By Samuel O'Slaine
Storytelling is an art. It is the art of entertaining an audience by creating a narrative. We’ve decided to try an experiment with this upcoming serial, and that is to include the readership in the narrative process. We’ll be telling a story as a serial; we encourage suggestions that we can include in later episodes of the story, and we’ll try to incorporate these if that is possible.
With one exception, the story is aiming for plausible, without supernatural or magical interventions. We’ll not be including impossible suggestions, and we can’t guarantee inclusion of the implausible. Still, we’ll do our best.
We’ll take note of the suggestions in the first week after publication, and write the next part incorporating those suggestions in the second.
Put simply: you’ve a week to get your suggestions into the comment section.
A World Apart, Part 8.
John and Edith had found the missing Uwe Fochs. He was dead. That was obvious from the fact that he had no moon-suit, and lay on the ground. John examined the body, although he wasn’t sure what he was looking for. There were no signs of injury, although he didn’t expect any. Any injuries inflicted would have shown up on the moon suit.
He tried to stop Edith from seeing the body, but to no avail. She looked carefully at the body, and pointed out how one side of the body had been covered with dust.
The body lay on a flat piece of ground, on a fold in the crater wall. It looked as though it had been laid out. Then again, it would have been. The killer would have had to have removed the moon-suit.
John looked closely at the dust that had been laid across the body. There was no sense in this. Partially covering a body just didn’t make sense. It didn’t do anything to conceal the body, and it seemed like futile activity.
If he had been interrupted, there would have been someone else who witnessed this, and would have said something. If he had been running low of air, then he would have tried to return to finish the job. The trouble was, the division between covered and uncovered sides had been made with precision. That suggested someone had taken the trouble to do it that way. This was both deliberate, and made no sense.
John checked everything thoroughly. It might not make sense, but he would at least have all the details. They couldn’t leave the body out here. However, taking it back inside the base would raise questions. Then there was the question of storage. Logically, it would go into recycling. Everything ends up in recycling. But there was a matter of respect towards a body. This was an issue that hadn’t been considered when the mission had been planned.
Edith bumped her helmet against his. She wanted to speak in private.
“It’s like an experiment,” she said. “Whoever did this may come back out.”
“We can’t leave him here,” John said. He’d remembered to make sure his radio wasn’t transmitting. They talked with their face masks pressed against each other.
“If we take him back, everyone will know there has been a murder. Then the killer will know we’re looking for him.”
“It will also mean he won’t do any more murders.”
John had to consider this. He had to make sure no-one else got hurt, and he had to make sure the killer faced justice. He had to pick one.
There was the small matter of getting the body safely back. Carrying it down the slope was going to be difficult. John was about to pick up the body, and Edith tapped him on the shoulder. She mimed throwing something down the slope. John realised that he didn’t need to take risks, but it felt disrespectful to just push the body down the slope. He decided to compromise, and he started to drag it. Edith stood stubbornly in his way.
“Don’t pull. If it gets out of control, it will knock you over.”
John nodded. The trouble with being on the surface of the Moon is that you have to consider every step, every action with great care. Time to pause, and think through the course of action. He looked up at the Earth, and wondered what had been happening in their absence. Not the big events, but at home. It was easy to lose track of the months up here. It would be early November now. If they found the cavorite soon, they would be home in time for Christmas. He’d be able to take Edith home to meet his family, and meet hers. He was confident she would be agreeable.
He hoped she would be agreeable. He thought about the preparations for Christmas, and the little family rituals. Stir-It-Up Sunday, when everyone in the house stirred the Christmas pudding before it was cooked; the servants laid out cold meals on Christmas Day so that all of them could have the day off; opening presents when they returned from church.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be long before he and Edith were starting family traditions of their own.
If she said yes. If they got back to Earth.
Edith tapped him on the shoulder, and John refocused on the problem in hand. A thought came to him. Fochs had died on the Moon. The best place for the body to be buried was right here. It felt appropriate. Buried, and the site marked.
The killer would see. John would speak with the Old Man about telling the base. It seemed futile to try and keep it a secret. It would make finding the killer harder, but perhaps that might make it easier.
Here was closer to the base, and the slope was shallow and easily manageable. There seemed no point taking the body any closer.
They returned to the base, and entered the airlock. John was deep in thought as Edith helped him off with his helmet.
“Did you notice?” she asked.
Edith chuckled. “I turned your air supply off and back on again. When I was checking your moon-suit. It can be done.”
John thought about this. He was narrowing down suspects, simply through who physically could do this. Someone who went outside; someone with reasonably dextrous fingers; someone who could maintain a calm demeanour while under pressure.
It was all a bit moot if the scientists couldn’t figure out a way to get the cavorite. John went to see how they were getting on. Once he understood, he could report to Feldberg, the Old Man. It was odd that the Old Man had wanted to keep information about the murder quiet.
If John had been in command, he would have kept people informed. Rumours circulated in a closed environment, and in the absence of facts, these rumours could become misleading. When people don’t know, they guess, and they often guess wrong. He would do things very differently. He certainly wouldn’t keep such strict divisions between Admin and Scientists.
First of all, he had to find out how the scientists were doing. Whatever else might happen, if they failed, nothing else would matter.
John wasn’t sure if scientists debating angrily at the top of their voices was a good sign or not. He moved closer, and saw that several were gathered around a drawing board, pointing at the engineering sketch on the board.
“What is this?” he asked.
“Le taupe,” said the draughtsman.
John was confused. What did a mole have to do with anything? He made the mistake of asking. Everybody decided to answer with their very own version. They were worse than excited five-year-old children.
Next to this were some drawings of round sleeves. The scientists appeared to be arguing over two concepts.