The Delta Quadrant was much the same as any other stretch of space, certainly from Raan’s point of view. Blackness. Stars. A sense of space and freedom he’d never found when bound to a planet. The excitement that he chose his own destiny now, it wasn’t predetermined for him from birth anymore.
The Resolute had exited the wormhole just a few minutes ago with the bulk of the fleet and had immediately moved away from the wormhole. Call it his previous wartime experience, but the idea of so many ships in one place just felt like a duck shoot to him. Like recruits crowding around a gate to get through, if someone took pot shots at them right there and then, it could decimate their forces.
“Lieutenant Kovash, set a course for our first search area,” he ordered, with a glance toward the tall helm officer.
She was annoyed, that much he could tell from the angry set of her shoulders, and the way she stabbed at her console like it had personally offended her. It wasn’t subtle, but then neither was Kovash. He let the worry go. If she had that much of a problem, she would confront him head on about it. Until then, unless he picked up other worrying signs—which for Kovash would be explosive–he would ignore it. Not for the first time he was grateful she wasn’t a telepath. No one wanted to see Kovash under the effects that had been reported with Blood Dilithium.
“Talk to me,” he told his senior staff. “First search area, what are we looking at?”
“Lotsa rocks and nothingness, boss,” Allen, his science officer, replied with a frown on his craggy face. He shoved a hand through his shock of pale hair as he looked at the console in front of him. Like most of Raan’s crew, Allen was an… odd one. Half the time he looked like he was in the middle of a hangover or a mental breakdown, yet when the proverbial hit the fan, he was as calm as a rock.
“Three systems in this area. Two uninhabitable, filled with class D moons and asteroid belts. Looks like something blew up eons ago and the debris is scattered across the two systems. Lots of opportunity for Blood Dilithium though, warrants a closer look. Third system is dominated by a class J, with some Class L’s, one verging into Class M. Could be inhabited.”
“Okay, let’s take a look,” Raan arched his eyebrow as Allen threw the information up on the holoscreen in the middle of the bridge. His brows snapped together as he considered all the options. “Any Devore Imperium presence in the area?”
“Not as far as scans can tell,” Burton replied, next to him, parsing information on his own screen. From this angle it looked like he’d hooked into various local news and intelligence networks and was cross referencing them. Interesting. Perhaps Burton wasn’t so by the book after all. “No distress signals, no reports of local disturbances. Not getting any local chatter though. Not recent anyway.”
“Okay,” Raan nodded, making a decision. “We’ll drop in this side of the possibly inhabited system, check that out first. We don’t want to be stepping on anyone’s toes. But the far more interesting target from our point of view is this asteroid belt.” He motioned to a large swathe of rock through the second system. “This could be a prime location for Blood Dilithium, which means it could have mining crews in situ and they’re likely not to welcome us much.”
“Agreed,” Burton said, his voice calm. “I recommend we use the cover of the gas giant as we approach, use that interference to scatter our signal. Reports from the fleet say that technology on a lot of the smaller mining operation ships is significantly less advanced than ours.”
“Yeah.” Raan rubbed at the stubble on his chin. Shaved this morning and the damn stuff was already back. He’d have to grow a beard or something. “Weapons systems are still weapons systems though and while we can punch back, we’re out here without support so the more we can do to cover our backsides the better. Send a report back to command, let them know our plans and we’ll update when we have more.”
“Let’s rock and roll then.”
Raan sat back in his chair, eyes narrowed on the viewscreen and ran through all his preparations in his mind. He’d covered everything, he knew that. But no plan survived first contact with the enemy. His job was to figure out which enemy the Resolute would face first…