(This is the first in a series of character introductions for my next planned longer work, working title “Trading Free”.)
Lairh hinGastref winced again at the sound of the raised voices emanating from the station manager’s office, and wished that his auditory palps weren’t quite so sensitive in the upper frequency ranges.
“Because you’re a gods-be-damned idiot, hinRykar, and your predecessor was an idiot, and both of you followed in an established tradition of decades of idiocy! It’s –”
A bellow of anger from within was abruptly cut off.
“Then try acting less like one. The smartest thing you did here was hiring me –”
“A lot of good it did me! I needed a miracle worker –”
“And you got one! But I can’t miracle without something to work with. I’ve kept this tin can running for a year waiting for you to come through with parts and funds for repairs, and you came through with nothing. Did you even try?”
“This station has a budget. It’s your job to work within it.”
“It’s my job to keep the systems that keep everyone on this station alive working, and I told you ten months ago that that wouldn’t fit in the damn budget. What did you –”
“I don’t have to answer to – get out of my office!”
“It’ll be a pleasure, hinRykar, yes, and your station too. You can have my resignation right now, and I’ll send you confirmation from dirtside.”
The doorway to the office hissed open, and hinGastref watched as a small round vehicle, its upper bowl crammed with a dozen hand-sized, furry bodies rolled out, pivoted, and came to a stop up against the side of his desk. One of them climbed up to the side of the bowl, pulled a data plug from what resembled a miniature toolbox, and jammed it into one of hinGastref’s data ports.
The communication screen on the wall – and presumably all over the station – lit up.
“Attention, residents. This is a priority message from Moic Fortybodies, former head of Station Engineering.”
“I’m about to get all forty of my tails off this death-trap, and I’d suggest you do the same. Attached to this message is my detailed technical report on all the maintenance your Station Manager is too gods-be-damned cheap to bother doing. You can ask him about that when he figures out how to override the lock on his office door –“
An enraged yell from within, on cue, suggested that he’d Just discovered that for himself.
“- but here’s the short list. The sectional air seals weren’t installed to spec, and are rotten. The fusion reactor shielding is three years overdue for replacement and patched with whatever we had handy. All the pipework is leaking, and if you didn’t know, maybe 40% of the entire damn station is pipework. All that moisture’s made the clut grow out of control down in the serviceways. Don’t ask about the chemicals they’ve been using to keep it out of public areas. Meanwhile, the wiring is full of undocumented ad-hoc fixes with scrapyard salvage. Oh, and the radiators are so pinpricked with micrometeoroid holes this place is pissing tons of volatiles every day.”
“I’ll see you at the descent pods.”