Ophelia called everyone, save Paul and Lucy, to her office. She looked carefully at each of them in turn.
“I’ll keep this simple,” she said. “Lucy located a hidden base of some kind on Frunif. We aren’t getting any life signs from it, so we’re operating under the belief that it’s been abandoned. We’re going to land and the six of us are going on a scavenging mission. We’ll each take a bag. You may grab one or two small things for yourselves, but save most of the room for things that’ll be valuable either for the ship as a whole or to sell. Grace, it’ll be your primary job to get what you can from their main computer. I’d like to know what they were doing here.”
“What if whoever built the base comes back and wants their stuff?” Farah wondered.
“Well, that’s their tough luck,” Allison said.
“It’s the law of the Galaxy,” Kat added. “Abandoned vessels, stations and outposts are up for grabs.”
Ophelia nodded. “If we hit the jackpot we may have to take some extra trips. Now, there may be automated defenses so I want all of you on your guard.”
“I could try to hack their systems remotely and shut anything like that down,” Grace suggested.
“I may take you up on that, if we find sufficient defenses,” Ophelia said. “But it’s a low risk. After all, if whoever was here decided to abandon the place they probably didn’t see any point in setting the defenses.”
“They probably took all the good swag too,” Allison stated.
“Depends on why they left,” Kat said. “If they had to leave in a hurry there’s probably some good stuff left. Worst case scenario, the building materials are worth something.”
“We won’t know until we go there, right?” Farah stated. “Let’s go!”
Ophelia chuckled. “Indeed, get into your suits and meet me in the bay. Once Lucy lands, we’ll open the doors.”
Lucy brought the Cerberus down gently, landing close to the base. “I’m opening the doors in thirty seconds,” she reported.
She waited until the crew had departed and was on their way to the base before flipping the ship’s intercom again. “Paul, join me on the bridge, if you please.”
Leon and Kat walked in front as the group approached the base. There was no sign of any weapons or defenses.
“So far so good,” Ophelia said. “Grace?”
Grace moved up to the door’s controls. “There’s no security lock here,” she reported. The doors slid open.
“I don’t like this,” Leon muttered.
“Why?” Farah asked. “It’s all going great!”
“That’s what I don’t like,” Leon said. “It’s too easy. There’s gotta be something wrong inside. Like a deadly plague.”
“Or a zombie outbreak,” Allison said.
Leon scoffed. “Those things would be so worthless in reality. They don’t have the biological tools to survive.”
“Well, you’re no fun,” Allison said. “Guess that’s what happens when you date a doctor.”
“Well, if there is some kind of pathogen our suits will protect us,” Ophelia said. “And we can decontaminate anything we bring aboard.”
The doors slid open and they entered. The doors closed behind them and oxygen was vented into the room.
“It’s breathable in here,” Kat stated. “And there isn’t anything dangerous in the air. Looks like Leon was wrong about the plague.” She took her helmet off.
“There’s something, mark my words,” Leon said, removing his own helmet.
They went through the door to get further into the base and found themselves in a hallway with corridors branching to the left and right.
“Which way, Boss?” Kat asked.
Ophelia looked at the identical paths. “Both,” she answered. “I’ll take Farah and Leon to the left. You three will go to the right. Report in over the comm system if you find anything that we need to know about and every half hour.”
“Understood,” Kat said. “Ladies, let’s go.”
“Sit down,” Lucy said. “I made tea and biscuits.”
“Thank you,” Paul said. “Is there a reason that you needed me?”
“I just thought that we should have a nice chat while they’re on their mission,” Lucy stated. “It has been ever so long and I’ve been worried about you. You did take a nasty blow.”
“I appreciate the concern,” Paul said. “But I will recover.”
“No need to be so guarded around me,” Lucy said. “We are all friends and comrades on this ship. I have been curious about one thing, what exactly hit you?”
Paul took a sip of his tea. He couldn’t lie to Lucy, not directly. “I didn’t see,” he answered. “One moment I was working. Then I felt a sharp pain and woke up in hospital.”
“Surely, you must have some idea of what hit you,” Lucy said.
“Given that it’s Ca’urrg, the most likely culprit is simply that something fell,” Paul said. “It’s not common, but it does happen.”
“Could someone have hit you?” Lucy asked.
Paul shrugged. “It’s not impossible, but there are very few violent crimes on the planet. So, it seems improbable.” He helped himself to a biscuit.
“How’s your flight training?” Ophelia asked. “Has Leon been a kind instructor?”
“Sure,” Farah said. “At first, I was a little worried since he seems kind of harsh, but he’s really a big softie.”
“I wouldn’t be if you screwed up more,” Leon said. “You have your own skills to thank.”
“Have you decided what you’re going to name your ship?” Ophelia asked.
“I was going to call it the ‘Elegant Simurgh,'” Farah answered.”I even have an idea for an emblem to paint on it. If that’s allowed.”
“By all means,” Ophelia said. “You’ll have to buy the paints yourself, though.”
“Okay,” Farah agreed. “I need some other art supplies anyway.”
Leon stopped in front of a door. He looked at Farah and Ophelia and nodded towards the wall. Ophelia took cover against it. Farah followed suit. Once he was satisfied that nothing inside could pose a threat to them, Leon hit the switch to open the door, tensed and ready to move away quickly. The door opened without incident.
Ophelia and Farah moved away from the wall and checked inside. There were shelves full of books.
“These books all seem to be about medicine,” Farah noted, looking at the titles.
“Not all of them,” Ophelia said. “The ones on this side are about robotics.”
Leon picked up one of the books on the medical side and put it in his bag. “Studying to make better prosthesis, maybe.”
“It’s possible,” Ophelia said. “Let’s keep looking.”
Kat led Allison and Grace into a room. It had several holo-images scattered on the walls. There were clothes scattered around the floor, a dresser and a canopied bed.
“The hell is that stench?” Allison asked.
“Don’t know,” Kat answered. “It’s oddly familiar, though. Just do a quick search for anything of value and let’s get out of here.”
“Girls, I know what the smell is,” Grace said. She threw open the curtain on the bed to reveal a half-rotted body laying upon it.