Xu continued staring at the image on the screen. Their hill top telescope, designed to look at far-away stars and planets, was instead imaging the Earth’s surface while it slide slowly past. Now, the image showed an island. And a massive grey smear that was spreading from the island. As if a great, dirty tear was sliding down the cheek of a cherubic child. But it wasn’t a tear. It was the effects from the volcano. The volcano on the island. The volcano that had erupted overnight in a cataclysmic eruption. An eruption exceeding that of Krakatoa in 1883. An eruption that was causing a great deal of concern to the global authorities. An eruption that was as magnificent to watch from the Moon as it was terrifying to comprehend.
Behind Xu, Desai saw the image and let out a soft low whistle of awe and concern. “How big is that thing?” he asked.
Xu didn’t take her eyes away. “It’s about 500km long,” she answered, “and growing.”
“Wow,” replied Desai, “that must have been some explosion.”
“Actually, it’s still exploding,” responded Xu “and it may not be stopping any time soon. The volcano continues to spew lava. Still interacting with the ocean. Still growing and shrinking as if there’s a massive series of lava channels linked to the surface. Each taking turns to erupt. Go quiet. Be dormant for a brief moment. Then, erupt again.
This is a live shot from our telescope. If you stare long enough you’ll see a prick of light at the apex of the cloud. It’s a tiny flash to us. But it’s a violent, massive release of energy to anyone unfortunate enough to be within viewing distance on the Earth’s surface. Here on the Moon, we happen to have the best vantage point of anybody.”
“What do the volcanologists have to say about that thing?”
“They’re still coming to a consensus. No one expected to see that volcano erupt in their lifetime. Given what they’ve seen so far, the initial estimates are that it’s as least as large as the Krakatoa event.”
“Wow again. That old one went global. It caused one of coldest and hungriest years on record. Could this one do the same?”
“That’s one of the fears. If enough ash gets high enough then the Earth’s climate will experience one heck of a change.”
Xu turned away from the screen and squarely faced Desai.
“Do you know what this means for you and I?” she asked.
“I hope you’re right. But it may mean that the Earth will experience a few years of extreme food shortage. And if they`re hungry down there then you can be sure that they won’t be sending much in the way of food up to us. We may end up being just as hungry as they are. Or worse, we may be forced to return to Earth if no resupply vessels are launched.”
“Return to a planet that’s self-destructing? And a planet that’s covered with billions of underfed humans? I don’t think so. I’d rather stay right here. On this boring, desolate chunk of rock called the Moon. At least this chunk of rock doesn’t keep rebuilding its surface in some sort of dervish dance of tectonic plates.”
Xu softened her stance a bit. She had to lead by example and this was going to be a very significant example.
“When the time comes, we’ll make a decision. Together. Let’s just hope that we make the best decision for our species as well as for ourselves.”
Desai was half listening to Xu. The other half of Desai was thinking feverishly about the possible opportunities and risks that this posed to his plan to manage the Earth’s food supply. If his genetic strains were cold-hardy then he could do alright. Better than alright actually. However, if his plants were heat seekers, and he knew that some were such as the recently developed varietals for South Africa, then he might be having a bigger challenge.
He walked away from the wall-screen that Xu was staring at and he started parsing his varieties in his head. As he wisely had planned, his copyrighted seeds covered most of the common agricultural conditions on Earth. He wasn’t worried about having appropriate strains. What he was worrying about though was whether he could and should begin mass producing the cold-hardened ones. He sat down at a terminal and started contacting his team back on Earth.