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 Post subject: Ship Shape
PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:47 pm 
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We take you inside the starships that keep the Co-operative stitched together.

(Further contributions on what it's like to live and work aboard other ships welcome)

We start - where else? - with that stalwart of the spaceways, the Python. Compared to many modern haulers she’s slow, ponderous, and lacking in cargo capacity. So why is she still ubiquitous across the Eight? Chief Golagros Ninefold gives us his opinion.
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It’s the money, stupid, is what most people think. Sure, a Python is cheap, for her size and capacity. Less than half the price of a Boa, and a Boa really doesn’t outpoint a Python by much. And the blueprints are officially older than dirt, so the specifications are on file in every shipyard and manufactory from Laeden to Lequatdi. And they’re robust: oh my stars are they robust. Like a bottle of Old Dreadful, age just makes them stronger.

The secret is good design. Those Inerans know a thing or two about good design. In fact, I’d argue that in many ways the Python is the Perfect Ship. There are bigger ships; there are ships that are nimbler, faster, and more comfortable to live in. There are ships more fearsome, more dashing, more awe-inspiring and much more easy on the eye, but what a Python does, she does well.

Ask a dockhand: would you rather load a Python, or a Cobra III? The answer will be a Python, every time. The cargo racks are standard units, in a Python: each one takes five TCs and each one is easy to get at, and get into. (If you want to learn some exotic new obscenities, just cock your ear to a Cobra III’s rear when it’s being loaded, especially if it’s fitted with a cargo expansion: dock-jockeys just love tripping over those hilarious little zig-zag ledges with a grapple full of freight.) Thanks to the simple genius of a Python’s bay layout, you can flow loads in and out simultaneously: I’ve seen a Python drop seventy TCs and stack eighty, all in less time than it took the same crew to pack ten pods into a transport shuttle. On top of that, any cargo that’s been scooped gets neatly racked by a salvage system that can swallow just about anything without having to chew on it for a damn age (Cowell & MgRath, I’m looking at you!).

Ask an engineer: would you rather run maintenance on a Python, or on a Boa Cruiser? Again, the Python will be the professional’s choice. Battle damage aside, there’s not much that ever breaks on a Python, and there’s not much that does that can’t be clapped back together again with a spanner and some polycarbon bonding gel. Plus - speaking as a Leonedan, this is key - in a Python, it is actually possible to reach every essential part of the ship without being a triple-jointed midget. Not that you have to, too often: Pythons keep on going. It’s easier to stop a Riredi mountain slug than it is to stop a Python. I’ve seen Pythons pull in with one engine bleeding plasma, or with half the outer hull gone, or worse. I have, myself, ridden a Python with a crack right through its drive train. On any other class of ship the only solution would have been to get out and push, but the Python kept on rolling. This is, I suspect, why some people - coughJamesonscough - think that Pythons are mostly clapped-out junkers, because they never see any other ships around that are so beat up. But that, of course, is because any other ship that got hurt half as bad would have slipped its pinch-field and gone big bright bye-byes, way out in the deep. A Python will carry you home, if you let her.

Don’t expect anything by way of crew comfort, though: the quarters are cramped and the bunks are narrow and the galley can do stewed or boiled and very little else. A Python is a working ship, not a pleasure barge. I did hear once of a commander from Arxeza who claimed to have a swimming pool fitted - but it turned out to be his own berth, flooded, with a gravity plate welded to the far wall to keep the water in. If you kit your Python out with cabins, don’t expect to carry passengers with the least pretence of quality about them: folks who travel on board Pythons generally aren’t expecting white gloves and dinner at the Captain’s table. I’m not recommending that you hop a Python and look to tussle, either. If you’re on your ownsome, and a pack of bandits jump you, I advise you to shed your cargo and your honour rather than make any kind of fuss about it. The Python is a child of a better and a gentler age, and isn’t what I’d call spoiling for a ruckus. Which is not to say she’s easy meat: there are more than enough Blackdogs on the prowl to underline the truth of that.

And that’s my final point: the sheer versatility of this aged hauler has given rise to the Python Clipper, the Courier, the ET Special, and the Cruiser (although some would argue that this last variant is really another class entirely, it’s built on the same solid Python keel). What’s the reason? Because it works. That could be the Python’s motto - I won’t say epitaph, because she’s a long way from needing one - but you could paint this on the flanks of every Python going: It. Just. Works.

_________________
Oofiction: Calliope: a Captain Hesperus adventure | Stranglehold: a Captain Hesperus adventure | Local Midnight in the Vacuum Bar | A Farewell to Arms, Legs, etc.: the Blaze O'Glory Story


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 Post subject: Re: Ship Shape
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:02 pm 
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Good idea and a great start too!

Now a report from an old traveller by the name of Isgar on a ship he recalls very fondly.
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There are faster ships, there are tougher ships. There are ones that are bigger, carry more missiles, or are just more manoeuvrable. There are even ships that outclass it in almost every department there is, but there's just something about the Krait that the others don't have.

The Krait isn't the oldest ship out there, not by a long shot, but since the Mamba came on the market, the Krait is no longer mass produced. The Mamba is a better ship in many ways, certainly faster and with a sleeker profile but if you asked any of the Krait owners I've met, they wouldn't trade. Maybe it's the classic wedge shaped profile, with the two forward facing prongs giving the impression of a visored medieval knight, lance pointing ahead, ready to charge. Some talk of the Krait construction holding up better under fire, with less plate stress at the nose and superior shield placement. What is true, and it surprises a great many, is that the Krait remains the more maneuverable of the two. It's also easy to underestimate the psychological impact one of these things delivers when it's bearing down on you, few other ships look so intimidating.

The bridge isn't very fancy, very much a case of function over form but it does have a simplicity to it that soon feels quite intuitive. Looking through the cockpit, whether toward the nose or either side gives a sense of protection and security that you seldom feel in narrower vessels. It's not like a being in a Fer-de-Lance where doors glide effortlessly into place, fittings are streamlined and having a quick sleep in the cockpit would mean you awake more refreshed than after a night spent in most hotels. No, not at all. The doors on a Krait make a satisfying 'clunk' as they secure themselves into place. The metal floor plates rattle noisily as you walk around what little space their is. Sleeping in the cockpit is likely to mean waking with half of the control deck impressed into your face. Seldom will you feel more secure however, surrounded by sturdy looking fittings within a large yet one man craft, it's like being one of those great shelled lizards that can withdraw their head and limbs into their body... you know the ones... oh what are they called... they have them on that place I've just come from... Too much hyperspace messes with your brain, I'm telling you.

For a ship marketed as a 'one man fighter' the Krait is huge. The original model could carry ten cargo pods, pretty impressive for a 'fighter'. You seldom see one with that kind of hold space these days but it retains it's impressive scale. A child of the 'lone wolf trader' age, it was never meant to be an escort, rather self sufficiency was the order if the day and the Krait lived up to that ideal better than most. It's one great Achilles heel in that regard was the lack of a hyperdrive, not an uncommon omission on smaller ships but for one this size, even back then, it seemed strange.

It's getting harder and harder to find parts for these ships and owners can expect maintenance costs to rocket at some point in the future. Seen by many as a poor man's fighter, this ship doesn't appear to have all that much going for it, but wait until you fly one. Very agile for its size, with a profile that truly rewards roll-based maneuvers. Although it couldn't be called fast any more, that lack of real speed just seems to heighten the sense that the ship is under your control - in the hands of an experienced pilot, it is a joy to behold.

Now a classic target for amateur 'ship spotters', the famous profile, graceful flight, dynamic styling and not inconsiderable bulk, make it a splendid and increasingly rare sight in the space lanes; the spectacle of one coming in to dock at a station seldom fails to turn heads. Several times I've seen engineering teams drop whatever they've been working on for a chance to tinker with one of these beauties. Beauty might seem like an odd term for something as robust as a Krait but engineers always did have their own particular sense of aesthetics and the Krait fits them very well. 'Simplicity is genius', so said someone or other and whoever designed the Krait must have been listening as it gets every single one of the basics right. Maybe it's the extra room on a vessel this size or the simple fact that the Krait isn't trying to be anything that it's not. Sure there's room for a hyperdrive but not having one means you can work on every major piece of kit this craft can carry and not have to remove anything more than a maintenance hatch to do so. That's increasingly rare these days. I've known a lot of engineers whose dream vessel is a Krait, simply because they can do almost all the work it could possibly need on it by themselves.

There are tales of Kraits out there with a forward laser mounted on each prong, causing even hardened pilots to flee and thank their stars that the Krait isn't the fastest. I've never seen that myself, but there are certainly stranger things throughout GalCop space, and Krait owners are often eccentric enough (and stubborn enough) to go to great lengths to customise their pride and joy. Military Shields are not unheard of on a Krait - show me a Mamba fitted with a set of those!

Whilst it remains a ship that could really do with a few upgrades for it to compete with the best in its class, for its biggest fans the Krait remains in a class all of its own.

_________________
"With our thoughts, we make the world" :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Ship Shape
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2016 9:18 pm 
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And now a few words from Commander Turanga Leela, formerly captain of the Shiny Metal Ass, with one of the rarer ships of the spaceways, the DTT Planet Express:
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The DTT Planet Express may seem an odd choice; small, no longer in production, a poor weapons platform, and falling into the odd gap between small courier / combat ships and freighters, where it's desperately hard to find cargo contracts. But it's cheap at 100K credits, very fast, nimble, and looks so silly that it's easy to underestimate it; D.T.T. Ship Builders Inc. somehow managed to come up with a design that could take extensive modification, up to and including Naval shields and energy units, without any hit on performance, and nobody (including the company's own accountants) can figure out how they did it for the price. Some conspiracy theorists suspect that the small production run was subsidised by Naval Intelligence, who wanted a few innocent-looking ships for special operations, and deliberately came up with something that looked totally impractical.

For general use the biggest snags are the weapon systems. The forward laser is placed so far above the centre line of the ship that it's easy to miss at long range, the rear laser is below the single exhaust, and placed so that it fires through the exhaust flare if fuel injectors are in use. The design is so stupid that the aforesaid conspiracy theorists think it's deliberate; they reason that there's probably a naval variant with lasers mounted in the oversized rear fins instead. There are no side mounts, and only four missiles can be carried.

Weapons apart, the Planet Express is a dream to fly provided you're competent and don't let its speed ambush you. It's regrettably easy to launch, accelerate to full speed, then realise that you are within seconds of ramming another ship or the navigation beacon. The typical launch profile is a burst of acceleration followed by a desperate 90-degree turn. The bridge is large for the ship's size, again suggesting a possible naval role, giving this ship it's odd beaked appearance.

Ignoring the naval rumours, most of these ships are in the fast mail / passenger business; commanders with good reputations may also attract lightweight valuable cargoes such as gems or precious metals, but it's very difficult to reach that level with a ship this small, since there are few cargoes that will fit. I spent nearly a year getting to that point with the few small loads that came my way, and for a while regularly ran two or three valuable cargoes plus mail, passengers, and the usual trade goods. Then I missed a delivery date, and the only way to build up my cargo reputation again was to strip out all of the cabins to make room for bigger loads. Go through this a few times and you realise that there have to be easier ways to earn a living; I made enough money to move on to a Boa Cruiser and never looked back. But if you aren't bothered about cargo contracts the Planet Express is an excellent choice for passengers and packages, and can out-run or out-fly nearly anything it's likely to meet.


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 Post subject: Re: Ship Shape
PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:48 am 
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( I think I might just be staying on-topic here...)

From the archives of Top HyperGear, a report by Gennedy QuarkSun:
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Some say, it runs on the tears of rival ship designers, and that in ship-spotters, it can induce spontaneous orgasms. It is, already, a legend, an icon, an enigma. The Asp Mk II is faster, the Cobra Mk III is tougher but the Fer de Lance is smooth. So smooth it could give lessons to smooth and not even bother charging. Even when you overtake one of these things, it just smiles at you... like you're a fool.

Everything about it is just delightful. The dashboard is made of Laenian walnut, the seats of Baerelian wolf leather, it's ergonomics adapt to the pilot like it knows your genetic code... which it does. The Living quarters are positively palatial. Even with The StOog pulling stunt moves like his life depended on it, here in the back you could be bathing in Gerelian Sloths milk and think you were still docked.

While it's true that it may cost more than the gross productivity of a poor industrial, it is worth every deci-credit. The three energy banks charge faster than a Keronian financial advisor. The viewscreen on the bridge adjusts so well to stellar glare that you hardly notice... the star. No, sorry, it just isn't there. Even when sunskimming with your fuel scoops... standard issue, and firing up the fuel injectors... standard issue, it barely gets above 'toasty' thanks to your standard issue heat shielding. You just don't want to leave this ship because, the truth is... you're far cooler when your in one.

The ship pulls the girls, the boys, the hermaphrodites and even the celibate. The female voice of the computer is so magnetic that I think I'm in love. I'm told that the male voice is even better, but I can't bear to turn off the female one - it would be like killing your dreams. You could drape the most gorgeous model on the body of this ship and hot-blooded members of the opposite sex would be telling them to get out of the way. It is, quite simply, perfect. And that's the problem...

After reports of early models falling into the hands of pirates, the speed of the standard model has been capped. It can still move but no longer like a greased Xaelian vicious monkey in the mating season. Engineers tell me that it breaks their hearts to see what's under the hood of one of these things and not be able to do anything about the GalCop Thrust Compensater that clings to the main drive unit like a Lethal Brandy drinker clings to his bottle. This ship is so finely tuned that many shipyards just don't have the facilities to service it properly, and when they do, it is painstaking work for the mechanics and agonising for the bank account.

Despite all of this, piloting one of these things remains a joy beyond compare... unless that is, you've flown one of the original, uncapped models. Then it is a sad, sad recollection of a lost love.

The Fer de Lance... Heartbreaker.

_________________
"With our thoughts, we make the world" :-)


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