The repairs took longer than expected, but eventually Brett was satisfied. As the Pikes Peak restarted its jump preparation, the atmosphere on the ship was one of unease and paranoia. Everyone aboard knew the risks of cutting corners, but no one wanted to attract the wrath of Captain Cole, whose mood had remained foul ever since the problem first arose. By the time the eight hour recharge cycle had completed, he seemed ready to snap. As the ship prepared for the next jump, everyone aboard, Mike included, broke with routine and filed on to the flight deck as if it would be a good luck charm. Compared to before, the Jump was conducted almost in silence, with only the most minimal of interaction between Cole and the ships computer. As ship’s voice counted down to zero, everyone held their breath and crossed their fingers. The more experienced among them knew that if something did go wrong with a Jump it would at least be quick, but that was little comfort. The clock hit zero…
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The shuttle pulled away from its freighter and slow-burned towards its destination. As acceleration-induced gravity took hold of the cabin, Mike Wiggins got his first glimpse of the Tochka Gagarina relay through the narrow viewport. It wasn’t anything special, just a landing gantry with a small centrifugal gravity deck bolted to one end, something of a step up from the work-shack stations that orbited even the most isolated planet, but not by much. Along the gantry was a trio of sleek express courier ships, each a lifeline of interstellar civilisation despite being little larger than the shuttle, and the boxy shadow of a Russian gunship. He fumbled in his pocket and looked over the itinerary sent out by the company a week before. Something big was happening back on Earth, something that needed his presence and specific expertise in person, and it couldn’t wait for the sedate pace of a normal passenger ship. He looked back out the viewport as the shuttle’s own docking rig extended to meet the gantry and sighed. One of those tiny courier ships would be his home for the next few days. He wasn’t looking forward to this.
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