“Ms Faulkner.” Doctor Wells says with a smile, his arms open wide as Tenisha steps off the transport ship.
The transport is sat on an isolated landing pad in a section of the Alpha-3 mining station that is now occupied by UnSA personnel. The energy shield of the landing bay ripples a faint blue high above her head as she smiles back at Doctor Alistair Wells.
“How was the trip?” Alistair asks as his arms fall to his sides. Tenisha knew he wouldn’t actually hug her. It was just his way of offering a heartfelt welcome to Pluto. She is sure it is Pluto now, especially after having caught a glimpse of the planet’s surface on their approach.
“Long and boring.” Tenisha answers honestly as she stands before him.
“Get plenty of rest I hope?” Alistair queries as his hologram flickers at the very edges.
“I did. Can we get down to business?” Tenisha then asks succinctly but politely. She hadn’t realised Alistair wasn’t physically stood in front of her until now.
“Of course.” Alistair replies gesturing the way forward in the moments before they both break into a stride.
“Where are you Doctor?” Tenisha asks with a raised eyebrow much to Alistair’s surprise. He doesn’t know the hologram has flickered and given away his lack of physical presence. Not that such a thing matters.
“Ah well, I’m contending with politicians Tenisha. And I assure you I would much rather be there with you than doing so.” Alistair answers honestly as they continue down the corridors which are bustling with UnSA personnel.
“Will you be?” Tenisha questions.
“Afraid not. Which is why I’m even more delighted now that you agreed to come.” Alistair says with a flash of a smile.
Tenisha knows the man may be a system renowned scientist, but few, unless they’ve seen it, would know of his political capabilities. His reasoning and negotiating skills make him the perfect candidate to be the one dealing with politicians. Few others would be able to explain while also managing to negotiate manoeuvre politicians into positions that will still benefit UnSA interests without giving away details. The politicians, Tenisha knows, won’t like it, but they will agree to it. After all, it was their very own that had helped to unite the various space agencies into a single organisation tasked with helping humanity to progress beyond Earth and across the rest of the system.
“Are Nick and Wendy here?” Tenisha then asks curious.
“They are not. They, while very qualified, hold no skills which would make them of any benefit in this matter.” Alistair replies calmly as they turn a corner, cross a small open space and then turn down another corridor, this one much lighter on personnel than the last.
“So why me? There’re thousands of other biologists more suited to this, and closer, than me.”
“Because Tenisha, you were a member of the Blink-001 crew.”
“What does that matter?” Tenisha asks as they cross into another open space.
“Don’t you see? This ship has appeared now. So soon after our Blink Transit…and don’t think I haven’t read the reports. You swore you saw something.” Alistair says as they stand in the centre of the space alone. Tenisha quickly comes to realise that the space, while empty is also filthy. It marks a clear differentiation between the sections of the mining station occupied by UnSA and those still under whatever mining company runs this platform.
“Why did I include that?” Tenisha asks herself as she looks toward the ceiling and its deep red strip lights, which do nothing to hide the disgusting grime, the sight of which makes her shudder. She hopes none of it drops on her head, she thinks to herself, as she looks back at Doctor Wells now.
“Because we are scientists Tenisha, we document everything, however absurd we might think it at the time.” Alistair replies with a sincere smile.
“Did you believe it Doctor Wells?” Tenisha questions sure she knows the answer even before he shrugs. It’s his polite way of saying that at the time he did not, but that it matters little now what he thought then.
“Did you?” Alistair then asks, but he gets only an audible sigh. The sigh from Tenisha makes him chuckle as he turns and asks that he continue to follow her.
They complete their weaving through the mining station when they reach the core of the structure, which is bolted to the surface ice of Pluto. It’s the command centre of the station, Tenisha notes having no better term for its description than that. And in this room there are several people, all standing. But she only she recognises one, the previously grubby faced woman from the video, whose face is now clean. The hologram of Doctor Wells leaves her to head round the room so that he can address those assembled, while Tenisha walks over to the woman to introduce herself.
“Hi, I’m Tenisha Faulkner.” Tenisha says as she offers her hand to the woman who smiles at Tenisha as she takes and shakes her hand. Tenisha notes the grip on the woman is strong, even though she is only a hair taller than her own five foot three inch height.
“Chief Erin MacAlister. Nice to meet you. At least you have some manners.” Erin fires back with a grin as she glances briefly to the other two people in the room with them. Both of which Tenisha can tell are scientists and who in response shuffle awkwardly. Tenisha manages to stifle a laugh, but not without Erin noticing and approving.
“Ladies and gentlemen.” Doctor Wells announces from the head of the room, his hologram perfect as he faces the four people before him. Three of them handpicked, the last, Chief MacAlister, here due to her refusal to be ordered from her own mining station. He accepted her continued presence here simply because, politically, it allowed him and the UnSA to keep the mining corporation, he can’t remember their name, on side. That doesn’t mean he has to like it however. The Chief is an unknown factor and not one he can see any benefit in being present, seeing as she is a miner and not a scientist.
“I will keep this short. Introductions are your own.” Alistair says clearly short on time. He knows he has a meeting with the heads of system governments, during which he will have to assure them that his team are onsite and working busily. Even if in reality they have only just arrived.
“You have been gathered here to survey this.” Alistair says as the vacuum shutters of the mining station retract to show the black cuboid sitting atop the ice surface of Pluto.
However, the view before Tenisha is different now, as there is an umbilical section and habitat structure that link the mining station to one side of the cuboid. The new addition is a pristine white and sits in stark contrast to the black cuboid of clearly alien design and material, which unless her eyes are deceiving her seems to be swirling slowly. She finds it almost hypnotic and natural as she watches it and that makes her feel calm.
“Before you erupt into a round of questions I will inform you of what we know. And that is that the cuboid is not constructed from any material that is known to us, and that it is not from this system.” Alistair pauses for a moment.
“Also thus far we have had no success in communicating with the object.” Alistair then adds with a hint of frustration in his eye. Tenisha catches it, but she doubts anyone else has, and wonders if Doctor Wells had hoped to have already unravelled its mysteries. If that is what he hoped though she has no idea why.
“Good luck.” Alistair concludes with a smile, moments before his hologram blinks out and disappears.
“He forgot to add that we’re in lockdown and can’t leave this section of the station.” Erin adds with a roll of her eyes. She doesn’t like Doctor Wells for no other reason than he doesn’t like her. She knows it. He doesn’t need to say, and likely never will, but she can see it in his eyes when he’s looked at her.
“Doctor Harold Klein. Chemist. Call me Harry.” One of the two men Tenisha doesn’t know says as he offers her his hand to shake.
She takes his hand as she replies with her own name and adds a nice to meet you at the end for the sake of being pleasant, while the last member of their little group continues to stare out at the cuboid.
“And that…” Harry adds.
“…Is the physicist Brent Winters. He’s just too busy ogling the spaceship to remember his manners.” Harry concludes as he calls over his shoulder.
The mention of Brent’s name pulls him back to his surroundings as he blinks twice and then spins on his heels and quickly covers the ground to Tenisha. Brent doesn’t take Tenisha’s outstretched hand. Instead, he simply bows his head low for a second before raising it again, his thick unkempt long blonde hair falling forward in the moments before he brushes it aside.
“Salutations.” Brent says.
“Hi…I’m Tenisha…” Tenisha begins confused by Brent.
“I know. I heard.” Brent replies curtly, cutting Tenisha off as Erin rolls her eyes.
“Ok. So we’re all introduced. How about we get on with this little science experiment?” Erin then declares.
“I still don’t understand what she is doing here?” Brent then asks, leaning toward Harry as though he plans to whisper, but instead speaks at a normal volume.
“I’m here…because this is my station…got it?” Erin fires back, unwilling to put up with Brent continuing to operate with a superiority complex.
She’s never put up with such things from her mining crews, so she isn’t about to put up with it from a scientist, alien ship present or not, as she walks past both he and Harry heading for the umbilical section.
“Where you going?” Tenisha asks.
“The habitat. Doc wanted us to survey, so we better survey.” Erin says as she walks backward.
Tenisha decides she likes the Chief as she smiles and then races off after her leaving Harry and Brent behind.
“I don’t like her Har.” Brent says.
“It’s fine. Don’t worry. They can’t stop us.” Harry replies with a smile as Brent chuckles and claps his hands.
“You two coming?” Tenisha calls back.
“Right behind you.” Harry calls in response as Brent continues to grin like a mad man.