04 November 2011

"Want You Gone"

By Curtis C. Chen

On Tuesday, Cletus and LeeAnn Savier went missing.

"What do you mean, missing?" said Pauline Deschanel, Chief of Security aboard the Princess of Mars cruise ship Dejah Thoris. "We're half a million kilometers from the nearest planet or spacecraft. Where the hell could they go?"

"I'm just telling you what the cabin stewards told me." Jefferson Logan, the ship's cruise director, shrugged his broad shoulders. In addition to overseeing the cruise activity schedule, he also kept track of the associated statistics: how many passengers attended each show, how many booked which tours or excursions, who ate at which restaurant for which meal. The data helped him plan for future demand, and also alerted him to any unusual activity patterns. Like two passengers suddenly going unaccounted for.

"They booked a Royal Banquet at Mortimer's tonight, but didn't show up," Jeff continued. "Two stewards checked the room after calling. No sign of them."

Deschanel raised an eyebrow. Mortimer's was the ship's most high-class restaurant, with a standing dress code and entrée prices that ran into the thousands. Nobody stood up a reservation at Mortimer's. "Newlyweds?"

"There's no notation in their booking." Jeff brought up the passenger records on his tabletop display.

Deschanel saw the ID photos and said, "Wait a minute. That's Cletus Savier?"

"You recognize him?"

"His name's not Cletus. And I think I know where to find him."


Deschanel stepped out of the airlock and engaged her magnetic boots on the exterior hull. She took a moment to look around the blackness, just to make sure there wasn't something funny going on inside the effective range of the ship's navigational sensors, then walked forward.

She found the missing couple standing just behind the avionics section, looking through a telescope on a tripod attached to the hull and aimed at Dejah Thoris' destination: Mars. They were wearing the two spacesuits which she'd found still checked into the amidships excursion lounge but physically missing from inventory. Deschanel switched her suit radio to the common EVA frequency.

"I hope that tripod has magnetic feet, Cletus," she said, "otherwise you're getting billed for the hull repairs."

The spacesuited figure on the left turned, and a familiar brown face smiled at her through the helmet. "Good to see you, too, Chief."

Deschanel nodded at the other person. "You going to introduce me to the wife?"

The second figure rotated around, and Deschanel saw a pink face with twinkling blue eyes. The woman smiled and shook Deschanel's gloved hand. "Hi! I'm LeeAnn. Cletus said we might run into one of his friends on board, but I didn't think he meant the crew."

"Oh, we go way back." Deschanel squinted at "Cletus." "I remember the first time I caught him breaking half a dozen ship's regulations and interstellar laws."

"Oh, we can afford to pay the fines," LeeAnn said. "It's less hassle than chartering a private spacecraft, anyway."

Something occurred to Deschanel. "Is 'LeeAnn' even your real name?"

The other woman winked. "It is this week."

Deschanel grumbled. "Congratulations. You two are perfect for each other."


Image: Planet Mars by Paul T., April, 2010