Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

The Beagle has landed

by Rob - January 16th, 2015.
Filed under: Mars, Red Planet Blues.

In honor of the discovery of the remains of Beagle 2 on Mars, an excerpt from my novel Red Planet Blues, which mentions it. Martian private-detective Alex Lomax is talking with blackmarket fossil dealer Ernie Gargalian:

Since Berling hadn’t yet shown up, I took the opportunity to ask Ernie a question. “So,” I said, doing my best to sound nonchalant, “do you think anyone will ever rediscover the Alpha Deposit?”

Ernie’s eyes, already mostly lost in his fleshy face, narrowed even further. “Why do you ask?”

“Just idle curiosity.”

“You, Mr. Double-X, are curious about women. You are curious about liquor. You are curious about sports. You are not curious about fossils.”

“But I am intrigued by money.”

“True. And, to answer your question, I doubt it’ll happen anytime soon. In an unguarded moment many years ago, after perhaps one too many glasses of port, Denny O’Reilly said to me that the Alpha was only the size of a football field — an Earth one, that is.”

“But why hasn’t anyone else found it yet? I mean, it has been twenty mears.”

“All we know is that it’s somewhere here in Isidis Planitia — and Isidis Planitia is the flat bottom of the remains of a giant impact crater fifteen hundred kilometers in diameter. It’s as big as Hudson Bay on Earth; you could fit over three hundred million football fields in it. Even with all the stampeders who’ve come here, there are still huge tracts of the plain that no one has ever set foot upon, my boy. Hell, no one’s even found Beagle 2, and that presumably isn’t even buried.”

“Beagle 2?” I said.

“A British Mars probe. It was supposed to touch down on Isidis Planitia in 2003, but no signal was ever picked up from it.”

“Is it worth something?”

“Sure, to a space buff, assuming it’s not smashed to bits. I’d be glad to find a buyer for the wreckage, if someone brought it in.”

“Maybe I should look for it. I was never any good at spotting fossils, but wreckage — that’s something I understand.”

“By Gad, you might make a decent sideline of it, at that,” said Ernie. “There’s even bigger salvage out there …”

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