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 Post subject: Red Seas- Lake Warden
PostPosted: Mon Jan 01, 2018 7:57 pm 
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Some bits from the space age; embarrassingly it turns out that I had the placename wrong...





It was mildly terrifying that all of this had been more or less done in secret. When the movies and the satires joked about giant underground complexes of computers, they were a tiny, pale shadow of the invisible facts. As for the bits that went bang...


It helped greatly that all of it had been done in Australia. The Russians had Baikonur, Kapustin Yar, and a great many other places that if anything ever launched from the world would be considerably alarmed by, considering they were purely missile fields; but primarily civil space and military experiment and pioneering, station modules and probes and the high frontier, from the Korolev bureau at Baikonur, communications, reconnaissance, and other sinister military payloads from Kapustin Yar.

America had Canaveral, for civilian space, Vandenberg for the air force and it's military projects, Edwards as a satellite field, and lots of sinister rumours that kept people guessing.

The Commonwealth had four main facilities, partly because India made it very easy to commit to prestige projects. The Navy had East Fortune- an old zeppelin field which had the tremendous advantages of being large, flat, and near to actual industry and the disadvantages of being in close proximity to Edinburgh; you'll have had your delta- V then. Almost all launches from the UK took place from there, there being a distinct shortage of other large flat bits of similar irrelevance.

There was also the only metropolitan missile field, in the apparently stupidest place in the world; 298 Squadron (Rocket Branch) RFC was based in the hills north of Stroke City, Northern Ireland. Some people said in hope of inviting counterforce strikes that might finally solve the Irish Question. Certainly the defence troops saw frequent incidents, and it was after all an excellent excuse for a shoot to kill policy. Also, nobody said the warheads were real.


Further afield, finding anywhere to put a spaceport in Canada was tricky; between high northern latitudes and bloody terrible weather; in the end, it went in just east of Detroit, in the sticking out southwards bit, next to a small town called Stratford. Just for confusion's sake. Anyone getting a taxi in London hoping it would take them to Stratford Spaceport was going to be deeply disappointed, and possibly also very poor. (unless it was London, Ontario of course. And even that was bad enough.)

India, well, for the sake of being able to launch into equatorial orbit it needed to be as far south as practical; in the end, the pun was irresistible, and the Commonwealth's main civil space facility was named for- could have been one of the many nearby townships in the southern end of Tamil Nadu and of India itself, but the one that got the nod was (“You'd have to be”) Madaganeri.

East Fortune was the metropolitan, military field; reconsats, communications, anti-satellites it was rumoured, some of the bits of the large and growing Halley Station. Stratford was primarily scientific research, probes and explorers and space telescopes. Earth sciences, civil work, the beginnings of space industry might emerge some day from Madaganeri.

Australia? What did the ozzers have to do with space? Oh, there were comms facilities and observatories, deep space tracking stations and the like, but the closest they really had to a spaceport was a collection of white lines in the dirt pretending to be a shuttle runway near Rankins Springs, just where the green of viable soil faded into the empty desert.

Lake Warden was in the southern end of Northern Australia, and one of the most isolated places on God's earth; it was rumoured to be the Commonwealth space program's Siberia, a 'long term development' station that also functioned as a dumping ground for the incorrigibly moonstruck and impractical. People who believed in warp drive and aliens, it was said. The idiots who got in the way of the hard practical work.


America had it's Nerva series, amongst other madder, fortunately only paper, projects, including rockets that would only be ever of use in escaping a dying planet- and if it wasn't, it soon would become that way after much in the way of experiment with open cycle gas cores.

The Russians had a brief flirtation with a nuclear torch engine, although nowhere near the Heinleinian sense, in the early years- thinking mainly of a nuclear powered war- rocket, or in more modern jargon ICBM. Fortunately- from most points of view- chemical rocketry had caught up, and delivering devices of destruction had been demonstrably doable with common or garden nitric acid and hydrazine.

The nuclear engines would probably have been safer and less accident prone, admittedly, but even the Soviet Union had more environmental sense- after the decontamination of Moscow, certainly- than to think about ground launching them. There were nuclear upper stages in the pipeline, but the huge boosters needed to get them to safe altitude first were not yet reliable enough.

That was the next obvious step; after the moon, after orbit- and it had happened in that order- men to the planets. Probably on nuclear propulsion, and the Americans were badly enough embarrassed by the Russian moon program so far to try to beat them to footprints on Mars.

The Commonwealth must have something similar; couldn't possibly be falling that far behind, would not let itself be left out of the space race to that degree. But where? Lake Warden was the obvious place, but looking at the personnel involved...couldn't be. No-one would trust that shower of dreamers with anything much more dangerous than a boilerplate mockup. Surely.


The other face of the plutonium coin, of course, was the hard work that everyone hoped would forever remain profoundly impractical. Safety the twin brother of annihilation, and all that.

'Vasily...see if you can make more sense of this than I can.' Yuri handed the oncoming watch officer two teleprinter forms. Notifications, from one major power to another as required by treaty, of imminent atomic events. Standing the doom watch was not a job for a nervous man; nor for the complacent. Personnel selection was a constant struggle to find the happy medium.

'Well, the forms are in good order, but this is strange, an underground and an atmospheric test? At the same time, in the same place...what are they testing? Warhead fratricide? Does anyone have anything better than theory on this? Have we ever tested such a thing? And do we know anything about this test range? I can't recall hearing of it before.'

Vasily had spent much of his career so far in holes in the ground; 'Engineer officers' training college' my backside, he thought. They were supposed to be launch control centres, but they were, to him, no more than holes in the ground. He would have developed an advanced case of sudden- onset claustrophobia if it would actually have been paid the slightest bit of attention to.

'I do not believe we have, not two warheads in such close proximity one to another- but how is an underground and an airburst supposed to test anything? Any ground burst powerful enough to break ground from underneath, the entire point of the ban treaty was to limit fallout in the interim, yes? What would this combination actually test?'


'This is the british sense of humour at work, is it not? We are meant to look at this, and miss the point; not to see what is in front of us. On this subject? Are they completely mad?' There was, of course, previous form.

Apart from the main reason they were headquartered in a mountain under the Urals, the Commonwealth had been consistent about protesting against tests that were no more than excuses to watch big fireworks, insisting on instrumentation and range safety, insisting that each test should serve a purpose, not merely random political intimidation and atmospheric contamination.

'Evidently. So what is the trap? What is the hidden factor they expect us to miss? Oh...'

'You think you see it?'

'Do we have any other notifications?'


'No...wait. Not to us, but there was something sent to Baikonur about...bozhe moi, a live, complete test attempting to hit a mock silo with a warhead? Although the silo then, the ground part of that makes less sense, surely the airburst would destroy most of the range instrumentation? No, the ground burst would be meant to do that, hide the evidence.' As soon as he said it, Vasily realised it made no sense.

'Find that copy of the space announcement- ah, here it is, craft; experimental. Are they even allowed to be that vague?'

'Not a Blue Knot, then, they would have admitted it if it was.' Vasily grudgingly acknowledged. The British- and their colonies- had form when it came to the notion of military use and civilian use rockets. Specifically that their main light-medium expendable launcher, good for about twenty- four thousand pounds to low orbit, was also their primary service ballistic missile.


Warheads had been pulled off Blue Knot missiles in silo, replaced with manned capsules and fired, before. Notified, of course- but what in the name of the ever suffering proletariat was the British objective in doing so? To heighten the tension level, and make the cold war more dangerous?

To cause the Russians to suffer from alert fatigue, and miss a real attack when it came? They knew, must know, that that could not be. The rockets were always ready- it was more than the anthem of the service branch, it was the grim reality.

It was an expensive reality to maintain- but if that was the threat then it was an empty one. Russia would rather go bankrupt than go undefended, as long as any organised nation existed. Orthodox, nationalist, little red men from marx, they would all willingly pay that price.


It wasn't as if the Russians didn't have form for that too, after all. Marshal Korolev had sent the first Cosmonaut, Lavochkin test pilot and sort- of volunteer Mark Gallai, into orbit on a converted ballistic missile, in a hastily fitted out manned capsule originally designed as a reconnaissance satellite.

Their first Lunik, Gagarin, had ridden on a rocket that had been sold to the Central Committee as a military booster despite growing wildly beyond any actual practical wartime use, and most subsequent missions, well, it wasn't as if Tsiolkovsky Station was unarmed. Although not provocatively obviously.

That had as much do do with the difficulties of coming up with a missile guidance system that could do orbital mechanics as anything else, in practise; Tsiolkovsky was certainly capable of self defence, in theory. Attack? Bombardment from warheads already stationed in orbit was practical, but orbital mechanics again- the reentry manoeuvre was very little faster than a suborbital missile flight anyway.


Orbit to orbit might get interesting. As far as anyone with a red star about them knew, the Commonwealth's reusable light lifter Handley- Page HP.100 had acquired it's service name- Centurion- purely from the works number. The payload modules, on the other hand, did it even make sense to suspect a naming scheme?

Most of the upper stages the winged, manned Centurion launched were named for various bits of Roman military kit. Pilums, pugio, framea, lancea, scutums, gladii stuck out everywhere. Were any of them actually weapons? Come to think of it the HP.100 was a failed bomber candidate anyway...

Technically, apparently, the Centurion was considered to be a first stage, the altitude it could achieve was almost meaningless- but for the fact that it allowed a thin air optimised engine on the rocket stage, but for that it could be reused vastly easier than their various attempts at stage capture rocketry, and but for the cross- range and ability to insert into various orbits.


'You do not think...an experimental, nuclear powered craft, perhaps? Firing a nuclear engine from a silo- surely the point of doing that would be to cold launch it and get it some distance into the air before the engine actually fires- and the underground part would be legal cover against the thing failing to function and crashing down core and all.'

'Which would be an enormous contamination incident, although I wonder if in Australia anyone would notice. A test that occurs without notification is a crisis; a notified test that fails to occur...we would think very little of it. Except they must be aware that they have piqued our interest- what are they expecting us to miss?'


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:02 pm 
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I Spy with my Little Eye, something beginning with 'O' ??

( Sorry, I never could do 'Knock-Knock' jokes... )

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:07 am 
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Putt- putt jokes being a different matter, hopefully.

There are a couple of bits of human linkage in the backstory, and one notable butterfly from Hell. From about 1928 onwards, India has an increasing amount of educational radio that amounts to an early stab at an Open University.

There may be unpredictable consequences from this- historical and cultural programming is going to be very touchy- but the most enormous butterfly is the survival of the head of the mathematics department who, without a wartime job in naval codes, would have fallen ill and died the early death that he did in@, leaving how much un- thought of and undiscovered; Ramanujan.

If we have a living Srinivasa Ramanujan up to the forties at least, then- I don't know what happens. How do you predict the next forty years of physics?

The other side is that it was the alumni of the University of the Air that provided the intellectual horsepower and skilled labour to make Tube Alloys practical. Which does mean that a lot of the people who, @, went to Los Alamos, here went to Bombay instead; although because of who went where, America will probably be further on in theory and in civil applications, and with a smaller anti- nuclear movement.

One of those who didn't go was Dr. F. Dyson, yes- although it also may be worth wondering where doctor Zubrin's ancestors were during the revolution.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 3:48 pm 
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The Good People of Edinburgh, East Lothian...and indeed the Central Belt are going to love having a rocket launching facility at East Fortune. In @ there as consideration of launching Blue Streak from Spadeadam. Having driven as close as one can to the site East Fortune has better transport links, being close to the A1 and East Coast Main Line.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:41 pm 
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"Love", as in "object vigorously"?

It does also have the advantages of being a pre- existing military facility, and of being in close proximity to Royal Naval Dockyard Rosyth;

Isbister was considered as an alternative, which would have been under the air defence envelope of Scapa, but the weather would not have justified it- and it would have guaranteed that nobody would want to be an astronaut when they grew up. East Fortune seemed a reasonable compromise.

Probably does mean the National Museum of Flight would have to be in Linlithgow or something, though. And yes, objections.

Blue Knot is a monster- seriously overweight as a military missile, not far off the specification of a Delta IV Medium- or Korolev's N3. The rationale being that a cost cutting measure backfired (quite deliberately); told that there was not enough money to design military and commercial launchers, the design team (Bristol/De Havilland joint venture) took them at their word.

Has to be something bigger though, to get the primary modules of Halley Station up there somehow. Hmmm...


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:42 pm 
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Object as in form protest groups. :D

Museum of Flight could be at Drem. IIRC it was briefly used as Edinburgh's airport. Crail would probably be suitable and would mean the torpedo trainer would be properly preserved.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:50 pm 
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Lake Warden 2

In periods of normal operation, Sunday was the day of the thunder at RN Air Station East Fortune. How far they had come for that to have any meaning at all- but there were some people who were never happy, not even with leaping to the stars. Well, to the first step on the road to the stars, anyway.

It was an enormous facility, in terms of land area, in terms of the British Isles, and it had grown over the years and the purposes; most of it had been indistinguishable from the fields around it, to begin with, only the effects of being left fallow for years starting to make it distinct.

A zeppelin field could afford to keep a flock of sheep to keep the grass down and reduce the mess bills; roast mutton was a more direct product of rocket flight, but even those whose palates still found it acceptable had to concede that being flambed in perchlorate with the wool still on ruined the taste, though.

The accidental nature preserve was in fact safety distance, to protect the people and small furry animals of Edinburgh from the navy's and the nation's space program. Not that they appreciated it. The astronauts did, though; for someone going up on their three month tour at the big, public Halley Station, at Herschel or Ramanujan Stations on the near and far side respectively, would be buoyed by the memory of green.

Not that it really worked well enough for the public taste, either. Blue Knot could be silo launched perfectly well, protection against the really awkward unplanned combustions, but delivering something into polar orbit meant it's trajectory pointed it's tail at Edinburgh. Auld Reekie definitely resented new rocketry, the sudden heat and roar, the broad trails of fire and smoke in the sky, the polyester tourist tat catching fire on the Royal Mile.

Although that was mostly urban legend, and if anything actually did, it deserved to.


Not the only thing that launched from there. The Handley- Page Centurion reusable first stages carried a thirty- five ton second stage rocket (based on the Black Dragon SLBM) that could put a four ton load into low orbit, and if anything they were even noisier than the rockets, flying directly over the city more often, with a longer lasting roar of sound. They were more hated than the anyway more spectacular Blue Knot.

That and the original bright idea had stuck, and cannon launch of small payload packages to orbit had been reinvented as a practical proposition as soon as a suitable catching mechanism could be devised. Which solar/ion drive rendezvous/retrieval craft looked awfully like one of the American ideas for an on- orbit interceptor, actually.

The original guns remained the same though, still in use broad gauge railway guns of thirty- one and a half inch caliber, sixty calibres long, relinable, and had had to be many times. That and flight director after flight director had acquired and passed on the mischievous habit of scheduling firings, and the earth shattering kaboom that announced them, for 12.58 civilian time.


The Royal Navy had never really had a great working relationship with the east coast of Scotland. Jackie Fisher had opposed the construction of Rosyth for years before the Great War, even though it made strategic sense to him as much as anyone else; on a chart of the sea it is ideal for the foes we are about to face, he had written, but it stops working as soon as you add the map with the people who live on the land.

He foresaw a fundamental culture clash between the fleet and the locals, and did not want to put a major facility in what would be on the temperamental level enemy territory. Moore's battlecruisers had rather proved the point, and him right in the process.

And possibly a little bit for planning after the Great War, when it was no longer necessary to concentrate in northern home waters, and the floating docks and repair ships and colliers that would be necessary for a large temporary base could be put to use to serve distant stations on all the oceans of the world. That and he just didn't like Edinburgh. It reciprocated by not liking him and his very much.


They were not shy about expressing it, either. East Fortune's officially 'main' gate was the sea facing one, connected to the Fifth of Forth by a short, wide military road; there was a bright idea, American originally but too good to be kept in private, to reduce the cost of launch by building a rocket out of common industrial parts and thin ship- grade steel.

Build the bloody thing in a dockyard, with shipyard workers, just make sure you build it big enough, fuel it with something cheap, forget the chain-of- custody parts tracking procedures and minimise the micrometrically precise quality control; payload fraction would go down by a factor of two maybe, but costs would go down by a factor of ten. Which means five times as much stuff in orbit.

Oh look, there was Rosyth just round the corner. Nova- class rockets, the American project name had stuck, were built there, towed round to East Fortune to be inspected, tested, fuelled and mated with their payload, towed back out for sea launch. It was how the really big bits of Halley Station had got up there, and Ramanujan Station's four hundred inch reflector.

The Novas, backwards from the original programmatic logic, were one- offs, built as and when required for particular loads; Herschel Station's Canadian designed, Rolls Royce built pebble-bed power reactor had been the last big lift from East Fortune, to replace an earlier modified FPR3(L) that turned out not to have been as well modified for lunar gravity as previously hoped.


Twelve ton payloads were good enough for most unmanned platforms, for personnel ferries; four ton stores pods and half- ton parcel post enough to support a going concern. The Blue Knot's twelve tons was gross overkill for its' military mission, really, and at the same time not really enough for serious space architecture. There needed to be something bigger, and there was.

The standard Commonwealth construction lifter was the fifty ton to low orbit Grey Pilgrim, roughly equivalent to the Saturn Ib or the Nosityel-2, and somewhat of a hybrid between the two- a few big kerolox engines on the lower and hydrolox on the upper stages, in a conical to boat- tailed airframe. If anything it really was too big to launch from this close to an urban area; most of them flew out of Madaganeri.

That didn't mean that they weren't pouring concrete at East Fortune for a new launch complex, three pads for what looked very like Grey Pilgrim sized rockets. Something else for the locals to protest against. Not that they needed the practice.


It was interesting to contrast the actions of the various pressure and protest groups. Northern Ireland had the most humourless, narrow minded, po- faced, unfunny, miserabilist of the lot- and probably the most actually dangerous. 298 (Rocket) Squadron's defence troops had a real job to do, and the joke had long since gone out of that, too. Too many live fires.

Too many "protesters" with sabotage in mind, too many would be thieves who thought the blast and flash of a warhead would stop just the other side of the Falls Road. It used to be a joke that the squadron had been based there by someone who sincerely hoped that one side or the other would succeed and blow the whole bloody place off the map.

It seemed rather too likely to be true, now- by Soviet warheads if not by British. On the other hand there were an awful lot of troublemakers who had tried, and were now at the bottom of shallow unmarked graves. Base security had no sense of humour, either, and it put a lot of bad actors out of circulation.

Southern Ireland, on the other hand, the difference between a protest and a piss-up outside the gates of HMS Poseidon (fourth submarine squadron, Galway Bay) was often hard to discern. Particularly as sailors departing on leave tended to get handed bottles and invited to join in.

The name of the boat changed every time the story was told so certainly apocryphal, but the tale of the drunken mob deciding to stop just blathering and actually do something, storming the gates, brawling their way through base security to the pierside and beginning to board a fleet attack sub before the adrenaline blew enough of the alcohol out of their heads to sober them enough that they recalled they were, in fact, her crew, at least fit the atmosphere of the place.


Aldermaston was the dark sun the Commonwealth's nuclear program orbited around; sheer volume requirements meant it had ceased to be a production facility after the second generation, but it retained the lead in design and theory, prototyping and testing. Protests there tended to be old school, erudite pacifists and conscientious objectors, speaking a language the Establishment could understand.

Their chief weapons were intellectual, and the most violent action they usually took was in the letter columns of the broadsheets; but they were probably the most effective of the lot, because they could make the powers that be wonder if what they were doing was the right thing.

The protesters outside Coningsby and Scampton and High Wycombe and the other metropolitan homes of RFC Bomber Command were of a lower order of intellect entirely, certainly of a lower order of coherence; immiscible punks and hippies, spawn of two different counter- cultures- both of them if not invented, there was no evidence the KGB's sense of humour worked that way, certainly supported by the enemy.

The third factor in the mix certainly was. There were still ample home- grown socialists, but increasingly not home fed. They did tend to do their master's bidding, which made most of the protests contain an element of absurdity; three way brawls between naturists, communists and nihilists were, it was frequently said, a Sod's Opera without the bother of rehearsals.


Scotland, on the other hand, the protests outside the home of First Submarine Squadron had their share of carbon copy flower children, who were ignorable and forgettable enough, but what made the protests there different was the strain of west of Scotland working class black humour that ran through them. In some cases not very far apart from that of the men on the boats.

Edinburgh, on the other hand, was more like Aldermaston, but not quite as literary- middle class douce respectability rather than upper class eccentricity. The sort of tweedy Morningside decorum that was more likely to send a note of protest than wave a placard. At least they had the wellies for it- and not that they were not, like all of them, watched closely.

This was, after all, Britain; extreme measures were possible, but fairly far beneath the surface, with lots of stages of escalation and opportunities for de- escalation long before things got that bad. 298 was the terrifying but singular exception to the rule.

At East Fortune, there was an inner layer of nutter proofing- lethal security- usually kept far enough back as not to disturb the peaceful protesters by waving the mailed fist of the state at them; or at least the ghillie- suited sniper. There was a pair underneath an inconspicuous shrub, keeping an eye on.


'The tweedies are out in force again. They've got a new sign.'

'It would be more natural of them to form a committee, surely? This is like watching cats trying to bark- anything interesting?'

'Mick's scratching his arse in public again, just to annoy them- nothing new there. Sign says "Earache." '

'I have it. "Edinburgh Against Rocketry, And Concomitant High- speed aviation Experiments." Better not let the Leuchars Loons hear about that, an invitation to tenement hopping if ever I saw one. I'll give that one a six point five.'

'Concomitant?'

'Aviation. A contrived, partial backronym- they're lucky it's even getting that.'

'They got the comma right.'

'That's the point five. The flanks?'

'Hm. Black tent mob coming down to stage a counterprotest, by the looks of it. Objecting to having their place in the rota gazumped? Mick's noticed.'

'You know, we could ruin them with video of this- the Fife Radical Anarchist Protest Party being anal about demonstration schedules.'

'That one got an eight, didn't it? They really needed the extra E on the end for full irony value. No pickaxe handles, except the reaction force, and some of those umbrellas look pointy. Could be an even fight.'

'Considering the Anarchists' membership, more like parents versus children.'

'Yes, I'd give this one to the eldsters- put that club down, young Quentin, or I'll take your trust fund away. No major movement on the other side.'

'The main body then, mostly the usual suspects, one- bloody hell, take a look at the tall dark beardy chap two to the left of the sign.'

'The one who looks like Rasputin? His body language is different, with them but not of them, doesn't fit in, they're looking at the base, he's looking in it- he's looking right at us.'

'At this distance, with the naked eye? He can't be, he'd have to have eyes like a hawk, oh, he's just hidden behind somebody.'

'Are you thinking Spetsnaz? Casing the place?'

'We wouldn't have noticed him and he wouldn't have noticed us. I wonder if that actually was Rasputin.'

'Isn't he both long, and multiply, dead? And never likely in life to have been found in the company of such as Earache anyway?'

'Yefim Gordov isn't, and his nickname in his own service-'

'Right. A Sov, then, with a reputation. If he emerges again, photos? And which service?'

'Definitely photos, make sure it's not just some random anarchist nimby numpty who looks the part. We'll need proof to send this further up- he's a bomber pilot. Soviet Naval Aviation's best, or supposed to be.'

'So what would he be doing, outside a RN facility, looking uncomfortable in plain clothes and very dodgy company? I hope you're just seeing things.'

'So do I.'


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:06 pm 
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Ooh, the plot thickens !!

OT: What is Capenhurst doing, if anything ?? In OTL, it is still, IIRC, a Cold-War Era 'Hole in the Map', embarrassing if your GPS tells you it's a short-cut...

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:04 am 
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Considering that I'd never heard of it before now, all I could offer would be a wild guess based on Google Maps; big rectangular site full of warehouses next to a major electric substation, general area of Liverpool?

In military terms Liverpool says "Western Approaches" to me; something to do with WW3 in the Atlantic, perhaps, if there is something that's worth keeping when so much else has been cut.


For the purposes of TTL, I also notice that it is close to but not directly in a major target complex, and broadly upwind. In Red Seas, then, Capenhurst's distribution- centre look is hiding a series of controlled environments used for NBC acclimatisation, teaching troops to operate on the contaminated battlefield, decontamination training, and post- strike rescue and reconstruction, and warehousing the kit required to restore a blasted Liverpool to some kind of function as an Atlantic port.

Reality will, of course, differ.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:09 am 
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Yon Trollson wrote:
Considering that I'd never heard of it before now, all I could offer would be a wild guess based on Google Maps; big rectangular site full of warehouses next to a major electric substation, general area of Liverpool?

In military terms Liverpool says "Western Approaches" to me; something to do with WW3 in the Atlantic, perhaps, if there is something that's worth keeping when so much else has been cut.


For the purposes of TTL, I also notice that it is close to but not directly in a major target complex, and broadly upwind. In Red Seas, then, Capenhurst's distribution- centre look is hiding a series of controlled environments used for NBC acclimatisation, teaching troops to operate on the contaminated battlefield, decontamination training, and post- strike rescue and reconstruction, and warehousing the kit required to restore a blasted Liverpool to some kind of function as an Atlantic port.

Reality will, of course, differ.

It is in fact a uranium enrichment plant, now owned by URENCO.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:22 am 
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Well, now we know, and actual knowledge trumps uneducated speculation again, then. Cool.


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 Post subject: Capenhurst
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:21 pm 
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OTL Capenhurst is on the Wirral, near the the River Dee's Queensferry bridges and the Airbus wings' Beluga / Beluga XL's airport, a former RAF base.

IIRC, their access road is *still* marked as 'through', but has enough tank-traps to halt even the most benighted Polish trucker running 'long & late' on caffeine and stims...

Or, of course, any-one else...
;-)

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:29 am 
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On the note of nuclear establishments, in OTL the British nuclear weapons program initially planned on building a Hanford-style water cooled plutonium production pile. Safety assessments found only two places in the country that were suitable - the banks of Loch Morar west of Fort William, and one 'near Harlech' that I suspect must have been Llanbedr airfield. The Loch Morar site was dismissed as too isolated and having geology difficult to build on, whilst Harlech was considered too culturally significant for even the relatively small risk of a nuclear accident.

That led to the design of the 'safer' air-cooled piles which made a higher risk site on the Cumbrian coast at Windscale acceptable.... the irony being, of course, that water cooled reactors could never have suffered the accident that actually took place at Windscale.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:33 pm 
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The much broader Commonwealth basis of the program would change that a bit, but considering I hadn't really expected that to be the prime focus of the story I have some research to do.

Probably the first proof of concept pile was at Cambridge Cavendish laboratories, the
first generation of plutonium breeders near but not too near to the heart of the Indian end of the program at Bombay- there's a peninsula south about 50km, Nanavali, that might do; the safety assessment under those circumstances, under the pressure of Tube Alloys, well, they would have built the thing in the cellars of Buckingham Palace if it had been necessary.

By the time of the story pebble beds have become practical enough for cutting edge uses, but I would suppose a water- cooled first breeder generation followed by gas- cooled second generation dual purpose civil/military, followed by civil PWRs thanks to naval experience crossing over, and a few specialist liquid metal fast breeders on military reservations for bomb material and highly- enriched submarine and space reactor fuel.

By about twenty- five to thirty years in, the military and civil nuclear programs becoming increasingly separate, officially in theory anyway.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:22 pm 
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Red Seas- Lake Warden 3

There may be real advantages to being footloose in a foreign land, but amazingly many of them dissolve away when you happen to be using a false identity, speak the language academically but grok not the lingo, are highly recognizable, and have been more or less shanghai'd into an "illegal" intelligence operation that you are beginning to suspect only exists because a professional paranoid behind a dusty desk somewhere put Two and Two together and got Banana.

At that precise point, Captain Second Rank Yefim Aleksandrovich Gordov was trudging back from the protest camp to the nearest bus stop and wondering if the French Foreign Legion had an air arm. It couldn't be much worse than this. Not quite crackpot enough to say something like that out loud, he was nonetheless feeling very much a fool.

And as if he should have said it very much earlier anyway, when he had been detached from unit to 'assist' military intelligence- the GRU- with this half- witted project that only a fool and a crackpot- or a desperate man- could go along with. What was the historic term? Press- ganged, that was it.

Think, man. If this situation was an aircraft, what would you do? What are the vectors, what are the options? If this situation was an aircraft I'd be vastly more in control, that's the issue. I'd also be sorely tempted to try to crash land on the designer, to punish him for his mistakes and make sure he never did it again. There have to be some metaphorical loud handles around here somewhere.


And no, not banana, those actually existed and the intelligence services wouldn't be making this much of a tantrum about them; there was a new mark due to enter service late this or early next year, a radical development that really should have been renamed, Rolls-Royce had outdone themselves.

Having produced the standard engine of the second generation, they had gone one better by producing a third generation replacement that could be directly dropped in- except it produced twice the thrust. Unfortunately nobody had bothered to build that much future proofing into the second generation, and refitting the existing types was pointless trending to dangerous. Structural fatigue, melting nosecones, that sort of thing.

The only one that seemed ready to go was a stretched variant of the Buccaneer, apparently they had kept the name to make the PVO clowns think they weren't a radically improved threat requiring greater defensive measures. They would probably be great fun to fly, but that wouldn't be worth GRU's time making him dress up and go play spy for.

What they suspected- they had had to tell him at least that much- had been sparked by the treaty- mandated notification of a nuclear test. Apparently to be conducted by a new, experimental, craft previously unknown. Mystery had multiplied itself by fear, and it seemed to confirm their worst paranoid delusions.

If they were right, Rolls- Royce had succeeded where Marquardt, General Electric and Pratt and Whitney, and Bondaryuk and Kuznetsov, had failed so far; cracking the liquid air cycle.


What that would mean for future warfare is that it would make nuclear ambush and surprise attack possible. The flight time of a ballistic missile- less if the thing started from orbit- combined with the evasion, deception, self- defence and terminal accuracy of a manned bomber. Hit the hardened bunkers; command and control decapitation, paralyzing retaliation long enough for a counterforce strike to arrive.

Potentially highly destabilizing. Worth doing something completely mad to try to avert, even he had to agree to that. If, and this was the bit he didn't believe, the damned thing actually existed. Marquardt, Bondaryuk et al had failed to come up with a working model for good thermodynamic reasons, that no cunning British widget was going to overcome.

Which did leave two important questions, one more immediate and personal than the other; what were the British up to instead? Second, how do I get out of this wild duck chase? If they were looking for someone to break into an airfield and steal a plane, he had, as the police who would be looking for him would say, form. An inter- unit prank that had got just a bit out of hand. Provided the plane actually existed...

That option was a failure anyway. They couldn't or wouldn't help him get in.


Granted that most of the protesters had been on his side, theoretically, and that also theoretically they were at least petty bourgeois and smarter than the average semiliterate Siberian yak herder, he would have felt less out of place with the shepherds. Or for that matter with the yaks, which usually displayed more practical common sense. Arguably more than he had in becoming the primary candidate for something this crazed.

Looking around, it wasn't the most spectacular part of the country, true, but soaring mountains and aviation facilities tended not to mix well; he wasn't from the most spectacular bit of Russia either except in some of the art galleries, Leningrad/Saint Petersburg, their own stroke city where the respective warring factions were the living and the dead, and the bright socialist future looked very far away.

The landscape did not quite suit his mood, though- ideally, it would be dim with overcast and pouring rain. Maybe I am the New Soviet Man, he thought; designed by committee and ill- appropriate to any naturally existing condition.

It was equally unlikely that an earlier race memory would suddenly reassert itself and he would morph in Lysenko- esque fashion into a direct descendant of his ancestors, and would not be entirely helpful if they did; the family name had indeed been Gordon once, even if the details of exactly who had emigrated exactly where, precisely when, and what gallows they had been ducking out from under at the time, had been as vague as a sea story.


The version he preferred was that the great- to-the- somethingth grandfather and patriarch of the line had been loyal to the Covenant, that (in Socialist terms) early attempt, still misguided but definitely moving in the right direction, to reclaim the people's sense of right and wrong from bishops and kings and organized religion;

had fought in that gallant but doomed cause, left one step ahead of the Government's executioners- initially for Sweden, but it wasn't the Thirty Years' War any more, had got into almost as much trouble there, and- whatever the Swedish equivalent of "and no great mischief if they fall" was, it had been said, and he and his command had been left to a desperate rearguard stand against the rising sun of Peter the Great.

They had done well enough that the giant Czar had been quite generous to the survivors, including offering them jobs if they chose to follow him. Having unaccountably lost his affection for Sweden, Michael, soon to be Mikhail, Gordon had decided to take it and see what happened next.


Two and about two- thirds of a century later, one of his descendants had returned (under false colours) to see what the compounders and the stay- behinds had made of the old place.

Actually that would involve going further north, and he doubted the GRU would countenance his disappearing for a month or so's hiking holiday around Aberdeenshire at this phase of the operation. Especially not as he had vocally opined that the operation was raving idiocy, the patient was already dead, and they might as well go on holiday, there would be no call for his talents anyway.

Somebody in the Northern Fleet zampolit's office, he thought, wondering what the exact English equivalent of "zampolit" was and deciding that the straightforward translation of political officer sounded too professional and lacked the overtones of caustic ooze, is enjoying thinking of me suffering, floundering, hopelessly ill at ease in their world.

Of course, given some of his misdemeanours to date, it had probably been an absolute gift to them when a situation suddenly came up where they needed a top fast jet pilot, one of the elite, to go and do something spy- like and stupidly dangerous that he probably wouldn't come back from...well, there was only going to be one name at the head of the list.

No great mischief if they fall, indeed- but it very much depends who a bomber pilot falls on, doesn't it?


Squelch and splurtching sounds of someone catching him up. Lucy, probably; the one he had pegged as the most likely- what did they call it, the Security Service, as if security could ever be made to serve anyone else's ends but their own. The infiltrator.

Why anyone would want to infiltrate that shower was a mystery, unless what they overheard and watched the hired imbeciles do was what passed for comedy in the dark little warrens of the secret police. It could not have taken any competent chekist long to realise that they had zero potential for actual disruption. Except as a shield for people like him, had been the theory.

And unless they had been making themselves look good on their reports by claiming they had an organised and motivated guerilla army ready to strike, practically...well, that was almost comedy, except he was on the wrong end of the joke.

To be fair, she did not look like one of the dark little picts that had re- emerged in industrial Scotland; at a guess at least one of her parents had been a White Pole, a Catholic anti- communist, emigre. Albeit to a hotbed of Presbyterianism- nobody got it right every time.

'Gordon, wait, come back.' With next to no preparation, the false name in his passport had to be fairly close to his own if he was going to react at all naturally to it. Gordon Alexander, mature student, American- which could cover a multitude of sins- come to do a postgraduate degree in English literature, in a country which still had enough sense to think that comic books didn't count.

He did not know how they had come up with that bit of the cover, although he grudgingly had to admit that it made a vague level of sense. It certainly minimized the chances of him doing anything embarrassing like turning up to seminars. Presumably an eng.lit student was exactly the sort who might be expected to be a part- timer at best and deeply involved in politics.


Also presumably, the false identity actually went as far as having him enrolled at the university; it might be fun to go along one day, just to be able to tell the story in the Kilpyavr officers' mess. Kapteyn Gordov, Hero of the Soviet Union, PhD and bar. If he ever made it back, there was that.

It was Lucy from MI5's voice all right, and they weren't very far away yet; within the sound of shouting. Or gunshot, but worrying about that might be a little late. I can probably walk away from this, he thought, as long as we both keep acting. What a silly language English is, at times; it could do with "acting" and "active" being further apart.

'To what?' he rounded on her, deciding not to wait. Get the first salvo off. That and he had a lot of anger and frustration to work out- about the useful idiot brigade, about the mission to nowhere. 'Do you know what you're protesting against in there? You claim to be a socialist, a good socialist is supposed to be an atheist also, yes? Rejecting the concept of deity as a tool of the oppressive structure of class- but is that a good enough explanation?

Why do men- people- civilizations, at all stages of economic development, persistently and consistently invent him? Why do more cultures seek and create deity than successfully invent fire and the wheel? Why don't we have a satisfactory explanation for that that doesn't involve automatically accusing our ancestors of being contemptibly stupid, and how are we their descendants supposed to be different?


Are we simply doing the same thing with the complicated and half comprehended language of the real- causally, reverse this- as we are with our own literary creations- looking for the bits between the lines, looking for the submerged ultrastructure, looking for the author? Even sometimes for the author of ourselves, even though we are him, because we have forgotten how the trick is done?

God did not exist, and we have invented him. I think I am homing in on a new theory of socialism; the means of production are merely a specific and inevitably compromised iteration, bearing roughly the same relation as Clausewitz' distinction between real and ideal, of the means of creation- which is exactly what you are objecting to.

Pretty much the whole idea of the socialism we both claim to believe in is that civilization is a feedback loop, society makes people and people make society, You must improve one to improve the other, if you improve one you inevitably improve the other, let's leave the bootstrap problem aside to another day- What do you claim to believe in that lets you object to human improvement?'

She has to be suspicious of me, he thought, apart from the fact that I am simply generally suspicious. How long can the state spy on people before it makes them security conscious? 'Behind those fences, and at only a dozen places around the world, are the furnaces of human re- creation where better men are made, men who can reach up and touch the heavens. And you protest against this?'


Within the fences, they were after all British and nobody was going to be that melodramatic about it; but they knew they had something to protect. It was rather a chaotically planned site, grown rather than organised, with bits of it repeatedly repurposed.

They were unlikely to need Black Prince satellite launchers again, so the original launch control complex had been converted into base defence command- mainly air defence, they were rather near the coast; that made for a rather impressive ops room, that had occasionally been used as a film set- with the marines tucked away in a broom closet where they couldn't trail mud and cam paint over all the shinies.

Not far off, in actuality. The ground defence team were, because of the whole civil interaction thing, usually older, more seasoned and calmer than the average Marine; it wasn't quite a retirement posting- what they were looking after was far too valuable, and explosive, for that- but it was one where the imperative was to avoid action.

The Royal Marines were not their American cousins; had a rather different attitude, because of where they fitted into their respective national grand strategies. The Twentieth Century had done interesting things to them, and there had been moments in the Great War where it looked as if they could have gone down the same path as the USMC, as their nation's ready intervention force- but interservice politics had largely put an end to that.

The sitting First Lord at the time, Churchill, had been quite effectively diverted onto one of his hobby- horses by the then First Sea Lord, Battenberg- who, shamefully, had been a victim of rabid mob xenophobia, but had lasted long enough to cause the creation of the Royal Marine (Landship) Division; and possibly prevent the manic Churchill from derailing the conduct of the war entirely.


The RMLD had served, and well, but at the end of the war a complicated deal had been struck in which the tanks and anyone who wanted to stay with them were transferred to the Army, in exchange for the Navy getting to keep an independent air arm. Essentially.

Which meant that the mid turning to late Twentieth Century royal marines were very much ship's troops again, the infantry of the navy, used whenever the sea needed to deal with the shore and there was not time (or patience, or budget, or transport- but mainly patience) to organise something with the Army.

Frequently their duties included taking care of various small incidents here and there around the world, and making sure there was no need for ground forces, or journalists like as not, to get involved. They also did the shore side security for naval bases scattered across the Commonwealth, up to and including tactical air defence with Rapier and Flash missiles- but not the long range Darts and Envoys.

East Fortune was not a great posting for the sort of young, action- hungry, gung-banzai red blooded lunatic they liked to see emerge from basic training; it was for someone on the other side of that, who ranked being shot at as not quite as good as a nice cup of tea.


There was a minor incident at the main gate, and they were now considering it. There was a telescopic camera system- removed from an RFC fighter that had had a little landing accident and lost rather more bits after coming to a halt than before- mounted on the surviving old airship mooring mast that nobody bothered to look at much any more; there was footage.

'Well, it looks like the mad monk all right- which only means that it could be Gordov.' The duty watch platoon commander opined. 'First guess is that that makes it more likely it isn't; a student idiot who looked like Rasputin might play up to it. A professional sent undercover would surely change their appearance? They would have shaved him at least.'

'...point.' His platoon sargeant had to acknowledge. 'Even so, he feels right. Or wrong. He's older, he's long sighted, enough to spot our hide, he's not one of them. Maybe he should have, but didn't.'

'Where did you come to hear of him?'

'On Victorious- 41 Squadron had his picture on their dartboard. If it is him, what does it mean?'

'Considering what he did to Victorious, I'm not surprised. They may never live that down. 344 air defence squadron Scapa had something similar, except it wasn't their dartboard.''

'Better than what he did to Constellation. So why have they let him out to play, why is he here?''

'You've been told, officially, as much as I have; unless you have that different a perspective on what we haven't been officially told...the rocket boys are up to something. They're not saying what, I'm not sure our lot actually know what even if they wanted to tell us. The reds probably know more than we do. Perhaps enough to be really worried.'

'Even so- you send a spy if you need something spied on. You send a pilot to sodding well pilot.'

'What's up now? He's leaving the idiot zone on his own, angry gestures. Someone's gone after him. Now which side did we have her down as belonging to again?'


Yefim Gordov was realising he had made anther dangerous mistake, as Lucy reached into her pocket. 'Ah. I had you down as British security.'


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