By The Sword 7

By The Sword
Chapter 7 Draft (7/17/08)

Audie Madry had kept a low profile since her run-in with Captain Langston. It wasn’t obvious nor was it hard when she needed to get the new missile test program ready to go. Yuri was doing most of the modifications but she had to handle arrangements and still keep the Engineering Department running.

The SnapDragon and the Ryman cruiser Panoply made a short jump beyond the limit in order to make sure the tests were run unobserved. The Hafnium warheads on the test missiles were light enough that it enabled their acceleration to go from 2200 to 2520 meters per second. There was room for another couple of hundred but not without a structural redesign, adding weight and canceling all the benefits. They traded off the missing acceleration for another eighty seconds of burn time.

Everyone involved was certain the prototypes would burn out range at a 235,000 kilometer greater range with a final velocity 20% faster than the standard Mod IV ShipKiller. The question was would the small x-ray laser trigger pumping the device deliver enough energy to the hafnium to generate the yield they calculated, and could it do it within the flight time constraints of the missiles flight envelope?

The mission scenarios were very involved and different for each of the four test shots, the first being the simplest, a test to check missile performance and see if the thing would actually explode. Audie went over to the Panoply taking the various profiles with her so that Tata Kimsky the ships Captain would see them first.

“So you see Captain,” Audi said. “The first time these get used no one but we will have any idea about how they perform. And the only way I could think of to simulate that is if your weapons section doesn’t get to see the first test or any of the test data.”

“Fair enough Lieutenant, but I’m sure you know how hard it is to keep secrets on a warship. Especially so when the second firing won’t take place until you have time to analyze your data from the first systems check.”

“That’s the problem alright. The way I see to handle it is to take one of your gunnery crews and one of your sensor sections onboard the SnapDragon for the first test. We will give them a ship’s tour and then they can watch from our Flag Bridge. What we will do is time delay the show so that it starts right after the real test and just show the pictures with none of the data.”

“What if someone notices the longer flight time?”

“We can compress the video so the extra time isn’t noticeable. Then we can conduct some real show and tell on our sensor systems using a standard missile and I will describe the second test and then come back with them to the Panoply as an observer.”

“I can’t say I like fooling my own crew,” Kimsky said. “But I am interested in seeing how they react to the surprise. So we will do it as you suggest. When will you be ready?”

“I can come back to the Panoply in say twelve hours to escort your party if that is acceptable to you Sir.”

“Very well Madry, I shall see you then.”

Audie was on the SnapDragon’s Flag Bridge with ten of the Panoply’s crew, two sensor operators and two four-man tube crews. The first test went as scheduled and looked impressive enough even with the slowed down display. Audie could just manage to contain her elation when the warhead detonated at the end of the run. At least it wasn’t a total dud. She wanted to see the complete data collection but first the briefing.

“As you can see,” she began, “the warhead has a lower yield than a normal ShipKiller.” That data was displayed accurately. “I am not going to go into detail but I will tell you that in exchange for the reduction in killing range we have improved some of the missiles other features. What the second test will do is see if it was worth it.”

“The way the second test will run is like this.” She called up a programmed view of the scenario and its parameters. “Your ship will set a course towards the assumed planet’s location and drop two Mod IV’s and a target drone on a coasting trajectory. Then the Panoply draws back seventy-five thousand kilometers and looks for out launch. As soon as we get into range or our missile is fired one of your gun crews engages us or it. If our missile escapes your first shot, the second missile goes to work at close range. If you stop our test missile, you win the fight. If we detonate on the drone, we do. Simple as that. Any questions?”

The Senior Officer with the Panoply’s crew said. “When we back away from the drone we are going to be a quarter of a second late in seeing your launch. I can’t see how that helps you but it does put us at a disadvantage.”

“Dealing with that problem is one of the reasons we are all here. The Dragon will send complete telemetry, as you would see it, to your ships control system. And we will start sending so that you see it at the same time you would have if located with the drone. After you launch your first interceptor and she acquires our missile we will transfer telemetry back to you. We will keep up our feed for another hundred milliseconds so the transfer is seamless. Software for that was a bear to write, but it’s been sent over to the Panoply and checked out already. From the point of transfer you are on your own.”

“We’ll have the same problem it we need to fire off out second missile for close in work.”

“Not really. Just assume the first shot misses and send her on here way when you see the evidence. If we do get by your first we will hold course without evasion until your second locks on. By that time it’s mostly the missiles own controls that determine what happens so everything is as equal as we can make it.”

They talked a while longer and then Clarence Fletcher came to take them on a tour of the ship, making sure they stayed away from anyone involved from the Dragon’s end with data from the first test launch. Audie went to fire control to see Yuri and get a look at the real numbers.

“Sweet as could be,” Yuri said. “We hit all the design goals and have a good numbers on how long it takes to x-ray pump the hafnium. Anywhere from 460 seconds after launch the warhead will ignite. Course the longer she flies the bigger the bang.”

“Great! We want to engage at the greatest possible distance anyway. I’ll send word to Captain Kimsky and set up the telemetry transfer protocols.”
Emma Debus, seated at the Gunnery station said, “I’m off to see Captain Langston. Do you want to come with me Audie?”

“Guess I better. I’ll take him the word Emma. Would you check and make sure that the sleeping quarters for the Panoply’s crew are ready. As soon as they finish the tour I want to get them fed and bunked down. They know we have the shuttles from both ships sampling the gas cloud the warhead detonation made. And they also know the second test is going to run when we take them back to their own ship. I want to keep things moving so none of them start thinking too much about why we are keeping them here for another eight hours. And after I talk to the both Captains I want to get some sleep myself.”

Back on the Panoply, Audie had first gone with the gun crew to their weapons stations and now sat as an observer with Captain Kimsky on his bridge. The telemetry passing software was active and the test was going to begin in moments. There it was. The ship’s battle alarms rang and a voice said, “Incoming, we have incoming.”

Before the second word was spoken Audie could see the interceptor launch on the screen in front. She listened to the audio channel from the gun deck.

“One away!” And then surprise and consternation, “Something wrong here, she was fired from too far away and she is accelerating too fast!”

“Keep on it,” came the voice from the gun captain. “We can still intercept this bird. Sensors say time to contact, 511 seconds.”

The display marked the missiles trajectories as they built up speed. The one from the Dragon was curving slightly outwards and the Panoply’s interceptor changed course to match. This long-range test was conducted without the use of electronic jamming, a pure test of speed and maneuverability. The vector-cones, showing possible paths surrounding the central bright line highlighting each missiles present course, had long since merged. The sphere centered on the interceptor’s destruct radius slowly closed on target.
Then the missile from the Dragon veered sharply and its vector-cone took on an even larger size and the Panoply tried to correct. It wasn’t going to happen. The warhead detonated to no avail.

“She had something in reserve. Must be doing 8% over our maximum. Get ready to knock her down when she gets closer.”

“Number two away!” The Panoply’s gun crew had learned not to launch early. They waited so even with the additional speed they could insure an intercept. And they would have too except that the electronic jammers on the SnapDragon and the closer ones on its own missile came on. The display around the threat filled with static and random streaks of light.

“We’ve lost the hard lock! Intercept 2 is on her own.”

All eyes watched the blurred display, seeing random clutter until a bright pulse when the interceptor’s warhead detonated. An instant later another pulse and the target drone was destroyed.

“Quite impressive Madry,” Captain Kimsky said. “Now I hope you would be so kind as to explain to my gun crew exactly how it happened and what they were really fighting.”

“It would be a pleasure Sir.”

They spent five more days testing the other two prototypes, two for the intercepts and three to track down and bring back on board the interceptors. No point in destroying expensive hardware when data analysis would tell them what they wanted to know. With complete knowledge of what they were up against the Panoply registered a 60% probability of intercept on the last shot. But it took three of her own to stop one from the SnapDragon.

Captain Langston was visibly pleased with the results and was quick to credit Madry and the rest of the ship’s crew for a job well done. As they transitioned back into Cardoman space Audie was prepared to believe she might have misjudged the man after all. A message was sent and the Panoply went back to her station while the SnapDragon continued inward.

* * *
“The representative from Castle Ranch has the floor and the podium.” Connie went to the front and faced the half-full meeting hall. As the most junior member of Horvath’s Cabinet, she had the job of reading the paragraph summery of bills to be debated and voted on this legislative season. Horvath had read a similar list at the session’s first meeting. This time around the Proxy Holder’s had them in their possession and had read them.

Mostly this was a photo op for Legislators and Newsies benefit, a place where political points could be scored for the hometown crowd. Tomorrow the cameras would be banished to a back corner of the room and the real debate would begin. All but the last two bills were slated for action the first week with the final week set for the hard one. Cardoman government was very efficient because so much of the work was done out of session.

After each of the thirty or so bills she paused and asked for comments. Each legislator wishing to speak was allotted two minutes in the spotlight. Continuing resolutions and bills that were certain to pass came first. It took less than an hour for the first twenty-four proposals and another hour for the next five. That left two, the military budget and the lease of the fueling station. Connie didn’t leave the Proxy Holder’s Chamber till past midnight. She didn’t need to defend the government’s position; she just needed to stay until everyone had their say.

By the end of the two-week session both bills were modified on the margins but passed. Most of the Proxy Holders went home. Connie, as the Military Undersecretary for War, had a full time job in the capital. She still was able to spend most of her time at the Castle. The Cardoman communications infrastructure made that possible, and of course high-speed transportation was never a problem. More training time for the shuttle pilots learning to use the new craft being built in the belt for longer trips and those times when she didn’t have time to use her own transport. Just to be on the safe side, one of the Castle’s security staff always traveled with her.

“You know Wes, I was sure this job was going to be mostly tedium and outright drudgery. It’s not that way at all.”

“I’m glad to hear that Babe, but not surprised. While you were running Alpha Company I was doing staff work. I thought that was going to be a sorry let down, but what it meant was just more decisions to make and at a higher level. How is your staff working out?” Wes asked before digging into his dinner again.

“They’re very good, but something I wasn’t looking forward to, kinda like these mashed potatoes and gravy,” Connie said twirling a forkful of the fluffy portion on her plate into the rich, dark, fat speckled liquid, she had about a third as much as Wes had piled on his own plate. She paused a while savoring the taste.

“As far as I know out in the Indie Worlds only Cardoman and New Britain make potatoes this way. It makes me glad I came here. But back to my help. I have two full time civilian workers and a young Lieutenant that General Inglase has assigned for liaison work. I get to shovel off some of the details onto them but even the small stuff is has interest.”

They were just about finished with dinner and Wes said, “Grab the wine and we can have dessert out back. Irwana told me she has something special for us.” They were eating in the small informal room off the kitchen at the back of the Castle. It was rare that there weren’t a few guests in the Castle this time of day. Wes also worked from this location whenever he could. And his days, if anything, usually ran longer than Connie’s did.

Connie took the bottle and their glasses. Wes had a couple of plates and silverware in one hand as he palmed the door next to the window wall. Fifteen meters from the Castle’s stone outer wall, reached by a flagstone walk, was a octangular wooden gazebo covered by a light awning.

It was getting dark, but a few lights could be seen shining from a couple of the distant outbuildings. Not just a show place, though it certainly was that, Castle Calvert was a working farm as well and some of the work, especially maintenance items, went on long into the night. A casual glance gave no indication of a security presence, yet they both knew Sgt. Luther White, the Cardoman who ran their personal protection detail, would have someone on the Castle roof, probably more than one. Recon was sending out people for night work and if they got passed on by White, and they always did; the Sergeant kept them busy.

Irwana al-Omari wheeled the cart out herself. On it were two insulated containers. One with hot berry pie and the other with cold ice cream. “Sit with us Wana and have some yourself. It looks and smells delicious, Connie said. Lights under the awning gave a soft glow to the picnic like surroundings.

“I was hoping you might ask,” Irwana said giggling and sliding onto the bench. She served them each a slice then cut herself a smaller one.

“Why such a little piece Wana, this is a very big pie?” Wes asked. “We can’t possibly eat it all.”

“Eat as much as you can but my son Mo is going to be home tomorrow from school. I want to give him anything left over. I don’t think they feed him so good at the Military Prep School.”

“Not as good as your cooking I am sure,” Wes agreed. “But they do serve a lot of what they have and I bet he has grown a foot in the last year.”

“A foot?” Irwana asked puzzled. “What would he do with three?”

“Old Earth term,” Wes smiled. “Used to mean about a quarter meter. I can see how it could be confusing though. Anyway, when he gets in and you have had enough of him, or any day when you are working, send him up to the Castle. And if I can’t find the time I’m sure Kendrie Douglas can, to go ridding, to go ridding I mean. Where else on the planet is he gonna find any camels?”

“Thank you so much Wes. That I will do. But now I am through here and will leave you two alone.”

They ate slowly and talked; Wes cut himself another small slice and asked Connie if she could take another, with or without the topping.

“Not another please, I could surely eat one more piece, but I might get fat.”

“You. Fat! Never happen Babe. That might have been a problem in ancient history but we got drugs for that now. So eat up. What’s so special you’re worried about it anyway?”

“It’s not so much for me Wes, you see I just found out today we are going to have a baby!”

* * *
The Eagle was docked and unloading when Audie went aboard her. Yuri was tagging along with two of the members of the marine detachment accompanying, who would stay with him and the prototype information, as he hand carried and lock it into the station and thence to the small R&D office before doing anything else.

Audie was getting used to the ceremony put forth upon an officer’s arrival to a new ship. She was starting to enjoy it. Knowing that could go too far, she would need to make certain it didn’t go to her head. She had seen enough of that on her own ship. Ed Tubman was in the boat bay to meet her and they proceeded to his office. She was talking about the missile test when Yuri joined them.

“So why do we bounce around so unpredictably if we enter inside the hyperlimit?” Audie asked the Eagle’s Engineering Officer.

Tubman said, “I am going to tell you what I have read about the thing. The first person to explain it was an old-time Earth-born physicist name of Lubos Motl. He was talking about something else cause the drive hadn’t been invented yet but the passage showed he would see one reason at once. What he said about field theory is still the basis for most books that mention the subject so here it goes from memory and with a little paraphrasing.

Motl said: “If you want a constructive explanation of a similar relationship to the impenetrability of volume inside the h-limit, imagine that the scattering amplitude arises from the exchange of a spin-j particle P in the t-channel. The interaction with the external scalar particles – that we scatter – must involve j spacetime derivatives, to contract the Lorentz indices of P in the cubic vertex. That will make the amplitude scale like the 2j-th power of the energy.” That’s pretty much the end of the matter.”

“Ok I can see how that explains where we are now,” Audie replied, but I was reading Terence Tao’s book, and he had another look at the situation. Let me pull it up and put it on the screen. Audie reached to her waist and touched her com unit. The display on Tubman’s office wall came to life and showed the passage Audie was talking about.

“More generally, there is a philosophical objection as to why a purely multiplicative adelic approach such as this one cannot work. The argument only uses the multiplicative structure of K’, but not the additive structure of k. (For instance, the fact that k is a co-compact discrete additive subgroup of A is not used.) Because of this, the arguments would still hold if we simply deleted a finite number of finite places v from the adeles (and from K’). If the arguments worked, this would mean that the Weil-Bombieri positivity criterion would (-snip-) continue to hold even after deleting an arbitrary number of places. But I am pretty sure one can cook up a function g which (assuming RH) fails this massively stronger positivity property (basically, one needs to take g to be a well chosen slowly varying function with broad support, so that the Mellin transforms at Riemann (Space) zeroes, as well as the pole at 1 and the place at infinity, are negligible but which gives a bad contribution to a single large prime (and many good contributions to other primes which we delete).”
-Terence Tao – From his personal notes and comment archive.

“I did those two little edits shown in the parenthesis,” Audie said. But the rest of the words are his own and for my money he knows what he is talking about!”

Yuri was looking a little out of it.

“You feeling alright Sgt?” Tubman asked.

“It’s stuff like you two are talking about that made me leave the University and join the Army. Let me ask this, does anyone have an example of an infinite set S, that corresponds to a reduced zeta function with zeroes in the half plane Re z > 1/2? A set S of primes p so that the sum_S 1/p^{1/2} converges will not do, because it seems to me that since the prod_S 1/(1-1/p^{-s}) is holomorphic in the half plane Re z > 1/2 with no zeroes within sight. Or maybe a set S of primes P thick enough so that sum_S 1/p^{1/2} diverges, but thin enough so that sum_S 1/p converges. That could explain things couldn’t it?

Tubman and Madry were both aghast and shaking their heads. “Yuri,” Audie said with concern, “I will point out some of the data sources and books you need to study before supporting something like that. Why if you were even half-correct we would need to throw out a thousand years of math and start from scratch. And it still wouldn’t get us any closer to finding a way to jump close and stay inside of a hyperlimit!”

“I guess I’ll stick to explosive then,” Yuri agreed readily. “Far more fun. But yeah, send me the books and in my spare time I’ll take a look.”

When Audie played back the conversation later, she thought and said to herself, “There is a certain poetry when it comes to math and some just never get it.”

“All the Bigs are here Yuri, if you blow this I will shoot you myself, and then make damn sure there’s nothing left for a funeral.”

“Why don’t you do the dog and pony show Audie, they all know you. I’m just a university drop-out that got lucky.”

“Because Yuri, whatever you were before, you are now Cardoman 7th and the Major expects no less!”

“Geez Audie, I can see I’m getting on your nerves, and I want this to come off for my own reasons. But isn’t appeal to the cult of the indispensable man outside of any kind of rational discourse?”

“Yuri, I never even applied for a University slot. Joined the military in order to get off planet as soon as I came of age. Could I have done the work? Sure, now, but not then. What I needed was a place to hang out and a group to belong to. One where I could learn to be myself by fitting in without questions about status being asked, and being anonymous till maybe someday I was ready for something more. I found that with Calvert and the Seventh.”

“It was accidental and a near run thing, but I am now where I wanted to be. And without Major Calvert it couldn’t have happened. He’s a strange one, doesn’t lead by example anymore. He stays in the background and does staff work mostly. I was with him on Ophia and Witherway though so I know. I have a job and you have a job. Your job today is to make sure that we get the new model missiles into the fleet. And by doing that you will find that a lack of University degree matters nothing in the Seventh. And also that Wes Calvert could care less. And that is why we are the Seventh!”

Audie’s talk and Borselov’s response were anti-climatic, but his briefing was a signature event and won him notice from high above. The tech reports were clear enough from the start. The only problem was figuring out the mix of standard and Mod V’s, and how to pay for the conversions.

“Well Lieutenant Borselov, what is the minimum number of personnel you need to convert half the fleet’s warheads to the new model within the next three weeks?”

“Using the station engineering spaces and production lines?”

“That and whatever else you can think to ask for.” Asst Sec Melbourne said. She had gotten very familiar with Yuri and his typical mode of thought when he once visited the Castle with Audie, but was keeping this session formal and for the record.

“Give me every man jack aboard and I still can’t do it in that time frame. Not enough hafnium for the warheads. We used every bit we could scrape together for the test shots. With only Cardoman production, if we get going right away, I could convert most of what you want in a year or two. The only way to do it quicker is to get the hafnium out system and that means a trip to Sylvan and back. Three months minimum if you are willing to send a transport at once and then the time to make the conversion.”

“Thank You Lieutenant. End Transcript. End Record.” Connie killed the recording device.

“Ok Yuri, off the record for now, we are going to send the Eagle to Sylvan, but what can we expect from insystem production before she returns?”

“I wasn’t kidding Ma’am we used every thing we could find on those test shots. If we raided every school chemistry lab on the planet we might get enough half for another warhead or two but that’s it. Production in Cardoman space, without a major discovery could ramp up and give enough for one or two a week but that’s it.”

“So what is your recommendation Lieutenant, and this is—for the record.”

“Raid the labs and get production here maximized. I don’t know how to maximize production but I guess you do, or can find out how to get that done. Then we send the ship to Sylvan, and by the time she returns, and with the help of just a couple of techs, I can have fifty warheads ready for change. But every one I get ready in advance means one less on an operational missile. Unless this is outside of my security clearance, I always thought we were near one to one on missiles and warheads.”

“Your clearance just went up a notch. I will need to check, but plan on the fifty you are talking about, but make sure no effort is spared on what we can do in system till we get a cargo back from Sylvan. I know what their reserve held when I got their last data dump, but they have no way of knowing that the galactic demand for the one rare metal they have in abundance above all others just went way up.”

“One last word. Your orders will come from fleet and through your ship and Captain Langston. Once you set up shop on station you report to Cmdr. Woodward. Remember, you work for Reeves at R&D and make sure he knows what you are doing even if he can’t find the time to get up here. And copy Audie Madry on all reports, she may not get along to reading them, but again she might. And document every credit spent. Can you do that Lieutenant?

“Yes Ma’am!”