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|Incident at Ida (standard:science fiction, 2260 words) [1/3] show all parts|
|Author: Goreripper||Updated: Jan 18 2002||Views/Reads: 2771/1441||Part vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Two Special Agents are dispatched to the crime-ridden Ida binary asteroid system to investigate a possible alien attack.|
INCIDENT AT IDA 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 place. 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 was. Click here to read the rest of this story (174 more lines)
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