August 16th 2016
Today’s Discovered pulls an excerpt from the personal journal of Lt. Commander Mark Derren, pilot of the Naval Pathfinder and Exploration Ship Pytheas, as he flew a mission into the Vanduul-controlled system designated ‘Viking.’
Assignment came through late last night. Turns out McManus is out with some kind of stomach flu, so we got the draw. That’s all right though. Boro’s too damn cold this time of year and for some reason the heat in the barracks has been cutting off in the middle of the night.
Briefing went as expected. Looks like we’re going to log some time in Viking. Chief said the early warning systems had been quiet of late, so we’re using the opportunity for an overhaul. Sounded pretty straight-forward. Secondary objective would be to monitor Viking for signs of Vanduul Clan activity.
Saved the worst for last, I’m getting paired with Teague as my second. Three weeks on the drift … I don’t know if I’ll make it. On the plus side, if we do get cornered, I can throw him at the ‘duul as a distraction. I’m sure he’ll yammer at them long enough for me to get away.
Headed to the quartermaster to double-check our supplies for the op. Everything looked in order. By the time I got to the hangar to step through the ship, Teague was already there. I recognized the glazed look in the Flight Mechanic’s eyes as Teague rattled on about how to properly flush the fuel systems. I knew I’d have the same look in a matter of hours.
Launched shortly after zero-seven SET. Teague was strapped in the back. As we pierced atmo and rose to the black, I got that charge. The one that’s been with me ever since I first left planet. To this day, I still can’t decide whether it’s a charge of excitement or fear. Whichever it is, I feel like it’ll be a sad day when I launch and I don’t feel it. I don’t ever want the thrill of space to become mundane.
Anyway, once we cleared the flight lanes above Crion, I set our QT towards the Viking jump point and cooked the engines.
Then Teague started talking…
Five days in. We’re already behind schedule. On the way out of Caliban, we got held up at the jump. Turns out our authorization codes hadn’t been updated to the latest protocols. Couple of fighters from the 88’s came rushing over to see what was going on. Not sure what they would’ve done if we had been Vanduul.
Took about four hours to try and figure out the issue. The techs back at the base had to upgrade our clearance for this mission until they could figure out what the issue was. I can’t tell if it was Teague’s screwup or a janky regtag, but I know which I’d like to believe.
Once we got it sorted, we moved into Viking. Teague did a wide sweep and it seemed like we were all alone for the time being. I brought us up to the first array and we got to business.
Teague disembarked to handle the first set of repairs while I maintained active scans. It was almost worse than when he was aboard. He never stopped talking over comms, complaining about how outdated the early warning systems were, the government’s commitment to system security, and mainly how he would reorganize the military infrastructure (not that anyone was asking him, I definitely didn’t).
I probably could’ve left him there. Jumped in the pilot seat and just gone. People would’ve bought it. Heck, probably would have gotten a star or two pinned on for the service to Humanity.
Anyway, I muted his comms and expanded my scan parameters, doing sweeps through the various signatures just in case someone was moving quiet, but nothing. In my boredom, I even started doing some focused scanning for jump points. Either way, listening to empty static was better than listening to Teague.
About six hours later, he came in through the airlock, completely oblivious to the fact that I’d cut off his comms. We took a quick break and ate some rations before moving on to the next array. Then it was my turn to go to work.
We’re in trouble. A couple hours ago, while I was halfway through cutting some debris out of the hull of a scan array, Teague burst onto comms. The scopes had lit up with contacts, heading our way. I quickly made my way back to the ship as he prepped to go dark. I couldn’t pick out anything against the wall of black around me, but by the sound of Teague’s voice, they were getting close.
When I reached the outer airlock door and took one last look, I saw them. Even from this distance, I saw them.
I pulled myself inside and sealed the door. I’ll give Teague credit. He was ready on the draw to drop our sig as soon as I was inside. By the time I got up to the cockpit, we were barely distinguishable from the wall of ambient signatures.
I strapped into the pilot chair’s while Teague hopped to the scanning array. The Clan came into visual. I’d never seen anything like it before. Sure, we’d been given briefs on the Vanduul fleets, but it’s totally different seeing it in front of you. Blurry nose-cams and rough drawings don’t capture the violence that oozes from the very shape of their massive ships. The gravity of the situation wasn’t lost on Teague either. For the first time, he was quiet.
Swarms of fighters swept around the paths of their capital ships, presumably looking for targets, aka us.
Teague was running the various ships against known Vanduul, but didn’t get any hits. Looks like we’d found a new Clan. Not quite as exciting as finding a new jump point, but it’s something I guess.
When they’d finally passed, it looked like we were in the clear, but I noticed that they weren’t heading towards a planet to harvest. It didn’t even look like they were heading to the jump to Orion.
They were heading towards Caliban.
Guess they sent us out here in the nick of time. We’d just fixed up the early warning system by the Caliban jump.
That’s when Teague saw it. They had stopped. The whole Clan, stopped on a clip, right outside of the scan range of the early warning systems. It was too precise to be a coincidence. No. They understood our tech.
At this distance, we wouldn’t be able to get anything from our scans outside of basic position, so I told Teague to monitor our sig while I got us in for a closer look. If these Vanduul are up to something, we have to know.
I managed to get us closer so Teague can run some more intensive scans. The Vanduul haven’t moved. They’re just waiting.
So that’s what we’re doing. Holding and watching to see what they do.
Dumb goddamn luck.
< static >
Teague’s down. Shot punched through the hull and clipped him in his seat. Probably didn’t feel a thing.
< static >
Making a break for the jump. No chance in a stand-up fight, so poured everything I had into shields and engines …
< static >
Dammit. Right rear main took a hit.
Gotta purge the ship comp’s before I—
These recordings were uncovered over forty years later, when the wreckage of the Pytheas was found during a deep-space reconnaissance mission into Viking. The same Clan went on to attack Caliban a year later.