Doctor Willis started forward just as they were all thrown from their feet by a massive rolling quake. A sharp shockwave of air and the deafening roar of a blast accompanied the jolt. At once, klaxons began to sound throughout the facility at nearly deafening levels.
The big lights overhead swayed on their tracks and several fell nearby, shattering, throwing shards of polymer in all directions.
Xander struggled to gain his feet as rows of crops tumbled and some of the one hundred-gallon tanks of hydroponic solutions ruptured. A sudden wave of water flooded the floor of the greenhouse and toppled more plants and growing trays.
“Holy hell!” Tyra’s voice said in Xander’s ear. “What just happened down there? I’m reading heavy localized seismic activity.”
“We’re feeling heavy localized seismic activity!” Xander said, shouting unnecessarily. “I’d say it was an explosion. Are we under attack?”
“Not from anyone up here,” Tyra said. “I don’t read any bogies for millions of miles.”
“The mine!” Doctor Willis said, his voice quaking. “We’ve got to get to the mine.” He pulled himself to his feet and began picking his way through the damaged plant life.
“I’m coming down there, Colonel,” Tyra said. Xander imagined he could already hear her hands on the controls.
“No, not yet,” Xander said. “Until we know what we’re dealing with, I want you to hold position.” He followed along behind the doctor, leading his crew.
“I’m fine,” Trey said, sourly. “Thanks for asking.”
“I’d have known if anything happened to you, brother dear. I was worried about essential crewmembers,” Tyra said.
As the group pushed through into the large staging room for the mine, they were met with a heavy cloud of smoke, dust and gases billowing through the archway to the mines.
Doctor Willis made his way around a toppled set of lockers to a storage cabinet. “Breathing protection and hard hats,” he said, handing out gear.
The room was in pandemonium, with personnel rushing from every area of the compound. Xander accepted his gear and looked around at the chaotic scene.
“Doctor,” a lanky man struggling to don protective coveralls approached, “the mouth of Shaft One collapsed. We’ve got three workers trapped in there.”
“All right,” Doctor Willis said. “Let’s find Mister Marx and get his assessment.”
“And,” the man hesitated, but then pointed to a screen on the wall. “Molly is on the roster for this shift.”
Doctor Willis seemed to stagger, as if punched in the gut. He put a hand out and Mattie helped him to sit. “Molly is my wife,” he said. “She’s a master miner and ore specialist.”