Jason was the last one through. The stocky, burly soldier followed two women into a wide, circular black portal. A 10-foot high metal arch around the ramped platform held the hole in place. The first expedition was a test-run. Jason’s minimal, expendable team consisted of one scientist and two guards. The plan was to get in and take a look around, then come back into quarantine for a couple of months. A larger team would be sent if they survived the ordeal.
The bright work-lights in the portal room vanished as Jason stepped into the darkness. He felt cool, dry, still air the moment he exited but he could not see anything. Jason felt confident he was through the portal but his eyes refused to give him any information.
“Comman-” Jason spoke in search of the commander but a dim, quick pulse of light from the ground shut him up. He caught sight of both women crouching on the hard, smooth ground. He saw their breath in the cool air before the light disappeared again. He dropped to a crouch in the darkness instantly.
“I hear voices,” the commander said. Even though she whispered, she sounded equal parts excited and terrified. “Can you handle first contact, Lynn?” she asked the scientist.
“Hell yeah,” a soft whisper came from the darkness. “Let’s get our names in the paper.”
“Alright,” the commander said with a firm whisper. “Let’s figure out where we are and see if we can’t find someone to introduce ourselves to.” A dim, yellow light came on in the commander’s hand. It created a small circle of light at their feet. The floor was a shiny, off-white color. She looked upward and pointed the light at the sky. There was no sky, just a metallic ceiling.
“We’re inside…,” she whispered to herself and shined the light straight ahead. A metal wall not five feet away blocked that route. She spun 180-degrees and flashed the light at another metal wall. “…inside somewhere small,” she said. Suddenly the wall clicked.
It swung open. Bright light and loud sound flooded the small room they were in. They grew used to the darkness and needed to shield their eyes from the sudden rush of light. Jason spotted a short, dark figure through squinted eyes and splayed fingers. He stepped forward and jutted his elbow out at the last spot he remembered Lynn standing. He felt her soft side and heard a whispered, ‘Ow’.
“Someone’s there!” he whispered. “Introduce us!” he lowered his hands and things started to come into focus.
“We mean you no harm!” Lynn said. She took an unsteady step forward. “We’re explorers from another universe,” she said as she dropped her hands too. She was able to see clearly now.
A young woman wearing a white uniform and a white apron stared at them with her arms crossed.
“NEED THAT DRESSING!” a deep male’s voice sounded out from somewhere beyond the open door. The woman sighed and stepped through the doorway. She ignored the trio for a moment and turned to a set of shelves. Now that the room had light Jason noticed shelves on both walls lined with produce and meat and buckets. She grabbed a white bucket that said “Ranch” from one of the lower shelves, then turned to leave. She paused at the door on her way out.
“In this universe, it’s polite to use the front door,” she said and walked away hauling the bucket. The heavy door began to close.