Logbook #76


Desai looked around and felt a shiver of unease crawl the length of his spine. As if the brush of an insidious shadow had maneuvered across his own in a vain attempt to suffocate it out of existence. And in result, who would he be if he didn’t even have a shadow? Desai always felt this way while striding about the dust encumbered hills and valleys surrounding the Hab. Even inside the Haven, a purposefully designed enclosure of refuge, he felt a sense of caution and concern contort his thinking. Only when he was inside the Hab did he feel totally comfortable. He had contemplated this oddity often as he wanted to understand and control his emotions. Yet, no answer presented itself. He slowly let out a breath of air, tried to loosen all his muscles just a bit more and then he continued his journey to the Overlook.

Somehow he had become the champion of the border patrols; the reason for his trip to Overlook. Whenever someone had to visit an area, to demonstrate a presence, a sense of ownership, his name would come up. Around the breakfast table this morning, everyone had waxed eloquently on their upcoming work tasks. Xu was meeting the Lunar Colony Fund’s Board of Directors to confirm the expectations for infrastructure build-out. Jean was returning to the Haven to continue the installation of a new airlock. Zara was adjourning to the geochemical lab to run tests on some samples that Woof had recently returned. And Aditya had a full day planned in the horticultural sections to sample and measure plant growth. Just before Desai was going to remind them that he had an equally full day planned at the computer workstation, Xu had piped up with a precocious smile and asked that he return to the Overlook.

Inwardly he had groaned at the request. Outwardly he quickly agreed. No-one wanted to be on Xu’s bad side. Misfortune always seemed to befall a person so oriented. Thus, agreement was his automatic response. He had asked why but Xu had just responded that it was time. He wondered how she kept her sense of time.

He slowly continued his journey up the embankment. One foot shuffling forward past the other.

“In a way,” he thought, “it’s amazing how humans are so structurally adept at moving about on the Earth’s surface and equally adept at moving about on the Moon’s surface. Was it manifest destiny or some sort of commonality of physical laws?”

About 30 metres to his right, Woof was making his own path toward the Overlook. They both had the destination’s co-ordinates embedded in their path-logic. Woof’s route was set to accommodate the limits of his robotic limbs. Desai’s had his route finding set to cover as much area as possible. It constantly updated depending upon his last few steps. To Desai the whole journey was another forlorn attempt at waving the flag. Claiming this patch of the Moon as theirs.

“Honestly.” went his thinking “Who would want any of this? And how would we possibly stop anyone if they decided to land here for whatever reason?”

Then it dawned upon Desai. Last night at supper, he had made an offhand remark that the vehicles at the Moon’s north pole seemed to be traveling further south than ever before. One had even been seen sniffing along the edges of Anaxagoras crater. He had thought nothing of it. Perhaps Xu had thought otherwise. Or someone on Earth had thought of it and they had advised Xu. Desai contemplated again the value of thinking before setting his mouth into action. He thought some more about lunar conquest.

“If these robots were on a mission to dominate the Moon’s surface” wondered Desai. “they’d need to refuel, much like Opportunity does on Mars. So refueling is already occurring on worlds other than Earth. So there’s no reason why malevolent robots couldn’t be anywhere. Everywhere. Including here at the south pole. And what if they were to start getting in the way? Who would be responsible if they damaged some of the colony’s sintered pathways. Or worse, if they damaged any of their life-supporting infrastructure? It wouldn’t take much to disrupt their water extraction facilities. Those were little more than buckshee arrangements of metal poles and a few motors. A lunar Meccano set without formal definition or design.”

Desai didn’t pause his shuffling. Continually forward up-hill. Around large rocks. Carefully across shallow depressions. Always wary of pits and protuberances.

“Why did the up-hills always seemed so much longer and higher than the down-hills? Like the paradigm of bicycle riders.” he asked himself.

If he had been in the Hab instead of on this journey then he could have used some of his time at the workstation to investigate this idea of lunar domination. But if he had been in the Hab, he might never have made the connection between foreign robots and the colonists’ survival.

Desai was annoyed. He wanted to focus upon his ambition to influence the Earth’s global food supply system. He didn’t want to have to worry about invaders while here on the Moon. How could he manage his earthly affairs if he had to defend against some unfettered robotic interloper descending from the other pole. Rationalizing this concern made another spasm of unease travel along his spine.

Logbook #75


Zara raised her eyes and slowly took in the vault of the heavens. Dots and shimmers of light beckoned to her from every which way. Sighing, she wondered how so few stars could raise such strong emotions and vibrant conjecture. She remembered an earlier class where the instructor had said that with the bare eye people could see only a few thousand stars at best. And somehow those few stars drew aspirants on. She could spend and has spent countless hours contemplating the dots, the Earth and her existence. While no grandiose schemes miraculously appeared in her mind, she happily felt humbled and devinely curious as to what lay in store for her and the heavens.

She traced her eyes through the familiar constellation of the Southern Cross and down to the patch of regolith in front of her.

“It’s much as we’d imagined” she reported back to Xu in the Hab. “This patch of lunar dust looks exactly like every other dust heap around” she continued, then laughed. “Perhaps their maid’s taken the day off. Or the last few billion years off.”

“Keep looking” implored Xu’s voice over the intercom. “There may be shards of glass or a slight depression.”

Xu was hoping to find the impact spot of a small asteroid. Their local seismographs had triangulated a recent disturbance somewhere nearby. The equipment’s accuracy wasn’t great, probably due to its lack of sensitivity. From a few previous events the colonists had build a log lunar strikes versus seismograph readings. They didn’t have enough points to have a reliable sample so they valued every chance to add another. The latest event could have been from a tennis ball sized bit of asteroid. If they could find it then they could add one more point to calibrate the seismograph as well as learn a bit more about ‘heavenly’ particle interactions.

Zara was undertaking the standard ground sweep pattern. Nearby, Woof helped by setting a reference point from which she could stay on course. She was slowly stepping through, or really shuffling through the regolith. Trying to use her feet to detect the expected cone-shaped depression. Given the low angle of the Sun she was also keeping an eye out for oddly shaped depressions at the surface of the regolith. Yet, as she continually found when doing assaying, the Moon’s surface was for the most part oddly shaped in every which way. There were shallow depressions and abrupt, sharp holes. Cliffs would tower nearly straight up above her while others gently sloped like a primordial shield volcano. And immediately adjacent to these were flat lands or marias that spread across from horizon to horizon. This variety held sway with little attention to rock composition. After the weeks on the Moon, Zara was getting much more used to selenology, associating various ground patterns with rock types and chemical compositions. She knew that she was in a slight depression and even though there was no atmosphere to move dust around, the depression had a greater depth of regolith in the centre than on the edges. Actually the northern edge had no regolith and was likely the lip of an old, small impact crater. So, in a sense, she was looking for a crater within a crater. Not an easy task.

She paused and looked up again. She was sad that she would never see a meteor shoot across the sky. Without an atmosphere, any asteroid would either strike the Moon or go sailing directly by. Unless the Sun glinted off its edges, no human on the Moon would ever know of its existence. She had once imagined herself standing on a lunar mountain top and holding up a hand to try to grab one as it flew by on its long elliptical orbit about the Sun. She knew that she could never stop an asteroid. And even the impact of a speck of dust could prove lethal. But, if the opportunity ever presented itself, she would raise her hand and try.


Logbook #48


Le chapitre 48

Desai was back on the trails with Woof. He despised the robotic dog. To him it was no more than an anachronism that linked him to caveman times. It certainly wasn’t an aid to facilitate his daily activities here on another world. He resisted an urge to kick it. The inner image of him doing so and of him watching the robot’s ensuing tumble along the surface did put a smile on his face.

“At least we don’t have to clean up dog excrement after it.” he wryly thought.

He shuffled along and Woof kept apace a few metres behind him.

“Perhaps it knows what I thought of it and for safety’s sake it stayed just out of kicking range” imagined DesaiĀ  grinning quite liberally.

The smile did him good. Even with his plan to rebuild the Moon team coming to fruition, he felt uncomfortable. And the feeling was strengthening. With Valentina having delivered her exit-address the emotional ties between her and the three remaining seem to have strengthened. None of them wanted to see her go. Though for Desai it was an expedient necessity. With her departure now scheduled he wasn’t so sure he had made the best decision. Mostly what pulled on his mind was the concern about who would replace Valentina. He envisioned someone who would happily go along with his plan to live from the Hab above the surface while supporting the ever expanding capability for living underneath. He had been going through the list of possible replacements as much as the others. He laughed in unison with the others when Valentina proposed a Celtic soothsayer from the Baltic. Apparently that was the skillset offered by an early applicant to the Lunar Colony. Of course that was not a skill high on Desai’s list or anyone else’s. He had been looking carefully for someone who had the technical expertise of Valentina but without her managerial tendencies. He had tired of continually explaining and promoting the same plan like an old phonograph record. Skipping on the same track over and over again. His need was for a supporter, almost an acolyte, who would take up this marketing task. They would repeat the same mantra over and over again in the near-religious service dedicated to the fiscal oversight committee. He needed the help from a new colleague. But he knew that he couldn’t say this directly.

Xu was the coordinator and their lead. She would make the final recommendations to the Earth-based committee. And she would grant the final ascent to having any person join their team. She had made it a bit like having a person apply for citizenship to an Earth nation. With this, they were trying to elevate the status of their little colony to be on par with the nations of Earth. Hence, they could control the admittance of any potential residents.

This had been a perfect plan up until the time that the facility at the North Pole began taking shape. They still had no word of human occupation there. But they knew it was just a matter of time until some uninvited guest had the gumption to tell them that they were a resident of the Moon as well.

He could feel his smile start to droop. His steps had brought him up to the last of the short rises before the escarpment dropped off below. His visor had been displaying warnings from Woof for about the last 20 metres. While Desai knew the landscape and he could see a three dimensional contour map also imposed upon his visor, the warnings from his robot companion kept him alert. He was at the safest point to see the interior of the crater that centred the rim on which their habitat was placed. He paused and slowly panned his head from left to right, tracing out the complete circumference of the rim. On Earth he could imagine the bowl like region full of supplicants listening to him in rapt attention as he deigned upon them some new, wonderful program to advance their technology and increase their living standards.

“Who said megalomania wasn’t in my blood?” he thought. He could feel the smile again strengthen.

He turned a bit too quickly and caught Woof in a small shower of dust kicked up by his boots.

“Serves him right for being too close” Desai chuckled slightly to himself.

This brought Jean on the line asking “What’s so funny?”

“Just a little inside joke about raising clouds of dust” Desai replied.

It was a completely harmless event and similarly harmless reply but Jean wondered at what he heard. He knew that laughs come in all shapes and guises. Some quite harmless and warm while others quite chilling and vindictive. Desai’s laugh certainly wasn’t warm. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to ask for clarification. He thought that just as Xu had noted earlier, the four of them on the Moon seemed to have become a little more artificial in their relationship rather than the genuine warmth they had originally experienced.

“I wonder if that’s the consequence of living in their new environment? And thus there’s a need for a stronger expectation of survival? And for self-preservation” Jean thought.

He continued watching Desai via the radar monitor and to watch Desai’s head display as it got broadcast into the Hab. Perhaps this could be called voyeurism but here it was simply a safety measure. Jean took a slow, small sip of lunar water and let his mind wander while continuing to track Desai’s progress.

Logbook #43


Le chapitre 43

With another gentle hop and skip Valentina moved up to where Woof was waiting for her. Their robot companion was standing on a small ridgeline that separated the Hab from the Haven. The ridgeline itself had defied their explanations. It could be a fold from the original cooling during the Moon’s coalescence. Or it could be the result of a shock from some mighty asteroid slamming into an already cooled Moon. In any case, their ground penetrator had not picked out any noteworthy features so it remained just a creased lump of rock which happened to be a perfect fence to separate their two living spaces.

Her minded drifted back to when she and Max had walked together to the Haven. As always, the stars above were in picture perfect clarity as they had been during the walk. And she felt a certain longing well up inside her. It was almost like a slight pull on her heart string. A longing for an intimate connection. She had surprised herself at how much she had come to feel a certain emptiness in her life. She had thought that with her three companions and a new world to develop then she would have all that she needed to satisfy herself. But she was discovering that it wasn’t enough. Her companions certainly filled every need for friendship. They didn’t feed her need to have a soul mate. And somehow, while the Moon was a step into the limitlessness of space, she felt constrained. She could do only so much project development via teleconferences and messaging. She often felt that her project team was simply giving her the answers that she wanted to hear and that they weren’t giving her the real details. She knew that she could make better progress if she was standing right in front of them. Demanding to know why they were late. She put the concern aside and commanded Woof to head over to the entrance to the Haven.

The Haven, their lunar refuge, was turning out better than any of them had anticipated. Through trial and error via a number of small cavities they had found some techniques that would nearly seal the cavity’s surface to the transmission of the pressurized Earth air. From three of the most promising cavities they had repeated their construction method on larger chambers. Then, they had pumped in air and sat down to wait. It was a week since they had first filled the chambers and they’d seen almost no change in atmospheric pressure in any of the three so far. However, last night they had detected an abrupt change in one. Oddly, the pressure had dropped by about a third and then had remained constant. The four of them had exchanged theories over the dinner table in the evening. They ranged from an admittedly long shot of a lunar microbe chewing its way into the cavity to a more realistic lunar tremor that had shifted the rock structure at the site. Yet, while they could imagine many ways for the air to escape and drop the pressure, none of them could fathom why the escape would stop and the pressure remain constant again. So here she was with Woof on her way to the Haven to determine if she could see anything that might pinpoint the cause.

She watched as each of her footfalls raised a small cloud of dust. Even on the recently sintered pathway the lunar regolith had begun to make inroads. Whether from the passage of one of their lunar rovers or from the exhaust of a resupply vessel. At times, the dust wore upon her. She was even starting to dream of being in a tropical forest; dew dripping off the leaves while moss clung to all the branches. She had imagined herself naked with sweat running all over her body and the sound of macaws ringing in her ears. This starkly contrasted to the reality of the moment. The constant lunar dust and the dry Hab were also wearing upon her. She was indeed wondering more and more as to what she will demand of herself for the future.