Information about ENOS was on an encrypted piece of Black Data. We tried to get hold of it.
There it was again. This ENOS. That damn bio-bot technology. Originally intended as a cure, it was developed into the ultimate weapon. A weapon that would further strengthen existing power and weaken the weak even more. And who would suffer the most in the end? The free peoples, who were already oppressed by the UEE and the mega-corporations. I hadn’t heard anything from ENOS for a long time and assumed that the traces had petered out.
Kjeld Stormanson and Thane McMarshall had a new lead. They had tracked down Emyr Thormento’s spaceship. The father of Xedan Thormento, whom we had tried to smuggle away from Microtech. A key figure in all this madness. Kjeld and Thane hoped to find an encrypted Black Data with clues in the ship. My job was to decode the data.
We found the spaceship on the moon Daymar, or what was left of it. Emyr Thormento’s Origin 600i had crashed onto the lunar surface and broken into several pieces. On board we found various clues and the remains of Emyr Thormento, Daston Rim and Ignotus. They were badly battered and their skulls were on display. A reminder not to get too close to the forces behind ENOS.
Ignotus had repeatedly left us hidden clues during our investigations into ENOS. Together with Daston and Emyr, he wanted to expose the shadow coven behind ENOS. They had paid dearly with their lives.
At least we found a clue on board as to who was behind ENOS. An organization called MACH. These were the initials of the four mega-corporations in the Stanton system. Microtech, ArcCorp, Crusader and Hurston Dynamics. MACH was a network of influential people in research, politics and business. They manipulated the Galaxy to suit their own interests. I wasn’t surprised that the mega-corporations were behind all the evil. It sucked with these corporations. Who was left behind in the end? The ordinary people and, above all, the free peoples.
However, we couldn’t find the Black Data. And so we had to leave without the crucial piece of the puzzle. But it wasn’t long before Kjeld got another clue. The people who had the Black Data were looking for someone who could decrypt the data. These people were at a company conference to which Kjeld and Thane were also invited. Kjeld got me a fake identity to get me into the conference. The conference took place on an Origin 890 Jump, a luxury spaceship. I was told to wait in the galley until someone came forward with the code word Foxhole.
Infiltration at an event on an 890 Jump. The thought brought back bad memories. Ever since our infiltration at the Renaissance, Ray Keaton had been after me. I could only hope that the aftermath wouldn’t be as bad this time.
Hermieoth took us aboard the 890 in a Piscis, he worked for the organizer. Kjeld and Thane went straight to the foyer, I made my way to the kitchen. The lower level of the 890 was for the crew. It was kept simple, no luxury like on the upper decks. Nevertheless, it was spotlessly clean. There wasn’t a single stain on the white walls. The floor was so perfectly polished that the lights of the lockers for the spacesuits were reflected in it.
To avoid being recognized, I kept my helmet on. Although I was officially registered under the name Fox Mulder, I tried not to make any noise and remain undetected. I moved slowly and as quietly as possible through the crew quarters. Nevertheless, my boots made a clacking sound with every step. The sound echoed quietly through the empty corridor.
In the sleeping area, the doors to the bunks were open. There was a yellow rucksack in one of them. I couldn’t suppress my curiosity and opened it. To my surprise, I found a pistol and several magazines inside. Weapons were not allowed on board. I looked around furtively. No one was to be seen. In one swift movement, I took the pistol and hid it in the bathroom behind the toilet. Maybe I would still need it.
The kitchen was as clean as the rest of the spaceship. No grease on the stove, no leftover food, not the slightest sign of dirt. The gray metal worktop shone as if it had just been polished and had never been used. I stood in a corner where I could see both doors and the elevator and waited.
Suddenly, the left-hand door opened with a hiss. Someone was standing in the doorway with a bulletproof vest and a gun at the ready. My initial shock quickly evaporated. It was Valentin Benz, whom I had known for some time. He was part of the security service. Just as I was about to identify myself, the door on the right opened. Three more security guards came in. One of them pointed his gun at me. It was Ray Keaton. I almost wet my pants. What the fuck, I was fucked.
“You have no business here! Take off your helmet!”
Ray Keaton, as I knew him. Aggressive, impetuous, rash. Nice words and diplomacy weren’t going to get me anywhere. And I didn’t want that with Ray either. The guy drove me up the wall. Just as rudely as he was, I grumbled back.
“Take your fucking helmet off! I’m here at the behest of Thane McMarshall, Microtech Protection Force. I’m here in the kitchen to make sure the food isn’t poisoned. Check your guest list. Fox Mulder.”
Ray’s hands tightened like a vise. His fingertips turned almost white. He gripped his gun tighter and tighter. It was clear that he was about to do something rash, that he wanted to go for my throat. Had he recognized me? There was a crackling in the air. The crackling of an explosive mixture. One little spark would have been enough to escalate the situation.
One of the security guards looked into his Mobi glass and said:
“It’s true. Fox Mulder is on the guest list. Everything seems to be okay.”
Slowly, almost reluctantly, Ray lowered his gun without taking his piercing gaze from me. Then he turned away and left the kitchen with the other security guards. My tension dropped so abruptly that my knees almost gave way. Breathing heavily, I propped myself up on the worktop. The fact that Ray Keaton was on board was not good. It was a danger to me and the whole mission. I needed someone who could back me up, who I could trust and who could reveal my true identity. I wrote a message to Kjeld.
“Ray Keaton is on board. Send Val or Hermieoth to the kitchen, alone.”
The reply came shortly afterwards.
“Is Val Valentin Benz? He has the Black Data. I’ll try to get to him and send him down.”
Endless minutes of waiting passed. Minutes full of fear that Ray would return and attack me. I paced nervously until the hiss of the door made me flinch.
“Is this the Foxhole?”
It was Valentin. I pushed him into the cold room and closed the door.
“Val, it’s me, Zero.”
“No, I’m going crazy. What are you doing here? I need you to decrypt a Black Data.”
“That’s exactly why I’m here. Do you have it?”
“No. My client Cecilia Abendroth has it.”
The name Abendroth rang a bell. Abendroth was a filthy rich family. I had seen the name Mariette Abendroth on the document that I had deciphered in the scrap metal settlement. She was one of the test subjects in the ENOS project. As far as I knew, Kjeld had been in contact with the Abendroth family to find a missing daughter. Were there any clues on the Black Data that led to Mariette Abendroth? And therefore to ENOS? And what the hell did Valentin have to do with these rich snobs?
“Well then, bring the Black Data here. Otherwise I won’t be able to decode it. Kjeld said it was a constantly changing interval code in XiTo. This is a highly complex Xian programming language that was developed underground in Levski. Decrypting the Black Data can take several weeks.”
“I can’t give you the Black Data. I don’t want to betray Cecilia.”
“I can’t decrypt it any other way. Talk to her. And talk to Kjeld. Maybe he exudes confidence and can persuade her.”
Valentin left the kitchen, leaving me alone with my fears and thoughts. Fears that Ray would come back and attack me. Thoughts about how Cecilia Abendroth had come into possession of the Black Data. Kjeld had suspected she was on board Emyr Thormento’s 600i. How deeply was Cecilia Abendroth involved in the ENOS affair? Was she just trying to find a family member, or was she trying to seize power with ENOS? That would be typical of rich, power-hungry people.
After a long, agonizing wait, Valentin reappeared. Cecilia Abendroth didn’t want to hand over the Black Data or part of the code that would have allowed me to recognize the interval code and prepare the decryption. She wanted to find a suitable place where I could decipher the code in the presence of all interested parties. That was not a rosy prospect. I had no desire to spend several weeks in one place with these rich people. However, I did have a trump card up my sleeve. Hermieoth had already sent me an excerpt from a XiTo code a few days ago. He said that he had met a person who was looking for a code breaker. I was sure that it was an excerpt from Black Data. I was able to prepare for the decryption at my leisure.
I said goodbye to Valentin and secretly left the 890.
The next day I saw a video in the Instaverse that was shot on the 890. Various companies introduced themselves at the company conference. Brubacker was also on board and introduced his editorial team ‘Off The Record’ and ‘Radio Infinity’. Apparently Bru had had too much to drink. He staggered up the stairs, slurring his words and insulting his bosses at Radio Infinity. Laughing out loud, I sent him a message:
“Brubacker for president and more on the G-spot i.e. the science of gravity.”
Translated with deepl.com