Desai looked around and felt a shiver of unease crawl the length of his spine. As if the brush of an insidious shadow had maneuvered across his own in a vain attempt to suffocate it out of existence. And in result, who would he be if he didn’t even have a shadow? Desai always felt this way while striding about the dust encumbered hills and valleys surrounding the Hab. Even inside the Haven, a purposefully designed enclosure of refuge, he felt a sense of caution and concern contort his thinking. Only when he was inside the Hab did he feel totally comfortable. He had contemplated this oddity often as he wanted to understand and control his emotions. Yet, no answer presented itself. He slowly let out a breath of air, tried to loosen all his muscles just a bit more and then he continued his journey to the Overlook.
Somehow he had become the champion of the border patrols; the reason for his trip to Overlook. Whenever someone had to visit an area, to demonstrate a presence, a sense of ownership, his name would come up. Around the breakfast table this morning, everyone had waxed eloquently on their upcoming work tasks. Xu was meeting the Lunar Colony Fund’s Board of Directors to confirm the expectations for infrastructure build-out. Jean was returning to the Haven to continue the installation of a new airlock. Zara was adjourning to the geochemical lab to run tests on some samples that Woof had recently returned. And Aditya had a full day planned in the horticultural sections to sample and measure plant growth. Just before Desai was going to remind them that he had an equally full day planned at the computer workstation, Xu had piped up with a precocious smile and asked that he return to the Overlook.
Inwardly he had groaned at the request. Outwardly he quickly agreed. No-one wanted to be on Xu’s bad side. Misfortune always seemed to befall a person so oriented. Thus, agreement was his automatic response. He had asked why but Xu had just responded that it was time. He wondered how she kept her sense of time.
He slowly continued his journey up the embankment. One foot shuffling forward past the other.
“In a way,” he thought, “it’s amazing how humans are so structurally adept at moving about on the Earth’s surface and equally adept at moving about on the Moon’s surface. Was it manifest destiny or some sort of commonality of physical laws?”
About 30 metres to his right, Woof was making his own path toward the Overlook. They both had the destination’s co-ordinates embedded in their path-logic. Woof’s route was set to accommodate the limits of his robotic limbs. Desai’s had his route finding set to cover as much area as possible. It constantly updated depending upon his last few steps. To Desai the whole journey was another forlorn attempt at waving the flag. Claiming this patch of the Moon as theirs.
“Honestly.” went his thinking “Who would want any of this? And how would we possibly stop anyone if they decided to land here for whatever reason?”
Then it dawned upon Desai. Last night at supper, he had made an offhand remark that the vehicles at the Moon’s north pole seemed to be traveling further south than ever before. One had even been seen sniffing along the edges of Anaxagoras crater. He had thought nothing of it. Perhaps Xu had thought otherwise. Or someone on Earth had thought of it and they had advised Xu. Desai contemplated again the value of thinking before setting his mouth into action. He thought some more about lunar conquest.
“If these robots were on a mission to dominate the Moon’s surface” wondered Desai. “they’d need to refuel, much like Opportunity does on Mars. So refueling is already occurring on worlds other than Earth. So there’s no reason why malevolent robots couldn’t be anywhere. Everywhere. Including here at the south pole. And what if they were to start getting in the way? Who would be responsible if they damaged some of the colony’s sintered pathways. Or worse, if they damaged any of their life-supporting infrastructure? It wouldn’t take much to disrupt their water extraction facilities. Those were little more than buckshee arrangements of metal poles and a few motors. A lunar Meccano set without formal definition or design.”
Desai didn’t pause his shuffling. Continually forward up-hill. Around large rocks. Carefully across shallow depressions. Always wary of pits and protuberances.
“Why did the up-hills always seemed so much longer and higher than the down-hills? Like the paradigm of bicycle riders.” he asked himself.
If he had been in the Hab instead of on this journey then he could have used some of his time at the workstation to investigate this idea of lunar domination. But if he had been in the Hab, he might never have made the connection between foreign robots and the colonists’ survival.
Desai was annoyed. He wanted to focus upon his ambition to influence the Earth’s global food supply system. He didn’t want to have to worry about invaders while here on the Moon. How could he manage his earthly affairs if he had to defend against some unfettered robotic interloper descending from the other pole. Rationalizing this concern made another spasm of unease travel along his spine.