Star One: Tycho City Survival (4 page)

BOOK: Star One: Tycho City Survival
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Jase hesitated
briefly. “To do it right will take between five to six days. That’s assuming
the rail itself is still stable.”

Mase winced
inwardly at the news, but he knew he had no other choice. He would have a lot
of explaining to do to Jane Kinsey at NASA. The damage to the mass driver would
also give Senator Farley more ammunition to use in his campaign against the
space program.

“Very well,
take the time you need. I will tell NASA the mass driver will be down for at
least six days. If you need anyone from Tycho City to help, give me a list of
names, and I will have them here first thing in the morning.”

“There are a
few I could use,” replied Jase, running through his mind the people that he
would like to have. “There are several that have transferred to Tycho City that were involved with the original construction of the mass driver. I could
use their expertise in the repairs.”

After going
over a few more details on the repairs that were needed, Mase and Jackson
returned to Jackson’s office. Once there, Mase contacted Tycho City and gave instructions for the necessary personnel to be sent out to the mass driver.

When he was finished,
he turned and looked at Jackson. “This is never going to happen again,” Mase
promised. “If there is ever a potential problem again you have the
authorization to shut the mass driver down immediately. Earth can scream about
it all they want later.”

“Thanks,” Jackson replied, pleased with what Mase had said. “It’s just operated so well for so long;
no one thought we could have an accident this severe.”

-

Two hours
later, Mase was on his way back to Tycho City. Jackson had promised to keep him
informed daily on the progress of the repairs and anything else they might
need. Mase took a deep breath as he gazed out the viewport of the Moon Buggy.
He wondered what else could go wrong. Little did he know that his problems were
just beginning.

 

Chapter Three

 

Mase was busy
in his office looking over the latest reports from Jackson on the repairs to
the mass driver. It had been nearly four days, and the system still had a lot
of work that needed to be done. He had already received numerous complaints and
even threats from irate companies on Earth.

They were
demanding that their metal contracts be filled ASAP or they would implement
legal action against Tycho City. Taking a deep breath, Mase rubbed his forehead
with his left hand and then looked up. His secretary, Linda, sat across the
desk from him with her legs crossed, taking notes on a steno pad. She still
preferred to take notes the old-fashioned way.

“I’m getting a
headache over this,” Mase said with a slight groan. He very seldom got a
headache over anything. “Tell Jane that we still hope to fire the mass driver
back up toward the end of the week. Jase feels he needs another three days to
finish the repairs. Jackson said they have found no additional damage from the
misfire. We are also programming a failsafe into the computer system to prevent
such an accident in the future.”

“Commander
Larson called from Star One earlier,” Linda began as she finished taking notes,
her brown eyes looking toward Mase. “They will be out of material to process
for Luxen production the day after tomorrow.”

“Damn!” Mase
uttered with a serious frown on his face feeling his headache suddenly grow
worse. This was something he had hoped not to hear. At least Steve understood
the situation.

He knew how
important the production of the wonder alloy Luxen was to Star One. It was one
of their primary sources of income. Not only that, Star One and Tycho City were currently in the process of secretly upgrading the Jupiter probe ship. The
ship was being built on the Space Platform in orbit next to Star One. A lot of
money had been invested in that upgrade. Cash flow for both Tycho City and Star One was extremely important.

“When we start
the mass driver back up, Star One will have first priority on shipments. I will
order Jackson to make sure the first cargo pods are filled full of raw material
for their processing facilities,” responded Mase, reaching a quick decision. He
also knew this would compound his problems with the companies on Earth. He let
out a long sigh, knowing it couldn’t be helped.

“I will notify
Margaret on Star One,” Linda replied with a nod.

Margaret was
the chief communications officer on Star One, and Linda spoke with her on a
daily basis. The two had become very good friends over the last several months.
Margaret was easy to talk to and Linda enjoyed speaking to the other woman.
They had found that they had a lot in common, and both were extremely dedicated
to their jobs and bosses.

“Jane Kinsey
called earlier,” continued Linda, her brown eyes taking on a more sober look.
“Senator Farley is demanding a full investigation of the incident at the mass
driver.”

Mase’s face
took on deep frown. Senator Farley was always trying to cause problems. “Everything
will be in the final report once the mass driver is back online. See if that
will satisfy Jane. We don’t need to launch a witch hunt to find a problem that
doesn’t exist. The heavy shipping schedules caused the problem with the mass
driver to begin with. Those schedules were created on Earth. Hopefully, with
the new upgrades and changes to the computer system, we won’t have another
incident.”

With a nod,
Linda stood up, closing her steno pad. “Your next appointment should be here
shortly. I will get these messages off immediately.”

Linda knew
that it wouldn’t be that easy. Senator Farley would not be so easily satisfied.
It would take all Jane Kinsey could do to keep the powerful senator off their
backs. Linda shook her head as she walked out; she felt sorry for both Jane and
Mase.

Linda paused
at the door and looked back at Mase, noticing that he was rubbing his forehead
again. “I’ll bring you a couple of aspirins for your headache,” she said,
knowing and understanding the stress that Mase was under.

-

A few minutes
later, Isaac Anderson walked into Mase’s office. “Good afternoon, Mase.”

Isaac Anderson
was Mase’s second in command and was nearly indispensable in the operation of Tycho City and its mining operations. He was a brilliant engineer, knew everything there
was to know about mining, and was the brains behind Tycho City’s numerous
mining operations.

Mase gestured
for Isaac to take a seat. “So how are the mining operations going?”

“I’ve had to
slow several of them down,” Isaac confessed in a concerned voice. “Everything
is becoming bottlenecked because the mass driver is down. All the mass driver
cargo pods are full, waiting for the mass driver to be repaired. We are still
refining, but I might even have to slow that down in a few more days.”

“We should
have the mass driver back up and running by the end of the week,” replied Mase,
knowing that Isaac was doing everything in his power to keep the mining and
refining operations going.

“I think we
can get by until then,” Isaac continued with a nod of his head. “I will just
need to monitor all the operations closely. We’ve been doing some preventative
maintenance and safety training with all the crews. After the incident with the
mass driver everyone seems to be taking the safety aspect of their jobs more
seriously.”

“That’s good,”
responded Mase, picking up a piece of paper off his desk and pointing to it. “I
just read this survey report. You mention in it that you have located a shallow
heavy metal meteor close to us.”

“Just eighteen
miles away from Tycho. From preliminary surveys, the bulk of the meteor is only
240 feet beneath the surface. Core samples indicate a considerable amount of
iron and nickel plus a few other heavy metals.”

“What will it
take to mine it?” asked Mase, putting the paper down and tapping his desk with
his index finger. They were constantly searching for meteors close to the
surface to mine. This sounded like this might be a good one and highly
profitable.

“One of the
smaller mining excavators should be able to drill a tunnel down to it without a
problem.”

“When do you
plan on starting?”

Isaac
hesitated briefly, recalling what the crew schedule was. “Day after tomorrow. I
already have a crew lined up and ready to go.”

“Let’s do it
then,” Mase replied. “I may come out and watch; it’s been a while since I’ve been
out to one of the mining sites with everything going on at the mass driver and
over at Farside.”

“I will let
you know when I’m going out,” Isaac responded. He knew it would do Mase some
good to get away from the office.

-

Two days
later, Mase stood outside his Moon Buggy next to Isaac. Both were nearly
indistinguishable in their bulky white spacesuits. A hundred feet away from them,
the excavator crew was carefully positioning the expensive piece of mining equipment
next to the small meteor crater.

The excavator
was a long machine nearly forty feet in length. It contained several rows of
revolving cutting blades that bit into the ground. The material was then sent
through the center of the excavator to a conveyor that dumped it back out onto
the lunar surface. The crew’s cabin was located toward the front, and it took
four highly trained people to operate the excavator safely. When operated
properly, an excavator could cut nearly ten feet an hour.

“They’re
almost ready,” Isaac commented as the crew began entering the excavator.

Mase watched
as the four crewmembers clambered up onto the excavator and into the crew’s
compartment, shutting the heavy metal hatch behind them.

Another group
of miners stood next to the conveyors, ready to move and adjust them as needed.
Isaac always made sure he was present anytime a new mining operation started
up. It was his way of making sure everything was done safely.

Mase looked at
the excavator. It was a good feeling to get out of Tycho City for a few hours.
The constant messages from Earth demanding updates on the mass driver were becoming
aggravating. Linda did an excellent job of answering most of them, but some
Mase had to respond to personally.

He had talked
briefly to Phillip the night before and had been pleased to learn that his
brother was seriously considering moving the family to Tycho City later in the year. They had spoken longer than usual, with Phillip mentioning that both
his teenage daughter and son were excited about the prospect of coming up to Tycho City. It had helped to take Mase’s mind off the current problems, even if it was for
only a few minutes.

Senator Farley
was still trying to cause problems, but Jane Kinsey was doing a good job thus
far of keeping the irate senator at bay. Mase took a deep, relaxing breath as
he waited for the excavator to start up. At least for a few hours, he didn’t
have to worry about any of that.

With a shower
of rock and dust, the excavator began cutting into the lunar surface. Piles of
rock and rubble began flowing onto the conveyors to be dumped far behind the
excavator. Mase knew the first few feet would be relatively easy to cut through
before the harder lunar surface beneath was reached. Mase kicked the lunar
surface at his feet, watching as the gray dust floated up and then settled back
down. The only bad thing about the Moon, besides the lack of a breathable
atmosphere, was this infernal Moon dust. It got into nearly everything!

-

At the Farside
array, Professor LaRann was in the Control Room. The large Control Room
contained numerous computers and imaging software that could take the readings
from the array and convert them into something recognizable. Already, they were
beginning a few preliminary observations and scans. While the array consisted
of thirty-two dish antennas, not all of them were wired into the system. Eighteen
of them were, and LaRann wanted to begin calibrating those.

LeAnn Kelly
was in the Control Room with him, watching with interest as they began taking
their first readings. The large dish antennas picked up radio waves on specific
frequencies and wavelengths. Some of the data would be displayed as nothing
more than graphs or charts. Others would be full color images generated by the base’s
main computer’s complicated imaging software.

“Two more days
and all the dish antennas will be online,” LaRann said to LeAnn. “Then we can
get down to some serious research.” He smiled at the words. The array was so
close to completion; he realized that his life long dream would soon become a reality.

“I know what
you mean,” LeAnn replied as she gazed at the computer screen, which was
beginning to show some detected electromagnetic waves. “I’m sure you can’t wait
to do more research into black holes.” She knew that LaRann had an affinity
toward black holes. He seemed to be drawn to them. 

“They’re
fascinating,” LaRann replied with enthusiasm showing in his voice. “If I can
show that nonrotating black holes have a wormhole in their center, just imagine
what that would mean.”

“A traversable
wormhole is only speculation,” LeAnn reminded LaRann with a shake of her head. “Every
theory I’ve ever read says a wormhole of that type would require some type of
exotic matter to keep it open.”

“Perhaps,”
LaRann replied with a patient smile. “With the new array, we may be able to
find out.”

“I suspect you
will be writing another research paper on black holes shortly,” LeAnn commented
with a glint of humor in her eyes.

“Yes, but
first we must scan for pulsars. The sooner the entire array is calibrated, the
sooner I can begin my research.” 

Out on the
Moon’s surface, the dish antennas pointed upward toward space. When all the
arrays were online, they would begin their scans for pulsars. A pulsar is a
highly magnetized rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic
radiation. Little did Pierre LaRann and LeAnn Kelly realize that very soon the
array would change all of their lives forever.

BOOK: Star One: Tycho City Survival
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