Hearts Across Space

Errata IV: The Argonaut Project

As the Geminiian Confederation continued to grow and expand its sphere of influence ever outward, it became apparent that if there was ever a major battle or natural disaster in a far flung region of space that having to send courier ships back and forth to receive orders and supplies from the confederacy was impractical. Rather than create two separate entities it was decided to create one ship that would take care of both the military and civilian issues. Not only would this solve a multitude of overlapping issues, it was hoped that there would be overlapping benefits.

The overall plan was for the ship to head for whatever trouble spot was occurring or about to occur. It was hoped that having such a resource in the vicinity would cut down the response time dramatically in the case of a military attack or a planetary disaster.

The planning commission worked long and hard over how the ship was going to ruled or governed. It was finally decided to appoint a Director and planning team for the construction and testing. It was decided that the director would stay on and oversee the project through its launch and initial mission or missions. It would be up to the Mil/Civ Governing Council to appoint a permanent Director or Co-Director. The original plan was for a Co-Directorship with a Director from the Military and the Civilian side of the project. Each Director running their own side of the operation and one of them takes overall charge depending on the mission parameters. For a purely Military Mission the Military Director would assume overall command and control of the project. In case of a Planetary Disaster the Civilian Co-Director would usually assume command. However in most cases they would work together due to the uniqueness of "Project Argonaut". In no other instance in the history of the Confederacy or the known universe had the civilian and military sectors been welded together in such a fashion.

In order for "Project Argonaut to function properly some major changes would have to be made to the Military Space Fleets of all Confederacy Members in order for the construction and repair facilities to function most efficiently. The reasons behind this necessity will become evident as the scope of "Project Argonaut" unfolds.

In its simplest and purest form "Project Argonaut" was to be a mobile planet. Not just a mobile planetoid but a mobile planet with all of the intricacies and infrastructure that involves. Until now no one had ever dreamed of "Project Argonaut" ever becoming reality. But is does seem that sometimes dreams do come true or in this case colossal wishes. After several fruitless planning sessions at the Confederacy Level the project was finally tabled and sent back to each Confederacy Members BuShips for refining and possibly shrinking of the planned ship. No one yet had been unable yet to design a ship large enough to accommodate everything required and still be mobile enough to be useful. Most of the plans submitted were of multiple ships which were supposed to join into one large ship at the target. Again it was too little and unwieldy, additionally that plan and those similar in fashion covered only side of the coin and not the other. It took a semi joke to actually get the project off of the ground. It seems a junior engineer was watching a news report about a High School Science Fair from last year on the Wallcomm in a Geminiian BuShips Break Room. The report was a about a "High School" near Callisto. The report was commenting about the fact the science projects out of this high school were University Thesis Level. In fact the high school was actually a University Prep School that turned out some of The Confederacies Top Scientists, Engineers and Politicos. When the report was over the engineer turned to his boss and said "Why don't we call "Project Argonaut" a Science Fair Project and offer a prize for the best design?"

To the junior engineer's surprise his boss replied. "Break is over lets go we have work to do"

"What, who, where are we going?" Queried the shocked junior engineer as he wasn't being serious.

"Your idea may have just saved our bacon, we are headed to the Commodore's Office, so you can explain your idea in detail" Replied his boss.

"The Argonaut Project" was sent to the high schools as a science project with the usual monetary and trip prizes. What made this contest different though was the additional offer of University Credit for the applicable classes if their design was chosen and they completed the qualifying project.

BuShips was at the most hoping for some additional ideas and at the most a skeletal plan that would give them a new direction to go in their search for a solution.

What they received astounded them for in the midst of the same type of plans they had already rejected as unfeasible was a true gem. It was the most comprehensive and detailed plan that BuShips had ever seen outside of their own design labs. Not only did it meet every one of the required criteria it surpassed them. The plan also contained elements not required in the contest; additionally it contained a complete staffing requirement of the whole project. The plan also contained a surprisingly concise and correct plan for upgrading some of the engines necessary for the project to be mobile.

The review team asked which school submitted the plan as they were highly skeptical that a High School Science Class could submit such a detailed, concise and complete report. They were also concerned about the security implications as some of the engine data contained in the plan verged on restricted information. The commanding officer of the review team was shocked with the reply he received as to the security issues involved. The lieutenant who was looking up the requested information was heard muttering "what do you mean access denied? I am the security officer, now let me in!" The Lt. Typed in another request and instead of an answer Security Alarms started going off all over the facility. Armed SP's and Internal Security as well as Military Intelligence officers burst in the conference room with growlers drawn and all scowling.

Before anyone could get a question out, the Base Commander Commodore Joel Victors came storming into the room with his own security staff and black uniformed "PS" types.

"Captain take your men out and secure this room now I will get to the bottom of this matter and I guarantee you heads will roll. I was pulled out of a free lunch with my Boss The Admiral"

"But Commodore."

"Now Captain OUT! I am in command here now get out and secure all corridors leading here!"

"Aye, Aye Sir"

Before the sound of the second "Aye" had died the SP's and MI forces were gone and the door closed.

"Now which one of you cretins was boneheaded enough to set off security alarms that were heard across the Confederacy?"

"Commodore one of my men was just trying to get access to some information on a report we received from the Science Fairs on "Project Argonaut".."

"Cut the crap Commander just tell me who set off the alarms and make it quick or you will be answering to the Admiral as well!"

"I did Commodore I am the security officer for the team. The report refused to give me access to the information we needed." Sheepishly replied the Lt.

In a voice colder than a glacier the Commodore asked "Sub Lt. Did you even bother to look at security file attached to that report? Did you even bother to look at the electronic seals attached to that report?"

"Uhh.."

"I thought not. Lt you are relieved of duty until I decide whether to court martial you for gross stupidity! Major get him out of my sight" Bellowed the commodore all the while directing a withering glare at the helpless now Sub Lt.

"Now you all better pay close attention close attention and Commander that includes you! That report has been thorough more security checks than you can possibly imagine and has been vetted by persons with security clearances so high I can't even know who they are. But what was so stupid of your ex Lt. was the information in the attached security file he didn't bother to read. And to make matters worse the electronic seal at the beginning and end of the report were Archonate Seals. That report was also vetted by the Regional Military Intelligence Commander Andreas. Do you have any idea who he is and how powerful and important he is?" The Commodore looked around the room and saw blank looks on most of the faces except on the team commander's face. He could see the Commander knew his Military Career hung in the balance.

"Commander Andreas is the Bond of the Archon of Callisto, Commodore Castellano" At those words the only sound in the room was the rapid beating of hearts. Before anyone had time to recover the Commodore continued plunging the. knife in. "One of the architects of that plan is his son Sean Castellano soon to be addressed as S'ean Castellano Arcon of Callisto and soon to be a Planetary Archon like his father. This matter is now closed; we are going to build "Project Argonaut" based on that plan. Now get busy and no more screw ups. I won't be able to save your jobs next time."

With that the commodore and his staff left the room in a hurry.

So now you know how the largest and maybe the most important construction project in Confederacy history was finally built as the result of a joke.

The following information is excerpted from the memoirs of Grand Marshal Tommy Miller-Castellano.

GFS Argonaut Specifications:

All specifications are approximate due to security restrictions.

Length 4.5 Milums Approximately.

Width - Narrowest point - .5 Milums

Width - Widest point - .95 Milums

Height - Classified

Weight - incalculable due to constant changes.

Ship Classification - Argonaut Class

Ship Complement - Military 20,000 to 50,000

Drop Force Marines and Strike Force Commandos - Numbers classified and not included in Ships Complement.

Ship Complement - Civilian 50,000 to 75,000

Auxiliary Fleet Complement:

Dreadnoughts - 8 to 12

BattleCruisers - 6

Cruisers - 4

Light Cruisers - 6 - Upgraded with FAC Class Engines

Destroyers - Varies as necessary - used as screening ships and couriers; minimum 8

FAC's -6

Strike Fighters - All Classes - Classified

Stealth Ships - Classified - Need to Know

Miscellaneous Classes - Varies depending on needs and missions

Drop Force Marine Transports - 4 to 6 number may be higher depending on mission.

End Specifications

The GFS Argonaut was constructed unlike any ship ever constructed and it looked like it. The GFS Argonaut was constructed of planetoids linked together by large hull structures. Several of them were actually covered in hull material as these would be mined from the inside out to provide material for the ship construction and future ship and machinery construction. Although the "Argonaut" had a flight bridge the likes of which had never been seen before it wasn't the main control center for the GFS Argonaut, that honor resided in a huge facility which occupied a large portion of one of the planetoids. Someone with a warped sense of humor had attached the name "The Control Room" to the facility, and the nickname had stuck. "The Control Room" was divided vertically into two virtually identical sections. One for the Military Control Center and one for the Civilian Control Center. The two centers were basically identical as were almost all of the facilities and machinery throughout the ship. This basic premise was one of the main reasons 'The Companions' plan was chosen over all of the other plans. With this premise in place no matter what mission the ship was on every facility was able to be used at the same time to produce what ever was needed without retooling or large scale retraining.

[Marshal Castellano's personal notes: All we did was copy a known fact of Geminiian Aerospace Construction and apply it wholesale to the ship design. We were amazed no one else had even considered it. The Geminiian Aerospace Industry had long ago in conjunction with the Military decided to standardize on basic airframe design and construction. These meant that a civilian factory could quickly and easily shift from manufacturing Civilian Craft to Military Craft in a matter of days instead of months. By using the same tools and fittings the change over was simplified greatly.]

The flight bridge on the GFS Argonaut was the largest and the most complex bridge ever designed in the history of known space flight. The complexity and size were strictly necessary as the bridge would be controlling not only the largest space going ship ever constructed but all of the auxiliary fleets that was assigned to assist and protect her. Not that the Argonaut needed much protection. The flight bridge was designed in cooperation with the Geminiian Dreadnought Building Team and the FAC Development Team. Director Castellano spared no effort or resource getting the "Argo" developed and into construction. As soon as 'The Companion' Tommy was finished on the FAC Project he had Tommy drag his team with him to "Project Argonaut" . Several of the team members commanding officers' objected but a terse message from BuShips and from Commodore Castellano's Office quickly quelled any resistance from those officers. Tommy quickly assured Patrick that he would be able to adapt, upgrade and install all of the ECM and Fire Control Suites from the FAC Project. Patrick also assigned Tommy the task of getting all o f the engines redesigned with at least the same increase in power as the FAC's Engines or doubled.

With Control and Propulsion under control Patrick and the rest of the team started work on the rest of the staggering project.

When finished the "Argo" would be able to repair any space ship flying for any of the Confederacy Members as long as they were originally built using Geminiian designed frames. It would have the capacity to do this based on the fact that the "Argo" was a floating ore refinery, metal foundry and space dock in one. This was only a small part of its capacity and capability. Additionally the "Argo" was able to build the same ships from scratch and improve upon them considerably. In addition to the Military applications the Civilian side had the same capabilities as well. However the Civilian side also had an educational system second to none. The planning and design team had seen what their "High School" had produced so they acquired the services of their school board and school staff and assigned them the task of designing the education system for the "Argo". The education system included technical and vocational schools, medical schools, agricultural schools everything needed for the successful education of a mobile planet's population or a standard planet's population. The schools were staffed with the top persons in their specialties from throughout the Confederacy, this gave the Military some of the top specialist in Aerospace Design to use for their benefit. The medical and education system was open to the complete population of the "Argo" no one was excluded. 'The Companion's' would not be deterred from this no matter the cost. It was their opinion that if The Directorship could go to the son of estate workers, who just happened to go to a great school on a Castellano's coat tails then everyone should have the same chance. It was their most fervent wish that lightning would strike not twice but multiple times. They believed that given the proper education and training that anyone and they did mean anyone would be able to contribute to the construction of the "Argo" [Although this was supposedly the rule throughout the Confederacy there were areas where this wasn't so. Sadly to say in the some of the more remote areas of Gemini only the so called upper crust received those benefits]

The reasons for using planetoids as portions of the ships structure were several and simple. First the planetoids had the size needed to house the population required to adequately staff a ship the size of the "Argo". Secondly they would provide an ongoing source of material for its construction and future construction needs. The third reason was a purely military one the planetoids huge size and composition would provided natural shielding in the case someone actually was able to fire on the "Argo".� With several of the planetoids also covered in hull plating the "Argo" was a pretty well protected ship.

Scattered throughout the large ship were shuttle bays and dry docks of various sizes. The "Argo" was designed to be able to repair every size ship in use today throughout the Confederacy. The ship was able to do this through its internal docks or its external docking platforms. One of the most unique portions of the ships were what looked like six external docking tubes. These "docking tubes" were not only over sized in appearance they were buttressed at their bases beyond anything ever seen. The reason for their size and the strength of their design would be apparent only when the "Argo" was in motion. One of the most unsurmountable problems to overcome in designing "Project Argonaut" was its propulsion. Trying to move and control an object of its size was the downfall of the majority of the promising plans. The solution was simple at least to 'The Companion's' since they simply stuck the largest known planetoid in existence at the aft of the ship crammed it full of the largest redesigned engines they could design using Tommy's Teams work. The also sprinkled Dreadnought Engines throughout the ships length either attach to the exterior of planetoids or attached by pylons to the connecting sections. However they realized while this would solve a large portion of the propulsion problem it wouldn't solve it completely. They would still need a source of emergency power as well as more control due to the ships humongous size. The solution again came from "outside the box" when Sean and Kevin were looking at results of a docking simulation. They were trying to determine how strong an external docking platform needed to be to hold a Dreadnought that was moving forward faster than prescribed. When the Dreadnought coupled with the docking platform its excess speed caused the ship to nudge forward very slightly in the simulations monitor. The two 'Companion's' looked at each other with huge grins on their faces yelled something like "Eureka" than ran out the door giggling like schoolgirls at the same time yelling for Patrick and Tommy and the rest of the team. Meanwhile the testing engineer's were sitting there in shock wondering what had happened to their bosses. Halfway to the lab where Patrick and Tommy were working on a project Kevin realized that they had left the engineer's with out an answer. Quickly he turned back and sticking his head in the door shouted "Add and additional 25% structural rigidity and you will have it" and was gone before any one could question him.

The six over sized "docking tubes" were the result of that simulation. They were in fact "docking tubes" but specially designed ones for a dual purpose. They were in fact engine mounts! They were designed for a Dreadnought to attach to to and basically hardwire itself into the "Argo" control net. The six Dreadnoughts would provide the extra propulsion and control necessary for emergency speed missions. Coincidentally they would also provide additional offensive and defensive power if necessary.

Coupled with the unknown numbers of Strike Fighters housed in bays throughout the ship and the huge energy weapons which were also sprinkled over the length and circumference of the ship the "Argo" was well armed.

On the Civilian side of the coin the "Argo" was provisioned well also. Its foundries and machine shops and hydroponic labs were able to manufacture or grow anything a mobile or stationery planet could need no matter what the need. In addition to its own mining equipment the "Argo' could request any of the military artillery it needed to remove landslides or drill tunnels to rescue planetary populations. In case of a planetary disaster the Drop Force Marines would provide policing and emergency food drops wherever necessary on a planets surface. Due to the identical designs of all major manufacturing facilities if the civilian facilities could not supply the necessary output the military facilities simply switched over and began producing the civilian article. If the case was reversed the same would occur on the civilian side. The other major benefit of this duality of design was the fact that if one side needed more workers they had a large pool of trained workers to draw on.

One of the major sociological problems addressed early on was that of the military and civilian populations working and living side by side. While this could be a major problem planet side on the "Argo" the planning committee simply declared a no tolerance policy and designed all habitations the same. There were no Military or Civilian Only Facilities anywhere on the ship except those necessary for security reasons. Those facilities were kept off the beaten path so to speak and caused no animosity. All members of the population were treated the same outside of work or school, rank and titles held sway only while on duty or in school or at work. The adjustment period was extremely tough, 'The Companion's' expended many hours of their personal time meeting with as many of those individuals who were having trouble adjusting as they could. The most surprising fact of the whole adjustment period was the militaries attitude towards the whole situation. A few die hard officers objected to the whole plan, and those who wouldn't change their opinion after several meetings with the planning team and Physicos were summarily transferred or dismissed from the service. Several of the more enlightened officers realized the merits of the program from the beginning and formed alliances with their civilian counterparts. But the largest boost came from 'The Companion's' themselves outside of their working hours they ate and socialized with every section of the two societies they could. In addition they brought in their secret weapons they had Ambrosius bring Alexii's whole class a a field trip and learning experience. Coincidentally that also meant the two imps that Alexii called "Brothers". Alexii's classmates quickly understood what was expected of them, one of them� would grab the children of a civilian family and the other would grab the children of a military family and then go off and explore or play together. Within two weeks the transformation was complete, it also didn't hurt that any violations of the no tolerance policy were brought before a joint tribunal of the staunchest supporters of the program.

The only major non security exception was the one week quarantine for all Military Service Personnel returning from a mission where they lost a member of their team. These personnel were billeted with a special team of military personnel who had gone through the same pain and anguish. Once the returning personnel had unwound they were released from their quarantine. After that they were assigned a child or teen civilian guide for the duration of their R&R. Surprisingly that idea came from the minds of Cobi and Logen. One day while visiting some returning Strike Force Pilots in the one of the many hospitals the boys over heard one of the older pilots talking about the younger pilot they had just lost. Remembering the many lectures and scoldings from both Ambrosius and Alexii they only opened their minds to the mental leakage from the pilots. The emotional flow was so strong and so detailed there was no need to probe deeper. They quickly returned to tell their brother what they had found out. As a result it was determined that by supplying the servicemen with a younger guide to supposedly care for them it was hoped that the servicemen would then actually care for their younger guides easing some of the pain they were feeling. The plan worked those pilots who had the guides assigned to them were able to return to duty fully recovered in half of the time. Additionally their visits to the Phyico's were greatly reduced.

As the saying goes "out of the mouths of babes". From a High School Science Fair Project to the largest space construction project in history. Never ignore an idea just because it came from a child. Children are our future and should be cherished and nurtured. They should be listened to and never be put down just because they are children!

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