Today’s prompt and DeviantArt link. And for those who may be wondering, yes I am using the Inktober prompts to build up and flesh out scenes for a larger story I have in my head.

When U.S. Space Command first began building space-based building platforms and the larger Constitution class spaceships, the advances in artificial intelligence (AI) led USSC scientists and engineers to entrust the building processes to robots and AI-piloted mechs. Not long into the process, both the scientists and engineers rediscovered one of the largest drawbacks of artificial builders, they lack the ability to improvise solutions to unique problems.

By the beginning of the Mercury class spaceship builds, human construction workers piloting exoskeletons were the norm for space-based construction. Because of the materials used to manufacture the exoskeletons, the workers adopted the term “Steel Monkey” to describe themselves, borrowing the title of a 20th century song about high rise construction workers.

The exo frames allowed the construction workers to be strapped into a structure that was one part scaffold, one part tool rig, and one part personal survival and mobility vehicle. Each exo frame shared more in common with a hiking backpack than a traditional construction site tool frame, except for the two pair of arms controlled by a pair of gun-handle-like joysticks with multiple triggers and buttons that allowed the steel monkey within to do their jobs. 

One pair of exo arms ended in a pair of hands that offered the ability to manipulate and handle materials beyond the ability and strength of a human.  The other pair of exo arms ended in a welding torch and a rivet gun, the two most commonly needed tools for those building things in orbit.

While the human construction workers retained such disadvantages as requiring breaks, sleep, and food, their ability to improvise solutions in response to rapidly changing situations added benefits that far outweighed the obstacles of returning construction work back to the “hands” of human workers.

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