A shake to Drevin’s shoulder brought the ferret out of what might, for lack of a better word, be termed a doze.

Blinking cobwebs out of his eyes, if not entirely out of his mind, he shifted himself closer to upright in his command chair. “Mmnf,” he greeted the universe at large. “’s going on?”

“They’re repositioning,” said the vac-suited snow leopard who’d awoken him, taking the liberty to touch the controls on the arm of Drevin’s chair and bring up the tactical plot.

Drevin stared at the blips and lines, trying to make enough sense of them to decide if he ought to take another stim. He’d already had so many of the damn things that he’d need to detox once they got out of this mess – if they got out of it – and they made his memory altogether too sharp.

For the moment, he kept looking over the plot with bleary eyes, tracing a few choice trails with a fingertip, the thin lines of the projector beams glittering over his claw. “Hmm. Vree, you seem more alert than me, give me some confirmation here – but it looks here,” he touched the traces of the Sakkarn point elements, “like these interceptors are in more of a rear guard posture. Watching us, but like that’s not the point of what they’re up to.”

Vree frowned, spinning the plot a bit on two axes and peering closer. “You know, I think you’re right.”

“Looking for something behind them?” Drevin hazarded.

A few more taps brought up a passive sensor overlay for that area of space, and the cat nodded at what it showed. “Backscatter and sensor ghosts would seem to confirm it.”

It wasn’t one of theirs; the SLA elements, dishearteningly few in number, were spread out in clusters here and there, but they were all in entirely the wrong quarter of space to give nearly a strong enough reflection to warrant this kind of shift in posture. “It doesn’t look like a SAR deployment,” Drevin noted, touching a few signatures that belonged to battle-ready fighters on alert, not recovery ships. “But maybe that’s just how the Sakkarn do things, or maybe it is when they’re this deep in our territory. My best guess is that one of their ships had more combat damage than they realized, and fell out of position, and they don’t quite know which way it went.”

“Maybe,” was Vree’s dubious reply; glancing up at him, Drevin could see that the cat was struggling to put things together into some other form. Ultimately, though, he failed in that, and shook his head. “I don’t know. I can’t think of a better option, but it still feels a little bit off.”

“So long as they’re not bearing down on us, I think I’ll take it,” the ferret said, glancing over at the projected countdown. Still nineteen hours until they could even begin to expect reinforcements, damn it – and that was by an optimistic appraisal of how long those reinforcements would take to muster. “Carry on as we have been – keep quiet and run on low emissions, except with enough force behind course changes to let them know we’re still out here watching.”

“Got it.” Vree patted his shoulder, hard enough to be felt through his suit if little harder. “I’ll nudge you again if anything changes.”

“Right.” Drevin tried to arrange himself a bit more comfortably again.

Fatigue was wearing on him; it took mere minutes for him to slip into troubled slumber.