Monday, April 17, 2017

Story Seed - Absolute Zero: A Visit to Venus

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"Venus doesn't seem so bad," I said, pressing my face against the window. Clouds roiled below, mostly sulfur dioxide and other toxic chemicals. Here though, as we approached Aphrodite station, the hellish planet seemed for more pleasant.

The pilot spared a moment to snort derisively between communications with station control. I ignore him. The station was a dichotomy of industrial and elegant. Atop, it was a beautiful golden geodesic dome. Below, it was entirely functional: airlocks, thrusters, cargo pods, and the like. The shuttle was gliding toward one of those airlocks now, cutting through the atmosphere under computer control. I'd never ridden in an aerodynamic lighter than air shuttle before, and it felt more like being in space than being into atmosphere.

While the shuttle docked I reviewed what I knew of Aphrodite station. It was one of six, at the moment, stations that provided research and atmosphere cycling. The Venusian atmosphere was just lousy with carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide among other unpleasant but useful chemicals. The stations cracked the carbon dioxide and sold the components; elemental oxygen was a commodity for anybody who wanted to breathe, and carbon in any number of forms proved nearly as valuable as a construction material.

So here I was coming to the second most hellish place in the system (trust me, Io is worse by far) tracking down information about shipments of carbon nanotubes. To put it another way I was looking for a needle in a factory full of needles... and hay. I wondered if I was chasing nothing, or if the information I had was accurate. As useful as carbon nanotubes were, I couldn't imagine why anybody would hide shipments of them, let alone in the quantity that appeared to be being masked, but then, that's why I was here.