Technically, everything after this is gravy because the target number for NaNoWriMo is 50,000. In my opinion, the more I can do of this, the better. I’m going to have to bump it up to 80,000 words anyway before I can send it out.
“Look, Oft,” I said as the three of us walked around the abandoned (permanently, I hoped) Scout camp, “you and me, we share enough core assumptions to tell me what we’re looking for, right? So what is it, anyway?”
“It’s something that we’re not sure actually exists,” Oft replied. “One minute mark.” I was in front, because Oft had asked me to wander around the site and randomly change direction at regular intervals. Oft watched the Anticipant while this was going on, while the Anticipant watched me. “You know how the Scouts conduct their Jamboree rituals on captured ships, yes?”
“Sure. They go through the crew, throw some of them out of the airlock, and let the rest go. Or they put the crew in survival pods, and take the ship. Everybody knows that.”
“Yes. Only sometimes there’s no survivors at all. Say a ship simply disappears, near the current haunts of the Scouts. Was it taken by them? Did it fall afoul of something else in the Tomb Worlds? Or was it something worse? One minute mark.”
“Worse?” I frowned as I turned again. “What’s worse than a ship being lost with all hands?”
“A ship that has gathered together with others of her ilk. There are a number of vessels out there with vile reputations, Chief Pilot. Ships that always seem to be near places where disasters or depravities occurred, with crews who are decidedly unwelcome in the civilized places. When one of those disappear, sensible people do not simply crack a beer and salute the ruthless blind implacability of the cosmos. We much prefer to be certain that the bastards are safely dead before we cross them off our lists.”