by Roberto Sanhueza
Arthur Conan Doyle said, through words of Sherlock Holmes, when you take all the impossibilities out of a mystery, whatever’s left has got to be the answer, no matter how unlikely.
Considering things from that point of view, the only person who could have caused the explosive decompression of airlock 5, which took the life of Alistair Connelly (the second by that name), had to be Alistair Connelly III, clonic son of the latter.
He had the opportunity: there was no one else with them at the airlock at the time; and he certainly had a reason to wipe the old man out. Not to mention the Connelly’s fabulous wealth (they own half the Earth and hold important shares on the other half), which Alistair the third inherited, there’s also the matter that Alistair the second was taking his clonic son illegally out of Ciudad Tycho via airlock 5 to Earth in order to have his memories erased and have his own imprinted on his son’s brain.
So you see, all reasonable deductions pointed towards Connelly the third. Trouble is, there was no way any jury on Earth or here, in our own jurisdiction of Ciudad Tycho, of the United States of the Moon, would indict him: he was, after all, only six months old.
You like the tale so far? I thought so. Hand over one of those good Tranquilitatis beer mugs and I’ll go on. Since cloning was forbidden Earthside, we had our lucky break here on the Moon. We started a very lucrative industry tinkering with human genetics. We’re not squeamish and we don’t have squeamish laws. We build people by request, make them suitable for Martian gravity, Titan gravity or no gravity at all, if you mean to raise your family in one of the Outer System habitats. You name ’em (and pay ’em), we build ’em. You don’t even need a mate to start the ol’ family; Tycho Cloning, best little shop in the system. Me? No, I’m not in the genetic engineering business, I’m a cop. Not much of a crime rate here but I keep busy, every now and then we get a smart-ass who thinks he can beat the system, and the Company pays me to keep them at bay.
But back to Connelly: this one’s good, let me tell you. Connelly was old, even by today’s standards. He was approaching the age when rejuvenation would no longer be possible. He had sons and daughters, of course, but he trusted really no one to manage his empire. Yeah, he was a mean SOB. He figured the only person who could run his business was — you got it — himself.
And that was a problem: overpopulation caused very strict laws against human cloning on Earth. But Earth laws don’t apply here in the good old USM.
You know, I don’t really buy that notion that imprinting your memories and experiences on your clone will make you live forever, I think all you have is somebody else who looks and acts exactly like you, but in what concerns you, when you’re gone, you’re gone. Hasta la vista, Baby!
But, seemingly, that was all Connelly had left, the hope of transcendence was all his unbelievable wealth could buy, so he came to Tycho Cloning.
Now, you can’t take clones into Earth: the law is very clear on that. He had to legally marry a Moon girl and you can bet his lawyers went through that contract very thoroughly so she wouldn’t have any claim on his money, not that she had any reason to complain anyway.
How do I know all this? My job is to know this kind of thing and many other kinds, too. Much of it though, I’ve learned afterwards. I have a pretty little dossier on Mr. Connelly’s case; I don’t like unresolved cases, officially unresolved anyway. So Mr. Connelly the second got himself a clone baby boy and, to make it absolutely legal by Earth law, his Moonie wife carried him for some time in her womb (you can’t expect an important tycoon like old Alistair to hang around on the Moon for nine months, he bought himself an accelerated pregnancy).
And it wasn’t any ordinary baby either, Connelly paid all the bells and whistles for his little self, his neural synapses were enhanced and the whole brain development process was accelerated. Trouble was, you see, the baby had to have a minimal brain mass before attempting the personality transfer, which had to be done on Earth: we don’t work on that technology here on the Moon. The ideal age would have been at least 10 but certainly Connelly didn’t have the time to wait that long so he was willing to take the chance and try it before the baby was a year old.
What? You worried about my time? No problem. I’m off duty right now, and you certainly are an attentive listener. As I said before, we are not squeamish here, but we’re not homicidal either, so dear old Mr. Connelly wasn’t going to be allowed to take his baby out of Ciudad Tycho and back to Earth to proceed with what might amount to the baby’s death or at least impairment. In short we weren’t letting the baby go until he was at least up to a mass of 12 kilograms. Right, you got it: too long for the old man.
That was the situation, so Mr. Big Tycoon tried baby-smuggling out of Ciudad Tycho when Connelly junior was only six earth months old. Money goes a long way, here, there and everywhere, far enough to buy information about an old, little-used airlock he could go through with the baby without taking the bother to check out with Ciudad Tycho authorities. As we learned shortly afterwards, instead of taking his baby to a medical checkup he was taking him out of the city premises to an illegal stealth shuttle, which would take them to Earth orbiting station 4, where he would take the Skyhook back to Earth. Once they reached the orbital station they’d be safe, no extradition treaty with Earth, either way.
What comes next is only an educated guess. Connelly took the precaution to block the cameras all the way from his quarters to airlock 5. Yeah, we found the security guys he bribed; they were fired, of course. All we know for sure is that at 02:05 local time, airlock 5 suffered explosive decompression. The baby was safe inside the airtight cradle that Connelly was using to take him out. Although the air rushing out did take him along, we found him safe and sound crying his little ass out right outside the airlock.
Connelly wasn’t so lucky: decompression caught him with his helmet off. We also found him outside the lock, but I can assure he wasn’t crying, in fact he wasn’t doing anything. No siree! Not even breathing.
That kind of incident can’t happen anymore. Airlock 5 was one of the few old ones which were never linked to the city main AI; now you can’t just manually override the outer door.
What happened inside airlock 5? There were all kinds of suppositions and wild guesses but nothing conclusive. Have your choice, I have mine. It so happens the most likely place Connelly set the cradle on to manipulate the inner and outer lock was right by the override button. Imagine Connelly, his back turned on the baby, having just opened the inner lock and putting his hands to his head to fasten his helmet and proceed to vacuum the room so as to open the outer lock. Imagine at the same time a tiny hand raising the edge of his cradle, pushing the button that would set off the explosive bolts and then letting the cradle cover fall back in place...
Sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? That’s why nobody gave any serious consideration to my pet theory at the time.
What happened to the baby? He was after all Connelly’s legal heir and was taken under family care and back to Earth.
But enough of my boring stories, let’s talk about you, Mr. Tzu. Surprised to find I know your name? I told you, it’s my job to know things, at least here in Ciudad Tycho.
I know, for instance, That you come from Quing Txiu habitat, in Saturn orbit. I also know your home habitat trades in bio-engineered vegetables, and although you’re officially on the Moon to sign trade treaties with some of our City States, you also have a side job on this trip.
No, don’t be rash. Jos the barman is pointing at you, this very moment, an EMP gun which would render your exoskeleton totally useless. You know very well you’re designed to live in a gravity-less environment; without your suit you wouldn’t even be able to breathe. It’s along and laborious death, even in our comparatively low gravity.
So let’s talk some more and avoid violence if we can. I know you put some microspores in my beer that are supposed to make me ill and kill me eventually, some days after you’re gone back to your habitat. What you don’t know is I have a very thin layered bag in my mouth and throat, so the spores haven’t actually made contact with my body.
Surprised? You’re bound to get more so. I take it you don’t know, either, who hired you for this job. It must have been done through third parties, but if you could follow the thread back to the beginning you’d find yourself on Earth; you’d find yourself before Alistair Connelly the third.
I’ve followed that kid’s career very closely, it’s amazing how he’s managed to survive all the strife for the Connelly Estate against all the other suitors for the family fortune. I have very little doubt that when he comes of age he’ll be the only heir; the only one left alive, anyway.
I believe, Mr. Tzu, that what Alistair Connelly the second got, was much more than what he paid for. I think his Clone Son was actually a mutant freaky accident of a baby, who managed to survive his mean dad and is managing to survive his brothers and sisters. He seems also to be covering the trail on his father’s death, here on the Moon.
All in all, you’ve been lucky, Mr Tzu. You’d be very naïve if you thought you’d be left alive after killing me. Mr. Connelly is very intent on cleaning the slate, and staying in jail here will at least keep you alive.
You’re not the first he’s sent, and I figure you won’t be the last. In these years he’s already tried... What? How long ago was all this? That’s the part you will believe the least, but it’s so, believe it or not. All that happened five years ago Mr.Tzu . Yes, you’ve been hired to murder me by a five-year old kid.
I can imagine all his impatience, having to wait until he’s eighteen to take what is rightfully his. I tell you, that kid’s gonna be something. But meanwhile I’m here waiting for him. I’m the only one who knows what really happened, and in this chess game of ours many a pawn, such as yourself, is going to fall.
But get going, Mr. Tzu, I’m sorry to say that at least for you, this story is over.
Copyright © 2004 by Roberto Sanhueza