The Interstellar Detritus Reclamation Company is losing garbage scows at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, a ruthless terrorist organization is wreaking havoc across the galaxy, and the InterGalactic United Military is trying to identify the culprits and stave off the attacks. Gladius Slate, long-time Company operative and dedicated employee, stumbles upon a clue to the disappearing garbage vessels, and possibly a link to the terrorists. Reluctantly reunited with a former co-pilot and desperate to pass off the dangerous mission to higher authorities, he is pressured by the Company and the Union to sit tight and wait for help. But the longer he waits, the more he feels things are conspiring against him. Conflicted by duty, honor and self-preservation, Slate is forced to press on in the face of uncertain odds. Is it possible for a pair of unwitting garbage men to save an entire galaxy?
High in orbit above the planet Flangeknit 27, a manually-controlled waste tug trudges through its daily routine: organizing a month's worth of Monstrous Indestructo Sani-Containment Bins(tm) into a holding grid.
"I hate this trash," mutters the operator, a bloated man in sweat-stained coveralls.
"What was that?" crackles the voice of the Senior Sanitation Engineer, Lyle Braithwaste, over the headset.
Lefty Fenzan wrenches the controls, fighting to guide the unruly Sani-Containment Bin(tm). "Nothing, sir. Just having some difficulty putting a Sani-Bin into the holding grid."
"Well get a move on, Lefty. They'll be here soon."
There is a click in Lefty's headset as his supervisor terminates communication. Grumbling, he returns his attention to the guidance controls of the skiff. His left hand, a robotic replacement, grips the manipulator handle of the huge exterior grapple arm that holds the bin. Loose material sloshing inside the bin is causing it to wobble unevenly. With his right hand Lefty frantically burps the AttiTooters(tm), trying to counter the instability.
A warning light flashes on the panel above his head.
He glances out the port side porthole. Early. Must be re-evaluation month. Only time those Union loafers do any work.
A large Arachide Belly Cruiser Detritus Reclamation Unit(tm), belonging to the gargantuan Interstellar Detritus Reclamation Company, erupts from hyperspace. The blue glow of full-reverse HooterTooters(tm) reflects softly on its dull, white hull as the ship decelerates to a slow drift. The running lights change from green to amber and the bay doors of the belly begin to draw back.
While idling or maneuvering at low speeds four retractable arms hang below the bulging undercarriage of the Belly Cruisers, creating a striking resemblance to the udder of a cow. Naturally, this has resulted in a nick-name: Scow Cows.
"Hello control, Fenzan here, tell the IDR boys they'll have to wait, I'm not ready yet."
Tooter maintenance or something."
Lefty brightens, wipes his brow on his sleeve. "This is the last bin anyway, then I'm outta here."
"Take your time, they'll be awhile."
"No way, gotta please my main squeeze tonight." There is a faint whir as Lefty revs the nimble digits of his robotic arm. With renewed vigor, he stabs at the controls. Finally, the troublesome bin slips into its slot, locking with a solid clank. Lefty disengages the grapple arm and applies reverse thrust.