A state of emergency existed on some space stations. The delivery of relief supplies was risky.
After the Nine Tails attacks, some space stations were still in a state of emergency. There was considerable damage, medical supplies were urgently needed. I decided to help and set off with my Star Runner. Fortunately I had the right nose. At the outpost on the moon Clio they still had enough supplies. As much as possible I packed the cargo hold of the Star Runner. Piled up to the ceiling were 114 cargo units of medical supplies. By then I had loaded a tidy fortune. My White Rabbit would be the jackpot for any pirate. Before I closed the cargo ramp, I anxiously let my eyes roam over the outpost. Had anyone watched the loading process and was now tipping off pirates for a few credits? The rapacious soldiers of fortune in the Stanton system could have done anything.
Before the start I looked on the star map which space station lay nearest. With the expensive cargo I wanted to spend as little time as possible in unmonitored space. My White Rabbit was fast, but speed alone was not enough protection. I had to get rid of the cargo as quickly as possible. The big attacks of the Nine Tails were over, but individual groups were still up to mischief. The shorter my flight lasted the better.
Luck was on my side and I reached Lagrange Point where the space station was located without incident. When the lights of the security perimeter between the asteroids appeared I felt deeply relieved. It was as if a heavy load fell from me. Slowly the station took shape in the brownish gas clouds. It was still a few kilometers through fog and asteroids to my destination. Few kilometers on which still many dangers could lurk.
Shortly before I reached the station a crackling was to be heard in the radio. Then a hiss. Finally a voice.
“Land on pad 05, use caution on approach. Debris is hovering around the station.”
A few minutes later, I met with a space station administrator. With a smile, he awaited me on the observation deck. When I was with him, he took my hands and shook them intensely.
“Thank you very much for the delivery. We can use it very well. We’re still dealing with the aftermath of the attack.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll help where I can. If the corporations and the UEE won’t do it.” My dislike for the powers that be in the Stanton system was clear. But it was not only dislike that spoke from me, also relief to be able to deliver the expensive cargo without difficulties.
“But I can only take 10 cargo units from you.”
Dumbfounded, I looked at the steward. “How 10? I have 114! What about the rest? I thought you guys had a medical emergency.”
“We do, but we don’t have enough storage space. Some storage rooms are destroyed. And there’s junk everywhere.” The steward waved his arms frantically back and forth.
I was still gasping for breath. Was the guy actually aware of how much money I had invested in the cargo. Just sitting on it was not an option. Uncertainly, I shifted my weight from one leg to the other. I didn’t know why I was so worried about the money, helping people was actually more important to me.
“What am I supposed to do with the rest? I can’t take this stuff back, can I?” I swallowed the rest of my sentence. I didn’t mention the high cost of the purchase. Or should I have said it, after all? I didn’t want to give the impression of profiteering. My willingness to help was meant seriously. But I also had to live on something and hardly had anything to give away.
“There are more stations that have an urgent need for medical supplies. They would be glad of a delivery.”
“Well, that would be an option,” I stammered quietly to myself.
In my mind, I was already thinking of the dangers that lay ahead. If I flew back out into space with the expensive cargo, I ran the risk of losing everything in a pirate attack. It was crazy. Usually I smuggled forbidden goods and risked being caught by the security. And now I was worried about a few pirates. Or was I afraid of losing the money? My God, money was irrelevant. It was about helping people in need. That was more important.
“If you have some space in the cargo hold, it would help us tremendously if you took some of the bulkhead.”
There was so much hope and gratitude in the administrator’s voice that I was unable to say anything against it. In a brief attempt at resistance, I raised my arms, only to drop them again with a sigh.
“Yeah sure. No problem.”
A few hours later I reached the Lagrange Point of the next space station. With a loud bang, I came out of the Quantum Tunnel. The star of Stanton shone directly in my face and blinded me. Only dimly I could see the asteroids in the greenish gas clouds. Slowly my eyes got used to the bright light. Then I saw a faint energy signature to my left. And another one directly in front of me. Nothing showed up on the radar. “Probably ores in an asteroid,” I thought at first. Straining, I squinted my eyes and looked into the green mist. There was something there. Something black. It was too small to be an asteroid. The shape reminded me of something. Suddenly it moved. It was coming toward me, getting bigger.
“Shit,” I yelled into my helmet. “A Cutlass Black.”
More out of reflex than conscious, I gave full thrust. It was still a few seconds before my Quantum drive cooled down. Only then could I make the saving jump to the space station. The trap of the pirates threatened to snap shut. Suddenly a shadow passed over my brightly lit cockpit. An asteroid rushed directly over my head. There was a terrible scratching sound that made my hair stand on end. The asteroid must have scraped over the hull. Then the Quantum drive had cooled down and was calibrating the next jump. With tension I clenched my teeth with all my might and held my breath. The pent-up air almost tore my lungs apart. Why did it take so long? Then the redeeming sign. The Quantum drive was ready. My hand crashed with force on the button. The points of light from the stars stretched out, a bang, and the Star Runner had jumped to the space station. Relieved, I slumped in the pilot’s seat.
At the station, I found the same situation as the last one. Only a part of my cargo could be taken off. Instead, there was a lot of scrap metal that I was supposed to take with me. Exhausted, I stood at the railing of the gallery. It was quiet. Only a few people were standing and sitting around. The mood was sad. Nobody laughed. In the pale light of the illumination everything looked gray and pale. Even the tree on the lower level looked lifeless and artificial.
Then I had to think of the workers in Lorville. And of the ungrateful guy from the resistance to whom I had handed over the contraband. Justifiable desperation to spit into a helping hand? But he was right. The small quantities I had smuggled into Lorville were just a drop in the bucket. It hardly made the workers’ lives any better. I had to find a way to smuggle larger quantities into the city.
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