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THE LAST HAMLET or The Readiness Is All - 43 LINDRA TAKES A TRIP

LINDRA TAKES A TRIP

It had been during a radio chat with her pal Brolin, a couple of weeks before the scheduled launching of Ullyses, that Lindra had learned about the specially designed mining pod which was being installed in the ship. "How does it work?" she had asked.

"It slides in and out on rails. It has its own hydraulic system."

*

"Slides in and out, eh?" Lindra repeated to herself as she packed a rucksack ready for her journey to her favourite part of the Moon. The Argon Crater, formed millions of years ago by courtesy of a plunging asteroid, was a place of awesome beauty for her, and at least once a year she rode the human powered wagon down the old rail track to the one-time radio sub station perched on the very edge of the mile deep, five miles wide hole. The radio itself had not been used since the days of Draxy mania, and the airlocked concrete hut was now a leisure facility, with a single bunk bed, solar panel heating, a cylinder gas cooker, a self cleaning chemical toilet, and a small library maintained by the adventure seekers who used the place. Lindra had booked her weekend there months before, and long before the Ullyses expediton had even been thought of.

For the past couple of days the radio operator had been surreptitiously gathering together from the radio centre stores, lengths of wire, coils, condensors, transistors, relays, switches, and a portable recording machine. Eventually she had smuggled out everything needed for her plan - except for one of those whacking great 12 volt batteries kept permanently charged up ready for use in the event of a mains power breakdown.

Lindra was a well liked member of the lunar family, and the duty staff were pleased to see her when she popped in wearing her spacesuit hung with oxygen bottles to say cheerio, and to retrieve her favourite moonscape design tea mug - "I can't possibly go into the wilderness without it!" - which she thought she "might have left in the storeroom last evening." When she returned through the control room, holding aloft the antique chipped beaker, and affecting the air required of one about to taste the delights of a 'seventy two', she was pretty pleased with her ability to smile happily and carelessly whilst labouring under a rucksack the contents of which had been lately augmented by twenty eight pounds of added weight!

*

With her bulging pack, spare oxygen bottles, packs of dehydrated food, slabs of chocolate, bottles of water and fruit juice, all safely stowed, Lindra clipped on her helmet, turned on the oxygen supply, opened the outer door of the shed's airlock, and pushed the wagon out into the open Moon. Such 'moments of truth' never failed to give her goose bumps.

Libdra took firm hold of the rearmost of the two linked horizontal bars on the vehicle and began to work it up and down. The energy created was transmitted to two so-called vertical bars, which were, in fact, vertical only twice during each sequence of operation, for they went by continuous progression from vertical to acute angle, back through vertical to the opposite acute angle, and so on and so forth. The mechanics of all this produced the alternating rectilinear motion of the shafts, and put the eccentrically coupled wheels to their revolving work. Or so I am told, though the understanding of it is quite beyond me! Anyway, with the Moon's low gravity and lack of any atmosphere reducing friction to very little, an experienced driver could achieve, and maintain for quite long periods, speeds of up to forty miles per hour.

After about three hours on the rails, with rests every half an hour or so, Lindra reached the hut. It was good to get inside, close the airlock doors, and open the atmosphere control pipes which were linked directly to the base.

An hour later, there was a working radio. Lindra tuned it to the frequency a returning Ullyses would have to use if they wished to talk to Moon rather than Steefax, switched on the recording machine, and dictated the following:

This recorded message is not authorised. I am acting entirely on my own. Do not attempt to reply. I repeat, do not attempt to reply. If you suspect foul play, and you still have your mining pod, loose it. Let it enter Steefax atmosphere in your place. One dot on a screen may look like any other to the untrained eye. Good luck to Your Majesty. Good luck to you all.

Lindra linked her machine to the radio in such a way that any transmission from the spacecraft would activate the message, which she recorded six times, 'just to be on the safe side.' She hoped, of course, that if anything were to happen it would be while she was there, but in truth she did not think the return of Hamlet and his companions was at all likely; she had simply done what she could in the service of a probably hopeles cause. The readiness was all.

After two and a half days of of desultory reading, fitful snatchings of sleep, and wishing she had brought more chocolate with her and less of the dried mince, she returned home in a desolate mood. Then there was the trouble she would be in once her pirate radio station was discovered!