“Report, Commander,” Archer said as he stepped out on the bridge.
“Captain, we have a lock on the station. We should be visual soon,” Bryant replied.
“Excellent, Commander. Patch it through to the mains screen when you can.”
Archer stood by the screen waiting. He could still feel the powerful engines vibrating through the deck. This time, however, the engines were in deceleration mode. The bridge of the Argo II, shifted when the braking maneuver began. With the reverse of the engines, the deck was oriented to still use the thrust as a gravity generator. The deceleration was only half a g, which kept everyone on the decks, but kept movement slow and steady.
“Captain, the visual is now going live,” Bryant said.
The main screen grew dark. Archer could see the edge of the asteroid belt, with various misshapen masses of rock and ice. He strained to see anything that looked like a man made station.
“Trying to increase magnification, Captain. It’s pretty maxed-out at the moment,” Bryant said.
The screen blinked.
“How is that, Captain?”
Archer stared again. There was a structure in the midst of the chaos of the asteroid belt. He could not quite make out the shape, but there were a few lights visible from the station.
“Range, Commander?” Archer asked.
“We’re 83 thousand kilometers away, sir. We might have to slow a little more, Captain. I make our arrival in about five and a half hours.”
“Thank you, Commander. I will be back in four hours,” Archer said.
“Shall I prepare the ship to dock, sir?”
“Negative, Commander. I do not want anything from that station interfacing with any of our systems. We’ll use the shuttle to transport the marines.”
Archer took the tube down three levels and headed for the System Operations Department. At the door he held up his wrist-chip and waited for simultaneous retinal scan. The doors opened upon completion of the identification process.
Archer headed for Lieutenant Denise Brower, Chief Systems Analyst.
“Captain, what brings you down here today?” Brower asked.
“Lieutenant, I need you to make sure that we aren’t contaminated by any corrupt files from SMS 347. In fact, I want to lock down our systems to prevent any system invasion by anyone,” Archer said.
“Would you be talking about any system updates for CentComm, sir?”
Archer thought a moment. “Can we get the updates without putting them in the system until you check them out?”
“I’ll have to set it up that way. It will take a little while.”
“Thanks, Lieutenant. Also, we are going to have the check out SMS 347’s system to check if there was or is a malfunction. I don’t want to do a restart of the systems if there is a problem. I’m not sure what we’ll find there, but I want to proceed with caution.”
“You’ll be happy to know that I have Baker and Anders on that one, sir. They’ve been getting familiar with SMS 347’s operating system. I believe we can do a low-level life support start-up. That will just supply heat and oxygen. We can start other systems as we check things out.”
“Great, lieutenant! I knew that you would be on the ball.”
Archer left and took the tube down four more levels to the small hangar.
Master Chief Parker greeted Archer, “How’s it going Captain?”
“Great, Master Chief. We’re getting stuck with another delay. This one might be a problem though?”
“How’s that, sir?”
“We’ve got a mining station that went dark. We’re the closest for an SOS.”
“What about the Tarantula? Don’t they have someone?”
“CentComm wants to keep the MMA out of it. Says it’s our problem.”
Parker shook his head. “Can’t we all just get along?”
Archer nodded. “I’m just checking on how many of the shuttles we can use.”
“I’ve got two ready as always. I’m sure I can get the rest lickety-split, sir.”
“I think we’re going to need them. CentComm want the marines to hold down the station.”
“So, that’s what it was all about,” Parker said.
“What do you mean?”
“The marines. There was no need for us to have Marines on board, sir. I knew they were up to no-good.”
“Who was up to no good, Chief?”
“CentComm is who. They must have known they were going to divert us to that station. I just hope were not being played, sir.”
The chief was right, Archer thought. He felt a rise of anger. We’d best not get played!
“Oh, Chief. The fast shuttle, get that one ready soon and don’t let the Marines have it.”
“I might go to the MMA at the Tarantula.”
The chief nodded.