(copyright 2017. all right reserved)
Eladio opened his system to compose a message to Earth, filling them in on what he knew, what he feared, and to see what advice they would offer on how to proceed. He found a communication from Earthside waiting in his queue.
To: Director Eladio Ramirez
From: Lukas Raveaux
Subject: Robert Granger
It has come to my attention that you have an issue with one of your people. Robert Granger, I am told, has not reported to work today, and that his absence is somewhat mysterious. He is working on items the Council deem mission critical. I would appreciate you taking what steps you can to resolve this issue posthaste.
Please report to me your current findings and keep me personally abreast of any developments.
Eladio was flabbergasted. Raveaux found out about Granger how? And so swiftly? He couldn’t believe either Sam or Tina would have communicated with Earth. Surely not Dr. Sussman? It didn’t seem like she had from his conversation with her.
He reread the communique more carefully. There is no mention of Mr. Granger’s state. In fact, Administrator Raveux seems to expect his return to work. Lukas perhaps does not know he is dead? Wendy is unlikely, then. But not even one day and Raveaux himself asks? No project here is wasted, so what might be this ‘mission critical’ task?
Eladio called Justine Grady and Sam Franklin and asked them to come to his office. When they arrived and were seated he asked whom they might have told.
“Chief,” said Sam Franklin, “I only talked to Sussman. And I told her to keep it on the QT.”
Another of your new words? Eladio raised his eyebrow.
“Sorry, Chief, it means keep it quiet. Don’t tell anyone.”
Eladio nodded, then turned and looked at Tina.
“What could I tell? I don’t know anything,” said Justine Grady. “And what does Wendy have to do with this?”
“I just received a message from Earthside. The Administrator wanted to know about Mr. Granger. He has been told by someone.”
“Told what?” asked Justine Grady.
Sam looked sideways at Tina. “I think you need to fill her in, boss. It’s a puzzle, and she’s going to be like a dog with a bone. She’ll never let it go until she knows the answers.”
Tina looked at Eladio, her eyebrows raised, waiting for his response.
“Very well. Tina, Mr. Granger is dead.”
Tina’s eyes grew wide at this pronouncement, but she managed to hold her tongue and wait for the rest.
“Mr. Franklin found him outside Hab-C this morning. I had him take the body to Dr. Sussman to see what she could determine.”
“How did he die?” asked Tina.
“I have heard only this moment. He died of carbon dioxide poisoning. But Earthside already knows Mr. Granger has gone missing. I think, from the communication, they do not know he is dead.”
He shared the transmission with both of them.
“Neither of you spoke of this, yes? Have you any idea how they have come to know?” asked Eladio.
“I dunno. Did you talk to anyone else?” asked Tina.
“Not specifically. I did visit Hydroponics and spoke to people he worked with. From our conversations, they would be aware he hadn’t shown up for his shift.”
“When was the last time you checked, personally, for someone who missed a shift?” asked Tina.
Eladio gave a wry grimace. Of course. I might as well have sent out an announcement.
“This is a fair point, Tina. I can see how someone would see there is something larger happening.” But why tell Earthside? “Are either of you aware of Mr. Granger’s work? Something that would be mission critical?”
Both shook their heads.
“Hmmm. Well, we will remain mystified for the moment. Tina, how proceeds the search through the footage?”
It was Sam’s turn to raise his eyebrows.
“I asked her to learn Mr. Granger’s whereabouts. He never logged out of the lab, so she is running through camera footage.”
Franklin nodded as Tina answered, “Interesting you asked. I started in the lab to see what I could find. I ran through the day with not much unusual happening. It looks like Granger was there alone last night from twenty-one-hundred until about twenty-one-thirty. Lanie came in about then. Looked like they had some kind of a row. She was waving her arms around, and Granger was trying to calm her down, I think, then she left. The camera shows Granger at his station, and, eventually, it looks like he nods off. After a bit the lights go off. Probably the hour and lack of motion in the lab. When they come back on, no Granger. That was about oh-six-hundred, when Jeppesen arrived. I was trying to figure out what was going on with that when you called.”
“Lanie, huh. Interesting, especially considering…,” said Sam.
“Considering what? What else aren’t you telling me?” asked Tina.
“Certainty is too soon, but Dr. Sussman has virtually ruled out suicide or accident. I think what we are left with is that Mr. Granger might have been murdered,” said Eladio.