Mentally shocked, Mendin kept his composure rigid in the sector commander’s presence. How could the probe still be operational? It had imploded.
Where did it go?
“We scanned the planet repeatedly,” the sector commander continued. “Nothing. The Terran cruisers must be doing the same.”
She glared at a Terran cruiser’s projection. Her eyes narrowed. A snarl exposed long incisors.
“They must be tracking it.” Mendin mused.
“We don’t know how. We can find no trace.”
Mending looked at planet’s projection below them. The wreckage of the artifact lay there. In theory, during the implosion, a piece of it escaped the destruction. Did it phase? Yes. There would be a merry chase if the probe were still in normal space. That was how it vanished every other time the Terrans approached it. Terrans could only track it from system to system if—
“The Terran’s are tracking a phase space signal.” Mendin mused aloud.
The sector commander growled.
“Where else would the artifact go where we couldn’t track it?”
Firehoon nodded. “It is the only conceivable option, as impossible as it sounds. Unless, the brain of the artifact is still somewhere on the planet.”
“If that were the case, I think the Terrans would already be down there, searching. After they tried to chase us away.”
“I’m not sure the Terran cruisers want to fire at us,” Firehoon said.
“No, they are not aggressive.” The sector commander growled. “They possess weaknesses they accommodate for with their alliances. We do not have such a concern.”
Mendin raised an eyebrow, but stayed focused on the projections. He avoided looking toward the sector commander with doubt on his face.
“All of these vessels may have the technology to track the probe. We need only one of them.”
The sector commander walked back to the desk. Projections of Terran ships and the space around melded into a tactical battle map of the system, zooming on a lone Terran vessel near the edge of the star system.
Mendin smiled. The Theseus. Still limping after the Curtani had first engaged it.
“That is our target,” she said.
Firehoon stared at the blinking target on the 3D map. “For the moment, we are trapped between two Terran cruisers. Even with surprise, we may not win that confrontation. They likely have their weapons trained on us.”
“True.” The sector commander said.
“They could outrun us, if we attempted to intercept the Theseus,” Mendin said.
“Do we have reinforcements arriving?”
“No. We need that ship. I cannot risk the Terrans intercepting any message we send out of the system.”
Mendin turned and bowed his head to keep from looking at her. “Commander, you are risking your life on a hunch, the hunch of a simple soldier. Please, reconsider.”
“Please, your opinion matters little. The artifact and the Terran phase space tracking technology are out priorities. If they can track through phase space, they may have command of any battlefield. If they collect the artifact before us, well, we really don’t know what advantage that gives them.”
Her voiced boomed over the PA system, “Crew, battle stations prepare to engage the phase drives on my command!”
Mendin swallowed. The Terran vessels were too close.
Firehoon eyes widened. “A bluff?”
The sector commander growled. “A promise.”
Mendin’s legs weakened. Fear. He had sensed fear few times in his life: his first drop onto a battlefield, his first command on a drop, and now, phasing so close to enemy vessels. If the Terrans did not move in time, or if they fired in response, it was over.
“Helm, coordinates have been sent. It will be a quick jump. Do not fail,” the sector commander’s voice continued to boom throughout the room.
Do not fail, Mendin thought. A planetary system was a landmine for phase splashing.
Mendin felt the sector commander’s breath across his neck.
“Mobilize a team to board the Theseus. We will have to be quick.”
Mendin lifted his head and stood straight with pride. “Yes, commander. I live to serve and to die in service.”
© 2019 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.
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