Phi And Cha
phiandcha

The Thunderchief project:
Class: Proof of concept experimental
Mission: Battlefield recovery and interdiction.
Dimensions: Length 19M, Span 13.2M, Height 3M

Weight: 330 metric tones

Impulse drive:
-(Epsilon) four SPJ75 mark 5 impulse units rated at 550 thousand tons static thrust each
-(Phi) two STH556 mark 2 impulse units rated at 720 thousand tones static thrust each
-(Cha) two TTH12 mark 12 impulse units rated at 1.5 million tones static thrust each

Warp drive: none

Transwarp drive: (Epsilon) one BBRTW mark 3 (top speed: transwarp 4)

Phase drive: (Epsilon) One PD35 Mark II (experimental,) (Phi and Cha) one PD35 Mark I (experimental)

Computer: Gelcircuitry holographic data storage linked to a posatronic brain and Synthetic Aperture Tachyon sensor net.

Weapons: Capable of carrying Photon torpedoes, Quantum torpedoes, and Cabalite missiles on external hardpoints, but never tested. One phased array phaser cannon tested, but failed to operate properly

Shielding and Armor: Triple laminade phased shielding (successfully tested), RSR (Reactive Self-Replicating) armor (successfully tested)

Tractor system: seven CJD719 multiphase tractor beams arranged in the wings

Designers: Captain Barney Blackburn (Pluto Space Yards,) Lieutenant-Commander Max Hertzog (Neptune Space Yards: Triton Station)

Builders: Neptune Space Yards

Description and history:
The Thunderchief Project was the brainchild of Captain Barney Blackburn after the successful deployment of the Snow Fox fighter aboard the USS Pale Horse during the USS Pioneer recovery mission (see attached folders.) The idea of a follow-on fighter to the Snow Fox/Ox Fox combination demonstrated in the Gamma Quadrant was quick to earn the go-ahead from SCE Operations and Development branch and work began a year after the discovery of the Pioneer in the Delta Quadrant. Construction of the first prototype began in early 2379 and thanks to the input of Commander Geordi La Forge and Starfleet Neurology the activation of the Posatronic Brain calling itself Epsilon was completed later that year. The follow-on demonstrators were activated during the next year.

Epsilon: A complete and unchanged copy of the Soong Posatronic Brain, for some unknown reason chose both a name and a gender for itself rather than having each assigned. Epsilon proved to have a somewhat erratic personality. Commander Blackburn likened her to his daughters when they were teenagers. Capricious and opinionated, outspoken and irrepressible, Epsilon proved to be the darling of the Neptune yards in very short order. Of the fifty-five engineers and technicians on the project, all of them found extra time to spend with Epsilon and she was regarded with feelings ranging from fond affection to infatuation by some of the younger techs. Epsilon treated all her attendants as well as she could, but she held a particular interest in Commander Blackburn. She insisted he stay near to her at all times and once spoke longingly for an android body so she might stay at his side more easily. When he tried to move back to the Pluto yards to attend to some minor duties, she refused to respond to commands until he returned. Blackburn later took to sleeping on a cot he left in her hangar. It appeared to soothe her.

As a spaceframe Epsilon proved to be maneuverable, resilient (she later confessed the armor tests were most unpleasant, and there is evidence some damage was done to her neural net,) fast at sublight speeds, and downright blinding under Transwarp and phase drive. Her towing capacity for which she was designed left much to be desired at sublight speeds. She strained to drag test freighters along until inertia carried the craft along. Any attempt to handle the craft while she was towing it met with unfavorable test results and it was decided her impulse drive was underpowered for the job. Her phase drive had no such detractions. Phase drive operates on the “Power Spike” warp drive developed initially to replace the failed Transwarp drive of U.S.S. Excelsior, but was later abandoned in favor of more efficient (and far less dangerous) warp drives. By the time the Thunderchief project came along, many of the problems associated with the “Power Spike Drive” had been resolved in the laboratory and Epsilon and her sisters proved to be ideal test beds for the concept. The top speed of Phase Drive is close to Transwarp factor 8 in theory, but tests show the Thunderchiefs lacked the size to safely navigate space at such velocities. Their top speed is closer to transwarp 5 in practice. A Mark II phase drive was installed in Epsilon to test the limits of the technology along with various aspects of Interference Drive.

Phase drive and Interference drive: “Power Spikes” project a spike of energy ahead of a vessel to create a particular kind of turbulence behind the focus of this energy. At a particular point, a lens-shaped region of “still space” opens up where a craft can travel without buffet or drag of any kind. Early tests with the U.S.S. Exodus back in 2295 showed that the technology worked, but large ships had innumerable difficulties slipping into the “still space” before warp buffet caused structural failure. The turbulence left in the wake of a passing Excelsior-class ship was so great as to make the system lethal for use in space lanes for nearby ships. The Exodus once dropped out of Phase drive only to watch the turbulence grind a nearby asteroid to dust. Another detraction to the system was its inability to operate under the slightest gravity. All phase drive jumps must be made outside a star’s heliopause in order to open up the “still space” region and get up to speed. Otherwise the system is limited to warp 3 or less. The Thunderchief project intended to take phase drive to the next level by using it in tandem or “Interference drive.” Multiphase tractor beams from two Thunderchiefs would latch onto a craft to be towed and position it in such a way as to fall into a vast area of “still space” generated by the interference of the two phase drive wakes. Thus huge vessels could be transported at fantastic speeds regardless of their individual mass or rated top speed. The Mark II phase drive aboard Epsilon intended to make use of the system using only a single craft.

Weapons: The Thunderchiefs had the first variant of the Phased Array, Synthetic Aperture phaser cannon. The system operated on the little regarded research of the so called “Star Wars” anti-missile system of pre WWIII fame. Using some of the most primitive lasers ever made, Star Wars had to deliver all its radiant energy to a single point in a very precise manner if any hope of destroying a target was ever to be achieved. It involved many low power lasers fired at satellites, bounced around the Earth, and focused at a precise point on the body of an incoming warhead. The PASA or “hush-a-cannon” as the engineers called it operates in much the same way. Instead of large phaser cannons delivering a “ball” of concentrated energy all the way to a target, many small cannons abut the size of an average pen deliver a shot to only one point in space. Lt. Cmdr. Hertzog demonstrated the system could deliver shots inside the hulls of ships and under shielding intended to deal with much more powerful phaser fire. Unfortunately they system is difficult to boresight and it took Commander Hertzog almost five months to get it to work reliably on Epsilon. He was in the process of doing the same on the other two Thunderchiefs when the project was shut down upon the death of Commander Blackburn and the destruction of Epsilon. Other weapons included hardpoints intended to carry photon and quantum torpedoes externally and Cabalite missiles developed by Klingon weapons labs and tested on Snow Fox fighters operationally during the Pale Horse mission. Cabalite is a form of fibercore that is unquenched and soft. Cabalite missiles or “bolo rounds” carry a spool of Cabalite which it spools out and flash quenches to a R55 rating or the equivalent Rockwell hardness of 4,500,000. This hard strand of wire is then spun by two tiny impulse motors up to 16,000 rpm and will cut through anything in its path. Fibercore does not grow brittle as it hardens and the strands never shatter; therefore each bolo round must be dematerialized by a transporter before it careens off into space and carves through a star or a clips a planet.

Phi: The second of the three ships. Phi was actually named by her sister ship Epsilon as was her other sister Cha. Gender appears to be fixed on all three as female for still undiscovered reasons. Phi was the mark II variant of the Soong posatronic brain involving such improvements as alternate materials and a more rugged brain case. The more intricate changes are too numerous to describe here and a full list is on file at Triton Station. To be brief, much of Phi’s differences were more refinements upon the original design rather than any major change as represented by the Sydney Sloan (Mark III) android. Phi exhibited a more measured character from the start. At times she could be fussy about those about her to the point of being dubbed “mother hen” by those in the project, but she was just as endearing to the people around her as he older sister. Like he older sister, she developed an attachment to a single person in the project: Commander Hertzog. By now aware of the nuances of these ships, Commander Hertzog made himself available to Phi around the clock and eventually took to sleeping in her hangar like Commander Blackburn in Epsilon’s hangar. Unlike Epsilon however, Phi has shown no desire to shed her Thunderchief body in favor of an android form. In flight she is clearly delighted to be dancing about the stars and is the most daring flier of the three. Her towing capabilities were marginally improved over Epsilon’s and she demonstrated practical impulse tows of craft in the Sovereign-class and smaller.

Cha: The third and last of the line, Cha was activated a year after Epsilon. She is by far the most difficult of the three in terms of her personality. Irritable and outspoken, she has the strange notion she’s ugly though every person on the project agreed she has the cleanest lines. Unlike her sisters, Cha is a loner. While she lavishes affection on whoever is under her canopy, she demanded a few private hours alone every night. Strange as this behavior was, she was nonetheless doted on with fond affection much to her irritation. It bears telling that all three ships have different voices and this too was by the choice of Epsilon, Phi, and Cha and not by design. Epsilon had a clear alto voice, and delighted in singing country western songs (much to Commander Blackburn’s liking.) Phi had a more precise contralto and tended to have the strange habit of softening her harshest inflections. Cha’s voice was a striking wail in comparison that while feminine, is quite distinct from her sisters. A visiting officer once described it as the voice of “a big woman in a big house filled with lots of teeny-tiny people” and that is as good a description as anyone had ever managed. It matched her character to such a degree that the nickname “the Foghorn” began to circulate.

In towing capacity Cha is the most powerful of the line. She can tow the largest of ships with laughable ease at high warp or impulse speeds. Had the Thunderchief design been put into production, Cha would have represented the template of the design. She has a flair for tossing the heaviest of ships about like the smallest toys. Commander Blackburn described her as “the one certified juggler of the bunch.” While all three ships could tow the largest ships up to warp 9.6 (the point where the drag of the ship they towed became too much for the tractor beams) individually, and into full interference drive in tandem, Cha was the only one capable of intricate work in close spaces with any degree of safety. Epsilon could only tow a ship in a straight line after a long and slow period of acceleration. If she needed to make a high speed turn of any kind, the mass of the towed craft would drag her along for millions of kilometers before she could affect a coarse change. Phi could drag a ship along with relative ease and affect coarse changes with little fuss, but it took some very slow and careful work to position a ship in spacedock or thread one through a congested space lane. Cha has no such limitations. With ease she parked the three kilometer long Weddell-class U.S.S. Ross Sea in the Mars Utopia Planitia space dock so quickly and precisely that it was believed the ship had done so under her own power. When the helmsman tried to duplicate the performance, he succeeded in knocking off one of the docking arms and breaching the hull in five places across fifteen decks.

Project cancellation: Epsilon and her sisters had overcome many obstacles, but their phase drive so limited their use that Starfleet ordered Epsilon’s replaced with a newer version that addressed these issues directly. That in addition to the laborious borsighting of the “hush-a-cannons” caused some detractors to call the craft impractical at best. Perhaps of more importance were the preferences of the engineers meant to build them, the crews meant to use them, and the Admirals who were to deploy them. As one Starfleet Corps of Engineers spokesman said in a private memo to Commander Blackburn and Commander Hertzog, “Starfleet doesn’t build tow-trucks.” While the three ships were fast and maneuverable, the Crescent fighter and the CHARC assault craft were a priority on production schedules. Crescent's couldn’t outrun the Thunderchiefs, but they could out turn them with ease. Fighter pilots admired the handling of the three ships, but only the Snow Fox and Ox Fox pilots preferred the Thunderchiefs over the Crescent-class. Ox Fox pilots in particular raved about the design, but to no avail (there are only five of them alive out of eight total.) The Thunderchiefs are a supersonic tow truck while the Crescent is the sports car, and the recommendation to cancel the project started at a very early stage.

The final blow to the project came upon the complete failure of the Mark II phase drive. Epsilon, with Commander Blackburn at the controls, was crushed in subspace turbulence when the system overloaded during a drop out of full phase drive. The turbulence was so great and concussive, not a spec of Epsilon or Blackburn was ever found. SCE deemed the project a failure and shut it down within the hour. Lt. Cmdr. Hertzog was passed over for promotion upon the failure of the project for the fourth time and was reassigned to the netherworld-like Kuiper Space Yards to replace an officer who had gone AWOL more than two years before. Phi and Cha were mothballed, a two seater variant dubbed "Rhe" was abandoned before she was activated, and Commander Hertzog saw to it they wound up at Kuiper after a brief memorial for Commander Blackburn back in Michigan. Commander Hertzog has since used Phi and Cha in their designed role to bring ships to the Kuiper Yards for refit and repair over the protests of high command.

Not long after Hertzog's arrival at the Project, Phi and Cha were included as well though nobody short of Hertzog and Commander Kali seems to know what to do with them. Phi has been assigned a pilot for the first time since her activation in the form of Jude Deveroux. She tries her best to make Skyswimmer content, but is often frustrated by his aloofness. Cha has also been assigned a pilot and "Charmer" is a perfect counterpart to her flying skills as well as a philosophical foil to her outlook.

Cha has also developed a strong romantic attachment to Ensign Mortimer Sully. The awkward Ensign is often at a loss what to make of Cha's affection for him, but not unkindly. Cha understands the oddity of the relationship and projects a hologram to better interact with Sully. She has a way of making Sully drop his awkwardness while Sully has a way of making Cha more approachable. Much the same could be said of Phi and Hertzog along with Epsilon and Blackburn although Phi doesn't profess a romantic attachment to Hertzog.

A few months after their inclusion in the Project, Rhe was accidentally activated by Lt. Commander Heather Dixon. During the Posatronic Purge after the assassination of the Federation President in mid 2382, Rhe was made operational by the android Sydney Sloan while she was fleeing SCE. Rhe was, and largely remains, unresponsive to commands or even interaction. She refuses to obey anyone except Commander Dixon who she refers to as "Mother." She feels Hertzog abandoned her by not activating her before the Thunderchief Project shut down. She converses freely with Dixon and to a lesser extent with Phi and Cha. Her spaceframe is based on Cha's so she has few limitations operationally.

Hertzog took the time to boresight all the Thunderchief's PASA phaser cannons not long after arriving at Trinity Core so they are fully operational after doing without them for literally years. Commander Kali gave her stamp of approval to the craft for use in Trinity Flight, and the Redeemer usually takes one of the Thunderchiefs along for its operations. Commander Yoshii approves of the craft, but only under the guidance of a pilot since they are liable to perform operations outside her requirements unless supervised by a pilot more in step with her orders.

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