(copyright 2017. all rights reserved)
The triple-sized hab, nicknamed ‘The Agora,’ was packed, and loud enough to overwhelm the shrieking of the wind. To Eladio it looked like all one hundred staff members were present. Now ninety-nine—or ninety-eight if something has happened to Ms. Sokolov. Eladio did not see her in the crowd, and Tina had still not discovered her location, nor found how Granger left Hydro and ended up outside Hab-C.
Eladio tried again to get people settled. He had not wanted an all-hands meeting, but after sending out the invitations to the chief administrators, he continued to receive strident requests from interested parties, so finally gave up and sent a station-wide notice of this open meeting to discuss rumors about Granger.
“Please! Settle in so we may begin! Everyone!” said Eladio. His voice was largely drowned out by the crowd. The Agora didn’t have a comm terminal, so he couldn’t broadcast over the comm system. Sam Franklin solved the problem by kicking off the siren for a couple of seconds. That got everyone’s attention and settled the room down. Eladio nodded to Sam in thanks.
“Everyone, please be seated. I will give you what information we have, and then we can try to answer questions,” Eladio began.
Eladio read a prepared statement covering the discovery of Granger’s body and Dr. Sussman’s results, sticking solely to the facts and avoiding speculation. When he’d finished, there were immediately hands in the air. Before Eladio could select the first person to ask a question, the shouting began.
“I heard you think it’s murder!” someone shouted. There was a babble of conversation and Eladio had to raise his voice to be heard.
“It is premature to draw conclusions. There are many things we do not yet know.”
“Stop dissembling! We have a right to know!” a different voice with whom many people agreed, judging by the head nods and shouts of support.
“I am not dissembling. I am merely encouraging caution. I see no reason to jump to a conclusion. We have much more to—” Eladio replied, but he was shouted down. Another blast of the siren quieted the room again.
Eladio continued, “I understand your concerns. I share them. But—”
“Director, clearly you do not! You seem to be taking this far too casually!” interrupted Enzo Dumoulin. “We most likely have a murderer in our midst, and we must find them!”
“And punish them!” shouted someone else.
“Or at least isolate them,” said Dr. Grant.
“Isolate! One does not isolate murderers! One executes them!” Eladio couldn’t make out who shouted that, but the accent sounded Chinese.
“Not everyone agrees with that sort of harsh punishment. And the charter says the prevailing law is that of the country which provided the facility in question,” put in Dr. Grant.
“But which facility? The body was found outside,” Anatoly Volkhov pointed out.
“Maybe the murderer should be subject to the laws of his or her nation,” suggested Dr. Baisho.
“Or perhaps the laws of the victim’s nation should be applied,” suggested Deke Baker. “Bob was a Brit.”
“Who cares about that? We have a murderer in here with us!” Eladio could not make out who that was.
“What about the value of the guilty party? Can we afford to have them incarcerated? Or executed? What if they have the same specialty as Granger? Or another that we cannot cover? How do we replace that?” questioned Jeppesen.
The argument continued in that vein for several minutes, and Eladio could see it was a lost cause to try to control or curtail the tide. It was as he’d feared. Raw nerves from the storm were only fueled by rumors of a murderer. He waited while people argued back and forth about what to do. When a lull finally came, he quickly filled it.
“People, please. We do not yet know that it is murder. If it is murder, we do not know who committed it. Nor where they committed it. Nor why they committed it. We must have these answers before we can make a decision about what actions should be taken or which laws should apply. My team is working to discover more about what happened. From that we will hopefully be able to discover the where, the how, and, if they apply, the who and why. Until those things happen, we cannot take action. Please, allow time for facts to be gathered.”
There was more discussion, shouting, grumbling, and even vitriolic argument, but no new ideas were presented. At the next pause, Eladio called the meeting to a close. Dios, let Tina have success. People were not going to calm down about this. The longer it remained a mystery, the worse things would become.