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Offline Garfunkel

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Three-way Race to Stars
« on: April 07, 2017, 11:24:20 PM »
PROLOGUE

On 4th of January, 2015, the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) sent its monthly update to Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Among the hundreds of IR shots that the spacecraft had taken, few were ruined by a bright streak. While initially dismissed as a glitch, its presence in multiple shots intrigued the Deputy Principal Investigator James Bauer, who placed a call to Washington. The head of the Science Division, John Grunsfeld, was just about to ride his beloved bicycle when his phone vibrated.

"Hey John, James here. I think NEOWISE might have caught something interesting but we need to retask it for confirmation and I wanted to run that by you first", Bauer explained. Two and half thousand miles away, Grunsfeld sighed as he dumped his bike and headed back to his office.

"Let me double check things but it should be fine. What do you think you got?" He asked while walking to the elevators. Bauer waited a moment, pondering whether he should share his suspicion or not. In the end, he decided to go for it:
"A new comet, never before seen one, that is coming in hot as hell", he said.

"Hot damn, that's exactly the kind of stuff that the director can take to the Hill to justify our budget. I'll give you my permission right now and will clear it with the rest of the Division right away", Grunsfeld responded. He hadn't felt this excited since 2012, when he rode to Low Earth Orbit aboard Space Shuttle Columbia.

"Gotcha boss, we'll get to work", Bauer acknowledged and terminated the call. He had a team to whip to action.

Two weeks later, NASA held a press conference to announce the tentative discovery of a new comet, one moving at a quadruple velocity compared to Hayley's Comet and with a trajectory bringing it relatively close to Earth. In scant hours, every telescope on Earth was aimed at the fresh visitor to the inner system.

***

Susan Mullally was going through her usual work - analyzing Kepler data to find binary systems - when her colleague and boss, Jeffrey Smith, called.

"Get your ass down here right now", he said, out-of-breath, before cutting the line. Intrigued, Susan rushed to the main conference room of the SETI Institute in California. By the time she got there, a handful of other night owls had been roused by Smith, who held a manic grin on his pudgy face.

"Argentina just sent this in, listen", he said and pressed a button with a flourish. The speakers came alive with the familiar sound of interstellar background noise that their radio telescopes constantly listened to - yet there was a beep that she didn't recognize. And there it was again. And again. And again. Despite not being a 'radio guy', she did understand the significance.

"Has this been confirmed?" She asked.

"No, Argentina has trouble tracking the source for some reason, they claim it is moving. They are adjusting but now that you've heard it too, ensuring that I didn't just go crazy five minutes ago, I'm going to call every radio telescope on the planet and get them in on the search". Smith was babbling but nobody cared - this could very well be the signal that the Institute had worked for.

***

General John Hyten, Commander USAF Space Command, stared at his desk. For variety, he briefly glanced out of his window but for once the beautiful view of Colorado did not soothe his mind. He had just gotten a call from NORAD that he never expected to receive.

"If this is some kind of a prank, it is not very funny. Are you absolutely certain?"

"Yes sir, we have double, triple and quadruple checked. The facts are as solid as humanely possible", the voice on the other end answered.

"And the network boys are certain that it's not some hotshot hacker playing with us?"

"Yes sir, we thought the same thing at first but it is genuine", the voice responded.

"Very well. Thank you, I will take it from here", Hyten said and ended the call. He always thought that he would never need to call the President - if WW3 started with a nuclear strike, others would take care of that end. But this! Sighing, he picked up the phone and dialled the White House, dreading the conversation to come.

"This is General Hyten, Space Command. I am calling to inform the President that we have confirmation of a message from a non-human intelligence, outside the Earth. Yes, I'll hold"

***

Comet 2015/P/Neowise-Bauer turned out to be something else altogether. A massive probe, continuously transmitting an electronic signal. Unfortunately humanity had no method of rendezvousing with it. Thousands of images of it were taken, on every part of the EM-spectrum available, as the artificial "comet" sailed through the Solar System. The scientific community worked as one to decipher the message and, once certain mathematical regularities were discovered, the rest was easy enough, with plentiful access to super computers and the best brains on the planet. Unlike our Voyager probes, its message was not of peace and harmony. It was a warning of impending doom - but also of possible salvation.

The message clearly stated that some sort of collective intelligence, possibly of extragalactic origin, that is methodically wiping out life in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Unknown number of species had already been wiped out by them and the creators of the probe were currently fighting them - and losing. The news sent most of humanity reeling. Here was definite proof of life outside planet Earth but the worst fears of the pessimists seemed to be coming true - space was truly hostile.

Yet the probe included a glimmer of hope: knowledge of exotic materials, quickly dubbed the Trans-Newtonian minerals for their near-magical properties, that seemed to offer possibilities flying directly in opposition to the Laws of Physics as currently understood. These materials could be find on planets, moons, asteroids and comets, and when subjected to an carefully modulated electric current, could be harvested from the 'regular' minerals. With them and the information that the probe transmitted, space exploration would not only be possible but affordable and vastly more efficient than before. Even faster than light travel between the stars could be possible!

Yet humans are nothing if not set in their ways. Large portion of the population soon moved on, concerned more with their daily survival than with a possible existential crisis, and some nations preferred to go at it alone - but not all. By the end of 2015, the leading politicians of NATO, EU and the former SEATO members had gathered to announce the formation of a new supra-national organization to spearhead humanity's efforts to safeguard the planet and to spread mankind to the stars. Since both Russia and China refused to join, and none of the African, South-American or Middle-Eastern countries were interested, and out of Asia, only Japan, South-Korea, and Singapore joined, this new organization was named the Pan Oceanic Treaty Organization or PATO for short. Despite protests from both Russia and China that this new organization was a militaristic one directly aimed at them, the international reaction was subdued and, for once, the diplomatic wrangling was completed surprisingly quickly. Technocrats, taking advantage of frightened politicians and the public support, managed to iron out the startup issues in short order by the end of 2015.

In short, while the countries making up PATO retained full control of their domestic, economical and foreign policies (inside the framework of their respective other groupings and alliances, like NATO or the European Union), they all pledged to work together and to devote significant portion of their industrial, economical, scientific and military capability to further the aims of PATO. Similar to how NATO was governed, each member state appointed a delegate to the PATO council, the executive chair rotating between members (by quirk of the alphabet, Albania was the first) and all decisions having to be accepted unanimously. However, the technocrats responsible for drafting the actual treaty were clever enough to shift most responsibility below the actual council, which would only be required to decide on the most grave matters. Day-to-day business would be administered by a join executive administration that combined both civilian and military leadership.

Joe Hanson, a veteran American diplomat, was tapped to become the first PATO Administrator. Experienced at overseeing massive projects in both the US Federal government and in the UN, he had solid contacts and knowledge of both industrial and economic sectors and this experience propelled him past the Canadian-born Isaac Knowles and British-born Gemma Mitchell, who were appointed as his vice administrators and potential successors.

Admiral John Richardson, the current Chief of Naval Operations for US Navy, snatched the appointment to be the top military commander of PATO. Despite heavy competition from the air forces of several PATO countries, the navy side managed to convince the politicians and the civil servants that they had the proper experience, know-how and mind set to wage war in deep space. The crucial difference was that, despite the flyboys having monopoly for aerospace operations, the miracle of TN-assets implied that future space operations would far more likely resemble naval operations of 17th to 20th centuries - not the easily micro-managed air strikes lasting few hours of the 21st century. Despite having no existing assets under him, Richardson wisely saw the writing on the wall and left his beloved wet Navy behind.

The mission of PATO was simple - to eXplore space, to eXpand humanity's hold of the galaxy, to eXploit the resources thus found and to eXterminate any threats to the human race and planet Earth.

***

Despite their refusal to join PATO, neither the Russian Federation nor the People's Republic of China were going to turn a blind eye to what was going to happen. Quietly, both countries took steps to start their own TN-programs. Russia was keen to regain her lost glory, while China was merely being pragmatic. They had no lofty ideals to safeguard.

Rest of the planet would thereafter be know as the neutral UN, playing no significant part.
 
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Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2017, 11:25:17 PM »
2016-2017



The workmen had barely left the conference room when the gaggle of officers marched in. Its walls had not even been painted yet but Admiral Richardson felt it necessary to get the ball rolling by meeting with his staff, in person, as soon as possible. Everyone in the group wore an uniform but not even two were exactly the same - PATO Military had no uniform of its own and everyone wore their national ones for the foreseeable future.

"Please be seated if we have enough chairs", Richardson said. It quickly became obvious that there indeed were not enough chairs and all the junior officers had to remain standing. This didn't faze the admiral, hardboiled as he was in the Pentagon infighting.

"I hereby declare the first PATO Military leadership meeting open. We will start with the most urgent thing, laying out the command structure for our future space force. Then we'll proceed with the Mission Statement. Once we're happy with those, I will divide you into groups and let you get on with the details. Any questions at this point?" Richardson spoke with a clear baritone, not expecting any.

"Good. I've spent few evenings hashing out a basic command structure. To begin with, PATO will have four operational commands", he started and nodded to his Operations Officer, Lieutenant Commander Madison May, who handed out briefing notes.

"As you can see from the papers, these will be the Orbital Defense Command, the Planetary Defense Command, the Survey Command and the Logistics Command. The formal appointments will happen later, once we have the headquarters and other mundane requirements under control. Their missions will be self-explanatory but I will go through them in any case", Admiral Richardson explained.

"First, ORDCOM under Rear Admiral Tomohisa Takei. I'm sorry for this 'demotion' but otherwise we'd have nothing but admirals in here", Richardson explained. The wiry, black-haired Japanese officer merely nodded so Richardson continued:
"ORDCOM will responsibility over all of our space assets, none which exist at this moment", several officers chuckled at this "but will hopefully soon consist of both military shipyards and orbital weapon platforms designed for anti-asteroid and anti-missile duty. Yes, I said anti-missile. We all know that there are a number of rogue states here on Earth, some of which might might not look kindly on us. Note that ORDCOM will not be nuclear-armed, as we will honour the international treaties that prevent nuclear weapons in space... for now", Richardson explained. Few officers frowned.

"Secondly, PADCOM under Lieutenant-General Michael Hood", the tall Canadian nodded as well, "will have responsibility of our ground assets. Currently these are four major training areas, being refitted for Trans-Newtonian standards. Once they are up and running and all the prototypes are ready for mass production, we will start re-training NATO units and PADCOM will take control of them. The other PADCOM area of responsibility will be surveillance of local space. We are currently entirely reliant on civilian telescopes and other sensors, augmented by few satellites. Most of the military surveillance gear is only capable of watching the planet and that is not good enough now. Eventually PADCOM will also have missile silos capable of hitting targets millions of kilometers away from Earth", few skeptical looks but most of the officers merely acknowledged his words. While they were all political appointees, most countries had been savvy enough to send forward-looking officers, not hide-bound traditionalists.

"Thirdly, SURCOM under Vice-Admiral Jonathan Woodcock", at which point the jolly looking Brit waved one hand, "will be our tip of the spear. Admiral Woodcock will have the unenviable task of putting together a multi-national force of space explorers, both military officers and civilian experts, then conjure up plans for surveying the system though I leave the exact methodology to him. The various space agencies have pledged their support in this task but I'm sure you'll have your hands full soothing wounded egos and settling turf wars", Richardson grinned at Woodcock, who laughed.

"Last but not least, LOGCOM under Lieutenant-General Martin Schelleis," the sharp-nosed German nodded, "will perhaps have the most daunting task - to create the infrastructure to support the other three commands. We are going to need shipyards and missile factories and maintenance facilities and design teams and what else. I'm leaving it fairly vague on purpose as nobody can see the future. The scientists are just starting to make heads and tails out of this TN stuff and so much is still up in the air", Richardson admitted. The senior officers seemed to agree.

"Okay good. Next, our mission statement..."

***

On the other end of the building, administrator Hanson was going through his computer. He hadn't bothered to organize a face-to-face meeting, thinking it too cumbersome and slow. Instead, he relied on video conferences and emails. The Japanese were looking into a method of using TN-minerals to create large fuel storage units while the combined scientific prowess of the West was tasked to form a cohesive, general Trans-Newtonian Technology theory. Hanson had one massive problem - he only had four leading scientists that were capable of running large multi-national projects like these. He hoped that the academia would quickly produce more. Other than that, he was content on letting the industry focus on mining TN-minerals as best as they could for now, though he had already shot off improvement proposals here and there, trying to eliminate waste of both time and money.

***

"Congratulations admirals", Admiral Richardson said as he shook hands with freshly-minted Vice-Admiral Hood and Rear-Admiral Schelleis. Admirals Takei and Woodcock had already departed to their command posts.

"Thank you sir. I have to say, I'm still amazed that we got them up and running in mere four months", Hood responded. The silent German nodded his agreement, as did Richardson.

"Well, it is pretty amazing what we are capable of when we put our differences and, most importantly, budgets aside!" the overall military commander of PATO acknowledged, smiling widely.

"But I won't keep you any further. My own staff awaits as does yours. Have a safe journey gentlemen", he said and shook hands again. The two men saluted him and walked off to their cars. As soon as Richardson was back inside, Lieutenant-Commander May was upon him with more paperwork.

***

Administrator Hanson was focusing on the plethora of proposals in front of him. Now that TN-theory had been cracked, there seemed to be no end to emails demanding PATO laboratories, most of which naturally were marked URGENT and CRITICAL. He moved most of them aside - he had no intention of breaking up the current division of labs that was working so well. The Japanese would concentrate on various Logistical and Ground Combat issues while everyone else - under the watchful eye of Henry Black - would jump from field to field, laying the necessary ground work. Hanson did agree with his military counterpart in that their first priority must be sensors. Hanson shot off the necessary emails and leaned back in his chair, enjoying the view from his penthouse slash office.

***

"So these are the blueprints for the Oracle?" Admiral Richardson asked. The architect nodded. "I'm no expert but they look strange to me", the admiral continued. The architect nodded again, looking excited.

"That's because this is no regular construction. We were first going to build something like NORAD but then came to the conclusion that that would be stupid. Humanity is going to space and the Oracle should be deployable!" The man could barely contain himself.

"Wait, deployable? Am I understanding you correctly?" Richardson looked around.

"Yes admiral, yes indeed! We can and will construct one Oracle, probably in Alaska with supporting station in Australia, but the station itself can be pre-built in few pieces by our industry. These elements can then be transported elsewhere, like say Mars, and assembled by your engineers! Imagine the possibilities!" The architect was babbling, his team nodding in approval.

"Well, that is certainly forward thinking. But let's not put the cart in front of the horse. Commander May, please issue a construction request to Hanson for one Oracle to be constructed immediately", Richardson ordered.

***

The sun was extraordinary warm for May, so the ceremony was held outside the Oracle. Hanson made a short speech, followed by an equally short one by Vice Admiral Hood, commander of Planetary Defence Command. Hood and Hanson then shook hands with Lieutenant Commander David Francis, who took control of the PDC itself.

Hanson intercepted the four admirals before they managed to leave:

"You won't get any other pet projects through for a while. We're fully committed to the transformation of the industry to TN-standards now. Mere ten percent of industrial output is allocated to other projects and that is booked full with constructing the necessary infrastructure to get us an orbital presence for good", Hanson said tightly while smiling at the reporters taking pictures.

All four admirals nodded at him and smiled as well.

"No arguments from us Hanson, now that we can see what the Chinese and Russians are up to", Rear Admiral Takei answered, "especially as my command will not even exist until you get all that orbital production stuff sorted out!"

Hanson seemed satisfied and departed.



The activation of Oracle caused a storm of protest from both Moscow and Beijing. PATO ignored the complaints, citing that being able to monitor the inner system space more accurately was more important than other nations being able to hide their missile silos. Russia had 10 Missile Complexes, while China had 38. PATO had 32.

***

Major-General Charlene Taylor stood on the podium at Fort Bragg, observing the hundreds of training officers and NCOs forming into squares. Once they were all in formation, she started speaking on the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen. Today we start on the first step towards the creation of unified PATO ground element. Taking a step from the playbook of the old Wehrmacht, you people will be in charge of forming the Replacement Battalions. Yes, I hear you wondering, what? Well, allow me to enlighten you. As you well know, normally a unit is formed and trained together. When it suffers losses, there are made good by a trickle of recruits that have finished basic training and are then sent to the combat unit alone or in small groups. The combat unit is then responsible for their further training. This causes issues with cohesion and performance. Something we cannot afford in the future."

Taylor paused for effect.

"Whatever you personally think about the Nazis, their army was one of the finest in human history. Thus we emulate their training and replacement system. Each future combat brigade will have a replacement battalion of its own, ensuring that unit cohesion remains high and training is kept at high and consistent levels! In the first phase, here in Fort Bragg and simultaneously at England, at Germany and at Japan, we will train forty Replacement Battalions. Yes, we do not yet have the actual forces they would act as the replenishment for, but does that prevent good training? No! Now get to work!"
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2017, 11:26:48 PM »
2018-2019



Hanson clapped alongside all the other dignitaries as Earth's first mass driver powered up and shot a test plane through the atmosphere. It was a balmy April afternoon in Utah, perfect conditions for a launch. The mass driver extended for kilometers over the flat plains. Hanson congratulated the contractors for finishing construction in time.

***

"A fresh announcement from the PATO has sent the stocks of four companies soaring. IAI, Saab and Pratt & Whittney have been awarded contracts for manufacturing new types of engines for use in various space projects. Dubbed nuclear thermal engines, they are the first clear breakthrough in Trans-Newtonian propulsion tech. In addition, Diamond secured a contract for pressurized water reactors. While actual construction projects are yet to be announced, analysts predict a very strong future for these companies..." Hanson muted the TV report. He had made sure to use his dummy corporations to buy stock in all four companies well before the official announcement. As long as nobody bothered to look too closely, he was going to make a nice bonus over his meagre civil servant pay.

***

September 2018, Russia announced that it has now joined the Trans-Newtonian club. China already made a similar statement last spring.

***

"Alright, let's start this meeting", Admiral Richardson announced and the discussions died away. "The floor is yours", he said to the scientists present. All four senior scientists were present - Kate Sheppard, Shinozaki Munetaka, Henry Black and Joe Sinclair. Sheppard, the most enthusiastic of them, stood up and took over the podium, starting the presentation. Their audience were the four admirals and the senior officers of PATO Military.

"Good morning", she started and clicked her laser pointer on. "You need to decide the primary armament of the future PATO fleet and we are here to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each."

"The TN-theory has forced some changes on the thinking of physics. There are some limitations and some advantages. I won't bother you with the details but the cold fact is that all beam weaponry will be of very limited ranges. We're talking about tens of thousands of kilometers, possibly a hundred thousand kilometers eventually but that's about it"

The admirals looked at each other.

"That sounds more than enough", Vice Admiral Hood stated. The scientists chuckled but Sheppard just nodded.
"Of course Admiral, it does sound that way", Sheppard acknowledged. "But just our own moon is anywhere from three-fifty to four hundred thousand kilometers from Earth. Every meaningful distance in our Solar system is counted in millions of kilometers. It takes billions of kilometers to reach the outer planets. So for long range, the only option is the trusty old missile", Sheppard explained and showed them a picture of one.
"With Sorium-based fuel and nuclear thermal engines, we can build missiles you would not believe, gentlemen. With thousands of kilometers per second of velocity, and ranges of millions of kilometers and destructive capability equalling those of pre-TN nukes. Naturally, the missiles need to be built and sufficient fire controls and sensors must be designed", Sheppard continued.
"Then to the beam weaponry. Here there are multiple possibilities. We have meson, maser, laser, plasma, particle, gauss and rail. They are all limited in their ranges and some of them have very peculiar properties, which might warrant further study. The details are in the briefing package, but I'll go over them briefly - mesons have very exotic capability of phasing through wavelengths in a manner that allows targeting at a exact location, regardless of any obstruction, basically meaning that it can ignore armour. It's useless against ground forces for the same reason. Maser or microwave amplification, is only good for disabling electronics. Lasers are just what your imagination tells you - a focused beam of light that burns anything that it hits but losing its focus as the range grows. Plasma is shorthand for a violent matter transformation at short ranges and particle beam is a coherent lance of excited particles. Gauss and rail guns actually use ammunition, not just energy, though their size is so small that we do not need to worry about reloads like with missiles. Both are fairly short ranged, at least for now, but offer the possibility of very rapid rates of fire. Due to their construction, we cannot turret rail guns but we can turret gauss guns", Sheppard droned on. She noticed that the admirals were losing their concentration.
"Basically, laser is a rifle, a plasma carronade is a shotgun, particle beam is a sniper rifle, gauss and rail guns are machineguns and masers and mesons are special-purpose weapons, though these are only crude comparisons, only for the purpose of illustrating their differences", she explained.

"I am most worried about these new missiles. What is to stop the Chinese from shooting few of them at our capitals?" Richardson asked.
"Nothing sir, and that's the way it is", Sinclair said from the side before Sheppard could answer.
"The missiles are too fast, way too fast for even computers to react", he continued.

The admirals looked at each other.

"So looks like MAD is back and with a vengeance", Hood muttered.

"Yes, I believe so", Sheppard answered and then continued: "We do not have any experts in the energy weapon field, so I would recommend that we focus on either rail or gauss guns, and missiles of course"

"Make it so", Richardson announced. "Make prototypes of both and we'll evaluate them for future use. Let's move to the next topic, the fleet doctrine"
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 11:28:25 PM by Garfunkel »
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2017, 11:27:50 PM »
2020-2021



"A-teen-HUT!" A scuffle of feet as the gathered officers snapped to their feet. Major General Charlene Taylor entered the auditorium and walked briskly to the front.

"Please be seated", the diminutive general said as she surveyed her audience. It was a significantly smaller crowd, if only because it included only the future commanding officers of the first wave of future PATO ground forces units. Seven Brigadiers and 28 colonels were keenly staring at her.

"Thank you for attending this meeting", Taylor started her presentation as an aide operated a computer.

"As you all know, the Pan-Oceanic Treaty Organization is going through a painful, if necessary, process of transformation and integration. Combined with the the radical changes in the civilian sector, this presents a challenging scenario for us ground pounders!" That brought her some grins.

"Now that the formation of our training and replacement units is nearing completion, it is time to move forward. The council has agreed that only former NATO countries were to be considered for the first wave of Trans-Newtonian upgrades. I am here now to tell you the details as the choices have been made and the decision is final. You are here because all of you are earmarked for command duty in the first wave of units to be formed. As the conventional US military is the backbone of the treaty organization, Pentagon has agreed that it does not take part in the first wave, to allow maintaining a believable and effective deterrent to potentially hostiles. For the same reason, the Eastern European countries are not participating." Many were nodding at this.

"The armies of Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece are busy enough handling the mess in North-Africa and Turkey is still fully committed to Syria, so they were delayed to later waves as well. Which shortened the list of options quite significantly. On the wall now you should see the full list of units to be re-trained and -equipped. Yes, we are indeed going back to divisional formations, though at first the brigade will be the largest operational one."



Taylor gave her audience few moments to observe the sheet in peace before she continued:

"The equipment for us is still being researched and designed, though some if has already entered progression. But basically we will have infantry brigades and armoured brigades. The boffins haven't made their minds up whether the tracked tank will be the mainstay or we're going for something more exotic, like hover tanks. Apparently that is indeed a possibility. In any case, a brigade will consist of four battalions. In the infantry brigades, these will be a mix of assault and mobile infantry battalions - think of them as the difference between mechanized and motorized infantry from back in the Cold War days. In contrast, the armoured brigades will have what is currently called the heavy assault battalions supported by combat engineers and infantry. Don't worry about the names too much, they were chosen more for the sake of tradition and esprit de corps than actual meaning", Taylor explained.

"The first wave will consist of three British divisions, two Canadian, two Dutch, two German and one Belgian division. We will start with the infantry battalions first, training them on our fancy new proving grounds. So brigadiers, do not expect your brigades to actually be fully formed any time soon. Now that we have gotten my introduction out of the way, the supply office will provide us with coffee and tea, after which personnel from my office will go over the organization of each type of battalion in more detail. Any questions?" Charlene did not expect any and she was correct.

***

The snowfall was light enough that it did not hinder visibility. Which was certainly a rare occasion in Alberta. CFB Suffield and especially the Suffield branch of Defence Research and Development Canada bureau had done their best to ensure that everything went smoothly in this all-important first weapons test for PATO. Engineers and technicians from both Patria and Dynetics were swarming around and, in some cases, literally over their respective platforms. The observation deck - a grandiose name for a raised wooden platform with only a tarpaulin walls and roof to give semblance of shelter from the elements - was packed with officers and bureaucrats.

Admiral Richardson listened to the lively discussion around him. The fact that the Patria weapon was twice as large as the Dynetic one had already caused many officers to side with the latter one. Being able to have an effective range of ten thousand kilometers, against the seven-and-a-half-thousand of Dynetic, had not turned the tide for Patria's favor. But the actual firing was about to commence. The debates died down as the managers of each team confirmed ready for the sustained firing test. A kilometer downrange, two massive canvas sheets had been erected. It was not supposed to be a competition but, as usual, it had turned into one.

The test director radioed the safety wardens to confirm that the hazard zone was clear and having received a satisfactory answer, announced the commencing of the demonstration. Both weapons fired. While the Patria weapon caused one tear to appear in its target sheet, the Dynetic one created four. Five seconds later, the Patria weapon barked again. And again. As it fired a fourth time, the Dynetic weapon joined it. 'A significant difference in the rate of fire', Richardson noted down. The weapons continued shooting at a steady rate, with no apparent degradation in accuracy. Eventually, the test director signaled the cease firing message and silence returned.

"Well, this was certainly informative, would you not say", Richardson asked the other admirals as he stood up. Late February in Canada was too cold for his tastes. "Let's move further discussion to somewhere warm, shall we?"

***

"So a gauss cannon can shoot every five seconds, while the rail gun shoots every fifteen seconds. The former can be turreted while the latter, due to its design requiring a long-enough straight platform for acceleration, cannot. Have I understood correctly?" Richard asked. Kate Sheppard nodded.

"But the rail gun fires four pellets, we call them that, but they are actually fairly large kinetic impactors, at the same time while gauss cannon fires just one projectile. If all four hit, they will cause significantly higher damage to the target", she explained.

"Then it seems clear to me", Rear-Admiral Takei interjected, "that the gauss cannons would be the ideal weapon for my command. Shooting down missiles requires high tracking speeds, for which turrets are ideal, whereas the damage potential of the rail gun would be less important".

"Whoever ends up captaining our future warships will likely take the opposite view", Vice-Admiral Woodcock said.

"So let's go with the gauss cannon first and take up this issue again when the design of warships becomes more urgent. PATO is still far from that stage", Admiral Richardson decided.

"Kate, any news relevant to my command?" Vice-Admiral Hood, commander of PADECO asked. The scientist nodded.

"We're working on a number of launcher systems at the moment, then we'll focus on engines, after which I'll get on with making you an actual missile, Admiral", she answered, to which Hood smiled. "Sounds good!"

"Bah, the only one of us with an actual, operational command and he's still hungry for more!" Rear-Admiral Schelleis complained good-naturedly.

***

The summer wind was balmy and Hanson was glad he had worn the light cotton suit. Watching Miss Colorado 2020 cut the ceremonial ribbon together with some local clown who made it big in Hollywood, the administrator fanned himself. The stress of the last few years had taken its toll on him, causing him to gain weight and he didn't want any paparazzi pictures where he was sweating, red faced. Luckily for him, the ceremony continued inside with drinks. The North Baxter Basin had been transformed into a modern complex, something between an airport and a railway station. This sleepy corner of Wyoming was about to become one of the busiest places on the planet. Sure, heavy cargo would go to orbit through the Mass Driver in Utah, but all personnel traffic would pass through here. Extension plans were ready but the council wanted to see how the initial Space Port fared before authorizing the funding for them. Hanson wasn't worried, as he sipped the champagne, through his dummy corporations he had invested into two separate US construction firms, which were likely to get a lions share of the contracts improving the I-80 and to transform the dusty little path of State road 43 into a multi-laned, properly paved artery feeding the port. The Rock Springs airport was already under extension, so that it could accept the big 747's and A380s that the Bureau of Colonization was expecting in few years. Rock Springs itself was already booming just from the amount of money the construction workers had poured in, and the town would never be the same - the Space Port would eventually employ as many people as lived in the town currently, around twenty-thousand, if Hanson's plans came to fruition. The governor of Wyoming, alongside the mayor of Rock Springs demanded his attention, wanting to shake hands for the press. He grimaced but managed to conjure a smile for the photographers.

***

The phone buzzed on Vice-Admiral Hood's desk. He answered it and immediately smiled when he recognized the voice of Kate Sheppard.

"I have good news for you, Admiral Hood"
"Please, just call me Michael"
"Uh, okay. Michael, we've finished testing the prototypes. Hellstone and Skybolt are both ready for mass production. BAE Systems is also ready with both the magazine and the launcher for Skybolt. I figured you would want to hear this personally", the scientist explained.
"Thank you Kate, I appreciate. In fact, as a show of my appreciation, how about I treat you for dinner tonight?"

Sheppard took a long time answering and Hood was getting apprehensive by the moment. Finally she responded:
"I guess that would be fine, thank you. I will see you later tonight then", she cut the line after saying that.

Hood stood up and walked outside of his office. His aide was going through paperwork, which he ceased immediately.
"Alert the design team, we have work to do. Oh and send my car to collect Miss Sheppard at eight tonight, will you?"
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2017, 11:29:58 PM »
2022 - 2023



Hanson went over the projection again, hoping that he might have misread them before. Regardless of how many times he did so, the outcome was the same: converting all PATO industrial assets into TN-standards would not be completed before early 2024. He had ridden his managers and engineers hard, but there was only so much he could do. Annoyed, he was about to close his computer when a musical note informed him that an email had arrived.

"That son of a bitch", Hanson muttered as he read it. Pursing his lips, he quickly typed an answer. Vice-Admiral Hood wouldn't like it, but Hanson didn't feel like sugarcoating the message. There was no way in Hell he was going to divert industrial capability to building missiles for PADCOM at this stage of the largest industrial project the planet had ever seen.

***

"Okay, run me through our options", Rear-Admiral Takei told the group of engineers and managers from Patria. The pesky Finnish company had stunned the business world by managing to secure the contract for building gauss turrets, that would equip the first-generation orbital weapons platforms, designed to protect PATO from rogue missile attacks. China and Russia were both strongly condemning the project, but PATO was sticking to its plan.

"We can built a turret with a number of gauss guns in it, from one to four. Based on the requirements of your office, of a tracking speed above four thousand kliks per seconds, a single turret would weigh in at 400 tons, double turret at 800 tons, triple turret at 1.175 tons and a quad turret at 1.550 tons", the one wearing stereotypical engineer glasses explained.

"And is the number of guns just there for backup or can they target separate missiles?" Takei asked. The presenters glanced at each other.
"We, well, we are not certain, because we haven't been able to test this under real enough situations. It should be possible, if the missiles are very close to each other", another man put it.
"So if they are part of the same salvo, so to speak, a quad turret could possibly take out four missiles every five seconds", Takei clarified. All of them nodded. The admiral turned back to the brochure.
"What about armour?"
"We would have to use Neutronium for that and, as you know, it is very heavy. It would increase the weight significantly", the original speaker answered.

Takei pretended to take his time, but in reality he had made his decision already before the meeting - he had just wanted to see the Patria team face-to-face.

"Well then. PATO will purchase prototypes of the single and quad turrets. My design team will put the prototypes through their paces. I cannot say which one, or both", the Finns got a greedy look at that, "or even neither one, we'll end up going with. There are still a number of variables in the air", Takei said as he got up and shook hands with them.

***

Major-General Charlene Taylor stood on the raised podium, hand stiffly raised into a salute as men of the four battalions marched past her. Queen's Own Yeomanry, 1st and 2nd Battalions of Yorkshire Volunteers and 15th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment were the first four re-activated PATO battalions, equipped with the first version of powered armour and high-power kinetic rifles, firing 2mm teardrop-shaped slugs at super-sonic speeds. The British were obscenely proud that all four first battalions were technically theirs, so there had been no question of having the parade held in secret. Instead, the march took place in central Birmingham and thousands of curious onlookers had turned out. Taylor wondered how many foreign agents were hidden in the crowd, busy taking pictures and videos. Someone had already leaked some technical details of the equipment her troops were using, though luckily not enough of them, so for now PATO maintained its technical superiority over its two primary geopolitical rivals.

Finally the parade was over and Taylor retired to a sumptuous restaurant, together with the British and PATO officials and a number of politicians and diplomats for lunch. She managed to avoid answering most questions, keeping mum. But one thing she couldn't hide - the re-activation process was going strong and the next four battalions were to be Canadian, one actually French-speaking.

***

The shuttles launched mere minutes apart from Rock Springs, their destination the naval shipyard. Leaving the cool August winds of Colorado behind, the dignitaries enjoyed a surprisingly smooth ride to Low-Earth Orbit, where the immense structure awaited them - though some did feel the need to grab their sick bags as the effects of microgravity hit home. It already massed more than twice as much as the International Space Station, and it would grow far more rapidly. A lattice of thin structural beams snaked around the single slipyard, allowing workers to operate on a real 360 degree freedom, working at all angles simultaneously.

Many chuckled at the unimaginative nature of the military mind, when the name NAVAL-1 was announced. Hanson took the opportunity to point out that construction on a commercial yard was started as soon as NAVAL-1 had been finished, and how over a million new jobs had been created thanks to the cooperation of all PATO countries and his leadership. That fact alone was sufficient to silence all but the most hardened naysayers.

After several circles around the constructs, most guests were shuttled back to Earth, though a small number of VIPs grabbed the chance to don one of the new spacesuits and have a little "walk", marveling at the sight of their home planet, looming right below them. The new suits were a marvel of TN-engineering. Straight out of the pages of some old pulp sci-fi book, they were skintight, flexible, and the helmet was literally a "glass" bubble, allowing clear vision. In reality, the helmet was a composite alloy of several materials, both TN and mundane, and allowed wireless communications on multiple channels, while automatically dimming to protect the wearer from direct sunlight.

***

Navy Design Committee was a boring name for a group as groundbreaking and visionary as what it actually was, Richardson mused to himself. All senior commanders had made sure to be present when NDC unveiled the blueprints for the Orbital Weapon Platform 2024. That meant not only Admiral Richardson, but Vice-Admirals Hood and Woodcock, Rear-Admirals Takei and Schelleis, and Commodores Sophia Gibson and Samuel Ali. Gibson had two hats, leading both PADCOM Earth Corps and 1st Missile Division (MisDiv 1), while Ali led 2nd Missile Division (MisDiv 2). Both were ambitious and eager to move to space.

"It is very unfortunate that our colleague Patrick Spencer perished as he did. Not only did it delay our progress, we lost a truly brilliant mind when it came to sensors", Kate Sheppard opened the meeting. "But, life goes on. So without further ado, I'll pass the microphone to the good people of the Committee, so that they can dazzle us all with their brilliance!" A smattering of applause.

"We have two quite different designs for the Admiral to choose from. Preliminary, we're using the OWP24-designation for both. OWP24-A and -B, respectively for the light and heavy versions. Here is the specs for the A version:

Code: [Select]
OWP24A class Orbital Weapon Platform 900 tons 35 Crew 90.8 BP TCS 18 TH 0 EM 0
1 km/s Armour 2-8 Shields 0-0 Sensors 2/2/0/0 Damage Control Rating 1 PPV 8
Maint Life 11.85 Years MSP 63 AFR 6% IFR 0.1% 1YR 1 5YR 12 Max Repair 22 MSP
Intended Deployment Time: 1 months Spare Berths 0


Single Patria Gauss Cannon R1-100 Turret (1x1) Range 10 000km TS: 4176 km/s Power 0-0 RM 1 ROF 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Aegis SPG-102 (1) Max Range: 30 000 km TS: 5000 km/s 67 33 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Raytheon SPD-103 (1) GPS 20 Range 1 000k km MCR 109k km Resolution 1
Honeywell SQR-105 (1) Sensitivity 2 Detect Sig Strength 1000: 2m km
Teledyne SAR-104 (1) Sensitivity 2.5 Detect Sig Strength 1000: 2.5m km

This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes
At 900 tons, NAVAL-1 could start construction immediately. The crew of thirty-five is self-sufficient for about a month. It is not reliant on the big Oracle sensor, rather using its own SPD-103 to track missiles. Both the fire controls and the turret itself are future-proof, in that they can track missiles twice as fast as anything we currently have. Unfortunately we have no idea of the actual capabilities of Russia and China, but it's unlikely that they could be that much ahead of us. Now, the drawback is that this version is barely armoured at all, and it only has one gun. But it's cheap and should be fairly fast to construct. Moving on - "

Code: [Select]
OWP24B class Orbital Weapon Platform 2 500 tons 81 Crew 229.6 BP TCS 50 TH 0 EM 0
1 km/s Armour 3-16 Shields 0-0 Sensors 2/2/0/0 Damage Control Rating 11 PPV 31
Maint Life 1.5 Years MSP 57 AFR 50% IFR 0.7% 1YR 28 5YR 427 Max Repair 83 MSP
Intended Deployment Time: 1 months Spare Berths 4


Quad Patria Gauss Cannon R1-100 Turret (1x4) Range 10 000km TS: 4053 km/s Power 0-0 RM 1 ROF 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Aegis SPG-102 (1) Max Range: 30 000 km TS: 5000 km/s 67 33 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Raytheon SPD-103 (1) GPS 20 Range 1 000k km MCR 109k km Resolution 1
Honeywell SQR-105 (1) Sensitivity 2 Detect Sig Strength 1000: 2m km
Teledyne SAR-104 (1) Sensitivity 2.5 Detect Sig Strength 1000: 2.5m km
This design is classed as a Military Vessel for maintenance purposes
"Since the quad turret makes the B version so much heavier, we decided to increase the armour and design an actual damage control center. It's nothing amazing but this version could fix damaged system in minutes instead of hours. With four guns in a single turret, this one is theoretically four times as dangerous, when compared to the A version but it's also more than double in price and will take longer to construct. Worst thing is that due to its mass, NAVAL-1 will not be able construct them for at least a year, though could be as long as three years. Otherwise it's the same. Obviously we had to increase life support, so that the eighty-one crew members could be sustained for a month in the case of a shooting war."

Takei perked up at that point:
"What if you reduce that duration to, say, ten days and drop the armour level from three layers to two?"

"Not much of a help. It would go down to... let me calculate it... yeah, we'd save maybe two hundred tons. It's the turret sir, everything else is designed to support it. Well, the turret and the radar. Those are the big tickets, no way around them"

Richardson called the meeting to end:
"Thank you for this presentation. To get NAVAL-1 running, we'll go with the A model for now and switch to the B model once possible. We need the experience of both building these and training in them. Remember that we are literally stumbling in the dark here, people"
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2017, 11:31:41 PM »
2024-2025



"The batteries are holding stable", Catherine Dennis announced out loud - though it was wholly unnecessary as her entire team could see it on the screens. The new capacitor, twice as powerful as the old one, hummed steadily. As the minutes ticked on, a wave of satisfied murmurs went through the audience.

"Okay, that clinches it people. This works! Someone call Kate and let her know that she needs to touch base with Dynetics!" Dennis barked and her personal assistant sprinted to a computer. "But that's for her team. You people, our next project awaits, so let's grab a quick toast for this success and then it's back to fiddling with the prototype engines!"

Her people lifted their paper cups in unison. Work in the R&D establishment was never done.

***

"You should be smiling, Admiral", Hanson commented as he stepped up to Richardson. The fleet commander was ignoring the hubbub and kow-towing of the party, spending his time staring out one of the grand windows overlooking the Thames. The spring rain was beating London hard.
"Really?", Richardson shot back, turning to face the civilian. Hanson had apparently packed on even more kilograms.
"Your second shipyard just started construction and should complete before the end of the year, unless my boys are sorely mistaken", the administrator explained.
"Ah yes, of course", Richardson responded, even managing a smile. "Just worried about the competition, who have been far too quiet", he continued.
"I see. I'll leave that to you uniformed folks. Plenty enough stress on my head just running the industrial side", Hanson chuckled, nodding to the admiral as he aimed towards a waiter carrying a tray full of seafood snacks.

***

In May, the media across the world went bananas as PATO launched "America", the first Orbital Weapon Platform, was launched. Funnily enough, it was commanded by Captain Benhamin van Eekelen, a Dutch national. The OWPs would all be named after PATO member nations. Despite counter-arguments from both China and Russia, PATO maintained that OWP24A class was not in violation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, as it did not carry weapons of mass destruction, merely a single gauss cannon for self-defense and as part of the older US Missile Defence System. This hardly calmed down either the conspiracy theorists nor non-PATO countries. China and Russia vowed to take action.

"Let them. There is nothing they can do and the quicker we get Orbital Command properly up and running, the safer we are. It doesn't matter whether their industry is fully transformed already - PATO has a significant lead and the Chinese are not so stupid as to launch nukes over this", Admiral Richardson explained to the PATO civilian leadership via a video conference.

***

Hanson shook hands with Conrad Hilton, the great-grandson of the original Conrad, as photographes blazed away. Hanson found it difficult to suppress his laughter - very few analysts could have predicted that Hilton Worldwide Holdings Incorporated would extend to space ship construction - but it had, through shrewd business sense of figuring that the most lucrative future lay in space. Buying a number of small start-ups and various commercial projects had got them sufficient know-how to make a good bid. Rest was lube and lobbyists. While PATO's civilian side was largely responsible for the construction of the shipyard, Hilton would be responsible for its day-to-day operation and growth - though still largely based on contracts that Hanson handed out. It certainly helped that one of his dummy companies had just gotten fifteen percent share of Hilton Builders, the new company that would run the shipyard.

"We haven't yet received any actual contracts Hanson", Hilton whispered while still displaying a dazzling smile to the cameras.
"Easy easy, it'll come. The eggheads are still debating their end of it", Hanson whispered back.
"They better or Aunt Paris might not visit your summer cabin any more", Hilton ended with a serious shake. Hanson nearly winced.
"Just few more days and Einstein will be locked down", Hanson assured the slick businessman.

***

This time Hanson shook hands with a Dutchman, as the Vollenhoven Shipwrights opened. Multiple European companies had joined forced to compete for the bid and ensure that the second commercial shipyard came under European control, similar to what the defence sector had done with EADS. The Dutchman was entirely professional and remained silent.

The journalists, on the other hand, did not:
"Any idea which corporation will control the next shipyard?" One shouted. Hanson stopped and turned to face them:
"PATO now has four shipyards, two naval and two commercial. That should be enough for the time being. Currently, our goals are to improve the manufacturing base here on Earth. There are still millions and millions of unemployed people in the Organization and it is my goal to find a job for each and every one of them!"
"What will Vollenhoven build?" Another asked.
"Well, I was going to leave that to the new operators but why not, since you asked. Vollenhoven Shipwrights will be building our first cargo ships!"

***

"Hey Michael, thought you wanted to know that your missiles are finally in production", Rear-Admiral Martin Schelleis said to his phone. "Yes, my people just got the heads-up from the factories, a hundred pieces each for testing and evaluation, it says."
"Yeah, I heard about the Chinese shipyard. Shouldn't be much of a problem. Surprised it was them first and not the Russians, eh? I bet Takei has his people watching the Chinese like a hawk. How many stations does he have now? Yeah, five."
"You know Woodcock is livid that I'm getting my first ship before he does? Yeah, so turns out that building a cargo ship is piss easy, compared to a survey ship. So despite Einstein being half-done when Buffalo was laid down, it'll still be done months before! Yeah yeah, I won't rub it in his face. What's that? Well now mister Vice-Admiral, that's a secret!"
"Haha, yeah, we'll start hauling that stuff to the Moon as soon as we can. Buffalo is damn small for a cargo ship, you can't compare it to a seagoing vessel, more like a Galaxy or Antonov, right? Right, so it'll take a while to haul all the required infrastructure for the Moon base with just one ship."
"Yeah yeah yeah, you do that and I'll tell Sophia that you like 'em big and thick! HA! Anyway, I'm off to lunch, good talking to you, uh-huh, bye now"

***

"Welcome to Orbital Defence Command, Commodore", Vice-Admiral Takei said as he shook the hand of Commodore Samuel Ali.
"Thank you sir, it's a pleasure to be here", the sandy-haired man answered.
"Space, the final frontier, eh?" Takei grinned. Ali merely nodded.
"You'll wear two hats, now that we're growing. You'll be commander, Earth Squadron and commander, OrbDiv 1 as well", Takei explained. "Captain van Eekelen handled all that but now that there are two divisions in the squadron, it was time to snatch one of you commodores from the missile corps. Anyway, my admin will upload all the necessary information to your pad. Your command awaits, Commodore", Takei said. Ali saluted, Takei saluted back and the younger man turned on his heels.



***

"There we go, the embassy contact just left", Jackson Burnett said to his throat mic, hidden under his coat. The well dressed man he was observing got into a wholly unremarkable hybrid Ford and drove away. "Let him go, the State will deport him in a couple of days, we'll focus on the illegals", Burnett heard in response. Lieutenant Commander Nicholas Joyce, the rising star of Naval Intelligence and the current head of Intelligence Office, didn't have jurisdiction over the case but FBI had invited him along as professional courtesy.

"Teams check in", Burnett ordered and paid attention, making sure that all teams responded. "Air one go, mobile two go, foot three and four, hold", he continued.

The helicopter had been making a lazy, wide circle over the quiet Virginia suburbia. Having received the command, its pilot turned her stick down hard, tilting the nose and pushed the throttle up, making the helicopter increase velocity rapidly. Her passengers, four members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, clad in black-and-blue nomex suits, checked their MP7A2s. The second that the helicopter slid over the target house, two massive Chevrolet Suburbans busted into the front garden of the house, their tires screeching.

"Foot three go, foot four go", Burnet ordered as he sprinted at the backdoor. Tossing the raincoat off, he revealed the duranium vest he was wearing, embroidered with the gaudy yellow FBI letters. The other members of the two covert surveillance teams did likewise. HRT fast-roped down from the helicopter, kicking in the upstair windows.

A long burst of fire tore through the front windows, as someone inside did not appreciate the FBI agents unmounting from the Suburbans. The agents ducked for cover, as the 7.62x39 rounds easily punched holes into the car-van hybrids.

"Upstairs clear", Burnet heard from the HRT. His team had just kicked the kitchen door in thanks to a Halligan tool. "Get down to basement before they burn all evidence", he ordered the team behind him. The shooter in the living room was obscured by some furniture but Burnet's fellow agents took little chances, spraying the entire area with bullets. "Ground floor clear", someone reported.

An explosion shook the building. Burnet cursed to himself, stepping back to the basement stairs. Sure enough, smoke greeted him, mixed with the smell of cordite, gunpowder and blood. He lobbed a flashbang down the stairs and waved the heavily armoured HRT members to go ahead. The MP7s sang the song of their people, intermixed with the heavy bark of a Saiga-12. Burnet gingerly stepped down the stairs. Team four had been taken by surprise by the claymore and Burnett didn't dare to hope that any of the four agents could be resuscitated. One of the HRT guys was sitting down as well, bleeding profusely but the other three were standing in a semi-circle around the targets. Burnett checked their bloody faces against the pictures he had in his datapad.

"Joyce, it's safe to enter. We got all five of them, unfortunately dead. Looks like they managed to burn their computers but I'll have the data boys go over them just in case", Burnett reported. In moments, the young man in naval uniform stepped into the basement as well:

"Russians know how to put up a good fight, eh?"
Burnett merely grunted. The director was not going to like the publicity, of losing four agents and getting few more seriously injured and making zero arrests.

***

"So how did you spread out the prototype batch?" Vice-Admiral Michael Hood asked. His four division commanders were sitting in his office. Commodore Sophia Gibson, head of Earth Corps as well as 1. Missile Division, took the question:
"My division is fully loaded with Hellstones, sir. Second division has Hellstones in two missile complexes, rest have old conventional missiles. Third and Fourth division have only conventional ones."
Hood nodded.
"What's the logic behind that?"
Captain Charlie Hutchinson answered that one:
"Well sir, we figured that this gives us the most flexibility in any situation. If, God forbid, we have to launch against a non-TN capable enemy, we can use the third and fourth divisions. If we have to launch against a TN-capable enemy, we can use the first and second division. That was the original idea. Unfortunately the prototype batch was too small to fully kit out second division with Hellstones. In any case, that was the plan and it still works, sir", the officer explained.
Hood nodded again.
"I see the value in your proposal. Tell you what. I'll push Hanson to get us more Hellstones so that second division is fully loaded with them too. I'll let him dismantle the extra conventional missiles that are now in storage. I assume that nobody has any objection against that? I mean, if we can't subdue any Earth-based enemy with 320 super nukes, it won't matter because there will not be any civilization left on the planet anyway!"

The four officer unanimously agreed.

"Okay then. Next, the plan has changed, we're not going to get Skybolts for our side of the service. Yes, I know, it's a disappointment but Richardson is pushing for the creation of Mobile Command hard, so the Skybolts will go there instead", Hood explained.

***

On 28th of September, 2015, seedy Internet boards exploded as the latest OWP24A to roll out of NAVAL-1 was named Poland. Under Lieutenant Commander Robert Chambers, it joined the OrbDiv 2.

***

Lieutenant-Commander Matthew Warren stood next to Rear-Admiral Martin Schelleis watching the handover as Buffalo became part of PATO fleet. It was ironic but also symbolic that the first actual ship of the grand alliance was a small freighter.

Code: [Select]
Buffalo class Cargo Ship 10000 tons 84 Crew 217.6 BP TCS 200 TH 150 EM 0
750 km/s Armour 1-41 Shields 0-0 Sensors 2/2/0/0 Damage Control 1 PPV 0
Maintenance Capacity 14 MSP
Cargo 5000 Spare Berths 3 Cargo Handling Multiplier 20

Saab NT-50 (3) Power 50 Fuel Use 6.83% Armour 0 Exp 4%
Fuel Capacity 315 000 Litres Range 83.0 billion km (1281 days at full power)

Honeywell SQR-105 (1) Sensitivity 2 Detect Signature 1000: 2m km
Teledyne SAR-104 (1) Sensitivity 2.5 Detect Strength 1000: 2.5m km


This ship is classed as a commercial vessel for maintenance purposes
"Take it easy out there Warren. You're going to break all Apollo records anyway, so there is no need to push your ship or your crew. Get the tracking station to the Moon, I mean Luna, drop the poor bastards manning it, and come back. I cannot stress too much how important this is - there cannot be any accidents or injuries or the like, ja?"

Warren had already learned that when under stress, Schelleis would occasionally slip into his native German. So he suppressed his sarcastic nature:
"Yes sir, you can trust me. Smooth sailing, all the way, and safely back to port. No shenanigans, whatsoever", he assured his superior.

"Sehr gut. After that, it will be maintenance facilities for the Orbital Command and their Luna Squadron, after which the Moon City infrastructure is to be hauled over. You'll be a busy man, that is certain! Safe journey."

Warren saluted the admiral and marched off, as best as he could, in the microgravity of the shipyard. He had entertained hope that he might get to command one of the OWP24A's but that production line was being shut down for now. Rumours claimed that NAVAL-1 was preparing for the big brother - OWP24B - but nobody knew for sure. Warren had not dared to hope that he would get an actual ship until the day that the orders for his transfer from reserve to Logistics Command arrived.

"Captain on deck!" Command Master Chief bellowed as Warren floated through the transit tube. Somehow CMC had managed to conjure up a whistle and had pressed some junior enlisted to using it. Warren knew it was sacred tradition but the noise had always struck him as cacophonic and just awful. Nevertheless, he saluted the PATO flag and waited for the noise to die down.

"As you were men. Chief, walk with me to the bridge", Warren said. The grim faced senior enlisted nodded and together they "walked", in essence floating and pulling at hand holds, with an occasional kick or two, made their way to the bridge. There were no windows, as all views from outside were provided by sensors and cameras.

"Take us away, at ten percent power. We'll do a flyby of the ISS, then accelerate to full power for the flight to the Moon. Chief, is our cargo checked and secure?"
"Aye aye sir!"
"Then, let us go where only twelve men have been before!" Warren couldn't help himself.

What had taken Apollo 11 three days and four hours, took Buffalo mere seven minutes. However, without a space port on Luna, the unloading of the tracking station took over two hours. Regardless, the entire mission took only three hours and thirty-nine minutes, from departure to refueling back in low Earth orbit. Unfortunately, the small freighter would need to perform four more missions to fully transport a single tracking station - yet it was done by early evening on the same day.
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2017, 11:33:23 PM »
2026



While the media representatives were all on solid ground on Earth, only some of their interviewees were physically present. Vice-Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, backed up by the Fleet spokesperson, Lieutenant-Commander Jason Quinn and head of Fleet Survey office, Lieutenant-Commander Bethany Thompson, sat behind a table covered with the PATO Survey Command flag. Next to them, a widescreen monitor showed the smiling face of Commander Billy Giles, captain of GEV Albert Einstein, the first geological survey vessel of PATO, soon to depart for its first mission.

"The Inner System Survey Mission will start with Luna, our moon, then proceeds to Venus and Mercury. After those two, it will survey the comet Van Biesbroeck, as the comet is currently passing through the inner system. Then is the time for Phobos, Deimos and Mars itself. Two more comets are in suitable position between Mars and Ceres, Comas Sola and Reinmuth to be specific. Then Ceres and that completes the Inner System Survey Mission", explained Thompson. "The ship will not actually land on any of them, everything is done safely from close orbit with a multitude of scanners. If the scanners find something interesting, then yes, Survey Command will send a manned mission to investigate further", she continued.

"What about Luna City?" One reporter asked. Thompson shot Woodcock a look but Quinn took the question:
"The survey of Luna will actually assist Logistics Command in determining the best location for Luna City. Those plans are progressing but, as I'm sure you can understand, we do not want to put down colonists until we're certain of their safety and of the viability of the colony in the first place", the man smoothly explained, then quickly pointed to an attractive blonde sitting to the side.

"Amelie Wist from E Entertainment. Commander Giles, how are you prepared for a close encounter with alien lifeforms?"

Thompson gave Woodcock another glance, as if to ask who let celebrity gossip site to take part - but the Admiral merely shrugged. Meanwhile, Commander Giles smiled disarmingly and proceeded to charm the panties of Miss Wist and her viewers, somehow making quarantine procedures sounding sexy.

"And that is why Giles is the first captain of a survey ship and not you Bethany", Woodcock later explained, as the officers were walking to the Mission Control. "He is just as good with the media as Quinn is, which is important at this stage. Don't worry, you'll time will come." Thompson nodded but inside she was seething, even if she understood her admiral, on a logical level.

***

The numbers were coming in to the Survey Command Mission Control Center at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Since NORAD and the now obsolete US SPACECOM already had the base as their headquarters, it made sense for SURCOM to move in with them as well. Vice-Admiral Woodcock monitored things from the tranquillity of his office, allowing Lieutenant-Commander Thompson to run the actual situation room. Since they only had a single vessel to monitor, was surprisingly packed. Transport Squadron had been grounded on Earth while Albert Einstein surveyed Luna, just in case. Woodcock thought it was paranoid safety but he didn't want to interfere with how Thompson had planned the mission. LOGCOM had acquiesced nicely, probably because Richardson had overruled Hanson and would not let the construction of Luna City to start before PATO could effectively protect them, though that wouldn't last long, what with the fervor among parts of the civilian population.

"Okay, so this is fantastic!" He heard Thompson shout out loud. Checking the numbers, Woodcock had to agree. Sorium levels on Earth were down to just slightly over twenty thousand tons, so finding over million and a half of it on Luna was good news indeed. Finding Tritanium, Boronide and Gallicite was a nice bonus on top.

"Admiral Woodcock, sir. I would like permission to immediately begin planning for manned survey mission", Thompson had switched channels and was now speaking to the intercom.
"Agreed Thompson, go ahead."

Woodcock made a note in his file - the next generation survey ship would need better sensors. Spending 35 hours just scanning a body as small as Luna seemed wasteful to him. He made that an official recommendation to the ship planners once he learned that scanning Venus had taken five days.

***



***

Admiral Richardson and administrator Hanson were the last two to arrive in the conference hall. All the senior staff of the Fleet as well as PATO civilian management side were present. With the results of the Inner System Survey Mission at hand, it was time to formulate some concrete plans for PATO and its expansion into space.

"Can we get the mineral situation on the screen please", Richardson asked.



"There we go. Note that the estimated time to depletion ignores what the Chinese and Russians are doing, as we do not know their exact mining capabilities. We have a decent stockpile of all materials but, as you can see, some TN-minerals are running out soon, like Neutronium, and some of the critical resources, like Sorium, are not much behind. This certainly puts PATO in a tough position - we have a clear deadline in sight", Richardson lectured. "Once the minerals on Earth run out, that's it unless we get off-planet mining operations going on", he passed the turn to Hanson.

"Thank you admiral. Unfortunately PATO is not in a position to start large scale excavation operations immediately. We must build up our infrastructure further. However, before we delve into that topic, let's see what minerals are available in the Inner System. Most importantly, we can get more Neutronium from the comet Van Biesbroeck. My mining office has drafted a plan, utilizing a mass driver and robotic mining facilities that only require minimal human supervision. We'll have months, if not years, of time to harvest that comet before it leaves the inner system. The surface area of the comet is at least 314 square kilometers, probably more as it certainly is not a uniform sphere. So room is not an issue. Cargo lift is the issue. It will take Buffalo five trips to move the mass driver and then five more trips for each automated mine. While we are building more freighters, PATO ultimately needs a bigger one, which means that the commercial shipyards must be built up as well. This takes money, minerals and time", Hanson sat down as he finished his explanation. Richardson motioned to Woodcock, who stood up.

"Survey Command would recommend building emergency infrastructure in the inner system. Currently, if there is a problem somewhere, we cannot really handle it at all. Furthermore, as it is likely that civilian projects start operating and that space tourism is now reality, both Schelleis and I agree that setting up few bases would be useful. Certainly one at Ceres is required, to support missions going beyond the asteroid field. Phobos is a good candidate for another base. For the moment, we recommend a tracking station at both and some fuel stored away. To safeguard them against our enemies, some ground troops would be a bonus. Meaning that we need to develop a tanker and a transport, in addition to the bigger freighter that administrator Hanson talked about. While all this is happening, ISSM will proceed with surveying the asteroids, a process which will take months. Once Niels Bohr is completed, it will form the Outer System Survey Mission and head straight to Jupiter. Our last first generation survey vessel, Isaac Newton, will, once ready, support OSSM", Woodcock concluded. Rear-Admiral Martin Schelleis stood up.

"Logistics Command agrees with the previous speakers. While Trans-Newtonian materials allow us to operate purely from Earth, it would be prudent to enlarge our network to Mars and Ceres for the time being. Eventually, it would be wise to push it to Jupiter and Saturn as well. There are several moons there that have sufficient gravity for permanent habitation without undue health risks. Especially if the hypothesis of Sorium, in a gaseous form, existing in gas giants turns out to be correct, as we can and should then harvest it directly there, saving solid form Sorium for engine construction. This may all sound outlandish but do realize that it is now faster for Buffalo to fly to the Moon than it is for you to drive to your nearest McDonalds", this brought up laughter from the crowd. Rear-Admiral Tomohisa Takei took the podium in turn.

"Orbital Defence Command is halfway between happy and unhappy", the diminutive Japanese officer smiled tightly. "The OWP24A is a solid platform and in the time that we have been operating them, a remarkable lack of issues has proven the work of the engineers who designed it. There are ten platforms currently in service, divided into two Orbital Divisions of five each. In addition to simulation training, my boys and girls have been cleaning up the neighbourhood from space debris. But this is just a start. ORDCOM would like to transfer the current divisions to guard Luna and Mars, respectively, while two new divisions, utilizing the OWP24B platform, would be set up on Earth orbit. Such deployment would give all PATO assets in the local area a good umbrella of protection from", Takei grinned, "more space debris".

Then it was turn for Vice-Admiral Michael Hood to speak.

"Planetary Defence Command finds itself much in the same position as our orbital brothers-in-arms. We have two divisions equipped with the Hellstone missile, with another two still using conventional missiles. For the moment, we're all good. However, on the long-term, our forts should be built on Luna and Mars as well. The scientists assure me that constructing a long-range laser, one that could protect Mars from missile attacks, while based on Deimos or Phobos, is altogether possible. Otherwise, PADCOM is good, thank you", Hood announced and sat down.

"Greetings. I am Major-General Charlene Taylor and am currently the commanding general of PATO ground forces", the stacked female introduced herself. "We have activated 16 battalions as TN-capable. The battalions are capable of independent operation and in fact, that is the only thing they are capable of at the moment, as the forming and development of brigade and divisional headquarters goes on. As some of you are aware, the aim of the first wave of reorganization and activation is to have ten divisions fully operational, whether on or off Earth. While there have been repeated calls for the creation of a multi-national unit, I am completely opposite to it. Perhaps, in the future, a multinational-division can be created, perhaps even a multi-national brigade, but for now. those countries not tapped for the first ten divisions, please be patient and wait for your turn. I would wish for additional TN-standard training facilities but the Army will make do with what it currently has. The plan remains the same - that each division will have a mixture of heavy and light brigades, thus ensuring independent operations capability. The Fleet has not yet asked for any sort of Marine contingent, so we haven't really looked at the feasibility of such operations at all. They would be highly premature in any case. This concludes my presentation", Taylor gazed directly at all the senior officers present before sitting down.

"Thank you all for contributing. I will list a preliminary listing of priorities, after which each team should move to their allocated work space to continue for planning. First, establishment of Luna City. Second, establishment of mining operation on the comet Van Biesbroeck. Third, establishing emergency stations on Ceres and Phobos. Fourth, the growth of ORDCOM and relocating of assets to Luna orbit. Fifth, the continued survey work. Sixth, establishment of a Martian colony, alongside feasibility studies of terraforming Mars. Seventh, creation of Mobile Command. Eight, continuation of the Army reactivation. Ninth, improvements to PADCOM, and tenth, general scientific progress. Dismissed", Richardson had listed the priorities off the top of his head but the audience largely nodded to him. Hanson especially looked satisfied, having convinced Richardson that Luna City could not wait for the military to get there first.

***

It took three days after the meeting for Leonard Container Group - a consortium created by DHL, Cargolux and Martinair - to launch its first two freighters. It suddenly became obvious why Hanson had pushed so hard for the Fleet to allow Luna City creation as the ships must have been under private construction for months already. Month after that, Leonard launched its first colony ship. Nothing could stand in the way of private enterprise in space.

***

WELCOME TO LUNA CITY

The large sign was gently floating in the near-microgravity of Luna over the main airlock. Without a proper space port, Markus and Maria had, just like the other fifty-thousand colonists, slowly walked their way through the flex-tube from the colony ships loading bay into Luna City. It wasn't quite what the young couple had expected. There was no reception committee or anything, just the banner, which certainly looked like it had been just made. Luckily, their phones Wi-Fi worked and an instant message gave them directions to their habitat. The entrance dome was massive but not nearly big enough to have all the colonists stumbling around it simultaneously. At least the first batch of colonists were all well educated and of above average intelligence - the dome emptied fairly quickly as people found their bearings and moved on.

"Room 3 slash 58", Markus read out. The door was unlocked and Maria eagerly stepped inside. This would their new home. It was a simple room - a double bed against the far wall, a wardrobe and a tiny desk. Above the bed, a screen had been embedded in the wall. No windows, as they level three was underground. A slide door showed a tiny bathroom with a standing shower and a folding toilet. "Well, they didn't exaggerate when they said that life would be spartan over here", Maria observed. "And the TV works but shows no channels", she continued. Markus shrugged: "Probably teething issues, you know they weren't expecting colonists here for at least six more months. Now, we have an hour before reporting for duty, Madam Enviromental Engineer, so how about we christen the bed?" Maria giggled: "Very well Mister Hydroponic Farmer but we should christen that shower too!"

Markus kicked the door shut while tearing his overalls off.

***

Hanson electronically signed the document and shot copies off to his staff. Planetary Resources had just become the first company to mine in space. Well, actually on Mercury. Hanson would have thought that an asteroid would be the first place and not the Sun scorched planet where temperatures fluctuated between 100 K and 700 K but apparently the presence of water ice in the craters and plentiful TN-minerals made the risky operation profitable for them. And since Hanson had just agreed to purchase their mineral output for PATO use, their plan was certainly sound.

"Note to self: flag strategically important bodies forbidden for commercial use as soon as possible. Email Richardson", Hanson thought out loud and his electronic secretary did the rest.

Leonard Container Group transported Planetary Resources assets and personnel to Mercury and before the year was over, three mining complexes would be up and running, using a mass driver to "shoot" mineral packets to Earth and it's ever-hungry factories.

Not to be outdone, a month later Deep Space Industries applied for operation licence on Rheinmuth. Hanson gladly signed it as well and immediately contracted their output for PATO use as well.
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2017, 11:35:09 PM »
2027



"Good morning sir", Lieutenant-Commander Nicholas Joyce greeted his boss as Admiral Richardson stepped in to the secure room. Hidden in the basement of the First Fleet Headquarters building, it was protected by a Faraday cage and had no electronic connection to the outside world. Any material discussed in here was printed out beforehand.

"Morning Nicholas. Did the alphabet agencies give you any trouble?" the Admiral asked. "Yes and no sir, they have finally come aboard but organizational paranoia and old habits die hard. Obvious space related stuff is forwarded to us quickly but peripheral things aren't and I need to go digging for it. But I'm managing", the intelligence officer replied and handed over a thin dossier.

"That's our most up-to-date summary of both China and Russia. We suffer from a lack of good HUMINT, which SIGINT can never truly replace, so we have solid data on their inventories and construction, while estimates on their plans and motivations are quite shaky, I'm sorry to say", Joyce explained. Richardson grunted and glanced over the summaries.

"Are you sure these numbers are correct? That PATO industry is this far ahead of them?" Richardson asked, surprised by the numbers.

"Yes sir, we are. Vast majority of Chinese manufacturing is still of very poor quality and tied down with producing junk for the consumer market, though they are shifting more and more of that to the Philippines and Vietnam. Russian industrial base has always been smaller than us once Soviet Union collapsed. While we could fairly easily upgrade our plants, they are playing catch up. We have roughly 2.17 times the construction capability of China and 4.6 times of Russia. In the mining sector, it's 2.36 times of China and 4.46 times of Russia. It is unlikely that these ratios change in the short term unless something drastic happens in the world."

Richardson nodded. Since such a large percentage of the industrial powers were working together under the PATO banner, it made sense.

"Both of them have a functioning Mass Driver and the Russians have a second one ready to go off-world. Don't ask where they will send it, we don't know. China has recently opened some ordnance factories for manufacturing TN missiles but they have been idle as far as we can tell. It might just be planning for future. Russians have not built any fuel refineries, which is curious. Obviously they have reserves, as they likely used conventional refineries, like we did at the start. Since their construction base is so limited, it is likely that they are prioritizing other projects first, relying on that reserve to see them through until they get refineries running", Joyce explained.

"What about the Chinese space port? The media has been raving about it being bigger than ours", Richardson asked and looked quite unhappy when Joyce confirmed it:

"It is true. Again, no idea why they went for such a massive construction right off the bat, when a smaller one would have suited them just fine to get things started. Russians have almost finished with their space port, which looks to be similar to ours."

"Fine. Let's move to shipyards. What's the status there?"

"Right. So we have Vollenhoven and Hilton on the commercial side for a total of forty thousand tons. China has Tan which has only one slipway but is twenty thousand tons on its own and then Chiang which is the same size of ours but again with only one slipway. Both are being expanded as well, though it looks like they are not making more slipways. So it's likely that the Chinese will be able to put out bigger freighters quicker than we can but only one ship at a time, while we can put out two. On the military side, NAVAL-1 has three slipways of thousand tons though it's being expanded now and NAVAL-2 has a single slipway of three thousand tons and another slipway under construction. The Chinese also have two military yards, named Shi and Zhau. The former is just one slipway of thousand tons while the latter has one slipway of two thousand tons. Both are being worked on and it seems that Zhau is going to be the big yard while Shi will get multiple slipways."

"And the Russians?"

"No shipyards yet and none under construction. We're certain of that, you can't hide anything that's up in orbit."

"Ground forces?"

"Both have created some TN-standard units but of pretty poor quality, intended for population suppression and defence. General Taylor don't have to worry about them for a while", Joyce smiled.

"Well that's something. Let's round this up with research. Do we know anything?" Richardson was curious - penetrating the research facilities of either country was notoriously difficult.

"Chinese are working on sensors and ground forces, Russians on space ship things. We don't know the details. We know the Russians are ahead of us in lasers, but aside from that, we're holding a comfortable lead on all fields", Joyce finished.

"Good, good", Richardson mused as he got up. "Thanks for the briefing Nicholas, keep up the good work", he commended the junior officer.

***

The raucous crowd erupted into yet another cheer. The other patrons in the pub seemed annoyed at their antics but nobody dared to say anything. If the Fleet uniforms hadn't been enough, the fact that everyone recognized the woman of the hour, Lieutenant-Commander Bethany Thompson. Her appointment as the commanding officer of Niels Bohr, the second survey ship of PATO, had been front page news that day across all media.

"All right you monkeys, one more round and then I'm off to bed", she laughed, her face reddened by alcohol and laughter.

"I'm going to miss you Beth, you know", a statusque woman said to her. "As if Freya! You'll be watching over my shoulder as much as the comms allow now that you've usurped my place in the staff!"

"Well, maybe. Thanks again for mentoring me in, I know it was a hassle for you while you were preparing for this command", Freya Long said sincerely. Bethany just waved at her, lifting the pint to her lips: "Don't worry about it, it was my pleasure. How often do you get to train your successor?"

Their conversation was cut short as someone got the jukebox running and Spaceman started playing.

"Let's drink for the first human on Jupiter orbit!"

***

"What is on Corduba?" Hanson asked, annoyed that he couldn't remember off the top of his head. "Less than twenty thousand tons of duranium and about fourteen hundred tons of uridium", answered one of his assistants. "Huh", Hanson grunted.

"I guess Deep Space Industries doesn't want to keep all their eggs in a single basket. Approved and we'll buy the output, we can always use more duranium", Hanson thought out loud as he signed the paperwork.

"Oh and Mr Frost, congratulations. You're the best man to oversee that operation. Enjoy!" Hanson said, wide grin on his face. William Frost had a background both in naval construction and mining, and had been for some time considered as a possible successor to Hanson. Now the man could cool his ambition on some miserable asteroid.

Hanson laughed out loud when, that evening at his stately home, he checked Corduba out and found out that it was mere 106 km by diameter and floated outside Ceres orbit.

***

Bethany Thompson stared through the viewscreen at Jupiter. Despite spending over a week scanning the gas giant and finding no Sorium whatsoever, she wasn't disappointed. Niels Bohr was enroute to Ganymede, so she could spare some time to once more take in the beauty of the Red Spot and the magnitude of being among the first humans to observe it first-hand. Some in her crew had grown bored of the view in just few days but not her. The fact that the stable, eternal storm was twice the size of Earth never ceased to amaze her.

"Entering Ganymede orbit in five minutes, ma'am", the helmsman announced. Thompson concentrated on her ship. The Jovian moons were fascinating as well as dangerous - some of them produced volcanic eruptions tens of kilometers high and the area was, astronomically, quite crowded. Crossing through the dust rings had been a visual feast.

"Very well helm. Take us in slowly. Survey, double check that all cameras are recording. We're going to see the largest moon in the system up close and the scientific community back home is salivating at the prospect. Let's make sure we're doing this properly", Thompson reminded everyone.

Disappointingly, the Jovian system was completely devoid of TN-minerals but at least the four Galilean moons were confirmed to be habitable, gravity wise. During the two weeks that it would take the ship to reach Saturn from Jupiter, Thompson had ample time to upload to Earth thousands of pictures and video across the EM-spectrum that her crew had taken.

***

Hanson signed off the application for Vibilia. Half way between Ceres and Jupiter, only carrying twenty thousand tons of Duranium, it was no prize location. Deep Space Industries did not care. Planetary Resources had steadily grown their operation on Mercury, so DSI - instead of focusing on their existing two sites - went for another asteroid. Once again Hanson bought their entire output for PATO use. He wasn't looking forward to telling Robert Gallagher that their poker nights couldn't continue but at least the younger administrator could bring his guitar with him.

The fact that two days later Thompson found over two hundred million tons of Sorium in the atmosphere of Uranus was just icing on the cake. Jupiter would have been so much better but Hanson could work with this.

"Note: increase priority for tugs and gaseous Sorium harvesting ships", he dictated to his personal computer.

***

"With Italy online, we're reorganizing and forming a third division. Old first will become third division and Commander Charles Pritchard will assume command. Ali, you'll move from America to Italy and that platform will become the flag for the new first division. Once we have enough OWPs in orbit, we'll do a similar thing with Benjamin's second division. Questions?" Rear-Admiral Takei looked at the three men facing him. Captain Benjamin van Eekelen cleared his throat.

"Is there any schedule for the relocation to Luna and Mars?"

Takei shook his head: "None whatsoever. Rumours say that Hanson is trying to accelerate the tug program but who knows. It will not happen for at least six more months and probably will take longer."

Since the others had no questions, Takei stood up from behind his desk. "Well, let's go see this marvel of modern technology then. I was quite impressed by the specs, of putting four barrels on that turret instead of one and having increased the armour by fifty percent. I'm sure we would all like to see it personally, so shall we?"

Ali, van Eekelen and Pritchard enthusiastically agreed.

***

"Sorry to say boss but we found nothing. Albert Einstein did too good of a job", Alex Sullivan explained to Vice-Admiral Woodcock. His team members were all military and vinced over the friendly attitude of their civilian-scientist team leader but Woodcock had long ago grown used to to peculiarities of Survey Command, like working with academics and other civilians.

"That's a damn shame Mr Sullivan. Now that Earth ran out of Neutronium, finding few million tons of it on Luna would have been godsend", the Vice-Admiral responded.

With a smirk, he continued: "I hope you enjoyed the amenities of Luna City. I assume you took part in the celebrations when the population passed the thirty million mark. Einstein is enjoying some R&R at Earth, having finished with the asteroid belt, so I'll have it relocate your team to Mars. Easier to work there, with no distractions around!"

Sullivan groaned. He had a difficult conversation ahead of him with a certain coffee-shop waitress who would be hard-pressed to believe that he was genuinely being sent to Mars.

***

Lieutenant-Commander Olivia Willis was happy to gain her own command so early. Isaac Newton was the third Einstein-class geological survey ship. Her sisters had done such an exemplary job of surveying that she was to be last of her class. There wasn't much left for Willis and her crew of sixty, mostly just comets and the distant planetoids past Neptune mixed with asteroids. That didn't bother Willis at all, in fact it excited her more. Ship captains had, over the years, become more and more tightly roped into networked systems and had to suffer under growing amount of micromanagement from their superiors. With a delay of hours in her communications, she would not be quite as cut off as her heroes from the Age of Sail but it was the closest thing available.

"Please find us some Neutronium out there and stay safe", Woodcock had said as he stepped off the ship. Willis had agreed.

"Helm, take us out. Navigation, plot a course to Halley's Comet, we'll start with that", she ordered.

***

"I hear congratulations are in order", Hanson said once the waiter had retreated from the table. Richardson looked at his civilian counterpart questioningly. "I meant that your spymaster caught the Chinese with their hand in the cookie jar", the administrator continued before savoring the succulent steak.

"Oh that. Yes, Joyce has been quite overjoyed, though credit goes to MI5. Though they do think that they managed to get some information sent back home before we caught up with them", Richardson explained. The admiral tried to be nonchalant while checking out their surroundings, he couldn't believe that Hanson would bring up such a sensitive topic while they were out in public.

"Relax, the acronym agencies are all leaking information to their political masters. Everyone in this place is either a government employee, a politician or a lobbyist", Hanson calmed him. "Or hell, maybe all three. Most of the people in here probably know the general outline of what happened anyway. So let's have a toast to the blundering foreign agents!" He raised his wine glass and reluctantly Richardson agreed.

"Oh, I'm sure your people will be happy to know that Vollenhoven is retooling for the tug and should finish constructing the first one next year. My eggheads finalized the plans for a troopship for Taylor's boys as well as for the tanker but we don't have the shipyard capacity to build them for a while. Hilton will be completely tied down for years. They've building two Buffaloes right now and I've placed an order for another two after that. That'll give Martin ten of them to tide him over until we get Bisons ready. There'll be ten of them, eventually", Hanson exclaimed, looking smug and proud.

"What about that third shipyard", Richardson asked. Hanson waved his fork: "Yeah, it's coming along but it will not be ready to build either class anytime soon. Maybe next Christmas if we're lucky."

Richardson focused on enjoying his steak as Hanson switched topics and the men stopped talking shop. Outside the panoramic windows, a light snowfall made London look almost magical.
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2017, 11:35:59 PM »
2028



Drinking his morning coffee, Hanson turned the flatscreen in his kitchenette on to the financial channel. Planetary Resources stock was rising after news that they had once more expanded their mining operations on Mercury. The administrator smiled, counting the new value of his portfolio in his head. It had definitely been worth it to purchase a bunch of their stock early on.

***

"There she goes", Richardson muttered to himself. "Right, we have good scans now, what can you tell me", he asked his aides. On the large screen dominating one wall of the command centre, the Chinese Luhu-class spaceship slowly rotated.
"Sir, target cross section thirty, tonnage estimated one thousand and five hundred", one of the technicians monitoring it answered. "Heading to Luna on a direct intercept course", another continued. Richardson nodded in silence. His four commander stood beside him. The Chinese had not made any secret of the maiden voyage of their first Trans-Newtonian space vessel. They said it was unarmed, a pure scientific mission and PATO intelligence agreed. Despite these reassurances, the atmosphere in the command centre was tense. Luna City had 54.7 million inhabitants now, making it larger than some PATO member states, yet it had no real defences at all.

A collective brief of relief was released once the Chinese craft settled on low orbit, clearly following a similar survey pattern that the earlier PATO ships had followed. "Okay people, back to business as usual", Richardson clapped his hands and nodded to Hood: "Keep me appraised if our friend deviates from the routine".

***

"We're at eleven hundred construction factories and that's where we will stay for now, senator", Hanson explained to his phone. "We're facing a Duranium crunch and our current capabilities are more than sufficient for now", he continued. "I can appreciate how many jobs could be created in your constituency but it's not going to happen and don't even think of going public with this - we outproduce both the Chinese and the Russians! Good day!" The red-faced administrator slammed the phone down, cracking its surface. "frakking leeches", he grumbled out loud and pulled out the whisky bottle he kept for such occasions on his desk. For comfort, he pulled up the mineral numbers. Earth produced 6,509 tons of Duranium annually. Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries sold another 1,729 tons to PATO. The Earth production was going down as the Duranium veins became more scarce. The PR and DSI amounts would grow, if those companies continued to invest but the total amount gathered each year was going down, not growing. In three or four years, Earth would run out of Duranium completely. If, at that point, there wasn't sufficient amounts of Duranium coming from elsewhere in the system, Hanson had failed and the worst recession in human history would hit them. Joe was determined to prevent that. He didn't mind taking advantage of his position and getting filthy rich but the end game was clear. He was truly a noble man, a saviour of mankind even. A modern Jesus, you could say. His chair felt strangely woozy. Determined to figure it out, he took one last chug of the bottle, only to realise it was already empty. Angrily he hurled the bottle away, fell over from his chair and promptly passed out.

***

The Alberta summer day was gorgeous and the testing ground of CFB Suffield was packed with spectators. Dynetics has promised a good show, trying to outperform Patria's Gauss cannon with their improved Rail gun. They had two weapons to show off, both smaller than the Patria one. The 100mm one shot every 10 seconds, while the 120mm one fired once every 15 seconds. Their accurate ranges were quite impressive as well: 15 kkm and 30 kkm, respectively and a clear improved over the 10 kkm of the Gauss cannon. The test went off without a hitch. As the test winded down and the guests were guided to the catering tables, admirals Richardson and Takei snuck to the side.

"Sheppard tells me that Patria is working on an improved version of the Gauss cannon", Takei started as soon as they were out of earshot. Richardson nodded. "And if there is any risk of budget cuts, then I must insist we wait until that demonstration before finalising the next generation main weapon", Takei continued, clearly worried. Richardson shook his head: "Hanson hasn't even hinted at budget cuts. Don't worry, you'll get your improved cannons but it's clear now that the guns are the perfect choice for our ships. Which reminds me, you should swing by the art house, the boys are drawing all sorts of interesting designs in there". Relaxed once more, the diminutive Japanese officer made a slight bow: "I will indeed".

***

"So you are seriously saying that, because of a software error in the communications between your office and the Leonard Container Group, the latter dumped over half a million colonists on Mars when there was only sufficient living space for sixty thousand?" The journalist looked incredulous and Hanson couldn't blame her. It was a gigantic frakkup, that was already ruining LCG's stock value. After all the trouble of convincing Richardson that there was no danger and they could start the Mars colonization process early. And then some jackass placed a dot in the wrong place and nobody bothered to double check.

"Yes Margaret, I am seriously saying exactly that. Relief efforts are already underway and we'll of course do the best we can. Our developers are hard at working tracking down the error and will make sure that nothing like this ever happens again", Hanson smoothly explained. He knew he wasn't convincing the journalist but that wasn't necessary as long as he could calm down the public outrage. At least the communications were handled by the military side and were censored for now. Nobody needed to see suffocating colonists in full HD.

Hanson sacked few mid level managers and a couple of technicians and LCG did a similar purging. This seemed to mollify the public, understandably angry as they were over the deaths of nearly thirty thousand colonists. Needless to say, the Chinese and Russian state media were having a field day.

Yes, I forgot to check if the civilian shipping line had its colony ships full of people when I hauled few dozen infra on Mars. The shipping lines do not overload a colony on purpose but when a dozen colony ships already had a load and were looking for a place to unload, they don't talk to each other. So yay for me.

***

"All passengers are reminded that bringing alcohol from Luna City back onboard is strictly prohibited. All purchases must be stored in the cargo hold by our crew. You will be able to pick them up when departing the vessel back on Earth"

Hitomi and Anri ignored the message that was repeated through the space liners intercom. They were busy looking innocent as they entered the customs check. Aboard LCG Nordic, the crew didn't care what you drank, smoked or snorted. Luna City laws were different and neither woman wanted to spend ten years licking carpet in a micro-G prison. Outrageously dressed, they certainly caught the eyes of the customs agents but passed without incident. The ladies hailed one of the automated drone cabs. Despite its massive population, traffic was light thanks to the multilayered transport system which had maglev trains, electric busses, automated walkways and more operating in harmony. Surprisingly quickly, the drone taxi dropped them off in front of a dormitory that looked like a beehive.

"Please sign my petition ladies!" A gangly young man shouted at them as they approached the dormitory. The Japanese women looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and walked up to him.
"What's this then?" Hitomi asked.
"It's the Independence Petition, to ask PATO to grant Luna City full national rights", the man explain, trying desperately to not oggle the acres of flesh that the women had on display.
"We're just visiting here", Anri explained. "We're Japanese", she continued as the man lost the struggle and just stared at her bust.
"Wha- oh, that doesn't matter, we're all technically citizens of one Earth nation or another", he answered.
"In that case, it'd be our pleasure", Hitomi said and flashed him the brilliant smile that had for years ensured her being the top JAV queen.
Both women pressed their thumbs against the datapad to sign the petition.

Few minutes later, they had made their way into the dormitory and found the apartment rented for them, as well as the nervous attendant who greeted the women.
"Hey! Welcome to Luna City!" the bubbly blonde shouted the moment Hitomi and Anri stepped inside the apartment. She handed them over a laminated ID cards. "Here are your passes. Please don't lose them! Your first appearance isn't until noon tomorrow, so feel free to play tourist until then or rest or whatever you want to do", she spat out in a rapid-fire manner.
"There is no official opening ceremony?" Hitomi asked to which the greeter just shook her head.
"While AVN is now a global expo and awards show and some said that the first time it's held on Luna should be marked by some festivities, the police denied our appeal for holo fireworks as well as for the parade", the woman explained.
"If there is nothing else, I'll leave you in peace now", she said and left.

"Well I'm too tired to go out", Anri announced as she flopped down on the bed. Hitomi merely giggled, lifted her gargantuan breasts up and pulled the tiny vials out that she had smuggled to Luna City. "After we drop these babies, you'll be ready to party all night long girlfriend", she said, smirking at her friend.

A week later, wearing large sunglasses, both women nursed the worst hangovers of their life as they waited boarding the Leonard L1 space liner back to Earth, when Hitomi's communicator beeped. It was a priority call from her lawyer. Resigned she answered it:
"HITOMI! What the hell! Your contract specifically stops you from freelance work!" The gray haired man on the other end of the line shouted, face red.
"Hold on, what are you talking about", Hitomi asked, her brain still fuzzy from days of partying with the other adult film stars.
"Some sleazy fly-by-night setup is selling a movie called Bukkake Queen of Luna, starring you and a bunch of others porn stars! The president of Hokuto is furious and threatens to sue you for contract violation. And I don't need to remind you that your finances would not survive it!" Her lawyer sounded truly desperate.
Hitomi pinched the bridge of her nose. She could hardly remember half of the things that happened to them in that last week, so she guessed it was entirely possible that someone had filmed one of the impromptu gangbangs she had participated in.
"I didn't sign any papers, so can't we sue whoever is selling that crap? Pretty sure I didn't sign anything", she told her lawyer, who just shook his head.
"Different jurisdictions. By the time we got any money from them, Hokuto would have ruined you already", he explained.
"Oh well. Don't worry, I'll go meet him straight from the spaceport and sort this out", Hitomi responded and killed the connection. She nudged Anri awake.
"Hey girlfriend, is your schoolgirl outfit clean? I need to go plead forgiveness from Hiroyuki again", she announced. Anri wordlessly handed over her carryon bag.
"There's some mints and baby wipes there too, which you should probably use before meeting him", the slightly less busty porn starlet sighed.

Off-Topic: show


***

The staff of PATO Fleet Command were all present in the command room. The launch of the first Russian survey ship was a sufficiently important moment that nobody wanted to miss it.

"Do we know the name", asked Vice-Admiral Hood.
"I believe Intelligence said it was Frunze, after their military academy", Admiral Richardson answered.
"And look, they have already started construction another one", said Vice-Admiral Woodcock as he pointed to a second screen, showing a closeup of the Russian shipyard.
"What I'm worried about is whether they are armed", put in Rear-Admiral Takei. Everyone nodded. Lieutenant-Commander Joyce, running the Intelligence Office, had said that the ship was unarmed but their lack of human intelligence from inside Russia was a source of constant concern to the admirals.
"Okay look, it's doing the usual survey flight path to Luna, just like the Chinese did", Hood said, completely unnecessary as the computer had already put up this information.
"Yeah and the new course looks set towards Mars. I think we can all breathe easily and the Russians have built an unarmed survey ship. Back to your usual work people", Richardson announced. The spectators quickly filed out.
"I'd still feel better if we had the ability to catch their ships elsewhere in the system if necessary", Takei said quietly to Richardson, who acknowledged him. "I agree but it's difficult to justify creation of combat vessels in face of negligible threats and the risk of budget cuts", the man explained.

***

"2003 UZ413? What the hell is that", Hanson asked perplexed. One his aides was quick to explain:
"It's a trans-Neptonian plutino-type asteroid, or a dwarf planet".
Hanson shot him a glare that made the poor man shake.
"Uh, I mean, sir, it's a big asteroid, smaller than Pluto though, sharing roughly the same orbit as Pluto, with decent amounts of Neutronium and Sorium", he tried again.
"Okay, that I understand. Fine, grant the application and might as well buy the minerals for our use", Hanson declared.
"And, I think Gemma Mitchell is a good candidate to oversee it", he continued.
"But sir, Ms Mitchell has no mining experience, her background is in heavy industry and the financial sector", the aide protested.
"So it's about time she learns about mining in outer space", Hanson decided, shooting the aide another withering glare. Finished, he rose up, wished Merry Christmas to his staff and left the PATO Civil Administration building, local police keeping the protestors demanding independence for Luna City away from his limousine.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 02:19:01 AM by Garfunkel »
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2017, 11:41:37 PM »
2029



"So the Russians got another shipyard operational?" Admiral Richardson asked.
"Affirmative sir, but based on telescope imaging, they are not constructing any ships there, rather improving on the single slipway", Lieutenant-Commander Joyce responded.
"So we don't have to worry about it for a year or two then. What about the Chinese?"
"TAN is now able to construct ships of 50,000 tons and they are still enlarging it. We have no idea what the Chinese will use it for, unfortunately"
"That's a damn shame son", Richardson let out. He certainly wasn't happy but he knew, on an intellectual level, that it wasn't Joyce's fault. For decades, all Western intelligence agencies had blindly believed in SIGINT over HUMINT. The Russians and the Chinese were not efficient as PATO was but they had far fewer vulnerabilities.
"Well, no point in pulling my hair out over uncertainties. Keep me briefed", Richardson said, dismissing his intelligence officer.

***

"New rule! Mining permissions for asteroids no longer require my explicit permission. I am delegating that responsibility to you guys", Hanson blurted out. He had just wasted twenty minutes looking at the commercial proposal for 2003 MW12. "There is absolutely no need for me to personally review each of these, now that they are getting more and more commonplace. Just buy the minerals for PATO use and call it a day", he continued. After a short pause, Hanson sent an email out, ordering his underlings to prepare a status update of minerals being purchased from the civilian sector.

The report was presented to him two days later:
Show Spoiler
LUNA:
Off-Topic: show


VALA:
Off-Topic: show


MERCURY:
Off-Topic: show


VIBILIA:
Off-Topic: show


CHERNYKH:
Off-Topic: show


REINMUTH:
Off-Topic: show


2003 UZ413:
Off-Topic: show


MACHHOLZ:
Off-Topic: show


STEPHAN-OTERMA:
Off-Topic: show


CORDUBA:
Off-Topic: show


HERSCHEL-RIGOLLET:
Off-Topic: show


SWIFT-TUTTLE:
Off-Topic: show


NEUJMIN:
Off-Topic: show


2003 MW12:
Off-Topic: show


Hanson rubbed his chin. The mineral situation looked much better now than it had looked few years ago and it would only improve further as more and more automated mines were placed on Vala

***

The launch of the second Russian survey ship did not garner nearly as much anticipation and excitement as the first one had. However, the launch of China's first freighter literally on the same day electrified PATO officials. Despite what the majority of analysts expected, the vessel headed towards Mars instead of Luna. Once it reached the Red Planet, its crew laboriously unloaded the basic buildings blocks of a base. Apparently Beijing was content letting PATO reign on Luna and wanted its first colony/base somewhere little farther away.

"But if they wanted peace and quiet, why not head to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn?" Hood wondered aloud The answer, surprisingly, came from Hanson who had joined his military colleagues:
"Logistics. The PRC hasn't been about Communism for decades now, they only care that the Party is in control. Mars is much closer and easier to colonize than any of the Galiean moons, not to mention Titan or Triton. I bet the Chinese want to get their commercial sector involved after seeing the possibilities for profit, plus they can grow that base relatively quickly even with a handful of freighters"
The admirals nodded in agreement, the explanation was sensible.
"Does this mean that we need to consult their opinion before moving any military assets to protect OUR colony on Mars?" Hood asked.
"Yes. We're not going to start the first space war because we provoked Beijing", Richardson confirmed.

Mere two months later, Hanson's hypothesis was confirmed as Xiao Transport Services launched its first ship, a space liner for wealthy Chinese tourists to cruise to Mars, land briefly and then return to Earth.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 02:21:23 AM by Garfunkel »
 

Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2017, 11:44:59 PM »
2030-2031



The bosun's pipe played the shrill noise that Captain Benjamin van Eekelen both loved and hated. Hated, because it hurt his ears. Loved, because it signalled him coming aboard a vessel as its Captain. He hard heard it already when he assumed command of Orbital Weapon Platform Australia and now getting to hear it again, as the new Captain of OWP Sweden, a larger and more complex weapon of war, was a pleasure. But it still sounded annoying. Regardless, he saluted the bosun and the 80 crewmembers who had somehow managed to fit in the airlock. Zero-G made that feat possible and for a moment, Benjamin felt vertigo as rows of saluting soldiers surrounded him in three dimensions. He needed to say few words to these strangers, having had to leave his well-trained crew behind.

"At ease. I am grateful to the PATO Navy for this assignment, as I'm sure you all are. Sweden will be the flagship of the new Division Two and, until Norway is complete, its only unit. That means it is our job to create the working culture and traditions that will maintain our capabilities through good and bad times. You all know that I've transferred from the old second division, now named the fourth but I have no illusions that things that worked well on the A-models might not work so well here, in a B-model. I will soon conduct an inspection of all stations so crew, please return to them. Officers, remain here for a moment, please", the lanky Captain ordered.

***

"So this new missile is a marked improvement?" Admiral Richardson asked.
"Certainly. I just hope we never have to use them", Vice-Admiral Hood answered.
"LGI-102 Brimstone, which is a fitting name, is obviously the same size as the old Hellstone but the boffins managed to make it deadlier. The velocity is the same, as is the range but the warhead is a third again as effective, measuring 60 on the new standard chart. Which comes with a similar increase in radiation. With the hundred and sixty we are putting to service in Third and Fourth Missile Divisions, we can glass Earth completely, even without using the existing Hellstones. Or I guess we could wipe out Luna City", Hood continued.
Richardson flinched.
"The intelligence boys are pretty sure they've made my office bug-free but please don't say things like that. We don't want the rags write headlines about us planning to nuke all human life", he admonished the long-serving leader of the Planetary Defence Command.
"Fair point. There isn't any other use for these though. I know, and agree, that we must maintain credible nuclear deterrence against China and Russia but I can't help but think that this path is a waste of resources", Hood complained.
"Fine. What about the other missile?" Richardson asked.
"In my opinion, the RSI-101 Skybolt and RSI-103 Skyarrow are even more of a waste. We have nothing that can actually shoot them. Sure, the Skyarrow is noticeably faster and more agile and has a better range than its predecessor but the 'bolts are sitting in storage and the 'arrows will do the same", Hood lamented.
"The R&D needs the practice in developing them and the ordnance factories need the contracts to stay in business. We will eventually have missile boats and then we'll need the missiles", Richardson explained, feeling exasperated that he had to again have this debate.
"Yeah, I hear you and I understand. But shooting unarmed survey ships or, heavens sake, a Chinese liner, isn't very high on my list of space combat achievements", Hood put, standing up.
"True. But it's not like we have any aliens to shoot at either, so just keep at it", Richardson concluded the meeting, waving the other man off.

***

April 1st became the independence day of Luna City. Having surpassed 100 million colonists, it was the fourth most populous country in PATO, behind Japan, Philippines, and the United States. In fact, the continuing colonization from both inside and outside PATO meant that Luna would surpass the declining population of Japan in the near future. Initially Hanson and the PATO Council advocated that the date be pushed back once talk-show hosts and other comedians pointed it out but the heterogenous population of Luna - consisting of all ethnicities from Earth - embraced the humorous date. Massive amount of paperwork would keep bureaucrats both on the moon and on the planet busy for months, if not years, as the people of Luna often had to resign their previous citizenships and acquire new Luna passports. As barriers for movement, trade and commerce in general had been reduced over the last decade inside PATO, there were few practical issues. And the PATO council grew by one seat, as Administrator Reece Price became the first elected representative of Luna. A special economic relationship emerged, as Luna was still largely dependent on imports from Earth to sustain its growth and had no Trans-Newtonian industry of its own. Yet it exported heavy machinery that was easily fabricated in the low gravity and constructed from local sources, as well as precious metals and, as surprising as it was, special spices. The marketing campaigns for a range of Lunar Spices had soon became a staple of business classes, on how to whip up demand over a imaginary superiority of a perfectly average product. Every foodie and snob on Earth demanded Luna spices on their food. Lunawood had become the go-to place for filming movies that required high-flying or zero-gravity segments and the Lunar dramas were wildly popular escapism back on Earth.

***

Woodcock sighed. The extensive ground-based survey of Mars has not turned up any additional TN minerals, despite the hopes of everyone working at Survey Command. But since Inner System Survey had finished its mission months ago, at least he could task Albert Einstein to operate as a taxi for the team. Question was - what to survey next? After a moment of deliberation, he chose Ceres. The big asteroid already held a PATO listening post, helping monitor inner system traffic. With luck, the team would find some additional minerals there so the automated mines that were busy reducing Vala could be moved there next, instead of farther away.

The insistent banging against the rough plastic door woke Sullivan up. Groaning, he rolled from under the skinny female that he didn't recognize and reached across the tiny distance that served as a room on Mars habs, opening the door with a press of a button. The smirking face of Lieutenant-Commander Alexandra Hart made his headache worse.
"Good morning sleepyhead, get dressed and say your goodbyes. We're off to Ceres", she informed her nominal superior, though still a civilian to the bone. "Oh, your ladylove does not seem happy to hear the news", Hart continued, mockingly placing a hand over her mouth. "Oops!"
Sullivan had no time to curse, too busy as he was trying to get dressed while a pissed-off Martian pelted her with insults and threats to his masculinity: "You promised you'd be staying here!"

Ten minutes later, the team was walking towards the airlock, ready to depart. As they were cycling through, Hart spoke up:
"Seriously Alex, you have to stop claiming eternal love to them. We all know that you're not going to leave Survey Command and you should know better than to give empty promises like that. At least on Ceres, there won't be any civilians for you to chase!"
Sullivan merely grunted.

***

Hanson threw the bottle against the wall in his bedroom. PATO council had gone ahead with the creation of a new high-level post, intended to oversee the entire system, now that PATO interests were growing outside of Earth. Hanson had lobbied hard for that position, to maintain his power but somehow Charlotte Phillips, five years his junior, who had been the overseer of the mining operation on comet Swift-Tuttle, was appointed instead of him. He deserved that slot, god dammit! He had no idea that the bitch had such connections or otherwise he would've gotten rid of her. Accidents happened in space all the time.

But maybe this was for the best, he mused as he uncorked another bottle. He could maintain his lucrative network on Earth. He was the big fish, regardless of what Phillips' official title was. He'd act as the puppet master, pulling the strings behind the actors.

***

Woodcock shook hands with the departing officers and technicians. Now that every asteroid and trans-Neptunian object in the system had been surveyed, there wasn't much for Survey Command to do. They would continue to provide support for the GEO team performing ground-based surveys but that hardly required an extensive staff. Since both Orbital Defence Command and Logistics Command were growing, most of his staff were reassigned to them. In a way, it was an end of an era. He wistfully remembered that moment over four years ago when the first survey ship departed Earth. He was proud that there had not been any major incidents under his command. Richardson had promised that he would head the Mobile Command once it was started. For now, he divided his time between routine command of Survey and planning meetings for Mobile.

***
Rear-Admiral Tomohisa Takei radiated an aura of calm despite the nervousness inside him. His OWP Division Three was going to be the guinea pigs for the first inter-planetary tug operation in human history. Rear-Admiral Schelleis claimed that his tug skippers had practice and the simulations worked flawlessly but Takei wasn't reassured. One quarter of his force was going to be moved from Earth orbit to Luna. But it was the job of admirals to look calm and collected at all times, so he did just that as the monitors showed the tugs Annie, Glorie, Scuffy, Theodore and Toot attaching the primitive and poorly understood tractor beams to his orbital weapon platforms. All magnetic locks reported solid connections and, one by one, the tugs started their main engines, the miracle reaction of Sorium inside the Gallicite engines enabled reactionless drive and off they went. Just eight minutes later, the operation was complete and OrbDiv 3 now protected Luna City, where sufficient maintenance facilities had been waiting for years alongside the necessary TN-minerals to keep the OWPs maintained.



***

Admiral Richardson looked over the plan that Rear-Admiral Schelleis had brought to him. PATO already had eyes on Ceres and Phobos and now that surveillance network was going to be extended further - much further. The first two Bison class freighters had been completed and they would undertake the long mission to establish listening posts on Europa and Titan.

"I hope your boys brought few books with them", Richardson said, face deadpan, as he took in the length of each mission. Schelleis merely nodded. With a max speed of merely 632 kilometers per second, the two massive freighters would take a long time to reach their destinations. Richardson was again struck by the exponentially growing distances once you departed the Inner System.
"Fifty-one days for two trips to Europa and back is bad enough but a hundred and thirteen for Titan?" The admiral let out a low whistle.
"Well, the crews will have half a day or so of leave when they get back to Earth for loading before departing again", Schelleis explained.
"I don't even want to know what sort of time-off and overtime pay the crews will get for this", Richardson stated. But he knew those papers would be crossing his desk soon enough.
"That would be a headache for LCG if we had went with Hanson's plan", Schelleis shrugged his shoulders.
"But you know just as well as I do that for strategic reasons, the Fleet must have at least some cargo capacity of its own and not only rely on civilian contracts. If there ever erupts a war...", Richardson left the idea hanging but Schelleis nodded somberly, after all he had been a staunch proponent of military lift capacity over the years.
"And we'll have more Bisons, probably ten all together so that combined with the Buffalos', the Fleet will have ten light and ten heavy freighters. That should be enough for military purposes and Hanson can out-source the rest to LCG", Schelleis said.

***

General Taylor couldn't think of a better way to spend her 40th birthday than inspecting the four new heavy infantry battalions and their shining new equipment. With a stronger compliment of armoured vehicles and heavy weaponry, they were better suited for extensive assault operations than the earlier light infantry battalions, though they lacked the engineering and support elements that made light infantry superior on the defence. The flags of 4th Battalion, Royal Green Jackets, as well as Queen's Own Yeomanry, and 6th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and finally 7th Battalion, The Light Infantry, were waving in the biting autumn wind.

"Look at those bikes go", Major-General Alfie Sullivan exclaimed. Taylor turned her head to see the motor recon squad swoop by on their reinforced, special motor trikes. The noise was awful.
"I guess there's no stealth with those", Brigadier-General Dylan Houghton quipped.
"Noise is not a problem if there is no atmosphere to transmit sound", Brigadier-General Louise Hammond answered him.
"I seriously doubt we would be fighting in space anytime soon", grunted Brigadier-General Louis Short, making the other nine Brigadiers chuckle.
"You could be surprised", said Major-General Kate Smith. "Now that the fifteenth infantry and twenty-fourth airmobile brigade combat teams are nominally ready, we're going to start brigade level exercises and those will include both assaulting and defending on the moon", she continued.

The general officers barely managed to stifle their surprise.

"Smith is correct", Taylor confirmed. "The first two Victory class transporters are under construction so until they are ready, the two brigades will fight each other on every possible environment on Earth and finally, on the Moon itself and, if I can get the permission from both politicos as well as the bean counters, even on Mars!"
 

Offline MarcAFK

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2017, 01:15:25 AM »
You had me at rusty knob planet. But 
Off-Topic: show
NSFW busty bukkake queen
  really takes the cake. Might want to offtopic That one with an NSFW tag to boot.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 01:17:26 AM by MarcAFK »
" Why is this godforsaken hellhole worth dying for? "
". . .  We know nothing about them, their language, their history or what they look like.  But we can assume this.  They stand for everything we don't stand for.  Also they told me you guys look like dorks. "
"Stop exploding, you cowards.  "
 

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2017, 02:18:05 AM »
Thanks for the tip. Spoiler tags didn't work but Off-Topic one did the trick.
 

Offline Silvarelion

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2017, 07:43:40 AM »
This was amazing! The little vignettes of ordinary people really made it come alive.  Can't wait until the next batch!
Mistake Not My Current State Of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Mere Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath.
  ~The Mistake Not, Hydrogen Sonata, Iain Banks
 
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Offline Shinanygnz

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2017, 05:13:28 PM »
Great stuff, thoroughly enjoyed it
 
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