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Ship to ship combat with an unknown invader

  1. Aug 27, 2015 #1
    I'm writing a short story (which if holds true to form is going to turn into a hundred page mini book). Basically it's set along the border of two human nations in space. Aliens are known and there is some trading and visitations, and some wars.

    The story is following a captain of a heavy cruiser doing a retuine border patrol. Just looking for any sign of incursion (unlikely), pirates and outlaws (semi likely), and whatever else might happen on the boring border. Humans in this story are using faster than light drives mostly, but there are other ways to get around. Anyway the captain's ship detects a huge jump gate into a system on the other side of the border. Minutes later civilian distress calls start pouring out. Humanitarian and law enforcement cooperation arn't uncommon.

    It's an agricultural colony, assuming it's an accident involving a race of traders that visit every few years he takes his ship across to assist and discovers an unknown alien vessel, both species and design, systematically destroying a colony of several million people.

    I'm just wondering what steps you guys think this captain would undertake before engaging someone committing genocide.This is the main part where I'm kinda stuck since it seems my current writing is a little thin here. Namely what do you think the people would say and do, and the fact that someone has to point out that these are just fellow humans, not members of the same nation or even allies.

    A space battle between this shiny new and not fully equipped ship breaks out. Eventually the locals own rapid response fleet arrives and the humans defeat this attacker, but decide to capture the ship. At this point I'm planning on it turning into a kind of diplomatic fight as the captain and the responders agree to work together to figure out who these guys were, deal with the arriving brass, and the crisis on the planet that was attacked. So ideas about this stage would be appreciated, I have some but a few more would be appreciated.

    And of course the aliens arn't done with their strange ship and nonsensical unprovoked attack.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2015 #2


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    I don't really understand what you need, it's your story. What are the cultural norms here? Do nations view people from other nations as equal? Are there international treaties governing responses to S.O.S messages? What is your character actually like? Brave? Cowardly? Stickler-for-rules? Maverick? That will all determine the story.

    Regarding the salvage question that does seem interesting. The home nation can make the argument that the wreck belongs to them as it is in their territory and it attacked their people. The other nation could argue that it was them who disabled the ship and this new species might be a threat to them to. If you conclude that after heavy negotiation they agree to explore jointly there's plenty of scope for story in tension between the two groups. Especially if both go through the motions of shared discovery but also try to keep certain things for themselves. Bonus character idea: one of the home nation engineers has relatives on the planet so is friendly/helpful to the crew that saved the planet.
  4. Aug 27, 2015 #3
    I think a human captain would consider it a loss. They would watch for a while and size up the invader. If they are beyond our technology and our allies, which is highly likely, it's an acceptable military strategy to retreat. Sending in reinforcements would be an effort in futility. Colonists must simply accept that there are creatures more powerful than us out there and they take that risk when they leave Earth. The only place I think we would fight to the very last man is our home planet. A conflict between to space faring species will probably almost never be a fair fight, and would almost never even be a david vs goliath fight, most of the time it'd be like david vs megatron.

    Any self respecting invader would likely already know that we are unable to contend with them. Rule #1 of war: know thy enemy. The would likely have already analyzed the technology on the planet and determined our level of technological evolution, if it's even 100 years behind theres, we wouldn't pose much of a threat.

    "We have analyzed your defensive capabilities as being unable to withstand us. If you defend yourselves, you will be punished." - The Borg meeting The Enterprise
  5. Aug 27, 2015 #4
    "captain of a heavy cruiser"?

    So military? Waiting would mean a few more hundreds killed? The correct answer is - what his procedures tell. ;) (You must think about some reasonable rules of engagement, that he would try to follow by default)

    So the first impression is that it is that there are some kind of pirates? I'd expect to treat them as hostis humani generis. So rather just shoot, unless there is a good reason not to do that (rules of engagement? More powerful enemy ship? The massacred are being hated by your nation?)

    My guess would involve:
    -alarm procedure - fastening all seat belts, closing all compartments of the ship, switching off all unnecessary systems
    -sending signal to HQ (does he need a permission from HQ to open fire?), just in case to inform them about the event
    -if they are his allies and he feels confident enough concerning ship firepower - opening fire, no negotiation, better achieve surprise, but keep some communication channel open in case the enemy started surrendering
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  6. Aug 27, 2015 #5
    I think that in this case the captain would learn that it is an alien ship after a while of engagement. So retreat is not so likely... I mean if the alien haven't shot him down, then actually they are not so overpowerful.

    This future tech thing is correct, however:
    -no idea, whether there wouldn't be a kind of plateau, mature technologies, etc... (like ex. M1911 pistol...)
    -no idea whether aliens are not overconfident
    -no idea whether aliens have higher priorities like ex. a civil war

    You've got a valid point concerning alien preparation. They fail it in so many films ;)
    (that would look amateurish, but there may be some legitimate reasons like overconfidence or hastily made decision)
  7. Aug 28, 2015 #6


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    The OP seems to be writing a soft science fiction setting, a staple of those is that technology always seems to be similar amongst starfaring races (with a few exceptions at either extreme). It might not be realistic but it's fun if done well.

    That's assuming this attacker is a serious invading force. It could just be opportunistic fun or a rushed attack for ideological reasons (see the people's crusade for an IRL example).
  8. Aug 28, 2015 #7
    ryan_m_b: My original request was thinking about the interaction o the bridge when they arrive, the things that they run through. I have the scene mostly sketched out b8ut it seems a little flat and was fishing for some ideas for some dialogue.

    A big part of this story is going to be they receive the distress signal and move to intercept expecting a humanitarian crisis. With the idea that war tends to result in bad information and the concept that a ship moving at a high speed can't get a clear sense of whats ahead of its self results in the ship arriving in the middle of this. So I'm trying t figure out the conversation as they try to assess the situation.


    First off I have to slap you fire for the megatron reference even before I put up my avatar. :)

    Second why assume that humans are always going to be the under dog? I also suggest you look to history, the side with more advanced technology has lost for all manner of reasons from simple numbers to creativity. Wile your right it is a David versus Goliath thing for the end of the war, but its utterly possible to win the day.

    And not to mention war is frequently the art of the possible. Maybe you can't win a straight up fight so you avoid that. Hit the enemy where you can win and move on. For the purpose of my story this captain wasn't suppose to be there and they where attacking an agriculture colony. Hence they knew and were winning. I didn't mention it but I plan on having my ship stop their escape, something the locals couldn't do.


    Yes I'm imagining it as a Military ship. And the ship arrives in time see them systematically bombing the cities of the colony with several million people on it and destroying any civilian ships that are trying to escape.

    And for rules of engagement, this was suppose to just be a peaceful patrol on the border of a rival power. Defense only, maybe deal with with pirates or smugglers if the oppertunity presented itself. And then the whole thing explodes out of nowhere.

    At the moment I have this ship entering the planets defense zone expecting to come into a either exploding or crashed ship and in full humanitarian relief response and instead finding a major assult. I have a few small locals ships trying to deal with it, but just completely out classed. Captain see this and his line is basically" What the hell is that? Takes us to combat status." and have his crew run through that kind of stuff before they figure out what to do.
  9. Aug 28, 2015 #8
    OK, but there are usually some procedures, etc. Ex. no country expects having president/prime minister assassinated, however each country has procedures with whom to replace him. Same here. I'd think what would be the procedure if this was just an pirate raid? Would he be expected to intervene? If yes, then the default approach would be just opening fire to unidentified ship. Or maybe he is ordered while facing pirates who could be a match for him and not direct threat to his country ships to back down? Then it would be matter of his conscience and preservation instinct.

    Anyway - the planet don't have any stationary defence?
  10. Aug 28, 2015 #9


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    Send me a private message or a link with what you have so far and I'll try to give you some pointers.
  11. Aug 29, 2015 #10
    What are the IRL examples?

    I assume the captain would do the following things : if he can, send a signal (i dont know what are FTL message possibilities?). Try to estimate, whether his ship would be a match for the invader? (That can be a debate among more careful and more heroic types.) If no, try to observe and get more data, and call reinforcements. If yes, then prepare for jump or high-G manuever, everyone stop chit-chat, using holoroom for durty purposes, check weapons systems, put on helmets in case the ship would hit and depressurized. Once in combat range, dont give any warnings for those killing innocent people, simply fire.
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