28 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:22

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

“You know I’m not sure you’re really getting into this simulation” commented Gwen.
“Well as you said it’s a simulation. Isn’t part of the point of these things to encourage you to treat combat as part of the daily routine. You’re supposed to be calm.”
“Indeed, it’s just unusual for me to see someone so blase about these situations.”
“Let’s see what happens when the shooting starts shall we?”
“There’ll be shooting?” asked Gwen
“You tell me.”
“How can I? There are unknown aliens. They could just be friendly and misunderstood.”
“Or knowing military scenarios whatever way I treat them then they’ll be the opposite.”
“Could be.”
“Well we’ll find out soon enough, they’re coming to match us in orbit”
“I’ll leave this to you.”
“How big are they then?”
“Volume wise about ten times our size. Mass wise about three times.”
“Big then but not gargantuan. Shame the Kurchatov didn’t make it, it would have dwarfed them.”
“It does look to be more habitation space than weapons placements. Depends what those weapons are though.”
“Still trying. There’s no obvious places to fire the comms laser and they’re not responding to radio traffic.”
“Any ports we could send someone over to dock to?”
“Not that we can see.”
“Okay can we do anything to make our docking port more obvious.”
“Okay, got it” continued Malka “Get two marines to suit up. Get them out an airlock, no better yet the cargo bay with a door and waving towards it, then get some spotlights or something to light it up.
“That’ll be exposing our soft underbelly to them.”
“True, but we’ll also have our finger on the trigger too. If they can rip through us on their first shot at this close quarters then we never stood a chance anyway.”
“On it”
Malka leaned back in her chair lost in thought.
“You think you have this covered don’t you?” asked Gwen
“Nope, but I think you’re going to get me somehow. Sometimes the best thing to do with an ambush is to walk straight into it.”
“They could just be playing the friendly if ignorant visitor card to lull you into a false sense of security. Especially since you have no backup, you are Earth’s only defense.”
Malka ignored her, “How many propulsion units do we have left in the hold?”
“A couple of thousand.”
“Good, that’s all that matters then.”
“What are you thinking?”
“Can we jettison a few dozen? Low velocity but away from us?”
“Should be able to”
“Can we remote activate them or do they have to be timed?”
“Remote is possible but it would have to be them all at once.”
“Perfect, do it, deploy them I mean, not activate them. Try and get a wide spread around their far side.”
“If they realise what you’re doing.”
Malka interrupted “And they’re friendly then it’s no problem”
“Marines are in place Sir” reported the first officer.
“Good, set them to it”

27 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:21

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

The chair under Malka lurched. A second later it did it again and again. She wasn’t sure if it was any better that the whole room was doing the same.
“Is the real thing expected to be this bad?” she asked
“Probably worse” came the reply from a random lieutenant. “A harder slam and then no recoil. That might make it better though no-one really knows.”
“Great, so what’s the scenario?”
At this Gwen chipped in from her observation post “There is no scenario.”
“Fine” sighed Malka, “What are the known data?”
“A new star appeared yesterday on an extra solar trajectory” replied one of the tracking officers “Engine signature implies a fusion drive, probably a ramscoop type system running on collected and stored hydrogen.”
“Anything else?”
“Lots, they bombed the moon this morning.”
Malka looked at the young tech with some scorn in her eyes “Bombed the moon?”
“Aye, some sort of singularity. It dropped in intensity from its departure from the ship right until it impacted and melted a few thousand square meters. That wasn’t so bad, but the moon quakes have caused serious damage to the settlement.”
“Any casualties?”
“No, but that’s more through fortune than good design”
“Okay maybe they’re trying to soften up our outer defenses. Anything else?”
“They’re carrying on their braking manoeuvres. They appear to be using a circular corrected pattern to strafe our communications satellites”
“Explain, I’m not familiar with that technique.”
“Well the exhaust of an effective engine is a stream of very high energy particles. If you’re heading to a planet and need to brake you have to thrust in the direction of the planet. On a drive this powerful the exhaust would be deadly to the planet so you don’t thrust directly at the planet if you want the planet to be useful after your arrival, so you normally thrust not directly at the planet but slightly away from it. You normally set your tradjectory to be slightly off on your approach so by the time you’ve thrusted off axis then you’ve done your correction burn and are nicely in orbit without damage to anything”
“Except they seem to be trying to do maximum damage to our orbital infrastructure.”
“Correct, they seem to have targeted dead centre of Earth and are effectively strafing progressively each orbit. We’ve lost all of the geostationary satellites and three space stations. The LEO automated platforms are still in tact, but it’s only a matter of time. As they get closer they’re attacking lower and lower orbits.”
“Any other hostile action?”
“They have not attempted communication”
“Have we?”
“Yes, although it is possible they’re not making it past the noise generated by their exhaust.”
“When do we meet them?”
“At current rates of acceleration they’ll be in high orbit in a little over an hour.”
“And how long before we can meet them there”
“We’ll be in place in a little over twenty minutes”
“Good, hopefully they’ll have seen us”
“It’s almost impossible they won’t have seen us coming.”
“What support do we have?”
“None, the other two Professors that were launched failed at takeoff.”
“That figures.”
“Never mind. Let’s go meet these guys.” Malka thought for a moment “Any chance of launching any more Professors?”
“No,” interrupted Gwen “They’re held in reserve”
“Just me and unknown hostiles.”

26 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:20

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

Martin didn’t know what he should expect, a calm serene landscape showing raw nature? Raw metal and rock waiting to be tamed by life? Massive industrious activity? Whatever he should have expected he wasn’t prepared for the surreal mix of sights he saw in those first few days out on the plate. The first day passed quickly enough, it seemed that near the entrance the Habitat had concentrated on creating an almost English country garden look. Flowers abounded, confused at how quickly this had happened he quizzed the Habitat through one of the drones. Apparently the Habitat had been to thousands of garden centres across Earth and bought out much of their stock. An unusual tactic for the Habitat which until now had always raided the wild for its specimens. Apparently the new plates were too large a scale for this without causing significant damage to the newly released ecosystem on Earth so artificial cultivation it was.
Towards the end of the first day and start of the second day of exploration the landscape began to change. The Habitat had clearly started to run out of soil that it had either imported from Earth or produced over the past few years and you could see the evidence of the plans that Martin and the Habitat had formulated together. Algae had been very easy to grow in huge quantities with minimal dependencies and so over the past few years the Habitat had grown hast quantities of it. Much of it had been used for compost to try and produce as much soil as possible, but even with the seemingly unlimited resources the Habitat could call on there was a limit to how much quality soil they could produce. This left them with a simple solution; sand was available in effectively unlimited quantities as were water, sunlight and algae so here the landscape started to change into what Martin dubbed the Great Experiment. It was important the great experiment started next to the country garden, they needed a rich ecosystem that was known to be stable and reliable and filled with their best specimens next to the chaos that the great experiment would cause. Martin would have liked to have started with trees or at the very least shrubs to form a barrier of some form, but established trees were too hard to transplant in any significant quantity and the ground they would have to grow in was too poor for saplings to start. Even calling it ground Martin felt was too much of a compliment, sand mixed with dead slightly decomposed algae. Yes organic matter was essential but this was an act close to desperation. Small scale trials had shown that with careful seeding and control this mix could prove a very successful base for grasses and even - with extensive irrigation – suitable for more useful crops such as corn, vines and even certain root vegetables; but as a base for an entire ecosystem it was severely lacking. Ahead of him was the first of the fields that they had planned. Although in preparation for this they had in the city been able to produce a few thousand square meters of grass in artificial conditions. This had been transplanted to a number of fields and laid out in what resembled a checkerboard pattern. Small squares of grass were surrounded by large amounts of the sand algae mix. The idea was that these islands of life would then be able to spread rapidly, although on this field there was little being left to chance and Martin could see drones flying around spreading grass seed over the barren ground. Strangely enough at least from Martin’s eyes was the encouraging of what he considered weeds. Dandelions and nettles were being planted by a number of drones.
Martin had encouraged the Habitat to import animals into this environment, in his mind’s eye he could picture a heard of cows being unloaded from a cattle truck. However that was foolishly ambitious. When the rabbits from the city’s park – and park was all it was compared to this – discovered this vast expanse then the ecosystem would have a shock. At that part of course you could start to introduce predators, but until the plant ecosystem was more secure that seemed foolhardy.
Retiring below ground for the night Martin saw that just like what he thought of as the City was repeated underground here too. In this case though the Habitat had clearly built this in a rush, or at least not bothered to decorate the cityscape here. Vast open caverns led into one another with no distinguishing features other than transport tubes linking them together. Each of these spaces could hold an entire earth city big enough for millions in itself and they were all as far as Martin could tell empty. He picked one cavern at random to rest for the night and before he could ask the Habitat brought in what must have been pre-fabricated housing units and around him within minutes a house was built.
In the morning he awoke to a new cityscape fully populated with empty houses, a strange ghost city looking not so much abandoned because it was too new for that, but instead unwanted. The Habitat later explained that it had done this because a new city was needed somewhere eventually and once it had broken virgin ground in this chamber to make his rest home for the night then it might as well have completed the city.
On the third day Martin headed above ground again and further out the problems of this rapid expansion and the various things tried in the great experiment became very obvious. Here at this greater distance out the lack of biological matter was really becoming obvious sand and rocks dominated the landscape. Occasional areas still had the algae mixed in and seedlings planted, but it was obvious here just how artificial it was. No attempt had been made to hide the irrigation tubes and the occasional sparse vegetation although healthy, looked very alone.
The intense irrigation intended to give any vegetation the maximum benefit and to compensate for the excess of sand was having a disturbing effect on the ground out here. Without a root system to hold it together and with all the moisture being used for irrigation rivers were beginning to form in the saturated ground. Despite the treacherous footing Martin decided to follow one of these to see a lake.
As expected the lake was an oasis of life this time though because of the ease with which the Habitat had been able to overstock the lakes in the original biosphere when it had been contained to the city. Whereas previously every lake had been packed full of fish as you would see in an aquarium, here they had just as much food but huge amounts of space. The Habitat had carefully manipulated the fishes breeding cycles so that the spawning season coincided with this tremendous expansion of available space. With the thousands of eggs that the fish laid, an excess of food and few predators the contrast between the apparent desert behind him and this lake in front of him was spectacular. It wasn’t just the fish population that had exploded; shrimp, crabs, crayfish and seemingly a million different forms of flying insect all seemed to be on a geometric expansion.
This was the part of the experiment that had worried him but yet to him the most interesting. He was worried about the unstable ecology that they had built here, but fundamentally the point was that this was a learning experience for the next great expansion. The Habitat hadn’t been that clear on what was next but what he did know is that the city had a surface area approximating a moderate sized country and combined with the underground city and a population density similar to the largest cities on Earth had the potential to pack the entire human population into that space. This first stage of expansion had increased the Habitat’s areas substantially so that it now had a surface area approximately that of the United States; the next stage of expansion that would complete the Habitat’s hoop would expand the surface area to approximately twenty times that of Earth. After that if more space was needed or desired the Habitat would expand its width giving a surface area up to thousands of times that of Earth’s, with a potential population measured in the hundred of Trillions. By that point the water content of the ort cloud would start to limit the population and the solar system would have reached its limit without mining the planets which the habitat had expressed a distaste for doing.
This potential for massive expansion was at the heart of it the point of the great experiment; how to turn a barren landscape into a thriving ecosystem in as short a time as possible. Yes this local ecosystem here was clearly unstable and may well die off, but the theory went that this didn’t matter because even if it did die, it would provide much needed biological matter for the next wave of life to come here. As long as the ecosystem was active and being pushed to its limits then the final rich ecosystem would be reached sooner. Also despite the fact that space had provided the Habitat with effectively unlimited supplies of rock, sand and water, and the Habitat could supply as much artificial light and robotic labour as could be used, life on Earth wasn’t adapted to this form of rapid expansion into a sterile environment and this was one massive experiment. The lake in front of him may have been teaming with life that had been rapidly bred and introduced but it felt so unstable.
Almost reading his thoughts before he had them, a drone came up to him and handed him some scuba gear. Underwater here was unlike anything he had experienced before. While lots of effort had clearly been made in making underwater sand banks and a variety of rocky environments had been built it was impossible to escape how artificial this underwater world was. The metal floor was sculpted to hold the sandbanks in place and although the water was clear and the sand pristine as a healthy lake should have been, that was it. What should have looked healthy was made to look false by the very occasional, but very obvious lack of any dirt. As he swim further and deeper the unreality was pushed in his face by something you would never see on earth in a normal lake, a huge underwater lighting ring. Martin knew it made sense, a very real limit on the amount of life that can be supported by a volume of water is the amount of light that enters it. Therefore it was perfectly logical – if you had power to spare as the Habitat did – to install such underwater lighting to expand the livable region. Also visible were the final nail in the coffin that confirmed this was nothing more than a giant artificial aquarium, air was being piped down and was bubbling through outlets near to the lighting ring. Disillusioned by this Martin swam back to the surface and asked to be taken home. He’d seen enough of this mockery of nature for now, soon it would settle down, but he couldn’t watch it until the first phase was complete.

21 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:19

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

Laurence followed the waiter as he directed him to his chairs. The place looked like one of those false Italian chain restaurants that he did his best to avoid.
“Best garlic bread on the station”
“Not exactly a ringing endorsement.” Laurence glared over the menu at that "If all they do that's great is garlic bread and there's, what, three restaurants on the station, that is not a compliment"
“One day I’ll cheer you up what.”
“Lot of people here, is it summer or something, all the young ladies are out in their summer outfits”
“That’s the one benefit of space stations, or at least this one anyway, it’s always summer, they don’t bother to try and fake seasons.” With this Tom whipped out his pad and started punching away”
“What are you up to?” asked Laurence
“Oh just a few queries, sowing a few seeds” something had clearly appeared on his screen as Tom smiled “and let’s see if we reap what we sow” With this he nodded towards a group of women sat at an adjacent table.
“Feeling lucky?” asked Laurence
“Hopefully no feeling needed chap” Laurence watched carefully as two members of the group in question whipped out their own pads. “See, told you, child genius and famous athlete, which one do you fancy?”
“You’re confident then?”
“Can’t fail.”
“Then why are they turning away and not coming over then?”
“Strange” said Tom “must have scared them off with our brilliance”
“With your arrogance perhaps?”
“Nonsense, let’s check our feedback” said Tom busy with his pad.
“I’m sure things used to be simpler” said Laurence under his breath
“Oh” Tom sounded slightly crestfallen “I’m afraid to say old chap you’ve put them off.”
“Me? The young genius?” said Laurence with sarcasm “What could have put them off.”
“Well it’s your own fault for that sparse profile I told you about on the train”
“They don’t like a man of mystery I guess”
“Who does like someone with something to hide?”
“I do”
“Humm, there’s more feedback coming in now” Tom paused and looked at Laurence almost with pity in his eyes “I forgot you put Engineer in your profile”
“Well it’s what I am.”
“They seem to think you’re a car service engineer or a beverage management engineer. You should have said research physicist or practical mathematician or something”
“But it’s what I am I build things anyway I grew up as a middle class male Caucasian.” Exclaimed Laurence “No-one was going to hold be back, but no-one was going to do anything for me either.”
“Yeah I saw that bit too, are you trying to annoy people?”
“I’m an engineer not a politician”
“Again as i said you might want to steer clear of that it sounds like you get your hands dirty”
“And what’s wrong with that, so do landscape gardeners”
“Right and girls love flowers and gardens, shows you’re in touch with your feminine side.” Tom thought for a second “Can’t you say you do that as a hobby?”
“Where would I claim to get the time?”
“It doesn’t have to be real”
“Well I’m not going to claim to be something I’m not. And yeah there was talk about coming up with a new title for engineers, clean start and all that. Sorcerer seemed like a good replacement don’t you think?”
“No I think you’re right, stick to what you know.”
“See I told you I would bring you down.”
“Not to worry, that said it’s been a few days. How long for you?”
“You know how long since you last had sex?”
“I’m not answering that.”
“Boy, prudish lot in Sutemia.”

20 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:18

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

“So there’s four of these?”
“Yes, on the Oppenheim at least, they’re arranged around the periphery ninety degrees apart. Quite a classic design, but the old things are often classic for a reason. The largest, the Kurchatov, has eight, space for twelve, but you know what budget cutbacks are like.”
“Twelve of these, how big is that thing?”
“Big enough. As usual with the Professor ships the details are classified and you don’t need to know them.”
“And we built all of this after the Habitat showed up?” asked an unbelieving Malka
“The first one was mostly handbuilt. More like a submarine than a spaceship, The joy of these modern bots is that you give them something to copy and they’re remarkably good.”
“Speaking of copying...”
“Ah yes, the fighters. Look we needed something that could cope with atmospheric reentry and yet had the required delta-v. The X-33 was an ideal starting point. I’m surprised you knew about those.”
“My Dad used to love the aerospace museums.”
“Well I’m sure he’d love to see this.”
“Do you have a flight simulator for these too?”
“Yes a standard airplane one for their flight mode.”
“So when do I get to try one?”
“Let’s get us into space first. Or at least pretend to.”
“This simulator must have cost as much as a full ship”
“More than in fact, this was built first to test the systems and it had to be built to be more adaptable than a real ship. But it was a labour of love.”
“This ship alone has more firepower than any previous military combined..”
“What can I say, some people love power.”

19 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:17

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

"Actually before we talk about James I hear the mines are having issues.”
“Not really, having to rebuild a few ‘bots, but nothing major”
“There’s a rumour there was a cave in.”
“Fancy explaining to me how you get a cave-in on an asteroid?”
Alice had a momentary blank look “Sorry that should have been obvious”
“Someone’s been playing chinese whispers clearly. No there was seam of quite powdery material that got in and gummed up the works of quite a few ‘bots so we’re having to scrap and rebuild them, otherwise it’s all good.”
“That isn’t a problem?” asked Alice.
“Not really, on those ‘roids there’s nobody to service them so it’s just easier to scrap and rebuild the ‘bots. I’ll say this about your AIs, you may not have got the hang of diagnostics, but you’ve got the mass manufacturing off to a fine art.”
“It’s just we really need that ore”
“Don’t blame me, James is the one who wanted to spread our bets, if we’d have just stuck with one plan we’d not have to split our mining efforts like this.”
“You don’t have to tell me, the breeder program is my baby remember”
“Yeah at least we’re ahead on our exports”
“All down to luck though, if we ever strike a ‘roid that rich in uranium again we can give up the freedom fighter business and hire some properly trained mercenaries.”

18 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:16

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

“So why are you obsessing over this old dump anyway?”
“I am not obsessing” replied Laurence.
“You’ve been staring out of that window for hours now”
“You exaggerate. ”
“Not by much.”
“Have you never seen an engineer enjoying a work of genius?”
“It’s alright, it just a ship, it’s not even a really exciting one, just a shuttle to the Habitat.”
“Doesn’t it inspire you that someone built that?”
“How did you think it got built, magical pixies? Well that seems to be what drones are, they even sparkle." Laurence continued in a slightly mumbled voice "Well if you hit them hard enough anyway, the Habitat ones anyway.”
Tom ignored the mumbling, “Well who else would build it?”
“Okay well yes robots did build most of this, but who do you think designed it or the robots?”
“An AI?” asked Tom
“Do you have any idea how old this place is, or how new AIs actually are?”
“No it’s not your fault, I guess out here you’re used to everything having to be built by robots, but this place was at least designed by humans and built by robots that were designed by humans that were built by robots that were built by  humans”
“Come again?”
“Sorry I’m just fed up with people always assuming that everything is done for them, when here you can see so much evidence of how you can so something amazing for yourself”
“Come on misery guts, let’s go get lunch” said Tom resisting the urge to grab Laurence and drag him.

15 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:15

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

Malka stared around the room she had finally been escorted to. Monitors and readouts filled the walls. At most of them someone was working on something or other. Some displays showed water pressure, sonar plots and depth; others showed light cone traces, orbital trajectories. It had all the readouts and equipment for running a coordinated strike across sea land air sky and space but its size implied it was a vessel not a command and control post.
“What is this a submarine or a spaceship” she asked.
“What? An amalgamation of both crafts control systems so I’m familiar with both?”
“No it’s both. It is a mock-up of a craft that is primarily a spaceship but that has to hide under the ocean.”
“That’s not possible, or at least highly wasteful.”
“Oh it’s possible and you’d be surprised what is and isn’t wasteful.” Gwen pointed Malka at the far wall behind the command chair that showed a simplified schematic of the craft, the schematic was clearly primarily for a damage readout during battle, but in this case it made the propulsion system all too obvious.
“You’re kidding?”
“They actually built one?”
“Over a dozen actually over the decades, this is of course the training simulator. A full size mock-up of the first production craft complete with rams to simulate battle condition. Of course the first craft was the smallest, but this is more than adequate until we get to launch a real one.”
“I thought I’d have heard if they’d have launched one of these”
“Quite. Now would you like the tour? Or should we just run a few simulations for your benefit?”
“Tour first but wow. Just Wow.” the awe in her voice quite obvious.
“You get used to it after a while. No we have enough crew here to staff an entire ship, more than that and we’d need to go to the outside military. Everyone rotates around their positions though so it’s all very flexible around here and people will call you out if you’re doing a bad job.”
“A very fast way to learn. Come I’ll show you the fighters too. They’re almost as fun”

14 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:14

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

Martin stared at the glass in from of him as the glass opened.
“Well are you joining me” he asked Iz.
“No no, I’ll leave the virgin plate to the experienced explorer. It feels right you should have it to yourself for a while”
“Fair enough, I won’t force you.”
Martin watched Iz leave and turned around to see a drone hovering in front of him.
“Come to show me around have you?” he asked the drone. When no reply came he continued “Well come on then.”
The drone drifted off slowly ahead while he tried to take in the surroundings.

13 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:13

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

Laurence stared at the window out into the murky blackness. Brief lights flashed in the distance and for a moment Laurence was sure he saw something, something alive, something organic. He thought back to his trip up to this space station and how alone he now felt. Peace and quiet were what he needed not that he’d had any of that in the past decade or so, too much to do, too much to prove. Well he thought staring out into the blackness beyond, the hard work is done now; time to reap the rewards. Lights twinkling in the distance made him think of looking up at the stars as a child and now he was up with the stars.
“Ah there you are” came the familiar voice, “what are you doing lurking in the radiation shelters, there’s no storm or anything”
“Trying to get some peace.”
“Fine fine I’ll take a hint” said Laurence “I’ll let you off for today.”
“You’re a true gentleman.”
Laurence looked out the window “gosh the stars look pretty”
“They’re not stars” said Laurence
“What else do you expect to find out of a space station window”
“Stars in space don’t twinkle, good lord man I thought you were a veteran of space travel and I was the green recruit.”
“Then what are they?”
“Lights in the water tank”, Laurence saw the familiar blank expression “you know the water tanks that surround the radiation shelters?” he tried pausing again to see if the thought registered. “Also used for basic food stock and environmental stabilization. Any of this ring a bell?”
“Sure there was something mentioned in school once.”
“Fine well now you know.” Laurence looked around for a seat and settled on a nearby bench. The cold metal of the seat stung through his clothing. “I can’t believe how dirty it is down here though.”
“Well no-one comes here except in an emergency, what did you expect?”
“I don’t know, couches or something, food vending machines, beds, anything but cold empty walkways covered in dirt.”
“Well I guess it would have been one of the first things built and last things anyone cares about on a day to day basis” said Tom
“It just amazes me that elsewhere on this station plants are treated almost like fine art, but yet here is by far the largest part of the biosystem yet everyone ignores it.”
“You bally well haven’t travelled in space before have you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Down here is like any other cheap spaceship, sure it’s safe and provides us with food, but it’s not nice is it?”
“It is to me, I grew up in Sutemia, surrounded, cocooned in fact by the sea, it’s amazing how much this place is like my childhood home. Except for the lack of people of course.”
“Ha, you’re an occer! You should have said.”
“Born and bred, no I guess that was what directed my career, every second seeing the magnificent ocean, an abundance of life while all around me people were trying to build out into the oasis with cold steel and glass. I wanted us off that planet and polluting space instead where nothing would mind. So that chose what I studied”
“Hang on though Sutemia is an old oc-post, they finished building it decades ago didn’t they? How can you have been brought up there while they were building it?”
“You dropped your accent then” said Laurence
“What accent?”
“That one the one you put on”
“Steady on old chap you’re loosing it”
Laurence again eyed up Tom but decided to let it pass. “Fine, whatever, be whatever you want to be just leave me out of it” at this he turned away and walked down the corridor
“There’s nothing down there you know” shouted Tom after him “Just more corridors”
Laurence said nothing and kept walking stopping only to peer at a school of fish as they swam past the window.

12 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:12

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

Water flooded out into the lake. Was it rock or metal that formed the bottom of the lake, Martin wasn’t sure, but he could with his binoculars see the torrents filling the lakes; perfect bowls of mechanical construction and soon he’d be there amongst it.
For now he was stuck behind this glass, what was the wall had now been lowered down to approximate the horizontal. Who was he kidding, it was the horizontal, it’s just the horizontal was visible as constantly shifting here for that it slowly arced up into the distance to terminate at the new pylon. Apparently construction of yet another plate had begun at this new pylon although there would probably be less of a rush this time. Half of humanity had been crammed into a few hundred thousand kilometres of space. Well surface space, when you counted the hundreds of floors below the original plate then humanity had more city space in this one structure than the whole of Earth had suffered before. Half of humanity had fit in this structure before this vast extension had occurred, what awaited next as the Habitat continued to build itself? Many had stayed on Earth because they loved the large open spaces and hated cities. Soon the Habitat would have land enough to provide that and more was being built all the time. Would the rest of humanity leave its home for up here and what would happen to Earth after that? This was a structure seemingly built for humans and giving them all they needed. And there ahead of him was a new plate ten maybe twenty times the size of the previous one and he knew there was another plate identical to this one at the opposite side of original plate. Over five hundred thousand square kilometres of metropolis topped by the solar system’s largest park now had probably fifty times the space it had before.
The strongest words and feelings of awe and power Martin had always reserved for the forces of nature. A dam bursting and eradicating valleys, a tsunami decimating entire countries, earthquakes levelling and smashing cities, yet he’d never felt quite this insignificant before; yes all that was to be his, but it was a gift and from no human agent either.

11 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:11

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

“Jo have you a minute?” asked Alice peering around the door of Jo’s room.
“Always” replied Jo looking up from his desk, “Why? Is something up?”
“You’ve known James a while haven’t you?”
“Long enough to know you’ve nothing to be worried about, at least not worry about his metal state.”
“He’s doing this for the wrong reasons you know”
“You think they’re the wrong reasons.” Said Jo quite plainly, motioning towards a seat for Alice.
Alice entered the room and took up the proffered seat. “I do, look you’ve counselled him on this plan of his, look I know you have your own reasons for why you’re here, though goodness knows what they are. Why you want rid of the Habitat is anybody’s guess but you can’t think this will work with what we’re up against?”
“Which is why the reasons that James has for what he does don’t matter, it suffices that someone does them. Someone has to take a stand, be something other than the lamb outside the abattoir”
“The reasons are everything, if you do the right thing for the wrong reason then the work is tainted, it always creeps in. But it won’t do any good though.”
“Look I can’t tell you that. I can’t say anything that will both make you feel better and be the truth aside from to say James is the right man with the best people available doing the job someone in the human  race has to do and the sooner it is done the better.”
“You know what the men say though about you don’t you?” asked Alice.
“I think I can guess”
“You think?”
“That I’m still loyal to the Habitat, that all this is one huge trap, that what better way than to get rid of the resistance to the Habitat than to help organise it and then lead it into a suicide mission.”
“It is the oldest trick in the book.”
“Not quite, but valid point, but the fact that we’re having the conversation is the entire justification for all our actions and our likely deaths.”
“Which is?”
“That we choose.” Jo paused for a second seemingly to think, but more likely thought Alice to act as punctuation; she suspected he had probably planned this conversation out from the moment she entered the room, before that even if she was any judge of how Jo operated “More than that, it isn’t an easy decision and in every material way you will lose in almost every sense by your actions here today; but you are standing up and saying no”
“Easy for you to say.”
“It is, and I can’t judge the value of different people or their causes, only council and manipulate.”
“I really hate it when you talk like that.”
“Of manipulation and schemes, am I so different or just worlds weary and honest.”
“You’re a fucking robot is what you are”
“In that case is it a wonder that I am weary, no I would rather say it is the cynicism of age and of a thousand plans and dreams failed.”
“You really suck at cheering people up.”
“That was never my job, I’m here to do what I believe is the right thing, what scares you and is actually the source of your annoyance is you’ll never know what that truly is and only instrumentality would fix that and yet that is the one thing you’ll resist more than anything. Admit the cause of your unease with me is within yourself and be content in the only joy in the world is the individuality of others rather than frustrate at your own ignorance of other’s motives.”
“You’re trying to get me to storm out of here aren’t you?”
“Is it working?”
“No because we haven’t talked about James yet”
“Ah yes, James” Jo paused again in one of his punctuation moments “perhaps I should offer you a drink”