The Earth is burning, humanity's cradle scoured by innumerable explosions, her three great orbital cities destroyed. Mars, seat of government is devastated the other planets and stations are in flames, all defences overrun, billions are dead. Every channel, every frequency has been broadcasting our surrender and appeals for mercy in every language and code we know since dawn yesterday but the only response has been a rain of destruction. The presidents fate is unknown but rumours are rife that Starship One tried to jump this morning, government has ceased to function, the military has collapsed. To anyone receiving this transmission Sol is down, I repeat the cradle has fallen.
Last news broadcast received from Sol system 04/08/3155
With power restored to the station the next few days gave the crew of the Scorpio a faint glimpse of life before the fall, like a half buried jewel seen through the waters of a dark, murky pool, showing dull flashes of the splendour that had once been. The crew took an almost childlike delight in the trappings of a lifestyle that had once been taken for granted, elevators and escalators held a particular fascination as did the moving walkways and the maintenance bots that began cleaning the station from top to bottom as soon as the power was fully restored, plentiful food and clean, comfortable quarters all added up to a level of luxury utterly unimaginable back at the colony.
"So what's our situation?" Oren Drake asked Vonnie and Dex four days after their arrival.
"There's more food here than we'd ever be able to eat, the reactor and all systems are in good shape, the maintenance facilities are excellent and there's plenty of spares, if we ever need to leave the ship's almost as good as new - all the parts serviced or replaced even had the microwelds in the hull done properly." Vonnie replied. "We could die of old age here."
"The colony know about this place though and have the authorisation codes," Drake said thoughtfully, "sooner or later they'd come looking."
"I can override the codes from the main terminal, change them to something only we'd know," Dex replied with a wolfish grin, "and of course anyone sending a false code gets obliterated by the stations guns. No one can touch us here."
"The Rander won't like it," Vonnie put in, "We'd never be able to trust him."
"He's going out of an airlock before we tell the others," Drake said, "I'll settle that bastard myself."
"So we're abandoning the colony?" Dex asked. "Even knowing what's at stake."
"We're not abandoning anyone," Drake replied coldly, "We're escaping a lost cause. Let the Veep find someone else for his suicide mission, we've done our bit for the colony many times over, here we can live like kings for the rest of our lives, anyone got a problem with that?"
That night Oren Drake stood at the main view port in the commanders quarters looking out on what was now his domain, but is was not that that made his heart swell in his chest, Drake had never sort power, position or status, he had only ever craved stability, he wanted to know that tomorrow would come and go much as today and that he would be around to see it, he hated the unknown, hated the unexpected but had found himself chosen for a job that brought him both, well now he was out of it, no more risking his life for planet bound parasites who horded everything except risks, here he could live safe and live free and never set foot into the void again.
"I know what you're planning," the Rander said nervously from behind him, "and I'd suggest thinking again." Drake turned to see the man standing holding a pistol, his face flushed red and sweat breaking on his wide brow.
"Give it up," Drake replied when his composure returned, "Kill me and you're still stuck here with a crew who want you dead, you know you'll never be able to sleep easy, put the gun down and I'll make it quick, but if you kill me the others will take you apart a piece at a time."
The Rander took two deep breaths, he was sweating profusely now, the hand holding his gun trembling so much Drake considered rushing him. "You don't understand Pilot, the Veep knew you'd be tempted by this place so there's an insurance policy in place, micro containers of neural toxin were injected into your bloodstream during mission prep, if me heart stops beating or we go more than six months without contacting the colony and they will activate, so if you kill me you kill yourselves as well." The mans voice trembled as he spoke, dragged from his laboratories and research this was probably the only time in his life he had rebuked someone for anything more serious than a misplaced test tube.
"Maybe I prefer to have a last six months in peace and luxury than to be dead in one on a suicide mission." Drake replied, the enormity of the mans words hitting him but he was still not ready to give up on his dream.
"You could, or you could risk it all for a lifetime, the Veep empowered me to offer a new deal, this place for you and your crew if we get the equipment to terraform the colony."
Drake's legs buckled and he was grateful to the microgravity for keeping him upright, he had been so close to a life without fear, without shortage, a life of everything he had ever craved only to lose it again to this thing in an ill fitting lab coat.
"I suppose that means the mission continues?" Drake asked.
"That's right Pilot Drake." The Rander replied