The Extended-Living Habitat Research Vessel was a mouthful to most people that heard or read about it. Colloquially it became known as Erv (like Irvine), for obvious reasons. However loquaciously challenging, it was also the most state-of-the-art aquatic research vessel ever built. It was, for all intents and purposes, a floating skyscraper. It extended a Kilometer into the air and equally as much into the sea.
To the distant observer, it appeared as a hilted sword, point-up, on the horizon. It even shined as one from the solar-cells along its upper-half. The glint of glass from apartments was only barely visible between the cells that supplied power to its nearly two-kilometers of various facilities and dwellings.
The hilted shape, more a bulbous, closed ring than anything, formed the sections necessary for navigation while just beneath the surface, at its stern, arrays of hybrid magneto-hydro-dynamic engines were its propulsion. That is to say, giant, jet-like turbines that served as both engines (by means controlled of electrical charges from induced from salt-water conductivity over magnetically charged plates), as well as power generation.
It was the greatest achievement in maritime engineering since the first, primitive submarine was put into commission and helped create the first modern, Navy. Erv was designed and manufactured with a specific purpose in mind; to harness the power and neglected space of the ocean for marine research and relief of overburdened, land-based cities. Erv was more than a strangely-shaped ship with fancy new technology, it was Humanity’s next, greatest hope.
Farming the oceans with massive nets, as well as fostering marine-animal husbandry through special containment areas in the hilt, no-one aboard wanted for food. Between that and its advanced power-collection systems, ERV was practically self-sustaining, would required only the occasional re-stock of certain, mechanical parts that could not be repaired nor recreated aboard. Eventually, even that was possible– in addition to extensive hydroponics and aeroponics centers aboard, the more than a thousand people living and working there were given an immense catalog of manufacturing abilities. The helm of this massive sword bobbing along the water was a forward section of the bulbous ring-like hilt. Its bridge was a technophile’s wet-dream. Every known form of navigational, computational, and long-range transmitter known to man occupied. Arrays of antennae atop the hilt connected the ship with all facets of modern living– from NOAA weather monitoring satellites in orbit to satellite television and internet. More-over, it’s own, personal system of satellites– built in anticipation of wide-spread deployment of Erv-like vessels– tracked and aided its navigational computers with nearly-autonomous, pin-point precision. All that was necessary was to plot a course, enter it into the nav-systems, then let it run.
With two “kims” of height, the only thing Erv couldn’t do was enter shallow water or win speed races. What it could do was accept and dock with ferries, and once finished, other Erv-class vessels. A series of retractable piers and docks were easily unfolded, anchored to the lower hull for stability. With Erv’s necessary strength, it was possible to form a make-shift port that held true in even the worst seas.
The upper-half of the sword was a composition of modern residences comfortably sandwiched around one another. Its lower-half, a series of labs, offices, farms, and other specialized sections allowed its crew to partake in anything from recreation to medical check-ups in the necessary, hospital-like infirmary level.
The first “test” of Erv was to stand a pre-determined length of time against the elements. In that it excelled. With every storm that came and went, it never faltered. Due to its size and stabilized shape, it was impossible to topple regardless of the category of dangerous hurricanes. Tsunamis only barely registered and merely required its docks remain folded. It was a sword in the proverbial master’s hands, ever-balanced and unyielding.
The Second Erv-class vessel was completed shortly after the first finished its last test; a live-scenario that simulated an extended loss of communications and sat-guidance equipment. Though carefully monitored, Erv-1 had been at sea long enough that the people aboard were confident in fending for themselves. The fully-functioning agriculture and live-stock programs allowed the crew no limit to rations. Moreover, due to the advanced navigational-systems aboard, the loss of satellites only required good, old-fashioned mathematics and active sonar to keep them sailing unhindered.
ERV-2 was put through its paces shortly after contact between ERV-1 and land was re-established. The only test left for the former vessel after a time was to dock with ERV-2 once it survived its extended comm-blackout tests. As expected, ERV-2’s performance was flawless, and like its predecessor, became fully autonomous when lost by land.
The docking of ERVs 1 and 2 was equally successful. Having then been at sea near five years, ERV-1’s crew was happy to be joined at the hip by her sister and its new people. After establishing their tether and linking their docks, they formed a two-pointed palace on the ocean with a harbor between them. Able to now share their crews and foods equally, a kind of specified niche-market began on ERV-2. By scaling back its agriculture focus, with ERV-1 in turn ramping up its own, the two ships were able to compliment one another in both crew and utilization.
ERV-3 and ERV-4 were finished only months later, the construction process now stream-lined. Having been the prototype, ERV-1 required a quick retro-fit and re-calibration of its navigational systems before it could be considered on-par with the slightly newer tech in the second-gen vessels. Before long, all four ERVs were linked to form a half-moon joined only months later by four more, new vessels known as ERVs 5-8.
Together, the vessels formed a massive ring of swords. At a distance, they appeared as streaks of light emanating orb-like energy-bolts beneath. Due to the increased demand for space aboard the existing vessels, and the growing need for more housing on land, a third generation of ERVs were constructed all at once. These eight further vessels broke water only to link with and beside the first series.
It wasn’t long before the ERVs took over the ocean. They formed an inter-connected metropolis complete with streets and walk-ways that dominated the outer areas and allowed for easy traversal across the massive sprawls of ships. Before people realized it, they no-longer felt themselves as crews of ships, but rather citizens of the first, fully-aquatic city. Like Erv-1, these settlers broke-ground to become something Humanity could look upon fondly.
Even today, decades later, newer ERVs are under construction and the sea is on its way to being harnessed to its full-potential. Millions dwell in the metros created by the interlinked ships. Millions more still await their place aboard the cities to come.
With a silent reverie, it seems, the collective wisdom of Humanity has allowed them to once more brave a new-world and thrive. Like ERV-1, those water-dwellers were the first generation of a new class of being; aquanauts who knew first-hand the beauty of the sea in all of its gentle, fierce, and life-giving forms, and embraced it as home.