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SPACE PATROL COMMAND


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'Little Ship Lost'

 

SSP-PC076 transited from Jump-space into system 70 Opiuchi, their Station base from their first patrol under their new Commander.

Spoiler

SSP stands for Ship, Space Command  and PC stands for Patrol Corvette and the 076 means that this was the 76th ship of this class produced. Ships of this class and smaller do not bear commissioned names but are usually given a "name of endearment" by their crew. Larger ships such as frigates and cruisers will have a Commissioned name as well as a hull number.

 

70 Opiuchi was the largest colonial system this far from Sol. Made up of both colonial settlements as well as corporate interests, it was not quite as large as Proxima, but with a population of almost five hundred thousand colonists and corporate associates, was now the third largest colony, after Proxima and Mars, in known space.

 

The one habitable planet, named Dorado, was one of the more accommodating garden worlds that had been discovered so far in the burgeoning exploration of the galaxy. Coupled with the expansive  asteroid belts and  its three gas giants and accompanying moons, and its distance gave Space Patrol Command reason to establish a base on one of Dorado’s moons.

 

As everyone on the PC076 recovered from the momentary disorientation caused by jump transition, the Incoming Priority Message bell in the communications bay rang off. Technician Gina Larsen, shaking off the mild nausea she was feeling, scrambled from her workstation to dash into the Computer/Communications office. A moment later she stuck her head out, “Sir, We’re getting a priority laser com from the Subspace beacon.”

 

“Put it through to my chair,” the ships commander said.

 

The screen located in the arm of the command chair detached and raised itself on a mechanical arm to the level where the officer could see the small screen. The Space Patrol Image was center screen but faded quickly reveal a prerecorded message.the emblem was replaced by the head and upper torso of the bases commanding officer Col. Mark Wisdom.

 

“ '76, as soon as you receive this message set course to Point Erica to refuel and then establish direct contact with base for immediate deployment orders. Patrol Base Dorado out.”

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Morgan said nothing as he listened to the message for him, and nodded.  Something must have happened.

He looked up after closing the screen and called out. "Helm, set course to Point Erica.  Comms, once we're in range, establish direct link to Dorado Base."  His orders were short and came quickly, but were clear.  "It looks like Command's already got something for us."

He quickly called down to Engineering.  "Chief, I know we're good to go, but We've just received new orders.   I want you to go over everything again as we head to port.   If there's anything we need beyond fuel, now's the time to find out and get the req in."

There was little more to be done as they moved in-system.   On his own terminal he called up the file on Opiuchi, along with current intel on the ships due in, or about to leave the system.

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“Point Erica, aye aye sir,” Senior Pilot Tom Sybble said disappointedly as he exchanged looks with the Xo, Captain Luis Garza, at the navigation station.

 

Point Erica was an orbital refueling depot used for quick turn arounds, when the time to land and service a ship was not possible. This was very unusual. Patrol ships returning from a long patrol such as the one that they had just completed were usually serviced and the crews given a couple of weeks liberty to unwind and blow off steam. 30 days on patrol not counting jump time was a long stressful time especially on a small vessel where it was impossible to take ‘days off’.

 

Wolf looked at the listings and saw that both of the other corvettes were on patrol and were not due back for another six and fourteen days, respectively. However, the Dorado basses Patrol Frigate, Boon, was still in system. As for civilian traffic nothing was due in system for the next two months and the only ship that had stopped had been through a week after they had departed on their patrol. That ship had been a colony transport, The Hesperia, and she had only stopped over for refueling before heading out to several destinations down the line.

 

Larsen stepped out of the Com office, “Sir I have a secure link to base through the relay network. do you want the office or to pipe it to your chair?”

The comms rely network would give them near instantaneous communications as the signal was relayed through the widespread series of buoys setup throughout the system taking only a second or so for messages to process through the system. At the distances involved it was the best that could be done.

“I’ll take it in the office. XO you have the conn.”

 

Wolf entered the Com office and shut the door. Sitting down he hit the key and spoke, “Major Wolf here for, Colonel Wisdom.”

 

A short pause and then a sterile voice, probably a computer, replied, “Stand by  please”

 

Another few seconds passed then the screen changed to Col Wisdom dark skinned face and bald pate.

 

“Sorry to do this to you Wolf, but we received a message from Trident (Wolf 718). They received an inquiry from Jamie’s World (18 Ophiuchi) about the Hesperia, a colony transport that passed through here a week after you left on patrol. The ship is two weeks overdue there, which is a week longer than it should take even if they were making extra safe jumps. When she refueled here she was carrying 440 settlers and 6 crew most of the settlers were sleepers. They dropped some off on Trident, then proceeded to Jamie’s World were the rest were due to go.

 

I could have sent the Boon but you were scheduled to return and I din’t want our big ship traipsing off all over in case something major came up.

I know you are due some liberty, but I need you to turn around and head back out. You need to stop at Trident and start SAR inquiry. I have a resupply shuttle coming out to you at Erica. It will be bringing you stores and a new XO. I’m pulling Garza off your ship, his wife had an accident and he is getting some emergency leave to take care of that. So We need a list of anything specific you need, just don’t make it a long list."

 

 

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"Understood Colonel, I'll alert XO Garza, so he can get his gear together., as well as get In  that list together."   the end, the list of extras wasn't long, while it was being called a Search and Rescue, It was more like a Search and Recovery.  It would be weeks before they actually even get in the search area.  That said, He expected a long mission, so he'd requested extra rations, as well as medical supplies.   He'd added several marker buoys to the list, in case they found the ship but were unable to recover it.   

Losing his XO was not something he relished, not with an crew that was being deprived of their leave.  He definitely understood, and would handle it professionally.    Now it fell to him to take on the duty of informing his XO about his wife.

He keyed the comm to the bridge.  "XO Garza, join me in my Office."

He knew that would set tongues wagging, but this would be best done in private, especially since everyone else would be denied leave and heading back out as soon as they were resupplied.

He waited patiently, and decided that Garza would know if he tried to bullshit him, so he'd simply give it to him straight, that was at least something Morgan himself was known for.

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After giving Luis the news about his wife and assuring him that, while the accident had been severe, her recovery was assured but that it would take some time, Wolf set about reading the information packet sent at the end of the message from base.

 

The bulk of the packet was information on the Hesperia. Everyone who rode the space lanes knew of the Hesperia. She was laid down at the beginning of the second phase of colonization of mars. To make Mars work they had to send thousands of colonist and the ships up to that point had only been capable of moving dozens at a time.  The Hesperia had been like most ships of the age funded by private concerns.

 

At the time of her construction, she was the largest space craft ever built. Assembled in orbit over earth she was a football (American style) shaped mountain of steel, titanium, and ceramics. She was 487.7 meters long and could berth 500 colonist per trip. Her aft third was filled with the most powerful rockets known to man and could move those colonists from earth orbit to Mars in six weeks if the orbits were matched up. Thousands of persons were settled on the red planet by transport using Hesperia.

 

When it came time to colonize the belt and the outer system Hesperia was pulled out of retirement and refit and upgraded. Her rockets were replaced by a fusion torch drive this allowed for more cargo and more colonist. Again, she proved her worth moving thousands more to settle the solar system and when that task was done and her duties were now performed by newer faster ships she was once again parked and scheduled for eventual scrapping. The scrapping never occurred the time was pushed back simple because there was just so much other work that needed to be done and so the Hesperia floated a historical curiosity .

 

Then the jump drive was discovered and all the technology that went along with that. The push to colonize distant worlds called for ships to move the thousands that were being sent to new worlds.

 

Trans Universal LTD one of the fledgling transport companies bought the old hulk which was still one of the largest hulls in space. Ripped the fusion torch out and replaced it with Reactionless thrusters and gravity plates to allow the behemoth to land like modern ships. Installed a powerful Jump Drive that would move the Monster vessel further than any other ship half its size. Modernized all of its controls and computers, its living spaces made it a ship that could be recognized anywhere and began moving people to the furthest reaches of human space.

 

That had been almost fifty years ago. Now most starships had the same type of Jumpdrive and could make the same trips at the same speed at much less cost. Retirement was probably in the near future for her again.

 

Wolf looked over the manifest. According to this document the ship had 380 colonist still onboard and 20 crew, none of them looked like potential targets. Kidnappings for ransom were rare but had happened. And the material also didn’t show anything worth risking a charge of piracy.  Considering the ship, historical legend or not, that many refits and the hulls age, chances were this was a failure of some sort. He just hoped it wasn’t a catastrophic one.

 

The second bit of information included was the ready personnel file of his new Xo. And it was a pretty slim file.  Captain Lauren Mallory, newly promoted. She had been the 1st Navigator and a lieutenant on the Frigate Boon until, well, today.

 

The newly frocked captain had been to the Space Patrol Academy, an institution that had been in operation for only a decade. She had graduated in the top 10% of her class three, yes, he read that right, three years ago. Straight out of the academy she had gone on an extended 18 month leave, of which there were no details. Upon her return to duty, she was assigned as the 1st Navigator on the Boon where she had served for the past 18 months. All but three of those months had been sitting in a parked orbit here or running drills in the system.

 

There were only two yearly fitness reports in her file, both gave her outstanding ratings, which wasn’t unusual. Unless you were on the bad side of your supervisor or a complete fuck up, you generally would get outstanding just so your record wouldn’t be question. The comments were also the usual, highly motivated, highly competent, consider for promotion, blah, blah, blah.

 

Something was just off about this. Wolf looked back to the personal information sheet. Something he had seen earlier, there it was. She was 27 standard years old which, doing the math, meant she hadn’t entered the Academy until she had turned 20. That’s late. Most who go there start at 16 or 17, certainly the latest would have been 18 and those cadets would be outliers. She had been 20. He looked through the rest of the data on her personal information page, again it was sparse but then he saw her father’s name. Grant Mallory. That wrung a bell.

 

Wolf keyed the name into the computer and did a search and sighed in frustration with the answer he received.  Grant Mallory, her father was a Director General in the Secretariat Division, Fleet Procurement. He was the man who built the fleet. And it looked like his baby had been riding his coat tails because nobody makes captain in just 18 months, not unless they had a chest full of medals and commendations. And Lauren Mallory didn’t have a single one.

 

12 hours later the ship was fueled, and the supply shuttle had docked. Usually, the commander of a star ship would not bother to greet a supply shuttle, but this occasion was special Wolf wanted to see Luis off and reassure him that when it was time for Luis to get back to the patrol that he would do his utmost to get him back on board where he belonged. He also wanted to see his new XO as soon as they arrived.

 

The hold pressurized and the lock opened Wolf and Luis were saying farewell as the crews, both shuttle and Corvette, began to move the supplies. Wolf had just extended his hand to Luis when he saw the new officer step out of the shuttles hold and into the corvette.

 

 She was striking to say the least. Her file image had been old, and she had still had the short buzz of a cadet and well he hadn’t gotten the impression of what she would really look like. She was tall and her well-tailored uniform showed a curvy figure that was obviously fit her shoulder length hair was a dark blond but caught the light at certain angles and shined like a soft golden halo. She was in a word, beautiful.

 

She was also standing ramrod straight and looking around her brow furrowed. Wolf and Garcia were at the other side of the bay by the hatch to the interior of the ship and everyone around her was working and basically ignoring her. She finally caught the attention of one o the crewmen, a deputy-marshal who was providing labor. Mallory snapped a salute, “Permission to come aboard?” The deputy just looked at her he wasn’t ships crew, but he knew what the officer expected but instead of returning the salute he just shrugged and said “okay,” then went back to work.

 

Mallory’s brow furrowed even deeper and she was about to say something to the crewman when she spotted Wolf and Luis looking at her from across the bay. She bent down picked up her kit bag and slung it over her shoulder and marched up to the two officers.

 

She stopped 2 meters away and dropped her bag and snapped to attention and executed a picture perfect salute, just like they taught at the academy.

“Permission to come aboard, sir?”

 

photo_G7003.jpg.ec5de9964ffdd220f323f2b9764221db.jpg   

Spoiler

I will recolor the uniform when i get a chance but the style is pretty much correct here (not like what is described in the game book) actual colors are black and silver with the rank and other emblems being bronze or gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The history of the Hesperia was an interesting read, in that it was a virtual history of Man's early colonisation of the stars, which gave it a special value,  even if it was far from alone in what it could do.   Still, it was more than a little likely that there was some sort of mechanical failure.   Ships simply didn't go through that many refits without developing quirks, some of which could be detrimental.  He knew of several, even on ships with a far shorter service history.  
 

His new XO, Captain Lauren Mallory,  was something else all together.   Three years since graduating from the Academy, half of that time spent on extended LOA with no reason given, which was incredibly odd.  Then eighteen months as navigator doing nothing more than running drills and parked in orbit.   She had no real field experience, and she was to be his XO.   Morgan thought back to his own first missions after training, and he sighed.   Still, Signs pointed to her being intelligent, navigators had to be, though he'd known a few who were brilliant but lacked common sense away from the ships' controls.
 

Then he made the connection.  "Holy shit, an Admiral's daughter."   It was a sort of scenario he'd heard horror stories about, even as far back as his Marine days.   A debutante playing at being part of Space Patrol.  No, that was unfair.   He didn't know her circumstances, or really anything about her, there was far too much that wasn't in her file.  

He'd have never become an officer without someone giving him a chance, and be damned if he was just going to judge her based on who her father was.   Still, a small part of him hoped she was really ready for this.
 

As he said his goodbyes and gave Luis his assurances he'd do what he could to make sure he could pick up right where he left off on the ship, He wished him well, and that his wife would make a speedy and full recovery.
 

When Lauren approached and Saluted, Her beauty gave  both Luis and Morgan pause for a very brief moment, before they returned the Salute, though Luis gave Morgan a knowing glance, before Morgan dropped his and nodded.  "At ease, and welcome aboard Captain Mallory.  As you likely know, I am Major Morgan Wolf, and this is my former XO, Captain Garza."  He offered his hand in a more informal greeting.

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Lauran caught the hesitation, but didn't mention it. She acknowledged and returned the greetings. and just as quickly dismissed the pleasantries.

 

"Sir,," she handed him a typed paper, " I need to install some equipment and software on this ships Navigation controls and communications systems before we get underway. If you could have someone take my bag to my berth and get me two of your best electronics technicians I'd like to get started right away."

 

Wolf frowned and looked at the papers. They were official orders signed by the Colonel, directing Mallory to install two pieces of  physical equipment and several of software. All of the items had long serial numbers for names and no explanation for what they were. But he did notice that the two pieces of equipment both had experimental designators in their numbers.

 

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With goodbyes said, Garza excused himself, and Morgan turned his full attention to Lauren.   "I'll have someone stow your gear, but before you install anything with those designators on my ship, I'd like say ten to fifteen minutes of your time in my office.   I want to know what I'm being ordered to install first.  I am responsible for this ship, and everyone who serves on it, so I like to have at least some idea of what the equipment on it does."

Lauren nodded, and the arrangements were made, while the two of them traveled to his office.  

"Now, Captain Mallory, if you would please explain what this new equipment is for and in short, what it does."  It wasn't a patronizing tone at all, the files told him nothing, so he wanted to know.  Obviously, it was important, but he'd be an irresponsible CO of a ship to not know what sort of expirimental equipment was being installed on his ship.

 

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Once they had arrived at the Office on the bridge Lauran had come to attention. “Yes sir. None o the modifications will have any effect on the operation of the ship, sir, they are navigational enhancements, sir.”

 

“At ease, captain just tell me what you’re doing. And relax, please”

 

Lauran took a breath and did as she was instructed. “Alright ,sir, as you are aware Space Patrol has set up a network of Subspace Arrays at the Jumpoints of every star we jump from. There is still very much we do not understand about Jump-space and Sub-space, there is still a great deal of debate about whether they are two separate dimensions or just one that have multiple ways of interacting with.

 

 These arrays are used to facilitate communication. While not instantaneous and very power intensive the array is able to open a sub-space line to any array on a jump line and send a specially encode burst that is decoded at the other array and then sent or broadcast to the planet in the system or down the line.

 

SPCR&D has been working on this for a while, the modifications I’m to install and the software will allow the 076 to receive the transmission directly from a subspace array and decode it a portion of that data we receive will then be sent to the Nav computer which will give the computer accurate and fresh jump data.

 

The hope is that with theses modifications a ships navigator will be able to make a much more set of jump calculations that will result in safer and faster transits.

Without get into specifics that’s it in a nutshell, sir.”

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Morgan nodded, and smiled.  "That sounds great.  More accurate calculations for faster and safer transit will be welcome by everyone.   Do you know if  we are the first ship to receive this equipment?   Has it been tested before outside the lab, in real field conditions?"   R&D  generally wasn't known for rushing new developments, but these were still questions he had to ask.   The fact the Colonel had already signed off and issued orders for their installation reassured him somewhat, but why hadn't he actually told him about it?

"How long will it take you to make the modifications, and run a check to make sure the system is operating as expected?"

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Lauren took in the barrage of questions. "We have been field testing the set up on the Boon since I arrived from Sol. The 076 will be the second working ship we have installed the gear on. This is highly classified, we don't want the pirates learning about it before we have a chance to increase security on the sub-space arrays.

 

As for installation i should be done by the time we move back to the jump point if I can get started now."

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Morgan nodded, and called two of the best electronic technicians on the ship his office.   When they arrived, he bid them enter, and made short introductions.  "Gentlemen, this is Captain Mallory.  She is the ship's new second in Command as of today.   She has a project that needs to be done immediately, and requested the best we had aboard to help her see that it's done properly.  I've called you because of your exemplary work thus far, and I have faith that the three of you will complete the project."

He Gestured first to the Tech on the left.  "This is Senior Technician Marcus Lynch, and Senior Technician Dominic Rhyde.  You asked for my best, and you've got them."   Short of the Engineering chief, who's knowledge was more broad, the two in the office were the best technicians on the ship, especially with electronics.  

"If that's all you'll need Captain, please go ahead and get started.   I'll get us moving back to the jump point."

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Wolf directed the pilot to set course to the appropriate jump-point and sat back to observe his new first officer. Her file had been so sparse that it had raised flags. And her relationship with a high ranking officer had raised more. But now he wasn’t so sure.

 

Lauren set about making the modifications as soon as she arrived on deck. First she introduced her self to the two electricians then showed them the design and the circuit plans. She assigned each a job and left them to it while she went to do the manual installation of the components. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, Wolf noted, nor did she micromanage her subordinates. Once the installations were done she ran tests and once satisfied proceeded to install the software.

 

She was skilled, Wolf had to give her that, most officers that young who didn’t come up through the ranks were more narrowly focused.

 

The ship was nearing the Jump-point and on its deceleration phase so Wolf went back to the Comms Office to informed Lauren of their position and check on her progress. He stood in the door and watched her work. She was checking her work again, reading the numbers and symbols on the screen and comparing them to what was on her handheld, checking them off one by one with a stylus.

 

“How is it coming,” he asked after watching for a moment?

 

“Five by five. Just making a few adjustments.” She turned in the chair to face Wolf, “ It’s working perfectly the crewmen did excellent work. We have fully updated data and the transfer to the Navigation computers is already done. I can calculate the jump as soon as you give the order.”  She smiled and it lit up her whole face.

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"Consider it given, Captain."   He offered her a small, yet genuine smile, then keyed up the ship comms.  "All hands, begin final checks for jump."  keying it off, he made his way to the bridge, taking his seat in the Commander's Chair.  

As each section reported their readiness, he went over his own lists, but his smile faded.  They weren't likely to find anyone alive, with how long it would take them to get there, and even begin their search.   Still, orders were orders, and if there was a chance of actually finding someone, he wouldn't  abandon them, that was not the SPC way.

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  • 2 weeks later...

SSP-PC076 made transit into Jumpspace some six hours later. The Jump went without incident, the time in jump had shaved some three days off a standard trip for the distance.

 

The time in Jump was spent as usual by the crew with maintenance and training. Due to underway scheduling and the fact that as a new member of the crew , Mallory had to be signed off on each of the ships divisions and her duties as XO meant she was seldom on the bridge when Wolf was, also meant that Wolf didn’t get to spend as much time getting to know his new XO/Navigator.

 

When it came time to exit Jumpspace. Wolf came on the bridge and found Mallory was already at the Nav Station. It was unusual for the chief navigator to attend a jump exit since their main job was calculating a new jump and the only navigation required after a jump was in system navigation which could easily be handled by the crew navigators. The other two rated Navigators were also present.

 

Wolf came up to the Nav station, “Everything alright XO?”

 

Mallory did not look up from her controls; “Yes sir, there are new procedures we have to do when we emerge. I have trained Carter and Bryce already, and they have it down. But, since this is our first Jump since we installed the new gear, I wanted to make sure everything was running properly myself.”

 

Carter was paying rapt attention to what Mallory was doing, Bryce glanced up and smiled at Wolf before returning to watching the XO.

 

“Two minutes!” A klaxon sounded indicating that emergence from Jump was imminent.

 

While entering jumpspace carried no sensations or ill effects, exiting was a different matter. The sudden shift from Jumpspace to Realspace had a physical effect on the human body, not unlike the sensation of riding in a high-speed elevator going down from the times before inertia dampers were common place. Most people felt a moment of vertigo and mild nausea which passed after a few seconds. However, some people had more severe reactions, jump sickness could incapacitate even the most hardened spacer at any time. Each jump was different for each person, every time.

 

Crew took their places and strapped in; some held the bags that they would use just in case. The klaxon sounded again at one minute. Then with five seconds to go, “Five…four…three…two…one, emergence!” Mallory had given the five count with a strong confident voice, the world shifted and then was right back to normal. “We are in Realspace,” she said, shaking off her nausea as her fingers played over controls, “Everything is checking green.”

 

Wolf looked at his own screens around his command chair which repeated the main screens of all the bridge positions. “Pilot, take us 5000 kilometers to port of the JP and hold position, Comms get a laser link to Trident control so we can get an update.” His orders were few, his people knew what to do.

 

While the crew did their immediate after jump duties. Comms connected to Trident. The distance delay with laser communications was approximately 35 minutes so talking to them was a timely affair. While Wolf had his long-distance discussion with Trident control, the ship, under the direction of the XO began a long range scan of the system.

 

The information Trident passed on was not much more than he already had, an updated manifest and estimated travel time based on the Hesperia’s intention to make a safe jump, which meant that their travel times would be longer but also safer. Wolf wondered about this and inquired if Hesperia had reported any problems. That came back negative.

 

Upon returning to the bridge  Wolf found Mallory still there, waiting for him. “We conducted long range deep radar and lidar scans only one thing raised a flag. At Wolf 718- IV, the big Gas Giant, they call it the Jolly Green Giant, we picked up a dense hit on the radar. It is too small to be the Hesperia, but there is nothing in the system files about it. It is too far away and too deep to get any meaningful readings, it is about mid-way down the well and it could be a ship hull. We are classifying it as a possible bogey. I recommend we take a look before proceeding out system," she reported.

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"How long will it take for us to go in and get a more clear and accurate reading?"   Wolf asked quietly.   "Roughly a few hours."  came Mallory's quick response.

 

 

"Very well, let's go take a look.  If it's nothing, then we can be on our way with a minimal delay.  Plot a course, and take us in."   He didn't deliberate on it very long, in the scheme of things he knew what was expected, and that High Command generally wanted them to investigate unknowns like this, especially in a system where there wasn't normally any activity.   

"I want our eyes and ears open, and while I won't order combat stations, I want us ready to go there immediately should the need arise."

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  • 4 weeks later...

The 76 Corvette altered course and accelerated. The new course wasn't a direct intercept to the gas giant but rather a close flyby to gather further intel before committing, and still allow the to make the jump point if a closer look at the giant wasn't warranted.

 

The hours passed quickly as every was busy. As they drew closer all sensors, scopes and cameras were trained on the anomaly and data began pouring in. 

 

"It is a ship sir," Specialist Arroya called out, "it's small, about our size, probably a freighter. Very little heat radiation and no emissions. She is at a fairly stable orbit point in the upper atmosphere. Should be able to maintain it's orbit for several months without any station upkeep." Arroya turns away from his screen and faces Wolf, he shrugs, "Except  for the very carful positioning  she looks abandoned."

 

Mallory leaves he station and comes to stand by Wolf's command chair. He gives her a questioning look with a raised eyebrow, "What are you thinking XO?"

 

Before  answering, Mallory looks around the bridge., "I think they high-jacked the Hesperia. They had someone aboard who disabled or killed the crew, and that ship, was waiting here to transfer its crew over to Hesperia. They parked it in the gas giant where it was not likely to be found so they could come back and pick it up later. Ships are expensive."

 

 

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