Every time he tried to go over one of the many documents that he had sign off on his mind would begin to wander. He didn’t want to go so far as to say he was obsessed, but it was so hard to get it out of his mind. Hans pressed his fingers to his temples and forced himself to focus on what he needed to be doing at this moment."Have a good vacation?" Duke leaned against the door frame of Hans' office. "Cause it looks like you could use another one already."
"It was eventful. I think I'd like to go back some time and check it out a little more." Hans leaned back in his chair and smiled politely at Duke. "Just dropping by for a chat or is there some other reason?"
"I hired a new mechanic. Hope you don't mind, but a good candidate came up and I didn't want to pass on the opportunity." Duke shrugged and stepped into the office. "Left you a memo, but I figured I'd drop by and tell you in person.""No, I haven't seen that memo yet, but I trust your judgement. You did run this place for a few months before I showed up and that's also one less thing that I have to worry about." Hans crossed a bullet point on a list that was half hidden with other work. "Actually, if you want, we still need to hire another pilot. It's starting to get busy with those new ore deposits found on the further asteroid belt. Lots of people will be making Cantun their home base which means more terraforming needs to be done..."
"...in other words, we're about to get really busy." Duke finished for him with a grin. "Yeah I can handle that. In fact, I may have a few people in mind for the position.""That's great." Hans crossed another bullet point off the list after shoving a tablet aside. "Thanks."
"No prob." Duke started to leave, but turned back around after a few steps. "I'd like to say that I think you're doing a pretty good job around here. Rough start aside, I think the company made a good choice bringing you here.""Thanks Duke." Hans smiled broadly. It was probably the first real smile he had used with Duke. "You know I won't be running this location forever. We're going to have open another location eventually and I can't be both places at the same time."
"I get your drift." Duke turned and left Hans alone with his work and his thoughts.Hans watched him leave and felt a small weight lift off his shoulders that he hadn't known was there. He hadn't realized how stressed he had felt about the situation with Duke, but that was now one less thing on his mind now; he had enough to worry about. First, though, he had to make through the day at work and then he could think about the artefact.
As hard as Hans tried to focus on work he found himself glancing constantly at the clock and counting how long it was till he could leave. Although he could leave at the end of his shift, he also was well aware that there was a lot of work that couldn't be left undone. Each time he glanced away from his work it was just that much harder to return his focus to the job at hand.Eventually, Hans ordered Alice to remove all time displays from his office, which seemed to help some him focus somewhat, still his mind kept getting drawn back to the artefact that was waiting for him at home. He still hadn't come up with any good way to decipher the designs on it - if they meant anything at all - other than to go to a professional and he wasn't willing to do that yet.
Hans sighed and dragged his attention back to his work. It was the last thing that needed to get done today so that tomorrow would go more smoothly. He started reading through the incident reports from the week he was gone. All he had to do was sign off on them and send them off to HQ with any notes that he might need to add."Still slaving away?" Hans jumped at the sound of Duke's voice interrupting his work. "Didn't mean to startle you, just saw your light still on and wanted to make sure no one was here before I locked up."
"Yeah, just need to sign off on these incident reports form last week. There aren't many of them, but I figured it would be better to get these done today rather than leaving it for tomorrow." Hans pushed the display aside and stretched. "Guess I didn't figure it would take me near this long.""I figured you'd be done by now. You're normally really quick with this stuff." Duke wandered into the office and sat down in the chair across from Hans. "Guess you've been a bit distracted today?"
"Why would you say that?" Hans was immediately on the defensive even though he knew there was no reason for him to be."No reason, still kind of curious about that little holiday that you took though."
"It was just to get to know the area better. I do that. It's nothing." Hans pulled the display back in front of him so that it was between the two of them. "Now if you don't mind, I do have a lot work to get done. I'd like to get home sometime tonight."“Nope, no problem at all.” Duke stood up and leaned over top of the display to look down at Hans. “Just can’t figure out why you’d be so evasive and nervous every time I ask you about your vacation time is all. It just seems a little fishy.”
Without waiting for a reply he turned and walked out of the office, leaving the door open behind him. Hans slumped back into his chair and rubbed his right temple. He was getting tired of Duke asking questions, but it was too late to change his story now. If it was just simple curiosity he hoped that eventually he would just let it go after enough time had passed.Hans finished up his work as quickly as he could before going home. It had been a long day and he was exhausted, but he couldn't go to bed without spending at least a little time trying to figure out what the artefact was exactly. He took it out from under his bed where he had hidden it the night before and placed it on his table.
He stared at it as he ate his dinner, occasionally reaching out to tract the designs on its surface or to turn it on to a different side. It meant nothing to him, but the one thing he knew for sure was that it wasn't something produced by humans. It was a truly alien artefact. Unlike the decayed remnants of civilizations that had passed on before humans were climbing down out of the trees, this was bright and shiny as though it had just been made yesterday.
He had no idea what to do with it or how to figure out what it did, besides give him hope that he was on the right track. He had always believed that the magno-electric field that messed with electronics so badly was more than just a freak of nature. It was unpredictable when it happened - it was never consistent. He had experienced it once before and he remembered what it was like. He had almost downed the experimental plane that he had been flying.His curiosity had gotten the best of him then too. He still remembered that visit from Ken then as well. Just checking up on an old friend to see how he was doing after his scare. He hadn't found anything like this that time, but he was sure that there had been something there when he had fired all his missiles to lighten the load in hopes of making a safer landing. He had seen something, but it was all swept under the rug.
Hans grabbed the artefact and went to lay down on the couch. He stared at, turning it over and over in his hands. He wanted to figure out what it was so bad and, most importantly, who had built it. He traced the symbols over and over again with his fingers, but it would never mean anything to him. Hans sighed as he placed the artefact on the floor. He just didn't have the skills or knowledge necessary to figure it out and there was no one that he trusted enough to help him right now.All that he could do now was try to figure out the best way back into the tunnel and into the brightly lit cavern. He had already started searching where he could get the gear he needed, but finding the time to do it was going to be even harder. He had taken up half of his vacation time already and he hadn't been in the position long enough to be able to request a leave of absence. He'd figure it out though, that he was sure of.
Most importantly, of everything, he needed a way to be able to see down there. There were a lot of companies that made specialized equipment for bright environments, but he wasn't sure if there was anything that could hand that kind of brightness. It had been brighter than any light he had been exposed to before and he had done a few close slingshots on stars before.It was a touch choice and he wasn’t too sure exactly how to go about solving that problem either. He had been thinking on it for days, but he had yet to come up with a solution. Hans glanced down at the artefact sitting still on the floor. “And you’re just sitting there not helping at all.”