Log #137 – Killer Satellite – The Evidence

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We wanted to secure the evidence and make the killer satellite scandal public. It became a suicide mission .

“I hope our informant was telling the truth“, anxiously, I looked at Brubacker.
“I think so. We’ll get the evidence today and get the killer satellite scandal out in the open”, Brubacker sounded confident. “I put extra camouflage paint on my face. The mission today will be successful. It has to be successful!”
I looked down from the Gallery to the seating area in the Observation Deck of the Orbital Station Everus Harbor. Despite Brubacker’s confidence, I had a bad feeling about this. “There are two mercenaries down there. Could be our reinforcements from the Yellowhands. Let’s go down.”

The two mercenaries looked grim. The armor they wore did not reveal which side of the law they were on. 
“Are you from the Yellowhands?” I asked cautiously.
“Yes we are”, one replied, showing me his yellow palms. “I am Hermieoth. And this here is DerKleinePuk. We were on the last mission on the prisoner transport.”
A sense of relief gripped me. “That’s good. If things go as professionally today as they did on the Caterpillar, we’ll be successful.” I looked at the huge gun Hermieoth carried on his back. “You’re mighty armed. Brubacker only carries a pen to write with.”
“The pen is sharper than the blade my friend.” Pride and grace could be heard from Brubacker’s voice.Sometimes the scribbler spoke in riddles.
“Whatever. The TYR people should be here any minute, too.”

A short time later, Root showed up. “Hi guys. Your pickup service is here. Follow me to pad 6.”
A Pisces stood on the pad. Confused, I looked first at the little shuttle and then at Root. “Last time you had a Hammerhead with you. Now this little thing?”
“Yes. Cost-cutting measures at TYR.” Root laughed. 
On board, there were only two seats assigned to Brubacker and me. Root took the pilot’s seat, and the two Yellowhands stayed in the cargo area. Still in disbelief, I looked aft into the cargo area. The tail ramp closed and we lifted off.

After a short flight, the engines fell silent. Astonished, I left the small ship. We were standing in the shuttle bay of a Carrack. 
“Welcome aboard the Aletheia. TYR’s new flagship”, said Root, not without pride.
I had to swallow. A mixture of frost and warmth coursed through my body as the hangar doors closed over us.
“Brubacker, can you remember. About a year ago we had found the crashed prototype of the killer satellite on Hurston. At that time we were flying with your Carrack. It was the last flight with your Clarke.” I could clearly hear that I was getting sentimental. “It started and ended with a Carrack. It’s come full circle.”

We met the crew of the Carrack in the mess hall. I was surprised how many people were present. Almost everyone was standing in a circle around the dining table. 
Kjeld took the floor. “OK Zero. Brief us on the situation.”
“We have learned from our informant that blueprints for the killer satellite and protocols of conversations between Shubin Interstellar and Hurston Dynamics are in a security bunker on Hurston. This is the evidence we need to expose the scandal”, I began to explain.

“Before we enter the bunker we will disable the communications satellite in orbit around Hurston. We will form two teams. A hacking team and a strike team. The strike team will secure the bunker. The hacking team will disable the satellite and then move up to the bunker to extract the data with the evidence.”
“Brubacker you form the Strike Team with the Yellowhands.” Kjeld added. “We’ll drop you off near the bunker. You wait until you get the signal. The Carrack will then fly to the satellite and stay outside the restricted area. Zero you will be flown to the satellite by Daos and Root in the Pisces. Once you deactivate it, we’ll pick you up and all move up to the bunker.”
I looked at the mercenaries. Everyone seemed motivated and professional. My confidence was rising.

After the briefing, everyone went to their posts. Brubacker and I looked at each other. “Good luck my friend. Hope to see you again soon.” It was a strange goodbye. My uneasy feeling came back.
Brubacker went to the shuttle, I to the bridge. The view was gigantic. Reddish brown, the planet Hurston lay below us. The sun was low and shone with a warm light. The Strike Team was brought to the surface by the Pisces. A short time later, the shuttle was back, passing directly in front of the Carrack’s bridge and landing in the hangar. We made our way to the satellite. My tension grew like the pressure in a volcano about to erupt.

As we approached the satellite, everything was quiet at first. I still heard the message “Radar lock.” And suddenly all hell broke loose. Heavy laser fire and rockets hit us. The ship shook under the impacts. A deafening rumble was heard. Horrified, I looked at the satellite. I had not expected this. The last communication satellites I had deactivated were defended only with light laser weapons. This was something completely different. We had to retreat.

Root called Kjeld to the bridge. “We need a new plan. In the Pisces, we don’t stand a chance against the defensive fire. With the small shuttle, we won’t reach the satellite alive.”
“Should we rely on the Carrack’s powerful shields?” opined Kjeld.
“You can fly past the satellite without stopping. When we get close, I’ll jump out of the ship in flight”, I said after a moment’s consideration.
“You alone?” Kjeld looked at me questioningly.
“I’ll volunteer and go with you.” open-mouthed, I looked at Root. “Honor and strength, a storybook Navy officer,” I thought to myself.

Root and I walked into the airlock. Root stood in front and opened the outer bulkhead. We saw missiles flying by and laser flashes. Root held onto the door frame with both hands and looked out. 
“Missiles!” was heard over the radio. Then there was a loud crash. The Carrack shook to its foundations. Root lost his balance, fell and was gone. Disappeared into the cold of space. The outer bulkhead closed and I stood all alone in the airlock. I looked behind me. The inner bulkhead was also closed. It was cramped. Over the radio, I heard the screams of the crew. 

“We’re taking too many hits!”
“Missile hit on the stern!”
“Aft shields at 10%!”
Panic rose in me. Then the command. 
“Zero. Out! Out! Out!”
I opened the outer bulkhead and jumped.

A sudden silence surrounded me. The stars were within reach, surrounding me like a quilt. I felt light, carefree. Weightlessness could cause strange emotional states.”Zero is off the ship,” I reported over the radio.
Directly in front of me was the communications satellite. Some distance away, I could see Carrack, small and dim. She was moving away. A missile was tracking her. Then a bright flash. An explosion. The radio connection broke off. Stunned, I looked into the void of space. Where the Carrack had just been, there was a ball of fire and then nothing. I could not believe what I saw. Had this really happened? The crew of the Carrack, Root, everyone was gone. 

While staring blankly into space, I noticed the display in the helmet’s HUD. A small symbol indicated that one was in the monitored space. This symbol disappeared when there was no active communication satellite to monitor. The icon would also disappear as soon as I deactivated the satellite. With any luck, the Strike Team would notice when the satellite ist offline and enter the bunker to retrieve the evidence. I floated into the satellite and hacked the system.

After I disabled the satellite, I searched the system files. What I found explained why the satellite was so heavily defended. So much stronger than any other communications satellite. I grabbed my head. A smile stretched across my face. This was what we had been looking for.  This was no ordinary communications satellite. It was one of the killer satellites. I was in the middle of the evidence we had been looking for. I quickly copied the files. But my sense of victory quickly evaporated. I could do nothing with the evidence. I was stranded. No one would receive the information I held in my hands.

There was only one glimmer of hope. Brubacker and the Strike Team. The question was, how long would it take them to realize the satellite was offline? And how long would they wait to get into the bunker even without a signal from the hacking team. Eventually, someone would come and reactivate the satellite. I had to stop that from happening. I had to buy the Strike Team as much time as possible. I hid in the satellite, drew my weapon, and waited. 
Time passed. It flowed like the sands in an hourglass. As the sands in the hourglass dwindled, so did my oxygen supply. I had 45 minutes left. I began to close with my life. 

Then I heard a crackle on the radio. “Root for Zero. Zero can you hear me.”
“Root! I don’t believe it. You’re alive? Where are you?”
“I’m 8 clicks away from the satellite. I’m in EVA and on my way to you. You were out of radio range. The Carrack is badly damaged. As soon as she’s airworthy again, they’re coming for us.”
“Wait, I’m coming to you. We need to put as much distance between us and the satellite as possible. Otherwise, the Carrack won’t have a chance to pick us up.”

The satellite was slowly getting smaller behind me. It looked like a dark shadow in the black of space. Only the red position lights were clearly visible. After what seemed like an eternity, I reached Root. Together we waited for the rescue. A rescue that would hopefully come in time. Our oxygen was getting scarcer and scarcer. 


“We will collect you with open mouths like a whale collects plankton”, the radio message from the Carrack was music to my ears. Finally they were there. We were picked up via the open forward ramp.
As soon as we were on board, I rushed to Kjeld. “Was the strike team successful?” 
“No. They didn’t make it.” 
“How, dead? All three of them?”
“Fortunately, no. After they took out the guards they were overpowered and robbed by pirates with stun guns. All the equipment is gone. They don’t have the evidence, unfortunately .”
“But I have the evidence”, I said with relief.
Kjeld looked at me in surprise.

After we reached Everus Harbor, I said goodbye to Kjeld. I went to the cargo ramp of the Carrack. Root was standing there waiting for me. When I reached him, he saluted. With a tear in my eye, I looked at him. I was overwhelmed by a cocktail of emotions. Relief, fear, sadness. We had made it. Somehow the situation felt sadly like goodbye. Now it was up to Brubacker to make the evidence public. I was just afraid that something could go wrong at the last second. I briefly put my hand on Root’s shoulder and walked down the cargo ramp. One last time I turned and looked back at the battered carrack.

Annotation:If you wanted to read all the stories of the killersatellite storyline follow the link with the label killersatellite.

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