​Rudly awoken by her boyfriend Jane felt confused and disorientated for a moment. She must have fallen asleep while reading the Digitalys logs. Faintly an alarm reached ear and consciousness. 

“Come on, Harpies are back!” He left their quarters. 

Suddenly wide awake and alert she brushed her hair and tucked her blouse back in her pants. While he headed to the barracks, she headed to the command centre. 

Still no one could reach the Admiral. 

Perhaps the alarm would draw him out. 

“How nice of you to join us. Man your station.” O’toole snapped at her, and pointed at the screen. 

It displayed the Harpy ship they had encountered just a bit over a week before. At least that’s what she thought, the markings on what remained of the hull were the same. Power output of the vessel was fluctuating, some of the biomatter controlling the ship was exposed to space, and showed signs of decay due to radiation and exposure.
“Incoming transmission!” Fohler pointed out after the according signal came from her console. With a nod O’toole acknowledged that fact and told her to put it through.

Monotonous and emotionless the translator kicked in over the distressed voice of a Harpy. “We request assistance, please reply.” 

Stunned and overwhelmed O’toole raised his eyebrows, nodded again to open a channel to the Harpy ship. “This is the acting commander of the Horizon, we read you. What happened?” 

Coughing was the first reply, then came a moment of silence, Jane felt a knot form in her stomach. “Hostile encounters, please permit us refuge.” 

Clearly struggling with his sense of duty for the safety of Horizon and the request for aid tearing him apart, O’toole felt incapable of replying immediately. 

“Receiving a call from within the ship, it’s the admiral.” Again it was Fohler breaking the silence.

“What is going on up there?” Muffled, as if he was in a crammed room, the Admiral’s voice came through the intercom. “The Harpies are back, in bad shape, they request refuge and assistance. ” 

What followed was a moment of silence. Jane’s knot intensified. “Assessment?” 

“Security wise I’m against it, but from a tactical stand point, it might be good if we aid them.” O’toole replied, explaining his dilemma. 

“Mulgrew, assessment?” 

Now Jane knew why she had that uneasy knot in her stomach. “We are probably responsible for what happened to them, therefore we must give them the help they ask of us. Besides isn’t it our humanitarian duty to help anyone in need we encounter?” 

Again there was silence, but it was made uneasy by O’toole’s judging gaze.

“Let them dock, but contain their presence on the ship, Mulgrew is in charge of the situation. Admiral Doherty out.” 

Still O’toole’s eyes lay heavy on Jane. 

Quickly she drew open a map of the Horizon. 

“I suggest we surrender beta gardens to them, we can post security personnel at the entrances and thus contain them.” She ignored the gaze from O’toole. Even as he shrugged his shoulders he was judging her.

Did he think she was bedding the Admiral or something? Jane decided to forget the judging gaze. 

For now.

“Harpy vessel, please adjust your navigational pattern to the rotation of the beta ring, sending you specific coordinates.” 
At the skeletal remains of what used to be the beta ring, a light went on at an access port. From the central ring, that couldn’t be detached from Horizon, only hallways and tubes were extending outwards. Safe for the buffers that once were supposed to be used as normal landing craft.

Against O’toole’s objections they were being reverted to be used as originally intended. 

Without any noise the huge harpy ship descended towards the lit up port for docking.

Like the trunk from an elephant a tube extended from the harpy ship. To cope with different docking mechanisms throughout time, and now species, the Harpy ship was equipped with a polymemetic compound at the end of its docking umbilicus to seal the lock.

Jane stood in the empty hallway, half a dozen guards at her back, fully equipped and armed. The uneasiness she felt, did not come from the impending arrival of numerous Harpy refugees, but the fact that none of the doors around led to anywhere. All would open up to empty space, if they hadn’t been welded shut. Like an ugly scar the welding marks across the height of the doors was an uneasy reminder of that circumstance. 

In her mind she was fostering an idea that sparked as the seal on the lock was confirmed by Horizon computers. 

Two of the now obsolete bufferzone landing craft could be moved to the port. To provide room for diplomatic meetings with the Harpies in the future.

If the humanitarian mission went well of course, and a lasting peace could be negotiated. 

Far away from any disruptive forces in the population of Horizon, the pods would be ideal for that sort of use.