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- Environment Suit
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A suit designed to protect the wearer from the harsh environment of the Heavenfield's atmosphere.
Each of the main protagonists in the Heavenfield conflict (Exiles, British and Americans) had their own variants, but the later models of American design were based upon captured Exile equipment.
British Environment Suits
The original British Environment Suit designs (A-Series through to C with numerous variations) were based upon existing technologies taken from Air Force pressurised flight suits and a developmental space suit program that had been shelved many years previously. This program was resurrected as a matter of urgency as the possibilities of Standing-Point missions became realised.
These first major versions were developed in an extremely short space of time (only 16 weeks between production cycles of B and C variants) as researchers became aware of the unique set of problems posed by the Heavenfield's atmosphere.
The major concerns were safety-issues, with the initial expeditions proving that the early A-series suits had a life-expectancy of somewhere in the region of 6 hours, before electronic and power failure would knock out the rebreather systems. Fortunately those early missions were well within safety-limits, but the necessity for a complete re-design of the suits' workings and functionality were recognised.
Instrumental in the first major overhaul of the early suits were Dr. Edmund Keeler and Prof. Gary Starling, working within the Research Centre at Hayden Hill. They recognised the need to drastically simplify existing designs; and where others pushed for more complex solutions to the electronic degradation problems, Starling advocated inspiration from past technologies, drawing upon observed technologies from Cold-War-era Soviet space suits (particularly ironic, since this was also the lineage of the early Exile suits, which Keeler would later go on to redesign as part of his cooperation with the Exiles). The simple technologies were found to be suitably robust, and the B-Series suits contained an almost-identical version of the Soviet re-breather and personal transmitter units (albeit with updated components).
This series took the rather hurried model-B suits, and using the paradigm of 'old-style' technologies, updated many of the more bulky components with more compact and modern materials (it is not for nothing that the B-Series suits were affectionately referred to as 'Back-Breakers'). The air supply and re-breather units were completely overhauled with new composite materials, and improved pressurisation techniques raised the maximum mission times from 3 hours to 7 (including the emergency 1 hour secondary tank unit).
Further Variations - D(M)-Series and E(M)-Series
D-Series and E-Series were given a designation Military (M), and were variants of the now-reliable C-Series, with modifications to fit the differing combat roles. Most of these changes were made to allow the application of bullet-proof materials to key areas of the torso and abdomen (this included the removal of the integrated tool-kit located in the chest-section of the C-Series suits), a strengthened boot system, and a redesigned Armoured Helmet Unit. Accommodation was made for standard military modular carrying and pack systems, though the weight and size of the re-breather unit placed limitations upon the extra load points available.
The modular bullet-proof system was radically redesigned when the threat from energy-based weapons as opposed to projectile threats became apparent, and an overhaul of the back-pack system to accommodate the power-pack for the much-maligned MX-weapons were the major overhauls for the E(M)-Series designation.
Military-Designation D(m)-Series Suit.
F-series suits were a return to the scientific requirements, and saw a raft of minor modifications (most notably a wrist-pack for accessing basic suit functions, replacing the earlier bulky chest-pack). The one major addition was a prototype Emergency Decompression Unit (EDU). This comprised of radical design to emit a crystallising polymer from an array of points around the interior of the suit and helmet. In the event of a suit breach the dispersed solution would form an oxygenated foam that would quickly harden to provide a barrier to the atmosphere whilst supplying oxygen to the lungs.
Indeed, the highly-controversial process proved successful, when Dr. Saul Davisson and Technician Stuart Nicks both suffered accidental suit failures (Davisson from a breached suit, and Nicks from an oxygen supply failure). Sadly, a combination of concern over the excessive trauma suffered through the process, coupled with the extremely high production costs of the precision dispersal units, led to the EDUs being removed from later suit variants (G-Series).
It is interesting to note that the F-Series actually went into production before the E(M)-Series, as the military and scientific variants were at the time working along separate, parallel research and development streams.
F-Series Civilian, Scientific Suit.
The G-Series, or 'God-Awful' Series as they were commonly named, acquired their rather dubious nickname when design and manufacture was moved to the new Production Plant beneath Maunsworth House. A necessity for speed of production in the ever-increasing arms race of early Field history led to a radical simplification of an already rudimentary design. Features were kept to a minimum, and manufacturing processes and poor materials choice led to recurring problems with suit-seal degradation, as well as problems with restricted visibility from a redesigned helmet system.
Universally disliked, the G-Series still saw huge-scale production volumes in comparison to the other series, though the F(6)-Series suit (a modified F-Series with the EDU removed from the design) is considered by most to be the pinnacle of early British Environment Suit design.
“How's it looking?” asked Grace with a sigh, letting go of the trolley and slumping down upon a pile of packing crates. She took a moment to catch her breath. Starling bustled about, performing a series of tests upon a row of environment suits which hung from the ceiling, gently rocking to and fro. A mass of pipes snaked out from them and into an imposing bank of machinery. Starling worked feverishly at one of the consoles.
“I said how's it looking?” called Grace, a little louder, smiling to see him lost in the work he so adored.
Starling looked up and grinned.
“Pretty good,” he said. “They're all crappy G-series suits, but the seals are still intact. How's it feel for you?” He called over to the row of suits.
Grace jumped in surprise as one of them raised an arm and waved; she had thought they were all empty. She made out Robson's grinning face behind his visor.
“Jumpy Grace?” joked Starling, as he walked over to Robson and began checking the valves on his backpack.
“I think I'm allowed,” she muttered, heaving herself to her feet and lugging one of the oxygen tanks over to them.
“Well it's not going to get any better,” he sighed, as he helped Grace lift the heavy cannister and secure it beneath Robson's backpack.
“How does that feel?” he asked; their was a sharp hiss as he tightened the last valve. “You may want to have a walk around, get a feel for the suit,” he said loudly, tapping on his visor. “Let me know if you start to feel claustrophobic, we don't want you puking in there.”
“He's worn one before,” said Grace matter-of-factly as she prepared the next suit.
“We were in the Battle of Maunsworth Field,” said Burns in a sombre voice.
“Is that what they're calling it now?” asked Starling as he stalked past, lugging a heavy backpack up onto a work table. “The Battle of Maunsworth Field? I prefer to call it the Great Cock-Up.” His face was dead-pan as he stomped back to his workstation.
Grace's laughter degenerated into her familiar smoker's hack.
“Come on then,” she said finally, turning to Burns. “Let's get you all dressed-up.”
“I never thought I'd be getting into one of these again,” he said, regarding the empty environment suit with a look of mistrust.
“Don't worry,” said Grace with a grin. “Just because they were made by the lowest bidder, it doesn't mean that they're all bad.”
Extract from The Dead Man's Feast
“There’s a piece of metal, oh God - it’s in your back!” she shouted at last. “It’s gone through your suit, but it’s melted the padding and sealed it again; just don’t move!”
Thomas was horrified; he had read a detailed report of what had happened to Pattie when she was exposed to the atmosphere.
“Is the emergency decompression system damaged?” he managed to croak at last.
“What? Oh Thomas I’m sorry,” stuttered Grace, her face close to his. A thin red dust whipped around the square in small eddies and zephyrs. “We just haven’t had the resources to put the system in the newer suits; there’s just been so many to produce; we simply haven’t had the manpower...” Her voice tailed off to a whisper, as the tears ran down her cheeks.
“Don’t let me die like that,” he moaned in a hoarse croak; his eyes were starting to look glazed. “Not like that; please.”
Extract from The Heavenfield
Mk-1 & Mk III Scientific Wrist-packs
The first Mk-1 model wrist-pack was a multi-processor unit designed to regulate all life-support systems and also record many levels of analytical mission-data. It was also designed as a video commlink system with an integrated emergency transmitter beacon. It was operated with a stylus, and had a full-colour touchscreen display.
Unfortunately, the Field's atmosphere proved far too hostile an environment, and the short service time of the early units quickly amounted a 100% failure rate.
The Mk-1 Scientific Wrist-pack quickly proved unsuitable for the Heavenfield's harsh environment.
Developers were forced into a radical rethink of design and expectations, and the Mk-II replacement scientific wrist-pack removed many of the early functions, settling for a core of four main areas of functionality: Life-support, Power Management, Emergency Transmitter / Receiver, and Communications.
The touchscreen was replaced with a simple backlit monochrome LCD display, and the now-familiar 4-button design was introduced for ease of one-handed use. The four primary buttons were supplemented with a thumb-operated shift-button, to increase the amount of functionality.
Unfortunately, even the LCD screen proved unreliable in extended mission testing, and from this need for extra-simplification the MK-III units were born, utilising a simple multi-light indicator scale to allow operation.
The Mk-III device was a radical simplification of earlier designs.
Four Auxiliary buttons were added to the upper edge of the unit, which had a latching on/off operation to increase available button combinations.
The many variants of the Mk-III design are a testament to its robustness and versatility, and a military variant was even produce with a camouflage colour-scheme.
After a mission, a dataport on the rear of the device could be used to download telemetry data.
A Military variant of the successful Mk-III design.