Credits: M Rigaux

All was quiet around Alphanor IV mining port. White clouds rolling over distant mountains. Breathtaking but identical day after day. A month after his transfer, Major Robertson had decided it was boring, he had to admit to himself.

Not anymore. Alphanor IV hosted deinium mines, the graal of the heavy metals required to power up the Alcubierre drive units. Trouble was, for an unknown reason, planets with those mines drew to them black holes within a century of their discovery. Some had hinted it was reversed, black holes distorting matters until deinium appeared. The Major didn’t care for science. He had a job to do and this day was his day. He strolled to the external landing pad.

The shuttle bringing the last miners crash-landed. There was no time to lose. Beyond the solar horizon, a murderous black hole approached. In less than a day, its gravity distortion would stop the warp units and trap all who remained on Alphanor IV. Even now, the pilot wasn’t sure to escape. A billion credit for each on this last flight. They had all voted to stay more days, even after the Emerald, the previous ship, lost its route and exploded.

The miners exited in a frenzy. “Order,” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “I will have order.”

Angry murmurs answered. One miner took a step forward and the Major punched him in the face, sending him to the ground. Behind him, his Marines, in riot gear, showed their nerve grenade. The crowd quieted and fear settled again over them. Panic was near. Stampede would be their doom.

He barked. “We have all places out. Now, single line, and move.”

A tech touched his shoulder. “Sir, we can’t load the planetary shuttle. It’s too damaged.”

He laughed watching the crowd. “Leave it here.”

They had crossed half the universe to work here and they knew how to obey. The line appeared and they begin to walk. Twice more, miners tried to force their way in. Ribs cracked, nose bled. But he kept order.

Major Robertson looked for a last time at the quiet horizon, the huge clouds, smelled the fresh air and turned, the last to embark.