I flew to New Babbage for Invictus Launch Week and ran into unexpected trouble.
After the detour to Grim Hex, I had finally arrived on Microtech. On my approach, the night sky over New Babbage was lit up by fireworks. Invictus Launch Week had already begun. Brubacker wanted to meet me and look at the ships at the show together.
Not that I wanted to stay long, but I rented an apartment anyway. I wanted to treat myself to some comfort and not spend the nights aboard the ‘White Rabbit’. ‘The Nest Apartments’ fortunately still had something available, despite the large crowds of visitors. If I had known how important this decision would still be.
After moving my things into the apartment, I waited for Brubacker in the lobby of the Aspire Grand. I slid deep into the comfortable chair and thought about the past events. I was getting nowhere with the killer satellite. The lead we had had been lost. All I could do was wait to intercept a new message in the comm array or for the surveillance of the activists to yield new information. Enos was also at a dead end. Without questioning Xedan, I saw little chance of getting anywhere. Besides, I wanted to stay out of it for now. The attack on my hub in Grim Hex was warning enough.
The pictures of the past weeks ran past me like a slide show. I dived deeper and deeper into the memories. The past surrounded me like the waters of an ocean into which I sank deeper and deeper. I was only distantly aware of the people coming and going and the background noise of the lobby. Until a beep tore me out of my thoughts. Brubacker had sent me a message canceling our meeting for that day. He had to do some report for his editorial office and for the radio station. Brubacker must have been stressed out. No wonder with the double load. Then another message in the Mobiglas caught my eye. Because of the Invictus, there were special trade goods that were extremely in demand and promised a high profit.
Why not, I thought to myself. I had not traded for a long time. So I loaded the cargo hold of the Star Runner full of audio-visual equipment and headed for the planet Hurston to Lorville. During the flight, I was quite nervous. The cargo had a purchase value of 2.8 million credits. If anything should go wrong, it would be a heavy financial loss. And a lot could happen, pirates were just one of the dangers. Fortunately, I arrived in Lorville without any problems and made a good profit. Putting all dangers aside, I set up a shuttle service. Cargo after cargo I transported from one planet to another. Was it reasonable what I was doing? How long was my winning streak going to last? I did not ask myself that. I was in the intoxication of the money. With what should expect me, however, I could not reckon.
After several flights, I was back at the trading terminal of New Babbage’s Admin Office. I slid the slider all the way to the right. Cargo hold full, cost 2.8 million credits. I pressed the button and confirmed. Having done this several times before, it didn’t feel like a big deal. On the way to the spaceport, I picked up an apple at ‘Garcia’s Greens’. I took my time and had some small talk with the clerk. I was so deeply relaxed that I had no thoughts of danger at all. My mood was downright euphoric. In the elevators I had fun switching off the advertising monitors. A childlike lightness had taken hold of me. Or was it childish recklessness?
Arrived at the Spaceport I went to the terminal to have my ship prepared in the hangar. I waited for the hangar number. It took an unusually long time. Slowly I became nervous. Then the screen changed color from yellow to black. A red X was displayed. “Ship cannot be provided” was read. In disbelief, I requested my ship again. Again, the ship could not be provided. I waited for a while. Maybe there was an overload. After all, many visitors were in New Babbage because of the Invictus. But none of my attempts were successful.
Worried, I drove back to the Admin Office, hoping everything would be cleared up there. But my concern turned into bewilderment. The guy explained to me that the authorities had arrested my ship, confiscated it and its cargo. Suspicion of illegal activities was the reason. What a crock of shit. I had done nothing illegal. I hadn’t even smuggled anything from Grim Hex to Microtech. Not this time. Then I remembered the inspection by TYR. Back in the orbit of Microtech. Kjeld had assured me not to report that they had caught me with illegal substances. Had he not kept the agreement? I could hardly imagine that. Or was there a completely different force at work? Someone who wanted to take me out of the game for Enos or the killer satellite? I had to contact Kjeld urgently. Perhaps he could help me with his connections to the security authorities at Microtech.
A few days later, I met with Bruabacker to check out Crusader Industries’ new Hercules Starlifter at the show. A little distraction did me good. Being stuck in a city was not my thing. At least I had rented a comfortable apartment. Maybe I should rent a Starlifter at the show and do some trading with it. With the huge cargo hold, there would be even more profit than with the Star Runner. But the risk would also be greater.
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