Beta Hub is an area of space where stellar engineers had built a significant number of wormholes leading to the other parts of Beta Sector. The centre of Beta Hub is a long dead star, and orbiting this dead star is a space station called Beta Station, originally built long ago. When it was first built, it was a typical modular station to service spaceships in need of help, restocking consumables, and repairs. Over time it had grown with new sections being added until it was a sprawling chaotic mess. While it still offered its original services, it now also had casinos, luxury hotels, and a thriving underground black market. It was now seen as a place for people to go in Beta Sector where they could satisfy their hedonistic desires and purchase items not easily found or acquired. The station had, over time, also acquired its own resident population of drifters, entrepreneurs, and people with an eye for the main chance.
“This is Captain Stephanie Clarke of the New Earth Spacefleet scoutship The Oracle. We are here to dock for 48 hours to restock before we resume our way to Gamma Sector.” Clarke said as they approached Beta Station.
There before them all on the bridge Beta Station slowly came into view. The station looked roughly ball shaped with various sections jutting out at odd intervals. It rotated slowly, revealing more bits sticking out from the main station rather haphazardly. Steff shook her head. It was an architect’s nightmare. Maybe they should decommission it and start again, thought Steff.
“We hear you Captain Clarke. Docking is granted at Subsection F. We are sending coordinates now.” A voice from the station said.
“Pilots proceed with docking procedure.” Steff commanded, then she turned on the intercom: “We are now docking at Beta Station for 48 hours. Everyone on board has leave to visit the station during this time. If you do go into Beta Station, may I remind you as representatives of the New Earth Spacefleet that your conduct is expected to be at its absolute best while you are here. Also, do not engage in illegal activity of any sort. If you arrested by station security, or found bringing contraband on board, you may be left at Beta Station or end up in the ship’s brig. All that said, please have a good time. We leave in 48 hours. If you’re not on board by then, you may be left behind.”
“Captain, we are now docking with the station.” One of the pilots said.
“Bring up visuals.” Steff ordered. The view on the bridge now changed to an image of The Oracle docking provided by Beta Station’s cameras. “Okay cut main thrusters and engage the starboard lateral thruster.”
“Okay slow it down.” Steff saw a round airlock slowly come out from the station in the direction of their ship. Slowly The Oracle drifted towards the stations airlock. “Keep going… now cut the lateral thruster.”
“Yes Captain.” The spaceship slowly drifted towards the airlock using its inertia to finally dock with the station. Once both airlocks met, the ship came to a stop. The pilot turned to face Steff. “Captain both airlocks have now formed a hard seal. We are docked with the station.”
“Very good!” Steff replied. Turning on the intercom, she again spoke to the crew: “We are now docked at Beta Station. We leave in 48 hours exactly, so please lock this time in to any devices you have and are carrying with you to Beta Station.”
“You going aboard Captain?” Blake asked her.
“As Commanding Officer I have to. I’m expected to report to the stations Command Crew. Wherever they might be.” Steff replied. Blake laughed.
“Yes it’s not the easiest station to navigate. A friend of mine once got lost in there. He only found the right airlock several days later, but of course his ship was long gone by then.” Blake told her.
“I hope that doesn’t happen to any of our crew. So how did he leave the station?”
“He managed to jump aboard on the next ship leaving, though it went in the opposite direction. He found himself back at New Earth eventually, by then his Captain had reported him AWOL. Luckily he was able to straighten it out before they court-martialed him. He’s no longer in the Spacefleet however.” Blake told her.
“I’m not surprised. Frankly I’m still surprised to be commanding a spaceship again.” She said candidly.
“Well you are the Hero of Esfor. They couldn’t let you stay on leave indefinitely.”
“I think some in Spacefleet Command wanted me to.” Steff told him.
“Edwards seems to be fine now.” Blake stated, abruptly changing the subject.
“Yes, so far no sign of any problems.” Steff replied. In the last week Edwards had not even put a foot out of line. There was nothing she could do, she had to reinstate him as Chief Security Officer otherwise it would have looked strange to the rest of the crew, and she wanted to keep her concerns known only to a small group of officers she trusted. Yes he had been reinstated, but she was still watching him intently.
“SARA keep an eye on the ship while we’re docked with Beta Station.” Steff said.
“Yes Captain.” SARA replied. “Though I should point out I do not actually have an eye. All my visuals are utilised by the cameras on board.”
“Yes I know SARA. It was just an expression.”
A short time later Steff walked through the airlock. Once she was in the station, she saw an officer waiting there, his uniform rather unkempt. He was tall with brown wavy hair and a thick beard. Once he saw Steff emerge into the station he walked towards her.
“Captain Clarke?” he asked.
“Yes.” She replied. He saluted her, and she saluted back.
“Welcome aboard Captain! I am Commander Ellis. I thought I would come down to greet you personally. So amazing to meet an actual legend.” He said with a thick accent she couldn’t place.
“Why thanks Commander. It’s an honour.” Steff smiled.
“I also wanted to see your ship. It’s a new class yes? I thought it was a frigate, but you said scoutship.”
“Yes technically it’s a scoutship. It’s a new class for deep space missions.” Steff told him. Ellis looked at the ship through the space station windows.
“I see. It looks so sleek and shiny. What exactly is your mission?” he asked her.
“Just going to the new areas that the wormholes have opened up. We’ll be classifying planets. I suspect it will mostly be for resources.” Steff told him.
“But wow! A brand new spaceship. You must give me a tour sometime. I love to see new advances.”
“I’ll try to arrange a tour for you. I hoped you might let us use one of your docking bays.”
“All of our docking bays are for smaller craft, sadly.” Ellis replied. “Can I give you a tour of the station?”
“Yes that would be most welcome.” Steff answered.
Ellis gave her a brief tour of the station. She guessed he was showing her the nicer parts of the station, but even these were rundown and grimy. The station needed a lot of maintenance, and a good clean in her opinion. They finished the tour in the Command Section which was filled with people looking at monitors and watching all the incoming and outgoing spaceships.
“This station is very busy.” Ellis told her. He took her to his office which was down a short hallway. She sat down and was offered something to drink.
“Have you had any problems with the Separatists here?” she asked him while cradling a tumbler of whisky.
“Separatists? No, not here. Our main problems are with pirates.”
“Pirates?’ Steff asked surprised.
“Yes, groups of pirates attacking our supply ships and running off with them. I deployed some cruisers to take care of them, but the pirates use small ships that are fast and agile. Very difficult for a large cruiser to deal with. I don’t have enough ships to escourt all the ships that come and go here, so I mostly help with the larger ones, and all I can do is escourt them to the various wormholes or from them. If they are followed and attacked by pirates once they get beyond the wormholes, there’s nothing I can do about it. I have let New Earth know the problem here, but it’s not a high priority for them.” Ellis admitted. “A few more ships would be handy.”
“The pirates never attack the station?”
“No they wouldn’t dare, though I suspect they visit from time to time to make use of the markets here. There are probably Separatist spies here as well I imagine. Not easy to find.” Ellis replied. “This station has an interesting cross-section of human society.”
“How do you manage all the crime and black markets?” Steff asked interested.
“The small stuff we try to ignore, to be honest. Our station security would be overwhelmed if we tried to arrest everybody doing something illegal on this station, and then some.” There was a knock on the door. “Yes?” The door opened and a young woman wearing a Spacefleet uniform walked through. “Can I help you?” The woman gave a grim smile and turned to look at Steff. She pulled out a concealed gun and aimed it at her.
“This is for killing my friends and family on Esfor you monster!” The woman screamed as she pulled the trigger.
to be continued…
Index of previous chapters: The Oracle
©️2021 Joanne Fisher