Bogan slammed the button on the emergency atmosphere generator. The thin membrane inflated, pressing against the ten-foot-tall tomb entrance on one side and a still-sealed door to the rear. The emergency airlock unfurled more or less in the open doorway with a wet pop, and after a moment more the pressure was safe enough to take off the suits. Bogan and Neilos both threw theirs aside without a second thought, laying Dragovic out on the floor.

“Emergency kit! Emergency kit!” Bogan cried, thrusting her hand out. Neilos handed it over, and Bogan began running through the diagnostic steps on the emergency card, starting by shining a light into both of Dragovic’s eyes. They were red, hemorrhaged, and it was unlikely he could see a thing even if conscious.

The decompression and low pressure had hit him hard.

After giving him a dose of sedative from the emergency kit, and watching his breathing grow steady and deep, Bogan rocked back on her heels. “Whew,” she breathed. “That was a near thing. When we catch our breath, when it’s calmed down out there, we’ll go back and get what we can, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Neilos said. He looked about uneasily in the glow of the emergency battery lights. “So what do you make of all this?” he added. “We’re the first people to ever see the inside of one of these things, and we’ve been too busy surviving to even have a look.”

Bogan cast about the room. It was taller inside than the door, perhaps twenty feet to the ceiling, and made of the same green-speckled black stone. Even inside, where there had been no weathering, there were still deep sandstone-like striations. But, most strikingly, there were fourteen sconces set about the two long walls of the room, seven on each side. A clear material that looked almost like quartz sealed each one off, and resting in five of the sconces, seemingly at random, were upright forms. They looked almost like Egyptian mummies, bound in wrappings, but the color of each was jet black with a chromatic sheen. A beetle carapace came to mind, but Bogan had never seen cloth with that texture before.

Stacked about the room, seemingly at random, were containers made of the same stone. They were almond-shaped and about six feet wide, with a clear seam between the two halves. The rear door was like the front one, unadorned, with no writing or symbols visible anywhere.

“I’m almost disappointed,” Bogan said, with an uneasy laugh. “Those mummies are, what, six feet tall? They don’t even fill the cubbies.”

She’d meant it to sound light, but the words landed with a dull thud. The silence of the room was penetrating, stultifying; worse than a soundproof broadcast room. Every breath, every movement, seemed stale and unpleasantly weighty.

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