downtoearthCh.1

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As Science Fiction adventures

"It's Down to Earth" 

By James E. D. Cline


Chapter 1


Even at maximum magnification, Donna Bulguarde could not get the telescope to locate any signs of human activity down there in the area of the former earthsurface terminal on Cayenbe Peak in Ecuador. She could see the tiny streak across the landscape down there, where even jungle had not grown to cover the remains of the former link between the planet's surface and up here in Geostationary Earth Orbit, the vast Clarke Belt City extension of civilization. And now it seemed that maybe all that was left of civilization was up here, she thought with sadness.


"Do you remember back when all you wanted to make happen was that sight you now see down there?" spoke John Foursight, her mate of the past three years, casually watching the telescope's display too. "It was just sheer luck that I managed to stop you from achieving that yourself, if you remember."


Donna too well remembered that. "Well, it does not make any difference, since the KESTS was downed later anyway by another bombpilot from the Harems. The main difference to me is that I feel surprised at how much fun I am having up here with you, living in the place I had thought was despicable, back when I was a Haremmate down there. Amazing how life can have so many interesting variations." 


The unfolding of life events takes many twists and turns. Down there in Ecuador, no life stirred that they could see. Sure, the place was probably still reeking with radioactivity; but it had been two years since the KESTS was brought down by the bombship, and one would think some signs of re-conquesting life would have returned. She remembered back two years ago, when a drama played out much as it did between she and John, a year before that. The upcoming bombpilot also had spotted the defending fighter spacecraft beginning pursuit of her. But the new bombpilot had learned from Donna's mistake; changing tactics when clearly to be blocked from nuking the KESTS high in space, she veered her spacecraft back down toward the ground, a big head start racing away from the surely baffled defending pilot. But in minutes it became clear what she was up to; she rammed her nuke-carrying bombship into Cayenbe Peak in Ecuador, where the ground terminal of the KESTS was located, and her nuke destroyed everything for miles around the terminal, and the KESTS began its fall. The lower parts fell to the ground across part of Ecuador and Brazil to the East, and out across the Pacific Ocean to the West; but most of the KESTS disintegrated as it impacted the atmosphere, from high around most of the Earth. By the next day it was all over; the KESTS was gone from space, all the people who defended the bit of territory around the KESTS terminal had been fried, along with the remaining pirates ringing the terminal area, part of those who had taken possession of the planet way back. But nothing had come back, not even a small animal had come out of the jungle since then. In fact, the jungle seemed to be withering, and not just at the nuked area. The ecosystem even of the great jungles of South America clearly was dying out, no longer needing the active hand of man to destroy it, as cascade biosystem mass failure was in progress. The world ecosystem collapse had gone far worse than had been imagined; but then, if the Clarke Belt City civilization plan to jump-start the ecosystem back to long term sustainability, once people had temporarily vacated the surface, that jump-start would have already turned the ecosystem collapse back around toward blossoming new health by now. 


But no, it was not to happen, as the greed of some men seeing opportunity for great wealth and power, had once again monkeyed up the works. A clever pirate group of alpha males had grabbed young women from among the last of the exodus from the ground up to temporary living in the Clarke Belt City Ring, and those guys had thus taken over the world for free. The takeover had worked perfectly, having been in secret plan for over two decades by then. That group of elite alpha males, whose bred-in arrogance was as big as the minimum 7 foot tall, 250 pounds of muscle and bone that was the minimum they allowed to live as one of them, had grabbed a huge group of young women as breeding stock, and then as the last of the people boarded the KESTS to GEO for their assumed temporary homes, the pirate alpha male bunch took over the planet. What they had not realized that to run a planetwide civilization, it takes a planet full of people to do it. And even though the original 5,000 alpha males and the 20,000 young women they had kidnapped, began to produce offspring, once their revelry in the riches of the world had passed, they found that there simply were not enough of them to do what it takes to run a world, especially when the underlings were now all up there in the Clarke Belt, a situation the elitists had never realized could happen, that of being without a horde of underlings to direct.


Meantime, the phenomenon of ecosystem collapse was progressing unimpeded. The elitists, being utterly exploitive by breeding, could not comprehend that the world needed complete nurturing with tender loving care by all concerned. In dismay, the environmental engineers up in the Clarke Belt, now unable to do their job of re-starting the ecosystem of the earth, simply had to wait in frustration for some way to resolve the problems. The pirate group on the ground focused their efforts on destroying the KESTS by using the remaining commercial spacecraft, rigged with a nuke removed from military stores, to make forays against the KESTS, thinking once the KESTS was downed, it would seal their ownership of the planet forever, thus the greatest winners of all. But the great planet-sized prize they had won was a dying prize, dying at their own arrogant hand. And they could not comprehend that it was they themselves that were guaranteeing that loss; even if so, it would have made no difference to them, believing that if they could not own the world, nobody would. 


Donna thought that probably the great alpha males had factionated when supplies were clearly running low, and killed each other off. And down there now, not much lived, no animals moved, and even the plants were fading, what was left of them. 


Well, the problems did not end there. The great ring of Clarke Belt Cities, spanning completely around the Earth in the equatorial plane at GEO altitude, 20,300 miles above the planet's surface; and housing some seven billion people currently, would eventually die too. Deprived of the supplemental push from the Earth's mass coupled via the KESTS structure, to make up for the miniscule but finite orbital resistance slowing the ring of cities aropund the planet, which would eventually crumple them together and cause collapse. But long before that, they would run out of critical supplies.


Their mini-vacation break over, John and Donna headed over to the Lunar terminal, where the now idle great robot construction machines had interfaced with the habitat construction materials launched from the Moon during the 20 years it took to build the Clarke Belt Cities and populate them. During construction's heyday, even the rocket-proplelled freighters plying between the Moon and GEO were piloted robotically, teleoperator's merely continuously fine tuning the semi-autonomous robotic construction process. The sheer scale of the prefab components brought from the Moon were far beyond what mere men could manhandle, the structural sections of the 600-foot diameter thick, mile diameter wheel-like cities were immense, and the Stanford Torus type rotating artificial gravity cities of 10,000 people each were being built at a rate of a hundred a day at the peak of production, a task that the burly construction workers that built skyscraper buildings on earth could not begin to muscle around. The concepts of automatic production facilities for manufacturing took on a huge scale, but otherwise not much different from systems long used in manufacturing on the ground. The dynamics of energies and inertia in freefall without air to assist or impede, were the main new parameters in the hard vacuum manufacturing process. "Bigger faster cheaper" had taken on a new scale of meaning, up here. Now, however, the construction yard was motionless, its job long done. There were some manned spacecraft there in the yard, which had been used to ferry personnel and precision small payloads between GEO and the Lunar facilities, and the couple selected one of these for their trip to the Moon. Their mutual skills as spacecraft pilots, having brought them together in conflict, would now unite them in a venture to go get a load of lunar dust, for reaction mass to assist in the maintenance of the orbital velocity of the Clarke Belt Cities. The dust would be injected into the tiny hydrogen-oxygen rocket motors that were now sustaining rotational velocity, its mass becoming part of the reaction mass. 


The amount of energy exchange when traveling between the lunar surface and GEO was far less than that between the Earth surface and the lunar surface, making the use of Lunar material for construction in GEO far more efficient. Then, after being used to bring up all construction and supply materials from the earth surface to build the first pair of research Stanford Torus type 10,000-person space cities in GEO, the KESTS was freed to be used just to bring up water, hydrocarbons, and of course the people and their minimum household goods for their planned 5 year stay in the Clarke belt.


Their spacecraft was reaction engine powered, fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that had been converted from water at GEO using solar electric power. The same fuel was being used on the small thrusters that currently were rigged to keep the Clarke Belt cities from slowing down; it did not take much energy as not much was lost per month by the huge GEO-infilling ring of space cities, but orbits do slowly degrade if not provided a little push to stay exactly in place up there. Problem was, it was slowly but surely using up their water reserves, huge as they were, and their lives depended on water in other ways.  And this trip to the moon was also using up a significant amount of that water. 


They played a game on the way there, neither getting frequent chances to fly a spacecraft anymore. The game was to see who was providing a trajectory that was more fuel efficient; neither were trained in such matters, both being high performance engine users, he a defensive fighter pilot, and she as an offensive bomb pilot on a one-way trip from the ground, with but one goal in mind, so engine fuel use was the least of concerns in their former piloting tasks. The onboard computer displayed who was providing the more optimum piloting, and followed that course. 


They circled halfway around the Moon, landing in the center of the farside of the Moon. Here was the now motionless gigantic materials processing robotic facilities where the majority of the structural components of the Clarke Belt cities were built. This location was chosen because it had two forms of small scale transportation included, one was a fiberglass anchored tether space elevator extending up from the lunar surface out through L-2 and beyond to a counterweight, held in tension in place by the 28 day lunar rotation period. The other was a Solid KESTS, a fiberglass band that continuously spun in place, going around the Moon and up to L-1 balance point between the Moon and the Earth. Its velocity was high enough to stay stretched in tension, despite the variations in load from the occasional small payload sent up along the KESTS, to the station-keeping function of a waypoint facility located at L-1 itself. 


Their spacecraft landed at the runway track, which finalized the capture of the spacecraft, absorbed some of its kinetic energy and stored the energy to be used later to give the spacecraft a little boost when it again left the Moon. The tracks positioned the spacecraft up to the airlock, into which they stepped after verifying adequate environmental conditions were stabilized inside, oxygen, CO2, humidity and temperature at comfortable levels for people. Comfort was important, as the operators there needed to make the best possible decisions as they varied the parameters of the huge facility's millions of functions ongoing during manufacturing. It was all shut down now, their job having been finished over a decade ago. Bringing the computer displays up to select among the options, the search engine located what they sought, a rather primitive function. The machinery to perform the function of selecting lunar dust within a limited range of size, and filling the spacecraft's cargo bay with the dust, was begun.


Going to the recreation lounge, an observation bay there provided a spectacular view of the starry sky, but never a view of the Earth from here on the center of the farside of the Moon. Yet the stars were the same as from Earth, even though they appeared to take 28 days to go around instead of 24 hours. They rested there on a lounge in each other's arms, lovers in the 1/6 gee under the starry sky, rejuvenation for the upcoming effort they would make to get the load of lunar fine dust delivered to GEO.


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