Cloaking

From: Capt. Isvieve Kalyn, Procurement, Resplendent Exponential Vector
To: Adm. Gilad Tsurilen, Bureau of Innovation
Subject: FAT NINJA progress report
Security: SECRET (GREEN) FAT NINJA

Development on project FAT NINJA itself is essentially complete. Our research contractor has successfully demonstrated a prototype design capable of using intense paragravitational fields to distort the fabric of space-time in such a manner as to place the prototype within an enclosed polypoid volume of distortion, connected to the original location of the prototype by a narrow “neck”. They have further demonstrated limited communication capacity through this “neck”, suggesting that it would be theoretically possible to monitor events outside the distortion using a small drone vehicle, rendering FAT NINJA a non-double-blind device.

Unfortunately, no progress has been made on the fundamental problem of sustaining the distortion in the light of fundamental thermodynamics: necessarily, an enclosed polypoid volume suitable for preventing detection retains all radiation, including waste heat, emitted by the objects within it. Were the distortion to be handwaved into existence, this would be merely an irritating limitation; however, given the extremely high energies required to create the distortion, even with the most efficient power generation and paragravity equipment available, FAT NINJA is able at best to sustain a cloaked state for a matter of milliseconds before undergoing a catastrophic thermal excursion leading to complete vaporization of the prototype and immediate reversion of the cloaked volume.

While the experiment was worth doing, I must conclude that this is a physical limitation of all FAT NINJA type devices, and in the absence of some new fundamental breakthrough with regard to the thermodynamics of the case, FAT NINJA is a dead-end – at least as a cloaking device.

It does, however, make a rather splendid, if outré, bomb.

In service and glory,

Isvieve Kalyn (Capt.)

 

Run Silent, Run Drunk

Deep recon and forward scouting is the job of the recon destroyers. And contrary to “Running Cold”, it’s not a particularly stealthy job. For all the boffins dream about stealth starships and talk airily about basement universes and domain walls and dimensional transcendence, I’ve never seen one. And no, that’s not a joke.

The aim is not to avoid being seen. They can see you, bright, hot, and clear. (It’s not all bad – this also means that you can see them.) The aim is to be seen sailing through the target area fast and high and out of the way – beyond intercept range and outside their engagement envelope – so they can’t touch you. Except for exchanging the usual bluster.

Not that that stops people from taking a pot-shot or two at you anyway on general principles. So you jink, jink, jink and trust to light-lag! But all that drunkwalking cuts deep into your delta-v reserve for evading and running, which is why they give you a whole library of variable-power drunkwalk algorithms, from a pro-forma wobble on the reaction wheels up through the affectionately named Torpedo Tango, Missile Minuet, Warhead Waltz, Firing Solution Foxtrot, and so forth, right on up to the good old Hellfire Hop. Choose carefully, ‘cause you might need whatever you burn now later. And if you’re really worried, you can fire up the kinetic barriers to military power – if you wouldn’t rather keep that energy to go into thrust, and if you don’t mind being provocative by shining the EM signature of a battle-ready warship all over the system. Any misjudgment at this point may result in a salvo or two of unanticipated k-slugs ripping big holes in your ‘can.

This is why every recon captain I ever served under had an ulcer and the temperament of a grouchy bear.

– Senior Chief Viviré Galicios, Imperial Navy (unpublished memoir)

 

Trope-a-Day: Invisibility Cloak

Invisibility Cloak: Well, true invisibility cloaks don’t exist for essentially the same reasons that you can’t have Stealth In Space for fear of roasting yourself, plus the double-blind effect.  But the ambioptic transceiver, a rather nifty piece of quantum nanotech for simultaneously transmitting and receiving photons across a respectably large bandwidth – coupled with a lot of expensive nanocomputer mesh – does let you build a pretty decent stealth suit (fast movement may cause some distortion while the mesh catches up with new information) for visible light and many radar bands, and even brief bursts of infrared stealth if you can carry the required heat sinks around with you.

Actual invisibility cloaks (as opposed to full-body-form-fitting with-helmet-and-mask stealth suits) do exist, but they’re – due to the difficulty of managing them in such a way as to keep yourself entirely covered all the time – a fashion item, not anything used by people who need stealth professionally.  As such, most of those just cover visible light with the usual brief extensions into the ultra/infra bands.

Trope-a-Day: Stealth in Space

Stealth in Space: There ain’t no stealth in space.

This applies especially to lighthuggers, inasmuch as an antimatter torch at high burn can be detected for light years even if you’re not the star system that it’s pointed at.  If you are, all the more so.  Much the same goes, at least for the destination system, for even the best-collimated of the launch lasers starwisps use.  Any way you look at it, there’s no way to be subtle when engaging in near-luminal travel.

But it applies to everyone else, too.  Even small reaction-drive burns – and vector-control drives of similar energy consumption – are bright enough to be seen most of the way across the system, and more to the point, the heat of operating life-support systems for biosapiences – or even the waste heat for the minimum technology needed to support digisapiences – stands out like a searchlight against the 3K sky background.

It’s not impossible to manage a degree of sneakiness.  It involves making use of thermal superconductors to capture your emissions in most or even all directions, and heat pumps (which, let us not forget, generate even more heat which you have to then capture) to capture them in heat sinks – which will fill up and roast you if you keep it up for very long, so be careful about how long you need to use them.  It involves making maximum use of cover – cold objects in space to hide behind, and hot objects to hide in front of, while being careful not to visibly occult anything, and always pointing the right bits of your ship in the right direction (observer-dependent, so best hope the system’s not busy).  It involves limiting your propulsion to careful use of (hideously slow and inefficient) cold-gas thrusters and leveraging vector-control to get a tow from other ships or celestial bodies (in which case, being careful to ensure that you keep your effect on their apparent mass below the threshold that will trigger alerts in their engineering department or your target’s paranoid skywatching AIs.).  And, of course, essentially none of this will help if someone happens to look out the wrong window or point a telescope in the wrong direction and spot you visually.

But it’s difficult and constrained enough – especially since you have to enter systems via the choke-points of their stargates – or suffer the above lighthugger problems – that it’s usually much easier to pretend to be something other than what you are, or bury yourself inside an asteroid big enough to act as a decent thermal sink, or get an insider agent to plant a You Can’t See Me data worm in their traffic-control systems, or otherwise engage in some kind of tactics that are more masquerade and less outright stealth.

(The ontotechnological engineers are working on – well, technically, working on the possible theory that might just possibly begin to underlie the engineering principles of – an actual bona-fide cloaking device that bypasses at least some of these difficulties.  Still some awkward implications from physics, though: firstly, it’s inescapably double-blind, so while no-one can see you, you can’t see out either.  The possibilities for things to go horribly wrong for you while you can’t see them are… large.  Secondly, it involves basically hiding behind the domain wall of your own personal baby universe, possibly the only thing that does retain heat with 100% efficiency, which is to say, it actually makes the heat dissipation problem worse.  Better have really good heat sinks, or you’ll cook yourself to death in really short order… and then release all that heat in a nice position-illuminating flare anyway.)

Did You Get The Number Of That…?

“Disabling of road-grid transponders and/or the use of electronic countermeasures, sensory maskers, stealth coatings, chameleon paint, ambioptic invisibility, cloaking devices, or other detection-inhibition technologies on any flitter, ground-car, or other vehicle, in motion or stationary, on a public highway or skyway or other public-usage transportation volume is strictly prohibited as recklessly negligent operation.”

– Ministry of Transportation Ordinance #112-98