A message from an old acquaintance opened up new paths for me.
Dear Zero Sense,
I have become aware of your situation and would like to make you an offer. A room has been reserved for you at the Green Circle on Orison. I would be delighted to welcome you to the Cloud City.
The message appeared completely unexpectedly on a screen on board my White Rabbit. At first I thought someone had hacked into my on-board system. Maybe they had. And if it was, then X had meant well. X was still a mystery, I had never seen him or her before. X, on the other hand, seemed to know me well and had been kind to me so far. So I set off for Orison, the floating city in the clouds of the gas giant Crusader. What could possibly go wrong?
When I entered the room in the Green Circle, a feeling of warmth and security enveloped me. It was clean and inviting. The decor was a harmony of good smelling wood and plants, curves and a dim light. Pink trees and the statue of the space whale – Crusader’s emblem – could be seen through the window.
A sigh of contentment came from deep within me. The wooden panels on the walls swallowed up the sound. Everything was muffled, there was no hustle and bustle, no noise, just relaxation.
On the kitchen counter was an envelope made of red fabric with a black pattern. There was a soft click as I opened the golden clasp. Rustling, I pulled a message out of the envelope.
Dear Zero Sense,
I am pleased that you have arrived in Orison. I am well aware of your difficulties with Hurston Dynamics. At Orison, we have a program to help people leave the past behind. We call it New Beginnings.
It helps them to start again, without the burden of days gone by. The security forces will see them as a righteous person.
What I can’t remove are entries in secret Hurston Dynamics databases. However, I assume that you have already made arrangements to handle this yourself. At least that’s what records from the security systems in Orison suggest.
I would like to encourage you to make a fresh start. Even if the first steps may seem unreasonable. If you want to climb a mountain, you start at the bottom of the valley.
I slowly lowered the paper with the message. Unfocused, I stared out of the window. X was eerie, seemingly omnipresent. Who was this person? And how did she know I wanted to hack Hurston’s servers? Had surveillance cameras recorded me programming the hacking software on a computer in Orison? I had taken off my helmet so that I could see better while programming. That had probably been a bit reckless
I walked around the kitchen counter to the sofa. The black leather creaked as I dropped onto it. The fresh start didn’t feel bad. I would be able to move freely around the Stanton system again. I just had to avoid the planet Hurston until I had deleted my entries in the Hurston Dynamics databases. But what did X mean by the unacceptable first steps? I turned the page with the message. On the back was an address on Orison and a time. I was to report there the next day.
“Great that you want to help us keep Orison a liveable town. Work clothes will be provided. I’ll send you a shift schedule on your Mobiglas.”
I looked at the facility manager with irritation. Her blue suit was immaculate. Casual, but still an expression of high society. She wore a gold pin with the Crusader Industries company logo on her chest. A C crossed from top to bottom by a sword.
I was about to ask her if she was serious and that she could clean up the garbage in her fine suit herself. But then I remembered X’s words.
Even if the first few steps may seem unreasonable. If you want to climb a mountain, you start at the bottom of the valley.
That was probably part of the New Beginnings program. You had to start at the bottom and clear away everyone else’s garbage. What a load of shit. But well, Orison wasn’t Grim Hex. There wouldn’t be that much garbage lying around.
How wrong you could be. It was unbelievable. OK, not as bad as in Grim Hex, but still an outrage. People just carelessly threw their garbage away. Just thrown on the ground, completely inconsiderate. Empty bottles, medpens, packaging. And I had to pick it up and dispose of it. During my shift, I strolled across the platforms of Orison and cleaned up what others had dropped. So much for high society. Citizens, citizens of the UEE, the upper class. That sucks.
On my shift today, I was on duty at the spaceport. I strolled leisurely to the ASOP terminals. Loudspeaker announcements echoed through the terminal. Many people were bustling around. My movements seemed to be in slow motion. I had all the time in the world. In my blue overalls and blue Crusader cap, I felt kind of ridiculous. “What the hell,” I thought to myself. If it helped me to be able to move freely around the Stanton system again, I was fine with it.
I was walking past Whammer’s when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Bottles, empty bottles lying on the floor. It was absolutely outrageous. The bottles were right in front of the garbage can. Stunned, I stood there and looked at the sales clerk behind the counter. He just shrugged his shoulders and turned around. Why weren’t people able to throw their garbage in the garbage can just one meter away? High society was probably too refined for that.
Grumbling, I bent down and started to pick up the bottles. One by one, they ended up in the garbage can.
“You can get a deposit for the bottles at Kel-To.”
The Whammer’s salesman looked down at me from behind his counter. I gave him a grim look. He raised his hands defensively.
“I just wanted to say it. You should know.”
Then he turned around again and busied himself with his burgers.
In the afternoon, after work, I sat on a bench near the whale statue. As much as I was annoyed by people’s carelessness, I was able to relax on Orison. This place radiated so much peace. The gently falling leaves of the trees were blown across the platforms in pink clouds by the wind. The rippling of the water features in front of the statue had a meditative effect.
Actually, it wasn’t so bad. There was a spa and a fitness room. I was able to use both free of charge. In the Voyager Bar, I could sit by the fireplace with a whiskey cola and enjoy the fantastic view. It could have been worse. It was actually a twist of fate. I was able to enjoy Luminalia in a relaxed place and didn’t have to pay for it.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Translated with deepl.com