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Murder on the Mars Express: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

It’s the Dean.

“Oh, the stars are a fine place for most people, but not for me.”

Professor Kolthammer nodded in agreement.  Despite all its problems—rising seas, overcrowding, food riots, the odd war—Earth was home, he thought.  At thirty five the professor had a settled look about him.  He had been fit once, but now he was getting soft around the middle.  In a few years he’d be paunchy with a receeding hairline.  But for now he still retained a youthful face.  Nick recalled his home in Philadelphia.

Yes, there’s a certain shade of green…that’s home.  Kate Winters continued her tale of a sister or cousin, Nick had come in late.  Seems the relation was headed to one of the outer planets, Neptune or Uranus, she couldn’t recall.  It needn’t mattered, Kate was firmly against it.  She’s a professor of medieval history; of course, she’s against it, Nick concluded.  Years dedicated to centuries old goings on?

Nick shouldn’t have judged so harshly.  He was after all a professor of English Literature himself.  It’s populated by dead white men, a critical colleague—a woman Nick recalled—had observed.  True enough.  Still that shouldn’t take away from their words and message, Nick thought.

“It just seems like such a waste,” Kate went on her glasses sliding down her nose.  “Why would a smart, and attractive young woman want to go all the way out  there to some frozen wasteland?”

The glasses had struck Nick as an affectation the first time he met Kate.  Nick had said as much to his wife, Io, after the Dean’s brunch.

“Why wouldn’t she wear glasses?” Io asked.  “I see them all the time in places like Chile, sub-Saharan Africa, parts of India, Russia even.”

“They all have either wide-spread poverty or tough pockets of it.  Most state health systems deal with eyesight quite early.  Everyone in Hawaii’, for example, who had vision problems—well, those that slipped past the genetic screenings or their parents didn’t believe in eugenics—underwent an ocular adjustment procedure as children.”  Nick stopped.  He knew when he started sounding encyclopedic it was time to stop.  Io had just started to get that look of polite disapproval.

“Professor Kolthammer?” Nick snapped back into focus, into the present moment.  A slim nosed sandy-haired young man touched his sleeve.  “There’s a call for you, sir.  It’s the dean.”

Ten days later he and his wife were headed to Jupiter.

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About Rob Sterner

English teacher, Film buff, Filmmaker, Writer, Musician, Photographer, Runner, Taoist, Thinker, List maker...

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