Getting a Technology System in Modern Day - Chapter 380: A Moment of Compassion Amidst Destruction
Chapter 380 A Moment of Compassion Amidst Destruction
The moment the final Edenian satellite reached a higher orbit, Aeolus immediately got to work.
Aboard the EV Beowulf.
As Eden’s flagship aircraft carrier and the first one completed, although only older in terms of minutes or hours, rather than years, the Beowulf was naturally the first to be called to duty. A swarm of activity was in progress in one of the massive internal hangers as an entire carrier air wing (CAW) was being refitted for high-altitude operations.
While the E/F-14 Icarus multirole interceptor jets were capable of reaching and operating near the Karman Line, that didn’t mean that they had the necessary fuel capacity to maintain operations for long. For intercepting missiles or shortening flight times from one place to another, they would be fine. But for the upcoming operation, where they would be spending an extended period in active maneuvers, they would need to undergo some hasty modular swaps.
Thus, the flight crews were moving like a hive of worker bees, each ensuring that the pilot they were responsible for would be able to carry out their mission without any issues. Aeolus Air Force doctrine had pilots assigned to specific flight crews, rather than having crews assigned to pilots’ jets. After all, unlike in normal air forces, where each jet was a significant investment of dozens of millions of dollars, Aeolus jets were highly replaceable and could basically be reprinted at will.
Aeolus jets were also designed to be modular. The current mission called for high-altitude operations near the Karman Line, so the crews were attaching drop tanks—discardable auxiliary fuel tanks—to some of the hardpoints beneath the jets’ wings and on the underside of its belly. The E/F-14B Icarus had eight hardpoints on the wings and one secondary hardpoint on its belly, and the flight crews were busy attaching six underwing drop tanks and one belly drop tank as the pilots were receiving their operations briefing in the pilots’ ready room.
Once the modifications and briefings were complete, the pilots and copilots of 240 jets boarded their planes and were towed to the twelve massive flight deck elevators, where they were lifted the hundred meter distance from the hangar to the flight deck and towed to their positions all along the flight line. Soon, Eden would perform another unprecedented feat in a long, unbroken string of unprecedented feats.
The entire process, from the time Aron mentioned “taking away their toys” to the time the jets had been modified, pilots scrambled, and lined up along the flight line in preparation for takeoff, had only taken an hour.
Everything was ready and only Aron’s order remained to be given.
Aron stood facing a holographic screen, splitting his attention between a number of information feeds showing the progress of various plans and projects, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Aeolus,” he said.
“Clear skies is a go.”
[Yes, sir. Estimated time of completion is six hours real time.]
Aron nodded and went back to focusing on the projects he had in progress. The war would soon be over, but the unification would have a long way to go even after the last gun spoke in anger.
He had to be prepared.
Upon receiving the go order, the pilots began launching from the flight deck of the EV Beowulf in good order. Thanks to the rigorous training they had received and the onboard AI assistants in each jet, as well as the long flight line allowing for normal takeoff and landings instead of relying on catapults and arrestor gears, only two seconds were required between each launch. With four runways in operation, the jets had all launched in two minutes and formed into squadrons of four jets each within another minute.
As one, they activated their afterburners and began a steep climb, headed to the Karman Line to, as Aron put it, “take away their toys”.
At the speed they were climbing, it only took the pilots two minutes to reach the Karman Line and level off.
“Let’s shoot and scoot, boys, we’ve only got about two hours to bingo,” the flight leader said over their communications network.
“Roger,” the squadron leaders below him chorused.
The 240-strong flight broke into 60 squadrons of four jets each and headed in different directions. Their goal was simple: take down every satellite in low earth orbit that didn’t belong to Eden.
Once each squadron reached their operational area, they released control of their missiles to the AIs installed in each jet. The squadrons broke up into individual jets and began following the course laid out in the pilots’ AR HUDs while their jets occasionally released missiles. Normally, with most of their hardpoints occupied by drop tanks, they would only be able to fire two shots before shooting themselves dry, but each hardpoint had a dedicated atomic printer that could rearm them on the fly. The only limiting factor was the small storage space for materials the jet could carry; but with the drop tanks rapidly being emptied of fuel, they were simply recycled and turned into more missiles.
On average, each jet fired more than twenty missiles, all of which were smaller versions of the Type VII Frangible flak rounds. They were set to timed detonation, turning them into fire-and-forget munitions that would fill space with deadly debris that would begin a domino effect where each satellite destroyed by them would break up and destroy more satellites, which would then spread the destruction even further.
“You know,” one squadron leader mused over comms, “I kinda feel sorry for those poor fellows in the ISS. Nobody’s gonna be able to reach them before the shrapnel wave does, but they can see everything that’s happening and know exactly what’s coming for them.”
“Actions have consequences, and the world leaders shouldn’t have been greedy,” the flight leader responded.
“But I still feel bad for them. We could at least contact them and bring their last words home with us.... After all, with the satellite network down and all the jamming and electronic warfare happening up there, their comms got cut off a while ago.”
The flight leader fell silent for a moment, thinking of the possible repercussions, then Aron’s voice broke into the comms.
“Do it,” he ordered. He didn’t say anything else, nor did he need to. With those two simple words, he had already expressed his sentiments. Nova had informed him of the situation aboard the aging space station; their Soyuz module had cold welded itself to the docking ring, and thanks to lowest-bidder manufacturing, the backup explosive bolts had failed. Thanks to the weld, though, it wouldn’t have mattered that the bolts failed, as the module wouldn’t have been able to create an airtight seal and would’ve burned up in reentry.
(Ed note: Cold welding happens when you have two identical metals with no protective oxidized layer on them pressed against each other in a vacuum. Since there’s no surface oxidation, the two pieces of metal join together and become one piece; it’s a major problem in space operations and something they normally engineer to avoid. The ISS, though, having modules made by so many different countries and by so many different manufacturers, has had issues with cold welding in the past.)
No matter what, it was a loss for humanity. The astronauts aboard the space station had nothing to do with the mess currently on the surface, and their goal had always been noble. Aron had great respect for astronauts, who were all pioneers and brave men and women who sought nothing more than the betterment of humanity. One of his heroes, the Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, said something that had shaped his beliefs and influenced him even to this day: “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it.”
Perhaps that was why Aron was so set on his course.
“You heard the boss, establish contact and record their final words for posterity,” the flight leader ordered.
The pilot nearest the ISS increased power to his radio and forced his way through the jamming. “International Space Station, this is Dumper. If you look out your south window, you might be able to see me waggling my wings.” He waggled his wings in salute to the ISS before realizing that nobody would be able to see him from that far away. Even though he was practically in space, he was still kilometers away from the space station.
He continued, “Errr, well... maybe not. But you have more important things to think of than a jet doing a high-altitude flyby. I’ve been ordered to record your last words for posterity, and I promise you we’ll ensure that they’re privately delivered to your next of kin. There’s nothing we can do to help you from here, but there’s a huge swarm of space debris headed your way. You’ve got about eight minutes before I’m bingo fuel and have to RTB. I’ll clear the channel now and you can go ahead. Dumper out.”
With that, a combat mission gained humanitarian elements that day. It wasn’t the first time in the history of the world that had happened and it became just another instance of wartime compassion in a long list of compassionate acts between enemies facing each other on the front lines.