T   H   I   R   D    W   I   T   N   E   S   S


aaw: Sometime in the near future I'm going to ask you if you will make a sketch of what it's like--a drawing.

ep: Well, sure.

aaw: You could do that?

ep: Um-hmm. Easy.

aaw: Okay. We won't do it now, but sometime in the near future I'm going to ask you to do that, to help me visualize what it looks like.

ep: Why don't you know what it looks like?

aaw: Because I am not where you are.

ep: Oh, okay. That makes sense.

aaw: Okay, now. Come forward in time, however many years it is--or months, or weeks, or whatever it is--to when you first start your first actual work, the actual thing that you then do.

ep: Hmm. That's really involved. My first job was at L7. I helped mag all the ground rock out for the shielding.

aaw: What do you mean, "helped mag" it?

ep: Fill the sleds, and then put 'em in the mag gun so it would shoot 'em out, for the shielding. You gotta shield everything.

aaw: You shield it with rock?

ep: Yeah. From the moon.

aaw: You mean--is it an aggregate, do they--?

ep: No, we just dig out rock, big rocks, and (laughs) you set 'em on the sled, an' then you trip the wire, and the mag lights come on, and it shoots 'em down along a ramp, and it fires it off into space, and it's caught by a catcher out at the L point, which I [undecipherable] to shooting to, 'cause at the end you bend it, it's like it's got big piston things that bend it, so you can shoot it to different places, and then you just shoot that rock out there, and they got a big web thing that sorta catches it, and funnels it down and then they pack it up and they put it on the outside of the superstructure like a big shield. You gotta shield it.

aaw: Is the rock held there in place with an adhesive or something, once it's on the superstructure?

ep: Um-hmm.

aaw: What kind of adhesive?

ep: Epoxy.

aaw: So it's glued on?

ep: Yeah, pretty much. Sometimes it comes off. That's why you gotta be able to use the pistons to shoot rock to different places. See, when we go there, that's when we learned all about trajectory.

aaw: Tell me about that.

ep: That's where we learned to figure our trajectories and stuff. How much mass, shot at what speed, and towards what point. And the two basic gravitational forces are Earth and moon, so it's pretty simple.

aaw: I guess so. It's amazing. It's an amazing thing to think about. And it's so obvious, isn't it?

ep: Um-hmm. It looks pretty complex when you first get there. I was pretty impressed. But after awhile I got bored. Some people like it there, 'cause they like the gun.

aaw: How long have these L stations been around?

ep: Oh, I dunno. Hundred-fifty years or something.

aaw: So you work three weeks on and one week off?

ep: Um-hmm. My choice.

aaw: And you've been doing this for how long?

ep: Oh, I've been, let's see--almost ten years now. I've only got five more years to go, and then I can reassign. That's when I want to go to Mars.

aaw: Tell me what's happening on Mars these days.

ep: Well, they're tryin' to mine water there and stuff, but it's not workin' very good. They're havin' all kind of problems. The--.

aaw: You mean mine water as opposed to make water, like you're doing here?

ep: Yeah.

aaw: Is there water under the surface?

ep: In spots. You gotta find it.

aaw: What about, they have ice caps there--?

ep: Um-hmm. But the ice caps are methane.

aaw: Methane?

ep: You can use that for a power source, but you can't drink it. (Laughs.) I suppose you could. Won't do you no good, though. Talk about havin' the bloat!

aaw: But they use it as a power source?

ep: Yeah. You run copper wire through it and it'll generate electricity. You put a no-load, uh, anometer on it, and send in a low current at one end and use a current fluctuator at the other end and it'll generate electricity. Temperature difference. Makes the ion flux left and right, just like an old-time AC-DC coil. Only you just flux it back and forth over a couple hundred miles of wire.

aaw: Is that enough power to light--?'

ep: That's what they use for a power source.

aaw: Are there a lot of people on Mars these days?

ep: No. Five or six hundred, maybe.

aaw: Really?

ep: Um-hmm. They're not all there.

aaw: Where are they?

ep: Oh, they got some big ships. Not like stations. More like big abandoned cargo ships. They've been rebuilt.

aaw: Are they in orbit?

ep: Uh-huh.

aaw: But you want to go to the planet?

ep: Yeah.

aaw: What do you want to do there?

ep: I'd like to explore. I've seen all these pictures, and they're so beautiful, the colors. It's all so gray on the moon. But there it's color! There's these beautiful colors. I think it'd be so nice.

aaw: But how do they breathe?

ep: Same as we do.

aaw: Do they have, do you have to be in suits all the time?

ep: Oh yeah. There you're on exotics all the time.

aaw: Did they ever discover any evidence of past civilizations on--?

ep: Well sure. I think that's why everybody wants to go there. Man, you get one good artifact you're set for life.

aaw: What kind of artifacts have they come across?

ep: Little stuff or big stuff?

aaw: Yes. Either way.

ep: There's like big temple things. I don't really know what they call 'em. They're kinda like the old pyramids, on the world. Some people think that it's the same, that everybody used to go back and forth, but I think--I don't know what I think. That sounds silly to me. 'Cause if everybody was goin' back and forth, why the hell would we have had such a tough time gettin' out here in the first place? So maybe they came here, but I sure don't think we went there.

aaw: So then it might have been a one-way trip?

ep: Um-hmm. But I don't know about that.

aaw: What about the small artifacts?

ep: Oh, there's lots o' little--we call 'em doo-dads, y'know, but they're little bracelets, and neck things. The women love 'em. Like chokers, I guess.

aaw: Jewelry?

ep: Yeah. That's a good word. We call 'em doo-dads.

aaw: Doo-dads.

ep: 'Cause you can't really show 'em, see. If anybody sees you with 'em everybody wants to know where the hell you got 'em. So they're special. We have doo-dad parties. Only people you know. You can wear your cool stuff, you know. 'Cause you won't get in trouble.

aaw: What's happening on the other planets these days? Anything going on, on Venus?

ep: No. Too damn hot.

aaw: Has there been manned exploration there?

ep: They tried it. Everybody died. Just too hot, too much pressure. Sunburst got the Russians, way back, and that was the last one, just before the war. And nobody's gone since then.

aaw: What about some of the other moons?

ep: Where?

aaw: Within the solar system.

ep: [Undecipherable] the comets. Moons are pretty boring.

aaw: What about the comets?

ep: We like the comets, 'cause it's icy.

aaw: Yes?

ep: Use the comet path.

aaw: To do what?

ep: To travel.

aaw: How does that work?

ep: You take a barge and you go out and you line up with the comet and you find it and you hook on to it and you blow your hole and you sink down in and you stay there.

aaw: For how long?

ep: Well--.

aaw: You mean, to travel--

ep: Yeah.

aaw: --across the system?

ep: Um-hmm.

aaw: And how fast are they traveling?

ep: Each comet travels at a different speed. I couldn't tell you offhand. It's all relative, anyway.

aaw: Yes, but if you wanted to go from--where would you go, where would you travel?

ep: I dunno. Some people just like to travel. They get enough people to do it, and they go. Who knows where they're going.

aaw: Outer planets--?

ep: Yeah, no, you never see 'em again. They're gone.

aaw: Oh. They're in totally self-contained--?

ep: Yeah.

aaw: And they're gone?

ep: Yeah. You gotta go with about a hundred and fifty people or you don't got enough people.

aaw: Are all of the L's, all of the various ones, are they all operable, are they all inhabited, are they all--?

ep: No. There's been problems.

aaw: What are the problems?

ep: There was a docking problem at the one, I forget which one, and one of the cargo ships came in and [undecipherable] wrong and it set a spin off or something, and the thing kinda twisted. And, so they been fixin' that for--Dad worked on that one. And they're still tryin' to fix it.

aaw: You dad was second generation?

ep: Um-hmm.

aaw: What kind of work did he do? Does he do?

ep: He was a structural engineer.

aaw: Is he still alive?

ep: Nope.

aaw: How'd he die?

ep: He died in an accident.

aaw: What was the accident?

ep: Oxygen fire.

aaw: Where was that?

ep: L4.

aaw: What were they doing?

ep: He was working in a lab and somebody hit a button seal, and the place went up, boom!

aaw: The whole L4 or just the lab?

ep: No, the whole L4.

aaw: So is it now defunct?

ep: Yeah. It's just like a charred thing. And sometimes people go there and take stuff.

aaw: You mean like--?

ep: Like salvage. 'Cause there's still a lot of mass there.

aaw: A few minutes ago you told me that you affix, they affix rock, or moon stuff, whatever they--do you call it rock? Is it rock?

ep: Rock. Sure. It's rock. You only pick the rock, you don't take the dust. You find rock.

aaw: Yes. But what kind of rock is it?

ep: Any kind you can get. Aggregate.

aaw: Okay, and then this is--.

ep: It has to be there. You gotta have at least five meters, to buffer. Through the belly of the pan you gotta have at least five meters. You can peter out a little thin around the edge, three meters, but--.

aaw: Five meters?

ep: 'Cause you need that buffer. That absorbs--.

aaw: That much of a buffer?

ep: Sure, um-hmm. That's a lot o' mass, all that mass, see, where the station absorbs those waves. We get resonant waves, so you need that rock there.

aaw: Is it just on one side of the station?

ep: No, it's all the way around, like a ring.

aaw: Is the station spinning?

ep: Oh, yeah.

aaw: Okay. That's probably what causes the--.

ep: That's what makes the gravity.

aaw: Yes. Okay. Right. My knowledge of this stuff is kind of lacking. So they glue this stuff, in effect, onto the superstructure?

ep: Um-hmm. Um-hmm.

aaw: But the superstructure is made of what?

ep: It's made of irons.

aaw: And where do those come from?

ep: Those come from the moon.

aaw: Those are mined on the moon, too?

ep: Um-hmm. They tried takin' asteroids for a little while, but it was a real pain in the ass.

aaw: Because--?

ep: Is that a joke? Pain in the asteroid.

aaw: Yes. Why was it a pain in the asteroid?

ep: Because of the smelting process. Once you had the thing at a stable point, the smelting process made pollution. And you don't want to build an [undecipherable] at the pollution point, cause you can't make all that stuff go away. The radiation tends to hang out, like in a gravity trap. Even though it emanates in all directions equally, it'll stay on stuff. Stuff will accumulate a radiation frequency of some sort. Then over a long period of time you can pollute the environment of the--one section of the station or something, whatever it spins around, so you gotta keep the reactors [undecipherable]. After all, it was just easier to go down to the surface and use the grav guns to, the mag guns rather, to shoot the material up. It's the same thing, see? You make the material down there and you shoot it up. And then you can make beams, and you make everything that you need, and then they shoot that up. Same thing. You just catch it. Big cars, like tanks.

aaw: So it's made on the surface of the moon--?

ep: Um-hmm. Extruded.

aaw: Extruded, okay. And when you shoot it past the moon's gravity, it in effect is then without weight, has only mass, right?

ep: Yeah.

aaw: So it should be fairly easy to catch.

ep: Well, it has weight and it has mass. Two different things. Weight is a relative term that deals with whatever the local geophysical center of gravity is, so weight is only a term that's relative to the world or to the moon or to Mars or wherever it is that you're dealin' with. But mass is a thing that is constant. So a thing can have a fluctuating weight, but it will always have a constant mass.

aaw: Do they have--robots?

ep: Sort of. We use--.

aaw: Not humanoid.

ep: No, uhn-uh. That's silly. (Laughs.)

aaw: Is it?

ep: Yeah. Doesn't work.

aaw: No. But they have robot things--

ep: Yeah, we have--.

aaw: --for manufacturing?

ep: Yeah. We call 'em remotes, not robots.

aaw: Remotes? Why do they call them that?

ep: Because you jive 'em, or you run 'em from somewhere, and you send those into the polluted environments or unsafe places or into the gas holes, so you don't gotta go.

aaw: The gas holes? Where are those?

ep: They collect places. 'Cause when you're doin' all this smeltin' and stuff and meltin' all this stuff, lotta times some of the gasses separate out, and they go to the low spots. You don't always know where those are, so you gotta send--.

aaw: Are they explosive?

ep: Oh, yeah. Not always. But it's most of 'em. Any collection of strong gas can be explosive under compression.

aaw: Do they have religion these days?

ep: Religion?

aaw: Religion.

ep: What's religion?

aaw: Does that word have any meaning to you?

ep: Mmm, not really. Oh, you mean, like belief systems, and stuff?

aaw: Yes.

ep: We just go with morals and ethics.

aaw: Morals and ethics. What kind of rules do you have to follow?

ep: Rules?

aaw: Laws?

ep: Laws. Well, I dunno. These are like archaic terms or something.

aaw: Yes?

ep: Because, I would say, it comes down like this, which is, basically, if you screw up you're dead or everybody's dead. So the rules are self-evident. As you attain knowledge you realize what your proper place is, what your job is, what you should and shouldn't do. If you transgress these rules, you die or other people die. And so, basically, the screwups die quick.

aaw: (Laughs.)

ep: It's a little simplistic, but that's about what it boils down to. If you're stupid or you're ineffectual or you can't get your job done, you're dead. Eventually you'll kill yourself or you'll kill somebody else.

aaw: Do you have family? A wife, kids?

ep: No.

aaw: Single. Always been single?

ep: Um-hmm.

aaw: Do they have a lot of families up there?

ep: Oh, yeah. Gotta have families.

aaw: Yes? But you've chosen not to.

ep: Oh, a marriage contract's a serious thing.

aaw: Well, I guess so. What happens in a marriage contract?

ep: You agree to make a unit between yourself, and then all your progeny. Everything is inherited down, all your stuff. Stuff's important here. (Laughs.) There's so damn little stuff, it becomes very important. I have Grandpa's books.

aaw: Really. Real books?

ep: Um-hmm. I got 'em in bags. I got 'em sealed.

aaw: Was that your grandfather on your father's side or mother's side?

ep: Father's side. Never knew my mother's--.

aaw: Tell me about your mother. She was born on the moon, you said?

ep: Um-hmm.

aaw: And has she--I'm taking it that everybody works, in one fashion or another?

ep: You have to.

aaw: What kind of work has she done?

ep: She was a nurse.

aaw: And she's no longer living?

ep: No.

aaw: How did she die?

ep: She died after Dad died. She got real sad and unhappy. She got the lung disease thing.

aaw: What's that?

ep: Your lungs quit procesing. They get gas bubbles in them, and real slow but sure you lose your ability to transfer oxygen. And your body acquires a high level of pollutant or other gasses--especially if you've been in compressed or endangered environments. And then the tissues break down, and even though your lungs are functioning, you're not transferring the proper amounts of oxygen

aaw: Is it a contagious disease?

ep: No. But it's--we don't get it so much anymore. Filtration systems are a lot better now. Got a lot more air. Didn't used to have so much air.

aaw: What were they breathing?

ep: What do you mean?

aaw: Thin air? Or was it high in nitrogen, or--?

ep: No. It gets pollutants.

aaw: Pollutants from the--?

ep: From the rebreathers. It doesn't take out all the gasses, the expelled gasses.