Spud’s helmet had a visor, of course, but he didn’t flip it down. Sometimes, he just liked to feel the sunlight on his face. It was so warm and comforting in a way that no other warmth in the universe can be. It pressed against his jaw, across his forehead, through his eyelids. He felt permeated by it, and basked in the feeling, letting himself float free of the ground beneath him, enjoying drifting away for a moment. The tether would keep him stuck to the rock as it trundled around the dusty planet above him. The two twisted hulks near him were surrounded by clouds of metal fragments that danced, and twirled, and occasionally collided. They glittered mesmerizingly, blending with the back screen of twinkling stars. There wasn’t much to the life of a salvager, so he took these brief moments of vast emotional complexity and was grateful for them. He knew there was probably a lot to life that he wouldn’t ever understand, but right now, dangling off the ass of this hunk of rock and soaking the slow, prickly love from the sun into his smiling face, he felt content to be small.
Nikolad Videlsky didn’t think much of his job, and, in fact, tried not to think of it at all when he didn’t have to. It was hard, with long hours, and no future. After graduating from a decent piloting school in Lonetrek with respectable marks, he expected to go straight into the Cadarus Navy. He wanted badly to be captain of grand battleships and destroyers. But competition was fierce, and expenses were great. Soon, a temporary job as a courier morphed into a full time job as a transporter, and now here he was behind the helm of a paunchy freighter instead of a sleek warship. All he could do is stare out the tiny windows at the tangled sea of metal plates and piping in front of him. Although his chance at a better life had escaped him long ago, at least the pay was beginning to match his effort.
A T-78 Charon freighter was not your standard mark for a crew of twenty-some. And while the idea seemed like an idiotic one at first, the tiny man’s insistence was beginning to sink into her, like an unwilling sleep. Varsha wasn’t the kind of privateer that especially needed to take risks, and she didn’t feel particularly impassioned by anything at all. It was something in his beady little eyes, she thought, that kept trying to kindle a fire within her and make her believe in his cause. Little by little, she warmed, and she knew that night, as they sat at a sticky booth in an inconspicuous little mining colony cafeteria at the edge of the Todaki system with star charts rolled out all over the table, that all his flailing and vehemence was going to win her over. She would do this thing, as unreasonably stupid as it was, although she was still shrewd enough that she wasn’t going to make it cheap.