USD: A few days later

Location: Theta Corvi System, 90 Pegasi jump point, SMS Grazhdanin, Officer Berths Section


Lieutenant Lavigne frowned as Commander Terrance pulled him into a cubby hole out of sight and sound from the hallway.


Commander Terrance was the XO, the second in command of the ship, so Lavigne wasn’t sure why he was dragging him into a dark corner. Lavigne obeyed, though.

Before answering the question, the XO went and checked the hallway. Satisfied they weren’t being watched, he turned back to Lavigne.

“Listen, Lieutenant. I’ve been over the records of most the officers on the bridge staff. You come from an excellent family, always been loyal to the Federation. Top honors in the academy. Even reported your fellows over that disgusting incident, even if it got you posted to this shit deployment.”

“Sir?” Confusion covered Lavigne’s face, not understanding what the XO was getting at.

“I have something I want you to hold on to. It needs to get to BuPers as soon as possible.” Terrance pressed a small folio and datachit into Lavigne’s hands.

“I don’t understand, sir. Can’t you just send it by packet or to the base at 13 Centauri when we enter the system? How can I get it there faster?”

“Listen Lavigne. This is evidence. Serious evidence against senior personnel on board. Worse, things might happen. I intend to send it myself, but you are backup insurance.”

Lavigne gulped, processing that bit of information. The question of why he didn’t just arrest the offender if he had evidence died on his lips. Commander Terrance couldn’t. There was only one person on the ship that had higher authority than the XO and that meant…

He paled in understanding, and Commander Terrance nodded. “Keep it somewhere safe. Out of sight. And keep your head down, Lavigne. Don’t get involved. Remember, you are our insurance.”


USD: A few hours later

Location: Theta Corvi System, 90 Pegasi jump point, SMS Grazhdanin, Bridge


“Sir, the packet boat has answered our hail.”

Captain Rolks Walker nodded to the comm officer. “Put it on the main screen.”

A young woman wearing the packet service’s captain uniform appeared.

“Captain, what is the meaning of this? Why has your squadron bracketed the jump point?”

“Captain. I require you to cut your thrust and rendezvous with my ship immediately. This is a lawful command from a Solarian Federation Navy warship, and you are required to comply by the packet service’s own manual of operations.”

The young captain frowned. “Why? We are operating normally under the packet service’s charter. We’ve mail and news packets to deliver.”

“You have no right to question the command. If you would like to protest, you are free to send a complaint to the IFRB. If you cannot comply, we will dispatch light units to hunt you down as a pirate and enemy of the Federation.”

Sometime later the mail packet cutter came into moor with the Grazhdanin.


USD: Several hours after transit to 92 Pegasi

Location: 92 Pegasi, Tears of Fire, en route to planet Ackman orbit


Alex studied the small line of dots going in both directions between the Ackman asteroid belt and Ackman Station. There were a dozen of them, mostly small tramp ships that were too small to be real freighters.

Optical had also picked up a half dozen ships lined up outside A3123Y’s orbital. There wasn’t enough detail to see what was going on, and that was just what she could see from so far away as they burned inward toward the planet and star.

“Have we got a response yet?”

Worry bit at her as she examined all the activity. One of her orders had been to be discreet, she was pretty sure. Nameless had discerned one of the IHMS frigates on patrol in A3123Y’s area, so at least it had protection.

[Notice: Requesting information repeatedly will not increase the speed of light limits on communication. Earliest likely response estimated for three more hours.]

Elis laughed and reached over to mess with Alex’s hair, earning her a pout.


“I don’t think there would be that much traffic if there was something bad going on. I think it is a sign the rock is doing good. Look at these signatures here.”

Elis poked at the monitor, and Alex made the screen zoom in on the area.

“Nameless, can you clean and enhance this image?”

[Informative: Optical resolution is already at max. Correlative EM and Thermal Data.]

The two blurry lights that were nearby lit up in small hues of red and blue dots that really meant little to her. Then Nameless overlaid all three image types and the colored dots blurred, then took shape into something recognizable.

“Wait, those are ships. Large enough to be freighters. Why are there so many small heat sources, though?”

[Correlative: Analysis shows that two small freighters are under construction at the indicated locations. Heat spots are fresh cooling welds.]

“Oh. A3123Y is building us ships!”

“See, I don’t think it would do that if there was an emergency. It would prioritize other things.”

Alex panned the view all over the area, looking for more evidence of whatever the subcore had been up to.

The screen settled on a large black cylinder some distance away from the main orbital asteroid. It was clearly manufactured and new.

“What’s this thing, Nameless?”

[Notice: A manufactured object. Not enough data for further correlation.]

Elis shook her head. “You’re going to have to be more patient. Why don’t we go eat lunch while we wait?”

“Are you going to teach me how to cook the au gratin?”

Elis sighed. “Yes, I’ll show you. But you need to start following the recipes correctly. You keep taking shortcuts and messing up the measurements. Then you don’t keep track of time and you end up burning it.”

Alex bit her lip, becoming a bit defensive. “I set a timer now.”


USD: After lunch

Location: 92 Pegasi, Tears of Fire, en route to Planet Ackman orbit, Mess Room


A comm chimed, alerting Alex and Elis to an incoming communication. Alex almost jumped up from her seat at their small round dining table. They’d already finished eating. She had really enjoyed the cheesy potatoes and the little bits of ham that had been sprinkled in with the dish.

Those types of savory dishes were quickly becoming her favorite, and she had been looking through a cookbook for ideas on what to beg Elis to make next.

|Long time gone |

|Progress has moved on |

|Welcome home! |

Alex almost jumped out of her chair.

“Ahhh! Nameless, tell us what’s going on! That’s not the only answer, is it?”

[Informative: Receiving telemetry data from A3123Y. Processing historical data.]

The main screen scrolled with all kinds of data, faster than Alex or Elis could read it.

[Notice: An incoming message with SRS authentication has arrived. We are still outside of real-time communication range.]

Alex felt confused. Who else other than A3123Y, H-3233L and the Tears used Starlight Revolution codes? As the message replaced the scrolling data, she began to feel concern.

Then the face of a boy and woman appeared. They were both in the cockpit of some type of old craft.

The teenage boy pressed several more keys, not seeming to realize the broadcasted recording had already started.

“There. Authentication keys entered… Uhm. Hello CEO Alex and COO Elis! Wait, is it Captain or CEO?”

The young woman hit the boy on the head with a rolled-up piece of paper. “Don’t be so embarrassing, Logan! You’re going to make us look bad!”

Alex examined the girl. She had an oval-shaped face with hazel colored, almost almond-shaped eyes. Long locks of raven black hair were tied back in a ponytail, but two long bangs had escaped to be braided as they trailed down in front of her ears.

The boy was younger, with a heart-shaped face and spikey red hair that looked like it had been painted or something. Alex wasn’t sure.

“Ms. Alex, sorry for my kid-brother. He’s just excited to be working for Starlight Revolution now. My name is Amy Tanis. We appreciate the opportunity to work with you!”

“And I’m Logan Tanis!”

Amy gave him a look and leaned on his shoulders, causing him to quiet down so she could continue.

“I’m working as Chief of Mining Operations for the A3123Y platform, and Logan works as one of the miners. We’ve been organizing most of the rock rats in the belt to use A3123Y for their mining base since it is closer and has the manufacturing capabilities to fix a lot of their ships.”

A brief look of hesitance appeared that Alex almost missed.

“I’ve prepared several reports for you. Since A31 didn't know when you would return, I've been keeping them up to date. I’ve also been keeping detailed records of acquisitions and sales. A31 has been pushing for faster growth and so we’ve been running a weekly deficit, but if we slowed purchases of goods from Ackman Station, we could turn that around quickly.”

Alex looked at Elis, who shrugged at her.

Not knowing exactly how to feel about having new employees without having hired them, Alex put the feeling aside and decided to trust A3123Y.

“How did the rock hire people?” Elis chimed in.

“Well, it can communicate, and it has all kinds of toys to entice people with? Shouldn’t be that hard?”

Alex considered for a moment. “I’d say it probably bribed them with food, but knowing Nameless, NAIs can’t cook at all.”

[Informative: This unit can produce perfectly acceptable nutritional supplements with correct resources. Results are always edible and efficient, unlike Avatar efforts.]

Alex almost gagged. “Those supplements… Yuck. You’re never allowed to touch the galley again.”

Pressing a few keys, Alex made a recording of her own with her and Elis in the picture.

“Hello Amy and Logan! It is nice to meet you. Once we are closer and we’ve had time to go over A3123Y’s and your reports, I’d love to chat in real time! It’ll be a day or two before we are close enough, but the lag should get less as we get closer.”

She smiled and waved, then sent the transmission.


USD: A few days later

Location: Theta Corvi System, 90 Pegasi jump point, SMS Grazhdanin, Bridge


Lieutenant Lavigne frowned as the comms officer offered another excuse to their sister ships about the delay. Unfortunately, the Captain had not shared the reason for their delay, stranding the three massive Grazhdanin ships at the jump point.

After his encounter with the XO, Lavigne had heard nothing else. He had hid the packet in an unused locker next to his own, then locked it. That way, even if it was found, it couldn’t exactly be traced back to him. He hoped.

He was still unsure what to do about it, but he had put it out of mind until they arrived in 13 Centauri.

Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to focus on his duties.

Halfway into his bridge shift, the Captain arrived a sergeant called out loudly, “Captain on the bridge!”

Everyone stood and saluted.

“As you were.” Captain Rolks Walker announced, going to his seat.

Lavigne turned his attention back to overseeing the sailors operating the engineering consoles that monitored all the different sections of the ship.

It was only a few minutes before the Captain spoke again.

“Comms, signal the rest of the squadron. They are to make transit with us now.”

The comms officer nodded then had a question. “Sir, what about the packet cutter? Should we release it?”

“Of course not. Keep them locked down.”

“Of course, sir…”

Anticipating the next order, Lavigne made preparations for the ship’s waveform drive to send them to the next star. Why the captain had waited for a specific time for them the begin the traversal, he had no idea.

A note from Erios909

Thanks for reading!

If you are enjoying the story, please leave a comment, rating, or review! They help the story out!

Alex and Elis appreciate them!

AI Fan Art time! Alex-Lavigne-Amy-Logan! (Beware of hands and feet!)








Next time: Chapter 50 – Operational Success and Goal Planning

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About the author


  • West Virginia, USA
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Bio: Still alive, yes.

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