I got myself engaged for a top secret transport assignment. A surprise was waiting for me.
A shrill tone suddenly sounded. The red light of the alarm was reflected in my helmet visor and in the cockpit window. “Radar Lock” was on the display in front of me. A spacecraft had locked me with the fire control computer. And then I saw it, a Hornet, a medium-weight fighter, right in front of me at 12 o’clock. It came straight at me and thundered just above my cockpit. Instinctively I ducked my head. The fighter turned and sat behind me in firing position. The safe zone of the Oribtal Station Port Tressler was still a few kilometers away. Too far away. That did not look good. Damn it, what situation had I got myself into. It all started quite harmlessly.
One day before at the Outlaw Station GrimHEX, they were looking for a pilot who would perform an unregistered transport with a Caterpillar. The payment was good. I did not ask any questions and took the job.
Nevertheless I was curious. A Caterpillar was a big transport ship. Who would secretly transport so much stuff to GrimHEX? During the Quantum flight to the pickup location I tried to find out something about the client in the on-board computer. Or about the owner of the ship. The server racks stood like safes in front of me. Cold and repellent. They gave away nothing. Professionals were at work here. All my knowledge of computer hacking was useless.
The pickup location was one of Microtech’s moons. The flight took quite a while. When I came out of the quantum flight, the icy planet lay beneath me in all its cold beauty. The snow-covered surface looked so peaceful and pure. Like the immaculate soul of a nun. A pleasant feeling of relaxation spread within me. Somehow this planet had done it to me.
A short time later I landed on one of the moons at an outpost. I went to the building where I was supposed to pick up the goods. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked at the sign hanging over the airlock. I grinned into my helmet. Why was I not surprised. Above the entrance there were the large letters “Shubin Interstellar”. Again an illegal action of Shubin. Not the first one I was involved in.
The alarm sounded again. The fighter came closer and closer. The staccato of his weapons could come over me at any time. I moved the shields backwards to get a little more time. Then the radio cracked. “Why are you flying to Port Tressler? You were told to fly the cargo to GrimHEX without detour.” “Hey you joker. I have to refuel.” I answered. “This ship only makes one way with one tank of gas. You should have put a bigger tank in it for me.” The answer came promptly. “Follow me and shut up.”
The fighter led me to the remote R&R station at Lagrangian point Crusader L5. After a short refueling stop I went straight on to Yela.
When I arrived at GrimHEX one of the hangar doors opened immediately. I did not even have to ask for a landing permit. When I flew into the hangar, I had the feeling to be swallowed by a black hole. The lights in the hangar were off, it was pitch black. A shiver ran down my spine. This transport had not been organized by a small gang. But did Shubin have enough power to turn off the lights even in GrimHEX. Or was an even greater power at work here?