Mars Day 5. Monday, April 12th, 2151
Another day down the tubes. Broderick figured Robert would need an oxygen refill for his sniffer at some point. We messaged all of the refill stations in the maze of lava tubes with a picture of him and a description. When he ran low on air, he’d have to show up somewhere. We spent the morning touring the crops. There was even a little pond (I say little because it’s about ten meters across, but the fact is that it’s about five hundred feet deep) where tourists can do a little fishing just like back on good ole Earth. I gave it a try and got a hit after only five minutes in the water. I pulled up a good sixteen incher. Tilapia didn’t fight like no rainbow. He just kind of flopped around a bit while I dragged it up. Farm fish have no fight in them, but it was something to do while we waited for our own fish to bite.
Along the side of each tube is a single rail which a little light monorail train rides on. There’s cameras all over these things so we knew Robert didn’t go any further than he could walk. We hopped the train and rode through the tube from one end to the other, passing several giant airlocks where lava flows had split into other tubes. These were sectioned off in the event of an air breach or tunnel collapse. If a catastrophe struck they wouldn’t lose all they had down here. Everything on Mars had to be thought about that way. Everything had to be recycled, redundant, and resilient. The three R’s of design on Mars. There was a fourth R though. We knew Robert hadn’t passed through any more airlocks since the one at Harvard. So he had to be still in there, somewhere. Disguised as a worker? Did he have some kind of fake identification? I was starting to wonder if our fish had slipped the net in some way.
But that fear was to be erased by a message that Broderick got on his phone just after we had lunch at the restaurant. They’d fried up my fish for me right in front of us, for a small price of course. Gotta gouge these tourists every chance you get. Unfortunately I couldn’t taste much of it with my nose hosed up. My stomach did appreciate being full of warm cooked fish though. Broderick answered his phone.
“Yes, I see. We’ll be right there.”
His face was just as unrevealing as his one sided conversation so I asked. “What’s up?”
“A harvesting crew found Robert.”
“Excellent!” I said, thinking about grilling him aggressively and getting back to normal airspace pronto.
“Dammit!” So much for getting out of here. Now we’d have to stick around and find out what happened to that douchebag.
We rode the train out to the site where the crew had discovered the body. A robotic powered cultivator with six wheels sat motionless and five men stood huddled together a short distance away. We talked to them about what they’d found. The cultivator had run into the body and activated an emergency stop. If the body had been warm it would never have tried to plow it up but since it was cold it did do some damage before getting its tines tangled up. I squatted down next to the corpse now half buried with one arm twisted up in the machine. It was obvious that the body had been hastily buried out there between the rows just deep enough keep it out of sight. The crew explained that a blight had hit this patch so they had starting plowing it up off schedule. Which told me, whomever had killed Robert probably worked in the tubes somewhere and had thought the body would have a chance to decompose or at least stay hidden for a few months.
The tines hadn’t reached his head, but I could already see that it’d been caved in with something heavy. The dirt caked around the crushed skull where blood had turned to mud.
Broderick surprised me by grabbing a body bag from his pack made of extremely thin material. We took a few pictures of the body and then rolled it carefully into the bag. I took my pocket knife and poked around in the soil. I didn’t find anything but Broderick said he’d have his team come out and do a scan on it. My feeling was that homicide investigation here was a little sloppy and definitely understaffed. Detectives don’t normally bagg’em. Broderick and I packed the body back to the monorail and headed back to Harvard control station in silence. We were both lost in our own thoughts about what’d happened. And something about a dead body around seems to ask for silence.
Broderick’s team won’t arrive today so we’ve got the body in a storage locker for the night. Tommorrow I plan to do some prying into other people’s business and I’m probably going to piss some people off. It’s going to be a great day.