The bioforming supplies were delivered early the next morning and Amanpreet and Niobe checked the inventory while Linda cooked them breakfast.
“It looks like everything is here,” Amanpreet said finally. “Let’s get it stowed, eat breakfast, and then set off.” She glanced at Niobe. “Or do you want to stay a few more hours? I know you don’t see your mother as much as you’d like.”
“It’s fine,” Niobe said. “I won’t say I wouldn’t like to stay longer bur I know we need to get moving and Mum does as well. We’ve already lost time so we shouldn’t make any unnecessary delays so we have some flexibility for necessary ones.”
Amanpreet looked at Niobe for a long moment then nodded. “Well, if you’re sure.”
“I am,” Niobe said. “Come on, let’s get this loaded. I’m starving.”
Their escort was waiting when the Whisper re-entered orbit and rendezvoused with Promise. Amanpreet couldn’t help blinking when she saw the four state of the art military sticks on the viewscreen.
“They must really be worried about the Vaian Military who escaped,” she said.
“It certainly looks like it,” Niobe agreed. “Ah! They’re hailing us.” She listened to the message and nodded. “They’re sending us data for a slightly roundabout route to Talis because the Vaians have been hitting hyperspace traffic on the normal routes.” She pursed her lips. “And bad news – they think there is a leak somewhere and they are specifically looking for Kayla because they are boarding the ships they intercept–”
“Boarding? In hyperspace?” Kayla exclaimed. “Don’t they know how dangerous that is? Are they stupid?”
“Apparently, yes,” Niobe said. “But as I was saying they are boarding the ships, searching them – looking for someone or something – and then letting them go. Though they are also stealing any cargo that’s aboard.”
“That certainly sounds like they are looking for Kayla,” Amanpreet agreed. “But they are going to get themselves and their victims killed or worse doing that.”
â€œYes,â€ Niobe agreed. â€œBut so far they have a ridiculous pattern of good luck. No ships are missing.â€
“That’s good at least,” Amanpreet said. “Kane, I want you to take the first navigation run so check the route from the message.”
“Okay, Am.” He headed for the ladder to the dome.
Eight hours later they dropped out of hyperspace to change navigators and check for any message packets.
As Mark was climbing into the dome Niobe gave a groan and buried her face in her hands. Kane, who had already climbed down rushed over to her and rubbed her shoulder.
“What wrong, Niobe?” he asked softly.
“I- I hate to break the pattern,” Niobe said weakly. “But a Celish freighter enroute to Talis didn’t arrive this morning. They sent out a search and found it – or the remains of it anyway – together with a much less damaged but still unusable Vaian ship in hyperspace not far out. It was clearly a botched boarding attempt from the nature of the damage. They’ve accounted for the bodies of the freighter crew but not the Vaians and there’s evidence they might have been rescued.”
“Mother of the living!” Amanpreet shuddered. Hyperspace exposure was no way to die. “H-how many?”
“A crew of twelve,” Niobe said. “And no survivors.” She raised her head finally and punched the console in front of her. “Damn them! They would have had time to rescue them if they’d tried. She took a breath and listened to the rest of the packet before groaning again. “And there’s… well not worse news, but news that makes this worse for us. The freighter was travelling the same alternative route as we are.” She shook her head. “That means there is definitely a leak somewhere. What do we do now?”
If you enjoy my writing and haven’t already please consider becoming a patron via my Patreon page.