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.


Spin Water

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.


Heavy Siders

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.


Social Evolution

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.


Social Work

Sheryl Malice.

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?"

"You only..."

"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.


Burns, Booms, and Belches

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.

Completely insane.


Ice Boosters*

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.


An Avatar's Life

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.


No Relation

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."

"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.


That's not an answer.

"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:

  1. "It was working when I left."
  2. "No one told me I had to do that."
  3. "It was making too much noise."
  4. "I think someone did something."
  5. "Last week maybe? Or was that that other thing?"
  6. "I didn't do that."
  7. "I always call you guys."
  8. "I thought you did that the last time."
  9. "I just need it fixed."
  10. "What's that got to do with it?"


LG Medical

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."