31 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:4

This is the fourth section of the second chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

The next day Malka wasn’t feeling much more settled in, but her alarm had gone off and she always struggled in a new environment until she had got into a new routine; changing time zones hadn`t really helped.  As quick as she could she dressed into her old uniform and headed out. She may not have been issued her new one yet but she reasoned that she could at least try.
The mess was not really what she expected, the only thing it resembled to her was some sort of food court at a shopping centre. Maybe that’s what this used to be, the base had been built in the abandoned parts of this city. Well that was a bit generous on the city, the whole thing had been left abandoned at the great exodus.
She looked around the mess to try and see who would be her workmates, her subordinates, her commanders? No-one looked to particularly stand out except her. Well that was probably for the best, friendship could wait, best to work out what was going on here first.
‘meet up with some people and then come and see me’ Gwen had said. Well that was unlikely. She finished her breakfast and headed to find Gwen’s office.

30 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:3

 This is the third section of the second chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Laden down with bags, dragging a suitcase behind her she finally found the correct door. Trying her card the door opened and she saw what would be her second home for the foreseeable future. The room was large, but sparse, the kitchen in one corner, the bed near the middle, bathroom in another with all its fittings exposed and a few chairs in the corner nominally for any guests. And of course the glass roof staring out into the ocean. Judging by the gloom and the number of levels she had come down this was as good a sign of her status as she would ever see. No bright beautiful ocean scenes for her. At least she had some open space though she thought.
She started to unpack her myriad of bags, she was normally good at packing light, but with this extended posting there were only so many things that could be left in storage. With any luck she’d be able to go and collect the rest of her possessions later, but given her past experience with what these postings were like that was somewhat unlikely.
Exhausted she collapsed on the bed staring at the roof, the ceiling, the window? She wasn’t sure how to think of this great glass structure. She guessed it must have first started as a fashion, but before long it became the cheapest none structural building material and space had been plentiful on these occer constructions. Maybe privacy also became unfashionable, you can tell a lot about a society by its architecture someone had once told her, form dictating function dictating fashion. A society both shaped and was shaped by the building that it was able to build or had already built. People made do with what at one time might have been considered inappropriate or inconvenient and made it the norm. So what did this place say about the society she was joining. Why was she even joining it?
The already gloomy illumination grew even darker as some sort of creature swum overhead. Was that a shark? A whale? She wasn’t sure, maybe classifying large marine animals would become important to her life down here but it hadn’t come up before.
She jumped slightly at the sound of her doorbell ringing, sat up alert in bed she swung her legs around to head towards the door when it opened by itself and a short well built woman strode in.
“Ah, good morning. Malka isn’t it?”
“Erm, yes” She looked this intruder up and down. No uniform, no identification, just a civilian`s fatigues. Otherwise she looked like a rather self confident middle aged Asian woman who judging from her body language was either a commander of people or an arrogant thug; someone who was used to going where she wanted and getting what she wanted. Still unfamiliar with her room she looked around her room to try and see where she had left her pad or if the room had some sort of terminal she could use to signal for help from this intruder. “Who are you?”
The intruder almost jogged towards Malka clearly already more at home as an intruder than Malka was in her own new dwelling “Gwen.”
As if that is enough explanation thought Malka “Still not helping, look who are you and what the hell are you doing helping yourself into my room”
“Well I heard you’d just arrived. I always like to look after the new arrivals.” she paused for a second as if her thoughts were just catching up with her. “You mean you don’t know who I am?”
“No” Malka finally noticed her pad on a half unpacked holdall and started moving slowly towards it “And I’m not used to strangers just walking straight into my room. Especially a room this, exposed.” she glanced towards the toilet and shower in the corner.
“One of the joys of this job I guess, you can’t forward all the information on ahead. Don’t worry you’ll meet everyone tomorrow. Yes, I’m Gwen they’ve assigned you to me as my protege or some such thing they called it.”
Malka blinked a few times “You’re my new superior”
“Uh huh” agreed Gwen.
“Don’t take this the wrong way but I don’t buy it” she had finally managed to slide across towards her holdall with the pad and behind her back reached for the pad. “not unless the military has changed these last few years.”
“Ah we run a different ship here.” Gwen sat herself down on one of the chairs nearest the bed “the militant attitude doesn’t work here”
“Uh huh” agreed Malka. Her fingers had finally reached her pad, noticing the intruder was facing away from her as she paced around the room she quickly tapped out SOS on the screen, some guards would be here soon, she just had to keep this woman talking “Does that explain how you got in here”
“What? Oh no, how sweet. How long since you served?”
“Been a volunteer since I was sixteen.”
“And you’re used to closed quarters?”
“Yes” she wondered if she should be saying Sir, but her story was sounding more and more suspect.
“Ah it’s all barracks down here. Everyone needs to be able to see everyone else.”
Malka’s eyes flicked up to the glass ceiling again, trying to work out how long ago she’d tapped the help code “Not for officers though.”
“Especially for officers.”
“So you’re my new superior then?”
“And you just thought to storm into my private room without any other introduction without any identification, without even a uniform”
“Uniforms can be picked up anywhere, identification was never asked for and privacy is best forgotten here.” Suddenly at the end there menace and authority in her voice became evident. “And of course the guards you called for earlier will know who I am.”
“You saw that?”
“I’d be a poor commander if I didn’t have a good sense of a room. You can’t keep track of a complex battle situation without good senses and you need to be more subtle”
Almost on cue two guards made their appearance at the door “Everything alright in here?” asked the shorter one.
“Who is this woman?” asked Malka.
“Commodore Ikri Gwen” replied the taller guard.
“Thanks” replied Malka “I’m fine I think, sorry about that.”
“No problem” replied the taller guard, he realised he had forgotten something “Captain.”
“Well” said Gwen relaxing back in her chair “that’s always fun.”
Malka stared at Gwen for a moment “Some sort of test I guess?”
“Everything is a test.”
“And I failed.” she stated almost as a fact rather than as a question.
“No, there is no failure as long as you survive and learn.”
“Strange thing to say, what if I get people killed?”
“In this job, we’ll either succeed in unimaginable situations or we’ll fail and all the human race will die with us. Survival and adaptability is all that matters here.”
“You sure you are running this right?”
“Here requires a new way of thinking. We need people to start with a good military mind then we move onwards.”
“Why? What is it you are trying to build here that is so strange?”
“You know why we’re here.”
“Yes but why are you ignoring protocol?”
“Not ignoring; supplementing. Look,” Gwen stood up and headed towards the door “Just get comfortable here, meet up with some people and then come and see me, I think then I’ll be able to explain more.”

29 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:2

This is the second section of the second chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here

Laurence stepped through the hatchway shuffling along with the departing crowds. A brief pause later to inhale the smells of the new station got him a suitcase in the ankle.
“Just watch it okay” he grumbled to the carrier of the suitcase, but was ignored.
“Ah there you are” came Tom’s voice “Thought I’d lost you.”
“No” replied Laurence furrowing his eyebrows. “I thought you were leaving to try out the station’s sights”
“And leave you behind,” Tom laughed in the way that Laurence had come to associate with Tom trying a little too hard. “No you’re my new project what, with you for the duration chap.”
“If it’s all the same to you I’d rather have a look around by myself.”
“No I’ve got to show you some of this place, you’ve never been here before have you?”
“It’s my first time in space, so yes I’m a regular here, just ask any bartender.”
“Oh have they finally got some nightlife here then?” the intention of what Laurence had said completely going over his head.
“No, just, just” Laurence breathed in heavily giving Tom the impression he was mentally counting to ten or some other internal dialogue was taking place. “Just go okay, I’m sure I’ll bump into you tomorrow, or you’ll follow me somewhere.”
“Okay, never let it be said I force myself into places I’m not wanted”
“Why because everyone shouts it at you?” said Laurence, trying to keep his voice neutral
“See” said Tom chirpily “You’re already kidding around with me we’ll be fast friends soon”
“Goodbye” he replied flatly.

28 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:1

This is the first section of the second chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here 

Still at the point of setting up the context and the technology of this world. The plot does get going soon enough, I promise, well it's kind of the end of this chapter before the world is properly set up enough to start moving the pieces around, but trust me on this it does get going...
The tug dragged the orbiter in towards the space station. While the orbiter was perfectly capable of doing this itself protocol and tradition dictated that where possible you used a tug so that there were two ships in case anything went wrong. It was also a hangover from the days when the orbiter couldn’t afford the weight of the extra propellant. Since the station had been built though a further modification had been made to make this docking as safe as possible. The design of the station was a classic Sanford torus with the docking section in the middle of a habitation ring. The docking section at the hub rotated along with the rest of the station. This in past time had made docking a precision manoeuvre that required computer assistance in most cases. After more than one malfunction over the years a minor modification was made to the station so that a number of long flexible booms out in front of the docking bay which a docking craft could grab hold of and then use a mixture of the elasticity of these structures and hoisting itself towards the docking bay to use the momentum of the space station to accelerate the docking ship up to the correct rotational speed. Some argued it was a waste of time, some said it had more points of failure than the original method. Some said the now reduced accident rate was simply a result of the other procedures implemented after the particularly bad accident that caused the booms to be constructed in the first place. Regardless the station showed its age and its history as the tug captured one of the booms and hoisted itself into the docking bay.

[SFAP] Comments

So far, not comments from anyone. But I'm not here for anyone else, I'm here for me and as the description says to get these stories out of my head.
I've been told that putting stuff up here harms the future publication prospects and that made me stop for a while to think should I carry on.
I see two options:
1) The stories actually are good and worth publishing. At which point I just write & publish the next one(well the planning is quite advanced now, first chapter of TTOC is almost done, and chapter outlines are in place ready to start the writing proper).
2) The stories are rubbish and not worth publishing. At which point I carry on what I'm doing and no harm done.

Either way the solution is I publish the next chapter. Onwards!

17 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 1:14

This is the final section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
Wow is all I can say, it has reached the end of the first chapter seemingly overnight. To carry on posting or not?

[EDIT] The start of the second chapter is now here

James watched the grunts file into the ship and waited for the echo to die down.  
“You shouldn’t think of them as grunts you know”, said Alice in a hushed voice.
“Permission to speak freely granted” said James trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
“I mean it,” said Alice, straightening herself up so that she could look down on him, “they’re neither drafted nor mercenaries, just volunteers”
“And if we had all the production facilities working then the jobs they’re doing could be done by the most basic AI and robots” with this James turned around and started walking away,
Alice blinked a few seconds to work out how to respond to that and followed after him “Then what would be the point of us being out here?”
“Someone has to be here, otherwise we’re no better than the Habitat”
“Fine you talk about the purpose of man and the nobility of real work when you’re working in a mine seventy hours a week, as long as you’re the commander and thinking of them as grunts does it matter to you that they’re flesh and blood as long as you see them as simple resources”
“What is up with you?” James asked “You’re not normally like this.”
She stepped in front of him to stop him walking and he almost ran into her. “They’re all going to die you know.”
“Not necessarily, we could win.”
“At which point we have to expand the war and they die and we lose again.”
“What would you prefer? They volunteered for a reason.”
“I know” Alice turned around to take a look around the bay “I’m going to miss this place.”
“It’s sill not too late to pull out you know.”
“I couldn’t live with the consequences of that it’s just…” Alice’s voice tailed off.
“What? You’re lost in thought I can tell.”
“I’m just thinking about the next few weeks. We’re off on trip half way round the solar system, surrounded by more weapons than food propelled by a jury rigged home made breeder reactor come rocket engine. It’s not my fault if my cowardice gets the better of me.”

16 March, 2011

The feeling so far

Well if I judge myself by the traffic to this blog then I am worthless. However it's good to get this out of me.
Yesterday I finished re-reading the whole of SFAP and started work on the next book. At the moment it has the working title The Tyranny Of Convenience, but that could well change, since the working title of SFAP was Newbie Drive, you never know.
I'm tempted to give a snippet of that first section that I wrote since I have to have that first section of the next book explain how I left SFAP to any new readers. It was quite fun to find a way to tell the ending events of the last book in a few hundred words. Of course I have been left with a problem that in my story outline for SFAP it required ending with certain pieces on the chessboard in one set of positions and very quickly in TTOC I have to move them into another set of positions and I spent a lot of last night trying to figure out how to do that. I think I have a way to do it, but how to do it in a good narrative, that I have yet to work out.
The exercise in re-reading SFAP before starting on TTOC was well worth it, although it has made me re-think how I post SFAP. Chapter 2 worked quite well if read in one go, by Chapter 9 I couldn't stop until I reached the end, but there was a lesson there in getting the world established and the pace of the story up. I don't fancy re-writing SFAP in light of this, but I'll certainly bare it in mind going forwards.
I have been thinking this that SFAP has a number of aspects that are not explored as much as I'd like. Without spoiling too much I'd like to explore life on the habitat more and there's a whole set of issues around morals, money and crime that I can only hint at. As usual I could fix these problems but I want to get this story out of me, I want to tell this story and in many respects exploring these peripheral issues while fascinating to me and the most interesting part of the thought experiments that create this world scenario are hard for me to find a way to tell convincingly.
I worry that I am sacrificing quality of telling, the quality of novel to satisfy the driving force that gets me to write this - that of getting the damn stories out of my head. I worry that at the moment though it's all plot and exposition and very little character development.
I'm reminded of a character building exercise, describe the character by their characteristics not by their role. That is a strong character would be described as a rogue, a romantic, a lovable scoundrel, a warrior poet; a weak character would be described as a senator, a pirate. I know this is important because unless you care about the characters then you don't care about anything else that happens but I know I'm not great at building them.
Ah well something to work on going forwards.

[SFAP] Chapter 1:13

This is the thirteenth section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

“You know what the first thing I saw when I first came onto the Habitat. Well when we got down past the lift and at the garden section?”
“Go on”
“Well you have to remember this was the first time anyone had seen it. I was the first human to step into an alien ecology and see the native life there. What did I see? What hippity hopped up to us? Rabbits! Bloody Rabbits! Oh for a second I was astonished, oh so hopeful, parallel evolution I thought, maybe alien life won’t be so weird after all. Then what did I see? A pigeon! Worse than that, a pigeon that was struggling to fly.”
“What drunk or something?”
“Looked like it, and that was the end of any hope of investigating a new alien world, these were clearly animals that had recently been brought to this environment from Earth.”
“The birds couldn’t fly because of the centrifugal gravity, it confused their senses?”
“Exactly, the radius of the spin was just too small. Humans can’t notice it but we don’t have to fly. So a bigger radius is needed. Well that’s half the point of this whole escapade. Goodness knows how the bees are coping, I hear there was something about introducing an artificial magnetic field or something to do with the shield that protects us from the solar flux, but you know how secretive the Habitat is about those sort of things.”
“It doesn’t talk to you about these things, you’re supposed to be designing a new environment with it.”
“The technical details of that are not something it seems to want to concern me with. I think it sees me as some sort of glorified gardener, or maybe it just likes to keep its bag of tricks hidden.”
“Or maybe it has no bag of tricks and it doesn’t know how to work around the problem”

15 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 1:12

This is the twelfth section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

Tom found himself staring out the window again. What seemed a small speck in the distance slowly grew to be a recognisable outline then he could see it. The classic rotating wheel space station with the hub in the centre for ships to dock in looked like home. He told himself he’d been back on Earth too long. Out here was where he shone. This was where he mattered. That said he looked forward to trying out the improvements in his physique that his training on Earth had given him.
He thought back to the journey from the port, the back crushing lurch as they were hurtled down the maglev, the stomach wrenching drop between leaving the maglev and the main engines started. He’d almost screamed at that point, several people had. Then the gradual but always powerful climb to the upper atmosphere, then again the heart sickening moments as the carrier’s engines stopped and separation occurred. All the time Laurence was talking at him, yes at him was the right description; going on about mass fractions and the hydrogen scavenging the oxygen from the atmosphere filling the orbiter’s tanks or something. He tried to let this wash over him. Then the rocket’s engines fired, and he knew they were off into orbit. Breathtaking though they were with their force he always felt the power of a rocket pushing him into his seat reassuring, as long as he was unable to comfortably move in his seat he was safe, when he couldn’t feel anything then he worried. The reassuring roar of the engines had long since cut off and Tom was looking forward to them kicking in again and guiding them into the reassuring womb of the space station. He saw the occasional puff of steam of what he assumed was manoeuvring jets keeping then on course. He watched longingly at the space station just wanting this all to end. In the distance he saw a small speck leave the now much larger space station. Clearly whatever that was it was heading back to Earth.
It was all Tom could do not to yelp as the speck that was the other ship got larger and seemed to be on a collision course.
“That’s not really a window you know” chimed in Laurence
“It’s actually just a TV display. There’s not even a camera seeing what you think you’re seeing. It’ll be a 3d reconstruction of what’s going on out there.” Laurence could see he was being looked at funny. “Seriously, why put forty or so cameras on the outside, just put two or three and then reconstruct a virtual representation of it and then play it back to people. Hey don’t look at me like that, long established fact that people feel claustrophobic in a tight space such as this. They tried to get rid of windows in the early airplanes to save weight, but people felt too uncomfortable. It would be stupidly dangerous or at least way too heavy to do that for Earth to orbit transports, so we have the virtualisation solution you see here. The first attempts of course tried surrounding the entire cabin with the effect. But then it became obvious it was an illusion. With the fake windows people buy the illusion and feel comfortable.”
“You’d tell a child Father Christmas doesn’t exist wouldn’t you?”
“Sorry I got the impression you were curious about how things worked to get rid of your phobias.”
“Not about the support mechanisms that keep my phobias at bay”.
Tom yelped as the ship lurched
“God you’re jittery, that was just the tug docking with us to take us in”
“Not my fault if I’m bally nervous.”
"You were the one who introduced yourself to me remember. Maybe there's a reason I was travelling alone"

[SFAP] Chapter 1:11

This is the eleventh section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Sort one today, so since the next one is quite exposition heavy, I'll post that one too.

The world continued to fall, or at least the part of it that Martin was sat on did.
“That really does feel weird”
“Be glad you’re not a bird or a rabbit, just look at them” Martin pointed to birds that were trying to get back into their nests in the tress but kept missing them.
“The rabbits look like the old moon landing astronauts. They’re bounding ridiculously”
“Well we’re now down to lunar gravity, will be for most of the rest of today, add into that the acceleration to speed up the rotation and we’re going to have some confused critters out there.”
“Guess that explains why I’m having to lean slightly too”
“Anyway are you going to sit down and join me or just stand there?”
“Sit? On the grass”
“Would you prefer the sand dunes?”
“No no, it’s just there’s a reason I don’t come out here, I’ll get my trousers wet and dirty”
“And you’ll drop them in a basket when you get home and they’ll be cleaned, come on. I insist.”
“Fine, but if the drones start to revolt because of my dirty washing I’ll blame you”
“So why are you here, keeping the old man company? Huh?”

14 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 1:10

 This is the tenth section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here
What I will say here is apologies for the content of this section. It was literally the first thing I wrote. Well apart from another short story yet to be posted. I think this is my lowest point of the book, but I couldn't remove it for sentimentality sake...

Tom stepped off the train, “So I’ve been meaning to ask you since I decided to seek you out for this trip” said Tom pocketing his notebook “what exactly is m3 class?”
“I know I keep saying this,” Said Laurence struggling to get his bags onto the platform “but not to be rude, if you’re so interested in this sort of thing, why didn’t you study this at school? Or even easier look it up wherever the hell you got all my personal information from?”
“Wouldn’t know where to start for this kind of thing, besides much more sociable to ask someone, bit of human connection eh what. So, e3 class?”
“Where did you get that then?”
“From the ticket, it seemed to be something we have in common”
“And you say you’ve travelled from Earth a lot and you’ve not come across this before?”
“No, this is only my second trip, first was when I was a wee child”
“Oh, I got the impression you were a seasoned traveler”
“I am, but between the various stations, although I try and avoid the Habitat”
“Oh I see, well by e3 you mean the flight class designation,” Tom nodded at this question “Maglev three Gee acceleration.” Laurence saw again that increasing familiar blank look on Tom’s face. ”The first stage of the trip into space involves acceleration the ship down a maglev track. Different passengers and cargo can cope with different acceleration profiles. Pure cargo has a peak acceleration of up to twenty Gee. That’s twenty times normal gravity, so approaching two hundred meters per second per second. Do you know what I mean by that?”
“I know what a Gee is, you forget my calling in life.” Said Tom turned and walking off towards one of the station exits.
“I’m not sure I ever knew what your calling in life was” said Laurence, following Tom towards the exit.“You did interrupt me as soon as I started asking about you”.
“Ah Low Gravity Acrobatics. Pretty much self explanatory except that you can also mix in dance and other weight disciplines. So yes” said Tom for the first time with some scorn in his voice,”I’m very familiar with the principles of acceleration.”
“Fine,” Said Laurence taking a brief rest by sitting on his bags waiting for a trolley to find him. “Anyway most humans and quite a bit cargo can’t cope with that so there are other profiles, ten Gee cargo, five Gee, three Gee and one Gee. Five Gee is hardly used these days, it used to be very popular in the early days when only the chosen few would ride into space now it’s a bit of an anachronism. You and I both being on the younger and fitter side of the population can ride the three Gee option, there is also the one Gee option for the sub-normal population. For those who struggle with even that there’s the T option that doesn’t use the maglev at all and therefore cuts out the most strenuous part of the journey. Of course that’s a much more expensive option” Finished with his explanation he got off his bags so that the trolley could load them.
Tom stood back himself to let the trolley do its work and load the bags onto itself. “What so we get to be under stress and at greater risk to save a bit of cash? Glad they tell you this in advance.”
The two of them both headed off together. “Not true. The more you accelerate on the Maglev the safer you are. It’s the more expensive e1 trips that are more dangerous and heaven help you if you’re on a T flight and things start to break. No once you’ve got up to a decent speed then you’ve options like gliding to a landing. If you’ve not picked up enough speed by the end of the maglev though you’d better hope your engines are fully working because otherwise you’re going for a swim or colliding into a mountain range.
“Look” Said Laurence carrying on talking “don’t worry there’s not been a fatality on these things for a good decade. Yes it’s the most dangerous form of transport we have, but one death in every 2 million people launched isn’t at all bad. Look do you worry about contraceptives failing, or being killed by a meteorite or the train we were on derailing?”
“Yes, yes and yes.” said Tom quite flustered, “Things out of my control. Come on I’m the kind of guy who worries about the robots revolting and making us work in sand and carbon mines. So go on then, while you’re in the process of scaring me; what should I expect from this flight then?”
Laurence grabbed Tom and pushed his way through the other people making their way to the spaceport to get to a window, “Okay look out the window there. What you can see of the ship is the carrier craft. On top of that that you can’t quite see from this angle is the orbital craft that actually takes us up to the first station. The carrier craft takes us up into the upper atmosphere and more importantly in the final burn takes us up to just over mach five. All the way it is very much like a traditional aircraft, air breathing and supported aerodynamically but the largest and fastest such craft ever built. The orbiter then separates and accelerates eventually up to orbital speed. The orbiter being purely a rocket propelled craft, lifting body and able to therefore make a partially powered controlled descent at any part of its flight.”
“There must be more efficient ways of doing it than that elaborate complex scheme?”
“It comes down to what you were saying earlier though Tom, it’s all about the safety. The system is massively over engineered so that countless things can go wrong and there still be a number of different ways to escape. For example should something go wrong on the maglev section then brakes can be applied. Alternatively if it is going too fast for the brakes to work the carrier craft can start its own engines to take off as a normal plane would and then land at the runway. If that fails if there is enough speed then the carrier craft can glide to an emergency landing in the emergency landing area to the east of here. If that won’t work then the orbiter can separate at any point in the flight and make an emergency powered takeoff and landing itself. If that fails then the entire passenger section is jettison-able and has its own escape rockets and parachutes.
“Of course this little trip of yours will burn more fuel per person than you would otherwise normally use in a decade of normal living, but water and energy is cheap so who’s counting?”
“Well all the waste heat can’t be good”
“Indeed, but we’re working on that one” said Laurence smiling.
“What do you mean?”
“Ah, I thought you’d have known this one from all your research on me. My physics doctorate was based upon an enhanced refrigeration process. In layman’s terms we were producing a semiconductor junction that emitted infra-red radiation. Now they’re common as muck, but this one had the curious property that we managed to get it to actually scavenge heat from the surrounding area. There was a lot of concern that this messed with the laws of entropy, but my doctorate was based on the principle that this didn’t break the basic laws of the universe because there was an effect where the energy carriers were being swept into a concentrated low energy state, analogous to what you get in a bipolar transistor.”
“Not a clue what you said there”
Laurence chuckled, “Doesn’t surprise me, what use do you have for basic quantum physics, it’s not as if it’s important for your life. It only affects every single aspect of your life with every piece of technology you use.”
“Come on what about you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I bet you’re totally ignorant of music and art and all the things that matter.”
“How do they matter?”
“What is the point in life if we don’t enjoy it?” said Tom, somewhat louder than he planned, “Music and art are what brings pleasure to life, why else strive to have more people or reach to the stars if we don’t bring joy and beauty with us?”
“Finished?” asked Laurence
“Not at all.” Said Tom indignantly
“Well let’s just say I agree with you. I can’t see any flaws in your argument and I’ve no care to have a discussion that better philosophers have done a thousand times.”
“Jolly good, time for a drink then before the flight?”
“Yeah why not?”

11 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 1:9

 This is the ninth section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here

“Hey Jo”
“Yes?” he said looking up from his terminal
“Ready to go?”
“Near as damn it.” He closed the terminal down “Few more hours for last checks then we can launch the first ship”
“Second ship” corrected James
Jo interrupted “Ready to go yes. We’ve had that one ready for the last three weeks, come on James you know this.”
“I know, but it’s my job to worry” said James, “Alice spoken to you yet?”
“Only to say you’d chickened out of speaking to everyone”
“Would you want to hear me ramble on? Would it really help?”
“You’re not helping now I’ll put it that way”
“Fine I’ll behave like a good captain, head to my cabin and stay out of everyone’s way.”
“Best place to be, you’re not going to cause trouble and we know where to find you when we need to blame someone, now be off with you”. He paused briefly before adding “Sir.”

10 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 1:8

 This is the eighth section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here

The world fell, he knew what to expect, he had experienced free fall and low gravity before but it was so very very long ago. But the feeling of the entire world underneath you shifting, everything you knew falling was hard to cope with when all your reference points remained the same, falling without moving.
Strange how the human body both adapted to this new environment yet was still perpetually unnerved by it as well. Everything familiar, everything wrong.
“I can see why they were trying to warn us.”
“Yeah,” agreed Martin, “doesn’t help though does it?”
They sat in silence for a short while.
“Do you ever wonder why the Habitat does all this”
“All what?” Martin asked turning towards her
“This” she waved her hands around vaguely “made all of this for us”
“I've wondered that ever since we first found it. The how it does it is enough of a mystery, but the why is the true puzzle I can’t get my head around.”
“Hell of a mystery, why build a habitat big enough for six billion people, then expand it even further. What do they want?”
“You might as well ask, who are they, we’re none the wiser to finding that out either.”
“Ask the conspiracy theorists, they’ll have it as a breeding habitat for food”
“Or for soldiers for a war”
“Says a lot about what humanity would do this type of thing for if you ask me and that doesn’t reflect well on us.”
“Maybe they’re a machine intelligence and view human life like we see robots or cattle”
“Will you stop?” he punched her gently on her arm
She scowled at him and carried on, “Maybe they’re short of entertainment and like watching our lives.”
“You’re not that interesting”
“Maybe this is an advanced party and they just want our trust”
“Yeah, and maybe Klaatu is going to show up any moment.”
Her eyes closed for a moment while she looked up the reference, “We’re not that lucky.”
“Look do you know any more about why they’re doing this?”
“Don’t know, I never met them.”
“You’ve spoken to the Habitat though?”
“Yeah" agreed Martin "and was it a machine intelligence, the voice of one of a million hidden operators or something else, I just don’t know. All I know was it was factual and to the point.”
“You didn’t ask it out for a date then to try and interrogate it”
“You think that’s it? We’ve just not made the right moves to get it to open up? I suppose it could just be very desperate for a date and is therefore taking four billion people out to dinner every night.”
“Look you were here at the beginning.”
“No” said Martin firmly “I was here when humanity discovered it. We don’t know how long it took to build, but we do know that you can’t build a space station over one thousand kilometres long in a rush. We know that it grew in the five years it took to get here in the first place, and we know that it only just got itself habitable in time for us to visit.”
“It was waiting for you.”
“For all of us. I sit here and I see this and all I can think is that it wants us to be here. Now does it want us off Earth to save the planet? Does it want us off a single planet and spread around the solar system? I don’t know and that scares me.”
“But you’re here” she picked up a pebble from the ground and threw it against the stars to watch it ricochet off the transparent wall.
“Yes I’m here. Half the time I’m not sure if I’m here to keep an eye on it, or here to watch the end or maybe I’m here to watch the beginning, or here because I feel I started it; here because I have a destiny to figure out what is going on; maybe I’m here because I’ve nowhere else to go; maybe here is better than Earth; maybe here is just where I’ve been offered a chance like no other. I don’t know and strangely enough I think I’m happy with that.”
“Take life one day at a time.”
“Never was someone to do that, instead let’s say I am willing to sacrifice confusion and unease now for a better view of tomorrow.”
“This been on your mind a lot.”
“Well we’ve been waiting for this expansion, I know there’s more planned, but here we are.”

09 March, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 1:7

 This is the seventh section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here

“Anyway,” said Laurence turning away from the window, “since you now seem curious of current events what they’re protesting about is the expansion of this spaceport, a new magway is needed and that’ll require effectively cutting a hole through the east mountain range, and with the underground tanks and charge farms needed there’ll be a new range created to the west. They’re saying that the local environment will be shot and national weather patterns changed.”
“How on earth is anyone allowing this to go ahead?”
“How do you think these mountain ranges that they’re trying to protect got here in the first place?” Laurence saw the blank expression and sighed, “A spacecraft requires a lot of fuel to get to orbit. You need to store that fuel somewhere before takeoff. A previous generation of environmentalists forbid these tanks to be built above ground for environmental and safety reasons so they got buried underground. As if doing that stuff underground adds to anyone’s safety. Well nothing comes for free so the material they removed for these tanks, and the power stations and their support equipment, and the maintenance bays and the hangers and all the other million things you need to run a national spaceport needs to go somewhere; so these mountains were created turning a desert into a new wildlife haven. Weather patterns were altered to bring precipitation, sorry, rain and snow here to support this new oasis and suddenly all is good. Of course now fast forward things a decade or five and we’re back at square one. The new plans even mean that otherwise wasted water will be brought here and more of that wilderness dessert will become a haven; but no, anything but change.”
“That is a big change to the environment though.”
“And that is where man is unique. Most creatures adapt themselves to the environment, granted some animals use tools, but no other animal adapts the environment to themselves. Not since the first life forms on the planet created the oxygen atmosphere with their waste products has anyone changed the world so much as mankind and at least we do it with a clear intent. Yes we get it wrong, but at least we try and make things better as opposed to those first life forms whose waste products accidentally gave us the atmosphere we now completely depend on.”
“Sorry you got me on a bit of a rant there, I’m just fed up of all the work we do being taken for granted at best and flatly opposed the rest of the time.”
“Onto space then?”
Tom and Laurence sat in silence for a short while before Tom jumped in “So what are you going up there for then?”
“Well I know you’re not off to the Habitat, you’re off to Saturn like me, so why are you doing it. You a construction kind of guy? I did my research, but they were very tight lipped about what you were off to do.”
“You could say that I build things yes.” replied Laurence
“Why? What do you build?”
“The future.”
“Nice, very cryptic.” Tom punched at his pad for a few seconds “Oh I see.”
“What?” exclaimed Laurence
He showed his pad to Laurence “You should have said.”
“How the hell did you find that”
“Off the public financial records.” Tom kept on fiddling with his pad “All travel tickets list how they’re paid for and who pays them. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before, so you’re working for them? Interesting.”
“I see” Laurence grumbled “So you know so much about me, what do you do? Where are you going?”
“Saturn of course, and don’t try and change the subject.”
“Yes but it’s a big place, where are you going and why?”
“I told you, I’m an LG athlete slash performer.”
Laurence grimaced at Tom “At a science station?”
“No, for the hotel they’re building at Saturn”
“They’re building a hotel?”
“Yeah the Jupiter one fell off a bit after the military moved in so the hope is Saturn will do the job.”
“First I heard of it.”
“Why would you know?”
Laurence coughed a second “Good question. I’ll just stick to being a student.”
Tom eyed him up “You do that. Look, I’m just there to try and get the facilities right, part of the entertainment staff you know but it’s also good for my training. That’s why I’ve been on Earth you know, muscle building”
“I get the impression you’re not paying attention”
“Not really no I’m just thinking about the trip to orbit, been a long time since I was on one of those babies”
“It can’t have been more than three or four years, they don’t let under eighteens on those things”
“No,” relied Laurence “they don’t, so it must have been more recent than I thought.”
“Are you sure you’re alright chap?”
“Me I’m fine, just rude that’s all.”
Tom shook his head and went back to looking up information on Laurence.