Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Zoology ~ Episode Twenty Eight

(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)

Twenty Eight

The loading bay computer systems respond to the unique space suit signatures of each of Cressida's team as they arrive. A cavernous space, the bay houses a fleet of utility space vehicles, from heavy armoured all terrain rovers to swift vertical jump jets and marine bathyspheres; an army of research and retrieval vessels marching in ordered rows towards the pressure curtains. As the team move through the bay, lights and systems click into life, waking the fleet from the slumber of standby. Truro tries to name as many of the machines as she can but the scale and complexity of some leave her baffled and in awe. For a moment she tries to reckon up a cost for such equipment, catching a glimpse of the chasm of wealth separating drubs like her from the Corporations but is interrupted by Cressida's voice inside her space helmet.
'So, are we all here? Good. I'll be as brief as possible, we have no time to waste, stealth and speed are key.'
Cressida pauses and surveys her team. Truro, Cme, Grove and herself. 'We'll use a trawler, should get us as close as possible to The Scintilla without being detected. Cme, you and Truro can get one ready for launch, attach a limpet drop pod and some grapnel. Grove, with me to the armoury.'

Truro follows Cme down the line of vehicles to where three trawlers are suspended from their hydraulic loading mounts. Cme nudges Truro and points to the nearest trawler, 'This one.'
Truro stares up at the soft, matt black exoskeleton of the trawler, trying to work out its full shape and dimension. Light is absorbed by the surface armour of the craft and even her eyes slip off the sides. The ship, a domed wedge shape, seems barely big enough for the four of them. Truro reaches out a hand to touch the strange armour but somehow misses and she stumbles forward in her suit awkwardly. She pulls her self upright and asks Cme, 'Why's it called a Trawler?'.
'Trawls for signals, any noise indicating intelligent life. Camouflaged, like me, so no one sees it. Quiet, runs on moonbeams.'
Cme turns and grins at Truro. ' It absorbs light and converts it to energy, like a leaf, even reflected light of a moon. Stand back, I program in drop pod.'
Truro moves out of the way as Cme quickly types in the codes for a limpet drop pod into a nearby terminal for the loading bay's computerised system. Off in the deep recesses of the bay, a picking crane drone finds a drop pod and moves it across the floor network to the trawler and attaches it to the underside of the craft. Then Cme indicates to the side of bay. 'Grapnels kept over here.'

Grove and Cressida reach the double doors leading to the armoury where her security clearance is picked up by the loading bay computer system. The doors slide open to reveal the brightly lit interior. Along one wall are rows of tranquilators, ranging from hand held stun guns to mobile vanguard canons. Large entity trank-canons, flares, electronic nets, snares and mist traps, a glittering display of knives, machetes, electrostatic charge pikes and a selection of mining blasters and laser cutters cover the remaining walls. Grove stares at the display. The nitty gritty of dealing with dangerous creatures in unknown environments is spelt out loud and clear in this pristine room, bristling with weapons. Cressida finds the cabinet she's looking for and opens a wide drawer. Inside are a set of precision hull cutters with their remote controls. She grabs a couple and then points to the mid-range tranquilators, 'Grab four, just to be on the safe side.'
By the time they reach the trawler, the drop pod is in place and Cme and Truro are attaching the grapnels, long cables with grappling magnets, to the underwing of the craft.

Daniel sits at flight control and presses the intercom for Cressida's space suit. 'Can you hear me?'
'Affirmative, Pilot.' Cressida's voice is calm. 'We are about to board the trawler.'
'Good. We'll monitor from here but maintain communication silence during the reccy.'
'Will let you know when we are ready to launch.'
Daniel pulls up the live feed from the loading bay and projects it onto the viewscreen and watches as the team climb into the cramped cockpit of the trawler, wondering just what is happening on The Scintilla.
'We've located the ship, it's hiding in the shadow between the twin planets, Harp has sent the co-ordinates to the trawler's computer. It will take you about three hours to reach it.'

Senior Pia Rabette pauses momentarily to square her shoulders and straighten her jacket before she knocks lightly on the opaque glass doors of the Newtrishia Directorate Boardroom Suite. It is only a few hours since she raised the Bounty Notice but somehow, she is here, outside this door, summoned long before she'd had a chance to write up her report.
The glass clears to reveal the interior, a small reception space. The door slides open and Pia steps over the threshold. Under her feet, the thick wool carpet gives slightly and sound is muffled in its dense fibres. The lighting is warm, soft and inviting and from somewhere unspecified a voice greets her. 'Pia, welcome. Please take a seat and wait, we know you are here.'
The Newtrishia Corporation's Head Office consists of three interconnected buildings. Mission Control, Sales and Finance and the Directorate. The buildings are old, in one of the first quadrants of the city to be built. The Directorate building itself is one of the oldest on YumYum City, an understated high rise of flat, grey, pioneer blocks.
Pia sits on the edge of the couch. The real leather squeaks slightly as she moves, and she runs a hand across it, to remind herself of the old, cracked surface. The reception space is small, square, plain. Just two sets of opaque glass doors, the couch and a large company logo on the opposite wall.
Pia waits, wondering what is going on behind the other set of glass doors.

The Directorate sit around a virtual table, each a holographic projection from wherever they happened to be in the Five Galaxies. Seven people in charge of Newtrishia Corporation.
Seven, so there is never a deadlock on a vote. Each in charge of a division; Sales, Finance, Mission Control, Marketing, Corporate, Resource and Logistics. Erica, Dovald, Votive, Luc, Asim, Collier and Rain respectively.

'The easiest way to clean up this mess is to dispatch a restoration unit. They can't have got too far. We can write off the ship, it's an old Ark class, it owes us nothing.' Dovald is rarely interested in inter-corporation intrigue. 'Cut our losses. We still have a slew of other galaxies of interest in that sector.. Do we know which one they are in?'
'I will not let you destroy the Saturn Anne II. Newtrishia cannot simply keep 'losing ships' because it's a conveniently quick solution to a problem. The ship is old but the crew are some of our finest. We need to protect them.' Collier indignantly interrupts.
Votive sighs and expressively opens her hands wide, including all of them in her gesture. 'Arguing is not constructive in this situation. The facts are obvious. Pia has lost control of this mission. We either replace her or get her back on track. The Bounty Notice will have already been picked up. Sooner or later a hunter will work out Edwear is no longer in the Five Galaxies along with Mentor, Kainya and Scint Bourbon.'
'Scint Bourbon is involved? Scintillator Entertainment?' Asim groans and shakes his head. 'In that case, we definitely can't use a restoration unit. She is too high profile, not to mention the cost of the settlement on her life insurance. How did she get caught up in this?'
'No one is killing anyone. My source at Alimentorum made it clear that this is still very much a kidnap situation. Their operative, Kainya has, for some reason, gone rogue and they think Edwear is the reason. Scint and her ship were to hand and her ship is capable of intergalactic travel.' Votive shrugs her shoulder. 'My source thinks they have followed the Saturn Anne II across the universe for some reason. Maybe for a huge ransom, play Alimentorum and Newtrishia off against each other.'
'And your source is?' Dovald asks. Unhappy at being denied his opinion. Votive deflects Dovald's question, she is not about to reveal the Controller contacted her directly.
'My source is from Alimentorum. They have lost contact with their operative and contacted us when they saw the Bounty Notice. This is footage of the kidnap.' Votive leans forward and activates the video message from Alimentorum. Over the virtual table the footage of Kainya grabbing Edwear, Mentor and Scint Bourbon from the Rink plays out.
'So Alimentorum know where we have sent the Saturn Anne?' Erica asks.
'No, we don't even know where the Saturn Anne is. Only Pia has that information at the moment.' Votive pauses.
'Pia and, presumably, this Kainya person.' Erica adds.
'Yes, Kainya might well have tracked our ship, or she could just be out there, somewhere beyond the Five Galaxies.' Votive tries to get back on track. 'I want to get Pia to grasp this situation and get it back under control. We'll tender the bounty notice to one of our hunters, keep it in house. I'll liaise with Alimentorum. It is in both our corporate interests to keep this whole thing quiet until we can ascertain just exactly what is going on.'
'So we can leave it with you to clean this up?' Dovald can see a way to wash his hands of the whole thing.
Votive nods, 'Yes, Dovald. I shall take responsibility.'
'Good. It is, after all, one of your missions. I vote in favour.' Dovald raises his hand and the other six all follow his lead.
One by one, the holographic projections switch off until only Votive remains. She selects a different roomscape and presses the intercom to the Boardroom Suite. 'Pia, please enter the Boardroom now. Thank you for waiting so patiently.'

Next Episode soon...

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

I'd probably be a Space Drub...

(All rights reserved.)

'Hello and welcome to Oola's Intergalactic Tuneship, Eerie.

My name is Trisha and today, I am going to talk about my dystopian science fiction story blog, Zoology.
I thought it would be interesting to look at the social structure of the Five Galaxies where the story is set with, hopefully, no spoilers!

So, Zoology is based in the distant future, long after we ran out of food on Earth and moved off-world into other galaxies in search of new resources. By the time we we meet up with the crew of the Saturn Anne II, there are Five Galaxies overrun by us humans. These are overseen by the all-powerful Corporations who control the food supply and are in constant competition with each other. As the byline says, in the future, food is the new gold...
I am going to look two sections of this society; the Space Drubs and the Journey Workers.

I'd probably be a Space Drub...
In the Five Galaxies, a lot of everyday tasks are either automated or done by robots and computers so low skilled Corporation jobs are hard to come by. Plus, you need to have an inter-galaxy permit and a clean space-rad level to work for one of the big Corporations and those things are not cheap to buy. So there is a vast population, an underclass, of Space Drubs. People who drift in and out of temporary low paying and often illegal work, scratching a living from the underbelly of the Five Galaxies. Caught up in gambling, fighting, often sleeping rough or working on the gruelling freight shuttles, life doesn't seem so great but there is an upside to being a space drub. Freedom! Free from the control of the Corporations. If you are a Space Drub you are free to live your life on your own terms, across the Five Galaxies. Like the old proverb says, 'You can't sue a Space Drub.' which basically means, if you have nothing, no one can take it away from you.

So how do you get to be a Space Drub? 
There are three main ways.

First, you are born into a space drub family. Second you are left on the streets as an orphan and third, you lose your nice Corporation journey worker job and your inter galaxy permit with it... It won't be long before you can't pay for your apartment or your food and you are pulling three month freight runs with your space-rad level through the roof, you'll soon be gambling your last scad to get by.

But I wouldn't want to be a Journey Worker...
The next largest population sector across the Five Galaxies are the journey workers. This covers anyone working for one of the large Corporations. They are skilled and semi skilled workers who keep the corporate wheels turning and live lives of relative security as long as they work without complaint and toe the line. All journey workers are either directly or indirectly employed by the Corporations, whether a scientist on an exploration mission, a DJ on a DEMI sounder station playing old drub sounder songs or a tech hiker ripping the latest software for Dine-a-Luck customers. All are in the grip of the Corporations.
A journey worker will be educated, housed, have access to health care and receive a small pension once no longer fit to work and, in return, they will dedicate their lives to the Corporations. Life is a journey, work is the destination.

So how do you escape being a journey worker or a space drub? Money. Lots of it and because the Corporations control the flow of money through out the Five Galaxies, chances are, if you are a Space Drub or Journey Worker, that is what you will always be...

Next time I'll be looking at two other sections of Zoology society, the Super Rich and the Corporations.'

Friday, 29 September 2017

Zoology ~ Episode Twenty Seven

(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)

Twenty Seven

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.

Next episode...

Previous Episode 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Zoology ~ Episode Twenty Six

(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)

Twenty Six

Alimentorum Plaza stretches across a whole quadrant of the city. At street level the old city spreads out, a grid of intersecting blocks of housing tenements, shopping ordertoriums, sleep-pod motels and Dine-A-Lucks all criss-crossed with maglev lanes. Tourmaline takes the ramp to the Plaza, rising up over the city to where manicured orchards march in rows around the reclamation water gardens and high-rise office towers of Alimentorum. In the centre of the Plaza is a large cathedral-like structure, a soaring space of silicon quartz and copper track walls. Festooned with energy-generating solar ferns and rushing waterfalls throwing up a cooling mist as they pour into the moat, the whole building is a computer, the hardware housing the Controller.
The executive car park is empty apart from one other saloon so Tourmaline parks next to it and wonders whether he has the time of the meeting wrong. Where are the rest of the Board? The car park lift takes him to the robe room, an antechamber where rows of anti-static, hooded grey robes, masks and slippers wait, like meditating monks, in front of a wall of cubicles. Tourmaline changes into a robe and slippers, feeling the smart-gel fabric shrink to his body, for a moment cold and unnerving until his body heat creates an equilibrium with it.
He steps through the dustlock and waits while every iota of dust and scurf is blown away by a powerful vortex air shower. Then the dustlock releases its outer door and he steps through into the boardroom.
The boardroom stretches away for fifty meters, a dark, quiet space with soaring buttresses, threads of gold picked out in the polished onyx. Half way along the room is the interface, the rest of the room is empty.
'Hello?' For some reason Tourmaline finds his voice is quavery and weak in the gloom as he wanders over to the interface. His slippers stick slightly to the floor, squeaking with an amphibious sigh over the quartz. A large holographic representation of a graph of intersecting nodes is playing out in real time. An ever changing ribbon dancing in the air.
'Tourmaline Joyce, thank you for coming.'
'Am I the only one here, Controller?'
'I must speak with you alone about a serious matter.'
The graph changes to a globe made out of a grid, a network of light points firing in random swathes over the surface, changing from silver to amethyst in mesmerising patterns.
'Forgive me, I am distracted by our new prototype, Gridstar. This is a representation of our new moon 'Dine-a-Luck Chicken Farm' in the Fourth Galaxy. These grid points are tiny sensor phones scattered across the ground, sending a signal to a network of satellites around the moon as the flock passes. With it, we can track the flock as it moves across the sand pans, following the new food growth. The egg pickers can then target the recent roosts more efficiently and the egg picking yield rises...'
'Yes, yes, Controller, we discussed this at the last board meeting.' Tourmaline is not in the slightest bit interested in egg production.
'I have been analysing data and predicting models of behaviour. Now I can run predictions on the egg harvest with almost 98% accuracy, allowing us to pre-price our commodity...'
Tourmaline wonders if this is actually going anywhere. The Controller tended to think across a series of subjects correlating experiences to fit the subject matter in hand.
'I am good at prediction modelling which leads me to this new matter...'
The globe changes back to the graph, this time a three-dimensional set of intersecting lines. 'We have reached a crux. A point of intersection from some very random reactions. This will lead either to a zenith point in the graph, with good outcomes for Alimentorum or a nadir, a bad outcome for us all.'
'In egg production?'
'In a much more delicate matter, Tourmaline. In the area of corporate espionage.'
Tourmaline raises an eyebrow and curls his lips in a half smile. So much more interesting than eggs.
'Yes, Alimentorum runs counter measures to ensure new food revenue streams found by other corporations do not upset our own growth projections. One of our operatives was targeting a Newtrishia mission, to a new galaxy. She had forged a link with the consignor in charge.'
Tourmaline tries to work out where this could be going but fails. 'Was she successful?'
'Yes. She then managed to track down the Ark ship for the mission departing from Sayonara Space Station. She should have tracked it and reported back to me.'
'And she didn't?'
'No. I have not heard from her since. There was a suspicious vanishing of a Port Adjunct. Then nothing until these started to appear on the DEMISE. I have taken several feeds and rolled them into a diorama for you of what I consider to be a crux moment.'
Tourmaline steps back slightly as a large three dimensional projection fills the space in front of him of 'The Rink'. He watches, absorbed by the theatre of the fire show only to be is shocked when Scint Bourbon's ship appears and even more shocked to see Scint herself, dangling from a rope.
'What in the Five Galaxies is she doing?'
'You recognise Scint Bourbon?'
Tourmaline nods.
'She is with Mentor, one of our recruitment officers. He is with Consignor Edwear Linnet, the consignor in charge of the Newtrishia Mission. They were picked up by our operative. An assassin class espionage operative named Kainya who, for some reason, hijacked Scint's ship at Sayonara spaceship and then kidnapped them at the show.'
'So.. where are they now?'
'That, Tourmaline, is the crux of the matter. I have asked you and Juno here today to act as a block vote. I think it is safe to say Scint would want you to be proxy on her behalf.'
'A vote on what?'
'On keeping this matter secret until we can pinpoint their location and find out what Kainya is doing.'
'Secret? You just said she's been kidnapped!'
'By one of our own spies. Kainya does not know she is a Board Member, none of them do. She is simply a member of the super rich to them.'
'Have you located the ship?'
'Not yet, I am searching the Five Galaxies as we speak for a signature but I do not have the luxury of a Gridstar like Chicken Farm to help me. It will take time to locate them. Time to model the likely outcomes, good or bad..'
'Where's Juno?'
'She is waiting for you in the lounge bar.'
'She has agreed to this silence?'
'Yes, Tourmaline, she has.'
Tourmaline paces up and down the boardroom, trying to work out what is for the best. 'Will you keep me informed at all times and we can review this decision if a ransom is asked for?'
'Yes. That is acceptable, Tourmaline. Thank you.'
The diorama changes back to the Gridstar and a line of flashing LEDs points the way to the lounge bar. Evidently the meeting is over and Tourmaline follows the lights, his slippers squeaking in the quiet gloom.

Next episode..

Previous episode

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

What Did That Stand For? A list of Zoology acronyms, abbr. etc...

(All rights reserved.)

DEMISE/DEMI ~ Dark Energy Message Impelling Service Extranet

'Called DEMI for short, nearly all of the Five Galaxies messaging and news broadcasting travelled along its chain of galaxy-encircling, interlocking rings of dark matter tubes, empty of everything except dark energy. The energy, free of any other force, travels at ferocious FTL speeds, taking any packet of radio signals broadcast into it along with it.'

MOGZ ~ Minerals, Oils, Gas and Zoology claim.

POSSUM ~ Portable Outboard Ship Schematics and Diagnostics Computer (also available palm-sized).

Monday, 18 September 2017

Zoology ~ Episode Twenty Five

(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)

Twenty Five

Daniel glances at the time, another shift rotation almost at the end, working round the clock and still no nearer tracking down the ship whose signature they picked up deep in Gyre. He runs a hand over his scalp, bristles turning to a soft white down, he needs to sharpen up. Sleep, they all need some sleep. He re-reads the curt nano packet dispatch, sent from Newtrishia Head Office, hoping to glean as much meaning from it as he can. 'Change of consignment handler. New designation Senior Consigner Pia Rabette. Maintain communication silence till further notice.' Is it related to the tracker, to the arrival of a ship? The change of a mission consignor is almost unheard of. What was going on back there? And where is the ship whose signature they picked up?

'Any sign yet?' Daniel closes the message and scrolls through the readings on the navcom. Whatever arrived in Wentletrap while they were hiding in Gyre is now nowhere to be found.
'Nothing yet.' Cressida, Aliya and Truro are busy running a series of projections, quartering the local space around the gas giant, trying to work out a probable location. 'If they made it to the asteroid belt we'll never pick them out...'
'Doubt any ship would be quick enough to make it that far.' It occurs to Daniel the three dimensional holo-weaver has fallen silent, finally finished printing its model of the galaxy and he moves over to inspect it. For a moment or two he struggles to find where the solar system they are in is, tucked inside a tight spiral of gaseous dust, almost hidden. An idea occurs to him, 'How many moons does the gas giant have?'
'Five, three big enough to hide a ship.' Aliya replies. 'We've checked them.'
'Just a thought.' Daniel replies.
At the far end of the flight deck, on the mapping tables, Grove, Yume and Harp are busy compiling the first claim titles for the gas giants.
'I need a name for the creature...' Harp pauses for a moment in his work.
'How about Porpema Megalodon 'Truro'' Grove answers.
Yume laughs as Truro, hearing her name,joins them.
'You laughing at me?'
'Grove is proposing to call that creature after you.' Yume explains.
'She did call it first. Giant jelly shark, right?' Grove adds. 'Porpema, a type of tentacled, floating jelly, Megalodon, a species of ancient giant shark, your name because you called it.' Grove explains to a bemused Truro.
Yume turns from the mapping tables and calls over Daniel. 'Pilot, we are ready to send the exploratory survey data and the Minerals, Oils, Gas and Zoology claims.'
'Good work, I'll attach my status report once I've completed it and send it with the MOGZ. We need to get back to into shift routine, so you, Grove, Cressida and Truro take four hours sleep now. Then we'll switch back to eight hour shift rotations. This will be our team groups for now. No arguments!' He adds, sensing Cressida is about to disagree. 'Do we have a designation name for this Solar System?'
Yume nods. 'It reminded us of the First Galaxy, so we have suggested Memento Sol.'
Daniel nods in approval. 'Memento Sol it is.'

Before Cressida leaves the flight deck, Daniel calls her over and hands her a palm possum. 'You need to read this. It goes no further than the two of us.' Cressida reads the message on the possum and whistles softly through her teeth. 'Change of consignor? No communications, what about the MOGZ? '
'Not sent yet. I don't know what's going on back there, but we could be dealing with more than just a corporate spy mission. I want to move us out of this solar system ASAP, shake off whoever, whatever is on our tail. If we haven't tracked down what came through a wormhole by the end of this next four hours, we are jumping out of here.'

Senior Consignor Pia Rabette mentally steels herself for the day ahead. By taking over the mission from Consignor Edwear Linnet, she would be able to control the flow of information for at least a short while, give her a chance to find out what exactly is going on and, more to the point, where in the hell Linnet is. Her first task of the day would be to terminate his contract and raise a Corporate Bounty Notice on him. Her message to The Saturn Anne II was perhaps a mistake, a traceable piece of evidence involving her but there was no other choice. In delaying the MOGZ claims, she has a small window to work out what is going on and get the situation under control before she reports to the Newtrishia Corporation Directorate. At that point, it will be her head on the block, not Linnet's.

Tourmaline Joyce turns up the volume with a wave of his hand near the dashboard. One of the few perks of still driving to work, as far as he could see, was to be able to listen to whatever he wanted to and today, its Llama Delivery, an old drub sounder band rarely played on the DEMI sounder stations anymore. There is still snow melting on the windscreen and the dawn is hours away. It will take his maglev Hypersleek Saloon exactly two hours and ten minutes to reach Alimentorum HQ from his split-level chalet nestled in the condominium foothills of Mount Veracity. He should arrive with plenty of time for the meeting, suddenly convened overnight, by the Controller.
The drub sounder spins its lyric loudly in his ears, blocking out the endless traffic ebb and flow, junctions and undercuts, streams of journey workers and the crowding press of sky rise blocks. 'Chasing the dawn again. Chasing the dawn again. You're chasing a sun no longer shining...'
As the only child in a long line of only children, Tourmaline Joyce the thirtieth, holds twenty-three original shares in Alimentorum. Most of the original shares had long since been merged and consolidated into large corporate holdings, represented on the Committee by an ever-changing roll of chief executives. Only Tourmaline, Scint Bourbon and Juno Ramos are original shareholders and Scint only got her hands on seven original shares by beating him at a very select hi-stakes poker game many, many years ago. The three of them have formed an effective block vote in the past and he is looking forward to catching up with them both at the meeting this morning. They all kept their shareholder status secret, preferring to hide the true nature of their wealth from the hungry glare of the Five Galaxies, making their little group all the more exclusive for it. He drums his fingers on the hand rests in time to the music, letting his mind empty and fill instead with the soundscape of Llama Delivery.
'Empty stomachs don't sleep easy, a broken promise hard to mend. Hunger's like an endless night where we're all chasing the dawn again...'

On board The Scintilla, Scint Bourbon carefully locks herself into the private bathroom of her berth in the pretence of doing an inventory of the suite. She keys in the panic code for the shielded computer system she keeps hidden in the vanity glass and starts writing code for a message to send to the Newtrishia ship. If there is one thing she knows how to do, it is to keep her hand hidden. Kainya might think she has all the cards but this is her ship and she always like to keep an ace or two up her sleeve. The message ready and the communication channel secure, Scint presses send.

'Mayday. Mayday. This is Scint Bourbon of the ship The Scintilla. I have been kidnapped and request immediate help. Mayday, Mayday.'

More episodes soon...

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Zoology ~ Episode Twenty Four

(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)

Twenty Four

Mentor, Edwear and Scint are on the flight deck of The Scintilla, trying to take in what Kainya is telling them. Edwear can feel his nausea coming back in waves as he tries to work through what he is hearing. They had followed a tracking device Kainya had thrown onto the Saturn Anne II, the ship on his mission, across the universe to some unknown galaxy on a ship stolen from Scint Bourbon who, somehow, Mentor has managed to pick up and bring with them, flown by Kainya, not his Kainya, the charming recruitment go-getter but some new Kainya. A woman who deals in espionage, theft and kidnap and who knows what else. A woman who seems perfectly at ease with their present situation, oblivious to the enormity of the dangers they face.
Mentor notices Edwear's look of growing desperation as she talks and he places a hand on his arm, whispering 'Never mind, you hated your job at Newtrishia and I'm pretty sure Alimentorum only wanted you for a spy. At least we have a chance to shape our own futures now. '
'How? How are we going to do that? Out here...with what, this ship? It's nothing more than a flashy glug tug, you think I don't know what it takes to survive out in these new galaxies? The kind of ship and crew it takes? This isn't about selling secrets or starting some new life. There is nothing, nowhere out here that is safe... and the only ship we know that is out here has no capture orders for buccaneers. Because that is what this is. Piracy. What in the Five Galaxies were you thinking of?' The last bit of Edwear's rant is at volume straight at Kainya who breaks off from her explanation and stares at him, taking in the small globs of perspiration on his brow and the fear in his voice.
She reaches to her side and pulls out the modified tranquilator from its holster and aims it squarely at his face, point blank range. 'It's what it's always been about Edwear, money. Lots and lots of money. More scadillions than even Scint here can imagine. Now, don't make me regret stopping to pick you up because I thought you were on my side. No corporations, no espionage, no secrets, no arguments. Out here, you are either on my side or dead. Understand?'
Edwear nods, his blood, flooded with both terror and admiration pounding at his temples. Mentor and Scint hold their breath as Kainya, satisfied with his answer, lowers the tranker and resumes her explanation.
'So, the way I see it, we just need to beat them at their own game. Disrupt them enough to lay claim to what they find before they can claim it for the corporation. Play the corporations against each other, feeding them information while cutting them out completely. Claim this galaxy, not in their name but in ours and grow rich in the process.' Kainya re-holsters the tranquilator and then stretches, interlacing her fingers and cracking her knuckles out in front of her as though physically ridding herself of the tension of the moment.
Scint ponders her situation as a thick silence falls across the flight deck. 'I should be offended by you calling my ship a glug tug but you have a point, what's your name.. Edwear? ' Edwear nods miserably at Scint, unwilling to voice an opinion again. 'This is no Ark, not even close. Sure I can live in it like a hotel, zip across the Five Galaxies, live the luxe life my wealth affords but it isn't equipped for exploration. I'm not even sure what actually is on this ship, it was being refitted at Sayonara Spaceport.. '
'Perhaps we need to make an inventory, that would be sensible and maybe we could all, you know, start again. With introductions, work out some common ground, how we ended up... out here....' Mentor hopes he can smooth over the tension by bringing a bit of order. 'I'm Mentor and I work for Alimentorum in Recruitment, normally management level. I was put in charge of looking after Edwear while you, Kainya, were busy, presumably tracking Edwear's ship.' Mentor gestures to Scint, hoping she'll follow on. 'Well, you all know who I am.' Scint sighs and folds her arms. 'I am Scint Bourbon the scadillionaire owner of Scintillator Entertainment.'
''Consignor Edwear Linnet, Newtrishia Corporation. I thought you cared about me Kainya. You were just after my ship.'
'If I didn't care about you, you'd be dead right now. Edwear, we need to move past whatever it is you think I am and accept what I actually am. None of us are naive enough to think the corporations don't spy on each other. My name is Kainya and I'm a facilitator of information for Alimentorum. Or I was, right up until I stole this ship...'
'You still could be.' Mentor gently interrupts, 'The company has no idea what is going on. We could return...'
'No. Not happening. I've had enough of it, played their dirty games enough. It's about time someone stuck it to the corporations and at the moment that someone looks like me.'
'Is Kainya even your real name?' Edwear asks sullenly.
'Does it even matter?' Kainya replies. 'You're right, Mentor. We need to inventory the ship, find out what we have and how to use it to our advantage, I want to find the Saturn Anne II before it finds us. Keep one step...'
Before Kainya can finish her sentence The Scintilla's proximity alarm warning starts sounding around the ship. 'Proximity alert. Impact trajectory identified. Impact in thirty seconds...Proximity alert. Impact trajectory identified...'
''Where?' Scint jumps to her feet and sprints to the pilot's console. The maincom responds to Scint's voice and displays a graphic over the viewscreen. From within the nearest gas giant, something is emerging directly at them. Something large. 'We need to move!' She yells at the other three. 'Fire thrusters.' Scint can feel the familiar response of the ship as she tries to clear the collision field plotted on the screen in front while the proximity alarm carries on with its countdown. On the screen, Mentor, Edwear and Kainya watch the Saturn Anne II emerging, shedding long vaporous eddies of gas and plasma, filling their field of vision. Herculean and unrelenting in its task to break free of the planet, by comparison, the Scintilla is lost in its wake like a cork on the ocean. The ship passes them, a hair's breadth from impact and for a second, all they have a view of is the name, scored and scarred like a badge of war, SAT....AN... as she sweeps past. The alarm falls silent and the viewscreen clears to reveal the turbulent gas giant below.
'What the...' Edwear points to the screen 'What are those?'
On the viewscreen the surface of the planet is being churned up by a shoal of giant amorphous creatures breaching and throwing spumes of ice into the thin atmosphere. As they swim, a sea of tentacles surrounds them, writhing and searching for their lost prey.

Kainya shakes her head and smiles as she joins Edwear by the viewscreen, slipping an arm around his shoulders and pulling him close. 'That, Edwear, is our first scadillion.' She reaches over and kisses him gently on the forehead. 'Don't be that journey worker anymore, the Five Galaxies are far behind us. This is it, this is our future, this is our galaxy for the taking.'