Three of Chance’s colleagues snapped at him during the Mars colony’s morning status meeting, his subordinates grumbled through the afternoon, and the supply officer chewed him out for using too much lubricant on the rover. Chance ached for a good cup of coffee to calm his nerves, but settled for the bitter swill they had in the mess.
Their morale had barely recovered from the uproar the accountant had caused, and now four more mystery guests were on their way. Commander Hassler gathered the chiefs together to prepare them.
“Our newest guests come as a compromise.” Hassler had grown a blond mustache that almost formed handlebars at the ends. “I followed up the Bohnezaehler report with a full rebuttal to HQ, but the efficiency team wouldn’t let it go. For that reason, we worked out an agreement to make up the deficiencies with commercialization.”
A collective gasp filled the room.
Chance stood and clenched his fists. “You can’t be serious, sir!”
“I’m afraid I am.”
Several chiefs yelled at once until the commander raised his hand and they quieted.
“The decision’s been made. As you know, the first commercial personnel arrive tomorrow. I expect you to give them a warm welcome.”
After the meeting, Chance joined Bethany to help engineer a battery of experiments.
“It’s the beginning of the end,” said Bethany.
“I fully agree. It’s an outrage.”
She grabbed her lab books and opened them to her current projects. “Soon they’ll have us bagging up Mars dust for sale, charging for public appearances, or they’ll force us to sing and dance for cash. I’m not dressing up as a cat, I’ll have you know.”
Chance wrinkled his brow. “Our loss, I guess.”
Bethany punched him in the shoulder.
“Seriously.” Chance glanced at the notes and drawings she opened her notebook to. “We have to do something to stop this.” He listed the materials needed for her experiments, designed the mechanics, and developed the protocols with her.
“I think I have an idea,” he said. “Entangle them in protocol. Gather the chiefs—not the commander. We’ve got work to do.”
The next day they gathered in the commons to meet the newcomers. The commander stood at the long table, and four very young individuals sat in chairs on one side. Three of them—two guys and a girl—had lip piercings, one had tattoos on both his arms. The forth one had long, red hair and had to be thirty percent overweight for the usual Mars mission standards. They all wore jeans and casual tops, the tattooed guy with a Batman T-shirt.
“Be seated everyone,” said Hassler. “We’ve got a bit to cover after introductions.”
“Point of order, sir.”
“What is it, Chance?”
“Before going through introductions, we have new business. The chiefs have developed protocols for all commercial personnel in the colony, and we should ratify them before proceeding.”
“Go on, then.”
Chance sat back and spelled out the protocols the chiefs had worked out the night before, the best engineering minds in twenty-two disciplines designing them to be prohibitive. The commercial personnel would not be allowed to operate while any major activity occurred in any section. They had to fill out reports each day that would take most of their waking hours. Their movements were restricted to their own dorms and to one section in the commons behind the energy drink coolers. Chance read a long list of rules making it virtually impossible to accomplish anything.
When he finished, Hassler grimaced and looked over to the redhead. “What do you think?”
“It won’t work. We might as well go home.”
Hassler scratched the back of his head. “Okay. You and the baristas will leave on the next flight back.”
Chance bolted upright. “Wh-wh-what? Wait, what are they?”
“They’re baristas. They were going to build a Starbucks in the commons.”
Several voices blended together.
“Hold on…wait a minute…exceptions…not be hasty…this is different…”
“Sir.” Chance stood. “I think I can speak for all of us. What I meant was that we should propose some protocols, not ratify them. These were really just a quick draft from a brainstorming session. We’ll iron them out.”
The chiefs expressed their agreement.
Chance stepped forward and shook the redhead’s hand. “I’m sure we can make this work.”