This story is in my book "The Honeycomb Comet" which is now available at Author House -- Amazon -- Barnes and Noble and other fine book sellers, search for "Roger Bourke White Jr."


During the forty-five years after the Honeycomb Comet discovery, off-Earth populations didn’t just thrive, they boomed. By 2188 there were 11 million people on Mars, 2.5 million on the Moon, and 50,000 on Mercury. Venus remained uninhabited other than two research bases floating at the 1 bar (one atmosphere) level, 60km above the surface. It would take a few more technology wonders before its hellish hot, super-pressurized surface could be conquered. The asteroid belt population grew to 50,000--where of course some old-time Belters complained of crowding.

But the most surprising colony was the one on Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, which had not been planned as a colony at all but as a scientific research station, comparable to the bases on Antarctica in the 20th century. No one expected it to ever become the third largest colony in the Solar System.

Book Two
The First Siege of Titan

Chapter One

We held our celebration dinner for the groundbreaking on the Titan City 3 complex, alias TC3, at the fanciest hotel of TC1, the Regency Ramada. Even in placid times it would have been an earth-shaking, well, Titan-shaking event. But these are not placid times so it was even more so. The celebration was a hatchet burying as well as a development triumph. I’ll explain the triumph first. It’s the easy part.

In Titan’s light gravity, the stony and metallic remains of small asteroids that’ve hit Titan in geologically recent times--the most recent about the time Earth’s last Ice Age began--haven’t yet broken through the crustal ice and sunk to the core. Close to the surface, they provide us raw materials. The three largest are structural anchors for human settlements. Where there aren’t rocky inclusions underneath it, Titan’s surface ice tends to move around slowly but steadily as part of moon-wide tectonic systems--an underground builder’s nightmare, but most of Titan Colony’s structures are built deep in the ice because it offers good protection from the elements.

With no more big inclusions available, TC3 completes the basic structure of Titan Colony. We know the population will continue to burgeon, but it will happen by enlarging this three-cities configuration.

As discoverer of the Hulk-2 fragment (I’ll say more about that later) and Titan Colony’s most successful businessman, I delivered the opening address to the gathering.

“I first came to Titan as an assistant researcher in 2143, only six months before the Honeycomb Comet was discovered and the colony started booming. In those days there was just one backwater science base on Titan with 203 people. Since it had a capacity for 500 people, the next planned expansion was 20 years away.

“Our current population estimate”--I made a point of checking the display projected by my wrist-computer--“is one million, one hundred thirty-five thousand! The couple hundred of us there then could never have envisioned this.

“We have two large cities now ... well ... large by some standards.” The audience smiled, and some of the drunker and higher laughed. One earnest young journal-blogger I knew looked up from her table at me, momentarily puzzled before she got the point. In most parts of East Asia and Latin America, a half million people is considered a mere town, and Shanghai, Earth’s largest city, holds 30 million, not counting its many suburbs. “A respectable GDP,” I continued. The smiles at that were from satisfaction; our per capita GDP ranks us number seven among the Solar System’s political entities. “And even some culture.” Despite its distance from the Inner System, Titan has proved a profitable venue for entertainers. The singer even then waiting in the wings, Lui E., was the current top curry-pop singer in the Solar System.

“All this growth has taken a lot of cooperation and a lot of work. We are particularly delighted to see so many people from Earth at this Inaugural. That may be the most exciting thing about this celebration.

“So, I say: Congratulations to all, welcome to all, and let the partying continue!”

As I sat down to let the master of ceremonies introduce the singer, whom I was too old to appreciate, I relived that time forty-five years before when I’d debarked the shuttle with ten other new people. I was freshly graduated from Utah State University, eager to begin my first “real job”. We were greeted by the chief personnel officer. She led us newcomers around from cabin to cabin, depositing us one by one and introducing us to the people we encountered in the corridors.

“Kai Tremolo--this one’s yours,” she said to me as she opened a door. But inside was a man on the bed in his underwear, watching a video.

“Whoops, excuse me, Hampton. ... Aren’t you in 401?”

“You forgot. I was promised this room when Shankar left,” Hampton said, never bothering to look away from his video. “401 is open. I cleaned my stuff out.”

“Ah, right,” said the personnel chief, calmly closing the door and leading me to 401. It immediately became my room.

In those days life on Titan was just that simple and easy. With only one scientific base for researching the moon, Saturn, and the rings, no one “lived on” Titan, making it their permanent home. We residents expected to come, do our research time, and shuttle back to Earth.

Then six months after I arrived, John “Bull” Bomorov found the inaccurately named Honeycomb Comet. Since Bomorov was a Belter, it would have been logical for a Belter base to become the center for Honeycomb research and exploitation. But Titan’s good luck was that right then Saturn was close to the Honeycomb and slowly swinging still closer, so it had better access than anywhere in the asteroid belt did. (By the time it started receding several Earth years later, everything was too established for anyone to want to change it, and anyway, the much improved drives utilizing the newly discovered technology had made travel distances much less relevant.)

Which was why Bomorov stopped at Titan on his way back, and why I got to be one of the first other people to handle the relics he’d discovered. We base scientists helped Bomorov sort out the stuff and do the preliminary classifications. That’s how intimate things were in Belter life, and Titan life, back then. With only 203 other people and nowhere to hide, he didn’t worry about stuff walking off during that first sorting. He did, however, give a gift to everyone on Titan base at that time. We each got a small piece of rock.

Then and today those Honeycomb rocks were priceless--although a couple of insensitive souls sold theirs for big money. I was one of them! I used the proceeds to buy a share in the next ship, the Admiral Byrd, that was headed for the Honeycomb. I was dead sure that’s where the money and fame were going to come from in that decade. (Seventeen years later I was able to buy my piece back. I won’t tell you what I paid ... but Ouch! The seller did well for herself, too.) I didn’t actually get on the Byrd; she went straight from the Belt to the Honeycomb. But until I could go there myself, I spent all my spare time learning what I could about the Honeycomb and searching the sky for more fragments like Bomorov found.

A month later they officially designated Titan as the secondary supply base for Honeycomb research. Yeah, secondary. Hey, we had only those couple hundred people then, and just enough infrastructure for our research! Getting even that designation meant Titan base would triple in size and personnel as soon as supply ships could get here, and capacity could be increased.

Even before those ships arrived, Titan started changing into a beehive of high profile activity. Some of us, including me, ate up every newsfeed about Bomorov and the Honeycomb relics. These days kids take the Bomorov Relics for granted, but when I first saw them they were wondrous and mysterious, although they were merely the easiest-to-find scraps! I was just a lowly researcher at a backwater science base, but I knew I was in the right place at the right time, and I vowed I was going to get my share of this Honeycomb pie. It was going to be big!

When those first supply ships came and Titan seriously started its transformation, I had Honeycomb-on-the-brain. Day and night I talked eloquently about what we’d need to be a good staging area. With only 202 people I quickly exhausted most of my audience, but the top echelon of base brass recognized I was worth listening to about base planning, and my ideas had some influence.

It killed me that none of that first wave of supply ships were going to head on to the Honeycomb, just killed me! God, I wanted to be on that rock so badly! But it wasn’t until the third wave that a ship equipped and available came to Titan, the Lewis & Clark. By then not only had six ships already landed at Honeycomb and returned, but something very much like Bomorov’s discovery except far larger had been found--by Lucas Jonas, captaining the Lucky Jonas. (It was actually named after his grandfather Elias, but the journal-bloggers immediately re-awarded the title to Lucas himself.) He was convinced it would be just the first of several fragments, so from the very first it was called Hulk-1.

One of those six ships was the Admiral Byrd. It had done as well as I hoped and I was now a very rich man. So I was able to do two totally crazy things: First, I used my fortune to buy the Lewis & Clark and rename her the Brigham Young. Second, I didn’t go to Honeycomb or Hulk-1 with it, I went to what I hoped would be Hulk-2--a body I’d spotted while I was waiting for my chance to head out. I was certifiably insane, betting something like the wealth of the state of Utah on two dice rolls, and I had to win on both.

Well, Luck was a lady. Hulk-2 turned out to be real, I was its discoverer, and that turned out to be the last Honeycomb ship fragment found in our Solar System. Yeah, I got Jonas-lucky.

Soon after that some journalogger started calling them the HX fragments, with H as in Huge, Hulk, and Honeycomb, and X standing for Mysterious and Unknown. The name caught on.