If you’ve just joined in, start at the beginning here.
“Ash, are you ready to start cutting?” Lucas asked from the bridge over the ship’s intercom.
Paxton shot him a nasty look. The scientist still didn’t trust him, even though he’d been cooperating fully with her agenda.
“Gimme a moment.” Ash’s voice faded as though she’d moved away from the intercom. “Okay, cutting lasers are activated. Once they’re done, the grappler is ready to go.” Her words were matter-of-fact, as though she’d already anticipated everything—which, knowing her, was likely the case.
The asteroid’s surface loomed beside them filling nearly all of the view out the bridge windows. The proximity of the dark mass made Lucas uncomfortable. Only now was he able to make out the small pockmarks that peppered the surface. Whatever it was, it was ancient.
“There!” Paxton pointed and floated so close Lucas could tell she hadn’t bathed in days.
On the surface, a single point of light glinted. It appeared to glow cyan as though lit from within.
“Is it emitting light?”
“No, it’s just coherently reflecting all incoming light.” Paxton sounded smug.
“Wait…” He shifted away from the window and studied the nav screen switching it to one of the video feeds. He magnified the anomaly until its shape filled the entire screen. “It’s a perfect square.”
“It’s a cube actually, each side exactly 1.253 metres,” said Paxton. “We confirmed its shape from two separate orbital telescopes.”
“We don’t think the anomaly is natural. Best hypothesis is it’s an alien artifact. We won’t know for sure until we get it.”
“Huh.” Lucas let himself drift back to the window and closed his eyes.
Stars, rock, stars, rock.
A falling sensation swept over Lucas, and he placed his hands on the table to steady himself. His awareness shifted from falling in space back to the sterile and steady interrogation room.
“You need to answer my questions.” His interrogator’s voice was firm.
Lucas swallowed. Disjointed and scattered memories filled his mind; he couldn’t remember what she’d just asked him. He glanced up at her, his mouth dry, but he didn’t dare ask for water.
A long silence dragged out, while they stared at each other. Her cold gaze never wavered once. Lucas couldn’t take it anymore, he looked away and tried to remember. With a blink, he was back on the Angler’s bridge, staring at the anomaly. Right, that’s what she wanted to know about.
“My orders were to collect a piece of that asteroid before planetary defences incinerated it. Until then, no one had mentioned anything about alien artifacts,” he said without making eye contact.
“Was it an alien artifact?”
She began tapping the table with the nail on her left pinky. The opaline polish pulled Lucas’ attention like a facet of that cube. He couldn’t stop staring at her fingernail.
“Well, was it?”
“I don’t know. We never got it on board.” His answer was accurate—he had no idea if the cube was alien made or not. He couldn’t put words to what that thing had been, and it had done something to him he couldn’t describe.
“What happened next?”
To be continued…