Today we had agreed to accompany Tom up to the weather station-he held a caretaker/ maintenance contract for the MWA, and it was time for his monthly inspection. He explained he had noted there were some power fluctuations and so he would need to run a diagnostic on the system. There were also some issues he’d noted last month, including the replacement of solar panels on the main mast. Elvis came with us-he is a bit of an electrician and had helped with some wiring of the Greenhouse on the previous day-assisted doggedly by Anna.
Maria was familiar with the operating system, and with Vincent went through the laborious process of tracking down the fault. Meanwhile I climbed 100 m up the instrument mast, and the wind howled as I climbed up the metal ladder, protected only by the loose tubular cage which surrounded it. At the designated place I stopped and looked down-the bluff with the weather station 200m above the valley floor-and me another 100m above that. Wonderful. The spare panels were sent up in the mini elevator, and I keyed the controls to swing the panels in. I spent the next four hours in the freezing wind replacing them-I was glad to get down.
As we ate our sandwiches Elvis looked round at the bunkroom which constituted one half of this mini-complex and asked if he could move in here for the duration of his stay. There were cooking facilities and so on,and he could look after himself for a few days. Tom readily agreed-we would need to return the next day to replace the circuits Maria had isolated as the cause of the power fluctuations, and he could move in then.
As we drove back we heard the unusual noise of a VTOL off toward the direction of the Magrail; a pretty rare and unusual sound on Mars-the quantities of fuel burned are astronomical: a very expensive business.
That evening I called Maria, Vincent and Sylvie together and explained the D Notice and the conditions imposed on us by the wardens. We all agreed to gloss over any mention of the valuable statue. I didn’t want any entanglements with the system’s most secretive Legal Enforcement Agency-I just wanted to collect my new ship and be gone. I gather Vincent has had some dealings with the Wardens in the past: his verdict was that they were pretty ruthless in achieving what they wanted, but overall he probably thought they were on the side of the Angels: if that was meant to reassure me it didn’t succeed. We all agreed that there was something very odd going on-why their interest in this-a few Raiders on the rampage? As for once I slept soundly I turned it all over in my head.