Farah waited, trying to keep still and look relaxed. Like promised, she had read over the entire manual and taken the test. Katie was going over her test, red pen twirling in her hand. Ready to strike.
Farah’s eyes focused on the writing implement. She was hoping that it wouldn’t get used. She had been confident in her answers, but looking at Katie’s face was shaking that confidence. She questioned whether or not she had been over eager and prayed that she hadn’t made herself look like a fool.
“Cappy, I’m picking up a distress signal,” Allison reported. “Sounds like they’re under attack.”
“Location?” Ophelia asked.
“It’s still faint, but it’s about an hour to the east,” Allison said.
“That’s out of the way,” Lucy stated. “We could be late for the rendezvous if we go and we may not even show up in time.”
“True,” Ophelia said. “I suppose the proper course would be to meet up with our clients and hand over the drive. Forget all about the signal.”
“That would make sense,” Allison said. “But we all know how this ship works. I’ve set the coordinates for the signal.”
“Very good,” Ophelia said. “I’ll take us there. Go get Leon, Paul and Grace. We’ll leave Kat alone for now. She’s grading Farah’s test. Lucy, send a notification to our clients to inform them that we’ve had to take a detour and may be a little late.”
Katie looked up from the test and sighed, heavily.
“Farah, I know you’re eager and everything,” she said. “And I can understand wanting to do this quickly.”
“Did I make a mistake?” Farah asked.
“No, it’s perfect,” Katie said. “I just wasn’t counting on having to take you for a practice flight so soon. Come on, let’s clear it with the Captain.”
The two moved forward to the bridge. They noticed Leon coming out of the med-bay, looking agitated.
“Maybe we won’t get to try that flight today,” Katie muttered. “Something’s up.” They hurried to the bridge.
“All done with the testing?” Lucy asked. “I’m afraid it’s not the best time to tell us how she did.”
“Farah, take the sensors,” Ophelia ordered. “Kat, get to the docking bay and prepare to sortie. We got a distress signal from a ship under attack.”
“Understood,” Katie said. She shot Farah a sympathetic look before moving down.
“I’m only picking up on ship,” Farah reported. She brought it on screen. It was adrift in space near a large nebula.
“I know,” Ophelia said. “And it doesn’t seem to be damaged at all. Let me know the instant that changes.”
“It could be a trap,” Lucy suggested. “Someone may be trying to lure us in.”
“It is possible,” Ophelia conceded. “A pirate ploy to catch unsuspecting ships off guard. Farah, can you tell the status of their ship yet?”
“We’re almost close enough for a more detailed scan,” Farah said. “We should be in range… now. Hold on just a moment.” She ran through a series of checks. “It’s an Alliance ship. Their shields are down and most of their systems are offline. They still have life support but I’m having trouble detecting life signs. It appears the nebula is generating interference that masks organic signs.”
“Curious,” Ophelia said. “That’s one single-minded nebula. Are there signs that they were damaged by hostile fire?”
“None,” Farah said. “The systems seem to have been taken down from the inside.”
“Might they be using a scrambler field to throw off our sensors?” Lucy asked.
“The readings don’t appear to be being affected by any outside source,” Farah said. “Besides the nebula, anyway. If they are it’s a really sophisticated model.”
Ophelia flipped on the intercom. “Everyone, it looks like there are no hostiles in space. Grace, I want you to work on boosting the sensors to cut through the interference from the nebula. Kat, Leon, Allison, I want you to take the shuttle to investigate. I’m going to send Farah along with you. Make sure to have your weapons ready.” She nodded at Farah and Farah promptly hurried out of the bridge and towards the docking bay.
“Captain,” Paul’s voice came from the speakers overhead. “Request permission to join the boarding party.”
“For what reason?” Ophelia asked.
“If there’s anyone alive on there they may need immediate treatment,” Paul said. “I have a portable kit ready to go.”
“I protest,” Leon’s voice stated. “It could be a dangerous situation. We can’t risk Paul!”
“I appreciate your feelings on this matter,” Ophelia said. “But Paul is correct. I’m afraid that the shuttle will be very cramped with five people, though. Allison, why don’t you come up to the bridge and run sensors?”
“Do I have to?” Allison asked. “I was looking forward to seeing Leon try to stop anyone from bumping into Paul during the ride.”
“Just get up here,” Ophelia said. She switched off the intercom.
“An odd situation with no way to gauge the potential threat,” Lucy said. “Is that the best type of mission to test our newbie on?”
“Not ideally,” Ophelia stated. “But I’d like an idea of how well she meshes with the others in an actual mission sooner rather than later.”
“I wonder if she still finds the good doctor scary,” Lucy mused.
“Captain, we’re ready to launch the shuttle on your mark,” Kat reported.
Allison walked in and took her station.
“Try to keep a lock on them,” Ophelia ordered. “Kat, you may launch. Be careful out there.”
They watched as the small shuttle soared towards the floating derelict.