(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Grove follows the rest of the team from the galley up through to their berths, a suite of small cubicles, each with an en suite and an ejectable space storage-pod for their personal effects. Grove sighs and takes the last available room. The bunk is narrow and the decor is utilitarian. Home for the next eight months is a very dull place indeed. He stashes his backpack, unopened, in the pod and, without knowing why, runs a hand down the curved, grey bulkhead wall next to his bunk. He has the feeling there is more to Satan than simply having biosynth...
A voice behind him interrupts his thoughts.
'You got the short straw for the rooms I see. That's an outside wall, get a breach in that, you'll de-pressurise instantly. Mine name's Harp Engelthrop, I'm the planetary ethnobiologist... I'm in the room next door.'
'Is this your first mission?' Grove asks, noting the hint of excitement in Harp's voice, as though they are off on an adventure.
'Yes! That obvious? Ah well, better get to the flight deck, don't want to be late.' Harp picks up on the sarcasm in Grove's voice, clearly he is not welcome.
As he leaves he bumps into Yume Moto, exiting his berth for the deck. 'Going up?' he asks, indicting to the deck lift. 'Yes! I'm Harp..'
'I know who you are, I recommended you for this mission. I was very impressed with your recent dissertation on adaptive behaviours in non-indigenous winged pollinators.'
'Dr. Moto, I am delighted to meet...'
'Just call me Yume, otherwise this will be a very long eight months. See you made a new friend?' Yume nods towards Grove's berth and Harp raises his eyebrows and sighs.
'Don't think so. He seems pretty happy with his own company.'
Yume chuckles as they wait for the lift door to open. 'In space, our own company is something we need to be comfortable with.' He raises his voice and shouts down the narrow way, 'Lift's here!'
The two of them climb in and wait for Grove but after a minute, Yume shrugs and takes his finger off the door hold button and the lift slides shut.
Grove stretches out on his bunk and decides he does just about fit, perhaps he could ride the outbound journey in his bunk.
'Not a good idea!'
The thought is so insistent in his mind it makes him jump. 'Who said that?'
'Who said what?' Grove gets to his feet as Cressida Blythe and her second, Aliya Garcia, fill the doorway. 'Not hearing voices already are you Grove?'
'No, just... thought I heard the lift.'
He pushes past them into the corridor suddenly feeling intimidated by them. 'Where's your sidekick, the Xenograft?'
'Cme? She's up on the flight deck with the others, I thought I'd just make sure you didn't keep us all waiting. And she's not my sidekick, she's the property of Nutrishia and as such, under my security remit. In fact, when it comes to survival out there, she's more important to the Corporation than you are.'
'Thanks for the compliment.' Grove comments as the two women usher him towards the lift as the door opens at their approach.
'Hey? Who's overridden the controls?' Yume presses the door button again but it refuses to shut as though waiting for something. He sticks his head out of the lift to see Grove approaching. 'Looks like the lift is broken...is there another one on this deck? We are running out of time!'
Grove, Aliya and Cressida squeeze into the lift as Yume keeps trying the door button but the lift door does not budge.
'Here let me try that. ' Grove pushes Yume's hand out of the way and gently presses the button. Under his touch the lift door closes and starts to move and somewhere, in the back of his mind, is a name. 'Annie.'