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what passed for normal in hyperspace.

"Distance to target," Ivanova asked.

"Estimate three thousand kilometers," Delta 7 came back. "Distance to relay ship one thousand kilometers."

Distances in space were routinely massive, but in hyperspace one couldn't take any chances. Less, as in distance, was definitely more, as in security. "Delta Nine, take relay position and maintain," Ivanova ordered.

Delta 9 said, "Roger that, Delta Leader." As per Ivanova's orders, the pilot fired his reverse thrusters and his ship slowed to a halt, creating yet another link in the chain. The rest of the Starfuries proceeded with extreme, and fully understandable, caution.

Ivanova studied her instruments thoughtfully, and then shook her head in frustration. "The bounce-back signal is all over the place," she said, making no attempt to cover her annoyance. "It doesn't make any sense. Whatever's out there, it doesn't match any known silhouette."

Marlette was having similar lack of success in discerning anything from his own instruments. The Delta 7 pilot asked, "Possible first contact situation?"

That was certainly the question of the moment. If that was the case, Ivanova definitely wasn't sanguine about it. Of all the deep space situations, there was none more fraught with peril than a first contact. Whether the contactee was benign or hostile, advanced or primitive ... any first-contact scenario usually posed a barrage of questions that had to be answered very, very quickly, and the wrong answer to any of the more dangerous questions could swiftly transform a routine mission into an utter disaster.

Considering the number of Starfuries Ivanova had accompanying her, and the manner in which resources at Babylon 5 were stretched thin at the moment, the last thing she could
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