Star Trek: Nullabor

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Page 9

The knife struck the target dead centre and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Hood was back. There had been great concern among the crew that his throwing ability may have been lost as a result of his injuries. This was Botha's first lesson after the accident and he put the doubts to rest with one throw. Walker smiled. Things had returned to normal on the ship.

They were now two weeks out of DS2 and there had been no further sightings of Romulan ships. This didn't surprise anyone. They were heading deeper into Federation territory now and the Romulans were unlikely to commit ships to searches this far in. They felt more confident that the worst was over and that they would make it to DS2 without further incident. The whole affair still grated against Walker, ho couldn't understand why the Romulans were taking such an interest in his ship. Sure, there was some important cargo on board, but the Romulans had committed some serious breaches of treaty against the Federation to take the Nullabor out. Besides, the Federation would surely be sending contingency loads to the station, it didn't make sense that his ship was that important.

Weapons, interceptors and modified probes were ready in any case. If they ended up in another fight, they knew their defence was the best they could make it. Glir had given the sixth probe a clean bill of health after his inspection of the unit. He had remained decidedly tight lipped on the issue of the probes after that. Walker knew something was eating him but while it wasn't impacting his work there was no problem. Glir had been working on a way to stop the energy spike they were using to block communications from blowing out the field coils. If they could send the spike with a rapid turnaround then it would no longer be necessary to split up like it had been the first time they had used it. Four people had died because they were forced to spread their forces, Walker didn't want to see that again.

Walker was brought back to the present with the sound of a knife shattering. Botha's second throw had struck dead centre also. That sealed it, his throwing ability had not been impaired by the injuries. He still wasn't sure how he would end up using this skill of Botha's but Walker knew it would come in handy somehow. He commenced a sparring session so he could watch the crew.

There were two sparring matches of special interest to the Captain. Botha and Eritt had teamed up once more. Both were becoming quite good. He suspected that they were training by themselves off duty. What interested Walker most about this pair was the way they were fighting. Botha was still weak and the doctor was clearly mindful of that, but she was pushing him. She had slowed down her reactions but kept striking at his weaker areas, like she was trying to exercise them to bring him up to speed faster. Walker would have put it down to her medical outlook a week ago but he had seen the tear in her eye when she had pointed to him on the bed. She had tried hard to conceal it. Lucifrelle and Botha. He shrugged inwardly. They were a good match, they were both tall and strong, both had similar outlooks on the universe and neither suffered fools gladly. They had both accepted Glir around the same time, a fact Walker found even more interesting given that they had both had severe problems with him before he came aboard. Walker realised it was none of his business, after all he and Alexis were trying to be discreet about their relationship as well. The factor that Walker was most concerned about was Dr Eritt's scheduled departure in two weeks at DS2. How would it affect his Chief Engineer?

The other sparring duo that held his interest was Voraak and Glir. Glir actually seemed to be picking up some of Voraak's grace in combat. He watched the two as they danced around each other, Glir was no longer breaking a sweat as he had done so many times in the past. He was not attacking Voraak like a terrier, he was watching, thinking, planning. The entire session was like a dance between them, neither getting angry or frustrated, Walker was amazed that the hot headed young Ensign was capable of such patience. The more he thought about it the more he realised that this young man was changing before him. It was like the dissatisfied clerk at Starbase 73 had been a mask that was gradually being dropped as he became more comfortable with his environment.

Again it was back to wheels within wheels. Why couldn't anything be what it appeared to be? Waker understood what it was like to be part of a larger plan, he was just used to being given more of the picture than he had right now. He found it frustrating to have to unravel the plot as he moved along. It all seemed to point back to Admiral Dekker. He was up to something, but why put this ship in the middle of such a dangerous situation without any warning? There were still pieces missing and it was beginning to frustrate him.

Walker sat up that night unable to sleep. Alexis had not stayed after dinner, everyone on board was still tired after the events of the last month and it made sense to rest while they could. He tried to get the pieces out of his head but they persisted. He checked the chronometer on the console in his room. 2330 hrs ship time. He dressed and headed for the holodeck. One of his programs might clear his mind he thought.

During night hours on board the ship the hallway lights were dimmed as they were on all other Starships. Walker had insisted on his crew having a regular cycle to work with, it made it easier on people. The ship always seemed quieter during these hours, this was something he had noticed on all ships on which he had served. he had put it down to the rate of change. Command decisions were made during the day shifts. The night shifts were more a caretaker mode, there was little in the way of movement as a result, despite similar numbers. This gave the ship the same atmosphere San Francisco had during the very early morning hours, before anyone was up. It was an air of expectation, like the ship was eager for the day's activity to begin. Walker was soothed by the sensation.

He reached the holodeck, keyed up the appropriate program and walked through the doors as they opened. He found himself in a crystal landscape, completely alone. It was his recording of the Crystal Desert on Custos VI. It never reminded him of a desert, to Walker deserts were flat places. This was more of a forest of crystal with towers reaching for hundreds of metres into the sky. Every step he took on the landscape caused a resonance effect in the crystal and he could hear the harmony sounding around him as he walked. He came to a rounded stump of crystal and sat down there, hearing an additional chord strike up as he made himself comfortable. This place held him enthralled once more. A fresh breeze blew, right on schedule. He savoured the feel of the wind brushing his face and the melody it played through the towers.

This was a timeless place to Walker. It regenerated him and cleansed his mind of distractions. He had often slept and dreamt in this place. The dreams he would have were always peaceful and he found himself more able to face the dangers he faced in his career after a night among the crystals. They sang to him, sometimes in voices which spoke his own tongue. He had heard many strange things here which is why there he was unconcerned when the first whisper sounded.

"Wwwwaaalkeeeeerrrr." The name sounded like it was uttered out of white noise. It was the softest of whispers through the tinkling of the crystal songs. Walker smiled to himself as he heard it. "Waalker." This time it was more distinct, more dissonance against the pattern of landscape's music. Walker's smile began to fade. "Walker." This was too distinct. Walker sat bolt upright.

"Who's there?" He looked around but there was no one in the holodeck with him.

"It is us, Walker." The voice was coming from all around him. It had been integrated into the holodeck program somehow.

"I can't see you." It was stating the obvious but there was nowhere else to start. "Why don't you show yourself?"

"That is impossible right now. All we wish to do is speak."

"About what? Do you want something?"

"Yes. Your favour."

This was not what Walker had expected. People who wanted companionship generally didn't use covert means to communicate their intent. Walker said as much.

"It is necessary for now, Walker. We will defend you and obey you. We wanted you to know this."

"I am grateful." Walker waited for a reply but none came. Whoever had asked for his favour did not waste additional time on communication when they had it. Walker called for the arch and checked the communication logs for the holodeck. According to them there were no interfaces established with his program. He closed down the program and headed for his quarters. He checked the remote padd Voraak had given him to check all communication logs for the ship. They were supposed to be on a complete subspace silence to help mask their position. If this voice came from and external source, it meant that someone had an idea where they were. He linked into the system. Nothing. There had been no communications to or from the ship, as per his orders. That was strange, and it meant that in all probability the message had come from on board the ship. Crewmen playing a prank? Why? For all that had gone on recently, they had all needed to let off steam but this would serve no purpose.

He decided to investigate. Voraak could check the computer systems in the morning to see if there was any evidence of tampering and he could go see Botha now. He could set a monitor on the holodeck to see if anyone was playing with it. He strode down the central corridor to Botha's cabin and hit the chime. It took Botha thirty seconds to answer and when the doors slid back Walker was not greeted with a pleasant sight.

"Captain, good morning. What can I do for you?"

Walker took half a step back. "Philip, I'm sorry. You look like you could use some more sleep." Walker was right. Botha's eyes were bloodshot and he was swaying slightly.

"It's alright Captain. I'm up now. Did you need something?"

"Actually yes. I'm sorry to bother you with it this late, but it could be important. Can you organise to put a monitor on the holodeck? I think someone is tampering with it."

This brought Botha to full alert. "Tampering? Anything serious?"

"Not yet. I think it's contained to hacking into the communications subsystem, but I want the monitor to be sure."

"Of course Captain. I'll get right on it."

"Philip, where are you?" The voice came from inside Botha's quarters. Walker noticed a figure starting to sit up on Botha's bed. The figure had remained silent after that. From the darkness inside it would have been easy to see the Captain of the ship standing in the relative light outside. Walker could not make out the shape in the dark but it had been Dr Eritt's voice he had heard.

Walker had suspected this so it was easy to hide his surprise. He looked at Botha who was standing before him in some discomfort. "Captain, I..."

"It's alright Philip. You've been discreet, I was the one who intruded and I apologise. You are both adults and what you do off duty is none of my business so long as it doesn't intrude on your work. Understood?"

Botha straightened. "Yes Sir. Thank you Sir."

Walker chuckled. "You're welcome, Cmdr. Now that monitor?"

"Right away." Botha stood back to dress and the door slid shut in front of the captain. He had to chuckle again as he walked off. He was very pleased that it had not been Alexis and he who had been caught first.


The monitor had picked up nothing. If any tampering had been going on, it had stopped already. Walker stood with Botha and Voraak at the console in engineering going over the data. "So you're saying that the diagnostic showed no anomalies?" The question was directed at Voraak.

"That is essentially correct Captain. I ran the diagnostics over both the holodeck comms grid and the ship's system and neither showed any unaccounted activity over the last twenty four hours."

Walker looked at the figures once more. "What about this?" He pointed to a graph. Voraak looked at where his Captain was indicating.

"There does seem to be a higher load of internal system administrative communications occurring over the last few days. It is however constant and shows no changes over the period you had your experience in the holodeck. I had put it down to the additional components we have installed of late. Most of them we have integrated into ship's systems for control purposes."

It was a reasonable assumption. Still, it left no possible cause for the voices the night before. "Very well, gentlemen. Please continue monitoring, Mr Botha. Keep me appraised of any changes and I would appreciate it if you both remained silent on this issue."

"Aye Sir." They both responded. This was a serious issue for them. Holodecks were harmless under controlled circumstances but there was no telling what dangers lay inside once you started messing with them. If their Captain had come across something unexpected in there, they both wanted to know what it was. A saying had developed among engineering and systems specialists over the last few years, 'Never enter a holodeck that knows more about you than you know about it'.

Walker left his officers in Engineering and headed back to the bridge. He found that getting back to the routine of running the ship had been calming for him over this past day. It kept his mind off all the unanswered questions out there. Alexis was happier as well. A freighter Captain may not have all the situations to deal with that cropped up on a Starship, but Alexis was tired of bearing the full command responsibility aboard the ship. She found it too confining being on the bridge all day.

Walker owed her a break and knew it. He couldn't help but know it these days. One of the bad points about their link was that it could get uncomfortable when the other was upset. He decided to give her a couple of days free time starting the next day. She already knew by the time he got to the bridge, but she let him go through the motions of telling her for the sake of the crew.

It would be different sitting back in the chair for a full shift again, he realised. With so much going on he had not done that in several weeks. Starfleet would not have been impressed. He could still remember advising his captain that his place was on the bridge when things were heating up. It was one of life's ironies that the officers who liked putting themselves in the action most were generally promoted by Starfleet into positions where that was no longer desired. If Admiral Dekker knew that he had put himself in a fighter away from his ship to take on a Romulan scout ship single handedly Walker figured he would be up for a Court Martial. Walker didn't regret his decision, he still needed to be in the thick of things and he was sure that the flag brass knew it and wouldn't expect him to change too much.

That thought brought him back to the issue of what he wasn't being told by Dekker. Maybe they didn't expect him to change at all, maybe that was why he was out here in the first place. The more he thought it through, the more he realised that he had been picked for this mission by design rather than punishment. Walker had known several supply ship captains in the past. They generally wanted the fourth pip more than they wanted the excitement Starfleet had to offer. Any one of them would be dead by now if they were commanding the Nullabor. All this hardware would have gone up in a plasma fire in space, even with the team he had.

The difference between them and him was that he was prepared to use what he had. The officers normally put in command of a supply ship or transport were more interested in the routine of their ships and would have wasted the abilities aboard this ship. He was a starship combat specialist and probably the only transport captain in Starfleet capable of using the people and equipment aboard the ship. It was all coincidences, but together they made a very ugly pattern. He had been put out here with all these resources and people because the admiralty had known he could face this sort of situation on his way to DS2.

'Rubbish.' Alexis thought the remark. 'This couldn't be that big a conspiracy. Half your officers were gained by chance. Sai was originally recommended as a punishment, Dr Eritt was intended as a passenger after fleeing her home planet and then there is Glir...'

Walker suppressed the surge of irritation he felt at the intrusion within his mind and looked over at Alexis. She was trying to hide a grin. 'Yeah, real funny.' His thought caused her to stifle a giggle. Sai looked around momentarily and then returned to his console. Still, he thought, she had a point. A lot of the people he had come to rely on had arrived by chance.

'There is something else you haven't considered.' The thought went through his mind and he glanced over at Alexis. She had regained control of herself and now looked quite serious. The thought seemed to reflect that. 'Maybe the reason your crew has turned out so well is you. Let's face it, a maverick pilot and an insubordinate science officer and a doctor afraid of being shipped back home, all on one ship. For most command officers that would be a disaster. You have made it work, you've given them each their chance and they have taken it. It is that same thing as goes for the enlisted crew. They look up to you.'

He admitted mentally that it was a convincing argument. The problem was that he just didn't buy it. His gut was telling him that there was something bigger happening. 'You're getting paranoid in your old age.' He shrugged. Maybe she was right. It couldn't hurt to do some digging though. He keyed up a computer search on the service record of Admiral Connelly.

Walker decided that there must be a connection between Admiral Dekker and the man who wanted Sai put somewhere out of the way. On perusal of the record there was nothing there that showed even a slight connection to Dekker. He flagged the record for easy retrieval in his quarters later. He could look it over in detail while off duty. There had to be something there, he was sure of it.

"I'm picking up a faint signal Captain." Voraak brought Walker back to the present.

"What type of signal?"

"It seems to be a planetary distress signal from Arandi V. It's within this sector Sir."

"Open frequency." The bridge started receiving the sound from the transmission. It was patchy, there was a constant background of weapons fire and explosions.

"This is the Federation research colony on Arandi V. We are under attack and in great distress. Please assist. The attackers are everywhere, please hurry!" There was desperation in that voice. It repeated the message once more before the frequency went dead. The bridge officers looked at each other in shock.

"There are no other ships out this far, Captain. We are the only ones who could help right now." Sai was eager to join the fray.

"That is a little too convenient, Ensign." Voraak saved the Captain from having to point out the obvious to the helm officer. "The Romulans know that we are the only ship in the sector right now. They will have found the wreckage of at least one of the ships we have destroyed and they also know they can't find us. Why hunt when they can lure us to them?"

"It's clearly a trap but then those are Federation citizens they are butchering to bring us in. If there is a chance we can save them..." Alexis was showing the passion which Walker found so appealing.

"I can't even verify the message as genuine Commander." Voraak show no testiness in his voice but he clearly felt that the bridge crew was being much too rash.

None of this made any sense thought Walker. The Romulans had been so quiet recently, they had even offered their assistance against the Dominion at least once. Now they were killing Federation citizens in Federation territory in an effort to catch one ship bringing supplies to a Deep Space station? He didn't buy it. Still, he couldn't afford to take the risk either. whatever else he might be, he was a Starfleet Captain and Starfleet didn't stand by while civilians were attacked. "Voraak, can you give me proof that the message is fake?"

"No Sir."

"Then it doesn't matter, we can't take the chance. We're going in."

Voraak was not satisfied. "Captain, they have enough power to take on a research colony if this message is genuine, possibly a well armed one at that. I have just checked the records, There IS no research colony on Arandi V listed on the normal charts, which means that it is probably a covert military research station, probably with a full garrison stationed there. What do you propose we do?"

"I have some ideas. Sai, set course for the colony, Warp 7. ETA?"

"At that speed three hours Sir."

"Very well. Voraak, send a coded transmission, once only and make it short. 'Help will come.'"

"Aye Sir."

"Sai, engage."

"Aye Sir!" Sai was excited. Walker glanced over to Kelsey who was smiling. She thought how proud she was of his decision and he smiled as well. He thought about what they were going to face, they had a lot of work to do in the next three hours to be ready. Kelsey assured him that they would get it done.

He tapped his commbadge. "Walker to Glir." After Glir responded Walker continued. "That communications blocking system, is it ready yet?"

"No Sir. I would say another day."

"Glir I need it working and installed in two and a half hours."

Glir actually laughed into the comm line. "Sir, that's not going to be easy."

"I don't care, Glir. We are about to go up against what could be an entire fleet and I would appreciate it if we could stop them from broadcasting our presence."

There was a slight pause before Glir continued. "Aye Sir. It'll be ready."

He was bolting it into place as they entered the system. Walker didn't know how, but he had managed it. They had already mapped their entry into the system and to the planet so that they would be hidden as much as possible by the electromagnetic effects that were present. They approached the planet from the opposite side to the colony (which was listed in the 'unofficial' charts) and monitored communications passively. Walker had been in combat situations before and there was a marked difference in this situation to any other. "They're not using their usual coded comm channels." There was only a small fraction of the usual comms chatter happening, and it was all from Starfleet personnel.

Voraak checked several other frequencies before responding. "Hold on, Captain. There are some enemy communications present." They continued monitoring all frequencies. There were urgent requests for assistance from a defensive station under fire, they could here the activity in the background. There were the usual troop orders, demands for covering fire, but all the enemy communications seemed disjointed. There was a scattering of accents and languages through the channels that Walker had never heard in Romulan battle comms before.

"That's damn odd." Alexis had been silent up to this point. Walker could tell without looking at her that she was concerned. It was not a usual Romulan approach at all. They were heavy users of Comms systems, but they were always consistent. Same channels, same codes, same damn language for that matter. Every engagement they entered was treated like a game of chess. Their forces were pieces to be moved around to strategic advantage. They had battle plans, they always did. They always had someone monitoring the execution of the plan and making updates as the situation changed. For that matter, any Romulan unit that received irregular comms traffic would be edgy. Kelsey had actually seen a team go into berserker mode after she had jammed their comms traffic for an hour.

Walker could see that the situation was making his people edgy. It was time to take action. "Well, as I see it there are three possibilities; first, this whole thing is a hoax to lure us here."

Voraak didn't agree with this possibility. "Unlikely, Captain. If that was so then we should have met resistance on this side of the planet. For that matter they should have been waiting for us at the system's edge. They were not. They seem to be focusing their forces on the colony. It would appear that their research is held to be valuable to the aggressors."

"Assuming the forces exist, Cmdr." Sai had another angle on it. "This could be a hoax on the part of the colony. There is inconsistent enemy comms traffic, remember. For that matter, we are assuming that this action is related to us. What if this attack has nothing to do with us? That might not be Romulans at the colony at all."

Walker needed to bring them back on track. "True, but we can expect our attackers to pay a visit to the planet in case we assist. They would have received the same message we did. In any event, hoax (or coincidence) is a possibility. The second is that the Romulans are using a different strategy to the one which we are used to seeing from them."

Alexis had been considering this. "That would be consistent with everything we have seen so far. They have been too persistent in hunting us down in Federation territory for them to be using standard Romulan tactics. Nothing they are doing is making sense for Romulans."

"That brings me to point three. Another group has access to Romulan technology." There was silence among the group. They were all considering the possibility. It still didn't make sense. The Romulans were the most protective power in the quadrant where their technology was concerned. They had a reputation for doing some very nasty things to those who tried to steal parts and plans from them.

"It's possible I suppose. They did hand over a cloaking device on DS9." Alexis had learnt about that during her training with Tactical Ops.

"they only did that under very specific circumstances and there was something they clearly thought they would gain. They sacrificed a rook to get a queen." The analogy made Walker think along those lines further. He continued, "Suppose they thought they could gain something from the use of their ships. Would they do it?"

"It is logical that they would provided that what they stood to gain and the risk attached to it were worth the compromise of their technological secrets." Voraak was stating the obvious again.

"It would have to be a pretty big gain. Their ships could fall into our hands and we would have their technology soon enough. The Romulans are not stupid, they know what the Dominion knew all along, our engineers can work anything out given half a chance." Alexis could see a pattern forming. "If it didn't matter to the Romulans that we had this technology they would risk it. Maybe they are obsolete ships, maybe they are making a play for the Federation itself."

"Obsolete ships I would believe. The only way we could have defeated them so easily over this voyage is if they were out of date and being manned by crews unfamiliar in their operation. It doesn't make sense otherwise, positive thinking will only take you so far realistically." Walker was thinking along the same lines as Alexis and he found that as they came to new ideas separately their link was allowing those ideas to be added to the other's view, building a complete picture faster than was possible using verbal communication. He began to understand what made the Borg so powerful, there was definitely a synergy in the formation of new thoughts with minds linked this way.

Voraak was oblivious to the ideas forming in the minds of the command team. "Agreed. If these were real Romulans we should be dead according to the laws of probability. So the question remains, who are they?"

Walker and Kelsey decided simultaneously. There was only one way to find out. "We'll have to go in." Walker let the statement sink in before continuing. "Sai, we are going to need reconnaissance of the area before we commit the full ship's resources. Do you think you can take in one of the interceptors?"

It was just the chance Sai had been waiting for. "Aye Sir!" He was already halfway out of his seat before Walker could stop him.

"Bridge to Glir." Walker had tapped his commbadge and his hail brought Glir's response immediately. "I need you to fit one of the interceptors with some recon equipment. How long?"

"Half an hour Sir. Shorter with Lt Cmdr Botha's assistance Sir."

Botha had been monitoring the situation since they had entered the system. "I'll meet you in the flight bay Ensign." His voice carried over the comm link into the bridge. Walker was impressed with his Chief Engineer. All the way through he had shown his experience in ship operations. Not all of the Chief Engineers on starships would keep an open channel to the bridge as they entered a hot zone, most said they found it too distracting. It had always irritated Walker that in the middle of a battle he would have to summarise the situation for Engineering just because they did not keep themselves appraised of what was happening outside their section. He was glad that this time he wouldn't have to, they were about to jump into something very nasty if his suspicions were correct.

He sent Sai to the flight bay with orders to launch as soon as the equipment was fitted. Walker had not immediately noticed the transition from 'shuttle bay' to 'flight bay' in the ship's language, he had overheard several of the engineers referring to it as a Flight Bay over the last few days and it sounded good to him. It was no longer a home for shuttles and in fact Botha and Glir had spent off duty hours upgrading the bay significantly. It had been expanded with the introduction of hangars for storing the interceptors and probes. There was also a repair and maintenance bay that was fully stocked with all the parts and tools they would need and even a small traffic controller's station which Botha had organised to be manned while any ships were in service. It was inevitable, Walker decided. He had an innovative crew on board a transport with free reign to the cargo hold and their lives were dependent on the outcome. It was no surprise that his ship was starting to resemble a fighter carrier.

Sai's voice came over the comm line. "Ready to launch Captain." It had been less than fifteen minutes since he had been sent up to the flight bay.

"Remember, Sai, your mission is to gather information on what ships are in orbit and what is happening on the ground. If possible remain undetected but you are not there to take them all on. Understood?"

"Aye Sir!" Sai was eager to be out in space. Walker wasn't sure what to expect from the young Bajoran, this was the first time he was being left alone in a mission which was not combative. Walker realised he had no choice but to trust him. He was the best officer for the job and he had grown so much over the last month. He gave him the all clear and watched the interceptor dart for the horizon at full impulse speeds. Walker hoped his trust was well placed.

Sai realised that flying these ships was what he had always wanted to do. He loved the feel of a highly manoeuvrable ship at his command and knew that the Prophets had smiled upon him. He had not understood why he had been sent to a transport at first but having seen events unravel he could see that the prophets did indeed have his best interests at heart.

The Prophets were not the only ones to whom Sai was thankful. He realised he owed a great debt to Captain Walker. He was different to the captains he had met in the past. He was not obsessed with his own rank or distant from his officers. He could see the value in other people, see what they were good at and then let them do it. He was a natural leader. Sai realised that he would fly this ship into the Bajoran sun if Walker told him to. He trusted him.

It was with a great shock that Sai realised that Walker trusted him back. He thought back to the rash young Ensign who had been upset during a training run en route to Starbase 73. It seemed like years ago now. He remembered the look on his Captain's face after he had exploded. He had not even noticed the lack of trust in his Captain's eyes back then, but now he remembered it. He also remembered the faith he showed in his design for the interceptor. It was his Captain that got Botha and Glir interested in it. It was his Captain that trusted him to be able to take out that scout ship. It was his Captain who now trusted him not to be a hothead...

The revelation hit Sai full force. He was part of a unit which was now trusting him to do his part. If he was careless, if he was discovered, if he got himself shot down it would put the Nullabor at risk. It was time to start using his head. He changed course slightly. He brought the interceptor down to a level where it was skipping along on th very edge of the atmosphere. This had the advantage of leaving his sensors clear but he knew from past experiences that it would make him very difficult to track. There were always problems with sensors when you focussed them on the edge of an atmosphere. You could never calibrate them correctly. They either saw into the atmosphere fine and were fuzzy in space or vice versa. That meant it was difficult to tell whether a blip on the sensors was incoming baddies or bad weather.

It was a simple mission. Get the data and get out. This time he would do it by the numbers and make his Captain proud. The research colony was coming into range of his sensors soon. Already he was gathering telemetry on the ships overhead. It was a large fleet for a mission like this, possibly twenty ships. Just before the colony came in range he noticed the scout ship decloaking nearby and his heart sank.


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