When an international crew of seven survivors find themselves stranded on the world's first space elevator, they are forced to retreat to Shenzhen Station after a nuclear war makes Earth uninhabitable..

Despite their initial fears and apprehensions, they soon realize that they must put their political and personal differences aside if they hope to have any chance of making it to the self sustaining Mars One colony. With the clock ticking down and resources running low, they must race against time to modify Shenzhen Station for the next to impossible attempt.

As tensions rise and obstacles mount, the crew is forced to confront their deepest fears, betrayal and personal demons, to work together in ways they never thought possible. Sacrifices will have to be made. With stunning visuals and heart-pumping action, “Shenzhen Station” is a gripping tale of survival, perseverance, and the power of teamwork in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Science aside, Shenzhen Station is a deeply human tale of trust and betrayal, love and hate, sacrifice, loss and ultimately hope for a brighter future.

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Excerpt from Shenzhen Station© Copyright 2023 Rick Cramer


At the height of the global fiat currency collapse, the Chinese shocked the world by abandoning its fledgling central bank crypto currency project and reverting to a gold standard. China quickly became the world's reigning economic superpower. Other world powers scrambled to convert, but China had been quietly accumulating hard gold for decades. Their head start was insurmountable. Conspiracy theorists and retired Senator Ron Paul had their dreams, or rather nightmares, come true when the US gold reserves at Fort Knox were audited and found to be non-existent. But the U.S. was still better off than most countries. Riots and police actions erupted around the world as other governments and countries collapsed overnight.

Better than gold for China was their intentional over supply of cheap lithium-ion batteries for the ever-growing EV car market. Cheaper EVs meant vanishing demand and sinking prices for oil. The economies of the New Soviet Federation (NSF), created post-Ukraine and OPEC were devastated. As a last-ditch effort, Putin reasserted the NSF ownership claim of the resource-rich Kuril islands, traditionally claimed by Japan. The naval standoff was ongoing.

When China launched the Dz-Yu mission, it was announced as a Geo-stationary satellite mission. What wasn't announced was the 110 thousand kilometer long, virtually indestructible carbon nanotube ribbon that unspooled from said satellite. The earth-bound end of the ribbon locked on to what had previously been believed to be a massive, cobbled-together oil drilling platform in the south China sea. A counterweight in the launch vehicle and the centrifugal force of the earth kept the ribbon vertical and stretched tight. Electrically-powered crawlers moved up and down the ribbon, transporting construction material into space.

Within a year, construction was completed on Shenzhen Station, a massive six-story, industrial strength octagon. Shenzhen itself was the way point between Earth and the interplanetary launch point at the end of the ribbon. A second ribbon had been deployed that allowed for simultaneous ascent/descent and doubled the mission capacity of the station. The speed gained by being flung off the end of the ribbon cut transit time to the moon to a few hours and the trip to Mars to less than three months. It also meant there was no weight penalty caused by having to carry massive amounts of liquid fuel. Payload to orbit prices tumbled from the Space-X price of 3 grand per kilo to $200-400. Musk and Bezos, not to mention NASA, realized their rockets-to-Mars missions had become obsolete overnight. An unexpected benefit from the construction of the space elevator was a new, never before seen cooperation among nations. Money always trumps politics, at least for a little while.

Two years later a space elevator had been completed on the Moon. Lunar colonies dependent on resupply from Earth had been established by China, the U.S., Japan, Australia, and the NSF. Two years after that, a space elevator serviced the long dreamed of self-sustaining Martian colony. Mars One initially housed 250 permanent residents at the base of the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons. Mars Two was scheduled for completion in less than a year. It never happened.

A hundred meters above Shenzhen, the US Space Ship Intrepid slowed for docking on the descending ribbon. The ascent ribbon on the opposite side of the station was vacant for the moment. A towering central octagonal cylinder formed the industrial strength, central superstructure of Shenzhen. More than anything, Shenzhen resembled a giant space going, digital dumbbell. Older portions of the structure were dull steel gray. Functional modules of every size and shape hung in seemingly haphazard fashion added an often not so obvious function to form. The newer modules gleamed silver or bright white. To the untrained eye, Shenzhen was more of a hodgepodge than a technical marvel. Lange noted another half dozen new modules hanging from the sunlit side. Artificial lights bled through porthole and view ports dark side. The interior of Shenzhen was simple and practical. A.I had designed it so humans could function with maximum efficiency. No space was wasted. Movement from apex to base was facilitated via a central tube elevator system. Except for arriving and departing crew and passengers, the system was mostly unnecessary. All crew functions and housing, recreation, med facilities and galley were contained on two main floors. Back out in space, the flat upper deck of Shenzhen bustled with activity. The JAXA ship Hokkaido moved along a rail track to the ascending ribbon. The pilot of the Intrepid, Colonel Linda Lange, US Space Force, took it all in. Pride came before a fall or so they said, but Lange was proud of what she and her team had accomplished. A successful interplanetary trip to Mars. Construction of a space elevator there. Return using minimal fuel. This was the first mission in a new era of interplanetary space travel. The crew had become family which wasn't surprising. Their time on Mars passed quickly as it does when your work isn't really work. Relationships with the Martians was strictly business. The crew kept to themselves. In all likelihood, none of them would ever see each other again once they returned to Earth. Lange grew to relish the calm, quiet monotony of interplanetary space on the return. She felt it in her bones. Coming home would bring its own set of hardships that had nothing to do with politics. She caught her co-pilot, Major John Zhu, smiling at her and smiled back.

Then there was John. What to do about that? Lange's thoughts were interrupted by a sudden power surge. Control panels flickered and went blank before popping back to life. Lange glanced over at Zhu.

“At least we're on the ribbon,” she said.

“Gremlins,” Zhu shrugged. Lange hit the com link.

“Shenzhen, Intrepid, we've just had a major power flux.” A smooth, controlled, Chinese- accented voice came back over the com link.

“Copy Intrepid, we've got an M class solar flare impacting operations. Your mileage may vary.” “Captain Feng, I'm surprised to find you still in the five thousand block,” Lange intoned.

“It's Major now, Colonel Lange. You guys have been gone a long time. Welcome back. How are my favorite Martians?” “Looking forward to being Earthlings again?”

Inside Shenzhen, Feng sat in a freely rotating chair suspended from the ceiling by a robotic arm. An A.I. augmented reality helmet/visor covered his head, allowing him to monitor multiple action areas at once. Feng watched as Intrepid slowed to a bare crawl, then stopped. He punched a luminous plasma key in front of him. A crane arm plucked the Intrepid from the ribbon and dropped it on the rail track behind a dust-covered, beat-up lunar mining ship with Russian markings.

“Docking procedure complete. Sorry Colonel, gotta keep you on board for a few more minutes.

That rust bucket in front of you is the Antaeaus. She has to clear before I can get you inside.”

Two levels down, unfiltered sunlight blasting through view ports illuminated a large, multi- ethnic crowd awaiting Lange and her crew. Workers adjusted “Welcome Home” and “Mission Accomplished” banners in Chinese and English. The crowd began to clap and cheer as the elevator stopped. The accolades stopped as quickly as they started when the doors opened. Nikolai Volkov and his ragged crew of lunar miners filed out. Volkov was an anachronism: a clearly Russian name with a clearly American accent. He looked more like a former US Marine than a Russian. Volkov took in the proceedings, saying to an officious looking American woman, “All of this for us? You shouldn't have.” Volkov's men filed out behind him and melted into the crowd while he remained behind.

“Actually, we didn't,” she replied. “You're shitting me lady, Really?” “That's Senator Giffords to you, Mr…?”

“Volkov. That's Nick to you, Senator. What's the occasion?” “Seriously? Have you been living under a rock?”

“We don't have time to watch CNN at Clavius.”

“The Intrepid just returned from Mars. Surely you saw the ship top side.” “Half that crew is Chinese, Senator.”

“As much as we might not want to admit it, we wouldn't be on the Moon in such numbers, or Mars at all, if it weren't for the Chinese.”

“If congress would ever pull their heads out of their asses you could have a space elevator built with the Russians by now.”

Behind Volkov, the elevator doors opened again. Giffords and the rest of the crowd pressed forward, clapping and cheering as Lange and her crew exited. Giffords extended a hand to Lange and Major Zhu.

“Colonel Lange, Major Zhu, congratulations on a fantastic accomplishment. We hope this instance of cooperation…”

Minister Yao of the Chinese Communist Party pushed past Giffords for a photo op with Zhu. He congratulated Zhu in Mandarin Chinese.

“Major Zhu, it is with great honor the President Tong has asked me to express his thanks for a job well done.

Congratulations.” Yao switched to English.

“The CCP would like to remind the world that this fantastic achievement would not be possible without China's benevolent assistance. He also asked me to remind the world that interference with our internal affairs would be unwise for those who wish to continue receiving such assistance. Thank you.”

The barking dogs of the Russian, Chinese and American press peppered the crew with questions.

“Colonel Lange, Geraldo Mediera, GNN, how has the current situation with Taiwan affected your mission?”

“We accomplished an incredible feat of engineering that required cooperation between many nations and many peoples. No politics required. I'd be more than happy to talk about that. Next?”

Flight Engineer Dick Miller watched all this play out with a typical West Texas sensibility. Wasn't much politics involved in running 3000 head of cattle across the Llano Estacado. Weren't many people out that way either. That meant no lights and dark skies. The kind city folk never see. Even on moonless nights, it was never so dark Miller couldn't see from gentle glow of the Milky Way.

He knew from a young age that he belonged in space; he just couldn't see how to get there. His mother had died shortly after his birth. Miller's father raised him to make up his own mind instead of cramming his own beliefs down his son's throat. He also knew there was no way he was keeping Dick down on the farm. He was way too smart for that. Dick used to sit up late into the night on the rare visits from his Uncle George, talking about the planets, stars and life. Life out there.

George was the one that put it in his head to join the Air Force as a precursor to Space Force service. Miller's father wasn't surprised when Dick enlisted in the Air Force on his eighteenth birthday and said goodbye. By the time he was twenty-one, he had completed Officer Training School, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, and accepted into flight school. The scars covering the left side of his face were the result of flying his malfunctioning, flame engulfed T-38 trainer away from a packed elementary school before ejecting. Miller's Air Force career came to an end after that, but by his choice. He couldn't be kept down on the farm though and when a G.S. position as a flight engineer in the Space Force opened up, Miller returned to the fold so to speak.

Now he was part of Lange's crew. They had just built a space elevator on another planet with the Chinese, and he had to stand here and listen to this political bullshit. Being in space for even a few days wasn't like he imagined it. The cramped quarters and lousy food he could deal with. It was the vast empty blackness of space that got to him. Thirty-four million miles of it between here and Mars. It was a different kind of emptiness. But now they were back and these small-minded bureaucrats wanted to blow up the planet. Some things never changed. He moved up to Lange's side as the press scrum dispersed.

“What's this ‘interference’ bullshit?”

“PRC has been making serious moves to reclaim Taiwan in the last couple of weeks.” “What else is new?”

“The naval blockade in the Taiwan Strait. I saw the ships on the descent.” An eavesdropping Volkov horned in on the conversation.

“The Chinese have a saying: Your friends today are your enemies tomorrow. Should've thought about that before you made a deal with them.” Miller clocked the NSF logos on Volkov's uniform.

“If it wasn't for the Chinese, you'd still be freezing your ass off in Siberia, comrade.”

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