AFTER A LONG, unproductive cruise, the scout ship Ranger97 is near the end of its outward leg.
Ciara is clearly feeling the frustration. She asks of no one in particular, “It’s bad enough to have to go on a wild goose chase, why do we have to live in coffins?”
Danar says pedantically, “Ranger Ninety-Seven is a long range, military scout craft. It’s all legs and lungs, with a minimum of creature comfort. The military weapons system has been replaced with a super-efficient long range search device. Ranger Ninety-Seven has only one single function; find and catch colony ships. If Ranger Ninety-Seven were any more comfortable, it would inhibit its prime function.”
“Okay. Okay. But I still don’t like sleeping in a metal coffin at all.”
“Think what it would be like if we had a standard twelve-man crew instead of just the four of us.”
“No thank you! It’s bad enough with just the three of you.”
“If you think the lack of space is bad for your five-foot eight inch body, try it sometime with a six foot six inch body.”
Ciara favors Danar with one of her overly sweet smiles. “No thank you. I’m clumsy enough at five foot eight inches, as is.”
Danar doesn’t reply and Ciara glances back over at him.
Danar is working the long-range detection system. He has the full scan narrowed down to a focus search in a specific direction. He has the screen up to max resolution and he’s trying to read the clutter. Little by little he manages to tune in on something. Gradually it becomes clear that it’s a ship, a very large ship, obviously an old-style colony ship!
Danar has been working so hard that he’s oblivious to almost everything but the screen in front of him. As the image steadies, Danar says, “Bonus ship, come to papa!”
Ciara says, “Congratulations eagle eye, now give me the damn heading, so that we can get the rest of the bonus!”
Danar furnishes Ciara with the heading and Ciara brings Ranger97 around and the little scout ship begins to whittle away at the distance between it and the colony ship.
As Ranger97 closes on the colony ship, Danar alerts the rest of the crew.
Porv and Kaal come to the bridge.
Danar gives them the heading and detector info. The info is already in the computers, but knowing it twice won’t hurt.
Ciara turns the helm over to Porv and says, “Get us there and get us our bonuses.”
With that, Ciara and Danar squeeze past the two replacements and go back to their bunks for some rest before their mission.
Later, with nearly a full shift’s sleep, Ciara and Danar collect their mission gear and walk back to the bridge. They leave their mission gear at the exit port area.
As they get to the bridge, Kaal gives them the bad news, “The colony ship won’t answer hail.”
Ciara says, “They might be all dead.”
Danar says, “I can live with them all dead. However, they might just be alive and hungry for fresh meat.”
“My, aren’t we cheerful this shift!”
Danar doesn’t answer. He doesn’t need to answer. His face shows that he has gone into his pre-board mind state. Danar is a true warrior.
Ciara starts to say something and then thinks better of it. She’s both a pilot and a language specialist. She prefers talk to violence, but the big man has the muscle to give them a chance to survive, if talk doesn’t work.
Ciara then goes and relieves Porv at the helm. Porv is a good pilot. Ciara is an exceptional pilot. Ciara will make the final approach to the colony ship.
Ciara matches trajectory with the immense colony ship. The ship is old, but there’s a standard landing and join area marked off. Ciara hits the landing area dead center!
Danar has walked back to the exit port. He checks the seal of Ranger 97 against the colony ship hull. The seal is air-tight, but he’ll still seal off the entry port area before they try the entry hatch.
Ciara then rejoins Danar.
Danar and Ciara don the pressure suits that they will need for the entry attempt. At Ciara’s ready signal, Danar notifies Porv and Kaal over the intercom link. Then Danar seals the entry port area. Danar then does a quick, final check of his sonic weapon.
Ciara is annoyed at the bravado displayed by Danar. However, she calms as she realizes that Danar must do the entry his way. However, he’s not stupid enough to start trouble, unless they’re attacked. If the inhabitants of the colony ship do attack, Danar will be worth his weight in gold.”
Danar completes all the pre-entry checks, turns and asks Ciara, “Ready?”
Ciara replies, “Ready!”
Danar just says, “Let’s go.”
With that, Danar applies the magnetic release bar to the colony ship entry hatch. It requires quite a bit of his muscle, but the long unused hatch opens.