(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Edwear tightens his grip around Mentor's waist as the maglev bike abruptly halts in the drop-off plaza for Newtrishia Mission Control.
'And here we are, at your work, don't forget, I'll pick you up here at?...' Mentor quizzes Edwear as he reaches inside his jacket and retrieves a card call. Edwear nervously slides from the back of the bike to the ground and takes the card proffered to him. 'I'll be finished by 19.30 hours.'
'19.30 hours it is. Now, if you need to contact me beforehand, use the card, it's untraceable, otherwise I'll see you here, tonight. Better go, drawing a crowd!' Mentor smiles and winks conspiratorially at Edwear, then zooms off leaving Edwear and half a dozen of his co-workers staring after him and the bike. Edwear, noticing the crowd, tucks the card call into a pocket and heads into work, his mind full of the memory Mentor's perfume.
Kainya stands at one of the viewing platforms for Sayonara Space Port. Below her, the docking bays stretch out, busy arteries full of supply ships, personnel transporters, luxury cruisers and cut-price galaxy hoppers. At her side she turns the trackercom over and over in her hand. Today, she has a choice. Report back to Alimentorum and collect the reward for the information and then, either continue with her life of espionage or retire on the proceeds from the trackercom information, spending the rest of her life looking over her shoulder, waiting for Alimentorum to silence her. Or she could sell out to NewTrishia and disappear for good. Then she would be on the the run from them all, until her money or luck ran out. What in the five galaxies was there else to do? Somehow, since breakfast, trying to figure it out had led her here, to a viewing platform.
Far below her a luxury space yacht moors up. A sleek, inter-galaxy cruiser complete with dark energy laser drive and an impressive arsenal of weapons. It piques her curiosity and Kainya locates a viewing vista information screen and taps in the dock number. The ship is listed as 'The Scintilla' owned by 'Scintillator Entertainment'. Kainya raises her eyebrows slightly at the name, clearly there is money to be made from hack-chat lines and feelie flicks. Scint Bourbon, one of the richest women in the five galaxies, had made her scadillions out of a simple bit of code which allows users to superimpose their own faces onto characters in holographic films. That and the hack-chat lines. A sort of speed dating over a network of pay-to-use channels. An algorithm which jumps you from caller to caller every three minutes. Scint Bourbon poured her money into making sure she paid minimal intergalactic taxes, one of the super rich whose off-world assets were hidden well away from the Corporations.
The Scintilla is a beautiful machine. You could travel the Universe with that ship, all you would need is a set of co-ordinates and... Kainya stops turning the trackercom in her hand. In her mind another option is forming. An option where she gets to control her own destiny. She drops the trackercom back into her pocket and reaches into her jacket and pulls out the modified tranquilator, checking it is fully charged as in her mind an altogether different kind of plan for her future is forming.
The Scintilla is in dock to be re-provisioned and deep-cleaned and a steady stream of clean-bots and techanoids are on the docking bay. Kainya threads her way through to the lone security guard, leaning up against the ship.
'Hi, nice ship, mind if I look inside?'
The guard laughs. 'Over my dead body, lady...'
'Okay then.' Kainya pulls out her tranquilator and fires, evaporating the guard mid-laugh into a small cloud of cinders. Nearby a clean-bot pulls up short and, noticing the ashes, changes course to sweep them up. Kainya kicks it out the way and steps inside the ship.
Prices are rising. So far so good. Consignor Edwear Linnet feels as though any minute now, the whole of the mission flight team at Newtrishia will turn and accuse him of corporate treason. He tries to steady his nerves, rattled by Mentor, the thought of a new job and the maglev bike ride. Surely everyone saw him arrive this morning? But prices are up, the competition have not yet caught wind of SATAN's Alpha Q7 mission. Price falls are good indicator of investors trying to ditch stock in preparation for the next new commodity to arrive from outer space. So far, the markets are holding.
Senior Consignor Pia Rabette feels as though something has escaped her attention this morning and so, in an effort to track down exactly what it is, she begins her routine round of the mission flight team early. At Edwear's console station she is about to walk past when something catches her attention. 'Linnet, how are the figures?'
'Buoyant. No stock dip yet, Senior Rabette.'
'Good. Good.' Something seems different about Consignor Linnet. She can't quite work out what. It's only walking away she realises what it is. He's wearing a perfume. Since when did they start paying consignors enough to afford perfume?
Edwear watches Rabette walk away, the sharp scritch of her heels across the floor shredding his nerves. Without warning she suddenly turns and stares at him, eyes narrowed, brow furrowed. Edwear jumps and looks back at his figures. She is, without doubt, the scariest person in the five galaxies.
Back in her cubicle overlooking the mission control floor, Pia Rabette wonders if there is something in Linnet's AlphaQ7mission she has overlooked. His choice of pilot, after the previous poor results in Alpha Q6, is questionable. She knows the consignors like to work with the same teams, give pilots a chance to redeem themselves if mission yields are poor but... Could he be running a bigger game she's managed to overlook and be engineering a downturn in profit yields? Was he in the pay of one of the Food Ethics Lobbyists? Or a foodstock broker? Or worse. Could he be in the pay of Alimentorum?
On her console, she calls up the file logins for the AlphaQ7 mission, looking for security protocol breaches, unusual consignment details, last minute changes, anything to indicate a way for Linnet to gain an advantage but everything seems in order.
Once a mission is authorised by the Newtrishia Exploration Initiative (NEI), the quadrant of universe chosen for exploration is given for consignment to mission control where a consignor will pick a Pilot and ship. The Pilot then picks his team and, in the interests of security, the NEI computer chooses the galaxy the mission will travel to. Only the pilot is present for the NEI hologramaptix presentation. No one at Newtrishia knows which galaxy is picked until the first Solar System Claim arrives back from the Pilot. This compartmentalisation of information is the most efficient way to prevent security breaches but it didn't stop disgruntled workers looking for ways to cheat the system.
Senior Consignor Pia Rabette cannot find any reason for concern over Consignor Edwear Linnet's work other than he smells too rich for a journey worker today and today, that's enough for her to raise a doubt. She places a call to a private security detail to tail him over the next few days then turns attention to the BetaQ12 mission.