Once upon a time, a company called Galitech launched a space station. They wanted to see if space habitation would be sustainable for everyday people. They also wanted to make money. So they created Station Central, the vacation destination in the stars.
It was far more successful than Galitech thought it would be. Millions of application were sent in to set up businesses. Everyone wanted to work there. Even the janitorial staff had more applicants than they could ever use. People wanted to live there. People who could afford it wanted to go there. A year before Station Central officially opened, there was already a five-year waiting list at every single hotel.
With its growing popularity came a desire to move out into space and away from the crowded plant.
Galitech was happy to oblige, but there were a few problems with their plan. The first hurdle was that the stations wouldn’t fall under any country’s jurisdiction. As such, there were no official laws. After much research and long boardroom conversations, a decision was made to give each station a council of twelve people who would govern. They created a set of laws that every station immigrant had to swear to. And they established a private army to help council members enforce the law if necessary.
The nations of Earth were less than comfortable with this arrangement. Somehow the thought of huge space stations full of people whose laws were being enforced by a private military concerned them.
To placate the nations, Galitech worked with them to establish the IHP, Interstellar Human Protection, to help keep order among the stations. Galitech created its army anyway but insisted that they were nothing more than private security.
The stations shared a unified money system, the same universal coin that had been used on Earth since 2087. They shared the laws agreed upon before they were launched. Each station had a council, a Galitech auditor and a team of IHP agents. Most stations created a police force. For the most part, it worked out.
There were some issues. Station 97 seemed to think child labor was alright until the IHP stepped in. And no one talked about Station 10, which was shut down without explanation. But for the most part, the stations were doing fine.
Then, the Hollow Suits attacked Earth. Hulking, walking battle armor suits, with nothing discernible behind opaque visors. They appeared on Earth without any demands and without warning. They didn’t seem to want anything, except to kill every human they could find. They were immune to electrical attacks, fire, and water. They couldn’t be starved, because no one could tell what they ate. No weapon on Earth could penetrate their armor. They couldn’t be spoken to, reasoned with, bribed, or distracted from their task. They were also aggressive against cats and dogs. No one could figure out why except perhaps to hurt us by killing our beloved pets.
Earth had no idea how to protect themselves from this attack There had been peace on Earth for a generation, most soldiers had never fired a weapon outside of training. The combined military forces of nations fell in months. The IHP hurried back to Earth, except for one team lead by Evelyn Greenwood.
The Galitech army was still waiting on Station 2. Waiting for an order to move out. There was just one person able to give that command, the Galitech CEO. She was dead on the floor of her board room, her eyes shoved into the back of her head. If the Earthians on the stations weren’t already the only ones left, they would be soon.
With the IHP gone, and Earth gone quiet, the stations looked to Station Central for leadership. There were the Hollow Suits to worry about, but there were also radical terrorists, murderers, and a thousand other things that could get out of hand on a space station.
The problem was, that was never what Station Central was intended to be. The leaders were vacation coordinators, not politicians.
But they still had to lead. No matter how distasteful the found what they felt had to be done to keep the stations safe.
When we last left our heroes, they were once again recovering from disaster. Godfrey Anders had just stopped corrupt politician, Saul Mai, from stealing the election from Joy Wheatly. Part of Saul’s plot had involved allowing April, the daughter of Godfrey’s best friend Sennett, to be kidnapped by a genetic doctor named Cynthia Oswald. Both Saul and Dr. Oswald were shipped to Station 41, the prison station.
Unfortunately, in the midst of the most recent nightmare, Godfrey’s wife Ki decided that she needed to go to her home planet of Khloe to visit her family. In a message she left for him, she told him that she believed he was in love with Sennett, not her. Unable to stay in the home they built together anymore and worried about further attacks, Godfrey’s been crashing on Sennett’s couch ever since.
Sennett, meanwhile, has narrowly avoided death again. She saved Station 16, a disease research station, from a nanite that turned people into violent, rage monsters commonly called berserkers. She also managed to uncover the truth about the Hollow Suits and carried this information back Station 86. In the process, she was infected by the nanites. While she was given the cure, no one is sure how long it will last, or what the long term effects might be.
Godfrey was the first awake most mornings, due to his childhood on farm time. He woke, his blanket tangled around him. Soon, he knew, there would be four adults and one child vying for bathroom time. Wanting to take himself out of that equation he got up, taking a sweater and jeans with him.
In the bathroom, he shaved, then ran a comb through his mess of dark curls. His face, he thought, was looking haggard. The bags under his eyes were becoming more and more apparent. Sighing, he dabbed on a little concealer.
Just as he was starting to brush his teeth he heard a tiny knock on the door. “Hello?” April said. “I have to use the bathroom.”
“Hugug,” Godfrey called through a mouthful of toothpaste. He opened the door, admitting April and her AI dog, Bailey.
April was a striking child, with a mess of wild brown hair and bright pink skin that was her Khloe father’s legacy. Bailey had the body of a terrier, but with silky smooth metal skin. He wagged his tail when he saw Godfrey.
Godfrey headed for the kitchen, considering what he might make for breakfast. April had never had poached eggs before he’d moved in, and she seemed exceptionally pleased with them.
He went to the simulator, sighing. Before Earth had gone dark, he’d gotten regular shipments of fresh, real food, for his lunch booth. Now, he was regulated to simulating raw food and cooking it. But at least he could still do that, he reasoned.
Sennett’s adopted little brother, Mason stumbled into the kitchen just as Godfrey put a plate of eggs and sausage on the table. “You packed for Station Central?” he asked. “Sennett wants to leave right after April gets off school.”
“I know,” Mason replied. He was looking at the table screen while he picked up a sausage link and bit it in half. “I did it last night. I need to get over to the greenhouse and meet Jackie before we leave. And I’ll have to stop by my lab at school. One of the liver plants is stable enough to move, I think.”
Mason was twenty and looked every bit the college student he was. He was heavy, with dyed blond hair and enough tech to concern Godfrey most of the times. But even he had to admit, the young man was bright.
“You’re sure Jackie can be trusted in my greenhouse?” Godfrey asked, putting another plate on the table. “And with those organ growing plants?”
“Sure, she’s my assistant,” Mason shrugged. “You met her yourself, did your whole vetting thing before you agreed to let her around your precious plants. She’ll be fine.”
April and Bailey bounced in next. She was now dressed in a purple shirt and blue leggings. She settled into her chair, where Godfrey had just set a plate.
“Thank you, Mr. Godfrey,” she said, digging into her eggs.
“No problem, Little Bit,” he smiled. “Your mom up?”
“I’m here, but don’t make anything for me. I’m gonna just have klav,” Sennett said, walking briskly into the room. A tall woman with ebony skin, she had her thousands of braids pulled away from her face by a metal band. It was strange to see her dressed as she was, in a pair of jeans and a band t-shirt. She normally dressed in a suit, as a detective. Her brown eyes, flecked with gold, flashed across the faces at the table, before running a hand over her daughter’s head.
“I’ve got to head to the barracks and finish up some paperwork before we leave on vacation. And check in on Patty.”
“How is she doing as interim commissioner?” Godfrey asked.
“Hating every single second,” Sennett muttered. “But it’s just until Commissioner Schultz comes back from leave.”
The last person who came into the room was Liam. He was a pale man, thin but muscular. His goatee, which had been unruly in the past had been trimmed neatly now that he was living with Sennett. He wore a tight sweater over a pair of jeans that had a fade mark near the pocket in the shape of his missing holster.
“Here,” Godfrey said, holding out a plate for him.
“Thanks, Man,” Liam said. He carried it over to the simulator, making himself a cup of steaming black coffee. “You want one?”
“Sure,” Godfrey said, sitting down at the table with his own food.
Sennett, a cup of hot klav in her hand, sat down next to him. She started tapping on the table, pulling up morning news feeds. “I haven’t seen anything about the Hollow Suits yet. Guess that might be a good thing for us. Travel will probably be restricted after the news breaks.”
“Might not be able to get home, if that happens,” Godfrey said. He started scanning the feeds over her shoulder. “I talked to Marshal Joy the other day. She and Marshal Howard are working on some things to boost protection. She didn’t want to go into it though.”
“Of course not. The fewer people who know the details, the better,” Sennett said. She tapped on the table, taking over part of it to read her mail. “I guess the other stations can handle the Hollows how they want, there’s nothing we can do about it. But I think we stand a better chance if we’re talking to each other.”
She was beautiful in the morning, even while she was scanning over her email. Ki’s accusation before she’d left wouldn’t leave Godfrey’s mind in moments like this. She’d accused him of loving Sennett more than he loved her. Most of the time he didn’t think it could be true. But there were moments.
Suddenly, her face hardened. She shut her email with a swipe and took a sip of her drink.
“What’s wrong?” Liam asked, glancing over at her.
“Nothing,” Sennett said. “I just got an email from someone who shouldn’t be emailing me. April, go get your shoes and jacket, please.”
“Okay!” April said, scrambling away from the table.
“You excited for your last day of school, Little Bit?” Godfrey asked.
“Yes!” April said, and ran from the room.
Sennett turned back to the table. “I just got an email from Candace Campbell,” she said quietly, glancing at each of them in turn.
Godfrey sat back in his chair, whistling. “What did she say?” he asked.
“Someone needs to fill me in. Who’s Candace?” Liam asked.
“She’s the bitch who murdered my husband. Shot him in the back in the middle of the street.”
Sennett sat back in her chair. “She’s saying she needs to talk to me about something that she doesn’t want to say over mail.”
Mason propped his elbows on the table. “So, what if it’s about your birth parents?”
Sennett gave him a sharp look. “Why the hell would she want to talk to me about my birth parents, Mason?”
“Well,” he said carefully. “You said that Core person on Station 16 told you your parents were still alive and that they were looking for you. Candace was a member of the Core.”
She shuddered. It felt like the Core had been stalking her, ever since they’d shot her adopted mother’s ship out of the sky. They’d been the ones who’d set the berserker virus free on Station 16, which had infected Sennett.
“We don’t know that,” Sennett said.
“Actually, we do,” Mason said. “It’s in her file from the prison.”
“How do you know that?” Liam asked. “Prison records are supposed to be sealed except for to officials.”
When the others at the table looked at him, he shrugged. “I’m a criminal. It’s my business to know my rights.”
“I’m just saying, what if it’s about your birth parents?” Mason asked.
“Then I still don’t care to talk to her. Mom was the only parent I needed, Mason, especially if my birth parents are Core members.”
She got up, grabbing her mug of klav. “I’m taking April to school now. Everyone, please make sure you’re totally packed by the time I get home so we don’t have to wait.”
“I’ll keep after them,” Godfrey said, grinning.
“Thanks,” she said, turning towards the door. “Oh, and Liam. Patty’s going to meet us at the loading dock tonight.”
“What the hell for?” Liam sputtered.
Sennett turned back towards him. “What do you think? She signed off on you traveling. She needs to make sure you aren’t carrying anything illegal.”