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Murder on the Mars Express: Chapter 5

Chapter 5:

It’s What Tiggers Do Best

“We’re all members of the Corinthian Order.”  A gaunt, sandy haired man was addressing the entire room not merely the transport captain.  He was backed by over fifty of his order.  There was nothing to distinguish them from the remainder of the passengers or the crew.  They looked ordinary.

“And I’m sympathetic to your faith-” The captain was trying to diffuse the situation.  The uniform, a blue coverall with the blotchy company logo on his breast, gave the captain the appearance of a mechanic rather than the harried manager of a small city.  Perhaps fifty, but it’s difficult to judge with the number and availability of rejuvenation treatments, the captain stood with three security officers.

“Then you must know we want the culprit apprehended and tried before the proper authorities.”

“I am not consulting you.  I am informing you.”  He paused and scratched his salt and pepper stubble.

“That’s unacceptable.”

“I won’t have this hanging over the crew for the next five months.  One way or the other this will be settled.  Besides, there is a centuries old method established within the maritime code for dealing with this.  Justice will be served.”  Sensing defeat the leader of the Corinthians tried to salvage something.

“Then I request the proceedings be open to us.”

“Certainly.  You’ll see that we can be as just as anyone else.”

“I don’t see what Marakov got all wound up about.”  A voice said behind me.  It was Roger.  Nick tried to ignore him, and groaned inside as Io turned to the fat little man.

“Marakov?”  Io asked.

“He’s the mouth piece for them religious nuts.”

“Why do you call them that?”

“I’m a god-fearing man myself, but their kind of mysticism just rubs me the wrong way.”  The fool had spent too much of his energies on learning how to make money, and far too little on how to be human, Nick thought.  The professor had had his fill and escaped the gossipmongers and the whisperers and the soap box hunters.  It was time for a walk.

 

The captain quickly set about the trial.  It was of a most unusual format.  The Captain would serve as judge, essentially a referee to see that the rules were followed.  Yet, he lacked real power.  The real power lay with the jury.  They would be made up of the entire crew save two.  The executive officer would serve as prosecutor, not much of a stretch as most XO’s perform that duty within the crew on a daily basis.  A crew member chosen by the accused would serve as defense council.

Io and Nick came upon the prosecutor just before dinner one evening.  Nick was dispatched to retrieve dinner, and Io set into him.  The XO never stood a chance.

Nick found an quiet corner and waited.  She was magnificent to behold.  A little smile.  A few fingers through her hair.  Suddenly he was very chatty.

“So what did you learn?”

“Did you know they still have the death penalty?”  Io’s face flushed.

“It’s to prevent mutiny, but it has been twenty or thirty years since it has been used on a civilian vessel.  He’ll likely get confinement and then turned over to civil authorities.”  Nick was trying to reassure her.

“You think so?”  He nodded.

“Does he seem like he knows what he’s doing?”

“Well, he had the maritime code book open.”

“Shows he can read.”

“Nick.”

“My apologies.”  He paused, “It shows he knows what a book is.”

“Are you done?”

“Dead bodies must put me on edge.”

“Are you certain?”

“Well, I’ve never seen a dead man before.”  He said.

“Let’s take a walk and forget about it for now.”

Yes, reading about death and the innumerable ways a man can die… about how the chemical factory that is our body trundles on after death with an odd inertia like a derailed train plowing a deep furrow beside the track… about the psychology of stress and of small groups in contained environments… about all of that hardly a cousin to seeing it before you.  Io and Nick strolled arm in arm as if newlyweds on honeymoon except lost in their own thoughts.

 

They secluded themselves in their cabin, only to venture out for meals.

 

“Odds?” Nick asked.

“Yeah, on the trial.”  The little man, whose name escaped Nick, shifted his balance from foot to foot as if he were nervous, ill, or simply had to urinate.  It reminded Nick of being at sea watching him sway from side to side.  Nick was rapidly loosing his appetite as he selected lunch items for Io and himself.

“It’s hardly a trial.” A woman interjected.  Both the little man and Nick turned.

“What would you call it?”  Nick shifted down the line trying to get away from them both.  A storm was brewing.

“When I was in school I remember learning about how officers would form a quick informal tribunal and rule that some soldier or civilian had broken the rules or been a traitor with flimsy evidence and with little in the way of a real chance for defense… executed the poor bugger.”

“Yeah, ain’t there some fancy werd for that.”

 

Kangaroo court.

 

The verdict in the captain’s kangaroo court shook the whole of the ship.  Even Io and Nick, sequestered as they were, could not avoid it.

 

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About Rob Sterner

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

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