The Maia Nebula station didn’t have any living inhabitants, of course. It was all automated, from fueling to repairs to upgrading and even illegal modifications. Drones entered one of hundreds of bays while their operators were connected to the station’s servers, allowing for much faster and higher-quality communication than the relays outside. Unmanned freighters constantly jumped in and out nearby, bringing fresh materials and consumables from Earth. No human could have survived the trip.

Remote-piloted drone operators had a saying: the suits own the stations, but they’re a trillion miles away. The RPD’s interfaced closely enough with the station systems that enterprising hackers had long ago compromised their systems. There were back channels for everything–people selling leads on claims, errands that needed running, and the occasional headhunting mission. The RPD’s hadn’t been designed with weapons, but a few lines of code here, a few repurposed thrusters and mining lasers there, and Cam was able to defend his drone from armed claimjumpers and griefers who had nothing better to do than maliciously destroy other peoples’ investments.