Le chapitre 39
Valentina slammed the drawer shut with enough vigour that the cups on top rattled together. She was having a bad day and didn’t care if anyone knew or not. She could feel the throbbing of pain in her leg from her not-quite-healed injury. Yesterday she had jammed a finger into the wall while arguing with Desai. Now, Xu was on her case about leaving tools and cutlery lying around. She had no desire to be mothered. Nor did she want to keep it all inside.
She turned to squarely face Desai who was racing on the treadmill.
“Not only are you wrong but you’re making all our lives more difficult” she nearly yelled. Desai was wanting to speed the development of their Hab to increase their living space before new colonists arrived. This involved skipping a few safety checks and rearranging the delivery schedule. The extra work and risk had them very leery of this change. She in particular couldn’t see the value.
“You’re just scared of progress” he retorted. “We’re supposed to be advancing the capabilities of the human race to journey among the stars and you can’t even see beyond next week!” He wasn’t happy. His vision of their future was clashing with the others’. He wanted to fully develop the Hab and above ground facilities. They wanted to move into their shelter first; they’d named it the Haven. By doing so they wouldn’t have to worry about excessive radiation. But the Haven wouldn’t easily permit visitors from Earth. Nor would it have the same computer network accessibility that he now enjoyed in the Hab. He didn’t want to tunnel like a groundhog. He wanted to live up-top and escape to the Haven only when absolutely necessary. He kept up his pace on the treadmill and strained harder as the elevation increased for an up-hill climb.
“Well you’re just being selfish and mean-spirited” she answered. She looked around for something to throw even though she knew that she never would. Their Hab was too precious to allow for any spontaneous emotional outburst that might lead to a hull breach. Instead, she growled in a low key menacing way that clearly showed her mood.
Desai didn’t even bother turning his head. He waved his hand dismissively at her and maintained his focus on the training screen directly in front of him. This was his error as Valentina calmly walked over and pulled the treadmill’s power supply. The treads stopped moving. Desai kept running. Just for a moment. He went face first into the screen with his body crashing into the guard rails. He quickly came to realize that the different gravity made absolutely no difference to forces in the horizontal plane. He hurt. He thought he saw a crack on the screen. He felt his stomach respond very unhappily to being wrapped around the rail. He knew he had made a grave mistake with Valentina and he needed to remedy the situation; pronto!
Valentina stood quite still by the power supply. Not moving or saying anything. She held him with a fixed stare. The room’s lighting continued its slow cycle toward the artificial mauves of twilight. Slowly she spoke in words that could slice the air. “I am not permitting this deviation from our construction path. It is an augmentation of the risk to too high a level. I do not accept it.” She stood quite motionless. But quite powerful.
Desai swallowed hard. He realized that negotiations were over as just one of them voting against his proposition would doom it to failure. He carefully lifted himself upward being careful not to aggravate any possible injury and stood on the motionless tread mill. He had first thought of giving her a heartfelt apology then opted instead for a strong offence. “That was childish and could have really caused injury” he said in his best legal voice. “I don’t think your actions are keeping with our mutual residency agreement. I am going to be taking this up at council.”
He turned and walked away to nurse his sores.
Valentina remained still for just a little bit longer. He was right. Her actions were childish and could have caused real injury. Another injury was something that they couldn’t afford and might even return all of them to Earth. She didn’t want that. She also didn’t want to be railroaded into a decision that she was uncomfortable with. She also wished she could cheer up just a little bit more over what she’s been feeling for the last few days. She missed the freedoms on Earth; the perfumed air, the rambling trails in the woods, the ability to choose to do whatever she desired. She walked to the other end of the Hab furthest from Desai and sat in front of a terminal to contact Max.
Xu came in through the airlock some time later and found them in the same locations. She instantly knew something was amiss. The lighting was doing a great job of emulating dusk, the sounds of a seaside wafted through the speakers. And her two colleagues were quiet. And as far apart from each other as they could achieve. She debated with herself on waiting for the return of Jean then decided that a solution was needed immediately. She put on her warmest mother-dear voice and asked in the most innocent of voices “What’s for dinner?”
Valentina turned and acknowledged her presence with a slight nod of her head then turned back to stare into the monitor at a face that reminded Xu of Max, their first guest. She got no response from Desai.
“Lights full on” she commanded and the Hab’s light went to bright daytime mode. “You need to tell me what’s going on. Now!” she directed to each of them. “Desai first” she set.
Desai was still blinking from the light change. He knew that putting full lights on at this time would instantly send an alarm to their Earth ground station and they would be moving to action stations. He was on his guard. This was no longer time for joking as the Earth directors could bring them home in an instant. “Mea culpa” he admitted. There was no point in trying to play with the facts. “I want to use the Hab as my main base of operations. I want to invest more here and sooner. Doing so could drive up our revenue and accelerate our construction rate.” He was talking in full salesman mode. “I am looking to each of you to support me in this endeavour.” He shifted tack. “I’ve come to realize that Valentina does not see this as the best course of action for us. I accept that. However, I will continue to try to prove the optimal nature of my plan.” His ribs were a bit sore and he was finding it difficult to keep going but on he went. “While I realize that making any changes in the schedule comes with a huge oversight burden in this case I believe it’s warranted. We can make a better place for us to live, a better place for guests to come to and a better place for investors to support. And..” he wasn’t allowed to finish.
Valentina had enough. “Your narcissism seems to wonderfully counterpoise with you ineptness. You have an idea. That doesn’t mean it’s good. Or that everyone must automatically support it. A lot of people including myself have built the existing schedule. It is already optimal. You playing with dates and deliverables won’t get it here any sooner or any safer. Why don’t you just go run off into the sunset?!” she ended with her own derogatory wave towards Desai and the treadmill.
Xu noticed the treadmill and remarked to herself that something didn’t look quite right but she left it for the moment. She was about to delve deeper when a chime came in and Earth control interrupted.
“We’re online” a disembodied voice cleanly stated over the speakers. All the artificial ambient sounds had been shut off when the lights had gone full-on. “We’ve also got you on camera” it continued. “I’m Jonphar. We’ve been going over the recent data and see a few odd things. How are you doing?” he questioned.
Xu hated whenever Earth tried to involve itself into their affairs. This was not the time for intervention nor did she want their in-depth monitoring of what she took to be a trivial personnel issue. “Jonphar” she stated before anyone else could speak, “we’re doing fine. We have no need of your assistance and ask that you disengage.”
“Sorry, no can do just yet. I need to enter the over-ride protocols. This may take a little time. Why don’t you fill me in while we wait.” Jonphar was going for the standard line of stringing them along. Hoping to get some insight while he delayed the disengagement. Biometrics were showing data that indicated pretty high stress levels. He wasn’t going to leave until he was sure that everyone was OK.
At about the same time, Jean had climbed the stairs and entered into the airlock. While waiting for the dust to leave and the air to enter, he had activated the intercom and was going to chat with anyone inside. He saw the three in very still, unnatural poises as well as the sound of another voice. No one looked happy. He let his hand fall from the intercom and decided to wait the complete entrance process while remaining comfortably on his own. Hopefully his colleagues will be in a better mood when he entered.