A cold breeze rattled through the surrounding knockers and whistled dolefully above the explorers as they made their way toward the dome-like structure. They took slow, careful steps. Every half-minute, Lamont raised his recorder to his eye and snapped a photo with its built-in camera.
As they reached the dome, Francis glanced at the arm of his coat and gestured to draw the others’ attention to it. Their dosimeter patches were glowing a dusky violet color. “Radiation,” he said. “Be careful.”
“Yeah, but what kind? And what’s the source?” Lamont asked. Examining the structure more closely, he could better appreciate the consistency with which the knocker stems had been woven together.
“My guess would be these metal scraps,” Carter suggested. He extended his arm toward a jagged, rust-colored piece of metal that was firmly strapped to the structure with the same fibrous strands used to make the rope overhead, studying the results on his dosimeter.
“Are we okay here?” Lamont asked.
“I wouldn’t spend the night,” Francis admitted. “But I think we are for now. Rico, what are you doing?”
The security specialist was testing his weight on the side of the structure, experimentally pulling himself up on a foothold. It held, and he hefted himself up. “I want to see what’s inside. Maybe I can bring Rosemary a cute little space beaver, no?”
“You think it was made by animals?” Lamont asked, snapping a photo of him as he pulled himself another step higher. The dome wasn’t much larger than a piece of playground equipment.
“If it were people, they would have attacked us by now,” Rico said confidently.
“Birds, wasps, beavers,” Francis agreed thoughtfully, “All make structures out of found materials not unlike this. But some of these metal scraps have rivet holes if I’m not mistaken. There is intelligent life somewhere on this world.”
“Is—or was,” Rico said soberly. He was peering down through the uneven hole at the top of the structure.
“What do you mean?” Lamont asked.
Bracing himself with the heels of his white boots, Rico opened the flap of his coat and drew his automatic, his eyes scanning darkly over the top of the knocker field. “Captain,” he said, “This thing is full of bones.”
Next: Signs of Life