Thursday, 15 March 2018

Sleeping on the Spacship Armax.

“What else do you want to know? In the centre of the ship is a bit we call the core or “storm cellar”. This is where you want to be if there is a solar flare or some devil is shooting a particle gun at you. It is the most shielded part of the living areas. Usually you find the control room, medical centre and primary sleeping area here. On the Armax these are configured as a bundle, so each one directly contacts the other two. What? Microgravity, remember. Hatches can be in what you think of as floors and ceilings.

“Command is pretty much as you would expect. Lots of panels and displays and VR goggles. Medical is not that different, now I think about it. More surgical stations and beds, of course. Even in microG you may need to strap a patient to something.

“Sleeping quarters? They are sort of a cylinder and there are alcoves down most of the walls. Walls also being floor and ceiling. Each alcove is about a metre square by two metres. Has a little curtain for privacy. Half of your alcove you sleep in, the other half is for your stuff. There are storage lockers and nets, and on one wall there is a screen and terminal. That is pretty up to date, so you can access tons of music, video or books with it. It has a fold-down keyboard and cywriter but I seldom used those myself. Actually, I tended to use the mouse to input Morse. Quite easy after a day or so. More private than the microphone, less hassle than waving your arms about in zeroG to use the holographic keyboard.

“You sleep in a sleeping bag. It is attached to one of the short sides of the alcove. There is no mattress, no pillow, you just float there. The alcove has a little air vent that you can never fully turn off. There is always a gentle little breeze that stops carbon dioxide building up around your head while you sleep. On the Armax each alcove had three such bags, rolled up. A red, a white and a blue. Most of the time you get an alcove to yourself. When the ship is carrying a lot of personnel and there is a radiation threat as many people as possible will cram into the storm shelter. Some of those alcoves are filled up with ration packs in case we have to spend a couple of days in the storm shelter. When it is crowded you end up “hot bunking”. You share your alcove with two other guys. One sleeps while the other two work. On the Armax each guy got his own bag, colour coded. That was a lot nicer arrangement than on many ships”

Tuesday, 13 March 2018


“Besides the usual cargo lock we had three Kwikloks. A Kwiklok is an Iron Maiden without spikes; it fits a man in a suit, leaving just a few pints of air to scavenge, and cycles automatically. A big time saver in changing shifts. I passed through the middle-sized one; Tiny, of course, used the big one. Without hesitation the new man pulled himself into the small one.”

Kwikloks may be encountered on spacecraft or space habitats. They are airlocks intended to for the rapid passage of a single individual. Their small internal capacity allows them to be rapidly filled or emptied of air. A typical Kwiklok resembles a sarcophagus set in a wall. Each door has a window at face level in an attempt to counter the sensation of confinement when using a Kwiklok. Individuals taller than 78 inches will have difficulty using Kwikloks. Obese individuals or those with exceptional bulk for other reasons may also find it impossible to use a Kwiklok. The amount of equipment a normal-sized individual can take through a Kwiklok is limited. The claustrophobic should avoid Kwikloks!

A Kwiklok designed for rapid cargo transfer has a capacity of about one cubic yard and resembles a safe with a door on two sides. The floor is often constructed as a sliding pallet to facilitate loading and unloading. Kwikloks of around one cubic foot capacity are used to pass items such as rock samples and tools between exterior and interior. Kwikloks designed for the passage of robotic systems, octosaps (TS Under Pressure 3e p.101) or astropuses (TS 3e p.118, Bio-tech 3e p.104/ 4e p.91) may be encountered.

Kwikloks are also used on underwater habitats and vessels. Standing for the first time in a coffin-sized closet while it rapidly fills with water is a memorable experience!
Kwikloks are also found in research facilities where it is important that the interior of a room cannot be contaminated by the atmosphere of another. Such Kwikloks may include decontamination systems.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Mayflies from Space.

Mayflies are a class of spacecraft described on p.94 of GURPS Terradyne. They may plausibly be encountered in a Transhuman Space or many other space-based scenarios.

Mayflies are one-use orbit-to-surface cargo transports. More material is sent from orbit than is brought up from Earth (or Mars) so a considerable proportion is sent down by mayfly. A mayfly is a simple glider that is built in orbit. It has a low-cost computer guidance system and some means of thrust to nudge it out of orbit. Mayflies may be catapulted from orbiting constructions but they still require some means of independent thrust and manoeuvre.
A small mayfly has a 5 yard wingspan, occupies 5 cubic yards and has a loaded mass of 3 tons. The largest have a 23 yard wingspan, occupy 100 cubic yards and mass 65 tons. About 80% of a mayfly’s mass is cargo so the largest carry 50 tons/ 100,000 pounds. GURPS Terradyne prices a large mayfly at $7,500.

Mayflies are constructed in orbit using materials and techniques that are readily available. They are unlikely to use exotic materials or anything that is more expensive than it needs to be. Likewise, the thrust and manoeuvre system is likely to be something simple and cost-effective such as a chemical rocket with the minimum of fuel reserve.

Mayflies are cargo vessels and not designed to carry passengers. Resourceful players may find ways around this or locate NPCs that can help them do so, for a price.

Acquiring a mayfly from a non-reputable source comes with its own potential problems. A badly built mayfly could break up on re-entry, destroying its cargo. More usefully from a narrative point of view is for a malfunction in the guidance system or control surfaces to cause the mayfly to land many hundreds of miles from its intended destination. Perhaps the system has been hacked or deliberately sabotaged. A player may be placed in hostile territory, or the opportunity for a salvage operation created.

A rogue mayfly might be directed to crash into a planetside target. Mayflies that stray too far from their registered flight path may be shot down!

Being relatively simple, most mayflies lack sophisticated security systems so some smugglers see them as a good place to hide contraband. Some smugglers use “parasite pods” which detach or eject from the mayfly some distance from its intended landing spot.

We are given no information on where mayflies land. Wilderness areas such as deserts or large bodies of water seem likely. Perhaps a problem with locals stealing cargos may arise. Or a salvage operation needs deep diving expertise and equipment.

Landed mayflies are broken up and their components repurposed for various planetside uses. In some parts of Earth or Mars buildings made from mayfly parts are a common sight.