Chapter 9: Calm

Calm

“You’re going over to the Morgan’s tonight for dinner aren’t you?” Kyp asked Guss, as they sat in one of the observation bubbles and watched the early evening sun. The Colony’s designers had insisted upon these bubbles so that the colonists could “get out,” without needing environmental gear.

They were largely ineffective, being simply small public rooms with dome windows; but they were small and private, and at least they provided different scenery. The sun still seemed pretty puny, even after all these months. “Of course, it’s Tuesday, isn’t it?”

“Thursday, but whose counting.”

“What’s the difference? We spend half the day writing letters and recording messages, and half the day working on small coding projects–It’s a miricle that we can keep day and night straight, so take what you can get,” Gus said.

“You forgot about the half of the day we spend watching the news reports from Earth and half of the day that we spend helping with the research program,” Kyp reminded.

“We have too many halves, I think,” Gus said. “Who would have ever thought that our life of crime would have lead to all this respectability. What’s up with that? We have jobs, and people who care what we say about things. And, I’m just a hacker kid.”

“Isn’t it wacky? Imagine how Taban and Kalian feel?”

“Aren’t they younger than you?” Gus asked.

“They’re older, but only a bit. They weren’t much older than I am now when they came to Mars,” Kyp figured. His math was probably a bit off, but it was close. “I think we should get a break every now and then, none of us had much of a chance to be kids, after all.”

“That shouldn’t be more scary than the fact that we’ve almost gone respectable, but damn, it is,” Gus said, blinking a few times: the sun was setting fast and it was getting hard to see clearly.

“I know, right?” Kyp said, stretching his arms in front of him. “Have you been thinking about it much?”

“Busby?”

“Yeah.”

“I always want to say no, it doesn’t bug me, but to be honest, I don’t really think of much else,” Gus said.

“Yeah. It’s so damn weird. I mean, what’s he going to do? Come here and stare at us and be mean?”

“I think if it made sense, if we had a clue what he was going to do, it wouldn’t be so consuming.”

“That’s probably part of it. It’s weird to think that he’s not really going to have any power here. ISA on Mars is whoever he brings, plus Matt, who is on our side?” Kyp asked.

“It’s strange to think that we outnumber ISA, but I guess you’re right.”

“We are always outnumbered ISA, even on Earth.”

“Of course, of course: but it’s different now. It’s weird what makes you feel like you have power,” Gus said.

“It’s true. We’re strong, we have support, everyone’s watching us, and most importantly we have right on our side. Busby can stomp and scream, but what’s there to do? All we have to worry about now is making sure that we don’t forget all those things, because of what Busby’s done to our community in the past. We’re ready,” Kyp said. He yawned and stretched his arms out in front of him. “Ok, I think it’s probably time to go, We wouldn’t want Taban and Kalian to think we’ve gone missing or something,”

The walk to Taban and Kalian’s apartment wasn’t that far from the observation dome, but it was easy to get lost. The passageways in Mars Colony all looked the same, and unless you were paying attention it was easy to miss a turn. Thankfully, everything was laid out pretty logically, so you didn’t have to wander around in circles forever, but it was a common fear. So, Gus and Kyp walked fast, and without talking

When they arrived, Kyp toggled the door chime. Nothing.

Gus looked up at Kyp, suddenly worried. He depressed the button again.

“Coming!” Kalian’s voice was small and distant, through the door. “Sorry!” It was getting closer.

The door opened in an instant, revealing a frazzled looking Kalian: hair slightly more disheveled than normal, and adorned in a cardigan that clashed with every other poorly fitted object of clothing that hung off the short telepaths body.

“We were writing. This new project is quite engaging,” Kalian said, turning around to welcome the guests into the apartment. “Sorry about the mess,” Kalian said, upon realizing that they hadn’t cleaned in nearly a week, but made to effort to tidy up at all.

“Oh it’s fine,” Kyp said. The quarters were a bit more cluttered and dusty than they would typically be, but Kyp had seen worse. Far worse.

“This project is going better, then?” Gus asked.

“Yes, much I’d say, but we’re still at the beginning, it’s like new love–”

”–you can’t get enough and then months later you have nothing to show for it, and you wonder what happened to entire weeks of your life?”

“Cynic,” Gus muttered, only to be reward with a friendly jab in ribs.

”–probably not that bad,” Kalian said and smiled, and then appeared distant for an instant. “There’s a lot of energy, we’re full of ideas, and things that we know needs to be said–”

”–sorry dear, I’m coming, just a second,” Taban called out, clearly responding to a telepathic message. Gus chuckled.

“Anyway, it’s pretty all consuming. We’ve spent so much of these last few months, talking to people and giving speeches and interviews and what not that we haven’t really written much,” Kalian said.

“And, I don’t know, I don’t want to sound like a snob, but this book–the new one–is like our purpose, and I for one needed some perspective,” Taban said, appearing at the door of the office.

“Turn off the light in there and come sit, the book will be there tomorrow; how often do we get company?” Kalian said.

“If we’re not friendly, we could conceivably get less!” Taban said. Everyone laughed. “You’re right, of course.” Taban toggled the light and joined the others in the living room.

“So can you tell us what you’re working on in this book? Or is it a secret?”

“We’re beyond secrets, I think,” Kalian said, “Well, I mean, big secrets like that.”

“And besides, it’s not that surprising. We’ve been commenting on the discussion of telepathy after the announcement, how this has changed the community, and what not,” Kalian said.

“We’re also reincorporating a lot of the stuff, particularly about pedagogy that we cut out of the first volume, in order to make the Manual more accessible, but it needs more work, of course.”

“Oh, and, while we haven’t been able to push all of this through the computers for any sort of meaningful analysis, there should be a lot more empirical stuff that we’ve gotten from running studies and observations of all the new telepaths that have come to Mars.”

“It really is amazing how much we’ve learned,” Taban said, leaning forward. “I mean, it hasn’t been so long since we finalized most of the text on the last book, and I can’t help and I already think it’s a bit dated–the data at least.”

“I don’t know then if it’s a good or bad thing if it seems no one is really interested in the data,” Gus said. It was true, in a way: all the the messages that he and Kyp were responding to took issue with the ethics of training telepaths, or the timing of the release of the book, or Kalian and Taban’s character, or some such.

“That’s probably right, I guess. I mean, if we didn’t have the data, I think you could bet your ass that no one would take it seriously,” Taban said, reclining again.

“Even though they can’t likely make heads or tails of it?” Kyp asked.

“People think they know more about science than they do–”

“Now whose the cynic?” Kyp interjected.

”–but usually, it’s just enough to be annoying when something doesn’t look empirical enough, not to actually criticize the material,” Taban said.

“And most people are quite trusting, of empiricism that looks alright, which works in our favor,” Kalian said.

“Generally I think that’s appalling, but it works in our favor this time. The ‘real’ scientists,” Taban said, making “air quotes” with his fingers.

“What are you saying about the backlash?” Kyp asked, after a short silence.

“Busby?” Kalian asked. “Not a thing. We could have addressed it in the first one, after all, but I don’t know if that’s the right message.”

“No, our folk who didn’t want the announcement at all,” Kyp said.

“Oh dear,” Kalian said. “Are we getting a lot of that?”

“Not a lot, and don’t worry, most people are so happy about the announcement that they’re already planning to come to Mars, if they weren’t here already. There are a lot more people than we thought there were, isolated cells and individuals that didn’t even know that the rest of us were out there,”

“Wow, Numbers?” Kalian asked

“Never sure. Half again as many as we thought?” Gus said.

“Maybe as many as twice the original numbers?”

“Wow,” Taban said.

“Yeah, back to your point, though, it’s hard to know how to deal with that. It’s a serious issue, I think we were mostly in the right. I’m not sure that it’s a problem that can be addressed. Right? I mean eventually it will blow over,” Kalian said.

“Yeah, you’re probably right, I’ve been thinking about it lately. More. There’s something there, and there’s no real good answer to the problem,” Kyp said.

“Yeah, I hope they can make it to Mars soon, if they want to,” Gus suggested.

“If they want. I think the Authority here is really pleased to have us, and is probably willing to take on as many new people as are willing to come. The system is still working, which is great,” Kalian said.

“Have you seen the new colony buildings?”

“I know, amazing, right. It’s hard to believe that the primary one is so old, until you see the new ones,” Taban said.

“I know!” Gus said.

Kyp rolled his eyes and sighed. Gus was always trying to drag Kyp along on some sort of exploration of the new colony buildings, and Kyp hated it: seeing the new buildings reminded him just how small and inhospitable Mars really was. Great community, and better than Earth in a lot of respects, but the golden brown sky and total absence of real open spaces was tough for Kyp, made worse by the brief return to Earth.

“Indeed,” Kalian said, sensing Kyp’s discomfort, and redirecting the attention of the group. “Matt said that he was going to join us for dinner, but I’m guessing that he got caught up in something, so lets move on to dinner.” Kalian stood.

“Right, I am kind of hungry,” Taban said. “We have a slightly perverse plan for dinner, inspired by our recent progress on the book.” Taban and the others stood.

“Well, or really our lack of progress on anything else,” Kalian said, chuckling. Everyone laughed again and filed into the kitchen after their hosts.

“We forgive you,” Kyp said.

“Doubly,” Gus added.

“Thanks, folks,” Taban said, turning to smile back at Kyp and Guss.

Closing Orbit

“So tell me again, why are we in orbit?” Adrian Rathe asked his partner–or supervisor, depending on how ornery Busby was feeling at the moment.

The two ISA agents were sitting in holding area–what passed for a lounge–onboard the Mars orbital platform. It looked a lot like the ship that they’d spent the last nine, or so, months on, and it felt much the same. All of the space station around Mars and Earth, and even the Mars Colony “buildings” were really just modified transport ships of various sorts. The designs were fairly modular, and given the scope of colonization of space and Mars, it was easier to modify one design series rather than design a number of specialized structures.

The station wasn’t intended for long term habitation; as a result there were none of the creature comforts that the other stations and ships often had. No shops, no real social areas: just sleeping quarters, a few small lounges for people who had layovers, and a mess hall. And lots and lots of docking and package processing facilities.

“Surprise, Adrian, Surprise: you need it in real life as well as on the net,” Busby said.

“Yes, I get that, they know we’re coming. Do you think that they’ll somehow forget that we’re here if we sneak down in a couple of days? It’s not like we’re just passing through and can claim that we’re here on other business,” Adrian said.

“Adrian. It’s better that walking in on them when they’re expecting us. Have you been reading ‘the Book’?” Busby asked. For the last several weeks of the trip Adrian had done is best to keep his distance from Busby.

“Yeah, a bit. Why?”

“If you had, you’d know that, surprise can supposedly conflict with their ability to get good reads. If we were to show up with the rest of the people from our ship, they’d be there and be ready for us. If we come down a week later, or whenever, we can dictate the terms of our meeting.”

“Good point?”

“You’re still with me, right?”

“Of course, Busby” Adrian said. He looked up and saw one of the station’s crew, walking toward them. Adrian would have continued to talk, but made the slightest nod in the direction of the crewman, and then looked down. Somehow,–”perhaps this was the sign that they’d been working together too long,” Adrian thought–Busby seemed to understand what he meant, and held his head down, ready to respond.

“Excuse me gentlemen, is there something I can help you with? The last ship has left for the evening, and I don’t think there’ll be another for a few days,”s he said.

“Yes, sorry, we have quarters already, I think, we’re going to be staying here for a week or so before we go down to the planet,” Busby said.

“Really? Why in Earth–or Mars,” He chuckled. That pun shouldn’t have still been funny for someone who’d been in the Mars system for so long. “would you want to do that? There’s nothing up here.”

“Indeed,” Adrian said.

“So, why are you…” He said. It struck Adrian that this crewman might have authority of some sort over the station, or a connection to the Colonial Authority, despite his relaxed disposition.

“We’re on assignment from ISA and we need to able to set our agenda.”

“ISA? This far out? Lot of good that’ll do you; but if it makes you happy.”

“It does,” Busby said.

“Make you happy?”

“Do us good.”

“Oh. Well, we don’t get many of you out here. Does ISA have jurisdiction out here?”

“IAS has jurisdiction everywhere, at least theoretically,” Adrian said.

“Right, but, I mean for real. The Authority does a pretty good job of taking care of things out here. I mean they’ve been here for, what? twenty or thirty years? Nothing wrong. What’re you going to do in a week?”

“Very little,” Busby said.

The crewman didn’t seem to process the response, and continued: “A marshal, every once and a while shows up, but they don’t usually have to make it to the Colony.”

“We’re not marshals.”

“Ok.” There was silence. “Well, I guess every things ok, just don’t cause trouble,” The crewman said.

“We won’t, if you won’t,” Busby said. He made eye contact with the crewman and didn’t blink.

The stare would have made anyone uncomfortable, but the crewman hung on for much longer than most people, Adrian figured. Finally, he blinked muttered “good day,” and continued walking on his way.

“Welcome to Mars,” Busby said when the crewman had finally passed out of earshot and sight.

“You’re going to get us killed one of these days, You know!” Adrian exhaled at last, having not realized that the was holding his breath.

“I was going to say the same thing about you,” Busby said. “We’ll leave in a week, be ready.” He stood and walked away, towards his quarters without waiting for Adrian.

“Aye,” he muttered, but Busby didn’t hear him. A moment later he left for his quarters.

tycho garen

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