Quiet Ship, A Sonar Ping

Quietly, the ship observed the system above the solar plane. Caldan watched his crew work diligently amongst their stations. Every working moment was scanning and comparing earlier records. Drive emissions were noted and watched with scrutiny. It was eventually determined through the cycle that the largest craft were half the size of the cruiser and the largest of energy signature was that of a space port.

It was in the third hour of waiting that navigation noted one vessel was drifting into their flight path. At first, Caldan thought it was an interceptor as he turned to the screens. He immediately dismissed it. His tactical officer did not.

"Scans show recent work upon the outer hull of the craft at bearing two-three-six by one-eight-nine," went the report. "Hmm..."

"Tactical analysis?" Caldan inquired.

"Potentially a frigate of some sort. Perhaps a Q-ship?"

The captain stared for five minutes as data came in. Its primary reactor was online but it was merely coasting on inertia. Caldan then pulled up their charts as navigation. In less than five hours, the vessel would be in an ideal intercept position. There had been no signs of alarm, no immediate communications to the space station. They were still undetected. He placed his orders after going over the numerous ways this could go wrong.

Amer's Toll was more than capable of defending itself. He trusted his crew to respond well. True, they only had simulations to practice with. It was most likely the time for such practice to be tested. Caldan knew better than to challenge any ship without identification. But an active scan now to interrogate their transponder would be detected at this range. And he did not want to give up the element of surprise just yet.

At the behest of its captain the ship slowed considerably, engines spooling down to keep their stealth. They were still in the Oort Cloud, making target acquisition hard to do already. Yet he had the sights of the cruiser aimed directly at them, just in case.

Closer and closer the vessel drifted as Amer's Toll waited patiently. Then, as the two began to pass each other in the night, so close yet so very far away, the cruiser gave a single active scan of the craft. Such scanning was equivalent to sonar pings of a submersible craft to other ship. With luck, and with all the ice around, the crew of the other craft would notice it as a ghost signal.

That is the theory, though the captain as he waited for the results and response.

~~

Onboard the bridge of Gideon's and Walker's craft, the navigation console suddenly lit up with a ping as the sensor sweep reached them. Screen showed a static contact that was surprisingly close but was unknown.

< Prev : A First Step Next > : Homecoming