I'm sure you're all vaguely familiar with this Rock, this Restaurant At The End Of The Universe I'm writing from -- considering your tax dollars are likely paying for it -- but let me fill in a few details; few remember that Pluto was the god of the underworld before he was a dusty ball of ice, and I'm much farther away than that. Having long ago run out of Greek and Roman names, the astronomical bureaucracy turned to noms from more modern stories to excite those few in its audience who cared for such things, and named this particular astro-body Mithlond. In Tolkien mythology, Mithlond (the Grey Havens to Men) was the harbor in Middle-earth used by the Elves to sail West, away from the never-ending death and decay of Men to the Undying Lands. Maybe the naming committee set its sights a bit high in this case, but the idea instantly stuck, and so here I sit under a hundred feet of rock, one of the few thousand humans farthest from the star that gave us birth, caring for the driest harbor conceivable and the grayest of havens.

Before being christened Mithlond, the Rock went by the less-glamorous name of Asteroid 12001, 1996 ED9, Gasbarini, after some Italian fellow most likely. Selected mainly for its heavy iron composition, 12001 was "re-purposed" (as they say), fitted with some crude subbies and a crew of nuts, and cast out from the sun. None of the original crew is still around, but from what I've heard everything didn't go quite as smoothly as the folks back on earth were led to believe. Nevertheless, even if nothing else worked as planned, the subbies positioned the station right near the leading edge of Sol's heliosphere and held her there.

A few years later, the Vingilot was her first customer. After spending three weeks at sub-light to reach the Mithlond her crew was grateful for the rest and reprieve. Some minor repairs were performed and the Vingilot took on stores from the station before being the first ship to travel into the galactic wind. A few days later, free from Sol's influence, they fired up their super-sees for the first time and promptly blew themselves into oblivion.

Some started calling the station Charon's Ferry, but since that initial disaster there've been more successes than failures and humanity has begun to creep across the Orion arm of the Milky Way. I'm told there are some 20,000 stars within a hundred light years of earth, and we've been to nearly a hundred of them. And every single ship has passed through the Grey Havens on her way out.

I shipped up ten years ago, and I've spent most of my time on the Rock troubleshooting and doing odd jobs for Dr. Andrew Whittier, the Chief Administrator. My specialty is diagnosing software malfunctions, and there are plenty of those to go around, but last week the Whit re-purposed me as the Rock's CLEO -- that is, its Chief Law Enforcement Officer. There hadn't been much need till now, and the bureaucracy handled any problems that arose. Until recently, almost everyone on the Rock worked for the Whit, and crimes could be handled arbitrarily and administratively. There wasn't much more than petty theft and larceny, anyway.

The population has jumped over the past few years though, and the days when I recognized everyone in the corridors are over. Sectors and tunnels dug deep into Mithlond during its construction are being unsealed and powered-up to house all the newcomers, and there's always some dispute or another cropping up. The Whit was tired of dealing with all the hassle himself, so he's shoveled it onto me. People started calling me "Cleo", but I put a stop to that right quick. Those that know me still call me Bill, and the rest call me "Chief", which suits me just fine.

I'm supposed to keep this journal "for the record" as the bureaucracy says, so here it is.



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