Nov. 17th, 2011

Claimstake

Nov. 17th, 2011 12:44 am
Twenty years after the terraforming engines started churning out atmosphere, the air on Mars is still too thin to transmit sound readily. I feel the vibration of the enormous windmill above my claimstake rather than hear it; it rumbles through my boots, and it tries to shake everything to pieces. I can't tell you how many times in the last two weeks I've leaned my shovel up against Big Beak, and the constant shaking of the windmill knocks it down.

My claimstake is small – only four hundred meters by a thousand meters, running mostly north-south, tucked right up against the southern icecap. All the claims in the Sinuses and Mares are pretty well played out, but every day the terraforming process melts a little more icecap, and the ground just north of it softens up and can be assayed. My claimstake is just far south enough to be pristine territory, but just north enough that the ground isn't hard as solid rock, and there's enough liquid water that my windmill can pump up a thin trickle of the stuff.

I'm lucky to have any claim at all. The big corporations, the Kellogg-Siemens and the AresCorps of the Universe, have bought up big chunks of real estate. But a solo practicioner can work the system and get his own stake, fair and legal, if he knows the system. Which I do.

The big players would have Crawlers, self-contained extractors that chew up the soil and efficiently spit out everything that isn't what they want. Us small fish have to use the old methods, of which there are many. I prefer panning.

I scoop up another panful and swirl the soil under the muddy water of the outfall pipe. Big Beak watches impassively as I agitate the pan at just the right speed. The big rocks stay in the center and I scoop them out. Then it's a matter of subtly varying the frequency and amplitude of the oscillations, hoping to tease out the suspended silt from something that doesn't behave the way grit does…

…There! It's a flash of quicksilver. I hold my breath. Could it have been a false showing? Sometimes tungsten ores flash that way… no. There it is, a gleaming cloud concealed in my pan's murk. I patiently uncover it, trying to keep my hands from shaking. It reveals itself, a lovely smear of argent; not quite liquid and nothing like solid, hanging suspended in a few inches of dirty water. I always imagined this moment would come, but I couldn't know the thrill I would feel.

On my claimstake, my land, all mine – I've struck nanites.

Read more... )
'Long Drag' Shanty in 6/8.

She was raised from the bones of a frigate
That the Union had burned to the ground
But when Johnny Reb rode in to claim her
All the parts below water were found

So they built from the hulk a new warship
With an iron casemate on her back
And with steam-fired engines and cannon
Thus was born CSS _Merrimack_.

Then the North knew they needed an answer
For the deadliest craft ever known
And it struck them the best way to do this
Was to forge a clad ship all their own

So they built a hull under the water
With a turret with all-around view
Sporting twin Dahlgren guns and steam engines
_Monitor_ made her deadly debut

CHORUS:
Oh the _Monitor_ and the_ Merrimack_
Did battle on the sea!
'Twas a duel of the ironclads
Of Union and Confed'racy
And this battle at the Hampton Roads
Was a spectacle to see!
Yes they fought to a stalemate
But the winners were you and me
(HEY! HO! HEY! HO!)
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