On the command deck of the Excalibur, Captain Rolland Barron looked out through the viewscreen into the blackness of intergalactic space. "Any sign of the Avalon?"
"Nothing yet, sir," Sergeant Riona Namarra reported from her station. "You think something's wrong?"
Technical Sergeant Titus interjected. "They were just working on the Gate -signal transmission changes."
"How far off course could we be?" Riona asked.
"In theory the Gate should give us pin-point exit accuracy -that's why they built it. But if something was wrong..." Sergeant Titus paused in thought. "I suppose it depends on what went wrong. Could be a key error, calibration error."
"Worst case?" Captain Barron looked over to Titus.
Titus entered a calculation into his console. "Given the exit-point variability of the Delta hole: worst case scenario, we're more than ten thousand light years off course."
Low murmuring and whispers rose up from other crew on deck. If they were that far off course, they'd all be dead long before they reached the closest star. Their only hope would be stumbling on a drifting wormhole.
"Well then..." Rolland adjusted his uniform. "Avalon or not, we need to get to work. Riona -try to figure out where we are.
"I also want to know if there's any known holes nearby. Figure out our fastest route to the Apex."
"Titus, Keenan -I want the two of you to head to engineering and prep the probe array. We might have to go sweeping."
"Yes, sir." Titus and Keenan stood up from their stations and headed out of the command deck.
"Catrina." Rolland turned to the communications specialist. "Is there any way to contact the the Avalon?"
"I could work on establishing a Q-rad comm' link. But I'll need to know our location, and they'll have to be listening from the other side of the hole. If they already jumped I won't be able to signal them."
"Could they be trying to contact us?"
"I'm checking the channels -nothing yet. But if they knew our location, they would Q-rad us." Catrina's tone became more somber. "That either means they don't know where we are, or they jumped before trying their comms."
"Noted. Keep working on establishing comms."
Rolland looked up to the rest of the crew, and spoke loudly. "The rest of you -you all know the situation. Try to make yourselves useful."
Erin Locke looked around the command deck. The crew were all busy at their stations. Through the viewscreen was nothing but blackness -it might just as well have been turned off. Erin's diplomatic skills were not useful here, in the endless void of empty space. She could only hope that the team of engineers and pilots on board could find their way home.
Erin walked over the Catrina's station, and peered over her shoulder to the console. Streams of data scrolled by. "Any luck?"
"Do you mind if I ask a question?"
"How does the Q-Rad work?"
Catrina leaned back away from her console, taking a break from her efforts. "It's based on localized quantum distortions in space-time. It's kind of like tapping on a glass -you could send a message to someone if they were listening to the sound. Except instead of glass you've got subatomic particles, and Instead of tapping you're pumping distortions through space-time."
"So why can't we talk to the Avalon?"
"Well, I've been trying. Either they're not listening, or they've already jumped."
"And if they jumped, then we can't signal them?"
"Right. I can't tap the glass if I don't know where it is. You need space-time coordinates to direct the quantum distortions."
"Hmm..." Erin paused in thought. "Why not try contacting the Gate?"
Catrina scratched her head. "That's not a bad idea. I mean, we wouldn't normally try it. The Gate's inefficient for comms, and unreliable -because of the distortion created by the Tunneling-Drive. But it could work, in theory. It might be worth a try."
Captain Barron overheard their exchange, and walked over to the pair. "You've got an idea?"
"Yea," Catrina answered. "Well, Erin suggested we try establishing a Q-Rad with the Gate."
"Potentially -there's gonna be a ton of distortion from their T-Drive, so anything we send is gonna be a bit garbled. It'll be like shouting across a noisy room... But in theory, if our signal was strong enough they could detect the interference. We'd have to divert additional power through the Q-Rad. But we might be able to get a signal to them."