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Theirs: Found and Claimed by Ashe Barker – Sample


Deep Space, Patreaos Quadrant, 2807



Not quite. Not yet, though as near as really makes no difference.

I gaze at the screen, my thoughts baleful as I take in that final, damning word, that crushing indictment of all that means anything to me.

Fyorli – home world, dematerialised

Fyorlian – population extinct.

They are wrong, those who take it upon themselves to decide on these matters, those who record such rubbish. Of course the Fyorlians are not extinct. I am still here, the living proof of their error, their arrogance. What do they know anyway, these nameless, faceless omniscient beings?

The characters flash before my eyes, the dark grey in sharp contrast to the pale background, the blinking lights innocuous individually yet the huge import of their collective weight crushes me. It’s not the first time I’ve viewed this screen, but I daresay this will be the last. We are not extinct, but I am all that remains of my race, the final, sole surviving Fyorlian in this galaxy, in all known galaxies. And I am dying.

My head aches, my eyes feel ready to explode. Every limb is like lead, my breath coming in short, desperate spurts as I struggle to hang on to the few agonising minutes that remain to me. I have no notion why I bother; what possible difference could it make? Yet I do it, some powerful, primeval instinct drives me toward survival, however slender the hope, however meaningless my continued existence. Even now, after all that has happened, after all that has befallen my species, I find myself unwilling to finally abandon the fight and bow to the inevitable.

Soon, perhaps, but not yet. I still have work to do, a mission to complete. The scientist within me refuses to depart this fragile existence and leave no trace, no clue that we were ever here. Others will come, eventually they will come and we shall be discovered. They will not be Fyorlian, I know that, but they will be some species with the capability to travel the galaxies and reach the furthest extremes for that is where I shall be found. I want them to know me, to understand my work, to appreciate the knowledge I and my people leave behind.

I manage to get to my feet and cling to the metallic walls of my control capsule as I inch toward the anti-gravity lift, which will convey me down to the laboratory on the deck below. My breath comes in short, painful gasps as I emerge from the conveyance and stagger to my workbench where my samples and artefacts are laid out before me. I cannot resist casting an admiring, wondering gaze over them, the items collected and catalogued over the course of a mission lasting over a dozen decades. These fragments of metal have been scorched and frozen countless times over, weathered by eons of atomic storms, meteor showers, and heliotropic decay, yet each artefact still bears the signatures that denote their origins. These are pieces of history, the remnants of past worlds such as mine, lost civilisations, peoples long gone but remembered for all eternity because of the work I do. My efforts and those of others such as I will ensure that those who walked upon alien worlds before us are remembered and understood. They are our roots, the source from which we all sprang. They cannot be lost again.

I record a brief message and encode it in a sub-photonic pulse. Then I embed translations into all known languages. I tell of my mission, of where our data and findings are to be found, the records meticulously kept and stored. I report also on the other members of my team who succumbed before I did to this virulent virus that now paralyses my lungs and cripples my limbs. By now it has become difficult to move, to even think, let alone construct a coherent account of our work and our eventual fate. But I do it because I must, because there is no one else.

I glance across the laboratory to the series of cryo-cubicles ranged at the far end. There are eight in total, seven occupied, one remaining empty. That will be mine, or would have been had I not been the last. I activated all the others, one by one, as my colleagues fell victim to this illness. We could not be certain but we assume the contagion was present in decayed carbon matter we discovered in a mass tomb on the second moon orbiting the world of Acerbus. That was over five helio-cycles ago but the incubation period was extended and by the time we detected the infection it was too late to prevent it spreading through our small colony. For several lunar cycles I believed I had escaped, that somehow I had developed an immunity, but seemingly not. It just took longer with me but the end will be the same.

I finish my message and seal it, then activate the send command. A rapid series of blinking lights indicate success and at last I allow my head to drop onto the workbench. It is done. I am finished.

Had there been someone else remaining who could have sealed me into my cryo-cubicle I would have made my way over there to join my colleagues, but there is no point. Instead, I shall die with dignity, and in comfort, on my bed. I force my protesting limbs back into action and return to the anti-gravity elevator.

This time I travel upwards, through nine decks, to the accommodation sector. There I make for the commander’s quarters, the best on this craft, which I appropriated for myself when the previous incumbent expired. She had no further use for the luxurious circular holo-mattress but I have loved the sensation of floating it creates and it is here I shall remain now, quite possibly for the rest of eternity.

I drag myself across the outer chamber and into the inner sleeping sanctuary. It requires the last of my remaining strength to reach the bed and clamber up onto it but I am determined so I manage it. I sink in, face down, suspended within the cocoon of invisible forces that support my weight as I close my eyes for the final time.

I listen to my own laboured breathing, the slow, thready thump of my heart, and the muted, inexorable hum of the ship’s photonic engines as they drift on, carrying my work onward into a future that will not include me. I have done all I can; it is in the hands of others now.

Chapter One

Patreaos Quadrant, 2856


“What the fuck are you doing?” The irritated voice of my co-pilot echoes through the cargo bay.

I glance back over my shoulder, then execute what I consider to be a seriously impressive pirouette in order to make perfect contact with the ball at my feet. I send it hurling toward him. My shot whistles past Sylvan’s shoulder to slam into the bulkhead behind his head.

“Goal!” I charge Sylvan and wrap him in a bear hug, swinging him around in my overblown euphoria. He lets out a disgruntled oath but allows me my fun. That’s always the way with him, taciturn and bad-tempered, but secretly I think he enjoys my little games.

He has two choices, I suppose.

“Are you going to do any work anytime soon or do you intend to leave it all to us while you mess about down here all day?”

‘Us’ refers to Sylvan, my partner, co-pilot, and colleague, and Eric, the rabbit we discovered as an abandoned baby on a planetoid in the Chreaos Quadrant just under a helio-cycle ago. Well, we tend to think of him as a rabbit, or as near as makes not a lot of difference. Obviously, you need to see past the rather startling turquoise coat, long, swishing tail, and vivid yellow tongue, but the rest looks more rabbit than anything else. Technically he’s a qedderne and his species is considered something of a delicacy in the Chreaos Quadrant. We came across him huddling under the hull of a wrecked cargo freighter when we arrived to salvage it. He was thin, shivering, plainly terrified, and we couldn’t just leave him there. We brought him back to our ship, offered him a few carrots we synthesised for him, and decided he looked like an Eric. He seemed happy enough with all of this so he sort of joined our crew.

The plan was always to drop our four-legged passenger off on some suitable planet but somehow we never found quite the right spot. Eric grew. And grew. And grew. Apart from the obvious differences he has the appearance of a lop-eared rabbit but is the size of a small Earth dog. Eric is friendly enough, affectionate even. We give him the run of the ship, more or less, but usually Eric spends his days loping about in the cargo bay and his nights on a rug we laid down for him in the corner of the galley. It works. I spend most of my time down in the cargo bay too and he’s good company though crap at passing me spanners. He’s a lot less surly than my human companion though, and that suits me fine.

Eric had hopped up onto a packing case to get a better view of my antics with the football, twitching his nose to indicate his interest in the proceedings, or more probably his bafflement. He jumps down and makes his ungainly way over to greet Sylvan. My partner bends to tickle the animal’s ears, shrugs me off then turns to pick up the ball. He drops it onto his foot and kicks it the length of the bay. “Where did you find this thing, anyway?”

“On that Zayan wreck. It’s a game they used to play on Earth. Probably still do. The idea is you—”

“I know how to play soccer. The question is, do I look like I give a fuck?”

Come to think of it… I shake my head. “You need to lighten up, my friend. And the exercise will do you good.”

“I get plenty of exercise doing your work as well as my own. We have three ships to dismantle and sort, salvage claims to file, two helio-cycles of credits to record, and a fuckload of astral scans to analyse.” He itemises each task on his fingers, as though I might miss something. “Shall I just go and get on with everything on my own, then?”

Sylvan regards me, his face grim. The scowl doesn’t impress me. I know we are well up on our schedules and in no particular hurry to complete the latest round of salvage reclamation. This guy just has a work ethic the size of a small planet and nothing better to occupy his mind. I sprint down the cargo bay to retrieve my football, then I make my way back in an energetic dribble. I used to play a version of this game growing up in the human colony on Europa and whilst I may not be especially skilled I can manage a decent pass or two. Now Sylvan, on the other hand…

He lasts all of thirty seconds before he descends the steps into the hold and joins me. Sylvan is one seriously driven bastard, and as competitive as they come. He can’t resist tackling me and trying to make for the opposite end of the hangar. I’m on his tail though and manage to get the ball away again and try for another shot on goal. I miss, and it’s Sylvan who jogs down the bay to bring the ball back into play.

Let battle commence.

Eventually we are exhausted, both of us lying on the floor of the cargo bay, panting while Eric looks on in tolerant amusement from his vantage point on the packing case. The final score is a matter of some debate, but I remain convinced I am the winner. Sylvan disagrees, but then he always does.

Sylvan and I met about three helio-cycles ago at an astrophysics convention on Gamma three fifty. Sylvan was working for an intergalactic haulage company and I was a sub-commander on a supply freighter serving a minerals consultancy. His specialism was logistics, mine was communications systems, and we were both bored out of our skulls. That seemed to be the main thing we had in common and despite the difference in our temperaments—he was always a moody bastard—we seemed to establish a sort of rapport. Somehow, during the course of that conference, we decided to try out a commercial venture of our own, one that played to our individual strengths as well as releasing us from the cloying constraints of intergalactic commerce. Salvage and reclamation offered decent prospects so we decided to pool our credits. We purchased a franchise and scraped together enough on top to put a down payment on a decent craft.

The Zephyrean is a beauty, over four thousand tonnes of sleek power and gleaming cryanium, with a photonic dissonance propulsion unit able to conjure light speed within seventeen par-secs. We can cover a lot of galactic space at that velocity.

There was one other factor that drew Sylvan and me together, though neither of us was ready to discuss it back then. We are both mutants, post-human symbiants, the result of interbreeding and biological transformation following the invasion of our planet by the Harq. They were an advanced race bent on exploration and empire-building who needed to replenish their ozone reserves in order to fuel their interstellar craft. The resulting radiation burst on Earth caused mutations in the human population, leaving virtually no one unaffected. The post-human species that now inhabits our home world and countless smaller colonies scattered throughout the galaxy encompasses a range of deviations, some more viable than others, though over several generations the weakest have largely perished. Those remaining are resilient and for the most part resistant to disease.

Symbiants such as Sylvan and I have a trait in our DNA that enables us to emulate other beings or artificial life forms. Sylvan is a bio-symbiant, which means he can transform his own molecular biology to recreate virtually any other species he comes into contact with. I possess some bio-symbiant traits but my real strength is artificial intelligence. I am a cybernetic symbiant, able to link and interface with most AI devices, which comes in handy in our line of work for diagnosing technical faults. I can simply ask the machine what the problem is, and then I fix it.

Sylvan and I have done well. We are one of just a handful of crews licenced to reclaim any debris or wrecked craft that would otherwise float around littering up the universe, and we dispose of the leftovers according to interplanetary regulations. Some of our finds we can repair and resell—that’s where my particular talents come in useful. Other stuff we transport to approved storage or recycling sites where we claim a bounty for each tonne of waste matter safely disposed of. It’s a lucrative trade, and fascinating. It never ceases to amaze the pair of us what other species will throw away or leave behind. We talk about retiring in a few years, certainly we could afford to, but somehow I doubt if we will. We’re having too much fun.

“That Cryligean fighter is functional again. We should get a decent price for it.” I make my observation over a meal of syntha-steak and reconstituted green salad. “Later I’ll get started on breaking up that wreck we picked up on Asois.”

“Good. I’ll put out feelers to see if anyone’s shopping for a combat craft then I’ll help you with the wreck. Just need to check our scans first. I meant to do that earlier, but you distracted me with your fucking antics in the cargo hold.”

I shrug. If he hadn’t been playing soccer with me, Sylvan would have found something else less rewarding to engage his attention. I am not in the least remorseful. I shovel the last of my steak into my mouth and get to my feet. “I’ll see you downstairs.”

He grunts at me and returns his attention to the tablet beside him. “CAID, display astral scan results on main screen, please.”

“Working, sir.” The calm and competent voice of CAID, our on-board computer system, resonates around the canteen. To me, given my unique talents, our Cybernetic Artificial Intelligence Device is like a third member of the crew. Sylvan insists I’m a sad bastard. He may be right, but I still think CAID needs love, just like the rest of us.

I pause by the door. “Shit, can’t you even finish your meal without starting work all over again?”

He ignores me, his gaze already fixed on the huge astral chart displayed on the wall at the end of the room.

Sylvan arrives in the cargo hold an hour or so later. I have erected scaffolding around the external hull of our current reclamation project to enable me to do some welding on the outer casing. Sylvan clambers up the structure to join me and gets started straight away. He’s a half-decent engineer, though I tend to do most of that stuff while Sylvan deals with the business and research end of things. He finds the wrecks, I process them, he sells them on. It works for us.

“We’re closing in on that large hulk we detected in the Patreaos Quadrant. Should have visual within three hours.” He doesn’t lift his gaze from the tangle of cables he is studying. “CAID will alert us when we have a decent view.”

“What is it? Can you tell?”

“Not yet. Indeterminate signal, some residual electronic impulses but nothing I recognise. CAID calculates the hull to be something like half a kilometre in length though, so it’s big. Once we have it under traction we’ll probably need to offload it fairly soon. We can’t drag something that size around the universe for the next few cycles.”

“That big, eh? And abandoned?” Unusual, though not unheard of. There was probably some massive technical failure that caused the occupants to abandon ship, though usually in those circumstances the crew would return to salvage their craft. “Any other damage?” If they had been attacked that might account for the hasty exit.

My companion shrugs. “Not that we can detect from this distance. We’ll see soon enough.”

End of conversation. We both apply ourselves to the task at hand.

“Target in visual range.” CAID’s disembodied tones disturb our efforts a little while later. We both remove our photonic welding masks. Time for a break.

“On main screen,” commands Sylvan.

The image appears on the huge wall before us, the outline of the abandoned craft contrasting sharply with the inky blackness of the void backdrop. The hull consists of a pale turquoise shell that shimmers intermittently. There is some sort of power source on board, though it’s failing.

“Life support systems?” Sylvan barks out his query at CAID.

“Minimal,” comes back the reply. “I must advise caution, sir.”

“Yeah, yeah,” agrees Sylvan. He turns to me. “Coming?”

I grin back at him. “Try stopping me.”

We arrive on the alien craft a short while later, both of us decked out in full life support and ventilation suits. I hate these things, but it’s better than suffocating. As soon as we materialise on the main command deck I calibrate my toxicity sensors and scan our environment.

“Oxygen levels at seventy-seven percent of optimal, no toxins detected.”

Sylvan meets my gaze through his protective mask. We nod our agreement then I remove my helmet. Sylvan went first the last time we encountered a potentially harmful atmosphere, now it’s my turn. My first couple of breaths are tentative, but nothing untoward happens. My chest feels a little tight, perhaps, but it’s manageable. Sylvan watches me critically, ready to leap to my rescue at the first sign of distress. I breathe in again, then out, then in. I give him the thumbs-up and he removes his helmet too.

“So, what do we have then?” Sylvan gazes around, taking in the complex set of controls and communication devices arrayed before us. “Looks technically advanced for the age of the craft, if a little old-fashioned.”

“How old would you say this old bird is?” I wonder. “A hundred helio-cycles perhaps?”

“Thereabouts,” agrees Sylvan. “Maybe a little more, and she’s been floating about out here all that time. Do you recognise this technology?”

I shake my head. The control unit consists of a smooth, vertical surface marked with a series of lines and some geometric configurations. I trace several with the end of my gloved finger but nothing reacts and I am unable to establish any level of interface or connection. It may be a power failure, though I doubt that as there is illumination on board and the life support system is trundling on. Most technologically advanced species would rig their craft so that the command console is the last system to be cut off, even after life support, since they would in all likelihood have some manner of cybernetic system as a backup. We have detected nothing of that sort.

I try a couple more tricks, even establishing a symbiotic link to send a pulse of electrical energy into the system to see if that might jumpstart it or elicit some sort of response if only defensive. Nothing.

I tap my wrist to activate my communication device. “CAID, any ideas?” I’m good, but I bow to CAID’s superior data banks on occasion.

“Negative, sir,” comes back the deadpan reply. “Initiating whole system scan.”

“Do that,” I mutter. It will take our on-board computer a while to make contact with the intergalactic web to check all known databases for any information pertinent to this find. Meanwhile, we can do this the old-fashioned way.

“Shall we take a look around?” Sylvan is already headed for the door.

We decide to start at the bottom and work our way up the ship. There is some sort of internal transport system but it has failed so we have to go the long way around, by descending on the ladders built into each deck.

The engine room is interesting. The civilisation that built this ship had sub-light propulsion technology, but they were knocking at the door of photonic capability. The technology that enabled interplanetary craft such as the Zephyrean to reach the speed of light is still relatively innovative, but has transformed space travel and exploration. These guys seem to have been there ahead of us, which makes their disappearance all the more baffling.

“They were advanced,” I murmur. “There’s some serious power in this setup.”

“Can you reactivate their systems?” asks Sylvan.

I nod. It will take me some time to figure out the finer points, but I should be able to get the engines back on line eventually. “CAID, can you determine the fuel source?”

“Affirmative, sir. This craft is powered by sub-magnetic polarisation.”

Again, I’m impressed. The use of magnetic pulses generated by the gravitational force of the surrounding planets is clean and renewable, and best of all it’s cheap. This ship was constructed to travel fast, and using virtually nothing in the way of energy, though only over short distances. These people were clever.

“Going up?” Sylvan is ready to move on. I nod and follow him back to the ladder.

Our next stop, three decks up, appears to be some sort of laboratory. There’s a workbench in the centre of the space, which is strewn with what I can only describe as a collection of old fossils. I nudge a few pieces, wondering what the significance was. Clearly these items had value to whoever left them here but their charm is lost on me. I move on to examine the equipment and recording systems.

“Whoa, over here,” calls Sylvan. He sounds serious so I abandon my own investigations and make my way over to join him at the far end of the workroom.

As soon as I see my partner’s discovery I let out a gasp. “Holy shit! How many are there?”

Sylvan is crouching beside the first of the bodies, almost entirely decomposed but still recognisable as humanoid in form. They are in individual cubicles, presumably sealed originally but no longer. I assume the seals degraded as the power failed. Sylvan has already released the catch to open the first container and is reaching inside to investigate more closely.

“Seven,” he answers over his shoulder, “all in much the same state.”

“So, at least now we know what happened to them, but not why they died.”

He lets out a noncommittal grunt and removes one of his gloves. As I peer over his shoulder, Sylvan picks up one of the finger bones, which has become separated from the first of the cadavers, and is holding it encased within his fist. His eyes are closed, his expression one of intense concentration.

“Yes, we do. Chickenpox.”


“They died of chickenpox, or at least a virus almost identical. It would have been an infection relatively harmless to humans but must have been lethal to their physiology. I’m guessing it was able to bypass their immune system somehow…”

“How do you know all this?” I ask him, though I sort of already know.

He releases his grip on the bone to roll it across his palm. “I’m picking up minute traces of the varicella zoster virus, or a variant of it. It’s possible that they had never encountered it before so had no resistance. It’s highly contagious, so…” He gestures to the rest of the bodies. “I’m guessing these were the crew, and for some reason when they died they chose to keep the remains here rather than jettison them into space. Some sort of death ritual, perhaps.”


“Can’t tell from this.” He replaces the piece of bone with the rest of the remains. “We’ll need to do a full analysis and report though, before disposing of the bodies. Once we know what race we’re dealing with we’ll be able to implement any protocols or ceremonial observances.”

“Fair enough.” It’s unusual to come across remains such as these, but not unheard of in our line of work. Provided there are no suspicious circumstances, the terms of our licence require us to undertake the required rituals. We’ve yet to establish if there are any grounds for further investigation, but given that these beings died well over a hundred helio-cycles ago, and we have already detected the presence of a potentially deadly virus, it’s unlikely that any further action will be taken regardless of any forensic evidence remaining. Still, we’ll do what we can to establish just what happened on board this doomed ship and then we’ll clear up the scene.

“You finish up here and I’ll continue on through the upper decks.” I leave Sylvan to his grim work.

“Okay. I’ll catch up later.” He moves on to examine the next body as I make for the exit.

The next seven or eight decks are uneventful. I come across the usual collection of technical equipment, personal belongings, the trappings of everyday life on board an intergalactic spacecraft. There’s a galley so it looks as though they liked to prepare their food rather than synthesise it. I also find an area that appears to be some sort of social lounge, and a medical bay. The latter seems to have been of little use to them in the end. The upper decks appear to be the accommodation section, and I note that there are cabins and dormitories for many more than the seven crew members we have discovered. I count sleeping accommodations for over thirty crew so have to assume that for some reason the ship’s complement was already depleted when the virus struck.

“Hey, anything interesting up here?” I turn when I hear Sylvan’s voice. He emerges through the hatch from the deck below.

“Nothing startling. Just the usual facilities and accommodation, but it looks as though this ship originally carried a much larger crew.”

“Yes, I was thinking much the same. Mess hall with seating for forty, huge food storage capacity…”

“Mmm, agreed.” I hit my communicator again. “CAID, any joy yet with that scan?”

“Affirmative, sir, though the results so far are inconclusive.”

“Details, please.”

“The metallic configuration of the outer hull is specific to just three planets in the Patreaos Quadrant, suggesting the ship was constructed in this sector of space. The most likely probability is Krysorus since neither of the other two has interplanetary propulsion capability.”

“What do we know of Krysorus?”

“Isolationist and generally considered hostile, sir. Also, their known technological capability would suggest they could not have developed the sub-magnetic propulsion system.”

“Okay. Keep working on it, CAID.”

“Affirmative, sir.” I close the device and shrug.

We might as well finish our initial inspection. Sylvan leads the way up the ladder to the uppermost deck.

“This looks to be the officers’ quarters.” Sylvan opens cabin doors at random, poking his head inside then continuing along the central gangway. We reach the end, presumably the commander’s quarters since this accommodation unit comprises a seating area and conference facilities as well as what must be the sleeping chamber. Sylvan has seen enough, but I was always the more curious of the two of us. I open the door to the bedroom and peer inside.

“Holy fucking hell. Shit! Come and see this.”

Sylvan arrives at a sprint and bursts through the door just after me. We both stand and gape at the vision before us.

“So, that’s what they looked like,” murmurs Sylvan.

“Yeah,” I agree. “The females, at least. Wonder why she hasn’t decomposed like the rest.”

“Could be something different in the environmental conditions up here,” suggests Sylvan, circling the body that lies face down on the floor.

The alien female is nude, her skin a pale coppery shade with darker markings across her shoulders and down her back and over her heart-shaped bottom. Her hair is caught back in a loose, messy braid but I can see that it’s long, very long, to the waist probably were she on her feet, and very dark. It could be black, though highlights in dark purple and a deep midnight blue catch the uneven, flickering light. She really is rather lovely. The systems are failing fast now and both Sylvan and I are finding it more difficult to breathe.

“We need to finish up here and get back to the Zephyrean,” mutters Sylvan, now crouching beside the latest corpse. “CAID, do you have a visual here?”

“Affirmative, sir.”

“Do you recognise this species?”

“Affirmative, sir, but I suspect our database to be inaccurate. She is an anomaly.”

“A what?” I demand.

“An anomaly, sir, in that she should not be in this location.”

I’m fast losing my patience. “Well, she clearly is—”

“Never mind that.” Sylvan interrupts us. “What species is she, CAID?”

“This individual has the appearance of a Fyorlian female, sir, but that is impossible since that particular species was declared extinct over one hundred and fifty helio-cycles ago after their home world was destroyed in a meteor hit.”

“You don’t say? Well, they got it wrong.”

“I can assure you, sir, that the meteor—”

“Fuck the meteor.” Sylvan takes the female by the shoulders and carefully rolls her onto her back. “This so-called extinct Fyorlian is still alive, though only just.”

“Holy shit!” I kneel down beside my partner. “Are you sure?”

He casts me a withering look.

I shrug. “Can you help her?”

He nods. “Probably, though not here. I need to take her back to the Zephyrean where the atmosphere is more stable.” He looks up at me. “Can you manage to finish off here? I want to get started as soon as possible. Now that we’ve disturbed the environment in here who knows what might happen?”

“Sure. Go get her prepped. I’ll be across soon.”

Sylvan gets to his feet, the Fyorlian in his arms. “CAID, activate transport. Two to come over, direct to my quarters.”

I watch as the pair dematerialise before my eyes, then I unclip my helmet from my belt and pull it over my head. Since I’ll be working alone now and the atmosphere is deteriorating, it’s best not to take chances.

I make my way back down to the main control room where I adjust the systems that remain functional to make them capable of accepting regulation from the Zephyrean. We should be able to control the ship from our own bridge, and if I’m really lucky there will be enough propulsion left to enable the alien craft to follow us under remote pilot control. That should save a lot of draw on the ionic trawl web we usually use to haul our finds. It takes me a while to make the necessary adjustments but eventually I think we’re all set. I stand back and call for CAID to transport me.

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