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Old January 23 2012, 11:13 PM   #29
Lieutenant Commander
Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #1 - The Siren's Call

Star Trek: Pathfinder
The Siren's Call - Part Ten

USS Pathfinder
en route to Sector Nineteen
May 13, 2163

"Dropping out of warp... now."

The Pathfinder's engines powered down and the warp field dissipated quickly, dropping the ship to below the speed of light. On the bridge all eyes were fixed on their stations, scrutinizing the readouts for any signs of the enemy - whoever, or whatever, it might be.

Just as predicted, nothing more had been found at the last known location of the Roosevelt. Whatever particle trails that might have been left behind by weapon fire or engine emissions had long since dissipated, and the only debris was normal interstellar dust no larger than grains of sand. Pathfinder had lingered for barely an hour before setting course for the Tau Delta system.

Commander Beaumont stood beside T'Vril at the tactical station, watching the details of the star system resolve on the screen. Tau Delta was class-K, older and cooler than Sol, with six planets. The three innermost were small, airless rocks, the outer two were gas giants each larger than Jupiter, and the last - the fourth planet - was just barely habitable. Scattered between the orbits of the gas giants was a patchy asteroid belt which spread wider with each pass of either planet. Ultimately the entire belt would vanish, either consumed by the gravity of the giant worlds or flung out of the star system altogether, but that fate was billions of years distant.

Today, all that mattered was that something could be concealed among those rocks.

T'Vril flipped a switch on her console. "Beginning tactical scan," she said. From the pod slung beneath the saucer hull, invisible beams sprang forward, looking for anything out of the ordinary - significant masses of refined materials, or high-output energy sources that could be antimatter or fusion powerplants. For several minutes the beams swept the system, until at last the console emitted a muted beep. "No indications of enemy presence, sir," T'Vril said at last.

"Doesn't mean they aren't here," Teague said. "Lt. Marakis, plot a course that takes within detailed scan range of the gas giants and then to the fourth planet. Lt. Webb, make our speed one-half impulse. Nice and leisurely."

"Aye, sir," Webb replied, setting the controls. At that speed, it would take the Pathfinder the better part of a day to make orbit.

Teague looked over at T'Vril. "Commander, suspend active scans. Passive only."

"Sir?" Beaumont said.

"Let's make it look like we're sightseers," Teague explained. "Just out on a normal sweep, straight out of the manual. Let's make whoever might be watching us think they have us right where they want us." He leaned forward, eyes fixed on the main viewscreen.

Kassin was peering into the sensor hood. "No obvious signs of habitation," he said. "No EM emissions of any kind except for normal background noise."

"Very good. Webb... take us in."

Slowly the Pathfinder made her way toward the inner system, easing past the outermost gas giant before angling toward the next planet in. A million kilometers from Tau Delta V, Kassin's console chirped. "Contact, sir." He leaned closer to the hood, concentrating on the trace.


"In stable orbit around the fifth planet," Kassin replied. He relayed his findings to the main viewscreen. "I'm reading multiple contacts of significant mass, but no traces of power. Readings indicate the ships are pretty much stripped to the frames."

Tegan shivered as she saw how the ships were arranged. "It's a boneyard," she said.

"Lieutenant?" T'Vril said.

"It's a typical Wrecker layout," Webb said, referring to the unsavory individuals who made their living by stealing others' ships - while still being used by their rightful owners. "Seize the ships, then bring them somewhere quiet and strip them to the frames. Whole ships are tough to dispose of, but parts can go through a dozen hands before anyone gets wise to the scheme."

"What about the crews?" Beaumont said.

"Some Wreckers press them into service, others dump them off on the closest inhabitable planet. Some just leave the crew where they found the ship - in deep space."

"I'd say we're in the right place," Teague said. "Tactical alert. Bring weapons and hull plating to standby. Go to active scanning - if they're out there, I want to see them coming - "

Beaumont's shriek filled the bridge before he could complete the sentence.

To Be Continued...
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