art by Jonathan Westbrook
by Stephen V. Ramey
Our paranoia is infinite today. And not without reason. We have just endured a journey to and from Mars orbit in full view of the world. Areas of the ship that were supposed to be off-limits were not. Every bowel movement, every wet dream and dry heave, a veritable sampler of trysts--it has all been broadcast, sprinkled across the globe like so much Hollywood glitter. The ultimate Reality Show, with our crew of six as unaware actors.
Jimmy found the first pinhole camera. He brought it to me, pinched between his fingers like an insect with overlong legs. A frown fixed on his blocky face. His blue eyes blinked and blinked again.
"Do you think there're others, Cap?"
Cockroaches came to mind.
"I doubt it," I said. "It's probably just a prototype. Where'd you find it?"
"In the toilet, next to the lid hinge, you know?"
I nodded. Inside I was cringing. If the company had sold access to "special" interest groups, they'd sold it to everyone. I could not prevent my eyes from tracking to the cabin wall. Any of those rivets might be a camera.
"Back to your station," I told Jimmy.
"Should I look for more, Cap? Should I tell the others?"
"No," I said. "Let's keep this to ourselves for now, okay?"
"Sure, Cap." Jimmy turned crisply and left. The camera lay on my workstation, aimed at the far wall. With a shudder, I crushed it beneath a magnetic paperweight. One down, a thousand to go?
Of course I contacted Control.
"Really?" the tech said. I didn't recognize him. There's a lot of turnover in the control room.
"Really," I said, holding up the decapitated device.
The tech squinted. He frowned.
"Patch me through to Anderson," I said.
Liv Anderson didn't squint. She knew. I could see it in her steady gaze.
"You can be sure we'll get to the bottom of this, Captain Blevin," she said.
I can tell you the bottom of it, I thought. The bottom line.
Sharon came a few hours later. A tentative tap at the hatch, and I looked up to see her standing there, arms pressed tightly across her chest. She looked frantic, eyes darting from place to place, on the verge of tears.
"I found a camera in the crew quarters," she said. "In the shared laptop."
"How did you find it?" I said.
"The screen shorted, so I took it apart and... and..."
I stood. "It's okay."
She shook her head violently. "What if there are cameras here too? What if Carl sees... sees me... us?"