Chapter 20: Straker fights

writingHelpCroppedI’m a little late with this post; I’ve been on the road.  On the plus side, I’ve acquired some spacey help with my writing: see the picture.  His name is Nova, and he is a very sweet cat.  Temporary but very welcome.

In Chapter 20, Straker arrives back at the Allgood command module to rescue the remaining crew when he is attacked by a second drone.  It turns out, however, that Straker isn’t as helpless against this machine as he was before.  He makes it back into the ship and then…ah, but you’ll have to read it for yourself!

In real-world news, the Perseids, the most widely observed and dependable of the annual meteor displays, will peak during the overnight hours of Thursday, Aug. 11 into the morning of Friday, Aug. 12.  Due to the gravitation influence of Jupiter, this year’s show is supposed to be especially awesome.  When the little particles hit our atmosphere, they put on a brilliant but harmless light show.  Of course, not all particles are as small and insubstantial as these.  Some of them are big and made of iron and can do bad things to us; see my banner graphic of Meteor Crater in Arizona.  Best time to view is 1 – 4:20 AM EDT, which would be 11PM to 2:20AM MDT.  I’ll be watching, how about you?

9 thoughts on “Chapter 20: Straker fights”

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I’ve been thinking about the character “Ned” and wondering about the culture on board the Kestrel. If Ned and most of the crew were younger recruits Nifty Jim would most likely have put them through some type of indoctrination into the Malapert “cause” and thoroughly demonized their target. Military commanders and crime bosses cannot run the risk of their men turning sympathetic toward the target. If the crew were mostly older Soldier of Fortune type professionals then indoctrination would be less necessary or effective.

    Ned’s remarks to Katya might have included: “What made you people think you could get away with poaching on Malapert property? I have a lawyer uncle on Luna who’s really good

  2. Comment continued:
    “I have a lawyer uncle on Luna who’s really good with plea bargains. Maybe I can help.”

    Or maybe even: “What’s a nice girl like you doing running with the Yuuta crime family?”
    (just before Straker clubs him)

    Also, what is a zero gravity gun and how does plasma figure into its function?

    1. Jay: I love your insights! I look at the whole Malapert crew as a mobster operation, which is a far-off branch of a much larger government/crime operation on Earth. There’s a whole backstory happening with the Alliance for Peace back on Earth that I haven’t delved into much in this book, but I’m cooking it up right now for a possible second book. So Ned is a junior hired gun, bottom of the hierarchy, probably cynical, just trying to survive like Straker, but infatuated with Katya, who would normally not give him the time of day.

      I have spent some time thinking about what kind of weapons would be used in space. My reasoning is that with lasers there would be no Newtonian 3rd-law reaction to a projectile shooting out the barrel, but they would be limited (as they are today) by the amount of electrical current available to feed the weapon. Battery technology will certainly improve by then but I’m guessing the improvements will be marginal, so hand-held lasers will have limitations for the foreseeable future. They would be more useful mounted on a vehicle with an engine, able to generate current on demand. Guns, on the other hand, use chemicals that are very energy-dense, and would work fine in space except for the reaction problem in zero-G–the russians actually had a cannon mounted on one of their Almaz space stations and test-fired it successfully in the 1970’s. They cancelled out the force of the projectile by using the station’s thrusters. In this book, the reaction problem is addressed by shooting two streams of high-velocity plasma out the back of the gun, in the reverse direction, as the slug is shot forward from the barrel. The momentum of the two plasma streams should cancel that of the bullet. However, the plasma could burn the shooter, so the gun is not held or fired in the same way as a terrestrial equivalent. The gun would be more like a rifle than a pistol, and with the stock held up to the shooter’s shoulder, one stream would shoot backwards from above the shoulder and one from below, so the reaction would be cancelled and there would be no torquing force. I think it would work, but it would be dangerous to use without training. I don’t see anybody developing a gun like that right now but it seems reasonable. What do you think?

  3. Hi Kevin,
    I remember seeing an old movie called “Outland” where Sean Connery chased a bad guy around a space craft using what appeared to be a fairly standard pump shotgun. I assume the projectile was custom adapted to not penetrate the pressure hull but still do a job on a human being. A shooter would also have to train to look for any and all opportunities to brace himself and his weapon. For shots where time was more available a bracing device which folds under (similar to a bipod) which uses magnets, spikes or spring loaded cams (like those used by rock climbers) might be useful. Another factor would come into play where there was no atmosphere as muzzle velocity would also be terminal velocity.

    1. Right, I remember Outland; it was a great movie, and yes I believe Sean Connery used a standard shotgun. That movie was based on a large moon that would have significant gravity though, and I don’t think they really dealt with gravity issues in the movie anyhow. I think you’re right about terminal velocity; every bullet fired into the air from the surface of an asteroid would keep on going forever, eventually becoming another micrometeorite and a hazard to navigation.

  4. Hi Kevin,
    Just wondering but would a capacitor or a bank of capacitors be of any use in firing a laser? My only guess is that they cannot provide enough amperage to work. Is that the case?

    1. Yes I believe a capacitor bank would likely be used in a hand-held laser power supply. They provide plenty of amperage but only in very short bursts, which is why they’re not used for energy storage (usually); rather they’re used when you need a quick burst of current as in a flash bulb or to start an electric motor. Batteries work under a different principle; that being chemical/electrical current conversion as opposed to capacitors which work on electrical fields and dialectric chemicals. So I think a laser would use capacitors but also rely on a battery for the electrical storage. That’s why the new generation of Navy destroyers (Zumwalt class) are basically built around their electrical power supplies, which are huge, in anticipation of the lasers and rail guns that are coming soon.

  5. Hi Kevin,
    I just finished reading ch 22, couldn’t access the comment section so this will have to do.
    Congratulations on a most gruesome, graphic, creative and original demise for Gristle. Henceforth, whenever I use a can of spray foam I will think of Gristle. There’s got to be some Hollywood special effects geek who would love to render that scene.
    I also loved the concept of Materia; a really elegant blend of Ray Kurzweil, nanotech, and shape shifter shamanism. Well done!

    1. Thanks Jay! I had so much fun writing Gristle’s death. The combination of the suit, which tries to maintain a constant volume by asserting pressure, and the ever-expanding foam just made for such an interesting death (but he deserved it, the bastard.) I searched for a while for the proper word for the materia, read up on Gnosticism–which ironically has a deity named Sophia–but ultimately went with a latin word. By the way, I was thinking of Sophia Loren when I imagined that character, but of course I couldn’t use her image or name. So I picked a different Italian last name and used a picture of a pretty girl for the book’s cover. But when you think of Sophia, think of a young Sophia Loren.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *