To the men and women working in NASA
and in whatever the Russian equivalent is called.
A once so pretty planet.
It wasn’t a pretty sight, but then again, nobody could expect it to be. After all, Purgamentum, the planet silently spinning below them, consisted almost entirely of garbage, stuck by gravitation to a core of rock.
“Purgamentum approach, Star vessel Bandit requesting landing vector for Colon Spaceport.”
It was the fifth time Whelan attempted radio contact and he had already resigned himself to a manual approach, when a faint voice broke through the static.
“Bandit, this is radio operator PX5. Purgamentum does not have traffic control and Colon does not have automated landing aids.”
“You are kidding right?”
“Afraid not. Just make a Wright-Reiss approach and head south, everybody does that around here.”
The Wright-Reiss approach would bring them in at sixty degrees north, not particularly fuel-efficient for reaching a sub-equatorial mark. Nevertheless Whelan decided they had spend enough time orbiting and ordered his pilot to take them down on the garbage.
There was nothing natural about this garbage-planet phenomenon and of course it had not always been that way either. Once Purgamentum had belonged a small handful of promising planets scattered across the galaxy. Most other planets were either too cold, or too hot for any serious natural development, Purgamentum however, was just right. Perfect solar distance, handy seize and a comfortable slow rate of rotation. In fact, it was not unlike earth in its youth. Small quantities of amino acid drifted in the lukewarm waters of the equatorial belt, painstakingly trying to form complex structures, in these somewhat pre-paradisish conditions.
Unfortunately these early evolutionary steps came about, long after another planet had evolved along the same lines and had become home to a more or less intelligent race of humanoids, who in due course sat forth to explore the universe. Individuals among these humanoids one day miscalculated a hyper jump, by a mere two hundred light-years, and thereby placed a gigantic convoy of dump trucks in orbit around Purgamentum. Being dump truck pilots, the crews of the convoy never thought twice about dumping their load on the little planet. They were not evil truckers, or hell bend for leather on destroying a planet, but you know; when the trip has been long enough already and you just want go home, corners tend to be cut.
The little mistake was soon covered up, as the humanoids had developed a distinct ability for covering up any problems which didn’t go away naturally. The convoy was re-routed to a nearby black hole where the pilots had a premature and rather unfortunate retirement, which, just for the record, actually had been hinted in their contract agreement. The navigational officer, who had been in charge, likewise encountered a sudden and fatal illness. Any remaining witnesses, who for a number of reasons couldn’t be disposed of, either had the event chemically removed from memory, or what was more likely, didn’t give a toss anyway.
Purgamentum, although still there, was cleverly removed from star charts and navigation systems, by a semi-intelligent computer virus and within a few weeks, no one had the slightest recollection of this once so pretty little planet. Thus Purgamentum became a place of peace, for characters that for various reasons preferred not to be present in the really real world. A hole in the wall it was.
“Level at sixty, where are we heading?” said Larson, after skilfully executing the Wright-Reiss approach.
“Hold on!” Whelan said, while frantically tapping his navigator on the shoulder.
“Katana, can you get a signal of sorts?”
Yakuta Katana hammered away on the little navigation console. He might not have been the best of navigators, but his hammering was really good and most people assumed that was a sign of excellence.
For most people, the idea of visiting a place outside the known universe, or at least outside the registered part of the known universe, would seem rather disturbing. But the small group of people, who had just performed the Wright-Reiss approach towards Purgamentums littered surface, did not agree with this view. Having recently raided a cruise ship, flying the colours of Startour Holiday, they too, as the Startour company slogan went, felt like a vacation away from it all. Purgamentum was the ideal place; quite, discreet, unknown and smelly. Ok, the last part might not have been their preferred quality, but as Purgamentum provided the other tree qualities, they had forced to accept it.
Master technician Jean D’fault’s voice came through on the intercom.
“Better get down soon Cap, the Vox won’t take these slow speeds.”
One major drawback of having a ship powered by the amazing Ramavox drive, was what the company had called fluxing stability, a natural inhibitor in the drive’s construction, which seemed to place any stability of the momentum, just precisely where you didn’t want it.
In other words, you always seemed to go either a bit too slow, or a bit too fast. For space jumps however, it was unmatched and had been since the Korean company had engaged in physical competition with the only existing alternative, a small Belgian firm called Krupp. Shortly after there was only one drive possibility for the serious space traveller, the amazing and unrivalled Ramavox drive.
“Got it,” said Katana and transferred the co-ordinates to the ships main computer.
“Fifteen thousand miles north, we’ll be there for lunch.”
With the skill of an old space dog, Captain Whelan guided the Bandit down on the derelict landing pad. There were a few other ships parked on the fifteen, or so, pads which constituted the spaceport. They were all erected around a small cluster of buildings, which had become the planets capital Colon.
“The Bandit has landed,” Whelan said, as he began the shut-down procedure. The Ramavox released a long purging sound as the field lost power, then shook violently for a few seconds, before coming to a halt with a thud. They had arrived.