Sunday September 21, 2003
Book 4: The Blackness Between — Part I: Needle in a Haystack


Narrator: In the 31st century, the energy available to galactic civilizations goes waaay beyond being plentiful.
Narrator: Annihilation reactors, or "Annie Plants," breed their own neutronium fuel grains, and by converting that mass directly to energy, have power output sufficient to light cities for centuries.
Narrator: Starships, especially warships, have even larger annie plants.
Narrator: They have to -- the energy cost incurred by manipulating gravity for thrust, inertiic compensators, and shielding would make a land-lubbing meter-reader wet himself.
MeterReader: Whoa.
Narrator: There is a drawback, though. Power use on these scales is so far out of proportion to the strength of even very unconventional materials that space battles do not leave many merely wounded ships behind. No, what gets left behind is expanding clouds of what used to be very expensive composites.
Narrator: Thus, when you find a wounded ship, you may be looking at evidence of extreme competence.
Ennesby: Sir, scans have located the Athens. Or half of her, anyway.
Ennesby: Her aft half is gone, annie-plant and everything. The fore section and annie-plant are still intact.
Tagon: Is this battle-scarring from the Buuthandi attack, or something more recent?
Ennesby: Unknown. For all I can tell, they could have accidentally blown that end of the ship off while backing out of the driveway.
Narrator: Then again, you might be holding proof of absolute incompetence. Beating the bell curve is like that.