A very special special transport for Red Wind Linehaul brought surprising things to light.
On this news I needed a whiskey and coke. I downed the glass in one go. A feeling of dizziness gripped me. For a brief moment, I was in danger of losing my footing. To prevent worse, I first placed the glass on the counter, then my hands. The extra grip kept me vertical. I was just getting my vision back when the bartender put a second glass in front of me.
“You look like you need another one.”
His look was a mixture of pity and gloating. With my eyelids drooping low, I looked at the glass, then at the bartender, then at the glass again.
“Fuck it. It won’t make it worse.”
But not better either, I thought to myself. I took the glass, toasted the bartender, and allowed myself a hearty swig. Then, with somewhat wobbly legs, I looked for a dark corner in the bar. Two problems, two glasses. It fit.
The businessman who brought my special deliveries to Lorville past customs was getting more and more impertinent. Yes we had agreed that he would keep part of the shipment for himself. As a reward. But he demanded more and more. He claimed a larger and larger part of the cargo for himself. Therefore, less remained for the workers in Lorville for whom the cargo was actually intended.
But that was not my biggest problem. The courier service Red Wind Linehaul had uncovered my false order portal and my deceived reputation for Red Wind. Instead of reporting it Red Wind sent me a message.
“…. the fraudulent use of reputation and the privileges that come with it constitutes a criminal act. Equally, it shows creativity and the ability to deal with dangerous situations. We will refrain from pressing charges provided they maintain confidentiality and make special shipments for us where discretion is paramount.”
They wanted me to pick up packages at different drug stashes and drug labs and take them to different outposts. Nothing new for me, really. But the first package I was supposed to pick up was in Jumptown. Jumptown, of all places. The epicenter of the drug war. One of the most dangerous places in the Stanton system. But I didn’t have a choice. Jail or run illegal special transports for Red Wind. Red Wind had me by the short hairs.
There was one glimmer of hope. The Nine Tails were laying siege to Orison. The security forces had called in the Civilian Defense Force. All available forces were engaged in the fighting at Orison. A chance that all was quiet in Jumpton.
Jumptown. Already during the approach I was extremely tense. Often enough you met people here who wanted to put a bullet in your head. It was dark. The moon Yela let one of its cold ice storms rage over the drug lab. The station had changed since my last visit. Covers and barricades had been set up everywhere. The fighting had left its mark. I took full risk and landed the Cutlass directly in front of the entrance. At least the distance I had to walk with the package was shorter.
I ran the short distance to the airlock as fast as my heavy armor allowed. Breathing heavily, I arrived at the entrance to the building. The bulkhead behind me closed. It hissed and steamed as the pressure equalized. Then the inner door slid aside with a creak. The drug lab was dimly lit. There was dirt and debris everywhere. But it was quiet. Was my hope to be fulfilled and everyone was busy in Orison? Nevertheless, I didn’t want to lose any time and wanted to leave as soon as possible. However, I could not resist the urge to search all the rooms. Due to my curiosity, I spent more time in the building than was good. How much time had passed I did not know. But my feeling told me it was too much.
Was I still alone? Quietly I listened into the night. It was quiet. Then I opened the airlock. Directly in front of the entrance was a steel plate behind which I took cover. Cautiously I looked over the area. There were so many possibilities to attack from an ambush. The Cutlass was only a few meters away. The ramp was open. Then I grabbed the package and ran. Panting, I arrived inside the ship and hammered the switch to close the stern ramp. Exhausted, I propped my hands on my knees. Except for my heavy breathing, nothing could be heard. Done, without incident, I left the drug lab with the package. It was surprising that I could pick up a package in Jumptown without any surprises.
I experienced surprises at the last of several stations of my transport order. At Bountiful Harvest Hydroponics on the moon Daymar. The approach to Daymar always filled me with joy. I loved the endless expanse of the desert. There was something sublime about it, something pure. And it reminded me of my home, Ashana. Bountiful Harvest did not have a gun-free zone, yet I did not expect surprises. How I should be mistaken.
There were no personnel in the outpost, a good opportunity to look around at my leisure. In the storage room I put down my delivery and found something I didn’t expect. Between the shelves was a large weapons crate. The box was obviously from the military. Curious, I opened the lid. A surprised “Boah” came over my lips. In front of me were several sniper rifles. Rifles that could not be bought on the open market. Why the hell were such weapons stored in a farm? OK, you could also get Revenant Tree pollen here, the basic ingredient for the drug Altruciatoxin. This outpost was a major supplier of raw materials for drug production. But still, sniper rifles were unusual in this place. Did the rifles also have something to do with Red Wind’s illegal shipments? Was Red Wind also secretly transporting weapons? The seemingly decent and reputable courier company seemed to have it all figured out. Red Wind did not only carry out legal courier services.
Stealthily, I looked over my shoulder. Why shouldn’t I secure a bonus for my services. Hastily, I grabbed my rifles and ran back to my Cutlass. Punishment followed on my heels. Too frantically, I rushed up the cargo ramp. Sand had settled on the ramp. It was slippery. Completely unexpectedly, I lost my footing and fell off the ramp. I hit the sand of Daymar hard. A sharp pain jerked through my leg. For a moment my eyes went black. Like a bug, I lay on my back in the sand unable to move. With difficulty, I pulled myself up on the edge of the cargo ramp. When I tried to put weight on my leg, it gave way. A pain-filled scream rumbled through my helmet. With shaky hands, I took the Med-Gun and shot a load of painkiller into my body. The leg was broken. With difficulty, I limped into the Cutlass.
With the Medical Device I could alleviate the worst symptoms but nothing more. I could no longer put any weight on the leg. I dragged it behind me like a wet sack. I had no choice but to go to a clinic. Unfortunately, I could not go to any of the well-equipped medical facilities. On board my Cutlass were drugs that I had taken from one of the hidden warehouses. With that, I could not fly to any of the stations controlled by the security forces. I was left with only one option. The butchers at the pirate station Grim Hex. Somehow they would patch me up there. I just had to be careful not to have any organs removed or a Vanduul’s leg sewn on.
After a short, painful treatment, I left the clinic. Everything seemed to be all right. I could put normal weight on the leg again, at least for the moment. And for the moment, Red Wind Linehaul seemed satisfied as well. Still, I had a feeling that this was not the last special transport for this ostensibly clean company.
It was crazy. Actually, I only wanted to bring to the workers in Lorville what they most needed and could not legally acquire on Hurston. Now quite a few others were profiting from my special deliveries. The businessman in Lorville who smuggled the goods past customs. The courier service Red Wind Linehaul who had uncovered my bogus courier reputation and the special privileges at customs in Lorville that came with it. They all had their regular payday from my special shipments. It should be fine with me as long as it paid off for the workers in Lorville and they got what they needed. The only problem was, they all had me in the palm of their hand and could blow my cover at any time. I was on thin ice.
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