(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Kainya's brain reacts instantly to the distinct alarm of an incoming signal from the limpet tracker. She is awake and upright before her body has shrugged off the paralysis of sleep and she rummages awkwardly through her discarded clothes for her trackercom, trying not to shiver in the air-con cold of dawn.
The sleep-pod, ever cheap at 200 scads a night, is bright with bio-luminescent paint featuring leaping salmon. She slaps the wall to turn it down and sits, in almost darkness, waiting for the tracker signal.
Across the universe, the limpet tracker, safely cocooned under the skin of the Saturn Anne II starts emitting a nanopacket of information, tagging it with a graviton stone and firing it on an oblique trajectory in search of a gravitational wave. Once it hits and starts to surf the wave, the graviton stone picks up momentum, skipping faster and faster from wave to wave, surfing the universe on a sub-atomic shortcut, reaching Kainya's trackercom almost as quickly as a wormhole mail bubble; yet virtually untraceable unless you happen to have the trackercom it is paired to.
The trackercom, after registering the arrival of the nanopacket, starts to unpack it and build the coordinates from the nano-information stored inside, like an infinitesimally small jigsaw puzzle. Within a minute or two, Kainya has the coordinates she needs for a big payday. She slaps the wall for daylight and smiles. Today is starting well.
The sleep-pod is too small for a ensuite but there is a BathInABottle dispensing machine in the hallway. Kainya loads some of the chipons she purchased with the room and a couple of bottles drop to the dispensing drawer. Back in the sleep-pod she strips off the quilted t-shirt and maroon long johns she sleeps in because space can be a cold, cold place; and shakes both of the bottles.
The warming mist the two bottles produce when sprayed simultaneously is just about enough to approximate a shower. She checks the labels. 'A deodorising and moisturising pearl mist...' because space can also be a dry, dry place, she adds in her mind. At least it smells better than the plastic of the sleep-pod. Right on cue an extractor fan overhead whirs into action, removing the pearl mist and replacing it with an icy, plasticy blast of air-con. Cold and dry.
The hotel is attached to a Dine-A-Luck bar and Kainya, once showered and dressed, heads to it for a breakfast and to plan her next step. The Dine-A-Luck is as soulless as the sleep-pod but at least here, in amongst the tech-hikers and journey workers she is as anonymous as the next person. 50 scads buys the space port staple the galaxy over. EggsalaBread, a rolled tube of fibre bread filled with scrambled egg and a slick of mustard, a jellied cube of fruit juice and slug of scalding coffee, no creamer because Dine-A-Lucks never had any creamer.
She finds a solitary table with her back to the wall and settles down to the first hot meal for a while.
It occurs to Kainya she is at a turning point. She could cash out now with the information. Sell the coordinates to the highest bidder, ditch her present identity and move on. Leave the food corporations far behind. Run from it all. From the twisted intrigue and political leveraging. From chasing ships across galaxies. Retire on the proceeds and do...
Kainya pauses halfway through chewing a mouthful of Eggs. And do what? What else was there to do. She stares at the journey workers passing by. What else was there she could do?