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Commonwealth, II.XXVII: A Single-Planet Species

Commonwealth, II.XXVII: A Single-Planet Species February 5, 2021

Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, part 2, chapter 5

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from my novel Commonwealth. The rest of today’s installment is free, but only on my Patreon site. If you want to read the next part today, it’s already up on Patreon as well. You can sign up for as little as $1/month, or $2 for exclusive author’s notes and behind-the-scenes material. There’s also a table of contents for all published chapters.

They walked as Piotr spoke, following a corridor that sloped upward. Like everything else, it wasn’t finished yet. The floor was laid, but the walls were skeletal assemblages of beams.

Through the gaps, Rae could see into the guts of the ship. Different levels and sections were sketched out in steel and carbon-fiber composite. Workers wielded blazing welding torches, or assembled banks of electronics, or set up bundles of conduits that would carry air, water and power.

Rae could see how it was filling in and envisioned what the ship would look like when it was complete. There was a central core that held fuel tanks, engine machinery, recycling plants and other necessities. That was surrounded by a ring of living quarters, and in the outermost layer, a belt of observation decks and scientific labs encircled the equator of the ship.

Some parts, more complete than the rest, hung from the superstructure like fruit from a tree. There were self-contained habitat orbs, like giant terrariums. Some were forest habitats, glass walls misty with condensation, where jungles of green plants crowded under grow lights. Others were aquatic: spheres of shimmering water where fish swam among fronds of green and purple seaweed. Both were part of the ship’s closed cycle, transmuting waste into food and carbon dioxide into oxygen.

“When this ship lands,” Piotr was saying, “it will be the colony. At first. But it will also carry miniaturized fabshops designed to use local minerals for feedstock. With those, the settlers can make anything, including larger and more capable fabshops. As the colony grows, we’ll construct pressurized domes, subsurface cities. And this part we’re proud of…”

He gestured into a chamber adjoining the corridor. It had metal walls lit by soft bluish light. In refrigerated racks sat rows of silvery capsules, like eggs in a cup. Each one had an indicator that glowed with green light.

“This is the genetic library,” Piotr said. “Each of those capsules contains viable gametes in suspension – the complete genotype of a species, from photosynthetic algae to earthworms to rabbits. When we get to Mars, we’ll resurrect the ones we need, with suitable modifications for the local climate, and release them in stages.”

“You mean you’re going to terraform the planet?”

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