A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Opening Shot

Trailing the Imps had been a tense exercise for Hector and her consort. Once they had killed a few points off their velocity, the Imperial warships had gone silent, drifting on their momentum and cycling off their active sensors. They had still been moving too fast to stream towed arrays, so Kono’s squadron had remained invisible to them, but they were also invisible to him.

Once they had neared the station their drives had lit off once more and they had gone to a deceleration of four-hundred-twenty gravities, likely the best their battlecruisers could manage. The smaller ships had split off in groups to chase down the few ships in the area, while the battlecruiser and the heavies had moved in on the station. Hector had monitored their transmission to the station demanding its surrender, which unsurprisingly had been readily offered.

Now, twelve hours later, the Imps were beginning to set up a perimeter around the station, forcing the squadron to pull back. They had to keep their acceleration low to minimize their drive system signatures and their absolute velocity low enough that they could maintain their towed arrays for maximum sensor coverage.

Kat was on the bridge now, assisting Lieutenant Chavez while the assistant tactical officer got some rest. Her own four hours of sleep hadn’t exactly been restful, but then she was certain that was something familiar to everyone aboard. The ship was at Condition Two, a heightened state of readiness, with half the crew at their stations while the other half rested. Chavez was monitoring the activities in-system while Kat was responsible for the sensors trained out-system.

A voice from CIC spoke in her ear with quiet urgency and Kat switched one of her monitors over to the towed array. Hector and Hatchet were currently moving towards a scheduled rendezvous with Sun Tsu in eight hours. The light cruiser was in the lead with the destroyer trailing fifty light minutes behind and to starboard, her passive sensors continuing to monitor the enemy’s activity. After the rendezvous Commander Kono intended to detach Sun Tsu to carry a report to ComSevFleet in Cestus, while the cruiser and Hatchet remained on station.

“Captain, CIC has a contact port astern,” Kat announced. “Bearing three-five-two by zero-one-one, range approximately sixteen million kilometers, course one-seven-two. Designating contact Bogey One.”

“Helm, zero throttle,” Kono ordered, pausing just long enough for the helmsman to confirm the order before asking, “Tactical, did we loose someone?”

“Negative, Skipper,” Lieutenant Chavez replied. “Bandits One through Eighteen are accounted for.”

“So what do we have here?” Kono wondered aloud. He considered the possibilities for a moment and then pressed a button on the com panel in the right arm of the command chair. “CIC, Bridge.”

“Bridge, CIC, XO here.”

“Time to brainstorm, Marty,” Kono said. “Let’s assume the new management of Station Four is the vanguard for a larger force. The incoming fleet wouldn’t know whether their point force had achieved its objective, so a smart admiral would probably send a recon unit ahead to scope things out. Do you concur?”

“Affirmative, Skipper,” Lieutenant Commander Martin Bascomb replied, his head nodding on the com screen. “He probably translated well out of our passive range and killed enough forward velocity to make sure he could break away if he ran into trouble, and then coasted the rest of the way in.”

“The question is, has he spotted us, and is he alone?”

“It’s a good bet he’s got friends,” Bascomb said after a moment. “As to whether he’s spotted us, I’d say no. If he had, he would have either stayed silent or made a more aggressive move to close.”

“Vector change on Bandits Seven, Nine and Fourteen,” Chaves announced before Kono could respond. “It doesn’t look like they’re vectoring to intercept, Skipper. We’ll have to adjust course a bit but we’ll be able to stay out of their sensor envelope easily enough. Maybe they picked up a merchie inbound.”

As Kat studied the tactical display she shook her head, and for an instant forgot she was the most junior officer aboard as she blurted, “No, they’re herding us.” Lieutenant Chavez gave her a mildly sharp look and she felt her face heat.

“Go ahead, Ensign Sterling,” Kono said when she paused. “Tell us what you see.”

Kat took a deep breath and then continued. “The bogey is out of range of their units in system, but assuming the Imps have the same capabilities we do, she would be in extreme SB range of Bandit Seventeen. If she did pick us up she could have sent a contact report and had it relayed to the flagship, and then received orders to reveal her presence. With the other three bandits maneuvering the way they are, we have a limited avenue to evade if we want to keep our signature down. I’d say the Imps are vectoring the ships we can’t see to that area right now.”

“I believe you’re right, Ensign,” Kono said after studying the plot for a moment. He turned his attention to the com screen. “Marty?”

“As much as I’d like to, I can’t find a flaw in Ensign Sterling’s logic, Skipper.”

“No, but there is a flaw in the Imps’ tactics,” Kono said. “From the way they’ve set up their trap, it appears they think we’re alone.” He turned to the com station. “Ensign Mastin, get me Lieutenant Commander Moya on Hatchet.”


Commander Craig Donlevy of the Imperial destroyer ISS Pinot tried not to let his dejection show, but his efforts were only marginally successful. As the point vessel for their recon group, Pinot had already missed out on the action once, and now she was relegated to nothing more than the impetus to drive the genstruct cruiser into a trap. The destroyer had been tracing a noisy racetrack pattern well astern of the enemy vessel for over five hours as the cruiser skulked off towards her doom.

The genstruct ship had disappeared from Pinot’s sensors hours ago, though she and the other herding ships were emitting enough electronic noise that they would still be quite visible to the enemy. Donlevy was frankly a bit surprised that the Admiral’s plan had worked so well; the transgenic Omegas had risen to almost mythic stature in the Imperium.

Despite their intimidating legend, they hadn’t fared well so far, and they were about to be taken down another peg. The cruiser should be well into the trap now, and at any moment Halstead and Lejune would spring the trap — and Pinot would once again be out of the fight.

“Contact!” The voice of the tactical officer broke into Donlevy’s moroseness. “Captain, it’s the cruiser … she isn’t where she should be and she’s accelerating at four-hundred-eighty gravities.”

“So, the genstructs picked up Halstead and Lejune early and are moving to engage?”

“No, Sir, she’s turned and is accelerating towards us. Her momentum is still carrying her away, but she’s well outside the trap. Based on her position I’d say she must have turned and begun a low power deceleration just after we lost her.”

“Why in the Universe would she reveal herself now?” Donlevy wondered aloud. “She could have continued to creep back on us until she was almost in gun range. It doesn’t make sense, unless….”

The tactical officer’s voice broke in, rising in pitch as he announced, “New contact starboard aft. High frequency screws … torpedoes incoming!”


The Athena class destroyer was the most modern design in Alliance service, a space-faring creature of stealth. Fast, maneuverable and quiet, she was capable of creeping deep into an enemy formation, slipping past picket vessels to the heavies at the heart. While her main batteries were light and incapable of even seriously damaging a capital ship, her Mark 22 Javelin torpedoes could cripple or even destroy a battleship.

She was a paper tiger though; her armor was far too light to withstand the fire from a capital ship’s plasma cannons, but in theory her electronic countermeasures gave her an almost even chance of evading once she fired her torpedoes, though that had yet to be tested in combat.

In Hatchet’s case, the match with Pinot started out fairly even. Their sensor capabilities were comparable, though the Confederation destroyer was stealthier, and their weapons were roughly even. Hatchet had the advantage of position and anonymity, however. While Hector had been slowly bleeding off velocity to keep the cruiser out of the Imp trap, Hatchet had been accelerating towards Pinot at barely one hundred gravities, less than one-third power. By the time she fired she was up to point-one-five cee and had a picture perfect broadside angle.

The Javelin torpedo was a relatively short ranged weapon. Hatchet mounted six tubes in her ventral bay, which ran almost the entire length of the ship. The launchers were essentially rail guns, electromagnetic accelerators that launched the one-hundred-fifty ton torpedoes at one-thousand kilometers per second. The drive duration on the torpedoes was only thirty seconds, giving them a range of just over two-hundred-fifty thousand kilometers from a standing start.

Hatchet wasn’t motionless, however. Her torpedoes left their tubes at over fifteen percent light speed, giving them a range of almost one-point-six million kilometers, and the destroyer had closed the range to just over a million before firing. Lieutenant Commander Vincent Moya had taken no chances either; he had fired all six of his birds in a narrow spread. Pinot’s Commander Donlevy had just seventeen seconds to react and that was far too little time.

Four of the torpedoes went wide, passing harmlessly fore and aft of Pinot. The remaining two ran true, and at their programmed attack range of fifty-thousand kilometers their attitude thrusters made a minor correction to orient their noses towards their target — and then they detonated.

The explosion was mild, on the order of one kiloton of old fashioned TNT, but its purpose wasn’t to damage the target, at least not directly. The blast unleashed a cloud of small, spear like projectiles that massed just over a half kilogram each. Several dozen of them found Pinot, and they were moving at more than sixty-thousand kilometers per second, over twenty percent light speed. Each of those projectiles impacted with an energy equivalent to a medium sized tactical nuclear weapon, or over two hundred kilotons of conventional explosives.

Upon impact kinetic energy became heat as white hot jets of plasma cut through armor and duratanium like lasers. The bulk of the projectiles hit slightly aft of amidships, and the interior of ISS Pinot became a living hell as secondary explosions ripped through her hull. Then her hull buckled and she broke in two, her bow spinning crazily away as the engineering section continued to accelerate for a few seconds before the drive flared and died.

As devastating as the destruction was, there were survivors. When the destroyer’s back was broken the bow had lost the benefit of her inertial dampeners, and even though it was separated from the accelerating engineering section the mad cart-wheeling had killed everyone forward. Life pods began to eject from the stern half, however, and as Lieutenant Commander Moya watched them appear on the tactical display he felt a strange mixture of satisfaction and guilt.

“All right, we’ve cleared the way,” Moya said. “Helm, come left to two-six-zero, all ahead full.”

17 comments to Opening Shot

  • grover

    Seems good from what I can see. Not too much techno-babble to confuse new comers, but a lot of interesting details. We seem to have the Imperials and the Alliance. The Imps are true breed humans? The Alliance, Genstructs?, are genetically modified? I know I’m fishing here! The snippet seems good. Can’t wait to see more!


  • Hi Grover, thanks for the comment!

    Yes, the Kiribati Imperium, the Imps, was founded by a group that left the Terran Sphere because they felt that society had become too dependent on genstructs, transgenically constructed humans. They aren’t opposed to genstructs in general, as long as they are kept in their ‘place’ and not given capabilities that make them equal, and in some cases superior, to ‘pure humans’.

    The two primary star nations of the Alliance, Caledonia and the Confederation, were founded by genstructs, who had rebelled against the Terran Sphere. The rebellion was led by the Omega line genstructs, who were created for military service. At the time of the story it’s been almost 400 years since they came to the Expanse, and the different lines have interbred, so there are very few ‘pure line’ genstructs remaining. They’ve also mixed with pure humans; some were sympathizers to their plight who came with them, and others from several other inhabited systems in the region.

    Sooo, anyway, I really appreciate your comment, and I’m so glad you like the snip!

  • ohn in Wauwatosa

    Is this an extention of the space/spaceship drive stuff yous asked for comment on some months ago?

    Whatever the case, this looks most promising. IE I liked what I saw.

    John in Wauwatosa

  • stacy

    I have a question. I am passingly familiar with naval warfare, not from direct experience. I understand the terminology used, and the tactics, from reading. I don’t understand why they would use the propellers to power the torpedos in space as there is nothing for them to push against to provide motive force, and how they would be heard as there is nothing in space to conduct sound except radio receivers or direct contact using the vibrations. Thought it was a good battle scene otherwise. decent tactics. smart ops.

  • stacy

    Also, kind of curious as to the motive power. I can’t see how they would fire the engines to the rear to slow down, it is not like reversing a propeller, as there is nothing to push against. The motive force would have to be flipped around and used to push against the direction of travel, or as one author used in Path of the Fury, contrived black holes that drew the ship into the gravity well, and since the black holes were generated by the ship, they kept moving ahead of the ship, pulling it faster and fasteror slowing it more as the ship was flipped around the the black holes generated now ahead in reverse to slow or stop. Thrusters were used to fine tune small movements. Also curious about the towed arrays. I again understand the use and deployment in a naval vessel, but not on a space vehicle, especially on one that uses propulsion like I mentioned, and what kind of signals they would pick up. But thats the fun of sci-fi. Its a whole different set up in your own universe. Just need to suspend belief more, I reckon.

  • John: Yes, this is that, with some significant modification. 🙂 Thanks for commenting and I’m glad you liked it.

    Stacy: Actually yes, it is like reversing a propeller. If you click on the Interstellar Travel link in the right sidebar, you’ll find an explanation of how space travel works in this setting. Essentially though, ships, small craft and torpedoes do have propellers, or screws, but they are made up of ultra-relativistic particles and they push, or pull when decelerating, against an extra-dimensional boundary called the Moeller Layer. The ‘noise’ that passive sensors ‘hear’ is the superluminal emissions given off by the drive and power systems. A ship accelerating at full power gives off much stronger tachyon emissions, and its screw creates a lot bigger disturbance in the fabric of space, than one that is accelerating at a slower rate, and a ship that isn’t accelerating at all is virtually invisible unless its very close.

    I hope this clears things up a bit. This is just a snippet, and all of the techie stuff will be explained, I promise. Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

  • stacy

    I’ll look them over….they would not work for me last night.

  • Terry

    I got distracted by British TV (Spring Watch and Ashes to Ashes) but I made it back to read this.

    I like it. It’s good, gritty action. I’m assuming you lay sufficient background to understand all the technical jargon. I understood well enough after reading your timeline and interstellar travel sections.

    There’s only one thing I can see that you might want to consider changing. You rattle off a lot of numbers in this snippet. I understand why but they’re a little distracting. The best stories in my mind are the ones where the words seem nearly invisible so the story can shine through. All those numbers drew more focus to the words and slightly away from the story while I tried to digest the meaning of all those numbers.

    Thanks for the snippet. 🙂

    • Thanks for all your comments, Terry. I understand what you’re saying about the numbers, and I really am trying to keep the math limited as much as possible. This snippet is very combat heavy, and there will be more such scenes, many even larger scale, but they still represent a small fraction of the total story. Rattling off numbers is the only way I know to convey the scope of space combat. I will try very hard not to go over-board though!

      • Terry

        I can see many ways to substitute text for numbers in your snippet.

        Instead of saying that Commander Donlevy had just seventeen seconds to react, you could say that he had just seconds to react.

        Instead of saying come left to two-six-zero, you could say set course to some specific location.

        There are general ways to convey direction and course changes during a battle that might work better, such as “come about” and “reverse course”. I can’t see a captain being able to keep track of every angle during a battle. Wouldn’t the pilot and weapons officer keep track of such things? I see the captain as mostly supplying strategy and tactics while leaving the details to the rest of the crew.

        • Yes, Terry, there are many ways I could have done it, but not ways that would have conveyed the scope and feel I am striving for. This is military sc-fi and it requires a strong technical aspect and a ‘hardness’. Jargon is part of that, and I strive to use it correctly. ‘Come about’ simply means change direction, just as ‘come left’ means to turn to port, but both of those commands have to be followed by a bearing or the ship simply goes around in circles. And yes, the captain is expected to keep track of every angle during a battle; that’s why he or she is paid the big bucks.

          • Terry

            That brings up an important issue I think. Think about what is meant when a captain says to lock weapons on a ship. What’s more efficient, having someone read off sensor numbers to the captain who then relays them to the weapons officer, or telling the weapons officer to lock weapons and fire with the ship automatically calculating all the angles? Some of the weapon usage and movement should be automated somewhat for efficiency I think. I keep thinking back to Star Trek and I don’t remember a lot of numbers being bandied about. I do remember numbers for some course headings as well as some star system names for destinations.

          • I think you’re reading things into this snippet that aren’t there, Terry. The actual mechanics of weapons fire is barely even touched on in this bit. No one is reading off numbers to the captain and in fact the torpedoes are shown to be self-guiding. Their ability to do so is rather limited by technological constraints; compared to a starship they have much less capable sensors and their small drives have an extremely limited endurance which makes proper shot placement critical, which is why 4 of the 6 torpedoes missed.

            Most weapons fire is directed by passive sensors because at the ranges combat occurs, active sensors are not much use. In this setting, the primary active sensor is Superbradyon Imaging, Detection and Ranging or SIDAR. This works the same way that radar does, but instead of light-speed radio beams it uses faster-than-light superbradyon beams. The maximum range of SIDAR is around 5 light minutes, roughly 90 million kilometers. Ships don’t generally employ SIDAR, however, because even though it’s only useful to them out to 5 LM, its emissions can be detected much, much farther away by another ship’s passive sensors. It’s the same thing with submarines today; they don’t go around with their active sonar blasting because while it can tell them what is around them for a short distance, it can be heard by other submarines many miles away. So, the typical tactic is to ‘listen’ with your passive sensors, which can detect the drive emissions and other electronic noise given off by a starship.

            Weapons fire is for the most part automated. The speed at which combat occurs means things change very quickly, and a human being can’t react fast enough to that. The fire control systems do require close monitoring and input from their human operators, however, because despite their fast reaction speeds, they can’t think and anticipate like a human can. Again, the combat in this snippet is very, very limited; in a ‘real’ battle, you would have ships employing electronic countermeasures to try and deceive the passive sensors of the enemy and make them fire in the wrong place, and the only way to deal with that is for the human operator to adapt to the changing situation. A tactical officer in this setting has to be equal parts tactician and programmer, able to recognize and adapt to the enemy’s countermeasures and literally write code on the fly to cut through them. A lot of this is simplified by pre-written packages, but those lines of code can only respond in the way they were designed so the operator must input changes as necessary.

            It’s not up to a single person either. The tactical, or operations officer, is in overall charge of the operations division, but he or she has several junior officers as assistants and numerous enlisted ratings as well. Then there is CIC, the Combat Information Center. This is located just aft of the bridge and is staffed by around 2 dozen officers and ratings and in combat is under the direct command of the ship’s executive officer. All of the information from the ship’s sensors comes in to CIC, where it is quickly analyzed and assigned a priority. What the tac officer and the captain see on the bridge is a distilled version of the mass of data coming in to the ship.

            The situation here was special; Hatchet had a nearly perfect opportunity to sneak up on her target and fire. Pinot was maneuvering very ‘loudly’ to make certain that Hector knew she was there, but she wasn’t using her active sensors; if she had been, Hatchet would have never been able to get to torpedo range. In the end it was a foolish and costly blunder; Donlevy should have assumed that Hector was not alone and taken precautions to safeguard his ship. He failed to do so, and he and his crew paid the price for it.

            Kono’s choice of tactics were probably a bit more cagey than was really necessary. Once he was aware of the probable trap, he could have simply chosen to reverse course at maximum power and bore straight back at Pinot – the destroyer was no match for the cruiser as Hector’s plasma cannons could have engaged Pinot before she ever came into range of the destroyer’s weapons. What Kono hoped to accomplish, however, was to ensure that the other Imp vessels would be moving to intercept him where they thought he was heading, so that by the time he revealed his true location they would be out of position to come back on Hector and Hatchet, giving them an avenue of escape. His deception also prevented the other Imp vessels in the area from moving towards him; if they did so, their trap would be exposed and the Confederation ships would have simply broken contact. Either way, Pinot was pretty much doomed.

          • Terry

            Ah, yes. I was just trying to give a couple of examples and ideas for replacing numbers with text.

            I didn’t know or think about all the background information that you touch on in your reply, but I notice that you used a lot fewer numbers to explain it all to me. I’m happy now. You’ve proven to me, and hopefully yourself, that it’s possible. 🙂

  • stacy

    I thought I had responded back , guess it didn’t take. The links explained it nicely, it all makes sense now. You have done a superior job setting up this universe. Everything seems to be well thought out, and it seems to work together and flow together nicely. Nice work! Appears to be sci-fi at a high level.

  • Lili Langtree

    This reminds me of the Honor Harrington series, which I liked. Nice snippet!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>