(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Mentor, Edwear and Scint are on the flight deck of The Scintilla, trying to take in what Kainya is telling them. Edwear can feel his nausea coming back in waves as he tries to work through what he is hearing. They had followed a tracking device Kainya had thrown onto the Saturn Anne II, the ship on his mission, across the universe to some unknown galaxy on a ship stolen from Scint Bourbon who, somehow, Mentor has managed to pick up and bring with them, flown by Kainya, not his Kainya, the charming recruitment go-getter but some new Kainya. A woman who deals in espionage, theft and kidnap and who knows what else. A woman who seems perfectly at ease with their present situation, oblivious to the enormity of the dangers they face.
Mentor notices Edwear's look of growing desperation as she talks and he places a hand on his arm, whispering 'Never mind, you hated your job at Newtrishia and I'm pretty sure Alimentorum only wanted you for a spy. At least we have a chance to shape our own futures now. '
'How? How are we going to do that? Out here...with what, this ship? It's nothing more than a flashy glug tug, you think I don't know what it takes to survive out in these new galaxies? The kind of ship and crew it takes? This isn't about selling secrets or starting some new life. There is nothing, nowhere out here that is safe... and the only ship we know that is out here has no capture orders for buccaneers. Because that is what this is. Piracy. What in the Five Galaxies were you thinking of?' The last bit of Edwear's rant is at volume straight at Kainya who breaks off from her explanation and stares at him, taking in the small globs of perspiration on his brow and the fear in his voice.
She reaches to her side and pulls out the modified tranquilator from its holster and aims it squarely at his face, point blank range. 'It's what it's always been about Edwear, money. Lots and lots of money. More scadillions than even Scint here can imagine. Now, don't make me regret stopping to pick you up because I thought you were on my side. No corporations, no espionage, no secrets, no arguments. Out here, you are either on my side or dead. Understand?'
Edwear nods, his blood, flooded with both terror and admiration pounding at his temples. Mentor and Scint hold their breath as Kainya, satisfied with his answer, lowers the tranker and resumes her explanation.
'So, the way I see it, we just need to beat them at their own game. Disrupt them enough to lay claim to what they find before they can claim it for the corporation. Play the corporations against each other, feeding them information while cutting them out completely. Claim this galaxy, not in their name but in ours and grow rich in the process.' Kainya re-holsters the tranquilator and then stretches, interlacing her fingers and cracking her knuckles out in front of her as though physically ridding herself of the tension of the moment.
Scint ponders her situation as a thick silence falls across the flight deck. 'I should be offended by you calling my ship a glug tug but you have a point, what's your name.. Edwear? ' Edwear nods miserably at Scint, unwilling to voice an opinion again. 'This is no Ark, not even close. Sure I can live in it like a hotel, zip across the Five Galaxies, live the luxe life my wealth affords but it isn't equipped for exploration. I'm not even sure what actually is on this ship, it was being refitted at Sayonara Spaceport.. '
'Perhaps we need to make an inventory, that would be sensible and maybe we could all, you know, start again. With introductions, work out some common ground, how we ended up... out here....' Mentor hopes he can smooth over the tension by bringing a bit of order. 'I'm Mentor and I work for Alimentorum in Recruitment, normally management level. I was put in charge of looking after Edwear while you, Kainya, were busy, presumably tracking Edwear's ship.' Mentor gestures to Scint, hoping she'll follow on. 'Well, you all know who I am.' Scint sighs and folds her arms. 'I am Scint Bourbon the scadillionaire owner of Scintillator Entertainment.'
''Consignor Edwear Linnet, Newtrishia Corporation. I thought you cared about me Kainya. You were just after my ship.'
'If I didn't care about you, you'd be dead right now. Edwear, we need to move past whatever it is you think I am and accept what I actually am. None of us are naive enough to think the corporations don't spy on each other. My name is Kainya and I'm a facilitator of information for Alimentorum. Or I was, right up until I stole this ship...'
'You still could be.' Mentor gently interrupts, 'The company has no idea what is going on. We could return...'
'No. Not happening. I've had enough of it, played their dirty games enough. It's about time someone stuck it to the corporations and at the moment that someone looks like me.'
'Is Kainya even your real name?' Edwear asks sullenly.
'Does it even matter?' Kainya replies. 'You're right, Mentor. We need to inventory the ship, find out what we have and how to use it to our advantage, I want to find the Saturn Anne II before it finds us. Keep one step...'
Before Kainya can finish her sentence The Scintilla's proximity alarm warning starts sounding around the ship. 'Proximity alert. Impact trajectory identified. Impact in thirty seconds...Proximity alert. Impact trajectory identified...'
''Where?' Scint jumps to her feet and sprints to the pilot's console. The maincom responds to Scint's voice and displays a graphic over the viewscreen. From within the nearest gas giant, something is emerging directly at them. Something large. 'We need to move!' She yells at the other three. 'Fire thrusters.' Scint can feel the familiar response of the ship as she tries to clear the collision field plotted on the screen in front while the proximity alarm carries on with its countdown. On the screen, Mentor, Edwear and Kainya watch the Saturn Anne II emerging, shedding long vaporous eddies of gas and plasma, filling their field of vision. Herculean and unrelenting in its task to break free of the planet, by comparison, the Scintilla is lost in its wake like a cork on the ocean. The ship passes them, a hair's breadth from impact and for a second, all they have a view of is the name, scored and scarred like a badge of war, SAT....AN... as she sweeps past. The alarm falls silent and the viewscreen clears to reveal the turbulent gas giant below.
'What the...' Edwear points to the screen 'What are those?'
On the viewscreen the surface of the planet is being churned up by a shoal of giant amorphous creatures breaching and throwing spumes of ice into the thin atmosphere. As they swim, a sea of tentacles surrounds them, writhing and searching for their lost prey.
Kainya shakes her head and smiles as she joins Edwear by the viewscreen, slipping an arm around his shoulders and pulling him close. 'That, Edwear, is our first scadillion.' She reaches over and kisses him gently on the forehead. 'Don't be that journey worker anymore, the Five Galaxies are far behind us. This is it, this is our future, this is our galaxy for the taking.'