Searching Out the Ancients, Part 2

Characters: Cat Rosha, Brenda Mawarra, Elanor Parry

The Ang’seillia was making good time as it left Minbari space and worked its way along the fringes of Centauri territory. The Centauri allowed the Ranger ship to use the jump gates in its territory, but only if they stayed just long enough to transit the gate and then be on their way. Brenda scowled every time they transited one of the Centauri-controlled gates. When Cat asked her about it, as they left the gate near Morbis, she said, “I can’t help thinking about Ayeshalan.”

It was about the middle of the third day of their journey when they emerged from the gate in the Vinzin system. “This used to be Centauri territory,” Brenda said. “They abandoned this planet almost a hundred years ago. Reports said there was a sentient species there at the time. I wonder if they survived after the Centauri left.”

Cat thought for a few moments before asking, “I wonder if we should do a scan of the area just to see if there are any signs of life. I’m kind of curious to see now.” Cat slowed down slightly and looked at Brenda for a second before she turned her head back to the controls.

“I don’t see why not,” Brenda said.

“There’s no real rush to complete our main mission,” Elanor added, “and if we can bring more information back to the Rangers, then we should, I think.”

“All right, I don’t see why not either. Slowing down shuttle speed.” Cat punched a few things into the controls and the shuttle slowed down to almost a halt. She turned around after the shuttle had slowed to a stop. “It’s all yours.”

“Activating sensor suite,” Elanor said, sweeping her hands over the controls at one side of her seat. “Sending to central display.” A section of the console between the pilot and co-pilot’s seats lit up, producing a column of light that resolved itself into a holographic picture of the planet in front of them.

“Definitely inhabited,” she said after a minute. “Several good-sized cities here, here, and here.” Pinpoints of light flared on the display at various points around the globe. “Quite a few more –” and more pinpoints, in a darker shade, flared to life — “abandoned and empty. I’m picking up a lot of pollution too.”

Brenda scowled again. “I guess the Centauri took as much as they could grab before they took off, left these poor sods holding the bag –” She paused in her rant as some more of the sensor data came across her console. “I’m picking up two orbital satellites,” she said. “Tracking on display.” The image of the planet now had two rings around it. “Communications relays, most likely,” she said. “One of ’em’s in a pretty wonky orbit, though. Decaying badly. Satellite’s probably not usable because the orbit’s so unstable, and I’m betting it’s going to crash before too very long.”

Cat looked at the displays as Elanor and Brenda were scanning, trying to make sense of it all. “Is there anything we can do to help the satellite?” she asked. “I just would not feel right if we left it the way it is and let it crash if there was something we could have done for it.” The ship started to tip off balance to the left side. Cat quickly turned around to steady its course before turning back around in her chair to look back again at Brenda and Elanor.

“This ship has a gravitic beam grapple,” Brenda said, “like the Phoenix’s Minbari shuttles. We should be able to use that to pull the satellite back into a more stable orbit. We’ll have to do it gently though. Looks like it’s old — probably from when the Centauri were here. It’ll be fragile for sure.”

“I’m scanning for communications transmissions,” Elanor added. “That should give us a good idea of what level of technology these people have — beyond whatever the Centauri left behind, that they’ve been able to salvage. I’m not getting much. These two satellites are probably some of the highest-level tech they have left. If we can keep this one going for a little while longer, we’d likely be doing them quite a favor.”

“All right, I suppose we should try out this grapple.” Cat turned around to her console and cracked her fingers before she started up the ship’s orbital engines and slowly controlled the vessel over to the damaged satellite. She steadied the ship’s orbit once more, then turned to the grapple controls. “Let’s see if I can get this in less than three shots,” she joked as she squinted her eyes at the screen trying to acquire a lock on the object.

Once she got a locked, she fired the beam for the first time but the ship glided slightly out of orbit and she missed. “Darn it!” she exclaimed as she quickly turned around to theAng’seillia’s controls to steady it once more. When the ship was back she tried the grapple a second time and this time she grappled the object. “All right, where should I place it?”

“Calculating that now,” Brenda said from the co-pilot’s seat. “Stand by … okay. I’ve calculated a stable orbit which will allow the satellite signal to reach the most of the population centers. Sending coordinates across your head-up display.”

The point Brenda had calculated appeared on Cat’s screen as a glowing point of light, complete with crosshairs. “Got it, all right I’m going to start moving it.” She grasped the controls tightly and and slowly started to manipulate them. The satellite vibrated as it was pulled by the grapple beam, broken pieces drifting off. Cat had an anxious look on her face as she pulled the satellite into its new coordinates. When the move was complete she breathed a sigh of relief, turned off the beam, and fell back in her chair.

“Checking new orbital track,” Brenda murmured, studying the coordinates on her console. After a moment, she said, “Yeah! New orbit looks stable. If that satellite is still functioning — and I think it is, at least partially — the people on that planet should be able to use it now. Good on ya!”

“Should we try and contact the people?” Elanor asked. “Or just leave this for them as a mysterious gift?”

“Some part of me wishes to contact them, but the Ranger in me says it’s better if we leave it for them as a gift. Besides, we should get back to our original mission,” Cat replied. “Is that all right with you both?”

Brenda nodded. “Makes sense to me.”

Elanor said, “I’ll make a report with all the data we found and send it back to the Council. Then they can decide where to go from here. I agree, we should be on our way for now.”

Cat turned the Ang’seillia away from the planet, firing the thrusters to take them back through the Vinzin jumpgate. In moments, the little Minbari ship had vanished back into hyperspace.