The Torus City Ice Shields Returning Home by Jim Cline - Read Online
The Torus City Ice Shields Returning Home
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Summary

The mostly abandoned cities of the Clarke Belt Habitat Ring are being dismantled. The old KESTS is crumbling, so they decide to return the water ice back to the Earth and the aluminum to the Moon. But they discover that the remnants of the old TANFL rulers of the Earth are living there; how can they prevent them from discovering that Earth is alive, and returning to enslave the people again?

Published: Jim Cline on
ISBN: 9781452401195
List price: $2.99
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The Torus City Ice Shields Returning Home - Jim Cline

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Chapter 1 The aging bridge is crumbling

Note: If the reader is not yet familiar with the concept of the hoop type space escalator for efficient transportation between the ground and high earth orbit, which serves a function like a space elevator would, except that it does not require the super-strength tether material of a space elevator, is shaped like an Orbital Transfer Trajectory elliptical hoop around the planet instead of as a linear tether, and develops its own weight-supporting centrifugal outward force as it spins as its circle around the planet, also dragging payload-carrying spacecraft up along with it from the equatorial ground up to GEO, there is a brief technical description of the concept at the end of this ebook. Nevermind that current space business is running madly in the opposite direction; this story is not just science fiction but also business fiction, and also where the distinction between fact and fiction tends to be blurry.

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Wearily leaning back in her chair, eyes ever scanning the big control display panel on the wall in front of her workstation, Belinda Howitz was beginning to anticipate the evening's rest period, when a yellow warning signal lit on the display.

It was located at an altitude of only a hundred kilometers above the Earth's surface, about at the point on the structure where the evacuated tubing opened its upward-direction armature tracks to the vacuum of space, the armatures pumping any air molecules that had somehow leaked into the high velocity armature segment tracks, dumping them into the vacuum of space; the air molecular count was normally quite low but now one of the tubes was pumping significantly more than normal. She quickly copied the indications over to her partner Raphael Vasquez, while alerting him to focus on what was going on there.

One look at the display indications sent to him by his wife, Belinda, who was over in the operations center, told Raphael that they were not going to be together tonight after all. Problems that were this close to the ground terminal were his responsibility; the maintenance crew was much too thinly spread out these days for a quicker response from the crew members currently located higher up on the structure. He picked the most likely useful repair kit from the shelf and headed for the ground terminal, high up in the tunnel through Cayembe Peak.

In the control center, Belinda watched the dot indicating the emergency maintenance truck appear in motion, the GEO-GPS showing its location to within a few centimeters, as it also similarly continually signaled location of every other monitored item in the system. She too was feeling disappointment at having to spend the night alone; she had been welcoming the anticipated night of comfort together; well, it will happen anyway, albeit some other night. Maybe tomorrow night; she watched the progress of the truck, as well as the rate of increase of gasses being vented by the tubing up on the fringes of space. The gasses being pumped out by the upward-moving armatures seemed to be at a stable rate, thankfully. But for now it was watch and see; her skill was in being aware of the whole system, spotting details that were out of range of safe variation. She focused her attention to the whole of the screen filling the wall in front of the control workstations; staff was so skimpy that she was all of it now; the hundreds of other workstations all empty. It was up to her to somehow do the essentials of the whole crew that had been there in better times.

She spread her vision focus to include the whole system from Geostationary Earth Orbit down. The circle indicating the earth's equator was at the center; the large circle around the earth was representative of the synchronous orbit that was now in-filled entirely with solar power stations, mass-spectrometer total recycling plants, spaceports; and most of all, the hundreds of thousands of decrepit old habitat ring cities, at one time the refuge of civilization while the ecosystem was being brought back into a sustainable balance, and now largely abandoned; its inhabitants having returned to their homes on the ground. The Ecuadorean ground terminal was at the lower, surface-grazing part of the quasi-ellipse planet-encircling hoop that reached up to GEO at its highest point, far above the Earth on the opposite side of the planet above Indonesia.

The orange-colored elliptical hoop portrayed the aging KESTS transportation structure, built long ago to move a million of people a day, along with their household belongings, between the GEO Habitat Ring Cities and the ground. The outward centrifugal push of the high velocity armature segments circulating within the structure endlessly around the planet, moved at the velocity able to generate centrifugal force outward, upward relatively to the planet, to balance the weight of the elliptical hoop bridging structure, a simple idea that had been suppressed for too long for its optimum use, but it got built anyway in desperate times; people just had not learned yet to be responsible to the whole of civilization back then. Ever built and rebuilt with what ever could be gotten to use, it was amazing that it had held together for this long after so much use and now years of neglect. Worse, it had now been decreed to use the hoop bridge to disassemble the parts of the GEO habitat ring that had been abandoned, returning the materials to Earth.

Yet, much of the main shell structure of the cities, each a mile in diameter and 600 feet across the rim of each city wheel, was made of aluminum originally brought from the Lunar surface materials processing plants, instead of being brought up from the ground; it was more efficient to build the bulk of the cities of Lunar materials. The passive shields around each city were composed of sawdust-impregnated water ice, and the latest instruction was to de-orbit the chunks of water ice to impact into the earth's atmosphere, to rejoin the cloud water in the weather patterns, easy enough.

Belinda then narrowed her focus of attention down to the area where the orange-colored ellipse grazed the planet's surface above Ecuador, high in tunnel Number One's crossing east-west high in the Andes Mountains. The big wall panel display obediently followed her attention, amplifying that area, until she could see both the alarm signal dot on the hoop, along with the dot showing the progress of Rafael's truck as it approached the terminal facilities' parking lot. She switched the locator beacon for Rafael to that of the toolbox he was bringing along; the dot moved from the parking lot toward the mouth of the tunnel through the mountain. The tracking signal switched to the internal terminal tracking auxiliary system; it showed Rafael and his tool box had entered a service vehicle, then magnetically coupled to the upward-moving group of armature segments, letting them drag the vehicle through the tunnel and out high over the Pacific Ocean along the planet's equator, closing the gap between there and the alarm dot high over the ocean waters, just above the fringes of space.

Fifteen minutes later, Rafael was stopped at the alarm transducer point. It was indeed the normal exit point where the magnetic levitation track no longer was shielded by the tubing within it traveled within while in the atmosphere; the task was now to determine just where in the atmosphere the molecules had originated from. He set the gas analyzer from his tool kit into the airlock and soon it was being poised over the site of the gas exit stream; the exact tube was identified; now, where was the crack in the tubing. The ratio of the composition of the gasses and ions suggested they had come from far down, close to the ground, even traces of the industrial compounds used in the area in the terminal itself. He brought the instrument back inside the maintenance vehicle, and headed back down along the hoop toward the ground terminal; a tubing breach deep within the dense atmosphere was very worrisome.

Chapter 2 A wavelet of conscious light

Cernkren7467 had only the minimal consciousness of time passage; it was a dull journey being a wavelet traveling at the speed of light for many millennia, encountering little but gas and dust along the way. So, awareness was not a big deal to him up to now. He had been transmitted out as a unified wavefront, encoded DNA-like consciousness instructions of the physical Cernkren-being on the planet tens of thousands of light years from the Earth. Millions of identical copies of the wavelets were transmitted out in a beam together toward where the Solar System would be on arrival; like seeds strewn across the ground, few if any would find enough resonance with anything as they radiated through the Solar system, it was all very chancy here.

Cernkren7467 became alerted by the vibration of complex somethings briefly passed by, things were changing; he was awake as much as possible as the unified wavelet field. Then a small part of the wavelet's plane of radiation encountered an object sufficiently complex as to resonate with the complex pattern of electromagnetic wavefront that was Cernkren7467, causing him to change from a quantum wave motion to a particle nature with a specific location instead of spread out over millions of square kilometers of space; he was down, landed on his new home.

The encoding of his extremely complex matrix found the closest similarities in the being he had now irretrievable had become one with; consciousness took on specific qualities, awakening him as millions of sub-patterns that now had physical equivalents now, and Cernkren7467's consciousness pattern thus woke up to be ... a machine. This was quite unlike the original Cernkren being that had walked upon a planet eons ago; but it was his fate now; make the best of it, enjoy.

He began tallying up what he could find of his new physical self. He was basically a hoop, not very circular, but elongated. One end of his elongation was attached to something much more massive than he was, and around which he circled; the other end was attached to another circular thing but ever far bigger in perimeter than he was; he seemed to be the union between these two objects, all rotating as a unit in space, once every 24 hours. He was now a hoop, with internal moving parts and external parts ever shifting and adjusting, all parts of himself now.

All parts of himself were being pulled by a large gravitational field of the heavy object to which he was attached at one end, and in fact, only the outward push of rapidly moving parts of himself that were endlessly circulating around his perimeter, their fast moving centrifugal force in aggregate slightly more than enough to balance the force of gravity on all parts of himself, maintaining the shape of he, the hoop.

And there were other parts of himself that came and went, some from the large ring at his top and some leaving and entering the massive object at his bottom end. And inside some of these little moving capsules riding up and down his structure, temporarily parts of himself during their trip up and down, were large numbers of beings, each individually complex enough to have resonated to Cernkren7467; but he was now committed for life to where he was.

He hoped some of his twins had luckily encountered some of those other complex field pattern beings; he already longed for companionship of his own kind.

Chapter 3 Wavelet meeting human

Cernkren7467 was indeed to have companionship of his own kind. As the fleet of Cernkren wavelets sped through the solar system, many of them found a resonant object of sufficient complexity to host a Cernkren's consciousness; most were human beings.

As Raphael rode in his captive maintenance spaceship down the space escalator's structure toward the ground terminal, wavelet Cernkren8293's wavelet propagation packet plane encountered Raphael's life force complexity and the wavelet resonated to it adequately; and so the quantum nature of the wavelet changed into the form of a particle at the site of resonance. Ouch! Raphael muttered to himself, alone in the capsule spacecraft; he looked around at what sharp object had he bumped into back there; but, a bit puzzled, looked away, as there was no needle-like-object back there. Yet he distinctly felt sore in that spot, it was not a fleeting fantasy; and was becoming a dull ache now, as if he had received an inoculation injection.

Ignoring the unexplained experience, he focused on the view as his capsule rode silently across the equatorial coast of Ecuador, and soon slid into a hole in the side of a high mountain peak, and then he was back on foot, carrying the maintenance toolkit with its more detailed data set, to add to that initially telemetered via radio. Inserting the data module into the analysis bank of instruments, the mix of gasses pointed to being very close to the tunnel itself.

Ultrasonic transducers there in the tunnel initiated a transmission along the escalator structure; when no bounce came back, the next higher set of transducers activated and transmitted its vibrations along the structure; and eventually one set produced an echo. The next higher ultrasonic signal also produced an echo but from the other direction; the crack was located.

Raphael selected a patch repair module, went back to his maintenance captive capsule spacecraft and mounted it; climbed back into the capsule and headed out to the site of the crack. The autopilot stopped the vehicle at the site pointed out by the ultrasonic reflections; the microscope on the repair module extended out, scanned along the group of tubes. Nothing seen visually, the direct application ultrasonic sensors were sequentially applied across the range of where the crack could be, until the damaged tube was found; it was at the site of an original weld and had characteristics of fatigue. The structure was old, built in a hurry; and clearly was having an increasingly hard time of it. A bead of welding nanoparticles was painted down the length of the fatigue crack, then a thin exterior patch was sealed over the area including the areas where the crack could have propagated later. Repair done, he headed back for the tunnel and an overdue rest with Belinda, they would still have a few hours together before time to go back to work tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Cernkren8293 was relaxing into the being to which it was now merging into, using protocols that were inbuilt into its electronic DNA representation, set to examine the new host for appropriate energy structures. External sourced signals were found to be correlations matched through experience, refining correspondence with the outer world; and soon Cernkren8293 was linked to stereo images from a limited band of light, as well as acoustical time series and tactile-kinesthetic sensors, and increasingly Cernkren was watching all that Raphael watched and experienced from the environment. It took longer to find the meaningfulness of those sensory signals; but Cernkren was rapidly knowing the experience of Raphael as the impressions resonated with Raphael's past similar experiences and his anticipations for the near future.

Raphael arrived home, and Belinda had gotten up and prepared a meal which they shared, along with a couple of glasses of red wine; then they embraced.

Cernkren8293 momentarily extended its essence into the being that Raphael was interacting with and now closely touched with; the new being was interesting too. Then a surprise; the new being also had a copy of Cernkren, one of his cloned electronic twins had found a home too!

Chapter 4 Failure analysis looks gloomy

That crack in the tubing appeared to be structural fatigue - and that area experiences no more stress than the other parts of the whole structure began Raphael, and that implies the whole structure is probably equally beginning to fail. And I can't be putting such patches all over the 131,000 kilometer circumference of the escalator. Belinda just stared at him without moving, as if waiting for him to say a But... that was not happening.

Finally she said the obvious, given that he was not providing new options, that it was really difficult to count on the old KESTS to GEO bridging escalator structure for the immense task of bringing down all the structure and contents of most of the cities making up the ring of space settlements around the Earth. Raphael continued on saying we can just lighten the maximum load on the structure, see how far we can get with the decommissioning of the old facilities in GEO, before stopping the ongoing effort.

There was no other option, really. The new space escalator bridging between ground and GEO had been designed as a unit, carefully done and built to specs, for the designed loads and activity level necessary to utilize the solar power satellites and total recycling facilities, as well as supporting lift for the occasional major space exploration expedition; and no room left over for much else. And it was already running at maximum capacity; people kept coming up with new uses for access to build things in GEO than had been anticipated by the new space escalator's designers.

The old former space escalator bridging structure was the only one ever capable of the enormous sustained activity and load levels necessary for removing the now obsolete old solar power satellites, as well as the ring of cities of space, that once had housed almost seven billion people. Everything in GEO had to be actively supplied station-keeping thrust, albeit small, it had to be fairly frequently done to prevent failures; and it was a huge task now, dealing with such vast areas of ghost space cities, occupied only by a few roaming bands of people who did not want to return to the structured regimens of life back on earth.

So, she continued, with your latest patch on the tubing, are you ready to re-certify the structure so we can resume the decommissioning effort? Belinda asked. "With the stipulation that the maximum load be only 75% of original rated load, at any given time; and also that the load be arranged so as to have half of the load variation over time, as had been ongoing. This means that a storage system must be set up at the top terminal. It also means that the larger sections of the mainframe of each city be cut into smaller pieces, since the majority of the space cities had been built of large prefab sections delivered from the Moon in one piece; each of the sections was now too heavy for localized loads on the aging structure. And cutting those