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 #63


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 #57


Le chapitre 57

Frustration drove Desai to pound ever harder upon the keyboard. His inability to direct and control his staff on Earth was causing no end of unexpected actions. Even though he was a simple phone call away they somehow thought that being on another world made him too remote to bother. “Or to bother with” he drily wondered to himself. His full on slam of the ‘Enter’ key brought Xu’s head up and around.

“Something got you riled up?” she asked. “I thought that last keystroke would send the desk straight through the floor of our fragile little Hab” she continued.

“Sorry, you’re right, I’m pressing too hard.” Desai replied. “It’s just that I can never get people on Earth to do what I want. They are either running around like chickens without heads or they seem to just fade away into the background of humanity. I need someone that I can count on to do what needs doing.” he finished.

Xu smile and softly laughed. “Yeah” she answered, “we all need someone who can read our minds and make our wishes come true.”

Her beaming smile broke Desai’s tension and he joined with her in a hearty laugh at his expense.

“Perhaps you can work Valentina into your plans. She certainly has a way to get results. And when she does you know that it is for the betterment of our world on the Moon” she offered.

Desai briefly paused before responding. He knew that Valentina was a natural fit for the person who would solve most of his problems. However he remained a bit worried that she might figure out that he had been pulling many of the strings that had resulted in her returning to Earth. He certainly didn’t want a vengeful person controlling his operations on the planet. Headless chickens seemed a lot better to him.

“That is a great idea” started Desai. “I’ll get her to see if she can coordinate some of my projects on food production. Their success would mean our success here on the Moon if they found genetic modifications that were mutually beneficial” he replied softly while turning and starting to type some more on the keyboard.

Xu sighed and wandered off as she realized that Desai’s attention was once more fully locked onto the screen and his denizens on planet Earth. Her presence meant little more to him than a shadow that played across the interior wall.

With Xu’s idea, Desai’s mind began flying on all cylinders. He had put Valentina onto the board of the Lunar Colony Fund for the specific purpose of having her manipulate the other board members. It was time for her to start manipulating, to start being the puppet master that he knew she could be. He needed her to manoeuvre fertilizer supplies and food transportation so that certain Earth regions experienced greater famine while others had bounties beyond their wildest dreams. And he knew she would never agree to it. So he had to find a way that was so obscure that she would never suspect. He knew just what to do and it started with a suggestion dropped into the ear of Maximillian, her boyfriend. He felt supercharged and his fingers flew over the keyboard.

Logbook #52


Le chapitre 52

Desai continued walking with Aditya along the sintered strip that led to their shelter, the Haven. He realized that he could sum up the whole of Aditya’s being in one word; ‘jolly’. It wasn’t that Aditya made jokes all the time or was a commensurate comedian. Rather he simply exhumed a happy sense that permeated everything around him whether alive or inanimate. Desai easily imagined the rocks smiling as Aditya walked by. The very thought of this made Desai smile all the more.

“Surely Aditya could only be a good omen of things to come” he thought.

“This track is the easiest route between the Hab and the Haven” Desai went on. “It’s our evacuation route when we have to seek protection from potential solar flares. We really don’t want to be on this path when the flares strike as the radiation could become dangerous if not lethal. So, we rely upon the prediction algorithms for any excursions. And we respond very, very quickly.”

“It would be a veritable, invisible storm of radioactive particles descending across the landscape” responded Aditya “though perhaps not with the same rejuvenating spirit of a summer shower. Do we trust these prediction algorithms as we trust the weather forecasters predicting the Loo back home?” he queried with a subtle rise of his eyebrows and a deep knowing smile on his face.

“I’ve never made a bet about the weather” replied Desai “But here I never question warnings about solar flares. The consequences of being immersed in a flare are just too great. It’s not as if after it ends we simply take our wet spacesuits to the cleaners and have them freshly pressed and starched.” he laughed. “No, here at best we’d end up with a rare form of cancer or at worst roasted like a chicken dinner in a microwave oven.” he concluded in a voice that was half serious and half jesting.

As Desai continued his light reportage on the surroundings and the safety measures that were already in place he let part of his mind drift and he began pondering the latest activity from their northern neighbours. Recently their tracking satellite had been recording motion. They imaged a small rover travelling around the locale of the base. It looked to have a body of about 1metre by 2metre in size with six wheels extending out, much like the Mars rovers of many years before. Interestingly the rover could and did move small rocks and boulders either with a blade on its front or via calipers attached to an arm on its back. Given its jittery motion, he and the other colonists had deduced that it was being continuously controlled from somewhere back on Earth. As they couldn’t detect any emissions from it they had guessed that it relayed its signal through the main base’s communications channel.

Desai had set his team on Earth to crack the encryption of that channel but they hadn’t gotten much further than identifying the timing sequence. Still, the monitoring by the colony’s satellite laid plain the results of the rover’s activities. From its work a series of paths radiated out from the central facility. They were fairly obstacle free and each led to an apparently, interesting geological site. He didn’t think that the controllers were choosing sites at which to prospect for ore. Rather, he thought the sites had particular functional purposes; a large smooth plain could be a landing and take-off zone, a cliff edge could be the entrance to an underground chamber, a dark region could be a mine to extract water-ice. It was as if the northern facility was mirroring their own activities and progression though without any human presence. He wondered at what sort of benefit they gained by using robotic vehicles rather than using humans as they did at the south pole.

One thing he knew that humans excelled at was planning for the future. He let his thoughts drift away from their protagonist on the north pole and refocused his current predilections. He worked over his plans again as a masseuse trying to smooth out very last knot of the winning Olympic decathlete. Always he sought better opportunities and fewer risks. Principally he thought of Valentina. While he sorely missed the warm, companionable presence of Valentina in the Hab he did like the results of his machinations to place her as a director on the Lunar Colony Fund’s governing board.

That had been a very good idea and would undoubtedly provide much fruit. He would use the personal relationship that he had built up with her so as to influence her decision making. First, he would push her to force any future space activities based on Earth to employ some products, any products, of their lunar colony. This would go against all his free-marketing acumen. Yet if they could require planned probes to the outer solar system to use fuel or material from the Moon then they’d have a guaranteed market upon which they could focus.

The easiest resource to transfer would be energy. Beam some of their stored solar power onto probes that transited nearby the Moon and it’d bring a worthwhile addition to their colony’s income. A more interesting potential was for any long-distance probe or vehicle to be assembled on the lunar surface, fueled from material mined on the Moon and then launched from the Moon’s surface.

To profitably do this they would need to find recoverable amounts of aluminum in addition to the water-ice that they now drilled for. He rethought more of another, rather novel idea. He envisioned them sending a focused beam of energy to an Earth orbiting satellite. The beam would serve to recharge the satellite’s batteries and thus have it remain in orbit indefinitely. This could be a real game-changer for the Earth observation business. His mind whirled these various ideas around and around and it all came back to “How much will the Terrans pay for these services?” This amount remained vague to him and he needed Valentina on Earth to push for monopolistic rights wherever possible. Thus allowing them to set the price. He liked doing this sort of planning as it increased the likelihood that they would continue as a viable colony of off-world humans. As his conversation with Aditya continued he felt his internal machinations bring a real smile onto his countenance. He liked his plans and what they should provide in the future.

“Well we’re here at the entrance to the Haven” he proudly proclaimed to Aditya. “It’s been our second most important activity after water extraction. While it’s not much it will be everything we need in case a major solar flare erupts toward us. For us it’s a refuge. In the future others may call it home” he finished with a flourish. And he set to releasing the seals of the door.