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Discovery by Keith Kitchen
SUMMARY: The scoutship Yoularian, damaged, harried, stumbles into an unknown star system and makes a harrowing discovery.
Sparks flew from various panels and acrid smoke filled the air of the small bridge of the scout ship Yoularian as it fled for its life from the titanic Grundaksan cruiser that had been closing on it for several standard days. The crew of the small vessel had been tasked to observe the alleged buildup of forces by the Grundaksa in the vicinity of Sector PK287 5x24x15, a task similar to dozens they had performed over the course of the past dozen cycles. They weren't to engage the Grundaksa or even to report to the Jundahl, whom it was reported the Grundaksa were planning to attack.
D'halr didn't know, nor did he care whether the two ancient foes were going to go to war once again, as they had a dozen times over the past ten-cycles. He and his crew had been ordered to observe by the Council of Elders, and when the Council of Elders sent you, you went. What was happening, however; had never occurred before, to his knowledge.
The Grundaksa not only attacked, but they were pursuing! It was unheard of! The Yoularian was identified, both visually and electronically, on all wavelengths, as a Scout of the Council, and was not only Neutral, but, in both the letter and spirit of the law, untouchable. The Council had not interfered one way or another in any conflict in the known Galactic Group in nearly five thousand years, not since the War of the Ur, which had led to the complete and total destruction of that never to be sufficiently damned race.
They hadn't interfered, but they did observe and demanded to be allowed to observe.
Not one race had objected to the observation, nor had they ever interfered with that observation since the Ur.
"Report," D'halr barked.
"The converter is fused," Lootar, the ship's engineer crooned in his singsong voice. "We are on a downward translation and we will drop into n-space in less than a standard hour. We still have our sub-light drive, but..." His voice trailed off.
"Understood," D'halr, said with understanding. "Communications, have you been able to report our situation?"
The spare-looking officer shook his head. "No. The Grundaksa are understandably jamming all normal broadcast wavelengths. I took the liberty of launching a sitrep drone, although that will take two to three standard years to reach our nearest base. I also sent a message via lightspeed transmission as an emergency measure, but either way, there's no chance that help will arrive in time."
"Then we have no choice but to put our faith in the One True God and pray."
"So it is said, so it is done," the members of his bridge crew said in unison.
D'halr looked at the Omnivex, the computer-driven device which gave a representation of the explored universe and had to exert all his self-control not to sigh or make any other gesture that could possibly be misrepresented as defeat. Not that it mattered in any manner.