“Cover up.” Miller squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Would you care to specify the disgraceful history?”
“Abandoning the convict laborers out here with no resources when they pulled out? Which the convicts had anticipated, planned for, and survived. None-the-less the entire ‘left the convicts out there with nothing actually habitable yet’ seems to have escaped the notice of historians. That’s the most recent question, there’s a whole lot more before that.”
“Oh . . . we’re going to have to have a long private talk.”
Gerald toe-walked to the elevator and they squeezed in with the mayor and the rest of the officers.
///skim tour, then dinner. Spike, Gonzo, and Pete are having lunch with Dee, invite them all for a tour.
“Of course we’re on our third or fourth generation miners by now.” Doctor Evans looked old enough to be one of the patients. “And if they can’t go back to Earth—or don’t have family there—well, here they are.”
Captain Johnson nodded. “I really hadn’t thought about the problems with aging, out here.”
A cackle from one of the beds. “Neither did we, Sonny, until we had to.”
Gerald stepped closer. “How old were you when you came out here?”
“Me? Oh, nearly forty. Sick and tired of the grind downstairs, thought it was time for an adventure. Hehehe! Adventure! Hard to believe I live long enough for it to come to this.”
“Adventure, eh?” Miller grinned.
“Weeell . . . there might have been a vicious divorce and a greedy exwife involved . . . but mostly I was just going out further. I worked orbital construction and such, see? So it was no big change.” The old man looked at the wall screen, showing a busy street scene in an Earth city, mountains in the background. “Eh, we rotate what we watch. I’d as soon watch the bazaar, myself.”
“Yeah, surprised the heck out of me.” Miller glanced toward the departing tour. “Gotta go.”
The old man grinned and waved, turning back to something on a smaller screen.
Spike was chatting away to the Captain. “We’ve got four floors of basic hotel rooms, I think a hundred and sixty total—overkill, we’ve never filled them all—and some fancier stuff in the penthouse. Apartments, not anything we rent out. Heck, some of the miners, once they get rich enough, permanently rent the hotel rooms. Including me. I haven’t checked recently how many rooms are actually open.”
The mayor snorted. “They aren’t an actual hotel, mind you. They only let members of the co-op in. Show them the penthouse, Spike. Let them see how rich miners live.”
Spike laughed. “Sure. Next stop, the top.”
The top level, same level as the bazaar, was floored in flagstone and living grass, with flowerbeds and shrubs worth of an Earth-side park. Tables and chairs, lounges.
Six tiers of apartments, each level stepped back with it’s own patio for the view.
The entire ceiling, as it curved up and over, was covered with vid screens. High fidelity, perfect edge matching of a panoramic view of a rugged coastline. Waves curled and crashed on the beach “down below” between the two rocky headlands. The sun was low in the sky, shining off the waves.
“They’ve got five years recorded, for when there’s an interruption of service.” Dee explained. “Now that I’ve seen it in person, I understand why the guys miss it.”
“This is live?” Miller stared hungrily at the waves.
Dee grinned. “Give or take processing time, and time lag. Then they sync it here with the local time. Broadcast from Northern California.”
One of the other officers eyed her. “You were born out here?”
“Yeah. My dad took me to Earth for a combined fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth birthday present. We just got back a month ago.”
Miller looked around. “So I take it your Dad is one of the rich miners?”
“Yep, definitely.” Dee grinned. “Not that our apartment is a palace or anything . . . c’mon.”
It was like walking into a suburban home. Four bedrooms “Well, Spence has an office, and I don’t think anyone’s ever used the guestroom. And I really wish I’d cleaned my room . . .”
But she showed them anyway. Beyond the typical teenage clutter was a garden. An actual garden. The curved vidscreen gave it a sky and distant view of a verdant valley, but she had three meters of real garden.
“We just did this, stole half the guest room. So my plants are still small.”
The captain shook his head. “How did Station Zero get such a reputation? I was expecting lousy maintenance, drunks and druggies in the gutters, Pirates and floozies in every tavern . . .”
Spike laughed. “We just let the reporters go anywhere they wanted. I suspect that Station Fifteen escorted them around to see, pardon my air quotes, everything.”
“Indeed. Well, instead of cleaning up this dive, may I allow my crew some shore leave?”
Tia stepped back out of Dee’s garden. “Certainly. Umm . . . how large is your crew? We’re not well set up for large numbers of visitors.”
She and the captain walked out, discussing how to rotate a couple hundred young men through.
Gerald caught Miller’s eye. “So, when’s a good time for a chat?”
/// Go back and foreshadow a bunch of Gerald’s research. ///
/// Go back and remove specifics about the “Old Man” he’s tasked with killing.///
“The problem with convict labor out here, is that they built it all. They fetched nickel-iron asteroids that might not have been honestly weighed. They built and ran the refineries. They had access to machine shops, that might have produced a whole lot of extras.”
“I see.” Miller leaned his chair against the wall and got his feet up on the other chair. “So when the bosses pulled out, they said good riddance and went back to work, with everything ready to go already. Did the bosses really not know?”
“It was 78 years ago. Hard to find boss types who actually know . . . depending . . .”
Miller raised his eyebrows.
“I was sent out here with explicit orders to shoot-on-sight a man who’s a hundred and sixty-eight years old. And the history books all say that the early MET1 experimental treatments are the cause of the Lena Valley Massacre. Did the treatments also effect life expectancy? That’s my first question. My second question is whether the convicts sent out here were the marines convicted of war crimes for that massacre. I need to know this, I need details of the medical effects.”
“Fuck. Me.” Miller gnawed his lower lip.
“And I’m getting nothing back from my queries. Do you know the answers?”
“No. And . . . I thought my briefing had holes, but I’m used to classified information being withheld. So . . . I suspect you’ve got more questions.”
“Oh yeah. The three early expeditions to the Belt. I can’t even get a crew list for the first—international tensions were high then. Question three, was Jack Murphy on it? Question four, ten crew and twenty scientists on the second mission. Did they all, scientists included get the same version of Met1? What happened to them all? Question four, was Commander John Murphy the same Captain John “Jack” Murphy on the third mission? and did that group—two hundred space marines, fifty ship crew, and the three hundred scientists and engineers—all get the some version of Met1, and what’s happened to them, age and health-wise. Question five, And how many of the Lena Valley drop troops were these same Marines? And Question six, flipping hell, is General John G. “Jack” Murphy likely to still be alive?”