Archive | August, 2013

Proof of Life, Part 16

28 Aug

March 9, 2126

Hidaya checked her ship’s link with Sci-Com 14, deployed ten days before. The link to the fully functional, fully powered satellite was strong. Before today, when she’d sent messages, she’d sent them straight to Sci-Com 1, which relayed them to Earth through some process she hadn’t been curious about. Now she wished she’d asked something about it.

“Memre’, can you send a message to Sci-Com 3?”

“Yes, Captain. I can program a message to stop at Sci-Com 3.”

“I don’t want the message to stop at Sci-Com 3. I want the message to go from Sci-Com 3 to the science outpost on Europa. Jupiter and its moons should be within reasonable com range for about the next eleven months.”

Hidaya knew she hadn’t programmed Memre’ to be curious, but she felt pressure to justify herself anyway. “Those scientists must feel almost as isolated as I do. I’d like to talk with them, maybe play a few strategy games.”

Memre’ spoke, “I found the command codes in the technical specs. I can get Sci-Com 3 to send messages to somewhere other than Sci-Com 2 or 4. I also found a clearance override so that Europa can access Sci-Com 3 to talk to us.”

“I hadn’t thought of that. Would talking with Europa compromise the security of the satellite system?”

“No, Captain. We can program the clearance override to apply only to the transmitter on Europa, only for this destination, and only for the time window you wish.”

Hidaya exhaled with relief. She wanted to try this, but not so badly that she would risk compromising the security of the whole project. “Then let’s do so.”

Proof of Life, Part 15

27 Aug

June 27, 2125

Nassor thoughtfully included holo-messages from his wife and children, in addition to his own. Hidaya missed the “live” interaction of the previous years, but she liked playing back the vids of her neices’ belt tests and Rashaad’s soccer tournament highlights. They alleviated, for a while, her growing boredom. She hadn’t realized, back in the main asteroid belt, how much she enjoyed the hunt – trying to find a valuable rock before someone else did. Except for that brief period cutting through the Greek field, she had little to do except maintain her ship’s systems and drop the occasional satellite.

Proof of Life, Part 14

26 Aug

June 27, 2124

For her holo-call with Nassor and her eight-year-old nephew Rashaad, the communication delay was over an hour and a quarter, but Hidaya enjoyed the visit, even though she spent most of it watching Nassor playing games with his son to keep him occupied.

After Rashaad’s second turn talking, Nassor bluntly stated, “We have to change our format, Sister, due to increasing com delays. What if we each record and send news updates on June 26, then send responses the next day? I need to get Rashaad home now, so please message me your answer. Nakupenda, Hidaya.”

She felt a flare of anger at his suggestion. He couldn’t spare the time to talk with her once a year? For thirty minutes she paced about the cabin, trying to bring her emotions back under control. She had to agree that the time lag between conversation “turns” had become almost unmanageable. Next year, it would take almost two hours for light to carry her image back to Earth. Logic trumped emotion, and she sent Nassor her consent.

Proof of Life, Part 13

25 Aug

June 27, 2123

Hidaya enjoyed her second holographic conference with Nassor and her two nieces even though the conversation lag was now 48 minutes. Since Aleah and Defina were there, she didn’t spend much time discussing the satellite drops or her Greek asteroid field scans. She did reduce the girls to giggles with her description of the exercise fiasco and her imitation of the way she walked for several days thereafter. Before saying farewell, Nassor agreed to bring Rashaad next time.

As she settled into her sleeping web, Hidaya thought about her two nieces. She approved of the job Nassor and his wife Goma were doing in raising the girls. Both were quick, confident, and curious females. Still, “Memre’?”

“Yes, Captain?”

“Remind me in the morning to send a note to Nassor that I’d like to sponsor the girls in some martial arts classes. I don’t want them defenseless when trouble comes.” She paused a moment and added, “And trouble always comes.”

Proof of Life, Part 12

23 Aug

March 2, 2123

Hidaya looked at her meal of fresh greens, legumes, and groundnuts and shuddered. “I want beef, Memre’! Beef or chicken or fish or goat or even sheep! I am sick of beans and peas and nuts!” She pushed the food away from her.

“Perhaps you should check the aeroponics nutrient mix, Captain.”

“Don’t you monitor the mix automatically?”

“Yes, but sensors can fail.”

After manual testing, Hidaya found she needed to add more protein to the nutritive spray. Further diagnostic checks revealed that the intake valve for protein analysis was malfunctioning. “Do we have the specifications to print a replacement valve?” she asked her AI.

“We do, Captain, and we have the raw materials in stock. Shall I send the file to the 3-D printer?”

“Yes. After we fix this, I want to hook up that food printer Nassor convinced me to bring along and try printing something with lots of protein. I wonder if it prints anything like a good steak.”

The resulting printout was nothing like a good steak, but it did satisfy her protein cravings, if not her taste buds. She added to her chore list weekly physical checks of the aeroponics system in addition to Memre’s automatic electronic monitoring, commenting, “It’s not like I don’t have the time!”

Proof of Life, Part 11

21 Aug

December 7, 2122

She took special care in preparing and dropping the third satellite, which contained extra science equipment and evasive technology to help keep it out of the orbital path of Jupiter and Jupiter’s two main trojan asteroid clusters. It was designed to collect, process, and transmit information on the Greeks, the asteroid cluster which precedes Jupiter around the sun, and the Trojans, which trail Jupiter in its solar orbit.

December 12, 2122

The ISS Motherlode entered Jupiter’s orbit.

“Memre’, are we passing within scanner distance of any of the Greeks?”

“Yes, Captain. Four asteroids are currently within scanner range, including 1143 Odysseus.”

“Excellent! Let’s test these upgraded scanner systems we got on Phobos and see what we can find out about them.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Hidaya started to hum. “It’s good to have something new to break the routine.”

Proof of Life, Part 10

19 Aug

July 10, 2122

Hidaya woke too sore to undo the fastenings of her sleeping web. She dictated a warning message for Memre’ to send to the think tank, suggesting they reduce the intensity of their “beginner” workout. Once the AI sent the message, Hidaya relaxed, “It’s good I finished all the gardening and maintenance tasks yesterday, Memre’, because I don’t think I could move if I had to! Fortunately, it’s Friday, and I hope Allah will understand if I listen to the scheduled teaching and meditate from right here today.”

Proof of Life, Part 9

17 Aug

July 9, 2122

Hidaya tried a new resistance exercise video for her daily workout: Core Strengthening and Muscle Maintenance for Low-G. She’d added it to Memre’s media stores because it came from a medical think tank specializing in space medicine. A quarter of the way through, she began swearing softly in English. Halfway through, she switched to Swahili. By three-fourths of the way through the 45-minute program, she’d exhausted even her store of Sheng expletives, along with every muscle group.

Proof of Life, Part 8

16 Aug

June 27, 2122

Hidaya set up both a 3-D chessboard and a Go board for her planned video conference with Nassor. Today, Earth was closest in her orbit to the Motherlode’s outward path, and the siblings had arranged yearly video conferences to “test the satellites’ video capabilities” and to stay in touch. Even the new high-intensity science-communication satellites she was dropping behind her were limited by the speed of light, which they used to transmit information. The current one-way time delay was around 18 minutes. Communication was possible, but awkward without something else to pass the time.

“Habari, Hidaya!” Her brother’s deep voice greeted her a second before his hologram took shape in her cabin. “How is my image transmission?” he asked first, before launching into a nine-minute family news update.

When Nassor stopped talking and waved his right hand in a gesture that meant it was her turn, Hidaya responded, “I can see your hologram clearly. It formed up shortly after your initial greeting, but now it’s in sync with your voice. The communications satellite seems to be working well with the updates we made to my ship back at Phobos.” She made her initial moves on the two game boards and told Nassor about her trip so far. “My nightmares are gone completely, Brother! I haven’t had a single one in over two months, and I used to have them at least once a week! I told you not to worry. The solitude is obviously great for my psyche.” She talked about her gardens, her gaming, and her needlework for another 17 minutes before stopping and waving for Nassor to speak.

The two alternated monologues and game moves for several hours, and Hidaya closed out their meeting with the plea, “Please bring my nieces Aleah and Dafina with you next time. I don’t want to miss seeing them grow up entirely, Brother. Nakupenda.”

Proof of Life, Part 7

14 Aug

May 30, 2122

Hidaya activated the first science-communication satellite, triple checking the procedure before dropping it just outside the asteroid belt, at 3.4 AU from the sun. After launching it, she monitored it carefully, confirming that its solar power array had successfully unfolded. It would take about a week to fully power up and become functional.

That evening she celebrated with her first pouch of hot tea. In the report she was keeping for the monk back on Mars, she carefully described its flavor: “A light, delicate, slightly sweet flavor with faint floral overtones. Similar in flavor to a white tea. Good for sipping slowly and rolling over the tongue. Gently awakens the senses.”