Michael throttled his thrusters back with one hand, slowing the approach with the docking tube that stuck out into space like an awkward, stubby arm. "Alignment off by point-six-four degrees," droned a soft female voice. He managed to avoid rolling his eyes as he tapped the thrusters, less than an instant, and brought the ship into the proper slot. "I know what I'm doing," he told the voice, though he knew it was pointless. His little freighter didn't have enough space for a real AI, only the automated voice system and basic navicomputing. The voice droned on again, announcing proper alignment even as the door clicked and clanked against the hull. A series of locks clicked into place, and then a second tube extended to his cargo bay with a much louder clunk that shook the entire thing. He pulled off his harness and switched the ship's gravity off, then yanked himself out of the cockpit and down a short hallway. Three doors branched off from it; one led to the living and sleeping quarters that took up a third of the space on the ship, and the other, directly across, led to the airlock. The door at the far end led down a short ladder into the cargo bay, and from the clunking he could already tell that the automated loaders were at work, carrying crates of food and supplies into the strange, secretive base. Michael sighed as he yanked the airlock open and submitted himself to the equalizing pressures and return of gravity. It was a short jaunt down the umbilical, into a glossy, well-cleaned reception area--and two armed guards. They eyed him suspiciously as he checked in with the wall-mounted computer to confirm his delivery. He glanced at the guards as the system tallied his crates and determined payment. "I don't imagine you get out much, working on an asteroid?" he asked dryly. One of the guards only scowled harder, like Michael hadn't seen the same tough guy act a hundred times over. Beeping at the monitor caught his attention, and he looked back to see 'DELIVERY COMPLETE - NEW CONTRACT ACCEPTED - STANDBY FOR DETAILS'. The words faded before he could blink, at which point he did blink. "What the hell?" He spun back to the guards. "What the hell is this? I never agreed to another job." Neither guard answered, but Mister Scowls went so far as to smirk at the captain's dismay. After another moment a fourth man joined them, a scientist of some kind judging by the white bodysuit he wore and the blue stripes on his collar. He flashed a nervous smile, his lip and jaw covered in coarse red hair, the top of his head shiny and bald. "Are you Captain Raptis? Mihalis Raptis? Captain of the, er..." "Call me Michael. My ship doesn't have a name. Just a serial number. Look, what the hell is this? I never agreed to take on cargo here. It was a simple supply run--I've got a vacation lined up four systems over, all paid for, I don't have time to run random errands." "I understand that. This cargo just needs to leave the station, Michael. It doesn't matter where it goes or where it ends up, as long as you take it from here. Offload it at the first port you can find. It's parts, mostly, spare parts we don't need but can't keep. The money's already been paid forward already--please, mister Raptis--" "Michael." The captain folded his arms and glanced at the wall panel again, then back at the scientist. "What if I just jettison it as soon as I'm in empty space?" "Please don't," the man said quickly, grabbing at Michael's sleeve almost before he could help himself. He seemed to regain control quickly, and let go just as swiftly, hands up. "Please. Please, just take it with you wherever it is you're going. Someone can make use of the parts... maybe even you. I don't know what's on your ship, but some of the components we're sending away could be useful." He glanced back at the guards, then stepped in closer. "If you transmit a confirmation I'll send you double what's already been paid. Imagine the vacation you could have with thirty thousand credits." The dull voice once more droned in his ear as he disengaged the airlock and used his thrusters to clear the asteroid facility, coasting out to ten thousand kilometers before he dialed a set of coordinates into the nav and left it to compute and engage. Once more he went down the hall, this time with the gravity on, and slid down the ladder at the back and into the storage bay. There was only a few crates compared to the half a hundred he had dropped off--three that he could see, all stuffed at the very front, like load distribution mattered in space. "Thirty thousand just to offload some junk," he mused, shaking his head as he took a prybar from its magnetic mount and began to work at the first crate. "What kind of weapons-grade bullshit have I got myself into?"