#2 – Tough Love

Another fifteen minute blast. Didn’t know where it was going until Franks says “crater”.

The two investigators ushered the worker into a small room with a single flickering bulb descending from the ceiling.

Trammel, the larger of the three men poured a glass of water for the worker and placed in on the small table in the center of the room.

“Have a seat, Mr. Franks,” the other investigator said, gesturing to the solitary metal chair pulled up to the table.

Franks, a wafer-thin, timid mouse of man, ignored the offered water, cautiously pulled the chair out from the table with a screech and sat down. Sweat was still beaded on his brow – whether from the heat of his heavy tech suit now removed, or the remnants of his stressful ordeal outside the perimeter of the ore processing unit, it did not matter to the investigators.

The other investigator was a common sight around Titan Base 3. Franks knew him as Rider, a nickname the roughnecks out in the methane fields had given him. Rider was the lead security officer for the work settlement and could often be spied hovering above the base and adjoining processing units on his ultralight glider.

“We want you to know that you’re not in any trouble, Mr. Franks,” Trammel said to the seated man. “But we would like to have a better understanding of what you think you saw.”

Franks’s brow furrowed at the word “think” and Rider shot Trammel a disapproving look.

“This is Lieutenant Trammel, in from Titan Home. We would both like to hear your–” he paused, and recovered,” we would like to hear the facts directly from you.”

Franks nodded to both men and let out a sigh before speaking in his rasping cough of a voice.

“I was checking out Tube 7,” he stammered. “I noticed a pressure leak in the outbound and decided to try and find it.”

“You left the unit perimeter to do this?” Trammel asked.

“I did,” Franks replied. “I couldn’t see a cause within the perimeter so I took a rover out and inspected the Tube heading out to the crater.”

“Did you find the cause?” Rider asked.

Franks shivered involuntarily, “I did. They were monstrous. Big scaly creatures. They seemed shocked to see me and ran away. It looked like they had thrown a rock at the tube and damaged it.”

“I see,” Rider said, nodding his head.

“Thank you, Mr. Franks,” Trammel stated with finality. “You can go now.”

Franks, a bit surprised, stood and exited the room.

After he was gone, it was Rider’s turn to sigh.

In his species’ language, he intoned to his offspring, “You and the others should be punished for playing that close to the human constructions.”

“We were just playing a game,” Trammel whined. His concentration slipped and the human disguise faded to reveal his reptilian hide.

Rider slapped his son for his carelessness, and Trammel wept as his skin shimmered back to a reddened human flesh color.

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