Fort Falling

This is the public log of DeeDee 'dzyjak' Jackson, a fictional character. DeeDee lives and works aboard a space station which orbits Saturn, and sometimes he writes about it.


Relative Facts

On the rare occasions when Nana had too much alcohol, she liked to share her favorite life lesson. "There's two kinds of facts--absolute and relative. You're born. You die. Gravity sucks. And Sol glows in the dark. Those are absolute. Everything else is relative."

I think I understand why she used to say that, but it's nothing I can express in words. Sharing my life in this somewhat public forum has been therapeutic and instructive, but I'm finding I don't need the release as much as I did when I started this project. I don't intend to stop writing, but more and more of my life is becoming classified secret, so I may not be around much.

You know where I've been? Living in Paula's prototype submind pod for humans, and having the most incredible sex any human has ever had.

Paula and I are truly married now. Our honeymoon lasted for two months, and it was the best two weeks of my life. While the universe drifted passed us, we slept at Relativity Two Something. We spent a couple of days on Jupiter Station Twelve, and the rest of the time in each other's arms.

Apparently, thanks to Paula's human seed pod, Paula and I are the parents of 17 potential offspring. Only two of them will know us as parents. The rest may never be born, or they might grow up a million light-years away. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I know Paula, and I couldn't have stopped her.

I was going to describe the seed pod, and how we melded together and rode Relativity and each other all the way to Jupiter and back, but then I decided... It would be impossible for me to know both where I was, and how fast I was going, at the same time.


Flight School

"Are you avoiding your office again, Minister Jackson?" Kammie asked.

"Sometimes I like to shop when I'm depressed," I said. "Most often I sulk around in my ship and avoid the comm for a few hours, but sometimes I like to shop. For one thing, Earth chocolate can lighten anyone's mood for a time, depending on the cost of the chocolate. For another, watching the apes at trade negotiations can be entertaining and instructive."

Kammie laughed. "I like you, Minister Jackson. You don't talk to me like most adults."

"Yeah," I said. "How do adults talk to you?"

"Like I'm nine," Kammie said, sitting down next to me.

I shrugged. "You'll be ten soon. Who have you escaped from today?"

"My dad," Kammie said. "He's bringing us ice-cream."

"Us?" I asked.

"Chocolate," Kammie said firmly.

"Really?" I asked, looking at the runny remains of my last serving. "Please tell me you didn't get that mind reading thing like Eddie's got? Little girls shouldn't be reading adult minds. It's not healthy."

Kammie giggled. "Don't worry, Minister Jackson. My thing is momentum. Like your's. I saw you licking the last drops off of your spoon, and the suicidal look on your face when it was gone."

"That's a little over-dramatic," I said. "Don't you think?"

"As soon as I got my Submind symbiont, I concentrated on feeling the station spinning beneath me, and then I felt for Saturn..."

"Please stop," I said, feeling a bit woozy. "That is not at all how I came by my feel for momentum.

"Of course not," Kammie said dismissively. "But I'm planning ahead, and a pilot needs to know how fast she's going, relatively speaking. It worked."


Kammie shrugged. "I've seen you fly, and I'm going to be better than you one day."

"Oh," I said, not sure if I should be flattered or disturbed. She was way too smart for a child her age. "Thanks."

"Hey, Dad," Kammie said with calculated excitement. "Minister Jackson's going to give me flying lessons."

"That's nice," he said, handing me a Double Chocolate Frost.

"I don't suppose you could wait a couple of years?" I asked, focusing on my spoon.

"Then too," Kammie said, stuffing her mouth with dripping, syrupy brown ice-cream.

I shrugged and followed her example.


Seed Father

"I hate ceremonies," I complained.

"No you don't," Paula said. "You love them. Get used to it."

"But why do I have to be the 'Seed Father' in this thing? I'm not the only guy..."

"You were the messenger," Paula said. "It's tradition."

"Tradition," I muttered. "Mom set me up. She's been asking for grandkids for years, and she knew the Drifters would want me to be the first seed father."

"What are you complaining about?" Paula asked. "It's not like you have to raise the child. You just have to call once in a while. Maybe send birthday gifts."

"My mom has already adopted Melissa and Tre," I said. "Not to mention the rest of their family. It's not my fault I'm an only child."

"It's not your parents' fault either," Paula said. "Now stop whining and fix your collar. We're going to be late."

"How long did they say this would take?" I asked.

"They didn't," Paula said. "But from my experience, the ceremony takes about 15 minutes, and the after party goes all night."

"Can I get drunk?" I asked.

"After the ceremony," Paula said, pulling me towards the door. "Come on. Don't make me call your mom."

"I'm coming," I said, and let her lead me to my doom.


Hydroponic Theater

"I designed a theater for them," Doug said. "Well, Rudy designed it, but I paid him to do it. And I found the space. I'm a genius."

"That's nice," I said. "You gonna grow it from scratch?"

"What? No. I'm not going to grow anything. I gave the designs to Mitch," Doug said. "With names of my favorite subcontractors. They need to learn how to work with Submind if they want to grow 'Crazy Doug's Theater of Life.'"

"That's funny," I said, deadpan. "You come up with that all by yourself."

"They aren't going to call it that," Doug said. "But they're going to write a play about me."

"That's not always good."

"There's no such thing as bad publicity."

"You start being generous," I said. "And people ask you for favors more often."

"They have this huge space in that rigged-up storage ship they thrust around," Doug said, ignoring me. "It's just wasted space in there--exposed to vacuum. As soon as I saw it, I was ready to charge in with vats and chimps, but Drifters can be a bit touchy about their ships."

"Yeah," I said. "I noticed. Mitch seemed almost insulted when I suggest his ships needed repair."

"They'll be able to seat over 100 people, and the stage can change scenery in a matter of minutes," Doug said. "Have I mentioned I'm a genius?"

"Yeah," I said. "Please stop."

"But it's a living stage," Doug said. "And it changes shape, and color, and stuff."

"You're a genius," I said. "I don't care. It's your turn to buy the drinks, and mine's empty."

"Mine's not."

"Then stop talking about yourself and drink up," I said.


Blood Written

Drifter ship bulkheads are covered in words. Poems and fables and random bits of advice are everywhere. Complete lessons on how to change carbon scrubbers or light panels are scribed in useful locations. Nothing is painted in neat block letters. It's all messy and wonderful, covered in beautiful and finely crafted words.

"This bulkhead is blood written," Ted said. "My grandfather sixth inscribed 'Time's Test' on this wall himself."

"Yeah?" Doug said, caressing the bulkhead softly. "What's that."

"It is our most sacred teaching. If it will not survive this mad organic retrofit you are proposing, it must be removed to a place of honor on the observation deck, and preserved for as long as this ship lives."

Two of the three chimps tagging along with Doug started tracing words on the wall in quiet fascination. The chimps on Fort Falling are more or less a new species, thanks to Submind. Most of them have a wicked sense of humor, and are smarter than the average human station tech.

"We would, of course, like to save as much of our works as possible. That's if we even agree to this radical shift in our environment." Ted said.

Ted watched the chimps for a minute, and then raised his eyebrows when Four Thumbs turned to him and used chimp sign to say, "Blood written."

Ted nodded. "Yes. From our breath, and from our life."

All three chimpanzees repeated the words in chimp sign. Ted nodded and repeated the gestures.

"No problem." Four Thumbs gestured, and barked chimp laughter. "For as long as the ship shall live."

The chimps all busted up, waved goodbye, and pretended to help each other stumble away.

I just shook my head. "I don't think you have anything to worry about, Ted. The chimps like you."

"What's so funny about a ship being alive?" Ted asked. It sounded like he wasn't sure if he should be offended or was just missing the joke.

"Um? They're chimps. With Submind symbionts."


"And you just asked them to bring your ship to life after you told them your ship was alive," I said. "They think metaphorical concepts are hilarious. Add a bit of recursion, and, well, you're lucky they didn't make you an honorary chimp right then and there."

Ted had a strange look on his face.

"It involves a lot of painful slapping," I explained.

"Are you sure they understand?" Ted asked Doug. "It's always a sadness when a ship loses blood."

"The chimps are going to adopt your entire tribe," I said. "Trust me."

Doug snickered. "He's probably right. Listen, Ted, if those apes can't save %99 of these words, I'll eat this entire lash-up hub. They'll probably grow them right into the design."

"It will be weeks before the chimps can get started," I said. "And, from what Melissa tells me, there are almost two dozen young Drifter women seeking seed fathers. "

"Yes," Ted said, nodding. "It took us almost three years to get here, and opportunities have been limited."

"So there's no hurry," I said. "You're going to be here for awhile. Take some time and learn what Submind can do for your tribe."

"That's for the elders," Ted said. "But as soon as they approve, I'm getting one of those space-fairy suits like you have."

"I'll have to beat you at Spinball before then," I said.

Ted laughed.

Doug smirked at him. "Don't laugh until you've seen him play. With that thing in his head, he could make Simon Jump weep in frustration."

"I will play one game," Ted said, studying me. "But you must explain how you flew for three hours, but it was two days time. That is a story and a trick to be blood written."

"Done," I said.


Genetic Drift

"She wants to what?" I asked, opening my eyes and forgetting about the sleep I was trying to get.

"What are you so surprised about?" Paula asked. "Drifters tend to seek genetic diversity more than most belt dwellers. You have good genetics, and I've been discussing the same thing with Rhonda for weeks now."

"Rhonda? Wait a minute," I said. "Does this mean you have a list of men you want to have sex with?"

"Breed with, Dee Dear," Paula said, snuggling close.

"That involves sex," I said.

"It doesn't have to," Paula said. "But traditionally, that's true. It's more fun, too."

"So... Melissa, was it? You're saying that Melissa wants a genetic donation from me, and she asked you if she could seduce me?"

"Something like that," Paula said. She sounded amused. I was starting to see a downside to her open sexuality.

"I hardly know her," I said. "I'm not sure I can be that intimate."

"I could help," Paula said, feeling around under the covers.

"Who's on your list?" I asked, grabbing her hands to keep them from distracting me.

"They all left for Mars system when the OSA condemned the station."

"Is Kenneth on it? He came back. And he's with Rhonda now. Why else would you girls be talking about it?"

Paula didn't answer right away. "Yes. We don't have to follow this tradition if it bothers you, DeeDee. It's doubtful Fort Falling will suffer a large population drop. Genetic diversity isn't critical like it used to be."

"That's not..." I stopped. Children were important to Paula. The last time I noticed, she had said that seven would be the right number to have. I just hadn't considered there would be more than one father. "I guess Kenneth's alright--but Rhonda? Really? She scares me. I'm not sure I can be intimate with her either."

Paula giggled softly, and said. "You should contact Tre in the morning and make arrangements. Melissa should stay with us for a couple of weeks, at least."

"Tre?"I asked. "Right. The husband."

"And since I won't have you all to myself for awhile," Paula said, and proceeded to distract me. To be honest, thinking about Rhonda had me half distracted already.


Tribal Dance

I was charged and buzzing from the ride, and scanning short range for comm traffic as I rode my board down toward Saturn. I skimmed the ring plane, occasionally scraping a snowball out of boredom. The drifter fleet, if it could be called that, was nowhere in site. I was about to call in for coordinates when I my scan landed on a transmission.

"Bobby's gonna bust us if we don't set these charges right quick. We're the last ones out."

"So what? We're not going anywhere. It's not like Titan Base wants us around. That place is coming apart. And Saturn Station One--Well, I hear they're all crazy. They throw people in oxyfluid main-cores for no reason."

I couldn't help myself. "We are," I said over the comm. "But you have to be pretty offensive to get thrown into a main-core. Usually we just talk you into volunteering."

There were two gasps and a solid laugh. I followed the signal to a respectably sized chuck of ice occupied by three vac-suited human males. They were planting small ice-boosters and shatter charges, and looked to be almost done.

"It's a fairy," one of them said.

"On a grav-board," said another one.

"Like from 'Galactic Academy'?'"

"Maybe. Anyone know what sort of powers a space-fairy has? Hey space-fairy, can you go faster than light on that thing?"

"It only took me three hours to get here, but I left Fort Falling two days ago," I said. "And call me Dizzy." Sending the signal to retract my wings. They folded up as I stepped off the board and touched down in front of them.

"Riddles? We like riddles. What's the answer space-fairy?"

"A question for a question," I said.

"Our favorite rule."

"My question is for the Player," I said.

There was silence for a long time.

"I'm sending you our beacon code now. The Player will speak with you."

I locked into their system and said, "I am DeeDee Jackson, with a message from Fort Falling. We greet the Player and the Troupe, and invite you to our theater, as poor as it may be. Will you play for us? We call for trade, and offer services for all. Our hearts and our minds are open."

"The old words," a new voice said. There was more than a hint of sarcasm in the tone. "I am Mitch, of the Mad Puppet Tribe. We number 200 and more, and would never play a theater uninvited."

"We have reserved a six-port urban lash-up, with crew and full repair facilities, for as long as you need it," I said.

"So," Mitch said slowly. "You made the traditional trek, and said the traditional words, so you could... repair our ships?"

"You ignored our calls," I said. "It had to be done."

"You're going to repair our ships?"

"Only if you can do Hamlet," I said. "Two shows a week for six weeks. Maybe once on the weekend too."

"You believe our ships need repair?"

"All ships need repair. Even the ones which repair themselves," I said. "But this would be more along the lines of a retrofit, and entirely at your discretion."

"Four days," Mitch said, and disconnected.

"Great," One of the drifters said. "Dad's gonna be on the comm in about three minutes, and we're gonna have to explain why we aren't done with this bust and run."

"That's it?" I asked.

"What did you expect?"

"I don't know," I said. "Ceremony."

"No time for ceremony right now, space-fairy Dizzy. My name's Ted. The little one is Fred, and Tre makes three. You can help Tre with those drill cables, and Fred and I will rig the charges."

"Sure. No problem," I said. "Do you play spinball, Ted?"

"Yeah. Love it."

"I'm going to have to teach you how we play it on Fort Falling." I said, and got to work.


Drifter Run

I was hanging out at the Dizzy Pig with Eddie. Paula was singing. Wendy and Tera were there too. I suspect Wendy was with Eddie, and Tera was waiting for Counter-Spin Rick. My mom and dad were being embarrassing in a corner booth.

"There's a drifter tribe mining ice clear over on the other side of the rings," Rick said, taking the seat next to Tera. "I want to drop a couple of slush bombs and send them back to the belt with Submind on board."

"Don't be stupid," Tera said. "Drifters are harmless."

"They steal," Rick muttered.

"Whatever," Tera said. "We need some fresh entertainment around here. No offense to your girl, Dizzy, but she hasn't had time to learn any new songs. Not really."

I shrugged. Paula had been complaining about that same thing for weeks. "Those three comedians aren't getting any fresher. I'm with Tera on this one, Rick."

"Of course you are," Rick said. "For such an angry guy, you're a big, soft, pushover."

"I'm going to request Hamlet," I said. "And I'm not angry. I'm elevated."

"We can hire one of those couples," Tera said. "The sex teachers. Invite them over for a week..."

"Tera," Rick said sharply.

Tera bent over and whispered in his ear. Rick's face heated up, and he gulped his drink.

"I want to scan them," Eddie says. "Build profiles. Maybe do some cultural studies."

"Tag and release," I muttered.

Wendy giggled.

"I just think they like putting on a show," I said. "But it's obvious they aren't afraid of a little work. They're busting ice hard, right now, and they didn't even bother to stop by and steal anything first."

"Then you should go invite them to put on a show," my mom suggested from behind me. "Hamlet you said. Right?"

"What?" I asked, looking around in horror. "That's a two day flight."

I know my mom's expressions, and there was no way I wouldn't be flying out there tomorrow.

"Why not," I said. "Buddy just finish my new grav-board, and I can practice Relativity Two. Only be a couple of hours to me."


Parental Control

My mom grabbed Chuck's wrist, twisted and tugged, and Chuck found himself on tiptoe, face against the bulkhead, with his arm pressed painfully against his back.

"Those chimpanzees wouldn't even be here in your stupid resource pool if it weren't for me, you small minded slob," she hissed. "How long has it been since you tried to breath vacuum?"

Chuck gasped. "I have to make ah... ow ow ow..."

"He's not listening to me, Trenton," my mom complained.

"It can see that, Dear," my dad said.

"Then vacuum probably isn't the answer," I said. "Maybe you should let dad handle this one. After all, he is the labor negotiator in the family."

She snorted in disgust and shoved Chuck hard against the wall before letting him go. It's been a long time since I've seen my mom that pissed off.

"Here's the thing, Charlie," My dad said. "Vicky wants two specific chimpanzees attached to our household as environmental techs and such. You seem to think doing this favor for us would be morally offensive. Why is that?"

"Mo... morally.... No," Chuck said. "That's not... I have them scheduled already. They are due to leave for Pumpkin Village in the morning."

"In which case, they haven't left yet," my dad said.

"But I don't have any replacements," Chuck said. "It will be three days..."

"Are you, or are you not, the Sapient Resources Director for this entire space station?"

"Well, yes, but it's not..."

"Do you like your job, Chuck?" My dad asked. "Maybe you're taking it too seriously? Hum? I could talk to Kelly. Find something less stressful for you maybe."

"Yes. No. I like it just fine. I don't want another job." Chuck said rapidly.

"Weldon and Yana," my dad said. "Is that right, Dear? Weldon and Yana? From Ceres Station. They're such a sweet couple, and they've both taken so well to the Submind symbionts."

"Yes," my mom said. "Yana's a genius with hydro-veggies."

"I can't make them..." Chuck protested weakly.

"I'll talk to them," I said. "I have a way with chimps." Watching my parents play someone was always entertaining, but the show was nearly over.

"I'll have to call Doug again," Chuck said.

"All taken care of," my dad said. "Are we good? No more objections?"

Chuck shook his head and rubbed his arm.

"All settled then," my dad stated, and turned my mother around so he could gently lead her away.

"Don't make me come back here tomorrow," my mom said without turning back.

Chuck turned to glare at me. I shrugged and put on my most annoying smile.