“Bareet!” Oghma’s voice hissed through the coms, her rasp a welcome distraction from the looming shape of the wreck. “Cap’n! I’ve matched the rotation, you’re good for the hop. Tethers firing in three... two...one” The ship vibrated, a dull feeling below the range of hearing. From either side of the open airlock door, a thick cable burst forth, bridging the gap. Had I poked my head out, i’d have seen that repeated along the 40 Shetem length of the Naveed. She wasn’t the biggest bird, but she’d been in the family for generations, and damned if the old girl didn’t do her job. “Got her!” “Acknowledged, number two. Good work.”I frowned, looking across the void. No matter how many spacewalks one took, it never became routine. “Disengaging Grav-Plates. Ready boys?” I glanced at the other two figures. Both were in heavy suits, protecting from the bitter cold of the void. One extended his hand, a thumbs up. I grinned, though, neither could see it through the tinted faceplate. “For Clan and Glory, boys.” Maruk’s voice crackled through in my speakers, a playfully indignant tone. “Boys, he says, as if I don’t remember him in his swaddles. As if I don’t remember him running between his papa’s legs on Argent homestead, as if I didn’t hold his hand on his Barremo, as he walked up to the bridge of the Naveed for the first time.” “You held his hand?” Esha’s voice was softer than Maruk’s, though no less teasing. “Alright, alright, ladies and gents. When YOU are the captain that cracked the Mayflay, you can talk. Till then, I can call you whatever you want.” “What are you thinking, Cap?” Esha asked. “Looks to be an Anemone type. One of their colony ships, maybe? Looks a bit like Aksha-7, from last year.” “Aksha-7 was a great haul.” Esha giggled a bit at the thought. “Yeah, I’ll give you that. Something’s off, though. Don't think it's Anemone. Look, back there.” We gently drifted along the tether, hand over hand towards the derelict. Maruk waved towards the engines. “I’d put money on either a Treasure-ship or a Polyp type.” “Mmm.” I answered, nodding, though neither would see it. “You might be right. Hard to tell the difference between those two. Oceanics always build similarly, it seems.” “Think we’ll ever find out what happened?” “Hah. the great thinkers of Parhelion have been pondering that for centuries. I doubt we’re going to get the answer here.” “It just really seems odd to me. Why are we the only survivors? And, why are we the only Colonial-type ship? Every other species has more than one ship in their name.” Esha chattered. “Maybe the answer to that is the same answer. We survived, so the Anomaly didn’t keep trying. Someone’s alive, here, now, so it did its job.” “That’s creepy, if’n you ask me.” Maruk answered. The green-grey hull was within arms reach, now, a sealed door that looked more like a sphincter than anything mechanical in front me. The circle of lights from my suit played along the edge, and focused on a smaller sphincter. “Got the lockpick?” I asked. Esha clipped her cable to me, and then off from the tether, drifting gently towards the door. Gently, she inserted a cable that unspooled from the comp-pack strapped to her lower back into the lock. It entered smoothly, with what I imagined would be a squelching sound if we had been able to hear it. The door quivered for a moment, before hissing open, a mist of frozen ice billowing out, before dispersing into the ether. “Oghma, we’re entering the wreck now, provisionally naming it Eriadu-6.” Gently we drifted into the wreck. “Way is clear. Any water’s been vented long ago. No gravity.” I spoke, knowing my words were being recorded on the other end. “Layout typical to Oceanic-types - no flat surfaces, cylindrical hallways. No visible light fixtures.” Esha continued when I paused, reading from the display on her wrist, her comp still connected to the shipboard systems. “Still current running, though at a trickle. Computer’s throwing up error codes. They’re not in the system, and I don’t recognize the language. Think she might be something new, cap!” “Lets confirm that. But if you are right, that’s a big old bonus for us.” “Haven’t been a new type in a few years. I think the last one was Clan Jeryk, in the southern rim.” Maruk answered. “I think you’re right.” I answered, before continuing. “Beginning ship survey now. Hallways layout appears to be in an ascending clockwise pattern. Logic dictates command bridge at the top and engineering at the bottom. Ship’s engineer Maruk will descend down towards the presumed engineering deck, and Science officer Esha and I will ascend to the bridge.” I paused. “Alright, you know the drill. Data, technology, cultural stuff. In that order. And don’t touch the dead, if there are any. If you find any, we’ll mark this ship for the mausoleum.” Four hours later, we were back aboard the Naveed. A routine first-discovery if there was ever one. We’d be back over to the other ship over the course of the next few days, before heading back towards the Grasp. We were gathered, as always after a successful salvage mission, in our mess hall. It was a small room, fitting for a small crew, but generations of people living aboard her had worn the sterility usually inherent on ship-board facilities away. A carved wooden table, thick and brown and shiny, sat in the middle of the room. A worn curtain, lovingly colored and embroidered, seperated the kitchen from the mess, and someone, long ago, had painted a vine with delicate white and red flowers, crawling up the side of the doorways. Thick, overstuffed armchairs, more at home in a shiner library than a salvage ship, as amazing as she was, bracketed a bookshelf full of worn tomes. Maruk sat in one of the chairs, a big mug full of Ebridian Whisky clutched in the hand he was gesticulating wildly with. Esha flinched as the clear brown liquid sloshed, threatening to spill. “Careful!” She laughed. “That stuff’s worth it’s weight in gold!” Her own glass was nearly half empty, though the redness of her pink skin and ridges showed that that wasn’t because it hadn’t once been full. “Don’t matter! After today, we’re going to be RICH! Innat right, capn?” “Yeah, Cap!” Oghma grinned from her bowl of soup. “There’s gotta be something great, here!” Glancing around, she grimaced. “Tilla! Get your sorry ass down here before Maruk drinks the whole bottle!” Maruk laughed, as he topped off his mug. “One minute!” the high-pitched voice of our radiographer echoed from above. “Last minute message.” True to her word, she soon joined the rest of the crew, a grim look on her face. Oghma’s grin died as she saw Tilla’s face. “What’sa matter?” “Here.” Tilla handed her the tablet she held in her hand. Oghma spat. “No! They can’t do this! This is OUR wreck.” “Give it to me.” I said, and Oghma almost threw it at me. “Clan elders are calling us back.” “What!?” Maruk roared. “What about the wreck?” “Says they’re sending Ellias and the Narabond over. Says we’ll be compensated for our bonus.” “Any idea why, captain?” Esha asked? “I haven’t the faintest,” I answered. Taking a deep breath, I finished my glass.