The journey time from Wellbefallen to Breuse was just under five days with The Ace of Spades travelling at FTL:16. Breuse was the nearest of eight planets to the star, Caliburnus. As soon as The Ace of Spades dropped out of hyperspace, it emerged in a busy system. Freighters and ore carriers plied the spacelanes between the planets, small, fast interceptors and attack ships engaged in mock dogfights, while drop ships staged practice drops against Breuse itself and two other planets, Churchill and Sarsen. Lynda Pelligrosso and Sharuna Randall, who were on sensor duty, were kept busy keeping track of all of the activity.
Kimberley was instructed to wait in a holding pattern until the system controllers could plot a course for her to follow. She invited Mearc Sterling to join her on the bridge. He gratefully accepted the invitation and arrived promptly, accompanied by his companion, Sheas Danelish. Also on the bridge were pilot Storm Galloway, gunners Celeste and Jeanette Grey and ship's security chief, Julia Frostorm.
"What do you think, Kimberley?" she asked. "Do you think they could have been the ones who attacked that ghost ship, The Walleran?"
"It's certainly possible," Kimberley agreed, "but we'd need more proof. Log it anyway."
"Aren't you going to go after them?" Mearc asked. "If they did kill those poor folks on The Walleran, they need to be brought to justice."
"Much as I'd like to, they're too far away and I am not going to go chasing after them," Kimberley replied with a shrug. "I'm sorry but getting you home is my number one priority right now."
"Yeah, I understand" Mearc said with a resigned sigh. "That makes sense."
"Hey, you slowpokes!" its belligerent captain announced over the comms channel. "Move out of my way. I'm coming through."
"You didn't say the magic word," Kimberley replied, all sweetness and nice.
"Huh?" was the bewildered response.
"You didn't say please," Kimberley said. She was used to dealing with trouble makers and she knew straight away that this guy was a bully, used to getting his own way. He didn't intimidate her and she felt he needed a lesson in civility and good manners. "I'm not moving until you say please."
"Fuck you, bitch!" the captain snarled.
"Ooh, an intelligent response," Kimberley said sarcastically. "Did you learn that one at play school?"
"Outta my way, bitch," he grumbled. "I ain't got time to deal with you."
"Well, it's been a real pleasure chatting with you," Kimberley smiled. "Y'all have a nice day, y'hear."
He didn't reply. Communication was abruptly cut off.
"What an asshole!" Storm said as she shook her head in disgust.
"Sadly, there are a lot of them about," Kimberley noted.
The rest of the folk on the bridge chuckled and nodded in agreement.
"I'm picking up a sensor reading of a Class III freighter heading out-system," Sharuna announced. "She's an independent trader called the Savannah Byrche."
"Did you say the Savannah Byrche?" Mearc asked expectantly.
"Yes," Sharuna replied. "Do you know her?"
"Indeed I do," Mearc answered. "We use her to export some of our produce to clients out-system."
"That's interesting," Lynda interjected,"because according to my readings, she's running empty. Her cargo holds are empty."
"Unless..." Mearc said with a frown. "...something bad has happened at the colony!"
"Oh, my god, Mearc!" Sheas cried in concern. "What could possibly have happened?"
"I honestly don't know," Mearc said dejectedly. "We have to get down there. Quickly."
"We will," Kimberley said reassuringly. "We'll sort this out soon."
The mood on board had changed suddenly from excited anticipation to worrisome concern.