There was so much going on behind the scenes in Artemis City we never had a clue about.
And you want to know what’s funny about it?
All of these dominoes started falling because of the littlest things.
The Primus tossed her cousin in the PRC, where Autumn met Nour and Sharon and Caitlin, without whom the Revolution wouldn’t have happened.
Davie stepped out and hid, instead of dying, and her replacement took Nicole with him to the meeting so she ended up promoted. She took a weekend off and got caught up in a totally separate operation, which put Jake Taylor into place as her replacement. Which led directly to the events in this chapter.
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“Thank you for taking time to see me. How was the shakedown cruise?”
“Largely uneventful, Minister.” The two men were walking through the corridors of the Averroes, which again were bustling with activity. Crewmen hurried about their duties, carrying bundles or tools. “Which is exactly what you want a shakedown to be.”
Taylor laughed. “I hear that!”
Captain Newling nodded his agreement. “I was thrilled to get through the full scheduled deployment with no major issues.”
He gestured for Taylor to enter the wardroom first. Taylor did, but stopped with his foot halfway through.
“I’m sorry, Minister, I forgot to mention that I extended your invitation to some other officers.”
Or you wanted witnesses, thought Taylor.
Smoothly done, putting it back on me.
“No problem,” he said, smiling his best Ministerial smile at the two who had jumped to their feet. “Jake Taylor.”
“Lieutenant Holts, Weapons,” said the first.
“Lieutenant Worth, Chief Engineer,” said the second, a woman, and Taylor tilted his head in curiosity. Women comprised a solid third of the Artemis Navy ranks, but he didn’t think there were many Engineers, let alone Chiefs, and he wondered fleetingly if she’d slept her way into the position. Then he remembered Newling’s record, his habit of keeping competent officers around him, and dismissed the thought as unworthy.
“That’s Mickey and Taz,” said Newling, closing the hatch and bolting it. “They’ve been with me for ten and eleven years. I trust them completely.”
“And they’re here because?”
“Because you need to hear about the limitations we’ve discovered to the new weapons and drive, and also because if your plan has a hope in hell of success I’m going to need them in on it.”
I didn’t tell him not to talk about it, and he’s right. He’ll need help to pull off his end.
“Nice to meet you both. What are these limitations?”
Newling nodded at his weapons officer. “Mickey?”
“I think Taz should start; the story starts with her.”
The engineer looked at Taylor and gave him the slightest nod. “Minister. One of the improvements was to replace the four fusion plants with one fusion and one antimatter, which resulted in a net increase in available power while requiring less space for the plants and less bunkerage.”
“Which allowed for more storage,” added Holts.
“What?” he said in response to Worth’s glare.
“I thought you said it was my story to tell?”
“I can add things!”
“Knock it off!” snapped Newling. “In future construction, the additional storage can be used for expanded magazines or additional lasers, but we didn’t have time for it. Taz, go ahead.”
“Thank you,” she said with a telling look at Holts. “Since there was additional power, it was decided by higher up to push it through into the lasers to see if we could get away from the capacitor model.”
Taylor nodded. “That would certainly increase his firepower.”
Holts picked up the story. “We were out in the Oort Cloud and we planned to do some target practice, check out the system. We started by testing each laser individually, and they all passed. We could fire pretty much at will, over and over, and we were even able to increase the duration of our shots to nearly a half a second before hitting an overheat.”
“How long does it take to cool back down? You didn’t damage them, did you?”
“Oh, no, Minister. The lasers are cryogenically cooled; the system uses the natural cooling of vacuum to increase the system’s efficiency. It only takes about ten seconds to reset, which is still lots better than it was before. No, cooling of itself wasn’t the issue.”
“What happened when we tried to fire more than ten megajoules at once, rotating through various lasers to deliver continuous power, was we’d start getting warnings on the power conduits overloading, and if we ignored them and kept firing we’d eventually burn the conduit out. It was something that was actually pointed out to me while we were in the yard; an engineer working the refit had crunched the numbers. He was talking it over with another yard dog and I overheard them. We all got talking. I didn’t hear anything afterward, so I assumed that they’d taken care of it. I was wrong.”
“Eventually being about three seconds,” added Worth. “Max. And the time before burnout shortens geometrically with the increase in power. Firing a full broadside burned it out in under a hundredth of a second. Turns out the conduits installed are the same as we had in the original specs. They were fine for fusion plants, but the antimatter plant is much more powerful. They can’t handle the load.”
“So you can’t fire?”
“We can fire,” said Holts. “But no more than one spinal laser at a time, or a third of a broadside.”
Taylor frowned. “But you can’t fire continuously, right?”
“So I don’t see that this is a problem. Check me if I’m wrong, but you said you can fire for half a second, then cool for ten. There are thirty lasers in a broadside? So you fire ten, then ten, then ten. Or five. Or whatever number you need to keep it below critical, until we can get the conduits re-done.”
Newling was shaking his head. “We thought of that, Jake. One problem is that defeats the purpose of a broadside: deliver maximum firepower on target in a single burst. Another problem is that it limits us to firing a single spinal laser at a time, and we have six of them. But they’re not the worst problem.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Overloading the firing circuits also corrupted the power leads to the warp drive.”
“That’s not good, I’m thinking.”
“That’s not good,” agreed Worth. “We had tried some speed runs, and had maxed out at warp four, just like Carnahan said we would. After that firing exercise, we weren’t able to exceed warp two point five.”
“And that means we lost a huge chunk of our speed,” said Newling. “At warp four, we’re doing over a thousand times light speed. At two five, we’re doing less than a tenth of that.”
“Exactly. One of our priorities is to replace all the damaged circuitry and conduits, and upgrade where we can. Taz tells me the conduits we need won’t fit into the spaces we have available, so we have to make do with what will fit.”
“How long will it take, the way you’re doing it, and how long would it take to do it right?”
“We’re going to need three weeks,” said Worth. “It’s not just a matter of pulling the bad and replacing them; we have to test all the downstream connections. That’s what will take time. And to do it right? Six, seven lunars, and that’s a dockyard job. Tear him open and rebuild him from the inside out.”
“Then we don’t have much choice. The Primus wanted you to spearhead another attack as soon as you returned; I convinced her there would certainly be issues, and you’d need time to resupply, but there’s no way she’ll go for multiple lunars.”
Taylor looked at Newling.
“How much have you told them so far?”
“Nothing much, just enough for them to know they want in.”
“Then we need to lay the cards on the table.”
“I agree. Taz, Mickey. Last chance to back out.”
“You haven’t steered us wrong yet,” said Holts.
“Except for that one bar in Scipio City,” added Taz.
“And that one on Ceres. Remember?”
“Oh, jeez, I’d forgotten. That was pretty terrible.”
“And then –”
“Seriously,” said Newling.
“We told you. We’re in.”
“Mickey? You too?”
“Then here’s the idea.”