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SS Astrid

Nation/Alliance: Unaffiliated

Captain: Cassia Lacroix

Class: Scouting

Length: 7.5 meters

Max. Population: 4 humanoid

Deck/floor count: 1

Nigel broke the silence on the Astrid, Cassia LaCroix's wormhole hunting vessel. "Not an exciting job, is it?" They had been scouting a remote sector for several weeks.

Cassia kept her eyes on the control panel. "It has its moments."

An array of probes had days earlier picked up the presence of an undiscovered wormhole in the area. Finding it was one thing, now it had to be mapped. That means figuring out where you would end up on the other side, and working out the wormhole's trajectory. wormholes are dynamic anomalies in space-time -unlike physical bodies in space, they jump erratically across vast distances, sometimes disappearing for varying periods of time. A wormhole's trajectory -bizarre, superficially random movement- needs to be mapped. A well-mapped wormhole will be predictable -and for that reason more valuable. But they can't be scanned from a distance.

"Of course," Cassia admitted to Nigel, "mapping can be tedious."

Cassia tapped away at the console, running the numbers on the wormhole data. Nigel fidgeted in his seat, unsure of how to make himself useful. "There's something I haven't been able to figure out."

"Oh Yea?" Cassia's attention remained fixed on her console, analyzing the data being fed to the Astrid through the probes. "And what's that?"

"How the heck do you make any money doing this?"

Cassia laughed. "I guess you haven't seen a sale yet?"

"Well, no. But that's not what got me thinking. I just don't understand the economics of it."

Cassia turned from the console to look towards Nigel. "It's an interesting question."

"I mean, there are thousands of Alliance mappers out there."

"At least."

"And they don't make much money at all."

"Nope -you can't working for an org' -all your data is fed back to the employer."

"So why should that make such a difference?"

"Well, let me ask you a question -why do you think both the Sol Federation and the Alliance have banned unlicensed hunting?"

"I don't know. I guess because they want to know whenever someone finds a hole."

"Yea. But why?"

"Well..." Nigel paused in thought. "It's different reasons for Alliance or Federation, I'd say." Cassia nodded as Nigel reasoned aloud. "The Federation is worried about attacks from other sectors -that's why they jam all the wormholes they find -they think they're vulnerabilities. If they can block the holes then they can prevent suprise attacks."

"Right. And the Alliance?"

"They see them as valuable -they use 'em for trade -and exploration. That's why they build the Gates."

"Okay. Now, here we are." Cassia waved her hand across the vista of stars on the viewscreen, only partially ocluded by a dense nearby asteroid belt, with a dim red star far in the distance. "An unexplored region -unexplored by Federation and Alliance, at any rate. As of this moment, we've got a partially mapped wormhole." She looked back to her console. "90% mapped," she noted, then looked back to Nigel. "It's safe to say we're the only people alive with access to this info."

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