Location: A mining colony on the moon
Time: The not too distant future
Jordan didn’t tell anyone about his discovery. Somehow it didn’t feel right to share it just yet; it should belong just to himself for now. After putting away his equipment and recharging the oxygen supply of his pressure suit, he made his way over to the recreational area to have a drink and to think about the mysterious hatch some more. Nobody bothered him as he sat there with his beer. He was friendly enough with his coworkers, but everybody knew that Jordan was a lone wolf who preferred his own company.
He didn’t have to worry too much about anyone else stumbling over the hatch or whatever it was. Every extraction worker had his own area to work in, and they were far enough apart to prevent discovery. Still the question remained – what should he do with it? Should he try to open it? But what if there was something dangerous inside? Maybe some aliens had stored their radioactive waste down there. Or maybe it was a prison for extremely dangerous criminals. On the other hand, maybe it was the bank vault of some rich alien mogul. Whatever it was, he had to find a way to open it in the first place.
Jordan went back to his cabin to get a good night’s rest. Of course it never was night on this side of the moon, but they still lived on an Earth schedule up here, so he kept thinking in terms of day and night. After all, a lunar day lasted about four Earth weeks and thus, wasn’t really a good reference point.
The next morning, Jordan woke up before the alarm sounded and he was fully dressed and on his way to the mess hall in no time. He would have liked to skip breakfast and get out of the station right away, but he would need his strength. Besides, he didn’t want to raise suspicions if he changed his routine too much. So he forced himself to eat slowly on his corner table, reading the news, just like any other day.
Before he left the station, Jordan grabbed some tools that might help him with his project. He didn’t want to use brute force to open the hatch, but if all else failed he would not hesitate. His curiosity had won out; he would open the darn thing by any means necessary. Thus equipped, Jordan suited up, left the station and drove out to the hatch.
Everything looked just like it did when he had left the day before. Obviously nobody had found it, and if there was someone – or something – inside, they didn’t try to cover it up again. Jordan jury-rigged his extractor to drive a slow circle around the hatch. He didn’t want to return with an empty tank, which would only lead to questions he didn’t want to answer. When that was done, he could finally focus his attention on the hatch.
It looked brand new. The sunlight was being reflected off it, and there was not a scratch on the thing. Jordan went down on his knees, took a deep breath and tried to turn the wheel. It didn’t move an inch. Not that he had expected it to, that would have been far too easy. Jordan grabbed his shovel and started to remove more of the dirt around the hatch. He had already uncovered the edge, but maybe there was something else around it. And indeed there was. A couple of feet off to the side – no way to tell whether it was left or right or up or down – there was a metal box.
It was about a foot square and had more of those strange markings that he had already noticed on the hatch. Jordan quickly snapped a couple of pictures. Maybe he would be able to find out something about those letters – if that was what they were – on any of the networks. Then he focused his attention on the box. At first glance it appeared to be smooth all around, but then he noticed that there were tiny hinges on one side, like you would find on a lid. After a little fumbling, Jordan was able to flip it open.
Inside the box he found a round glass screen. More important, several lights were arranged around the screen, and some of those lights were actually on. That had to mean that there was power, either from a battery inside the box or even from a bigger power source deeper inside the mysterious structure. The glass screen itself looked like some sort of scanner. But a scanner for what? DNA? Fingerprints? Retinas? Neither would do him much good since he could hardly take off his suit out here and expose any part of his body. But unless whoever built this thing could exist out here without any protection, there had to be another way to use it.
Jordan hesitated for a couple of seconds, but then he carefully touched the glass surface with the tips of his gloved fingers. Nothing happened. He applied some pressure to it, but there was still no reaction. He knocked the screen with his knuckles. Once again, nothing happened. Maybe he needed to inspect the thing a little more. Jordan switched on the small light that was integrated in his glove and focused the beam in the center of the box. Immediately all the little lights turned on and there was a *CLUNK* noise coming from the hatch itself, like a big lock being disengaged.
Jordan quickly got up and backed a few steps away. He stared intently at the hatch but there was no more apparent activity. The wheel didn’t turn on its own, the hatch didn’t open, no little pink men with ray guns or giant hammers jumped out at him. Slowly and cautiously he approached the hatch again and knelt down once more. He grabbed the wheel and carefully tried to turn it a bit to the left – it moved smoothly without any resistance.
Jordan hesitated again, unsure if he really wanted to go through with it. He checked the time and his oxygen supply and realized that, once again, he had been out here far longer than he had thought. He might have time to open the hatch and have a quick look inside, but not for a thorough investigation. Especially if there was a sizable structure down there. Besides, would he be able to remove his helmet and breathe in there? Was the hatch part of an airlock? And if so, would he be able to survive in the atmosphere inside? He hadn’t really thought this through yet. He would need more equipment and he would definitely need more time.
While he was sitting there, the hatch clunked again. The lock had reengaged. But Jordan knew how to unlock it now, so he didn’t worry about it. He collected his stuff, caught up with his slow moving extractor and made his way back to the mining station. But he would be back soon, and then the real adventure would begin.