30 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 6:3

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

“Where to now?” Jane asked
“I don’t know” Laurence tried his palm print on a number of doors “Seems we’re in a secure section here." He stared longingly at a door marked ‘Weapons Locker 3’
Jane realised what he was doing and placed her palm on the door. Seeing Laurence’s surprise as the door opened she simply said “Who owns the company again?”
He pecked her on the cheek and came out with a number of small hand guns, an assault rifle and a fair amount of ammunition. he threw her a handgun and two clips of ammunition “Just in case”
“How long since your battle training?” she asked trying not to sound too dubious. Knowing full well his experience with guns had been limited to reading the invoices for large orders placed several decades ago when he used to look after the fine details before giving that job to her.
“I once played paintball. Remember Bernard’s stag do?”
“Oh yes.” she remembered “We’ll be fine then.”
“Did you not see me in the cargo hold?”
“You weren’t a threat to them then.”
“Good this will be a surprise to them.”
“Laurence, you’re a coward, you know that I know that. That’s not an insult just a statement of fact. What are you doing?”
“What I should do.” he cursed under his breath struggling to load an ammunition clip into the assault rifle. Finally it clicked into place.
The ship lurched underneath them knocking both of them off their feet leaving them gently floating.
“Was that?” Jane started to ask as the ship banged again “I think it was.”
“Sounds like the engines. Come on I’m going to look”
“I thought I was supposed to be the impetuous one?”
“You must be a good teacher then. Come on” she flew off down the corridor and Laurence reluctantly followed.

29 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 6:2

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

Laurence grabbed Jane and pushed her behind a crate in the corner of the cargo bay jumping behind the next pile of stacked cargo. He tried to take in what he could see. The exit from the bay to the corridor was blocked mostly by civilians trying to flee the bay and a few ship personnel trying to cover their exit. Strangely enough thought Laurence even though everyone on the defending party was out in the open no-one had been hit yet. Either the attackers were very poor shots or they were very good shots. No looking again they must have been very good shots with the number of rounds they were firing it would have been impossible to be that incompetent. From the sounds of it they were firing flechette rounds and if he recognised the guns then they were quite advanced auto targeting weapons. If they were to miss then it was because someone had programmed them to.
The screams of panicked people filled the room punctuated only by the constant fire from the guns of both sides. Slowly the room was emptying, Laurence was trying to hold off until the last second, no point queuing for the exit even if he thought he was safe.
The screams got louder “What was that?” shouted Jane
“One of our men got shot for the first time.”
“That’s bad.”
“No, that’s good, it means they really aren’t trying to hurt anyone, they are just trying to capture the ship without fatalities, his ankle will take a while to heal but that’s it.”
“How the hell can you be so calm?”
“There really is nothing to fear here, we’re even safe from ricochets. In fact as long as we’re not held hostage I think we’re fine, come on we’d better start heading towards the exit, but don’t do anything sudden” with this Laurence grabbed Jane’s hand and edged along the walls of the cargo bay working his way towards the exit.
“They’re pushing forwards”
“I know” remarked Laurence keeping his eyes on the exit “come on we’re almost there.”
They were both a few meters away from the door, Laurence pulled off his shirt and held it out past the last crate
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Trying to warn them someone is coming out without scaring them” he pulled the shirt back in, “Okay on three, three.” with this he threw Jane towards the door.
He grabbed the nearest small crate he could find and threw it across the bay to act as a distraction to cover her then charged through the door himself. “Come on” he shouted in the corridor “Let’s get to safety.”

28 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 6:1

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

Her flight landed without much of an incident. It had been a quiet trip with few disturbances. Well unless you counted the fellow passengers who seemed to be tourists from the Habitat, certainly their endless enthusiasm for the trivia of the airport and the flight had been grating at Malka for most of the journey. Was it really the fashion on the Habitat to behave to people like this? If it really was one big city then was that city life? It certainly wasn’t what she was used to.
Breaking away from her followers as she’d begun to think of them she headed off to pick up the vehicle Gwen had planned for her. As she arrived at the awaiting rentals desk the woman at the desk held that look of professional distaste that Malka had grown used to when dealing with someone who was not doing the job they saw themselves doing.
“I’ve a reservation for a vehicle, name of Malka Rao”
The woman behind the desk eyed her up and down “You sure you’ve got the right reservation.”
“You tell me, I didn’t book it.”
“Yes this was an unusual one, we had the vehicle shipped here from Cairo”
“Well it needs to end there so I guess that’s not that unusual”
“No, I said it was shipped here” there was that look of professional disgust again.
“Look I’m clearly missing something here, why don’t you just explain?”
“These one way rentals are normally fine we get it to drive itself back here, or drive itself here in the first place. You’ve had to mess the system up.”
“Don’t look at me, I didn’t organise this. Anyway why did it have to be shipped here? Why not use the normal procedure?”
“You really are clueless aren’t you.”
Malka had to resist the temptation to start shouting at this attitude. Years in the military really didn’t work well in this situation. Was this what Gwen had planned? Sending her to the place with the most frustrating service person she’d been able to find. “Fine, what is it a really old car from before automatics?”
The woman laughed “No”
Malka waited for a short while for more information to be forthcoming and realised she wasn’t going to get anything “So what the hell is the problem?”
“It’s a bike”
“You’re expecting me to cross a continent without automatics on a bike?”
“No, I just expect you to sign for it.”
“Have you not got anything else?”
“Of course, but not for a couple of days and for an appropriate extra payment.”
Malka thought for a moment, this really did answer her question about what Gwen had planned. This really was going to be one long test, or at least character building exercise which seemed to be her phrase of the moment. Normally the best thing to do with these things was to roll with it to begin with and then see where it took her. “Just show me where to sign and give me the keys.”

27 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:11

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

Laurence pushed his way down through the corridor which was filled with a mass of people all floating in the same direction, towards the airlock.
“Looks like we’re not the only ones to be curious.”
“Yeah well it’s a small space and there are a lot of people here, come on.” She pushed herself off one of the grapple points on the bulkhead and floated towards the cargo bay where seemingly half the crew and passengers were all heading to get a look at what was going on. Fortunately the cargo bay had been designed for rapid movement of extensive cargo and people.
When they reached the docking bay there were less people there than Laurence thought given the bustle of the corridors leading to the bay. A bit of experimentation with where to float to get a good view was rewarded when the airlock opened. First one person then a few dozen more drifted out after a brief talk with the captain.
The PA system crackled into life and announced “The crew here of the Prefect are all okay. A simple supply mission to Saturn that went awry. We’ve done the calculations and if we get all the water from their ship we’ll be able to take both the crew and their cargo onboard. Please welcome them as passengers and crewmen alike and for now return to your quarters. That is all.”
“It’s all good, let’s leave them to sort it out and go back to bed” said Laurence watching a few people disperse. “See there are people moving out to the medical bay, there on mag-stretchers” he pointed to a group of people in medical gowns heading out of the doors. Various people streamed out of the bay and into the corridors around. A few crates of cargo were soon being brought over.
“No I think you might have been right something is wrong, too many of them have their hands in their pockets” Jane looked quite nervous.
“Safety procedure as part of travel on their vessel?” pondered Laurence “Keep hands from flailing around in zero gravity?”
“I doubt it, like a tail on any animal, arms will help you maintain your stability” replied Jane “Disabling one only hurts you.”
“Maybe a hangover from something on mining duties, it was a mining supply ship after all.”
“No that doesn’t make sense either, why would they all be miners here?”
“What do you think they are then?” he eyed up a couple of the visitors who were slouching in a corner.
“Up to no good.”
Laurence watched people begin to file out of the loading bay “What do you think they are then?”
“I don’t know. Until now I’d always said space pirates made no sense. Now I’m not so sure. The economics of piracy mean that you need to have your pirates with vastly superior vessels to the target vessels and for what reward? Limited cargo? And in space you cannot hide. To have such a superior vessel means you have an engine flame out the back that is visible from the next star system. No hiding places means no pirates. Even then you need a covert way for the pirates to get their supplies. However I’m just worried here that a few of those problem have been annulled.”
“They just need a way to get away with it then?” questioned Laurence “I guess it depends what they’re after.”
“Not sure, but I think we should get out of here”
“Too late” said Laurence seeing guns being drawn by the visitors “always too late.”

24 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:10

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

“Ok grunts” shouted James “This is it. In about two minutes we’re going through that door and you know what we have to do. For once you have to be disorganised and a mess. If you can fall, stumble and generally be incompetent then that is going to save us trouble later. Ready for the signal though you have about five minutes once we get in there to get into your positions. Then I need you to remember your training and give 110%. Do you understand me”
“Sir yes Sir” boomed the synchronised reply.
James’ voice dropped in disappointment, “And yet you forget your basic training. What’s the first lesson of combat?”
“We’re not robots.” came the reply.
“If I wanted robots I’d get some built. You’re supposed to tell me when I make mistakes. Following dumb orders gets you killed and not one of you noticed or thought that 110% is impossible. It’s not too late to stop this, if there’s one of you who isn’t behind me and ready to tell me this is wrong then we all need to know this now”
“Sir” shouted one of the recruits “the door’s opening”
“It’s up to you now guys,” said James pushing off the bulkhead and heading towards the airlock “Make your decision and let’s do this or not. It’s up to all of you.”

23 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:9

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

Laurence woke up in bed with the room shaking and looked across next to him at Jane.
“Did you feel that?” asked Laurence
“Yeah, I guess we’re docking with the other ship”
“Want to go out and look?”
“Yeah be interesting to have a look.”
They both peered out of the window while getting dressed and saw the ship. There was no obvious damage, but no obvious engines either.
“What do you suppose happened?” asked Jane
“At a quick guess, lack of engines and no damage implies a malfunction in their fire monitoring system, or maybe their radiation detection so it jettisoned their engines to save the crew. Kind of serious though as normally that would be a death sentence with no hope of rescue. Alive without engines in interplanetary transfer is just as good as dead of radiation poisoning.”
“Maybe that explains the coincidence of rendezvousing with us? Maybe they realised that with a short burn of their engines they’d be able to align with us enough for us to adjust our vector to meet them.”
“Maybe, I don’t buy it though. Too much of a coincidence” Laurence said buttoning up the last of his shirt.
“Well let’s go and meet them then.” said Jane stepping out of the door.

22 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:8

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

“That’s it then?” asked Alice pointing out of the window.
“Well unless we’ve got the wrong ship come to rescue us” replied Joseph unlocking the gun ranks.
“I’d heard the tales about it. It really is a mess isn’t it?”
“Oh you should have seen it before the refit.” replied Jo “with those old fission units it had it looked a right mess. Now at least it’s all together in a big lump.”
“That’s like describing the moon as having a crater or two.”
“Hey it does the job and more than that it has what we’re after”
“Have you any idea where the docking port is on that thing, I guess we’re going to have to dock so it’d be good to know where we’re aiming for.” She couldn’t help herself, she looked down the rifle sights to check them, she wasn’t sure what for, but it felt right.
“You mean you’ve not studied the schematics?” Jo turned to look at Alice for the first time since she arrived “You’re not leading a party I trust?”
“No the plan was that I was one of the distressed civilians on board here” Alice laughed at this “See if I can get to the medical unit and then wait to be collected. A mole deep inside as it were.”
“If anything goes wrong you’re still going to need to know your way around.”
“Ha” Alice laughed again “Do you know how bad an actor I am, no better that I am genuinely lost and confused or I’ll be telling the medics they’re taking me the wrong way”
“You ever done anything like this before?”
“I’ve done plenty of simulations, but no you’d be surprised how much call for this there hasn’t been in my life”

21 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:7

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

Iz arrived back at her flat in quite a frustrated state. That hadn’t gone according to plan. Well, there really wasn’t a plan she had just seized the opportunity when she saw it. She’d been trying to get to the bottom of question of drone independence for some time now and a disgruntled one almost falls into her lap.
No matter the plans she had with Martin would have to wait, the chance to try and catch out the Habitat was too good to miss. Now how best to do this? Should she take a double test and see if the Habitat really did respect privacy as it claimed to? Give Martin a call and explain her plans? See if the Habitat eavesdropped in on the call? Perhaps not she thought, test one variable at once.

20 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:6

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

Laurence looked over in the cabin at the receding Jane. “You know you can’t just invite yourself over to my cabin anytime.”
“Our cabin.” demanded Jane.
“What do you mean our cabin? I booked it, it’s my name.”
“Paid for by the company that I own. Our cabin. Possibly even my cabin.”
“Fine, so I’ll go to your cabin for some peace and quiet then.”
“No, I like it here” she turned around “Hey I just thought, that’s a new body you’ve got there isn’t it?”
“Excellent, that means I just popped your cherry. I missed it the first time, so I’m glad I managed it the second chance”
“It doesn’t count for men”
“Who says.”
“Lack of evidence. No evidence then it never happened.” he turned over to avoid her.
She let him stew for a moment before asking “Come on spit it out”
Laurence looked up from his pad, “What?”
“You’ve got something to say, just say it”
“Fine, on your head be it” he paused for a breath “What are you doing here?”
Jane moved in her seat to get a better look at him, “Being your wife is what I’m doing here.”
“You’re at risk of blowing my cover and I don’t know what you’re hoping to accomplish and you’re putting yourself at risk with this flight, your body isn’t what it was.”
“In case you hadn’t noticed your body isn’t your own anymore, sure you’ve lost what? Eighty years with this procedure, well jolly good for you, but you aren’t you anymore. You know they warned you about this, a person isn’t just what’s in their brain there’s all the hormones and bodily responses and that’s without counting how others treat you.”
“Tom did say something about that, in fact he won’t shut up about how I am not acting as he expects.”
“Exactly, stick a supermodel in a fat suit and they do comment on how differently the world treats them and therefore how it changes your personality. Well no one has ever done before what you’ve just done. Sure I’m certain in a few decades it’ll be all the rage, but right here and now it’s you and you only. There’s no psychologists to help you out, just you about to go into a high stress situation. That’s not a recipe for a good outcome.”
“But that’s it, you’re a reminder of what I once was; I’m supposed to be able to reinvent myself. Part of the point of youth is exploring who you are and if I am dragged back to how I was then how can I begin a new?”
“And at this rate you’re going to really start acting like a teenager and tell me how much you hate me.”
He smiled slightly at the thought. “I’m getting there yes.”
“So as I said this is exactly why I am here to remind you of all this and stop you from becoming even more of a dick under this experience.”
“Look do I have to do this, do I not have a choice?”
“Look I’m your wife I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think you wanted and needed me. I can’t imagine being with someone who I wasn’t the most important thing in the world to and for all your bluster I know you, you’re just struggling to redefine yourself.”
“Blah blah bunch of crap, only want to be with someone who I am the most important person to. Self indulgent selfish shit. You’ve said this before and it’s always annoyed me.”
“You always were a bit of a self important thoughtless prick, what I’m doing here is preventing you from thinking like that, oh I know what you’re like, new lease of life, new attempt to change the world and you’ll forget yourself so that’s why I’m here. Besides, who else are you going to rant to about whatever technical junk it on your mind. Unless you’ve taken Tom as your new lover.” Jane paused to see the look on Laurence’s face and laughed as she saw his expression change, “Oh you’ve started ranting to him haven’t you. Priceless.”
“Look you’re not distracting me, I’m angry and pissed off at you for spoiling my opportunity here.”
“If that’s really what you feel then I’ll go. But I know you and right now you’re pushing me away because you feel separated from me by your apparent youth. Well tough luck you’re not getting rid of me and you are still you. Don’t be a coward and don’t hide from yourself. Now come over here and give me a hug.”
“Why do you do this?”
“What? Put up with you?”
“That and force me to look at who I am against my will.”
“Because someone has to, because you’re a good man in spite of yourself and your best attempts to run away from that part of yourself. You’ve spent a lifetime becoming the best man you know how to and I’m not going to let some stupid desire for change for the sake of change undo all that.”

17 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:5

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

 “Sounds like magic what you’re doing.”
“Not magic no, but we’ve come a long way in the last hundred years or so; well sort of,”
“What do you mean”
“I’ll give you Laurence’s summation of history; you know the one that says humans have done very little.  Note this is when things were exploited not when they were discovered. In the 19th century it was heat engines and division of labour. In the 20th Century it was globalisation and electromagnetism. The 21st brought nuclear power and information technology. In the 22nd we should have had biotechnology and strong force mechanics, and we would have done had the Habitat not showed up.”
“Well we did didn’t we?”
“We’re only just getting the strong force things coming through now; it’s been limited to a fraction of its potential thanks to the distraction of the Habitat.”
“I thought we got the strong force stuff from there.”
“The sun does not shine out of the Habitat’s arse you know that. We are able to make scientific breakthroughs without them you know.”
“Yeah but bit of a co-incidence all that stuff showing up just after the Habitat arrives.”
“Do you even know how we discovered half this stuff?”
“Well it’s obvious isn’t it?”
“No, do tell!”
“What do you think happened? That we reverse engineered one of their drones, or some of the material that makes up the pylons on the Habitat.”
“Why not? It wants us to advance doesn’t it? Why else is it here?”
“You think the Habitat wouldn’t notice us stealing its stuff?”
“Well no, but what else is it trying to do?” Tom’s voice tailed off.
“Damn good question, no the breakthrough for strong force engineering came from before the Habitat arrived. Let me tell you a story.
“Quantum mechanics really doesn’t make sense, it’s the best we’ve got to explain the state of the universe, but it’s still so weird and counter intuitive it really does make you ask how the universe could be this way. Similarly there is a thought experiment that goes: how could we know that reality as we perceive it is not in fact some gigantic computer simulation. In fact given the speed at which computing performance improves it is highly likely that not only will it eventually be possible to simulate consciousness it will be possible to simulate a world of conscious people. The next step after that is that it will then become trivial to simulate a world full on conscious people. That would be highly useful for market research or crime scene reconstructions or historical speculation, the possibilities are endless. If this is true, then since there would be more simulations of the real world than the real world then it is highly probably we are living in a simulation. Now given this, a group of scientists set out from their understanding of some of the weird properties of quantum mechanics to postulate at what properties the computer running this simulation would have to have. Long story short they made some predictions from the assumption that the observable universe was a simulation that were proved to be true by experiments. Now just sit and ponder that for a moment.”
“So we’ve proved we’re living in a simulation?”
“No, because those equations that they came up with that proved to be correct can have a completely different interpretation that just describe another branch of quantum mechanics, some wit named it sub quantum mechanics, but if I ever find him I’ll have him flogged. No we just can’t know if we’re living in a simulation until we’re contacted by the designers and even then I won’t believe it’s not just some obscenely advanced aliens playing with us.”
“So what’s the point of this story?”
“The point is their predictions and later developed branch of QM gave us a new insight into the strong nuclear force, in the first able to create materials vastly stronger than natural atoms, much like CNTs are much stronger than wood, and second able to produce a strange effect of a surface that is very strongly repulsive both to photons and ordinary atoms.”
“Yeah I heard the advertising for that stuff: will make building with natural atoms seem as primitive as living in a cave.”
“Well there’s lots of potential there sure. Anyway no sooner were we just starting to explore the possibility of these materials and the Habitat shows up and the most basic examinations of its pylons show this stuff must be possible”
“That’s got to have helped the funding for the material research though.”
“Maybe, but it would have been ours! No-one could have said ‘oh that’s technology stolen from aliens’ it would have been us, now humanity will always owe something to someone else.”
“Pissed off?”
“Yeah, anyway, it’s done now.” Laurence looked rejected for a moment but then the light came on at the back of his eyes again “Anyway the really interesting stuff, the one that is a game changer is this weird surface effect, in fact that was the experiment those scientists first did to prove life was a simulation, they produced a microscopic area that repelled perfectly – within experimental error – everything they threw at it.”
“Perfect shielding”
“Well almost. We’ve now got the ability to produce it a few square meters at a time. Now it’s not perfect, you couldn’t cover a craft with this and fly it into the sun because you’ve still got pressure and gaps in the material, but it’s a vast improvement over normal materials. It makes things like reactor shielding a lot easier”
“Got plans for it then?”
“Oh yes, but got to be careful what I say.”
“So you say there was another breakthrough this century.”
“Two actually, well kind of. The first I’ve got the full credit for, they don’t give Nobel prizes out for nothing”
“They give out several hundred every century what makes yours the one?”
“Because this discovery was thought to break one of the basic laws of the universe, it seemed to reverse entropy”
“That’s bad?”
“That’s good, well kind of; as it turned out it actually was just an unexpected application of some old rules, but they’re always the fun things to discover.”
“Go on.”
“Well it started off as a simple graduate project on an infra red LED. We were trying to enhance its efficiency so that it converted more electricity into infra red radiation. The strange thing that got me straight into my PHD was noticing that its efficiency was too great, much more than we could explain. Over 54% of the energy we put into that LED was coming out as light. Now given that an LED emits in two directions and one of those is completely converted to heat it meant that we had greater than one hundred percent efficiency. It was a short step from that to the conclusion of my PHD which was that the LED was somehow converting some of the wasted heat into the emitted infra red light. You see heat is radiated by infra red light, they’re the same thing, well sort of.”
“I know that”, said Tom irritably
“Fair enough, but that was thought to be impossible, but it was the only conclusion. Now what makes this so important was once I theorised a mechanism for how this was occurring I was able to produce an LED that from the perspective of electricity input produced over 100% of that energy as emitted light out of it; the rest of the energy coming from heat energy”
“Why is this so important a fridge cools things down.”
“Yes but this was a mechanism happening at the quantum level unlike anything we’d seen before. Now I’m sure you don’t want me to talk about quantum resonance or other terms but think of it like this, how much do you remember of basic physics.”
“Dropped it as soon as I could.”
“Fine, think of it this way then if you remember the concept of a diode that only a allows electric to flow one way then one model of this is that the differently doped semiconductor produces a bandgap in the electron shells that forms a gradient that only allows electrons to flow one way. A transistor has two of these so that you get a dip in the middle and by modifying this dip you get an amplification effect.”
“Sounds familiar but I still don’t understand.”
“You don’t have to; the point was that if you can set up a lower energy state next to a high energy state then you form a one way gate. Once you have a higher energy carrier in a lower energy state it’s possible for this to be swept up into the lasing resonance that occurs in the emitter.”
“Utter technobabble.”
“Want the equations? “
“Hell no, so what’s the point of all this?”
“Look out there at the outside of the ship.”
“What about it”
“About 90% of this ship by area is used for radiating excess heat into space. Just about the biggest problem any spaceship designer faces these days is how to get rid of excess heat. Almost a third of the ships dry mass is consumed by the radiators. They make you slower heavier and more vulnerable, They are especially the Achilles heel of the military which needs vast expensive droplet radiators to lose their excess heat or the crew fry and the engines don’t work. In battle they are the biggest target and the first thing any enemy tries to attack.”
“So this makes them a thing of the past, you just fire a laser, it rewrites the book on starship design. Gone are the huge bulky cruisers of the past, now your only limitation is your budget.”
“Is that what you’re going to do then at Saturn, build something new”
“Very much so, but it’s the third breakthrough that helps there although I’m not pleased about that one”
“Because you didn’t make it”
“No, because humans didn’t make it, well not really. This is the one thing we’ve had that has really come about entirely from the technology we got from the Habitat, although given the mode of operation is so similar to that of the strong force engineering I’d like to think we’d have thought of it ourselves eventually.”
“So what is it?”
“A new type of drive, antimatter based.”
“We’ve had them for a while haven’t we?”
“Oh yes there’s nothing special about them, they’ve been around at least theoretically for just about as long as we’ve known of the existence of antimatter, the problem was always a supply of antimatter, and that again is a byproduct of the earlier breakthroughs. No the problem was a pure antimatter drive gave out its thrust as omnidirectional gamma rays – not exactly efficient, what you wanted was at least a gamma laser and the strong force shield would give us that. The problem is it is a very low thrust drive, after all light doesn’t weigh very much”
“It doesn’t weigh anything.”
“Well no, but it does have momentum, look just trust me on this you can get thrust from pure light just not very much. No the trick we learnt from the Habitat was how to couple some of the vast energy of a gamma ray into another particle. We’re basically able to build a tube that has a massive amount of gamma rays and a few slow moving particles at one end and over the length of the tube use the energy of the gamma ray photons to accelerate the hydrogen particles up to very high speed.”
“Why are you telling me all this”
“I thought you were interested in what I did?”
“I was, sort of. Are you interested in what I do?”
“I could tell you anyway”
“And I could break into the fusion reactor and feed you into it, it’s an imperfect world”
“You really do have some aggression and self absorption issues.”
“Maybe, but they’re mine and I’d rather not share so don’t force me”

16 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:4

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

Malka awoke to find herself still fully dressed lying on her bed. She hadn’t expected to fall straight asleep, it was bad habit from her teenage years that basic training had drilled out of her. Clearly her bad old habits were reasserting themselves. Groggily she pulled herself up and noticed next to her a folder with a number of items in it. The first seemed to be a note from Gwen.
Since you seemed unlikely to do anything about this yourself I took the liberty of arranging something for you. This should keep you busy.
She looked through the rest of the contents of the folder. There were some airplane tickets for a flight tonight to Morocco, a vehicle reservation at the airport, tickets to a number of events in Libya, and a hotel reservation in Cairo. Digging further there were more tickets in there that brought her gradually over the next couple of weeks back over the continents to her base her. According to this she’d have a lot of travelling to do over the next couple of weeks.
Malka threw the folder down; was this one of Gwen’s tests again? Probably she thought. What would be the cost of not going, she was already exhausted, was this really going to help? Knowing Gwen though this was all part of some plan or some greater scheme. Or maybe she was just trying to be nice, it was sometimes hard to tell. Reluctantly she grabbed a few clothes, packed a bag and headed off to catch the flight. This was going to be a long trip.

15 June, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 5:3

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

Iz finally caught up with the drone, she came jogging up to the square where George had clearly tried to cause some destruction but was now restrained by the drone and cursing at the top of his voice.
“Hey shut up will you” shouted Iz at George only to have his torrent of abuse turned on her. Iz turned to the drone “How do you put up with him?”
“Oh you get used to him”
“Loud though isn’t he”
“Yeah” the drone paused as if it had had an idea “would you call him a public nuisance?”
“Hell yes!” replied Iz
“Excellent” commented the drone and the restraints that had been holding George expanded and became a bubble surrounding him blocking out the sound. Within the bubble he struggled and beat against the lightly incandescent walls to no effect.
“Why didn’t you do that earlier?” asked Iz
“Habitat rules” said the drone sounding tired “everyone is entitled to their freedom, even if they are an antisocial nuisance. Until of course they are a public nuisance” the drone put on what must have been its attempt at an officious voice ‘causing an affray to the public at large.’ Then you’re allowed to contain someone for the greater good”
“What did he do then”
“Oh he was carrying a few explosives and he started lobbing them into the crowd”
“You let him carry weapons?” asked Iz incredulously
“Everyone is free to do as they wish, they’re just not allowed to do whatever they feel to others”
“No-one was hurt I trust”
“No it was fine, that’s why I had to leave suddenly though” the surface of the drone rippled in what she guessed was its way of showing expressions “even moving supersonic I only just got here in time to contain the explosions”
“You’re not going to get in trouble for leaving him unattended.”
“No there were others around who could have intervened if needed, but it would have been bad form.”
“So what are you to do with him now?” asked Iz “You can’t just let him wander around again after that”
“Why not?” asked the drone “this is a pretty typical day for him. I don’t know what has caused him to be like this. Maybe now it is just a case of fighting against the containment and a protest, but he just seems to want to cause trouble and he waits for me to drop my guard and then does something like this I then stop him from harming others and the cycle repeats. I think he gets entertainment from trying to outwit me even though he knows it is impossible to actually overpower me.”
“Pride before a fall you know”
“Not really, I’m thousands of times stronger, thousands of times faster in all respects. It’s all a matter of what I chose to do. His best bet is to actually bore me or distract me. As I say I think he likes the challenge these days.”
“Look” Iz paused for a moment lost in thought “look I don’t know how to ask you this, but I don’t even know your name so my next question is even harder.”
“Strange as it may sound I don’t have a human name.” Iz tried to interrupt but the drone carried on “Precious little human contact you see, I’m just the hovering sphere near to the nutter. Yes I have what you would call a serial number from the Habitat from my manufacture and yes I have a name that other drones call me by, but that is in a language with no vocal equivalent.”
“I can’t just call you drone though”
“It is a bit impersonal yes.” The ripples from the surface disappeared completely to become a perfect mirror “But then that’s supposed to be my existence as far as humans are concerned. The more impersonal the more they concentrate on him while remembering I’m there.”
“Don’t you want human company then? I hate to think you’ve just been being polite.”
“No not at all. You pick a name for me then.”
“I can’t, tell you what I’ll ask the other question I had to ask then I’ll leave you alone.” Iz took a breath and looked around almost to check the coast was clear before carrying on “I’m really enjoying your company, but can we lose the psychopath and spend some time together socially”
The drone seemed to consider this but Iz was beginning to suspect this was because this was what it thought she expected of it. “I’ll collect you at eight this evening then.”
“This isn’t a date”
“Yes it is, you’re not the first to be curious it seems, and I’m not the first to be curious back.” At this the drone started to drift away.
“How will you know where to find me?” asked Iz “It’s still polite to ask”
“There is no need.” At this the bubble around George dropped and he resumed his taunting of Iz and the drone. Iz gave up trying to communicate over the noise and left George and the drone to leave.