The life boat's emergency beacon disappeared off the screen. At the same time its audio signal ceased broadcasting.
L'u-cif-er De'enth J'hiya's slender fingers raced across the boards trying to re-establish contact. It was a useless effort. The life boat had either gone into life support only mode or had broken up. It was impossible to say which with the outdated and weak sensors the hauler was equipped with.
She toggled on the radio. "Ryle Base, this is the Cadallia."
The reply came after a moment of static. "Cadallia this is Ryle."
"Ryle, I've encountered a distress signal. Am deviating from course to investigate."
There was more charged static while J'hiya began making course adjustments toward the last co-ordinates of the signal. Technically she was breaking contract by making those adjustments before receiving permission from Ryle.
The Cadallia wasn't her ship. It was a HE3 carrier owned by Ryle Base. J'hiya was only piloting it as a favor. While her own ship the D'eon was undergoing a scheduled maintenance layover on Byshen, she'd taken the opportunity to visit an old University friend, Beniti Lue, on Ryle Base. Beniti, the base's shipping director, was short a pilot for a run. J'hiya had volunteered, which was how she'd come to be transporting HE3 through the Avonian system and caught the distress signal.
"Cadallia, this is Ryle," the voice was barely distinguishable through the static. "Do not adjust course. Repeat. Do not adjust course."
J'hiya bit her lip to keep the invectives from pouring from her mouth. Ryle Base was willing to leave a life boat adrift to keep its schedule. She was sorry now she'd only agreed to do this run under an assumed name. Were she piloting as L'u-cif-er De'enth J'hiya instead of Ji Dent, she'd be able to override Ryle's order. L'u-cif-er was Byshen's first House and it was not without influence elsewhere in the galaxy. Chances were this load of HE3 was headed for an L'u-cif-er holding. Ryle Base wouldn't risk offending one of L'u-cif-er's daughters. However, as she didn't have time to prove her identity....
"Ryle, this is Cadallia. Message received. Will attempt to rescue boat and deliver it to Kanderese Station before continuing to Ryle Base. Cadallia out," she finished before snapping off the radio. There'd be trouble when she got to Ryle, but she could handle it. And if Beniti got caught in the fall-out, well she was sure she could find her a place in House L'u-cif-er.
The boat's harsh signal came through the speakers. It was on an intermittent cycle then. No telling how long it had been sending. Hours maybe. No more than a day or two certainly, which was well within a standard life boat's capacity for sustaining life.
Though not a major transport route, the one was still fairly well-traveled. The boat could not have been drifting for long. Whoever was inside was fortune J'hiya had come through though. The Cadallia was the last regular ship scheduled for some time. Avononia was closing the route for an undisclosed amount of time for an undisclosed reason.