Late Fall, Liberty Spaceport, Alchibah
From the Log of Ash Andrews
“Bart, glad to see you. Andy wants me to give you a ride on the new Dora.
“Our running gag is off for this, I am in serious mode and you will see why later.”
Bart stared at what had been a sleek little yacht with marginal orbital capability before that bastard Jack had blown her up. This rebuilt ship still had the basic lines of the Dora but, so many changes had been made that the similarity ended with appearance. Bart grinned, “OK, truce what the heck is this?”
“This,” Ash intoned, “is the cutting edge of Atmospheric Fighter that we can come up with. Here put this on before we take a demo flight.” He handed Bart a corset looking garment that had to be stepped into and covered the body from the chest line to the knees.”
Bart grinned, “This had better not be a joke.” The he saw Ash strapping on the same rig.
Ash explained, “They are commonly called ‘Speed Jeans’, you are going to need them where we are going to go.”
Going in through the main hatch Ash started explaining the changes that had been made to the craft. “As you can see the cargo area and seating spaces are gone. This is all super capacitors and ammo feed and storage. The fuel tanks have been greatly reduced because all you need for flight control is the under jets.”
Bart looked quizzical, “You’re not going far or fast on just the belly jets!”
Ash suppressed a smirk, “You’ll see in just a couple of minutes and you ain’t gonna believe it. As you can see you have this hump running between the seats and the right seat no longer has any flight controls. The right seat is now purely for the Weapons Systems Officer or Wizzo as we called them. The Wizzo has a lot of weapons to keep track of.
“It starts off with five .50 cal Heavy MG’s arranged across the top. They are not bore sighted they all fire straight ahead like the old P-38 from WW II. Then you have the twin 25 MM Chain guns and finally the reason for the hump here. That baby is a 2 CM Rail Gun.”
Bart just sat back and whooshed, “What are you planning on fighting, a Battle Cruiser?”
“Frankly Bart, we don’t know so we planned for the worst. In the best case the .50’s and the 25’s make great ground support weapons. In the worst case, Dora is sheer death in atmosphere against a ship designed for space. Anyway let’s take her up, we have a three hour window where the Goonies can’t see us.
“First we have to get at least 15 feet off of the ground before we engage the Andrews-Hibbs-Chandler Drive or the ACHE drive as we are calling it.”
Ash smoothly manipulated the controls and made the transition to the main drive, “I’m gonna take her out over the ocean so we don’t scare the hell out of anybody when I open her up.”
After a few minutes of straight and level flight Ash grinned and said, “Grab your gonads Buddy here we go.”
Suddenly they were in a 4 G Stovepipe climb which whipped into a 7 G Split-S followed by a 8 G Immelman followed immediately by a 7 G snap roll left. As they leveled out Bart glanced at the Mach meter and was stunned to see a 9.
“As you can see, there are two G meters. One is for what you feel, the second is for what you are actually pulling. The ACHE drive has a 4 to 1 reduction effect, so when we felt 7 we were pulling 28. We may get a better ratio as we learn more and more about how this darn thing really works.
“Hell, Chandler’s idea of first firing up the exciter coils up in the Spin Axis on Mayflower let us get the System version working and we ain’t sure yet why it worked. This whole can of worms rests on a couple of Wild Ass Guesses, someday we have to make the Math actually make some sense.
“Hell, if it weren’t for the shield we would be melting the leading edges at this speed. But let’s take her home at a reasonable pace.” Saying that he throttled back to just under Mach 1.
“OK Ash, she’s impressive as hell and I don’t blame you for bragging. But, what does this have to do with me?”
“Because we want you to fly Her Bart, who the hell else am I going to trust with Her?”
“I suspect you could come up with more than a few volunteers, and she is a sweet flier. And I sure wouldn’t mind spending some time with her. You sure packed a lot into such a small volume but before I say yes I have a ton a questions to ask. The first of which is what do you realistically think the opposition is going to do?
“The time and effort spent on rebuilding the Dora aside from all the changes made is impressive but I can’t see you doing it unless you think it likely that at least some of the Gonnies are going to make it to Alchibah through the out system defenses. And that implies that a lot of our outsystem defenders won’t be around anymore.”
“You have it almost right Bart. We think we are going to stop them before they get here but in no way can we be sure. We just can’t take the chance or be stupid enough to think we are perfect.
“Time and materials won’t let us get any more large hulls built for the deep space section. And this is the kind of insurance we might need and can afford. Though I have to say even getting the Dora rebuilt was a struggle.
“What to expect if any Gonnies get by us is not terribly hard to figure out. They are going to try and take the land! But first they have to come through the atmosphere and they will be doing that in small maneuverable craft.
“What we think they can and probably will do out in space, is get a few by us in some variant of an Assault Shuttle. They will be armed but primarily Space oriented. Any thing large enough for serious transport and long range military space work is just a slow unmanuverable target at close range or in an atmosphere. So if any get this far the main job of the Dora would be to stop them from landing.”
“What’s the Mayflower going to be doing while all this goes on? She’s ultimately our last hope and would be a pretty tough nut to crack if we mostly holed up inside and worked to defend her.”
“That’s true and we’ve given it a lot of thought. The main problem with the idea is that once we give up the planets surface, it will become damn near impossible for us to return and take it back. Captain Travis doesn’t like it much but we may end up hiding the Mayflower out in the belt, powering her down, and hoping she is unnoticeable. That would mean loading her with all of the non combatants first or finding a way to evacuate the planet while under attack. And the second option seems unlikely to be successful. Anyway we have time to think on that part of the plan and maybe we’ll have more information to go on.”
“Yeah kinda like packing for a trip when you don’t now where your going. Back to the here and now; the way you got the Dora’s weapons set up it looks to me like she is mostly dedicated to the air to ground role.”
“Don’t underestimate that rail gun; you won’t after you test her, but if enough of the goonies get by us and get into a dispersed entry and landing pattern, one or two defender’s can’t be everywhere so some of them are sure to make it all the way down.”
“I follow you there Ash and they might come down at night or the Dora might need to support ground troops at night and I don’t see any ability to launch flairs or even provision for a spotlight and that could come in real handy. No skip the spotlight thing I see the problem there.”
“About flares you do have a point. I considered them then decided to leave the launch tubes out of the original plans. She’s got enough electronics and IR gear to handle night work but supporting troops on the ground makes sense. We do have plans for a flare system in a pod. We have eight Hard Points built in and our idea was that him what flies her gets to call the weapons mix on those points. Take her over and I’m sure you’ll come up with a few more things. Go ahead, take the controls Bart and give her a spin. Just remember the 15 Ft. Hard Deck. You have to have the ACHE dive off before you get to that height or you will blow the drive coils and that would make Jacks bomb look like a firecracker!
“And give another level of meaning to the ACHE drive! But when it comes to wanting to take over the controls. Do I ever!”
I gradually took her through her paces building up the high G maneuvers. All my previous experience was with much larger ships like the Surprise or the pre augmented Dora. It would take work to reach where we both knew a fighter pilot should be, but even Ash was surprised at how rapidly I was catching on.
As we were getting out back at Liberty Spaceport Ash stopped and looked straight at me. “Bart you are right about one thing, there are a lot of volunteers to fly this Baby. What it boils down to is, who does the Commander Air Group trust to both fly her and pull the damn Trigger?”
“CAG is me, and I trust one damn pair of people. You and Janie!
“I’m about convinced but Janie might need some work. Once I get her onboard and take her for a spin though I think she’ll come around.”
“All Right. Truce off watch your Six Buddy!”
On that note, we went over to Hanna’s for a debrief.