ATTUNGA

Date August 13 2012.
Author Iarwain iarwain@aanet.com.au
Subject Attunga Part 2.

The author retains copyright (2012) to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
This story is fiction.

Thank you Nifty for the opportunity to post this story.

This story is part of the TALES OF THE TERRAN DIASPORA.
Wirrin shares his life with two friends on one of the great space habitats.

PART 2. The Trio Views an asteroid.



"It's immense!"

"No it's not. It's only fifty km long."

Wirrin, Thom, and Calen were at the viewing station staring at the image of Warrakan, the M-type asteroid being developed as the first space habitat with the ability to leave the solar system.

"What are you talking about Thom? That's eight times as big as Attunga."

"It's still not immense though. K74 is a 300 km asteroid."

"That's different. K74 isn't a traveller."

"It could be. They could use the new engines with it."

"I suppose, but they wouldn't do it because with that much mass it would take ages to go anywhere."

Thom loved talking about bigger and better and faster. Wirrin thought the things that were happening now were amazing enough. Attunga, their home city, did have a degree of mobility but they'd never experienced it, as it was thirty years since the arrival next to Warrakan and the next move wasn't due till Warrakan started for Alpha Centauri in another nine years.

"How many people?"

"Which one? Warrakan or K74?"

"I meant Warrakan, but check them both."

Wirrin made a quick manipulation of his holo. Thom and Calen could easily check for themselves, but out of habit left it to Wirrin.

"Um. ...Warrakan's reached 167 million and K74 is at 12.3 billion."

"12.3? Are you sure? It was still in the elevens when we studied it nine months ago."

Wirrin did another search.

"Wow! You're right. It's grown by over 400 million people in just that time."

That seemed like an astonishing number, since it was almost half the total population of Attunga. Thom was fascinated with K74, the largest space habitat, and Wirrin and Calen often said he should go and live there. He wouldn't of course as no space city except Warrakan could match the life conditions and opportunities on Attunga. It did have the greatest population of any non-planet habitat though, and there were stories that it wanted to keep its growth as rapid as possible.

"That's too many. With growth like that there'd have to be more kids than adults. The whole place must be taken up with nurseries."

"Hey, you're right. It must be. I wonder how they've worked that out? There wouldn't be enough people to do everything else. Hey! Look at that."

Wirrin pointed to the far right of their field of view where a movement had caught his eye.

"I think it's a transport ferry. They never stop because so many people are transferring."

"It doesn't look big enough. They carry thousands of people."

"It only looks small because it's next to Attunga."

"Hang on, I'll get it on the holo. ...There, 12,000 passengers and they're three hundred metres long. It takes twenty minutes to get to Warrakan and they operate as many as they need."

"How many are there? They must need a few if they only carry 12,000."

Wirrin fiddled with his holo for a moment.

"There are forty-one people ferries and sixty general transports and that's enough for. ...11.8 million people a day."

"That's a lot of people."

For the next ten min they watched the ugly, squat shape of the transport ferry dwindle towards the bulk of Warrakan.

"Do you think we'll ever get there?"

"I don't see why not. We've all got good levels and they still need 150 million more people before they can leave."

"It's not that easy Wirrin. That's only 15 million a year out of 850 million."

This was an endless conversation, with Thom being pessimistic and Wirrin always being positive.

"And it's not that hard Thom. That means we have nine or ten years to keep applying. They'll get so used to us they'll know we really mean it."

"Ha! I wish it worked like that. You either fit the guidelines or you don't."

"We will Thom. We just have to keep our levels up."

Calen nodded his agreement.

"You worry too much Thom. Our levels will stay high. You know that because we've all got special interests we're good at. If Wirrin stops mucking around with his side projects he'll walk it in, and you're the best worker of all of us."

"Mucking round? You space-brain! I figure out as much from my projects as I do from EdCom and my tutors. It's nearly another year before we're all ready to apply so it's too early to worry anyway. Hey look, there's two more ferries leaving."

"What are those little ones?"

Calen was looking to the left, away from the transport ferries.

"Where?.. Hey, they're tiny. I don't know."

"Well, do the stuff with your holo."

" ...Automated viewers whatever that means. It says to check for availability at any viewing station."

"Availability? That sounds interesting."

It certainly did and they quickly went to the small reception booth further down the long viewing area and approached the girl there. She looked pretty much their own age, maybe a couple of years older.

"Hi, we're wondering about the automated viewers. We saw some through the real-time display and my holo says to ask about them."

"Hi, well there's most likely a short wait, but I'll arrange one for you if you like."

"For us? ...What happens with it?"

"Sorry, most bookings are from people who know. They're individual viewers with a list of options and you can choose as few or many as you like. The favorite at the moment is the trip to one of the locations for Warrakan's big drives, as there's quite a bit of installation activity to see."

"You mean it would actually take us across to Warrakan?"

"And from one end to the other in a full circuit if you like."

Thom and Calen were crowding close to hang on every word and that set the girl smiling.

"It's exciting. I tried it a couple of weeks ago so I'd know what I'm talking about."

"We thought you couldn't leave Attunga unless you had a special purpose?"

"It's new. People don't know about the viewers yet but word is spreading so you're here at a good time. ...Here we are, thirty-five minutes wait if you want one for yourself, or twenty minutes if you share. I'll lock in the thirty-five minutes for you."

"We don't mind sharing."

"It's better when you don't. That way you can set your own speed and any location and stay with the viewer for as long as you like."

"It lets us control the speed?"

"Speed as well as locations, everything else is done automatically by TransCom. I hope you've done plenty of zero-G activities because there's no grav-field."

Wirrin felt like talking but the urge to get to the viewer departure point was stronger. It wasn't far and their excitement grew. At the departure dock there was a big display showing the travel options and they used the waiting time working out where they'd go. Wirrin led the way when the boarding lights blinked green, thinking it was a neat idea how the entrance looked like an ordinary TransCom travel portal. In the short walkway a purple bar gave the standard warning of a gravity change and flashing digits showed just what the change would be. 0.0 of course. Wirrin stepped across the bar and his reflexes automatically adjusted. They were all used to zero -G from training exercises when they were little, and then from the many recreational activities that made use of it. He went through the opening to the viewer craft then deftly guided his now floating body to one of the special seats, twisted into position and slipped the restraining harness into place. There was a short hum as the magnetic door-seal locked into place, a slight jerk as docking to Attunga was released, and a blink of light from their holos as the viewer synchronised and projected its options. The first was for the real-time display and Wirrin engaged it. They wouldn't see a thing otherwise. Three quarters of the light grey wall disappeared and they were left hanging in open space. At least that was the effect. In reality the wall surface had become a screen to display the images captured by an integrated array of cameras on the outside of the vessel.

"Unreal! I wasn't expecting so much display."

Wirrin grinned at Thom's reaction.

"Choose the big circuit and set the speed for max. I want to see how fast we can go."

Wirrin selected the circuit that took them right around Warrakan, enlarged the speed option, scanned the information, and muttered an exclamation.

"I don't know Thom. The highest setting is 2G. That's awfully uncomfortable without any grav-field to counteract it."

It certainly would be. 2G meant they'd feel like their weight was doubled. It also meant they could reach phenomenal speeds in a very short time.

"Let's try. We can always change it."

The viewer started moving, quite slowly really, and they all swivelled to watch Attunga. The drive changed to full acceleration and a great hammer of force pushed them deep into their seats for ten seconds, then eased off till they were almost back to 0G. Wirrin drank in the scene as Warrakan took over in the field of view.

"How fast are we going?"

"Look for yourself Thom. It's on your holo."

Thom poked his tongue out then checked.

"230 metres a second. Wow, that's about four seconds to travel a kilometre and it only boosted for a short moment."

Wirrin wasn't really listening. The irrregular surface of Warrakan was looming closer and the wild natural look was such a contrast to the controlled structure of Attunga that his sense of awe kicked in.

"It's been like that for millions and millions of years and we're changing it and taking it away. Doesn't that make you feel guilty?"

"It doesn't make me feel guilty. It makes me feel good. It's getting ready to start travelling. That's like it was dead and we're bringing it back to life."

Wirrin loved it when Calen started these special ideas and for the next few minutes he contemplated the thought of Warrakan gradually coming to life as more and more people moved to the habitat areas growing deep in its centre, then bursting into motion and independence when it was ready. The viewer moved slightly away from Warrakan and there was another burst of acceleration, longer this time, and Thom let out a yell when it finished.

"Wombats! we've reached 840. That's the fastest I've ever travelled."

It was the fastest for all of them, but it barely lasted as powerful deceleration cut in to keep them close to Warrakan. It only took five minutes for the whole circuit, which was exciting in itself, but they hadn't seen anything properly so they reset the speed and repeated the trip. For the next three hours they tried every option available.

"Could you override TransCom and get control? It would be great to take it somewhere by ourselves."

"TransCom? Dream on Thom. We'd probably end up totally lost and heading for Jupiter. And anyway TransCom has incredible security. That's way out of my league."

"Jupiter! That sounds good. How long would it take at 2G acceleration?"

That was an interesting thought and Wirrin did some quick calculation.

"About four days, except 2G is silly and the viewer couldn't do it anyway."

"What about 1G?"

"... 15 days. You'd die of boredom Thom."

The viewer docked, and promising each other they'd be back again soon they made their way to a TransCom portal and keyed in 4, 5, 19 which was their home sector. The zero-G pool would have to happen at a later date as they'd used all their activity time. Right now the priority was for food and the dining hall their main destination. Wirrin had the biggest appetite and his stomach was often likened to a black hole, but after their long and very eventful day with only a light smack for lunch, Calen and Thom were making excellent efforts of their own in getting food to disappear.

***

Two weeks passed in quite a standard way, a repetition of three days of general study, two days of electives then two days of self initiated activities. A priority alert on his holo sent Wirrin rushing to see Calen and Thom.

"Guess what's happened!"

"An appointment with Mentor."

"How did you know?"

"We've got one too, an hour from now."

"All of us? At the same time? That's strange."

It was very strange. The personal nature of meetings with their mentor meant they always happened on an individual basis so this was quite out of their experience.

"It must be important. It came as a priority alert."

"Wirrin, every alert from Mentor is priority."

"I suppose. Well, it still must be important or they wouldn't change the schedule."

Thom nodded and headed for the door. Wirrin knew he was thinking that talking about it was pointless because they'd soon know anyway.

***



END OF PART 2.
I hope you've gained some enjoyment from this story.
Any comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.
My email address is iarwain@aanet.com.au
Alternative address, iarwain7@ains.net.au
Should you be interested, my other stories can be found by looking under 'Iarwain' in the authors section on Nifty.
Iarwain.