"I'm inside." Velasquez's virtual voice, carried on tightwave, sounded uncertain. "There's nobody here. Nobody nearby, anyway."
Caden pulsed back an acknowledgement. Shannon and Basque were already entering the airlock to back her up. "Siegel, Walker, with me. We're going in as soon as that lock cycles."
The pair pulsed back their acknowledgements and they launched together, converging on the outer door of the airlock. It was already cycling open at Velasquez's direction, which should have alerted the station's security and most of its administration, but Shannon had taken position just inside and Velasquez and Basque had spread out to watch the nearby corridors.
"I don't like it," Shannon said over tightwave, coded for Caden alone. "It's too empty, too quiet. I'm not picking up anything but automated systems."
Padma and her five had brought two raptors directly into the docking bay, and Caden wasn't going to second-guess her on that decision. They hadn't encountered any resistance, but they weren't detecting any crew members looking to escape a compromised reactor, either. The station and the capital ship had that much in common: nothing seemed to be moving on either one. He sent a brief pulse to let her know he was still monitoring, and left her to it.
Air filled the enclosed chamber and the airlock opened. Caden's trio stepped out into the nearly-silent emptiness of Hirakawa's Celestial Triumph. It was every bit as clean and impersonal as any station he had ever visited, but the lack of activity filled it with a sense of desolation. Something had gone very, very wrong here. Space stations were by their very nature crowded; even on a sleep shift, there should have been people moving around. Someone should have answered their broadcast. And someone should very definitely have come when Velasquez hacked the airlock and let them onto the station.
"I don't like it either," he tightwaved back to Shannon, then recoded to reach the rest of his group. "We don't have a schematic for the station, so we're heading for the center to look for administration or essential systems. Keep an eye out for maps, directories, anything; if we can get directions, we might not need to explore. And if anyone sees any sign of survivors, sing out."
The other five pulsed back acknowledgements almost simultaneously, and Shannon stepped into point. The others fell into place behind him, and Caden followed at the back.
The first sign of trouble came less than five minutes later, when Scout ran into something that dropped it dead to the floor of the passageway.