The spaceship and crew had reached a low point. We were not able to restart just like so.
Not only was the Carrack down, so was the mood on board. Again, the rover moved away from the ship. This time it was not the janitor, but Husky who made off. The squabbles of the crew were getting on my nerves. I longed for peace and quiet. Would it be better to live as a hermit in the desert? Should I also make myself out of the dust? To leave the moon with the Carrack was not possible in any case. Not until we had spare parts to repair the damage to the ship.
Brubacker stormed onto the bridge.
“Husky, where are you going? Don’t make this any worse than it already is. Please come back.”
“No, you’ve had your chance.”
A short crackle, then there was silence on the radio. The rover disappeared into the horizon.
Brubacker turned to the janitor.
“Mr. Aruhso, do you think you might be able to get the ship started after all?”
“I’ll do my best.”
It took a while, then the Carrack lifted off ponderously. It swayed back and forth, almost tipping to one side. Nausea spread through my stomach.
“I can’t really get her aloft. It would be better if we repaired the damage to the ship first”, the janitor reported from the pilot’s seat.
“Maybe you want me to get out and push?” Gradually, the prone spaceship was getting on my nerves. Quite a piece of junk Brubacker had gotten from Anvil.
Very slowly we flew low over the sands of Daymar. First the sand surface was flat like a lake, then deep canyons spread out below us. There was no sign of the rover far and wide. As if the search was not hard enough, Stanton’s star sank behind the horizon. Visibility was getting worse and worse.
“Over there”, Ella suddenly called out.
In the distance, the wreckage of a Caterpillar could be seen on a plateau.
“Maybe we can find spare parts there.”
“I can’t make it across the canyon. We’re going down, ,the janitor pressed out strained.
Unexpectedly, the Carrack landed gently on a plateau. The engines fell silent. We were only a few hundred meters from the wreckage of the Caterpillar. However, a deep canyon lay between us and the wreckage. The spare parts we had hoped for were out of reach.
Brubacker left the ship. The madman actually tried to get to the Caterpillar on foot. It was a complete mystery to me how he was going to get down the steep slopes of the canyon and back up again. All appeals to come back he ignored.
“The flight control board is burned out. We need a replacement. We can’t get anywhere without it”, Mr. Aruhso stated dry as a bone.
“The Caterpillar has a server room. We might find something suitable there.” I had been aboard a Caterpillar many times before and knew exactly where to look. All we had to do was reach the wreckage.
To my surprise, the janitor managed to get the Carrack airborne after all. Meanwhile, the wreckage of the Caterpillar was barely visible in the darkness. Cautiously, we approached the remains of the transport ship. In the light of the headlights, the shattered metal parts peeled out of the blackness of the night. The Caterpillar had broken into several pieces. When it crashed, it had torn a deep furrow in the sand.
Although fears and worries had a firm grip on me, I took the initiative.
“OK, I know where to find a circuit board. However, I’d be fine if someone went with me and had my back.”
“I’ll go with you Zero.” Ella’s soft voice acted like a sedative.
The Carrack’s headlights bathed the Caterpillar in an eerie play of light and shadow. Metal struts rose finger-like, piercing the glow of the light. Like a beached whale, the broken hull lay lifeless in the sand. We had no idea what would await us in the wreck. Nevertheless, an unexpected sense of security propelled me forward. It felt good to have a task, to see a clear goal. Determined, I walked with Ella toward the rear of the Caterpillar. Nothing could divert me from my path. I thought.
When we reached the wreckage, I stopped abruptly. Boxes were scattered everywhere in the sand. Parts of the cargo had fallen out of the cargo module. They were not large cargo containers, but small boxes that I could carry. That I had to carry.
“Look at the boxes. All over the place. We’ll take those with us.”
“Zero. We have a job to do. Leave the boxes.”
I heard Ella’s voice distantly. As if under a spell, I walked to the boxes.
“There’s a box of contraband. I bet it’s worth a shitload.”
“Zero. Don’t do that!”
Ella’s voice was still gentle, but very firm anyway. She hit me like a light slap in the face. A slap that brought me back from my delusion.
“OK. But I’ll take the one box of contraband.”
Ella was right. We had a job to do. The crew was relying on us. My newfound sense of purpose returned. But at the entrance to the stern of the wreck, my courage left me. A black hole led into the hull of the Caterpillar. No light was inside. Nothing but blackness. On my body I wore only a simple spacesuit. No armor, no weapon. I felt naked and defenseless. Uncertainly, I looked at Ella, who had armor and a weapon.
Without hesitation, Ella led the way. Where did she get such courage? By the light of her helmet lamp, we found the server room. Just as I had removed the circuit board, we heard gunshots. The janitor called in from the carrack.
“There are two spaceships fighting a little ways away. Nothing to do with us. Come back quick anyway.”
Then another voice was heard on the radio.
“Hurry up people. I’m running out of breath here.”
It was Brubacker. He was stuck in the canyon with oxygen deprivation. It was obvious he wasn’t going to make it through the canyon. Now we had another emergency.
As fast as we could, we ran back to the Carrack and changed the circuit board. Brubacker’s cries for help were getting more and more pitiful. Time was running out. Finally, the Carrack floated down into the canyon. Brubacker was more unconscious than alive. Ella tried in vain to revive him with the medgun. With combined efforts, we finally managed to drag him to the medbay.
A few hours later, Brubacker was back on his feet. The Carrack had also been repaired. We were able to resume the search for Husky. But how were we going to find a small rover in the vastness of the desert? Husky could be anywhere else. The scanners did not pick up anything either. Aimlessly, we flew through the night. The canyons didn’t make the search any easier.
After what seemed like an eternity, we heard a faint voice on the radio.
“Hey guys. I see you. You need to keep going left.”
“Husky is that you? You don’t sound well.”
“I’m not well either.”
Shortly thereafter, we took Husky and the rover aboard. We were complete again and the ship was made fit with the spare parts. We were ready to start our journey. I only hoped that peace would now come aboard.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)