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Orbital Cloud

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Orbital Cloud

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Author: Taiyo Fujii
Publisher: Haikasoru, 2017
Original Japanese publication, 2014
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Hard SF
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Synopsis

The global war on terror has a new front--the very edge of outer space.

In the year 2020, Kazumi Kimura, proprietor of shooting star forecast website Meteor News, notices some orbiting space debris moving suspiciously. Rumors spread online that the debris is actually an orbital weapon targeting the International Space Station. Halfway across the world, at NORAD, Staff Sergeant Darryl Freeman begins his investigation of the debris. At the same time, billionaire entrepreneur Ronnie Smark and his journalist daughter prepare to check into an orbital hotel as part of a stunt promoting private space tourism. Then Kazumi receives highly sensitive information from a source claiming to be an Iranian scientist. And so begins an unprecedented international battle against space-based terror that will soon involve the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, NORAD, and the CIA.


Excerpt

Three minutes later, SAFIR 3's second stage disappeared beneath the eastern horizon, and the brief show came to an end.

Reviewing the video, Ozzy found that the light had flashed five times in total, including a couple of flashes he hadn't noticed.

Now things were getting interesting. What was the most sensational way to report his findings? A weapon, he decided--that would be the most suitable for X-Man, who was well known as a kook. NASA and the professional astronomers would be sure to ignore his outlandish claims, and the stuffy astronomy community was starting to catch on as well. "There he goes again with his crazy theories," they'd say. Fine--let them talk. All Ozzy wanted was for people to look up at the sky. Geeple would run the story. Their geeky audience would love it.

"Nuclear weapons are old hat. Aliens and Area 51? Naw! But a killer satellite...?"

It couldn't be some obscure idea that only specialists knew about. On the other hand, it didn't have to be original either. Most of the failed start-ups from Ozzy's time at the converted warehouse had been trying to come up with something new and original, but the key to Ronnie's success had been founding something that actually was original but insisting on calling it a bank, one of the least original business models people could think of. Ozzy couldn't just call it "a man-made object propelled by bursts of light," obviously. That would go over like a lead balloon. He needed a name that would astound the gods themselves...

"That's it! Rod from God!"

That B movie about a superweapon that rains giant tungsten warheads on Earth from orbit! Awful film, of course, rumored to have wasted half its budget on the lead actor. The critics hadn't thought much of it, but any self-respecting geek would remember it.

Okay, so this object was a Rod from God. What was its target? Since the rocket was Iranian, probably Israel or the United States, but a Rod from God aimed at the Earth wasn't very original. Better to twist the narrative and say it was headed for...the ISS. Now that would be out there. Best of all, the average reader would have no idea how unlikely it was.

"'Rod from God attacks ISS!' Perfect. I'll need an illustration at some point too."

Ozzy quickly sketched a cylinder with a few thrusters sticking out, then took a photograph with his cell phone and uploaded it to MegaHands, a job-matching site with a thousand-dollar reward for the best image. Freelance illustrators with Hollywood aspirations would be all over it.

He hadn't been able to take a gigapixel photo, but stills captured from the video would be enough for Geeple. He'd put the original images and the radar observation data up on his blog, the Seychelles Eye. The professional-looking data would be enough in itself to make the story seem reliable. He accumulated more data every day than he knew what to do with--might as well make some use of it, even if only as decoration.

Oh, and one more thing--a complaint to Meteor News. They'd almost made him miss his chance to photograph SAFIR 3 accelerating.

"Fuckin' shitty TLE data..."

Copyright © 2014 by Taiyo Fujii


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