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Join Date: Jul 2012
10-16-2013, 02:58 AM
shudders as another gravitational eddy sweeps across her path. I check the status lights. Shields and structural integrity are still holding, but the distortion and the energy surges outside are getting fierce.
The central anomaly at Massidia Alpha is a knot in subspace, a multi-dimensional tangle of fields and energies where some unguessable fragment from the Big Bang has died. It emits gravitational and other energies in an irregular pattern of pulses. It is, of course, an impermanent thing - the disruption in subspace will smooth out, the pulses will slacken and cease, sometime in the next billion years or so. Right now, though, it's a problem.
"Signal from the
, skipper," says F'hon Tlaxx.
Shalo's face appears on the viewer, hidden occasionally by bursts of interference. "The warp contrail of the DujHod Chariot is no longer discernible," she says. "Since there are no visible signs of an explosion, it must have veered off somewhere around here - presumably, towards the asteroid field Jikkur spoke of."
Left to the ordinary workings of gravity, matter clumps together, asteroids colliding and coalescing to form planets. Around Massidia Alpha, though, this isn't possible. The anomaly sucks in matter, but keeps it in a constant state of ferment; it is ringed by shoals of asteroids, their orbits continually changing with each gravitational eddy. Between the energy pulses of the anomaly, and the shifting clouds of wandering rocks around it, Massidia Alpha is a very good place to hide.
"Any idea of their heading?" I ask Shalo.
"Not as yet. I recommend that we spiral slowly out from the central zone, and I will direct ship's sensors to search for appropriate warp signatures." Once more, I'm handicapped by the fact that Shalo's data on Klur's ships is more complete than anything I have.
"All right," I say. "We'll follow your lead, then."
"I suggest you stick close. If we find Klur, I would rather confront him with the firepower of both our ships.
On the tactical display, I see Shalo's ship veer off, away from the central anomaly, towards the relative safety of the debris fields. I sigh. We seem to have spent far too long following Shalo's lead....
"Zazaru," I say.
My science officer looks up. "Sir?"
"We're looking for a Kar'fi carrier, right? It feels like we've spent forever looking up the rear end of one of those.... Even if we don't have the detailed technical specs Shalo's working from, surely we've got enough general data on those beasts that we could scan for one?"
Zazaru's soft brown eyes grow thoughtful. "System surveys are always easier when you know what you're looking for, that's true. Still, there's a lot of sensor noise in this place, sir, and -" She holds up her hands in a helpless gesture. "Space is very big."
The classic problem. In theory, it's impossible to hide in space; spaceships are solid, they emit energy and gases, and space is empty, so they have nothing to hide behind. In theory. In practice, there are cloaking devices, phase shifters, and a whole library of dirty tricks you can play with enemies' sensor devices. Klur's ship is huge and hideous, but it's just a tiny chip of metal somewhere out there in the rocks, and if he doesn't want to be found, it's not going to be easy finding him.
I sit back in my command chair and fret, while
swings slowly out into the rocks, following the plasma wake of the
lot of sensor noise," Zazaru says, after a while.
My antennae twitch. "But?" I ask, hopefully.
"I'm not sure, sir," Zazaru says. "I have a reading on
.... I don't think it's just a rock."
"Roughly three seven five mark two zero, sir."
"Let's drift on over and check it out," I say. "Inform the
we're moving to check a sensor reading."
turns in a shallow arc, onto the new heading. Zazaru is frowning, intent on her readouts.
something there," she says. "Maybe two somethings...."
"The carrier and the shuttle, maybe? If the shuttle was unable to redock, for some reason...."
"No," says Zazaru thoughtfully, "no.... Both of them are high in energy.... can't get a full emissions profile through all the noise. One of them is hugely massive, much bigger than a shuttle... the other one's weird, half the time it looks like it has no mass at all...."
I sit bolt upright in my chair. The Kar'fi carrier is too big, its Fek'lhri engines too noisy, for a conventional cloaking device to work on it - but the Fek'lhri technology enables it to
and desolidify. If Klur wanted to confuse detector scans - and he most certainly
- he'd be using the phasing technology for all it's worth.
"Go to yellow alert," I order. Can we launch fighters in all this asteroid debris? Probably not yet.
"Signal from the
, skipper," says F'hon Tlaxx. "She wants to know where you're going."
"Tell her we have a sensor contact that might be a phased ship." I find I'm gripping the armrest of the command chair, hard. I have to force myself to relax. It might be nothing, I tell myself. It might be nothing.
"That other thing is
," Zazaru says. "Certainly bigger than a Kar'fi carrier. The energy readings are...." Her brow is furrowed in thought. "I'm sure I've seen something like this before...."
is coming about, onto our heading," Anthi reports from the tac station.
"Shalo must know something," I say. I punch the button on my console. "All stations, red alert. Ready for combat."
"I wonder," says Zazaru. "If we could risk an active sensor pulse, I might be able to get an image of the target area - reflect a neutrino-emission scan off one of the larger asteroids. It wouldn't be very clear, but it might be enough to confirm -"
"Aye, aye, sir." Zazaru's hands fly over her console. "Configured... emitting pulse... data coming in. It'll take a little while to construct the visual." She peers closely at her display. "I'm not reading any changes in energy levels... I don't
they spotted us." A pause, seconds that stretch out like years. "Visual's ready."
The image is hazy, raddled with interference, but it's clear enough to show a black hull, rib-like fins, red plasma clouds spilling from the drive. A Kar'fi carrier, without a doubt. And behind it -
My jaw drops. "What is one of