It was a typical seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit on a June day in Chryse Planitia on Mars. It was eleven-thirty and the streets were bustling with pressure suit clad pedestrians on their way to the spaceport to greet the new arrivals from Earth. The Mars date was June 17 2106 and the sixtieth year of the Earth colony dedicated to the renowned astronomer and scientist Carl Sagan.
The inscription above the airlock doorway read: ‘The Carl Sagan Center Gateway to Mars’. A group of twenty people crowded into to the airlock, which was equipped with a clear intercom system. Robert Gleeson, a young law enforcement deputy, was there to meet a special agent from Earth. He was to meet an agent sent to the colony on special assignment.
A young woman’s voice from the loudspeaker announced:
‘The spaceship Jimmy Carter will be off-loading passengers in approximately fifteen minutes please have your arrival papers ready for the attendant. Thank you.’
Shortly the pressure equalized inside the lock and the inside door automatically opened. The crowd shuffled out into the main gallery of the reception hall and Gleeson hurried over to the podium where the attendant waited. A woman in her mid-thirties gave him a familiar glance and greeted him with the same respect
“Hello Bob; you must be expecting someone today?”
“Yes I’m here to meet a Jonny Strongbow,” he said; reaching out to hand her the reception papers.
She accepted the papers and looked them over.
“Hmmm? This is a very interesting person this Jonny Strongbow. It seems that he grew up on a Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It appears that he was an exceptionally bright student in elementary and high school and that he studied Law Enforcement at UCLA. After graduation he worked for the FBI for a year before being placed on special temporary assignment to Mars. So what is the special assignment?”
“Well Tonya I really don’t know I take these departmental orders but I don’t make them and I don’t ask questions.”
About that time a man with two long black braids in his hair walked up to the podium.
“Hello I am Jonny Strongbow, I was told to report at this podium to meet a man named Robert Gleeson.”
“You came to the right place Mr. Strongbow we’ve been expecting you. Do you have your passport handy?”
He handed it to her.
“I was also told my baggage would be here.”
“Yes your baggage will be delivered shortly.”
And at that time a hum emitted from a compartment next to the podium and he saw his bags being raised into it from a floor below via elevator lift.
“There it is sir,” she said stamping his passport. She turned to Gleeson and said, “Mr. Strongbow meet Robert Gleeson. Mr. Gleeson will show you to your office. This is an interesting day for me Mr. Strongbow,” she continued, “I’ve never met an ’American Indian.”
“I prefer ‘Native American’ India is on the other side of the world from where I grew up,” he said without hesitation, “and everyone calls me Jonny.”
“I’m sorry Mr. err, Jonny I’m not accustomed to using the terminologies either.”
“It’s quite alright Tonya it happens all the time.”
“If you’ll just go with Mr. Gleeson he’ll show you where you need to go.”
Jonny shook hands with Bob then he placed his bags on a cart.
“How was your trip over from Earth? I’ve heard it can be quite an experience, but I wouldn’t know since I was born here.”
“The Jimmy Carter is a comfortable ship to travel on. Because it’s pretty large and most accommodating.”
“Yes I understand that the newer ships equipped with gravity drive are not only faster but smoother as well.”
“Yes it was nice but it was somewhat confining, I am looking forward to getting out and about.”
There will be plenty of time for that later. Let’s just get you settled in to your office and later someone will show you to your apartment.”
They walked out into the street in their pressure suits.
Terraforming had increased the overall atmospheric pressure by only forty mille-bars serving mostly to maintain higher temperatures. Holding the seventy-two degree daytime temperature until about eight p. m. when it would gradually drop to the negative two hundred below nighttime temperatures. The time was eleven-thirty a. m. and the Sun was high in the sky. Jonny marveled at the fact that the Sun looked the same as on Earth but the sky was a caramel color with a hint of blue. The sky was also dotted with the occasional grav-cars which were propelled by the same gravity drives as the spaceships only in miniature.
Walking into the police station, Bob introduced Jonny to the crew he would be working with.
Helen Waite was assigned to be his personal secretary and she was waiting at the front door as the pressure lock equalized and hissed to allow the doors to open. Bob introduced them.
“Jonny this is Helen your personal secretary she’ll help you settle into your office.”
Helen smiled and shook Jonny’s hand. I’m sure you’re anxious to get started,” she said taking over the tour.
“I’ll be going back to my desk,” Bob said, “I’m sure you guys will have no problem getting acquainted from here.”
“We will be just fine,” Helen told him, and then Bob hurried up a flight of stairs.
Helen was in her mid-thirties and well acquainted with her job. She handed Jonny an electronic notepad and told him to follow her into his office. He followed her through a set of automatic sliding doors and found his desk next to a large bay-window that revealed the Martian landscape outside. He saw a distant dust storm between the police station and the mountains.
“This looks a lot like South Dakota,” he said sitting in his chair. He switched the pad on and began reading and scrolling.
“From the date on the top of this report I’d say it goes back three months.
“That’s correct sir it begins a day before we called Earth for assistance.”
“Hmmm, I see. It appears they had some serious trouble out at the mines. Why wasn’t I informed that three people were killed?”
“We had to be very careful and all messages had to be coded and scrambled. The text you are reading should explain itself before too long.”
“It says there was an arrest, a mine foreman named John Morley?”
“That is correct sir . . .”
Jonny interrupted her, “Please call me Jonny.”
“Yes sir, ah Jonny. Well Sheriff Donaldson said he had to arrest someone to keep the colonists from panicking.”
“That doesn’t make sense and there doesn’t seem to be an investigation described in this report.”
“There was no investigation that I know of Jonny.”
“No investigation? You can’t have an arrest and a conviction without an investigation. There were no witnesses no sworn statements? What was he charged with?”
“There were no charges and there was no conviction. He’s being held indefinitely and no one is allowed to visit him from the outside.”
“What kind of law enforcement is this?” he said in an elevated tone.
“I don’t know and I don’t ask questions for fear of losing my job but I’m glad I was chosen to be your secretary. Things have been really hairy around here. I read your file and it looks like you were one of the best in the field and rank very high in investigative law enforcement.”
“Don’t worry Helen you’ve told me nothing and will tell me nothing that will leave this room. Are there any agents or deputies in this area that you trust?”
“Yes there are a few but they don’t talk much either even amongst themselves.”
“Good! Where is the jail?”
“It’s directly below us. There’s a special elevator across the hall that will take us down to the central incarceration unit.”
“Okay Helen let’s get the best men on duty and have them meet us down there as soon as they can. We’re going to have a talk with Mr. Morley and we will have all the monitors muted.”
“Right away Jonny,” She immediately began keying into a hand held device and motioned for Jonny to follow. They were greeted by three men in the elevator who told them there were others on the way.
They were met by a couple of uniformed guards.
“No one goes down into the cells without authorization from the Sheriff,” an overweight middle aged guard told him. Jonny showed him his badge and the guard’s eyes flared for a moment. “Jonny Strongbow,” he exclaimed, “so you’re the one they sent. Well you certainly don’t need authorization from anyone. Who do you need to talk to down here?”
“John Morley; I need to ask him a few questions.”
The guard’s face turned an ashen grey but proceeded behind a counter where he typed a few codes into a device. Some panels slid open in the wall next to Jonny and his party. “You’ll find him at the end of the corridor and I’m sure he’ll be surprised to see you.”
“I have no doubts,” Jonny said.
They found John Morley in his cell and he was reasonably surprised. His face had bruises and he had visible scabs on his ears and his lower lip, evidence of a severe beating.
“And what in Hell do you want from me?” he said suspiciously.
“I’m Special Agent Jonny Strongbow here on special assignment and I just need to ask a few questions.”
“That’s what that ‘motherfucker’ Donaldson said. I don’t know anything and if I did I would have told him long before he had me beat-up.”
“Why did he have you beaten?”
“There’s something going on down in the mines but I don’t know what it is. Hell, I wasn’t even curious until I was arrested.”
“What happened in the mines?”
“Hell, there were some rumors that something was found down on level eight. The crews were working double shifts and only authorized personnel were allowed in that area. Hell they even installed some heavy-duty vault doors to the entrance to that part of the mine. My job was on level three and I was in charge of the copper ore containers. My job kept me busy and I paid no attention to the rumors. Then about three months ago there was an explosion and it turned out to be on level eight. Well just in case, I formed a rescue party and sure enough there were a few killed and quite a number injured. Well I was assisting one of the injured when that bastard Sheriff Donaldson showed up. George Martinson the foreman was badly injured and he was babbling something about level eight.”
“Did he say anything that you understood that would tell us something about what was going on in level eight?”
“Not really and I was only concerned about calming him down until the paramedics could arrive. And Donaldson has been asking me that same question since that day.”
“Why are you being held in this confinement?”
“Hell, the bastard has some kind of complex and he really believes that I know something. Actually I thought that the explosion was a freak accident until I was arrested.”
“What do you think caused the explosion?”
“Hell I don’t know but it don’t take a genius to figure that something’s going on.”
Jonny turned to the guards. “I want this man released immediately and taken to the best hotel available and provided with the best room they have to offer and kept under protective guard.” He turned back to John Morley. “Would you mind being examined by a doctor?”
John looked startled but he just shook his head in agreement.
Jonny turned to one of the men. “See to it that this man is seen by a physician and that he gets a room with all amenities.”
The man keyed in the cell codes on a handheld device and the force field components hummed and moved to the side.
“Okay Mr. Morley by the authority of Special Agent Jonny Strongbow you are being released under conditions,” the man said.
“And what conditions are those?” Jonny asked.
“All conditions there are to impose.”
“Let me make this perfectly clear; I do not and will not impose conditions. This man has been abused by some petty authority and it is my assessment is that the State owes him restitution for lost time and bodily harm and now he should be given back pay for the time he lost from his job while he was falsely incarcerated. I was sent here by an authority that believed I could correct some problems and I was unaware of the nature of what those problems are. Well now I’m beginning to realize what some of those problems are. Now if there is anyone here that doesn’t understand what I mean then they should come to my office later and I will explain it to them. If anyone of you has a problem as to why I’m here I will accept your resignations with no questions asked. Am I completely understood?”
Jonny looked around the room and saw blank expressions but no one uttered even a sound.”
“Good then I’ll assume that we are in agreement. Now see to it that this gentleman is taken care of properly and he is on his own. I do not want to hear that he was mishandled in any way.”
“Yes Sir Mr. Strongbow.” And the man led Mr. Morley away from the cell.
“Enough with the ‘Sir’ crap. My name is Jonny and that is what I answer to.”
Later back in Jonny’s office he hung a ‘Dream Catcher’ from the ceiling over left top of his desk so that anyone walking in could view it on their right.
“That’s interesting,” Helen said curiously. “What is it?”
“It’s a ‘Dream Catcher’. I take it you’ve never seen one before now.”
“I’ve never even heard of them. Do they signify anything?”
“Yes according to Native American legend there are good dreams and bad dreams floating in the air. Traditionally they are hung in dwelling places and places of work. According to this legend the good dreams pass through the center hole and then into a sleeping person. Bad dreams are captured in the web then are destroyed by the light of day.”
“That is interesting but why do you keep it above your desk.’
“I believe that good thoughts and bad thoughts are the same as dreams and whether we are sleeping or not they affect us. I keep it as a reminder that I must think the good thoughts and dispel the bad ones.”
You’re an interesting person Jonny I hope that you live up to your philosophy.”
“Thanks Helen so do I. So how do I contact Sheriff Donaldson?”
“I was wondering how long it would be before you asked that question. The Sheriff spends most of his time at the mine and he with a number of men is working to decipher the combination of codes to unlock the doors to level eight.”
“Hmmm, after all this time they might have been able to remove the doors or cut around them?”
“That’s just it, it has been sabotaged. Someone tried to get passed the lock and that’s when the explosions occurred.”
“Hmmm, there is something down there and whatever it is it’s being kept secret. And whatever it is it must be or believed to be extremely valuable.”
“There is a problem in that no one alive knows what it is. Whoever knew died in that explosion.”
“I have to strongly disagree with that Helen. I think Sheriff Donaldson either has a good idea or he knows very well what’s down in that shaft. Otherwise he wouldn’t have carried on this long. Something was discovered down there and that only a few people knew about or had enough understanding of the find to know the value of it. These people had enough authority to have those stronghold doors installed under the veil of secrecy. Only one or two persons knew the codes and they were probably the ones who installed them.”
“You are intuitive aren’t you Jonny? Two of the three men who were killed installed the doors. The other person killed was a close associate of theirs but after the doors were installed he wasn’t allowed in. He merely kept notes on those who came and went into the shaft.”
“Is there a record of the notes anywhere?”
“I’ve never seen them if they still exist but it was obvious that he was taking the notes.”
“Okay make a list of everyone that you know of that was entering the shaft after the doors were installed and if it’s possible give the time and dates. I want a list of people to interrogate.
“I’ll get on that right away Jonny and I’ll have a list for you in the morning.”
“One last thing before you get on with that see to it that Sheriff Donaldson meets me in my office the first thing in the morning.”
“Okay I’ll have him contacted immediately.”
Jonny spent the remainder of the day arranging his office. At three-thirty in the evening he decided to call it a day. On his way out he noticed Helen was still working at her desk.
“Why are you still here? The clock stops at three-thirty.”
“Most of the employers around here want all the paperwork done before going home.”
“That’s ridiculous if I need you to stay later I’ll let you know and I’ll pay you extra. Now go home and I’ll see you in the morning.”