Friday, November 22, 2013

Space Limited

For my money, the end came in 2029. That’s when the Ring of Fire went catastrophically active and fault lines around the Pacific Rim were cracking like God’s own bullwhip. Pretty much any coastline along the Pacific was fucked: the western edge of the Americas, Japan, China, Indonesia. New Zealand. All toast. The Three Gorges Dam went in one of the aftershocks and took more than 20 million Chinese with it. We’d already been having problems with sea levels-- the mentals had been warning us about that since the last century-- but with earthquakes came a rash of volcanic activity and that amped up the greenhouse gas levels. The ice sheet in Greenland didn’t take it well . 2029 was our tipping point. We couldn’t tell ourselves we had time to fix what was wrong anymore. From then on we were just gonna have to adapt to what was.

The next decade was a bitch and a half so we left, those of us that could. Mostly multinationals, like Virgin or XCOR or Kistler, but some more traditionally regional concerns too, like Arianespace from the EU, and RSC Energia, out of Russia. By 2046, the technology was ironed out so the guys with the money bought in. You know that joke about ‘too many chiefs, not enough braves’? Well the problem was the chiefs didn’t want to share a ship with anyone else. They wanted off the planet, they wanted to be in charge, but the problem is living in space is hard. There ain’t no golf in space. It ain’t comfortable. It’s work, and not the kind that requires a white shirt. More like a die cast gorget that locks into a helmet assembly. What would you do?

Right. They had us build ‘em space stations. Rich man islands where gravity was constant and you could take the fuckin’ suits off. And play some fuckin golf. They left the ships to the hoi polloi and retired to their private fiefs. Those multinational stations became the new city states. It was a typical pyramid scheme: the guys at the bottom did all the grind to support the guys at the top. The guys in the middle thought a lot and tried to avoid the shit splattering everywhere because in space? Shit floats. Except on the stations, of course. There they filter it and use it as grade A fertilizer for their flower gardens. People starving all over but they still gotta have their pretties.

There were waiting lists to get berths out-Earth and you needed all kind of visas and accreditation.I had that, no problem, thanks to the army. Veteran's Affairs finally did something right there. You had to sign reproductive clauses so you wouldn’t overburden the system. That wasn’t true on Dan, but hell, who could expect Catholics to give up reproductive control? Ever been to Dan? It’s a madhouse-- they got their levels kitted out like you’re goin’ to heaven or hell or limbo or what the fuck. Who does that?

Mars wasn’t much of an option. Too inhospitable, too expensive, too damned far by a long shot. I heard 4 fully kitted colony ships got sent out before they scrapped the idea. ‘Course, it was too late for those already gone. Not like they could catch a ride home. Some folks think all those people are still out there, fat and happy, living in some kinda domed paradise. I say those folks are damnfool idiots.

I’ve worked on planet and off, in space and out. Rode a marine tug out past the Belt once ‘cus my shuttle was holed by debris. Three years of my life, near enough, lost to space junk. I’ve been all over and I’ll tell you, the moon’s your best bet. Kinder than ships, cheaper than stations. They’ve got enough food and water to go around, barely, even if the water has contraceptives in it. Not such a bad deal for an old guy. And the gravity’s light so my knees never have to be replaced, even if my eyes do. It’s as good a place as any to die.

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