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Bathysphere HN::2268B, Pt 1 of 3

A 'conventional' sci fi story.

We were a new team, though as usual 4 out of the six of us were veterans, chosen as a team through our psychological and physical profiles, uploaded into a computer. Knowing that Alendra was chosen to be on my team, however, didn't help any: I was attracted to her, enough so that I wanted her to see my precise, disciplined and gritty side. I knew instinctively that this would impress her. I had been on enough teams to know that one of the other 3 males would feel the same way, though probably less than myself. By computer-aided team design, they would most likely be preferentially drawn to one of the other three females, in order to avoid deep interpersonal conflict. Or at least in the case of most Bathysphere teams. Some special-purpose teams were designed to blow up at a critical moment. But in general, a team was chosen to be a sort of dynamic equilibrium, and as long as the vector cancellation of interpersonal forces remained, we'd remain together as a team.

Which at this point looked like a good thing. I didn't sense any immediate conflicts or difficult characters. In fact, naturally speaking I myself was probably the most difficult character in the group. The presence of Alendra would inspire me to be on my best behavior, and already I could feel it coming out of me.

The mission of this Bathysphere was the core mission of most bathyspheres these days: descend to the surface of our target planet and harvest the unusual substance of flexalite. Flexalite was used for a huge variety of things these days, including propulsion for interstellar travel, energy, and as an essential ingredient in most advanced industrial processes. As it is wildly dangerous, very few human beings have actually seen it live. Flexalite's beauty is directly related to its unique nature: part of it exists on an orthogonal "membrane" in the superstring sense. This has implications, however that make it a particularly difficult substance to work with: any matter or even energy coupling to the surface of flexalite will quickly be torn to pieces, as the flexalite surface carries substances in our part of the membrane to the other part inhabited by the flexalite. Visually, it is said to look like tall, greyish tetrahedra, anywhere from 3 to 5 feet high. The grey surface of the flexalite tetrahedra is said to be particularly unworldly looking, with a sort of metallic sheen/grain that seems to move or shift almost like a liquid. The eye can not remain fixed to any feature on its surface, however, as these features move seemlessly between our part of the universe and the other on the membrane.

Due to the extremely dangerous nature of flexalite, Bathysphere architecture had evolved to enable the detection, harvesting and collection of flexalite from nebulae as well as planetary surfaces where the flexalite formed. Like most Bathyspheres ours was basically a 50 foot-tall armored sphere with 6 radial treads/"feet". 6 pairs of multi-purpose mecahnical arms also radiated from the sphere. Despite the popular belief that each member of the Bathysphere crew operated his/her own set of arms, this is actually not the case. AI routines normally operate the arms while crew members operate the blasting and safety systems onboard. Indeed, bathysphere team operation was such that practically no single action of the bathysphere as seen from the outside could be attributed to any single person inside.

Architecturally, a bathysphere can be viewed as a series of concentric spheres. The inmost sphere is the operations bridge where team members put in 19 hour days. Surrounding that inner chamber are crew quarters, recreation rooms and etc. This series of habitable spaces is in turn surrounded by approximately 5 meters of both active and passive plating and shielding, along with containment field generators for the flexalite chambers, which form the next outer sphere. Due to the hazards associated with the flexalite, there is actually no connection between the inner human-inhabited chambers and the flexalite holds. Entrance to the habitation chambers is through a narrow corridor straight from the surface of the 'sphere. Finally, the outermost layer of the Bathysphere is another set of shields, including titanium blast-plating, nanotechnological 'intelli-metal', and various other shock absorption and protective layers. What made harvesting of the flexalite so difficult was the fact that it was violently attracted to the motion, energy and material of the 'sphere. It was therefore necessary to repel, contain, or even (if needs be) break apart the flexalite via on-board ship 'weapons' (which were of course actually tools and not weapons, but they were referred to as weapons by most Bathysphere crews).

Since the main control chamber was deep in the center of the sphere, very special ultra-high-definition visual displays were necessary. Indeed, the displays were made to look exactly like windows, complete with 3-d representation and even parallax. The view was good, in fact, that one had to occasionally remind oneself that the view was actually not 'real' in the sense that it was a reconstruction taken from external cameras and sensors.