Author's note: in an effort to keep myself honest, I have decided to keep the book that I am writing online, updating it once I have a chapter finished. Any questions, comments, concerns, or literary tips can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no such thing as the farthest reaches of space; everywhere is nearby to somebody, as long as somebody is around. Far is only a matter of perspective.
With space exploration exploding like it did, people stopped using terms like 'remote outpost' and 'distant planet'. Perspective had changed for many. Alliances were formed based on what ship you'd been born on, what mining company your parents worked for, what docket you were placed on.
Very few allied themselves with planets anymore. Planets were changeable—the ships were the only constant. The ships were everywhere.
And yet, somehow, on a distant planet, in the farthest reaches of space, orbiting a lonely, empty moon was a lonely, empty ship, crying out endlessly.
“This is a bad idea.”
“Much like all our ideas.”
“Oh, any time Phillip.”
The two figures crept conspicuously through the corridors of the mining ship Neon-1, their expressions detailing their nefarious intent better than they had anticipated. They were headed towards the crossroads, both literally and figuratively.
The girl spoke. “Do you have to relay every thing we do to that stupid recorder?”
Phillip lowered his arm and glared at her. “We're going on a trip! How are we going to keep a record if at least one of us doesn't have a journal?”
“Then give it to me. At least I don't sound like I swallowed a book of poetry.”
Phillip sighed and handed the small machine over.
Phillip and Carlina walked-fine, stalked, they stalked-the corridors of the mining ship Neon-1, which they hated. They were going to highjack a transport. This was clearly a stupid idea.
The mining ship Neon-1 housed roughly 12,000 life forms, counting small children and the occasional fluffy pet rabbit. It was creating a giant figure 8 in the sky, wrapping around the Excelci System and returning via the Rimer Route. On the way, it was to hit every class 8 planet, of which there were at least 10. It was meant to take 20 years, on the outside—along the way, it would meet a scouter ship, which would take away any child who had reached 18 years of age by that point, and who didn't want to spend the rest of their lives burrowing underneath the crusts of fairly repetitive, rocky planets. Carlina and Phillip would be 18 three days after the scouter left. They hated rocks.
Neon-1 did have one, very special feature—a series of ten light, fast skimming vessels, designed primarily for emergency events when the communication systems were cut and it was necessary to reach the nearest manned ship or planet for help. All very Labour Board. In the 50 years that Neon-1 had been in operation, there had been little reason for them, besides fueling the occasional drunken brag involving hacked security systems and indescribable weekend orgies. Carlina and Phillip had overheard one such exchange.
“So are we going to do the sex thing?” Phillip hissed. “Ow!”
“We've been over this,” Carlina replied, surreptitiously dropping the recorder down a grate. “You are welcome to do whatever sex thing you want, once we make it to Nuiche and I accidentally lose you at the spaceport.”
“But Nuiche is a good three hops away, that could take months.”
“And you owe me ten bucks for the recorder.”
Using the skimmers required two things—a genuine, ship-wide emergency, or access to the override codes. Since a ship-wide emergency would more or less negate the immediate desire to go and do anything decadent, the only way any person would get within a mile of them would be if they were the ship's head security officer. The ship's head security officer was a dour, giant of a man, dedicated only to keeping his secrets and to his family. It was a lucky coincidence that his daughter was a top-class sneak.
Phillip and Carlina peered down the darkened hallway.
“That's the room.”
“You're sure about the codes, yeah?”
Carlina snorted derisively. “It's a bit late to be asking that question now, dontcha think?”
Phillip leaned against the wall, his bag clanking against the protruding rivets. “Fair bloody point. You're sure about the codes, yeah?”
Carlina cleared her throat and leaned against the other wall. “Am I sure about the codes?”
“You want to know if I am embarking on a course of action that could result in real, honest jail-time, without being positive about the one piece of information that is vital to our mission?”
“Not totally. I had to choose between three of them.”
It was Phillip's idea, truth be told. Carlina thrilled at the idea of breaking the rules, being a child of authority, but didn't have the actual-
“Oh, yes, god forbid we get caught roaming the halls after hours. It might save us from being locked up for the next ten years once we get caught breaking into the lift room, and we wouldn't screlling want that.”
Carlina had the decency to look uncomfortable. "It's basically fool-proof, look." Phillip opened his mouth, his eyes bugging slightly. "No, shut up, look. There were 54 total codes to choose from."
"Fifty-four." said Phillip, flatly.
"But they're set up based on which portion of the ship they're housed in, see?" Carlina pulled out her pint comp. "Look, I've got the list here."
"The first four numbers of the sequence denote which section of the ship they're in, and the next three the specific room. 4559 is front-port, and 324 is the comp room, so this is the override code for the navigation room."
"Seriously, shut the hell up."
The sudden faint echoing of steps froze them both, pressed against the cool steel of the support walls. They stared at each other, their faces mirrored masks of terror.
"So on a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you're not about to get us killed?"
Carlina grinned, shakily. "A 9."
The clanging boots faded into the distance. Phillip leaned forward until his nose touched hers. "If you're wrong I will haunt you."
Carlina grinned and grabbed his arm. "Duly noted."