Thursday, September 12, 2013

Excerpt from Starships Now! by Robert Duncan-Enzmann

"Glory" By Don Davis and Duncan-Enzmann 
Transfer to Eureka: Section on Shields Down

View from a Starship’s Bridge

Clamshell and iris-shields of the Echolance and Torch ships open. Standing on the bridge of these ships is now like standing under a starry sky. But what a sky! It is totally free of light pollution, gases, mists, and other things that spoil the view.

Fleet Operations

“All hands! All hands!”

It’s Admiral Duncan.

“Refueling, report to your stations.”

He’s timed things – not just carefully, but wisely. It’s afternoon. Everyone has been fed. They’re rested. They have practiced, and they know the order’s coming today or tomorrow. It’s a clockwork operation.

The next months will be a period of maximum work-load for the ship’s company of Rainbow. Every man, woman, and child will work fourteen to eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. Preparation for this effort started weeks earlier with a tightening of discipline to the point of harshness.

It’s the way of those who live their lives on Echolances. For them, it is survival. It’s life and death. At these times they must work. Those who cannot, or will not, are expelled from the communities – usually to the colonies. A small number of very able colonists who are both compatible-with and accepted-by ships companies may join them. It’s a two-way migration.

Cleanup is now done by children so young they are but little more than toddlers. Kitchens are operated and food is delivered by very young grade-schoolers. Communications are manned by women in the last stages of pregnancy, and the very old. Cargo, supplies, and structures are moved-about by older grade-schoolers, while the oldest of this cohort refuels, repairs, and refurbishes the refueling fleet.

Ages of the maintenance cohort range up to twelve; it’s a tender age, but on a Starship they have trained for this since they were four. Girls and boys work, eat, and sleep beside the glove docks. The refueling fleet tolerates no breakdowns. There are no excuses. There is pride, even an enormous esprit de corps. They are magnificent and they know it.

None falter. Yes, there are injuries, but they are cared for. Yes, many are exhausted and sleep “just a little longer” on the decks; but the refueling fleet functions like clockwork. When a damaged or malfunctioning craft enters a dock, it is replaced at that moment. The cohort is ahead of the game, it has extra vehicles equipped and ready for launch in their glove docks.

Incoming vehicles are seized on the spot, the cohort swarms over them working with almost-desperation. Teams rival each other, checkers rival each other to find faults. Scores are posted.

Groups of Little Ones bring in food for “their teams.” The bring clothes they have cleaned and sort-of ironed, warm water with which to clean up a little, progress reports, and “good news” about work accomplished, errors not found, and accident free days.

On each team it’s the section of Little Ones who make up more-or-less nice fresh beds for the big children. It’s the Little Ones who understand that many of the team will be happier at night if well-loved dolls, teddy bears, and other objects “sleep with them.” The little ones understand – and so does everyone else, up to and including the fleet Admiral. Often the Little Ones tell bedtime stories or read to the team members – they understand.

Flag officers, already seasoned, with ambitions to become Captains, and even Admirals, manage the repair cohorts. It requires great insight, nicety of timing, a great deal of human empathy, sympathy, and compassion. No team may be discouraged by doing too poorly, no team is allowed to be so much better than the others that it becomes arrogant – even as the others are discouraged. This is education aboard a Starship at it is best. Those who have lived, worked, planned, and made their friends in such an environment are fortunate indeed.

From schematics drawn for Dr. Enzmann by Pangman

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