"Did you ever find that ghost ship? ..." The sound of static and electromagnetic interference replaced the voice momentarily, before the signal strengthened again.
"... the one they said was lost to subspace... " The signal returned, but remained laced with interference and static as if it was phasing in and out of clarity.
"I found it..." the voice spoke again, before being entirely replaced by static. A few moments later, it would repeat again, on the same backwater encoded channel.
Jen squinted as she made fine-tuned adjustments to the communications receiver interface, trying without much luck in restoring the signal integrity in its entirety.
"Any luck with the encoder, Jen?" Another voice came from behind her control station, this time it was refreshingly clear; through the slightly stuffy yet reasonably comfortable atmospheric pressure of the small explorer ship.
"No, nothing." Jen replied, turning to face the man who had just stepped into the communication deck, ducking slightly to avoid the cramped compartment bulkhead. "It's like it's just on a loop... the same message over and over, on the same random channel. The problem is, it's not complete. Bits are missing as if it was encoded that way, not just interference, you know?"
The man rubbed his brow, looking over Jen's shoulder to the interface behind her. "Well, we've come all this way, I don't wanna leave empty handed." he said, moving to the console himself, leaning on the control desk with both his hands while scrutinising the signal readout.
"I mean, sure, be my guest, but it's just garbage. Can't even triangulate it, almost like it's being broadcast from all sides." She remarked, moving aside and placing her hands on her hips with a baffled expression on her face.
The man remained silent for a few moments as they both looked at the read out; a frown formed on Jen's face as she ran her fingers through her bronzed hair.
"It's a fluke." She said, shifting her weight. "Might have to admit you were wrong, Gavrick."
James Gavrick wasn't a man to give up easily, that much he had proven true in his thirty-odd years of hunting enigmatic derelicts in the Angel Reach. Hell, he somehow managed to hold onto his rag-tag career even with the Imperial annexation of Helia. In all that time, no single legend stood out to the man as much as the legend of the Dynasty; an ancient ghost ship from the Old Earth itself. Surrounded by as much legend as over-blown tales and misinformation, but the story had survived when others had faded into the darkness. There must be some truth to that, he thought. Besides, who would go to all the trouble to plant enough signal repeaters on a cyclic broadcast on the fringe of the Angel Nebula just to spoof some derelict hunters?
Then it clicked.
"It's not a fluke." He replied a few moments later, in a hushed voice. "Check the long range density scope."
"I just checked it an hour ago, nothing but space rock and, well, vacuum". Jen replied with a slightly confused expression.
"Check it again. I think we've been had". Gavrick's voice turned from his typical stern, confident tone to a somewhat anxious one, as he turned to face the woman beside him, who looked genuinely concerned.
"It's not pirates. Not here, not this far out. No, it can't be." he muttered, his voice suddenly became incredibly nervous and he began to uncharacteristically stutter on his words.
"James, are you okay? What's going on?" Jen asked anxiously as the man before her began to shake his head rapidly, looking at the front and back of both of his hands, before twitching and looking back to her.
"They're here." he spoke softly, moving one hand to his waist and placing it gently atop his sidearm, loosening the strap slowly.
Jen briefly glanced to his waist before returning eye contact. "Who is here? You're not making sense, what the fuck is going on?" She asked frantically, taking a step back, looking over her shoulder as the old explorer gave out a faint moan of stressed hull metal.
Before she could fully return her gaze to Gavrick, he had drawn his sidearm and held it right to her temple; as she turned her head she felt the polymer barrel on her skin and flinched, gasping as she recoiled, looking into the man's suddenly cold, emotionless eyes.
"James, what are you doing? Put the gun down. Just calm down and tell me what is going on." Her voice became frantic as Gavrick placed his finger on the trigger. "What the fuck is wrong with you!?"
James closed his eyes momentarily, before opening them and staring at Jennifer directly. "I'm sorry..." he muttered.
"I found it..."
Jennifer didn't even have time to scream before the bullet pierced her skull, breaking through the back of her head in a plume of blood and brain matter which painted the compartment wall behind her as her lifeless body slumped to the deck with a thud.
Within moments, Gavrick turned the gun to his own head and screamed with an agonising moan that echoed through the old explorer before the sound of a gunshot and a body impacting the deck returned the ship to silence.