I am glad to have brought my flashlight. Scorned by my colleagues as a stubborn luddite, I nonetheless owe so much to this one piece of Core technology, that not only does it represent an exception to my aversion, but I carry it with me at all times like a talisman. Given to me as a gift by a woman buried far in my past, it reflects her practical, thorough nature. It is lightweight, compact, and durable. The lamp can remain illuminated for three days before it expends its charge, and even then, it will recharge itself with a single day’s exposure to bright sunlight. The light it sheds is cold and bluish-white, but I have come to rely on its brightness and sharpness. There is always some part of me that thinks of her when I use it, as though she is present in that light, showing me the way.
That cold pragmatic light now sweeps over the interior of the building. I am somehow not surprised to find that it is all one large chamber. There is an eery stillness, order, and cleanliness about the place. A circle of metal chairs adorns the far end of the great hall. Partitions, erected here and there, suggest stations of separate study, research, and discussion. Tables and desks remain intact, but there are no books, equipment, or tools of any kind. It is the work of a single minute to determine the sheer barrenness of this vast room. No clues will be found here, it seems.
As I walk towards one of the three archways leading to the other sections of the building, I remember Phethala’s proclamation, that the building is quite empty. My observations of the main hall would seem to confirm her analysis, yet I feel compelled to be thorough. Perhaps it is the spirit of the flashlight driving me. I enter the first of the inner arches.
Before me stretches a passage devoid of furnishings or decor. It is large enough for a vehicle to pass through with room to spare, and I feel small walking the distance. My footfalls echo in the abandoned space, each seeming to mock my futile efforts as an explorer. Light fixtures adorn the ceiling, but I see no reason to search for a lightswitch. I doubt the building still drinks power from the local generator. In any case, my lamp is more than sufficient.
At the opposite end, I find a facility that looks like it would have been used at some point to house animals of a fairly wide variety. Enclosures of every kind, interspersed with sterile laboratories, fill this small dome like a honeycomb. As confusing as the arrangement of rooms and corridors is at first, my sharp mind quickly discerns a pattern to the construction, and before long I have searched every relevant space with efficiency. Aside from the obvious experimentation with animals, no other clue exists. I sigh and hurry back down the corridor to try the other arches.
The second leads me down an identical corridor to a kind of dormitory, where I presume the residents of the Temple slept and maintained themselves. This too is devoid of any clue, save the obvious purpose of its construction. There are shower and washroom facilities, a mess hall, a kitchen, and what appears to be a common room. I spend even less time here than in the laboratories.
The third building appears to have been a storage space. It is the most empty of the three, a disheartening anticlimax to a dull adventure.
I emerge from the Temple expecting to be blinded by the sun, but instead, I see the stately figure of Phethala silhouetted against a dark red sky roiling with ominous towering clouds. Intermittent flashes of yellowy-orange illuminate the cloud banks, shedding a time-delayed, metallic rumble in our general direction. The sound is clearly thunder, but it has a hellish quality to it that sends chills up my spine.
I move up beside her, my eyes moving between the menacing sky and the face of my guide. She is not smiling, but rather appears vaguely concerned. “It is a storm,” she says matter-of-factly.
“We should head back to the colony,” I suggest.
“Not enough time. We will have to stay here until it passes.”
I see no reason to argue with her. I have never before seen a Trinordian concerned about anything.