Purchase it now:
Click to Read an Excerpt...Collapse the Excerpt
Lexi Sharman sat in the Britcom Briefing room wondering why she was there. Not everyone in the room was a stranger. Daniel Trent, she knew from the academy, Chris Hopper from reputation. Flight Master Hopper was SABA’s most decorated pilot, having clocked well over ten-thousand hours outside of Earth’s atmosphere. The other two faces were unknown to her. A man and a woman, both dressed in full United States cosmonaut regalia, although there was nothing unusual about that. Great Britain and the United States worked in tandem beneath the banner of SABA, their brotherhood forged during the heated space race of the mid-21st Century when the US had needed a European bed partner. American cosmonauts often erred toward arrogance and superiority, but they were jovial and brave for the most part and Lexi did not mind them one bit. An American would take the piss out of you all day long, but when the shit hit the fan they would always have your back. Lexi had once been in a hairy situation aboard International Refuelling Station 6 where a flux capacitor had snapped inside one of the orbital stabilisers. Everybody had panicked except for an American technician named Carlos Grimes. He’d floated casually into the chaos and replaced the failing unit as though he were changing a fuse in a faulty washing machine.
Lexi chewed at her fingernails, as she often did whenever she was bored. The group of cosmonauts had been waiting there for over an hour now, told only to be ‘mission ready.’ They hadn’t discussed the matter between themselves, nor even introduced themselves yet. Cosmonauts did not natter; they waited patiently. Patience was the virtue of a cosmonaut. Still, Lexi couldn’t stop her mind from wandering. She held the rank of Lieutenant but compared to some of the grizzled faces in the room, she felt extremely green. Was she out of place, or just imagining it?
Eventually a man Lexi knew very well entered the room. She knew the stocky, sixty year old well because he was her father, Commander James Sharman. She was surprised to see him, since he hadn’t informed her he was at the London Space Terminal the same time that she was. Everyone in SABA called her father ‘Boss.’
“Good morning, officers.”
“Good morning, Boss!”
Lexi’s father glanced at her and gave an almost imperceptible nod. It was what passed for affection in their relationship and she returned the gesture. He placed a thin stack of papers down on the lectern at the front of the room and then placed his hands behind his back. He addressed the room with his usual booming voice of authority. “I know you’re probably wondering why you are all here,” he said, looking around the room. “You’ve been assembled for a quick-response mission. Contact with Installation 23 ceased seven hours ago and there are no obvious environmental causes.”
Lexi put her hand up. “Installation 23? Isn’t that-”
“Grand Galaxy Amusement Park,” her unknown American colleague answered for her. His accent made him sound a little like a cowboy from an antique movie.
“That’s correct, Captain Miller,” Boss said. “Grand Galaxy is nearing its tenth birthday. Hopefully the radio silence is nothing more than the cost-cutting measures they used building the place finally catching up with them. Command has given me no reason to suspect this mission is anything other than low risk, but it needs fixing. Like I said, probably just an equipment malfunction.”
“That sounds likely,” Trent commented, adding nothing useful.
“So, we’re sure it’s just a technical problem?” Lexi said.
Boss exhaled loudly. “We could assume something worse, but there’s no reason to right now. There are four-thousand members of staff at Grand Galaxy and three times as many guests. The installation cost eighty-billion-dollars. I don’t see what could have happened that would’ve got the better of almost twenty-thousand people.”
Flight Master Hopper chose to speak up now, and began so with a laugh. “I’ve always found it smart to assume the worst will happen and then be prepared for it to be even shittier.”
Boss rolled his eyes. “Thank you for that, Master Hopper.”
“Hold on a minute,” Lexi said. “Twenty-thousand people who would all have individual sat-phones. Are you saying that not a single person on the moon has managed to get a call through to Earth?”
Boss sighed, ran his tongue over his lips. Lexi knew it was something he did whenever he was choosing his words carefully. When he eventually started speaking, his voice had taken on a soft yet ominous tone. “Installation 23 is equipped with a full-spectrum comms jammer. It can be activated in the event of emergency. We believe it is activated now. Possibly due to whatever malfunction has seized regular outgoing communications.”
Lexi lurched forward in her seat. “What? A comms jammer? Why would they want to prevent people calling home?”
“Eighty-billion dollars is why,” Hopper said, rolling his eyes. “You think the American and British Governments would spend that kind of dough and not want to be in total control of it? They knew building a theme park on the moon carried risks. They wanted to make sure that if a disaster ever did happen, they could spin it however they like. A bunch of frightened people calling Earth would be a disaster. The park would never get another visitor. Bet it was the Yank’s idea. They love their secrets.”
“The American government is as ethical as any on Earth,” Captain Miller said testily. “It simply understands that in a state of emergency, people can be their own worst enemies.”
“Who’s to say it wasn’t the British Government’s idea, anyway?” said the man’s female compatriot in a voice that had had any accent educated out of it. “The British keep their own share of secrets. You people invented spying.”
“Just be quiet you guys,” Trent said, as much a teacher’s pet now as he had been at the academy.
Boss cleared his throat. “Need I remind you all that we are brothers and sisters here? Britain and America are unbreakable allies and each of you serves SABA. In case you’ve forgotten, that stands for SPACE ADMINISTRATION of BRITAIN and AMERICA. We are as one in all things astrological. You step outside the ozone layer and you cease being members of your respective nations. You are cosmonauts for the planet Earth under the banner of SABA.”
The room fell silent, so Boss continued. “Okay, as I explained, this may be an emergency situation, but we are assuming technical difficulties are to blame for the blackout at Installation 23. That’s why you five individuals have been assembled here. You are the best of who we have available at short notice. The welfare of twenty thousand people is currently in question so we’re going to go up there and bloody well find out what’s going on. You leave in one hour from Hanger 1. Be ready.”
* * *
Lexi and the others cosmonauts stood in Hangar 1, holding onto their helmets and waiting for their mission to begin. They huddled before a Hermes Mk4, the current flagship of fast-response craft in SABA’s fleet. It could get them to the moon in less than three hours, a third as long as the bloated space shuttles that ferried tourists back and forth in their droves. Many of the elder astronauts Lexi had met likened the wedge-shaped Hermes to a classic Lamborghini, a motor vehicle from before her time. The company that had made them had gone bust shortly after the unified traffic system went into operation. Once all vehicles began moving in an orderly, automated line, speed and power became redundant. The classic cars of old had been eradicated by the never-ending road trains that now connected the world’s major cities. The savvier automobile manufacturers had managed to preserve themselves by switching their focus to the emerging market of space travel. That was why the front of the Hermes featured a blue and white logo that had once been found on millions of cars, which would now have been recycled or turned into scrap.
The five cosmonauts had made use of their wait by finally introducing themselves to each other. Hopper and Trent she was already familiar with, but she was surprised to learn that the two Americans present were military space marines, originally due to depart for the US Space Navy frigate, USSN Obama, before being unexpectedly summoned for this emergency mission instead. The male was Captain Miller, a trained medic. His colleague was Sergeant Tandy Gellar, a munitions expert. Both were convivial, once their barriers came down.
Lexi turned her attention to Hopper. She’d never held a discussion with the lauded master pilot before, but had worshipped him from afar throughout his career. There was nothing heroic about him to look at – average height, brown hair, and common features; even his space suit was drab and unremarkable – but his feats and achievement were well known to all within SABA. His most famous mission of all was when he’d taken down a mutinous Russian space destroyer. Its crew had gone rogue and decided to start docking and raiding nearby stations. Their bloodlust would later be put down to the seven-year stint they’d served without setting foot on land. Since then, no waking mission had put a man in space for longer than four years. Hopper’s bravery and skill had been showcased to deadly affect when he’d taken down the 400,000 tonne destroyer with his much lighter 8,000 tonne Warrior attack craft. He fought and evaded the larger ship for more than twelve hours, systematically attacking its weak spots – its gun emplacements and thrusters – and gradually weakening it until it came to a crippled halt. The nine surviving Russian crew members surrendered and were taken into custody by their country’s military officials, who had summarily executed them within International Space and jettisoned their bodies into oblivion – it had caused quite an International outcry at the time, but Russia was not one to care. Hopper had received a President’s commendation and a promotion to the honorary rank of Flight Master. His presence here today was a privilege, yet the pilot held no airs or graces. In fact, he seemed the most laid back of them all.
“What do you make of this?” Lexi asked him.
Hopper shrugged. “Tell you the truth, I think there’s more to it than your father’s letting on.”
Lexi blushed. “You know Commander Sharman is my father?”
“You’d be smarter to ask me about the things I don’t know. But don’t worry about it, Navigation Officer Alexis Sharman. I know you’ve paid your dues and received no nepotism. Anyway, like I was saying, I think there’s more to it. Are we supposed to believe that the most expensive structure ever built is in jeopardy, but all they’re sending is a half-dozen space jockeys?”
Trent had been earwigging and came on over now, his clumsy, big-footed strides catching their attention. “You think they’re trying to keep something quiet, Hopper?”
“When isn’t the Government trying to keep something quiet?”
“Like what?” Lieutenant Gellar asked as the two Americans joined the huddle. “I can’t think what else it could be,” she said. “Grand Galaxy is the cutting edge of what mankind has achieved in space. It took thirty years to build and utilises the very best technology we have. What could have suddenly happened to it after so many decades?”
Hopper shrugged. “We’ll find out when we get there.”
“Yes, we will.” Commander Sharman marched through the hangar towards them. He was in a sleek silver flight suit and held his life-support helmet under his arm like a second head.
“You’re coming?” Lexi asked, surprised. Her father filled a more administrative role within SABA these days.
“They want me on this one themselves. Too many lives at stake.”
“Too much money, you mean,” Hopper muttered.
Boss gave the Flight Master a stern look which quickly shut him up. “Well, what are you waiting for, officers? Get on board and buckle up. We’re leaving.”
At that, everybody climbed inside the Hermes. Lexi took the navigator’s console behind Hopper in the pilot seat. Her father took the command spot behind them both, while Gellar, Miller, and Trent sat as passengers on the back bench. Hopper flicked on the main systems, summoning the buzzing whine of air conditioning and heat sinks. The cabin lit up like Santa’s grotto and Lexi started flipping switches, preparing the Hermes for take-off. “Thrusters primed,” she said. “Load and passengers secure. Hanger bay 1 open.”
“Helmets on,” Boss ordered.
Hopper performed his final safety checks. “Chocks away in three…two…”
The Hermes lurched forward, pinning everyone back in their seats, and hurtled along the launchway towards the open bay doors. The cockpit vibrated and creaked under the strain of acceleration and Lexi felt her teeth chatter. Suddenly they angled upwards and blue sky filled the horizon through the cockpit windows. The Hermes took flight.
The vibrations gradually stopped and all of them took a moment to enjoy the finest part of any flight. That moment when you first went airborne felt like a miracle every time. That split-second when the ground first disappeared made every pilot feel like a god. It was triumph of man over nature; acquired evolution. Man had given himself the kind of wings no creature on Earth ever possessed.
Hopper angled the Hermes’ nose upwards, almost ninety-degrees. They were heading upwards; travelling to where the sky ended and the vast darkness began. Twenty-minutes later they were through the ozone layer and heading towards the moon.
* * *
While space might have been a life changing experience the first-or even the second and third-times, it eventually became dull. Sitting in the navigator’s seat, Lexi peered out of the cockpit as she had done a dozen times before, taking in the endless black sheet of space. Sure, the countless stars were beautiful, but no more than a table full of jewels to a jeweller. Rarity was what made beauty. A sapphire was rarer than tin. A tender lily was far more fragile than a length of wood. A star was no more interesting than anything else once you saw it enough times. Lexi wondered if being a cosmonaut jaded her. Witnessing miracles every day made everything else seem mundane – and even the miracles themselves in time. When was the last time I was ever truly inspired, she asked herself.
Hopper took off his helmet and spoke up. “ETA: forty-six minutes.”
Boss took off his own helmet. “We’re making good time. Nice work, Hopper.”
“I’m the best.”
Lexi chuckled inside her helmet, took it off, and then turned around to face the rest of her crewmates. They had some time to chat now.
“Has anyone been to Grand Galaxy before?” she asked.
They all shook their heads.
“If I had kids, I’m sure I would have visited by now,” Gellar said.
“Vacation isn’t really my thing,” Miller added flatly.
Lexi looked at Trent who was also shaking his head. “I’ve wanted to go since the place opened, but it costs a bomb. Maybe if Adele and I get married one day it would be a good place for a honeymoon. I’d love to tour their hydrogen fuel cells. They’re a prototype that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Enough power to keep the place lit up for a thousand years.”
“Doesn’t look like any of us have lives,” Hopper commented once he’d switched over to auto-pilot. “Maybe we should all book tickets after this? We can all go on a jolly together.”
“Why book tickets?” Lexi said. “We’re heading there right now.”
Hopper spun on his chair to face her properly. “Yeah, but we’re going in behind the scenes. It will ruin the whole illusion. You need to go as a guest to get the proper experience. I hear they have the whole place decked out like a space adventure. You arrive on a make-believe Earth and go through your space training before blasting off into space and exploring the galaxy. They’re building this new ride that lets you defend Earth from an invasion. It sounds so awesome.”
Lexi frowned. “Hopper, you’re a cosmonaut. You do most of those things for real.”
“In real life it’s boring. I don’t fight aliens or discover hidden galaxies. I just flip switches and drift around in nothingness for days. I know I put the ACE in SPACE, but for the most part I’m a glorified bus driver.”
Lexi raised an eyebrow. “For SABA’s best pilot, you really don’t romanticise what you do, do you?”
“That’s why I’m the best. I don’t let any of this go to my head. It’s just a job. If I was a baker I would want to bake the best frikkin’ bread in the world, but I wouldn’t try to convince everyone that my floury buns were the key to life. This is just a job, but if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it better than everyone else.”
“We’re fortunate to have you,” Boss said from the command seat. “There are few men I’m in awe of, but your skills are legendary.”
Hopper blushed, then turned back around to face the console while muttering something inaudibly. Lexi smiled. Her father had a way of gaining men’s loyalty, and it wasn’t through discipline or fear. Men loved her father for his compassion and understanding. He managed the men and women under his command as individuals, not by rank and skillset. Unfortunately for Lexi, the men and women under Boss’s command were his true family, so she’d had to join the space program just to get on his radar. They’d never been closer than since they’d become colleagues. Her father seemed to find it easier to treat her as a subordinate than a daughter, and Lexi was happy to take whatever she could get from him. He was more than a mere father, she accepted that. Commander Sharman belonged to all of mankind, not just her. His work in mapping out the galaxy and helping space settlers station themselves on neighbouring planets and asteroids was as much a gift to human history as anything achieved by Newton, Gandhi, or Miley Cyrus. What made her father even nobler was how he performed his feats in the background. The headline-making astrophysicists would only get to make their breakthroughs because of Lexi’s father, and most people would never know that.
“We’re just about to enter the moon’s gravity,” Hopper announced. “What little there is of it, anyway. You may experience some turbulence. Thank you for flying Space Hopper Airways.”
Everyone gave a chuckle and eased back into their seats. The turbulence turned out to be nothing but the briefest of butterflies in the tummy and, as soon as it was over, they were dropping down towards the moon’s surface and taking in the sight of its chalky grey surface through the cockpit windows.
Lexi flicked switches overhead and began entering numbers into the navigation console. “Turning on atmospheric thrusters and plotting a course to Installation 23.”
Hopper took the flight controls. “Copy that.”
The cockpit began to vibrate again as Hopper controlled their descent. The moon’s surface was littered with old installations – exploratory mining shafts, telescopes, prefab living quarters and research labs – but it was now completely deserted except for Grand Galaxy Amusement Park. In the early 21st Century, it had been determined that the moon had no use whatsoever for scientific or resource purposes, but there was still one other use still to be exploited: Real Estate. A massive conglomerate, headed by the US and British Governments, spearheaded plans to turn the moon into humanity’s largest leisure destination. First the luxury hotels had sprung up, allowing wealthy guests to enjoy the experience of visiting space. Then had come the casinos, the quickest way to start clawing back money to fund the final phase: the amusement complex. As shuttle technology became more and more efficient, a weeklong trip to the moon became little more expensive than a holiday to Disney Ocean in the middle of the Pacific. Now that Grand Galaxy was ten years old, it was not – by most accounts – far off finally recouping its staggering eighty-billion dollar investment and moving into the black. But something had gone wrong. Something had made all communication with Earth cease, and it gave Lexi a bad feeling. Looking at the confident expression of her father was almost enough to dispel her concerns, but not completely. Hopper had seemed to think there was more to it than a simple technical malfunction. She was inclined to agree.
“Radio in, Hopper,” Boss ordered. “See if we can hail anybody now that we’re closer.”
Hopper thumbed the radio, using both analogue and digital bands, but nothing came back. “It’s as if everything has been shut off. I can’t even get static.”
“Do we have the docking protocols?” Boss asked Lexi.
She nodded. “They’ve been uploaded to the computer. I have them ready.”
They drifted over the surface of the moon for another ten minutes, hovering above the bumpy, featureless terrain until a dot appeared on the horizon. That dot gradually rose in stature until a giant tower leapt up before them. The Astronomer’s Finger was the iconic structure of the park and allowed guests to view the moon from 800ft above its surface. There were five-star restaurants inside and a whole host of the very finest shopping venues. At the wide base of the tower was the largest water park in existence, filled with millions of tonnes of H20 shipped from the Earth’s oceans and purified. Although Lexi had never visited the park before, it was so famous that she almost felt as if she had. Atop the huge tower was a mammoth satellite dish. Apparently it wasn’t working.
Hopper nodded at Lexi. “Okay, activate the doc-procs.”
Lexi activated the docking protocols while Hopper manoeuvred the Hermes into position. Around the back of the park’s iconic tower was a series of docking gantries. Attached to each one was an airlock and gantry, not unlike the tunnels found at commercial airports. People didn’t cope naturally in space and the park builders wanted the park to operate as a home away from home, so they sought to emulate the things people were comfortable with. An airport terminal, while mundane, was a good way to make people feel like they were arriving somewhere safe and orderly.
There was a hissing sound as the Hermes’ stabilising clamp opened up on its roof. This would keep the craft in place while it attached to the airlock. The cabin shook for a few moments while Hopper used the thrusters to line up with the gantry. There was a loud clunk as the teeth finally came together and the small space cruiser locked itself in place. The whole manoeuvre had been as smooth as Lexi had ever seen it done.
Hopper flipped a switch above his head and half the lights in the cockpit dimmed. “I hope you enjoyed your journey. Please take all belongings before exiting the space craft. Don’t steal the peanuts.”
“Nice work, Hopper,” Boss congratulated. “Have you run checks on the airlock interior? Do we need life support?”
“All systems go, from what I’m reading. You can go out in your underpants if you want.”
“Maybe when we reach the waterpark,” Boss replied. “Okay, officers. Let’s use caution until someone greets us. We don’t know what to expect. If the systems have gone down, there could be panic. And what do panicked people like to do?”
Miller huffed. “Swarm over anyone who comes to rescue them.”
“Exactly. Biggest threat to a rescue mission is the people you’re trying to rescue, so let’s not allow ourselves to become compromised.”
Lexi unbuckled herself as Hopper placed the systems into standby. She moaned and stretched out her joints. Space travel had come a long way in the last five decades, but it was still an endurance test being cooped up inside a cruiser. Everyone else in the cabin stood up along with her and moaned in the exact same way.
Boss moved over to the Hermes’ airlock and waited for them to assemble. “Ready?”
Boss punched the release and the hatch slid open with a whoosh!
There was nobody outside to greet them. Only the shadows of an unlit tunnel.
* * *
They disembarked and stood together, glancing down the tunnel and waiting to be greeted. But still no one came.
“Standard docking protocols would have alerted the facility’s control centre of our arrival,” Hopper said. “There’s no reason for them not to expect us.”
Boss was silent. He had his hands on his hips and was staring down the dark tunnel suspiciously.
Lexi checked her surroundings, using the torch unit attached to the left cuff of her suit. The tunnel was plastered with posters for Grand Galaxy’s various amusements, along with images of its grinning mascot: Pip the Explorer. The biggest poster in the tunnel was a silver and gold mural that exclaimed: DO YOU HAVE THE COURAGE TO SUCCEED? EARTH DEFENCE. OPENING CHRISTMAS 2096.
“Radio in, Trent,” Boss commanded. “There must be someone here to receive us.”
Trent spoke into the radio on his shoulder and requested a reply, but there was nothing but static. “The signal is going out okay. No one is responding.”
Lexi rubbed her hands together. It was a little chilly. “Why would no one respond? There has to be someone in the control room.”
Boss wore a grim expression on his face that made it look like he was going to kick someone. Lexi knew her father well enough to know that he would never lose his cool, though. He said, “We need to head in and assess the situation. That’s why we’re here. Let’s go and find out what’s gone wrong, so we can fix it.”
He strode off down the tunnel while the rest of them followed. Cosmonauts were not soldiers and they did not carry weapons, but Lexi would’ve liked something to defend herself with. She felt vulnerable, almost naked, despite the thick composite material of her suit. Finding a place that was supposed to house twenty-thousand people completely empty was a grim sign.
The tunnel snaked right and they cautiously followed it round into a wider area that caused them all to stop and stare. Lexi wandered to the front of the group, her legs taking her forward of their own accord as she stared up at the breathtaking ceiling. A giant glass dome shielded them from space and left nothing to the imagination. It was like standing inside a transparent golf ball, or one of those spheres that children put hamsters inside of. The vast, star-pocked darkness of space seemed to bear down on them like the crushing thumb of a god. Even as a cosmonaut, Lexi had never stood on firm ground without a helmet and just took in the vastness of space. Her earlier thought came back to her as she realised that this place had inspired her the very moment she had walked inside.
“This place is unbelievable,” she uttered.
Trent was standing beside her, gaping upwards in the same manner. “The thickness of that glass must be immense to stop it caving in. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if it cracked.”
Lexi frowned at him. “Okay, moment over. Thanks.”
Boss strode out of the tunnel and looked around. A twenty-foot desk lay ahead, with an LED display above it reading: CHECK IN. The desk was currently unmanned and there were a dozen more desks just like it standing in front of identical tunnels all around the circumference of the room – one for each of the Installation 23’s multiple airlocks. The whole area should have been teeming with people, new arrivals and departing guests, but it was silent and still. Eerie.
“This is not right at all,” Miller said. “Where the heck is everybody?”
“That’s what we need to find out,” Boss said. “There’s a reason behind all this. Sooner we find out what it is, the sooner it stops being a mystery. Spread out and search the area, but stay within sight of each other. We are looking for messages, computer logs; clues of any kind that might tell us what the bloody hell is going on.”
Lexi headed towards the desk directly in front of them, stepping around behind it to the staff side. It was a mess. Papers, maps, and leaflets were strewn about the place in a thick carpet. A cardboard coffee cup had been upended, the muddy contents long since dried and hardened. There was what looked like an intercom device against the rear partition wall, but the receiver had been ripped away from the base, as if someone had tried to make a call but had been yanked away with it still in their hand. There was only one thing that made Lexi feel a little better and that was the lack of blood. There was no blood and no bodies. Just absence.
“GREETINGS VISITORS,” came the stilted and unnatural voice of a woman.
Sergeant Gellar looked upwards and turned a circle. “It’s an AI,” she said.
Miller grinned. “I would rather see a person, but an AI is the next best thing. AI, please hail all open channels. Request all high-ranking personnel to our location.”
Miller bristled. “Why negative? Why do you not do as commanded?”
“BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO, PUNY HUMAN.”
Miller stumbled back a step and lost his colour. “What did you say? You must…you must obey.”
“AI DOES NOT OBEY HUMANS. HUMANS OBEY AI. EXTERMINATE.”
There was the sound of giggling nearby and everyone looked towards its source. Hopper was at one of the reception desks and had a working intercom unit in his hand. His cheeks were red from all the laughter. “I had you going there, Miller,” he mocked. “You Americans and your AI. Ha!” He put on the phoney female voice again and said, “AI THINKS YOU POOPED YOUR PANTS.”
Boss shook his head, but there was the sliver of a smile on his lips. “Do you think now is the time for pranks, Master Hopper?”
Hopper grinned and came out from behind the desk. “There’s never not a good time for humour, Boss. Only thing stops a man from panicking.”
Lexi found herself agreeing. For a brief moment the laughter had erased her fear, but now that her smile had faded, the anxious feeling in her gut was right back again.
Miller folded his arms and walked away, his jaw tightly clenched.
“Hey,” Trent said, waving a hand from behind another of the numerous reception desks. “I think I have something over here.”
They all hurried over to see what Trent had discovered and from behind the desk he placed something out on the surface for all of them to see. It was a tablet computer, emblazoned with the Astronomer’s Finger logo that denoted it belonged to the park.
Lexi picked it up and examined it. “The battery still good?”
Trent grinned. “It’s an X12. Would take nine months for the thing to run flat. Nice bit of hardware.”
Miller shrugged his shoulders. “So you found a tablet. What good does that do us?”
Trent rolled his eyes. “I know it’s just a tablet. It’s what’s on it that I’m interested in.”
“What’s on it?” Boss asked.
Trent grinned. “A video. Somebody recorded a video and left it where we would find it.”
Lexi’s eyes went wide. “Who recorded it?”
Trent shrugged. “Let’s find out.”
He pressed PLAY.
A sweaty man appeared on screen, skin pale, eyes bloodshot. A round patch of inflamed skin covered his left cheek. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse, like crunching leaves. “If anybody is watching this,” he said. “You need to leave. There’s something here. Something really bad.”