Prologue : Part 5

Captain Soren mulled over what she had heard before standing up and coming out from behind her desk to lean on the front edge of it. “At ease, perhaps I was too harsh. But you lost half your division, blew up a lab and damaged key equipment during what you assured me was a safe test. I agree that this substance is too dangerous to risk developing in our present condition, and yet it's too strategic a resource for us to discard altogether. Shelve it for the time being. Thank you gentlemen, now if you'll show yourselves out I have a decision to make.”

Both Deras and Granger briskly saluted, quickly about faced and marched out of her quarters, too relieved to be out of the Captain's line of fire to realise that the fate of the entire crew was being decided.

Darnel stood up and went over to a locker and retrieved a bottle of the 100 year old Andellian firewine she had been given by Admiral Nagoya after she had been promoted to Captain. She opened it and poured a glass and then downed it in one go before almost collapsing with glass in hand into the lounge.

What it came down to for her was the blasted communications grid, if only it had been saboutaged instead of no one answering. Never mind the incidental damage from the test, or the untold number of years drifting through space to end up here. She could have even probably dealt with the saboutage given sufficient time and resources, but if no one used the communications grid then that was a problem.

The Imperial communications grid was the Empire's greatest technological marvel, a system that allowed for real-time instantaneous communication anywhere in the universe. There would be no need to upgrade or replace it, it was the pinnacle of communications technology. If there was no response then there was a very limited number of conclusions.

One being that the frequency was no longer in use as a military channel, that does happened over time, codes and frequencies are changed. But the Imperial listening stations would have been able to spot a distress call on any channel of the network almost immediately. Two, the language of the Empire had changed sufficently to render their calls unintelligable, Soren discarded that option as soon as it presented itself to her mind.

They still would have replied. Three, somehow there was interference between herself and the grid. If so, then that would be the first time interference had ever occluded a transmission. Which brought her to the final option, the grid was no longer in use.....because the Empire had fallen, and some time ago if the communications network no longer functioned at all.

A soft blinking light intruded on her thoughts, and with a silent sigh she put the cup down as she picked up a display. The data that the recon flights had collected on this planet told her that this planet was uninhabited. No Insectoid, reptillian or other sentient life of any kind lived in this sector,, and as far as she was concerned that was all that mattered. And any other data was irrelevant. The planet was habitable for human life and that would be the end of it.

Darnel looked up with a smile on her face, it appeared that her decision had already been made, all the while without her having to make it. Darnel then turned and picked up the handset and after being put through to the CIC she told her XO, “I want the crew assembled within one hour” With that she replaced the handset and finished sipping her wine while the preparations were made for her address.

Tarmac exited and closed the hatch, and breathed a sigh of relief that this debrief was over when the address horn sounded. He stopped and listened to the XO's voice direct all crew not currently engaged in critical repairs to report to the number 3 cargo-bay in one hour. That cargo-bay was nicknamed the forum as nothing was stored there, and as such made an excellent meeting place. With nothing to do but get some rack time Tarmac decided to arrive early and see whether he could locate some seating for whatever was going to happen.

Nearly an hour later, and the forum was beginning to fill up, as Tarmac watched on from his seated vantage point. One of the medical staff, a Leiutenant Iliya walked up and after curling up in Tarmac's lap asked him, “You were out flying re-con today with the other pilots weren't you Dalma, did you find anything?”

Tarmac looked into Iliya's eyes and smiled as he said in a hushed voice, “Why don't we wait for the Captain? And when did I become your personal lounge?” Iliya's face was mared by a touch of frustration momentarily and then she smiled a mischevious grin as she said, “Since you had the time to find yourself a seat and didn't think to bring one for me too. Now I won't be put off, what was out there.”

Tarmac sighed as if this situation was just too much of an indisposition and said, “If you must know there was a planet that looked habitable, though I certainly wouldn't want to land there.” Iliya looked at him with suspicion as if he were trying to trick her and said “Why not?” but before he could answer Captain Darnel Soren and the entire Senior Staff walked in through the hatch that lead to the walkway that ringed the edge of the cargo bay and Tarmac whispered “Shush, Captain's here”. At this Iliya glowered but turned and looked towards the Captain.

After a few minutes, the ship's company settled down as Captain Soren climbed the railing and followed the walkway around to a point where she could address the entire crew. She then turned and with a nod to her science officer connected in a wireless transmitter so those at work on the repairs could also hear the Captain's address. After this was done she turned and looked out over her crew.

“Crew, we've all had to endure some hard days lately, so let me some up our situation.” Soren tapped a device that attached to her wrist and in the middle of the bay a large holographic display activated and showed a map of the galaxy. With a wave of her hand the map of the galaxy changed to show known Imperial Space, it then zoomed out and as it was focusing on another position a long way away from Imperial Space Darnel said, “To squash the myriad of rumours, the Kovali is currently located in the sector of space that is currently displayed on the holo-viewer.”

At this the crew burst out into an angry buzz of chatter, shouts and calamity until the Captain taped another button on her wrist device and her voice amplified itself above the noise. “What's more, is that investigation has revealed that we were sabotagued and have drifted throughout the stellar field for a length of time that is currently unknown.” At this the crew quitened down, shocked at the implications of just how long on a straight line course it would take to drift across the Galaxy.

“This means, my brave crew, that there is a decision to be made. We either attempt to head back to Imperial space, or we find the nearest planet and colonise it.” Several crew members at this began shouting, “We must head back, we have a duty to perform.”

At which Darnel held her hand up, calling for silence as she delivered what would be death blows to their morale. “The cryogenic storage systems are saboutaged beyond repair, main drives while functional are unable to reach beyond one quarter thrust without the Anti-Matter reactor which was disabled. And beyond all that, the communications grid has remained silent since we discovered our situation.”

The End

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