Yesterday we established that McMurdo-Lunar isn’t necessarily the most comfortable place to live, and we already knew that it’s the kind of place that gets filled up with smart, hard people who like to be on their own most of the time. The kind of events that we’re talking about in this book, though, these people coping with the unexplained death of one of their own…Things are likely to get mighty tense up there.
I’ve talked about Mars in the past, too, which got me thinking about tensions going into the body of the novel. I think that everyone at McMurdo is holding their breath in a way. They know that mankind is on its way to the next destination, and that they’re soon to be swept away and left behind. McMurdo and the lunar research bases have been instrumental in the development of techniques and technologies that will make it possible for humans to take the next step, but they’re also destined to become the staging area for that step.
In the coming years, there’s going to be a transition. Production at the orbitals is going to shift to produce long-range shuttles and cargo haulers, research projects are going to be put on hold and teams shuffled back to Earth so that room can be made for new, Mars-centric projects. Big chunks of the stable population are going to go the same way, making space for Mission Control and support teams, and, until then, everyone is going to start vying for a seat on that long trip out to the red planet. Everyone knows that their world, their home, the law, and the focus of the international community are all about to intensify and change.
It’s the kind of thing that makes people twitchy. And now this…
McMurdo is in a UN mandated lockdown when Dow shows up—which is a big part of why he had to get up there in near-secrecy. Bessette and her people followed established protocols as soon as they suspected that Cole was murdered; limiting communications and rover traffic, and grounding all cargo and people lifters under the auspices of scanning and clearing a cloud of debris and micro-meteors that have drifted into space above the colony. No one is getting in our out until an investigation can be completed to the satisfaction of Kinneman and his people on the ground, and that’s just the way it goes when this sort of thing happens.
It’s a simple enough lie, I guess, and a reasonable one. With the risk that space debris has on our current line of stations and spacecraft, it seems fair to assume that a place like McMurdo would have a pretty sophisticated system for mapping any debris that enters local airspace. There are always gaps in an early warning system, though, and—even when it works—you still have to shut things down long enough to deal with the problem. The sort of lie that people will buy every once in a while, and might just work long enough to get done with what you’re covering up. McMurdo is a small community of highly intelligent and observant people, though, and word is going to get around eventually. People aren’t going to like getting trapped in a pressurized can with a thousand potential murderers, especially when a good number are strangers who were down from the orbitals and just had the bad fortune of getting leave on the wrong weekend.
The place is tense, and it’s only going to get worse. And the more I play around with McMurdo and it’s people, the more it seems like a powder-keg waiting to go up. All of this is good and important for dramatic purposes and ratcheting up characters’ paranoia, and I’m starting to think that plotting is going to be pretty fun when I start on it next week. I just have to be careful that I’m not overdoing things.