Lest you start to think everything in this part of the book revolved around me and my legal woes, I now present to you the following counterexample.
Seriously. Yes, it was stressful, and yes, it took up a bunch of my time, but life went on with the rest of the Federation!
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“Nymeria Squadron on final approach to Njord,” Daniela radioed. Daniela was leading a practice flight of Direwolves. She had a half-dozen pilots fresh from the Academy and she was leading them back to the bay from the base at HLC. Ashlyn was leading the six ‘veteran’ pilots in a mirrored flight, picking up the incoming flight eighty thousand kliks from the base and paralleling them ever since. She’d started to get more comfortable in her role as the squadron XO, which let Daniela give her more and more freedom. That also allowed her to concentrate on the FUNs.
“Cleared for approach, Nymeria,” answered the bay’s AI, Hecate. Though she had the personality of a bored teenager, she was all business when it came to running her part of the station. “You may want to look in on your number four. Prignano, I think?”
Daniela checked her scanner for what Hecate could be talking about, then flipped to the squadron channel.
“Prignano, watch your attitude!”
“My attitude? What the hell is wrong with my attitude?”
“Your orientation!” Daniela quietly swore before turning her mic back on. “We’re supposed to be flying with your relative ‘up’ aligning with me. Look up through your cockpit, what do you see?”
“I can just about see Luna,” answered the FUN.
“Murray, what do you see? What direction?”
“We’re closing on the habitat,” she answered. “It’s at our eleven o’clock, high.”
“Ruiz, Marsh. What do you see?”
“Same thing, Lieutenant,” answered Marsh.
“Confirmed,” echoed Ruiz.
“Getting the idea, Prignano? You’re flying inverted.”
Daniela could hear muttered cursing as the newly minted pilot rotated her ship to the correct orientation.
“It’s called awareness, Ensign. And you and I are going to have a little chat about addressing a senior officer.”
Hecate’s chuckle came to her over the command frequency. “I’ll make sure the squadron office is clear for you, Double Dip. Mind if I listen in? I haven’t heard a good ass-chewing since Flashdance tore a strip off of Twinkie.”
“We’ll see,” answered Daniela. “Keep on me,” she radioed to the squadron. “The bay entrance is big, but not compared to space. Tight formation.”
They approached the cap of the massive habitat in relative silence, the bay doors wide open and the inside brightly illuminated.
“What are those?” Ashlyn commed, shooting a visual over to her through their implants.
“Those are going to be the new Defiant-class starships, Shooting Star,” Daniela radioed back. The two new constructions had recently been moved out of their enclosed bays and were being worked on in the main construction area.
“They look small.”
“They are, relatively. Smaller than Enterprise, but way bigger than us.” Like Enterprise, they had a saucer-shaped primary hull, 150 meters across and about 60 tall. But that’s where the resemblance ended. Where Enterprise had a tapered neck to her lower engineering hull, these two ships had twin pylons supporting collection nacelles below the hull. The aft was extended in a short trapezoidal shape, with a further thickened protuberance in the center.
“Where’s the bay?” asked Ashlyn. “I know they’re not done, but shouldn’t we be able to see the bay?”
“There’s no bay on these,” broke in Hecate. “They don’t carry any shuttles or fighters, but that’s because they’re going to be even more heavily armed and armored than Endeavour.” The AI’s voice rose in excitement as she spoke. “And we’re going to get a fabricator to help make more ships faster!”
“Hecate, what have you learned about security?” The voice of Diana, Njord’s AI and her supervisor, interrupted the discussion. “Plans like that are on a need to know basis, and Nymeria Squadron haven’t the need. No offense, Double Dip, Shooting Star.”
“None taken,” said Daniela. “We’ll forget we ever heard it. Hecate, I think you’re going to get to hear an ass-chewing up close and personal.”
“She already did,” answered a suddenly-meek AI. “While she was speaking to you. Multitasking, you know.”
Hecate was strictly business from then to docking, and Ashlyn waited after the squadron had done their post-flight checks and been released to bring the subject up again.
“Wait in my office,” Daniela said to Prignano, who was looking pale under her olive skin.
“Aye, ma’am,” she said smartly, turned, and marched herself out of the bay.
“Flying upside down.” Ashlyn shook her head. “Was I ever that green?”
“You’ve only been XO a month, Ash. Yeah, you were. Come on, I need coffee.” The squadron had a smallish kitchen and dining area a few meters from the bay, reflecting the eventual need to have pilots on standby. When they both had a drink, Daniela with coffee and Ashlyn with a seltzer, they sat at one of the tables.
“What I heard is that they’re supposed to take the fight to the Union and let the Enterprise get back to exploration,” explained Daniela.
“Just those two?” Ashlyn scoffed. “They’re tiny!”
Daniela said, “Check the specs. You should have access to them now as the squadron XO.”
Ashlyn did so and whistled.
“Four two petajoule lasers? And what are energy torpedoes?”
“Four,” confirmed Daniela. “And those are the fixed-mount positions, which they haven’t installed yet. Keep looking.”
Ashlyn gasped. “Eight petajoules?”
“You found the variable-focus laser,” Daniela said. “Good. Yeah, that’s the main armament.”
She called up a hologram of the ship’s blueprints. “See this ring on the dorsal and ventral sides of the hull?” A highlighted ring, about ¾ of the way from the bridge to the edge of the hull, flashed twice.
“Once they install it, that’s going to be a fifteen-centimeter wide band of optical sapphire. The main laser can be focused to emerge from any point, or points, along either ring. The more beams, the less power in each, of course, but –”
“But that means they’re going to have a hell of a punch. You didn’t explain the energy torpedo thing.”
“Oh, now that’s really cool,” Daniela gushed. “You know the phased particle emitters on the Wolves?”
“So what they’ve done, and this is mostly Dellin working with LJ, you know her?”
“The civvie on Endeavour? I’ve met her a couple times.”
“She worked on the Direwolf project for a long time, she and her team. Anyways, Dellin and LJ had this idea to take a mass of phased particles and wrap a sort of magnetic bottle around it, stuff that into a missile tube with a sublight engine, then use a series of grav plates to catapult it into space. Kinda like shooting an old-fashioned slingshot, or something Dellin called a paintball gun, whatever that is.” Daniela shook her head. “The point is it’s a big bang that can steer itself to a target, if it’s not too far away.”
“Ten thousand kliks. They’re pretty small, in order to stuff as many as possible into the hull, so they don’t have much range.”
“Still, it’ll be a nasty surprise for the Union.”
“Yeah. If we can keep the Union off our backs for another year or so.”
Ashlyn, still checking the specs, suddenly said, “Hold on. Warp five? That’s it?”
Daniela nodded. “That’s all. They’re designed to fight, and fight locally, not explore. I’m almost surprised they put warp drives into them, but it gives them a hell of a speed advantage against what the Union flies.”
She stood. “And now, I get to go explain to Ensign Prignano the error of her ways. Want to sit in?”
Ashlyn shook her head. “No, I’m good. I’ve got my crew on an exercise at nineteen and I need to come up with a few wrinkles.”
“Comm Flashdance. She’s sneaky.”
Ashlyn tossed her a casual salute. “I’ll do that, ma’am.”