2 of 6 | Chapter 16

 

“That's true, but we're obliged by federal contract to create one million jobs. We can set the factories up on Ukrainian State territory,” said Steersman.

“Have the plans been drawn up for the defense corps base unit?” asked Karen.

“The creative director of the architect studio is delivering some interesting ideas.”

“Who? Gore? He designs buildings, doesn't he?”

“Basically, he's an artist with a whole heap of creativity. For him, this is just another design job. The architects will prepare the plans. So far, they have designed some pretty atypical buildings, so this won't be as big a challenge as the one they experienced when the firm first came to work here.”

“Yeah, I've heard the story,” said Karen, a half-smile playing about the corners of her mouth.

“Oh, and I've heard from Anwar Sterenberg in the botanic research section that he is working on something … pretty innovative.”

“Yeah, that's how it struck me too when you suggested that spacecrafts could operate as an independent, self-sufficient ecosystems. Then I realized that it works rather like a human body, the only difference being that external requirements have to be provided from within the system.”

“Interesting. Is this why you're planning a complete farm on the ship?” asked Steersman.

Karen nodded and began to elaborate. “It all came from the fact that I really don't think all nutrients and foods should be in preserved form. In addition, the quantity of food that can be stored is finite. This way, a continuous supply is guaranteed. Only the initial supply of meat will be preserved and canned. All essential foods and nutrients will be produced on board the ship, in the nutrient plant and the farm. Milk, eggs, cereals, vegetables and fruit.

“Using live animals?”

“Yes, they'll be kept in a sterile environment. They'll be as clean as the people they are traveling with. We only need them for the foods that they produce, and only small animals we will be carrying. Ninety percent of them will be females. The main aim is to provide an adequate source of protein for the crew.”

“A bold plan. And what about crops?”

“With gene-condensation procedures, crops will only need one-ten-thousandth of the area that they normally require and less if we use a shelving system. Five grain types will be cultivated: oat, rye, wheat, rice and corn, but we'll also be modifying strains of staple roots and tubers to allow for diversity of complex carbohydrates and sugars.”

“And what about the two basic needs: air and water?” asked Steersman.

“There will be a special site planted with a specially developed plant species that has a much stronger photosynthesis cycle, processing more carbon dioxide and producing more oxygen. In this area, we'll initiate weather cycles, condense the vapor and thus gain clean water. Waste water will be used to irrigate the site, which will filter and purify it, and it will also function as a recreational park, allowing the crew to relax and regenerate,” explained Karen.

“What percentage of the ship's area will these facilities require?”

“The food production facility will cover twelve percent and the natural purification plant, fifteen percent,” said Karen.

“The ships will function like living organisms, yes?”

“Yes,” confirmed Karen.

“What will take the role of the ships immune system?”

“Well mainly the on-board medical center, but perhaps even more importantly, the maintenance crew. They will be responsible for ensuring that every live and inanimate entity remains in perfect health. Five percent of the ships area will be dedicated to the maintenance crew and equipment.”

“What other areas have been established?”

“The nervous system and the brain. The nervous system is fairly simple because it essentially consists of the staff itself; the people who control the ship, collect and distribute information, solve problems, undertake routine operations and perform specialized tasks. The ship provides their living and resting spaces.

For each of the three ships, the brain will have a specific function. The flag ship will carry out detection work with space dedicated to biology laboratories. The technical vessel will carry production tools and facilities, and equipment for colonization. On the defense vessel, we'll be transporting SRT units. These areas and facilities will take up 50% of the net area on board each ship.”

Steersman thought for a moment, then asked, “Has the amount of space required for ships systems been established?”

“Not yet. Many of them are still under development, but a preliminary estimate has shown that it will be about half of the ship. We haven't yet worked out placements. There are still debates going on as to the optimum position for the Gravitors and electrical systems. The engineers are all agreed that electricity delivery should not rely on a traditional cable network as it is too prone to error, and installing an error detection system would be unduly cumbersome. The final ratios will depend on these factors. But apart from this one problem, we can start building the structural framework.”

“Power transmission has always been an issue. I'll have a think about it too,” said Steersman, almost grudgingly.

“Strange as it may seem, the outer shell will be the most complex component as it has to have such an extensive functionality.”

“Just like human skin?” noted Steersman, smiling.

“Exactly,” said Karen without any trace of humor. “Protection against impact from foreign bodies and radiation, temperature control, camouflage, navigation and comm-network, as well as reconnaissance equipment will all be on the ships outer surface.”

“And it has to be hermetically sealed,” added Steersman.

“Of course. What about the command candidates?”

“Well, we have all agreed that they'll take part in traditional military training first, but more specifically, only in practical situations that train their ability to withstand stress. In this way, we'll know, right from the start, who can take the pressure and who can't. Other than problem solving, this is the most important quality we need to develop.”

“So, Murinko's dealing with them?”

“Yes, for a while.” Steersman stopped for a moment, then with a quick nod, continued. “Right Karen, it seems to me that this program is in excellent hands. I'm going to find out how Gibbs and his team are getting on with the drive project. He sent me a message this morning and it seems that there are some encouraging signs.”

“Glad to hear it. I'll pop for a look in later,” said Karen.

 

NGI

Steersman had felt an inexplicable sense of unease for days. Something was niggling at the back of his mind, but he just couldn't put his finger on it. Seemingly everything was on track, and yet something was still missing. Fortunately, no one noticed.

Oliver Trenerry joined him in one of the ASEC transport tunnels. He always noticed when something was up, but this time he didn't say anything, or perhaps didn't want to believe his instincts.

“It's a fairly ethereal activity, creating a universal communications protocol,” he said softly.

“In as much as it's intangible, it is also very existential and pervasive where there are not only people, but fairly soon we'll possibly be coming into contact with aliens also. Last but certainly not least we must care for the environment that we have so far neglected.”

“I do not deny its importance.”

“As communications expert, consider this your ultimate life's work,” explained Steersman with his usual raw logic.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH