Logbook #70

AS17-146-22425
AS17-146-22425

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

AS11-40-5912
AS11-40-5912

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 #66

AS15-85-11373
AS15-85-11373

Le chapitre 66

Jean slumped deeper into the metal chair, pushed the controls to return the computer monitor to the old black and white sitcom then turned to give Zara a look bordering on mischief but slightly leaning toward general mayhem.

“Your name should have been Alice” he said to Zara with a smile that only Jackie Gleason could comprehend.

“Why” Zara innocently responded while stowing her air suit onto the rack.

“To the Moon Alice. To the Moon” was all that Jean breathed as if he were reciting a biblical quote of the deepest meaning. Yet his smile then extended a bit further back past his ears and seemed to wrap completely around his head.

“I still don’t get it” replied Zara. “Is it a plumber joke or something?”

“Or something” Jean answered without dropping any hint. “Let’s just power up the Haven’s human ergonomics. I rather like the stucco ceiling effect with countryside windows and a faux shag rug. OK with you?”

Zara paused for a moment. Collecting her thoughts she responded, “I think that sounds somewhat 60’s-ish. Isn’t that a bit before your time? As long as we wake up with no walls, a floor that resembles the outback and one side showing the gentle rise of Ayers rock then I’m happy.”

Zara strode past Jean to start the accounting of the stored supplies.

“I don’t know why Xu wants us to do this every time. It’s not like there are thieves in the neighbourhood. We’re actually missing neighbours of any sort. And as for rodents, there’s not even been the hint of a mouse” she joked.

Still she took her electronic notepad out and verified each package and each box. If there was any dust then even that would not have moved. But the air filtration system kept the air as clean as any biocontainment facility.

“Say have you ever thought that the mission specialists were Mormons or something? Like why this exact amount of food? No more. No less” she continued. “There’s this little gremlin inside of me that’s speaking. It says,”just report one little box is missing. Just one!” and I know that if I were to do that then Xu would have us searching every nook and cranny. Non-stop. No prospecting. No eating. No anything until that box is found. Or the error on the checklist discovered. Still, I can see that gremlin sitting on my shoulder.”

Jean laughed. “Maybe I’m the one that should be sitting on your shoulder. Then I would be as mischievous as any gremlin that you ever knew” he proclaimed with all the false bravado he could muster.

It was Zara’s turn to laugh. “Not so fast my little gigolo.

That wasn’t the only reason I requested you to join me in the Haven.”

“What?” questioned Jean “I’m hurt.” He added a disco ball effect to the room’s walls and began playing the old hits from Saturday Night Fever.

“I packed my special white suit for this overnight rendezvous and now you get ol’ Cold as Ice. Seems somewhat foreign to my views on seduction.”

Jean stood and in his best soprano he belted out “You’re as cold as ice and you’re willing to sacrifice our love” which of course brought laughter and tears onto Zara’s face.

Perhaps it was the contrast between Jean’s singing and the team’s unofficial anthem “Stayin’ Alive” playing in the background. But in any case Zara dropped the account checklist on top of the counter. Did her best Sandra Dee strut over to Jean and wrapped her arms warmly around his waist.

“Let’s change up that song and bring on a little Sinatra” she whispered in his ear. “I think it’s time we closed that feed to mission control and used this Haven the way it was meant to be used.”

Jean could feel his body warm to the embrace of Zara. The thoughts of him being a father were far away as the lights dimmed and the communications channel stopped its incessant blur of white noise. He was looking forward to a little entertainment that no TV show had ever envisioned when he was growing up.

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.