(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Daniel stands quietly by the side of a medibed in the sickbay, waiting patiently for the stowaway to come round. Truro opens her eyes to find herself in what looks like a small hospital ward. She sits up, then remembers the events leading up to this and is surprised to find she isn't strapped or shackled to the bed.
'Hello Truro, you put up a good fight back there.' Daniel smiles at her and perches on the edge of the bed.
'How do you know my name?'
'From your tattoo. It's the fighting marque of Mistress Ban.'
'You found my tattoo?' Instinctively Truro pulls her jacket tighter to her.
'No, the mediscan did. Seemed about the only way we could trace you. The Fighting Houses were disbanded over three decades ago and since, according to your biometrics, you are only twenty two, how have you Mistress Ban's tiger on your... your body?'
'Mistress Ban found me and trained me. Me and other orphans, left for spacedrubs. She saved me, gave me a way to make a living when I had nothing. She died when I was nine.'
'Well, you and your tiger have left a trail of petty crime and fighting all across the five galaxies..'
'First time I've been caught.' Truro glances round to see if there is anything she can use as a weapon.
'I wouldn't bother, I've given you a tracer. Cme will find you long before you can hide and, more to the point, we are on the other side of the universe, you have nowhere to go.'
That's why she isn't shackled. Truro sighs and slumps back on the bed.
'You the pilot?'
'Yes, my name's Daniel Delacroix. This ship is the Saturn Anne II and you have managed to stowaway on what was meant to be a silent mission for NewTrishia. So how did you find us?'
Truro snorts derisively at his surprise but does not elaborate on her answer.
'Well, we are stuck with you until the mission is complete. My team does not have the time to waste guarding you, the tracer will let us know where you are at all times. Your fighting skill set could be of use on the mission, so I'm willing to pay for your loyalty.'
'More scads than Alimentorum would ever pay for their spies.'
'Not a spy. A space drub. How much?'
Daniel pulls a quad stack of scads from his pocket, judging the way her eyes light up. More scads than she had ever seen by the looks of it. He guessed right, she was no Alimentorum spy, just a stowaway.
'Five thousand now. The rest once we get back to the Five Galaxies.'
Something is gnawing away at the back of Harp's mind. He tries to push it to one side but, there was something about that stowaway. Something familiar. As he waits for Aliya to open the external inspection hatch he tries to place her. He knew her from somewhere he is sure... is he the reason she's onboard?
Aliya checks her tether again, then keys in the unlock code on the outer hatch. The maincom exoscan of the immediate surroundings of the ship had placed them in a relatively quiet patch of empty space, on the outskirts of a small solar system. While the three dimensional holo-weaver was still mapping the whole galaxy, Daniel had decided it was safe for them to see what the minor hull hazard warning was. Aliya is pretty certain it will be one of two things. Space junk or a limpet tracker.
As Harp climbs out of the hatch and onto the hull of the ship, two things occur to him. One, the stowaway could well be the cute bar-keep from the other night but he drank so much he can barely remember what happened and two, space, in all its infinite workings, is beyond beautiful.
From their position on by the external hatch, the belly of the ship curves away to reveal a large star in the distance. From where they stand a series of planets can be seen in orbit. A pair of twin planets, caught in some galactic waltz, fields of meteors swirling around them. Several gas giants, heaving with molten storms, one almost lost in a cloud of fiery dust and a field of asteroids, broken and decaying, perhaps once a planet. The view is breathtaking.
'Hey, stop sightseeing, let's get this hazard sorted out. You can stare at the sunset later.'
Harp jumps at Aliya's voice over the intercom and turns away from the view and back to the surface of the hull. Aliya locates the coordinates for the warning sensor and they manoeuvre slowly to its location. As they approach they can see a large piece of metal sticking out from the hull.
'A piece of junk. I thought as much. The space ports are never cleaned properly. Let's see if we can dislodge it.'
The piece of space junk is a section of antique rusted solar panel, once belonging to an old space rocket. Harp wonders how long it had been slowly orbiting around Sayonara. It must almost predate the station from the look of it. It takes them the best part of an hour to dislodge the panel and tether it to Aliya's suit.
'It won't fit through the hatch, I'll walk it round to the loading bay. You go back and shut the hatch, I'll meet you in the bay.' Aliya waves Harp back towards the hatch and checks the hull where the space junk had been lodged. It is already beginning to self-repair.
As the hull slowly recombines itself, a limpet tracker detaches from the back of the solar panel and settles gently on the raw metal of the outer hull where it mimics the hull's properties perfectly. As the hull skin recombines over it, it simply senses the hull and nothing more and the warning hazard on the flight deck blinks off.