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Ray-class Subsidized Liner

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue.

The term Subsidized Trade typically brings to mind a few old, comfortable, and deeply standardized ships that have been around far longer than the Iridium Throne. Designed for economy and long since amortized, these ships are commonly attached to worlds or clusters that would not see a lot of trade otherwise. Designated by both their Imperial standard “type” designations and by the names of common versions, the Type R Freighter and Type M Liner fly Imperial space in vast numbers.

Not every world interested in subsidizing trade wants to project the same image, however. Some don’t care, as long as the ships show up on time. For those who prefer to load their ships on the ground, the Ray is a more elegant alternative to the standard Type M Liner. Following the same approach as the Animal class Yacht, the Ray is a large “flying wing” hull with three decks through the center tapering toward the wingtips. All loading and unloading can be done from the starport tarmac, though the ship also carries a custom-designed Ship’s Boat that can be used to transfer passengers or cargo if required.

In all but one significant detail, the Ray conforms to the Type M specifications, carrying 20 passengers and ten crew in 30 staterooms and 20 cold berths, and capable of 1G acceleration and jumps of 3 parsecs. It differs in streamlining, as the most common Type M is not intended to land. The Ray is not a graceful flyer, designed as it is with gravitic technology in mind, but does fit onto most Imperial standard landing pads or bays and can sit comfortably on less well-prepared ground if necessary. The entire belly is reinforced for sitting on the ground or being slightly elevated on deployable runners, and the bottom deck is almost entirely dedicated to cargo.

Boarding a Ray-class Liner as a passenger is generally accomplished via one of the two airlocks which flank the front cargo doors. These are typically fitted with elevators which rise into the forward Lounge on the middle deck, where passenger receiving will be carried out, and each passenger assigned a stateroom on the upper deck.

Behind the boarding airlocks are two compartments, one on each side, typically fitted to accommodate low passengers. They are accessed via the cargo bay, though access directly from the boarding locks is an available option.

The cargo bay itself is built with roll-on, roll-off cargo handling in mind. Both the nose and the aft end of the bay are fitted with doors, ramps, and cargo winches or tractors, allowing rapid loading and/or unloading. There are four drop-ladders spaced across the bay that provide access to the crew parts of the upper decks, and which may be left in the deployed position or retracted into the ceiling. If deployed they can be anchored to the structure of the floor decking to allow heavier loads, though this is rarely necessary with proper gravity controls and cargo stowage. The broad fuel wings are placed between this deck and the middle deck, and compartments along both walls hold whatever wilderness refueling fittings the owner considers wise.

The middle deck is dominated by the forward lounge’s huge expanse of transparent hull across the bow of the ship, flanked by a pair of workstations in eye-like cupolas. These have a variety of uses based on the desires of the operator, but most commonly function as a landing Bridge station for the pilot, and as a cargo control office during loading and unloading operations. Most Rays are built at sufficient TL to allow these stations to be reconfigured at need.

Behind the Lounge, and accessed via a single hatch from the Lounge, is the crew area of the ship. The crew area is centered on the Bridge area which varies from ship to ship in precise configuration. To either side of the Bridge are crew quarters and commons, allowing the crew to relax away from the passengers. The two halves of the crew quarters are also connected by a corridor aft of the Bridge which also functions as an airlock between the halves should an emergency require one.

Aft of the crew quarters is engineering. A vast space on a ship this size, a Ray’s engineering compartment holds all of the drive components in one place. Despite its size the space is tight. Two floor access points drop into the cargo bay and also provide access to the landing pad (and impromptu recreational deck) on top of the hull, and another pair of ceiling hatches access the grappler/air-locks for the Ship’s Boat above Engineering.

The upper deck is passenger space. The forward rooms are the best on the ship by many standards, as they continue the transparent hull of the lounge below them, often all the way to the aft wall, providing unmatched views in normal space. The transparent hull is typically opaqued while in jump space, though passengers may peek into the void if they wish.

For safety, the remainder of the passenger deck is segmented into four bulkheaded compartments with four staterooms each. These may be reconfigured internally for special passenger needs, but the larger compartments are fixed. At the rear of these are two hatches that lead to the ship’s boat, which sits clamped to the large flat space above Engineering outside the hull. This large area can be fenced off and the Ship’s Boats moved to turn the area into a large external event space, safely six or seven meters above the ground.

The Ship’s Boat is a custom version designed to compliment the Ray, and shares some of its aesthetic. The Bridge sits above a large, open, and configurable payload deck. Owners who want to use their Boat for cargo loading can get larger doors fitted, but the standard version is best suited to passenger transfer and excursion. The starports that build Rays frequently have a wide variety of the Ray’s Boat on hand, as the large payload deck makes the Boat a useful taxi, ambulance, and scientific vehicle.