“Mayday…Mayday…This is MT 2424,” Coal said in a hoarse voice. Over six hours of calling out to what appeared to be an empty verse had left him hardly able to speak. Next chance he got he was going to rework the gear for longer range coverage and auto-voice repeat presentation.
Up until a little while ago Targus had kept them in the vicinity of the debris field so if someone latched onto the beacon Coal triggered, there would be something bigger to home onto than three small bodies floating in space. But Targus had passed out a few minutes ago. His tanks were nearly empty. It took more air to keep the big guy going. Coal’s heart beat was slower than his Walhmite captain’s or the human medical officer. Damion was out cold too.
“Oh, By the Wings of Hagel, it is good to hear your voice,” Coal sighed in relief.
“We’re locked on your beacon. If you look to your ‘six’ you’ll see us coming. I can see you,” 3su said in a calm voice. “We’ll be there before you know it.”
“Hurry,” Coal croaked in his overused voice. “Targus and Damion are both out cold.”
“We’ll come up below you. I want to keep Ma-rye-a out of that debris field. I’ll suit up and help you get them in,” 3su told him in an encouraging tone. “We’re almost there.”
Coal looked below his feet and saw the Star Trader vessel, Ma-rye-a, rising up to meet them. If he had any voice left, he would have cheered.
The view panel in the lounge was showing an Info Recording from the Galactic Forces to all known vessels. It wasn’t pretty.
As soon as Targus came to, he ordered Coal to report the N.B. malfunction and the destruction of MT 2424 to their command headquarters. Coal had already done that and found out they were not the only ones to be affected by the virus infected beacons.
A mercenary ship in the Gamma quadrant totally annihilated a settlement on Gamma 3 before being shot down. The captain and crew went down with their ship. Another vessel in the Titan system was destroyed by its captain. He was the first one to put the word out on the beacon virus. Captain Targus’ report just confirmed for Galactic Headquarter what we all feared…all the N.B.s were infected with the virus.
“Thank you, Carrie,” I said, as the recording came to an end.
Carrie, my ever-upbeat social AI, had nothing to say. She shut down the view panel and brought up the lights. Targus, Coal and Damion sat in silence.
“There have been several incidents since those,” I said. “People who haven’t gotten the word yet.”
A fresh pot of pitch was delivered to the prep unit in the lounge. I love my AIs. Moby is always on his toes when we have company. I went to the unit and moved around the MT crew filling their mugs.
“When I heard the news, and knew from you message you were coming this way, we tried to hail you. To make sure you were aware. But, I guess you were the first to link up,” I explained.
“Lucky us,” Damion said and shook his head in dismay. The doctor had been the last to wake up when Coal and I hauled them aboard. He was still trying to get his foggy brain to clear.
“Any news on what the Valarian’s are doing to solve the problem?” Targus asked.
“Nothing, other than I haven’t been able to rouse Daniel since I heard the news. I imagine since he is on Valaria already, they most likely involved him immediately. That’s probably why I can’t connect with him.” I went to the prep unit and had Moby refresh my tea. Pitch was not my drink of choice even in a crisis.
“I imagine you would like to speak with Daniel too,” I said. After all, he was the only one other than the Valarians themselves who proved he could get into one of their beacons.
“Indeed we do,” Targus answered. “I want to make sure the Valarians have not let the hacker into the program.”
I flopped into a chair and sighed. If someone had accused Daniel of this heinous crime six months ago I might have had doubts. But, today he was better. He spent the past three months in rehab and came out the old Daniel I knew and loved, or at least I thought so.
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