|The Next Step
Author: Radaslab PM
Detective Elijah Baley had four times dealt with cases involving "off world" issues. Of the billions on Earth, why was he the only one to deal with "Spacers"? No true aliensRated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi - Chapters: 4 - Words: 31,151 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 17 - Follows: 16 - Updated: 01-10-12 - Published: 01-01-12 - id: 7700340
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For any who have not figured this out, this is based upon the works of Isaac Asimov, one of the greats in science fiction literature and one of the first after Victor Hugo, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells to gain a long term following. He was a prolific writer and did not confine his works to fiction although some may argue that Arthur C. Clark was more influential on culture than he was with the non-sci-fi works.
Asimov did not invent robots. That proceeded his first work by decades and the first robot in movies appeared in the German (silent) film "Metropolis" in 1927 or so, some thirteen years before the barely 20 year old Asimov saw his first Robot story published in a Sci-Fi fiction magazine in 1940. Its first literary reference (aside from mythical golems and Frankenstien) was in a Chech work (Russan's Uninversal Robots) in 1920. (Shelly's Frakenstein predated this mechanical thing by a century and more.) Later Asimov's several stories were compiled into a book "I, Robot," he defined the "positronic" brain and its Three Laws. That book was published in 1950 (for Fantasy Fans that was after Hobbit and first short story of the Chronicles of Narnia but before the first volume of the Lord of the Rings.) The notion of a "positronic brain" would reappear in popular culture with Star Trek: The Next Generation and its android character Data.
In around 1951, another collection of Asimov's short stories were published in a book entitled "Foundation." Coherent as the "Robot" stories were and with recurring characters (even it they were dead), it told a story of humanity tens of thousands of years from now. "Foundation", its sequel "Foundation and Empire" and "Second Foundation" barely if at all mentioned robots. But they were mentioned at some point. Much later, Asimov wrote "Prelude to Foundation", a prequel to the trilogy and it mentioned robots again referring back (indirectly) to "I, Robot" and his other robot work "The Caves of Steel" which was summarized above - the Dr. Sarton Case. He then wrote a sequel to "Caves…": "The Naked Sun" which was the investigation on Solaria. All of this appears in some form in his later "Foundation" works. This Chapter is about the "Mirror Image Case" mentioned but briefly in "The Robots of Dawn" his third Baley/Daneel murder mystery. All he wrote about that case was that it happened on a Spacer ship, Daneel was there and he once again solved the case. No other details were provided leaving fertile ground for me even if it is back story for my own plot which truly begins not long after "The Robots of Dawn" and long before his final book of that specific series "Robots and Empire."
The Story resumes…
This brings us to my third Spacer case. It began about a year after I returned from Solaria and in much the same way as again I was called to Washington for a meeting with Undersecretary Minnim. This time, while it would be both an "Out of Area" and technically and "off world" case, I would travel no further than Earth orbit. In orbit above Earth was a Space Liner of Auroran registry with a dead body aboard, one whose demise was not as a result of natural processes. The murder was discovered within two hours and the ship communicated the facts it knew to Aurora. Aurora diverted the ship from its scheduled route to Earth orbit. Whether they were thinking of getting us involved at that point is not clear. The diversion was at the orders of the shipping company and not the Auroran government I would learn and was done so as to prevent the murderer from escaping at the next port of call. Escape to Earth, while physically possible, would be suicidal for a Spacer given their lack of immunity to even the most benign of infections.
The Auroran government only then made its request to Earth and sent a small Dispatch Ship. They, apparently, can reach a safe jump distance far more quickly than can a Liner. It's not a question about sub-light speed. As I understand it they are only marginally faster. They do accelerate more quickly, but apparently ship's mass is also a factor: the more massive a ship is, the further it must be from local gravitational influences to jump safely. Dispatch Ships are small and can carry maybe four humans and no significant cargo. That ship arrived with one human aboard and three robots. Two were technically part of the crew and the third was a passenger: R. Daneel Olivaw.
After another thorough Spacer disinfection, I boarded the Dispatch Ship and we left Earth to dock with the Liner in orbit. I was given a choice: spend the time in one of the four cabins which have no windows (and were much smaller than the ones on my last voyage) or on the bridge with the Pilot. If I chose the bridge, there would be the window to contend with which could not be turned off to spare me the view outside the ship. At least for this stage, I chose the windowless cabin.
The victim was Dr. Halfo Carrik of Aurora. She was found dead in her cabin on her bed with a wound to the chest. The murder weapon was found beside her. It was called a plasma cutter. It is typically used to cut metal and such things are aboard ships for repairs. It is hand held and directs a beam of plasma - superheated gas - out to a distance of about thirty centimeters. The gas is hot enough to cut through that thickness of steel or even titanium without effort. According to the ship's doctor, death would've been practically instantaneous as the wound penetrated and destroyed the victim's heart and cauterized the wound for good measure so there was no blood.
The victim was a woman. She appeared to be about thirty-five Earth years in age but by Spacer records apparently was a little over a hundred and twenty earth years in age. She had been accompanied on the voyage by her personal robot AZX-2348 whom she called Aziz. The robot was not present when the murder occurred having been ordered out of the cabin by the victim. Apparently, she was having a sexual liaison with another passenger, one Ilfo Damise of Aurora as well. Apparently the victim preferred her sexual liaisons to be private. Obviously, Mr. Damise was the prime suspect but again there was a hitch.
The one thing the Captain of the ship had done (which neither the Spacers of Spacetown had done in the Sarton case nor the Solarians in the Delmarre case) was preserve the crime scene. R. Aziz discovered the body and immediately reported it to the Captain and the Captain had sealed the room, evacuated all the air, and so it remained until I arrived aboard. The first humans to enter were myself and the ship's doctor and the only other thing allowed in was R. Daneel. The body was in pristine condition, but rigor mortis had long since come and gone. The doctor examined the corpse and very quickly was able to state the cause of death. R. Daneel and I searched for other evidence. Aside from the murder weapon, there were human hairs not associated with the victim and, upon explanation, I learned that had the room not been sealed, neither R. Aziz or the ship's robot cleaning staff would have removed that evidence as a matter of course for them. The hairs were sent to Earth to the Bureau for DNA analysis and in short order we had the results. It then seemed to be a simple matter of testing the primary suspect which we did and it was a match, but there was a problem.
Ilfo Damise was not the only person who could match the DNA. Another passenger was aboard who also could match: Miram Damise, Ilfo's identical twin brother (identical twins share the same DNA). It had been the reason for the containment of the crime scene. One of them had done the deed, the other had not. Ilfo was the obvious suspect because he clearly had access to the victim, but being obvious does not rule out Miram. It was certainly tempting to use the DNA as conclusive proof of Ilfo's guilt. It would've gotten me off the ship and back to Earth much sooner. But the DNA implicated two people and I never like sloppy investigations. I want to be certain in my own mind that the perp I collar was the doer and his or her punishment can be justified. The evidence favored Ilfo, but did not exonerate the brother. This could have been a crime of passion - the doer killing in a fit of rage because the victim in some way drove him to it. Or it could be something else. As a professional, I had to know even if the Captain and R. Daneel seemed convinced the case was solved. It was not. All I had was a prime suspect, not the doer. Still, I suspected a lover's quarrel of some kind as such suspicion is "human" or "Earther." But the victim was lying on the bed and the only apparent disruption to her clothing was the burn marks from the murder weapon which made little sense. Surely there was some sort of struggle for some reason.
Neither suspect had an alibi. They both claimed to have been alone in their cabins at the time of the murder and asleep. Neither had a personal robot in attendance to confirm this, not that it would have mattered for I later learned that robot evidence is generally inadmissible on Spacer worlds. Not one of the three laws prevents a robot from lying and the Second Law allows them to be ordered to do so provided their logic does not see it as a violation of the First one not to harm humans or allow them to come to harm. I was left with fingering Ilfo or finding and proving the one and only killer even if it was Ilfo. I was left with the time consuming process of research, interviews and whatever additional forensic investigation I could do without a forensics team from Earth. I suggested bringing one up, but it was rejected out of hand by the Captain and, I suspect, on orders from Aurora. One Earthman was more than enough and was already causing discomfort.
There is one thing about identical twins that is never identical. For whatever reason, while their DNA is the same, their fingerprints are not. It's an old technique dating back before the dawn of the hyperspace era, but it works. I was allowed to send out inquiries to both Earth and the Spacer worlds about the victim, the principal suspects and their respective worlds. Meanwhile, R. Daneel and I dusted the scene for prints and fingerprinted the victim and the two brothers. Surely this could be it. Surely the fingerprints would solve this thing and I could get back to Earth. Just as surely, I was wrong.
The place had not been cleaned. There were fingerprints everywhere. I had them sent back to Earth for analysis by the Bureau. There were even prints on the murder weapon. I had them! I was certain I had them now! But remember, I sent back only three sets of prints from known parties of interest: the victim's, and those of the two brothers. The Bureau came back with the results in short order. The prints on the murder weapon matched neither of the brothers although both had left prints in the room. It was not a suicide either for the prints on the weapon did not match the victim. Moreover, it seems there were two "unknown" sets of prints in the room. Neither Ilfo or his brother were the doers based upon that. It did not mean neither was involved, but neither did the deed itself. The idiot Spacer who did, if it was planned, was unaware of this technique. But yet again, I was back at the beginning. Maybe the Damise brothers were involved and maybe they were not. It was clear each had access to the cabin at one point or another and it was clear Ilfo had been intimate with the victim. But that proves nothing. They did not plunge the plasma cutter into her heart. Someone else had done that.
Now I had to fingerprint every human aboard - including myself for good measure. I left that task to R. Daneel. While I doubt any aboard knew he was a robot, he was Auroran to them and not an Earthman. They would be more comfortable with the "crazy" Earthman's procedure if it was being done by a Spacer and R. Daneel was ordered not to tell them the why of it beyond the fact that Earth was asked to investigate the murder because we deal with such things all the time being the barbarians that we are and this was an Earth thing. In the meantime, I needed information on all the passengers and, if they were not from Aurora, their home worlds as well. Inquiries were sent out and responses were received while the Dispatch Ship traveled to and from Earth with each new collection of fingerprints.
The Liner was on a return voyage to its home world of Aurora and, in fact, Aurora was the next "port of call" had it not been diverted to Earth orbit. Aboard were three hundred and sixty-seven passengers, forty-seven crew and goodness knows how many robots. Many of the passengers were tourists, hopping from planet to planet to see the sights or some such. Some were on business, traveling two and from the worlds. Our victim was returning from a business trip to a planet called Melpomenia and, while she and Ilfo seemed to be traveling together, they maintained separate cabins aboard. (They had shared the same ship to that planet some six months earlier). The brother Miram's presence seemed coincidental. He had been on Melpomenia as well on a business deal, but had arrived there some months after the paramours did and just happened to be returning at this time. I don't like coincidences, but this seems to have been one.
The victim was a Planetologist which the Spacers claimed was a relatively new field of study. Earth sources show that it's as old as hyperspacial travel itself. Scout ships from Earth always had a team of experts to study planets and prepare recommendations as to their potential suitability for colonization or exploitation. The thought briefly crossed my mind that the Spacers - or at least the Aurorans - were looking to move further into the galaxy. Why not? It's not like we of Earth are allowed to do so.
Ilfo Damise was a self-proclaimed "Personal Stylist" whose so called job was to see to the outward appearance of his client. I've met one since. I got the impression that they don't "service" one client but many and certainly do not planet hop except to drum up cliental. He may well have been that, but it's clear his "personal" services were not so limited in regards to the victim and it also seems his "services" were exclusive to the victim. I've already said and knew he was the victim's paramour and my guess is that was his service to her.
Miram Damise was a salesman and was off world to drum up business for his Auroran based manufacturing company. Based on that information from both Aurora and Miram himself, I might well have excluded him as a suspect. Ilfo as a possible rejected lover was still high on the list, but the damnable fingerprint evidence clearly showed a third party. It seemed to me that this planet of Melpomenia might somehow be the key. It was the only true connection between the victim and the two twins and, moreover, there were one hundred and seven citizens aboard the liner from that world. There had to be a connection to that world even if it wasn't obvious.
For some reason it struck me that somehow the victim's occupation as a Planetologist and the planet of Melpomenia were somehow connected. It was the only world she had been to other than her home world of Aurora. But how? I needed to know why she was there and all that I could learn of that world.
Melpomenia was the first "water world" (one with liquid water on the surface) Earth discovered with the advent of hyperdrive. It was not a "ready made" world. It's temperatures and atmospheric pressures were within acceptable ranges for humans, but its atmosphere was toxic. While it was predominantly a nitrogen atmosphere, it also had high concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane. Free oxygen was detected, but measured in the handful of parts per million and not as a percentage of the whole gas bag clinging to the planet. It was not a dead world, however for there was primitive life forms throughout its seas. Some were similar to algae, gaining sustenance through photosynthesis, living off of the carbon dioxide and expelling free oxygen. Others were more animal in nature, able to move through their water world. They consumed nutrients from the water, including the algae and breathed in methane exhaling for lack of a better term oxygen. High concentrations of oxygen was lethal to them, but this Melpomenia was a primordial Earth. It is where we were billions of years ago and in time the algae and methane breathing bacteria like organisms would consume the deadly and suffocating gas and replace it with oxygen. It was on the path to be "ready made." It might take millions upon millions of years, but in time it would be ready. Earth decided to accelerate the process.
We bombarded Melpomenia with mosses and other simple plants to deal with the carbon dioxide content. We further bombarded it with our own methane breathing bacteria which to this day exist here in anoxic environments such as nutrient rich mud and hydrothermal vents and pools. Our life was far more hardy and prolific than the life on Melpomenia and far more productive in freeing and replacing oxygen. Millions of years was brought down to a couple thousand as our probes hit that world time and time again. Once the atmosphere was acceptable to humans and our attendant animal life, the colonization ships left Earth to colonize the first truly "Terraformed" world. This was Melpomenia.
It's population is around ten million with a ten to one robot to human ratio. They practice population control and few have moved there since we sent out colonists. It views itself as a paradise within the inhabited galaxy and for now it may well be. But its fate is already sealed if Dr. Carrick (the victim) is to be believed.
Melpomenia may be a "ready made" world for human habitation after its enforced terraforming. But it is by no means a young one. By Dr. Carrick's studies, it and its star are older than earth and our sun by close to a billion years. It became potentially habitable as the star began to transition from fusing hydrogen to helium. Before then, it was too cold for liquid water to exist. It's star is slowly expanding and transitioning from that of a main sequence star to a red giant. In time, while it expands it will cool but for now it grows hotter and more violent. It's solar winds, particles cast off from its nuclear furnace have grown from a gentle breeze to a storm and Melpomenia lacks the magnetic field to protect its own atmosphere from erosion. Since its discovery nearly three thousand years ago, Melpomenia has lost three percent of its atmosphere to the increasing storm and this process is accelerating. The victim estimated that within five (Spacer) generations the increase in heat from the star and the loss of atmosphere will render the planet uninhabitable. Her recommendation to Aurora was to plan for its total evacuation well before then.
But to where? While emigration is not unknown in the Spacer worlds (with the obvious exception of Solaria) it is not in large numbers. Handfuls and not teeming thousands or millions do relocate between worlds, always subject to quotas even on the newer ones. How do you relocate some ten or more millions? Do you leave them to die with their star? Do you lower your standard of living to accommodate them? Or do you find them a new "ready made" world free for the taking? It was this last one that the victim recommended and she recommended beginning the evacuation sooner rather than later.
Such an evacuation is not without difficulties. Even assuming a "ready made" world, the evacuees would have to make it self sufficient and have to rely upon the largess of the galaxy to feed them until they became so. Even then, millions would probably perish. Even with robots, millions would die from the dislocations. Spacer society is one that cherishes human life far more than our own does. Millions die each month on Earth from accidents or worse: homicide. Spacers have no concept of this and find any untimely death unacceptable nor do they willingly accept any degradation in their personal standard of living both of which conditions would be necessary in a massive sense to evacuate Melpomenia.
Could this be the reason Dr. Carrik lay dead in her cabin? Could her findings be so shocking to the people of Melpomenia that one of them would kill her to silence her truth be damned? Or could there be others who without regard to that planet's certain fate wanted to suppress the knowledge - to keep the stars as they were as it were or at least for themselves and not for the people from Melpomenia? Or could one of the Damise brothers still be the instigator of this without regard to any galactic politics or implications? It all hinged on the results of the fingerprint analysis being done on Earth, a process which took time and, since I had almost literally a captive audience, I took that time to interview everyone, one on one and more than once. After all, the interviews might solve the puzzle in and of themselves and, by repeating, I hoped to keep everyone guessing what the crazy Earthman was after and hope one or more stories would change to shed light on the case assuming the fingerprints did not for some reason. My limited experience with Spacer crime suggested the simple solution never amounted to anything…
And neither really did the interviews. It seemed everyone either had no alibi or did (if one would only believe their robots). It was sleep time for passengers and the only ones I could truly rule out were those members of the crew clearly at their watch stations aboard ship. I had hundreds of potential suspects and no real leads anymore with the yet to be identified fingerprints of the killer implicating someone but not either of the DNA prime suspects. It was infuriating!
In time, the Bureau did its job and I had matches for both of the until then unidentified fingerprints and they were a surprise to me and my partner R. Daneel. They were both, by their interviews, in their bunks asleep at the time of the murder (but so it seemed was everyone else.) But they were also both crewmen aboard the Liner, not passengers and, more critically, assigned to engineering which had little if any contact with passengers. Considering the weapon - a plasma cutter used in repairs - this made some sense as either would have access to one. But the why remained elusive. Why would one or either or both kill a passenger? I doubted there was some sort of love triangle or quadrangle involved moreover I doubted that either of these crewman - both Auroran - cared a wit about the hypothetical fate of Melpomenia and its population. And yet both were in her cabin and one - Crewman Arstus Hamil - did the deed or at least it was his fingerprints on the plasma cutter. Why?
I had my third interview with the crewman whose fingerprints was not on the weapon first. I had enough evidence to prove he was in the room even if he didn't believe in fingerprints. I told him I was certain he was either the doer or the accomplice although neither really mattered. We were in Earth orbit so he was subject to our laws. I had enough to convict him as an accomplice to murder and enough to have him sent to a penal colony where, in all probability, he would die in months or less from infection. This, of course, was a lie. We have no such penal colonies on earth rather psychic probing to modify anti-social behavior to the appropriate degree. But I am not bound to tell suspects the truth. I did have enough to place him in the victim's cabin, but that was it. Malefactors are sentenced to psychological restructuring. If and only if that is not deemed possible by the experts and if their crime is serious enough to warrant it, then and only then are they imprisoned. And we have no jurisdiction over Spacers. Fortunately, the accomplice did not know this and spilled to the extent that he could.
The doer - the one whose fingerprints were on the weapon - was his immediate superior. He told the accomplice that this was a matter of Auroran security, that the victim was a threat to Aurora and the Galaxy and Auroran Security had contacted him to deal with the situation. She had to be killed before the ship reached Aurora and she could embark on her treason. He had his orders from Auroran Security to this effect and had to see it through and the lowly accomplice came along as back-up in case there was an issue. His boss - the accomplice - after all had served in the Navy - or so he had always said - and thus it was reasonable to see him as an Agent of Security. The other man wanted nothing to do with a killing but felt that to ignore an order from Auroran Security was … foolhardy.
So now it was down to the doer. True, it was possible that the accomplice was lying, but he had rolled and now it was the doer's turn in the hot seat. I had him dead to rights. His fingerprints were on the weapon and he as a repair technician had access to the plasma cutter which was - by the way - checked out to him less than two hours earlier. This tidbit was known before, but made no sense until now for it did not follow that a man with no motive would check out a potential lethal weapon to kill a total stranger. Where was the motive after all, unless he was truly psychotic? He could have set it down somewhere and the doer then stole it to do the deed. This has happened before in my experience where murders were the result of restricted items. I dismissed him until the fingerprint evidence returned because cutters seldom left the engineering spaces and yet they were not watched so someone else could have taken it when it was set aside … still, that bit bugged me.
The doer broke quickly. Confronted with the evidence his accomplice had provided, he admitted he killed the woman. But he also confirmed aspects of his accomplices tale. He had served in the Navy. Moreover, he was hoping for a job in the Security Forces and lo and behold here's this Security Officer giving him his chance. All he had to do was kill an Auroran traitor. It took him days to get around to it. Killing was hardly something a Spacer did and there were the robots to consider. But the circumstances presented themselves and the deed was done in the hopes of advancement. The Security Officer in question had offered no name nor any kind of identification, but the Spacer killer took him at his word and did the deed. The "Officer" had to be aboard, but who was it? I laid out the holographs of every human passenger and crewman aboard and he fingered not one but two of them: the twin Damise brothers. Which one was it, I asked. He did not know. It was one of them and I was back at the beginning of it all. I had the killer, but not the man who had set things in motion. Damn Spacers!
I can't say why, but I called in Miram Demise first. My thinking was he was the businessman and was on Melpomenia to conclude some kind of deal and not as the boy-toy of the victim. Perhaps her information about the certain (it seemed) demise of Melpomenia was bad for business, I suspected. I was wrong.
He was on Melpomenia at the behest of his company to cancel a deal. There had been issues with quality of what the Melpomenia supplier had been sending and there was a better supplier elsewhere in the Spacer worlds. Miram could care less if Melpomenia was about to be destroyed, good riddance he thought. But it gets more murky. His brother Ilfo was always the outgoing one, always the one to get the girls as it were and Ilfo even from the start as barely a teenager shared his conquests with his twin brother who - to quote Miram and Ilfo later - "couldn't score in an Arcturian brothel with all the credits of Aurora to spend." Miram got the sloppy seconds, as it were, but it was more than he could get of his own devises until he met his wife. Ilfo had no wife. He preferred his hedonistic lifestyle to any thought of fidelity. He also preferred women who would "augment" his income for his "personal" services. But he also preferred an open "playing field." He used Miram as a surrogate for his partners so that he could expand his own options in that regard - or at least until Miram married. Miram took that arrangement as a commitment which apparently was not common on his world. But Melpomenia was not Aurora and Miram's wife was not there so when he met his brother and his brother asked for "a favor" to allow aforesaid brother the opportunity to "sample" the local "wares," Miram resorted to his old role as surrogate sex partner. (Fidelity on Aurora, while not unknown, is an exception and not the rule for either sex apparently.) So Miram took to Dr. Carrik's bed while Ilfo played with the locals. That they shared the same ship back to Aurora was coincidental. But it seemed to be in Ilfo's favor as he used Miram to keep Dr. Carrick otherwise occupied while he had liaisons with other women claiming to be Miram and not himself it seems. So why was Dr. Carrik murdered? This was a love triangle of sorts, was it not?
Miram made it as clear as he could to me the pathetic Earthman. Dr. Carrik was just "a shag," as he put it - a woman willing and eager to spread her legs for him and he was certain for his brother. She meant nothing to Miram except as an easy liaison and probably even less to his brother who would never commit to any single woman (married or not) so long as there were so many out there he had yet to sleep with.
Arguably, Miram had nothing to do with the murder for he had no reason to kill the woman. We on Earth might argue otherwise. He was, after all, cheating on his wife by our standards. She might have wished the affair moved in another direction. But Auroran standards are different. Having sex outside of marriage is quite acceptable to them. Having children outside of marriage is what constitutes their idea of adultery and the victim was not pregnant at the time of the murder. Besides, so far as the victim knew and even if she wanted marriage, she apparently did not suspect the switch in partners. So once again I was back to the original suspect in the crime.
Why would Ilfo have masqueraded as a Security Agent and engineered the woman's demise? While on the surface insanity could be ruled out, many truly insane people are on the surface sane. Assuming it was Ilfo who set up the murder, what was it that set his sights on the victim? Why did he care whether she lived or died? While he had never been faithful to her by our standards, he had been her principal (or so she thought) lover for two years and more. What changed? I used Miram to help break Ilfo. It was, in the end, depressingly pedestrian.
Miram could care less about the supposedly impending doom of Melpomenia. He was upper management in an Auroran company, one which never promoted foreigners above a certain level which was far below his own. So what if millions of displaced natives of Melpomenia came to Aurora? It meant nothing to him. Was he aware of the prediction of doom? He was. Dr. Carrik had spoken of it in bed after their couplings. She was obsessed with it. But it meant nothing to him.
In the end, it meant everything to Ilfo. While his twin was at the high end of industry, he was a leech who lived off of the largess of wealthy, randy women. His chosen profession (which provided access to such women) was near the bottom of Auroran economics. It was the type of profession that hoards of displaced persons would consider if there was a market and Ilfo could not handle that. He could care less about the job itself. But losing access to such wealthy women was an issue. He might actually have to work for a living as opposed to leeching off the women he bedded. And a huge influx of foreign labor threatened his access to his supply of leech accepting females. He could not allow that to happen! The news about Melpomenia had to be suppressed!
While Ilfo was a leech, he could not bring himself to actually kill. Enter our gullible crewman hoping for a leg up and a man who had to be an actor to be the leech that he was. He apparently acted the part of a secret agent of Auroran Security and was convincing at least to a man whose only experience with Auroran Security was on their subethric fictional dramas. Ilfo had the woman killed for not better reason than her revelations hypothetically interfered with his sex life and access to a free ride.
Both of the brothers had been in the victim's cabin and quite possible both had copulated with her before her murder as disturbing as that seems and both within a day or less of the deed. Robotic cleansing of cabins occurred almost every ship day on the second by their time. Ilfo had set things up. He was to be there for a liason at a certain time and she dismissed her personal robot but minutes beforehand. Enter the crewman seeking glory and his accomplice. Maybe there was a struggle, but the plasma cutter put an end to that quickly. The body was then laid in the bed and left. The doer admitted they used sominom gas to deal with her. This is a Spacer thing which induces sleep and is freely given to Liner passengers many of whom can't fall asleep normally on a ship in space for whatever reason. He and his accomplice were masked against its effects. The body was then placed in the bed and left so as to appear that she was asleep. All of this to protect a man's meal ticket, as it were.
Ilfo and the crewman were confined to their cabins until their return to Aurora I was told. It seems that the Spacers were confused as to what to do with them. They have no experience with that sort of crime. I was actually consulted prior to leaving the Liner as to what we do to such people on Earth. Despite our population pressures, we did away with the Death Penatly three thousand years ago on Earth. I understand that it was allowed in Space for acts of interstellar or interplanetary piracy and brigandage as well as clear acts of mutiny aboard a warship. But it's been over a thousand years since Earth was allowed access to interstellar space and I am not personally aware of that penalty ever being applied. On Earth, upon conviction of any crime of violence, the convict undergoes a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he remains a threat to society. If he is not deemed as a threat, he faces declassification. If he remains a threat, he is then evaluated to determine whether his violent tendencies can be eliminated using a psychic probe. If he can be "cured" and returned to society, he is probed and then undergoes a period of retraining before being sent to live somewhere else. If the probe will not render him harmless, he is confined to a psychiatric hospital perhaps for the remainder of his life. The Spacers who asked seemed genuinely surprised our methods of dealing with such criminals was so humane. I guess they expected something more barbaric from us.
On the surface, it would appear that the Spacers are discombobulated. For them, they are suffering through the worst crime spree in their recorded history (three homices, two attempted homicides and one suicide in a two year time frame) and do not have any idea how to deal with it. This may be at least partly the case. They lack the experience with such violence such that they're at a loss as to how to proceed. But I also believe there's more going on up there than meets the eye. I started coming to that conclusion in the aftermath of the Dr. Sarton case.
Recall, a respected Spacer robotisist was blasted out of existence by an Earthman and not just any Earthman but the City Commissioner of Police who held a G-4 Classification.
I know I said this before but it deserves emphasis. Did they need us to confirm their suspicions? They never have in the past and it seems as if they didn't care which Earthman did the deed at all. But did they demand justice? Did they impose trade sanctions or force us to accept more of their damnable machines? Did they demand reparations? Quite the opposite. They did the last thing any on Earth would have expected. They packed up their Spacetowns and left. Even at the time it seemed to me as if whatever it was they had hoped to accomplish had been accomplished as planned and the murder of Dr. Sarton proved that to be the case for them. The killer suffered a major declassification, but not total declassification and was allowed to keep his pension. This occurred after the Spacers left and, as far as I know, was a City of New York administrative downgrade and not a demand placed on Earth.
I have no idea what the Spacers would have done to Dr. Leebig had he not killed himself to avoid any form of human presence. I now regret not asking at the time, but things were pretty tense and I wanted to come home. But, while that man may have been the plotter, it was the woman who wielded the weapon and inflicted the mortal blow to her husband. And yet all that happened was that she was allowed to leave for another Spacer World. Would we have been so forgiving? It was a homicide after all although most likely far short of intentional murder. Personally, I don't think she poses a future threat to others and would have been rehabilitated where she an Earth woman. But the courts would have been involved at least to some degree. When they let her walk, that was when in struck me.
She had been cast out of paradise.
The thought came to me on that long journey back to Earth. Solaria was a world of total leisure. The handful of humans had, those who lived through their genetic screening or culling process to adulthood, would never have to work a day in their lives. All that was needed for their comfort was provided to them by their robots. All the Solarians I met engaged in some form of "work," but it was rarely work that contributed to their economy in a material sense. That work was done by their robots. Solarians worked at their leisure, probably more out of an unconscious need for intellectual stimulation than any other reason. They could often choose not to without any true repercussions. Even Dr. Delmarre could choose not to do his job for it would be done by another as a temporary assignment. The Doctor would suffer no loss in his standing or standard of living. It was a world without risk and, arguably, without reward.
That thought brought be to an ancient work my father had introduced me to when I was a boy called the Bible. That book and its tales and stories were the basis for great religions in the past. But that was not why it occurred to me that it might be relevant. Its opening chapters are dedicated to creation stories - stories about how the world came to be and then mankind. In it God created the universe and the earth and all that lives and breathes and, in the end, created man (or to be precise a man and a woman) and bequeathed them the world and all upon it. This world was a paradise, a world free from want or need or toil and it could remain so forever provided that the man and women obeyed a very simple rule. They were forbidden to eat the fruit of two fruit trees. That was it. In the end, they were tempted by a beast and ate the fruit from one of the forbidden trees and, as punishment, God cast them out of paradise.
That, Solaria, and that discussion I had with Dr. Fastolfe led me to a conclusion. I can't say it's one I can either prove or disprove except to say that my subsequent dealings with the Spacers support rather than refute my conclusion. The Spacers have, to one extent or another, created something akin to paradise and it is consuming them in a way. As a culture, they lack any need or desire to improve. Why should they? Their robots take care of them. They have no involvement or investment in their children. They most often do not even know who their children are. Thus they lack any true concept of a need to improve things if not for them then for the sake of future generations. They have fallen into a state of stagnation, one so comfortable that few see it as such or wish to truly change it.
The Spacers are a dying civilization. The vast majority are trapped by their now perfect little worlds and lack any sense of urgency or need to change things. Mr. Anselmo Quemot of Solaria, a self styled sociologist on his world (although I doubt he truly knows anything about it) commented that he sees one day all of the Spacer worlds being like Solaria, a world without society although he failed to grasp that or its implications. It would be a world of individualists without any need to true social interaction, and therefore one without any need to work towards any common good (or ill for that matter). Such a state would truly be the end of the human race in my opinion.
This was certainly in the back of my mind when I returned from Solaria. It was certainly in the back of my mind when I began to leave the City dome to venture Outside. But at the forefront of my mind was my experience with the Outside on Solaria. The Outside was and unknown and it had bothered me. I do not like being impaired or incapacitated by fear and it bothered me that for tens of thousands of years the Outside was not an unknown or something to inspire such fear. For my own reasons, I decided to face that fear with the hope of one day conquering or - more accurately - overcoming it.
The "Mirror Image" investigation lasted about seven days and once it was over I was back on Earth and back to my job as a homicide detective. Between it, the Solaria case and my crackpot hobby, I reached another conclusion one which I feel differentiates Earthmen from Spacers. It seems to me the vast majority of Spacers are unfamiliar with fear and are unable to deal with it. If they can't avoid it, they react very poorly indeed. It was fear of humanity that drove Dr. Leebig to try and invent a way to end most of it and to kill those who stood in his way. It was fear of immigration that drove Ilfo to kill his lover - fear that the arrival of thousands or millions of fellow Spacers might lesson his worth. It was pathological fear of the unknown and incomprehensible to them.
My crackpot hobby has showed me that the fears are not an inherent part of us and we of Earth can overcome them - perhaps not all of us, but enough to make some kind of difference. As I said, those young people who have joined me over the last two years adapt very quickly. Then again, they have less to unlearn. There are even those among them (my son included) who, if the weather is not too unpleasant, will spend the night Outside. The only question left in my mind until recently what difference will this make in the end. Which brings me to this last voyage. It began on my day off with me sitting under the shade of a tree Outside resting while the young people continued to tend to our fields of growing things…