‘Terrors fester ever near, with bad of bite as they have bark, but the things which we most fear, oft are hidden in the dark.’
An amber light flashed. No accompanying siren. Aside from that, there was no sign the base was safe to enter. Jordan and her team opted to keep their helmets on, even after sealing the door.
Jordan turned to her lieutenant and asked, “What’s going on, Harry?”
“I have no idea,” he answered. “It looks like there was some kind of emergency. A hull breach perhaps. But more likely there was a power failure, and the base is running on auxiliary. But as I said, I don’t know.”
“How ‘bout you, Kal? Any readings yet?”
“No signs of life, Captain.”
“Alright. We’ll proceed, but be cautious. I want to know what happened here, not have the same thing to happen to us.”
The men nodded in assent.
Outpost 4 was a research station, and one of ten Martian bases, but it was the only one in the southern polar region of the planet. The only other difference between this base, and all the others, was that it housed a twelve-man team rather than the average fifty. On July 1st, a distress signal was sent from Outpost 4. There was no message. Nine days later, the rescue team from Outpost 5, led by Captain Jordan finally arrived.
The sun would be out for another hour, and shine through the plexi-blend window at the entrance. Aside from that, just the amber brightened the dark corridors of the base.
After a left turn, the ebbing sunbeams disappeared from sight, as the trio ventured forth into the glow of the solely artificial illumination. It was well below freezing too. If it weren’t for their suits, their muscles would have begun to stiffen. And it was deathly quiet inside; not even the usual hum of electricity coursed through the building, nor the calm flow of air in the vents, making Jordan worried, though curious.
However, as the three of them delved further in, they began to hear instruments, and the echoing words of Louis Armstrong. In the bleak atmosphere, an ordinarily pleasant track sounded eerily off putting. …Aaaand I think to myself…what a wonderful world…
“Creepy…” stated Kal.
…What a wonderful world.
“Does that mean there’s someone still alive in here?” asked Jordan, referring to the music.
“The scanners still aren’t picking anything up, so I don’t think so.”
“Fine. Let’s check the computers, see what they can tell us.”
They all kept moving until they got to the control room, which seemed darker than all the rest of the building. The strobe still flashed, but it was dim. On a control panel, there was a solitary blinking red light. The distress beacon. Jordan watched as Kal and Harry worked the computers, and tried to use the radio. But it was no use. They gave their captain a look.
Harry answered, “Everything in this room has been rigged. All the panels: Buttons, switches, levers, are locked. We might be able to fix it, but not from here. We’ll need to check if the fuel cells are damaged, then we can reset the computers. But the cells are in the east wing.”
Jordan was puzzled by this development, and was about to rule that they return to the transport to report their findings, when she saw something in the corner of the room. There was a pool of blood, and a long smear which ended abruptly behind a closed door. She deduced from this, that there was probably a dead body stuffed in the pantry.
She pointed it out to her lieutenants, and they both sighed.
“Jeez,” said Harry.
…What a wonderful world.
Jordan walked over and opened the door. There were three chilled bodies lying dead on the floor of the food storage. One on top of the other.
She turned as white as a sheet, while Harry stifled an urge to vomit.
“I hate to sound morbid, but there are still nine bodies unaccounted for,” informed Kal.
“They’re probably in closets around the base too.” replied Harry. His scanner made an obnoxious beep. “No radiation Captain. The west wing of the base is at optimum structural integrity.”
“Well,” said Jordan, “we haven’t checked the east wing yet. Maybe we’ll find the other researchers there.” She pointed to the door in the control room, opposite the one they entered. “It’s closed off though.”
“Don’t you think we should call this in first? Maybe get our weapons?” Kal suggested.
“I don’t think we need worry Kal. If there’s anyone hiding in the east wing, they’re frozen solid. The facility is at -60°C,” Harry responded.
“We’ll be fine,” Jordan reassured Kal, “We’re gonna find the rest of the bodies, fix the cells, check the computers to see what happened, and then we’ll call in. It’s our duty to find that out. Just stay close.”
Jordan crossed the room to the blast door, and pressed a few buttons on the adjacent panel (which operated on a grid separate from the main computers) and successfully unlocked it. Very slowly, the iced door slid open, and the team peered inside.
…The bright blessed day… the dark sacred night.
As soon as the door was fully open, Louis Armstrong suddenly stopped singing, and the amber lights switched off. The auxiliary power was failing. Except for the blinking red light on one of the control panels, the trio was in complete darkness.