TTA: Civil: AC3 Stag Beetle

When the Proxima Wars ended in 2063, there was a shortage of many materials, particularly fissionable elements such as uranium and its derivatives, and those rarer elements for which no synthetic substitute had been found. This problem was particularly pronounced for the Alpha Centaurians, whose indigenous mineral resources were unusually poor, though until the war they had enjoyed an abundance of the necessary materials mined from one of the planets orbiting Barnards Star. This is a type M Red Dwarf Star attended by four tightly grouped planetary bodies, one of which was extraordinarily rich in valuable minerals and also held captive a dual ring of heavy metal satellites. In the course of one of Proxima Centauri's last large scale offensives this planet was entirely desolated and is still virtually unapproachable.

The AC3 was designed to break down and process the orbiting chunks of matter, of which there was fortunately a vast number, certainly sufficient to satisfy the basic needs of the manufacturing complexes at home until a way could be found to restore the facilities on the mother planet - something, incidentally, which has still to be achieved. The active section of this strange looking vehicle was the 'head' with its characteristic 'antlers'. Three of these antennae are the field projectors for the Disassembler system, and operate when the ship is positioned with a suitable satellite in the area between the antlers. These projectors then transmit the field which breaks down and separates the various elements of which the object is composed. The other two projections are collectors for absorbing and refining the ores before passing them back to the storage holds. The bulk of the ship is little more than a vast barge which can be detached when full and exchanged for an empty one. The full hulls are then locked together in groups of four or six and transported by a warp or potential mass type tug to their destination.

No main drive of any kind is fitted to the AC3 as none is really necessary, small directional jets being sufficient for positioning and the short passages from target to target. The AC3 is probably one of the most impressive and efficient pieces of ore recovery and processing equipment in existence, and thus it is understandable that the Alpha Centaurians have consistently declined to make its technology available as part of any trade agreement.

Although these craft are not available for purchase, they can be leased with Alpha crew and technicians in quantities of two or more and are operating with several of the larger mining concerns. Many of these teams are working our own asteroid belt as their efficiency, speed and low operating cost make the extraction of small amounts of ore commercially viable. AC3s can be observed at work quite easily from passenger liners passing through the belt to Jupiter. There is also a contingent attached to the Research Authority and the barges sometimes arrive back at Mars base.