...A place of amazing technology used in a most simple and elegant manner
...a land, or even world, where the vastness of space binds the individual tubes together, yet keeps them worlds apart
...a group of interstellar vagabonds, scientists, adventurers, theives, murderers and priests who are united in a common goal - to find a home.

This is the year 2252, when the greedy fingernails of Corporate Earth continue to scrape across the blackboard of a scorched world in a most annoying, self-serving and aggregious manner. The once-deep schism between the haves and the have-nots has been sanded smooth by those fingernails, and hardly seems important to anyone now. It has been replaced by the struggle between the 'have-everythings' and the 'have-nothings'.

In 2252, you either work for a conglomerate that controls Earth's government; or work outside the shimmering trillion-dollar, mile-high skyscrapers, outside the chain link fences, on a subsistence farm off of what land you can decontaminate. You either live on one floor of a building, work on another, play on a third, vacation on a fourth and die in the basement on a fifth, never touching dirt; or live in a simple hut, taking care not to eat or drink anything that looks or smells suspicious. Forget voting; the corporations own the candidates and the appendix that was that right has long since mutated out of the body.
This is Tubeland

The corporate minds devised a brilliant plan a century ago that seemed to fit their decadent lifestyle and ideology to a tee. Profits were used to fund aggressive programs of robotic asteroid mining and smelting bases on Mars; iron...yes, simple iron... was loosened from its eon-old crypts and formed into unbelievably huge vessels that could carry millions of Earth's more combative and unhappy residents to a place they might consider more habitable and more user-friendly - namely, anywhere but Earth.

To employees and middle management of the mega-corporations, it seemed to be a silly waste of time. But for the decision-makers, it made all the sense in the world. The troublesome would be gone; their farmland could be utilized for replicator facilities and future expansion; they would be exploring without expensive robots or drones; the end result would be finding another world into which they could expand.

The reports would return from the explorers and the corporations would then build vessels of their own. At least, that was the plan...

The Tubes

The concept of the settlement vehicles was first produced by a man named Bishop in 1997, wherein a wide, short ring was theorized to hold as much as a million square miles of living area. The ring was fifty miles in diameter and thirty miles long and would have 'atmosphere walls' two hundred miles high at each end (actually a disc with a hole in it) to give the atmosphere weight due to the apparent force of gravity caused by the rotational spin. But atmospheres don't act that way, and the end walls were soon replaced in theory by force fields.

The ring was to be made of some type of exotic material such as carbon nanotubes, but it was determined that iron could be smelted from Mars and the asteroid belt much quicker, more easily and with less of a drain on resources. The iron would be much stronger in some ways, being able to transfer rotational stress and deflect (and damage plastically, rather than catastophically) to impacts.

It was determined that soils for the inner ring could be taken from Mars and mixed with the proper chemicals to create sustainable growth media. The outer surface of the tube was to be coated with layers of solar cell substrate, making the entire surface a collector. Even though solar cell efficiency had barely reached 50% at the time of construction, the resulting power collected, from even as far away as Earth's orbit, was immense.

Housing was made from iron, and was constructed soon after the ring was fashioned. Glass from melted rock byproducts of the smelting was used for panels for the houses, as well as for 'concrete' and rocks used in road and foundation construction. Roofing consisted of steel beams and glass panels, over which was added several feet of planting media - every house and building was 'green', utilizing every square foot of area for food production.

Some tubes were constructed smaller in diameter and longer than the housing rings, and were designed for specialty purposes, such as scientific use, maintenance and storage. Small shuttles to be used for 'away' missions, should the elusive suitable planet be found.

Tubeland Housing Ring

As even Mars has some gravity, construction began amongst the asteroid belt between the red planet and Jupiter. Several fusion reactor stations were set up on Mars, utilizing the remendous heat from the reaction to fuel huge smelters, and rollers used the cold of space to solidify the molten steel as it was forced out of the ladles. Many asteroids were found to be very pure in iron, so impurities were not of a large concern. The fifty-foot wide casters gave the iron its curvature, and the tubes were 'extruded' in a spiral fashion around the circumfrence, with robot welders powered by sunbeams attaching the rings by their edges, in a thousand-ring candy-cane fashion.

Once a tube was completed, individual components manufactured on Mars were sent up, along with soil. A refinery on the red planet was utilized to detect and purify rare-earth minerals into the solar-cell substrate, which was sent to the site, melted and applied to the newly-welded surface.

Once a prototype was constucted, the machinery and robotic labor was duplicated, and within fifty years, ten housing ships, one smaller maintenance tube, one scientific station, one collector tube and a storage tube awaited their first inhabitants.

Propulsion and Energy

In 2096, the elusive fusion energy motor was finally devised. A star within a box, the reactor used the most abundant fuel in the universe, hydrogen. The fusion of two hydrogen atoms produced more heat and energy than any other reaction known. Several of the tubes were built to gather stray ions in space, which were cooled and saved for the fuel. It took fifty years beyond that to find the perfect 'battery' to store the immense energy of the reaction, as well as the excess energy created by the solar cell coating of the tubes - that of the reverse fusion process, which separated the helium into hydrogen once again. These electrical storage units were 'buried in the dirt' below housing structures in the layer of soil that varied between three and four hundred thick.

Each of the tubes was equipped with these huge fusion drives, storing the sun's energy and utilizing the plasmatized ions to propel their mass. After several months of acceleration, the tubes would be able to approach the speed of light.

However, in the design stage of the massive ships, it was theorized that a spinning iron ring of such a volume, created in a spiral fashion, travelling at speeds even half of light speed would create unexpected ancillary effects. The tubes became coils, creating their own magnetosphere as well as a phenomenon known as the MacLeish Effect due to their spiral construction. The tubes would enable those enveloped by their field to be protected against acceleration and the effects of time 'stretch'. One day in a tube at the speed of light would equate to a 25 hour day on Earth, rather than the hundred or so years predicted by Einstein. And a new set of universal Physics laws ensued - that of the MacLeish Law, wherein the travelling coils would bend space and allow super light speed. This was important, as the galaxy just got a lot smaller.

It was theorized that the travel time to our nearest neighbor Alpha Centauri, for instance, would take about two years, instead of four years at light speed.

Life in a Tube

As can be imagined, life in such a tube was a full-time commitment and eerily different from that of the Earth which the explorers were used to. The tubes rotated upon their long axis fast enough to give an apparent gravity to the people and to the buildings. But if you jumped into the air, the effect of the rotation of the tube would be gone, so a game of basketball would only last a few minutes.

The tubes rotated around their circumfrence as well, when near enough to a star to recieve light. In effect, they 'tumbled' as they rotated, giving light to the inhabitants through the hole in the form of a sunrise and sunset at each end of a 'day'. The tumbling effect could be changed and even shut off when necessary. When far from a star, which would be most of the time, starlight would be the most light one could expect, so artificial lighting would be used.

The cold of space was defeated by using the heat that was a byproduct of the fusion process to maintain an even temperature of the soil layer that surrounded the living space. Although not the perfect insulating material, the boundless fusion engines produced sufficient energy to maintain living temperatures.

As can be imagined, such vehicles would be subject to the wilds of the universe. Traveling through nebulae or asteriod clusters was hazardous, as even several inches of hard metal can be dented or even breached by intergalactic particles moving many miles per second. Small particles would be deflected by the MacLeish Effect, and the ships could be turned slightly to minimize collisions. But on occasions, the maintenance crews would be relied upon to patch the ships. Using electricity from the fusion reactors, the shuttle teams would 'crawl' along using magnetic dockers and operate on the tubes, replacing soil that may have been breached and repressurizing with liquid air from the storage tube.
Housing and Civil Layout of a Typical Tube

Sewage was collected and broken down in recycle units to their basic constituents, sanitized, dried and transported to fertilizer dispensing sprays. Water was pumped into towers for pressure and fire suppression, as well as drinking water.

The primary function of the inhabitants, like it or not, became farming. As every square foot of area that could possibly be used was covered in soil and planted, many hands were needed to till the ground and harvest the crops. For fifty years before the project's inception, biologists developed strains of plants that would produce the proper blend of nutrients with limited and artificial light under lower gravity and with quick germination and harvest speeds. On the storage tube, many other seeds were kept in frozen condition for farming on that distant planet hoped for by everyone.

As the various tubes were created by different corporate entities around the world, each one retained a sense of its own national, ethnic, religious and racial identity. Thought was given to creating a truly homogenous human race, but the corporate entities had their own ideas and intentions. Besides, they could scarcely be expected to open the very expensive doors of the project to neighbors with whom they had fought centuries ago.