La Double Inconstance (1-10)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The first ten chapters to allow easy catch-up. Chapter 11 will be posted later today.

1: A Tuesday in early March

It’s ten past six: the dawn air is freezing as we wait for the shuttle bus. Overhead, silvery clouds are scudding east to west, riding a Siberian wind. I glance at Tania, huddled inside her parka and billowing overtrousers. I think she looks tired.

We leave the dormitory behind. The bus is warm and stuffy. It’s just a short ride to the airport. The driver is walled off behind an opaque glass screen. Sensibly, Tania seems to be catching up on her sleep. This isn’t that old sleep-deprivation bullshit, breaking you down and remaking you. The launch window is tight, the mission evolves, the training has to follow suit.

Train hard, fight easy. So today won’t be easy. We were given a brief description last night: zero-g training, further details on the flight. Tania, I think, it’s easy to make mistakes when you’re tired. Take your nap and please don’t screw up.

She’s my mission-buddy and I’d hate to have to change that with just a few weeks to go.

2: Tania Milet

Tania is from the Bundeswehr special forces, the Kommando Spezialkräfte modelled, they say, after the Israeli counter-terror group (this is officially denied). In any event, I’ve seen how she handles herself. Tania and myself are a ‘psychologically matched pair’ so it’s really essential that neither of us screws up today. Tania is the comms and weapons systems specialist.

We board the helicopter at a remote apron. There are no formalities, this is a military flight. Tania and myself sit at the back facing forwards. We strap in and pull the intercom headsets on. Staffers occupy the rows in front of us, part of the support team, while at the pilot end two seats face us. On our left is Günter Schlierkamp, our training commander; on the right sits Dr Anna de Kasparis, the mission psychologist.

Schlierkamp will be giving the briefing once we’ve taken off but my eyes stray to his companion. Anna is wearing a bulky parka just like the rest of us. She leans forward to slide it off as the heaters kick in. Her jacket underneath is a regulation uniform flaunting the ESA logo but the rest is surely her own: a small black skirt with matching tights and pixie boots of soft leather.

I deliberately let my gaze linger and she stares right back: blue eyes neutral, expression confident. Anna continually assesses us: everything she does is designed to see how the subjects respond. We could be down-checked any time for reasons we would never understand - though this far in the process that’s unlikely: the losers are long since gone.

Why is she so attentive to me? I turn away, no point wasting time on it, shift my gaze instead to Schlierkamp who has the grizzled look of a veteran who will fly no more missions and is probably ambivalent about that.

The engine roar cranks up and with a small jolt the craft slowly lifts off. I second-guess the pilot. In my former life I flew helicopters for the French army. Special birds with hushed turbines, quiet rotors and fractal e/m signature.

Piloting the module is not dissimilar.

3: Tuesday: Dropshaft

Schlierkamp is talking for our benefit (his staff are regulars for today's exercise). He clears his throat and I poke Tania in the ribs with my left elbow. She’s alert in a second.

“Team, today we’ll be doing zero-g exercises in a mocked-up mission capsule. Time at zero-g is limited. You will start the exercise within a routine duty profile. On the emergency warning you will move immediately to your combat couches. There will be limited time before sustained excess gee.”

This is so normal. The shortest possible briefing studded with euphemisms. They like you to work it all out for yourself so you can internalise it. They’re wasting their time with Tania, of course, she’s of the school of: ‘Stop faffing let’s get on with it.’ It’s down to me to ask the questions.

So how do we get zero g today? (We’re plainly not going orbital: that’s not done on a whim). We can do things with ‘diamagnetics’ but not on the scale of the whole module. It could be an aircraft pulling parabolic curves but they could do that from our base - no need for our ride today. So I’m guessing a drop-shaft - probably in vacuum. They’re going to drop us into a deep, deep hole so that we float. And then stop us, real fast, so we don’t die.

“Where is the training facility we’re using today?” I ask to confirm my suspicions.

“A former deep mine in Magny-Danigon, north-east France, more than a thousand metres. We’ve widened and deepened it, hardened it for vacuum. Today it’s configured for your mission.”

I do the math in my head. It takes 14 seconds to drop a kilometre in vacuum; you’re doing 140 metres per second when you arrive. More than 300 miles per hour as our American friends would have it.

Fourteen seconds of zero g experience: very good.

140 metres per second on impact: very, very bad.

They won’t let us fall all the way. At some point they’ll put the brakes on. If they’re prepared to really load us with gees, they can stretch our zero-g time further. Personally, I’d value the extra transfer time to our high-gee couches. I’m beginning to see the trade-offs. Which I quietly share with Tania on our private channel.

“They’re going to drop us down a shaft in vacuum,” I say, “The exercise is to get to our acceleration couches in time. Then they’ll hit us with gees to stop us, probably lots of gees.”

“You’re the pilot,” she says.

I swear she’s falling asleep again.

It might depend on how much extra length they built into the shaft.

“How many seconds of zero-g can we expect?”

“We’ll start you with ten seconds. And then hit you with three, maybe four gee. If that works we might be generous and give you a bit longer in free-fall. Some of the other teams were happy with ten gee by the end of their sessions.”

Almost certainly complete bullshit. At three gee you can barely move. Make one mistake at ten gee and you’ll break an arm or a leg. Still, he’s made it a competition and no doubt something important hangs on it. Some pecking order on the mission roster. Another opportunity to flunk out.

4: “It’ll be a bitch”

The mother-ship comes with two combat-modules. Imagine a ‘T’ shape. In interplanetary cruise the vertical stroke represents the main fuselage of the mother-ship. This contains the interplanetary-cruise engines, fuel and most of the supplies. The horizontal top of the ‘T’ represents two long arms jutting out to each side. At the end of each is a crew module, which detaches for combat. Tania and myself will occupy one of these for the entire duration of the voyage. Yes, that’s where the two of us will live.

The module at the end of the other arm is a duplicate. We have redundancy in everything.

During boost and deceleration phases the arms fold upwards into line with the main fuselage, so the ‘T’ becomes an elongated ‘I’. But most of the time we’re purely ballistic, in weightless cruise. Then the arms fold out into their T-configuration and the mother-ship begins to rotate about its long axis, whirling the modules around like a fairground ride. The result is artificial gravity. The mission to Mars space is seven to eight months and we’d be in a very sorry state if we tried to do it in free-fall all the way.

People say, don’t you get dizzy, watching the universe spinning around you? And we point out that there are no windows, only screens. The computers synthesise the view we’d get if we were not being spun around at all. So we think we’re just flying normally when we look out. Usually though we’re just seeing mission and status data, or entertainments.

We can set the windows to something restful and earthlike, trees or mountains or waterfalls, if we feel like it.

---

After less than an hour’s flight our craft has landed on the helipad and we’re met by yet another bus for transfer to the local ESA building. There’s no hanging around. Tania and myself are led straight into a facsimile of our crew module habitation area.

The module itself is nothing like an aircraft. We’re on a space mission, not flying through atmosphere, so there’s no streamlining and our craft doesn’t have to be that compact.

The outside shape is spherical, a smooth, stealthy ball-like surface punctuated by engine nozzles, weapon hatches and sensor emplacements. Our internal space consists of rectangular rooms which hug the inside of the armoured surface. The module is spun-up when independently deployed so that we still operate in artificial gravity.

But today we’ll be assuming the whole module has been de-spun so we’ve gone weightless. It’ll be a bitch.

We each have a large personal area with table, chairs, double bed and an en-suite. Between these two upmarket bedsits there’s a kitchen, a dining/recreation area and a compact gym. All of these facilities abut the central office, which is where we ‘fight the ship’.

At the front of the office, the opposite end to the kitchen area, there’s a workspace with chairs, wall-screens and control peripherals - this is for routine (non-combat) duties. At the other end of the office, maybe six or seven metres away, are the two combat couches, each equipped with VR displays and tactile controls. Here is where we can take ten plus gees and still operate the ship.

In theory we can get from any place in the module to our couches in less than nine seconds. We practise this a lot - but not so much in free-fall, always a scarce resource in astronaut training.

Tania and I enter the simulated module. We’re wearing our standard pseudo-lycra coveralls - no zips or buttons or pocketed items to bruise our skins under acceleration. I am sent to my bedsit and told to get into bed. Tania is told to prepare a hot drink for herself so heads off to the kitchen. We have no idea how long it will be before the drill will start.

I lie under the duvet and reflect. This is how it will be on the mission. The long months drifting towards Mars, spinning round and round the cylindrical mother-ship feeling a lot like this. Abruptly my thoughts turn to present reality: we are suspended over a thousand metre deep hole. It is as if we are about to be dropped off a high mountain. I am sure that if my surroundings were transparent I would be petrified. Once we’re let go, only technology can save us.

But isn’t this true of everything we do?

Still no klaxon. Why are they delaying? The scenario we are testing is this: a combat situation where we're flying ballistic, far from our mother-ship parked way behind. We would be advancing stealthily on the target. Suddenly our sensors pick up something incoming, fast and lethal. Doctrine states we have nine seconds to get into our couches before the module gets us out of there as fast as it likes.

They tell us that, to avoid capture or destruction, it can do more than 10 gee: a lot more. But they prefer that we live... and are still operational.

Tania in lycra: the material, by design, hides nothing of shape. I’m sure I must come across like a male ballet dancer - no secrets here! Tania is a few centimetres shorter than me, wiry and muscular. She has small breasts and her brown hair is cropped. There’s no sexual chemistry between us (I know that she has her own relationships but she doesn’t talk about them). But we are personally attuned. Similar dry sense of humour, I appreciate that she’s taciturn and likes to get to the point, is impatient with - as she sees it - superfluous chat. Her instincts in practical situations are good. And she’s fast: really fast and sure.

Good enough for me.

5: Tuesday: zero-g

I’m starting to get relaxed and dreamy when suddenly the klaxon sounds: “High gee, high gee in nine seconds. Counting nine …”

The mattress rebounds and I float above the bed sheet. I get caught up in the drifting duvet, push and thrust to get to the edge of the bed. This was the hardest to practice without a null-g environment: precious seconds wasted.

“Eight … Seven ...”

I spin against the wall like a swimmer and push hard for the door. Through the gap I see a stretched out body gliding across the office. It’s Tania speeding towards her couch. Her face turns as she catches a glimpse of me.

“Six … Five ...”

I’m through the door and lined up on my couch. I push off - it’s going to be touch-and-go.

“Four … three ...”

I spin in the air as we’ve practiced, lining my back up with the couch. Tania is floating above hers, not quite settled in, watching as I flounder, trying to orient myself.

“Two … one ...”

Tania kicks my flailing arm and in the last second we both mate with our targets. The couches suck us in, pull us into their cushioned embrace.

“Zero.”

And the breath is squeezed out of me as I’m crushed into the fabric. Without Tania’s intervention I might have fractured an arm.

A few seconds of suffocation and a synthesised voice speaks: “Situation nominal.”

We both climb awkwardly out of our couches, panting, trying to get air into our oxygen-starved bodies. I’m quite shaken by this first-time experience. I embrace her: a way to say thanks, to express my relief. I’m expecting something male-like, a buddy-hug, a slightly embarrassed response, ritualised, mechanical and quickly over.

She surprises me. Her face comes up to mine and our lips press briefly together. A moment, not over-protracted, de-stressing.

Tania is honest and authentic in everything she does. This is what she means at this exact moment. Then we separate and it’s back to full-on professionalism. Perhaps it never stopped being so. At any rate, the cameras will have captured it and the psychologists will have another data point.

Half an hour later we do it again. This time I’m the one in the galley and Tania is sent to bed. It all goes perfectly. By the end of the session we are doing more complex scenarios and getting longer in freefall (fourteen seconds). The decelerations are more savage: we hit ten g finally and pass with flying colours.

On our way back to the waiting helicopter, Anna has a word.

“Perhaps you could call into my office later this evening? Would half past seven suit?”

It’s a date.

6: Tuesday evening: Anna de Kasparis

Dr Anna de Kasparis’s office is on the fourth floor of the ESA administrative building, 400 metres and two blocks away from the dormitories where the astronaut-candidates live. By reason of her professional duties, it’s large by the standards of staff members of her grade. A traditional desk occupies one corner but opposite there’s an alcove with a psychotherapist’s couch. Comfortable chairs circling a coffee table face her desk. The coffee facilities are just behind.

The candidates, as Anna thinks of them, imagine she is there for assessment. There are guarded looks in their eyes, the slightest tinge of fear. They think that one downcheck from her and they’re out. They feel her actions and motives are inscrutable: they will never out-think her, never understand the real game she is playing with them.

They are not entirely wrong. But the main reason she is there - let us be frank - is to manipulate them. To get the students to perform, to do things, in the way the mission requires. In the service of this important task she has very wide latitude indeed.

Today, with Capitaine André Charles Antoine, nicknamed Arlequin, she has to carry off something difficult. It’s going to be a difficult week all round. But, to be fair, it’s something she has to do with almost all of the astronauts:  André is not the first and he won’t be the last; some are easier than others.

She normally wears the standard ESA coveralls. It’s part of the esprit de corps which binds them together, that and the secrecy - officially Europe has not militarised its operations in space.

But for this project with André she needs something more personable, something beyond the official. She needs informality, a chance for emotion. Without emotion there is no buy-in. Accordingly she wears the same outfit as this morning. Black blouse, black miniskirt tight across her thighs, black tights, short black boots in soft leather. She’s lounging in one of the comfy armchairs, ankles crossed, when his knock comes at the door and he walks in.

She points to the coffee pot behind her (she’s already sipping at her mug); waits for him to settle himself. André Antoine, Arlequin, helicopter pilot, she thinks to herself: muscular, a mesomorph, only slightly taller than herself, slightly younger. He has the usual air of wariness, he doesn’t know why he’s been summoned.

Her first question is disconcerting: “Tell me how you met your wife.”

He’s been interviewed many times; the ESA knows all there is to know about his biography so there’s just the slightest pause before he responds to this seemingly random question.

“I always wanted to fly helicopters, even as a child. I used to read about whirlybirds, daring rescues … and blowing up tanks! I was accepted into ALAT, the French army air corps, after graduation.”

“What did you study at university?”

“I did Aerospace Engineering at the Grenoble Institute of Technology.”

“OK.”

“After training I served at a number of bases in the south of France, interspersed with missions in North Africa. Military aviation is glamorous - there were parties, a wild social life.”

He looks at Anna.

“There were always women: uninhibited, intoxicated with danger. It took me a while to discover they’re a type.”

7: Tuesday evening: Meeting Sylvia

Anna nods, easing the flow of reminiscences.

“I understand: fast women, OK for girlfriends, not so great for wives. So what happened, were you looking for something different? Did you decide it was time to settle down and raise a family?”

“It was after I’d been selected for the special forces helicopter regiment based at Pau. We were deployed in the Sahel, in Chad, doing insertions against AQIM, that’s Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This particular operation was in the middle of the night, we had to fly to a wadi to exfiltrate a team. I was in command, in the left-hand seat. I had a new guy with me who was actually flying the bird.

“We’d done many such missions, always at night. We’d drop a group to do their reconnaissance or raiding or whatever, then come back after a few hours or a few days to retrieve them. There was rarely any trouble from our point of view.

“On this occasion they must have been followed, or perhaps it was just bad luck they disturbed a bunch of bad guys near the exfiltration site.”

“How were you feeling during the mission?” asks Anna, examining his face with care.

“A little taut. We all know how things can suddenly go down. My colleague had set us down on a flat area of sand. I was running my gaze along the skyline. It was very dark but the stars were bright in the night vision kit. Occasional shadows were only spindly bushes growing at the lip of the valley. It all seemed to be going well.

“We loaded the troopers and lifted off, still below the skyline, moving forwards slowly to engage lift. We had our headsets on, so despite that we’re very quiet, you don’t hear much from outside. First thing I knew, sparks appeared from the valley top to my front-left. The gunner called it in and my pilot pushed the nose down, cranked up the pitch and angled us off hard to the right.

“That was absolutely the right thing to do. The guy with the AK must have just sprayed the general area from where the noise was. The bullet went in my left arm and through part of my chest, luckily missing anything vital.”

“How did you respond to that?”

Anna is still finding this fascinating.

“They always say, ‘The training kicks in’ and the funny thing is, it does. I didn’t feel much pain, just the sudden shock of it happening at all. I told my pilot I’d been hit but I thought I was OK, and we agreed to divert to the nearest Forward Operating Base where I’d be able to get assistance. I lay back and squeezed through my flight jacket - I knew I was bleeding - and ten minutes later a medic was checking me out.”

“And they flew you back to Pau?”

“Casualty evacuation: the chest wound clinched it. They practically had a conveyor belt out of Chad at that time, a regular stream of wounded. A very nice military hospital in Pau. And I had a very pretty nurse, Sylvia.”

“She made an impression on you?”

He laughs, it’s an old story.

“It’s not hard to be impressed by an attractive young woman who’s caring for you like she really cares. As I got better we spent more time together.”

“What would you say are her key qualities?”

“She’s amusing - she comes out with stuff like she’s an ingenue and just doesn’t care. And she doesn’t take me seriously, she’s not at all impressed by what I do. Base girls tend to think you’re a hero - they see the pilot, not the man. But Sylvia never cared about any of that. It was enough that I amused her and - to be frank - was totally obsessed with her.”

“And that you were clever and good looking?”

Her smiles, “That, of course.”

“And now you have a baby. Do you still find her sexually attractive?”

“Can’t keep my hands off her.”

8: Tuesday evening: An offer

Anna is now brisk, moves it on.

“This is a lengthy mission, more than half a year each way in a relatively small module. You’ll be sharing with Tania. Does that give you pause?”

All of these issues are familiar to André, the facts have been clear for weeks now. He wonders why Anna is bringing it up again; gives his stock answer.

“Separations are always difficult, I get that, just ask any of the guys. But there’s no real chemistry as such with Tania. We get on, but not in that way.”

“And yet… this morning, after she saved you from disaster?”

“Yes, there was that.”

And with that, Anna is done with the preamble.

“The ESA is not in the business of breaking up families. There are good reasons for having male-female crew and not all of them are politically-motivated. But there’s plenty of scope for problems too. Sexual frustration could compromise the mission just as much as the dangers of crew liaisons. It would be irresponsible to ignore the issues on account of prudishness or ridicule or bad PR, don’t you agree?

André doesn’t really get where this is going but nods in agreement anyway.

“You and Tania will each be provided with a synthetic companion to address your emotional and intimate physical needs,” Anna says, recognising in herself the stilted language of sex education lessons in school.

“And before you laugh or show any other signs of embarrassment, the state of the art has progressed unbelievably over the last year. Your companion, although artificial, will be effectively indistinguishable from a human being. It will be just like those science-fiction stories with androids and synthetic people. Because now, for the ESA, they really exist.”

Dr Anna de Kasparis is right. The mission requires its operatives to be on the top of their game, without the burden of unfulfilled primary impulses. It’s as important as securing food and drink and the generals have always understood it. But there are no convenient brothels or ‘happenstance meetings’ in interplanetary space.

André nods, self-control has kicked in, seriousness has been restored. Anna leans back and looks him in the eye.

“Now to the hard question. Who will your partner be patterned after? The possibilities are unlimited and your choice will be in complete confidence.”

De Kasparis leans forward and, to André’s surprise, stands up.

“André, we will do literally anything for the success of this mission. For example, how would you feel with a copy of me as your partner?”

She says this with just the hint of a sardonic smile... as she does a slow twirl before settling back in her seat, daring him to laugh or not take her seriously.

For a moment André is off balance, feels a surge of lust; common sense intervenes in milliseconds. Don’t think, though, that Anna didn’t observe that micro-expression, it’s not unfamiliar.

He’s guessing it’s another test, she thinks, but it’s not; it’s a nudge.

“Such an entrancing offer,” he says calmly, “But I’d have to turn it down. Sylvia would go ballistic and it would be morally wrong, it would feel like infidelity. And I could never do that.”

“Well, I suppose there is one obvious alternative that could work?”

She looks at him intently, waiting for the penny to drop.

His body gets it before his consciousness; he looks flustered.

“Sylvia? She would never agree. And in any case you have no idea how she behaves in … .”

Anna just sits there.

“She would never agree.”

“But you would, I take it. Well, we all have our part to play. I’ll be meeting your wife two days time in Paris. You should expect to have an interesting conversation when you see her this coming weekend.”

She stands up (the interview is over: he automatically follows suit) and she takes his hand solemnly, leading him to the door.

“Thanks, André, for being so understanding. You know how important this is. Really. Do your best. And remember. Secret.”

André vanishes down the corridor; Anna walks to her desk to write up her notes. Not one of the hard ones, she thinks. But Sylvia, the traditionalist wife. That’s going to be a charm.

9: Tuesday evening: ‘this is home’

From the psychologist’s office André takes the lift to the ground floor and exits to the plaza. He walks across to the engineering facility, strolls through its main corridor to emerge at the link road which he crosses to enter the dormitory building. Finally it’s up to the ninth floor where he has his apartment. He retrieves a cold beer from the fridge and reclines in his living room, facing the picture window overlooking the campus and letting his thoughts run free.

We work ridiculous hours during the week, he thinks, but our weekends are sacrosanct. Without R&R and our families, our performance would fall off. We’d get stale, lose focus, make mistakes.

In his imagination he relives his weekend routine: Friday lunchtime finishing here and taking the shuttle to the airport. It’s 400 km from Köln to Paris - two hours in the Gazelle allocated for his personal use (factored into his training plan). He arrives at the Aérodrome de Lognes-Emerainville, east of Paris around half-past three. A cab gets him to nearby Marne-la-Vallée by four. And then it’s just the walk to the front door.

---

She opens the door and I step inside. Behind her I see our one year old holding on to the bars of her playpen. Toys are strewn on the floor. I look at Sylvia: she’s wearing a loose button-up blouse, no bra, short skirt, nothing on her feet. Brown hair cascades around her shoulders. She looks at me, a small smile on her lips, amused, teasing; slightly wary.

I step up close and put my hands about her waist. Push up her blouse and feel her skin under my hands, warm and smooth. Her expression changes not a jot: she waits with timeless patience. I lean forward: our lips just brush. Our unrehearsed game, silently choreographed. In the background our child burbles to herself, oblivious.

I slide my hands up the outside of her legs, pushing her skirt up, feeling smooth flesh all the way. My hands meet behind her, join at the small of her back. I pull her to me.

Her hand in mine we ascend the stairs. Neither of us has yet said a word. She removes her blouse, sits on the bed, then moves across to wait for me.

I am home.

---

He drains the beer, thrusts these intimate thoughts aside and returns to the matter in hand. Coldly, rationally he considers de Kasparis’s plan. What will his wife’s reaction be? Can Anna talk her around? Not a cat in hell’s chance, he thinks. She will never agree. And they’ll expect him to talk her around - which would be the ruin of more than just one weekend.

He will, of course, refuse.

He wonders what Anna’s plan B might be.

10: Tartarus

Report retrieved from ESA archive.

Programme Tartarus: [ESA Top Secret; NATO Cosmic Secret].

---

Agence Spatiale Européenne: Très Secret

Programme Designation: Tartarus

Circulation: [redacted]

Date/Version: [redacted]

Summary

The anomaly was discovered thirteen months ago by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO-3) in low Martian orbit. The multispectral camera happened to loiter over the Mars-facing face of Phobos for 410 seconds and subsequent image-processing determined that a small crater, approximately 400 metres across, was in thermal disequilibrium. A subsequent high-resolution sequence is consistent with a smooth fabric elevated over the crater floor, an effect similar to a radome used to protect radar installations. In the immediate aftermath MRO-3 disappeared. Its fate is currently unknown. It is presumed either to have burned up in the Martian atmosphere or to have been captured.

Mission Failures

Malfunctions have occurred in distant probes from many countries, including the precursor interstellar mission currently transiting the Oort Cloud.

These events have been classified.

Responses to date

There are several spacecraft currently in the vicinity of Mars. One was recalibrated for a close flyby of Phobos. No data was returned due to proximate system malfunction. Engineering failure is considered unlikely. The NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) was observing Phobos at the time (by request) and observed brief, coherent and possibly modulated e/m radiation from the anomaly directed at the craft.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Putting coincidence to one side, it appears possible that some entity has established itself on Phobos. This may mark a covert objective to control Mars space by some adversarial power here on Earth. It is also possible that the phenomenon is of non-solar system origin. A covert NATO-ESA project has been established to investigate. Due to mission-uncertainty and signal propagation delays, an astronaut team plus drones will be deployed rather than an autonomous probe with command-override from Earth.

The ESA has been tasked to provide an insertion team leveraging its (secret) military astronaut programme. The launch window will be this summer with flight duration seven to eight months. This programme is designated Tartarus (cf. classical reference: appendix).

NASA/DoD is presumed to have its own plans which to date have not been shared.

Appendix: note on Phobos

Phobos is the innermost and largest of Mars’s two moons (the other is Deimos). It is shaped somewhat like a potato with a mean diameter of 22 km. It orbits 6,000 km from the Martian surface with an orbital period under eight hours. Its surface gravity is less than 600 micro-g and circum-Phobos orbital speed is 29 km/hour - which incidentally could be easily achieved by a sprinter. It is basically a very large pebble-shaped mountain resembling an asteroid.

---

Chapter 11 of this book will be posted later today (Wednesday April 14th 21).


Submitted: April 14, 2021

© Copyright 2021 AdamCarlton. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Celtic-Scribe63

Your attention to detail and ease with which you describe surroundings and tech is enviable... I read all of this in one sitting it flowed so easily.
A.I sex droids/synthetics show that no stone has been overlooked in this mission... Everyone needs to be sharp and undistracted... our crew has to be mentally alert...
Your writing reminds me of A.C.Clarke in its vision and clarity.

I will be reading the next chapter soon.
Regards

Wed, April 21st, 2021 12:45pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, CS63. I am unworthy of such comparisons... really!!

I will be posting chapter 18 in a few hours: hope you enjoy the rest of the ride (88 fingers has been taking me to task in the comments!).

Wed, April 21st, 2021 7:25am

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