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.


Relative Facts

On the rare occasions when Nana had too much alcohol, she liked to share her favorite life lesson. "There's two kinds of facts--absolute and relative. You're born. You die. Gravity sucks. And Sol glows in the dark. Those are absolute. Everything else is relative."

I think I understand why she used to say that, but it's nothing I can express in words. Sharing my life in this somewhat public forum has been therapeutic and instructive, but I'm finding I don't need the release as much as I did when I started this project. I don't intend to stop writing, but more and more of my life is becoming classified secret, so I may not be around much.

You know where I've been? Living in Paula's prototype submind pod for humans, and having the most incredible sex any human has ever had.

Paula and I are truly married now. Our honeymoon lasted for two months, and it was the best two weeks of my life. While the universe drifted passed us, we slept at Relativity Two Something. We spent a couple of days on Jupiter Station Twelve, and the rest of the time in each other's arms.

Apparently, thanks to Paula's human seed pod, Paula and I are the parents of 17 potential offspring. Only two of them will know us as parents. The rest may never be born, or they might grow up a million light-years away. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I know Paula, and I couldn't have stopped her.

I was going to describe the seed pod, and how we melded together and rode Relativity and each other all the way to Jupiter and back, but then I decided... It would be impossible for me to know both where I was, and how fast I was going, at the same time.


Flight School

"Are you avoiding your office again, Minister Jackson?" Kammie asked.

"Sometimes I like to shop when I'm depressed," I said. "Most often I sulk around in my ship and avoid the comm for a few hours, but sometimes I like to shop. For one thing, Earth chocolate can lighten anyone's mood for a time, depending on the cost of the chocolate. For another, watching the apes at trade negotiations can be entertaining and instructive."

Kammie laughed. "I like you, Minister Jackson. You don't talk to me like most adults."

"Yeah," I said. "How do adults talk to you?"

"Like I'm nine," Kammie said, sitting down next to me.

I shrugged. "You'll be ten soon. Who have you escaped from today?"

"My dad," Kammie said. "He's bringing us ice-cream."

"Us?" I asked.

"Chocolate," Kammie said firmly.

"Really?" I asked, looking at the runny remains of my last serving. "Please tell me you didn't get that mind reading thing like Eddie's got? Little girls shouldn't be reading adult minds. It's not healthy."

Kammie giggled. "Don't worry, Minister Jackson. My thing is momentum. Like your's. I saw you licking the last drops off of your spoon, and the suicidal look on your face when it was gone."

"That's a little over-dramatic," I said. "Don't you think?"

"As soon as I got my Submind symbiont, I concentrated on feeling the station spinning beneath me, and then I felt for Saturn..."

"Please stop," I said, feeling a bit woozy. "That is not at all how I came by my feel for momentum.

"Of course not," Kammie said dismissively. "But I'm planning ahead, and a pilot needs to know how fast she's going, relatively speaking. It worked."


Kammie shrugged. "I've seen you fly, and I'm going to be better than you one day."

"Oh," I said, not sure if I should be flattered or disturbed. She was way too smart for a child her age. "Thanks."

"Hey, Dad," Kammie said with calculated excitement. "Minister Jackson's going to give me flying lessons."

"That's nice," he said, handing me a Double Chocolate Frost.

"I don't suppose you could wait a couple of years?" I asked, focusing on my spoon.

"Then too," Kammie said, stuffing her mouth with dripping, syrupy brown ice-cream.

I shrugged and followed her example.


Seed Father

"I hate ceremonies," I complained.

"No you don't," Paula said. "You love them. Get used to it."

"But why do I have to be the 'Seed Father' in this thing? I'm not the only guy..."

"You were the messenger," Paula said. "It's tradition."

"Tradition," I muttered. "Mom set me up. She's been asking for grandkids for years, and she knew the Drifters would want me to be the first seed father."

"What are you complaining about?" Paula asked. "It's not like you have to raise the child. You just have to call once in a while. Maybe send birthday gifts."

"My mom has already adopted Melissa and Tre," I said. "Not to mention the rest of their family. It's not my fault I'm an only child."

"It's not your parents' fault either," Paula said. "Now stop whining and fix your collar. We're going to be late."

"How long did they say this would take?" I asked.

"They didn't," Paula said. "But from my experience, the ceremony takes about 15 minutes, and the after party goes all night."

"Can I get drunk?" I asked.

"After the ceremony," Paula said, pulling me towards the door. "Come on. Don't make me call your mom."

"I'm coming," I said, and let her lead me to my doom.


Hydroponic Theater

"I designed a theater for them," Doug said. "Well, Rudy designed it, but I paid him to do it. And I found the space. I'm a genius."

"That's nice," I said. "You gonna grow it from scratch?"

"What? No. I'm not going to grow anything. I gave the designs to Mitch," Doug said. "With names of my favorite subcontractors. They need to learn how to work with Submind if they want to grow 'Crazy Doug's Theater of Life.'"

"That's funny," I said, deadpan. "You come up with that all by yourself."

"They aren't going to call it that," Doug said. "But they're going to write a play about me."

"That's not always good."

"There's no such thing as bad publicity."

"You start being generous," I said. "And people ask you for favors more often."

"They have this huge space in that rigged-up storage ship they thrust around," Doug said, ignoring me. "It's just wasted space in there--exposed to vacuum. As soon as I saw it, I was ready to charge in with vats and chimps, but Drifters can be a bit touchy about their ships."

"Yeah," I said. "I noticed. Mitch seemed almost insulted when I suggest his ships needed repair."

"They'll be able to seat over 100 people, and the stage can change scenery in a matter of minutes," Doug said. "Have I mentioned I'm a genius?"

"Yeah," I said. "Please stop."

"But it's a living stage," Doug said. "And it changes shape, and color, and stuff."

"You're a genius," I said. "I don't care. It's your turn to buy the drinks, and mine's empty."

"Mine's not."

"Then stop talking about yourself and drink up," I said.


Blood Written

Drifter ship bulkheads are covered in words. Poems and fables and random bits of advice are everywhere. Complete lessons on how to change carbon scrubbers or light panels are scribed in useful locations. Nothing is painted in neat block letters. It's all messy and wonderful, covered in beautiful and finely crafted words.

"This bulkhead is blood written," Ted said. "My grandfather sixth inscribed 'Time's Test' on this wall himself."

"Yeah?" Doug said, caressing the bulkhead softly. "What's that."

"It is our most sacred teaching. If it will not survive this mad organic retrofit you are proposing, it must be removed to a place of honor on the observation deck, and preserved for as long as this ship lives."

Two of the three chimps tagging along with Doug started tracing words on the wall in quiet fascination. The chimps on Fort Falling are more or less a new species, thanks to Submind. Most of them have a wicked sense of humor, and are smarter than the average human station tech.

"We would, of course, like to save as much of our works as possible. That's if we even agree to this radical shift in our environment." Ted said.

Ted watched the chimps for a minute, and then raised his eyebrows when Four Thumbs turned to him and used chimp sign to say, "Blood written."

Ted nodded. "Yes. From our breath, and from our life."

All three chimpanzees repeated the words in chimp sign. Ted nodded and repeated the gestures.

"No problem." Four Thumbs gestured, and barked chimp laughter. "For as long as the ship shall live."

The chimps all busted up, waved goodbye, and pretended to help each other stumble away.

I just shook my head. "I don't think you have anything to worry about, Ted. The chimps like you."

"What's so funny about a ship being alive?" Ted asked. It sounded like he wasn't sure if he should be offended or was just missing the joke.

"Um? They're chimps. With Submind symbionts."


"And you just asked them to bring your ship to life after you told them your ship was alive," I said. "They think metaphorical concepts are hilarious. Add a bit of recursion, and, well, you're lucky they didn't make you an honorary chimp right then and there."

Ted had a strange look on his face.

"It involves a lot of painful slapping," I explained.

"Are you sure they understand?" Ted asked Doug. "It's always a sadness when a ship loses blood."

"The chimps are going to adopt your entire tribe," I said. "Trust me."

Doug snickered. "He's probably right. Listen, Ted, if those apes can't save %99 of these words, I'll eat this entire lash-up hub. They'll probably grow them right into the design."

"It will be weeks before the chimps can get started," I said. "And, from what Melissa tells me, there are almost two dozen young Drifter women seeking seed fathers. "

"Yes," Ted said, nodding. "It took us almost three years to get here, and opportunities have been limited."

"So there's no hurry," I said. "You're going to be here for awhile. Take some time and learn what Submind can do for your tribe."

"That's for the elders," Ted said. "But as soon as they approve, I'm getting one of those space-fairy suits like you have."

"I'll have to beat you at Spinball before then," I said.

Ted laughed.

Doug smirked at him. "Don't laugh until you've seen him play. With that thing in his head, he could make Simon Jump weep in frustration."

"I will play one game," Ted said, studying me. "But you must explain how you flew for three hours, but it was two days time. That is a story and a trick to be blood written."

"Done," I said.


Genetic Drift

"She wants to what?" I asked, opening my eyes and forgetting about the sleep I was trying to get.

"What are you so surprised about?" Paula asked. "Drifters tend to seek genetic diversity more than most belt dwellers. You have good genetics, and I've been discussing the same thing with Rhonda for weeks now."

"Rhonda? Wait a minute," I said. "Does this mean you have a list of men you want to have sex with?"

"Breed with, Dee Dear," Paula said, snuggling close.

"That involves sex," I said.

"It doesn't have to," Paula said. "But traditionally, that's true. It's more fun, too."

"So... Melissa, was it? You're saying that Melissa wants a genetic donation from me, and she asked you if she could seduce me?"

"Something like that," Paula said. She sounded amused. I was starting to see a downside to her open sexuality.

"I hardly know her," I said. "I'm not sure I can be that intimate."

"I could help," Paula said, feeling around under the covers.

"Who's on your list?" I asked, grabbing her hands to keep them from distracting me.

"They all left for Mars system when the OSA condemned the station."

"Is Kenneth on it? He came back. And he's with Rhonda now. Why else would you girls be talking about it?"

Paula didn't answer right away. "Yes. We don't have to follow this tradition if it bothers you, DeeDee. It's doubtful Fort Falling will suffer a large population drop. Genetic diversity isn't critical like it used to be."

"That's not..." I stopped. Children were important to Paula. The last time I noticed, she had said that seven would be the right number to have. I just hadn't considered there would be more than one father. "I guess Kenneth's alright--but Rhonda? Really? She scares me. I'm not sure I can be intimate with her either."

Paula giggled softly, and said. "You should contact Tre in the morning and make arrangements. Melissa should stay with us for a couple of weeks, at least."

"Tre?"I asked. "Right. The husband."

"And since I won't have you all to myself for awhile," Paula said, and proceeded to distract me. To be honest, thinking about Rhonda had me half distracted already.


Tribal Dance

I was charged and buzzing from the ride, and scanning short range for comm traffic as I rode my board down toward Saturn. I skimmed the ring plane, occasionally scraping a snowball out of boredom. The drifter fleet, if it could be called that, was nowhere in site. I was about to call in for coordinates when I my scan landed on a transmission.

"Bobby's gonna bust us if we don't set these charges right quick. We're the last ones out."

"So what? We're not going anywhere. It's not like Titan Base wants us around. That place is coming apart. And Saturn Station One--Well, I hear they're all crazy. They throw people in oxyfluid main-cores for no reason."

I couldn't help myself. "We are," I said over the comm. "But you have to be pretty offensive to get thrown into a main-core. Usually we just talk you into volunteering."

There were two gasps and a solid laugh. I followed the signal to a respectably sized chuck of ice occupied by three vac-suited human males. They were planting small ice-boosters and shatter charges, and looked to be almost done.

"It's a fairy," one of them said.

"On a grav-board," said another one.

"Like from 'Galactic Academy'?'"

"Maybe. Anyone know what sort of powers a space-fairy has? Hey space-fairy, can you go faster than light on that thing?"

"It only took me three hours to get here, but I left Fort Falling two days ago," I said. "And call me Dizzy." Sending the signal to retract my wings. They folded up as I stepped off the board and touched down in front of them.

"Riddles? We like riddles. What's the answer space-fairy?"

"A question for a question," I said.

"Our favorite rule."

"My question is for the Player," I said.

There was silence for a long time.

"I'm sending you our beacon code now. The Player will speak with you."

I locked into their system and said, "I am DeeDee Jackson, with a message from Fort Falling. We greet the Player and the Troupe, and invite you to our theater, as poor as it may be. Will you play for us? We call for trade, and offer services for all. Our hearts and our minds are open."

"The old words," a new voice said. There was more than a hint of sarcasm in the tone. "I am Mitch, of the Mad Puppet Tribe. We number 200 and more, and would never play a theater uninvited."

"We have reserved a six-port urban lash-up, with crew and full repair facilities, for as long as you need it," I said.

"So," Mitch said slowly. "You made the traditional trek, and said the traditional words, so you could... repair our ships?"

"You ignored our calls," I said. "It had to be done."

"You're going to repair our ships?"

"Only if you can do Hamlet," I said. "Two shows a week for six weeks. Maybe once on the weekend too."

"You believe our ships need repair?"

"All ships need repair. Even the ones which repair themselves," I said. "But this would be more along the lines of a retrofit, and entirely at your discretion."

"Four days," Mitch said, and disconnected.

"Great," One of the drifters said. "Dad's gonna be on the comm in about three minutes, and we're gonna have to explain why we aren't done with this bust and run."

"That's it?" I asked.

"What did you expect?"

"I don't know," I said. "Ceremony."

"No time for ceremony right now, space-fairy Dizzy. My name's Ted. The little one is Fred, and Tre makes three. You can help Tre with those drill cables, and Fred and I will rig the charges."

"Sure. No problem," I said. "Do you play spinball, Ted?"

"Yeah. Love it."

"I'm going to have to teach you how we play it on Fort Falling." I said, and got to work.


Drifter Run

I was hanging out at the Dizzy Pig with Eddie. Paula was singing. Wendy and Tera were there too. I suspect Wendy was with Eddie, and Tera was waiting for Counter-Spin Rick. My mom and dad were being embarrassing in a corner booth.

"There's a drifter tribe mining ice clear over on the other side of the rings," Rick said, taking the seat next to Tera. "I want to drop a couple of slush bombs and send them back to the belt with Submind on board."

"Don't be stupid," Tera said. "Drifters are harmless."

"They steal," Rick muttered.

"Whatever," Tera said. "We need some fresh entertainment around here. No offense to your girl, Dizzy, but she hasn't had time to learn any new songs. Not really."

I shrugged. Paula had been complaining about that same thing for weeks. "Those three comedians aren't getting any fresher. I'm with Tera on this one, Rick."

"Of course you are," Rick said. "For such an angry guy, you're a big, soft, pushover."

"I'm going to request Hamlet," I said. "And I'm not angry. I'm elevated."

"We can hire one of those couples," Tera said. "The sex teachers. Invite them over for a week..."

"Tera," Rick said sharply.

Tera bent over and whispered in his ear. Rick's face heated up, and he gulped his drink.

"I want to scan them," Eddie says. "Build profiles. Maybe do some cultural studies."

"Tag and release," I muttered.

Wendy giggled.

"I just think they like putting on a show," I said. "But it's obvious they aren't afraid of a little work. They're busting ice hard, right now, and they didn't even bother to stop by and steal anything first."

"Then you should go invite them to put on a show," my mom suggested from behind me. "Hamlet you said. Right?"

"What?" I asked, looking around in horror. "That's a two day flight."

I know my mom's expressions, and there was no way I wouldn't be flying out there tomorrow.

"Why not," I said. "Buddy just finish my new grav-board, and I can practice Relativity Two. Only be a couple of hours to me."


Parental Control

My mom grabbed Chuck's wrist, twisted and tugged, and Chuck found himself on tiptoe, face against the bulkhead, with his arm pressed painfully against his back.

"Those chimpanzees wouldn't even be here in your stupid resource pool if it weren't for me, you small minded slob," she hissed. "How long has it been since you tried to breath vacuum?"

Chuck gasped. "I have to make ah... ow ow ow..."

"He's not listening to me, Trenton," my mom complained.

"It can see that, Dear," my dad said.

"Then vacuum probably isn't the answer," I said. "Maybe you should let dad handle this one. After all, he is the labor negotiator in the family."

She snorted in disgust and shoved Chuck hard against the wall before letting him go. It's been a long time since I've seen my mom that pissed off.

"Here's the thing, Charlie," My dad said. "Vicky wants two specific chimpanzees attached to our household as environmental techs and such. You seem to think doing this favor for us would be morally offensive. Why is that?"

"Mo... morally.... No," Chuck said. "That's not... I have them scheduled already. They are due to leave for Pumpkin Village in the morning."

"In which case, they haven't left yet," my dad said.

"But I don't have any replacements," Chuck said. "It will be three days..."

"Are you, or are you not, the Sapient Resources Director for this entire space station?"

"Well, yes, but it's not..."

"Do you like your job, Chuck?" My dad asked. "Maybe you're taking it too seriously? Hum? I could talk to Kelly. Find something less stressful for you maybe."

"Yes. No. I like it just fine. I don't want another job." Chuck said rapidly.

"Weldon and Yana," my dad said. "Is that right, Dear? Weldon and Yana? From Ceres Station. They're such a sweet couple, and they've both taken so well to the Submind symbionts."

"Yes," my mom said. "Yana's a genius with hydro-veggies."

"I can't make them..." Chuck protested weakly.

"I'll talk to them," I said. "I have a way with chimps." Watching my parents play someone was always entertaining, but the show was nearly over.

"I'll have to call Doug again," Chuck said.

"All taken care of," my dad said. "Are we good? No more objections?"

Chuck shook his head and rubbed his arm.

"All settled then," my dad stated, and turned my mother around so he could gently lead her away.

"Don't make me come back here tomorrow," my mom said without turning back.

Chuck turned to glare at me. I shrugged and put on my most annoying smile.


A Stone's Throw

Paula designed a new grav sensor that projects the overlay grid directly into the user's eye. It's amazing. Naturally, when Kim asked me to help search local space for one wayward Simon, I selfishly took the opportunity to play with my new toys.

I scanned the rings for about an hour, drifting on ion-thrusters. The tidal forces made interesting patterns behind my eyes, but the spike I saw fly outwards and towards Sol repeated without pattern. I moved closer to investigate, sliding into the stream of ice and watching for another gravity spike.

Simon was standing on a small ball of gravel and dirty snow. He was throwing rocks with the full force of his Submind vac-suit. It's hard to find rocks in Saturn's rings, but there are dense clusters of gravel where the rocks outnumber the dirty snowballs. Judging from the stream of rocks heading toward the sun, he had been at it for hours.

"What's you doing, Simon?" I asked.

"I'm spitting at Earth."

"Um?" I asked, a bit confused.

"Stupid bastards," Simon said, and threw a rock. He watched it fly for a moment and then reached down to pick up another one. Then he ran a med-scan with his suit glove and muttered something about the Clee.

"Rick is going to drop one of those hyper-bombs on Earth's arctic ship-yards," Simon said, studying the rock.

"Only if they ally with Mars in the upcoming conflict," I said. "And Rick might be a bastard, but he's not stupid."

"Not Rick," Simon said, throwing the rock. "Earth. Stupid, arrogant, soft and fleshy Earth. And the bastards who run the place."

"Oh," I said. "So you are throwing rocks at them?"

Simon snorted and picked up another rock. "Wishing I could go back in time a few hundred years and send these Clee Submind pods into Earth's atmosphere before any of us were born."

"I'd rather you didn't." I said. "I like me just the way I am."

Simon looked at me for a moment and said, "What do you want, Mr. Jackson? I was having a nice cathartic fantasy, and you gotta come around and inject reality. Always with the reality."

"I'm a terrible liar," I said.

"That one sounded convincing."

"See what I mean?" I asked. "Joe was worried about you."

"Joe wouldn't ask you. He'd ask Eddie maybe, probably Wendy, or..."

"Kim." I said. "She said if Joe was worried about you, it was serious."

"It wasn't that serious," Simon said. "Was it? He won't stop trying to convince me those bombs are 'for the greater good.' I got sick of it, is all. Maybe I foamed at the mouth a little."

I nodded. "There's a bunch of people out looking for you. Maybe you should turn on your long-range and tell everyone you're still alive."

When he was done with that, I asked, "Do you really think any of those pods will reach Earth?"

"No," Simon said, throwing another one.

I picked up a rock, skipped the med-scan, and let it fly.


Roll Call, Redux

This is a list of people I've introduced over the course of this personal log, sorted chronologically. Mostly.

DeeDee "dzyjak" Jackson: That's me. This is my log. I talk about myself all the time. My system name is not capitalized.

Chuck Vann: He was my immediate supervisor for a while. He made nice with Kelly and is running her Human Resources Department--actually it's the 'Sentient Resources Department' now.

Doctor Signe Hester: Doc introduced us to Submind. We couldn't have saved the station without her.

Paula Mattson: Doc's main assistant, my serious love interest, and the best singer on Fort Falling.

Eddie "EMF" Crump: Eddie is in charge of security. He took over the data core when we split away from the OSA, and he hasn't let anyone else get close to it. Kelly appears to approve most of the time.

Wendy Hardin: She is the ranking OSA official aboard the station. Except for that, she's not so bad.

Joe Friedrich: Joe asked me to stop calling him 'Brain Eater.' Whatever. He's a math genius and quanta admin for Fort Falling. We don't get along.

Rick "Counter-Spin" Young: Rick doesn't care what people call him. Or if he does, it doesn't happen more than twice.

Curious, the chimp: My best chimpanzee friend. He likes his humor straight-forward and aggressive.

Kenneth "Not Ken" Harvey: Kenny is back. I have no problem calling him Kenneth, but I've found that if I make him explain his name every time he has a question, he doesn't ask as many questions.

Theodore "No Relation" Richards: I'm fairly certain Theodore is related to Kenneth. Theo likes to explain how he isn't related to a number of famous men named Theodore Richards every time I never ask about it, so I've never bothered to ask. He trained with the chimpanzees and became an excellent enviro-tech.

Sheryl Malice: Sheryl is working in my office. As a lawyer, she's bonus oxygen. I assigned her a team of technicians so she would stop calling me. I guess that means we get along fine.

Kelly Grace Smith: If anyone else decides to run for the office, Governor Kelly Grace Smith will probably be re-elected unanimously. No one still believes she is a vac-head.

Rat Bane, the cat: The first feline with a symbiont, as far as I know. He went meta and ran away to Crystal Falls.

Nana: Nana was my mother's mom, and the reason I became a station tech.

Enviro-tech Misty, the chimp: Misty hangs around with Counter-Spin. She appears to like explosions and micro-grav as much as Rick.

Pipster, the cat: Pipster was the first cat I saw with the long and thin magnetic quills from a Submind symbiote.

Miss Hiss, the cat: Miss Hiss comes around every day or two for some treats.

Submind: Thoughts of the Submind is a sentient virus. I have yet to see evidence of what brain-techs call an 'Ego' in the Submind virus. The concept of self just doesn't seem to apply. Since I like my 'self' just the way it is, I don't see how this can be anything but good.

One Track, the chimp: Kelly's Enviro-tech. He has trouble switching focus unless you hit him with something. Not too hard. He is a chimpanzee after all--even if Submind has added some higher brain functions.

Captain Raymond Miller: An ex-troopship captain we had as a prisoner of war for a couple of minutes. He has a dog. Kelly put him in charge of immigration at my suggestion. I suppose Chuck approved of the choice.

Callie McKiern: A friend of my mom's. She's been training chimps her entire life. Her family makes the hormone supplements and foods which keep chimpanzees sane. At one time, according to Callie, male chimpanzees where too crazy to be among humans on a space station.

Comet, the dog: Captain Miller's dog. I would call him a cyborg, but the implants are biological constructs made by Submind, so I'm not sure they count as machines.

The Povel family--Sarah, Ben and two girls: This is Wendy's family. Sarah is her sister. The family ran away from Titan station back when the OSA was trying to convince us Saturn Station One still belonged to the Alliance.

Sandra Quinn: A customs agent who I promoted to head of Customs. I'm the Minister. Who's going to argue.

Sam Tellerwell: A merchant in specialized goods--mostly foodstuff from Earth. Sandra's new husband.

Rita Selmon: Rita likes turtles. She once treated me to a lecture on the universe as an inverted turtle, where everything inside was outside, and only the turtle existed. I think she was messing with me--she's really good at it.

Mini Cee, the chimp: Mini is crew boss of the enviro-techs in Customs. No one gets unauthorized biologicals past her crew.

Vincent K. Selmon: Rita's father. A professor of English Literature with brain scaring. Before he came here to get Submind injections, he tended to confuse himself with a giant beetle. Now, when he's not teaching or helping Governor Smith firm up our political system, he's joy riding his personal vac-suit around like he's a giant beetle.

Rhona Selmon: Vincent's second and youngest daughter. She took care of their father for several months while Rita was here talking to Doc about a cure for Vincent's nerve scaring. She is the scariest tiny-person I've every met.

Four Thumbs: Chimpanzee's choose their own names, so don't blame me.

Ted Stansen: A litigious tourist who will never grace Fort Falling's atmo ever again.

Tesla Cee: A crazy chimpanzee who is currently riding Saturn's atmosphere so he can watch lighting storms. He reminds me of Counter-Spin Rick, except I don't think he likes me.

Fife Tiberman: A hive-mind A.I. robotics expert. Despite his loud and continuous comments about the unproven reliability of bio-technology, Fife didn't waste any time getting a symbiont and a living vac-suit. One of the Three Brains.

Kevin Jaunha: Kevin was a cyborg for several years. Then he came here and had the hardware replaced by Submind wetwear. If you aren't paying attention, he looks %100 human.

Doug Blatt: One of the Blatt's. He has a small trust fund and claims to be a student of gravity. He' worked for Callie for awhile, and made friends with every enviro-tech chimp on board. He has several repair hubs and official paper-work with Governor Smith's office, calling his project "Crazy Doug's Bargain Retrofits."

Simon Green: Simon is a teenager with too many brains. The Mars Republic claims he belongs to them, and they locked up his father to try and keep him in line. Simon's father told him to run, and the kid landed here almost two years later.

Elder Harpo: Doug's long time chimpanzee companion.

The Clee: A race of carbon and silicon based aliens who would have taken over Sol system millions of years ago, except they all died before reaching Saturn. The Submind virus and it's meta-host went dormant until Doc Hester came along to wake them up.

Tera Blatt: Doug's money crazy older sister. Kelly appointed her Fort Falling's Minister of Finance, and Counter-Spin Rick is her future husband.

Crystal Falls: Not a person, exactly, but alive nonetheless. The junk half of Saturn Station One is still in the process of growing into a colony of meta-meme Submind domestic felines, but I'm told it will be amazing in 20 or 30 years.

Zoo Prime: The chimps grew most of it. It's alive. They named it. Doug has his own shipyards now, but he still subcontracts his most delicate designs to the Zoo.

Genitors: The race which spawned the Submind virus. They been gone for billions of years, but they still manifest as meta-memes in five percent of domestic felines with Submind symbionts.

Ksini: The first alien race to encounter Submind. They didn't survive the encounter.

Luige: The last alien race to encounter the Genitors. Neither race survived the encounter. Submind had migrated to several other aliens species by then, mostly on friendly terms.

The Three Brains: A team of A.I. specialist who design and grow prototype space vehicles in cooperation with Submind and Doug Blatt.

Professor Rudy McClain: One of the Three Brains. He designs the 'low level decision' routines. According to Rudy, it's like morality, except beyond my comprehension. He's also a religious and science fanatic, and doesn't really distinguish between the two. Some people find that annoying.

Trenton Jackson: My dad, the labor party politician. Don't get him started.

Vicky Jackson: My mom, the frontier woman. Dad doesn't stand a chance of returning to Ceres station.

Buddy Jenkins: One of the Three Brains. His specialty is self-programmed silicon growth. Reality is something he hears about from time to time.

Laura Kimberly Paine: A well connected Martian political refuge who happens to be Joe's live-in girlfriend. It took me months to figure out who she was.

KamKam 'Kammie' Levaron: An insatiably curious little girl who will probably grow up to own her ship-yards and racing fleet.

Cordie Levaron: KamKam's supportive and befuddled father.

Rachel Levaron: KamKam's supportive and very interested mother.

Bosco and Tieshe: Counter-Spin Rick's favorite war dogs. They have Submind vac-suits, and play fetch with booster-rockets.

Doctor Reginald Querista: Doc's replacement. He hasn't integrated with Submind as much as Doc had, but his once artificial eyes were replaced with Submind duplicates. If the light hits them just right, you can see the tiny gears and multiple lenses. It's a bit disturbing.


Life Speed

I walked into Reggie's lab and poked around until he couldn't ignore me any longer.

"Why are you here? I've got three med-vats to program. I need to concentrate."

"Because Simon is throwing a raging fit about this light-speed thing you've been planning. I would have thought he'd be happy about it" I said, pausing. "Not that anyone thought to tell me anything. You're Submind's representative, or puppet, or something. You didn't think to mention this until you got a new puppet?"

He started giggling. I insult him, and he starts giggling. I'm still trying to decide if his weird eyes are more disturbing then his head full of Doc's memories, and while both seem harmless enough, I'm watching Submind, and everything new the alien virus brings to us, with deep suspicion. Doc thought it was great fun cranking me up about it, but Reggie just tends to start giggling in the middle of our conversations. What's even more annoying is I'm the only person who sets him off like that.

"Should we worry about your sanity?" I asked.

"You are a refreshingly forthright young man," Reggie said, ignoring my last question. "The answer to that is simple. It is possible to travel almost instantaneously from one point to another, but it is limited by distance, and impossible to survive."


"You leave here," Reggie said, marking an imaginary dot in the air. "And you arrive here, a second later. Dead."

"You're kidding?"

"It's been that way for millennia," Reggie said. "I call it the speed of life."

"That would explain Simon's lack of joy, but he was angry. Not happy with you, specifically, in any way."

"There is a small possibility that Mars will drag Earth into this conflict," Reggie said. "We can't allow that to happen."

"Obviously," I said.

"At my suggestion, we are growing a specialized Submind graviton engine into 24 slush bombs. They will be capable of reaching Mars in a matter of minutes, but the engines will die, so they only get one hop. We can use the standard slush bomb thrusters to gain momentum, and then translate into Mars system on the fly."

"I... yeah. I get it now. Simon thinks you actually intend to do this."

"Don't be silly," Reggie said. "If we were to display such advancements at this time, the entire inner system would declare war on us. That would not end well for anyone."

I nodded. "Glad to hear it."


"So, I'll go explain it to Simon--see if I can seal his carbon leak," I said. "Can't have this becoming more than a rumor."