Armed with a general idea of the overall layout, it’s time to start piecing the main parts of the jigsaw together.
As I said last time, with a seagoing warship you are pretty much constrained by the realities of marine engineering. The general shape and proportions of the hull follow a common pattern and everything fits into that. But with a space craft you have a freer hand to invent your own body plan.
Even so, it helps to pay a bit of attention to basic physics and structural mechanics. It helps to have something that at least looks like it would hang together.
In the case of the Enforcer battleships, my starting point was the structural frame of the ship. I settled on a box frame arrangement. Typical sea ships have a single keel running along the bottom of the hull, to which everything else is attached. Admiral George Leonard has four keels arranged in pairs, upper and lower. Large horizontal and vertical plates link the keels together, forming a series of boxes down the length of the ship.
Down ladders once more to the lowest level, Shayla found the laundry and clothing store. Each deck on a ship like this had its own distinctive look, smell, and sound. The similarities to her old Martha Sandover were uncanny, and brought back sharp pangs of nostalgia. Down here, in a space nestling between the massive frames of the lower longitudinal keels, it felt subterranean. Yellow light glistened off cream walls. Pipes twisted thick overhead. Steam and chemicals tainted the air.
The framework between upper and lower keels extends all the way through the decks in between. Everything else has to work around these immovable structural members.
In this view, you can see that most of the ship is taken up by the two main machinery spaces.
In Shayla’s universe, there is one important design constraint that I don’t have to worry when it comes to the ship’s drive. Most ship designs have to accommodate large rocket (or other) exhausts at the rear. Interstellar technology in this world, however, uses fields that manipulate space and gravity. No opening to the outside world required, so critical machinery can stay safely tucked away behind shields and armor.
Industrial ear muffs barely deadened the noise echoing back and forth in the cathedral space that rose through most of the height of the hull. She’d grown used to near silence in Blazer’s machinery space, but here the quintuplet of hulking, pot-bellied power units was anything but quiet. The curving shells that filled most of the compartment hummed an almost subsonic note that tingled her bones. Accustomed as she was to technology from the microscopic to the gargantuan, she had never been this up close and personal with the living heart of a capital ship. Despite herself, her skin crawled in awe at the unimaginable power contained a few feet away. Behind layers of armor and magnetic containment fields, humans dared subvert the power of suns.
She shivered, and returned her attention to the job at hand and the instructions in her earpiece fighting to be heard. From her vantage point high above the deck, the shrieking din of ancillary equipment that clustered at floor level was lessened, but only just.
A narrow slice of unencumbered air ran the length of the power plant on either side, giving minimally-adequate working room. Canary yellow gantries spanned the engineering space and hoisted the two ton dead weight of the fuel injector high into the air, but it took sweat and muscle, and a constant stream of commands mingled with colorful invective to line the cylinder up with its housing forty feet above the deck.