Episode 10 – Star Hunters, part 9

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Cenz’s presentation appearing in Brooks’s HUD was a complex chart of chemicals and interactions that was hard to parse.

“I know that this may not be very clear, my apologies,” Cenz began.

Brooks wondered if his confusion had been showing.

“I can summarize the data, however,” Cenz continued.  “As you know, many carbon-based species use amino acids of some type; humans use only twenty, even though there are tens of thousands of possible permutations.  The colony’s food chemical storage contained base materials to build those proteins, in various stages of completion.  Yet our pirates did not take every kind of chemical available; they in fact avoided certain complete chemicals and took other incomplete portions.  When I saw this, I knew it could be a clue.

“Even though the process is very involved, I modeled what sorts of foods for known species could be made with the chemicals that were taken.  As a result, I feel that I can say that our pirates are Greggans.”

Brooks continued to look over the data, trying to parse it, though such in-depth biochemistry was somewhat beyond him.  He did see the patterns eventually, slowly seeing just what his science officer was explaining.

“You’re saying that what they stole was only useful for making food Greggans can eat?” Brooks ventured.

“That is correct, Captain!  Certain amino acids that humans use are indigestible or toxic to Greggans, and those chemicals were avoided.  If they had been, say, Dessei or Fesha, they would have stolen a slightly different assortment of chemicals.”

Cenz hesitated, the face on his screen turning thoughtful.  “Admittedly, the colony did not have every chemical that would be required to produce Greggan foodstuff.  However, even with those missing pieces I feel very confident that my conclusions are correct.”

Brooks continued to study the information, the clarity slowly coming through the complexity.

“So no other known species would take this same assortment?” Brooks asked.

“No, Captain.  Not unless they were intentionally attempting to fool us.  Which I doubt, as they had to use surface-lifting rockets to get these goods into orbit.  They paid dearly in resources for every kilogram they took.”

Brooks considered that.  “You’ve done good work, but this raises another question; with the thought of how much it cost them in resources and single-use boosters to steal this; why did they take the uranium?”

Brooks brought up a list of the goods stolen from the colony, skipping past the food chemicals to the end.  “Uranium is extremely dense, and has only specialized uses.  Why would they want it?”

He had an idea, to be honest.  But he was hoping that Cenz might have a different thought to allay his concerns.

“To be honest, Captain,” Cenz admitted.  “I can think of no likely reason except for weapons.”

Brooks contained the curse that came to his lips.  Fission weapons had only niche applications in most space warfare; a heavy payload would make a plasma ball only a few hundred kilometers across, which was miniscule in space.  Useful, at times, for intercepting groups of drones or missiles, but beyond that . . .

They were good at causing massive destruction on a planetary surface.  Like where colonies existed.

“They also took some equipment for refining that uranium,” Brooks noted.  “How good a weapon could they make?”

Cenz was quiet a moment, contemplating his answer.  “From the quality of equipment, they could achieve sufficient purity to create fission weapons.  However, unless they have further equipment, I do not think they could produce anything of an extremely high grade.  I expect weapons in a low megaton-range, rather than gigaton.  At least, if they are concerned with fitting the warhead into any kind of standard missile.”

“Still enough to wipe out a colony,” Brooks said.

Cenz did not seem to have words for that, and his electronic face shifted rapidly through a gamut of emotions.

Brooks pressed a button on his desk.  “Dr. Y,” he began.  “Prepare for the possibility of mass radiation poisoning and thermal radiation damage.”

Y’s reply was prompt.  “I quite understand, Captain.  I will make the preparations.”

Ending the call, Brooks looked back to Cenz.  “This may escalate, and quickly.”

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