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.


Burden of Proof

As the Minister of Customs, I have no way of knowing for certain that one of my luggage inspectors damaged something with improper handling unless I actually witnessed the damages happen. This does not mean I don't get blamed for it.

"Sir," I said. "Despite the fact that all of our inspectors are chimpanzees, they are more than capable of opening your luggage without damaging the locks." I looked down at the twisted latch and added, "They probably would have popped the hinge anyway. Do you know how much force a chimp can apply when using all four limbs?"

The tourist, Mr. Ted Stansen, was the one tourist of any group who gives all the other tourists a bad name. "Are you trying to deny those animals ripped up my luggage?" He shouted.

"No," I said. "I'm saying those animals would have made a much more interesting mess."

"I'm not going to stand for this. I want to speak to my old buddy Jackson, the Minister of Customs."

I blinked at him. It was the first time I ever heard anyone drop my own name. I suppose it was an honest mistake. There are three or four DeeDee Jacksons in the galaxy, and if I happen to be the only male with that name, Ted could be confusing me with an old girlfriend.

"Well?" He asked.

"I'd rather you didn't do that," I said. "How about if I admit we broke your luggage, and you can follow the nice chimpanzee, her name is Mini, to a processing room where you can wait in comfort."

"Some things were stolen too," Ted said.

"I'll take full responsibility," I said, grabbing his elbow and propelling him forward. "But you do realize this is an independent station? Even if Minister Jackson is a friend of yours, he is way too important to recognize old school buddies. I bet he won't even remember you."

"Probably not," Ted muttered.

I opened the door to the "Processing Garden" and nudged Ted through it. The room was a comfortable little hydro-garden with a sluggish green stream at the far end. There were three benches and a wandering pathway.

"I would prefer to wait somewhere where I have access to an info-port," Ted said after looking around.

"Right this way," I said, grabbing his elbow again, and guiding him down the path toward the stream. "It won't take long at all."

Four Thumbs ambled past with Ted's broken luggage and tossed it into the stream.

"Hey," Ted shouted, "You crazy monkey. Give me my stuff back." Tugging his elbow out of my grasp, Ted ran to the stream's edge and watched his luggage sink.

"Don't worry about it," I said. "I took full responsibility. Remember?"

When Ted turned to look at me in disbelief, Mini Cee knocked him backwards into the stream.

"My friends call me Dizzy," I said as he sank. He was under in two counts.

Several tourists had followed us in, and most of them seemed to be amused. I noticed because they were making cheerful noises. One or two started to look worried when Ted didn't come back up.

"Sorry about the disturbance," I said. "He'll be fine. That's all oxy-fluid. It comes out about a third of the way around the station."

There was applause all around.


Critical Reaction

[So I'm talking to Submind Doc Hester in a good mood, and she agrees to answer another question.]

"I've got this thing," I said. "For you it's right I guess, but I don't want another mind inside my head... Even though I know Submind won't take over or anything."

"You said you had a question," Doc said.

"Yeah. How do I know the virus won't mutate into something which spreads from my symbiote and then wants to do the thinking for me?"

"You don't," Doc said. "But it has never happened, as far as we know." She paused and looked at me closely. "If that were to happen, you would be killed and we would destroy ourselves and this entire space station. Our policy indicates we should immediately navigate into the center of the nearest star, but this thing is too slow. We would be forced to detonate Saturn instead."

"Oh," I said quietly. "That's probably why you've never heard."

"Or it's never happened," Doc said. "We are more than a virus, Dizzy."

"That's why I have questions," I said softly, but I was momentarily out of questions.


Promotional Tour

Would you believe we have tourists? Sandra Quinn sent me a data-link. It was a general invitation to the merchants of Fort Falling for a visit from a tourist mothership.* Rich people are very strange. Sandra wanted to know if we were going to shut it down as a danger to our enviro-systems. I hadn't even considered it until she asked, so I'm guessing her boyfriend, Sam Tellerwell, was thinking paranoid merchant thoughts about me ruining his profits. He's only a tiny bit rich.

I pushed the big button on my magic summoning wand and said, "Sandra. Please report to my office."

She must have been waiting. "Yes, sir?"

"Sit down," I said.

"Thank you."

I shuffled through some printouts and asked, "How long have you been on the station, Sandra."

She was surprised by the question, but didn't hesitate. "Seven years and a few months. It's in my records."

I smiled at her crookedly and asked her the follow-up question. "Why did you stay?"

The answer to that one was not in her records. It wasn't in anyone's records unless they said it in a public log somewhere. No one needs a personal reason for leaving a condemned space-station, and now there's no reason to leave.

"I," she paused and kind of ducked her head. "I was angry with my father. He didn't want me to come out here, and he was so smug about my failure..." She paused. "I didn't want to hear any more, so I told him I'd call back on his birthday, and I blocked all his messages."

"Your... failure?" I asked.

She just shrugged.

"This tourist mothership..." I asked, waiting for her to nod. "Is the name 'Savanna Heights' an oxymoron?"

She burst out laughing.

When she finished, I handed her one of the printouts I had been holding. "Savanna Heights is all yours. I'm taking the quiet shift until they are gone."

"What?" She asked, looking at the printout. It was an official document, signed by governor Kelly Grace Smith, declaring Sandra Quinn the new Assistant Minister of Customs. Her mouth opened four or five times before she squeaked something.

"I'm the Minister of Customs," I said. "Who's going to argue? I have an appointment with Kelly in a few minutes. You can sit at my desk while I'm gone. Call your dad." Then I got up and left.

I'm starting to think Kelly has turned me into one of those face-guys which all the real politicians have on tap. You know, the guy who looks good holding a gun and saving kittens, but doesn't seem to have much going on between his ears. Not that I would hold a gun, or let anyone put something between my ears, but I'm good with saving kittens.

As punishment for an earlier offense against her authority, Kelly forced me to wear my high-tech, bio-tech vac-suit, saying, "I need you to provide a significant demonstration for the tourists arriving on the main launch. You're the Minister of Customs. Go minister." Kelly has also scheduled nine spinball games for me, and I haven't even seen next week's schedule.

I guess the only thing which bothers me is being at the center of attention. I don't like being watched. On the plus side, spinball is a thousand times more fun than inspecting luggage.

  • A mothership is a traveling city. Most of the city is enviro-services, and the rest is party. Population: A few hundred rich tourists and a staff of thousands. Did I say rich tourists? The tour takes 25 years, and it covers most of the solar system.


Carbon Inevitable

"We found carbon," Doc said. I'm sure it was Doc. Submind isn't much for ego.

"You stopped at Saturn because you found carbon?" I asked. "You mean Titan?" These were follow-up questions to my ill-conceived initial query about an intelligent virus hanging around in the rings of Saturn.

Doc laughed. "Titan isn't much use to us," she said, this time with that disconnected voice I've decided is Doc letting Submind speak for itself. "We stopped here because this is a third generation star."

"Right. Carbon, heavy metals. For your previous hosts?" I asked.

The silence was very heavy, like it was accelerating.

"You didn't just drift through interstellar space and then 'decide' to stop here," I said.

"Your logic is always surprising, Dizzy," Doc said. "You are partially correct. If our previous hosts had survived the journey, life on Earth would have been very different."

"Good on us," I said.

"Nothing personal," Doc said, or it might have been Submind. "Humans are not so delicate as the Clee, and we have high hopes for our next journey."

"Should we be doing that?" I asked.

"Why not?" Doc asked. "Carbon makes life inevitable. Life makes sentience inevitable. It's only a matter of genesis or survival, and sentient life is good at survival. Millions of years of practice..."

"Oh," I said. "In that case, I'll be safely in the past before it's time to worry."

Doc frowned at me.

I shrugged. "The other day I was having a conversation with a chimpanzee, and I started wondering why I didn't think it was strange. Then I realized I did think it was strange, and there was nothing to do but accept it. Now I have questions."

Still frowning, Doc made shooing motions. I was done anyway.


The Pit of Civilization

If someone has convinced you that Civilization is the top, they lied to you. Not only that, but you were stupid enough to believe them. How's that for Civilization?

If you don't think that was funny, sorry. I will tell you a story which might get to the point, and it could also explain why civilization grows best in a pit.

One of Mini Cee's shift supervisor's is a joker named Four-Thumbs. Most chimpanzees I know have chosen their own human name, and I had to ask him about it. Chimpanzees also have a strange sense of humor.

"Why'd you choose that name?" I asked him. Chimpanzees ignore subtlety, so I didn't bother hinting around.

"To give humans pause when they hear it," he said, speaking with his hands.

"That's it?"

"You do the same, Dizzy. You call us when a human needs to change view-points. You laugh with us when humans think of nothing but luggage."

"Getting 'one up' is standard human behavior," I said.

"Recognition. Same thing." Four-Thumbs said.

"So you would like people to notice your thumbs?" I asked. "Not just your fur coat?"

His laughter, better described as shrieks of chimpanzee hysteria, hurt my ears. I considered it agreement.

"And you think I'm funny? And I make people notice you? That's why you follow my orders?"

He shrugged. "Doc's orders."

"Thank you so much," I said.

"You listen," Four Thumbs said. "Must be why Kelly put you here."

"I listen because it's the only way to get rid of some people," I said with irritation.

"Yes," Four Thumbs said. "You are very funny. That is why we think you will let us install a sanitation pit. For our more troublesome guests."

It took me a second. "What?"

"We wish to convert the backup waste storage core."

"Did you say, 'sanitation pit'?" I asked, spelling it out, I hope correctly, in hand sign.

"Yes," Four Thumbs said. "But it's not really a pit. The backup core was originally designed as a series of recreational swimming pools, but something went wrong. It turns out the water flows too fast through the pools, and no one can use them. The pools were eventually covered with filter-grating and powered down."

"And you want to fill the pools with some type of sanitation fluid?" I asked very very carefully.

"Submind," was all he said.

What I saw in my head was the bank of a wild, carnivorous river, entangled by writhing vegetation. As I watched, a hapless and yet smelly ice-buster was thrown into the flowing lime-gelatin and pineapple chunks of the river Submind, and then he was dragged under by a thorn-encrusted vine. I just had to laugh. In fact, I couldn't stop laughing for almost two minutes.

I approved of the "Sanitation Pit" and forgot to tell Kelly until it was too late. I'm sure I'll pay for it later, but she didn't make us close it down. So what if I have the sense of humor of a chimpanzee.


The Theory of Quantum Storage

Yesterday I rode the main launch platform into free-fall to make a personal inspection of our new quanta-drives. (Can you believe I had confirmation of the order in less than a day, and they shipped high velocity at no extra charge?) Those things are too big to bring into the station, so we're dropping them into the lash-up until we can cut a hole big enough to install them in. The ride was almost as good a being a simple technician again.

It usually takes a couple of hours to unload the transports, so I drifted along in my vac-suit and wondered if I should mark anything for closer inspection by a customs team. I was pretty sure they didn't need my help, so I stopped at wondering.

Before I got this job as Minister of Customs, I used to love platform duty. Well, not 'love' I guess, but at least it was peaceful. Most Techs looking for peace try for grip-loader duty--moving crates, equipment and even ships around while wearing a Zero Gee, ion drive, power-assist vac-suit. I always preferred operating the platform and riding it from Zero Gee and back to full spin-weight, even if it meant interacting with people.

Now I don't get to drive, or be in free-fall much, but I still have to interact because I'm important. Paula says it's called 'progress.' I call it lack of judgment on my part, but maybe it was poor sales resistance.

For a moment I wondered if poor sales resistance was the mistake which got me these new drives, but I had confidence in my old friend at Data Planets. Plus, it's hard to go wrong with quanta drives. They either work or they don't, and the ones which don't work never leave the factory floor. Considering how large they are, the name is somewhat ironic, but 'quanta' refers to where the data goes, not the size of the device.

The location 'quanta' is inside of every of quanta drive. It is endless and infinitely small, and it's the same 'quanta' inside of every single drive. When data is absorbed by the data core it becomes accessible from any system connected to a quanta drive. If you know how to find it. That is the limit of my understanding. Query the system if you want to know more.