For Rent

“Battle occurring some ten parsecs above, sir. We should probably drop down.”

“Noted, feel free to do it,” the captain said, paused, and then added, “OK, don’t worry about my authority if it’s war-related. No-one will give a damn about my authority if we’re all dead and floating through space.”

“Fair enough, sir.”

Typical new-recruit Guidance Officer. She was evidently smart enough for the role, but too scared to do anything outside the book. He would’ve suspected otherwise, if he didn’t know as much – that these recruits were told when they joined that the rules here, unlike the military, were a guide, not an absolute set of strictures. Stoppan science and exploration were not akin to the space force.

Still, she was lucky to be there at all. The Respectful Silence in a Library (16) was one of the few such ships allowed outside of Stoppan space during these Shango-Qareen wars, and this was purely due to its latest equipment, which had the ability to send out an almost quasar-like FTL signal to any warships which rapidly explained that the vessel was not a warship, possessed weapons only for self-defence, and that those weapons would only unlock under certain circumstances.

The captain, meanwhile, had taken full advantage of his privilege, and taken the ship as far into Shango space as he could. Even so, the crew’s ability to come across battles and other signs of the war was a little disturbing; the Qareen should not, he was sure, have been able to advance this deep into enemy space.

As she ship dipped downwards, the main screen’s graphics hurriedly identified each star in turn, in accordance with existing Stoppan knowledge and their new(ish) acquisition from the Shango, a database of their knowledge on the matter. This wasn’t, of course, a mere present – it was necessary for comprehensible communication during the war. But it had come in handy for other purposes anyhow, and what had been told could not be untold.

“Sir!”

The Guidance Officer had steadied the ship to a completely straight path. He hurried over to her.

“You see this? It’s unmarked. It doesn’t come up on either database.”

“Wow. OK, we need to inform Res 33, and the Shango.”

“And the Shango?”

“Well how else can we claim the bragging rights?”

“Fair enough.”

The Comms officer swung round and began tapping away. The captain remained calm. This was exciting, but they had to confirm it; as the ship moved in, they were able to confirm it. The sun was not particularly large or bright, and the four planets that circled it showed little evidence, if any, of life at all. As a discovery, it wasn’t much, but it meant a huge amount – for the first time, something, anything, had come up unmarked. And his ship would be credited with that discovery. He spent quite some time thinking about that.

“Sir, we’ve got a response from the Shango.”

“Already?”

“Yes. We are about a few dozen parsecs from them.”

“Fair enough. Read it.”

“War on, don’t care.”

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