“The final thing you need to realize is that Cylinder is not hollow.”
The bored expression on Petr Dolanoff’s face deepened. He’d studied all the vids, all the specs, in fact, he believed his knowledge surpassed even that of the AI-pilot who had just triggered the deceleration procedure that would bring the shuttle into Cylinder’s docking hub.
“…wobble,” completed the voice in their helmets. The seven other astro-tourists, all but for Petr, eagerly consumed the space-tech-babble the AI-pilot recited with silky-smooth intonation.
“Say again?” Petr stiffened in his seat. “What wobble?”
“Pete, pay-the-fuck attention.” Alsatia, Petr’s sister and tag-a-long for this trip, reached over and rapped his visor with a gloved fist.
“We heard that, young lady.” The Dolanoff family had booked a month’s long stay at Cylinder, the L1 positioned space habitat built like a city-sized tennis ball can. Reina Dolanoff leaned near her daughter, touched helmet to helmet and spoke softly, “We discussed this. Our reputation on this station remains…”
“Tenuous? In jeopardy?”
“Or worse. So, manners and forbearance, remember?” Reina leaned back and adjusted the stiff collar that hosted her helmet. They’d traveled most of the distance from the LEOtel without the suits, but docking mandated full preparation. She gave a wave to her son. “Petr, try again.”
The boy, seventeen and brimming with hormones that sloshed between brain and balls—giving neither the time to stabilize—licked dry lips, he’d sucked his water-pack dry, and asked again. “Can you repeat the part about the ‘wobble’?”
The AI sounded all too happy to comply. Cylinder’s rotation required precise management of mass and its position around the nested shells, the can within a can within a can concept. If mass shifted in unexpected ways, wobble incurred. The constant monitoring and active redistribution system, using the easiest material possible—water—ensured that wobble never happened.
“But, if it does happen?” The strain in Petr’s voice indicated either its parched condition or something else.
The AI laughed, “Impossible. There are two artilects, artificial intellects like me, but much, much smarter, dedicated to maintaining the perfect health and well-being of Cylinder.”
“That’s enough, Petr.” Alexi Dolanoff generally encouraged such attention to detail, especially when it came to risk and safety. He’d been, after all, a founding investor. “After we dock you can begin an in depth conversation with the artilects that run the station. Until then… Ah, will you look at that.”
The eight tourist crew had spent most of their time watching the screens that encased this end of the shuttle. The few true portals provided limited viewing. Now that they approached the station, the immensity of Cylinder, its actual appearance seen through those portals, consumed them. Even Petr.
“Wow. That thing is gargantuan.”
The AI-pilot agreed. “Cylinder is nearly a kilometer wide and, currently, over five kilometers long.”
Alsatia scanned the monitor which depicted the space station’s dimensions. “Currently?”
“Plans are to extend Cylinder to fifteen kilometers.”
Mr. Dolanoff offered context. “One klick at a time. Right now, we’re negotiating the purchase of three additional asteroids.” He tried to clear his throat. He’d sucked his water-pack dry as well. “That’s one of the reasons we’re here.”
Petr swallowed hard. “I sure hope they’ve got more water onboard. I’m drained dry.”
“Plenty of H2O on Cylinder. It is a by-product of mining.” The AI-pilot’s timber dipped. “Docking procedures begun. Brace yourselves.”