See Moon

by Mark Annetts

Disclaimers: Doesn't need one as I made it all up... oh, all right, the two leads do bear a striking resemblance to another couple of well known characters that Universal possibly hold the copyright to.

This is set some time in the nearish future, in this galaxy. It's a comedy drama, though as to how dramatic or funny it is, well, that's really up to you. Hope you enjoy it.

I'd like to thank the Bards' Village for collectively making it better with their feedback, and to Stacia for once again proving she's the best proofer around.


Part 1

The pale sunshine made everything glitter under the semi-opaque sky. Christine Jefferson was less than happy. In fact she was downright miserable. Production was down and targets were slipping badly. Even the Pacifics were behind, which for them was almost unheard of. She needed a vacation so badly it hurt. And now this.

"Ain't that the damndest thing you ever saw?" asked Dave Furlow, her personal assistant and main trouble-shooter, standing by her side. They were outside, on the surface, which was not a nice place to be. And wouldn't be for at least another fifty to a hundred years or so anyway. Terraforming was something that just couldn't be rushed. Not even by the Pacifics and their oh-so clever technology.

She looked up at the body, hanging on the side of the tunnel entrance. It was naked and suspended somehow as if it'd been crucified. "What's holding him up?" she asked, with an air of resigned indifference.

"We think he's been glued up there with construction adhesive. The instant setting stuff," he added, almost unnecessarily. A moment's thought on the matter would soon make you realise that slow-setting glue simply wouldn't have worked.

"Who is he?"

The PA looked at his wrist-mounted display pad. "One Valeri Lutoshka, general worker, no specialism."

"Well, at least there's more where he came from," she said, thankful for whatever small mercies the situation gave her. "Has he got any... er, relatives, or a partner we should be notifying?"

"Not according to our records. Seems he was all alone in this god-forsaken universe."

Christine gave him a sideways look. "In need of a holiday too, I see."

"Always," he smiled. They sighed in unison. Running a major mining operation was bad enough, but to be doing it at the same time as reforming a moon into a habitable space fit for humans was a continuous struggle of enormous proportion. And then to do it millions of kilometres from any sort of backup just ground away relentlessly at the soul.

"I don't think it would be possible to come up with a worse situation. We're lagging behind in just about every way possible and now we've got ourselves a majorly bad wolf in amongst the sheep. It can only get worse from here on in."

"Thanks for being my eternal optimist, Dave. You know how I value your determinedly upbeat assistance."

"My pleasure, Christine, as always," he smiled then coughed slightly. Grimacing he slid his face mask back on and took a deep breath. "I think we should be getting back inside, don't you?"

"Yeah, I've seen enough," she said, coughing slightly herself as if in sympathy. "You know the Americans will be wanting to send someone, don't you?"

"Of course. Some pistol-packing clown, I expect."

"They do love their guns, I'll give you that."

"How soon, you reckon?" he asked.

"If you've already reported this, then I expect the wheels are turning as we speak."

"Christ, I can't believe it's possible to have such bad luck," he grumbled.

* * *

"My office, Dutch, now!" shouted the base commander. His words echoed around the mess hall, silencing the normal noise and chatter. A lone chair scraping across the wooden floor was the only sound in the room. All eyes turned to the blonde woman who stood up, wiped her mouth on a napkin and dropped it on her tray of half-eaten food.

"Clear this for me would you, someone, please?" she asked, as she side-stepped around her chair and pushed it back under the table.

"Want some old-fashioned magazines?" asked one of her colleagues.

Staff Sergeant Evelyn Bates paused, frowning. "Why would I want those?" she asked, puzzled.

"To put down the back of your pants, of course," laughed the woman. The rest of the table laughed along with her.

"Very funny, Skip," she replied curtly, but smiled anyway, taking the edge off her tone.

"He don't sound all that pleased with you."

Evelyn shrugged. "When is he ever?"

"Good point."

"See you guys later," she said, leaving to face the commander and find out what she'd done wrong now.

* * *

"But... but this is police work, Sir," she said, annoyed at the unexpected turn of events.

"That's as maybe, Soldier, but NASA's asked us to provide an investigator and that's what I'm doing."

"Is this because of what happened down in Lima... Sir?" Evelyn asked, her green eyes flashing with anger.

"It has nothing to do with it. Your stint in the military police makes you the best option I've got."

"With respect, Sir, that was several years ago."

Ignoring her remark he tossed a small plastic pack on the desk in front of her. "Those are your orders, Staff Sergeant, dismissed."

"Permission to speak freely, Sir?"

"Denied," he snapped.

She stood to attention, performed a perfect salute, rotated and marched from the office, banging the door shut one stop short of slamming it.

He smiled as he heard her cursing loudly, kicking chairs and any other object that came within range. "Good luck, Evelyn. You'll need it," he said quietly.

* * *

Evelyn checked out the other people boarding the shuttle. They were mostly miners and scientists making the five-week flight to Jupiter's moon, Europa. It involved two stop-over points, first the main Earth space station and then the American space station orbiting Jupiter.

The sleek jet-like craft waited for them on the runway. It took off and landed like a conventional aircraft but headed upward till it reached the edge of the atmosphere where giant ramjets pushed it clear of Earth's pull, and out into space. It then rendezvoused with the space station, the internationally owned and run vehicle that had been put in place over a century before. Ever since the Earth had been divided into three major political groupings -- the Americas, the Euro/African Alliance and the Pacifics -- it was still considered an international venture. Though now each of the three states was capable of mounting something of their own, they preferred to keep the status quo and maintain the orbiting space station as a symbol of their continued alliance in space.

The Pacifics had concentrated on terraforming, while the Alliance kept to administration and resource procurement, leaving the Americans to act as hauliers, explorers, transporters and as the main enforcement agency. All three pooled their scientific endeavours as required. The days of pointless nationalism were long gone.

After a short stay at the station they would board the deep space vehicle, with its massive ion drives for the long journey to the Jupiter space station. The continuous acceleration of the ship sped it to Jupiter in just over five weeks. The difficult part was slowing down once they got there. That was accomplished by a combination of switching off the ion drives, twisting the ship around one hundred and eighty degrees and firing the ion drives again for the last third of the journey, this time to slow them down.

A quick skip through the upper levels of the gas giant's atmosphere did the rest, allowing them to manoeuvre themselves into dock with Jupiter's space station. From there a short shuttle hop down to Europa's surface was all that was required to get them to their destinations. The scientists would spread out to their various research stations, the engineers to their massive weather creation plants, and Evelyn and the miners to the Alliance's mining development and the small city that had sprung up around it.

Evelyn spent the six weeks reading, watching movies, and playing video games, trying her best to adapt to the claustrophobic conditions, the open hostility of the miners and total indifference of the scientists and engineers. Once it was clear she wasn't really wanted by anyone on the whole ship she gave up trying to make connections and settled into a solitary existence, simply biding her time and counting the days.

* * *

She changed into her combat uniform. The small room she'd been given wasn't the worst she'd ever been in, but it wasn't far off. Space was obviously at a premium and being extra to requirements meant making do. After asking the way she reported to the managing director's office, where she was quickly shown in by the MD's PA.

"Staff Sergeant Evelyn Bates of the United Countries of America reporting for duty, Ma'am," she rattled off with a formal salute, standing straight and looking directly ahead.

Christine leaned back in her chair and regarded the soldier standing rigidly in front of her desk.

"I asked for a police detective, Staff Sergeant Bates. Why have they sent me a soldier?"

"I can't answer that, Ma'am, I just follow orders."

"Great. We need to find the perpetrator of these crimes first, not simply take them out and shoot them."

"Ma'am?" Evelyn said, looking directly at Christine for the first time.

"Nothing, I... I just need a holiday, that's all," she said, rubbing her face. "Thank you for coming at such short notice. I know the UCA's government takes these sorts of occurrences very seriously."

"Yes we do, Ma'am. I'll see to it that whoever's done this will be caught rapidly and their crimes put a stop to."

"I'm sure you will, Staff Sergeant. But if you don't mind do you think you might call me Christine. Ma'am sounds so... "


"Er, yes, that's it exactly. Military."

"This will be a military operation, Ma'am."

"Yes, yes of course. But I'd still like you to call me Christine, if it's not too much trouble."

"As you wish Ma... Christine," she said, smiling for the first time.

"That's much better, Evelyn. You don't mind me calling you Evelyn, do you?"

"You can call me whatever you like, Christine. I'm at your disposal."

Christine really looked at the woman soldier for the first time. 'Hmmm, there's something about a person in a uniform,' she thought, smiling back at Evelyn. "Do you have any experience with this type of work?" she asked.

"Yes, Ma'am, I was with the military police for eighteen months," replied Evelyn, snapping back into her military posture.

"Relax, Staff Sergeant, relax. You'll find we're not quite so rigid here. I think you'll find you'd blend in a bit more easily if you try to loosen up a little and maybe lose the uniform."

"Do you think that's really necessary, Ma... Christine?"

"Well, I'm sure you know best in these matters, but it's what I recommend."

"I'll seriously consider it, Christine."

"My assistant will bring you up to speed and give you the ten Euro tour."

"Thank you, Ma... Christine. One thing, though?"


"You said occurrences."

"Yes, I believe I did, didn't I. And?"

"That would imply more than one... event."

"Yes, it would. Dave will tell you all about them, I'm sure. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a multi-trillion Euro mining operation to run."

"Yes, Ma'am," Evelyn said, snapping off another perfect salute and wheeling smartly out of the director's office.

After the soldier left the director leaned back in her chair. 'This should be interesting,' she thought.

* * *

"Hi, I'm Dave," the man said, thrusting out his hand to Evelyn. She saluted and then took the hand, giving him a firm shake and leaving him in no doubt that military training had left the young woman with a pronounced strength that belied her height and appearance. Not that he could really tell the state of her musculature under the baggy military uniform.

"Staff Sergeant Evelyn Bates," she replied. "I'm told that you're the man who can tell me all I need to know."

"I'll do my best," he said, smiling with handsome charm. Evelyn immediately didn't like him much. She tried to not make snap assessments of people's characters, believing it best to get to know a person better before deciding what made them tick. But every now and again someone would make an immediate impression that she'd found she rarely needed to reassess. Sometimes they were favourable, but most often, as in this case, a bad first impression jumped out at her with an almost physical force. "What would you like?" he asked.

'You to let go of my hand,' was her first thought. "How about you show me some plans of the place?"

"Where would the military be without its maps?" he said, smiling his oily smile. 'If you keep smiling like that, Buster, I'm going to knock those stupid teeth down your throat!'. "Where indeed," she smiled back with a fixed grin. 'Oh, god, I want to go home,' she thought morosely.

He raised his arm and tapped his wrist display pad. The side wall of the office lit up with large overhead photographs of the base. "Here's the main mine complex," he said, pointing to the map. A red dot appeared where he was aiming. "These four things are the atmosphere generators. They create the micro-climate around the base. They allow you to breathe for short periods out on the surface. They also raise the temperature up to about two hundred and fifty Kelvin."

"That's a little cold, isn't it?" asked Evelyn.

"It's a balancing act, we don't want to have to wear ab-zero suits all the time, but on the other hand we don't want to be walking around in slush."

"How thick is the ice around here?"

"About twelve klicks."

"Is that deep?"

"It's about as deep as it gets. But up here at the scientists' base," he said, touching his pad causing the picture to zoom out significantly and moving the red dot above the complex, "well, they like to work over only three or four kilometres of ice crust. Saves 'em having to drill too deep, but stops them falling through," he joked.

"How's the artificial gravity done?"

"First thing they did was melt a two-k diameter grav-grid down through the ice to a depth of a half a klick. The grid's what keeps us all anchored to the floor. Whenever it goes off for maintenance it's like walking in a swimming pool around here. Fun for a while, but it gets old quick."

"I can imagine. Christine said there've been some more incidents."

He looked at her sharply. "Yes, yes there have been. Like to get straight to the point, don't you? And I was just getting into full tour guide mode."

"Another day perhaps?"

"Sure. So what do you want to know?"

"How about a full report on all the incidents so far."

"Here you go," he said, handing over a small oblong of plastic. She slid it into her wrist pad and flipped down a small eyepiece from her communicator over her left eye. Flicking her eye to activate the readout she scanned through the report, stopping to look at the three-dimensional photographs of the three victims. Two male, one female. All naked, all killed in a curious way.

"How was the victim suspended like that?"

"Do you mind?" he said, pointing to his wrist.

"Of course." She touched the pad on her wrist as he flipped his eyepiece down, now seeing what she was seeing.

"He was glued in place with construction adhesive."

"Must've been difficult to get him down."

"It wasn't pretty."

"Who did it?"

"Our doctor and one of his nurses, plus some muscle from one of the engineers who actually wielded the chisels and scrapers."

"And the female victim?"

"We had to melt all the ice around her to get her out. Took a lot of doing, trying not to burn the body. When she was found just her feet were sticking up out of the ground."

"You notice that she too was in a cruciform posture, albeit upside down and buried in the ice."

"Of course."

"The other male victim doesn't fit the pattern though."

"No. Maybe the killer was disturbed?"

"Possibly. Casually throwing the body into a waste chute does seem somewhat... hasty. Do we know the actual cause of death of all the victims?"

"Well, far as the doctor can ascertain. Remember he's here to patch people up, not perform elaborate forensic work."

"Of course. Still, I think I'd like a word with him, can you arrange that? I'd also like to talk to all the people who first found the bodies."

"No problem," he said.

"What's the general feeling amongst the workers about all this?"

"So far, nothing much. There's a bit of upset, but you've got to remember, it's a bit of a frontier town here, with a frontier mentality. People keep to themselves a lot, just waiting for their tours of duty to be over so they can go back home and blow their paycheques."

"What about the scientists?"

"They're over in their own little world, I'll bet some of them aren't even aware that anything unusual is going on back here."

"Do they mix much?"

"Nope, got their own ways of passing the time over there, without the need to come bothering us."

"What about the maintenance crews and the engineers?"

He shrugged. "They tend to keep to themselves too."

"So, there's not much socialising going on out of hours?"

"Nothing public, if that's what you mean," he said leering at her.

"Did you know any of the victims?" she asked, ignoring the obvious message behind his remark.

"Know any of them?" He shook his head. "They were all just drones, why would I know any of them?" a look of genuine puzzlement on his face.

"Just wondered what they were like, who they mixed with, what their routines were. That kind of thing."

"It's all in the report."

"Yeah, I wanted to get a feeling for them. You can't always get that from a written report. By the way, how many people are there here?"

"Counting everyone, the scientists, the maintenance guys, admin, everyone?"


"Hmmm, about oh, over a thousand, I'd say."

"You mean you don't know for sure?"

"I could find out if you really want a list of everyone."

"Yes, I'd like that."

"Would you like to go topside and see the scenes of the crimes now?" he asked.

"Okay, but they're not necessarily the scenes of the crimes, just where the body was found."

"Right, right."

"Can you arrange for me to see the doctor afterward? I'd like to see the bodies."

"I'll see what I can do."

* * *

"Not much to see, huh?" he said, as they stared up at the side of the tunnel where the first body was found.

"Not much," she agreed. "I take it that the maintenance people have already cleaned up?"

"Yeah, we didn't think till afterwards that anyone'd want to see it before we cleaned up."

"Anyone try to investigate this, at all?"

"Well, we asked a few questions, but no one knew anything, or at least no one wanted to say anything," he shrugged.

"Nobody cares that you've got a predator roaming free somewhere in there?" she said, pointing the main buildings.

He just shrugged again. "People have more important things to worry about, such as reaching quotas and getting their jobs done. We leave police work up to people like you."

"Don't you have any enforcement agency of any sort here?"

"Never needed one till now."

She shook her head in dismay. "Helluva way to run a planet," she said, gloomily.

"Moon," he corrected her.

"Whatever," she said, trudging back to the main buildings, already beginning to hate ice with a vengeance. She waited by the main door for him to catch up. "Interesting sky though."

He looked up. After awhile you get used to it. Kinda big isn't it?"

"Gas giants usually are," she replied, neutrally. Jupiter loomed large above them, a swirling mass of colours, appearing something like fifteen times larger than the moon did on Earth.

"Can I get you a drink, or maybe we can go for a meal, or something?" he asked, as they shrugged out of their outdoor coats and balaclavas.

"Dave, you seem like a nice guy," she lied, "but I'm here for one reason and one reason only. That's to catch a killer and then get the hell out of here and back to my unit. Is that clear?"

"Of course, you don't think I was hitting on you, or anything, do you?" he asked. Evelyn could feel her lip pulling into a sneer, but she managed to switch it into a weak smile.

"No, I just wanted to get things clear from the outset, that's all. Now that that's all sorted, I'd be happy to go find some food."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I've just remembered, I've got an important meeting I've got to attend. Another day, perhaps?"

"Yes, of course," she smiled. 'Yeah, I just bet you have... now.'

* * *

The doctor pulled out the first corpse from the deep freeze on a sliding tray and peeled back the plastic shroud. "Near as I can tell all the damage was done post mortem."

"Must've stuck real hard," she said, peering at the body. She pulled back the sheet completely and hefted the stiff body over onto its front. It clattered down onto the stainless steel table with a sliding thump.

Most of the back, buttocks, legs and arms were missing their normal covering of flesh, exposing bone and tissue and torn blood vessels.

"Was it cold, lack of breathable air or something else that killed him?"

"Couldn't find anything in his blood to suggest any poisons, or other lethal agents. No bacterium or viruses that shouldn't be there, either. Far as I can tell he went to sleep and never woke up again. Death by hypothermia would be my best guess."

"Drug and alcohol levels normal, I assume?"

"You assume correctly."

"So, yet another mystery. Why would someone allow themselves to be glued naked to a building at forty degrees below freezing?"

"Don't think I'd want to do it," he said, grinning.

Evelyn smiled back. "Me neither, Doc."

They dragged the next body out of the freezer. The woman was in her mid-thirties, healthy and well nourished. She looked like she was sleeping peacefully, apart from the odd damage around both shoulders.

"Had to break them at the joints when we got her out of the ice. She was frozen solid and by the time we thawed her out rigor mortis had set in. I thought it would be undignified having her hanging half out of the freezer."

"How did you do it, a hammer?"

"Good grief no. I'm getting too old for any physical stuff. Some days I wish they'd turn down the gravity field so we could all gently float around."

"Wouldn't do your old bones any good," she said, smiling at the avuncular man, who she decided she liked a lot.

"No, but it would be fun for a while," he grinned.

"So, who got the body down from the wall?" she asked, steering the conversation back before he suggested they went floating together somewhere, seeing the twinkle in his eye.

"Ah, that would be Laurie. She's my muscle whenever I need anything heavy doing."

"Is she your nurse?" Evelyn asked, having seen the nurse when she came in and not noticing any great obvious strength.

"Oh no, she's one of the maintenance crew. She and I seem to have formed something of a friendship. We play chess every Friday night. One day I might actually beat her," he said, laughing gently to himself.

"Brains as well as brawn. I must meet this Laurie sometime, I've got a few questions to ask her."

"Well, as she's standing right behind you, now's as good a time as any, I guess."

Evelyn whirled round, not having heard anyone enter the morgue. A six foot tall, dark-haired woman held out her hand to Evelyn.

"Hi, I'm Laurie, pleased to meet you."

Evelyn heard a croaked 'Hello'. It took a moment to realise it had come from herself.

Part Two

Laurie frowned slightly, still holding out her hand. She was about to withdraw it, thinking the soldier wasn't going to shake hands when Evelyn snapped out of her trance and jumped to attention, executing a perfect salute.

"Staff Sergeant Evelyn Bates," the flustered soldier managed. She dropped her hand to shake Laurie's, but the other woman had begun to withdraw hers at Evelyn's unexpected salute. Blushing, she pulled her hand back, only to see that Laurie had brought hers forward again.

"Umm, I think I'll start this again," Laurie smiled, her voice deep and smooth. She gracefully turned away and left the room, leaving Evelyn blushing profusely and screwing up her eyes in embarrassment.

The door swung open and Laurie strolled through, a smile on her face. "Staff Sergeant Bates, how nice to meet you, I've heard so much about you," she said, holding out her hand.

Evelyn took it this time. "You have?" she croaked, her eyes widening as the words sunk in.

Laurie leaned forward till she was very close. "It was a joke," she smiled. "Intended to put you at ease. Doesn't seem to have worked though, does it?"

Evelyn shook her head, still unable to articulate anything.

"Evelyn," said Laurie.


"You can let go of my hand now."

Evelyn dropped Laurie's hand as if it was on fire. "I... I've got to go," she mumbled, pushing past the surprised engineer and dashing through the door.

Laurie turned to the doctor. "Am I missing something here?" she asked.

He shrugged. "Don't look at me. One minute she's examining the bodies and asking sensible questions, the next she's gone into melt down. Then again I didn't warn her about your other 'b'."

"My other 'b'?"

"Brains, brawn and beauty," he said, his face splitting into a huge infectious grin.

Laurie frowned. "I really think I'm missing something here," she said, shaking her head.

* * *

Evelyn stumbled down the long corridor ignoring the looks from passers by. "Why here, why now?" she moaned, leaning her forehead against the cool metal of the corridor wall.

"Are you all right?"

She jerked around as a gentle hand touched her shoulder.

"I... I... "

"I think you need a drink and a sit down," said Laurie, taking Evelyn by the elbow and guiding her towards the nearest canteen.

Evelyn sipped appreciatively from the hot drink Laurie had fetched for her. The place was nearly empty, most other people either asleep or doing their jobs. It was too early in the day for much socialising to be going on.

"I'm sorry if I scared you back there, I know I can be a bit forbidding, but it's not my way really, just a product of strong genes and tall parents."

"No, it's not that. I've been in the military since I was eighteen, I should be able to deal with such things without thinking about it."

"Then what's the problem?"

"This is going to sound... silly," Evelyn said softly.

"Try me." Evelyn looked up at Laurie and could see nothing but concern in her eyes. Such blue eyes.

"Erm, sorry, I was staring." She shook her head and took a large gulp of tea, welcoming the burning sensation as it went down.

"It's okay, I don't mind you staring," smiled Laurie. "If you don't want to tell me about it, that's okay."

"No, I owe you an explanation." She set down her cup and took a deep breath. "For as long as I could remember I've had a recurring dream of being trapped in a room filling with water. I'm just a kid again. I'm screaming for my mom and dad to come get me, but no one comes."

"It sounds horrible," said Laurie, instinctively leaning forward and touching the back of Evelyn's hand in sympathy.

"It would be, but that's not the weird part. As I try to get away from the rising water a woman calls to me. She tells me I have to be brave and that I can do it. She tells me to run to her. She's holding out her arms to me, but I'm too scared, I can't move with fear."

"What happens?"

"The level rises up to my waist and she screams to me to go to her, but I can't, so she dives into the water, oblivious to her own danger, and she comes to pick me up."

"She rescues you?"

"I don't know," Evelyn said miserably, the pain of all the years of night time fear surfacing.

"I don't understand."

"As we set off back to the safety of the other end of the room, the floor gives way and we both get sucked down. I wake up terrified and sweating."

"Were you trapped in a flood when you were young?"

"No, that's the stupid part. I've never been in that situation, and I don't know who the woman is. At least till now."

"I take it that I remind you of her."

"No," said Evelyn, shaking her head emphatically. "You don't remind me of her, you're her spitting image. Seeing you was like seeing my dream come to life."

Laurie sat back in her chair, taking a sip from her own cup for the first time. "I don't know what to say," she said at last.

"What can you say? Here we are millions of miles from home, and I'm laying my twisted dreams on you." She smiled at the absurdity of the situation, though none of it was all that funny.

"That's why you... um, freaked out a little when I showed up?"

"Yeah, I'm not normally like that."

Laurie laughed. Evelyn looked up sharply, thinking Laurie was laughing at her.

"I'm sorry, Evelyn, I wasn't laughing at you, it was something the doc said. He reckoned it was my, what did he say... oh yes, my brains, brawn and beauty that had knocked you for a loop." She smiled at Evelyn, hoping to share the amusement at the notion.

"That'd be understandable," Evelyn smiled back, speaking before she realised what she was saying. She immediately sat upright in her seat. "Erm, that didn't come out quite how I intended. I didn't mean you were beautiful... though not that I'm saying you're not, of course, because obviously you are, it's just that... " she trailed away into silence as she looked up into the grinning face of her drinking companion. She closed her eyes again, dropping her head into her hands. "Oh, god," she groaned. "I really, really want to go home. Fighting drug barons in the south is a walk in the park compared to this." She felt foolish and embarrassed to have broken down so easily in front of a stranger.

"Hey, is it so hard talking to me?"

"No, no, it's not you. Jesus, if my team could see me now, they wouldn't believe it."

"A bit of a hard-ass, huh?" Laurie said grinning, apparently able to read Evelyn like a book.

"Something like that," Evelyn smiled ruefully.

"Don't worry, Sarge, you secret's safe with me, and as for the doc, he just thinks you've got an eye for the ladies. No harm, no foul."

Evelyn stood up, brushing imaginary flecks off her combats. "Look, can we start this again, and just forget any of this happened?" she asked, holding out her hand to shake.

"Sure," Laurie said, smoothly rising to shake Evelyn's hand. "Laurie Stevens, engineer, first class, no specialties. Nice to meet you. And I'll forget all about it, if that's what you really want?" she said, looking Evelyn directly in the eye.

"I... I think it best," she hesitated. "That we maintain a strictly professional relationship while I'm on this case. After that, maybe I'll find time to hang around for a while before my shuttle goes back."

"Okay, Staff Sergeant Bates. Now what was it you wanted to ask me about the murders?"

* * *

Laurie showed Evelyn the site of the garbage chute where the third body had been found. They looked around for anything unusual but as the chute was in continual operation nothing of any use could be gleaned.

"Hell of a way to end up," remarked Evelyn, pulling off her disposable rubber gloves.

"Another fifteen minutes and he'd have been in much worse shape. The tank would have been emptied into the reclamation plant. We'd have all ended up eating him," said Laurie matter-of-factly.

"What!" exclaimed Evelyn.

"Sure. The plant separates out all the organics from the non-organics and processes them accordingly. The organic matter ends up as food for the farm animals, mostly the pigs."

"There are pigs in space?" asked Evelyn.

"Farming animals is still the most efficient way of turning stuff we don't like to eat into stuff we do like to eat."

"I never really thought about it. I sort of thought that it would be... different somehow."

"There ain't no magic on Europa, any more than there is on Earth, Evie."

The sergeant looked at her companion.

"You don't mind me calling you Evie, do you?" asked Laurie.

"If you're going to use a nick I'd prefer 'Dutch', if you don't mind."


"Yeah, Dutch."

"I didn't know you were from Europe, I thought you were an all-American gal."

"I am."

"Then why Dutch?"

"It's just a stupid name that's stuck with me over the years, and I've kind've grown used to it. That's all, no great mystery, no hidden meanings."

"Okay, okay," said Laurie, holding up her hands in mock surrender.

"Shouldn't you be going to work, or something?"

"In a little while. I was sort of hoping..."


Laurie didn't answer. She looked at the floor shrugging her shoulders, as if not quite sure what to say.

"Spit it out, Laurie, it can't be that bad."

"Well, I was sort of hoping that maybe I could assist you. This is the most interesting thing that's happened here in a long, long time. And I know you're on your own, so I thought, that we could, um, well, sort of..."

"Work together?"

"Yeah," she said, looking Evelyn in the eye for the first time since the conversation started and treating the sergeant to one of her infectious smiles.

"Well," said Evelyn, doing her best to look thoughtful, considering all the options. "I suppose... I could use someone with local knowledge."

"Yes!" said Laurie, her eyes lighting up with excitement. She picked up Evelyn, much to her surprise and whirled her around in happiness.

"Put me down, you big idiot!" laughed Evelyn. "Damn, now I can see why the doc uses you for his brawn. Where'd you get these muscles?" she asked, squeezing Laurie's upper arms.

"I, um, work out a little."

"A little?"

"Okay, quite a lot. I sneak the gravity up a few notches while I'm doing it too. You get results much quicker that way."

"How long have you been here, Laurie?"

"Fifteen years," said the tall woman.

"Fifteen years!" exclaimed Evelyn.

"My parents brought me when I was young. I guess I liked it here. When they went back I stayed. I'd graduated college by then and they offered me a job on the engineering staff."

"Don't you want to go home?"

"I am home, Evelyn," she said, without any hint of regret.

"Won't they miss you at your work?"

"Sure, I'm indispensable."

"Modest too, I see."

"Hey, I always tell the truth."


"Pretty much."

"So they won't let you go."

"They've got no choice, I'm owed about five years back leave that I've never taken."

"You never take a vacation?"

"Nope. Told you already, I like it here."

"Can I trust you?" asked Evelyn.

"With your life," she said, without a hint of irony, false modesty or humour. Evelyn knew instinctively Laurie spoke the truth.

"Glad to have you on board, Private."

"I'm only a private?"

"In this woman's army you have to earn your stripes, just like I did."

"Shouldn't be too difficult. Where do I start?" said Laurie, grinning like a child on Christmas day.

* * *

Evelyn came out the director's office, her face set in a grim frown.

"Did she go for it?" Laurie asked Evelyn apprehensively. She was waiting outside the director's office where fifteen minutes before Evelyn had entered.

"Wanted to know why I thought I needed help from an engineer."

"What did you tell her?"

"I said I needed someone to hold my magnifying glass."

"So what did she say, Sherlock?"

"She said 'Sure, why not, that big lump's not much use for anything else.'"

"She said no such thing!" Laurie said in outrage.

"How do you know?"

"She thinks I'm wonderful."

"She does, huh?"

"Oh yeah."

"If I didn't know better I'd say you're feeling a bit cocky at the moment."

"Heaven forbid."

"So, you don't want to hold my magnifying glass, then?"

"I didn't say that."

"Come on, Stretch, we've got a crime to solve," Evelyn said, striding off down the corridor.

"Can I wear a sexy combat uniform too?"



"That's me."

"So, what's my first job, Sarge?"

"You any good with paperwork?"

Laurie groaned. "I knew I'd get lumbered with the paperwork while you're off sifting for clues and chasing down arch-villains."

"Quit whining, Soldier, and start looking for any links between the three victims. I don't care how trivial or insignificant a link it is, I want to know about it."

"I can do that as we walk," Laurie said, flipping down her viewer, obscuring her left eye. "Where are we headed?"

"We're going to see some scientists in action."

* * *

"This is fun!" said Evelyn as Laurie drove the six-wheel dune buggy across the stretch of ice that separated the two bases. The hundreds of spikes covering each giant sponge tyre dug into the ice. "Pity there's no humps and bumps to drive over," she lamented.

"I once tried to ski behind one of these," remarked Laurie.

"You did?"

"Yeah, her Highness stepped in and banned it, though," she said with obvious regret.


"Said it was too dangerous. See those patches of yellow under the surface?"


"Well, they're made up of concentrated sulphuric acid, trapped just below the surface."

"Jesus, is it safe to be driving over them," asked Evelyn, instinctively lifting her feet up off the floor of the vehicle.

"Relax, this baby's floor pan is made of a titanium-molybdenum alloy, coated in impervious teflon. We could sail in a sea of the stuff and be perfectly safe."

"You really are at home here, aren't you?" said Evelyn, enjoying the carefree pleasure Laurie happily displayed, as they cruised across the ice-plain. "Any moment now I expect you to lower the window and start whistling."

Laurie chuckled. "I could if you want, but for two things. One I sing, not whistle, and two the micro-climate gets a little thin this far from either of the bases, so if you'd like to see what it's like trying to breath in a near-vacuum, be my guest and open the window."

"I'm really beginning to see just why you love this place," Evelyn said sourly.

"Yeah, why's that?"

"Because you're obviously insane."

"Hah, this from someone who gets a job carrying a rifle and spends her days getting shot at by people who don't like the cut of your uniform."

"Point taken."

They drove around the perimeter of the scientific research base on a route that took on the shape of a four-leaf clover as they circled each of the four weather stations, which constantly churned out massive amounts of oxygen and nitrogen, plus traces of other chemicals necessary to make a breathable atmosphere.

"Are they automatic or are there an army of guys running on giant treadmills making them go?" asked Evelyn, as they rounded the fourth station.

"Treadmills, your shift is the four to eight," replied Laurie, completely straight faced.

"Right, well wake me up when it's your shift and I'll climb on your back, you can run for both of us."

"That doesn't sound very fair."

"Rank has its privilege," said Evelyn with a smirk.

"Fair enough. But that does mean that should we meet any bug-eyed monsters, remember, you're the one with the gun."

"Are we likely to meet any?"

"Never know with what these guys are doing."

Evelyn frowned for a moment as they pulled into the car port at the front of the main complex. "What exactly do they do here?"

"Many things, but their main interest lies in finding aliens."

"You're kidding me."

"Nope, but you can relax, ET is most likely to turn out to be a new form of slime down on the seabed, or, if they're really lucky, some type of acid-drinking shrimp or something."

"So they're not going to invade Earth and steal all our menfolk, then?"

"Hah! We should be that lucky," scoffed Laurie as she climbed out of the driver's seat and dropped down onto the icy surface.

"I've seen the old movies. If I find anything non-human drinking or drooling acid then it and I are going to have a falling out, that I can promise you!" said Evelyn, firmly.

"Don't let the white-coats hear you say something like that, they've been years trying to find something down there," she said, pointing at the floor.

"No luck?"

"Not that I'm aware of, but then again, they only ever invite us trained monkeys over to fix something when they've broken it. I've never been asked to give them the benefit of my vast scientific knowledge."

"Their loss, I'm sure."

* * *

They waited in reception till a young man appeared.

"Boris Zyenko," he said, holding out his hand to Evelyn.

"I hope we won't be kept waiting this long in future," the sergeant replied, bristling at the off hand way they'd been treated. Laurie had warned her that the scientists were a law unto themselves and pretty much did as they pleased. The mining director, Christine Jefferson, had very little authority over them. "I'm here to investigate three murders on behalf of the Alliance and American governments. At my say so this entire facility can be shut down."

The young man blushed and looked at the floor. "I'm sorry, Sergeant Bates, I'm only doing as I've been told. If you'd like to see the director I'm sure he'll make time for you."

"That won't be necessary... yet," said Evelyn testily, only slightly placated by his apology. "For the moment I simply want to get a feel for the place, see how it's run, what the day-to-day routines are. Will you be our guide?"

He looked at Laurie, frowning slightly. "Will Engineer Stevens be accompanying us?"

"Yes, for the duration of my investigation she will be acting as my assistant. She is to be granted the same unfettered access I am expecting."

"I will have to relay that to the director, of course, and get his approval. Normally unauthorised personnel are not allowed to wander about the station."

"She won't be unauthorised, and she'll mostly be with me."

"You should be aware that there are some locations off-limits to everyone."

"Everyone?" asked Evelyn, her curiosity piqued.

"Yes, only the director grants access."

"What's so secret?" asked Laurie.

"I can't tell you," he replied.

"Can't or won't?" asked Evelyn.

"Can't. I don't know myself what is done in those areas."

"Is that... normal?" asked Laurie.

"Normal that I don't know, or normal that they exist?"

"Both!" said the two women in unison.

He smiled boyishly for the first time since they'd met. "I think it's normal that I don't know, I'm only a junior scientist, involved in very low-level research. As for if it's normal to have off-limits locations, when I came here I was just told to do my work and mind my own business. It's worked pretty well so far."

"Fair enough. I'll discuss the issue when I get to meet the great man himself," said Evelyn, winking at Laurie.

"The sarge wants a tour, let's not keep her waiting," smiled Laurie. He nodded and took off, not looking back.

"You know you're getting old when scientists all look so young," said Laurie, leaning over and whispering in Evelyn's ear as they followed the young man.

"That's because you are old and he's barely out of his diapers," Evelyn whispered back.


"I beg your pardon," said Boris.

"Nothing, just checking on something with the boss," said Laurie, her smile remaining in place till the man turned around again.

"What exactly is it that you do, Boris?" asked Evelyn.

"I check the microscopes that scan the many ice-cores we take. I randomly check that the AI's got it right."

"Not everything is hand checked?"

"Good grief, no," he chuckled. "We'd need another twenty thousand pairs of eyes for that. No, we let the computers look for most things."

"What are they looking for?" asked Laurie.

He frowned again, obviously preferring to answer Evelyn's questions. "Anything we don't expect be there," he said, slightly petulantly.

"Does any of this require you to melt the ice?"

"Not really, we use boring machines. I do believe they have heated tips though, should they get stuck."

"No use for, say, melting a narrow band of ice into a two metre deep hole?" asked Evelyn casually.

He stopped walking. "No, I don't think so, why would you want to do that?"

"Just asking," Evelyn said breezily, striding past him, leaving him looking to Laurie for help, who just shrugged by way of reply.

Part Three

"Well, that was a bust!" Evelyn said with exasperation.

"Yeah, not much to see. Or at least not much they wanted us to see," replied Laurie, as she stretched out on the couch in Evelyn's temporary office. They had been given a cursory tour of the science base and had left little wiser than when they arrived.

"I'd like to go for a spin in one of those diving vessels, though."

"You would? I thought you were a committed 'keep your feet on the ground' kinda person," said Laurie.

"We did some training with the SEALS on espionage techniques using mini-subs and the like. I thought they were fun."

"So, we sneak in there, 'borrow' one of their subs and go for a ride. I like it! When do we go?" asked Laurie, her eyes lighting up with excitement at the prospect.

"Whoa there, Tiger. I never said anything about any sub-jacking. If we're going to go for a dive it will be officially sanctioned and for a good reason."

"Such as?"

"I want to meet ET."

"That's not a good reason."

"It's not, huh?"


"Think the director would put in a good word for us?"

"She might, but I don't think she's got any more clout with Kirsk than the rest of us."


"Science director."

"Oh. Why didn't anyone mention his name before?"

"No one calls him by his name, he's just known as Dos."

"Director of Science?"


"Is there a Mr or Mrs Dos?"

Laurie shook her head. "Don't think so. I'm pretty sure ol' Dos is above such things. I think he's an android."

"Really?" said Evelyn, her eyes widening a little.

"Nah, not really he just acts like one," said Laurie, smiling.

Evelyn grimaced at Laurie's ability to say the most outrageous things straight faced. "You found any connections between the three victims yet?"


"You even looked?"

"I'm hurt that you could even suggest such a thing."

"And I deeply sympathise with your hurt, but you didn't answer the question."

Laurie cocked her head at Evelyn. "I've checked over three thousand work reports from Valeri Lotoshka, victim number one, and not once did he encounter Sue Obukoo, victim number two, or Michael Williams, victim number three. Nor have I found any links between the last two, either."

"Nothing? Not one connection?"

"That's what I said."

"Then we are going to have to widen the search patterns to look for the missing link."

"I like the sound of this 'we'," said Laurie.

"Figure of speech, Private."

"Should have known," said Laurie, her shoulders slumping in a dramatic display of despair.

"Okay, let's go over what we know," said Evelyn. "We have three bodies, two of which died apparently from hypothermia and the third from..." she paused while she checked the doctor's report on her eye viewer "Cause unknown, but exceptionally elevated levels of adrenaline suggest deep psychological shock prior to death."

"He died of fright?" asked Laurie, incredulously.

"Check for yourself," said Evelyn touching her wrist pad. Laurie sat up as she read rapidly though the report.

"Wow, I never liked Williams much, but dying from adrenaline overdose... bet that was a rush!"

"You knew Williams?"

"Sure, it's not that big a place that I don't know most of the other engineers."

"So you knew them all?"

"Well, I knew of them, but I can't say that I knew them personally, not even biblically," she said with a smirk.

"Much of that go on up here?"

"Much of what?"

"Casual sex."

"I can only speak for myself, but whenever I have sex it's never, ever casual."

Evelyn swallowed at the intense look Laurie gave her as she spoke, her rich voice resonating through the soldier's soul.

She looked away, taking a deep breath and composing herself, missing the broad smile that Laurie also sent her way. "So," she said, turning back to face a grinning Laurie. "You're now my number one suspect, seeing as you have links to all three."

Laurie's grin dropped immediately. "Whadya mean I'm the number one suspect?" she said indignantly. It was Evelyn's turn to smirk. "Very good, Sarge, but be careful who you cross swords with."

"Is that a threat, Private?"

"No, just a friendly bit of advice," said Laurie airily.

"I'll bear that in mind. So summing up we have three bodies, no crime scenes worth a damn, no evidence of any kind, no witnesses, no real motives, no patterns and if some strange person, or persons, unknown hadn't decided to get creative with the bodies post mortem, I wouldn't even be here. Oh and no suspects other than you."

"That about sums it up, though for all I know, you may have sneaked here a few months ago, did the foul deeds yourself and then faked your arrival and your identity. So you're just as much a suspect as the rest of us, Sister."

"Really? What was my motive?"

"You were part of a four-way love affair that went wrong."

"Sounds pretty far-fetched to me."

"That's how these things go, it's always the least likely that are the guilty ones."

"That so?"

"Yup," said Laurie solemnly.

"Hey, this is great. I can go to the director and tell her that we've nearly wrapped it up. All I have to do is ask her to send for a real cop and arrest me then we can all go home."

"Can we have lunch first? I'm starving," said Laurie with conviction.

"Oh, all right, but no funny moves."

"Hey, why me, I thought you were the killer?"

"Nah, I've decided it's too far-fetched. I'm too nice for that sort of thing, and you're not clever enough to have masterminded it."

"How about we pin it on somebody else, then?"

"Anyone in particular?"

"How about Furlow?" said Laurie.

"Christine's right-hand creep?"

"Oh, you've met him, I see."

"Sure have. Okay, it's agreed, we have lunch and plot his downfall. That sound like a plan to you?"

"Sounds like a date to me."

"A date, huh?"

"We can go dutch, Dutch."

"You've been dying to squeeze that in somewhere, haven't you?"

"You know me so well," said Laurie, grinning.

"Come on, Private, let's go eat and try and think of what on Europa we do next."

* * *

"How'd it go?" asked Laurie, as Evelyn emerged from the director's office.

"You mean what did Christine think of our complete lack of success?"

"Oh, so now it's 'our' investigation now is it?"

"Till we have a break through, then it will be mine again."

"Figures. Engineers never get the glory. If it wasn't for us none of this would be possible, you know that don't you?"

"Finished whining?"


"Good, then let's go interview some of the victims' work colleagues, see what we can turn up."

"All of them?"

"You got anything else planned?"

"Guess not, though I could introduce you to Dexter."

"Who's Dexter?"

"The question is what's Dexter," said Laurie, grinning.

"Okay... what's Dexter? she said, not expecting a sensible answer from the chief suspect." said Evelyn.

"Third person doesn't suit you."

"Answer the question."

"It's a sport we invented. You can only play it in low-grav. One of these days I mean to write it all up and form a proper governing body. All sports need a governing body to stop folks having too much fun."

Evelyn shook her head and rubbed her eyes. "Why is everything so... difficult with you? Even ordinary conversations take on such a surreal air."

"Hey, I can understand if you don't wanna get your butt whipped at something."

"Why is it called 'Dexter'?"

"He was one of the guys that first thought it up."


"Well, yeah, I suppose it could just have well been called 'Stevens' but then I figured everyone would keep saying 'Steven's what?' so we stuck with 'Dexter'."

"So in the middle of a murder investigation you want us to stop and play some game you made up?"

"Sure, it might help relax you and help you see things more clearly."

"Maybe some other time."

"Well, at least come and watch one of the games. There's one tonight between EG3 and WS6."


"Oh, right, Engineering Group Three play Weather Station Six."

"Will there be a lot of people watching?" asked Evelyn.

"Sure, as many as can fit into the arena, who aren't on shift."

"It might be a good opportunity to meet some new suspects, god knows we're running out of decent ones here."

"That's my girl! I'll pick you up at nineteen thirty," said Laurie enthusiastically.

"Our second date, huh? I was always told it was bad form to fraternise with the lower ranks," said Evelyn with an evil grin.

"Yeah, but who's gonna know? You're over three AUs from base."

"Good point. But we still have to go interview those colleagues. I've got a report to file home, have some dinner and then we'll go to the ball game."

"You're on!" said Laurie with a smile.

* * *

"We have to strap ourselves down to watch a game?" asked Evelyn, eyeing the webbing on the floor in front of every seat around the arena.

"You'll regret it if you don't," replied Laurie, snapping the quick release bands over her feet. "They turn down the gravity, they have to switch it off quite a way outside the perimeter so that it's even all the way across the court. If you don't strap yourself in, first time you jump up you'll keep going. It gets a little embarrassing having the audience wafting into the match."

"Explain the rules to me again," said Evelyn a little grumpily, unhappily tying her feet down.

"There are two teams of six made up of five players and one goalkeeper on each side. The outfield players have rackets built onto their gloves. The idea is to hit the ball into the opponents' nets. Each side has a low net and a high net. You get three points for scoring a low goal and one point for scoring a high goal. You're not allowed to hold the ball at any time, except for the goalkeeper, he or she can catch it and hold it but only inside their own box."

"So far so soccer mixed with tennis mixed with basketball."

"Ah yes, but here's the unique part. The ball's got a random inertial system built in. At any moment it can alter its course by up to ninety degrees."

"So it's a game of chance as much as skill?"

"Well, to a degree. It just means the players have to react much more quickly than they would otherwise. Remember, it's played at nearly zero-g so players are every which way in three dimensions."

"Is the ball with a mind of its own your little addition to the game?"

"I guess so. I pretty much made up the whole thing. Dexter just used to hang around and play with me while I ironed out the rules."

"Where is he now?"

"He finished his tour and went back to Earth."

"How long ago was that?"

"Oh, ten years or so."

"You invented this when you were still at school?"

"Yeah, I was bored most of the time. I figured we should be able to make up a game that made use of low gravity, something unique to us."

"You're a real founding... er, mother aren't you?" said Evelyn with a smile.

"Only here two days and already you've uncovered my secret agenda to make Europa an independent world. Freedom!" she said with relish, clenching her fist in a salute.

Evelyn shook her head. "I can never tell when you're being serious or just making fun of me."

Laurie swung round, staring intently into Evelyn's eyes. "I'd never make fun of you, Evelyn."

The soldier's left eyebrow quirked up and a knowing smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

Laurie's intense expression softened slightly. "Well, okay, I make fun of you all the time. But!" she said, emphasising her remark by raising her finger, "Never when it's really important."

Evelyn's other eyebrow rose to meet its partner.

Laurie scowled. "Okay, busted. I still clown around even when it's important. But that's only because... " she paused, not quite sure if she should continue.

"Only because?" prompted Evelyn.

Laurie huffed and shrugged her shoulders. "Because I know you can really tell... when it matters. We have... a connection," she struggled, groping for the right words. "I've known it from the first time I saw you in the morgue. Something fell into place that had been missing for as long as I can remember." She couldn't look Evelyn in the face, now that her secret had slipped out so unexpectedly and so easily.

She felt the soldier's hand on her shoulder pulling her around to face her. She still couldn't look Evelyn directly in the face, so certain that she'd see nothing but puzzlement, or worse, outrage. "If you don't want me to help you any more, I understand..."

"I felt it too," said Evelyn softly.

"I mean, I know having someone around you who acts pretty dumb most of the time and then lays this soulmate crap on you while you're trying to solve a murder, and... what did you say?" she asked, looking up at Evelyn for the first time.

"I said, I felt it too, but you were too busy busting your own ass to notice," said Evelyn, smiling gently.


"Is that all you can say?"

Laurie mouth opened and closed a few times, but nothing came out. Finally she said, "Are you sure? I mean, I remind you of your dream an' all. Perhaps that's what you felt?"

"Nope, my mind latched onto the dream rescuer I've known since I was twelve years old. But something else clicked, in here," she said, tapping herself between her breasts. "It took me a while to realise what had happened. I didn't mention it because I didn't know if the same thing had happened to you. I thought you'd just dismiss it as a reaction to my dreams."

Neither said a word for a minute or two, both absorbing the unexpected revelation.

"Phew, I have to say that dates with you are something else," breathed Laurie heavily, relieved that she wasn't being rejected by Evelyn as she had secretly feared.

"This was the last thing I expected when I was ordered here to investigate some two-bit murder in the boondocks."

"Hah!" said Laurie snapping out of her uncharacteristic state of uncertainty. "My evil plan has finally come together. I killed those poor souls just to lure you here and... and..."

"Have your wicked way with me?"

"Yes! Er, no, of course not."


"Well, okay, I can be flexible and modify my plans."

"How did you know that they would send me?"

"Yes, that's a flaw, I'll admit."

"This has got to be the strangest bit of wooing I've ever been on the receiving end of," said Evelyn, shaking her head and smiling at her very unconventional assistant.

"I'll admit that I had planned a candle-lit dinner for two in an expensive restaurant to break all this to you, but a game of Dexter, surrounded by hundreds of shouting fans works too, I guess," said Laurie. "And by the way, you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition."

Evelyn shook her head and turned to watch the game for a moment. "Who's winning?" she asked.

"Who cares?"

"Not me."

"True, shall we go?" replied the engineer. "I'm keen to deepen this budding relationship further."

"And miss the match?"

"You really want to stay and watch this?"

"Nope, just wanted to see that puppy-dog look on your face," grinned Evelyn, reaching down to unhook her feet. She looked up from her shoes as an unexpected hush fell over the arena. Players were turning and twisting frantically trying to get out the way of a woman floating though the court slashing with a machete at anyone that came near. Two of the players were already tumbling in space, hunched up in tight balls spraying red globules of blood in a grotesque spiral of death.

"I take it that's not part of the rules?" said Evelyn grimly, pulling her feet free and launching herself into the arena, drawing her pistol from her shoulder holster.

"Evelyn, wait, you're not used to zero-g!" cried Laurie, frantically pulling at her feet ties.

The woman with the machete saw Evelyn coming towards her, a lazy grin spread across her face as she shifted the blade to her other hand, preparing to meet Evelyn's dive. Screams and shouts erupted from the crowd as they realised what was happening.

Laurie pushed off from her seat, twisting to avoid one of the fleeing players, desperate to avoid the mad woman with the machete. Try as she might, Laurie knew it was hopeless; physics ensured that no matter what she did she would never catch up with Evelyn in time.

The woman pulled back her machete and took a lazy swing at Evelyn, the arc of her blade timed to meet the soldier's face. Evelyn could hear Laurie's scream of 'No!' from behind, but there was no time to look back. She ducked her head at the last second and the blade passed by, slicing through some of her hairs, spinning them off into their own trajectories. She reached out, hooking her arm around the woman's waist causing them both to tumble wildly together. Evelyn had no idea which way was up or down, all she knew was that she was holding onto a mad-woman with a machete who would be slicing lumps out of her at any moment.

She brought her pistol up and fired at point-blank range into the woman's temple. The woman released the machete as they continued to spiral out of control. A siren sounded and something crashed into the pair of them, sending them spinning off at a different angle.

"I've got you, Evelyn," gasped Laurie, grabbing the disorientated soldier's uniform. "Let her go and get ready for a fall, this is gonna hurt."

"What, why?" was all Evelyn managed before a huge unseen force grabbed them both, hurling them to the floor. Evelyn's military training took over as she curled into a tight ball and rolled with the impact, coming to rest on her back, winded but otherwise unhurt.

Laurie's natural athleticism saved her from anything worse than some bruises and a few strained joints as she landed cat-like, absorbing most of the energy of the fall.

She stumbled over to Evelyn, sprawled out on her back and looking up intently at the ceiling.

"See anything up there?" she asked, leaning over and holding out her hand, ready to help Evelyn to her feet.

"Some days it definitely pays to stay in bed."

"Ain't that the truth," replied Laurie pulling Evelyn up. The woman lay in a pool of blood nearby. At the other end of the court the bodies of the two unfortunate players she had managed to kill before Evelyn had stopped her were crumpled on the floor.

"I guess someone panicked and hit the emergency gravity button," groaned Laurie, rolling her shoulders and stretching her back. "Have to look into putting a slow wind-down circuit in there to let folks down gently."

"Pity you didn't think of that before," said Evelyn rubbing her backside and twisting out the kinks in her neck.

"Couldn't wait, huh? You had to play hero and shoot someone," said Laurie, looking down at the fallen woman.

"Hey, someone had to stop her."

"With that?" said Laurie angrily pointing at Evelyn's pistol.

"Worked didn't it?"

"Oh yeah, it worked all right. Now we have no idea why she did what she did."

"Look, it all happened in under five seconds. I did what I've been trained to do," replied Evelyn, getting angry herself.

"Good, well tell that to her husband, he should be coming off shift in an hour or so," said Laurie, pushing her way through the crowd that had gathered around the three women.

Evelyn chased after the tall woman, grabbing her by the shoulder and tugging her around to face her. "Don't you judge me, Laurie, I saved lives here today, damnit!" she said, forgetting she still held the gun in her hand.

"Take that thing out of my face and don't ever, ever put it there again, you understand me!" Laurie said with chilling vehemence, her eyes narrowed to slits of rage. She shook off Evelyn's hand and stalked off, leaving the soldier standing open-mouthed and bewildered at the sudden awful turn of events.

She looked down at the pistol in her hand, as if seeing it for the first time. Her first impulse was to throw it violently against the nearest wall, but instead she took a deep breath, snapped the safety on and slipped it back into its holster, her training once more taking over.

She pushed her way back through the crowd. "Okay, folks, clear a space. Has anyone called the doctor yet?"

* * *

"I think you owe Evelyn an apology, Laurie," said the doctor. They stood either side of the body on the examination table. "Brenda died of a broken skull and internal haemorrhaging, not from the shot to the head. See," he said, pointing to the dead woman's right temple. "The projectile never even broke the skin. Left a big old bruise, but nothing worse. Evelyn had the presence of mind to set her rail gun to minimum before she fired. Quite a performance I might add, I've seen the replays more than a few times on the news channel. I think she did exactly the right thing. If it hadn't been for that idiot Furlow ordering the gravity to be restored, Brenda would still be alive and able to tell us what happened. Dave Furlow's stupidity killed her, not Evelyn."

Laurie closed her eyes, rubbing them with her hand. "Oh hell," she sighed. "It was just all that blood, and the sound of her gun going off, I assumed... that, well, she... you know,"

"No point explaining your actions to me, Laurie, I think there's someone else you should be doing that to," he said, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"I know, I know, but I don't think she'll ever want to talk to me again after the way I treated her. I have to find a way to apologise to her."

"Well, as she's standing right behind you, now's as good a time as any."

Laurie whirled round, not having heard anyone enter the morgue.

"Evelyn," she croaked.

Part Four

"Laurie," said Evelyn, without a hint of warmth. She turned to the doctor. "What have you got for me, Doc?"

"Three more bodies," he said sadly.

"Causes of death?"

"Suki Yamata, death from loss of blood due to trauma, a large cut with a sharp implement to the neck and shoulder. Same goes for Stanley Carver, arm and leg almost severed, died within moments of the first cut, several major blood vessels having been incised. Second cut wasn't really required. The third, Brenda Pulsnic, died from severe trauma to the skull, brought about by a long drop and landing on her head. But I think you know all this already. You were a witness."

"What I don't know is why, even though I saw it with my own eyes. I've just come from interviewing Brenda's husband, Steven. He is as bewildered as the rest of us," said Evelyn. "I think you might want to drop by his apartment and offer him some sedatives or a little counselling, Doc," she added.

"Yes, of course. I'll get on it right away. I'm sure you two have some matters to discuss. Oh, and Evelyn, you might want to examine Brenda's body, there are some things that may or may not be pertinent to your investigation." He peeled off his disposable gloves and picked up his medical bag then wished them both a good day and left.

The two women stared at each other across the corpse on the examination table.

"Evelyn, you have to understand how I feel about guns..." Laurie trailed away to silence as the soldier held up her hand and shook her head.

"I think that's pretty obvious," said Evelyn.

Laurie looked down at the floor, not sure what to say next. "Do you... do you want me to quit the investigation?" she said softly, bracing herself for the response she was sure Evelyn would give.

"Is that what you want?"

Laurie shook her head, unable to speak past the lump in her throat. She felt like a little girl sent to the headmistress's office. The anger she'd felt at Evelyn's use of her sidearm had long since drained away, to be replaced by deep regret and a churning stomach.

"Neither do I, Soldier," Evelyn said, the first hint of a smile playing about her lips.

Laurie looked up at Evelyn, hearing the warmth creep back into Evelyn's words. She leaned over the table and pulled Evelyn to her. "Oh god, Evelyn, I'm so, so sorry. I've been going out of my mind since all this happened. First because I thought you'd just shot her out of hand, that didn't seem to be the person I thought you were. Then because I treated you so bad, and after you'd stopped Brenda hurting anyone else, and now I found out you only knocked her out. I feel so wretched, and... and... I'm babbling aren't I?"

"A little bit," said a muffled voice buried in her shoulder.

Evelyn tried to push Laurie off gently but she gave up trying as the taller, stronger woman would not be denied. She just went with the flow and returned the hug, thankful that their friendship was once more back on track.

Laurie started giggling, heady with relief. Their argument had affected her more than she thought possible.

"What's so funny?" asked Evelyn, twisting her head round so that she could get some fresh air.

"I was just thinking that if someone should come in now and see us hugging over a dead body."

"It's not really funny, Laurie," said Evelyn, beginning to chuckle too in spite of herself.

They lurched apart as the door to the morgue opened unexpectedly.

"So, Sergeant Bates, not only have you failed to find me a killer, you've managed to double the death toll since your arrival!" snapped Christine Jefferson, the director of the base.

"To be fair, Ma... Christine, I wasn't exactly responsible for these three deaths."

"But you failed to stop them," barked the director.

"Yes, Ma'am." Evelyn snapped to attention, her eyes straight ahead "My full report will be on your desk in the morning, Ma'am."

"You've got six weeks, Sergeant. I've asked for more help. That's how long it will take for them to get here. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Ma'am, perfectly."

The director looked at the three bodies. "Hell of a mess, Sergeant, hell of a mess." She shook her head and stomped out the room.

"That was hardly fair," said Laurie, grimacing at the swinging doors.

"No, but perfectly accurate," sighed Evelyn.

"What! You can't be serious, go out there and clue her in."

"Won't do any good. She's already called for more help. Which means, partner, that we've got to get our butts into gear and solve this before someone else does."

"Okay, Sarge, you're the boss. What's next?"

"We examine Brenda again for any clues the doc may have missed. There has to be a reason for a normal, healthy, sane woman to go berserk with a machete, and I intend to find out what it is. Hopefully that will help us with the other murders."

* * *

They met the doctor just as he was leaving Brenda's apartment.

"Evelyn, Laurie," he said, smiling amiably.

"Hi, Doc, how's the patient?" asked Evelyn.

"As well as can be expected. He's in a state of shock still, I don't think it's fully sunk in just yet."

"Not every day you see your wife murder two people and then fall to her death," said Laurie.

"No, I guess not." He looked at the engineer in surprise. She wasn't normally this unemotional. "Something you're not telling me?" he said, looking back and forth between the two women.

"Let's just say we've some more questions to ask Mr Pulsnic."


"We'll let you know after we've questioned him," said Evelyn, gently pushing past the doctor and into the apartment.

"I'll keep you in the loop, Doc, don't worry," whispered Laurie as she slid past the doctor, closing the door behind her.

The apartment wasn't large, just enough for two people to live together provided they were close friends and didn't mind sharing things. A man sat slumped on the small two-seater couch in the main living space.

"We let ourselves in, I hope you don't mind, we'd like to ask you some questions about your wife," said Evelyn, sitting down opposite the man. He looked up at her, his eyes focussing for the first time since their arrival.

"I talked to you before, didn't I?" he said distractedly. He rubbed his hand across his face and sighed. "I'm sorry, where are my manners? Would you like a drink, or... something?"

"Did the doc give you anything?" asked Laurie.

"He... I'm not sure. He might have done. I think he did do something." He reached up and touched his neck, frowning.

"It's okay, don't worry about it, just relax and try to answer our questions, okay?"

"Sure," he smiled, obviously under the influence of a tranquilliser.

"Did you and your wife have a good relationship?" asked Evelyn.

"Yeah, she was the greatest." His smile broadening into a huge grin.

"Did you recently beat her?"


"I said did you tie your wife down and beat her?"

"I... I don't understand," he said, blinking his eyes, trying to focus on the woman asking the questions.

"The sergeant means did you and your wife maybe have an... interesting sex life?" said Laurie.

"Of course we had in interesting sex life, we were married," he mumbled, turning to the other woman.

"Being married and having a sado-masochistic relationship doesn't necessarily follow," said Evelyn.

"Look, what is it with you? I already told you I did not beat my wife. I wouldn't, she was my partner, my friend, why would I beat her?"

"Actually you didn't tell me. Are you saying that you have never performed a sado-masochistic act with your wife?"

"No, it's not something either of us has ever wanted to do."

"Then do you know if your wife sought that sort of a relationship elsewhere?" asked Evelyn.

"Of course not!"

"Of course not, you don't know, or of course not, she didn't?"

"She didn't... she wouldn't."

"Are you certain?"

"I... I... " He looked about in confusion and pain, finally settling on Laurie.

"It's all right, Steven, the sergeant has to ask these questions, she doesn't mean anything by it," Laurie said, glaring at Evelyn, as she pulled the stricken man to her shoulder, offering comfort.

He slumped down, his head landing in Laurie's lap and started to cry, which swiftly developed into great wracking sobs of despair. "My... my Brenda's gone," he wailed. Slowly the tears stopped to be replaced by a slow, rhythmic breathing. He'd fallen asleep in her lap. Laurie looked to her partner for help.

"Don't look at me, Florence, you're the one who wanted to comfort him," said Evelyn.

"Satisfied he didn't put the weals on her back?"

"Now I am. Come on, let's put him on his bed and leave him alone. When he wakes up I doubt he'll remember any of this. He'll think it was all a dream, or nightmare, depending on your point of view," she said, taking the sleeping man's feet as Laurie effortlessly lifted him up under his arms. They carried him through into the bedroom and laid him down, dimming the lights and closing the door.

"Shouldn't we have undressed him?" asked Laurie.

"You want to, then be my guest."

"Hell no!"

"What's the matter, Nursie, getting cold feet?"

"Keep this is up, Sergeant Bates, and you an' me'll have to have a little talk outside."

"It's forty degrees below outside, can't we sort it out indoors where at least it's warm?"

Laurie pulled the front door shut behind her as they left the apartment. "Do you always work like this?"

"What, you mean having to put up with a six-foot know-it-all who one moment wants to fight and the next wants to undress witnesses?"

"That's not quite what I meant."

"No, then what did you mean?"

"I mean... hell, I don't know what I mean," said Laurie in frustration.

"You meant that I don't play nice?" Evelyn put her hand up and motioned for Laurie to slow their fast pace along the corridor leading away from the Pulsnices' apartment. "Laurie, I'm a soldier. I've seen more death than anyone in their right mind would want to. I'm here to put a stop to any more if I can."

"I know, Evelyn, it's just you seem so aggressive, so unemotional sometimes, it worries me that we... we... oh, never mind."

"Go on, say what's on your mind, Laurie, I can tell that something's bothering you."

"Well, for one thing I feel real bad about what just happened back there."

"Why? Neither of us knew then what we know now. Either he's the best actor in the solar system, or else he's not who we're after. I'll go with the second option at the moment."

"I know I was all for going in there and getting him to confess one way or the other, but now I feel kinda... dirty."

"You think we shouldn't have taken advantage of a grieving, drugged widower?"

"Yes, and it bugs me a little bit that you don't care about it."

Evelyn stopped moving completely. She reached up and clasped Laurie's face in both hands, demanding she look directly into her eyes. "Laurie, believe me, I care. What I did turned out to be... unfortunate, but it had to be done. We have a monster loose somewhere on this moon and we have to put a stop to it, somehow cage or kill the animal. I pretty much don't care what we have to do to get that done, and I don't care who gets the glory. I just want it stopped. It's my mission and it's why I'm here. Understand?"

"Yes, yes... I'm sorry. I'm just not used to treating people so badly. I want everyone to be nice."

"So do I, Laurie, and for that you get a kiss." She leaned up, pulling Laurie down to meet her. She smiled and placed a brief, chaste kiss on the engineer's lips.

"See, I can do nice too," she said, letting her startled partner go and striding off down the corridor before Laurie could respond.

* * *

"Why exactly do you have machetes on Europa?" asked Evelyn, as she examined the weapon that Brenda had used.

"It's all the jungles we have," replied Laurie, as she too studied the blade.

"Yeah, I was going to mention all that greenery up on the surface." She slowly passed the multi-light scanner over the machete, switching colours with each pass.

"Actually it's not for cutting down creepers."

"You surprise me."

"No, they're part of the emergency store on every vehicle."

"You need a machete?"

"It's the best tool for cutting blocks of ice."

"You're kidding me?"

"No, it's true. If you're caught out on the ice when a storm blows up, and we do get them from time to time, the atmos-gennies have been pumping for more than three decades now, making yourself an ice break, or even an full igloo, is a good way to stay alive."

"I can't picture you in an igloo somehow. Why not just stay in the vehicle?"

"Better insulation. The vehicles work great all the time they have power, but when that goes they get pretty damn cold, pretty damn quick. I was the igloo building champ for three years in a row when I was at school. They used to call me Eskimo Nell," Laurie said proudly.

"I can see you guys really now how to have fun, and it's Inuit, by the way."

"I know, but Inuit Nell just doesn't sound right."

Evelyn stood up from crouching over the blade on the examination table. "Well, I can't see anything untoward on the machete, not counting the blood, of course. Brenda's fingerprints are on the handle, but that's about it, no chemicals, no pathogens, nothing!" she said with frustration.

"We'll have to trace her movements prior to the game," said Laurie.

"Yeah, I guess we do it the hard way."

"Why are we concentrating on this, shouldn't we be doing more on the original murders?"

"They happened weeks ago, everything's been done that could be done. The trails have gone cold, literally," she said smiling. "No, this is the one that's going to lead us to the killer."

"How can you be so sure?"

"I can't, but it's my informed opinion."

"AKA, best guess."

"Something like that."

"So, where now?"

"Now I will go and find out what Brenda did before the game, and you can go and get Mr Slimeball's version of why he ordered the gravity turned back up."

"Shoot, do I have to?" pouted Laurie.

"Still want that stripe?"

"On my arm or on my butt?"

"Now don't you be getting any ideas from Brenda's extra-marital activities."

"Heaven forbid," said Laurie as angelically as she possibly could, batting her eyelids.

* * *

Continued in Part 2.

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