Strange things were happening on the moon Daymar.
My life was in ruins. It was held together only by a few strips of tape. Just like the ball I was holding in my hand. Only the tape prevented it from falling apart. And what did the ball do? It smiled. The face on the ball, painted on and taped on, with paint, cardboard and tape, it was grinning.
Did I have a reason to smile? The struggle for survival in Klescher, the escape, the squabbles in the crew, I had left all that behind. Now that I was finally at calm in the emergency shelter, I slowly became aware of my situation. I had lost everything. My spaceship, my money, even a large piece of my confidence was gone. I had escaped the deadly clutches of the mega-corporation Hurston Dynamics, but I could not move freely. Only if my existence remained secret was I safe.
My great hope was the crew project of Brubacker and the Carrack provided for the project by Anvil. With her I wanted to leave the Stanton system and start a new life somewhere else. Or resume my former life in Levski. But the crew was not free either. They were floundering on the short leash of Anvil. Brubacker and the crew were not allowed to leave the Stanton system with the Carrack. The ticket to freedom could not be cashed.
Was freedom an illusion? The free peoples, the people of Stanton, they all believed they lived in freedom. But did they really? The UEE and the megacorporations dominated everything. No one could really do what they wanted. How could I be confident and smile with this realization?
But the ball in my hand was still smiling. Nothing could upset him. Somewhere I had once read:
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
That was my way. I didn’t want to just exist. I wanted to rebel. I wanted to be free. And I wanted to do it right here in the Stanton system. No one was going to tell me what to do.
“Smile and start over”, the ball seemed to want to tell me.
And that’s exactly what I was going to do. Here at the Wolf Point Aid Shelter on Daymar, my old life had ended. And this is where my new life would begin. An independent life of my own it was to be. Free of dependencies. Without obligations.
The first thing I needed was some equipment. I found food in the stocks of the emergency shelter. Only 50 kilometers away was another emergency shelter. There I was going to look for useful things next. With some confidence, I left the building.
On the steps of the exit, the rays of Stanton’s star shone in my face. The power of the rays energized me. Even with my eyes closed, I could feel the brightness. Suddenly, a shadow settled over my face. Something obscured the star. Like a solar eclipse, it became dark and cold. It was the hull of a spaceship. But the spaceship did not fly, it fell uncontrolled from the sky. More parts fell down. It was raining debris.
I flew to the crash site and saw the long olive green fuselage of a MISC Freelancer in the sand. The wings and one engine nacelle had broken off. The hull was perforated with large holes. Just a few feet away lay a black, flat triangular thing. As I got closer, I realized it was an Eclipse stealth bomber. The hull of the wings was missing. The bare skeleton of the interior structure was exposed to Daymar sand.
What had happened? Had the two ships collided? Or had they been shot down? And by whom? Was danger still lurking nearby? And who were they? The ships didn’t look like civilians or traders. Nervously, I looked out the window and at the radar. Actually, I didn’t want to expose myself to any danger and didn’t want to know what had happened. But maybe I could find something usable in the wrecks.
With a loud rumble, the landing gear of my Cutter extended. During the descent the shadow of my spaceship on the moon surface became larger and larger. Sand swirled up when I was only a few feet above the ground. Suddenly, a shrill warning tone sounded. A red light shone in the cockpit. Someone had locked on to me with his radar.
I glanced briefly at the two wrecks to my left and right. Then panic seized me. The engines of the Cutter roared as I pushed the thrust lever forward. An irrepressible force pressed me into the seat and chased the small spaceship in the lowest flight over the sand. Vibrating, the Cutter danced across the dunes, trailing a cloud of sand behind it. Whoever had tuned me in, I could only hope that I would escape him.
Like a whirlwind, I thundered across the desert. After a while, the red light in the cockpit went out. During my flight I saw another wreck lying between the sand dunes. However, this time I did not dare to land. A little later I reached the Dunlow Aid Shelter. But I was not alone.
A Cutlass Black was lying on its back next to the shelter. The front wings were broken off. What the hell was going on here? Why were there debris and wreckage everywhere? After landing, I cautiously looked out the back of the Cutter. There was a person lying in the sand next to the Cutlass. Was she still alive? Since I had no weapons and no armor, I was completely defenseless. Nevertheless, I had to leave my spaceship, at least if I wanted to collect pieces of equipment.
Slowly I approached the figure. It did not move. The closer I got, the stranger the figure looked. The helmet was made of different metal parts. It was copper-colored at the back and gold at the front. Thorns protruded from the helmet. The eye area was covered by a grid. The mouth and nose were pointed. The head of a coati would have found room in the helmet. On the arm of the spacesuit was a skull.
Quite obviously, it was a pirate. But it was not a Nine Tail. I had never seen this outfit before. As I looked at the dead man, my breath suddenly caught. I knew that spacesuit. It was exactly the same kind of space suit Hurston Security had put me in when they had left me out in the desert to die. Why had the Hurston Dynamics henchmen put me in that spacesuit? My thoughts circled. On the potter’s wheel of my imagination, an answer was forming.
Hurston Security had disguised me as a coati pirate and abandoned me at the Scrap Settlement. At the Scrap Settlement, I had found a dead Nine Tail. Were the coati pirates at war with the Nine Tails? Was a war raging on Daymar between two pirate factions? A war would explain all the wrecks. It looked like Hurston Security wanted my death to look like the result of the conflict. That would fit Hurston Dynamics. They would have disposed of me without having to take responsibility for it.
Or was it all bullshit and the wrecks were the result of a large-scale cleanup on Daymar? Were they bounty hunters massively targeting anything that didn’t conform to the megacorporate line? Bounty hunters, pirates, it didn’t matter who shot down rows and rows of spaceships. The moon Daymar was a dangerous place. And I couldn’t leave with my malfunctioning Quantum drive.
An explosion snapped me out of my thoughts. A spaceship turned into a fireball in the sky. Debris rained down. One thing was certain in any case. I had to be extremely careful and equip myself better. After taking the pirate’s chest armor, I went to the emergency shelter. The whole situation didn’t make me feel confident.
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