Crazy things happened while trying to bury the artifact.
“Zero! Where’s the sand cave?”
The message from Brubacker wasn’t like waking up from a nightmare, it was remembering a nightmare. I had already completely forgotten about the insanity with the artifact. Actually, I was going to take care of the derelict Drake Vulture in the junkyard, but I had made a promise. A somewhat exasperated groan escaped from my lungs as I answered Brubacker. In the future, I should be more careful what I promise.
A few hours later, the crew picked me up at Wolf Point Aid Shelter in the Carrack. From the co-pilot’s seat, I directed Husky to the sand cave. That’s where we were going to bury the artifact. It was about time that creepy, doom-bringing thing disappeared deep into the sand.
And the mischief continued right at the entrance to the cave. We stood at the edge of the sand hole and looked down into the depths. The walls of the hole looked like puff pastry. The sand had been compressed into several layers over time.
“How are we going to get down there?”, asked Ella.
Just as I was about to answer, Hermieoth arrived with the box that contained the artifact.
“Did you see the spaceship up there? Was it there when we landed?”
Astonished, I looked up at the edge of the crater where the cave was. Indeed, there stood a space fighter and it was not there just a moment ago. It started again with apparitions and hallucinations.
“Let’s get rid of the box now and get out of here”, Husky said.
We descended and plunged deeper and deeper into a world of bizarre sand formations. It was a beautiful spectacle that nature could accomplish when man did not interfere. In some places, daylight fell in from above and illuminated great halls with enormous columns of pressed sand. The sight fascinated me and gripped me. I almost forgot my fear of caves.
At some point we reached a place where it went into an abyss with no visible floor. We had to climb. The rock, covered with sand, was slippery, which was not without consequences.
Suddenly a scream rang through the cave. Ella had slipped and fallen into the abyss. Husky wanted to rush to her aid and fell right after her. Some sand still trickled into the depth. Then nothing more was to be seen and heard from both.
“Shit! What now?”
Brubacker stood perplexed on the cliff. Hermieoth and I were just as shocked and clueless. There was no way to rescue the two from the depths.
Suddenly there was a crackle on the radio. First Husky called in, then Ella. Both were on the Carrack. How was that possible? Was this another hallucination? In any case, the conversation between the two was not normal, it was completely insane.
“This is my body.”
“No, that’s mine.”
“No! On the bed in the medical bay, that’s definitely my body.”
This went on all the time. Their discussion became more and more absurd. Confused, I looked at Brubacker and Hermieoth.
“Something obviously didn’t go smoothly with the Imprints”, Brubacker tried to explain the situation. “Let’s get out of here before anything else happens.”
Ah yes, that Imprint technology. Ella and Husky had woken up in a new body, or risen, or whatever, in the Carrack’s medical bay after their demise in the cave. I was creeped out by this alien technology.
After Hermieoth buried the box with the artifact in a dark corner of the cave, we went back to the Carrack. On the ramp of the spaceship, we found Husky. It looked like he was trying to pull something down the ramp.
“I need to get my lifeless body off the ship”, he moaned.
But there was nothing there. Husky was alone on the ramp. He was dragging something imaginary around that apparently only he could see. Inside the spaceship, we met Ella. She was staggering around like a ghost, whining over and over:
“I’ve lost everything.”
Hermieoth tried to calm Ella down and Brubacker ran haphazardly through the ship. What kind of madhouse was this? Wasn’t the madness supposed to stop once the artifact was gone? Like a fool, I stood motionless in the corridor outside the mess hall when Brubacker suddenly called out:
“Quick, come here. Husky has shot himself away.”
Inside the mess hall, I found Husky lying on the floor with a medgun in his hand. He had overdosed on medication and was unconscious. Brubacker stood next to him and removed his flight suit. Whatever good that was supposed to be. Now we needed Ella the nurse, not a haphazard hack who was overwhelmed with the position of captain. But Ella was still wandering around the ship like a lunatic. She was no help at all. And I wondered what I had gotten myself into again. Again and again I found myself in situations that were not normal.
In my own desperation, I tried to give Husky an antidote with the medgun. But I couldn’t handle the thing. Somehow it didn’t work. Finally Hermieoth had the saving idea. He brought Husky to the medical bay and activated the automatic system of the operating bed.
“Hermieoth, get behind the wheel, get us out of here! Maybe then the madness will stop”, Brubacker barked in an unusual command tone.
Almost at faster-than-light speed, Hermieoth raced to the bridge and took us into orbit from the moon Daymar. Brubacker and I sat down exhausted in the mess hall. Silently we sat at the table opposite each other. Neither of us knew what to do next. Whether the hallucinations would stop now. One thing, however, was more than clear to me. I could need something strong. Stupidly, there was no whiskey-cola aboard this madhouse.
Brubacker’s perspective (german only): https://sternenwanderer.org/jahr-2953#S8