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"Keady. Ee-Ell-Enn-Two-Four-Bee-Omega-One-Six-Epsilon. Over." The transmission was a bit rough, but the voice was unmistakable and the computer confirmed the command code before I even had to ask it to. I looked across the command center at Wan. "Wasn't Keady on Hecate station? How'd he survive that cluster?" I asked. It was a rhetorical question, of course, Wan hadn't left Absolute Zero in five years.
Wan just shrugged his shoulders and spoke into his headset. "Lakini, you are clear to approach docking port Two-Seven-Alpha. Welcome to Absolute Zero. Over." He flipped a switch, "Should have have security...?" he asked. I nodded and he toggled the interior security channel. "Security, this is command, send two officers to Two-Seven-Alpha." He paused, listening, then replied, "It's Keady." He cut the line and removed his headset, nodding to the junior comm officer.
I met him halfway around the room, "Hecate was obliterated wasn't it?" I'd read the reports but Wan had been one of those who had monitored system-wide communications.
"As far as I knew nobody got off Hecate alive. Of course this is Keady we're talking about so ..." Wan grinned even as I grimaced. Keady's reputation was legend, in that a lot of what people claimed he'd done was myth.
I pinched the bridge of my nose, feeling a migraine coming on, "Yeah. Keady." I sighed, "Come on, let's get down there and try to find out how the hell this is possible. On the way you can tell me everything you know about this ship, what was it again?"
"The Lakini, and we don't have much. It's a private for-hire ship. Registered out of Vesta. Last berthed at Phobos two weeks back. Didn't file a flight plan when it left." Wan paused, probably scanning through the wireless feed to his ocular display. "Captained by ... Nicholas Alexander. Eh, no other official crew registered, like I said, private ship."
"And this Captain Alexander?" I asked as we rode the left down.
"He's a moonie. Used to run ice for Terra-Form on Mars. Left there eight years back. Resurfaced five years ago on Vesta when he registered the Lakini. That's about all we got in the data-banks." Wan stopped in the hall, "Sir, there wasn't record from Hecate about the Lakini docking. Do you think they were there?"
I stopped a few paces ahead of him. "I don't know," I replied over my shoulder. "But I think we're in a position to find out, and maybe find out what really happened to Hecate." I turned fully toward him, "Wan, I'm worried. I think our little private corner of the sky is about to get a lot less quiet."