visor can be connected.

[2] A huge, long-sleeved tunic that fits over the armor and hangs to the knees.

Trope-a-Day: Elaborate Underground Base

Elaborate Underground Base: The Imperial Military Service (various, with special props going to the Imperial Navy’s hollow hangar moon at Palaxias IIb), the Imperial Emergency Management Authority’s Crisis Citadels, more than a few data havens, the original location of Argyran Depository, the Nightfall Complexes (retreats for city populations in the event of nuclear war, asteroid impact, etc.), and oh, yes, all the entire cities built down there by people who just found that they liked it…

Trope-a-Day: Drinking on Duty

Drinking On Duty: Averted inasmuch as neither the Imperial Navy nor the Imperial Legions, nor indeed any other part of the Imperial Military Service is dry, even on duty.  Drinking enough to render yourself unfit for duty, on the other hand, and the punishment for same, is played very straight indeed.

On the third hand, between the biotech upgrades you start out with and the ones which you acquire mid-way through boot camp for your shiny new military-basic body, you would have to drink truly heroic quantities of booze – enough that you’re unlikely to be able to have it with you on post, unless your duty station is engineering and you’re slurping the reactor coolant directly – in order to render yourself unfit anyway.  (This does mean that you can’t drink to forget the horrors of war, but since you can visit a memory redactor for that, it’s probably not so bad a trade-off.)

They’ve Been Doing This Far Too Long

Galch (Vanguard Reaches) a.k.a. K-11/54 (Vonis 36) [DISPUTED]
Demilitarized Border Zone

“Unknown ship, we have you on our screens.  Identify.  Over.”

“Republic vessel at 220 asc 14, nineteen-point-three light-minutes, confirm identity.  Over.”

Imperial vessel, this is our space.  We say again, identify.  Over.”

“Republic vessel of approximate destroyer class, the hell it is, but as a courtesy, this is CMS Gold and Iron, armed merchant of the Centralia Line.  Over.”

Gold and Iron, this is VNS Solidarity.  We read you as a cruiser-class vessel.  You are in violation of treaty.  We order you to heave to and prepare to be boarded.  Over.”

Solidarity, Gold and Iron.  Whether we are or not is irrelevant, since we are a civilian vessel owned by a merchant concern which may legitimately go armed in unsafe border regions.  And in any case, if you check that treaty, we’re fully half a displacement-ton smaller than its definition of the cruiser class.  You, meanwhile, are quite definitely armed with energy weapons larger than the treaty permits.  You heave to and prepare to be boarded.  Over.”

Gold and Iron, Solidarity.  We most certainly are not.  This is an vessel of peaceful exploration.  We are merely equipped for remote geological surveying, including breaking up asteroids and drilling planetoids. All of which is permitted by the treaty.  Your request is denied.  Over.”

The channel is silent for a few seconds.

Solidarity actual, Gold and Iron.  Do you think that’s enough posturing for form’s sake, Holoth?  Over.”

Gold and Iron actual, Solidarity.  Yeah, Galen, I think that should do.  Do you have leave on Ódeln again next month?  Over.”

Solidarity actual, Gold and Iron.  As ever.  Bring some decent booze next time.  Gold and Iron, clear.”