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Authors: Stephen W. Bennett

Koban 6: Conflict and Empire

BOOK: Koban 6: Conflict and Empire
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Koban: Conflict and Empire

 

By Stephen W Bennett

 

 

Koban: Conflict and Empire

Text copyright © 2016

By Stephen W Bennett

All Rights Reserved

 

Cover art designed by:

Travis Knotts

 

This is the sixth book in the Koban Series.

You can review all books currently available at:

https://www.facebook.com/Koban.the.series

and

http://www.kobanuniverse.net/

or my page at

http://www.amazon.com/Stephen-W-Bennett/e/B008ZPQ12I/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

 

This eBook is licensed for your personal use and enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the many months of long and hard work of the author.

 

This book is written in “American” English, so there may be some differences in spelling and usage than in other countries use of the language.

 

This is a work of fiction and all characters are fictitious or are portrayed fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

************************

 

 

As always, my sincerest thanks to Paul Benkert, for taking the time to perform proofreading, spotting typos, wrong words, odd phrasings, and story inconsistencies. Also for suggesting clarifications of items that seem obvious to me (with the full story in my head), but in retrospect make no sense to the reader at that point in the story. I’m indebted to him for his willingness to stick with a difficult task, despite personal distractions. I wish you continued health my friend. There will always be more errors than we both can find, even on a second pass by us both, because I’m devilishly efficient at hiding them anywhere. I’ll be posting new editions when kind readers prove that statement correct yet again.

 

Often ‘tis the plight of the self-published independent author.

 

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Map of Milky Way

 

 

The Milky Way Galaxy. Earth, Human Space, Koban and the Federation reside in the Orion Spur, between the Perseus and Sagittarius Arms.

The Thandol Empire is spread along the Sagittarius Arm, near where the Orion Spur branches away.

 

Expanded view of approximate stellar boundaries of Human Space and the Galactic Federation in the Orion Spur, with positions of Earth and Koban shown. Human Space consists of the Hub worlds, New Colonies and Rim worlds

The Thandol Empire is divided into three security sectors, and is               patrolled by the Ragnar, Finth, and the Thack Delos species.

 

Chapter 1: Between a Rock and a Hard Place!

 

 

“Kuttlefish!”

Mirikami had been describing the disastrous Kobani physical vulnerability to an unfamiliar Thandol weapon, speaking to gathered alien and Kobani scientists. He abruptly stopped when he heard that sudden utterance, and looked at his two friends who had spoken that joint exclamation, Vince Naguma and Sarah Bradley.

He was telling the assembly about the painful effects of the Thandol Debilitater radiation weapon on living creatures in general, but which had proven fatal for the Kobani from even mild exposures. That nerve-jangling, pain-inducing weapon could potentially wipe out all higher life on Koban, due to their superconducting nervous systems.

He knew Vince and Sarah had switched to researching Koban sea life a few years ago, after the formerly empty minded Krall meat-animals, the devolved Raspani, were moved to Haven. The two scientists had given up being Raspani caretakers on Koban, when the newly restored Raspani wanted to perform that task themselves, on the neighboring lighter gravity planet, where they inserted mind enhancers and restored personalities into the mindless ones.

When the researchers simultaneously, and apparently spontaneously, blurted the word
kuttlefish,
it caused a moment of confusion for him and the others in the room.

“Vince, Sarah, what did you two just say? Did you think of something that relates to our problem?”

Vince spoke first, after a rapid Comtap exchange with his wife. “We’re not entirely sure, Tet. But Sarah and I have been studying Koban sea animals, and one is an Earth-like cuttlefish analogue, which we found living along the coast near Hub City. They’re preyed upon by many different predatory fish. The Koban kuttlefish, as we named them, didn’t appear to have much in the way of natural defenses, such as a hard shell, toxic flesh, or a venomous bite to ward attackers off. They do use a fast color changing camouflage, as do the smaller Earth equivalent animals we named them after. However, they don’t even produce ink to squirt, for distracting a predator as they flee to some underwater burrow or coral outcrop. These soft bodied, six-tentacled creatures don’t seem to use burrows as hiding places from which to forage, except when the female is brooding eggs. To remain in the open, at least as much as they do, appeared to be a risky survival strategy to us. So we investigated.”

Mirikami nodded, still not understanding the apparent sidetrack they had caused from the main discussion. However, he respected their intelligence, and assumed they had a pertinent point to make. He made a guess at what that point was, to hurry the discussion.

“I saw a pair of small kuttlefish in the big aquarium tank you set up in the Grand Hall of Hub City dome. Is it their impressive camouflage capability that you mean?” He assumed they were thinking of the animal’s ability to blend in and hide right out in the open, which to some extent might be a useful ability for a naked Kobani out of armor or clothing, but not against an electromagnetic broadcast of a wide beamed weapon, which didn’t care if the target was seen visually or not.

Sarah explained their completely different discovery in more detail. “It isn’t their visual concealment that really protects them Tet. It’s their defense from electrical detection systems by their predators, and most importantly, their protection from at least two species of electrical shock fish, which is what just triggered our idea as we listened to you. One predator is the large Boltfish we discovered, an eight to ten-foot-long beast at maturity, which delivers a shock of 800 to 1,100 volts, at nearly two amps to its prey, killing or stunning them. Another is the Battery eel that someone else discovered and named, which is actually a long slender six-foot fish. It too detects prey with rapid low voltage electrical pulses, and stuns them with a powerful shock when they’re found. Vince has done disections on the kuttlefish to find out how they survive the shocks; I’ll let him explain what we’ve found.”

Vince again picked up the explanation. “The kuttlefish is invisible to the electrical detection systems of these two predators, and perhaps to others not yet identified, and it’s totally immune to the shocks of these two. Furthermore, the Boltfish has long and nasty teeth, and our five-foot long, squishy, soft-bodied adult kuttlefish, seem nearly bite proof, suffering only superficial scratches, which heal quickly. The Battery eel has smaller pointy teeth, and all they do is barely scratch the surface skin.

We think that’s why the kuttlefish don’t bother to hide very much. Although, they can be swallowed completely by a Great Blue shark, and then they’re dead, of course. We’ve even seen two Boltfish that spotted one of them swimming, and combined in a joint attack to rip tentacles off, and eventually consume them. But one on one, they survive most attacks, that involve an electrical jolt, and it’s what’s under their skin that we think should be investigated.”

Mirikami sounded skeptical. “How so? It what way do you think that might help us with a defense against the Debilitater ray? I’ll admit, as a Spacer, I’ve stayed out of the rivers and seas on Koban, because everything in them seems ready to nibble my parts, or bite off my ass. I commend you two for your studies, although I’m afraid I haven’t paid any attention to your reports.”

Sarah grinned. “You’re a Spacer, as you said, and the reports weren’t intended for you to read. Until just now, we didn’t see any possible application for what we’ve learned. Now, however, there might be one.” She offered a challenge in the form of a question.

“Why have we only considered genes from Koban land or air animals for our own genetic enhancements?”

Mirikami shook his head. “I don’t follow you. Rafe and Aldry aren’t here from our genetics section, because we expected this to be a technological discussion of defense from enemy weapons, and of new offensive weapons of our own. They were invited of course, but both though they’d hear little that involved them. I’m pleased you came, but I don't know if we have the experts here we need to understand what you may have found.”

Vince scratched his head, but pressed on. “We will take this up with the genetics section, but Sarah and I have unanswered questions of our own about
how
what we found makes the kuttlefish immune to shocks to their nervous system, and
how
they manage to hide from the pulsed electrical detection systems of their predators. I think we need information from technicians or physicists. We might be onto something that we can use as a Debilitater defense, but we don't know enough to decide if it’s useful or not, or even practical.”

Max Born, as head of the physics department for the human side of research, spoke up. “What did you find in dissecting a kuttlefish that you think makes them immune to electrical shocks and from electrical detection by those predators?”

Vince described what his examinations had found. “They have an extremely tough, but very pliable layer of carbon nanotubes just below their upper layer of skin, under the pigmented chromatophores they use for rapid color changes and background matching. Detailed extreme microscopic examinations of that nanotube layer shows that the carbon nanotubes are laid parallel to one another, providing the pliable flexibility their fluid-like movements require. We already know how strong those nanotubes are when embedded in our own bones, which are as unbreakable as the bones of a whiteraptor, where we found the genes to grow them. And they were used by the PU Special Operations troops on the surface their carbon fiber exomuscle suits. That thin layer provided protection from knives and shrapnel, and reduced damage from projectile weapons.

“We immediately saw how a two-layer nanotube film, beneath the first layer of skin, made them bite and puncture resistant, but it also seems somehow connected to their shock resistance, and how they hide from the pulsed electrical detection systems of their hunters. We’ve found a distantly related Koban analogue to an octopus, which doesn’t have that carbon nanotube layer, and that animal can be shocked and stunned. The same predators also can detect them if they get close, so they hide in burrows or coral outcrops when any predator is around. I don't understand the physics of how that layer, which looks like a thin, dark continuous film to the naked eye, can do so much.”

Born nodded. “Carbon nanotubes are excellent electrical conductors. I suspect they shunt the high voltage electrical current from a Boltfish or Battery eel around the kuttlefish’s internal organs, and away from their nervous system. Their ability to hide from the pulsed electrical sensors of the predators is intriguing. I can’t think of how that might work, unless it’s an organic version of a Faraday cage. If you’ll meet me after this meeting, with Rafe or Aldry present, together we might figure it out. If they can identify the genes that grow this protective body sheath, and testing proves it protects them from a jazzer, you may be onto something useful against Debilitaters. Or, as is often the case, it may not come to anything. In any case, we hadn’t anticipated gaining nearly unbreakable bones either, so it’s worth a look.”

Satisfied that this interruption had been handled, Mirikami went to the next item of defense to consider. The Decoherence bombs.

“Coldar, you examined the Water Drifter, the ship that was hit with a Decoherence bomb at your Green Atoll colony. The ship survived, even though the warhead emerged at the center of the ship, between decks. You were going to measure the damage and air pressure increase when that weapon emerged, activated, and gasified parts of two decks. Is that why the ship survived a direct hit, because it emerged at its largely empty center?”

The Torki clicked his claws in indecision. “Tet, had the ship been filled with incompressible water at the center, as our migration ships often are, we initially presumed the internal pressure of vaporized decking and water would have split the ship open, resulting in its loss. While that’s a reasonable assumption if the pressure from that volume of vaporized material had been created, Blue Flower Eater hypothesizes that this is an incorrect extrapolation.

“That Thandol weapon or warhead as humans name it, to our knowledge has never appeared inside the solid substance of any building, or below the ground at Paradise or under water at our new colony site on Green Atoll when that was hit. The circuity of the device that projects the fifth force, which breaks all of the atomic bonds inside its effective radius, needs to survive its rotation into Normal Space. It can’t activate inside dense matter the instant it arrives, if it needs to survive an intersect with matter to do that.”

Mirikami spread his hands. “What are you and Blue thinking? That they actually aim at voids in their targets, so the circuitry that produces the spherical projection of the Q-Rupter beams can survive the arrival? Air isn’t a vacuum; doesn’t the weapon intersect with the atoms of the atmosphere when it emerges? That has to be destructive to some extent.”

Coldar clicked a small grasper claw to indicate partial agreement. “Yes, but it’s a matter of degree of the intersect forces created. Our dense Nova bombs are energetically destructive because they emerge from Tachyon Space inside other dense matter, and explode violently, with the instant total destruction of the missile and target. A Nova doesn’t require any circuitry or explosives to do its work when it makes its exit, it’s simply matter meeting matter.

“On the other claw, however, the Decoherence bomb needs to be functional after it arrives. It must be made durable and redundant enough that it can sustain the damage from the relatively low density of internal atmospheres that fill a spacecraft or a planetary atmosphere, and then activate. The Thandol must use mass accurate detectors to aim at low density volumes within their targets.”

Mirikami tugged at his lip. “You said that had the Water Drifter held water, it would have been lost by splitting open from the pressure increase caused by the warhead. Because the Drifter lifted without the weight of internal water, the atmosphere occupying its place didn’t increase enough to rupture the hull or kill the crew. Do you see where I’m going?”

The two aliens ran with the issue for a few minutes.

Coldar swiveled an eyestalk towards his Raspani coworker, Blue. “I believe Captain Mirikami is seeking the middle ground between water, and atmosphere, so as to disable these bombs, or deny the Thandol a safe aiming point. At what density would you estimate the internal voids of a ship might contain enough gaseous matter to render the bomb circuitry so damaged it could not activate? And yet if the warhead does activate, not produce pressure enough to rupture a hull or kill the crew. It obviously could not be an incompressible liquid.”

Blue waggled his elbows in agreement. “A dense enough gas might serve, but the crew needs to be able to breathe it for a time, or have a personal oxygen supply. In a normal atmosphere mix, Nitrogen can be replaced with a denser inert gas, such as Argon or Xenon, but those colorless, dense, odorless noble gasses are also rare, and for my people, both act somewhat as an anesthesia if breathed, even though oxygen is absorbed.

“An even heavier gas to replace Nitrogen is Sulfur hexafluoride. It too is colorless, odorless, non-flammable, non-toxic, and an electrical insulator, and cheap to produce. It transmits sound slower through its dense medium, and voices would become much deeper in timber. I cannot say if it would be sufficient to severely damage the circuits of a Decoherence bomb enough to disable them, or to prevent that internal volume from being targeted in the first place.”

Mirikami resumed control of the discussion. “We can spare some of the most damaged captured clanships still sitting on K1 for repair, and operate them remotely via basic Artificial Intelligence systems. We can fill, say three of them, with different density gasses, and send them against a Thandol Crusher, forcing them to fire on them and monitor the results.

BOOK: Koban 6: Conflict and Empire
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