We didn’t have time to say any more about it as I let the ship float into the landing bay. I kept my mind on coming to a full stop, turning on the external anti-gravity to use what little gravity there was, and also lowered the landing gear.
Behind us, the force shield went up, followed by huge doors rolling out of the floor and shutting, and finally their artificial gravity slowly turning on.
That gave me more gravity to work with, meaning that I didn’t have to use the maneuvering rockets inside the bay.
Except for us, the bay was empty of ships, and it was big, large enough to hold several League jets, possibly more than ten. It was hard to gauge. They didn’t light it very well. It felt like twilight. Even weirder, it didn’t quite feel like a spaceship. Instead of being square or even a circle, the walls were hard to define. Round columns bulged outward from the walls. Dark indentations in the walls might have been the beginnings of hallways, but might have been decorations.
It felt like being on the edge of a forest even though the colors weren’t right. The walls were a metallic silvery color as was the floor.
Stranger, when the jet did touch down, the floor around us molded to the ship, making it easier to exit as the floor came up to the bottom of the door.
I wasn’t sure that I liked what that implied about the difficulty of making a quick escape.
Meanwhile, a look at one of the screens on the ship’s dashboard showed that the atmosphere had reached Earth normal in its oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide mixture.
With the sound of surprise in her voice, Haley said, “We don’t have to wear spacesuits. It’s breathable outside.” She paused, and continued, ”but we probably should anyway, shouldn’t we?”
She glanced back toward Lee.
He smiled. “If it were just the Xiniti, I’d say don’t worry about it, but it’s not. At any time, a spaceship might decloak and start firing at the station, and it might not be just one spaceship. It might be a fleet. Hell, it might be one of Earth’s capes. Believe me, it’s happened before. However we lose atmosphere, you’ll be happier if your suit is close.”
Behind me, Vaughn detached his helmet from his chair. After shutting down the jet, I grabbed my helmet too.
By the time I’d managed it, everyone else stood next to the hatch.
“Ready?” Haley asked.
“Sure,” I said, and she pressed a button.
The hatch opened.
A small crowd of Xiniti waited in front of the hatch. I swear they weren’t there when I got up from my chair.
They looked like the Xiniti looked in all the pictures I’d ever seen of them—humanoid shapes, big, oval eyes, big heads and gray skin. One opened his mouth, revealing multiple rows of teeth—like sharks.
They wore the Xiniti’s equivalent of powered armor, silvery, liquid metal that covered their bodies from head to toe. Except, of course, that right then, it wasn’t covering their heads.
I’d read that they could be comfortable in Earth’s atmosphere for a short time.
They waited, but not patiently. Their eyes followed our every motion, particularly Lee’s. Even though they weren’t aiming weapons at us, and didn’t even appear to have any, they stood very nearly in three staggered rows. To me it appeared that if the first row went down on their knees, all three rows would be able to train weapons on us, and fire with very little risk of hitting each other.
One of them spoke, “Immortal, as some call you, you will come with us. The rest of you may follow the path on the floor. You will be given all appropriate assistance.”
Its voice sounded high for a man, and low for a woman, hitting an in between point that I couldn’t quite peg. Not that it mattered much because I could hear a harsher, but quieter voice in the background. The translation had to be electronic.
Lee stepped out of the hatch, and onto the silvery ground, turned back to us, and said, “See you in a bit.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“No problem. I’ll be back before you know it.” He turned to face them, and walked forward, humming something. It might have been The Beatles “Across the Universe.”
As he left, Vaughn grinned at me and said, “He’d better watch out for the rectal probes.”
“Eww…” Haley stepped around him, and onto a path that hadn’t been indented into the ground a second ago. It lead toward one of the wall indentations that I’d thought might be a hallway.
A glance toward Lee and the Xiniti showed him disappearing into the wall some fifty feet to our right.