Tuesday, October 3, 2023

"One of the Three of Us Must Have Killed Him"

"Earth Transit."
By Charles L. Fontenay (1917-2007; ISFDb HERE).
Illustrated by Richard Kluga (ISFDb HERE).
Short story (13 pages as a PDF).
First appearance: Infinity Science Fiction, September 1957.
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE). Original text (16 faded pages) at The Luminist Archives (HERE) (go to text page 18).
   "When murder occurs on a spaceship, the number of suspects is at an absolute minimum—and Lefler was that minimum!"

The detestable captain of the Marsward IV has made his last voyage into the Final Frontier, leaving behind a small, perplexed, and suspicious crew. Did one (or more) of them murder him? Or was it suicide? And what about those gloves?

Principal characters:
~ Makki:
  "Death had robbed his wide eyes of their dark scorn and smoothed the bitter lines of his heavy face. His coveralls were charred around the heat-beam burn in his chest."
~ Taat:
  "He's been dead about thirty minutes." Taat looked at the control room chronometer. It said 1906 hours. "I'm going to list the time in the death certificate as 1830."
~ Robwood:
  "I wondered when one of you fellows was going to say something about that!" burst out Robwood, a curious break in his voice. "All of us have been glaring at each other, suspecting each other, when Makki could have committed suicide!"
~ Lefler:
  ". . . leaned back gloomily in the control chair. Had he killed Makki? It seemed the only way it could have happened, unless Makki had, indeed, committed suicide. And he just didn't think Makki had."

References and resources:
- "transit":
  "In astronomy, a transit (or astronomical transit) is the passage of a celestial body directly between a larger body and the observer. As viewed from a particular vantage point, the transiting body appears to move across the face of the larger body, covering a small portion of it. . . . The word 'transit' refers to cases where the nearer object appears smaller than the more distant object. Cases where the nearer object appears larger and completely hides the more distant object are known as occultations." (See Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Marsport":
  "The colonization of Mars became a major theme in science fiction in the 1950s." (See Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "from White Sands":
  This would be the missile range, not the national park. (See Wikipedia HERE).
- "Makki's body will keep out there as well as in a refrigerator":
  "Outer space, commonly referred to simply as space, is the expanse that exists beyond Earth and its atmosphere and between celestial bodies. Outer space is not completely empty; it is a near-perfect vacuum containing a low density of particles, predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, neutrinos, dust, and cosmic rays. The baseline temperature of outer space, as set by the background radiation from the Big Bang, is 2.7 kelvins (−270 °C; −455 °F)." (See Wikipedia HERE).
- As far as we know, "Earth Transit" is yet to be collected anywhere.
The bottom line:

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

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