I was hired by the security company TYR to support a secret operation. I was confronted with chaos and new clues to the plot in Stanton.
The tension was great as we left Port Tressler in a Star Runner. Besides Kjeld, three mercenaries from his security company TYR were on board. Unintentionally I had slipped into the matter – and the outcome of the upcoming secret operation was uncertain. I only knew that we were supposed to smuggle one person from Microtech to Grim Hex. I didn’t get any more information. That didn’t make my job any easier. I had to make sure that we remained undetected. The fact that the Helldivers were backing us up didn’t reassure me either. I found those guys scary.
The first thing I did on board was to put several cans of whiskey and coke in the kitchen. The winning drink, should we survive this thing. Then I took my place in the scanner room. A short time later, one of the TYR mercenaries came up to me. “I’m ArcTyp. I’ve been assigned to your personal care. Is there anything I can get you? Or a foot massage?” Was this guy messing with me? Not only was I not getting any information. Kjeld also assigned a chaperone. So much for trust. “No, I don’t need anything. We won’t have the whiskey and cola until we get through this,” I replied curtly. “I’d rather drink apple juice spritzer,” ArcTyp purred.
We flew to the moon Euterpe and landed in a valley. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The surrounding mountains shielded the scanner. I was effectively blind. I knew nothing and could see nothing now. Since ArcTyp didn’t leave my side, I tried to get information through him. “The commander is picking up the target person in a Dragonfly. We’ll wait until he gets back. I don’t know anything more than that. I’ve only been with TYR for two weeks,” he explained. Something in his voice was different from the other mercenaries. Less harshness, softer, friendlier. Was he a good actor and leading me around by the nose?
We waited and waited. Why was this taking so long? ArcTyp didn’t have any information, or wasn’t forthcoming with it. Could I trust him? We got to talking. He came from the planet Hurston, from a small village. He had left the planet in search of a better life. This was somehow familiar to me. It reminded me of my own past. At some point we began to pass the time by throwing cans. My distrust of him melted like ice in the sun. I hope I wasn’t too naive.
Suddenly, things got hectic. “I have to get into the turret. We’re flying to the target area. Something went wrong,” ArcTyp said abruptly. He ran out of the scanner room, leaving me alone. If only I knew what he was hearing over the radio. With the scanner I could see that we were approaching an outpost. A Constellation Phoenix was standing near the building. Immediately after landing, Amoebe came to me. He was the commander on board. “ArcTyp says you are trustworthy. You get behind the wheel of the Star Runner. We’ll go out and check the situation.”
There I sat. Alone in the Star Runner. Should I just fly off and disappear? The engines were running. I only had to give thrust. Away – and disappear under the radar. I was good at that. I wouldn’t leave any friends behind. But would it also be a good idea? The mercenaries would be breathing down my neck forever. And who knew what else could develop from this. Kjeld wanted to have a whiskey with me at the old 38 bar in Grim Hex. And ArcTyp seemed like a nice guy. And then there was a hunch. An indefinable feeling that told me to stay. I stayed. Little did I know how right that decision was. The lives of two friends were yet to depend on it.
It took quite a while until the others were back. Cerun, the pilot of TYR, came into the cockpit. “I’m going to take the wheel. We brought two prisoners with us. The commander has disappeared. The target person is not here. Go do whatever you need to do.” He sounded almost panicked. Something had to have gone mightily wrong. The engines roared under the load as Cerun brought the Star Runner into the air with a lightning start. The high G-load almost pushed me to the ground. Only with difficulty did I get into the cargo hold. I wanted to see the prisoners. There was a loud discussion going on.
“We can do things differently. Tell us who you are. What were you doing in the outpost? What happened here? What information do you have? Talk or we’ll shoot you!” Amoebe yelled at the two people in the cargo hold, waving his gun wildly. ArcTyp stood next to him, his sights on the two prisoners. “We don’t know anything. We were just here for an interview. And suddenly there were guns pointed at us!” the two stuttered excitedly. The voices – they sounded familiar. “Brubacker, Chhris. Is that you guys?” I asked, confused. “What the hell are you guys doing here?” “Zero, you? What the hell are you doing here? What are you doing with these kidnappers?” asked Brubacker back with a mixture of bewilderment and relief. I assured the TYR mercenaries that I knew them and that they were harmless. The mercenaries lowered their weapons. Brubacker and Chhris were out of danger for the time being.
Brubacker reported interviewing Thane McMarshall in the outpost. Suddenly the building had been stormed by unknown persons – the TYR people. Thane McMarshall, however, had disappeared. Amoebe meanwhile spoke with the TYR headquarters. There seemed to be pure chaos. Again I didn’t get any details. Finally Amoebe said, “We have to get to Crusader Moon Yela. Let’s go!”I didn’t know what was going on, nor where Kjeld and the target were. But I knew Yela’s surveillance systems would notice us. The EM signature of the Star Runner was too high. The only chance we had was to stay under the radar. It was risky, but not impossible. I had done it before. I didn’t have to convince Amoebe. He agreed immediately. The plan: disable the comm array in orbit of Yela.
“I have no orientation. Where’s up and down?” ArcTyp had left the Star Runner with me to back me up in the Comm Array. “Is this your first EVA? Just follow me. I know the way,” I answered him as calmly as I could. I was in my element. Not being alone also gave me security. Arriving at the comm array, I started the hack in a practiced manner. ArcTyp hovered next to me, watching with interest. “This is almost doing it by itself. Do you have to do anything at all?” I glanced at him briefly. “Indeed, with the right equipment, it’s not that hard. I’d be fine if you didn’t keep pointing your gun at my head, though.” “Oh sorry. I’ll keep an eye on the entrance.” Once I had access to the system, I shut down the comm array. Then I noticed a message in the system’s buffer. I copied the message to my mobiglass.
Back in the Star Runner, we flew to the Nakamura Valley Aid Shelter on the moon Yela. I read the intercepted message and was puzzled and startled. “Why does it say TYR is the biggest threat? What have you done?”. Worried, I showed Amoebe and the others the message from the comm array. “Probably the message came from the people who are after our target person. They see us as a threat because we are protecting the target,” ArcTyp answered calmly. That sounded conclusive. I decided to continue to trust ArcTyp. What was going on here, however, I did not understand. Who was this target anyway? And who was after her?
When we arrived at the Emergency Shelter, Amoebe ordered “We’ll stay here for now. Secure the entrance. I’ll stay in contact with dispatch.” I heard only scraps of words. Yellowhands, Helldiver, firefight, Security Post Kareah, retreat. Brubacker looked at me questioningly. We had no idea what was going on. Nothing seemed to be going according to plan, though. Suddenly, Amoebe jumped up. “The commander is at Port Olisar. We’ll meet him there.
In the terminal hall of Port Olisar there were a lot of heavily armed people. Yellowhands, Helldiver, German Business Club and in the middle Kjeld Stormarnson and Thane McMarshall. The mood was testy. “Why did you fire on everything in Kareah and not respond to our attempts to communicate?” the leader of the Yellowhands was indignant. “We had a mission. And we’re fulfilling it,” the Helldiver leader nagged back. “The target is gone. Somebody screwed us all.” Stormarnson tried to make sense of it, and Brubacker also tried to analyze the events, but was shouted down. “Let the alpha’s have their cockfight” I said quietly to Brubacker. “Let’s get out of here and quietly analyze the information we have.” Something big was going on here. The plot in the Stanton system seemed even more extensive than we had previously suspected. Microtech’s weaponized MTX1 chips seemed to be just the tip of the iceberg. In the information we had, there was talk of a bioweapon. I felt a chill run down my spine.
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