Cecilia stared at the dead screen, not sure whether to try to get Ishmael back or to be relieved that the conversation had ended. She closed the cover of her Macbook Pro and went to take a shower, feeling exhausted by the last few days’ events and looking forward to a good night’s sleep. She let the hot water roll off her shoulders, and thought about what Ishmael had shared.
Emily piped up with, “Well, that was certainly a queer conversation.” Cecilia asked her, “Why aren’t you in bed – don’t you have school tomorrow?” Emily quipped, “School holiday tomorrow – Einstein Day,” referring to the world-wide holiday celebrated on March 14th, Albert’s birthday. Cecilia continued to enjoy the sensuous pleasure of the hot water, replying that “Yes, indeed the dialogue was peculiar.” Emily said, “I think there’s a lot more to this story. He said you interfered with something that could be really bad for everybody. I bet the fight between Russia and China wasn’t about water after all. I bet it was about that helium-3 stuff Ishmael was talking about. Maybe the Russians were going to attack that base, or at least try to take the helium 3 that was stored there. Didn’t Ishmael say it was in the corner of China that he saw all this? Isn’t that where all those soldiers were on the border with the that river – which one was it?” Cecilia replied, “The Amur River.” Emily continued. “Maybe China wasn’t going after those Russians, but instead they were defending their stuff from the Russians getting it. This is just like Risk – you know, that online game where you have to attack the other guys but still take care of your stuff?”
Cecilia thought about what Emily was saying – in her 11 year old terms. “If that wasn’t the problem, why did both the Russians and the Chinese go along with us when we got in the middle of their dispute?” Emily was quiet for a minute. Finally, she said “Cecilia, sometimes grown-ups don’t always tell the truth. And sometimes they like to keep secrets. Maybe since they weren’t ready to talk about it, when you and the rest of your gang came up with this idea about water, both Russia and China played along to … like…” Emily was struggling to find the right words. “Like not have to tell what they had. Maybe they thought you’d be really mad if you found out.”
Ceciia said, “Kid, you may be on to something here.” Cecilia thought, “Isn’t it amazing how a child can see something so clearly that we adults get so twisted up about?” She asked, “So Emily, what do you think I should we do?” Emily replied, I think you should wait and see if you hear from this Ishmael guy again. Maybe it was just a technical glitch that terminated your conversation. I checked your laptop, and I did see that the connection was broken on his side. Cecilia said, “You too? Don’t I have any privacy at all?” Emily replied, “Good grief, for a virtual entity, you sure can be demanding. And yes – no! – you don’t have privacy or we wouldn’t be having this conversation at this moment.” “I suppose,” was all Cecilia could think to say. She turned off the shower, saying “I’m going to bed – really tired.” She stepped out of the shower, dried herself, put on her pj’s and laid down on her bed. Within five minutes she was asleep.
The next morning, she got up early and decided to go for a jog around the condo. With all her travel activities, her exercise schedule had gotten woefully behind, and she was feeling out of shape and uncomfortable in that state. After a 45 minute run, she came back home, took a quick shower and sat down at the breakfast table. Her mother had prepared juevos rancheros, and had a bowl of sliced mango, papaya and cantaloupe prepared for each of them. Cecilia began to dig into the eggs, when she glanced at the front page of The Miami Herald her mother was reading. In an oversized font, the headline read “China mining the moon for fusion energy fuel.” Then the smaller type underneath said “Fusion energy renders fossil fuels worthless.” Cecilia calmly said, “Mamita, may I borrow that section of the newspaper when you are finished?” Her mother sighed, closed Section A of the paper and handed it to Cecilia. “There is nothing but bad news, bad news, so I don’t want to read it anyway.” Her mother got up, and returned to the breakfast table with the coffee pot. She poured them both mugs of steaming Folger’s Gourmet Supreme, took her cup and went to the living room to flip on the television. The flat screen TV was tuned to PBS and children’s programming. Her mother changed it to AppleFinity TV, where a reporter in Washington was talking about the helium-3 mining as well. Cecilia put the paper down for a moment to listen. “Anonymous sources report that the Chinese have established a base on the dark side of the moon, and have been mining helium-3 for the past 18 months. Helium-3 is one of the best fuel sources for fusion power, but its relative scarcity on earth makes its use much less viable. Now, having cornered the market on this fuel – extracting large quantities from the moon – China could be in a position to dictate any terms it wants to the rest of the world.” The reporter paused to look meaningfully at the camera. “This is Stephen Mercado reporting from the White House.”
Cecilia returned to the newspaper article to try to get some additional details. The article also indicated that anonymous sources within the Chinese military leaked the information to a reporter from The Wall St. Journal. Cecilia was sure it was the guy who called himself Ishmael. At first, the Chinese refused to comment about any of their activities on the moon, saying that the information was ‘classified’. Later, they issued a statement, saying they intended all along to share the fuel and technology with the world – when the time was right. The Russians issued a carefully worded statement, to the effect that China’s intent was to destroy them with this venture, and they were obliged to defend their country’s economic integrity. They stopped short of admitting they’d been planning an incursion, but stated “We understand what is happening; we understand that these actions were aimed against Russia and against our allies in the Middle East. And all this while Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in China. We are constantly proposing cooperation on all key issues; we want to strengthen our level of trust and for our relations to be equal, open and fair. But we saw no reciprocal steps. On the contrary, they have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, and did this exploration without our knowledge. This happened with the establishment of a moon base, as well as the deployment of military rocketry to transport this fusion-energy material. They kept telling us the same thing:’Well, this does not concern you.’ That’s easy to say. In spite of all our apprehensions, the project is still moving forward. It happened with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on water and energy shortages, even with our promises of resource sharing and free access to dwindling water reserves.”
Cecilia could immediately see that not only were things heating up over this helium-3 issue, but the signed agreements regarding sharing water and other resources between the two countries were also at risk. Just then her cell phone rang. She retrieved it from her purse, and answered it. Colonel Oates was on the line. “The Secretary is pulling her resources together to address this latest crisis – could you please come to her office later this afternoon? We’ll send the jet, as we did last time for your visit.” Cecilia said she would be there, and hung up the phone. It would appear her friend ‘Ishmael’ had not waited to share what he’d learned. Now the world knew all about it, and the world was now a very unhappy place.