Chapters One and Two

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She made a small, whimpering sound and started to back away, slowly, then spun around to make sure nobody was behind her. The unbearable cold of the moon was reaching through the thick walls, right into her bones. She knew an evil presence was here - had shown its face - and that it had come with them from Earth, like the cockroaches that, in spite of all possible precautions, had somehow found their way on board Europa-Six.

-

Several kilometers away, a ringing phone forced Sam Windsor awake. A red light blinked at him from the control panel of his comstation.

He looked at the clock. "Shit!" he complained. "It's the middle of the night!" He sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.

Sam was worried about the clipper-pylons. The temperatures were reaching dangerous lows and if they started to crack - the metal they were made of, trilox-steel, held well up to -160̊C, but much below that even trilox got brittle . . . he hoped to hell it wasn't a cracked pylon. Each day, he became more convinced that Talmouth should never have built Summerset so close to the heavy meteorite-deposits, and that they'd chosen accessibility over safety. He got the phone on the fifth ring.

An agitated voice said, "It's Bob Hamlyn. Jerry Holmes has been murdered. At Outer Summerset, Sector Four. You have to come right away."

"What?"

"Jerry Holmes has been murdered. Shot."

"Shot? Who's Jerry Holmes?"

"Shot, stabbed, he's - he was - one of Walter Sullivan's team in the mining department. A terrestrial mining engineer. Radiation specialist."

"Whew, stabbed, shot! I don't know what to say. I . . . do you know anything else about him?"

"I have an initial monitor reading with his human resources file from Talmouth. Mouth says he's been with the company twenty-eight years. He holds five degrees, ranging from physics to meteorology. He must be a genius or something; I don't think he was picked by regular selection. I mean, look's like this guy's not even supposed to be here. During the voyage, he was an officer in accommodations. He's had years of experience on nuclear subs and he was a specialist on long-term confinement in closed places. See what I mean?"

Sam suppressed a yawn. "No. He wasn't supposed to be here?"

"Mouth says he was a counterpart to the regular selection process. He had one of the highest screening scores, but his file just doesn't fit the profile. He's off the top of the scale for his job."

Sam held the receiver on his lap for several seconds, then spoke into it again. He drew a deep breath and tried to remember Jerry Holmes. "Bob, are you sure he's dead?"

"Of course I'm sure."

"Okay, but . . . . Look, what does this really have to do with me? I mean, I'll come down, but are you sure I'm supposed to preside over these things?"

"That's the protocol."

"They have protocol for this?"

"Mouth says that the investigation of any impropriety is to be referred to the Chief Administrator . . . in such matters he or she is to have full authority to carry out any and all inquiries until such authority is revoked or given continuance within closest transmission time, by Talmouth."

"Oh, whatever trouble comes across Mouth's path, it dumps on my doorstep. All right, Bob, don't touch a thing. And wake up Cheryl Angelo. Ask her to get an unscheduled line to Europa-Six opened; a scrambled private line." He paused, wondering what else he should say. "One last thing. Let's keep this under wraps for now. Oh, and ask Dorrie White to come down. Tell her to bring photo equipment. The brem stuff and . . . well, anything else she has handy. Tell Cheryl and Dorrie I'll explain everything when they get there, but keep this quiet for now."

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