I wouldn’t wish Alexis Carnahan on anyone.
But if I did, it would have been the Artemisians.
She was a truly nasty piece of work. Mean-spirited and self-centered, all she ever cared about was her work and her interests.
I’m glad I fired her.
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Artemis City, Artemis Naval HQ
“No, you idiots! If you install the coils like that you’ll reverse the polarity and blow your damn ship to pieces!” The shrill voice carried over the suit radios on the common channel.
“Not very pleasant to be around,” observed Minister Newling, not for the first time.
“No,” agreed Minister Crozier. Her eyes swept across the floor of the domed crater the Navy used for construction and repair. A half-dozen ships – her ships, her mind reminded her – were spread across the broad expanse. Two Gemini-class frigates, down for periodic maintenance, were closest; an Apollo-class cruiser lay behind them, also grounded for maintenance. The hulls of two new Geminis sat cradled in framework, actively under construction, part of the plan to rebuild the fleet. The final ship, farthest from their vantage point, was the once-completed Averroes, the lead ship in the Scimitar-class dreadnoughts, now being refitted with the Carnahan warp drive. It was this ship that brought the visit today from the two Ministers.
“How’s construction going?”
“Other than my engineers bitching about ripping out work they already completed? Just fine.” Crozier allowed a discontented note into her words, then reined it in. “The only good news from their perspective is that the new drive takes less space than the engines they’re removing.”
“So far. Of course, Carnahan’s got all sorts of plans for the space, but I think I can persuade her otherwise for the Averroes if I give her the El-Baz to play with.”
“Have you looked at her plans for the drives?”
“I did,” said Crozier. “But it’s way over my head. I never had the schooling for it.”
“It’s really impressive. She took the Cochrane Theory and created a practical application for it.”
“And the Cochrane Theory is…?”
“That’s the basic theory behind the creation of a warp field.”
“Kreitzer, start from the beginning for me.”
The Minister of Technology started to say something, caught himself, and started again. “Cochrane theorized that you could create a field which would shift an object contained within it outside our universe. It’s not much of a shift, but it’s enough to insulate the object from interactions with the rest of the universe.”
“So it’s kind of like turning something into a hologram?”
Kreitzer frowned. “Sort of, I guess. It’s more like it’s out of phase with everything, slightly out of place, slightly out of time. Isolated.”
“What Carnahan did –” He gestured to the bright yellow suit that the professor wore. “She recognized the problem inherent in a static field; that is, it doesn’t move anywhere. If the object within isn’t interacting with the universe, then it can’t actually go anywhere on its own.”
“Like it’s surrounded by lubricant.”
“Right, it just slides off anything it pushes against. Carnahan figured out how to shape the field, and in shaping the field it allows for movement. Now, this is getting beyond my education too, but from what I got talking to her changing the shape creates an imbalance. The warp field moves in the direction of the imbalance, and it drags along whatever it contains. The bigger the imbalance, the faster the motion.”
“I’m still with you.”
“That’s what makes her plans so impressive.”
“And you’ve lost me.”
“The best we could manage, knowing that it was possible, was a drive which was about eight times larger than the one she designed.”
“Oh! I knew that the ship that Whitmore commissioned was going to be huge, but that makes so much more sense.”
“You had that project stopped, right?”
“Red wire! Not orange, red!” Carnahan’s voice intruded on their consciousness again before Crozier could answer.
“I swear that they’re doing that to wind her up,” she said as the screaming subsided. “And yes, I had it stopped. Once Carnahan was onboard, it didn’t make any sense to continue it.”
“Can you reactivate it?”
Kreitzer looked directly at her. “As a test bed. Carnahan’s a genius, but she’s not going to live forever, even if your engineers don’t end up being the death of her. If we can get our theoreticians up to speed building our own versions of a warp drive, we can maybe make improvements to her design.”
“I don’t know if you remember, Kreitzer, but we’re in the middle of a war here! I don’t have the resources to divert so your people can play with theories.”
“What if my Ministry can pick up most of the cost?”
She tilted her head to one side. “That helps, but what about materials?” She gestured to the ships being built. “There are three more Apollos and four Geminis in the works, so there’s material tied up there.”
“And if we can build our own warp drives, it’ll make those ships as obsolete as biplanes.”
“As what? Never mind. I get your point, but I have to fight with what I have, not what I might have in five years. In case you missed the last Council meeting, the Federation now has two of those dammed starships active, and the new one’s even larger than the first!”
“I’m aware, Nicole. But won’t the Scimitars help even the balance?”
She’d done the simulations. “Help? Absolutely. But the Averroes is three lunars away from relaunch, and two more lunars before all the testing is done. El-Baz and Al-Battani haven’t even been pulled into the yards yet because we don’t have the room, so we’re looking at nine or ten lunars until they’re deployed. That’s the best part of a year before we can start thinking of parity, and according to MinInt the Federation has two more starships already under construction! I’m being asked to fight a war with clubs and spears, Kreitzer!”
“I still believe that we need our own warp program. We can build on Carnahan’s work, of course, but I’ve always felt more confident when I’ve had a hand in the technology, gotten right in and wrestled with some of the issues that always pop up.”
Crozier knew that he was making sense, but she had one more card to play.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you, Kreitzer,” she said sweetly.
“What?” They weren’t friends as such, but he’d spent enough time with her to be wary of this voice.
“I’ll stop the dismantling of the project and transfer it over to your Ministry, gratis. You can have it. I’ll just charge it off against the budget and you can list it as an asset; that ought to get the beancounters off your back for a while, since you’re going to be pouring credits into it. All I ask is that the bonehead we had in charge doesn’t get within a light year of it.” She dimpled; she’d known that Newling had been hoping to get his hands on the ship ever since Whitmore had announced the project’s inception. “Do we have a deal?”
“Deal.” He may have meant to grumble but he was far too pleased to put any emphasis in it.
“Oh, Kreitzer, since you’re making deals…”
“I knew that was a mistake.”
“How are you doing on replicating their Wolves?”
“I’m asking. Unofficially. Unless you want to wait for the next Council meeting?”
“We can make a hull that size, no problem. My engineers think they can replicate the weapons; it’s some sort of proton emitter and we know how to make those. The issue we’re running into is putting the weapons and the power plant into the hull. We just can’t duplicate their efficiency.”
Crozier frowned at that. She’d hoped for better news, since the Wolves had been so devastating to her ships in the battle.
As if reading her mind, Kreitzer said, “Didn’t the Brahe pretty well knock them on their asses? They pack a punch, sure, but they don’t have much range.”
“No, but most of our ships don’t have the same broadside a Copernicus does.”
“The Scimitars will.”
“Are you just trying to get out of a job?”
“No. Well, not really. Maybe a little bit. Nicole, we just can’t match their tech! I don’t know where they came up with it, but they’re literally light years ahead of us, even with Carnahan’s help. Their inertial dampers and compensators have to be at least an order of magnitude more efficient than ours to pull the acceleration we’ve recorded, to say nothing of the power plants they’d need to achieve those speeds. If we could get into their systems, we might have a chance of duplicating their tech, making monkey copies at least, but Colin’s told me that they have some ferocious firewalls protecting their data.”
Crozier nodded, then realized it didn’t do much good in a suit. “He told me that too. The best network defenses his people have ever seen, he said. That’s why he emphasizes HumInt so much in Council.”
“And I don’t think that we’re going to get any of their designers or engineers to come over to us. Carnahan only signed on because she has a history with the Admiral and a grudge.”
“Speaking of Carnahan, better brace yourself.” Sure enough, the yellow-suited figure of the scientist was marching towards them as angrily as it could in the Lunar gravity, which is to say not particularly. It was more the set of the shoulders that belied the emotions contained within than any actual stomping.
“Minister Crozier! If this is your idea of competent engineers, it’s no wonder that your ships can barely fly!”
Gritting her teeth, Nicole answered, “How can I help you, Dr. Carnahan?”
“Get me my staff from Earth!”
“We’ve been over this, Doctor,” interceded Newling. “Due to the sensitive nature of your endeavor –”
“Yes, yes,” interrupted the agitated woman. “It’s all hush-hush, you’ve told me that. But my people won’t say a word if I don’t give them permission!”
“Doctor, I believe you,” said Crozier. “But it’s not as simple as that.”
Smoothly, as if they’d rehearsed, Newling picked up the thread. “You were able to leave Earth suddenly because you had few family connections. All of your senior people have families.”
“And the families will talk,” continued Crozier. “We can’t bring them all; at some point the numbers simply get too much for us to handle.”
“We are a small country in terms of people, even if we do have the entire moon to live in,” added Newling. “It’s simply impossible to bring your staff,” he finished.
“Then get rid of these idiots and replace them with someone capable of following simple directions!”
“Doctor, may I ask a question?” said Crozier.
“If it makes sense.”
“Have you given written instructions to my engineers?”
Carnahan made a dismissive sound, then said, “Of course I have!”
“May I see them?” said Newling. “Perhaps there’s a difference in interpretation.”
Again Carnahan made her dismissive sound. Sounds like a leaky airlock, thought Crozier, but the scientist pulled out a padd and handed it to Newling. She peered across as he activated it.
“These?” he asked.
“Yes. Perfectly straightforward.”
They didn’t seem straightforward to Crozier, but she supposed that may just be a result of her lack of a technical education.
“I’m sorry, Doctor, but I’m having difficulty with them, and I know you’re familiar with my background,” Newling said. He turned the padd to face Carnahan. “This line here. What is it instructing?”
“That? It’s the secondary connection between the integrated compensator and the main power conduit, of course.”
“That’s not what I read. Doctor, is this standard notation?”
Again the airlock leaked. “I should think not! Standard notation isn’t up to warp theory, let alone the practical aspects of building a warp generator! No, this is my own notation.”
“And have you taught Minister Crozier’s engineers how to read your notation?”
“Why should I? It’s perfectly easy to understand if you have any kind of scientific intelligence.”
“Doctor, I know you’re terribly busy,” Crozier said now, seeing the opening that Newling had given her. “But it will likely smooth our progress if you would provide a short course of instruction. Then the engineers will be better able to follow your directions, and you can move on to more important matters.”
“In the long run it will save you so much time and wasted effort,” Newling put in. “And then you can return to your theoretical work.”
Carnahan made to object before stopping and thinking about it. “It does take me away from my lab,” she said slowly. “And I’m sure I could write a primer in no time at all.”
“Thank you,” said Crozier. “I appreciate you making the time to do this.” She wondered if she was maybe laying it on too thickly.
“One must do what one can to better one’s inferiors, I suppose,” said Carnahan.
Nope. Not too thick at all.
“Thanks,” Crozier said to Newling over a private channel.