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"I don't believe this," First Helmsman Brandom Hamilton nearly shouted. "Is he completely nuts?"

"We may not agree with the course of action he's taken," Erin started, "but we have to respect his motivation and courage." She surveyed the crew on the Excalibur, watching their faces as they reacted to Captain Barron's audio message: his final goodbye before executing his brash plan. Rolland had left Erin in command of the Excalibur. His last orders were to contact the Avalon and warn them of the impending danger she'd uncovered.

The Muramasa vessel, with its cyborg captain and motley crew of mercenaries, was visible on the viewscreen. They had just undocked and now floated nearby.

"So what do we do now?" Hamilton threw up his hands. "We've got to get him off that ship, right?"

"That might not be possible." Erin shook her head.

"But this is a serious diplomatic issue," Hamilton said. "You of all people should understand that."

"I sure do."

"Unless I'm misreading the situation," Hamilton continued, "we've got a Federation captain on board a potentially hostile ship trying to get himself imprisoned."

"That's what his report said." Erin nodded.

"So then we've got to deal with it," Hamilton said.

The crew watched with rapt intent, concern evident on their faces.

Erin took stock of the situation. They were more than one and a half million lightyears from home, in the neighbourhood of a vast armada of Catechumen vessels, and had just lost their Captain in an act of reckless self-sacrifice, not to mention insubordination to Federation command.

"I appreciate your perspective," Erin answered. "And for the most part I agree. I wouldn't have advised his action. But it is his action alone. He's renounced his position and he doesn't represent the Federation."

"I hope the Catechumen see it that way." Hamilton shook his head. "So you're saying we should just leave him there?"

"He sent us a time-delayed message for a reason," Erin said. "We're past the point of being able to get him back. That was part his plan."

"Our orders are to remain on good terms with the Catechumen," Hamilton said. "That means it's our duty to resolve this diplomatic issue."

"To the extent that it's possible," Erin answered. "But our only option now seems to be damage control."

"So what do we do?" Hamilton stared intently towards Erin.

Erin took a breath. "Lieutenant Rennard -" she turned to face the Communications Specialist "- deploy a synched comm' relay probe."

"Aye, aye," Catrina Rennard set to work at her console.

"We'll use the comm' probe to smooth over relations with the Catechumen -from a safer distance. I'm not interested in staying here any longer than we need to. In the mean-time -" she spun on her heel towards the front viewscreen "- open a channel to the Muramasa."

The screen blinked, now showing an internal view of the Muramasa's command deck. The tattooed cyborg Captain Wojtek leaned casually into his chair, staring back at Erin.

"Congratulations on the promotion, Captain." Wojtek grinned.

"We're preparing to leave the area," Erin said. "We should complete the transaction we've arranged."

"Fifteen Apex coins, and then you get your route."

"And how are we going to guarantee that the map is accurate?"

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