CHAPTER 01: Frost Station Dreaming

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Space was said to be the absolute end of the line when it came to isolation.

But there are some places in the galaxy that, if the inhabitants were to be asked, come in a very close second. The northern polar regions of Dis, a mining planet out in the far-flung reaches of known space, would be a good candidate for such immense solitude.

On a good day, the temperature managed to climb just above minus ten. On bad days, it was impossible for any human being to step outside for more than sixty seconds before risking hypothermia. The snow and the winds were constant. When the sun was out, it provided little more than a thin gray light.

A handful of outposts occupied the northern reaches of Dis, in a region labeled on holographic maps simply as Charon. One such outpost, Frost Station, sat nestled amid a great field of ice, alone, save for its neighboring outpost nearly a mile away.

If Frost Station were to be viewed from above, it would resemble a great, gray, snowbound plus symbol. Each arm of the outpost was a wing, and held something crucial to the continued survival of the base and its inhabitants.

It was all very simple.

The south wing housed the dormitories.

The north wing held the cafeteria, a walk-in freezer where months of food was stored, and access to the underground portion and generator.

The east wing was mainly storage, and also granted access to the base's sole garage.

The west wing held the infirmary, radio room, and offices where the minuscule amount of personnel did what work was required of them.

Naturally, this was all centered around the rec room, which sat in the dome-shaped room that was the heart and, arguably, soul of the facility.

This was Frost Station.

* * *

Dawn.

The concept was tricky in a place like Charon. Despite the fact that his window showed no light, Marshall found his eyes snapping open. He rolled over and stared at his little digital clock, mounted on the bedside nightstand. It provided the only source of illumination in the room. The tiny crimson numerals told him that it was just shy of eight in the morning. He supposed, with a quiet sigh, that it wasn't all that bad.

Five years in the military had imbued him with the die-hard habit of waking up at the crack of dawn. It had waned slightly in the year and a half following his ejection from the Galactic Marine Corps, Search and Rescue Branch.

Eight AM was honestly sleeping in for him.

For a long moment, Marshall laid in his bed at the top of the world, hidden away within a fortress of steel and glass, protecting him against the omnipresent elements that would kill him in minutes if they could. He stared up at the ceiling, barely illuminated by the dim red light, and thought that he had already gotten used to the sight.

Just shy of two months here in the snow, and he was used to staring at that bland tiled ceiling. The notion depressed him. Marshall rolled over and groped blindly along the top of his nightstand. His fingers shifted lazily between an infopad, his clock, a couple empty cans of Vex, one of which he knocked to the floor.

Finally, he found what he was looking for.

He grabbed the pack of cigarettes and pulled them closer. Fumbling in the darkness, he extracted a cig and replaced the pack, then spent another moment hunting for his lighter. It was a silver flip-top that was, if he was being honest with himself, his most prized possession. It had a wicked design of a dragon's head, made of raised metal, on the side.

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