Part Three - Initial Conditions
Rigby noticed the headlines of a newspaper on a nearby table. On the front page of The Saturn Daily, she saw that a motion had passed in favor of an amendment to standard migration laws. This change would dictate the future of those wanting to migrate beyond the orbit of Neptune in the solar system. Exploration groups with certain qualifying scientific missions would now be allowed to try to set-up working colonies. The article had been controversial because of the possibility for expensive rescue missions. She felt a sort of drifting within her thoughts once more and stared out the window. Then, she looked back at the paper just to make sure she had read it correctly.
After waiting quite a long time, she decided to go look for Casey. She got up from her chair and walked down the hallway towards the coffee room. Yet, not far beyond the door of the office, there was Casey bearing hot coffee, tea, milk, and sugar on a tray. Casey looked at Rigby and paused, tray in her hands, before continuing forward. Rigby was beginning to speak but then thought better of it. She quietly followed her back into the office. Casey sat the tray down next to Rigby, and they both grabbed a mug. Rigby put milk in her tea followed by sugar. She added an extra white grainy cube, pausing to enjoy the feeling between her thumb and index finger.
Looking back at the newspaper, Rigby remembered that a new crossword puzzle series would be out in this week's press. She was certain Cameron would enjoy these; they were called “Theory Thinkers”.
“Casey, do you mind if I take this newspaper with me?”
“Not at all. They just pile up over time.”
“Thanks.” Rigby replied.
“You know it’s been a really long time since we last saw each other… ”, said Casey as she paused to look at Rigby. “...what month are you? Not that I know anything about having kids. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.”
Rigby made a little scoffing sound, “Oh, yeah. I’m at about five… five and a half months along.”
“Wow...” said Casey followed by an extended pause. “You know I always thought I might end up having kids one day, but you know… I don’t know. Sort of scared me a bit. Not that that is what I should be saying right now... uh congratulations you look great and you’re glowing, and you know all that.”
“Yep well. Thanks Casey. You always know exactly what to say.” Rigby was caught off guard by the comment and honestly a bit offended. She was just beginning to really show. She was certainly not looking forward to being gawked at for the next few months.
Casey was not very good at picking up on other people’s emotions. She pressed on, “So…. can I show you something?”
“Yeah. Yeah, go for it.” replied Rigby.
Casey got up and left without a signal as to where they were headed. Rigby was used to this though; she put down her tea and briskly followed. Down the hallway there was a conference room with a larger table, and Casey thumbed through the photos that were spread out on top of it. Rigby wondered if this was the reason for her delay from the coffee room.
“What are these?” Rigby casually scanned the pictures. Quickly after, her demeanor changed. “Where did you get these?” asked Rigby as she turned to look at Casey.
“Some of them are from various social media accounts posting about an academic party, and some of them are from a security camera.” said Casey. “After you called, I thought I would look into the last time Dr. Finch was here, and I noticed something strange.”
Rigby spoke as she continued to scan the photos, “Perhaps for starters this is the same outfit she was wearing the day she was murdered.” She wondered if there was any connection, might be nothing. It wasn’t on the same day the homicide had taken place.
After a minute or two of looking at the photographs, Casey went over to her computer and reprogrammed the pictures. The set of photos on the table changed. Immediately after, Rigby noticed the cube. Rigby said softly “…and she has that cube we found.”
Casey probed her for more information, “You found a cube?”
Rigby thought to herself that there was something unnerving about these pictures: a couple of them had an odd quality about them. Like they were too dark beyond the people in the photos and too crisp on certain features. “What did she do when she was here? Who did she visit?” Rigby asked.
“Well she wasn’t formally invited to be here for any particular reason, but she met with a few other physicists in the department. No one out of the ordinary. However, you don’t see her for about 20 minutes during her visit on campus, which is unusual. We have a pretty good camera system, but there is a clear gap for how she got from one spot to another spot.”
“Your access to the crime scene should clear in the next day or so." said Rigby. Casey perked up and Rigby continued, "I’ll be looking forward to what you can make of that. The killer was very careless. If they were in the system, we would have had an arrest made by now.” replied Rigby with noticeable irritation. Her face looked tense.
“So, the cube?” said Casey.
“Ah, yes that. She died with it in her hands. It’ll all be in the impression database.” replied Rigby. Her mind was beginning to wonder about who else they might be able to talk to from the pictures. Felix Gardener stood out to her in one of the photos. He was a well-known astronomer that had gotten an award recently, but Rigby couldn’t remember the name of it.
Casey noticed her looking at Felix and began by talking, “You might recognize Dr. Felix Gardener in these pictures. He certainly has been in the press a lot recently for his work in the structure and origins of certain superclusters. He met with Anna, and so did her assistant. It was on the way out of his office that she disappeared from the cameras for about 20 minutes. I mean it could just be a glitch or a blind spot in the video, but I think it would be worth our while to speak with Felix.”
“OK, let’s go for it.” Rigby started to take out her comm.
Casey made a halting hand gesture towards Rigby as she was reaching into her bag, “Way ahead of you on that one. I already tried…” said Casey. Rigby looked up and stopped rummaging through her bag. Casey continued, “He hasn’t been seen by anyone in his group for a couple of days, but it also seems he has been doing that lately. His assistant is currently at telescope for Mars tech, you know..." Casey paused to think of the name, "...the New Atacama Observatory!" she said while pointing at Rigby. "The assistant didn't have anything much to say though. But, she did seem distraught when I mentioned Felix.”
“What does his assistant do at the telescope exactly?” asked Rigby.
Casey explained, “She deals with adaptive optics. It essentially reduces the effects of atmospheric disturbances on optical images taken by a telescope. She helps calculate corrections that can compensate by deforming a mirror in the telescope. She should be out there for the next few months at least.”
Rigby stated, “Sounds like it’s time for a trip. And, we can wait for your access to the crime scene to clear in transit.”
Casey immediately started walking towards the comm system to find them tickets on the next shuttle out to Mars.
Rigby went home that night a little nervous about telling her husband she would be gone for about a month on a trip to Mars for the Dr. Finch case. He might be a little worried, but she was pretty sure he would keep that to a minimum. The dogs perked up as she walked in the door. “Hey there you two.” Rigby patted them on the head and scratched their backs as she unloaded her coat and bag in the closet.
“Hey there!” Cam shouted out from the kitchen. “I hope you are hungry.”
The dogs followed Rigby to the kitchen. She could smell what seemed to be Cameron’s go to on weeknights, an exotic mushroom quiche. It was divine. “That smells amazing.” she replied as she entered the kitchen. They both smiled at one another and she moved in for a quick kiss. “I have some good news and some bad news.” said Rigby.
“Uh oh. What’s the good news?” said Cameron as he shuffled about the kitchen moving around brussel sprouts on the stove.
“We might have a lead on a case. It seems that a scientist on Mars might be able to tell us about some odd behavior of Anna’s at Rubin. But…”
“... now you have to take a trip to Mars?” said Cam as he finished her sentence.
“Yes, it will be about a month.” replied Rigby with a look of apology in her eyes.
“Well, duty calls. We will just have to make sure you have everything you need.” replied Cam with a smile. “When do you leave?”
“Tomorrow.” Rigby replied.
“If you want to you can go straight up and start packing. I can let you know when dinner is ready?” said Cameron.
“You are amazing did you know that?” said Rigby. She went upstairs to start packing and the dogs followed. It had been a while since she had been to Mars and she was looking forward to it.
The next morning, Casey met Rigby in the shuttle docking port lobby. “So, no issues with Cameron?”
“Why would there be?” said Rigby firmly.
Casey picked up on that one. She stumbled with her words for a second and then said, “Oh, you know... he is a nurse.” She handed Rigby a ticket. Rigby chose to ignore that last comment.
Casey then said, “We will have a couple stops along the way. Firstly, we will pick-up passengers at Garden Station and then at Europa we pick-up cargo. Also, I got us a private two-person bunk for the second shift. Should be pretty cozy.”
“Sounds good, let’s get settled into one of the launch cabins. How long until the second shift?” said Rigby.
“Should be about 8 hours from now.” replied Casey.
“Perfect.” Rigby looked around her. They walked towards the collection of cabins where everyone that was not a crew member gathered at launch time. Long rows of well fastened seats lined the walls. After passing through the first few cabins, Casey and Rigby strapped in about halfway down an empty row of seats.
Somewhere in between the lies and the little breaths of air she took, the world propelled forward in tandem. Where there was once ambiguity there was now complete and total clarity for Michael. She could feel the production of acid in her stomach going on high. The juxtaposition of this feeling alongside her projection of calm control fueled her performance.
Later that day she would long for a life of complete solitude. Maybe in that life she’d have the ability to find peace through not wanting anything. That’s where she would bury any negative feelings she had from today, in a dream.
But if complete and total control over her own desires was not achievable, she would have to settle for Michael’s.
“Does someone see my purse? I can’t remember for the life of me where I left it.” she said with a warm and barely perceptible smile.
Michael picked it up softly and handed it to her from the chair behind her. “Here it is, Camilla.” he said in a tone of frail love.
She smiled lightly and left the elegant office. It was a bubble within a bubble. After clearing the main lobby, she stepped out onto the grating that lined the floor of the upper deck. Children were running in the middle of the plaza two levels lower with dirt and bits of food on their faces. Even a different dialect was more prominent. None of the children she was looking at now would ever be allowed to go from where she just came. It was unlikely they would ever even set foot on the upper deck. To be a guard was an honor.
She had changed her clothing to better fit in. The administration felt that not knowing what you are missing is less painful.
She needed to get to a flight terminal immediately. Thankfully she had what she needed. In her purse were coins used by dock traders nearly ubiquitously across the new frontier and a handful of old-world compatibility chips.
She knew the fastest route to the terminal to take by memory. Long strides and an undeterred gaze made her move like liquid into a cavity on Earth. She saw an open shuttle, gracefully slipped the operator a couple coins and went straight to strap into the first launch cabin she saw with empty seats and about 20 other passengers. She sat in the first open seat she found. Her eyes rolled upwards as a sigh of relief but that was all she allowed herself. She always sat up straight and right after she was done with this brief indulgence, she opened her eyes to look at the other passengers. Just at that moment the passenger to her left said, “Hi, I’m Casey.” Casey then also pointed to her left and said, “This is my colleague Rigby.”
“Nice to meet you.” nodded Rigby.
With that same warm tone in her voice she said, “Hi. I’m Camilla. It’s nice to meet you as well.”
Make sure to check out the posts this scene takes inspiration from, Theory Thinkers and Adaptive Optics in the Atacama Desert. This blog post will also available as a podcast in the near future, as read by the author, Erin Blauvelt.
Author: Erin Blauvelt, PhD