Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 67: The Adjustment

This is the 67th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Adjustment, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 2nd February 2013

Word count: 816

The story:

“Most of you will have read the briefing,” John Lucas stated, “But if you’ll indulge me I’ll recap.”

The collected Admirals of the Star Core, politicians of the Commonwealth, and business men from all over the known systems all nodded their head in consent. many having been too busy to read the briefing packs before arriving.

“This,” John indicated the seven foot, model just behind him, “Is your standard S five hundred thirty medium range phased gun. It is the main stay of the Star Core  defensive and offensive weaponry. It fires slugs of metal up to three quartet light speed through the use of a Keeling field, which reduces the mass of the shot. It’s am awesome and terrific gun. It’s also one of the most accurate guns fitted to ships.”
John walked to a console in front of a seven foot screen.

“This footage, unfortunately it’s real,” he said sombrely, “Is from the GX Twenty-three Hundred C3 that was on patrol in orbit around Orion Sierra Alpha.”

The footage played, the video showed the POV from the guns, the Orion’s gun camera. It spins around, and clear in view is a speck. John pointed at the screen, and then spread his fingers and the image enlarge losing the barrels as it zoomed past.

The speck became a ship, the halo caused by it’s engines clearly visible even at the range.

“As you can see, this was the renegade ship that breached the security cordon around the Shortle Collective’s cluster of planets and stations. It carried no weapons, so wasn’t flagged as a concern. It did however enter into a high burn. The brave and intelligent pilot who’s gun camera caught these pictures has seen the threat, now he’s analysing it, and trying to raise the ship on comms. Exactly as he should.”

The ship in view was getting larger as it approached.

“Satisfied this is a significant threat, the trajectory and speed of the ship is obviously kamikaze. He chooses to open fire,” John waves his fingers and the image zooms out, the guns are visible, suddenly the guns flash causing light wash on the image.

“I’ve slowed the footage down. You can see the traces of the shots as they zoom towards the target. If I zoom in on the ship watch what happens,” John waved his fingers and the ship was zoomed in much larger. “See here, two of the hundred shots land. Not enough to cause the catastrophic damage required. Did pilot who got everything else right, miss? Was he neglecting his duty not picking his shots better?”

“It’s not that simple,” an Admiral said standing up for his pilots.

“You’re right, quite quite right. Records show the guns were fired near perfectly, only three were off target. Yet only two hit an oncoming target making no evasive maneuvers. The reason is that these guns are so powerful that they move, even on the surest of mounts, microscopic movements, but over range and at high speed it’s throwing shots off considerably. The guns fire so fast, no pilot, and so far no computer can handle it.

“That’s why you’ve all been invited here today. I’m not a weapons salesman, and I don’t represent the big arms companies. I just saw a problem, and have a solution. I’ll admit, I intend on making a profit, but what price can you put on the defence of our realm.”

The demonstration that John Lucas went on to show, was for a series of tiny servos that adjusted the placement of the gun near microscopically, in conjunction with an advanced array of sensors that used the targeting system to calibrate the guns on the fly.

After several simulations, and a demonstration in space, the clamour was universal. All parts of the armed forces, and trusted partners that had ships fitted with similar guns were ready to place orders.

There was just John Lucas’s assistant, and in real life first mate, and John Lucas himself, or in real life Arséne Frassin, Captain of the Diligent a Corsair ship.

“I still don’t get why we’re selling something that gives us a distinct advantage over everyone else. Arty came up with a great idea, we’ve just given it to the enemy,” Josef Novotný said.

It had amused Arséne to keep his first mate in the dark on this, but it was a genuine concern.

“Well first off there’s the money, accurate guns don’t do us any favours on a ship that’s got broken legs. We’ve just made a small mint, and haven’t even had to break a law, except maybe misrepresentation, and fraud. But, I had Arty build in some additional features,” Arséne said, “Like remote calibration.”

“Remote calibration? How does that help us?”

“Well, imagine if calibration were off somewhat, but only when they fired at us?”

“Well yeah, that’s a hell of an additional feature,” Josef said.

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