(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
'We jump!' Kainya strides to the navcom.
'Wait! That's madness! We aren't even strapped in!' Edwear runs to Kainya's side and grabs her arm as she reaches for the controls.
'Look at the screen Edwear, space gnats, we have no choice. The lasers will burn them from the hull! Let go of me!' Kainya bats Edwear from her arm and he sprawls across the floor and she straps herself into the pilot's seat and fires up the lasers. 'Hold on tight, here we go!'
'Go where?' Scint shouts in frustration, strapping herself into a nearby seat, knowing her rescue plan hangs on the information.
'That sound you can hear Scint, is the hull of your ship being eaten away, it doesn't matter where!'
Mentor, still feeling light-headed, struggles to get himself strapped in as outside, along the hull of the ship, the lasers pour a sleeve of dark energy. The biters, sensing the imminent danger, lift clear of the pock-marked hull in one sinuous swarm and recede back into their orbit around the planets.
On the trawler all the sensors are flashing. 'What in the five galaxies? They're firing up their lasers... they're going to jump?' Grove asks incredulously. 'Why?'
'The biters, look!' Truro points at the rising swarm on the viewscreen.
'The grapnels!' Cressida yells at Grove. 'Detach them now or we'll be dragged through the wormhole with them.'
Grove tries to release the grapnels but one refuses to detach. 'It's stuck! The biters must have cut through the electronics, I can't get it to auto-release...'
'Detonate the grapnel, it has a explo-charge on it!' Cressida yells, 'We all need to strap ourselves in, now!'
'What? But we might rupture their hull!' Grove stares at Cressida in shock.
The wormhole envelope forms fully around the Scintilla and partly over the trawler, precariously suspended under the ship from one grapnel.
'Blast it Grove, or prepare to be ripped into a new galaxy!' Cressida grimly replies but she is too late, the wormhole is complete and the Scintilla winks from view, dragging the trawler with it.
'What the!.. where did they go?' Harp sits up in his chair in front of the monitors. 'Um, Aliya, the trawler's signals have just....gone!'
'More likely you've pressed something while you were sleeping..' Aliya shakes her head at him.
'I was not asleep!'
'Snoring!' Yume adds. 'Try hitting refresh.'
'I'm not a complete idiot.. look for yourself!' Harp grabs his monitor's virtual screen and throws it into the space above the mapping tables. The virtual screen expands out to reveal an empty stretch of space where the trawler and the Scintilla should be.
'Ok, not good!' Aliya's tone changes completely. 'Can you wind back to the last reference point?'
Harp tries reversing the feed but all there is, is interference, as though the feed has been wiped.
Juno pauses momentarily outside Mistress Ban's Fighting House. Tucked under one arm she has what she hopes will be a farewell gift for Pia Rabette. Tourmaline had been kind but firm with his advice after the vidlink call. It is not appropriate for her to be held to ransom by a journey worker when she has already paid for the accident to the full letter of the law. Time to tell Pia their acquaintance is over. The present inside the box she is carrying are more than enough of a farewell.
Juno steps through the airlock door into the cool, dark interior and she can already feel a weight being lifted off her mind. She sees Pia sitting, cross-legged on the floor in front of her and she walks toward her, her leaving speech thoroughly rehearsed in her mind on the journey over.
'Piatina Rabette, I can no longer afford the time you are demanding from me. I have paid for your accident and did the courtesy of helping you out of a sense of charity. But I now no longer want you in my life. It is time to move on. Please accept this gift as a final goodbye.'
'No one ever calls me by my full name, Juno. Only the judge and now you.'
Pia watches as Juno takes one more step forward and somewhere, in the walls of the fighting house, a catch is released and a dart fires straight into her heart. Juno staggers forward and sprawls across the floor, the package she was holding rolling to a stop at Pia's feet.
Pia reaches over and opens it to find a small box inside. It is a jewel case and she opens it to finds a silver chain necklace with a large piece of carved crystal suspended from it. The crystal catches what dim light there is inside the house and for a moment Pia wonders what type of crystal it is, then notices a slip of paper in the case. It has only one word on it 'Tourmaline'. Juno couldn't even afford her a rare gem, just a bit of semi-precious stone. Pia sighs and then she slips the pendant over her neck and tucks it inside her jacket. Time indeed, to move on.