"Open!" Ariane shouted at the huge doorway. She experienced a moment of panic before she saw the circular portal rolling open as obediently as it had for Dr. DuQuesne and his team. As soon as it opened, she began transmitting. "Dr. DuQuesne! Marc, Carl, Steve, are you there?"
On the third repetition, a deep, level voice responded. "DuQuesne here, Captain. Please do not step through the doorway just yet."
She almost sagged to the floor in relief; Sandrisson's face mirrored the feeling. "Thank god. Are all of you all right?"
"Perfectly all right. It's only been about a day, Captain."
"Only! I wanted to get out here right away –"
The infuriatingly calm voice interrupted. "Admirable sentiments but irrational, Captain. If it was a trap, given the technology here there would be no way you could arrive in time, if it was meant to kill quickly."
"As we told her," Sandrisson said. "We were all worried, but there had to be some decisions made about who might go on the second expedition. Have you found a source for power? Tom and I have managed to design and fabricate a transport vehicle which will allow us to move the storage coils when it becomes necessary. It's being assembled now."
"Unfortunately, not yet," Carl Edlund's voice replied. "Something has to be generating power, but we haven't found anything we can access yet. There may be ways of opening access panels if we can identify them, but no luck so far."
Ariane felt her lips tighten. Air was obviously not going to be a problem, but without power… "Anything of immediate interest?"
"How about a door leading farther into this… wherever we are?" Steve offered.
"A door? Could you open it? What's on the other side?"
"In order, yes, yes, and as we were not foolish enough this time to just step through, all we know is it's some kind of illuminated corridor and room," Duquesne said. "We were not going to potentially get separated by yet another layer of this… material. Or, possibly worse, start separating ourselves, leaving one person behind as a gatekeeper."
"I agree, Doctor. We're trying to decide just how to proceed from here. A part of me says that what we really need to do is just move as much equipment as we can from Holy Grail to this point and bring everyone together. If we can't find a source of power, Doctor, the ship will soon be useless anyway. Isn't that true?"
After a moment of silence, she heard a slight grunt. "Um. Yes, I suppose you're correct. But what about the door?"
"Let me try something." She addressed the door. "Remain open until ordered to close." Gesturing for Sandrisson to wait, she walked into the gloom. Watching her internal display, she continued into the alien installation until she'd gone nearly twice as far as the first group had before the door shut. Light still streamed in from behind, undisturbed. She turned and shouted back at the door, "Close door!"
Instantly the door rolled shut again. A moment later, it rolled back open, clearly at Sandrisson's direction.
"That does seem to solve the problem," DuQuesne conceded, "but then what is the point of not being able to be opened from this side?"
"Hard to say. Perhaps to prevent people somewhere else in this installation – if there are any – from going into our ship area? Maybe it will become clearer as time goes on."
"In any case, that does eliminate the major objection. If the medical equipment for Laila Canning can be brought to this location, I see no reason that we must remain separated by kilometers of corridor and out of potential communication."
"I for one do not want to be the only conscious person in this ship," Gabrielle's voice put in. "If you all are going to be exploring the wilds, I want to be closer."
"Any objections?" When Ariane heard none, she nodded. "Okay then, we do it. Doctor DuQuesne, you and your team come back and let's get this done."
"On our way, Captain."
And the REAL action begins next week.