I got the opportunity to purchase a Mecury Star Runner. But there were hurdles.
I was in a hurry, very hurried. The trees rushed past me. Snowflakes rushed against the cockpit window. The view through the large panorama window was almost as good as in the Prospector. The snowy landscape of Microtech lay in front of me in all its beauty. No struts obstructed the view. I dived into a valley. The ship could be steered precisely between the cliffs. The handling was comparable to the Cutlass. But the Mercury Star Runner was a much bigger ship.
A few days ago I had admired the Star Runner at the IAE. A dream, but beyond my financial possibilities. And then the opportunity. A courier company on Microtech went bankrupt. A Star Runner was part of the bankruptcy estate and was for sale at a favorable price. And it was exactly with this ship that I was on my way. A lot depended on this flight. The question was, could I buy it and did I want to buy it?
The Star Runner had been in the service of the courier company for a long time and had many miles on her back. You could see it everywhere. The doors didn’t work properly, covers were missing in the interior, lines were temporarily installed. And the engines were in urgent need of a general overhaul. They were using far too much fuel.
All things that could be repaired. The Star Runner offered everything I needed. I could carry cargo, a lot of cargo. All the data I collected about the Stanton System plot could be safely stored on the servers. A comfortable life on board was possible and I could fly long distances. Yes I wanted this ship, I was sure.
Now all I had to do was convince the insolvency administrator to sell me the ship. The crowd of interested people was huge, she could choose who she left the Star Runner to. The other potential buyers were at an advantage. They were from Microtech and also in the courier business. I, on the other hand, was not a resident of Microtech and had no company. I was just a shady guy with no reputation. Therefore, I was not the first choice. But I had a bet going with the insolvency administrator. She had claimed that the Star Runner was not suitable for fast rush delivery to cramped destinations. It was too big and too slow. I disagreed.
“The Mercury is the only ship capable of successfully completing the Able Baker Challenge. At least when it is in the hands of a good pilot.” “You are not a good pilot. You don’t even have any experience in the courier business,” replied the insolvency administrator “What do you want with this ship. It’s a waste.” “I make every run faster than you can draw up the sales contract. And I’ll bring you some flowers as well,” I said laughing and reached out my hand to her. “Want to bet?” Somehow she seemed to be impressed. She accepted the bet. Her conditions were challenging. I had to pick up a package in Port Tressler, in orbit of Microtech, and one on the planet’s surface in a small emergency shelter, in a time she gave me. I had to deliver both packages on a small landing pad on a high-rise building in New Babbage. If I made it, I would get the Star Runners, if not I would be out. The insolvency administrator was sure that I had no chance.
Time was running faster than I would have liked. I had quickly picked up the package in Port Tressler. That was the easy part.
In the meantime I was approaching the shelter. There was hardly anything to see from the cockpit. The blizzard became more and more violent. Only dimly I could recognize the Emergency Shelter. There was no landing place. The building stood between trees in a hollow. A bit away there was enough space to land. However, in this storm I would need too long to walk to the shelter. In order not to lose too much time I had to land directly in front of the building. That was my only option if I wanted to win the bet. In blind flight I reduced the altitude. On the left side there was a loud crash. A tree snapped under the weight of the Star Runner. Then the ship stood safely on the ground. Hopefully nothing was damaged and I could take off again.
After the crate from the shelter was stowed in the cargo hold I started the engines. I gave thrust. The ship did not move. I gave more thrust. Nothing, the Star Runner did not take off. Then I noticed that I had throttled the maximum power of the thrusters to land more precisely. My flat hand slapped against my head. “Idiot” I said to myself. “That cost valuable time. You’ll never get the ship that way.” I set the engine power to 100% and the Star Runner took off.
After a short time I reached New Babbage. In some distance I saw the spaceport. A carrack just took off and rose majestically into the night sky. My course took me in the other direction, right into the city. It took me only a few minutes to reach the landing pad. The pad was hardly bigger than the Star Runner. The landing was tricky and demanded precision. I made it. The only question was whether I was fast enough and had won the bet.
I met with the insolvency administrator in the lobby of the Aspire Grand. There was a hustle and bustle. The last guests from the IAE left. Suitcases were pushed through the hall, shuttles were ordered and bills were paid. She shook my hand. “I am impressed. I didn’t think anyone could do it.” I just grinned and said nothing. “I think the Star Runner is in good hands with you. Let’s sign the sales contract.” With my fingerprint on the data pad, I confirmed the purchase. The Mercury Star Runner was mine, I couldn’t believe it yet.
In the admin office I rented a parking space to store my Cutlass. I did not want to sell it. A lot of memories and emotions hung on this ship. I also had the feeling that I might need it at some point. And then the moment came when I registered the Mercury Star Runner on me and gave her a name. I called her “White Rabbit”.
I felt like I was on drugs. A warm feeling of happiness spread within me. My surroundings I took only dimly. Like in a trance I went to the hangar. I entered my own Mercury Star Runner for the first time. I sat down in the left seat of the cockpit and took off. After the “White Rabbit” had left the hangar I gave full power. The engines roared up, the acceleration pushed me into the seat. I left the planet Microtech and flew towards the stars. My journey with the “White Rabbit” began. A journey in search of the truth. The truth about the machinations of the corporations in the Stanton System. The truth about the oppression of free peoples.
I had put a sticker on the tailgate of the “White Rabbit”: “If you want to know the truth, follow the white rabbit.”