Startled awake, Keith’s head echoed the sound off the bunk just above his head. He pulled his hand away from his head and saw blood on his palm. “Great….” He grabbed the nearest pair of coveralls and pulled them on over his skivvies. Lights dimmed and yellow lights along the top of the wall began to glow. He started to jog, but the throbbing in his skull made him slow down again.
”Attention, all crewmembers, yellow alert. Beta crew, please report to duty stations ASAP.”
Keith ducked through the hatch, careful not to smack himself in the head again. He wiped at the blood now trickling down his cheek. “Anybody here?” He grabbed a package of gauze off a nearby exam table, ripping it open with his teeth, applied it to his head, hoping to slow the blood flow.
A nurse emerged from the back, looking nearly as frazzled as her hair, which was falling out of its on-duty bun. She noticed the blood soaking up the gauze, and reached for more. “Lieutenant? What happened?”
He grinned, “The bunk was harder than my head.” Grin turned to grimace as a wave of nausea and dizziness hit him and he dropped into a chair.
“I see.’ She placed more gauze on top. “Let me get a cold pack.” She gingerly placed it on top of the gauze, and moved his hand to hold it. “How’s your vision?”
”So far, only seeing one of you, but my stomach isn’t very happy with me.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
The ship suddenly lurched, causing Keith’s stomach to revolt into the nearby trashcan. “What was that?”
”Asteroids. There’s been some hull damage, but thankfully just in the cargo hold. It’s been sealed off and repair crews are already working on it.”
”Asteroids? They must be huge to rock the ship like that. How’d they miss spotting them on the scope?”
“I’ve been too busy patching people up to find out.” She handed him a pill and a glass. “Take this, it’ll settle your stomach.”
He swallowed as she began to clean up his wound and seal it with liquid stitches. “That should hold. Take it easy for a couple days. Come back in five.” She typed some notes on her computer. “If you have any problems before that, come in immediately.”
* * * * *
“Here, you guys analyze these the repair crew found in the hold.” Stevens dropped the crate on the lab table. “I’ve got to get back and help move more debris out of the way. The captain wants to know why we never saw these things coming.”
Keith looked at the box of rocks sitting in front of him and his fellow science officer, Jefferies. “So that’s what rang my bell.” He picked up a small piece with a pair of tongs, turned it over, and put it on a tray.
Jefferies got another piece out and took it to his side of the lab. “I thought the nurse told you to take it easy?”
”She did. If I don’t feel well, I’ll go back to see her… er see the doctor.” He grinned. “I’m fine. Really. She gave me some pain meds, and they are doing the trick.”
Jefferies let out a low whistle. “Hey, check this out.”
Keith joined him and looked through the viewer. “Synthetic rocks?”
”Yup. Look closer.”
Increasing the magnification, he soon saw micro circuitry imbedded in the outer layer of the “rock”. “Cloaking tech? Why would anybody cloak a chunk of fake rock?”
Keith took a segment of rock, and tried to chip off a piece. It exploded, sending the chisel across the room, sticking in the wall. “Yowch!” Keith shook his hand out, and then looked at the new bruise already forming on his hand. “This just isn’t my day.”
* * * * *
“Cloaked mines? Disguised as small asteroids?” The captain ran his fingers through his hair.
”Seems like a bit of overkill to me, one or the other would be enough to cause problems in the spacing lanes.”
“We’ll keep digging, sir. We haven’t found a clue to the manufacturer yet.”
“The bigger question is,” the captain paused to look at the view screen in front of him, “who would want to mine this part of space? and why?”
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