Author: Alastair Millar
Look, dying on Mars is easy. Equipment failure, sudden illness, inability to follow the safety instructions, they can all lead to the same (you must excuse the phrase) dead end. Making something look like a genuine accident is tricky, but it’s doable, especially with practice.
Oh, that won’t do? Okay, I understand. The body might contain something it shouldn’t, like a microdot or a traceable enhancement. Or there needs to be some strategic ambiguity about their status for while, because other matters need to be cleared up. Hey, it happens, I get it. Oh, it’s the insurance policy? I see.
Well, you need to understand, evading the Watchers can be tricky. Ah, I thought you might suggest that, but getting to the people in the monitoring stations is never as easy as the sensies pretend. The folks there are regularly vetted; if they’re even remotely compromisable, they’re shunted elsewhere. Worse, they’re well paid, which makes bribery extremely expensive; and even then they might turn around and hand you in anyway. Too risky. You can end up having to dispose of multiple bodies to cover your trail, which is kind of meta and self-defeating.
But if you know where to look, there are blind spots in the surveillance nets, and as a last resort there are ways of getting electronics to fritz while avoiding the kind of critical system damage that gets a Response Team on your neck in five minutes flat.
So the real problem is getting rid of the body. You can’t bury it, because there’s no vegetation: cuts in the ground are really obvious. You can’t leave it out for scavengers, because there aren’t any. You can’t just abandon it a long way outside town, either, because there’s no oxygen out there, which means no microbes, which means the stiff just waits there failing to decompose until someone inevitably comes across it. Most inconvenient.
Getting it into the organic recycling plant is next to impossible, because the Powers That Be aren’t stupid. They keep a close eye on all the messiness that’s sent for processing; even corpses need the official paperwork before they’ll let the machines touch them. False paperwork, you say? There are no good forgers on Mars, my friend; it’s not one of the skills on the Wanted Immigrants list. Plus everything’s coded for scanning, and there’s no way to fake that.
But the right combination of industrial chemicals can dissolve a body, given time. No, I’m not telling you what that combination is; trade secret. Getting hold of the stuff isn’t easy, but that’s not your problem, is it? All you need to know is that it can be done safely and cleanly, with no comebacks.
So, from my point of view, we can do business; you’ll just need to tell me which piece of grit we’re removing from the well-oiled machinery of your life. Your wife? Ah, a classic. Almost as popular a choice as a lover.
Thank you for confirming that. Now, as you can see, this is a blaster. Just stand up and we’ll make our way slowly to the exit; no need to disturb the other drinkers. My colleague at the door will take you into custody. Conspiracy to murder, tut tut, very naughty; you’ll be wanting a lawyer. Yes, I’m a Watcher; yes, I’ve been recording all this. Now come along; fortunately for your better half, death in Marsport really is far harder to arrange that people realise.
Oh, that’s solid. Classic theme but I enjoyed the ride anyway.
The name reminded me of that classic by Isaac Asimov, “I’m in Marsport Without Hilda”, which I first read about 50 years ago.
Oh that’s a great story! But I admit I was riffing more off ‘Death In Venice’ as far as the title went 😉
I really enjoyed this! Had a nice ‘here’s a crime conundrum’ feel to it with a twist that I should’ve expected but didn’t! Excellent.
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!