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The Fused (as regular readers no doubt already know!) takes place aboard a generation ship known only as the Ship, a massive spacecraft on a colonising mission, flying endlessly through space over the course of a hundred or more human lifetimes. It’s a complete and almost self-contained little world, taking in its energy by scooping up loose hydrogen from interstellar space, radiating waste heat and a little light, its systems dedicated to the preservation of onboard life. Four habitat domes (officially A, B, C, and D; unofficially named Airion, Brandia, Celestia, and Duras) provide living and recreational space for the colonists and crew, the main body of the ship dedicated to all necessary systems, an immense ramscoop blotting out the forward/’downward’ view, but scattered with its own constellations of running lights and signals, ‘glassed’ ceilings of networked corridors. (They are not, in fact, made of glass.) The ramscoop provides the main structure of the Ship, its entire forward face dedicated to collecting interstellar hydrogen. The domes are positioned around the reverse side, equidistant from one another, and the engine assemblage projects like an immense tower from the centre, midway between them all. For much of its journey, things have worked out more or less as they were originally designed to, and various loose historical definitions of roles aboard the Ship follow below.

On such a colony ship, each habitat dome kilometres across and the main body over twice as broad, there are a lot of things that need doing. The single broadest category of Shipboard work is “Maintenance”, which covers almost every minor but necessary task. Although the Ship is incredibly advanced, the Domes, in their replicas of Earth, also require almost every Earthlike task to maintain: street sweeping, rubbish collection, gardening, and all the rest. Maintenance also covers minor repairs to the Ship’s main structure: replacing a damaged deck plate, for example. Most maintenance workers have specific specialities, and may rotate their duties over a long timeframe, or settle into a single speciality for life.

Anything that needs complex, advanced work falls to Engineering, Maintenance’s big brother. Locating, analysing, and replacing a faulty component in the vast reaches of the Ship is Engineering’s job. Constructing houses and other complicated items in the Habitat Domes is also Engineering’s job. Maintenance and upkeep of the automated fusion reactors and other similar systems is entrusted to small, specific teams who often have little to do, but are always on emergency call just in case.

Medical are another necessary discipline, doctors and nurses all trained and equipped, authorised not only to requisition the items they require, but also to provide others with the same authorisation: allowing a patient to collect any drugs they need directly from the source, for example. Complicated biological problems in, for example, the vats of engineered drug-producing bacteria are Medical’s job to sort out, complicated mechanical problems fall to Engineering, and the day-to-day upkeep still goes to Maintenance, in this instance its dedicated medical subsection.

Security covers quite simply the Ship’s police force. Crime on the Ship is usually pretty low, and much of Security involves walking patrol routes or watching doors, and little else. They also govern the Brig, a prison complex built into an outer section of the vast spaceship, where they work with psychiatric specialists from Medical to rehabilitate those criminals who can be rehabilitated, and keep locked away those few who they are unable to salvage, and who would pose a permanent threat walking free.

Science is a section often sadly neglected: the people of the Ship have any amount of knowledge at their fingertips, and even those who dare to venture beyond the boundaries of the known are limited by the constraints of their environment in what experiments they can actually perform. The simulation of complex systems is a fine art, but practical tests are rarely easily available. It is, perhaps, the deterioration of the Science section that has most helped see the Ship on the downward spiral that culminates in Lindsi’s desperate mission.

The Ship classifies many additional jobs as Colonist. The population of adults in the age range the Ship considers optimal for working is higher than the typical number of required positions. Since the Ship doesn’t use money, this isn’t actually a problem: all basic needs are fulfilled as a matter of course. Many people therefore have thriving careers in the arts, one way or another, whether they write, compose music, paint, act, design non-necessary items the Ship does not have schematics for on file, or even grow food crops to supplement the algae-based food the Ship provides. The Ship’s homegrown political system also comes under the “Colonist” heading: the Ship itself recognises the authority of captain and primary crew (“Crew”), with all other positions given precisely equal weight to one another in matters not directly concerning their speciality. Only a computer could play so scrupulous an even hand, and for most of its journey, that has been not only respected but relied upon in all walks of life.

Finally, we come to the Crew. Crew positions stopped being filled save in an honorary way only a few generations after the Ship first set out: only the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Engineer, Chief Maintenance Officer, and Chief Security Officer positions are still filled as a matter of course. Crew positions have more underlying complexity in their assignment than it would seem; one of the mysteries of the Ship has long been why it chooses to share information freely with some people without prompting, but not others. If the Ship’s advice is not sought during candidate selection, it is extremely unlikely simply by weight of numbers (the ratio of non-acceptable to acceptable candidates is well over 10,000:1) that the officer will have access to the true capabilities of their station. However, since those true capabilities, almost never used, have been forgotten along with the unfilled Crew positions, nobody has ever actually noticed this…