Someone ordered special weapons from me. A dangerous search began.
My Star Runner was still confiscated. The authorities in New Babbage would not release it. Root had contacted me and offered to fly me to Everus Harbor. That’s where my Cutlass was stored. In the hangar of the New Babbage Interstellar Spaceport Root picked me up. During the long flight to the planet Hurston, we had an interesting conversation.
“You can deliver all kinds of things that aren’t easy to get, can’t you”, opened Root the conversation.
“Yes I can definitely supply stuff that the UEE or the corporations don’t like”, I replied.
“Well, I haven’t had anything to do with weapons yet. I’m not an arms dealer. More like stimulants, data, or rare earths. But I can ask around. I’m sure there’s something I can do.”
“I’d need two Size 9 seeker-class torpedoes.”
Silence. I looked at Root in irritation and thought I had misheard. After a few seconds I said, “Torpedoes? I thought you were talking about small arms.”
“No, I could get them myself. Can you get your hands on such big things?”.
Still irritated, I replied more automatically than consciously, “I’ll ask around and let you know.”
After Root dropped me off at the orbital station ‘Everus Harbor’, I set off in my Cutlass. My destination was the pirate station ‘Grim Hex’ in the asteroid belt of the Crusader moon Yela. During the flight, a guilty conscience plagued me. Size 9 Torpedoes. This was something completely different than I had smuggled or procured before. Normally I don’t ask any questions. But in this case, I should have asked better what Root was going to do with the torpedos. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of getting such a deadly weapon. If someone shoots themselves up with drugs, that’s one thing. But shooting other people with a big torpedo is something else entirely. I should have said no right away. But good-natured as I am, I had given my word to ask around. And I wanted to stand by my word. Besides, to ask around did not mean to deliver.
Arrived on ‘Grim Hex’ I went on the direct way into the weapon store. Without further ado I asked the salesman. “Tell me, do you have Size 9 torpedoes on sale?”
His answer was direct and unequivocal “Are you kidding me? You don’t fool around with military equipment. Buy yourself a railgun and be happy with it.”
That was not a good start. It didn’t get any better, though. No matter who I asked, no one wanted to engage in a conversation about military weapons. Was the whole thing a bit too big? Or was I approaching the whole thing too naively? Then I remembered that contract killers like to use torpedoes to take out their target from a great distance with a single shot. A short time later, I had located the right person and arranged a meeting.
We sat in the hallway by the Habs. The corridor lay before us like a long tunnel. We had everything in view. No one could overhear or surprise us. The hit man had wrapped himself in a cloak. His head was covered, his face was not visible, his voice was muffled.
“So you’re looking for Size 9 torpedoes. These are powerful weapons, not toys.”
“Yes. They’re not for me, though. I’m supposed to get them for someone who…..”
“Stop babbling. Too much information can be deadly”, he interrupted me and continued “I can’t get these things. But I know who can. It’ll cost you, though.”
“How much”, I asked.
“Not how much, but what. I have a stockpile of special things that help me with my missions. But the warehouse is compromised. Get my stuff and put it in a safe place. Then you’ll get the information.”
An hour later, I was on approach to the moon Daymar. This was going to be a walk in the park, I thought to myself. Pick up a package and take it somewhere else. I had practice at that. As I approached the coordinates, my confidence faded like sure footing on quicksand. And it wasn’t because of the sandstorm that was raging. The stock was in a wreck of a Starfarer. The killer said the warehouse was compromised. What would be waiting for me there? It would not be my first enemy contact in a wreck. The Starfarer was large and twisted. There were many opportunities for ambush. I had no back up. Not like the last wreck when the Yellowhands were with us.
I prepared for the worst. Get in and out quickly, as unnoticed as possible. That was my plan. There was no access to the cargo deck from the outside. I had to climb over the broken tank scaffolding to the middle deck and there through the airlock into the wreck. Once inside the wreck, I cautiously looked down into the cargo hold from the middeck walkway. The cargo hold was dimly lit. Cargo was scattered everywhere. In the middle of the room was a large container that had been broken open. Inside it had to be the package. I had no chance to get the package up with the tractor beam. I had to go down into the cargo hold. I did not like that at all. Down there, I was an easy target. I first had to make sure that there was no one on the middeck who could suddenly surprise me. My tension grew with every step. Carefully, I searched the middle deck. I tried to prevent any noise, which was not easy with my boots on the metal floor.
I could not find anyone on the middle deck. If anyone was on the upper deck, I hoped they stayed upstairs. I slipped right into the cargo hold and found the package in the container. It was stimulants and painkillers. Now all I had to do was get out of the wreckage unnoticed and to my Cutlass. There was only one problem. I couldn’t see from the container if anyone was up on the center aisle. I couldn’t hold my gun in my hand either. Gun or package, I couldn’t do both. I had no choice, I had to take full risk. Out of the container, up the stairs, through the corridor, out of the airlock and down the scaffolding. It was a long way on which I was without defense. I took a deep breath and ran.
After I delivered the package to the destination I was back on ‘Grim Hex’. I waited in the corridor by the Habs. The hitman came down the stairs and walked slowly and disinterestedly towards me. It seemed as if he didn’t want to come to me and was walking this way purely by chance. As he passed by, he slipped me a note and silently disappeared through the door. I looked at the note and grinned. I could have guessed that. I knew the name and I knew that he commissioned assassinations. I myself had already cleaned up for him after an attack, but I had refused an order to kill.
Shortly after, I was standing in the back room of the old electronics store. The dim blue light of the hologram illuminated my face. Ruto was shown oversized by the holoprojector. His voice sounded tinny.
“Zero, I haven’t heard from you in a long time. Your request is unusual. Do you want to become an assassin now? Surprising after you turned down my last assignment.”
“Hi Ruto. No, I don’t need the torpedoes for myself. I promised a friend I’d ask around”, I replied curtly.
“Who else knows about this”, probed Ruto.
“Only the hitman who referred me to you. But he doesn’t know anything about my friend.”
“That’s good and should stay that way. The less involved the better. You know me, anyone who knows too much will be silenced…..”
“And I get to clean up afterwards”, I interrupted Ruto.
“Yes you did a good job then. That’s why I want to help you. The thing is hot but not impossible. I know someone who can help. Come back here tomorrow at the same time. But remember. Not a word, to anyone.”
The blue light disappeared and with it the projection of Ruto. I stood alone in the dark back room. It was dead silent. I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. What had I gotten myself into again.
The next day, I went to the electrical store at the same time. The door to the store opened. The view became clear of the chaos in the store. Old boxes, electronic junk, flickering monitors. And in the middle of it all, standing in front of the counter, was a guy in a leather jacket. He had his back turned to me. Without turning around he said “Come in and close the door.”
I walked into the store and stood next to the guy. He was typing something into his mobi glass. His face looked like the cratered landscape from a moon. It was furrowed and cast shadows in the pale light of the mobi glass.
Without taking his eyes off the mobi glass he said “You can only get what you want from military stocks. Not an easy thing to do. But I have the right connections. I can get you anything. It’s just a question of price. There are enough personnel in the military that will be cooperative at the right price.”
“An arms dealer”, it popped into my head. Ruthless, merciless, someone you want nothing to do with.
“Okay, what’s the price”, I asked directly.
“I heard you’re just the liaison”, he said without answering my question.
“Yes, I myself don’t want to buy. I just want to make the contact”, replied I.
“Good, tell the buyer to stand by. When I have access to the goods it must be quick. Your buyer must then decide immediately if he wants to buy. I will contact you when the time comes.”
I just nodded. Without another word, I turned and headed for the door.
“One more thing”, the guy said abruptly. I stopped, but didn’t turn around. “On delivery, you’ll have to get potential hazards and risks out of the way. You can’t get Size 9 torpedoes without getting your hands dirty.”
I sent Root a message informing him that I had a contact who would deliver the torpedoes to him. Now all we could do was wait for the arms dealer to get back to us. And wait we did. Root replied that he had been called up as a Navy reservist and would be gone for several weeks. He would not be able to process the purchase until he returned. Bummer, hopefully I didn’t get the signal from the arms dealer before then. Otherwise I’d be stuck with the purchase or have to call it all off.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)