One thing's for sure; Intersolar doesn't believe in idle hands.
No sooner do I get back from the OB1 run when I'm called into the OCF again.
Remember those 4 Bonded Couriers I came out with? Well; it seems they've been busy little beavers.
OK; by now people must be pretty confused; so I guess I'd better explain about BC's - it's not exactly a high-profile job.
1st; you've got to understand that despite being the absolute bane of every extra-terrestrial prospector; BC's are not employed by
any company or consortium. They're low-level United Nations officials; one step up the ladder from office pool. As most of you know from high-school history; shortly after Rutan's Colonial
Express landed in Clavius and set up rudimentary living and ice-mining operations; the UN realized the age of extra-terrestrial commercialization had begun. By the time Lunar Explorer and Rising Star had been built to compete; the UN had formed
UNETCOB (United Nations Extra-Terrestrial Commercial Operations Board) to oversee all off-planet commercial activities. Since much of these activities centered around mining the moon
and thus opened a new boom in prospecting; UNETCOB took steps to control the oldest problem between prospectors, their companies, and the law: claim fraud.
The big difference between lunar prospecting and the old Earth prospecting booms is simple: Getting to and around the Moon is bloody hard. To oversee matters; UNETCOB created the position
of Bonded Courier - a neutral official witness to the verification and legal status of all claim stakes.
It's a hassle for prospectors; true enough. It's not exactly a prize position for BC's either. Originally; UN staff fought to get these positions; after all the lure of going into space was very appealing; as was the danger bonus. The thrill soon faded though; prospectors
- and their parent companies - don't like the idea of government officials watching their every move and usually don't give BC's a very
nice time of it. Also; a six-month tour on the Moon can easily create intense homesickness; and once returning to Earth getting used to
one G is pretty painful. Most BC's therefore last only one or two tours before transferring to something more cheerful - like UNHCR.
The procedure for prospectors and BC's works as follows:
A prospector heads out and finds a likely strike. He marks the position with a claim flag and returns to base. (That's the short version.
In reality; he does a whole bunch of passive and active radar scans to see if he's been followed; flies to a random point and returns from there; etc. in an effort to keep his claim secret. Claim jumping/theft is a real problem - or was; until a few jumpers were found
outside their spacecraft without the benefit of pressure suits.)
Upon return; he contacts the UN field office and lays official claim to the area; a circular zone exactly one kilometer in diameter centered around the claim flag.
After filing the claim; the Bonded Courier takes over. He/she takes the paperwork, timestamps it, locks it into a briefcase and hangs
on to it. From this point until the claim is authorized; the paperwork never leaves his posession. The prospector takes the BC back out
to the claim site; then sits inside his spacecraft while the BC goes outside to verify the claim. (If the prospector leaves his vehicle for
any reason - save the rescue of a BC in imminent danger - the claim is rendered null.)
The BC conducts the claim survey; verifying the flag is exactly where the prospector reported; then marking the exact claim
boundaries. (A tiring job; but necessary. Officials or not; liked or not; I must admit BC's work for their pay. Imagine painting a circle
with a diameter of 1 Km. - that's 3.14whatever Km.s around - over rough, broken Lunar rock. Accurate to the centimeter as well. Tough enough on Earth; try it on the Moon!)
Once this is done the BC returns to the craft; unsuits and opens the paperwork again. (He carried it with him while doing the survey.)
He fills out the remainder of the claim forms; signs, has the prospector sign; then they return to base.
Once back at base; they sign to witness; the prospector gets his copy; the company gets another and the UN keeps the third; and the claim is officially filed.