Brave New World

The thermometer says you’re hiding.

The newest Andromeda-class battlecruisers come equipped with a startling capability: stealth.

See, there’s a problem in space. Space is big and, well, quite empty. You can’t hide anywhere, except behind something like a planet—which puts a limitation of practicality, since 99% of the time, ships aren’t anywhere near the vicinity of planets.

So you’re tasked with the problem of hiding an enormous hunk of metal in wide-open spaces where anybody with an IR telescope can see you coming probably a billion kilometers away, since your 290-Kelvin hab bubble stands out like a searchlight against cold vacuum.

Well, some engineer took a look at that, and decided to just put a refrigerator on the ship pointed outwards. The trouble with that is that the heat you pull from the hull has to go somewhere, and since it can’t leave from the hull, it needs to go back inside the ship. So you’re invisible, but you’re cooking your crew.

There the matter stood, until somebody realized this is actually fine—if you have the right tactics.

You’re invisible, but you’re cooking your crew.

When the U.F.P. Relentless left her construction site in orbit above Mars on her maiden voyage, the first thing she did was turn the coolers on max. Over the long months of the Hohmann transfer to Earth, they dumped her waste heat through radiators into internal compartments of chilled Lithium (chosen for its stability, mass, and specific heat).

The situation could not be maintained indefinitely, of course, but after she had slipped into (retrograde) orbit around Earth, still all but invisible, the external radiators folded out, and the gigajoule or so of waste heat accumulated on the voyage was radiated away against the camouflaging background of an industrialized planet.

For their part, the Jovian Trade Union, comprising the confederacy of city-state greater moons of Jupiter, had dutifully tracked the thermal signature of the decoy ship which remained at Mars, flaming like a candle. And when their troublemaking frigates burned for Earth, they arrived in LEO to a surprise.

Experiment

“This isn’t really safe, is it.”

“That’s good on paper. What about practice?”

“Of course, we won’t know anything until we try.” John shot her a quizzical look, then went on: “It’s not like the academy is fully cognizant of the potential significance of this work.”

“They’re barely cognizant of their own financial security, which, by the way, is still rather tenuous. Research cuts, you know.”

“Don’t I know it.”

“Well let’s try it, then. We’ve been ready for a while. Months, really.”

John nodded. And, without further ceremony, a small red button was pushed. Somewhere, machinery hummed, and two enormous drums of titanium alloy began spinning in a perfect vacuum.

Faster and faster the enormous drums spun, until sheer strength was insufficient to hold them together, and the radial artificial gravity fields began crushing them inward.

Their outer surfaces were racing past each other now at thousands of kilometers per second, separated by a tiny vertical strip just millionths of a meter wide. To the naked eye, the two atomically perfect, titanic disks touched in a single, unbroken line.

But of course no human would risk his life from being so near to such contained energy. And of course, the Earth couldn’t be risked either, so that was far away too.

“We should see something by now,” Casey observed, searching without success for that something.

“Well, frame dragging is within predicted measures.” said John.

“The cylinders are warping spacetime past 0.5 c. Something’s going to have to give, and it’d better be space. There’s already more than a quadrillion joules of kinetic energy in those wheels.”

Nothing.

“It’s a wash, then.”

“3 trillion , wasted.”

“Wasted?” Casey smiled furtively. “No; we’ve only just begun.”

Subspace

I.T. isn’t better in the future.

“Apparently, they use some kind of subspace.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Ugh. No. Wrong word. More like, spacetime is some . . . thing, kindof? Since it has all these associated properties. Think of it like a ribbon. The thing they use is sortof like the ‘hangers’ that the ribbon is hanging on. See?”

“Vaguely. What’s the effect, anyway?”

“The effect is they can project radio-band white noise, from any point, to any point, using a ‘sublight’ wave traveling about one light-year per second.”

“‘Point!’—Ha!—Try: ‘a planet!‘ . . . Why white noise, though?”

“Yeah. Apparently that’s about the only thing. Anything structured gets scrambled immediately. Not especially useful, although you could probably rig some kind of ansible.”

“Doesn’t that violate something?”

“Sortof, but nothing is going faster than light; it’s just there’s less distance it has to cover in ‘subspace’.”

“Regardless, this interstellar denial-of-service attack is pretty awful, I’ll say. Can’t we send some spaceship back the other way? Make them stop?”

“It’s hard because subspace is seething with activity. That’s what corrupts any heterodyned signal. However, we tried sending a one kilogram test mass through.”

“. . . and?”

“Sir, I know you have family in Pittsburgh . . .”

Angular Momentum

Advantages of tumbling pigeons.

“Tell me straight, skipper. What’s wrong?”

“We’re dead. That’s what’s wrong.”

“!!!”

“Even as we stand here, we’re dead men. That last bomb pumped us full of a whole soup of radiation. I’m surprised the hull hasn’t shattered from neutron embrittlement. But the gamma rays are what did us in.”

In the background, someone clutches his abdomen in sudden pain.

“Well, do something!”

“Detonate this warhead in the null-G section amidships.”

“You’re mad!”

“I will be, unless you get on it. I’ve already notified engineering.”

The young lieutenant stands for a moment, petrified.

“Oh fine. Since understanding might make you more obedient. We spin end-over-end for gravity, and right now our plane of rotation is lined up with their vessel. They’re about 15 klicks away, so if we break in half at the right moment, we might get the tail end flung close enough to detonate our atomic drive right next to them before they notice.”

“But! We’ll all die!”

“We’re already dead. Now move it.”

Defenses

Not exactly diplomacy.

“Lemme get this straight—at the bottom of that mineshaft is a thermonuclear warhead. And at the top of that mineshaft is a steel plate. In 41 seconds, their warship is going to pass by in orbit overhead and we light it off?”

“That’s about the size of it. Any questions?”

“. . .”

“. . .”

“Well, I mean, isn’t the plate kindof . . . you know . . . not aerodynamic?”

“That turns out not to matter. At the speed it will be going, it will be in the atmosphere, oh, only about 130 milliseconds.”

Peter’s mind boggled.

“That’s like a hundred kilometers per second!”

“Yeah. Through their hull. Neat, huh?”

Somewhere in the distance . . .

**BANG**