More of the Story of the Belleau Wood

May 10th, 2013

The ship came alive in Belle’s sensors, the energies she would unleash slowly building as the countdown approached the zero mark. Twenty hours earlier she had begun charging the toroid magnets of the Constriction Channel, flooding them with liquid helium, then gently ramping up the current running through them, monitoring for any hint of failure. There was none, she had been diligent the past ninety days, expending her meager repair reserves to ensure integrity of the main reaction drive and supporting systems. Nonetheless she had built in a comfortable safety margin in case anything cropped up as the system was placed under full load for the first time in nearly 1000 subjective years.

Detection arrays were retracted, gossamer constructs that could not withstand the deceleration she would subject herself to over the next year. Fuel to thrust calculations were updated real-time as any new information became available. Belleau Wood had been collecting and compressing fuel throughout her long voyage, a 1500 kilometer wide electromagnetic field funneling stray hydrogen and helium atoms into the processors for sorting into useful isotopes and mere coolant or cold reaction mass. The tanks were fully charged, deuterium/tritium compressed nearly to the point of collapsing into degenerate matter. Once the Drive was fired there would be more energy…

Belle herself was running at only twenty percent capacity and most ship’s systems were powered down in order to send all available power to the Drive. Everything indicated it would ignite as scheduled, but if anything went wrong Belleau Wood would streak through the system at nearly .25C and likely not even be noticed.

Approaching from 13 degrees above the plane of the ecliptic, just outside the orbit of Neptune, Belleau Wood announced herself to the Solar System as hydrogen poured into the reaction chamber and was compressed beyond the point of atomic cohesion, collapsing and reformulating in a blaze of energy arcing out in the general direction of the Sun. Belle ran the thrust up slowly, but relentlessly to just over .28 standard gravities, sufficient to set her on speed and course to overtake her target in just over a year and still leave her sufficient fuel to navigate upon arrival. She could have shortened the interval, diving deep into the system and decelerating at more than four standard gravities, but there were too many variables she could not account for. Besides, she wanted the target to see her coming.

Belle ran through weeks of diagnostics once the drive was running and her supply of energy became nearly unlimited. Satisfied Belleau Wood was sound Belle began to fiddle with the mix of elements pouring through the Drive, creating a brilliant visible light for her target world to see. A beacon to draw the attention of any who might be watching.

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