An awakening in the desert with a bitter realization.
Very slowly, weak light displaced the blackness of my perception. My blurred surroundings took on contours and became sharper. But the perspective was unfamiliar. Everything was turned 90 degrees. A sandy metal floor was directly in front of my face. As if discarded, I lay on the floor surrounded by cargo crates. I had no idea what had happened. Then memories emerged from the depths of my brain cells. Piece by piece, the puzzle pieces fell into place. I had escaped from Klescher Maximum Security Prison. And as I stood in front of my escape vehicle, I was knocked out. But where the hell was I now? With difficulty, I lifted my buzzing head and straightened up. The room I was in looked familiar. On the wall was a sign from Crusader Industries. Then I recognized it. It was the cargo hold of a Mercury Star Runner. It was in poor condition. The walls were dirty and sand was on the floor. A small spotlight gave dim light.
“Hey asshole. Up already?”
The voice echoed metallically through the room. Heavy footsteps came closer. Then two guys stood in front of me. They were wearing Hurston Security armor.
“Don’t feel lonely. You may die here in the sand along with your White Rabbit.”
The security guy’s words sounded like a thunderclap. Then he hit my helmet visor with the butt of his rifle. Once again, darkness surrounded me.
When I regained consciousness, I was still sitting on the floor of the cargo hold. Cautiously, I stood up and looked around. The two security guys were gone. Like garbage, they had left me behind. And like garbage I looked. The visor of my helmet was cracked. The spacesuit I was in was made of shreds and held together only by tape. It was not good conditions for survival. Hurston Security was closer to its goal than I would have liked. Death was more likely than life.
The Star Runner was not doing any better. It had no power. The elevator and doors did not work. The rear ramp was open, revealing a wild desert landscape. On the ground, in the air, sand swirled everywhere. A storm was raging outside the spacecraft. The only thing I could make out was a wide furrow cutting through the sand behind the spaceship. It was cut into the ground by the Star Runner, which was lying on its belly with broken wings.
Slowly, I became aware of my situation. Hurston Dynamics had disposed of me along with my White Rabbit. Prison was not enough. They wanted to get rid of the Zero Sense problem once and for all. I stood at the big cargo door and looked out into the clouds of dancing sand grains. In the desert my life had begun and in the desert it would end.
A few hours later, the storm had subsided. The sand crunched under my boots as I walked out of the cargo hold. Where was I? The desert reminded me of the moon Daymar. After climbing the sand wall that the White Rabbit had heaped up when it crashed, I recognized some sort of settlement a few hundred meters away. Towers, barracks, windmills. It all looked very provisional. Was this the rescue or the final end?
To be on the safe side, I waited until the central star of Stanton had disappeared behind the horizon. Under cover of darkness, I approached the lights of the settlement. Again and again I stopped and looked whether something moved in the light cones. Everything seemed to be quiet. Only once did I look back. Sadly, the remains of the White Rabbit lay in the sand.
Briskly I approached the buildings. The settlement revealed more and more of its character. It consisted of rubble and scrap. The buildings were rusted parts of spaceships. Shelters had been built from old poles and cloth. What was this place? And who lived here?
Finally, I had reached the edge of the place. It was eerily quiet. Only the wind blew small waves of sand through the settlement. Otherwise there was no movement. Cautiously, I walked crouched toward a flickering light. The word ‘SCRAP’ shone in pink letters on a frame three meters above the ground. Behind it was a mountain of old metal parts. There was something hanging from the rack. In disbelief, I walked closer until I realized what it was. A dead man was hanging below the writing. His armor reflected the pink light. On his breastplate was the symbol of the Nine Tails.
Panic seized me. I stumbled through the sand as if I was drunk. I just wanted to get away. Away from this place where Nine Tails were hanged. Whoever had done this was more ruthless than the Nine Tails themselves. Just the thought was terrifying.
I ran haphazardly past cargo crates and pieces of scrap metal. Finally, I reached a large box standing in the darkness. It was a Drake Cutter. I rushed into the small craft via the open rear ramp. It was abandoned. As if by remote control, I found my way into the cockpit and onto the pilot’s seat. My hand slapped the start button. A miserable whine could be heard from the engines. Then it was silent again. Again I pressed the start button. Again the howl, then a prolonged cough until the thrusters finally spat fire and sparks. Seconds later I thundered over the sand dunes and disappeared into the darkness of the night.
The Cutter’s instruments confirmed my suspicions. I was on the moon Daymar. However, I could not leave the moon. The Quantum drive did not work. After a long flight through the night, I reached the emergency shelter Wolf Point. For the time being I was safe. There was enough to eat, to drink and air to breathe.
But how should I continue? I had lost everything. My spaceship, my equipment, my money. Everything was gone. Only my bare life I still had. And I had officially lost that, too. From Hurston Dynamics’ point of view, I was dead. As long as the authorities believed that, I was safe. Was this a chance for a fresh start? Suddenly I realized what this meant. I had to avoid being scanned or detected at all costs. Space stations, cities, outposts, any place where there were people, I had to avoid.
However, I didn’t have to worry about crowds at the moment. With the damaged Cutter, I couldn’t leave anyway. However, staying in the emergency shelter was not a permanent solution. Eventually, supplies would run out or someone would come along. I had to find a way to get out of here. Just how without making an emergency call and giving away my position and existence.
Exhausted, I looked out the window. The Daymar desert appeared like a beautiful framed picture. Majestically, the gas planet Crusader rose above the horizon. However, I could not enjoy the sight. Klescher did not let me go. Memories and fears had me firmly in their grip.
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