Chapter 1 - Still
The air conditioning unit in Isaac’s rented quarters had been broken for a week. He lay in the bare bed, still and restless. A far cry from his owned suite, which floated in space 42 Light years away. The drop ceiling, which had stains on it from hidden piping above was all he could stare at. Restlessness turned to frustration and he got up and out of bed, the rock-hard mattress was drenched in sweat anyway. At a stand, he closed his eyes and breathed deep; this was not where he wanted to be. As Isaac’s eyes opened he spotted a glint of light in his peripheral vision. On the wall was a single port hole window separating him from the blackness of space. On closer inspection he could see a small craft passing by in the distance - a Sidewinder possibly.
For nearly a month Isaac had been stuck at the Schottky Platform in the 7 Kappa Delphini system. It was the broken-down child’s toy left in storage without care - it felt forgotten. Nothing was ever fixed or updated, it was a decaying mess. Isaac was more aware of these issues than he’d like to know. When he wasn’t sweating to death in his cramped quarters he was working on his jet black Viper MKIV in the ship bay. There was no trust for the local mechanics, the work needed was too important and more to the point - too expensive. Their minds were usually pre-occupied with quick, profitable turnaround repairs for the revolving door of mining and trade ships anyway; not on a fighter sitting in a bay for a month.
Isaac locked his cramped room’s door behind him and looked down the hallway. Ahead was a poorly lit, cramped tube with exposed pipes and data cabling covering the ceiling. Foot traffic was still heavy, with most people bumping shoulders as they passed. The hum of loud talking, heavy boots on metal grating and general commotion was almost deafening. The one nice thing about these quarters were that the doors were almost 100% sound proof, too bad it was too hot to get sleep anyway, he thought. The recycled air was even thicker here, with steam leaking from random pipes and the inherent humidity of a facility maxing out its occupancy limit. With his dirty work coveralls and tired boots he looked more like a janitor or a platform technician than a pilot. It was perfect because nobody would think he had any real funds to his name.
After pushing through the crowded hallway it was an elevator ride up to the ship bays. These cargo elevators could hold 25 passengers comfortably, when he got on it was looked like it was over 40. It was an open-caged elevator that looked over a wide expanse inside the platform. Below was the market and shops and across the way another set of elevators specified for cargo transport. The elevator cables screeched to a halt at the top of its shaft, which was the large internal shipyard. One large facility with heavy dividers between rotating, elevator-based bays housed up to 25 ships at one time. After a month he had the platform’s floorplan memorized, especially his normal route - from the elevator he had to walk past 9 bays before getting to his docked Viper. Easy.
“Yo, Isaac. Taking another run at your FSD module?”
Isaac turned to see Addler, one of the platform’s mechanics. He was a short, bowl-haircutted man with skin permanently stained with his work. Isaac changed his direction and approached Addler, who was at least half a foot shorter than him.
“Fixed it yesterday actually. It was just a configuration setting on the diag-terminal. I borrowed a guy’s OBD-X tool and it showed the error code to reference. I’ve moved onto swapping out my 2C FSD Interdictor module to a 1C.”
“Man, thankfully most pilots don’t even bother doing their own work. Otherwise I’d be out of a job,” Addler said hopelessly wiping his fluid-covered hands on a cloth rag that was just as dirty.
“Most pilots are just plain lazy,” Isaac responded with a smile. He catered carefully to the mechanic community seeing as he was around them most of the time.
“You got that right, brotha! Have a good one.” Addler went back to working on the hydraulic lines for the front landing gear of a Type-6 Transporter.
Isaac continued onward, passing a multitude of ships and repair technicians in each of the bays. There you are, he thought to himself as he finally stood face to face with his Viper, affectionately nicknamed “Fishbed” after an ancient planetary fighter. The new FSD Interdictor module had been sitting in his cargo rack since he left the Yakabugai system a month ago. He put his code into the rear cargo hatch door and it swooshed open. Entering the clinically pristine interior allowed him to take a breath of relief. Cleanliness and order, what a novel concept, he thought. The cargo hold was bare for the exception of a single large container, which was carefully and meticulously strapped down to avoid any form of movement.
Behind him, light was obscured as something was blocking the cargo door, he turned around to see Farid, a tall, thin man with dark skin. Quiet and humble, he was probably the most pleasant work foremen Isaac had ever met.
“Ah, I see Mr. Isaac is still here. May I come in?” Farid asked politely. Isaac was half kneeling, about to undo some of the strapping for the cargo.
“Of course, come in.”
“Would you like a hand?” Farid said already approaching another section of strapping. Isaac chuckled as Farid had already started helping without an answer.
“I would appreciate it, Farid.”
“So just I heard from one of the Federation agents you had a troubling encounter on the way to our platform.”
Isaac paused, trying to recollect his trip to Schottky a month ago and then it hit him.
“You mean being buzzed by Julius Corgan?” Isaac inquired.
“Yes. They told me you had completed a bounty in one of the nearby asteroid field belts and he was waiting.” Farid asked while diligently undoing multiple strappings.
“Yeah, that was a joy. Just sat face to face with what I was assuming was a freshly stolen blood-red Imperial Clipper while he scanned my cargo.”
“Then what happened?”
“Well luckily the only cargo I had was this module,” Isaac said pointing to the cargo they were unstrapping.
“That’s all he did?”
“Isn’t that enough?” Isaac stood up, aghast at Farid’s cavalier attitude towards infamous pirates.
“Julius Corgan doesn’t sound that bad,” he claimed with an innocent, if somewhat naïve smile.
“You’re right, I must’ve misheard him when he told me the next time he’d suck the marrow from my bones.” Isaac mused as he kicked the locks open on the module container. “He’s a pirate, Farid. If I had something worth killing for he wouldn’t have hesitated for a second. I just a waste of time to him.”
“That is true.”
The two of them together heaved open the top of the container to reveal the inner workings of an FSD Interdictor module, which was in several neatly packed pieces.
“So... you busy, Farid?” Isaac said. There was a pause as they stood over what could easily be a four-hour job.