If you enjoy this story, you can obtain a 13 page PDF version. A list of available articles and stories can be found on the E-Zines / Articles page of this website.
Del Gets A Cyber-Clone!
A Short Story By
Delius Cranston, Del to his friends, was ecstatic when he looked past the shabby curtain of what was effectively his ‘front’ window. He lived on the second floor of an apartment building with four levels, and his placement front and slightly right of center put his window in a direct line with 41st Street. He’d heard the double honk just a few seconds earlier, and lo and behold, the Astor Manufacturing delivery van was out there waiting for him.
Excited as hell, Del snatched the filter mask from his bookshelf and ran out the door. Del ran back just as fast, though, because if he didn’t shut the door the flies would be streaming in to watch TV with him. It wasn’t that Del or his immediate neighbors were pigs or anything. The damned flies would always travel from the ground floor stairwell up to the landing on his floor, where they socialized, procreated and hovered about until, well, until they croaked and he had to sweep the tiny remains away before they got stuck on the bottom of his shoes.
Del was a black man in his early thirties, thirty-two to be exact. In that day and age, an excited black man couldn’t just run full gallop toward a delivery van. A security drone might spot him and give him the electro-shock until a UN police-soldier came by to investigate. To prevent giving the impression of criminal potentiality, Del forced himself to slow down and he jogged out to the sidewalk instead of running like a looter, or worse, like a protester.
The deliveryman and his co-rider were Latino and Negro, respectively, and they both had their masks on. When they saw Del’s approach, they took out their little cans of pepper spray and pointed them at him.
“Hey, hey!” Del held his hands up in surrender. “I’m the guy you’re delivering to!”
“Delius Cranston?” The driver asked.
“That’s me.” Del nodded.
“Hold up your right hand for verification.” The helper said.
Once Del’s hand was up, the helper used a scanner to read Del’s implanted Microsoft chip. The scanner beeped and showed a green light.
“It’s him.” The helper confirmed.
“Good to meet you, Mr. Cranston.” The driver changed his tone. “We can’t take any risks over being robbed. You know how it is. Please respect our social distancing.”
“Yeah, I do know how it is.” Del replied. “I had a woman spitting on the computer terminals the other day at my job. The soldier-cops came by and she spit on them too, until they pulled out their shockers. They shut her up right-quick!”
“She rode the lightning, huh?” The driver grinned.
“Man, they pronged her in the head!” Del remembered, causing both of his listeners to wince. “That bitch did the electric bugaloo for like five minutes!”
“You didn’t get that on video, did you?” The driver asked.
“Hell yes, I did!” Del grinned. “Live-Star! Open link your phones and I’ll send it to you.”
For the next few minutes, all three of them watched and laughed at the woman writhing on the ground.
“In-tense!” The helper said.
“I’ll second that.” The driver nodded. “Well, Mr. Cranston...”
“Call me Del.”
“Del, you know why we’re here. We are delivering an Astor model 600-X cyber-clone, female model. Jinx, will you have Del sign our electro-doc while I open up the back?”
Del remembered the commercial for that specific model. The closing scene showed the spokesman smiling and saying, the X stands for Sex!
In a short while, the deliverymen pulled out a large white box on a hospital-style stretcher with collapsible legs. For a second, the box looked like a coffin. Once it was set upright it looked like a refrigerator.
“You’re on the second floor, huh?” The driver frowned. “How about we open her up right here, instead of lugging this box up those stairs. Do you have a problem with any of your neighbors knowing you ordered a cyber-clone?”
“No.” Del shook his head, but he did look around to see who else was outside. Very few people were thanks to the stiff $1000 fines the sightseers were saddled with nowadays. “We can do things out here, no problem.”
“If you open-link, I’ll forward the manual to you.” The helper said. “You know the basics, right?”
“Yes, I do.” Del confirmed. “She eats and drinks, but only about half as much as normal people. She goes to the bathroom and she needs rest.”
“Good.” The driver said, undoing the security locks on the box and swinging its door open. “There she is.”
Del had ordered his clone to look like a black woman, slender with a handsome face and good figure, but no exaggerated curves like some people wanted. She was dressed in a simple white robe. “I have to ask this. The black men that order cyber-clones, do they choose a white clone or a black one?”
The driver deferred the question to the helper.
“It’s about half and half.” Jinx nodded. “Only about eight percent of blacks order something other than black or white, like Asian or Hispanic. The strangest one I’ve seen is a black man ordering a male Indian clone. That’s a little too freaky for me!”
“It sounds freaky.” Del replied.
“Hispanics order Hispanic clones.” The driver shrugged. “95% of the time, anyway. The toughest orders to fill are for white women. They can’t make up their fucking minds. They want this and that color clone every other week. Maybe we should make a rainbow-colored clone! I bet that will make them happy!”
For the next quarter hour, the deliverymen-slash-technicians tested the clone’s brain waves, awareness and physical reaction times. They ran the speech testing three separate times, but the clone only spoke in a monotone drone.
“I ordered the Southern Drawl plug-in.” Del said, frowning.
Unfortunately, the driver was frowning too. “I don’t think the factory installed the right module. It’s not showing up on the software bundle. I think she’s basic.”
“Can’t you just download the software?”
“Not that easy.” The driver answered. “A drawl uses different parts of the throat and mouth. We have a special module that handles it. We’re going to have come back in a day or two to take care of that.”
“What?” Del scoffed. “You can’t leave her like that! She sounds like a schoolteacher! Every time she starts talking I’m going to fall asleep!”
“We could set her on Silent Mode, where she won’t speak at all.” The driver shrugged.
“Hold on, bruh.” Jinx said. “Maybe we have a spare module in here somewhere.” The helper jumped into the back of the van and began going through boxes. “I think we’ve got one in here that somebody used as an April Fool’s joke! Here we go!”
The driver looked dubious.
“What is she going to sound like?” Del wondered.
“I don’t know.” Jinx said. “It says Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I’ve never heard of her. Anybody know who that is?”
“No.” Del said.
“We can look her up on the Net.” The driver suggested, before he checked his phone. “Wait, we have to get going to the next call soon. The junior college is having another malfunction with their baby triplets.”
“Baby cyber-clones?” Del inquired.
“For their baby-raising classes. The students keep feeding them weird things like frogs.”
“Let’s just install the module and go.” The helper said. “If Del doesn’t like it, we’re going to come back out in a couple of days anyway to put the new module in. Whatever this Elvira voice sounds like, it has to be better than monotone, right?”
The driver scanned the device’s ID number. “It’s not just a voice, it’s an entire personality module. It’s a complete character that somebody custom ordered.”
“Del, this will give you another choice.” The helper informed the unhappy man. “You can go with the monotone, you can listen to her as Elvira, or you can just tell her to go silent.”
Both deliverymen were looking at him now.
“Yeah, you can install it.” He nodded. “Sure, why not?”
“The special order stuff is really expensive.” Jinx said. “After paying all that money, I wonder why the customer didn’t want the module.”
“People are picky.” The driver shrugged. “The person who ordered it probably got exactly what they wanted. Somebody else in the house must have hated the gag and here we are.”
Del had to look the other way when the techs installed the module. They had to open up the brain portion and get beneath all the processors of what otherwise looked like a real person.
(Continued in next post.)
Everything Stars Wars must have tits. Of course, I don't mind tits, but why can't these Woke Jokes create compelling new characters instead of usurping the heroes from my childhood? Oh, that's right. Woke Jokes have no imagination. Anyway, thanks, Regressives. Right click on the pic to save.
About this title: Welcome to Variant Worlds 1. This is a collection of fantasy and science fiction ranging from short stories to novellas. In these tales, everyday people like you and I must come to grips with the strange and perilous realities that have been presented to them. Only by relying on their inner strength, their wisdom and their humanity can they forge ahead and survive. Rating: MEDIUM controversy. Click the button to visit this book's page on Smashwords.
The Book Changes Hands
(Intro short for this collection.)
The great desert winds pummeled my body like a rag doll, dragging me and shoving me to and fro until I'd gone over the edge of a deep ravine. My arms scrambled about, my fingers clawing desperately at the loose dirt as I felt my weight slip away below me and towards certain death perhaps a hundred feet below.
Finally, I held enough of the rugged dirt to cling to the ravine’s edge like some giant bug. I lowered my head near to my shoulder, hastily trying to draw breath, but only received a mouthful of whipped sand for my efforts. I’d been warned that this task wasn’t going to be an easy one.
How long I hung there, I can’t recall. I was becoming more and more certain that I was going to die there, at the moment my grip weakened and my body tumbled down the rock face.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, a strong hand reached down and clamped my wrist. With a mighty heave, I was yanked away from the precipice and hoisted back on stable ground. Through the wind and dust, I caught only glimpses of my benefactor: a short, stout form, eyes covered by bizarre rounded goggles, and sporting an unusual and fluttering orange cape.
We both stood there, with my short rescuer’s hand firmly on my shoulder, both of us crouched and wincing against the ferocity of the wind. Neither of us spoke. Even if we had the whipping wind would have drowned our voices like a flood.
Was this the stranger I’d been seeking for so long?
Finally, the wind’s strength waned. In this brief moment of calm, the stranger’s sharp voice boomed out. "The book!" He shouted, even as the wind began to regroup its momentum. "Do you have the book?"
Ah, yes, the book. Reaching into the canvas pouch slung over my shoulder, I retrieved the ancient tome, with its cracked leather cover and worn pages, while the frenzied desert sand invaded the opening and sought out a new haven inside my bag.
"I have it!" I tried to shout, gasping as dust and dirt slapped into my mouth. “Here!”
Although I was sorry to see it go, after so many months of carrying it with me, so much time spent studying its valuable contents and trying to fathom its mysterious purpose, here I was, simply handing it over to a man I had only just met.
Destiny could be a harsh mistress, I thought to myself, yet at the same time, I was relieved to finally be rid of the monumental burden. If the fate of such an important book rested in the hands of others, then so be it.
After all, who was I to question fate?
(Continued from previous post.)
Newton’s First Law - Objects only change speed if force is exerted on them. This will play an important part in my sci-fi project based on the Space 1999 TV series. In that scenario, Luna was wrenched off its orbit by exploding nuclear waste. The human colony on Luna had no way to slow the moon down, which made up the basic premise of the series; a runaway moon with people on it.
Asteroids could serve as way stations to replenish fuel supplies.
If a ship travels at 10% of light speed, one year on the ship equals 1 year and 2 days on Earth.
Advantages Of Space Habitats
1. Access To Solar Energy
2. Easier Trade - Trade from a space habitat to a planet would be easier than from one planet to another, due to less hassles entering and exiting planetary gravitational fields.
3. Space Manufacturing - A space habitat can become self-sufficient in producing food and water for its population. Raw materials can be acquired from asteroids to produce tradable goods. There is enough building material in our main asteroid belt to build enough habitats to equal the surface area of 3,000 Earths.
4. Zero-G Environment - For swimming, hang-gliding and flying airplanes!
Space Habitat Necessities
Oxygen can be obtained from lunar rocks. Nitrogen can be brought in and recycled, or extracted from comets and moons. Air can be recycled through gardens or hydroponics food production. Catalytic burners can decompose industrial pollutants such as volatile oils, as used in nuclear submarines. Cryogenic distillation can slowly remove tougher mercury vapor and noble gases that cannot be catalytically burned. After the distillation, carbon dioxide and water can go straight into agriculture. Nitrates, potassium and sodium in leftover ash can be recycled as fertilizer. Minerals such as iron, nickel and silicon can be purified and reused industrially.
Zero gravity weakens bones and muscles, and imbalances calcium and the immune system in humans. To counter this, a colony would have to rotate to simulate gravity. Most people are comfortable with a rotational radius of 500 meters at a rate of less than one revolution per minute. A small percentage will experience dizziness and vertigo.
The habitat could be shielded from cosmic rays by its outer structure and air. (I would also suggest a barrier of water, as it absorbs radiation, or a coat of regolith or other space dirt or rock to repel cosmic rays.) When it comes to heat, a space habitat is like a giant thermos bottle. Solar heat is absorbed from the outside and radiates toward the center. Convection or chilled coolant could help keep the population on the edges of the habitat comfortably cool. The outer surface must be able to withstand or avoid impacts from meteorites and cosmic dust. Large mirrors or periscopes could be used to direct sunlight into the habitat.
A good location for a habitat is near Luna, for the access to raw materials and the proximity to a major trade market in Earth.
Types Of Rotating Habitats
An O’Neill Cylinder is 20 miles long and 5 miles wide, and made of steel. It has a total surface area of 314 square miles. This is roughly the size of Guam, Malta or Rhode Island. A Bishop’s Ring can be larger, the size of continents, if a strong material is used, such as carbon nanotubes and graphene. McKendree Cylinders are huge at 10,000 km, or 6,200 miles, and can be linked together like a string of sausages.
Rotating habitats are extremely difficult to finance and build, as materials have to be moved from a terrestrial world into space. Care must be taken with heat dispersion and habitat size, or else some sections will be too warm and uncomfortable. Excess heat must radiate out into space. A rotating habitat is designed like a washing machine. That is, it has an outer shell that stays stationary, and an inner section that turns. You cannot see this habitat spinning in space, because the velocity would cause it to break apart.
The outer shielding super-structure can be reinforced by hydrogen and helium, which are both plentiful in space. This would be an effective barrier against cosmic radiation. Consider that Earth’s higher atmosphere has 14 pounds per square inch of pressure, preventing most cosmic radiation from reaching the planet’s surface.
The interior habitat doesn’t have to be built flat. It can have dips and rises to simulate lakes and hills. A dedicated reactor suspended in the center of the cylindrical habitat can maintain universal lighting. One difficult effect to reproduce is a natural-looking blue sky. Perhaps an additional colored layer can be inserted between the light reactor and the population level. A lot more dirt will be needed to simulate a natural landscape and agriculture, but less if hydroponics are utilized to produce food.
Bernal Sphere - First proposed in 1929, this habitat is shaped in a hollow spherical shell. This was designed for a target population of 20,000 to 30,000 people. Updates to this concept include Island One. This design has a diameter of 500 m (1600 feet) and spins are 1.9 RPM, enough to produce full Earth gravity at the equator. This is described as a long valley running along the equator, big enough for 10,000 people. It is an optimal size for air pressure and radiation shielding, and would be lit by angled mirrors. Island Two is larger at 1800 meters diameter, with an equator of 6.5 km (4 miles), and a good size for an industrial base.
Stanford Torus - This NASA design can house an estimated 10,000 to 140,000 people. The model for 10,000 people is 1.8 km (1.1 miles) wide and shaped like a doughnut. It rotates once per minute, creating 0.9 or 1.0g of artificial gravity. Spokes connect to a central hub with zero gravity, making it a good place for ship docking and some industry. The interior would appear as a river and valley with the ends curving upward. Areas in the ring would be dedicated to agriculture and housing.
Building materials would come from the moon or asteroid mining, and moved to the ring by a mass driver. The diameter of the tube is 130 m (430 feet). Six spokes linking to the hub would each have a diameter of 15 m (49 feet). The radiation shield would be composed of almost 2 meters (6 feet) or raw lunar soil.
O’Neill Cylinder - Proposed in the mid-1970s, this habitat consists of two separate cylinders, one within the other, spinning counter to each other to cancel out gyroscopic difficulties presented when aiming the habitat at the sun. The two cylinders are 8 km in diameter (5 miles), and up to 32 km long (20 miles). Each cylinder has six ‘stripes’ on it, running lengthwise. These stripes alternate as transparent windows and habitable land masses. A third ring (16 km, 10 miles in radius), would spin at a different speed to allow for farming. The industrial sector is located in the center of this ring, taking advantage of lesser gravity and benefiting some manufacturing processes. Building materials would come from the moon, shot out like a train or cannon from a mass driver.
To simulate gravity O’Neill’s Cylinder would rotate 2 times per hour. People would not notice this unless they turn their heads or drop an object, which would fall a few centimeters from the expected spot. Air pressure would be half that found on Earth, to save on gases and allowing for thinner walls. Mirrors outside the windows would reflect sunlight into the habitat. The windows would not be designed as giant panes of glass, but as smaller units in case they get damaged. The movement of the cylinders can create momentum to turn the habitat 360 degrees, without the use of rockets and saving fuel.
The most important factor in setting up a lunar colony is WHY would you do it? Simply explaining this off as a research center, such as in the Space 1999 scenario, is not feasibly enough. The most valuable material found on Luna is Helium 3, but it simply isn’t worth the trouble to set up a base and mine for that because of the vast amount of regolith that has to be sifted through to get at the Helium 3. Other abundant lunar material such as oxygen, silicon and nickel we already have plenty of.
Solar power is good for a moon base, as Luna’s thinner atmosphere lets a lot more sunlight in. Vehicles running on solar energy would be ideal. Solar collectors built as towers would get more sun, as the horizon wouldn’t obscure them. Polar bases would get sunlight longer than equatorial bases. Nuclear power is a good second choice.
Glass or clear surface domes are a bad choice for moon bases. This is because of the heavy amounts of solar and cosmic radiation that would normally be blocked off or filtered on Earth, but they won’t be on Luna. A better choice would be an underground base, or a surface base covered with moon regolith with mirrors reflecting sunlight in.
Communication time between the moon and Earth would lag by 4 to 5 seconds. This would make for stunted conversations and clunky Earth people to Luna robot remote control.
Telescopes and giant lasers could be built bigger and will work more efficiently than on Earth.
(Concluded in next post.)
A full version of this 10 page article can be found in Issue No. 1 of my FREE Verum Et Inventa magazine. You can also obtain a PDF version of this article. A list of available articles can be found on the E-Zines / Articles page of this website.
Science-Based Starships And Colonies (And Aliens!)
A Report Compiled By Raymond Towers
Types Of Interstellar Ships
Types Of Interstellar Propulsion
Advantages Of Space Habitats
Space Habitat Necessities
Types Of Rotating Habitats
Space Colony Notes
About The Author
I loved Space 1999. This was a science fiction TV show from the 1970s that ran for 2 seasons with a total of 24 episodes per season. I loved this series about the same as I loved Star Trek, The Original Series, from the mid-sixties, and this was a lot more than TV shows that came later in the eighties, such as Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century and the original V series.
I think part of the draw was that the fantasy world in Space 1999 was only a couple of steps more advanced than contemporary technology was back then, more in the realm of plausible sci-fi than other franchises in line with the first Star Wars movie, which was full of alien races, medieval fantasy weapons such as light sabers, and giant Death Stars the size of moons. The characters in Space 1999 were regular people in my eyes, back when I was in elementary and junior high watching the reruns of those shows. Martin Landau was usually cool and collected, but if his tantrum buttons were pushed he’d bark at his crew and often make decisions against the consensus. Barbara Bain was a silver-haired fox for me, and still is as I watch the old shows when I can find them on Youtube (Or on the Tubi app!). The show was filmed on a low budget, but I wasn’t too worried about plastic models being used for spaceships and temporary scenery backdrops. I was more interested in whatever new concept would be presented, and how the crew would get out of trouble during the one hour program.
As a tribute to this TV show that helped stoke my love for science fiction, I wanted to go back and watch the old episodes and gain inspiration from them. There was a problem! A lot of the science was inaccurate back then, and is downright ridiculous in today’s world. Just look at the premise of the show: an explosion of nuclear waste causes Luna to be propelled out of orbit, and now Luna and the colony on it are hurtling through space with no hope of rescue and no way to remedy the situation. Moon Base Alpha gets obliterated every other episode, and they lose half of their Eagle ships whenever they have a dogfight in space, but miraculously everything is renewed in time for the next episode. There are no issues with maintaining a breathable environment, replenishing food, water, electricity, fuel for the ships, etc. I know, I know, some of this stuff has to necessarily be simplified for a TV program, such as alien races speaking English for the benefit of the audience, and the ability for the cast to walk around on exotic new worlds without wearing spacesuits.
I can accept some of that stretching of the imagination, and I do similar things myself depending on the writing project I’m working on. However, as a writer trying to present a plausible space environment and ensuing adventure to a reader, I have to make sure that most of my science is grounded on actual facts, and is reasonably extrapolated from what is known today. For those reasons, I’m doing research on the practicality of interstellar ships, space colonies of various types, and a few other related topics. Space 1999 will still be my inspiration, but the web of fantasy I weave my stories around will have a much better real-world grounding. The information I’ve gathered is credible, fairly practical and can be backed up by science.
I’m showing this from a general, semi-detailed perspective, so if any of these ideas interests you, you can do more research on your own. The math on some of this stuff is very complex, and too meticulous for the depth of my project. Also, I’ve left out some of the more fanciful concepts, such as Larry Niven’s Ringworld idea, where a giant human habitat is constructed around an entire planet. That’s really not feasible or practical, as it would take the nickel and iron content of a dozen worlds or more to create. The concepts I’m presenting are much closer to home and could be possible as working models within our lifetimes. Most of the concepts are within our reach with the science and technology we have today, and that will make for a more credible story for you and I to write.
Types Of Interstellar Ships
1. Methuselah ships - The crew on these ships has extremely long life spans and can survive the voyage from start to finish.
2. Sleeper ships - These ships have hibernation areas and a small, active skeleton crew.
3. Generation ships - These ships are designed with the ideas of multiple generations of families living and breeding on board. To prevent genetic stagnation and inbreeding problems, human egg and sperm cells can be frozen for measured durations before they begin to deteriorate, or DNA printing can add new / diversified genetic code onto existing DNA strands.
4. Seed ships - This concept is for a very small and heavily automated ship that carries seeds of life or advanced printing technology. Humans, animals, vegetation and terraforming would be done mechanically upon arrival at a destination. Machines or robots would raise humans once the initial set-up work has been done.
5. Data ships - Another very small ship, this one would carry vast amounts of data that could unpack itself upon arrival, by using local material.
Types Of Interstellar Propulsion
1. Nuclear fusion - At present, these ships are very expensive. Small, controlled (and potentially very dangerous) nuclear explosions would propel a ship forward to approx. 10 percent of light speed. Estimated costs for building this type of ship are around $350 billion dollars. The advantage is they could potentially move huge amounts of cargo, but they would use a tremendous amount of power materials and be difficult to speed up and slow down. A hybrid ship type named the Bussard Ramjet would suck space material in and use that for additional power. The Star Trek ship Enterprise design has twin Bussard Ramscoops on the ends of its wings.
2. Anti-Matter - I’m going to skip this idea, because we can’t make anti-matter, and even if we could, we have no way to safely store it. Basically, anti-matter would provide huge propulsion for a ship.
3. Black hole - This theory is beyond me. I don’t understand the physics of safely using a black hole’s gravity pull to move a ship between stars. Next!
4. Light sails - This concept I really like. Solar panels made of ultra-thin graphene absorb light energy and use it to propel a ship forward. The shape of the sail might be a problem. The further away from a star, the slower the sail would move. Also, the shape of the sail would create drag on the non-solar side. The sail would end up becoming more of a parachute. Lasers or microwaves could boost the sail’s velocity. 1463 Gigawatts of laser power would accelerate the light sail by 1 Gee. A laser may be needed at the destination to slow the sail down.
In the traditional rocket fuel model, Tsiolkovsky’s Rocket Equation tells us that when a rocket-based ship launches, 63% of its weight will be fuel. For a rocket-based ship to land or slow down, 86% of its weight must be fuel. That is the amount of fuel needed to achieve Exhaust Velocity. To propel a ship at twice Exhaust Velocity, the percentages increase to 86% at launch and 98% for slow-down. This is about 400 pounds of fuel for every 1 pound of cargo at 1 times Exhaust Velocity.
Shooting light photon lasers at a graphene sail is more cost effective, but there are problems with making sure the laser hits the sail at just the right angle and also when the laser and sail are too far apart from each other. The proposed thickness for a graphene sail would be 1 micrometer thick. A galactic GPS network will be necessary to keep things in alignment and for course correction. A sister laser at the destination could help slow the sail down. Additional lasers can be spaced out along the travel route.
Alternatives to photon lasers are charged particles aimed at magnetic sails and also solar neutrinos, if a new material were invented capable of reflecting them.
A sample sail ship could weight 10 million kilograms (10,000 pounds) and have the shape of a cone to lessen drag and deflect incoming objects. The amount of laser power needed to push this size ship is tremendous, comparable to the noonday sun shining over an entire continent. The laser can also be used as a particle accelerator and for communications.
50 relays per light year at 2000 light years of highway equals 100,000 total relays. These relays would use about a trillion kilograms of hydrogen fuel per day to power the lasers. There are projections that such a system could power a ship fast enough to reach relativistic speeds, but for the purpose of my writing project, I’ll probably set a more practical cap of 10% of light speed.
(continued in next post)