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.

Logbook #64

AS17-145-22166
AS17-145-22166

Le chapitre 64

Xu closed the live stream with the Lunar Colony Fund’s board of directors and gave out a loud, heavy sigh. Isolation and solitude allowed for these brief vents of discord. Her mind slowly digested the news. Funding was holding its own. The supply vessels would continue. The five colonists could continue with developing humanity’s toehold upon another world. But there was no expectation of any largess. The Terrans continued their circumspection. Their preference led to short-term investments in banks and holding companies rather than supporting development in space. Even with its incredible opportunities and fantastic risks.

“So much for life on Earth” she spoke aloud to herself.
Xu switched her comms to internal dialogue mode and gave Zara a simple “Hello”.

“Well hello to you too my sweet governess” soothed Zara using her best back country twang.

She knew that Xu only initiated contact when her internal gyros went unstable so to speak. This suited Zara. She could expertly read the veins of rocks and she could read the moods and ambiances of her friends. And she had known that Xu would be at the board meeting while she was outside circling the base of Mont Lemaitre as she was now doing. She had expected this call.

Xu let out a soft laugh. The honorific of governess meant absolutely nothing to either of them other than to say that Zara was listening completely.

Xu continued “Well as everyone expected the board meeting was all bureaucratic machinations. Again!”

“Nothing more and nothing less than keeping their chairs warm I bet.” agreed Zara.

Xu continued “The Earth still has such incredible potential; a world full of resources, people more than ready and able to assist and the promise of boundless wealth. And what’s on people’s mind?”

Zara simply replied “Cricket?”

Xu laughed again. A little longer. A little harder. Mostly sports bored her. But that particular one seemed an insomniac’s dream come true. “Actually they may have been better employed selling cucumber sandwiches at a test match than holding the meeting. Every month the same thing. The same stories. Never enough of this. Barely enough of that. Have to learn to do without. ‘Without what?’ I once innocently asked. I thought everything we’ve got is already critical to our survival. It’s not like we’re living a life of luxury here. And the Black. The Black is always there” she ended.

They all had come to calling the vast emptiness of the Moon’s skies as the Black. When at first the sight of the stars captured their gaze and drew their eyes up now all of them just saw black. No clouds. No wind in the face. No rain. No sunrises. No sunsets. Just Black. The Sun was more a point source of harsh light. Other stars were just capricious temptresses. Teasing the watchers. Summoning them in laughter. Mirthful in knowing they couldn’t be attained. It was as if an ominous hand pressed upon the colonists’ shoulders dimming their optimism, shadowing their joy.

“Maybe the board’s gotten too indulgent in their roles. Let’s show them what it’s like. Which one would you like to swap places with?” asked Zara.

Xu was silent over the comms for a few moments. Names and faces flowed across her mind. Revenge, spite, education all good reasons to change places. But it was a trite thought. One that she had long ago forgone. Even before the training on Earth she had decided to go to the Moon to stay. She would not give up this life for anything. And sometimes, like now, she needed to be reminded of this.

“Thanks. That’s a good question” she answered to Zara. “But I’ll happily leave that to Valentina. She already has her place on the board and she’s doing more there than I ever could.” Xu’s spirit lifted. As it usually did after talking with Zara. The essence of simplicity and charm from their Australian colleague could even turn the radiowaves to sincerity.

Xu changed the topic, happy to return to their local exigencies. “What’s the base of the mount look like? Is there any chance of veins of high mineral concentrations?”

Xu knew just enough geology to ask the right questions. Usually.

Zara returned her focus to the rock masses thrusting in oddly twisted ways. This area was no result of volcanism as occurred on Earth. The Moon was lifeless in all intent. A large accumulation of debris. Dust, pebbles, rocks. Gathered from a belt circling the Earth. Punctuated with the occasional fierce strike of an asteroid. She was standing at the shock interface between an outgoing pressure wave caused by an impact and a robust wall woven through the Moon’s crust as created at some time during inception.

Zara’s perspective of time often got out of whack when she was inspecting the Moon’s surface. Billions of years, millions, eons, hours, seconds; they all meant so little.

“Well it’s still grey” she answered. “Hard to say if there’s anything of interest. Maybe the probe’s magnetic reading was caused by some nearby mascon. I’m going to take a few more samples and bring them back for analysis.”

“I’m looking forward to having something that we can actually serve to the Terrans on a plate” replied Xu. “Hopefully you’ll have a few shards that might be the first forkful. I look forward to seeing you back in the Hab.”

Xu completely closed the connection and let herself relax. She closed her eyes and reached out with her inner sense and felt the nearby presence of her four companions. She smiled. This connection was more real to her than any radiowaves.

Logbook #63

AS17-145-22177
AS17-145-22177

Le chapitre 63

Desai kept working his tongue around his teeth trying to prise free the last of the ‘cricket burger’ sandwich he had for lunch. He wondered if it was their little wings that kept getting stuck. At the same time his hands moved on the computer mouse so that the on-screen cursor lined up with the white square showing on the display; a bit like an old Atari video game. He boxed in the square and paused the camera’s scanning routine. Then he slowly zoomed in to see the quarry he had been chasing at the Moon’s north pole.

Laughter erupted from Desai’s mouth and he called to Aditya “Hey get a load of this!”

Waving energetically he enticed Aditya to break from his toxicological scans.

Aditya shuffled over to Desai’s work station and responded “I see a still box with moving wheels. So what?”

“So what!? Is that all you see? ” said Desai with glee. “That box is a rover. A robot from the northern development. And it’s been in the same place for days. It’s failed!” he chortled again. “Do you know what this means?” continued Desai.

“No idea at all” replied Aditya who couldn’t see anything humorous about a stuck robot.

“Simple” Desai went on. “It’s again proven that humans are the best explorers on Earth, on the Moon or anywhere.”

“Why is that?” responded Aditya somewhat cautiously.

“It’s obvious. You’ve got to see why.” exhorted Desai. “Humans don’t get stuck. If we can’t go over an obstacle then we go around. Getting stuck is not in our genes. However, here is something stuck. What you see is hundreds of millions of dollars of machine doing absolutely nothing. And with no way of improving its lot. It’s well and truly stuck”

“But it’s only a machine” pondered Aditya. “Yes it was costly. But its cost is much less than that of a human life. With that one robot stuck then the owner can simply send another one in a few years. Or sooner if they have insurance. However, if a human gets stuck and perishes then there’s no replacement.”

“What do you mean no replacement?” queried Desai. “There are billions of little hominoids running around the Earth. Just like we did. Now think. I’m sure that a good many of them are seeking to deliberately harm others. If they are successful then there are a few less hominoids. And apparently no one’s worried enough to stop the harming. So obviously this lack of worry indicates that there are replacement hominoids a-plenty. Even if one or two had a mishap on the Moon’s surface we could rely upon many, many others wanting to fill in the gap.”

“Somehow I don’t think that so many people share your views on the value of human life” conjectured Aditya. “Yes, people accept that they will occasionally cause grievous harm to each other. Yet they do not accept a callous indifference to the loss of human life in the way you trivialized the end of the robot. Perhaps we should be more considerate of the robot’s existence. And in that we way we could more appreciate the fullness of a human life”

“That’s just down right sappy.” Desai said with a grin. “How could a robot teach humans anything about being human. We invented them. They didn’t invent us. Next you’re going to tell me to start treating our own roving robot with at least the dignity of a dog.”

“Well now that you mention it…” apologized Aditya.

Logbook #62

AS11-38-5565
AS11-38-5565

Le chapitre 62

Aditya’s warm wishes of goodbye from over the microphone starkly contrasted with his inner feelings of frustration and concern. His role as volunteer coordinator should be rich and fulfilling. After all he was principally a figurehead. A person who got to sign important documents and talk, via video, at prestigious conferences and dinners. His pretentious position promised every delight. However he felt drained and hollow after so many of the interactions.

He realized that a lot of the problem revolved around expectations. In his mind, he expected that the people on Earth would realize that the five lunar colonists were tenaciously hanging on for dear life. However people on Earth spoke of endpoints. They expected quick progress to a glamorous utopia of idle relaxation in space. Most expressed a belief that vast cities were going to sprout up on the Moon’s surface. And then, with little extra effort, the same would quickly occur on Mars. He had to often explain that the Moon had no immediate ability to support life. It had no resources from which to build; no wood as there were no trees, no coal as there had never been trees nor any clouds as there wasn’t even an atmosphere.

He used his most eloquent imaginative spiritual expressions to convey a sense of majesty and potential. Yet he sensed that his audience was not buying into his exposés of a magnificent desolation that remained virtually untouched by humans.

Xu, sitting nearby, must have sensed his unease. She inquired “What’s got your eyebrows furrowed like a rice paddy in springtime?”

He smiled. Her anachronisms always were rich in Earth tradition yet wholly incompatible with their life on the Moon. He replied “My connections to Mother Earth seem a little strained sometimes. I sense that they want to hear of great accomplishments; vast cities under protective shields, machines that toil non-stop for the good of humankind and lives of leisure where a ready replicator proffers every imaginable food and drink. I wonder if they realize that I have not had a real bath or shower in months? And I will probably never again taste the simple pleasures of fresh fruit.”

He stopped himself. Not only was he sounding like a complainer, he was implying that he expected to end his days upon the surface of the Moon and never return to Earth. This was Karma that had portent and must be considered at another time. A time suited for reflection and scrutiny. Not now.

He continued “But I did enjoy the surprise that came in the last supply ship. The chocolate covered lychee were particularly invigorating.”

Xu softly laughed and walked over to hug Aditya. It was a long, slow sharing of spirits that reminded Aditya he was not alone. And that was exactly the message Xu wanted to share. She believed that most people on Earth wanted to come visit the Moon. Some to stay. However the time was not yet right for that vision. There were still too many risks, too many events that could drive them to the escape craft. Events that would force them to leave with sunken hearts and smashed dreams. Leaving and knowing that an even greater effort would be needed to ever try again. It was her vision and unwavering support that continued to inspire Aditya. To get him over the occasional hump of despondence. And it was their togetherness that engendered a community. A community that was more than the sum of its members.

He softly and tenderly kissed Xu upon the forehead. As much a father bestowing a favour upon a child as it was a supplicant acknowledging the wiser. Aditya felt his spirit climb as he turned back to the console to receive the next wave of admirers, each who had paid a princely sum just to have this personal communication with one of the colonists.