A slight vibration transmitted through the aero-gel cushion woke up me from my light sleep. I craned my neck to the left and gazed out the thick Plexiglas windows to get my bearings. Below me the continent of Africa slipped into darkness as the terminal line marched across the scorched continent. On the western side I could see the tangled mesh of lights and cities beginning to glow in the early evening. A dark purplish mass of clouds, racing ahead of a cold front swooping down from Europe, met the warm, moist sea air and slowly boiled up anvil heads into the stratosphere. A vanguard of the storm cell winked phosphorous white as I watched. An amazing reminder of the power of lighting: it could be seen in low earth orbit by the naked eye.
I looked away from the scenic panorama and stretched my neck from side to side in the restraints. The vibration, which was slight, grew stronger as the car began to slow its ascent in preparation for docking. Passenger chairs on the space elevator were not meant for comfort but safety and space economy. My torso was firmly kept in place by the three-point restraint system, my neck and head cradled on either side by gently pushing smart-supports. The cushioning was well warranted. Back in the early stages of manned space exploration a space shuttle had catastrophically dissolved during re-entry. Plasma on a stabilizing wing entered through a crack in the heat-shield, causing gyrations of the shuttle drastic enough that the astronauts were dead before whiplash before the craft split apart.
I stretched up my arm and twisted open an air-nozzle swivel-jet. The flow of air, even though pressurized and smelling slightly of ozone, felt good on my face. I looked out the window again, twisting as much as I could to see if I could spot the GEO-AMS, destination of the space elevator. No such luck.
A small chime sounded in my head.
"Attention, passengers. We will be docking at the Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Automated Manufacturing Station within the next five minutes. Please, activate your P-suits. We will be arriving at gate E-15, at 05:45 GMT. If you have any questions as to find where your room assignment is, information will be available inside the terminal to the right of the P-tunnel. TIk you for flying with us today."
My ears registered static for a split second before a click as the short range RFID signal terminated. The slight uncomfortable tingling numbness in my jaw faded quickly. That was one thing about internal sound being directed to my eardrum through my jawbone that I never quite got use to. Felt like an internal tuning fork. I thumbed my glove's panel and felt the soft squeeze all over my body as my P-suit overpressurized to compensate from any accidental decompression. The suit's power came from internal or and external sources, depending on what was available. A standard charge would last for 48 hours: heat, oxygen, and an emergency water supply from recycling from urine and sweat. More than enough for a rescue crew to come after my ass. Or enough time to slip beyond safe zone of retrieval and start re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.
Medical spindles gently decoupled the elevator car off of the nanocable, placing it by the lock. I felt the ship collide softly with the silicone gaskets, jarring me from unpleasant thoughts. Lights dimmed and then grew brighter as an external power coupling umbilical took over from the ships internal generators. The seats restraints automatically slid backwards into the seat's aerogel. Around me the two dozen or so other passengers began to do the animalistic stretching after any long period of sitting in the same spot. One person, obviously a noob to an altered gravity environment, floated up to the ceiling from my seat after a particularly vigorous stretch. He pushed off the ceiling and sat back down, sheepishly looking around him.
The P-tunnel slowly pressurized to the standard 14.696, same as Terra's. My RFID squawked.
"Standby for deboarding… pressurizing… complete. Have a nice day."
I stood up, looked out the window; Terra began to disappear slowly as the car matched the rotational speed of the GEO-AMS' Coriolis force. I did my shuffle-hop down the aisle with my fellow passengers, waiting for the P-tunnel to open.
With a pneumatic hiss and whisper of greased metal the P-tunnel's maw yawned for us to step through. The door slid closed behind the last passenger. For a moment 25 humans were suspended between the elevator car and the GEO-AMS with nothing but a thin piece of retractable reinforced silicone preventing them from dribbling away into space. The airlock light cycled from amber to white to green. The door to the GEO-AMS slid open as dramatically as the first had.
Once inside the GEO-AMS I stepped to the right to properly take in my surroundings without getting in the way of the traffic flow. I'd never been in this newer wing, which was constructed within the last five years by the CI-Pact's 2085 funding.
To my left and right the floor swooped up curving away from view into the ceiling. Except for dual manufacturing cages on either side of the GEO-AMS, the station was a gigantic sphere. Each floor was oriented so that the person standing had my head towards the center of the sphere to take advantage of the artificial gravity. The rotational speed was constantly being tweaked to account for the added mass accumulating on the station.
I walked over to the terminal, thumbing the P-suit's control to normal levels of pressure. No need for the security now that I was inside the station. Once at the terminal, I waved my thumb-sensor over a sensor and a small holographic avatar popped up from the tabletop, Eva.
"Hello, again, I. How may I help you today? May I also welcome you back to the GEO-AMS, Terra's doorway to the stars."
"Hi, Eva, thanks. Where am I staying for my trip?"
"Han, you are on level D, room 113-A. It is a suite, separate bedrooms with a central kitchen and bathroom. I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that your roommates will be engineers, too. Do you want me to send your luggage to your room or do you want to get it yourself?"
"Send it up, please. I have to go get breakfast and check into my assignment post."
"As you wish. Shall I guide you to the DFAC? "
"Yeah. TIks, Eva."
"My pleasure. Please let me know if I can assist you in any other way. I am accessible from 40 strategically placed terminals in this wing if you wish to contact me. Please touch your holocard to the e-port when ready and I'll program you a map."
I removed my holocard from my pocket: a communication device, mini-computer, hooked into the Ethernet and Internet and completely compatible with all G-5 standard devices. I glanced where Eva was pointing at and tapped the e-port on Eva's terminal with my card.
"Download complete," Eva noted with a glimmer of pride in her voice, "Enjoy your stay, Han."
"Thanks," I said, turning away and bringing my holocard up to look at the map.
A miniature holographic architectural layout of the GEO-AMS appeared, filling the length of one side of my card. A little red dot indicated where I was. I put my fingers inside the mini-display, spreading my thumb and forefinger. The display widened as I did so, zooming in on where I was. I twiddled it until I had a good view of where I wanted to go then tapped the card to send the directions to my P-suit's helmet interface. An arrow appeared on my HUD, pointing behind with a small number underneath indicating how many meters had to walk before the next length of my journey.
This was not a dinky 21st century space station that had a few dozen compartments all interconnected with one another. The GEO-AMS was one of Humanity's wonders to withstand the eons to come, with the correct allotment of funding.. A honeycomb of passages, tunnels, access venting and rooms all designed for maximum efficeny in traffic and storage. I had heard a calculation once that the amount of wiring inside if unspoiled would stretch across the Atlantic from the European Union to the North American Union twice. As adventurous as getting lost in the sub-access tunnels would be, I had no such wish to become an urban legend.
The DFAC wasn't far, thankfully. The cafeteria had room for about two hundred people, sitting space. I loaded up on coffee, yogurt and toast. Protein, carbs and caffeine: not much else that a human needs to survive. And alcohol is a carb, yes. One end of the room was a large plas-film which was a panoramic view of Terra and the stars beyond, piped in from some external camera on the GEO-AMS. The thunderstorm was still going on. I counted the lighting flashes as I finished my breakfast. Judge if you want but that comes with the territory of being obsessive compulsive, I've found. At least I don't have any really bad tics like needing to wash my hands a certain number of times. Its just patterns and frequencies of reoccurring events that gets my attention.
Recharged, I brought the trays off to the conveyer-belt which would feed them into an automated cleaning cycle. I felt ready for the day's work.