Everen pushed around the gloppy food on her plate. It had, of course, been cooked by someone who was firstly a scientist or politician or something else, and secondly a chef. The food on the ship was never exactly great. But Everen had lost her appetite after the murder of Wallen Tallow. Because it had to be a murder, right? You don’t get a triangle lodged in your back on accident. The people investigating his death (it was a makeshift CSI unit, composed of some biologists who knew a bit of forensics) hadn’t come to any solid conclusions yet, or at least they hadn’t made any statements publicly yet. But Everen had seen him. And that couldn’t have been anything but a murder.
The rest of the crew on board looked shaken too. There were a few other people scattered around the mess hall, but there were significantly fewer than usual, and no one made eye contact or friendly banter. The usually jovial-if-stressed environment had become jumpy and tense, suspicious and scared. The silence was oppressive.
And suddenly Everen couldn’t stomach it anymore: not the silence, not the food. She stood up (someone jumped at the suddenness of it) and tossed her uneaten food into the recycling receptacle. She wandered through the tight passageways that were dimly lit to simulate evening. She didn’t realize where her feet were taking her until she was standing again outside the infirmary doors. Unsure of what else to do, she took a breath and walked in.
She was glad to see that the place had been cleaned up. She had partially been expecting to see the team of biologist-police, but it looked like they’d gotten everything they needed from the place. The only one inside was Janna who was staring at Everen with wide eyes.
“Hey,” Everen said with a little wave.
Janna let out a deep breath. “Sorry. You startled me.” She was sitting behind her desk, and the room looked as it always did, as if what had happened earlier was just a particularly bad dream. “Quite a day.”
“Yeah. I got questioned.” It was true, the team of biologists had asked her a bunch of questions that Everen didn’t know how to answer. She’d told them as much as she could, but they’d gone away dissatisfied.
“Yeah, me too.” Janna looked down at a paper on her desk, but it seemed as if she were staring right through it, lost in her own thoughts.
Everen was about to sit on the bed as was her habit when she remembered, and just leaned against the nearest wall instead. “I don’t know what to do or think about or feel.”
Janna gave a bitter laugh. “Tell me about it.”
“I can’t believe someone would do that. Who could it have been?”
Janna just shook her head, continuing to stare through her desk.
There was a moment of silence before Everen said, “I hope they catch them. Whoever did it. I hope they catch them and stick them in the airlock without oxygen and then blast them into the void. This was supposed to be a new start for humanity! We were supposed to–”
“Actually,” Janna cut in, “I think I’d prefer if we didn’t talk about it. Can we just talk about something normal?”
“Oh.” Everen bit her tongue. Of course. Janna hadn’t even invited her in, but Everen had walked in anyway and started talking about it. How insensitive could she be? “Uh, what do you want to talk about?”
Janna buried her head in her hands. “I don’t know. Anything else.”
“What are you working on right now?” Everen hazarded.
“Working out some things regarding landing. If we ever get the chance to actually land this hunk of metal. We’ve gotten new data regarding our destination planet’s gravity system, which is complicated by a nearby massive moon. Honestly, it’s so big I almost want to call them double planets.” Janna went on talk about the numbers and equations and unknown variables involved, but Everen didn’t understand even half of it. It seemed to be doing Janna good though, so Everen kept nodding and smiling.
Everen? Kerra asked, over the connection. You busy?
Vaguely, Everen responded. Janna was pointing at some numbers she’d scratched down. But only vaguely. What’s up?
Just thought I’d let you know that Shandi and all them came by to say goodbye.
So she’s really leaving then, huh?
Looks like it. You sound… sadder than usual.
It was a troubling day.
Someone died. Think he was murdered.
Yeah. Not fun. I was in the infirmary when… yeah.
Oh, Everen, I’m so sorry. Um. Who was it?
No one you’d know. I didn’t know him that well either.
Still. I’m really sorry. I’ll let you go now. I’m sorry for bothering you. Sorry.
It’s okay. Thanks for telling me about Shandi.
Everen tuned back into what Janna was saying.
“So with those 3.8885 microparsecs–”
“Wait, wait,” Shandi interrupted. “You’re using microparsecs?”
Janna seem thrown for a minute, as if she’d forgotten Shandi was even there. “Well of course I am. That’s what everyone uses.”
“Nuh-uh. I know for a fact that Trillian and the girls down in the control room use light years. I was talking to them just yesterday and they were rambling on about it. Kinda like you’re doing now.”
“Really?” Janna gave Everen a wondering look. “Now I’d never know that. I never talk to them, though they’re nice girls. We just don’t have much reason to communicate other than a couple of numbers. But if they’re having to convert my calculations into light years… Or even worse, if they aren’t noticing my units... Uh oh. I better go have a talk with them, just to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
“Now that I think about it,” Everen said, “I was talking to the gals in the pilot seats the other day too, and I think they were using AU for the planetary scale.”
“I thought we were all supposed to be using microparsecs!” She ranted. “I’m going to have to talk to the captain about this, so we don’t have any mistakes when we get toward the landing. If those women in the bridge all use AU and then try to use my calculations, we’d end up blasting through the center of the planet.” She squinted at her paper. “I think. Wait, so if that was true, then this fraction would actually be…”
Everen crept out of the room before Janna unloaded more techno-math babble onto her. So the scientists weren’t using the same base units of measure. That concerned Everen, but not as much as the idea that a murderer might still be on the loose. She snuck a look over her shoulder before retreating quickly down the hall toward her sleeping quarters. She doubted she’d get much sleep tonight.