“NOMAD Prime, this is Sui on NOMAD Survey Two. I got something, you copy?” The communications console hissed for a long second with the background static of space. The Survey modules meandered a long way away from the mother ships in their eternal search for metals out here in the Asteroid Belt. Far enough that it took the radio waves an appreciable amount of time to make the roundtrip journey from one vessel to another.
As she waited, Kala Sui’s eyes automatically flickered over the control panel of her ship, taking in no specific detail but giving her a quick overview of the general condition of the module. The Survey ship was about the size of a school bus, One third of its bulk was taken up with engines and fuel, another third held air and water to sustain its pilot, and the rest, something less than the volume of a small office back on Earth held the pilot herself. It took a particular blend of wanderlust and mental stability, seasoned with a liberal dash of pure greed to make up the psyche of a typical Survey pilot. Jimson had been locked up inside this particular can for eight days now, and she was only just past the halfway mark of her shift. Her mind needed to cope simultaneously with the immensity of the open universe that surrounded her and the claustrophobically tiny space in which she could move.
“NOMAD Prime here, Survey Two” the reply came many seconds later. The distances out here at the edge of the Void were staggeringly large. “Initiating DLC lasers for direct link communications. What you got, Kala?”
The survey module and the mother ship had located one another. Their on-board computers could now analyze their relative positions and initiate a tight beam, line of sight communication tunnel that no one outside could eavesdrop on. Radio waves were great for broadcast messages, but you couldn’t keep them private. Using line of sight laser beams allowed the two ships to communicate in secrecy. Theoretically, another ship could take up a position directly behind one of the others and gather some of the spill-over, but in practice that kind of vector analysis and response was beyond the fuel allocations of any commercial vessels — and the pilot of the third vessel would find himself being whipsawed all over the sky as the two primaries moved incrementally in relation to one another.
Sui waited until the telltale on her communications console glowed green, showing her that the direct link was established, and then she told them what she’d found, the excitement spilling out of her in a hoarse laugh and whoop of joy. The words spilled out in a torrent:
“I got one, Cat. A real one. I can see it right now. I got my tether line on it and I’ve tagged it with our marker. Here’s the claim,” she uploaded a set of coordinates and the time stamp of her discovery. “It’s a by-God honest to-beat-the-fucking-band alien ship, Cat. We’re rich, darlin’ . All of us. Mark my words. From this day on, my friend, we will be living in luxury!”