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.

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--- 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 ---

2445 The Scum Festival Enters the Mainstream.

For 60 years the *Scum Festival* has been a regular meeting of unregistered space vehicles, of outsiders, harborless vessels, and tugboats with habitat barges. Most people living on these vehicles do not have a residence permit for any space city or station. Many are stateless. Station administrations regard them as criminals or scum. In fact, many of the vehicles are not even allowed to dock at the major stations, let alone at Mars elevator access points. Meeting in empty space is the only way for them to exchange things like spare parts, autofabs, fab resources, and readymade everyday items.

The Scum Festival began as a trade meeting of five barges with tugged habitat containers. Every 25 months during the Mars/Jupiter conjunction the vessels met to trade hardware and food and to talk without light lag. At that time, they talked primarily about existential needs and strategies of how to deal with common problems. Very early on, they also had social and cultural events in addition to business meetings.

The 13th meeting, which at that time was not yet called a "festival", was attended by the meme-slam legend Krex Kabamba. The performance was staged as an underground event, but Kabamba had invited a media team that generated a lot of attention in the inner system. They achieved an integrated ph-value of 15 (that is Percentage Hours market share), which means that the program got an average attention span of one hour from 15 percent of the target group. That was huge, enough to attract 2,000 fans with their own vehicles at the next meeting. From then on visitor numbers and show acts increased steadily. At the 18th festival, a decommissioned troop transporter was rented as the event location. Starting with the 21st Scum Festival the event took place every Mars year, about 23 Earth months.

Today the Scum Festival is a mainstream event. Hundreds of mobile units meet and link up. They are joined by visitors arriving by commercial travel. The number of visitors exceeds the number of scum vessel crews by far. The organizers rent the docks of Sdinhavn, a Norwegian space habitat, as a venue. System-wide known artists perform live and in person. There are many music concerts, media presentations, art projects and interactive competitions.

In addition to passive media: music, film, virtual and augmented reality, sensory links, meme-slams, and walkthroughs, there are multiple formats with audience participation like interactive media, avatar theater, crowd directing, and asymmetric adventures. New stars are born at every Scum Festival. But the un-canned, live mode of the event also makes hyped stars fall when their performance disappoints.

The ISCC, the Inner System Creative Competition, is regularly held at the Scum Festival. Also starting with ScumXXV, the presentation of the MFP Slink Awards (Marktorf Filmkraft Produkktion Sensory Link Award) takes place parallel to the festival. The crème of the Sol system's media stars is in attendance. So, for security reasons the MFP Slink Awards are celebrated at the Sdinhavn Congress Center.

Many news agencies report from the festival. The broadcasting rights are free. Professional and semi-professional slinkers stream around the clock. Millions take part in quasi real time and quasi live. But Slink is not Scum, as they say. A slink stream cannot replace the personal experience. That is why 38,000 visitors still gather at Sdinhavn every Mars year. Admission is limited to 38,000 and the organizers do not want the numbers to grow any further.

The event is financed by catering, merchandising, and performance rights. Visitors must pay for life support and security insurance themselves. Both are included in the accommodation costs at quality hotels. Life/sec packages are available for the other 25,000 who camp in troop carriers for two weeks.

The tickets are also free of charge. One half of the tickets are raffled off and the other half is distributed through CRAP, a leading creative workers' reputation network. People pay horrendous prices on the black market.