Dan delivered the team to the door, and attempted to open it, showing them how it stuck. When they just watched him and said nothing, he showed them how he had to push the door to get it open enough to get through, and then showed them that it had trouble closing again. He stood there, panting a little from the exertion, wondering if the maintenance crew were going to burst into laughter and just walk off. Instead, Malik started tapping things on his tablet, and the other two guys stood still, looking relaxed but alert. Dan found himself wondering if they were more than just maintenance, as he’d seen the security staff adopt exactly the same pose.
Just as he was wondering if they’d maybe not understood what he wanted them to do, and trying to think how he could politely ask such a question, Malik’s tablet beeped softly and he looked up.
“The schematics says that this is the quarantine door for Lab-EST,” he said. It wasn’t a question, and Dan wasn’t even sure that it was addressed to him, but the silence was making him feel edgy.
“I don’t know what that means,” he said. Malik looked him blankly.
“It’s a quarantine door,” he said, he words sounding carefully chosen. “It can be locked shut from this side so that it cannot be opened from the other. Lab-EST has two doors: this one, and the one to Hanger 9. Hanger 9 can be opened to space.”
The look of shock on Dan’s face was more eloquent than anything he could have said. Malik paused, and then asked,
“How long have you been working on the Eagalante?”
“Two months, ship,” said Dan. “I came aboard with Astromeral.” There were a few murmurs from the other members of the crew, as the quiet guy asked who Astomeral was and was informed.
“You weren’t on a ship before that?” Malik’s voice quieted down the guys behind him.
“Briefly, but I came from High Colotonne as a specialist.”
Malik nodded as though that meant something to him, which Dan rather doubted: High Colotonne was a rather grand sounding name for a small military facility on a worldlet called Yorkten.
“Well,” he said. “It’s someone else’s job to explain all this to you. What I need to tell you is that this door not working properly is a serious security breach and I should be reporting you right now for not alerting us sooner and escalating this properly. It is more important that this door is fixed though, so that report can wait until we’re done. You might,” and he smiled, thin-lipped, “want to use that time to find someone to shift the blame to.”
He passed his tablet back to the man behind him, the quiet one, and then produced a screwdriver from a pocket and used it to open up a concealed panel beneath the door-open switch. Tiny readouts and flashing lights became visible, and shortly after that all three men were discussing the problem in low voices, pointing at things on schematics on the tablets, and checking the door, its tracks, and the supporting electronics. Dan rubbed a hand across his forehead, uncertain if he still had to be stood there acting like a nursemaid or if he could go back to his terminal and worry about what he’d just been told. Almost as though he’d heard his thoughts, Malik looked up from what he was doing.
“We don’t need you to stand there,” he said. “But don’t leave this lab without telling us first, please. That would be another security breach.”
Dan nodded, and retreated to his desk, wondering how in the world he’d managed to find security even more elaborate than in the restricted military facility he’d come from.