Kúrchek boldly stepped around the corner, the muzzle of his massive disintegrator rifle pointed down the corridor ahead of him. As he moved, the servos of his surplus battle armor whirred softly. A tactical lamp mounted on his weapon cast a brilliant beam of white light down the hallway.
The asteroid mining complex was ancient, so old that a patina of rust covered the allegedly “corrosion-free” duralloy walls and floor plates. However, someone--or something--had been able to keep the long-abandoned complex’s air recyclers and artificial gravity generator operational. It was just the sort of place a dangerous cult would make its lair.
“All clear,” Kúrchek whispered to his comrades behind him. “What do your scanners tell you, Válunara?”
A female human rounded the corner behind the veteran legionnaire holding the complicated sensor array with one hand and read-out box in the other. As she made adjustments to her equipment, Kúrchek allowed himself an opportunity to give Válunara an admiring glance. Even through the protective shimmer created by her shield belt, he could make out her perfect figure and how it was complimented by the skin-tight space suit she wore. If they survived this, Kúrchek reminded himself, he would take his crew to some nice pleasure world where they could spend their shares of the Potentate’s reward money. Somewhere he could have some private time with Válunara.
“Cha!” Válunara swore as she read the complex display of her contraption. Her cheeks were flushed with anger, further enhancing her beauty. She hated it when her toys would not work as planned. “There is too much interference from the structure. Mayhap if I were to reconfigure the polarizer emitters or make a phase adjustment to the interocitor…”
“There is no time for that,” Chek’Pwet’Te said as he stepped up from behind the flustered woman. “The Potentate’s son may already be dead.” The Pé Chói held a glow rod aloft in one delicate, chitonous hand, a needle pistol in another and a virbo-blade in a third. The great insect starred down the hallway for a moment as if he was trying to look through the bulkheads with his large green eyes. Válunara clicked her tongue in irritation at Chek’Pwet’Te’s antics. The scientist was usually on friendly terms with the Pé Chói, but she mistrusted his mysticism and was constantly trying to show him up with her latest technological gadget.
“Silence please,” the Pé Chói hissed, “unless you want Kúrchek to know what you were thinking whilst you were walking behind him and starring at his pos… There!”
“What do you see?” Kúrchek asked as Válunara tried to suppress an indigent remark.
“We are going in the right direction,” Chek’Pwet’Te said. His voice had a dreamy quality to it as if he was half-asleep. “A few hundred more meters… I sense… Intelligences…. Living things…. and… Something else…”
“What do you mean something else?” Válunara demanded as he trailed off. She had put away her scanner and drawn her own ray pistol. “No more of your riddles!”
“I know no more than I have told you, friend Válunara,” Chek’Pwet’Te replied. “I feel the presence of a group of intelligent beings in the corridors ahead, that and something that I can’t quite identify. Something dark and cold.”
Válunara didn’t say anything more as she angrily turned and started down the corridor. Chek’Pwet’Te started to follow, but Kúrchek laid an armored gauntlet on the Pé Chói’s shoulder to halt him.
“Wait,” Kúrchek said and he smiled slightly at the nonhuman. “Between you and me, what was Válunara thinking?”
Chek’Pwet’Te opened his beak slightly, an approximation of a human smile among his people. “Why, friend Kurchek, the same thing you where thinking about when she tried to take her sensor reading not a moment ago. But come, we haven’t a moment to lose!”