(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
'What's going on?' Harp finds Aliya in front of the pressure door to Truro's berth.
'I'm trying to get our stowaway to answer.'
'No, I mean the alarm is early. Our shift shouldn't be for another seventy minutes.'
'Beyond my pay grade. Truro! Unlock the door or I'm going to cut through the hydraulics!'
'Do you think they've found something?'
'No, you think? I'm counting to three! ONE...'
'Which one's the pilot's berth?' Harp glances up and down the passageway, wondering whose berth was whose.
'He doesn't sleep down here. His berth is up near the flight deck. TWO!'
'Well, do you want me to hold the lift for you?'
'THREE!' The door to the berth slides open and Truro glowers at them both. 'I'm trying to sleep!'
'No one sleeps through the shift alarm call. Come on, we are wanted in the galley.'
'But I'm still in my sleep-suit!'
'Well, if you'd answered me the first time, you would've had time to change. Let's go!'
Harp smiles at Truro as he holds the door back on the lift but she simply glowers at him and marches past, turning only to scowl at them both from the corner.
Daniel looks up from the object he is examining as Harp, Aliya and Truro arrive in the galley. As Truro draws closer she can see what the object is and points to it. 'You got tracked.'
'You know what this is?' Daniel asks, holding the object up for the three of them to see.
'Yeah, limpet tracker.' Truro shrugs her shoulders. 'So what?'
'We found it on the hull. On the spot where you two pulled the space junk from. We think it must have somehow hidden on it after we left Sayonara. Unless you put it there Truro, before we left.'
Truro snorts derisively at his accusation. 'And where would I get the scads for a tracker like that. It's a quantum device, military grade. Used by spies not space drubs. You got a problem, pilot and it ain't me.'
Daniel knows Truro is right. The tracker is more than likely from either a corporation spy or a freelancer, hoping for a big payday. Whoever it is hardly matters. What matters is Alimentorum probably knows, or soon will know, where in the universe they are. And that is whole different game plan.
'I've woken you all up early so we can help get this solar system scanned, logged and claimed ASAP. Then we move on, try and stay ahead of Alimentorum for as long as we can. I'll give you five to grab some food.'
'I'm going to go and change...' Truro turns to leave.
'I said I'll give you five to grab some food. If you can't be bothered to get dressed in your own time, Truro, you are certainly not doing it on company time.'
'Argue and I start docking scads. I'll see you all on the flight deck in five.'
'We need to move the ship now.' Cressida stands in front of Daniel, hands on hips in an attempt to convey she will not be moved from her position.
'I know, Cressida, I know. But we are still waiting on the final scans of the system before we move on.' Daniel instinctively rubs his skull in annoyance. 'I am not losing this system to the competition...'
'Not out of the system. Into the system. We need to hide in there just long enough to see if we are being followed. Once we've claimed the system, we can move on.'
'Hide from them?'
Daniel stares at Cressida in surprise for a moment and then smiles. He had forgotten her fierce nature. That need to win, at any cost.
'And then?' He asks, interested to see what her plan is, how far she will go.
'And then ... take whatever measures necessary to ensure the safety of this crew and the mission.'
Cressida sighs impatiently at Daniel's questioning. 'We need to move now.'
Daniel reflects for a moment. Cressida might just have a point, ambush or not, hiding inside the system might give them a window of time required to finish the task in hand before whoever sent the tracker arrives. He nods in agreement with her and heads to the where the rest of the crew of the Saturn Anne II are working around the mapping desk.
'We are going in. I need a navcom route to a hidden safe zone in the system where we can wait out the arrival of trouble while finishing the scans. Any ideas?'
Yume and Grove both look at each other at the same time with the same thought.
'Pilot, we have mapped the largest gas giant and, at first we thought it was a phage-planet, solid interior..' Grove starts and is interrupted by Yume.
'It has a relatively inert interior. Safe enough for us to travel into.'
'Hide inside the planet?' Daniel stares a the view screen with the boiling gas giant filling the view. 'Inside that planet?' he points at the storms roiling around the equator.
'We go in via one of the poles. The gas spectrum is well within this ship's capability to withstand and, once in, we are hidden from view, at least.' Yume adds. 'It is one of the planets we have tagged for geo-exploration anyway.'
Daniel turns abruptly on his heels and heads for the navcom. 'Inside the scary gas giant it is. Everyone buckle up, we are heading into... does it have a name?'
Yume is about to give the new numerical designation when this time Grove interrupts him. 'Gyre.'
'Gyre?' Both Yume and Daniel ask at once, but Grove just shrugs his shoulders.