Outward Bound
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa

The room was filled with women. Most were on the edges of the space, but the most important occupants were seated at the u-shaped table that took up the center of the room.

The room grew quiet when a door opened to the side of the room next to the chair that occupied the head of the table. Agnes Seward came into the room. She was moving slowly but steadily. She stopped in front of the table and looked around.

“Ladies, I call the meeting to order. Mary, do we have a quorum?” she slowly sat down in the throne-like chair.

The young lady that stood behind and to her side replied, “Yes, Grandmother, all the members are present.”

“Very good. Do we have any old business we should deal with first?” glancing around the room, none of the nine women seated at the table made any indication.

“Ok, any new business?” again, there were no motions.

With an amused look, Agnes continued, “At the risk of ending this quickly, does anybody have something they want to bring up? Emily, I know you’ve got your panties in a twist. Speak up, girl. We’re all friends and adults here.”

Emily, a tall and beautiful middle-aged woman, stood. Of everyone in this room, she was the most influential second only to Grandmother Seward. Some said that she would be the successor to Agnes as the next Grandmother and leader of the Mother’s Council.

Emily stood and looked around the room. She was gauging her audience. “Grandmother, we need to discuss our next mission. I think it would be best at least for the council to know what you’ve got planned.”

Agnes still amused sighed. “Ok, now is a good time to start discussing it. For a long time, I have been considering the time that we waste. We go out, harvest the raw asteroids, and then refine them down. When we think we can make a profit, we bring it back to Mars. The time it takes to go out and then come back is wasted. We have productive people sitting around doing nothing but breath air and eat food. But if we miscalculate the market, we end up risking the ship and our family.”

“I plan to take the ‘Folly’ out and park her. Use the ship as a permanent base then as we get a load large enough profitable enough. We use cheaper, smaller heavy tugs to bring the ore back in to the market. Then while the ore is in transit, we continue operations for the next load. That way, we don’t waste ten years each trip. If we rig this right, we could be bringing in a payday every year or even quicker. Depending on how many tugs we’ve got available.”

“The next problem is what is available. On this side of the belt, the big mining concerns have staked out large areas of the belt. Then there are the large independents like us. The problem is that pickings are getting slim here on the near side. However, the far side is virgin territory. Unmined unclaimed, we would be the first. And to be honest, we could change the way things are done. We stake out a territory, and by the time anybody can challenge us well, be the big girls on the block.”

An agitated Emily stood up “That’s the problem, Agnes it’s a one-way trip. Except for the tugs, we’ll all be stranded.”

Agnes had a patient look. “Stranded isn’t the right word Emily. We would be colonizing expanding the boundaries of humanity. And besides, before we head out, we’ll leave it up to the individuals. They can join us or not. I want a volunteer group. I want people with our goals and expectations. But that having been said, I also expect people will change their minds. Emily, you say stranded? I propose an even shorter contract. Because we will be tugging in ore loads regularly if someone wants to leave, they won’t have to wait five years as in the past. They’ll be able to ship out with a returning tug.”

“I understand all that Agnes, but it’s still is a one-way trip. If something goes wrong, there will be no help. We will be on our own.” Emily persisted.

The old lady chuckled. “What’s the matter, Emily, afraid? scared of the unknown?”

Now Emily became indignant. “I resent that, Agnes. I am as brave as the next person. And you know it. We have weathered too many challenges for you to call my bravery into question.”

“Perhaps your right, I apologize. But as I said before, anyone who doesn’t want to go can stay here. I’ll make it easier for you, Emily. We will need a representative to stay behind and secure our interests. How about it? you could be the queen bee without the responsibility of command.”

There was a gasp from the assembled. Most of the others realized what this meant. This would be a position equal to if not superior to Grandmother.

Emily, at least, had the decency to look offended. “That is a very tempting offer, Agnes. But I still have doubts that this scheme will work out.”

“Well, you think about it, Emily.” Agnes then turned to the rest of the group, “Is there anything else that needs talking about?”

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