Empty hallways, quiet labs, serene motionless landscape and a dark storage room - that was all the security monitors had to offer. Rob sighed and leaned back in his chair, hands on his head, chewing on an unlit cigar. What he really, really wanted to do at this moment was put his feet up on the desk... alas, it was against regulations. And Sgt. Robert "Rob" Rhodes, alias "Hound Dog", head of security of the archeological dig site, did not like breaking regulations.
Instead, Rob allowed his mind to take him back to his early childhood, to a peaceful and boring Iowa where he grew up running and screaming and playing cowboys with his mate Mike "the Mite" Strandler and his older sis Jess. But his sis was now dead, and Mite Strandler was dead, taken by the Ferenzi. He remembered the panic, the fights on the street, the blood-crazed savages that turned on their friends and families. He remembered sitting on an old rocking chair in the dark, with a shotgun pointing at the barred door, with just four bullets left, waiting for that last face-off. Just like in the movies he had loved watching as a child, except this time it was him there, and it wasn't cool. Nor epic, nor heroic. It was scary, sad, and lonely.
But the people that broke down the barred door were the military, a unit looking for survivors, and he joined them even though he was a kid. And he saw what happened to those of his unit who broke regulations.
Rob shook off the memory and concentrated on the present. He checked the readings and his eyes slowly wandered through the monitors. Nothing to report. The monitor linked to the security camera in the storage room was dark, and he caught his reflection in it: the burly face, the heavy eyebrows, the dark two-day beard, the brown cowboy hat over the brown uniform. He winked at his reflection. Then he noticed the beep.
It was the comm-link to the settlement a few miles off the dig site. The settlement was the research facility's only link to the rest of Alpharia, the monorail car was the only transport in and out; and all their communications - from the nav-sat to the open phone line - were redirected to the settlement's communications tower.
Rob cursed under his nose and pressed the button that opened the security phone line.
"Hound Dog calling White Tower; Hound Dog calling White Tower; come in, White Tower."
All there was on the other end of the line was radio silence. Rob tried again, and again, but there was no answer. He shook his head and attempted to reach somebody on the open line, then on the emergency line, but the result was the same. Rob felt the tension rising in his gut. Communications never failed, they were about as secure as anything could be in humanity's new home. Something was wrong.
"Follow the regulations" Rob told himself. When something was wrong, the first one to be notified was the head of security. The second one to be notified was the boss of the facility. He reached out for the intercom and pressed the 1.
"Head of security calling head of research. Sgt. Robert Rhodes calling Dr. Terra Seris. Sgt. Rhodes calling Dr. Seris." For a few seconds, no one answered. Rub cursed again and decided to skip protocol. Protocol and regulations were not the same thing.
"Terra, pick up the damn phone. Something's going on."