Allison set the container down as the phone started to ring.
“It’s fine, I’ll g-get it,” Aaron said, gesturing back toward the container. Inside the glass was LS-1, the moon specimen they were investigating.
As Aaron picked up the phone, he saw Jim on the caller ID. “Hey Jim, what’s going on?”
“There’s been some kinda incident. I don’t know the details quite yet, but a miner in the moon operation died an hour-‘r-two ago. His vitals info is showin’ asphyxiation.”
Aaron went dead silent, unable to think of what to say.
“He was in the oxygen-filled tunnels, so it wasn’t an airlock malfunction. His lungs are filled with some kinda nickel-carbon mix. Were you’n Allison able to find out what knocked ya out before?”
Aaron glanced up at Allison, who had gone back to studying LS-1. “Um… y-yeah. Nickel T-tetracarbonyl. That’s the… the gas I inhaled from the specimen.”
“…That’s what I was afraid of,” Jim replied, sounding disappointed. “This’s gonna be a nightmare to clean up, I tell ya.”
Meanwhile, back at the excavation site…
“…I mean, look at the corrosion! Something practically melted through his suit here, and filled it with some kind of gas,” a machine operator was saying, standing a few feet away.
“I understand that, but what could’ve done that? No one else was down here, he was just doing a routine scan of the tunnels, and we don’t have any materials in this whole site that could break it down that quickly!” replied the medical specialist who was looking things over. “The info from his vitals just has a bunch of warnings for non-breathable air, and whatever it was has dissipated enough that we can’t find any traces of it now!”
“How long before any authority gets here?”
“I don’t know, a few hours? They have to come clear from earth to get here, so they aren’t arriving any time soon.”
Jim only needed to flash his badge to get past security at the space elevator. They knew there was some kind of emergency situation at the lunar mines, and didn’t ask any questions. The ride up was the same amount of time as always, but with the added tension it felt like an eternity to Jim.
Soon enough he was at the top, and the Starlight Mk-IV was waiting there to ferry him to the moon.
“How fast can ya get me there?” he asked the pilots.
“Eighteen hours is the usual time for shipments…”
“Not fast enough. I’m yer only cargo this time, what’s the best you can do?”
“We- well… The fastest we can go without exceeding what’s safe is about… 11 hours.”
Jim grumbled to himself a little. “Ugh, that’ll have to do.”