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“IFF identifies the craft as the Orion.” Louis Walsh, first officer to the Explorer, sat back in his chair. “Can you give us an image?” Admiral Franziska Hardwick too relaxed in her seat. Only moments earlier had the Orion nuked a potentially hostile Harpy vessel.

A few button presses later the main screen in the command centre displayed a smudge like object. “Extrapolation of sensor data and visual coming up.” Louis pressed a few more buttons on his touchscreen console.

A ship with a long cylindrical body, and the typical dish shaped back was displayed. “They are sending a transmission.”

“This is the USS Orion, calling the unidentified vessel. If your intentions are not hostile, we pose no threat. Please respond if you can understand our language.” Stunned silence filled the command centre. “Turn on IFF.” Franziska sighed, an IFF had been implemented, but wasn’t turned on after the existence of the Harpies was made known.

“This is the Explorer. We read you Orion, and assure you that we are anything but hostile.” Franziska spoke calmly after waiting a short while with the IFF on. She had been assured that the outgoing transmission had been altered sufficiently to be received by the Orion. “Are you human?”

“Indeed we are, we are surprised, to say the least, to find another ship out here.” Confused Franziska maintained a friendly tone, but looked inquistive to Louis, who shook his head. An initial search of the database had revealed nothing about the Orion, other than hypothetical work.

“We thought that we were the last ones, safe for radioactive mutants struggling for survival. Let me just say that we too are very pleased to know that we aren’t the last ones.” Radioactive Mutants? Just forming the words in silence Franziska kept her gaze at Louis. Again he shook his head, shrugging.

“The pod from the Ark1 has docked, cryogenic chambers have been secured.” Communications officer Harald Rüttli stated from the communiques reaching him. Franziska dismissd the information with a nod. “What do you make of it?” She whispered to Louis.

“The readings conclude that this thing is old. Dare I say, ancient for technological standards. If I had to guess, I’d say this thing was built back in the cold war.”

Uncertain Franziska looked around. “Could it have been out here all that time? No resupplying? Generation after Generation?”

Again her first officer shrugged. “Orion!” Franziska looked at the big screen, an extrapolation of the Orions course was displayed. “Where are you headed if I may ask?”

“I’m afraid that I’m not authorised to reveal that information.” Feeling a bit insecure whether she was talking to the ships commanding officer or just a communications officer Franziska kept staring at the displayed information. “Barnards star.” She blurted out. Silence on the radio. “As I said, I’m not authorised to reveal our destination. Although commanding the Orion, I too have superior officers. Or at least standing orders.”

 

The screen in the briefing room displayed a list of names.The rescued survivors from Ark1. “There are a lot more over there, but after the Harpy attacked Allister, we got out.” Sylvie closed her report. Already she had given the known details of Allisters encounter with the Harpy to the assembled. For a rare occasion the governors of the civilian rings were present in person, instead of just phoning in like usual.

Glad to be back on a ship with a functioning defense against attacks, asteroids and cosmic radiation she tried to forget the pockmarked ship she just had left behind.

“Thank you. Dismissed.” Saluting Sylvie turned and left the room. Behind her the attachés to the Governors also left the room, leaving only the Admiral, the first officer and the governors inside.

 

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