The conclusion of the 8 part A Man Called Mister Brown serial by A.R. Yngve where Vaino “Green” Fingers, Mister Brown, and Ms. Hitt discover the secret of the missing plutonium. — ed, N.E. Lilly
A Man Called Mister Brown: The Graves Speak
by A.R. Yngve ©2008
Vaino “Green” Fingers had run to a vehicle when the lake collapsed, and the wrecked machine took the impact of a falling block — saving him from certain death.
Shaking, Green came up from the crevice underneath the block, blinked at the night sky, and muttered: “I believe in you, great and unfathomable Constant. I’m sorry I every doubted in you.”
And then he saw the hole in the floor. He made his way over crushed and slippery ice to the opening, and climbed down the rope that Mister Brown had tied to the edge.
The two men faced each other, on the floor of the crypt.
“Seems you got it wrong, Green.”
Green threw up his hands. “Okay, so I thought he meant a graveyard when he said ‘burial site!’ But we found it anyway. We make a great team, eh, Brownie?” He lit a suit lamp, and let the beam glide across the gravestones.
“One, two, four, six, eight...” He counted to forty-three graves. “That can’t be. The old man told me they were no more than fifteen, sixteen people who stole the shipment.”
“Perhaps a lot of witnesses also got buried here.”
“It’s a trick,” Green said, frustrated and tired. “Now tell me, Brownie! What’s the name on the marker?”
“Wait.” Brown kneeled down and brushed crushed ice off one gravestone. The name appeared to be engraved on a pressure switch. He carefully pushed the switch, and a humming noise came from the floor. Brown stepped back.
From a slit in the gravestone, a pale hologram appeared as a sheet of light in the air. The figure of a man, dressed in an old-fashioned uniform, stood in the light and saluted them. A hidden speaker in the stone produced a voice, badly synchronized with the hologram’s moving lips:
“Chong Li-Wei, Field Operative, Agency for Terran Affairs!”
It was the name on the grave: Chong Li-Wei — an Old Terran, by the look of the hologram. Once he had uttered his name, the projected figure stood rigidly to attention — as if waiting for his next orders.
Astonished, Brown pushed his foot down on another gravestone. It, too, projected a speaking hologram — another man in an outmoded uniform, saluting them:
“Miles Simmons, Captain, Earth Fleet!”
Green followed suit and stepped on other graves, with increasing excitement and terror. Grave after grave lit up and spoke in its own distinct voice:
“Eliza Milone, Captain, Earth Fleet!”
“Akhmed Batra, Field Operative, Agency for Terran Affairs!”
“Timothy England, Private, Martian Security Forces!”
“Barry Francer, Private, Martian Security Forces!”
“Bjorn Chavez, Colonel, Earth Fleet!”
“Tuesday Germanier, Colonel, Martian Security Forces!”
Finally all forty-three holograms stood to attention, row upon row of simulated ghosts, waiting.
“Well?” Green stood in a tense fight-or-flight posture, his gaze flicking from the ghosts to Brown, who was still walking among the ghosts, searching the inscriptions.
“She’s not here. She didn’t die.”
Brown went around the edge of the burial site, kicked away chunks of ice and slush, and uncovered a blank gravestone. He pressed down the blank switch with his foot, and its hologram slit lit up. But the sheet of light was empty.
“Is that it?” Green asked, coming up behind Brown. “Just open it!”
“No. Look at this elaborate setup... the whole site could be booby-trapped.” Brown was sweating underneath his transparent mask. “One ton of weapons-grade plutonium under our feet, and you want to risk setting it off?”
“Careful, my friend,” whispered Green, and backed a step. “Don’t destroy my fortune!”
Brown stood before the blank hologram sheet, thinking, when he heard Hitt’s voice. He lowered his gun but did not drop it.
“What are you waiting for?” she asked.
“I know the name.” He did not turn around. “And I know why it has to be that name. But I don’t know how to use it. Only she must know how.”
Ms. Hitt came walking toward the grave, her weapon-arm ready. And Brown made a quick decision.
He removed the face mask to make sure the words wouldn’t be garbled, and placed his lips directly into the hologram beam.
“Katrina Mendez, Field Operative, Agency for Terran Affairs.”
Hitt’s eyes widened, and the irises turned red. “The bitch knew... she knew all along!”
The simulated ghosts flickered and disappeared. The nameless grave slid open and revealed a pit. From the pit rose a square black container, similar to a coffin but twice as big, on an elevator platform.
The elevator stopped on the ground and the container stood there, unlabeled, silent.
Green wanted to hug and kiss it; when he rushed forward to express his affection, Hitt fired a shot in the air.
“Stand back!” she said urgently. “Nobody touches it.” She raised her free hand to her lips and spoke into the palm. “I found it. My crew is down. Send someone to haul it up from here. Are you there?”
An expression of fear came over Hitt’s face, and her irises turned silver. She turned around, ran for the rope, and climbed up faster than any Old Flesh human could.
“What was that all about?” Green asked.
Brown smiled. “Someone must’ve seen my flare.”
Green ran for the container, and tried to push it. He groaned and grunted, his faced darkened, and the container refused to budge. “Help me move it, Brown! We gotta get it out of here before it’s too late!”
But Brownie was already walking away toward the rope, to climb up and leave.
“Browniiie!” Green pressed his face and body against the black container, but couldn’t move it at all. Even in the Martian gravity, it was heavy.
“Brownie, my friend! Don’t you want to get rich?”
“You can have my share. One ton of plutonium pellets encased in lead. All yours. Have fun.”
“And how am I going to get it out of here, you bastard?”
He gave Green a smile. “I’ll leave that question to the philosopher.”
As the Terran climbed up from the crypt, a furious NeoMartian yelled after him: “You know what you are, Brownie? You know what you are? Your mother had horns! You’re a stinking no-good SON OF A GOOOOAT!!”
At the first hour of dawn, when the ATAF and MSF forces had surrounded Lake Carter, the airships and the Babykiller had already taken off. The ATAF crewleader sent a report to the Director.
“Ms. Mendez... there are dead Mini-Men all over the place... but all the plutonium is here, and we’ve secured it for transport to Fleet HQ. And we found a screaming Greenie who’s threatening to kill someone named ‘Brown’ or ‘Brownie.’ He got a bit violent, so we sedated him and took him in for questioning. But the warship Ms. Hitt stole is gone. Traffic Control says it was headed for Earth before it went into cloaking mode. Shall we alert the Fleet?”
Minutes later, the report arrived to Katrina Mendez’ office.
She let out a sigh of relief, and sent a reply to Mars: “Don’t worry about the ship. It’ll turn up.”
And she dictated a message to Brown’s secret address: “My dear Mr. Brown, I’m prospecting for a new husband. My last rejuvenation is now complete, and I’m eager to resume my private life. I’ll offer you a dowry you cannot refuse.
“Of course, it’s negotiable how many years this proposed marriage should last...”
A.R. Yngve started out as a cartoonist, but soon turned to writing. Published works include the Swedish TERRA HEXA book trilogy and short stories in Swedish, British and Chinese magazines. He has recently written a script for Scandinavian radio. Dislikes: Cats, fan fiction. Likes: Philip K. Dick, MST3K.