Another mission in a warehouse confronted me with death and with a surprising loot.
The mission looked familiar. “Get boxes from a warehouse that may be occupied by criminals”. Again, the payment was very high. I had just such an order recently with Hermieoth. It had been a walk in. No criminals. Instead, lots of guards from Hurston Security. It had been perfectly safe. I clapped my hands, packed my things and walked confidently to my spaceship. This time I wasn’t going to ask for help. This time I wasn’t going to share the payment. This time I would make it on my own. Confidently, I stepped out of the elevator by the landing pad. But then I noticed the large advertising monitor on the wall. It was not an advertisement but a security officer from the UEE on the screen.
She was talking about the increased attacks in the Stanton system and that they needed the help of the Civilian Defense Force to restore order. The more she spoke the more anger sprouted up inside me. The megacorporations in Stanton made billions and had their own security forces. The UEE was a powerful military. And yet they couldn’t manage to deal with a few pirates. Or they didn’t want to manage it. The operation cost money and reduced the profit of the corporations. Why take risks themselves when there were civilians volunteering for the Civilian Defense Force. It was disgusting. Corporations were using citizens to fight criminals. Corporations like Hurston Dynamics were criminals themselves and oppressed the people on their planet. Freedom was only a pretense in the Stanton system. Freedom was not given to all people. I turned around and left the woman on the monitor alone in her uniform.
After a short quantum jump, I landed in front of the warehouse. The tailgate of my Cutlass opened, revealing the entrance to the building. It was night. The entrance area was dimly lit. A ramp led up to the entrance gate which stood open. It looked like the maw into hell. Hesitantly I stood at the tailgate of my spaceship and looked out.
Was it really a good idea to go into the warehouse alone? Was the threat greater than I thought? There had to be a reason that the woman from the UEE spoke on public advertising monitors. A strong gust of wind grabbed me and made me sway back and forth. Then I gave myself a jolt and went into the warehouse.
It was different than I had expected. Different from the last time. I saw guards and technicians. But they did not walk relaxed through the warehouse. There was hustle and bustle, chaos. The tension in the air was palpable. Something was not right. And suddenly, out of nowhere, this guy in red and green armor stood in front of me. I could still see the muzzle flash from his weapon. Then it went dark. The light was gone. The noise, the tension, the brief pain. Everything was suddenly gone. Only the memory remained. Blackness surrounded me and carried me away.
“Go slow, don’t move too fast.”
Cautiously, I opened my eyes. A bright light blinded me. Next to me stood someone in a white doctor’s coat. I myself was wearing only a blue scrub shirt.
“What’s going on? Where am I?” Groaning, I straightened up and sat on the edge of the bed. My left shoulder ached.
“You’re in the clinic on Everus Harbor. You were lucky.” The doctor pointed his pen at me, then turned to a monitor.
“An imprint,” I asked, somewhat horrified.
The doctor continued to look at the monitor and said without looking up. “No. Someone from the Civilian Defense Force had brought you in. I was able to patch you up. But your armor is shot.”
“Shit.” Somewhat awkwardly, I slid off the edge of the bed and stood shakily on my feet. “How long?” I didn’t know why I asked the question. It was superfluous. I had blown the assignment. With it, I had lost not only my armor but also my reputation as a courier. And with that, the smuggling route to Lorville was receding into the distance. This set me far back. It didn’t matter how long I was out of action.
“How long you were out? Not long. You were brought in less than 10 minutes ago. It all happened really fast.”
First I looked at the doctor then at my mobi glass. The order was still active. Adrenaline shot through my body. Fresh strength was released.
“I have to go”, was the only thing to be heard from me as I rushed barefoot through the door.
In no time at all I had on the spacesuit provided in the clinic and flew to the warehouse. As I entered the warehouse I realized how stupid my action was. I had no equipment, no weapons, only the spacesuit in which I felt almost naked. How was I supposed to get the boxes out of the embattled warehouse? My only chance was to be invisible. Like a ghost, I had to pass through the warehouse unnoticed. On all fours I slowly crawled forward protected by a pile of crates. Cautiously I stuck my head out from behind the crates. There was no one to be seen. A few meters away, my weapons lay on the ground. I had lost them when I was shot. It was only a few meters. But a few meters where I had no cover. I pulled my head back behind the crates. Indecisively I sat on the ground. My knees drawn up, my back against the pile of crates. Like a frightened child, I sat there. Should I break cover and get the weapons? I had no other choice. If I was going to get the packages and get the job done I had to get out of hiding too. “What the hell”, I thought to myself and jumped up. But I didn’t get far. A guy in heavy armor stood in front of me.
“Hey errand boy. When you get the packages, take the dead with you. We’re expecting another attack and don’t have time to clean up.”
The guy turned and kept walking. The yellow lettering HD shone on his shoulders. A guard from Hurston Security. It wasn’t just a stone that fell from my heart. It was a whole quarry.
As I bent down to collect my weapons I saw an equipment box. A helmet with medium armor was in it. I took it and put my light helmet from the clinic inside. While I was putting the helmet on, an idea came to me.
It wasn’t long until I found the first dead pirate in the warehouse. Without inhibitions I put on his armor. Now I felt better, more protected. Better prepared in case another attack should come. A little further was a dead technician. I took the tractor beam from his belt. Examining it, I looked at myself. The green colors of the armor were unfamiliar, but I was fully equipped again. It was time to get to work. With the tractor beam, I collected my shipment and the dead. One by one I brought them to the freight elevator.
It was a strange job. I was almost inhibited to move the dead bodies through the air with the tractor beam. Sometimes the dead bumped their heads somewhere during transport. Then I excused myself as if they would still feel something. But I made progress. Technicians, pirates, even a soldier from Hurston Security. The pile of bodies in the freight elevator was getting bigger and bigger. And then I found someone I hadn’t expected. A dead civilian. On his armor it said CDF – Civilian Defense Force. I knelt beside the corpse and looked sadly at the dead body. What had the doctor said? Someone from the Civilian Defense Force had brought me to the clinic? Why had they taken me and left their own man lying there? I looked at the man as if I expected to get an answer from him. It was clear to me that he would never speak again. Or would he? The scales fell from my eyes. An Imprint. He had an Imprint and was now somewhere in a new body. The verse was crazy.
Stars passed by the cockpit window. The planet Hurston slowly became smaller behind my spaceship. In the cargo hold, I looked at the chaos. A colorful mix of armor lay before me. Bodies that were only empty shells lay on the floor. Probably all of them had been imprinted in a new body. They had only lost their equipment and their old bodies, but not their lives. As if mesmerized, I looked at the armor of the Hurston Security soldier. The yellow HD sign on his shoulders was literally laughing at me. It seemed as if it wanted to draw my attention to something. At first I didn’t understand what it was, but then the grin on my face grew wider and wider. Almost euphorically I went into the cockpit and changed my course.
Some time later I stood in my secret warehouse. It was dark, from above only weak light came into the cellar room. More groping than seeing, I stowed the armor in boxes. It was an unexpected treasure that I had here. An armor from Hurston Security. It was not possible to buy one, so it was even more valuable to have one. I would need it someday. Also the equipment of the CDF, the pirate and the technician could still prove useful. I had really made fat loot.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)