Section: 15 May 2101 Up Main page

29 May 2101

We arrive into elliptical Mercury orbit (modulo a pellet elevator throwing warnings) and scan the poles on our first pass. There are three undocumented objects in orbit; the one with a transponder is tagged as “derelict”, and the traffic control station identifies them as the remains of a putative comsat network that failed to survive in local conditions.
(14 October 2020)
We establish resupply arrangements with Gustave Lallier, and I am invited aboard the EU flagship here by Commodore Penn. Mid Addams brings us in neatly, and I shuttle across, with Patel, Jane, Addams and Stewart visiting the station.
It seems that the Chinese are reporting incidents of sabotage, roughly one per three weeks, without details; there have also been four in other facilities, over the last 14 months or so. Information about attacks on EU facilities should be fairly reliable: one was a crawler transporting a devourer swarm (all open source designs and TSA software, which means nothing in itself). The other was a bioroid copy of someone who liked surface rambles, and who is still missing.
There’s little interconnection between settlements, and no general Mercury web or positioning system.
There’s generally a physical component to the espionage: physical bugs placed near wireless networks, that sort of thing. Chinese and Russian sources claim capture and execution of human spies, but without detail.
Commodore Penn is interested to see whether Lidar comparisons might show up slow small movements on the surface. His working theory is a hidden base somewhere near the south pole.
We move over to Lallier and make use of their park facilities, then join the Commodore for dinner before returning to Alacrity.
We set up a plausible mapping orbit. Of course, that path is public information, so we also set up a RATS and a sabotage drone with separate orbits to run passive sensors over the ground before our planned passes.
Initial comparisons show a remarkably high amount of surface activity from the Brazilian contingent. Nothing immediately useful for comms interception, except that they’re heavy on soft humans compared with infomorphs. The US group is surveying, proably working on an ice lode.
There’s activity in the same crater as the Chinese base, though some way off and up the crater well, not moving though sometimes visible during the Lidar passes, spotted moving on the offboard passive sensors at other times. There’s some traffic between this and another site on the wall.
There’s nothing as obvious near the north pole, though we’re able to map some traffic patterns between main and outlying domes.
After several days we establish that there’s regular traffic from the crater wall site to the Chinese base, smaller than human based on where it hides during the Lidar passes. But we can’t confirm a directionality. Eddie and Zaphod put together a higher-resolution passive sensor.
With higher resolution, the movers are small tracked robots. At the second crater wall site there is assembly going on, hidden from the base by a rock wall. Jane determines that this is a sensor array of some type, with foundations sunk into the rock. Clearly this will be passive, and will be able to track anything visible in the sky – which in practice means anything in a polar orbit, the usual path for spacecraft and antimatter factory satellites.
The robots appear to be taking steps to remove obvious tracks, brushing dust and varying routes, and never getting closer to the base than about 1.5km. The first site appears to have underground facilities rather than anything on the surface.
We consider possibilities for a lower pass for our passive observer. We do indeed get a closer look; the robots are working on the sensor array, which appears to be designed to be active and phased-array. This will clearly be detectable from orbit while in operation; I wonder whether it might be close enough to the base to appear to be a Chinese project?