Chapter 14: The Closer Enemy

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Thursday, Sol 22 (001.2.22)  01:25 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Saturday, 26 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  105,443,208 kilometers   Time Delay:  3 mins 54 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  286,966,544 kilometers

François was a very distinguished looking man. He sat in a small restaurant called Casa Sansa in Perpignan, France. It was ten at night and he was eating alone. 

The attractive young woman walked in and sat down across from him. “How was your flight?,” he asked. “It was fine,” she answered, “I don’t like flying during the day.” François asked, “Would you like something to eat. The food is good.” “No, thank you,” she replied, “Claude says you know what is going on in China.”

François noticed that two men and a woman had come inside and took a table near the door. He looked at her and said, “Do you know them?” She glanced over her shoulder at the trio, and looked back at François, “Sorry, they don’t let me go anywhere without my protection. I’m trying to become accustomed to them. I can have them wait outside.” He smiled and said, “No, that won’t be necessary. As long as you know them.”

François continued, “You want to know about Mr. Musk and the Chinese.” Megan said, “Yes. Can you help us.” He signaled to the waiter, who came over. “S’il vous plait apporter du vin pour la dame et lui apporter un apéritif. Surprenez-nous.” As the waiter left, François looked back at Megan and said, “It would be rude for to not have something. If you don’t like what he brings, we will order something else.”

François took another bite and then a drink of wine, then spoke, “There are two things you should know. First, the Chinese have no love for Elon Musk. They have seen through his gift of talk and see him as….what you might call…ah, used car salesman. They’re cautious of his desire to build a car factory in China, and they definitely are not interested in getting into bed with him in a space race with ESEP. They like being on the team that is already going to Mars.”

The waiter came back with an appetizer and a glass for Megan, which he filled with wine. François beckoned Megan to eat as he took another bite. He then continued, “Do you know the saying about rats and a sinking ship?” Megan nodded yes as she took a bite of the appetizer. She suddenly realized she was hungry.

He said, “There is something that happens before the rats leave the sinking ship. The captain chases all the cats off. Once the cats are gone, the rats take over and the ship is eaten full of holes and then it sinks. Mr. Musk has gotten where he is because he had great people around him. A while back, he decided that he no longer needed his cats. In particular, his personal assistant, who was a buffer between Mr. Musk’s despicable personality and everyone else. Others left, and eventually he was left with just the rats.

At the end of this month, Mr. Musk is starting to take orders on his cheaper version of his unprofitable Tesla car. You don’t build a car for $70,000 and not make a profit, and then make a car for half the price without sacrificing half of the quality. It is very likely that his new car will be a failure once people start driving it.” He took another bite, and a sip of wine.

François signaled the waiter for more wine, and then continued, “His employees hate him, his car venture is about to crash, his space program is laughable, and now he’s divorcing his second wife, for a second time. The word on Wall Street is that his Tesla stock is about to take a dive, and that makes perfect sense. He is a desperate man who has fallen off a cliff and is screaming as he is racing toward the ground. You have nothing to worry about from Elon Musk. If anyone should be worried it is Mr. Bolden of NASA. He’s attached himself to a star that is about to implode. Would you like some more wine?”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Friday, Sol 23 (001.2.23)  00:47 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Sunday, 27 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  109,048,104 kilometers   Time Delay:  3 mins 54 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  283,361,648 kilometers

“Your brother understands how important he is to us, yes?,” said the woman wearing a sun visor. It was breezy on Maui and it had rained earlier. The Sun was shining now but the clouds were periodically blocking it. “Yes,” answered the younger looking woman, “but you’re not asking him to kill himself?” The woman in the visor said, “No, no, no, he just needs to make sure they don’t get to Mars. He needs to find a way to force them to abort the mission, and there are many ways he can do that. They should have turned back already, but Wade seems to need more convincing.”

Maui houseThe woman dug into her purse and pulled out a packet of money, “I have $10,000 to give to your brother,….here, I’ll give it to you, and you can give it to him when he gets back.” The younger woman took it, and the older woman said, “What am I thinking? We should be paying you for your trouble. You keep that, and I’ll bring you more money to give to your brother….well, I need to go. I have to go to the mainland. I’ll be back in two weeks. Perhaps we can celebrate your brother’s success, yes? Proshchay.”

The woman in the visor stood up and went to the door. She didn’t look back as she left the house. She wanted to make sure she had the last word. She climbed into her rented SUV and started it up with the air conditioning on high. She couldn’t understand why people would want to live in a place that is humid and hot.

She turned down the road and headed toward the highway. Grabbing her phone, she dialed a number. “I talked with Joseph’s sister. I think he will do it. I told her I would be back in two weeks. I gave her the money and told her I would bring more. She’s hesitant, but she knows what’s at stake……yes, we need to deal with her immediately if Joseph is caught….I know, she’s a loose end regardless. It’s an island, accidents happen.”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Saturday, Sol 24 (001.2.24)  00:08 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Monday, 28 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  112,653,000 kilometers   Time Delay:  4 mins 00 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  279,756,752 kilometers

She pulled into the rest stop. She had selected the spot. In the city she preferred meeting with people in places where there were crowds, but in a small towns, locals like to pay attention to new people. She wanted a place where she would look like a tourist stopping for a few minutes and in Death Valley there were plenty of quiet places to pull off the road.

Death ValleyHe wasn’t here yet. She parked and got out of the car. She took inventory of the place. Two picnic tables. One under a small gazebo. A small out building, probably a small toilet, but she couldn’t see the door. Someone could be inside, so she would stay near the car. If a car approached that wasn’t blue she would get in and drive off.

She could see the intersection less than a quarter of a kilometer down the road. A blue car was approaching from the south, and then it turned east. In a few seconds she saw the car stop, and it turn around. “The idiot,” she thought to herself.

The car turned right and drove up the road to her. She recognized him, but she left the driver’s door open just in case. He pulled into a parking space and then got out. He said, “Took the wrong turn. We could have met in Beatty. It’s not far and they have food.” She said, “What do you have?”

He never liked dealing with her. She was all business, and he could never tell if she was happy, unhappy, or ready to kill him. He didn’t know much about her, except that she had access to money, people, and things, and beyond that, she wasn’t very talkative.

He said, “I can get at least a dozen more on the payroll. They’re looking for engineers, botanists, geologist, the full range. They’re on an accelerated schedule. They have to have the qualifications, but if you have people with the background, they’ll take them. There’s talk that some of the new hires may go to Mars by the end of this year. It’s crazy.”

She looked at him and said, “Good. The applicants I send you will tell you that ‘Dina’ sent them. They will have the qualifications. We have people who have worked for many leading aerospace companies, and others that have agricultural experience. The normal fee, we will pay you $10,000 for each one ESEP hires.”

He shrugged and said, “Okay, but I’m just your basic head hunter. You could find these jobs for them online.” She smiled and said, “Yes, but then it would be obvious we’re helping them, but he doesn’t want anyone to be aware he’s helping them. Some of them have been through very difficult times and we’re trying to give them a fresh start. Besides, we’d like to help you.”

He cocked his head and said, “You know, we could have done this by phone.” She said, “Please understand, the person I work for demands that I do my most important work face to face…..I’m sorry I had to make you come all the way out here. I would have come to meet you in San Jose, but I have to be in Las Vegas tonight. Maybe next time I can fly you to Los Angeles and we can have dinner, how would that be?”

He smiled and said, “That sounds great. I have a brother in San Diego I can stay with.” She said, “Don’t bother with that, we’ll put you up someplace nice in Los Angeles. I must go. Be safe driving back to San Jose.”

As she left him she made a mental note to find out who his brother was, and where he lived. It was another loose end that would have to be dealt with soon.

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Saturday, Sol 24 (001.2.24)  23:30 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Tuesday, 29 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  116,257,896 kilometers   Time Delay:  4 mins 00 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  276,151,856 kilometers

She looked out her window at all people walking the strip. Even in the daylight, lights flashed and electric signs pumped out messages that no one read. Dina felt Las Vegas was the perfect example of capitalism. Hundreds of thousands of people spending their money on ridiculously small chance to be rich, even if it meant they would not be able to pay their bills this month.

It was all such a waste. The gullibility of people in the United States made her wonder why someone like Donald Trump hadn’t been their President for decades. They were all mesmerized by shiny things while rich men reached into their pants and stole their wallets. Get drunk, act stupid, and give your money away. Typical American.

It was time to go. Her meetings with him were in a public place with lots of tourists, and always at an off-hour time. Today, it was to be at 2:23 at the on the southwest side of the Bellagio fountains. Not as crowded as the street side, but a location two people could stand looking out at the pool without it looking out-of-place, and it was between shows, so they would look like two people waiting for the next display.

_DSC2198She arrived two minutes early, and he was already there. She walked to him, then looked out at the water and brought her phone up as if to take a picture, then she moved to the rail about a meter away from him. She looked over at him and said, “Isn’t this place amazing?” He nodded and said, “Yes. Is this your first time?” “How did you know?,” she replied.

At this point they would make gestures and facial expressions that made it appear as if they were discussing the scene around them, but the conversation had nothing to do with the view. He said, “Where are we?” She said, “We have one on board the rescue ship. He’s not one of ours, but I’m working through his sister. He’s to work for an abort.”

He said, “What about the rest?” She replied, “It’s an open door. We need as many of our people with skills to apply. We will have them saturated with conservatives within weeks. Confusion will be maximized.” He just said, “Go.” She accidentally dropped her phone, and he picked it up and gave her a phone that looked exactly like the one she dropped. He then put his other hand that held her phone in his pocket and said, “Enjoy the rest of your stay,” and walked off.

The Mars mission was about to be infiltrated with agents and saboteurs dedicated to create confusion and mayhem throughout the program. Russia may not be one of the partner countries in ESEP, but it now was going to prevent the organization from succeeding.