Critical Equipment

Jean L. Hays

Jennylyn found the package outside the lab. She brought it in, wondering what it was. Professor Blumquist was elated.

“At last! The very thing I need to combat this pandemic,” said Blumquist.

As the new lab assistant, Jennylyn still wasn’t sure what to expect from the mad genius. “An automatic face-mask maker?”

“Invented that weeks ago. Waiting for the patent.”

“A galvanating pholomatraic cilpitomitor for the warp drive?”

“That’s SO last week.”

Jennylyn was at a loss. “What is it?”

Blumquist cheered gleefully. “A mocha machine! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a fresh mocha frap?”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/07/15/17-july-2020/

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Seize The High Ground

Hey everyone. My new short story, Seize The High Ground, is now available for less than a cup of coffee! A mere 99 cents. Here’s a brief description.

Commander Uriel Boyd has a problem. He needs to rescue the ship’s captain who’s huddling in a lifeboat with air running out. Boyd’s trio of lightly armed auxiliaries must find a way past an enemy battleship and heavy cruisers to save him.

Boyd is armed only with an idea, and he’s been looking for a chance to try it out.

If you saw my post about the future of carriers, this story is very closely related. I imagine a future where carriers are no longer the capital ships we know today. But, in this very special circumstance, the protagonist sees a way to cobble together an ersatz carrier strike for an anti-ship mission.

Seize The High Ground

From the story:

“We got one destroyer, one assault shuttle tender, and my armaments collier. Only your ship is armed for combat, Galang, and against that force…” He pointed into the tank again. “Anything you can do is just pissin’ in the wind.”

Did I mention it’s only 99 cents? You can’t get a decent cup of coffee for that.
Get it right here:

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The Future of Carriers

I’ve been thinking a lot about aircraft carriers, and their future. With nations developing HGVes (Hypersonic Glide Vehicles), capable of striking anywhere in the world, I wonder how long the reign of supercarriers like Ford-class will continue. Several decades more, I expect, until HGVes mature as a technology.

Carriers have dominated the military/political scene for many reasons, but one in particular catches my attention: they can strike at a distance from their home nation. As military and political hot spots arise in the world, carriers are able to arrive within days to make their nation’s will felt. Often, a carrier’s aircraft need do nothing. Just the presence of the capital ship does the job, and for good reason.

USS Enterprise

Force Projection at a Distance

It’s their ability to project force at a distance that makes carriers so powerful. What happens when another weapon system can do the same job? When HGVes become a matured, proven technology, they will also project force at a distance. Even better, they can do it much faster and at less cost than a supercarrier. Allow me to remind people, carriers never operate alone. Their battle groups include cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and submarines. Building a carrier isn’t the total cost. You must build a group of other ship types to sail along with it. A 13-billion dollar carrier requires yet billions of more dollars in support ships for just one battlegroup.

As wise heads have pointed out to me, carriers fulfill many roles. Humanitarian aid comes to mind immediately. No missile can do that. I expect the smaller LHAs like the America-class carriers will never quite disappear. They’re simply too useful in too many ways. When it comes to super-expensive supercarriers, and tight military budgets, I believe their time is fading.

Carriers in the Near Future

During World War Two, aircraft carriers dominated the Pacific seas. For a ship to bring down an attacking airplane, it took a lot of anti-aircraft rounds. According to http://www.history.navy.mil, it took 11,143 rounds to bring down a single airplane with .50cal guns. 1,713 Bofors 40mm rounds raced up to bring a bird down*. The bigger the gun, the fewer rounds it took, but that just proves how much faster smaller guns could throw lead up. In general, a LOT of guns had to fire a LOT of rounds to shoot down an aircraft, leaving ample time for an attacker to strike. This made a well-piloted aircraft deadly to a ship, and thereby, made carriers useful.

Arrive at the present day, and the huge swaths of gun batteries have disappeared from ship decks. Anti-aircraft missiles can engage strike aircraft well outside the range where unguided bombs can be dropped. Attackers must deliver standoff missiles or be destroyed well short of the target ship.

BrahMos II Hypersonic missile

Move ahead several decades from now, and maybe ships are threatening your assets on the other side of the planet. You needn’t move expensive combatant ships into the area, you needn’t risk a highly-trained pilot on a near-suicidal attack. You simply launch an HGV from a satellite, or safely launch into low orbit from within the borders of friendly airspace, and the target is eliminated within minutes. With the primary threat neutralized, you can move to reclaim territory in relative safety. Who needs aircraft? Who needs aircraft carriers?

Carriers in Science Fiction

When I began writing the Springbok Chronicles and authored, The Huralon incident , I had decided there would be no carriers. By this time, hundreds of years in the future, missiles are the primary death-dealers in a ship’s arsenal. For this reason, every ship is also armed to destroy inbound missiles. Ship-killer missiles would be small, fast, and maneuverable. They would have to be to survive long enough to attack. Small fighters attacking ships wouldn’t exist because, inevitably they’d be bigger than ship-to-ship missiles. Because of their greater mass, they wouldn’t be as maneuverable nor as fast. And if these ships were manned, every attribute would be even worse because of all the weight gained by loading the equipment needed to keep a human pilot alive.

Background by spieriz at pixabay.

While watching science fiction movies, I was as entertained as anyone else to see small manned ships. As they raced a hundred meters over the hull of a huge ship, I devoured handfuls of popcorn and watched the shuttles blasting away at targets. Even then, I wondered how did they get so close? If now, aircraft can scarcely get close to a big ship, how did these futuristic ships manage it? My answer: they didn’t. It simply wouldn’t happen. In the future, automatic weapons, like the existing Phanlanx CIWS (Sea-Wiz), would be far better at destroying small targets. Without slow human response-times interfering, such weapons would be absolutely deadly. As visually exciting as attacking manned ships would be, it simply would not happen. So, no carriers in my universe.

Now that the second book in the Springbok Chronicles, “The Madrid Solution,” is written and going through edits/beta-reviews, there are still no carriers. Still, as I said earlier, I’ve thought a lot about how it could work. After much thought, I think it can. Yep, I’m changing my mind. Sue me. The solution is maintaining a range from enemies. When aircraft carriers first began, attacking at a distance was their first line of defense. So it would be in the future. I still would not have small shuttles moving in close. That’s just not believable. No, they would have to attack in a certain way, with many technical considerations, and I have outlined it in an upcoming short story, “Seize The High Ground.” Look for it in about a month (July 2020) on Amazon.

Background by pexels at pixabay

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the future of carriers. Have I got it right, or did I miss something? Let me know.

If you haven’t already read my book, The Huralon Incident, give it a look today. You can get it right here:

The author’s shameless self-promotion

*Performance of anti-aircraft guns during World War Two: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/a/antiaircraft-action-summary.html#II

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Know Your Eggs

Photo by: Todd Foltz

Police warning tape encircled the small park. Detective Prine and Police Sergeant Hadwell looked over the grisly scene.

“According to witnesses,” said Hadwell, flipping through his notebook. “Monsieur Penoit was making an exotic omelette for a party.”

Prine placed hands on hips. He’d seen such things before. “Seems Penoit didn’t know the difference between Ostrich eggs and Fire-breathing Dragon eggs,”

Hadwell shook his head. “Bloody fool.”

“Not really,” said Prine, kneeling and taking a few pictures. “It’s actually very difficult. They appear identical.”

“Really? So how can you tell?”

Prine picked through the ashes. “Mother ostriches don’t breathe fire.”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/06/24/26-june-2020/

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Growth Spurt

Photo by: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Jeanie saw her grandson’s feet on the ladder outside, and decided she’d had enough. She had to say something. She rang up, Patricia, Brian’s mom.

“Hi mom! Is Brian enjoying his summer with you?”

“He’s cleaning windows,” said Jeanie. “But I think we should stop giving him his growth vitamins.”

“Well, he always was small for his age.”

“Yes, but now he’s having a growth spurt.” Jeanie walked upstairs to the second-floor bedroom.

“Well, that’s great!”

“I suppose. I was just looking at his feet out the first-floor kitchen window.”

“Okay.”

“And I can see his face in the second-floor window upstairs.”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/06/17/12-june-2020/

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Hot Air

Photo by: Ronda Del Boccio

Stephen, the balloon pilot, stepped out and kissed the ground. The balloon’s burners*, providing hot air, had failed and they began crashing to the ground. Yet, they landed safely after all.

Susie, the chief ground handler, rushed up. “I thought you and Senator Wilson were dead! How did you get any lift?”

“I grasped at straws,” said Stephen.

“Okay.”

“It was stupid, but I was willing to try anything.”

“What did you do?”

“I had Senator Wilson give one of his political speeches.”

“What good was that?” said Susie. “The Senator’s speeches are all full of hot air and… Oh!”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/06/10/12-june-2020-2/

Author’s notes:

*I had no idea what you called those things that flame up in a balloon. They’re called Burners. Isn’t the internet wonderful? More info here:
https://www.planoballoonfest.org/p/about/anatomy

There’s a brilliant film about ballooning called “The Aeronauts.” Highly recommended:

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A Rare Commodity

Photo by: Ted Strutz

Mika ate the last bite. “Best tuna sandwich ever! But still, $500 is too much.”

“I know,” said Bill. “But there’s chipping charges. It had to be shipped into Earth orbit.”

“Yeah.”

“Then through the hypergate to Ross 154. And through that hypergate to Groombridge 1618. Finally arriving at the colony here. There’s charges at every point.”

“Oh, no wonder.”

Bill sighed, “Problem is, tuna is really hard to get out here. Moving it through the New Tokyo colony customs officials was the worst.”

“They demanded bribes?”

“They didn’t ask for money.”

“So what happened?”

“Well, this one-pound tuna sandwich…used to weigh five pounds.”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/06/03/5-june-2020/

Author’s Notes:

The stars Ross 154 and Groombridge 1618 are real stars:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nearest_stars_and_brown_dwarfs

It wasn’t easy to be funny after the tragic events in Minnesota. There’s a lot heavy things going on in our country, and the world just now. I hope you all are dealing with it as well as possible. I’m offering a little levity, not to ignore our travails, but to offer a brief respite from them. Hang in there and stay safe.

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The State Secret

Photo by: David Stewart

Senator Hayworth was unknown for impulsiveness. During a state visit in Bulgaria, he pointed to a flower-like fountain. “What’s that?”

“A gift from the aliens,” said Frank, Chief Advisor.

Natalie, the Deputy Advisor, said, “It’s an alien/worm hybrid. Only once a year it shoots out a green fluid. If some gets on you, it’s supposed to be lucky.”

“Sir, no!” shouted Frank, but too late.

Heedless, Senator Hayworth walked into the green stream. “It’s an election year. I need some luck!”

“Will you tell him?” said Natalie.

“No,” said Frank. “You tell him he just got a facial from alien worm sperm.”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/05/27/29-may-2020/

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Diverse Thinking in the Time of Coronavirus

In the time of Coronavirus, Americans are doing a great job…of frustrating the heck out of each other. Not only because we’re cooped up in the house with each other more than usual, but because we think and act so differently. Some of us are sheltering in place because the state says we must, others because we think we should. Others swarm the beaches because the state relaxed restrictions, others in spite of them. Some of us protest shelter-in-place orders at the seat of local government, some of us praise their wisdom.

Who is right?

I would posit to you that we ALL are right. A crazy claim, yes, but bear with me here.


It’s true that humanity has achieved great things because of brilliant and wise human minds. I would also say we’ve advanced because of people doing things contemporary thought would call stupid. Crabs do not look like a good thing to eat to me, but somebody tried it. Turns out, crabs are delicious. Broccoli looks poisonous to me, but somebody tried it. Turns out it’s very healthy and tastes great in a chardonnay-cheese sauce. A man named Columbus honestly believed the world was round against all common thinking of the time, and then he proved it. When the first nuclear bomb was tested at Trinity Point, scientists wondered if it might ignite the entire planet’s atmosphere. They set it off anyway. We know now it wouldn’t wipe out all life on Earth, but seriously, you lit it off thinking it might?

Image by: saturdaymechanic.com

Perhaps you’re thinking, “All these things turned out fine, Eric. How can you call them wrong?” Well, yeah, we know that, now. At the time, common sense said these things were terrible ideas. Trying dumb things doesn’t always work out well. Sometimes, stupid is just stupid. The folks that tried deep-frying a frozen turkey (and some still try) are doing something that might kill them. There’s warning labels on hair dryers (honest, this is true) warning people not to use it in the shower. Why? Obviously, because a bunch of people tried it.


Humanity continuously experiences discord, around endless subjects, because we don’t all think the same. It has caused wars, but it has also created improvements in life. Our differences are our greatest weakness and also our greatest strength. Whether smart or dumb to do so, humanity never leaves a potentially advantageous  stone unturned. The Coronavirus pandemic places the differences in our thinking into sharp contrast. As I watch footage of people protesting stay-at-home orders, in close proximity without masks, I shake my head. I’m 99% certain these folks are making a terrible mistake. Some may die because of what they’re doing. I want to curse at them. I want to shout at them. But upon further reflection, I think I should thank them as well. I’m glad we’re not all the same. I’m happy we don’t all think identically. The human race would never have survived if weren’t for some damned fool who didn’t run away like everybody else, and tried harnessing fire.

We all know we our thinking is the most right, and we get frustrated when others don’t agree. That’s unavoidable. But perhaps we should pause now and then to thank those who think differently from ourselves (even if they kill themselves). Without some of us braving the frontiers of conventional thinking, none of us would be here.

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Battle of the Bands

Photo by: C.E. Ayr

Inside an invisible alien ship, General Fan’Alba looked down on the human music festival.

He turned to his primary commander, Rab’Kalla. “Stop worrying. We’ve defeated one-hundred alien worlds. Music is critical to us and the center of our strength. In each of our victories, we’ve defeated our opponents, demonstrating our immense power by simply playing our military music.”

“But these humans concern me,” said Rab’Kalla. He turned up the speakers just as the human music reached a crescendo.

Fan’Alba dropped to one knee. “It’s not possible!”

“General,” said Rab’Kalla. “Are you alright?”

Fan’Alba sighed. “Turn back the fleet, Commander. We are defeated!”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/05/20/22-may-2020/

Author’s Notes:

Okay, arguably I took the notion of music in the military a little far, but looking back on history, it’s not that outrageous. Check this: “Although technology did help play a major role in how music was expanded, the use of it goes back to biblical times. In many books found in the bible we read about how music was used by soldiers to help them win important battles. The greeks were also said to be led by flutists who played songs in order to lift up the military.”

The Importance Of Music During Wars

More info here:
https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/musicians-battle/legend-true-cross/

Here’s a song from Doyle Bramhall II. It’s high energy music that would definitely intimidate an enemy, IMHO. 😉

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