72_Pack Rats of the Galaxy: Discovery and Investigation

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72_Pack Rats of the Galaxy: Discovery and Investigation

Post by Diaho » Tue Dec 26, 2017 4:44 pm

Pack Rats of the Galaxy: Discovery and Investigation








Captain's log, Marjee recording: it's been four hours since we started trailing those who had the Zon warships. About an hour ago the two ships that we damaged left the group for a moon in sector three hundred. We did not follow them but sent the location to Samson should Eliana want to investigate. Noel and I have had a long talk about my actions. While I technically disobeyed orders by firing without prior authorization. Had they managed a second salvo…? Noel tells me not to worry and has said my actions probably saved lives. I want to believe her but right now, we follow report and worry about my previous actions later.

"Marjee, one of the ships we are following is becoming critical."

Pegasus statement left Marjee confused she asked for clarification and got the following response.

"What it is discharging has changed in the last few minutes… originally it was just propellant but now I'm sensing complex energy. It's a slight leak but should they mix either inside or outside the ship there will be an explosion."

"Pegasus, establish a link…"

"BELAY that order… Marjee we're not here. I understand you wanting to warn them but, it will give away our position. What will happen, will happen and we can not interfere."

Marjee was about to argue the comment when a brilliant flash of light followed but a slight shock wave shook them. Inquiring, Pegasus reported this.

"The ship exploded and the one closest to them was also destroyed. The rest of them are proceeding on course… it's like they… no they would have felt what we did… my hypothesis is they ignored what occurred… I find that most disturbing."

Marjee's expression changed, anger was replaced with a stunned shock. Noel made a move towards her and she halted her. Turning to the main display, watching space pass by, she tried to clear her mind and rationalize what had just happened. Granted she was very new to this life of a 'space commander', her youth, her inexperience, but, damn it all why? Noel must have experienced this before, yet she didn't want an explanation from her. Numbed like from an electrical shock she stood there not realizing tears were streaming down her cheeks. The next thing she knew Noel had her in an embrace it was then everything stored up inside of her came to the surface. Sobbing she tried to express herself.

"We… I could have … if you didn't stop me… why? Why did you stop me…? I thought we were supposed to save lives?"

Holding Marjee, Noel explained in very simple terms, that had they exposed themselves to give a warning. It was very possible that what happened would have and all the effort expended so far would have gone for naught. Helping Marjee back to the center seat, Noel watched as she sat in it and reclined it. Marjee was staring at the ceiling as she addressed Pegasus.

"You heard the commander and you know my thoughts I'd like your opinion."

"Marjee what happened was illogical, the commander's logic is sound, my builders believed in self sacrifice only as a last ditch method to save others. I find it hard to believe that those around that ship didn't know or didn't care about those aboard, yet it seems that was the case. I'm reporting that we're slowing to maintain our distance. The lead ship is entering orbit about the forth planet of the system ahead. As soon as I have further information I'll report."

Opening a scrambled link to Eliana, Marjee submits a brief report and gives the location they are presently at. Closing the link Marjee says to Noel.

"Thank you, although I'm still fighting with what you did, I can see why you did it, but for future reference I hope never to be in that position again, I'd thought you'd like to know."

*********

Marjee's report arrives about the same time Eliana notices a shadow off her starboard side. There was no need to open a link it appeared all by itself.

"Eli, I'm sending you coded orders… forward them to Marjee… we'll be taking over observation duties… I suggest you find a place close and sit tight until we've gathered some data."

"Dawn, I have to admit you've gotten good at this 'hide and seek' you practice. Although, I did manage get a glimpse of you about a half hour ago."

"Not everyone is as stealthy as you are, you should ask Cassandra sometime just how stealthy I can be… that aside I've witnessed what Marjee has seen. If she's not rattled to the core I'll be surprised. Guess that's one positive of not being a telepath… we have to wait for the system to tell us what happened… telepaths like KO and Marjee sense immediately, in fact they see it as it happens because they see what their ship sees. I hear it can be quite traumatic to those not experienced… and Marjee definitely falls in that category. So be patience with her she'll probably be fighting a lot of emotions, lucky for her Noel's aboard. If you're lucky Noel will have settled her down before you arrive if not you've been warned… I'll report later."

Mirage vanished. Eliana had Marjee move to the edge of an asteroid belt about a half light year from the planet in question. Upon arrival there was a discussion concerning the previous events and the actions taken. Although Marjee put up nominal resistance Eliana knew she was still steaming. Three hours passed and Mirage approached their position. It was then Marjee took note of the damage and said.

"Noel, Dawn's been in a fire fight. I'm seeing damage to the port nacelle and amidships. Low power signal is being emitted. Pegasus, amplify and put on speakers."

"That planet, its defenses, never seen such a complex array before… we got some data and then got clobbered. I think they saw through our stealth but… damage parties have repairs underway if you can supply cover and support until we are operational…"

It was then Eliana cut in and said.

"They saw through your stealth? Are you absolutely sure about that?"

"Eli I believe so, everything happened so fast and the observation system is off line, as soon as we get operational I can give you a better picture."

*********

Aboard the Magnus Vekk was still sorting out the days events when…

"Vekk, do you happen to still be in this sector of space?"

Eliana's voice was refreshing and it also was expressing a nervousness that troubled Vekk. Pressing the link open he said.

"About two light years from your present position we can be there in less than fifteen minutes if you need…"

"A little help… um could be a lot of help, I'll brief you when you arrive, Samson out."

"Navigator, lock in a course, engineering spare nothing, communications notify the fleet to follow us and tell command what we've received. Alright everyone we go."

Magnus and fleet departed, their departure did not go unnoticed. A transport that was transversing the area almost became an unwitting member of Vekk's fleet. At the last moment the transport altered course to avoid the fleet and witnessed their departure. Their communications home was…

"Um Atosuryua would you kindly notify the Suran high command to have a little chat with Vekk, he just blasted out of here and I'm glad we saw them cause I'm pretty sure they did not see us. As vast as space is and still we have close calls. We're fine I expect planetary orbit in six hours Ku Dorin out."

Normally the message would have entered the system and would have taken a while to arrive at command. For some unknown reason Atosuryua took it upon herself to 'hand deliver' this message directly to Cassandra. Reading the message Cassandra thanked Atosuryua for her prompt action and returned to the command center. Entering she inquired if there had been any communications with Samson. The answer she received was there had been no communications since they left to follow Pegasus. Moving to the communications console she opens a discrete and secure link to KO.

*********

Aboard Illusion KO was relaxing in her cabin when Lyra chimed in.

"Level one communications from command, eight second delay, on your screen Captain."

A genuinely concerned Cassandra appeared on the screen and asked.

"KO, have you heard from Eli?"

"Not a word since they left, why are you asking?"

"Dorin witnessed Vekk blasting off in one hell of a hurry. I sent Mirage to shadow the group Eli was following and if there was trouble her orders were to … I ordered her to handle it the best way she saw fit. My hunch is she's got trouble and …"

"Vekk was close so… okay Cassie what do you want to do?"

"They're supposed to be in blackout, the three of them but if… KO I know you're almost here and I hate like hell to send you half way across the system on a hunch but…"

"Captain, I've detected the Magnus it's on a course to… displaying projected route on display. And Captain, Magnus and fleet are … correction they are in deacceleration projecting location…"

"Cassie they're about six light years from my present location. If I reverse course and went to flank it'll take me at least an hour, it looks like Vekk has arrived. I'm sending you the information. What do you want me to do?"

The information appears before Cassandra, this area was partially explored. Making a decision she sends the following to KO.

"Alter course, precede at best speed to where Vekk is, if there is trouble notify command, offer any assistance, requested or not. KO, be careful, Dorin almost got run over by Vekk, they are in your area inbound to the planet..."

"Message received, Dorin on plot, we'll miss them by a million kilometers or so, estimated time to Vekk sixty-six minutes. I'll be in touch."

The link closes and KO heads to the bridge, entering, she issues the following commands.

"Leo, plot a course to intercept the Magnus, Lyra monitor communication on our shared frequencies, Orion look for Pegasus, we find Marjee, Eli and Dawn will be close by. "

Informing Kenesh she was leaving, Illusion makes for the last location of the Magnus, avoiding Dorin on her way out.

*********

"Marjee, Illusion is looking for us; shall I reply or maintain silence?"

Noel opened a local link and said.

"Eli, KO's looking for us shall we tell her where…"

"Not yet Vekk's here and I'll bet KO's following Vekk but how did she know Vekk was… um, hang on let me sort this out, Dawn, status report?"

"We're just bringing the system on line but I'm sure they saw through our cloak also what we saw, they've got an arsenal on that planet."

"Noel, Marjee sit tight do not respond, Dawn send me everything you've got and continue your repairs. Vekk's on his way over here we're going to confer face to face… I'll let you know what we figure out, Samson out."

The link went to standby; Noel turned to Marjee and said.

"We wait and see. It's been sometime since… Pegasus, Illusion's location?"

"They are approaching the area where Magnus arrived estimated a half hour, but before then they'll sense my presence, Orion is persistent to a flaw. Was that presented correctly?"

Marjee smiled and said.

"You did well; let us know when KO finds us."

"Yes Marjee I shall."

*********

Aboard Samson, Vekk had just arrived, Eliana showed him the data gathered by Dawn and said.

"I've confirmed they ARE able to negate our cloak. The scan shows their defenses, its fairly standard weaponry, except for these locations. I don't think those are a weapon, I think that's what saw through the cloak, but what in the devil are they?"

Vekk and Eliana both enhance the scan; it's a strange looking mechanism, something neither of them has seen before. Moving back from the display Vekk said.

"When we developed the 'cloak' we knew it would be a matter of time before someone found a way to defeat it. Granted it's been decades, I think its finally happened, but I'm with you, if those are prototypes and they haven't perfected, but most importantly miniaturized it then this is quite the find… now who are we dealing with, that's my question."

It was at that moment Eli produced Marjee's scan of the explosion, Vekk viewed it and said.

"I hate those who have so little regard for life; do we know how many died in the explosion?"

"We don't, but given the size of the ship maybe fifty max, just guessing."

Vekk reflected and asked the pressing question.

"Knowing what we know and you with a damaged ship where do we go from here?"

"The plan was for you and I to investigate but it would seem somehow KO knows you are here. Which I find either impressive on her part or…"

"Good guess, I'm afraid I'm the cause. We left with out thoroughly scanning the area and almost, we missed by one hundred and fifty thousand kilometers, took out your transport Ku Dorin."

Eli shook her head, given the speed and ship sizes that distance was considered a 'near miss' and of course it would have been reported. Putting two and two together Eli surmised and correctly that not only had there been a report, but Vekk's sudden departure, her continued silence, peaked Cassandra's curiosity and she sent KO looking for them. Opening the link to Marjee and Dawn she said.

"Marjee, move to the outer edge of the system and let Illusion find you. When KO's in range open a local link and inform her to stay with you. Vekk and I are heading to the planet and will stay behind the third moon. Dawn, Marjee, keep KO company, but I'll tell her what's going on."

"That's all well and good Eliana just how am I going to explain the damage to this ship. One thing KO isn't is blind; you know Illusion will scan us both. So how should I explain this?"

"Tell her you got side swiped by a Suran cruiser. Be creative, Vekk's back aboard his ship and we're leaving, I'm moving his group to the edge of the inner asteroid belt. I'll be in contact."

The link closes and Samson moves off. Aboard Pegasus Marjee has a link opened to Dawn, its Noel that’s speaking with Dawn.

"If you stay in our shadow, the damaged side towards us, KO will have trouble scanning you. Basically we don't tell her everything if she should ask."

"You mean lie impressively?"

"Something like that, sending you co-ordinates to our new location. We'll be at one quarter sub-light; you can keep up with us?"

"Sub-light is no issue and engineering reports we'll be fully operational within the hour. Lead on, we'll follow, just don't stop suddenly okay?"

*********

KO was relaxing on the bridge, something she had rarely had a chance to do as of late when Orion chimed in.

"Captain… Pegasus is on the far edge of the scan, shall I have Leo make the course change to intercept?"

"Alter course slowly and maintain speed, a gentle intercept, continue scanning for Samson as well."

"Understood, I'll notify you when I'm linked with Pegasus."

"Very well, Sarah notify command we've got Pegasus on long range scan and at the moment there is no sign of Samson."

"Sending message, you know Cassandra wanted to know where they both were."

"Where one is the other is never far away. Eli will show up she always does."

*********

Aboard Pegasus, Noel and Marjee's conversation is interrupted with…

"Marjee, Orion has spotted us, Illusion is making a leisurely, course correction and is heading in this direction, estimated forty minutes to local communications range. Also I've isolated current data, Lyra can be quite nosy."

"Very well maintain present course and speed, scan Mirage give me a status report."

"Scanning, repairs seem to be complete although I sense there is a fault in the port main power coupling. Forwarding data to Mirage, data received and Dawn is on the link for you."

"Open the link; what can I do for you?"

"Thank you, the data you sent over just reduced the time required to find the fault, probably saved us another three hours… that coupling looked fine but as the scan showed looks can be deceiving. Also Illusion just appeared on my scanners I'm sure you're already tracking them."

"We are, just remember to position yourself behind us. Keeping in our shadow everything should be fine, one hopes."

"One hopes, Mirage out."

*********

"Vekk, I'm about to launch a probe towards the planet, let see how close it gets before it's discovered."

"In position, I can clearly see the southern hemisphere and three of the six ships in orbit, however unable to scan; something is reflecting my passive scans."

"We have the northern half in view, the other three ships and the scanning issue continues. Let's see what the probe launch causes. Probe launched, estimated time to orbit fifty minutes."

"Now we wait… I wonder if Marjee found KO or the other way around."

"I'm sure by now they have found each other, just so long as they don't find us. I want to know what's going on and KO being here, well, her diplomacy is lacking at times."

"You mean patience don't you?"

"Yeah, that too."

"Although I'm amazed, she was just immobile for eight hours…"

"That's my point precisely, I'll bet there's a dent in the floor at the base of her command chair where she tried to stomp a hole. I know she has to be at her limit and another little stealthy mission, that's why I was sent here."

"Understood, hopefully the probe will give us some answers."

"Hopefully, but not holding my breath either."

*********

News from KO had just reached Cassandra, while relieved Marjee was fine, not knowing where Eliana was… left her uncertain, something Sari noticed.

"Cassie, if Marjee is fine, then you know…"

"I know, but they're not together and what of Dawn, it's past her reporting time as well… what if…"

"What ifs… this is very unlike you… Eliana has not only Marjee but Vekk's group out there. It's not like they're alone. You worry too much; you're going to age well before your time."

"Maybe so, but I wish we knew for sure… Okay, I'll be in the garden, if something comes up call me."

Cassandra leaves Sari examines KO's report once more looking for any clue she might have missed… it's pretty straight forward. 'Have picked up signal from Pegasus, proceeding to rendezvous and two forty-seven by one ten, Sector one seventy-five standard Dorian survey. I've only found Pegasus; I'm hoping Marjee knows where Eliana is.'

Sari closes the message and plugs the coordinates into the star chart system. It is there the hidden message from KO is contained. The location of the rendezvous is just on the boarder of the Zon Empire. A system marked as potentially lawless on the chart, with the warning about the unusual movement of shipping about the third and forth planets. Its last reported exploration was twenty years ago. Sari thought 'Twenty years, a lot can happen in that time'. Searching the data banks brought little new information. Taking what she had, she found Cassandra in the garden and presented her with what she'd found. It was not received well.

"I know its on the boundary with the Zon Empire almost right under Tara and Minchi's noses, but last surveyed twenty years ago and then the report of activity between the third and forth planets… give me a break either the Empire knows about what's going on there or worse yet they're behind it. Where's the fleet?"

"Kenesh just arrived about ten minutes ago, Dai is headed to the collapsing star to gather the probe and to witness its collapse, and Plakia has resumed sector patrol and should be on the return in three hours time. The Dorin is just entering the defensive zone and should be docked with in the hour. The training squadron just left Doras and won't be here till late tomorrow, unless we speed up the process."

Cassandra took in the information, moved towards a spot in the garden and observed the new blooms, looking skyward she said.

"Three of our most powerful ships, three experienced commanders, Vekk's expeditionary force, he's no novice to this kind of work. That should be enough for me not to worry… then why can't I get my mind to accept this and move on?"

Returning to the blooms she takes in the view once more and says.

"Inquire within the Alliance, see what assets are close to KO's present position and let me know. Oh and say nothing to the Zon about this, you better hot flash KO on this; to put it simply they're not to venture into Zon territory nor contact the Empire, we need to find out what's going on without their 'help'."

"Cassie what you're inferring…"

"Sari, look at it logically, Zon ships disappear, we recover them and the Empire has little ambition to find out who did it. Out of curiosity we track them to a system bordering on the heart of the Empire and the last information we have is over twenty years old, a system, by the way and by treaty, the Zon should be monitoring. What would you conclude?"

"I'll message KO, contact the Alliance and where will I find you?"

"Right here, I'm not moving till you return, so get a move on."

Sari leaves and Cassandra continues to view the blooms wondering when there will be a lasting peace with in the system. This past five years have been filled with little conflicts, with time the size and scope of said conflicts has increased. It was like someone was slowly trying to destabilize the Alliance with Shahrazad at the heart of its concerns. Cassandra wished she knew who. Knowing that, the rest would fall into place.

*********

"Captain, the probe is approaching the planet, estimated eleven minutes to high orbit."

Eliana was glued to the main display as it tracked the probes progress, the same data was being relayed to Magnus as well. It was hoped that a cloaked probe would slip undetected into orbit and send information to them. On the other side of the coin, if it was detected and destroyed, Eliana would assume their cloak was useless and plan an intervention with the element of surprise lost. Either way what ever was going on, she was going to know before she left.

Vekk was of the same mind if the cloak had been breached then the Alliance had to be made aware so losses could be contained if the technology had left this world. If it had not, then rounding up those involved and seizing the devices was the top priority. Vekk was of the mind one way or the other a fire fight was in his future, settling this without a shot being fired entered and exited his mind fairly rapidly.

*********

"That's fine Marjee; you've delivered Eliana's orders now if you'll look at the display I've got orders for all of you."

The orders and information from Shahrazad are displayed it is then that Orion's console becomes active. Viewing the information displayed KO suspends communication with Marjee and inquires of Orion.

"It would seem Marjee has a shadow, at least we know where Dawn is…"

"Captain, there's more Mirage has sustained moderate damage a highlighted image is on the main viewer."

"Show me."

The image is displayed and KO takes note of the damage inflicted. Opening the link a rather disgruntled Marjee starts to speak and KO cuts her off cold.

"Would you mind explaining…?"

"Marjee, nice try, I've found your shadow and I see it's has a few new dents since last I saw it. Somebody care to explain?"

Marjee's on the spot, its then that Noel moves into view and says.

"Dawn had a little run in, Eliana and Vekk are looking into to it. As far as the information you've delivered while important delivering it to Eli at the moment would compromise her present position. I guarantee you she'll not venture towards the boarder or call Minchi for help but…"

"Fine, it's Eli's mission, I've delivered my part and now we wait, which you know I hate to do."

*********

The link closes and KO said.

"Orion, quietly scan Mirage I want to know what kind of weapon hit them. Lyra any luck with Pegasus data banks?"

"Unfortunately not, it would seem a command level security lock is in effect, in other words unless Marjee wants you to see the data, or unless we use force, you're not going to get it."

"It figures Noel's aboard and she's always been a security nut…"

"Captain, scan complete results on the main viewer… Given the change in metallurgy Mirage was struck with a very sophisticated disrupter beam. One would assume that they were cloaked at the time so there is something that disrupted the cloak long enough for a weapons lock. By the extent of the damage I can assume that Mirage saw it coming and tried to dodge it but I can not access their systems they seem to be off line at the moment."

"Dang, something that not only negated the cloak but was able to do that much damage with a glancing blow, I really hope Eli knows what she's up against. Do you have an idea of where Samson might be?"

"Backtracking Pegasus course and the trail Mirage left I figure they're in the neighboring system which would make sense if that is the system command is talking about. Should I scan…?"

"No scans… if they are somewhere in that system we'll give them away. Keep passive operational, any energy spike pinpoint if possible and let me know."

"Passive mode engaged. Pegasus is on scrambled for you and is not taking no, for an answer."

"Put her on, this ought to be interesting."

The image of Marjee appears on the main display. Her demeanor is calm as she says.

"I know we're on the same side but… if you want something from me you should try asking first. Lyra tried very hard to get data from this ship… all you had to do was ask. Now I'm asking, you just scanned Mirage, would you kindly share what you found with us?"

Taken aback, KO realizes that Marjee is maturing at an impressive rate, a few days ago she would have been aggressive and threatening regarding what had happened, this calm rattled KO. An information exchange, a one sided one, was set up. KO shared with Marjee but as a penalty Pegasus would remain quiet. KO was realizing treating Marjee as anything less than 'equal' was going to get her nowhere.

*********

"Dawn here's the results of the scan KO made… have you figured out your system problem?"

"Last question first, no the system is still off line and by the damage even if we got it running it may have gibberish stored… um a disrupter beam, that answers a few questions but what hit us first that made us vulnerable that's what I'd like to know. Hopefully Eliana is having some success."

I hope so it's been about an hour since we arrived. Their probe should have entered orbit by now, if everything went as planned."

"Ifs Marjee Ifs… something the galaxy could use less of."

*********

The probe was in orbit collecting data; its instructions were to make fifteen orbits and then return to launch point. There Eliana would recover it and extract the data gathered. The fifteenth orbit was complete and as the probe broke orbit…

"On the back side of the planet, the burn to leave orbit in three, two, and one, burn successful probe on return trajectory. Estimate fifty-five minutes to pick up point."

"Very well… once with in range access the data and download it."

"Captain, that requires the cloak being lowered, are you sure you want to do that?"

"Yes and I also want a visual conformation before we let it get close."

"Captain?"

"Carry out your orders, and open a link to Vekk."

"Aye aye Captain, Vekk is on discrete."

"The probes on it way back, I've got a real strange feeling about this."

"I agree, it went too well, something's a miss, what is your plan?"

"I'm not going to let it get close to us, I'm going to stop it short, drop its defenses and download the data."

"You think its being followed? How would that be possible… um never mind they did see thru Mirage didn't they, but if that's so does that mean they have the ability to cloak as well?"

"I'm not sure, but if I'm right maybe we'll have the upper hand… and if not, well they'll not find us at the arrival of the probe. I figure optimal range is three quarters of a light second, or in approximately twenty-five minutes from now."

"I've dispersed my ships throughout the field and the closest to KO has orders to break ranks and seek them out if necessary."

"Hopefully that'll not be the case, now we wait."

*********

"Marjee, I've located Samson, on main viewer, I've also found Vekk and his ships. They appear as triangles."

"Does KO know this information?"

"I believe not, they seem to be in stand by mode. I've seen only one communication with Command. If I would guess they are waiting for, I really have no idea. Just so you know the data you are seeing has a forty second delay… any movement has happened in the past."

Noel stood studying the display, moving a curser over one ship she said.

"That attack frigate, notice it's far removed from the group, plotting the distance between us and them they are by far the closest to us. My guess is that's Vekk's rabbit, a fast attack ship to warn us if something goes awry. Eliana must be expecting something serious. I'm beginning to feel like KO, I'm beginning to hate waiting, and not knowing."

*********

Returning to the garden Sari hears an argument coming from the general area where she had left Cassandra. Alerting security she quickens her pace and finds Cassandra and the Zon ambassador standing toe to toe in the center of the path. As the conversation becomes clearer she realizes that calling security was a great idea.

"Ambassador, I have no idea what you're talking about…"

My dear governor, you do not lie convincingly, two of your starships are unaccounted for as are eight of the Suran fleet. You keep telling me you're unaware yet they are your ships, come clean, what are you up to?"

"Ambassador, I have no idea, and if you continue to badger me over this non issue. I'll have you confined to your mission."

"You, think you can stop me, I'll squash you like a bug."

"Security, remove this person from my sight and confine her to the Zon mission."

Turning around the Ambassador spies Sari and two former members of the Zon military acting as island security. Realizing any further conversation let alone action would put her at a disadvantage she begrudgingly leaves the area. Gathering her wits Cassandra thanks Sari and asks.

"Any word?"

"No, my concern is how did she find out what she confronted you with? Do we have a breech?"

"Good question, she keeps this up and we'll have to revoke her stay here, I know Tara will go through the roof but I'm getting tired of her bullying staff members. Oh yeah I guess I'd better inform Gwen of the situation. I'm sure she'll be getting a terse communication from the Empire shortly."

"Cassandra, there is more I have to say and you're not going to like it. The Alliance is inquiring about the recent 'deal' we had with the Zon Empire. They want to know why we didn't inform them of our..."

"That's something the council will have to address, I warned Tao that what she, um they, got us into wouldn't go unnoticed. So I'm guessing we're not going to get any help from the Alliance?"

"That would be the jest of the conversation that I had, more importantly it seems the Chief's of the Alliance want Vekk to cease assisting Eliana. For the moment, the orders are snarled in the system but sooner or later Vekk's going to get orders that either he'll obey or risk holy hell if he refuses."

"That 'deal', Tara's indifference, the Ambassadors bullying, our councils waffling, there are times I wonder if I can really govern. Okay everyone be damned… Have Dai return as soon as the star collapses no detours, have Kenesh and Plakia meet me in the Command center with in the half hour and… I so want to give KO a green light but until we hear from Eliana, giving KO the light could be the wrong move… If Vekk withdraws I want our forces ready to take their place. Hopefully Vekk will plead ignorance but… Damn it Tao, this is the last time the council will make me go against my better judgment… Get going, I'll be in Command and have security send a couple of officers there. I don't want anymore interruptions."

*********

"Probe is with range, main viewer active. Drop the cloak and enhance the image."

The image of the probe starts to fill the viewer and its then Eliana notices…

"Eject the core, the probes been mined, eject the core!!!"

"Core ejecting…"

The sudden blinding light fills the viewer as it fades the probe is no longer on the viewer.

"Did we save the core?"

"An object believed to be the core is on a heading of three zero one relative to the original track it'll pass by us shortly."

"Enhance the object and put it on the viewer."

The object appears, it is the core, but it seems to be damaged. Carefully Samson matches speed with the core and retrieves it.

*********

Aboard Pegasus the explosion has Marjee rather tense.

"Marjee, the explosion was the probe, Samson was undamaged, I'm analyzing the explosion, its going to be sometime before I can tell you for sure, it was an energy conversion explosion, matter, anti matter and rather crude, but the signature is not in my weapons identification data base."

Aboard Illusion KO was definitely laid back.

"Leo, what went bang?"

"My hypothesis is, crude matter anti matter device maybe a mine, and the energy signature is unknown. I sense no other ships involved, it could have been a stray mine that impacted an asteroid."

"Sarah, what's Pegasus reaction?"

"Nothing, I don't think they even know there was an explosion."

"Well, Pegasus knows where Samson is and if they seem to not have any concern, we'll sit tight, but keep listening. If Eli's in trouble you know she'll establish contact."

*********

Vekk witnessed the explosion first hand, scans showed Samson undamaged and Magnus was proceeding to rendezvous when…

"Commodore Vekk, high level communications for you from command, encoded, I'm forwarding them to your display."

Vekk opens the message, reads it, and closes it. Magnus approaches Samson and a link is established. Eliana's confused she expected Vekk aboard to examine the probe's core. Once the link is established Vekk forwards a copy of his 'new orders' to Eliana. The communications starts after she reads it.

"Vekk, are you planning on… executing these orders?"

"I'm not left with many choices; I want to see this through, but, for the moment, until you access the probe's core. I'll delay my departure but if there's no new information unfortunately I must leave you, unless, you have openings in your fleet for someone like me."

"Not to sway you, but I'm sure you would fit in. The core's pretty beat up its going to be an hour or better, can you wait that long?"

"I'll wait that long, now if you'll excuse me, I'm withdrawing to the rest of my fleet, must keep up the appearance."

The link closes; Eliana approaches the tactical station and says.

"Is Pegasus monitoring us?

"Discretely and mostly one way, Illusion has tried twice to access Pegasus with no success."

"Place the conversation that just occurred somewhere Pegasus will find it, Noel and Marjee need to know what's going on."

Moving to the internal communications system Eli opens a link and said.

"Engineering, concentrate on getting the core to respond. Everything depends on getting data out of it as soon as possible."

"We're working on it, most of the damage is external, I believe the inners survived, I'll know more shortly. It's coming out of decontamination now."

*********

Aboard Pegasus the conversation between Eliana and Vekk has finished. Marjee's dumbfounded, Noel is visibly upset, opening a pin point link to Shahrazad she gets Cassandra and communicates what they have.

"Noel, thank you for confirming what I hoped would not happen, if Vekk leaves bring KO up to speed and wait for the fleet to arrive. Thanks to the council it looks like it going to be us alone, something I didn't want. I hope Eli got usable information I'd really hate barging in there not knowing what we are up against."

"Cassandra, if what we've observed is correct we'll never get close enough to find out. The probe was in a fifteen hundred kilometer orbit cloaked and they managed to plant a mine on it without us knowing."

Taking a moment's pause to reflect Noel continues.

"We may have to level the planet; there may be no other option. If the fleet is heading in this direction have two 'mark fifteen' weapons loaded. I hope not to use them but we can't let this continue either."

"Mark fifteen hm? Normally I'd have to go to the Council and the Alliance to get permission to use them, but since the trust level is at an all time low I'll authorize them being loaded, we'll make the decision whether or not to use them is that clear?"

"Perfectly, you know you're going to get static out of a couple of commanders when you do this so be prepared."

"I know and thanks for the reminder hopefully we won't have to venture down this path."

"Optimistic or hoping for a miracle, either one would suffice but knowing how our luck has been lately um well, ah never mind."

The link closes Noel spies Marjee at the tactical station. Moving to that position she finds Marjee taking the bigger picture. A sector plot is displayed and…

"Did you find something interesting?"

"I was wondering how… how they transport what they've acquired. I figured they'd need transport vessels of some sort and they'd have to be close to the planet but um … there's nothing I can see."

Noel takes note of the options Marjee had selected they were a general non enhanced scan. Bringing up the options screen Noel selects heat and associated it with non natural radiation signatures. The display changes as Noel says.

"Any functional vessel, whether manned or not produces a certain amount of heat, couple that with non natural radiation signatures and you get this."

Dots and triangles appear, the displayed dots are heat sources, and triangles are signatures. While scattered about the system a pattern becomes clear.

"Now we narrow the time line to let's say the past week, add movement, connect the sources and… there is the travel corridor. And take note it comes to the planet and leaves a different direction heading to, that large moon, if I was betting that is where the transports are based and there might be more. When we can that's a target to scan, but not now. Pegasus, monitor the moon in question and if anything occurs…"

"Monitoring in progress and there is activity on and around the moon unfortunately not being able to scan I have no idea what is occurring."

"What we need is a probe, set adrift towards that moon, that's what we need but, you're not equipped with probes, an oversight on someone's part I'm sure."

"Um Noel you actually have something better than a probe… you got me, we're operational and now that I know what to look for, I want to contribute to this mission?"

Dawn's voice echoed across the bridge, having forgot for the moment they did have a means to snoop about the moon Noel asked.

"How were your orders issued, are you independent or under one of our commands?"

"We're like a breeze, free to go where we will, but instead of leaving without notifying you. I figured we'd work together, you know so when we return you don't accidentally shoot first, and then there's KO you know how trigger happy she can be."

"That's the other problem, KO, the moment you leave she's going to know it, um let me give it some thought and we'll be back to you."

The link returns to stand by and Marjee questions Noel.

"What was that all about? We have the means why shouldn't we use it? I don't understand."

"It's a matter of logistics, it's not our mission to begin with and not knowing what Eliana is up to, our seemingly good intentions to investigate might jeopardize Eliana and Vekk. Remember the saying 'be careful where you leap?' that applies here along with a few other things you've not had the chance to learn. On the job training for this position can be filled with erroneous actions which can inadvertently spell disaster. That's part of the reason I'm here, and don't get me wrong I have and will continued to make mistakes but the ones I've made you can learn from, and if you think I might be heading towards another mistake, say something, because I just said it to you."

"Yes I understand. I need to give more thought to things, but in the heat of battle how do you… I mean they must be split second decisions so how?"

"Experience, gut feelings, you've touched on the tip of a very large decision making iceberg, and yes sometime it goes terribly wrong, most times it doesn't, desired results can be fleeting but with time you'll come to know what's what, well I hope you do, because from what I've seen you'll make a fine commander, one day."

*********

Aboard Samson Eliana is reviewing the first data from the probes core, what she sees upsets her greatly. Opening the link to Vekk she says.

"Remember what we were considering earlier? Initial data reveals it's much worse than we think. I'll not transmit the data but you're free to see it for yourself."

"Eliana, you're putting me in a tight spot. Unless I have something to justify the visit I have to obey the orders I've been given…"

"I'll guess the pressure's been on since we last talked…. There's a shuttle heading to your position… they'll pass you the first part of the data... it'll be up to you to convince the Alliance to rescind the orders given to you, if not… I thank you for you friendship and understand your position, if you must leave then you must. I'll not hold it against you."

"The shuttle is on visual I'll look at what you've sent and… I hate politics… thank you for understanding my position you hit the nail squarely on the head Eliana."

The link closes and Eliana addresses the communications chief.

"Place what data we have and this last conversation where Pegasus can access it… attach this to It. 'Noel... Cassandra must see this without fail; also I'm hoping you have the balance of the fleet on stand by. Considering what we've discovered we're going to need all the help you can provide. By the time you read this I'll have rendezvous with KO and Marjee.' Let me know when Pegasus has accessed the file, we've retrieved the shuttle then plot a course to Pegasus location."

"Course plot on the viewer, Pegasus is accessing the data… shuttle is docking."

"Once data access is complete raise shields, activate cloak and slowly creep towards the rendezvous. I don't want our movement detected."

"Captain what about the Suran's?"

"The minuet we cloak Vekk will know what to do. Carry out the order."

"Access complete, shuttle secure, new head one forty six, relative speed, point zero, zero, five of light. We'll arrive in seventeen minutes. The Suran fleet is heading to the edge of the neighboring system they'll be half a light second from Pegasus."

Eliana looked at the plot and said.

"Very good Vekk, you understood me correctly if you move again I'll know what the Alliance has to say."



To Be Continued in: "Pack Rats of the Galaxy: Intervention and Resolution"

"Ah! You don't know my name?
Its very simple, Lafiel you shall say.
In return I'd like to call you Jinto."


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