Turn 40 - Fire in the Night

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Turn 40 - Fire in the Night

Postby Moonsword on Sat 30 Jul 2016 07:58

22 April 2216 (Turn 40)
Lambda Serpentis System
TCS Envoy

Ethan Abdullah was frowning as he walked into the command compartment of the Terran Confederation diplomatic courier Envoy, craning his head to look over the shoulder of the sensor operator as he came in. He waved to the officer of the watch for the alert siren to be dismissed, then raised his eyebrows at what he saw. “That’s an awful lot of gamma radiation. GRB?”

“I don’t think so, sir,” Janice Aikens answered, tapping the playback. “It’s looks like another nuclear fireball.” Unlike Abdullah, who had been seconded from the Astrographic Service as a former commander of one of the Copernicus-class surveyors when Envoy was designed along similar lines, Aikens was a Navy officer. Her last tour had been as assistant tactical officer on the destroyer Warsaw, and she had observed them first hand during fleet live fire exercises.

Abdullah nodded, noticing the blast was smaller this time. “Different bearing from the last one, too,” he noted idly, then blinked in surprise as the sensors reported a fresh burst of gamma radiation. “Another nuke?”

“Same general area.” Aikens looked shaken. “They’re well away from us and our, uh, ‘friends’ out there don’t seem to be reacting the way they did last time. Apparently they expected this.” Abdullah gave a smile that contained very little in the way of humor. The last time they’d seen a nuclear flash, the squadron of Axanarian warships that served as the Hierarchy’s envoy had cleared for action. Small compared to anything in the TCN’s active fleet list other than the handful of Rana corvettes, about the size of the ex-American frigate the Bureau of Ships kept making noises about refitting, seven of them had seemed a bit much to him for shepherding one courier. Even if she hadn’t been unarmed, Envoy wasn’t quite a third their size if they had the tonnage plotted correctly. It had turned out to be just the first sign of the kind of military posturing their government had favored, and…

“Captain? We’ve plotted that blast,” the rating at the astrogation station, Mikhail Dimitriov, called out, interrupting his thoughts. Walking a couple of paces, Abdullah peered over his shoulder. “Depending on the assumption you want to make about their distance, that second blast is probably on a direct course to Axanar.” Abdullah straightened up, blinking.

“An exer-“ the tactical officer started before she jumped as yet another fireball was spotted. “-cise?” Aikens finished.

Abdullah rubbed his chin. Technically, he was the Old Man unless you counted the diplomats, the one who was supposed to have his answers. Considering that he was a quantum gravitics specialist by trade, this was really more Aikens’ field than his, but he shook his head. “I don’t think so. Even if they were exercising the rest of their fleet, why that far out? And why two live-fire ops so far apart?” he asked rhetorically.

“Then…” Aikens trailed off, looking troubled by the suggestion he was making, and this time she barely startled with the next nuclear report.

“…there’s someone else on the board,” he replied. “I don’t think our escorts would have been quite so cantankerous for an exercise. For a little while there, I really thought they were going to go ahead and shoot us.”

“Do we launch the drone and phone it in?” Aikens wondered aloud.

The captain shook his head firmly. “No. If they don’t have courier drones, we don’t want to spook them… or tip our hand about the tech, for that matter. And if they do, they might assume us launching a drone means we’re calling in the Fleet and shoot us anyway. As much as I’d like to send this back to Admiral Sharp, we’ll hold the report until our monthly resupply. Do as much analysis on those blasts as you can. See if they’re multi-lobed again, report anything odd. And if our friends make it look like they’re going to shoot the witnesses...” Abdullah paused as another report alarm rang. “…launch the drone anyway.”
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