Monday, September 8, 2008

Chasing a can-hauler

"They thought it wouldn't be a problem. They had the fastest ships the military had, made to run down the fastest military ships the other side had. Their target was a can-hauler, big and slow. It shouldn't be a contest.

Well, they forgot one thing. Their target had a maximum rated mass of 37.5 million tons. 30 million tons of that was cargo capacity, not actual mass. And it's engines were rated to shove it around while fully loaded. Sure, it's slow carrying a full 25-30 million tons of extra mass around. But blow the bays, dump all that mass, strip the ship down to a bare frame and suddenly instead of 37.5 million tons it's only about 7.5 million tons. Now you've got 100% of it's maximum power and only 20% of the mass to move. Performance suddenly is... significantly better.

Nobody really knows how fast a can-hauler can top out at. None of the factory test pilots ever had the guts to keep the throttles wide-open until she stopped accelerating, and once one's delivered no owner's ever going to run one empty if they can help it. But being chased by a fleet hell-bent on blowing you to plasma definitely qualifies as "can't help it".

As it turns out, the fleet was right: it wasn't a contest. They were just wrong about who was going to lose.

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