Date: 174-993 Imperial.
Location: 069-526 system (0721), approaching Fonnein Orbital.
"Well, it's not Gateway" said Sir David as the telescope picked out the orbital's silhouette against the planet's day side.
"It's about as un-Gateway as you can get" agreed Silea.
"Oh, have you been to Gateway?" Luan was suddenly enthusiastic.
"Not me, I've just seen pictures" said Silea.
"I went there once, years ago, in the scouts" Sir David reminisced. "We were giving some diplomat type a lift, the navy being indisposed, and we let him talk us into timing our arrival so we could watch dawn sweep across the face of the planetoid. Every second or so it caught another window, on one of those dwellings carved into the surface. It was as if the whole station was sparkling in the sun. Inside it's just another hollow asteroid with a park in the middle, only bigger than usual. But the view from space is really something if you catch it right."
"So do you think this place would look any better if the sun was shining from this side?"
"Nope. I think the less we see of it, the better. It's a good job we can dock with our eyes closed." He tapped the edge of the flight controls console.
"I'd love to visit Gateway" Luan said, half to herself.
Silea started to spin wire-frame holograms of her docking path. "It's only forty parsecs, or forty-five around the rift" she quipped.
"I guess I'll never make it" Luan sounded resigned.
"You probably could work your way out there, if you don't mind taking a year or two to do it, you know. But it's a long way to go for a view..."
A burst of comms chatter cut the daydreaming short. Sir David exchanged reassuring noises with flight control to assure them that the free trader approaching at several thousand kilometres per second had every intention of stopping before it rammed them. The Avaricious got down to business.
Eventually, they were down to creep speed for docking and the orbital spaceport filled thirty degrees of their forward arc. It looked like two bugs with large carapaces had hit almost exactly the same part of a windshield. At least the planet looked good behind it – blue water and white ice, seen through swirling grey clouds.
Silea initiated a sequence of attitude burns to swing them around the side and find their assigned docking gantry.
"What's that?" asked Sir David, as they flew over a heavily modified 400 dton Type R Subsidised Merchant, that had apparently been turned into a giant hologrammatic hoarding.
"Oh that's Honest Ab" said Silea, grinning a bit. "Everybody's favourite local arms dealer. He's famous in this corner of space. He sells all sorts of weaponry from that ship, merc gear and ship's weapons – you name it. They say he can get grav tanks, if you don't mind a wait. And all of it is actually, genuinely, legal. Proper paperwork and everything. Not forged."
"But why the lightshow?"
"Maybe he wants to remind everyone he's the only non-shady retail military weapons dealer in twenty parsecs. It might save him a few customs inspections, remind the powers that be that they've searched him fifty times and he was always clean."
Luan nodded quietly in the background. "Is this a big place for weapons dealing then?".
"Well..." said Silea "It's a small port. But I have heard that this is the place to get your refit done if you want it to include a few military surplus bits and pieces. Things you couldn't normally get fitted at a merchant yard. Perhaps he's selling to that crowd, the ships or the yards."
"Well, I wasn't planning on getting in any starship combat in the near future," said Sir David, "but I suppose I really ought to buy some ammunition for the carbines in the locker. Maybe I'll go see Honest Ab." He turned to Luan and asked "Do you think we could pick up any good cargos here for Kerin's Tyr?"
"Kerin's Tyr is quite a bit lower tech than this place, it might be hard to pick up manufactures they can use and maintain there. But I did wonder about water purification equipment or something like that. Unless they mine the icebergs, they must purify their water. Come to think of it, with this atmosphere code the icebergs might need purifying too. I'll have a look at the local net once we've docked."
"Which will be in about thirty seconds..." said Silea.