Even though I was submerged, I couldn’t keep my feet still. Crazy things were happening.
For days I had been in hiding in the asteroid field. Locked up in the small Prospector. After my escape from Grim Hex, I hid in the asteroid field and discovered Quantanium there. Against all reason, I gave up my hiding place, flew to the Ambitious Dream Station and came back with the mining ship. I couldn’t pass up the profit from the Quantanium. I had to replace the components that had been stolen from the White Rabbit. It was already my third run. The risk of being detected in the refinery was high. I hoped that my attackers would not pick up the scent.
The ventilation droned incessantly. I had gotten used to it and no longer heard it. But the scratching in my throat became worse and worse. I got up from the pilot’s seat and went aft to the living area. It was a bit chilly in the ship. I put on a jacket and a cap. As I took a sip of water, I saw a blue flash. It was far away, somewhere among the asteroids. What was it? Imagination?
Astonished, I went back to the cockpit. Attentively I looked into the stars. Suddenly, again, a flash. A blue circle of light that grew larger and larger and then disappeared. There was nothing on the radar. Then another one. Suddenly I realized what it was. Panic rose in me. Hectically I sat down on the pilot’s seat and prepared the ship for flight. The blue flash was the ping of a ship. The ship was looking for something. Was it looking for me? Were the hunters getting closer to the prey? The ship was still far away, out of scanner range. Only how much longer? I thought about what I should do. In the Prospector I was easy prey.
Then I remembered Brubacker. I had written him a message and reported my situation. I radioed him over the mobi glass.
“Is that you scanning the area like a maniac?””Yup, I’m looking for you.”
“I guess it doesn’t get more conspicuous than that.”
Shortly thereafter, I parked the Prospector behind Brubacker’s Star Runner and floated over to him.
Once on the Star Runner, I went straight to the kitchen. Brubacker followed me. He didn’t have whiskey on board, just water and juice. Since when did this guy go all healthy? After downing a juice, I slowly calmed down. I told Brubacker the whole story. About my investigation, the attack on Grim Hex, and my escape.
“Now what?” asked Brubacker. He seemed confused, almost overwhelmed. Not at all the investigative journalist on the hunt for a hot story.
“You could do me a favor,” I replied, not without an ulterior motive.
Some time later, we arrived at Grim Hex. Wallace Klim had another delivery job for me and I wasn’t about to let him down. Making the drug delivery with the Star Runner from Brubacker was a good opportunity. I could do my job without making an appearance myself. Deception and camouflage is half the battle in my business. I guided Brubacker to the old cargo hangar. Through it I could get into the station unnoticed.
After clearing the mission with Wallace, I waited for Brubacker at the old landing pads. His Star Runner came out of the shadow of an asteroid. “Well hidden, not bad for an editor,” I thought to myself. But then.
“There are lights, weird reflections. I can’t land. You’ll have to come up to me.”
I rolled my eyes and floated in EVA to the Star Runner. The guy was getting in line. The authorities had already taken his Carrack away for inability to fly a big ship. If he kept it up, they’d take the Star Runner away from him, too.
The first thing we had to do was to go to the moon Daymar to get raw materials for drug production. While Brubacker flew to the outpost, I went into the cargo hold and waited at the loading dock. When the ship stopped moving, I opened the ramp. To my surprise, we were still in the air. What the hell was this guy doing. In slow motion, the ship was moving toward the ground. How could anyone be so overly cautious. Was Brubacker Miss Daisy’s chauffeur?
The takeoff from Daymar wasn’t much faster, and eventually we also arrived at the drug lab on the moon Yela. Brubacker started talking funny stuff.
“My ship is glowing. Do you see that too?”
“What do I see too? Everything is normal here. Wait, I’ll get the package”, I replied, a little annoyed.
“I’m trapped in the matrix. The Star Runner has turned into a horror ship. Everything is glowing. It’s beautiful. What a trip”, Brubacker rambled.
Coming out of the drug lab, Brubacker was ghosting around the lunar surface, disoriented.
“Bru, come aboard, I’m flying. We have to get out of here before someone comes.”
“Zero, is that you?”
The flight to Microtech took forever. In the Clarke II, the Star Runner from Brubacker, a standard Quantum drive was installed. Now I knew again why I had installed an XL1 in the White Rabbit. Brubacker was acting weirder and weirder. He knelt in front of me and addressed me as Master. I was starting to get worried. Had he taken some of the drug load?
When we finally arrived in New Babbage, I delivered the package to Wallace’s Bar. At the counter, we were going to have a beer. Brubacker’s pupils were dilated. He stammered something unintelligible. Then he collapsed.
After dropping Brubacker off at the hospital, I went to Omega Pro to buy new stealth components for the White Rabbit. I almost felt sick from the high prices. I desperately needed the profit from the Quantanium. Under the name of Brubacker, I had the newly purchased components delivered to the Ambitious Dream Station. In the evening I learned that Brubacker had overdosed on Maze. Apparently the Maze, dissolved in vapors from the ventilation shafts of Grim Hex, got into the Star Runner. This must have happened while Brubacker was waiting for me.
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