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Short Story: "Under an Icy Sky"

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"Cut their way in?" Alphon said, aghast. "That's crazy! One wrong move and thousands of tons of ice hanging over the resort could collapse!"

"Oh, right," Alex said dubiously. "And what do you know about it?"

He gave Phoebe's husband a disdainful look before continuing in earnest. "Look. Building a resort under an ice sheet, even a disneyfied one like that, was never a good idea. Sure there were natural ice caves down there originally from the uneven melt, but they're fragile. They're certainly not permanent. Check the record. I mean, think about it. Trap enough heat down there, and you'll eventually melt a hole all the way to the surface."

Alex shrugged. "So what? Wouldn't that be a good thing? After all, that would let the rest of the heat escape."

"That'd take decades." He focused again on Ferd. "Because the ice density is uneven, parts of it would melt out faster than others. Before it could ever get that far, the underside of the ice sheet would be riddled with holes, which weakens it. You can bet that constructing the resort produced a lot of heat, so does running it. That's why they spend more money to preserve the illusion of an ice sheet over that site than Dubai does to keep all of their fictitious resort islands from weathering out."

Ferd nodded, deep in thought. "Okay. So what do they do with all that heat? How do they keep the ice intact?"

"There's a web of solid state heat exchangers woven through the ice like spider silk. They did it like that so the support infrastructure wouldn't block the light, which is critical to the illusion. The resort itself is heavily insulated. They capture as much of the heat as possible, and channel it out through insulated ducts, but the rest rises to the roof of the cave and just sits there. And there's nothing obscenely rich people like to do more than flaunt their privilege. They act like there's no problem setting up space heaters and having a barbeque under an icy sky!"

Phoebe nodded unhappily. "That's one of the biggest draws. I edited one of their travel vids."

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"Speaking of which, do you remember when those exploration vids were made?"

"Um. About twenty years ago, I think. And they started building the resort a few years later. Why?"

"Well, that gives us a rough idea of how long the roof of that cave has been getting cooked -- in other words, how much is natural ice, and how much is man-made. The BIS, which owns the resort, hasn't released any structural studies, or I would have come across them in my work. So I'm going to guess that by now the roof is riddled with hollows, even with the heat exchangers. The collapse is evidence that at least that portion of the ice's structure traversed the critical state--." He caught himself, and added, "like an avalanche. That relieved the stress in some places, but also increased it in others. There's no way to know how stable it is, but suddenly changing the stress patterns again by cutting through in the wrong place could start another avalanche right on top of the resort." He shuddered. "It's like some demented collapse puzzle with people inside."

Ferd nodded. "They know. That's why the banking organization in Basel just did the unthinkable: they've asked the hacker collective for help."

Alex looked from one to the other. "You know what? I don't want any part of this." He reached towards his wife. "Phoebe, you coming?"

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She blinked nervously, and looked at Ferd. "You've been closer to her than I have lately. What would mom want me to do?"

"What do you think? I can't imagine she'd pass up the chance to help save all those people."

Alphon's jaw dropped. "But they're the Basel bankers," he said. "One of their drones killed her. She said they've purposely encouraged governments and industry to ignore climate change, even to help it along, just so they can profit from it. Why would she want to save them?"

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)
 

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