34. Closing Out
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Okay so something truly bizarre happened where Scribble was showing me that chapter 34 existed, but it was not showing anyone else, so here, Hopefully this fixes it!

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It was somewhat odd to watch someone else fly into my hangar. Vox opened up the door as we approached and the Hrafn touched down gently within. My wheelchair brought me down the small ramp in the aft compartment and I at least was able to direct the others. I really hated being unable to help at all, but again I was struck by the kindness of the Ericksons. There were no complaints as we moved things into their ship. 

As Echo predicted, all of my workshop tools managed to be crammed into the cabinets. Vox’s core was a bit more of a pain. The pagoda structure of cooling and processing units was a bit under a meter square at its base and about the same in height while weighing about eighty kilograms. Keeping power supplied was a hassle, but not one that the four of us couldn’t handle. Rachael couldn’t help much with the technical aspects, but she was all too willing to apply her muscles to the efforts. 

I confirmed with Vox that she was still operational after the process was completed and everything looked to be good.

The bunch of us got some odd looks, especially me, when we started making our way through the station. Despite the fact that I had been a loner most of my time there, it seemed that many of the other inhabitants knew about me now. It made for an awkward walk. They were trying to be polite, but it was obvious that people were staring at the person who was at the center of some of the biggest news in the Terran Union. That was made especially awkward since it was my old name that the news was circulating. 

Thankfully, nobody tried to stop us as we made our way to my apartment. Once again, I was met with the eviction notice showing on the screen next to my door. Apparently, even the controversy surrounding Kruger hadn’t stopped the inevitable tide of capitalism. 

With the work Echo and I had done before, all of my personal belongings were essentially ready to go with the exception of a couple changes of clothes in the wardrobe and my stash of food in the kitchenette. The food was regrettably tossed to a donation site since there wasn’t really any more room available.

I didn’t have much, but seeing the apartment entirely empty left a twinge in my gut. For better or worse, this had been my home for the last couple years. Better things were in my future, but there was still a part of me, however small, that would miss this place. 

After we finished there, we headed to the spire so I could speak with the residency administration. It was a small and drab office with only a few people working there. 

A grumpy looking older woman sat at the desk as we approached and gave a sour look. Her voice was dull and almost monotone when she said “How can I help you?”

“Adresta Matson, giving my notice of vacancy for residency unit twenty-six ninety-five in section one.”

The woman seemed entirely unaffected by me or my statement and continued in the same tone. “Yes, the evictee. Very well. Due to the circumstances, you will not be receiving any deposits back.”

I rolled my eyes and nodded. “Yeah, I get it.”

“Your notice has been received then.” She then returned to whatever she had been doing when we walked in and I took that as a rather rude dismissal. 

“Excellent customer service from her, huh?” commented Rachael. 

Her daughter responded with a “No kidding.”

“I need to go to the dock authority office now so that I can give notice for my hangar too. They ought to be a bit nicer, though.” I sighed. While individual persons could be okay, people as a whole honestly sucked. There was a reason I had specifically avoided doing any service sector jobs during my life. 

A quick lift ride took us to the floor above and to where Raork’s office was. The man himself was in and waved at me. 

“Matson, welcome in. And hello to you as well, Captain Erickson. I heard that you were leaving us after your… incident.”

“Talk of the station, it seems,” I responded sardonically. “A lot of people were looking at me while we were on the promenade, more than they ever paid me over the last two years of me living here. But, yes, I am leaving. I don’t think I’m going to be a whole lot of use around here anymore without a ship and without a leg to stand on, metaphorically and physically, as it were.”

Roark snickered. “At least you haven’t lost your humor. Real shame what happened to your ship. I hope you can get that asshat for all he’s worth.”

“I’m going to have to get the scraps that are left after the Ericksons are done with him.” The man next to me scoffed.

The Dockmaster chuckled. “Fair enough, good luck with that, to you both. I suppose that you’ll be giving notice of vacancy for your hangar, then, Matson?” This was exactly why I liked the dockmaster. He was strict about his rules, but the man really did care.”

“Yeah,” I told him. “We are clearing everything out and once we leave today, it will be empty.”

He nodded and began typing at his computer. “Alrighty then. I have that plugged in and once my guys do the inspection, I’ll wire you the refundable portions of your deposit.”

“Thank you, Roark. It's been good working with you.”

I held out a hand and he shook it. “Stars guide you, Miss Matson. Congratulations on the name change, by the way. I saw the alert on your file.”

A smile forced its way onto my face. “Thank you, again. Take care of yourself.”

With that, my life on D’reth Station, and in Telemachus as a whole, was over as far as the paperwork was concerned.

Before departing, we decided to grab some food. My favorite of the cafes on the promenade made for a good choice. As per usual there, I ordered the purple taro curry. It was excellent as far as station food went, but that was to be expected. 

“So Adresta,” said Echo between bites. “Anything special you are getting at Celeste? I couldn’t resist some of the upgrades myself. The cyberware they can build into the transference vessels is pretty nova.”

I finished chewing my food before responding. “Well, to be honest, Torgal essentially gave me a blank check for whatever means I wanted for fixing things. I told the Celeste doctor that I was going for the full shebang. After seeing how good your chrome is, and considering that I’ve lost most of mine, I wanted to make sure I was kitted out.”

With a laugh, Rachael commented, “Way to stick it to the man!” That got a laugh from the whole table. 

Echo playfully pouted. “Dang, I got myself everything I could afford, but now you are going to have even more than me. You’re going to be an iron woman over there.”

I smiled. “Yeah, I guess so. I look forward to getting it done. I’ve wanted this for years now, and even if this isn't the way I would have liked it, I'm still glad that it's happening.”

The girl next to me at the table swayed over and bumped my shoulder with hers. “It’s all going to turn out okay. Kruger is going to go to jail, we will get payouts, you get your transition, and you still get your job. Sucks in the meantime, but it is going to turn out for the better.”

“Gotta find the silver lining, eh?” It was a weak response. I understood the sentiment, even agreed with it in large part, but I had still lost a lot to get all of that good. A piece of my soul had been destroyed along with the Oxide, and I would never get that back. I really didn’t want to linger, but it was hard not to feel the twinge of that pain.

Apparently my struggle didn't go unnoticed though, as Captain Marcus spoke up, gently chiding his daughter. “Easy there, Starlight, Adresta just lost her ship. That is likely to do more than just ‘suck in the meantime’ as you say. Though I’ve not lost a ship, personally, I understand where that comes from.”

Echo went to respond but held her tongue as she apparently thought better of it. “...Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, Addy.”

“It still hurts, I won’t lie, but your apology is accepted.” I leaned back in my chair. “I have no issue with trying to look on the good side, but I can’t just ignore what happened.”

“Let’s finish eating so we can get out of here,” suggested Rachael. “I think it would do Adresta good to put this star system behind her for the time being. My mom always told me that life is like a bicycle, you can’t keep your balance if you don’t keep moving forward.”

I raised my glass. “I’ll drink to that.” 

After our meal, the four of us made our way back to my hangar. Once again, I was struck by how empty it seemed. I really wouldn’t be coming back. With a twinge of regretful nostalgia, I rolled my way up the aft ramp and with some help, transferred into the same seat as before.

Within a few minutes, the Hrafn was flying and I took one last look at the ever so familiar sight of the wheel and spindle of D’reth Station. I was leaving my home, but I was moving forward to my next one and despite the circumstances, I was going to make the most of it.

The captain contacted the gate authority and got us a window scheduled for our jump. Since it wasn’t too busy a day, we would only be waiting for about an hour and most of that would be spent in transit. 

Due to the immense size of the gates and power generation requirements of the gate along with the risks involved to anything nearby should the gate suffer catastrophic failure, slipspace gates were kept at significant distances from populated worlds. Even at three times the speed of light, it would still take nearly all of that hour to arrive at the gate.

When we dropped out of warp, we were met with the view of the gate complex. The gate itself was an absolutely massive ring structure stretching more than a kilometer across. Constructed out of large sections of incredibly complicated machinery, it was a marvel of engineering. The technology had been introduced just under two centuries ago and had advanced significantly since then in terms of efficiency, even if the real root concepts of the tech had changed little since then.

Tethered by large cables and rigid corridors to one side of the gate was a small station where the gate authority was housed along with the control center. On the opposite side of the gate, with similar tethers, was a second structure of similar size to the station that contained the power source for the gate. Said power source was the equivalent of a self-contained star that put out levels of energy that were orders of magnitude higher than any starship based reactors. Given the task of these structures, though, it made sense. 

One last ship was sent through the gate before our turn came up. With my proximity to the cockpit, I was easily able to overhear the captain speaking with control. 

ISS Hrafn, we have you down for a scheduled departure with the listed destination being the Centaurus Star System. Please transmit your confirmation and current ship mass.”

“Gate control, this is Hrafn, destination confirmed, requested details are transmitted.”

“Transmission received. Standby for slipspace gate activation.”

Now, this part never got old for me. There was a feeling of sheer energy and wonder as every facet of reality was violated by the power of human technology. One after another, seven emitters lit up with bright yellow-orange light before a beam shot into the center of the ring, joining with the others. Six points for the destination, one for the point of origin. The process took five minutes overall, but with all of the beams converging, a vortex of the same light began forming until a hole in the fabric of reality appeared, growing until it filled the entire ring. 

Hrafn, initiate warp field and proceed through the gate when ready.”

Marcus pushed the throttle forward and I felt the hum of the engines increase in tempo. I’d not been through a gate in a ship this small before, so it was almost even more of an experience than usual. The gate loomed ahead and quickly filled the entirety of the viewscreen.

And so my page had truly turned. I was moving boldly forward into my next chapter in life.