an eBook for the Kindle. This book is the third of a trilogy named Vortex Evolution.
Anna Bennett inherits majority ownership of Gadson Aerospace, founded by Quantum Elbow (QE) inventor Terry Gadson nearly a century ago. The firm is most active on Hyacinth, the sole human-settled world beyond Earth, with only a tiny population. She develops several variations of the QE device used to span interstellar distances, but in a much more reactive manner than Joe Bachelor, the previous owner of the firm. Joe is often frustrated by Anna’s more experimental research style. Anna develops some of Joe’s ideas in her own fashion, and pioneers QE-driven asteroid mining on a small scale to suit Hyacinth.
Although successful on commercial and social levels, Anna suffers severe personal loss when her son Martin is killed while visiting Earth with Joe, who is targeted for assassination. Settlement of a second world – Saxus – is planned to relieve population pressure on Earth. Anna, now nearly at retirement age and without a natural heir, must train a successor to face this great challenge. Earth wants Saxus settled on a much grander scale than was used to settle Hyacinth.
Interested? Available for Kindle from Amazon, US$2.60 (AU$3.60) – 286 ‘Amazon pages’. Read the first Chapter of Quantum Heritage here...
1: Career Prospects
Anna Bennett was very happy with her career to date – it kept her gainfully occupied, focused, and satisfied, and she knew that she was good at her job. She had a senior management position in a company owned by people she liked and had known for most of her life. They trusted her and she enjoyed rewarding that trust. All Gadson Aerospace staff knew about the special ‘almost-family’ relationship she had with the company owners. She had been ‘informally encouraged’ to train to be their business successor, a great privilege, but it had shaped her entire life.
She had grown into a talented businesswoman, but at the cost of poor social skills. And that had led to the aspect of her life that had not been so successful. Now nearly thirty, she had a brief, failed romantic attachment behind her – a mistake that she would probably regret for the rest of her life. She had escaped relatively unscathed before marriage, which would have been an even bigger disaster. Her partner had proved to be aggressively dominating and their engagement had turned violent. But that, ironically, had helped her career, because her employers had seen what was happening and restructured her work responsibilities to help her get over that hurdle.
In the industrial suburb of Wellcamp, in the small city of Toowoomba, Australia, Anna was the General Manager for all Earth-based activities of Gadson Aerospace. That sounded grand but, although Gadsons was influential in the aerospace industry, it was not a huge firm, because providing interstellar transport was not a huge market. Of the hundreds of worlds that had been discovered and assessed for possible human settlement, four worlds had been long judged suitable, but Hyacinth was still the only one with settlers actually living on it. Because of the enormous distances and the difficulties transporting bulky items between worlds, settlers had to be self-sufficient. Populating a new settler world was a major project that would probably be tackled only once in a century. Gadson’s active search for new habitable worlds had been downgraded decades ago – four potential settler worlds was quite enough.
The most important Gadson company management or policy decisions were routinely made by the principal shareholders – Joe and Brenda Bachelor – located at Flora on Hyacinth. Very slowly, Gadson’s interstellar activities had been moving from Wellcamp to Flora but, even after thirty years of steady growth, industrial-level infrastructure on Hyacinth was still too small-scale to support all their operations. Ready access to Earth’s heavy industries, manufactured goods and sophisticated technical services was still essential for the interstellar ship maintenance, repair and refit work undertaken at Wellcamp. Anna managed that on behalf of the Bachelors.
Hyacinth now had a stable economy and social structure, but definitely all very small-scale compared with Earth. A complete relocation of Gadson Aerospace to Hyacinth was simply impossible and would probably remain so for another fifty years or so – longer than Anna could expect to be associated with the company.
It was not in Earth’s interest to support low-technology settlements anywhere. In the event of a disaster like an extinction event on Earth, only high-technology settlements would be useful to help humanity recover. Just sending settlers to a new planet without constant technical support would be a certain way to produce an agricultural-level society, not helpful to modern industrial-level humanity on Earth, and probably a virtual death sentence for the settlers.
The long-term progress with settling Hyacinth would determine when humanity was ready to widen its safety-net by establishing settlements on other worlds. It was still a case of ‘so far, so good’ – perhaps other fully-supported settlements would be started within the next few decades, and perhaps Anna would even help to make that happen. That would be an exciting career highlight.
Quite a few aerospace agency officials visited Anna at Wellcamp, so she knew that Gadson Aerospace’s present privileged monopoly on interstellar transport would not last forever. Quantum Elbow devices had been invented by company founder Terry Gadson, but developing them to the point where they could be used to take a small S1-class ship into orbit or as far as Mars had taken him most of his life. He had been an old man by the time ‘QE’ ships became a reality – earning him twenty years of patent protection – and flagged the end of the rocket era.
Then, as soon as the much larger S2-class ship was built, Joe Bachelor’s father Jack, forty years younger than Terry Gadson, had done much of the early interstellar exploration to discover and survey the four planets judged suitable for human habitation, before being shot dead. Not much of a reward for a lifetime of exceptional discoveries.
Twenty years after that, Jack’s son Joe Bachelor qualified as a physicist. He took the company further with his numerous inventions, most of them clever variations on the underlying QE theme rather than completely new ideas – each one with another twenty-year patent period – including the radical QE displacement-box device now transforming transport on Earth. Three generations of steady technical progress at practically no cost to the aerospace industry had resulted in an unspoken agreement – Gadson Aerospace had earned their monopoly on providing transport for interstellar activity... for now, at least.
Over the years, S2-class ships had been built by various agencies but they were generally not as reliable as Gadson ships because the agencies did not have the operating experience that Gadsons had slowly accumulated, and there had also been some accidents, with a lot of negative media reaction. The general industry consensus was that, as soon as all patents expired and settling a second world was started, arrangements would have to change. Aerospace agencies would form a new company to build and operate QE ships, and a degree of transport competition would be introduced. The Gadson monopoly was acceptable while Quantum Elbow technology was still relatively new and Hyacinth was the only settled world, but actual interstellar trade was a possibility in the longer term, and any monopoly then would be seen as unhealthy. By the time that happened, industrial activity on Hyacinth should be sufficiently advanced to support most of Gadsons’ needs, so it could then slowly lose its Earth management operations.
Joe and Brenda Bachelor had first taken an interest in Anna when she was only eight years old. Her grandfather had been the catalyst – he had been the Australian Space Agency’s representative at Wellcamp during the period when Gadson Aerospace was still Gadson Aviation and central to the development of Quantum Elbow interstellar drives and ships capable of carrying a small number of passengers – just enough to make settlement of alien worlds a practical aspiration. Anna’s grandfather had correctly guessed that the Bachelors, who had no children of their own, would enjoy engaging with his charming little granddaughter, so had arranged to bring her along whenever he visited the factory to discuss current issues.
The Bachelors had loved that, unofficially ‘adopting’ her, always gently encouraging her natural enthusiasm for aerospace issues. They had helped her to qualify as an Electrical Engineer by offering her live-in accommodation with them while her parents went through a messy separation, and exotic work-experience assignments that other students could not enjoy. It was a subject of much amusement between them now that she was no longer a cute little girl with a fiery determination – the main reason why they had both taken an active interest in her education and career prospects. To them, she would always be Annabelle, not Anna.
Whether living on Earth or Hyacinth, Joe Bachelor had been the main driving force behind Gadson’s latter-day success. Firstly, as a freshly-qualified physicist specializing in quantum mechanics, by improving the Quantum Elbow drives invented by company founder Terry Gadson decades earlier, making QE devices safer and more practical. Interstellar travel had steadily improved from being functional, but bordering on insanely dangerous, to being relatively safe and reliable. Secondly, over the following decades, by constantly exploiting the basic underlying QE technology to invent new devices.
All Gadson research work now happened at Flora on Hyacinth, well away from any prying eyes on Earth. Joe’s controversial displacement-box transport device was a typical research product. Invented before Anna had started her high school years, it was patented on Earth only as she started her university training, years later. The invention of the displacement-box could certainly be seen as the high-point of Joe’s amazing career, and happened mostly because of yet another invention of company founder Terry Gadson, this one some half a century earlier – his ‘barrow’ tool, used for digging small-size tunnels, but very dangerously. Too dangerous to make it a commercial success.
The barrow was a very simple combination of two quantum elbow devices arranged so that the two spherical QE fields they produced overlapped each other, running on different power settings. The result was an odd, crescent-shaped active field that could never occur naturally, and with an inherent power instability. Every fourteen and a half seconds, the two fields interfered with each other to produce a small surge in power, and that had been instantly recognized as important, because it created the same QE phenomenon that allowed elbow devices to drive spaceships interstellar distances – an offset-displacement lasting exactly one sixth of a second. A very crude, low-power offset-displacement that occurred only when the two elbows were running on specific ‘sweet-spot’ settings, so could easily be avoided... but could also easily be deliberately triggered.
By pressing this artificially-defined shape against a digging surface and triggering it, an offset- displacement happened straight up into the air, where the excavated material immediately fell to the ground. So the barrow tool could be used to dig holes, but it was an incredibly dangerous procedure, both for the operator in the hole and for anyone who might be in the drop zone. Joe had used ‘making the barrow tool safer’ as a security screen, hiding his development work on the early displacement-box device.
His solution had been to make a second barrow device to act as a receiver for the excavated material, because the crescent fields the two barrows made were identical. When the sender device took a bite of material, it then displaced to the only other QE field of the exact same shape and size within the power range of the sender. No more rock and dirt raining down from the sky! That became the bi-barrow tool, and it took advantage of two aspects of QE technology. First, that the QE field generated by two overlapping elbows had a hard definition – the strange crescent shape had a curved outer edge that was millimeter-thin, so every displacement cut like a knife... through practically anything. It could be used to excavate material as hard as rock. The second aspect had been a result of his displacement-box development. Matching volumes, so that a source volume changed place with a destination volume, although that did not necessarily happen with a hard definition. Most displacement-box displacements had a soft definition, so could not be used for tasks like digging holes through very hard material.
But the combination of those two factors made Joe’s bi-barrow tool a winner. It cut a weird shape, but it cut very effectively. A quantum elbow device was not a huge tool – it was about the size of an average chainsaw – so although fairly large, one man could use it as big hand-tool. The barrow tool was basically two elbows and some control hardware, so it wasn’t very big, either. It could be used inside the confines of a tunnel or other hole.
The same matching-volume sender-receiver idea had been used for the early displacement-box device, but the difference was that, by the time Joe was working on the bi-barrow tool, he had developed his qeser cutting tool, so named because it was similar to a laser, but using QE space-time volumes. It was basically just a modified elbow device, but... a qeser did not create a QE field with a hard definition. It had a soft definition, so was used mainly for the fact that it created a straight beam for a very precise active ‘focal-length’ distance. That had allowed Joe to use the straight lines of qeser beams, making a sender-receiver pair of devices for cubic shapes. At its core, that was all a displacement-box was – two matching QE space-time volumes in the shape of a cube, which could never occur in nature, and which was far more useful for human activities than spherical QE fields, or the very awkward crescent-segment shape produced by the barrow. The soft edge of the volume definition did not matter for a displacement-box – anything slightly overlapping an edge would not be sliced off as though with a scalpel. It would be ‘dragged’ along with whatever was attached to it.
So that soft edge became one of the many marketing features of the displacement-box system. It was a safe way to transport people, who had the annoying habit of moving when they should be standing still!
Joe had invented several other variations of QE devices, but most of them were tools and techniques used to develop his main ideas. The safe interstellar jumps then, a decade later, the bi-barrow and the displacement-box were the ones that would be seen as his heritage. Matching QE volumes paired in a sender-receiver configuration for QE displacement, triggered by the strange effect known as ‘overlap interference’.
Anna loved working with Joe and Brenda Bachelor – not just because she enjoyed being a kind of surrogate daughter to them – but also because she enjoyed participating in their apparently abrasive relationship. They argued about everything! Except that they weren’t actually arguing. It was more like a compulsion to explore every last possible facet of every subject, looking for previously-overlooked nooks and crannies that might be explored. That suited her naturally inquisitive nature and, because Brenda had been her main role model since childhood, she had adopted the older woman’s assertive approach to business. Gadson staff at Wellcamp understood that perfectly.
Joe had always been the argument ring-leader. He loved being challenged, so Anna loved pushing him as hard as she could, knowing that he would never be offended. She and Brenda together were a more formidable opponent than Brenda alone, so most conversations turned into debates that were often extremely stimulating. For all of them.
* * * * *
After she qualified as an electrical engineer, Anna had been offered a job at Gadsons – as she had long known she would be – and had flown to Hyacinth at least a dozen times for short working visits. Those visits had been especially enjoyable. She had helped the Bachelors make some small technical advances during the patent protection period for the displacement-box invention. Her main success had been helping to develop a ‘Diametric’ version of Joe’s qeser – now renamed a ‘Radial Qeser’ as a result.
As a cutting tool, the diametric qeser proved to be nowhere near as efficient as the radial version. Initially, that had been a disappointment, but Joe Bachelor had seen its potential, and Anna had been thrilled when he explained. It had been successfully patented on Earth, but not as a cutting tool – it could be used for a completely different purpose.
Its projected beam was active for the diameter of a core quantum elbow field instead of merely its radius. That significant difference allowed a simplification of the circuitry for the larger sizes of displacement-boxes, for which it was used as a volume definition instrument. The diametric qeser that Anna had helped to develop would never be used as a cutting tool – like the radial version it had been further modified so that it could not cut at all, but could provide a beam of energized space-time for defining artificial QE volumes – it allowed the Diametric and Double-Diametric displacement-boxes to be built much more cheaply, and to operate more efficiently.
Displacement-boxes had originally been developed to meet the needs of Hyacinth settlers. For expansion beyond the village-size settlement of Flora, communication routes on a totally undeveloped world were a big problem. Traditional road or rail links were really too expensive, too dependent on heavy equipment for small numbers of settlers on a new world to build. An alternative was needed.
At first glance, displacement-boxes seemed quite unlike an interstellar QE drive system but, like most of Joe’s inventions, the underlying technology was very similar – used differently, but still transport using QE displacement technology. QE spaceship drives used multiple overlapping core fields to very briefly make one large space-time ‘bubble’ that changed places with another similar, distant spherical field under specific power and direction conditions. Interstellar ‘jumps’ were an offset-displacement... a worm-hole displacement from here to there lasting just one sixth of a second.
Instead of space displacements, displacement-boxes were designed for surface transport, so did not use an offset displacement. They used identical displacement-boxes in a sender-receiver configuration for accurate source-destination pairing. A ‘matching-volume’ displacement between energized QE fields, using qesers instead of quantum elbows to energize the artificial volumes, because qesers created a soft-edged field type. That demanded a reliable radio or phone connection, with signal latency and strength imposing distance limitations.
Once radio or phone links had been established on Hyacinth, small-scale economics and low population had effectively forced the use of displacement-boxes for most local transport. The beautiful landscape had been left in its natural state – politically lauded as very planet-friendly but, in reality, not much more than a happy accident. It was also an exploration limitation but, for short-distance trips, this was slowly being overcome with domestication of local animals and some simple tracks. Settlers had to fall back on air and sea transport for longer-distance exploration.
Just about every home on Hyacinth had a radial displacement-box, now commonly known as an r-box, suitable for moving domestic-size goods, often stacked on a shipping pallet, so many houses also had a small pallet-trolley for easy loading and unloading. For commercial or passenger transport, a much bigger diametric displacement-box, now commonly known as a d-box, was used. Qeser beams defined its unnatural cubic volume, big enough to displace about seven or eight people with luggage, or up to twenty without luggage.
The even bigger Double-Diametric displacement-box – basically just two d-boxes joined together – was about the same size as a standard shipping container. The ‘deedee’ was the industrial displacement-box version, and anything too big to fit in a d-d had to be transported by conventional, much more expensive physical transport methods.
Hyacinth settlers had long ago realized that even very large items could be assembled from components small enough to fit in a d-d so, with their small-scale manufacturing facilities, that was how just about all large equipment on Hyacinth was built. Very little air or sea transport was used for goods transport there. Displacement-box technology was far more practical and much cheaper.
Earth, however, was not like Hyacinth – over millennia, road, rail, sea and air routes, along with their support hubs and, often enough, complete support industries, had grown as humanity populated the planet. Literally millions of people relied on traditional transport for employment in one form or another, and billions relied on it for social cohesion. Displacement-box technology had been designed to suit a small-scale world, so introducing it on industrial-scale Earth had to be undertaken very carefully.
The fact that they were already in common use on Hyacinth, where all known design glitches had been ironed out, was well known in official circles. So by the time that the displacement-box invention was submitted for patent protection on Earth, governments around the world had understood the implications. These devices, although expected to be hugely beneficial to Earth over a longer period, would have a devastating effect on the transport industry and consequently on national economies in the short term. They had to be introduced in a heavily-regulated, incremental fashion. There had been some political differences between different counties, but gradual introduction of the new technology had been mandated globally in generally fairly similar ways.
Displacement-box transport had none of the mechanical or weather-induced problems associated with ships, trucks, trains or aircraft, and was much cheaper. The only more expensive element was warehousing for received goods, still in a transition phase and often dogged by bureaucratic delays. World-wide, many of the larger companies that had been dominant in traditional transport were still dominant, but now included displacement-box operations in their activities, slowly becoming more ascendant than traditional methods. Many smaller transport companies, however, had not survived the stormy period before the general public had adjusted to the new technology, boosting demand.
That stormy introduction experience was one of the major reasons why Joe and Brenda Bachelor now lived mostly on Hyacinth, not Earth. They had escaped two assassination attempts suspected to have been funded by disgruntled transport business owners, many of whom had very publicly accused Joe Bachelor of sabotaging their profitable industry. Quite likely, some had simplistically imagined that getting rid of the displacement-box inventor would stop the rot – just shoot the messenger.
Now well into the second half of the twenty-year displacement-box patent period, Anna judged that at least the worst of the economic impact of displacement-box technology was behind most nations. Displacement-box technology was cheap, and that trumped all objections.
All except those raised by conspiracy theorists.
Joe had once admitted to media that he had experienced zero-G disorientation, like most people who ventured into space. To counter it, he usually held onto something solid and breathed deeply to stave off a wave of nausea. It was caused by inner ear balance issues, but not felt in the ears – for men, disorientation was usually felt as tingling in the groin similar to vertigo feelings. Women felt that onset of nausea in a similar, but slightly different way. Dizzy spells.
But disbelievers claimed that it was caused by ‘QE Radiation’, which affected men more than women. Commander Joe Bachelor had been exposed to QE Radiation more than any other man, was married, but had no children. Ipso Facto: QE Radiation made people infertile.
The crew aboard the International Space Station – where no QE devices were used – reported the exact same nausea symptoms, and none of the pilots flying interstellar distances were infertile. That did not make the slightest difference. That’s irrelevant – they would say that, wouldn’t they! Like most claims of this kind, the QE Radiation theory had no scientific credence, but that did not stop it becoming a common worry among those suspicious of new technology.
Nor did it stop operators of traditional transport from eagerly seizing on this for marketing purposes. Traveling by d-box was unsafe! Travelers were constantly zapped by energized space-time, with unknown long-term consequences.
Despite the many small inconveniences of transitioning from old to new, absolutely nobody suggested banning it, and the vast majority of QE displacements on Earth were now generally considered just as safe as older physical transport methods.
Some accidents had happened, and occasionally still happened, as with all new technology, but usually because of operational deficiencies. Safe procedures were more difficult to establish on over-populated, always-busy Earth than on Hyacinth, with its tiny population, village-paced lifestyle and far less urgent transport demands.
* * * * *
• back to top •