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Murder Beyond The Milky Way

By EricRuark All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Mystery

Chapter Forty-Six


Harry made his way back to Nova-3 and then worked his way over to the Mine-5 terminal. He took the next car to the hub and immediately went to their warehouse. The activity mirrored the hustle and bustle of Mine-6. Forklifts moved palettes of red-ore from the warehouse to the airlock. But Harry wasn’t interested in what they were doing or how they were doing it. He was more interested in what he found stored along the side of the walls: red-ore building blocks. From Mine-5 he worked his way around to Mine-4 and found similar blocks there. He also found them at Mine-3. At Mine-2, he not only found the building blocks, but he also ran into John Fitz-Porter.

“Well, you are the last person I expected to see up here,” Fitz-Porter said looking really surprised to see him. “What brings you up to Mine-2?” Fitz-Porter was carrying an electronic notepad and had just been speaking with the Lading Master when he noticed Harry.

“I’ve been running around a lot, today,” Harry said.

“Anything I can help you with?”

“Actually, you can tell me about these blocks,” Harry said pointing to half a palette of the building blocks tucked against the wall near the first open bay.

“Not much to tell,” Fitz-Porter said. “They are unprocessed red-ore pressed into a shape that’s useful for building.”

“Do the mines keep a lot of these handy?”

“I don’t know what you call ‘a lot’ but most of us keep them stored in the space between the front of this building and the warehouse proper. Here, I’ll show you.”

Fitz-Porter led Harry outside. The warehouse was built like a reclining ‘H’ with the front upright for equipment storage and the rear upright as the red-ore storage area. Outside, the opening between the two uprights was filled with palettes of red-ore building blocks.

“We store them here,” Fitz-Porter. “Most of the other mines do likewise. It lets us keep them separate from the shipping bricks.”

“Why so many?” Harry asked.

“These blocks are always breaking,” Fitz-Porter. “A machine hits them and you have to replace them. They are not all that strong. In fact, I’ve known some men who could break them with their bare hands. When we make them, we try to use the minimum amount of bonding material possible. That way when we have to convert them to shipping bricks, we won’t have too many contaminants too remove. Why all the interest?”

“Did Mark talk to you about going back to get some things he forgot on the STAR?”

“Not sure. That man talked about everything non-stop when I last saw him.”

“Well, if he did, I think your life’s in danger,” Harry said.

“You’re kidding.”

Harry told Fitz-Porter about the recent attempt on his life.

“I can’t believe how lucky you are,” Fitz-Porter said. “Most men take hours to recover from a stun blast. You’re tougher than you look.”

“I’ve had to ingest several bars of stimulants since I arrived,” Harry said. “That probably had something to do with my waking up when I did.”

“Well, whatever the reason, if that Huntington fellow hadn’t come along when he did, you would have been dead before they loaded the container on to the shuttle. Where is Huntington, now?”

“Cleaning up that business out at the mine head.”

“You shouldn’t be out and about on your own. It’s too dangerous.”

“I don’t think so,” Harry said.“I’m supposed to be dead.”

“Well with the way people talk around here, most of the people who think you’re dead will know you’re not in a very short period of time. I think I had better go with you.”

“You won’t get in trouble for leaving your job during the loading process, will you?” Harry asked.

“I’ll get someone to cover,” Fitz-Porter said. He went over to some of the men and said something. One of them nodded, and Fitz-Porter handed him his notepad. Then, he walked back to Harry.“That’s taken care of,” he said.“Let’s go back to my place so I can change and get cleaned up.”

While they were traveling back to Fitz-Porter’s place, Fitz-Porter asked Harry what it was exactly that Mark had seen that got him killed.

“It was the crewman turning our sleeping quarters into storage,” Harry said. “When Mark began working at the mine, he was given a manual to study. The manual described how each mine had a specific number of containers to fill. There was no mention of additional sleeping compartments that needed filling. That was reinforced when Mark saw the holographic gauge above the door at the warehouse. If the sleeping compartment was not being used for storage, then what was it being used for? The only other reason is smuggling. Someone is smuggling red-ore off the planet.”

“Who would want to smuggle red-ore?” Fitz-Porter asked.

“Someone like Steve Somerset, for one,” Harry said.

“Steve?”

“He was planning on helping a friend break someone out of prison and needed the red-ore to pay off the prison guards,” Harry explained. “But it wasn’t Steve.”

“How do you know?”

“The timing was off,” Harry said. “Steve had only just put the smuggling plan into effect. He didn’t even know if his offer had been accepted. No. Someone else was smuggling. They’ve probably been doing it for quite some time.”

Fitz-Porter stared at Harry and then shook his head. “That autobiographical recall of yours... what is it like?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, is it like you’re hearing voices all the time?”

“No, not quite.”

“Hey, if you mind talking about it...”

“I don’t mind. Nothing happens like now, when I’m talking to you. It only kicks in when I go to remember something.”

“Like how?”

“Let’s say that I want to remember the first time we met. When I think back on that moment, it’s like I’m looking at a stop-action vid feed of my life. I can not only isolate our conversation, but also isolate Allyson’s and Huntington’s conversation at the end of the table; the Captain’s aside to the crewman who brought us the coffee; as well as the two people by the food table who were happy to be riding in the same ship as you. I can isolate every conversation that has occurred within my hearing on any given day at any given time. It’s like having a million data streams on the same computer, some that I don’t even know are there, but I can access them whenever I want to.”

“Impressive,” Fitz-Porter said. “No wonder the Directorate sent you out here. An intricate spy network wouldn’t be able to accomplish what you could on one cable-car ride around the city. I wonder what they’re looking for?”

“I’ve always thought it was information about Lydia,” Harry said. “But now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m not so sure. What compelled you to come out here?”

“The quest for untold riches,” Fitz-Porter said.

“Wealth?”

“More than wealth,” Fitz-Porter said. “The power to influence people and events.”

“The red-ore buys you that?”

“You’re Directorate. You don’t know what it’s like not to have it, to be one of the little people who have to jump when people like you or Lydia or Steve Somerset say to. No... with enough wealth, you can change your place in the scheme of things, move up the ladder, give the orders instead of taking them.”

“What do you have to be so bitter about?” Harry asked.

“I’m not bitter,” Fitz-Porter said. “I’m human.”

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