Subsection: HMS Canopus Up Subsection: HMS Canopus Subsection: HMS Cumberland 

4 September 2016

Flying her is very different from smaller ships: you have to keep swapping viewpoints, or picture yourself as huge, while docking. The quadruple point-defence array is very impressive, though there are some software problems passing targets between different rings.
This posting doesn’t see much foreign traffic, though the Symposium of Asian States sends over one of their new carrier-type ships for a visit: they’re trying small combat craft for greater survivability, something that generally hasn’t worked well before, but perhaps new technology will make the difference. There’s great dubiety about their ability to protect the carrier.
Meanwhile there’s a certain amount of exposure to admirals, since Canopus’ flag bridge sees a fair bit of use. Admiral Glyndower, known for unconventional tactics during the war, is on board during a live-ship exercise against Kaga and her small-craft flotilla when Morrish sees something amiss with the navigation orders he’s just been given: they’re for a fast pass round the planet, but as written they dive rather too deeply into the atmosphere. Having very little time to do anything about it, he corrects the plot on the fly to skim the exosphere rather than diving into it. (Tovey, who’s not the active navigator at this point, spots the problem too, but doesn’t interfere.)
The exercise runs to completion, but both Morrish and Tovey are cordially invited to see the Captain afterwards. She’s hosting Admiral Glyndower, and there’s a tactical plot of both the requested course and the one actually flown shown on the bulkhead display. Morrish explains his thinking, feeling that he didn’t have time to query and get a correction, and Tovey backs him up. (The head of navigation who actually plotted the course will get his own interview later.)
Rather later, in a pub, Morrish notes that there seems to be a familiar-looking mould colonising the ventilation system; it doesn’t smell as bad as Spot, but it’s definitely the same colour. The civilian staff seem to like it, as it does a good job of breaking down complex organic rubbish – though eventually it’ll have to be harvested, and probably incinerated before it’s recycled. Stonely reminisces about the inducements he’s been offered to award supply contracts to particular places.
Someone asks the barmaid to put on the screen, as “Reverend Pompey” is preaching: he’s a competent showman, with an odd doctrine, that traversing jump routes in the right sequence will spell out the names of God and bring enlightenment. (Some of the simpler ones are freely available, most of them going several jumps into foreign space before returning.)
Several of the officers with “spare time” get volunteered for an engineering test project, under the auspices of a Lieutenant Howe (though it’s the sort of thing that Admiral Vaughan): this will be a simulation of small remote-controlled combat craft, which in theory anyone with basic piloting training should be able to fly. That goes reasonably well, though not superbly; in particular, towards the end of the obviously rigged exercise, the sensors become much fuzzier as the launching ship is destroyed by the enemy’s long-range weapons, and the drones’ sensors are rather less capable.
The simulated target is destroyed, but objections are raised. In particular, why not put computers on board the drones? Well, computers sophisticated enough to do the job tend not to be at all reliable, and there are concerns about putting them directly in charge of major weapons.
Winthrop-Chase is distinctly concerned about the exercise’s bias – and light-speed lag. Stonely thinks that there won’t be enough spare junior officers, and suggests an other-rank drone pilot position. Tovey mentions the potential problems if the control link is compromised. Morrish is concerned about how to organised fast, accurate launches of the drones, and thinks of the drones as harrying units rather than a primary attack arm. He’d like the drones to be launched from ships rather than deployed separately, though this would mean losing some other functionality aboard that ship; Stonely is thinking more of long-term patrols, and for example the shore batteries at system jump points.
Howe on the other hand is thinking about automated sensor pickets, and leaping from concept to concept as they get shot out from under him. (And since assignments to a shore battery are often correlated with fewer promotions later in the career, clearly eliminating shore battery posts will let people’s careers do better.)
There seems to be an assumption that “we” will be better at drone ECM and electronic compromise than “them”; Morrish arranges to borrow Constance Fleming from Canopus’ informatics department and have her assigned to the simulated enemy, at which point things become distinctly unbalanced as half the “friendly” drones end up changing sides… though of course this isn’t a valid simulation as it doesn’t correctly reflect intelligence estimates.
There’s something of a social scene on Sherwood, and naval officers get invitations, including one to a “forest viewing” though it’s mostly from inside sealed vehicles (it’s not actually all that dangerous, but this is as close to wilderness as most people want to get).
Morrish finds himself in conversation with a young lady called Alex, and completely fails to notice her attempted pass. (Winthrop-Chase tries to clue him in in a quiet moment.) She turns out to be the planetary governor’s great-niece, and mostly interested in “excitement”; Morrish recounts the trip across Luna during the Roughex, and ends up being invited to a party at the Governor’s Residence (in orbit, attached to the top of the beanstalk). Alex seems to think she can get her great-uncle to rearrange his duty if needed.
A little research reveals that Alex arrived at the same time as the governor; she’s salaried staff, a public-relations specialist, but living well beyond her pay, and indulges in re-entry craft racing as a hobby. Checking society papers from Earth suggests that she may have left under something of a cloud, but no details.
The party itself goes well, but a little oddly; Alex doesn’t seem to be trying to get Morrish either into bed or married, but appears to have some other potential use for him; she asks him more about his plans for the future, and was perhaps hinting at something, but if she was he didn’t pick up on it. Stonely wonders briefly if she’s recruiting for a potential independent Sherwood Navy, though she’s not at all associated with the independence movement.
 Subsection: HMS Canopus Up Subsection: HMS Canopus Subsection: HMS Cumberland