Killgrace and the Alien Threat

The mining chief was normally laid-back, but the doctor’s death had obviously hit him hard and if the stress was getting to him, Yemec knew the situation was bad. The miners below, working their shifts and having to actually leave the station in the almost claustrophobic harvesting pods, must be even worse. Once the news of the doctor’s death got out, so soon after the Captain’s, they risked panic among the crew. In an environment this hostile, one panicking person was a risk they could not afford.

Yemec thought for a moment, then caught Megah’s eye, inclining his head slightly towards Tay. Fortunately the security officer caught his meaning and went across to help the mining chief with the barricade on the side door. Satisfied the man was being watched, Yemec braced himself, walked across to the intercom on the wall. He cleared his throat and pressed transmit, knowing that what he was about to do could end his career.

"This is Yemec. All crew are to return to the station. Mining operations are suspended due to the worsening storm. All staff are to return to their rooms and prepare for inspection." He cut the transmission. "Tay, go down and oversee them."

The mining chief nodded and walked off with purpose. Behind him, Yemec put down the microphone, and pressed a few buttons on the console. Megah stared at him.

"What do you think you’re doing?"

"Locking them in once they’re settled."

"But – "

"The rooms are the most secure part of the base. In an emergency the whole crew section can jettison to the surface. They’re as safe as I can make them."

"You didn’t tell them about the doctor."

"Tay won’t either. The last thing we need right now is a panic among the crew, and they’re on edge enough as it is."

"They’ll be worse without an officer – Wait, you’re locking him in as well?" Jayan demanded. Yemec looked at her and nodded.

"Haven’t you noticed? Tay has been acting erratically over the last few days. The stress is getting to him. Stars know, it’s getting to all of us."

"So what? I don’t – " Megah snapped.

"I am in command." Yemec cut in before he could become irate. "And we will resolve this."

"So what do you suggest?" Megah sounded sullen, but calmer. Yemec thanked his luck that the security chief was at least listening. Now he needed to sound as thought he knew what he was doing.


Despite looking like metal, the corridor floor gave slightly as Susan walked on it. Curious, she crouched down, pressing a hand against the surface. There was a thick layer of padding, made of a dark grey substance that she had not seen before, coating the floor and up the walls. It was probably a safety precuation: in the heavy gravity a fall could be nasty. There were chairs and benches along the walls, again probably for the same reason. Whoever had built this base, they expected to be here for some time.

Coming to the end of the corridor, she stopped at the junction and looked around. Further on, the long corridor looked like crew quarters, or possibly cells, with evenly-spaced numbered doors along the walls. The routes to each side led onwards until they curved out of sight, obviously a thoroughfare of some kind.

Susan ducked back as she heard footsteps approaching, dull thumps muffled by the floor padding. If this was crew quarters it was not an ideal place to make first contact, since so many species felt threatened if their personal retreats were invaded.

With the ease of long practice she found a storage room in the corridor she had come from. Stepping inside, she pulled the door to behind her, peering through the gap. The footsteps approached, and then a group of humanoids in brown overalls walked by the door and out of sight, lost in their own conversation. She was about to step out again when she realised she could not hear them walking. They had stopped just round the corner, and their voices were raised in argument. Listening carefully, she focused on picking up their spoken language – with her advantages it would only take a few moments.

"- say we don’t. I say we got back to the mining pod and lock ourselves in."

"That’s smart. Those things only have ten hours air."

"Yeah." The first speaker was getting more irate. "But don’t you see anything wrong with this? We were working just fine and then suddenly we’re called back and told to tidy our rooms for inspection."

"Because of the storm getting worse."

"But it wasn’t. I checked the pressure. It was the same as always." He lowered his voice, and Susan had to strain to hear. "It’s the aliens, isn’t it?"

"Now look-" One of the other workers stepped into view, pointing threateningly at the speaker.

"No, you look." The man’s hand was batted away as the other worker reacted. "Things haven’t been right round here since the Captain died."

"I agree." This voice was louder, cutting through the discussion. Susan had heard the tone often enough to recognise an officer, or at least authority of some kind. The workers fell abruptly silent, before the first speaker plucked up courage.

"Sir? What’s going on?"

"There’s a high pressure front moving in. We aren’t taking chances. So get back to your rooms. We’ll be doing a full inspection in twenty minutes." The group broke up, not with the precise actions of military obeying commands, but the grumble and moans of unhappy civilians. Through the crack of the door she saw the workers split up, entering doorways along the corridor. She thought she heard a faint click as the nearest closed.

Cautiously, making sure the corridor was empty, she stepped out and let the store room door shut behind her. This time she definitely heard the click of the lock as it closed, and the door would not reopen. A quick look at the access panel showed a red locking light.

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