Searching Out the Ancients, Part 1
Cat stood in the flight deck in front of her ship. She was wearing some old and grubby civilian clothes she had dug out from the very bottom of her belongings. Covered in paint from head to toe, she glanced up at the nose of her ship. Four hours of work painted on to that large cone of metal. Cat had been on board the Phoenix for a while now and was told on one of her first days that she could paint anything she liked on the nose of her fighter. She had not figured out what to paint until now.
Cat had found a symbol drawn into the diary that she and a few other Rangers had recovered from a scientific expedition to Rolui 4 several weeks earlier. This diary had stated that this symbol stood for protection and safe passage. It seemed perfect for the nose of her ship. She gave the nose one last look, shook her head with approval and started to clean up the mess she had made.
The Phoenix was eerily quiet because it was in the process of being repaired. Much of the crew was off doing their own thing and Cat opted for the quiet atmosphere of her quarters where she spent much of her time working out, meditating, reading, and drawing. She liked to draw the most — it was a calming activity.
When she had finished cleaning up her painting supplies Cat started down the hall to her quarters to clean herself off. She made it no more that 10 feet down the hall when her com went off.
“Anla’shok Rosha, this is Anla’shok Nesaan.” Nesaan was the liaison between the Ranger Council and the crew of the Phoenix. When it was time for mission assignments, they usually came from her. “We have a mission for you. Please report to me in my chambers in one hour.”
“Yes Anla’shok Nesaan, see you in one hour.” Cat smiled, thinking, Yes, time to clean up. She reached her quarters, put away her paints and started the process of cleaning up the layers of paint that covered her skin and clothing. She left her quarters cleaned and back in her uniform with a few minutes to spare and made it to Anla’shok Nesaan’s quarters right on time. Cat rang the bell.
Just then, Cat saw two other Rangers, hurrying down the hallway toward her. She recognized them both — Brenda Mawarra, another of the Storm Squadron pilots; and Elanor Parry, who had been on the expedition that recovered the diary. “Hullo, Cat!” Brenda said. “Looks like we all got the same call. Any idea what’s up?”
Before Cat could answer, the door opened and Nesaan called them inside. “Welcome, Anla’shok,” she said with a bow. “We have a mission which the three of you will undertake while the Sorna’silat is completing her repair and refit. It is connected to the artifact you found while exploring on Rolui 4.”
“The diary?” Cat asked. “We figured it had a few clues in it about the race that had left it there, but nothing more.” Cat turned around and gave Eleanor Parry a puzzled look. Elanor had worked previously with the diary, but she didn’t appear confused by this new mission. Cat turned her head back around. “What are our orders, Anla’shok Nesaan?”
“A greater study of the diary, by Anla’shok Parry and others, has revealed a likely location for the planet to which the survivors of the original Rolui sentient species were relocated,” Nesaan said. “After so many millennia, we don’t know what might have happened to them. They may have evolved and joined the other First Ones beyond the Rim; they may have fallen under sway of the Vorlons or Shadows; they might have even destroyed themselves again, as they so nearly did the first time. Or, they may still be on that world, in some form.
“Your orders are to take a patrol craft, travel to the system we have identified, and explore it,” Nesaan said, handing Cat a data crystal. “This contains the coordinates for your ship’s computer. If there are still sentients in the system, we would advise against making contact — but we will not expressly forbid it either. Find out what you can and return safely to us. Do you have any questions?”
“No, I do not believe I do have any,” Cat said.
“Very well,” Nesaan said. “Anla’shok Rosha, you are the commander of this mission — in cases of dispute, Anla’shok Mawarra and Parry are to follow your orders.” The other two women nodded their understanding as Nesaan continued, “Inform the Shipmaster that you have been assigned the Ang’seillia. You may leave at your earliest convenience.”
“Thank you, Anla’shok. We will embark soon.” Cat bowed and stepped aside as Brenda and Eleanor bowed as well. As the door closed to Anla’shok Nesaan’s quarters, Cat turned to the others. “Very exciting,” she said. “I was ready to get out of here. I was growing tired of looking at the walls of my quarters. Let’s say we will meet down in the flight bay in 30 minutes?”
“I should be able to do that,” Brenda said. “Haven’t had a whole lot to do the past few days myself.”
“I might need a little more time, just to make sure I have all my notes and things together,” Parry said, “but I can meet you at our ship in an hour. Would that be all right?”
“That sounds fine to me, we will meet at our ship in an hour to embark,” Cat replied.
After the three had gone their separate ways to prepare for the trip, Cat made her way back up to her quarters where she grabbed a small satchel which she filled with a few small tools, her fighting staff, and her sketchbook with a few drawing utensils. By the time she had finished filling her satchel it was time to go and she headed down to the Shipmaster to inform him of their orders.
The Shipmaster in charge of the Anla’shok compound in Tuzanor was an older, worker caste Minbari. He bowed politely and quickly agreed to take Cat to the ship. The Ang’seilliawas a small vessel, similar in shape but a little larger than one of the Phoenix’s Minbari-built shuttles. “She’s very fast, very maneuverable, but only lightly armed,” the Shipmaster said. “And of course, no jump engines. She’s been freshly stocked with supplies; enough food and water for six weeks. Is there anything you will need, or questions you have about the ship?”
Cat took a look around the vessel making sure that everything was in its place. She was very picky when it came to the ships she flew; everything had to be just right and flight ready. “Everything looks to be in perfect order,” she said as she turned to the Shipmaster. “Just one question, how are the defenses? Could this ship take a hit if we find ourselves in a less than desirable situation?”
The Minbari nodded. “She should be able to take a few solid hits from most weapons out there, anything up to Minbari weaponry, anyway. The key systems have full backups as well, so you should be able to get out of any situation that becomes … undesirable.”
Cat nodded. “Thank you. I just like to make sure that I am prepared for anything. I think that was the only question I had.” The Shipmaster nodded his head and right after Cat saw Brenda coming towards them followed closely behind by Parry. Cat smiled and nodded at the two of them.
“Nice looking ship,” Brenda said. “I trust everything checks out? Are we ready to go?”
“Everything looks ship shape and ready to fly,” Cat said and turned back to the Shipmaster. “Are we clear to take off?”
“Check with the traffic controller when you are ready to launch,” the Shipmaster said, “but as far as I am concerned, you are clear to depart. The Ang’seillia is in your hands, Anla’shok. Go safely, in Valen’s name.” He bowed and set off back across the landing field.
Cat turned back to Brenda and Parry, “Shall we get ready to launch?” She motioned to the entrance of the vessel and Brenda and Parry nodded as they walked inside to find their seats.
Cat took a last look at the landing field before she followed suit and walked inside, closing and securing the door behind her. She put her satchel on a secure shelf towards the back of the ship and walked up front to sit down in her chair which faced the controls for the ship. She then fastened herself in before configuring the controls.
Brenda strapped herself into the co-pilot’s seat, watching Cat put the data crystal in place and noting the coordinates as they came up. “Interesting,” she said. “That’s between where the Vorlons used to be and the Centauri used to be, way back. Talk about no-man’s-land.”
“Not much exploration out that way,” Parry said, as she sat down in one of the seats behind Cat. “We could find lots of things out there.”
“Sounds like a good adventure to me.” Cat replied as she turned on the com system. “This is patrol ship Ang’seillia to control asking for permission to launch. We are ready to go control.”
Control replied, “This is control to Ang’seillia, you are cleared for take off. Go safely, in Valen’s name.”
Cat powered up the engines as she replied, “Thank you control, launching now.” The little ship slowly lifted off of the ground and made its way skyward, bound for the jumpgate that would take them away from Minbar and toward … they couldn’t be sure what.