2359 Open Area on the Moon.

The open area is covered by an immaterial dome, but otherwise the area is open to space like earth's surface. Earth-like atmospheric conditions are created by technical means without employing a solid dome, massive shields or side walls. The open area is connected to the moon city Vegas.

The open area comprises a circle of five kilometers. The atmosphere is three kilometers high, but only the lower 100 meters are habitable. Beyond that the layered containment system begins. The system provides a pressure of 0.7 bar at ground level and an oxygen partial pressure which allows unlimited stays without additional life support.

A combination of transparent shields and active measures keeps the atmosphere inside and protects against radiation. Actually, the area is not completely open to space. It is covered by multiple layers of transparent gratings which electromagnetic near field projectors are attached to restricting the movement of atmospheric molecules to the inside. Major supporting beams in the sky are rendered invisible using metamaterials for optical wavelengths. For security reasons, there is also a passive protective shell made of transparent ceramics. Though, this shell being just an additional safety measure it is much thinner and also much less visible than the other self-sustaining habitat domes.

The open area is not really different from other transparent domes. It rather is an incremental improvement where some crystoplast layers have been replaced by active elements. Yet, its effect is very impressive. Leaving Vegas through the new open area exit, you walk down the grand staircase into a green park under a dark blue sky just as on Earth. This is a spectacular difference to most of the lunar surface which is dominated by hard vacuum, deadly radiation, and toxic moon dust.

The open area becomes a popular destination for locals and for tourists. The possibility to dwell under an open sky makes Vegas very attractive. For a long time Vegas is the headquarters of the Solar Coalition. Many people regard Vegas even as the capital of the Sol system, although the system is never really united. Open areas contribute significantly to making people feel at home in interplanetary space during Earth's isolation.

Over time the open area is continuously expanded. 100 years later with the extension to 10 kilometers the protective dome is omitted, since the other measures have proven to be very reliable. The 24th century style field projectors containing the air are replaced by a nanite matrix, then the largest existing field screen in the entire Sol system. With these modifications the Vegas open area comes very close to our modern open ranges.

During the System War in the 26th century Vegas is occupied when Earth forces seize the moon in a surprise attack. Six years later Coalition troops use the open area of Vegas in a landing operation thereby partially destroying the containment system. Luckily, the flexible nano-matrix and built-in safety measures prevent a catastrophic decompression. The advantage of landing in the open area is that Coalition forces can operate under normal atmospheric conditions just like former paratroopers. This tactic allows to drop ground troops in numbers unusually large for combat in space. So, they overrun the defending troops easily. After Vegas is taken by the Coalition, Earth's forces have to pull back from the moon. This victory is a turning point in the war made possible by the ingenious tactics of General Hiroshi Wang, not the least of which is the liberation of Vegas through its open area. Without the open area the Coalition would probably not have been able to evict Earth's forces from the moon which basically controls the Earth-Moon-L5 space. Thus, the success landing was instrumental in regaining the earth itself and securing humanity's access to the stars.

At the beginning of the 28th century over a billion people lives in interplanetary space. There are many open areas with a total of over 4,000 square kilometers on the Moon, Mars and on other airless celestial bodies. With interplanetary population shrinking during the Kisor war many open areas are abandoned to save the maintenance cost. In the final phase of the war the Vegas/Luna metropolitan area is a military target due to its industrial capacity. The free area of Vegas suffers severe damage during early attacks on lunar infrastructure. It is finally destroyed.

The post–war economic expansion allows to rebuild the open area with Kisoran technology as a modern 1000 square kilometer "open range", the first of many in the Roaring 28th (century).

Though damaged by the South-Moon Mercenary Rebellion the Vegas Open Range is largely kept up even under Dellian rule, only to play an important role another time in the liberation of the Sol system during the so-called Orbital Uprising in the mid-32nd century.

2390 Expedition to the Ninth Planet.

--- Private message ---

Calixtos Kamikatsu on board the Gahara Sthaan IX on the return flight from Pontos, planet 9, at the 1000 AU mark, year 2390:

Hello darling,

there are now only 1000 astronomical units left until we are home. Less than a year. Pontos was incredible. We are all still completely stunned. There was not much to see in the visible spectrum. A thousand AU from the sun you have to look very closely to see anything at all. But in the infrared, we saw the planet's landscape in splendor. In the inner solar system, there are gas giants with thick atmospheres, bands of clouds, and storms. Out here, so far from the sun, there is only ice. The whole atmosphere is frozen. Pontos is an ice giant.

Yet, Pontos is not just a chunk of ice. There are mountains, canyons and scree fields, even sand deserts with dunes of fine ice grains, like diamond dust. Everything here is made of ice, different ice. Water ice is rock hard at these temperatures. Water ice plays here the role of stone and rock. There are ice volcanoes from which in the past a mixture of water and ammonia erupted like lava.

Pontos apparently had plate tectonics in the past with huge ice mountains folding. In active phases of Pontos there was even weather, tremendous weather. Ammonia rain washed out deep canyons from water ice mountains. The Grand Canyon would be lost in them. So would the Valles Marineris on Mars.

Not to forget the Theia Basin! A crater larger than the earth. A long time ago, an object the size of Mars must have crashed into it. A cataclysmic event. It caused the whole planet to melt. After that the planet was active for millions of years, like the earth with volcanism, tectonics, weather, rain, rivers, and oceans.

That was the time when all we see now was created. From the mountain ranges and volcanoes to water ice sand along the beaches of ammonia seas. And then of course the sculptures! Where ice emerged from the ground, it froze in all kinds of shapes, sometimes in smooth shapes like a petrified waterfall, sometimes with razor-sharp edges, pinnacles, and corners.

There are geometric cones that have, well, had a water channel inside having grown around it. There are slender columns, whole fields of ice columns, as if built by the ancient Greeks. And figures and sculptures, an infinite number of shapes… Some are white like snow due to fine air bubbles. Many are transparent, some crystal clear, others with regular patterns. There is a formation we called the Spires, columns hundreds of meters tall as if made of glass and crystal blue ice curtains in between.

All that is now frozen. Like suddenly petrified amidst the movement, simply marvelous.

I must be returning to my analysis now…

See you soon.

--- End private message ---

--- Private message ---

Calixtos Kamikatsu on board the Gahara Sthaan IX, 999 AU from Sol, three months after the accident:

Hi honey,

bad news. Anne can't get the drive to work. She says we have been pretty lucky. We all knew the journey would be risky. The matter density out here is so low that you don't really expect to hit anything. Must have been a decent asteroid. At full speed, two million kilometers is enough proximity for its gravitational field to damage our FTL system when it runs under load.

Anne says, and I quote: "on a whole 0.2 Tau, the fractality of the converters is below 4.8, as far as SuSI can measure it".

SuSI is our FTL engineering AI. Tech-gibberish. I ask Anne what this means: she says, the converter poles are fractals. They have to be as fine as possible, down to nanometers. A value of 3.0 as the fractal dimension would be perfect. But that is only theoretical. They try to get as close as possible: 3.0 minus a little bit. In our case the "bit" would be ten to the power of minus 4.8. If the number is smaller, then the distance to 3 is larger and the Lévy effect collapses. There is more. Something with virtual particles, negative energy, quantum violation and so on.

Anyway, when we passed the asteroid, some superfine structures in the converter poles were distorted. They clump together. In other words: the converter poles are trash. We can't fix that here. True, we do have fabs for all our daily needs as mechs, but the bush robots of Majumdar Abhiyaantrikk supposedly spent a full two years assembling the converter poles. That's a totally different game.

I'm going to get back to you when I know more.

--- End private message ---

--- Private message ---

Calixtos Kamikatsu on board the Gahara Sthaan IX, 999 AU from Sol, four months after the accident:

Hello you three,

most of the data is now analyzed. The drive is still not working. Unfortunately, there seems to be no capacity for a rescue mission. Understandable, this flight was expensive enough. There is not enough bandwidth for an info evacuation, either. We are stuck out here.

Your dad's gonna be late. Ask mom. I'm hugging you all.

Only for mom:

We have to switch off here. The engine is not only broken. It's also radioactive. Anne says that this often happens after converter accidents. The radiation disrupts the reactor. We are running out of energy. SuSI and the other AIs are already off. Our mech shells have also been shut down. Only the HICs (our Human Infomorph Cores) are still running. We are already in VR-habitat.

We are now going into hibernation. Only the proximity sensor remains active. We will not notice anything. Time will fly by. For us. I'm sorry.

I kiss you.

--- End private message ---

--- Ship log, 37 years after the accident ---

Gahara Sthaan IX, 999 AU from Sol, 2427:

...T15:33:21,042 Passive Radar: Signal: Source: Distance 1.3e7 km.

...T15:33:22.314 Controller: Send identification via: ComLaser.

...T15:33:22.316 Controller: Activate HIC: Captain: Rashid Agarwal.

...T15:34:59.271 ComLaser: Message received: "We are coming to get you".

--- End ship log excerpt ---