Darkest Void 8; Joint exercises

2021.12.02 09:07 Top_Hat_surgeon Darkest Void 8; Joint exercises

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Tentara was bored.
He drummed his fingers onto the arm of his crash couch, waiting as the transport docked with the human ship. He was one of the pilots that had been ‘volunteered’ to train with the humans, preparing to defend the refugee fleet in the dark void of space.
He wouldn’t have chosen this; he had never been in a fight in his life.
Yet here he was.
He was doing his duty they had told him.
It was necessary they had told him.
He didn’t think too much about it; actual combat was still far away, which lent something surreal about the situation he found himself in.
After looking at their ETA, he decided he may as well do something productive, and pulled up his console; the humans had assigned them a significant amount of study material. It ranged from the practical considerations of space warfare; the three major wars humanity had fought in the void; the tactics that had since become standard practice.
He quite frankly didn’t believe some of the things he read though.
The humans claimed their naval pilots routinely endure sustained accelerations of fifteen Gs.
That should kill them; their lungs should collapse; their blood vessels should pop, and they should die.
Except apparently not.
When their lungs collapse; they replace them with cybernetic breathing apparatuses, when their blood vessels strain, they pump them full of blood thinning drugs, and when their pilots cannot think fast enough for battle, they will jam supercomputers into their skulls.
That last one allows them to directly interface with their ships.
Human warships are not built for humans; humans rebuild themselves for their warships.
They tear themselves apart, and replace all components they deem substandard.
He chuckled to himself; there was no way any of that could be true.
He severely underestimated the monsters humans could be.
Sanem looked on towards the docking tube.
After a few minutes of the airlock seals clicking, running internal checks, the docking tube opened up, a sizeable group of pugnasi floating out.
One figure floated out of the group.
“Welcome to the Bhramanakani, commander,” Sanem began in formal Lidah.
“Likewise chief navigator,” Tentara replied “It’s good to finally meet in person.”
Sanem nodded “I take it you had a pleasant enough trip?”
“Uneventful,” Tentara continued “As it should be I suppose.”
Sanem could agree with the sentiment.
“We’ll go over the simulators tomorrow, go over some basic exercises,” she started “Before that however, we’ll get you and yours settled in; show you about all the facilities you’ll need access to.”
As the commander nodded at that, she began leading the group through the busy docks.
She decided to take a moment to assess the pilots the refugee fleet had decided to send her.
She had already looked through their files; their academic records, their performance history, as well as their medical records. She had received confused messages for that last one, but a painfully laboured explanation of the physiological stresses of combat eventually cleared everything up.
Still, she couldn’t help but look over her students again, and find them, lacking…
Her father would have used a stronger word.
Still, this was unfortunately the best the fleet had to offer, so this was what she had to work with. The fleet purportedly gave these pilots basic military training before hand, although Sanem doubted how complete or useful that would be. Whilst enforcing obedience and group cohesion was a good start, it was a well known fact that union naval pilots were placed under the most extreme conditions among all the services. The hit and run tactics they would be using would only make that worse; she already knew for a fact that she’d be spending weeks in the pilot’s seat, always alert, her neural implants plugged straight into the ship.
She hadn’t told Dhir about that last part yet.
But that was a problem for later; as she led the group of serious faced pugnasi down through to the habitat cylinder, she quietly began classifying them all; what stressors would break them, what conditioning would rectify that, and how she expected them to do in the preliminary simulator exercises.
Some small part of her looked forwards to the process.
Tentara looked at the unfamiliar vac suit he had been handed.
It was based off a human design, and supposedly more comfortable than standard designs.
It was also meant to be worn permanently.
Humans had learnt that in combat, it was not a matter of if your ship would be breached, but a matter of when.
That ‘when’ was often measured in minutes.
As such, corvettes and similar CQC spacecraft where often vented preemptively, their crew suited up for vacuum. According to human military doctrine, it wasn’t uncommon for these suits to be worn for weeks at a time; water, air and nutrients being pumped in, whilst waste and carbon were filtered out.
Tentara remembered reading about a Centauri patriot who had supposedly flown like that for a full human ‘year.’ He couldn’t imagine anyone being capable of surviving that; unmoving, alone, knowing that your next breath could be your last.
Despite Centauri having apparently lost their bid for independence, the story stuck, even across the wider union.
Tentara wouldn’t be condemned to combat for so long, but considering the hit and run tactics they’d be utilising, he would likely be in the pilot’s seat for several twelve days.
He sighed internally as he and his team awkwardly checked each other’s seals.
The human navigator floated in her vac suit a few meters to the side, an unknowable expression on her alien face.
Tentara suspected she was bored.
“All right then,” she began, clapping her forelimbs together “today we will begin with basic group mouvements. First set of scenarios will involve basic transfers between the moons of HDA1.”
The human continued with the exact specifics of the exercises; the formation, orbital manouvers, and expected accelerations.
After finishing up her brief, she gestured over to the simulators, beckoning the pilots entry.
At that, Tentara made his way, climbing into the cramped cockpit, plugging in his life support systems, and strapping himself to the crash couch.
Set up in centrifuges, the simulators were supposed to not only mimic the internal layout of their cockpits, but also apply realistic accelerations and torques to their pilots.
Whilst their suits were supposed to help deal with high accelerations, he had rarely experienced more than two Gs of acceleration; the idea of enduring three times that for extended periods of time wasn’t something he looked forwards to.
His radio clicked “All units prepped; simulation starting momentarily.”
At that, his monitors flickered alive.
He quickly identified all useful information; his low, inclined orbit about the HD system’s gas giant, his position along his orbit, his current velocity, the relative positions of his team.
As a pilot, this was all familiar to him.
What was new however, were indicators for his thermal capacity and military payload.
The latter was empty for this exercise, the former however was a new constraint for him.
It turns out that the vast radiator arrays necessary to bleed off waste heat were easy targets, and had to be stowed during military operations. This meant that he had to be vigilant of how hot his ship’s heat sinks got.
Fill up that thermal capacity, and his ship would be dead in vacuum.
He pushed that out of his mind for now, almost forgetting to check in with the rest of his team.
He then looked at the map before him; his low orbit vs his target orbit about HDA1’s third major moon. Normally a trajectory would be trivial between these orbits; a simple brachistatrome trajectory to optimise flight time, or a homman transfer to optimise fuel efficiency.
The demands of the exercise complicated matters.
There were simulated ngaiyagan ships that had to be avoided.
Tentara mulled it over a moment before starting to put a solution together.
HDA1’s inner most moon was only a few degrees ahead of them; they could easily fly by the moon, boosting them into a higher orbit, allowing them to avoid the enemy ships, as well as save on fuel, and thus thermal capacity.
The moment his flight computer yielded an ideal solution, he sent off their flight plan to his team. As his team acknowledging the plan, he started up his drive as their burn point approached, the reactor’s simulated rumble making it’s way through his cockpit.
His monitor displayed a timer to his burn.
A minute passed.
His engine roared to life, and Tentara was suddenly pinned under a laughing giant, his crash couch adjusting his position to compensate for the heavy acceleration.
He focused on his breathing, as this neccesity of life became a significant physical effort.
In and out.
“15 seconds to burnout.” his console read.
He gritted his beak shut. In and out.
“10 seconds to burnout.”
He checked over his team’s positions, so far so good. In and out.
“5 seconds to burnout.”
The giant sat on Tentara’s chest yielded, allowing him a ragged breath as microgravity returned. He had never been so glad to be back in freefall.
After a moment during which he recollected himself, he pinged his team again, requesting status updates. Most had made it through the burn, and those that had passed out were all back around within a few minutes.
Not good, but not terrible either.
The next few hours passed uneventfully; turns out space is big, and slow to cross even atop the artificial suns that powered their reactors.
He spent the time carefully scanning his console; watching his thermal cap creep up, ensure he was still along his flight plan, and look over the planetary system for any threats.
As they approached the moon, Tentara could almost feel himself relax.
This was a mistake.
As they approached, a set of ngaiyagan ships moved out from the moon’s radar shadow.
“Shit...” he muttered to himself; that wasn’t supposed to be part of the exercise.
A moment passed.
He shook himself with a deliberate effort of will; they were there and had to be avoided, every second wasted limited their options.
He scanned over his console; twenty two minutes to contact.
They were in a slow high lunar orbit.
They could lower their closest approach though, and quickly pass under the ngaiyagan ships.
Assuming the ngaiyagan stayed put, they would be fine.
They’d have to correct their resulting trajectory later.
It was the only option they had though.
A quick moment of calculation, and Tentara sent off their new flight plan.
A quick burn later, they found themselves on their adjusted trajectory, their closest approach barely twenty kilometers above the moon’s surface.
Ten minutes passed as they fell towards the moon, Tentara began thinking they were in the clear.
This was again a mistake.
His thermal telescopes chimed a warning; the ngaiyagan ships had burned down to a lower orbit. His flight computer helpfully informed him they had three minutes before contact.
‘How were they supposed to avoid that?’ he thought to himself.
“Contact in T-2:30”
It took him a moment before coming to a conclusion.
He typed a broadband message to his team, “scatter...”
His team replied with confusion; what did that mean?
“Contact in T-2:00”
“Fire in a random direction,” he elaborated, before picking his own random vector to burn in.
A beak gritting burn later, and his team followed suit.
Hopefully some of them survived.
“Contact in T-1:45; fast movers detected”
Those were missiles then.
He kept his fingers to the controls, he doubted it’d help, but still.
“Target lock detected; two fast movers”
He desperately spun his spacecraft; hitting full thrust.
He stopped, falling into microgravity, turned again, and roared his engine back.
And again.
And again.
It wasn’t enough.
“Fast mover established; missile contact in 34 seconds”
He turned away from the missile and set his drive up to the max.
The missile would hopefully burn up in his drive plume.
A moment later, the giant fell back on his chest, knocking the wind out of him.
Through his darkening tunnel vision, he glanced at his accelerometer.
He saw it max out at seven Gs.
He took a shallow breath, straining air back in.
“Missile contact in 19 seconds”
He focused his breathing; nothing else to do now.
“Missile contact in 12 seconds”
He wasn’t going to make it.
He didn’t want to get caught; he checked his drive settings.
He was somewhat relieved they wouldn’t go higher.
“Missile contact in 5 seconds”
He closed his eyes.
“Missile contact in 3 seconds”
His console glowed up in a simulated explosion, dropping him back into freefall.
His ship had been destroyed then.
He had failed.
It had been a while since Sanem had hunted.
She reflected on that; it had been several decades in fact.
‘Time flies’ she humourously thought to herself.
Of the twenty five pilots in the exercise, only two made it to their target destination.
All of the remainder had fallen into her, admittedly disingenuous trap; she had promised them a simple transit exercise.
Life wasn’t fair though, and that held especially true in warfare.
She looked over the recording of the exercise, trying to pick out what had gone wrong.
The commander’s decision to drop their trajectory was a decent instinct; he thought like a spacer. Most planetborne novices tended to forget that you move faster the lower your orbit.
His decision to scatter his team wasn’t ideal, but at least he didn’t freeze up instead.
She concluded her review of the exercises before turning off to address the pugnas pilots.
She had a lot of work to do.
But she still had well over a year before the ngaiyagan arrived. She had time.
She decided that she could work with this.

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