“Yes, sir. Now is a great time. Thank you for asking. We have been working on the signal for hours. There was disbelief it was a Pilot Emergency Locator Beacon considering the great distances it was transmitting. They’re designed only to transmit up to 1600 kilometers. We have been tracking the signal since its strength increased and we now can confirm it to be a P.E.L.B. How that could happen we don’t know, but it must have been altered beyond belief. If you want to retrieve it, our calculations have determined it to be within range in 48 hours.”
“What else can produce the same signal?” asked Futu.
“The unit has a unique signal. It’s designed for short-range with a distinctive signal pattern that allows it to track to a specific Hangar Ship. Because of the signal pattern, it has a discrete frequency range. How it’s transmitting over long distances has us scratching our heads.” said Doug.
“How are we picking up a powerful signal 48 hours away when its engineered to transmit only 1600 kilometers?” asked Stimpy.
“We want to know that too. It is a signal engineering feat.” said Doug.
“Any other information we should know?”
“Sir, I don’t know. Until we see what has been done, we’re just speculating.”
Stimpy looked at Futu. His facial expression was that of shock.
“So, let’s grab this thing and bring it back. You up for it?” asked Stimpy.
“Let’s do it. Since the P.E.L.B. signal is strong and transmitting over such extreme distances, it will give us insight to increasing not only the signal strength, but increasing survival time of our Pilots. I have been interested in a way to increase its range to allow a higher orbit, avoiding hostile Hangars Ships and exceeding the range of their short-range Space Fighters. This could be a tremendous improvement for our Hangar Ships. How soon can we get started?”
“Pound 1 is due in later today. Pound 2 should be here in the morning.”
“That is fine. We’ll get started in the morning.”
The next morning, Dispatch received a report that the trajectory of the P.E.L.B. had changed 90 degrees. It had collided with a large asteroid unscathed and was traveling perpendicular to its original path. This trajectory, along with the asteroid’s speed, had decreased the time to intercept.
Dispatch briefed Stimpy on the recent information and the changes in the speed and direction.
Stimpy decided it was time to call Futu and get him involved.
Futu, walking toward the office, reached for his communicator, “Futu.”
“Futu, Stimpy. Can you come to Dispatch? There’s been a change in the P.E.L.B.’s direction.”
“On my way.”
Futu entered seeing Dispatch and Stimpy huddled around the long-range scanner, “What’s up guys?”
Stimpy turned toward Futu, “You want to see our good fortune?”
Futu, puzzled, approached the scanner, “What good fortune is on the scanner?”
“It hit an asteroid last night and is heading toward us. It’s only eight hours out and closing. We can intercept it in less than seven hours with a Hangar Ship. Now the bad news. There is another Hangar Ship heading on an intercept course. No confirmation yet, but we have traced it back to a sector along our eastern border.”