It was a day like any other, in orbit above Hurston at Everus Harbor. Loreville loomed below, hazy and forlorn out of the corner of my eye as I pass the viewport and head toward the ship retrieval terminal. Fresh paint, fresh armor, barely a magazine in each weapon, I acted in a way in which I had not before.
I decided to play it safe.
Now as any other citizen might know, the ‘verse is a dangerous place. There are strange hazards lurking around every corner. Just the other day I witnessed a ship spontaneously explode on the landing pad, armor-clad mercenaries keeling over for seemingly no reason, and passers-by falling through the floor or straight through doors into the great void.
Knowing these horrific, almost demonic, final destinations, I took up a contract that seemed simple as I wasn’t hurting for credits and just wanted to pass the time traversing Stanton.
“How about a cargo run?” I exclaimed to myself as I projected my mobiGlas, from Hurston to Ita, 3000aUEC. Seemed simple enough. I retrieved my ship, and stepped into the elevators, reminded of the horrors I may face simply stepping inside.
The supposedly vertical elevator appears to move laterally in space, as my helmet’s HUD indicates my ship is moving horizontal relative to my current position, back and forth as the distance drops from 1km, to 800m, to finally 100m.
The doors open after 20 seconds of “travel” to the airlock, I step out the doors to see the Star Runner on the pad, magically summoned with no sight of whatever ship, entity, or other mystical force brought it here.
It certainly wasn’t here to begin with, as I landed at Pad 04 when I last arrived at Everus Harbor.
The ramp folds down and extends, pushing the ship up a few centimeters from the strength and rigidity of it’s genius engineering. The ability to create such a rigid, yet extendable, cargo ramp is truly a miracle of materials science. I walk up the ramp past engineering to see the short elevator that leads to the server access bulkhead, the next floor about 2.5 meters up. I jump up and mantle to the next floor, as I usually do to leave an escape route in case I need to drop back to the cargo bay in a hurry, and make my way past servers and habitation and through the bridge access corridor, the bulkheads taking a few seconds to recognize I exist before they open the way.
As I sit down in the pilots seat, it rotates and pulls me to the controls. Of the several dozen or so switches and buttons, but only one shows any signs of wear or use. I toggle the convenient “flight ready” switch to the upward position and the ship whirrs to life.
I take off and engage my Quantum drive to place me as close to HDRSO-Bramen as possible, and engage. A short 15 second trip later and I begin my descent towards the small mining outpost, approximately the size of an Origin 890j.
I land and enter the seemingly-abandoned security outpost, and find the package I am to deliver left unattended on a shelf. I suppose it’s inconspicuous enough, but am surprised to see the whole building hasn’t been looted with the lack of any staffing or security, the doors unlocked and not requiring any passcodes or keys.
As I retrieved my package and stepped outside, an unfamiliar notification presented itself at the top-center of my HUD.
‘…Assistance Requested from Raloon’ I read, ignoring the first word describing the service requested. Curious as I had never responded to a beacon, I decided to roll the dice on being a taxi service. I presume the package was left unattended for days, they can wait an hour for me to go help someone out.
“What’s the worst he could do, shoot me?” I say condescendingly, my smugness fading as I remember the eldritch horrors that creep around every corner of the ‘verse, especially elevators.
‘Accepted’ the HUD notified me, Raloon appears on my map at Bajini Point, the station in orbit around ArcCorp. I get in my ship and take-off, engaging my quantum drive as soon as I left the atmosphere. I raise my mobiGlas once more to confirm the location and read further on conditions of the contract, primarily the payment, when I came to an earth-shattering realization.
The original beacon must have stated ‘Medical Assistance Requested’, I came to realize as I read the line ‘bring any necessary medical equipment with you for the contract.’
My heart sank, anxiety set in as I realize I may have doomed this person due to my blasé acceptance of the mission. I began checking every pocket, backpack, and any other storage location on either my person or the ship for any medical supplies.
“Just one MedPen?!” I angrily exclaimed, questioning why I would never have at least 5 vials of Hemazol and two of Resurgera on my person. The ‘verse was only just getting over the horrors of the drug battlefield, as maniacs and would-be pirates would inject strangers with drugs and loot their bodies. The laws at the time allowed it, and so they committed such heinous acts.
I checked my mobiGlas communications module and saw two messages from Raloon, the first a polite greeting and thanks, the second a location and directions.
“Hey, thanks for responding to the beacon.”
“You’ll find me in an elevator in Bajini point, first on the left after coming into the station.” I shuddered, anxiety turned to panic, my knees became weak and I fall back into my chair. My mind raced with the scenarios that could have led to Raloon becoming incapacitated in the elevator, the one location I’d rather never visit if it weren’t so essential to living in space. I responded with a question.
I am intimately familiar with the ways in which such an event could occur, yet afraid of which answer I would discover.
“How did you go down in an elevator!?” I ask him hesitantly.
“I fell” he responded.
The HUD indicated 22 million kilometers remaining, knowing I’d be passing through the Aaron Halo was yet another fear to add to the list as no quantum travel point means no way for the ship’s navicomputer to calculate if I’d smack right into one of the asteroids in the belt.
“I’m on my way” I relay. “Take your time” he replied, the calmness in the statement leading me to believe Raloon did not understand the danger he was in. I slowly close the distance and enter into orbit around ArcCorp and set my final quantum travel destination, Bajini Point.
I hailed ATC and landed at the next available pad, proceeding to enter the station.
As instructed, I step inside and turn to my left, opening the elevator doors to find Raloon lying face first on the floor. He was almost as still as a corpse, when a stoic “hello” entered my visor’s chat module and broke the silence. Reaching to my belt, I draw and wield my only dose of Hemazol in my MedPen, and injected Raloon with it. Raloon transitioned to a prone position, lifting their torso and head up by their forearms as their condition appeared to be stabilize.
“Thanks” Raloon said, as they turned around and crawled out the elevator.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“The hospital” he responded, crawling prone as if underneath barbed wire.
While the single dose of Hemazol was enough to stabilize Raloon, it was not enough to return the condition of his legs, and so they resigned to crawling towards the nearest medical facility. Fortunately, it was only a 5 minute crawl away.
“Can I help?” I asked, feeling guilty for accepting the medical beacon while so ill equipped. Raloon stopped to respond, unable to communicate and crawl at the same time.
“No it’s okay, I’ll send you the credits once I’m healed” Raloon replied, the kind and courteous nature of their response insinuating he believed himself to be inconveniencing me. He continued crawling.
“I’ll at least follow you to the hospital to make sure you get there” I stated as Raloon went onward.
Raloon crawled, unwavering and unstoppable by all but the most herculean of obstacles we could possibly encounter. The most difficult task had been done, he had been stabilized and escaped from the deadly elevators, and was reaching the safest part of Bajini Point, or so we believed.
It was right at the cusp of his greatness, and my most remorseful contract yet, when Raloon was met with the most insurmountable obstacle he possibly could have. He halted before the monstrous pop-up art installation, the anxiety presumably building within him.
The gurneys.
Someone had placed two medical gurneys in the doorway to the hospital hallway, where he needed to reach the patient check in terminal. Perhaps this demon was waiting in the area to blackmail poor citizens like Raloon, or maybe they just liked the idea of ruining someone’s day.
I didn’t wait to find out, as I rushed forward to move the gurney and create a path for Raloon. He said nothing, and moved to the patient terminal and somehow through sheer mind-over-matter he interacted with the terminal that stood 5 feet off the ground while he was prone on the floor.
In a matter of seconds a patient room was reserved, and he disappeared into it to heal himself. I received my credits and went on my way.
I don’t know if you’re out their Raloon, but godspeed you beautiful bastard. I’ll always remember you when I enter an elevator.