Kjeld did not show up for a meeting, but I found new surprising information.
I stood on the observation deck and looked out into space. There were only a few stars to be seen. The space station was surrounded by a cloud of gas. It covered the stars like a veil and swallowed the light. A veil also surrounded the Thiago lobby. Who was behind the lobby? Why had a cup of the Thiago been aboard my Star Runner? Had the Thiago searched my ship’s on-board computers? What was the Thiago’s role in all of this? I remembered a conversation with Kjeld. He said that the Thiago lobby was involved in Enos, had a lot of money and supported various companies, including Shubin Interstellar. After the conversation with Kjeld, I decided to hack into Shubin’s computers. It was time to put the plan into action.
At that moment my mobi glass beeped. It was a message from Kjeld.
“Zero, I told you about the cyberattacks. A hacker named Ebo Caris was behind it. From the looks of it, he was working for the Forgotten 15. Something’s not right. I’ll send you a black data later. I can’t crack it. Meet me at Old 38, over.”
With a groan, I dropped onto one of the sofas on the observation deck. I had hoped Kjeld would have information about who had searched my on-board computers. However, it was not impossible that the cyberattack on Kjeld and the search of my computers were related. In any case, Kjeld had become a target, just like me. I rested my head on the back of the sofa and looked up at the ceiling with empty eyes. There was no way I was going to Grim Hex or any other busy place. My worry of being tracked down was too great. Kjeld and I arranged to meet at CRU-L4, a space station off the trade routes. After my ROC was repaired I went on my way.
When I reached CRU-L4 I waited several hours for Kjeld. But he did not come. He also did not respond to any message. Had something happened to him? Had the powers behind Enos caught him and eliminated him? Panic spread through me. It rose up in me like the tide of the tides. I had the feeling that I could no longer breathe. If it had gotten Kjeld, I wasn’t safe either. Just as water finds a way, the powerful find a way. I could no longer hide. But without information, I would not be able to find a safe path in this tangled mess. My best option was to beat the hackers at their own game. Shubin was where I was going to start. I also had an idea how I could succeed.
After a long day of ROC mining, I landed at the Shubin mining outpost SAL-2 on Lyria. It was already dark. A few lanterns bathed the outpost in a soft light. Rocks and geysers were dimly visible behind the buildings. With a fainter hum, the engines of my old Cutlass fell silent. I headed straight for the warehouse where the admin office was. I was able to sell the load of minerals from the ROC without any problems. A bit bored, the manager confirmed the transaction. The loneliness and dreariness, from the service in the outpost, was clearly noticeable to him. I pretended to have found two cans of whiskey-cola in my pockets by chance and offered him one. We got into a conversation.
“Pretty dull out here, isn’t it”, I asked the manager.
“Yeah, you said it. Being on duty alone for weeks on end is tough. I’m glad for any change of pace.”
“Yeah, I know that. I’m usually out on my own with the ROC. Lonely rock knocking.”
“At least you have something to do. I just sit around here waiting for someone to come along for a change. The mining in the station is automated. I have virtually nothing to do here.”
“At least you have sanitation and a kitchen. There are two beds in my Cutlass, nothing else. That’s where I have to improvise on longer trips. Speaking of sanitary facilities. Could I use your toilet? I’ve been on the road for quite a while.”
“Ha Ha. No problem. Just go over to the habitation module. And if you’re there anyway, you can use the shower too. I think you need it”, said the manager with a loud laugh.
To get to the habitation module I had to walk a bit through the cold night of Lyria. The building was empty, the manager was really alone in the outpost. Behind the entrance off the habitation module was a large table on the left, with the shower stall behind it. Straight ahead was a kitchenette and diagonally across from the entrance area were bunk beds open to one side only. They formed a small extra area that was protected from view. There I found what I was looking for – computers.
It was as I had expected. In such a remote outpost, security was not very high. I was able to hack into the computers without any problems. I could not access the central computer of Shubin, it was too well secured. But I managed to access a less secured archive. Stealthily I looked around. I was alone, hopefully the manager would not come into the habitation module. I began to search the archive. At first glance, there seemed to be only insignificant documents. I dived deeper and deeper into the abyss of the archive. I managed to recover fragments of already deleted documents. Four fragments caught my attention.
“….Mission reconnaissance with Scorpio Lycosi….”
“…..independent pilot ….. secret chip transport to Grim Hex……”
“….Conversations with HD in Secret Room….. No interplanetary communication…..”
“….Invitation …. Thiago Party on Renaissance…..”
Scorpio Lycosi was the leader of a radical splinter group of the Nine Tails. HD had to be Hurston Dynamics. And Shubin had been invited to a party by the Thiago Lobby. That was the kicker. I sat down on the desk chair and propped my head in my hands. Shubin was sitting like a spider in a web. There were connections in several directions. To the Nine Tails, to Hurston Dynamics, and to Thiago Lobby. But what was this secret chip transport to Grim Hex? Grim Hex was the base of the Nine Tails……and TYR. I wonder if Kjeld knew anything about it. And what kind of super secret conversations was Shubin having with Hurston Dynamics? If the conversations were conducted in a secret room and not over interplanetary communications channels, I couldn’t get anything on my listening device in the Comm Array.
Pieces of the puzzle flew around in my head like leaves in the wind. But they did not fit together. The whirlwind in my head exposed memories.Memories of the mission I had received at the Shubin outpost on the moon Daymar. I had to confirm the death of a person.Memories of the secret transport flight I had made to Grim Hex. I had picked up the goods at a Shubin outpost.Memories of the name Renaissance. I had seen that name on a piece of paper next to a packet of drugs on Grim Hex. Shubin, every now and then I had contact with Shubin when I was involved in illegal or clandestine jobs. I needed more information from inside Shubin. But how should I get it? Suddenly an idea came to me how I could get Shubin inside information. I set off for the planet ArcCorp. Before that, I encrypted the information I found and sent it to Kjeld.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)