“Captain, this is too weird. I could swear we’re picking up an SOS pattern, like we use on Earth sometimes.” Then his face changed, like he’d realised something.
Walsh eyed him quizzically, but spoke to his navigator. “Jack, turn the steering wheel towards the beeps, and we’ll find out.” Jack played his finger through a holographic control projected by something resembling an old wooden ship’s wheel. The hologram had steering vectors, and a map of space with co-ordinates.
“Aye, sir. Heading set.”
Panther paused his paper and took the spiral stairs from the downstairs office complex to the balcony-style bridge above it. Though he hadn’t exactly said it, the Captain seemed to prefer butts on the bridge if there was anything going on. He’d joked about being the only one on the bridge, talking to a bunch of ghosts.
Fifteen minutes later, a pod appeared as a dot through the large front window, and automatically a magnified version showed on the central holo. First officer Heather McTavish appeared at Walsh’s side.
“I don’t understand,” McTavish said. “It’s exactly like an Earth-designed escape pod. In fact, I think I’ve seen that exact model.”
Walsh was watching Panther’s face. “Blake, what do you know?” he demanded.
“I think you should talk to the Ambassador,” Panther said a bit sheepishly. Somehow his tall and lean but very muscled form looked small as he shrank into his chair under Walsh’s intense gaze.
Walsh turned on the ship-wide intercom. “There will be a delay in the Quantum Displacement. There’s no problem, but we’ve found something in space we want to study before moving on. Carry on with your regular duties until further notice.”
He turned his attention back to Panther. “Come with me,” he said shortly.
Panther switched things to auto and got up. Walsh beeped the Ambassador and they were admitted to her office. She was busy typing.
“Ok, what kind of probe did the government send out here that could be sending an SOS?” Walsh asked with irritation.
O’Bien’s fingers froze on the keyboard. “An SOS? Really?” She looked at Panther questioningly.
The linguist got out the word “Probably.” Before Walsh continued.
“No, I just came in to prank you.” The sarcasm was obvious, and Walsh winced, waiting for the reprimand. It didn’t come. For once, the Ambassador was too busy to bother. She rose without another keystroke and went out to the bridge.
A look of eagerness and hope was all over her face.
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