Monday, March 20, 2017

Story Seed - Absolute Zero: Arrival

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Fifty thousand credits. More money than my little ship and crew could take in with a year's worth of the jobs we usually executed. Fifty thousand credits for a three month journey into the Oort Cloud to a station that didn't officially exist except as rumor. The risk was that my passenger didn't pay up front, but fifty thousand credits was worth the risk, and I could only assume that there must be something at the coordinates he gave us, otherwise he'd be as screwed as the rest of us.

Now I sat in the cockpit, the thin man known only as Keady hovering behind me as we drifted toward what he assured me was the much rumored Absolute Zero station. The asteroid, if you could really call it that covered as it was by structures and gantries, tumbled end over end relative to the view-port. This far from Sol it was dark and only the station lights really gave away the size of the thing. I turned and gave a questioning look at the thin spacer behind me. "This? This is Absolute Zero?" It was far more impressive than I could have imagined. He just nodded. I was about to press him for more information when the comm squawked.

"Unidentified vessel, your ship silhouette and transponder are unregistered. Come to a full stop and identify yourselves. Ship name and port of origin. If you fail to comply in ten seconds you will be fired upon. Over." The comm signal cut off, whomever ran this place was clearly in no mood to play games.

As if thinking the same thing Keady licked his lips, "You'd better comply. They have mass drivers and gigawatt lasers. At least the last time I was here they did."

I was already firing thrusters to bring the ship to a stop relative to the tumbling rock as he said this. I looked back at him again, "How ... how'd they get their hands on military grade weapons?" Keady looked at me with those dark ringed eyes of his and I just shook my head and turned back to my console. I flipped a switch and spoke aloud, "Station is this the Captain Alexander of the Lakini out of Port Vesta, please respond. Over."

The reply came quickly, "Standby Lakini." There was a moment of silence, "Lakini, please state your crew compliment, number of passengers, and business here. Over." Perfunctory and straight to the point.

"Five crew. One passenger. We were hired on specifically to get this man here after the disaster at Hecate station. Over." Probably more information than I needed to give them, but better safe than sorry. The comm was silent, my skin began to itch and I checked the passive sensors to see if they were powering on a weapon system.

"Lakini, who is your passenger? Over."

I sighed, even as station control went this was getting irritating. I thumbed the comm on and gestured to Keady to introduce himself. He nodded and cleared his throat, "This is Keady, authorization code Ee-Ell-Enn-Two-Four-Bee-Omega-One-Six-Epsilon. Over." I didn't know what any of that meant but I assumed station control would. I looked at Keady again, wondering who this man was. Not for the first time since pulling this man from a life pod floating in the debris of Hecate station I wondered just what I had gotten Lakini into.

"Lakini, you are clear to approach docking port Two-Seven-Alpha. Welcome to Absolute Zero. Over." The flight path sent by station control directed me to a large docking spar that jutted off the central mass. I keyed the ship to automated docking and let the computers do the heavy lifting. When I was done I turned but Keady was gone, and I was left once more wondering what lay ahead. I hoped it included fifty thousand credits.

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