Planless, wrong assumptions, wrong reactions. Ingredients that cannot end well.
Silent, broken, and yet threatening, it lay before me. Meter by meter, I scanned the area with the scope. The Nine Tails I suspected on the rusty skeleton of the crashed Reclaimer were not my only concern. Bounty hunters were after me because of the warrant Hurston Dynamics had issued for my arrest. Since then, I kept changing my location. To avoid leaving unnecessary traces with the White Rabbit, I took every opportunity to spend time on other starships. After the assignment on the Corsair of Kjeld, I was now aboard the Carrack, which Brubacker had received from Anvil.
The crew of the Carrack had found a Hadesian artifact on board that was causing strange visions. An artifact that was not supposed to be there. Brubacker had information that led to a wreck on Microtech. He hoped to find more clues there about the origin of the artifact. It was, of all places, the wreck where I had already been with Heriemoth. The wreckage of the crashed Reclaimer from the salvage crew that I had found dead. They were killed by the Nine Tails after making shady deals with them. Were the deals about the artifact?
From a hilltop, I tried to get an overview. The wreckage was below us among the trees. The vegetation gave us good cover, but also obscured our view. It seemed to be abandoned, only I was not sure. Suddenly, screams were heard. It was Brubacker and Gabriel.
“Curses. We fell down the slope. It’s slippery as hell here.”
“We’re hurt and can’t move. Can you guys come and help us?”
Ella and I looked at each other. Brubacker and Gabriel were about 100 meters away.
“Zero, it’s not so steep here. We can get down there safely.”
“OK. But let’s keep our eyes open. I don’t want to be surprised by stray Nine Tails.”
Brubacker and Gabriel lay motionless in the dirt. The cold wind from Microtech had already covered them with a layer of ice. Ella, the experienced nurse, quickly got them both back on their feet and we were able to search the wreckage together.
Aimlessly, we looked for any unknown clues. Even though I had been here before, I still found it eerie. The wreck was still haunting. There were rustles and creaks behind the rusty walls. Ghosts flitted through the dark corridors. But apart from a few supply boxes, we found nothing helpful.
Near the wreckage was an overgrown landing pad. It was barely visible. Several containers stood there. And a communication facility. It was active and had been used recently. Was there a reference to the artifact in the communication logs?
Just as I was about to access it, Brubacker called out, “I hear spaceships. They’re getting closer.”
The rumbling grew louder. Out of nowhere, a Drake Cutter and an Avenger roared low overhead. Only briefly were they visible and disappeared behind the trees as quickly as they had come. We had no idea who they were, what they wanted or if they were a threat. Only one thing was clear. It was time to leave. But before that, we needed the data from the communications facility.
Gabriel was the quickest to respond. “I hope they don’t attack our Carrack. I’ll take the rover to the ship and pick you up.”
“Zero, can you download the data from the communications facility while we wait?”
Brubacker was right. Better to download and analyze later than to be on the rack longer. The progress bar was just showing 100% when the spaceships reappeared. The Cutter set down for landing while the Avenger hovered in the air. Brubacker hid 10 meters away in a container, I took cover behind a barrel. Suddenly, a Blade appeared. The replica of the Vanduul fighter circled overhead like a bird of prey. The situation became more and more threatening.
A cloud of dust swirled toward us as the Cutter touched down on the ground. The engines fell silent. Only the roar of the Blade, which circled above us, was to be heard. With a heavy creak, the rear ramp of the Cutter opened. Two guys in menacing-looking combat gear got out. One had a gun at the ready. Who were these guys? Treasure hunters? Bounty hunters? Were they here for me?
The guy with the gun walked toward the container where Brubacker was hidden. What was I supposed to do? Draw my gun and open fire? We were clearly outnumbered. Besides, I didn’t want to do anything that seemed like aggression. The guy with the gun had almost reached the container. Frozen, I knelt behind the barrel, unable to do anything. Then he was right in front of Brubacker. The tension almost tore me apart.
Suddenly the guy put his gun away and said. “Hey guys. Have you cleared the area yet? Then we’ll take a look around, too.”
It was Brubacker who first regained his speech. “Uh, yeah. No Nine Tails here. All clear.”
On board the Carrack, Brubacker and I looked at the data from the communications facility. It was all cryptic stuff. Finally, something caught my eye.
“Look there. Doesn’t that look like a neural net and that look like brainwave patterns? Could it be that the artifact can influence thoughts? Maybe even implant a thought? Some kind of transmitter?”
Ella and Gabriel got into the guessing game.
“Or it could just be an everyday object. Maybe that was their normal way of communicating with each other. You talk to each other by just letting the other person into your head.”
“The Hadesians blew up their whole planet. There was a big war. Maybe that’s how they wanted to get an advantage over their enemies, know what they were planning…and it is a weapon after all…the most powerful ever”, Brubacker mused.
We looked at each other helplessly. We had no idea and were as smart as before.
Already the next day I had forgotten the mystery of the artifact. I was more concerned with the arrest warrant. And the message Sam had sent me. He was my contact with the activists in Lorville.
Zero, the situation here is about to boil over. The situation is getting more and more desperate. We need to talk urgently. I know you can’t come here because of the warrant. Meet me at the Wolf Point Aid Shelter on the moon of Daymar.
Immediately, I set off with the White Rabbit. As I entered the building, I noticed a pool of blood on the floor. A drag mark led from the airlock to the left to the beds. My eyes followed the trail and froze. There stood a guy in gray and red armor. He held an assault rifle in his hand that had the same colors as his armor. There were gold rings on his arms, and the fingers of his gloves were also gold. He looked like a hunter patiently waiting for his prey.
He spoke in a calm, firm voice. “Zero Sense?”
Confused, I answered hesitantly. “Uh, yeah.”
Even before I closed my mouth, I knew this was a mistake. But I could not finish the thought. I could still see the rifle coming at me in a flash. Then it went dark. An infinite emptiness surrounded me. Timeless, emotionless. All senses were switched off. I was switched off.
The stories of Zero Sense will continue in January.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)