(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Her name, almost a whisper over the fine hairs on the nape of her neck, brings memories flooding back. The warm weight of his body, folded around hers, the sound of his slow laughter, the urgency of his tongue against her...'
'Cressie, wake UP!'
Cressida sits bolt upright in her bunk as the intercom voice rises to a shout, sleep torn from her brain like a medipatch. 'Yes, Pilot!'
'We have a security issue.'
'No, this needs you. ASAP.' The curt reply snaps Cressida into action, her instincts and training making her nimble on her feet despite being asleep only a moment ago. She checks the time, almost shift change.
'Mayday. Mayday. This is Scint Bourbon of the ship The Scintilla. I have been kidnapped and request immediate help. Mayday, Mayday.'
Cressida stares for a moment or two at the message and then raises her eyebrows and sighs. She nods briefly at Daniel and hands him back the possum. 'We'll have to respond. Universal Space Treaty Directives mean nearest ship gets the short straw. At least we know what ship we are dealing with. Any idea why Scint Bourbon and her ship would have been kidnapped and then used to follow us out here?'
Daniel smiles and shakes his head. 'Not a clue, I'm guessing maybe a kidnap gone wrong. I don't know and with the MOGZ issue as well... who knows what is going on. Do you know the ship?'
' The Scintilla? We out-gun it but we can't outrun it.'
'Until the MOGZ is sent, I don't want to lose it. And I don't want to lose this galaxy to Alimentorum.'
'You think this is Alimentorum? Kidnapping?' Cressida sits down on the edge of the desk in the Pilot's cabin, running possible scenarios through her head. 'We don't know how many are on board?'
'That's all the message there. Presumably the ship has a crew... I don't want to get caught up in lengthy negotiations.'
'If we can pinpoint its location from the message, let me take a team and we can reccy the ship. Once we have an idea of how many people on board we can attempt a rescue.' Cressida watches Daniel, knowing he'll have no appetite to open this particular can of worms. 'We have to do something Daniel.'
'We have no capture orders on this mission.'
'That's not the same as no rescue.'
For a moment or two there is a silence hanging in the air, the unspoken baldness of honesty between the two of them. Cressida knowing Daniel wants the simplest solution, shoot first, ask questions later. Both knowing they have a legal duty to respond to Scint's message.
Daniel leans forward over his desk, his arm gently brushing her thigh by accident as he reaches for the ship's intercom button, a memory of her body surfacing in his mind. He pushes the thought away and curtly announces, 'All hands to the galley. All hands to the galley!'
Truro sits scrunched up on a table in the galley as she listens to the pilot brief them on the mayday message and the reconnoitre mission. If it were up to her, she'd be tempted to scupper the ship, serve them right, but a mayday's mayday. At the mention of the ship's name Truro sits upright and interrupts, 'I know that ship. She was at Sayonara for a refit.' She almost added she had thought about stowing away on it too but thought better of it.
' A refit?' Cressida questions her. 'You're sure?'
'Yeah, a glug tug like that gets spruced up regular. Quite a sight at the spaceport.'
'It means we may not have a full crew, Pilot.' Cressida explains. 'And probably explains the kidnapping. Just a bit of random luck for whoever tracked us, saw the intergalactic ship in port and took it. Spur of the moment decision, it would explain it.'
Daniel nods in agreement. 'How well do you know the ship?' Daniel asks Truro. 'Did you get on board?'
'No, know how to though.'
'Same way as I got on here. Let me be part of the reccy team and I'll get 'em on.'
Daniel glances at Cressida who nods her head imperceptibly.
'OK, you can be part of the team, I'll leave Cressida to pick the rest. No tranquilator for her though.' The last comment is for Cressida but Truro hears it.
'Don't need one.' she replies and then under her breath. 'I shape the fight.'
'I shape the fight.' The whisper at her shoulder makes Truro jump. Cme laughs softly. 'Maybe I shape the chair.' she says as her camouflage changes to reveal her sitting nearby. 'You teach me to shape the fight?'
'Not now, I gotta go on a reccy.'
'I go to.'
'..and CMe.' Cressida reels off the last name for her team. 'We leave in ten minutes from the loading bay, team. Be ready!'
The Corporate Bounty Notice is electronically pinned to every message, call, mail and nanopacket leaving Newtrishia Corporation from the moment Senior Consignor Pia Rabette presses activate on her screen. She rereads it to make sure she has covered all the salient points and then attaches Edwear's most recent employee ID to it. It contains his image, his DNA profile, retinal scans and a brief resume of his life. Satisfied, she activates the notice and the computers take over, within minutes distributing the notice far and wide across the galaxy. By the time it has piggy-backed onto the DEMISE, it will take a few hours at the most to find its way across the Five Galaxies and into the hands of a bounty hunter. With any luck, wherever he is hiding, it will all be over for Edwear by the end of the day.
Tourmaline and Juno hug each other tightly, the fabric of their suits squeaking uneasily as they embrace. 'Do you think he can find her?' Juno asks, clasping Tourmaline by the arms and searching his face for an answer. 'I hope so, I do hope so.'
Tourmaline smiles, noting the fear haunting Juno's eyes. 'We are always at risk of these type of unfortunate events. Kidnapping is nothing new for us. The Controller will find her, I'm sure.'
'But Tourmaline, what if Scint's already been murdered!'
Tourmaline stops for a moment to think it through. Scint's shares would automatically revert to his ownership as she has no heir. The thought cheers him and he extricates himself from Juno's grip. 'These people, all they ever want is our money. Now, I do believe there is still some of that Kraken Fire left over from our last board meeting. Did you know they distil it using desalinated water from Undine. Have you ever been there?'
'Undine? No, why?' Juno takes the large glass Tourmaline proffers to her, watching the pale sea-green liquid swirl with sparks of orange fire.
'To Scint Bourbon, may she be returned to us safely, all in one piece.' Tourmaline raises his glass and clinks Juno's. She blinks and tries to ignore the slightly ingenuous sound to his voice. It is probably just the stress of the situation and murmurs 'To Scint' in reply. The Kraken Fire burns with salty fire in his gullet as Tourmaline downs the whole shot in one, then he kisses Juno without hesitation, tasting the alcohol still across her lips. For a moment he thinks she might push him away but then she responds, the combined heat from their bodies starting to fuse their gel suits together while the Kraken Fire burns away their inhibitions.