Talia paced the bridge as the view screen cleared from their transition. The bad thing about h-space travel is that while you transition into it was fairly invisible, your return to n-space wasn’t. A large flash of multicolored light, followed by a surge in radiation alerted anyone within a star system that a ship had arrived. As it that wasn’t bad enough, re-entry also left a starship blind for five to ten seconds because the energy released temporarily overloaded sensor systems.
Which meant they were blind.
The ten seconds ran down inside her head and right on cue the view screen cleared. Nothing showed on it but empty space, and that lead her to let out a sigh of relief. One consequence of deciding to let Kleno and crew live was that the organization had been forewarned about her. However, they point blank didn’t have the room to carry the sheer numbers of humans that were on the slaver ship.
While the stop to earth only cost them a total of twelve hours, it gave the bad guys a chance to either pull ships out, use sensor screens to hide their facilities from orbit, or even space the humans. Nothing was beneath any being that would involve itself in the sleazy world of slavery. The only thing those people thought of was money, and everything else, literally, was disposable.
She passed by every station, looking at her bridge personnel in passing. It accomplished nothing but raise the level of stress in the room but Talia was too anxious to sit. Before her people had been exterminated, a large battle fleet would’ve accompanied them, but now, reduced to a single ship, she felt naked and defenseless.
It wasn’t true, of course, because despite the dated technology, the Valiant was neither toothless or a newborn babe in the woods either. While she wouldn’t have the overwhelming advantage in firepower enjoyed in the past, smart decisions would allow them to hang in, and win, most battles they might encounter.
Now, time to find out what they have in system.
She crossed her arms. “Terri, what have they got?”
The tactical officer worked in concert with CIC to analyze the information the active sensors were receiving. It would take a couple of seconds for the information to be sifted through and the relevant parts forwarded to the bridge. Talia, impatient despite knowing what the delay way, set her chin on her chest and sighed.
Come on. Come on.
“No ships in the inner system,” Terri said.
She shook her head. “I don’t like it. Jones, bring us in on half power, nice and slow.”
Robertson joined her. “Quiet environment.”
Talia rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Too quiet. Either they’ve got ships powered down waiting to ambush us, or they closed shop and left.”
“They might’ve had time to close shop. Do we know if there are any engine trails?”
“Damn, Steven, I never thought of that. Terri, run a scan for engine trails.”
“Steven, you might be onto something. They might’ve closed shop, but I’m wondering if they perhaps forgot to clean the house.”
Terri turned to look at them. “We’ve got six engine trails, and they go in one heading. Three-five-two mark twelve.”
Talia sighed. “Those numbers sound familiar, but I can’t remember where they go.”
“Crushdon is a dead system with no resources. Why would you be here?”
“It makes a good place to hide when you want to distribute slaves. Jones, bring us up to full speed, but keep weapons hot. Sheryl,” She looked at the weapons officer. “I want you to keep the finger near the button, Guns.”
“Terri, are there any orbital facilities?”
Talia pursed her lips and then shook her head. “Damn! There’s something about this system and I can’t figure out what.”
Robertson shrugged. “A battle fought here?”
“No…something different. How long until we make orbit?”
“Twenty minutes at this speed.”
She walked over to the command chair and sat down. Frustration continued to grow as the answer tickled her mind but stayed agonizingly out of reach. The problem with being twenty thousand years old, Talia thought, was someone picked up so much information that it became easy to forget important items.
And there’s something important about this planet.
“What’d they do with all the slaves? I doubt they got them all out in six hours.”
She leaned back in the chair and crossed her arms. “That’s a good question. I doubt they were doing ship-to-ship transfers either because Zelcor’s don’t work that way. They don’t like aliens on their ships.”
“What are they like?”
“Very Xenophobic. They don’t like other races, and specialize in the slave trade. To them, everyone else is a piece of property without a right to life.”
“Yeah, the like to kill their slaves,”
She thumbed in the intercom, and set it to both the security and medical sections. “Hey you three bums, care to come up to bridge? Got something to ask you-if it doesn’t strain your brain cells.” She thumbed it off and grinned at Robertson. “That’ll get them started.”
He smiled slightly. “Well, you did say the galaxy was a different place.”
“It’s changed a lot while I was asleep. Not for the better I’m afraid.”
The door to the bridge slid open and Methos lead the charge. Her curly hair bounced as she flew across the room and came to a stop beside the command chair.
“Strain my brain cells, eh? Who came up with the crazy idea to pretend she was a slave??”
Talia shot her a sideways glance and then smiled. “It did help us out did it not?”
“Only because I bailed you out of the fire again. You’re so smart sometimes you’re dumb.”
“She’s got a point there,” Crios said. “Your plans do have a tendency to blow up on your face.”
Methos glared at Crios. “And if I recall, you decide to follow right on her heels and get yourself in trouble. I expect this one,” she jerked a thumb at Talia, “to be stupid, but you?? You were supposed to be the smarter one!”
“You did nearly get yourself raped, Talia,” Dannae said. “I don’t consider that a good plan.”
“It wasn’t one. She just thought of an idea and proceeded to wing it.” Methos said. “And just where would you’ve been if not for me??”
Talia threw her hands up. “I know…but you all agreed on it.”
“Doesn’t mean we liked it.”
Talia shook her head and looked at Robertson before winking. “Told you that’d get them started.”
Methos looked at her and then proceeded to smack her. “You jerk! I’m going to get your for that!” She reached up and started to tousle Talia’s hair.
“Oh, you’re so going to pay for that one,” Crios said. “I don’t know where or when, but you’ve got one coming.”
Dannae sniffed and tried to look prim and proper. “Well, I’ve never done something so uncouth.”
Talia swatted her hands to try to get Methos to stop and failed. “Dannae, don’t get me started on your with the Doctors during the war…”
“Just remember, sis, I know about your big story…I wonder how much it’d tickle the bridge crew…”
Robertson shook his head. “You four are like little kids. I swear!”
Methos stopped messing with Talia’s hair and then looked at Robertson. “That’s because we are little kids!”
“Who are very deadly,” Robertson said dryly.
“There is that,” Talia said. “But I need to ask do any of you know anything about Crushdon?”
“Can’t help you,” Crios said.
“It sounds familiar,” Methos said, “But can’t place it.”
“According to myth, Crushdon held a buried piece of the Eye of Zanzas.” Dannae said. “Which is nothing but an old wife’s tale.”
“Interesting that a Zelcor would be picking up slaves here.” Talia shrugged. “Probably just a coincidence.”
Dannae raised an eyebrow.
“Coming up on orbit, Talia,” Jones said.
She turned her attention back to commanding the ship again. “Terri, anything hiding in orbit?”
“Nothing,” Terri said. “Other then ion trails, the systems dead. Wait…CIC reports a facility on the surface.”
Talia looked at her sisters and raised an eyebrow. “What kind of facility?”
“They’re saying it possibly could be a mining center,” Terri said.
“Any life signs?”
She stood up and looked at her sisters again. “Anyone up to a shuttle ride?”
“Are you actually planning on going where is Zelcor could be?” Dannae shook her head. “I’m starting to agree with Methos…”
“The slavers could be down there,” Methos added.
“They’ve been there and left. I want to know what they were up to before going after them.”
“The trail could go cold,” Robertson said.
“A single hour to investigate won’t make any difference when we can jump to the next system if need be.”
“Sure,” Crios shrugged. “Might as well, it’ll keep your out of trouble.”
“Ye of little faith,” Talia muttered.
“No, I’ve lived twenty thousand years with you,” Crios countered. “I know better.”
You do, don’t you?
She smiled. “Well, let’s get this over with.”