Nightside Rock (2/2)

Crash.  Shit.  That would be the cerrúr

The cerrúr, unusual though it definitely was in a place like this, was arguably not the strangest of the Rock’s residents, except perhaps to the most cursory of glances.

Even the most ordinary part of the motley band was more than a little out of their element. Palyn Derres-ith-Derres and Valíë Essenye-ith-Estrey were taking another retirement from their careers – his third, if you didn’t count the children, and her fourth likewise – in Delphys’s media community.  They’d bought the license to operate the Last Gas, the old refueling station that had been incorporated into the Rock’s starport, during the brief boom times. The pair had stayed despite the slowdown as the Reach’s economy collapsed – sheer stubbornness, they said, and anyway, this was as good a place to rest for a while as any, wasn’t it?

The rest of the Rock certainly had cause to be grateful for their stubbornness. As talented an engineer as <Topaz Andante Leitmotif> was, there were certain issues with putting an ergovore in charge of the station’s hydroponics… such that everyone was delighted when Palyn gently but firmly and quite unofficially took over charge and care of the greenhouses. Certainly an irregular arrangement, but as long as he kept sharing his home-grown, home-cooked food, there was not a single sophont in the system who’d so much as blink.

mor-Tarkel Rentak and mor-Venek Issek were smugglers, an old kaeth couple who lived aboard their ship, a battered  old Sehereth-class free trader in its own private dock at the starport. Quite why they were staying docked at Nightside Rock, Phoebe wasn’t sure; rumors abounded of their being hunted should they leave by every agency in the region from the Fifth Directorate through the Vonnies’ Exception Management Group, but despite hearing ten thousand stories at a thousand dinners, that was one they wouldn’t tell.  Or, at least, never the same way twice.

And maybe one more, at least if the heat sensors were anything to go by.  The hermit had come through the Rock years ago, now, with a deed to the old Exploratory Service cache and caves, disappeared into it, and hadn’t been seen since.  The rods had been pulled on the thermal reactor and the juice was flowing, but he – or she, or whichever, given the privacy mantle that made the records less than useful on this point – was disinclined to answer signals, and the cache was an isolated system.

Still, even with its resident hiding from the rest of the Rock’s little community – and suffering from whatever horrors a steady diet of decade-old processed mycoprotein meals and algiprote ration bars visited on the digestion – so long as the heat emissions kept showing irregular variations Phoebe wouldn’t have to get a party together to go clean up the cache, and that was not nothing.

…and then there was the cerrúr. It was possible there was another star station somewhere with its very own warhorse, but despite the tone of her several dispatches on the point, Phoebe considered it unlikely that the Imperial Service, Logarchy of Procurement, Storage, and Logistics, contained two such… creatively inept executors as to, transposed digits or no transposed digits, ship cavalry resupply to a space station. Unfortunately, there also wasn’t one prepared to authorize the costs of shipping it back.

Still, despite its habit of getting into the greenhouses and helping itself to rather more than its proper rations, it wasn’t so bad to have around. Almost appropriate, in a way.

After all, it really wasn’t any more out of place on the Rock than everyone else.

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