Mass Wasting: Chapter Six

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Rhiner sat, ambered hued, in crew commons, the largest room within the Raumhake‘s gravity ring, pastel colored and concentric of composition. A series of blanched couches with detatchable backs occupied the outer perimeter of the room, and at the center, a collapsable table and four chairs in clamshell gloss. He enjoyed the still spareness and garish symmetricality of it. Arrangements of enshelled carbon and plastic, like baroque ink on wide spaced cream paper. Clean mechanical geometry eased the frantic permutations of his mind by heightened recognition of conceptual concretizations, finesed over centuries. Every contour, the culmination of bloodlines beyond counting. Thus bastioned, the reclaimer threw himself into a study of his notebook as millions of distant stars tilted in fathomless ambit beyond the broad module’s gently bowed floor to ceiling window. After several minutes he gave up perusal of the tome and turned his mind toward the burgeoning dossier of Castramare personnel. He assessed the portraits Vancing had provided one by one and flicked the end of his pencil down to the biographical annotations of every visage. Most likely culprit, given present information, was the roboticist Coralis, who had, among her team, superior understanding of, and access to, the Trimaran. Yet a detail snagged theorum’s fabric. How could Coralis have surreptitously knocked the satellite out of orbit? It was clear from the public information concerning the satellite and the Castramare mission that she had nothing to do with the orbital observation platform. None of the crew members had control over it, and so couldn’t have remotely prompted it out of its designated configuration around the moon. The satellite was solely operated by researchers at the Aecer Instutute of Aeronautics, who liasoned with Arkway for pertinent instruction. Clearly, Coralis didn’t deorbit the object manually. It didn’t make sense unless she had a confederate. If there was an accomplice or accomplices, how could Coralis have communicated with such a person, or persons, without the communiques being discovered by her peers, who all lived in necessarily close proximity? Castramare was composed of a single block installed within a cliffside, divided into use-specific chambers. Privacy was impossible. He remembered Vancing’s words about faces in the moon, threw the papers down and rubbed the bridge of his nose. It didn’t add up. He soaked in the delightful quietude and relaxed until the chamber door flew open and the sound of footfalls broke upon his reverie.

Sidra entered, wearing caravansary stage garb, posing in a theatrical manner, legs bent, back arched, feet turned out, one hand thrust forth, palm facing pane. “Yoh-oh. Reclaimer’s pen slices enigma’s thread, as ronin’s blade takes enemy’s head.”

He arched a brow. “Its a pencil.”

She angled her head, took a step forward and threw her other hand out. “Yoh-oh. He spares scant glance to distraction’s face, in thoughtful pose, an unseen race.”

The man rolled pencil to journal’s spine, snapped the book shut, and shifted his gaze to the performer with irritation. “I’m trying to concentrate.”

The woman frowned, let arms fall to sides and strode to the window. In silence, she caressed the translucent material, as if to draw words from it. “You going to be like this the entire way?”

“Are you?”

“You don’t like me, do you?”

“Irrelevant to the mission.”

“I can’t help you theorize if you’re always sealing yourself away in a different module.”

Pleading blue eyes prompted reclaimer’s contrition. “That doesn’t have anything to do with you. I like being alone.”

“That why you became a reclaimer?”

“Yeah. Helps me think. Pull up a chair.”

Sidra sat across from the man. “The first thing we should do is go over the basics.”

Rhiner considered the proposal and ascented. “Good idea. Help us from getting too narrow too quick.”

“Right. Well. The Trimaran’s autonomous, so its disappearence could have been caused by malfunction. But Arkway’s observation satellite wasn’t automated. For it to have been brought out of orbit with such velocity, all of its thrusters would need to have fired, in precise alignment, at the same time.”

“Which is extremely unlikely to happen by accident.”

“Yeah. That alone would be suspicious, but with the drone vanishing at the same time, we can say there’s high probability of this being the work of some agent or agents, not an accident.”

The reclaimer dipped his head in agreement. “So the next question is: Who benefits from Castramare’s cessation?”


“Arkway’s main competitor, the real estate development firm.”

“Right. Vancing didn’t mention them when I raised the possibility of sabotage because he didn’t want to prejudice our thinking, but the thought had to have crossed his mind.”


“They’re even more well known than Arkway, or at least they were until the establishment of Castramare. When two groups want the same piece of land and something bad happens to the first group there, its near certain the ones responsible are the late group.”

“It is not impossible. But near certain isn’t good enough. Our hypotheses differ.”

She pouted and leaned forward, hands on her cheeks, like a child annoyed at the postponement of a fairytale’s climax. “Oh? What’s yours?”

“You said Soligrange has the larger public presence. They plan to launch a lunar base next year. Right?”

“Yeah. What’s your point, samurai?”

He spun the pencil around his knuckles in a full rotation. “Point is, as things stand, your suspicion would be adopted by the public once word of this gets out, Soligrange would know that. Few companies get big as them by disregarding public relations. The very fact it is widely known they would benefit greatly from Arkway’s misfortune, suggests their innocence.”

“Or stupidity.”

“Would you describe jettisoning a data-mining orbiter and concealing a nigh-sentient automaton at the same time the work of fools?”

She drew her lips to one side, as if she had been exposed to a new, exotic, mildly rebarbative flavor. “No. But its not a binary between innocence and stupidity. Maybe their leadership becamse so accustomed to undermining their rivals, subversive practice became compulsive. Happens all the time with drinking, gambling, sex. Doesn’t matter how smart an alcoholic is, he’s gonna drink. Besides, I don’t know of any other companies with an interest in lunar colonization who have the means to accomplish it.”

“The bit about compulsion is true, but it might not be a company. Might not even have anything to do with land development. Could be that someone on the base had a grudge against Arkway, or against the leadership there. Could be the meddling of a government that wants to cripple Aecer’s space capabilities.”

“Hm. Arkway is the lynchpin in Aecer’s aerospace program. You could be right. I could dig into whether or not any of the crewmembers had any affiliation with Soligrange.”

“That would be most helpful.” Rhiner rubbed his hands with excitement. “We have a plan of action.”

Sidra smiled broadly and assumed her previous pose. “Yo-oh. Samurai and songstress meet, for dire action soon to greet.” The woman’s poem was cut short by a pencil striking her forehead.

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