Killgrace and the Alien Threat

"We have placed the bodies in sick bay, and locked the crew members and one of the command staff in their quarters to prevent panic that could harm the base. We have also reviewed the Captain’s message."

"Do you have any records of these things you say were outside?"

"No. The scanners are normal. I haven’t seen them, myself." He shook his head. "I think it’s looking out and seeing colours instead of black and stars. It’s unnerving at the best of times, but with the storm underway it’s disturbing."

"You think the crew might be suffering from environmental factors?"

"They are all experienced miners, but this is nothing like working the asteroids. Even the air is different."

"I’d noticed people don’t sound right."

"That’s the helium. The pressure’s at about four atmospheres. It helps support the base shell against the pressure outside."

"A fifty to one factor instead of two hundred to one?"

"Precisely. The whole thing’s spherical. We couldn’t have any weak points."

"But the airlocks?"

"Reinforced like you wouldn’t believe. They’re only meant to be opened when we get to the surface."

"Meant to be?" Susan said sharply. Yemec paused in sudden, obvious, suspicion. "Please, this could be important."

"It’s also classified." He leaned against the wall, catching his breath before he continued. "The previous crew was killed when one of the airlocks was opened down here. The safeties must have been overridden."

"Do you know which airlock it was?"


"Because I want to know if it was opened from outside or inside."

"A saboteur? I wondered," Yemec admitted, "but the logs were wiped before we were sent down. You can’t tell."

"So that’s a dead end," she said. "Then the next step would be examining the victims. Do you still have the bodies?"

"This way." He started walking, but after a few paces Susan had to stop.

"I’m sorry, I thought I was fitter than this." She gasped for breath, leaning against a wall herself. Yemec gestured to a chair at the side of the corridor, near the airlock.

"Don’t worry. It’s the high gravity. It takes some getting used to. It’s why we put the chairs there." Gratefully Susan sat down, trying to ignore the ache in her legs.

"It must be difficult working here," she said, looking out of the airlock window, at the colours and lights swirling outside. Silver streams twisted into blue, catching fire as the pressure prevented the heated gases evaporating. If the crews were expecting help to somehow reach them through that churning morass, they would be in for a long wait. Even a teleport signal would have problems.

"Yes, but interesting," Yemec said. "There are a lot of elements down here we’d never have seen. Even the normal ones are in different forms." He reached up to point at something outside, but as he did there was a groan of metal. Susan jumped, and he shook his head.

"Don’t worry. That’s just the ballast systems re-stabilising." Susan nodded, trying to control her nerves.

"So it’s a suspended base?"

"Precisely. If we get too heavy we sink beyond recovery, too light and we float straight back up to the main dock." It sounded rather precarious to Susan, and the sudden awareness of the huge amount of pressure outside, less than six feet away, ready to crush her, was daunting. She hauled herself to her feet, glancing at the window as she did, and double-took.

"What’s wrong?"

"Nothing." She laughed, watching the swirls and patterns in delight. "It’s like watching clouds. You can see anything you want to."


"Evaporated H2O in planetary atmospheric suspension."

"You lost me," Yemec said, ruefully. "Sounds like you’ve been to some very odd places."

"You’d never believe me."

"Probably not. I’m just an engineer. Ready to go?"

"Yes." She stood up, ending the conversation before he could start asking awkward questions, and wondered to herself how familiar his people were with planetary environments.


The medical bay, thankfully, was not far. As Susan caught her breath again, Yemec went to the wall, pulling open a white door. Reaching in carefully, as white mist evaporated into the air, he pulled out a shelf with a covered shape on it.

"Watch yourself. It’s cold," he advised, as Susan stepped across. Bracing herself for what she might see, she pulled the sheet back. Her first relieved thought was that she had seen worse. The doctor’s body was newly dead, the blood trails still fresh. Susan pulled on a pair of gloves and picked up an examination light, thrown by the unexpected weight of the tiny instrument.

"Mucus membranes?" she said thoughtfully, to herself. Checking the doctor’s eyes, she did not need the examination light to see the bloody stains in the white and iris. Then she bent down, looking inside his ear with the probe light. She saw what she expected but, just to confirm, she walked to the other side of the body to check the other ear. She stood up, tapping the light on her hand. It seemed so familiar. Susan knew she should know this, but as she searched her memory it escaped her.

"Anything odd?" Yemec asked.

"Ruptured ear drums, and blood vessels in the eyes are broken."

"What killed them?"

"I can’t say outright. I’m not qualified to perform a full autopsy," she apologised.

"You’re more qualified than I am," Yemec said.

"How did he die?"

"We don’t know. We heard a scream and by the time we got there he was down. There was blood on the floor." Susan crouched for a second look at the body. Delicately she lifted the corpse’s head a little, fighting the weight, and ran gloved fingers up through the man’s hair. When she pulled her hand back, it was stained red.

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