I got leads on the whereabouts of Brubacker. Chhris and I set out to find him. What was the secret behind his disappearance?
Melinda slid a piece of paper across the table to me. “While analyzing the communications data you intercepted, we found a message. It might be interesting. It did not come from the planet Hurston. The message was rerouted through Hurston’s communications satellite.” It was a great help to have Marsden Analytics helping me analyze the communications data. I took the piece of paper and lifted it into the light of the table lamp. In the semi-darkness of Wally’s Bar, it was not easy to read the text. My mouth was open. I stared at Melinda. “Shit. Brubacker!”
Thirty minutes later, I met Chhris at the Spaceport. He was just in New Babbage and had responded immediately to my message. “You have a lead on where Brubacker is?” asked Chhris, out of breath. “Yes, he’s being held in a drug outpost on Microtech. His captors want to get him out of the Stanton system. I have no idea when or where. We need to hurry and get him out of there before he’s gone for good.”
There were two drug outposts on Microtech. We didn’t know which one Brubacker was in, so we flew to the first one on the off chance. Speed and the principle of hope was all we had. The White Rabbit’s engines roared and catapulted us across the cold surface of Microtech. “Do these drug stations have defense turrets like the bunkers on Hurston?” asked Chhris, a little concerned. “No, I’ve been there. There are no gun turrets there. But we don’t know if Brubacker’s captors are there.” “What are you doing at drug outposts?” Chhris was obviously irritated. “Uh, yeah. Well, I go there to get whatever people need for their parties and don’t get through official channels.”
I landed the Star Runner a bit away from the outpost on a hill. Behind a rock made of obsidian we took cover and got an overview. The setting sun reflected in the shiny black of the rock. Everything seemed quiet. I couldn’t see anyone by the building through the scope. Chhris ran down the hill to the outpost. I secured his advance. When he got to the outpost, I followed with the Star Runner.
I had just landed when Chhris called in. “I’m inside the building. No one there. It looks like no one’s been here in months.” Shoot, either Brubacker was already gone, or we were at the wrong outpost. I followed Chhris into the building to get an idea of the situation. It was total chaos. Notes, trash, overturned chairs, shell casings. Nothing out of the ordinary. That’s what all the drug holes looked like. “Zero look, there are some pallets of drugs. The pills have smileys on them, I’ve never seen anything like that. Do you want to take them?” I hesitated for a moment. We didn’t have time and had to hurry to the next drug outpost before Brubacker was taken away. But then I couldn’t resist.
Time passed like sand between my fingers. After the first outpost was a failure, we flew to the second one. Should we find Brubacker here? Either he was here or we had lost him. “I see an Aurora on the scanner. It’s at the outpost.” Chhris called out. I landed out of sight of the outpost on a hill. Chhris couldn’t hold back anymore and ran down the hill. It was so steep he almost rolled over. “This guy is pretty reckless,” I thought to myself. Through the scope, I could see Chhris investigating the Aurora. No one seemed to be there but him. Everything was quiet at the building, too. Was this the calm before the storm? Was Brubacker here? Where were his kidnappers? And who had kidnapped him in the first place?
Chhris waited until I was also at the building. With guns drawn, we both went into the airlock. It hissed and steamed as pressure equalized. With a creak, the inner bulkhead opened. I saw the usual littered mess of drug outposts. The room was dimly lit. Chhris advanced. I was not yet in the room when I heard Chhris yell.
“There’s one lying there!” I followed Chhris. Sure enough, there was someone lying there. And it wasn’t just anyone. It was Brubacker. He was not conscious and was slow to come to. “Zero…Chhris…what happened?” moaned Brubacker. We grabbed him under the arms and helped him to his feet. Wobbly he stood there and had to hold on to a shelf.
“Smith….” Brubacker stammered softly. “We have to get out of here before your kidnappers show up.” I whistled at Brubacker. “Tell us everything on the way, we need to get out of here.” Slow as a turtle, Brubacker crawled to the Star Runner. When we were finally inside the spaceship, we flew off at low altitude. Chhris tended to Brubacker while I flew to an emergency shelter. Brubacker needed medical attention.
At the Emergency Shelter we pepped Brubacker up again. Then he told his whole story. It was an unbelievable story. Was the guy on drugs? Or was he ripe for the loony bin? The story was so crazy that I had to sit down. He told that he came from the past. He would have spent 700 years in cryosleep after an accident. Smith would belong to an organization that would have sent him through time. And now Smith had kidnapped him.
Brubacker was a strange bird. I found it hard to believe any of it. But someone had kidnapped him. And there had to be a connection with the crashed killer satellite on Hurston. I showed Brubacker the message I had intercepted: “
For safety’s sake, get our man out of the system now. Under no circumstances can it be known what crashed on H. Right now he is sedated in a drug lab on MT.”
After dropping Chhris and Brubacker off at Port Tresslar, I flew to Grim Hex. I still had some drugs to sell. Brubacker was supposed to keep his feet still for now. I also preferred to disappear under the radar again. Who knows who we were dealing with. If even part of what Brubacker said was true, he was in the clutches of a very powerful organization.
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