05 April, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 2:7

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

Viewed from outside the Habitat the process must have looked quite strange. When humans had first arrived at the Habitat it had resembled a barbell over two thousand kilometres long. Spinning just over once per hour there were two plates, one at each end of the barbell where in the initial expedition they had found an enclosed atmosphere. Humans had only ever been allowed to visit one of these plates, but as a square garden nearly eight hundred kilometres on each side it had plenty of room. Underneath the surface garden were hundreds of floors some accessible some restricted to food production and waste management, some used for unknown purposes, nevertheless there was sufficient living space and resources provided for over six billion humans living as densely as they lived in the most populated cities on Earth. Not everyone from Earth had taken the offer of living here, but many had.
Since humans had started arriving in huge numbers to the Habitat it had continued to expand itself. At each end of the plate what appeared to be a vertical wall was constructed parallel to the pylon that held the spinning structure together. It took a number of decades but soon this wall almost touched the plate on the opposite side of the barbell, a wall two thousand six hundred kilometres high at each end of the plate, nearly eight hundred kilometers across to match the plate at the end of the pylon. To balance this out the inaccessible plate built matching walls that when complete closely skirted the others so that when complete viewed from a distance the Habitat looked not like a barbell but two elongated letter c’s, one reflected nestled inside the other. This was just a temporary stage though and one thing those living on the Habitat noticed was that the pylon in the centre of the plate that tied each to the other had been growing noticeably thicker and more complex since they had arrived. Then came the announcement from the Habitat that it was going to grow and that whilst this was happening what they perceived as gravity would fluctuate a lot.
So on the days leading up to the expansion the rotation slowed and what was felt as one Gee dropped and people had to get used to one third of the gravity they had grown up with. Then it started, seen from outside the central pylon began to stretch and carried on stretching to seemingly impossible amounts two thousand kilometres became a hundred thousand kilometres became four million kilometres. People watching on the plate saw the pylon shrink before their eyes from hundreds of meters thick to a couple of meters across on a world that felt as if it was falling and the comforting sight of the opposing plate disappearing beyond sight. To see this and see the pylon that held the world to the sky growing ever smaller, seemingly impossibly thin caused some significant fear.
Then it stopped and gravity returned to a third of their normal. Then the wall that was the new plate began to fall, almost imperceptibly at first, but inexorably away from the plate; a drawbridge in space. Viewed from the plate the endless vertical looked to shrink and fall away becoming a far curve into the distance. Finally the world shifted underneath them again as the rotation speed increased so their multi million kilometre structure rotated once per day and they felt the normal gravity and daily sunrise and sunset.
No longer from a distance looking like a barbell, if you could see it from a distance you might describe it as a rotating capital I, however to be able to see it all side on made the relative thickness less than a hair’s width so that it was effectively invisible. From a slight angle to the side the plates were quite visible looking to be orbiting each other connected by an invisible thread.
While humanity’s home on the small blue marble may have still been their home the invisible I was where most had chosen to call home. The Habitat; known only as that since the first exploratory mission there had returned swung on in its new expanse.

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