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The Silent Service

Posted on Wed Sep 9th, 2020 @ 11:12pm by Client The Narrator & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Ticket To Rhea
Location: Classified UNN Flight Path, Red Route 2. Trans Saturn Injection
Timeline: After Delta Tea

The door to Captain Goldcrest's day cabin was less of a barrier and more of a polite nod to privacy. So when it was opened and the marine standing by the door commented on his visitors, Goldcrest took a moment to revel in the luxury of 20 square meters of living space. An acceleration bunk, a fold away desk, and a locked-down net terminal. Certainly, it beat hot bunking it with the other midshipman when he'd been a young fool on the UNN Nike. But then the UNN Alan Turing was nothing if not a breed apart from her larger and more robust brethren.

"XO and Senior Emissions Officer to see you, sir," the Marine said as he stepped aside to allow the two men into the day cabin. With the door closed behind them, the air felt a little closer, and the air circulation fans kicked up a notch to compensate.

"Well, this is unexpected. I'd have thought if either of you were to need my attention you'd ring us to general quarters," Goldcrest said with a smile, leaning back in his chair. "What is it, is that Mickey destroyer we've been shadowing behaving in a manner that suggests she knows she has a bat in her baffles?"

Chief Petty Officer Maxwell Hamilton smiled. "They wouldn't know we were there if we pointed our comms laser at them and told them, sir." Hamilton joked. "But no, we received a most unusual report from the SCN terminal. It was a Status 43 Request."

Goldcrest raised an eyebrow.

"If memory services a Status 43 request is a diagnostic log file, something the yard dogs at Luna Port use to run firmware updates through all of a ship's subsidiary systems," he mused. "Of course the last time I heard of a S-43 was during my midshipman cruise aboard the Nelson Mandela. Which, as I am sure you might guess, was a little before your time. And what's it doing coming up on the SCN?"

"I had to look it up, sir. The SCN Status 43 request is a relic of the 2300 program. Manuals state that it was meant as a request for validation of secure communication codes. There's the weird part of this."

That sent a momentary chill down Goldcrest's spine. If someone had gotten ahold of a hard-wired UNN encryption module an ideal test of it would be to try accessing low-level systems. That sort of breach might have gotten overlooked if it had not come in on the same network access terminal that was a near enough direct line to UN Cent-Com in New York.

"If it's an attempt by someone to hack into us it's a poor show. That sort of report doesn't send back a receipt ping, it's passive. So who in bloody hells is asking us to verify our comm codes? And doing so using something from the dark ages of the United Nations Navy?" Goldcrest said, a burr to his words.

Lieutenant Commander Dilwyn 'Dilly' Knox was the current edition of a long line of Naval officers, cut from the cloth that had remained stalwart and true through the various clandestine background battles enacted during Earth's military history. He spoke when he needed to, listened to understand and maintained a seriously solemn can-do attitude with his peers. With the souls under his command, there was a fraternal warmth that paid forward, but brooked no argument when lines were crossed.

He let Hamilton speak his piece, because the Chief had firsthand witnessed the message. He waited for the Captain's response, Goldcrest's evaluation, and only then, when the man's words had fully faded, did Knox speak.

"I have a theory, sir. Unsubstantiated unfortunately, but a possibility," the tall, slender man said. His chin rested upon his right thumb and curled index finger, his expression pensive. "I believe it's possible a ship may be contacting us independently, sir. Perhaps a glitch in the systems, but," Knox lightly scratched his nose. "I'll admit to hoping that's not the case."

"The XO is on the right track, kind of, sir." Hamilton added. "The manuals for the SCN explained that this request would be sent out by ships working in concert with the Bletchley Park-class. Specifically, ships from the same fleet refresh program. Except the problem is, except for the Bletchley Park-class, the Remington-class, and the Hughenden-class no class was put into production. Now I checked fleet deployment and I know that the closest Remington, the UNN Robert Shaw, is currently in the Jupiter system. The Hughendens have all been scrapped more than fifty years ago." Hamilton stopped to give the two officers time to draw the same conclusion he had come to.

"Which could mean," Knox stated with that serious quiet in his tone that implied a deeper thought pattern playing out beneath the surface. "One of them wasn't entirely destroyed. Or a piece of tech went astray in the junking process, knowingly or otherwise, and ended up somewhere it really shouldn't be. Either way, someone's dialling out and we should investigate further, sir."

"I hope you are not inferring that our civilian partners who take ownership of scrapping UNN vessels once they have outlived their usefulness might attempt some sort of graft on the side," Goldcrest said with a smirk. "Our standing orders are to proceed out towards Saturn to join 3rd Fleet at the Titan Anchorage. But given we have no set arrival date for Titan I think we can spend some time hunting down our ghost. It'll be a good training run for the sensor crews. And an interesting report for UNN Intel when we reach port. CPO Hamilton, what's your confidence level on being able to track the source of the S-43?"

"Fairly high captain. We have a sense of what we're looking for. We received a fair few S-43 pings, and they grew weaker and had a longer interval. We can plot a rough trajectory from that. From there it's a matter of matching ships to the 2300 program recognition book." Hamilton replied. "It might take a bit, but it's doable."

"Then we're going hunting," Goldcrest said. "XO, we'll keep trailing the Mickey destroyer until CPO Hamilton and his techs have a firm lock on our ghost from the Fleet 2300 program. Once we have it we'll break contact with the Martians under full stealth protocols and proceed towards our target. Depending on their course and bearing, and any activities we monitor, we'll then proceed on to Saturn."

"Aye sir." Hamilton nodded.

"Received and understood, Captain," noted Knox and he nodded. Underneath that calm, composed exterior, boiled a reserved but very keen excitement to solve this mystery.

"Excellent. Dismissed, and excellent work CPO. I'll be sure to mention your department's actions in the log," Goldcrest said and turned his attention back to his terminal work. A navy might sail on its fusion drive, but an admiralty ran on its paperwork.


*SCN=Secure Communications Network, it's the encryption/decryption engine
Hughenden-class, is it a scout, surveyor, or a long range sensor platform? Like it, a dedicated fleet SWAC platform.


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