Intruders Chapter 12 Scenes 1 & 2
Sam Ryan returned from the mine tired, dirty, and mourning the tragedy of John Rees’s death. He stepped into sick bay and stopped, hit by another shock to see Dr Robinson on a bed and the place in a mess. Apparently Dr Thomas had made sure the stasis chamber was running correctly and treated Robinson, but it seemed he’d returned immediately to the base. No one else had thought to clear up sick bay, but why would they? That was Ryan’s job. Jaw slightly slack, not knowing what to say, Ryan turned to Robinson where he lay in bed. Robinson instantly ordered him to his bed for rest. Ryan figured the man must be unwell, Robinson was usually a stickler for a clean and tidy sickbay, but Ryan was too tired to argue. So he went to the cabin he shared with Stubbs, removed his filthy uniform, letting it drop to the floor, and flung himself into bed. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
* * *
Darrow was eager to get back to the Kestrel and find out what Blackwell had to say about the scans and video record. When he came through the airlock he was met by Holland.
‘Glad you’re back, Captain. I was worried we may have to launch a rescue attempt.’
Darrow smiled. ‘That would be against regulations Commander, but most welcome. No, I was able to convince Mr Jones I’m not the enemy. I revealed what we’d found out about smuggling, so he’s going to be occupied with that for a while.’
They walked together down the corridor and up the stairs to the main deck.
‘Jones says they can manage on their own now, sir,’ Holland said. ‘They’re not going to shift the cave-in, just work around it. They were on the verge of moving sideways from the tunnels into other voids anyway.’
‘Are all the crew back on board?’
‘Affirmative, and, with the exception of Dr Robinson no injuries.’
Darrow didn’t mention his neck and shoulders. They were still painful, but there would be time for that later. I’ll just ask Ryan to give me pain killers, he thought. ‘Did you get the scan and video record I asked to be sent?’
‘Yes sir. Commander Blackwell is analysing them now in Engineering. I think he wants to see you. Are you aware that when they attempted to open the stores door to check if there was a theft, the airlock door was open? There’s an automatic safety mechanism that won’t allow both doors to be open at the same time, and the attempt to open one door closed the other. The quartz was taken out through the airlock.’
Darrow was mentally fitting the pieces together. If Blackwell told him what he expected, his case was solid.
‘Thank you Commander. Prepare for take-off. I’m going to check on Dr Robinson, then I’ll see Commander Blackwell.’
Although he was impatient to hear the results of Blackwell’s investigation, the health of his crew came first. While Holland headed to the bridge, Darrow went to sick bay, where he found Robinson in bed with both legs bandaged and his left leg in a splint. Darrow was relieved to see the medical display above his bed showed his vital signs were normal. Stubbs was tidying up.
‘Sorry I can’t stand to attention Captain,’ Robinson said with a wan smile. ‘I’ve made rather a fool of myself.’
‘At ease, Quentin. Do you feel up to telling me what happened? I’ll read the reports later, but I’d appreciate a summary.’
‘The short version of what happened,’ said Robinson, ‘is I stepped in a hole and dislocated my knee. The asteroid's crust is thin in some places, and I strayed too far from the safe ground near the dome. I broke through to a void of quartz crystals, and got cut pretty badly too. I’m comfortable now. Dr Thomas looked after me well, but he didn't have time to use the regenerator on anything but the incision. He’s good for one so young. Ensign Reuel was a great help too. Have you seen him in low gravity? The way he moves is incredible. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be fit for duty for a while, sir. The damage to my knee is too severe. It feels strange, being a patient in my own sick bay. I’m afraid I’ve made your staffing problem worse.’
Darrow frowned. ‘So we’re yet another crewman short. Ryan will have to take charge in here on the journey home. Stubbs can cover when Ryan’s off duty - at least he knows how the machines work, since he services them. You can give him advice if needed - but no exertion. We won't be responding to any calls. I want to get all the casualties safely transferred and then we’re not going anywhere until we’ve got a full crew complement.’ He felt a load lift as he made the decision. He looked round. ‘Where is Ryan?’
‘I’ve sent him to get some rest,’ said Robinson. ‘He looked exhausted. He had quite a time of it, down in the mine, and he’s bound to be upset by the death of one of the trapped miners.’
‘Very well, but work is probably the best cure. Take his mind off it. He’s going to have to be on call anyway. With luck there won't be a medical emergency in the next 24 hours. You make sure you rest and don’t try to do anything until Ryan gets to work with a regenerator.’
Darrow left, entering a reminder into his pad to speak to Ryan in a few hours. Then he headed for Engineering.
‘I’m glad to see you, Joe,' Blackwell said, 'this is really fascinating.’
Darrow ignored the informality. Blackwell was old enough to be his father, and sometimes acted like he was. As long as it wasn’t in front of the crew, he could put up with it. Right now, he could call Darrow anything, as long as he told him what he wanted to hear.
‘What did you find on the new video record? Is there a figure?’
‘Absolutely.’ Blackwell played the adjusted images on screen. ‘The figure killed the guard and opened the door. It’s all there, once you change the lighting to infrared.’
‘Yes!’ Darrow pumped his fist in triumph. ‘They’ll have to listen to me now.’
Blackwell turned to face him.
‘What's this all about? Who are these people? Sounds to me as though you were expecting them.’
Darrow wasn’t ready to talk about his conclusions yet.
‘It’s something I’ve been looking into privately that dovetailed with the investigation on Pallas. I’ll let you read the report when I get it together. What about the scan on the lock?’
‘Electrical interference, definitely. Whatever this figure is, it can generate an electrical pulse. It would have seemed to anyone watching that the door opened by itself.’
Darrow clapped Blackwell on the shoulder.
‘Thank you, Commander Blackwell, thank you very much. Forward your report to me as soon as possible, but keep it separate from the mission report.’
[Next week: Tabitha asks about the Captain's mayday & has to write her first mission report]
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