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.


Cluster Bombs

I like to explore the meaning of things. I poke and pry and beam lights, and I either get bored and find something else to explore, or I figure it out and find something else.

"How many grapes are in a bunch?" Eddie asked.

"All of them," I said.

"I knew you'd say that."

"Then why'd you ask?"

"How many grapes are in a cluster?"

I shrugged.

"What if you pick the grapes? Is it still a cluster? Or a bunch?"

"It's a bunch of grapes, Eddie. A lot of them. Many grapes all in one place. Do you have a point, or are you practicing some arcane language theory to discuss with Governor Kelly?"

"So you wouldn't distinguish between a cluster and a bunch?" Eddie asked.

"I don't why I would," I said. "It's a random number of grapes, maybe ten, maybe a hundred. If you think it's important, give me a reason to make the distinction."

"I think a cluster is still part of a whole--all the grapes connected," Eddie said.

"Why do I care about this, Eddie?"

"It's not a bunch if they aren't connected."

"Why not, Eddie? If I say a bunch of psychos, or a cluster of people, you wouldn't expect them to be tied together with a vine. They are connected because of what they are--psychos and people. Why's it got to be different for grapes?"

"Rick has three of these--ice things--made up of eight slush bombs each. They're huge, and not really slush any more, and... he wants to call them 'cluster bombs,' only, they're going to break apart and...."

"And you got into an argument about the name," I said, guessing.

"It's a stupid name," Eddie said. "It'll scare people. They'll think the things are going to explode."

"I doubt it, but let's hope the Martian Republic believes that when the time comes," I said. "What was your idea, that it's so much better?"

"Submind Life Pods."

"Yeah," I said. "Sorry. I'm going to have to go with Rick on this one."


Refraction Index

Riding the rings is a wild flight from one snowball to another, sometimes scraping frost from the surface of a significant mass as you sling-shot past to gain momentum. There's light in the sky, and gravity to ride, with Saturn tugging at your back to keep you close. It's easy to see what's ahead, if you don't mind getting close to the ice.

It's like some mad refraction index, where the events from the ride are happening a bit behind everything else that happened that day. Add the Three Brains and their Submind designs, and it feels like one of those haunted planetoid stories Grampa J. used to tell me.

Before Submind came along with grav-touch, I hated riding the rings. A trip to Frost River Station would have been the most tedious and frightening vac-suit flight I'd taken in years, even though it's only six hours from Fort Falling's current orbital position.

It wasn't long ago that I preferred thrusters over Submind gravity tricks, but those ion wings give an entire third dimension to vac-suit flight. The wings made me forget about grav-touch until we stopped half way there. Using grav-touch makes it a bit harder to navigate, but it's worth it.

Then when I got there, the Three Brains gave me their gravity sled to try. When I locked into the nav-system, I could feel the ice spinning all around me. The tidal variations showed up as an overlay on the main flight screen--like small hills and wide trails. Everything disappeared but those trails and the downhill slop, and I didn't even know I had been riding Relativity until I got to Fort Falling.

Now Buddy says they are working on a lightning diver for Tesla Cee. I didn't ask what it was, but knowing Tesla, it probably has something to do with those storms on Saturn. I won't be testing that one.


Tidal Movement

"Pilot," the ship said. "Please identify."

"Whoa," I said.

"Surname or primary handle?" The ship asked.

"Um, I'm DeeDee Jackson, but call me Dee."

"Pilot Dee, what is our destination?"

"I'm," I stopped and looked at Rudy. "Stand down for now, please."

I sent the disconnect command to my suit, and exited the cockpit.

"That thing is sentient," I said, not sure if it was an accusation or an observation.

"Yes," Rudy said.

"Isn't that what you would call an 'offense to God'?"

"The Clee were God's work. So is Submind. I am privileged to be involved."

"I don't know what the Clee looked like, Rudy, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't anything like that."

"Clee biology included some interesting uses of silicon," Rudy said. "The neural pathways for all of our ship designs are based on something called a 'morphological meme.' Buddy learned how to trig..."

"Thanks, Rudy. I'm familiar with Submind memes."

"Really? Buddy isn't very good at sharing. How did you acquire this information?"

"I'm suspicious and I ask a lot of questions," I said. "For example: What do the Clee have to do with a scout ship thinking for itself? Are those gravity skis? And, why are the ion thrusters so small?"

Rudy blinked at me, looked at the ship like he'd never noticed it before, and then said, "It's a tidal sled--for 'riding the rings' as they say."

"Yeah?" I asked.

"The neural grid is... It's something we can do--with Submind. What's the point of growing ships without it?"

I had to give him that one, so I nodded.

"The skis are for riding tidal variations," Rudy said. "But they double as a gravity lens to provide thrust. We built it for rapid transit within Saturn System. The more traditional scouts will be ready in about a week."

"More traditional, but sentient?" I asked.

"Exactly," Rudy said, grinning.

"And you want me to test drive this one back to Fort Falling?" I asked. "Riding the rings?"

"I would consider it a personal favor," Rudy said.

"What's the bet on my return time?" I asked.

Rudy turned red. "I have two hours and 47 minutes."

I turned and looked at the tiny ship. "Less than three hours?"

Rudy nodded.

It took me two hours and 52 minutes. Four Thumbs won the pool.


Data Emissions

I stopped to wait about half way there, next to a shuttle sized snowball. It took Paula three minutes to catch up. Eddie and Wendy were still two minutes away. Considering it had taken three hours to get here, that wasn't too bad.

"So what do you think?" I asked over the short range channel. "Can you beat me to Frost River?"

"You cheated," Paula said, but she didn't sound very convinced.

"Did not," I said. "And I didn't do any tricks with gravity either. Just the wings and my own feel for movement."

"I meant gravity... Haven't you figured out what to call it other than 'riding gravity'?"

"Gravity projection."

"Well," Paula said. "If you had used projection, you would have cheated."

"Your suit is covered with sensors," I said. "Weren't you watching?"

"That would be cheating," Paula said.

I laughed. She had probably nuked me with everything her suit had. "You have my permission to check. In fact, I insist."

"Good," Paula said. "I want readings while you are projecting. You tend to show up as some kind of gravitonic anomaly."


"Two dimensional blackholes; tiny torus wormholes; fragmented gravity waves; a lot of quantum noise that doesn't make sense," Paula said.

"Oh. You never mentioned it."

"Most people don't like it when I aim sensors at them," Paula said.

"You do tend to 'study' people," I said.

"Well, Love, I've got six different quantum sensors built into this suit, and I want to try them--on you--while you are actively using gravity projection. I know you're dying to try it with those wings."

"You'll never keep up."

"My sensors are more than adequate to get a clear picture of you disrupting three-space all the way to Frost River. I don't have to keep up."

"Disrupting..." I paused.

"According to my sensors," Paula said.

"Are you're sensors ready?"


"Don't blink," I said, spinning away.

It was an awesome ride. I dropped into Relativity 0.595, and I was shaking hands with Buddy less than two and half hours later; The Three Brains were impressed. Paula, Wendy and Eddie were still 40 minutes away.


Testing the Edge

"Wings," I muttered, banging on my side. "If this wasn't a Submind suit, I wouldn't be anywhere near it."

"Let's ride," Paula said with excitement. I could see the wing cases on her bug suit straining not to open inside the airlock.

"How did that crazy professor talk us into this?" I asked. "I've told the Three Brains--four times that I can think of--that I didn't want to test drive any of their da... designs until someone trained for it...."

"None of that over the comm," Paula said, sealing her helmet. She looked like a giant red beetle. The armored body of her suit was covered with a pattern of large spots, any one of which seemed capable of extruding a sensor of some kind. Paula likes to know things about her environment.

The airlock hissed open just as I sealed up. "Yes, My Queen."

"None of that either," Paula said, leaping into space with a giggle. "We have serious riding to do. We have been challenged, and you know how much I hate to lose."

"Oh, come on," I said, close behind. "It won't be much of a challenge. Wendy hasn't had a suit for two weeks yet, and you know Eddie is better at mind games then..."

"You haven't even bothered to test it. Ions or not, DeeDee, wings don't work like thrusters. I'm not sure riding the edge of an orbital ice plane is the best place to learn."

"How about I don't bother with the wings? Rick says I need 'to practice my center.' Whatever that means, part of it is riding gravity..."

"Don't you dare," Paula said.


"That would be cheating."

"Using thrusters would be cheating," I said. "I just don't want to use the wings."

"Whatever," Paula said. Her carapace folded apart, and wings stretched outwards for at least five meters in six directions.

"Whoa. Are those alien-bug wings?"

"You like them?"

"Sexy. If we weren't in naked space, I would be in fear for your virtue."

Paula giggled. "Come on, Diz. Let's see what you got."

I sent the command to open my wings.

"This was your request?" Paula asked.

"Yeah," I said. "You don't like dragon flies?"

"They aren't beetles," Paula said.

"Neither are you, Love" I said. "I did research before I told the Brains what I wanted. You can tell me how great they are after I leave you sucking my ion trail."

"Not a chance," Paula said, and flew. "But I like them anyway."

She was right. They aren't thrusters. With suit thrusters, I can't change direction more than a few degrees without rotating the entire suit--and me with it. The twenty minute ride to where Eddie and Wendy waited was enough to get a feel for just how much more control ion wings could give me. It was perfect for riding the edge.