The silence stretched as the raptors drifted around the capital ship and the space station. Despite all the horror immersives he had watched, Caden had never found any sort of space stations to be particularly spooky; most of the ones he visited were military, and as a result they were uniformly clean, busy, and impersonal. Hirakawa's Celestial Triumph seemed determined to change that. It still had power, and its emergency beacon was still transmitting, but there were no perceptible attempts at communication and the scans from Padma's team had shown no movement and no signs of life. The whole place looked dead.
The capital ship, the one the nameless voice from Hirakawa's Ninety-Fifty had identified as the Ascendancy, seemed equally quiet from the outside: no shields, none of the faint energy pulses that would have indicated active detectors, no visible movement. It was one hell of a ship, and would be more than a match for the Ultima Ratio if fully activated, but it was powered down and quiescent.
"What do you think?" Caden pulsed the question directly to Celia.
"I think if we had any sense we'd pull back, rejoin the Majesty of Earth, and get on with the mission to Tanivar." Celia's return pulse sounded calm, but he could hear the worry and frustration underneath -- or maybe those were just echoes of his own feelings. "They can't be planning to ambush us at this point, not unless they have another capital ship pulling up alongside the Majesty right now. I think something has gone very wrong out here, and given our mission it shouldn't be our problem..."
"...except that it is," finished Caden. "Concur."
He made a slow count of five, giving Hirakawa's Ninety-Fifty one last chance to respond to Akira, then pulsed his team. "All right. Two of six. Padma, you're going in through the landing bay with yours. Mine will open a hatch on the station and enter there. Leave the raptors outside and make the crossing in armor."
Wordless acknowledgements pinged his awareness, and he turned his raptor towards the station as Ngawa brought her trio into place alongside Padma's, maneuvering carefully towards the docking bay at the front of the capital ship. They spread out, positioning their ships to match the orbit of the station and the cradle that held the Ascendancy, then left them to float. Small bursts of stabilizing thrust sparkled around the raptors as their pilots launched out into the void, aimed at the atmosphere-retaining screen that was all that covered the entrance to the docking bay.
Shannon was already bringing his trio into a stable position just outside one of the airlocks on Hirakawa's Celestial triumph. As Caden maneuvered his trio into position above them, Velasquez launched from her raptor and fell towards the entry. Her armor was completely dark; if she hadn't been on the net, he wouldn't have known that anything had changed at all.
"Akira," he pulsed. "Tell them we're still coming."
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