Brubacker put together a crew for a Carrack. It was a strange venture with a very bumpy start.
I couldn’t stop laughing. It had to be an April Fool’s joke. Again and again I read the message from Brubacker. Tears ran down my cheeks from laughter. Apparently Brubacker had gotten a Carrack from Anvil. As part of a marketing campaign, “Anyone can fly a Carrack.”
Anvil couldn’t be serious. Brubacker, of all people. He was living proof that not just anyone could fly a Carrack. Brubacker had once had a Carrack. The “Arthur C. Clarke”. We had had some adventures together on that ship. Until the moment when the authorities had taken away not only his Carrack, but also his license to fly one. He was such a miserable pilot that he had been deemed a danger to the public. A rare moment when I agreed with the authorities.
In any case, Brubacker was putting together a crew. He wanted to meet us in the VIP lounge of the Riker Memorial Spaceport on the planet ArcCorp. Why not. I wasn’t going to miss out on the fun and feeling of being aboard an Explorer. Even if I lacked faith that Brubacker really had a Carrack. And if he did, maybe I could use it for a special transport. Under a foreign flag, so to speak. Besides, I would never abandon my friends. I wiped the tears from my face and went on my way.
I had the first excitement on ArcCorp right after exiting the elevator from the hangar. In the spaceport check-in hall, a kiosk had several magazines with my face on them. What the hell had that hack Brubacker done now? How was I supposed to stay under the radar if he was publishing articles or programs on Radio Infinity about me? Upon a closer look, though, I wondered if it was really me or someone with a similar face. Or a mistake with this damn Imprint technology. Was there someone mistakenly regenerated in my body? I had to confront Brubacker about it.
Shortly after, I met the others in the VIP lounge. Brubacker had dressed up in gray loafers, fine pants, leather jacket and Anvil shirt. Gabriel Winters was there, too. And a woman named Ella Clemens. A nurse. It was a good thing to have someone on board who could take care of injured people. But Ella said she could handle not only the syringe, but also the guns of a gun turret. That was reassuring. And Gabriel was a top pilot. Better he was at the helm than Brubacker. The conditions were not so bad. Now all we needed was a Carrack. I still doubted that Brubacker really had one.
Brubacker talked and talked. Apparently we were not yet complete. At some point he came out with the hacking. Anvil wanted him to do a radio show of life aboard the Carrack. Oh great, another public appearance. Then he also opened up about having an overseer from Anvil come along. A janitor of sorts. Would do the same in Anvil’s place if I gave Brubacker a ship. However, he would not get my White-Rabbit.
After a long tedious speech by Brubacker, we finally went into the hangar. And there we stood. In front of the big, really big nothing. The hangar was empty. No Carrack. I knew it. It was an April Fool’s joke. I couldn’t stifle my laughter any longer. In the meantime, Brubacker was on the phone with a representative from Anvil. Apparently something had gone wrong. Mistake with the authorities or whatever. Who believes it.
Anyway. Brubacker owed us something and not just an explanation. At least he invited us to the G-Loc bar. At least here everything went like clockwork. The bartender was motivated and poured me one whiskey-cola after another. As long as Brubacker was paying, that should be fine with me.
A few days later we met again on the planet ArcCorp. Again Riker Memorial Spaceport, again VIP Lounge. Like a tiger, Brubacker paced nervously back and forth. I sat relaxed in my chair. Why be excited, we wouldn’t get to see a Carrack anyway. Gabriel was busy with his box, Ella was staring holes in the air. Then Nick and Doerek arrived, the crew was complete.
On the way to the hangar I warned Doerek that it could become similarly chaotic as with our trip with F.R.O.S. If I had known how right I should be, I would have gone back to bed. And then the surprise. There was actually a Carrack in the hangar. OK, standing was the wrong description. It was hovering above the ground with its landing gear retracted. The ramp was open, but too high to get in. Something was wrong here and warned me to be careful. To be on the safe side, I put on the armor I had laid out ready.
Using crates, we built a staircase and boarded. In the crew quarters we found a bad-tempered guy in bed. It was the overseer Anvil had sent along. Or janitor, as he called himself. Mr. Aruhso the bad-tempered guy was not only in a bad mood because we had woken him up, no, he was like that. Some people were stupid, others were evil, he was in a bad mood. Aruhso constantly had something to complain about. He called me a cyborg. He was probably jealous because he didn’t have such cool armor. Let’s see if he had enough lubricating oil on board to keep me supple. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t. There was plenty of equipment on board, but no whiskey-cola, no beer, nothing reasonable.
Eventually the time came and we were able to take off. Fortunately, it wasn’t Brubacker at the wheel. Gabriel skillfully steered us out of the hangar and over the endless sea of houses of nocturnal ArcCorp. I took off my armor and enjoyed the view from the upper bridge. It was a sublime feeling. A feeling of traveling and discovering strange worlds. For a moment I was lost in daydreams of strange planets and unknown creatures. Then the lights of the eternal city disappeared below us. The huge disk of the bridge was full of stars, and the orbital station Bajini Point came into view.
Suddenly we were fired upon. We had gotten too close to the military area of the station. Well, you better respect a restricted area, even with a Carrack. Gabriel gave full thrust and activated the boost. An enormous jolt went through the ship. It shook and trembled. The metal groaned. Everyone who wasn’t strapped in lost their balance and lay on the floor. This was off to a good start. After Gabriel flew a loop, we returned to Bajini Point and landed in a hangar without further incident.
Arusha, the janitor gave us a tour of the ship after we landed. Nick noticed a few odd things and defects along the way. The Carrack was probably not new. The janitor still said he had gotten it from a workshop. Somehow I had the impression that he had taken it a few days too early. And every time we wanted to take a closer look at something, he grumbled that we should keep our hands off it. That could be funny if the janitor was on our ass the whole trip. Maybe I should bring him something to loosen up.
I had enough time. The Carrack stayed at the station for further repairs. After saying goodbye to the others, I set off with the White Rabbit. It was high time for another special transport to Lorville. The workers were waiting for a new shipment.
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