We found clues to the killer satellite. What we found was frightening.
“BEEP BEEP BEEP” Sleepily I opened my eyes. My head was on the desk, the coffee cup was next to me. With a groan, I straightened up and took a sip from the cup. The coffee was cold and tasted sour. Disgusted, I spat it out again. My eyes fell on the monitor in front of me. “Decryption complete.” it said in glancing letters. Now it came back to me. The encrypted message from the comm array. I had started a program to decrypt the message and must have fallen asleep in the process. Curious, I pressed the “open message” button.
“Information regarding satellite prototype E.The missing component for the next stage of the weapon has been delivered.Transport ship had a crash after leaving the cave.Backup forces are on site.Coordinates attached.”
Suddenly I was wide awake. This had to be related to the crashed killer satellite we had found. Finally, a hot lead. I had to go to the crash site and investigate. But I couldn’t do it alone, I needed support.
One day later I met Knecht at the orbital station ‘Everus Harbor’. He had pledged his support and had come with a squad of the Yellowhands. I didn’t think I would see him again so soon and need the help of the Yellowhands. A short time later Brubacker and Chhris also arrived. I told them about the news.
“Satellite prototype E”, repeated Brubacker. “Sounds like Enos.”
“We should take a look at that wreckage”, adds Chhris.
“That’s why we’re here”, I replied. “I have no idea how old the message is, whether the backup forces are still at the wreck, or what awaits us there.”
I turned to Knecht. “Look at us. A washed-up guy living off odd jobs, a former development engineer from Microtech, and a dubiously successful reporter from an independent newsroom. We can’t do this alone. We need the help of a security team.”
“No problem.” said Knecht, nodding. “We’ll fly ahead and secure the wreckage. You guys can then examine it at your leisure.”
The Yellowhands moved off, Brubacker, Chhris and I still resupplied at the burrito stand. My goodness, this was taking a long time again. Brubacker was taking pictures. Always these reporters. You had to be patient with that guy. Where did he get the calm and composure? I was tense to the core.
“With the Enos thing, there was an E pathogen that got some people sick”, Chhris said abruptly. “Not that there’s a pathogen for a bioweapon aboard the wreck. We have to be careful. I’ll warn the Yellowhands. They’d better do bio-scans.”
Some time later, we were approaching the wreck. It was in the wilderness on the planet Hurston. The Yellowhands’ Valkyrie had already landed, but there was another Connstellation. Irritated, I radioed Knecht.
“Did you come with two ships?”
“No, the Connie was already there when we arrived. So far, no signs of life. We’re searching the wreckage. Wait until we secure the area.”
I didn’t like that at all. Where did the Connie come from? Were the security forces still there? I wanted to get in and out of here unnoticed. A skirmish would draw way too much attention. And was Chhris right in his assumption? Would we find a pathogen for a bioweapon? What had we stumbled upon? Nervously, I looked at Brubacker, who was sitting next to me in the co-pilot seat.
After landing, we waited outside the wreckage. The seconds seemed like hours. I had no idea what was going on inside the wreck. My tension increased with every heartbeat. What would the Yellowhands find? Was the wreck safe? Then there was a crack on the radio, it was Knecht.
“We’ve found and pinned down an unknown person. We’re coming out with her. Can we turn her over to you?”
“Yes come out, we will take the person.”
There he stood, the unknown person. Surrounded, several weapons were pointed at him. I didn’t want to be in his shoes.
“Who are you? What are you doing here by the wreck?”
“I just happened to be passing by and wanted to see if there was anything in the wreck”, the stranger replied, uncertain.
In the corner of my eye I saw Chhris walking towards the stranger. Damn, what was he up to? Surely he wouldn’t want to make short work of him. Chhris lowered his gun.
“Fabian, is that you?”
“Yes Chhris, it’s me.”
“I know him. He’s harmless. No danger.”
The tension released abruptly, like a balloon that had burst.
After the Yellowhands declared the wreck safe and cleared it, I went inside. My God, what had happened here. This was not a normal crash landing. The Starfarer was lying on its back and had broken into several pieces. There was total chaos on board. Darkness surrounded me. I immediately lost my orientation. Actually, I knew my way around a Starfarer. But in this wreck everything was different. Down was up and up was down. I had to go down to get to the quarters, even though they were on the top deck. The cone of my spotlight always showed only sections of the chaos. Slowly I felt my way forward. I climbed over boxes thrown about and slid down ramps. Then I found strange constructions hanging from the ceiling. I was perplexed, what was this? Where was I? Then I realized. Yes sure, everything was upside down. They were beds. I was in the crew quarters.
But where was the crew? I couldn’t find anyone on board. No bodies, no clues. I couldn’t find any cargo either. Just some empty crates. Whoever or whatever was on board, everything was gone. Then Chhris radioed in.”I found the captain’s personal log.””So, is there anything interesting in there?””You won’t believe it.”
The log entry was scary.
“A crew member has come down with a strange illness. I don’t know if it has anything to do with our cargo. But he was the only one with direct contact with the cargo.Fear very high risk of infection. No time for a detour to get him medical attention. Timely and direct delivery is top priority. See no other way than to abandon him in a cave. Let others rescue him if he survives.”
“Great captain.” gasps Brubacker, “just throw his people out of his ship when one gets sick.”
“We need to get into that cave”, I retort.
“What, are you crazy? If it’s Enos, we might infect ourselves with it, too.”
“Zero is right”, chimes in Chhris. “If we want to get to the bottom of this conspiracy, we have to get into that cave. Who knows what else we’ll find there.”
It went back and forth for a while. Brubacker was not at all enthusiastic. Finally, we were able to convince him. Together with the Yellowhands, we set out for the cave. We had no idea what was to await us there.
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