(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
As SATAN follows the course plotted to the north pole of Gyre, Daniel glances at the results of the planet scans. He looks up surprised. 'Supercritical helium? We can travel into this?'
Yume nods. 'Yes, this is technically only the remains of a gas giant. The atmosphere and surface has long since been blown away by coronal ejections from being so close to this solar system's sun. What we are left with is the mantle and core. The mantle was once rock and ice but is now superheated noble gases with a suspension of magnetised metals and ores surrounding a core of supercritical fluid helium. This has the similar properties to a black hole which...'
'SATAN is designed to travel through.' Daniel finishes his sentence for him.
'The poles have the most magnetised deposits of ore, making them clump together and give rise to areas of gas which are movable through.' Yume adds.
'At one point this planet must have been super sized.' Harp stares at the viewscreen as the shoulder of the planet Gyre fills it with its boiling storms and strange swirling eddies. 'Helium the main element in the atmosphere?'
'Mainly, why?' Yume replies, busy with scanning a real-time route through the gas clouds for Daniel to navigate to.
'An area of interest of mine is non-hydrogen or -carbon based organisms. Water isn't always the stuff of life.'
'Well, as I said, the mantle and atmosphere is long gone, any surface life would have been stripped away as well so I think you'll be out of luck, Harp.'
Harp watches mesmerised as the ship flies in low over the pole, he could almost make out dense patches of rotating vapour and then the ship is enveloped in clouds and the screen turns to static.
Daniel navigates the ore deposits, and flies the ship steadily into the interior of the planet until they can fly no further, suspended in the fluid helium core at a point where the physical dynamics of movement have become obsolete and momentum in all directions, in effect, holds them in stasis as though on the brink of a black hole.
'What now?' Harp asks no one in particular.
'We wait.' Cressida replies.
'Wait for what?'
'For whatever is next.' she answers sharply. 'Can we still scan beyond the planet?'
'Yes. Interference in the background cosmic radiation should penetrate this far, so we should detect interference caused by wormhole drive lasers. SATAN's sensors should be able to feel anything arriving in this galaxy.' Yume pulls up a live feed from one of the monitors and the flight deck fills with the sound of ambient noise. 'Now we wait.'
Senior Consignor Pia Rabette can feel the bile rise up through her stomach and claw at her throat, her anger is so physical she really might be sick, she grinds her teeth to get control as the private security detail she had hired outline the evening's events over a secure vidline.
'... and then the roof kind of melted..'
'...like, you know, melted...gloopy like.'
'Yes, I know what melted means...then what.'
'Well. Then the crowd went crazy and this ship appeared.'
'With a woman on a rope, like she was part of the act, dangling into this big pot of lava.'
'and...then she grabbed him.'
'And you couldn't stop her?'
'Well....she had a rope and a ship...'
'Where did they go?'
'That's the thing. They didn't go anywhere. They just sort of vanished.'
'And it was definitely Scint Bourbon with him?'
'Yes. And an Alimentorum recruitment specialist by the name of.. Mentor.'
'And they vanished too?'
'Yes, Senior Rabette, straight into the ship, on the rope, through the melted roof.'
'Did the ship have a name?' Pia Rabette asks wearily, not expecting an answer.
'Yes, The Scintilla.'
'Scint bourbon's own ship?'
'Yes Senior Rabette. Everyone thought it was all part of the show. We did too... but like I said, the ship just vanished.'
'Thank you, you'll be paid for your work.' Pia abruptly cuts the line and thinks for a moment. The Scintilla is a one of a kind space yacht with wormhole technology. It didn't disappear, it simply jumped away but why would Linnet be on board the scadillionare's boat? And where in the five galaxies would he be going with Scint Bourbon and an Alimentorum recruiter? And who is the mystery woman dangling from the rope? This is more than about him simply changing job, she could work that much out herself but the bigger picture, just what is he up to? Whatever Edwear Linnet is planning, she is pretty sure it will be no good for the Newtrishia Corporation. Time to terminate his contract and put a bounty out for him. Not even Scint Bourbon's ship could outrun a Corporation Bounty notice. Someone, somewhere in the Five Galaxies will be hungry enough to find them.
Through an alcoholic stupor Consignor Edwear Linnet lets go of everything as The Scintilla exits the wormhole envelope on the other side of the universe. Far off he can hear shouting and yelling and someone calling his name above the sounds of retching and choking. For a moment he is floating. Not in space but inside a beautiful ship, looking down at Mentor and Scint wrestling with a body in a space suit. He is aware of everything, of the flow of the universe beyond, of the galaxy around them, clouds of star dust in a double spiral, the smell of oranges and the scritch, scratch sound of everything and nothing...
'Eds, Eds!.. Help me, he is choking to death in there...Edwear!' Mentor wrestles with Edwear's space suit helmet trying to work it loose while Scint scrambles to help him. Kainya brings the ship to a dead stop then joins them, wrenching the clickloc seals apart on the suit. Mentor tries to clear his airways as Scint tries not to vomit herself from the acrid stench of Edwear's stomach and bowel contents, now spilling from the suit.
'Stand back!' Kainya leans forward and lands a clenched fist on Edwear's sternum. His lungs respond and exhale all the remaining vomit over Mentor and Scint and he gasps for air, doubled up in pain and suddenly very much alive and lying on the floor in his own mess.
'Space sickness, he'll live.' Kainya strides back to the navcom and searches for the viewscreen controls. 'Now, let's take a look at where we are.'
Mentor, Scint and Edwear can only stare as the viewscreen reveals the live feed from the ship's external cameras. A sun. Twin planets with a sprawling meteor field. One, two, three gas giants fill the screen, then further out an asteroid belt.
'Where are we?' Scint asks, forgetting the smell for a moment.
Kainya turns and smiles, a frank, wide grin and replies. 'We are on the brink of good fortune. A whole galaxy of good fortune.' then she notices the state Edwear is in and the smell beginning to permeate through the deck. 'You maybe want to get yourselves cleaned up. You've got a bit of... um, stuff on you... '
On the flight deck of the Saturn Anne II the ambient noise is almost soporific, filling the silence with a constant static hum until there is a squelch. A small splash in the sound, like a stone thrown into a pond. 'Game on.' Cressida remarks, repeating it to focus her attention and sharpen her reflexes.
Deep in the heart of the gas giant Gyre, the ripples in the cosmic radiation from both The Saturn Anne II and The Scintilla reach the sounding cords of a sentry behemoth, who wakes to the vibrations. Around it the herd hibernates undisturbed while it senses the vibrations, judging location and distance to this new prey then launches itself, unfurling to its largest extent towards the sound.