Friday, June 03, 2016

Bark: Incursion - Chapter Twenty-Four

2701. – 119 Tauri; CFV-B Pallas

“Admiral, the ship with the specialists aboard to interrogate Number Six is due to arrive in five minutes. You wanted to be reminded, sir.” Robson poked his head into my Ready Room.
“I did indeed, Number One. Thank you.” I put my terminal on standby and joined Robson on the bridge. I stepped down to Weps’s tactical station to take advantage of the large scale of its holographic screen, which showed an overview of the system. I peered over Weps’s right shoulder as he manipulated the view, scanning 360 degrees around the ship.
“No sign of them yet, Admiral.” Weps reported.
“Any idea yet who these specialists might be, sir?” Robson asked, taking position opposite me on Weps’s left.
“Still no clues, Number One. Fleet refused to acknowledge my request for further information.”
“They didn’t even turn it down? They just blanked you, sir?” Weps sounded shocked.
“Evidently I’m not as important as I like to think I am, Weps.” I shrugged.
“Sounds like they’re just making it up as they go along, Admiral. Why else would they keep you out of the loop? I can’t wait to see just who these ‘specialists’ are.”
“Neither can I, Weps.” I tapped my foot, impatient for the ship to arrive. I wasn’t kept waiting too long.
“New contact, 237o12’55” by 306o59’42”. Distance 10,000 kilometres. It’s a friendly, Primordial-class.” Weps zoomed in his control board to show the ship in more detail.
“Do you have an ID?”
“IFF code is coming back now. No, that’s not possible.” Weps turned to look back at me. “Sir, it’s Thanatos.”
“There must be some mistake. Thanatos was lost with all hands.” Robson protested.
“Reported lost.” I corrected him. “Have you confirmed the IFF, Weps?”
“Aye, sir. I’ve got her on visual as well.” Weps tapped the screen and the ship’s registry was clearly visible on her starboard flank, just aft of the nuclear missile launch tubes. There was also major damage to the ship’s battle section, as one of the mass driver guide rails was broken in half and one of her fighter launch bays was burnt out. A large area of the hull plating on the wing covering the engineering section was also scorched and mangled. It looked like Thanatos had taken at least one glancing blow from a Thrinax beam cannon, yet been lucky enough to survive. It must have been a close run thing though, as roughly a third of the ship’s escape pods had been launched.
“Admiral, incoming messages from Tartarus, Erebus and, well, pretty much the entire damned task force, asking if we’re seeing the same ship they’re seeing.” Hal reported from Ops. “Captain Fforde-Hughes is going berserk.”
“Tell her she knows as much as we do, Number Two. Can you open a channel to Thanatos?”
“Negative, sir. They’re not responding to hails.”
“Damn it. Let’s try the direct approach.” I stepped back up to the command deck and took my seat in the big chair.

RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{Pallas Actual calling Thanatos Actual, are you there, Nick?}-
CMDR. Rynlds#11893931 -{Thanatos Actual to Pallas Actual. Gus, I see you made Rear Admiral. Congratulations, sir.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{Nick, Jesus man, forget that! Your battlegroup went MIA two years ago. What the hell happened?}-
CMDR. Rynlds#11893931 -{That, my old friend, is a very long story.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{Well then?}-
CMDR. Rynlds#11893931 -{No time now. I’ll fill you in later. I have to talk to our Thrinax guest immediately.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{Number Six answers to me, Nick. He won’t talk to you unless I clear it first. Tell me what happened.}-
CMDR. Rynlds#11893931 -{Gus, pulling rank isn’t going to work. I’ll tell you the whole sorry story, I promise, but not right now. There’s a lot more at stake here than you realise, and time is critical.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{I don’t like being kept in the dark, Nick. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t tell Number Six not to cooperate.}-
CMDR. Rynlds#11893931 -{Because it wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference, Gus. It’s been working for me for over a year.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{WHAT?}-
CMDR. Rynlds#11893931 -{Gus, please. Be patient. I’ll get back to you when I can.}-

I blinked as Reynolds cut the chat uplink and turned to Robson, stunned. “Son of a bitch.”

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