And the snippet...
She paused in her progress to look out a massive viewing window at the shipbuilding cradle adjacent to this arm of Dock One. A helpful virtual sign informed her that she was now viewing Cradle C, and would she like an expanded schematic of the shipbuilding flow?
That wasn't hard to ignore. What fascinated her enough to lead her to gawk like a tourist was the sheer scale.
The largest of the paired drive starships were the Marantha-class. She already knew this, though the interactive sign helpfully pointed out the fact once again, along with the information that they'd first entered service in 799 pm here at Pardine, and that the single most ambitious expansion to Dock One's technical capabilities in its entire history was the enlargement of the shipbuilding cradles to accommodate such starships. Marantha-class hulls were almost two kilometers from the forward sensor array to the trailing booms of the normspace thruster groups.
Novotny tapped the interactive sign into dormancy, wishing spitefully that she had time to hack it down to a parts list.
But that wasn't what mattered. Her was caught by the fact that Cradle C hosted the keel of a new Marantha-class ship. Work proceeded, flecks of drones and engineering pods clustered along the metal spine like dust flecks on a ruler.
Even the work tugs were little more than splinters, their twenty- and thirty-meter lengths reduced next to the emerging skeleton of what would someday be a great ship. An artefact so large that it forced the eye toward a vanishing point perspective.
The cradle around the embryonic starship was larger, of necessity, but not massive. The structure was mostly skeletal framing and curving towers where heavier equipment was situated. The bulk of Dock One was behind and beneath her, twelve booms, three other shipbuilding cradles, two repair-and-refit cradles just as capacious, and environmentally controlled cubage to permanently house the several hundred thousand human beings who were sworn or contracted to or otherwise affiliated with the Navisparliament. Not to mention those like her just passing through.
A government in its own right, running a distributed, artificial world in which human beings were an incidental element. How soon, she wondered, before they began building their own children without human engineers, with no quarters or controls aboard?
The Navisparliament thought big. With projects like this one taking up to two decades for completion, the shipminds' population expansion was agonizingly slow by human standards. It was fascinating to see that effort in action.
Walking again, Novotny reflected on the nature of the place she found herself in. The angular structures, the long sightlines – these were relicts of the design language in use in the first centuries of Dock One's existence. Somewhere deep in the core of the station – for habitat was too small and too limiting a term to describe Dock One – was Haruna Kishmangali's original lab. His first shipbuilding cradle had been nothing but some static lines and umbilicals reaching out into orbit.
Not her destination this shift, however.