The galaxy is a dangerous place, perhaps, it always has been. Words: 1990 [updated.]
stepped through the doorway into the bridge, and was greeted by my partner Faran. She sat at the communication console and looked up when I entered.
"We got a contract!" Faran said.
"How ... what? We've only been her 6 t-hours and you got us a contract?" I asked as I sat at the navigation station.
"Yep. A Trasnian Cohort want a new world to settle. They want one in the lower-outer rim. D-class star with at least 1 M-class world."
"The basic is 6 t-months. They offered a bonus if we got something inside of a t-month."
I sat thinking about that. Exploring known space is dangerous heading out into unexplored space or even space with only the basic information that maybe centuries out of date is suicidal. However that is where the money is. Our first contract was a simple delivery and that just barely covered the costs. Faran knew what we needed and the crew and I trusted her judgment. And this is exactly the sort of thing we’d signed up for
I smiled, tapped a console and said, "Edgy, how soon can we leave?"
There was a delay of several seconds then a gravelly voice replied, "Three quarters of a t-day at least. The left ventricular-thruster has a twisted mount but if cursing is any indication Werner should have the replacement on in 3 or 4 t-hours then another 2 to test and tune. The patch on the hull is what is taking the longest. They only have 3 Collar-Ellis Torches and they are all in use. We are queued to get one in 12 t-hours. We could use the Blaisy but that'd be 3 t-days at least." Edgy paused for a few seconds then continued, "Otherwise we should be completely resupplied in a half t-day. Is there a rush?"
"No but we do have a contract." I answered.
Another pause, then, "Seriously? That's quick and good news. The sooner we are out of this place the better. I don't like the look of those Redies we are sharing the bay with."
"Keep me posted, especially if there are any more delays. Ulan out."
Some biases run deep. Edgy was a Blue Pilnor and has deep animosity for the Red Pilnors. Then again I don’t think he even likes other Blues. All sentients are weird.
I turned to the navigation console and pulled up what was know about the area. It got pretty sparse the further out. There is roughly 4 million stars in that region and about half-million have been classified to some level. I set up a search for what the Trasnians wanted and run it on the database.
"OK, Faran. Got any sources for better data for that region?"
"I started looking on my way back but hid dead-space. I've tapped a few private collectors of that sort of thing but haven't heard back."
"Lets plan on departing in a t-day, early if the ship is ready. I have a line on some Sherman-Felton-Blas Scanner."
"A line? Ha. We haven't got the funds to even look at a brochure for one, let alone take one with us."
"I was thinking more along the lines of borrowing some."
"Borrow? On this dump?"
"I did a little snooping while waiting. In the dark section, 8 levels below there is a warehouse with a really bad lock on it. Seems it hasn't been visited in 18 t-years. Turns out there are 4 SFB Scanners in it, just sitting there. Still in crates. Seems a waste, don't you think?"
"How ... That seems pretty specific for an accidental find." Faran said suspiciously.
I explained how I noted on approach to this space station that it was originally a Hasan Colony Satellite Station. Someone had re-purposed it to a general resupply/trade depot but they were only using the upper 1/3. When we docked I found one of the original data ports and did a little probing. I had to crawl through a ventilation duct or two to get to the backup computer room but it was all there and it still functioned. Once it was online, I got past security and started looking for things that we might need. I found the scanners and a few other useful things that will make these jobs a lot easier.
"You are really stretching my ethics here, Ulan." Faran said after I finished.
welve t-days later we are at the seventh system targeted in our database. The search had found 123,876 systems that met our first level criteria. We cross-referenced with known members in the various federations, empires, alliances, and coalitions and narrowed that to 17,098. Next, we eliminated any that were within 25 light-years of one of those members, that dropped it to 34. Expanding that to 50 light-years only dropped 4 more. I decided to start with the systems we had the least amount of data on. That narrowed it to 10 systems at the outer edge of the region.
The first 4 had been disappointing in many ways. Two had been through a horrific war and the surfaces of the M-class worlds were obliterated and uninhabitable. The space around them was littered with small debris from destroyed ships, satellites, and space-stations. The other two were in habited by hostiles. We exited from them as soon as they made it clear we were unwanted. This system is over 250 light-years from those systems.
"No radio signals." Faran said as soon as we transitioned to the system.
"4 planets within micro-jump range. One fits the profile we are looking for. Hmmm." Edgy said. He was sitting at the weapons/defense/scanner station. Werner is at the engineering console, muttering to himself.
I pulled over to my main console the same data Edgy had. There was something large not far off but the scanners are having a hard time fitting it into a celestial body profile.
Simultaneously Edgy and I call out "Shit!" as our consoles display incoming missiles.
"Emergency maneuver 7, now." I shout.
Our pilot Jaquina did not hesitate to throw us into a micro jump followed by a few wild turns that were just barely handled by the inertial dampeners. A couple of minutes later light flared on my console from where we had been. We'd managed to drop into space only a couple hundred km from a huge warship and it had fired on us.
ny comm traffic?" I asked Faran.
"Now there seems to be a repeating signal on ... here let me feed it through the translator and put it on the speakers."
"... zzzkt deep space explor sszssss 67. We are under attzzzzzk. Protocol Yaz-98 invoked. Please advise zzkt …
Extensive damage to shielszzdktttt ..."
The message repeated twice more then stopped. Our ship was on automatic evasive maneuvers. We sat in silence for several minutes digesting what we'd just heard. I turned my chair and looked at Faran.
"That's Common. I mean, original Terran Common." Faran stated.
"That means it is at least 1500 t-years old." Edgy said.
"I found it," Werner said then continued. "It's a Terran Admiral class dreadnought. They were sent out with a support fleet of 56. The last one on record left Terran space 1803 t-years ago. It’s designator ended in 67. Seems it was lost after some sort of mutiny or sabotage or ... the data is conflicting."
"Fleet? Cut thrusters and go stealth now!" I tell Jaquina as I turned back to my console. "Edgy, go to passive detection only."
One would think our technology would be 1900 t-years better than this ancient Terran tech but one would be wrong. It seems to be the curse of sentience that we constantly get and lose technology. Federations and Empires seem to last about 500 to 600 t-years then they fall apart.
oming around to the sunward side of the dreadnought it becomes clear that it was in a horrendous battle. There are giant, gaping holes all along its 3 km length. The sheer size is amazing. The biggest current dreadnaughts are just under a kilometer in length.
Surrounding it is broken ships of various classes, long defunct and now just space debris. A few hundred km distant is another grouping of broken ships. They look fundamentally different from the Terran vessels.
No more missiles came our way so either our stealth is working or those two missiles were the last defensive effort of a dead ship. I turn back to the crew and ask, "I suggest that we bring out one of the Kuiper probes and use it to test to see if anything is going to shoot at us. The other option is to just abandon this system and go on the next on our list. I want your input on this."
"I vote to test. I think that neither of these fleets was native to this system and just met by accident. They used to believe that M-class worlds were rare so there might have been a battle solely over the potential of this planet," Edgy offered.
"I agree," Werner said.
"I was going to say that we should just jump out of this place but Edgy has a point. At the very least we should get some data on the planet. There isn't any radio traffic so if there is a civ here they are either not tech advanced or are way too advanced," Faran said.
"I abstain. I do not have the knowledge to add to the discussion," Jaquina says quietly.
"OK. Werner have Lacta help with deploying the probe," I ordered.
n the drone/probe control room (really just a closet) Werner was strapped into the VR rig and guided the probe among the ships. There was no response from the dreadnought or any other ship. Gliding up close to a small cruiser that had taken a missile to the engine the probe detected radiation around the wound in the hull.
"By Jasta! They used nuclear weapons on each other. Truly a time of barbarians," Werner whispered.
The probe was far too large to enter any of the damaged areas on the small cruiser. Werner maneuvered it to a much larger vessel and slipped it carefully inside to scan the interior. The ship, a destroyer, was a km long broken in 3 places. The tail was completely detached and the probe could see into the middle part of the ship.
It was a mass of bent girders and plates. Torn wires and conduits hung everywhere. There were no bodies, after all these years the hard radiation of space would have disintegrated anything not hardened to space.
"Bring it home, Werner. I think we can jump to the planet and see if it's going to meet our criteria," I ordered.
"Acknowledged," Werner responded.
"Werner deploy an SFB Scanner," I ordered.
Werner tapped and swiped his console then said, "Deployed. It will reach optimum orbit in 8 minutes and we should start getting data a couple minutes after that."
The planet below was a blue-green beauty. It was about 60% water with 4 large disconnected continents. There was a large moon in an equatorial orbit. There was nothing else in orbit, so no native space technology. There were no visible structures from space, so there may not be any sentient life on the land areas. The SFB would give us much better data about the surface but what our onboard scanners indicate was that we'd found the perfect world for the Trasnian Cohort.
he Trasnians were very generous and seemed very happy with their new world. We'd spent a few days looking over the the ships that had opposed the Terran fleet. The configuration of those ships didn't match any species in our database. We found an intact navigation computer with associated database for the unknown species and one for the Terran fleet. Once we have deciphered them, that information might be a really game changer for us.