God of War
With a sigh, Vice-Admiral Leonard Taylor peered around the packed auditorium in thinly disguised contempt and leaned over to his aide, muttering "What is this all about?” His aide, the perpetually cheerful Lieutenant Imogen Kenning looked up from her tablet computer and smiled at her commander "It's likely to be a product reveal, sir. We have speakers from several defence conglomerates; HHI, Galactic, Warbird.... Blah blah. Oh, and the final presenter is from Canopus Voidtech. And you, sir, being the highest ranking member of Battlegroup Elysium within 25 light years, have the privilege of attending!"
Taylor rolled his eyes and scratched his beard. "Thanks for reminding me, lieutenant. Still, CV, eh? Should be interesting, must be a new ship. Any idea what sort they’re revealing?”
Kenning shrugged “No, sir. They’ve been quiet since the Scimitar started rolling out of their dry-docks.”
Taylor looked thoughtful “The Scimitar, how long ago was that? You must’ve still been at the academy, Im. I wonder if they've cracked it at long last."
"'Cracked it', sir?" Kenning enquired with a shrug, turning her computer off with a flourish.
"Singularity drives, Lieutenant." Taylor said "After they released the Artemis, CV ran into problems rolling out a singularity powered capital ship; why do you think they kept churning out escort ships? Ever read about the system tests? It's almost like a Shakespearian comedy. Instead of building from scratch, they tried to fit a decommissioned Tempest with singularity tech over at Poseidon Shipyards."
Kenning looked up at the admiral "I'm assuming the testing was unsuccessful, sir?" she said, trying to keep her voice neutral.
With a snort Taylor rolled his eyes. "Unsuccessful is about the most charitable description you could make. First they couldn't provide enough power to those ridiculous fins where the engine nozzles are supposed to be.... The ship was actually slower than a standard Tempest. Then, once they solved that problem, they put too much power through the ship's grid and caused a burnout." Taylor shifted in his chair and took a deep breath "Once they'd fixed that they tried again. Eventually, after completely gutting the ship they managed to get it working, but totalling up the cost it simply wasn’t worth it. At that point they went back to the drawing board and I lost interest. That was 6 years ago, and there’s been no word from Poseidon since.”
“Fascinating, sir.” Kenning replied with a glimmer of mischief in her eye. “Oh look!” she said, pointing at the stage “Here comes the first presentation!”
A woman trudged onto the stage and launched into a presentation about the newest model of tractor beam, complete with diagrams and long winded explanations on wavelengths and frequencies. Taylor muttered about hating his life.
By the third delegate, the presentations started blurring into one; the subjects being discussed being irrelevant and tedious, at least in Taylor’s eyes. He amused himself by making a quiet, sarcastic commentary, but eventually his mind started wandering as the various company representatives talked earnestly about subjects which, simply, didn’t interest him. Hull composites 10% stronger than the nearest rival! Railguns with muzzle velocities closer to the speed of light than ever before! He felt himself being drawn into the comforting embrace of sleep, when Kenning tapped him on the arm.
"Sir, you're starting to drool." she whispered, brandishing a cloth emblazoned with an imperial eagle. With a nod, he thanked her and then wiped his mouth. As the current presenter plodded off the stage, his presentation about ion drives (greater acceleration for only 60% the cost of the previous generation!) falling on a crowd that were universally slumped in their seats, Taylor turned to Kenning, raising his eyebrows quizzically. Almost imperceptibly she nodded.
Almost at her prompt, the lights dimmed and with a fanfare the Canopus Voidtech logo appeared on a screen behind the stage. A smartly dressed salesman, who Taylor immediately disliked, strode onto the stage grinning like a shark. "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen!" he declared expansively, arms held open as if to hug the audience "And welcome to the final presentation of the day! I sincerely hope my compatriots haven't bored you."
Taylor grunted quietly, but sat up straighter in his chair. The salesman continued "I am Tomasz Poplawski, executive vice president of marketing at Canopus Voidtech and I’m here to show you our next offering in the warship market.”
Taylor forgot his name immediately, but started listening intently.
"Let me ask you a question.” Poplawski said “Have any of you heard of HMS Dreadnought?"
There were murmurs from the crowd and Taylor nodded with a nondescript mutter. Poplawski pointed from the stage down at Taylor, squinting at the rank insignia on his uniform "You. Admiral, sir. What was HMS Dreadnought?"
Taylor shrugged and said “Back in ancient times, before we’d even left Earth, there was a political group called the British Empire. They were an island nation that had become successful by dominating the seas and sometime in the 20th century they built a battleship that was such a leap forward that it rendered all of its contemporaries obsolete.”
Poplawski clicked his fingers, the sound echoing around the auditorium “A succinct summary admiral, thank you. There were two attributes that set the Dreadnought apart from her contemporaries.” He then raised a finger. “One: Her engines. Forgive the explanations of comically obsolete technologies, but steam turbines were simply a quantum leap over the previous application of steam technology. They had a smaller volume, were lighter, lower maintenance and caused less vibration than the older compound steam engines. It was the first capital ship to move to the newer technology, about 20 years after a turbine ship was first demonstrated.”
Poplawski raised a second finger. “Two: Armament. Before Dreadnought, ships were fitted with a mixture of weapons of different calibre, all with different muzzle sizes and maintenance requirements. Some weapons were effective against capital ships; some were effective against poorly armoured parts of capital ships, others against destroyers. It was a logistical insanity. Dreadnought lead the way in what was known as an “all-big-gun” armament. More heavy weapons than her compatriots, with the heavy weapons all standardised to a single calibre. Secondary armaments were lighter, and perhaps even unsatisfactory. But within a fleet action a dreadnought could be expected to be escorted, so this was a trade-off that was considered acceptable at the time. Eventually later ships were given a secondary armament that was stronger and effective against both small escort ships and aircraft.”
Kenning peered over at Taylor. Any trace of his previous boredom had been erased from his face and he was listening to the animated salesman in rapt attention. She sneakily powered up her tablet computer and took a picture of him, sensing this to be an exceptionally rare occurrence.
Poplawski continued “Today we unveil our own, 33rd century HMS Dreadnought. Today we revolutionise space warfare once more. Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present CV’s newest capital ship. The new god of war, the Ares class!”
At some unseen signal, the screen behind Poplawski erupted into life. A scene appeared; Trident, Poseidon’s moon, was floating in space, no signs of activity. The camera slowly panned to the right and upwards and a massive spaceship came into view, dwarfing a pair of destroyers that were travelling alongside. The upper surface of the ship was festooned with turrets and the barrel of a heavy particle cannon could be seen nestled within a forked bow.
“We’ve spared no expense in making this the most powerful warship in human space” Poplawski said “17 X-16 Executioner particle cannons make up the turreted armament of the Ares. The turrets are so positioned that it can bring 12 to bear on a single target in a broadside. By comparison a Tempest can only bring 20 plasma cannons to bear, a potentially more powerful weapon but at much shorter range.”
Poplawski gestured at the screen behind him and the image changed to a blueprint view. “The Ares also carries 94 railguns, in dual turreted mounts. These can be used to intercept projectile weapons, such as torpedoes, or to attack smaller craft such as fighters, bombers and escorts. They’re positioned so all areas of the ship are covered by at least one turret.”
“Finally, we managed to fit an X-40 Devastator particle cannon into the bow section. As the older particle beam built into the Tempest class is extremely maintenance intensive, this uses more standardised components, interchangeable with the other weapons. We considered fitting an X-65, but due to the sheer size and power draw it was unfeasible. You may notice an increase in the number of focal points on the barrel; this is a new feature to the X-40 and it means that the gunners can increase the focus for pinpoint targeting at extreme range, or diffuse the beam for targeting numerous small targets at close quarters. Due to the sheet power of the X-40 it can vaporise a squadron of strike craft in 2 seconds of continuous fire.”
Reaching into his pocket, Poplawski pulled out a small pointer. He gave it a shake and it telescoped to quadruple its original length. He aimed it at a cavernous hangar to the rear of the ship and continued to speak. “The Ares carries 80 fighters, with provision to launch 50% of them in one action. The hangar facilities are fitted with the latest equipment for fighter operations, and a small nanotech factory for producing ship components. We estimate that, assuming minerals are available for processing, the nanotech factory can last at least 20 years without a refit. The hangar bay is designed so it fills the centre of the ship from port to starboard, but there are bulkheads that can be closed in the event of a hull breach, preventing a lucky hit from rendering the entire section unusable.”
Poplawski moved the pointer to middle of the Ares’ hull. “Power is generated by a Darkstar I singularity generator. Not much to say about this really, only that it generates 45% more power than a Blackstorm III and can comfortably fire all weapons and have the shields taking fire, simultaneously.”
The image on the screen changed to a scene of an Ares testing its weapons against a defensive platform, its shields shrugging off the returning fire. “See?” Poplawski said with a smirk.
The picture on the screen changed again and various statistics were listed, most of which were next to meaningless for Taylor. Poplawski adjusted his tie and continued “This ship is the culmination of 15 years of research. The programme has already produced the Centurion, Artemis, Warden and Scimitar classes, but this ship dwarfs all of them. In fact, you may notice a certain similarity to its little sister, the Artemis class. The fact that the Artemis has lead to record profits for CV has been noticed and we’ve simply decided to take a design that is a proven success, learned any lessons we could, and applied them here.”
“To sum up: This is a battleship that renders every capital ship ever built obsolete. It can fight at longer ranges, travel faster and outlast all of its competition. We are now accepting orders and the very first production models will be undergoing space trials within the next six months. While she will be expensive, she will be the mightiest force in human space.”
“Thank you for listening.” He said, turning and walking off the stage, the assembled crowd breaking into applause. Taylor turned to Kenning and made his first comment since he had his brief conversation with Poplawski “That’s my new flagship.”
“Aye, sir.” She replied “I’ll put in a requisition for you immediately. Do you have a name in mind?”
“Yes, Im, yes I do.” Taylor said with a smile “Let’s call her the Dreadnought.”