Sam stared through the thick, cold transparisteel window and the endless darkness beyond, pierced at random intervals by distant stars and the casual winking of satellites or space debris. The size of space never ceased to impress him, no matter how many times he was reminded that he'd been born out here and he was going to die out here. The bigness of it made him feel tiny and excited. The Horash Empire had been massive, covering the vast majority of the known universe, but there was still more that no one he had ever known or even heard of had seen.
"What else could be out there that we've never seen?" he whispered, tracing his fingers over the smooth, curved surface of the window. "What more is there left to discover?"
A soft trill drew his attention away from the endless void and back to the console that was supposed to be the sole focus of his shift. A small blue light was flashing on the display, and when he flipped the switch to receive the broadcast, what he heard was something he'd been desperately hoping wouldn't come up outside of training exercises.
"This is freighter Jolly-Alpha-Niner-7-7-8 out of Mullins Delta. Primary engines damaged and landing repulsors offline. Repeat, this is freighter Jolly-Alpha-Niner-7-7-8 out of Mullins Delta. Primary engines are damaged and our landing repulsors are offline. Abel Station, do you copy?"
Sam slapped the broadcast button so hard his fingers stung. "This is Abel Station. Jolly-Alpha-Niner, what's your position?"
"Ten clicks out, Abel Station. I can slow us down, but docking is going to be near impossible without my landing repulsors."
"Roger that." Sam fumbled for the buttons, trying to remember which ones broadcast to the whole station and which ones routed his message to specific rooms or comm sets. Gods above and below, why were there so many buttons on this stupid console? He finally found the one for the Major, only to remember halfway through his slightly frantic report that the Major wasn't aboard.
Another message came in while he was still cursing his horrid luck.
"Abel Station, we're now seven clicks out. What should we do?'
"I'm just a comms officer. Why did it have to be me?" Sam scrubbed his face with both hands and tried not to whimper. "Alright, I'll need you to spend as much fuel as you can before you come in to dock. If something goes wrong, we really don't want fiery explosions if they can be avoided."
"Copy that, Abel Station. Beginning hold maneuvers."