Round Ten of the World Weavers' Championship
Lord Bilton’s concentration was broken by tapping on the door to his ready room. He swallowed his irritation and replied, “enter.”
The trooper posted at his door entered and said, “Mr. Peterson, from Astrophysics, Sir.”
“Let’s have her, Corporal.” The young lady entering his ready room bore the signs of someone who spent far too much time in her labs. Noting that for action later, allowing crew members to soften, even those who might never find themselves in a fight, was never productive. “So, Lt. Commander Peterson, what mysteries of the universe does Astrophysics bring me today?
“M’Lord, we’ve found an uncharted system about three AUs off our current course.”
“Uncharted? Tapping his pen against his chin, “so is it unclaimed, any sign of a marker buoy or resident civilization?”
“No marker buoy Sir.” She was fascinated by the anachronism in Bilton’s hand, “we’re still too far away to see any signs of life.”
“And what makes this system of interest to us, Commander?”
“There are six gas giants in the system M’Lord —
“Six!” She now had gained his full attention.
“— and all six have several moons M’Lord.”
“Have you shared the coordinates with the bridge?” As he reached to toggle the desk’s intercom.
“Yes, Sir, as soon as we spotted it. We didn’t want anything jumping out of it and surprising us.”
“Bilton to bridge.”
“Bridge Aye,” the steady voice of the always reliable Captain Aferton.
“Good evening Captain, I understand you have the coordinates for a system our Astro Scientists find interesting.”
“Aye, Sir, that we do.”
“Very well, Captain, please set course for the system, best possible speed, if you please” —
“Aye, Sir,” indicating with his hand to the helmsmen to initiate the course that had already been laid in, “best possible speed Sir. And, Sir, permission to double the CAP and ready aircraft?”
“An excellent suggestion, thank you, Captain, please make it so.”
“So, Peterson, back to your lab and instruments, keep Captain Aferton appraised of anything new before it has a chance to jump out and bite us.” Nodding towards the door in dismissal, “and thank you, Commander, good job.”
“Aye, Sir,” pleased that she had escaped without a comment about her unkempt hair or ruffled uniform, “thank you, M’lord.”
Bilton leaned back in his chair, an uncharted system, possibly unclaimed, a rare and valuable find. A system with six gas giants and their all-important moons made the system more valuable. If the system was unpopulated, or as it appeared, its population was undeveloped, it was a significant find, one that would earn himself and the crew many trillions of credits.
The system might have inhabitable or at least terra-formable planets. It might have a population the Empire could exploit. The planets themselves would have minerals to be mined, even the gas giants themselves would have extractable wealth in their atmospheres —
But the moons!
Gas giant moons promised the life-blood of the colonies. Given the proper orbit, at least one of the moons would be a small ice planet, hiding vast quantities of water beneath its frozen surface. Water needed to feed the Colony’s growth. It would terra-form desert planets, provide fuel for its fleet. Wars had always been waged and were still fought to control water; the last World War that had almost destroyed Earth was a vicious battle to control the precious resource. Bilton smiled at the last thought, that war wasn’t won by the strongest, most powerfully armed. The war had been won by the side that discovered the power of the dark, the magic of water — and how to throw rocks.
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