As he stood on the bridge of the newest ship in their fleet, freshly-commissioned Captian Elzon Terayon reflected on the strange twists of fate that brought not only him, personally, to this amazing and unexpected point in his life but the strange course of events that brought his entire race to this most unexpected point of prestige in the galaxy.
Just two short years ago there was hardly a sentient race in the entire galaxy that could find the Zyrellian homeworld at the very edge of explored space on a galactic star chart, even with a Zyrellian pointing right at it, it was so insignificant. So insignificant, in fact, that of the tens of thousands of recorded and charted civilized worlds that made up the known universe, Zyrellia had exactly three ambassadors, and only from their closest neighboring worlds. It was only because the Zyrellian government kept pestering those governments about an ambassadorial exchange that the Kohlonar, Mushighan, and the Furhlehn governments finally agreed to trade diplomats because it ended up being more cost-effective than continually dodging the Zyrellian delegations that were sent each month to make the formal requests.
Zyrellia had very little in the way of natural resources, barely enough to sustain their own population, actually, and nothing that was unique to their homeworld or region of controlled space, small as it was. Their fleet of ships, if it could even be referred to as a fleet, was barely enough to protect their mining ships from the occassional raiders that attacked as they returned from their asteroid mining operations every couple of weeks, and their scientific minds didn't have enough money to fund any research into improving those fleet capabilities. Zyrellia was, essentially, a sitting duck for any invader with even a small, disciplined force that wanted to conquer them. The only thing that kept Zyrellia free from outside forces was the simple fact that there was nothing on Zyrellia that was worth the effort.
That was two years ago, though. Two years is a short time in the grand scheme of things, but a whole lot can change over the course of an eventful two years. It had been a VERY eventful two years for the Zyrellians, and especially so for Elzon Terayon.
Elzon grew up as the oldest of 13 children, so his parents didn't have much time (or anything else) for him. As a result, he was gone from home and on his own before his youngest brother was born 16 years later. Elzon wasn't close to anyone in his family and hadn't seen any of them in several years, even though he had thought of them often, but that was never enough to get him to return to the small farm in the northern plains where most of them still lived. Elzon wanted to get away from Zyrellia and it's neverending cycle of poverty, and was always looking for a way to accomplish that goal. This was how Elzon ended up on the mining shuttle headed for Asteroid G387.
Asteroid G387 was rather unremarkable, just like everything else in Zyrellian space. It was a rock that was floating in space, surrounded by a bunch of other rocks that were also just floating in space. This one was only different in that it had just begun to be mined four days ago and was a little bit further out than the rest of the asteroids in this particular section of the asteroid field. Elzon was in the latest group of miners to be recruited to work this new mining operation, and was just one of the nearly dozen that were completely new to this kind of work in the latest group. The veteran miners were not happy to have a bunch of newbies along for them to babysit as well as train. The work was hard enough and dangerous enough as it was without also having to worry about keeping these kids safe during the digging and blasting, AND teach them how to do the work, AND how to monitor all of their personal safety features, AND pay enough attention to not kill the guy working next to them, all while making the exact same pay as these little whelps that they were training. Not the best of incentives for trying their best to make sure that all of the newbies stayed alive.
The mining shuttle finally docked on the still nearly lifeless rock in space and the miners all reported in to get their bunk and work assignments. Elzon was assigned bunk number G-48 and to shift number 4. He expected to get a low draw, but this felt even lower than he could have imagined. "If you have a bunk on level A, you don't work on that rock", said Barsus Knorsum, a hardened-but-tired looking middle-aged man that had sat next to Elzon in the shuttle on the ride in and was now walking behind him in line. "Level B is for the Management Team only." The capital letters in the words could clearly be heard. "C level is for most of the supervisors, the senior advanced miners and for senior technical support staff; D level is for the senior miners and most of the rest of the technical support staff; E level is where most of the miners live, once they know what they are doing. Sometimes you get some techical support guys living there for a while, if the job calls for guys that need to take readings at that level, but that doesn't usually happen. Level F is where you go when you are brand-new to mining. The conditions suck. It is supposed to motivate you to learn everything that you can so that you can be promoted to better quarters. Most mining expeditions don't have a level G, and people don't get sent to bunk there on expeditions that do without someone specifically sending them there. Someone with some power, and that doesn't like you. I've been there. I'm sorry you're headed there", and with that he headed towards the lift to E level.
Elzon felt even worse now as he made his way to the E level lift and down into the bowels of the residential area. There was apparently someone powerful in or around his life that didn't like him, yet he had no idea who it could possibly be. He didn't socialize in powerful circles, and never had, nor had he ever been invited to do so. He didn't have any friends or known enemies that did, either, and it was now too late to get himself out of this assignment. When you signed on for a mining expedition to an asteroid, you were stuck on the rock for about 3-6 months at a time. Sometimes more. And sometimes people were known to die on these rocks. Especially newbies.
Science Fiction /