TDA Quartermaster - Military Transport
A Terran Trade Authority writeup
By 2048, the economy of the greater Solar System was booming. Asteroid mining both in situ and using relocated masses in near Earth orbit were alleviating the metals crunch on Terra. Expanding industry on the Martian surface, including the Mars shipyards and the orbital manufacturing stations intended to support a rapidly growing presence in the outer system, created a huge demand for transport of both raw and finished goods. Moving larger industrial plant modules between Earth and various outsystem fabrication yards alone was causing a strain on available shipping.
The advent of the DeVass Warp Generator, it was widely expected, would only increase the demand for large-scale long-haul shipping. The main hull design for heavy-lift transport was the TTA Colonial line, which was in its second iteration when Dr. Hans Berger produced the first workable models of the Gravity Resist generator. At a stroke, the primary disadvantage of the Colonial - the requirement that its cargo be lightered to and from orbit, since the vessel itself was too large to safely or effectively enter or leave atmosphere - was swept away. The Colonial III, which incorporated Gravity Resist, became the most successful heavy-lift freighter in Terran space history and would hold that crown for decades more. Although the shape of this massive vessel is familiar to anyone with an interest in spacecraft, the size may not be. They are immense, Leviathans more suited to their home in deep space than the few hours they spend on planetary surfaces. Without Gravity Resist they would be unable to support their own structures inside gravity wells of any reasonable strength. Nearly a kilometer in length and several hundred meters in height, they dwarf most immobile structures, much less starships.
As is often the case, the pressures of politics intervened in ship design. While the Colonial III was a perfectly serviceable commercial transport, the discovery of a potentially hostile civilization at Proxima Centauri forced a sudden and radical rethinking of the logistics of warfighting. Although the initial phases of the war were a mad scramble for adequate defenses and the recovery of the initiative, several far-thinking minds at the Terran Defense Authority and Terran Trade Authority began quietly to draw up requirements for a starship capable of following along with the fleet, both to resupply deep space bases as well as perform underway replenishment where possible. The Colonial III, as the most efficient and modern freighter available, was a natural for consideration.
In 2050, the first Quartermaster left the ways above Mars. Superficially almost identical to her parent design, the Quartermaster was nevertheless significantly modified under the skin - and on it, if one could get close enough to look. The main drive was upgraded from the McKinley Ion Drive C.2 to the C.4M (Military) variant. In addition to providing 28 percent more thrust at similar power settings, the new drives offered an emergency 'boost' mode via the inclusion of a 'hot fusor' stage immediately behind the main ion thrusters, which could allow the Quartermaster to keep up with her combatant brethren during high-boost maneuvers - albeit at a ruinous cost in fuel. The auxiliary drives were upgraded from chemical thrusters to limited-flow fusion units, restricted in their maximum impulse but more parsimonious in their consumption.
Inside, the cargo capacity dropped from 750,000 cubic dekometers to just over 650,000 in order to accommodate a military loading and cargo racking/tank system, which allowed the Quartermaster to accommodate both tanker and dry storage haulage tasks. The rack space was optimized for the transport of military standard SCSUs - Shipboard Cargo Storage Units. These 30 by 10 by 10 meter containers have since become ubiquitous on the spaceways, providing everything from shipping to temporary warehouse space on many a landing field, to residences on no few early-stage settlements. A Quartermaster's automated loading systems could deliver a specific container from anywhere in the vessel to the designated delivery lock in under seventy seconds, or completely unload the vessel in zero gee in under two hours assuming no malfunctions occurred. There are several famous tales from the Proxima Wars of Quartermasters jumping into combat zones, decanting their entire load in a virtual explosion of cargo, transmitting the calculated vectors of the resultant streams of containers to nearby units for later retrieval, and jumping out again mere minutes ahead of interdiction strikes.
Although they did carry light armaments, the Quartermasters were outclassed by most light fighters. They carried a contingent of Gatling autocannon for use against missile attack or to repel boarding actions, and later marks had a quartet of light OPA-6 particle accelerators added to increase their chances of destroying or at least diverting incoming kinetic fire in addition to complex warhead ordnance.
At the skin, the light meteorite deflector shield worn in the ship's civil variant was upgraded with the addition of a full Energy Absorbent Defense Shield. Powered by the full output of the massive WCRC reactors, this shield could withstand awesome amounts of enemy fire given that the Quartermaster wasn't using power to do anything else, like shoot back. As a result, enemy pilots learned not to waste their time or charges on Quartermasters when attacking a convoy unless the ships were already damaged or could be attacked alone, cut off from assistance. The only way to kill one was to subject it to near-continuous barrage to prevent the reactors from diverting enough power to energize the DeVass Generators and warp away, and eventually the EADS could be worn down. Alternately, small-scale atomic strikes would usually produce localized shield overloads, allowing the Quartermaster to be attacked before local screen generators could recover.
The crew complement increased to 24 officers and 75 enlisted, mostly due to the increased complexity of the cargo management system and the need for more responsive damage control aboard a military tasked ship. A Quartermaster could be operated with as few as 10 officers and 24 crew, although loading and unloading would require additional assistance at landfall, and damage control would be compromised. The 1200-strong Mechteck force was upped to 1500; the cargo automation system replaced a good number of the originals, and all those plus the additional 300 were dedicated to damage control duties.
Quartermasters are still in service with both the Terran and Alphan military, albeit in small numbers. Long-haul routes not awaiting delivery of the scaled-down version of the Conestoga superfreighter are mostly being flown by later models of the Colonial, although a large number of both Colonial III and Quartermaster types can be seen plying the spaceways in private hands. The Quartermaster is much more expensive to operate due to its higher complexity and power levels, but its automated cargo system can be an absolute necessity when undertaking loads to unimproved destinations or deep-space locations with minimal cargo handling facilities. As a result, they are highly sought-after in the survey support field and site development efforts. Surplus versions have had the OPA-6 particle accelerators removed, although some retain their original autocannon mounts. In addition, many civilian conversions have had the 'hot fusor' stage of their McKinley engines disabled in order to remove the temptation for pilots to make up a late schedule by expending prodigious quantities of fuel.
- Manufacturer: TTA/Avery Astronautics
- Classification: Class II(M) High-capacity military transport, 654,000 cubic dekameters (0.654 cubic km)
- Main Drive: McKinley Ion Drive Model C.4M - Fusor Boost Staged / WCRC Bowman fast-breeder reactor Mk. V
- Auxiliary Drive: Guangdong Nucleonics Limited-flow Fusion Thrusters / WCRC David fast-breeder reactor Mk. IV
- Personnel: 24 Officers, 75 enlisted human crew, 1500 Mechteck labor units
- Service Craft: 10 Avery AAT-181 loading tugs, 5 Consolidated Aerospace Scout space-to-surface flyers, 40 Avery Midget maintenance lighters
- Armament: 10 Mistrale light anti-missile Gatling cannon / 4 OPA-6 particle accelerators for mass interdiction defense
- Defense: TTA Energy Absorbent Defense Shield, 48 sector generators, direct feed / WCRC Type 20E Meteorite Defense Shield for underway use