As humanity reached for the heavens, old boundaries were pushed further and lesser ones forged in their places. The stars became as vast as the oceans once were on man’s distant home world. For many, sailing these solar seas proved to be a beckoning call of the future: a promise of freedom, exploration, and high-adventure. However, the attraction and allure of this new frontier was not lost on a select group we are all too familiar with today. Spawned by the less-virtuous temptations of this oceanic starscape, a new breed of individuals spread throughout the galaxy—the space pirates.
Miranda Ceres, Galactic Piracy: Terror in the Stars
Taurus-Sigma Asteroid Belt // January 14th, 086 G.C.
Arios Charon was nobody’s fool. Though not one to label himself a brave man, he was no coward either. He just knew his limitations. On some days, though, cowardice seemed like the more rewarding virtue, at least in his line of work. Thirty-six years piloting cargo shuttles and he had never transported a shipment as valuable as the one that currently sat in the freight hold. Arios prided himself with the fact that for almost four decades he had been hauling cargo of all shapes, sizes, and variety without any major hitch. Sure, there were some close calls and questionable transports here and there, but today he could feel something different in his weary bones. A fleeting pang of regret about refusing early retirement struck him. Nonsense, he told himself, piloting shuttles is my life—I’m not ready to give that up just yet.
Arios noticed, to his own surprise, that he was drumming his fingers against the control console with frantic intensity. His nerves were shot; it was a habit he only practiced when he was edgy or overanxious. Forcing himself to stop, he turned to his co-pilot. Haumea was many years younger than Arios and his exuberant personality was a testament to it. Whereas Arios had a decidedly bitter outlook on the galaxy, Haumea was more forgiving. One may have argued that such was the difference between thirty-six years of piloting cargo shuttles and five. Even still, the two men had developed a bond built on trust and camaraderie over their time together, even if it was sometimes tested—lately being a prime example.
Haumea could feel Arios’ eyes on him. He hated when the older pilot did it. It felt like Arios was scrutinizing him, waiting for the fateful moment when he would screw up. It didn’t help that Arios had been on edge the last few days and showed no hesitation at throwing out a wide variety of disparaging quips. Despite the respect both men shared for each other, being trapped for weeks on end transporting cargo to-and-fro in a tiny cockpit could test anyone’s limits.
Stating that the cockpit was cramped would be a major understatement. Two worn seats were positioned next to each other, only inches away. So close that both men could smell each others foul breath just by parting lips. It didn’t help that the two were rather portly, but most cargo pilots were. It was not the type of job that emphasized any form of exercise or physical output. Thankfully, neither men were wearing their space suits, or else there would be no room whatsoever for even the slightest movement. While space suits were required by galactic law in the event of an air-leak or collision, it was one of the few laws not often enforced.
The bulky control panel was about a foot in front of them, nestled below a wide windshield linking to two smaller side-windows at the left and right of the cockpit. The window gave clear view to the dark recesses of space and the sprawling asteroid field nearby. Taking his sights off Haumea, Arios locked his attention towards the black vista ahead, speckled with twinkling starlight and chunks of space rock. Nothing else was in sight. With a fleeting sigh of relief, Arios shifted back, in the most comfortable position that the stuffed cockpit allowed for.
Most new pilots would be wary of their close proximity to the asteroid debris, but not Arios. This was the course that was set for him to deliver the cargo, a course specifically laid out by Galaxy Enforcement. Arios knew that with the shipment they were carrying, a few drifting space rocks would be the least of their problems.
“Both Enforcement shuttles are still bringing up the rear,” Arios snorted, observing the circular radar screen before him. Two faint blips flickered to life under a revolving line that waved over the green panel. He didn’t say it so much for Haumea’s benefit, but a reassurance more for his own comfort.
“I should hope so,” Haumea countered, switching on the autopilot. “But we’re still not out of the thick yet. I’ll feel better once we get to the Ivago system.”
Somehow, hearing the shakiness in Haumea’s voice brought some relief to Arios. Two cowards are better than one.
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