"We're looking for any viable planets or asteroids with something resembling potable water but we aren't very hopeful at the moment. Even if we were to find a source of it we'd need to run it through the filtration systems which, as has already been mentioned, aren't running at full capacity," Donat stared disapprovingly as Sáclair drank deeply from the wine pitcher. Donat was welcome to stuff his disapproval in the darkest pits of himself and keep it there, "I'd suggest a temporary hold on alcohol rations to the crew. We can't hope to slow down the black market but it would be best to avoid the problems that come with drunkenness in addition to those that come with lack of food and water."
Osma grunted his approval. He was astoundingly puritanical in his dislike of alcohol, another of his holdovers from the old Damascan tradition. Osma always made a point of pretending not to notice that Sáclair drank and generally excused himself from functions where imbibing alcohol was custom, "I already have extra guards sent to oversee the merchant sectors and storage areas. With all the shuffling and chaos going on it might be some days before anyone realizes that code-lock on the storage containers isn't simply some machine sprit going rampant."
"Very well, do your best. We'll meet again in eight hours unless something pressing comes up in the meanwhile. Mr. Enzo I realize that you'll be wanting to spend some time in the Hospital with your girl. I will take your shift," he raised a hand before Donat could speak, "Yes I realize I need to rest Mr. Enzo. I will do so, and soon. Lord knows my wife has no intention of letting me sit on this chair more than is strictly necessary, but family takes precedence over duty at times. Not always, mind you, but I am loath to hoist more unpleasantness on us than we can avoid. You may all go, except for you Navigator Calven. I still have business with you."
"That you sir," Donat patted the pocket in which he kept his chronometer and turned to one of the great hovering marble slabs that ferried people too and from Sáclair's throne. The others followed him closely, eager to get to their respective duties and to sleep. Osma paused briefly to shoot a mistrusting look at the Navigator before boarding the platform with the rest. It made a slight sucking noise as it sunk beyond the limits of the privacy filter and sunk to the floor of the great hall.
"My answer about the Astronomicon hasn't changed just because we're in private captain," Zorn's near translucent fingers held his elegant snuffbox. He snorted a pinch of it and shook his head slightly before pursing his lips and continuing, "There's little to filter out worth mentioning."
"And what was there to filter," Sáclair was not foolish enough to take a navigator at his word alone. Their own sense of entitlement often gave them the impression that anything possible of escaping their notice was not worth noticing, "You need not dilute your speech. I am neither ignorant of your craft nor am I blind to obvious omissions."
The Navigator smiled wrily and pulled out the star map once more. He fumbled with the controls for a moment and a handful of bright white lights appeared in the spiraling green mass of stars, "Setvan and I have searched for the great beacon of mankind but we've had no luck. There are, however, lesser beacons spread throughout nearby space. Small and insignificant by comparison to the glorious light of the Astronomicon and the psychic choirs of Terra but they're none the less. They bear a passing resemblance to the hardwired astropathic relays we use for interplanetary communication."
"I thought you said there were no signs of civilization in the area?" A deep sinking feeling was overtaking the Captain. Sáclair hoped he was wrong about the meaning of the white lights but he doubted it.
"I said there was no Imperial civilization in the area sir," Zorn looked altogether too excited at the prospect of being beyond the known frontiers, "I suspect that this method of directing warp travel is a xenos methodology. I did not mention it because there is no reason to start a panic. It's not the working of any of the known enemies of the Empire, nor recorded in the annuls of the Dark Age."
"So they could attack us at any moment?"
"Sir they're either unaware we're here, or ignoring us, or deciding if we're a threat to them, or doing any one of a million things. We know as much about the probability of being attacked here as we do about how to predict the comings and goings of Eldar Corsairs," he shrugged, "I can't do much more than speculate at the moment. I've held off on sending out an astropathic distress signal for just that reason. We have no idea who will get it or how they will react. And frankly I'm a bit unsure of the quality of any transmissions we send we'll have to sedate an astropath heavily before we can get them to be compliant. You know as well as I and better sir, a drug addled mind tends to be more susceptible to the predications of the warp."
"Send it," Sánclair ran a hand through his hair, "Wide band, no decryptions. If we don't get water soon it won't matter what the Imperial Cult thinks of our actions. We'd be far beyond even their reach. I'll have Osma post guards with you in a private astropathic communications cell. That ought to give you the privacy you need to keep this off the lips of the crew and ought to allow us to contain the damage if it all goes pear shaped."
"Could not such a course be seen as unwise?" Zorn's voice of concern did not mirror the look of pleasure on his face, "Our past history of interacting with xenos is what got the ship indentured to the Inquisitor to begin with. Such actions could be problematic."
"It's not heresy for a damaged ship to call out for aid. We need to get water from somewhere." Sáclair looked pensive, "The Inquisitor has mentioned circumstances that merited interactions with xenos in the past. He has them on retainer for Throne's sake," Calven raised an eyebrow un mild surprise, though Sáclair doubted it was genuine, "I'll talk to him about getting some special dispensation from the Inquisition to pardon our sins on the offhand chance we're exceeding our writ of trade."
"And if the Inquisitor decides that it's heresy for us to even entertain the notion of trading with Xenos?" Zorn's smile went wide, "What will you do then?"
"I prefer not to speculate on such unfortunate circumstances Mr. Calven, " Sáclair said in a voice of ruthless composure, "Send the distress signal. Take Sácomer with you, he's senior enough to negotiate with any xenos or humans who might get the signal. Do it sooner rather than later."
"Of course Captain," Zorn smiled cruelly, "I know you'll act in the best interest of the ship."