Escape Velocity by corleonis ()
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This is my submission to an Artpack at DeviantArt, themed "Low Orbit" for the group Celestreus http://celestreus.deviantart.com/
The story behind this one:
Built by the Fiat-Mitsu Manufacturing Consortium, Scavengers are designed to locate and dismantle derelict spacecraft that have been abandoned or damaged beyond repair. While they have been adapted to a variety of jobs, one variant of these purpose-built ships has no human crew, instead they are guided by an advanced AI system, that processes the input from the sensors and determines the likeliest place for the harvesting of wreckage. If there are no sources of scrap metal nearby, their secondary commands are to engage in low-impact asteroid mining. The Scavengers' AI controllers, while sufficiently advanced to do mining and scavenging work, have trouble dealing with anything more complicated.
The problem arises when the Scavengers have exhausted their local work area of wreckage sources, and have difficulty locating any promising areas for mining. Then they begin to hunt down and take apart craft that are still in near working order, or craft that have broadcast even the most minor of error messages. This has caused serious problems in many systems, since over the last 300 years, this sector has seen a population explosion. Now passenger or cargo vessels breaking down in the midst of a run are a fairly common occurence here; enough so that the number of passengers reporting a sighting of, or worse an encounter with, these Scavengers has skyrocketed. In other systems, when a vessel suffers a problem of any sort, they merely have to send a distress signal to the nearest port, and shortly thereafter they will be found by the ISG [interstellar equivalent of the US Coast Guard] Here in the former hinterlands though, space has become infested with the Scavengers. If one or more happens to intercept a distress signal directed at a port, the Scavenger will interpret it as a call to action and proceed at full speed to the location and begin dissassembling. When a Scavenger is sighted, the passengers must rely on their own spacecrafts capabilities, and the skills of their pilots to escape with their lives, or they will be left adrift in a scrap metal debris field.
All comments and feedback are appreciated!!