The shape loomed over him. Its shadow passing over his suit dropped the temperature gauge on his wrist. It was a giant gold-colored shark's tooth gliding silently across the night sky.
    Of course, it wasn't really night. He was clinging to an asteroid, far off the beaten path, watching the starship pass, waiting for the right moment to--
    He jumped. After a second or two, he landed with a soft whup on the port wing. Here, the cameras and sensors couldn't see him, but he had to move quickly. He inched along, toward the main body of the craft. He reached a service hatch and popped it open with his omni-tool, disabling the sensors with an electronic jammer. He crawled into the narrow space, squeezing in with fuel lines and conduits. Now, to get into the cabin and kill the captain.
    He was an assassin, a murderer for hire. He was also a skunk, but not many people were racist anymore. His name was Steve Darta. He was thinking of changing it to Morgris or Fangan or something. Steve was such a common, embarrassing name for the best killer in the Bluefeather system, though he was anything but. In truth, he was a rookie, fresh out of the shadowy training cells hidden beneath a city on some world or another. But he saw himself as a knife in the dark, the unseen death.
    He reached another service lock and climbed inside. The hiss of air told him he was now in the cabin spaces. He popped off his helmet and crawled along the duct, trying to remember the map his masters had shown him for the job. This was just a Prion-class cruiser, tiny compared to most starships. But where the heck was the captain's cabin?
    He came to a grille with soft cream light coming through. Something smelled good. He peeked through into the kitchen, where some kind of stew was cooking. There was nobody around. Well, at least he could poke his head out and get his bearings. He silently removed the grill and looked out into the room.
    A kangaroo on the counter bashed the skunk's head with a frying pan. He was out cold. She climbed down and hauled him out of the duct and onto the floor.
    “Got him, Evey,” She said into the com set on the wall. “Skunky here was in the ducts.”
    “All right, I’m sending Don to pick him up.” the captain’s voice replied. After a bit, he came in, his massive badger frame filling the door.
    “Honestly, I don’t see why they bother anymore. They must know by now assassins and the like don’t work on us.” His voice was gruff, but anyone who knew him knew that he was like an emu egg: rough and hard on the outside, but full of mushy goo. He was mostly harmless. “Guess I better lock him in a hold somewhere.” He said, dragging the unconscious skunk out.
    The kangaroo chef sung as she resumed working on her stew:
    I’m Henry the eighth, I am, I am!
    En-er-ee the eighth, I am, I am!
    I got married to the widow next door-
    She’s been married seven times before!
    And people say, Oh En-er-ee! En-er-ee!
    Won’t marry Willy or a Sam! No Sam!
    En-er-ee the eighth, I am, I am!
    En-er-ee the eighth, I am!

    On a completely different ship, an otter was contemplating suicide.
    Kara looked out the window. Outside was a swirl of color, mostly blues and greens. Farther out, tiny lights flashed on and off, perhaps some kind of phosphorescence or reflections off of metallic dust. The Prime Meridian was passing through the Seahorse Nebula. They’d been in the swirling mists for a day or two, and weren’t likely to see empty space for another week. Her brother, Shane, walked up and stared out with her, but quickly got bored.
    “This is, by far, the most interesting dust I’ve ever seen. Much better than watching paint dry.” His sarcasm was a comfort. She hated this ship, hated the reason they were on it...
    “Do you think,” she said, quietly, “That somewhere there’s a heaven? That there’s some place in the universe we haven’t been yet, where Mom is-”
    She couldn’t finish. Their mother had died not a month ago. It’d been in her will that she should be buried on Vename, where she was born. She’d lived there before she met their father and moved to Panillion, the capital of the galaxy. Now she was going back on this massive gilt monstrosity. Kara felt she was being left behind in some way. She was ashamed to think that way about their mother, but her heart was resolute.
    Shane stirred.
    “Come on, we should get back downstairs.”
    She didn’t move.
    “Kara,” He continued more softly, “I miss her too. These past weeks, I’ve thought of nothing but her embrace, her voice, how she was always there. But we can’t stop living. You haven’t eaten in days, and then only some soup.” She looked at him, finally acknowledging him. “Come on, let’s go...” he said.
    The two otters went to a stairwell and down to the kitchens.
    Kara and Shane Basrea were the heirs to a particularly wealthy family, their father being Lord Damien Basrea, Representative of Naenee. They were aristocrats, but their world was far from perfect. Their father was always at senate, and now their mother was gone, too. He wasn’t even on the ship. They didn’t know anyone their age, as they had private tutors for everything from higher mathematics to proper dining etiquette.
    Kara was two years younger than Shane, about 12, and had never had so much as a pet goldfish die. She was devastated by their mother’s passing. She never ate, never slept, and didn’t bother to get dressed beyond her nightgown. She ignored everyone but Shane and had found every hiding place imaginable on the luxurious starship.