Commander Dickerson reviewed the transport schedules on her console. She plotted the locations of all the ships and the scanning probe on the hologram to get a good view of the activity.
She activated the intercom. “T-Ops, Lab 4.”
“T-Ops, go ahead”
“When are we going to start getting the ice loads?” She was checking the traffic patterns.
“First one will be arriving in about 20 minutes. Bay 4 is standing by and the water processing plant is ready to receive.” Lt. Xi cheerfully reported.
“Well done.” She checked the contents of bay 4 quickly “Is the load of ice that clung to the surface isolated?”
“Yes, Ma’am. It is coming in on the following transport …” He paused slightly “About 40 minutes out.”
“Good, I want to keep that separate just in case.” She checked the external storage locations “Send that load to quadrant 3 and net it up. I want some additional tests done on it.”
“Routing to quadrant 3 for netting, aye.” He responded.
“Thanks T-Ops, keep me posted.”
Tim and Sam entered the lab looking very gloomy.
“Gwen isn’t doing well.” Sam announced.
“She ran a transport ship into a solid body at over 500 klicks.” the commander was trying to not get emotional “What did you expect?”
“No need to be sarcastic.” Tim was annoyed.
“I’m not!” the commander shouted. She had a tear leaking down from her left eye “I’m being realistic! Our medical team will take care of her. We have a job to do. So let’s get to it!” she calmed down a bit and lowered her voice “And we’ll see what happens from there.”
“Fair enough.” Sam tried to reassure herself as she headed for a console.
“Then let’s see where we are.” Tim strapped himself into his workstation.
Kim looked up to the hologram “Look, we all have our own histories with Captain Stewart.” She tried to keep her voice from cracking “Some more recent than others, and some more deep than others.” She hesitated “But there is nothing we can do about her situation right now. So let’s focus on figuring out what we are dealing with here.”
“So just exactly what are we dealing with?” Tim was genuinely curious.
“In case you hadn’t figured this out yet, we have absolute proof of alien intelligence.” The commander lit up the known surface of the artifact “And we don’t really know anything else about it.”
Beginning of Story