Is that a body or a guest from my last barbecue?

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TODAY, the beginning of a super new science-fiction mystery thriller tale, entitled 'Martian Parsons'.

'HAVE a look at this,' said Mort Hollander to Lance Spiegel III.

Mort was head of vision control on the Probe space mission, in charge of pictures that came back from the buggy on Mars. The Probe mission had landed on Mars a week ago and the buggy had been wandering around Mars ever since, taking its holiday snaps and sending them back to Mort.

'Have a look at what?' said Lance. Lance was deputy head of vision control on the Probe space mission, under Mort. He and Mort had a very creative relationship. They hated each other.

'These pictures from Mars,' said Mort.

'More rocks?' said Lance. 'More dust? More detritus? Gee, the only thing I ever saw in this world that looked anything like Mars was the bottom of my garden, after I had rebuilt the terrace barbecue area and thrown all the unwanted stones and things down there.

'Maybe that explains Mars, at that. Maybe generations of interstellar travellers have been dumping their garbage on Mars and . . .'

One of the reasons Mort hated Lance was the way Lance couldn't stop talking. Lance knew this. That's why he talked so much. It annoyed the hell out of Mort.

'No. Look at this,' said Mort. He pressed a knob or two, and a video began to run on the screen.

It was the surface of Mars. The space buggy, nicknamed Fido, was sniffing his way across the terrain, taking pictures. It looked like a ruined barbecue area, just as Lance said. Suddenly Mort stopped the video.

' There. Look at that]'

'Jesus . . .' said Lance softly.

They were both looking at what was unmistakably a human body. A dead male human body. Lying on Mars. In a jacket and trousers. A well-dressed body. Lying on Mars. It was impossible. But there it was. A corpse. Lying face down.

'What do you think?' said Mort.

'I think he doesn't look too good,' said Lance.

'Not just a ruined barbecue area now, eh?' said Mort.

'Well, I don't know,' ruminated Lance. 'The last guests to leave my barbecues often look like that. You know - face down, incapable and immoveable.'

'For God's sake, Lance, we've got to take this seriously,' said Mort. 'This video was taken about two hours ago. I've instructed Fido to go back to the spot and take more pictures. So far, he can't find the corpse again. So I've sent for the police.'

'The police?' said Lance. 'You think they can help him find the corpse?'

'Lance,' said Mort patiently, 'this might be a murder. If that man is dead, we have to tell the police. A murder is a murder wherever it takes place.'

'That's stupid,' said Lance. 'A murder is only a murder in places where it is illegal to murder people. United States law doesn't obtain on Martian territory.'

'Until such time as we have evidence of Martian law and a Martian police force, buddy, I think we can assume that American law is good enough,' said Mort hotly.

At that moment an extremely senior police officer named Schulz entered the room and said he had heard they had got a top secret corpse somewhere and where was it, and when Mort said it was on Mars, Schulz nearly burst a rivet.

'You gotta corpse where?' he said. Mort and Lance were briefly united in pleasure at the effect of this announcement.

'On the planet Mars,' Mort said. 'Look, I'll show you.'

Fido had just found the body again, and was beaming in pictures from all angles. The body lay there, still in the same attitude. But this time they noticed something they hadn't noticed before. A small white card lying on the man's jacket. There seemed to be something written on it.

'I'll get a closer shot,' said Mort.

'I think I know what it will say,' said the police chief. 'One name. Andrew Parkes.'

The camera zoomed in. There was a name on the card. It was Andrew Parkes.

'How the . . .?' said Lance.

'We've come across him before,' said the police chief.

'You may not believe this, but we think we are on to our first serial killer in space.'

Another scary episode tomorrow]