ACM 124 Stonefish
A Terran Trade Authority writeup
Although the Alphan military entered the Proxima War with a tested triad of
systems, the Alpha Centaurian engineering establishment had a long tradition
of experimental advances spurred on by rivalries with their smaller neighbor star. The most well-known ships of the Alphan forces during
the first part of the Proxima War are the ACM 113 Fatboy interceptor, the
ACM 115 Minnow Scouting and Reconaissance ship, and the ACM 118 Manta
heavy weapons carrier. Later in the war, the introduction of the ACM 128
Stingray heralded the transition of the Alphan command structure to
multirole vessels, and the Stingray — a beautifully dynamic design with
its characteristic squarecut delta wing — has become the symbol of late war
Alphan spacecraft technology.
In between the two generations, however, there were a rash of hastily-designed
prototypes and proofs of concept, commissioned and (when possible) run through
trials to test the Terran military design axiom
of multirole ships while struggling to adapt
Alphan technology, production lines, doctrine and
tactics to the new way of war. The ACM 124 Stonefish was one of the
most memorable of these interim ship types.
In 2052, while Sol witnessed the Battle for Mars, Alphan technical bureaus
were frantically toiling away in various deep-space labs and fabrication
plants, producing these new designs. One team, isolated on what had been a
not-very-productive orbital smelter station, found themselves with a
bit of an advantage. At the station was a custom spaceframe which had been
procured to transport heavy mining equipment through the asteroid
belt area in order to position it for transporting or actually mining the
various planetismals found there. As a result, while it had the space to
carry heavy equipment and the engine power to move significant mass, it was
nevertheless quite nimble, its builders having
realized that maneuvering among perhaps dozens of randomly-vectored
asteroids would require a ship able to not only move quickly but reorient
itself quickly as well.
The company which owned the smelter (and had ordered the ship) had never seen
the returns on the project they had hoped, but the military engineering team
exiled to the facility during the dark middle years of the war saw in it a
golden opportunity. Modifying its custom-shaped holds to carry standardized
mass ordnance (missile weapons of various sizes and capabilities), they
utilized its oversized mining reactor to drive a pair of particle
accelerators modelled on the Terran OPA-8 but sized up significantly.
As the ship had never been intended to enter atmosphere, it was almost
completely lacking in streamlining. However, the requirement that it maneuver
effectively in crowded space meant that the form of the vessel was rather
efficient; a squared, squat cigar, with the massive and efficient ion drive
at the rear, small crew compartment at the front, and missile bays in between
with ejector systems allowing the launch of weapons to the sides and 'down'.
The finished product was startlingly ugly, festooned with varicolored plating
(whatever the team had been able to steal) and with all manner of military
systems upgrades installed directly onto the skin to avoid increasing the
internal systems complexity. As a result, the Terrans who first laid eyes on
it kept the tradition of codenaming Alphan ships after sea creatures, but
christened it the Stonefish in tribute to its unlovely appearance.
The ACM 124 Stonefish was not, itself, a success. Although capable, the team
had simply underestimated the cost and complexity of the original
spaceframe, making the ship impractical to build in the quantities demanded
by the prosecution of the war. In addition, although it had impressive
weapons loadout, thrust, maneuverability and durability, the very complexity
added by the new design caused it to suffer from extremely poor reliability.
The lack of any provision for atmospheric flight meant that was only
deployable from highly vulnerable spacebases or from capital ships.
Even so, it served admirably, for that is not the end of its tale. A talented
Alphan designer and a reckless Terran stingship pilot (atmospheric) who had
met in a chance encounter came across the trials of the Stonefish.
The designer realized that an entirely new-build ship could cure most of the
reliability and cost ills by simply deleting the majority of the
no-longer-needed mining support systems and smoothing the previously
'one-off' design. More importantly, he and the pilot, while sharing drinks one
'day' in the facility's rec area, put their heads together and as the
result of a chance remark sketched airfoils onto the side of the Stonefish.
After laughing, they looked at it, and the pilot realized that (other than in
scale) it didn't look all that different from a few very
high-performance Terran atmospheric military craft of days
Together, they convinced the design team to allow them to join the effort, and
began the design cycle of what was to become the most lauded ship of the
Alphan designs, the ACM 128 Stingray.
The Stonefish herself was flown on numerous occasions, and even flew
two combat missions by way of 'hands-on testing' and scored one Proximan kill
before retiring to the design bureau and being destructively re-engineered to
form the design prototype of the first Stingray. It is in that
latter ship that the Stonefish's shape can still be seen guarding the
spaceways, an echo of that utilitarian beginning still visible along the sleek
curves of the modern killer if the spacecraft aficionado knows how to look.
Nationality: Alpha Centauri
Classification: Escort/Interceptor/Strike prototype
Main Drive: Ion Drive (oversized, originally specced for towing
Personnel: 4 crew (Pilot, Copilot, Systems, Weapons)
Armament: 2 forward-aspect particle accelerators, various antiship
or space-to-surface missiles
Defense: Industrial Mass and Radiation Shielding, Applique Energy
Absorbent Defense Screen, modular Plastisteel impact armor