(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
Earth was abundant. When we had finally finished plundering its resources, we moved on. But our new homes were never as rich. So we sent ships with scientific teams to find new zoology in distant galaxies we could farm, synthesise or simply hunt down and eat.
Daniel Delacroix ~ Expedition Pilot, Veterinary Scientist, 54
Cressida Blythe ~ Expedition Security Specialist, Survival Expert, 38
Aliya Garcia~ Tracker, Secondary Security Specialist, 25
Harp Engelthrop ~ Planetary Ethnobiologist, 27
Grove Jones ~ Large Entity Zoologist, 38
Yume Moto ~ Zoologist, Insectologist, 46
Cme ~ Xenograft, hazardous zoology retrieval unit, microbiologist, years since graft: 10. Actual age protected under a Newtrishia Corporation patent.
Grove Jones stops on the main gangway of the space port and glances at the briefing alert on his digi-billet. The ship he is looking for is called the 'Saturn Anne II' but he can see no sign of it on the computerised docking list boards. Just like the Newtrishia Corporation to hire some tin-can space barge that can't even find its way to the right docking bay. He spots a techanoid and waves the billlet at him. 'Know where this is?'
The teachanoid blinks twice and then pulls the rictus grin of the very poorly made synthetic robot. 'Yes sir! The last bay, in late last night. Boards not updated yet. Very big ship. Have a very happy journey now.'
'Last bay, late. Says it all.' Jones growls in thanks at the too-cheery reply, shoulders his backpack and heads in the direction of the illuminated arrow sign lit up on the techanoid's chest plate.
In the last bay, lost in the deep shadow of the run down warehousing quarter of the space port, the Saturn Anne II gently rocks in her space moorings. She is an Ark class ship, a great hulk of corroding alloys and multi-plane biosynth. Along one flank, her name is emblazoned, scored and scorched over time until all that is legible are the letters, SAT AN . Grove stares up at the name and reads it aloud 'SATAN. Well, that seems appropriate for this particular hell hole of a space port.' He glances around at the dock, a sudden feeling of menace running through his veins but he is alone. Just him and the ship. 'SATAN it is.' He shakes his head, sighs and slaps the side of the ship but instead of the reassuring pressure of metal, the bulkhead shivers and an echo of it runs up through his arm into his mind. Grove leaps back as though stung. Did the ship just whisper the name, 'Annie' to him? He squares his shoulders and gently slaps the side of the ship again, this time whispering 'Annie' but the metal bulkhead simply clangs to his touch.
Harp Engelthrop stands in the cargo hold of the Saturn Anne II and stares at the rows of bio-cages, sealed hazmat tanks and quarantine bays running in corridors the length of the hold. Overhead is a network of inspection gangplanks and environmental control ducts. Even though he knows planets all over the five galaxies need feeding and it is his work, particularly on crop foods, that might help to stave off starvation for billions of people, the sight of an empty ark reminds him of how close to extinction humanity is. The ark, though old, is well equipped. At least the Newtrishia Corporation had invested well in making sure whatever they found would make it back to the galaxies alive. Whether or not Harp would make it back alive would depend on the rest of the team on this mission. He checks the time, the meet and greet is scheduled for 12.00hrs in the galley. Time to go and find out what his chances of survival are.