It’s been a while since I was last aboard the Ship. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I figured I’d go over how it all goes together, and then I figured I might as well share it with you guys. Bits of it, anyway!
The Ship, seen from the front, is concave, and circular in outline: a giant ramscoop with a long, thin spire protruding from the back. Thin antenna-struts continue the ramscoop structure well out beyond the hull, supporting an electromagnetic field that funnels charged particles towards the centre. In the centre is the hole known simply as the Intake, a feeder tube that runs up the very centre of the Ship and delivers the collected interstellar material to the Main Reactor, a high-power spherical tokamak fusion reactor that supplies the majority of Ship power. There are two backup reactors should the Main Reactor fail, capable of providing only emergency power. Behind, or above depending on your point of view, sits the Main Drive, the massive engine assembly that accelerated the Ship up to its current velocity, and that may one day be used to decelerate it again.
Gravity is produced by an artificial gravity system that produces a field between opposed plates. As a result, it’s possible to have varying gravitational orientations and strengths within the Ship, and the Main Reactor itself is a zero-g environment. It’s a fairly energy-expensive system, and in a state of emergency power, the gravity aboard would be drastically decreased save in vital areas. Most of the Ship is designed following the convention that the direction of travel is downwards, so the drive shaft is typically known as the Spire, appearing like an enormous tower.
The four Habitat Domes are oval in shape, arranged symmetrically on the back of the ramscoop. Each one is six hours different from its neighbour, and each experiences a different simulated season at any given time. Most denizens of the Ship live inside one of the Domes, which approximate a low-density town environment. A solar strip provides artificial sunlight, with the active emitters changing throughout the day to mimic planetary rotation, and a complex water cycling system ensures that water used within each Dome is captured, filtered, cleaned, and reused both as drinking water and as rain. During local night, the upper panels of the Domes become fully transparent, allowing residents to see the stars clearly.
Food comes in two basic types: sustenance and luxury. Highly concentrated algae farms and similar installations within the ramscoop hull mass-produce plain but edible rations that can be flavoured in a variety of ways and that meet the requirements of both growing and adult humans. Luxury foodstuffs, by contrast, are grown from crops in carefully-tended hydroponics bays, or grown in vats in the case of meat, and processed through a bewildering array of possible meal choices. A diet of luxury food alone cannot be guaranteed to meet every requirement, but it’s probably much tastier and more interesting.
Money is an interesting one. All citizens are supposedly guaranteed the basic essentials of life: clothing, shelter, a simple diet, and medical care. On top of this, they may earn Luxury Credits, or lux, which they can spend as they please on whatever luxuries catch their fancy. In Lindsi’s time, however, this system has become corrupted, and even basic necessities are semi-routinely denied to citizens who displease the authorities. Lux are now almost essential to survival.
Clothing changes style year in and year out. Textiles are mass-produced by the Ship, with more complex patterns and cuts typically costing more lux; it’s possible to make a lux-based living by designing sufficiently beloved items. In addition to whatever the citizens choose to requisition, however, the Ship also produces biosuits for those working in hazardous areas. These multi-function skintight suits protect the wearer from various forms of danger, depending on the specification to which they were designed. Any biosuit can have a helmet firmly affixed in an emergency, turning it into a spacesuit with a very limited air supply. Only the Ship has control over biosuit design; it’s one of the few functions it hasn’t been restricted from performing.
The Ship is also the name of the complex AI that oversees the huge spacecraft. Certain limits have been placed on it by design at its creation; others have been added later. In Lindsi’s time, the Ship has very little power to control the craft it nominally oversees.