A hundred-foot by hundred-foot blast door groaned to a close. Air rasped out of exhaust vents as a landing shuttle’s gears groaned to touch down and tether into the weak gravity of the landing bay.
Surrounding the massive airlock, four floors of open industry churned, separated only by a narrow and plunging distance from the spaceship’s platform to the inner city of the station. Crowds filled the Duke’s space port, enjoying refuge from the cruel dark beyond. Occasional lights blinked in the snufflingly dry and hot air. It was a grey scene – grey concrete, grey steel, and many grey faces, gaunt from the weak gravity and difficult extremes endured to survive this far from the war light of the Sun and humanity’s home on Earth.
Coldest among them was the figure who left the shuttle. He stepped out onto his vessel’s gangway and surveyed them with an icy gaze. Bleached white hair cropped close to his pale brow was pulled back tightly. His piercing eyes were crystal blue and darted across the four floors. Every footstep rang on the gangplank.
The entire station had gone silent.
Republic of Demos. The Carpo Incident. Rumors of Independents hiding within the Kuiper Belt.
A watchful eye would have noticed an ever-so-subtle glanced by the tall figure over his right shoulder to where an armed guard escorted him. Perhaps, one mentally resolute enough to not wither in the unholy and sudden silence, would have seen the hesitation in the otherwise stoic face of the figure.
Eyes watched him from everywhere.
Some were eager. His presence signified a swing in political momentum, the direction of which was yet to be determined. Some burned quietly. His presence represented the foulest parts of the Duke’s government. Some were simply curious. Whatever was coming, his presence in the station was a harbinger.
“Earl Titus,” one of the guards murmured through the garbling headset of his exosuit. “It would not do dwell here.”
The Icy Earl traced his gaze in a final sweep across the still scene, and his footsteps resumed to pass through the sea of watchful statutes.