(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Daniel glances at the time, another shift rotation almost at the end, working round the clock and still no nearer tracking down the ship whose signature they picked up deep in Gyre. He runs a hand over his scalp, bristles turning to a soft white down, he needs to sharpen up. Sleep, they all need some sleep. He re-reads the curt nano packet dispatch, sent from Newtrishia Head Office, hoping to glean as much meaning from it as he can. 'Change of consignment handler. New designation Senior Consigner Pia Rabette. Maintain communication silence till further notice.' Is it related to the tracker, to the arrival of a ship? The change of a mission consignor is almost unheard of. What was going on back there? And where is the ship whose signature they picked up?
'Any sign yet?' Daniel closes the message and scrolls through the readings on the navcom. Whatever arrived in Wentletrap while they were hiding in Gyre is now nowhere to be found.
'Nothing yet.' Cressida, Aliya and Truro are busy running a series of projections, quartering the local space around the gas giant, trying to work out a probable location. 'If they made it to the asteroid belt we'll never pick them out...'
'Doubt any ship would be quick enough to make it that far.' It occurs to Daniel the three dimensional holo-weaver has fallen silent, finally finished printing its model of the galaxy and he moves over to inspect it. For a moment or two he struggles to find where the solar system they are in is, tucked inside a tight spiral of gaseous dust, almost hidden. An idea occurs to him, 'How many moons does the gas giant have?'
'Five, three big enough to hide a ship.' Aliya replies. 'We've checked them.'
'Just a thought.' Daniel replies.
At the far end of the flight deck, on the mapping tables, Grove, Yume and Harp are busy compiling the first claim titles for the gas giants.
'I need a name for the creature...' Harp pauses for a moment in his work.
'How about Porpema Megalodon 'Truro'' Grove answers.
Yume laughs as Truro, hearing her name,joins them.
'You laughing at me?'
'Grove is proposing to call that creature after you.' Yume explains.
'She did call it first. Giant jelly shark, right?' Grove adds. 'Porpema, a type of tentacled, floating jelly, Megalodon, a species of ancient giant shark, your name because you called it.' Grove explains to a bemused Truro.
Yume turns from the mapping tables and calls over Daniel. 'Pilot, we are ready to send the exploratory survey data and the Minerals, Oils, Gas and Zoology claims.'
'Good work, I'll attach my status report once I've completed it and send it with the MOGZ. We need to get back to into shift routine, so you, Grove, Cressida and Truro take four hours sleep now. Then we'll switch back to eight hour shift rotations. This will be our team groups for now. No arguments!' He adds, sensing Cressida is about to disagree. 'Do we have a designation name for this Solar System?'
Yume nods. 'It reminded us of the First Galaxy, so we have suggested Memento Sol.'
Daniel nods in approval. 'Memento Sol it is.'
Before Cressida leaves the flight deck, Daniel calls her over and hands her a palm possum. 'You need to read this. It goes no further than the two of us.' Cressida reads the message on the possum and whistles softly through her teeth. 'Change of consignor? No communications, what about the MOGZ? '
'Not sent yet. I don't know what's going on back there, but we could be dealing with more than just a corporate spy mission. I want to move us out of this solar system ASAP, shake off whoever, whatever is on our tail. If we haven't tracked down what came through a wormhole by the end of this next four hours, we are jumping out of here.'
Senior Consignor Pia Rabette mentally steels herself for the day ahead. By taking over the mission from Consignor Edwear Linnet, she would be able to control the flow of information for at least a short while, give her a chance to find out what exactly is going on and, more to the point, where in the hell Linnet is. Her first task of the day would be to terminate his contract and raise a Corporate Bounty Notice on him. Her message to The Saturn Anne II was perhaps a mistake, a traceable piece of evidence involving her but there was no other choice. In delaying the MOGZ claims, she has a small window to work out what is going on and get the situation under control before she reports to the Newtrishia Corporation Directorate. At that point, it will be her head on the block, not Linnet's.
Tourmaline Joyce turns up the volume with a wave of his hand near the dashboard. One of the few perks of still driving to work, as far as he could see, was to be able to listen to whatever he wanted to and today, its Llama Delivery, an old drub sounder band rarely played on the DEMI sounder stations anymore. There is still snow melting on the windscreen and the dawn is hours away. It will take his maglev Hypersleek Saloon exactly two hours and ten minutes to reach Alimentorum HQ from his split-level chalet nestled in the condominium foothills of Mount Veracity. He should arrive with plenty of time for the meeting, suddenly convened overnight, by the Controller.
The drub sounder spins its lyric loudly in his ears, blocking out the endless traffic ebb and flow, junctions and undercuts, streams of journey workers and the crowding press of sky rise blocks. 'Chasing the dawn again. Chasing the dawn again. You're chasing a sun no longer shining...'
As the only child in a long line of only children, Tourmaline Joyce the thirtieth, holds twenty-three original shares in Alimentorum. Most of the original shares had long since been merged and consolidated into large corporate holdings, represented on the Committee by an ever-changing roll of chief executives. Only Tourmaline, Scint Bourbon and Juno Ramos are original shareholders and Scint only got her hands on seven original shares by beating him at a very select hi-stakes poker game many, many years ago. The three of them have formed an effective block vote in the past and he is looking forward to catching up with them both at the meeting this morning. They all kept their shareholder status secret, preferring to hide the true nature of their wealth from the hungry glare of the Five Galaxies, making their little group all the more exclusive for it. He drums his fingers on the hand rests in time to the music, letting his mind empty and fill instead with the soundscape of Llama Delivery.
'Empty stomachs don't sleep easy, a broken promise hard to mend. Hunger's like an endless night where we're all chasing the dawn again...'
On board The Scintilla, Scint Bourbon carefully locks herself into the private bathroom of her berth in the pretence of doing an inventory of the suite. She keys in the panic code for the shielded computer system she keeps hidden in the vanity glass and starts writing code for a message to send to the Newtrishia ship. If there is one thing she knows how to do, it is to keep her hand hidden. Kainya might think she has all the cards but this is her ship and she always like to keep an ace or two up her sleeve. The message ready and the communication channel secure, Scint presses send.
'Mayday. Mayday. This is Scint Bourbon of the ship The Scintilla. I have been kidnapped and request immediate help. Mayday, Mayday.'
More episodes soon...