Chapter 1.12 – Interlude 2

Captain Anton Vasiliev squeezed the precisely measured sachet of vodka into his plastic tumbler.

Celebrating with a drink wasn’t the same without the clink of glass on glass. He cast his mind back to the proud moment when he had finally been awarded his rank of captain, first class.

It had been the turning point in his life. His career had been everything to him as he fought tooth and nail to climb through the ranks. He’d joined the military as a private before working his way up to an office role before he was 22. It was unheard of, most officers were from a group of families who all knew one another, a club where the fee to join was a century of social events and ass-kissing.

But he’d done it on merit; he’d studied his degree on 3 dimensional strategy in his time-off from the gruelling 50 hour shifts.

He’d earned admiration from his subordinates for being just, cool-headed and competent. He’d earned scorn and hatred from those above him because he was an outsider and, to be honest, showed them all up.

But the public had loved him, he was one of them. The admiralty had been forced to raise him through the ranks.

He should have known the strategy would backfire, but he had not foreseen how spectacularly.

He had considered command of his first ship an honour, a sign that they might have reassessed him – decided that he was good enough to join their little circle. He had been short-sighted. Outmanoeuvred. If only he could apply his knowledge of military tactics to these games of politics.

Maybe there was an argument for that little group, everyone who was part of it had been dealing with this kind of thing all their lives. They grew up learning the vital skills to stab someone in the back and having them thank you for it.

He’d spent the last five years on this god-forsaken ship.

It wasn’t really a military vessel. The majority of the ship consisted of engine; it was basically a tube of 400m of electromagnets to accelerate ions to provide the thrust.

Towards the front of the ship was a torus fusion generator to generate the massive amounts of power required to reach the near c speeds the craft had to travel at.

Traveling at such high speeds introduced huge problems; the shielding at the front of the ship was made from the most advanced materials known to mankind. Even hitting the smallest of atoms at near-light speeds would melt any normal steel in seconds. Even the exotic composite martial it was made of required an extensive cooling system that took almost as much energy as the engines that pushed the ship forwards.

The fuel required to support the fusion generator was huge, in order to sustain thrust fuel the front shields were an inverted cone shape. This funnelled hydrogen the ship collided with into the storage and engines. Luckily hydrogen was a relatively abundant gas in the depths of space.

Ironically traveling at higher speeds was easier on the fuel storage – hydrogen was gathered faster and the thrust given by the engine was constant. Getting up-to a sustainable velocity was the tricky part, which was why a string of tanks, empty since the critical first 6 months into the voyage had been slowly re-filling. It set a minimum distance for the flights as the ship had to be traveling fast enough for long enough to gather the fuel required to de-accelerate.

A second ring was tucked behind the fusion generator that housed the living quarters and work-areas of the crew. It was split into eight separate compartments, each end to end forming an octagonal ring around the core of the ship. The whole section rotated, providing the illusion of earth gravity. Each section pivoted so under acceleration, which was almost the whole trip, it rotated so the floor was aligned with where the illusion of ‘down’ was.

When the mechanism for rotating the quarters failed they were faced with 6 months of feeling like the rooms were gently tipping to one side. It was very off-putting.

It wasn’t a perfect system, the ends of a section were particularly nauseous and it was irritating having all the flat surfaces lean slightly outwards, pens had a habit of rolling off anything. The few spills on-ship drifted ran to the edges of rooms.

That was the whole problem with this mission. Anton had spent his life in the military, dealing with a soldier’s problems. Being captain of this ship was like trying to manage a large household where no one got along.

It was so… Domestic. The crew were mostly civvies, they didn’t have the discipline of soldiers and he didn’t have the required authority over them He spent most of his time diffusing such ridiculous problems like relationship issues, arguments and petty complaints.

Last week the engineer had fallen out with one of the scientists, they had been friends for the whole voyage and now they wouldn’t even be in the same room as each other. They were 50 year olds for God’s sake, it was all so childish!

The worst thing was he’d left everything behind for this.

5 years. That wasn’t too much time to be away from your wife… Except his wife had probably been dead for the past 30. In the time-frame of Earth, a hundred years has passed. This was a century long voyage, he’d just experienced time a 20th of normal speed.

Everyone he knew would be dead. His son would, hopefully, have died an old man this year. He wondered if he had any grandsons.

When, no, if he returned he would have been forgotten. If there even is an Earth to return to he would be some ancient museum piece. Forgotten by public opinion.

That was why he had lost, he’d assumed this mission was a great honour. In reality it was a convenient assassination.

It was estimated that technology may have advanced so much in the next, no last, hundred years that they may even get greeted on arrival – Just because accurate FTL travel required a receiving gate when they left didn’t mean it was required before they arrived.

He threw back the shot of expensive vodka he’d been holding for the last ten minutes. It had been packed for the arrival celebration. He didn’t really feel like there would be anything worth celebrating.

He gave the order to begin preparation for arrival at Tau Eridani.

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14 Responses to Chapter 1.12 – Interlude 2

  1. agreyworld says:

    The physics behind this was a lot more complicated than I thought! In the end I gave up trying to work it out. It is feasible that you can reach near-light speeds accelerating less than earth’s gravity within a year. The problem is that accelerating requires more and more energy as you get closer to these speeds.

    It meant I couldn’t really work out what kind of distance you would travel for the 100-5 year time difference. Epsilon Eridani is 10.5 light years away.

    • anonymus says:

      just read
      “Please do point errors out though. Even if it’s something fundamentally wrong that I can’t correct.”
      does that refer to stuff like this: … ?

      i didn’t realy listen when we were taught the physice behind that and it was some time ago, but if i remember correctly you could say

      (“time passing outside”-“time passing inside”)*c=distance traveled
      100-5=95 light years

      means they travel with an average (including acceleration) of 0.95*c (from Koordinatensystem with a fixed center at earth)

      space is not empty, it is only comperatively empty 0.0001 to 100 000 atoms per cm³ (lets take 1 Atom per cm³)
      distance traveled=10.5light years=314 782 080 900 cm
      front of the ship (lets take 20000000m²=200000000000cm²)
      average weight per atom =1,3u
      distance traveled*front of the ship*atoms per cm³*average weight=1.5g
      =very small fuel tank

      energy pro colision (assuming light speed)
      (eating 100g Chocolate gives 2 000 000J)

      • agreyworld says:

        Haha, yes – feel free to point out any inaccuracies like this (I find them interesting).

        Your calculation for speed is incorrect here.

        Time experienced in moving reference frame (dT)= Time measured from ‘stationary’ reference frame (t) * Lorenz factor

        dT = t * Sqrt(1 – v^2 / c^2 )

        So a speed of 0.95c would result in time being experienced 1/3rd (31 years for a 100 year flight for example)

        To experience five years you would need to travel at roughly 0.9987c for 100 years. Of course, they must at some point be going faster than this because they have to accelerate up to this speed!

        Alpha Eridani is a real place, but I took a bit of artistic license (its actually 145 light years away!) I assume that current measurement methods were a little flawed and it is actually <100 light years away… But given they are traveling at near c most of the journey you can approximate it as 100 light years in this universe.

        This gives me a mass of 408 kg!

        So, artistic license time!! They planned the route to go through a nebulae or two :P

        Energy gained per collision is a tough one. Assuming a 100% efficient fusion plant then E=mc2. So Em ('mass' energy) = 1.3*c*c = 0.000 000 000 2, but we are hitting a LOT of attoms. R
        Our 400kg gives us 4×10^19 J!!

        If my understanding is correct we can only use half this energy too, as the energy removed from the collision (kinetic energy of particle) Ek = 1/2 m v(ship)^2 and since v is pretty much C and our overall energy gained is the Em – Ek which is roughly 1/2 Em…

        I didn't put much thought into this side of the calculations, I was trying to concentrate on getting the time & distance right. When you introduce the acceleration things start getting really difficult to calculate though. I made a thread with some questions here:

        In the end I made some educated guesses and didn't specify speeds (ie, they could just accelerate faster and cruise for longer to make the 100 to 5 year time difference in the 80-90 light year distance (which also isn't specified numerically). I took some ideas from here:

        Oh, and thanks for the question – I really wish I'd tried to calculate the fuel limits now lol

      • anonymus says:

        the speed wasn’t meant to be accurate just roughly saying you miss
        ” Epsilon Eridani is 10.5 light years away.” by a hell of a lot

      • agreyworld says:

        Goddamit! I got Epsilon Eridani confused with Alpha Eridani…

        I see what you were saying now, yes you are right. I didn’t manage to read the first part of your post right.

        Yeah, if they traveled 10.5 lightyears in 100 years they would be going like 0.1c average and not experience much time dilation…

        I’m surprised I let that slip in, I should have known 10.5 ly was too close, I remember looking for sensible stars, after spending ages trying to work out the maths of it and failing I must have just gotten careless.

        I could change it to Tau3 Eridani, which is 86 light years away

      • Doing the math! Nice. Kudos.

    • murphaticlaw says:

      The easiest solution is also the honest solution, have the trip be through “hyper-space”, “null-space” or something similair, then you can set travel time, time dialation, etc with no worries
      Maybe scientificly valid instead of honest better communicates what I mean

      The biggest problem with constant boost ships in normal space is the danger of kinetic impacts at relavistic speeds

      Regardless I’m loving the story so far=)

    • ClickPause says:

      Not unfeasible science really. A beam of protons in the LHC can reach speeds a mere 3 m/s away from the speed of light. All you need is the appropriate amounts of energy and a slingshot (or just enough blank space between you and the destination).

  2. Holly(Woods) says:

    Wow, I’m really really looking forward to learning how the interludes connect with the heroine! It’s such a cool way to draw in interest and raise questions!

  3. Oh hey, a male character!

    That aside, I’m impressed that you bothered to do the math. Also, I appreciate the acknowledgment that spaceships don’t have to be aerodynamic- actually the larger surface area helps collect hydrogen faster- that’s always bugged me in a lot of literature.

  4. farmerbob1 says:

    working his way up to an office role before he was 22.
    ‘office role’ -> ‘officer’s rank’, I think?
    he’d studied his degree on 3 dimensional strategy in his time-off
    he didn’t study his degree, he earned it, or completed it, I’d imagine?
    on -> in
    he’d earned his degree in 3 dimensional strategy in his time-off
    it was basically a tube of 400m of electromagnets
    order is clumsy
    it was basically a 400m tube of electromagnets
    The few spills on-ship drifted ran to the edges of rooms
    drifted or ran not both :)

  5. Eric says:

    Hey just wanted to point out that you still haven’t edited out the Epsilon Eridani bit, and anyone who’s reading and cares even the slightest bit about astronomy, the search for habitable worlds, those kinds of hobby interests, is going to immediately realize that that is way way off.
    As to your acceleration calculations, did you ever try and just search for a calculator on google? There are a ton of them for just this problem that are pretty handy for a scifi writer.

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