I am on my eighth checkpoint, and it's about time I reached the docking bay. My fuel tank is in need of a refill, and I am exhausted.
It has been one long, and busy night. Well, it has always been nighttime for me. No normal planetary rotation to clue me in on the time of day, as everywhere this space voyager took me, the inky blanket of deep space enveloped me. I guess when one is in space, time does not matter. Only the soft blue glow from my voyager's digital clock can tell me what time of the day it is back in my homeworld.
This old and decrepit voyager has been with me for over 20 years, and even though the leather on the seats have worn off and that the radiation shield has been replaced every solar cycle, I decided to stick with it despite being offered a brand new ship by Starwing Security. I bargained by allowing them to temper the plating and fortify the shields with recycled parts from phased out ships, just so I can keep the same internal structure. I took care of it like a trusty friend. It was a favor I constantly returned, as it had taken care of me throughout the countless journeys in lonely space. It is the last remaining specimen of a rare model and I want to hold on to it for as long as I am alive.
I still needed 70000 more kilometers to reach the ship hangar, but the path is already pre-programmed in my ship's system and so I set it to auto-pilot. That gave my brain room to ponder other things. I look at the space debris whirring past my window, and further my view by focusing on the great dark silhouettes of the planets that loomed by. I watch a few cargo ships float by, possibly loaded with junk collected from the nearby waste planets. They are preparing for a few more hours of travel, to unload the junk onto the refining station 120000 kilometers from here. This part of our star system is involved with collecting resources for machinery, factories, industrial structures, and vehicles, and so this district has the lowest population.
The planets here have little or no housing options, and so numerous space shanties are built on islands of debris. There aren't many commercial establishments here: only gas stations, the occasional convenience store, and a small ship loaded with food and goods that arrives bi-monthly. Though this sector spans a vast area several thousand kilometers wide, it mostly consists of dead space, and an assortment of junk from old satellites floating around. It does get pretty lonely here fast, and health isn't topnotch either. Lack of vitamin D is a no-brainer, and bones rapidly turn brittle from the microgravity. Mechanics and tow-ship operators get by with pocket radios, portable televisions, and the good ol' paperback literature, but it takes a little more than a thick coat of grime to see in their faces that they live gloomy lives.
Security has been tighter for the past few months, considering pirates and a few pillagers had attempted to nab unguarded scrap carriers. These defunct metals being transported still carry some precious minerals, so robbery has been rampant. It is quite common that these minerals are hauled by lone operators, and so a small team of robbers can easily hijack a carrier. The great distance between the ports delayed alerts of such hijacks for several days, so the head of security decided to litter the sector with detectors and guards every 50000 kilometers or so: enough to close up all the dead spots on the map.
My first job had me assigned to hauling these detectors into those parts, and making sure I set them up correctly. It wasn't exciting a task, as I had to drive hours through empty space, and with barely any form of entertainment to keep me sane. It also gets a little claustrophobic quickly, being forced to stay inside my ship for days if the debris storms get too wild. I've always resorted to pack lunches, and installing a water boiler onboard for my noodles was a life saver. Debris storms were more manageable that way.
Setting up the detectors was probably the worst part of the ordeal. Well, the uncertainty once I arrived to a destination. There was never knowing what I would get myself into. 99% of the dead spots were mostly uncharted territory, and each arrival always was a surprise for me. There were times dead spots literally screamed of 'death', as I would unknowingly enter robbers' hideouts. I had to get my butt out as quickly as hell and call in a report to the nearest security to get rid of them. It does me no service to have "Starwing Securities" plastered all over my ship, despite numerous requests for a more low-key paint job. I always braced myself each time the HUD requests for confirmation to proceed as I enter the programmed destination.
Most of the time, it would just be an abandoned starport, an ugly asteroid, or an area filled with foggy debris. Though there have been instances I would stumble upon a marvel of nature: an ecosystem of glowing plantlike growth inside a carved out asteroid, or a bizarre shiny liquid collecting into small pool that seemed to emit a calming melody of bells when I touched it. For those cases, I would recalculate new path trajectories as not to disturb such wondrous works of nature. Those were only rare scenarios, as it is hard to imagine anything else that will thrive and push on to grow in a gigantic, filthy, and smelly wasteland such as this.
Most of the time it would take hours to wait for a signal to arrive, depending on how far the dead spots were from the main tower. Sometimes you realize you have brought a broken machine with you, which explains why the machine doesn't let out a signal in a calculated time. That involved more time for repairs, looking around for scrap material, and more waiting. It was a 3-month long project, and I was relieved of the menial duty as soon as a replacement volunteered. I had to allocate a few more boring weeks to teach my replacement, but at least he learned quickly. The only thing I could outright be thankful for was his wide-eyed eagerness in tinkering with the vintage machines and stark proactivity in checking for faulty ones.
Right now I am tasked in ensuring entry and exit points in this sector are safe. I may have to clean out debris if they blocked the paths too much, but that rarely happens as the cleanliness officers are doing their jobs. I'm still involved in security, but at least I get to interact with people more, and travel around.