Aru got him to the star ship disposal sector safely, but “comfortably” was not an available upgrade to the ride. His transport chassis had been designed for hauling waste, not people, so in addition to missing a cabin, speed hadn’t been a consideration. On top of that, they’d run into bad weather. When he arrived, he was soaked to the skin in light clothing, and thanks to Haruna having slightly cooler temperatures than he was used to, he was frigid. I suppose I should just be thankful that Haruna rains are largely water, he thought. There were plenty of worlds where the air was breathable but rain would kill you.
He crawled off the transport’s rear deck, feeling like a drowned rat. He paced up and down the Aru’s new length, stamping off the chill that had seeped into him.
“Is this it?” he asked, and then waited. The transport had no visual display.
A whirring rumble answered him and a panel opened up on the chassis near the ground, forming a small ramp. The original unit Corwin had met slid down from a recess within the chassis, snapping into what looked like the set of treads it’d been using to get around earlier. The now much smaller Aru rolled down the ramp, which closed back up again, leaving the transport chassis inert and lifeless.
He bent down to examine the display. “Yes. We have arrived.”
“What kind of ships are around here?” He craned his neck looking around; they were on a rise of some sort, but if he’d expected a hangar of mothballed vessels, or a vast graveyard of broken hulks, it appeared he should be disappointed. What he saw instead didn’t look all that much different than what they’d left behind, safe that the mounds were less broken-looking. There was an order to the chaos that he couldn’t pin down.
“I selected a section that best fit two overlapping criteria. 1) Least likely to be badly damaged, and 2) most likely to contain viable food. Results: Luxury non-military craft.”
Corwin nodded slowly. It made sense to him; the military would strip down any decommissioned ship thoroughly and destroy any sensitive equipment or technology they couldn’t easily remove. Wealthy private citizens, on the other hand, were likely to care for their vessels very carefully, upgrade to newer models regularly, and care far less about what happened to them or their more mundane contents after the ship changed owners.
That still left one small problem. “That sounds great, Aru, but … where are they?”
“This way.” The little bot started off at a quick but easy pace, to Corwin’s relief. He was forced to jog to keep up, which immediately started warming him up. They were moving around the nearest of the junk piles, which on closer inspection Corwin realized was made up of bundled hull plating scavenged from downed vessels. Other heaps nearby were similarly gathered bits and pieces pulled off ships that weren’t so fortunate as those Aru was taking him to see.
They wound their way between several more junk piles when finally Corwin laid eyes on the scene he’d been looking for. A vast field of small- to mid-sized star ships of all designs, descriptions, and state of repair greeted him. Several of the nearest looked as though they’d just come out of the assembly docks.
He felt a giant knot of tension he hadn’t been aware of ease up between his shoulders; he just might get out of this after all.