by A Cassandra.
I'm Ruby and, I have a trip to plan. If I want it.
I'm Ruby and
I have a trip to plan
if I want it.
Ben, is coming down the stairs in a white bath robe. "Morning. Busy day?"
"Yes." I garb my keys. "I'll be in and out of the office all day. I've got to see about that trip. Herding cats."
Scratching and yawning "Herding cats. How many will you let die this time."
"Not funny!" I smile and slip out into the warm summer morning sunshine.
The good thing about working out of Europe is that the cities are built for people, not cars. The high population densities means there is good public transport, which means a civilized commute, which means I can reread the offer documents.
The first five pages are basically about the prestige of the individuals and institutions involved. The only relevant information there is do they have the funds, and are they likely to spend them. The next twelve pages, define the role of SESO. Scientific Expedition Safety Officer. Scientists on an expedition of discovery can lose objectivity, and get themselves killed, It has been my profession for the past twelve years, to act as their common sense. The next forty-two pages contain some of the information I will need to decide if I want in. So I make a start on rereading that section.
Tony is already in the office we share with Danny D. He is working on a trip to the Challenger deep. It makes sense for us to share an office, even though in theory we will be competing for jobs. "Has Danny seen this?" I hold up the offer document.
"Yes, he didn't sound happy about having under gad jocks along. He said he would do the ships certifications, chat to captain and crew, and give the ship a quick inspection. He wants you to make a start on the personal, and if there are any interpersonal issues."
"I've got that."
Speaking to the com unit. "Ruby's phone. Call professor Sue Green. Trinity. Leave a card." Then settling down with my feet up on my desk, to read the rest of the report, and wait for the return call. The plan looks interesting, to spend twenty-four weeks studying the ecology of the unique life of Venus' atmosphere. The long dwell time being provided by basing the operation inside a very large balloon made of ETFE and Kevlar, filled with air. Air floats in the much denser Carbon Dioxide atmosphere.
the preposed team consists of; two professors, eight taught masters students, three Ph.D. Students, one lab tech/specialist, and two undergraduates.
Undergraduates have no place on a high risk trip like this.
Professor Green called me back on her lunch break and left a calling card. To avoid a round of card tag, I called her back directly. "Professor Green. I am Ruby Mann. Me and A number of my colleagues have been asked to apply for the position of SESO on your Venus expedition.
She almost cut me off, which annoyed me, but not as much as her response. "A cat herder."
"NO. And if you are not serious about this expedition, you should not wast peoples time." that did not put her on the defensive as much as I would have liked.
"We are all intelligent people I've picked for this trip, we don't need a babysitter."
"Tell me professor, when you inspected the ship, did its KATE number match all the safety documents? Do you even know where to find a ship's KATE number? Have you even seen the ship? A big part of the role of a SESO is to do all of this boring but essential safety work for you." I could have added you need me, but that would be a bit much.
"I'm sorry about the cat herder quip, I meant nothing by it, You must know that, that you are referred to in academic circles." Not quite an apology, but it was all I was going to get.
"I do." to help her understand my role a bit better, I added. "My husband teaches seven-year-olds, the way I explain my job to him is. That it is like him planning and then taking his class on an unsupervised trip to a third world fireworks factory." thinking I might have over done it: I added "You're a good scientist. Wide open to all the possibilities, but still able to focus on a minute detail to the exclusion of every thing else. But If the thing you are ignoring is a leopard, you will need someone watching your back. Whilst you watch the butterflies." I should not have to explain the role of SESO to an expedition leader. "OK. Tell me about your expedition."
As expected Professor Green slipped into her schpeel, after years of great applications and academic meetings on the subject, this was well rehearsed and polished. She started by giving a briefer history of space missions to Venus. Then she went on to the controversy around remote atmospheric phosphine gas readings throughout the twenty twenties.
"Can I stop you right there professor. How long have you been speaking for?"
"What. Err. Four or five minutes."
"Nine minutes thirty seconds exactly. I timed it. Don't worry, if you had been accurate, I would have been suspicious. NOW tell me all about the two undergraduates you are planing to bring along?
As expected they are sports science majors, who needed the extra credit that they got for signing up for this field trip, in order to qualify for team selection for next season. "No one expects them to quit the team mid-season and swan of to Venus. But the Dean made funding conditional on them being allowed to sign up."
"you do know that allowing them to sign up will have increased your insurance cost, considerably?"
"The Dean will pick up any extra cost, and I have that in writing.
"I will need to meet those two separately and to meat the rest of the team socially. The better part of a year and a half cooped up together, five months of that inside the atmosphere of Venus. Managing personalities is as much a part of the SESO job as is making sure you have an environmental suit that will keep you alive" before she could interrupt "It will be my job to look at all of the things that might possibly go wrong and to have preventive masseurs in place. And to have mitigations ready when prevention fails." now it is my turn to give the advertising schpeel.
"Nothing will go wrong." she laughed.
"I am particularly concerned by the St Austin hypothesis. What would happen if it is proven to be completely wrong in your first week there? How would that group stand up to five months with nothing to do?"
"the St Austin hypothesis is proven." Her turn to try to put me on the back foot. "It just says that life on other planets does not need to be the same as life on Earth. It just needs structures that serve the same function. It does not need to have DNA, it just needs to have something that serves the hereditary function."
"So you really expect to find microorganisms in the atmosphere of Venus, that have no cell walls and no DNA. That have all the mechanisms necessary for life, just floating around within the boundaries of a water droplet?"
"As a droplet of water my self. What would happen if I was to become contaminated?
"What? You won't. We will take care of our samples." She seemed almost surprised by the suggestion.
"It is the job of the SESO is to think not just of the most extreme things that can go wrong but the simplest, most trivial thing. For example, The habitat plans are still in their early stage. But, are you aware that both the water and sewage systems supply; the labs, bathroom, and the kitchen. If you are right and any drop of water can become 'alive', then the labs and the living area need to be completely isolated from each other" "Sorry to interrupt you." She wasn't. "But I have a class to teach. If you want to be involved, call me tomorrow after noon. Bye."
She hung up on me, "Tony. Do you believe that? She hung up on me."
"Well, Danny is not all that keen on being involved. Ruby, I think you should give this one a miss."
"She is going to get people killed."
"and for Ben's sake, don't let one of them be you."
he is right, I will definitely be giving this one a miss.
"Ruby's phone. Call Danny D. message. I hope you have not put too much effort in to this Venus trip. The expedition leader is clueless. Don't bid for it. I know I won't."