Alex advised that the Latray system was inhabited by a mammalian species of forest dwellers with interplanetary technology, but not interstellar capability. There had been a Collective science station observing the Latrayans.
Kovak jumped the ship to the Iliari. There was nothing unusual there. Further information about the Latray situation was available. Latray was facing a black hole situation requiring an evacuation on a scale not previously attempted. Grendel suggested leaving excess crew at the next CEP base to make room for more refugees.
Kovak was relieved by the backup pilot, who jumped to the first Dark Point. The pilot mentioned having a faint feeling of being watched. The Dark Point consisted of a very old white dwarf and a single dead planet in a strange orbit.
The third jump was to Nemax, where there was a human scientific outpost on one of the outer planets. Kovak performed the jump without incident. They hailed the outpost to alert them of the situation. The outpost had already sent their relief ships to assist in the evacuation.
After the next jump to next Dark Point, Bletherin ordered a break so the pilots could recover. The Dark Point had a neutron star, but nothing else. After some time, a liner jumped into the system and hailed the Alex Murphy. The captain of the liner was a slender Harth. The liner Starshine was also heading for Latray to assist.
Kovak negotiated the next jump to Karitra was uneventful. There were Antar colonies on two of the moons. There was a CEP base on Endor, which was naturally habitable. There were no ships present in the system. The Alex Murphy headed for the CEP base for repairs and to offload excess crew before departing.
Karitra had a proper drydock, and the ship was repaired in record time with the local assistance. Grendel acquired food appropriate to the Latrayans. Since the Latrayans were being permanently evacuated to a new planet, Kovak asked if the refugees were bringing their possessions with them.
In addition to the refugees, the evacuation ships would also be tasked with downloading the entirety of Latrayan knowledge as well as evacuating artifacts in order to preserve Latrayan culture and history. The Collective would not be using force to evacuate the planet, so any Latrayans who chose not to evacuate would be left to their fate.
The rogue black hole would take several years to consume the planet, but as it approached, it had already caused orbital disability among Latray’s two moons that would soon impact the surface of the planet.
In preparation for the refugees, Bletherin offloaded ten crewmembers, and any unnecessary cargo to make space. Alex also cleared his memory banks of unnecessary files and data to make room for the Latrayan data.
The backup pilot jumped the ship to Entus. There was a scientific outpost there, and a university ship docked at it. Bletherin contacted the outpost and learned that the university ship was unloaded to assist in the evacuation.
Kovak performed the jump to the next Dark Point without incident. Another science ship jumped out just as the Alex Murphy arrived.
The backup pilot jumped the ship to Terassa. He was sure he saw something in the corner of his eye, but wasn’t sure what it was. Perhaps they were bringing the hyperspace entity to the largest concentration of ships.
There was a human colony on a moon of one of the gas giants. But there was no traffic in the system. Bletherin ordered another rest period before jumping to Latray.
Arrival in Latray
On the jump to Latray, it seemed to Kovak that something was a little off. The jump went faster than expected as if there was a “hyperspace tailwind.” The system was crowded with all sorts of shifts. CEP had established in-system traffic control.
Alex was aware of the cybernautics (that’s traffic control) AI. The ship that took Grendel into Collective space was there, as well as a ship from Grrr’s homeworld.
There was a lot of radio traffic. Alex coordinated with the traffic control AI to acquire data. The moon collision was two years out. Before then, as many of the billions of Latrayans needed to be relocated as possible.
As the Alex Murphy could land, it was used to shuttle 50 refugees per trip to the ships in orbit. The Alex Murphy’s shuttles were loaned out to further facilitate the evacuation. There were also several luxury yachts already serving as shuttles.
Kovak polled the other pilots in system as to whether they had had the feeling of being watched in hyperspace. No one admitted to that, but several reported the “hyperspace tailwind” that she experienced arriving into the system.
The Avalon Ship
A ship from Avalon appeared in system and offered to help. Their assistance was refused, so they started attempted to hack the planetary database. Alex intercepted their feed and inserted viruses and junk data in order to cause their systems to overload. A short time later, the ship jumped out again.
The Alex Murphy was directed to a refugee camp in a cold, windy desert. The refugees were frantic to escape. The Murphy made several trips. There were a few who got space sickness, and some that needed to be sedated, but otherwise the operation was uneventful.
Suddenly, there was a lot of traffic on the communications. A big G’frar ship had jumped into the Latray system. It opened channels, and an elder G’frar announced that they had come to offer their assistance. And their ship could transport millions of refugees.
It was not the CEP’s place to accept their help or not. It would be in their best interests for the Latrayan’s to accept the help. There was some reassignment of responsibility as authority to make a decision was deferred again and again.
Grendel assembled a force field array to offset the winds and facilitate safer landings. Just after he activated it, a freighter shuttle took off. It passed through the field, and then it blew up.
Grendel took team to investigate what happened while Alex continued with the evacuations. There were no Latrayan law enforcement personnel on hand, but several of the locals offered assistance in collecting debris.
The investigation determined that the explosion was not an engine failure. It had occurred in a more central portion of the ship. Subsequent inspection revealed the presence of explosive residue. It was within the capability of Latrayan technology, but that did not rule out the possibility of off-world influence.
In response, boarding protocols were stepped up to inspect the refugees and their belongings more closely.
In the meantime, Alex noted an adult Latrayans sneaking out of the quarters area. He blocked access to sensitive areas. The intruder started examining the door to a weapons locker more closely and produced a toolkit.
Alex sealed off the area and contacted security. The intruder attempted to unlock the door, and was rewarded with an incapacitating shock. Security found burglary tools in the intruder’s bag. They were low-tech but of professional quality.
On the planet, a Latrayan approached the investigators. Grrr apprehended her and she warned them of the nefarious individual on the ship. Grrr informed her that he had been subdued.
She told the away team that there was a group that believed that the whole situation was manufactured by off-worlders to enslave the entire population. The crew convinced her that these beliefs were false. The local governments advised them that the group were terrorists and was not large, but not all the members had been captured.
A short time later, a medium-sized aircraft landed nearby, and a squad of local law enforcement with bomb-sniffing cat-like creatures and a politician debarked. The politician inquired about the captured intruder. Bletherin agreed to turn over the prisoner to the locals for interrogation. The locals scanned the area for explosives with their creatures.
A G’frar shuttle landed nearby. Physiologically, they were closer to the Latrayans. They had longer muzzles and tails, but were otherwise similiar to the locals. The local officials spoke with the G’frar and then Latrayans started loading the ship.
The G’frar confiscated a musical instrument case from a refugee, and then took the individual on board. The case was then taken a safe distance away and detonated.
Eventually, the crew stopped their activities to rest on the ship. The locals offered food, but it was too vegetable for Grrr. Instead, he introduced some of the Latrayans to bacon, which may have started an addiction among them.
On returning to the surface, the crew was greeted by an altercation between a G’frar and an ununiformed human. Bletherin intervened. The two exchanged racist quips at each other. The human insulted Bletherin and Grrr subdued him. The G’frar ran off.
The human was the first mate on a Terran freighter. They returned him to his shuttle and a disorderly conduct citation to the watch officer of the shuttle. Grrr instructed her to confine the first mate to their ship in orbit.
Another disagreement could be overheard. Investigating that one, they found that a heavy stone sculpture was being prevented from being loaded onto a shuttle. It did not detect as explosive or otherwise harmful. Bletherin inquired as to the necessity of the cargo. The refugee said it was his father’s best work. Bletherin agreed to transport the refugee and his sculpture on the Alex Murphy shuttle.
Karin, the cybernautic AI, contacted Alex. They reported that many other shuttles refused to dock with the G’frar ship. Bletherin agreed to perform those shuttle duties.
Approaching the G’frar ship, the passive scanners were active and recording everything. They had docked with smaller space stations. The shuttle bay was large enough to accommodate the Alex Murphy itself rather than just a shuttle. They off-loaded the refugees and the sculpture. The G’frar seemed to like a grayish-green color for the walls.
The crew considered planting surveillance on the G’frar ship. On the next trip, Grrr noticed a scuttling robot crawling across the hull. Grendel fashioned a drone that resembled the robot. After several trips back and forth, the drone was deployed.
Alex analyzed the G’frar communications systems and noted that the Collective language algorithms were present in there database, as well as additional algorithms for unrecognized languages.
Alex noted a shipboard AI, but it had not noticed him. While downloading the ship’s schematics, he realized that another AI had noticed him. Then he was locked out. He succeeded in retrieving the basic layout of the vessel.