Damn, space is boring. Howe floated in her single-pilot capsule, weightless because the company was too damn cheap to permit thrust for the comfort of gravity. She stared out the window, and a pointless field of stars stared back. Nothing out there but cold light, drained of life by how many light years of travel through frozen space.
The instruments showed the same. It had been exciting, discovering wormhole travel and the cluster of natural wormholes out by Io. Oh, how humanity had celebrated entering the society of interstellar travelers. But they'd never found another member. It was—
Howe's HUD flickered to life, throwing quadrants and numbers across her window in tritium green and highlighting a region of space in a small box. Howe saw nothing, but space is huge, and the box was growing faster by the second. An alert identified artificial radio signals.
First. Contact. Howe tripped over her chair struggling into her EVA suit, and again prepping the first contact package. She watched the blank space draw nearer. Sweat stung her eye. At the last minute before it should—it must!—come into view, she grabbed her service pistol with shaking hands and strapped it on.
The HUD blanked. Error detected, read the HUD. Error corrected. Her window emptied of everything but cold stars. Howe sagged in her weightlessness.
Damn, space is boring.