Excerpt for Tales from Grey Station Nine: Season One by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





Tales from Grey Station 9

Season One

By

Lazette Gifford

Copyright 2016 Lazette Gifford

An ACOA Publication

www.aconspiracyofauthors.com

ISBN: 978-1-936507-75-7


Smashwords Edition


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


All material copyright 2017 Lazette Gifford

An ACOA Publication

www.aconspiracyofauthors.com

ISBN: 978-1-936507-75-7

Cover Art by Lazette Gifford Using DAZ Studio and Adobe Photoshop


To all those lovely authors who provided me with entertainment, adventures, and inspiration to create my own stories.


Table of Contents

About the stories....

Episode One: The Trouble with Grey Station 9


Introduction: Bad News

Part One: Welcome to the Future

Part Two: The View of Disaster

Part Three: Where do we go from here?

Part Four: Security

Aftermath: Day One


Episode Two: A Matter of Survival


Introduction: Awake and Aware

Part One: Distrust

Part Two -- Mutiny

Part Three: Winner

Part Four: Confrontation

Aftermath: Rest


Episode Three: Failing Systems


Introduction: Duty Calls

Part One: A Matter of Trust

Part Two: Looking for Trouble

Part Three: Power Play

Part Four: The Fix

Aftermath: Tobiah

Episode Four: Push Comes to Shove


Introduction: Around and Around We Go

Part One: Who is in Charge Here?

Part Two: Two for One

Part Three: The Water of Life

Part Four: Making it Work

Aftermath: Rest


Episode 5: What Lies Between


Intro: The Calm before the Storm

Part One: The Whisper of Ghosts

Part Two: Problems Times Two

Part Three: Life is Pain

Part Four: Void

Aftermath: Work Well Done


Episode 6: Failure to Communicate


Introduction: When Things Go Too Well

Part One: A Nice Place to Visit

Part Two: Bad Connections

Part Three: Shut Down

Part Four: Last Chance

Aftermath: Whispers



Episode 7: Colchis


Introduction: Waiting

Part One: Travel Time

Part Two: Welcome to Colchis

Part Three: Camp Out on Colchis

Part Four: Back to Trouble

Aftermath: Worries


Episode 8: What Money Can't Buy


Introduction: Visitors

Part One: Secrets

Part Two: It's Only Money

Part Three: Creating Trouble

Part Four: Holding Trouble at Bay

Aftermath: Power Play


Episode 9: All the Pretties


Introduction: Glitter

Part One: Other Secrets

Part Two: Return

Part Three: Visitors

Part Four: Winner Take All

Aftermath: Star Light



Episode 10 -- I was born under a star danced


Introduction: Welcome to Grey Station 9

Part One: Norishi, Ksa, Click

Part Two: Attack

Part Three: Family

Part Four: Survival

Aftermath: Crowded


About the author

Preview -- Xenation: Draw the Lint





About these stories....


I enjoy experimenting with most things writing-related. In this case, I thought it might be fun to write a set of interconnected stories laid out like a television mini-series within an exciting science fiction setting. I created a template for the 'episodes':


Introduction

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Aftermath


Each of the Part sections has a second Point of View Character after the Main Character's section. I followed this template for the full ten 'episodes' and I believe this worked out very well. I hope you enjoy the collection!


This book falls at year 2647 of the Inner Worlds Council science fiction universe.




Episode One: The Trouble with Grey Station 9


Introduction: Bad News


The icy metal floor pressed hard against his cheek while the clicks and buzzes of working equipment bounced off the walls, echoing oddly around him. Everything sounded far too loud and strident. Ra cursed under his breath, afraid that speaking aloud would make things worse.

This was not right.

What the hell was going on? He shouldn't be on the floor.

"Security!" a voice shouted behind him.

Ra worked in Security, so he supposed he should answer. He grunted and turned his head while his eyes gradually focused on the grid of the shield box where they held prisoners, sitting only an arm's length in front of him.

Caught? How the hell had he been caught? Everything had gone well! He'd been only a few minutes from leaving the station, and he hadn't made any mistakes --

Ra's head pounded. The shouting continued, though he couldn't always make out the words. Just one voice. He turned, snarling --

He was not in the box which stood to his side and empty. Someone had dragged him into the corner behind it. Better than being locked up, but still not right.

"Is there anyone the hell down there in Security?" the person shouted over the comm.

Abiona, the Station Master. Where the hell was Foley? He rarely went out and did actual work, so the head of Security shouldn't have been far away. They had been sitting at the Security Post just an hour or so before Ra would leave --

Ra started to get an uncomfortable feeling. Abiona cursing over the comm didn't help him sort through the problems as he crawled to the chair, trying to avoid tangling with the braid of hair that had come loose from beneath his jacket. He didn't trust himself to stand.

Drugged. He'd been drugged.

"Where is --"

"Here," Ra said softly as he keyed on the comm and then pulled himself up into the chair. He nearly fell out of it again. "Please don't yell."

"What the hell is going on?" she demanded, no less loud. Ra was glad the system's comm equipment had never been fully installed, like so much else on this unfinished disaster of a space station. They didn't have vid working so he could sit with his eyes closed while the room spun unnaturally around him. "Who is this?" Abiona demanded.

"Ra'id Su --" Something in Ra's brain kicked through the haze just in time. Not that name. He coughed, as though to clear his throat. "Ra San Rasi," he answered. "I must have been drugged. I don't know where Foley -- son of a bitch!"

"What now?" Abiona asked, sounding more than a little annoyed.

Ra reached into the pocket of his jacket and found nothing there. He took several deep breaths before he could speak. "The bastard drugged me and stole my travel chit. The shuttle has gone to the ship, hasn't it?"

"Oh yes, the bastards are all long gone," Abiona said and sounded angrier than he had expected. "In fact, the ship reached the slide point a few minutes ago, so it's beyond reach, too. Foley? You think Foley took your travel chit?"

"We were having tea," he said, disgusted with his complicity in the trick. "He must have been planning this for some time, probably when I told him I planned to leave with the next ship. He'd started to have tea with me in the afternoon so we could talk about Security problems."

"You were Foley's second in charge of Security. That means you are in charge now."

"But --" Ra felt a whole new wave of worry that was almost worse than the drugs. His heart pounded. "I only took the position because --"

He couldn't tell her that reason any more than he dared use his other name. He sputtered, and his hands moved to shove the job away, even if she couldn't see him.

"We have serious trouble in the colonist area. Get down there and get things in hand!"

"But --"

The line went dead.

Ra reached into his pocket, hoping to find the travel chit, even knowing the ship had left and he wasn't going to get away. His head pounded. His hands trembled.

Ra realized he still wore the black jacket with the silver badge of Security. The stunner sat in the jacket's holster under his left arm. He'd been about to turn over the last vestiges of the job after their farewell tea. He remembered how smug Foley had seemed, and how he thought the man was glad to be rid of someone who knew the job better than him.

Ra knew he'd been a fool and the realization didn't improve his headache.

He hadn't been caught, though this wasn't much better. He was stuck here, and Grey Station 9 had never been the place he had intended to stay for long.

And especially not as the Head of Security.





Part One: Welcome to the Future


Ra sat with his head bowed while he tried to calm the pounding of his heart, too stunned to move, and hoping the pounding inside his skull would stop as well. Every little click still sounded too loud, and he had a bad taste in his mouth. What had Foley put in the tea, anyway? It must have hit fast and hard.

Stuck on Grey Station 9? Nothing he'd planned had worked, but he still counted it good that he was not behind the shields in the box. That had been a bad way to wake up.

He looked over the Security Post boards and thought the station looked strangely quiet, though there was a hot spot of people gathered down in the colonists sector a couple of levels down. He clicked over to audio there, heard deafening shouts, and turned it back off just as quickly.

Head of Security? No, that wasn't going to work out.

He called Abiona back, just because she couldn't be serious. His brain couldn't work itself around the problem.

"Why are you still at the Security Post?" Abiona demanded. She sounded possibly more upset than him.

"I can't be the Head of Security. I only came to work for Foley about ninety days ago. I'm not --"

"I okayed you on your background. Are you really a San Rasi?"

"Yes, I am Admiral Rani San Rasi's son," he said, though maybe he could have denied it? No, best not to let her think he had lied about anything. "You can run my DNA. My mother's ID tags are on record, even out here."

"Your name is all I have to go on, you know," she said. Her voice softened slightly. "Should I trust you? Because I need to trust someone right now, and I'd like to think your name means something."

Well, damn. Abiona had him on that one. Besides, he was stuck here. Maybe better to be in charge if Foley was gone. Foley had been lazy, and that had worked for him. Someone else might not be as easy to work around.

"I'll handle this until something else can be worked out," Ra said. His head cleared a little, the effects of the drug starting to lift. "What is the problem with the colonists this time?"

Abiona paused which made him think this might be more than their usual complaints. Granted, they had plenty to complain about since their world was not ready for settlement and the station and no one had completed the work on the station before they'd been dumped here by the New Worlds for Humanity Corporation. Not a good situation.

"Abiona?" he said when she hadn't answered. The silence continued, fraught with imagined disasters on a half-built station and a place he did not want to be. "If I am the Head of Security, I think I should at least know what's going on."

"They found out that more than just the Head of Security is gone," she finally replied, a sigh of resignation in her usually strident voice. "A good part of the station crew left as well. The colonists believe they've been abandoned."

"Are they?"

"You and I are still here," she said, ignoring the fact that he had been one of the people ready to go, though granted not as a mass exodus of the crew. He wondered why she hadn't left with them. "Just get down there and help calm things down. Kinshera is there. I'm not certain where Johntom is. He might have gone as well --"

"No," Ra replied and felt absolute certainty at those words. "He wouldn't abandon the colonists. He'll turn up."

"We don't want the colonists to get worked up and doing things we can't fix, especially now --"

"Starr?" he asked, with a sudden dread that the station's chief engineer had left.

"She's still with us. So is Lenbow, so we've got two excellent people in Engineering, but I don't think any of their crew remained. Tell the colonists that she's still here. Get this in hand!"

Abiona cut off the line, and he wondered if she didn't have some problems of her own up there on the Control Deck. How many control crew did she have left?

The shuttle had been a large one. It could have taken half the crew or more. The thought left Ra shivering and nearly paralyzed. Trapped in a failing station --

Trapped, maybe, but not helpless. There was far more that he could do besides run Security if it came to it.

He pulled up a schematic of the station that he was now tasked to help keep safe. What he found was no surprise; this was a disaster waiting to happen. Like all other Grey stations, number nine was a relatively small, squat can in space. Unfortunately, except for the bay at the very bottom of the station, everything below the halfway point had been left unfinished. Ra remembered the dismay he'd felt when he first saw the lacework of the frame with an enclosed central core for the lifts and an enclosed bay. Yard-wide power cables had snaked downward at four equidistant points from engineering to the bay, but only the thin (or so it seemed) metal frame tied the bay to the rest of the station.

At the midpoint, fifty or so levels up, the lift's core reached engineering, gravity generator, hydroponics, and the food vats with everything from there up enclosed, if not completed. Only half of the upper fifty levels were in use while the others often had little more than the outer shell and a few of the moveable walls in place. The metal factory where pieces of asteroids had been converted to metal, still sat tethered to the side of the station, though the equipment had been shut down.

A small place, really. Not like being the Head of Security for one of the huge stations. This wouldn't be so bad.

Except the station housed nearly six thousand colonists who had been heading to the world below before something had gone wrong. The station had never been intended as a permanent stopping place for so many people, even if it had been completed.

They had adapted with a massive hydroponics section just above the five floors of engineering and the gravity generator. They'd built a second huge food vat for the yeast grown base from which almost everything else was made.

They were, both crew and colonists, not a lot of trouble. In fact, he'd often felt that Foley had purposely created trouble to make himself look important.

Ra finally stood and looked around. The Security Post, for all the good it did them, took up most of one wall with a row of dark vid screens. Vid surveillance should have been available throughout the station, but no one had bothered to install most of the equipment. Off to the left stood the shield box and to the right the door into Foley's quarters, so the Head of Security had quick access to the equipment, even in the middle of the night.

His rooms now, he guessed. He didn't have the code to the door, but that wouldn't be too hard to get, at least for him.

Behind the Security station was a huge storage area, two floors high, that held extra equipment for the Control Deck. It was at least half full, which was better than he had expected given the rest of the state of the station. The Control Deck had even more storage and equipment ready to be immediately swapped out in case of an emergency. He suspected Starr had made certain of those backups.

Ra headed for the lift that stood a few yards behind his station, moving carefully at first because his head felt ready to explode and not all of that came from the drugs, either.

How many of the crew remained running the station? There was a scary thought because they'd been short of crew before this last exodus. Abiona hadn't answered his question directly about being abandoned; he thought that probably meant something dire.

He looked up the ramp to where the Control Deck sat, not that far from the Security Post. The ramp provided the only access to the floor with the station controls. In theory, the Security Post was the guard to the upper floor, but on GS9 the post was usually empty.

Station Master Abiona had not come down that ramp to check on Security, which told him she was probably far too busy for even that short walk. The more Ra thought about the situation, the worse it looked.

Ra had been prepared to leave but not as part of a mass exodus he'd known nothing about until now. He'd come here to be somewhere out of sight for a while. He'd gotten on with Foley because Ra always found it wise to keep track of things wherever he'd stayed for more than a few days. This was not his first Security job, and he was pretty good at the work.

Foley had taken him on as an insult to Kinshera who probably should have gotten the position as second. She was bad-tempered, though -- and a colonist. He had nothing against colonists, but she seemed to think that anyone who was not one of her people had to be doing their best to screw them out of something. That attitude had not made the best of working relationships, and he winced as he thought about having to work with her now.

This kept getting worse and worse.

He tried to straighten his blue jacket, brush back his hair -- look professional as he called up the lift. He'd never really been in a position of authority because he'd done his best not to fall into that trap. He supposed his mother -- and some of his other relatives -- would have found this situation amusing.

The lift arrived, empty as usual. Not a lot of people came to this level between the highest floor, which was the Control Deck, and the next floor down which was Medunit and crew quarters. The other half of the Security post floor was taken over by the crew's cafe and the huge observation deck. It was the only lovely, and mostly finished, area on the station. Two levels of crew quarters -- mostly unused -- and four levels of colonists, the people shoved into the last of the fully completed areas. A few of the levels below held supplies meant to go down world if that ever happened. Empty, unfinished sections stretched from level twenty-five down to hydroponics and then the Engineering areas, including the gravity generator, power generator, reclamation and all the other little odds and ends that made living here at all possible.

Not much of a world.

Starr had remained, though. Ra felt grateful knowing she still had her hand on the Engineering controls. He'd been impressed with how well she'd done without having a completed station. He'd been under the impression that she'd kept things going against the odds already. They'd needed her.

Ra hadn't thought to ask about the Hive team that worked the station. He didn't understand Hives anyway, except they were better attuned to a station than any of the rest of the crew, including Starr, could be.

As Ra stepped into the lift, he had a sudden feeling of how empty the station suddenly felt. Everything on GS9 still had that 'new' feel to it; the buttons on the lift felt a little stiff and the carpeting (where they'd put some in) still plush. Walls, though still an almost uniform gray without any decoration, had not lost their luster.

The corridors away from the lift curved here, which helped most people since they couldn't see from one end of the station to the other. The curves and twists gave the impression of more space, with only a few crisscrossed straight halls for faster access.

He could hear loud voices around the curve.

This was not the best situation for the colonists who had paid their transportation and new world fees, only to find the world not ready for them. He didn't know the full story there, but he hoped the work on Colchis moved forward soon.

Ra found the trouble where he had expected, and with Kinshera holding her own against a shouting group of men and women, almost all of whom were taller than her. The sea of faces blurred and Ra kept his place at the curve of the hall that led to their cafeteria area. He didn't know many people here, and right now their anger and shouts made him want to retreat.

Kinshera stood before them, refusing to give way. She wore the same uniform as Ra, but he'd always thought she did so under protest. She'd been the head of colonist Security from the start, and these people usually took her seriously, but as he watched, even she took a step backward before the onslaught of yells.

The cacophony of sound had hit him like a blow and the headache that had been receding doubled in size again. He took another two steps, stopped, and took a quick breath before he moved up beside Kinshera. The sudden move forward startled several people back; they were mad, but not organized for trouble.

Boyd stood at the front of the mob, of course. Boyd was an older, pudgy man who dressed flashy and liked to be the center of attention and Ra had tagged him as problem but hadn't worried since he wasn't going to be here for long. Now Ra realized he would have to start dealing with him, especially the way Boyd glared as though he had some personal affront against Ra.

"What are you doing here?" Kinshera demanded. She'd never liked him either, and this was going to be worse. "I thought you were leaving."

"So did I."

"Where's Foley?"

"Where do you think he is?"

She didn't like that answer, but there had been no better way to give her the news. The colonists had gone mercifully quiet for a moment, but they were already starting to get worked up again. Boyd swaggered forward and shoved his finger into Ra's face. He slapped it back away.

"We've been abandoned here, haven't we?" Boyd demanded and started to poke at him again, but changed his mind. "Well? We have, haven't we?"

"I don't know yet," Ra replied and tried to maintain his own calm. "There is a lot we still need to learn."

"We?" Boyd demanded. "You think you're one of us?"

"Well you know, it kind of looks like I'm here with you, doesn't it?"

Boyd snarled. Kinshera, at least, gave a nod of agreement. "We need to work this out together," she said. "Violence is not going to help. Everything is precarious enough as it is."

"We shouldn't be locked down here like cattle," Boyd growled and won agreement from others. "We are going to take over the station."

"And do what with it?" Ra demanded while trying to hide the panic those words brought to him. He kept his voice calm while his heart beat far too hard. "Can you run it?"

"We might," Boyd said.

"Might isn't a really good answer when you might also kill everyone." Ra stepped forward, signaled Boyd out and hoped that by dealing with him, the others would stay focused and listen to reason. "Can you run this station?"

"We have people who worked tech on domed colonies," someone else answered. "We think they can handle at least some of the station, but we'll never know if we're never let up to the Control Deck to see."

"Sounds reasonable to me," Ra said which won a look of shock from Kinshera and a few others. "I suspect Station Master Abiona is going to need people to train in positions, but we must get things settled first," Ra said. Boyd made a sound of disgust. "What now?"

"We've been lied to from the start, you know. The company took our money and dropped us here. You don't know what we've gone through before this crap. You came late. So why should we even listen to you?"

That won a round of shouts again. Somewhere a child cried; he always forgot there were children with the families. He hated to see what had happened to them.

"I never worked for the company you know -- at least not until Foley hired me. I might be the only outsider left on GS9, but I'm still stuck just like you. I intend to survive. That means doing things in a civilized way and not by mob violence. That doesn't work on a station, and certainly not on a station that's already in a precarious situation. Those of you who lived in domed colonies -- you do understand how dangerous this is right?"

"We're not stupid," a woman growled in return, and Kinshera gave a vigorous nod, siding with them and not him. "We know how dangerous a situation we're in right now. We could be sealed off here and left to die --"

"Why would Abiona do that?" he asked.

"She's crew. She isn't one of us. If it's them against us --" Boyd began.

"Is it?" Ra cut him off by being a bit louder, despite what that did to his head. "Have they done anything to make you think they're against you? So far as I can tell, the only problems have been ... here."

"That's not fair. We're cut off. We don't know --" Boyd began.

"I'll agree with that fact," he said. "I think it's a bad way to run things, keeping you out of the information loop. Maybe I can do something to help keep you better informed. I'll try."

That calmed some of the group. Maybe they'd realized being so wound up wasn't going to help right now. They backed away, and Ra thought they'd made it through this problem without anything worse. He saw Johntom, also in the distinctive black uniform, at the back of the group. The large man managed to herd some people off into different directions. So, he hadn't quit already. Good. Johntom stood taller than almost everyone, a large man who would have been imposing if he tried. Instead, he perpetually looked as though he'd just woken up, his hair scraggly and his clothing wrinkled. Ra thought of him as an old earth bear just awake after winter hibernation, and not someone you wanted to provoke. The colonists were not ready to take him on. Even Boyd backed up when the larger man neared.

Though also a colonist, Johntom had always kept a clear head. Ra was glad to see him.

Kinshera looked at Ra with such a snarl on her face that he thought he must have done something seriously wrong. He rarely dealt with this group, and he couldn't be sure of customs --

"You said you were leaving," she said. "What the hell are you still doing on GS9?"

"Things didn't work out," he replied. He wasn't going to tell her that Foley took his travel chit here in front of everyone. He didn't want to think about that right now, in fact, because he had reason enough to be angry for all his own reasons. "I'm here. I'm going to do the best I can."

She looked him in the face, a hint of red still on her cheeks and rage in her eyes. "I don't trust you," she said with a snarl. Her short blond hair and angular face always made him think of a pixie, though one with an appalling attitude. "I don't trust you at all, Ra San Rasi, and to hell with your name, too."

Her voice had started to rise and draw nervous glances from the others. Great work, just as they were starting to settle down again.

"You want to work with me?" he asked, leaning closer and staring into her bright green eyes. "Or maybe you don't like being in Security anymore, Kinshera."

"You can't threaten me! You aren't my boss!"

"I am according to Abiona," he replied and wished there had been a better way to break that news to her. She went a darker red with rage on top of rage. "It wasn't my idea, and it might not stay this way -- but right now you are not helping in a dangerous situation. They want a reason to explode. Do you want to give it to them? Do you want weapons drawn?"

"You wouldn't dare," she said, her face going paler finally as she glanced at the others.

"Why not? You keep telling me I'm not one of you."

"But --" she began, and then fell silent with a quick, sullen nod. "You're right. We need to get everyone settled. Then we can discuss your situation."

At least she sounded somewhat reasonable. Ra looked over at Johntom who gave a quick nod of agreement as well, but then they'd always gotten along. Johntom got along with everyone, in fact, and that helped in this situation. He could talk to people. Kinshera could as well if she got her anger in control.

"I wouldn't mind having a list of people who know tech so I can take it to Abiona," Ra suggested and made certain others heard him. "We need to get this moving. The sooner we can sort things out, the better."

More nods came from throughout the diminished crowd. A few more people left, and even Kinshera stepped away. Ra wondered how long the peace would hold, though. Boyd stood at the edge of the hall, glaring at him.

The others, though, started to calm. Ra knew they didn't need him around. He'd only start creating more trouble if he stepped in now.

He had to go past Kinshera on the way out, and he hoped to do so with a polite nod and no other trouble. Ra wasn't confident he'd be able to work out their problems. He knew this was partly his fault; he'd pretty much ignored her since she'd been snarly towards him from the start. Dodging her had been his way of avoiding trouble, but now that easy answer was going to cost him.

Johntom gave Ra a nod and went back to talking to the woman with two children who stood beside him. Boyd slipped far back into the group of people where none of them could tell what he might be saying, though the way he kept looking over at Ra made him know this couldn't be anything good. Fine. He'd deal with that later. They just needed the calm and people were starting to realize this was not the best way to handle things.

He'd need to learn more about the colonists if he was going to do this job right. Did he want to? He wasn't sure now. There was too much going on, and this wasn't a position he had ever looked to hold. Irony, really. Or fate.

Kinshera glanced his way with a snarl, and he counted it good enough that she didn't start berating him. He gave her a pleasant enough nod and kept going --

Not the end of the trouble.

A tall, lanky man with wild eyes caught at Ra's arm, the fingers like talons digging into the muscle. Ra snarled and shook him off, shoving the colonist backward.

The shove was all that Kinshera saw and all she needed to see.

"Son of a bitch!" Kinshera all but shouted as she spun and kicked.

Ra hadn't been ready for the move and hadn't even tried to step aside. Her boot hit the side of his right knee, and he supposed he was lucky she hadn't gone for anything higher.

The man grabbed at him again as well, but luckily, Johntom leapt forward and grabbed hold of the trouble. That also seemed to clue Kinshera about what was going on because her face went red and that didn't come from anger this time.

Ra should have stripped her of her rank right there. He should have tossed her out of Security -- but damn, he needed her because she was good at the work when she wasn't blinded by her personal feelings, like now.

Kinshera wasn't any happier, but at least she had been in the wrong this time. Not berating her in front of her people saved her from more embarrassment. He thought it might even win him a few points, but with Kinshera you could never be certain.

Ra wasn't sure he would be able to walk away. The knee throbbed, but he didn't think the bone had broken or dislocated, at least. He took one breath and held it as he limped his way toward the lift.

The gathering had started to break up, but he could tell from their looks and mumbled words that it wouldn't be long before more trouble started. He couldn't even blame them. They'd been treated like the supplies in the lower levels, shipped in, stored, and forgotten as far as they could tell.

Johntom walked with him towards the curve of the hall and the lift, silent and shaking his head. When they were finally out of sight, Johntom still glanced back once more, and his voice lowered.

"Kinshera is in a bad spot. She's been promising them answers. And she's gotten more than a few," he explained and ran his hand through his scraggly hair. "But we have a different problem now. Someone in the group is trying to push the colonists to create trouble."

"Someone?" he asked, his hand hovering near the button to call the lift.

"Yeah, okay. It's Boyd most likely. A couple others might be mimicking him, but it's mostly Boyd. I'm going back to talk to a few people and see if I can't get some of these fools to see straight. We don't need this kind of trouble."

"I'm going to go talk to someone myself," Ra said and jabbed at the button. "Let's hope Abiona doesn't kick me. Or worse."

"Good luck," Johntom said with a slap on his shoulder before the larger man turned away.

He needed luck.

Ra wondered why Johntom wasn't giving him the same sort of trouble that Kinshera had from the start. Johntom seemed happy enough to do his job, and he supposed he should not worry about someone who wasn't giving him trouble.



Kinshera watched Ra go with a snarl on her face that she didn't try to hide. She did not trust him. The man was too slick, too perfect -- too crew-like, even if he wasn't one of them.

She would have been happy to find out that he'd left with the others. They didn't need him, and they sure as hell didn't need him to oversee her and Johntom.

And she had never felt so appalled in her life as when she realized Ra hadn't been attacking the colonist before she kicked him. That had been --

That had been the most unprofessional thing she'd ever done in her life, and Kin didn't know why he walked away without even berating her.

Not understanding didn't help her attitude.

"Kin."

Johntom had come back from escorting their wonderful and brave Head of Security out of the area. Ra was useless, and she didn't give a damn about his mother.

Johntom looked at her with a shake of his head.

"Don't lecture me," she ordered but kept her voice soft. Others still moved around the area; worried people who didn't need her to add to their upset.

"You need to get control," he said, ignoring her order and echoing some of her own feelings. "We need on getting things settled, not make them worse."

"Don't lecture me. Just don't."

"You're lucky you still have a job," he replied and leaned closer. "We can handle things down here without Ra. Let him deal with the others. He's cooperating with us, which is more than Foley ever did. Let's play this smart, Kin. Let Ra do whatever he can to help, but we have our own people who need us."

Johntom didn't often give speeches. Kinshera knew enough to listen when he did have something to say. Besides, he was a colonist, like her. Not crew and not like Ra San Rasi who had only been passing through. She had never figured out why he even bothered to take a job on the station.

There were a lot of things about Ra she didn't understand.

"Kin?" Johntom asked. People started to shout somewhere nearby.

"Yeah, let's go help get things settled. Hell, it's not like we're really any worse off than we were before people took off in that shuttle. We had to take care of ourselves before that anyway."

"True," he agreed. Kin could see the tightness around his eyes. Johntom hid his worry better than she did, but it was there in those lines and the frown on his usually happy face.

Kinshera had to get better control. They were in trouble.





Part Two: The View of Disaster


Ra took the lift heading up to Security, stood by the post for a moment, and then walked around the slight curve and started limping his way up the ramp to the Control Deck.

In theory, no one could go past the Security post and into the Control Deck, but that only worked if you had enough people to man the spot at all times. Was he going to have to hire more people?

Could he? He was paid out of station funds, not that he cared much. There wasn't enough to buy on this station to make it worthwhile. In fact, he suspected that most everyone else had saved the funds to buy their way out.

Not a good feeling, and made all the worse when he came up on the deck and glanced quickly around. Over half the boards sat dark and the stations empty. A pitiful few people huddled around the main boards, and Station Master Abiona sat at one, apparently training someone.

Too few lights flashed on the boards. Only a few clicks of sounds and whispered words -- the quiet did not help his headache after all.

Abiona noticed his arrival and stood as he came into the area. The tall, dark-skinned woman crossed to him, a hand brushing down the jacket of her dark blue suit as though to remind him of who was in charge. Tall and lean -- she stood a head over Ra who was not particularly short. She kept her hair buzzed to a short velvet covering that accentuated the angles of her face. She was a striking woman, and with a boldness that he would have put up against his mother.

Abiona wasn't pleased to see him which wasn't a surprise. She had never been pleased to see Foley either, the few times he'd come up here with the head -- former head of Security.

"What do you want?" she demanded, a little more harsh than usual. Strain, he supposed and did not look around at the paltry crew again. "You have no reason to be here --"

"You made me Head of Security," he said and met her angry stare with one that held back his own growing annoyance. "I want answers, Abiona."

Her brown eyes blazed for a moment. People did not demand anything of the Station Master, but he also knew he dared not let himself be cowed. If he didn't have answers, he could not deal with the others.

"I don't trust you," she finally said. "You are not one of us."

The same problem the colonists had, he realized. "No, I didn't come with the rest of your crew. I didn't arrive with the colonists either."

"That's right. So, who sent you?" Abiona demanded and leaned closer.

"Sent me?" he asked, startled. "No one sent me. I was traveling. I heard about a station out on the very edge of humanity. I wanted to see it. If I had known about the problems, I wouldn't have traveled here."

Her eyes narrowed. "You're telling me you don't work for the company -- for New Worlds for Humanity?"

"Hell, no," he replied, the absolute truth. Abiona wouldn't believe him, of course. He hadn't considered how some of the people might have thought him a spy. "I don't often say things like this, but you do know I am Rani San Rasi's son, right? Do you really think I would be working as a spy for anyone, let alone clear out here by myself?"

"I don't know that being her son makes any difference," she said. "And you seem to have gotten yourself in a good position --"

"I worked for Foley because it was better than doing nothing once I was here. I didn't realize how hard it was going to be to get back off this station. I've done Security work before, sometimes for much the same reason. I suppose, I'm a bit like my mother in one respect: I want to know where the trouble is before I walk into it. Security is the best way to keep out of a difficulty."

"Maybe," she agreed, but the distrust never left her face.

"I am here, and you put me in charge of Security --"

"You were the only one I could reach."

"Then give the position to someone else. You know I didn't want the job."

He thought for a moment that she would agree. Unfortunately, the only other two people in Security were Kinshera and Johntom, and they were both colonists. The crew wouldn't work under Foley even though he was one of them. There was a divide between the two groups, and he'd seen it before this.

"We need to work together," Ra said. He was an outsider. She had him pegged in that part, and he'd never tried to get close to either group. Now he was going to need to because his own survival might depend on it. "The colonists think they've been abandoned. Are they right?"

She glanced around the area, and he saw the bleakness come to her face before she spoke. "This was our last regularly scheduled ship," she confessed. He felt a chill at those words. "There is no telling when anyone else will come out this way. I've feared something like this might happen since the Company started shorting us on what they did send. I've been pushing us to be self-sufficient, at least in vat-grown food."

"How long until the terraforming is finally done?"

She shook her head, and he felt his heart do another sudden thump. "We're not sure it ever will be completed. The system keeps shutting down. Only a few patches of about a hundred miles each are safe, and they could fail at any moment."

"Damn." He shoved fingers through his hair and tangled in the braid. This day kept getting worse.

"The last of the science team left along with most of the station crew. I didn't realize we were about to have this much of an exodus, but I don't know that I should have stopped them. More angry people trapped on the station was not going to help with our problems."

Ra nodded agreement with that assessment. He saw some worried faces look their way even now and thought how these people must feel.

Abandoned. The last of the crew weren't going to be any happier about the situation than the colonists.

"I don't want this job," he said with a shake of his head.

"Then tell me who to give it to instead. Johntom is just too nice of a guy; people wouldn't listen to him if he really had to take charge. So that leaves us Kinshera, and she's too angry and blind. I don't trust her not to make the situation worse."

He nodded agreement. They'd have to find some other answer, but for now, he was stuck. "What are our options on the station?"

"Not much," she admitted and oddly seemed to accept him at that moment. Maybe it helped that he wasn't hysterical, though he didn't like any of the news. Stuck here, though -- like her -- and he would do his best to make certain nothing went worse. "We have to make this work, Ra San Rasi. To do that, we need calm. I've also sent out requests for help, even to the Inner Worlds Council."

"But we are far, far outside their range," he said.

"New Worlds for Humanity was started on Tempest, and that is one of their worlds," she said. "I've heard they closed down and moved to Earth, but that still puts them within the sphere of the Inner Worlds. And I'm hoping they're not going to turn their back on an abandoned station full of humans."

"Yes, you're right." Ra even felt a little surge of hope because the IWC was known for stepping outside their bounds when there was danger to humans and no one else to help. "But it could be a long time before they even hear about this, let alone start moving to help."

"I know."

"You might have to start training colonists for station jobs, just to keep things going," he said and saw a bit of a frown. "Some of them are from domed colonies, you know. They've got the basics of tech already. I'm sure they can be trained --"

"I agree," she said. "But once we do that, we will admit that we're abandoned out here, and they're not going to be any happier to have it confirmed. Would it be safe to trust them working with the crew?"

That question stopped him again. "They aren't ready, not quite yet."

She looked relieved. "Then we have an understanding? All you need to do is keep things calm for a little longer until we can get things settled better. We're going to need the colonists to help without a doubt, but not until they're calm. I want everyone calm."

He looked around the room, noting that the boards he could see all read fine.

"I'll see what I can do to keep things calm."

Abiona nodded. They had both agreed to him overseeing Security without admitting it. Politics, he supposed. It had never been his favorite game.

He went back down to the Security post and sat before the controls. He needed to start considering things Foley had let slide. He'd never much cared for the way Foley had run Security, but since he wasn't going to stay, he hadn't made more than a passing effort to do things right.

Ra started checking the links to find out where they had vid in the halls. There wasn't much connected. Maybe he could get someone --

That brought a new surge of worry again. Starr was here, which was good, but what about the others? He couldn't imagine the Hive had stayed, but then he didn't really know how that group worked or thought. Ra knew a lot about the tech systems, but nothing like a Hive would since they were physically linked with the station system.

Hives didn't spend time associating with others, so he wasn't even sure how to find them. No matter. Right now, he needed to worry about his own position.

He'd take care of Security for now until they could find someone else. That thought soothed him for a few heartbeats until he started thinking about how few were left and if he trusted any of them to take over.

Well damn. He was stuck.

Ra silently vowed that he would catch up with Foley at some point. Foley had not only left him in an untenable position, but he had also made off with a few items of interest that Ra had sent on to the ship. Not everything -- he had meant to grab the last before he boarded -- but enough that Foley was going to be surprised when he found them.

Damned mess all the way around.

One of the crew came down from the Control Deck, a haggard looking man who barely gave him a nod and kept going to the lift, without even stopping to head for the cafe. Ra suspected he would see a lot of people like that for a while.

When was he going to get a chance to rest?



Abiona left the main room and headed into her office off to the left of the controls. Abiona could still clearly see the others through the translucent glass wall. She thought to hit the opaque on the window controls, but this wasn't the time for privacy. The walls remained clear and the door open as she settled at her desk.

Everyone worked with hardly a desperate glance around. Good people; she had hired almost everyone herself when they told her she got the position of Station Master at Grey Station 9.

The others leaving had been a personal blow that someone like Ra San Rasi couldn't understand. They had been her people, and they'd abandoned her.

Abiona had to stop making this as something personal, though it didn't help knowing she could have had a way out and she'd turned it down. She pulled up the note on her comp; anonymous, impossible for her to trace.

For the right price, you can have a place on the shuttle.

She had suspected the note had gone out to more than her. There had been some worried, furtive looks. Whenever she had seen someone she suspected, Abiona had reminded herself that she didn't want people stuck here who felt they'd been unfairly trapped. They'd abandoned their contracts, but what the hell did that mean when the company had already abandoned them?

The crew list still showed on her computer screen from hours before when she'd last sat here. She began deleting the people she knew were gone, one after another, moving them off to a list of former station employees.

Only a pitiful few remained with Ra San Rasi at the very bottom as they last person they'd hired. She'd had her doubts about him from the start; too suave, too complacent, and clearly not someone who needed the job. So why had he taken the position with Foley?

She hadn't trusted him from the start, despite the San Rasi name. She'd had Generosa run the DNA to confirm he was Admiral Rani San Rasi's son. Did that really mean anything? There might be a reason he was out here in the farthest fringe rather than working with his mother.

On the other hand, he had listened to her, which was more than Foley had ever done. Abiona imagined Foley in the same situation and realized she was damned glad the bastard was gone, and San Rasi was here instead. She might not trust Ra San Rasi, but at least he was polite when he talked to her.

They still had a station to run. She pulled up the graphs and made a note of a few spots that needed a little tweaking. She could do the work herself, but she needed to get others working on it. They didn't dare rely on her for too much.

"Station Master Abiona?"

She looked up with a sigh, knowing she needed to get used to interruptions. The five people at the door had been off duty during the exodus. They'd likely woken to find the disaster, and it hadn't taken them long to come up to talk to her.

"Come in," she said, shutting down the open projects on her computer. She told herself it was so she wouldn't be distracted, but she also didn't want them to see the problems. They looked panicked enough already, and it wasn't going to take much to push them into the same state as the colonists.

Even though there were fewer of the crew, they had the ability to do far more damage. The crew knew how to destroy things, and she'd seen people do stupid things under less provocation.

The group gathered around her desk. Tig was the first to speak; not surprising since he'd always had problems holding his tongue.

"What is going on?" he asked. Abiona heard less demand and more worry in his voice than she had expected. She suspected he had grown up a bit between the time he went to bed last night and when he showed up here, having seen his world change so drastically. "Why did they go?"

"Because someone offered a way off," she said. No use sugarcoating this for the group.

"And we weren't given that chance," Onda added, bitterness in her voice. Not good.

"It all had to do with credits, nothing else," Abiona said. She sat back in her chair. "All of you were later hires -- you didn't have enough credits to make it worth their time when they could see they had the shuttle filled with people willing to pay the price. I've sent out requests for help. We just have to do some extra work for a while."

"You're still here," Tig said. He looked her over with a bit of surprise. "They offered you a spot, didn't they?"

"Yes."

"You knew the others were going and didn't stop them?"

"I didn't know who or how many," she said. "And they left before they had been scheduled to go -- wise on their part. The posts that would have caught the earlier departure had been abandoned. If I had known.... Well, I don't know if I would have stopped them anyway. Would you really have trusted people who felt we'd trapped them here?"

"Like we are?" Onda asked, her voice quivering. That might have been from rage, but looking into her face, Abiona suspected something else. Had she been close to someone who had left her behind?

"There will be other ships," she said, reminding them and herself. "This is a damned thoughtless inconvenience left to us by people we all trusted. However, that doesn't mean we aren't going to survive it. This isn't going to be easy, though. I won't lie to you. I'm going to need to know what work everyone is qualified to do. We barely have a quarter of the crew we should have to run this station. We're going to have to divide jobs up very carefully and start working out new schedules. We can do this."

Nods, agreements; they did know how to work once she sent them in the right direction. Tig and Onda took charge of the little group, and she let them go off and gather information she might have gotten faster by computer. It wasn't as though they really needed more work, but at least that gave them the belief that they were helping to make things better. They needed to be involved on levels that had nothing to do with the tech work they could do.

She watched them go and thought about her own work, but she didn't call anything up again. Instead, she decided it was time to do a little checking of her own.

Abiona knew the basics, but she called up the info on Ra San Rasi since his odd arrival on station. He had been here barely 105 days' standard. She'd thought it was longer, but that may have been because Ra seemed to fit in well enough. He went to work for Foley and did well, which she admitted she'd appreciated. Abiona okayed him for the post second in command of Security about fifty days ago.

She had thought about questioning that position at the time, but she'd been glad enough with the idea that someone might stand between her and Foley. Foley had not been one of her personal hires; he had come in through the Company channels. He'd been belligerent and lazy from the start which was not a good combination on a station already having trouble with the arriving colonists.

Ra San Rasi had at least been polite. She didn't question the position, and now she supposed she had to live with her own act of laziness on that part.

She looked over his pre-station travel record. It did look rather random which might mean he told the truth about why he came here. And it was also true that no one outside the company and those stranded here probably had any real idea about how bad things were. Once here he would have been stuck until the next ship came along. He hadn't taken that one, but he had intended to go on the ship that Foley took instead.

He'd been prepared to abandon them --

No, not like the others. Ra hadn't known about the offers to take others out -- she had seen his genuine shock at the situation. Whoever had sent the invites had been careful. Had Foley known? Maybe not since he'd stolen Ra's travel chit.

That still left Ra. If she accepted that chance had brought him here, and Foley's treachery had trapped him, did that make him any more trustworthy? Any less so?

The San Rasi name was famous throughout human space. His mother was the most famous IWC Captain -- and now Admiral -- that the fleet had ever known, mostly because she had never played entirely by the book. The IWC had sent her to some dangerous places, a few of them in fringe areas when they were invited in. She was known for her honor.

Was that a trait that could be passed on to her son? And if so, what the hell was he doing out here rather than living in the Inner Worlds where that name would have won him more than a bit of surprise.

Abiona didn't know. She might have to ask him, but then she'd have to trust that he was telling her the truth. And right now, did it really matter?

Could he do the job?

He had been doing most of Foley's work since he signed on anyway. She knew who wrote the reports because Foley missed them as often as he filed and the man was one step short of illiterate. So, Ra could handle the reports. He had also managed to help stop the near riot. She'd listened in and caught most of what was going on. She sensed the tension between him and Kinshera, but as far as Abiona could tell, Kinshera didn't get along with anyone, including most of the colonists, though she stood stalwartly beside them in every problem. They were loyal to her. She couldn't be replaced, even with Johntom.

Abiona shut down the file. She had to stop worrying about Security. As long as matters were being handled, she had far more important things to worry about.


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