“INFORMATION. SENSORS DETECT OBJECT UPON CURRENT COURSE.”
“What sort of object?” queried Tanal.
“THAT INFOMRATION IS NOT AVAILABLE AT PRESENT, OBJECT IS ON EXTREME RANGE OF THE SENSORS.”
Tanal pondered for a moment, was it worth awakening the crew at this stage after all it was probably just a fragment of meteorite or another worn out ship drifting out into infinity. He added a small notification to the WatchLog and went back to his late night vigil on the flight deck, all the systems were fine they were either on hibernate or running smoothly, “Frank how along until the object is with the range of the main detection sensors?”
“AT CURRENT SPEED, THE OBJECT WILL BE IN MAIN DETECTOR RANGE IN 6.786456 HOURS.”
“Approximately speaking of course,” Tanal muttered under his breath.
The next two hours went by smoothly and Tanal nipped off the flight deck and got himself something to eat and drink from the dispense unit. The special of the day was some kind of Fruit Chilli from Bolkatron which had been in vogue a few years back… evidently eating trends took a while to the reach the frontier. Tanal quickly ate the meal and washed it down with a bottle of Charonian Root Beer and was summoned back to the flight deck by a minor alarm from the flight computer.
“Ok Frank what is the update?”
“SENSORS HAVE DETECTED THAT THE UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT HAS MOVED DIRECTION AND IS NOW ON A SLOW COURSE WHICH WILL POTENTIAL CAUSE A COLLISON WITH THE PENELOPE.”
“Ok, is it in detector range?”
“AT CURRENT RATE THE OBJECT WILL BE WITHIN DETECTOR RANGE IN 2 HOURS”
Ok, that was odd the object was accelerating towards the ship, it was time to let the crew know. He pressed the internal communicator, a moment later he got a weary voice from the speaker.
“Ok Tanal, what is it?”
“Sorry to disturb you Commander but the Frank computer has detected something a bit odd and I think you and one of the others should take a look.”
“Ok give me ten and I’ll be with you.”
Commander Shore and Jenna, the Intelligence officer, mulled over the information once on the flight deck.
“So it is probably a ship of some kind,” she concluded. “The Frontier is well known for many free spirits and Prospectors trying to find minerals on uncharted rocks. It is a bit like the days of the Wild West in the old calendar, it might even be a mobile bar.”
“A Last Chance Saloon in space?” asked Shore, perhaps having his slumber disrupted wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.
“INFORMATION UNIDENTIFED OBJECT HAS INCREASED SPEEDED BY 0.8 PERCENT”
“Ok Frank how long before a probe will come into detection range?” Asked Jenna.
“Release a probe,” order Commander Shore, “main visual to kept at all times”
The wait felt a lot longer then the 17.8 minutes Frank had declared, a vague blob had appeared on the viewing screen but it was well beyond being identified visually. Jenna was leaping about from console to console making notes of various bits of data, a puzzled frown continuing to form on her face.
“I don’t like the look of that face,” whispered Tanal.
“Me neither,” replied Shore.
“What’s the beef?” Asked Tanal.
“It’s nothing,” said Jenna dismissively.
“Okay, so that puzzled expression is just your version of resting bitch-face then?” Queried Commander Shore. She didn’t reply and continued to look at the incoming data.”
“INFORMATION OBJECT HAS NOW INCREASED IN SPEED BY 3.7 PERCENT AND WILL BE IN PROBE RANGE IN 58 SECONDS”
Jenna looked up sharply, “Frank put the Battle Computers online and clear the main phasers for firing.”
“Nothing?” Asked Tanal
“It is nothing, I can see no recognisable energy pulses and fall out you would find from a propulsion system. Whatever it is, it is travelling on a completely unknown method of propulsion.”
“Not unknown much longer,” Said Shore looking at the screen, the blob was forming into a shape. It seemed to be a mass of something, silvery and smoothly shaped.
“What the hell is that?” asked Tanal as the thing filled the scanning screen. There was a sparkle and the image shook, then the screen went dead.
“INFORMATION: PROBE HAS BEEN DESTROYED AND UNIDETIFED OBEJCT HAS REDUCED SPEED BY 12.8 PERCENT”
“Frank, new course plan. Alter the flight path to 57 degrees east of the object and increase speed to standard by 8,” barked Commander Shore.
Two hours had passed and the crew were in need of answers, they’d replayed the footage over and over again.
“They look like metal Piranhas,” said Tanal.
“Piranhas?” queried Shore.
“Earth Piscine life form,” Jenna informed him.
“I know what a bloody Piranha is,” snapped Shore. “I meant why Piranhas?”
“Just what they looked like, like they had savage teeth and steam…” he tailed off and shuddered.
“Are you okay?” Asked Jenna.
“It reminds me of a story my grandma told me, about something called the Swarm.” he said, “it was a folk tale from the original expansion about metal eating creatures that scourged the outer systems.”
“I think perhaps we should hear this story…” Said Commander Shore.