The Lowell Class underwater research station, named for the planet used to test the prototype installation, formed part of Starfleet’s latest generation of exploration initiatives. While underwater activities were not uncommon in the Federation – indeed, several of the Alpha Quadrant’s most expansive sub-aquatic projects took place inside Federation space – actual detailed exploration had been sidelined during the preceding decades. Sensor sweeps and submersible probes had been utilised to catalogue and record the life forms of the deep before starships and scientists moved on to the next stellar phenomenon, leaving a slowly but surely widening gap in Federation sciences.
This lapse in foresight was brought to light by a resurgence in underwater encounters. In truth, to call it a resurgence would be misleading, as the species and races involved were simply encountered by the Federation and Starfleet rather than merely emerging of their own accord. New underwater flora, genii of types never even dreamt of in Federation science, were being discovered as Starfleet’s vessels of exploration moved further out into uncharted space. Ingeniously evolved aquatic life forms seemed to be everywhere, so much so that Starfleet’s plans to revitalise its efforts in this field by the turn of the century were fast forwarded.
Calls were made for a new small underwater research station design to replace the aging Poseidon and Alexandria classes. Both had served the Federation admirably over their life spans, but it had been nearly 40 years since the inception of the Poseidon and nearly 60 since that of the Alexandria. Their technology and essential equipment could be upgraded, Starfleet knew, but the extensive efforts required were felt to pose detrimental consequences for what was a rapidly expanding field of expertise.
So, several designs were tabled, from shuttlecraft to probes to research stations. The Lowell fell into the last of these categories although, for a time, its fate was uncertain. While it would undoubtedly have been an effective design, easily built and highly suited to the majority of the roles envisaged for such research bases, many among the Federation’s elite science divisions felt that it was simply too small and dependent on outside assistance. In short, it was a miniature of what the divisions were hoping for, namely, something to rival the great underwater cities found on any number of Federation planets.
The design was complex yet remarkably simple at the same time. The Lowell, larger than many Starfleet vessels, was nominally divided into a total of 26 decks. On paper, though, this figure was quite misleading. As a research base composed of sections completely aimed towards temporarily bringing on board specimens both large and small, many of the decks listed on the Lowell were actually open, unfloored spaces, lined by banks of computer terminals and overlooking the massive laboratories and holding pens. The only “normal” sections of the Lowell, as it were, were located towards the centre of the facility. A main turbolift artery linked the impressive sealed laboratories at the top of the structure directly beneath the station’s powerful communications and transporter signal transmitters to the fusion reactors at the base of the facility. From this main spin, habitable thoroughfares and corridors stretched out towards the cardinal points on decks 6, 10 and 20. The deck 10 routes were the major instances of this design characteristic due to the location there of the base’s operations centre, the main specimen containment section – including mass transporters – the submersible bay and the upper probe launcher.
The Lowell Class is essentially powered by two fusion reactors. The first is noticeably larger than most reactors found on Federation vessels, as it is upon this that the base depends for most of its energy requirements. The second reactor, although capable of being used in the same way, is smaller and is only ever drawn upon fully during times when it is required to power the space-time driver coil assembly housed on deck 13. A third reserve reactor located near the top of the base is kept off-line except during emergencies. Under such circumstances, it can be brought on-line manually or, in the event of both of the primary reactors failing, it will automatically activate.
The Lowell’s sensors are state-of-the-art, albeit limited in range. Most of its scans are internal and localised in nature, taking the form of analysing nearby life and environs. The remainder of its scientific equipment is equally advanced, ranging from the most up-to-date biological scanners and information disseminators to the most powerful analytical tools currently employed by Federation science. Its complement of probes mirrors this, including among its number anything from long-range and autonomous surveyors to ultra-deep sea remote or self-motivated sensor buoys. The Lowell even boasts a small number of suborbital and orbital satellites, their purpose to monitor planetwide tidal, migration and environmental conditions to better inform its resident scientists of the larger picture around them.
The Lowell is protected in a number of ways. Its armament is minimal, aimed more towards clearing away superfluous natural obstacles and scaring off some of the larger species known to inhabit the depths than anything else. True protection is provided in other, more effective ways, such as high density armour deployed at key pressure points. Even still, its defences are quite weak in comparison with most facilities located in space. For instance, it does not have normal shielding. Instead, its only projected protection takes the form of field dispersal units, which actively nullify any energy, EM and artificial particle emissions coming from the base in the hopes of not confusing or adversely affecting the local fish and plant life. Its structural integrity fields are its primary means of survival. Although nowhere near as powerful as those found on modern starships, the locked molecule fields employed on the Lowell provide ample protection against even the most adverse of sub-aquatic environmental conditions. The base’s hull is also composed of the same materials employed in starship production, giving it great strength. Most importantly, however, is the second, inner hull. Although built of monotanium, its presence acts as a buffer in the event of a breach of the outer hull. Alongside the automatic barriers that can cordon off the small crawl spaces between the two hulls, this gives the Lowell a considerable degree of defence against freak accidents. If both hulls are breached, then internal force fields are activated. Certain key areas are protected by heavy doors that close as soon as a breach occurs, but this is an extreme measure that would only ever be used if all power had failed on the base.
The Lowell, though a base, is actually mobile, although it has limited range. Underwater, its best projected velocity is barely 30 knots, an excessively fast speed in that the base’s wake could easily destroy any fragile underwater aquaculture and structures if close enough. Its main source of propulsion is the new sub-aqua engines recently developed for underwater shuttlecraft. A total of 14 such engines, linked in pairs and located along the base’s main edges, can easily propel the structure once the four large, crab-like and articulated docking arms release their hold on whatever surface the base was attached to. Although the Lowell is not designed to float, it can move along an ocean surface as easily as beneath it. Due to issues of stability, however, its top velocity in this instance is only marginally higher than while underwater.
On a planet, this means of propulsion alone would not suffice for ease of movement. For this reason, the Lowell was equipped with a small space-time driver coil assembly, much like those found inside the impulse systems of starships. Through these means, the Lowell can effectively reduce its mass to just 15% of normal. Although innovative, this move would be practically useless due to those same issues of instability at high velocities if not for the availability of other craft. In this instance, it is intended for the Lowell to be towed via tractor beam to its new location. While sizable, the inclusion of even small subspace coils allow for a vessel the size of the Wallace to enter a planet’s atmosphere, tractor the base to a reasonable height, and transport it to a new location at a reasonable height and speed. Smaller than average manoeuvring thrusters allow for a smoother ride than would otherwise be the case.
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- Triton Seabase