Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto
As Dr. Trassano’s teams filtered out through the dead ship, Kim Matsumoto was insensibly relieved by the soundless wailing of their thoughts in the dark. Never had the whispering minds of those around her been so needed. There was something more than her imagination to fill the vast silence of the dead ship.
She’s seen death in her time, and not all in the bones of the ancient past. There were wars and disasters enough to fill her short life with memories, but nothing in her experience compared to the absolute finality of this. Not speed, strength, nor wisdom or great experience had even been allowed a moment’s chance to fight what had taken a whole ship and her charges into Death.
Kim could not look away from the bodies she passed as she sought out the ship’s science labs. Through some corridors, mercifully, they were already bagged, the tags garish in the midst of the dark corridors. In others, the science officer was not so lucky.
Someone had thought to tack up lights in the main channels, but it did little to push back the gloom. Kim couldn’t help the ragged sigh of relief when she found the labs already visited and its bodies removed. She did not think her resolve was up to the task of concentrating with a gallery of bodies performing their dance macabre over her head.
As she walked between the aisles of work centers and gently pushed the drifting debris out of the way, her suspicions grew to certainty on one thing. Whatever had struck, it held no prejudice in what it destroyed; from the ship, through its passengers down to the most insignificant experiments with organic substances in the labs. Nothing was left untouched. She would have to bring a sample back, for further study in her own labs. Her hands found one of the plastic packets tucked at her belt and she snagged the first intact sample she could find. Bent over the cleared surface of a desk, she sealed the packet carefully to satisfy the demands of quarantine. In the shuttle its exterior could be sterilized and then…
Kim straightened, only to reel back a moment later, a choked scream torn from her throat.
“Just … a little … mechanical lubricant,” she gasped, eyes focused close to see the viscus, golden fluid that had stuck and wept across the face of her mask. The ship was not yet cold enough to freeze all things, but her rational mind knew very well blood was not among those rare few.
Unfortunately, the rational mind was fighting a losing battle with every minute spent there with the dead.
Wiping her mask clear, Kim was yet again started on hearing her commlink come alive in a direct connection. She’d shut off the chatter of the open channels some time before.
It was her Xenobological Specialist, Gylenn. “Chief Kim, something is wrong with the organic hull of the ship. Even in a dead organic ship there should be a residual of the ship’s aura. But there is nothing. You have to see it to believe it.”
“No… I do believe it,” Kim murmured, gaze sweeping over the labs about her. “Glyenn, I’ll be sending over a sample I collected from the labs here, on the next shuttle. That should give you something solid to study. Perhaps it’ll prove more illuminating than the remote scans. Transmit your findings to Dr. Stadler on the bridge. Between the two of you, perhaps a good start can be made on unraveling this puzzle.”
Copyright (c) 1998 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.