With obstacles out of the way, Skylar finally gets put on the field.
28 September 2931
EX-390 Asteroid Field
Sigma 5 Space
It had been nearly six months since the murder---passing of Evo. Skylar had seen no further obstacle in front of her. There was no overbearing fear that lurked over her… no man to terrorize her in her dreams. The man who tormented her from time to time was dead, along with his brother. And with Bard and the Chairman’s suspicions aside, no one ever found out what happened to Evo and his kin. No investigations were made. No one cared. That’s what Skylar hoped for. Since then, Skylar had been the new face of fear amongst the trainees. She had beaten Evo, regardless of her crafty hand in the matter. Who would stand up to such a foe? No one challenged her for rank. No one stood up to her. Even Bard, as reluctant as he was, respected Skylar for she quickly became a star pupil. She was fit, respectful, and most importantly obedient. Physical training continued, as did training with simulators. She was being prepared to leave the station for days at a time, returning once in a while if needed.
Now, Skylar with her new high rank, was sent to the EX-390 asteroid field. It was in Sigma 5 space, largely uncharted and known only to Gray Hunter and some small mining companies. Many of the larger corporations were too skittish to send ships out into lawless territory. Their assets were too valuable to put at risk, but then again that’s exactly what Gray Hunter was about. They provided security for other companies that desired to mine the rich floating rocks. On the same note, they also mined for themselves. The field had plenty enough to go around and then some. It would take years, decades even to mine everything there. It was the reason Gray Hunter made the Alpha Station in the first place. They knew they’d be there for years… and they needed home to be close by.
Skylar was operating a main console, taking a more administrative position when she could. Often she wasn’t the one mining. The men who met on the smaller station in the field had played a game of cards. The winner of the game could opt out of mining, a dangerous task in itself, and just work as overhead. Skylar learned how to cheat at this game, her success rate was almost flawless. She didn’t want to be out there… a place where anything could go wrong… a place pirates had been known to lurk.
“What a mess…” Skylar said. She was in her normal attire, a tank top, cargo pants, and boots. Lights had lit up all over her console. There were hundreds, which she was surprisingly familiar with. She was on overwatch, keeping track of all the mining drones, many of which were out of sight in the grand size of the field. The quotas for the month had the newer drones drilling closer to the edges of the asteroid field, scouting for precious gems mostly. They were faster at their job, but unfortunately due to production costs, were a bit more fragile despite their shields. On the same note, should any unsightly opposition appear, they were known to get out of the thick of trouble quickly. The older drones, however, were clunky, heavily, and slow. They had no shields, but their plating was thick and almost impenetrable to even some of the highest caliber weapons. They were the very epitome of industry, even if they were outdated. It was the programming that made everything a nightmare. The console Skylar had used on the station was new, as were most of the drones, but the old drones did not want to cooperate as well with the newer programming. This called for some frustrating occurrences.
Red lights flashed on the console. Skylar sighed. She knew it was probably nothing, but due to protocol, she had to ask.
“Watchtower to D-452, I’ve got a hazard light on your vessel. Code 5-0. What is your report?”
“D-452 to Watchtower,” replied an older man. “Reactor core is freaking out, but I’m okay. It’s this goddamned programming they put in here.” D-452 was an older drone, probably piloted by the same person for the past few years, as was the case usually. “Don’t worry, Watchtower. I’m suited in case of a meltdown. I drive with a hand on the eject lever anyway. In case it does blow, you can watch the fireworks from the observation tower window. Over.”
Skylar shook her head. The miners always had a sense of humor, particularly the older ones who were used to their clunky machines and were well prepared with a list of tricks to survive all the peculiarities inherent with their individual drone. They all had a trick to them. It was because of this the miners liked to say their way of life was fatalistic.
Suddenly, there was a small spark on the console and her screen went dark. The lights shut down, as well as the ventilation. Everything had fallen to dead silence. Skylar kicked the console with her boot and growled.
“Brand new tech my ass!” she shouted. Smoke rose from the console causing her to sneeze and wave her hands about to clear her vision. Of course the computers were prone to power spikes given the budget of its production. The surge safe-guards were weak, even in the important places. Skylar had hoped Gray Hunter would give a bit more expense to their mining tech. But most of the workers there were career miners and new tech was just too much for them to transition to.
“Watchtower.” Called a woman over the com. Skylar knew the voice. Her name was Valereta, or Val. Skylar stumbled about her console trying to remember which button initiated the comms. The controls still worked mostly, despite the shortage.
“This is Watchtower.” Skylar said.
“This is D-Triple 5. Approaching designated mining sector. Marking with beacon now.”
“Uh… D-Triple 5 you are cleared to proceed.” Skylar turned on her wrist-com and brought up a holographic display, a log popped up. “You have a four day interval on the outer rim. Currently we’re having technical difficulties. Comms will be inconsistent… contact with the others might be a little off… if it works at all. Good luck D-Triple 5.”
Climate control began to work again. Skylar’s console unfortunately hadn’t fixed itself, to no surprise. She had tried her best to route all of her tasks to her wrist-com but it was far too much work to import the system. She could get partial readings such as heat signatures, but no actual beacons from any of the mining workers.
“God damnit.” She said under her breath. A large shadow overcast on the asteroids as a fairly large ship slowly moved in. A supply ship probably. There wasn’t much of a protocol or uniform ship for such things. They were usually contractors. The only supply ship she knew of was the Drifa, the ship she had smuggled on, and it was to no surprise that others had tried to stowaway on these ships as well. As such, security was a bit tighter. But this wasn’t Skylar’s business. There were other comm operators to handle these things. She looked to her wrist com again, swiping a few screens about before pressing on the portrait of a man. “Nathan this is Skylar.”
“Go ahead.” Replied the man.
“I’m heading over to you in storage. I need a new holo-projector for my console. Systems gone to shit. I have hundreds of people out there and I can’t see a damned thing. What’s up with maintenance, I mean really?”
“No problem, Skylar. Head on over.”
Skylar leapt out of her seat, a bit too quickly. She had forgotten the severe lack of gravity on the main station. It was nearly half that of Earth. With a loud thud she knocked her head on the ceiling. She hissed at the pain before activating the magnetizers on her boots allowing her to walk comfortably. There was no need for conversation with Nathan, the quartermaster. The man’s work spoke for himself. She headed to the storage room, and looked around. All of the boxes and equipment were on shelves, each marked by a red light. Such was Nathan’s way of keeping tabs of what was taken. It made things extremely difficult to steal anything from him. Anyone caught trying to take anything without prior permission was usually jettisoned into space. That was protocol. However, given Nathan’s permission, Skylar looked around and saw a single green light. It was a box with her holo-projector.
Just then, the lights of the station went dim. Red lights flashed as a buzzing alarm sounded.
“What the…” Skylar questioned. Over the comms, orders were given to the fight pilots to depart. A loud hum followed by a gust of wind tugged Skylar down the corridor. She flew down the halls, colliding with the sides of the hall several times before she grabbed onto a pipe. She managed to get her feet anchored to the ground, cranking her magnetizers to full-lock. She wouldn’t be able to move, but it took the strain from her arms. She still couldn’t let go, in fear of snapping her ankles to pieces. It only took a short while for doors to slam shut and the air rush to stop.
“Defense Positions!” cried a man over the comms. “This is code 01!” Skylar had no idea what that was. She ran back to storage. Nathan was gone. All that she found was a space suit by his desk. She quickly took the liberty of equipping the armored suit, a standard uniform for most of the engineers and miners who were out working in space. With her holo-projector in hand, she ran back down the corridor then took a right to the observation deck, a place she seldom visited. As the door locked behind her she continued forward walking along a catwalk that led from the main station and into space. Toward the end of it, there was a dome-like structure. Were she seen, it would have been a simple matter of pulling a trigger, but she hoped her small stature in the grand scheme of the asteroid field would go unnoticed. She had to hide some place. She clipped the holo-projector to a cable attached to her suit and continued forward, startled from the sudden explosions of fighters blasting each other to pieces. A piece of debris crashed into the catwalk, causing her to stumble and grab onto the railing. She looked to her left, one of the stations fighters had been tumbling by, its wings completely blown off. The pilot was still inside, punching at the cockpits canopy. For a single moment, they locked eyes. The pilot was horrified. The fighter continued to tumble, and flew from Skylar’s view.
She scurried to the dome, entered the passcodes and staggered in as the airlock kicked in. She kept the lights off, trying not to draw any attention to the structure. Several computer systems were within reach. Skylar hurried to the mining bank computer with the nav systems close by. To her left was access to military equipment should she need it. Once she plugged in her holo-projector to the system she had total freedom. She tuned into the comms. There was a lot of chatter and chaos across the hundreds of miners panicking.
The system had everything she needed. Data, frequencies, general information about every miner currently in the quadrant. Lights glowed red and blue, just like before. Bright glows signified working and live machines. The dim lights meant that the drones were down. It could have meant anything from a simple power malfunction, to a full ejection. But in the current chaos, it probably meant the entire drone was destroyed. D-Triple 5 was still active, as was D-452… which was amazing to Skylar who had frequently broke down shortly after departing the station, needing to be pulled back for repair or to get out of the way of a supply ship on its docking approach.
“This is Watchtower to D-Triple 5 and D-452.”
“Skylar?” questioned the old man.
“You guys need to hide yourselves. We’re being overrun here.” Skylar said.
“You’re alive?” Val questioned. “I thought everyone on board…”
“I'm not dead yet.”
“Resilient punk.” Snorted the old man. “We’ve got a few drones here. The metals here will reflect their radars enough. This goes for all of you… don’t be specific on locations or anything. We don’t know who is listening.”
“Roger, D-452.” Skylar nodded, “I’ll see what I can do from here.”
“Don’t do anything stupid.” Val said.
Skylar sighed and sat on the floor of the observational structure. She had already put out a distress signal, hoping it would reach to those that could actually help. She was stuck there in the dark, only to wait for back-up that could potentially never arrive.