It was a cloudy dark day in Brussels, darker for being late in the day and the auditor examining the expenses for the join Mars base was in a still darker mood. Things didn’t add up to make any sort of sense. Simon knew all sorts of patterns for the myriad ways people stole or defrauded. Sometimes they committed crimes to cover up accidents and incompetence instead of enrichment. If the odd things he was seeing were happening on Earth he’d know exactly what the scam was.
There were too many items marked as damaged in transit or ruined beyond repair on site. If it was on Earth he’d figure things were being skimmed off to sell on the cash market or even sold as scrap. Thieves had no shame to sell a new roll of copper tubing for a fourth of its worth as scrap. The scrap metal dealer probably had the connections to resell it as tubing, but that was too dangerous for a construction worker to do.
The trouble was there was no cash market on Mars. There weren’t any other colonies, outposts, or any private enterprise or construction. Somebody might pilfer a roll of copper to make a still. That sort of diversion was expected and not worth pursuing. But an outpost of two hundred people wasn’t going to have a half-dozen illicit stills. It was going to some other use.
There were other inconsistencies. They made their own fuel, and still had an excess of capacity to synthesize it. If you wanted to skim off and steal a bit of it then one might imagine nobody would know. There was limited access to the fuel for safety reasons, but nobody had to sign or pay for fuel. You might think it wasn’t tracked, other than seeing there was sufficient and the tankage was staying comfortably ahead of use.
But fuel usage showed up two other ways. The power system was smarter than that in any private residence. It was ahead of even a lot of industrial users who tracked electrical usage as a very important expense. The amount of power it took to create a liter of fuel varied little. But the numbers for power use didn’t track with reported production. Somebody was jiggering the system.
The equipment which used fuel, and the rovers in particular, were tracked for both hours at idle and kilometers driven. Not only for maintenance, but a sudden change in fuel economy could signal something going wrong and a rover breakdown was not just an expense or an inconvenience but could be a life threatening event.
On Earth fuel consumption varied with season and weather. It was altered by occasional traffic jams even. On Mars the rovers were not as sensitive to seasonal temperatures. The air was so thin wind made resistance going east versus west inconsequential. There were variations. If a route took a rover to a site at a higher altitude, then the trip back downhill was always proportional too. Loads varied more, but the AI integrating all these numbers knew what the loads were too.
That’s why his expert program was asking him to explain how things were happening like a rover suddenly getting better mileage climbing to a elevation with a heavy load and then worse mileage coming back downhill light.
The program wasn’t sophisticated enough to conclude the Martians were just sloppy liars unable to create a complex and consistent lie. As far as he knew there wasn’t an AI that smart yet. It took a human to perceive that, but it was still beyond him why they were doing it.
Jonus stopped outside his door and made a show of crossing his arms and leaning his head back to stare at Simon with a haughty air. It was all put on.
You realize Capital in People will be watching you since they forced you to take a vacation. If you keep working past quitting time they will label you as elitist and trying to rise above your peers.”
“Somebody has to actually do the work. It took me longer to fix everything they screwed up than I was off.” Simon groused.
“People who won’t take time off are huge warning flare going up to CiP that they are embezzling,” Jonus said.
“But… I’m the guy looking for embezzling and fraud,” Simon objected.
“One layer of the search,” Jonus corrected him. “It’s the old ‘Who will guard the guards?’ conundrum.”
“OK I’ll wait to finish busting their butts until tomorrow. They’ll still be there. But there’s something crooked going on in the Mars outpost and I’m going to pick at the threads until I figure out what,” Simon vowed.
Jonus looked interested at that. “There’s something not quite right there in the hiring process too,” he revealed. “Why don’t we go have a beer and talk about it? If you take a later train home it won’t be as crazy and packed. Your cat can survive an extra hour without being fed.”
“He would claw your throat out if he knew you were saying that, but you’re right about the train. Twice last week, I couldn’t even get on the earlier train. It was packed standing room only and the doors closed before I could get on. Where do you want to go?”
“There a new place I want to check out. It will have beer and I want to watch other people’s food to see if it looks any good.”
The beer was fine and the food too, once they had seen enough go by to decide to order. They found so much to discuss Simon’s cat had to wait almost three hours, and was inconsolate.