Day 353 – Jupiter’s Children – Part 14?

Word count: 793

Henry waved his security tag in front of the scanner. The door slid open and he stood inside the decontamination cube. The doors sealed tight behind him and the process began. Clouds of disinfectant and anti-viral smoke billowed around him. A minute later and the door in front of him opened up, revealing an array of laboratory doors, book shelves and terminals. This was what he had travelled for hundreds of miles to see. This is what Europa’s colony was all about – a research lab on the brink of existence. Outside was a howling blizzard. The terraforming process was still going on here; this place was at least half a century behind the colony where Henry lived. Life here was dangerous; on the edge. To live out here took some strength. Isolation; the cold; the lack of light; the lack of fresh air and communication, Henry certainly did not have that courage do live out here. To live on another surface outside Earth took a specific kind of personality, but to live here was to abandon all form of life that did not revolve around Science. Henry simply was not that type of person. His father, from all accounts, might have been. Perhaps if Henry had not been born he might still be living here, camped out in a corner and poring over statistics.

As it was, there was no one there when Henry first stepped into the labs. There were certainly pieces of paper work, computers that were still logged in and cups of coffee lying around. It was eerie. The lights were on but there was certainly no one home. A crackling came over the tanoy security system – it could have simply been distortion, but combined with the desolation of the labs, it was odd that it was not turned off. Henry ventured further into the labs. He took the first door on the right. The door slid open and revealed an empty workspace. The lights were on, but there was no one working here despite the fact that the computers were still running diagnostics. Henry left that room and went further down the corridor. There was a series of doors that Henry could choose from, so he was not quite sure why he chose the second from the end. Nevertheless he entered it, not really sure what he might find beyond its threshold.

Unlike the rooms that had preceded this one, this one was dark. Henry turned the light on manually using the switch on the inside of the door. The room lit up. In the centre there was a laptop. A body was lying face down on the keyboard. Henry dashed over and checked his pulse. He was dead.

His security tag showed that he was Professor David Walkins. Henry looked around the room. Though the body was cold and showed no signs of external injury, Henry did not want to be too careful. For all he knew this entire facility could just be a graveyard. Henry brushed aside the dead man’s hands from the keyboard and unlocked the computer using the man’s fingerprint. He felt dirty for doing so, but there was no other option for accessing the mainframe. He typed in his own security codes and got through to the security network. His breath stopped when he read the figure at the bottom of the screen.

Life signs: 1 count.
That could only mean himself. He had arrived into a morgue. Everyone here had died. Killed by nature or murdered, there was no way of telling, but if his father had mysteriously died after discovering “alien” remains in this dig site, then why not wipe the rest of the crew out this time? Something was down here that the space government did not want them finding out about. What was it? It can’t just be related to the fossils – that was too convenient, too easy. Who cared if some dead creature on another world was discovered a million years after it existed? It clearly did not matter now. No one could make or lose money from that discovery. There was nothing to gain by denying its existence and covering it up.

Henry did a quick scan of the security systems. All were intact. There were no breaches or air locks that were open. Whoever did this either did it remotely or had left hours ago. Henry needed to decide quickly what to do. His father’s lab notes might still be on the networks out here. If he were to download them now, he had better do so quickly for he had just seen in the bottom of the screen something that made his heart leap into his stomach.

Life signs: 2 count.

He was no longer alone.

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~ by S.G. Mark on September 23, 2012.

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