Chapter 02: The Quiet

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The intercom clicked on. "Exiting to normal space now. We'll be in geosynchronous orbit over Outpost 88 in ten minutes."

Jennifer reached over and hit the reply button. "Affirmative. We'll be up there in a few minutes," she replied.

"Acknowledged."

They were just finishing up checking out their gear. In the intervening time while in transit, she and Genevieve had been reviewing all available data on Outpost 88, the planet, and the surrounding area, doing as much planning and examination as possible. Once they'd finished, they had gone to the armory to double-check their gear. So far, it had proven to be an unnecessary task. The technicians aboard the Dauntless were utterly thorough and professional. They took their jobs more than seriously. Nothing had ever been out of place.

And, yet again, this had proven to be true.

Every armor component was properly attached and in premium working order. The power cells were recharged. The weapons were cleaned, the ammo packed. But Jennifer felt no sense of regret. If anything, she felt calmed. Both because of the continued excellence of her coworkers and because checking over gear and guns had become a very routine, familiar task in her life. It soothed her. She glanced at Genevieve.

"Finished?" she asked.

Genevieve grinned slightly. "I was finished two minutes ago."

Jennifer rolled her eyes. "You're too competitive," she replied. "And that's totally not fair miss 'faster than is fucking reasonable'. I swear you've got hyped up reflexes."

"I'll never tell," Genevieve replied.

"And that's another thing, you're too cryptic. You're going to have to let me into your life sooner or later," Jennifer said.

"We'll see."

Jennifer snorted, leaned over and gave her a kiss. "Come on, we should get to the bridge."

Genevieve nodded, took her hand and they began walking out of the armory together. Jennifer felt a wave of thrilled happiness shoot through her. It had been a long time since she'd had a significant other, even longer since she'd had one that she felt was actually okay with the no-sex thing, and not just lying to her about it, or to themselves.

She and Genevieve came onto the bridge and watched Martel as she brought them closer to Case. It grew slowly, both on one of the monitors and beyond the thick, quartz windows at the front of the bridge. It looked fairly innocuous, just a green-blue sphere cut across with gray in several areas. Jennifer wondered what horror awaited them on this beautiful world. What if it was nothing? Cabin fever? Hallucinations?

She doubted that.

A few more minutes passed and the Viper settled into orbit.

"Initiating scans and attempting communication," Martel said, her voice flat and nothing but business.

Her long-fingered, pale hands worked the controls and something began to hum softly as invisible probing tendrils reached out from the ship, searching the area below, hunting for any relevant data to reveal more about Outpost 88.

"This is Specialist Martel to Outpost 88 and Search & Rescue vessel Ion, do you copy?" She paused and listened. Nothing but dead air and the soft hum of an open channel. Martel repeated her inquiry twice more at regular intervals, then leaned away from the mic, leaving the line open in case anyone felt like talking.

"Scans are done," she murmured.

"What do they say?" Genevieve asked, both of them crowding around her.

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