3 of 4 | Chapter 18

 

Assembly was performed by operational robots that were operated by specialist engineers working from Sumo III modules that had been developed for that express purpose. The living conditions of Surinder Neelam's team and the other specialist engineers were also being tested as part of the space research program.

The ‘Maid’ commuted between the lunar base and the ASEC center daily, delivering materials, parts, equipment, oxygen, food and water. The ship also took back ill, or debilitated workers for treatment, and brought back substitutes.

The Maid was the first space vessel specially designed for transporting humans in space. There had been only one constructed and in addition to its NGI drives, strong DCG drives were also built into the hull for propulsion when the ship was closer to Earth or the Moon. The journey between the Earth and the Moon took two hours with the Maid, traveling at over two hundred thousand kilometers per hour. During the first few flights, it had been manned by a team of flight engineers, just to be on the safe side, but it now flew the route automatically, docking with Sumo III modules, navigating through the Earth's atmosphere, as well as flying to the IRD station site, where it delivered and picked up the necessary supplies and staff.

Karen also flew to the assembly base several times a week, as did all development team members involved in the construction of the space fleet. They often stayed for days on end to carry out tasks, or check finished parts and assemblies.

There was a month to go until full completion of the ships, at which time all three would leave the lunar surface and set off for an extended unloaded test voyage, which would take several months. Then, they were scheduled to land at ASEC where the official launch would take place. Until that point though, the first space crews were being trained with the same dedication and intensity as they always had.

*

The Maid approached the lunar crater on schedule, coming in at precisely the boundary between the light and dark sides. The inhabitants of the base did not follow time, rather the temperature was more the object of their focus. The temperature varied between minus 180 degrees at night and 140 degrees during daytime, a fluctuation that placed a continual strain on machinery, especially SRT units that were working on construction out in the dust and extreme temperatures. They were in direct contact with the most destructive forces and had to be repaired and replaced the most often.

The Maid docked to a Sumo III module. When the connection was secure and sealed, docking gates opened and warm air from the base flowed into the ship until it equalized. Karen passed through the corridor that ran directly into one of the transport modules. She was joined by Neil Gibbs who was going to be commissioning the completed drive system. Because of the complex nature of the system, the rest of his energetics team would be arriving the following day to help with the installation.

“Hi, Karen. We've emptied the sixth module. The energetics team can board anytime,” the chief engineer said to her when she appeared.

“Hi, Surinder. Okay then, when they arrive, they can get straight down to work. We brought the control equipment, it's pretty sensitive. It will need protection.”

“Then we'll coat it with heat-absorption foil. Any changes in the control system?” he inquired.

“Hello, Neelam,” said Gibbs, coming over to join them. “There'll be a third type of drive which is based on gravitational radii technology.”

“Interesting.”

“At last, we have managed to sort out the gravitational environments we need to take into consideration and, using a one hundred point scale which is always relative to the actual drive's efficiency rating, we have divided it into four parts: low values indicate a gravity-free environment, from zero to ten. NGI drives will mainly be used in this range. The next includes weak gravitational environments up to fifty. These may occur in cases where asteroids and dwarf planets are in the vicinity of the vessel. In this case use of newly developed G-radii positioning system is recommended. Basically, it allows the vessel to be directed with rays by throwing them out to the surface of objects, which it then uses to ‘crawl’ through space, some what like a spider,” he said, imitating the motion with his fingers. “The G-radii system can also be used in conjunction with the other two drive systems.”

“I see.”

“From fifty to eighty-five on the scale we classify as strong gravitational fields,” he continued. “These would be similar to the gravity that exist on the planet Earth. In this environment it's possible to propel the ship with DCG drives.”

“And what do we have over eighty-five?”

“From eighty-five upwards we indicate extremely strong gravitational forces that pose a threat to the ship. These must be avoided as the propulsion systems are not designed to cope with them.”

“Okay, that seems clear.”

“I heard that the power plants have been installed,” said Karen.

“Yes, the mini Gravitors are already in their places; a total of thirty-two per ship, and the large ones too in the central cores.”

“Not a bad idea to distribute energy resources this way. It will make the power supply smoother and more reliable,” said Gibbs.

“Yes, and in the case of damage or break-downs, the risk of equipment failure or large scale power cuts is much less,” Karen explained.

They nodded in agreement.

Through panoramic windows the dark side of the Earth was visible, glinting with tin pin pricks of light that could only have been major cities.

Then the temperature began to rise noticeably, and the climate control system switched on. The sides of the Sumo began to vibrate with loud pops and squeaks as the outer layers moved against each other as a result of the differing temperatures between the inside and outside surfaces. During construction this had been accounted for, so no one was particularly worried about the phenomenon.

“When do you begin the outer shell?” Karen suddenly remembered, after hearing the noises from the Sumo.

“The last phase will begin in about two weeks. The communication spires are already in place, and Daniel Valsson and his team arrive tomorrow as well to install the space-fragmentation scanner. They'll be working from the seventh module. Parallel to this, we're also building the elements for the negative gravitation shields.”

“There'll be quite a crowd up there, then.”

“Yeah, that's right. We'll be dividing the area so that we don't interfere with each other out there.”

“The outer shell construction will be a delicate operation,” observed Karen rhetorically.

“Yes, I know. Liquid cover. It makes the whole thing a fairly big challenge,” said Neelam, looking like he could barely believe it himself.

 

The truth

As usual, the Maid returned to Earth after a two hour stop. During that time, the cargo was unloaded and everything that had required decontamination treatment was returned to the ship.

Karen was on her way back to earth alone. Some distance away from her, damaged SRT units were standing in their docks, some with arms missing, others simply out of order. She had no feelings whatsoever for the machines, she simply regarded them as working tools.

 

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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 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH