Disclaimer: This story is loosely based on Luke Rounda's Asteroids fanfiction, "Festival Among the Rocks". However, it's so loosely based, it resembles the original work in nearly no way at all. This is based on an Asteroids universe that is a not so much of a dystopian future, but rather a depressing one.
The night is young, the void is deep.
The frontier is smashed, the future is bleak.
Prospectors make shitty poets.
The writers were wrong. Space isn't the happy destination for a shiny, united human race. All a bunch of malarkey. Sure, there's less taxes and laws, less red tape, less idiotic armies running about gunning for you. Not that Earth is facing any large conflicts lately. But the frontier is a myth. I'm not a bold, impetuous, yet slightly gruff miner looking for the nearest motherlode. Ha! Like a regular shmill can, with all of the companies flying around with the stateart devices. Few will even find one claim in their life. 'Prospector' is a generalized, meaningless title, like 'colonist' or 'settler'. The only prospect you look out for is whoever pays the biggest bucks.
I could very well work for them- but as what? Automated systems mean that there's no need for anyone above bookkeeper. There's no need to run all the way out to the wilds for that line of work. Bureaucracy times a trillion back home. I don't even have to go to Earth, the orbital colonies and Mars would do as well. Hell, even Pluto's considered civilized now. I wouldn't do manual work in a rock mine, anyway. That's robot work. There's a hellalot of stones out here, but there's no future in working with them. And don't listen to Nomad, either. Asteroid-smashing is a lonely job for suckers who can fly and shoot but either can't fight against real targets or have résumés lousy enough to be rejected by the private security firms desperate enough to use automated robot sentries to guard their operations. And you think I would want to spend the rest of my days breaking apart asteroids to serve big business transit lines, to aid supply lines for the military? Actually, I don't quite mind the second part- they are protecting humanity's collective ass… most of the time.
Scoff. Aliens. Enigmatic, insidious, uncommunicable. Who cares? So there's only one species of spacefaring life besides humanity, hell, only one species that is actually above the range of protozoa. So the xenobiologists and theologians are all dazed up in a tizzy. That sure doesn't mean mankind will lose out on all of our valuable minerals and living space! And advanced technologies of course, and a valve to let out our murderous impulses. Let the united fleet go forth and exterminate, we'll all pay a percentage of income to the governments back home a year, and I'll keep out of the way. No military or military-funded jobs for me- please. It's not the ranks and lifestyle, it's the death of it all. Thank God that the afbs don't feel like invading us. Their weapons make ours look like a beam pen against a mining laser. We can't adopt the tech, either, not with most of the physics missing.
No, the only danger I can make a profit out of is humanity. Plenty of scofflaws out there, despite anti-afb garrisons nearby and sheriffs and all of that floatsam. Sheriffs. In the fucking 24th cent. Idiots, the whole lot of them. They aren't hypocrite lawbreakers- though most are corrupt, naturally- but they're such cross-eyed inbreds it isn't even funny. It's like a few generation ships got here but only one family survived, and they dumped the kissing cousins on us poor folks. The whole system's screwed up, if you ask me. Earth has been peace way too long without anyone deciding to help us. It's like they used up all of their energy building the orbitals. How many Mars terraforming experiments have been attempted? Oh, the homeworld lights up when you get close to it, but the rest of the system are just stable, well-populated mining towns. Not much better than here, just with more people.
Speaking of which- I was talking about that, wasn't I? Ey! I digress easily. There's a crushing sense of ennui out here amongst these dull rocks. Space is cold, the only lights pass quickly, so drinking is always a sport. I hunt people. Well… not as a bounty hunter, per se. They go all over the humanized sectors, from home all the way to the asteroids. Me, I stay here. I'm a pirate-killer. It's not as stupid as it sounds. Three-quarters of the raids on ships are made by organized groups. The stars are flooded with their kin. Space Pirates. Everyone thinks they're a joke, just a gaggle of raiders with a delusioned sense of honor. Not so. Raiders are different from pirates. Raiders pretend; pirates live. They really must be the gene-broken children of the generation ships. They think that they have nations out here, and it's their duty as the first settlers to pillage and rape every single ship and settlement that's come here since they first got here. Not that the generation ships were a great tribute to humanity's prowess- three hundred thousand left, a few hundred got here. Laughably, several of the ships were intercepted after ftl got invented! Sad.
So some got pissed. Their lives, their whole existence was for void. So they dredged up what they could from their big ships, used them as bases, and started raying everyone who got close. Most got killed off after the Ten Year's Campaign of the last century. But more remain. A lot of illiterates who settled here joined them. The difference between them and raiders? They have culture, and raiders don't. They have grandeur fixations, and raiders know that they're petty. Pirates do create elaborate socnets, with their own men out here in the settlements. They consider themselves sovereign nations with agents and spies, instead of muggers that you see only if you fly unescorted and alone. There are enough of escorts, bodyguards, bounty hunters, and that sort of mercenary out here. I'm a pirate killer.
I hunt pirates. This hat is a badge given by the colonial authorities. I'm don't do the typical shoot-to-kill sort of job. I have to investigate these matters. I can crack locks and break heads, I can borrow ships and never return them… and even sometimes I get the promised romance and adventure. Often not, though. It's a bit like fighting organized crime crossed with chasing fanatic survivalist guerillas. They have vendettas, and they relent but only after they satisfy their ideolog requirements. They don't torture like La Famiglia, and they don't fight until they're reduced to beating you with detached limbs like the Foxmen, but they're still a harsh crew, pardon the pun. Some of their 'captains', they're as bad as serial killers. Lunatics, the whole bunch of them. It's unsettling to have a decapitated, skinless cadaver hit your window while you're in space, I tell you that…
It's a bit like foreign spytasking, too. Far less sophisticated people, though. I meet informants in the cantinas, I beat threaten to shoot them with the gun I've hidden underneath the table, I start brawls just for diversions. I get a lead, fly to some deserted mines, talk to the loners of space, do my job. There are some specialized teams out there, who actually find the lairs and blow the hell out of them. I get some company now and then, but much less. The old anti-raider, Gray Blade, has helped me. So did that new hotshot, Trespasser. Colonel Krasnov, the military governor of Alkes, is a good flak for a military man. But often I don't get wingmates for my assignments, not even military dimlights who know how to fight but don't know how to stay alive.
It's a niche field at the time, like so many hobbies on the frontier. I expect more will shift to this if I don't finish it. One's got to keep busy in the dark, dark, future.