08 April, 2011
[SFAP] Chapter 2:10
This is the tenth section of the second chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
They say the best cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree; Laurence wasn’t sure if this idea had prompted the idea of a forest in microgravity, but it was certainly a bizarre experiment and really wasn’t helping his motion sickness. Looking around at the forest, well it was probably more an arboretum, the design of the station and the compromises made had given this supposedly restful comforting place a frighteningly alien look.
When the station was built a century ago the idea had started off as a traditional Sanford Torus design. The classic arrangement of a hub in the centre for docking meant low cost cargo handling and simple docking. The original plans called for the forest to be planted in the main outer torus section but the boom time economics that accompanied the building of this lavish space station meant that such prime space was seen as wasted by the inclusion of the forest. So a compromise was reached, the edge of the hub was extended to house the forest. What was initially seen as a kludge gained much popular support and publicity because of the novel environment it would create. Even more novel though was because of the scale of the available space the ground level of the forest was chosen to match the nominal ground level of the rest of the hub. At the hub itself where microgravity was truly negligible the orientation of the ground had been chosen for cargo and personnel handling convenience, however with the forest extension there was a notable gravity gradient between the wall nearest the hub and the wall nearest the rim. This combined with the ground level being at ninety degrees to the gravity gradient meant that it produced a fascinating study in how plants adapted to unusual gravity environments.
That said the twisted and distorted paths the branches grew at lead to a very alien and to many new visitors, distorted world. Looking around at this place with its distorted attempt at providing a touch of home was to Laurence very ironic, yet also fitting that it really did tell you that you were half way completely removed from Earth. It was meant to be comforting and yet all it did was unsettle you. It was a cure for the motion sickness of space flight that really forced you to accept your new surroundings; whether this was clever or unfortunate he couldn’t decide. Regardless his motion sickness was abated so it was either effective or he was lucky, either way he set off to explore the station.
He walked, skipped then eventually floated back towards the centre of the hub and the transport tubes down to the outer ring. He’d always heard that this station reminded people of a hotel, but he didn’t see it. The constant corridors and people moving reminded him more of a train station, although the constant potted plants and occasional small tree - that was presented how a fine hotel might present a statue or a museum might show off a particularly rare bone specimen - did give a certain corporate look that was more hotel like than train station. Try as he might though he had never been comfortable with trees and forests so searched for a map to the emergency radiation shelters. Satisfied he pushed his way through the crowd and headed to the shelter.