Chapter 3

Partnership Vessel Vengeance

Location: Unknown

Date: Unknown

"Son of a bitch!" Cray roared as the shuddering stopped. He barged over to the intercom, thankful to God that he was alive. He pressed the button for Bridge.

"Bridge, Cray." He said. Static crackled on the intercom.

"Bridge, come in." Cray said, worried. He heard groans.

"Report! Someone! Roy! Stanch! Anyone!" He said.

"This is Harper, sir. We're alright up here... I think." Harper's voice said with a tinge of unease.

"I'm going up there," Cray said and turned off the intercom after receiving an affirmative. He turned to Dawson.
"You get to the infirmary and find out what the hell that hunk of rock did to us." Cray said, pointing at him. Dawson nodded and the two went to the elevator. Dawson was dropped off at the infirmary level. Then, Cray went up to the bridge. Nothing seemed wrong to him at least. The lights were flickering... but life support may be alright.

Cray walked onto the bridge as everyone was scurrying about, trying to do their work. Without him asking for it, officers starting speaking.

"Weapons are online and functional, sir." Weathers reported.

"Engines are good, sir. Engineering reports that engines are online and functional."

"Life support's okay!"

Mackers was silent as he worked.

"Mackers! Report!" Cray said, walking over to him. Mackers then stopped working and sat there silently, blinking.

"Something wrong, son?" Cray asked. Mackers slowly turned to his commanding officer in his chair. He swallowed and then started speaking.

"We're... not in the same position as before, sir." Macker ssaid.
"What do you mean?"

"We're not in the same system. Sensors are saying that there's no debris field and the... planets are all... different. I... I don't understand, sir. I really don't." Mackers said, looking at his captain.

"You're saying we're not in Terrance, anymore?"

"No, sir. Whatever happened, we're far away from where we were originally." Mackers said. He breathed a heavy sigh and looked distressed.

"Try looking at the Astrogation charts," Cray said, turning to review the situation in total.

"I already did. None of the systems around us according to long-range sensors are familiar. Not one bit, sir." Mackers said, honestly. Cray looked at his sensor officer and gritted his teeth as he looked out of the bridge at the unfamiliar and uncharted space in front of him. Just where in the hell were they?

The command staff sat in one of the two conference rooms onboard. Cray sat at the head of the table with Harper at his right hand, Dawson on Harper's right, Hudson on his right, and in the following order around the table: Captain Mark Jaansen of the Partnership Marines, his second-in-command First Sergeant Sylvanus Mayer, Stanch, Mackers, the Master-at-arms Lieutenant Commander James Hayson, the ship's chief cook Daniel Borgia, Master Chief Peter Michaels and last but not least: the ex-Wolfpack member known as 'Wolf-Mother'. Almost everyone only knew what was told: She was an ex-Wolfpack Brigade member, ancient by a lot of people's standards, but somehow found the money to get rejuvenation treatments to make her look younger than she was. She looked about sixty, but could've been eighty for all anyone knew. Cray really knew who she was, as did the ex-Wolfpack members onboard sworn to secrecy.

"As the bridge crew knows, we're officially in uncharted space. Somewhere in the Cluster, I'd have to say... or rather want to say. Mackers?" He said, looking at Lieutenant Mackers. Mackers tapped the touchscreen table. The table activated and Mackers pressed some more buttons on the table, showing two separate sets of star charts.

"Chart on the right is the Terrance system and its surrounding systems. Chart on the left is according to our sensors. See the difference?" Mackers said, crossing his arms. Everyone got a look. There were a lot of swears uttered. Wolf-Mother was calm as she looked at it. From her face, she was interested, but Cray doubted she knew anything.

"From what just happened an hour ago, I have to say that the artifact's function is a few things, if I'm guessing right." Dawson said, standing up. He also tapped a few buttons. A diagnostic appeared.

"The device is crystalline, yes. But, it's not magical... maybe. I don't know. Whoever built this thing had it use a shit ton of energy. This thing may be some kind of teleporter as well as a beacon. Who knows?" Dawson said, looking at the live camera footage of the now-inert crystal. The crystals around it were still floating, but the thing looked dull.

"What activated it?" Cray asked Dawson.

"Hell if I know. But, it didn't activate when we scanned it. So, in all, I haven't a clue. I'm thinking about drilling to the core of this damned diamond, but... I have no idea what would happen then." Dawson said, crossing his arms.

"You so much as bust a crack on it and I'll kick your ass, Daw." Harper warned. Dawson nodded, getting the message.

"So, what's our plan, skipper?" Jaansen asked.

"We'll pick a direction and go from there." Cray looked at his weapons officer.

"I want every single point defense turret primed to fire the moment we hit trouble as we set out for whatever passes for a port. We're in uncharted territory, there's bound to be civilization somewhere." Cray then added to his list of orders.

"I want all systems to be checked for malfunctions, if they do, I want them repaired within the hour." He then looked at Stanch.

"I want you to monitor communications for as long as you can, all channels, even if it's encrypted. Hopefully, there's someone out here." He looked at the Chief Cook.

"We got enough food in storage?"

"We have enough food for about a year."

"Alright, fuel-wise, we're good, right?" Cray asked Dawson.

"Yes, sir. She's good to go for about six months before refueling. But, as we all know, we have no helium-3 reactor or refinery. We're not an industrial ship." Dawson reported. Cray inwardly sighed. The list of shit kept getting longer.

"Alright, let's get to work. Dismissed." Cray said. Everyone stood up. Wolf-mother was about to leave when Cray stopped her.
"Hold up, Mother. I need your advice." He said. Wolf-mother stayed behind and closed the door. Roy was outside. He knew the drill.
"Ever been anywhere around here?" Cray asked the ancient founder of the Wolfpack Brigades. Wolf-Mother, also known as Lupa, brought up the charts.

"Nothing looks familiar, sir." She said.
"You're sure?"

"Of course, I'm sure." She said. She looked dignified in her age. Had she been around Cray's age, he would've happily asked her out at one point. Cray swore.

"I'm sorry this is the second time you had to suffer something like this, old girl." Cray said, sympathetically. Wolf-mother sighed.
"I never thought something like this would happen again." She said, remembering something. Cray remembered hearing the story: She had been something called a 'Dragon-knight' or something like that in some kind of alternate universe where humanity had encountered more than one alien race. She had been doing some mission and wound up sacrificing herself to save her team during some kind of warp drive jump or something. She had been found by an Episcopal Navy ship near the beginning of the Independence War and had been recruited in the fledgeling Frontier Guard as a lieutenant. Of course, they found her speaking Pre-War English. It had taken her awhile to learn Neo-Anglic, or so. He couldn't remember who thought up of the Wolfpack Brigades, but he was sure the Wolf-mother had something to do with it as the name came from her. It had been her old team's name.

She had founded the Wolfpack Brigade and trained the first cadre of trainees herself. Most of them were just farmer's sons, hunters and trappers on backwater worlds. But she formed one of the Frontier Cluster's greatest special forces/military exploration units. Somehow, the whole idea of genetically splicing human and Wolf DNA from various worlds where Terran-descended Wolves came in.

Wolf-mother wasn't augmented with the canine fangs and faster reflexes typical of her 'sons'... but she was super-human though. Whatever augmented her was so powerful that she could take out whole companies if the stories he heard from the ex-Wolves were true.

The ex-Wolves here numbered about a full platoon. There had been some talk in the Partnership about making them the special operations force for the Partnership military wing. Give them a chance to be the Wolves they had been in the service.

"Did you ever encounter something like the crystal?" He asked. She shook her head as she looked at him.

"No. When I left we were at war with another alien race," Wolf Mother said, honestly.

"Keep me posted if we find anything familiar. We'll try to hang on as best as we can until we get home." Cray said.

"Yes, sir." Lupa said.

"You're dismissed. Also, tell that young guy..." He tried to remember the nickname. The Wolves all had nicknames or something.

"Pup? It is Pup, right?" he asked. She laughed and nodded.

"I'll keep an eye on him. He never got his chance to be a true Wolf." She said.

"Well, he might get his second chance soon." Cray said, smiling. He nudged his head out the door, respectfully. The old woman walked out with Cray looking at the live action footage.
"Now where in the hell did you take us, you overgrown diamond?" Cray asked. He then walked over to the intercom.

"Bridge, Cray." He said.

"Yes, Captain?"

"Harper... pick a likely candidate for civilization and head to that star system. And tell Warrant Officer Rockstar that he's going to have to keep us entertained the whole trip there." Cray said. Unlike the old Alcuiberre Warp Drive of the United Nations of Earth, the Vengeance had only her Advanced Ion Engine to get around the Cluster. On average, it took two weeks to get to a star system. So much technology had been lost since the UNE days.