So far I had not found any computer boards. There was one more wreck on my list. The last chance to complete my mission successfully. Should it succeed?
I was surrounded by gray and reddish-brown boulders. They were huge, bigger than the big 32 SCU cargo containers. It looked like someone had spread the boulders across the landscape to create a confusing maze. Orientation was difficult. Using the Tumbril Cyclon, I tried to find a way through this maze.
After the loss of the Cyclon on Lyria and the attack on Wala, I had organized a new ground vehicle from the activists in Lorville. Now I could land the spacecraft again at a safe distance from the wreckage and drive the last part. I had found no computer boards at the wrecks on the moons Aberdeen and Magda. I was not surprised. Somehow I had lost the belief that I could still find the boards I was looking for. Maybe they did not exist. But then why had X sent me on the salvage mission? I still had one wreck on the list. One last hope, one last chance.
The air shimmered with heat. The glowing hell of the moon Arial showed no mercy. Without heat protection suit one had here no long survival chance. The blurred view through the shimmering air did not make navigation through the rock labyrinth any easier. Somewhat haphazardly, I searched for a passage. Left, right, right, left. I had no idea if I was still on course. I could not see much except boulders.
At some point I reached a rock plateau. It was an opportunity to see further than only 3 meters. I left the Cyclon and climbed on the rock to get an overview. There it was at my feet. The rock sea of Arial. From my elevated position I had a 360 degree view. Rocks in all directions. Red, brown, gray. Like building blocks from a giant who had thrown them around while playing, they were scattered everywhere. Over everything was the blanket of stifling hot air.
Some distance away was another rock plateau. On it lay very symmetrical rocks. In terms of color, they blended in well with the predominantly red landscape, but they still seemed wrong somehow. They had too straight edges and angles. As far as one could see in the shimmering air. I zoomed in closer and was amazed. It was the wreck of the Caterpillar I was looking for. The front module had broken off and fallen from the plateau. It stood vertically on the rock face. The rest of the spacecraft lay on top of the cliff. Both parts together formed the shape of an L.
I looked up to the central star of Stanton which sent down its merciless heat. Down in the labyrinth of rocks, I would not see the wreckage. The star’s position was my only orientation on the way to the wreck.
After reaching the wreck, I recognized a way into the interior of the Caterpillar at the back. Slowly I worked my way forward through a dark tunnel of corridors and cargo modules. Not surprisingly, I found no computer boards. Then I saw a light. A light at the end of the tunnel. The end of my search? One way or another, definitely. This was the last wreck on my list, the last chance. Would I return to Orison without computer boards? I stepped into the light and stood on the precipice.
I had left the wreck through an open bulkhead and found myself at the edge of the cliff. In front of me, or more precisely below me, lay the front module of the Caterpillar. Slowly I felt my way closer to the edge. It was a few meters distance to the module. The only way was a courageous jump. A jump over a deep abyss. Should I take it? The leap of death. If the computer boards I was looking for really existed, they had to be down there. If I didn’t want to return to X empty-handed, I had to jump.
I took a few steps back and took a running start. The scrap metal rattled under my boots as I ran over it. Then it was quiet. Silently I floated through the hot air of Arial. Stupidly I had not considered the small gravity of the moon. I flew and flew. Much too far. If nothing stopped me I would fly beyond the cargo module and fall into the deep abyss. I started to row with my arms and legs. It didn’t help. Then there was a thud. Some metal struts rose high above the module. I hit them with full force.
When I had picked myself up, I looked around. I was standing on top of the vertical cargo module. I had made the death jump. Right next to me was an open bulkhead leading into it. Hesitantly I looked down into the interior of the wreck. It looked like an elevator shaft into which someone had thrown several cargo containers. I jumped down onto the first container and turned on the helmet light. It was pure chaos. Containers and boxes were crisscrossed. I took my last chance and started searching through everything. And sure enough, there it was at the bottom. The box of desire. The box with the computer boards. Finally I had found what I had been looking for for so long. It was time to leave.
The 400i glided through pink clouds. The outlines of the cloud city became clearer and clearer. From the pilot’s seat, I enjoyed the approach to Orison. I was torn between joy and sadness. On the one hand, I was looking forward to my spaceship, to my White Rabbit. On the other hand, I would miss the comfort of the Origin 400i. In any case, I was glad to have successfully completed the salvage mission. X had instructed me to simply leave the 400i in the hangar and go to the quarters he had reserved for me in the Greencircle. It remained dubious. Why were there so many food and toy guns in the 12 wrecks? And only in one wreck the computer boards I was looking for? Had I missed some? Or was only one Caterpillar destined for special transport and the others distractions? X had said the computer boards were intended for people who normally didn’t have access to this technology. Who were these people? Who was X trying to help? And anyway, who was X?
A radio message snapped me out of my thoughts. “Permission to land granted. Land in Hangar 5.”
Elegantly, the 400i glided into the hangar. A long journey, a long mission came to an end. But questions remained. Would I ever have the opportunity to ask X? With a low rumble, the hangar doors closed and the engines of the 400i fell silent.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)