Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Untitled Chapter 16

Tash carefully closed the journal and rested her eyes for a minute.  Jackson sat at his desk translating all of the scans they had taken of Martian text in the five years since they started excavating Jiashan.  So far everything he had translated had been pretty mundane; signs mostly, but knowing whether you were excavating a school or a hospital couldn’t hurt.

Tash swiveled around to face Jackson, “Has Dr. Cho sent you the information on Colonel Park and Dr. Krupp yet?”

“Right here,” he held up a data pad.

“So Colonel James Park is real?“ she rolled across the room and took the data pad from Jackson.

“He’s real,” he replied, “and so is the X-88.  Pretty much everything about it is still classified, but it definitely existed.  All we know for sure is that it was a failed prototype in the teens, but we probably won’t be able to get much on it until we tell the U.N. about the journal.”

“That’s ok.  We can put that off for a while,” Tash said, “We need to learn as much as we can from this journal before we tell anyone we have it.  You keep working on your translations.  Worst case, you’ve got about a week to get fluent in Guohua.  Even if they confiscate everything we’ve got, like Bae thinks they will, they can’t wipe your brain.”

“You better be right about that,” Jackson said half jokingly, “You know Dr. Cho’s supposed to go to MethLab for a concert tomorrow, right?”

Tash looked up from the data pad, “What?  Now?  That’s ridiculous.”

She rolled back to her desk and called through to Dr. Cho.  A still picture of him appeared on her screen and remained there when he answered several seconds later to indicate he wasn’t at a video terminal.

“This isn’t a good time, Tashi,” said Dr. Cho’s picture, “Let me call you back when I‘m done setting up the bots.”

“We have to talk now, Bae,” Tash insisted, “Are you really going to MathLab?  For a concert?”

“Of course I am,” came the reply, “Why else would I go to MathLab?”

“I mean why are you going now?”, she said, “You said yourself that we only have a week or two before we have to”

“Dr. Floyd,” he interrupted, “This is something we should discuss in person.  Do you understand?”

She understood.  Dr. Cho never called her Dr. Floyd unless they were in a formal setting.  Even when he was upset with her, he always called her Tash or Tashi.

“Yes, of course, doctor,” she said, “We’ll talk when you get back.  Any idea how long you’ll be?”

“I was just stepping into the airlock when you called.  It shouldn’t take me more than ten minutes to get the bots setup, and then I’ll be on my way home.  You just keep working on that pendant until I get back, and we can talk then.  Goodbye, Dr. Floyd,” and with that, he disconnected the call.

Tash, of course, no longer had the pendant.  Dr. Cho had that locked away in his office where he could run a battery of tests on it.  Spectroscopic analysis showed that it was an artificial ruby, and carbon dating put it at ninety million years old.  She knew that Dr. Cho didn’t really mean for her to work on the pendant, but she pulled up an image of the human etching in the pendant anyway.

The bio on the data pad for James Park had his picture so she held it up next to the one on her screen to compare the two.  At first she couldn’t really tell whether or not they were the same person, but when she covered the lower half of each face and concentrated on the eyes, the resemblance was unmistakable.  Somehow this test pilot who died twenty years ago traveled to a red dwarf system, got a ninety million year old pendant with his picture engraved in it, and left it on Mars sixty million years ago.

Travel season would open in about a week.  That meant they had at most two weeks until someone arrived from Earth to secure the pendant and review their data.  ’Review their data’ meant all of their data, including the everything about the journal.  That two week window was a best case scenario.  It assumed that they hadn’t already sent someone on a slightly longer flight the second they found out about the pendant, and Bae Cho wanted to waste two days singing pop music for a bunch of terraformers.

When he walked into the lab, Dr. Cho didn’t give Tash a chance to start the scolding she had been honing for the last three hours.  He simply told her and Jackson to follow him and not to say a word about until they got where they were going.  Where they went was Constable Gilmore’s office.

Gilmore looked up from his lunch when they walked in, “What’s up, docs?”

“I was hoping you could tell us,” said Dr. Cho as he took a seat across from the constable.

“Well, there is one thing,” he said, “but first, did you get those coordinates for me?”  Dr. Cho handed him his data pad.  He looked at for a second and handed it back.

“I figured as much,” he continued, “Those dead looters had GPS coordinates for your dig.  More specifically, they had the exact coordinates of that safe.”

“That’s impossible,” said Jackson, “There’s no way they could have known it was there.  I only uncovered it that day.”

“Impossible?” the constable replied, “More impossible than a human who died twenty years ago being on Mars sixty million years ago?  Or more impossible than what’s in his journal?  I’d say this is the least impossible thing about this case.”

“You’ve read the journal?” Tash asked.

“Of course.” he said, “Haven’t you?”

“I’ve started, but I’ve only had it for day,” she replied.

Dr. Cho chimed in, “Can we get back to the topic at hand?  How did they know where to find the stasis box?”

“The what?” the constable asked.

“The safe,” Dr. Cho said.

“Oh, right,” he said, “Well, that has to do with why we needed to talk in person.”

“So I was right about a bug?” Dr. Cho asked.

“Bug?” Tash asked, “What bug?”

“Dr. Cho thought someone might have bugged his office sometime in the last week so he asked me to scan his system,” Gilmore turned to Dr. Cho and continued, “I’m afraid you were wrong about the bug, doc.  Nobody bugged your system last week.  There’s been a worm in your system for months, and it’s in all of your systems.  I don’t know who’s listening or why yet, but I think it’s safe to say that’s how they knew where to find that safe.”

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