An Inheritance of Stars

A Departure

Croswell looked up from his packing as he heard the air-car land in the courtyard beyond his dormitory. From his vantage point on the 5th floor, he was able to see the markings of the Queen’s personal guard. Once the vehicle had landed, 4 men got out while the drive stayed inside despite the warmth of the day. Two of the men took position outside the air-car; from their uniforms they, like the vehicle were part of the Queens Guard. The other two men walked together to the building, and disappeared from Croswell’s sight.

Croswell caught himself fingering the collar of his dress uniforms, still the bare fabric of a student. Later today he would graduate, swear his oath’s to the Realm and to the Navy, and by nightfall he would be in transit to his first post. After 6 years of study, the speed at which today was happening, was almost enough to make him sick to his stomach. Not that he ever would of course, his grandmother Mira would skin him like a Bantha being prepared for a feast. With effort Croswell tore his mind away from the all too graphic images of his grandmother with a bloody vibro-blade, and re-focused on the task at hand; packing.

Several minutes passed before activity outside the window again drew his attention. Croswell looked up as the second two men returned into the courtyard. The one held the door, while the other waved at the waiting vehicle. At this, a further occupant stepped out of the air-car. As he came into veiw Croswell almost choked, the man getting out of the car was High Admiral Chode, what was he doing at the Academy?. The High Admiral’s arrival was greeted by a joyous scream from below his window. Croswell looked down and his eye opened further; exiting the building were the Royal Twins. Princess Alyssia screamed again, and against all decorum ran across the courtyard to embrace the Admiral. “Uncle Chode” she cried out, “its been forever.”

“Uncle Chode?” Croswell did choke slightly for a moment, she called the High Admiral of the Royal Navy “Uncle Chode?” Even for a princess, that’s ballsy he thought. He didn’t know either of the twins at all beyond their reputation. The combination of his family’s financial station, his chosen calling of signal’s operation, and his position as an upper year student meant that he didn’t interact with either of them in any normal way. However that didn’t mean that he wasn’t aware of the rumors; genetically modified children, groomed from birth, and raised to rule the Kingdom. Usually Croswell didn’t put much stock in rumors, but today he wasn’t so sure. What he heard next made him even less so.

The High Admiral, after returning the hug of Princess Alyssia, and shaking the had of Prince Dresden; said in a voice which somehow carried to Croswell’s ears. “Come your highness’s, your mother has called. A ship waits in orbit even now. On our return to Jerazol one of you will be declared heir to the Winterscale Kingdom.”

A Secret Meeting

Marko, a low level aid in the Republic of Foundling Worlds walked quickly, almost running as he hurried to bring the Minister the latest intelligence briefing. As he traveled down the hallway, his footsteps sped up into a light jog. By the time he skidded to a halt outside the Minister’s office he was panting and out of breath. He knocked but did not bother to wait before entering. As the door opened, Marco saw the Minister engaged in conversation with another man. Almost too quickly to identify, a look passed across the Minister’s face and disappeared. “What is the reason for this intrusion?” Asked the Minister in an icy voice.

“Sir, my apologies for barging in. I bear the latest report from Winterscale’s Realm.” Marko held the report before him, and bowed his head in apology.

The Minister was silent a long moment before replying. “The news must be important indeed. Put it on my desk there, and return to your duties. Do not speak of these events, and perhaps I’ll ignore your serious breach of protocol.”

Hands trembling in relief at his lucky escape, Marko carefully placed the data slate on the indicated desk, and departed the room backwards, head down.

As the door closed behind Marko, the stranger spoke, “a shame about the boy, he saw us together.”

“You don’t have to remind me,” snapped the Minister. “He couldn’t have known who you are, but even still, he wont be a problem past nightfall.” He then picked up the data slate and scanned its contents. “By the gods, that crazy Bitch, does she know what she’s done?”

The minister cursed and passed the tablet to the other man. He took a moment to scan the document, and began to smile; a frightening smile like that of a predator contemplating prey. “It seems to me that the Queen has decided to settle her inheritance issue by a contest. Whichever twin can do the most for the Star Kingdom by the Queen’s 150th birthday will be declared heir. This is an opportunity, I don’t see your problem.”

The Minister held his composure as if through sheer force of will. Wringing his hands he said, “Don’t you see, this puts the issue of her heir off for almost 5 years. It destroys our timetable. Our plans will fall apart without the heir.”

When his companion began laughing, the Minister almost lost control entirely. The man forestall his ire by raising his hands. “Easy, easy, our plans aren’t ruined, just changed. Just think how much easier it will be to gain access to the twins if they’re out in the Expanse with no body guards or attendants. Now we’ll simply approach both, and use whichever one appeals to us the most.” He smiled, showing is teeth. “our plans don’t have to change at all.” The pure satisfaction in his voice caused the Minister’s rage to cool and die in an instant.

“You’re sure we wont be found out? If we fail, we’ll both be spaced for treason.”

The man poured them each a drink from the Minister’s private bar. “Trust me, everything will work out. We’ll be running things our way in no time.”

The two men saluted each other, and drink a toast to their success. By the time the Minister had finished his drink, he was feeling much better about the whole affair.

Ministerial Security Report

Report to Arbiters.

At approximately 0715 local time, the body of Markos Philippe was discovered at the foot of the building of the Ministry of the Republic where he was an employee. By all appearances Mr. Markos consumed a quantity of alcohol, and suffered a fatal fall from the roof of the building when he missed his footing while getting into his air-car. At this time events appear to be accidental as there are no obvious signs of suicide. We will keep you apprised if any new information comes in.

End Report


Location: Mining Vessel XXVI
Subject: Possible Xenos threat to Corporate interests.
Recommendation: Terminate Operations based on information extrapolated from survivor as listed below:

Murph cursed as the power went out on his cutting torch. Moments later he heard and answering curse from his partner Jamse as the lights went out next, leaving them in the inky blackness of the Ore mine. They had been following this vein of Tillium for almost 3 weeks, and ever since they’d begun, the plant had been plagued by frequent power failures. “There goes the lights…again.” muttered Jamse, “that’s the third time today, and the 12th this week. How can they expect us to dig, when we ain’t got no power to work our tools?” Jamse spat against the rock for emphasis; the splat of spit on rock echoed in the darkness.

Murph waited a moment before replying. “We can’t work without lights or tools. Left give it a couple minutes to see if the power comes back on, otherwise we’ll head back and take a break.” With that, Murph settled down and tried to find a comfortable seat against the rock. The darkness made the waiting harder, however since the Corporation charged for each disposable emergency light, the two men would wait until necessary before cracking open any of their supply.

Once Murph wrist chrono indicated that 15 minutes had passed, it seemed unlikely they would be able to return to work any time soon. Before the two men cracked their emergency lights, Jamse checked his radio once more for an update from the Foreman. “I’ve been trying since the lights went out, and I can’t get anything on this stupid thing. I thought that power and comms were on separate power supplies, now we’re gona be out credits for the e-lights.” Jamse continued to grumble in a low tone as Murph opened the pouch containing the light sticks. They each had 3 e-light sticks, and each one would give off good light for 6-8 hours and dim light for another 2-3 after that.

Murph activated the light, and shook it to bring it up to its full illumination. In the pale green light, the mine shaft had a haunted appearance, and their tools cast ominous shadows which moved with the light. “Ok, let’s get moving. I figure without the powered cart, we’ve got 2-3 hours of walking ahead of us.” Grabbing his laser cutter (the company charged for lost or damaged tools) and his canteen of water, Murph started walking towards their unit station, knowing that he carried the light; he didn’t bother to check if his companion was following. After a couple moments he smiled to himself as he heard Jamse trip and curse as he hurried to collect his gear and catch up. The two men walked for almost 2 hours before they noticed anything was amiss. “Shouldn’t we have run into some of the others by now?” asked Jamse. “We’re close enough to the Hab Unit, that even if we couldn’t see anybody, we should have at least have heard something by now.” Murph had no response, so the two men continued walking until they reached the branching point for the mine shafts. Their Habitat Station was only a short walk from this point. Normally, even in a power failure, there would be self-powered emergency lights in this area. In the darkness and silence, they both knew something was very wrong. Jamse’s voice dropped to a whisper, and he nervously asked, “I didn’t hear an evacuation alarm; did you?”

Murph placed his laser cutter onto a tool rack beside the wall, and grabbed a portable hand cutter along with its power pack. “We both would have heard the alarm if it went. No this is something else; maybe a cave in or accident. You grab that first-aid kit from that shelf over there just in case. We’ll make for the comms center first, and see if we can’t find out where everybody is.” The men, equipment in hand, walked in silence for the final 500 meters to the Hab Station. Built as an out-post for the miners, the Hab Station was comprised of equal parts living space, control center, power plant, and life support system in a “mobile” shell currently located 2 kilometers below the surface of an asteroid floating in space. During the operation, the unit generated power and equalized the atmosphere to tolerable human levels. Once the job was completes, the entire system could be retrieved and transplanted into the next asteroid on the Corporation’s list. Despite the brief walk remaining, the trip up the tunnel to the Hab Station seemed to take forever. Each step, each breath, each heartbeat seemed louder than the last. The tension built almost to intolerable levels before they reached the main door. Against all protocol (and automatic systems) the main door of the Hab Unit stood open and waiting, in the dim light of their glow sticks it looked like the open maw of some enormous creature lying in wait to devour them.

“I don’t like this. It’s too quiet, too dark, an how come the doors didn’t auto-close when they lost power?” asked a very anxious Jamse. Nearing the edge of panic, his whispers has increased almost to the level of normal speech, and were approaching hysteria.

Hoping to calm his companion, Murph passed him the light. “Here, carry this; it should have about 4 hours of light left in it. I know it’ll cost us, but I think more light is better at the moment.” As he talked in a soothing voice, Murph pulled out the second of their emergency lights, and ignited it. Although two lights together provided only a little more illumination than a single light on its own, Jamse visibly began to relax as the oppressive darkness lifted in a slightly larger area around them. Once he felt Jamse had regained some control, Murph spoke again. “Somehow I don’t think this is a practical joke. Let’s stick together and get over to the comms room. Hopefully we can figure out what went wrong, or at least call for help.” Making sure that his partner has nodded in reply, Murph cautiously took the lead and stepped into the open equipment hanger.

Even with the lights, the darkness of the hanger felt oppressive. Murph held up his light to maximize its area, and took a look around. The expected lengths of ore track and powered cards, normally stowed away in an orderly fashion, were spread across the room as if thrown by an angry child. The massive floor hatch to the mined ore cargo hold was standing open creating a hazardous pit in the middle of the room. Moving carefully across the room towards the lift on the back wall, the two men gazed at the chaos left of their otherwise orderly “home.” Jamse muttered under his breath. “Jeez lookit this place, it looks worse than after that riot…er celebration we had when we hit that mother lode 5 cycles back.” He pointed over to two overturned cases, and moved to investigate. “Look, they even busted out some fancy booze…I wonder who smuggled it in, it looks like the good stuff.”

“Common, forget about the drink, and come help me with this lift tube. Since we don’t have power, we’ll have to open it and climb the ladder. “ Murph struggled with the stuck door for another minute before turning to look at Jamse.

“Here use this. I picked it up with the first aid kit.” Jamse held out a small pry-bar and hefted a glass bottle of golden liquid. “Check it out; they even left us a bottle, how thoughtful.” Looking less afraid than he had in hours, Jamse took a long pull from the bottle and passed it to his friend. “Here, have some of this, you’ve earned it. I’ll take care of the door.”

Murph shook his head and passed the bottle back. “Maybe once we’ve figured out what’s going on.” In the end, it took almost 10 minutes for the two men to pry open the door, and for Jamse to finish off the bottle of Amsec. Once they finished, Murph stowed his hand torch inside a large pocket and began to climb the tube ladder. Jamse finished the last sip from the bottle, and threw it in a graceful arc into the open hole of the cargo hold. After a couple long seconds, the sound of breaking glass echoed back to him. Smiling slightly, Jamse followed his friend up the ladder.

The 6 story climb up the ladder to the command module was more work than the men expected. Fortunately, from the inside of the tube, the emergency door release was still working, and the pair was able to open it with minimal difficulty. They climbed out of the tube, relived to no longer have the 30 meter drop behind them. After a brief rest to catch their breath, the two men raised their lights to look around. The ceiling view port was open, the massive Glass Steel window revealing the massive entry hole that that the Hab Center had drilled to get itself down to the current 2km depth. Without power, glowing stars were faintly visible beyond the length of the mine shaft. “Murph , you better look at this.” Jamse’s voice was almost inaudible, and the note of fear had returned as well.

Murph tore his eyes away from the view port, and looked about. He hadn’t noticed right away, but the command center was in shambles similar to the cargo bay downstairs, perhaps even worse. A strange smell seemed to be in the air. Perhaps the air filtration was out as well. Realizing that this could present a significant problem; Murph began picking his way across the room towards his companion. He navigated the room’s debris and found his way to the comms console. Before he was able to see the computer, his nose identified the strange smell; blood, and excrement, mixed with vomit. Jamse retched, and then threw up beside the console. “Oh my god, I think that was Rolo.”

Murph moved to where he could see, and held his light to reveal what had made Jamse sick. The terminal station was awash with gore. It dripped off the computer screen, layered the desk surface, and pooled below on the floor. In the chair was Rolo, the (former) communications officer. He was sprawled backwards as if trying to escape his desk. His throat had been torn out, and he had been so thoroughly disemboweled that the white curve of his spine was visible. Murph could not tell if Rolo had suffered (although he probably did), as his face was entirely missing. It almost appeared to have been eaten off. It was also apparent that through the gore, someone or something had smashed the delicate radio equipment. Backing away from the console, Murph called to his friend. “Something bad happened here. I think we should get going. Maybe we can get some pressure suits, and get to the surface. I think we might be able to use the shaft beacon to call for help.”

Jamse stood up from where he had been noisily sick. In the dim glow of their e-lights, the left over vomit on his chin had the same color as the blood on the console. Wiping his face on his sleeve, Jamse replied “it’s a 2 kilometer climb up the shaft, can we make it?”

“Unless you want to stay here and meet whoever did that,” Murph indicated the gory mess at the station behind them, “then we’d better try.” Jamse nodded his ascent, spat once to clear the taste from his mouth, and followed his friend towards the emergency locker which contained the pressure suits. Murph moved quickly across the cluttered room, a growing sense of unease speeding his actions. He passed the open tube shaft, and took stock of the badly dented storage locker. “Jamse, bring that pry-bar. I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to open it.” Jamse nodded, paused to retch once more, and then began making his way towards the locker. Murph could see that his friend was unsteady on his feet, and watched as he stopped by the open shaft in order to vomit once more.

Jamse wrapped his arms around his stomach, and puked a second time into the void of lift shaft. After this last time he seemed to feel slightly better, and pushed himself to his feet. “Man Murph, I’m not feelin so great; here catch.” He tossed the hand tool over to Murphy and pulled himself the rest of the way to his feet. Starting towards the locker, he paused briefly “hey, did you hear something?”

Murph grunted with exertion, and then fell back suddenly as the dented locker popped open with a screech of metal. “What’s that? I didn’t hear anything.”

“I swore I could hear something in the shaft. Maybe one of the other crews is just coming back…like we did” With hope in his voice, Jamse held his light out into the shaft, hoping to see the comforting sight of friends climbing to meet him. The sound of Jamse’s terrified scream whipped Murph’s head around to see what had happened. His friend had dropped his e-light into the shaft and was staggering backwards, hands raised as if to ward off an enemy. “The walls…the walls are crawling up to get us.”

Now Murph could hear the sound as well. An eery wail, and the sound of claws skittering across metal rose up out of the still open tube. Wasting no time, he sprung towards the door, “quick, help me close it. we have to seal it shut.” Drawing his hand cutter with one hand, Murph tried to push the sliding door shut with the other. He shouted, “I said get over hear and help me,” but it was no use. Jamse appeared to be in shock, and had fallen backwards into a still upright chair; he covered his face with his hands, and moaning with terror, he began rocking back and forth.

Bracing his shoulder against the door pannel,Murphy pushed as hard as he could, trying to close the door before whatever creature was making those sounds could climb to reach him. The door moved with agonizing slowness, but it was moving. When it got to within centimeters of being closed, Murph thumbed the switch of his hand torch, and twisted the dial to maximum. Normally, these small cutting units could adjust their beam length from 2-20 centimeters in length. For the thickness of this metal, the door would usually only require the minimum length, however Murph wasn’t taking any chances. Just as the door closed, he heard the slam of a body striking the opposite side, and could feel something pulling against him. Working as quickly as he could, Murph began trying to weld the door shut. He had an initial moment of panic, as the creature’s strength was enough for it to momentary overpower him. Against all his effort, the door began to slide open. A single bony claw, almost the same length as his cutting blade reached through the crack, and began lashing the inside of the door, seek to tear him apart. It caught him briefly, and drew a ling of blood across his arm and shoulder before he could redirect his cutter. However a quick twist of his wrist, and the thing screamed in pain, and its claw retracted back into the shaft. Murph forced his body weight against the door, and it slid shut again with a slam. He wasted no time in running the cutter across the door creating temporary welds, which he proceed to strengthen thoroughly. Only once the door was as solid as he could make it did he turn back to Jamse.

The man had not moved from the chair, and was still rocking back and forth holding his head in his hands. Murph began making calming noises, and started to cross the room towards his friend. “It’s ok man, I closed the door so we’re safe for now. Lets get our suits and get out of here.”

Jamse looked up, a twisted expression of horror and pain on his face. In his hands he held large bloody clumps of hair. “We’ll never get out of here, we’re all going to die!” He screamed an inhuman scream, and lunged towards Murph.

Without even meaning to, Murph fell backwards and thumbed the activation switch on his hand cutter. The 20 centimeter beam sprang to life only inches from Jamse’s chest, and the combined momentum of the two men drove it upwards and out through the top of the miner’s head. Cut almost in half, Jamse fell to the side and hit the ground beside the trembling Murphy. The laser cutter had cauterized as it cut, and despite the terrible injury, Jamse stretched a hand towards his hand towards his old friend, and through his ruined face tried to speak “I’m sorry…I, I don’t want to….” His lifeless hand dropped onto Murphy’s chest, and a faint rattle escaped his chest.

Murph lay still for a moment, his heart beating like a jackhammer. After some time had passed, he moved the arm from his chest, climbed to his knees, and looked down at the ruined thing that used to be his friend. “I’m sorry as well. This wasn’t how you deserved to go.” Murph reached down to close Jamse’s one remaining eye. “Rest in peace my friend.” Rising to his feet, Murph returned to the emergency pressure suits, and saw that despite the requisite 4 suites, the locker only held 1 helmet.

As he finished the last of his suit checks, Murph heard a banging on the sealed tube door behind him. Ignoring it, he placed a chair on top of a desk in the center of the room. Climbing up, he grasped the bottom run of the retractable ladder, and pulled it down. Above him was a hatch to the roof of the Hab unit, and to a 2kilometer mine shaft which lead to open space. If he was lucky he could maneuver to the top without launching himself into space, and then reprogram the shaft locator beacon to broadcast some sort of distress signal. He didn’t know if he had the resources to survive until rescue, however the beacon was located inside a small surface dome which contained basic air and food rations for support staff on the surface during the initial or final phases of a mine. With luck and rationing, maybe he could last a week or two.

The odds weren’t in his favor, but the renewed banging on the door below him gave even slimmer odds. Murph whispered a prayer to whichever god might listen, and then opened the hatch and climbed onto the roof of the Hab Unit. Here, without grave plating, he would have to be careful. He cautiously turned, and applied his hand cutter to the hatch below him, and began welding it into place; no sense risking trouble.

Milk Run

Jammer, adjusted the collar of his flight suit before locking his helmet into place. “Damn thing always feels too tight” he muttered to himself.

“What was that?” crackled a voice in his ear.

“Nothing command, just doing my pre-flight checks.” Responded Jammer.

“Copy that, next time you might want to check your mic.” The flight control operator closed the channel with a hiss of static.

Jammer settled his helmet into place, and kept further comments to himself. Starting his pre-flight checklist, he felt the familiar hum of his Star Fury’s engines as they spun to life. On either side, Jammer’s wingmen Sven (Comet), and Kyle (Bomber Man) had completed their pre-flight tests, and were supervising the loading of their Astromech droids, and mission supplies. Their wing, and one other would be spending the next 6 days cramped into their cockpits and escorting a ship in to Port Wander from the outer reaches of deep space. Jammer for the life of him couldn’t understand what drove some people to jump into a ship, and leave for the dark of space. Sure he understood space flight, loved it even; but there was a great difference in piloting a fighter through the known space of the Expanse, and flying deep into the uncharted Galaxy on a whim. Even if he were to brave the dangers of unknown space, the presence of other alien life, possibly even the Grenn tipped the scales; a warp storm could kill you sure, but it couldn’t think, and wouldn’t ambush you with potentially ultra-advanced weaponry. His current mission: fly 2 days out, rendezvous with the returning ship, and then escort them back to the Station; due to the slower speed of their charge, it would be 2 days out, and 4 days back. By the time he had completed his pre-flight, and supervised the final re-supply of his Star Fury, his wing was waiting on him and ready to go. To Jammer’s relief, their backup wing was still finishing, and he wouldn’t be the last one ready. The second wing was comprised of Dax, Marley, and Keep Sake; all three experienced pilots, and a good working team. Jammer was relieved be part of a full flight of reliable fliers. 2 minutes later, the 6 space fighters launched from the Port Wander, fighter bays without incident and turned towards deep space.

As the two wings of Star Furys accelerated away from their station, station command sent one final message. “Good luck and good hunting.”

A cold awakening

“drstand…hey…with it…been rescued….”

Richard groaned around a thick tongue which felt like sandpaper in his mouth. Someone was talking to him, but his blurry eyes couldn’t make out much more than the bulk of a helmet-less figure in a space suit.

Hearing this sound of regaining consciousness, the figure spoke, his words more understandable than before. “Hey, are you with me there? Can you understand me?” Richard answered with a groggy head movement,and the man continued. “You’re a luck man my friend, you’re alive and that’s sayin something.” After a momentary pause he continued, “the rest of the ones in your pod didn’t make it.”

Richard squinted trying to make out details about the speaker, his eyes were starting to focus better as the cryo-sleep wore off. His mind was still filled with cobwebs, he struggled, but managed to croak out “what? who?” before his throat seized up. The man leaned closer and Richard could make out an insignia on his suit, the patch stated Breaking yards – SR-651.

“Look here lad, my name’s not important. You just gotta take care of this.” He passed an electronic tablet to Richard. “That there says you understand that you’ve been rescued and you’ll receive medical treatment to the best of our ability. Your vessel will be used as collateral or cost against any expenses and fees occurred during your rescue. Makes it easier that you were the only survivor. Sign here.” He pressed the stylus into Richard’s hand.

Richard paused, trying to collect his thoughts and to read the still blurred and dancing lines of text. “Water” he croaked.

The suited man in front of him didn’t move. “You do agree to be rescued don’t you son? I cant provide any aid until you sign, saves us from liability an all.” He paused for a moment before adding “you do have the option to decline, and we can send you back to your vessel. I gotta warn you though, that escape pod looks about a thousand yours old, and none of the other cryo-pods are still working.”

Richard signed the data slate.

“Thanks lad, makes it easier on all of us.” The man passed a glass of water and said “now understand, this boat here, shes for salvage and not set up for medical type things. Since we don’t got the room or the training in case you’re sick or something, we’re gonna put you back to sleep for now. When you wake up you’ll be in the medical bay of our station, about 10 days I’d think.” He ignored Richard’s feeble attempts to talk, and pressed a hypo-spray against his arm.


Sick bay

Richard opened his eye and looked about. He had apparently woken up in a medical bay; the smell of disinfectant was heavy in his nose. Looking about, he could see that he was in a well stocked and clean facility, although it did look slightly…low-tech. He took in his surroundings for a few moments while attempting to build his strength as he was still weak from his recent cryo-sleep.

“I see my patient has finally awakened.” said a voice from behind Richard causing him to start. “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you, my name is Doctor Dresden, and I’ll be your medical technician today.”

“Whats going on?” asked Richard.

“Well it seems you are a very lucky lucky man Mr Marwood. Do I have that correct? Its the name associated with your cryo-tube.” When Richard nodded an affirmative, the Doctor continued. “You see, it seems that you are part of a very select minority. The miniscule percent who escapes from hyperspace without a working hyperdrive.” He pause for a moment to make sure that Richard truly appreciated this feat. “It seems that not only did your escape pod somehow navigate through a warp storm in order to make it back to real-space; but you also might hold a new record for the recovery of a long term cryo-subject….” Doctor Dresdon apparently noticed the confused look he was getting, and elaborated slightly, “if the clock on your stasis pod is correct, you’ve been asleep for almost 9000 years.”

When Richard woke up again, the Doctor was sitting nearby eating from a bowl of noodles. When he saw that his patient was awake, he jumped to his feet with a smile. “I see you’re back with us again. I must admit you give me quite a fright. I do apologize , as I could have waited for you to have recovered slightly before throwing the big info around. You passed out and your body went into shock…this soon after a wake-up, i thought I might loose you, and man would Tyberious have been pissed.”

Richard took a moment before replying. “It seems that I will recover, thank you for saving me. Perhaps you could tell me a little more about where and when I am? It seems that I’ve missed a few things. For example, who is this Tyberious you mentioned?”

A momentary look of panic shot across Dresdon’s face. He controlled it swiftly and replied, “Tyberious Rex is the man who runs this whole place; the Breaking Yards. He’s the boss, and his word is law. Trust me, you don’t ever want to get on his bad side…or lie to him, that’ll for sure get you on his bad side.” It seemed that the subject of Tyberious was a stressful one for the good Doctor, as he glanced about as if fearful of being overheard. “I guess you should also know about your contract.”

“Contract?” asked Richard," what are you talking about?"

“The one you signed during your rescue of course.” answered the Doctor. “Basically, you agreed that in exchange for being rescued, you agreed to pay a fee for the service, and all following amenities. In turn, your ship and cargo would be held as collateral, or used to pay off your fees. If for some reason your ship doesn’t cover your costs, then you have agreed to work for Mr. Tyberious until you’ve paid off your debt.”

“That’s outrageous!” sputtered Richard.

“All the same, its perfectly legal. What makes it worse is that in addition to the rescue fee, you are also responsible for a rescue bonus paid out to the crew of the ship that saved you, and also transportation, air, food, water, medical, residence are also billed. I’m sorry to say friend, that most indentured workers are never able to pay off their debts.” Dresdon laid a sympathetic hand on Richard’s shoulder. “I know it doesn’t help much, but since you were the only one of the 10 men on-board to survive, and also because cryo-sleep tubes go for a pretty penny, you almost broke even. To my understanding; after all of your initial fees and balances have been added; you’re only down about 50,000 credits…too bad that in this place it’ll cost you 100 to make that 50.”

Richard’s mind immediately began whirling with this information. “Doc, you don’t think…”

“NO!, absolutely not…I’m sorry.” said the Doctor. It’s just that there are harsh fees and penalties for money-lending without approval by the Station chief, ie Tyberious. Don’t be asking anyone else either, they’ll get punished if they don’t report you for asking."

Richard made calming motions with his hands, and reassured the man. “Don’t worry, I understand. I wont make that mistake. I’ll just have to see if I can figure out something else.” He smiled confidently as his words had the desired calming effect.

“Ok” replied the Doctor. “But you’d better start thinking quick. Starting tonight you’ll be recovered enough to begin your sleep-learning sessions.” He noticed the look in Richard’s eye, and answered before he could speak. “It’s also something you agreed to in the contract. You’ll receive sleep-learning until you’ve caught up enough to be assigned a meaningful role in the Station. You’ll also receive aptitude testing, and physical therapy as well…and its all going to keep costing.”


Queen Rossetta Winterscale IV set her cup back down on its plate and directed her unwavering gaze towards her guest. “Now Oswald, while I’m having my breakfast I’m on my own time, and not burdened by my duties as Queen. Tell me about my children; I know its only been a month since they left on their quest, but I’m curious to see how they’ve begun.”

Oswald, High Admiral Chode paused for a moment, and then deliberately filled himself a cup of tea and sat at the table before answering. “Since we’re on breakfast time and not on Royal time…” His eyes glittered at her disproving scowl and he continued. “As of my most recent reports, both are still alive and well. The young Prince Dresden has apparently traveled to the Koronus Passage. He has established himself with the diplomatic group on the Footfall Station, and is attempting to end the trade embargo between our Nations.”

The thought of her son, noble and bound in his honor and tradition attempting, to negotiate with the dried up and long winded old gas-bags who got sent to the cushy permanent diplomatic posts made the Queen laugh out loud. “I wonder who will be more shaken up. The boy when he discovers that those old men are all snakes in the grass, or the old men when they discover that he’d rather take a beating than break his word.” After another sip of tea she added “I trust you’ve already taken the appropriate safety precautions?”

Chode looked slightly offended. “Of course I have. At least as best as can be.” He raised one hand to forestall the coming comment, and continued. “He’s under surveillance by one of my best teams. He’ll never notice them, and they can provide us regular updates, and protection as well. He’ll be as safe as we can make him, without his knowledge, on a space station filled with untrustworthy and ambitious politicians.” This last part was delivered as dryly as possible without constituting disrespect towards his monarch.

“I understand. Now about my daughter, what about her? That child could find trouble in a padded room.”

This time Chode’s pause seemed slightly more nervous than before, the Princess was known to be independent to say the least. “In this case your Majesty, I’m afraid I have less information than I would like. From her departure from Lucin’s Breath, she traveled deeper into the Kingdom. She then apparently sold her personal craft on Jerazol, and booked passage on a passenger vessel named the Gilded Lilly.” He paused a moment to collect his thoughts. “We don’t know why she sold her ship, or where she was booking passage to. What we do know is that when pirates captured the vessel, she was neither killed or kidnapped.”

“What do you mean Oswald? Where is she?” Though her voice remained level, fire flashed in the Queen’s eyes.

“What I’m saying is that her name was not on any ransom list, nor was her body found in the aftermath. In-fact, only the personal items in her cabin even indicated that she had been there at all.”

“You lost her.”

“We captured the pirates, she wasn’t with them and she wasn’t on board the Gilded Lilly when we searched her.” He paused to invite comment, but on receiving none he continued. “I have a theory, although no evidence. I believe that somehow, during the hijacking, Alyssia somehow ended up on one of their boarding craft, and commandeered it for herself.”

“She pirated a pirate ship?” The Queen’s voice held only a little surprise.

“I can’t think of any other way she could have both been on the Lilly before the attack, but not after, or on the pirate command vessel when we captured it. I’ve checked the scanner logs to try to verify, but with the debris from the space battle, its impossible to determine if any fighter sized craft escaped. She hasn’t made contact, or yet attracted any attention elsewhere.”

The Queen sighed, took a breath, and then spoke. “Let me know immediately if any further news unfolds.”

Chode slid to his feat, and bowed slightly. “My Queen.” As he backed from the room, her face didn’t move.

Opportunity Crashes

Richard staggered slightly as the corridor seemed to shift slightly under his feet. He frowned; it had only been 3 drinks, could he really be such a lightweight after his time in stasis? Still, he was steady enough now. Richard continued walking back towards his temporary quarters. He had been assigned them after leaving Doctor Dresdon and the sick bay. It had barley been a week of rehabilitative therapy and sleep learning before he was judged ready to work. Today he had been assigned his post, and met his new captain. Starting tomorrow at 0600 Richard’s new job would be as crew/medic on Salvage Tug 27.

Having been assigned his personal kit, survival suit, and medical supplies; Richard had then met his captain and crew. Not wanting to go out with an unknown man, there had been an informal crew dinner/party. Richard had kept his head, had only three drinks, and then begged off to pack and prepare before their early shift the next day.

Richard’s corridor came out into one of the open public areas and plant atrium scattered throughout the Station when the floor shifted again, this time in a definitive and disturbing wavelike undulation which threw him to the floor. Klaxons began going off in all directions as damaged wall panels, broken lights, and twisted structural supports fell around the atrium. As the shaking stopped the alarms cut off, a voice then projected across the Station. “Impact Alert, We’ve been struck by a large fragment of loose debris. Shields are currently down, and the Station has sustained structural damage. All personnel report to your emergency stations. I repeat, we have sustained structural damage, all personnel report to your emergency stations.” The message continued to replete itself, so Richard tuned it out and looked about to asses the situation.

Lights flickered throughout the atrium. Support beams hung from the walls and ceiling like broken bones protruding from wounds, and the stench of fried electronics hung heavily in the air. Several bodies were sprawled unnaturally across the ground, or crushed beneth debris, and dozens of people clutched minor injuries and wailed in pain and shock. Others were tending to the wounded, or leaving through the partially closed bulkhead door. Richard spotted one man, hurt badly and trapped under a support beam; he raced over just as the man passed out from his injuries.

Working quickly Richard assessed the damage; it was bad but not impossible. Definitely several broken ribs, maybe a punctured lung, and likely internal bleeding as well. The left arm was also broken, but like the scalp wound and other lacerations he considered this minor. Most concerning for patient survival though was the large beam pinning his chest to the floor. Little could be done with it in place, and it didn’t look stable either. Richard looked about, nobody was nearby and he could see the pile shift very slightly. He just needed to make it go the right direction with enough support that it wouldn’t crush the patient. Richard cast his eyes desperately about, he wasn’t strong enough to support that weight; his eye stopped on an open emergency storage locker. Moving quickly he reached in and grabbed a Bod-Pod; made as a short term, inflatable, one-man life-raft with an emergency beacon, the Bod-Pod would inflate, and should be strong enough to support the extra weight. Richard sealed shut the pod from the outside, and placed it next to the unconscious man. He hit the emergency inflate button, and rather than stepping back, he leaned forward to push on the girder. With his strength, and the added force of the rapidly inflating pod, the heavy beam lifted up slightly and shifted almost a meter to the side before crashing down with a resounding bang. Not taking any time to celebrate, Richard grabbed his newly assigned med-kid, sighed in relief that it wasn’t damaged, and got to work on his patient.

Time seemed to blur for a time. He worked without aid or assistance for what felt like and eternity before Doctor Dresdon and a medical team arrived to help. They quickly spelled off Richard, and get the body moving towards the med lab. Dresdon clapped Richard across the shoulders and said, “well done boy. I doubt he would have survived without you, and that was some delicate work you did there without any backup. You’re a good Doctor lad. Now, are you hurt? No; well then get yourself back to your bunk and get some rest. It’ll be lots more before this is delt with, but you’re not assisted to any damage crew.” He nodded conspiratorially and gave Richard a gentle shove towards his quarters.

It was 0400 when Richard was woken by his door chime. “Yes” he called out groggily.

“The anonymous voice on the other side of the door answered “you’re requested in med lab sir. Right away.”

Richard pulled himself upright, looked down and realized he was still dressed. He shrugged to himself and opened the door. The harried looking clerk started slightly at how quickly the door opened, but turned without a sound to lead him to med lab.

When Richard entered, he was directed to a private room where he found his patient, heavily bandaged but awake and sitting up. “Do you know who I am?” asked the man.

Richard was about to say no, but then he thought about it. “We’ve never met or seen each other..Sir, but I believe you are Tyberious Rex, the owner of the ”/campaign/51182/wikis/breaking-yards-of-sr-651" class=“wiki-page-link”> Company.

“Smart boy. They tell me that you saved my life.”

He seemed to want a reply, so Richard answered. “Truthfully Sir, I just did what I’m trained for. I honestly didn’t recognize you, I was just helping where I could.”

“Your honesty and humility are good. I wonder if you would have done the same if you had know it was me?” He paused a moment and then answered himself “I suppose you might have. HAH” He laughed once, and then grimaced in pain from his broken ribs. “Well young doctor, you not only saved my life, but you did it without thought, and in personal danger as well. For that should offer you some kind of reward. Tell me son, without being greedy” his eyes glinted either from cunning or from painkillers, “what kind of reward would you like?” As he finished saying this, a clerk entered the room and took up position by the door.

Richard thought a moment. “Well Sir, it seems to me that you’re a man who understands and knows value. I would hazard to say that the life of the head of the entire company is worth more than that of one flight medic. Would it be possible see my financial obligation cleared?”

The clerk cleared his throat. “Sir he is correct. His current financial debt is only 66,250 credits, an honest request for a reward.”

Tyberious looked slightly annoyed for a moment and stared at the clerk. He then responded to Richard. “Not greedy, but clever. Very well, I grant you full release from your debt to me. I will even make an addition to the offer; since I can use clever employees, I’ll hire you on with a raise and 2 years complimentary Station fees, or I’ll cover the cost of your passage on the first ship through.”

Richard very politely gave the matter some thought. The replied, “Sir that’s a very generous offer. But as you may know, I’ve recently woken up from a somewhat prolonged cryo-sleep. I would very much like to see the Galaxy, and learn what has changed while I’ve been gone. It is possible I will return back this direction, and if you’re offer is still open, I would happily consider a contract of employment.”

“Very well.” Said Tyberious. “Clerk, see to it that Mr. Marwood here has full paid passage on the next ship heading off Station. Now get out of here both of you and let me rest.”

Richard quietly said thank-you, and left the room. He concealed his smile until be was back in his own quarters. Not only was his debt clear, he had transport out of here. He gathered his merge belongings quickly, and headed towards the docks, he hoped that they hadn’t sustained any damage, as he wanted to be gone before he could incur any more fees.

Fortunately the docks were intact, and since business must go on, operating. By 0630 Richard had a berth on an Ore-Freighter named Jezabelle and in 10 days should be arriving on Dolorium.

A pimp new ride

Ivan and Gnat walked across the massive docking bay of Burru City. The cold silence between them creating a tension which rippled across Ivan’s shoulders; he couldn’t stand it. “Look I won didn’t I. We needed a ship, and I got us one.” He took a flask from his pocket and took a swallow; grimacing slightly from the fire in his throat he added, “you’re not still mad are you…I mean I won right.”

Ivan fell back a step as she rounded on him. “Of course I’m mad you drunken ass.” Her back handed slap was powerful enough to knock his head around, and for a passing dock worker to take notice, and then hurry on. She continued in a fury; “don’t tell me I cant hit you cus you’re the captain,” the word was slightly colored with scorn. “you’re luck I don’t space you right now. If you hadn’t won…” Gnat’s anger momentary took her words away, and she strode forwards towards the bulk of the now visible ship they were walking towards.

“But I did win,” Ivan hurried his steps to keep up with her furious pace. “I did win, and we even got the keys to that rich brat’s ship…I mean our new ship.”

Gnat stopped again, and gave Ivan a steely glare. “That rich brat is the son of the Governer. He’s also known to be a twisted little troll who uses his father’s influence to make sure the law cant touch him.” Ivan opened his mouth to respond, then thought better and let her continue. “Finally, if you EVER gamble with my favor again, I’ll make sure that the name Ivan Korsogan becomes synonymous with horror for the next five generations.”

Ivan turned pale, and responded with a quiet “yes mam.” Before resuming his walk forward. This time his sip from his flask was to steady him rather than in celebration of having acquired a new ship.

The hatch hissed open at the recognition of its master key. Ivan said “I doubt he’ll have left any booby traps for us, but we’ll have to run a full systems check before take off to make sure he hasn’t screwed with the life support or something.”

Gnat climbed the ramp into the cockpit and looked at the red plush decor. “Its gona take some work to get this crap out of here…and we don’t have the money for a refit.”

“Don’t worry, it was his pleasure yacht and he only had 4 hours to clear out. There’s gotta be some stuff left here for us to sell.” Ivan palmed open the door from the 3 man bridge to the rest of the ship, and stopped as if poleaxed.

“What” asked Gnat as she noticed his face. “You’re blushing, I’ve never seen you do that…” her voice trailed off as she followed his gaze. The interior of the ship was lined with the same red plush, and it was filled extensively with machines, apparatus, and other items of an indescribable nature. Getting her voice back first Gnat couldn’t resist adding “well done on your acquisition of one luxury pleasure yacht. I’m sure if we look hard, we’ll find something of value we can sell…” The expression, and brightening blush on Ivan’sface, gazing at the ship’s name on a plaque above the door was the final straw, and Gnat broke out in laughter which didn’t stop for some time." Welcome to the Minnow.


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