Le chapitre 52
Desai continued walking with Aditya along the sintered strip that led to their shelter, the Haven. He realized that he could sum up the whole of Aditya’s being in one word; ‘jolly’. It wasn’t that Aditya made jokes all the time or was a commensurate comedian. Rather he simply exhumed a happy sense that permeated everything around him whether alive or inanimate. Desai easily imagined the rocks smiling as Aditya walked by. The very thought of this made Desai smile all the more.
“Surely Aditya could only be a good omen of things to come” he thought.
“This track is the easiest route between the Hab and the Haven” Desai went on. “It’s our evacuation route when we have to seek protection from potential solar flares. We really don’t want to be on this path when the flares strike as the radiation could become dangerous if not lethal. So, we rely upon the prediction algorithms for any excursions. And we respond very, very quickly.”
“It would be a veritable, invisible storm of radioactive particles descending across the landscape” responded Aditya “though perhaps not with the same rejuvenating spirit of a summer shower. Do we trust these prediction algorithms as we trust the weather forecasters predicting the Loo back home?” he queried with a subtle rise of his eyebrows and a deep knowing smile on his face.
“I’ve never made a bet about the weather” replied Desai “But here I never question warnings about solar flares. The consequences of being immersed in a flare are just too great. It’s not as if after it ends we simply take our wet spacesuits to the cleaners and have them freshly pressed and starched.” he laughed. “No, here at best we’d end up with a rare form of cancer or at worst roasted like a chicken dinner in a microwave oven.” he concluded in a voice that was half serious and half jesting.
As Desai continued his light reportage on the surroundings and the safety measures that were already in place he let part of his mind drift and he began pondering the latest activity from their northern neighbours. Recently their tracking satellite had been recording motion. They imaged a small rover travelling around the locale of the base. It looked to have a body of about 1metre by 2metre in size with six wheels extending out, much like the Mars rovers of many years before. Interestingly the rover could and did move small rocks and boulders either with a blade on its front or via calipers attached to an arm on its back. Given its jittery motion, he and the other colonists had deduced that it was being continuously controlled from somewhere back on Earth. As they couldn’t detect any emissions from it they had guessed that it relayed its signal through the main base’s communications channel.
Desai had set his team on Earth to crack the encryption of that channel but they hadn’t gotten much further than identifying the timing sequence. Still, the monitoring by the colony’s satellite laid plain the results of the rover’s activities. From its work a series of paths radiated out from the central facility. They were fairly obstacle free and each led to an apparently, interesting geological site. He didn’t think that the controllers were choosing sites at which to prospect for ore. Rather, he thought the sites had particular functional purposes; a large smooth plain could be a landing and take-off zone, a cliff edge could be the entrance to an underground chamber, a dark region could be a mine to extract water-ice. It was as if the northern facility was mirroring their own activities and progression though without any human presence. He wondered at what sort of benefit they gained by using robotic vehicles rather than using humans as they did at the south pole.
One thing he knew that humans excelled at was planning for the future. He let his thoughts drift away from their protagonist on the north pole and refocused his current predilections. He worked over his plans again as a masseuse trying to smooth out very last knot of the winning Olympic decathlete. Always he sought better opportunities and fewer risks. Principally he thought of Valentina. While he sorely missed the warm, companionable presence of Valentina in the Hab he did like the results of his machinations to place her as a director on the Lunar Colony Fund’s governing board.
That had been a very good idea and would undoubtedly provide much fruit. He would use the personal relationship that he had built up with her so as to influence her decision making. First, he would push her to force any future space activities based on Earth to employ some products, any products, of their lunar colony. This would go against all his free-marketing acumen. Yet if they could require planned probes to the outer solar system to use fuel or material from the Moon then they’d have a guaranteed market upon which they could focus.
The easiest resource to transfer would be energy. Beam some of their stored solar power onto probes that transited nearby the Moon and it’d bring a worthwhile addition to their colony’s income. A more interesting potential was for any long-distance probe or vehicle to be assembled on the lunar surface, fueled from material mined on the Moon and then launched from the Moon’s surface.
To profitably do this they would need to find recoverable amounts of aluminum in addition to the water-ice that they now drilled for. He rethought more of another, rather novel idea. He envisioned them sending a focused beam of energy to an Earth orbiting satellite. The beam would serve to recharge the satellite’s batteries and thus have it remain in orbit indefinitely. This could be a real game-changer for the Earth observation business. His mind whirled these various ideas around and around and it all came back to “How much will the Terrans pay for these services?” This amount remained vague to him and he needed Valentina on Earth to push for monopolistic rights wherever possible. Thus allowing them to set the price. He liked doing this sort of planning as it increased the likelihood that they would continue as a viable colony of off-world humans. As his conversation with Aditya continued he felt his internal machinations bring a real smile onto his countenance. He liked his plans and what they should provide in the future.
“Well we’re here at the entrance to the Haven” he proudly proclaimed to Aditya. “It’s been our second most important activity after water extraction. While it’s not much it will be everything we need in case a major solar flare erupts toward us. For us it’s a refuge. In the future others may call it home” he finished with a flourish. And he set to releasing the seals of the door.