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.


'Counter-Spin' Rick

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.'



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.'


EMF Eddie

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.


Spin Time

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.


Brain Eater Joe

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.


Two Sides

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.


Doohan Station

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.


The Tangent Track

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.


Jupiter Blockade

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.


Vacuum Weld

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.


'Grounders,' et al.

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.


Station Cats

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.



How many Station Techs does it take to change a light panel?

Have you tried turning the light off, and then back on again?


Dizzy Jack

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.


Hub Floors and Other Myths

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?


Spun Out

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.



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.



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.


Heavy Duty

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.


Skeleton Crew

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.