The mission to transport an unknown cargo took a surprising turn.
After my salvage mission, I could continue to live in my apartment in Orison. X told me to enjoy the amenities of Cloud City for as long as I wanted. I didn’t need to be told twice and took full advantage of the offers. Somehow everything seemed to be in balance here. It was almost meditative. The city had a calming effect on me.
In the Voyager Bar there was an area where a fire was burning. It wasn’t a real bonfire. But the flames were real and not holograms like the birds in New Babbage. However, the fire did not crackle and yet the flickering of the flames could put me into a state of trance. After watching the dance of the fire for a while, I stood up and went to the parapet of the platform. My gaze wandered over the floating city in the clouds when suddenly a voice snapped me out of my thoughts.
“You’re not from around here?”
A guy was standing next to me. Dark red leather jacket, baseball cap, shirt with a skull. The eyes and the look were icy. He so didn’t fit the mellow mood of Orison.
“What makes you think that?” An inner voice warned me to be careful. To wait and see first and not jump right into the question.
“Well. Your clothes. With your Crusader jacket you try to blend in, but all the rest looks more like other places. Places that aren’t quite as licked.”
The guy had a point. He’d be much more likely to fit in at Grim Hex than Orison.
“Well, you should know. Your outfit isn’t original to Orison, either.”
“Touché.” A grin flitted across his face before it froze again. “What brings you to this immaculate place?”
What did this guy want from me? I stuck to my reticence and answered curtly. “Business.”
“Aren’t we all looking for good business?” The way he said it was almost cynical. Then he added rather casually. “What kind of business?”
Heaven and hell, what was this? Definitely not a nice casual conversation. My response remained reserved. “I don’t talk about my customers.”
“Secrecy. I think that’s good. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I need someone to do a special transport. Very simple pick something up and bring it here to Orison. No big deal. Don’t talk long, just do it. Calm, quietly, quickly.”
A short time later I was with my White Rabbit in the Quantum flight to the planet ArcCorp. It was once again one of those missions where it was about secrecy. An order with which I could not be sure whether it was legal. Well, actually I could be sure that it was not legal. The skull on the shirt of my client spoke a clear language. And the pickup location of the goods was special, too. Shady Glen Farms on the moon of Wala. With this place, the name said it all. You could get things here outside the official channels. A long time ago I had bought alcohol there. Tax free and duty free. The outpost was not registered. You had to know exactly how to get there. And exactly here was my problem. I did not know where the outpost was. Yes on the moon Wala, but where exactly? Desperately I searched my documents and records. I did not find a clue.
When I reached the orbit of Wala I stood in the cockpit and looked at the gray moon. The dark side of the moon lay before me. It was as dark as my memories of the place where Shady Glen Farms was located. Somehow I had to find the place. My client didn’t look like someone you could say to:
“Oh I didn’t find the pickup location. Sorry, I don’t have your delivery.”
I would probably look like the skull on his shirt.
In my Star Runner’s server room, I started looking through old logs. Somewhere in the digital guts of this ship the coordinates had to be found. I had already visited this place. Then I remembered that I didn’t have the Star Runner on my last visit. I was at Shady Glen Farms with my Cutlass at the time. It ran hot and cold down my spine. Was that it? In an act of desperation, I opened the starmap on my mobiglass. I looked at one listed outpost after another on Wala. And then I saw something that shouldn’t have been there. The marker from Shady Glen Farms. I had no idea why it was there, but it didn’t matter. Without thinking any further, I flew to the coordinates given.
It was night when I landed the Star Runner right in front of the outpost. There was no weapons free zone here. I could only hope that no unfriendly characters appeared. Inside the building it was pretty messy. There were bottles, cans, and empty boxes of Big Bennys lying around in the kitchen. It looked like someone had had a noodle party. But no one was there. The whole outpost was empty and deserted.
Finally, in the storage room, I found a note stuck to the shelf.
“Goods for special transport to Orison”.
By the note was a large blue cardboard box. It was sealed.
“No questions asked. Just pack it up and deliver it”, I said to myself. I had no idea if there were drugs or any other forbidden things inside. It was none of my business either. I had a job to do.
With the cargo on board I had just reached the orbit of Wala when a dot appeared on the radar. The dot was approaching fast. Who was that? And did they want something from me? I aligned my scanner and took a closer look at the object. BlacJac Security. Great, that’s all I needed. There was no way my cargo was going to be found by security. The Quantum drive wasn’t ready to make the jump to Crusader. Simply disappearing was not an option. My only hope was the fast conventional drive of the White Rabbit. The acceleration forces pressed me into the pilot’s seat as the powerful engines roared and catapulted the Star Runner forward. The speed indicator sped upward. But the dot on the radar was still getting closer. They really had it in for me. Then I had reached my maximum speed. The security forces were approaching more slowly now, but they were still approaching. Somehow I had to disappear from their radar. I had to vanish into thin air, become stardust. But with the Star Runner’s high energy signature, that wasn’t so easy. It lit up like a Christmas tree. If they got me it was over, so I could put all my eggs in one basket. I switched off the weapon systems and the shields. The energy signature dropped only marginally. The Quantum drive generated such a high signature when charging that next to it everything else was just a drop in the ocean. I was running out of options. Then the security forces were in range. There was a crackle on the radio. The crackle was drowned out by the beep of the finished charging Quantum drive. My finger fell on the button. A brief flash of light. Then there was only empty space where the Star Runner had just been.
My client had instructed me not to fly to the spaceport in Orison, but to fly to one of the living platforms. That was clever. This way one escaped the customs control. As long as one did not fall into the arms of a patrol during the approach. Actually, I had expected that the residential platform would be far out, in the outskirts of the cloud city. Far away from prying eyes. But to my surprise it was located in the immediate vicinity of the spaceport. Right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the center of Crusader Industries.
The sun was just rising when I landed the White-Rabbit on the small landing pad. The clouds and flowers began to glow in a pink competition. The residential platform was an oasis. An immaculate building in white and blue in the middle of a Garden of Eden. A large lawn, green cypress trees, pink blossoms and waving flags in the wind. The spaceport was within reach. The comings and goings of the spaceships were easy to see. An Origin 400i was gliding smoothly into a hangar. In the distance, more Crusader Industries housing platforms and shipyards could be seen.
Right next to the landing pad was the lawn area. On the other side, a lounge area. Fine wood flooring, a designer roof structure and comfortable armchairs. A person was lounging in one of the chairs. Amazed, I walked across the soft lawn toward the person. The closer I came to the lounge area the greater my amazement. The person in the armchair. I knew her.
“Gate is that you? Tell me, have you gone among the rich snobs now?”
“Ha! I wish! I’m booked with Captain Jelly on the JSC Penetrator II as a bartender.”
Irritation was written all over my face. Confused, I set the box of cargo down on the wooden floor.
“Did you have something to do with the special transport? What the hell was I transporting?”
“You did? Great boy. Terra Algae Potato, I still owe Officer Sugarheart a bag of the best chips in the Empire!” Gate seemed beside himself with joy.
“Chips? Algae Potato?” The words came stuttering out of me.
I opened the box and took out one of the things. Gate just grinned.
“Jesus. I’m going to play a cat and mouse game with security over potatoes and chips?”
Powerless, I dropped into one of the chairs. A flower landed on my nose. Then I started laughing heartily. All the tension fell away from me. I couldn’t stop laughing.
On behalf of Gate.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)