A special computer core caught my attention. But to learn more, I had to complete a dubious mission.
Finally I had them. The ten canisters of RMC to pay for the spare part for my Quantum drive. In the main building of the scrap yard on the moon Daymar, I handed them over to the scrap guard. Outside the window, the wind was swirling the sand around among the scrap parts. The junkyard guy didn’t hesitate long. He unerringly reached into the shelf and took out the needed part. But there was something else on the shelf that I was burning for. I had already noticed it during my last visit.
“What’s that computer core sitting there on the shelf?”
I knew exactly what kind of computer it was. It was a crypto high-performance processor. Ideal for hacking into other people’s systems and decrypting encrypted data. It was an extremely rare computer system. I had had such a computer in the past. It was installed in….. Wistfulness gripped me.
The junk guy’s voice snapped me out of my memories.
“You had already shown interest last time. This is a real marvel device.”
“Where did you get it?” Impatience rose in me. I had to know if this computer was what I thought it was.
“Someone came by with a Mercury Star Runner, not long ago at all. He…..,” the junk man hesitated. “Wait a minute. I get the impression you’re more interested in the provenance than the device itself.”
Damn it. Couldn’t the guy just say what he knew?
“I’ll make you a deal,” the junkman continued flippantly. “You get me something. Just a couple of boxes, nothing dramatic. Then I’ll tell you everything I know about the computer.”
Annoyed, I rolled my eyes. “OK. Where are the boxes?”
“In orbit around the moon, Yela. First fix your quantum drive. You’ll need it. As soon as I have the exact coordinates, I’ll let you know.”
Just as I had repaired the quantum drive, I heard the heavy footsteps of the junk guy in the sand. Hastily he came running.
A little out of breath, he gasped, “You have to go. Now!”
Emphatically unimpressed by his haste, I replied, “Hold on. I still have to screw the service door shut.”
“No time. Security will be at the wreck in 30 minutes. You have to recover the cargo before then. Here are the coordinates.”
What the hell? Security forces? What was this guy talking about? I thought it was a simple transport job. Suddenly, I was filled with adrenaline. The service door was still hanging halfway down when I disappeared into the cockpit and took off.
I was only a few kilometers from the scrap yard when a dot appeared on my radar. Flying low, I tried to avoid detection. To the left and right, the sand dunes rushed past the cockpit window. But the dot was getting closer, getting closer fast. Then there was a crackle on the radio. Amid the static of atmospheric disturbances, a sinister voice could be heard.
“I am authorized to scan your vehicle. Stop!”
I didn’t know whether to be relieved or horrified. The good thing was, it wasn’t a pirate or a bounty hunter. The bad was, it was Crusader Security. That was still better than Hurston Security, yet my existence could now be exposed. The seconds passed like hours. Not a breath had I taken until it crackled again on the radio.
“OK. Seems all is well. You can go ahead and fly.”
Explosively, all the pent-up air came out of my lungs. Once again, I was lucky.
Ten minutes later I reached the coordinates in the asteroid belt from the moon Yela. The long streaks of stars in the Quantum Tunnel gave way to a sea of asteroids. As soon as I was out of the Quantum Tunnel, a contact appeared on the radar. This had to be my target. Cautiously I flew towards it. Visibility was extremely poor. It was pitch dark on the side of the moon away from Stanton’s star. The asteroids were only shadows in the blackness of space.
When I had to be only a few feet from my destination, my hand slid across the dashboard and flipped the switch for the exterior headlights. It took a second, then the bright headlights flickered on. A Freelancer Max appeared in the glow. A transport ship that was in poor condition. The paint had partially peeled off the hull. The orange outer skin was riddled with dark spots.
A quick glance at the clock told me I had 15 minutes until the security forces would show up. If they didn’t come sooner. What secret was this spaceship hiding? And why was the guy from the junkyard interested in the cargo?
I got the answer only a short time later. In the cargo hold of the Freelancer I found several containers with drugs. And a container with some eggs. I had no idea what this stuff was. But my instinct told me it was valuable. And possibly as illegal as the drugs. Now it was clear why I had to recover the cargo before security arrived.
Only with difficulty could I suppress my urge to search the cockpit for clues as to what had happened to the ship. Time was running out. I hurriedly brought the crates into the cargo hold of my little Cutter with the tractor beam. The whole operation took only five minutes. Then I disappeared again in the darkness between the asteroids. A rusty, empty transport ship remained behind.
A little later I reached the moon Daymar. Quickly I dived down into the thin atmosphere. Relaxed, I enjoyed the view of the great desert. My thoughts circled around the computer core. If my guess was correct, the computer core would be a trail. A lead into the past. During the flight to the junkyard, I suddenly remembered the security control on my departure. Heck, if I got caught in a security check with my cargo, I’d be screwed.
Nervousness displaced my relaxation. Anxiously, I looked at the radar. So far there was no contact to be seen. More unconsciously than intentionally, I pushed the thrust lever further and further forward. My subconscious wanted to be at the junkyard as soon as possible and get rid of the load. The sand structures of the desert flew past the cockpit window faster and faster.
Without incident, I finally reached the scrap yard. But there was no sign of the scrap guard. Where was he? Had the security force that had checked on me gone to the junkyard and arrested him? Restlessly, I looked around to see if anyone was lurking behind the scrap metal. Everything seemed quiet. Only the windmill squeaked softly in the wind.
In the main building I found a message from the scrap guard. I was to unload the boxes and check them in at the terminal. As soon as I entered the load in the terminal, a message appeared on the screen.
The computer core supplier came with a Mercury Star Runner from Whistlers Crypt. This is a small, unmarked settlement on Daymer. If you want to get there, attached are directions. But be warned. The inhabitants don’t react very friendly to visitors. He definitely wanted to get rid of the computer. The thing was probably too hot for him. Where he flew on to, I don’t know, but he seemed to have more stuff he wanted to sell. If you want to find him, follow the junk.
Follow the junk. That guy was funny. These junk guys weren’t exactly open-minded. You had to be one of them to get information. And information about the Mercury Star Runner and the origin of the computer core was what I needed. More and more my suspicions were confirmed that this computer core was from my White Rabbit. The computer was too special to sell on the open market. Probably that’s why the guy had sold it to a junkyard that didn’t ask questions. I had to find out more.
Follow the scrap. Otherwise, we were told to follow the money. Scrap is a valuable resource, the scrap guard had said at our first meeting. I had to delve deeper into the scrap scene to learn more. Somehow, I had to belong. Only how? My gaze wandered thoughtfully over the junkyard. Then I saw derelict Drake Vulture standing among the rubble. The Vulture was a small salvage ship. It could recycle scrap from wrecks. An idea came to me.