“Did you hear that?” Eti stopped abruptly in his tracks and pondered.
Around him stretched a cavernous cargo hold. One of many, although large, it was relatively small in comparison to the bays that housed interplanetary shuttles such as his precious Tabris Ruzgar. Towering above him on all sides were translucent containers, a strange few filled to the brim with precious ores and other raw materials; a state that, at first glance, suggested the vessel left in haste rather than procure a full shipment of trade goods from Ganax’ab.
Most of the interior of this part of the ship was designed the a similar fashion, with semi-opaque and vaguely luminous walls, ceilings, and floors offering a swift survey of one’s surroundings and the trade sundries in various sections. A glance over his shoulder confirmed the safe and secure artifacts and art galleries through which they recently passed. Beneath him, thin, rubbery lines on the floor mapped routes to other parts of the vessel in blue, orange, green, and black. At present, they were in pursuit of the green line—passenger quarters.
Close at hand, Boomslang frowned at his charge, paused, and perked an ear. Indeed, there was a rumble somewhere in the distance. It sounded like a far away avalanche or strip miner, but, in spite of the loss of the Vepsis Dol’s faster-than-light capabilities, artificial gravity remained undisturbed and intact. Still, on a vessel so complex any one of a thousand things could be the culprit, from a surge of fresh atmosphere from one of the massive air purifiers to thermal expansion in the hull as the warmth inside combated the frozen void without.
“Probably the machinery,” he suggested nonchalantly.
“It doesn’t sound mechanical,” Eti disagreed. Convinced of that, he abandoned his green line, and all lines altogether, and sauntered off in the direction of the noise.
“Maybe it will provide some clue as to what is wrong with the transport.”
Intermittently, the rumbling grew louder and nearer. Fear strove against curiosity, but inevitably lost. Then, three chambers hence, without explanation, just as they grating noise reached an obnoxious volume, a sudden cessation. Eerily, the silence flowed around him and his unwelcome guard, pregnant with deception. It was a familiar sensation for one trained in the ways of assassination. He recalled how prey would feel a presence, without reason, become quiet, assess their surroundings, but eventually dismiss that inexplicable six sense as mere paranoia. Yet nobody was here. He knew everyone on the ship and they were all accounted for. Unless—maybe a stowaway? Around him towered bins of shalam. Two and a half, actually, although the room’s dozens of containers should have been filled with megatons of the radioactive rock. Each seemed rather dusty and dull, although they did glow. But that half full one, so suspiciously low, shone a little more or perhaps a little less. Either way, he didn’t like the way it shifted and glared back at him.
“Hold on a se —”, Eti began to say when suddenly the rocks sprang to life.