“She was right. It looks like someone finger-painted with spaghetti down here.” Roy absently scratched at a long scar across his unshaven chin as he considered the mess. The dead end of the maintenance corridor was covered from the ceiling down with a fine brownish-red spray. Rivulets of red had formed spiderweb patterns on the smooth white surfaces, running down the walls and leaving half dried puddles on the floor.
“It was definitely human.” Emily, Roy’s second in command, pointed towards the corner where some recognizable pieces had piled up. She tucked a stray curl of her black hair back into her ponytail as she tried to hide her disgust.
Emily and Roy wore identical standard issue athletic pants and shirts. They had been in the middle of their morning sparring session when the emergency alarm sounded, bringing them down to the lowest level of Luna Base.
“What do you suppose happened?” Emily asked.
Roy shook his head. “We’ve seen some strange shit since we left Earth, and it’s only gotten stranger here on Luna. I can’t even guess anymore. It’s a damn shame to come through everything you have to do to get here—only to end up like that.”
“Oh my god.” Butkus came up behind them and covered his nose and mouth with the white sleeve of his uniform.
“Kinda makes you wish we could open a window.” Emily wore a grimace as she glanced back to the Chief Medical Officer.
“At least that would flash freeze it and get rid of the smell,” Roy agreed. He wondered if his face had gone as white as both of theirs. The only reason he could bear the shocking sight was that it was nearly unrecognizable.
Butkus, staring at the mess and trying to take it in, shook his head. “Sun’s up now. It would boil off.” He lost his battle to control his visceral reaction and dropped his portable lab case to the tiled floor with a metallic clatter. Roy and Emily watched as he hurried back out of the small service hallway, retreating towards fresher air and nearly knocking down one of the two men stationed to preserve the scene.
Roy turned back to Emily. “I reckon we need to put eyes on each and every Loonie, find out who this is.”
Emily nodded and they both stood silently, grappling with the reality of the mess around them.
“I’m back.” Butkus’ voice was hoarse. “Sorry. It just hit me hard.”
“Any idea what could cause this?” Emily asked Butkus.
Butkus couldn’t keep the look of disgust off his face as he shook his head. “The pieces over there indicate a blast force, something that would push them into the corner,” he looked around the dead end, “but I don’t see any evidence of an explosion. See the vent grill?” He pointed at a plastic cover on the wall. “They made those so light I can poke a finger through them. If a blast capable of doing this,” he waved his hand at the red mess, “went off in here, I would expect the grill to be shattered.
“Judging from the amount of … moisture, I’d guess this happened less than twenty-four hours ago.” He toed at a dried smear. “It’s been here at least five or six hours.” Something caught his eye. “Look over there,” he pointed behind where Roy and Emily stood. “See the smudge? And the ‘reverse shadow’ where no drops landed? Someone else was here.”
He pulled a DNA sequencer out of his portable med kit. “I’ll know who it was that died in about half an hour. It’ll take longer to see if I can find any trace of who the other person was.”
Roy gave him a dour smile. “Emily and I are going to go do a visual head count. The computer says everyone checked in during the alarm, so I reckon we need to actually put eyes on everyone, just to make sure.” Roy turned and left. Emily followed.
As soon as they were out of earshot, Emily whispered, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“That the only way everyone can check in, if one of us is dead, is that someone was monkeying around with the time machine?”
“Got it in one.” Emily shook her head as she thought. “I can’t even think of who it could have been, or why they would have been down here,” Emily mumbled. “The weekly inspection of the conduits found the mess, and there is nothing else down here.”
“You don’t think someone could have been meeting for a Stim deal or something down here, do you?” Roy asked, but he already knew the answer. Ever since the Information War, individual privacy was closely guarded and zealously protected. Privy booths were available to anyone at any time and Luna base had been designed to make sure people had enough space and privacy they wouldn’t go insane during their five year stints. There was no need to seek out a place like this. Assigned quarters would have worked just fine.
“All I can think of is someone attempted sabotage and it blew up in their face. Or it was murder. A very angry murder. Unless you know about some secret project I don’t.” Emily glanced sideways at Roy.
“More secret than the time machine?” Roy shook his head. As second in command, Emily had been filled in on everything in case something happened to Roy. Hell, even if there was one she didn’t know about, he would have told her just to relieve the boredom of being trapped on the friggin’ moon.
Emily nodded in understanding. There wasn’t anything more secret. Only the two of them, of all the people on the base, knew about it, and it was doubtful more than a hundred people on Earth were privy to the information either. Their conversations had occasionally wandered into areas exploring the idea that they might both be terminated after this mission to protect the secret of the time machine.
Roy echoed her confusion in his own silent thoughts. There were only two hundred Loonies up here on the moon, all one year into their five together, and they were damn near one giant family. What was there to gain by this? Sabotaging the base would kill them all. The Loonies all had specific jobs with no place for promotion up here, there was no money, legal recreational drugs were already supplied. There was little motive for murder Roy could imagine.
“There you are!” Gordon came around the corner ahead of them, shuffling his feet in an awkward penguin walk that always irritated Roy.
“Look at this! Look at these readings!” The head of the research department held up his Portable Data Device for Roy and Emily to see. Emily tried not to roll her eyes and Roy took pity on her, sending her ahead as Gordon pointed to gibberish on his PDD.
“This interference is unexplainable! And look at this spike at three o’clock this morning! It’s incredible! We’ve never even imagined anything like this!”
“Gordon, you know I don’t get this stuff. I’m not a scientist, and definitely not a ghost hunter. I don’t believe in your ghosts no matter what your machines say, and I have no idea what a spike in your ‘ecto-meter’ means. So, I need you to take a deep breath, and then, slowly, explain to me why I need to deal with this right now instead of the dead …” Roy started to say body, but there really wasn’t one, “person back there.”
“Somebody died? That’s what the alarm was?” Gordon’s eyes lit up and he turned his attention back to his PDD, scrolling through data. “That has to be it! Do we know the exact time of death?”
Roy waited a few more seconds while the scientist was absorbed with the little screen. “I need to go, Gordon. I have a situation to deal with. When you figure out what it was you wanted to tell me, let me know.”
Roy stalked off after Emily, leaving Gordon entranced by his PDD.