Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Standryl looks down from the walkway. It’s like peering into one of those curio shops on a winter evening – corridors of angular junk filled with mysterious shadows and twinkling lights – except here, every constellation of lights is an old spaceship. The perspective is deceptive, too. The ‘corridor’ he’s looking down is many kilometres long, running parallel to the north-south axis of this satellite.
He turns to his guide, a cyborg so old all its biological components have mummified. It sounds like old dresses crinkling when it moves.
“Tell me how he did it.”
The voice is dry as well. Completely toneless. But the eyes brighten as it tells the tale.
“The Jessop family operated a salvage operation back on Old Earth. When humans went into space, Horace Jessop figured they’d make the same messes they had on their home planet, just spread over a bigger area. He started operating a salvage service, where one of the Jessop Wrecking ships would go anywhere – for a fee – and take away space junk.”
Standryl watches a robo-tracer drift by, locator beeping softly as it seeks the particular make and model of ship a spacer tasked it to find.
“I recall he was famous for the volume of stuff he cleared up. Wasn’t there something shady about that? Accusations of fraud?”
“Yes. The base claim was that the recycled material he returned to market was only a fraction of what he took in. Tenuous theories of unsafe practices used in the disposal of gravitic cores and similar perilous scrap were built on suspicion and guesswork. But, apart from the raw numbers being largely correct, nothing criminal or dangerous was ever found. Jessop Wrecking returned thirty percent of its salvaged material to market. What happened to the rest became the topic of media speculation and fictional accounts for decades.”
“Then the wars rolled in.”
“Yes. All Jessop Wrecking ships were destroyed during the defence of Shargyn in the First Conflict. By the time the Third Conflict collapsed into the Great Retreats, there was nothing left of the company. Other wreckers catered to the demand. A demand that had changed. After the depletions of war, resources were scarce. Recommissioning and repair became the thing. Scarcity of old ship parts made it a lucrative business. Spacers started scouring former battle zones and debris fields.”
“Soon after that started, Alison Bant found this, and you.”
“Yes. She was unique. Spent days talking with me, then disappeared for a few months while she changed her name, found two investors, and bought the Jessop Wrecking name back from GalactaBank. The launch of this facility was spectacularly successful.”
“This is the place Horace stored all the ships he didn’t recycle?”
“Yes. In addition to predicting a need for salvaging, he was also sure a need for spare parts would develop, made all the more keen by the long serviceable lifespans of spaceships. He was right. This facility was used to store every vessel in eighty percent or better completion, but impractical or too costly to return to service at the time. He knew he’d never see this place open its docks, but he also knew it would.”
Amazing long-term vision.
“What was he like?”
The cyborg turns to face him.
“A fat man with a love of brandy trifle and fried vat-grown herring. He never drank hot drinks, and was a cheerful player of ancient boardgames who’d quite literally play for days if uninterrupted.”
The venerable companion droid turns to gaze downwards.
“He called this view ‘fascinating’.”
“I wish I could have salvaged him, too.”