I took Pipster to see the Doc. I simply had to ask about the row of whisker-like quills growing all the way down the cat's back and tail.
At one point during the examination, Doc took out a strong magnet and moved it through the air above Pipster. The cat lay down her ears, twitched her new quills, and released a lingering growl.
"There's nothing to worry about, but it is certainly fascinating. Thank you for bringing her here."
"It just doesn't seem natural to me," I said.
"It's this way, boy," Doc Hester said, pulling the magnet away. "Life is here to make changes. It's what we do. We store energy, we change it's direction, and we release it to make changes in the universe. Space ships were invented because many thousands of years ago one of our ancestors noticed he or she could drag a desired object which was too big to carry. It's all natural, boy. All of it."
"You designed these things," I said, pointing at Pipster's back. "Mistakes happen. Maybe you..."
Doc actually laughed uncontrollable for about two minutes. She wiped at her watering eyes and gasped out "sorrysorry" between bursts of ear piercing guffaws. Still out of breath, she said at last, "I found a tiny symbiotic life form in Saturn's Rings. It's sentient."
"Whaa..." I looked down at Pipster and stared at the quills vibrating along her back. I thought about giant vines growing out of ice, and had discovered a motive for the strange activities of one chimpanzee named Curious. This reminded me of Kelly and what she calls The Personality Thieves--which naturally led to thoughts about Ion Jack's environmental system. "Those things have taken over my spaceship," I objected.
This inspired another round of apologetic giggles which trailed off breathlessly. "Didn't intend... you invited..."
After I had a few seconds to think about it, there was no way I would give up the freshest air this side of a hydroponic park. "I guess so," I said.
"I'll try to explain later if you like," Doc said, shooing me out the door. "Take Pipster home and get some rest.
"And don't tell anyone," she shouted after me.
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.
I took Pipster to see the Doc. I simply had to ask about the row of whisker-like quills growing all the way down the cat's back and tail.
The mag-gyros have been powered down. The timing surprised me. We expected it to happen six or seven weeks ago, and then it felt like it would never happen.
It will take about five weeks for spin to stop completely. We have about three weeks to transfer our lives into little boxes which we plan to spin on a string most of each day.
Sorry. I'm feeling a bit metaphorical, and have been consuming alcohol. To sum it up, I'm very drunk. Not in celebration--never for this. Remember how much I hate this idea? It ain't natural for a space station not to spin.
I achieved my present condition at Rick's place... Counter-spin. Him and his chimp (Envro-tech Misty is what Rick called her), and an uncountable but reasonably small number of cats (and some mice... which seem to go with the cat trees and I'll explain when I'm sober) are headed for a 'ice mass rendezvous' or some shi... He's leaving, and I will miss his unique perspective.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 12/27/2005 06:32:00 PM
When I was a child, my Nana worked the spot maintenance crew for our section. This consisted of 27 apartments, three feline habitats, and one social club.
Nana wasn't much for cats. "Cats are cats, boy. Cats fight as easy as they play, and they don't do either unless it's their own idea," she would say. Then she would add, "Don't let that stop you doing what needs done for them. They don't know we take care of the world, and probably wouldn't like it none if they did."
But Rat Bane knew. I could see it in the way he glared at me the first time we met, and the way his tail always lashed against the air. He had always known, and Nana was right, he didn't like it none.
Don't feel too bad for him. Rat Bane has claimed my spaceship, and I suspect a conspiracy involving Curious, the other two cats, and possibly Doc. Why would a cat need a vac-suit? I don't know what else it could be.
Like the one Curious wears, it looks like an exoskeleton, only for a cat instead of a chimpanzee. The spikes on Bane's upper spine are slightly magnetic, and they fuse to Bane's living vac-suit when he's wearing it. The suit's tail and feet are magnetic also, and Bane doesn't take it off when we are in freefall.* Bane's new magnetism has Paula so fascinated that I'm feeling a bit neglected, but at least Bane is no longer angry all the time.
- I still haven't worked out how he gets in and out of the suit. He does it without human or chimpanzee assistance, inside his favorite tree root. I'm fairly certain no one has seen the suit unless Bane was wearing it.
- Most cats don't like freefall because they need to feel where they are. The vac-suit Bane wears appears to provide some replacement for 'down.' Whenever we are in freefall, Bane bounces around in a frenzy of armored joy and gets into places and trouble beyond his wildest dreams.
- Paula believes the magnetic crest along Bane's upper back is the key--plus she keeps going on about having designed it as a collar. (Like anything ever goes as planned.)
Posted by Darryl Branning at 12/23/2005 08:58:00 PM
"What the hell did you do to Rat Bane?" I shouted. Curious and Paula both leaned away from my angry glare, but I'm fairly certain that was a grin on the chimp's face, and not a threat response.
Paula said, "We did nothing against his will."
"Against his will?" I asked, still shouting.
"Stop yelling or this conversation is over," Paula said calmly. I knew she meant it.
"Fine," I said, after a couple of deep breaths. "Did you get written consent from a cat?"
Paula looked at me with a frown. "What are you talking about?"
"Those spikes growing out of his back," I said, taking more deep breaths.
"Spikes?" Paula asked, looking around at Curious.
Curious shrugged, but I wasn't convinced.
"What did you think I was talking about?" I asked sarcastically.
"The new atmo-suit," Paula said, standing up. "But we don't know anything about spikes, Dee."
"Bane was chasing something through my workshop. I wouldn't have given it any attention, but he looked strange. He has spines..." I paused and pointed at Curious, "Like that thing Curious has growing on his back, only it's a lot bigger on Bane, like a ridge of five or six horns."
Paula turned to look at Curious speculatively. "Those things respond to their symbiont's needs. I don't think Rat Bane is in any danger."
"I don't want you using my cats like lab animals," I said. "Get that thing off of him."
Paula laughed at me. Curious just shook his head.
"We can't take it off, Dee Dear, but if Rat Bane didn't like it, it wouldn't be there. The choice is his."
"How do you know he wants that thing growing on him?"
"Because... it's... still... there."
My ears caught up with my mouth and I said, "Oh."
But I was thinking, 'How the hell does THAT work?'
Posted by Darryl Branning at 12/18/2005 07:59:00 AM
The most important thing you learn in Station Tech 101 is movement is relative. The first day, my instructor droned on about inertia frames and relative motion for two hours. Anyone who lasted through the lecture without falling out of his or her seat was allowed to come back the next day.
During that lecture, I was trying to fix my voice recorder, so I didn't fall asleep once. Later, while feeling naked inside an ion-loader, I happened to flash on the lecture and began to suspect I had missed something terribly important which would keep me from falling into the ring plane.
I was orbiting the station at the time. The station was orbiting Saturn. Saturn orbits the sun. The sun orbits the center of the galaxy. How far (through space) do we move each day? I'm sure someone has figured it out. It doesn't feel like we are moving at all.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 12/14/2005 04:32:00 PM
Kelly and Doc have become good friends. I overheard one of their friendly conversations the other day. It went something like this, only I left out the parts which confused me.
- New ideas don't really exist. We polish them up and make a few changes based on what we have learned from failure, but most are simply variations on old ideas, or stories, or music...
- Ideas come out of language. Language comes out of society. Everything an individual understands about the world, and can express about the world, comes out of language and was formed by his or her social environment.
- We cannot discount the individual either. Once an individual has reached an understanding with the universe, he or she can add to the language, and can make ideas better. Individuals strengthen society.
- Language contains all ideas even before society becomes conscious of them. Individuals with ideas are simply Avatars of society, expressing the ideas which are coming clear to society.
The conclusion, at least as I understand it, is that society and language and ideas are all the same thing, and no matter how you say it, we are building the world just by talking about it.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 12/09/2005 11:55:00 AM
Kelly is what my mom would refer to as a 'New Spiritualist.' I'd always understood this to mean 'flake' until I met Kelly in person.
She wrote a book called Grok the Classics. This book, and the author herself, are banned from Mars and Mars-Metro Station. It's stupid if you ask me... something to do with her exploration of a classical novel involving fictional Martians. Martians are really up-tight.
I'm firmly confident that Kelly could be living in style anywhere in Jupiter System. Instead, she is planting fist-sized pods all over her apartment. At first, everyone thinks Kelly is a vac-head... a very lovable vac-head. The real truth is all about laser-like focus on the present. Kelly is a rival for Doc Hester in her conversational puzzles.
I delivered the third load of hydrofluid to Kelly's apartment personally.
"I thought you didn't like those things... the big ones anyway," I said casually, looking at the vine erupting out of a 2 unit hydro-vat.
"Silly Boy. It looked like something was trying to wriggle out of the ice. I would know if such a life-form had been discovered. I'm also working on a new book entitled The Personality Thieves, a study of classical fiction based on alien or spirit possession themes. Many of these stories end badly for the characters you know. I was lost in the thesis, and those seed-pods.... You should have told me what would occur."
"Exactly what I told Doc," I said. "So you think it's a good idea?"
"I never answer rhetorical questions. The answer would be meaningless."
I had to think about that for a minute. "Why do you think this is a good idea?"
"I spoke at length with Doc Hester," Kelly said, smiling like a proud teacher. "I will not pretend to understand the science behind her work, but have assimilated her plan and concur with her philosophies. I have no choice."
"All right," I said, none the wiser. I had to let her kiss my forehead before I could leave.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 12/04/2005 07:06:00 AM
Doc Hester's new plant is just another clue that life in Fort Falling is anything but normal. The seeds are as big as a vac-helmet. They grow into a large and sprawling vine which produces both runners and more seeds.
It seems that Doc Hester is letting Curious in on a lot of plans she hasn't told us lowly techs. When I asked her about it, she told me I hadn't been paying attention.
"I thought Curious was installing more devices like those cat trees," I said. "Besides, you should have told me what was going to happen. Yesterday Kelly called me in hysterics, babbling about alien parasites coming out of the ice. I thought she was going spin-happy until I went down there to look at it myself."
"Ah," Doc said with a nod. "My apologies. I hadn't expect such rapid growth."
"I'm fairly certain that hatch was flawed, but I can't prove it. Please tell me those plants won't be blowing out bulkheads and hatches all over the station."
"Those plants won't be blowing out hatches and bulkheads all over the station," Doc said, putting her hand over her heart. "They won't even grow unless they are rooted in ice. They like cold."
"All right," I said, and left. I wanted to ask questions, a lot of questions, but Doc finds it difficult to remember I know vac about enviro tech. To be honest, even if Doc is good company and all, I'd rather spend the time with Paula. Paula likes it when I ask questions. Really.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 12/01/2005 04:37:00 PM
"Let's freeze it."
That's what I said a couple of weeks ago. You would think the lessons of the past could shout a warning or two... Maybe I wasn't paying attention.
The new lesson is one I've learned before: "Easier said than done." Water is a completely different environment that air. This is obvious, and I mention it only because I've learned anew that ice is not the same as water.
I've also learned something completely new. Curious is not genetically enhanced. An argument could be made for biological enhancement, but the truth is closer to symbiosis. Like a parasite, but in a good way.
And that atmo-suit Curious wears is part of it--or plugs into it or something. Part of the harness is somehow fused to Curious's back and neck. It actually looks natural, like a ridge of protective cartilage and bone running up his spin. When he puts the rest of the harness on, it grips that ridge before it wraps itself around the chimpanzee.
Did you ever get the feeling that you suddenly never knew what was going on?
Posted by Darryl Branning at 11/24/2005 07:17:00 AM
EMF Eddie has this interesting idea, (whereas a 'theory' would probably involve math). I find it interesting because it's all about time, which is one of my favorite obsessions.
The speed of light contains a time value. Remove the light, and there is still time. The light simply allows us to see. The greater the distance the light, the farther into the past we see. Therefore, as it applies to time, each of us is the center of the universe. We, dwellers of the eternal present, become what we are now a tiny moment before we perceive the universe around us, and everything we see has already happened.
The exchange of energy within the universe can be measured and predicted very very accurately--until you include life into the equation. The bit about uncertainty principles is another measurement of sorts, and in a way it adds to the accuracy.
But life, center of the universe, looks and listens, and the universe shouts and waves frantically for attention. Life tries to get out of the way if the universe seeks to run it down. Life lives outside the universe, moving tiny nothings of matter but doing so against the universal rules of inertia and momentum.
Even time itself is subject to our tiny adjustments. We know some of what will happen. We plan for the future. We remember and build on the past. Our eternal present includes the pasts of the universe and the potentials of our futures.
Life can only be identified in the present. Past-present-future: Center of the Universe.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 11/17/2005 01:30:00 PM
Rick and I had five boosters strapped to that ice cube when we rode it in. We were inside his ship, with accel-weight at just under 0.3 Gees most of the time... Enough to get by for a week without getting sick. The station won't even reach 0.1 Gees while it's under thrust... Not enough to stay healthy.
We are also still worried about the pressure those boosters are going to put on some key support structures. The thing about space stations is they are built to spin, not to get shoved around by plasma emitting tubes.
We were drinking and arguing about whether we had a problem, and if so, what it might be. The Dizzy serves brain lube, or so Doc Hester claims. Doc was involved with something "important," but Curious was there, drinking iced fruit juice which I am fairly sure they don't serve at the Dizzy Pig but Curious always drinks when he's there. I, as usual, was bored with the treadmill discussion* they had going on and was thinking my feet needed to visit the dance floor.
I was also thinking other things. Like how inertia means one thing to a chunk of ice or a broken space station, and something else entirely to a living creature. Curious was playing with an ice cube, spinning it on the table and watching until it stopped. I believe Curious was as bored with the conversation as I was.
Something about Curious, maybe his very existence in the midst of all this strange optimism we have going on, makes me think about everything differently. As I watched Curious spin the ice cube, my brain clicked. I swear Curious knew when I got it, because he was wearing that smug, humans-are-slow face when I looked up from the spinning ice.
"Curious has an idea," I said to the table in general.
Paula sniggered. Otherwise, silence all around.
"Instead of waiting for a structure breach to release and freeze the water," I explained. "We allow the water to freeze now, while the station is still providing spin weight."
Most everyone looked ready to argue if only they could speak the language I was using.
"Blame the stupid ideas on the chimp, hey Diz?" Joe said.
"Whatever," I said. "The station is providing a tremendous amount of water pressure from spin-weight. Curious has rightly pointed out that if we freeze the water, the pressure will remain after the station has stopped spinning."
- The conversational treadmill goes something like this:
- Every structure is designed to support itself against weight. Weight can be caused by mass, acceleration, and centrifugal force (which is just acceleration with a twist).
- A space station is designed to support itself against centrifugal force, not acceleration.
- Repeat with variations until your speech is slurred from drink.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 11/08/2005 04:07:00 PM
I tried to explain how busy I was, but Counter-Spin doesn't understand no.
So I found myself setting anchor cables and rigging explosives on the few hundred tons of water I said I needed.
Maybe I should start at that moment in my own life when I realized I was riding a free-falling snowball with a man who frightened me a lot more than I wanted to admit. I do not believe Rick is malicious or uncaring--probably the opposite--but he can talk like the devil, and somehow I had agreed to be there before I knew the bargain was struck.
"Why the hell did I agree to do this?" I asked him after my third heavy anchor ripped itself out of the ice surface when the cable was drawn tight.
His laughter made my suit-com break with static while he shuffled toward another location nearby... nearby being anywhere you can get at without sending yourself into orbit by trying to take a real step.
"My first busting run," he said. "I got a suit breach when my own anchor popped like that and pinned my leg. Best day of my life once it was over."
That's why he scares me. "That explains why you are here, Rick--I think--but there's nothing about me."
"You said you needed more water to stabilize the supports while the station rides the pitiful and yet dangerous amount of thrust those boosters will be providing."
"Yes. I didn't ask if I could come along though. How did I end up here?"
"You needed a break."
I couldn't argue with that. The second day was better. I was ready to come home by day five, but if this whole station tech thing doesn't work out, ice busting might not be a bad career move.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 11/04/2005 04:03:00 PM
Moving water around in a centrifugal environment is a matter of momentum. Not the momentum of the water, but the momentum of the container. The container I'm referring to are the station hydro-cores, or 'pipes' as some ground siders say.
Water naturally wants to settle at the lowest levels of a spinning station, just like with gravity. But the reason it does this on a space station is because water wants to move away from the spin in which it runs. So, once the water goes 'down' as far as it can, it still wants to move. This means water 'flows' around the outer edge of the station--when the station is properly spinning that is.
A well designed hydro-core system will keep water flowing throughout the space station with very little effort from the hydro-pumps. Fort Falling has a very well designed hydro-core, and we need to cut it in half.
And Curious is having a great time at my expense. I'm trying to keep the right atmospheric compartments of the station full of water while keeping the rest dry, and Curious is making chimp-snicker noises at me when he's not connecting thing-things to the air and water cores.
The problem is water doesn't want to fill a cross section of the station next to and below the Tangent Track. Water wants to spread out and look for an escape route. Not being very smart, water doesn't know it will freeze if it finds one.
That tendency to spread out in the lowest parts of the station is putting a lot of stress on the lower bulkheads. I am a bit surprised by the amount of pressure a few hundred tons of water can put on the walls. In case you are wondering, this is a good sign. That pressure might be the difference between a new orbit and our half of Fort Falling turning into a crumpled mess of support structures and venting atmosphere.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/27/2005 01:03:00 PM
Heavy side is the 'low rent' district on any space station. No one really wants to live life at 1.1 Gees, so the heavy side apartments are cheap--and usually crowded.
Heavy Siders are a subculture of station-hoppers. There are three prominent trading families with heavy side quarters on every metro-station in Sol System. They get a bad rep, but I've got some advice... If you have an emergency and can't find a station tech, call a heavy sider. If a heavy sider doesn't know how, he has a friend or family member nearby who does.
And nearly 400 of the people remaining on Fort Falling claim to be Heavy Siders. Many of them official station techs.
Did I ever mention how we are all crazy? Add an obsessive desire to be heavier than normal, and you get a very dedicated and steady worker who would rather not spend two months without the comfort of weight.
We are converting four launch platforms into living quarters for about 500 people each. The platforms will ride the converted single-rail and provide weight while the station is too busy shifting orbits to spin. We plan on cycling into freefall three times a day. Other than those three hours of freefall, access to the rest of the station will be limited to data transfer only.
Running four platforms instead of three will give us some extra elbow room, and it be will easier to balance the rail with an even number. The heavy siders have already converted two platforms and made certain they get their 1.1 Gees (on the lowest level) while the things run.
With the progress we've made and all, I'm starting to breath a little easier... Except now I owe a few dozen favors for claiming a bit of that extra room for nearly 100 cats.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/22/2005 08:21:00 AM
I've been doing inspections and adjusting hydro-valves in all of the atmospheric areas* of the station which are next to the supports which are supporting the Tangent Track--which is supporting those 200+ exploding rockets we strapped on. Curious wanted to come along for some reason. He wore most of his atmo-suit.
It looks like an atmo-suit should look--when it's designed for a chimpanzee anyway--but the color is... Neutral. It looks brown, but it's not. When he's wearing the entire suit, Curious blends in almost anywhere... Like the thing is made of brown shadows.
I'm not sure whether to be relieved or jealous that Doc hasn't tried to outfit me with one of those things. Curious and the suit both make me wonder if Doc is messing with things best left alone. Don't tell Paula I said that.
Let's say, just for argument's sake, that God built evolution into the system. Would it not follow that human society evolved and continues to evolve according the system? If humans evolved, then society evolved with them.
No doubt I have just offended some who believe their book of science, law, religion, or some combination is the only truth. I'll try harder. God and I are buddies. I have a message for you-all who know better. God says, "I built evolution into the system. How else do you think it got there?"
I don't need a book to tell me what God has to say. Books are written by men and women, probably with good intent, but anyone claiming they know and I don't is plain egotistical. (Call me "E" for short.)
Those books are, however, a part of mankind's social evolution. Books are a critical component in our ability to build on information left behind by our ancestors--and others not so ancestral yet. Literacy is a tool of the mind. It exists only within the mind of society. It evolved and is evolving with us, as a part of us.
I think about these things in the lonely hours at work when my only companions are a non-communicative chimpanzee and my own thoughts. Sometimes I even wonder if what Doc is doing is a manifestation of social evolution or just meddling.
Not that I know what Doc is doing, but if Curious hasn't been modified in some way, then chimpanzees are a lot smarter than they usually let on. I have no objections. My thoughts are idle speculation, not judgment.
- Atmospheric areas are those areas of the space station officially designated as 'inside,' and therefore 'vacuum' is considered a problem.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/20/2005 12:39:00 PM
Those of you who know her know what I mean. Let's just say that if you ever meet a chubby little woman with that name, don't do her any favors.
A couple of weeks ago, I did her a favor. I know better than this, but I did it anyway. I mean, we all have to stick together or we'll die... Right?
I converted her station utilities so she can easily switch over to low Gee usage. I even showed her how to do it. It takes about five minutes.
This morning she wants to know what time--day, hour, and minute if possible--I'm going to stop by to switch it over.
"What is your problem, Malice?" I asked. "I'm going to be busy dealing with real emergencies caused by the low spin-weight ratio. Why do you think I showed you how to do it yourself?"
"And don't try to sell me any of your passive-aggressive rhetoric, Malice. If you didn't pay attention when I showed you how, you better query the instructions and copy them to a portable unit before the data-core goes off-line."
"So you aren't going to switch it over when the gravity gets low enough?" She asked.
"No. I'm not going to switch it over when the gravity gets low enough. How about if I call you when it's safe? That way you won't have to bother reading the gauges."
"Now you're being mean," she said.
"Yes. I'm being mean. I'm hoping you will go away and forget I did you any favors," I said.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/18/2005 01:40:00 PM
And then Fort Falling comes apart.
The main Tangent Track is covered with low-tech solid fuel rockets. I'm a little depressed about that, but we will still have the 'resident' track after the supports have been flashed and the rockets have burned.
Counter-Spin has been running the flash-cut crew. He's having way too much fun. There are about 20 busters, cutters, and techs setting cables of burn-cord and explosives on every structure attached to one side of the tangent track. That's where we are going to blow it apart.
We're all crazy.
I have elected to take on the less exciting, but just as import, task of reinforcement. We only care about the part of the station we want to save. A lot of force is going to be applied in places and directions not designed into the support structure, so we have to fix that before we light the rockets.
I filled all of the rooms and passageways next to endangered support structures with water. It helps absorb and distribute changes in momentum, and tends to freeze and plug small leaks.
Which reminds me... I need to beg a few hundred more tons of water from those miners.
We still have to convert two of the launch platforms to Joe's new design before we stop station spin. We almost don't have enough people as it is, but after 10 weeks with minimal or no weight, we wouldn't have the strength to get the station operational and back up to a full 1.0 Gee.
Crazy, but there's no sense being ignorant.
We'll leave ignorance to the OSA. The stabilizer array could have been repaired 25 years ago. It could have been replaced ten years ago. But a stable orbit can last without maintenance for hundreds of years if you set it up right. In theory. Theory is cheap.
It's too late now. We turned off the stabilizers a few weeks ago. They were helping a bit, but they weren't able to keep up. We had to shut them down so we could do accurate calculations about where to kick this thing to make it go where we want. When those tiny ion thrusters stopped emitting, we all half-expected the station to instantly drop into Saturn.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/17/2005 01:19:00 PM
I'm fairly certain that we are all insane. It's like one of those cult things, except our leader is a space station with a couple of hundred ice boosters bolted to it. I don't remember the exact count, but I remember being impressed... And then really really frightened.
I came to this conclusion while Rick, Eddie, Chuck, Joe, Doc, Curious, Paula, and I were sitting in The Dizzy Pig Bar and Grill. We were double checking the plans for our ride into a stable orbit, and discussing progress. Joe was talking about the boosters and how they would effect us and for how long, but I wasn't paying attention because it never works out that way when you throw a thousand people into the mix.
Rick, being Counter-Spin, laughed and said, "Those boosters are murder. If you get more than six of them on an iceberg it's impossible to burn even."
Joe, being Joe, was offended. "Are you questioning my calculations?"
"No," Rick said. "It's just that your calculations don't say anything about comfort. It's going to be mighty uncomfortable around here for awhile. At least twelve weeks I'd say. You'll be lucky to get enough weight-time for six hours sleep every night.
You are station soft, and riding those ice boosters for near a week at the end of it, with eyes peeled so wide they'd pop out and stick to the burn monitors if you got knocked on the back of the head... Well, it's going to be the worst year of your life, Little Huff."
I managed to keep from laughing out loud, but I still got a warning glare from Paula. She happens to like Joe. I respect him, but he really had been huffing a bit.
- Ice boosters are large, single use, solid fuel propulsion units which are built to help transport large chucks of ice. They provide slow and constant thrust for several hours--depending on the rating. They are also mass produced, difficult to disengage, and often burn dirty.*
- Burning dirty means the booster emits unexpended oxygen or fuel. This can mess up the burn rates of nearby boosters.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/13/2005 01:17:00 PM
The word 'Avatar' has been getting tossed around for a few thousand years, probably starting as the embodiment of a god. Early in the Digital Age, there are several incarnations of Avatars being used for data representation and/or personification.
I looked it up--because Doc Hester seems to think that each of us is an Avatar of society. This has some significance which I fail to understand, but she keeps trying to explain it. Then she starts talking about personality projections and evolutionary manufacturing.
I generally lose track after that. I start wondering what an Avatar should do when the society he or she represents fails in some way. Without the society, the Avatar would not exist. But what if the Avatar doesn't want to fail with society? What if the Avatar wants to create a new society to represent?
I'm sure Doc had a point in there somewhere. Something like, "One Avatar does not make a society, but 1109 Avatars working together..." With some bits about evolution applied to culture and society in case you might be in danger of understanding.
Plug in the smile.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/09/2005 07:49:00 AM
Some people think I know everyone on the station. I barely know Paula, and I can name maybe 20 station techs without hesitation when I see them. I might recognize people from The Dizzy if I gave it any thought.
So you can imagine how confused I was when Theodore "No Relation" Richards started to shake me down about those stupid cat trees we put in a few key sub-levels around the station.
"You're not related to whom?" I asked.
"You know, that chemist..."
"Never mind," I said. I didn't know Theodore, but here he was, lecturing me on the proper use of environmental systems and having a place for everything and everything in it's place and how growing things tends to clog up the works if not cared for properly.
"If you won't take them out, at least isolate them from my systems," he said. "I don't have time to clean up after your chimp."
"To be honest, Mr. Richards, the chimp knows more than I do. I suggest you take any complaints you have about those specific installations to either Curious or Doc Hester."
"You know. The biotech genius behind the new additions to your environmental systems."
"But you are the one who ordered those areas cleared. And you helped with the installation."
"Yeah," I said. "But I just picked the location. Curious was in charge."
I'm really starting to appreciate that confused look which the subject of Curious brings to the faces of annoying people.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/08/2005 03:27:00 PM
"It used to work."
I've heard that so many times. Variations are endless, but what seems to escape most people is the connection between accurate information and fixing a problem.
Let's say you've been called to fix an oxy-unit, and you ask the question: "When was the last time you changed the carbon exchanger?"
Well, if you aren't really paying attention to the client, like we techs do sometimes when focused on a problem, the client will translate your question into an accusation.
I'm sure a good percentage of heads are nodding at this point. For the rest of you--we don't mean it that way. Really. My example question, for example, could be answered in a number of ways (and I wouldn't want to discourage intelligent discourse) but the best answer would be, "this morning," and the second best answer would be, "Cartoon what?"
Those two answers are the best because they lead to the quickest solution and that cup of coffee I probably haven't had yet. I couldn't care less if you habitually mistreat equipment--as long as it's yours. What I care about is what might have happened to make it stop working. If I don't know that, I can't fix it.
There are other answers which are sure to lead to delay and possible uncomfortable silences following an energetic exchanges of words.
Top ten least helpful answers:
- "It was working when I left."
- "No one told me I had to do that."
- "It was making too much noise."
- "I think someone did something."
- "Last week maybe? Or was that that other thing?"
- "I didn't do that."
- "I always call you guys."
- "I thought you did that the last time."
- "I just need it fixed."
- "What's that got to do with it?"
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/05/2005 04:26:00 PM
Our Low Gravity Medical unit used to do good business, but I guess with the decaying orbit and all, the sick people decided to find somewhere else to recover. Doc Hester took it over about four years ago. She has got some weird things growing in there.
I went up there looking for Eddie, and found what can only be the progenitors of whatever Curious is doing to my environmental systems. I guess it makes as much sense to run environmental experiments in an unused Med-unit as it does to let it sit there. It also explains why the maintenance logs are so small.
Eddie is helping me move some equipment--because he hates scrubbing ion jets, and I'm a sucker. I'm moving equipment because I convinced Curious to build four of those "live" cat traps, and he's letting me help because he thought the joke about "live traps" was funny. Among other things, I'm hoping to pick up some hints about what Environmental Technician Curious is doing to my ship.
Whatever Doc and her crew of E-Techs are up to, it involves a lot more than just my ship and one chimpanzee. LG Medical is practically bursting with... Growing things... And bugs of all kinds, and cats, and probably rats, and frogs, and it's nothing at all like a hyroponics lab but that's what it is just the same.
Eddie and I picked up three loads of the usual stuff and relocated it to the most likely 'heavy' locations... Weight being the bait you know. Then we carefully moved the skeletal frames Curious has partially assembled--and which look disturbingly like growth-frames for hydrovats. Curious dismissed both of us with a rude chimpanzee noise which I believe means something like "Go-the-hell-away so I can get on with it."
Posted by Darryl Branning at 10/02/2005 06:32:00 AM
What is it about responsibilities, especially those which are self-imposed, that gives other people the idea they get to push you around? Seriously?
So Chuck decided he's going to put me "in charge" of this stupid project... Probably because I made a lot of noise about how stupid it was...
I said, "You don't want to put someone in charge. You want to make someone responsible for things that go wrong."
"I would never..."
"Yeah right," I said, interrupting. "Look--the last time you put me in charge of a project, I had to listen to you accuse me of sabotage more that once. Then you fined me six months bonus pay when I followed your advice and pulled the plug on the project. Why the hell would I let you do that to me again?"
"I offered to assist..."
"You started asking endless questions about old news, and you wanted me to spoon-feed you the answers even after I told you we were days past the point where your offered assistance would make a difference. This time, Charlie Boy, you are on your own."
"It wouldn't be that hard. You could even let that monkey help if you wanted."
"If you want Curious's help, you will have to ask him yourself," I said. "I don't think he likes you though, so you might want to stay out of his reach while you're doing that. Don't call him a monkey, and let him do anything he wants to your environmental systems--then he might give you a hand or three."
Chuck was looking a little pale when he left. Doing a bit of his own work will be good for him--he needs the exercise.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 9/30/2005 04:04:00 PM
Most space station rail systems have two magnetic-rails per launch platform, and in all cases the platform rotates on an axis which rides between the two rails. We are going to blow the station in half, and each half of the station will be left with one rail from the main launch system.
Brain Eater Joe has come up with a plan to convert the remaining single rail into a temporary lash-up system to provide gravity while the station's decaying orbit is being stabilized. The plan also includes a magnificent conversion to a duel-platform cap-rail system after station-spin has been restored.
A very good idea. The bastard.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 9/22/2005 11:30:00 AM
I was staring at that cat pod Curious made, but I was thinking about cows. From what I understand, cows are a lot easier to herd than cats. Probably easier to contain also.
Enticements would do the trick. The only chance of life for the free-roaming station cats, really, is if they move away from the hub when the station starts to slow it's spin. There are several routes leading 'down' which are frequented by cats, and I was thinking about putting up one of those cat pods where the strays will encounter it in their search for weight.
"Hey Curious," I said. "How long would it take you to put one of these things at the bottom of the station somewhere?"
Curious looked at me solemnly, and just when I was sure I was being a moron for thinking he would understand my question, he held up three fingers.
"Three weeks?" I asked.
I didn't think that was fast enough, so I asked, "How long if I helped you? You could show me what to do."
He held up five fingers.
I heard Paula bust a sinus behind me.
"Funny," I said. "I have a serious need for one or more of these things."
Curious nodded. Paula came up behind me and hugged me with one arm.
"Haven't you wondered why Curious is so intelligent?" Paula asked.
"No," I said. "Why should I? He's the only chimpanzee I know."
Posted by Darryl Branning at 9/15/2005 12:54:00 PM
My grandpa used to say, "The opposite of luck is common sense. You can't always count on luck being good, but good common sense will always get you through."
I'm still not sure what he meant, and I suspect Grandpa wasn't sure either.
I've been poking through Doc's data library on domestic felines. I figure that when station-spin starts to slow down (it will take a couple of weeks to stop), the cats still un-corralled will attempt to move away from the hub, or 'down' as we reckon it while the station is spinning. Studies have indicated that cats prefer gravity in the range of .8 to 1.1 Gees, and I know from my own personal observations that station cats know very well 'down' means 'heavier.'
I'm going to build a corral or two.
The reason I've been poking through Doc's data library is because Paula seems to have brought the entire data-set onto my ship. My ship is currently on approach to Fort Falling after a brief shake down cruise. I didn't have time to get the narrow-beam working before we left, (we left somewhat impulsively), so I wasn't able to send a post until we got closer. I couldn't send a data query without the narrow-beam either, so that proves Paula thinks faster than I do.
Paula and I were talking about moving the ship to a launch-platform and dropping into freefall. She wanted to work on a couple of special projects, and I had been wanting to bang on a few secondary systems that are easier to access in freefall--next thing: we decided to take Ion Jack for a quick cruise. What the heck? We might be dead in a few months. I think Paula needed it more than I did. We fought for two days, and then we made up for three. Good thing we got most of the work done while we were fighting.
And then there is Curious. He is 'building' a cat run for Rat Bane, Pipster and Miss Hiss. I'm not kidding you.
It looks like one of those giant hydroponic tree roots that Paula is always tending back on the station, but it's hollow and has numerous cat-sized openings which look as if they can be closed in case of vacuum. It circles around and inside one of the living-suites which Paula has designated as hers; and when it's finished, I'm fairly certain it will tie into the rest of the ship through the environmental system. Rat Bane loves it, and won't come out when we are in freefall.
I gave Curious his own room in the crew section. So what if he has four hands?
Posted by Darryl Branning at 9/11/2005 10:28:00 AM
I can't sleep. Too much weirdness in my head.
I read somewhere that a fundamental rule of existence is that you can't know both how fast something is moving and where it's located at the same time.
That makes sense to me. I mean, you have to know where it's at to know how fast it's going, and once you figure out how fast it's going, it's no longer where you left it because it's MOVING. Actually, I think that was the point... You can only measure movement as compared to your own movement.
You can only KNOW the present. Whether this means anything in the context of our lives or not I don't know, but it feels true to me.
We know things about the future, but we know them in the present. One of the defining elements of life is that living creatures can predict and react to an event before it happens. The more complex the life-form, the more and farther into the future those predictions become... Life doesn't follow the rules of inertia--it doesn't have to be acted on by an outside force to change momentum.
Which brings us around to quantum mechanics--where a decided uncertainty exists in this invisibly small world which leaves us guessing (educated guessing to be sure) about where a particle will actually BE at any given measurement in time.
So, we, as sentient beings, can guess the future for quite some time... Our sun will burn as it is now for 3 or 4 billion more years.... We know some day in the future, we will leave time.... But we can't know the future because only the present exists.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/31/2005 02:29:00 AM
Curious has obviously been trained as an environmental systems technician. It's just that the systems he was trained in look a lot more grown than made--which is not unusual on a space station, but most of it seems like it's still growing. When I look too closely at some parts of the new system, my stomach shifts in the same way as when Paula explains one of her hydro-tank projects in too much detail.
And why is Paula hanging around here? With me? She's doing more than just 'repairing' the environmental systems. She's moving in, and turning my ship into her own private lab. I am a little uneasy with a chimpanzee knowing more about my own ship's environmental systems than I do.
I also wonder why she brought that psycho tomcat which I had dragged out of a bio storage section somewhere in the sacrificial part of the station. He's not really interested in being polite to humans, and the other two cats Paula brought aren't very high on his list of interesting companions.
So I asked her.
"I felt you would be too much of a distraction in our time of crisis," Paula said, "So I told you to get lost and never come back. Then I started wondering why you were still on the station. I found out you have parents on Ceres Metro--you could have left here years ago."
"Yeah?" I asked suspiciously. I was starting to feel like an interesting specimen of something.
"I didn't think she would know anything about you, but I asked Doc," Paula continued. "She told me you were too worried about the cats to leave. To prove it, she introduced me to that attitude you call Rat Bane."
"I like cats," I muttered.
"That's when I started thinking of you as an addition to my life, and not simply a potential diversion," Paula said.
Let's hear it for decaying orbits.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/28/2005 03:51:00 AM
Eddie and the guys were talking about how to make the perfect sandwich.
I know how.
My suggestion never ends the argument, but it works for me.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/24/2005 06:33:00 PM
More than half of the station is empty now. One of the nice things about tech work is the core work. Sure, it's cramped, and often smelly, but there aren't any people around to get in the way of your thoughts.
One thing I never noticed was the constant murmur of humanity humming through the walls. It's very lonely without it.
Loneliness leads me to depression, which doesn't go anywhere, really, but perhaps an absence of a journey is a journey of it's own. This empty place weighs on my mood and darkens my thoughts. I have walked down kilometers of urban through-way, scanning randomly for pressure changes, inspecting suspect joints and joinings, and obsessively marking the doors on decommissioned apartments. Every hour seems like a day. Days walking in circles--pressing against the inside edge of a gyroscopic wasteland.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/21/2005 07:53:00 PM
It has been two months since I began posting to this public log. Life in a decaying orbit doesn't feel as bad now. I can't say for certain if the events, or the postings, or some combination, has made the difference.
A few things made less murky perhaps:
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/17/2005 01:10:00 PM
I've been looking over the abandoned ships on the lash up collar, and I found one that should be trust worthy in space after a bit of work. The ship is a family class passenger transport, with living space for about a dozen people--if you don't mind sharing elbow room. I filed the salvage papers six months ago, and I became the official owner yesterday.
I asked Paula to look over the Environmental core. She told me it was fine, but a few improvements wouldn't hurt. I've been clinging to the outside with mag-grips so I can clean and repair the ion-drive systems while Paula does her super-genius environmentally things. She brought Curious, three cats, and six new hyrdo-tanks to get her started. She also released a large number of specially designed, sexless spiders into my ship. I hate spiders, but they are hell on flying bugs.
It will be a few months before the ship is ready to support life without using station resources, and then it will take another few months to reach Jupiter system--if that's where we decide to go. I get the feeling most people still on the station are planning to stay until after we have attempted to stabilize the orbit. I don't even know why I'm still here, so I wouldn't care to speculate on the motives of other people.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/16/2005 04:34:00 PM
Doc has a large number of animals. The 87 cats I've brought in only use a small percentage of the habitat Doc is building... Well, planning anyway. Doc has acquired several assistants, including Paula and Curious, who do the work.
Curious is one of Doc Hester's chimpanzees. He makes rude noises if you call him a monkey, and he throws things with remarkable accuracy if you call him George. Curious has his own room in Doc's hydro-park, and is allowed full run of Doc's lab. He often wears a heavy looking, faintly pulsating green harness. Doc says it's part of his atmo-suit, and that he doesn't like to take it off.
I've never seen an atmo-anything which looks like it was grown in a hydro-vat, but the harness is similar in many ways to the sleeping bays built into Doc's zoo, so I'm not arguing. I'm starting to suspect that Doc's version of Environmental Tech is beyond my understanding.
Hydroponic science appears to be a major portion of Doc's design, and most of what Paula is doing makes my stomach spin. Curious seems to know what's going on though. I'm a little confused about that.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/14/2005 03:21:00 AM
Titan is a horrible place. The gravity is worse than useless. The weight is not enough to keep a human healthy, but it's enough to make centrifugal alternatives expensive and ineffective.
Titan Base is actually a small space station orbiting the moon in question. Before Fort Falling was condemned, only the hydrocarbon miners and their families lived there. A lot of the miners have left for Jupiter system, but enough remain to support an active trade route.
In effect, the station has become a rather large lash up, with a population of over 6000. Many of the vessels lashed to the station, ancient and nearing the end of their travel days, are being used as warehouses.
Titan Base is also ruled by the OSA, and the OSA has started making noises about 'keeping SS1 in the alliance.' If, that is, we actually manage to save any part of it. I thought Doc Hester was going to have a seizure when she heard.
Counter-Spin just laughed and suggested we ask them to prove themselves worthy of our membership. "If we save even a part of this space station, and live to tell," he said. "Every human in the solar system will want to be us."
Eddie changed all of the com headers and protocols from "SS1" to "Fort Falling." Wendy had a melt down and tried to declare martial law. We had a good laugh over that, and then we gave her a choice between an airlock or a ship headed for Titan Base.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/11/2005 01:21:00 PM
Those measurements we took...
Today we started installing the single-burn boosters under the primary tangent track. There are about 300 techs left on the station, nearly one-third of the population, and for about a week every one of us has been jumpier than a cat in an airlock. We have a lot of work to do, and much of it is outside the station.
Dangerous? Yes. Boring? No. Frustratingly slow and rage inducingly clumsy with the gloves and delicate work? "Yes"... Doesn't even begin to cover it. Oh yeah--boosters blow up if you aren't careful. And much of the delicate work involves setting explosives to blow apart the station in the right places at the right time. It's better than riding ring-ice for eternity.
We will blow the station at the primary rail system. The parallel rails on the main line will be split, while the tangent track will remain to act as part of the support structure for our boosters. Even the hopefully surviving half of the station is going to take a beating getting into a stable orbit.
Then we will have to get spin going again. Otherwise, what was the point?
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/09/2005 01:52:00 PM
Grip loaders are single person, self-contained vehicles built specifically for 'mass relocation' within a freefall environment. Grounders generally refer to them as 'forklifts' until someone suggests an attempt to fly one around while under gravity. About the only place you can see them docked is on launch platforms. Grip loaders are nearly as much fun to operate as power-suits, but they are a lot more dangerous.
It took me three attempts to pass the ion-class operator's exam. It's not that I don't like driving them, but I have trouble getting past the anxiety of doing something stupid and shooting off into the ring-plane, or worse, into empty space where no one can find me.
So the last three days I've been outside the station driving a modified grip loader around and taking measurements. I really, really hated it. Freefall is all well and good, but three days of the stuff is way overdoing it. Plus, every time I woke up and found myself weightless and looking into naked space, I nearly freaked out.
I have washed off three days of suit funk, and now I'm headed to The Dizzy Pig for some fresh food. Maybe a double-sized green salad with extra carrots and lemon dressing to start. And a double shot of gin. Days of fortified protein concentrate is a fine appetizer.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/07/2005 05:46:00 AM
The Dizzy is where all the techs go to spin-down. Take off the atmo-suit, relax, enjoy the unvarying 1.0 Gee. Maybe buy a drink to go with the fresh air pumped in from hydro. Order a grilled hotdog* and some baked corn chips with cheese sauce.
I have just returned from said establishment, where, somewhat to my surprise, Paula was singing with the band. She can really clock-out a place--the only people not dancing were passed out. This made me worry she might reverse her poles again. Everyone's long term plans are shaky at the moment, and Paula isn't inclined to talk about it when we are together.
The Dizzy is a big place. Most of the station techs hug the left wall where a bank of info portals combines with gadgety decor to make them feel welcome. I usually go there to drink and dance, and I am totally uninspired by trivia games, so I hang right.
A couple of times each month, Counter-Spin eats in the back, buys a bottle, and goes home to get drunk. He says, "Sometimes you drink the bottle, and sometimes the bottle drinks you."
- We call it a grilled hotdog, but we all know it's really vat grown protein. I am compelled to add that it must be far more palatable than left-over animal parts.
- The term 'hotdog' sells more product than the term 'grilled vat protein.'
- and it makes children shiver in horror when you tell them what people once considered food.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/03/2005 01:22:00 PM
Every metro station has at least one lash up. Named from the practice of 'lashing' a space vessel 'prow up' onto a spinning object so the direction of spin-weight is in the same direction as the normal acceleration-weight. If you have an object the size of a space station, you don't even need a lash cable, and you don't need a counter-balance.
Fort Falling is capable of docking several hundreds of space-going vessels (via launch platform), where they can make use of spin-gravity and other station resources for as long as they pay rent.
The Lash Up bays are mostly vacant now. Any ships remaining are either not space-worthy or belong to people like Counter-Spin. It seems very empty without the cats.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 8/01/2005 03:48:00 PM
Rick is an ice buster with a scary fondness for explosions, Tech and Intel. I normally wouldn't be friends with a person as military minded as Rick, but he likes me and he scares me... So I figured what the heck, get on with the scary guy and let the rest take care of itself.
A good buster makes very good money. Naturally, the good busters who wish to enjoy their wealth have relocated themselves to less terminal bases of operation. Rick is a good buster, better than good, but he doesn't do it for the money; he does it for the danger. The money is just bonus oxygen, and it's not enough to get him away from a space station under threat of bombardment.
He wants to ride the suicide side of the station when we blow it. He'll get off before it smashes into anything, but he figures it will bounce around in the ring-plane and make a new snowball. It would be the perfect place for a crazy buster to set up base, and he is getting some unexpected support from Doc Hester. Not that I have any objections... I'm just not volunteering for anything.
Rick is also a psychotically good Tangent racer. That's why we tell him his nick-name is 'Counter-Spin.'
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/30/2005 06:48:00 AM
Everyone knows the best place to find oxygen is in water.* Saturn's rings are loaded with the stuff, and most of our mining operations are in the rings. There are some hydrocarbons in there too, but we get most of those from Titan.
There are nearly 1000 people still aboard Fort Falling, and for the moment, we still need to breath. We only go on an ice run every other week. The mining team loads the launch-hopper, and then a tech rides the hopper into spin-gravity where he or she docks it to the water feed.
It's a nice and short six hour day, usually followed by a stroll through one of the hydroponics parks for some fresh air and a friendly visit with Paula.
- Water generally comes in frozen chunks of ice out here, but saying 'ice' seems to confuse people who are more intelligent than everyone else because they know the term can apply to a number of different frozen substances including 'dry ice'--so the term 'ice' isn't specific enough even though everyone else knows 'ice' means 'water ice.'
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/29/2005 12:50:00 PM
I haven't said much about my friends. Maybe I'm afraid I'll be honest.
Eddie was my first mentor. He showed me the quirks and tempers of the station. He pointed out the friendliest supply people and the willingly oblivious launch pilots. He helped me jack my first mag-cycle--for emergency transportation.
For many weeks after I met him, every time I looked at him, I would be startled by his appearance. He looks odd--like a skeleton wearing a barrel under his pants. He plays a mean game of spinball, and I've never beaten him at chess.
Eddie's first name is Joseph. He doesn't like it, but he was once in the habit of responding to it. This, understandably, would cause confusion whenever Joe (the brain eater) and Eddie were in the same room.
One day, Kennith-not-Ken, the OSA gyro-head who gave orders before his life got threatened by a bad orbit, decided to decide something when two people answered to 'Joe' at the same time. He pointed to Joe and said, "I'm going to call you 'Evil' Joe."
Brain Eater Joe didn't like this. "He is the evil Joe," Joe said, pointing toward Eddie. "I am the good Joe."
"Call me EMF," Eddie said automatically.
"Like 'electromotive force'?" Ken asked.
"That works too," EMF Eddie said.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/27/2005 01:54:00 PM
Station Techs work very strange hours. Not just early morning and off-duty days; but also every 3.33 hours, or every .137 Gees.
There are some good points:
1. When your sleep cycles are determined by how much you weigh, you are usually awake before the alarm goes off.
2. It's hard to bust someone for sleeping on the job when you are paying them extra to wait around for days at a time.
3. The tasks are usually simple, if not boring, and you can use your brain for important things like sleeping.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/25/2005 02:54:00 AM
Joe is probably attractive. He stays healthy... At least physically. We used to be friends, but sometimes I'm just not smart enough to make him happy. His intelligence is frightening. Not just the 'scary smart' kind of scary, but also the 'eat your brain and spit it back in your face' kind of scary.
I wish I was that smart.
Joe hasn't said a pleasant word to me for about a year now. He typically initiates conversations by engaging me in a personal attack of some kind, which he then passes off as a joke. He might be trying to be funny, but it's more likely he is letting slip his disdain for my own intelligence. I also believe he wanted me gone with the refugees, and is angry I'm still breathing the same air as he.
Like he's going to cycle hatches and vent air cores... His intelligence is way too valuable to be wasted on such menial tasks.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/23/2005 01:48:00 AM
There are two sides to every space-station; weight and freefall.
This is most apparent in the main rail systems. Rail platforms, whether enclosed or open to space, are all built to shift between two distinct states; top facing outwards during freefall, and top facing hubwards while under spin-weight. Both freefall and weighted states are considered 'docked' for the purposes of cargo and passenger transfer.
Space stations are built to spin, and they don't like it when rotation stops. Nothing works quite right. The rail systems become almost useless. Plus, changes in acceleration can be very disorienting if you tend to think of down as the opposite of hubwards.
We are thinking about attempting to stabilize the station's orbit by shooting half of it off into the rings. We remaining alive and possibly well on the other half. I know we've thought about this before, but this time we are doing the math. The math says, 'Stop the spin.'
I hate the idea.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/21/2005 02:15:00 PM
Doohan Station is where I did most of my training. Everyone receives Tech training there. It's one of the oldest stations still operating--540 years, give or take. I doubt any of the original parts are still attached to it. Except for the name.
Today is a holiday on Doohan Station--Engineer's Day. That means we get on with doing the job while we think about the people who got us here. Because, despite the pseudo-science and outrageous plots of pre-Luna theater, people like James Doohan launched us into space and inspired new generations to keep us here.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/20/2005 01:47:00 PM
The main Tangent Track is about 1.2 Kilometers long, and encircles the station inside (hubwards) of the main rail system. The track is exposed to space, but only in the sense that it has no atmosphere. You might get a space-going vessel onto the track if you stopped the station from spinning and tried really hard not to bounce off any support structures.
The track is used for such things as Tangent Racing, 'official emergency transportation,' and my favorite--mag-cycles.
In Tangent racing, you have to get up some serious speed (400km or more) to reach freefall. Mag-cycles are designed to go in the other direction, so the faster you go, the heavier you get. Like more traditional races groundside, the idea it to get to the finish line first.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/19/2005 01:08:00 PM
Jupiter System dropped out of the OSA about 30 years ago. They stated reasons such as over-use of local resources, inadequate compensation for services rendered, and "unbelievably stupid taxes."
The OSA didn't have enough resources to challenge Jupiter System's independence, so they declared a blockade and started sucking Saturn Station One dry with a redoubled effort. Now that they've killed the station, I have no doubt the SS1 refugees who have made it to Mars-Metro are getting blamed for the new pinch in local bellies.
Wendy, the OSA representative who remains on the station, has considered asking the Jupiter System for assistance. I told her to talk to Doc Hester first, because the Doc has been in contact with them for several years. Talking to Wendy is like shining a hand-light into a blackhole.... You know the light is working, and you know it's going somewhere, it's just that you can't seem to aim at anything but the center.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/18/2005 03:54:00 PM
You grounders may not know this, but vacuum has an evaporating effect on solid metal. It happens faster than most people think.
If Station Techs don't check every hatch, vent, valve, and miscellaneous opening which spends its time closed to and exposed to vacuum--the part in question tends to seize up and stop opening. The reason is what we techs technically call a 'vacuum weld.' The metal surfaces evaporate and condense together in the hard radiation and low pressure environment.
If you wait too long, a year maybe, there's no point in attempting to un-weld the parts.
And all of this means I have to check 32 cargo hatches and hundreds of passenger and utility hatches every six weeks. Just in case we might need them to get off the station.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/17/2005 01:34:00 PM
I apologize if I have offended anyone with my postings. I don't really have anything against ground huggers except their lack of station-instincts. This lack often makes my job harder.
The truth is, I only know grounders as a sort of mythological creature. I was born on Ceres Station, and gravity was something I learned about in school. I never understood what you-all mean by "It feels like I stood up too fast... all of the time... Kind of."
My experience with real gravity is limited to a moon massed at .23 Gees. It didn't feel right at all. Like spin-weight, it's hard to describe. Weight should not cling and grasp at you while simultaneously making you feel as if your feet aren't heavy enough.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/14/2005 04:57:00 PM
There wouldn't be space stations without humans, or more specifically, without human societies and culture. Groups of humans usually come with a variety of other biological entities. Some of these we want around, and the others we will never be rid of until we stop creating all the leavings which come with getting on in life... Which means the bugs and rats are with us to stay--even in space.
So we brought in the cats. We built places for them all over the station--semi-natural habitats with self-cleaning feline waste facilities (which need regular maintenance by station techs). We feed them, but the food is fortified with a mild feline hormone suppressant. The more active (and, I suspect, the more intelligent) cats don't like it and will hunt for food instead. We feed the kittens too.
Station cats aren't really domestic, but they aren't feral like stray cats are on Earth. Most of them will avoid being touched and aren't comfortable unless they have at least two escape routes, but they don't worry about humans too much. There are always a noticeable number of domestic types, but they tend to move onto a ship or into someone's quarters if given the slightest opportunity.
The more domestic cats have left the station with their owners. I've got most of the remaining cats rounded up and handed over to Doc Hester, but I doubt if their fates will be much different than the few still loose on the station.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/12/2005 02:14:00 PM
Dzyjak is a label my dad pinned on me when I started training, and somehow made it into my file as my system-name.
A Dizzy Jack is what I am--a Station Tech.
1. Dizzy: From working on 'spinning' space stations.
* It is also a reference to the effects caused by the tendency of Station Techs to confuse people by trying to explain stuff....
* [Which] they don't really understand but know how to fix anyway.
2. A Jack has a broad range of skills and responsibilities, but he or she calls an engineer for critical problems.
* A reference to the old pre-Luna saying, "Jack of all trades; master of none."
* A reference to the practice of borrowing vehicles without authorization.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/10/2005 07:08:00 AM
The thing you have to understand about a station Hub, if you've never been around one, is that it doesn't have a floor. And it only has one wall.
A Hub is always a tube, and it always has two caps and one wall. When the station is spinning, the Hub wall is slightly sticky, moving at about .05 Gees, but it's not enough to be considered 'down' in any meaningful way. You move around just like in any other 0.0 Gee environment.
A regulation Spinball field is 40m in diameter and 140m long... The two goal-caps being 20m each. There are two spinballs, two teams, and two ways to score: "Spin" an opponent into the wall using your own spinball as a weapon, or carry your opponent's spinball into your opponent's goal without touching the wall. Sounds easy, doesn't it?
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/09/2005 05:21:00 AM
Eddie hit me with a clocked-out spinball a couple of days ago. I landed wrong on the Hub-wall, and the pain meds have had me dreamily watching vids for the past two days.
I'll try to explain what happened once I've worked it out. And then I'm coming for you, Eddie.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/08/2005 05:05:00 PM
Fort Falling is a couple of hundred years old.... I haven't looked it up, but several Metro-stations at Jupiter have been around at least twice as long. We could even be self sustaining and, more importantly, have enough resources to repair the stabilizer array... if only...
We aren't suppose to talk about the "problem," but if I end up sucking vacuum because OSA hadn't decided to consume every spare bit of ice and hydrocarbons we mined over the past 80 years.... Well, I'll be hard to lock up if I'm just so much space debris...
Those idiots killed the station, and we can't even blame it on the current administration. Now they have 100,000 extra people, but the water, oxygen, and other products which once came from those people no longer exits.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/06/2005 04:11:00 PM
Some of you Grounders may not know this, but Spinball was invented because, no matter how hard you try, you can't keep people out of the 0.0 Gee station center. And why should you? People in space need to know how to move around their environment if something should happend to station-spin.
A typical spinball is soft, but large and massive. When you get hit with one, you know you've been hit. At 0.0 Gee, a good spinball player can bury an opponent's face in the ball from half a field away. It's all about using inertia and momentum to your advantage.
I played with the "Mag Coils" when I was a boy. You've probably never heard of them, but I joined because I wanted to do whatever it was the "Mag Coils" did. I'm no Simon Jump, but I've spun my share of opponents into the hub-wall, and I've taken my share of punishment going for the goal.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/04/2005 06:04:00 AM
There are some good aspects to Heavy Duty...
1. Supervisors usually leave you alone. Let's say Chuck is having a bad day, and he needs to lecture someone for whatever-reason-he-makes-up... In that situation, I would rather be running maintenance on the primary rail at 1.2 Gees--where Chuck will be reluctant to add 20% spin-weight to his already oversized ass.
2. Heavy Duty gets all of the fun vehicles and power-suits. The primary rails are always in use and require constant attention, but they are also larger and always operate at 1+ Gees to keep the living areas "above" the rails. That means the regulators for the giant induction-coils are larger than the ones on the other two metro-rails, and they also weight more than they do at 1.0 Gee.... Hehehe, power-suits...
3. If you just spent the entire day slogging around at 1.2 Gees, your normal weight makes you feel spry and young and ready to go dancing after shift.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/03/2005 09:46:00 AM
If you've never seen a station in real life, then you might be surprised at how skeletal they look. You can't really have a space station without rails. Rails are the only practical means (as far we know) of moving large amounts of mass into, and out of, the centrifugal gravity of station-spin.
So space stations are encircled by multiple bands of magnetic rails, and support structures for the rails, and support structures for the spinning station, and rail transfer nodes, and rail switches, and launches riding the main rail in and out of freefall... And the visable amount of space where people live their lives looks small and insignificant under all of that.
Fort Falling has three Metro class rails and six Civilian class rails. Our primary metro-rail spins at 1.2 Gees. The primary launch once cycled through freefall four times a day on that rail, and it moved hundreds of people, and great masses of supplies while doing so. We haven't used it for years now.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 7/02/2005 09:26:00 AM
It wouldn't be a metro-station without Tangent Races. I guess that means Fort Falling is no longer metro--the Tangent Races went away with most of the station's population.
Eddie and I went up to the track and ran a couple of clunker's around a few times. Even those old, beat-up racers can move once you start racing for the Tangent. It was fun, but it's not the same.
For those of you living on a world with gravity, "Racing for the Tangent" means going as fast as you can against the direction of station-spin. The Tangent is that place and/or speed at which you and your vehicle become weightless.
So if you are on a space-station, and you have become weightless, it means the centrifugal force of station-spin is no longer holding you against the floor. If the station hasn't stopped spinning, you must be moving. Or at the Hub.
It is difficult to remain weightless in a Tangent Race because you don't have much traction. There are variations, but usually the driver who finishes with the most free-fall time wins.
The best way to watch is from a launch platform, which is a sort of Tangent on rails. That's one of the reasons I became a station tech. Once a launch hits freefall, it doesn't take much to monitor--keep an eye on the magnetics and let the station turn underneath you. And don't log too much time in freefall or someone will notice and put you on Heavy duty.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/30/2005 01:11:00 PM
Out with the bad air.
There's nothing like a blast of vacuum to clean out those air cores. Don't forget to switch on the secondary life-support system.
You need to lock down the flow-gates to living area's (which is any place that's not an air core really) and flush the cores with cleanser (a nice toxic and corrosive gas with a short half-life), then shoot all the loose trash into space.
In with the good air.
There'll be more bugs and rats in a bit, and you'll need to feed more cats for a while. Log it and move on to the next core.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/29/2005 04:19:00 PM
It's funny what you think about. When your biggest worry is getting the air cores blasted out before the tangent races begin, you don't stop to wonder if you have time to work on some things you've been putting off.
I've been wondering about things I've already done. Not much--which is why I get depressed.
So I think about kittens. Or that girl in hydroponics, Paula, who recently seems to have reversed her poles. She was one of a reasonably small selection of women who have told me, in one way or another, that I was repulsive. Usually they soften it up with words like, "We are too much alike" or "You know when two magnets are facing each other...?" But it mostly comes down to, "I need to get away from you with mag-lev speed." Anyway, I got a date with Paula, and maybe I'll see if she will let me take pictures.
I can also tell people what I really think. Therefore, fellow Fallers, listen up! I'm sick of you helpless, dirt-assed, wannabe Station Techs (you all know who you are) telling me how to do my job. If you called me to fix something, shut-the-hell-up unless I ask you a question. I'll try to keep it simple.
If we do happen to get away from this station before it comes apart, I still get to have done everything I did when we all thought it didn't matter.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/28/2005 02:14:00 PM
I've succeeded in depressing myself thouroughly. Although, I'm not sure you can call it a success if that isn't what you were trying to do. I mean, you made something happen, so maybe you could call it progress...
I suppose it's possible Doc Hester was politely telling me to go away when she told me I would feel better if I wrote it down. Depressed is not better.
But, if I start in on one of my existential rants again, I suspect she will tell me to keep writing. It's probably easier to stop reading than to stop someone from ranting in your face... I suppose. I'll have to write it down.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/27/2005 02:48:00 PM
Am I being too negative? Some days I feel as if I have a terminal illness, and soon I start remembering everyone is terminal... Eventually. This leads to such questions as, "Why bother?"
The occasional fleeting moment of peace and happiness for maintaining momentum despite the time or the blood and sweat. Is it enough?
So I wonder about time instead.
We use time as a tool of measurement, but that measurement only exists within the artificial constructs of society. There is also the flow of time, which we understand both as the eternal present, and as the device which gives us past and future.
We aren't sure how many more ships are coming, be we know we have about 300 days to get off this station before it drowns in the rings.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/24/2005 02:41:00 PM
For you ground huggers, "Bonus Oxygen" refers to that occasional bit of luck which might make up the difference between life and suffocation.
I salvaged three kittens from storage-bay some-stupid-number, and I took them to Doc Hester. She quietly hummed promises of those words to them while she made the initial examination.
Doc Hester is older than most people ever get. She refuses to leave with the other non-essential personnel because she would rather die at home. She knows a lot about physics, biology, psychology and other things-I-can't-spell.
Here at Fort Falling, Doc is our Bonus Oxygen.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/21/2005 02:11:00 PM
I need to stop by and ask Doc Hester if she can take any more cats. I'm not exactly sure what else she does with them, but they seem healthy and happy living in that weird habitat she made for them.
Flushing rodents and bugs into space is something I do with pleasure, but doing the same to kittens ruins my entire week.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/19/2005 04:47:00 PM
Chuck, my shift supervisor, started to lecture me about how I should do my job. Like I don't know standard procedure demands all mobile objects be secured before decommissioning an apartment.
I didn't want to listen to his lecture, so I interrupted him.
"If you can prove an imitation-stone beverage container will do more damage than the rain of ice which is going to knock it off the table," I said. "Then I will swear on my life to keep better track of my coffee mugs."
He immediately declared, "I'm not going to put up with that."
"Then don't," I said. "Fire me." Like he's going to let me slack around until the end comes.
Two more years of this, and I'll welcome the rain.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/18/2005 01:23:00 PM
They said, "Become a Station Technician."
While I was in training, they told me, "Station Techs get respect, and money, and power... And girls."
Now I live on the edge of space and spend my time watching massive icicles swim around a giant ball of liquid hydrogen. In a year or two I'll be watching one of those ice-chunks smash into the station, and I'm not expecting it to go well.
The Space Safety Board (SSB) had condemned Saturn's only space station about four years ago, and then advised everyone to return to the relative safety of the Belt Habitats and Mars Metro.
"The station is falling," they said, and painted a giant warning on the hull. When it was discovered repairs were too costly to be possible, someone painted the name Fort Falling over the warning. I'm not going out there to change it back.
The Outer System Alliance has relocated close to a hundred thousand people, but a lack of ships and resources leads me to believe the rest of us will be lucky to get off this heap before it gets scattered among the rings.
[So Doc, how is writing this down suppose to make me feel better?]
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/17/2005 06:54:00 PM