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Incident at Ida (standard:science fiction, 2260 words) [1/3] show all parts
Author: GoreripperUpdated: Jan 18 2002Views/Reads: 2771/1441Part vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Two Special Agents are dispatched to the crime-ridden Ida binary asteroid system to investigate a possible alien attack.


Even compared to many of the other places he had been to in the past
three years, Ida was a hellhole. Fifty eight kilometres long, it 
circled the Sun deep within the Koronis Group of the Asteroid Belt. 
When mining operations had begun prospecting in the Belt ninety years 
ago, Apollo Nickel and Lead had briefly considered the rock as a 
potential site for exploration, however testing quickly revealed that 
Ida was worthless for mining and it was forgotten. 

  Then, half a century later, some genius in the planning department of
the Saturn Group decided that Ida would be the perfect place for a 
refuelling and maintenance depot for their long-haul freighters 
covering the Earth-Titan run. Long considered the boundary between the 
inner Solar System and the outer planets, a halfway marker for 
interplanetary traffic, the Asteroid Belt had always been an ideal 
location for such facilities. 

  What made Ida particularly attractive to Saturn Group wasn't the
asteroid itself however, but its satellite companion. Dactyl, a small, 
almost spherical rock nearly two kilometres in diameter, orbits Ida at 
a distance of 90 kilometres. Saturn could build their spaceport on Ida 
and provide accommodation for weary crews on its tiny moon. Or, rather, 
within its tiny moon. 

Never a firm to do things by halves-indeed, one which often left
competitors aghast at the audacity of some of their projects-Saturn 
Group engineers completely hollowed Dactyl out, leaving a shell only 
twenty metres thick, then filled the void with a massive hotel. While 
the spaceport facilities on Ida were second-to-none, and were soon 
being utilised by independent carriers and even small liners, the 
brazen extravagance of Dactyl's hotel outraged company shareholders, 
who argued that such outlandish expenditure on what had been designed 
merely as a convenience for workers was unjustifiable. When a member of 
middle management rather stupidly pointed out to a major shareholder 
that it had been that shareholder's daughter who had come up with the 
whole idea, he was rewarded by being assigned the vacant assistant 
manager's position at Saturn's depot on Miranda. 

Miranda, Alexander Bartlett surmised, was probably just slightly more of
a hellhole than Ida. But he had never visited that particular Uranian 
moon (or, in fact, any of them), so he had to go by reputation alone. 
Anything that orbited a planet called Uranus had to be an arsehole of a 

Bartlett looked out toward Ida from the huge window of one of Dactyl's
casino bars. Currently in eclipse, the asteroid was little more than a 
huge black shape that hid the stars behind it. 

He heard Slade call his name from across the room, and turned from the
view back to the scene by which he had distastefully found himself 
surrounded. When Saturn Group eventually pulled the plug on the 
facilities here for a newer spaceport on the larger Eugenia binary 
asteroid system it had taken about four light minutes for crime 
syndicates to descend on the abandoned planetoids to vie for control 
over the spaceport and hotel. There was a brief gang war that the 
authorities chose to ignore-nobody was too interested in sticking their 
noses into a bloodbath over a couple of useless rocks, especially if 
criminals were the only ones involved-with the eventual result that 
Milo Ortega added the Ida-Dactyl system to his growing collection of 
bad worlds. Ortega, as usual, attempted to legitimise his new 
acquisition by reopening the place to both companies and the public as 
a maintenance facility and a resort. 

About the only type of resort that Bartlett could see, however, was a
last resort. Dactyl was a sleazepit filled with strip clubs, titty 
bars, drug dens and crooked gambling rooms, and Ida was worse. The 
larger of the two asteroids had one of the highest murder rates in the 
Solar System and one of the highest concentrations of violent and 
dangerous criminals outside the cryo-prison on Charon. 

The law rarely came to hellholes like this, but something bad had
happened on Ida. Something very bad, something that even seemed to have 
Ortega worried, and Bartlett and Slade were here to find out what it 

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