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Here's the intro for the new chapter:





Space. It's a big place, and relatively empty considering its size. Sure, there's millions upon millions of planets, some colonized, some barren, some actually made up of gas or mostly ice, and stars more numerous than any mortal entity has numbers to represent, but like the name implies, it's mostly just space. Empty, dark, formless nothing between small pinpoints of light. Ever since man first entered space through a contolled series of prolonged explosions, however, he's mostly stuck to revisiting the same locations again and again. At first it was just up and down in a carefully modeled rocket elevator designed to fall apart as it flew, then plop unceremoniously into the ocean, but then technology advanced to the point where man could linger high above the clouds for a while before falling back to earth.


Then man visited the moon, which turned out to be just as uninteresting on the surface as it was in orbit. Telescopes and

probes sent back images of fantastic arrays of color from distant nebulae, and man's closest neighbor was a pockmarked sphereoid of grey dust blocking view of the more interesting parts of the universe. So man went back to hanging around on his proverbial space-porch, drifting lazily in orbital circles before returning home.


Years later when interstellar engines were invented, man immediately visited the neighboring star systems, then went back home to Earth and hung out in orbit once more. Alpha Centauri may have been more interesting than the moon, but there weren't any social clubs or orbital gambling establishments to arouse the interest of travelers other than brainy scientist-types who didn't hang out in places like those anyway. Even after contact was made with extra-terrestrial intelligent life, man still hung out in his own backyard with his newfound friends, introducing them to things such as cherry cola and Bob Seger.


Only after colonies finally began cropping up and strange alien leisure delights were finally understood by the common man did the greater part of humanity start traveling through the universe, and even then, it was still mostly in the same way that he traversed Earth--leaving his home area only when going to visit friends in Rigel or the big Betelgeusian shopping mall station, for example--relegating 99.99% of the universe to the same fate as Utah's salt flats. Meaning, of course, that the greater portion of the universe was only remembered in passing as a great blur between places where people went.


This, incidentally, made it really easy to hide things.


Even the largest of things can be effectively obscured by the apathy of most spacelane users, so long as they don't actually sit within the physical space specifically set aside for use as a hyperlane between systems by the Galactic Apportioning Commission. You can park an asteroid space station a mere hundred kilometers outside a given long-distance route and won't garner even a passive scan from the Galactic Federation Hyperlane Patrol, because they're looking for speeders and drunk pilots inside the hyperlane, not conveniently located near it. Then, you can mount a gravitic snare on it and use it to, well, snare things. Ships, mostly, unless cargo containers happen to be hurtling by at greater-than-light speeds separately from the spacecraft that allowed them to do so in the first place. And, if you're a hopeful, upstart organization founded for the express purpose of stealing things while both being known for it but not being able to be caught (such as the Semi-Secret Organization for Stealing Stuff), and you happen to use this plan to catch and disable ships between the Betelgeusian shopping mall station and the vacation domes dotting the asteroids near the Horsehead Nebula, you just might come across something of tremendous value without worrying about being detected or thwarted by hopeful heroes busy doing things in interesting places.

Edited by KaizenNeko
Font sizes went crazy for some reason.

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