This is the second part of my short story Echo in the Grey, published in 2017. The first part is around here somewhere...
Echo in the Grey
© David Allan Hamilton
Sarangan completed the GPR survey, packed his gear back on the scooter’s trailer, and returned to the lab.
Soon after he settled back into the control room and began feeding the GPR data into the main computer, the amber light above the comms monitor signaled an incoming audio message from the TSA in New Houston. “John, is everything okay up there?”
“Sure, sure, just routine surveying,” he said. “Why do you ask?”
“Just checking. Usually by now we’d have your seismic data transferred. You know how the techs are.”
Sarangan felt jumpy and grimaced. Then he feigned a pleasant demeanor. “Yeah. Okay. Well, there was a small glitch in the array,” he lied, “and I’ve had to spend some time tracing it back through the net systems. Set me back a littlel longer than I thought, is all.”
It took just over a second for an audio message to travel between the Earth and the Moon. More than a few passed before the TSA crackled back at him. “Anything we can help you with down here? We can patch in to your system, you know, see if the problem’s at this end.”
“Thanks, but I ran it down here. Had to replace one of the mixer circuits in the signal processor.” He leaned forward in his chair, staring at the floor, and continued, “I’ll begin sending you the data shortly.”
“Acknowledged. Let us know if we can help in any way. I can only imagine what it’s like to be up there by yourself having to do everything on your own.”
Sarangan exhaled deeply. “It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. Anyway, I’ll check in shortly when I’m ready to transfer. Moonlab 2 out.” He cut the transmission and wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. He’d bought himself some time, that much he knew, but he wouldn’t be able to keep his findings from the TSA for long. If he sent – when he sent – the seismic data, the TSA would see precisely what he saw: the domed anomaly. But if he held that back, pretending the data had been corrupted, they’d simply order him to run the survey again. The last thing he wanted was a bunch of humans running around in such close quarters.
The filtered GPR data were now fully loaded into the computer and the image of the dome was much better resolved on the monitor. Sarangan studied it carefully. He was no anthropologist but he recognized a habitat when he saw it. This structure was much like the old geodesic domes he’d trained on back in Hawaii, but smoother and flatter with a height of only a metre and a half. Some ancient race, perhaps? If so, was this part of a larger community buried in the dust? Or maybe this was an abandoned outpost from long ago. It would take thousands, millions of years to be buried like this.
The screen refreshed itself as the chemical assay data was added. One line began flashing in blue and beeping quietly. Sarangan shifted his attention to it and his heart jumped. He had trouble catching his breath. The chemical composition of the dome was displayed on the monitor and, despite the high quality, clean data, the results of the assay kept showing INSUFFICIENT DATA. Whatever the dome was made of, it wasn’t anything found naturally on the lunar surface. This in itself was fascinating, but it was the next line, the flashing one, that caused Sarangan’s blood to run cold.
Interior Chem. Comp.:
Pressure: 50.74 kPa
Temperature: 35.3 C
SUITABLE FOR HUMAN LIFE
He had to return to the Grey.