Her con chimed from the workstation at the center of her trailer. Red light bathed the walls and ceiling in quiet waves.
The vibrating nub between her legs scattered her attention, while the alert intensified in brightness and volume. She should address it, but she didn’t want to stop. Not yet. She’d started out of boredom but she was invested now, the peak in sight. She clutched the sheets as she floated up off the bed, her unit’s gravity system flickering out.
She glanced at her desk, where the holographic display had come alive with data and surveillance footage.
She was so close.
“Foreign ship entering atmosphere,” her con said above the buzz of the vibrator. “High velocity. Identity masked and possibly hostile. No response to dispatched warnings.”
“Fuck,” Yona muttered, her climax threatening to skitter away. She adjusted the angle of the vibrator and it responded to the pressure of her fingers, revving up to the highest setting. The surge carried her through and she cried out loud, without restraint; here where nobody could hear. For three beats she rode the crest, each pulse coming further apart.
She tore the vibrator away and cast it aside, where it bounced from the wall and floated off. She breathed hard, the heat of her blood pumping down her arms to her fingertips and back, through her calves to her toes, her limbs beating as if she were all heart. She slammed her fist into the wall and fell flat onto her bed as the gravity generator kicked back up.
No matter how advanced the technology, sometimes things just needed a good knock.
“Ping foreign ship,” Yona said, legs splayed as she sat up. Pirates always chose the most inconvenient moments to come blazing—in the middle of a meal, while she bathed, minutes before the dramatic climax of her favorite show—but this was the first time her unwanted visitors had had orgasmic timing.
“No response to ping,” her con replied. The female voice was smooth and familiar, a friend without substance. “Establishing channel override.”
Yona stood and gathered her hair in a clip, catching a whiff of her own scent on her fingers. She slipped on her panties and sterilized her hands at the wash station next to her bunk, trying to shake off the afterglow. Her body was itching for more, even as she recognized the diminishing returns of continuing, were she able. Rubbing out another climax wasn’t as likely to satisfy her as it was to exhaust her itches into submission.
She swept her suit off the floor. She’d worn and re-worn, laundered and repaired the garment over the course of her entire two-year contract, and they’d yet to let her down. The pants and top molded instinctively to support her body. The armored thread stretched over her in a snug, secure fit, and adjusted to her preferred temperature.
The ceiling dawned gold as she stepped into range of her workstation. Holographs expanded and lit up around her in a dynamic, intricate interface. She approached her hoverdesk, a floating tabletop covered in gadgets and knickknacks she’d brought back from the field, including a porcelain cat of good fortune beckoning with its paw, and a wooden ticking clock inlaid with the wide-eyed face of an owl.
Its hands showed 3:12. AM or PM, Yona couldn’t remember. Time mattered little, living alone out here.
“Display trajectory,” she said, huffing a strand of hair out of her face.
The holo projected a line over a scaled landscape of her satellite. Yona had full stewardship of the manmade asteroid composed of humanity’s throwaways, over two craggy kilometers across—one of thousands on course for suncineration. Her orbit was confidential, but the occasional lucky or determined party would find her. A tooltip popped up, analyzing the ship’s build and data.
Yona was assigned to salvage what she could from the landfill by the end of her contract, when she would ditch and her satellite would pass the event horizon into the sun. Nearly half of the landfill she’d primed to be recycled and reused. These materials determined the bonus she got from the Alliance and sold for high credits on the market. She was free to do either, and although the Alliance paid a touch less, she was on their payroll, they bought in bulk, and they were less of a hassle.
The rest of the satellite was almost entirely junk. Occasionally, one could unearth an antique or artifact, discarded or forgotten; rare, maybe even legendary—works of art, collectibles, treasures and trinkets. These items called a siren song to explorers and private expeditions, some more piratical than others. Some sweepers even contracted with third parties to excavate, especially if they were falling behind in their salvage efforts.
Yona was not only ahead of schedule, she’d picked her satellite to the bone. She had one final shipment of primed materials waiting to go out, her most valuable loot to date, and she had no desire to share. She’d gone two months without incident and was hoping to finish her last two weeks the same. Like a rash that spread on contact, pirates were much harder to chase off once they landed, and she was more vulnerable the more remote her coordinates.
“Open audio channel.” Yona hopped onto the hoverstool and spun around. A piece of her desk split off and hovered just beneath her elbow like an attendant butler. She spoke up in solid, measured tones. “You do not have permission to enter the atmosphere of this Alliance satellite. Identify yourself and state your purpose, or prepare for interception.”
Yona stilled as she followed the ship’s projected path. She pointed at a section of coordinates and zoomed in.
The ship was heading toward plastics.
Plastics were worthless, the sector a death trap. Any diver worth his credits knew to avoid plastics. Yona wondered if this pilot was not hostile, but incapacitated. Her analysis revealed no SOS but showed signs of life inside the cockpit.
She swiped the bud of her con from her desk and popped it into her ear.
“Would you like to ping support?” her con said as she whirled away from her desk.
“Keep them on standby.” They wouldn’t be much help this far out. For all practical purposes, she was on her own.
Yona stumbled into one gravity-adjusted boot then the other, laces tightening to fit with a hiss. Off a nearby shelf she grabbed her tool belt with her blaster—just in case—and put on a pair of gloves strong enough to clear anything in her way. Through the back door she entered the garage, ceiling lights illuminating as she entered. She straddled her hoverbike and clipped her helmet to her collar, where it unfolded in light alloy plates over her head.
Yona blinked and her contacts displayed the fastest route for interception, a line highlighted over her vision. Her personal atmosphere and force field booted up at full capacity, their status displayed in her periphery. With a flick of her wrist she transferred her target’s ping to the navigation. The garage door folded up and the bike idled off the ground.
She kicked forward and shot into the thinning atmosphere of her satellite.
Venus loomed in the distance like an antique, rusted plate. Yona leaned into her flight, dodging clusters of trash and household appliances set adrift by the satellite’s light gravitational pull. With each swerve she slipped further into a focus bordering on trance; aware of danger at every turn but only in the most abstract sense, adrenaline priming her for performance instead of fear. She abandoned conscious thought, giving herself over as much to the chaos of luck as to the sudden, urgent rise of her reflexes to their sharpest potential.
As she closed in on the ship’s tail, she locked onto its ping and volleyed a hack at its navigation. Her system came up hard against a complex firewall. Her target glided sharply down and away.
“Target entering red zone,” her con said. “Manual steering detected.”
Yona circled around as the ship dove into the pit.
For a moment she considered holding back. The plastic pit was more unstable than it had ever been, having gradually overwhelmed and expanded its borders, looming over the rest of the satellite. Its insides were a tangle of indestructible gadgets, sharp edges, and tangled lines. Sometimes Yona would hear the pit shifting, crashing, resettling, and she’d have to sweep the area afterward for debris.
She knew with deep certainty that the pilot wouldn’t get out alive—not without the gear and not without her experience. She also knew that even with those advantages on her side, the pit, with its sheer unwieldy mass, would always have the upper hand. One mistake and she could be overwhelmed and buried alive.
No one would blame her for sitting this out. Her contract didn’t require that she risk her life for anybody. The thought offered a type of dark comfort—a temptation of safety, with a price.
If she looked away now, how easy would it be to look away the next time?
“Prioritize power to forcefield and send an SOS,” Yona said as she turned toward the pit. Help was likely hours away. Worst case scenario, emergency services could make it in time to find her body. “I’m going in.”
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