“Farah, keep us in contact with our comrades,” Ophelia ordered. “Yuri, the scanner is yours. Lucy, take the weapons. In ten hours we’ll switch with Allison, Leon and Kat and we’ll keep swapping every ten hours. Yuri, I’m sorry but you’ll have to keep working.”
“That is acceptable,” Yuri stated. “Though shutting my systems down at times is beneficial, I am capable of running for an extended period without doing so.”
“I know,” Ophelia said. “But I still feel terrible for making you do it.”
The group of ships was making good time, but only the Stylx knew their destination. Sector 5732 was a large area. So it was impossible for the rest to calculate how long the job was going to take.
Ophelia and her group were in the middle of their third shift. “Any idea where we’re going?” Ophelia asked, looking at Lucy.
“It’s a circuitous route,” Lucy answered. “We’ve retraced our steps several times so far. The Stylx really doesn’t want us to figure out where we’re heading, either that or they’re really paranoid about getting spotted. Either way, if I had to guess. I’d say we’re going to Nimwuk.”
“But there aren’t even any active colonies there,” Farah stated. “Just a research satellite.”
“It may not be as it seems,”Ophelia said. “There are a bunch of rumours about that place. Some people say there’s a secret military station. Some say they do classified research. Some even say that there’s a secret information repository of all the Alliance’s most classified files.”
“We wouldn’t be going there chasing rumours,” Lucy declared. “The Akumillian government knows something about that sector. Something definitive.”
“It is also a possibility that your conjecture is mistaken,” Yuri interjected.
Lucy turned and stared at her, her normally closed yellow eyes opening very slightly. Farah shuddered at the sight but Yuri seemed unaffected.
After a moment, Lucy’s eyes shut again and her usual smile returned. She shrugged. “I suppose that is possible.”
“We’re getting a transmission,” Leon reported. “The Stylx is ordering all ships to prepare for a full stop.”
“Understood,” Kat said.
“Just point me in the right direction if I have to aim,” Allison said.
“Luciverianna’s calculations were correct,” Yuri reported. “We are bearing directly for Nimwuk.”
“I don’t really care where we go,” Leon stated. “I just want to know why I’m the one who has to talk to people.”
“Because you can be polite when you need to be and Allison kept getting into radio contact for pranks.”
“I only did it four times,” Allison protested. “Not my fault they have no sense of humour.”
“They’re ordering a full stop,” Leon said.
Kat brought the Cerberus to a halt. The other four escort ships did so as well.
“And now they’re ordering us to stand by,” Leon stated. “If they don’t return within thirty hours, we’re to return to Akumil and report that their mission was a failure.”
“We are incapable of scanning Nimwuk from this locale,” Yuri reported.
“That could be the idea,” Kat muttered.”Yuri, let me or Ophelia know the second that the Stylx gets back in range. Allison, keep the weapons ready. Leon, let me know if one of the other ships has anything important to say.”
“They won’t,” Leon declared. “They never do.”
“Do me a favour and pay attention anyway,” Kat said. “Please?”
“Fine,” Leon sighed.
Ophelia tapped her fingers on the console. After her conversation with Lucy, she’d anticipated something more… exciting. So far all they’d done was fly the painfully long way to a point just outside of sensor range of Nimwuk and stopped to wait for the ship they were escorting to return.
“Stay focused,” Lucy said. “Things could still get difficult.”
“I’m perfectly focused,” Ophelia said. “The second that Yuri reports seeing the Stylx or the time elapses, I’ll take the controls.”
“The Stylx has entered long range sensors,” Yuri reported. “They are moving at maximum velocity.”
“They’re trying to transmit something, but I can’t make it out yet,” Farah added. “They’re too far away.”
Ophelia grasped the controls, ready to make a hasty retreat.
“Got it!” Farah exclaimed. “They’re ordering all ships to block pursuit.”
“I am picking up a second ship,” Yuri reported. “It has just entered our scan range. the configuration is unknown.”
“Send all the data you can pick up to me!” Lucy ordered.
Yuri complied. Lucy checked over her console in silence.
“How bad is it?” Ophelia asked.
“Very,” Lucy answered. “It appears to be some kind of massive war ship. Easily five times our size and with really heavy duty armour. I don’t even recognise some of these weapons.”
“Farah,” Ophelia said. “Patch me through to the other ships. If we’re going to survive this, we’re going to need to coordinate our efforts.”