They stood on the floor of the vast cavern in almost total darkness. Above them, in what they were calling up, over twenty metres away, was the massive cradle that housed the ship. Around the cradle was the scaffolding that held that cradle in place and supported the outer shell of the fake asteroid.
The struts that ran from the cradle to the asteroid shell were immense. Each Iron pylon was at least five metres in diameter. There were interconnecting braces and girders, each over two metres across, that ran at forty-five degree angles to the pylons giving them support and making the whole structure a web of iron.
The cradle was a series of massive rings that was much more impressive than the scanners had hinted. The sensors in the suit, still set to passive, showed sixty enormous rings that were connected by four giant tubes each at ninety degrees to each other.
The tubes were giving off strong electromagnetic signals so it was possible they held power sources and conduits. Since each tube was ten metres across and hundreds of metres long it was possible that whole power plants could be stored inside.
The whole cradle structure was ten kilometres in length, which matched the exter and yet it only just fitted the vessel within it. Each ring of the cradle was emitting a strong magnetic field that held the ship in suspension. There were also huge tethers that ran from each ring to the vessel. These looked like docking cables used by vessels in dock at space stations and orbiting platforms. Despite the size, the cradle looked like a flimsy housing for the massive vessel inside.
The vessel was almost black in the unlit interior of the asteroid. But a few small lights showed. At one edge the cradle touched the outer wall of the asteroid. This was close to four kilometres from where they stood. There was a bulge in the vessel at the same point. It was the docking bay of the Generation Ship. The ship’s docking bay didn’t fully reach the outer shell due to the nature of the rings and suspension structure. There was an interconnecting section. A massive airlock was constructed into the asteroid with an extended tube that ran to the hanger doors of the vessel.
The Generation Ship would have been equipped with a plethora of support vessels at the time of its construction. Orbital ships, shuttles, cargo transports, maintenance skiffs. All the vehicles needed to carry the colonists down to the surface and support the construction of a colony.
Many of the vessels would single use vehicles that would instantly convert to housing and support structures when they landed. These were more like rafts or barges. Having no strong propulsion, guided to a location to be utilised.
There would be probes and small system vessels for surveying the nearby space they were to colonise. There would be at least one assault craft for local defence. The vast majority of reusable craft would be shuttles. Intended to be multi-functional they would be modular. They would serve as: cargo vessels; personnel carriers; mining support vehicles; exploration vehicles; science support vessels. A ship of this size could hold a lot of equipment, but space was still a priority so everything would have more than one use.
Drick had communicated a plan to Marsh. They would make their way along the side of the ship to where it touched the outside surface via the connecting dock. From there they would be able to cross easier and find a way to the surface of the Generation Ship without sliding down a docking tether.
They both carried large rucksacks filled with equipment and supplies. Amongst them they had ropes, pulleys and even jet packs. But the least best method would be to remain undetected so powered equipment would have to be used sparingly.
Drick and Marsh were wearing hazard survival suits. The design was a bulky space suit similar to the very early suits of space travel. That is where the similarities ended. These suits were developed for survival in extreme weather and combat situations. They were radiation resistant; chemical resistant; fitted with layers of polymers that made them temperature resistant. The suits also had woven layers of armour that resisted heat weapons; impact reduction from ballistics or impact; and they had a prismatic coating that reflected laser devices making the wearer hard to target or shoot with light based weaponry.
The suits would also recycle one hundred percent of all waste and excretions from the body. Nothing was missed. The fusion battery power source was good for a thousand years of usage. Drick had wryly commented that they had tested the suits capabilities by having a marine unit wear them constantly for a whole ten year duty tour. None of the marines suffered any long term physical effect, though a few became mentally attached to the suit and found it difficult to leave them afterwards.
Thankfully the suit was also fitted with an internal soft frame. This allowed the attachment of equipment and was powered to help support greater loads and more extreme environments. The servos and hydraulics in the frame meant that the suit felt as if it were massless even in a strong gravity. In reality the suit weighed a little over one hundred and twenty kilograms. But all of this was compensated by the frame which would still function to negate sixty percent of the mass of the suit without a power source for the servo assistance by the use of passive hydraulic reservoirs and return capture braking systems on joints and movement. The suits had an inbuilt propulsion system and gravity reduction. Both of these worked much better in low gravity or in freefall, they would provide some functional usage in higher gravity situations but would restrict the users speed.
There were other enhancements to the suit that could be fitted as a range of optional items. The basic suit was more a framework, that the user then modified for a given situation. Marsh had taken a short while to familiarise himself with the possibilities before kitting out his suit in a manner similar to Drick.
It took four hours walking carefully along the inside of the fake shell to reach the point where the sidewall of the ship met the external structure at the airlock. They moved slowly, and carefully, to avoid falling or making noise. The suits detected no active sensor sweeping inside the shell, but there might be passive sensors. The shell had a thin atmosphere, not enough to support life without aid, but enough to allow sounds to travel.