Having the last installment the exposition of Mars, here we have exposition of the huge station of Martian Control. I mentioned in one of my podcasts that Australia has “affiliate” or “auxiliary” status within the Polar Alliance. I’d imagine that if Aqua found someone he wanted who was willing to serve on the terraforming project, he would invite them over.
I may make it official that my Friday podcasts will start coming out Saturday; things are just too busy around here. I won’t make that final until Daughter #1 is back to college this Saturday and I have a chance to see what that does to my schedule – I suspect very little – but am already leaning in that direction. Having already discussed politics, I’ll turn my attention to sex and religion. After all, those are the three things one should never discuss in polite company. And I am anything but that.
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They returned to look at the screens and the unexpected changes to the world they were closing in on. The last official report, Les thought, indicated about eight hundred permanently assigned to the project with another four hundred or so rotating in and out as their talents were needed. I wonder if they are on the surface or…
“Look there!” Nikky exclaimed, pointing. “Just coming around the horizon! Martian Control and… Saint Peter protect us! It’s huge.”
Les had seen those images, too, but the last was six months old and many changes had been effected. The original was modular in nature, assembled in Earth orbit before being brought here by reactionless tugs developed just for this project. Once the project was taken over by Aqua, the demands for earth-side production jumped by a factor of ten. What had begun as twenty-four modules, each twenty by forty by ten meters, arranged eight by three, now also sported what looked like a space drydock, dozens of radio dishes, and many projections and bulges he could not begin to guess did what.
Laszlo estimated from the image which grew clearer as they came closer that Control’s overall dimensions were around a hundred meters wide, nearly a kilometer long, and fifty meters thick. And somewhere in its core is one of the most powerful banks of quantum computers known, hosting one of the most secretive of the machines.
“We are being hailed,” Reina said through a speaker. “General quarters, all. Please.”
The Russians moved to strap down while he was down to the bridge in seconds and into his chair. A glance showed him a communication signal from Control. He pushed accept.
“This is Laszlo Hartmann, captain of Imperial Space Ship Lionheart,” he said clearly to the presumed human male face on the screen before him. “Our flight plan brings us to within five hundred kilometers of Martian Control. We request instructions for beyond that.”
The man smiled. He had an old-fashioned headset of earphones and a microphone over his blond hair. Knowing the racial mix of the Polar Alliance, Les guessed him to be Russian and about thirty.
“This is Finn Foster,” he replied in a thick Australian accent. So much for my guesses. “And welcome to Mars, Crown Prince Laszlo. We are aware of your other passengers and their importance so I assure you that your safety is highest priority. And that is right from the top.”
He means my cousin, Aqua, Reina wrote in a little message bubble on the edge of the screen. Foster would not see it.
“I won’t insult you by calling this a sightseeing tour,” Foster laughed, “and on record this is a ‘Progress Survey,’ so we’ll have your ship into our dock, then a briefing, then a shuttle down to the surface.”
“Much appreciated Mister Foster, however my ship is quite capable…” he trailed off at the shaking of the blond head and steely look.
“Absolutely no foreign, potentially contaminated ships on the surface or even in the atmosphere. Things are delicate here, Prince.” He leaned forward to do something with his hands. “Just sent you the path to our spacedock. Ah. including velocities.”
Naturally they didn’t want some hotdog royal thinking he could bring an experimental ship in at 100 meters per second.
“Received and thank you. We will cross check the plot – ”
Checked, said the bubble.
“And let you know presently before moving, Mister Foster.”
“Very good, captain. Once again, welcome to Mars.” The screen faded.
Laszlo pressed another button.
“Astrogator Romanov! New terminal plot just received and needs cross-check, please,” he called.
“Standby,” was her professional reply.
“Well now,” he said to his second in command, leaning back a little, “this is more than I’d hoped. I did not think we would get an invite to the surface.”
“You should stay on guard, captain,” Reina said letting her eyes close. From the other screens he noted she had deployed the main antenna and pointed it toward Control. “There is politics I was not told about and which I do not fully understand at play here.”
“A threat? From the most ambitious project our Alliance has ever undertaken? Color me skeptical, Reina,” he said in honest surprise.
“No,” it was almost half a minute before she spoke. “But unless you order me otherwise, I shall remain aboard our ship.”
“Course confirmed!” Kira called through the speakers as he will still trying to make since of what this android was trying to say. He looked at their current position before calling Foster.
“Everything looks good from here,” he said with a smile but now wondering what else was going on board that huge station. “We’ll be at our final waypoint in twenty minutes. I’ll check back in then before we begin our approach to you.”
“Very good, captain!” Foster smiled.