Hello. I am Uzochi Ryouta. You probably know my name in other contexts, but for the time being, think of me in my current state: an Eratosi refugee aboard the Vela. We are en route to Khayyam, which has opened their door to us when others would not. In my time here, I have seen many faces, and heard many stories. Depending on where you are in our solar system, you may not have crossed paths with a refugee from the outer worlds. We are abstracts, statistics. In these videos, I hope to give us a face. Our troubles may seem distant to you, but we felt the same on Eratos—until our home could no longer keep us alive. The demise of our sun is inevitable. We will all be refugees soon. It is my hope that by sharing our lives with you, we—as a cooperative system—can prevent these stories from becoming yours, too.
Owning a ship was a luxury Asala could not afford—but renting a nice one? Yes. In a lot of ways, it was the most logical choice. Given the sensitive nature of her work, booking passage aboard a crowded cruiser was asking for trouble. A high-end small craft charter, on the other hand, would guarantee her privacy, and its staff wouldn’t ask questions about the contents of her luggage. A dock attendant flipping open a case of live ammo in a public boarding line wasn’t ideal.
That was the practical justification. The other side of the coin was that Asala simply liked to travel in comfort. She liked having a ship to herself. She liked being able to send in a rider of what she wanted to have aboard. She liked the automated nav systems that didn’t require her to so much as glance at the pilot’s chair. She could kick up her heels, sit back, and let technology do the work. Being in transit was about as close to a vacation as she ever got.
There had been a time in her life when she’d traveled the way most people did—stiff-legged and miserable, shoved into cramped shared quarters on a one-way journey that took months to complete. Fuel was expensive and physics was free, so the most economical way to get a lot of people from here to there was to depend heavily on gravity assists, which meant waiting years for the planets to align themselves in a way that facilitated a slingshot. Missed your flight? No problem, there’d be another in eight years. Sure, it was possible for high-end craft to zip around in a fraction of the time, choosing whatever launch date they pleased, but who had access to that kind of extravagance?
Asala did. Or, more accurately: her employers did.
Kestrel Interplanetary was her charter of choice, and its proprietor met her at the spaceport. “Kima Asala, always such a pleasure,” he said with a little bow. His mustache was expertly coiffed, as usual.
“Nice to see you, Tibor,” she said. “Thank you for taking care of this on such short notice.”
“For you? Of course.”
“I hope the security squad didn’t give you too much trouble.” There was an aspect to this trip Asala hated already, and it had required a full fine-toothed comb-through of the vessel before she’d been allowed to board, plus a few technical alterations. Overkill, but then, this was a government job, and government people never felt useful unless they invented ways to make everything twice as much bother.
“No trouble,” Tibor said. “A bit on the humorless side, but—well, that’s military for you. No offense, of course.”
“None taken.” She nodded at the coppery quick-shot craft waiting in dock before them. “Is this me?”
“This is you.”
Asala smiled. What a gorgeous machine. The solitary flight wing was teardrop-shaped—the point designed for cutting through clouds, the curve topped with a generous crust of fusion engines. Jutting out from the heart of the teardrop was the passenger sphere, framed within the thin wing like the pit of a perfect fruit. Out in space, the flight wing would swivel around, swinging the engines in whatever direction they were needed without moving the sphere. But in the spaceport, the wing hung vertically, tip to floor, its polished hull gleaming in the light of the overhead lamps. Asala was sure Tibor had angled them before her arrival, for effect. The ship looked like an earring, a pendant, something you might hang in your window to catch the sun.
“New?” Asala said.
“It is,” Tibor said, smiling proudly at his craft. “The Sky Shard Model 6, fresh out of the shipyards. I got three in last week, and I am giving the best of them to you. It’s called the Altair.”
Asala looked at him sideways. “What makes this one the best?”
His eyes twinkled. “It’s the one I’m giving to you.” He gestured forward as Asala laughed. “Come, I believe you’ll be very happy with the interior.”
Down the gangway they went, then...