Author Topic: Three-way Race to Stars  (Read 690 times)

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Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Three-way Race to Stars
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2017, 06:13:40 AM »

"Well, that was a short life time wasted", Sullivan remarked to Hart as the five team leaders of the SURCOM GEO Close Survey Mission entered GEV Albert Einstein, tasked as GEO Survey Taxi. The female soldier-slash-surveyor didn't bother to answer. Everyone was feeling frustrated and disappointed - Ceres had been devoid of TN-materials and not having any found any additional material on Corduba smelled like failure. "Though I'm not sad leaving this miserably rock behind", Sullivan continued, "I am sorry that we can't keep taking the miners money off of them in poker!" The other three men - Lieutenant Commanders Liam Lane, Adam Fowler and Matthew Parkinson - snorted. "Don't worry Alex, Vibilia has twice as many mines as Corduba, you'll have plenty of new victims", Hart said. Effortlessly, the Einstein lifted off the deformed ball slightly over hundred kilometers wide, setting a course deeper into space. Ten hours later the ship landed on the asteroid Vibilia, the team members snapped their spacesuits shut and got to work.


Administrator Hanson kept his poker face intact as System Administrator Charlotte Phillips outlined the mineral situation that the aides had put together and the future plans to improve it. "As you can see from this table, the previous focus on Duranium, while understandable, was somewhat misguided. We are in a very good situation with Duranium, as well as Boronide, Mercassium, Vendarite and Uridium. With my plan to both increase our number of automated mines, as well as shifting existing ones from Vala to the new site on the comet Encke, the Neutronium situation will slightly improve, though it remains a source of worry for us", the 31-year old woman announced.

"Miss Boyer, you're being transferred from Borrelly to Encke. Miss Power, you'll be moved to Borrelly once Vala has been cleaned out completely, which should happen inside the next 24 months", Phillips continued. Hanson perked up at that. Gemma Power probably wasn't happy that she was being sidelined by some newcomer. She had been the overseer of the most important PATO mining organization, completely under government control and not just babysitting one of the commercial ventures. Maybe he could flame the fires of malcontent in her and get an ally. He smiled contently as Phillips went on:
"The two Light Transport Squadrons of the Logistics Command will be responsible for the transfer. While we could outsource this project, the squadrons are apparently under tasked at the moment, as Admiral Schelleis put it, so I've agreed to give his spacers something to do"


The viewing room was zero-G but all the Very Important Persons present were accustomed to it. The sleek curves of the three gunboats filled the viewing screen as Hemlock, Hyacinth and Jasmine departed their slipways. Admiral John Richardson had gathered his four branch commanders for the occasion as the Pan-Oceanic Treaty Organization launched its first armed space ships. "It's funny that we call them gunboats, when USS Asheville, the last ocean going gunboat, was about half of that size", Vice-Admiral Michael Hood remarked. Rear-Admiral Tomohisa Takei smiled as he countered his colleague: "Well the Yamamoto displaced about seventy thousand tons and was the largest battleship ever built. Yet Nelson's flagship, Victory, was mere three and half thousand tons barely heavier than these gunboats, less than two centuries earlier and was, in her time, just as powerful". Vice-Admiral Jonathan Woodcock nodded in approval. "My point was that it feels stupid to call a three thousand ton ship a gunboat", Hood tried again but the others did not respond, focused as they were on Jasmine turning and leading her sisters towards the barely-visible black hulls of the Orbital Division One, under whose watchful eye the gunboats would go through last minute refits in preparation for their maiden voyage through the inner system.

"Have you warned Gardiner of the Russians secret project?" Richardson asked Woodcock, who now held two posts - commander of the diminished Survey Command and commander of the fledgling Mobile Command. The Brit shook his head: "I thought it prudent not to worry him with such nonsense. Until the spy boys come up with hard facts, Captain Gardiner is better off focusing on his flotilla". The other admirals nodded along - the intelligence report had been lot of hot air, aside from the fact that the Russian research teams had been put under even heavier than usual security. Something was brewing there but when it would come to fruition, and in what form, nobody could say.


RUSSIA OPENS A MINING COLONY ON MERCURY JUST WEEKS AFTER CHINA - screamed the headline, though few passersby seemed interested enough to buy a copy. Anthony Hobbs was old enough that he preferred the feel of actual paper in his hands, though he knew he was part of a ever-diminishing minority. He tapped a button on his smartphone, paying for the paper, and grabbed one. It would make good reading while he sat in the employee bus to the labs. Anthony had never owned a car and, despite his considerably salary as one of PATOs chief scientists, wasn't going to start using a car service either. A card-carrying environmentalist, he swore in the name of public mass transport. Besides, it was interesting to overhear snippets of office gossip from the support staff and junior researchers who mostly made up the passengers and who, not realizing who was hiding behind a newspaper, blathered freely. Which probably explained how both China and Russia could follow PATO's research progress as closely as they did, he thought ruefully. Oh well, that was a problem for the cloak-and-dagger-types. Anthony opened the paper and marveled at the grainy picture of the Russian mass driver, comfortably sitting in the twilight zone of Mercury, that eternally hazy area between the burning hellscape of its "day" side and the frozen wasteland of its "night" side. The paper must have considered the pictures important enough to pay some poor miner from the Planetary Industries mining complex to drive over and snap it. Amused, he engrossed himself in the four page article. He could review the specs of experimental kinetic weaponry later.


Jóse Cortez leaned back over the hood of his Mars buggy, admiring the gigantic pipes of the terraforming unit that had just been turned on. In few hours it would properly belch gasses out to thicken the thin Martian atmosphere but for now, it merely rumbled. He hardly believed that fifteen years before he had been bussing tables at a tourist resort on the cost of the Mediterranean and now he was part of the million-strong Martian Atmosphere Project. It would take decades but eventually the crowded habitats would be moved to museums and humans could walk on the surface without space suits. Once the atmosphere was stronger and the terraformers started breaking down asteroid ice into oxygen, the Martian Life Project would begin, probably employing thrice as many people planting genetically modified plants all over the planet. "Hookay bitches, the heavies are in orbit so haul ass to the loading site and start prepping for the next bastard", a gruff voice, in an godawful Texas drawl that Jóse only barely understood, commanded. Sighing, he rolled inside the buggy and, after double-checking the seals, opened his helmet to make driving somewhat more comfortable. It was going to be a long day.


Captain Martin Faulkner was too busy to admire the sunset, despite having an amazing view of it across the slope of Olympus Mons. His company of mechanized infantry was hull down on the southern slope, hidden in the ancient canals carved by lava flows and undisturbed by the weak gravity of Mars. The fine reddish-brown dust that made the Tharsis region famous had already covered his unit and made him wish fervently that none of his troops had neglected to install the improved dust filters. There was no escaping the dust on the shallow slopes of Olympus Mons since there was nothing blocking the wind. Though that had not stopped his staff sergeant from ordering two privates to hold a camouflage net around him. Martin suspected that the two lads had frakked up somehow and this futile task was their punishment. The dust made it difficult to monitor his map or Unified Multi-System Digital Assistant as it was officially known. What looked like a tablet strapped to his left arm was actually a pretty powerful computer that he could control even suited up, the touch display reacting to the heavy kevlar-rubber gloves he had to wear. Unfortunately the display was in the process of being covered by the Martian dust. At least the process was slow. His company was part of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, in turn part of the 24th Airmobile Brigade. Major-General Kate Smith had ordered the brigade to acclimatize to Mars the best way a military can - by training in the worst parts of Mars available. Which is why he was waiting for Colonel Jay Phillips, the CO of the battalion, to unleash his hidden company to take the boys of 7th battalion by surprise as they were advancing towards the top, under mock fire of the infantry of the other two battalions. Finally the symbol marking 15 minutes until execution popped up on the table. Faulkner turned towards his staff sergeant and made the hand-signal for getting ready - no need to use voice comms and possibly give out their location. The fusiliers moved determinedly, gathering their camouflage nets and packing them into their tracked vehicles. Soon enough the company was ready to move, still in utter silence. The thinness of the atmosphere meant that sound didn't travel far. Logically Faulkner knew that there was a lot of noise being produced just few kilometers away, yet he couldn't hear it. Then his UMSDA beeped as the timer reached zero. He flipped the company channel open and said:
"Let's ride"


"Is nobody bothered by the fact that we haven't seen Frunze or Murmansk in months", asked Lieutenant Commander Nicholas Joyce. Nobody in his small team responded. Commander Freya Long, who was in charge of the Survey Office and thus somewhat under-utilized at the moment, had been spending her time in the spy hut, as the Intelligence Office was being called. She looked thoughtful as she pondered the rhetorical question:
"Hmmm, we know the Russians upgraded them somehow as the old geological sensors were replaced with something different when they left, but they still definitely looked like survey sensors, just kinda weird. And it isn't strange that they would be gone for months and months while surveying the outer system, where we have no eyes"
Joyce had to agree. It made sense but his gut said that there was more to this.
"I'm going to suggest to the Admirals that we use the gunboats to shadow them", he proposed but Long was already shaking her head:
"That won't work. They don't have search sensors as they were only intended to work near Earth in the inner system"
"Well, then I'll float the idea of building a dedicated scout vessel", Joyce went on, undeterred. "PATO must know what the other powers are up to out there, in the deep dark!"
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 08:38:04 AM by Garfunkel »


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