Volume 1: Tether
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In a poorly lit room with 9 projection devices being the only source of illumination, a heated conversation is taking place with an individual in military garb in the room and a person located on the lower left screen in a similar uniform. The conversation dies down a bit, but still has a commanding tone coming from the man that looks to be in charge.
“Time is of the essence. Make certain that all pieces are in place as soon as possible. If necessary, increase shipments and double construction efforts. I’ve received word from my primary station contact that Government activity is increasing, so it is only a matter of time until they gain access to critical data of our movement. We must push forward before that time. I think it will be necessary to silence some of them. The confusion should buy us the time we need. I will make certain that happens. I also want you to make certain an observer is available to use for our future purposes.“
The man displayed on screen stretches out his mouth to form a long horizontal line before he speaks. “Understood, I’ll mobilize all of my resources to increase construction speed. We are near completion with exception to the stealth systems that we have just started to install. They require the highest level of care to remain unnoticed, but shouldn’t take too long. I’ll sign off the communication terminal and get right to it. With additional skilled labor, we should not have long to wait. I’ll also arrange for that second matter to happen.”
The individual in the room looks pleased. While there were some quirks throughout the plan, it’s pretty amazing to accomplish their task without being noticed. Just a little longer and the tide of our solar system will start to change.
A barren office with two lone souls sitting at a workstation surrounded by a room-encompassing human relations machine are busy discussing a new contracted job. The search was started a few minutes ago by inputting the expected needs of the position they are looking to fill. The machine had already given them the basic details on a few candidates, but none had yet to peak their fancy. They eventually come upon a candidate by the name of Sky Smith. You might normally assume a few negative thoughts about someone named Sky, but you would be wrong.
Sky is a male, according to his parental file, they wanted to somehow get their son out of the tragically generic nature of the Smith family name.
“Maybe it was for his sake, but they should have gone with something a bit more masculine…” says one of the workers abruptly without much thought behind it.
They start looking over his historic citizen creator statistics. It contains a full mixture of technical and artistic skills with a large consumer following in the documentary style, a perfect match for what we need. The solar power generation spacestation tethers around the planet all need to be processed by our organization at some point.
This is the first opportunity in many years that a representative of the citizen’s group will be allowed inside with full access. They need someone with skills in photography for the purposes of documentation and user content, but also the ability to write the related technical articles that will give the general populous some insight into current state of global power generation.
The ideal candidate will be the public eyes and ears to what is going on, and a person who won’t pull any punches when it comes to access rights. We earned those rights through many world changing events over the last two centuries, but it isn’t easy for a citizen to exercise them in this current political climate. Security has been tight at most major Government facilities, but we can’t really blame them. The frequent attacks and sabotage do cause problems for everyone.
Solar power has been the highest producer of global power for 115 years. Primarily from advancements in material science that allowed for solar to be highly efficient in conversion with the large benefit of low maintenance. Besides the 6 tethered solar plants, called Solgens, attached to Earth, there are also near Earth and deep space arrays that are primarily focused on power generation. The near arrays provide an average amount of power to Earth, whereas the deep space facilities act as safe havens for the various Solar System based operations. Fusion is, of course, a part of the equation, but it requires more care and has yet to take over as the ideal energy-positive power source. Solar even plays a part in the fusion power process because a significant amount of power is needed to form the plasma that is part of the fusion initialization process. The technical difficulties of energy positive output in a fusion process is still a challenge for Government engineers.
The human relations (HR) employees start examining his personal details…
His education was in Tech-Logic sciences. A pretty average Grade Point Average (GPA), but what stands out is the multitude of work both inside and outside of the required schooling period. His work after the mandatory schooling period is what makes a strong enough statement to be a candidate, however it still is a little curious as to why he ranked so high on the list. Well, that strong motivation to put in effort and his future simulated appeal numbers with all citizen sub-groups are probably what justified the rank. Having what amounts to a trustworthy and dedicated observer will be ideal for our needs. The AI candidate matching system does put him in the approval section with a high rank. Lets make a contact point of access to him right now….
“Assistant, contact point to Sky Smith; Geo region 01 section 3 alpha…”
“Contact assistant reached…displaying.”
“This is Regnald, Sky Smith’s virtual butler and automated response system. Let me know your business and I’ll see what I can do for you.”
“This is the Citizens Right-To-Know group of the Technical Government Projects Office, we would like to speak with Sky about a potential on-site creator and documentation contract…“
“What form of content are you looking for?”
“A citizen’s Right-To-Know contract beginning with the tethered Solgen plants with future trips to other running Government projects in their technical division. That’s going to be for the entire Solar System. This is a full-course excursion to everything Government administered.”
“He will be with you in a moment, please stand by.”
The automated messaging system red flags this contact and immediately notifies Sky. Meanwhile, Sky is just enjoying the afternoon as he writes a quick article about the new digital camera he received for Creator testing and examination. He almost seems to be waiting for something meaningful to happen today.
“Sky, there is a call for you in progress that I think should be taken with utmost haste. It deals with the Citizen’s Right-To-Know group and the Government’s technical division.” Regnald immediately gives Sky all of the details on his terminal screen as well as a summary in verbal form.
After only about a single minute of deliberation, Sky takes action. It isn’t surprising given the sheer prominence of this opportunity.
“Great, thanks Regnald, I’ll take the call.”
“Thanks for contacting me, I’m interested in your contract, how would you like to proceed?”
The tag team of HR Representatives go for the most obvious question first.
“First off, please tell us about your educational background, the AI system red flagged your overall GPA, yet we still feel you are a solid candidate for this position.”
“I think that a true understanding is in concept rather than regurgitating memorization of information for the purposes of testing what amounts to a limited skill. Understanding the whole picture and being able to apply that knowledge with skill has always been my focus. I prefer to do the work that results in a useful end result rather than something that amounts to a mostly meaningless score on a terminal screen. The small details can be looked up as needed when applying well thought out concepts. The final product is a culmination of high level concepts and a strong understanding of how things work.”
“We have seen some of your photographic work in the social access point and were impressed, where do you stand with documentary work?”
“That is one of my passions, although with Governmental access being what it is these days, there is a limitation to where I can go. I love the possibilities that new situations and places naturally bring.”
“We can, of course, help you with access. You would essentially be the eyes for the Citizen’s Right-To-Know, although with that comes some risk.”
“Yes, I am aware of the situation, especially outside of Earth’s surface.”
“Good, we should be able to come to some form of agreement. As mentioned before, we will start with a look into the 6 Solgen stations. An assessment from both a technical and social standpoint is the main goal, but there are others. We will forward you a contract with the given public compensation norms as well as details and requirements, upon successful completion, we can get started. We look forward to processing your paperwork soon. Best regards, signing off.”
“Regards to you as well. Thanks.”
I’ve tried for a solid 10 years to garner this type of notoriety of my photographic and documentary work… all of this in a single week. I guess that is what happens when the Citizen’s Right-To-Know group starts backing you. The automated photographic print sales are up 10 fold, and the gallery requests… I’ll at least be able to see them on the public happenings channels, not a finger moved and my credit account is seeing a few extra zeros. It is truly amazing.
A simple auto delivery of information with a global network change, and now I have access to a solid 70% of the Solar System. Someone in their right mind would probably cash out their credits and disappear to somewhere nice and pleasant, but I just cannot miss out on the potential of what I expect to see and experience first hand. However, it’s not to say that avoiding the watchful gaze of these institutions would be a simple achievement. It is time to take the transport for the first task. Time to start a new journey.
I arrive at Solgen3, the highest output plant of the 6 orbiting Earth. The security is tight to say the least. Heavily armed mechanized soldiers patrol the extended grounds inside two levels of solid walled checkpoints that we passed through earlier. Among them are numerous anti air batteries as well as other ground-based defenses. The safety of the Solgen project is paramount considering how important power is to every citizen’s life, not to mention the Government’s operational capacity.
Even with the escort, I am body scanned to make certain that I am not carrying anything disruptive or if I’m simply a walking bomb ready to blow. Upon arriving at the tether, I see why it is so challenging to capture a true representation of this technology. Pure carbon black and surprisingly thin, the 4 lines shoot up into the vast empty blue sky. Three identical lines form a triangle around one thicker line in the center. The base station is substantial and an equally large structure with what amounts to massive metal doughnuts resting on the roof. They are capable of opening and then clamping down on one of the tethers with a reminiscence of an ancient Transformers comic I occasionally read in my off-time.
Citizens are carefully sheltered in all aspects of their lives. Being based on Earth where humanity grew up has the expectation of a long and frankly average life. Your basic needs are provided for, as long as you grow into your unique assets to form a career that will contribute back to society. The common schooling structure is specifically designed to weed out your natural talents and nurture them until you come of legal age. Even what ancestors of the Separate Governments Era would call a “couch potato” is considered a citizen consumer of goods and services and is a valid career path for many if not most people. Usually anyone who fails at forming a career is moved into one of those types of jobs. Many of the undesirable jobs are handled by AI infused robotics, but there is a resurgence of some humans showing interest in manual labor… to avoid the citizen consumer tag and tragically selfish and meaningless life in my opinion. This only happens with a strict governmental review process, but is becoming more frequent in the past few years.
I must have been lucky because I was tagged in my profile early on as a special case with multiple skills I could perform equally well. Technology-Scientific-Systems as well as a broad artistic tendency was my label. The funny thing about art is that Government approval of artists usually happens shortly after birth. The child’s brain is analyzed and found to be more active on the artistic side of the brain. I was around 65% to the artistic side, which left some leeway for other skills to be validated, I assume. In time, the natural interest in technology was noted in my file and further developed. With art, the strong tendency was that of a maker of things. This skill is somewhat rare based on a global percentage of a population basis, so that usually fixes the individuals career path to one direction.
What the schooling systems didn’t pick up on is my interest in the analysis of life and our cultural society. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of how things are with such fixed social roles. I’ll always be considering why what we are now is truly better than how humanity was just a few centuries ago. So the more I am able to produce, the more free time I have to contemplate these things from both a technical and social aspect.
At the time of legal age, I was placed into the position of general entry-level consumer content provider. I worked on articles that helped consumers decide what products best fit their desires and credit budget. In time I was able to branch out into other forms of content creation and media experimentation. A content provider creates things based on their given skills and provides them to the vast consumer division in as many forms of media as they can muster. As a content provider, I’m rather forced to do as much as possible because we are totally reliant on the credit system. The more popular and fantastic we can make our labors, the more reward it brings in the form of living situation, necessity level provided for, and down time allocated. While rare, creators that turn into content failures end up as consumers on the lowest of social rank. They are only provided the bare minimum, but are given opportunity to improve their situation as a consumer with time and effort. The Government has decided this level of risk gives Creators the necessary motivation to succeed.
On the other side of the coin, the consumer system is even more complex. There is a lottery system, consumer drive system, and waiting list for various types of goods and services they consume. Not every consumer can have a private transport or a 10,000 square foot living space, but they can’t exactly work for the opportunity to have those things. Consumers must excel in subtle ways to garner more of those most desired content, goods, and services. It isn’t easy for them to move up in the ranks.
Such extravagant things are also open to producers, but the only means to achieve them is to gain more consumers and notoriety. I’m now on a fast path to a large consumer base of my work, yet it isn’t that simple. Things like the quality and quantity of the work as well as Government rating are factors in the equations. The current state of human existence is a mishmash of political and economic systems that came before us, but with a flat impersonal twist.
You would think that when a large percentage of the Earth population is given a stress free life of consuming, problems would be few and far between. That isn’t the case, just by the simple look at the security level at Solgen3. A contingent of mechanized soldiers that could take down an entire army of what was called a small country in ancient times are needed to protect the facility from harm.
This problem, as I’ve contemplated, is caused by the nature of some humans that the governing bodies and systems don’t take into account, or rather don’t bother to consider. While the populous is monitored and sanctioned as the systems are able, these individuals manage to find methods of communication and even at times manage to go off the monitoring grid entirely. Even with a “digital mum” monitoring both in the physical and digital realms, her artificial intellect and manned presence isn’t able to cover the entire Earth as well as the habitable new territories of the Solar System. Part of my job will eventually be to see and document the state of areas outside the Earth ring. I’m expecting some interesting times ahead where the Government has less presence and strength.
Update-01, Getting Acclimated to My New Position:
Regards citizens, this is Sky and I’ll be your eyes and ears to all aspects of the Solgen power generation satellites. As you know, these are our lifeblood on Earth, so that we can consume and produce to our hearts content. The Solar Government allows individuals such as myself access to give you a view to how our society works on many levels not normally seen. I’ll be providing you journal entries, detailed writings, opinion pieces, and well as a large swath of imagery, as you can expect, based on my previous work in the consumer hobby scene, as well as the global sports and printed fine art galleries of Geo region 01 section 3 alpha. I’ve now had the opportunity to see the Solgen3 base station up close and I find it extremely fascinating…
…My escort interrupts the recording and states: “Let’s get a move on, the center tether is ready for boarding.”
I ask, “How long have you been a tether escort? What’s your name sir?” I contemplate recording this conversation for added article content. Producers have no restriction on using audio or video recording devices in any situation and I often have one of my cameras recording as I go about my business outside of home. Yeah, I could see writing a piece about various Government workers I meet to bring some personality to the Government as a whole. They could certainly use all of the help they can get in the likability aspect.
“Around 13 years give or take. Doing the same thing day after day gets a bit tiring. We need to get a move on to meet our transport deadline, oh, and the name is Dunkan. My work is simple, but rewarding for the basic fact that I meet so many interesting and smart people such as yourself. I’ve seen some of your work. I love it.”
“Alright, thanks for the ride Dunkan, even though you are not a consumer, I hope you spend some of your earned time checking out my future reports, here is the network address you will find it at.”
“I’ll do that.”
We take the north entrance and eventually come upon the primary doughnut shaped transport after taking an elevator to the roof of the main building. It is charged and waiting for the trip to begin. While not completely unexpected, the main tether is said to be used primarily for transport of goods or at times large groups of people. I take a few quick snapshots with my network enabled camera for instant publishing.
“Dunkan, why are we taking the primary transport?”
“Lately there has been quite a busy schedule for all tethers. Upgrades are being done to the Solgen to increase output and improve monitoring systems. I’ve transported quite a few new workers to the tether transports in the past 6 months or so.”
“Monitoring systems, as in the state of systems or something completely separate?”
“…I’ve only picked up on this info from what I’ve overheard at lunch and from people I escort! I can’t really tell you one way or the other. The sheer volume of goods being transported is the most I’ve seen in the 13 years this has been my task.”
“Understood, shall we go? I don’t want you to get reprimanded for being late.”
The transport has a textured finish like what you would imagine to find on the bottom of a clay bowl, with so much use, having a flashy finish would just turn out looking just as bad in short order. The significant velocity the transport travels at while undergoing the return trip and the general conditions of space travel in any form would make quick work of even the most advanced paint finish. Monomolecular oxygen and space debris take a toll on the transport modules. The mechanism in the center of the doughnut is actuated to fit an expanding tether. At the base station where we are now, the tether is extremely thin, but as the transport travels up, the line will get exponentially thicker until it reaches its thickest point at geosynchronous orbit.
“Dunkan, will you be accompanying me to the satellite?”
“Nope, sorry, I only have transport clearance for ground. Give my regards to Leena, she will be your technical and coordinating liaison to station operations. Let her know that Dunkan looks forward to having a beer with you two after your work is done.”
“I’ll do that. Well, it was nice meeting you.”
“Indeed it was.” He gives me what looks like a half wink or twitch of his left eye, but maybe it was just something in his eye. I couldn’t really tell if there was any intent in the gesture.
Boarding the transport is a simple affair with nonexistent security at this level. The passenger compartment circles around the central doughnut hole, but does have both ceiling and floor windows that provide a nice expansive view. With my large contingent of camera gear, I can easily get a few shots out the windows that will be able to avoid the natural glare. Shots of the Earth from space always net a large payout in consumer activity. Plus, there is an added visual benefit of the tether cords because they will provide a nice bit of perspective to the vastness of a number well over 22,236 miles truly signifies. Geostationary orbit in context is an impressive distance to visualize.
The trip away from Earth takes a considerable amount of time. Geostationary orbit is only half of the trip. The tether works through tension instead of compression. That means the station is quite a distance from that point, about another 20,000 miles in fact. This extra distance is required to keep the tether in space thanks to the counterweight effects of the station’s distance and mass. If you can imagine the days of wheeled transport where a vehicle would be traveling around 70 miles an hour (mph), this transport traveling at that speed would require 600 hours, or rather, close to an entire month to complete the trip. Luckily, the transport moves considerably faster at an average speed of around 1500 mph. The acceleration is not linear, but ramps up and slows down in that order.
I’ll use what equates to an entire day of travel for some meditation on what has happened and what is to come. This Solgen review contract needs some spice to make viewership interested in what I have to report. While I’m not the type to make interest out of thin air, I can find it pretty easily.
A jarring buzzing sound wakes me up in a painful instant after it starts. I finally arrive at the Solgen plant, while I’m still asleep no less. I didn’t quite time my wake and sleep schedule properly. I ended up doing a marathon session of planning and equipment preparation that lasted a good 22 hours minus a few naps, leaving me only around 6 hours for deep sleep. The view out the floor windows is fantastic in so many ways. A massive pitch black tether takes up every inch of all windows. The view out the top is just the same, but with the opposite of solid bulkhead covered in pure white paint. The tether transport has no form of artificial gravity, so I can easily unlock my bed harness and float to the primary exit on the ceiling. In short order, the door opens and I’m quickly greeted.
A fair skinned woman pops her head past the door frame lock and shoots me the biggest smile I’ve seen in a long time. She manages to make it through the entrance giving me a full view. The woman is suited up in standard Government space attire that consists of a moderately form fitting full body work suit of a somewhat flashy orange color. It is covered in informational patches and an identification badge Velcro-ed to the left breast pocket. Her black hair has a very slight blue sheen to it and probably around shoulder length, but it is tied in a bun for the sake of practicality. Her facial features are a mixture of Earth’s western and eastern continents.
Given the speed and ease of global transport, it isn’t a rare occurrence and actually the norm these days to see many people with a conglomerated appearance. Her body structure is decidedly thin with a little bit of curvature here and there. Both her skin’s lack of tan and thin look are partly due to being stationed here where artificial gravity isn’t as strong as Earth and not used in some areas of the station. The direct sunlight can only be had through what are mostly small windows which exasperates the lack of color. It’s difficult to tell just how tall she is as I’m floating toward the door with my gear in both hands and trying my best not get stuck mid flight.
“Sky, I presume! I’m Leena Hayashi. I’ve seen some of your work, but it’s nice to meet you in person. We are looking forward to having a citizen check out our fantastic facility. There’s a ton of construction happening right now, but most systems are still running at full capacity. You should have your documentary work cut out for you.”
“Hello Leena, I am indeed Sky Smith. It’s nice to meet you. Before I forget, the transport escort named Dunkan suggested we have a beer on the surface once my work here is done.”
“Oh, that would be fantastic. Seeing as Dunkan approves of you, I’m sure we will have a great time working together. That puts me at ease. I have some free time built up just for opportunities like this. Being on the station always keeps me in work mode. We Government workers don’t exactly have as much freedom as you guys. Well, some more than others… but I digress.”
“Ha-ha, I’ll take your word for that, Leena.”
She does a reverse barrel roll and uses her left hand to gain forward momentum back through the doorway. Quite gracefully I might add. I, on the other hand, end up using my head to cancel out forward momentum, seeing as I haven’t quite figured out how to switch up my orientation mid stream and not to mention this equipment is tying up my hands. A soft *thunk* reverberates through the wall panel. Leena looks back and shoots me another big smile and says: “Think of it as an initiation ritual of sorts. You’ll most likely get use to it, eventually. Most of the station is under artificial gravity, so you will be good either way. Though, some people never master it…”
We enter a large empty square box of a room. There is just enough gravity on this side of the room that normal two legged locomotion is possible. The details on artificial gravity are still a bit shrouded in mystery for citizens, even with our supposed information access rights. It doesn’t use the classic physical station ring rotational motion method to generate gravity, that, I at least know for certain. It’s pretty dark in here with a few red lights giving me a general idea of the room’s shape as noted. A computerized voice prompts: “All individuals must be screened for contaminants, please relax and breath as normal. This process will take 2 minutes and 30 seconds.”
A slight buzzing noise fills the room and the light panels around the entire room flash multiple times in a methodical sequence. This is what equates to a sterilization chamber that collects and destroys anything that could be harmful to the station residents. I pull out my small camera again to record a few short video clips. There really is no discernible sensation besides the sound and lights. It’s a nice display of current technology that keeps workers on the station safe.
From my initial research, the process for lesser known guests is quite different. Normally, the representative would be in the next room waiting until the contamination process has finished. Had something seriously dangerous been found like explosives, it’s wholly possible the individual would have been offered up to the coldness of space, but I’ve never heard of that actually happening. The process completes and an extremely thick hatch opens on the furthest parallel wall from the tether hatch. I leave all of my gear in the room as per standard procedure. Leena gives me a quick nod and we walk through to the next room. It’s funny how I internally interpret the little hop to my step from lower gravity as an enthusiastic state of mind for what will come next. Not many citizens are allowed to see such things that are so vital to our daily lives. From power comes all things necessary to life. Whoever controls the production of it literally stays in power of the Solar System.
I now notice that Leena is about a foot shorter than I am. I see, as we enter the adjacent room, that she is almost a bit elf or pixie like, which fits well with what I’ve seen of her personality so far. The thick door closes behind us with a soft thud, most likely due to a slight variation in air pressure. This place has what I’d consider a level of gravity that is much closer to what we experience on Earth. It isn’t as strong, but I don’t find myself naturally skipping as opposed to walking. This area of the station is a large, and what appears to be an expansive, rectangle with a multitude of doorways, some open and some closed. In the center of the room are various semi-enclosed structures where I can see people in meetings as well as others who are taking breaks or are at personal workstations. There are probably around 100 or so individuals in the visible vicinity going about their business, all of them in similar orange suits like Leena is wearing.
“This is the main room that most of the station directly connects to. It’s quite big, isn’t it? Although, maybe that’s just because I’m kind of short!” She hops up on both legs with her arms straight to her sides, acting like she is trying to see over my head. Her face contorts into a half smile and her eyebrows shift upwards after realizing it is impossible. “Anyways most of the common communal things happen here such as meetings and lunch breaks. It’s a great way for everyone, regardless of current job position, to come into contact with everyone else on occasion. It helps form a bond of teamwork and camaraderie.”
I take a few quick wide-angle shots with my small pocket camera I kept with me. Composition here isn’t key because I can always crop them later. Even small equipment has enough resolution.
“Leena, it is impressive… So what’s next?”
Before she gets to say another word, three large opposing men come up from behind my field of vision, but they were loud enough that I noticed them a good distance away. They, of course, are wearing the orange jumpsuits, but have blue patches on their shoulders with the letters S.S. embroidered onto them. The largest of the group, who has a gold outline on his patches, standing in the middle, starts the introduction process.
“Hello Sky, I’m the head of station security. The name is Demicos Ables. To my left is Thu Samovong and right is Mark Walker.” I receive a short nod in unison from the two gentleman next to Demicos. “They are my two section chiefs of all station security matters. If you have any questions or concerns, please use any of the voice activated terminals and ask for us by name or work position. You basically have access to the entire station, but we prefer you spend most of that time with you liaison, Leena. The construction areas can be somewhat dangerous to individuals who are not familiar with our processes and procedures. That’s about it, I hope you enjoy your stay and hope everything works out well for your task at hand as a citizen observer.”
“Alright, thanks for your help. I appreciate the friendly greeting.”
The three men walk off and split into three directions like fighter planes performing an aerial maneuver.
“A nice bunch of guys. I don’t suspect having any access issues if Demicos is the main authority.”
“Yes, they are. We occasionally have card games after our work for the day is finished and our schedules line up. They aren’t the only Government group dealing with station security though. The main group, that Demicos is in charge of, handles everything that doesn’t require top-level security. There are some areas such as the fusion generator and tether control room that are special cases. I can fill you in on that later. Let’s get you to your room and get you situated. I have some tasks I have to attend to, so once there, you will be on your own for the rest of the daytime cycle.”
We walk east of the tether access area for a solid 30 minutes toward the primary living quarters. Leena gets to talking about station operations. I learn more about the station as a whole and how it works, thinking this will be nice background information for a number of future articles. Basically, solar is only one side of the puzzle. While solar collectors, that are a mixture of nano-level structured light accumulators and small highly efficient solar cells, generate a massive amount of power, they need to be supplemented. There are times, in what they call cycles, that solar generation has lower than normal output.
Part of the power taken from solar energy is used to feed one or more fusion reactors, and a mixture of the two is achieved to provide an efficient and continuous level of power to the station and Earth. The fusion part of the equation is much more difficult to manage, being almost like a delicate brain operation, but does produce a higher efficiency from any power used to start and feed the reaction. Storage for raw materials is on board and is replenished with the occasional tether transport or one from asteroid mining operations.
This woman is really fascinating. I’ve yet to learn that much about her, but just based on mannerisms and that easily excitable yet seemingly naive nature just ooze out in such a fun way. In a professional situation like this where a citizen would expect a level of stodginess from a ranked Government worker, I’m getting the exact opposite. It’s just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat as I desire to see how she responds to the tiniest of body language or well placed words. I think I’ll try to steer the small talk a different direction. This could be good for the more enthusiastic of my audience base, but they might not like how it ends up, because some consumers are a little too… protective… of their daily producer journal subscriptions. I might get some backlash from that.
Leena is talking with extreme enthusiasm about how some of the items in the cafeteria are made from reprocessed human waste, I cut her short in a slight pause between words, “That’s fascinating, could you please forward me a list to my terminal so I know what to avoid?” I make a soft chuckle like cough that I don’t think she picked up on, “Leena, tell me a little about yourself. How did you end up here?”
“I’ll let you sample everything before giving you the list. It will be more fun that way. We can have a talk after sampling the food to see if you can tell. It might be more difficult that you think, or easier depending on how attuned your sense of taste is!”
“Only if you join me in tasting everything at the same time as well.”
“I’m not the squeamish one here, you’re the one Sky… Now that we have our food challenge settled, I came here by a spot of luck and hard work. Almost everyone on Earth is born as a citizen, but the Government data systems weed out candidates that it believes would fit well in Government operations. From an early age, I was chosen and immediately had my studies augmented with Government themed topics.
They try their best to breed natural loyalty and traits of service into individuals from an early age. I went through that, but basically what I experienced up to the end of our schooling period was the same as any citizen. A producer’s workload is probably a lot different from a normal citizen than mine was. I imagine the powers that be try to develop your social skills, so that you can handle the type of situations producers are put in every day.”
“You could say that. I was pushed constantly to develop my creative skills and to desire the attention and affirmation of consumers. I guess in a way we are all a product of this ridged system. Some of what they forced me to learn wasn’t what would be considered the best traits of humanity.”
“Sky, you don’t strike me as a normal citizen producer. You seem much too polite and honorable for that. Some producers I’ve come across can be downright rude, manipulating, and utterly demanding. They take what they need for their works to materialize and throw away the rest. Their social attitudes are cold and uncaring. It’s kind of disgusting, but as a liaison, I’ve gotten use to it.”
I start to have some internal conviction. It isn’t often that I let someone peek past any of my mental barriers I put up. They exist so that I can do things I’d normally feel bad about such as manipulation to extract important information or create situations that result in good content. My earlier idea to… well, I think that’s all of me wanting such things from her. In that case, I feel a little better about it, and there can’t be much harm in writing about it after the fact. My audience has given me some valid feedback in wanting that type of content.
We finally arrive at my assigned quarters. In addition to the 30 minute walk to a doorway off the main communal space, we took an additional 15 minutes until this cabin was reached.
“This isn’t the fastest way to get around. There are automated pathways that should cut travel time down to about a fourth of what it took us to get here right now. There is a station map on your terminal or any of the public ones disbursed throughout the entire station. On a related note, if you want a meal quickly, you can have it delivered through the cabin delivery system and that’s even faster. Just order whatever you like from your terminal.”
She points to a recessed black reflective panel that is located near standing eye level for most individuals.
“The door is programed to your bio signature, so only you can open it. Place your hand on the panel to unlock the door. It’s that simple. Give it a try.”
I do as she says and the panel lights up with the text: “Access Granted, Sky, welcome to your new cabin.”
The entire door slides open to the left in a quick whoosh. I immediately notice this room is considerably larger than I expected it to be. It isn’t just one room, but more like one large room sectioned off into three comfortably sized spaces. The center area we are in now has a simple round dining table and three chairs as well as what appears to be a large sliding door. The area to my right is a living space with desk holding a terminal, couch with a small short table in front of it, and large screen attached to the wall adjacent to the couch. The area to my left is where the bed and what looks like a closet is located.
“Here is your cabin, you have about a third more room than a standard issue one. Your bathroom is directly in front of us and, of course, the terminal is on the right. That’s pretty much all you need to know, am I right?”
I give her a wide eyed glance and bend my right index finger back and forth a bit on my substantial jaw bone. She returns a similar facial expression, but with a tilt of the head and everything amplified two fold. We both quickly look away and form quick duplicate smiles for a split second.
I walk over to the bathroom door while making a big double armed stretch. She start explaining the general layout of the station and how best to access each area, following my movement by shifting her stance back and forth.
I say in passing out loud, “It’s been a long trip and I only managed a few decent of hours of sleep on the tether” while pressing the bathroom door access button. I see a wall sized mirror directly in front of me. I decide quickly that now is a good time to test the waters. Sorry Leena, I was well trained and you just can’t pick up on it yet. I see my personal luggage already arrived and was placed on the bed along with a stack of orange jumpsuits. I go over to my personal bag and pull out some boxers and a t-shirt I can use after taking a shower. Leena continues on various subjects like restricted areas and eventually gets to the subject of my schedule.
“I’d like to take a quick shower before exploring the station a bit.” She makes a quick nod and continues on talking. I face the mirror and pull my shirt and undershirt off in one hasty action. Making certain to glance at Leena’s face and give her a half grin through the mirror’s reflection as I do that. My physique is well toned to be above average, not to mention my looks. This is from many hours of weekly exercise with moderate weights and Government required visual modifications so that producers are as appealing as possible. She doesn’t pause her dissertation of a speech about protocols, but I notice a slight flushing of her cheeks and widening of the eyes, with an internal struggle to keep her facial expression at a professional level. It isn’t a surprising reaction. I pull my undershirt out and put it back on as a ruse to make it seem like I didn’t intentionally do that. I turn around, take a few steps forward, and face her so that I could best understand the rest of her speech. I’m thoroughly amused, but that’s enough for now. To get ahead of the game, I need to take steps like this.
“As for the schedule, you can find that in the terminal under the given label and visual icon representation. Tomorrow we will be starting an extensive tour of the station. Bring all the equipment you need. Your camera gear should be delivered within the next two hours, but you don’t need to be here to receive it; you can take that walk you wanted to do before sleeping. As I mentioned before, I have other matters to attend to, otherwise I’d join you. Let me know if you need anything. I’m really looking forward to helping you out with your observation tasks.”
Leena does a ridged about-face maneuver and presses the door release button with her left index finger and a vertical twitch of the wrist. As she walks through the door, she turn around again, waving her hand in the motion I’d best describe as the shape of a sea shell fanning out. Another big grin comes along with a “I’ll be here tomorrow at 10:00 sharp on the 24 hour clock. Remember to review the schedule! Oh, and no shirt, no shoes, no service is the name of the game here. Be fully dressed when I get here.”
“Alright, thanks. Ha-ha, you are a clever one Leena. I’ll be sure to have one of those orange jumpsuits on before answering the door tomorrow.” Leena quickly takes her leave onwards to other duties, and the door closes swiftly behind her with that signature whooshing sound. Before it completely closes, she raises her hand and gives a thumbs up with a nod of the head.
It looks like I’ll have an interesting time here. Not what I was expecting by any means, but this might be even better. Consumers love this sort of thing…
It was a long trip. While tether travel into space is efficient, it isn’t exactly the fastest by any means. Spending an entire day in limbo damages your internal clock and usually requires a sizable number of days before you can acclimate to your new situation. I give the room another quick glance and then head straight back toward the shower.
Even showers are a little different in space. The slight weakness of artificial gravity and the necessity for efficiency in space result in a unique experience. Water doesn’t flow as quickly downward, but that’s not really a problem. Showers on the station are more like a 360 degree heavy steam jet. It’s really a wondrous experience. There is a continuous vertical stream that encompasses the entire human body plus some extra area in the shower compartment. Streams from the sides jet out in user controllable intervals and patterns. Along with straight water, the stream can also disperse soap, making it an efficient process with no personal care products or disposable bottles needed. The one failing I see is that it is too enjoyable of an experience because one can lose track of time just enjoying the full-bodied sensation of it.
With my first unnecessarily long station shower out of the way, I outfit myself with one of the orange jumpsuits that were left for me on the bed. My suits have green shoulder patches with the letters C.P. embroidered in bright blue thread. I thought it best to check out the terminal before taking a quick walk. I walk over to the screen and wave my hand in front of it from left to right. The terminal activates with a fade effect going from black to a light blue.
“Sky, welcome to Solgen3. How may I assist you? Please feel free to use the tactile or voice controls for navigation. By the way, I have one saved textual message for you from an unknown source, would you like to hear or view that?”
“Yes, please display that on the screen.”
My eyes widen. What could this be about?
“Watch your back. The situation here isn’t as pleasant as it appears. All of my contacts here are no longer accessible by message, and I’m unable to call out to my superiors. Your kind is in just as much danger. Keep this information to yourself, and as I said before, watch your back. I’ll be in contact again very soon.”
I guess my initial thoughts of an uneventful stay here were dead wrong. I could potentially make some amazing content pieces from this, but on the other hand, it has now moved into a risk vs. reward game that I only have limited information on to start playing. If I find out something shocking and release it to the Citizen’s group immediately, I could easily be endangering my life in the process. Though I’m far from a novice in situations like this, I have storage equipment off the grid with high level encryption as well as bio-only access properties to it. This will allow me to document what goes down here for later public release, while not alerting anyone to my activities. It just requires a little finesse and double dealing of content I accumulate.
I’ve kept a secret from everyone I know personally in my daily life, and more importantly, from the eyes of the Government. While it is a given that a producer would have technical skills with the solar information network and general computing systems, I’ve been able to develop much more than just the skills of a simple producer. It basically comes down to the ability to prevent eavesdropping and understanding how our systems and networks function at the most detailed of levels. Knowing how something works allows you to manipulate and exploit a system’s functions for your own ends. In the beginning age of computing, such skills would label individuals as “hackers” and “crackers,” for their ability to understand existing computer systems and at times exploit them. This knowledge wasn’t free. I had to acquire various texts and documents through less than reputable social factions.
Where to start? I need to validate the message and attempt to figure out the source, although I can’t do much until my equipment arrives. Built-in safeguards require finely developed electronic countermeasures. Among my vast array of camera equipment I have hidden such tools that I’ve developed over many years. That walk sounds like a good way to kill some time. As Leena said, it should only be an hour or two.
I pull up a basic map of the station through the information terminal. I’m currently in a section of the ship that hosts mostly crew quarters. However, to the south west there is a section of the ship dedicated to spatial stabilizing systems. Those systems are used to keep the station in the proper spatial alignment with the Earth. Given the nature of the space tether system, there isn’t much adjustment needed, but still enough variation exists that human intervention is required. Considering I have around two hours before I will have the tools I need to analyze that odd message, I’ll check that area of the station out and document it with the small camera that I’ve kept with me.
The walk to spatial alignment systems takes a solid 50 minutes at a leisurely pace through crew quarters and storage sections in-between. I run into various crew members going about their business. Some of them seem generally friendly and give me a happy greeting, especially after noticing my arm patches. Even though I should still be in the storage area between the crew section and spatial alignment, the level of construction, along with wide open spaces that house a large number of machines makes me do a double take. The terminal map system should stay up to date as construction progresses, but I’m certain that the map didn’t indicate this. I discreetly pull the camera out of my pocket and latch it to my belt like a personal communication device. Before doing that I set the camera to a wide angle video recording mode and start it up.
As I enter Spatial Alignment, the entire area has the sheen of newly finished construction and recently installed machines. This area has a security restriction placed on it, however my bio signature is recognized by the base Governmental Computer System. I was given unrestricted Citizen’s Right-To- Know access before the start of my trip and it seems to have worked as planned. These integral monitoring systems are advanced and well locked down from a technical standpoint, so personnel can’t simply restrict my movement if the computer system says that I am allowed access.
All countermeasures are directly tied to and managed by this computer system. I’m a bit perplexed because the spatial alignment systems area shouldn’t require upgrades to provide such a basic, yet necessary, station function. What could be the purpose for these upgrades? Most of the systems appear to be offline, but near ready for use. I’m not sure these upgrades are directly tied to continuous Government refurbishment plans. It’s time to head back, after letting my camera record as much as possible.
As I start to head back, the lights begin to dim down. I suspect this is some form of off-hours protocol. The hall lighting goes into a power-save mode that dims down ambient light to a minimum and turns on red floor lights. This makes navigating the storage area a bit more difficult. It isn’t simply a direct path back to my room and the lighting change exasperates the problem. I hear a clanking of shoes. The sound becomes louder and louder until I see a silhouette in the distance heading toward my direction and I toward theirs. Once close enough, I see that it is an unusual looking man with silver hair, yet who is surprisingly young looking in his facial features. The poor lighting makes it difficult to fully discern his features, but something isn’t quite right about him. We stand in front of each other at a junction of 5 corridors. About 10 awkward seconds later, he starts to speak.
“I was the one who added that message directly to the local memory of your terminal. My official work here deals with maintenance, so gaining access to your quarters before the locks were bio-initialized was simple enough. I’m called Levin. I am one of the Government’s monitors. They sent me here disguised as a temporary worker last week to check up on things as discreetly as possible. As I said before, my contacts who should be stationed here are not contactable. I suspect whatever situation this station is in will affect you as much as me. I’ve already noticed a watchful eye on my activities, yet I’m unable to exit the station or even contact my superiors through the network. All means of communication are being firewalled with a system I’m not familiar with.”
“I see. What do you want of me? Or was this just a friendly warning among new friends?” Sarcasm probably isn’t the best route here, but I want to see how he reacts.
“The Government and citizens need each other to survive. Find out what you can. Considering your permissions level, you should be able to access most of the station without flagging security. Earlier, I saw your schedule on the terminal and will meet you tomorrow in the secondary loading bay, also called the planetary viewing center. Bring any information you have.”
That’s odd, he ignored or completely dodged my sarcastic tone. Anyway, I think it is best if I don’t reveal anything to Levin just yet. I need to confirm his story. While it isn’t unheard of to be approached by Government monitors, this is my first time experiencing it, so I don’t quite know what to expect. However, the odd looks and mannerisms do fit past descriptions some of my fellow producers have written in their Government related articles. I don’t think he would have access to Spatial Alignment because that could blow his cover, so he probably doesn’t know the odd situation there. I’ll hold off on mentioning that until tomorrow.
“Levin, I’ll see what I can do. What is your official Government ID?”
He hands me a data module.
“If you have access to a tool that can validate Governmental codes, this will prove sufficient. Return it to me tomorrow at the secondary loading bay.”
“Alright, I’ll do that.”
We take our leave from each other, heading in opposite directions. I give him a quick nod as I briskly walk back toward my room. I’m not sure what to think at this point, but one thing’s for certain, something major is happening here that the Government isn’t yet privy to. Every citizen has heard about small anti-Government factions through the standard media channels and producers, but if this station is part of it, this could be big… really big.
The remainder of the walk back was thankfully uneventful. I feel out of my element here and a little weary considering the cautionary words from Levin and just the guy’s strange appearance itself. I need to find out the players in this game and find out quickly.
There is a large box next to my room door. This is what I suspect is my equipment. The box is mechanically attached to the floor, so I’ll just have to take my equipment out. It’s almost like hotel room service, but with a lot more security. The box has a bio analysis based locking mechanism on the top. I place my hand on the device and it unlocks. Everything appears to be in order. It also looks like all of my more covert tools are intact.
I sit back in front of the room’s terminal screen. In my equipment there is a memory card wallet, I pull out one specific card and snap open the casing. Inside is a switch that changes the memory card’s data connections to a different part of the circuit board. I flip the switch and reassemble the card. This contains my set of basic system access tools. I load the card into the terminal and run through a temporary install procedure. I load up the data module from Levin and run a program to verify his claim to be a Government monitor. After 30 minutes, a full sub-atomic level match is found. One piece of the puzzle is now placed on the board. I was half hoping that the guy was just crazy. No such luck. That’s probably enough for today, I need some sleep.
A voice from the terminal sounds throughout the entire room. “It’s time to get up, you have an appointment with your liaison in one hour.” I quickly get up as if I were a cadaver that suddenly raises from an examination table as seen in numerous ancient movies I often watch. She is coming here to pick me up, so an hour should be enough. Just about all I remember from last night was using the terminal to confirm that chap’s credibility and then starting to doze off. I must have somehow gotten into bed before totally conking out.
“Terminal Assistant, prepare the shower please and order me a light breakfast.”
“Affirmative, the shower is started and you should receive a standard light breakfast in 10 minutes delivered to your cabin delivery port. Just place your hand on the access panel to open it.”
Once that is all out of the way, I’m left with about 20 minutes. The food was decent and I’m now suited up in orange again.
“Terminal, display and start to read off my schedule.”
“Today, you will spend the entire day touring the station with your liaison. Starting the day after today, you will have access to all station staff you desire for interviews based on their given schedules. There is no fixed schedule after that. Interviews will be postponed until you provide the necessary inputs.”
A buzz fills the room. And Leena’s voice projects over the room’s intercom.
“Sky, are you awake and ready? I’m standing outside your door.”
“Terminal Assistant, project voice. Yes, please come in, I’m ready for action. Terminal Assistant, open the door please.”
The door shifts open and I see Leena with a bright smile on her face.
“Good, Good! Let’s go. We have much to see. First off we will tour the solar subsystems area. After that will be the dual purpose secondary docking area that is used for Earth viewing by people here. It’s quite the sight. Once we go there, we can take a quick lunch and then move on to the primary fusion generator. That’s just the start…but let’s get going now. The trip to solar subsystems will take a while.”
I pick up a small pocket sized camera that I can clip to my orange suit as well as one that is larger yet provides powerful high-resolution capabilities. The larger camera I attach to a shoulder strap and put it on over my chest. This should be sufficient for the tour. We take the expedited transport to get out of crew quarters. That takes us to the main hall that I had seen yesterday. It’s bustling with activity considering the station time is already well past 10:00.
We make our way through the crowds and give many quick greetings and nods along the way. Everyone I’ve seen so far seems to have a friendly air about them. I can’t say I’ve seen such enthusiasm in other Government facilities in the past. These past experiences were at least a few notches toward the grim drudgery of what Government work often entails. There must be something about this station I’ll have to pry into before I can figure it out.
“Leena, tell me about human resources and how the station is managed on a day to day basis. Considering the station needs to be managed 24/7, how does that work out in practice?”
“There are multiple shifts of each given station task. Each worker doesn’t stay on one set schedule, but is placed into various schedules that change over a set time period. The computing system as well as some of the workers or even Government decide the schedule for each station-wide work cycle. They even decide how long each cycle is based on every given job. While it is complex, efficiency isn’t a problem and the people here long enough eventually form skills that span the entire station. They also enjoy frequent change of pace. The feeling of being stuck on a station can start to damage a person’s state of mind. Even though the station is large, this can sometimes be a problem for us. At any one time, the systems in place basically know who is working and who is asleep. All workers are required to have a minimum of 7 hours of actual sleeping time. Lack of sleep can lead to dangerous repercussions. We don’t want any of that. It is best that everyone stay in good physical condition.”
Traveling directly away from crew quarters and past the main area, we proceed through a large double door. The setting changes to row after row of double ceiling height machines all humming away while processing electricity collected from massive solar arrays outside.
“Here is a peak at the secondary collection matrix. This is what stores and generally manages the energy flow from the exterior collectors. Some of the power is stored locally or used by the station, and the rest is piped down to the planet through one of the tether lines and occasionally with wireless transmission at peek times.”
I pull out the smallest camera and clip it to my empty breast pocket; activating it and switching it to video mode. It has advanced shake reduction and strong dynamic range capabilities, so I don’t worry too much about micro managing it. After that is running, I take the handle of the larger camera, so that I can achieve some detailed still images. Both are set to capture a wide field of view. It is just much easier that way and allows me to put more focus on what Leena is saying. The cameras are both high resolution and allow for extensive cropping after the fact, if I need more detail.
As we walk through this vast array of machines, I snap a few still images at various angles. Not many people are fortunate enough to see things like this. It is a prime representation of the culmination of human knowledge and effort thus far. The grand scale and intricate details are fascinating. Each machine has a status display to provide the workers feedback about what is going on behind the silver jungle of metal tubes and machinery. There are a small handful of workers shuffling between the machines and talking amongst themselves.
“The workers here monitor the entire sub-system to make certain that everything stays running at top efficiency. Even a slight reduction in such a massive system could be a big loss of power. There really isn’t too much to see because these are all just duplicates of the same machine. Think of it working like parallel processing in a computer system. Each machine takes in, stores, or reroutes some of the incoming power. A section of solar panels are simply linked directly with each machine here, but we are capable of changing that if either piece of the puzzle is down for maintenance. Let’s move on to the transport deck that houses one of the best viewing areas on the station. I love going there as often as possible!”
After an exceedingly long walk through numerous corridors, we make our way to the secondary deck for transports. It is only large enough to take in small transports, but has three sets of large transparent sliding doors. We walk toward the central one to take the view in.
“It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it? Standing here staring directly at Earth. I often visit here to clear my thoughts after a tough day.”
“It certainly is. It feels like I’m free falling, yet not actually moving an inch. The view is amazing though.”
A lone man walks in from the left and takes in the view right next to the closest door. I notice the silver hair immediately. It’s the same person from last night. Now with much better lighting, I see that he doesn’t look quite as odd as he did before, but still a little bit off. Maybe it was an optical trick of that dim lighting last night.
He temporarily shifts towards us and says, “Visiting here every solar cycle is a great way to wind down after my maintenance shift. Seeing Earth like this brings our work into perspective. Keeping things running is important to everyone down there.”
We both look toward him and nod; then start heading toward the back of the room.
Leena says, “I’ve scheduled a short break. Let’s take in this view for a few minutes.”
The back wall is lined with substantial metal benches that attach directly to the floor and back wall. Each bench can probably fit three people and has an armrest on each end. It’s almost like they were going for the look of wrought iron park benches you often see on Earth, but of course, without the whimsical styling. It must have been an add-on after they realized what a great place this is for viewing the planet. Sometimes plans, or even 3D renderings, don’t convey the grandeur of a place in real life. It’s nice that the Government recognizes the feelings of their workers, at least a little bit. Requisitioning this added feature probably took some time and a lot of paperwork..
Right as we near a bench in the middle, I hear a faint high-pitched buzzing noise, almost what I would describe as a motor that is used in toy remote-controlled vehicles. Instantly after the noise stops, the lights flicker for a split second and a deafening whooshing noise comes from behind. I turn around as quickly as possible to see that Levin is being sucked out of the transport door he was standing directly in front of. In the indiscernible moment before I can communicate to my limbs, I experience the internal emotion of utter shock. I see him flailing to grasp one of the smooth metal frames of a door panel. It is all in vain and I know I can’t do anything to save him. The pressure is so great that I need to act as quickly as possible to assure my own survival.
I see a quick blur of motion to my side and try to react, but it happens so quickly due to the aid of additional air being sucked out of vents above us. A loud clank happens as Leena’s shoulder and head meet with the bench beside us. A muted yelp is outputted, but difficult to discern in these conditions. She probably went instantly unconscious from that.
With the situation clear, I get onto my knees and wrap one of my legs around the bench’s base while bending down as quickly as I can to grasp her arm. Luckily, her wrists are thin, allowing for a superior amount of clamping force in my grip. With a strong tug and my muscles flexing to their limits, I get her close enough so that I’m able to pick her up around the waist with my other arm. Now with Leena firmly held, I start trying to work my way down toward the internal exit, taking hold of each bench’s armrest and base legs in succession. Transport bays normally have safeguard systems that automatically shut down the entrance sequence if humans life-signs are present, but I can’t expect that to be functioning given the current circumstances. My only hope is to make it to the interior doors before I’m physically unable to do so.
Two benches to go until we reach an exit. Each support is more difficult than the last. The doors are opening wider every second as more breathable atmosphere is being sucked out into space at the same time. The temperature reduction also makes it extremely difficult to exert my muscles to their fullest capacity. The only thing left is sheer willpower. Stretching for the support between the bench that I have my foot wedged in, I start to falter in my goal. It feels like the lights are going dim. I flinch as my hand touches the metal bench leg due to the extreme cold, but I think the feeling is from my eminent loss of consciousness more than it actually being cold to the touch. I don’t think we will make it…
A muffled resonant sound fills the air being sucked past us. It must be the automated base system safeguards activating. I have Leena pushed up against the wall. My legs are still wrapped in the base of the second to last bench and I managed to get one arm affixed to the other end of the structural frame. This was enough to avoid being pulled into space even if I had completely passed out. The exits on both sides of the interior wall never closed, which is what I suspect to be our saving grace. There are encrypted base system level station functions that control basic safety of human life on the station. When independent sensors throughout the station noticed a drop in air pressure, a complete lock-down and re-pressurization procedure is initiated.
A loud synchronous clunk resounds throughout the room with an instantaneous whoosh of extremely powerful ventilation fans starting up. All of the doors on the exterior walls must have closed. I begin to feel added warmth and fresh air start to fill my lungs; it’s almost painful. Even with the oxygen and warmth, I can’t stay conscious. My eyes are already closed, but the red glow of light through my lids grows dimmer and dimmer.
The mind turns on in an instant, but takes a while to boot up after something happens of that magnitude. Almost like what is experienced after surgery when extended sedation is necessary to the procedure. I open my eyes to a similar sensation. I’m planted in a medical bed with mounds of blankets covering me, so much that I can barely move a muscle. Glancing around the room, I think that Leena is to my left in a similar bed, but with more tubes and apparatus connected to her. Luckily, this must mean she is alive after her head met that solid metal bench earlier. On a table next to me, only my larger camera on a shoulder strap is there. It looks to be in functional condition. It’s possible that the smaller one is still attached to my jumpsuit or might have been lost in the incident.
Could this have been an accident, or something else? Too many strange occurrences have already happened for me to include a random system failure or power fluctuation as the cause. Government system safeguards rarely if ever fail in such an extreme manner, at least not much is mentioned in news stories about it. I’m not even close to having the skills to fool or disable all of the independent sensors and systems in place that monitor human life signs in areas that have direct access to space. Whoever or whatever did this has a high level of global access and network skills. It sure wasn’t Levin. Could he have been the target, or was it me? There isn’t any simple way to know for certain unless I come upon another accident after this. Though, whoever was part of this could have easily disposed of me while I was unconscious. It makes sense that Levin was the target. They must have known he was a Government monitor.
“Oh, Sky, I’m glad to see you are awake! I’m Gretchen, head nurse of the recovery room. It looks like you two had some seriously bad luck and a little bit of good luck at the same time. Both of you will survive. Although, I hear the other gentleman wasn’t as lucky.”
I try to respond, but what comes out is a false start. It takes a few coughs to get normal speech. “Gretchen, how is Leena doing?”
“She suffered a slight concussion, but her shoulder seems to have taken more of the impact, which was a good thing. She will have to stay here for a few days to be monitored.”
“Did they retrieve the other person from space?”
“I don’t know, you would have to ask one of the security or operations crew. You should be released from here tomorrow, now get some rest. I’ll bring you a meal later once your vitals are completely stabilized.”
“Alright, thanks Gretchen.”
A few minutes or hours pass, I’m not too sure. Consciousness is still fleeting, but to be expected. I’ve always been physically strong and toned, but when something like this happens, a person’s condition only goes so far to help. As a cog in the social framework, producers need to have a certain visual appeal to be the most successful of our ranks. It’s ingrained human nature to be attracted to people like this. Every week I spent at least a few hours exercising on my own as well as at bi-weekly ancient fighting arts classes I had taken for a solid decade before going on an extended hiatus for this contract. Expending energy at a muscle damaging level of effort and suffering from asphyxiation at the same time was more taxing than I would have expected.
Red lights spaced evenly around the room start slowly blinking. An increasing rumble and then a noticeable shaking of the room begins… what could this be? All of the monitors in the recovery room flash on. A stern looking man most likely in his 60’s with a bald head and weathered skin is shown waist up staring directly at the camera filming him.
The man starts talking. “This is the station commander, I hereby announce that this station, SolGen3, is now under our faction’s total control. We have taken it off the Government grid and will now be taking it entirely out of Earth’s orbit. Don’t be alarmed, the slight shaking you feel is a necessary part of breaking orbit and severing our tether to Earth. We have retrofitted the station into a fully outfitted ship. All who are undecided have the choice to join us or flee to one of the escape pods in 20 minutes. We have a biosign list of everyone, so don’t think you can stay without making the decision to join us. Our pledge to you is equality, choice, and social freedom. These steps are necessary to keep humanity alive and thriving.”
I’ve got to get out of here! Yet, my body isn’t cooperating. What is this? Why can’t I move? It isn’t the blankets covering me, I truly can’t move a muscle below my neck more than a few inches. Choice and freedom? Not likely, considering they were probably the ones who attempted to kill or prevent me from leaving, for what ends I can’t yet fathom. There is a large jolt of the room, tossing my body up off the bed for a second, and the monitor switches to an external view of the station. It is a view of the tether falling back to Earth. Without a counterweight, the tether will no longer stay in orbit. The damage that will cause on the surface, if not secured, will be absolutely massive and wide scale. This must be the unknown faction’s calling card, or rather a wake up call to the Government that a new menace is in town. All that I can do is watch and wait for what comes next.
To be continued.