We emerged on a platform that overlooked a room bigger than our main cargo hold. It was round and deep—the full thickness of the station's hull: three decks deep. The sides of the room curved upwards and culminated in a transparent domed ceiling, and we were on a gallery that looked down through the dome and into the room.
Beneath us, the entire crew of the Earhart lay. Well, nearly the entire crew.
"I can't see any Marines," said Al.
"Or the Science crew," added Midas.
"We're about forty people down," added Rutter.
"Well, we're five of them, so where are the other thirty-odd?" I asked, fearing I knew the answer.
"Look," said Al, pointing to the far side of the room. There, a line of bodies lay in an unnatural fashion and beside them, I could see Rosie sitting, his head in his hands. He was crying.
"Why's nobody trying to get out?" I asked.
It was true. The crew was either sitting or lying down, but none of them were trying to escape.
"They're doped. There's a sedative in the air," explained Rutter. "I remember I couldn't think straight. I wasn't even sure where I was."
"Oh great! So even if we do open the doors, they're not likely to do anything!" I exclaimed.
"It's diplohyozone so it wears off pretty quick," explained Al.
Her knowledge of chemicals and materials was bafflingly large, so the fact that she had identified it was no great surprise.
"Okay, but how do we open the doors from up here?"
Rutter looked down at the large double doors to the bay and then behind him at the ones we had entered by. He turned to Troy.
"Was that room designed as a prison?"
"No, this was a research station. There were no cells. It was a shuttle bay for delivering supplies."
"How would you get a shuttle in there?" I asked, examining the doors.
"The floor ... it opens up onto space."
"That explains it then," I said, looking back to the pile of bodies. "When they're done with the crew, they'll just eject the bodies into space whether they are dead or not."
Rutter, meanwhile, had turned his attention to the doors and had found an access panel which he had levered off. He studied the insides intensely and then peered down at the doors below.
"I think they could open them from the inside."
"But they can't hear us," said Troy, "and even if they could, they're not lucid."
Rutter tapped the dome's surface with his fingernail. It gave nothing away.
"Hmm," he said. He turned and picked up the panel he had removed from the wall. He examined its edges closely, his brow furrowing, then turned his attention back to the dome. Constructed like a spider's web, the large panes of transparent material were framed by metallic struts.
Suddenly, without any warning, Rutter raised the panel over his head, gave an almighty scream and brought the panel down into the middle of one of the panes. It shattered like tempered glass into a thousand little tiny cubes that rained down on the Earhart crew below, but there was no reaction from them.
"They can hear me now," said Rutter and leaned over the edge.
"Captain!" he called.
"Nice one, Rutter. What about the sedative?" tutted Al.
"You said it was diplohyozone," said Rutter.
"Diplohyozone. It's heavy."
"Oh, yes!" cried Al. "Of course. It'll stay down there. Clever ol' Rutter!" she grinned.
"Captain!" cried Rutter again.
Down below, we could see the captain curled up on the floor.
"It's no use," said Al. "She's not with it."
My eyes scanned the crew searching for the most active member. They fixed upon the sobbing figure at the far end.
"Rosie!" I screamed, but he didn't hear me. I screamed again and again. The others joined me too, shouting his name, Dr Roosevelt. We bellowed long and as loudly as we could.
Suddenly, Rosie lifted his head and looked around, baffled and bemused.
"Rosie!" I screamed. "Up here!"
His eyes continued to search around him, but not up.
"Look up!" I shouted.
Finally, he did so, and as his eyes fixed upon us, he stood up. His eyes were red-rimmed from where he had been crying. He wiped them on his sleeve and peered up at us in disbelief.
"Rosie, get the captain!" I shouted.
He looked at me dumbly.
"That's an order, Doctor!" I shouted, clutching at straws. I was hoping his years of training would kick in and prompt him to act. Sure enough, he did. He nonchalantly ambled over to the captain and prodded her with his foot.
"I'm not sure that's the best way to wake a Klingon," commented Al.
"As far as I'm concerned, if it'll wake her up, he can shove a pain stick up her ar—"
"Rosie!" I shouted again. "Wake her up, damn you!"
The doctor kicked her again and she stirred a little, her arm lashing out to drive the nuisance away.
The doctor looked at her, then up at us and then back down to her. He looked confused but somewhere, deep within him, he knew that this was important. He bent down, grabbed the captain by her shoulders and hauled her into a sitting position.
"What's he going to do?" asked Midas ... and then Rosie slapped T'Roc.
We all recoiled in horror. Slapping a drunken Klingon was never recommended. Slapping one when you're not on best form yourself was even less wise.
"Arghhhh!" screamed the captain, rising to consciousness.
Her eyes opened wide and angry. She grabbed Rosie by his uniform and dragged him to the ground, swivelling to her feet at the same time. It was a beautiful manoeuvre, and executed with the grace of a ballerina.
Rosie hit the deck and found T'Roc standing over him, fist clenched ready to punch, but she hesitated. Rosie lay with his eyes closed, whimpering and pointing upwards.
"Captain!" I shouted. "Captain T'Roc!"
Slowly, she turned her head and looked up. There was a note of recognition on her face and let Rosie go, forgetting him in the moment.
"We need you to open the door," shouted Rutter.
T'Roc lowered her head, rubbed her eyes and looked up again.
"Open the door!" he shouted again, but all she could do was stare at us.
"We're not getting very far," said Al.
I had to agree. We weren't.
"I need to get down there," said Rutter.
"Do you have wings?" asked Midas.
"I don't need wings," Rutter replied and stomped out of the door. I followed and watched as he ducked back into the service shaft by which we had arrived and listened to him wreaking havoc within. A few moments later he emerged with a length of strong cable. He grinned at me and I couldn't help but smile.
Back in the gallery, he secured one end of the cable to a strut and threw the other end down into the bay below.
"Right," he said. "I'll get this lot out and see what chaos we can wreak. You get to AL3 and ... well ... do whatever it is you need to do."
"I'm coming with you," said Al.
"Good. I have a feeling I might need it, and until I get that door open and get some air in there, I might succumb to the sedative. I might need you to give me a slap or something."
"It'll be a pleasure," grinned Al.
Within minutes the two of them were down their makeshift ladder.
"Come on," said Troy. "Let's get moving. If they succeed, that's good, but if not ... well, we'll just have to manage without their distraction."
I knew though, that Troy was relieved to be rid of at least some of his visible friends.