You’ll Want Us High and Clear

ICED FIRE-CLASS ANTIMATTER TRANSPORT

Operated by: Extropa Energy, ICC
Type: Antimatter Transport
Construction: Islien Yards, ICC

Length: 1,600 km (overall)
Beam: 3,200 km
Dry mass: 39,200 tons (not including cryocels)

Gravity-well capable: No; not even low-orbit capable.
Atmosphere capable: No.

Personnel: 31

  • Flight Commander
  • 3 x Flight Executive/Administrator
  • 3 x Flight Director
  • 3 x Flight Engineer
  • 3 x Propulsion Engineer
  • 3 x Cargomaster
  • 3 x general technicians
  • 2 x riggers/EVA specialists
  • Thinker-class AI

Drives:

  •  3 x Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 1×1 “Sunheart V” fusion torch

Propellant: Deuterium/helium-3 blend
Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 3.5 standard gravities (3.3 Earth G) at nominal load
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c unloaded, 0.1 c loaded (based on particle shielding)

Drones:

  • 3 x general-purpose maintenance drones
  • 3 x tether-climbing rigger drones

Sensors:

  • 1 x standard navigational sensor suite, Islien Yards

Other Systems:

  • 2 x Islien Yards boosted commercial kinetic barrier system
  • Biogenesis Technologies Mark VII regenerative life support
  • 2 x Bright Shadow EC-780 information furnace data system
  • Islien Yards custom dual vector-control core and associated technologies
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies dual-mode radiator system

Small craft:

  • 1 x Élyn-class microcutter
  • 1 x Adhaïc-class workpod

The standard vehicle for ferrying antimatter from the Cirys bubble at Esilmúr to its various places of use, the Iced Fire-class is a starship designed around one core principle, commonly adhered to when dealing with antimatter:

Don’t get any on you.

The core hull itself is much smaller than the dimensions above suggest; a blunted cylinder a mere 252 m in length, including bunkerage. This houses the entire livable volume of the starship, including a dock for the Élyn-class microcutter at the bow, and a bay housing for the workpod. Rather than the typical stern mounting, the three Sunheart V fusion torches are located in nacelles set off from the hull on radiator pylons amidships, located 120 degrees apart; these nacelles are fully vectorable for maximum maneuverability.

The stern of the core hull instead contains the attachment points and winches for a 1,600 km tether, at whose fully extended end is in turn attached the spinhub. This is a simple unit containing monitoring equipment and a centrifugal ring, to which in turn are mounted eight further attachment points and associated tethers, terminating in heavy couplings. It is to these couplings that antimatter cryocels are mounted during loading, and dismounted upon arrival. In flight, the action of the centrifugal ring maintains appropriate safe distance between the core hull and the cryocels, and between the cryocels themselves, while also ensuring that jettisoned cryocels will move away from the main body of the starship in the event of containment failure.

 

Covered In Bees

HURRICANE-CLASS DRONE BATTLESHIP (CARRIER)

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

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

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

Personnel: 1,294

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

Drives:

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

Propellant:

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

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

Drones:

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

Sensors:

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

Weapons (Auxiliary):

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

Other systems:

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

Small craft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On the Role of the Dreadnought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can assume at least four times that in BBs.

 

Some Leviathan Numbers

Just to clarify the capabilities of those mass drivers, and note, this is back-envelope work.

So, we’re going to stick a big dumb projectile in the breech. By big, dumb projectile we mean a 2400 mm k-slug of soft iron (iron being cheap as dirt, and really, what it’s made of doesn’t matter all that much in this application), and we’ll call it a 2400 mm diameter cylinder, 4800 mm long. That’s 22 m3 of iron, massing 173 metric tons.

If we crank a Leviathan primary up to full power, we’re going to be sticking about 10.1 exawatts (usable) in the flash accumulators; that’ll accelerate that projectile at around 1.1 million gravities for close to a second, meaning it leaves the muzzle with a velocity of 0.036 c, i.e., in the low-relativistic regime. Impact energy delivered to the target is on the order of 2.4 gigatons.

This, needless to say, is way too much boom for almost all practical applications, and no-one routinely stocks that kind of k-slug or runs their mass drivers at that power level, not least because it’s gonna take enough time for the shipboard powerplant to put ten exawatt-seconds in the flash accumulators that you sure aren’t going to be able to fire one of those shots every second, or anything close enough to it to avoid being a big, fat, wallowing target. There are uses for Mighty Glaciers and uses for Glass Cannons, but there’s no use at all for something that’s both.

But if you happened to be interested in what the hardware could deliver if you wanted to comically overkill something with no means whatsoever of fighting back, there are your numbers.

 

Leviathan, Awake

LEVIATHAN-CLASS DREADNOUGHT

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

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

Dry mass: 2,500,000 tons

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

Personnel: 6,736

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

Drives:

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

Propellant:

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

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

Drones:

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

Sensors:

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

Weapons (Primary):

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

Weapons (Secondary):

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

Weapons (Tertiary):

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

Other systems:

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

Small craft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Proposal For Every Century

For various reasons, I was rereading Meditations on Moloch today, and this leapt out at me:

14. Congress. Only 9% of Americans like it, suggesting a lower approval rating than cockroaches, head lice, or traffic jams. However, 62% of people who know who their own Congressional representative is approve of them. In theory, it should be really hard to have a democratically elected body that maintains a 9% approval rating for more than one election cycle. In practice, every representative’s incentive is to appeal to his or her constituency while throwing the rest of the country under the bus – something at which they apparently succeed.

From a god’s-eye-view, every Congressperson ought to think only of the good of the nation. From within the system, you do what gets you elected.

…if you were wondering, this is exactly why the Charter specifies that Senators should be chosen from the centuries, rather than from geographic areas, where the centuries are themselves filled by random assignment and as such contain roughly equal numbers of every clade, race, and other characteristic, roughly equally spread across all 234 worlds and innumerable subdivisions. Even if a Senator had a motivation for it (not being up for reelection), try figuring out how to serve the approximately 1.5 billion randomly distributed sophonts of the 714th Century specially relative to everyone else.