56 I swallowed before continuing. “We’ve got the long range sensors back up. Tallis says it’s clean from here, so we’ll need to go in closer. Permission to take us in?” <strong>The</strong>re was silence for a few moments before the captain answered, less anger in his voice. “Start our approach. I’ll be on the bridge in 5.” I looked over at Tallis as the comm line shut off, and he just shrugged his shoulders. “You know how the captain is when someone wakes him up,” Tallis said innocently. I rolled my eyes at him before looking back at the controls. “Well, here we go.” “Everyone suited up?” <strong>The</strong> captain looked around at the three of us. “Sir, yes, sir!” Khalis said, grinning as he pulled his feet together and straightened his back as his hand came up to salute. He held this pose until the captain turned his gaze back to him, and slowly lowered his hand back to his side, his grin sinking simultaneously. A momentary smile appeared before Lief spoke again. “You know the drill. This is a normal investigative operation. Get in, assess the situation, help fix whatever is broken, and evac any wounded. Are we clear?” “Sir, yes, sir!” We all yelled out in seriousness. <strong>The</strong> Captain opened the door to the airlock, and stepped through. Khalis glanced at Tallis and I, and shrugged before he followed after him. “And the fun begins,” I muttered under my breath as I climbed through and into the other ship.
My eyes widened as I saw the enormity of the ship. We had mostly been on rescue ops for ships close to our size, a handful of midsized passenger ships, but nothing like this. <strong>The</strong> ceiling had to be at least 15 meters high, cargo spread all around the walls of the room. <strong>The</strong>re was another door at the other side, but it had to be at least a hundred meters away, minimum, and cargo scattered in piles on the floor. “<strong>The</strong>y use these bad boys to haul supplies to the Expansion Territories,” Leif said, answering our curiosity. “Some of the planets have natural resources or are farm-ready, but others need some terraforming to make them habitable.” <strong>The</strong>re was a console that had lit up when we entered the ship, and Khalis had stationed himself in front of it, typing away. “How many people does it take to man one of these things?” I asked, still staring in awe at the bay we had come out into. “Usually it can hold at least a hundred, but according to the manifests, this one was run by a skeleton crew of 30 or so,” Khalis said, staring intently at the console. “30?” Tallis said as he closed the door to the airlock. “If there’s 30 people on this ship, then where are they? Shouldn’t they be here to greet their rescuers?” <strong>The</strong> silence that followed Tallis’ words was the heaviest silence I’ve ever heard. It pressed in from all sides, overbearing in its vastness. “We should be able to at least hear them at this point. Hear anything,” I said quietly. “Tallis, you and Khalis check out the bridge. See if 57