Chapter 30

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An important element of survival is knowing what you don't know. I don't know lots of stuff. I don't know what makes a human heartbeat. I have a good collection of knowledge on what makes it stop beating. Just not so much on what got it started in the first place.

And that's OK. If I were a doctor, my knowledge would be different. I'm not a doctor.

And it's not just the natural world, of course. I have the same balances with technology. I'm not so handy at building high-end security screening systems. I can blow the crap out of them pretty good. Or bypass them, sometimes.

I glared at Chase and Suzanne through the dim blue lighting of the command deck. "One more time."

Chase ran his fingers through his hair and had the very good sense to refrain from an expression of patience. He gathered his thoughts. Again I was struck by how different the Chase at a pilot station was from the Chase... well, anywhere else in the universe.

"Captain, the detection systems on this vessel as upgraded by Suzanne are extraordinary. They operate on many levels... so many levels. Complex scanning and sensors at sub-atomic levels, energy and so on. But also at simpler levels, optical levels." He tilted his head and looked at Suzanne.

She scratched her head. "Every second, one particular system captures millions of images of space from the viewpoint of the s'aanDaya. It then compares these images with previous images, looking for any difference. The system factors in travel and time - relative positioning. It does this for as far back as I set it."

I nodded. OK, this was a clearer explanation.

Chase touched his console. "Let me show you." A series of images appeared, suspended across the middle of the deck. He walked over to one, gesturing me to follow. "What do you see?"

I studied the image. Stars. More stars. Empty spaces. No vessel that I could see. I shook my head.

Chase pointed out a little piece of empty space. "There."

"Nothing. It's empty."

Chase moved to the next image and pointed. "And here?"

Again, it was simply an empty patch of space. I shook my head.

"Exactly. And so on. All these little empty patches. Now when we overlay all of the images from an hour and I focus on that little empty space..." He gestured and an explosion of images appeared and lined up behind each other to form a single composite image.

The little empty space had stretched and blurred across the whole image. A thin black smear. I stared at it. "It's moving. It's... it's not empty space, it's something blocking out the stars behind it."

Chase nodded. "It's an image of what we can't see. Consistent size, consistent speed, keeping level with us." He gestured off to the left. Off to port. "About two thousand klicks thataway, a vessel that we can't detect with our instruments, but solid enough to block light, is keeping pace with us."

'Daya had systems that could compare millions of images from that far away? What the... I stared at Suzanne.

She beamed and then shrugged. "You paid for it."

I should probably check my account status at some point. I was beginning to suspect that even endless wealth could be relative. "Is that level of stealth shielding common technology?"

She stared at the image and pulled at her lower lip. "Commando, Elite-spec shit. I've seen it before, once. In the Eingana-Rami conflict. Smaller than a 'vette, even. Not unheard of, but pretty bloody rare. Expensive, but only good for one purpose."

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