Birth of a Settlement

10 06 2007

Colony Pod

"…The colony pods were designed to be completely modular upon deployment. Once the kilometre-long vessels had blazed through the atmosphere and settled upon the surface, their structural options opened up exponentially. Specific modules, such as meteorological and aerospace laboratories, were elevated and stacked up in the higher sections of the pod, while geo-survey stations were constructed at the end of unfurled carbon-fibre road tiles, away from the thunderous activity within the colony pod-cum-settlement and all that entailed in its expansion."

 

It took fifteen minutes for the crawler to travel the half dozen kilometers from the new Alpha-2 site to Alpha-1. It would have taken twice that time if not for the carbon arterial which connected the two sites. Gina took some small pleasure in those fifteen minutes, a pleasure that went beyond simple convenience – it was pride, she realized, pride in those highways, the first of the projects entirely manufactured on Fram’s surface, from materials mined from Fram itself.

The Alpha-2 site was so far the only colony entirely connected by the carbon ribbons. Alpha-2 had been connected to every other colony through sheer necessity: it had been the first, simply because it made the relocation effort, already immense, that much easier and more efficient.

As the crawler drew closer to Alpha-1, though, Gina saw the progress made connecting that site to the others – perfectly straight lines fanned out from beneath the colony’s courtyard, tracing black parabolic arcs over the horizon toward the deep-core mining site, the launch facility, and toward the elevator ground station. Vehicles moved across these, she noticed, diminished by the distance.

The crawler fell into the deeper of the shadows cast by the superstructure of Alpha-1, cast by the nearer and brighter of the twin stars. Gina saw towers silhouetted in the brown light; atop the weather and radar stations she saw dishes, made of fine mesh, rotating. Although the modular components which had spread over the upper surface of the colony pod were entirely prefabricated, they impressed her no less than did the carbon highway upon on which the crawler’s caterpillar tracks now grinded.

These rectilinear shapes stretched far into the sky, like skyscrapers did in the magnificent cities on Earth. Where those buildings had been rooted to the surface of Earth, these component towers were based atop an immense slab itself almost half the height of the skyscrapers back Home. A kilometer in length, the colony pods, the foundation of these growing cities, were a hundred meters tall once embedded in the duricrust of Fram.

Gina also felt a pang of regret, and envy. The relocation of Alpha-2 had meant leaving the colony pod, borne across the light years by the Quoqasi, at the original site. It had simply been impossible to move, once it fell from orbit and grounded itself. It had been a near-impossible feat of logistics and raw payload capacity to relocate the fusion plant, and all the prefabricated components which kept the colonists of Alpha-2 alive. The immense size of the colony pod was the central feature of the other colonies – indeed, it was also a foundation for all subsequent expansion. By comparison, the collection of buildings and domes – separated by regolith-washed carbon sheets – which made up Alpha-2 looked ramshackle, primitive, like a clutch of Mongol yurts.

Forever more the inhabitants of Alpha-2 would be at a disadvantage. Already they’d slipped far behind the others in development, and relied heavily on the other sites for consumables, resources, even maintenance. The other sites had begun to develop their specialties – Alpha-1 the embryonic space program and solar fields; Alpha-3 the manufacturing powerhouse of the four colonies; and Alpha-4, responsible for both the deep-core and open-cut mines. There were projections circling in the soviets of the mid-term economic decline of Alpha-2, including social projections placing the citizens of Alpha-2 in a nightmarish second-class.

Each time Gina, representative of the Alpha-2 soviet, visited another of the colonies, she felt the regret of the one poor decision made by her contemporaries which had precipitated this situation. But for now there was nothing that could be done – everyone was struggling, everyone was on rations, everyone was tired, and everyone was doubtful of the future.

She saw workers, clad in e-suits, erecting more equipment atop one of the domes which studded that part of Alpha-1 immediately above the vehicle park. The colony had become the seat of the upper soviet, that which nominally governed the entire colonization effort on Fram. The capital was growing, exponentially, while Gina’s own fell further and further behind…

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