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Posted on Nov 13, 2015 @ 11:07am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Nov 13, 2015 @ 11:07am

Mission: Civil War

= Gravity =

(cont'd from "Seeds of Doubt")


SCENE: Main Engineering

STARDATE: [2.15] 1112.2318

Jake didn't break his stride as he stepped through the doors into Main Engineering. He moved directly to where Rochemonte and Maynell stood, near the master systems console. Chaucer stood a few feet away, his cold yellow eyes watching a holodisplay showing an analysis of shield harmonics, related to his recent work with Rochemonte.

Cindy saw Jake approaching, and her face brightened. "Good news, Jake! We've found a modulation frequency that works with the hardware modifications. If these last few simulations come out okay, I think there's a real chance we'll manage a shield strength improvement of 9.46%--"

"We need more," Jake said, coming to a stop to lean over the master systems console.

Maynell and Rochemonte exchanged a confused glance. "Sir," Maynell coughed. "9.46% is already a greater improvement than we could have reasonably hoped for."

"I asked for 10%, ensign," Jake said, fixing Maynell with a cold stare. "Now I'm telling you we need more."

"Jake," Cindy frowned. "What is it?"

"The commander of the Neo-Essentialist fleet," Jake said slowly. "Is Dexter Marxx."

Cindy blinked. Maynell swallowed hard. The only one who didn't seem affected was Chaucer, but perhaps that was only because his reptilian features were too difficult to read. Jake nodded at each of them in turn.

"Yeah," he said.

"Admiral Marxx is a Neo-Essentialist?" Maynell asked.

"So it seems," said Jake.

"I thought he was retired," said Cindy.

"Maybe he makes exceptions for traitors," Jake said.

"Have you ever met him?" Cindy asked Jake.

Jake shook his head. "No. But I've heard enough about him to be worried."

"He was assigned reading at the academy," Cindy said, her eyes going distant. "Jake, if Marxx is their tactician--"

"That's why we need more than 10%," Jake said. "Specs, bring up to speed on the physical modifications. We're going to gut these schematics and squeeze every last ounce of juice out of those emitters as possible."

"That still won't buy us much time," Maynell said. "If Marxx concentrates fire on the PHOENIX, it's not going to matter how much power we dump into the shields. That fleet could probably turn E-4 into space dust in a matter of minutes, there's no way a starship stands up to it for long."

"He's right," Cindy said. "We're talking five, maybe ten extra minutes in the fight."

"I want to live the extra ten minutes," Jake said. "Now let's get started."


TIME INDEX: 1 hour later

The holographic PHOENIX flashed brightly as its simulated shields once again failed against the onslaught of the Neo-Essentialist fleet. They'd run a series of these simulations, under a variety of circumstances, but the results were depressingly similar each time. They'd managed to increase the PHOENIX's approximate survival time by at least 90 seconds, but the every scenario the computer ran pointed to their inevitable destruction, quickly and decisively, under a storm of fire from Marxx's fleet.

Cindy Rochemonte blinked and looked away from the holodisplay as this latest defeat caused it to flare brightly. She took off her glasses and rubbed at her eyes, even as she heard Jake resetting the simulation behind her.

"Initiate shield-modification simulation 129-B-1," Jake said.

"Recalibrating the shielding parameters," Maynell said. Beside him, Chaucer was working at his own station, running the likely attack patterns and damage caused by the enemy ships. Jake gave the big lizard a nod, and Chaucer returned the gesture. Jake looked to Cindy.


"Jake, we've run the simulation dozens of times," Cindy said. "We're just retreading ground Chaucer and I have already covered."

"We have more data now," Jake said. "We know their fleet composition, we know their ship placement. We can make some pretty good guesses as to their attack vectors."

"And all we're learning is our sims got it right the first time," Cindy said.

Jake slammed the flat of his hand against the top of the console. "So then we keep trying!"

"Commander," Maynell said, stepping up behind Cindy. "I'm sure Lt. Rochemonte wasn't saying we should give up."

"Thank you, Jonathan," Cindy said, without looking away from Jake. "We're not going to find the answer this way, Jake. We're pounding our heads against a wall here."

Jake frowned, but he didn't say anything. His eyes shifted from Cindy to Maynell, and to Chaucer. They were watching him with uncertainty. Well, Maynell was, at least... Chaucer was watching him, but who could say what thoughts were buzzing about behind the Gorn's yellow predator's eyes? The combined gazes of his subordinates were enough to make Jake feel self-conscious, and he sighed.

"Okay," he said, nodding. "Yeah, you're right. We're getting nowhere."

"We've made better progress than I would have thought possible," Maynell said, staring at the holodisplay with a forlorn expression. "Maybe we've just reached the limits of what our shield generators can do on their own."

Suddenly, Jake Crichton's eyes brightened. A smile crept across his face.

"Say that again," he said to Maynell. Maynell blinked.

"Uh... maybe we've reached the limits of what our shield generators can do?" said Maynell, his tone that of a man asking a question.

"What they can do on their own," Jake corrected. He keyed in a few commands into the console. Presently, the tactical holodisplay disappeared; all the tiny red blips that represented the enemy fleet, as well as the reassuring blue outline of the PHOENIX herself, all of them shimmered out of existence, leaving only a rough, scaled-down map of the entire Elandipole system.

"Sir?" Maynell asked, looking from the holodisplay to Jake with a perplexed expression.

"There are all kinds of energy emissions shooting around space all the time," Jake said. "Ultraviolet radiation, electromagnetic radiation, photonic radiation... most life in the galaxy couldn't have evolved if their homeworlds didn't have natural protections against all that loose energy zipping around up here."

"Jake, starship weaponry is several orders of magnitude stronger than solar radiation," Cindy said, exchanging another confused glance with Maynell.

"So what?" Jake asked. "The same principle still applies. If we can combine the strength of our shields with some of the natural forces present in the Elandipole system, it should be enough to buy us some more time."

"We can't exactly borrow E-4's magnetic field," Maynell said.

"Wasn't thinking of E-4 actually," Jake said. He keyed in another command, and a moment later, the second planet in the Elandipole system, a lifeless ball of asteroid-blasted rock, began to blink.

"E-2?" Maynell asked.

"The gravity well," Cindy said, her eyes now widening to match Jake's. "Mon dieu, that could actually work!"

"What?" Maynell blinked.

"E-2's satellite is tidal locked with the planet," Jake said. "There's a powerful gravity well keeping it perfectly locked in its orbit. We'd have to position the PHOENIX precisely, and who knows if Marxx will give us that kind of chance, but if he does..."

"The gravity well should be strong enough to disrupt the trajectory of incoming fire," Cindy finished for him. "With the PHOENIX running evasive maneuvers, they'd have to waste a dozen shots or more just compensating for the arc of their weapons fire as it passes into the well."

"And anything lucky enough to get through would still have to get through our enhanced shields," Maynell said, finally catching on.

"Right," Jake grinned. He glanced at Chaucer. "You with us, big guy?"

{{Yes,}} the Gorn's Vox buzzed in agreement. Chaucer's lips pulled back to reveal a row of glistening razor teeth. Chaucer also gave a thumb's up gesture to make sure his message came across clearly. Jake grinned again and returned the thumb's up.

"We have numbers to run," Jake said. "We need to know that the gravity well is strong enough to produce significant shearing to disrupt weapons fire from the enemy fleet. We'll need precise coordinates to maximize the effect and buy as much time as possible. And we'll need contingencies for when Marxx gets smart enough to send some ships into the well to chase us out. But I think it's our best shot. It's not a victory, but it should give us a chance to bloody Edgerton's nose a bit."

"I'll start running new simulations," Cindy said.

{{Help,}} Chaucer's Vox said, as the Gorn stepped up to stand beside Cindy.

"I think we've earned our pay for the week," Maynell said, grinning along with Jake.

"So," Jake said, looking at his assembled assistants. "We've gone from certain death in a matter of minutes to slightly-less certain death in a matter of minutes. I'll tell Kane the good news."

The engineers went to work. Outside, the Neo-Essentialist fleet waited. And through it all, the countdown continued.


Shawn Putnam


Jake Crichton

Chief Engineering Officer



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