Etamui: Space Stations

The space stations of the Etamui are enormous, able to fit up to a million people comfortably, and with life-support systems to sustain double that for a limited period of time. In shape, they resemble a pyramid of donuts, with a flattened cylinder in the center and on top of the pyramid. Top, of course, being relative – the base of the cylinder is parallel to its orbit around Etamu. The central cylinder does not rotate, while the others do, providing the gravity that allows their inhabitants to live in comfort. The outermost ring, with a radius of 2 km, rotates at a speed of 140 m/s, which leads to approximately 40 rotations an hour; the inner rings move slightly slower to maintain the same level of gravity.

The innermost two rings are the Production ring and the Facilities ring, where the ProdOps live. Production, the ring closest to the central column, handles the fabrication of the vast majority of supplies necessary to keep the station running, while Facilities, the second ring, is responsible for the upkeep of the station itself. Though the largest fabricators, big enough to print the massive pieces of metal that make up the rings themselves, are located in the central column, Production contains numerous smaller printers and mills of various sorts. It also holds most of the farms where the bulk of the food is grown, though Facilities contains the smaller farms and hydroponics units that produce more specialized food.

Glitches tend to live in these two rings, primarily concentrated around the warehouses of Facilities. At any given time, large portions of the Facilities ring hold supplies that are packed away in case of emergencies, supplies which are often touched no more than once a decade. These complexes of storage units provide an excellent place for Glitches to hide out.

The third ring is the Research and Development ring, where the SciDevs live. Along with housing for its residents, this ring contains numerous labs where the SciDevs conduct their research. The primary hospitals of the station are located here, as are the facilities where the vast majority of the artificial births are incubated. Fabricators for specific items, like the components that go into most bio-mods, are located here.

All living quarters, no matter the ring, are divided into village-like structures similar to the kampungs in modern Indonesia. Each one contains a primary school, a small medical facility, and a store for nutrients and fabrication supplies. Every pod can, in an emergency, be sealed off from the rest of the structure via airlocks and remain self-sufficient for up to a month.

Each ring can, when necessary, connect to the central column via long arms, though these are usually retracted. Once a year, however, they reconnect, so the central column’s massive engines can restore the slight loss of rotational momentum that the rings experience as they revolve through space. This is also how their rotation was started in the first place – once the central cylinder had produced sufficient components to build the shell of a ring, it connected to the stationary ring and slowly pushed it to the right speed.

The rings can also connect to each other via flexible plastic tubes that can withstand the difference in momentum between the rings for the duration needed for someone to pass from one to another. However, because of that difference in rotational velocities, the tubes do not remain connected when not in use. Someone who wants to pass from one to another must wait until the airlocks on both rings are lined up. Such transit is rather disorienting, as the tube stretches beneath the traveler’s feet and gravity does not remain entirely constant in one direction.

Transportation around the rings is provided by a fleet of small shuttles that run on electromagnetic rails around the outside of each ring. The lack of friction allows them to obtain a high rate of velocity, traversing the circumference of the rings in a matter of minutes. For the comfort of passengers, they max out at 200 km/h, though they could easily go faster.

Written by: Emily Randall

Children of Earth: Ships

The majority of the ships used by the Children of Earth are small, designed to fit a single extended family. Though larger ships, supporting populations of hundreds or thousands, do exist, they are comparatively rare, as they are far more expensive to construct and maintain. However, every fleet has at least one large ship, which holds the festivals, interfamily meetings, and other large gatherings.

Space on the smaller ships is at a premium, as every extra gram of weight leads to an increased need for fuel. Essential life-support systems –oxygen recyclers, hydroponic gardens, water purification systems, and the like — take precedence, as does cargo space, which leaves the living quarters relatively small and spartan. They are typically arranged along the edges of the ship, leaving the common areas like the gardens in the center. Passenger quarters also sit in the center, as the Children of Earth provide the main form of interstellar transportation. These, too, tend to be rather spartan.

The engines, purification systems, and cargo holds are below, sealed off from the living quarters via flexible, airtight membranes that function like cell membranes. Similar membranes, formed from synthetic chemicals that resemble lipids, seal off each compartment. A breach in the hull is therefore contained to a single section, allowing the rest of the ship to maintain oxygen and air pressure.

Such breaches do occur on occasion, though every attempt is made to protect the ships. The outer hulls are built from interlocking sheets of carbon nanotubes, while inner walls are constructed from lightweight, conductive ceramics. These support the creation of the magnetic fields that shield the ship’s inhabitants from the surrounding radiation.

Though the shields are strong enough to protect the ships during interstellar travel, they are not designed for planetary docking. The outer walls are not guaranteed to be strong enough to withstand the friction of entering atmosphere, and the heat generated by such entry could prove damaging to the inhabitants. Instead, ships approaching a planet to trade will dock at geostationary space stations, which provide pods — often in the form of space elevators — to allow the Children of Earth to transport their goods to the customers waiting on the planet.

Most modern ships are propelled using antimatter engines, with the antimatter safely contained in powerful magnetic fields. Older ships may still possess nuclear-powered engines, but they are both less reliable and less powerful, as the antimatter engines are very efficient at producing propulsion. However, they are expensive to maintain, and a single flaw in the magnetic field containment will quickly prove fatal, so some families have opted to keep their nuclear engines for as long as possible.

Gravity engines maintain an Earth-like level of gravity in all of the smaller ships, while larger ships and space stations use rotational forces to simulate gravity. Because the gravity engines require a significant amount of energy, an amount that increases exponentially with the amount of space that they sustain, they are often shut off for periods of transit. In an emergency, they are one of the first components to be shut down. However, they cannot be turned off for too long without causing serious health issues for the ship’s inhabitants.

Writing credit: Emily Randall