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The Ugly: “Truth”

July 23, 2012

For Suz and the girls in the Library.

For any Publisher this is the last part of a literary triptych: Three interludes between the three main Moon based short stories shorts of “Vacant Space.”
(See a previous post for more details.)

The microSat was close to crashing in a couple of orbits. The calculations had been made and the crash site located down to a kilometre or so. Uninhabited for hundreds of km around the projected 1.2m crater. The owners, insurers and the Koreans all breathed a big collective sigh. As did the few astronomers and lunar scientists hoping for an ejecta plume and a bit of free lunar geology. The impact point was on Farside. Better luck next time boffins! There were plenty more birds in an unstable Lunar orbit.
Meanwhile, inboard, a clock was quietly ticking its way down to zero. And that was well before the impending impact…

It’s been a hard day’s fortnight: III The Ugly: “Truth”

Alexi interrupted. As I was chugging some beer. Thirsty work: story telling. Or perhaps it was the moonshine.

‘Sorry, Les my friend but “Brerfox”, “Brerabbit.” Who, what are they?’

‘Oh Br’er means Brother. “B, R apostrophe R, E er… no, ER! “‘
I checked the bottle, nearly empty. Oh. Oh! I soldiered on: “Brother Fox” and “Brother Rabbit.” Animal characters out of an old DisCorp 2D. Nineteen thirties? Or forties. And an old, old old book before that: “Tales of the South” by Uncle Remus. I think. Or Jack London. My father used to read them to me as a child. I’ll dig a reference out for you some time.’

A sudden thought struck.

‘Has anyone heard of Aesop’s Fables? Ancient Greece’ There were a few nods.

‘Well like those fables, only set in the deep south of North America that was. Just after the first civil war.’

One smartaleck, a new chum whipped out a dataPad. Started tapping and gesturing away. I ignored him.

‘So anyway we landed at LunaCit on the southern group of pads close to the Cemetery. A hunting ground where I hoped to turn the tables on my hunter. Our plan B for bad was…’

I got no further.

‘Found it: “Song of the South”… made 1946 …colour animation and live action combined …Oooh! Runtime 94 minutes…’ The new chum(p) continued to spout his superiority with other people’s words. Moments later, he had the film itself. Pirating and porting it onto the screen that Alexi has for the sports and big events.

And that was that. I could hardly blame them. I was that drunk too!

As the old 2D, surprisingly in colour, streamed on, I could see that they had lost interest in my little fishy tale.

Look at the pretty blue birdy.

‘Bitter thoughts Baz.’ Zero echoed into my inner ear.

Yeah. Bitter and twisted. I kept that thought private.

I looked at Alexi and shook my head.

‘Another time, my friend. Another time.’

However I was not sure that I would be able to find the time. I needed a change of scenery. I needed Space.

***

In the tiny four person compartment of the ‘Bug we flew silently over the equally silent, stark silver-grey vacuum desert. A vast emptiness upon which we have barely been able to mark our passing. Let alone fill with life and vitality. Even with a modest pair of binoculars you can see that the Earth is just bursting with life and from low Earth orbit our habitations and despoilments are plain to see with the naked eye. From 12.76 km, our current altitude, we could see nothing but regolith and boulders and the endless matryoshka matrix of crater within crater within crater. The fractal foundations of the Lunar landscape.

I was worried. Something had gone wrong with my ploy. And for the life of me —literally so—  I could not fathom what it was. Yurya had been pretty quiet on the trip out. But now their silence had turned ugly. I chatted inconsequentialities, pointed out landmarks. Played the tourist guide role to the hilt. But behind those eyes, and that damn moustache; my shark was planning something of their own.

Lunar City is in the southern part of the Oceanus Procellarum. In that little flat bit between the rays of Copernicus and Kepler. It is not the oldest Lunar settlement, nor is it the biggest. But it is the only one that is growing. Both in surface area, for reasons that will become apparent, but in population too. It is, at the moment, the “Big City” where everyone in the impoverished Polar boondocks heads for. In the hope of better work and a better life. Lunar City has the biggest and best catapult on Luna. Now (and forevermore ?) under the control of UNSTF. Until the revolution. Comrade.

‘Calling Lunar City flight control this is jumpBug UNSTF Five-Six on approach. Request clearance for a landing at pad complex Gamma. Over.’

‘This is LunaCit Flight, UN five-six. We have a clearance for you on pad nine. Am activating approach beacon and strobe: Channel 76, seven six. Over.”

‘Roger, Lunar City Flight. Pad nine. Channel seven six. Will contact after touchdown. Out.’

‘OK UN fifty six. Don’t bounce her too hard! Out.’

Tapping in those two digits and swiping the “autopilot landing enable” icon is what passes for piloting round here. Out in the wastelands of the limb, it’s a different matter. But around LunaCit nothing flies without precise computer control. Too many valuable surface installations. Unusual. Bearing in mind how most Lunar settlements are worse than the icebergs of old Earth. On the Moon what you see is rarely what you get: only one percent shows above ground. And that’s radiation hardened.

In Luna most of our settlements are buried deep in old lava tubes or under volcanic domes. Or, in the more modern cubic, carved deeper still.  LunaCit was the exception. It sprawled. Not the usual circular sprawl of solar farmlands. Punctuated here and there by the circular barrow of some distant facility: like an old nuclear power plant, useless, abandoned and buried deep. Or an outlying research station now swallowed up by growing arcs of photo-electric glass.

LunaCit was different.

It still had solar glasslands that glittered blackly; sucking up the Sun’s rays. Three arrays radiating out from the central surface installations and out to the low Lunar horizon. Like some radiation symbol.

As we passed overhead on approach: I pointed out the curved sintered regolith maintenance tracks that divided the arcing fields; pathways for the robotic “cows” that endlessly grazed on electrostatically deposited dust. Over there: a “bull” as it replaced a worn out panel in a never ending task.  However these glasslands were small as LunaCit got most of its power from the rectenna over in an adjacent crater. A vast meshwork of wire that sucked in continuous power from the SolSat. A bright equatorial star co-orbiting the primary Earth-Lunar Lagrangian point with its faint tiny companion: Nearside Station.

I indicated the man made constellation above us. Then, below us, the line of the shaded superconducting mains running from Hortensius back to the Gamma locks n’ docks.  Yurya was singularly unimpressed. But I rambled on. Filling the silence with a travelogue: the catapult itself; the one kilometre booster stators; maintenance shacks and shelters and the power lines and rollerBus roadways to the villages growing at the loading head and ejection terminus. From there the wide tracks winding out to the horizon and the mines that delved into the rich ejecta blanket that splatted out from ‘Cop’ and ‘Kep’.

But closer to the surface installations that marked the city centrum and just away from the roads was another landscape. Separate from the familiar glasslands. Something unworldly. Three vast necropoli stretching to the south, the north-east and north-west. From Earth with a good pair of binoculars you could just make out their outline. From closer up the vision was sharper. Stark.  Mondrian mosaics in black and white and endless shades of grey. Chessboards within chessboards within chessboards; a pixilated rendering of former fractal impact craters. Now bulldozed flat in the pursuit of posterity.

Now under the direct control of the autopilot and the ground approach computers. I had nothing to do. I turned to Yurya. “Leo.” I reminded myself firmly, “Leo.”

I found myself looking at a teeny tiny gun.

Gun. Guns! Of course they could have smuggled more than one. Idiot.

“Where did I go wrong’ Deadpan. It looked like a .22 calibre. Low power, anyway. I still had a chance.

‘You called me Yurya.’ So I did. Make that ‘Idiot’ squared.

‘So what do we do about it.’ Casual, bored even.

‘We will land and you and I will have a little walk out there. And only I will walk back.’ Cold, calculating and comically over the top. Yurya was trying to mindgame me. Me!

‘You’re gonna have to come up with a more convincing argument than that little popgun.’

The gun moved upwards a fraction. Aiming for my left eye by the look.

‘I could shoot you in face right here, right now. How many people know you have passenger. Neishtoh! Nobody!’

Well actually my selachial friend, I thought caustically:  LunaPol; UNSTF and my guardian angel Zero. Where was he! I decided to take the initiative. My helmet visor was a shatterproof laminate of glass and plastic. It would stop a .22 round no problem. It might even still be pressure tight afterwards.

‘Aw’chin horror show. Gospodin.  You’all is the bossman. I’ll start to suit up if it’s all the same to you.’ It might work. It didn’t.

‘No. We will land. Then you will tell Control Room we have a temporary pressure problem. Then you will carefully get me ready, whilst I cover you with this.’ A needless gesture with their toy gun. ‘Then you may do the same for yourself and then we will take that little walk. And then you will die.’

Damn. I sighed and complied. Whilst thinking of Gert Frobe and his big ruby red laser. But as a signal to Zero and, it must be said,  partly for my self reassurance… I continued the flim-flam that I had planned anyway. The tables might have been tipped in the mid game. Mostly by my idiot loose tongue. But the end game could still be engineered in my favour.

‘So… Leo. Yurya. Whatever your name is.  It’s a pity it has to end like this. I had intended a nice little side trip to see the fastest growing growth industry on the Moon.’

‘What’s that Mr Lestoutes.’ More mindgames.

‘Burying people, Mr. Gagarinovitch! Burying people! Bit of a joke what with you and your little gun and your little mission here. Lunar City has the major cemetery concession for most of the burials we have here. Because of the catapult.’

‘But a catapult is for launching stuff. Niet?’

‘Well it does that too. A little. Mostly cheap LOX with some platinum and rare earths. But nowadays most of that gets refined out in the Near Earth Orbit and the Main Belt. But you can use a catapult both ways, by fitting big stator rings…’ I was babbling. ‘He’ looked blank.

‘Big electro-magnetic hoops at the far end. With smaller ones the closer you get to launching point. Then you can catch a small container and guide it and slow it electro-magnetically. Generally the container is a casket with some rich Dirt…’ I corrected myself. ‘Some rich person’s remains. Fired off by a catapult up in Low Earth Orbit. The system is used during the long dark lunar night.’  I added  ‘The super-conductin’ elements work better and they use the beamed power from a solar power satellite at Nearside. That way it’s much cheaper than wasting reaction mass. Lunar City is the main catcher for everyone that wants to be buried up here. There you go. All fixed up.’

I had done a good job. In more ways than one! In fitting the P-Suit I had made a few subtle adjustments to minimise the cooling and maximise power use. For good measure, I had slapped a small radio beacon to the back of the backpack. Despite the unexpected gun and the dirty great big one; I was feeling pretty cocky. Mind you I could have done worse: disabled the CO2 removal for one. But my plan was to bring ’em back alive. Half dead from heat prostration. But still alive.

Through the helmet visor I saw the movement of lips. I could just hear the words.

‘But why be buried up here. It’s desolate.’ I could see Yurya was playing for time. Checking for sabotage.

I feigned deafness by cupping an ear. And quoting Buzz:

‘Magnificent desolation.’ I had dropped my voice level slightly. The cabin was still pressurised and sounds were muffled more than silenced. But Yurya had no real experience with any of this.

I gestured to my helmet and the radio controls on the commPad attached to the forearm of my P-Suit.

‘If you want to talk, I’ve gotta put this on.’ Even lower level.

Inside, Yurya nodded. Of course the helmet didn’t move a centimetre. Definitely a new chum mistake. Us old lags use the old diving signals, along with sign language. Mostly to chat privately at a longer range than helmet to helmet.  But sometimes the Satcomms are really FUBARed for one reason or another.

Once I was suited up, sealed and checked, I did a radio check. Yurya repeated their question.

‘But why be buried up here?’

By now we had landed and as far as the eye could see: there were little cemetary plots. Some tiny patches of ground with nothing more than a little casket. Others much larger with  markers: monoliths. Some of these: one by four by nine! Arthur C. Clarke would have approved.

“I think it’s the timelessness that appeals. Some people just don’t like the thought of rotting away in the ground. And whilst they like the idea of being burned: purified in the fire. But then how do you dispose of your ashes. Bury ’em in the ground? Well you could build a tomb or sepulchre or something.  But on Earth they are recycling the cemetaries. Not enough room. So what chance of Eternity there. Here on the Moon we have lots of surface. Most of the work and play takes place in the cubic below. And there is a lot more cubic than surface.’

Damn right I was playing for time. After all I had it on my side.

‘Way back. Two centuries or so. Some bright spark had a nice little scam selling “Moon Plots” to the gullible. Well this time it’s for real. For a reasonable sum you get a one hundred square centimetre plot. For a little more cash a big one square metre one. For a small fortune: ten square metres on which to build a monument for posterity until the Sun inflates and swallows up the Moon, the Earth and …’

Yurya interupted with a gesture punctuated by the pop gun.

‘Time to go Mr. Lestoutes.’ At that point reaching down to pick up the ‘camera case.’

I leapt and pushed the bending figure over. Hard. Then slapped the emergency depress.

The hatch blew with a satisfactory “Chuff” that you could hear before the vacuum silenced it. Prepared, I used the outrush of air to propel myself through the empty hole where the hatch had been and out into the empty Lunar sky.

Now the hunt was really on. But back on my terms.

Afterwards I found a little .22 bullet lodged in my PLSS backpack. The kevlar had absorbed most of the impact but it cost UN$ 200 for a new cover!

I didn’t notice it at the time.

I headed out for some of the larger plots and the better cover they afforded. Before I had got half way I was joined by a remote bouncer.

‘Zero where were you.’  Not a question. His calm monotones, projected right into my inner ear, helped to steady racing nerves.

‘I calculated that a discrete silence would be better. I know you like to talk your way out of situations that you have talked your way into.’ Make that a sarcastic monotone. I don’t know just how he did it. But do it, he did. And very well! Better with the new vocoder.

‘You didn’t say anything at the time!’ I wasn’t complaining exactly. But it is good to have a conversation when you are in fear of your life. Even if your saviour is currently avatared in the form of a metal and ceramic Jiminy Cricket used to inspect the monuments and keep an eye on the few mourners.

‘The best probabilities indicated a better performance… if  you had made the realisation yourself. Contrarily: if I had told you of your verbal faux pas; you would have worried throughout the trip back and that would have reduced the odds in your favour even further. Actually Baz, the fact that you did not…”

‘Later Zero, let’s just keep it RealTime from here on in.’

‘However my time was not wasted,’  he continued smoothly. ‘I have patched in to the radio beacon you planted and can pipe it straight to your optical implant as needed. Also I have suborned a spare telescope at Nearside Station ‘ It can just make out the jumpBug but the resolution is too poor to see you or Yurya. So I hijacked this remote and will use it instead to keep an eye on Yurya. Whom, I might add,  is less than four hundred metres away and gaining on you.’

I loped furiously for cover.

What followed next would be a careful balancing act. I had to conserve power and water and oxygen and my own energy as well. All the while whilst trying to make Yurya expend the maximal amount of consumables possible. Stoney’s secondhand P-Suit, optimised for the cold, would not stand these late morning temperatures well. With luck the adjustments I had made would help and I had much better reserves.

Yurya paused somewhere under cover to reassemble the portable cannon. I could tell it was ready when a large chunk of monolith exploded. Showering me with fragments of razor sharp obsidian.

‘That was too close. Zero can you spot ’em.’

I screwed my eyes tight shut. Not easy to to when you are being shot at!

Pressure pads in my forehead muscles switched on my nerve feed and my left eye turned into a primitive LCD display: 640x 320 pixels. The program Zero had running made it look like a game of Pacman! Coincidence? Or a subtle attempt at humour by Zero. Yeah.

Yurya was to the west heading east. I bounced high but not too high in an eastward arc. Killed my vector on landing and headed west, loping in long low shallow arcs and using the cover to they to get behind. This was the basis of plan B for Bad. The theme ran through my mind but I had no oxygen -or breath- to waste on whistling. I would feint and force my shark to swim too far in the wrong direction. Whilst I would spend my time inside the circle of their search. Expending minimal effort to maximal effect.

The game of cat and mouse, of shark and clownfish played out under a static waning Earth and the rising Sun. Hours passed, most of it spent crouched behind one: one by four by nine monolith or another. Resting in the shade whilst Yurya rushed on by. Then when my display blipped they were a good distance away: I would pop up so that they could take a pot shot at me. Going by what we had seen at the relay station, Zero had calculated that the magazine would be good for eight shots.

Yurya used one of them to take out the remote. Figuring that I was getting outside help. Smart kid. And not a waste of a shot. That bouncer had been able to save my skin twice and still had good fuel reserves through Zero’s superior control. Since they had already wasted two shots at the relay station. That left five to waste me.

Or so Zero had calculated. Unfortunately even super intelligent Autonomous Intellects can get it wrong! At least that is my contention.

Four, five and six had been shots to nothing; at extreme range and always when I was moving. During a high Lunar bounce you are pretty much an easy target. Especially at the peak of the arc. But there are acrobatic tricks: flinging out arms and legs to change your vector slightly. However Yurya was becoming a better shot. Shell number seven passed close enough to see. After that the hunt became a stalking match. No more wasted shots.

Despite that I was feeling good. I had just been zapped by a GCR and was feeling good about that too! ‘cos chers you don’t often get a chance to see one of ’em. Not if you have any sense that is. I had 4.68 KiloSeconds of air and another 3.6 klicks emergency reserve. My cooling was good. I still had a litre or so of water and I had just had a piss. So there would be more water available in a couple of tocks. As Zero might say in his inimitable style, especially with his new vocoder “Satisfactory.” No. My main constraint was my power. My suit power was good, for just under 5 kSec. But my personal power was fading fast. My neural implant drew quite a bit. Much more than the old bone phone in my mastoid and its ancillary hardware. Baz’s shoulder batteries needed a recharge!

So when Yurya fired their ‘last’ cannon shell. And I had been a particularly tempting target, until I used a passing monumental spire to suddenly change direction. After that I decided to take action and end this charade. As if a Dirtsider new chum(p) would have a chance against an old Lunar lag like me! I landed and circled round intending to take them out from the rear. Specifically take out what remained of their life support. Which couldn’t be much.

By now I had drawn us into the part of the cemetary closest to the Gamma locks n’ docks. Being closest, it was also the most prized and priced. Large plots filled with temple complexes that would make the Pharaohs green with envy. But rather than ancient mud brick, these monuments were mostly assembled from regulation sized sintered regolith bricks; stacked mortarless like some child’s construction toy. No wind. No rain and damn few moonquakes. The site for the catapult had been carefully selected for tectonic stability. The architectural styles varied from ancient pyramids to strange geometries from beyond time and space.

It was from one of those that I nabbed my weapon. A rectangular roof tile roughly half by a quarter metre. Spotted from a previous high viewpoint it glittered: a slice of meteoritic iron. The tile had a blunt edge, of sorts, but it was weighty. F=MA. It felt like attacking someone with a tea tray but it was the best weapon to hand.

Unfortunately my hasty exit from the jumpBug had left me with no weapon. As you know by now, have an aversion to guns at the best of times but I had thought to pack an impressive looking grippy in the portable tool kit I had brought along. Also packed with the various tools and spares that I thought might be needed when Stoney’s rented suit expired from overuse. The grippy was used for major leverage and with it’s weighty battery packs made for a good impromptu club. Probably about as much use as Yurya’s toy popgun against a well padded P-Suit but I thought it looked sufficiently intimidating.

Unfortunately Yurya had figured out my tactics pretty well and my element of surprise was spoilt by something. Perhaps it was a sixth sense. Perhaps it was a glint from the tea tray bouncing off of a reflective surface. Perhaps it was the ground shock from the landing of my last bounce.

Whatever it was Yurya turned and fired.

Zero and I still have arguments about this. Zero is adamant that he stated that the magazine was good for eight shells and that naturally as any gun expert would know, that meant a ninth shell in the chamber.

To which I would reply that I was not a gun expert. That he never mentioned the possibility, or the figure nine and that it was common practice not to load the chamber in case of a misfire or mishap.

It helps pass the time. One of those old arguments between friends that make a friendship worthwhile. Or not speak to each other for Cycles.

Meanwhile I was just a little too shocked to figure out where the ninth bullet had come from. Indeed I saw the muzzle flash and felt a bang on my left knee pad before the whole leg went numb. I was now in bullet time. Crisis mode when things slow down to glacial speed and your thinking becomes super-cold, super-critical.

Yurya had shot from the hip. The portable howitzer was designed to be fired from a secured braced firing position. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Chump.
Well you get the picture. The tiny spacesuited figure was flung back violently. Spinning around from the offcentred thrust and smashing into a grey brick wall with sufficient force to dislodge some of the bricks.
It’s now or never.  I thought and found that the tea tray had slipped through my clumsy gloved fingers. And my thigh was hurting. And there was an alarm.

Too many things to process. Another bounce, on the right leg as the left wasn’t working too well and I was there. Leaning over the recumbent form of my would be assassin. First things first. I took that nasty big gun and the little one too and tossed it into the gap behind the busted wall. Then filling in the hole with the bricks as best I could. With the last brick to hand I started pounding away with it. Smashing the fitting of the umbilical where it met the backpack with a good couple of blows. Just why I was doing this at this point: I was not sure. Except that it had been the plan and it seemed a good thing to do at the time. The ugly truth: I was in a killing rage. Displacement the psychologists call it. Taking it out on the PLSS. Rather than smashing in a faceplate.

Inside the suit there would be air for about 600 seconds.

I grabbed the body and shook it roughly.

‘Yurya you idiot. Wake up!’  Helmet to helmet.  I felt motion.

Shtoh… Shtoh sloocheelas?” Russian for sure.
‘What happen.’ The voice was feverish and stunned. Definitely stunned.

‘You tried to kill me. Again.” For some reason my anger had drained away and I was feeling a little lightheaded. I shook some more.

Stoy, ahstanavis. Slushaimenya!‘ I had exhausted my phrasebook Russian, ‘and get a grip Yurya. Or whatever your name is. I have just disabled your main life support. Your emergency reserve will last for an hour. Your guns are gone.  If you are sensible you will walk back to Lunar City. Nice… And… Slow… Without exerting yourself and you should just make it. Then go back to Dirtland, Earth. I mean and never, ever return to the Moon.” I punctuated the sentences with more violent shaking.

My good deed done, I relaxed. And then the pain kicked in.

For the first time I looked down at my left leg. There was a long tear about ten centimetres long. Through which I could see ice white flesh and frozen dried blood.

Merde! Without thinking further, I reached for the biggest suit patch on the chest pack and pulled the big tab. It peeled away as it was designed to and I carefully placed it over the rip. Pressing down hard.

‘Dear God let it work!’ The second part of the operation over, I checked my air reserve: 1.32 klicks. Not good. Then noted that that was the emergency reserve. Worse.

‘Yurya or whatever your name is I have to go. Remember what I said. Connect up your emergency reserve. Here’s the umbilical.’ I placed it in a trembling hand. ‘Oodah chee!

On the way back, hopping on one foot for all I was worth,  I could now feel the inflatable pressure seals that were keeping me alive. When the lower half of the suit depressurised, it had automatically deployed above and below the knee joint and around the upper and lower half of the torso. My air was good, my body temperature ditto. But I could feel the warm blood, as it filled my left boot. But that was both good and bad. Good because the leg was still alive and bad if the bullet had hit the femoral artery. Things could get ugly if it had.

In between landings, I repeated a mantra over the emergency band.

“Mayday. Mayday. This a medical emergency. I am inbound on foot. Heading for the public gangLock at the Gamma locks. I have lost suit integrity and an injury to my left leg. Blood loss. AB positive. I repeat: AB Positive.  The air supply should be sufficient. But I might not be.”

I kept repeating this as the locks n’ docks got closer and closer and things got hazier and hazer. Rather than dominate the emergency band I also listened out for Yurya. Nothing. With nothing to do mid bounce, I took some time out to fiddle with the radio. Tuning in to the band we had used for private communications.  

All I could hear was cursing in fluent Russian. Gradually fading away. Then at the last a whispered “Yulia, Yulia.” A loved one? A mother?

Two bounces later, I was at the airlock. Which: “Praise be” was opening with a medical team coming out. I collapsed gratefully into their arms.

***

Yulia was lying on the slab. At least I guess that’s what her name was. Something to go on anyway. By now I was there in person. Ostensibly for a close look at her tattoos; all too much in the flesh. My flesh was still weak but the medics had dosed me up with pain killers. Wonderful pain killers! Via their euphoric haze and the aid of a wheeled zoomer frame: I was just about able to get about. Even in one sixth gee it was still difficult. It was just an excuse. I needed to see my nemesis in the flesh. Somehow I felt that I owed it to her.   

Nude her gamine form seemed even more slight than “Yurya’s” Little girl breasts; incongrously tattooed with death’s heads, SS symbols and, just above the light fluff of her mons, the jagged lightning used by the Russian far right.

“Seventeen” according to the autopsy. “Oxygen starvation and heat stroke.”

In death her damned moustache was starting to peel off.

After taking close-up shots of the inkwork in order to identify her. I bribed the MediTechs for a DNA sample. LunaPol may have closed the book on this one but mine was just opening.

Appendix I: Metric Time (Abstracted from R n’ R A Space Operatic supplement for The Art™)

Tick 10 Seconds [Rarely: “Dek” “DekaSecond” Ds is always capitalised. “dS” is used for the deciSecond.]

Tock 100 Seconds [Rarely: “Hek” “HectoSecond” Hs 1.67 t-min “Terrestrial minutes” “t” is a aways lower case, always hyphenated to distingush it from Tera rather than Terra.]

Turn Colloquially: “Klick” 1 KiloSecond [16.6…6 t-min. Some Telluric *Cultures still refer to this as a “quarter of an hour” even though it isn’t.]

Ship Hour” 3.3…3 KSec [55.5…5 t-min, 0.9259…259  t-hours. Obscure.]

(Work) Session Colloquially: “Klock” 10KSec [166.67 t-min; 2.7…7 t-hours. Generally Crew working a strict on-duty Long Shift are allowed an end of Session break: 2-3 Tocks for toilet, snack and drink. )]

(Work) Shift 25 KSec [6.94…4 t-hrs. Passenger (& thus Service Crew) time. Four catering Shifts to a Ship Cycle. 6.94…4 t-Hrs each {Midnight} Snack Shift; {Dawn} Breakfast Shift; {Midday} Luncheon Shift; {Dusk} Dinner Shift (Midnight) Shifts also described as ForeNight; AfterNight; ForeNoon and AfterNoon]
Note that artificial lighting is set accordingly. Bright light at Dawn is used to reset circadian rhythm. Terrestrial Passengers are encouraged to nap after luncheon.

Watch aka “Long Shift” 33.33KSec [9.26 t-Hrs Crew Time. Three Shifts to a Ship Cycle usually Bridge and Technical Crew]

Cycle 100KSec “Ship Day“; 1666.67 t-min; 27.78 t-hrs 1.15740…740 t-days

10 Cycles MSec Ship Week” colloquially “MegaWeek”; 11.57 t-days ‘Regular’ item Maintenance schedule.

100 Cycles 10 MSec Ship Month” colloquially “MegaMonth”; 115.74 t-days ‘Routine’ item Maintenance schedule.

1000 Cycles 100 MSec Ship Year” 1157.4 t-days ‘Retuning’ item Maintenance schedule.

10 Ship Years 1 Tera Second “Deckade” [sic] ‘Refit’ Maintenance schedule.

Timekeeping
Hominids using the terrestrial second and analog watches have: a sweep second hand for precise timing plus:
– a Tock hand for timing e.g. soft boiled eggs: ==2 Tocks;
– a Turn hand divided into 10 for Ship Cycles and also the local planetary day
Digital watches can be set for anything;  including old fashioned minutes and hours.

Appendix II: Whimsey

The Art™ of Alexi Yangel Minor (?) NPC (Generated as an afterthought!)

First impressions. Whooo! Spooky Tarot session…

Alexi spat forth almost instantly from his Fate Deck with no opportunity for maxing out his stats in a Pattern. From long experience this indicates an NPC with a very short lifespan. The Players tend to put them in situations that allow the D/M to kill them off! As a literary device Alexi is now more of a problem child than he was before. Some research is needed here I think and Alexi may have to be worked into Sayonara as a major element.
Bother!
 
Significator: The Tower. First card too! Interesting! Alexi is obviously building a new one out of the ruins of the old Barmin Base. But The Tower is much more than that. A serious character flaw gets exploited. Or perhaps or a catastrophic, even fatal, mistake lies ahead. Perhaps involving Baz!
We shall see.

LifePath (other Major Arcana revealed):  Justice; The World. Short and sweet. Neither reversed. Well obviously… but that would be too obvious. I will see if Alexi turns up in Baz’s future. If so I shall look into Alexi’s past a little more esoterically.

Disabilities: Ace of Pentacles Curiouser and curiouser. Second card revealed!

Alexi has a minor intellectual weakness. Alchoholism is too obvious, too easy and I don’t think a drug dependancy would be in character. These are physical rather than mental addictions. Perhaps a phobia… or a philia! Alexi has some sort of compulsion that regularly causes his plans to come tumbling down. But not crashing down. Waiting is…

Enhancements (Royalty)
King of Pentacles (+4 D/S; +14)  Eureka moment. And he needs it! (See below.) Also personified as his technical assistant: Valdiclauw; since he is already there! An older steadying figure in Alexi’s life. Alexi would be a Knight of Pentacles if personified by a Royal card. It was the first card I noted when shuffling Alexi’s Fate Deck.

Queen of Cups (+3 D/S; +13) Good health, Alexi has a cast iron constitution and a platinum catalytic converter for a liver. Personified a companion perhaps. A Doctor at another Russian Outpost? Baba Yaga? Varoomshka! Babooshka!! TBD.

Mimeses (Unsurprisingly: woeful…) Oh well in Luna even a 90 lb weakling can get by.

Deftness (Wands): 3. Alexi is a hairsbreadth away from being a complete klutz! He works slowly, methodically and takes frequent breaks to make sure that a sudden move won’t break something! In a one gee field he is even worse!

Acumen (Pentacles): 3. Here we have a quandary as Alexi is no simpleton. He is obviously no genius. Except that occasionally he gets an IDEA (King of Pentacles) on how to utilise some ruined equipment in a new fashion. Nevertheless his engineering skills are essentially empirical tinkering rather than calculated precision mechanics. That’s Valdiclauw’s job.

Vigour (Cups): 5 Alexi has a normal healthy body. Getting better.

Expediency (Swords): 8 Alexi’s interpersonal skills are his best metier! Whilst no flim-flam artiste, (Swords Royalty would have helped!) …Alexi is good with people. Making friends easily and convincing them to do business his way.

SKILLS

Speciality: +19 “Convince others to do things my way. Even when it is not in their best interests to do so!”

Mastery: Blank for future development.
Mastery: +16 “Take something useless and make it useful to everyone and (occasionally) very useful to someone special!” The personal element was needed for the addition of Expediency. (Not Deftness.)

Expertise: Blank for future development.
Expertise: do.
Expertise: +11 The Constructivist Movement (Russia, 1920’s) (A+E)
I shall do some research here!

Generalities
Just one of each for starters:
Deftness (One of three): +3  “Pick up the pieces and put them back together… perfectly”. (Invisible Mending.) Note: If Alexi plays a King of Pentacles anything broken is now working better than new! +4 D/S +14 enhanced (fixed) widgit.
Acumen (One of three): +3 Deconstructionist thinking for fun and profit
Vigour (One of five): +5 Suddenly sober up, pull self together and act.
Expediency (One of eight): +8 Patch up broken relationships.

As a freebie and as a D/M why not!

Special: Alexi uses his Mastery to make his family remedy: a miracle hangover cure handed down from mother (Justice?) to son over the generations. The concotion is a closely guarded secret and differs from person to person. Baz’s involved the flesh and juice of a coconut There are coconuts under the north pole of the Moon!; 500 gm microbial protein, two fingers of vodka and the secret recipe of certain herbs and spices. Unfortunately he will need your Significator to make it!

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