Logbook #70


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


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


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


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.