The verdict came back as Porter walked down the Minerva’s spinal corridor toward the medbay.
“The Tycho’s more or less functional,” Deirdre Staunton said over the commlink. “Some hull damage here and there, and there’s no Hiver aboard that we can detect – so, forget about FTL. But the sublight engines are intact and operational.”
Traveling at near-lightspeed would take the Tycho the better part of a decade to reach Sol System. The captain didn’t consider that an option. Much easier, he thought, to summon a Vanguard carrier vessel to reclaim the freighter.
“I’ll contact General Avocet after I check on our guest,” Porter said. “Any logs of the Tycho’s last voyage?”
“Nothing,” Dee replied. “All audio and text files in storage are empty. Wiped clean.”
The ship disappeared more than half a century ago, but Captain Galloway seemed like he hadn’t aged much at all. Any evidence of what transpired during those lost years – non-existent now, either by accident or design. But whose?
“Get Holcomb to check the diagnostic logs in engineering,” Porter said, passing through the archway into medbay. “Maybe we can glean some clues there.”
“Will do,” the first officer said. “Staunton out.”
He found Dr. Upland monitoring Paul Galloway, captain of the Tycho, while he slept on a medbed that tracked his vital signs in holographic displays.
“I’m keeping him sedated for at least twenty-four hours,” the doctor explained. “He’s obviously suffering ill effects from exhaustion. Who knows how long he was awake before we found him?” Upland gestured at a hovering IV bot feeding clear liquid through a plastic line into the patient’s left arm. “I’m also pumping in nutrients and electrolytes of which he had clearly been deprived.”
Porter nodded. “Did he say anything before nap time?”
She shook her head. “Nothing new. Just kept repeating that the window was opening.”
“Which could be really important or absolutely pointless,” the captain mused.
Upland smiled, clasping her hands together. “Not much to read into it just yet, I expect. Maybe he’ll have something to add when he recovers.”
Porter responded with his own smile, then said: “Keep up the good work.” He stepped out of medbay. As he walked toward the lift, he opened a commlink channel to the bridge. “Blankenship?”
The communications officer answered: “Aye, sir.”
“Open a channel to Vanguard headquarters,” he said. “I need to talk with General Avocet about the logistics of recovering the Tycho.”
“I can do that, sir, certainly,” Blankenship said. “However, the Consortium Intelligence Service may have other plans.” She forwarded a holographic visualization of a carrier-sized starship identified as the Bishop approaching the Minerva and Tycho at low sublight.
He stopped outside the lift, eyes narrowing at the newly arrived vessel. “Well, I should feel more surprised by this,” he muttered.
“The commander of the Bishop requests permission to come aboard, Captain,” Blankenship said.
“By all means,” Porter replied. “I’ll be waiting in the Deck 3 conference room.”
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