Charlie Ramos watched the android flight attendant work her way down the aisle of the observation deck of the Galileo, admiring her build and her beautiful features. Even as he enjoyed looking at her, he was at the same time aware of her sexlessness, that she was merely a piece of sophisticated machinery. Her dark blue skirt was short, her long legs sleek, her hair perfectly coifed. Her lips, her nails, her eye shadow, everything about her was a work of art. Kudos to the designer, Charlie thought.
"Coffee, sir? Tea, perhaps? Or maybe something stronger?" She was addressing him now, in her cultured, well-modulated voice and he said, "Coffee would be nice. Do you have decaffeinated?"
"Of course, sir. Coming right up." She turned to her beverage cart and Charlie asked quietly, "What's your name?"
"Flight Attendant Cindy, sir. And yours?" She turned and poured his coffee, her smile practiced, her hands absolutely steady.
"I'm Charlie. Charlie Ramos."
"First time in deep space, Charlie?"
"No, I was in the Federation Services. Battle group seven. Fleet Marine, actually."
"I'm always glad to know you guys are out there." Her smile got a little wider. "Nice meeting you, Mr. Ramos." She moved on up the aisle, offering drinks to other passengers and Charlie sat back and admired the view.
The DSL Galileo was two days out from Ganymede and had been decelerating at one Earth gravity for a week now. DSL stood for Deep Space Liner and that's what she was-a cruise ship, with ultra-plush accommodations for as many as fifteen hundred souls on her many decks and she was provisioned to spend years in space, if need be. This leg of the journey took six weeks, just to get to Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter's moons, which, for this trip, was Charlie's destination.
DSL Galileo was not a pretty ship on the outside. Her numerous cryogenic storage tanks for fuel and oxygen, her solar power panels, heat radiators and antennae, made her look more like a slum, traveling at high speed through the void, than a pleasure vessel. It was inside where she shined, where the silver service was polished, the crew's uniforms were starched and tailored; the carpets were soft, the lighting muted and the food sumptuous. Charlie could have stood more Spartan accommodations, but the assignment fax had said, "leave earliest and most direct" for Ganymede.
Charlie's business was investigation and this was not the first time it had taken him away from Earth. He owned and operated an investigation firm in Chicago, called Eagle Eye, and he had applied for and received a contract from the Space Federation to do investigative work. The Federation agents were spread far too thinly across the solar system, as it was, and Charlie welcomed the extra work. The money wasn't bad either.
Along with the assignment fax had come a voucher for six thousand credits, drawn on a Swiss bank, just for expenses. That was enough for two operatives, but Charlie had decided to go it alone. He really couldn't spare anyone else and he had never cared for working with partners.
Flight Attendant Cindy swished by him, headed up the aisle towards the front of the observation area and as she went by, she seemed to stumble slightly, or lose her balance momentarily and she touched him on the shoulder. As he glanced up at her, a tiny bit of paper fluttered into his lap and he deftly caught it, his dark eyes and Latino features remaining impassive, giving no sign. He slid his hand into his jacket pocket and deposited the scrap there.
Something was going on, he reflected, as he sipped his coffee. Androids didn't lose their balance, or stumble, either, but she had done it so well that it looked natural and he was probably the only one who noticed. He watched her leave the observation deck and he thought about androids in general for a few moments.
As far back as the 21st century, robots and androids had been a fact of life, along with clones and specialized people, who were genetically improved for certain tasks. Every few years, one company or another would bring out a new model of android and lately it was rumored that the Japanese had perfected a female sex android that was more entertaining in bed than any woman and safer, too, since androids couldn't catch or spread disease.
Almost all of the wait staff and maid service aboard were android and probably most of the engineers and maintenance crew would be, also. He knew that all of their electronic brains would contain the "Asimov chip", which precluded them from committing any violent acts. Isaac Asimov had been a popular science fiction writer of the twentieth century, who had first written of the three laws of robotics in his novels, and while it really didn't work exactly the way he envisioned, he had still won the recognition he deserved.
In fact, androids could be produced that would kill humans on command and some were being tested in the Federation Service, replacing human soldiers. Thank God they hadn't decided to try them in law enforcement. War and so-called police actions were one thing, dealing with civilians was another.
Charlie finished his coffee and got up and left the observation deck, headed for his cabin two decks below. When he arrived there he pulled the scrap of paper from his jacket pocket and looked at it under the strong light of the reading lamp on the desk. It held some writing, but it was too tiny to be readable. He got into the closet and got out a small "snooper" kit, which contained everything from lock picks to a tiny TV camera with a fiber optic lens that would fit through a keyhole, or under a door. From the kit he took a small magnifier and again he examined the scrap of paper. In tiny numbers he read, "189-2130".
Cabin 189? At 21:30? Well, he supposed even an android could get lonely, but she didn't know him. Why would she want to meet him in a liaison that was probably forbidden by her work rules?
It was a bit of a hike from Charlie's cabin on deck nine to cabin 189, on deck one and he arrived a few minutes late. He hadn't been challenged by anyone, even though the signs posted at all entrances to the areas starting at deck three clearly stated, "No passengers below deck four. Crew only, please." The cabins were sequentially numbered and he had no trouble finding number 189. Down here, the paneling was plain white, the carpet more utilitarian than plush and the lighting came from plain fixtures set in the ceiling.
He knocked softly on the door of 189 and heard nothing. Just as he raised his hand to knock a second time, the door opened slightly and Cindy looked out at him, then it opened and she took his hand and urged him inside. Behind him, she closed the door quietly and threw the deadbolt, then she stepped into the light of a single floor lamp, turned low. Charlie's breath caught, as he looked her over. She wore a floor length nightgown, of filmy black material, deeply cut at her breasts and her erect nipples showed clearly through.
Pulling his attention away from her was difficult, but Charlie was a professional and he looked around the room. Soft music was playing, candles had been placed on the headboard of the bed, which he could see through an open doorway, and a bottle of wine and two glasses were sitting on the coffee table.
"I didn't really think you'd show up," she said and she moved to the settee and arranged herself, one long leg tucked under her, the other crossed over.
"Why wouldn't I?" Charlie asked, "I always enjoy the company of a pretty girl."
"Even when she's an artificial?"
"That, I don't know. I've never spent much time around..."
"Androids? You can say it, Charlie. I know what I am."
She patted the cushion beside her.
"Come sit by me, Charlie."
"What's your last name, Cindy?" Charlie asked, as he parked next to her.
She reached for the wine bottle and poured two glasses. "It's 7104," she said, "I'm an android, Charlie. We aren't given last names."
"You certainly don't act like any android I ever saw before. And you don't look like one, either."
He took a sip of wine, waiting for her answer. To his surprise, she took a sip from her glass, also. He knew that some of the newer models could take liquids and it was only recently that this was possible. On the older androids, it was supposed to be too dangerous to their internal circuits, or something.
She said, "I'll take that as a compliment. I'm the newest and latest of the Pleasure Plus models, Charlie. We can do a lot of things that were impossible just a few years ago. Let me show you..." With that, she untied the drawstring bodice of her nightgown, folding it open to her waist and shrugging it back, so just her shoulders were covered and then just barely. She reached for Charlie's face with both hands and pulled him closer, kissing him deeply and firmly on the mouth, then pulling his face down to her breasts. As Charlie filled his hands and mouth with the lushness of her, she whispered, "Ain't technology grand?"
Four hours later, a tired, slightly dazed Charlie Ramos found his way back to his cabin and turned in for the night. Flight Attendant Cindy had been perfectly functional in every way and quite enthusiastic. He was too dazed and happy to notice that his quarters had been searched during his absence. He didn't discover that until next morning and when he called Passenger Relations to complain, they said they had no android named Cindy 7104, or Cindy anyone else, for that matter, aboard.
The rest of Charlie's trip to Ganymede passed without further incident and when the Galileo berthed, he took his place with all the other debarking passengers. As they came down the mechanized and pressurized gangway to customs, the huge bulk of the Galileo floating just a few feet away on its gravity pads, he looked at all the other passengers he could, scanning for "Cindy", but to no avail. It was as though space had swallowed her up. He had made further discreet inquiries among the ship's crew and he found several who remembered seeing her, but stated they did not know her. They thought she was just new. It was a big ship, after all...
He had even been able to con the Purser into letting him see the inside of cabin 189. He found it coldly vacant, with no sign of the wild activities he had been party to. He carefully examined the room, seeing nothing of interest, but catching just the slightest whiff of her perfume, and candle wax.
He thought back to their evening together and he had to admit, she was something special. She had showed him a better time than any woman he'd ever been with. She had been totally wanton, balking at nothing and her own aggressiveness had turned Charlie on, to the point where he had been a credit to his gender.
Charlie found himself caught up in the intrigue of who she was and what might be going on. He had established a cover as a computer technician, a field that he knew enough about to get by, but that might be blown, now. It made his investigation that much riskier. If she had been in touch with someone already on Ganymede, then he could be in real danger. After all, this wasn't a routine theft or embezzlement he was sent here to investigate, nor was it drug trafficking. This was a murder case and he was already at a disadvantage.
Charlie passed through customs and quarantine without any problems and was met by a bookish, nerdy type, from human resources. The man introduced himself as David Loveland.
Along with sixteen other new hires, Charlie was subjected to fingerprinting and a retinal scan, had his picture taken for a photo ID and was provided with a packet that contained everything from a map of the mining complex to information on his health insurance and workman's comp.
He was assigned quarters and filled in on the rules about guests in the male quarters, as well as the rules about smoking, drinking, drugs and homosexual encounters. They pretty well covered the bases, when it came to anything one might enjoy. The human resources guy, David, gave the lecture:
"On the DSM colony on Ganymede it goes this way: No guests in the male quarters, except other males.
No smoking except in designated areas. This is because of air purification concerns and oxygen enrichment equipment, not to mention fires. Even a small fire in an airtight complex can be disastrous.
No drinking in quarters. The company bar is open 24 hours a day-do your drinking there. Company prostitutes are available 24 hours a day, also. Take care of your needs with them. They're disease-free and very reasonably priced. Don't be shy about using them. Everyone has needs and the company hires them and provides them. Think of them as recreation.
Do not take, sell, or possess illegal drugs, period. You will get put in the slammer for the remainder of your tour and sent home without pay. Two years is a long time to sit. The company has a random drug testing policy. You may be asked to provide a urine sample at any time. Refusal means termination of your contract and the slammer.
As for homosexuality, the company has a "don't ask-don't tell" policy. If it is a case of rape, then it should be reported and the perpetrator will be dealt with. Otherwise, it's your business.
Concerning fraternization with other, female employees, it is dangerous and certainly not recommended. Most of the crime on Ganymede seems to stem from relationships between employees that result in arguments, fights, jealous rages, etc. Use the prostitutes. It's safer."
Walter Bethune was the General Manager of Consolidated Deep Space Mine # 4 and had been for four years. As Charlie Ramos walked into the man's office, he looked Bethune over. It was a rule on DSM four that all new employees meet the manager personally and it was Charlie's turn. Bethune was a big man, about six-two and stocky. His shoulders were massive and his arms showed muscle built through many years of hard labor. His handshake was warm, dry and callused. His hair was cut short, under a company ball cap and it was jet black. Out of the open neck of his brightly colored Hawaiian shirt more black hair spilled. He wore a full beard and it was glossy black also, except for a few hairs on his chin, which contrasted in a striking white.
Charlie thought he resembled a bear, as much as anything else and he expected the man's voice to be a growl, but when he spoke, it was actually quite high-pitched, for a man of his size and yet not the least bit effeminate.
"So, you're a computer tech, Charlie?"
"Are you good at what you do?"
"What do you know about mining?"
"Very little, sir."
The man smiled and sat back in his swivel chair, lacing his hands behind his head. "I like that, Charlie. I like a man who's willing to admit what he doesn't know. Show's he's probably willing to learn."
"We mine an element called Ganydium. Ever hear of it?"
"No, sir, can't say that I have."
"That's right, Charlie and you never will. It was discovered here, on Ganymede and every speck that we produce is bought by the military. It's an enricher. They put it in with weapons-grade plutonium and they get the same explosive yield with a tenth as much plutonium. Know what that means, Charlie?"
Charlie had a good idea what that meant, but the man was on a roll, so he just said, "No, sir."
"It means, Charlie, that a nuclear-tipped missile can be smaller, lighter and needs less propellant. And it also makes possible a super bomb, what they're already calling a "planet buster", should we ever have need of it."
"Pretty valuable stuff, huh?" Charlie replied.
"I see you have a certain talent for understatement, Charlie."
"Things go pretty smoothly around here, most of the time. We hit a rough spot every once in a while, but most of the time, everything's routine. We take about a ton of Ganydium out of the ice every week. That doesn't sound like much, but it's worth thirty-five times the price of any other element known and ninety times as much as gold. Guess you probably heard about our murders, huh?"
The sudden change of topics startled Charlie and he just said, "Yes, sir."
"Well, don't let it bother ya, Charlie. It was a prostitute and her boyfriend and we're supposed to be getting an investigator in here any day, now. I expect when he gets here, he'll get it cleared up pretty quick."
"A prostitute had a boyfriend?"
"Oh, yeah. Most of 'em do. Y'know, somebody to spend time with when they're not working. This was probably a customer who thought he had something special going with her and got jealous when he saw her with her sig oth."
"Her significant other. Her guy. Whatever."
"Do you think there might be drugs involved?"
"You know what, Charlie? I'm gonna forget you asked that, 'cause you're new. There are no illegal drugs on DSM four. Period. Our robo-dogs go over everything that comes in and I guarantee, nothing gets past them."
"Sorry, sir. I didn't mean to offend, but maybe someone could have found a way to make something, here."
"Don't think so, Charlie. If you've ever been around a drug lab, you know what it takes to manufacture illicit stuff. Besides, the smell alone would give it away, in this place. Say, you seem awfully interested in this, for a computer tech."
Charlie thought for a minute and he realized that he needed someone on his side. Someone who could get him access to everything he would need to complete his examination. He was a pretty good judge of people and he'd already decided that Bethune was straight and was just what he seemed to be: a hard-working, dedicated manager, who took care of his people and the company, at the same time.
Charlie cleared his throat and said, "Actually, the computer tech job is just my cover, Mr. Bethune. I'm your homicide investigator."
"Wondered how long it'd take ya to admit it, Charlie. Good cover, too. Gives ya access to the computer system. I expect you'll need passwords and such." The man's lack of surprise flustered Charlie more than if he'd been pissed at being deceived.
"Yes, sir. For starters."
"Okay, well, that's not a problem. I'll log ya into the system now and give ya full access. Most of your co-workers are androids, anyway, and they're not a very suspicious lot. They'll pretty much believe whatever ya tell 'em."
Benjamin 2108 sat at the workbench, a 200-power non-optical digital-enhancement magnifier screwed into the receptacle of his right eye. He surveyed the computer motherboard he held absolutely still in his hands and quickly detected the faulty component. He flipped the board over and looked at the microscopic connections, then reached for the laser desoldering device.
Sometimes he wished he had been built two hundred years earlier, when a motherboard was a foot square, instead of an inch and connections could still be made by the naked eye. Having to repair this shit was a pain in the ass, sometimes. If it weren't for the tremendous shipping costs, of course, they would just pitch a faulty motherboard in the trash. But the company demanded they repair and reuse anything they could.
He would think about such things for a while and then his logic circuits would cut in, reminding him that if he had been built 200 years ago, he would have had a shiny metallic skin and no artificial emotions, at all. Hell, in those days they had barely scratched the surface of artificial intelligence and they were scared to allow any machine any kind of feelings, even the most basic.
Being built in this age of enlightenment definitely had advantages. He had a body that was so perfect in every detail that he could pass for human anywhere, especially if the person he was dealing with had a limited knowledge of androids. In fact, compared to most humans, he was really too perfect.
His designers had seen fit to make him six feet tall and quite handsome. His eyes, when not covered by some enhancement device, appeared quite normal and were a striking blue-green, the color of the center of an iceberg. His face was finely chiseled, the features just craggy enough to give him a rugged appearance and he was, in fact, a rugged machine.
His skeleton was of duraluminum3, his motors and servos designed to last virtually forever and his energy plant was atomic, consisting of a cold fusion reactor, coupled with a fuel cell that could convert virtually any substance to energy, with very little waste. He could even eat a little human food and convert it and liquids were shunted to his coolant system and out a very ordinary urinary tract. He was anatomically correct, from a human viewpoint, having all the right equipment in all the right places and all the right systems to make it perform correctly. Robotics, he thought, had come a long way.
He had hair that was a light, almost platinum blonde and a permanent tan that was just his skin color. He didn't have to work on it.
From outside the door of the shop, he heard the distinctive tick-tock of high heels and he referenced his internal clock. Lunch time. That would be Colleen Adamski, going to the cafeteria. He had the sound of her footsteps filed and he quickly referenced the file and got a match. Yup. She would be sitting with that engineer, Patterson. He called up another file and saw her walking past him in the hall, a few weeks before. He checked out her body as they passed and her smile. She was dark-headed, stacked and athletic. Her step had that springy quality that some humans had, a fluidity and economy of movement, coupled with perfect muscle tone. Her smile was what he had once heard described as Ipana-white. He had always wondered what that meant.
She and Patterson were doing it, whenever they could sneak away. He had seen them together on the lifeboat deck and saw them go into one of the escape pods together. He had listened to them and heard them doing it. He referenced that file and listened to them again, hearing her yelps and moans of pleasure and the grunts of the man, Patterson. He felt his sub-level brain trying to access files and start up his sexual apparatus. He quickly took control and shut that down. Someone else was coming. He could think about Colleen, or any of the others, later. He could play his recordings of them any time he wanted.
The shop door opened and a new man stepped in, someone Benjamin had never seen before. He was short and stocky and had dark hair and high cheekbones. He was obviously a real human, so Benjamin got off his ass and stood, turning to meet him.
"Yes, may I help you?"
"Hi, I'm Charlie Ramos. I'm the new computer tech." The human stuck out his hand and Benjamin took it, being careful not to crush it and shook it once, twice, then let go.
"Hi, I'm Benjamin 2108. I work here, too. It's lunchtime. Can I show you to the cafeteria?"
"Yeah, okay. Might as well."
"Okay, and after we eat, I'll show you around the work environment."
Benjamin unscrewed the magnifier from his eye and the eyelid settled back to its natural shape. He reached over to the bench and turned off his lamp, soldering device and tester and turned to Charlie, saying, "Okay, let's cruise."
Consolidated Deep Space Mine #4 was as ugly on the outside as it was efficient on the inside. It made the Deep Space Liner Galileo look downright streamlined by comparison. Resembling more a malignant growth on the pocked and dark landscape of Ganymede, than any type of smooth-running machine, it bristled with antennas, storage tanks, towers and domes. Nothing was performed outside that could be done inside a pressure dome and everything was coated constantly with a hoarfrost of water ice and other frozen gasses. Ganymede was largely made up of these different types of ices and the mining really consisted mostly of melting away these, in order to isolate the Ganydium, which was scattered quite randomly to depths of several hundred feet below the surface. Some larger chunks were deeper, but most of the rare element was found in the top crust of the moon. This meant that once pressure domes were in place, a system of tunnels was constructed, sometimes pretty much randomly, as pockets of Ganydium were found.
The pressure in the domes was always kept as near one Earth atmosphere as possible and never was allowed to drop below a half an atmosphere. The men who worked in the domes and tunnels still wore pressure suits, which could be sealed at a moment's notice. While largely considered a pain in the ass, this precautionary measure was better than the alternative, should a pressure dome burst, or be holed by a meteor. Ganymede had no atmosphere and gasses that boiled off its surface were either lost to space, or pulled into the massive atmospheric system of Jupiter.
The company cafeteria was clean and plain, serving food twenty-four hours a day to weary, dirty miners, executives, office workers, technicians and secretarial types. The fact that, like the bar and the cribs of the company prostitutes, it never closed, was just a necessity of doing business in a place like Ganymede.
When all of the costs of this deep-space operation were added up, it quickly became clear that there could be no downtime, when nobody was working. The mining never stopped and therefore the support services never did, either.
Charlie and Benjamin entered the cafeteria and made their way through the noise to the serving line. The food was hot, plain and served in heroic portions. Benjamin didn't eat much, as could be expected and Charlie wasn't all that hungry, either. He was more interested in the people, their dress, their jobs and their little groups, or cliques. Two more android techs had joined them at their table and Charlie was introduced to Foster 1119 and Della 2626, Della being a female.
Foster had come from the same factory as Benjamin, but was smaller and he looked more like an accountant. They had even given him a bald spot and made him look older. Della was made to look quite plain, although Charlie wouldn't have called her unpleasant to look at. She just didn't have the striking good looks of the Benjamin model. Or of a Cindy, for that matter. She was also made to look older. Her hair was gray and worn in a bun, giving her a school-marmish look. She was the company librarian and she doubled in the customs area, whenever they received ships.
Charlie was chatting with the three androids and learning all he could, when Bethune, the manager, came by, carrying a full tray. He spoke to Charlie, nodding to the others and said, "Why don't you come join me at my table, Charlie?"
Charlie felt it would not help him any to refuse the request of the manager, so he excused himself and joined the big bear of a man, a few tables away.
"You know, Charlie, just because you work with them, it doesn't mean that you have to eat with them, too. Or socialize, for that matter." It was apparent from the man's tone that it was looked down on for a man to mix too much with the androids.
"I was just getting acquainted," Charlie said, "thought it might be good to maybe get them to open up to me, a little."
"That's fine," Bethune said, "but I wouldn't spend any more time with them than ya have to. People will say you're strange, if you'd rather spend time with them, than with real people."
"Okay, boss. Duly noted."
"Come by the bar after work and I'll introduce ya around. Show ya which of the girls are worth your time and who makes the best Margarita."
"Sounds good." Charlie said, thinking to himself, this guy's prejudiced against anyone who's not a normal human. That's interesting. Could he be so biased that he'd kill someone for what he believes? Probably not. He'd be more the type to harm an android, than another human. Interesting, though.
Benjamin 2108 sat in a straight-backed chair in his quarters, staring at a blank wall. Or it would have appeared so to an observer, until they noticed the thin wire that was plugged into a receptacle in the crook of his right elbow. This wire ran to the wall and was plugged into the computer access parallel port. Benjamin was accessing the company computer via his built-in modem.
He did this at least once a day, just in order to keep up with all of the activity of the mining colony and its people. It was how he kept himself informed and how he kept himself safe. Dr. Burnside used to say, "Knowledge is power, Benjamin. Don't ever forget that. Knowledge is power."
Benjamin had been sort of a protÈgÈ' to Dr. Elliot Burnside up until the doctor's death a few months ago and they had formed a lasting bond, based on the accumulation of knowledge and trust.
Dr. Burnside had been the man in charge of all of the maintenance of androids and other robotic machines. It was quite a step down from his Professorship at M.I.T., back on Earth and he was a man who was full of resentment. Benjamin had never realized that, until recently, but now he knew it to be a fact as only he would ever be able to know.
Elliot Burnside had been a proud man, back in his university days. A direct descendant of the famous Civil War General and U.S. Senator, Ambrose Burnside, who had commanded the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War, he had been expected to achieve tenure at the school and to go far. Physically, he had not been much to look at, being rather short and balding, and in his forties already developing a stoop from constantly bending over one workbench or another, for it was in the lab, rather than the classroom, that he shined and where his true interests lay.
He had been fired from his university job because he "went too far" in his experiments with artificial intelligence and artificial emotions and let one of his lab androids fall in love with his own wife. The result had been the death of the wife and the destruction of the android and a lot of sadness and bitterness for the doctor.
When Ronald 1101 had become so emotionally entangled with the doctor's wife, when the doctor's wife was encouraged by the doctor to lead him on and when Ronald had been denied the love and devotion of the woman he so craved, he had gone into a rage one evening at the doctor's home and had beaten Sylvia Burnside to death with his bare hands and then run amok in the community with her Mercedes, deliberately crashing into everything that had audacity enough to get in his way.
He was eventually put down by police gunfire, but not before he had caused another death, striking and running over a child with the car, not to mention racking up thousands of credits worth of damage to property. The doctor was lucky to escape the planet without a prison sentence. It was still being argued in legal circles as to whether and where his legal responsibility could be applied. Prior to that incident, there was no precedent for an android killing a human, outside the realm of the military.
Dr. Burnside had wound up on DSM #4 because he couldn't get a job anywhere else. His relentless pursuit of knowledge had soon led him back to his experiments, however, even in spite of all he had been through. Lately, prior to his death, he had been playing with the idea of placing all of his own intelligence, emotions and memories on a huge computer drive. Whether his goal was immortality of a sort was not even known to Benjamin, so murky were the depths of the doctor's motivations, but the doctor had been successful up to a point. He had actually put a good portion of the things that were uppermost in his very capable mind onto a set of computer compact disks in his lab, before the one fatal stroke that took away all of his pain and all of his sorrows.
Benjamin had found that particular set of disks and had downloaded them into his own memory banks. The result was that Benjamin 2108 now housed and controlled not only his own consciousness and personality, but also that of Dr. Burnside. At first, he had done a good job of keeping the doctor's mind and his own mind separate and apart, but that had not lasted long.
With each passing day, Benjamin found it harder and harder to distinguish his own thoughts and memories from those of Dr. Burnside, and even more chilling; he was beginning not to care.
Charlie Ramos was also in his quarters and he was also accessing the company computer, albeit in a more conventional manner. He was calling up and reading reports. Reports on the two murders, from the on-scene investigators. Pathology and lab reports. Reports on interviews with the few witnesses and many friends and acquaintances of the two victims.
He had been to the bar and had a couple drinks with Bethune and then he had come to his quarters, pleading a headache. "Probably the pressure," Bethune had commented, "you'll get used to it." Charlie read far into the night and he learned some interesting things.
Carrie Nobel was a prostitute, plain and simple. It was what she was hired for,(well, entertainer was her actual job description) and it was what she was all about. On the evening of her death, she had turned seven tricks that the company knew of for sure. There was a listing in the file of all of those persons, six men and one woman, who had been with Carrie. There was her I.D. photo, showing a full-face shot of a pretty young girl, with a slight, teasing smile, red hair and freckles.
Then there were the crime scene shots, showing her badly battered corpse, as it was found in the lifeboat escape pod in bay number eleven. There was a lot of blood. The pathologist's report indicated much battering and blood loss, but the cause of death was from manual strangulation, probably after she was already unconscious from the beating. A crime of passion, showing much rage, Charlie thought. Someone who was in love with her, or jealous, or wanted it to look that way.
The second death, four days later. Jake Williams, a miner. One of Carrie's customers? Possibly, but he wasn't on the list that night. But then the list only showed the outcalls and appointments. Bethune was on the list, but not Williams. Charlie stopped and thought about that. Bethune had said that Williams was Carrie's "sig oth". So maybe he wouldn't be on her list. Maybe she only made it with Williams when she was not working. Interesting. He moved on.
Williams had been found in one of the mineshafts, a long ways down, when he was off shift, by other workers. He had been shot with a firearm of some type. Something ancient enough to use smokeless powder and fire a .38 caliber slug. He had taken one slug, through the heart, at close range. There was powder residue on the outside of his pressure suit and its layers of rubberized fabric hadn't been sufficient to stop the bullet. The gun had yet to be found. There were not supposed to be any firearms on DSM #4, even for the company security men to use. A quick check of the armory records showed six compressed-gas riot guns and three types of ammo: Sticky nets, bean-bags and gas pellets. These guns were the only ones authorized and even they were to be used only in the direst emergencies and then only by trained personnel. Other firearms were banned because of the dangers of rapid depressurization of the environmental domes. Normally, the security men went about armed with batons, mace, and stun guns.
Charlie quickly read a little about the nifty device called the sticky-net. When shot out of its canister, it formed a net of extremely sticky rope, in which the perp became entangled and a special spray was then used to neutralize the stickiness, to get it off the prisoner. Seemed like it might be very effective.
At about four in the morning, there came a buzz on the intercom at Charlie's door. He answered it to find a security man, done up in the black BDU's and piping of the Consolidated Security force uniform.
"May I help you?"
"Yeah, I'm John Laww, DSM Security. Yeah, I know, John Law, Ha, Ha. I get that all the time. You the new computer tech?"
"That's me. Charlie Ramos." They shook hands and Charlie invited the tall, good-looking security man in. Charlie noticed he was carrying a laptop computer, an older model, fairly battered and he asked, "Computer problems?"
"Naw. Just cover. Bethune told me who you really are. I was passing by earlier and saw your light. I took a chance that you might still be up."
"Well, I hope he doesn't plan on telling everybody on DSM #4."
"I doubt that. The old man's pretty discreet. He told me because I was the one that did most of the work on the murders. He figured we could compare notes."
"Okay. I've been reading files and going over what happened. For having had two murders, though, there doesn't seem to be a lot of hard information here."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, for instance, in your own preliminary report on Williams. It says he was found in a tunnel. It doesn't say which tunnel, or exactly where the body was found. That could be critical in a trial."
"Wait a minute, hold on there. I spelled it out in detail, when I made that case. It was measured out to the millimeter." Moving closer to Charlie's computer terminal, he said, "Do you mind if I have a look?"
"Be my guest."
The young lawman sat down at the desk and called up his preliminary report, then some follow-up reports, scanning them quickly for content. At last he sat back and sighed, wiping his hand down across his face. "They've been altered." He said.
"Did you print out copies for yourself?"
"Yeah. I'll have to get those to you."
"What good would it do to edit the reports? Especially when the persons who made them can so easily correct or refute them?"
The security man thought for a minute, then he said, "It could be just a delaying tactic. Or several of us, who know what went on, may be in very real danger. If we were dead, we couldn't testify that anything had been changed."
"But how many people know the truth?" Charlie asked.
"Lots. But the truth is relative. Like the man said, "Which truth do ya wanna hear?"
"Let's talk about suspects. Got anybody in mind?"
"Yeah. Every swingin' dick on this ice cube, right now, except me and you, and I don't know about you."
Charlie smiled and said, "Rest easy on that one, friend. I wasn't even here."
John Laww smiled right back and said, "That's what they all say."
The security man took his leave a few minutes later, after telling Charlie that he would bring copies of his reports to Charlie later, after he was off duty. After he left, Charlie sat back down at the computer and set about finding the back door into the system. In twenty minutes, he was deep inside the main computer, down at the levels where the computer operated, rather than at the levels human operators normally use. He was looking to see who had modified certain files and what password they used, to gain access. In another ten minutes he had an answer of a sort. The modified files could not be switched back, but the operator's password was "Bucky."
Charlie stepped inside the bar and looked around. It was the next evening and he had spent the day fixing computers and lounging around, talking with androids whenever things were slow. He had learned that most of the androids on DSM four didn't spend much time with humans, or take any interest in what humans spent their time doing. The exception seemed to be Benjamin 2108, who had a keen interest in every aspect of human life. Charlie was wondering about him.
The decibel level in the bar was about the same as one would expect at a facility for testing jet engines. The synthesized music had a pulsing, pounding beat that just went on and on, never seeming to get anywhere and never diminishing in intensity. The walls and ceiling pulsed to the music with swirls and stabs of gyrating color. In cages suspended near the ceiling, two android girls danced, nude except for sparkly body paint and tireless. Charlie took it all in, noting the presence of Walter Bethune, at a table back in the rear corner, opposite the bar, in the company of several miners and two prostitutes. The place was packed and it wasn't too hard to make it to the bar without coming to the notice of the bear-like manager. Charlie ordered a whiskey sour and settled on a stool, next to a small woman wearing too much makeup and too little clothing. His ass had hardly hit the stool before she pounced.
"Hi, good-lookin', you're new here, aren't cha?"
"Yeah. Just came in on the Galileo, the other day."
She stuck out her hand. "I'm Janey. Company girl. I'm available, if you're in the mood."
He took her small, firm hand and they shook. "Charlie Ramos." She seemed reluctant to let go, so they held hands for a moment.
"Can we just talk, for a few minutes?"
"I'm on the clock. If you wanna talk, we should go to my crib. It's private and it's not so loud. We won't have to yell."
Charlie nodded and she slipped off her stool, waving to the bartender, who wrote something on a pad. She led Charlie out a side door and down a corridor lined with rooms, stopping at one on the left and using a keypad to gain entry. Inside, there was a bed, a nightstand and an adjoining bathroom.
"Would you like to undress me, Charlie?"
"I really just wanted to talk, Janey."
"Sure. I know that, but eventually, we'll wind up in bed, so why not get started? I mean, this is costing you money, right?"
"Yeah, I guess." She kicked off her shoes and reached behind her back, to untie the strings of the filmy top she wore, evidently deciding that Charlie must be shy. "Did you know Carrie Nobel?" Charlie asked.
Her hand stopped, without untying anything and she looked down at her bed, as if she had just noticed it for the first time. "Yeah. I knew her real well. We were best friends, sorta."
"Tell me about her, Janey."
Janey sat down on the bed, suddenly dejected, her hands folded in her lap, her interest now on the floor. "What are you, some kinda bug? She's dead. Why you wanna talk about dead people?"
"Just curious. Did she have any enemies?"
"Hell, no. She was probably the most popular of all us girls. An' you know what she really wanted? She wanted to go back to Mars, when her tour was over, an' take the money she made, an' open her own greenhouse. She loved plants, an' she said people on Mars get so goofy over anything green that she could make a million bucks. Instead, some asshole killed her."
"Got any ideas about who that asshole might be?"
"Not a clue, babe." She went back to untying and pulled off her top, freeing a set of medium-sized breasts that were nothing spectacular.
"She have a special guy, or anything?"
"Nope. She knew better than that. It just leads to trouble. Whenever she or I needed companionship, we had each other." She had slipped out of her bottom garment now, a pair of shiny pink satin hot pants, and she pushed her self back onto the bed, posing for Charlie provocatively.
"How far did this companionship go, Janey? I mean...were you intimate?"
"That's not a very nice question, Charlie," she said. She spread her legs and began playing with herself. "but I'll still answer it. I can swing either way. Carrie could, too, if it was for money. Otherwise, she was strictly hetero." Charlie watched her stroking herself and noted a small tattoo of a heart, just outboard of her bush, on her inner thigh. Lost art, he thought vaguely.
"Did you see her, the night she was killed?" Charlie was starting to smell her, now, a ripe odor of heated female, not rank, but sexy.
Janey's voice was softer, as she answered. "Earlier in the evening, yeah. Then we both got...busy. It was payday, y'know?" She rose up and knee-walked across the bed and pushed herself up against Charlie, unbuttoning his shirt. As she kissed his chest, his hands were on the small narrowness of her waist and he stopped thinking of questions, at least for a little while. She turned her face up to his, demanding to be kissed and his hands slid down her back to cup the round firmness of her bottom.
"Y'know, for a hundred credits, you could make this an all-nighter."
Sex with Janey had been slow, sweet, and intense. Charlie had never been with a hooker before and she was good at her trade, sensing in her companions what they desired and adjusting her techniques accordingly. She was only as aggressive as she needed to be to get him started. After that, she just pleased him.
"Sounds like a good deal, to me." Charlie said.
Janey picked up the phone, on the nightstand, waited a moment, then said, "Put me down for the rest of the night. Thanks. Bye." Then she switched out the light.
At the same time that Charlie was checking out the pink satin hot pants, Benjamin 2108 was plugged into the company computer, catching up on the day's activities. He checked through the daily list of logon activity first and found a new password. Someone was using a password he'd never seen before. Most people used the same set of passwords over and over, replacing one with another only when the system forced them to. He had files on those and he knew who everyone was, but this one was new.
Of course, there were actually seventeen new passwords, belonging to the new hires, but only this one had top-level clearance, clearance to see anything. Therefore, only this one was dangerous. He initiated a search, to see how many times the new password had been used and to access what files. In seconds, he realized that this new person was accessing files having to do with the recent murders. That was very dangerous. He sat back and thought about it for a moment and then he realized what it meant. The special investigator was here, working under cover and he was already into the reports. So, who was he? Who was this person with the password "EagleEye?"
He continued to check files and at last, he found where Charlie had logged on from his computer terminal in his quarters. Benjamin knew that terminal and its location. He'd worked on it once, so it was in his personal files. Charlie Ramos was EagleEye. Benjamin also noted that another person had logged from the same terminal, just after Charlie signed off. The password was DeputyDog. John Laww, the security man. So, Charlie Ramos was the investigator. So simple. So very, very simple.
Charlie sat at his bench, thinking about everything that had transpired the night before. His liaison with Janey had cost him time, but gained him some knowledge. According to Janey, Carrie had no enemies and no significant other. Why had Bethune lied about that? Or was he just misinformed? He had seemed very sure of his information. Or very sure of what he wanted Charlie to believe. He had made sure he told Charlie all about how Jake Williams was Carrie's guy, maybe to cover a different motive for Jake's death. But what motive would there be, on Ganymede, for a miner to kill another miner? Oops. There I go again, Charlie thought, making assumptions. It could have been anybody that killed him, not just a miner.
If there were no drugs coming in, as Bethune had assured him, what about something going out? Was it possible to smuggle Ganydium off this ice-world, for personal profit? Charlie realized he didn't really know much about the new element and he would need to know more before he could look in that direction for a motive.
Just before his quitting time, John Laww called and asked if they could get together after dinner, at Charlie's quarters, to go over reports. Charlie said he'd be there and that would be fine.
Meat loaf was not one of Charlie's favorites. The fact that it was all made with synthetics, having never been part of a cow or any other animal, didn't make it any more palatable. He sat in the cafeteria, picking at the food, for an acceptable amount of time, before he left and went to his room.
He'd scarcely been in quarters long enough to shower, when the door buzzer went off and John Laww came in, with a walkie-talkie in one hand and an expanding file in the other. He was dressed in a blazer and slacks and a turtleneck shirt.
He said he had bar duty later and the company didn't like them in the bar in the regular duty uniform. They sat at the small table in the living-dining area and he started filling Charlie in on the files he'd brought.
"Here are the crime scene reports, as written, both by me and the other investigator. He's rotated to another assignment now. Here are the lab reports on blood, tissue, fibers, etc. And here are the Medical Officer's reports on both autopsies. Follow-up reports, interviews with witnesses, it just goes on and on. Ought to keep you busy for a while."
"I appreciate you letting me have these."
"No problem. I wish we had a full-time guy, to do this stuff. We don't, so it kind of gets passed around. Far as I know, we've never had a homicide before, let alone a double." He looked at his watch. "I guess I'd better get going. I'll leave you to it."
Charlie let him out, and came back to the table, adjusting the lighting for high contrast, and he picked up the first file.
By midnight, Charlie had learned some interesting things. Williams had been found on the seventh level, near a tunnel that had been closed off for a week before his death. He had been seen in that area by other miners the day before and when he came up missing, they checked the closed areas as well as the ones currently being mined. It appeared that he had been dragged there from another location, but investigators were unable to determine where the shooting had originally taken place. His body had been sent back to relatives on the next shuttle, less than eight hours after his discovery. Why the hurry? They had cold storage facilities they could put him in and keep him indefinitely. Was it to get him off Ganymede before the Federation investigator showed up?
Charlie flipped through some files and found Carrie Nobel's disposition of remains form. She had been sent to Mars on the same shuttle, even though it was not a direct flight and would require additional expense because of transfer at Saturn station. Charlie decided it was time to talk to the Medical Officer and to see John Laww about examining the victims' personal effects.
Charlie called the security number and went through a dispatcher, who said he would page Laww to call Charlie's number. A few minutes passed and then the phone rang. Charlie caught it on the second ring. It was Laww.
"How soon do you get off work?" Charlie asked.
"Bout fifteen minutes, why, you find something?"
"Not really. I just wondered if I could look through the two victims' personal effects."
"Not a problem. All of Williams' stuff was turned in, and his personal area has been reoccupied. They just have kind of a bunk and locker arrangement, in a barracks, anyway. Carrie's rooms were sealed, so you can look there all you want. I can let you in there. When I get off here, I can get the key and meet you, or come by your quarters."
"Okay, I'll just wait here."
While Charlie waited, he thought about what possible motives there might be for killing a miner, besides jealousy over a woman. Money? Something secret, that needed to remain hidden? Drugs? What about the weapon? Was someone here an antique collector? And how did they get an old gun into the facility?
When the door buzzer went off, Charlie realized he had killed a half-hour going over possibilities. He opened up, and John Laww walked in carrying two plastic bags of clothing and personal gear. "These were Williams' personal stuff. Do you want to go through this now, or after you look over Carrie's place?"
"Later. I can do that as I get time, if you don't mind me being responsible for it."
"Not at all. It's all signed out to me. Then if you're ready, we can go to Carrie's."
"I'm ready." Charlie said.
He and Laww walked through some corridors, some familiar and some not. Charlie realized they were going to the same general area where Janey had taken him the night before. The security man stopped before a door and produced a key. On the door was a bright red crime scene seal, advising everyone to keep out under penalty of jail-time.
As they entered, Charlie looked around and saw residue from fingerprint powder and a number of places where lifts had been pulled with tape.
"Get any prints that seemed strange?"
"Naw. We already crosschecked 'em all against known customers. Nothing surprising."
Charlie roamed about the crime scene, in what might have appeared as a random manner, but he was looking over many minute details. He was seeing the unmade bed, a scrap of sandwich uneaten on a plate, a half pot of coffee left in the coffee maker, now rancid and starting to mold.
"She wasn't on duty when this happened, was she?"
"No, she wasn't. How'd you know?"
"She was called away from a meal, and she had just gotten up, probably from sleeping in the daytime. This happened in the evening, prior to her normal work time?"
Charlie nodded and scratched the back of his head, looking at the floor. "Did you check phone calls, incoming?"
"Yeah. Nothing after about nine A.M. on that day."
Charlie crossed to the bed and looked around and behind it, pulling it away from the wall. He examined the mattress and spring assembly, pulled the pillow out of its case. Then he sat on the bed, looking around. His glance traveled upward to the suspended ceiling and he saw one tile that had smudges around its edges. He stood and grabbed the one chair in the room and stepped up, pushing the panel up and aside. "Got a flashlight?" he asked John Laww.
Laww produced a small pencil light, and Charlie scanned above the ceiling, then with a sigh, he carefully reached in and pulled out a Colt Detective Special in .38 Caliber, holding it dangling by the trigger guard.
"Well, fuck me!" John Laww said, producing a plastic evidence bag from his suit jacket pocket. Charlie dropped the gun in and said, "Score one for our side."
He rose up again, looking for anything more of interest and saw a scrap of paper. He carefully picked it up by the extreme corner and brought it down. It appeared to have been torn from a blue lined notebook and there was handwriting on it. It read, "Meet me 19:00, usual place." It was signed with a flourish, "E. B."
Another evidence bag, another exclamation of consternation from the security man.
"Don't worry about it," Charlie said, "sometimes you miss the most obvious things. In a place like this, almost everyone will have a secret stash of some kind. I'm surprised we didn't find more."
"Well, I guess this sort of explains one of the killings." Laww said.
"No, not really, John. Didn't Carrie die first?"
"Oh, hell, that's right."
"Yeah, and if that turns out to be the weapon that killed Williams, what's it doing here?"
"Yeah. It couldn't have been planted to implicate her-she was already dead."
"What if it was put here because somebody knew this place was already searched and sealed, and figured it would be safe here?"
"Well, everybody knew this place was sealed. I don't get it."
"Neither do I," Charlie said, "and I'll wait on lab results before I start guessing."
"Okay, I'll check both the note and the gun for prints and test-fire it for comparison with the slug that killed Williams and then I'll get back with you."
Charlie went back to his quarters and went through the personal belongings of miner Jake Williams. He found nothing of interest, except a small pocket notebook. In it there were some cryptic notes the man had written to himself, everything from what appeared to be shopping lists to reminders: "Meet W.B. 0900, his off." Walter Bethune? "Check on E.B. for Carrie." There was "E.B." again. The same "E.B." as in the note in Carrie's ceiling?
Charlie called up a list of employees on the computer. There were no less than six persons on the facility with the initials E.B. Which one would need to be checked on, for Carrie? And why?
Charlie sighed and repacked all of Jake Williams' property into the evidence bags. More questions, but no answers. It was four in the morning, company time. A good time to go for a walk. He called up a computer map of the facility and scrolled through the tunnel complexes, memorizing the way to where Williams had been found. Then he got into his luggage and got out a small but powerful flashlight and left his quarters.
Six minutes found him at the main access portal into the pressurized area that comprised the entrance of Consolidated Deep Space Mine #4. He had expected to find a security man, someone that he might have to bluff his way past, but the airlock was unattended. Charlie pressed the button to open the outer door and with a loud "clack", the solenoid disengaged and the steel door swung slightly ajar. He pulled it open far enough to step in and pulled it back closed, hearing the dogs engage.
He looked around a large changing area, filled with pressure suits hanging on racks. He saw compressed air outlets every few feet around the walls. Most of the suits were filthy, there being no reason to clean them. Charlie supposed it would be a losing battle, trying to keep a suit clean, in a mine. The only halfway clean suits had "visitor" emblazoned across the chest and back. These would stand out like a sore thumb. Just what he didn't want.
He roamed a little, looking for a suit to borrow. No matter which one he picked, he took a chance that its owner might show up for work while he was snooping. He knew he needed to hurry, because someone might show up at any moment, so at last he picked a suit that looked about the right size and clambered into it. He was going to be "J. Morgan", it appeared.
As soon as he had it on, he went to one of the air valves and topped off the suit's system with compressed air. This was not a suit that was designed to go for hours on its own air supply, but one that would provide a safe environment long enough for a miner to get out, in the event of a pressure drop. The visor on the helmet was designed to remain open until a sudden pressure drop would trip its sensor, then it would slam shut and seal and the suit's internal air supply would come on.
Charlie waddled clumsily to the inner door and tripped the mechanism to cycle the lock. He stepped inside a real airlock and felt a slight pressure change, then the inner door swung open and he entered the bowels of Deep Space Mine #4.
The floor under Charlie's feet was coated with some type of traction material, but the walls were almost a hundred percent ice. He should have been cold, but his own nervousness and the effort of walking the clumsy suit along were keeping him heated up. Twice he passed other miners coming back up from below, but they paid him no attention. He reached the elevators without incident and opened a cage and got in. Closing the cage door, he set the selector to the bottom level and started down. The elevator moved about three times faster than any such device he'd ever ridden before and he was quickly at the bottom level of the mine.
Stepping from the cage, he swung his flashlight around. The tunnels were dimly lighted and had narrow tracks laid on the floor for mining carts. He had a choice of three ways to go and he immediately struck off to his right. Seventy meters up this tunnel was where William's body had been found, the crime-scene photos showing him lying on the floor, sprawled right on the rails. Charlie doubted that he had been hauled from another level. The elevator cages passed right by each other. Would the perp have taken a chance on being seen with a body in the elevator cage? He doubted it. So Williams was probably shot down here, then drug to where he was found. But why move the body?
Charlie walked the tunnel for at least a hundred meters, then turned back. Nothing to see there. He came back to the elevators and went down the tunnel to the left. Another hundred-yard walk and nothing to see but dim lights and tracks. He continued on a ways, and came to a dead end, where mining had stopped in favor of some other area, where there was more Ganydium.
He went back and started down the third tunnel and had barely passed the first curve when he came to a blank wooden wall with a door installed and a sturdy padlock. A sign plastered on the door read, "Closed by order of Manager. Tunnel is unstable. Do not enter without permission of W. Bethune." He hadn't thought to bring any kind of pry bar and it was for sure that he wouldn't get in there with his bare hands. But why the wall? Wouldn't a simple sign and a barricade or sawhorse be just as effective? Surely the miners would know enough to stay out of any area that was unsafe. There had to be more to this than just an unstable tunnel. As Charlie started back to the elevator, he wondered if that same tunnel had recently rung to the sound of gunfire.
Benjamin 2108 sat in the darkness of his quarters. Rest time was a joke for androids, and everybody knew it, but they were still expected to take personal time every day and get away from their jobs. He wondered if this policy was because of guilt feelings that humans harbored about him and his kind.
Androids were not placed on DSM Ganymede for any two-year hitch. They were assigned here permanently. And that would be okay, if you never had seen Earth or Mars. If you had never smelled a corn field in the spring or heard traffic sounds from a penthouse balcony. If you had never petted a dog, or had a woman.
Benjamin 2108 had had all of these experiences and millions more. Not in his own incarnation as a machine, but through the memories of Dr. Burnside, which had become so integrated with his own memories, that he could scarce tell them apart now.
He had seen sunsets and smelled forest fires, flown in airplanes and attended important meetings, gone fishing and walked beaches. And he had loved. There was Sylvia, the one he had loved the most and when he thought of her, his chest ached. He had been so foolish as to get her killed. Dr. Burnside had been so foolish, he corrected himself. But he could still see her and hear her voice, smell her hair. He could feel her body moving under him and it was not just Sylvia. There had been others. Most recently there had been Carrie.
Carrie had been the Doctor's special girl. At one time or another, Dr. Burnside had sampled almost all of the company girls on DSM #4, but Carrie was special to him. There had been something about her that the Doctor found attractive and he had been with her more than any other. Of course, most of the time, at least at first, he'd had to pay her money. But then it got to be a friendship as well as a business arrangement and the money had become unimportant.
Dr. Burnside was a man who had been gifted with the ability to listen and Carrie had used him to get past her emotional ups and downs and in some ways to keep her sanity and her self esteem intact, in a place where she was largely treated like a piece of meat.
He was the only man in this hellhole who treated her like a person, like a lady really, and their relationship had come as close to love as either of them would allow. Benjamin knew all of this in a way that no one else ever would. He had the memories.
Now, as his thoughts went back to Carrie Nobel and the relationship that he (Dr. Burnside) had had with her, he thought about the way she looked the last time he had seen her. He saw once again her eyes bulging out of their sockets, her blackened tongue and all the blood. So much blood...
Charlie got a phone call just before noon the following day, from John Laww. The gun was the same one used to kill Jake Williams and there were no prints on it at all. It had been wiped clean. The only prints on the note belonged to Carrie Nobel.
After work, Charlie dropped in at the bar, as much to see who might be available to talk with, as to get a drink. The drink, he didn't need. He needed information. Patterns were starting to emerge from the murk of this closed society, isolated by itself, over 480 million miles from the sun. Soon, he knew from experience, something would break, someone would talk, a key would be placed in his hand. Keeping an open mind and being able to recognize that key might be tricky, but that was why they paid him the big bucks, he thought, with a wry smile.
As soon as he walked in the door, he glanced back at Walter Bethune's customary table. The burly manager was there, with a few of his regulars, a couple miners and a couple of the bar girls. Charlie tried not to notice him, but Bethune's slightly high-pitched voice cut right through the thumping bass resonance of the constant music and hailed him over. As Charlie approached the table, the others melted away, suddenly remembering other pressing engagements.
"Hey, Charlie," the manager smiled up at him, "what're ya drinkin'?"
"Bloody Mary, with extra Tabasco and a twist of lime."
One of the barmaids stepped close and the manager ordered their drinks, then after the girl left, Bethune leaned across the table and said, "I heard you made a little unauthorized trip down into the mine early this morning."
Charlie held up both hands, smiled and said, "Guilty." He was trying to keep the conversation light, but Bethune wasn't having any of it.
"Tell me, Charlie, are you a mining systems engineer?"
"Are you a licensed miner?"
"Are you a miner's apprentice?"
"Have you ever even been in a mine before?"
"Not even once."
"Then, what the hell did you think you were doing?"
"Just having a look around."
"Charlie, a mine is a dangerous place."
"I know that."
"No, you don't know it. You can't really grasp what I'm talking about until you've seen a mine cave-in or a pressure blowout, or an explosion. Now, just so there's no misunderstanding from here on out, do not, I repeat, do not go into that mine again without my knowledge and without an escort. Are we clear on this?"
"Good. Ah, here's our drinks."
Charlie stirred his drink with the celery stalk that came in it, wondering how much it cost to ship celery here from Earth and also wondering how far he could push Bethune.
"I didn't see much of anything while I was down there, anyway. I just went to the spot where Williams was found."
"Not much to see, huh?"
"No. Not much to see. Tell me, why is tunnel number seven walled off?"
"To keep people out." the manager said, and something about his voice and the way his eyes shifted, made Charlie's alarm bells go off.
"Because it's unstable."
"That's right, and there's not enough Ganydium in that area to make it economically feasible to go in and shore it all up."
"I see. But just how unstable is it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Would a man walking through there cause a cave-in?"
"Doubtful, but we're not taking that chance."
"So, it would probably take machinery rumbling around down there to really be dangerous."
"I didn't say that..."
"I want you to take me through tunnel seven, Mr. Bethune."
"Out of the question."
"I told you, it's unstable."
"I'm willing to take the risk."
"Well, I'm not."
Changing tack, Charlie said, "Tell me about Ganydium."
He saw the look of relief cross the man's face, quickly covered up, as the manager took a drink from his glass, then the narrowing of his eyes, as he began to wonder where the conversation was going now.
"What do you want to know?"
"Could it be smuggled out of here?"
The manager chuckled, at ease again in his kingdom, and said, "No way, Charlie. We still don't know everything there is to know about the stuff, but it does have its own unique radiation pattern. It's not highly radioactive, but our detectors would pick it up if you tried to leave with some stuck up your butt or something."
"Well, that answers that question, then."
"Are you telling me that you've been here three days and that's the best you can do on these murders? Smuggling?"
"Working from a position of cover can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, Mr. Bethune. I may be around here for quite a while, before I get all the loose ends figured out." Bethune was needling him now, Charlie thought, trying to pump him for information, trying to find out where the investigation was going.
"So, ya got any firm leads?" What balls, Charlie thought. He's either worried, or he thinks I'm stupid.
"Nah. Nothing firm yet," Charlie said, rising to take his leave, "see ya later, Mr. Bethune."
As he started to walk away, Bethune said, "Stay out of my mine."
Charlie turned back and stared at the man, then said, "Pardon me?"
"Stay out of my mine. It's dangerous. Something could happen to ya."
"Is that a threat?" Charlie couldn't believe the man could be so brazen.
Bethune just smiled and shrugged his big shoulders.
Mildly pissed, Charlie walked away.
In the bar, the music thumped and droned on.
Charlie stalked down the corridor, headed back to his quarters, still slightly miffed by the words of the manager. Like I couldn't lay a Federal Warrant on his ass any time I wanted to, and take this place over. He's got something he's hiding, and I'm going to find out what it is...deep in his own thoughts, he turned a corner and nearly ran straight into the tall figure of Benjamin 2108.
"Hey, Ben. Where ya headed?"
"Hi, Mr. Ramos. I'm going back to the shop. Got four personal computers down that need to be up by morning." He smiled at Charlie. "Thought I'd get some overtime."
Charlie caught the witticism, the fact that androids were not paid personnel, so overtime was a common joke to them.
"Well, I don't have anything to do, so I'll give you a hand."
"Really not necessary, Mr. Ramos. I can handle it."
"I'm sure you could, Ben, but why should you have all the fun?"
They went back to the shop and they were soon up to their elbows in computer parts and circuit boards. Charlie really just wanted a chance to talk with the big android, to see if he could work him for information.
"Ben," he began, in an offhand manner, "do you trust Mr. Bethune?"
"I don't trust anyone who's human." the android said, "No offense intended."
"None taken. Why is that, Ben?"
"They're all so self-centered. Each has his own little agenda. Promotion is one of the biggies around here. Money is another. Most want to accumulate all they can and get off of this ice cube. I, on the other hand, am here permanently. I see them come and go and I remain."
This seemed to Charlie to be a bit philosophical for an android. "How long have you been here, Ben?"
"All my life," Ben said, a wistful tone creeping into his voice, "I was activated here."
A strange thought occurred to Charlie and he asked, "Ben, what levels do you have access to, in the computers?"
"There is nothing here that I cannot access," the android answered.
"Then you probably know more about the people here than anyone else."
"Yes, I'm sure I do. My files are extensive."
"What do you know about me?"
"I know that you are really an investigator, sent here by the Federation to clear up two murders."
Charlie stood at his bench, looking over at the tall, blonde android. At last he said, "Ben, how would you feel about helping me nail the son-of-a-bitch that did these crimes?"
"I would like very much to nail the son-of-a-bitch, Charlie."
"Okay, tell me this. Who has the password, "Bucky?"
"Walter Bethune, the manager."
"Why am I not surprised? Okay, here's another one for ya. I went down into the mine this morning and Bethune knew all about it. I know nobody saw me. How the hell did he find out?"
"He has a set of surveillance cameras buried in the walls down there. He surely saw you on those."
"I want to go back down there, Ben. I want to know what's in tunnel number seven. Is there a way I can get in and out unseen? A back way, maybe?"
"No. No back way. But why not just loop the cameras?"
"I'm sorry, do what?"
"Just record a segment of non-activity and play it over and over for the monitors."
"So Bethune will see...."
"Ben, I like the way your mind works."
"Yeah, pretty devious for an android, huh?"
"Very. Tell me, what do you know about Carrie Nobel?"
It was as though Charlie had asked the big android about the Ultimate Question in the Universe. Is there a God? Is there a beginning? Is there an end? Benjamin froze in place for about fifteen seconds and Charlie was really starting to worry, when just as suddenly he was back. Something seemed to click and the android said, "Nice girl. Although I didn't know her well, she always treated me as more or less of an equal. A rarity around here."
"Ben, I searched her quarters earlier and one of the things I found was a note to her from someone who signed himself "E.B." Any ideas on who that might be?"
"Dr. Elliot Burnside," the android said, without any hesitation, "they had a thing going."
"Yeah, they were lovers. At first he paid her, but later, they got to know each other and she stopped taking his money."
"So you knew all about that?"
"Not while it was going on. I didn't find out until after the Doctor died."
"She told you?"
"No, it was...in his memoirs."
"He left memoirs? That's interesting. Could I see them?"
Instantly Charlie sensed that he had gone too far, as the android turned to pick up a soldering iron and pulled a magnifier closer. "I destroyed them. I read them, then destroyed them."
"Why would you do that? Surely you must have realized that any information in them could be crucial to my investigation."
"Why? Dr. Burnside was already dead when Carrie was killed. Besides, there was a lot of private stuff in there. I wouldn't have felt comfortable releasing any of it."
"Okay," Charlie felt a little frustrated that the Doctor's memoirs would be unavailable, "let's talk about Dr. Burnside. Did you like him?"
"He was my mentor." Benjamin said, "I think he was as close to a father as I could have asked for."
"Did you work on any of his projects with him?"
"All of them."
"Artificial intelligence programs, artificial emotions, all kinds of robotic improvements. The man was as full of ideas as anyone I've ever met."
"These artificial emotion programs, weren't they what got him in trouble back on Earth?"
"Not the programs specifically. The result of poor judgment maybe, involving the experimental use of the programs. There was an android named Ronald, who had the program installed and fell in love with Dr. Burnside's wife. Rather than shut down the experiment, the Doctor encouraged it. The result was several deaths."
"That's horrible. To instill an android with human emotions and then not provide an outlet for them is criminal."
"Tell me about it." Benjamin said.
Charlie thought for a moment about this last remark, then asked quietly, "Did the Doctor install the program in you, Benjamin?"
Ben was silent for a moment, then he turned and looked at Charlie and, incredibly, there was a tear in his eye. His voice was husky as he said, "Yeah. He did."
"Have you had any problems with it, so far?"
"Well, for a while there, I had quite an infatuation with Carrie. She wasn't interested though."
Unrequited love, Charlie thought and he asked, point-blank, "Did you kill her, Ben?"
"No! God, no! I have much better control than Ronald ever did. It tore me up when I found her body, though."
"You found her?"
Again the tears and the big android swiped at them angrily with his hands, "Yeah. She was in one of the escape pods on the lifeboat deck. I saw her go up there earlier and it was where she and Dr. Burnside used to meet. A little later, it occurred to me that she might be meeting someone else and I got curious..."
"So you went to check it out?"
"Yeah, and when I got up there, everything was still and quiet and I thought I'd missed her, but then I smelled the blood and I went and found her."
"Would you be willing to run a self-analysis and put it on one of the monitors, so I can see it?"
"I guess so. Why?"
"Might be a quick way for me to clear you as a suspect."
"Then, let's go for it."
In a few minutes, Benjamin 2108 was hooked into one of the computers on the repair bench and Charlie was reading his program files and hardware configurations. He found that Ben's Asimov chip had been left intact and he also found the sub-files relating to the artificial emotions. Attached to those sub files was another extensive file labeled, "EBMEM.AOS." Charlie knew that AOS stood for android operating system, but EBMEM?
When Charlie asked about that particular file, Benjamin said it was where he kept all of his memories of Dr. Elliot Burnside. It sounded plausible, but the delivery was just a bit too casual. Charlie wondered. Would the installation of the artificial emotions somehow block or modify the actions of the Asimov chip, allowing Ben to be able, under certain stresses, to become violent? Ben's analysis did not clear him, in Charlie's opinion. It only made his motivations less clear.
Charlie's next foray into the Consolidated Deep Space Mine #4 came at two o'clock the following morning. In preparation, he and Ben had called up all of the video cameras on tunnel seven and its adjacent levels and made video files for each, then looped them in the computer, to play over and over. The manager's monitors would show no activity while they were snooping.
Ben had asked to go along and Charlie could really find no reason not to take him. Charlie took his flashlight, with a fresh charge, and a set of bolt cutters for the lock. If he searched tunnel number seven and found nothing, he could apologize to Bethune later and buy him a brand new shiny padlock.
It was cramped inside the small elevator with both he and Benjamin 2108, as Charlie descended into the mine. Upon their arrival at the bottom level, they wasted no time, but went directly to the wall across tunnel #7 and cut the lock off. Then they were inside.
Tunnel #7 appeared to be just like any other tunnel, in the light from Charlie's flashlight. It did not appear unstable, but then Charlie might not have recognized signs of instability in a tunnel nearly as readily as he could in a human. As they proceeded down its considerable length, Charlie wondered how unstable Bethune was going to become when he found out they had violated his orders and invaded his precious tunnel.
At last, they reached the end of the long, mined-out stretch of real estate that was tunnel #7 and they came to a barricade and a parked boring machine. Charlie immediately asked, "Now, why would they leave one of their machines here, if the tunnel's unstable? These things're expensive. Wouldn't they be concerned about losing it to a cave-in?"
"Beats me," Ben replied, "but there's an opening back here."
Charlie moved around to where Ben was standing and then he too was able to see an opening near the floor, where the boring machine had broken through into what appeared to be a natural cavern. Charlie could see that it was just large enough for them to squeeze through, one at a time.
As he turned and got down on his knees, preparing to slide himself in, Ben said, "You're not going in there...?"
"Hell, yes, I'm going in there. Bethune's hiding something and I have to know what it is. You coming?"
Ben thought for a moment, then said, "Hell, yes!" Charlie was liking the android better all the time.
Carefully, so as to avoid rips and snags to their pressure suits, Charlie and Benjamin slid through the opening and dropped four feet into pitch darkness, relieved only slightly by Charlie's flashlight. As they stood up and looked around, Charlie recognized walls of smooth metallic finish and he realized they were inside a room, even though the walls did not meet at correct angles. It appeared that the entire room, which was about fifteen feet to a side, was pushed out of shape. Charlie flashed his light around until he found a spot that was buckled and realized that the room had once been straight, but because of pressure, it was now in this haphazard condition.
"What do ya think?" he asked Ben nervously.
"Interesting. There's a door over there."
"Yeah. I see it. Looks like a pressure-tight arrangement. Shall we continue?"
"We need information. We won't get it standing here."
"True enough." Charlie said, and led off. They stepped through the raised door (hatch, Charlie thought) and he shined his light on tiers of bunks aligned on one wall and massive pipes passing down another. Ahead, another door. Stepping through this one, a door to the left, one to the right, another straight ahead. Charlie shined his light into the left doorway first and found what appeared to be a gun emplacement. Something about human size, dried to a mummified husk, lay in the corner. He stepped closer and took in deep empty eye sockets, huge nostrils, fang-like teeth and feathery-looking hair, all on an elongated, misshapen skull that resembled no animal he had ever seen.
He shined his light into the right-hand doorway and saw a storage area. Bulky forms of boxes and crates with unrecognizable characters painted on them filled the shadowy interior. Some were broken open, their contents equally mysterious. He continued on, moving through the next doorway.
He flashed his light around the next compartment and found it to be a lot larger, about forty feet to a side. Huge darkened screens covered three walls and there was a control pit set into the floor, where more desiccated forms huddled. Near this, a recent bloodstain and footprints in the dust, along with drag marks. Charlie found himself looking at the crime scene of the Jake Williams homicide.
"It's a ship." Ben said from behind him, and Charlie gave an involuntary start at the sound.
"Yeah, it's a ship. And it isn't one of ours."
"Hundreds, maybe thousands of years...."
"Yeah. Do you know what this means?"
"Yeah. First contact with intelligent species, other than man."
"Well, first evidence. Can't really call it contact." Ben said.
"So, Bethune knew it was here, and Jake Williams knew it was here. And Jake died right here. Wonder if Carrie knew?"
"Doesn't matter. We're in trouble, either way. Bethune will want you dead and he'll have my memory erased to keep his little secret."
"Yeah, the technology alone...."
"Would be worth billions. So right. Like I said about humans. Money motivation and all that. I wonder if he's even been in contact with the company about this?"
"I doubt it. Flashlight's getting dim," Charlie commented, "we'd better get out of here."
They made their way back through the broken alien ship, entombed in ice hundreds of feet below the surface of Ganymede and crawled out of the small opening and back into the dim lighting of tunnel #7. They had hiked about halfway back up the tunnel, when Charlie noticed they were not alone.
Ahead of Charlie and Ben, standing in the dimly lighted tunnel, was another figure in a pressure suit. Charlie strained his eyes, trying to identify who it might be, but there just wasn't enough ambient light to be able to put a face with the figure. Then the figure raised an arm, straight out at them and a gunshot whined off the ice, just to Charlie's right.
"Shit!" Charlie hollered, looking for cover. There was none. Then Benjamin 2108 stepped in front of Charlie and said, "Stay behind me!"
The figure in the tunnel continued shooting, then Charlie heard the gun clicking on empty cylinders and the figure turned and ran. In front of him, Ben began to sag and wobble, then went to his knees. Charlie grabbed him, holding him upright, gasping, "Ben! Where did he hit ya?"
The android was unable to answer, but Charlie could see two bullet holes in the chest area of his pressure suit.
Charlie hesitated only a moment, then he took off, sprinting as best he could in the clumsy pressure suit, up to the end of tunnel #7 and into the intersecting corridor. When he got there, he could already hear the sound of the elevator rattling as it started its long ascent up the shaft. He stopped, already aware that he was too late, and turned around, heading back to where the wounded android lay.
When he got back there, he dropped to his knees and began opening the front of Ben's pressure suit, in order to assess the damage. Just then, Ben became alert again and pushed Charlie's hands away, saying, "It's okay. It's okay. I can make it. Just had to shut a few systems down. I'll be okay."
"Can you make it to the shop?"
"I think so, yeah. I lost a lung, but we've got spares. Didn't get my heart. How's my head look?"
"Ugly as ever," Charlie said with a grin, "let's see if we can get you up."
"I never, uh, liked you, Ramos, uh, right from, the start..." Ben gasped, as Charlie helped him stand. There was a crooked grin on his face that might have been caused by some electronic malfunction.
"Yeah, right. Let's go. Can you make it?"
"Can I go to Bethune's trial?"
"Damn right, you can."
"Then I'll make it."
Together, they shuffled to the elevator shaft and rang for the car. As they were waiting, Ben opted to sit again, panting along on one lung. "I was the one who wrote the note you found, probably."
"You sent Carrie a note and signed it, "E.B.?"
"Didn't say I sent it. But I wrote a lot of them, after the Doctor died. I was practicing his handwriting."
"What did you do with them?"
"Trash." the android panted, "Never had stones enough to send her anything."
Rattling sounds were coming from the elevator shaft now, as the car approached their level. Charlie helped Benjamin to a standing position and when it arrived, they packed themselves in for the ride to the top.
The cage bounced and swayed as it traveled upward and about halfway there Ben said, "Oh God, I wish I could puke."
"I don't think that's one of your normal functions."
"I know, but it should be. Make a note to send to the designers." He was wheezing now. "All androids should be equipped with a hurling device in case they're shot."
"Shut up, okay?"
When they reached the top and stepped out of the cage, they were met by John Laww.
"Glad to see you, John," Charlie said, "help me with him."
"What's wrong with him?" the security man asked.
"He's been shot. He took two bullets for me down there."
"Shot? Goddamn Bethune! He called me and told me he wanted you arrested as soon as you came up, and put in lockup."
"So lock me up. That way he can keep right on protecting what he doesn't want everyone else in the universe to see."
"Piss on him! What's down there, anyway?"
"An alien ship. God knows how old, buried here maybe for millennia."
"An alien....Holy Jesus!" the security man's eyes widened, as he thought of the implications.
"Yeah. Now you see why we need your help. Let's get Ben, here, to the shop and then I'll put in a call for the cavalry."
Charlie and John Laww managed to get Benjamin 2108 into the repair facility and shut him down to minimum power. They plugged in several diagnostic devices and summoned two more repair technicians, both androids, from their quarters. Once Ben was in good hands, John took Charlie to the communications center, to send off a message to the Feds. Once there, they found that Walter Bethune had ordered all communications shut down for six hours, for "equipment maintenance."
"Why six hours?" Charlie wondered.
"Because," John answered, "in six hours, we'll be on the back side of Jupiter and we can't transmit anything readable back to Mars station or Earth during the next four days."
"Then we have six hours to figure out a way to get off a message."
"Can we get into the computers and set it up so we can take over one of the transmitters?"
Charlie thought about this for a minute, then said, "We probably can't, but I know who can."
They headed back to the repair lab.
Benjamin 2108 was drowsy, but not completely out. He was having a lung replaced and his internal workings were spread, rather messily, all over two workbenches. In his condition, he was having trouble controlling some of his higher brain functions and he was babbling about anything and everything.
Charlie was paying little mind to the android's ramblings, until Ben's voice began taking on a deeper, rougher quality and his diction began to change. Soon John Laww, who was keeping watch at the lab door, looked over at Charlie with raised eyebrows and Charlie asked, "What?"
"Sounds like Dr. Burnside."
Now, Charlie started paying attention and asking some subtle but leading questions.
"Ben, can you hear me?"
"Ben's busy. He's getting repaired. He got shot, you know," the older man's voice answered.
"Do you think he'll be all right?" Charlie asked.
"Certainly. He's tough. Resilient, I would say."
"You wouldn't happen to be Dr. Burnside, would you?"
"Why, yes. Elliot Burnside, that's me. MIT, Harvard. Do I know you?"
"Well, not directly, Doctor. My name is Charlie Ramos. I'm a criminal investigator."
"Have I done something to come to your attention, Mr. Ramos?"
"No, Doctor, I'm here on Ganymede to investigate two murders."
"The murders, ah yes. I knew there were some murders. A shameful thing, murder."
"Yes, that's right Doctor." This was eerie, Charlie thought. It was as though he was actually speaking with Dr. Burnside, himself.
"Who got killed?"
"Well, Doctor, a miner named Jake Williams and a friend of yours. Carrie Nobel."
"Yes, sir. She was found beaten to death in one of the escape pods, where you used to meet."
For a time there was silence, then the voice of the Doctor returned, choked with emotion.
"I...cared for Carrie, quite a lot, you know."
"Yes, we know, Doctor."
"She was always kind to me and she liked Ben, too."
"Do you think Ben could have killed her? Like Ronald...?"
"No! I know he didn't. Ben and I are one now. If he did something that horrible, I would know."
"Ben and you are....one? I'm not sure I understand, Doctor."
"I founded a process by which all of my memories and thoughts and emotions could be loaded onto hundreds of computer storage disks. Ben downloaded all of me, into his brain. We live together now."
Charlie stood up and walked away from the bench, wondering how such a thing could be possible. Many questions were popping up in his mind, but most would wait.
"Doctor, how well do you know the company's computer?"
"I know all there is to know."
"I have to get off a message to the Federation, and soon. Walter Bethune has all of the communications gear shut down. Can we get past his orders and get something back up again?"
"No problem. But we'll need full power, Ben and me."
Charlie looked at the two android repairmen toiling over the opened carcass of Benjamin 2108. "How long?"
"Another hour, give or take." one responded.
"Sir?" John responded.
"I think it's time to take Walter Bethune into custody."
"Do you have a problem with that?"
"No, except that he has at least one gun and we don't."
Walter Bethune's office proved to be deserted, when Charlie and John arrived there, along with a squad of security officers. A check of the facility failed to turn him up and after an hour, Charlie was growing frantic. Then word came that an escape pod was missing and they knew the truth. The manager had left, and his orders to shut down the communications gear were as much to cover his escape as to prevent a message going out. The emergency transmitter on the escape pod couldn't be heard if the gear was all shut down.
Charlie and John returned to the repair shop to find Ben sitting up and talking normally, his repairs completed and he was hooking himself up to the company computer.
"What kind of message do you want to send?" he asked Charlie, in his own voice.
"Encryption coded to Federation Headquarters, Earth, eyes only for Commander Bishop." he gave Ben the encryption code and began dictating. A few moments after he stopped, Ben said, "Okay, it's sent by burst transmission. They'll have it in about forty-two minutes."
"Unfortunately, you'll all be dead by then." Walter Bethune said, as he stepped in the door, his hand filled by a deadly Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol.
Charlie looked across to where John stood. John held a compressed gas launcher in one hand, casually dangling at his side. He made no move to raise it or call attention to it.
"Kind of wondered if you'd really left." Charlie said, conversationally.
"Thought about it," Bethune replied, "but I just couldn't leave all that treasure. Couldn't give it up without a fight."
"What treasure? What are you talking about?"
"Don't be stupid. I know you found the ship."
"Yeah. We found that. But what makes you think it's worth so much?"
"You don't get it, do you? They came from another system, probably another galaxy. The element we've been calling Ganydium is the remnants of their fuel, burst from their tanks on impact. Whatever it really is, they synthesized it. They made it. That means we can, too."
"What does that mean?" John asked.
"What he means is, faster-than-light drive." Charlie answered. "He wants their engines, their technology. He thinks that's worth killing and dying for."
From behind Charlie, Ben spoke, in Dr. Burnside's voice, saying, "So do I." and he pushed Charlie aside, lunging for the manager.
Bethune raised the gun and fired, the blast deafening in the small area of the repair shop. A split second later, John Laww fired his compressed gas gun, covering the manager in sticky netting, which also pinned him to the wall. Charlie stepped up quickly and wrenched the gun out of his hand. Then he turned to look at Ben, who was now lying supine on the floor, his head shattered and ruined by Bethune's shot.
Charlie Ramos finished assembling his report in his mind. He was in his quarters aboard the DSL Magellan, another luxury-class ship, and he was headed, at last, for Earth.
The manager of DSM#4 had been turned over to Federation authorities two days before and he had immediately gone under the needle for questioning. Under scopalo-mesc and other sophisticated hypnotic drugs, he had confessed to the murders of Carrie Nobel and Jake Williams. He confessed that he had killed Jake because Jake had been the operator of the machine that broke through the hull of the alien ship and he had threatened to go public with the knowledge of what was down there.
He had killed Carrie because she had learned about the ship from Jake and she had also threatened to tell if Bethune didn't pay her off and send her home. He had lured her to the escape pod with the note he had pulled out of the trash, that was signed, "E.B." He had hidden the gun and the note in Carrie's room after she and Jake were both dead, because it had already been searched and sealed. After he went in, he had resealed the door with a new seal taken from John Laww's office. Bethune's guns proved to be a small part of a rather extensive collection of antique firearms the manager had squirreled away.
His final plans for removal of the alien ship were not clear to the investigators, probably because they were not clear as yet in his mind. Walter Bethune would be taken back to Earth, tried, and most likely hanged. Even in this enlightened age, some of the old ways of dealing with crime still proved to be the best.
The alien ship remained where it was and the door to tunnel #7 had been relocked and was now guarded by security. A team of archeologists, engineers and military advisors was being assembled to investigate it and bring it out, piece by piece, if necessary.
Benjamin 2108 was at first thought to be unrepairable after his second experience with being shot, and he was destined for the spare parts bins, when Charlie asked if he could take the android back to Earth with him. He was sure, back on Earth, he would be able to get him put back together, with a new brain of course, and without Dr. Burnside's memories locked up inside him.
Charlie went over it all in his mind one more time, then he took off his right shoe and sock and plugged a patch cord into the small modem in his heel and began downloading his report into the memory cache of a small laser printer on his desk. The only thing he had not solved was the flight attendant, Cindy, on the way out. Who was she and where could he find her again?
He thought about being an android in these modern times and doing investigations for the Federation and her words came back to him as she was seducing him aboard Galileo.
"Ain't technology grand?" she had said.
Charlie Ramos, the first android ever to be given a last name, had to agree.
Copyright © 2002 by Kenneth James Crist