The Space Between – Prologue

04/01/2016 


pioneer10_art copy

Artist’s rendering of the Pioneer 10, first spacecraft to reach Jupiter, 1973

 
Prologue, from The Space Between, Vol. I

a science fiction novel by Cameron Alexander Murton

 

There exists in history three types of pioneer; three sorts of adventurer, each different in the means by which use to they reach their destination. The first is the one who makes way by ship, the second is by caravan, and the third is by way of academic study. The distinction between the first two is certainly less obvious: it concerns mostly the approach taken, courses charted, risks involved, and most importantly: the complexities of the vessel. Why is this relevant? It is because as society has developed and evolved these differences have begun to blur, and they will continue to do so until such point as all three become the same. I for one do consider that it may not be incorrect to suggest that we have already reached that point, and so I suggest that we begin by looking at the man named Henry Cavendish, who lived in the eighteenth century, or as so many call it: the Age of Enlightenment.

Now Henry was that third kind of pioneer – most certainly not the first two – and by that I mean to say that his kind brings new meaning to the definition of reclusion. But he discovered Hydrogen, by way of scientific method, and so for that we do remember him.

I should note that the word Hydrogen itself is credited to another man; Antoine Lavoisier, a French aristocrat most fondly remembered as the father of modern chemistry. Antoine’s contemporaries rewarded him justly for his contribution: he lost his head by way of guillotine. But nearly twenty years before Lavoisier gave Hydrogen its name, Cavendish came to capture and isolate the substance, known then simply as ‘inflammable air’. This finding he shared with his peers in the London Royal Society, so history and the passage of time leave us two important extrapolations. One: Henry Cavendish made an important discovery. And two: the intellect beneath his brutal fear of interaction would come to deem this magic of rare value.

While profoundly respected by those in the Society, its member came only to expect ‘mumbling and peeved squeaks’ in response to their polite queries. Long after his death, by old age, as one of richest men in England – a search of his revealed the shy eccentric to have developed a great many other secrets, that he did not share, including laws today credited to Charles, Coulomb, Dalton, Ohm and Richter. This leads one to wonder as to his motivations, for what can be said of a person that does not share their gift with the world.

Semantics aside the important thing is that Cavendish was able to capture and isolate Hydrogen, measure its density, and deduce its weight. He then did the same for our planet as a whole, in a procedure still known as the Cavendish experiment. So was Henry the first to weigh our anchor, and discover the means by which mankind would cast away. Back then the going name for Oxygen was ‘dephlogisticated air’, the work he published On Factitious Airs gave document to the details of his experiments between the two; specifically, their combustion to create water. As modern rockets make use of this reaction, so then did Cavendish unknowingly invent rocket fuel, and cement himself as legacy.

For the next two-hundred years the name Cavendish would appear primarily in textbooks and journals of science, until the twenty-first century, when a merger of private American aerospace manufacturers rebrand under the honorific title Cavendish Space Systems. I was still very young then, but I can remember how public distaste for the environmental consequences of mining and refining led to a push for off-world investment. After that CavSS took the market to became a household name. They paved our way into space, to the Moon and Mars, ushering an age of Australian mining dynasties and Chinese space tourism.

But Hydrogen plus Oxygen equals water can only take you so far.

Enter Faran EM, a German electromagnetics manufacturer with money ties to England and the Middle East.

A young engineering physicist by the name of Levant Caeden plays a crucial role with the European newcomers in developing field units, which are then sold to CavSS at premium cost. Initially, the technology is only strong enough to advert solar radiation on manned-rockets sent beyond our moon. When Mars proves poor for investment industry speculation names Jupiter as the next gold rush. Between the gas giant and its seventy moons lies every element waiting to be plucked in large supply. Inspired by the Jovian magnetosphere, whose strength is twenty thousand times the Earth’s, Faran engages in relentless innovation while Caeden gains notoriety as a North American expatriate. Together the two parties continue to reveal prototypes for more efficient superconductors until a personal rift results in a part of ways. As Caeden disappears CavSS grows wary of its dependency on Faran technology. The outer atmosphere of Jupiter is nearly pure hydrogen, and several of its moons oxygen: CavSS pulls out all the stops to build an ever-moving caravan of dirigible gas pumps, thus establishing a monopolized expressway. Every barge in the caravan is equipped with a premium Faran field manipulator, the price tags of which are astronomical, as the advancements made by Faran in the aftermath. With roots digging ever deeper into the abandoned mines of northern Europe our new space giant finally develops its first truly independent spacecraft. On small cylindrical yachts propelled by ion thrust jets and photovoltaic sail, Faran claims Io.

As they break ground, so does Cavendish. Like with our moon, mining corporations are the first clients until LXC joins the party. The caravan diversifies while strategists at CavSS struggle to maintain industry dominance. At the suggestion of a well-meaning executive, Cavendish acquires the services of a now elderly Levant Caeden, in the hopes that he will bring them industrial revolution. They make plans for expediency, sending him skyward on the fastest ship available. Cautious of intellectual theft Faran gouges Cavendish for the rental, while stipulating a clause that the old man may only be accompanied by an assistant under the age of twenty-five, who does not possess a graduate degree in software engineering or computer science. Selected for the journey is a young but promising computer science student by the name of Ana Wojźech. Her responsibilities as per contract of employment with CavSS are simple, to program Caeden’s presentations of experimental design. The two set forth from Earth, neither fully comprehending what it is they will find upon arriving at their destination.

And so our story begins.