Sci-Fi novel in Process: Arlo – Chapter 17 for your entertainment

Aloha – This Sci-Fi project continues and I continue to share free-writing version of Arlo (I’m thinking of using a different title).  The good news is that I’ve completed chapter 50 and only have a few chapters to go.  Then I get the grunge work of coming back and editing for context, grammar and flow.  Having just finished that process for the Demeter series (with book 5 coming out this fall) I”m not looking forward to editing lol.  Anyway for your entertainment, Chapter 17.  As always, for newbies, the earlier chapters are available in the blog archives.  Doc

Note:  Through this weekend I have all four of the published Demeter sci fi books available on Amazon for a get out of the heat reading marathon for 99 cents each.

Chapter 17  Near Miss

The ground rumbled and the flash of ignition exploded around the staging area.  A few seconds passed, and the payload began lifting off the ground.  The ship slowly lifted off the ground, then began to accelerate skyward.

Naomi Katsuki wept.  This is no way for a body guard to act.  She thought.

She had been two seconds too late.  The information had been good.  The shooter was where he was supposed to be.  She just couldn’t get there fast enough.  Three rapid shots in a tight formation took the shooter out.  But he had already fired, and Marshall was down.  Rather than turn immediately to the bleachers she made sure that the shooter was done, with two taps to the head.  Then she turned and ran toward the stands.

A small crowd was standing in a tight circle, where Marshall should be.  A heel on Naomi’s shoe gave way, and she half tumbled to the edge of the stand.  Kicking off her shoes she ran up the stairs.  “Damn, damn, damn” she muttered.

A woman with red hair was kneeling beside the still form of Marshall Salt administering CPR.  Three members of the crowd had pulled out their smart phones and were filming the efforts of the woman.

Naomi snapped.  She kicked the nearest would-be photographer in the knee, and winded the next person, a woman, in the abdomen.  The woman toppled over.  The third gawker wisely moved back and put his phone back in his pocket.

“Get back!” she yelled.  She didn’t even notice that she was still brandishing her pistol.

The crowd backed off.

“How is he?” Naomi gasped, out of breath.

“I think he’ll be all right,” the woman’s shirt was drenched in sweat and blood.  “I thought I’d lost him for a minute there when he went into shock.  He’s lost a lot of blood.  Head wounds are like that,” the woman’s voice became clinical.  Then she turned back toward the crowd, “Have any of you idiots call 911?”

“I did,” a mousey looking woman with big glasses and a huge back volunteered.

“Thank you,” Naomi whispered.

Turning back to the woman administering to Marshall, Naomi queried, “Is he going to be all right?”

“I think so,” the woman kept her hand on Marshall’s neck.  “At least if the ambulance arrives soon.  The cut on his neck… I assume a bullet wound, grazed an artery.  He has lost a lot of blood, and went into shock.  I can staunch the bleeding as long as I apply pressure.  I didn’t think I’d need a medical bag to watch a space ship launch.  I’m afraid I missed it,” she glanced reluctantly at the now empty field, with dust settling back to earth.

An ambulance arrived moments later.  It had been at the opposite end of the field with firefighting equipment for the launch.  Doctor Meredith Black accompanied the EMT team to the hospital.

Naomi followed a few minutes behind.

Marshall regained consciousness while in the ambulance, but was lightly sedated to keep him still.

Naomi cried all the way to the hospital, as she pursued the ambulance in Marshall’s gray Suburban.  Arlo would never have let this happen.  She repeated over and over as she drove.  She managed to get control of herself, even though she had the shakes as she entered the hospital, and then paced back and forth for the next hour while they sewed Marshall up and gave him two pints of blood.

When she finally made it into Marshall’s room, his first words were, “Did the launch get off okay?  I thought you were warning me it was going to explode.”

“You ran in the wrong direction if that’s what you thought,” she whispered.

“What happened?” Marshall tried to move, but instead settled back down.

“You were shot,” Naomi volunteered.

“Not a very good marksman apparently,” Marshall commented.  “How about the launch?”

“Lifted off without a problem,” Naomi comforted.

“Where were you?” Marshall asked glancing at her face with smeared makeup.  “You okay?”

“I was late,” she said.

“The shooter?” Marshall looked steadily at Naomi.

“He won’t be shooting anyone else,” Naomi stood a little straighter.

“Who was it?  Kajima’s cronies?” Marshall quizzed.

“It was a professional.  Actually, it was someone we knew… Joshua Milner.  Turns out he wasn’t a doctor at all.  And yes, I believe he was hired by the Kajima syndicate.”

Marshall sat quietly for a moment, then a slow smile formed.  “Guess we’re going to need another doctor.”

“A little late for that don’t you think?” Naomi relaxed a little as it was clear that Marshall would be all right.

“I think I’ll sleep now,” Marshall’s eyes started to flutter.  “Are you going to be all right?” he mumbled.

“I’m fine,” Naomi whispered.  “I’ll be right here.”

At six a.m. the next morning, Naomi came to suddenly.  There was a commotion in the hallway.  Reaching instinctively for her gun she rose quietly to her feet.

Arthur Salt was at the Nurse’s station demanding to see his son.

Naomi slipped out the door and intercepted Marshall’s father.  “He’s going to be okay,” she whispered.  “He’s asleep.”

Arthur walked down the hallway side-by-side with Naomi.  “What happened?  I got a bulletin that he had been shot.  Janice forwarded me a video that has gone viral.  It looked like he was dead.”

“He might have been, but there was someone in the crowd thinking about something other than taking a picture,” Naomi briefed Mr. Salt.  “I have her name right here,” she pulled out a small notepad she always carried with her.  “Doctor Meredith Black… she probably saved his life.”

“What were you doing?” Arthur Salt’s voice rose in suspicion.

“Taking out the shooter,” Naomi felt like she was on the defensive now.

“Taking out?” Arthur’s brow rose.  “How did you avoid spending the night with the police?”

“Plenty of witnesses,” Naomi stated flatly. “A detective was here earlier.  I’ll still have to make a statement, but considering that I’m his bodyguard, they deferred until later today.”

Arthur Salt exhaled slowly, and his posture drooped.  “Thank you,” he said simply.

“You’re welcome,” Naomi replied.  “I’d feel better about a thank you if I had been a few seconds faster.”

“I’ll confess, I’d feel better about offering a thank you if you had been,” Arthur’s lips curled into a tight smile.  “What are your intentions toward my son?” he asked suddenly.

Naomi’s mouth fell open.  “What do you mean?”

“It’s pretty obvious that he likes you,” Arthur nodded down the hallway.  “And you seem much more attentive than just a body guard.”

Naomi stuttered for the first time since second grade, “I’m.  I’m… not sure.  I hadn’t thought to much about it… and…”

“And he hasn’t made a move,” Arthur finished her sentence.

“Well, he did once, but….”

“I’d suggest not letting him get away.  He’s a good man, and I know from working with lots of men and women, that there certainly aren’t enough of his kind.  When…. and if he grows up, and if he doesn’t lose those precious principles of his I think he’ll be a great man.  Although I suspect this will put a damper on things.  That space ship of his will have to leave within a couple of weeks and I double he’ll be fit to fly by then.”

Naomi frowned.  “It would seem unlikely unless we delay the departure by another month, and I know that isn’t going to work financially.  I guess he’ll have to be satisfied with mission control.”

They could see nurses moving in and out of rooms, including Marshall’s.  “Well, probably a good time to pay him a visit.  He’ll probably bite at me when I walk in,” the CEO of Salt Industries looked nervous.  “Onward,” he exhaled slowly and turned down the hall.

As Arthur Salt disappeared into Marshall’s hospital room, another voice called out to her softly, “Miss Katsuki.”

“John Smith,” Naomi hissed.  “What are you doing here?”

“Is that all the thanks I get,” Mr. Smith grinned.  “We got you the information on the infiltrators, I passed the information along about Milner, or your target would be dead now.”

“You could have let me know sooner,” Naomi growled.

“And, we ran all the interference with the local constabulary,” Mr. Smith ignored her comments.

“He could have been killed,” Naomi felt her temper rising.  “Why didn’t you let me know earlier?”

“We didn’t know earlier,” Mr. Smith confided.  “We’re not omniscient.  We leave that for God.”

“So what do you want?” Naomi pushed Mr. Smith against the wall.

“Temper, temper Naomi,” Mr. Smith grinned.  “Your mission.”

Naomi glared as she took the thumb drive.  “What kind of assignment can I run for you a hundred million miles from Earth?”  she paused.  “That is of course, if Marshall even makes the trip.”

“You don’t give Marshall Salt enough credit,” Mr. Smith advised.  “He has an awful lot of his father in him.  I’m confident he’ll make the departure.”  Brushing Naomi aside, he started to walk away.  “Just make sure you remember your mission.”  With that he turned the walked out of the empty waiting area where they had conversed.

Naomi watched as he left the building and got into a black SUV.  “Damn!” she exclaimed, turning back down the hallway toward Marshall’s room.

Summer sci-fi reading available this week

Aloha – As part of our summer reading initiative for science fiction, the first four books in the Demeter series are available through Amazon for 99 cents each.  Its too hot to go outside and time to have some fun reading.  Enjoy the first book, Demeter

Usually being beaten up and hospitalized by the school bully isn’t considered to be a great turning point in your life. Fifteen year old Ryder faces some of the common challenges of any young man his age: isolation, sibling rivalry, first love, and bullying. Life takes a sudden change when he is invited, along with his sister and five classmates to spend a year abroad.
Read the contract! Instead of going to Europe on Earth Ryder and his friends are conscripted for a year of service in Demeter, an asteroid over a hundred light years from Earth.
The good news is that Ryder gets closer to his classmate Cynthia Flores and he gets to develop his talent at gaming with systems that deal with real life scenarios including saving Demeter itself from invasion. The bad news is that his reckless younger sister has a talent for mischief and disaster. And now, she and Cynthia have been kidnapped and it’s up to Ryder to figure out how to save them before someone kills them all.*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Followed by Return to Demeter

After surviving two kidnappings the year before Ryder and his friends think they are done with Demeter. But when a mysterious illness starts manifesting in Ryder’s little sister Debbie the team knows they have to find a way to return to Demeter before its to late. But not all is safe the mysterious planners of the nefarious plots last year are still unknown and the group must survive more attempts on their lives. Will they survive another adventure on Demeter?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Volume 3 is Defending Demeter

All is quiet, or is it? What looks to be a large PerSian invasion fleet is on the edge of Demeter space and the Saggitarian Armada that is supposed to defend Demeter leaves port. This leaves Ryder and his team in a struggle to find a way of defending Demeter with the scraps left behind by the armada.
Meanwhile a secret lurks in the inner tunnels of Demeter that could either save or destroy the planet, and explain the attempts on the team’s lives. Will the team be able to find the answers it needs and resources in time to save Demeter from complete Destruction?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Volume 4 continues the series with Haumeah released just a few weeks ago

Ryder is faced with new dilemmas on every hand. Things are going well with Cynthia, but now he must meet her father. Also to bring peace to the Orion’s Spur he must entrust his life to Debbie, who will be flying him through an asteroid field only so Ryder can attempt to negotiate with the pirates of Haumeah to convince them to have a show down with the Sagittarius league.*Version*=1&*entries*=0

The conclusion of the Demeter series will be out this fall, Vodot.

Enjoy the heat with these summer reads,


New Sci -Fi Novel in first draft (Arlo – Chapter 16 Going off Half Cocked)

Things are heating up for the characters in Arlo.  Enjoy the next chapter.  Earlier chapters are available in the Blog archive.  Doc

Chapter 16 Going off Half Cocked

“I can’t,” the tall craven man in black repeated.  “I have my work here to do.”

“Baccalaureate degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Astronomy, one of the finest schools in the world.  Surely, this has to be of interest to you,” Marshall continued to make his case.

“Yes, yes.  But you’ll also notice that I dropped Astronomy and moved on to Psychology before entering the Priesthood.  I just didn’t have the math skills for a top tier astronomy, and who wants to be a technician… at best.”

“But instead of doing the math of astronomy you can live astronomy.  Think of the adventure.  You don’t have a family here,” Marshall continued to argue.

“My congregation is my family,” Pastor Stoeber defended.

“Don’t you have an understudy, an Assistant or something who can take over?” Marshall continued.

“Yes, but he is young,” the Pastor rose as if to leave from the Pew where he was sitting and talking with Marshall.  “Surely you have other, better choices.”

“No, we don’t.  Most of the candidates backed out after the news stories.  And the few remaining choices I don’t trust.”  Standing Marshall continued, “I trust you.  We need you.  69 people will be traveling through the void for two years.  I’m not naive enough to think there won’t be dozens of problems that will require a good counselor, and perhaps even a Priest.”

“Pastor,” Stoeber corrected.

“Pastor then.” Marshall deferred.  “We all need you.  Arlo would ask you himself, if he were still alive.”

Pastor Stoeber stared at Marshall, “I don’t think you or I know what Arlo would have asked.  You go too far.”

Marshall knew he had been walking a tight rope on that one, but continued down the rabbit hole, “You may not know, but I do” he lied.

Stoeber looked away.  “I’ll think about it.  When do you need to know?”

“Today, if possible.  We launch in less than three months, and I need you to get through the training as quickly as possible.”

“I cannot possibly answer today.  I need to confer with Bishop Alder of our Synod,” Pastor Stoeber stated firmly.

“Tomorrow then.  I’ll make the travel arrangements.” Marshall tested.

“We’ll see,” Stoeber tried to deflect, but realized that he had been outmaneuvered.

I did learn something from my father, Marshall reflected, as he shook hands with the Pastor and made his way out through the front of the church.

The Psychologist was not the only position where Marshall and his team were struggling to find staffing.  The increased vetting had caused some problems, but the negative news stories that abounded were resulting in attrition that they had not expected.  The dream of deep space flight lost its luster among many applicants when the reality of the risk and danger involved was resounding from both the conservative and liberal news media.

Naomi was waiting for Marshall when he reached the car.  “Well, how did it go?”

“He’ll come,” Marshall almost whispered.

“But….” Naomi left the statement hanging as a question.

Marshall frowned, as Naomi pulled away from the curb, “But, I had to use some manipulative tactics that are more common to my father’s modus operandi.  I hope I’m not becoming him.”

Naomi drove through the light traffic and out onto the freeway before the conversation resumed.  “How is Justin doing on the rest of the staffing?”

“Well as you know the flight crew is intact,” Naomi began.  “No changes there.  Ada has staunched the leaking of the mining crew.  She is still looking for one more replacement in engineering .”  She smiled, “And I was able to persuade Dr. Milner to rejoin the medical team last night.”

Marshall turned toward her, suddenly attentive, “How did you do that?”

“You don’t need to know,” she responded coyly.

Marshall turned away, staring out the window.  The rest of the drive was silent except for the purr of the engine and the air conditioning.

Four weeks before the accelerated launch schedule, Blake gave the all clear.  “The Yankee Hotel is open for business,” he exclaimed on their daily crow’s nest meeting.

“More details,” Marshall insisted.  “Yesterday you were saying you still had some problems with air balancing, temperature controls, and spin.  You solved all of those in one day?”

“Come on Marshall, this is my baby.  I let her know that I wouldn’t let anything happen to her and she just purrs.”

“That’s a cat, not a baby,” Marshall snipped.

“Okay, air balancing problems were tied directly to the temperature control issues in engineering.  The spin has been at a steady 25 percent for the past….. 16 hours.”

Turning and looking at his command team, Naomi, Justin and Ada all nodded in affirmation.  “All right then.  We have two supply launches this week.  We’ll have half the engineering team on each of the two launches,” Marshall confirmed.

“I’ll be coming up as well,” Justin announced.

Blake laughed on the other end, “You sure your stomach can handle 25 percent gravity?”

“I’ll be fine,” Justin blushed.  “I figure I better get up there and make sure you don’t forget to latch on my mining equipment.”

“What about your girlfriend?” Blake teased.  “Seems like this would be more up her alley than yours.”

Justin turned bright red, but Ada sat quietly without response.  Justin started to answer, “I don’t…” but stopped and fell silent.  Finally he spluttered, “I’ll see you Thursday twerp.”

“I’ll have the barf bags ready,” Blake replied like the cat who has just swallowed the canary.

Marshall’s stomach was churning.  Now the launches not only involved equipment, but critical personnel as well.    They had suffered five scrubbed missions in the last eight weeks, but no catastrophic explosions.  Today, they were launching half the engineering team along with his longtime friend, Justin.  He had not slept the night before, and now sat in the spectator bleachers in the New Mexico desert.  He jumped when his cell phone rang.

“Marshall!  Get out of the stands immediately!”  came the preemptive voice of Naomi.

“Where are you?” Marshall challenged.

“Nevermind.  You have to move and move now!  Naomi screamed loud enough that he pulled the phone away from his ear.  “Run!”

Marshall looked toward the craft that was about to launch, and a thread of terror ran down his spine.  “No,” he exclaimed.  He started to run down the stands toward to launch.  He only made it half a dozen steps then all went black.

Hot or cold its a great time to be looking at the heavens


For several weeks now in the lower part of the western sky, not long after sunset for North America you can spot two very bright stars… okay they’re not stars, they’re planets.  I was at first confused as thinking the larger planet is Jupiter and the smaller is Venus.  Well that might be true up close, but actually Venus is the brighter of the two in the night sky.  Monday an Tuesday night are particularly good nights for viewing as the two bodies come closer to conjunction even though they are actually hundreds of millions of miles apart.  Great naked eye viewing, better with binoculars, even better with a small telescope.  Enjoy the wonders of the Solar System.


Harder to find than the real age of a movie starlet

Aloha – Just back from a super fast trip to Edmonton, Alberta, a detour to Jasper, and dashed hopes of a quick encounter with the northern lights.  Among other things it didn’t really get dark until about midnight.

Meanwhile, back at my desk this evening I found an interesting little story about how difficult scientists are struggling to calculate Saturn’s age.  The new Z technique supposedly will solve this mystery.  Like many scientific theories, it is intended to help unlock mysteries of the universe.  All well and good, but I suspect this theory along with so many of it’s predecessors will be abandoned in 50 – 200 years, depending on when someone with more knowledge than we have now, has an aha moment and wins whatever is referred to as the Nobel Prize in 2315.  Meanwhile, congratulations on another stab in the dark.


Chapter 14 of Arlo (science fiction)

Additional chapters are available in the blog archives.  This is a first draft for your enjoyment.  Doc.  Meanwhile, be sure to get your copy of books 1-4 of the Demeter series available on Amazon.*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Chapter 14  Crewcut

“I don’t know who has the worse job,” Justin complained

Dr. Blake Hilst laughed, “Obviously you have the worst job,” he laughed.  I’m off to outer space, while you’re stuck here on Earth with Marshall interviewing technicians, cooks, botanists, hydrologists, and … miners.”

“And you’re going to be floating around avoiding space junk, cosmic rays, and trying to put the round peg into the square hole.  You’ll devolve into a jellyfish in about six months.”

“Hardly!  I’ll have the spin on the system at one quarter EN within two weeks if all goes well.”

“Stop talking acronyms!”

“Okay, one quarter Earth normal gravity on the spin within two weeks, three at the outside.”

“Why so low?” his friend queried.

“We’ll still be under construction for six months.  It’s easier to move equipment around and bring in additional supplies at a slower spin.  The last thing we need is to have a supply ship ram into the LSE.”

Justin scowled at his friend.

“Okay, Life Support Environment.  Happy?”

“Doctor Hilst, you need to get ready,” a technician advised.

Blake turned and moved toward the prep building where he would suit up for launch.

Justin stared after his friend with mixed emotions:  Fear?  Excitement?   Loss?  He and Blake had been close friends for so long, just watching Blake walk away left an empty aching sensation.

As Blake was about to disappear into the building on the tarmac, he turned and waved.

Hope this one goes better than the last launch, Justin waved back.

Forty eight launches had gone without a hitch.  Forty eight loads of segments of a space ship were drifting about like tinker toys.  4.8 million pounds of puzzle pieces were waiting to be assembled.  If the craft had been built of the same materials it equated to twenty nine space shuttles.  But with the plastics and other lightweight materials it would be enough to assemble the framework that was over three kilometers square.  The only fully enclosed area of the ship was the life support environment or hub of the system.  It also framed in a manner that the entire life support unit would eventually have a 360 degree spin that would be totally separate of their thrust systems and mining operation.

Salt Industries had spent over 2.5 billion dollars just launching the equipment, with more to come.  There were still thirty more equipment launches before they even began to put in the supplies for the trip.  The 49th launch, which was mostly piping for the outer rim had exploded on take-off.  The private launch firm they had contracted to lift the load, bore fifty percent of the cost of the shipment.  But it still had been a major setback, and another draw on their the budget reserves.  More significantly, it had brought Marshall and his friends back to reality in the real dangers involved in their enterprise.  Three astronauts had lost their lives in the miscue.

Marshall and his companions occupied a small office within a warehouse where materials were prepared for launch from New Mexico.  Of course they had launches contracted through Cape Canaveral in Florida, and three other locations, but over seventy percent of the payloads were being delivered from the New Mexico site and Cape Canaveral.

They hired a dozen people to work with Blake on assembling the space ship several months earlier.  It took six months to train the construction team.  It would take another six months to train the specialists who would be part of the crew for the duration of the mission.  They delayed hiring the crew as long as possible to avoid unnecessary expenditures for salaries, but the window was closing, with a planned launch date for the mission within the next eight to ten months.

Considering the supplies needed to support one person on the twenty-four month mission, they had created a list and culled through it numerous times trying to reduce the personnel and associated costs over and over again.

The original crew list included 130 personnel  broken into departments of the flight crew, services, engineering, mining operations, and the external scientific research team.  The flight crew included nine members:  pilots, astrogation, and communications.  Services included a number of functions ranging from medical and psychological support, to hair stylists and cooks with a complement of 22 crew members.  The engineering crew included nine specialists in the areas of drive system maintenance, environmental sciences, structural support, and EVA and IVA support systems maintenance.  The mining crew was the bulk of the staffing,  including twenty positions and 81 crew members.  Just supplies for that many crew members, by the time they were lifted into orbit would have topped $20 billion.

Marshall and Justin spent hours over their staffing plan trying to find ways to pare down the costs.  The flight crew was reduced from nine to eight members.  This included the original four pilots, two astrogation officers and two communications officers.  Marshall would serve as the third astrogation officer as an extra duty.

Services was the area where they were able to make severe reductions.  Marshall and Justin determined that all crew members would be responsible to cross train in at least one area.  Areas that were to be covered by one or more personnel included cooking, security, morale, beauticians, fitness instructors, hair stylists, massage therapists, and housekeeping.  Of that group, Naomi was assigned as chief of security and oversight of all services.  The remaining staff included a purser and a five person medical team including a psychologist and pharmacist.  In net, they were able to reduce the service crew from 21 to six members.

The Engineering Staff was a challenge.  Blake was in charge of engineering and was fighting to keep all thirteen planned staff members that included specialists for the drive system, environmental sciences, structural integrity, EVA & IVA systems, electricians and HVAC.  Marshall insisted that they try to find specialists who could work in more than one of the areas.  The target was to reduce the number of personnel from thirteen to eleven using this strategy.

The mining operations were Justin’s responsibility and he was struggling to find ways to cut the staffing in this area.  The mining operation equipment had 360 separate drills.  It was difficult to deny that the drilling, blasting, grinding, and sorting operations would improve in efficiency with more operators.  The only solution they had at the outset was to cross train ten engineering staff, including mechanical and electrical support from the ships engineering group.

“I just can’t cut anymore,” Justin complained.  Frankly, I think the value added for each additional person on the mining staff has a phenomenal return.  We really should up the staffing.  Double it if we could.”

“We’ve been over this a dozen times Justin,” Marshall’s voice rose in exasperation.  “You’ll break the bank before we launch.  You’ve got to find the way to increase the projection production with less staff.  You’ve got all the equipment to do the project you could ask for.”

Arthur Salt provided the solution in the form of Ada Martinez.  Ada graduated from the Colorado School of Mines and went to work for Salt Industries straight out of college.  Her engineering and computer skills helped her rise quickly in the corporation turning one mine after another around financially through improved efficiencies utilizing modern technology.

Ada was a compact dynamo on two legs.  She stood five feet six inches, with jet black hair falling in waves half way down her back.  She was wearing a short blue dress and black heels that cracked as she walked the warehouse concrete floors aiming straight for the small office in New Mexico.  She carried a tablet in place of a purse.

“This is amazing technology,” Ada gushed as she looked at the technical drawings.  “We could level a mountain in days with this configuration of equipment,” then turning to Justin she added in a more serious tone, “But of course we cannot use this type of strip mining operation in most countries in the world.”

“But we’re not using it on Earth,” Justin reminded her.  “And, you’ll note…” he added with a broad grin, “that we are still addressing environmental concerns in the event that Martian’s find our operation hazardous to their health.”

“Yes, this process reminds me of a nightcrawler digging through soil drawing out nutrients as it goes.   So you’re dumping the slag directly back onto the asteroid?”

“Seems the most propitious thing to do.  Otherwise, we’re creating a mass debris field that will be miniature missiles in the form of small asteroids.  The best solution is to reinvest the waste back onto the asteroid,” Justin said.

“Excellent process,” Ada nodded.

Justin beamed.

“Meanwhile, there are several things we can do to improve the efficiency through central operators.  By using an overlay technique, you’ll be able to increase throughput, and reduce staffing requirements.  You don’t require additional grinding operators, as the process is managed by the equipment operator him or herself.  You’ll need at least two more people in your blasting group though.  During the window where you’re operating on site you’ll go to twelve on twelve off operations.  That will work fine if your plan is sixty days of operations to complete the project.  Productivity will slip a little in the last fifteen days, but that is manageable with incentives for production throughput in those last two weeks.  You can manage with a crew of 44 personnel.  That is tight, but manageable.

Justin added, “You mean we can do this whole project with a crew of 44 personnel.”

“There is no we in this discussion.  I was asked to advise.  My feet are firmly planted here on terra firma.”

As Ada left the office, Justin turned to Marshall, “I think I’m in love.”

“Me too,” Marshall snapped in a matter-of-fact tone.  “She just cut our excess budget.  We’re back within the gap analysis range for success.”

Justin was surprised, but Marshall was not, a week later when Marshall announced that Ada Martinez was joining the crew as the mining foreman.

“She said no way when I asked her,” Justin looked incredulous.  “How did you change her mind?”

“You’re looking in the wrong direction if you think I had anything to do with it,” Marshall yawned as he leaned back in his office chair.  “You said you needed her, I mentioned it to Roberto Trujillo, who I suspect passed it along to Arthur.  Arthur is well known for getting what he wants.”

“Well she’ll make a great addition.  I’m a darn good metallurgist and geologist, but I have no idea how to run a mining crew.  Besides, I think I’m going to marry her.”

Naomi, who was sitting across from Arthur swiveled her chair, “You like girls?  I didn’t even know you were aware we existed.”

“Of course I like girls.  But who has time,” Justin turned bright red.

Marshall yawned, “Enough.  What do you think about Vlajimmy Solages?  He’s one of our finalists for suit maintenance.  He also has some skills in HVAC.”

“I don’t remember him,” Justin admitted.  “How many people did we interview today anyway?”

“Twenty-five,” Naomi stated flatly.  “And twenty-five more tomorrow.”

“Vlajimmy Solages,” Marshall repeated.  “Training at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, three years with the European Space Agency.  Wants to see the Solar System.”

“Don’t they all?” Naomi responded sounding tired.

Pyramids on Ceres?

Cameras on the tractor-trailer-size spacecraft captured a pyramid-shaped structure rising three miles above Ceres' cratered surface. NASA scientists are calling it 'intriguing.' (Source: NASA/CNN)

Ceres continues to intrigue as the Space Probe Dawn draws nearer to the dwarf planet.  Another unexpected landmark has emerged as the clarity of photographs increases.  Scientists are referring to the dimple at the bottom of the picture a three-mile high pyramid like object.  Geologically it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  If Ceres had a volcanic core that was active in the last few eons we could go with a very large volcano, comparable in size to Mt Fuji (well actually this would be about 3,000 feet taller than that.  Considering that its roots aren’t buried in the ocean, that is a big momma.

Of course for those of us who love science fiction it provides yet another opportunity for speculation.  Could it be a massive pyramid built by an ancient civilization that emigrated to Earth where their planet lost its atmosphere due to global warming?  How about a beacon for interstellar travel?  Your only limitation is your own imagination on what it “could be”.