Into the Silence — Chapter 28

“It’s a Farseer vessel. Farseers should be the ones to lead the inspection.”

“It is the captain’s ship that found it. His crew will be the ones to salvage it. So it is his by salvage rights.”

“Your ship is under Farseer contract. You represent the Imperium in your actions.”

“You are guests on the captain’s ship and his rights are still law here.”

“This is Farseer space.”

“This is interplanetary realspace. There are no government borders.”

Gator and the Farseer’s Vigilant Sentinel T’Vosh had been going at it for ten minutes. Back and forth. Up and down. Rehashing old arguments and presenting the same evidence in a new light. No progress being made.

The broken, derelict battlecruiser floated just outside our viewport. Until we worked out the order of operations and the rights of each individual on our own ship, Guhle swore he wouldn’t pilot us anywhere near a docking position. We had to “sort our own shit out before going in to dig around someone else’s,” as he had put it.

So Gator, as Cap’s executive officer, and T’Vosh, as the representative of the Farseer Imperium, were discussing the finer points of salvage laws. Without coming to blows about it.

Finally, both parties were silenced by the arrival of the captain himself.

“The ship is a husk, Vigilant Sentinel,” Cap said. “Preliminary scans report low power, and zero life signs. Your people abandoned it as the useless shell it is. Now we can either continue fighting over scraps, burning fuel and endangering the success of your primary mission, or we can all get in there and try to see if there is anything of value left to find.”

T’Vosh stood stock still as the captain spoke. When it was clear that the captain was finished, the Farseer offered his rebuttal. “This would be a gross violation of Imperium property, captain. I cannot condone such an action.”

Cap steepled his fingers and leaned back in his pod. “I understand your political concerns, Vigilant Sentinel. But mine are purely practical. We have just come through a harrowing, and unexpected, ion storm. We have yet to take our bearings and determine the distance to our destination. We are all tired, and our storehouses are depleted. We are not yet in critical ranges, but it is possible that our provisions will not last us the rest of the journey. Any supplies we can find aboard that battlecruiser are crucial to the successful completion of the contract your Imperium placed on us.”

“And what of the technical components? The data files? Confidential Imperium technology? Rival governments would be more than happy to pay for any advantage over us.”

Cap closed his eyes and shrugged, bobbing up and down in the gelatinous substance within his sustenance pod. “I am sure I would not know top secret information from a shopping list. We will take what we need to patch up our own damage. Everything else is only so much scrap metal to us freighter pilots.”

T’Vosh hesitated, perhaps finally running out of any objections. For good measure, however, the captain offered him a final nugget to chew on.

“It is ultimately your decision. However, my crew is contracted only to service this vessel in its mission to deliver your materials to our destination. I cannot allow you to commandeer them for what would be, strictly, a military operation. They simply are not trained for that sort of thing.”

I deeply wished I could have seen T’Vosh’s face at that moment. No doubt, the captain had won, and seeing a Farseer caught off guard would have been the highlight of my time with the crew. Or, so I like to think.

In any case, T’Vosh graciously offered to make it a joint operation, which was about as close as the captain was going to get to an apology. The crew would lead a salvage operation with the Imperium acting in a supplementary role. They would advise on technical matters and protect against potential hostiles.

All in all, we seemed to come out alright in that discussion.

But then the concerns over role assignments came up.

“I propose that you pair off senior members of your crew with junior members, based on time spent aboard the ship,” said T’Vosh. “That way, you will spread out your inexperience in order to create a homogenous unit, covering its weakness by your strength.”

“Sure,” said Guhle, who had, by this point, extricated himself from the cockpit in order to join the conversation. “And then whatever advantage we might have over any enemy forces will be compromised by our own intelligence.”

“Guhle is right, though he does not express himself well,” said Gator. “It would be better to determine what our goals are, and then assign members of the crew based on their specialty.”

“Very well,” said T’Vosh. “Here is what I propose-”

Cap held up a hand, which somehow got everyone’s attention, despite his small size.

“While we appreciate your added experience and insight in this matter, Vigilant Sentinel, perhaps you should defer to those experienced in salvage operations. As you said, cover ignorance and weakness with strength and experience.”

T’Vosh was silent, which the captain took as acceptance.

Guhle stepped forward. “Alright,” he said. “Here’s what we need to do. The engines are our primary concern, as any irregularities in its integrity could indicate a compromised power core. If that’s the case, we need to be as far away from here as possible.”

“You and Em should handle that,” said Gator, tapping some keys on his gauntlet. “That will ensure a swift completion.”

Guhle nodded and continued. “We’ll also need someone to check out the network, as that’ll give us a lot of information about the compromised zones aboard the ship. Make our task a lot more manageable. And safer.”

“I will put Sys and Mearr on it. They should be able to handle it.”

“Sounds good. There’s also the matter of finding out just what the hell happened here.”

T’Vosh stepped forward. “I will handle that. As a Farseer, I will understand the record codes far more thoroughly than any of your crewmembers.”

“Appreciated,” said Guhle, though his tone indicated the opposite. “But I think Gator can handle it well enough. At the very least, he’ll be heading to the bridge anyway to coordinate the rest of our efforts and assist with system control as needed. He should have time to go through the logs.”

“I see…” said T’Vosh slowly.

“I will have hatchling along as well,” said Gator, and I looked up. What was I supposed to do? “He is equipped with the necessary skills to assist me in any specialized manual labor.”

Oh. Of course. The gopher role. Again.

“I’d like you and your men to sweep the hangar bays. We don’t know who else might have come across this thing. If there are any interlopers, they’ll have some sort of landing ship. That’ll be in the hangar bays.”

“I see,” said T’Vosh. “I am sure S’Rah and Q’Laren can handle such a task alone. I propose that I have access to the bridge as well. There may be something you could miss.”

“I agree,” said the captain, drawing everyone’s attention to him. “In fact, I will personally accompany the Vigilant Sentinel in order to assist him with his task.”

“Fine,” said Guhle into the following silence. “That should be everybody then. Chief and Tic-Toc can hold down the ship and we’ll set the proximity sweeps to alert us if anything shows up on the scanners. Now, can we be done here?”

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