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Military/Alphan:

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 past.


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.


Specification

  • Nationality: Alpha Centauri
  • Classification: Escort/Interceptor/Strike prototype
  • Main Drive: Ion Drive (oversized, originally specced for towing mining loads)
  • 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

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