(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Daniel Delacroix stands in front of the 3d printed map of the Wentletrap galaxy and runs a hand, distractedly, through his hair. A stress reflex he barely notices anymore but Yumi, standing by his side, immediately picks up on it.
'Beyond this solar system but where in the galaxy?' Daniel muses, almost to himself. 'How long since the jump?'
'Six minutes, Pilot.' Aliya answers.
'I have identified swarms of space gnats, the probable reason for the jump...' Yumi pauses, hoping for a plan of action from Daniel. 'Among the debris field around the two planets.' He adds, trying to fill the silence.
'And the trawler was attached?'
''We think so... we're not sure...did you feel that?' Yumi can feel a vibration. 'Are the lasers firing up?'
'Um, yes... and I didn't touch anything! Harp yells, backs away from his console as Aliya runs to the navcom. 'Pilot, the ship's computers are plotting a course, from... from some signal they are receiving... I can patch it through to the viewscreen.'
Daniel swivels round to watch the viewscreen as a sine wave appears across it, a long, repeating ribbon travelling the screen.
'A signal from the trawler?' Daniel asks, suddenly spurred into action, he throws himself into the pilot's seat. 'I can't override the lasers!'
'Possibly, it looks like a positional wave travelling through space and time...' Harp stares at it, something familiar about the wave.
'Yes, of course!' Yume interrupts him. 'Positional, but not the trawler! Remember the symbiotic nature of Cme and this ship, this is a connection between them, a bit like songs between deep sea creatures, Cme is sending a signal and the Saturn Anne II is going to follow it! What hertz?'
Harp nods at Yumi, I'm reading it at about 57 hertz... gamma wave, it is possible, do we have any info on the symbiotic nature of Cme and the Saturn Anne?'
Yumi snorts at Harps question. 'The Corporation tell us their top secret patents? No but I'm certain that's what this is. Cme is calling to the ship.'
For a moment Yumi, Harp and Aliya all stare at Daniel, wondering what he is going to do next as he wrestles with the navcom, trying to get control. 'The ignition key is overridden, this must be a Corporation Operational Protocol, above my paygrade, clearly! OK, suit up, I can't stop the lasers, we have seven minutes before we jump, time to get strapped in.' Daniel strides to the suit room, aware that if they leave this solar system, Memento Sol, without having sent the MOGZ claim, there is a very real possibility it will be claimed, either by the ship they are chasing or an Alimentorum raider. He has less than seven minutes to decide. Either send the MOGZ against orders and secure Memento Sol, or leave it and loose it. The change of consignor, the kidnapping, now this, it goes against his gut instincts to loose a whole solar system, especially one so rich in helium. As the sirens sound across the ship, Daniel straps himself into the pilot's seat, calls up the MOGZ claim and presses send without hesitation. Whatever the new consignor is up to is not his problem, he is paid by the Corporation to discover resources and safeguard them with MOGZ claims. Press send, job done.
Aliya, Harp and Yumi scramble to their seats as the sirens flash. On the viewscreen the sine wave plays over and over and outside the three lasers fire three streams of dark energy to form a quantum point, the wormhole envelope streaming out over Satan's hull. The ship lurches forward into the wormole and is gone, leaping into the unknown.
If the first jump from Sayonara Spaceport was bad, this leap is truly gut-wrenchling dire. Grove can feel every muscle in his body trying to rip itself from his frame, his eyes pounding. He passes out at some point, only to immediately come round as the wormhole spews them out and deposits the trawler, still attached to The Scintilla, in a new system far from Memento Sol. Grove somehow manages not to pass out again, his heading spinning, as he tries to work out which way is up from his fetal position in his chair.
'Grove, are you with us?' Cressida asks over the suit intercom.
'Yeah.. yeah, still here. Rough trip.'
'We have a problem. This is turning into a rescue mission.' Cressida points to the viewscreen where a large section of The Scintilla's hull is visible. Across the surface a million bubbles are rising.
'What in the...?' For a moment Grove can't work out what he is seeing.
'Air leak. Looks like the biters got through. We haven't any choice but to go in, secure whoever is still in there and then work out how to get back to the Satan Anne. Grove, you stay here and hold the ship, Truro, Cme and I will...'
'Wait! We are seeing bubbles, what are they suspended in? Where are we?' Grove sits up suddenly aware that the ship would be simply venting gas, almost undetectable to the naked eye if it was still in space. 'We are in an atmosphere of some kind, very thick, almost like water... come on...' Grove types furiously into the small navcon computer on the trawler. 'I can't get a large enough perimeter scan...'
'We need to secure the trawler to the Scintilla!' Cressida snaps, feeling her annoyance rising at Grove's dismissal of her order, bad enough he didn't free the trawler when she asked and got them dragged through the wormhole.
'The wormhole, without any proper co-ordinates, could have deposited us into anything, an ocean, the middle of a planet... you can't leave the trawler till you know what we are in.' Grove stares at Cressida, not in defiance but with a look of determination. 'Wherever we are, it is not in open space.'
Cressida is about to reply when Cme suddenly whimpers behind them.
'What's wrong?' Truro reaches over and lays a hand on Cme but Cme shrugs it off, whispering repeatedly 'Bigger than us. Need Annie.'
'What?' Truro can barely make out what Cme is saying. 'I think she's in some kind of trance. Who's Annie?'
'No idea, leave her strapped in, she can come to no harm there. I'm going to navigate the trawler to the main docking point on the hull, the time for stealth is over. If we really are suspended in something, I want to know what it is and if our suits and the trawler can withstand it, asap, Grove.'
'Working on it but this bathtub wasn't designed for science.'
'Just do your job, that's all I ask!'
The Saturn Anne II's lasers power down and the wormhole envelope disintegrates, pushing the ship back into time and space in a solar system close to the centre of the Wentletrap Galaxy. Harp forces the bile rising in his gullet back down and tries to focus on the telemetry readings the ship's hull sensors are sending back.
'OK, I have the navcom again, let's see where we are.' With the operational protocol released, Daniel manoeuvres the ship to a stop, external perimeter alarms sounding along the hull. 'What is going on out there? Do we have any external views, Aliya?'
'Yes, I'm just routing the cameras to the viewscreen now, some are not functioning. The perimeter alarms are sounding but there are no impacts...what in the five galaxies!' Aliya's sharp intake of breath punctuates her exclamation as the view screen unfolds above the mapping desks, revealing a panorama of the local space they are in. Stretching out in all directions are the gargantuan carapaces of a space life-form, travelling in what looks like a migratory herd. One of the creatures glides close nearby, fully the length of the Saturn Anne.
'The trawler should be right here, we are on the signal, the co-ordinates...' Harp looks up from his console and stares at the giant creature on the screen. 'Puts them inside that.... thing.'
On board the trawler, Cme seems to revive from her trance and utters one word. 'Here.'
New chapters soon...
New chapters soon...