“Coming up on one of the densest concentrations now.”

Corris nodded and adjusted his trajectory. The Altair was an inexpensive solar-skimmer, sipping ions from the radiant energy of the surrounding stellar clouds, but that meant it took a lot of handholding to pilot. Almost instinct rather than science, as they used to say in the McCrea family.

“You gonna tell us that story again, of how your great-aunt almost navigated her way out of a black hole on instinct alone?” said Derrick, gently poking fun of Corris’s consterned, concentrated expression.

“Only that I’m not sure how grandpappy knew the story if she didn’t escape,” Corris said without breaking his concentration. “That one always stumped him.”

They were upon the concentration now, off the shoulder of the constellation Aquila. Corris made a final adjustment before he gave the order to deploy the collectors. “Now!”

Skating through clouds of interstellar dust on the solar winds, the Aquila deployed its collector sails, the most expensive part of the ship, designed specifically to wring precious resources from the voids of interstellar space.

“Derrick! Get me a purity report as soon as you can,” Corris cried.

A few moments later, Derrick did so: “Ethyl formate!” he cried. “99 percent purity!”

Corris nodded. “Excellent.” The ship’s holds were rapidly filling with crystalized esters–alcohols synthesized by the stars themselves. They were in high demand for commercial flavorings for everything from raspberry candies to artificial rum, but the choicest pick of the skim would always go to the McCrea still–a mom-and-pop alcohol outfit as respected as it was illegal on every planet in the constellation.

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