(copyright 2017. all rights reserved)
Eladio returned to his office to find another missive from Earthside waiting for him.
To: Director Eladio Ramirez
From: Lukas Raveaux
Subject: Robert Granger
I received your note regarding Robert Granger’s demise. It has also come to my attention that there seems to be a consensus among the conclave that he was murdered.
I must express my concerns over this matter, and encourage you to take a firm hand to ensure that the sponsors’ interests not be damaged by whatever actions you feel need to take. Also, you must take appropriate steps to protect and preserve Robert Granger’s work.
As to your request, I am sorry to say a replacement for Mr. Granger will not be available on the next delivery. It is possible we will be able to locate someone appropriate for the shipment after that, but it is doubtful. For now you will have to work with the personnel you have on hand.
Again, keep me abreast of changes as they occur.
I need to find and seal this leak. I need to be ahead of Raveaux, not behind. Put the horse ahead of the cart. What in Mr. Granger’s work do the sponsors care so much about? These thoughts were rattling around in Eladio’s head when his comm pinged. It was Tina.
“Hey, ‘ladio. Got a sec?”
“Certainly, Tina. You have discovered something?”
“Um, better if we talk in Ops. I can run you through it.”
“Very well,” Eladio sighed. “I will be there presently.”
“I’m gonna ping Sam, too.”
“Certainly. See you momentarily.”
The walk to Ops was short, and Eladio thought more about both the information leak and the work Granger was doing. Someone surely knew what he was working on, but Eladio wasn’t sure who that might be. Granger had been head of the lab, so didn’t have to report to his coworkers. Britain sponsored the Hydro lab, and Granger was one of theirs, so perhaps Dr. Grant would have insight to Granger’s assignment.
When Eladio arrived in Ops, Tina had a video paused on her screen. Sam Franklin was sitting on the desk next to her swinging his legs.
“Hey, Chief,” Franklin greeted him.
“Sam. Tina, what do you have?”
“Some oddities. First, I want to show you some things I found on the cameras in the Hydro lab.”
Tina ran the queued video. It showed Granger at his station, but his body occluded his tablet screen. Shortly, he slumped forward onto the table, apparently asleep. Tina sped the playback. Shortly after she resumed the normal speed, the room went dark. She paused the playback.
“This was the first thing I found. I told you before that Granger looked like he nodded off at his desk, and that’s what we just saw. Now, watch the timestamp closely as I play this back.”
The playback continued, with little to watch but the timestamp, as the room was dark. Shortly after twenty-two-thirty, the timestamp skipped. Tina stopped the video, ran it back a little, then played it again.
“See the timestamp? It jumps from twenty-two-thirty-three to twenty-two-forty-seven. Then it stays on track until the morning.”
To demonstrate this, she ran the video at fast speed until the lights came back on, and Granger was no longer at his station.
“The amazing disappearing man,” quipped Sam.
“Indeed,” said Eladio. “The file was tampered with?”
“No, I don’t think so. It looks to me like someone turned the camera off,” said Tina.
“Well, I guess that explains how Granger left the lab. He’d have access to turn it off. But why?” asked Sam.
“Let me show you another piece. This is interesting,” said Tina as she queued another video.
The video was from a different angle, and showed Granger from the back, but slightly to the side. It also gave a view of part of the rest of the room. The timestamp showed twenty-fifteen. Granger stayed at his desk, hunched over his tablet, though his tablet screen was again obscured by his body. The angle showed L.S. and Cindy in the background. A maintenance worker moved back and forth on the screen between Granger’s workstation and L.S. and Cindy at the planting table. After a few minutes Tina stopped the video.
“What is this showing us?” asked Eladio.
“Just a sec … there,” Tina said as she brought up a still picture of Granger’s station, without Granger. The timestamp on it showed oh-seven-ten. “This is the earliest sweep that shows this angle. Do you see it?”
“See what?” asked Sam.
“The missing thing under Granger’s station,” said Tina.
She returned to the paused video. Under the back-left side of the table, part of a squarish metallic object was visible to the camera. The object was missing in the still of the next morning.
“That is what?” asked Eladio.
“Can’t tell. Part of it is obscured by the table, so I haven’t figured it out,” said Tina.
“You noticed it why?” asked Eladio.
“I dunno. Just an oddity. You know, like one of those missing picture puzzles,” said Tina.
“Missing picture puzzle?” asked Eladio.
“You know, you have two pictures, very similar, and you have to find the differences?” Tina explained.
“Tina is a real puzzle nut, Chief. All kinds,” said Sam.
“What is the relevance of the item?” asked Eladio.
“Don’t know. Just thought it was weird that it was there in one picture and not in the other. Did Granger take it with him when he left? It’s kinda big. And he didn’t put it there. Just seemed like part of the mystery to me,” said Tina.
“How did it get there?” asked Sam.
“That’s why I wanted you here, Sam. Watch,” said Tina, running the video back a little before restarting it. They watched the maintenance worker pushing a cart behind Granger’s station, then stopping briefly and leaning over. The object slid into view, then the worker stood up. Tina again paused the video. “Who’s that guy, that maintenance worker? I don’t recognize him. I thought you might, Sam.”
Sam looked closely at the screen. “Can’t tell. Do you have a better shot?”
“That’s the other reason this seemed weird. There isn’t a good shot of him. He’s never really facing the camera, and his cap blocks most of his face. Almost like he knew the camera was there and he didn’t want to be seen,” said Tina.
“Seriously, Tina? I think you’ve read too many mysteries,” Sam joked.
Eladio stared at the screen. It tickled something in his memory.
“Please run that back a few frames, Tina,” Eladio said.
Tina complied and paused the video again. Eladio stared at the image.
“Are you able to run it forward to where the lights are on again?” Eladio asked.
It took a few seconds, and Eladio was again staring at a frame of the video. But this frame showed a small puddle of water on the floor under Granger’s station.
“Tina, are you able to take stills of this image, and the one where the maintenance person is starting to stand up?”
“Sure, ‘ladio. What is it? Do you see something?” Tina said as she adjusted the video and captured the shots.
“Perhaps. I want to see how these images fit together.”
Tina brought them up in a side-by-side layout. Eladio looked back and forth between them. The back edge of the puddle sat at almost the exact same spot as the front edge of the unknown object.
“Wait! How did you say he died?” asked Tina.
Eladio began to nod. “Dr. Sussman indicated carbon dioxide poisoning was the cause. May I assume you and I have come to the same conclusion, Tina?”
“Yeah. I think we know what that thing is now.”
“Clue me in,” said Sam.
“I think that holds a big block of dry ice,” said Tina, pointing at the first screen. “And that is the condensate from it,” Tina said, pointing at the water. “The air in Hydro is wetter than most of the station, ‘cause of all the plants and stuff. So the cold from the ice pulled the water from the air. What twigged you?” she asked Eladio.
“When I visited the lab after we found the body, I saw water on the floor under Granger’s desk. I thought it was a leak, but I could find no source. It was smaller than the puddle we see here, but I am reasonably confident it was in the same location.”
“Wait. Dry ice? How does that…?” asked Sam.
“Assume that’s a cube. A chunk of dry ice that size? Melting in a sealed hab? That’d be fatal for sure,” explained Tina.
“But, wouldn’t everyone see the ice? And the fog when it melts?” asked Sam.
“Not if that thing only has a small hole,” Tina said pointing at the cube, “or maybe a diffusion filter. You’d never notice, and then the air would fill with CO2.”
“So, this is where he was killed, then?” asked Sam.
“I believe that is correct,” said Eladio. “And I believe we’re looking at our killer. It is important we find Elana Sokolov.”