Lost In Space
The Ralpha Dogs’ latest wormhole expedition had not gone well. After successfully clearing two sites of Sleepers, a control systems glitch had taken Cassius and CSS Katana out of the fight in a third one, and Erbo and Selena had been forced to retreat to the rally point. As soon as Cassius managed to regain control, he headed for the exit, as fatigue was setting in.
Suddenly, over the com channel, Cassius’ voice broke in. “I think you’d better get out here.”
Erbo wheeled Cydonia Mensae around, setting warp coordinates for the exit wormhole. Beside him, he could see Selena, in Mozart, doing the same thing. The two ships streaked through space…and, as they dropped out of warp, Selena gasped.
CSS Katana was there…but the wormhole was not. It had vanished.
. . .
“Okay, people,” said Erbo, “everybody just calm down. We knew this could happen. That’s why I have a probe launcher on this ship. There’s another way out of here; we just have to find it.”
He warped Cydonia Mensae over to the first planet of the system, and quickly dropped four probes. As he set them into position, he warped to a second wormhole he’d discovered in the initial survey he’d done with Amaranth. He hadn’t checked it earlier…but when he did now, he could see that it led in a low-security system. Not ideal, but they might be forced to use it.
“Are we gonna have to spend the night in this system?” asked Selena.
“No, we’ll find a way out,” said Erbo. “This wormhole, for instance, exits to lowsec. We might be able to make it out that way.”
“I ain’t going that way!” came Selena’s response.
“It may be our only shot,” said Erbo. “Remember your training, and you will make it back alive. Now hang on, I’ve got to start probing.”
One by one, he patiently checked all the unknown signatures he could find, abandoning the search of a particular return every time it turned out to be a non-wormhole. His hopes soared when another wormhole did in fact reveal itself, but it turned out only to lead to another unknown system.
Finally, he ordered the recall of his probes. Those two wormholes were the only ways out.
“We’ll have to try the lowsec one,” he said. “Selena, you and I will warp there first, and then you go through and see where it leads.”
. . .
Gyerzen system, Tash-Murkon region:
The wormhole flared briefly as Mozart emerged. Selena checked her navigation system as it picked up on where she was…and blinked in surprise.
“It’s in Tash-Murkon!” she called back. “Gyerzen system!”
Checking her star charts, as she knew Erbo would be doing, she saw that the explorers had lucked out. Gyerzen was a “dead-end” system, with only one exit, to Dabrid, a high-security system. From there, they could easily get to the Ralpha Dogs’ galactic headquarters at Assiad, or to either of two major bases.
“Okay,” said Erbo over the com system. “If we just burn across the system in a straight shot, we have a chance, maybe a pretty good chance. I’m sending Cassius through first. Cassius, when you get through, warp straight for the gate and jump the second you arrive there.”
“Roger,” came Cassius’ voice.
“Selena, stay in position while Cassius goes through, and keep watch for any spikes in local. I’ll remain in here until we know whether the route’s clear.”
“Acknowledged,” said Selena.
The wormhole flared again, and CSS Katana emerged. As Selena watched, the Drake-class battlecruiser quickly lined up and streaked off into warp. Selena kept one eye on the local communications net, watching for a sudden jump in the number of people that would mean a trap might be being laid.
“I’m through!” called Cassius.
“All right!” said Erbo. “Cassius, find the nearest station to the jumpgate and dock up. Selena, warp to the gate as fast as you can, then jump through quickly. I’ll be right on your tail.”
“I’m going!” said Selena, triggering the command to warp to the jumpgate. As her ship began to pick up speed, she saw the wormhole flare once more, as Erbo piloted his own Myrmidon through.
The trip was fast and uneventful, and no other ships waited between her and the jumpgate. She triggered it, and was jumped at once to the Dabrid system.
“I’m through!” she said, consulting her tactical display. “Was it planet five you warped to, Cassius?”
“Affirmative,” came the call. “I’ve just docked up.”
Selena set her own course for the station, still worried. Had Erbo run into trouble?
“I made it!” came Erbo’s voice over the communicator. “Great job, everyone! Great job!”
Selena smiled as the Caldari station she’d headed for came into view, and Mozart prepared for docking. The three of them would spend the night here, and, in the morning, continue back to base. It wasn’t ideal, but it beat trying to sleep in a pod any day.
Once again, the Ralpha Dogs had beaten the odds.