“More tea?” Lucy asked. She held the pot out.
“Thank you,” Paul said, moving his cup close.
“I really wish that Ophelia wouldn’t go off on missions without me,” Lucy said. “But she thinks that one of us always needs to be aboard during these things.” She tilted her head at Paul. “That’s a secret so don’t tell anyone I said it.”
Paul nodded. “I understand.”
“What about you?” Lucy asked. “What kinds of secrets are you keeping?”
“I really don’t have many,” Paul stated. “But, I suppose, all of us have some. Although, I have a good idea of what Kat’s is and I know all of Leon’s. Although he doesn’t know all of mine.”
“Hmmmm,” Lucy murmured. “What could be so important that you have to hide it from him? Something related to Ca’urrg, perhaps.”
“I can’t say,” Paul said. “What I can tell you is that it’s no threat to this ship or her crew.”
Lucy took a sip of her tea. “Well, I suppose that’s good enough of an answer.”
“Ophelia,” Kat said. “We’ve found a dead body. It looks like he was a resident of this place. Would you like us to change our plans?”
Do you have a probable cause of death? Ophelia’s voice came in loud and clear.
“It appears that he died in bed,” Kat reported. “Whether from natural causes or not, I can’t say. Do you want Paul to come for an autopsy?”
No. Ophelia stated. There aren’t any life signs so even if it was foul play, there’s no need for us to be concerned. Just leave his body alone and continue your search.
“Understood,” Kat said. “Let’s go to a different room.”
“And I was looking forward to my nostrils burning even more,” Allison said. “I think I’m gonna be smelling this guy for a month.”
The trio quickly left the man’s room and headed to the next one in the corridor. The second chambre had several bins of circuits and metallic parts. A pair of robotic legs hung to the side. A half-finished arm had been left on the table with the tools sitting neatly beside it.
“Now this is some valuable stuff,” Grace said. “We’ll want the legs, for sure. I don’t recognise the design, but I should be able to figure it out and finish that arm.” She moved through the various components. Pointing out which ones were valuable and which were relatively cheap. Allison and Kat followed her, putting the valuable parts in their bags as carefully as they could.
Ophelia led Farah and Leon into the second room on their side.
It had counters, a fridge, a stove and a single rounded table with a single chair propped against it.
“A kitchen,” Ophelia said. “For one, it looks like.”
“Does that mean the guy the others found was the only one living here?” Farah asked.
“Doesn’t seem likely,” Leon said. “This is a pretty big place.”
“It also raises some serious questions,” Ophelia said. “Namely, where did he get supplies & what exactly was he doing here? Though, it doesn’t seem unlikely that he was, given what we’ve found so far.”
Leon opened the fridge. There was some moldy cheese, a pitcher of water and a few unidentifiable dishes in plastic containers. He closed it again.
“Why would you open that?” Ophelia asked.
Leon shrugged. “Thought their might be something odd that would give us a clue.”
“There’s certainly nothing valuable here,” Ophelia noted. “Let’s move on.”
The three checked the next door, which turned out to be a bathroom. The door after that led to a large storage closet that was half-filled with sealed ration meals.
“We’ll take these,” Ophelia said. “They’ll save us having to cook for a while.”
“We shouldn’t,” Leon protested. “They really aren’t worth anything.”
“Oh, but it’s such a waste to leave them,” Ophelia said.
“It’s a bigger waste to use our bag space for them,” Leon argued.
Ophelia laughed. “I was just teasing you. You really do have a delicate stomach.”
“I can’t help it,” Leon said. “I’ve gotten used to having delicious home-cooked meals. I used to be able to eat shit like this before I first moved in with Paul.”
“This layout is peculiar,” Farah noted. “Why isn’t the food storage next to the kitchen? And why is the guy’s bedroom so far away from this stuff?”
“Maybe the base was constructed before he got here,” Ophelia suggested. “And he just modified the space based on how much room he needed for various things.”
“No point thinking about it,” Leon said. “Unless we find a record of some kind, we aren’t getting an answer.”
“You ladies want to head back to the ship and celebrate a job well done?” Allison asked. “I can bring the toys.”
“We’ve still got a little room,” Grace said. “Let’s check the next chambre.”
“But if there’s another haul like this we’ll just have to come back,” Allison protested.
“True,” Kat said. “But it could also have nothing. I say that we keep moving until we find the next room worth going into.”
The three headed into the next room. It was massive. The walls were lined with large, heavy electronic equipment. In the middle of the room stood a large pod filled with a greenish liquid. A dark-skinned woman with lilac coloured hair was floating inside. A cable ran from the pod to a control console, bolted to the floor.
“She’s gorgeous!” Allison exclaimed. “Can I take her home?”
“Why didn’t we pick up any life signs?” Kat wondered. “Could the thing be shielded?”
“Nope,” Grace said. “This room doesn’t have the right equipment for that.” She moved to the console and began inputting commands. “Hold on. I’ll find out what’s going on.”
Ophelia, Farah and Leon found themselves in a nearly identical room. The only difference was that a silver-haired man floated in their pod.
Ophelia opened a communication channel. “Lucy, do me a favour and do an intensive scan of the area directly in front of me. See if you can read any life signs.”
Checking. Lucy said. The three waited in silence for a moment. No life signs. Why? Do you see something?
“A bloke in a pod,” Ophelia answered. “It must be shielded.”
The console near them switched on. Farah moved over to it.
“This says it’s commencing the awakening process,” Farah reported. “We have two minutes until he wakes up.”