Root wanted torpedoes from the black market and wanted to manipulate them. I helped him get the torpedos.
I had hoped the cup would pass me by. But Root had not forgotten. He still wanted the size 9 torpedoes and had asked if I had found a contact who wanted to sell. And that was not enough. He also wanted to know if I could reprogram the torpedoes. They were supposed to explode as soon as they were launched. I had a contact who was able to deliver. However, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the arms deal myself. I was not an arms dealer. On the other hand, I didn’t want to leave Root hanging. I had an idea.
At the old 38 bar on Grim Hex, I met the arms dealer. He was willing to sell and deliver the torpedoes. My idea amused him. Over whiskey we discussed the details of the delivery. The delivery was to be made to Port Tressler in orbit of the planet Microtech. If there were any surveillance satellites on site, we had to destroy them. To reprogram the torpedoes I needed the schematics. They were top secret and stored in a data center on Microtech. Great, breaking into a guarded bunker again.
Two days later, Root picked me up. We flew his Vanguard to Microtech. To our surprise, the guns at the Data Center remained silent. Was getting the schematics going to be easier than I thought? Root set down for a landing. The landing gear touched the ground. And suddenly all hell broke loose. The Data Center’s defense turrets were firing on all cylinders. The Vanguard’s shields lit up like a Christmas tree. Root took off. The Vanguard flew low just above the ground. Angry red flashes pursued us. Just in time, Root pulled the ship up and almost grazed the rim of a crater. In the shadow of the crater rim, we had cover and landed.
As I opened the stern ramp, an icy wind blew toward me. It was night and -100 degrees Celsius. We had to walk quite a distance to the Data Center. I looked at the display on my suit. 33 minutes to cold death. We should make it to the building in that time. It still wasn’t going to be pleasant. I was about to run down the ramp when Root called out behind me.
“Zero wait. I don’t want to kill any guards or UEE soldiers. I’m carrying non-lethal weapons. They’ll just give you a headache and take out our enemies for a while. Take one from the gun cabinet, too.”
I grabbed an Atzkav Sniper Rifle. An impressive electron firearm. Then we set off.
We ran through the cold night. It was farther than I thought. Root had to keep stopping to catch his breath. “Soothing.” thought I to myself. “If I ever get in trouble with UEE Navy officers, I can just run away.” When we arrived at the Data Center our armor was completely covered in ice.
A freight elevator took us deep underground. The Data Center was similar in design to the security bunkers on Hurston. The light was dim. Fog wafted through the rooms. Pipes, boxes, nooks that couldn’t be seen. It was a maze of hiding places and cover. I was still struggling with always ending up in a bunker when I heard Root. “Put one to sleep.”
I was impressed. Root really didn’t want to kill anyone. Whatever he was up to with the size 9 torpedoes. I couldn’t imagine it would hit innocent people. Especially since, after reprogramming, it would hit those who fired the torpedo.
We quickly reached the server room. There was no access for my hacking chip at the first terminal. I looked around the whole operator room. Nothing, nowhere could I use my chip. I was getting hot and cold. Sweat was pouring down my forehead. Were we in the wrong data center? Or were the security measures particularly high? It wouldn’t be surprising, since blueprints for military weapons were stored here. In desperation, I went to the back room where the server racks were. At the very back was another terminal where I tried my luck. There was no access for my hacking chip here either. But I could access the files without problems. I quickly found the schematics for the torpedoes. My euphoria faded as quickly as it had come. The files were encrypted with a military supercode. Even with the optimized computers of my Star Runners, I would not have been able to decode them.
Disappointed, we made our way back to the Vanguard. I had copied the encrypted schematics anyway. Whether I could ever do anything with them I didn’t know. When we were back in the ship I opened my mobi glass and looked if there was a message from the arms dealer. As if by magic, I opened the starmap. Then something caught my eye.
“Root. There’s a high security bunker on the moon Calliope. With any luck, we can find the codes to decrypt the schematics there. And we can get rid of our Crimestat while we’re at it.”
“Well, let’s do it. Without a Crimestat, we can get to Port Tressler easier, too.”
It was even darker and colder on Calliope than on Microtech. There was absolutely nothing to see on approach. It was pitch black night. Eventually we could dimly make out the lights of the bunker. Root landed in the cover of a hill. After a short walk we reached the building. Again we took the elevator down. Root went ahead and took out the first guard. As he went on, I put the rifle on and looked through the scope. Far back, in the direction Root was going, I could see another guard through the clouds of steam. I took aim and pulled the trigger. The shot cleared, a flash shot from my rifle to the guard. Then the guard collapsed. I was impressed. One shot was enough and no one had to die. Shortly after, I took out another guard. I looked at the ammo display.
“Root, I’m down to three rounds and I don’t have another magazine.”
“My ammo is empty, too. I took the gun from a guard.”
We did not encounter any more guards on the way to the server room. I hoped the way back was clear, too. While Root was watching, I hacked the UEE’s security computer. It was nice to have backup and be able to focus only on the computer. I found the codes and cleared my crimestat.
Then Root deleted his crimestat and I paid attention. It seemed like forever. Had it taken me that long too?
“Root how much longer are you going to be? I hear noises.”
“What kind of noises?””I don’t know. Footsteps, or knocking noises. Are you sure the guards are all asleep?”
“Yes they should still be in a deep sleep. Keep your eyes open. I’ll be done in a minute.”
With an anxious look, I fixed my eyes on the only entrance to the server room.
When Root finally finished, we began our retreat. Cautiously, we walked back to the exit. Always prepared to meet resistance.
Then we found the source of the knocking sounds. A guard was lying on the ground, twitching. The armor kept knocking on the metal floor.
“Probably a nervous system overload from the electric shock. The guy will have a bad headache when he wakes up. But otherwise he’ll be fine”, explained Root.
“I’m really impressed with the weapon.”
“You can keep it if you want.”
When we got back to the Vanguard, we flew directly to the Port Tressler orbital station. I got the information that there were no surveillance satellites in the area. So we didn’t have to go into any more combat.
“How will the handover go?” wanted Root to know.
“I’ll show you where and how. Then I’m going to disappear. I don’t want to be directly involved in arms deals. I’m just making the contact.”
“OK. And the reprogramming of the torpedoes?”
“I’ll send you the schematics on your mobi glass. And instructions on how you can reprogram those things.”
On Port Tressler, I led Root to the cargo deck. It was set up like the cargo deck on Everus Harbor. And like Everus Harbor, there was a special place for special business. Through a narrow passageway we went behind the stored containers. There was a room set up in an old container. With a sofa, refrigerator and a game console. It was a little messy , but otherwise quite cozy.
“Wow, I’ve never been in a place like this before. Is this where the warehouse workers take a break?” Root was visibly surprised.
“Not the regular warehouse workers. Welcome to the in-between world”, said I laughing.
“OK here’s the deal”, I began to explain. “Your torpedoes are being delivered here, in a regular container. They will arrive here in the next two hours. You will find a high score on this game console from a player named Root. The high score is the number of the container with your torpedoes. I’m leaving now. You’ll have to figure out everything else on your own.”
“Thanks Zero. I’ll definitely owe you one. Whenever you need help. Just let me know and I’ll be there.”
After we said our goodbyes, I left the cargo deck to contact the activists and the free peoples. While I didn’t think Root was going to do anything about the free peoples, he was on a UEE Navy mission in the Nul system. In my home system where the Empire had hunted the free peoples before. And Root didn’t want to talk about the mission, nor did he want to tell me what he was going to do with the torpedoes. So I wanted to play it safe. I had something hidden in the schematics and programming instructions. The reprogramming would not only have the effect Root wanted. The torpedoes would then also emit a hidden signal. A signal that only the activists and the free peoples could receive. Through it, they could track the torpedoes and disable them via feedback. This way I could make sure that the torpedoes were not directed against my people.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)