Has everyone gone utterly insane?.
The Burnt Land
by Jim Davidson
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
[Continued from Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Parts Nine, Ten, & Eleven, part Twelve, part Thirteen, part Fourteen, part Fifteen, part Sixteen &Seventeen, Title and Art Contest, part Eighteen, part Nineteen, part Twenty, part Twenty-one, part Twenty-two, part Twenty-three, part Twenty-four, part Twenty-five, part Twenty-six]
"For most of its existence, humankind lived by
customary law. But in very recent centuries statutory law, consisting
mainly of regulation imposed by domestic or foreign rulers, has become the
norm. This happened in Somalia as it did elsewhere. In 1991, however, the
Somalis returned to their customary law. The Somali nation is the first in
modern history to do that."
— Michael van Notten, "The Law of the Somalis," 2002
Ahmed Kalinle trudged across the path to the next engine mounting. Here at 80 feet below ground, the temperature was a persistent 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Only in the last two years had Ahmed been working with Americans so he thought of the temperature as 15.5 Celsius. Although it was a very hot June day above ground here in the Guban desert, the conditions underground were much more like the mountain city of Borama on a day in December or January. So Ahmed wore a long sleeved shirt and enjoyed the situation very much.
The path went past a small mound of little pebbles, to which Ahmed added another that he had carried in his shirt pocket for this purpose. Behind the mound, mounted to the wall was a small plaque that read, in Somali, "Here lies Dahir. Deep down he’s really good."
Dahir had been a tyrant. During the days of the communist dictatorship, Dahir had run the secret police and their torture chambers. After the passing of the president of Somaliland, he had taken control and given all the good positions to his friends and relatives. Then changes came and now the Samaron clan were once again fiercely independent, heavily supplied with good equipment and supported by their American friends.
Things were almost ready for his friends to depart, and Ahmed was happy. Some would be going into space, some would be going by sea to other lands, a few would take the toll road up into Ethiopia for a new project in the highlands. Awdal was for the Somali people, especially the Samaron clan, and with their new allies they had unified the province of Western Awdal, which had long ago been "given" by the so-called Crown "Protectorate" of British Somaliland to the nation of Ethiopia.
Thinking back on those events of three years ago, Ahmed smiled. The new Ethiopian government had been delighted to sell all claims to the Somali territories improperly transferred to it in the 1950s. The Somalis had been delighted to restore their traditional territory with funds provided by their American friends in exchange for temporary concessions.
The gigantic natural gas field in the Ogaden was rapidly developed thanks to experts from Texas and Ohio who lent their knowledge and trained many Somalis at the Amoud University near Ahmed’s home town of Borama. Again, there had been an enormous expansion of the university thanks to zakat or alms given by the Americans. Many new buildings and thousands of new students were training all the time for careers in space science, aerospace engineering, fluid dynamics, oil field science and technology, and all sorts of other fields.
In exchange for many gifts of 3D printed weapons, aircraft, financial support for the universities in Borama, Lughaya, and Diredawa along with the funds to buy the provinces of Ogaden and Western Awdal, the Americans had chiefly wanted three things of the Samaron: Freedom of movement within Samaron territory during their current work; the right to build this gigantic underground complex in the otherwise unused Guban or "burnt" desert; and a 99-year lease on territory to operate a spaceport and airport built in the Guban with American technology. Training Somalis to work at, quickly come to operate and subsequently come to fully control everything at the location was part of what made the deal work.
The Marehan had received the funds needed to buy the Ogaden, of course, as it was their homeland before the perfidious British had "given" it to Ethiopia. Fitting that the former subjects of British colonies in North America should help rectify the evil perpetrated by the Crown protectorate-in-name-only of Somaliland. Working together they would soon be in a powerful negotiating position with the British. From the Marehan, various oil and gas leases had been secured, again for set time periods. The Americans didn’t want to own Somali territory, only to have the usufruct, the use of the fruits of their invested capital, and only for a period of time.
Ahmed smiled thinking about how everything had changed thanks to the vision of some good people. Looking back into his past, he knew how close things had come once before. He missed his friend Michael van Notten who had envisioned many of these possibilities. He remembered and knew a moment of sadness. Glancing at the wall to his right, Ahmed remembered seeing Michael’s gracious smile. Nodding and smiling again, Ahmed felt that Michael would have enjoyed seeing all these things come to pass without regret. Things happen in their own time.
A great many people were employed on these various projects, and there was an enormous amount of trade and commerce with the people of Ethiopia thanks to the new toll road, railroad, and airport. Ahmed chewed his mouthful of qat thoughtfully, knowing that it came from trees high in the hills of Ethiopia. Finally, he came to where his granddaughter Aamiina was working.
The last of the engines to be installed was partially dismantled in its housing. Parts were carefully arrayed over work tables. A robotic arm was poised with a micrometer and camera over a critical component. Aamiina and her husband Harold Ley were sitting side by side on office chairs looking over three screens with different views of the component.
Aamiina sighed and said, "It’s the sixth one like it from Germany. We have to replace it with one from our Canadian friends. There’s no time to explain their mistake and listen to their excuses."
Harold nodded. The shifting light cast by Ahmed’s shadow alerted Harold, who looked up and smiled at his wife’s granddad. " Ahmed! So good to see you again this morning. You are looking very fit! "
Ahmed smiled at the comment, and set his walking stick on a work bench, then sat in one of the empty office chairs. "You know that I am looking very decrepit. And you, Harold, very good to see you. When I arrived, it looked as though you were just about to agree with your wife. You know that sets a terrible precedent for all of us."
Aamiina smiled, rolled her eyes toward her husband, and stood up. She went over to the errant part, removed it from its clamps, and began wrapping it for storage. The vendor would never see it again, nor any further orders. The part would be broken into its components or salvaged for its materials, depending on future needs.
Harold had rolled his eyes right back at his wife. Now he smiled at Ahmed. "Really, you must blame your son and his wonderful wife. They raised the most intelligent engineer on the planet. How can I help but agree with someone so brilliant?"
Ahmed nodded and smiled. He was pleased with his entire family. Throughout the region a great many ties of marriage held together a widespread array of agreements, business relationships, and dynasties of interested families. The best part was the thorough appreciation for Somali culture and history. None of the mixed families would dwell for long in Somalia nor populate the land with their descendants. These two were going into orbit, others were going away to Ethiopia or America or Europe or onto those strange gigantic airships being built in Ecuador and away South in Kismayo. The diaspora of Somali peoples would continue, and Greater Somalia herself would wax strong once again.
"Harold," he said, "I have come to congratulate the two of you. The elders have judged the claim you brought against the Isaaq family who shall be nameless. All are in agreement that you were in the right, even their own judge. The judgement will compensate you both for your losses. Your insurance policy won’t need to be tapped again, and the court costs are to be borne by the defendants. They will be admonished to drive more carefully next time."
Harold stood and embraced his wife, who smiled and finished boxing up the now-spare part. Then she turned in his arms, gave him a quick kiss, and moved to one of the rolling inventory wagons adjacent to their work space. She carefully filed the part, then entered a code on the wagon’s screen and it went off to find its home aboard the space station.
Going to their work station, Aamiina summoned another inventory wagon with the replacement component from their Canadian vendor. Once it was installed, this last engine would be ready for final checks. Launch would be on time, if all went well. Again, Aamiina smiled, thinking how "if Allah wills" and "if all goes well" were such similar concepts.
A Visit Within
Two hours later, with the new part installed and all the systems checks completed, Harold and Aamiina packed their mobile work station into a series of boxes and invited Aamiina’s granddad to join them in their apartment within the finished space station. They had summoned a larger inventory wagon which had seats set into its top for riders. Aamiina quickly keyed in their destination from her seat near the front while Harold made sure her granddad was safely aboard before handing him his walking stick. As Harold sat himself down, Aamiina touched the go button on screen and they were off.
The rebel space station sat in a very large cradle that was 3,280 feet or one kilometre across. This diameter gave an outer circumference for the toroid shaped station of 10,304 feet. Every 100 feet there was an identical engine. The 103 engines would fire at launch on Thursday drawing fuel from huge cryogenic fuel tanks that occupied the lower deck of the station. Filling those tanks would begin now that the last engine had checked out.
All of the engines were identical. Over a thousand engines of the exact same design had been built and fired from test stands around the globe. Some of these were used in the simultaneous launches that had taken place late on Monday in America. Those events happened early Tuesday morning for the people at the Guban space port.
The space port featured a huge underground complex including deep underground cryogenic storage for liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen, and other materials. These were in cavities excavated from the soil down to a depth of several hundred feet, with a hundred feet of soil and concrete layers on top to insulate them from the glaring desert sunlight. That top 100 feet was layered with 5 feet of pre-stressed reinforced concrete atop 15 feet of soil, atop another 5 feet of concrete, atop another 15 feet of soil, and so forth down to the bottom layer of concrete which had two inches of hardened steel between it and the bottom layer of soil. Below that were the storage cylinders, cooling equipment, power systems - incuding a thorium nuclear reactor - and at the very lowest level, the command and control systems for the entire spaceport. This layered approach made things more difficult for bunker buster penetrator weapons, of course.
The kilometre circle of the spacecraft cradle was half a mile away from the cryogenic storage complex, power, and control centre. Each of the engines sat above an exhaust pit that connected to exits carefully designed to move all the rocket exhaust gasses away from the launch complex, mostly away toward the sea coast to the north. The inboard cryogenic fuel tanks formed a torus sixty feet tall, atop which sat a separate torus fifteen feet high for the crew. Again there was a layer of steel, a layer of concrete, and then several feet of desert soil above everything. Now that fuelling operations had commenced, bulldozers and graders were moving all that soil out of the way. Soon the roof segments would be hauled away, everything would be open to the sky and the space station would launch to orbit.
Their conveyance found its way down the path under the rocket engines, next to their nozzles, all the way to one of the four access elevators. These were a part of the launch cradle and would not be coming with the space station when it launched. As they rolled along on the outer rim of the cradle, they could see various teams of workers and robotic systems making final adjustments, connecting the propellant hoses to the various storage elements within the propellant torus, and adding whatever finishing touches were needed. Soon everything would be in readiness.
Harold and Aamiina grinned at each other on seeing these preparations. They were so happy together. Ahmed smiled and sighed in contentment. As the elevator lifted them to the crew torus level, they took advantage of the somewhat greater privacy and hugged one another gently. Soon they were all together at the bulkhead door leading to Harold and Aamiina’s living quarters.
Aamiina once again instructed the cargo handler to return the tables and other equipment to a storage compartment, while Harold with Ahmed’s help took their computer systems into their quarters. About half an hour later they were sitting on pillows around a low table eating a simple meal.
Ahmed glanced around and said, "This room is very small, but seems to have everything you need. But is it going to work just as well without gravity holding things down?"
Aamiina smiled and stood up. She walked over to a wall hanging and pulled it aside. She said, "Here is the floor of this compartment when we’re in orbit. We won’t be in zero gravity to speak of, as we spin stabilise at liftoff. In orbit we’ll keep that spin for simulated gravity. All the things around this room will be stowed and locked down for launch. We’ll be in our launch berths. Once we’re in orbit we’ll set things up here with the new orientation of floors and ceiling. Here is our great treasure."
With those words, she opened a porthole cover that concealed a two-foot by two-foot window. Of course, it presently showed a view of the outer wall of the launch cradle cavity and down toward the circumferential path. Later it would be an outside view. Aamiina smiled at her granddad and then closed the cover.
"Not everyone gets an outside view," she continued, "but we were able to make a few trades that went really well for all involved, so one of our investors gave us this room. Which is not to say that people with views of the inside of the torus are suffering any misfortune."
Ahmed stood up and nodded. "It is like being above the clouds in some heavenly realm. I am looking forward to seeing your home movies."
Harold smiled and looked at his wife who smiled back. Then Aamiina came over and hugged her granddad.
"Well," Ahmed said, "I must be getting home. You two have busy times ahead of you. My blessings to you both and to your home wherever it takes you. In’sh Allah, may you fare well."
Harold stood and shook hands with his wife’s granddad, then he and Aamiina showed Ahmed to the door of their home. He waved goodbye and made his way down the corridor toward the elevator access way. He would soon be home.
[End part twenty-seven, continues in part twenty-eight]
Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, actor, and director. He is the cfo of KanehCN3.com and the vision director of HoustonSpaceSociety.net You can find him on Twitter.com/planetaryjim as well as Pocket.app and Flote.app also as planetaryjim. He appreciates any support you can provide as times are very difficult. See the Paypal link on this page, or Flote.app for crypto options. Or email your humble author to offer other choices. Visit IglooLuau.com for more information.
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