Nexus Station orbited a rogue brown dwarf in the depths of interstellar space. The brown dwarf careened through the galaxy at just over five percent of the speed of light. According to Max it was hurled out of its native binary system — it would have been trinary had the brown dwarf ignited — when the other two stars merged to become a black hole. It was stripped of its moons in the process but still possessed a cloud of ice, stone and organics. These were the material from which Nexus Station was made and the resources it drew upon for survival.
Caleb had thought the Hegemony ship was massive but Nexus Station dwarfed it. As they watched the approach to the station in the viewing cafe Caleb experienced a true “That’s no moon” moment. Nexus Station was even larger than the Lego block torus in the outer Earth system, but instead of each piece looking exactly the same Nexus Station was made up of millions of cubs, spheres, tori, hammers, ships, domes, rings and mobius strips. It had the look of something that had been cobbled together over long eons by many different beings, and in fact it was.
“Nexus Station is the headquarters of the exploratory arm of the Spiral hegemony,” said Max as their ship waited for docking instructions. “The station is over one million years old and houses approximately nineteen billion sentient beings, and not all members of the Hegemony. Many different species use Nexus Station as their homes or a trading post. Some have even evolved on the station itself, such as the ghilograbagi.” Max paused and then added, “Known colloquially as shaft rats. Unpleasant people, by and large.”
“How long are we going to be here?” Caleb asked. His eyes were locked on Faith and Maxine, who stood alone together halfway across the cafe. “When will we know our assignments?”
Max, apparently disappointed that its Nexus Station TED Talk was over, said, “Not long. No more than twenty full cycles for you. In the meantime your duties on this ship will continue but you will be provided opportunity for, as you would put it, shore leave.”
“Shore leave?” Caleb smiled despite himself.