Chapter 1, Part 1 Born poor. You'd think there was enough wealth in the universe that everyone could have a piece. Ryerson reflected idly, staring into the dark pool of semi-sweet bitter in his mug. Out of all the places he could have chose to drink on a station the size of New Constantinople, he had settled for the Raging Devil, a seedy, most likely unlicensed bar on Violet Deck. The lowest level of the station you could go before you hit vacuum. Where the gravity plating only worked 5 days out of 7. The poorly maintained neon-lights, the blaring synthesized music, the haze of cigarro smoke from an inadequate air filtering system and the smell of cheap booze threatened to overwhelm his senses. Scanning the bar, he took a moment to drink in the diaspora of humanity that had encroached on this garishly decorated bar. A pair of bounty hunters, you could always tell who the bounty hunters were, they were the only ones in the bar openly showing guns that were too big for their hands. A group of hicks from some farming planet gawking at the holographic strippers occupied one booth. A freighter pilot and some cargo bay handlers in another. And at the corner of the bar, was his contact. Dressed in a dark suit that probably cost more than the amount of money he made on his last job. Drax Suntova. Even the name sounded sleazy. He motioned for Ryerson to come join him at his table. "Hey. I've got a job for you." No pleasantries, staight to business. Which is how he preferred it as opposed to socializing with someone who in all likelihood wouldn't have given him the time of day. "The usual fare I suppose? Smuggling another crate of happy-pills to some piddly ass blackmarket on some rockpounder roid out in the middle of nowhere?" "Naw, this one's different. An acquaintance of mine gave me a lead on some new kind of weapon that was found in this sector that's currently in the hands of an indy trader named Burrows. Real high-tech stuff, alien. Could fetch a mightly fine price to some gunrunners I know." "You want me to swipe it? I'm not really a thief you know?" "So smuggling drugs, outrunning authorities, bribing officials and putting hundreds of people into drug rehab makes you a good person?" Contempt. "I never said I was an angel, I said I'm not a thief. What the hell do I know about stealing?" Rebuttal. "It'll be a cakewalk. The guy flies solo, no crew, and leaves his ship out in the open hangar." Assurance. "So why don't you do it, or find an actual thief? I'm a pilot. I move stuff from A to B." Indignation. "Well, let's just say that there are several learned collegues in my trade that are also after it and the associates I would normally choose for this job are known to be connected to me. Whereas you are not. If you were to steal said item, there wouldn't be much of a trace to lead the others to me. You want the job or not? I can advance you 50,000 creds for this one and promise you 150,000 more on delivery." Placation. When a man smiles and offers you an obscene amount of money in the shittiest hole in the universe, there's always a catch. Usually the kind that ends up with a bullet hole in your head. "No thanks, I wouldn't know what to do, I'll take my chances and grab myself something a lil less shady." "I won't offer you this again. So are you sure?" Veiled threat. Ryerson nodded curtly and stood up to leave. "Well then, I won't keep you, best of luck in your endeavours Ryerson, flysafe." Stepping outside, Ryerson wondered if he had made the right choice. He had a ship that was in need of repair. A crew that was basically his family that he had to support. And debt. Always debts to pay off. I'll just pick up a standard courier job when I get to the hub. Something nice and easy. He walked out of the bar, out of the side street and into the cavernous corridor that served as the main transit line in this sector of the station. Cargo flitters and ground vehicles of every shape and size zoomed past him. He looked around the busling crowd and shouldered his way past street vendors, beggars and pedestrians and began the trek towards the docking bays when it began to rain. Rain. It was raining on a goddamn space station. He craned his head up and 10 decks high above he saw that a water pipe had burst and was spilling it's recycled contents on the miserable mass of humanity below. "Attention citizens. A water transfer pipe has suffered a malfunction on Violet Deck, Section 4. Maintenence Crews have been dispatched. We apologize for the inconvenience." a cloyingly sweet synthesized female voiced boomed over the PA system. Always a female voice. And a nice one at that. He mused that she could probably say "Attention citizens. We are now flooding the decks with poisonous gas and will rob your bodies once you're dead." and no one would care because she had that sweet of a voice. The rain continued to pour overhead and started to dampen his flight jacket. He hurried his pace towards the hub accessways. Ducking into an alcove to shield himself from the rain, he drew out and lit a cigarette. "Please extinguish your cigarette. Oxygen is rationed on this level. Thank you for your cooperation." "Sure thing honey." he said aloud as he took another drag and continued on his way. The rain was finally starting to let up as he reached the entranceway to the hub, the network of transit lifts and railcars that connected him to the merchant offices and docking bays in the station. Waving off an aggressive peddler of reconstituted soy mush and now thoroughly soaked, he stood waiting at the lift that would take him to the docking bay where his ship was berthed and where a mission terminal was available. Maybe he could find himself an easy cargo run to the next system, just a small job to keep things going just one more day. One more day. He brooded. He was brooding. Clenching a fist and gritting his teeth, he swore under his breath. What a fool! No one refuses a job from me. I'll find someone else to take this job. I always get what I want. And I'll get someone to get rid of that asshole. No one refuses a job from Drex Suntova. NO ONE. If Drex had been paying more attention to his surroundings rather than plot the demise of a lowly spacer, he would have noticed the barrel of a gun pointing right at his head. Bang.