Lieutenant Romulus McCracken lay in his quarters aboard the BGN Penance and held a small cylindrical canister to the light. Strange to think that something so small could wreak havoc on an entire planet. Romulus couldn’t even remember how many had died on the colony world of Hope, but his task was to bring the virus sample back for study. Secretly, of course, since every one of the Banner’s many enemies would love to get their hands on a world-decimating disease.
In fact, the Red Star had already made an overt attempt to steal it from a dummy convoy in a different system. That’s why he’d cleverly brought it aboard an unsuspicious mercy ship making a more circuitous route through a number of less-traveled systems.
“Romulus,” Captain Hillibrand’s voice came over his room’s speakers, “we’ve entered another electrical storm.”
Romulus gingerly situated the canister in the safe by his bedside. “And?”
While the more dramatic storms provided a spectacular view in the nearby nebulae, most were only mildly annoying – hardly useful for wooing any of the attractive nurses aboard the Penance, they served only to slow the vessel’s approach to the Jumpgate.
“This storm has lasted over twenty minutes,” Hillibrand continued. “Our records indicate that’s in the upper ninetieth percentile of storm durations for this time in the solar cycle. It’s just somewhat unusual and we figured we’d let you know.”
Hillibrand was the only other person aboard the Penance who knew Romulus had the virus aboard. Because of this, the captain seemed paranoid about every unexpected event.
“Thank you, Captain. Let me know if anything changes.”
Technically Captain Hillibrand of the Banner Galactic Navy outranked Lieutenant McCracken, but Rom’s role in Banner Special Forces gave him the authority to commandeer vessels at his necessity, especially for a clandestine task of this importance. Plus, Romulus’s father was the Minister of Colonization. Being political royalty did have its perks.
Romulus switched off the communicator and stood from the bed. As he did so, the ship rocked as though from a gentle impact. That wasn’t a typical event in an electrical storm. He waited a minute to listen to Hillibrand’s latest frantic concern over the com system, but nothing came. Finally he decided to call the bridge directly.
“Captain Hillibrand, what was that we just felt?”
The communicator hissed in silence.
That wasn’t good.