The search for the missing computer boards proved difficult. New problems and dangers complicated the mission.
It was quiet. Very quiet. Not even the ventilation could be heard. The lighting changed from green to white. Time to get up. Slowly I rolled out of bed and languidly stretched my stiff limbs in all directions. Through the narrow strip of glass just below the ceiling, the asteroids of the Aaron Halo asteroid belt could be seen. It felt great to be able to look up at the stars right after getting up.
I quickly got used to the amenities of the 400i. Even at breakfast, I looked at the stars and wondered if my salvage mission would eventually be successful. So far, I had not found any computer boards. The whole thing seemed increasingly strange to me. OK, I had only examined three of the 12 wrecks. Still, my motivation to continue was not very great. Actually, I could just put my feet up and have a nice time. Instead, the next chunk of ice was waiting for me. Lyria, one of the moons of ArcCorp. It was really hard for me to leave the dining table and go into the cockpit. A thousand reasons came to mind to stay seated. At some point I gave myself a push and set off.
At the second wreck on Lyria the same picture as at the first and all previous wrecks. A broken Caterpillar, no computer boards but lots of rations and some toy guns.
Listlessly I pushed a metal plate aside and stepped out of the wreck. The snow crunched under my feet. Suddenly, the ice crystals on the ground began to sparkle. The sun was just creeping over the horizon, turning the cold icy wasteland into a beautiful winter wonderland. The sight was captivating. A brilliant white plain above a turquoise blue sky. It seemed so peaceful. Only the destroyed Caterpillar didn’t quite fit into the picture. A frustrated sigh sounded in my helmet. I had to move on. On the second moon of ArcCorp, two more wrecks were waiting. Perhaps I would have more success there.
The Tumbril Cyclon stood only a few meters away. I climbed behind the wheel and pressed the button to start the engine. Silence. My index finger pressed the button again and again. Nothing. The ground vehicle remained silent. With a groan, my head fell on the wheel. This could not be true. How much more bad luck was I going to have. Now also the car died and my spaceship had landed some kilometers away. Shaking my head, I climbed back out of the ground vehicle and stood frustrated in the snow. Illuminated by the sun, the Tumbril sparkled with the ice crystals. My mood was at an all-time low. I had no other choice. I had to leave the vehicle behind and walk to the spaceship.
Without a ground vehicle, I reached the moon Wala. If I wanted to save myself another long walk, I had to land directly at the wreck. That was not without risk. If looters should appear, the ship was a sitting duck. But who should show up here. X had kept the position of the wrecks top secret. So I landed the 400i right next to the wreck. It was night. The headlights from my spaceship bathed the crash site in a bright light. That should make the recovery a little easier for me. Some distance away, crystals sparkled on the ground. It looked as if stars had fallen on the moon surface.
Systematically I began to search the wreck. As bright it was outside the wreck, as dark it was inside. Cautiously I followed the light cone of my helmet lamp. It was eerie. A dark eerie atmosphere lay in the corridors of the destroyed Caterpillar. Sporadically, I found small cargo boxes of rations. After searching the wreckage completely, I stumbled across another red box the size of a toolbox. I reached in and found….toy guns. Again. Dismayed, I stood in the darkness holding one of these stupid guns in each hand. What the hell was going on here? Annoyed, I threw one of the pistols back into the box and closed the lid. Tired, I sat down on the box, propped my arms on my thighs and looked at the pistol in my hand. Lost in thought, I turned the colorful thing back and forth. Where were the computer boards I was supposed to salvage. No one had said anything about toys.
Suddenly, the silence that surrounded me was shattered by explosions. A strong rush of adrenaline sent me soaring. The loud clatter of my boots on the metal floor echoed off the walls as I rushed out of the wreckage. As I stepped outside, first the light from the 400i’s headlights blinded me, then the flash of another explosion. A Cutlass hovered over the wreckage, firing missiles at my craft. The shields flickered in a blue glow. But they seemed to hold. After a few seconds, I broke free of my shock stupor and ran to the 400i. More missiles flew over my head and made the shields glow again. My only hope was the 400i’s strong shields.
“Hope dies last,” I thought to myself.
And with it, my body would die. For a brief moment I considered where my imprint was stored, where I would wake up in a new body. My thoughts were swept away by another explosion as I rode the elevator to the upper deck of the 400i. Finally, I was seated in the pilot’s chair. Surprised, I noticed that the shields were still at almost 100%. It had proven itself to put all energy on the shields after the landing. But now I needed energy for the propulsion to get out of here as fast as possible. Hardly started I took the nose of my ship upwards and gave full boost. The acceleration pressed me into my seat. The thunder of the engines drowned out my compressed breathing. I hardly noticed the explosions of the rockets that my attacker sent after me.
Quickly the capacitor of the boost emptied. In no time at all, the bar on the display became smaller. I had to decide. If I wanted to boost further, I had to transfer energy from the shields to the drive. Maximum protection or maximum boost? My mind was racing. They were too fast for a decision. Then a beep. The Quantum drive was charged and calibrated. Fighting the acceleration forces with all my might, I moved my finger over the button and pressed. The stars stretched out and me into the Quantum tunnel. The planet ArcCorp was fast approaching. Without consciously realizing it, I had targeted the orbital station Baijini Point. What would my attacker do? Stay with the wreck or speculate that I fly to Baijini Point? With a thump I fell out of the Quantum Tunnel.
Quietly, the 400i hovered between the planet ArcCorp and the moon Wala. From the current position of the spacecraft, both celestial bodies appeared to be the same size. I wanted to consider my next steps carefully. Hasty action was rarely successful. So I ended the Quantum flight and rescued myself into the safety of infinite space. The question was: Why was I attacked, who had attacked me and what would the attacker do next? Perplexed, I stood in front of the table in the lounge area of the 400i. In front of me on the table were the toy guns I had recovered from the wreckage so far.
Were these things more than just toys? Or was the attack a stupid coincidence and had nothing to do with me and my mission? I took one of the guns and examined it. It was an ordinary toy. My gaze fell through the window on the moon Wala. Peacefully the gray sphere lay between the stars. A wreck was still waiting for me there. If the attack was really about me and my mission, then it could well be that an attacker was waiting for me there. I looked at the toy guns again. No, I could not imagine that. Why attack someone over toys? My mind was made up. Back to Wala to the second wreck. This mission was mysterious and it had aroused my curiosity.
At the wreck, everything was quiet. No attacker was waiting for me, no one was lying in wait. However, I could not find any computer boards in the wreckage. Instead, I found damage to the outer hull of the 400i. The attack had left its mark on the ship. I had no idea how severe the damage was. But I knew that the next wrecks were waiting for me in the embers of Stanton. On the Hurston moons Arial and Aberdeen. I could not completely rule out another attack either. For the further course of the mission I needed a 100% operational ship. I had no choice but to fly to the nearest space station and have the ship repaired. I had to go to Baijini Point.
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