Lift Ships™, a short SciFi story of possibilities
Copyright © Bob Freeman, 2009-2019 All Rights Reserved
Lift Ships have minimal crews: Captain, First Mate, Runner/animal handler (canine) and Compressor (Simian).
All are responsible for on-going maintenance for the ship as well as supervising static and live cargo.
Additional crews are taken on during launch to compress the hydrogen gas and fire up the rockets.
The temporary Boost Crews are responsible for pumping the Hydrogen and managing the rocket engines after the balloon has reached its apex.
At around 18 miles above the Earth, the crew gets to work, compressing the gas and turning the balloon into a solar sail.
The compressor, driven by Canines on infinite belt tracks and hamster wheels, feed Hydrogen to the rocket nozzles spaced around the rim of the ship.
Mix Oxygen with the Hydrogen, add a little flame and boom-wacka-boom, the H2LiftShip slowly rises to a low, often unstable orbit.
If done correctly, the ship will have enough loft to catch the solar wind.
The alternative is a slow, agonizing Hindenburg descent.
It has taken years of trial and error to find the best combination of weight, crew, and design in the turn-over phrase to ensure successful launches.
The latest fabric design is a material that does not rend with extreme pressure differentials in low or zero environments. Nano-fabric based on spider silk is the strongest, lightest, cheapest material in common use.
Without the rocket boost, the ship would hover at the balance point waiting for a solar flare kick, a wind shift or watch the hydrogen molecules slowly bleed through the fabric.
Which is not a profitable situation for a cargo ship.
# Boost Crew Team (BCT)
The boost crew are only there to compress the hydrogen for the solar sail turn-over. Once their job is done, the have to jump to another ship for a ride back home.
It became quickly apparent that jumping ship-to-ship requires crew members with opposable thumbs to insure a successful leap.
The name and organization of the crews are forever changed to BCTS.
Each team of 10 have two simian assistants whose job is to grab the extended capture net of the passing ship.
The new simian crew-members may try to help on the treadmills during the Hydrogen compression step, but just as often goof off, doing monkey things.
In addition, each BCTS crew has a crew master, usually the ranking female dog, a lieutenant for each pumping station and eight runners.
#Compressor Crew (CompC)
Typically one or two bipeds, normally part of the H2LiftShips regular crew: They can pump with both arms and legs, multiplying the speed of the compressor.
Senior track dog Boost crew-members may help the pumpers for a quick speed boost during launch.
#Pumper Crew (PumpC)
PumpC move the compressed gas to the rocket nozzles. The pipes zig-zag through the undercarriage and are duplicated at more than one section to ensure a balanced flow.
Dogs are the best pumpers since they love running on treadmills, and the compressor adds resistance to keep them entertained.
Kibbles, belly rubs and chewies are often at stake during a lift run.
#Rocket Maintenance Crew (RockMC)
The Rocket Maintenance Crew (RockMC) adjust flow to the rockets which typically require 2 to 4 staff per ship. Dogs, again, are the best for this task since their 240-degree field of view vs. primates paltry 180 degrees allowing them to manipulate multiple sections at the same time.
Controls, of course, are modern BioGel inputs that configure to any paw (or hand) structure.
Incoming and outgoing ships do a complicated dance to draw adjacent to one another for the leap using nautical signal flags to guarantee coordination.
Once the ship begins the switch to solar sails, the pumper crew don their spacesuits and jump to an incoming vessel for a lift back to terra firma.
#Ship's Crew: Jack and Tang
Jack, Canine familiaris, Austrian Shepard originally from California, USA, Earth.
Jack’s rank is Canine Deck Hand (CDH): Genetically enhanced to be able to speak (with a growl). Wears a backpack with tools designed for use by dogs that can be easily snapped up. Canines are well designed for working in tight places where four legs can be used to brace against bulkheads to get maximum leverage with the tools held in their mouth.
His goal on in life is to visit the biggest trees he can find on each planetfall.
Tang, Pongo pygmaeus, orangutan from the forests of Sumatra, Indonesia, Earth.
Tang’s rank is Biped Deck Hand (BDH): Rigging master and general maintenance worker. Considers himself an expert card player. Spends his off time playing with computer generated holographic opponents. He has rigged the games so he is a winner and thinks he can win his fortune in Las Vegas.
All working dogs tend to be anal retentive, their tool packs carefully laid out and maintained for rapid identification and manipulation.
Standard backpacks have up to 10 tools on each side,each tool with a custom, dog approved unique shaped mouth piece.
Socket wrenches are contained in one panel with sizes from 5 to 20mm in 2mm increments, each with a different nub for easy selection and identification.
Higher priced tools are often purchased after successful journeys that include unique odors along with the distinctive grabbing nubs.
Colors are not a big driver for canine tool identification, they are not truly black/white/gray color blind, but touch and smell have always been their forte’
All tools are non-metallic by design: Saw and blades; Impact Hammers; Skyhooks; jumars; carabiners; Clamps; Come-Alongs; Paint Brushes; Broom; Heat Gun; Scissors/wire cutters; All-in-one meter; Sponge; Patch Cord; Crimper/Pliers/Lock Wrench; Scraper; Knife; drill and bits; Flashlight; Sealant
Non-electric herding prods are available, but seldom used by experienced workers who prefer the time tested methods of bark and teeth for crowd control.
Special rope ascender-ratchets (Jumars) are well proven tools on any ship. The ratchet is placed over the rope and pulled to lock it down. Walking backwards, using all four legs on the ramp pulls a sail line tight. At the end of the ramp the ratchet is placed into the retaining ring, a quick run to back to the start allows attachment of the the 2nd ratchet. Releasing the first ratchet starts the process over. Letting out the sail is the opposite: The ratchet is attached to the rope and pulled to release it from the retaining clip. Slowly stepping backwards releases the sail safely. With heavy solar winds, an unseasoned mate could be pulled off their paws or the sail released causing untold damage to solar sails and mates.
Tang is the quintessential intellectual, his tools are a hammer, screwdriver, adjustable spanner, and muscle.