"Mister Dahomey." The Captain's voice boomed over the bridge of the United Empire of Earth Ship Vivid; one of two battle cruisers now joined up with the Scipio.

"Yes sir?" The young officer sat at the helm, staring straight ahead and into the holographic vector nodes drifting to the right as the ship slowly banked.

"Move to one third please, ensure you don't sear the paint off the Scipio with our engine wash."

The young lieutenant smiled. "Aye aye sir." With one hand, he slowly pushed the throttle lever forward while the other tightly squeezed a thruster control stick. A series of lights lit up on the console in front of him, and numerical values rose and then stabilized as they fed the helmsman thruster output information.

On the bridge of the frigate Matchless, executive officer Jacob Marks watched the Vivid sink behind the Scipio's shadow, her angular silhouette blotting out the stars beyond while seeming to create her own as pin pricks of light glittered across her hull; maneuvering thrusters igniting in a complex sequence dictated by the flight computers. Marks cleared his throat and crossed his arms. "Alright ladies, we're in tight for this jump, so keep your lids peeled. I don't want to scratch paint, or be O'Doyled. "

A collective "O'Doyle", echoed from the bridge crew between laughter; their tight friendships having cultivated a relaxed and addage-filled subculture on the bridge.

"Castillo, take us into the pipe."

"Just the way you like it XO."

"That's right, hot and heavy."

The crew shot grins at one another, snickering at the inside joke.

Behind them, the bridge doors hissed open. Marks turned about and saluted sharply. "Captain on the bridge."

"Shut up Marks. Sit down."

"Aye sir."

"Where are we at?"

Marks snapped his fingers. "Yates, sound off."

The navigation officer coughed, tapping a few commands into the console before him as he turned in his seat. "That's us." A red arrow populated the main holographic display. "We're on a slow burn maneuver to these coordinates.” Another blip appeared. “We'll be in formation roughly an hour before the scheduled jump, five hundred meters from the Scipio's starboard at two one three zero azimuth off her bow."

"Elevation?" Captain Kenshalo asked.

Yates answered immediately, swinging the holographic display as he spoke. "Twenty four hundred."

Kenshalo nodded and turned to his executive officer. "Ring me when we're in position."

"Will do."

The captain was nearly through the doors when he stopped, "Oh, who's on bitch duty today?"

"That would be Yoshida sir."

"Yoshi." The captain nodded to him with a wink.

The communications officer sighed. "In a jiffy sir."

"With bells on Yoshida," said Kenshalo as he disappeared behind the bridge doors as they closed.

Yoshida shook his head. "We should have a steward for this shit."

The crew laughed.

Marks patted him on the shoulder. "Well Yoshi, you should be used to life on a Frigate by now; small, slender and skeletal in crew. We all have our turn, today is yours."

"I never see you bring him coffee." Yoshi said, getting up from the console.

"That's because my job is to make damn sure you do yours, so hop to it."

"Yes sir." Yoshida said, handing the XO the earpiece for the communications station.

"Not to mention ... " said Marks as he sat down, "Doing your jobs for a few minutes breaks up the boredom."

On the bridge of the Scipio, the Captain sat in the right hand chair. He watched the holographic representations of the support craft as they all slowly converged on their position.

Admiral Jameson turned to him. "You're sulking again", he said under his breath.

"Am I?" Anderson replied.

Jameson shook his head. "Is this about the two pilots we lost in Terra?"

"I would be lying if I said I was fine with leaving them behind; and they're missing, not lost."

"The scientific crew is doing everything they can to figure out a way to navigate the anomaly.”

Anderson looked him in the eye. “They're more interested in poking the thing with probes than figuring out how to find my men.”

“They're doing their jobs, give them time.”

“Now we're moments away from being another star system further from getting them back.”

“We have a job to do too.”

A job you won't tell me about.”

The Admiral shot a sharp glare at the Captain. “Let's end this now, before it gets out of hand, shall we?”

Anderson smiled awkwardly at his friend and superior. “Yes sir.”

Jameson sighed and then returned to business. “Major Jasper, please instruct the Prospero that they're clear to rendezvous with the Vanguard callsign.”

“Yes sir.”

The Admiral turned once again to Anderson. “Michael, how long have I known you?”

“How old am I? Different question, same answer.”

“Exactly. I've known you all your life. Don't you think that if I have to keep something from you, that it's in your best interest?”

Anderson smiled, “Perhaps it's in yours.”

Jameson shook his head. “I'm sorry, I said we'd leave it alone and I started it up again.”

“Don't worry Rick, I'll get over it.”

Jameson chuckled. “Like hell you will. I've known you long enough to know that you take things to the grave when they're important to you.”

Major Jasper turned from her station. “Sir, Commander Lively is asking if you'd like the Prospero's fighters scrambled in support of Vanguard before they jump.”

Jameson nodded, “Yes, that would be wise.”

The traffic officer nodded and returned to her post.

Jameson put his hand on Michael's shoulder. “Trust me.”

I do.” He replied, with a tight ball of regret twisting in his chest.

The End

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