(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
The three hours on board the cramped trawler feel more like forever as far as Truro is concerned. The trawler is as blandly utilitarian as a spaceship can be. Nothing to do, nothing to do, nothing to do is the endless mantra in her brain. Cme has put itself into a catatonic state, conserving energy and brain activity for what may lie ahead. Cressida and Grove are busy flying the trawler on a smooth parabola keeping the twin planets between themselves and the Scintilla, making sure they run silent. All she can do is sit and wait with nothing to do. For three whole hours.
Senior Pia Rabette supresses a scream by tightening her knuckles into clenched fists and slamming them down on her desk. The loud thud booms across the Mission Control Centre and, for an instant, everyone pauses and then resumes work again. A sonic wave of released tension washes over the rows of consignors, all trying very hard not to catch Pia's attention as she paces angrily in front of her monitors, the vanadium steel-tipped heels of her sandalettes squealing as she turns.
The board of Directors had stitched her up. By making her use one of their in-house bounty hunters, they are effectively shutting her down. The hunt for Edwear is over as far as she is concerned, her brief now is to make sure the mission AlphaQ7 is successful. Pia can feel there is more going on than she is aware of, something more the Board knows. But for now, all Pia can focus on is the outcome of the mission which has been firmly hoisted onto her shoulders by Votive, with her silky-soft reasoning and manipulative kindness. Should she meet up with Edwear ever again, she will make him suffer for this. Now she is responsible his poor choice of Captain. She would never have chosen Daniel Delacroix for such a mission, and the ship, an ageing Ark... All of this looks bad, looks bad on her. If the mission fails, she could lose her position as Senior Consignor. She wouldn't put it past Edwear to have engineered this whole thing just so it would blow up in her face.
A thought occurs to her and she can see a way, maybe, to rid herself of the mission, she still had a card she could play. One the Board could do nothing about. The Food Ethics Tribunal. If she can get them to skew their findings on Delacroix's AlphaQ6 mission, make it look as though his judgement is diminished, she could pull the mission and make it all go away. She pauses in her pacing, she knows just who to ask to help. Juno. She'd go and see Juno tonight.
Mentor finds a galley, deep in the heart of the Scintilla, and leans against the solid worktop of the chef's prep area, his forehead resting on the cool copper of a hanging skillet. For a moment he lets his polished mask of confidence slip. Normally, in the sight of such luxury, he would be entranced by his surroundings. A scadillionaires' ship complete with a kitchen for fresh food preparation. But now fear, tiredness and panic rises up inside him, crushing all the air in his lungs, making him start to hyperventilate. He gasps for air, holding onto the worktop, trying to process the last few hours into some rational sense. Trying to work out what to do next, trying to hold onto some sense of what in the Five Galaxies he is supposed to do now but his head is starting to swim with lack of oxygen and he stops managing to breathe at all. As he faints, the skillet he is leaning against clatters loudly against the other hanging pots and pans, a jangling alarm ringing in his head as passes out on the galley floor.
Scint jumps slightly at the sound of clanging metal through the bulkhead. It is a sound she recognises but can't place and then it occurs to her, someone is in the galley. Maybe they are cooking. At the thought of food there is a rumble deep in the pit of her stomach and with her mayday message sent there is little point staying in her bathroom so, with nothing else to do, Scint heads for the galley.
Grove stares at the viewscreen on board the trawler as they skim silently through the space between the Saturn Anne II and the twin planets. 'We should name them.'
'Uh?' Cressida looks across at Grove. 'Name what?' The annoyance in her voice is almost alarming over the intercom, so close to his ear inside his space suit.
'The twin planets.'
'What do you suggest?' Cressida's voice makes it clear to him that she has little time for naming random planets mid mission.
'I don't know...thought they should have a name, I guess.'
'Names are for familiar things. For making things feel comfortable. Out here, this is the unknown. You are best off not naming things. No time for complacency out here.'
Grove doesn't reply, her fierce logic is right. He stares at the two planets slowly growing on the viewscreen as they draw nearer. Their lives are not complex out here, live or die are the only options. Space is binary. Life or death. One of the planets broods dark and shadowy in a field of debris, the shattered remnants from multiple meteor strikes. Behind it, bathed in sunlight, is the silvery shoulder of its twin, swathed in sparkling dust and a diamond bright debris field.