It's early morning and the last of the bright stars are fading in the sky of a new day.
I am back in Candor City getting spare parts and supplies for my Dad, and to meet up with a new party of wealthy tourists. Once again, we are blessed with some regulars, and this group are particularly good spenders. There are four guys and two girls, and they are interested in extreme sports of every kind. If we can get a good month out of them like last time, we will have enough money this year for the repairs that Monazite Creek needs. I follow the directions of local flight control and pilot the flitter towards Sector 17, one of many backwater areas away from the main terminals and pads. A short hop over the blast wall and I find the berth ready as promised.
Sector 17 isn't just about sleepy local traffic; it is also host to the relics of failed interstellar trade and bank foreclosures. Ships of every size and description lie here in mothballs, sealed as best they can against the elements. Every month the banks that survived the crash, attempt to auction off their stock. Subsidised trips into orbit take the big clients to see the large bulk carriers and passenger liners, but without the volume of traffic from the Autocracy to support them, the flights come back without serious offers.
Here on the ground are the small players, the independent traders and speculators trying to revive the small packet and special cargos business. They are looking for that special combination of size, range, cargo capacity and passenger accommodation that can make a profit where the big ships have largely failed. While I wait at the entrance gate for my guests, I glance over the hardened faces of seasoned pilots and captains. I share their irritation at the practised and mendacious tones of the sales agent beating out from the speakers, and the over hyped charts and happy faces glowing on the giant wall screens. Those beaming grins and polished ships didn't exist before the Twilight, so they sure as heck wouldn't appear now.
The tones of the sales agent move up a gear as the next ship appears on the view screen, a former passenger ship called the Venture Star. After the collapse of the Venture Holiday Cruise Line before the Twilight, it had fallen into the hands of criminals and was now owned by the government. A few ears prick up when the government gets mentioned, because everyone knows how good the government is at getting taxpayers value for money. The sales guy assures the crowd that most of the pirates are dead at the hands of the military, while the remainder are in labour camps with no hope of reprieve.
The bidding starts slowly and cautiously, but my attention is drawn away by the arrival of a shuttle. I count the group that disembarks, finding that once more, it is not the hunting party I am waiting for. Behind me, the bidding begins to stall and I wonder if it will even reach the reserve. Each of those faces is that of an adventurer, brave men and women who even in the adversity that we find ourselves, are willing to roll the dice and gamble their own money for fortune amongst the stars. In some ways it makes my life seem tame by comparison, but I assure myself that while they might know navigation and speculative trade, none of them know how to track and hunt like I do.
Another shuttle comes in and this time it is my party. I exchange a cheery wave with them as they wait to clear security, while behind me an anxious bidder becomes the owner of a Venture class liner. I've seen it all before. The guy has bid all he's got to get this dream, and in a few months time, he'll realise he hasn't got the money to get the thing airborne. The next time I come here, that shiny ship will still be on the pad, only this time it will be a bank that's selling it, and another dream will have died.
-- Mona Asuridanavan, Sector 17, Candor City Starport
V3 figure in Shadow Dancer outfit, hair by Kozaburo. Greebles by Stonemason, other models including the Venture Star are original models created in Hexagon.
Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 6 Pro Studio. Post processed in Photoshop CS2