I have an inboard cabin while I stay here. Disadvantage: quite low gravity. Advantage: it’s cheaper, and I can see into the harbour from the window.
I live aboard Banjax, for the most part, though many orbital stations – especially Legacy stations – prohibit crews remaining aboard ship while docked, except for an hour after arrival and an hour before departure.
Why? Ostensibly it’s a safety measure; but realistically, it’s about helping the station economy. Turf everyone out of their ships and they’ll need somewhere to go. That’s either going to be the local bars, pubs and restaurants, or hotels and dormitories. Some of the more upmarket stations boast libraries and theatres and the like. The height of culture on most, including this one, is a multiplex cinema and maybe a low-gee sports arena.
I sound bitter. I’m not, really. It’s a bit cynical, as marketing tricks go, but it’s by no means too onerous. Actually, it’s probably a fairly good idea: after a week or two out in the dark, it does most crews at least a bit of good to stretch their legs and have a bit of a bounce around a more open environment. And it’s something I might be tempted not to do if they didn’t require me to leave the ship every time I visit for a day or two. It factors in nicely, to be honest. Even at high-grade stations, the harbour-side accommodation isn’t usually too expensive, and I’ve made enough on my last trip to cover the extra cost easily. And, honestly, I love the view from the harbour-side: even after years in space I can happily spend hours just sitting watching the ships come and go.
I’ve always been drawn to the travelling lifestyle. I’ve had settled homes in the past, but they never really felt like home home – not like Banjax does. People ask me sometimes why I don’t trade ‘properly’ – by which they mean buy a drone hauler and just send it out to run a pre-set routing program, arranging buy and sell orders and doing everything by remote.
Well, if I were a ‘proper’ trader I’d probably do that. No doubt I could run a massive fleet of drone trains like Stumpy does – but assume I made a fortune: what would I do with it? I’ve known people, business people – some quite legit, who’ve bought their own stations. But I’ve no need to buy my own station, and I wouldn’t want some sprawling mansion house on a picturesque planet somewhere. It’d stop me moving; and I want to keep moving.
So this is what I do. I take my ship out into the dark, and I find a few bits and bobs being sold cheap, and I pick them up and take them somewhere else, where someone wants to buy them for just that little bit more. And that’s it. And generally I can make enough to pay for the fuel and repair the damage from the journey, feed myself for a few more days, and buy enough of something else to take somewhere else and do the whole thing again.
(And, don’t tell Banjax, but I’m conscious that neither she nor I will last forever. So a little bit goes into a pot in case one or the other of us gets to that point where we just can’t go on any further. For me, a nice cabin on some long-distance lugger; for Banjax… well, let me imagine a nice farm somewhere that worn-out freight ships can go to live out their well-earned retirement.)
On occasion, I get other opportunities, too. I’ll sometimes find courier jobs – messages or data that needs taking from one system to another. Simple enough. The big firms have the bulk stuff sewn up, of course, but there’s always the need for something a little more discreet. Sometimes a little ship can get the job done without attracting that unwanted attention.
And sometimes there’s survey work to be done – cartography, search and recovery, and the like. I made sure to install a grapple quite early on, so salvage is a viable income stream, too. Just need to watch out that you don’t fall foul of any fiddly local by-laws when you’re bringing in the stuff you find floating around.