1

The star cruiser Axium II detached itself from Ulari Station and set out towards the Logi System where it would deliver military supplies to the Galactic Federation base stationed there to quell the civil war that had started on the planet Logi 115. The Axium II initiated it's lightdrive and tore off through space.

Sitting at the helm was Space Commander Jian Harrison, a man of fair complexion with short black hair. He was a quiet, thoughtful type, favouring thinking through problems rather than thrusting himself and his crew into danger. He wore an all white suit, minus his black boots, with multiple medals pinned to it.

Next to him stood his second in command, Amanda Kyles, a woman of average height with shoulder length auburn hair and green eyes. She was only a few years younger than Harrison but still regarded him her senior because of his years of experience in the military. Often he would rely on her for advice whenever a situation arose, and more times than not he would act on it.

"We will reach the Castor system in about an hour Commander" reported one of the navigation officers.

"Thank you Captain Petrov. Begin charting our course through Castor and into the Alime system." replied the Commander.

"Right away sir" Petrov said with a salute as he went back to his station on the main deck of the ship.

The main deck was a long wide room with a viewport in the front. In the middle, on an upraised platform was Harrison's seat from which he commanded. All around were cubicle like stations with flashing buttons and Holoscreens where crewmen scuttled about seeing to different functions of the ship.

The ship itself had a long rounded figure with the main deck protruding out from near the rear end of the ship. Its gunmetal grey hull was complemented by the dual red stripes running up the middle of the ship. This signified that it was not only a Federation ship but a freighter, designed purposefully for moving goods and not for combat.

For defense the Axium II was equipped with twin G230 laser cannons and a G105 missile launcher. These were all hidden on the belly of the ship, to give the appearance that it would be defenseless in the event of an attack. It was also equipped with a small fighter squadron to defend against smaller targets. Most Federation transport ships were built to look unsuspecting as opposed to the military dreadnoughts which were equipped with all manner of firepower.

As the Axium II flew through space Harrison went over the briefing file on the civil war that had broken out in the Logi system. The two factions involved were the Alki, an alien race native to the Logi system, and the Mori, a species that have immigrated to the system after their homeworlds had been decimated in the 500 year war when the Federation was nearly wiped out by the Tsari Empire.

The Tsari Empire was a militaristic power that valued things such as death and honour very highly. For many Tsari, dying on the battlefield was the greatest honour one could receive. The war started when the Tsari jumped from the Sexta C galaxy where they had nearly conquered every species to be found, to the home galaxy of the Federation, Andromeda XII. From there war broke out, culminating in the year 3246 when the nearly broken Federation finally beat back the Tsari to their home galaxy.

The Logi system crisis started when relations between the Alki and Mori, which were already stressed due to racial prejudices from the Alki, worsened when a band of Alki extremists attacked an Mori bulk cruiser that was carrying refugees. This caused immediate backlash from the Mori who began plundering Alki trade routes and hitting Alki space stations. To resolve the conflict the Federation established a military presence in the system to keep order until relations between the two races could be reestablished.

Harrison read the rest of the file on the civil war on his Holopad. As his eyes began to haze over the words he heard Captain Petrov speaking to him.

"We should be coming out of Lightspace in twenty minutes Commander." he said, looking up from where he and his crew were stationed on the deck.

"Good, prepare to disengage the lightdrive Captain, and reduce speed." replied Harrison, snapping back to reality.

"Right away sir, but there is one thing" Petrov continued.

"What is it?" Harrison questioned.

"A distress signal, sir" answered Petrov "would you like me to send it to you?"

"Yes Captain, send it to my Holopad." Harrison ordered in monotone, he was used to hearing about unidentified signals that usually turned out to be debris or waste floating through space.

"Right away sir," Petrov replied sending the signal to Harrison's Holopad.

Harrison furrowed his brow while reading through the distress signal. It claimed to be from a merchant transport had a malfunction with its lightdrive and needed assistance. He read it over multiple times and gave it over to Amanda saying "What do you make of this Ms. Kyles? Should we move in to assist?"

Grabbing the Holopad from him Amanda looked over the signal and replied "It doesn't seem harmful to me sir. I think that as part of the Federation we are obligated to help them."

"Yeah, I figured you would say that" he sighed. She passed the Holopad back and he continued "Captain once we get out of Lightspace plot a course for this distress beacon."

"Aye sir" Petrov replied.

"Ms. Kyles arrange a shuttle crew to be ready to board the transport and repair their lightdrive" he said to Amanda and as she began to walk away he said "and Amanda?"

"Yes sir?" she said, stopping and looking over her shoulder to face him.

"Maybe tell the weapons crew to start charging our cannons, just in case. I have a funny feeling about this." He ordered.

"Good idea sir" she replied and turned away towards the door.

2

Amanda walked briskly towards the hangar bay, her hair bouncing along to each stride she took. At the end of the hall she came to the elevator and rode it down to Sector 1. Once off the elevator she took a left down the hall and within a few moments found herself in a massive hangar bay littered with landing platforms for smaller ships as well as shuttles wishing to take cargo off the the ship.

She looked around for the Axium II's shuttle pilot Jared Ornatio. He was a tall, toned man with a thick beard and smooth complexion. He had been with the Federation for the latter half of his piloting career. Before he joined the Federation he had been arrested for smuggling illegal goods and was given the option of enlisting or imprisonment and he took the former for what he felt were obvious reasons. "Who wants a life behind bars when there is all this to see" he would often say when people asked him about it, gesturing outside the hanger to the vast emptiness of space. He was also quite sarky.

Amanda spotted him across the room and sped up to relay Harrison's' message. He didn't take note of her until she was about ten feet away. When he did he looked up from his work and smiled "Hey Mandy!" he said with a sly grin "what brings you to my neck of the woods?"

"Commander Harrison has asked that you gather your shuttle crew to prepare to board a merchant ship to repair their Lightdrive." she said, trying to sound stern and formal like Harrison would.

"Yes ma'am!" he shouted with a sarcastic salute and stance as passersby looked on rolling their eyes and chuckling "you can knock off the act Mandy, I'm not Jian-"

"Commander Harrison" She interrupted before he could finish, "You aren't on leave yet Mr. Ornatio, until then you can refer to him by his title." she said trying to regain her posture.

"Alright, alright. Tell the Commander that I will have the shuttle and crew ready in a few minutes." he said rolling his eyes and reaching for his Holopad.

"Very good, message the command deck when it is ready." Amanda finished and walked away. She, like most people, found it hard to be authoritative over Jared. He had a sense about him where any authority didn't really matter. He was however a fantastic pilot and never let his crew down when on mission.

She left the clutter and noise of the hangar behind and headed back to the elevator. She rode it to Section 4 and marched towards the weapon control room. Inside Sergeant James Peller and his crew maintained the ship's cannons. As the blast doors slid shut behind her James greeted Amanda heartily.

"Haw haw! Look who it is! Ms. Kyles! Howr' ya! Oi, get ta werk lads! No slackin' while Ms. Kyles is here!" he cried as his men scattered to find something that they could work on. "So what brings ya here lassie!" he said, placing his foot on a crate and resting his arm on his leg.

"Commander Harrison wants the weapons charged for when we drop out of lightspace." Amanda said authoritatively

"Thas not gonna be a probl'm lass" James said as he tussled his fiery red hair "Tell tha Commander we'll 'ave 'em ready in say foive minutes."

"Very well sergeant, as you were" Amanda said before turning around and leaving. As she walked down the hall she activated her wrist Holoband and saw Jared was trying to contact her. She hit the answer button and a small image of him came up.

"Tell the Commander that my ship and crew are ready Mandy" he said

"Thank you Mr. Ornatio, I will tell him right away." Amanda replied as the call ended.

As she continued towards the elevator she called Commander Harrison, within seconds a small hologram of him appeared hovering over her Holoband.

"Mr. Ornatio has readied his crew for take off and Sergeant Peller is firing up the weapons sir" she said into the Holoband.

"Good work Ms. Kyles. Return to the bridge as soon as you can, we are about to drop out of lightspace" replied the hologram of Harrison.

"Right away sir" she said before ending the call and hurrying towards the elevator and back up to Sector 7.

3

Amanda rushed into the bridge just in time to see them dropping out of lightspace. The blur of stars and planets was replaced by the near static image of Castor XII spinning in its orbit. The dusty yellow planet was a well known smuggling den disguised as a trade port. There was once a Federation star station that orbited the planet but it was soon deserted and taken over by the smugglers who ran it as a bar with a shipwright business on the side.

She quickly resumed her place by Commander Harrison's side as he and Captain Petrov were discussing the distress beacon. It was being sent out from near the planet Castor X which was 2 jumps away and would take close to 10 minutes to get to. Harrison ordered Petrov to punch in the coordinates and jump as quickly to Castor X as they could.

As Petrov launched them into lightspace Harrison turned his head to look at Amanda and said "Welcome back Ms. Kyles, we are close to coming up on the distress beacon."

"Yes, I overheard your conversation with Captain Petrov sir" Amanda replied, standing rigidly at attention.

"Hopefully this will only be a quick solve and we can continue with our deliver to the Logi system." Harrison said, looking back out the viewport of the bridge, watching the stars fly by in a bright haze of light.

Within moments they had reached Castor XI and immediately began the jump to Castor X. The sudden stop-start of rapidly jumping into lightspace always lurched Amanda's stomach. Long drawn out jumps were more her thing, more time to get accustomed to the change in speed. After a moment she no longer felt sick from the jump and just after they arrived at Castor X with a jolting stop that caused her to feel sick again.

"We've arrived sir, but I don't see the ship in sight." Petrov remarked, looking at the radar display.

"Maybe it drifted off, extend the sensor arrays and look again" replied Harrison sternly as Petrov hit a few buttons and pushed a lever to widen the range of the sensors.

"I see something sir!" he exclaimed "it looks like the ship, but I've got bad news sir."

"What is it?" Harrison said, furrowing his brow.

"I'm not picking up any life signs, it seems like the ship was abandoned sir." Petrov responded, looking back at the commander.

"Maybe we should try sending a message commander." Amanda suggested as Harrison stroked his beard.

"Do as she said captain." Harrison finally said after a moment of silence, "maybe they jettisoned their escape shuttles and are still around here somewhere. Also, tell Mr. Ornatio to have his crew hold until we know what's going on."

"Right away commander" came Petrov's reply as he turned back to his screen.

After the message was sent there was a period of silence on the bridge. The crew waited in anticipation for any kind of reply from survivors in the system. A half hour had passed and it seemed as though no one that survived was in range of their message beacon. Just as the Axium II was preparing to leave the system a response came in.

The message read as follows; "We are the last surviving crew members of the transport vessel the Felicia. Our lightdrive malfunctioned and left us stranded in this system. We tried to hail down any passing ships for assistance but instead attracted the attention of a Tsari warship. They destroyed our ship beyond repair, leaving us to flee in our escape shuttles. We do not know if they are still here or not. Please send help…" Harrison and Amanda looked over the message and debated what their course of action should be.

"it may be a trap but what if it isn't sir? Are we to leave these men to die out here?"

"Certainly not Ms. Kyles but we have an unattended to Tsari warship on the loose. What happens when we send Mr. Ornatio and his crew out and they get obliterated, followed shortly by us?"

"Captain Petrov said there weren't any other ships in the area sir, we have nothing to fear."

"The Tsari can mask themselves to our sensors Ms. Kyles we are still very much in danger."

"So are the men in that shuttle sir!" Amanda replied, now getting heated.

"What do you suggest then Ms. Kyles? To risk the life of our entire crew for what may very well be a Tsari trap?" came Harrison's sharp reply.

"Funny you should mention that captain because something just came up on the scanners!" Petrov cried out from his station. "Tsari Warship and I think it's spotted us captain!"

"Shit." muttered Harrison, "Align our ship with the next system and jump as fast as we can!" he continued.

"Aye sir, aligning with the Vosari system!" Petrov replied.

"What about the survivors!" Amanda pleaded, turning to look at the Commander.

He returned her look with a solemn stare and a shake of his head, "No. We cannot risk these supplies being lost on a suicide mission Ms. Kyles. I'm sorry."

Turning around she looked out the viewport of the bridge and saw the Tsari warship fire at what looked like a hunk of debris. It would later be learned that it was the escape shuttle of the last survivors that they had come to save. The Tsari ship then turned and began charging its Beam Cannons to fire at them.

"Ready to jump captain" Petrov said, his hand hovering over the button on the console.

"Punch it captain" Harrison ordered.

And with that they jumped to the Vosari system and narrowly escaped being pulverized by the Tsari warship.