Chapter 7
The Home Fires Still Burning

Location: Uranian Sphere
Date: Tue 09 Jul 121
Time: UST 1216

Matt and his wingman were just coming back into range of the battle group. Ever since they picked up that Sheolite fighter, patrols were ramped up, but there had been no contact with the enemy since then. As always, they make a show of force and then disappear.
Matt was ready to wind things down and catch a late lunch. He hailed the squadron's commo officer.
"Blau Base, this Blau One. Requesting permission to land. Over."
No response. That was odd.
"Blau Base, do you copy? This is Blau One. Requesting permission to land. Over."
Still nothing. Matt checked his systems. Comms were in the green and he was not picking up any interference, so why was he not getting a response?
"Blau One," an unfamiliar voice replied, "this is the Brasidas. You have permission to land. Over."
Why was he being hailed by the Brasidas?
"Brasidas, this is Blau One. What happened to the Tico?"
"You will be briefed after landing, Blau One. Proceed to Hanger One and initiate landing sequence. Out."
He did not much like the sound of that at all, but there was nothing to be done about it. If he wanted answers, they would have to wait until after he landed.
Although he was a bit rusty from the intervening years, Matt was familiar with Navy procedures from his time attached to the VF-208, so he was able to guide his wingman through the whole process with minimal difficulty. There were a few extra steps they had to go through because they were not assigned to the ship, but it amounted to little more than signing off on a few extra forms.
Once their Hornets were safely in the care of the local crews, the two pilots were approached by an O-3 in his khaki service uniform.
"Major Harold, Major Samedi, please follow me to the bridge."
They did so, and after checking in at the quarterdeck, they went straight to the bridge, where the captain was waiting for them.
"Majors," he said warmly, "at ease. I'm Captain Rajamani, the skipper of this tub."
Matt wasted no time asking the foremost question on his mind.
"Sir, what happened to the Tico?"
"She's gone," Captain Rajamani replied. "Vanished a couple hours ago. We caught an energy spike and then nothing. We've been attempting to hail her the whole time, but no luck."
How could an entire ship just vanish like that? It seemed impossible, but Captain Rajamani had no reason to lie to them. Matt's thoughts turned to Lydia, Sean, and the rest of his squadron.
"I wouldn't worry just yet," Captain Rajamani said, trying to reassure him. "She pulled this number back during the exercises. Then she got herself well clear of the rest of the battle group, but this might just be another test."
"A test of what?"
"That's classified, Major, and to be honest, I don't quite know myself. It's odd, I'll give you that. You'd think she would've recalled all her birds first. You two can stay at one of the guest berths until this mess gets sorted out. Lieutenant Descado here will be your sponsor while you're on board. Any questions?"
Matt sighed. "I only have one question, sir, and right now there doesn't seem to be an answer."
Captain Rajamani gave him a sympathetic smile.
"It'll get sorted out, Major. Enjoy your stay in the meantime. Dismissed."
Matt and Major Samedi went to the position of attention, did an about face, and followed Lieutenant Descado--the O-3 who met them at the hangar--out of the bridge. The Lieutenant led them to the guest berths, considerably tighter quarters than what they enjoyed on the Tico.
"Here you are, sirs," Lieutenant Descado said. "We'll be delivering spare flight suits and PTs later. Seeing as how you're guests here, you'll be eating in the Captain's mess."
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Matt said.
"Will there be anything else?"
Matt looked to Major Samedi. "Do you have anything, Sabado?"
Major Samedi shook his head. "I'm good."
Lieutenant Descado pulled out his PersCom and said, "Let me give you my number. If you need anything, just give me a ring."
They programmed the Lieutenant's number into their own PersComs and thanked him for his help once more. Once the Lieutenant had left, Matt sat down on one of the racks. He had stopped thinking about lunch ever since he was unable to hail the Tico and even with the invitation to the Captain's mess, he did not feel hungry anymore.
"What you think this is all about, Cav?" Major Samedi asked.
"I don't know, Sabado, but I hope we find out soon."