The Asp Explorer Intrepid moved into orbit around the brown dwarf at the very outskirts of the system. After a synchronisation manoeuvre she came along portside to a Diamondback in red and grey. The small scout was already waiting in orbit and had its engines and shields powered down to minimize its electromagnetic profile. The magnetic field of the fast spinning brown dwarf did the rest to conceal it. That monster four times the size of Jupiter did a full rotation in only six hours. It was clearly flattened at the poles and methane storms raged across the equator.
“Sorry to disturb you guys but we got a priority message from the Explorers Association. ‘No relays!’ was the verdict so I took out the Persephone to say hello to you in person.” When the docking tube made contact with the DB’s airlock he added: “Permission to come aboard?”
Araan was first: “Bah! You’se a’looking for an excuse o’leavin’ your’ses office desk and come’ses here to spread’ses tha news. Ever’one knows’es ya hate being a’tied to a chair while us men a’doing the true man stuff, no? Mights as well confess’es to the Lady Void o’crossin’ the black carpet and a’craving to serve her well.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Araan. Ten days. With all that Altairian gibberish I’m surprised they didn’t give you the airlock in the meantime.” Johnny Emerald grinned his broad grin. The two were not exactly at odds but they had competed over who was more sarcastic more than once. Usually, Araan had won.
Inside the Asp, Andrew Gaspurr was attending the autolab. It was almost the same as one of the onboard refineries of mining ships. But instead of breaking down rocks and minerals and extracting their precious metals and crystals the autolab was analysing a multitude of samples they had taken both in space and planetside. The Intrepid was not hunting for resources, though. They were collecting data on one of the older but often neglected clusters of stars the area around Sol had to offer.
“Kamzel called,” Johnny said.
“About a thing he’s putting on with others from the Explorers Association. He wouldn’t go into the specifics but he mentioned the EA is pulling together resources from all over the place and that he wants the GMP to play a part in this as well. Ultimately, he said, he wants to lay the foundation for a well-documented ‘highway’ to the core and later the Ceeckia region.”
Andrew nodded. “That would be Beagle Point.”
“Beagle? I thought that place was a myth or at least a metaphor for going into the black without an ETR.”
“Well, it’s a bit of both,” Andrew said with a wink. “Or so I’ve heard. In any case, the Ceeckia region is about as far as you can get without falling off the galactic disk. And it’s beyond the Sagittarius Shadow so it always bothered people what was going on there.” He considered it a few more moments. “Very interesting…”
“So it IS a myth?”
“If it’s a myth, isn’t it worth checking out? I assume it is a solid place, and one that’s been visited not by angels, procreators, gurus or space age hippies, but by more decent people who have an interest about what’s going on around us. So people a bit like us.”
“In any case, Kamzel asked if we could turn up for a briefing. He didn’t want to beam it all through the comm relays. Too much of a hassle he said. Instead, he proposed having a cup of tea and discuss things in person. The only viable way to ‘get the emphasis across’ as he put it.”
“Well, you could say that. What does our schedule say?”
“Three more days in the Corona Austrinae, which is more than enough to complete our survey of the Coronet Cluster. One day collecting our samples and video limpets, one day for return, maintenance and compiling the data. Maybe two. We should be fine this time next week.”
“All right. Arrange a meeting around Alioth next Friday, will you? I want to check the wreckage we found in HIP 94391 once more on the way back and see if the IIRS or the Fuel Rats could tow it away or at least get those cryopods back to the Bubble. And we need the FSD checked anyway. Sanya says the energy cocoon around the emitters took some damage after that proximity drop in Romeo CrA EL-Y d83.”
“Roger that. Anything else?”
“Well, check your personal agendas for the next few months. Depending on circumstances, if I should join this venture I’ll have to decide on an appropriate ship and the crew I need. Whoever goes, best tell your honeys you’ll be home late and that they needn’t wait for you with dinner.”
They all had a good laugh and then got back to working on those samples. They needed to finish the dossier on the cluster for their client before heading back and diving into the next adventure.