The Measure of Humanity - Chapter Twenty

You know, I admire all the people who put on the Fleet uniform.

At the end of the day, it's their job to put themselves in harm's way.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Sooner or later, the odds always catch up to them.

Then it's off to another service, another wake.

And then, next day?

They do it again.


CHAPTER TWENTY

TFS Endeavour

“I’m not crazy about it either, Captain, but what better choice do we have?”

Three hours had passed since the bombs had separated, three hours of scanning, analysis, meetings, planning, tracking, and re-analysis. Commodore Knott had been appraised of the situation and had agreed that the Endeavour was best-positioned to deal with it.

“Candice, do you have any idea what we’re asking our pilots to do?”

“Absolutely. But Dawn, Kassidy, Lorelei, Castor, Pollux, have all been over it and over it. Hell, they even pulled Diana into it; she tapped Harpo’s abilities. Everyone agrees that this gives us the best chance to clear the board of the bombs.”

The plan, such as it was, was simple. Each bomb was being trailed by a Direwolf a hundred kilometers back. That was close enough for the sensors to easily track, but far enough so that if one were to detonate it wouldn’t destroy the fighter.

The Direwolves were heavily armed for their size, with two 700 kW lasers mounted on either side of the ship’s nose. Unfortunately, firing accuracy for the Direwolf was an issue. Unlike the starships, the lasers on a Direwolf had no independent aiming capability; instead, the ship was turned until it was aligned with the target. When firing against asteroids, or Artemis ships which measured tens or even hundreds of meters, that wasn’t an issue.

The bombs were a half-meter on a side.

To aim properly, then, a Direwolf had to align itself most carefully with its target. Given that the lasers were mounted about two meters apart, that gave a certain minimum size to what they could hit simultaneously with both lasers. They could hit the bombs, but only with one side or another, and they were going to need to be much, much closer.

“A kilometer?” Jadwinsky’s voice was outraged. “That’s not a mission; that’s suicide!”

“It might have to be closer,” said Pollux. “My analysis of their accuracy gives them no more than a 12.3% chance of hitting at that range. This increases to 28.9% at 500 meters, 57.1% at 300 meters, and, except for Ensign Hopper, 92.1% at 100 meters or less.”

“Why not Bun-Bun?” Jadwinsky was distracted from the other numbers.

“Because Ensign Hopper couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. I think that’s the idiom. It is unlikely that he will be able to destroy his target, so I have planned for Lieutenant Garcia to back him up when he fails.”

“And how fast will the explosion spread?” asked Kiri, trying to get this final planning session back on track.

“Given the variables, that is difficult to say with any precision,” answered Pollux. “Between twenty and fifty KPS for up to five seconds before slowing and dissipating.”

“Like I said: suicide! At max accel, from a zero/zero state, a Direwolf can cover just about 2500 meters in the first second, ten klicks after two, twenty-two klicks after three, which leaves me with a bunch of fried pilots!”

“What if they were already moving?” said Sanzari. They’d already explored this option, but she was just as loathe as Jadwinski to send their pilots on a one-way mission. “Let’s say they were already at a closing rate of 200 KPS, between their speed and the bomb’s momentum. How does that impact their odds?”

“You may as well try to hit Jupiter with a slingshot on Mars,” muttered Jadwinsky, unhappily.

“The Ensign is not incorrect,” Pollux said. “At closest reasonable range – and remember, they will be covering this distance in fractions of a second too small for a human to measure – your best pilot, Lieutenant Garcia, would have a 0.03% chance of hitting the target.”

“Like nailing a womp-rat from a T-95,” said Kiri.

“Captain?”

“Never mind.”

With a note of desperation, Jadwinski said, “Pollux. What if firing was turned over to their onboard AI? What does that do?”

“Calculating. That increases the likelihood of hitting the target by two orders of magnitude for most of the pilots.”

“Three percent?” said Sanzari.

“It’s better than being vaporized,” argued Jadwinski. “And if they miss, they can pull around and take another pass. As many as necessary, really, until they hit the bastards.” She started warming to the subject. “They were all launched with full fuel loads, so they have nine hours’ worth left. There’s still over five hours before the first impact, so we have time to try something else first! Captain?”

Slowly, Kiri nodded. “Anyone have a problem with trying this first?”

As she expected, nobody protested.

“Very well. Ensign Jadwinski, fill them in.”

“Aye, ma’am!”



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