0163E: Fast Fiction - The Lighthouse (Part 1)

As humanity expanded into the stars, various relay stations were established along the expedition routes to help keep the outlying colonies connected to the heart of the new human empire - the Sol System. The stations were designed with function in mind more than anything else. They were mobile fuel refineries that could harvest materials from gas giants to support colony ships making their journey to the frontier. They were communications relays that linked one system to another with their powerful communication arrays. And they were instant community hubs for valuable trade and information.

Over time both communications and jump drive technology continued to improve allowing for ships to travel much further than before. And this invalidated the value of many of the outposts littered across the stars - especially the more isolated ones in systems without habitable planets. But the stations were still manned by highly independent crews - practically families in their own right. And many of them refused to give up their lives practically independent of the politics of the homeworld.


The Monroes had been operating station Zeta Gamma Eight for two generations now. Pa Rexford was the oldest member of the clan and had been there since the station had first been towed into the system by a larger colony vessel. In the early years the station was a key stopping point for many ships establishing new colonies further out beyond Alpha Centauri. Some passing ships had crewmen who opted to stay on the station, thus bolstering their ranks.

But now the station was practically a ghost ship that was lucky to receive visitors once or twice a year. Almost a 100 people kept the station running along with various shops and establishments that had called the place home. But now ZG8 was kept decently functional by the 20 or so Monroes and their smaller family units - but barely so. Still, Pa Rexford insisted that they kept the station operational at all times. The service they provided was an essential one, he always insisted. They had sworn an oath to help weary travelers continue on their journeys.

The alien vessel had appeared without warning. It was not clear if this was due to special cloaking technology that the aliens possessed or the station's thrice jury-rigged sensor pods had finally gone out for good. But there was not mistaking the vessel for something not quite human - the almost pyramid-like vessel had nothing in common with other human ship designs. Plus the communication that it broadcast at the station was in a language that the computer was still trying to decipher.

There were five children on-board the station - the youngest being a mere two Earth years old. The Monroes weren't going to take any chances and raised the shields as soon as it was clear that the vessel wasn't human. The station had little in terms of true armament, but its shields were planetary-class - a bit of paranoia that its designers had worked into the design. The family hoped it would be enough.


"I can't get a word out, Pa," groaned Max as he struggled to boost the communications array. At 24, he was considered just as qualified to handle station operations as any of the other adults. But for some reason he had taken a liking for Communications in particular. "They're doing something to block our connection to the other stations."

Rexford considered things carefully from his central podium on the command deck. He had never expected to live long enough to witness anything like this. He was well into his 70s, but he was made of sterner stuff than most. The early explorers relied heavily on personal augmentation to survive the rigors of space. Thus Rexford had a number of genetic and technological modifications keeping him alive. But they did have their downsides like his inability to taste anything sweet anymore.

"What do we do, Pa?" Max asked, the fear in his voice giving his question an unintended squeak.

"We pray, my boy. We pray." he answered gravely.

To Be Continued...


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