Piles of decaying refuse lined the corridors of the crumbling structure, interspersed with starkly white bone pieces. This area had gone unexplored for several decades. With a limited population, there simply weren’t enough crews to search and map outlying areas.
The five-person crew assigned to this area was one of the newer groups, only recently released to work from their acclimatizing sessions. Groups had to learn to almost symbiotically work together, to increase speed and productivity. They also had to engineer a deep trust among themselves. Anything less would render them nearly useless in the harsh environments they would be working in.
“Doc,” the masked man leading the group said to another, “What do you think, so far? Is it viable?”
The woman in the middle of the group paused in her delicate inspection of a set of bone fragments to look at the speaker. “It’s early yet, Ben, but yes, I think it could be.”
The soldier she called Ben nodded, then motioned another black-masked man forward. “Liam, guard position. We need to let Doc, Mila and Little Boy work.”
Liam grunted and took up a position behind the scientists, guarding the three as they worked. Ben settled into a similar position, facing forward into the oppressive darkness of the continuing corridor.
The three white-clad people of the group spread out, all immersed in their respective jobs. The blonde woman, Doc, scraped and labeled bone samples, depositing the samples into a sectioned bag at her side.
Mila, a small dark woman, took pictures of the bones, the garbage, the floor, and the walls of the corridor. Each digital photo was notated with coordinates and details about the items in the photo. Mila also noted Doc’s musings on the bones, paying particular attention to the teeth marks on each one.
The third of the white-clothed team members, Little Boy, was a small boy, with a mop of dirty blonde hair and blue eyes so pale they were almost white. Little Boy was special. Not a scientist, not a guard, but essential to their work nonetheless. None of the others paid attention to the child unless he talked to them. But Little Boy only talked when he found something. When the group stopped, Little Boy merely sat on the floor, eyes closed, and he listened. Little Boy was a telepath/empath.
“There’s been someone. I hear an echo,” the small child’s voice lifted above the others’. “Don’t know for sure when, but not too long ago.”
All four of the other team members turned to Little Boy, listening to his proclomation.
The boy continued, “There’s something here they want. They haven’t found it yet. But they will come back. Soon.”
“How soon, LB? We can’t be here, just us, when they do,” Ben said. With only one other guard, Ben wasn’t sure he could get his entire team out if they were interrupted by whoever the child sensed. “Do we have time to finish here?”
“Mmm-hmm, but only right here. I feel them coming. A lot of them.” Pale eyes flashed open, alarm showing on the boy’s face. “I can’t…they’re ‘paths, too. They’ll feel me if I keep watching.” Little Boy, with help from Mila, rose from the ground to stand on his specially designed shoes. The iron and rubber layered footwear was heavy but required for the state ‘paths, even ones as young as Little Boy.
“Right. Doc, Mila, finish up whatever you have right now, nothing else,” he said to the women who were already doing what he said. “Liam, grab LB. Piggy-back. We’ll have to beat it. Can’t have them following us.”
The other guard nodded, turning his back and crouching in front of the empathic child who dutifully climbed up into a special sling on the big man’s back.
“Ready, Ben,” Doc said. “I have some disturbing news for HQ. I think we found our missing crew.”
“The ones LB sensed?”
“Unfortunately, no,” she said. Her hand sweep took in the bones littering the floor. “The ones LB sensed are responsible, but there’s what’s left of our crew.”