Barney and Kumar sat across from Claudio at the table in the Swissman’s quarters. The room was the opposite of the Surface Mining Office, with not a screen to be seen anywhere. They all stared at the unformed clump of deep black material, which resembled a pile of wax drippings, placed in the table’s centre. Smaller segments sat around it.
Barney spoke. “We brought it to you first, so you could decide what we should do.”
Claudio nodded silently. “And you said how much of this was there in this underground cavern?”
“I could not tell you, Claudio.” His not using the manager’s nickname was the telling sign that it was serious.
“And why is that?”
Kumar spoke up. “It was an amphitheatre circling down into the depths of Mertseger Mons. The levels went so far down that we could not see the bottom.”
Claudio refocused on the mass on the table. “And all the levels had this?”
Barney nodded. “All the levels we could see were practically overflowing with it.”
The manager held his scanner above the material. A thin beam of red light ran across its surface, until a small beep came from the device. Claudio looked at the screen.
“It still says it’s an unknown substance.”
Barney thought for a moment. “How about a closest match scan?”
Claudio nodded. “Good thinking.” The manager tapped away on the scanner screen, and then scanned the mystery item again. When the result appeared on the screen, Claudio’s eyes lit up.
Kumara noticed the change. “What does it say?”
“The closest mineral match links it to Carbonado.”
Barney and Kumara gasped. Earth’s deposits of Carbonado, more commonly known as ‘Black Diamond’, had long been exhausted. Only two prominent sites had existed on Earth, one on the each continent either side of the South Atlantic Ocean.
Claudio looked to the men. “Do you know what this means?”
The pair looked at each other, then turned back to their manager and shrugged.
“This type of diamond, once it is cut, is harder than normal diamond. It may be possible to use it to make surface suits that are not as prone to wear and tear. As an added bonus, its rarity on Earth is likely to earn a nice price.”
Kumar spoke. “How do you know this, Claudio?”
“The Grisogno family has a long history with black diamonds. In the late 1990’s, my great grandfather Fagrazi Grisogno made his fortune on his expertise with it. No other diamond refiner on Earth could work the material like he could.”
“What do you propose we do?”
“Tell Carolina, Juan and Woody to keep the knowledge to themselves… did you tell them what you found?”
Barney shook his head. “They know we found something, but not what.”
“That’s good. Tell them that we don’t know what it is yet, but our mineral analysis does not indicate rich pickings. It should cover our stories once we take some samples back to Earth. I would need one of you to deliver them to some trusted friends for their opinions.”
Kumar shook his head. “The big week-long powwow in Columbus starts the day after I return to Earth. If I had more time, I would do so.”
Claudio looked to Barney. “How about you?”
Barney sighed. “I was looking to have some rest and relaxation with the family. But if you need it done, I will deliver the samples.”
Claudio smiled. “You’re a champion, Barney. If the material proves itself to be true Carbonado, I will make sure your cut in the discovery commission is higher.”
Barney turned to Kumar. “How about I deliver the first batches, and you deliver the next lot after your powwow is concluded? That way, I may be able to provide you some extra information to pass on.” He turned back to Claudio. “Kumara did find the entrance to the cavern, so he deserves a fair share of the commission.”
The manager looked to Kumara, who was nodding his approval. “Very well. Barney will deliver a batch each to Geneva and Bangui, and Kumara will deliver a batch each to New York City and Brasilia once the powwow is over. How does that sound?”
Barney looked puzzled. “Why not Antwerp or London? They are still the most prominent diamond trading cities.”
Claudio laughed. “Exactly, and they are the biggest gossip-mongerers in the world when it comes to diamonds. I trust my uncle in Geneva to keep quiet, and my contacts in Bangui and Brasilia are the most low-key experts in the world. My contact in New York City is a risk, but trusting three out of four is not a bad deal.”
The pair nodded their agreement, and each shook hands with Claudio to settle the terms. The manager looked back to the black material on the table. “I will keep a hold of the large sample. You each keep a pair of the small pieces somewhere safe, but be sure to mark it properly so it isn’t confiscated by Customs.” He looked to the wall clock. “It’s getting late. Go get some food and rest in before the kitchen closes. Good work, gentlemen.”
Barney and Kumar placed their material samples in their pockets, and then exited Claudio’s room and headed for the kitchen. The corridors were a lot busier than usual.
Kumar looked to Barney. “It looks like the surface lockdown is starting. By the way, thanks for including me in the deliveries. I know you are still saving for your home project, and could have kept the full discovery commission for yourself.”
Barney waved his hand. “It’s only fair, Kumara. We don’t cheat team members.”
– X –