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The rings of the fifth planet in the G’nalt system were the perfect hiding spot for a reconnaissance post, and the Volmagari took full advantage of it. From this post they could track ship movements over most of the quadrant. “Is our little friend still out there?” inquired Commander Opless, post commander of the station, as well as a small strike fleet stationed there. A voice from among the dozen or so monitoring technicians replied to him, “Yes sir. That little freighter has just been sitting there for almost two days now. We are assuming they have drive difficulties and may be waiting for assistance, although they have made no communications since they stopped there.” Opless looked at his main display screen and shrugged. “Have we extrapolated possible destinations for them?” he asked. A different voice from the monitoring gallery replied, “Based on their trajectory upon entering the quadrant the only possible destination would be the Bromalin system, Sir.” Opless sighed, the last several months had proven to be rather mundane on the post with very little real intel to report to the war council. “Keep an eye on them, but they are probably just dead in space.”

He stood up from his station, and nearly hit his head on the overhead monitors. Opless had an imposing stature towering like a great skyscraper over his subordinates. His service record also boasted an array of accomplishments that seemed far too impressive to be a recon post Commander, but his temper made sure that commanding one of the Volmagari’s strike carriers, the most desired post among command staff, was out of the question. “Cruiser 31 needs a readiness inspection, I’ll be on board if anything exciting happens.” The Volmagari did not name their ships, just type and a number, in the hopes the captains and crew wouldn’t make an emotional connection with a ship that could be gone at any moment. The entire control room replied, “Yes Sir!”

Cruiser 31 was on the older side of the fleet. In service for nearly 50 years, her interior quite often resembled a starship repair yard more than an active cruiser. Upgrades and patchwork repairs left wires running riveted to the ceilings above, often times hanging down like vines in some electric jungle. Equipment added to the ship bolted at odd angles on even more odd bulkheads. However, the crew did not let this impede their performance. Cruiser 31 returned from every mission she’s been sent on, and its crew were more than capable. About an hour into the readiness inspection, Opless’ communicator pinged. “Opless here, report.” A shaky. Confused voice returned, “Sir, the freighter has disappeared sir.” One of the monitoring technicians back on the listening post said.

“Well, we didn’t expect them to just stay there did we?” Opless queried. The technician responded, “You misunderstand my meaning sir. They did not leave, they disappeared. We show no trace of anything there any longer. No power output or lidar pings. Like they’ve gone invisible.” Opless took a moment to think. There is no known cloaking technology among the Alliance, but if this was somehow a test of a new tech he would need to investigate further. “Understood crewman, good work. I’m taking command of 31 and will investigate. Have the last known coordinates of that ship uploaded to the 31’s navigation officer immediately.” “Yes Sir!” the technician replied, and the communication line ended.

Stepping onto the bridge of the ship, Opless seamlessly switched from listening post commander, to warship captain spitting out orders to each member of the bridge crew. Within minutes they were on their way to the coordinates provided. Opless sat in the Captains chair and turned on ship wide communications, “Attention crew of the 31, we are taking a short cruise to investigate odd enemy activity. Chances are it’s nothing so shouldn’t be too much to worry about. As always, eyes open and minds ready, Captain Out.” Volmagari ships were slightly slower than typical Slip-drive equipped alliance ships, but they could still muster nearly 80 percent of light speed if they pushed their engines. This would make the journey to the freighters coordinates about a 6 hour trip.

Opless approached the ships sensor station and addressed the officer manning it, “I need all sensor data on our destination coordinates from the outpost transferred here. You are going to go over it with a fine tooth comb and give me your assessment.” The officer gave a quick “Yes Sir!” in reply. Turning to face the tactical station he inquired as to system status, “Commander, All batteries operational with a full complement of ammunition, a hundred thousand rounds each. Countermeasures are also ready. Unfortunately, we have no torpedoes on board.” Opless interrupted the tactical officer, “No torpedoes? The 31 has been docked for a week and we couldn’t resupply them?” The tactical officer remained calm despite the underlying fear of a reprimand, “Research and Development ordered all torpedoes recalled for upgrades. The supply ship with our replacements should be arriving at the listening post in about an hour, Sir.” Opless looked up at the bulkhead above and let out a frustrated sigh, “R & D and their bright ideas again. Well with any luck we won’t be needing them today.”

Over the next several hours Opless ordered readiness reports on all systems bypassing the internal communications and delivering his orders personally. He always made it a point to walk as much of a ship as possible before conducting operations. As the medical Officer was going through the supply manifests, his communicator chirped. “Opless” he said into his comm unit. “Commander, I have found an anomaly in this sensor data from the station. I recommend you returning to the bridge so you can look at this personally” was the response from the sensor Officer. The Volmagari military was very strict when it came to open communications, even within a single ship, so asking him to return to the bridge must mean he found something of consequence. “On my way, Opless out.”

When Opless stepped onto the bridge the sensor Officer began his report even before he was asked for it. “Commander, the station picked up a large power spike when the freighter disappeared. Station analysts contributed this spike to an explosion and speculate the freighter has been destroyed. However, when I recalibrated the data stream I found something odd. There were two different power signatures present, one decidedly more powerful than that of the freighter.” Opless did not need any further information to surmise where the sensor officers line of thinking was headed. He interrupted the sensor officer, “Another ship. A stealth ship. Opening it’s landing bay for the freighter, and when the doors closed they were both gone.” The sensor officer nodded his head in agreement.

Opless pondered the situation. As far as the Volmagari intelligence knew the Alliance had no stealth technology, and were not even attempting to research such a craft. However, intelligence gathering during wartime has always been hit and miss. Opless turned to the pilot, “Push every ounce of power we can muster into the engines. We need to get there fast. If the Alliance has a stealth ship it may still be in the area, and if it is we need to capture or destroy it.” The tactical officer nervously blurted out, “Sir, going into a combat against a possible stealth ship with absolutely no information about that ships capabilities sounds like suicide.” The tactical officer realized, even before he finished his statement that he had made the last mistake of his career. Opless, without even looking at the man, had ships security remove him from the bridge and taken to the brig. As the junior tactical officer stepped up to the tactical station Opless raised his voice to the brink of a shout, “You are now this ships tactical officer, unless you have any doubts?” If the junior officer had any reservations he did well in hiding them as he replied “Sir, no sir. Let’s hunt down that ship!” Opless nodded as he walked back to the Captains chair and sat down, staring out the front view port. “Send all information we have to High Command, and inform them that we are investigating.”

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Daniel Boguslawski

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