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 get that, but she didn’t want to stop. Not yet. She’d started out of boredom but she was invested now. 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 almost there.
“Foreign ship entering atmosphere,” her con said above the buzz of the vibrator. “High velocity. Identity masked and likely hostile. No response to dispatched warnings.”
“Fuck,” Yona muttered, annoyed and frustrated. This was taking too long. She flipped to the highest setting on her vibrator’s remote and the surge carried her through. For three beats her body crested above the din before veering down, the pulses coming further apart.
She tore the vibrator away and flung 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. Divers 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 ignored it and slipped on her panties, 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 another one out wasn’t as likely to satisfy her as it was to exhaust her urges into submission.
She swept her suit off the floor. She’d worn and re-worn, laundered and repaired the responsive garments 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 settled over her in feathery wisps and adjusted to her preferred body temperature. She pulled down her sleeves and they stretched to accommodate.
As she stepped into range of her workstation, the ceiling dawned gold, simulating sunrise. 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.
“Display trajectory,” she said, huffing a wayward strand of hair out of her face.
The holo projected a dotted line over a scaled landscape of her trash satellite. Yona had full stewardship of the manmade asteroid composed of humanity’s throwaways, over two craggy miles across—one of thousands of Class X satellites on course for suncineration. Yona’s orbit was confidential, but the occasional lucky or determined ship would still find her. A tooltip popped up, analyzing this one’s build and data.
She’d gone two months without incident and she’d hoped that would continue through her last two weeks. She wasn’t expecting action so far out in space, so close to her deadline. Considering the effort involved in a deep dive, pirates had no reason to hit a satellite at the end of its term, when there would be little left to dig up.
Yona was assigned to salvage what she could by the end of her contract, when her satellite would pass the event horizon into the sun. Nearly half the landfill she’d primed and sent off to be recycled and reused. Reclaimed materials both determined the bonus she got from the Alliance and sold for high credits on the net. She was free to do either, and though the Alliance paid a touch less, they were exponentially less of a hassle.
The rest of the satellite was almost entirely junk. Sometimes, underneath it all lurked an antique or artifact, discarded or forgotten. This last category was a siren song to private expeditions, explorers, mercenaries—some more piratical than others.
With a touch of luck, one could hit it big on a contract like hers. Some of her contemporaries even conducted business with their visitors or subcontractors, especially if they were running behind schedule.
Yona was ahead of schedule. And like a rash that spread on contact, divers were much harder to chase away once they landed.
“Activate 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 access to enter the atmosphere of this Alliance Class X satellite. Please state your presence and purpose, or prepare for interception.”
Yona stilled as she followed the ship’s projected path. She pointed and pulled up a section of coordinates.
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.
She 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 and put on a pair of gloves strong enough to clear anything in her way. She crossed the room to the back door into the garage, the lights turning on 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 smart contacts displayed the fastest route for interception, a blue 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, and the bike lifted off the ground. The garage doors unfolded above her.
Yona pulled up and shot into the thinning atmosphere of her satellite. Venus loomed in the distance like an antique, rusted plate. She leaned into her flight and slipped into the focus of chase, dodging household appliances and veering under a ring of rubber tires set adrift by the light gravitational pull of the satellite. In these moments she felt herself transcend to a place she almost didn’t believe afterward. She knew the danger in her trajectory yet felt little fear. Instead she abandoned herself as much to the chaos of luck as to the sudden, urgent rise of her capabilities 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, coming up hard against a complex firewall. Her target glided sharply down and away.
“Target entering a hot zone,” her con said. “Manual steering detected.”
“So I see,” Yona said, circling around as the ship dove into the pit.
For a moment she considered holding back. The 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 littered with indestructible gadgets and air pockets carved out of jagged edges and tangled lines. Sometimes Yona would hear the pit shifting, crashing, resettling, and she’d have to sweep the area afterwards for debris.
No one would blame her for sitting this out. Her contract didn’t require that she risk her life. The thought offered a sort of dark comfort, and she was tempted—like dipping her toes into a cool pond, unable to see to the bottom.
She knew with deep certainty the pilot wouldn’t get out alive—not without the gear, and not without her experience. She also knew that no matter how well she prepared, she could also lose herself down there.
If she chose retreat, where would that lead?
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 to her con. Every instinct screamed at her as she turned toward the pit. The nearest help was likely hours away, but worst case scenario they could at least come find her body. “I’m going in.”
Share this Post