“The scan is reading no harmful organisms,” Yuri reported. “Save for some minor viruses that should be rendered harmless by the standard vaccines. The atmosphere is completely breathable.”
“Excellent work,” Ophelia said. “Shuttle, you copy?”
“We copy,” Lucy confirmed. “We’ll head down now.”
“Be careful,” Ophelia said. “And no one go off alone.”
“Love you too,” Lucy said.
“Yuri,” Ophelia said. “Take some R&R. I’ll handle the monitoring.”
The shuttle descended onto Nolillin eight. The colony was surrounded by dense jungle, but its landing pads were still clear enough to allow for a smooth landing.
“You guys heard Ophelia,” Lucy said. “Stick together and be alert. Farah, I want you to call us at the first sign of trouble.”
“Got it,” Farah said. She and Grace took their leave to check the equipment while Lucy, Kat, & Leon moved to examine the area.
The communication devices were easy to find and in bad shape. Growth from the nearby jungle had spread inside, covering them with vines.
“Strange,” Grace said. “Their shields must have gone down. I might be able to clear the plants out and fix these, but we’re going to have to bring those on line first or the same thing will just happen again.”
“How fast does the jungle here grow?” Farah pondered.
“Dunno,” Grace said. “I’d say pretty quickly since the communications have only been down for a couple weeks.” She pat Farah’s shoulder. “Let’s look at those shields.”
Kaat, Leon and Lucy examined one of the buildings.
“Curious,” Kat said. “They left their food half finished.”
“The last one just left it heating,” Leon said. “Wasteful bastards.”
“Which tells us that they weren’t under attack,” Kat stated. “But then where did they go?”
“They might have been attacked and taken out too quickly to take action,” Leon suggested.
“Very unlikely,” Lucy said. “The level of power that would require is staggering.”
“A being like Lunais, perhaps?” Kat suggested. “Only malevolent.”
“I certainly hope not,” Leon muttered. “The universe doesn’t need two of them.”
“I’m not so sure,” Lucy said. “A being like Lunais should have a powerful presence that I can detect. I’m not feeling anything here.”
“Then we should keep looking,” Kat suggested.
“Agreed,” Lucy stated.
Allison and Yuri cuddled up together.
“I’ve missed this,” Allison said.
“You are the one who has not desired to engage in this activity much recently,” Yuri stated.
“Well, your body is really cold and metallic without the skin,” Allison said. “With it you’re warm, surprisingly soft and cuddly.”
Yuri tilted her head. “My synthetic skin allows me to retain heat and is composed of a compound designed to mimic the texture of human flesh. Does it do the job inadequately?”
“It’s kinda like human skin,” Allison said. “But it is softer. Oh, don’t pout. Being soft is good.”
“I am not pouting,” Yuri said.
“You totally are,” Allison said. She shifted and kissed Yuri’s lips.
The two spent several minutes with their lips pressed together before breaking it off.
“Do you wish to retire to the bed?” Yuri asked.
“Absolutely!” Allison declared. “Race you there!”
Grace checked the shield generators.
“Were they taken out by an attack?” Farah asked, looking over the area.
“I don’t believe so,” Grace answered. “It looks like someone switched them off, their timing components put them back on and there was no maintenance to combat the jungle’s humidity. Which caused some of the circuitry to be damaged. I should be able to repair them, once I’ve cleaned them up.”
“I’ll let the others know,” Farah said. She grabbed her communicator. “Lucy.”
“Lucy here, go ahead.”
“Grace says that she can get the shields back up,” Farah reported. “After that she’ll be able to work on the comm equipment. Oh, and one more thing. She says the shields were switched off from the inside. Be careful over there.”
“From the inside, huh?” Lucy muttered.
“I sense treachery!” Leon declared.
“Is that even possible?” Kat asked. “Wouldn’t the other akumillians have sensed the intent or something?” She turned to Lucy.
“Normally, yes,” Lucy said. “But it’s not unheard of for someone to hide their intentions. We can’t completely rule out the possibility.”
“So we could have a psychotic akumillian watching us right now,” Kat said. “Wonderful.”
“Better guard your shins,” Leon said.
“Oh, I think one of my people would aim for something higher and more vulnerable,” Lucy stated. Leon moved a hand over his crotch protectively. Lucy allowed herself a quick mischievous grin before adopting a thoughtful look.”It is strange, though. If there was a traitor, they were clearly mentally sound. What was their motive? Where did they take the others? And what did they use to restrain everyone else?”
“It’s been too long to check for gas traces,” Kat said. “So, what’s our next step?”
“We keep looking for more evidence,” Lucy said. “Even if our perpetrator was akumillian, they would have missed something. Some tiny shred of evidence that can give us some hint on just what happened here.”
“And if they didn’t I’m sure they’ll come after us if we nose around too long,” Leon added.