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Rollercoaster Monday

Posted by James Dubois in CHOIRS, Tech.

Bo called me into his office and gave me the bad news, that I was off the project and my contract with InfraCorp was terminated. Everyone believes that I didn’t intentionally mislead the medical board vis a vis my condition, but everyone agrees it doesn’t really matter to the suits. I could go to legal with it but then what? No pun intended, but after what came out at the inquest I have shaky legs to stand on in terms of legal rights.

I’m headed back to my office to clean out my desk (security is by my side the whole time) and it’s like a mini-reunion: Bo is there with some of the suits from InfraCorp. There are also some engineers and programmers, some I recognize and some I don’t.

The coder is freaking out about delta-V’s and triangulation and he’s speaking a mile a minute. I catch enough to know that the relay beacon failed. The whole impetus of the project was to send out this advance beacon, kind of an interplanetary buoy out there bobbing in the Saturnian “ocean” to light the way for CHOIRS and (hopefully) continued expansion of humanity into and out of our solar system. This is huge, this is the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria all over again.

So we send this rocket-propelled antenna (which is what it is in layman’s terms) out there and six and a half years later, the screwy thing fails to deploy. By “deploy” I mean, it should take up orbit around Titan and start sending back radio signals and lasers back to the nearest research bases (Ganymede and Agra). By “fails” I mean it doesn’t. It fails to respond. We have no idea where it is, when it is or what it’s doing. Without the beacon, we can’t send out the construction rigs. Without the construction rigs, we can’t start Phase I and CHOIRS dies a cold and painful death.

This is a few billion dollars down the drain on the relay alone and even more on CHOIRS’ development costs. I mean, the whole project is now on hold at least another what…decade? Eight years at the earliest. That’s an ungodly amount of money.

I say, I can help. I can fix this if you just give me the time. The suits say that I can’t work on the project. My contract was terminated and the company is not legally allowed to re-hire me without a full medical examination and review (which I’d fail again anyway). I tell them just let me freelance it! Whip up another contract and I’ll sign. Just to help save the project…nothing more.

Bosse holds up his hands and he tells me he wants me to help but it’s too late. I tell him it’s not too goddamn late…an hour before I had a job, now I don’t and they’re going to sacrifice all that time, money and hard work because of an hour?! So I lay it on the line: if the problem is liability insurance, then I’ll waive my rights, my pension, my death and disability. I need to help. And more important, I need to go out there to see it through.

We start knocking our heads together and figuring out What Went Wrong. Then we figured it out. Stupid, simple mistake. But I was always good at spotting those inconsequential details that turn out to be ridiculously important details. We have an all-night jam session, squirting new calculations back down to Earth and fourteen hours later we send the re-calibrated instructions to the beacon. And it sends us back a signal. We’re exhausted. We’re delirious with joy. Bo kisses both my cheeks. The suits are SMILING when we tell them what happened.

So later on, I talk to my wife. She knew I was fired…she did not know that I got myself re-hired. Qiong freaks out when I tell her what I did. I tell her it’s just money and she tells me that it’s not that I’m not fit for long-term space travel, it’s that I will 100% not survive the trip. I tell her (and I’m not making this up!), “Well that’s a chance I’ll have to take.”

And we both realize what I said and we start laughing and crying and just going nuts.



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