My special transports to Lorville required an ever-increasing investment. I went all in. With an uncertain outcome.
That damned businessman. Corrupt, greedy, an exploiter he was. Polished to a high sheen on the outside, but his soul was deep black. Just like that shiny black marble wall in the Central Business District he was standing in front of.
So far, things were going quite well with my special transports to Lorville. Anything the oppressed workers needed for daily life that was forbidden on the planet Hurston, I smuggled into the city. Everywhere else in the Stanton system the things were legal and therefore easy to get. I had a deal with the businessman. He would bring the goods past customs and get a cut in return.
But the businessman had raised his price. Instead of a share of the goods, he wanted Bexalite. In the meantime, I had mined the mineral and wanted to deliver it to him. He was already waiting for me at the Metro station of the Central Business District. Confident and arrogant, he stood in front of the shiny black wall. Behind him towered the golden statues of the founder of Hurston Dynamics.
What he had to say to me was like a punch in the gut. The expensive and rare Bexalite was no longer good enough for him. As a reward for his services, he now demanded drugs. E’tam was what he wanted. A drug that was used by the Xi’an for meditation. In humans, it led to hyper-awareness, cognitive enhancement, and hyper-focus. So it was popular with workers and students. And for the parties of rich people, he wanted Neon. I guess he expected to make a big profit selling the drugs on Hurston.
But for me it became more and more expensive and risky to provide the workers on Hurston with the most necessary things. My stakes were rising tremendously. Was it still worth it? Getting caught with drugs on the approach was different than getting caught with banned DMC pants. But did I have a choice? Was there a way out of this situation? Not really. I couldn’t and wouldn’t abandon the workers. Besides, the businessman had me in the palm of his hand. If he didn’t get what he wanted, he would blow my cover. Deeper and deeper I slid into this. Less and less control I had. Less and less freedom over my actions.
Frustrated, I went to the M&V bar and sat alone in a corner. I barely noticed the way too loud music. My brain was as active as the beer in front of me on the table. It was stale. In the past, the bar was supplied with really good alcohol through unofficial channels. But those days were long gone. The Hurston family didn’t want the workers to have an intense taste experience. With the back of my hand, I pushed the half-full glass aside. My brain woke up, a thought forming. I could supply the bar with the good stuff again. Why not? Next to the drugs, it didn’t make a difference anymore. What the hell. All in. I got up and walked over to the bar.
I had talked to the bartender some time ago about the earlier alcohol deliveries. I knew he was mourning the old days. He was pleased with my offer. But he was also suspicious.
“Did you read the Parker Terrell article?” he asked in a hushed voice.
Stealthily, I looked around and answered just as quietly. “What article?”
“Well the one about the lies of Lorville.”
“What lies do you mean exactly. There are plenty of lies around here, aren’t there?”
“I mean that the United Workers of Hurston is not actually a violent terrorist group. They just wanted to peacefully advocate for better conditions for workers on Hurston. And then they were infiltrated by agents. The agents incited violence in the group. That was all planned by Hurston Dynamics to have a reason to go against the workers’ association.”
“Really?” Puzzled, I looked at the bartender.
I couldn’t help thinking that the original Free Riders of Stanton had also been crushed by Hurston Security. I wondered if there were covert operations by Hurston agents in the process? Then I had to think about Ray Keaton. He brought discord to the newly formed Free Riders of Stanton. Was he an agent? Was Ray pursuing a hidden agenda?
I brushed the thought aside and turned back to the bartender. “So what are you trying to tell me now?”
“Actually, just that you need to be careful and not trust anyone. Especially no one who comes from Hurston and surprisingly offers to help you. You never know what lies he’s telling and what he’s actually up to.”
For a few seconds we looked at each other in silence. Our gazes fixed on each other. Then I said in a very calm tone.
“I’m not an agent, and I’m not from Hurston.”
“I know. I just mean …. So look at what’s going on behind your back and who you’re working with.”
“I work alone.” That sounded more convincing than I was.
I took help again and again. But they were all people I had known for a long time and trusted. Except for one. The businessman. But he couldn’t be an agent either. He was just impudent, greedy and corrupt. All he cared about was his personal profit. At least that’s what I hoped.
With somewhat mixed feelings I left the bar and went on my way. A path into the unknown. A path full of risks. Where would it all lead me?
The desert on the moon Daymar might be barren and sandy, but it offered more than one could guess at first sight. It was like a wave of fate. I was a son of the desert and in the desert I found what I needed. Everything I needed for my special transport I got on this one moon.
In the outpost Bountiful Harvest Hydroponics I got the alcohol. The good alcohol for the M&V bar. At the Nuen Waste Management outpost, a drug storage and sales facility, there was E’tam and Neon. It was a small effort. Two stops on a moon. Only the risk was high. The outposts had no weapons-free zone. Most of the fighting was at the Jumptown drug lab, but I had to expect uninvited guests to show up here, too. I didn’t really feel comfortable with the White Rabbit standing unprotected in the sand in front of the building while I conducted transactions inside. Only what was I to do? There was no alternative. And I didn’t want to drag anyone into this and bring them along as backup.
All went well at Bountiful Harvest Hydroponics. With alcohol on board, the White-Rabbit thundered over the sand dunes and rose into the blue sky. After a short spline jump to the other side of the moon, I reached Nuen Waste Management. It was dark. The dimly lit building was barely visible. It stood lonely and alone on a small sand plateau. Gently, my Star Runner touched down just in front of the airlock.
Inside the building it looked like a garbage dump. It was typical of the illegal camps. Hastily, I began the transaction. Sweat stood on my forehead. Every second I was here was one second too many. Suddenly, a noise made me flinch. A roaring and a thundering. Was that another spaceship? Or the wind? There were no windows. What was happening outside remained hidden. For the time being.
I was lucky. No one showed up. No agent stabbed me in the back. This time. Undisturbed, I left the moon Daymar. During the Quantum flight to the planet Hurston I stood in the cargo hold of the White-Rabbit. The monotonous hum of the Quantum drive had almost a meditative effect. Thoughtfully, I looked at my cargo. Clear bags of green leaves and red pills stowed and lashed to pallets. And containers full of high-grade alcohol. A load that could ship me straight to Klescher.
It wasn’t my first drug haul. But so far I delivered to Grim Hex or to a remote Rest Stop deep in space. But the planet Hurston was something else. Hurston Security patrolled the orbit. So far I had escaped the controls. However, I had to assume that the businessman was demanding more deliveries. Only how long would my winning streak last? Could it go on forever?
A change in the background noise brought me abruptly back to the present. The Quantum drive suddenly sounded different. The White Rabbit slowed down. In a few seconds I reached the planet Hurston.
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