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Their Tower to the Stars was a Spaceship! Star Tower is the enthralling hard science story of the first manned starship, how it came into being and what happens on its long journey.
Their Tower to the Stars was a Spaceship! Star Tower is the enthralling hard science story of the first manned starship, how it came into being and what happens on its long journey. John Huck, a bitter veteran of an exploitative war fought for control of the solar system, returns to the earth ghetto where he was born to discover his parents murdered by Earth's repressive government. Seeking revenge, he joins an underground revolution, but is betrayed, arrested and sentenced to die. Then he is offered an out: Join a group of other prisoner volunteers on the risky first trip to the stars and back! Successful return means a pardon. But, taken aboard a vessel so enormous many mistake it for a space station, John and the other prisoners learn they have been shanghaied onto a one-way trip. There can be no return. They will be lucky to live long enough to survive the long, long trip. This is the beginning of the story of the voyage of the ship they christened, "Star Tower." What John can not dream is that the hazards and disasters they will encounter along the way will force him to rise to become a leader and will also change both the nature and the goal of their voyage completely.
Belshazzer's harsh laughter echoed in the tiny chart room until even Jack looked up from his chores. When he finally regained his composure and wiped the tears from his eyes, he explained. "It just struck me funny 'cause my reaction was the same as yours the first time I saw the Tower of Babel. Well Lieutenant, the dimension of the cylinder section alone is two klicks long with a diameter of one hundred meters."
"C'mon Bel, why would anyone build a white elephant that big? By the way, it's just John now. Forget the lieutenant stuff. Those days are gone."
"Relax Lieu...John. You've got some more shocks coming."
Jack turned from his work and with a sly grin said, "Mister Belshazzer. I believe I know what you're going to tell him. Remember our orders. That information is not for con's ears."
"That's the second time you've put your nose where it doesn't belong." Belshazzer's face darkened from its normal bronze to a shade this side of ebony. "Look, your shift is up in a half hour. I'm relieving you early. Beat it."
Jack glowered back defiantly but looked away after a minute stare out. Finally, he shouted, "Yessir. The chart room is yours," and left.
The chief scowled at the hatch. "Someday me and Jack are going to have it out. It wouldn't surprise me if he goes straight to the captain. But that's not your worry Huck. In a way though he's right. It wouldn't be very good if your friends back in the stern learned about the Babel."
This statement stung. Suddenly a gulf of class opened up between the former friends. They were now from two different worlds, one of which had secrets that it wouldn't divulge to the other. Huck grinned sardonically. "You'd better take me back to my cell. You don't want a con to hear something he shouldn't."
"Hold it Lieu...John. Don't get your dander up." Belshazzer's tone had enough exasperation in it to make Huck pause. "I didn't mean what it sounded like. It's just that there could be trouble if the word got around. Let me tell you about the Babel. Then make up your own mind as to whether your people could be told."
Your people now, he thought but decided to let his former shipmate have his say. "All right Bel. Tell me what the story is. I won't say anything to the other cons unless you say it's okay."
"Good. after I give you the straight skinny, I'm sure you'll agree that there could be trouble if the other cons heard what I have to say.
"Now John, would you care to guess where a ship carrying a thousand people might be headed?"
Huck shook his head in bafflement. "Out of the solar system," he finally replied in an ironic manner.
"I see by your grin that you think you just made a joke. Well, it's the truth. The Babel's a starship. We're going to colonize a planet of Delta Pavonis."
"But Delta Pavonis is over nineteen light years away. How long will it take to get there in this ship? What you're saying is preposterous; at a million klicks an hour it would take over ten thousand years to get there."
"Uh, uh. This is a true starship. It's a Buzzard ram jet with a fusion reaction engine. Initially we'll carry along tanks of liquid hydrogen to accelerate to a significant percentage of light speed. Once we reach relativistic speeds, the scoop -- that cone shaped mesh that puzzled you so much -- sucks up stray hydrogen molecules from space. This gathers fuel to continue any additional acceleration, run all the ship's systems and brake us when we reach our destination. It will take us about six months to reach a cruising speed of HLT (fifty percent of light speed). At that point we turn off the thrusters and simply coast except for course corrections.
"So how long will it take us to get to Delta Pavonis?"
"Forty-five years, ship time. I told you we were going to colonize a planet of Delta Pavonis. In reality, it's our children and grandchildren who will probably do the colonizing. But, with modern medicine, most people live to a hundred and fifty nowadays. So at least we should be able to see what another star system looks like."
"No wonder they recruited condemned men and lifers. But why Bel? Colonizing a planet nineteen light years from the solar system doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Once we get there, just to send a message and receive a reply will take thirty-eight years. Besides, if the theory of relativity is correct, hundreds of years will have gone by on earth due to relativistic effects. What possible benefit would anyone in the solar system get from us?"
Belshazzer shrugged. "Who knows? Curiosity perhaps. Some people want to know what lies beyond our little corner of the universe; even if they personally won't get the information about another star system, they're satisfied in knowing their ancestors will. Or maybe just to give people hope. Someplace to go that is different, where they could make a new start. There could be a lot of reasons. None, I guess, that make a whole lot of sense from a practical standpoint. I dunno why, but they're doing it. From what I hear, this was the old dictator's, Ben-Hura's, pet project."
"Yeah, but that doesn't explain why the present government is continuing it."
"I think it's simply inertia; the bureaucrats now in power haven't the will to kill a project this size. Too many large corporations and labor unions are putting pressure on the politicians to keep it going. Killing it could trigger a solar system wide depression. But there's probably more to it than that. I've heard that several people in high positions have a lot of money sunk into it."
"I can see why you're so excited about this. The stars! It's your dream come true, isn't it?"
Bel's normally sleepy eyes shone as bright as a child's who has been told that he is going to the land of Oz. "Yessir. I may not live to see the end of this journey, but I sure hope I do."