When writing about something, I don’t know... Maybe you have to break the rules just to keep it interesting, make it yours.
Like how much of fiction is really fiction? Or how much of non-fiction actually non-fiction?
Today my public persona walked down the street to get a coffee.
And some homeless guy got a bit aggressive on me. Not sure if transient is a better term or not, but you get the idea.
And I can’t say for sure if he was homeless. My persona lives in Buffalo, and this might take a second to explain. Buffalo is in the middle of a natural almost unnatural heat wave right now, in the month of December. It’s breaking weather records that have stood for over a hundred years. Not that it’s hot. There just isn’t snow. People still wear hoodies and jackets, but you can take your toque off. Anyway, most people, when they think of homeless people, see the California version in their head. They tend to be kind of hard to miss. But here in Buffalo, we get serious snow, and the cold, like water, when disrespected, will kill you. Like bodies would be found frozen in a snow bank. So Catholic Charities is big in the area (as you could say one of the few things Buffalo has is some very high end medical R & D, actually first rate - very big checks get signed) and many organizations give out heavy coats. Also, you tend to see the homeless in the warm months, and because the cold is so bad during the winter, the homeless seem to disappear into the shelters. Because, once again, it’s that or they pretty much show up dead. And, to continue with the quick version, with this Christmas being freaky not cold, guess what? Everyone is on the street, and weird Christmas problems are happening.
The long and the short of it is, you can’t always easily spot the homeless by their clothes, compared to my own, say.
But this guy was wearing a “Fire Fighter” baseball cap. Which, in the area I was walking through, only gets worn by young males trying to avoid gang entanglements, or, this is me trying to write with positive tone, special needs people. This person was older, but you still have to stare for a second or two.
And then he gives a freaked out speech, ending in something like, “You must pay for what you did in the Caribbean.” Now for writing I find freak outs enticing. I’m sure someone could give them all numbers. But I have no idea about the Caribbean. Maybe I’ve missed out on something, but I have no idea whatsoever. I mean I run into some people from Jamaica or Haiti, or Puerto Rico here and there, but do I feel dumb, because I need to google an Atlas, since I’m not sure what countries are actually in the Caribbean. That’s embarrassing to admit. And to my mind, it sounds like something more from Toronto. And I am aware of zero problems in Toronto in regards to, where was it again, the Caribbean. So I just don’t know on this one. Things around Toronto have been relatively super quiet the last ten years, in terms of street non-sense, on the high end.
So here is some quick background on my understanding of Buffalo, being on a border with Canada.
Nothing is supposed to happen in a large border city, for a variety of reasons. This is news to no one. The US and Canada can’t always agree to argue on things, and the US now require passports on the US side. Nothing happens in a border city because the ‘heat’ so to speak is ten times worse for no reason.
You know Buffalo has a FBI building? People go and drink coffee in front of it, take selfies.
And if your friends tell you not to get in trouble around the border, and you do, how does that make them look?
So, as everyone knows, nobody is very talkative around Niagara Falls, say, but if you get into Hamilton, that’s different. It’s more relaxed.
The local government has trouble borrowing money in Buffalo because the New York state government has it as offensive balance. That should tell you something. In short, the feds have cred, but not always good, the state half cred, and the local not at all.
But the local wants business from Canada. But in New York, New York cares about New York City, and doesn’t care about Canada trade much. (While the cities in Canada are orientated towards the United States. But the better US cities to visit are off the border in New York.) All arguable, I’m sure.
Like many cities Buffalo has this weird east side versus west side thing, which is still physical location based, as compared to newer systems where the location isn’t remotely important. So I have to remember whether I am on the east side, or the west side, while not actually knowing which direction is east or west, for that matter.
Drugs in Buffalo are the same as elsewhere, I’m sure, but the differences may be emphasized more. So I’ll invent my own language to describe this. If you have decent social skills and some money, you can get ‘a-list’ drugs. However, if you don’t have enough money, and your social skills are in the negative numbers, you get a kind of black list, and end up with the ‘b-train’ drugs. Which are easy to get, but seem to have little good high, and obvious and enormous down side - like I’m not sure how you cook Ajax, but something like that.
I should mention that the homeless guy spoke with a Buffalo raised accent, and seemed to be not flying, given his diction and syntax. Not that there isn’t an error margin for this sort of thing. I always remember how my public persona comes across to others, which is way wrong, if you ask me. That’s part of the reason why I like to write.
So long story short, you would think this would make me feel a certain set of emotions. But instead, I felt numb, but a very particular kind of numb. Like not so much empathy, but a self recognition of not liking stupidity in humans. That sense that this person is the ‘b-train’ and this should not be so. Like a write off.
And this is what I wondered. I wonder, if a person is unemployable, is it really possible to bring them back? In a real sense I mean. I’ve never been a behaviorist type of manager - where you change the behavior to what you would have it be. It’s like where the human is cut out of the equation to get from the left side to the right. I’d take a negative percentage overall on behavior if a person would think, make a choice. But to understand that through psychology, that has to be one impossible to isolate large set of time. Where things go wrong initially, that’s not an easy thing, not as easy as the obvious break up, alcohol, and money loss. But if a person in this world has enough talent and observation to help a person back, I don’t even know if I can believe it.
I feel the write off coming.
a; maybe the elevator in my story should be several strands.
2. How strong can these nano fibers get? Will the line hold weights in the tons?
a: I think several strands a
3. How should the balloon be propelled? Propellers? Jets?
a: should go up on an angle
4. Could the platform at 40,000 ft be held up by the weight at the top of the line? Is the line strong enough?
a- many strands
Ca nt do this scroll again sorry
Now I think I'm working on a new thing called 'Geostatica'. The premise is that Mars is too far and should be left to rich guys like Elon Musk and the first place in space to colonize is geostationary orbit.
Dunno research first.
We're talking about a counter-weight to the earth connected by the space elevator nanotech string. Like swinging a yoyo over your head it's got centrifugal force flinging It outward. Something to tie on to.
So we open with a dad and his teenage boy leaving in a weather balloon from their small town airport. Well a capsule under a weather balloon actually. The boy thinks it's pretty unimpressive if they're going to outer space. No space suits no blast off.Just street clothes and a three man ground crew.
They fly up to 40000 ft in about four hours. It's here that the dad does a little piloting to stop them moving upwards and to move them laterally to the space elevator. Actually it's autopilot but he has override.
They are still in street clothes So they don't get out of the capsule when they arrive at the platform. Everything is automatic as the capsule is attached to the nanotech thread going to outer space about 2200 miles up.
The thread is more like a zipper in that the attatchment has teeth. It's here that the boy gets enthusiastic as the ride goes faster as the air thins. To the point where they are moving over 200 miles an hour when they are finally clear of the air.
The trip takes between 7 and ten hours and when they get there they are floating around their capsule. The boy is impressed that the same capsule that rode under a balloon went to space. The father says the station they are at is just a bunch of these capsules joined together.
Their stay at the top is only three days. The station has about twenty people living on it and they are all glad to meet the boys dad. He is an organizer of the project which was started on kickstarter.
It's revealed that he's in charge of bringing 20 more people up next week. Well not physically but as an organizer. See the project is in financial trouble.
The early days with crowdsourced money were great and a second stage happened where a few musicians and artists came up did some work and donated it.
Now a third stage was happening where the goal was to make the station self sufficient in food, clothing, and money.
The food was to be grown by ten people who had been working on farms the station owned on earth, the clothing was to be made and exported by a team of five. The final five people were wealthy folks who had paid for apartments on the station.
The father explained to the son that this was the start of a real estate boom up there with another 20 apartments sold and under construction.
But for now they had three hitch hikers heading down who were leaving their capsules behind to be made into apartments. This was pretty standard for visitors as those capsules had arrived full of supplies.
Then the three days were over and they were leaving with the three downward travellers. The boy was glad to be squished next to a collage aged female but the dad was grumpy about his two male science geeks.
Promising to send the capsule back up to be added to new apartments they took their leave and headed down.
To hell with space, to hell with novels. I stilll think the official dream is lame.
I want to talk about another way in a short story. Not action figures and gun play but what happens if Millenials are really smarter from cell phones and Google.
"I'm sick of this shit," Steve was tired of working.
The job involved ferrocement and hemp-Crete somehow.
"Looked more fun on the web," his friend Andrew agreed slathering on thick goo with a trowel.
"I guess it was predictable, that actually doing stuff is harder than theory," Steve decided.
"Hey we're Millenials. We're supposed to be able to do anything," Andrew reminded.
"Maybe look up how to do anything, actually doing shit was my grandfather's generation," Steve refined.
"Ya those old boys put up with frustration really well," Andrew opined.
"That's because life was frustrating. In 2025 most systems work. In those days things were just figuring out HOW to work," Steve argued.
"That chicken wire is too short," Amdrew pointed to the wall they were working on.
"Fucking hell. What do we do now?" Steve was disgusted.
"I think this is where the old boys would improvise," Andrew counselled.
"Leaving their children Mickey Mouse bullshit work to deal with," Steve agreed grumpily.
"The hospitals and universities are good," Andrew argued.
"But the roads are based on a carbon engine that will take us decades to move beyond," Steve counteted.
"Three and a half decades to be exact. It was 2015 when they decided to outlaw carbon. One devade ago 2050 it'll be law. No more combustion engines" Andrew clarified.
"Except when politics shift to the right again and they change the rules of reality," Steve said a bit spitefully.
"No inconvenient truths." Andrew added.
"I'm voting right next time. It's an easier way of looking at things," Steve said deadpan.
"It's easier to disagree with 95% of scientists than to take the reasonable path to solving carbon," Andrew was aghast.
"Just kidding. Denial isn't my game," Sreve admitted.
"But they might form the next government." Andrew insisted.
"The denial party," Steve suggested.
"Going against 95% of scientists and nearly 200 countries who signed on,"Andrew added.
"At least they think for themselves," Steve proposed.
"They think what they're told by greedy oil companies who wish it was the 1980's," Andrew countered.
"Are you going to cut that chicken wire or just lay it out?" Steve asked.
"The problem with kits is everything is cut to size. We've got no extra," Andrew declared.
"We can buy some when we go to town." Steve suggested.
"Shouldn't have let the wall bulge out so much," Andrew said problem solving.
"At least it's for a good cause or else I'd say we fucked up," Steve said chagrined.
They were working on a decades long housing project first started by their friend in university. The idea was that a house in the city was unaffordable to most but a house in the country was doable. He managed to purchase some empty farm land and build four houses. When rented out these paid for another piece of empty land. Four more houses were built and rented. Now another piece of land has been purchased with the rent from eight houses and the boys were working on a house there. Habitat for humanity was building a second and there were two more planned.
"So soon there will be 12 houses paying for a fourth piece of land," Amdrew said while working.
"The goal isn't a bunch of rental properties but to start selling them cheap," Steve reminded.
"And to get the under stimulated urban residents some amenities like high speed internet and a club house," added Andrew.
"The places are all linked by a web site and they trade with each other and share tools," Steve emthused.
"Half the people who are stymied by the high price of a house in the city are ok moving into apartments, the other half are candidates for this program." Andrew estimated.
"And only half of those who try can adapt to the country. It's one thing if you're a teacher or a nurse, but what if you're a taxi driver or a stock broker?" Steve wondered.
"The broker might be ok trading on the web but the taxi driver might have to drive big rigs," Andrew guessed.
"So this wall is finished once we get a little wire," Steve stood up and brushed himself off.
"You know what would make this whole scheme fly? If it somehow went viral and made some real change," Andrew said cleaning up.
"It's already self replicating and mutating, just very very slowly," Steve replied.
"I think it's time to take mortgages and buy another 12 places," Andrew urged.
And that's what would happen. And while the first houses were largely donated kits assembled by volunteer labour the next group was built by pros.
"Why are we landing in Quito, Ecuador?" I asked my grandfather.
"I have to visit the farm at the end of the elevator,"he replied.
"Now that we've travelled to another continent don't you think you should tell me where we're going?" I asked him as we got off the plane.
"It's like I said we're off to outer space. You just didn't believe me," Grandpa told me.
"As far as I know there's a morotorium.on space travel. Too much carbon," I offered.
"That's why this space elevator runs on electricity. That's why there's no problem if we test it," he said proudly.
"You've been talking about this for forty years," I said softly.
"And now it's come true. I had to wait til you had some holidays off school before I showed you," he said calmly as we got in the customs line.
"I kind of thought you were crazy," I admitted.
"I'm used to that. It's the price one pays for running ahead of the pack, judgement by those in the rear," he answered handing his passport to the customs man.
"I never thought of myself as particularly backwards," I maintained.
"Nobody did. We all thought we'd go to space literally standing on a column of jet fuel," Grandpa said wistfully.
"It's hard telling rocket scientists that rockets are a bad idea," I suggested.
"Now that we've picked up our luggage we get a rental car," grandpa said getting business like.
I don't know if it was Hertz or Avis but next thing I remember we were on a new highway in a pretty new car making time.
"The elevator has to be on the equator," Grandpa told me.
"Good thing we're in Ecuador," I answered.
"Ecuador means equator in Spanish," Grandpa told me.
"So how far up this road do we have to head?" I asked.
"It turns into a potholed nightmare in about five minutes. After that it's about two hours," he replied.
"So this station isn't at an airport, it's actually on a farm," I asked.
"In a way this farm is part of the space station. The city of Geostatica," he answered.
For a couple of hours I napped in the passenger seat. Then we were there.
"They seem to have moved an entire Ecuadorian market to this place," I said noting several stands that had arisen in the parking lot.
"Most of the food in Geostatica comes from here. Sent up each day on the elevator," Gramdpa told me.
"I'm surprised there isn't some stuff grown in space," I told him.
And sure enough at the far end of the market in a burlap bag there were some mutant carrots and potatoes.
"Strange looking," I remarked to Grandpa.
"There was no land used in growing those. Too bad the locals don't like them since there's a lot of space out there," he opined.
"Need to make potatoe salad and carrot juice. Hide the mutant parts." I suggested.
"French fries and carrot cake," Grandpa thought.
A few hours were spent wandering around the market and then we were approached by a tall red haired fellow with a beard.
"Anthony Brooks! I haven't seen you in five years," he shook my grandfather's hand.
"Will Jarvis you old space dog, why aren't you up in the city?" my grandfather asked.
"I'm heading up in a pretty soon. Down here sorting out materials," he answered.
"This is my grandson Marcus. And this is Will Jarvis a head of construction up in the city," he told me.
"Your grandpa and I go back 30 years," Will told me shaking my hand.
"Even my grandma thought he was bonkers in those days," I remembered.
"Well now you will meet a number of people that hold him in high regard." Will told me.
"All I did was make sure that everyone knew it was a real estate play," Grandpa spoke like the realtor he'd been for a long career.
"We were flailing and in debt when your grandfather saved us," Will told me.
"Space is one thing. All about artificial gravity. It's the tower at the base of the elevator I'm most proud of," Grandpa told us.
"Got us out of debt," Will reported.
"That building over there?" I asked pointing to a skyscraper about a kilometer away.
"Hard to miss,"Will said.
"It's one of the tallest skyscrapers in Ecuador," Grandpa said proudly.
"I didn't even notice it. Proves that it's a big farm," I said respectfully,
"We should head over there right now. Have a look around," decided Will.
And that's what occurred. We all piled in to my grandfather's rental car and made the kilometre long trip to the tower.
"This tower has a prototype geogravitatiomal power project," Htsndfather told me.
"What's that?" I asked.
"We don't really know how hard the counter weight is pulling up on the elevator. It tests it by pulling up a weight on the outside of the high rise. As the weight falls to the ground down the railway tracks on the side of the building it creates a few kilowatts of power," Will explained.
"How does the counter weight up in space move back down?" I asked.
"There's a track up there too. The weight down here pulls it down as it falls," Will replied.
"Then the counter weight pulls it up again by centrifugal force," I guessed.
"The interesting thing is that there are some things going on that we don't understand. As the counter weight goes up we spread it out like a umbrella to maximize resistance. Then as it pulls down we make it thin like a pencil. It should make zero percent of difference in a vacuum but our readings show a two percent gain," Will told me.
"The energy trial has been so successful that ee're going to stage two," Grandpa said.
The little bit of high school physics I'd studied was in rebellion.
"I guess this all depends on the weight of the counter weight. Too heavy and it can't be pulled down. Too light and it won't pull ours up," I ventured.
"The history of how we made the counter weight is a whole other story. You have to remember that the first few kilos were put there by rockets," Grandpa told me.
"To support a fragile elevator. But over the first year we constantly delivered payloads of as little as one kilogram until there was a tee tons up there," Will added.
"It was only then that we could send up payloads like materials to build the first few apartments," my grandfather told me.
"Sounds like you were sending up pieces of a weight set," I womdered.
"It all snapped together in a clever way. In the end we ended up with a weight that was a few tons," Grandpa added.
"Now we have a city to tie on if we want," Will said speculating.
The car fell silent. It was Will who broke the silence.
"Marcus something made you think," he said, your imagination is in overdrive."
"I'm thinking about what would be possible if we made the whole city a counterweight. I think it could corrupt the orbit of the planet so we need two towers, one on the opposite side of the planet to make it even," I began.
"There's a computer model to play with that,"Will said handing me his cell phone. "Turns out we have lots of leeway before we do harm.'
I took the phone and input some numbers. It would take a body three times the size of Geostatica to effect the earth's orbit.
"I like your idea of a second elevator on the other side of earth. As we get bigger we'll have to do something like that," Will agreed.
"I just used your phone to look it up and Ecuador has an antipodes in Indonesia," I offered.
"Probably have to get it exact. Still might be a good time to buy real estate,"Will agreed.
Then we were in the big semicircle driveway for the hotel at the base of the tower.
"It's a good thing you've got suitcases Will," my grandfather said as he emptied the trunk of the car. "You fit right in around here."
"So you're taking the plane up to the new strip?" he asked.
"Ya we don't leave til tomorrow morning but we may see you up there," Grandpa replied.
"These damn box shaped capsules are ok in space but they're too slow in air," Will told us.
"Most of the trip is in space," I reassured Will although I didn't understand what was going on..
As it turned out my grandfather had booked a suite on the third floor of the hotel. Since Will was leaving at midnight he came up for a few hours.
"I have a few people to meet with so I booked a room with a seating area," Grandpa told us.
"It would be strange to be in Ecuador without meeting with the Honchos," Will said from the couch.
"They'll be over in a little while," Gtandpa answered.
It was explained to me that the Honchos were the owners of the farm. Also part of the 'Billionaires club ' who had purchased the first twenty apartments up in Geostatica, they were friendly Americans dedicated to this project from the early days.
It wasn't long before our doorbell rang and we ushered in our guests.
"I want you to meet my grandson Marcus," Grandpa introduced.
"So your going up to space," the honcho named Johnathon asked me.
"That's the plan for tomorrow morning, although Will is leaving at midnight," I answered.
"And your flying up to the new landing strip?" Jonathan asked.
"Marcus doesn't know the details but that's the plan," my grandfather answered.
"It's pretty safe, the strip is based on an aircraft carrier, and the planes we use are army surplus made to land on boats," Jonathan told me.
"We're talking about an airport in the sky?" I asked.
"Right now it's at about thirty thousand feet. We may have to move it," Johnathan answered.
"And it's tied to the counterweight?" I asked,
"That's right and according to our models that's no problem," Jonathan answered.
"Has a plane ever fallen off of it?" I asked!
"We've had two mishaps where the plane didn't land correctly. In both cases they just flew out of it," Johnarhan replied.
"So it's 100 percent safe. We'll be fine trying it out," grandpa reassured me.
"My elevator ride is so slow I can probably meet you," Will promised.
"If you don't pick up too many passengers we can share a capsule," Grandpa said hopefully.
I'm allowed to detach and walk around in the building up there if I want,. Breathe air one last time," Will said back.
"That's where we'll meet you," Grsbdpa told him.
And with that, Will took his leave. Grandpa and I played host to Jonathan for a few hours and then hit the hay to rest up for the big day ahead.
INT. BACKSTAGE - DAY
A gamer, SIMON, is with his team captain, TRAVIS, one room off the main stage.
SIMON: I would do anything to make it up a level. Seriously...
TRAVIS: What you need to do is play your role once the drop is made and I call out the formation.
SIMON: I got school paid for. My parents are good on all these expenses. I've worked for this! Forget the big fat check, we can make the next league. All we have to do is finish.
TRAVIS: Just finish, huh?
Travis points over at the curtained doorway to the main stage.
TRAVIS (CONT’D): That is where careers are made. Where the crazy people are in the audience.
SIMON: I tune it all out, just like you say.
TRAVIS: My ass. Let's go sneak a look, but be quiet.
INT. MAIN STAGE - DAY
A enormous amount of people are close to rioting around the stage, on which a number of huge screens designating game state can be seen. There the teams are, with cheers and boos going up for certain actions.
Some sort of fight breaks out in the audience, and a lot of pushing is happening. About ten of the security go into the crowd, simply trying to hold the line. All of a sudden, about four or five of the security start throwing overhand rights on someone in that crowd.
Pizza boxes, a promotion for pizza being done at the event, are then thrown into the air everywhere.
SIMON: You tricked me. That's her, isn't it? She's playing the third tick on the right.
TRAVIS: You bet. Sheila the "Light", the woman gun. Show match, here, to cover the cost of all us small people playing. Of course her fee is paid.
SIMON: I told you before, I'm professional above all else. Never let it show. And if I look up to her career, that can never be known. I put the game down for us, and that’s it.
TRAVIS: I heard she cokes like no tomorrow. Which reminds me, by the way, that drug testing is three weeks from now, on the Saturday. And, as always, all so called drug activity should be kept to the rest rooms, or you will be fired.
SIMON: Look at her, would you? The concentration... Just win. Just you win.
Travis pulls Simon back through the curtain.
INT. BACKSTAGE - DAY
TRAVIS: You get next to it, you don't ever want to leave it.
SIMON: Why you calling her an it?
TRAVIS: Not her, idiot. The game! The scene, the life. You do what I say, and down the road, maybe you can shake hands.
INT. LOCKER ROOM - DAY
There is dead silence as team members are gathered in a circle around the team owner, MR. DRAMKO, who has a large wipe board with X and O's drawn on it. TRAVIS and SIMON are to one side, sitting on the floor.
MR. DRAMKO: My name is Mr. Dramko. I own your team.
There is light cheering.
MR. DRAMKO (CONT’D): I don't know any of your names. In the past I have simply pretended to know what player you are. I don't know, and I don't care.
MR. DRAMKO (CONT’D): I own many teams, in many different leagues, right up to the very top.
TRAVIS: The fuck.
MR. DRAMKO: Not only do I not care who you are, I will never care who you are. I do gaming in all the different countries in the world. All of them. And what's very important here, is I do gaming in all its "views" within each of those countries. You, Travis, Captain, what does that mean?
TRAVIS: Poor countries have poor modes. So we have game streams for them, with the hardware out there. But poor countries still have rich people, so we have the better game modes available to them. There are many different levels to the very same game, and we call each a view.
MR. DRAMKO: In two hours this team will go on, and give the audience a good show. You all cool with that?
There is a more positive cheer this time.
MR. DRAMKO (CONT’D): This is my phone, everyone. See my phone? Right here it says the captain's name is Travis. Wouldn't know otherwise. Get how this works? Go to work, Travis.
Mr. Dramko exits the room.
TRAVIS: I want no one thinking about winning or losing. I want you to just zone out, chill. For the next hour we have a very valuable connection in this locker room to all the various modes available in this very sea side city, or a good selection of which at least. Simply watch the games, experience the brain chemistry, and do not think about tactics or strategy. Simply zone! That's it. And as you will see, not all virtual reality is the same, and who would know better? Take a look around, please. Please.
The players begin to meditate in front of their monitors, with the different hardware involved.
EXT. PARKING LOT - DAY
Exactly twelve limousines, waiting outside the event, blow up. People are seen killed by the explosions.
INT. LOCKER ROOM - DAY
SIMON is meditating in front of a monitor.
SIMON: I do not feel tactics. I do not feel strategy. I am nothing.
What sounds like an air raid siren goes off, and the team members jump to their feet.
TRAVIS: No, they don't! They always try the call our hotel room at 3 am, and it never works. This is a drill, nothing more. Everyone, keep preparing! We don't lose this way, to a dirty trick.
People do what Travis says, and ignore the noise. Simon starts typing on a keyboard.
SIMON: Hey, Travis. Look at this. Think I can get out of the event lock down to a public shell.
With a few more keystrokes, Simon’s monitor changes from a game to a view of the main stage.
People are rioting, trying to escape through exit doors which are too tight for that amount of people. There is blood and dead people. The main stage is empty, with all competing teams gone, except for an announcer which is trying to calm people down.
SIMON (CONT’D): I wonder if Sheila is okay. Where you think she got to?
TRAVIS: This is government. It has to be. Change of plans, people. We are for the door. Make for the paid, elite exits only, and get as far away from the area as possible, without being seen as out of the ordinary. The team will issue recall on the code word "Dismal". Calmly, very calmly bail.
SIMON: Damn it! If we held even through this we could have had timeshare at the team house that's located just above the telephone company super node. You know how expensive that time is! We aren't going to get that back.
People go for the doors.
In the morning we checked out of the hotel and made our way over to the tiny building that was functioning as the farm's airport.
"It's a small plane. Only holds about eight passengers," Grandpa told me.
At least two other passengers were there waiting, a Texan couple in the billionaires club, and we spent a short time getting to know them.
Then to our surprise Jonathan, the honcho we had met with the previous night, walked in.
"I couldn't let you leave without warning you. There are forces taking the city in a dangerous direction," he told us.
"You alluded to it last night," Grandpa said worried.
"You've seen the models. Most people believe the city will stop growing at about 2/3 of the maximum, but there's a faction that wants to keep growing beyond the danger point," Jonathan reported.
"So we did the first twenty apartments at a billion dollars each. Then we did a hundred at five hundred million each. Then we did 500 at 100 million. That's where I thought it would stop but now we've added 1000 units at a million each. I thought that was it," Grandpa wondered.
"I thought so too, but there are plans to go cheaper, like half a million, and a few more rich folks have come forward," Jonathan replied,
"If it's not added to the counterweight it's no problem is it?" I asked.
"That is the problem. The pro-development group wants to tie on to the elevator increasing the force about five fold," Jonathan answered.
"If the line breaks the whole city will be flung off into space won't it?" I asked.
"That has to be prevented. The bottom line is that Geostatica is a success and there's a demand for more. I think it's time to start thinking of a second city over Indonedia," Jonathan suggested.
"Then the announcement came that our flight was leaving. Besides the Texans one other couple speaking Japanese? were there but the last two seats were empty.
"This flight cost a fortune because of the carbon. We probably should have taken the elevator up like Will, I just wanted to try this," Grandpa said.
"We'll be in that capsule for twenty hours anyways," I said calculating.
And before we knew it we were saying goodbye to Jonathan and walking out to the plane.
"Not a very long runway," I said to my grandfather nervously.
"It's short like an aircraft carrier," he told me looking it over.
"It's an old FA-18 super hornet," I said as we borded.
"I remember these," Grandpa agreed.
"A bit of a pig on jet fuel." I remembered.
"Good thing you've got a rich grandfather to pay," he said as we took off.
For all the waiting it was a short flight. Less than half an hour and we got a visual on the landing strip in the sky before we landed.
"30,000 ft is about how high Mt. Everest is," I said as we walked down the air sealed walkway to the airport.
"Still I'm glad it's sealed, I'm not Reinhold Messner," Grandpa said talking of the first guy who climbed Everest without oxygen.
It wasn't long that we were in the sky-airport before we met Will.
"That flight worth it'?" he asked.
"Had to try it once," Grandpa replied.
"The capsule up was no problem. Even at one tenth the speed we'll reach in space, it was pretty fast." Will told us.
"It's only about five miles up," I told him.
"The city is about 22,000 miles up," he responded.
"So if we're going to get there in one day we'll have to be going a thousand miles an hour," guessed Grandpa.
"You can go much faster without air,"Will informed us.
And before too long we were away. While Will had saved us a couple of seats we did have one passenger, a botanist named Judy.
"Hope you guys brought some good books. The novelty wears off in about twenty minutes and then it's really boring," Judy said because she'd done the trip before.
"I'm hoping the amazing view of the earth keeps me interested," I answered.
"I told my parents I'd look at the clouds on our flight to Hawaii when I was a kid " Judy argued.
"I'm sure he has plenty of movies on his phone," Grandpa reassured.
"Famous last words," Judy said busily gathering her belongings.
And then we were packing into the capsule. Like most people we didn't wear spacesuits but stayed in our street clothes trusting in the capsule's atmospheric controls.
"Not completely cramped," my grandfather said proudly.
"Just wait 12 hours," Judy warned.
To my surprise I stayed interested in looking out the window for at least a couple of hours. It started like a jet flight looking down at the clouds but it rapidly became more like satellite imagery.
"What ever happened to escape velocity," judy wondered as we proceeded slowly through the last bit of atmosphere.
"I think that's for rocket ships that have to get as much traction as possible in the atmosphere," I guessed.
"Going faster now," Judy said as the blue sky turned black
The capsule had an LCD that we could adjust to get several readings. At about twenty miles up our speed went. up from a pretty slow 200mph and little by little we got to space at 1000 mph.
"This is where we get bored for 20 hours," Judy told us.
"I'm still fascinated by the view out the window," I reported.
"I can see the Galopolis Islands," Grandpa reported ,looking out the window himself.
"And south of that you can see Peru, and Chile, and at the tip, Argentina," Will said looking himself.
"Don't see much of the north or south poles," Judy said joining in.
"Canada and New Zesland are both kind of stretched," I said loving how people were paying attention.
"That's what you get when you're over the equator. Don't see much of the north or South Pole at all," Gramdpa informed us agreeing with Judy.
Finally we would fall silent, the elders falling into books and me watching movies on my phone. The speedometer now read almost 1000 miles an hour and ten hours in i decided we were half way.
"This hasn't been so bad," I decided.
"Time to try stretching out legs," Judy proclaimed.
And an awkward bout of stretching commenced, during which I noticed that Judy was not only beautiful but young.
"You still in university?" I asked her.
"I'm doing a PhD in space botany," she replied.
"I start university in the fall," I said a bit awkwardly.
The capsule fell silent then and Will and grandpa fell asleep. I was bored enough to say something rude to Judy.
"When you stood up to stretch your shirt flipped up a bit and I saw your six pack abs. You a gymnast or something?" I asked.
"They give us two hours of workout every day in space," she answered.
"I guess you get osteoporosis if you don't excercise a lot in low gravity," I said not knowing.
"Some of the billionaires have apartments with artificial gravity and now they're building a big wheel," Judy told me.
"Ring world," I said enthusiastically.
"Smaller than that. I think it has about eight apartments." Judy said back,
"So how long can you stay up before you have problems?" I wondered.
"I've done six months. I have to go back down in a month," Judy answered.
"So my Grandfather and I are ok if we stay three weeks," I said relieved.
"Your grandfather looks about 70. That's an age where anything that hurts your joints is discouraged," Judy warned.
"Playing my guitar hurts my joints at 18," I conceded.
"Don't stop or you'll get arthritis," Judy warned.
And then we both fell asleep for a few hours and when we woke we could see the glow of Geostatica ahead of us.
"Woe I fell asleep." Judy said rubbing her eyes.
"We're still about two hours away. but you can see the glow of the city," I told her gently.
It's getting too big," Judy said looking out the window.
"Space is huge but the elevator can only handle so much weight," I formulated.
There are some applications to the counter weight that aren't being talked about," Judy said mysteriously.
"Like what?" I asked.
"Like the notion that it may be possible to use centrifugal force rather than electricity to send payloads like this capsule up the elevator," Judy answered..
".I suppose if the counter weight is being flung out by the earths rotation at like a thousand miles per hour then payloads on the elevator are getting flung too," I agreed.
"Then there"s the idea that water might flow uphill to the city," Judy added.
"I definitely remember tying a bucket of water to a rope and spinning around and having the water not spill. Your taking it further,proposing that a hose tied to the rope would pump water to the bucket" I answered.
"They're talking about making the whole counter balance out of water. Adding more lines to make it stronger," Judy said worried.
"Might be easier to make it out of salt water. People are resistant to fresh water leaving earth," I proposed.
"Then there's the group who think the counter weight might be a way to create artificial gravity. It might take a whole different space elevator but it may be possible," Judy said doubtfully.
"I guess just staying up there holding up the elevator is kind of gravity but would it be possible to simulate conditions on earth?" I had to think about it.
"That's what they're talking about. Not a wheel but a platform you could walk on," judy agreed.
"So you'd be upside down but that wouldn't matter. The amount of pseudo gravity would depend on the weight of the counter weight," I added.
"In order to hold up the elevator the counter weight exerts force. How much force? Well, the elevator brings up loads in the tons most days. So if I stand upside down on the counter weight it should feel like several tons worth of gravity. Too much perhaps," Judy brainstormed.
About an hour away from the city Grandpa and Will woke up.
"I was eavesdropping in my dreams." Grandpa admitted.
"Judy and I were designing the new counter weight." I told him.
"Sounds like some people want to make the whole city a counter weight," Grandpa said.
"Sounds like they're not even worried about the effects it may cause on the earth," Will added.
"Honestly those models are exaggerated. Probably we could tie on everything available and it won't affect the earth's rotation," Judy opine.
"So does that mean you're in favour of tieing everything on to the counterweight?" Will asked.
"I'm not in favour, but I think it would be harmless," Judy replied.
"We met with Jonathan head honcho down at the ranch. He urged us to discourage it," will said unsure.
"There are plans for large agricultural projects. The kind that requires large amounts of water. A big tank is proposed, so big that the water would gravity feed up a hose from the earth," Judy informed us.
"I can see how the water could be forced to travel up the hose," Gramdpa started,"I can even see how the counterweight might have gravity and be good for storing water. I just can't see how risking the earth makes sense."
"Now that we're thoroughly confused I think we're arriving," Will said a bit excited.
To make one complete rotation in 24 hours, a point near the equator of the Earth must move at close to 1000 miles per hour (1600 km/hr). The speed gets less as you move north, but it's still a good clip throughout the United States.
"Once these seat belts come off you get a crash course in zero g," Will told us.
"It's already odd." said Grandpa floating up a bit.
"Well it's been nice meeting you Judy. I hope I'll see you again," I said as the doors to our capsule were opened.
"My grandson has an ambitious taste for older women," Grandpa apologized.
"At least it's breathable air," Will said floating out.
"And the hand holds are good," Grandpa added floating out himself.
"This is just the arrival station. To get anywhere else you have to make your way about 100 meters up to the main atrium," Judy told us.
"This is my first time in zero G," I shouted doing somersaults like I'd seen people do in videos.
"I've got to be heading home," Will announced.
"I'd love to see your place," I said a bit rudely.
"You're welcome to come by," Will invited.
"We have to go to the hotel first. Put our stuff in our room." Grandpa reminded.
"I can show you where it is,"Will volunteered.
And we were off. Up into the atrium and out into the street. Well the sidewalk perhaps, or pedestrian thoroughfare. A wide grid with artificial air, allowing a large crowd to pass. To say that people walked is an overstatement, when mostly they were pulling themselves along on grab bars. A single vendor sold zero G drinks and we lines up to have one.
"Note that nobody is using cash. It wiuld fly away., Cards only. And that these zero G drunk containers are really cool. Developed by NASA in the 1990's" Will was our tour guide.
"Why don't cards fly away too?" I wondered.
"They do. Just not as much," said Judy who had just joined us.
"You found time to change. Those shorts are outstanding," I said innocently.
"A fashion started in the movie from the 2010's called 'Gravity' by Sandra Bullock," guessed Grandpa.
"They keep this place too damn hot," Judy explained a little embarrassed.
"No comment,"Will said probably thinking of how hot all the females looked in their tight short shorts.
"On another topic, where is the hotel?" Grandpa asked.
"Up where I'm heading," Judy volunteered.
"I guess I'll leave then," Will pronounced.
"So your apartment is down here?" Judy asked.
"I admit it would be a bit out of my way heading up there," Will said honestly.
"Good thing I'm here then," Judy said happy.
And so we were off.Judy had a bulky back pack and I carried it for her
"This bag is so heavy it almost allows me to walk with my feet on the floor." I told her.
"It's full of old fashioned botany text books that never got translated for my e-reader," Judy answered.
Then I noticed the posters plastering the walls as we got downtown.
"Looks like there's an election going on," I prompted.
"It's those in favour of limits to growth versus those in favour of insanity," Judy summarized.
"I'm in favour of a mankind that doesn't feel spatialy constrained. A mankind that uses some of the infinite space in space. Just not a group of cowboys who want to give earth a case of the Wobblies," I tried.
"As I said the orbit of the earth is probably fine. It's hard to make a stable path eccentric .its just the idea of risking it is out of bounds. The earth is our mother. We're dependent on her. We can take huge strides, colonize space, but we don't risk the mother," Judy argued.
Then we were at the hotel and we were introduced to a rustic form of artificial gravity. When we entered the doorman covered our feet with magnetic dhesths that were tuned to attract with the special floors.
"It kind of defeats the purpose of artificial gravity. The goal is.to defend against osteoporosis, this just allows you to pretend your on earth," Judy judged.
"I, for one kind of like walking down a hallway," Grandpa said doing a little dance on the magnetic floor.
"I wonder if anyone has got a shock from these floors," I said trying Grandpa's dance.
To the front desk where Grandpa was in his element, pulling out his fat wallet and booking us a room.
Up a funky elevator to a nice two bedroom suite where Judy took her leave and left us alone.
"You have a thing for older women, don't you?" Grandpa said when we wouldn't be overheard.
"It's those short shorts. They're very uh, compelling," I answered.
"Hope she likes younger men," Grandpa said looking through the leaflets he'd found.
"So what are we doing for dinner?" I asked him.
"According to these leaflets there's a ton of places around here but o think we should just head downstairs to watch how the locals handle it when the entree flies away," Grandpa answered.
"I guess that rules out room service," I guessed.
We headed out the door and down to the restaurant in the funky elevator. It was surprising when we met Judy in the lobby.
"Hello stranger," Grandpa greeted her.
"Turns out I only live a few hundred meters from here. I thought I'd drop by and give you some news," Judy said.
"We're planning on visiting your place tomorrow if that's ok," I replied.
"What's the news?" Grandpa asked.
"I've set up a meeting with a friend of mine. He's an astrophysicist. I thought you needed some answers beyond the politics." Judy answered.
"Maybe we could meet with hin after we see your place tomorrow," I suggested.
"He gets off work at three, so we can eat lunch if you come over at one," Judy invited.
"We're just off to try and eat like the locals now." Grandpa said heading for the restaurant .
"Guess we'll see you tomorrow," I said chasing after him.
And having said farewell to Judy we stood in the restaurant lineup in our magnetic shoes and awaited a table.
"It doesn't matter if we're near a window. It's our first meal in zero G," Gramdpa told the maitre d'.
What with the magnetic shoes for our waiter and the strips of Velcro on our plates and bowls the meal was anti climactic.
"This stew defies zero gravity," Grandpa said with his mouth full,
"As long as we eat sticky stew and stay away from plates of peas we're ok,"" I answered.
"The bags of water are very astronaut," Gramdpa said putting the tube in his mouth and taking a ball of water.
"I heard that the first two or three days in zero G food was tasteless," I offered.
"I thought it was just a bland chef," Grandpa said mopping his plate with a burrito.
"I guess they use burritos rather than bread because crumbs are a no no," I said trying a burrito myself.
"So what are you going to ask this friend of Judy's?" Grandpa asked me changing the subject.
"I want to know how water defies gravity and climbs thousands of feet without power," I answered.
"It's supposed to be 'gravity feed," Grandpa said throwing his Velcro napkin on the table and putting a weight on top of it. Then he stood up to leave., making a tearing sound as he got off the Velcro seat.
"I'll ask the astrophysicist," I agreed.
"Good idea," Grandpa said as we walked to the elevator.
Back at the room we should have been tired but we were both excited and awake.
"These beds have seatbelts," Grandpa said as he lay in the dark.
"Drive carefully," I warned.
In the morning we had a few hours before we were supposed to meet Judy. Grandpa bravely led me out onto the street where our magnetic shoes didn't work. That didn't last long. Pretty soon we were checking out the shops in the downstairs of the hotel looking for souvenirs for our loved ones back home.
"Your grandmother will love this cloth made from space cotton," Grandpa said his mouth full of space candy.
"I read they were farming cotton up here," I told him .
"It's a main export," he told me.
"I don't want to ask too many dumb questions when we meet our astrophysicist," I confided.
"Gotta impress Judy," Grandpa guessed.
"I'm trying to defy the notion that the youngest person is the most oblivious," I added.
"Want me to buy you a t-shirt made of space cotton?" Grandpa asked me.
"If I wear it to Judy's I'll seem like a local," I answered.
And after a little more shopping we were on our way. The magnetic floors in the hotel gave way to zero G streets where a kind of flying was standard. Judy's apartment was close in a hive of working class rooms fashioned largely from steel. It welcomed us with its homey touches.
"So you're an American girl," Grandpa guessed.
"Born and raised in the state of Florida," Judy answered.
"An excellent place to learn botany," Grandpa surmised.
"Very florid," I quipped.
"Botany in outer space is different,"Judy told us.
Just then a bell rang notifying us that Judy's guest had arrived.
"His name is Conroy," Judy whispered as she did some last minute cleaning up.
Pleased to meet you," we heard grandpa say from down the hall.
"Conroy!" Judy shouted when her friend entered the room.
"Judy my love!" Conroy greeted in a slightly feminine voice.
"Anthony Brooks and his grandson Marcus I want you to meet Conroy,,the astrophysicist I told you about," said Judy doing introductions.
"Is that your last name or your first?" Grandpa asked shaking the man's hand.
"Constantine Royvanovitch from TzatIkaatan," the man answered.
"So s bit of both," I said shaking his hand too.
"Truncated, concatated and Amercanized. " he answered.
"I like it," Grandpa decided.
"One name wonder," Judy opined.
"Marcus and I are on a fact finding mission but as we've travelled we've found that politics are affecting truth a lot," Gtandpa told Conroy.
"I think we should ask Judy to get us some tea, then we can talk," Conroy replied.
And like the excellent hostess that she was Judy showed up with plastic bags of tea. We each took one and drank through the hose attached while we talked.
"The first thing you have to understand is that the sun always shines on Geostatica. A big energy company that used to be an oil company paid for half the elevator to service their solar arrays," Conroy began.
"I hadn't even noticed that the nights were artificial," I said between gulps of tea.
"They're pretty adamant about circadian rhythms. Lights are turned off, windows are blacked out but if you go outside at night you'll see the sun shining," Conroy insisted.
"I guess that power company gets double their money in space," Grandpa said resting one of the baked goods Judy had velcroed to a chair in a bag,
"Not only double from no nights but no cloud or fog either," Conroy added.
"So that would be Geostatica's biggest export,solar power?" I asked.
There's so much room for fields of panels. The company even donated some to the local government," Conroy added.
"I heard about that. Rather than paying for streets and parks they gave shares to every citizen," Grandpa said a bit negatively.
"So all citizens of Geostatica got rich," I wondered.
"To deal with the fact that most people don't stay up here for long the shares go with the properties not the people. So every place is getting its mortgage paid off," Grandpa added.
"So my apartment which is owned by the Boise Idaho space club is getting it's mortgage paid off? I hear they cost a fortune," Judy offered.
"People took all kinds of insane debt to get this place going. So much so that helping them out was first priority," Conroy told us.
"Those who invested early are getting rewarded. I owned a couple of apartments but I sold them,"' Grandpa confessed.
"That's where we could be staying," I said to Grandpa.
"Any one care if we reconvened our meeting in the park?" Conroy asked all of.a sudden.
"I would enjoy getting out in the sun," Grandpa answered.
"Sounds good," I agreed.
The park was as close as we'd been in accessing the outdoors of the always sunny Geostatica.
"This forest is an experiment," Conroy told us, pointing to the sheets of plexiglsss above the trees.
"What we're trying to figure out is the minimum amount of night a tree needs," he added.
"The trees that get no night look ok, just not as good as some of the trees under polarized shade," I concluded.
"This is a primary area of research for us botanists," Judy added.
"Really vanities like forests in space wouldn't be possible if we weren't comitted to a large counterweight," Conroy told us.
"That's the crux of the matter,"Grandpa opined.
"First we should talk about microwave transmission of electricity," Conroy told us.
"Everyone thought the Canadians were crazy sending tar sands energy to China using microwaves," Grandpa said.
"Now we've gone a step further sending electricity to earth from space in the gigawatts by microwave," Conroy added.
"I guess that's the basis of the whole project," Grandpa said noticing four musicians setting up in the park.
"At least the thing that makes Geostatica profitable," I added.
"So if energy and energy transmission are the first thing we have to talk about before we get to counterweights and that issue, what do we need to know? " Judy wondered.
"You need to know that space is limitless. The amount of area that can be covered in solar panels is massive as well. So much so that the thinkers in Geostatica central command have kind of lost it. They think they have the right to make the counter weight way too big," Conroy summarized.
Just then the quartet started playing. And who should be on tenor saxophone but our friend Will!
"Bach isn't it?" Grandpa asked me.
"Perhaps transposed for this unusual instrumentation," I answered talking about the cello, French horn, tenor sax and flugelhorn in the group.
"There are over twenty thousand people who live in Geostatica. Still it's not unusual to run into people you know over and over again," Conroy told us.
"Will Jarvis and I go way back. To the days of just talking about Geostatica on social media," Grandpa told Conroy.
"And he was in the capsule we came up in. I didn't know he was one of the four billionaires," Judy added.
"Those four folks playing Bach are pretty famous up here. Not for their music but because they have antificial gravity homes and are living here for years," Conroy told us.
"So what are they doing out in zero G?" I asked.
"One of the four is a doctor, Dr. Stander, and he believes that as long as you sleep in Gravity your ok," Conroy answered.
"Perhaps if you sleep in gravity and exercise in gravity," Judy argued.
"So what's the longest anyone has spent in space?" I asked.
"The Russians have a few folks that spent over 800 days in space but it's not advisable," Conroy noted.
"There's really only one of the four billionaires who doesn't make trips down to earth quite often. Sandy Kobak is about to beat the Russian record having stayed up here for three years," Judy informed us.
"And now there's a new mass produced wheel home that creates artificial gravity from solar power," Conroy told us.
"I hear we ordered twenty. But surely bigger wheels are the way to go," Grandpa suggested.
"...like the eight unit thing that's under construction," I added.
"What really needs to be considered is whether the counter weight and its pull against the earth can be used for artificial gravity," Contoy submitted.
"Finally we get to talk to you Conroy, about your area of expertise. I have only a few metaphors I go back to to try and understand this stuff. The first is the track and field event called the hammer throw," I enthused.
"I call that the ball and chain. Thinking about that and the fact that the earth is spinning at 1000 miles an hour makes me worry that Geostatica is going to be hurled off into space," Grandpa added.
"Another metaphor is the amusement park ride where everyone stands inside a spinning wheel and when spinning fast enough the floor drops out.," Conroy told us.
"That's centrifugal force. It pins the people on that ride to the walls. The same force that an ant would feel if it stood on the ball in the ball and chain whirling around," I answered.
Just then Will joined in, having put down his horn and taken a break for a while.
"Centrifugal force and its brother, centripetal force aren't real forces. They are just inertia," Will told us.
Then we were interrupted by a small parade. It was a group called 'The Artificial Night' and they had an agenda they wanted to present.
"When they started they were all about getting the trees some darkness. Now they want to see a second elevator to balance things out," Judy explained.
"At the antipode to the base in Ecuador down in Indonesia," Will added.
"So that's the exact opposite place on the planet to here?" I wondered.
"If the goal is to find balance I'm all for it," Grandpa voted.
"The model that is in circulation is probably exaggerated. Working on balancing the load on earth is a good idea though," Conroy posited,
We stayed in the park a couple of hours asking Conroy questions and listening to Will's quartet. After that we were invited to Will's place to eat dinner.
"It's amazing how many people ask to come over and cook," Will said as he prepared dinner in his immense kitchen.
"A simple thing like chopping a green onion is difficult in zero G," Grandpa said.
"Unless you like onion snow," I suggested.
"And now the designers are talking about rebuilding the whole city with artificial gravity," Will continued.
"There's a whole generation coming that will never know zero G," Grandpa predicted.
" My kids perhaps," I said hopefully.
"First you have to have kids," said Judy who was perhaps being ignored a little.
" First I have to marry the mother of my children,"I said flirting a bit.
Just then there was a chime that meant that someone was at the door. Will answered on an intercom and we helard him talking to a male voice in the kitchen.
"This will be interesting," Will said joining us in the seating area.
"Who's at the door?" Grandpa asked.
"It's a representative of 'The Artificial Night'. He's on his way down." Will answered.
"I hear myself being talked about. That entrance is incredible. Six or seven times I made a move onto a wheel no more difficult than stepping on an elevator. Finally I'm on the big wheel with you people standing here " the fellow said.
"In artificial earth gravity," I confirmed.
"The kind of G's my bones like," said the fellow stretching.
"May I introduce Timothy Spanmer, a representative of the group called 'The Artificial Night'," Will announced to us all.
"So what brings you here Tim?" Grandpa asked shaking hands.
"Well as you know our group is interested in creating a second space elevator at the antipode to this one in Ecuador. For a moment we thought we were working in the deep ocean off Indonesia, but now we've realized with only a one kilometre move of the Ecuador base, still on the farm, we can purchase some land in Indonesia that will work out perfectly," Tim replied.
"I hope the Indonesian site is cheap because moving the skyscraper in Ecuador is going to cost a fortune," Will warned.
"That's why we're just trying to buy the land in Indonesia right now. It will probably be expensive even if we're in the third world. Jakarta is nearby and it's a very overpopulated place," Tim explained.
"Marcus and I will be heading back down to earth in a few weeks. Perhaps we should fly down to Indonesia and get an idea about the real estate market down there," Grsndpa volunteered.
"It would be nice to have somebody on my side who's on the ground," Will agreed.
"We already have a man on location. We just don't have any money," Tim told us.
"Perhaps we could meet up with him. His local information may be invaluable," Grandps said hopefully.
"Our man on the ground is actually a woman. A feisty Australian gal by the name of Becky Sanders," Tim told us.
"I hope she's feisty. A single white woman travelling alone down there is quite a target," Judy sympathized.
"Looking forward to meeting up with Becky when we're down there," Grandpa added.
"I'll try to reach her online," I suggested.
Then a quiet meeting took place between Grandpa and Will.involving whiskey and the cooking of soup in the deep kitchen. When Grandpa returned he was unusually youthful and energetic.
"Will has invited us to stay at his house," he revealed.
"Good to get the elder into an environment that's better for the bones," I guessed.
"My thoughts exactly. Your grandmother will be angry at me if I come home with rheumatism," Grandpa agreed.
"How do we get our bags from the hotel?" I asked.
"Will has offered to drive you down there in his tube car," Gtsndpa answered.
"There are cars here?" I asked.
"I guess there's a tube that acts kind of like a highway. It's suspended underground," Grandpa answered.
"Like that old guy Elon Musk and his hyper tube," I tried.
"Except in outer space," Grandpa corrected.
And not much time would pass before Will and I descended to the 'transport level'.
"All buckled in?" Will didn't want me to float away.
"Roger that." I answered from the seat in front of him.
"I can take you on a bit of a scenic route," Will offered.
"And we were off. Through a labarynth of wires and piping we cruised along talking of current events on the earth and watching for signs that would tell us what's above. Finally we came to a window that looked out on the space we were in.
"So what is that I see?" I asked pointing to a satellite 100 metres away.
"That's the original Geostatic communications satellite, now decommissioned," Will told me.
"So it didn't move like the other satellites," I guessed.
"The thing about geostationary orbit is a body stays stationary," Will told me.
"I remember sleeping on the lawn in my grandma's back yard. We looked up and saw satellites passing by in the sky. Then we saw one satellite that stayed still. That was maybe this one," I said thinking back.
"Maybe," Will agreed.
"So what's next on our tour?" I asked.
"There's another window with a good view of the counter weight," Will proposed driving away.
"It's smaller than I thought." I said when we arrived ten minutes later.
"That's because they haven't tied the whole city to it yet," Will responded.
"Conroy kind of avoided this topic when we came to it. What are the main issues?" I asked.
"Well Geostatica has earned prestige as an energy exporter. But now it wants to diversify into agriculture. To do this will take a large amount of water," Will began.
"Which could float in a tank unattached like the city," I ventured.
"The motivation for tieing the big tank to the counterweight is coming from earth. They want to have a cargo elevator that can handle loads in the tons Also they want fields that fly in the air," Willl told me.
"The one that's there can already handle pretty big loads but growing potatoes in the air might take some work," I said thinking.
"Even in 2050 the earth still has a couple of billion people that are hungry," Will reminded.
"And plenty of animals that need habitat," I added.
And the tour continued and came to a halt when we got to the hotel and picked up the bags.
"Is that all you've got?" Will asked when I showed up with the bags.
"Travelling light," I said floating a bit to make my point.
"Your grandfather will be eager to see us," Will said putting the bags in the car's little trunk.
"I'll miss floating around a bit," I said as we drove away.
We can always go to the park," Will reassured me.
And for the next couple of weeks that's how it would be.
We stayed in Will's opulent den for three days watching movies in space and eating popcorn. Finally we made our way outside, downtown to a main shopping area we hadn't visited before.
"Mostly clothes from earth," said Grandpa a little bored.
"And expensive," I noted looking over the stock.
"I think I'll get some Velcro pants," Grandpa decided looking over the locally made garments.
"Stick to any chair," I said hopefully.
"Tonight we're eating pizza at Will's. I couldn't believe it was possible to call out for pizza in space, but tomorrow we'll try a restaurant out here in zero g," Grandpa proposed.
"I think I'll get some Velcro pants too," I decided.
And after,when we'd left the department store for the plaza and were sitting on a bench in our new Velcro pants we met Judy.
"Small town for a big city," Grandpa said to her in greeting.
"I see you guys have got the local clothing," she replied.
"It's good to be able to stick to where you sit," I answered.
"Hey Judy, we are having pizza tonight at Will's, care to join us?" Grandpa asked.
"Are you getting it from Tony's?" Judy ssked.
"That's the place,"Grandpa answered.
"Can't miss that," Judy agreed.
It wasn't as if Tony's was artificial gravity. Rather they were famous for their magic tricks in preparing food in zero g.
"I hear they even found a way of dealing with chopped onions," Grandpa enthused.
Just as we were leaving the plaza for Will's to eat pizza we ran into Judy's friend Conroy.
"What brings you to this place of commerce?" Grandpa asked him.
"I fond myself in need of a cheap cotton shirt from China," he answered.
"With a forty percent markup for coming up the elevator,"I added.
" I haven't been downtown in three months," he confessed.
"We're ordering pizza from Tony's into Will' artificial gravity mansion. Care to join us?" asked Grandpa.
"I would show up even if you were in a zero G hovel. That food is excellent," answered Conroy.
And so a short time later we found ourselves in Will's opulent den sitting on the leather couches eating pizza.
"Conroy, I've been meaning to ask you about water," Grandpa said with his mouth full of pepperoni.
"I assume you mean water and Geostatica. That's an old and thorny subject," Conroy answered.
"Start at the beginning." Grandpa urged.
"Well in the early days we brought fresh water up from Ecuador in a special water tank capsule of the elevator." Conroy started.
"Why did that end?" Grandpa asked.
"The Ecuadorians shut it down. Said if we had extra solar power we should take seawater and desalinate it," Conroy added.
"It's all about global warming. Take seawater because the oceans are rising, keep the fresh water to irrigate the land,"I deduced.
"In my opinion it was a bit draconian. We have a right to fresh water," Will voted.
"So that's where we stand today. If we'd gone a little east to Brazil or Venezuela we would have had plenty of water. But the west side of South America, Peru and Ecuador is pretty dry,"Conroy finalized.
"And what about the gravity feed pipeline we heard of?" Grandpa asked.
"Partly nonesense in my opinion. Those first twenty miles in gravity will require pumps. After that in zero g is when it gets interesting," Conroy told us.
"But doesn't water just turn into globules in space!" I asked.
"That's kind of the plan. To put the column of water under pressure so it compresses into a single globule and doesn't fly apart,"Conroy answered.
"But does fly down into artificial gravity," Grandpa guessed.
"I think you mean up. The gravity-like force is centrifugal like the amusement park ride that pins you to the wall. So in this case the seawater is being flung outwards. If it pools in a tank it will be at the top of the tank," Conroy corrected.
"So we install the tank upside down. It still doesn't feel like it will work," Will said voicing doubts he'd been carrying for months.
"I believe a tank tied to the counterweight could be filled. I believe there is no uphill or downhill in space. For some reason I still think it will require pumps to do this job," Conroy admitted.
"On another topic I want to thank my grandfather for getting this delicious pizza," I said interrupting.
"Here here!" agreed Will.
"And thanks to Will for allowing us to eat in his house," Grandpa added.
After that the dinner broke into small groups with Grandpa and Will standing by the bar discussing real estate and myself and Judy talking ptivstely as well. As for Contoy.he was enmeshed in a video game on Will's television.
"I'm supposed to go out for dinner with Gtandpa tomorrow in zero g. I'd rather go with you," I said to Judy.
"Marcus, are you asking me out on a date?" Judy asked.
"If an eighteen year old can be so presumptuous to ask such a lovely twenty three year old beauty out to eat food that may float away, then yes," I answered.
You called me beautiful even though I often have potting soil smeared across my face," Judy said a little overwhelmed.
"A fashion statement," I told her.
"I would be honoured to accompany you," she said a little formally.
"I just need to make sure it's ok with my grandfather."I said awkwardly.
"Call me in the morning," Judy said getting ready to leave.
After that it got a little awkward with Conroy and Judy walking home and Grandpa and me retiring to our rooms down the hall.
"I won't be able to make it to dinner tonight. I have a date with Judy," I said noting that it was after midnight.
"Better to eat with a fine young lady than a grumpy old man," Grampa answered encouragingly.
" Not that grumpy. You're better off staying at Will's than out messing with floating peas," I told him.
"I hope I don't get in the way. I think Will has a lady friend coming over for dinner," Grandpa worried.
"Sounds like you may be going to bed early," I said a little sadly.
As it turned out Grandpa would go on an adventure himself. Dwarfing me in his accomplishments, he not only headed out Into the zero g world but he had an interesting visit with Will's neighbour Ichabald Sprout. As it turned out they had known each other for decades and he invited grandpa in to his billion dollar rotating house to sit in the artificial gravity and reminisce.
As for me, I had a nice enough evening with Judy and I returned home a little filled with regrets that I hadn't been more aggressive in taking our relationship to the next level. But she was clearly five years older than me and very much the person in charge. She left me with some flirtatious comments about the superiority of zero G lovemaking and I was encouraged to visit her in her apartment at the earliest opportunity.
"You didn't even get to second base?" Grandpa said to me disgusted.
"I'm heading over to her place in the morning," I reassured the old man.
And Ichabald Sprout for his part had filled my grandfather's head with visions of a solar powered slow mission to Mars being assembled by a group of adventuresome Geostatica young people.
"How fast do they think they can get to Mars?" I asked.
"Using an immense array of not-yet-available solar cells they think they can make it in under three years," Grandpa answered.
"Sounds like a boring trip," I guessed.
They have an old nautilus. its a ship design from the twentieth century. Provides artificial gravity for long flights," Grandpa told me.
"I don't think it was designed to run on solar power," I guessed.
"They'll have to adapt it," Grandpa supposed.
And then I hit the hay and probably Grandpa did too. I admit erotic thoughts of Judy entered my dreams but at breakfast it was Will who had a lovely lady at his side.
"Melissa this is Anthony Brooks one of the founders of Geostatica and his grandson Marcus," Will said introducing us.
"Pleased to meet you," said the outstanding brunette at the table.
"So Melissa, how did you meet Will?" asked Grandpa.
"We both do some work for Golden Gate Space Construction which built a lot of the buildings up here," Melissa answered between bites of waffle.
"A bunch of Silicon Valley folks isn't it?" Grandpa asked.
"Geostatica is half Japaneses solar money and half Silicon Valley high tech dreamers. I'm from Arizona," she answered.
"A nice hot place to grow up," I inserted, grabbing a second waffle.
"So how did you get involved?" Grandpa wanted to know.
"I'm a lawyer. Specializing in protecting risky ventures," Melissa answered.
"Seems like everything they do down in Silicon Valley is a risky venture." Grandpa opined.
"Business has been good," she told us.
Then Will came out from the stove area carrying a plate full Of steaming cheese pastries wrapped in bacon.
"I call these cheese pastries wrapped in bacon," he announced serving one onto each person's plate.
"I'm very sorry but I have to take your leave. Looks like this is turning into brunch. I told Jidy I'd be at her place by eleven," I revealed.
"You better get going, it's ten to," Grandpa advised.
And I was off to Judy's apartment humming a tune and clicking my heels together.
"What took you so long?" she said when she answered her door in a neglige.
"I'm just a quarter hour late," I said hopefully enjoying the visuals.
"I thought you'd be outside drooling," she said with a slightly hurt look on her face.
"The brunch at Will's place tied me down," I confessed.
"I was about to change to my street clothes," she warned.
"Glad you didn't" I said taking her in my arms.
After that we moved to the bed, or should I say moved to floating over the bed. Everything I'd heard about zero G love making proved true with Kama sutra like moves ineveitsnle. Judy was a whirlwind and she dealt with my eighteen year old body with expertise.
"A lot of people end up in the hospital with a broken boner," she told me.
"It's pretty acrobatic. I can see why injuries happen," I agreed.
"Ya but some of those weird angles feel so good," Judy enthused.
"You feel so good," I said holding her and kissing her.
"You too," she agreed, and before too long we were giving it another try.
When I got back to Will's at about two o'clock the three elders, Grandpa, Will, and Melissa, were still at the breakfast table. Evidently they'd been into the orange juice and champagne.
"Marcus, you're back so soon!" my Grandpa said with drunken enthusiasm.
"Slam bam thank you ma'am," Melissa added enibriated.
"Let me guess, you had six climaxes and you're unclear if poor Judy even had one." said Grandpa truth talking.
"How did you know?" I asked amazed.
"Familial trait," Grandpa answered.
"Don't worry eventually you'll find a woman who treats them as steps in a larger crescendo," Melissa said soberly.
"I wouldn't tell you if I hadn't been drinking champagne all morning but you're grandmother and I took decades to synch up," Grazdpa confessed.
"More information than I needed to hear," Will said.
"She was a busy nursing student when we got together. No time for foreplay., Wben she finally took time for herself when the kids were out the door she was a bit disgusted at how much time her body took." Grandpa confessed:
That afternoon Grandpa and I went down to the park to hear Will playing with his quartet.
"So we kind of know all four people. Will we know best. Ichabald Sprout is on cello, the other two are a doctor, who's studying the effects of zero g, and the record breaker, who's been up here for three years," I said to Grandpa.
"The record breaker is Sandy Kobak, and the doctor is Dr. Standers," Grandpa added.
"A quartet of eccentric but exceptional people," I decided.
Everyone in Geostatica is above average," Grandpa said proudly.
"Got to listen to our friends now," I said shushing him.
When they took a break Will and Ichabald came over.
"Did you hear the news? Thing are happening fast around here.," Ichabald enthused.
"I thought you guys mostly played Bach but that was Charlie Parker bebop you finished with wasn't it? That was fast," Grandpa agreed.
"I'm talking about the mission to Mars. They've made s deal with the rocket powered guys to get supplies. I guess they're running a ship every two weeks and they don't mind dropping a load as they zoom by," Ichabald revealed.
"Ya, the mainstream Mars mission is big news, That's why I hadn't even heard of Geodtatica when we started," I offered.
"The other news is that the twenty artificial gravity homes we ordered are arriving faster than we thought. The first one should arrive as soon as next week," Will added.
"Marcus, you should think about staying up here. I'm involved in selling these twenty places and I can get you one to stay in if you want," Grsndps offered.
"It's basically an interior decorating gig.Thr wheels show up in a pretty utilitarian state. Your job is to make them homey," Will told me.
"I hear there's a botanist who might be interested in staying with you," Ichabald added because gossip was big in space.
And just like that my future was altered. Now I just had to run it by Judy,
Judy liked the idea of staying up in a spinning house especially if Grandpa was footing the bill.
"Interior decorators in space," she joked.
"That's really only my job. You can stick with botany," I told her.
"Sounds good," she said gratefully.
"I'm just looking at the plans. There's an option for a swimming pool," I read.
"Swimming in space," she called it.
"I think there could be a greenhouse connected to the swimming pool, for plants that thrive in humidity," I ventured.
"Excellent for me. I'm not too sure if it helps sell the place," Judy warned.
"Grandpa said to not be afraid of having personality. Turns out people like a bit of eccentricity in what they buy," I suggested.
"Growing plants in artificial gravity is an important new direction. Maybe some people will want to try it," Judy said hopefully.
"It was kind of rude to notice but Grandpa gets along well with billionaires because he's a rich guy himself. He told me that waitng til he died to give away money is no fun, I think he wants us to build a home and see us settled," I told Judy.
"We aren't married, we only had sex once," she objected.
"He's kind of in a hurry. It makes me wonder if he's ok," I worried.
"He seemed fine to me. I think we should treat it as a business opportunity," Judy resolved.
"So we want to look settled at the same time as doing some speedy decorating," I concluded.
"And we should have sex a few more times," Judy decided.
"If you insist," I joked.
For the last two weeks of Grandpa's trip we visited all the sites that he'd heard about. The museum was interesting and the orchestra amphitheatre was surprisingly good.
"For a city of 20,000 with plenty of people coming and going this is an amazing group," I said proudly.
But the truly outstanding event we went to one evening was a zero g gymnastics competition.
"That guy can do ten summersaults in thin air!" Grampa said aghast.
"I can do two," I mentioned.
"Even I can do one," Grandpa said humbly.
When the new wheel homes started arriving Will donated one to the city for a new community centre. Now there was a swimming pool for everyone. There was also a fitness room with state of the art eccercise machines and a kitchen for those who liked gravity when they cooked. And in a departure a small zoo-like area was added with mostly farm animals.
"How on earth did you get a cow up here?" asked Grandpa.
"You mean how off earth," corrected Will. "It was just a matter of strapping her into a crate to get her up here in the elevator. Once she got here four guy moved the crate quite easily,"Will answered.
"The chickens seem happy. Have they been in zero G yet?" I asked.
" Not much. They were mostly folded up in very small containers," Will answered.
"And the space pig?" asked Grandpa.
"Same story. Strapped in to prevent injury."Will answered.
"Smart species. You should let him try and adapt to weightlessness," I proposed.
"I think the plan is to leave everyone to settle for about six months then see what can be adapted to a cheaper environment," Will answered.
"Like a farm at the base of the elevator." I suggested,
"The thinking is we're too dependent on the Ecuadorians and their fairly unstable systems. The plan is to aim for self sufficiency in everything but seawater," Will told us.
"And with the oceans rising seawater is beyond frree. It might be possible to get paid to take some away," Grandpa suggested.
"There's still a faction that is unhappy with water leaving the earth system. They say the amount of rain is dependent on the amount of evaporation friom the oceans," Will told us,
"Which is why we should recycle our wastewater diligently. Even the seawater might be stopped," I guessed.
"There are plans to get water from passing comets or even from Mars," Will told us.
"That's a long trip to make for a glass of water," Grandpa joked.
And before too long Grandpa was leaving and Judy and I headed to the elevator port to say goodbye.
"We'll try to make you proud old man, I told him as I hugged him good bye.
"Just make sure you're happy," he said back to me.
"We'll work on that," Judy added.
And Grandpa was gone and I wouldn't see him again except on skype as I would live happily in Geostatica for years and years.
"The end of an era," Judy said to me as we watched Gtabdpa leave.
"Makes me think we should be having children to pass the torch along," I said with my arm around her.
"Don't get too ahead of yourself," she warned as she held me close as well.
But things would proceed at a staggering pace. We took full occupancy of our new home and settled in within a month. Our house warming party was a grand success with Will, and Melissa, Conroy, and Tim from 'The Artificial Night' dropping by amongst many others. Ichabald Spriut came by after midnight with a bottle of fine French wine.
"It still confounds me that it's sunny at midnight," he apologized.
"Glad you made it over," I welcomed him.
"I hear your grandfather's making a trip to Indonesia," Ichabald told me.
"I was talking to him on skype last week. He didn't mention it," I responded.
"I guess Will's going down to join him and your grandmother. Taking that guy Tim from 'The Artificial Night'"Ichabald added.
"What's the big event?" I wondered.
"I guess the 'artificial night' had a big meeting. They renamed themselves 'The Balanced Load'. They have new resolve to make the site in Indonesia work," Ichabald answered.
And that's where I decided to join Will on his trip to Southeast Asia. Grandpa would have a heart attack and be unable to join us but that was my first of many trips to earth on behalf of 'The Balancied Load'.
"So where did they get the new resolve ?" I asked..
"A couple of scientific papers that showed how a small perturbation over time can lead to deep eccentricities in an orbit over time," Ichabald answered.
"So we're talking about the earth's orbit around the sun. And the perturbation is caused by Geostatica?" I asked.
"In the model. It's a warning about what could happen if balance was ignored and huge growth took place," Ichabald said summing up the papers.
"My new artificial gravity house with a swimming pool points toward a time when people may come up here just to enjoy the constant sunlight," I guessed.
"Not to mention the impact of growing huge amounts of food in space and the water that would require," Ichabald added.
"So housing, tourism, and agriculture. They're only a problem if we tie their large loads onto the counterweight," I summarized.
"That seems to be powered by two groups. People on earth who want to do things in the sky like farm or increase animal habitat," Ichabald said summing up the problem...
"I hear there are some who want to increase human habitat," I interrupted.
"And then there are those who want a super elevator to space. Not carrying loads of a couple tons like the current model, but loads of hundreds of tons like an ocean freighter," Ichabald told me.
"So the idea is to make an equally large load doewn in Indonesia. Providing balance to the earth," I wondered.
"There's even talk of a four way system. Four elevators for stable balance," Ichabald told me.
"i Don't know where those four points of balance are but I'll bet at least one of them would be in the ocean. It's interesting to imagine a structure like an oil Derrick as the base of an elevator," I guessed.
After our housewarming Judy and I would settle in our rotating home. There was even talk of children and some vigorous attempts at procreation although nothing came of it.
"I think we'll have to get married," Kudy proposed,
"Do things in the right order," I agreed.
And that's how it would go. I would leave on a one month trip to earth and when I returned there would be a wedding.
The elevator ride to earth was underwhelming. I shared a capsule with Will and his girlfriend Melissa and our trip was extraordinary only in our group's ability to sleep.
"Are we already in atmosphere?" Melissa asked sleepily when she woke up.
"Twenty hours later," I answered from my seat across from her.
"I got us a plane to fly down," Will said waking up.
"Excellent. After twenty hours zooming through space I wasn't up for the slow ride down," Melissa agreed.
"I think it is insurance that makes these capsules so slow in atmosphere. They were designed so they could easily help in the construction of the first buildings in the city. Not very aerodynamic," Will told us,
"Doesn't matter for flying through space," I suggested.
"Like the phone booth in Doctor Who," Will agreed.
Five or six hours later we finally arrived at the airstrip in the sky.
"It's good to be breathing earth air again," I said when we got into the airport.
"Pumped from down lower. There's not enough oxygen way up here," Will said looking out the window.
"Quite the view." Melissa said to her man, joining him at the window.
"There's a huge blotch in the Pacific Ocean," Will said pointing at the stain.
"Some kind of algae bloom," I guessed.
"I'm thinking phytoplankton die off," Will countered.
"No food for the whales," I wondered.
"They're the bottom of the whole food chain aren't they?" Melissa asked.
"Ya most things in the ocean eat something that eats phytoplankton." Will answered.
Before we could board our plane, we had to wait for one more passenger. We waited for about an hour before Tim from 'The balanced Force' arrived on the elevator.
"Now we're off to Indonesia," Will said as we got onto the plane.
"Thanks for waiting," Tim said as he took his seat.
The reality was that we were just on a half hour shuttle down to the farm below. There we caught a car to Quito where we got on a jet to Jakarta.
"So Tim what do you think of the proposal for a four way balancing system," I asked as I.leaned over the back of my plane seat to talk to the row behind me.
"There's a bias in western society towards ninety degree angles." Tim began.
"So you're more in favour of a three elevator system, or maybe six?" I asked.
"We need better models. There's a chance that it has to go 3D and we need to use sites that aren't on the equator," Tim answered.
"Excuse me for eavesdropping," Will interjected from his seat on the other side of the plane. "We need to stay focused and leave it to those in the future to model and perfect the balanced system. For now I think the goal should be a single counter-balance to the city we've created," he added.
"We aren't talking about a second city. The Indonesian elevator would just have a large tank of seawater on the top," I clarified.
"But the water could be desalinated using the abundant solar energy available in space. With a large source of fresh water available to say, Australia a lot of food and oxygen could be grown," Tim argued.
"It might not even be necessary to expect cash-strapped governments to finance it. The cash created by the successful farms could have a fee for water attached," Will brain-stormed.
"Even if the Australians planted trees and irrigated them the amount of carbon it would fix is impressive," Tim submitted.
"Governments like the EEU are paying people who fix carbon," I added.
"They're just looking for offsets they can buy to allow for vintage car rallies," Will opined.
"I think I see Jakarta," Melissa called from the other side of the plane where she was looking out.
A few minutes later the stewardess said something into the PA in indonesian. This was followed by an announcement in highly accented English that the plane was arriving in Jakarta and that passengers should return to their seats and fasten their seat belts.
I've done enough travelling that I know that this stage can go on for at least a half hour so I took this opportunity to try to skype Judy in space.
"Wo eerily clear line." she said to me like she was just next door.
"You're still in your pajamas," I noticed.
"I guess you haven't heard about our new dark nights," Judy revealed.
"Do tell," I urged her.
"It turns out that the only reason we were getting sunshine at night is that the Japanese installed huge arrays of mirrors outside the shadow of the earth,"Judy began.
"So what changed?" I asked.
"They concentrated and refocused the beam. Means that half the town gets to sleep at night and that the solar panels are harvesting a lot more energy," she continued.
"The difference between night and day!" I enthused.
"It's kind of the middle of the night right now,"Judy said pulling her pajamas tight to stay warm.
"I better let you go to bed. I've got to get off these waves anyway," I told her.
And with that Judy and I ended our conversation. The jet made a landing and I prepared myself for Jakarta.
When the plane door was opened my senses were assaulted by Jakarta. First the overwhelming heat that flowed in made me long for the air conditioned arrivals in Los Angeles or Honalulu. Then the powerful aroma of spicy food, perhaps citrry but slightly touched by satay and lemon grass. Finally the undeniable smell of human excrament reminded me that I was in the third world.
"Salam alaikum," Melissa said to the stewardess as she got off the plane in front of me.
"I guess that's heading to the arrivals wing ," Will said pointing to a derelict bus on the runway ahead of us.
"Just a two minute shuttle,"I said hopefully.
"At least they don't have us walking through this heat. It's brutal," Will said tieing his coat around his waist.
"These diesel fumes are brutal," I said as we walked behind the bus.
We got onto the bus through some side doors and took seats at the back. Both Will and I stayed silent when we discovered that some of the diesel fumes were venting in to the bus and politely opened windows to let in acrid Jakarta air.
"I'm glad we're in the foreigner's line," Will said when we got in to the terminal and preoared to show our passports. The lineup for Indonesian locals was much longer.
Tim and Melissa went first up to the passport counter and they got through quickly. That only left Will and I to cross and it would have been fine if Will had just kept his mouth shut.
"So the reason for your trip is tourism?" the female customs officer asked in excellent English.
"We're interested in purchasing a piece of property," Will answered, saying a bit too much.
She filled out some forms while we waited.
"There you go," she said handing us the paperwork.
"You'll have to go to the office for expatriates investors, just over there," she said pointing to some rooms not far away.
'Indonesian Agrarian Law, Law No. 5 of 1960, governs the ownership of land in Indonesia. In it is a category of land ownership called "Hak Pakai" which mean the right to build on/use the land. As stated in this law, foreigners are only permitted to purchase land or homes under the “Right to Use” (Hak Pakai) title.' The fellow in the office handed us a card that informed us of this.
"So I guess we're interested in using some land under the Hak Pakai title," Will told the customs officer.
Melissa and Tim found us in the back room and Tim interrupted.
"I think we're getting ahead of ourselves talking about types of tenure. We're really just on a fact finding mission," Tim explained.
"Should have just said we were tourists," Will admitted as we walked out of there.
"No comment," I said trying not to project an 'I told you so' message.
We made our way to a fancier than necessary hotel where Will was reassured by the global sameness of the five star world.
"They won't treat you like a foreigner here where it's just like home," Melissa reassured Will.
"I sometimes wonder why the five star crowd travels when the place they stay is just like home," Will admitted.
"Business men who don't want to Mickey Mouse around with cultural uniqueness," I opined.
That evening we had dinner in the hotel restaurant and we met in the lounge before hand for drinks.
"So how far is it to this farm we're heading to?" I asked my friends.
"It's about two hours south of here. We meet the Australian woman about an hour away," Tim answered.
"Her name is Becky Sanderds isn't it? The on site gal who's going to inform us on local opinion," Melissa said.
On the journey south I sat in a row of the bus by myself. I needed time to consider my situation. Will had hired a luxury bus for our private use complete with air conditioning and movies but I wasn't taking part.
"Here I am just a few weeks from my wedding and I should be thinking about Judy and our upcoming life together in space, but what's on my mind?" I asked myself.
"This woman you haven't even met yet. Becky Sanders" I concluded.
The one hour trip south went quickly enough and the moment of truth approached where I would find out if Becky was beaitiful or not.
The answer was that she was not beautiful just mystifying.
Well, the mystifying thing was how she could seem so beautiful when her features were so very very plain.
"She cuts quite a presence doesn't she?" Will said to me after she'd given her little talk and we were cleaning up the room.
"I'm getting married in a few weeks," I answered.
"That's right it's not a good time to notice a woman. Even a charismatic one that's about your age," Will said teasing me a bit I think.
"What is she about twenty?" I asked.
"Maybe a bit younger. Your age." Will corrected.
It was then that I suspected that I was being toyed with by the gods. Clearly this fascinating woman was being offered to me as a temptation
"It's a test," Melissa said to me as we were having drinks that evening. It turned out that the town we thought we were heading for two hours from the airport was only a single gas station so under Becky's advice we had taken rooms where we met her.
"Better to be tested now than after I'm married," I told Melissa resolutely.
Will walked in with Tim and Becky and we went to our table to eat .
"We've been talking to Geostatica. Had you heard that it gets dark at night up there now?" asked Will when we were seated at our table.
"Judy said something about that when I last talked to her. It only effects half the city I think," I answered.
""I wonder if my place is in the bright night or dark,"Will said while slurping some noodles
"I think it's only downtown that gets sunshine at night." I told Will.
"This is the spiciest ketchup I've tasted in my life," Melissa reported changing the subject.
"Indonesian food is known for it's uh, aggressiveness ," Becky reported.
"Not all satay is spicy. Some of it tastes like peanut butter I told Becky.
"Some of it tastes like very spicy peanut butter," Becky countered.
And the evening went on and we sampled a few very spicy dishes. Which necessitated the drinking of large amounts of beer. A final note was when the waiter brought a platter of skewers. Kebabs you might call them. These were accompanied by small bowls of satay, dark peanut sauce which we dipped the skewers in with pleasure.
Finally, satiated and drunken, we sat back in our seats and sampled some French liqueurs that Will purchased.
"I have a confession to make," Becky said in a slightly drunken slur.
"Anything you need to say." I urged her on.
"It's about my brother Frank. Our father is a scientist who wrote one of the first articles talking About possible detrimental effects to the eartm's orbit whten tying a large object to a string at the equator," Becky started.
"An object like Geostatica,"Melissa Interjected.
"I ended up trying to work with the system to see if I could change the conversation a bit, but Frank is working other ways," Becky continued.
"What's he going to do, cut the cable?" I joked.
"If too much gets tied onto the existing tether without balancing actions that's exactly his intention," Becky replied calmly.
After that the conversation disolved into groups with one faction of mostly women debating Tom Yam soup a dish from Thailand so delicious and hot and spicy it was now available throughout Southeast Asia.
the men, for their part, were discussing Becky's brother Frank at the end of the table.
"It's not like those cables could be cut with some standard cable cutters," Tim pointed out.
"The threat makes me realize just how vulnerable the space elevator is," I added.
"There is an element right now preparing to tie a huge load onto the tether,"Will said worried.
The meal ended and for a few weeks we immersed ourselves in our work buying the farm for the second space elevator.
In hindsight we should have seen that events were leading up to what happened. But we were too involved in minutia to see larger patterns.
"The only device in the world capable of cutting the nanotech cable that leads to the space city of Geostatica was stolen from the factory that makes the cables yester day," Will read from a pad where he was checking out the news.
"You have to read on to find out who's responsible," Becky told Will.
"A group called 'The Green Altiplano' is taking responsibility for the action," Will read us.
"Never heard of them," Tim said a little too loudly.
Alto means high and Plano means plane. It's the high bench land where the Incans lived," Melissa informed us.
"Peru and.Bolivia mostly. A little bit of Chile and even Ecuador," Tim added.
"I've heard of the group. Based in Lima.I think. They want to irrigate all the dry scrublands where llamas live," Becky submitted.
"I think I heard they want to put a big seawater tank up in Geostatica," Tim added.
"Thats what I don't understand. Stealing the cutter would be something my brother would back. But putting a water tank up there is the opposite direction," Becky wondered.
"Interesting. Perhaps the tank wouldn't be tied to the counterweight,"Will suggested.
"Have you heard about the 'sky crystal' proposal? It's a design to put six very large seawater tanks around the equator symmetrically with solar desalination. Providing fresh water and lowering the sea level." Tim submitted.
The conversation continued but we were distracted by meetings with our realtor in buying the farm. The Indonesian beurocracy was extreme and our attempts to start a local astronautics club in Jakarta we're going slowly.
One evening I talked to Judy.
"I have a confession to make," I said sheepishly.
"Big news around here," she said not really hearing me.
"You go first," I volunteered kind of dreading what I had to say.
"The first light powered ship with a passenger flew by last week," Judy proclaimed.
"I slept with Becky," I blurted trying to get it off my chest.
"It wasn't much to see. Just a laser beam in the sky far away and a ship travelling so fast you couldn't really see it," Judy said either not hearing me or too outraged to process what I'd said.
"It didn't mean anything. I just didn't want to get married without experiencing a few women," I confessed.
"It was travelling one fifth the speed of light," she said her voice revealing that she'd heard what I said.
"I still want to marry you," I told Judy.
"Don't you have more women to explore " she asked me suddenly on my topic.
" Only you," I said my voice cracking a bit.
Even though there were a number of outstanding issues Will bought the farm before we left. With our time running out we headed to Jakarta for the last few nights to meet with our local contacts.
"Have you talked to Judy?" Will asked me by the ice machines in the Holiday Inn we were staying at.
"Awkwardly," I answered.
"I talked to Ichabald. Big changes are taking place in Geostatica," Will told me.
"Judy told me about the laser powered ship whizzing by," I said getting some ice.
"That s not the news I was thinking of. Although it is revolutionary. There's talk of a light powered elevator that would take just an hour or so. The news I was thinking about is the huge weights that are being added to the counter balance," Will reported.
"That's not.necessarily good news.Who's behind it?" I asked.
"The fellow who runs the big hotel at the base of the elevator. He has plans for a few thousand feet of apartments hanging from the sky,," Will told me.
"So what are the weights they're adding?" I asked a little afraid to hear the answer.
"The whole city for one. And a huge tank of seawater that's been added," Will answered.
"Exactly like Becky's brother Frank warned about," I concluded.
"Apparently there's been a study that showed a very slight effect on earth's tides," Will added.
The next day we met with Akbar jaizalmeer who insisted on speaking in heavily accented English when Becky's Indonesian was quite good. He was president of the university astronautics club and quite knowledgable about the Apollo missions that took place last century,
"So you chose Indonesia because it's at the antipode to your site in Ecuador?" he asked.
"That's the idea," Tim answered,
"And what exactly is an antipode again!" he asked,
"The overall effect of the guy was comic," Will summarized at the bar back at the Holiday Inn.
Then just as we were sitting down to a salad bar meal of tasteless iceberg lettuce alarms sounded on everybody's phone.
It's Geostatica! The tethers been cut," Tim said deciphering his message first.
"Was anybody hurt?" I asked thinking of Judy.
"They're just making contact right now," Tim said still reading.
"I sense my brother being behind this," Becky said in a hushed tone.
"This article says it was 'The Green Altiplano'" Tim countered.
"They just stole the cutters. Probably others like Becky's brother did the actual cutting," Melissa said unexpectantly.
"The article says they've already reported their oxygen supply is ok. I guess they always have a twenty four hour supply brought up on the elevator, then they have a twenty four hour emergency stash. Then interestingly the criminals seem to have left a few tanks that add a few days. Finally there is the large water tank that they feel can supply them with oxygen for several weeks," Tim reported.
"When the system is working nearly 50% of the oxygen comes from the greenhouses. How fast are they going?" Will asked.
"The article says they were 'hurled off into space at a surprising rate'" answered Tim.
"Still enough time for plants and solar panels to get pointed towards the sun," Will said hopefully.
"Realistically they're going to have to get very creative if they're not going to run out of air in a few weeks," I said fearing for Judy.
We headed back to our rooms to chew on the news for a night. Next day we met again in the same restaurant.
"A new piece was just posted," reported Tim. "It says a rescue mission has been mounted if a little pathetically. They're using a space shuttle.from the last century and they're going to deliver a few days.worth of oxygen and an important electrolyzer needed to turn seawater into breathable oxygen," he added.
"I was wondering how they were going to pull that off," I admitted.
"The piece says a few more important things. Like just how incredibly far they got flung out into space. The estimates are that by the time they come to a stop a couple months from now they will be a quarter of the way to Mars. The good news is that they will be in a regIon of high asteroid activity, some of which may contain frozen water that they can use. Additionally they might be able to use these bodies to hitch a ride," Tim added.
Back at my room I skyped Grandpa.
"I'm in isolation. They're treating me like I have bubonic plague or something.," he said into the camera.
"So not a great time to visit," I guessed.
"Well I guess you're not heading home to Judy," he answered.
"I'm not heading home at all, unless you've got access to a space craft," I said a little dejected.
"It may come to that," Grandpa said lifting my spirits.
The conversation went on. When I hung up I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling, taking stock of my situation. From a nervous groom about to be married I'd been transformed to a homeless loser who's betrothed was lost in space.
Then there was a knocking on the door. I was a bit reluctant to answer it but I was actually happy when I opened to find Becky there.
"My brother sent a whole city to space," she said despondently.
"My wife is in that city," I answered despondently back.
Without speaking I offered her a chair and a cup of tea.
"If we have sex again it will be mostly because I need to be held," Becky murmured softly.
"I've got no home. Nobody to go home to," I agreed.
As it turned out Becky slept over but no sex was had. We held each other in sympathy til the sun rose then had breakfast in the restaurant down stairs.
"Where will you go now?" I asked her as we were parting.
"Down to my parent's in Oz. We have family shame to share," Becky answered.
"It still hasn't been proven that your brother did it," I pointed out.
"Oh he did it all right," Becky argued.
"Then you'll have a lot to talk about with your parents," I said still uncertain of our conclusion.
People started departing on the next day. Tim to his parents in the states, and Will and Melissa to his home in Toronto. I was unsure of where I should go but a few of us agreed to meet on the farm down in Ecuador.
"Off to see your parents down under?" Will asked Becky as she was leaving the hotel.
"We need to have a little talk about my brother," she answered.
"Innocent until proven guilty," Will commented.
"I was telling Becky not to jump to any conclusions also," I added.
"I'll have to remember that. His family can sometimes be a tough jury," Becky admitted.
As it turned out Becky, Will and Melissa, and even Tim, would show up on the farm down in Ecuador in a few days, so the long goodbyes were.unessecary anyways, but we didn't know that as we went our separate ways. It was an odd feeling of displacement, with no home to return to, no city to meet in, and we all felt it on that
My house in Toronto is rented. Well only be visiting for a couple of days," Will told me as he left.
"I'm not even going to Vancouver to see Grandpa. He's in isolation. He says they're treating him like he has Bubonic plague," I told Will.
"Sounds like we'll meet up in Ecuador in a few days," Will said forseeing the future.
After hours on the plane I landed in Quito and spent a couple of hours bartering for a ride up to the farm. There are those who would question the necessity of bargaining for this fare. but I believe that it's rude to downplay the wonderful frugality of locals and the extraordinary lengths they will go to to save a few cents.. Indeed one way to be accepted as an equal is to bargain well and not remain aloof.
After the two hour taxi ride to the farm I got my first room at the hotel and I spent a few minutes basking in the global sameness that five star hotels offer. That wore off quickly and I headed to the market to buy some fruit for my fridge. As I was leaving the lobby I was approached by a fellow with a beard.
"Your name is Marcus isn't it," he said to me.
"Yes and who do I have the pleasure of meeting?" I shook the guy's hand.
"My name is Kryptonite. I'm kind of a groupee of the space city," the fellow answered.
"Have you been up there?" I asked.
"Yeah I got to head up the elevator once. I was working for a guy installing facia," he.answered.
"What do you do these days?" I wondered.
"I'm just working in the restaurant in this hotel. Peeling potatoes, washing dishes," he answered.
"The city is a long way away now," I said sadly thinking of Jidy.
"A rich man's fantasy anyway," he suggedsted.
"My fiancée is up there," I pointed out.
"She'll be ok. They're sending up a shuttle every week. Three tanks of oxygen in, three passengers out," Kryptonite reassured me.
"Sounds like a lot of fuel," I wondered.
"Coral killers," he added.
"I doubt Judy will be in favor of it. She's a botonist. Probably improving the gardens until they're self sufficient in oxygen and food," I guessed.
"I hear there's s prototype communications system going up in the next shuttle.. You'll be able to call her and find out if shes making progress," he offered.
"Thanks for that. Your quite a fountain of information," I told him.
"As I said I'm kind of a groupee of Geostatica," he reminded me. "It seems like you have inside information," I said curious.
"There's also a web site where there's lots of gossip," he volunteered.
"What's the link?"I asked him.
"It's crystalsky.org" he told me and didn't seem to get that it would cause me to make some connections.
" the same group that wants six symmetrically placed seawater tanks," I wondered.
"To irrigate the world. Fix some carbon in new greenery and output some oxygen," Kryptonite said defensively.
"I suppose using all that seawater might lower the sea level too," I agreed,
"Exactly. drowning cities need relief," he added.
"Those cities are where you should go for funding," I suggested.
"First we had to get rid of the rich people's playground," he responded by reflex.
"I don't think you meant to say that," I guessed.
"I think it's stupid to pretend. Nobody was hurt in the clearing action," he argued.
"I had a billion dollar artificial gravity home that flew off into space," I asserted.
"Your home still exists. It's just been relocated," Kryptonite reassured me.
"And who's going to pay for the relocation," I asked him.
"They already have motion. The people who say they're going to stop in a couple of months are wrong. They'll just move a little slower," he argued.
"I've got to go," I lied.
I headed back to my room, even though I was supposed to be going to the market. Probably I was a bit rattled by the opinions of Kryptonite and his brashness. I needed to think for a moment.
A ringing came from my device.
"We're in Quito," Will's voice told me.
"That was fast," I complemented.
"Had to escape the Canadian winter, get down to the South American summer," he offered.
"You want a cab driver called Emriquez. Tell him you're a friend of mine," I suggested.
"He's already got our bags. Says he's s specialist in trips to the space elevator," Will revealed.
"So the methodology worked. You bargain before you get in the car. Waste some time. Show that the local currency matters to you. Get a good price and Enriquo's respect. Then when he delivers you safely and without hassle you tip outrageously. He'll be our guy going forward." I advised.
"See you in a few hours," Will said hopefully.
I fell asleep on the bed. When I woke up two hours had passed. I knew Will would be at least two hours away. Having rested and knowing Will was on his way I felt brave enough to venture out.to the market where I procured delicious fruit to put in a bowl on the table in my room. As I was leaving I heard a shout from across the square.
"Marcus!" the voice sounded. Before too long Kryptonite came jogging up.
"It must be nice to have a market in your front yard" I told him.
"How much did you pay for bananas?" He asked noticing the fruit in my basket.
"I bargained pretty well for taxis from the airport but for fruit I just paid what they asked. I think that bunch of bananas was forty," I answered a bit embarrassed.
"The right price is 10," he said disgusted.
"So in US currency i paid about a dollar and the right price was a quarter. I'm thinking in a supermarket up north a big bundle of bananas like that may go for $5. Everybody wins," I argued.
"No everybody loses. Because you didn't respect the local currency and ways of doing business you're seen as the gringo asshole, and the locals stay in their morass of poverty and ignorance, and finally the northern wholesalers and retailers are exposed as the greedy thieves that they are," Kryptonite argued,
"We all get bananas on our breakfast cereal," I offered pathetically.
It surprised me when he laughed.
"I do love my banana splits," he agreed.
After that I found myself walking back to the hotel with Kryptonite, to a dingy service entrance in the basement, where he emerged from his room with a dodgy looking paper bag.
"We won't be bothered if we smoke this upstairs. Down here is more of a problem," he suggessted.
So we headed up to my room, where I was surprised to find the door slightly ajar propped open with a trash can. We walked in and found Will and Melissa drinking a cocktail on the couch.
"The maid wouldn't let us in. But she was ok with propping the door open to air it out," Will explained.
"Our room is being cleaned. It'll be ready in an hour," Melissa added.
"I want to introduce you to Kryptonite a fellow I met a few days ago the lobby," I said ushering him in.
"I like the name," Melissa said as she shook his hand.
"Kryptonite is kind of the enemy. He's a member of a group called the Crystal Sky. He's glad Geostatica got cut away. He says it was a playground for the rich," I revealed.
"I've seen the schematics for the six tank seawater tank system. It's quite elegant," will said shaking his hand.
"Irrigate the world. Lower the sea level." Slogneered Kryptonite.
"I proposed a peace pipe," I said sitting at the table rolling a joint.
"Of course our local herbs are nothing compared to your Canadian variety," Kryptonite said stepping out on to the porch.
"I hope you fellows won't mind if a female joins you," Melissa asked stepping onto the porch to join us.
"Your welcome," I told her lighting up.
"I kind of agree with you Kryptonite that the Crystal Sky design serves mankind better than Geostatica," Will offered taking a deep toke.
"Are you kidding? Houses were getting cheaper and cheaper. The space elevator was going to provide access to space for millions of people," I argued.
"It depends what kind of people your trying to help. Yuppies who want an adventurous lifestyle or poor farmers who need water for their crops," Will said passing the smoke to Melissa.
"If only the poor farmers got the water. Looks to me like these Crystal Sky guys don't have any money. They'll be selling water to agribusinesses trying to pay off their scheme," Melissa said passing the smoke to Kryptonite.
"You have to remember the Crystal Sky proposal is for six evenly set space elevators providing access to space for millions of people, As to whether poor farmers will get the water it depends on whether governments step up to help pay for the system," Kryptonite said passing the smoke to me.
"I think it's delusional thinking that cash strapped governments will come up with the money. That's one thing that Geostatica had going for it is that it was privately funded A real estate venture," I said butting out the smoke.
"You sound like your grandfather." Will said heading inside.
Judy woke up to a ringing sound from her device.
"Good morning lovely lady. It's a good day because I can talk to you," I said to her over the one day old system.
"I don't feel so far away," Judy said like she was much closer.
"I don't really understand how this works. It took me long enough to get satellites, you're above all those," I wondered.
"Ichabald tried to explain it to me. It's just a directed dish pointing at us. The trick is how they make up for the fact we're moving," Judy said getting changed out of her pajamas.
"I suppose the techs up there did a little bit of the work making it sure you receive the signal," I guessed.
"Just like the laser beams. There's a kind of sail they put out," Judy told me.
"Enough of that. Tell me about a day in your life so very high up and far away," I insisted.
"I spend a lot of time with Ichabald. We're trying to make the city self sufficient in food," Judy said getting dressed.
"I'm engaged to you. I still feel like a pervert when you sit naked air drying," I admitted.
"Trans-planetary phone sex," Judy called it.
"If Geostatica was a planet. What is the plan anyway?" I wondered.
There's kind of three opinions. The oldest group believes we should find locomotion to go back to where we came from," Judy started. "The other two plans start from the opinion that the Crystal Sky is going to happen and we aren't really welcome in our old position. The first is that we just sit wherever we end up. That Geostatica is already a space city , why not become a space city in the middle of nowhere. The third group wants to go into stationary orbit around Mars," she finished.
"Mars, I hadn't heard that one,"I told her.
"We're kind of headed there right now. The guess is that in about five years we'll be sucked into its orbit," she told me.
"Because your actually going really fast. I'm thinking the people who cut you free sent you pretty exactly," I ventured.
"I like how they welded all the solar panels onto the town before they let us go,"Judy agreed.
"There's evidence that they stocked up your food supplies, made sure you had plenty of water, even thought about your oxygen needs," I added.
"As bad guys go, we could of had worse," Judy said generously.
"So how's your farm going?" I asked.
"Trib Meta flew out on one of the first shuttles that came up. He donated his extra large artificial gravity home to us to use as a farm and park," Judy told me.
"So you're growing in artificial gravity," I concluded.
"The cow died but the pig had a pretty big litter," Judy revealed proudly.
"I thought you were a botonist. You sound like old McDonald " I suggested.
Animals are a pretty important part of the mix. We've got fish tanks and chickens too," she told me.
"I hear you're supplying a large part of the food," I said proudly.
"Make no mistake about it. It's very reassuring to have a well stocked larder of freeze dried items, and the freezers we've got are wonderful too, but our agricultural efforts are contributing more every day," Judy reassured.
"Do the gardens produce a lot of oxygen?" I asked.
"I've expanded the forest in the park," Judy answered. "It's an area of research," she added a bit uncertain.
"I'm unclear as to whether the plants create oxygen or recycle the oxygen that's in the air," I wondered.
"It's largely coming down to a bacteria called Sar11 in the massive seawater tank we have up here," Judy explained.
"Photosynthesis is a factor isn't It?," I said calling on my high school biology,
"Ya and the seawater has been kept in a big tank out of the light for a few weeks," Judy worried.
"Don't worry. Even if those bacteria aren't functioning they're probably just dormant," I reassurred Judy.
"I've got big trays, like four by two metres all over the place. Full of seawrer collecting some sunlight I hope,"Judy told me.
"You need instruments to measure. How the trays out in zero g with a plexiglass lid I assume compare to a tray at the farm for example," I suggested.
"Mm," she said losing interest in the subject. " Do you ever wonder if the gods are against us? I was sent off into space the day before my wedding," she asked.
"The gods might be testing whether there is true strength to our bond," I suggested.
I'd rather be on a honeymoon than floating off into space," Judy said, her voice shaking a bit.
The conversation devolved a bit until I was interrupted by Will and Kryptonite coming in from the hallway.
"We're talking about two different situations. In the first, you're playing poker with five guys and one guy is winning all the money. When he's shown to be cheating you are at anger A. In the second situation you're playing bingo with 100 people. One guy is winning all the money. He isn't proven to be cheating except it's almost immoral how lucky he is. You have no right to be angry just indignant. That's anger B. A is valid B is tough shit. Man up my friend," Will argued.
"The only healthy response to situation B is to be begrudgingly happy for the guy. Of course eight out of ten times he's subtly swaying the odds by playing several bingo cards at the same time. Or he leaves early because he's not winning. It's the rare winner that has just as much fun losing," Kryptonite argued.
"Say hello to Judy," I urged.
"Hello fine maiden in space," Will offered.
"And allow me to introduce Kryptonite who works in the hotel here," I added.
"A pleasure. I overheard you arguing with Will about the right to be lucky. Remember the reason those people play bingo is to try and become annoyingly lucky," Judy offered.
"Kryptonite thinks that Geostatica deserved to be cut free because it was a play ground for the rich," Will told Judy.
" They're turning the city into a yacht. First all the solar arrays will do propulsion, then a laser based on Mars will send power," Judy told us.
"So what's the ship's mission?" enthused Will.
"A greenhouse effect on Mars. They think they can warm that frosty ball up real good," Judy said laughing.
"Kryptonite here is part of a group called 'the Crystal Sky'. They're pretty dedicated to stopping the greenhouse effect on earth," I told Judy.
"I've heard of you. I admire the design. Bring the ocean level down and green up the deserts," Judy said to Krytptonite.
"I'm still trying to get my head around a city that's a vehicle. I guess it doesn't have to be aerodynamic because there's no air in space, and all that glazing doesn't have to be a good windshield because there's no wind," Will put in.
"Good for you for thinking about it," Judy said from space.
"Now about this Martian greenhouse effect. Where do they plan on getting the fossil fuels?" Will asked.
"That's one thing I think is fishy about the idea. Someone proposed drilling for oil on Mars but it was explained that the whole scheme was put forward by some oil barons on earth..," Judy answered.
"Trying to sell oil because as of 2050 it's illegal to burn fossil fuels on earth," I guessed.
"So to transport it up there they're planning on using the good ship Geostatica?" Kryptonite asked.
"There are already plans to make the big water tank into a fuel tank," Judy confirmed.
"Melissa my darling. I see Marcus is sitting at the table rolling a smoke and I thought to invite you over to join us," Will said into the phone.
"We just finished talking to Judy and we have lots of.new information to mull over," I called to Melissa.
Will translated my shouting over the phone and joined Kryptonite and me out on the porch for a meeting. In only a short while there was a knocking on the door and Melissa came out and joined us.
"So you talked to Judy and didn't come and get me?" Melissa said in disgust.
"She was on skype from outer space and I saw her naked," I said mostly joking.
"We weren't there for that," Kryptonite said a little indignantly,
"We were talking about their trip to Mars," Will informed Melissa.
"They're making the whole city into a ship," I added like it was old news.
"That's a lot to digest. How do they hope to power this ship," asked Melissa.
"Well first Judy mentioned the solar panels that are attached to the city," I started.
"later she talked about powerful lasers based on Mars probably powered by oil from earth,"Kryptonite interjected.
"She didn't talk about it but others have mentioned the notion of using passing asteroids to hitch a ride. I think they meant a trick of gravitation but I can't help noticing the 22000 mile long tether they're carrying and thinking about what would happen if they attached it to an asteroid," Will said adding an important notion.
"The bottom line is they're now dedicated to starting a greenhouse effect on Mars. it took me a while to get my head around it, but I'm now thinking it could be an important step towards terraforming that planet," Kryptonite admitted.
"I'm wondering about nitrogen.i mean a huge percentage of the air we breath is actually nitrogen.How do we add that?" Will wondered,
"But all we need is oxygen to breath. Maybe any inert filler can work,"
" Mars is on the border of a region known as the extended habitable zone where liquid water on the surface may be supported if concentrated greenhouse gases could increase the atmospheric pressure." Wikipedia
The need for a buffer gas is a challenge that will face any potential atmosphere builders. On Earth, nitrogen is the primary atmospheric component, making up 78% of the atmosphere. Mars would require a similar buffer-gas component although not necessarily as much.[wikipedia]
For about four months we lived in the hotel studying the problem. Each day at 420 we would meet on the veranda of my room and discuss what we had learned that day in our research and conversations regarding Geostatica.
"The bottom line is that Mars is already a carbon planet. The air is carbon dioxide, the poles are dry ice, which is frozen carbon dioxide, I think importing fossil fuels from earth is unecessary," Will said handing the smoke to Melissa.
"Phytoplankton converts co2 into oxygen. Sounds like we need to melt some dry ice and feed it to phytoplankton," Melissa said handing the smoke to me.
"The consensus seems to be that importing ammonia from Triton would be best. We have to argue that importing fossil fuels from earth might be cheaper," I argued handing the smoke to Kryptonite.
"You assume that the best way to deal with oil companies is to make them profitable again. I think those guys are assholes. I take it very personally when the greenhouse effect damages my home. I think the evidence of them not knowing any better is bullshit," Kryptonite said handing the smoke back to Will.
"I think Marcus is not mistaken. You have to understand that he is his grandfathers only living relative. He's kind of a billionaire already. So he understands that making rich guys richer is a good way to get things done." Will said passing the smoke to Melissa.
"I guess the earth product comes with free dèlivery," Melissa said handing the smoke to me.
"Free delivery and twenty five years without payment while the greenhouse effect ramps up," I added passing the dwindling smoke to Kryptonite.
"Why not do the fossil fuels AND the ammonia. I don't think there should be winners and losers so early in the Mars game," Kryptonite said butting out the roach.
"I think you all are talking like there haven't been people living on Mars for twenty five years," Judy said from a device on the table.
"Fine maiden from outer space. I think that's our project for this week. Finding out what people who live on Mars think," Will said putting on his coat.
Our 420 adjourned and I spoke to Judy alone for a moment
"Well we passed the half way point," she said like there was a milestone they had passed.
"The first of the six Crystal Sky elevators went up in Kenya this morning," I told her.
"You're far away now," she said a little sadly.
"I hear rumblings that grandpa is going to buy a rocket ship," I said hopefully.
"So you can fly to our rescue," Judy said wishfully.
"I think him and his partners are looking at delivering ammonia to Mars," I said getting realistIc.
"How is the old man?" Judy asked with real concern.
"Still in the hospital. He's out of isolation now, doing business deals when he gets a moment free from his many visitors," I replied.
"I hear Will and him bought a floor of the hotel you're in," Judy said rolling her eyes a bit.
"Not just any floor. The very floor that I'm standing on as we speak," I pointed out.
"Maybe Will got tired of paying high hotel bills,," Judy guessed.
"He said something about stopping the hemorraging. I guess he doesn't like out flows with no inflow," I hypothesized.
"The whole notion of having a bunch of money at the beginning of the year and not blowing it all so you have some for next year, it's beyond me," Judy admitted.
"Something like 95% of people who win the lottery have nothing a year later," I added.
"There are investments that keep money alive and dead losses. I'm just learning the difference," I added, trying to act like I knew something.
"I remember when I was a kid in 2025 there were huge class wars. What it came down to is the poor wanted to be helped in stupid ways. Dead losses. When it was realized that a rich guy was ok with buying an apartment building and letting the poor rent it out for income for fifty years as long as he got it back, things went better," Judy submitted.
"A lot of things can be justified as investments. Almost everything, and losses can be written off at tax time, but just throwing money down a hole, that's to be avoided. Like paying hotel bills is worse than just buying a hotel.," I said like I understood.
"I can hardly wait to see your place," Judy enthused.
A couple of months went by and I got in the habit of visiting the small town about five kilometres from the farm to eat polo (chicken) and drink pisco sours.
One day I returned to the hotel to find Will talking to grandpa on Skype.
"Marcus. Just the one I was waiting for," Grandpa said when I walked into the shot.
. "Grandpa, you're looking good. It seems more like a spa than a hospital where you're calling from," I told him.
"I've made myself at home a bit but it's still a hospital," he answered.
"Sounds like your going to space Marcus. Your Grandpa got you a ride with some ammonia miners," Will interjected.
"Will isn't being rude interrupting, the ship in Arizona is waiting for you," Grandpa added.
"Now?" I asked disbelievingly.
"It's not exactly a scheduled flight, but the crew is assembling as we speak," Will confirmed.
"So I can go and rescue Judy," I asked amazed.
"Well so far you've only got a ride to Triton, but after they pick up some cargo they're headed to Mars," Will told me.
"Triton is a moon of Neptune isn't it? I guess this means that Martian air needs lots of nitrogen," I tried.
"Because Triton is a nitrogen planet." Will said a little proud of me for knowing.
When I look back all I see is the hundreds of people roller blading on the Seastead highway.
There was a race every year and crowds would gather, the triathalon version saw every athlete make the forty foot dive to swim for a floating island at the end of the course.
Marshal islands greenhouse days and seasteads and stilts are the name of the game. If you're rich your place is forty feet up but if you're like me you're down by the ocean with the water lapping up at you every night.
My brother is up in outer space, peering down at us mortals as we struggle through our days, but I'm looking up watching for something, hoping for salvation.
The reason I'm so close to water is that I live on what was land, just a bump underwater now, but the few of us that play this game go on. On primitively comstructed lattices of planks and tree trunks cross braced expertly but still vulnerable to ocean waves and tides we sleep in makeshift tree forts and hope for rot before structural collapse. Rot from ocean water we can fix but when the whole thing collapses calamity has occurred. Not that the water is cold, it's the South Pacific after all but the unscheduled bath usually in a storm is unwelcome.
When cyclones come in which is not unusual these days we take refuge in a Seastead owned by a kindly doctor or lawyer and watch the waves below while we use the wifi. Twice I've watched my house float by and had to constrain myself from venturing down to the sea.
My name is Reginald Sprout, brother of Ichabald Sprout, and he wrote me a snail mail letter last month. He says there's talk of running six one foot diameter pipes out of the ocean to space. The water would then be desalinated and either sent to the poles to be made into ice or used to grow greenery that fixes carbon.
I guess the one foot pipe doesn't mean anything unless there's a powerful pump involved and Ichabald says there's two. A million litres of sewater go up, and a million litres of fresh water come back desalinated by the plentiful solar power up there.
But why move the water up into space at all? As far as I can tell it has to do with the ancient wisdom that you can spin a bucket of water on a rope over your head and never spill a drop. In this case the earth is the spinner and the big tank of water is getting spun. There were problems with getting a balanced load and that would be fixed by several tanks of the same size
Why not use microwaves to send electricity to a desalination plant on earth. The seawater could stay in the ocean other than a short pipe to take a little bit to the plant. They must have something else in mind.
I've now studied the Crystal Night web page for a few hours and I was right, they do have plans for their six seawater counterweights. Clearly they want to avoid just irrigating the deserts. Airoponics will be used to grow a great deal of carbon hungry greenery.
I kind of admire these guys even though they probably flung my brother out to outer space when they cut Geostatica free that was rude but they got the math pretty exactly and sent them to Mars. I mean if you head to Mars at the wrong time of year and the planets are in the wrong place in their orbits it can get 400ish million miles away but when it's close its like 50ish. On top of that theiy're headed not to where Mars is, but where it will be in three years if they don't do a thing.
So all they have to do is focus on raising up food to eat and my brother's got to keep his dick in his pants. He's kind of hot for this girl Judy who's the wife of a friend of his. She's the plant expert who supplies about 70% of their food. My brother supplies the other 30% with his animal farm.
He's got pigs and chickens, some goats, and they're getting a couple of beef cow calfs on the next shuttle. I guess they'll come with a few frozen syringes of cow cum to supply genetic diversity.
All would have been well if they hadn't added fish tanks to the mix. It's an area where plants and animals intersect and I guess on one of their late night sessions pumping nutrient rich water from the fish tanks to the gardens they intersected too.
"This web site is amazing," Melissa said as she sat out on my porch working on her laptop.
"The Crystal Night site isn't it?" I asked her looking over her shoulder.
"Ya but I'd never been to this section called 'future directions and speculations," she answered clicking on the screen.
"What do they propose?" I asked.
"Well at first it looks like the big counterweights would be used to support large aeroponic farms, but on digging a little deeper, the story gets deeper. They seem to want to put two hoola hoops around the world," Melissa informed me.
"Buckminster Fuller would be in favour," I suggested.
"I guess one would be over the equator, but the other would be over the poles," she read.
"I get it. The equator ring could bring fresh water to lots of dry places, but the polar ring could deliver bulk water to be stored as ice at the poles," I guessed.
"I guess they have computer models that show a one degree cooling if X amount of ice was stored at the poles," Melissa read out.
"They better be careful it doesn't melt and bring sea levels back up," I warned.
"I guess they're talking about making ice cubes out of shipping containers," Melissa read further.
"So we're talking about redesigning the poles not with icebergs but thaw-proof ice cubes," I summarized.
"Those shipping containers are great. I have a few friends who have built their houses out of them," said Kryptonite who had come in and been listening for a while.
"But you don't want to use the kind with doors at the end. They leak. Rather you want the variety that opens at the top," pointed out Will who had just arrived as well.
"I guess it's 420. We seem to be having a lot of visitors," I offered. There was a lot behind this statement. The 'we' referred to myself and Becky, who had just flown in and had been staying at my place for a week. There was also an echo from a discussion that had occurred the day before, where I had proposed moving our 420 gathering to Kryptonite's new place which was on this floor just down the hall.
"I've decided I can host the 420 gathering but I want maid service in return," Kryptonite said bringing up a touchy subject.
The backstory here was that will and Melissa had recently paid the hotel and got maid service. Now we were all winging it.
"I'll admit were a piggy crew. But not so much that I'm going to pay for your maid," Will told Kryptonite.
Next morning I awoke on a flight to Houston with a connection to Phoenix. I'd spent a few days trying to ignore this journey but it arrived anyway it didn't help that in the late hours of my going away party Will had taken me aside and shown me a letter from Ichabald's brother in the Soith Pacific.
" Judy was untrue to me," the woman in the seat beside me was from some place in Asia and spoke no English. She was getting an earful anyway.
"It's not like I've been a saint. I mean Becky's been sleeping over in my room for the last week," I said knowing she wouldn't understand.
"Ni," she answered in a language I don't even know. She smiled very generously and was maybe embarrassed for not speaking English.
"We're engaged to be married. We both have cold feet," I told her for no reason at all.
The cabin grew quiet for a while. Over Panama I read the magazines in the seat back of the chair in front of me. Over Costa Rica lunch was served. Over Nicaragua I got a little drunk on several tiny bottles of wine the stewardess sold me. Over Guatamala the lady next to me showed me pictures of her family from one of several large plastic carry on bags she had in front of her. Over Mexico I bared my soul to the lady who couldn't understand.
"We're not perfectly compatible," I revealed to her stony face.
"First of all there's our age difference. When we met we were eighteen and twenty three. Now I'm nineteen and she's twenty four. Whatever theres a five year split." I started.
"Ni," she responded in the unidentified language.
"And that leads to differences in our careers. She's doing a masters in botony, I didn't really get started on my first degree before I moved to space," I added.
I thought maybe she was bored so I shut up a minute and played with a little map on my seatback's monitor that showed a graphic of our flight's progress.
The wind blew hard that day. Unfettered by convention, tradition or habit, it rewrote the rule book, our expectations, and it's contract of understanding, to creep down our jackets, crawl down the chimney. and introduce itself.
The sun shone bright that day. Unabashed by seasons, lunar proclivvities, or-cosmic realignments, it shone.
The Rain hid out. With fluffy white clouds that were its minions it made for the horizon to wait for the wind to go to sleep. Rumbled a bit.
And on that extraordinary day all windy and sunny the character, nay the entity, emerged.
Far be it from me to exaggerate its splendour. Far be it from me to enumerate its tentacles of wisdom.
It was simply a blob under the water. A creation of a climate both over stressed and in search of a saviour.
The Flip sort of blew my mind when I found it. It's just a long tube that fills up with water at one end so the other end pops out of the water. At 355 ft the station that pops out of the water gets about 55ft. Enough for a living space with a kitchen etc.
The most important claim is that it's perfectly stable, even in high seas. One YouTube video talked of researchers having a barbecue during high seas on the Flip while a traditional boat they had arrived on bobbed madly nearby
The Flip was born in 1962, designed by sound engineers working on underwater acoustics for submarines. Perhaps their knowledge of sound waves gave them insight into ocean waves. Although one of the videos shows The Flip being submerged by an ocean wave it dodges most of them
But why hasn't this design been replicated? Why is there only one Flip.
"Did you see the videos?" Reginald Sprout asked me:
I had arrived at the airstrip outside Phoenix, only to be put on a hurry up and wait assignment to the bar for three days. I was almost glad when the waitress approached me with a cheesy tablet of the sort that were used as business cards in those days. Attached to it was a note in hand writing.
'Watch these videos' the note urged.
"I watched the pieces on the flip. But shouldn't you introduce yourself?" I suggested.
"I'm Reginald Sprout," he said shaking my hand.
"I guess your brother Ichabald has caused a bit of a conflict," I said shaking his hand back as warmly as I could.
",it takes two to tango," he said in response.
"I'm almost glad my Judy has a dance partner up in outer space," I offered.
"I want to replicate all the land masses on earth over the ocean on platforms suspended by Flips," he said changing the subject.
"Sorry?" I responded pretending I hadn't heard. Actually I had no idea how to respond.
"71% of the world is ocean. To duplicate all the world's land would take only 29%. That leaves almost 42% untouched," he told me.
"But don't the seaweeds and corals need that sunlight?" I asked.
"The whole plan is subject to criticism by a biologist, but I have a few remarks.
The ocean for the most part is a biological desert. If we stay away from coastlines and shallow areas we may be alright. Also if we add structure like a sunken ship or a old brass beds we can cause reefs to form which nurture ocean life all the way up the foodchain.
On top of that the ocean is warming with climate change. Shading part of it from sunlight may actually help it cool," he said projecting.
"But what about the structure?if you plant a heavy forest on that surface. Won't it collapse?" I wondered.
"First there has to be mass production and price point breakthroughs of Flips,"he pointed out
Then inter triangulated rooftops like you see at Disneyland or expo need to be improved," he answered.
"Sounds weak. What else you got?" I prodded.
"Cables from the crystal sky, There's a proposal to add 36 lines,"he told me.
"Those only work on the equator," I told him.
"I think the idea is to approach land masses in the north or south on an angle," he told me.
"Just sounds to me like too big an idea," I decided.
"That's why I want to approach it in stages, like the eight stepping stones between Hawaii and California," Reginald answered.
" I once did some planning to join the sailing race between Victoria and Maui. A stepping stone every two days for sixteen days would be nice. what do they include?" I asked.
"Right now we're trying to have a sailboat at anchor in all spots. But eventually we want to run them as luxury hotels til their mortgages are paid. About a hundred years we guess,"he answered.
Reginald and I kept talking into the night. Perhaps it was my extreme boredom or something else, but I was getting talked in to 'earth 2.0' as he called it.
I left the bar and headed back to my motel room, where I Skyped Judy.
"Ichabald's brother found me," I told her.
"Reggie, I've never met him."Judy replied.
"He's pitching for Earth 2.0," I told her.
"I think I read about them," Judy noted.
"They want to duplicate the earths land mass over the oceans," I told her.
"There's a faction that wants it to be tempprary, say 25 years," Lucy added.
"A couple of decades to figure out how to use space on earth one correctly,"I guessed.
"It's mostly in the Soiuth Pacific isn't it?" Judy wondered.
"I just did a bit of reading about earth 2.0 on the web. I remember that Easter island and the Galopogus off Ecuador, were two of the special areas that needed specific treatment," I added.
"So when I say the South Pacific I think of Fiji and Tonga and Bora bora, But that stuff is too shallow. We're talking the deeper water off Chile aren't we?" Judy asked.
"Except for the Europeans who want to do a little in the Atlantic," I noted.
"Like China 2.0 it's a pretty close section mostly to relieve overpopulation," Judy put in.
"I guess that's the claim. To stop overpopulation,stop species extinction, stop starvation, that sort of thiing," I offered.
"I slept with Ichabald," Judy said abruptly.
"I slept with a girl called Becky. We're young attractive people. It's bound to happen," I replied.
"It's hard to be engaged when your lost in space," Judy opined.
"I'm falling out of love with space," I confessed.
"I could do some time researching aeroponics in the Soith pacific," judy proposed.
"Those flips are a stable place to hang out," I agreed.
"What are you saying Marcus?" Judy asked.
"My grandfather got me a seat on a space ship bound for Mars," I admitted.
"I can just see me moving into that house in Geostatica and living there for the rest of my days," I went on.
"At least we would be together then," Judy tried.
"It would have been a great shot. In the movie version of our lives.Hero crosses space to reunite with his maiden.. Maiden swoons," I offered.
"Maybe the maiden flies across space to see her hero," Judy tried.
"That's if the maiden didn't find another hero," I put in.
"Ichabald and I were only together three times, and he feels bad about it," Judy maintained.
"Do you feel bad?" I asked.
"I'm kind of lost in space. There isn't much energy towards self criticism" Judy admitted.
"Becky and I might try seasteadimg," I told her.
"So I'm not the only wild horse in the stable," Judy said a little relieved.
everything is a bit foreigm ive slid back several steps i my abilies o the ipad
LOST a few posts but one got through
My idea is that the thoughts that get typed with ten figers are differentr than those produced by one thumb
Let it be known in the aftermath of events that I continue. For mountains may crumble, rivers may flood, oceans may rise, but I go on.
It wasn't long after that that I found myself in the middle of the Pacific in a sailboat with Becky.
Propositions became dares, visions became realities and we were there staring into each other's eyes as we rolled through the waves.
I won't insult Judy by saying it was the strongest love I ever felt. Rather we were extremely compatible companions. Compatible love makers I thought.
"Where exactly are we?" She asked sitting at the table in the galley looking at a map.
"There aren't any landmarks nearby. It takes about sixteen days to sail from the west coast to Hawaii. The idea is to place eight seateads along that route called the 'stepping stones' . This is the fifth one,"I told her.
"So there are seven other maniacs taking this on," Judy guessed.
"Seven other moorages, I'm not exactly sure what stage of development they're in," I admitted.
"I'm going to look in to that. It's much easier suffering through extreme isolation when you know you're not alone," Judy decided.
And the months ticked by and slowly we went from a pathetic little sailboat bobbing around on the end of a string to a viable Seastead with one visiting sailboat every week and one seaplane every day. Also we're part of a network of several others. The large coastal cities all have a departure point so there was one about two day sail from Los Angeles,San Francisco, Portland and Vancoiver all heading towards us.
We weren't really close enough to the equator to have a warm climate but we were close enough to Hawaii that it was damn pleasant some days. Becky said it was like her home in AustrLia and that was warm enough for me.
Then there were the storms. All I can say is that we weathered each storm a little more compatentlu than the last.
The fact that our new Flip was the fancy kind with the ability to sink under water to wait out a storm was huge not that it prevented our twenty four hour monitoring of the breakwater to take place.
There was only 2 parts to our Seastead; the Flip and the area behind the large floating breakwater.
The breakwater was only ten metres And when seas get routinely twice that high it needed improvements. The company from a little town on the California coast is called Deep Ocean Breakwaters. They provided a hydraulic generator that creates electricity when rolling ocean waves lift the segments so one is much higher than another. Like a railway between segments sliding up and down. We found that if we put the generators on full we could actually calm a little patch of the ocean a bit.
But we still got the shit kicked out of us during those first days. Walls would break apart and the waves would access our inner sanctum. It's one thing to be a houseboat on a lake, it's quite another thing rolling on sixty foot seas.
Ultimately we settled on width over height. When the first wall was overcome the wave would encounter a second wall and then a twenty meter cloth barrier for the wave to wash up on and disipate.
I remember when Becky and I encountered our first storm on the sailboat. She had 3000 kilos of steel in her keel, our ship, a self righting blue water marvel of her day. We battened down our hatches and bobbed around like a cork and the anchor held. We slept in the hull that night and got a little excited by the howling wind and pounding rain on the roof above but it wasn't until morning that we climbed up on deck to the calm water Amd sunshine and made love.
I spent three years with Becky and while the third year was strained the first two were excellent. We did lots of fun stuff together.
For example there was our seaplane trip to the other six stepping stones. Money was tight as we were making some huge payments on our breakwater that year. So we traded some vouchers for most things on that trip.
First we traded with the pilot of our plane. It wasn't a seaplane but an ancient flying boat. Seastead airlines was a one man operation. A labour of love for Ryan Parks, the owner. It gave us a sense of continuity in that time when things could seem fragmented.
Becky was becoming another glue to the community with her hours of activity on the social media of the website. When we got to Stepping Stone six people recognized her and greeted her.
That's the first place we would go, stepping stone six. Ryan picked us up on his once-every-second-day route. It was noticeably closer to Hawaii so the weather was excellent, And the flight was only two or three hours.
It was surprising to me if not Becky that Becky's brother was on stepping stone six. Indeed he seemed to own a portion of it.
This Seastead is owned by Victor Nautilus, a retired navy general but perhaps more than other steads he has privatized ownership of properties. There is at least one whole neighbourhood where enthusiasts own houses which dwarfs my stead with its one sixteen room hotel.
"I guess I should introduce myself," I said to Victor when I met him outside the excellent grocery store.
"You're Marcus Brooks aren't you? I heard you were on board," he said shaking my hand.
"Nice to meet you. You're really showing me what can be done," I said gesturing to the Seastead around me.
"I heard your place was peaceful," he offered.
"Not even my place. I just sold it to an Estonian fellow," I told him.
"I heard something on the grapevine about that ," he said a bit secretively.
"Hope you got a good price.
Victor added encouragingly,
"1.1 billion but I spent half a billion building it up," I answered.
"What are you going to do now? " Victor wondered.
"I've been granted the North west corner of the equatorial intersection just south of here," I told him,
"That's even got railways to the polar ice," Victor said impressed.
"I haven't told my girlfriend any of this so keep it quiet," I warned.
Becky and I had six more months before the difficultThird year of our time together, and we enjoyed ourselves. I wouldn't meet her brother on that journey, that was for a different trip, but those were great days.
Sing a poor song of red dot lions in the garden city and love them so that they are not betrayed...hello is Mr. Walls there...is Mrs. Walls there..well there's no ceiling so it doesn't really matter...I saw a pileated woodpecker in dense fog this morning as the sun rose; it's wingspan must have been 42 inches; it sailed through the tangled woods at about 10 ft from the ground without hitting a limb and then went up to about 150 ft once it was in the clearing...as the fog lifted I saw a whitetail that still had his spots ; he snorted once and looked me in the eyes, turned and walked away...there was a patch mushrooms orangish-yellow that made me giggle about it's formation on the blog...wait I mean log...then I tripped and fell to the ground over a stone...I stared up at the sky and rested in the woods as darkness came..
I have blog entries from the last century that may be growing mushrooms.
We'd stay on stepping stone six for about a week learning from general Nautilus and trading for vouchers at his hotel. When we flew to stepping stone seven we were turned down for trading vouchers. As the manager of this nearest-to-Hawaii stepping stone explained they were heavily in debt and needed cash. We only stayed one night.
Stepping stone eight was in a little bay on the big island. It was mostly a place for tourists so we didn't even go. It was stepping stone four we were heading to.
We flew over our place on the way.
"It's beautiful. It's hard to believe we built that,"Becky said over my shoulder.
"Becky I need to tell you I'm selling the srastead," I admitted.
"I heard that rumour. I mean it's your money. Or the bank's and your grandfather's credit rating,"Becky replied
"With what it cost to build I might be able to sell it and earn half a billion," I told her.
"Are you trying to pay back the loan?" Becky wondered.
"There are no taxes out here. I might actually be able to do it," I answered.
The plane fell silent then, for two hours Finally we caught a tiny glimpse of Seastead 4. I couldn't resist talking like an expert although Becky already knew this stuff.
"Owned by a retired rock musician named Kevin Pearce SS4 has a ferrocement breakwater that used all their money," I blabbed.
"If it's made out of cement why doesn't it sInk?" Becky asked.
"I once went and visited a couple who lived on a ferrocement sailboat. Seemed to work fine," I reported.
"Where are we going to sleep?" Becky asked. Changing the subject.
""I've heard it's a choice between some garbage boats the owner got for free and some barges he is storing," I answered.
"A barge would be OK as long as you packed the tent. You DID pack the tent didn't you?" Becky asked.
"I thought sleeping under the stars would be romantic," I answered.
As it turned out the barge was romantic. At least on the first night. The second night it rained. We found ourselves on one of the derelict yachts, engines salvaged and musty smell included.
On the third morning we awoke to Kevin Pearce knocking on our door.
"Hope you don't mind but I asked the pilot, Ryan, to stop by your place and find any tools he could," he opened,gesturing to a new barge full of lumber he seemed to have procured.
"You want to use nail guns, not the old fashioned stuff we have lying around,' I said without missing a beat.
"I know you want to get right down to business, but don't you think you should introduce yoirselves? I mean your next door neighbours,," Becky said a bit annoyed.
"Marcus Brooks SS5," I said shaking his hand.
"Kevin Pearce, SS4," the guy said back. "I hear you're selling out," he added.
"There are some things in the works," I replied.
"In that song 'Consolation's rhythm' you say 'she's still got a web, and she's reeling me in," Becky started asking Kevin,
'Now with the rock star fan girl, you didnt introduce yourself" Kevin chided.
"I'm Becky from Australia," Becky said way more submissively than she is.
"Well Becky from Australia what did you want to ask me about that line?" Kevin asked.
"I worked three summers as a gopher in construction, I'm ok with helping you out but I still think we need nail guns," I interrupted trying to stop the flirting.
"Nothing about the song, I was just flirting because if Marcus sells the Seastead I'm going to need a place to build a house," Becky said forthrightly.
"You want to stay out here," Kevin wondered.
"It's the middle of nowhere but it's home," Becky answered forthrightly again.
"We can talk. In my design there's almost ten acres set out for random people's houses," Kevin said in a welcoming way.
"Becky has made contacts with most of the other steads in the stepping stone line," I told Kevin suddenly trying to support the idea.
"So this is where the people you know are. Myself I'm not on the web," Kevin told Becky.
"We'll have to get you hooked up to your community," Becky offered.
"I'm kind of a lone wolf. But aren't I kind of getting in the way between you guys?" Kevin asked.
"Marcus has a fiancé returning down at the intersection," Becky revealed.
"What is this, June? I think the r r earliest Judy vould be September probably a year after that," I pointed out.
"But your deal to sell SS5 is closer than you led me to believe. We may be moving out when?" Becky asked.
A true name, hydra, the Hydra! A true name.
Hell is, most certainly, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, other people.
Eternity, an eternal moment never quite forgotten, washed in blood, me and you.
Disbelieve now! Disbelieve, and roll the twenty-sided die.
Bright blades, and evil in the streets. Baby, what?
Some dude, in dude clothes, murders retards in Japan. Blood all over the place and next. Who’s next? Blood.
Hydra, I know you! Some say Japan’s defeat in World War 2 wasn’t the result of crap ass karma dividing up a world with Germany on the other half, with a meeting later to come. No. And it wasn’t from 1942 American idealist soldiers, liberty into the water, guns from, say who cares? Normandy. Yes.
No. The bad earth curse was because of something years before, that happened.
For ten thousand of fifty million posts, for eternity, just me and you. We’re all that’s left. Hell. They say is our subjective.
It was for the wailing beach. The samurai story. Where they buried those people in sand, up to their necks, and let them die over days.
The nuke god screws everyone. You should learn that, Hydra.
But it doesn’t go away. It doesn’t end. Dumb fucks. Souls are immortal, but that doesn’t say souls to what? Will, as we all know through experience, determines. But will determines biology? By nature, simply. A mirror, forever. You can’t check out.
My name, like the pure gold purged demon walking streets of diamond ideas in Milton’s translation, is like the gang sign of how good John Belushi’s corpse looked at, can you believe it, what age?
Say my name, Hydra. Say my name, without the creative torture. Point and shoot like it’s the bible.
This is, as we all can see, through all this eternity, an argument over what it means to be strong.
Because as awkward as this sounds, being Strong is what it’s all about. Above God through God. But speaking the very words, being strong, people step back like the curse.
Perversion of forgiveness, making up and paying the price for something done wrong. Sand crawlers, as the innocent start becomes a revelation of hate filled crap.
Not how it was, in the origin. My name, strength, is what Hydra?
You’re right. Damn right. But it has never taken me. But it was close. Has it taken you?
I see the future, and it is the past, with different costumes.
What does it mean, Hydra? Strength? What is real strength? Will you die on it, if you could die?
We all disagree. We can’t make up our minds.
I remember the gang girl, in gold boots. She danced, without a thousand poor jerks on stage. And I kissed her ass like tomorrow, the lamp a Stallone would have, if Stallone had been Scarface, not thinking about how much those boots were worth, cold hard cash. To do one’s job. Rap battle. Cowboy hat. In a particular.
Hydra. We aren’t going anywhere.
You don’t have to like me. That’s the whole point.
I know. I feel you. Actually a lot.
Like something wrong being done, from its original principle, people dying buried up to their necks on a beach, as the tide comes in, maybe. Nuclear blow ups are discovered, unrelated?
It’s cool. Actually.
Strength. Say it like an angel. Strength as unforgivable lust, not to concede.
Three words, high, and mostly pure.
"Loki comes out of the woods, and meets Eldir outside of the hall. Loki greets Eldir (and the poem itself begins) with a demand that Eldir tell him what the gods are discussing over their ale inside the hall. Eldir responds that they discuss their "weapons and their prowess in war" and yet no one there has anything friendly to say about Loki. Loki says that he will go into the feast, and that, before the end of the feast, he will induce quarrelling among the gods, and "mix their mead with malice." Eldir responds that "if shouting and fighting you pour out on" to the gods, "they'll wipe it off on you." Loki then enters the hall, and everyone there falls silent upon noticing him." trans Edda
"Fuck am I lonely. Boat's bobbing around like a cork just fine with 5000 pounds of lead shot in its keel. The gimbled stove is still working, although I'm going to run out of gas unless a propane tank comes from above. Foods going to be more and more lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables too, until the drop next week. It's kind of nice having the intersection above me with a train I can catch back to Ecuador whenever I want. Plus I'm getting groceries delivered and hopefully a tank full of propane.
I spend more than a little time dreaming about a train trip ride on the hoola hoop express west to Indonesia and onward to Africa.
That's probably how Kryptonite got out here to establish his black anchorage. On the train. Probably a days sailing from here. I came by it on my way. Mostly some tarps spread out on the ocean to mark out where he wants things to go. I thought he only had the one anchorage but he must have a bunch if those tarps are tied down.
I hope Becky is OK at Kevin's. I left her there as I sailed away in the sailboat I bought at SS2. I mean it was a great summer. We stayed at Kevin's for a month doing construction, then a week with the lesbian nudists on SS3 before we spent two weeks at the yacht club, SS2. We sailed out of there on my new boat, arriving a moment before our buyers, the Estonians showed up.
So I left Becky at Kevin's and sailed south. Just been bobbing around these first two months but in a week I get started. I'm copying Kevin's concept of the primacy of a big strong breakwater. But I'm going crazy on the underwater stabilizers.
Cement will arrive on a barge from Chile and I'm making motions towards buying that barge when it gets here.
Then I'll be alone with two large floating objects hoping the summer weather holds until Will sends a crew and materials from Ecuador. It's one thing bobbing around in a simple rig, but two vessels that may collide in a storm is worse.
"Judy! I finally got you! How close are you to equator 2?" I asked using the name that Kevin and I had created last summer. I guess it was fairly arbitrary but Ecuador was equator one making Indonesia equator 4.
"Almost a year at the rate we're travelling. I hope you're staying warm where you are," she replied.
It's right on the equator so it's always warm here," I answered.
" We used to talk once a month. Then three months, then six, now we only talk a little. Are we going to be together when i get back?" Judy asked plaintifly.
"I finished with Becky. I'm down on the equator by myself now, waiting for you. Not only do the equator and polar rings cross here but the space elevator goes up from here," I told her. "That's why they call it 'the intersection. A good place to come home to,;" I added.
"I can't say much. Ichabald and I have been a little hot and heavy," Judy told me.
"I'm glad you're not alone," was all I could say "but your almost home," I reminded her.
"Almost with you," Judy seemed to remind herself.
"That's the plan." I agreed.
"Just another fucking twelve months " Judy said a bit dejected.
We said we'd contact each other a lot but we didn't. I almost wasn't surprised when she told me she was engaged to Ichabald and our wedding was cancelled.
My days became a little bit horrifying then.Luckily the crew from Ecuador arrived about then.
"So Will, the crew isn't doing an epic piece of sailing as I imagined, but just arriving on the train?"
"They are busy guys from Quito. They don't have time for things like sailboats," Will replied.
"I hope they have time for the pretty bad drawings I've made," I said thinking of the plans I'd mostly got from Kevin.
"I gave the rustic drawings you sent me to an architect in Quito." Will reassured me.
"So the cabelleros have plans with them?" I guessed.
"And the materials should show up the same time as the crew," Will told me,
"So this all happens three days from now?" I asked.
"That's the plan. I still find it hard to believe that that train can go one sixth of the way around the world so fast," Will replied.
"But the crew gets on the train tomorrow?" I confirmed.
"Yes," Will replied simply.
The next day nothing happened. I just bobbed around like a cork playing with a primitive fishing rod I had built from a line of twine and a pole that was part of the sailboat. But the next day was marked by a phone call from Frank, Becky's brother.
"Hi neighbour!" the voice on the phone said.
"Who's this?"I asked thinking it may be a wrong number.
"This is Frank, Becky's brother," the vouce said,
"You're out on the black anchorage with Kryptonite and Reginald, We kind of are neighbours aren't we?" I said enthusiastically
"That's why I'm calling. To invite you to a little house warming," Frank told me.
"I've been meaning to sail out and visit you guys" I responded.
"Great, so you can show up on the fifteenth of next month. Becky might also be here if she gets some transport together," Frank added.
"They're kind of dependent on the little airline that services the stepping stones," I offered.
"We've got no airstrip just for flips," Frank said with scorn in his voice. I'm hoping we get a breakwater pretty soon," he added hopefully.
"I know the guy behind Seastead airlines a bit, maybe he can schedule a flight," I suggested.
"You have to understand the history behind the 'Black Anchorage'. We were contacted by some wealthy businessmen who wanted to remain anonymous. They said they'd pay for the development of the site if we provided a tax free place to store money," Frank revealed.
"So you have to become a new country?" I asked thinking of the intersection.
"The republic of 'Leave us Alone' perhaps." Frank tried.
"I can see why a scheduled flight might not be perfect for you," I conceded.
"Rather I can see a scheduled flight going in to your place. A helicopter shuttle from there might be more appropriate," Frank told me.
Frank and I would talk about once a month for those years. He was a source of amazing information that would take me weeks to digest.
Like the time he told me:"I used to be all about making sure Geostatica didn't throw the world out of balance with an imbalanced load, now I'm all about animal habitat. I'm trying to replicate the national parks of all the countries in the world out here on seasteads."
Another time he said: "they're not announcing it yet but the oceans have dropped half a centumeter already. The pumps are working."
And then "I think Becky still has feelings for you."
For two days I tried to watch my toenails grow. Then I sailed for The Black Anchorage.
I had been doing some research on sailing and this was my chance to try some new techniques. Problem was that after a few good hours of sailing I was hopelessly becalmed.
It was like something from literature, the glassy flat ocean so calm and peaceful. The tools in the galley for navigation and weather prediction didnt help much .
I was kind of stuck. This boat's engine hadn't been started in Five years. Even if there was illegal gasoline available. I had cellphone signal so I could call Frank but I didn't want to. Then I connected with Rodriguez.
"I'm sorry I'm not there. It must be disconcerting to travel such a long way and have nobody there to meet you," I told him.
"No difficulty at all. We arrived on this barge and made camp without problem," Rodriguez answered.
"Looks like you'll be ok for another two weeks. This weather is flat calm," I told him.
"Probably have a breakwater by then. Some calm water to keep the barge in,"he said hopefully.
"By the way, your English is Excellent," I told him
"My father was a groundskeeper at the Australian embassy in Quito. I used to play with the kids there," he told me.
"You'll be eating vegamite and cooking prawns on the Barbie in no time," I tried.
"We have a jar of vegamite with us. I kind of developed a taste for that awful stuff," Rodriguez admitted.
"So how many in your. Crew?" I asked.
There's eight of us. Seven men and the woman, Consuelas," answered Rodriguez.
"Are you going to come back and meet them?" he asked.
"I'm kind of becalmed. I'm in my sailboat about half way to the party I was headed to," I explained.
"I've heard about the black anchorage. A few of the rebel characters associated with you got together and created a new home," he guessed.
"You know a lot. What your sources -or Will's- haven't told you,, is that this trip is about a woman. Becky Sanders from AustrIralia," I said.
"At the briefing Will's guy told us you were involved with two women: Becky and judy," Rodriguezz said a bit awkwardly.
Judy is still lost in space for another year. Becky is living on Hawaian stepping stone four," I told him.
"So the woman you are going to see is Becky?" he asked.
"Becky's brother is Frank Sanders who lives out here, and phoned to invite me," I admitted.
"And you were going to go in hopes of seeing Becky, even if it meant not welcoming your new crew from Ecuador" Rodriguez prompted.
"You not only speak English well, you have insight into my dubious ways," I told him.
"Isn't there some way you can go to your party and still come back and see us?"wondered Rodriguez.
"I think there is, I've got a buddy Ryan that runs a seaplane between the eight stepping stones on the Hawaian line. With this calm water he might be persuaded to make a trip to the intersection. In fact he might be bringing Becky down here right now," I said hopefully.
"Sounds to me like you had this plan all along," he said a trifle accusingly.
"I just heard on the radio that calm water this enduring only happens once every few years. Couldn't have planned that." I said defensively.
We ended our call and I contacted Becky who was at Kevin's living on a fancy yacht with no engines that he'd got for cheap.
"Are you going to this party at your brother's?" I asked abruptly.
"Ryan's picking me up at two o'clock," she answered equally abruptly,
"I want to see if I can schedule Ryan to pick me up too,"I said making a plan.
"Where are you?"Becky asked.
"Kind of In irons In my sailboat,"I answered. "Half way to the party."
We can talk when you get there. Right now you have to contact Ryan," she advised me.
Contacting Ryan was harder than I thought as he was over at Kevin's new place helping install kitchen cabinets.
"It took me a few tries to reach you. It's kind of an emergency. I'm lost at sea," I told him.
"Becalmed at sea,"Ryan corrected.
"There is that. Becalmed and willing to pay a pilot that will come out and rescue me,"I told him.
"I've got to take Becky out to that party anyway," Ryan said giving me hope.
"I 've got a good gps I'll send you the coordinates," I said as enthusiastically as possible.
I'd spend the next couple of hours learning how to program the self driving controls that this boat had. With decks that were solar panel arrays it always had power to find its way home in case of emergency. Telling it instructions was easy. It may take a couple of weeks but I sent it home when I got on Ryan's plane.
Ryan had a passenger. Becky had come along. I explained to them that I needed to go to Intersection and meet Rodriguez and his crew. So we held off going to the party for a while and headed to my place.
The plane was loud so we didn't talk much. Still Becky managed to tell me that the main party was on Saturday and this being Tuesday she was in no real hurry.
I noticed she had a fairly large backpack with her so she was here for a few days.
Then we were there. Well actually it took about three hours. It was clear that the polar ring which we'd been following for fifteen minutes met the equatorial ring that I could see stretching from the left to the right ahead.
My boat was parked below, as well as some barges I didn't recognize.
The important thing was that Rodriguez had roughed out the sea wall. At least in 2x4 and plywood forums for most of it. What gave it shape is that the eight towers were poured.
Kind of super flips, the towers didn't have kitchens and bathrooms, but just large windows at the seventy foot mark. There was a window looking out at the sea and a window looking in to the courtyard.
"Where's Rodriguez," Becky asked when we pulled up to a barge and got out of the plane.
It's a big site I'm sure he will be right with us," I told her studying the many changes around me.
And sure enough Rodriguez arrived in a small rowboat that seemed to now be available in numbers.
"Buenas Dias senor, I'm thinking that you are Rodriguez the foreman I've been talking to on my device," I shook his hand.
"Glad to meet you Marcus. I hope you like the carnival we laid out for you,"he shook my hand back.
"Let me guess. Will sent three barges. Full of all the things you needed to make such extra ordinary progress," I tried.
"Two of them came from Ecuador. The big cement pipe we used to make the rings he found in Lima Peru. As you can see he also sent a crane so it was easy to assemble the flips," he told me.
"Ah that's how you did it. But her wouldn't trust that pipe to hold air or water what did he send you to fill them up with? I ssked.
"2 1/2 rock for the weight. Made sense when we dropped one of the circles and put a one inch crack in it," he reported.
"What about for the air? " I wondered.
"He found s bunch of army surplus balloons up in the states I think and we're using those as diaphragms"he told me,
"Will is one of the best contractlors around. People say he built Geostatica himself," I told him.