Ah, back to the good old days, when I was introducing Alley to the Enterprise for the first time. I was still trying to sell her on the position, and I think I nearly lost her when we went to the bridge.
See, you have to understand, I’d been dealing with the construction of this starship for five years at this point. There wasn’t a single part of her I didn’t know and approve. There were also aspects of her design which I, frankly, had insisted upon because they fit my idea of what a Starship was supposed to be. Since I was the person paying the bills, I figured that gave me some say in the design, at least in some of the less mission-critical things.
I won’t try to describe the arguments I had with Val; ‘epic’ doesn’t really do them justice.
But the bridge design? My baby. Utterly.
So I was maybe a little bit personally affronted when Alley reacted the way she did.
Right, so Adam’s reminding me he has to pay the bills, so please buy the books! You can click on any image to purchase, and there’s the audio chapter at the end.
They swam down the airlock and stopped at the far hatch.
“This will be easier once you have your implant,” Kendra said offhandedly. “Everything we’re building is being equipped for implant interaction from the get-go. We won’t have to retrofit anything.”
“You just think at it?”
“More or less, yes.” She checked that the lock was ready for them to pass through. “Grab hold of the bar overhead as you go,” she advised. “You see the boundary?”
The orange strip around the hatch was illuminated.
“Yes. That means there’s gravity on the other side?”
“Three-quarters G. We’re establishing that as the norm on all of our orbital stations and ships. It’s enough so that visitors and residents won’t be harmed by prolonged exposure to microgravity. On the flip side, it’s easier to maintain than a full G, and allows for people born and raised on Luna or Mars to get by.”
“You’re really thinking long-term, aren’t you?”
“Just you wait until we’re able to get you fully up to speed.” The hatch opened. “Do what I do.”
Kendra reached up and took hold of the bar over the inner hatch. She pivoted forward, her legs passing through first and being immediately pulled down to the deck. She released the bar and let her momentum take her the rest of the way through.
“Got that?” she said, turning.
Alley looked at the hatchway dubiously. “I’ll give it a shot.”
She grabbed the bar as well and dangled for a moment. Then, unexpectedly, she pushed herself down from the bar, braced against the floor, and half jumped, half stepped through. She stumbled a bit but caught herself and corrected, standing straight to see Kendra grinning approvingly.
“To be honest, I never bother with the bar myself. You figured that out pretty damn quick.”
Alley just looked at her. “It seemed pretty obvious. Besides, there’s no better opportunity if I was going to fall on my face.”
“Point taken. We’re on deck seven, portside. Follow me.”
Over the next forty-five minutes Kendra gave Alley a walking tour of the saucer section. They saw functional compartments: medical bay, various science labs, environmental and life support. They visited crew quarters, with Alley commenting on the relative spaciousness, compared to submarines. They saw a dining hall and got Alley her coffee. Finally, they ended up on the bridge.
“Last stop,” announced Kendra, commanding the doors to remain shut. “I think you’ll appreciate this.”
The doors opened.
Before them was the bridge, fitted out in cool shades of grey and blue. Around the perimeter were bank upon bank of monitors and workstations, with rugged-looking chairs firmly attached to the floors. Towards the back, facing forward, was a console with a single seat. The circular center was a half meter lower than the surrounding deck. Backing up to the console above were a pair of seats, with complex controls and screens on both sets of arms. Further forward were a trio of seats arranged behind a banked array of controls.
None of this is what caught Alley’s eye.
Instead, she focused on the broad and clear expanse at the far side of the bridge, allowing them to look out at the dock and space beyond.
“Tell me that’s a screen.”
“Yes, and no.”
“That’s not reassuring.”
“It is a screen. You can have it display virtually anything the computer can generate, whether that’s a view of the surroundings, tactical information, sensor readings, whatever. But the screen is embedded in a slab of optical aluminum, eighteen centimeters thick.”
“It’s a window?”
“On a starship.”
“You put a window. On a starship.”
“Yes. You seem a little stuck on this.”
“You put a goddess loving window on a starship!”
“We put lots of windows on this starship. You should see the one in the observation lounge on deck eight; it’s bigger than this one.”
“Are you totally out of your mind?”
“This seems to be really bothering you.”
“Why isn’t it bothering you? It’s a window on a starship!”
“Because I know it’s perfectly safe. It’s nearly as hard as sapphire, stable at temperature extremes, and resists shattering. That doesn’t begin to get into the other tricks we’ve tucked into it.”
“Okay, it’s strong. But a window?”
“When better? This is the first starship; what we do here sets a design standard for all future ships, and I wanted a window!”
“So you chose that?”
“Along with the general layout of the bridge. I’ll admit, it’s not really original. I took the idea from an old television program –”
“We can talk hobbies later. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen this in my mind’s eye for most of my life, and now it’s real. What do you think?”
Alley looked around, really seeing it, and examining the form and function.
“Conn?” she said, pointing to the forward console.
“Yes. Helm, Engineering, Astrogation,” answered Kendra, pointing left to right.
“One of the two center seats. The other is for your XO.”
“What’s behind them?”
“Originally that was going to be one of the science stations, but we’re going to be adding armament, so that will be the Tactical station.”
“Intended for exploration. You know. “Boldly go where no one has gone before” and all that? Until we were pulled into this little dispute, there wasn’t any reason to think about weapons.”
“Tell me there’s some defensive capability.”
“Yes, mostly as a side effect of being a supraluminal ship.”
“Supraluminal. Faster than light. Time for Warp Theory 101, I guess. I’ll explain on our way back to the Galileo.” Kendra held up a hand, pausing them for a moment, then started walking to the rear of the bridge. “Sorry, just letting Mia know we’re on our way. Back in the day, there were many theories about how you could achieve FTL travel: alternate dimensions, reduced mass, compressed dimensions, wormholes. The theory that finally won out was the Cochrane Theory, supplemented by the Carnahan Theory. Cochrane came up with the warp field equation, which led to the creation of static warp fields. There didn’t seem to be any practical use until Carnahan came along and figured out how to change the shape of the field. Turns out that the imbalance in the field creates a dynamic tension between the objects within the field and the rest of the universe. This tension is resolved by shifting the object in the direction of least resistance, and field itself reduces the interactions between the object within the field and the outside universe.”
Alley’s eyes were starting to glaze over.
“Okay, simplifying things. The shape of the field determines your direction; the size and intensity of the field determine your speed. The larger and stronger the field, the faster you can go.”
“What happens when one field runs into another?”
“We don’t know; there have never been two fields generated at the same time. What my lead scientist has postulated is the two fields will short each other out and probably fuse the drives.”
“That would be bad.”
“Bad on toast.”
“How large are the fields?”
“Depends on the intensity, but at maximum warp the field is predicted to be about a thousand kilometers across and ten thousand long; think of a teardrop for the shape.”
“I think that’s enough warp theory for now.”
“The bit I wanted to get to is that, with this theory, the ship remains in the universe, which means we’re going to be flying through real space. Space is a nearly perfect vacuum, but only nearly perfect; there’s plenty of random stuff floating around, to say nothing of micrometeorites and the like. Running into those at superluminal speeds will end your day in a most permanent manner.”
“I can see that.”
“What we’ve done is three-fold. First, there’s a deflector field extending around the ship, inside the warp field but no closer than about five hundred meters. I can’t exactly describe how it works, but it more or less repels the molecules and atoms by interfering with their electrical charge.”
“You memorized that.”
“Bet your ass I did. Next in is a pressor field. We use the grav plates to generate a bubble of gravitic energy around the ship. That’s to catch the larger objects.”
“And what’s the range on that?”
“About two hundred meters.”
“Won’t we build up a sort of bow wave of stuff?”
“Val – Dr. Roberts, the project lead – assures me we won’t. She’s the one responsible for building the drive, so I tend to trust her.”
“Okay. You said three-fold.”
“I did. The hull is going to be fully plated in CeeSea.”
“C-E-E-S-E-A. It’s a compound of chromium and Seaborgium.”
“And that does what, exactly?”
“It’s highly reflective, like 90% in the EM spectrum, so it will attenuate the hell out of any sort of directed energy. It’s also stupidly dense and strong, so it will act as physical armor around the hull.”
They had arrived at the airlock. “Sounds like you’ve built a pretty capable ship.”
“We’re getting there. Knowing all this, you still in?”
“Oh, yeah. I want this.”
The Road to the Stars – Book 1 – Chapter 15