Log #134 – Liberation

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We tried to free our informant from a prisoner transport.

The whole ship shook. A deafening noise could be heard. The walls shook as the mighty guns of the Hammerhead opened fire. After disabling the comm array, we flew to the position of the prisoner transport. Kjeld and his men engaged the escort fighters with the Hammerhead. Brubacker,Carthago and I could only wait. We didn’t know what was happening out in space. We didn’t know how many fighters there were. We didn’t know what our chances were. I hated it when I couldn’t see the stars. I had no choice but to look at the cold walls of the warship and wait.

Then it became quiet. The roaring in my ears disappeared. Suddenly Kjeld was standing next to us.
“Brubacker, Carthago. You stay aboard and occupy the upper and lower turrets. Zero you go over to the Caterpillar with the away team and free the prisoners. Stay behind Root at all times. He is responsible for your safety.”

We positioned ourselves at the airlock and waited for the command to board the Caterpillar. Our weapons were pointed at the closed bulkhead of the airlock. There were two men on the left side. I was on the right side, my sniper rifle at the ready. Root was in front of me. It could start at any moment.

“We’re being fired on”, one of the men said. “By the guards aboard the Caterpillar. They’re shooting at us through the open cargo hatch.”
“Open the airlock, then I’ll take them out with the sniper rifle”, there was an unexpected euphoria in my voice.
“And the guards’ bullets come in to us”, one of the men retorted.
I gulped and slid farther to the right into a safe position behind Root.

The Hammerhead’s guns were heard briefly. Then came the command to board. We exited the ship through the airlock and floated in EVA to the Caterpillar. The forward cargo hatch was open. Several dead guards lay among cargo crates. We boarded the ship. Through a door, we moved into the next cargo module. Root was directly in front of me. I was in last position. In front I heard the mercenaries giving short curt commands. Shots were fired again and again. I was glad not to be in front. Behind the broad back of Root I felt safe. 

And then I saw the cryo capsules. The cargo modules were full of them. There were dozens of them. In each capsule was a human being. Through a pane, you could see the face of the sleeping person. How was I supposed to find our targets. I didn’t know the faces. A list of names, that was all Twitch had given me. Unfortunately, there were no names on the cryo capsules, only numbers. And Twitch had warned me. I was not allowed to deactivate the wrong capsules under any circumstances. Desperation spread through me like a fog.

Finally, we had crossed the cargo modules and arrived in the common room.
“OK Zero, it’s your turn. Which crates do you want deactivated?”
“I have no idea.”
Several eyes were on me. The stares pierced me like knives. I sensed what the men were thinking. This was not the answer they wanted to hear. Spontaneously, a thought popped into my head. 
“We need the cargo manifest. It says who is in what box.”
“And where do we find that?”
“Probably in the cockpit on the on-board computer.”
“Great. Come on guys, keep moving forward.”

So far we were lucky and had no casualties. But the deeper we penetrated into the ship, the greater the risk became. The areas we now had to enter were more confusing, more dangerous. After the engine room, we went up the narrow stairs to the upper level. I stayed behind Root and ducked my head. Then we stood in front of the bulkhead to the cockpit. We had no idea what or who was on the other side. We had no cover. If someone had thrown a grenade from the cockpit to us in the corridor, we would have been finished. My gun firmly in hand, I fixed the closed passage to the cockpit. The red dot of my laser pointer danced on the bulkhead. Clouds of smoke drifted through the passage. The air was tense. Then the bulkhead opened. The front two men charged forward. 

“Left clear.”
“Right clear.”
I heard them shout. Then…..
“A bang was heard, a flash of light. The seconds felt like hours. Everything around me felt like a movie in slow motion. Root grabbed me by the shoulder.
“All clear. The cockpit’s clear. You can go in.”
“And the grenade”, I asked, irritated.
“That was ours. We had thrown it into the lower level of the cockpit module.”

In the cockpit, I found a computer. On it was a list of numbers and names. I looked at Root who was standing behind me.
“Root please read me the names on the list from Twitch.”
“The first one is Daniel August.”
“Wait a minute. Here it is. Number 3467849. can one of the others please look for a cryo capsule with that number.”
“Found it”, was heard over the radio after a while. “Do you want me to deactivate the capsule?”
“Yes deactivate. Root, next name.”

We went through name by name and deactivated the capsules. When we were done, we made our way back across the Gallery of Cargo Modules. I looked down into the cargo area. As if in a trance, I looked at the scenery. Cryo capsules were everywhere, with dead guards in between. Our job was done. Twitch wanted to send a second team to get the people out of the deactivated cryo capsules and give them medical care. Also our informant. I still didn’t know who it was. Would Twitch honor the agreement? Would she hand over the informant to us? Or make a better deal with someone else?
Root’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts. “Look. The planet ArcCorp, what a beautiful view.”
For a while I looked out into space at the planet. Finally, I tore myself away. It was time to leave.

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