PROLOGUE – ATOMIC DESTINY “Five hundred meters,” came the announcement from the sensor station. “Five hundred meters,” replied the pilot in a normal calm voice. And the seconds clicked away slowly as they closed in on the object. “One hundred meters,” stated the sensor operator. “Drifting left a little.” “Aye, one hundred meters, correcting right. Slowing to three meters per second,” stated the pilot and fiddled with the controls. Maybe fiddling wasn’t the correct term since the nine hundred meter long ship he was on didn’t respond that quickly to commands. However, eventually he got it centered once again. “Fifty meters,” announced the sensor operator. “Fifty meters. Slowing to one meter per second,” stated the pilot and continued to flick the controls as he maintained the ship’s course. “Twenty meters,” said the sensor operator as the pilot tapped on the “brakes” yet again and slowed even further. Of course it was a slow process, but one that required great care as there generally was no hope of rescue this far out from civilization. But they had a tough ship and could withstand a minor bump if it came down to it. But the pilot was proud to say he had never bumped anything in his life and wanted to continue that trend. “Object is in the bay, reengaging artificial gravity,” announced the reclamation specialist in the cargo bay. “Picture perfect.” “Good job Colt,” said the Captain as the pilot put the controls back into automatic. “Closing outer doors,” said the First Officer as she manipulated the controls. “Seals in place, tests show secure and repressurizing compartment.” It was just another day in the life on board the Infinicon ship, Atomic Destiny. The ship was well out in the Kuiper Belt at the moment on yet another supply run for the outer colonies gathering space debris that is harvested for minerals, water, chemicals and other items. The year? Not really that important, but the current date is August 20th, 2118 SET. That’s Standard Earth Time for those unaware. But out there a day is…well, just a day and the crew didn’t exactly have a set schedule in their comet and rock chasing. The Chief Pilot, a man named Colt Daniels, stayed at the controls a little longer as he set up the automatic pilot. “I’ll go see what we’ve got,” said Captain Markus Winston. He was a pretty fair man and generally ran the ship with a calm demeanor and efficient actions. And all in all, the crew respected him and were pretty happy to serve with him on the ship. Colt requested permission to tag along and was granted permission after he completed setting the controls to automatic. He waved the copilot sitting behind him to the console and relinquished the spot as the Captain gave the conn to the First Officer while the pair went to check out the “acquisition.” They departed the bridge of the ship to the massive cargo area where workers were already moving the object into a sealed area since the warmer atmosphere of the ship would cause the frozen gasses to heat up and escape quickly. “Pretty decent size,” remarked the Captain as the crew locked the doors on the compartment. A low mist was quickly being pulled into the vent system on the floors and the transparent compartment showed the object was already spitting out the gasses that made up part of its composition as it warmed up. As to what, they couldn’t tell for the moment, but learned soon enough as they wandered over to the computer panel where a man was watching intently. “Hey Cap,” said the lead reclamation specialist, Harry Howell. “Let’s see what we have here.” He started the sensor analysis of the asteroid they had picked up, really a big hunk of frozen rock and ice more than anything and watched as the screen spat out the different concentrations of items found. “Looks like some oxygen, maybe 1.5%…hydrogen, about 4.5%...ammonia maybe 4%...nitrogen about 4%...helium, less than a percent, no call that a percent...methane about 60%...and I do believe we’ve got some water locked away in here as well, maybe 3%...still working on the rest, but generally another boring space rock. And of course the mineral composition will take a bit longer,” said Howell. “I was hoping for more water,” said the Captain. “Take what we can get Captain,” said Howell. “And who knows what’s buried in here.” “Go ahead and start reclaiming the materials,” said the Captain. “We keeping the rock?” asked Howell. Any minerals would be kept regardless of the size “Yeah, the Quaoar Outpost has been asking for additional materials for their expansion project,” said the Captain. “When we are at Pluto next week we’ll transfer it to the storage and have the Capital Destiny pick it up. So go ahead and crush it to manageable size for them.” And all of the ship’s names that belonged to the Infinity Corporation ended in the word Destiny. The ship was coming towards the end of another three month reclamation run in the Kuiper Belt outside the orbit of Neptune collecting various orbiting objects. Most they were breaking down themselves since they had that capability and separating the materials for storage and later transfer. The plan was to bring them to the solar system colonies that requested it or sell it to the highest bidder and leave it in storage until they could come get it. It was a unique situation having someone from a planet in the inner solar system bid on items and then take several weeks or months to come get it. But that’s the way business was conducted these days in the interplanetary trade. The pair continued watching the reclamation team break down the object into basic components and secure them in the large cargo containers located around the ship. Both the Captain and Pilot let out a minor sigh; one because his crew was the best he could ever have hoped for and the other because he was at the top of his game and had skills far and above the average pilot. They both continued to watch the work being done with their minds heading in different directions. One thinking of a potential upcoming retirement. The other had more personal motives on his mind as he thought about their shore leave coming up soon.