The Raid On Zeta Station

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Part 17

Zeta Station

24 October 2326

The pinging of the airlock’s integrated atmosphere control system caused Lundström to open her eyes.

She had dozed off during the lengthy process of readjusting her organism to an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. Now that the procedure was over, she could finally remove the remainder of the uncomfortable vacuum-suit she had been stuck in for far more hours than the young blonde would have liked.

Lundström also discarded her jumpsuit, which was drenched in sweat. She would retrieve a clean spare from her hidden stash, change there, and lay low until it was time for the next step in her plan.

Her mission was now complete, and she would have considered finding a way off the station, but it was still too early to draw attention to what she had been up to.

The young woman opened the airlock’s inner hatch and proceeded to drag the pieces of the vac-suit out of it in order to store it back where she had found it. Once this was taken care of, she rolled up her used jumpsuit and held it in one hand while using the other to navigate the handrails and pull herself out of airlock forty-two’s stand-by room.

Cadet Lundström paused at the edge of the central tunnel, listening for anything out of the ordinary.

The area was as poorly lit as ever, and the only sound she could make out was the faint humming of the station’s distant power plant.

She let out a long sigh and began to move again. A part of her had expected her to be greeted by Zeta Station’s security squad, armed to the teeth.

As she looked around, she remembered having left two unconscious crew members floating around further down this tunnel. Judging by the fact that they were no longer there, she determined that someone must know that something unorthodox was afoot.

However, no general alarm had been sounded, and Lundström saw that as a positive sign. She had taken every precaution imaginable to make sure that nothing lead back to her. The only thing that worried her was if anyone were to question her prolonged absence.

She had originally intended to only be gone during the night, but her mission had taken way longer than planned.

Suddenly, the silence surrounding her caused her pores to raise. She checked her MFD for the time and wondered why this part of the station was so empty. Usually, there would be at least a maintenance crew or two at work somewhere around there.

Lundström continued to advance in silence, her heart pounding harder in her chest with each passing minute.

Eventually, she reached the familiar hatch that would allow her access to the network of maintenance corridors. The young woman exhaled deeply, relieved to see that everything seemed normal here as well.

She opened the hatch as quietly as possible, pulled herself through it, and closed it again behind her.

Cadet Lundström picked up the pace, navigating the narrow corridors with ease, and reaching her hidden compartment in record time. She went through the same procedure as the previous time, unscrewing the specific wall panel and sliding it aside, allowing her to access her hideout and secret stash.

She stored away the old jumpsuit, and shivered and sneezed briefly as she looked for a fresh one. The temperature in this part of the station was kept low on purpose so as not to waste unnecessary amounts of energy on heating.

Once she had pulled off the acrobatic manoeuvres that were required to change in such a confined space in microgravity, Lundström focused all her mind on relaxing. She would likely be spending a few more hours there by herself, and that was challenging enough without her being a nervous mess.

“Relax,” she told herself, “you’ve almost got it. Just a few more hours and you’ll be off of this station.”

As her pulse and breathing began to settle down, the young woman made herself as comfortable as possible given the circumstances, hoping to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

The mental and physical strain she had continuously been enduring over the past day was beginning to get to her, and she needed to do something about that in order to make it through the extraction phase of her mission.

After a while, Lundströms eyes began to close. The last thing she saw before drifting off into sleep was an orange glow that had appeared around the edges of the panel that allowed her access to this hidden compartment.

Suddenly, she was wide awake again. She pushed the panel aside and saw that the maintenance corridor was intermittently being lit by bright orange strobe lights.

She gasped when the strobe lights were joined by a low-humming siren. This was the signal that this section’s fire suppression system was about to be activated within the next two minutes.

Her body acted on autopilot. She extracted herself from her hidden compartment, only partially sliding the panel back into place, and pulled herself along the various structural elements towards the nearest exit hatch.

When the strobe lights turned red, the corridors would be sealed off and flooded with carbon dioxide, and she did not want to be there when that happened.

Moving even faster than on her way there, Lundström did not worry about being silent any longer. She tried to go around a corner with too much momentum, and ended up colliding hard with a junction box, bruising her wrist. She cried out briefly, but almost immediately focused on getting out of there again.

She grabbed the nearest hand rail with her uninjured hand and let the damaged limb trail behind her as she made her way towards the exit. Once she had reached the hatch, she pushed it open as fast as she could and pulled herself through.

After closing it behind her and locking it, she turned around only to stare down the barrel of a rail-blaster aimed at her torso.

There they were, the station’s security squad, armed to the teeth, as she had worried about.

“I really don’t see how this is necessary or fair!” Cadet Osondu whined, lying on his back, with his hands covering his face, on his bunk.

“Stop complaining,” Defour sighed, “I never asked you to follow me. I’m sorry that you two got mixed up in this, it should’ve just been me.”

“Don’t worry about it, Sky,” García chimed in from his bunk, “we have to stick together, no matter what.”

“Agreed,” Osondu said, “we weren’t going to let you go after Sparks by yourself. Where even is she, does anyone know?” he added, while massaging his scalp through his short and extremely curly hair.

“No idea whatsoever. But this whole thing seems blown completely out of proportion if you ask me.”

“I feel that way too,” Defour agreed, “even if she went rogue, which I find extremely hard to believe, this entire manhunt thing with lock-down of the station feels like overkill. Unless there’s something else going on that they haven’t told us about.”

“Like what?”

“If only I knew. We can only guess at this point, and we don’t have much else to do but wait anyway.”

The young woman from the UCC rested her head back. No matter what angle she tried to consider, she was unable to come up with any explanation for her friend’s behaviour. It contradicted everything they knew about the bubbly blonde Scandinavian.

Her mind went in circles, and it was giving her a headache. She rubbed her temples, trying to alleviate the pain, but it did not make much of a difference.

“Seriously,” Defour asked, “has either of you noticed anything off about Lundström at all? Anything that would even remotely explain what’s going on?”


“Not at all. You know her best anyway.”

Defour sighed, “Apparently not as well as I thought.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” Osondu continued, “either it’s all just a big misunderstanding, or she’s had us all fooled.”

“She must be a damn good actress in that case. I would have never thought anything like that about her.”

“Me neither.”

“What about her disappearances though?” Cadet García asked, “Didn’t you say that she had gone missing before and was nowhere to be found?”

“Yeah, but she always had some form of explanation that made sense.”

“Did she, though? If you really think about it?”

“Mhmm...” Defour paused for a moment.

She tried to recall the most recent times Lundström had vanished. Then it hit her.

“You’re right!” she exclaimed, “She has barely given any explanation at all. She had in the beginning, though. I guess we just got so used to it that we forgot to properly question it,” Defour shrugged.

“I still don’t want to believe that she’s up to no good.”

“Me neither, but we might not have a choice.”

“I hope they find her and that she’s alright,” the young woman added, before burying her face in her hands, causing the mass of curls on her head to almost completely hide her from sight.

She did not want to show just how much the whole situation got to her. She exhaled deeply, trying to calm herself down.

Defour had only ever experienced her friend as a funny, witty, and at times overly extroverted person. The two of them had grown close fast and were very fond of each other. This thought caused her to giggle slightly, considering how Lundström was definitely fonder of her than the other way around.

“How long did they say we’d have to be locked up in here?” García interrupted her thinking.

“They didn’t,” Osondu answered,”they literally said ‘until further notice’ whatever that means.”

“But they didn’t say anything about food, so it can’t be that long,” the young man from the USNA said, his tone raising slightly.

“We have emergency rations with our training gear, which is right here in our lockers,” Defour said, “They know that, which is why they didn’t bother mentioning food. Sorry García.”

The Cadet let his shoulders sag and said, “Thanks for bursting my bubble.” But he said it with a slight smile.

“At least we’re in good company,” Osondu said.

“Right,” Defour added, “ We always have each other’s backs, and we know that we can count on that.”

“You’re right about that.”

“Besides, being confined to quarters isn’t all that bad. I mean, they could’ve thrown us in the brig.”

“What for though?”

“I’m sure they would’ve thought of something.”

“I wonder why they didn’t, in that case.”

“I can only guess, Defour said, “but I’d say it might be because throwing someone in the brig has to be logged and would appear on our records. It would also need to be justified, and we didn’t do anything serious enough to warrant that.”

“What are you saying?”

“What I’m saying is that, whatever is going on that we don’t know about, they want it off the record, at least for now. So either they’re not sure themselves, or it’s so sensitive that it might need covering up in the future.”

“Wow, Sky, I never picked you for a conspiracy-theorist,” Osondu laughed.

“At this point, theories are all we have, and I’d rather use the time thinking than worrying.”

The young man from the West-African Commonwealth nodded approvingly.

It looked like the three of them would be stuck in their cabin for a while longer, and they had no way of knowing for how long exactly.

They also had no way of communicating with the outside, as they had been placed under full security lock-down. Their only way of alerting someone was to be used in the event of a medical emergency only, and any attempt to abuse that would have severe consequences.

With nothing else to do but wait, the trio continued to kill time by idly talking about whatever subject came to mind, but they always ended up reverting to the original matter at hand after a few minutes.

What they really wanted was an answer to the question that had been bothering them since Lundström’s disappearance.

What was going on aboard Zeta Station?

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