Space Combat

This is sort of a reply to Linn Fergus’ recent post on space combat. My friend, Eric Larson, and I discuss a variety of things, and space combat happens to be one of them. He helped come up with this treatise. Here are the seven prompts worked into these 990 words: Terrible Minds, #SoCS, A Beautiful Mess, #52weeks52stories, The Writing Reader, Write on Wednesday, and #FFC2018. This isn’s officially part of Days Until Home, but it could be…

“There is a lot of space, more of it than humans can comprehend. If every person in this room had a billion children, each child could have their own area of space a billion miles wide, and we’d still have plenty of space left. So fighting for control of space is stupid. Armed conflict is most often a result of scarcity of resources, and space is a resource we have in unfathomable abundance. Why risk death, and spend resources for any piece of space, when you can just go have this other,” Jeremy Thompkins waved his hand to the side, “empty space next door?”

He leaned forward, and gripped the lectern. “What is scarce, and worth fighting for, is land. Rocky moons that we can reach are a major hassle, and we need rocky moons to make everything from space stations to underwear.” Jeremy paused as a smattering of laughter rippled through the room. “‘Hassle’ doesn’t quite cover it; these moons are like winning the lottery. These are the resources people will continue to fight over, and die for. Which brings us to the only space worth fighting for: orbital space.”

“Controlling orbital space around a moon or planet controls the resources below. From orbit you can knock out most communications, much of their surveillance of the surface, and even hamper their ability to navigate. Not to mention dropping kinetic projectiles on their infrastructure with devastating effect.” Jeremy’s knuckles turned white for a moment as he gripped the lectern. Hopefully, he thought, none of these fresh-faced contracts will experience what I did in Australia. He continued, “Sixteen days is the record that a population on the surface has held out while an embargo force controlled orbital space above. That was because the besieging force was limited, and they wanted to capture as much of the infrastructure intact as possible. No sense having to take time building new stuff if you can just use their stuff. Which was only partially successful in this case since the defenders engaged in “scorched earth” tactics – destroying or sabotaging their facilities before surrendering. This has been the last resort tactic of a retreating defender for centuries.”

“So orbital space is the only space worth fighting for. Orbital space is also the worst place to fight. Ever. ‘Why?’ you ask… First, even in interplanetary space, there is so much of it; you can easily hide in the black. With tight EM emission control, unless your opponent knows where to look for you, you’re just another tiny asteroid – one of billions in our star system. In orbit, they will know just where to look for you. Delta V in orbit is limited, and energy intensive. Even if you do your fancy maneuvers on the dark side of a planetary body relative to your enemy, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out where you might be.” Jeremy held his hands up in surrender, and the laughter died down. “Okay, okay, it would be rocket science, but rocket science that we’ve been doing for centuries. Any time the enemy knows where you are or where you soon will be, and you don’t know where he is, you are dead. It’s as simple as that. Second, while the advantage is on the side of the forces in orbit, those on the surface are not defenseless. Too many cocky pilots have forgotten about small, hard to detect anti-satellite missiles that can be assembled from materials available on any outpost. Add in mines that are so small they are invisible, and anti-orbital nets that are cheap, and easy to produce. Not to mention, the cavalry.”

“I don’t mean an armored horse. In other words, when the people on the surface call their buddies, and they come to save them. They will know where you are, or will be, while you will not know the inverse. If you’re very, very lucky you might intercept, and decrypt their communications, and know when they’re coming, but never count on that. Attacking a ship in orbit while on approach is like shooting fish in a barrel. Your best option when expecting hostile forces incoming is to break orbit, hide in interplanetary space, and come back when the other guy is in orbit. If you’ve got marines on the surface, they may not like being left alone, but they’ll like it a lot better than watching the remains of their ride home burn up on the way down.” Jeremy met the eyes of a few of his charges. Most of them watched in detail the spinning wreckage of the Kerwood as it fell through Earth’s atmosphere.

“Some of you may not relish running, and hiding. It may seem cowardly to you.” He scoffed. “Well, you will change that attitude. There’s no such thing as a fair fight in space. You’ve got to sneak up, and stab them in the back before they do the same to you. Space combat is a deadly version of hide and seek, where the loser sucks vacuum. Spaceships are expensive. If you waste one because you were too proud to run, and hide when that was your best option, your superiors will be upset. The conglomerate will be upset. I will be upset. If you do something stupid like that, there won’t be another contract for you.”

Jeremy surveyed the room. He knew that his words meant nothing yet to the young men, and women in the room, and those watching via the keyhole camera on the back wall of the auditorium. Some of them knew the stories of Kerwood’s escape from Matsue. All of them knew he was one of the Kerwood survivors. None of them knew the purgatory that he, and seven of his shipmates barely escaped. But they’d learn – hopefully, not by personal experience. None of them knew the black as well as he did. But they would. He took a breath. “Class dismissed,” he declared, and walked off the stage.

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

5 responses to “Space Combat

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