In search of a better life, a simple freelancer and smuggler gets deeper and deeper into a vortex of corruption and betrayal. Summary of the first 99 episodes “Diary of Zero Sense” and start of the second season.
It smells like freshly made coffee. The cup is steaming in front of me. The Mercury Star Runner’s ventilation hums in the background. I’m sitting at my desk, in the living area of my spaceship “White Rabbit,” preparing my next action. What have I gotten myself into?
A lot had happened since I had left my home planet Ashana in the Nul System many years ago, a desert planet outside the UEE territory. Populated by criminals and people who didn’t want the UEE to tell them how to live. People who perhaps therefore were denied any progress and prosperity. They were people who knew how to help themselves and had turned the wreckage of the crashed Olympus into a whole city with a pulsating black market. I had grown up in this very place. This place has shaped my life.
Even as a young boy, I dreamed of the stars. I wanted to explore strange worlds, but there was nothing to explore on Ashana except sand and scrap metal. I wanted to leave – leave for a better life. With errands for the gangster lords I saved a little money for a flight in a freighter to Levski.
Levski – that was an old mining station outside the UEE area. A melting pot of anti-UEE activists, outlaws and UEE refugees. I got a job on the maintenance team and met Kylo. Kylo was smuggling drugs from the Stanton system to Levski. I used my access as a maintenance man to bring the drugs into the station. Things were going well and I had settled into my new life to some extent – until Kylo was suddenly murdered. From then on I wanted to find out who had done it and if myself was in danger. After all, anyone who deals in drugs also arouses desires. With a Cutlass Black, which had belonged to my friend before, I went on his tracks…
… the scent of coffee still surrounds me. Melancholy I think of Kylo. I prop my elbows on the desk and look over to the bunk. The comforter is crumpled and chaotic on the bed … yes, my start in the Stanton system was just as chaotic. The four planets of Stanton are owned by megacorporations. UEE law basically applies, but the four planets additionally have their own local laws, enforced by the corporations’ private security forces. The rapid economic growth also has its downsides. Exploitation, crime and greed are the order of the day.
With odd jobs, I stumbled a bit clumsily through the Stanton system at first. It wasn’t long before I came across GrimHex, the abandoned mining station in the asteroid belt of the Crusader moon Yela – retreat for pirates and outlaws. Somehow, it felt a little like “coming home” to me. I got smuggling jobs and dubious assignments, including from the mining corporation Shubin Interstellar. With each job, I looked deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of Stanton’s dark side.
Soon I understood: there was a drug war raging in the Stanton system. And Shubin was in it and also Kylo. But at some point he was unable to counter Shubin’s power and became one of the victims of this war. My own attempts to deal with drugs were not very successful. On the other hand, smuggling of all kinds of things went well. I got what the people of Stanton needed, even if the UEE and the corporations denied people those things. I moved on the edge of legality, staying under the radar and slipping through the cracks of the powerful corporations as best I could.
I reach for the coffee cup on the desk and take a sip. By now it’s cold and tastes sour. While I make a new one, I ponder how the contact with the activists actually came about. I stand in front of the coffee machine and press the button. It steams and hisses as the black beverage flows into the cup – just as a rock steams and hisses when it is worked on with a mining laser. Grinning, I take a sip.
I remember buying an old Prospector and getting into mining with difficulty. The problem in the Stanton system was that mined ores could only be sold to the corporations, export was not possible. The free peoples were thus dependent on the large corporations and their pricing. There was simply no free and fair trade. In the beginning I submitted to these circumstances, but at some point I looked for a way to sell the ores to the free peoples, bypassing the large corporations. And I found this possibility on Port Olisar, the old space station in the orbit of the gas planet Crusader. The activists there organized the clandestine export of ores out of the Stanton system. That was the beginning of my collaboration with the activist network.
At some point, the big corporations changed their strategy and allowed the export of ores through Port Olisar. But the activists and free peoples – and I too – did not trust the peace. The situation was confused, there were indications that the corporations were up to something to secure the ores exclusively for themselves again. There were even rumors that the destruction of Port Olisar was imminent, and it seemed that the pirate group Xeno Threat from the neighboring Pyro system would be commissioned to do it. In short, a major plot in the Stanton system was becoming more and more apparent. I began to collect information for the activists. Officially, I was mining and working as a freelancer. Unofficially, I was obtaining and smuggling data and goods.
While recovering data for the activists, on the destroyed Spacehub Gundo space station above the moon Daymar, I eventually stumbled upon John Brubacker, editor-in-chief of the independent editorial board “Off the Record” from ArcCorp. He was investigating some other matter around the station. I also eventually met Chhris Miller, the former director of development at the Microtech corporation. He was also on the trail of a scandal. His boss was apparently illegally selling weapons-grade computer chips to criminal organizations. In short, I was sliding deeper and deeper into a swamp of treason, corruption and conspiracy. Illegal activities, contract killings and drug trafficking by Shubin Interstellar, sale of weaponized chips at Microtech, hacker attacks on the activist network, destruction of a space station, threats by Xeno Threat and finally: killer satellites by Hurston Dynamics.
… I completely forget to drink my freshly made coffee as well. I focus my gaze and only now realize that I had subconsciously tried to recreate the situations and the contexts on the Mercrry Star Runner chessboard. Who was the king in this game, who the pawns? I load a visual representation of the events and contexts onto the Star Runner’s screen. It is a deeply tangled and complicated web. I sit back and think back to my early days in the Stanton system.
I had been just looking for a better, peaceful life, but now I slipped into something that made me an agent – an agent against my will, a fighter for the truth. But I didn’t like to fight, I preferred to operate under the radar. My preferred way was to obtain information secretly instead of taking up arms.
And that’s exactly what I’m doing now. My next action is to hack a communications satellite in orbit from the planet Hurston to listen in on conversations from Hurston Dynamics. But first I need a strong coffee. A damn strong coffee.