- Vol. 03
- Chapter 02
Image by Philipp Keller/Stelzer Group/EMBL
3dNot constrained by the force of the earth under it, the three dimensional printer in high orbit over the planet stretched for three miles in each dimension.
Hung between each of the three projecting gantries, each pinned at one end to the space station they radiated from to retain the precise position the great printing head needed to do its work. Its main printing head, seeming to be angrily carved in metal and carbon to mimic the mouth of a wolf that had been badly described by machine code hung over its last design. Its chiseled maw hung open and empty.
Around the space centre several of the collection ships hung, their journeys for recovering space debris, dust and material from small asteroids to feed the printer had long finished. The docking bays for the return shuttles from the station to the planet all vacant scars on the sleek body of the station. On the printing head itself the last piece of material that had been super-heated through the printers solar powered mixing stomach had been left hanging like an annoying piece of food from the printing head, endlessly lodged between two of hugest silicon glass teeth used to guide the printing jets. Beneath the dangling piece of printing food the nearly finished carcass of the ship it was destined to feed hung, the umbilical tethers to the printing frame still restraining its birth. The long elliptical hull, a beautifully flat reflective surface ending in a half formed mess of deck, hull and strengthening structures that would have formed around the huge engines being built a quarter orbit spin-wise. No reflection surface was left unpolished to throw off the suns outbursts, the panels etched into its form one of the ways the ship powered itself.
3dWithin the hull a little of that power still hummed, the solar arrays printed onto the hull still able to send out some of the gathered energy. Nearest the space station the rear decks still held their integrity, their warmth and air. The last to leave reluctant to let their creation die, preferring to give it its own chance to survive. Now longer than theirs. And in one of the decks, in a huge bay, on one of a hundred shelves in a football pitch sized room , a small fish lay at the bottom of its preservation tank. One of thousands set carefully in place by the small internal construction units that now stood immobile through the main structure.
Everything had been for months and the fading blue and glowing skeleton of the fish mimicked the fading power that kept the cold of space away. The fish flicked its tail uselessly and moved slightly in the dirt in the bottom of its tank. Everything stayed the same in the stations static orbit. Nothing changed or disturbed the air in the ship. Each turn of the structure around the earth the colour of the fish dimmed slightly.