Pit Stop

The old fuelling station circled the fourth moon of Gavrom. It’s thrusters could barely stop its orbit decaying, sending the the whole rickety mass plunging into the desolate purple regolith below. It was held together with string and needed constant repair.

Kel tightened another rusting pipe junction and smacked the end of his wrench into the metal ducting. It should have sounded solid, thick, comforting. Instead it sounded weak, warped, and thin. The station was being eaten by something, he knew it.

The only things fit for purpose were the fuel tanks. The four of them span around the central core, providing him with some semblance of gravity, extending from thick support arms that would rot away long before the tanks themselves were corrupted.

Kel check the roster, and saw he was only due one visit today. A small freighter would drop out of hyperspace and stock up on fuel, before heading off to God knows where. Their computer would only wake one of them to oversee the operation.

At least it would be a human voice to break up the day.

Until then, Kel attended to the list of repairs, dragging his tool kit from room to room, and checking off the fixes as he went. And each time he mended one, he noticed something else to add to the list, so that it never got any shorter.

On time, the freighter docked.

The old vidscreen, faded yellow with time and sporting so many dead pixels it looked like it had acne, fizzled into life. Looking back at him was a Currillian face. It was the tusks that put Kel on edge, as much as the acidic gloop dripping from its lips.

It grunted incomprehensibly. As Kel waited for the translation to come through, he flipped open the pump and watched the read out.

Thousands of gallons flowed. He could hear the motors squealing in protest, and the pipe work straining. One of these days, the whole place was just going to blow up, taking some poor ship with it.

The translation was still calculating. The computer always struggled with Currillian. Something to do with the verb structure apparently.

The fuel transfer was nearly complete when it finally came through. Kel had to squint to see the blurred text on the ageing screen. And when he finally deciphered it, he rolled his eyes.

“And a packet of crisps please.”

Always the same joke.

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