After much delicate tweaking of his home-brewing apparatus, security officer Tony Verdeschi handed a beaker of murky amber liquid to Professor Bergman with a proud grin.
“There we are, Victor. I know I’ve got it right this time! What do you think?”
The Professor eyed the beaker with amusement, sniffed it and took a cautious sip. Tony’s heart sank when he saw Victor’s face contort in an effort to disguise his reaction.
“That bad, huh?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, Tony. It’s…uh…definitely distinct!”
“Back to the drawing board!” Tony said with an exaggerated shrug.
Victor smiled warmly, “Not to worry, you’ll master it one of these days. It’s a fine set-up you have here.” He indicated the apparatus in the centre of Tony’s living quarters.
“Thanks, but it’s not as impressive as whatever that thing is that you were working on earlier. What was it?”
“Just a little notion I’ve been toying with, something to shore-up the defence screens, give them a little more power.”
Tony nodded, “Yeah, and we could sure use it. I don’t know about you, but I for one wasn’t counting on meeting so many folks out here in space who are ready to blow us to pieces as soon as they see us coming. It’s a wonder the Commander and Paul and the rest of the Main Mission section get any rest at all with everything that’s happened lately!”
“Precisely why I’ve been working on it.” Victor paused for a moment, letting his eyes gaze reflectively up at the ceiling. “I don’t suppose,” he said after a moment, “That you’d care to hear about a little mystery I’ve discovered recently?”
“After what I’ve just put you through, Victor, I reckon it’s the least I owe you!” replied Tony as he took a seat and made himself comfortable.
Victor settled back in his chair and began.
“Well, it started about a week ago. I’d been having some trouble sleeping, my brain just wouldn’t seem to switch off. So after a time I decided to get up and read for a while.
I had been reading for perhaps twenty minutes when I heard a sort of scuttling sound. It only lasted for a moment or two and then stopped. I barely glanced up from my reading and dismissed it as nothing more than a creak from the life support vents.
I finally put the book down and got back into bed. I was just closing my eyes when it happened again. A sudden scuttling sound, as if a small animal like a rat or a mouse was crawling around in a wall space.”
Tony was surprised, “But Victor, that’s crazy. There are no vermin on Alpha, nothing like that could be living inside the wall spaces.”
“Right, that was my thought too. It bothered me at the time, but by that stage I had become very tired and I drifted off. I had completely forgotten about it until a few nights later when I was getting ready for bed. Then it happened again. The same sound, coming from the same section of the wall.
Being more than a little curious, I got out my tools and removed the inspection panel from its fittings. I looked inside, shining my torch this way and that, but the sound had stopped and there was no sign of anything moving.
Feeling a little foolish, I got back into bed and fell asleep. There was nothing the next night, or the night after. Then last night, it happened again.”
“What did you do?”
“Exactly the same thing as before – took off the inspection panel and looked inside. There was nothing.”
“Have you reported it to maintenance?”
“Oh, I didn’t want to bother anyone, it’s such a small thing. Curious though.”
Tony looked thoughtful, “Yes, it is. Tell you what, why don’t I pop round to your quarters and have a look?”
“There’s no need, really.”
“Nonsense, it’ll only take a minute, and you’ve got me intrigued.”
The pair made their way to Victor’s quarters and Tony gave him a hand to remove the wall panel. They peered inside, shining their flashlights around the mass of conduits.
Victor looked rather sheepish, “I’m afraid there’s nothing to see. Sorry.”
“Never mind, if it happens again you should mention it to the maintenance crew, I’m sure they—”
Tony’s eyes narrowed and the cheeriness left his voice, “Wait a minute…”
Victor followed Tony’s gaze to an illuminated section inside the wall space.
“What is it?”
“Where? The junction box you’re shining your torch on?”
“My torch isn’t on.”
So what was projecting the light onto the junction box?
Victor frowned, pondering aloud, “I wonder?”
“I think we ought to report this to the Commander.” Tony offered. He turned towards the Comms Post then called out, “Victor!”
Victor turned to see Tony standing stock still in mid stride.
“What’s the matter?”
Tony’s voice was laboured with effort as he replied, “I….I can’t move!”
TO BE CONTINUED…