Director Tak Wensley surveyed the ship as final inspections seemed to go through without any incident. The TES Gladiator was now the largest support train in the fleet, and the first with an Aenendium-composite engine. It would have the fastest acceleration and speed of any train on the planet, and could provide a tactical advantage anywhere on the continent.
“Director,” his assistant called as she walked up to him. She held a Voice in her hand, and the device glowed with a dim blue of a communications line that was temporarily silenced. “You have a call from the Outer Reaches.”
“We shouldn’t have scouting drones that close to the enemy border.”
“We don’t, sir,” she replied. “It’s from a miner in the Needled Flats. It’s a neutral zone because the landscape is too dangerous for large, fast moving ships. Normally I wouldn’t transfer it to you, but I made an exception, given the circumstances.”
He took the Voice with a sneer. “This better be good.” Shutting the silence off, he held it before him to come face to face with a projection of a woman that wasn’t quite middle aged. She looked a little haggard, but her excitement resumed when she saw him.
“This is Director Wensley,” he stated. “State your business.”
“Miner Neda Bosing reporting from the Needled Flats, sir,” she spoke with a hastened tone, running her words together a bit. “I have something that might interest you.”
“Well, out with it, I don’t have time for pleasantries.”
She nodded, and the hologram glanced behind her. “Sir, I believe I may have found a large deposit of Aenendium, right here in the flats.”
Wensley frowned. “I’m afraid not. Aenendium doesn’t occur naturally on this planet.”
“I realize that, sir. Forgive me for the contradiction, but I am quite certain of my findings.”
He glanced to his assistant, who nodded. “She sent her scans forward, and we’ve confirmed them.”
“Well,” Wensley said. “That’s certainly interesting. How much is a large deposit? Four cubits?” The composite engine of the Gladiator used a compound of nearly ten cubits.
“Well sir, it’s not a pure deposit. It’s only ninety-six percent Aenendium.”
“Any amount of Aenendium would be worth a fortune. Just tell me how much you found.”
The woman in the hologram laughed a bit. “You’re not going to believe this, sir. But the deposit in front of me is over five hundred cubits.”
Wensley’s eyes widened. “Send us your coordinates.”
“She already has, sir,” his assistant replied.
“Good.” He shut the Voice off and handed it to his assistant, walking down the catwalk. “How long until the Gladiator finishes final inspections?”
She followed him as he walked, but he set a very quick pace. “Not much longer, sir. About fifte–”
“Get me Captain Latham. Tell him I want it ready to launch in ten minutes. Are the striker ships docked?”
“I can’t say for certain, sir, but I believe they should be, yes.”
“Change of plans. The TES Gladiator will make full speed to those coordinates and secure the deposit. We cannot allow something like that to get into enemy hands. Whoever makes use of that ends the war.”
“Sir, Miner Neda mentioned something else about the deposit that she didn’t tell you.”
“She didn’t seem to think it occurred naturally. She seemed to believe it had been placed there. It could be a trap.”
“Very well. I still want you to get Latham. If it’s a trap, they won’t expect the Gladiator to be the one to fall into it. It’s big enough to ignore the harsh terrain. Now go, there’s no telling how much time we have.”
With a curt nod, the assistant rushed off ahead of him.
He thought the Gladiator would be what finally ended the war. Well, perhaps it would be, in a way.