October 2020 Archives

Sorry I've been so long between postings here. Been trying to come up with something unique for it, and thus far, failing.

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We are linked for Vector, Squadron Commander.

It was hard not to simply assume control of the squadron. Asto was a better pilot and navigator than Davrilo, the Squadron Commander, and everyone knew it. Including Davrilo. But it wasn't about who was the best navigator, it was about responsibility for the results. Unless and until Davrilo delegated control to his operations officer, Asto was along for the ride.

Operations! The Squadron is yours for Vector. Adhere to the master count from Group.

Adhere to the master count, aye! All Elements, transfer control to Fulda for Vector!

Technically, it was an Interstitial Vector, but the phraseology was time-honored. Interstitial Vector as a practical mass-use technology was less than sixty years old - and the service he was a part of had a history more than thirty prime times that. Nor was said wording wrong, simply imprecise in this case. All units confirm Interstitial Vector availability. That was a required differentiation in the ritual - an Interstitial Vector required capability that a traditional Vector did not.

The flood of acknowledgements came back from the squadron's eight City-class carriers and their lesser escorts, mostly small cruiser and destroyer profile ships of one size or another. Not that City-class carriers were major vessels, but their primary design function was getting a load of Starbirds into and out of combat. They weren't supposed to mix it up with other Convoy hulls in direct beam or missile combat. Some Tactical Space squadrons had a sub- or pocket battleship assigned, but not this one. The feed from Group was steadily counting down the seconds until the planned jump that would put them in position for their assigned targets for the assault Discontinuity in fifteen - MARK!

Even the Group - sixty squadrons - was only a small part of this assault. The idea was to destroy the demonic ability to make war, and intelligence from the Merlon's Eyes and Fingers had been definite on the point that all rationality aside, the demons had almost all of their industrial base in this one Fractal, labelled 'Industry' in the best imaginative tradition of all militaries. The Empire didn't believe in love taps - it would swing the most massive hammer it could, subject to the limitation of not wanting to get in each other's way. There was a full Field Corps - a fifth of troops - allotted to the initial space-borne assault, and another Field Corps of Planetary Surface would make the initial landings, followed up by as many more as necessary. Industry Fractal was a massive domain, nearly ten minutes across at the thickest point, and had more demons living in it than many major habitats back home - tenths at least. It was one of the most important demonic holdings, and key to the demonic empire, having permanent gates to many other demonic habitats.

Asto carefully balanced the energies that the various ships of the squadron would be contributing to the movement as the countdown from Group passed ten. The squadron was in a formation better than five ithirds across - not as big as the mass haulers Grace had learned to handle once upon a time, but still with significant control delay issues and increased uncertainty in the result. The squadron was a couple sixties of discrete units, even with the Starbird fighters still tucked in the launch bays. They were mass-linked for Vector, which meant they would jump as a unit, but it also mean that if he or one of the other squadron pilots blew it, the entire squadron might emerge in the middle of the fractal or overlapped with another squadron.

The counter ticked under five, and Asto locked down the contributions from the outermost of the squadron's elements, mostly destroyer profile vessels that looked like missiles with four outsize fins each. Roughly an ifourth in length in one of four sizes, carrying crews of thirty to sixty each, destroyer profile ships were the largest vessels that did not carry native auxiliaries of their own.

At two, the parameters for the jump were fixed enough to lock down the energy requirements from the small cruisers, vaguely whale-shaped, but more than twice the size of any blue whale ever, two ifourths or more in length.

One. The eight carriers at the core would carry the balance of the energy load. They were the biggest ships, so they had the most variability in their discharge capacitors. The requirements curve and the availability curve were matching within a few square, and the balance of expected difference was within the capabilities of Fulda alone to correct at the critical moment.

Forty iprime. The redband stress spiked, and the gravband eased. If redband kept spiking, hitting the target at the chosen velocity would be outside the capabilities of Fulda alone. The price of linked Vectoring - sometimes the metrics ganged up to push things outside bounds. Even Shalmirane was nearly an ithird distant, which meant Asto had to set it ahead of time and hope the curve matched, but Diaspar and Lys were nearly as close.

Twenty iprime. The redband stress eased, and grayband rose, compensating for gravband. Just enough time to reset to the prior settings within the time constraints. The requirements curve fell gracefully to match the availability curve and he throttled down Fulda's discharge capacitors just in time for...

Blink

"What do you mean, Asto's ship has been destroyed?" I don't lose my composure much, but the death of my husband, the father of my five underage children, my companion for the last fifty years - and I'd hoped, the rest of my life - was a justifiable reason.

Anara was the one to tell me, in person and verbally. "I mean it was reported destroyed by surviving witnesses."

"And you're okay with your son being dead?"

"No, Grace, I'm not 'okay' with my son being dead - if he is. But reports are clear the ship was crippled and fought on several minutes in that state. Furthermore, there was a survivable environment known to be close enough for even a mid-range Second Order Guardian to teleport, and it reported it was maneuvering to lower the energy differential. Unless Asto was directly caught in a catastrophic failure, he had opportunity to escape. I escaped a less favorable situation when my ship was lost in combat. It is probable Asto is still alive."

"Still alive - but marooned in a hostile environment with no food and being hunted by demons of every caste! I fail to see how this is an improvement!" Better if he'd gone out quick, in an exploding ship.
"Grace, I keep forgetting that even though you've been with us for fifty years, you still don't really understand everything Seventh Order Guardians can do. Assuming he escaped the destruction of the ship, it is probable he'll find his way back to the Empire. Tastimuno Instance is a potentially a single transform away."

"And he knows how to get there?"

"Do you not remember how ScOsh got to your Earth? He was only Fourth Order. Do you think I'd send my son into trans-Instance combat without preparing him all I could? I taught him how to make a portal between Instances before he was twenty, and even if he didn't know before, he had plenty of opportunity to look up the closest Imperial outposts in the ship's navigational database. He might be dead, but if he isn't, he can find his way home, and he'll bring any other survivors he can with him."

"Any idea how long? Before we know?"

"The only way we'll be sure is if he's restored to us. But I would expect him within two or three weeks of his subjective time. I'm sure you can figure out the less optimistic scenarios from there."

Yeah, I could. Hanging on for years, never sure if I was a widow, until I finally gave up. Probably just before he turned up, knowing the universe.

Okay, so maybe I was in pre-emptory denial. But my kids and I deserved the best answer we could get. So I asked Asto's splinter, Have you any idea if your original is still alive?

Since he is outside the Instance, I have no more means of contact than anyone else. If I understand correctly, without periodic re-synchronization, I will eventually begin to drift from my current state. That's all I know. The Great Families who know the most about splinters...

Aren't telling anyone else what they know. But that doesn't mean Scimtar doesn't. Unlike the rest of his family, Scimtar had been able to use splinters without risking his cover for at least a square and a half - thousands of Earth years. Maybe he could answer some questions.

Anara was still right there however. "Mother, thank you for telling me as soon as you knew. Right now, I'm in shock, trying to hold it together for the kids and wondering what's going to happen. I'm going to ask Scimtar if he knows of any way to use a splinter to find the original in another Instance."

"No, there isn't Grace. Splinters can be thought of as puppets following a complex program in the absence of the puppeteer. There is a special connection, but it goes from original to splinter, not vice versa. The only way I'm aware of involves someone with a Mindsword. Father would have made sure we knew if there was."

Wait a minute! "Maybe the splinter doesn't have a special connection to Asto, but I do. Our hard link will re-establish when I enter the same Instance, so all I have to do is Interstitial Vector into the Instance, and I will know where he is."

"It's not as easy as you think, Grace. The place where Asto was lost is complicated. There is a 'normal' three dimensional bubble we use as a staging area, but the place itself is a fractal. It's got peninsulae along seven different dimensional axes and we're finding out that two way telepathy can be problematic, even though its overall dimensionality is only two point fiftyfive. The battle is still ongoing as well, but the place is one the demons must hold; almost all of their brakiri and their industry is there."

 



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