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.

Logbook #67

AS17-133-20233
AS17-133-20233

Le chapitre 67

Xu watched over Aditya’s shoulder while he contemplated his next move on the Pachisi board. His home group in Calcutta regularly convened a tournament which Aditya loved to attend. At least virtually attend. His friends had grown accustomed to the delayed information flow and would comfortably pause after each crucial move so that Aditya could absorb the significance, hear the participants speculate and then provide his own jaded commentary. As fascinating as he found it, Xu didn’t. She watched perplexed while the four players incited each other to make grandiose moves. Then each usually proceeded to do something quite different. The whole event was contrary to her internal mantra of harmony and cohesion.

She sighed then left Aditya to his devices and walked back over to the wall screen. Aptly named, this back-lit computer screen covered a rectangle about 2 metres high by 3 metres across. It was power hungry so they used it only for particular needs. Her present need was to prepare for tomorrow’s semi-annual residents’ meeting. They got quite a thrill when using the term resident and it had stuck. She keyed in the map server so the Moon’s surface terrain appeared as a series of finely detailed height contours. She toggled various overlays produced from years of optical data taken by orbiting satellites. She looked for views with the Sun at such an angle that shadows detailed the terrain without obscuring too much. It didn’t take much time to find appropriate selections; she had been mentally preparing for this presentation for quite some time.

She smoothly and gracefully spun around and again used her keyboard to raise a second map. This time the map was presented as a 3 dimensional holograph. Given that they were at the Moon’s south pole, and that the Moon was much smaller than Earth, then the holograph was extremely useful for distance perception. A perception that couldn’t be easily shown on the wall screen.

She synchronized the two displays and began toggling various overlays. One had all the structures; their infrastructure at the south pole, the old Apollo, Luna and Chang’e hardware and the ever-expanding, mysterious facility up on the north pole. With another keystroke she included the transportation and communication networks. Her last keystokes brought up a coded hatching of where they had assayed for minerals together with the relevant results. This view sharply brought up the challenges that were facing them as the map should scant markings of valuable results.

According to the displays there was precious little mineral wealth that was readily available on the nearby surface. They also knew from their digging at the Haven that, at least at that spot, there wasn’t much of interest just below the surface either. While this had been expected the lack of immediate rewards gnawed at her comfort.

Sure there were ice comets flying about the solar system that had as much water as the Indian Ocean on Earth. But that meant little to them here on the Moon. They had also been hoping for a mineral deposit much like that of the Sudbury basin in Ontario. Yet their pickaxes had not prised even a hint of a vein out of the regolith or subsurface. Unconsciously her shoulders drooped.

“Have you got some nice videos to go with those maps” spoke Aditya from across the Hab. “If we’re going to plan our family’s vacation then at least we should have an idea of what we might see when we get there.”

At the sound of his voice Xu’s shoulders happily went back into place and she let her moment of doubt fade into the grey of the display.

“I’ve heard a desire to go to Waterworld this year” she laughed “complete with towels, suntan lotion and rubber ducks.”

Aditya laughed with her. “I was hoping for something like that. Will it be for a while? Last year’s adventure at the Rocket Land amusement park seemed to be over far too quickly” he implored.

Logbook #66

AS15-85-11373
AS15-85-11373

Le chapitre 66

Jean slumped deeper into the metal chair, pushed the controls to return the computer monitor to the old black and white sitcom then turned to give Zara a look bordering on mischief but slightly leaning toward general mayhem.

“Your name should have been Alice” he said to Zara with a smile that only Jackie Gleason could comprehend.

“Why” Zara innocently responded while stowing her air suit onto the rack.

“To the Moon Alice. To the Moon” was all that Jean breathed as if he were reciting a biblical quote of the deepest meaning. Yet his smile then extended a bit further back past his ears and seemed to wrap completely around his head.

“I still don’t get it” replied Zara. “Is it a plumber joke or something?”

“Or something” Jean answered without dropping any hint. “Let’s just power up the Haven’s human ergonomics. I rather like the stucco ceiling effect with countryside windows and a faux shag rug. OK with you?”

Zara paused for a moment. Collecting her thoughts she responded, “I think that sounds somewhat 60’s-ish. Isn’t that a bit before your time? As long as we wake up with no walls, a floor that resembles the outback and one side showing the gentle rise of Ayers rock then I’m happy.”

Zara strode past Jean to start the accounting of the stored supplies.

“I don’t know why Xu wants us to do this every time. It’s not like there are thieves in the neighbourhood. We’re actually missing neighbours of any sort. And as for rodents, there’s not even been the hint of a mouse” she joked.

Still she took her electronic notepad out and verified each package and each box. If there was any dust then even that would not have moved. But the air filtration system kept the air as clean as any biocontainment facility.

“Say have you ever thought that the mission specialists were Mormons or something? Like why this exact amount of food? No more. No less” she continued. “There’s this little gremlin inside of me that’s speaking. It says,”just report one little box is missing. Just one!” and I know that if I were to do that then Xu would have us searching every nook and cranny. Non-stop. No prospecting. No eating. No anything until that box is found. Or the error on the checklist discovered. Still, I can see that gremlin sitting on my shoulder.”

Jean laughed. “Maybe I’m the one that should be sitting on your shoulder. Then I would be as mischievous as any gremlin that you ever knew” he proclaimed with all the false bravado he could muster.

It was Zara’s turn to laugh. “Not so fast my little gigolo.

That wasn’t the only reason I requested you to join me in the Haven.”

“What?” questioned Jean “I’m hurt.” He added a disco ball effect to the room’s walls and began playing the old hits from Saturday Night Fever.

“I packed my special white suit for this overnight rendezvous and now you get ol’ Cold as Ice. Seems somewhat foreign to my views on seduction.”

Jean stood and in his best soprano he belted out “You’re as cold as ice and you’re willing to sacrifice our love” which of course brought laughter and tears onto Zara’s face.

Perhaps it was the contrast between Jean’s singing and the team’s unofficial anthem “Stayin’ Alive” playing in the background. But in any case Zara dropped the account checklist on top of the counter. Did her best Sandra Dee strut over to Jean and wrapped her arms warmly around his waist.

“Let’s change up that song and bring on a little Sinatra” she whispered in his ear. “I think it’s time we closed that feed to mission control and used this Haven the way it was meant to be used.”

Jean could feel his body warm to the embrace of Zara. The thoughts of him being a father were far away as the lights dimmed and the communications channel stopped its incessant blur of white noise. He was looking forward to a little entertainment that no TV show had ever envisioned when he was growing up.

Logbook #65

AS17-145-22180
AS17-145-22180

Le chapitre 65

“Close it,” Valentina angrily exhorted at Max.

He gave her a bemused shrug and kept brushing his teeth while the water poured out the tap.

“I’ve reminded you more than enough times that water is precious,” said Valentina, “and you need to treat it as even more valuable than any of those ridiculous golden earrings you wear.”

She wasn’t angry at Max in particular and they both knew it. It was her instincts that had been tuned for living on the Moon that had left her with a deep respect for the essentials that kept humans alive. She had quickly re-acclimatized to breathing Earth’s air and enjoying its quintessential varieties. But she hadn’t, and probably never would, resume her assumption that food and water were limitless. She flounced out of bed strode directly to the tap and closed the faucet in a manner that allowed for no reproach.

Max kept brushing his teeth without letting his facial expression change. He’d seen it before. He knew why Valentina was so emotional about water. But equally his time living a privileged life on Earth had inured him to both the absence of clean water and the continual demand for calories to power his body. He finished cleaning his teeth, washed up and approached Valentina who had changed into an appropriate suit ready for their day’s run at the Lunar Colony Fund’s board of directors.

“You do remember that I came to visit you on the Moon?” he reminded her.

“Yes I remember,” she said, “and I remember that there were no faucets, no waiters and no fresh produce there. We’ve got to take that knowledge and spread it to everyone on Earth. If people here were to exhibit a certain self-control it would go a long way toward improving everyone’s life.”

Max picked out his own power suit. He knew it was going to be a long day. They had to prioritize additions to the lunar facility versus maintaining the existing capabilities. He’d long ago given up wearing ties but he knew that the proper decorum could smooth the travel over many a disturbed waterway.

Valentina let out a sigh and apologized, “Sorry for being cranky. I can’t shake the need to conserve everything. And I don’t want to ever let that feeling go. On the Moon it was a necessary survival strategy and it would serve a similar purpose here on Earth.”

She wore a light weight polyester suit that bore more than a little resemblance to the clothing that she wore while on the Moon. She carefully attached the button that identified her as a previous occupant of the Moon. While very few people on Earth would give any consideration to the button, it held great sway within the Lunar Colony Fund organization. With her experience and Max’s power there was very little that could stop them from pushing their united agenda forward. Yet they both realized, as with any infrastructure development, that it wasn’t desire that made progress. It was funding. And they continually needed more.

“Have you got the charts and figures showing the revenues from our lunar operations?” asked Max.

“Copies on the drive and copies here on paper and on copies the cloud” replied Valentina.

Most of their work today was convincing the Board to allot a greater amount of funds for increasing capability rather than simply sustaining the existing set-up. There was a certain amount of risk in this as any new capability would come with its own sustainment cost. The result was an increased demand on the facility’s power, operations load and maintenance. However with the existing lunar operations generating more of its own power and with its ever-closing food and water cycle then opportunities did exist.

Max and Valentina disagreed on just which opportunity to exercise. Max wanted to expand their existing mining facilities. He also wanted to bore deeper into the Haven to get an appreciation of the chemical composition of the minerals there.

Valentina wanted to expand their territory. She worried about the facility at the lunar north pole. It could send automated rovers anywhere. Only by establishing a presence on the land would they be able to have any say in the rovers’ routes. And possible ingresses upon their established network of routes and pathways. Creating them had required a huge effort by the inhabitants and she didn’t want to see their work demolished by a rogue robot.

She thought “What could those robots establish? A human’s presence was at best a temporary, tenuous sojourn. What were the structures for?” Still no answer came to her.

They rode the elevator down to the lobby together in silence. Each still wanting their chosen opportunity to be selected. Each wanting to support the other. Each ready to support any other prescient option. Theirs was the future of the human race. They had to choose wisely.