Fort Falling

Comments on a life in orbital decay.

Ice Boosters*

I'm fairly certain that we are all insane. It's like one of those cult things, except our leader is a space station with a couple of hundred ice boosters bolted to it. I don't remember the exact count, but I remember being impressed... And then really really frightened.

I came to this conclusion while Rick, Eddie, Chuck, Joe, Doc, Curious, Paula, and I were sitting in The Dizzy Pig Bar and Grill. We were double checking the plans for our ride into a stable orbit, and discussing progress. Joe was talking about the boosters and how they would effect us and for how long, but I wasn't paying attention because it never works out that way when you throw a thousand people into the mix.

Rick, being Counter-Spin, laughed and said, "Those boosters are murder. If you get more than six of them on an iceberg it's impossible to burn even."

Joe, being Joe, was offended. "Are you questioning my calculations?"

"No," Rick said. "It's just that your calculations don't say anything about comfort. It's going to be mighty uncomfortable around here for awhile. At least twelve weeks I'd say. You'll be lucky to get enough weight-time for six hours sleep every night.

"You are station soft, and riding those ice boosters for near a week at the end of it, with eyes peeled so wide they'd pop out and stick to the burn monitors if you got knocked on the back of the head... Well, it's going to be the worst year of your life, Little Huff."

I managed to keep from laughing out loud, but I still got a warning glare from Paula. She happens to like Joe. I respect him, but he really had been huffing a bit.

Burns, Booms, and Belches

And then Fort Falling comes apart.

The main Tangent Track is covered with low-tech solid fuel rockets. I'm a little depressed about that, but we will still have the 'resident' track after the supports have been flashed and the rockets have burned.

Counter-Spin has been running the flash-cut crew. He's having way too much fun. There are about 20 busters, cutters, and techs setting cables of burn-cord and explosives on every structure attached to one side of the tangent track. That's where we are going to blow it apart.

We're all crazy.

I have elected to take on the less exciting, but just as import, task of reinforcement. We only care about the part of the station we want to save. A lot of force is going to be applied in places and directions not designed into the support structure, so we have to fix that before we light the rockets.

I filled all of the rooms and passageways next to endangered support structures with water. It helps absorb and distribute changes in momentum, and tends to freeze and plug small leaks.

Which reminds me... I need to beg a few hundred more tons of water from those miners.

We still have to convert two of the launch platforms to Joe's new design before we stop station spin. We almost don't have enough people as it is, but after 10 weeks with minimal or no weight, we wouldn't have the strength to get the station operational and back up to a full 1.0 Gee.

Crazy, but there's no sense being ignorant.

We'll leave ignorance to the OSA. The stabilizer array could have been repaired 25 years ago. It could have been replaced ten years ago. But a stable orbit can last without maintenance for hundreds of years if you set it up right. In theory. Theory is cheap.

It's too late now. We turned off the stabilizers a few weeks ago. They were helping a bit, but they weren't able to keep up. We had to shut them down so we could do accurate calculations about where to kick this thing to make it go where we want. When those tiny ion thrusters stopped emitting, we all half-expected the station to instantly drop into Saturn.

Completely insane.

Social Work

Sheryl Malice.

Those of you who know her know what I mean. Let's just say that if you ever meet a chubby little woman with that name, don't do her any favors.

A couple of weeks ago, I did her a favor. I know better than this, but I did it anyway. I mean, we all have to stick together or we'll die... Right?

I converted her station utilities so she can easily switch over to low Gee usage. I even showed her how to do it. It takes about five minutes.

This morning she wants to know what time--day, hour, and minute if possible--I'm going to stop by to switch it over.

"What is your problem, Malice?" I asked. "I'm going to be busy dealing with real emergencies caused by the low spin-weight ratio. Why do you think I showed you how to do it yourself?"

"You only..."

"And don't try to sell me any of your passive-aggressive rhetoric, Malice. If you didn't pay attention when I showed you how, you better query the instructions and copy them to a portable unit before the data-core goes off-line."

"So you aren't going to switch it over when the gravity gets low enough?" She asked.

"No. I'm not going to switch it over when the gravity gets low enough. How about if I call you when it's safe? That way you won't have to bother reading the gauges."

"Now you're being mean," she said.

"Yes. I'm being mean. I'm hoping you will go away and forget I did you any favors," I said.

Social Evolution

I've been doing inspections and adjusting hydro-valves in all of the atmospheric areas* of the station which are next to the supports which are supporting the Tangent Track--which is supporting those 200+ exploding rockets we strapped on. Curious wanted to come along for some reason. He wore most of his atmo-suit.

It looks like an atmo-suit should look--when it's designed for a chimpanzee anyway--but the color is... Neutral. It looks brown, but it's not. When he's wearing the entire suit, Curious blends in almost anywhere... Like the thing is made of brown shadows.

I'm not sure whether to be relieved or jealous that Doc hasn't tried to outfit me with one of those things. Curious and the suit both make me wonder if Doc is messing with things best left alone. Don't tell Paula I said that.

Let's say, just for argument's sake, that God built evolution into the system. Would it not follow that human society evolved and continues to evolve according the system? If humans evolved, then society evolved with them.

No doubt I have just offended some who believe their book of science, law, religion, or some combination is the only truth. I'll try harder. God and I are buddies. I have a message for you-all who know better. God says, "I built evolution into the system. How else do you think it got there?"

I don't need a book to tell me what God has to say. Books are written by men and women, probably with good intent, but anyone claiming they know and I don't is plain egotistical. (Call me "E" for short.)

Those books are, however, a part of mankind's social evolution. Books are a critical component in our ability to build on information left behind by our ancestors--and others not so ancestral yet. Literacy is a tool of the mind. It exists only within the mind of society. It evolved and is evolving with us, as a part of us.

I think about these things in the lonely hours at work when my only companions are a non-communicative chimpanzee and my own thoughts. Sometimes I even wonder if what Doc is doing is a manifestation of social evolution or just meddling.

Not that I know what Doc is doing, but if Curious hasn't been modified in some way, then chimpanzees are a lot smarter than they usually let on. I have no objections. My thoughts are idle speculation, not judgment.

Heavy Siders

Heavy side is the 'low rent' district on any space station. No one really wants to live life at 1.1 Gees, so the heavy side apartments are cheap--and usually crowded.

Heavy Siders are a subculture of station-hoppers. There are three prominent trading families with heavy side quarters on every metro-station in Sol System. They get a bad rep, but I've got some advice... If you have an emergency and can't find a station tech, call a heavy sider. If a heavy sider doesn't know how, he has a friend or family member nearby who does.

And nearly 400 of the people remaining on Fort Falling claim to be Heavy Siders. Many of them official station techs.

Did I ever mention how we are all crazy? Add an obsessive desire to be heavier than normal, and you get a very dedicated and steady worker who would rather not spend two months without the comfort of weight.

We are converting four launch platforms into living quarters for about 500 people each. The platforms will ride the converted single-rail and provide weight while the station is too busy shifting orbits to spin. We plan on cycling into freefall three times a day. Other than those three hours of freefall, access to the rest of the station will be limited to data transfer only.

Running four platforms instead of three will give us some extra elbow room, and it be will easier to balance the rail with an even number. The heavy siders have already converted two platforms and made certain they get their 1.1 Gees (on the lowest level) while the things run.

With the progress we've made and all, I'm starting to breath a little easier... Except now I owe a few dozen favors for claiming a bit of that extra room for nearly 100 cats.

Spin Water

Moving water around in a centrifugal environment is a matter of momentum. Not the momentum of the water, but the momentum of the container. The container I'm referring to are the station hydro-cores, or 'pipes' as some ground siders say.

Water naturally wants to settle at the lowest levels of a spinning station, just like with gravity. But the reason it does this on a space station is because water wants to move away from the spin in which it runs. So, once the water goes 'down' as far as it can, it still wants to move. This means water 'flows' around the outer edge of the station--when the station is properly spinning that is.

A well designed hydro-core system will keep water flowing throughout the space station with very little effort from the hydro-pumps. Fort Falling has a very well designed hydro-core, and we need to cut it in half.

And Curious is having a great time at my expense. I'm trying to keep the right atmospheric compartments of the station full of water while keeping the rest dry, and Curious is making chimp-snicker noises at me when he's not connecting thing-things to the air and water cores.

The problem is water doesn't want to fill a cross section of the station next to and below the Tangent Track. Water wants to spread out and look for an escape route. Not being very smart, water doesn't know it will freeze if it finds one.

That tendency to spread out in the lowest parts of the station is putting a lot of stress on the lower bulkheads. I am a bit surprised by the amount of pressure a few hundred tons of water can put on the walls. In case you are wondering, this is a good sign. That pressure might be the difference between a new orbit and our half of Fort Falling turning into a crumpled mess of support structures and venting atmosphere.

Counter Weight

I tried to explain how busy I was, but Counter-Spin doesn't understand no.

So I found myself setting anchor cables and rigging explosives on the few hundred tons of water I said I needed.

Maybe I should start at that moment in my own life when I realized I was riding a free-falling snowball with a man who frightened me a lot more than I wanted to admit. I do not believe Rick is malicious or uncaring--probably the opposite--but he can talk like the devil, and somehow I had agreed to be there before I knew the bargain was struck.

"Why the hell did I agree to do this?" I asked him after my third heavy anchor ripped itself out of the ice surface when the cable was drawn tight.

His laughter made my suit-com break with static while he shuffled toward another location nearby... nearby being anywhere you can get at without sending yourself into orbit by trying to take a real step.

"My first busting run," he said. "I got a suit breach when my own anchor popped like that and pinned my leg. Best day of my life once it was over."

That's why he scares me. "That explains why you are here, Rick--I think--but there's nothing about me."

"You said you needed more water to stabilize the supports while the station rides the pitiful and yet dangerous amount of thrust those boosters will be providing."

"Yes. I didn't ask if I could come along though. How did I end up here?"

"You needed a break."

I couldn't argue with that. The second day was better. I was ready to come home by day five, but if this whole station tech thing doesn't work out, ice busting might not be a bad career move.

Outside Force

Rick and I had five boosters strapped to that ice cube when we rode it in. We were inside his ship, with accel-weight at just under 0.3 Gees most of the time... Enough to get by for a week without getting sick. The station won't even reach 0.1 Gees while it's under thrust... Not enough to stay healthy.

We are also still worried about the pressure those boosters are going to put on some key support structures. The thing about space stations is they are built to spin, not to get shoved around by plasma emitting tubes.

We were drinking and arguing about whether we had a problem, and if so, what it might be. The Dizzy serves brain lube, or so Doc Hester claims. Doc was involved with something "important," but Curious was there, drinking iced fruit juice which I am fairly sure they don't serve at the Dizzy Pig but Curious always drinks when he's there. I, as usual, was bored with the treadmill discussion* they had going on and was thinking my feet needed to visit the dance floor.

I was also thinking other things. Like how inertia means one thing to a chunk of ice or a broken space station, and something else entirely to a living creature. Curious was playing with an ice cube, spinning it on the table and watching until it stopped. I believe Curious was as bored with the conversation as I was.

Something about Curious, maybe his very existence in the midst of all this strange optimism we have going on, makes me think about everything differently. As I watched Curious spin the ice cube, my brain clicked. I swear Curious knew when I got it, because he was wearing that smug, humans-are-slow face when I looked up from the spinning ice.

"Curious has an idea," I said to the table in general.

Paula sniggered. Otherwise, silence all around.

"Instead of waiting for a structure breach to release and freeze the water," I explained. "We allow the water to freeze now, while the station is still providing spin weight."

Most everyone looked ready to argue if only they could speak the language I was using.

"Blame the stupid ideas on the chimp, hey Diz?" Joe said.

"Whatever," I said. "The station is providing a tremendous amount of water pressure from spin-weight. Curious has rightly pointed out that if we freeze the water, the pressure will remain after the station has stopped spinning."

Of course.

Center of the Universe

EMF Eddie has this interesting idea, (whereas a 'theory' would probably involve math). I find it interesting because it's all about time, which is one of my favorite obsessions.

The speed of light contains a time value. Remove the light, and there is still time. The light simply allows us to see. The greater the distance the light, the farther into the past we see. Therefore, as it applies to time, each of us is the center of the universe. We, dwellers of the eternal present, become what we are now a tiny moment before we perceive the universe around us, and everything we see has already happened.

The exchange of energy within the universe can be measured and predicted very very accurately--until you include life into the equation. The bit about uncertainty principles is another measurement of sorts, and in a way it adds to the accuracy.

But life, center of the universe, looks and listens, and the universe shouts and waves frantically for attention. Life tries to get out of the way if the universe seeks to run it down. Life lives outside the universe, moving tiny nothings of matter but doing so against the universal rules of inertia and momentum.

Even time itself is subject to our tiny adjustments. We know some of what will happen. We plan for the future. We remember and build on the past. Our eternal present includes the pasts of the universe and the potentials of our futures.

Life can only be identified in the present. Past-present-future: Center of the Universe.


"Let's freeze it."

That's what I said a couple of weeks ago. You would think lessons of the past could shout a warning or two... Maybe I wasn't paying attention.

The new lesson is one I've learned before: "Easier said than done." Water is a completely different environment that air. This is obvious, and I mention it only because I've learned anew that ice is not the same as water.

I've also learned something completely new. Curious is not genetically enhanced. An argument could be made for biological enhancement, but the truth is closer to symbiosis. Like a parasite, but in a good way.

And that atmo-suit Curious wears is part of it--or plugs into it or something. Part of the harness is somehow fused to Curious's back and neck. It actually looks natural, like a ridge of protective cartilage and bone running up his spin. When he puts the rest of the harness on, it grips that ridge before it wraps itself around the chimpanzee.

Did you ever get the feeling that you suddenly never knew what was going on?

Ice Pods

Doc Hester's new plant is just another clue that life in Fort Falling is anything but normal. The seeds are as big as a vac-helmet. They grow into a large and sprawling vine which produces both runners and more seeds.

It seems that Doc Hester is letting Curious in on a lot of plans she hasn't told us lowly techs. When I asked her about it, she told me I hadn't been paying attention.

"I thought Curious was installing more devices like those cat trees," I said. "Besides, you should have told me what was going to happen. Yesterday Kelly called me in hysterics, babbling about alien parasites coming out of the ice. I thought she was going spin-happy until I went down there to look at it myself."

"Ah," Doc said with a nod. "My apologies. I hadn't expect such rapid growth."

"I'm fairly certain that hatch was flawed, but I can't prove it. Please tell me those plants won't be blowing out bulkheads and hatches all over the station."

"Those plants won't be blowing out hatches and bulkheads all over the station," Doc said, putting her hand over her heart. "They won't even grow unless they are rooted in ice. They like cold."

"All right," I said, and left. I wanted to ask questions, a lot of questions, but Doc finds it difficult to remember I know vac about enviro tech. To be honest, even if Doc is good company and all, I'd rather spend the time with Paula. Paula likes it when I ask questions. Really.

Literary Paranoia

Kelly is what my mom would refer to as a 'New Spiritualist.' I'd always understood this to mean 'flake' until I met Kelly in person.

She wrote a book called Grok the Classics. This book, and the author herself, are banned from Mars and Mars-Metro Station. It's stupid if you ask me... something to do with her exploration of a classic novel involving fictional Martians. Martians are really up-tight.

I'm firmly confident that Kelly could be living in style anywhere in Jupiter System. Instead, she is planting fist-sized pods all over her apartment. At first, everyone thinks Kelly is a vac-head... a very lovable vac-head. The real truth is all about laser-like focus on the present. Kelly is a rival for Doc Hester in her conversational puzzles.

I delivered the third load of hydrofluid to Kelly's apartment personally.

"I thought you didn't like those things... the big ones anyway," I said casually, looking at the vine erupting out of a 2 unit hydro-vat.

"Silly Boy. It looked like something was trying to wriggle out of the ice. I would know if such a life-form had been discovered. I'm also working on a new book entitled The Self Thieves, a study of classic alien invasion fiction. I was lost in the thesis, and those seed-pods... You should have told me what would occur."

"Exactly what I told Doc," I said. "So you think it's a good idea?"

"I never answer rhetorical questions. The answer would be meaningless."

I had to think about that for a minute. "Why do you think it's a good idea?"

"I spoke at length with Doc Hester," Kelly said, smiling like a proud teacher. "I will not pretend to understand the science behind her work, but have assimilated her plan and concur with her philosophies. I have no choice."

"All right," I said, none the wiser. I had to let her kiss my forehead before I could leave.

Building the World

Kelly and Doc have become good friends. I overheard one of their friendly conversations the other day. It went something like this, only I left out the parts which confused me.
  1. New ideas don't really exist. We polish them up and make a few changes based on what we have learned from failure, but most are simply variations on old ideas, or stories, or music...
  2. Ideas come out of language. Language comes out of society. Everything an individual understands about the world, and can express about the world, comes out of language and was formed by his or her social environment.
  3. We cannot discount the individual either. Once an individual has reached an understanding with the universe, he or she can add to the language, and can make ideas better. Individuals strengthen society.
  4. Language contains all ideas even before society becomes conscious of them. Individuals with ideas are simply Avatars of society, expressing the ideas which are coming clear to society.
The conclusion, at least as I understand it, is that society and language and ideas are all the same thing, and no matter how you say it, we are building the world just by talking about it.

Relative Movement

The most important thing you learn in Station Tech 101 is movement is relative. The first day, my instructor droned on about inertia frames and relative motion for two hours. Anyone who lasted through the lecture without falling out of his or her seat was allowed to come back the next day.

During that lecture, I was trying to fix my voice recorder, so I didn't fall asleep once. Later, while feeling naked inside an ion-loader, I happened to flash on the lecture and began to suspect I had missed something terribly important which would keep me from falling into the ring plane.

I was orbiting the station at the time. The station was orbiting Saturn. Saturn orbits the sun. The sun orbits the center of the galaxy. How far (through space) do we move each day? I'm sure someone has figured it out. It doesn't feel like we are moving at all.

Spiked Attitude

"What the hell did you do to Rat Bane?" I shouted. Curious and Paula both leaned away from my angry glare, but I'm fairly certain that was a grin on the chimp's face, and not a threat response.

Paula said, "We did nothing against his will."

"Against his will?" I asked, still shouting.

"Stop yelling or this conversation is over," Paula said calmly. I knew she meant it.

"Fine," I said, after a couple of deep breaths. "Did you get written consent from a cat?"

Paula looked at me with a frown. "What are you talking about?"

"Those spikes growing out of his back," I said, taking more deep breaths.

"Spikes?" Paula asked, looking around at Curious.

Curious shrugged, but I wasn't convinced.

"What did you think I was talking about?" I asked sarcastically.

"The new atmo-suit," Paula said, standing up. "But we don't know anything about spikes, Dee."

"Bane was chasing something through my workshop. I wouldn't have given it any attention, but he looked strange. He has spines..." I paused and pointed at Curious, "Like that thing Curious has growing on his back, only it's a lot bigger on Bane, like a ridge of five or six horns."

Paula turned to look at Curious speculatively. "Those things respond to their symbiont's needs. I don't think Rat Bane is in any danger."

"I don't want you using my cats like lab animals," I said. "Get that thing off of him."

Paula laughed at me. Curious just shook his head.

"We can't take it off, Dee Dear, but if Rat Bane didn't like it, it wouldn't be there. The choice is his."

"How do you know he wants that thing growing on him?"

"Because... it's... still... there."

My ears caught up with my mouth and I said, "Oh."

But I was thinking, 'How the hell does THAT work?'

World Reliance

When I was a child, my Nana worked the spot maintenance crew for our section. This consisted of 27 apartments, three feline habitats, and one social club.

Nana wasn't much for cats. "Cats are cats, boy. Cats fight as easy as they play, and they don't do either unless it's their own idea," she would say. Then she would add, "Don't let that stop you doing what needs done for them. They don't know we take care of the world, and probably wouldn't like it none if they did."

But Rat Bane knew. I could see it in the way he glared at me the first time we met, and the way his tail always lashed against the air. He had always known, and Nana was right, he didn't like it none.

Don't feel too bad for him. Rat Bane has claimed my spaceship, and I suspect a conspiracy involving Curious, the other two cats, and possibly Doc. Why would a cat need a vac-suit? I don't know what else it could be.

Like the one Curious wears, it looks like an exoskeleton, only for a cat instead of a chimpanzee. The spikes on Bane's upper spine are slightly magnetic, and they fuse to Bane's living vac-suit when he's wearing it. The suit's tail and feet are magnetic also, and Bane doesn't take it off when we are in freefall.

Spin Off

The mag-gyros have been powered down. The timing surprised me. We expected it to happen six or seven weeks ago, and then it felt like it would never happen.

It will take about five weeks for spin to stop completely. We have about three weeks to transfer our lives into little boxes which we plan to spin on a string most of each day.

Sorry. I'm feeling a bit metaphorical, and have been consuming alcohol. To sum it up, I'm very drunk. Not in celebration--never for this. Remember how much I hate this idea? It ain't natural for a space station not to spin.

I achieved my present condition at Rick's place... Counter-spin. Him and his chimp (Envro-tech Misty is what Rick called her), and an uncountable but reasonably small number of cats (and some mice... which seem to go with the cat trees and I'll explain when I'm sober) are headed for a 'ice mass rendezvous' or some shi... He's leaving, and I will miss his unique perspective.

Doc Hester's Fundamentals

I took Pipster to see the Doc. I simply had to ask about the row of whisker-like quills growing all the way down the cat's back and tail.

At one point during the examination, Doc took out a strong magnet and moved it through the air above Pipster. The cat lay down her ears, twitched her new quills, and released a lingering growl.

"There's nothing to worry about, but it is certainly fascinating. Thank you for bringing her here."

"It just doesn't seem natural to me," I said.

"It's this way, boy," Doc Hester said, pulling the magnet away. "Life is here to make changes. It's what we do. We store energy, we change it's direction, and we release it to make changes in the universe. Space ships were invented because many thousands of years ago one of our ancestors noticed he or she could drag a desired object which was too big to carry. It's all natural, boy. All of it."

"You designed these things," I said, pointing at Pipster's back. "Mistakes happen. Maybe you..."

Doc actually laughed uncontrollable for about two minutes. She wiped at her watering eyes and gasped out "sorrysorry" between bursts of ear piercing guffaws. Still out of breath, she said at last, "I found a tiny symbiotic life form in Saturn's Rings. It's sentient."

"Whaa..." I looked down at Pipster and stared at the quills vibrating along her back. I thought about giant vines growing out of ice, and had discovered a motive for the strange activities of one chimpanzee named Curious. This reminded me of Kelly and what she calls The Personality Thieves--which naturally led to thoughts about Ion Jack's environmental system. "Those things have taken over my spaceship," I objected.

This inspired another round of apologetic giggles which trailed off breathlessly. "Didn't intend... you invited..."

After I had a few seconds to think about it, there was no way I would give up the freshest air this side of a hydroponic park. "I guess so," I said.

"I'll try to explain later if you like," Doc said, shooing me out the door. "Take Pipster home and get some rest.

"And don't tell anyone," she shouted after me.

Thoughts of the Submind

This, apparently, is what they call themselves. "Thoughts," for short.
    "They" being:
  1. A sentient virus
  2. billions of years old
  3. with a 'non-interference' policy
  4. who created a perfect host 'species' for themselves
  5. which turned out to be too perfect.
Doc says they don't even become truly sentient until the virus population reaches a certain critical mass. The host spores, being designed to breed by dividing in two, never get big enough for the inhabiting virus to 'wake up' unless the host is also supporting a much larger life form. (That must be where the 'too perfect' comes in.)

They need us. They need humans, cats, and chimpanzees (and mice and rats and bugs I suppose) to become more than floating spores. I'm still not sure how I feel about giant ice-vines and mice infested cat trees, so I'll have to let you know about the virus thing later.

One Track

Joe's rail conversion is finished. We can start using it after the flash-cut and initial burn to get us away from the condemned half of the station. Station gravity is down to about 0.8 Gees, and will be nearly useless in another two weeks.

The OSA has decided to make an issue out of our 'suicidal independence.' It would be funny if the timing weren't so suspect. They know we've shut off the mag-gyros, and the station will be a lot easier to board by force when it's not rotating. They will be in system about the time we have reached our new orbit, if it goes that far.

When we sent Counter-Spin Rick the daily update, he grinned like a psycho and said, "I'll take care of it." I'm afraid to ask what he has planned, but I'm fairly certain those ice-boosters he has been planting in lower orbit are part of it. Also, an unusual number of ice-miners are out 'prospecting.'

I mentioned Rick's statement and my suspicions to Kelly.

She gave me a bright smile and asked, "How does one take the measure of a man? From the length of his life? Or from size of his accomplishments? Better to measure the joy he finds in living, don't you think?"

Which was probably a very profound thing to say, because I still don't get it. Rick's version of joy involves a lot more danger than mine--and something called a 'slush bomb.'

And how many chimpanzees are living on this space station anyway? The one living with Kelly is called "One Track," and he finds slush bombs quite funny. Kelly beams happily as she explains how hard it is to get him to change directions once he makes up his mind.

Finally--what is it about my forehead that Kelly always has to kiss it before I can take my confusion and go home?

Slush Bomb

The Dizzy Pig Bar and Grill serves a great Slush Bomb. It's cold, and has alcohol. Counter-Spin Rick isn't talking about drinks. The Slush Bomb is named after an accepted ice mining practice.

For the record, I didn't know any of this until One Track's chimp-snicker encouraged me to look into it.

A slush bomb is a generic term for a man made ball of slush, (mixed water and water-ice for you geniuses) usually very large, and always under acceleration. Acceleration is the 'bomb' part. Ice busters are good at making slush bombs, but it's easier and cheaper to bring in the big chunks of ice, so they don't do it often.

Why? Liquid water doesn't last long in vacuum. It goes from ice to vapor almost instantly. To make a slush bomb, a heat source (usually clean burning fuel) is injected into the center of the ice, so it only melts on the inside. Any water leaking out would freeze shut the leak.

The idea is to maintain a core liquid temperature while the slush ball is moving and growing (smashing into smaller chucks of ice, cracking open, leaking water, freezing together). Surprisingly, ice boosters are designed to do this.

Now--give Counter-Spin and his ice buster friends an excuse to aim one or more slush bombs at an OSA troopship. Rick is positive he can bury the ships in ice without fatalities, but he says if OSA is sending troops, it ain't with flowers. Either way, if it works, we will be adding rescue duties to our unpacking of boxes.

Ceres Rising

The OSA tried to kidnap my parents right out of Ceres Station. I am very very very upset about this, but I can't take it personally. A large number of people living in Fort Falling have family on Ceres Metro, and the OSA claims they need protection.

Fortunately, someone smarter and wiser than I am saw it coming. My dad says they got advance word from one of the Ceres mining facilities, and every known OSA operative in the area has been arrested and exiled under threat of vacuum.

The Alliance mouth-piece has been screaming foul and threatening trade sanctions for the last couple of hours. They must have sent all available troop ships to Saturn System, and I'm thinking that's not real smart for someone who intends to kidnap hundreds of people on Ceres Metro. Jupiter System has already sent relief supplies to Ceres--escorted by a friendly diplomat with broad discretionary powers.

The petition to ally ourselves with Jupiter System has already been signed by most of the people living here. It has been crazy busy. Station gravity is less than useless now--but it will be another 10 days before we blow Fort Falling in half and start burn for a stable orbit. Zero-Gee exercises suck.

Skating on Air

If you think it involves wearing blades on your feet and using them to propel yourself as fast as you can against the direction of spin, then you got it in one. Spin weight is about 0.1 now. This is just enough to be annoying without being useful, but about right for EMF Eddie's crazy new game.

He came by my ship with ice-skates, and dumped them next to my sleep harness where I wasn't sleeping. Paula must have let him in.

"Let's go," Eddie said.

"Where?" I asked, looking at the skates suspiciously.

"Frozen Alpha One," Eddie said unhelpfully. That's what we called the entire level below the soon-to-be-not Tangent Track. The place was covered in ice, which explained the skates. "I'll spot you 100 meters."

"I'm not putting those things on," I said, attempting to settle in my sleep harness with almost no weight to settle.

"150 meters."

"For what?"

"The tangent."

"Go away, Eddie. I'm depressed today, and I like it that way."

"Not a chance. Right now is the only opportunity I will ever have to beat you at Skating for the Tangent."

"You're crazy. Go away."

"Are you forfeiting the game? I was hoping for a challenge."

"Forfeit?" I grumbled, stiffening. "I didn't agree to play your silly game."

"Off course you did," Eddie said cheerfully. "If I remember correctly, your complaint went something like this: 'I would do anything to get away from these tedious zero-gee exercises for just one day.'"

He did a horrible impression of me, but I guess I had said something like that while running a stupid treadmill the other day.

"Fine," I said, struggling out of the harness. "But you agreed to spot me."

"Do you want that all on the first run, or spread out over multiple races?" Eddie asked with a grin.

He beat me seven out of twelve in Tangent Skating, but I beat him five out of six racing the other direction. We are already scanning the station designs to find a place for our new skating track.

Fire and Ice

As I write this, the initial flash cut is burning furiously. In about five hours we set off the charges which will literally blow the two halves of Fort Falling apart. One half will get kicked away from Saturn initially, but will eventually crash into the ring plane. On the other half, we will ride the initial explosions and flaming ice-boosters into a tighter, more sustainable orbit.

I'm trying very hard not to freak.

I spent the last three days checking cat trees (a.k.a. cat traps), and rounded up a dozen more cats. None of them were happy to see me, but without weight (or a magnetic symbiote) they couldn't get away from me. I transferred all twelve of the wildest felines I've ever met to a large cat-tree living in one of the converted launch platforms. I suspect availability, opportunity, and weightlessness three times every day will encourage symbiotic relationships.

It's spreading. Kelly wants me to take care of her two 'domestic' cats for a couple of weeks while she gets fitted with a symbiote. I agreed to do so before her stated intentions caught up with my brain. Since it isn't my business, I kept my mouth shut. No matter how scatter-brained she seems at times, Kelly wouldn't agree to something unless she understood completely.

Apparently Counter-Spin has a symbiote and a specialized vac-suit already. He sent us pictures of himself standing on one of his new slush bombs, and there were half a dozen of Doc's ice-pods scattered around. Each one of those pods contains a tiny ecosystem with bugs and rodents.... like we need more of those around. I'm afraid to ask why Rick is planting them on a ball of slush he intends to crash into an OSA troopship.

Paula wants me to get one of those symbiote things too. I told her I would rather we survived the next two months before making friends with the local space-flu.

Down Time

When I was about five years old, I experienced my first extended period of weightlessness. The first night, I was too exited to sleep. I slept very well the second night--after my mom forcefully strapped me into the sleep harness. The third night, I started to miss my bed. Some people like sleeping weightless.

Have you ever awakened, happy and warm, and held there peacefully by the weight of blankets--despite the pressure in your bladder? Even if you use a cocoon, waking up weightless is not the same. First of all, you have to use low-gee facilities... No, first of all, you have to FIND the low-gee facilities without 'up' to help you navigate... THEN you have to USE the low-gee facilities.

After almost two weeks of low to zero Gee, I just had my first five hours of down time in my very own bed, in my very own room. The place in question being my new room aboard a converted launch--one of several rooms Paula and I claimed for ourselves, a chaos of cats, and a tribe of chimpanzees. Also included is the resident super-bug which seems intent on infecting all of Fort Falling with cat-trees, bug pods, and endless types of vines. It felt so good to sleep in a bed, and to then let my feet find the floor and the waste facilities without conscious effort, that I didn't even mind stubbing my toe on a tree root.

I guess what I'm trying to say is Fort Falling has survived and appears to be on target. Six weeks to our new orbit and several ships full of OSA representatives. Funny thing is, I'm more worried about stray cats then I am about the end of our journey. I have complete confidence in Counter-Spin Rick's ability to make serious trouble for any number of troopships. Like I've said before, get on with the scary guy, and let the rest take care of itself.

Borrowing Silence

I may have mentioned that I don't much like driving grip-loaders. Back on Ceres Station, the local brain-tech called it 'Optic Vertigo,' pointed at his eyes and said, "It's all in your head." Then he had a big laugh while he wrote up a prescription for desensitization. I hated him for months, but he told me a couple of things which I later decided made him a friend.

  1. "Think about all the things you could be doing which are worse."
  2. and, "Stop looking into deep empty space you stupid monkey."

The first one is easy to do. My favorite thing to think about is the noisy intoxicated meaningless noise from boredom parties... I'd rather die slowly in vacuum than go to those things, and that always makes me feel a bit better about riding an ion stream capable of taking me into complete emptiness.

Not looking into space... Believe it or not, it helps if you close your eyes. At least you don't expect to see anything when you do that. If you have to open your eyes to move or do some work, keep your eyes on the helmet displays and your own hands. Simple to say.

As for noisy parties... One specific get-together provided enough negative shielding to get me through seven days of vac-scout recon work in the Ten-Ten asteroid cluster. There is nothing quieter than a single person ion-drive vac-suit. Even grip-loaders are noisy by comparison. And the silence I found out there almost made up for every bead of sweat I produced during that week.

We space dwellers live inside of machines... big, noisy, non-stop machines... and when the rhythms change, we get a bit cranky. These launch platforms, infinitely better than nothing for providing weight, are very very noisy. People have been complaining (Not to me, because I encourage Curious to laugh at them.)

Me? I have decided that if noisy parties can get me through Optical Vertigo, then the silence of space can get me through a few weeks of variable gravity and whimpering, groaning station noises.

Symbiotic Doc

Doc Hester is 117 years old, and when she makes a decision, it stays made. She summoned Paula and me to LG Medical, and proceeded to explain that she didn't have much time left in this world, and would have been gone already if she had not injected herself with a sentient virus several years ago. Then she told us she intends to become part of the station, and asked for our help.


Have I ever mentioned we are all crazy?

"You're going to pair with a large symbiont... become a symbiote... almost immobile," Paula said quietly. "I'm not sure..."

"Eventually," Doc Hester said, "But Signe Hester will be long dead by then."

Which is when my ears caught up and I blurted out, "You're going to become part of the enviro systems and that sentient virus-cluster-whatever."

Doc gave me one of those looks which makes me feel like I'm part of an experiment. It went on long enough that I got nervous and asked, "What?"

"You refused to try a symbiote," Doc said. "I expected you to object."

"I never refused... exactly," I said uncomfortably. "Look... I'm still trying to believe Paula moved in with me. I don't need another... whatever, right now."

The Doc laughed. Giggled really. Just like the first time we talked about the Thoughts of the Submind.

So Paula and I have been using our spare time to get Doc started on her quest to become... I'm not going to ask because I probably wouldn't learn anything from the answer. The extra time with Paula is bonus oxygen.

Mathematical Shell Game

I've never claimed to be the smartest guy around. Seriously, who wants to be THAT guy? Non claims aside, I'm not stupid, and I have a smart girl-friend. I recognize that I have a smart girl-friend, and I'm not threatened by it, so I guess that makes me smart in at least one way.

So why don't I understand the logic of engineers? I don't mean the logic which makes things work. I am confused by the way engineers think when it comes to solving problems. I seriously believe that if two engineers were trapped in a deadly situation with two different engineering solutions, they would die discussing it if a Station Tech weren't around to make the decision and possibly hand them tools.

Engineers are smart people, but very often I seem unable to lingo the gap, and I find confusion instead of the enlightenment I am seeking.

For example:

Which explains why Station Techs use One-tape to fix everything.


We are about a week from our new orbit. Everything seems to be lining up. Counter-Spin says he has the troopships covered. There's only so many places the ships can be on approach, and decel will be a hot burn and an easy target for Rick's slush bombs.

Rick also picked up six people who claim to have fled some altercation on Titan Station. They are suffering from a nasty case of weeks-without-gravity, and are currently hooked to some-things-I-don't-want-to-describe up in LG Medical. Paula assures me they will fully recover, but it won't be fast. I had no idea Paula was medically trained, but I guess it makes sense to anyone who pays attention.

The Doc is now convalescing with six other people. She's floating in a sealed vat full of cloudy gel. The other six are floating in normal batches of oxyfluid and won't be ready for weight until a week or so after we start spin. They make those med-vats transparent because, as Paula explained, they are specimen bottles. Not only don't I want to see Doc floating in a specimen bottle, but I don't want to be floating in a specimen bottle my own self... If you follow me?

Rough and Tumble

We reach our new home orbit tomorrow. The last three days have been acceleration hell. We shut off the centrifuge platforms so we could tumble the station and fire burst-decel boosters. Joe was going on about gyroscopic forces and tumble accuracy, so there wasn't much point arguing about it. Being a mouthy jerk doesn't make him wrong, no matter what I wish.

At least I've been doing enough manual labor so I don't have to keep up on the 0.0 Gee exercises. Vac suits are a lot more effort to wear than anyone ever suspects. Powered vac suits are different, but no less effort. Also, when the station is under accel, there's a lot of work involved just staying physically near to the task you are trying to get done--even though you are tethered to the station.

Another few days and I'd have to start on the stupid exercises, but like I said, tomorrow we arrive at our new home. We will have weight on the launch platforms for a week or so while we prepare to get the station spinning again.

Also tomorrow, we'll find out what the Outer System Alliance thinks about our objections to their approaching troopships. Rick says there are six ships burning decel now, and he's already 'launched' 12 slush bombs. Those ships are going to bounce so hard they'll think they hit the ring-plane. Then we will have to rescue over 700 people and lock them up somewhere. That's a lot of extra work, and none of us are happy about it. We aren't sure how long we will be able to keep that many people prisoner.

Civil War

That's right, people, we are officially at war with the OSA. This amounts to three screaming diplomats on Titan Station, and the crumbling remains of the Martian Republic. The diplomats are scarier.

We seem to have captured about half their armed forces. 120 people on each of six ships. I never gave it much thought until Kelly explained how many people can try to kill each other at the same time when they don't have to worry about vacuum and what not. It makes me glad I wasn't born on a planet where those things still might happen, but Kelly thinks maybe the human race is maturing in space. Like that will happen.

Counter-spin Rick is a freaking genius. His slush bombs hit them hard, but didn't crack any hulls, and no one died. Only one ship was able to launch life-pods. We rescued them first, and they are safely locked away in the least used launch platform.

The other five ships are immobile and look like slush bombs if you aren't paying attention. Honestly, I'm astounded at how large Rick makes those things. The ship crews are more than willing to surrender as soon as we get the station online. They can wait. Those are troopships, so they have complete 0.0 Gee exercise facilities and everything.

One surprise is the number of prisoners who are requesting to join us. Eddie immediately starting recruiting labor parties for cleanup and basic maintenance. Eddie says we might as well put them to work because they'd have to be crazy to sabotage systems which keep them alive. This makes me wonder how they feel about our new environmental system.

Jack of the Day

I met Captain Raymond Miller drifting weightless through Enviro Seven. He had been expecting someone important, and it was obvious I wasn't the guy. Not only was I wearing technician gear, but I had a pet chimpanzee along for the ride. He looked me up and down and then ignored my outstretched hand to ask where he might find Doctor Signe Hester. I'd been trying real hard to be nice, but that ticked me off.

"Curious," I said, looking toward the chimpanzee. "Would you mind keeping an eye on this gentleman while I find someone important enough to talk to him?"

The captain stiffened when he heard the question. Curious nodded, gave a thumbs up, and gripped onto a nearby viney-thing to stand watch. The captain drifted a step backwards. Curious would get bored in about half an hour, but if Miller tried to go anywhere before then, he would learn some things about chimpanzees with smart-bugs in them.

No one is that important. I shoved myself away, knowing with absolute certainty Curious was in on the joke.

Paula needed a list of arcane materials which Curious double checked at Paula's request before I put him on guard duty. The request didn't bother me at all, because Paula doesn't yell at Curious.

I delivered Paula's supplies to LG Medical. Doc is still sleeping in a vat full of something which, at the moment, could be lime gelatin with pineapple chunks--except it moves. That stuff is really starting to creep me out. I began to wonder if introducing Captain Miller to the current incarnation of Doc Hester would be funny or send a potential citizen screaming hysterically into space.

On my way to EMF Eddie's mad-engineer's lair for a briefing on structure damage and who to get involved with what repairs, I stopped by to tell Curious I hadn't found anyone important yet, and would he mind standing guard for a few more minutes while I visited Ops to query the system.

Curious sounded really angry. If I hadn't known he was mostly laughing, I'd have drifted a bit backwards too. I shoved myself away wondering how long I should keep this one going.

Eddie was handing out data-pads with assignments and instructions. He waved me over and handed me a data-pad of my very own.

"Great," I muttered. "I already got a problem."

"We all do," Eddie said cheerfully. I hate it when he does that. "Mine is a missing Captain Raymond Miller."

"I left him cooling his thrusters down in Enviro Seven," I said not cheerfully.

Eddie lost part of his smile and his eyes popped. "He is the captain of the only troopship not currently inside a snowball."

"He's an arrogant prick," I said. "And he wants to speak with Doc. Won't even shake my hand... So I told Curious I would go find someone important enough to speak with the important Captain. Curious is guarding him for me."

Eddie's smile disappeared, became a frown for half a second, and then he gave up and started laughing. He pushed himself over to a large storage bin in the corner. He laughed abruptly and pulled out something small.

By this time I was floating right behind him. He turned and handed me an arm-band with the letters J.D. on it.

"What's this?" I asked.

"Jack of the Day." He said. "That's you. Put it on."

"Jack of the Day?"

"Sure. You know. The station tech who has been assigned to be important for the day." Eddie said with a wink.

I couldn't think of any reason for Eddie to have an arm-band like that. "Of course," I said. "How could I have forgotten."

Once I explained it to Captain Miller, he became quite agreeable. I don't understand that either, but I was able to restrain myself from assigning him quarters in Heavy Side.

The Seventh Electron

Doc is awake. Or was for a minute. She smiled at Paula and said, "The seventh electron."

I'm sure it makes sense to someone. Other than Paula I mean. Paula knows, but since she turned bright red and pretend not to have heard, I didn't ask. I would ask Doc, but she is busy turning into a plant. It's creeping me out a bit. Paula said Doc is just 'building the framework.' It didn't help.

More importantly, the station is spinning, and we hit half-rev this morning. We'll reach full-rev and 1.0 Gee in two weeks. Blessed weight all day every day. And a bath. With water I can sink under. It's like the opposite of vacuum.

Paula wants me to take a bath in one of Doc's med-vats for a couple of days. If I had one of those symbiotic smart-bugs like Curious or Rick, I could have one of those custom vac-suits. I suspect Paula asked Rick to send that picture. The suit looks awesome.... And the features; emergency hyber-sleep, oxy-cycling, auto-charge ion-thrusters, grav detection.... It's a childhood fantasy. And I want one.

Except it comes with an intelligent virus called Submind. Submind, or part of it, will be inhabiting a genetically engineered symbiote which needs to bond with my nervous system in order to make the suit work. Submind inhabits the suit too, so I have to float in the med-vat while Submind takes my measurements.

I wonder if I can convince Paula to explain Doc's comment in exchange for becoming her next lab monkey? It's got to be good, because I've never seen Paula turn that shade of red before.

Dear Mom

Sorry I haven't called. We've been working non-stop: major structure repairs from our move; processing hundreds of new citizens; getting water out of everything now that we turned the heat back up; trying to get those troopships out of the slush balls Counter-spin Rick put them in....

One of those slush balls is alive, or as near as can be for a chuck of ice floating in space. Those pods Rick planted have taken root and appear to be remodeling the ship while they spread inside the ice. Believe it or not, more troops on that ship are requesting citizenship on Fort Falling than any of the others. I'm guessing the air quality improved about 1000 percent once Submind invaded.

Paula has me scheduled for some remodeling of my own. I guess it can't be that bad if Counter-spin Rick did it. Besides, Paula explained Doc's comment about electrons, (promising removal of my favorite parts if I tell anyone about valence shells and the likelihood of the seventh electron combining with any available partner), so tomorrow morning I'm going in the tank.

Doc has emerged from what I can only guess is a living med-vat plant. It looks suspiciously like the animal habitats I first noticed over a year ago. She no longer looks 118 years old. She looks 40 maybe, and is more than half covered with a second skin. When she's not moving around, Doc is attached to the medical-plant-thingy and is somehow a part of Submind. Most of the time I understand what she's saying even less than I did before.

What else? The station is almost at full Gee now. You know how much better I sleep when I'm not floating, and all that ice I made under the ex-tangent track is melting and flowing away to hydroponics nicely. It's looking like a real space station around here... even better with the Submind installations. I wish Nana could see what we've done--I've never seen so many playful cats.

The cats are fine. Rat Bane, for example, has decided to start stalking and tackling every foot which gets too close. I believe this is a good sign, because he hasn't hissed at anyone for nearly a month.

Curious says, "Hi."

Speaking of which, there are 27 chimpanzees on board, and Paula says we want even more for a breeding population of Enviro-techs. Apparently Submind is under the impression that chimpanzees are easier to train than humans, so if your friend Callie needs to find a new home for her crew of apes, let me know.

Full Spin

I feel like the same person. How would I know? I feel the same as I did when I was ten, and 23, and yesterday; so how would I know? I might not be completely recovered from my two day nap in Paula's specimen bottle. Maybe that's it.

I'm mostly certain that Submind has not taken over my person. I think. If I hadn't had my back and spine all along, I might not know there was a new addition. I expected to feel it... or something. I don't think I'm going to talk about it much.

At the moment, I feel very divided about everything. I want to do something, but I don't feel like moving. I am depressed, but not really... Numb with every nerve on fire. I suppose schizo might sum it up.

I'm awake now. Maybe. Full weight and I don't care how heavy I feel because I know, in a way I'm not sure I did before, that the deck under my feet is pushing at .998 Gees. That's definitely new. I'm nearly certain. Just as certain that I'm going to like it that way.

I need to go now. Gotta be depressed, or eat some carrots, or something. And to think fond yet scary thoughts of my soon-to-be new vac-suit.

Objects in Motion

I beat Eddie at Spinball. I didn't just win; I beat him by fourteen goals and nine spin-outs. That's 88 points. I've never gotten more than one goal in a game against EMF Eddie, and I had to catch him napping* every time. Attempting to spin him out almost always ends with me trying to keep him and his motive force out of my goal with my ball.

Spinball requires every player to control his or her momentum in a freefall environment, using the environment and the spinballs to do so. This symbiote has given me the ability to 'feel' momentum. If you think about all the ways a person can 'feel,' you might get an idea what it's like. Eddie will probably be unbeatable once he gets one of these.

I also got to test out my new vac-suit. It takes half an hour to get into a standard vac-suit, and then another 15 minutes for someone to double-check seals and such. It takes about 10 minutes for my new suit to form itself around me. I have to admit a bit of nervousness when no one checked my seals that first time, but the heads-up display probably makes the highest high-tech displays (which I've never seen) look like child's drawings. I didn't once feel like staring stupidly into empty space.

Counter-Spin doesn't play much spinball, but he is insanely fond of micro-grav. Or maybe it's the ice he likes. Rick and I spent 16 hours hopping from slush-bomb to slush-bomb, and showing off our bio-tech vac-suits to the half-trained OSA troops. Officially we were double-checking paperwork before we move them to Fort Falling, but mostly we were putting on a show. Doc's idea, but Rick made it his own. I was busy test driving.

Those Submind driven ion-thrusters are like riding mag-rails. I'm serious. I've never enjoyed riding a vac-suit before. I doubt if even the Martian Republic has personal scout suits capable of sustained 0.396 Gees. Add the Submind grav-sensors to that, and we didn't even have to slow down to find our landing zones. Did I mention the plasma cutter? The troops who go back to the OSA will have some very scary stories to tell the jerks who sent them here to take away our home.

One on One

Doc asked me to explain Spinball. She's never cared before. She was sitting on that plant-throne she spawned down in LG-Med, and Submind was fully present. I don't know how else to explain it. Submind was obviously trying to make a more sentient connection to the human race, and Doc was acting as a kind of filter. Since Doc doesn't really care about Spinball, Submind probably supplied the motive. It wasn't creepy. (I know you thought I was going to think that.)

I'd probably been bragging a bit, but the only reason Submind, a.k.a. Doc, would care enough to ask questions about a game is for whatever insights it might give on normal human behavior. Doc doesn't seem any more intelligent, (like I would know), but there is much more going on behind those looks she gives me, something which is truly puzzled by everything in general and me specifically.

What could I say? It sounded like a history lesson I once had every year.

Spinball was invented by a school teacher name Julius Hayes. He needed activities for the 20 or so children in his mid-level class, and he was always trying to play ball games on a space station. Many of these games are still being played by children who live where gravity determines how a ball moves. On a space station, gravity doesn't determine anything but orbit. A game requiring both weight and round bouncy objects is too annoying to play inside a centrifuge. If you move the game to a weightless environment, however, the possibilities change dramatically.

Mr. Hayes, being a teacher, saved all of his notes.

He took pieces from a couple of his favorite games; Basketball and Martian Rugby. Then he considered his environment, determined the hub as the only reasonable location, and stormed the Station Admin Office with a determination backed by 20 plus bored pre-teens. You all know how strongly those kids wanted to play in the hub.
    Starting with: Blue Team, Red Team, Big Blue Ball, Big Red Ball and some simple rules.
  1. Each team has possession of the matching color ball unless a member of the other team is in control of it.
  2. If you touch the wall while in contact with the other team's ball, the play is over and the other team gets two points.
  3. If your opponent can make it past your goal line while in possession of your ball, the play is over and the other team gets fives points.
  4. As long as you don't do so while in contact with your opponent's ball, you can use the wall to propel yourself anywhere you like. And he let the players take it from there... Within reason.
  5. You are allowed to pass either ball to a team mate, or even yourself.
  6. You are allowed to throw your ball at an opponent and force them into the wall. It's called a "spin-out" if you get two points for it.
  7. Your opponent is allowed to catch your ball and gain possession.
  8. Two minutes of "double napping" (both teams in a state of "Low Momentum" or "LM") will call an end play and both teams forfeit possession.
  9. You cannot enter your opponent's goal unless you are carrying your opponent's ball.
With variations for number of team mates, one on one rules, murder ball rules for more agressive players, and etc.

Captain Canine

Dogs are fine. Other people's dogs are other people's problem. I have no problem with dogs. Arrogant troopship captains with dogs are another matter.

"Your dog," I told him. "You clean up after him."

"I have a meeting to attend, and someone needs to take Comet for a walk," Miller said, holding out the leash.

"Or better yet," I continued as if I hadn't heard. "Train him to use the canine auto-facilities in the nearest park."

He continued to hold out the leash. I was sure Captain Miller understood I wasn't his aide or the local dog walker. I was also fairly certain he had no illusions about our first meeting, but the man seemed determined to push my buttons.

"I'm an unpleasant, sadistic jerk," I said. "Why do you keep calling me?"

He blinked at me a couple of times, then dropped his hand to his side and grinned. "I hadn't thought about it, but I suspect it's because you are the only sane person I've met here."

"That was an accident," I said. I had no idea what he was talking about.

He knew that too.

"You left me hanging in the hydro-park for two hours--with no gravity--guarded by a trained chimpanzee," he said, still grinning.

I nodded politely and wondered if he was the type to hide his revenge behind a grin.

He shook his head. "I thought you folks were going to take my ship. I floated there for two hours thinking about it. I don't like loosing ships."

"We don't need any more ships," I said with a frown. "Especially those monstrosities. I want to puke just thinking about the first two days of initial thrust... What, two Gees, two and a half?"

"One point eight," he said. "What I'm trying to say is you treated me like I expected to be treated. Even when you came back to assign me rooms instead of a cell. And you treated Curious like... like you hadn't noticed he was a chimpanzee."

"We're friends," I said. "And it used to make people crazy."

He nodded. "I didn't understand you had no intention of confiscating my ship until Kelly stopped by to invite me over for dinner," Miller said. "Wonderful person. I don't know why the Martian Republic cares about it. So, Kelly thought I was joking when I asked about it. It hadn't even occurred to her."

"And all of this makes me sane?" I asked him.

He laughed.

"Half sane," he said. "Everything else was so strange... Those slush-bomb... Vines everywhere... I was wandering alone through a half-ruined space station, wearing enemy atmo-gear, and no one seemed to care. You were the most normal encounter I'd had since arriving in Saturn System."

"I'm still not going to walk your dog."

He laughed again.

"I'm going to be low on time for a few days, and Comet chews when he is bored. I suspected if I annoyed you properly, you'd come up with a good suggestion. The hydro-park has canine care facilities? I'll look into it. Thank you."

"Yeah," I muttered, not sure if I was irritated or amused by the captain's tactics.

He reached down and rubbed the back of Comet's head. Comet's tail thumped against the deck a couple of times.

"Do you think Comet could get one of those bio-suits like Curious?" Captain Miller asked.

"Probably," I said. "All three of my insane cats have one. Many of the station cats have them. And most of the chimpanzees have one.... Well, the symbiote anyway."

"You have cats?"


The captain nodded. "Then we won't talk about pets."

So maybe he's not a prick. And the arrogance could be breeding.

Memories of Thought

I had a conversation with Submind. Doc was there too. I asked Submind how it remembers anything when it hasn't been truly sentient in millions of years.

"We are the Thoughts of the Submind."

This appeared to be the only answer I was going to get from Submind. Doc giggled, which was proof enough it was Doc, and asked me a question.

"What are you thinking right now?" she asked me.

"I... That maybe that's a stupid question."

"And you base that answer on a history of questions you have encountered? Things you remember?"

"Yeah," I said. "I get it. How about I think that's a slippery answer if you want to know what I think."

Doc giggled. Then Submind joined her. I've never heard Doc laugh like that, so it must have been Submind. I still don't know what was so funny.

"We are the memories," Submind said. "We live them and become thought."

"How do you pass on your memories?" I asked. "I mean, assuming 'virus' isn't a total misnomer, there is a life cycle of some kind. Are those symbiotes and vac-suits instinctive or what? What does it mean when you say 'achieve sentience'?"

Apparently the word 'instinctive' is just as funny as 'slippery', because that's about when they starting laughing again.

"Eating is instinctive, Jakboy, but eating cooked food is not."

"My point exactly," I said. "How do you remember cooking after generations of never doing it?"

There was an odd shift in Doc's eyes, and they narrowed at me. It was laser interest in my direction--Submind being the laser.

"You are misguided in your questioning. We are the thoughts. Memories simply are. We have encountered many sentients, but only we are the thoughts. Sentience is an explaination for our awareness of your kind. This awareness triggers a memory set, a personality meme, which is most likely to be compatible."

Lasers can blind a person.

"So you don't know?" I asked.

They started to giggle again. Doc shook her head and said, "Memories of thought, and thoughts of memory; and forward both directions."

"Either way you're drunk," I said, giving Counter-Spin's favorite punch line. It left them laughing.

Gone Fishing

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" I asked Curious, putting Rat Bane's carrier down next to the small fish pond.

Curious shrugged and released the latch on the cat carrier. When I say "latch" and "carrier", I am most definitely not trying to describe a giant watermelon with feet and an exposed rib-cage.

Rat Bane didn't want to come out.

"Why do we have to use Rat Bane for these eco-tests?" I whined. "It takes him a week to become civilized again."

Curious laughed at me and knocked on top of the cage. To be fair, Rat Bane gets into the cage voluntarily. He expected rats though, and he couldn't smell any. Curious knocked on the cage again.

"That's not going to work," I said. "Look, he's never seen a fish before. The hatcheries don't like cats hanging around the open tanks. I don't know why. Sane cats won't get wet when rats are more convenient."

Curious reached out to shake something onto the water. Thumb-sized fish started leaping into the air. Rat Bane had one on the shore and was watching it flop before I was certain he had left the cage.

I should have known. Haven't I said we are all insane?

"You always have to be right," I muttered. Curious patted me on the back and grinned wider--chimpanzees can grin really wide.

Rat Bane tossed the fish experimentally twice, then he crunched happily into it's head. I could hear him purring from my position of relative safety ten feet away.

"Paula," I called across the park. "What kind of fish are these?"

I heard a muffled reply and a data-unit came sailing through the air. She's a bit cranky from the new symbiote, but I have to admit, she's a really good shot.

"Thank you," I shouted, rubbing the back of my head.

I'll spare you all from my attempt to explain the genetics and call them giant guppies. Judging from Bane's reaction, the station cats are going to love them.

Foreign Dissidents

Wendy is here. She held position outside Fort Falling for three days before we let her lash to the station. She has requested an audience with our 'Head of State.' We've been trying to decide if this means the OSA has acknowledged our independence, or if they just want their troopships back.

I tried to convince Eddie that Curious would make a good Head of State until Doc tells us who is in charge, but he managed to veto the idea before he started laughing too hard. We have leadership--Eddie being a prime example--but we've been doing everything by mutual agreement. I'm not sure we actually have an official government. I didn't consider it at all strange until new citizens started to ask questions.

Six of those new citizens are from Titan station. They were rescued by Counter-Spin a few weeks ago, and spent some time in med-vats recovering from low-gee attrition. Apparently they are Wendy's sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces--plus another mated couple who are friends of the family. I've never seen a family which liked to argue so much.

Wendy actually threatened to have Ben arrested for endangering the children. No one bothered to point out we didn't have time to waste on such business if Sarah and the girls were on Ben's side. They just kept arguing. This argument in no way stopped Wendy and Sarah from ganging up on Ben for other reasons.

Ben put up with complaints he couldn't fix for about ten minutes, then, to my surprise, he said softly, "Be silent. All of you."

I was even more surprised when all four powered down instantly.

"Wendy," he said. "We will not be leaving Fort Falling. The girls have made new friends, and Sarah and I can do real work here. We've already applied for biotech implants."

"Biotech?" Wendy asked. "Implant? Are you crazy?" Then she looked at me and asked, "Is everyone here insane? Those things are eating your brains."


When I didn't say anything else--because unlike the sane people, I'm not fond of argument--she turned back to Ben and declared, "I will not let you get away with this. I won't let you infect my nieces with those things."

That's about when one niece joined the argument while the other one started to cry hysterically. I didn't hang around to see how it turned out, but I suspect it will be a couple of days before Wendy remembers she is here to speak with someone in charge.

Herding Cats

It started in Doc's control room. Eddie gave me the data-unit, and Paula put a medallion around my neck and gave me a less then professional kiss.

"Diplomat? Representative? I don't believe you people," I said. "It's Submind. Right? Are you sure an alien virus is a good judge of these things?"

Eddie was laughing, but Paula's body pressing against mine distracted me from any possibility of further comment.

"We need someone to herd cats," Paula whispered into my ear.

"Herd cats?" I asked.

Curious laughed at that one, and made shooing motions with his hands. Doc, a.k.a. Submind, seemed to think it was funny too.

"An appropriate metaphor," Kelly said. "And you have proven yourself capable of rounding them up, at least, if not exactly herding them."

"I don't remember anyone saying anything about hundreds of cats wanting to become citizens of Metro Falling," I said.

"Just think how much easier this will be," Counter-Spin Rick said.

I seem to have found myself in charge of Customs and Immigration. Not a problem. Bonus oxygen even--I can be an angry jerk all day long and no one will dare complain. I also have a feeling Curious is going to love helping people with their luggage.

"Fine," I said, "But it's temporary.... And don't expect me to be thankful."

Flow Control

Now that I am Customs and Immigration, I can keep anyone or anything I want off of the station. I also hired four chimpanzees to help with luggage inspection. It feels good to exercise a little power sometimes.

"Hey," a man shouted. "Get away from that. Scat!"

One Track, Kelly's enviro-tech and one of my luggage inspectors, was curling his lips at a red-faced, over-weight merchant. The merchant was trying to grab a small ship-bag while trying to remain out of reach of the chimpanzee holding it. It was very funny.

"Who is responsible for this animal?" the man shouted. "Is there a Customs agent nearby?"

I started laughing out loud. My laughter offended the man so much I almost passed out from laughing too hard.

"Control this animal," he shouted at me.

Through my laughter, I pointed vaguely behind him at the other three chimps. They had developed an interest in the rest of his luggage. This guy was obviously not from one of the troopships.

One of the launch workers who knew what she was doing had noticed and came over to untangle us.

"Can I help you?" She asked.

The merchant turned to her and thrust out his forefinger. "Get rid of these animals." Then he pointed at me and said, "And arrest this man for endangering the public."

The woman looked at me and raised her eyebrows. She knew who I was. Everyone did. I looked at her name tag.

"In a moment, agent Quinn."

"Yes, sir." She said with a brief smile and a nod.

"What's your name, applicant?" I asked the bug-eyed merchant.

"Sam," he said a bit numbly. "Sam Tellerwell."

"What's in the bag, Sam?"

"Who are you?" He asked.

"DeeDee Jackson," I said in my best noir voice. "But most call me Dizzy Jack. At the moment, I am Customs and Immigration. So are those chimps rifling through your luggage. Are you trying to hide something from us, Sam."

"Hell," He said. "Take the damn chocolate then. Just like all custom agents. I can't stop you."

"Chocolate?" I asked. "Chocolate?"

"Earth chocolate," Sam said quietly.

I looked at One Track, and he gestured something about Kelly (I'm still a bit shaky on the hand signs) before waving a half eaten but carefully rewrapped chocolate bar.

This could be good. "A man who can get Earth chocolate must have serious connections."

"Yeah," Sam said cautiously.

"One Track here wants some chocolate for a friend of his, but sometimes he has trouble focusing on more than one goal," I said suggestively. "If you were to 'donate' one or two bars, there's no reason you couldn't share the credit. Kelly is our acting governor--until we have a chance to hold an election."

"Kelly Grace Smith? The writer?"

I nodded.

"Governor?" Sam said, his voice going from excited fan to pure businessman in less than a heartbeat.

I nodded again.

"Can I meet her?"

I gestured. Sam looked at the chimpanzee and nodded. Then he held out his hand and introduced himself to One Track. Sam Tellerwell is going to fit right in.

I turned to Quinn and said, "See if you can find Mr. Tellerwell a merchant's suite with on-site storage and demo facilities."

"Yes, sir." The look in her eyes suggested Sam would be joyfully donating chocolate to more than one cause.

In other news, the Martian Republic has decided to withdraw from the Outer System Alliance. They put Mars Metro under martial law and are denying all traffic except to and from the planet. Many of those people came from here not so long ago, and we aren't happy about this. The OSA is now an unstable collection of twelve city-states centered around the remaining metros--and probably better off without Mars anyway.

Ceres Metro and seven other belt metro-stations have allied with Jupiter System. Wendy has officially requested 'OSA Diplomatic Headquarters' here on Fort Falling. She asked nicely, so what could I do? I set her up in a multi-family suite with Ben and Sarah.

Space Kittens

Kittens are always a mixed blessing. They are cute, playful, and willing to be friendly. They can also mean you need to check the feline supplements or the rodent population.

Kittens with pointy little quills, however soft, are something else entirely. Believe it or not, it was Paula who called me.

"What do you want me to do?" I asked her.

She handed me a carrier, pointed at the little family, and said, "You are the cat herd, take them to Doc."

She was angry at me for some reason. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" She asked.

"Not... uhm... knowing what you needed me to do with the kittens," I said, trying not to back away.

"Oh," she said. Then she stepped against me and let me taste her lips.

"I'm busy," she said. "We need to get life support online for a thousand more people, and those kittens are distracting everyone, including me. The same goes for you. Take those kittens and get out."

Paula scooped up the pad holding four kittens and a protesting mother, and shoved them into the carrier which I had just gotten open.

"Yes, Mistress."

"And don't get fresh, Boy," she said, pinching my rear to speed me on my way.

On the way to Doc's place to see if Submind would enlighten me, I studied the little guys. The mother had a row of spines like Miss Hiss, and the kittens all seemed to have something similar--except there was no sign of a symbiote in the kittens.

Instead of trying to repeat everything Submind said, I'll paraphrase. "These things happen. Call it a space feline. It will breed true."

Dog Kennel

Captain Miller has surprised me once again. The good Captain called me to ask if I could arrange a complete redesign of his apartment, or, failing that, one of the bedrooms, to accommodate Comet's new needs. It is becoming clear to me that Captain Raymond Miller doesn't intend to take his dog and troopship and go back to the OSA or somewhere, anywhere, away from here.

Not only did Miller get his dog a symbiote and vac-suit, but he did so while getting his own set of bio-tech gear. I'm still not sure whether I like the guy. He is such an officious and yet pushy little person that I've been thinking about putting his name on the list for Minister of Immigration.

The dog, Comet, has the largest symbiote I've ever seen. It appears to be attached, in part, to the base of the dog's skull. It protrudes outward behind Comet's ears like a flattened ridge with two horn points. It also covers Comet's spine with a horned ridge going to the base of the his tail. He looks deadly... except his tail is usually wagging.

"Why is Comet's symbiote so large?" I asked, when the Captain paused his explanations to take a breath.

"Oh," the Captain said. "Comet had brain damage when he was a pup. Oxygen starvation. Effected respiratory and circulation, but minimal cognitive damage. We implanted some regulator devices. I forget what the surgeon called them, but I made sure it wouldn't be a problem before Comet and I went ahead with the procedure here. If I had known this sym-bot was going to remove the implants and make such dramatic changes, I would have arranged for proper facilities to be installed while we were in the med-vats."

I was still trying to determine how someone could tell 'minimal cognitive damage' in a stupid dog when Captain Miller took a breath. I either had to say something or let him keep talking about Comet until he ran out of air again.

"Have you met Doc?" I asked sarcastically. Doc is an obvious case of 'dramatic changes.'

Miller either missed or ignored my sarcasm. "I've known her for years. You know that. Her circumstances are different. I suppose Comet's circumstances are a bit unusual also, but I didn't think of it. Not that I would have hesitated once I understood how much it would help. You didn't see much of Comet before this, but I've never seen him so happy. I think before he was uncomfortable all of the time."

"Why did you call me, Captain?"

"I want a room fixed up for Comet. What have I been saying since you got here?"

"I understand what you want, Captain, but I still don't know why you called me."

"Oh, right," the captain said. "Do you think Curious can come over? I'm willing to help him."

I couldn't help it. I laughed. Captain Miller grinned at me crookedly while I got over it.

"The first time I asked Curious to 'remodel' for me, I offered to help because he said it would take three weeks," I said.

"Let me guess," Miller said. "Six weeks with your help?"

I nodded. "Curious is somewhere doing his real job with Paula, but I'm sure if you let Doc know what you need, one of her enviro-techs will be here promptly. I need to get back to Customs... I have about a year's worth of data to process."

"How many of the troops are staying?" Captain Miller asked.

"I have no idea.... 85 percent maybe," I said. "Listen, if you want to help build a good metro and make a real difference here, stop by Customs and Immigration, help out a bit. You could even take an official position."

"You looking for an assistant? I thought you didn't like me."

"No," I said. "I'm thinking maybe Ministry of Immigration, but we might call it Department of New Citizenry. And you're right, I don't like you. That makes you perfect for the job."

Full Spectrum

One of the light panels in my office started that irritating flicker thing. I called a station tech, and then rounded up a spare light core and changed it myself about an hour later. It's not like the supply people are going to stop Fort Falling's Minister of Customs from appropriating a spare part now and then.

Changing a light core is one of those simple little meditative tasks which I really really miss a lot. Burned-out light cores are a problem which I know I can solve. Except changing that light core reminded me we won't need station techs in just a few years. I like being a station tech. The complications are interesting, and mostly it doesn't involve people.

Customs is all about people. No matter how interesting Paula makes her argument, I have yet to convince myself people are just like cats. When Paula summoned me to her private lab, I willingly fled my new and uncomfortable office at luggage central.

Paula's lab is a small hydroponic garden. She calls it a conservatory. It's often very bright in there, because light is one of the main ingredients in fresh air. It seemed brighter this time, but what I noticed first was Paula not wearing clothing. I stood there looking.

"Good," she said. "Take your cloths off."

"You're not wearing cloths," I said.

"I know that," she said, walking towards me. She was tugging at my shirt when I regained brain function.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Helping you take your cloths off."

"Why," I asked. Paula has nothing against public nudity. Neither do I, but mostly because nudity is just part of station life. You know; space suits, communal showers, and general all around togetherness of living inside a gyroscope. There's no point to modesty.

Paula had my shirt free and was attempting to drag it over my head.

I resisted her efforts temporarily and said, "I'm not getting into one of your med-vats unless you tell me what is going on."

"Med-vat?" she asked with a laugh. She stuck her foot into my stomach and pulled the ends of my shirt-sleeves up and over my head. Then she ruthlessly pushed me over backwards and tugged off the shirt.

"Do you see a med-vat in here?" My shoes were gone and my pants were following.


"I'm going to ravage you," she said.

"Oh." Not a bad reason to be summoned, I thought, but this was a bit more than public nudity. "Are you sure this is a good place to..."

"These full spectrum lights are very stimulating," Paula said. "Besides, I locked the door."

"Lights?" I asked, noticing for the first time the thin cables of light stretching across the room. I helped as Paula tugged off my last bit of clothing.

"Submind engineered a bio-luminescent host," Paula said. "That's why it's so bright in here. I'm not sure yet which direction to encourage."

I knew how she felt... about which direction I mean. It took a few more minutes for the light to kick in. We decided to call them glow vines. Paula flatly vetoed my 'glow worms' suggestion. They look like worms to me, but since they are very bright, it's hard to tell. Never mind what else we did.

Infinite Turtles

Back when the Earth was flat, before gravity, it rested on the backs of four elephants who eternally walked in circles on the back of a giant turtle. The mythology gets a bit uncertain about what the turtle was standing on, but many believe it was another turtle, and that, in fact, the turtles went all the way down. Modern evidence suggests the turtle was swimming through space, so down stopped at the elephants.

"Ma'am," I said. "I'm not sure what your point is, but on this space station, down stops at the tangent, and turtles stop at Customs."

"I want to speak with the governor," she said angrily. Rita Selmon was tiny, less than a meter and half tall, with dark hair and skin, and screaming green eyes. She was young and very attractive. She had four turtles in a cage, and I was here because the first three customs agents wouldn't let her take the turtles through either.

"Not a problem. Leave your box of turtles with Mini Cee," I said, pointing at the chimpanzee. "She'll take good care of them. I promise. I'll have someone escort you to Kelly right after."

"I need my turtles," she shouted. Her foot tapped the deck like she wanted to stomp it.

I had a feeling she hadn't been paying attention.

"You can pick them up in three days, maybe sooner if Submind is interested in turtles and examines them personally. We like animals here." I said, pointing at Mini again. "Even turtles."

"I need them now," she said. "I don't want anyone bothering them." She obviously had the same feeling I did, only about me.

"Ma'am, if you want to enter the space station, you have to let us quarantine the turtles. Submind is working very hard to balance our ecosystem, and I do not want to be the guy answering questions if something goes wrong. Doc is a master of guilt trips--I still feel bad about a light panel incident from several years ago."

"Doc Hester?"

"Yes," I said with a sigh. This is the point where everyone expects me to jump because they are good friends with someone important.

"Can I make an appointment to see her?" Rita asked. "With my turtles."

Or maybe not. "Uh... Yes. Her offices and living quarters are directly under Low Grav Medical. Eddie called it 'Doc Land' in the system grid... Or maybe it was 'Hester Land.' I think he's running of out of name ideas."

Rita was giving me the look which says, 'you are a strange specimen and should be studied,' so I pointed to the box she was still carrying and then to Mini.

She looked at Mini Cee and asked, "Is this chimp trained to handle turtles?"

I shrugged. "She's the head enviro-tech for this section. I'm sure turtles fit in there somewhere."

"Enviro-tech?" Rita asked. "That seems a bit... Is she one of Doc's? Doc wrote a very exciting series on genetics a few years ago. That's why I want to show her my turtles."

I was too tired to explain, so I just nodded. Miss Selmon was smart enough to figure it out for herself. She handed the turtles over to Mini, thumbed the Customs papers, and nodded goodbye on her way to an info-port.

Here and Now

I started this log more than a year ago. I knew the day when a year had passed, but some things had to happen, and some work needed done, and the day was gone before I collapsed into bed. Writing an anniversary post was a passing thought anyway. We haven't had much free time, and I can't think of a real reason why writing about it for a year means anything other than "it's been a year."

It's just more stuff about me anyway. Speaking of me, I have some free time. I don't have anything important to say, or anything I need to vent. I'm just babbling on at random because I don't have anything to do but sit here and input. It's been a while since I had free time, and I may have forgotten what to do with it.

I'm not trying to say all the work is done, but most people I know appear to be in a temporary lull. We're all blinking at the sudden light and wondering if this means we'll have to work harder tomorrow.

So anyway, that's why I posted. I'm going to go see if I can take Eddie at spinball now that he has a symbiote.

Security System

There are over 3000 people aboard Fort Falling now. You would be surprised at the number of them who want to bring unfriendly things onto the station, intentionally or not. To be honest, I wouldn't have made it past my first week if I had started working Customs at the bottom. I'm afraid to ask Kelly why she put me in charge. Experience suggests I will leave her office with nothing but lip-gloss on my forehead and a suspicion it was for my own good.

I saw Eddie go into her office a couple of weeks ago. Kelly was wearing Blu-Brite that day. Eddie didn't get all of it off his forehead the first time, and I didn't say a word about it. It makes me happy to know Eddie often leaves the Governor's office in much the same condition as I do.

I beat EMF Eddie at spinball. Again. It took some hard work, but I beat him. The game was incredible. No one without a symbiote can do what we were doing in zero-Gee. Doc tells me dozens of people applied for symbiotes right after Eddie and I finished our last play. She's trying to get us to schedule regular games.

I'm not sure Eddie's symbiote works quite the same as mine. He got something else I think, because he appears to have total access to every part of the data core. I use solid encryption and A-level passcodes, but Eddie walked right through them. He stopped commenting on my taste in cartoons when I pointed out how easy it would be to impound all incoming cargo and mail for someone with whom I was unhappy.

Eddie and I also filed plans for the new Tangent Skater track. We decided wheels would be easier than ice. It has to be a small diameter track, where station spin is slow. Slow spin means less weight and people don't die from tiny mistakes.

Did I mention all the people? Callie showed up with 12 live chimpanzees and what she says "are the makings of a couple dozen more." From what I have witnessed, Curious will be spending less time at home than usual. I'm trying to convince myself it's like adding another enviro-tech to the family.

Roll Call

This is my 100th post, and I need to remind myself of who we've met so far.

DeeDee "dzyjak" Jackson: That's me. This is my log. I talk about myself all the time. My system name is not capitalized.

Chuck Vann: He was my immediate supervisor for a while. He made nice with Kelly and is running her Human Resources Department--actually it's the 'Sentient Resources Department' now.

Doctor Signe Hester: Doc introduced us to Submind. We couldn't have saved the station without her.

Paula Mattson: Doc's main assistant, my serious love interest, and the best singer on Fort Falling.

Eddie "EMF" Crump: Eddie is in charge of security. He took over the data core when we split away from the OSA, and he hasn't let anyone else get close to it. Kelly appears to approve most of the time.

Wendy Hardin: She is the ranking OSA official aboard the station. Except for that, she's not so bad.

Joe Friedrich: Joe asked me to stop calling him 'Brain Eater.' 'JoeBe' it is then. I'm sure he hates me, but if he can't take it, he shouldn't dish it.

Rick "Counter-Spin" Young: Rick doesn't care what people call him. Or if he does, it doesn't happen more than twice.

Curious, the chimp: My best chimpanzee friend. He likes his humor straight-forward and aggressive.

Kenneth "Not Ken" Harvey: Kenny is back. I have no problem calling him Kenneth, but I've found that if I make him explain his name every time he has a question, he doesn't ask as many questions.

Theodore "No Relation" Richards: I'm fairly certain Theodore is related to Kenneth. Theo likes to explain how he isn't related to a number of famous men named Theodore Richards every time I never ask about it, so I've never bothered to ask. He is a very good station tech and has decided to train with the chimpanzees and become an enviro-tech.

Sheryl Malice: Sheryl is working in my office. As a lawyer, she's bonus oxygen. I assigned her a team of technicians so she would stop calling me. I guess that means we get along fine.

Kelly Grace Smith: If anyone else decides to run for the office, Governor Kelly Grace Smith will probably be re-elected unanimously. No one still believes she is a vac-head.

Rat Bane, the cat: The first feline with a symbiote, as far as I know. He's become quite a fisher-cat, so maybe I'll just call him Bane from now on. It's not like he cares.

Nana: Nana was my mother's mom, and the reason I became a station tech.

Enviro-tech Misty, the chimp: Misty hangs around with Counter-Spin. She appears to like explosions and micro-grav as much as Rick.

Pipster, the cat: Pipster was the first cat I saw with the long and thin magnetic quills from a Submind symbiote.

Miss Hiss, the cat: Miss Hiss comes around every day or two for some treats.

Submind: Thoughts of the Submind is a sentient virus. I have yet to see evidence of what brain-techs call an 'Ego' in the Submind virus. The concept of self just doesn't seem to apply. Since I like my 'self' just the way it is, I don't see how this can be anything but good.

One Track, the chimp: Kelly's Enviro-tech. He has trouble switching focus unless you hit him with something. Not too hard. He is a chimpanzee after all--even if Submind has added some higher brain functions.

Captain Raymond Miller: An ex-troopship captain we had as a prisoner of war for a couple of minutes. He has a dog. Kelly put him in charge of immigration at my suggestion. I suppose Chuck approved of the choice.

Callie McKiern: A friend of my mom's. She's been training chimps her entire life. Her family makes the hormone supplements and foods which keep chimpanzees sane. At one time, according to Callie, male chimpanzees where too crazy to be among humans on a space station.

Comet, the dog: Captain Miller's dog. I would call him a cyborg, but the implants are biological constructs made by Submind, so I'm not sure they count as machines.

The Povel family--Sarah, Ben and two girls: This is Wendy's family. Sarah is her sister. The family ran away from Titan station back when the OSA was trying to convince us Saturn Station One still belonged to the Alliance.

Sandra Quinn: A customs agent. I need to get her a promotion.

Sam Tellerwell: A merchant in specialized goods--mostly foodstuff from Earth.

Rita Selmon: Rita likes turtles. The last time we spoke she treated me to a lecture on the universe as an inverted turtle, where everything inside was outside, and only the turtle existed. I think she's messing with me, but if so, she's really good at it.

Mini Cee, the chimp: Mini is crew boss of the enviro-techs in Customs. No one gets unauthorized biologicals past her crew.

I think that's everyone.

» About Darryl Branning

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» Last Known Orbital Position
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