Diamonds: A New Vignette by Torn MacAlester

Nils depart­ed Con­rad Lunar Sta­tion, dri­ving his pres­sur­ized crawler. He imag­ined the sta­tion would become the hub of lunar activ­i­ty asso­ci­at­ed with the Luna­dyne Cor­po­ra­tion. His hab wasn’t far off, allow­ing him to be away from the cen­ter of activ­i­ty and on his own. The whole point of his being here had been to build up the Moon. He knew Luna­dyne was an excel­lent group to be asso­ci­at­ed with, but he didn’t work for the com­pa­ny. He was an independent–one of the first.

The crawler was the cen­ter of his life on the Moon. He knew it was nec­es­sary for trans­porta­tion and work. Nils knew that with­out the crawler, it would lim­it him to Con­rad Sta­tion and the com­pa­ny would either con­script him for work or send him back to Earth. Nei­ther of which appealed to him. He planned to do free­lance activ­i­ties. Before he arrived, Nils knew there would always be some­one on Earth that need­ed a pair of hands on the Moon. The crawler enabled him to trav­el and offer his skills wher­ev­er they were required.

As he drove, he con­sid­ered the list of jobs that had arrived through his bro­ker. Using the bro­ker had been a last-minute con­sid­er­a­tion. He want­ed to han­dle it him­self, but con­nec­tions to enough peo­ple would prove impos­si­ble on the Moon’s sur­face. The bro­ker would send a list, Nils would review it and select a job, nego­ti­ate a price, and pay ten per­cent as a fee. He’d worked through the last list, enabling him to make a down pay­ment on the deliv­ery of supplies.

Scan­ning the list while the crawler auto­mat­i­cal­ly drove the path toward his habi­tat, Nils noticed one that he real­ized he need­ed to avoid tak­ing. Some­one want­ed to hire him to look for dia­monds on the rim of Coper­ni­cus Crater. He knew that was impos­si­ble. The geol­o­gy for the Moon was all wrong to form dia­mond. There wasn’t a suf­fi­cient source of car­bon on the life­less Moon. Know­ing the answer before­hand, he did­n’t want to spend a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey on con­duct­ing the sur­vey. He called the bro­ker­age firm.

“This is Nils Carmike,” he said once he reached the voice of a human oper­a­tor. “I need to review one of the poten­tial clients that is on my list.”

“Is there a prob­lem with the price of the job, Mis­ter Carmike?” asked the Bro­ker in her smooth voice after the two sec­ond delay to Earth. “We estab­lished the prices based upon the work instruc­tions that you pro­vid­ed to us.”

“Regard­less, the price is out­ra­geous for this job. Obvi­ous­ly, some­one has deceived the indi­vid­ual who made the request at this out­ra­geous price. There are no dia­monds on the Moon, oth­er than the once we brought with us.”

“That’s a shame, Mis­ter Carmike. We have no process­es to deal with this kind of discrepancy.”

“Tell you what,” said Nils. “We need to fix this, or I will end my con­tract with your firm. Because of my rep­u­ta­tion, I can­not exploit some­one’s lack of knowl­edge about the Moon on purpose.”

“Hold on a moment, Mis­ter Carmike. I will arrange for you to dis­cuss this with the client.”

 

*****

“What is wrong with dia­monds?” asked the man, called Herald.

Nils could tell that he was elder­ly but did not know how old.

“Sir, you don’t know me,” said Nils. “But I’ve been work­ing on the Moon already more than any­one and been study­ing it far longer. Believe me when I say that the Moon doesn’t have diamonds.”

“I’m afraid that my nephew insists that this is correct.”

“If I may, how much did the min­er­al rights to the area cost you?”

“I think it was about three mil­lion,” said Her­ald. “I’ll have to look at my accounts to get the exact amount.”

“Did you get the rights because the sell­er insist­ed there were diamonds?”

“Yeah, I’m no fool. I wouldn’t have got rights with­out a sample.”

“You have raw dia­monds that they claim came from the Moon?” asked Nils.

“Yes. I have them in a bag­gy in the draw­er. One sec­ond, let me get them.”

“Okay,”

“Yeah,” said Har­ald. “I have them here.”

“Can you describe them to me?”

“They are lit­tle rocks, most­ly clear.”

“Are there any inclu­sions that are col­ored?” asked Nils.

“I see some col­or. What was that word you said?”

“Inclu­sion. It means that it’s buried inside the crystal.”

“I can’t real­ly tell,” Her­ald said. “Some look on the surface.”

“What col­or are the stones?”

“Most­ly gray, maybe slight­ly green.”

“Her­ald, I can tell you that these rocks might not be dia­monds. I would get them test­ed. The cost of the sur­vey means it will take me a day to com­plete. That cost cov­ers all the expens­es of me being on the Moon for that day.”

“Okay.”

“That means that cov­ers the cost of ship­ping all the water I drink, the food I eat, and even the air I breathe. That is a round­about way of say­ing my ser­vices are expen­sive. I’d like you to have your sam­ples checked first. If your sam­ples are legit­i­mate­ly dia­monds and the exam­in­ers will ver­i­fy that they are not from the Earth, then I’ll go out to your site and look for diamonds.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes Harold, I fear that they have duped you and I don’t want to add to your finan­cial bur­den to prove that to you by tak­ing a day at your site and find­ing noth­ing. I would call your local police as well and report the fraud. You can give them my number.”

Nils closed the con­nec­tion after reas­sur­ing the man that the sit­u­a­tion was seri­ous. Even though the mon­ey would have been easy, he knew some­one oth­er than him might take it. He hoped Harold would take his advice and ver­i­fy those diamonds.

Vignette: Clash of Titans by Torn MacAlester

Antares: A New Vignette by Torn MacAlester

After exam­in­ing his offices in the L5 sta­tion, Mark Mason ulti­mate­ly deter­mined that he was pleased. The O’Neil cylin­der was years away, so the tiny space made sense. At first zero G dis­agreed with him and he feared he would need to aban­don his quest. He built Selene Corp for the quest, but the Moon was not the goal. It was anoth­er dis­trac­tion among many. Most notably try­ing to keep his chief finan­cial offi­cer from sell­ing Mars as the next goal.

“I don’t under­stand why you are so obsessed that we don’t go to Mars,” said Gina Simon, the Selene Corp CFO. “It’s the next obvi­ous destination.”

“I agree it’s obvi­ous, Ms. Simon, but it also is a trap,” said Mark.

“Trap?”

“Let me explain.”

Mark adjust­ed the video cam­era so that his pic­ture was more cen­tered on the video screen.

“Mars is a nice des­ti­na­tion,” Mark con­tin­ued. “How­ev­er, it has sev­er­al draw­backs. It is not a source of mate­ri­als. Its bor­der­line for hab­it­abil­i­ty. The atmos­phere is far too thin. It has no mag­net­ic field. It will be a resource sink for lit­tle benefit.”

“Isn’t Mars as resource rich as the Moon?”

“Oh yes, it is. But some argue that it’s twice as hard to export those resources from Mars. They will be per­fect for build­ing on Mars. But those same resources will give us lit­tle ben­e­fit for the rest of the solar system.”

“But isn’t it the only hab­it­able des­ti­na­tion?” asked Gina.

“Not exact­ly. Mars is only bor­der­line hab­it­able. The atmos­phere is insuf­fi­cient and made of the wrong stuff. The habi­tats we’ve built for the Moon and the vac­u­um of space will almost be required for use on Mars.”

“What about terraforming?”

“Again pos­si­ble,” said Mark. “But the busi­ness is unap­peal­ing to me. It’s as big of a dead end as end­ing all space pro­grams and stay­ing on Earth.”

“What do you mean?”

“Stel­lar evolution.”

“Huh?”

“Stel­lar evo­lu­tion, Ms. Simon. Over the next fifty to hun­dred mil­lion years, the Sun will evolve and even­tu­al­ly swell into a red giant. That inevitabil­i­ty will con­sume both Mars and Earth. There is an uncer­tain­ty con­cern­ing Jupiter, so Sat­urn is the first place that we might con­sid­er safe.”

“So that’s the rea­son for all the plans for Saturn?”

“No, I have oth­er rea­sons for Sat­urn that are more imme­di­ate than sur­viv­ing the Sun’s life cycle.”

“Can you let me know what those are?” she asked.

“No, I’m not ready to open up the Sat­urn dis­cus­sion today.”

“Aren’t you push­ing Mars aside for the Sat­urn activity?”

“No,” said Mark. “I’m point­ing out that we have bet­ter des­ti­na­tions than Mars, such as Near-Earth Aster­oids. Even Pho­bos and Demos are bet­ter des­ti­na­tions than Mars itself. We have access to resources that aren’t at the bot­tom of a grav­i­ty well. That grav­i­ty well is the rea­son I call it a trap.”

“What’s our next goal?”

“I want to move an asteroid.”

“You’re kid­ding,” said Gina.

“We’ve got a cou­ple of years, but that is what I think is our best option.”

“Why the best?”

“We need mate­ri­als to build the O’Neil cylin­ders,” said Mark. “An aster­oid pro­vides a rub­ble pile of mate­r­i­al that we can spin up.”

“So, what in the meantime?”

“We’ll see if I can stir some things up when I go vis­it Nils Carmike and Deputy Miller.”

 

 

Vignette: Directors and Malcontents by Torn MacAlester

Vignette: Another Plot by Torn MacAlester

Vignette: Decisions by Torn MacAlester

Vignette: Commander by Torn MacAlester

Vignette: Y+1 by Torn MacAlester

Vignette: The Soldier by Torn MacAlester

Vignette: The Mountain by Torn MacAlester