There was something out there.
The Federation was in shambles. The siege around Eurysia had finally broken and the planetcity was now under the heel of the rebels. The party members, at least the ones who hadn't made it out before the rebel ships arrived, were either dead or scattered across the various districts they had been caught in.
Most civilians were treated well by the rebels, and to their credit, they spent the first few weeks on the planet building a new central leadership so that life could return to some sort of routine for them. That being said, if anyone stood against, or was assumed to be standing against, the new leadership, they were treated as if they were Federation officers – an instant death sentence.
The siege of Eurysia was a particularly small point in the whole Federation timeline; Eurysia wasn't the capital, nor was it in a strategically important military position. However, in some coincidence of cosmic levels, many important party members found themselves there, independently of each other, just before the siege went down.
In something of a microcosm of the conflict that raged across the sector, Eurysia fell violently but was raised back up into something that resembled its former self very quickly. However, that resemblance was only skin deep. Just below the surface the same tensions that allowed a rebel faction to gain enough influence to blockade an entire planet was still there, still working and in an ironic twist, a rebel force to the original rebel force had formed. But that's a story for another time.
This story is about a ship.
In the days before the siege of Euryasia, a Galaxy Class ship, the Ta'Lun, had launched from the planet. Its mission wasn't anything special, cargo and passengers headed to the capital; its crew nor the Federation consulate on Eurysia had any idea of the state of the capital at that point.
Not that it mattered what they knew, the ship never made it to the capital and since the rebellion was in full swing, no one noticed the missing ship for many months and when its absence was finally noted, everyone just assumed it was lost to the fighting.
And, truth be told, it was lost, but not to the fighting. Thanks to the rebellion and a poorly trained navigator, the ship ended up off track by a significant angle and was unable to reorient itself. Add to that a complete failure of the onboard navigation system to locate any way points and the Ta'Lun was in uncharted space.
Space, as has been said, is very very big, and even with the amount of technology pumped into the ships, especially navigation, sometimes accidents happen and ships get lost. The Galaxy Class was an older ship and even though a lot of retro-fitting had been done as the technology improved over the years, some of it just didn't work.
The Ta'Lun had fallen prey to one of the many undocumented bugs that lived in the navigation systems of the old legacy code on these ships. That is, if the ship, even for a moment loses connection to one way point when the ship is off a prescribed route, then no matter what intervention is used, it wont reconnect to any way point.
In fact, in this instance, the entire navigation system crashed. No one could reboot it. They were lost and alone in the depths of space so close to civilisation, such as it was, but unable to find their way back.
They had communications, of course. But by the time they realised they were off course and the nav systems couldn't be brought back online, there was no one within hailing range. They sent off a distress message to the nearest relay station, and waited for someone to come get them.
The relay station in question was somewhere on the other side of the shipping lane the Ta'Lun was supposed to be on. It picked up the message in good time, but the lines of communication to both Eurysia and the capital were down thanks to the rebellion which meant that it wasn't forwarded in any great haste to either of those places. It was passed on to other planets and other stations, but they ignored it, as it wasn't in their jurisdiction.
The captain of the Ta'Lun was the only redeeming factor of their predicament. She had realised their issues pretty quickly and had ordered the pilot to power down the engines and only move when they absolutely had to; one of the oldest pieces of advice which had survived all these generations of humans and what humans had become was very appropriate here: if you stay where you are, its easier for people to find you.
The captain, a 30 year veteran of the Federation shipping routes, had chosen a smaller ship to spend her last years on before retiring and the Ta'Lun was a simple mission. Back and forth between the outer areas of the three main star systems and the capital, in the middle. She tried to keep her frustration in their current situation to a minimum, she was a professional after all, but it was hard. This was a passenger craft and they outnumbered the crew 2 to 1. It was something she had learned over her years to keep the peace, tell the crew everything and the passengers nothing. Peace was, at times, hard to maintain but she was very good at her job.
The captain was in her office four days after the distress call had been made and she was listening to a report from the navigation officer on the state of the system he was in charge of. It was almost exactly the same as the last time she heard from him, with a day added to the date. She sighed. She was almost to the point of yelling at the man, but she knew deep down it wasn't his fault. She dismissed him just as one of the other crew members, a young communications operator, cutting her teeth on one of the worst ships to do so, came rushing in.
“There's something out there,” she said breathlessly.