NearSpace patrol, Day 37
"Jolan Tru, First. What is our current status?"
Tovan Khev put down the ever present mug of the horrid earther drink he had developed such an affinity for.
"Fair morning to you as well, Riov. We are on our designated course. This leg of the patrol is nearly complete. In just ten more days and fifteen hours we shall return to Mol'Rihan for some well deserved rest. Vessel and crew are both performing with specified parameters. Late last watch, Varama reported some irregularities within the singularity but her team managed to find the faults and correct them. The problem was in the software package monitoring singularity power output. She and her engineers applied some patches and the software immediately began reporting correctly again. Sensors and comms are still passive and the cloaking device is on five minute standby, per your standing orders. Turn of the watch occurs in ten minu-."
"Warning! Warning! Ship decelerating from warp! Bearing zero seven five mark twenty five! Contact classified as unknown!"
"First, I have command! Helm, twenty degrees starboard and fifteen degrees spinward! Engineering, cloak to full standby! Engines to one hundred percent! Weapons, all systems to one minute standby and charge the torpedo launchers. Track contact using passive sensors only until my order! All stations, Execute!"
The chorus of replies overlapped each other in T'Cael's ears. Faicol Ryak'na turned lazily to the right and began moving above the plane of the ecliptic to better place the contact within the arcs of her best weapons.
"Command, Flight. Ready Five Scorpions upgraded to Ready One. Rest of the wing at five minutes afterwards. Standing by to launch on your command. Flight, out." T'Cael could not help but grin. Subcommander Slanas and the rest of the fighter wing were always eager to launch. Moreso when their 'ride home' seemed to be in peril. Like now. And they were also always a bit twitchy if it appeared he was about to leave them out of a fight. The area along the border between the Federation and the fledgling Republic was called NearSpace by the personnel of the Republic Navy. It had an 'official' name of course. But no one used that one. There were a great many unexplained and unexplored things in and around NearSpace. The commander who wandered about blindly trusting to good fortune granted by the Elements and without his weapons near to hand placed his crew in an unnecessary risk. 'Risk is our business.', might be a stirring statement to the Earthers and the rest of Starfleet. But T'Cael felt no compulsion to pay in blood and damaged equipment to live the same way. Weapons and shields could always be powered down. The lives of well trained Rihannsu warriors were far more expensive than energy.
"Sensors. Do you have any further information?" T'Cael always tried to keep a calmness about himself in these moments. More than one warbird commander had made serious errors by thinking with his heart rather than his head. T'Cael felt no compulsion to shoot first and then inquire either.
"Yes, Riov. The contact appears to be Rihannsu. Weapons and shields are unpowered except for navigational deflectors. Power and propulsion profiles indicate a T'Varo class warbird at full impulse which is broadcasting on all comm channels - Riov, they are attempting to contact us."
"Alright. All stations, this is T'Cael. Return to Readiness Two and await further command. Place weapons, shields and cloak in a Hold status. Flight, return the hangar to Ready Five and Ready Ten. Confirm new status by intercom with First Officer Khev. Comms, open a channel and allow them to speak with us."
"Ah. There you are. Are you the warbird Faicol Ryak'na, commanded by Riov T'Cael?"
"Yes. Dropping out of warp so closely is a very good way to get your hull cut open out here in NearSpace, warbird. Whom am I addressing and what is your business with us?"
"Leih R'uhalla, of the Fveirrolh, Riov. I have special communications for you direct from Fleet. Eyes only. Physical transfer of hard copy media via shuttlecraft only approved transmission method. No idea what is in them and my communications crew could not break the cipher to find out. Apparently, these comm solids are keyed only to your bio signature, Riov. I'd appreciate it greatly if you would come get them quickly. My crew was off duty less than a day when Fleet called us back into service. They've not seen their families and friends in nearly two months. We are supposed to rendezvous with you and then we get to return to Mol'Rihan for some richly deserved time off."
"Flight, T'Cael. Ready my gig for departure and docking with Fveirrolh. We leave in ten minutes. Slanas, you are pilot. Let us find out what Fleet thinks is so very important they pulled a warbird out of leave rotation to track us down."
NearSpace patrol, Day 38
"And this is all approved by Fleet? Since when do we work with Consular Operations? Which is really just a different spelling for Tal'shiar."
"Softly, Varama. Softly. I understand well engineers are supposed to be bad tempered all the time. I was raised by one after the Escape, after all.
But in this case, discretion and forbearance may be the better path."
"As ordered, Riov. I will comply with your guidance. But do not expect me to be cheerful or content about it."
T'Cael visibly sighed. Varama was a talented engineer. Faicol Ryak'na was fortunate to have her. Her instincts with machinery and computers were nearly sorcerous. But some days the price for these magical abilities was a bit high. Today was one of those days. T'Cael turned to his Science officer, Suhkem.
"Science, your assessment of this information?"
"Riov, I question the Khallinae's choice of us for this task. We are a warbird, not a research vessel. None of us has any proper training in the exploratory and investigative techniques this search will require. Learning them on the run means we will make mistakes and further, we will miss things trained researchers would not. I think we were not the best choice for this mission but merely the most convenient."
"Agreed. Slanas, please provide me with a Reman viewpoint on all of this."
"Riov, I am a simple fighter pilot. All of this mysticism and tales of ancient artifacts is something I prefer very much not be cluttering my thoughts when I engage enemies of the Republic. Nevertheless, it is fact this crew successfully located a blade which may be the Sword of the Raptor Star. It is also fact this weapon has the right age and indicators to show it was made by S'harien. S'harien could no more avoid making swords than you or I can avoid breathing. This too is fact. The possibility other swords may lie undiscovered within the Greater Dark which have an equally valid claim to being the Sword of the Raptor Star is...troubling. What if the Tal'shiar find one of these other blades and brand the one we have a fraud? The Tal'shiar are only one of many threats the Republic endures. There are obviously people within Lloannen'galae, and the Klling'hann Nneikha who would be delighted to continue having some control over us all by possessing the 'real' sword."
"For a 'simple fighter pilot', you perform decently at analysis, Slanas. And what of your opinions, First?"
"T'Cael, we decided long ago to serve the Republic together as best we can. Some tasks were easy. Some were neccessary. Others put our souls at risk. But none of them were trivial or unimportant. This is something which needs doing. It is for the good of the Republic. It is also good for our people. Right now the Declared are crippled by their need for both the Empire and the Federation to help us survive. I firmly believe the sword we found is the true Raptor Star. But many of our people were not there when we found it. They did not get to touch the blade as we did. So in their minds it is possible to sow questions. Which would cause discord where none is needed or wanted. Which in turn would weaken us further. The list of those who benefit from our squabbling or doubting our own worth is long and grows longer. We should defeat these whispers and speculations as quickly as we can. In doing so, we serve the Declared and the Republic."
Varama interjected, "Riov, we all desire to see this mission to a successful conclusion. My objections are not to the mission but to working with the Seekers. I find them to be masters of expediency and half truths. As are the Tal'shiar. Since it is obvious you have already made up your mind, I would caution against following the path laid out by the Khallinae without putting thought into why they wanted us to do this. In short, let us provide them with the results they want without using the suggestions and theories they desire us to."
"Alright then. We begin at once. Signals, compose a message over my signature to inform the government and Fleet we have begun the search. Text only and append it to normal message traffic. No need to draw attention from unfriendly eyes. Suhkem, begin analysis of the information Fleet sent us. I want at least two paths to follow about where to begin this search. Tovan, we will continue on our patrol path through NearSpace. When we arrive near the points Suhkem has designated as where we start our search, inform me and I will decide then and there about whether the data points are worth investigating. And may the Stars and the Elements smile upon our journey."