Logbook #78

AS17-143-21840
AS17-143-21840

“Now where on Earth would they be going?” Valentina mused to herself. She was watching a live stream of a mass of humanity. They appeared to be purposefully, powerfully walking. As if all were trying to leave an inhospitable home. At the same time. With nothing but the clothes on their backs. None showed a pretense of purpose or a clear idea of where to go or what to do upon getting there. Just a throng. Following the loudest exalter. Who preached of a better place. All quite oblivious to the notion that the Earth had filled up. The Earth had nowhere to migrate. The Earth was full.

She sighed and looked around her. The desk and the walls were covered with graphics and images of the lunar surface. Many pictures showed her friends. Digging in. Building a livable accommodation. Establishing the roots of a colony. So few but yet each critical in the shaping of a new home for humanity.

The pictures struck her as being in stark contrast to the images from stories by Herodotus. These glorified the adventurer. The Greek youth who’d set out, carefree and easy, sailing about the Mediterranean looking for a place to build a house and call home. Even then the prime locations on the shores of the Mediterranean were already occupied. Sometimes the youth built a home in a less-desirable region. Other times they simply got absorbed into the local community.

Neither option was available to the colonists on the Moon. The colonists couldn’t live off the land. They could only survive in the artificial environment being built using material from the Earth. No lunar pictures had a backdrop showing an ocean side, a range of trees or even a blue sky. She doubted that Herodotus would understand the complexity of the lunar endeavour. But she was sure that he would understand the rationale.

“Hey Max” she shouted. “Have you been watching any of the news feeds?”

“Why” he answered while toweling himself dry and sauntering into the office with nothing on but a smile.

“It’s showing a large mass of people from the Transvaal. The climate there has pushed arid to the extreme. They are heading south to find cooler land. But they’re pretty close to the southern limit of the continent. Where on Earth do you think they’re going?”

“It’s a pretty rough show over there” Max replied. “I’ve heard that food prices vary faster than the weather. Sometimes when the harvest is good, the prices are high. Sometimes when there’s no harvest, the prices are low. I suspect that those people are following an illusory promise of better living to the south. Not sure why though. Living isn’t easy anywhere. Especially when basics like food aren’t reliably available.”

“I’ve noticed the same thing” continued Valentina. “It’s not just southern Africa. Food prices seem to be out of whack over much of the world. Rice prices in the orient fluctuate wildly. The cost of grain in North America is more a guessing game than anything based upon capitalism. And potatoes! Usually a staple for nearly half the planet, potatoes surge from overabundance to a blighted dearth. With prices that make no sense.”

“Yah, I’d noticed similar on occasion. Maybe governments are trying to manipulate their citizens to go to particular locations. Or maybe the global conglomerates are flexing their muscle. Whichever it is, let’s hope that it remains focused upon the Earth. Our lunar build-out plans need a predictable resource base. We can’t support our colonists if the world food supply becomes unstable.”

They stared at the screen in silence for a little while longer. Each wondering if this was an isolated instance of a small group of people looking for a better lifestyle. Or if it was the start of a general reshaping of civilization. And if a reshaping then a reshaping into what?

Valentina closed the video stream and strode over to the window. Outside she saw the bright blue sky dotted with some clouds. Birds flitted amongst the branches. Lush grass spread across the fields right up to the nearby forest.

“Was that natural beauty” she thought “or was she encased in an artificial bubble as extreme as the Hab on the Moon?” She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer.

Logbook #73

Yutu, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Emil L.

Jean laughed at Valentina’s image on the computer screen. Her lips had contorted. The screen showed a large false smile on one side of her nose and a harsh, foul grimace on the other side. Her eyebrows strove to match the emotions of her lips but they seemed to have their own desires. They were wiggling all-over like caterpillars dancing on hot tarmac.

Both Jean and Valentina were trying to show the other what they thought of the food they had during their forced convalescence. Of course Valentina had all the luxuries that Max could bring to bear while Jean had portions of regular, rehydrated lunar fare. Neither was complaining though. They’d long ago matured away from that rut. Rather, they were simply sharing the comradery of long ago, close times and enjoying the chance to make a few new ones.

“That’s too precious.” chortled Jean through his fanciful face mixed full of mirth, merriment and moroseness. “I’m starting to think that you might actually dislike bed rest.”

“Me dislike bed rest!” Valentina gasped in fake alarm. “There’s never been a better place from which to appreciate the wonders of the world. There are enough live webcams that I can view just about any boardwalk. And if I hack into the feed from TESS then I can get a live feed view of other worlds. What’s there not to like with looking through a porthole to life anywhere.”

At the sound of the name TESS, Desai rotated around on his work stool and piped in.

“Is that our strong-armed saviour back on Earth who’s keeping all the Board members in check?” he enquired of Jean and to the back of Jean’s screen.

“Well hi again big, strong and handsome.” replied Valentina on recognizing the voice. “How’s your sorghum crop doing this year?”

Valentina always referred to sorghum even though she knew that Desai seemed to have his fingers in all parts of the food chain on Earth. If it wasn’t farmland then it was fertilizer. If it wasn’t either of these then it was a crop, frequently sorghum. Apparently Desai’s firm had recently developed a genetic variation of sorghum that made it somewhat salt intolerant. In this, it could become competitive with rice for many of the southern Asian and Oceania countries. But more importantly, it could bring productive agriculture back to regions that had been irrigated for so long that the land had become salt-infertile. The Euphrates river was just one example of an over-irrigated region. She had always thought that Desai tried to do too much by continuing his passion for the food industry while exploiting the resources on the Moon. But so far he seemed to show significant success with both. There was nothing about him for which she could find fault.

“Well you know life up here” he warmly smiled at her. “There’s a laugh a minute with the troop of comedians living around the corner. And the neighbours keep partying late into every night. But those people downstairs. Them! They should never have bought their daughter that set of bongo drums. Every night there’s sounds like an army of African warriors getting ready to invade. We’re not sure if we should duck undercover or just turn the television up louder. As for the crops, we’re just waiting to make a world-wide statement.”

Desai chuckled in amusement at his own jesting and conniving. His impromptu speech served dual purposes. It kept Valentina’s smile on her face; an image that he had always thought was one of the most beautiful he knew. And, the message held coded information for one of his Earth teams. Moments earlier he had texted them to record the message and replay it to obtain his instructions.

By using the words as he did, he was instructing the team, based in Africa, to begin night time operations. Their goal was to raise public attention on the plight of selective groups of small agrarian communities. He had identified these as groups that were still nearly self-sufficient in their local food production. His team would broadcast how these groups were almost starving and desperately needed international assistance; whether true or most likely not. Then, his administrative team would swing into action. Being the saviour of the day, they would introduce his exotic global brands. Food stuff that was way more addictive than it was nutritious. They’d have the villages hooked within weeks much the same as North Americans were hooked on soda pop and chips.

Once the locals became dependent upon his brands then his manufacturers would play with the global supply. They’d vary the amount of addictive material. Add more and more communities to his delivery schedules. Then he’d play with them at his capricious whim. Until he decided play time was over. Desai, the leader, loved the idea of being the marionettist.

The fact that he brought this on during a chat with Valentina made this duplicity that much more enjoyable. He didn’t really understand why he got such a thrill with mixed emotions. The love and respect he held for this woman played against his readiness to use and control her to get his way. And he wouldn’t ask anyone to explain the pleasure of this. Not ever. He smiled inwardly and turned around back to his desk to continue working on his own computer terminal.

Valentina returned her attention to Jean asking, “So do you expect to be keeping all your hair?”

“I don’t know.” he laughed. “My dosimeter didn’t read too high. Apparently I just got the dosage equivalent to flying around the world a few times in a passenger jet. Even this slight ‘sunburn’ that I have should quickly diminish. Actually, there’s very little reason for me to stay in bed. I think that for the most part it’s so oncologists on Earth can try to detect the onset of over-active cell growth. If it wasn’t for Xu being our over-protective mother hen that she’s always been then I’m sure that I’d be up and moving around. Anyway, only another 12 hours of bed rest and I think Zara and I will be hiking through the foothills again”

Valentina laughed. She knew that Jean and Zara had bonded a bit closer with each other than with the others. She could only imagine what their hiking would come to.

A slight shadow then covered her face. She turned away from the screen.

“Oh. Hi Max.” she called out.

She turned back to Jean. “Got to go.” she said. “I’ll contact you tomorrow.”

The connection closed and Jean leaned back against the pillow; daydreaming about the pleasantries that could lie in store.

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 #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.