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“Wake up!” Shaken rather violently by his wife Johannes opened his eyes. “We should have reported to Solomon.” She stated with a hint of urgency in her voice. Obviously his expression told of his confusion more than he ever could verbally.

“The magnetic tide I told you about?” Nodding he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “According to the Harpy there is a ship following us in close proximity.” Suddenly wide awake he jumped off the bed. “How do you know?” A glance at the time told him it was three in the morning.

Wordless she held up her glasses and raised her eyebrows. While gettingn dressed she told him that the hidden ship was a one-seater Harpy stealth ship. Originally for recon missions, but the Harpy in captivity feared that their engines were either faulty or manipulated so the ship functioned much like a bomb.

Johannes cursed the coffee supplement, he yearned for real coffee just as Solomon was. “So now, you think the anomaly in the magnetic field is the alien vessel?” He downed the supplement anyways.

“Yes. What else could it be?”

Hastily the two left their quarters, heading for the tube. “You’re going to engineering?” Surprised that she entered the cab with him he felt the need to ask. “No, meeting with the Admiral, he requested your presence as well.”

 

As soon as Oleksandra had started talking her technological details, Johannes felt lost. From the faces of the other men and women in the meeting he gathered that they felt likewise. With the exception of Sven.

“The tide therefore might be an indication of where the harpy ship is.” Silence followed Oleksandra’s closing statement, as the memebrs of the meeting tried to comprehend what she just had said to them.

“Dr. Håkland?” Solomon turned to Sven, past the screens with the video called elected officials. “We can’t detect a vessel. Not on infrared, visible or ultraviolet sensors, it is also not emitting any other signs of it’s presence, nor reflecting anything.”

Use a magnet then, a compass perhaps? Solomon bit his tongue. “Try to find out where it is, once we have found it, what are the options?”

“We can’t shoot it, if that is what you’re suggesting.” Sven immediately retorted. “Wether it is an engine malfunction or intent, shooting it, even if we could get a weapons lock, would destabilise it even more, possibly detonate it right away.” An eerie silence followed his words.

“Can you remove the implants?” After what seemed an eternity Solomon addressed Johannes. “Not without killing them. Their implant sits deep inside the brain, ours is subdermal. But why don’t we dampen the signal instead?”

Again Sven spoke up, the signal wasn’t the source of the problem, just a symptom, and one they shouldn’t tamper with, for it gave them advanced warning.

Nodding in agreement Solomon sighed, drawing up a representation of the Horizon. A tiny blob was circling it around subgamma. “We need to find out the following, people,” he exhaled. “What distance is the Harpy ship from us, what yield will the detonation have? I want options for disposing of it, and options to repair it and bring it in.”

“Bring it in? Are you mad?” Diane Lexington yelled from her screen, the gamma ring governor seemed quite agitated. “It has probably antimatter and other unstable substances aboard. That stuff was the undoing of the Ark1, we mustn’t lay our unexperienced and obviously incapable hands upon such technology!” Why do I get the feeling she has a bible under her pillow? Johannes mused, waiting for the reply from Solomon. “We could secure important enemy military technology, besides, with our captive Harpy eengineer we do have someone capable and experienced at our disposal.”

“Assuming she’s willing to help.” Governor Gustav Degenhauser from beta ring spoke up. “I concur with my colleague, we mustn’t let this thing nearer to us than it already is.”

The hostile atmosphere oozing from the video calls into the conference room was almost tangible, Johannes felt overwhelmed by it, wondered how Solomon felt. “My dear governors, your offices gave me, or rather my command, emergency ruling for the duration of this crisis. Therefore, any military decision, any decision concerning our safety, is not yours to make. Your objections are duly noted, and I will take them under consideration. But if it should proove feasible to bring this thing under our control, we will do it.”

Enraged Governor Lexington ended her call, greeting the round respectfully, but distantly cool, Governor Degenhauser followed her example.

After exchanging a few pleasantries, including a reassurance of full support in the matter, the last of the governors, Adrian Gilbert, who had managed to get reelected, also left the conference call.

“Joe,” sitting back down Solomon buried his face in his hands, “if that thing should blow, and the ship isn’t torn to shreds, what will the survivors face?”

Stunned Johannes looked to Sven, who slightly shook his head. “Radiation of all sorts, we haven’t got the slightest clue what kind of radiation this thing could set free. Safest place would be in the central tubes” how I hate the very idea of those, “inside the individual rings, or ring remnants.” Nodding Solomon muttered that he already thought likewise. “I’ll get crews to make a habitat there.” Oleksandra offered, the doubt in her voice clearly showing. “But the question of energy would then have to be considered. The fusion reactor would probably go, and the fission reactors would most likely not react well to that beating, and the radiation spilled on them from outside.”

Rubbing his temples by now, Solomon closed his eyes. Clearly he had hardly slept himself.

“Work on solutions, dismissed.”

Hastily all took off, leaving Johannes and Solomon alone. “Trouble sleeping?” Johannes approached his friend. “Is not sleeping trouble with sleeping?”

“I can always drug you. As the chief medical officer aboard I can temporarily relieve you of duty.” Raising his hands to fend off the threat, Solomon sighed that he’d be off to his quarters if Johannes kept his sedatives to himself.

 

Alfons was lying sprawled over half of the bed between Johannes and Oleksandra, his steady breathing had a calming effect on both of their moods, but still sleep eluded them.

“How about an EMP?” Johannes whispered, causing no reaction in the child, “To disable the Harpy ship I mean.”

“Could set off their engines.” Was the breathed reply. “Besides, I think they’re protected against that sort of interference.”

For hours they had passed ideas between them. There was an idea manifesting in Johannes’ mind that he didn’t want to even consider, let alone suggest. Yet his subconscious always returned to it. Why not implant one of the salvaged implants into one of us and direct the Harpys to abandon their plan?

“Think I’m gonna call in sick and take something to sleep.” He pinched his eyes.

 

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