Isaac led us through the facility, explaining generally what was going on on each floor. I would have asked a lot of questions except I knew better. He didn’t know anything worth knowing about how anything worked. Sure, he could tell us what the major activities on each floor were, but I could guess that.
What I wanted to know was what techniques they were using and if they’d made any advances over the Alliance’s standard ships.
I didn’t need Isaac to figure that one out either. All I had to do was to observe. The spaceships around me in various stages of construction weren’t quite designed to human specifications. Take the big spaceship at the bottom of the hole. When we walked through it, it was obvious to me that whatever race it had been designed for was on average about seven feet tall. Bearing in mind variation, they’d designed the size to allow people (beings?) as large as eight feet tall.
The changes we’d made to the ships were minimal–all the signs were in English. The seats were human sized.
Even the door controls hadn’t been changed, leaving them a little too high for most people to be comfortable. It was all I could do to not interrupt them and explain what they were doing wrong. I knew why they’d done it. They’d used alien tech to construct the ship and they didn’t know how to change the controls’ placement and have anything still work. Grandpa had encountered the same problem when he’d turned the Heroes League jet into a spaceship.
The reasons were complicated, but mostly had to do with security issues.
The problem was that that was the tip of the iceberg. If I solved that one thing, they’d probably assume I knew enough to fix all the problems–which I didn’t. Even fixing what I did know would probably take months.
What they needed to do was design completely original ships based on the alien tech that I did understand. They might not be as advanced in all areas, but humans would fit. At the very least, the ships would contain a bare minimum of technology that humans barely understood.
That wasn’t to say that going through the facility wasn’t amazing. It was. The lower levels were several times wider than the old factory on the surface. There were five of the big ships in various stages of construction as well as nearly one hundred podjets.
The podjets had obviously been designed by a completely different group–one closer to human sized, but maybe a little smaller.
I wondered where they’d gotten the designs. What I’d seen so far hinted that the designers might have been the Abominators’ human servants. The sizes were off, but I’d seen no signs of alien shapes.
I only started paying attention to the tour again when it was over. Everyone else crowded around the elevators, and I was maybe forty feet behind everyone else.
One of the upper level students left the group and walked back toward me. I recognized her, but not instantly. Her name was Samita. Black haired with brown skin, she wore a blue hoodie underneath her grey, knee length coat–except she had the hood up over her head. With her grey coat being on the formal end of the spectrum, it looked a little goofy.
I wondered what exactly she was trying to accomplish by that. I’d heard she was some kind of wizard, so maybe she was trying to look mysterious or something?
Of course, given that she went to school in North Carolina, she could simply be cold.
She frowned at me. “Hurry up, Nick. The elevators are here.”
“OK,” I said, and followed after her as she hurried away. For a moment, I considered asking her about the hoodie thing, but decided not to meddle in the affairs of wizards.
The elevators were huge, and there were three of them. We managed to pack more than one hundred students into one elevator trip. I found myself standing next to Isaac Lim.
He smiled at me. “So what did you think?”
I had a bad feeling that he expected me to be complimentary, but it didn’t make it to my mouth. I said, “Their approach is all wrong. I’m thinking that they got the plans somewhere, but they’re following them verbatim. What you need to do is have someone redesign your ships so that normal people can be comfortable.”
Lim nodded. “Yeah, we should, but they’ve got this problem where if they change the location of anything, it stops working–”
“Fixable,” I said. “Maybe not by tomorrow, but it’s not that hard either. It’s just that if you really wanted to change everything that needs changing to make your current design livable, it could take months.”
Lim groaned. “We’ll talk about it later.”
When we got up to the surface, Lim stopped next to the pit again and stood next to the rails. “Tonight’s assignment is to go over our plans for Stardock’s defense, and be ready to put them into practice tomorrow morning.”
Then he paused. “We’d also like your critique. If you do see anything wrong, we’d like to know before we have to use it.”
And that was it. Everyone tromped back to the dorm.
Daniel and I went back to our dorm room. I still hadn’t gotten around to asking him about Izzy. I’d begun thinking about my version of a battleship as I walked away from Lim. Even by the time I’d gotten back to my room, it was still in the front of my mind.
Maybe I would have said something as a break from reading the defense plans, but we had a knock on the door before I even thought about taking a break. We were sitting on our beds. Even if it was converted from a factory, it felt comfortable. The wooden floors gleamed, and the rugs insured we didn’t have to put our feet directly on the floor too often.
The door unlocked itself and swung open. Daniel said, “Come in.”
Cassie and Vaughn stood on the other side. Cassie had been messing around with her ponytail as the door opened, but she let go of her hair and stepped in.
“Hey,” she said. She held a tablet in her left hand. The defense plan was clearly visible on the screen. “I thought we could all go through it together. I figure we’ll see more with more eyes on it. Plus, it’ll be a lot more fun this way.”
Vaughn stepped in behind her, and leaned against the wall next to the door. “I don’t know if you guys tried reading it yet, but I was falling asleep. You’d think a plan for fighting aliens would be a whole lot more interesting.”
“I guess,” I said. “It kind of reminds me of a computer program. We’ve got the main plan, and then we’ve got a lot of smaller plans that we’re supposed to run if it doesn’t quite work out. It’s pretty detailed too. Whoever wrote it thought through a lot of possibilities.”
Vaughn shrugged. “There’s a reason I’m not majoring in comp sci. Anyway, you mind if I sit down?”
I noticed that our door was still open. “No problem, but do you want to get that door?”
Daniel shook his head, “Don’t. There are two more people coming.”
At that moment Izzy stepped into the doorway.