Chapter 19

Traci’s return was both a tremendous morale boost for her crew as well as a painful reminder of how badly the mission had gone. Now that she had returned, the gravity of their plight began to weigh on her mind. There was absolutely nothing that could be done for Agron or Michael, and Scott was completely out of her reach, so she needed to pick up the pieces and make the most of what she had left. True to his word, Kendahl had helped lay in a considerable amount of humanitarian aid, given such short notice, and with Zuarit’s guidance he had even provided raw nutrients that could be used for food supplements and rations that the Valdi refugees should find suitable.

Traci read the manifest of items brought aboard and decided it was time to get underway. She could have contacted Kendahl to say one last goodbye, but it was better that she did not. If they made it back to Orion space, she still had the option of returning in three days as they had planned.

“Commander Lazarus, please get us underway at one-half speed. Bring up the cloaking device,” she said, settling into the routine of running a starship once more.

“Captain, I really need to get you to sickbay so I can properly treat those injuries,” Dr. Godsman reminded her again. He had been furious that she had not received proper medical treatment aboard Satyr, and was determined that she receive it now.

“I understand, Doctor. As soon as we are safely underway, I’ll make myself completely available to you.”

She knew it was rude to cut the circuit on him when he was about to get really spun up, but first things must come first.

“Alright, gentlemen,” she said as she walked over to Captain Zuarit’s ops station. The other senior officers joined her there, just outside of the nitrogen curtain. That thin curtain of nitrogen that hissed continually downward from the ceiling into vents in the floor was all that separated the delicate balance of carbon dioxide on Zuarit’s side from the nitrogen and oxygen atmosphere on theirs. But in spite of the hissing nitrogen, the assembled officers could hear Traci just fine. Panels on Zuarit’s console picked up the sounds of the crew’s voices and translated them to light-speech for his benefit.

“I want a complete systems check before we enter hyperspace. I understand that the Terrans maintained a friendly pose while they were here, but I want to be sure we haven’t overlooked anything. Captain Zuarit, are you certain they didn’t go near the fighters?”

Zuarit’s voice boomed from his enunciator. Even at the lower volume levels, it still resonated with a deep bass. “My officers confirm that no Terrans came near them. The Terrans would have needed breathing apparatus to cross the curtain.”

“I concur,” Kenaniah said. “We ran complete diagnostics several times while you were away; there was nothing else really to do, and it kept the crew busy.”

“Fine. I also want a complete inspection of every item we brought aboard from Satyr. I want to be absolutely sure there is nothing there that we can’t account for.”

Lazarus nodded and sent the supply chief to rifle through the inventory once more.

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