To get information, I tried to get weapons for a gun store. Not only the weapons were dangerous. The operation threatened to become a disaster.
“The Rhino Laser Repeaters arrived well in Grim Hex after all.”
The woman’s voice penetrated my consciousness, first quietly, then more and more clearly. Slowly, like a hangar door, my eyelids opened. Faint, shimmering reddish light hit my retinas, forming a blurry image of my surroundings. Only when I massaged my eyes with my palms did my vision come into focus. Like a crooked sack, I found myself half lying, half sitting on a red sofa surrounded by empty Schmolz brand beer bottles. Next to me sat a woman I didn’t know. Groaning, I straightened up.
“Who has arrived?”
“The Rhino Laser Repeater from the cargo hold of the stranded Hercules. Thanks to the drugs you brought, we were able to arrange a quick recovery of the weapons before the tow truck took the Hercules.”
Piece by piece, the puzzle pieces of my memory fell into place. Together with Brubacker and Hermieoth, I had salvaged a Hammerhead. But our Hercules-type transport ship did not arrive in Grim Hex with the salvaged Laser Repeaters. Therefore, I was empty-handed, with no information about the whereabouts of my White Rabbit, which I was to receive in exchange for the weapons. After the failure, Brubacker, Hermieoth and I had had a few beers on the racing and betting floor of Grim Hex. The last beer had to have been bad. I found myself in a rather hungover state still at the site of our bender.
“And who are you?”
“My name is Diana Vess. I do a few things. Among other things, I cooperate with Scutter. I place orders to organize weapons that Scutter then gets for resale in his store.”
As hard as it was for me to think, one thing was immediately obvious. Suddenly I was wide awake.
“Wait a minute. If Scutter got the Laser Repeaters from the Hammerhead, then surely I should get the information he promised me. I get the impression you also know how used weapons or ship components get to Grim Hex and are hawked here.”
“Sure I know that. But why should I tell you that the first time we meet? Show me what kind of scavanger you are first. If you do a good job, then we can do business.”
Tired, I slumped into the back of the sofa. Everyone knew something. But every piece of information had a price. With Diana, I seemed to be getting nowhere. The key was Scutter. However, he would make the point that he hadn’t gotten the Laser Repeaters from me, so I wouldn’t get any information from him. But I was pretty sure what he wanted and I knew exactly where to get goods for his store. It was going to be hell if I didn’t do business with Scutter. If I should not get the information from him after all.
After my escape from Klescher, I had built up a stockpile of armor and handguns that I had collected from various places over the time. Rare pieces that could not be purchased on the open market were also among them. I stood in Scutter’s store and offered him goods from my stockpile. My voice almost exploded.
“Are you kidding me? Seventeen credits for an Arrowhead sniper rifle? Seven for a Custodian SMG? And you won’t give me any money at all for the armor?”
“Hey don’t bust my balls. Take it or leave it. Demand determines the price. Demand is for P4 rifles.”
Annoyed, I left Scutter’s store without selling him anything. I wasn’t going to do business with him that easily after all. A little later I landed in a hollow on the night side of the moon Daymar. For quite a while I stood in the cockpit and watched the gas giant Crusader rising behind a mountain. I had to find a way to get Scutter to talk. The P4 rifles should do the trick. However, I would need more than one P4. A lot more than one. But where was I going to get them? Crusader strove up to the many small points of light in the firmament. He did not bring me any enlightenment. I went to sleep for the time being.
The distant view from the dune was gigantic. The Daymar desert lay quietly at my feet. Only isolated dunes rose from the flat plain that stretched to the horizon. In the last few days, I had roamed the moon of Daymar, looking for goods that might be of value to Scutter. Here and there I found armor, weapons, and containers from crashed starships, but no P4 rifles. The P4 was one of the Nine Tails’ favorite weapons. That’s why Scutter was good at selling them on Grim Hex. I had an idea where I could get some. But I wasn’t sure my plan was a good idea. For minutes I stood on the dune looking into the distance, letting my mind wander and trying to come to a decision. Finally, I returned to my Vulture. On board the spaceship, I exchanged a glance with Rudi the ball. He didn’t seem to think much of my idea either. But I saw no alternative. I had to take the risk if I wanted to make Scutter talkative.
A short time later I landed at the derelict settlement, which I had visited several times before. From the elevated position of the plateau, I looked through the scope at the settlement down in the valley. My guess was correct. Nine Tails patrolled among the remains of the derelict buildings. I lowered the sniper rifle and took a deep breath. Did I really want to do this? Two voices argued in my head. Then I pushed the doubts aside, put the rifle on, and fired.
The closer I got to the derelict buildings in the valley, the more clearly the rattle of a generator could be heard. I could only hope that the Nine Tails were equipped with P4 rifles and that I had gotten them all. If I ran into one alive, I would have been pretty helpless. Instead of a gun, I was holding a multitool. Floating in front of me was a 1 SCU container held by the tractor beam of my multitool. The container danced through the air as I stumbled over ruined walls.
Far too carelessly, I approached an improvised storage facility between wall remnants. Among crates, metal plates, and gas containers lay several motionless Nine Tails. The wind blew a thin blanket of sand over their bodies. After setting my container down, I began to search. The first Nine Tail had a shotgun. That was not what I was looking for. I turned the second Nine Tail over. Underneath him was a P4 rifle. The third Nine Tail also had a P4. Finally, I found a whole stockpile of P4 rifles under a metal plate. Jackpot! There were 10 rifles in all. Euphoric, I began packing the guns into my container. In the process, I had to walk back and forth several times and step over one of the Nine Tails. I couldn’t imagine that this bothered him. He had probably long since regenerated in a new body somewhere.
With the last two weapons, I climbed over the Nine Tail again when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my foot. A loud pain-distorted scream rumbled through my helmet. A knife was stuck in my boot. The Nine Tail beneath me moved. Then I could no longer hold my own weight. Like a jackhammer, my knee slammed into the Nine Tail’s belly. He acknowledged it with a short groan. Kneeling, I tried to reach the P4 hanging from my backpack. The Nine Tail turned to the side. My hand reached into nothing. The Nine Tail’s rotation pushed my knee to the side, throwing my upper body off balance. I hit the sandy ground hard. Lying on my back, I finally reached the P4 and shot between my knees. The Nine Tail stopped moving.
Groaning, I slowly got back to my feet. What a fuck up. The knife was still stuck in my boot. Limping, I finally reached my Vulture. After stowing the container with the P4 rifles, I flew to Grim Hex.
I was surprised, Scutter gave me 1100 credits per rifle. But the money was not important to me, I wanted information. For once, Scutter’s mood didn’t seem annoyed. I tried.
“So how’s it going here with the used stuff that belonged to someone else before?”
Scutter seemed chatty.
“They’re going into my network. Shit’s going real good. Handguns and armor I sell right in my store. Ship weapons and ship components are sold through Dumpers Depot.”
“So how does this stuff get here?”, I pecked.
“When I need certain crappy weapons, or someone has a crappy order I can’t service, I let Diana Vess know. She’ll send some idiots out to get the stuff. She only does it in weapons, though.”
“And ship components?”
“The crap is rarely traded. Weapons are the good stuff.”
Was he not going to tell me about the shield generator from my White Rabbit, or did he really not know anything. I didn’t let up.
“And can you tell me where the Aspis shield generator came from that’s been at Dumper’s depot lately?”
“Hey you moron. We’re in Grim Hex. No questions asked here. Somebody comes in, has something to sell, I pay and don’t ask. That’s the way it works here. Be glad I don’t ask where you got the P4 rifles. Could lead to trouble with the Nine Tails, couldn’t it?”
With my head hanging, I left Scutter’s store. Now I knew about Scutter’s so-called second-hand market, but that didn’t get me any closer to finding my White Rabbit. Someone in Grim Hex had to have observed something or know something. But who?