Chapter 5

(copyright 2017. all rights reserved)

chapter 4

Eladio settled back in his chair. He’d finally made it through the monthly reports. The numbers looked pretty good, all things considered. They weren’t moving as fast in Hydroponics as he wanted, and they had some shortages in water reclamation, but at least sinter consumption for the 3D printers was down, and the new filters for the scrubbers looked promising. Probably they would be ready next month. While he tried to relax and put the sound of wind-driven grit rattling against the hab out of his mind, his comm chimed. It was Dr. Sussman.

“Hello, Doctor.”

“Director. I have the results. Carbon dioxide poisoning.”

“I see. Can you offer any other information? Could it have been an accident? Or suicide?”

“Suicide? Possible, I suppose, but doubtful. It would be an odd way to try to kill yourself. There are much easier methods available. I mean, if you really wanted to die, why suit up at all?”

“Did he die in his suit?”

“I cannot say with certainty, but it seems unlikely. If he died in the suit, I would expect the scrubber to be saturated.”

“An accident then?”

“That also seems unlikely to me. Consider how much we drill. The protocol drums in repeated suit checks before we step outside. He would have to be in a particularly distracted state to make that sort of error. I suppose it is possible if he were, for some reason, deeply fatigued, or in an extreme enough hurry to disregard his safety. It would be much more likely that the suit suffered a malfunction of some sort that depleted the air, compromised the scrubber, but left the battery charged enough so he didn’t freeze to death. Even then, I would expect he would notice the dizziness, check his air supply, and return inside. Lying down against the habitat wall, next to an airlock, rather than falling down somewhere farther afield? Seems doubtful.”

“Can you tell me when he died?”

“Not very precisely. The body had evidently been in the cold for quite some time. The internal temperature was quite low. He wasn’t fully frozen, so I would say he was exposed, without his heater, for under ten or twelve hours. But it would be hard to be more precise.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

“Mr. Franklin asked me to ‘keep this on the DL’,” Wendy said in a passable imitation of Sam’s smooth tones. “May I ask why that is, and what you think happened?”

“I am unsure what to think. I had hope your conclusions might point clearly to suicide or an accident of some sort. The only other conclusion I could draw would be murder, but that seems unthinkable. As to keeping it quiet, I don’t want to rouse needless concern. We have enough friction from the storm. Why add more? Additionally, I would like more answers before I bring it up with my superiors Earthside. Too much general awareness will make that more challenging.”

“I see. If it was murder, don’t you think we should let people know?”

“My hope was you’d say definitively that it wasn’t.”

chapter 6