Logbook #71

AS17-147-22498
AS17-147-22498

Jean looked again in the mirror. When he looked slightly down the overhead lighting cast strong shadows on his face. If he looked up, all the shadows disappeared and his face looked puffy as if something inside was trying to get out. When he looked up he also saw his nascent goatee, a sprinkling of hair about his mouth and building into a barb on his chin. By adding it he had hoped that his face would look less puffy and more Earth-like. What he hadn’t hoped to see or wanted to see were the very noticeable grey hairs. And a few white ones too. The mirror didn’t lie!

“Hey Xu” he called. “What do you think of older men?”

“That depends” she answered. “Are they short, sweet and cuddly like you? Or are they full of tough machismo and have no ability to think of others like this loser on the Net?”

Jean wasn’t certain he wanted to explore this choice but with trepidation he continued. “Well I’m trying this new look. As I’m sure you’ve noticed. But what I’ve noticed is that my facial hair isn’t all dark. Before, when I went camping for a few weeks and ‘forgot’ to shave then I’d return home with a face covered in a luxurious, black, barbed blanket. So here I am trying to look like I did on Earth and all I’m seeing is age. Do they let old guys stay on the Moon? Do you guys still like me now that I’m old?”

Xu turned around. Completely ignoring the text-war she was having with the Lunar Colony Fund director, she began “Jean, you are the most solid, complete man that I’ve ever come across. If your hair grew out with a tinge of white or even blue or whichever colour I wouldn’t respect you less. Your humour, your stalwart comradery, your warmth as a human continue to attract me to you. As it does for everyone else here in the Hab. Don’t you go worrying about silly little thing like natural aging. You just keep getting and better with it”

Jean smiled and he felt his shoulders lighten. “You are really amazing Xu. You know exactly what to say and when to say it. That makes you the best in my books.” he happily responded. “Today your optimism has won the battle.”

He paused. “But what about tomorrow? And the next day? And twenty years from now? Can we gracefully age here on the Moon? Or do we become grumpy old demented seniors waiting to become plant fertilizer? I just have this feeling that that I’m missing so much being on this old grey world called the Moon. I’m not sure I want my child to grow up without ever being touched by his dad. I don’t want to get old on a foreign rock”

Xu took a big breath in. She knew questions like this were bound to come up. During the pre-flight sociology exams they had seen them and answered them to the best of their abilities. But life was a lot different between when you were answering abstract questions and when you were living the moments.

“I’d say that age doesn’t really change the person.” she began. “As we become adults then it’s life’s experiences that shape our character. It’s how we deal with challenges, how we deal with success, how we respond to failure that defines us. The colour of our hair or the shape of our head doesn’t. This is true no matter what world you live upon. Have faith in yourself together with faith in us, your colleagues, your lovers. We truly do love each other as it’s so necessary in such a hostile place. Don’t you worry about what people on Earth are thinking about how you look. Don’t worry about mindless banter wasting bandwidth on the Net. Just, please, stay the way you are. Because we need you just that way.”

She walked over to where Jean was standing by the mirror and put her arms around him. She pulled him in as tight as she possibly could and held him. Neither said anything more. Reveling in the moment. Slightly anxious about the next. And neither wanting to consider years down the road.

 

Logbook #70

AS17-146-22425
AS17-146-22425

Le chapitre 70

“Should life have a meaning?” pondered Aditya. “Are our actions predefined, history simply like water being guided down the riverbed? Or do we have a choice? And each decision dramatically affects every object, every atom which results in ripples spreading out through the universe.”

With Aditya’s lifetime love of games and simulations he’d often consider this issue. For instance if he were destined to win the pachisi game then why bother sitting down to play? Or, if his presence was instrumental in furthering the lunar colony then should he worry about safety?

Perhaps these thoughts were caused by his present view staring straight down the hillside. A precipitous drop that showed nothing at the bottom. Nothing but perhaps the borders of Naraka.

Softly Aditya shook his head and he moved his eyes back to the horizon. Beside him was Zara. She had a smile on her face portraying both humour and concern.

“So don’t worry, we’re not going to jump in or anything.” she relayed to Aditya. She liked his cheerful, warm companionship that seemed to permeate through the spacesuit, through her and onwards. “What we have here is the smartest sphere I know. It’s a LIDAR contour plotter. We send it over the edge and aim it for the bottom. It then records a three dimensional map of the surface all the way down. Easy!” she concluded.

She knew that Aditya already knew all about the sphere. He had written many of the algorithms that had taken previous mappings and turned them into workable views on their three dimensional imager un the Hab. She was thinking that Aditya needed to return to the present from which ever realm he was so deeply involved.

“Wasn’t it one playwright who provided us the phrase ‘to be or not to be’?” invoked Aditya. “Does nobility have any effect on the game or do we simply continue on within this maelstrom of life?”

“Not sure.” replied Zara. “But we’ve only got a short time to be here so how about leaving the hard questions for a minute and help me set up the relay platform. We need to aim its transmitting antenna to the Hab and its receive antenna will extend past the edge. I don’t want to disappoint Xu if we are forced to leave this mid-way through because our suits ran out of power or air.” she cautioned.

Aditya felt his eyes relax and he turned to help Zara with constructing the platform. He knew all the risks and limitations of this exercise. He knew that while life may be predetermined he still had to make good decisions and then act on them. While his presence on the Moon may have been predetermined, it certainly hadn’t come freely. He had spent much of his life deep in the logics of mathematical theories and modeling of the real world. Moving from academia to being a practitioner on the lunar surface had pushed him to levels of concentration and consideration that he’d never known were possible.

“Sorry Aditya” he began “I had a feeling. Not really of mental wanderlust. More like an appreciation of my presence in the universe. I do find it rather curious at how most people fall into the trap of placing themselves at the centre of the universe. And then expecting the universe to unveil its grand plan to them. I just need to remind myself that I’m simply a collection of inconsequential stardust.”

“Inconsequential or not” invoked Zara “I need your collection of dust to pull that lever just a little bit further to the right. And then the universe will be all OK again.” she smiled.

Logbook #69

AS11-40-5912
AS11-40-5912

Le chapitre 69

Desai was alone with his thoughts as he traipsed around their sintered pathway. He recalled during the morning how Xu had volunteered him to again do the boundary stroll. He was as adamant as she that the colonists continue to exercise their existence on the south pole. To wave the flag as it were. But really there weren’t any potential interlopers. After all there was no one else on the Moon and no one was likely to invade. The Moon just didn’t have the resource potential as some of the embattled places on Earth had. However when he voiced his opinion Xu had quickly turned around and faced him. Then in a very determined, low voice she re-iterated her wishes in a way that no one could mistake.

“Go,” she demanded.

He acquiesced. But from this Desai wondered to himself, “Does she know?”

He thought again of his machinations, his weaving of a vicarious, steel-like net about Valentina. He singularly smiled to himself when recalling his success at getting her returned to Earth. Then smiled again with the memory of having her elected to the board of the Lunar Colony Fund. All was going as he had planned. But then he saw Valentina building up a great deal of support. And her objectives weren’t matching his. He had tried to dissuade her. But from a distance of hundreds of thousands of kilometres, he wasn’t having much success. He had tried to change things up.

As he replayed the events he stumbled on a hidden depression on the pathway. Their sintering had failed and he dutifully marked the location for later repair.
Zara’s voice piped up into his comms, probably from his accelerometers’ alarms flashing on her screen.

“How’s the scenery?” she joked, “Sounds like you found a nasty.”

“Yah. Nothing to worry about. Just a discontinuity in the pathway. I’ve marked it for maintenance,” he offered.

“Ok. Fine. If you need any help don’t hesitate and we’ll send out Woof to escort you back,” she laughed.

She knew as well as everyone else that Desai held a special contempt for Woof and that he’d never ask it for help.

“We’ll see you after lunchtime,” she finished and signed off.

Desair trudged on. There was a little less jump to his step as his mind played between his memories and his dislike of the mechanical dog. He remembered the time, not that long ago, when he had made the decision to slow up Valentina. He figured that if he could keep her moribund for a while then her support would lessen and her objectives would fade away. He had envisioned a broken leg at worst. But he hadn’t made his intentions clear enough when he directed his staff over the comms.

“Dammed those open comms!” he exclaimed internally. And he absentmindedly kicked at the dog that was nowhere in sight.

When news had arrived that Valentina had been in a car accident and had narrowly escaped with her life he had been almost physically sick. He had managed to hide his feelings from the other colonists. But just barely. Even now as he walked the pathway his eyes conjured up the image of Valentina lying in a hospital bed. And he felt ill all over again.

Nevertheless he wasn’t going to waste this opportunity now that it had happened. With both Valentina and Max temporarily out of the picture he could push his own agenda. He was calling for Moon-polar orbiting satellites with video capability. These were being argued as both a safety feature for the colonists outdoors and as a redundancy for communications. Of course Max wanted to expand the structures while Valentina wanted to increase their risk tolerance. Yet Desai still felt a general, bone-chilling unease whenever he thought of the activities at the north pole. He wanted this orbiting, Moon constellation so as to keep a much closer eye on their northerly neighbour.

He had been acting on this unease with his Earth based group of investigators. They had started to reveal a little of what was behind that northerly endeavour. The northern installation was funded by a group of industrialists and financiers. Their riches allowed them to get payloads launched with very little inspection. Yes they had a few failures as with the rover stuck on a dirt pile. But also their infrastructure had made a great impact upon the relatively smooth northern plain. Berms, pathways, shelters, solar collectors. The lot! But he still wasn’t clear on their purpose. Their design. Their goal. And he didn’t want to learn by surprise. He didn’t like surprises.

Logbook #68

AS11-40-5890
AS11-40-5890

Le chapitre 68

Valentina looked around. Slowly scanning from side to side. Then from bottom to top. The room looked right and wrong at the same time. She wondered, “When had all this furniture be transferred up to the Moon’s surface?” She raised her hand in front of her eyes and she saw it swimming in an unsteady motion there in front of her. It was unusually heavy. It seemed too heavy for the Moon. She was having a terrible time with understanding where she was.

But at the motion of her hand Max leapt up beside her and moved into her field of vision. He shone his warmest smile upon her.

“You’ve been in an accident” he began.

Valentina’s mouth moved from a neutral to a distinct, down-turned frown. Her memories were flooding back. She wasn’t on the Moon as she had originally thought. She was in a bed in a very luxurious room. And the bed wasn’t a normal bed. It was from a hospital. There were metal railings along each side. On the edges of her vision she could see plastic tubes dangling apparently out of thin air and snaking into her arm. On hearing Max’s voice she also discerned a soft regular beeping. Presumably a cardiogram was echoing her heart beat.

And, she remembered being in the car. Driving home with Max at her side. Talking pleasantly about nothing in particular. They had just finished another council meeting with the Lunar Colony Fund. At the meeting they had chosen to strengthen their current infrastructure on the Moon’s surface rather than make further expansions. This strengthening entailed making a few power lines redundant. Adding some storage space, complete with stored items. And trying to close the life cycle even further. This last was getting more pressing as the burden of the fifth person in the Hab created a bit more stress than anticipated. Yet all this remembering was perfunctory compared to what had happened in the car.

In the car. There had been a sudden, ear-shattering screeching of tires. Bright lights flooded in towards her. Temporarily blinding her. The shock as something solid had tried to enter through her closed door. Bits of glass hurling at her. Then nothing. No sound. No light. Just a deep throbbing pain. And no sound of any car. And now this.

She was awake. She could feel. She was cold. And the pain kept throbbing. In a way it seemed reassuring. As if to say with each throb that she was still alive. She was happy that her body continued to respond to her wishes. At least most of her body seemed to respond. She could breath. And see. And wave her arm around.

Max leaned in closer. “Good to see you awake again” he spoke to her as he warmly pressed his hand into hers. “We had been wondering a lot about you over these last few days” he completed with a shallow smile of almost guilty demeanor. “Yet we all knew that you were tough as nails and that you would pull through” he continued. “What can I get for you?” he lamely finished.

Valentina swallowed. An action that seemed much more brusque and uncomfortable than usual. She saw previous visions of bright lights, people in white gowns, groups clustered in conspiratorial garb. She knew that she wanted to jump up out of bed. To challenge the day as she had done for every morning in her life. She also knew that Max couldn’t help with this. Max seemed whole. Alive. Fresh. Max who had driven the car. The car that had carried her into a crash of unsurmountable horrors. She wanted Max to make it all better. To make the past disappear so that they could get on with building a colony on the Moon. But most of all she wanted to know what had happened in all those blank spots of her memory.

“What happened?” she began.