“So tell me more about Corona,” Amanpreet said later that evening. “If I recall correctly it’s near the Cascade Hyperspace Storm. I hope hyperspace is stable there.”
“Oh yes,” Oni said. “It’s close to the Cascade but not so much that the hyperspace distortions reach it.” He tilted his head. “And the Cascade has been shrinking for the last few years. The hyperspace experts – such as they are – say it should calm down to the point of no longer being a navigation hazard in the next decade or so.”
“Really,” Amanpreet said. “I didn’t know hyperspace storms died down. I thought they were permanent fixtures.”
“They do but it takes centuries,” he replied. “Even the Ishtari can only name one that has gone in their time in hyperspace.”
“Ah,” she said. “I see. Anyway back to Corona. So it should be a straightforward navigation?”
“Very much so,” he said. “Though we may want to go a bit of a roundabout route in case the Vaians are after us again.â€
Amanpreet pulled a wry face. â€œThey probably will be. I have no idea how we’re going to hide so many escorts once we get to Corona.â€
â€œWe’ll leave them in the outer system,â€ he said. â€œBut it may not be too much of a problem. We’ve heard back from the Council and they want us to try and contact the Coronan system and see if it thinks contact would be safe for the Coronans.â€
â€œUgh, that,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œI understand why they did it but I hope they programmed that thing bloody carefully or they could end up accidentally colonising their own successors. It’d be like Quatermass and the Pit only not deliberate.â€
â€œLike what?â€ Oni asked.
â€œProbably a twentieth century science fiction story,â€ Sangat said. â€œAm’s got a thing for ancient science fiction.â€
â€œOoh!â€ Oni said. â€œA fellow fan. I’ll have to look that one up. Have you ever been to the Ancient Futures Convention on Alysta?â€
â€œNo,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œI keep meaning to but I always have a commission when it’s on. Maybe next year.â€
â€œYou should,â€ Oni said. â€œIt’s great fun. Anyway, the rest of our escort should be here tomorrow so we’ll leave then.â€ He looked like he was about to say more but the income interrupted him with a urgent chiming. Amanpreet reached over and turned it on.
â€œI’m sorry to disturb you,â€ Midori said. â€œBut the system has sent out a distress call, can you come to the hub quickly?â€
â€œWe’ll be right there.â€ Amanpreet didn’t even bother to close the line as she rushed to the door of her suite with Oni and Sangat behind her.
â€œWhat’s happening?â€ Amanpreet asked as they reached the hub. â€œAre we being attacked?â€
â€œNo,â€ Midori said. â€œWell actually possibly. There’s an unforcast meteor storm incoming that we hadn’t registered yet. It’s going to endanger both the station and the domes. It was the risk to the eggs that triggered the distress call.â€
â€œAn unforcast meteor storm?â€ Sangat’s eyebrows shot up. â€œHow does that happen? That can’t be natural.â€
â€œIt shouldn’t happen,â€ Midori agreed. â€œBut I have no idea how you’d cause one either. We’re sending a probe out to the projected source point in asteroid belt two to investigate.â€
â€œWhen will it hit?â€ Oni asked. â€œHave you got time to prepare? Will it stop our departure for Corona?â€
â€œIt shouldn’t,â€ Midori said. â€œIt won’t hit until the day after tomorrow. Which is good â€“ we’ll have time to get our defenses up and protect the eggs. I’m just glad the Talis computer spotted it and I want to know why ours didn’t.â€ She gave a sigh. â€œWhat’s worrying me and what I think is concerning the computer is that it could be some sort of failsafe set by the people the Talis aliens were destroyed by.â€
â€œThat’s possible,â€ Oni said. â€œBut let’s wait to see what the probe says.â€
Midori nodded. â€œI know, but it’s worrying. What if it is and it tells them about us.â€
â€œThen, since they can’t enter hyperspace it’s still a very long term problem,â€ he said reasonably. â€œWorrying won’t help. Preparing will.â€
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