Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Ganymede Club 1-6 - Charles Sheffield

"Jason's question seemed unnecessary now. He had to ask it, anyway: "Is she dead?"

"I'm afraid she is." Simone Munzer had been standing next to Jing-li, and now she turned to him. He was glad to see that there was no trace of "I told you so" in her manner. "I'm sorry, Jason."

"But it's most peculiar," added Polk. The physician was bending low, peering at Athene's face. "Dead and already cooling. Yet it doesn't seem like a case of asphyxiation, which is what the suit punctures would suggest. Fascinating. Did you see anything strange, Cayuga, while you were in the interior?"

It had all happened too quickly, and Jason had been totally focused on what had to be done to rescue Athene. He shook his head.

"Of course, it may have nothing to do with her visit to Helene." Polk began to release the wrist seals on Athene's suit.

"We must prove that, one way or the other." Simone Munzer turned to Jing-li. "It's not like a normal ship fatality, where the body can go into sealed storage and await investigation until our return to Earth orbit."

"I agree." Jing-li's face was grim. The warning from the ship's anomalist—that Athene Rios should not explore the interior of Helene—was already in the ship's record. The official investigation would be unpleasant for Captain Betty Jing-li. "Dr. Polk, please prepare for and proceed with an autopsy."

"Already getting ready for it." The physician, unlocking Athene's ankle seals, seemed fully awake and enjoying himself for the first time in months. "But I'll need an assistant."

Athene had been his designated backup for medical emergencies.

"Of course." Jing-li turned to Luke Costas. "We will follow the usual—"

"If you please," Jason cut in. "I would like to help."

You interrupted a captain's order at your own peril, and Jason knew it. But Jing-li merely stepped closer, studied his face, and nodded.

"Very well. I understand. The autopsy will not be pleasant, they never are. If you have problems handling it—or yourself—tell me and I will arrange relief. Dr. Polk, please proceed. Dr. Munzer, I need to meet separately with you."

At her nod, Luke Costas turned and left the room. Jing-li and Simone Munzer followed, while Polk dispassionately watched them go.

"Wouldn't mind hearing that conversation," he said."

4 out of 5