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Sleep had been catching up to Solomon, like a predator stalking its prey, it fell over him, dragging him in and not releasing him for ten hours. Sharon awaited him with the breakfast, despite the late hour. After having breakfast with her he left for work. Their son had been off to school hours earlier.

“Good day Admiral,” first officer Nikolai Assanov greeted him with a smile, “I was about to send the status report to the other ships.”

“Don’t.” Solomon sighed, “Our harpy had caught on to our language pretty quickly. Perhaps her brethren have too, work it over and delete every and any reference to our Harpy satellite.”

Saluting Nikolai went to work on the report, while Solomon began his shift by going over the status reports of the various stations.

“Wouldn’t this be news worthy for the crew on Ericsson? We’re due to pick them up soon.” Solomon let his tablet computer sink, pondering he stared at the blank view screen. “They’re incapable of handling an encrypted message right now. The Harpies might be able to understand a clear transmission. If something should happen so we can’t pick them up, they’ll wake up on their own and wait it out for Destiny to get them.” With that he returned to his reports, leaving Nikolai to his report.

 

Feeling a burning sensation in his eyes Sven watched the Harpy type on the tablet computer he had handed her. “Why didn’t you dampen the signals?” She had inquired before. It took several attempts on her part because sign language wasn’t Sven’s strong side. “We need to fool your brethren, we’re afraid they’ll detonate right away if we cut you off.” He had replied at last. Seeming to understand the Harpy had set to work.

Certain aspects of engineering never had been her strong side, but she had a basic knowledge of the physics behind the military technologies.

She turned the tablet over to Sven. “Antiphotons?” He exhailed, with his eyebrows raised and forehead in wrinkles.

Trying to recall what the humans meant by the word photon she too pondered for a moment, but finally signaled “yes.”.

Feeling overwhelmed Sven turned his eyes back to the tablet. Equations that made no sense to him seemed to lurk there, ready to take his sanity hostage.

“Can we access the ship?”

Looking at him in a fascinated fashion the Harpy blinked. “Maybe.” Glancing to her young she felt the urge to cry out and attack something. Her loyalties were now torn apart. On one hand she never wanted to betray her people, but on the other she was afraid. Not for herself. Signing up for service meant to be ready to die.

But her young never were asked to commit. “If you give me sensor access, and physical transport, I will access that ship and reign it in.”

 

Narrowed to mere slits Solomon looked at Sven as he reported to him. Johannes sat beside him. “Display security camera footage.” He turned to Jana.

On the wall behind Dr. Håkland the video was displayed. “Notice how she looks to her children,” Johannes sighed. “she is as concerned for them as any mother. Her loyalties lie with them, and their well being.” He grinned. It was a victorious grin. Even though he, or they had not won anything, for the safe keeping of her children she would betray her kin.

 

Solomon sat in the command centre, his eyes fixed on the screen, pieced together from various cameras and sensors on the whisker probes, the outside of the ship, a mosaic of the aft – section was displayed. “Applying the specified filter.” Nikolai stated. Against the black background, here and there a star, a blob appeared. It was more a smudge, like a distortion in the visual feed. But it appeared on all feeds, and it circled the ship around the subgamma ring. “It won’t clear up.” The first officer reported.

“We only need the position, prepare the capsule.” The latter part of his sentence was directed at Sven and Johannes who stood by in subgamma. “You realize that this might not work?” Sven glanced at the Harpy. A stasis chamber that had been damaged during the first encounter with the harpys had been refitted hastily to fit inside the tube that led from the fusion reactor to space.

It was one of several such tubes, designed to vent the plasma from the reactor into space in case anything critical happened. Using the magnetic locks in place to guide the plasma out, the chamber would be shot out into space, directed at the smudge on sensors. Inside the harpy would have limited time to breathe and little maneuverability.

“What do I or we, have to lose?” After gesturing the Harpy climbed inside her capsule. “Call me Hylia.” She signalled before the hatch closed. After all the years she had finally given them her name, another small victory for Johannes, at least something that felt like a victory.

 

Pressed into the hard cushioned bottom of her capsule, Hylia felt forces press her down like she never had felt before. Inertial dampening in the capsule was a luxury not included. After a second she was ejected from the tube, the mammals had a computer calculated trajectory for her to rendezvous with the other ship. Two seconds went by without anything happening.

Reigned in by the magnetic pull of the altered drive in the spy ship her capsule was drawn to the ship. All the time she had her implant active, so the vessel, or its pilot if there was any, would recognise her and let her aboard.

She hoped.

A metallic thud echoed through the narrow interior of the capsule as it hit the ship. Only a narrow part of the ship had become visible to her at that instant.

Just as she had hoped and intended the ship, or its pilot, had pulled the capsule in towards a docking port, while she tried to gain access to the ship, the hatch got opened from the other side. “Nice to see you could escape!” A matron looked at her. “Not that it would do you a lot of good.” Hylia climbed aboard the vessel, it was crammed, narrow, even for their standards. After living aboard the mammalian ship for years now she had gotten used to tall rooms, simulated daylight patterns, even the hinted seasonal changes. Worried she reflected that it seemed a lot more natural to her now than the narrow, low architecture in her kin’s own ships. “What of the other two survivors?”

Supressing a growl Hylia took a deep breath, at least the smell was nicer to her nose. Humas had a very limited sense of smell, at least compared to hers. “There are no survivors, except for me, and the life I carried in me.” With those words she rammed a blade into her fellow harpy, that she quickly had unsheathed from her belt.

As the life was draining out of her Hylia looked down at her dying brethren. “And no one dares threaten my children.”

Quickly she then rushed to the control room, well aware that she was being watched by the ship. With a curious mind and childlike intelligence it followed her every step. “I had no other choice but to kill her, she would’ve never let me stop the overload in your engines.” Hylia sat down at the controls.

After a few moments the antiphotonic cloaking shield vanished around the ship. Satisfied Hylia noticed that this also took some of the strain off the reactor. “Now, don’t work against me, I’ve taken good care of my ship once. Sadly she died. After slipping into a coma due to massive braindamage she couldn’t contain her core. I can take care of you, if you let me.” Something told her that the ship had no idea what she was talking about. “My sisters rigged your core, so that it can’t be contained anymore, but you and I can fix that.” While talking Hylia slowly began shutting the reactor down.

“There, you see?” She got up and strutted across the room, out in the hallway she went for the core room, from an engineering locker she pulled a tool belt.

Feeling strangely complete with it, she looked at the mess her brethren had made of the core. Although it was in the process of shutting down still an excess of energy had to be released. Energy that still threatened to overload the core.

 

Eyes fixed on the screen Solomon watched the small vessel circle the Horizon, twenty minutes earlier it had appeared on top of the capsule that they had shot at it.

Sven and Johannes were present in the command centre as well, the time it had taken them to reach the command centre was the time it had taken the Harpy to turn off the antiphoton shield around the ship. “Her name is Hylia.” Were the first words Johannes had uttered upon entering the room.

Another surprise was brooding in the Doctor. Although they will have picked up four people in a days time, they’d get five lives aboard. But he wanted to wait until the current situation was resolved to tell Solomon that bit of news.

“Another burst.” Nikolai stated, at that moment there was a flash of bright light shot out of the ship into the depths of space, in a right angle to the course of the Horizon. Brooding Solomon watched, was Hylia just releasing energy, or secretly sending messages to her people? “Time?” He barked, a lot more aggressive than intended.

“According to these readings,” Nikolai studied the screen for a few moments, “the eminent threat is dealt with, but she seems to stabilise the engines of the vessel.”

 

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