Airborne special-ops company transport



Like other ships of its class, the Cattalesta is primarily intended to transport a special operations company. As such, the bulk of its space is dedicated to troop transport, and related functions such as vehicle maintenance and food service. It is also intended to transport occasional spoils of said operations, including a brig designed to hold Dragon-Blooded and similarly powerful prisoners. Notably, each ship of the class hosts a group of Exalts – some larger than others, and varying in composition, but none currently hosts more than 10 (and, it should be noted, that one with 10 has quite a bit of cabin-sharing, resulting from the disposition of their Exalts). Also, each ship is outfitted slightly differently; about half (including the Cattalesta) host a significant foreign contingent, and have the fine details of their layout adjusted to match. As such, the rest of the statistics in this description, as well as the map, should be considered specific to the Cattalesta unless noted otherwise.

Not counting the 10-bunk brig, there are 164 beds aboard, split between 96 bunks and 68 single-bed cabins. This affords everyone on the official roster their own bed (though there have been a few issues with fraternization, leaving some beds unoccupied). 24 of these are considered core ship crew; the rest (including the Exalts) are officially the troops being transported, but in practice they are pressed into shipboard tasks when not deployed (for example, two of the Exalts are responsible for most of the medical duties when aboard, and there is a rotating roster of assistant chefs).


From the outside, the Cattalesta is an aerodynamic cylinder capped by domes at either end, held aloft and propelled by four large ducted fans on swivel mounts. A railgun turret sits on its bottom, two small bomb bays sit behind that, and four machine gun turrets ring its midsection. Exterior doors sit above and below the fans; in flight, these would be the most logical boarding locations, except that would-be boarders tend to get sucked into or blown away by said fans; when landed, stairs extend from the lower doors while the upper ones roll down ladders to provide maintenance access to the fans, and landing gear extends from the fans’ support structures (two per fan for eight struts in total, individually controllable to allow landing on rough terrain). An internal cargo elevator toward the front can extend one deck below the bottom or push through the top, to allow APCs and helicopters (respectively) to dock and be taken in. Aside from small portholes, the only windows are on the observation decks at the very front and rear.

The above map is color-coded by function, as noted in the key on the bottom. Each of the 5 decks has a nickname; for instance, the bottom deck is typically only referred to as “Deck 5” in technical manuals, and it is not uncommon for some troops to not immediately realize that the manual means the “gun deck”.

(Scale note: the map is three pixels per foot. For example, the side access corridors on decks 2-4 are two feet wide each, and it is a yard from the entrance to each observation deck to the part of the window immediately in front of/in back of the door. Deck 3 is 91 yards front to back and 16 yards left to right, including the foot-thick hull but not including the ducted fans or their supports; including those brings the width to 48 yards. All five decks put together are 16 yards tall, including hull and interdeck plating but not including the bottom turret.)

The middle three decks have access corridors on the side, allowing fast access around the often-cluttered central corridors. There are also four stairwells, and five elevators: two that primarily provide access through the hearthstone reactor rooms, one vehicular cargo elevator described above, one “dumbwaiter” on decks 2-4 only providing access between the messes and the kitchen, and one “corpsevator” sized and positioned to allow stretchers to get to the medical bay quickly.

Cargo bays are split between APCs, small helicopters (that can sweep their blades back to be in line with their bodies for storage), spare parts, small arms, food, and other supplies. Operational deployment time is primarily limited by supplies; the exact mix can be shifted if long endurance is necessary (in theory, over a year’s supplies could be stored if no small vehicles were aboard), but typically the Cattalesta is not set up to operate more than a month from last resupply. On the mid deck there is an open-plan machine shop instead, with manufacturing and repair machinery that can be moved around as needed. Each deck has an overhead crane, usually employed to move vehicles that can not move under their own power (the helicopters in particular). The cargo elevator (which, unlike the other elevators, has no walls or doors – just poles at its four corners, which the platform rides and secures itself to) has three platforms, two of which can be stowed in the floor of deck 3; when more than one platform is deployed, interlocks are supposed to prevent two platforms from crashing into each other, but situational awareness on the part of the elevator operators is advised as the primary defense against squishing whatever or whoever is on the lower platform. When a platform is not on a certain floor, the open spot is usually covered with retractable flooring.

Bunk rooms house the majority of the ship’s complement. Stacked two beds high and eight to a room, they offer little privacy – though curtains can be drawn, and private storage is on a slide-out shelf under each bunk. Squads are encouraged to bunk together. Each bunkroom has a small video display on the wall, for shared entertainment and for squad-specific briefings. There are also several standardized unisex bathrooms – two toilets, two showers (that can seal off and act as standing bathtubs), and a three-sink bar each. On the Cattalesta, it is rumored that some of the squidfolk have been luxuriating in long baths, though there is sufficient capacity that this is not yet a serious concern even if the rumor is true. It is certainly the case that the squidfolk bunks are water beds: literally, they prefer to sleep in saltwater. Otherwise-empty central access areas, such as those adjacent to the lower mess, tend to be pressed into use as common areas, to hang out or do various group activities (games and small, short drills are popular). Below the bunk rooms, on the gun deck, is the ship’s laundry – washing and drying machines, armored both out of concern for what they may care for and to provide cover in the event of a prison break.

The rest of the ship’s crew gets relatively luxurious cabins, with one bed per room, and optionally a few other fixtures – a small desk, a guest seat, and a larger version of the bunkrooms’ video display are common. Even the ship’s captain and the Exalts only get standard cabins. Although it was not by design, in all ships of the class, the Exalts are assigned the block of cabins toward the rear of mid deck, with semi-private bathrooms shared mainly with the medical bay (though technically available to anyone). One of the Exalts on the Cattlasta has sealed the door to her cabin with a portal leading to a “heart world”; maintenance has rigged cleaning drones to access her cabin through the vents to keep it from getting too dusty. Two more of the Cattlasta’s Exalts insist on sharing quarters when both are aboard; there is official concern about this setting a bad example for the crew, especially as they are not an officially married couple, but standing policy is to tolerate such minor lapses in discipline from Exalts.

Just as an army travels on its stomach, the core of the airship is given over to kitchen, food storage, and messes – all surrounding the control room at the very center. Food service is buffet style: food is conveyed from the kitchen to the counters (next to the dumbwaiter on the lower and upper messes, to the right of the bridge in the main central mess), where soldiers gather to serve themselves. Bench tables seating 18 each dominate the lower and central messes, mostly used by the bunkroom residents, while the upper mess is more of an “officer’s mess”, featuring movable chairs. The kitchen is a highly automated, industrial style, with three long islands and a surrounding counter, designed to cook meals for 100-150 with a minimum of hassle. Food storage is broken into a walk-in freezer, a walk-in refrigerator, and dry storage.

Rather than place the bridge atop, below, or at the front of the ship, as many traditionalists pressed for, the designers of this ship class placed the nerve center at the core, setting it up to view electronically. Cameras all over the ship can be accessed from here, as can other sensors, strategic maps, and other readouts. Some effort has been made to screen out Essence-based mind manipulation that might otherwise be conveyed through these views; whether or not that works is officially classified, covering up that the offices do not yet have enough test data to make conclusions. For the most part this works, although some captains (including the Cattlasta’s) post an observer per shift in each of the observation decks as a backup. Bridge duty crew varies from 3 to 8+2 (8 crew plus 2 observers/fleet coordinators/admiral types) depending on the situation, though in theory just 1 person is needed to steer the ship.

Direct openings link the machine gun turrets to the upper and lower messes, and there is a fairly straight path to them from the dumbwaiter – by design: in the event of an ambush, these should be manned ASAP. Further, in addition to being the primary anti-small-aircraft defense, each machine gun has a coaxial camera that can zoom further than most of the ship’s cameras; these are used to observe events the ship is approaching or leaving and is out of engagement range from, with their images projected to monitors in the messes. Between the turrets, the only blind spot they can not reach are at the very front and rear of the ship – and they have interlocks to prevent them from firing on one another or the ducted fans.

The gun deck is so named because it houses the main railgun cannon. Mounted on a retractable turret (retracted for landing and most times when not in combat or expecting combat), ammunition is stored overhead (resulting in a shorter than normal ceiling in its area) and fed straight down into the gun. Alongside are bomb bays, usually used to deploy missiles – lowered on booms, targeting programmed, and released. Each side can hold 10 missiles each.

Toward the rear of the gun deck is the brig. 10 cells, each intended to hold one prisoner each. This is perhaps the most heavily armored section of the ship. Two guard stations, which are manned at all times when any prisoners are in the brig, oversee the cells through mirrors mounted in the ceiling, providing each station visibility in without the guards having to expose themselves. Most functions, such as opening a cell door or cell floor (to eject an especially troublesome prisoner – it is noted that, for many prisoners that would be held here, being dropped from a few thousand feet in the air is an inconvenience at most, the measure intended more to secure the ship’s safety than to deal with the prisoner), must be activated from both stations simultaneously. Each cell has a bed and a toilet (that can double as a sink); prison showers are located aft of the cells, with even less privacy than the cells. The prisoners’ equipment is kept opposite the showers; in the event of a prison break, prisoners are likely to head here first, trapping them as over a hundred troops flood down the stairs and through the prison.

Medical needs are tended to by a clinic-sized medical bay, with twenty beds (instrumented and set up for IVs), two examination rooms, one imaging lab (mainly used for x-rays), drug storage, and an operating room. Seats line the central access hall; this is used as a patient waiting area.

Of all the functions, “crew support” varies the most between ships of this class (thus why details have been left off the map, similar to the cargo bays and machine shops). Most ships have a gym and/or dojo (rated for training, not sparring, and definitely not for Exalt-level sparring). The Cattlasta also features a Coralese bath – for those not familiar with Coralese culture, think more “watery socializing area” than “hygiene”; there are even showers to get the gunk off before you enter the bath. A sister ship, with a substantial Haltan crew, has a “garden” with skylights that borders on a miniature forest.

Two hearthstone reactors power the ship, each one consisting of a level 3 hearthstone and 20 amplifier nodes, distributed in a geomantically optimized pattern. (Any sufficiently large structure, mobile or not, has useful amounts of internal geomancy.) The hearthstone mounts and amplifiers are marked on the map; the rest of the reactor rooms is open catwalks, and pipes (embedded in the catwalks, or vertically surrounding the mounts and nodes) leading from the hearthstone to each node. Dedicated elevators provide access between the levels for maintenance, as the technology is fairly new so the kinks are still being worked out. (Thus the catwalks: the easiest way to tell if a node is having problems is when it stops glowing or starts blinking, so giving the engineers line of sight to each of the nodes is simple pragmatism. Given the slope of the hull, any small bits that fall through the catwalks collect outside the bottom of the elevator shaft, where hinged catwalk sections can be pulled up to allow for retrieval.) If either reactor is disabled, the ship can continue to fly, albeit slower, at half power.

The observation decks are fairly small affairs, analogous to crow’s nests in old sailing ships. The principle is the same: put someone there, and that someone calls out when something significant is seen. Crew who wish to fraternize will sometimes do so here, usually when one of them has the observation shift or when no observation shift is scheduled, as what goes on in here is only visible from outside the ship. The captain is well aware of this practice, but ignores it so long as performance does not suffer – which has been impossible to fail so far: the observation shifts have been proving to be redundant, any incoming traffic being picked up on radar and camera before confirmation from the relevant observation deck.



The Zatesh Chronicles WingedCat