| "Les Mortes dArthur" |
Set in the Future
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Affiliations:||Interplanetary Broadcasting Company|
Bill Bennett was a co-anchor for Interplanetary Broadcasting Company's coverage of the events of the Sixty-sixth Winter Games on Mimas, a moon of Saturn. He was an open-faced light brown American in his early 30s. He wore burnsides, which had come back in fashion after fifty years, that complemented his face.
Bennett shared anchoring duties with Rannveig Aasen. The two had developed a sexual dalliance on the trip to Mimas, more out of boredom than anything else, and so neither viewed it as a serious romance. Even though an American, he smugly considered his French accent superior to that of Aasen who was Norwegian.
Bennett and Aasen made their first broadcast covering the opening ceremonies on Mimas from a studio in the Olympic Village. As the torch bearer climbed the improbably steep slope to light the Olympic flame, the two filled the audio portion of the broadcast with chatter that informed their viewers of the conditions on Mimas and the unusual modes of motion required in its .008g gravity.
After the first day transmission ended, the two went to a lounge in the complex that contained a bar. Bennett had a rum and Coke which came in a free-fall squeeze bulb with a nipple for drinking. The gravity was low enough to require it. As the athletes began to arrive via a monorail from the parade ground, Bennett observed their interactions. He watched as the coaches for Moscow and Siberia challenged each other to a vodka drinking competition as they argued, more or less amiably. The Siberian eventually won although he too passed out shortly afterwards.
Bennett decided to mingle and struck up a conversation with a skier from Luna. She had trouble placing him at first, since his conservative green velvet doublet, tunic and Paisley neck scarf, did not match the tight pullovers and hose the athletes had on which they wore under their space suits. She then recognized him as a broadcaster for IBC and insisted on buying him a drink. He reciprocated and was in deep conversation when he glanced at Aasen. She was talking as intently with a big blonde man wearing the colors of Eastern Europe. A promising evening all the way around.
The next day, Bennett and Aasen broadcast the first round of competition in the five-kilometer ski jump. Assisting them was their expert analyst, Angus Cavendish, who had won a bronze medal in the event during the 2192 Games. Prior to the competition beginning, they explained how the event differed from the 90-meter jump in Klagenfurt. Cavendish explained that while in both events the competitors would be traveling about 100 kph when they jumped, they would reached an altitude of two and a half kilometers above the end of the runway and travel over ten kilometers. They would be airborne for ten minutes and would, at the peak, see for thirty-five kilometers.
The first athlete was Marge Olbert of the Anzac Federation. Her form was excellent and she reached a launch velocity of 97.43 kph which resulted in a jump of 10,290 meters. The next jumper was Jozef Jablonski, a skier for Eastern Europe. Bennett recognized him as the blonde man Aasen had been talking to the previous night. He started his run five minutes after Olbert, when she was at the peak of her jump and reached the velocity of 101.74 kph which resulted in a jump of 11,149 meters.
The competitors continued to jump in five minute intervals resulting in one landing while the next was in mid-flight and the third starting his or her run. Towards the end of the first day's trials, it was the turn of Shukri al-Kuwatly for the Arab World, who was the favorite. He reached the velocity of 103.81 kph and an expected distance of 11,580 meters. However, while still a half a kilometer up and two minutes away from landing, a misty globe formed around al-Kuwatly's head. At first it was thought to be a suit failure but with al-Kuwatly remaining motionless, Cavendish realized he was dead and must have been murdered.
Almost immediately after, Dmitri Shepilov, a jumper for Moscow who was the next in line and at the top of his trajectory, appeared to raise his right arm to point when his helmet also became surrounded by mist. He too had been murdered. Louis-Philippe Guizot of United Europe was next and had just cleared the ramp by making his jump when he was murdered after Shepilov.
After the three dead men tumbled like a rag dolls to the ground in the landing zone, there was a faint radio transmission. Someone claimed to be with the Second Irgun and also claimed responsibility for the atrocity.
The next day, events were suspended pending the investigation into the murders. Bennett and Aasen did make a broadcast outlining developments. They first interviewed Major Katayama Hitoshi, head of security on Mimas. He indicated that the three had been killed by bursts from a high powered laser. Given that at the peak of their jump, they could see and be seen for thirty-five kilometers, he had an area of 3,800 square kilometers to search for clues and only twenty personnel to use. He did have some hope that the observation satellite in synchronous orbit six hundred kilometers up might provide some useful information with computer enhancement of its images.
After the interview, they replayed the recording of the Second Irgun transmission and then went to IBC correspondent Jorge Martinez in Buenos Aires for further comment by the group's spokesman. Martinez was one of a group of reporters who recorded the denial of involvement by Menachem. Aasen commented that it was not the most convincing of denials. Bennett agreed but added that the Second Irgun had claimed responsibility in the past for other atrocities and so it was unusual for them to make a denial.
They then reported on the discovery of al-Kuwatly's altered suit which allowed air to escape and be used to illegally add acceleration to his jump. To get reaction from the athletes on this and the murders, they cut to Cavendish who was in a lounge with a number of competitors. He first interviewed Itzhak Zalman the sole Jew on the Arab World team and who had been specifically threatened by Menachem as a traitor. Zalman indicated that he had been threatened in the past but would not let it affect his performance. He also thought al-Kuwatly was a fool and a medal won by cheating was valueless. Cavendish then interviewed Nikolai Yezhov of Siberia. He indicated that he did not know Shepilov since the Muscovites stuck to themselves. He also viewed al-Kuwatly's cheating with amusement, stating that the only sin was being caught.
With the end of that interview, Cavendish passed the show back to Bennett and Aasen. They summarized once more and then ended their broadcast for the day.
After they finished the transmission, Bennett expressed curiosity over the way Shepilov appeared to raise his right arm to point just before he was murdered. Aasen was dismissive, indicating it was something for the professionals, such as Major Hitoshi, to investigate. She then left Bennett behind in the studio and went to meet with Jablonski.
Bennett reviewed the holograms of all three murders from several angles and became even more convinced that Shepilov was making a deliberate motion with his arm. He feed the information into the IBC computer and received a printout of the area Shepilov had been attempting to point to. It was a circle two kilometers in diameter, north of the jumper's flight path and near the landing zone. He decided to suit up and give the area a search.
As Bennett approached his destination, he saw people with lights moving around. He was challenged by one person in what he recognized as the robin's-egg blue suit of security. He was escorted to Major Hitoshi who demanded to know who on his staff leaked the information of the search to him. Bennett explained what he had done and Major Hitoshi relaxed a bit. The major explained that security had done something similar but with the angles of the wounds on the dead men.
Bennett was quietly amused that his amateur method had come up with an area not much bigger than security's. He asked for permission to join the search which was reluctantly granted. The security guards were working in pairs with one jumping twenty to thirty meters up and shining a spotlight down to allow their partner to examine the lit area. Bennett, working alone, could only use his helmet lamp.
However, Bennett did what he could. Eventually, he peered into a cave and noticed a large, regular shaped green object. He retrieved it and found that he had recovered an expended, heavy-duty charge cube. He radioed security who quickly arrived and scoured the cave. They found two more cubes. Major Hitoshi examined the writing on Bennett's cube and indicated that it was "Made in Praha" or Prague, an Eastern European cube.
Bennett continued to search for a while longer but did not find anything more. As he was leaving to return to the Olympic complex, Major Hitoshi radioed and told him not to broadcast this information until he was given clearance. Bennett reluctantly agreed.
When Bennett returned to the studio, he did check the order of jumpers to see who from Eastern Europe would have an opportunity to commit the crime. Most jumped during the middle or end of the event. The exception was Jozef Jablonski. He told Aasen of this at dinner. She denied Jablonski would have been involved in such a crime and that the Eastern European cubes could have been used to direct suspicion away from the real killer. However, she was troubled since Jablonski had told her that he had gone to his room after his jump and had fallen asleep leaving him without an alibi.
The next morning when Bennett went into the lounge for breakfast, he was surprised by all the rumors he heard. Despite the fact he had only confided in Aasen as to what he had discovered, he heard that three different people had been arrested, that Jablonski was a secret Jew, that the assassin was a renegade ronin from Japan and that the Arab World was about to declare war.
As Bennett was heading to the studio, he nearly ran into Zalman heading the other way who asked him if the crowd in the lounge had elected him Pope yet. Bennett replied solemnly "Twice". As Zalman burst out laughing, Bennett added that he had also heard that he was a member of the Second Irgun and that Menachem's threat was part of his masquerade. Zalman's amusement seemed to slip for a moment but Bennett dismissed it as an overly suspicious mind on his part.
Since all competition was still suspended and Bennett was unable to report what he had discovered, it was a shortened session. After they had finished, Cavendish teased Bennett about his extracurricular activities the previous day. He had heard that Bennett had discovered some valuable evidence outdoors and suggested the two of them do a bit of walking about and sleuthing.
Bennett was dismayed that the rumors had started but agreed to go outside with Cavendish. After they had suited up, Cavendish suggested twenty-five laps around the Olympic Village for some exercise. After they had circled the structure a number of times, Cavendish noticed something peculiar. There was a ring of frost high up one wall of the building. Bennett suggested it had been there since the complex had been built but Cavendish was adamant that it had not been there previously and that he should know since he had done laps many times before when he had been training for competition.
Not knowing what had caused it and realizing that any serious leaks or other possible origins would have been discovered long ago, the two continued their jog. By the time they quit for the day, Cavendish had forgotten about it but Bennett continued to worry about it.
After Bennett had a shower, he had a phone call from Aasen. She told him that Jablonski been detained for questioning. She also told him that Zalman had sought political asylum with the Chinese. Apparently he really was a member of the Second Irgun and Bennett's joke had caused him to panic thinking his cover was blown.
Bennett then called Hitoshi. The major confirmed that Zalman was a member of the Second Irgun. Security had found a recording where he stated he planned no violence, only a loss of face to the Arab World by revealing how slipshod their security measures were. Hitoshi wanted to interrogate him but he was still with the Chinese. Jablonski denied any knowledge of the killings, that he had been alone and asleep when they had occurred.
After Bennett rang off, he remembered the frost he and Cavendish had seen. He called the chief maintenance engineer's number and spoke with an assistant. The assistant assured him that they would check it out and would call him back.
While waiting for the return call, Bennett watched a docudrama on the life of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on his room's entertainment system. He jumped when his phone chimed. It was the assistant engineer calling back. He reassured Bennett that the phenomena wasn't dangerous but couldn't explain it. It would have taken a volume of air large enough to empty a suite of rooms to create it but they had no record of a leak that large. Bennett asked which rooms were centered on the frost ring. The engineer checked and reported back that it was those of Nikolai Yezhov. Bennett thanked him and hung up.
Something nagged at Bennett as he switched on the show he had been watching. He suddenly realized that the gulag it depicted was in Kolyma, Yezhov's home town. Siberia still used it for a prison camp and where there were prisoners, there would be guards.
Bennett called Major Hitoshi again and explained his reasoning. Hitoshi heard him out and then checked and confirmed that Yezhov worked in the prison system. He also had a plan to expose him which he explained to Bennett since it involved him.
The next day, Bennett and Aasen again had a shortened broadcast but with much news to report. The main item was the arrest of Jozef Jablonski. They reported the discovery of the ambush location and of the Eastern Europe power cubes. They also reported that Major Hitoshi expected a confession shortly. They then cut to Cavendish in the lounge for the reaction of athletes which was relief and eagerness to return to competition.
Cavendish threw back to Bennett and Aasen when he had finished his interviews. They went to an interview of Yezhov, who was in his room, via videophone. As they were interviewing him, there was a knock on his door. He offered to ignore it but Bennett suggested he answer and they would return to him when he had finished his business. Bennett also suggested that Yezhov turn down the volume but leave the video on so that they would know when he was finished. Yezhov thought it a capital idea and did so.
Rather than go to commercial, the director kept broadcasting the image. Bennett and Aasen kept a running commentary as Yezhov opened the door and had a pistol thrust in his face by a security guard. A half dozen other guards including Major Hitoshi rocketed in with one doubling back to shackle his arms behind him. The rest tore through the room with one finding a circular scar two meters wide behind a wall hanging.
Yezhov had doctored a laser tube in his stereovision set into the murder weapon. He had also used it to cut the outside wall into an exit. Only the air in his suite had blown out since the door to each set of rooms was an emergency airlock. This escaping air had formed frost on the outside wall and with the returned cirle frost-free making it a ring which Cavendish had discovered. Yezhov had used this opening to get to his ambush site unseen since he did not use an official airlock to get out. He returned to his rooms the same way and had used sealing compounds to remake his suite air tight.