If it ain't broke, fix it anyway! That was certainly my policy in taking an utterly perfect A211 Mobile Command Fortress and finding ways to further mess with it out of sheer boredom and curiosity. After all, admitting I'd reached perfection with the design would also mean admitting that I was done with it, and how could I possibly ever let that happen? I'd been working on this design for over eighteen years! So, as 2012 and the nineteenth anniversary of my building the very first incarnation of the A200 series Mobile Command Fortress rolled around, I knew I had to prove that I hadn't hit the limit. I think I've done just that.
I think this design will reveal less changes than any A200 series design that came before it, yet the changes are still significant. For one, the fort got taller (again). I honestly wonder if it won't collapse in on itself from the weight one day. For another, I have finally, finally built a brig I am satisfied with (and I've been trying out different brigs for several years now). Add to that an expanded medical bay (still not positive I love it, but we're getting closer), and a Captain's Quarters right off of the Captain's Office. All in all, I feel I've created a lot of exciting new spaces, and it even left me with two guest's quarters areas, so if I can manage to think up a need for another room, it's an easy conversion without having to add on more levels (I would not longer be able to store this thing anywhere if I did that!).
Here's the interior of the fort from a distance.
For added fun this time around, we'll take a tour of the fort via an original graphic novel that takes place onboard the A212, taking us through each room and level of the fortress in order. To be fair, I spent days working on the A212 design and two hours writing the story, so don't judge too harshly. It's all in good fun.
Please note: Since this is a land vehicle, it was necessary to set this story in an alternate future in which the Federation would be utilizing land-based Mobile Fortresses. Therefore, this story is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which mankind never unified and got into space. Instead, large nations have been spending decades decimating the landscape with nuclear weapons, and the fighting has only now calmed to the point that the North Am Federation can begin sending out Mobile Fortresses to search for colonies of survivors and re-establish contact with rival nations.
Level 1: Command Level
Picard: Ease up on our speed a bit, ensign. Nothing's been alive in this particular area for very long time, so no one here is in a hurry to see us.
Collins: Sorry, sir. Just excited to be on my first mission, I suppose.
Picard: Understood, but let's be careful not to exhaust our energy supply when we're this far out in the wilderne...
LaForge: Captain! We're receiving a distress call from Lt.s Danvers and Csuti, sir, but it's coming from outside the fortress!
Picard: Mr. Collins, all stop. Mr. Cespedas, scan for life readings out there and try to get a fix on their comm badges as well.
Cespedas: Yes sir.
Picard: Picard to Riker -- ready an away team on the double.
Riker: Sir, if they are out there, you know how high the radiation levels are in these parts of the Megaton Zone. Exposure for more than a few minutes might mean...
Picard: I know, Number 1. Make sure you hurry bac..
Collins: I hear knocking! They're right outside!
Picard: LaForge, open the emergency door. Lt. Worf, I want you ready for whatever might try to come through.
Picard: Get them in here and close that door!
Worf: Captain! Csuti is armed! Drop your weapon!! Lt. Cespeda, stop Danvers!
Cespeda: UGH! Get away from the power core chamber!
Danvers: (throwing something into the chamber) Now the POWER will come!
Picard: Engineering, shut down all engines immediately for a level one diagnostic on the power core. I'm coming up to join you. Number One, you have the bridge. Security, take those two to the brig.
Level 2 (center):, Engineering
Picard: We've started moving again.
Hall: The engine output is off the charts, Captain. We can't shut the engines down, so we can't help but move. All we can do is boost inertial dampeners so that we don't break apart while approaching sublight speeds.
Picard: Is that possible?
Hall: It's already happening. Most of the lower treads broke off a few minutes ago -- we've broken free of Earth's gravitational pull and are actually throttling ahead above ground level. If we continue in a near straight line like this, we'll shoot right off the planet.
Picard: Off the planet...? Can the A212 handle that?
Hall: Fortunately, yes. The A212 was built to handle the impact of a full arsenal of fusion weapons, and it's hermetically sealed from outside radiation, so it can survive both the stresses of light speed and the vacuum of space, so long as we keep the inertial dampeners online.
Picard: Explain to me how this happened. What did Lt. Danvers drop into the power core?
Hall: My best guess is it was Qardium. Qardium is a rare element recently discovered to have profound amplifying effects upon most forms of energy through super-refraction, but I can't claim to know the details.
Picard: Is there anyone on this ship who would?
Hall: You could try Dunfrey, I sup...pardon me, Captain. The dampeners are failing. I'm needed.
Level 2 (left): Off-Duty Female Crew Quarters
Picard: Is there a crewman named "Dunfrey" in here?
Hastings: No, sir. The name doesn't ring a bell.
Level 2 (right): Off Duty Male Crew Quarters
Picard: Is there a crewman named "Dunfrey" in here?
Stills: Is it possible you mean "Dufrain," sir? Prof. Dufrain is quartered on the deck above.
Picard: Of course, he came aboard to study rare crystals and the effects of fusion reaction upon them. He might know a great deal about Qardium and super-refraction.
Picard: Professor, I'm sorry to disturb you at this hour.
Dufrain: Come in, Captain.
Level Three (right): Guest's Quarters
Dufrain: As a matter of fact, I was on the board that reviewed the paper on Qardium that you have referenced. We were concerned about the risk of letting people know how powerful the element could be, so we held off on publishing until we believed the Federation had quietly rounded up all known pieces of Qardium out there. But if your officers found more out here...Captain, I need a shuttle right away.
Level 3/4 (center): Shuttle Bay
Picard: Professor, I'm not sure this action is prudent. The risks in attempting to launch a shuttle while accelerating at this kind of speed are incomprehensible. I cannot guarantee our inertial dampeners can protect both the shuttle bay and the launching shuttle.
Dufrain: If the choice becomes necessary, do what you must to protect your fortress, Captain, but I cannot rest knowing that there may be more Qardium out there and that others with sinister motives may know about it.
Captain: We're not even sure what part of the planet you'll end up on. Commander Hall is doing all he can to adjust our thrust and keep us at a low orbit over the Earth's surface, but we're moving at amazing speeds.
Dufrain: I consider myself warned. Thank you, Captain.
Data: Shuttle door open. Inertial Dampeners ready to compensate around shuttle. Okay for launch.
Picard: Good luck, Professor.
Data: Stand-by. I am having difficulty...
Data: Partial failure of inertial dampeners. Explosive decompression of shuttle bay in 5 - 4 - 3...
Hawkins: I can't close the door, Captain!
Picard: Evacuate shuttle bay!
Level 3 (left): Guest's Quarters
Picard: Mister Data, report!
Data: I am all right, sir. Once the shuttle broke free of our dampener field, I was able to reconfigure the field. A moment later and the force from our current velocity would have detached the door from the fortress entirely.
Picard: Is the shuttle safe? Did Hawkins get out okay?
Data: Yes to both, sir. The Shuttle is currently over Eastern Asia and headed back to the Megaton Zone. Ensign Hawkins is...
Picard: Thank you, Data. Meet me in the mess hall in two minutes. I'm calling an executive meeting.
Level 4 (left): Mess Hall / Briefing Room
Loomis: In short, they were administered a neurotoxin, taken from my lab, which essentially made them susceptible to suggestion.
Picard: Dr. Loomis, you mean to tell me that the mastermind behind all of this broke into your laboratory beforehand, brainwashed members of my crew, and is still at large aboard this fortress?
Loomis: That would be my guess. In fact I...
Picard: Then I know who it is. Thank you, Doctor. Computer, give me the location of Lt. Cespedas.
Computer: Lt. Cespedas is currently on Deck five, left wing.
Picard: Meeting adjourned.
Level 5 (left): Five-Left (bar)
Picard: Not like you to drink alone, Lieutenant.
Cespedas: I haven't been feeling much like myself today.
Picard: It's not your fault that you weren't able to stop Danvers in time. I didn't come here to comfort you, though. I came here to offer you redemption. I know who put Danvers up to it. Will you help me?
Cespedas: Yes, captain. Absolutely.
Level 5 (center): Observation Deck
Picard: Dear God, look how high up we are. We've got to stop her.
Level 4/5 (right): Holodeck/Gym
Picard: Nice shot, Hastings. You took out that holograph like a pro. Now, I think it's time you and I had a talk.
Level 6/7 (left): Brig
Picard: Well, ensign, it had to be you. You're the only assistant in Dr. Loomis' lab that has also has any regular contact with Danvers and Csuti. The three of you were off and running that very same program on the holodeck this morning, weren't you? How hard would it have been to have pre-programmed the holodeck characters to restrain your friends so that they could be injected with the neurotoxin?
Cespedas: Silent as the grave.
Picard: Yes, well I suspect playing back this morning's program from the Holodeck log files may give The Ensign a bit more to talk about.
Level 7 (center): Medical Bay -- surgery and intensive care area
Level 7 (right): Medical Bay -- Dr. Loomis' Office
Picard: Doctor, how are the patients?
Loomis: Recovering nicely, Captain. Unfortunately, I doubt they'll have much to tell you. In the sort of condition they were in, the information they could process would have been very limited. I doubt they knew anything more than to sneak out of the fortress with the Qardium and then come back in and get it into the power core chamber.
Picard: You think they already had the Qardium before they left?
Loomis: It's an off-world element, Jean Luc. You don't just find it lying out in the wasteland. Hastings obtained it in anticipation of her big moment today. The only reason she had Csuti and Danvers go outside was probably to catch you off-guard. Concern over the missing crew members prevented your security team from perceiving them as a threat as quickly as they should have. Had they just suspiciously come down the turbolift with phasers in hand, it would have been a different situation.
(As an aside, check out the track I put in the floor, allowing Dr. Loomis' chair to slide back and forth.)
Level 7 (center): Captain's Office
Picard: So Prof. Dufrain has reported that Dr. Loomis appears to have been correct. There was no Qardium in that area at all.
Riker: What about Hastings? What's her angle?
Picard: I wish I knew. I have examined her records more closely though, and I've found that they are virtually identical to those of a Sarah Lewis, an ensign serving on the Tamburlaine.
Riker: Fake records. Picard: So it would appear. And I keep thinking of Doctor Loomis' point that Qardium is an off-world element, not known to be found on Earth.
Riker: Well, at least Commander Hall seems to finally have the engines under control. I wonder how long it will take for him to find a way to get us back on the surface.
Picard: One dilemma at a time, Number One. Let's at least be thankful that we're not hurtling head-on to our deaths any longer.
Level 7 (right): Captain's Quarters
"One dilemma at a time." How convincingly he spoke it, and yet there are many dilemmas keeping Picard awake on this long night. How could Amfleet have been so clumsy in reviewing Hastings' records, how could she have so easily taken down two of his crew members and brainwashed them without anyone aboard noticing, how would he make her talk, (indeed) how would they return to Earth and, perhaps the most nagging concern of them all, what was the point of it all? Why bring them out here into space? Why not just fire a phaser into the power core and be done with it? Why?
"Why?" is the tease of all questions, rarely answered and even more rarely answered satisfactorily. How often, then, do we ask "Why?" to questions with which we'd rather never have the answers?
Case and point. It might begin to answer Picard's question to see Ensign Hastings push open an escape hatch with superhuman strength and exhale recreationally in the vacuum of space. Indeed, he might get a more full answer if he could overhear the encrypted information being sent from a microprocessor beneath Hastings' right ear to someplace far off, assuring that "All is ready. Our new home is waiting."
It would be an answer, but it would hardly make for a happy ending.
History of the A200 Series Mobile Command Fortress