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Old August 23rd, 2019, 06:27 AM
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“Captain, sensors just picked up a jump signature.”

Delany snapped out of his whimsical thoughts and became focused like a laser. “Coming or going?” An academic question since they would have picked up anyone nearby.

“Someone exiting jump, captain.”

“Bearing and distance?”

The sensor ops officer shook his head, “I can’t get a clear bead on him, captain. The planet’s obscuring our sensors, and we don’t have an L-O-S for a scan of any kind. I’m just reading the usual disturbance with a jump.”

Delany got up and strode over to the sensor station to look over the young man’s shoulder. “Mass?”

“Not enough to get any kind of tonnage on her. It’s not a capital ship nor a major liner of any kind. It’s too small or too distant. My guess is that it’s a scout. The size of the disturbance correlates with something in the one-hundred ton range.”

Delany didn’t say anything. “Can you get a trace on the exit point, and see where it’s headed?”

Sometimes, not always, jump signatures had a vector to them related to the vessel’s direction of travel. Like a splash on a pool of water reacting to a stone tossed into a lake.

“I’ll try, captain. There’s barely enough there.” The sensor ops officer was ex-navy. In his early thirties he was well trained beyond being a mere traffic controller, and had intimate knowledge of what a ship’s sensor and scanner could do, and what it couldn’t. And he knew all the tricks of how to get the same kind of readings from a major ship of the line sensor suite without having to overload or hack the actual hardware. Even so the Dragon Class had limitations, and no expertise in any field could compensate for a lack of the right tools needed. Still, the officer’s fingers were flying over the console, hitting one series of buttons and controls after the next when he didn’t get the desired output on the screen.

All Delany could do was watch his hand picked crewman do his magic and not question his ability until it was time to give up … or if the desired result was forthcoming.

“There.” The officer finally said. “Vectoring a course parallel to planet’s natural orbit. At this distance I can’t get much, but from this disturbance here, and this plume of energy, it looks like whatever it is turned the moments it exited jump, and is making a b-line for our planet.”

Kayle Smith, the ship’s older executive officer and Delany’s long time friend since when they first created their private security firm, came over and stood next to Delany. “Contact?”

“Mmm…” Delany grumbled, “Contact with something.” Then to his officer, “He is scanning?”

“I’m picking up some residual radiation from the planet’s magnetic field that’s vectored from that contact.”

Delany digested the information, but it was Kayle who stated the obvious, “I doubt they know we’re here, whoever it is.”

Delany was more jaundiced, “Stranger things have happened. And we don’t have an exact contact, just an exit point.” Then again to his sensor ops officer, “Can we correlate the scanning radiation to get a fix on his position?”

“Sorry captain, I can try a few things, but the simple fact is that this gear on this rig isn’t that sensitive. She’s a rebuilt surplus unit—meaning they took the good stuff and swapped it out with regular civvie junk. If we were a cruiser or something, we might get a fix, otherwise …”

Delany wanted to reply with an “unacceptable”, but instead was mentally hitting himself for not having the ship thoroughly checked out before launch. System defense boats were just that. Something like an old coastal or river monitor—a floating platform with some guns. Only the Dragon class was designed for pursuit and deep strikes if needed. In fact her primary selling point to local navies was that she was designed as an ambush unit. She was meant to lay in wait with a squadron, and then leap out from cover of deep in some ocean or thick atmosphere onto some enemy vessel. And now here Delany was with such a vessel with all the hardware save a proper set of electronic eyes and ears.

“Do what you can.” Delany relented. Then to his pilot, “Rig for jump. Let’s get out of here before I regret anything.”

“Captain, lower power emission flashing our hull. I think something’s locked onto us.”

“Full power, get us out of here!” Delany ran back to his command chair
Sir Ghost, Knight of Imperial occupied Terra, Sol.
Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.
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