In a cave we encountered the unexpected, the frightening.
Darkness. Footsteps echoed off the walls. A yellow-green light danced in front of me. In the glow of the diffuse light, men with weapons at the ready could be seen. Crouched, they moved forward, practiced and fast. “Who is last man?” shouted Pharaoh. He was part of the Yellowhands’ squad and had a yellow-green glow stick hanging from his armor.
“Zero is last man”, replied I.
I had no idea why the Yellowhands went into the cave ready to fight. What did they think would we find? Rantas? The giant isopods had not been seen for a long time, only their dried up excrement could be found in the caves.
I hoped we would find the sick and abandoned crew member, from the crashed Starfarer. And most of all, I hoped we would find answers. We had extracted the coordinates of the cave from the flight recorder of the wreck. Now we penetrated deeper and deeper into the darkness.
It was not long before we found a camp with supplies and medical equipment. The captain had not just abandoned his crew member to die. He had given him a chance. I thought.
We went on. First through a narrow passage, then we climbed down some steps. The cave twisted left and right, bend followed bend. Sometimes I lost sight of the men in front of me. The cave was oppressive, especially when I couldn’t see the light of the Yellowhands. Then I was completely enveloped in darkness. Again and again I looked behind me. All I saw there was blackness.
Suddenly, I heard shouting ahead of me.
“Contact!”, someone yelled.
Then gunshots. I rounded a corner and saw a hall in front of me. Several people were running around. A bullet whistled past my head. I jumped to the right and took cover behind a rock.
“Look out! There’s another one.”
I peered out from behind my cover, rifle at the ready. I saw the Yellowhands, Fabian, Chhris, and Brubacker. But no opponents. Gunfire again.
“Got him. All down.”
“Be careful, there may be more.”
The flurry of the brief fight died down. I took one deep breath in and out. Now I was glad the Yellowhands went into the cave ready to fight.
There was plenty of cargo in the hall. And empty mounts. I had no idea what they were for. Pressure vessels? Gas cylinders? Whatever it was, it was gone. And who the hell were the guys who had been shooting at us? Obviously they had been guarding the cave. Whatever was stored in the mounts had to have been important or valuable. “The mounts are suitable for fixing and transporting a biological warfare agent,” Brubacker speculated.
Cautiously, we moved on. Deeper into the cave. Now, I also was extremely cautious and ready to fight. A short time later, we found a dead man. He looked like a miner. I took a closer look at the body. He had a yellow backpack on his back. His mobi glass sparkled in the light from my helmet lamp. I was sure he was not the abandoned crew member from the wreck. He wasn’t one of the guards, either. But who was he? Why was he here? I lifted his arm and looked at his wrist. Lost in thought, I took his mobi glass, pocketed it, and moved on. The others were already a little ahead.
Finally, we reached another spacious hall. The cavern was huge. I could barely see all the way to the opposite wall. Several smaller caves branched off. From one came the light of a spotlight. Curious, I went inside. A stack of labeled packages stood in the cave. I looked at the sign. My breath caught in my throat.
“Bru, Chhris. You have to see this”, I shouted breathlessly.The sign said “Decontamination.Kit”
Brubracker, Chhris and I put one and one together. Satellite Prototype E. Missing component delivered for weapon. Crew member from transport ship sickened by unknown pathogen. Empty holders for special cargo in the cave. Decontamination kit in the cave. Was the killer satellite the prototype for an orbital bioweapon? And was the bioweapon stored in this cave? Many things pointed to it. I looked at the stunned faces of Brubracker and Chhris. Conjecture was of no help; we needed proof. If the agent was really in the cave, it had already been removed. We had arrived too late.
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