Story by David Davis
Art by David Davis and Reed Hawker

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GalactiCorp’s New Gamble

by Koren Vaal

GalactiCorp is not seen as an active participant in the space-travel industry. Their products touch just about every other aspect of colonial life, yet they have not produced any notable vessels for public or private space travel. The typical adage from their PR department is to do one thing and do it well, and that could explain why the corporation has been reticent to move into ship design until now. They just could not compete with industry giants Alavon Drive Dynamics and Drammal. However, things are beginning to shift. With the ascendance of a new CEO there is a change in the air for GalactiCorp, and the titanic corporation once again finds itself branching out… but their latest step is at once paradoxically tentative and impressive. It is a confounding notion as much of their new strategy and their new CEO’s aims are shrouded in mystery. What is known is this – GalactiCorp has entered an era of astronautics through a collaboration with industry titan Alavon Drive Dynamics.

GalactiCorp and Alavon Drive Dynamics have yet to confirm if their new ship design, designated CRDV-GC1, is the start of a commercial line. What is known is that GalactiCorp commissioned the construction of an Alavon Drive Dynamics CRDV (Cargo & Research Drive Vessel) and engaged in a rather lengthy modification process of at least a year. Indeed, the project was one of the last major initiatives put into action from former GC CEO Miles Tego. In a shocking turn toward transparency, given the much-publicized robbery scenario earlier this year, Walter Kimney offered Space Trawler Quarterly an exclusive tour of their ship, designated Lucky Strike II, and an interview with the ship’s engineer, who prefers to remain anonymous, to share some of the technical elements of the ship for our readers.

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An Engineering Marvel

“Lucky Strike II is intended to be more than just a ship.”

Walter Kimney gestures over to a lighted wall-panel, smiling.

“Take for example the lighting in this hallway. Most ships tend to treat on-board lighting as just a source of illumination so that spacers aren’t stumbling around in the dark. Yes, of course that is the main reason for it all, isn’t it? But who says lightning can’t accomplish more?” He places his palm on the panel. “It’s warm to the touch. There is a distinct level of comfort in our design. The lighting panels are equipped with timers to dim and adjust the lights according to a standard 25 hour Teslovian cycle. By making little touches here and there, woven into and over, this is the most efficient and I dare say, homey, ship design ever made.”

These lighting considerations are not new technology by any stretch, but it seems to be indicative of what the aims of the CRDV-GC1 are: it is not just a ship, but a mobile home with no technology spared to make life easier for spacers. Perhaps this is not the most cost-effective ship for consumers, but when asked about this, Kimney himself stated that he has no idea when and if his company will pursue that route.

“At its heart it is a mobile research facility. It’s all part of an initiative I am advocating to be at the forefront of resource acquisition and research in the new worlds that The Federation, Empire, and Neutrality seem to be uncovering on a weekly basis. Even you have spacers pushing into an unknown region they need a lifeline. This ship is more than that. It’s a beating heart.”

Some goals set out by the program did not seem feasible, however. With a ship designed to explore untouched areas of the cosmos there was a “pressing” need to pursue mobile jump-gates rights. However, no governing-faction would allow for the technology to be placed on the ship. Joris Velm, GalactiCorp legal adviser, put it plainly: “privatized, non-military jump tech is still locked down due to security concerns, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.” However, GalactiCorp has been courting the factions for the contracts to build several fixed-orbit jump gates in some of the newly-discovered systems, but as of now, negotiations are still underway.

So, what of this new ship? What are the features that make this vessel such a unique vessel in a galaxy dotted with astronautic feats? For that, Kimney introduced me to the ship’s engineer, who for the purpose of the interview will only be referred to as K due to security and privacy concerns. K, a rather wild-haired Terrekin, proceeded to take me through the ship, answering questions and pointing out features of interest to readers.

A note on the mysterious K: He is a textdoc example of a genius. After our tour I spent a couple of hours talking with him as he worked, and was able to read his college thesis. Granted, he is a functional adult, but there is a sort of childlike and manic energy that radiates from him when he is in the presence of  technology. Several times during the interview he began to rattle off specs, data, and theorizing about tech to the point that  I would have to coax him back to the discussion at hand. A full transcript would be a confusing affair for readers, so as such I decided to write down this experience with the narrative approach.

A Tour

K starts us off in the engineering bay, “his own personal playground,” he jokes. The bay itself is composed of three distinct rooms. The central and largest of them features drone repair facilities, AI and system access, and a rather lovely array of machinery and tools along a large, sweeping bench. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the Applied Logistics microfacturing suite.

“I’ve already put that machine through its paces.” He gestures at an array of segmented rings and electronic components on one of the benches that is already covered in parts. He does not tell me what he’s working on, just admitting that it is a private project. “With this, all I need are design docs or plans distributed over the GIN to produce all necessary parts. This solves the colonial problem of waiting for replacement part deliveries.” He points over to the AI and system area. “The reason this microfacturing process is even feasible is because the Strike also acts as a high-bandwidth GIN relay to download blueprints and construction code.” I ask him for some technical details, but he shakes his head. “It’s proprietary. It feels weird to be saying that as a freemodder, but there you go.”

He gestures starboard. “That room houses the drones, water cycling, and a charge station for the on-board helperbot. He walks me to the port-side door, and has me peer into the window. “This is the cleanroom access to the formacyte reactor. Nothing special, it’s top of the line, but you and I both know we’re due for some sort of sweeping change in starship fueling.” He and I chat for a moment about industry rumors, and he proceeds to escort me out of the engineering bay through sliding transparent aluminum doors. Almost offhand he stares back at the cleanroom door and I hear him mutter under his breath about “modifying” the machine for an easy swap. Clearly he has an idea of what’s ahead but he won’t share, nor would I presume to ask him. After all, it’s likely proprietary.

What stands out about the cargo facilities on the CRDV-GC1 is the amount of storage relative to the size of the ship. By all accounts the ship is classified as being on the large side of the small cruiser-class, but the cargo bay comprises a wide open two-story area. I comment on the overall roominess of the bay, and K smiles. “Technology is amazing.” He points out the moulded port side wall. The durasteel walls have been pockmarked with niches and locking mechanisms to store standard sized cargo-crates, turning a featureless section on many ships into increased storage. He points over the standing shelves in front of the cargo-wall to the catwalk above with a support crane nearby. “The crane is a pretty nice piece of equipment for what we do. You’ll notice it has a multi-joint extending arm to do wall-loading, but what’s impressive is that it’s strong enough to lock in and support some standard mass cargo containers, hence the lockers on the second level.”

Overall the cargo room indicates an attention to detail that is not seen in most cargo facilities. “We were given the facilities, but our boss, and, well… the chef,” he pauses to laugh to himself, “he’s a very organized guy, so when he saw what we had, he went to work  creating a workflow that  makes sense.” I ask about a set of shelves located between the stairway to the catwalk and the loading ramp. “That was also his idea. We had the room, so we’ve used our own funds to stock up on some supplies for trading purposes… Luxuries in wild space. That sort of thing.” He continues, “we’re mostly delivering supplies to GalactiCorp research stations and repairing products for just about any colonial group who is using our tech, but who says we can’t bring some extra goodies?”

Just then a Furnesean woman makes her way past us toward the exit ramp. She turns to K as she passes and tells him that the tour has a strict timetable. He shrugs and tells her that the tour will be done in time. She pauses at the ramp, narrows her eyes slightly, and then proceeds to leave. I ask K who she was, and he tells me she is the quartermaster, and that in many respects, he doesn’t really know who she is. Apparently the CRDV-GC1 is not the only thing that is new.

We make our way to the bow of the ship, and he points out three chambers. The ship features two umbilical chambers on either side of the vessel, one being designated for outgoing shipments and the other for receiving. The central chamber is off-limits. K starts to blush. “I feel terrible that I can’t tell you.” I tell him I understand, but he continues. “This sort of thing usually isn’t my scene, you know? I’m usually just the background guy. I’m only doing this as a favor to Walter.” I thank him for his efforts so far, and tell him there’s no pressure. This kind of humility makes him one of the more interesting interview subjects I’ve had. He seems to relax and directs me upstairs.

The stairwell takes us to a catwalk that wraps around the bow and starboard side. I observe the three lockers at the bow of the ship. Near the stairs was a small gym set-up with a sparring bag. Perhaps most interesting was a small robot laying down on a ratty flop couch, as though it were sleeping. K taps on one of the couch’s arm rests. “Hey, look alive, Blu.” The robot, curiously, turns over like a lurkat; a most aloof gesture. I ask about the robot, but K simply responds with a shrug. “We found him on the last ship and he’s been with us ever since.”

The medbay is impressive, with every manner of medical gadget one could imagine. Inside the medbay is the ship’s doctor, who  almost drops a tray full of drug containers when he sees us enter the room. My impression is that he is relatively fresh out of med school by his nervous energy. As he picks up a few of the containers that had fallen to the floor, he says with a shaky voice that he was busy putting his lab in order. As the two were arguing about who would give the tour, I began to observe the facilities on my own. It all seems very impressive; this medbay was more than just an area for triage or simple medical procedures , but brought to mind a military-class field hospital. No doubt this comes from the surplus of knowledge and technology provided by GalactiCorp’s medical division.

The bay is spacious and equipped with three beds and, interestingly enough, there is a full body scanner mounted into a corner. I ask the doctor about the device’s functions, but as he was still arguing with K, all I receive are several rattled-off features. It sounds like someone who memorized a manual front to cover. From what I could see,  the scanner can accomplish 14 industry-standard diagnostic scans and generate computer-rendered exploratory displays for theoretical nano-surgery applications.

Still consumed with their argument, K and the doctor make no effort to stop me from entering the biolab. The lab itself was locked, but the nearby decontamination room affords me a chance to look inside. Inside this room seems to be facilities for medical biotech applications, as well as medical experimentation and research. I am unable to peer for too long, however, as the doctor waves K and I out of the medbay, citing all of the work he has to do.

Outside the medbay, K proceeds to apologize profusely and directs me to follow him to the third deck. As we approach the stairs he points out the cold storage. At that moment I become distracted by an energetic Parrack clutching a tablet who rushes past us. K calls after him, mentioning powerpaks “were in the center drawer of the workbench.”

The stairwell opens into a large common room in the ship’s stern. The centerpiece of the common room is a large communal table. As we sit down, we could see an impressive view of the surrounding city from the stern’s transparent aluminum window.

“Watch this,” K says as he pulls out his mobile. With a couple of taps, the window flickers into a pre-rendered image of a beach landscape. “Sometimes you don’t want to see the stars, you know?”

Behind me, or I should say on the starboard side next to the stairs, is a tranquil garden. The garden consists of a long, narrow hydroponic planter box for various edible herbs, and a larger, two-tiered box that featured vegetables including grashes, a miniature pom bush, and a single ferrig tree in the second tier of the box. Last is a large, climate-controlled transparent box featuring room for plant specimens for study. K mentions it is similar to the nano-soil tech by SolariCo, perhaps even the same technology. He admits the garden is not his area of interest, but he goes on to state that it has been latched onto by the ship’s security guard.

He rattles off some of the other common-room features: A guest GIN terminal, a storage closet, a viewing couch, and a full galley with two food processors. There is one for the protein-rich algae noodles that make up the vast majority of any spacer’s diet, as well as a new, experimental concoction that draws a look of disgust from K as he mentions it.
stq_graphic_2“Sometimes when I forget this ship is a big experiment, I take a look at the new food processor, and I’m quickly reminded of our place.” I ask him how the new noodles taste. “Not sure, really. I am still trying to clean the motor oil out of the system from when [redacted] last tried to use it.” An Astro-mole wanders into the common room from down the hall, greets us, and offers us lunch. I decline, but the Astro-mole and K keep needling me about it. I relent, and we all chat as the the little fellow begins to cook. I press K on the timetable laid out by the quartermaster, but he shrugs it off, explaining that the Astro-mole is practically a machine in a kitchen. We continue our discussion, with the cook going into great detail about the kitchen and the various appliances with, mostly focusing on accessibility, given his diminutive form.  I was amazed when the meal arrived within a few minutes. I am not one known for fine dining, or any real experience with looking at food as a form of art, but the lunch I had on that ship may stand out as one of the finest meals I ever ate. It was an admittedly humble broth with algae-noodles, the same from the processor brought up earlier. Then, to my surprise, the Astro-mole takes a pile of small, thin flakes of meat and crushed herbs and spoons them into the broth. The herbs and meat cook instantly in the broth and the fragrance of which instantly made me feel as though I was starving. The three of us sat at the nook, connected to the kitchen, and enjoyed our meals. With our stomachs full, K suggests we finish the tour, and I agree. I ask the cook, however, to provide me with a plastic leftover cup, which he agrees to with a smile.

As we enter the hallway, the aforementioned wot passes by and gestures toward K. K speaks with the Wot, but the conversation seems  one-sided. Content with the exchange, the Wot moves over to the garden. It was only then I noticed the small robot shaped like an orange construction bucket following along, ferrying soil. I quickly come to a realization it is not my place to question the inhabitants of the ship.

K directs my attention to a door to my immediate left, which we enter. He explains that it is a passenger bunk room, featuring three bunks, a guest terminal, a fresher, and storage space. He points out that the crew bunks are more spacious, but marvels at how roomy a room for three passengers can be. The bunks themselves are capable of serving as emergency life-support pods, but K prefers not to think about that. “I want to be on this ship for a good, long time.”

Some more details on the freshers. K seemed proud of how the ship salvages water from the fresher. The freshers are rigged to filter  spent water and direct the  water to the gardening facilities, which further filters down the water for recycling in the freshers yet again. K smiles. “Growing up on my homeworld, fresh water tended to be  limited to a small spring on our island, so we had a similar water cycling system. This system just blows that one away.”

We continue our tour, and he gestures towards his bunk. He opens up the door revealing a tidy, spartan room, decorated with a ragged woven reed mat on the floor. He gives me a sheepish grin.“I spend a lot of time in the engineering bay. I actually have a hammock I can sling up in there. I keep this spot a little… zen, I guess.”

As our tour neared its end, he leads me to the door at the end of the hall. The door opened on its own as he approached the threshold and inside the bridge we were confronted by the ship’s captain, a rather stern Terrekin woman. She went right up to us, asking about input lag  in the touch interface on the comm terminal. K nodded and apologized before introducing me. Right away, her sour mood seemed to to something more jovial. The captain reached out to shake my hand.

“I’m sorry if I came across as short, we’re still making sure all of our systems are calibrated to each of our specifications. On top of that, the orbital authority put us on some kind of flight delay. It’s a huge pain…”

I mentioned a story that is familiar to my readers: I was set to review a Drammal commercial liner, but its maiden voyage was delayed by 12 hours due to a flubbed registration with the the Morriband Orbital Authority database. The captain, content her concerns would be addressed soon, smiled and let K continue the last leg of the tour. As she left, he seemed to stare at her for a moment before proceeding to rattle off the features he had neglected to mention.

The ship’s bridge is an elegant, curved structure- most ships face bridge that are utilitarian at best, the prioritize function over form but this finds a happy medium between the two. A two-tiered chamber, the upper level features the navigation terminal on one side, and the comm terminal and GIN data controls on the other. K directed me to the screen, and with a few simple gestures stripped it of the glossy UI, showing me the underlying streams of code.

“I wasn’t very keen on the ship’s initial AI, so I am in the process of upgrading it. [The orange bucket robot] is going to serve as the ship’s new AI. We already have a good rapport.” I ask him about the unorthodox nature of this, but he smirks and restores the UI. An audio feed drifts through the bridge, “Thank you, [redacted], I am pleased to hear that you are satis…” Sudden static cuts into the feed, then a slight warble as the voice comes back. “I am still getting used to my expanded functions, excuse me.”

I remark at the civility of the artificial personality and how lifelike it is. The generally formality of it all surprises me. K shrugs and then responds. “[He]’s not just a robot, he’s part of the crew, you know?” Not content with the answer, I press further, but by now K is directing my attention to the lower level of the bridge. It is a rounded bank of terminals and interfaces surrounding a centralized pilot chair. He explains the parrack from earlier is the pilot, but just as he does so, the pilot returns, tablet in hand. He asks me who I am, and K reminds him I was here to write an article about the ship. The pilot greets me, and says he’s an open book. I ask him about how the ship flies, and he gives me a slight grimace. He has little idea how it will actually fly, the grounding-order preventing him from taking any form of test-run. He then smiles, maybe a little too broadly, and gives me a thumbs-up gesture. “I’m positive this’ll fly like a Zoomer on coffee.”

On the way out

My tour complete, K and I, accompanied by the pilot, make our way to the cargo-bay to the primary loading ramp of the vessel. I notice the ramp has been raised, and we pause there. K fishes into his pocket and with nary a gesture of his finger on his mobile, lowers the ramp. He beams a bit, and the pilot nods, his feathers ruffling as he swells with pride. I ask them what is so important about this moment.

K smiles and he says, “The ramp doesn’t stick like the one on our old ship.”

I thank them for their time and make my way down the ramp onto the tarmac of the port. Outside waits a wheeled cruiser, idling, with the Furnesean quartermaster at the wheel. She gives a very curt smile, almost a formality, as she offers me a ride to the transport depot. I accept, and the ride is mostly silent aside from a brief exchange as I leave the cruiser.

She hands me my bag from across the passenger seat, and she asks me, “What do you think about the ship?”

I tell her that it seems perfectly complementary to the crew aboard and that I have never quite seen a vessel so uniquely suited to its passengers.

She smiles at this. “You noticed it too, huh?”

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