I was given the task of recovering lost cargo from a wreck. Something was not right. Was this an opportunity or a danger?
On the flight to the wreck, I looked again at the message from the Lorville activists.
“Zero, your special delivery is completely distributed among the workers. We need supplies urgently. As soon as possible.
And there’s something else. A businessman from Lorville has lost his shipment. He needs someone discreet to help him. Get in touch with him. The contact information is attached.“
Supporting the Lorville activists was starting to stress me out. I thought with my last shipment I would have had peace of mind for now. The quantity had not been exactly small. But now they wanted something again. That was a problem for me. Hermieoth was in the Sol system. He could not help me. And without his big ship I was not able to smuggle larger quantities to Lorville.
But I could not deal with this problem until later. Now I had to recover the lost cargo of the businessman. Something struck me as strange about the whole thing. I still had his admonishing words in my ear.
“When you get back to Lorville with my cargo. Leave everything in your ship. Do not instruct the hangar crew to unload your ship. Do not go to customs. Come directly to me. I’ll take care of everything.”
What was this cargo I was supposed to salvage? And why should I leave it in my ship? Something stank to high heaven. But I didn’t have time to ponder these questions. The wreck appeared in front of me. Slowly it took shape against the background of the yellow atmosphere of Aberdeen. It was a Caterpillar that had found its final resting place in orbit around the moon. The transport ship had broken into several pieces. Debris floated everywhere. The approach required my utmost concentration. After all, we were on the day side and visibility was good.
After my Cutlass was positioned and I opened the side cargo doors, I paused for a while. Chaos and destruction could be seen. Fragments of the Caterpillar were scattered everywhere. A slightly exasperated groan echoed through my helmet. It would take a while in this maze of debris to collect the cargo. It didn’t help, I had a job to do. With a spirited step, I stepped out into the weightlessness of space.
The large cargo containers had been broken into and emptied. Whoever had attacked the ship was now in possession of the cargo. But occasionally I could still find parts of the cargo in the debris field. It was like searching for Easter eggs. No clues, no markings, no flashing lights drew attention to the remaining cargo boxes. They blended in seamlessly among the wreckage. They became one with the wreckage.
Inside the destroyed Caterpillar, the search was even more difficult. It was dark. Only the cone of light from my helmet lamp illuminated small sections of the wreck’s secrets. Slowly, the bright spot felt its way along the walls and suddenly froze, my pulse racing as adrenaline flooded my blood. A figure had appeared in the passage to the next cargo module. The armor was brown, the helmet looked like a grimace from hell. Who was this? A pirate? I quickly threw up my hands and aimed at the figure. But I had no weapon in my hand, only my multitool with the tractor beam.
With a short impulse from the control jets of the EVA suit, I tried to get out of the danger zone. The impulse was too powerful. With force, I crashed into the wall of the cargo bay. A sharp pain twitched through my shoulder. Breathing frantically, I came to a stop. The figure was still in the passage. Motionless, it remained in the same position. Slowly I managed to calm my breathing. The figure’s posture was strange, almost as if it had curled up to sleep. Only when I was closer did I realize what the supposed pirate was all about. It was a crew member. The visor of the helmet was shattered, the face disfigured by the cold and vacuum of space.
After collecting everything I could find, I returned to Lorville. In the Central Business District, I met with the businessman. He didn’t look like one of the many snobs in Lorville’s posh district. No suit, no tie. Discreetly dressed in black, he stood before me with a mohawk hairdo.
“Do you have the my cargo?”
“What’s left of it. It’s not much. Still all aboard my ship, as requested.”
As I spoke I realized that I was being quite reckless. If there was anything illegal in those boxes I was at the guy’s mercy. All he had to do was alert Hurston Security and I was standing there with my pants down. It seemed he had noticed my budding concerns.
“Don’t worry. My people will get the cargo. No one will know about it.”
“How”, I asked in amazement.
“I control the cargo handling at Tease Spaceport. Where the incoming cargo goes and whether it is inspected is under my control.”
“You can have goods brought into the city just like that without anyone knowing?”
Inwardly, I was triumphant. This guy could open the gates wide for smuggling for me. There would be no more need to bring goods into the city via detours. With this guy’s help, it would be possible to just land at Teasa Spaceport and let him do the rest. Provided he would cooperate. In a hushed voice, I tried to sound out the odds.
“Could we do something like today more often? Maybe with cargo I bring?”
His voice hardened. “Careful. I enjoy prestige and trust in Lorville. You are embarking on a dangerous path. I can’t and won’t just pass any stuff through here.”
Wasn’t he about to bring goods into the city himself without customs inspection? Had I been mistaken? Was this a trap? The guy turned his head and looked at the security guards. A cold shiver ran down my spine. Then I got hot, beads of sweat running from my forehead. The guy nodded at the guards.
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