Beth nudges her tiny spaceship on RCS power the last 100 km to Haven, the orbiting metropolis dangling perilously by space elevator from Pasiphae, one of the outer retrograde moons of Jupiter.
“Haven approach, U.F.P. Willow cleared for docking, junction 900 E. Advise no open-cycle nuclear propulsion within 100 klicks.”
“Duh,” Beth thinks. “Why do you think I changed orbits with docking thrusters? That’s the only other burner this thing has.”
“It’s not much,” she reflects as the dull clack, felt through the berthed ship, signals the dry dock closing behind her. She’s carrying a brown paper bag filled with treasure: Tellurium superconducting wire, spare plasmabrick for reactor lining, even a canister of propulsion-grade Xenon.
It’s a high-quality, if small, collection. It will fetch a good price, but it’s getting harder. There’s simply not much left unsalvaged. And sometimes you spend delta-V and months of transit time to intercept with a derelict that’s already been picked over. 4000s is pretty good ISP for a NTR, but after months chasing wrecks in interplanetary space, that’s still an awful lot of Hydrogen and Uranium-Hex to buy at a gas giant—to say nothing of food.
Ed. note: we first saw Beth here.