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The rag came away caked with grime. The panel was marginally cleaner. This was old indeed; the panel was mostly glass with a small side area of actual, physical buttons. No neural interface. No tri-D holo-controls. Touch capacitive glass and synthetic polymer keys. I shook my head as I wiped away more of the dust, looking for the power key. The circle broken by a vertical line reminded me of something I had seen once, and it was the only part of the panel with any illumination, so I pressed it hopefully.
At first I thought nothing was going to happen. Then the snap hiss of old style lighting units igniting broke the silence. High overhead recessed panels in the ceiling lit up splashing light down into the room in visible shafts swirling with disturbed dust. Under my fingers the panel flickered to life. A boot sequence of some kind. I thanked the All-Song that it was still working. I could charge the Karum double for a factory that worked from the get go.
I sneezed again and felt woozy. My allergies were really going insane. I found the control for the air handling and turned it to maximum turnover. Hopefully that would clear the air shortly. As machinery and lights continued to come to life the silent stillness of the unknown years was washed away with the din of machinery and the hum of lighting. The panel awoke fully and I began to scroll through the functions searching for something that would indicate what kind of factory I had found.
I sneezed again, but this time it transformed into a coughing fit. Pain lanced in my chest, and I tasted blood. The light headed feeling intensified. I gripped the panel to keep from falling and saw that operations schematic. This was a biologicals facility. I suddenly understood the reason for the hard tech. Whatever they were doing here could have interfered with biotech controls.
Another coughing fit wracked my body with spasms and pain. I went down to my knees, my vision blackening around the edges. I realize now that whatever was in here was sealed up for a reason. I hit the floor, wheezing ineffectively. As the blackness continues to claim my vision I realize that I vented the air to the atmosphere. I'm sorry.
Summary - A scavenger finds an old factory somewhere on Ruk, but what he gets is more than what he bargained for. Now a deadly toxin from Ruk's past is released into the environment. Was the toxin meant as a weapon, or have the years changed the people of Ruk such that something once harmless is now deadly? Can the cloud contagion be stopped or contained before it reaches Harmonious, and what effect on Ruk's other inhabitants will there be?