Tag Archives: space combat

The Shattered Empire Second Sample

Here’s the second sample from The Shattered Empire, picking up where I left off in the first one, here.

“Command, Azure Actual, targets down, we are black on primary ammo, new orders?” Garret asked. His gaze went to the developing battle as the enemy capital ships closed with the Warwagon. They had launched their fighters and his sensors showed areas to avoid as the old dreadnought filled the space around it with interceptor fire. Going to be one hell of a mess to clean up no matter how this ends, Garret thought. That was the downside of projectile weapons, bombs, and missiles. Energy weapons diffused, eventually, the others just caused additional navigational hazards.

“Azure Squadron, standby,” Commodore Pierce said gruffly. “Attention Centauri Confederation ships, this is Commodore Frank Pierce of the Halcyon Defense Fleet.” Garret rolled his eyes at that. They were mercenaries, it seemed silly to hide under a title that meant nothing. “We have declared our independence from the Colonial Republic. We have no desire to fight you and should you stand down, you will be allowed to withdraw.”

The voice that responded held all of the familiar arrogance of the Centauri military. “That’s a grandiose proclamation. Regardless of what your transponders say, you have attacked, unprovoked, ships and property belonging to Nova Corp, which is made up of Centauri Confederation citizens. That requires retaliation… and your pathetic antique is not going to stop four top-of-the-line warships from exacting that retribution.” The Centauri Commander’s harsh accent added that special touch of totalitarian arrogance to his statement, Garret decided. Maybe I should give him a character reference to work with my father, he thought dryly.

“Perhaps not,” Commodore Pierce said, his gruff voice calm. “But we have no grudge with the Centauri Confederation or its citizens… and I have to wonder how much loyalty you have in corporate interests.” Garret watched the Warwagon close with the Centauri ships. On his screens he could see that the Helot had withdrawn out of the immediate fight. Garret chewed on his lip at the bluff from the Commodore. They couldn’t take on the four ships, not without some serious advantages. He knew why they’d targeted Nova Corp’s goons first. Hitting corporate security mercenaries was one thing, taking on Centauri Confederation warships was another. But it looked like they would have to do that anyway at this point and Garret would have rather punched a cruiser than a couple of destroyers in that case.

“Azure Squadron, form up in screen position delta along vector seven three,” Captain Gizmon said softly over their encrypted net. Garret relayed the command even as he tried to figure out what the plan was. That screening position would allow the gunboats to provide interceptor fire for any missiles fired from the enemy ships. But getting there meant they would have to swing wide of the fighters currently engaged with the Warwagon.

It must be as a response to the carrier, which began to spew forth fighters at an alarming rate. The sensors relay from the Warwagon painted them as Harassers, the Nova Roma combat fighter. Those were tough, powerful craft, Garret knew. He had a single brush against the Nova Roma Fleet once, before he joined up with the War Dogs. He and the other few survivors from that mercenary company had learned a solid lesson on the capabilities of Harassers.

Still, Harassers weren’t nearly as tough as the Hammers of his squadron and the extended missile racks that Azure squadron carried would thin their numbers as they closed. His squadron formed up and swept around into position, even as he watched the enemy attack wave form up on his sensors.

“This is your last warning, friend,” Commodore Pierce said. “Power down your ships or we’ll use whatever force necessary.” Garret shook his head at that. They were seriously outgunned. Still, clearly the Commodore thought they had some kind of edge, else they would have disengaged. They were mercenaries and there was no profit in suicide.

Garret’s eyes narrowed as he noticed the enemy carrier had launched what looked like assault shuttles. Why would they need to launch those, he wondered, it’s not like they’d want to board the Warwagon. The ancient dreadnought was probably worth more to the Centauri as scrap than as a warship. Besides, they would have to knock a ship completely out of action to use boarding shuttles with any chance of success. Even a few functional turrets could shred those craft.

Garret spared a glance at the civilian traffic. Most of it had cleared out, all but a pair of civilian transports caught in between the two closing forces. Either they assumed that by staying powered down they’d be unnoticed or they simply hadn’t had time to bring up their engines. Either way, Garret would hate to be in their position. As he thought that, the Centauri formation swept past the two ships. A moment later, they both detonated. At first, Garret assumed that the Centauri had fired on them or that they’d just been unlucky enough to take a random hit. But that didn’t make sense, Garret knew. They had detonated simultaneously and the huge spike of radiation from them both suggested something else altogether. The intense burst blinded his sensors for a long moment as Heller cursed her way through a reboot process. As his sensors went live again, it took Garret a while to figure out what they showed.

The four Centauri Confederation ships drifted without even emergency power. The assault shuttles from the carrier dove in among them and Garret zoomed in his gun camera to see the shuttles slam home into the warships. Must have been some kind of device, high yield radiation burst, he thought, something that knocked the engines out or maybe caused some kind of electromagnetic interference.

“Commodore Pierce, so wonderful of the War Dogs to join us,” a woman’s voice said. “It is always a pleasure to work with such a consummate professional.” Her voice was almost as sultry as Heller, but held an edge of arrogance that managed to set Garret’s teeth on edge.

“Admiral Mannetti,” Commodore Pierce said calmly. “Thank you for the assistance. I assume our employers approved of your tactic… though it would have been nice for you to warn us. Half my forward sensors are still down.”

“We had to maintain the element of surprise, darling,” Admiral Mannetti answered. “Don’t worry, it shouldn’t cause any lasting harm to your ships, just requires a reset at your range. Our friends, however, will be unable to bring their power systems online for several hours. My boarding crews will secure all four vessels before then.” Garret blanched as he remembered where he’d heard that name. She was some kind of rogue Nova Roma officer, more pirate than mercenary. Clearly she’d worked out some kind of deal with Halcyon… which made Garret’s lips twist in disgust. Hadn’t they learned how dangerous it was to bring in unscrupulous types from what happened with Nova Corp?

Yet, as his gaze finally slipped over to stare at the clouded blue sky of his homeworld, some part of him understood, at least, why they’d done it. Even so, he wondered how far they were willing to go… and just how dangerous their new allies were.

***

The Shattered Empire will be available on the 25th of October.  I’ll be doing a Book Bomb on October 25th at noon.  It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon here and will be available on Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Kobo soon!

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The Fallen Race cover and upcoming release

The cover for my upcoming release, due on Saturday, 1 Feb 2014
The cover for my upcoming release, due on Saturday, 1 Feb 2014

The Fallen Race, my Military SF / Space Opera novel will be released tomorrow at noon on Amazon and Smashwords.

Blurb below:

Baron Lucius Giovanni, Captain of the battleship War Shrike, finds himself without a home or nation, his ship heavily damaged, and crew in bad shape. The odds against their personal survival are slim. The time of humanity has come to a close. The great nations have all fallen, either to the encroaching alien threats or to internal fighting and civil war. The aliens who seek to supplant humanity, however, have not taken one thing into account: Lucius Giovanni. He and his crew will not give up – not while they still draw breath. If this is to be the fall of humanity, then the crew of the War Shrike will go down fighting…and in the heat of that fight, they may just light a new fire for humanity….

Free Short Story! (and an update)

I’ve added a short story to the Free Fiction area.  The story is called “Runner” and it is something of an origin story on Run from the Renegades series.  It was interesting and challenging writing from his perspective, and I hope that you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Feel free to make any comments about the short story on this post, I’d love to hear your input.

As far as other updates, Renegades: Ghost Story is set to come out early next week.  I’ll be planning a book bomb when it comes out, so if you plan on picking it up from Amazon, please do so on or around Tuesday, 21 Jan, around noon Mountain Standard Time.  It’ll also go up on Smashwords, and from there to B&N, Kobo and the rest.  I’ll post the Blurb and Cover for Renegades: Ghost Story this Friday (17 January).

My novel, The Fallen Race, is on track to come out at the end of that week.  Right now it is forecasted for Friday, 24 January.  Again, I’ll be trying a book bomb, looking at 12 noon (MST) on Saturday, 25 January.  While the Renegades series is more of an exploration/adventure SF story, the Fallen Race is military science fiction.  I discussed it with Jason Cordova in my interview at  Shiny Book Review.  The interview is here for those who want to read it.

Lastly, for those who enjoyed the Echo of the High Kings previews, I have good news.  The novel will be coming out on Amazon next month, and for the first three days, it will be free to purchase.  I’ll have to make it exclusive to Amazon to do so, but I’m conducting a kind of experiment to see if that will allow me to boost sales, and compare it to my sales of other books.  Look for Echo of the High Kings to come out in mid February of 2014.

Free Space Opera / SF Novella

For a limited time, I’m giving away free copies of the first novella of my Renegades series. For the next five days, if you use the coupon code MG57A when you check out, you can get Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption for free from Smashwords (link).

Mike doesn’t want to be anyone’s friend. He doesn’t want to be a leader. He sure doesn’t want to be a hero. He’s tried all of that before; it didn’t work out then and he knows it wouldn’t work out now.

He doesn’t have a choice.

Caught by an invading alien race and shipped off to a prison station as (expendable) labor, Mike will have to become all of those things in order to escape. More, he’ll have to turn a band of misfits into a group that can not only survive… but escape from a place where survival is measured in hours. In the doing, he may have to do the one thing he knows will get him killed: learn how to trust.

Space Warfare: I Have the Power!

Cutdrawing_of_an_GPHS-RTGI’m continuing my blog post last week Friday and discussing space warfare technology.  More specificially, I’ll address what I see as one of the big issues: power generation and density.

The big issue with any kinds of space technology is the power source and power density.  If three quarters of the vessel is taken up by power generation to get a mediocre total, then all the other systems need to be more efficient (less cool stuff) in balance.  Contraversely, if you can power the entire craft with something the size of a deck of cards that yields terawatts of power, you can afford to put more of other stuff and use systems that are less efficient.

Power generation is one of the primary difficulties in current space travel.  All current systems utilize chemical-based propulsion (rockets) and have solar panels to assist in power generation.  The problem with solar panels is that their relative energy production efficiency is limited, typically they only generate at around ten percent.  What this means is that ten percent of the energy that hits the panels is generated into electricity.  As far as space combat is concerned, solar panels are also extremely fragile, and increase the target profile (the size of the craft as a target, which makes it easier to hit).  As an alternative, a number of early probes and devices such as Voyager used radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), which is a fancy way to say they have very radioactive material which produce heat and then convert that into electricity.  This is a simple form of nuclear power generation.   These types of generation were used only to produce electricity.

Other forms of nuclear power, both for propulsion and for electricity generation have been theorized.  Nuclear fission is the primary method, which is the most well-explored nuclear technology.  Pebble bed reactors, already more compact than a standard fission reactor, could be used to provide both power and propulsion.  As a source of energy, nuclear power is much more compact than standard methods of power generation.  Still, the current societal fears of radiation and ‘evil’ fission will likely make widespread use of nuclear power an uphill battle.

Other forms of power generation and storage have been theorized in science fiction as well as actual scientific articles.  Fusion, often seen as the next step of nuclear power, is an often seen trope of military science fiction.  The current hurdle is that a controllable, sustainable fusion reaction seems just out of our reach.  In theory, it would only require hydrogen as fuel to produce power.  The issue is that making such a power system compact enough to use.  This is likely to keep fusion power just out of reach.  Antimatter power generation is often misconstrued.  Antimatter, when combined with normal matter, annihilates one another.  The issue, is that antimatter doesn’t occur naturally in our area (luckily for us, because if it did, we’d have a big explosion).  So we have to generate it with something like the CERN collider.  This, in effect, turns antimatter power into a high capacity battery, and not necessarily a high efficiency one.  Containment of antimatter requires powerful electromagnetic fields, and any slip up would allow the antimatter to contact normal matter, and then you lose the battery and possibly the space craft.  Other, even more esoteric power sources include singularities and dark matter, both of which are well beyond our current technology levels.

So why does all this matter?  Well, as far as spacecraft design and warfare, power design is essential.  A compact system allows more of the spacecraft’s volume and mass to be dedicated to other systems.  More power allows more complicated systems and higher energy usage for those systems.  Where this comes into play especially is in weapons, but also in sensors, communications, defenses, propulsion and support systems.  A high energy weapon system such as a directed energy weapon (such as a laser) requires a lot of power, as would a rail gun or some other linear accelerator.  The pay off for weapons like these are their destructive capabilities.   Lower yield weapons require less power, but deal less damage.  Rockets, missiles and the like have internal power and so the craft pays for them directly in additional mass and volume.  The destructive capabilities of the spacecraft are hinged upon its ability to generate power and project it.

The other systems are integrated into this as well.  A ship which dedicates all of its capabilities to offensive weapons may have to sacrifice other systems as a consequence.  Energy requirements to sensors and communications are not entirely trivial, and they are essential for combat.  Propulsion systems may utilize the ship’s power source or have their own internal power, but will likely use as much power or more as weapons systems, and a ship which cannot maneuver is an easy target.  Defensive systems, which could range from jamming systems to smaller weapons designed to intercept enemy fire to the futuristic defense screens or shields will also be essential to combat and to the preservation of a vessel.  Other systems are not as crucial.  A warship may need to cut back on non-essential systems prior to combat, such as life support systems, internal lighting, and temperature control much like wooden hulled ships ‘cleared the decks’ of non-essential furniture and equipment prior to a battle.

In the near future, we are likely to see no drastic in power generation.  Solar panels allow satellites to function with relative efficiency.   If space combat does develop, solar panels will probably shift to use only on civilian or ‘neutral’ craft or installations.  Nuclear power will most likely see use in near future space combat, both the RTGs and possibly pebble bed reactors.  This will allow higher energy production and more powerful weapons (not counting those weapons such as missiles or rockets, which are internally sourced).  More powerful weapons will likely require better defenses; either in the form of concealment (hiding) or hardening (make it tougher).  And like that, the space arms race begins.

Thanks for reading.  Next week Friday I’ll discuss space weaponry and where I foresee the issues and difficulties, as well as some of the benefits.

Space Warfare: the present and future

As a science fiction author, I’ve got a particular interest in current and future space operations.  Since I also write Military Science Fiction, that interest is a bit more sharply defined.  So I’ll address a couple of points regarding combat in space, and then leave a couple other areas open for your interpretation.  The first area in question is, of course, whether there will be combat in space.  Next up, just what technologies are currently available and what the future might hold.  Then there’s the big question, what roles will humans play in all this.  Lastly, I’ll talk some of the common SF tropes and what technology we’d need to get there.

The question as to whether there will be combat in space is one which can cause a number of people to argue.  It seems odd to me that there is any argument at all.  Some of the oldest artifacts of human existence are weapons.  Inevitably, weapons are a key part of human technology… and that is because when someone wants what you have, and they’re not as moral or ethically driven as you, then they’ll resort to violence.  Resources are almost always the root of human differences, more food, more wealth, more power.  The easiest way to take and hold those resources is not through discussion, but through violence.  The easiest way to prevent such violence is to create weapons and defenses of your own.   There are various treaties against space warfare, but those treaties are only as binding as the governments and people’s will of the signatory nations.  To top that off, there are always extra-government organizations who are not only non-signatory, but often simply don’t care, or worse, would view unarmed vessels and stations as targets.  Terrorists, pirates, and corporations might easily see opportunities in violence in space.  To be disarmed is to invite such violence.

Current technologies for space combat are, whether people acknowledge them or not, already present.  The Chinese demonstrated their ability to kill a satellite in 2007, when they destroyed a weather satellite in low earth orbit.  The US has conducted its own missile launch of an SM-3 in 2008, which mirrored the result on a deorbiting satellite.   The Chinese kill resulted in serious space debris, some of which has required the movement of other satellites to avoid damage.    Futher extrapolations of this technology are apparent.  The American SM-3 is a missile designed to intercept ballistic missiles.  Further improvements of the technology could eventually see missiles of greater range and capabilities.  An example of this is how the Russians currently use retrofitted ballistic missiles as launch platforms for satillites.  Other technologies are the so-called ‘kill-sats.’   Kill-sats are satellites designed with weapons or to be weapons.  These platforms would have greater maneuverability and might come with weapons packages or be designed to ram or strike other satellites.  An extrapolation of current technology would be using older or obsolescent satellites to deliberately ram or damage newer ones, rather than deorbiting them.  These means of space combat could lead to Kessler Syndrome, which was proposed in 1978 by Donald Kessler, a scientist with NASA.  He projected that a series of collisions could cause a cascade effect.  Each object destroyed, be it station or satellite, would in turn, give off a cloud of further debris.  This would fill the Earth’s orbitals with a cloud of fast-moving projectiles which would make space operations extremely hazardous.  It is a sort of nuclear option, which would deny the use of space platforms to anyone.

Future technologies are varied.  Lasers, once thought to be fantasy, are more and more prevalent even in the civilian sector.  Lasers powerful enough to be used as weapons are options, though this has limits based on energy density of what can be packed into a space-going platform.  Laser weapons on the ground, used to fire into space are also an option, though thermal bloom within the atmosphere robs these weapons of some of their punch.   Drones, which will be discussed later, are already prevalent in ground and air combat, it is easy enough to project their use in space as technologies develop further.   One thing to note in all of this, is that space combat, at least in the near-term, is extremely lethal.  One solid hit virtually guarantees the destruction of a target.  Current space craft are the equivalent of the first powered aircraft:  lightly built, individually constructed, and designed for specific purposes.   To make matters more difficult, space is an inherently inhospitable place.  A pinhole in the pressure compartment of a manned space craft could potentially kill the entire crew.  Radiation, debris, and a host of other dangers make survival in space problematical even without adding in the threat of someone trying to kill you.  It could very well be that space combat becomes a matter of whoever gets the first strike is the victor… or a case of mutually assured destruction.  More advanced technologies can change this.  Especially in the areas of increased energy density: reliable fusion, super-capacitors, and a host of other ideas are steps in the right direction.  Larger, more robust space platforms would be more likely given increases in the ability to lift as would the creation of a legitimate space infrastructure.  Even more advanced technologies could entirely alter the paradigm; warp drives, energy shielding, the real science fiction aspects, would further evolve the nature of space combat.

What exactly are humanity’s roles in space combat.  At least at first, we have little direct role.  Current technology space suits are cumbersome, at best.  Fighting in a low gravity environment would be difficult in the extreme.  Drones and robots, currently seen in ground and air combat, are more likely, especially given the shift by NASA towards robotic exploration.  It could be something so simple as the ability to throw dirt over the enemy’s solar panels or as complex as weapons mounted aboard, but as exploration continues, and space becomes a frontier full of resources rather than the distant void which money funnels into, sabotage and combat are inevitable.  Humans first roles might be that of hacker or saboteur, as a means to destroy or disable enemy drones and robots.   Eventually, however, as humans get out there, the role of combat will shift.  Direct control of drones from nearby will allow higher bandwidth and greater control of operations.  From there, it is only a step to imagine that the human controlling the drones becomes the target, and therefore needs some means of protection.  Ships might set out with a dozen combat drones, which could function as combination weapons platform, missile and probe, and mounting their own internal weapons such as lasers or projectiles.  All of this would be controlled by a handful of crew.

The last area of discussion is the common SF tropes.  Shields, antigravity, force fields, ray guns, lasers, missiles… the list goes on and on.  Many of these are highly dependent upon the technologies, societal preferences, and the combat paradigms.  Various sub-genres of SF have their own favorites.  Generally the space fighter is very common.  Issues with that are numerous, to include the fact that a drone would be capable of sharper maneuvers and greater accelerations.  However, one could easily imagine a future where the common man is very uncomfortable with the thought of space-going death being controlled by a computer.  This might preclude the use of such drones by the major powers.  Furthermore, perhaps hacking has become so prevalent that drones are seen as too unreliable, and are relegated to the role of support ships.  The same goes for ship automation.  Powerful lasers might well become extremely prevalent as new energy sources become available.  Warp drives might allow missiles that can strike an enemy before they know you’ve fired it, or allow ships to execute maneuvers that would be impossible to otherwise accomplish.  Powerful, world destroying weapons such as singularities, quarkium, and molecular disruption device might one day make our current nuclear arsenal seem amusing by comparison.

That’s the broad overview of what I think about combat in space.  Next week I’ll go more into depth on some of the topics and introduce some complications.  If I get time, I’d like to run through a hypothetical scenario, or war-game on a couple of these topics, mostly as illustration.  As always, I’d love to hear people’s input.