"Far-Called by William Haloupek is a hard science fiction novel that pursues so many ‘what-if’ questions that it is as much just pure ‘speculative fiction’ as it is a hard scifi. This blend is what makes this book stand out. If you’re a fan of questioning society and ‘what would happen if’ scenarios, all of which are founded in a great deal of science and research, this is very likely a book that you will enjoy."
-- Rebecca Blain, The Future Fire
It had been a war of attrition. Starting with superior forces, Tzin and his navy could have lost every battle and still won the war. In the comfort of his office, Matej adjusted his dwindling resources, and waited for the computer to generate the new theater of war configuration, in 100x real time. His command ship, the Sudeten, was disabled, in a helpless Keplerian trajectory. All available energy was diverted to life support and defensive countermeasures. Decoys and chaff were deployed, probably to no avail. Since Tzin knew his position and velocity 5 simulated days earlier, he could calculate the new position, if he was aware that the Sudeten was adrift.
Hopefully, he was not. However, he seemed to following a guidance strategy toward an intercept point on the Sudeten’s elliptical orbit, indicating that he did know, or at least suspect.
Tzin’s battle group was led by a dozen fighters, in a planar configuration, perpendicular to the direction of travel. This arrangement was intended to reduce the possibility of friendly fire, and to present a wide target grouping to the enemy. Behind the fighters lay 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers, and Tzin’s command ship, the Zhongzheng.
Location, location, location. If your enemy knows where you are, you’re dead. Stealth was life or death. War was a deadly serious game of counter measures, counter-counter measures, deceit and subterfuge. Winner take all, of what’s left.
Before losing power, Matej was able to nudge his ship into an orbit that would put Jupiter between it and Tzin’s forces. The Sudeten, stripped of its protecting entourage, still had one hope. As Tzin’s fighters navigated their way around Jupiter, they would have to break formation. There would be some confusion as they formed back up on the near side. The formation was spread out over millions of kilometers, and it took several seconds for light speed communications to reach the fighters from the Zhongzheng.
Also on Matej’s side of Jupiter, was Callisto, the outermost of the Galilean moons. Here lay one of Matej’s last operational bases. A mass driver, or coilgun, fed by a gargantuan strip mining machine, and powered by a large nuclear reactor, had been preparing since the beginning or the war, some 3 simulated years earlier. The mining operation had produced millions of tons of rock and ice chunks, each about half a meter in diameter−just the right size for the mass driver to fling into space, at over 200 km/sec. The escape velocity of Callisto was only 2.4 km/sec, and escape from Jupiter at the distance of Callisto’s orbit required another 11.6 km/sec, so the projectiles had plenty of speed to get out of Jupiter’s gravity well and do some damage.
The desperate trap was set. Tzin’s fighters came around Jupiter on all sides, followed by the larger ships in the battle group. The enormous magnetosphere surrounding Jupiter played havoc with communications among Tzin’s forces. The fighters regained their planar formation as the plane approached Callisto, and the mass driver opened fire. Some of Tzin’s ships were visible because they were thrusting. The positions of the others had to be guessed at. Chances of a hit were low, but with millions of projectiles, Matej might get lucky.
It was all about putting ordnance on target. Same as it ever was. Since David slew Goliath, the strength of nations was largely determined by how fast and how accurately they could throw things.
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by William Haloupek
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by on September 25, 2016
- William Haloupek, December 2011
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