HEAVY TIME by C. J. Cherryh

Another entry in the Company Wars group of books.  This is what the author considers to be the beginning of the Union-Alliance universe.  Earth has a station orbiting above it, called Sol Station.  Many people were born on the Station and had never been to earth.

Out in space, there are asteroid miners, who work out of a number of different refinery stations in space.  They go out in two or three person ships searching out asteroids which might contain minerals or water or whatever, tag them, take a sample, register that tag and sample with the company on their refinery station, which then sends in huge mining ships.  As you can imagine, lots of room for cheating and corruption all around.

Well, a two man team Ben and Bird, are out searching for usable asteroids when they hear a distress beep.  After arguing about the cost of fuel, air, food, time, they would expend in going after the signal, they do, find a small mining ship like theirs in an uncontrolled spin.  After arguing again about the upside of actually entering the ship, they do go, and find a young man, on the edge of death.  After another argument, they bring him into their own ship, report it to the company, and hook up the ship to tow it to the station.

The young man, whose name is Dekker,  regains consciousness and keeps babbling that his female partner (and girlfriend) was EVA when they were struck by a mining ship unmarked on charts and trying to steal their big find, an asteroid over a kilometer long.  It hit their ship, and the explosion killed the young woman, but she is not to be found.

No one believes him, because there is no record of any mining ship in the area, the girl is actually wealthy and they have a signed agreement that in the event of an accident, etc., everything goes to the remaining partner.  So he has a lot to gain from her death.

Meanwhile, one of the two guys who found the kid in the accident wants to claim the ship as salvage, so there is that ongoing argument between him and his partner.  They meet up with a couple of women who are a pilot and numbers person team,  and agree to pair up so they can run two ships, trying to pay down the debt incurred for repairs and dock time for their main ship.

Soon, however, the issue becomes far more complicated–Dekker’s story suggests a murder and a Company cover-up, and the political crisis he sparks threatens to do more than deprive Bird and Ben of their salvage.

Heavy time refers to the down time needed for spacers to regain their bone mass, etc., by spending time in a gravity environment.

 

 

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