Log #212 – The white knight

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I wanted to quit my job as a courier at Crusader Industries. But then I found out something surprising.

I was back in Orison. Back from another shift as a special courier for Crusader Industries. Employment at Crusader Industries was a regular life. And that was exactly my problem. Fixed structures, duty rosters and set deadlines didn’t fit in with my idea of a free and self-determined life. Yes, I had days off, even special leave, during which I could take care of ENOS and other matters. Nevertheless, I had to get out of this corset and into the sea of stars through which I could let myself drift. The time was ripe. I had cleared my files in the Hurston Dynamics database and I had built up a good reputation through my work for Crusader Industries. I could move around the Stanton system freely and carefree again. Nothing was keeping me here anymore. On the contrary. I couldn’t get the settlement in the Moreland Hills and its free inhabitants out of my mind. I was drawn to it like a magnet.

I had been standing in front of the door labeled “Head of Research, Development and Logistics” for several minutes. For some inexplicable reason, I hesitated. Finally, I gave myself a jolt. My knock on the door echoed dully through the corridor.

“Come in.”

The manager was sitting behind his desk as usual in his crumpled blue shirt and loose-fitting tie. The framed pictures of Crusader Industries’ ships hung behind him like proud trophies. My gaze lingered on the picture with the graffiti on it. Now I remembered where I had seen this graffiti before. It was the same stylized crow that was emblazoned on the wall of Cousin’s Crows on the Providence platform.

“Zero, welcome. What can I do for you?”

I puzzled a little.

“Well, me. Well, I mean. What I want to say…..”

“It’s time for you to leave. To go back out into the wild.”

“Uh yeah. How did you know that?”

“X was expecting it. We were surprised that you lasted this long with us.”

Puzzled, I looked at the manager. X had invited me to Orison to take part in the New Beginnings program. Nevertheless, I was surprised that the manager mentioned X.

“You know X?”

“Not personally. X started the New Beginnings program. He always brings people into the program. And people with special talents and attitudes then come to me in Research, Development and Logistics. It’s no coincidence that you’ve risen from waste collector to special courier in such a short space of time.”

My thoughts were racing so fast that my ears were ringing. I didn’t know how to categorize it all. The look on my face must have reflected the many question marks in my head.

“Let me explain. As you will have read on the information boards in Orison, August Dunlow, the founder of Crusader Industries, built the company on the principle that a business really thrives when it gives something back to society. The well-being of the people was important to him.”

Yes, I had read that and wondered. How did an anti-Messer activist manage to build a thriving business? And how did his social attitude fit in with the behavior of the megacorporations?

“You’re probably thinking that these are just empty words. In fact, we continue to live the spirit of Dunlow. Unfortunately, we can’t openly do what we want to do and actually do. It could jeopardize our economic and political position, the power structure between the four mega-corporations and the stability of the Stanton system. That’s why we operate more in secret. Just like the shadow circles in Stanton. The dark forces that have more than questionable goals and procedures. In line with Dunlow, we want to form an antithesis to them. Not quite officially, but emphatically. X is a key figure in this.”

The noise in my ears got louder and louder. I stared at him in disbelief.

“And you’re telling me now that Crusader Industries is the white knight?”

“We are not alone. There are more forces in the Stanton system dedicated to doing good than you realize. Even at Hurston Dynamics.”

My eyes narrowed to a slit. Critically, I looked at him.

“I know that you have had bad experiences with Hurston Dynamics. But even in the Hurston family there were and are people who are committed to a good cause. If you are ever in Lorville again, take a look at the statue in the hospital ‘Maria Pure of Heart’. That is Maria Hurston. She was committed to the welfare of the workers. The hospital was named after her. And there are still influential people who continue this work in secret. We are working with them. I will send you a dossier on the background to the hospital. Then you can form your own opinion.”

This flood of new information almost overwhelmed me. It shook the foundations of my experience in the Stanton system. Overwhelmed, I dropped into the visitor’s chair in front of the desk.

“OK, so you have some kind of secret club of benefactors. And what does that have to do with me?”

“You see, the Research and Development department has the advantage of being able to do things in secret on the grounds of protecting company secrets. And because we also have logistics in our unit, we can make deliveries that are covered by company secrets. So we can help people who need help without being officially involved and vulnerable. Even people outside the Stanton system. However, there are limits to this. We cannot do our work without the support of independent people. People who obviously have their own agenda, but who work with us in secret.”

Outside the window, one of the gigantic container barges flew past. The sight of it suddenly clicked in my head. The illegal ore export from Stanton was going through Crusader at the time. I was given the name of a contact in Orison at a refinery. I always thought it was the activists who were organizing it. Could it be that the activists were secretly supported by Crusader Industries or were even working for this good-will club?

“And now you need someone like me to do the dirty work for you.”

“I wouldn’t call it dirty work. But yes. We need talented people like you who are convinced of the good cause. X brought you into the program and into my department to give you an official Crusader Industries resume and then get you involved in our cause. Officially, you are now assigned to special tasks. Don’t worry, you are no longer on shift and can do your own thing. Your employment with Crusader Industries is just a front. To keep up appearances, you still have an apartment in Orison and occasionally receive an official assignment from us. You will receive the really helpful assignments unofficially. So you’ll be leading a kind of double life.”

I grinned quietly to myself. If only the manager knew that I was already leading a double life. The one for Crusader Industries and my own as a hacker, investigator, smuggler and I don’t know what else. But maybe he knew that too. Anyway, I was leading a triple life. At least as long as it wasn’t to my disadvantage. At the moment, I only saw advantages. I could do my own thing, help the oppressed people and free peoples, and I had a safe haven in Orison.


In the evening, I sat in my apartment and read through the dossier on Maria Hurston. I was fascinated that there were disputes within the Hurston family. On the other hand, somehow not surprising with such power-hungry corporations. But even more fascinating was Maria’s courage and commitment.

There was something else attached to the dossier. An open letter from Anden Arden, the CEO of Drake Interplanetary.

He wanted to reconnect the Drake brand with the hard-working people who really kept the empire going. He even went so far as to stop attending meetings with shareholders and other CEOs. He was critical of the UEE, accusing it of hubris and complacency. Politicians would not listen to the people they represented. He would do things differently with his Drake brand. That almost sounded like a declaration of war. Almost like a second August Dunlow. Was he serious, or did he just want a better image for Drake?

Either way. I didn’t care at the moment. It was time for my departure into the stars, into my self-determined life. I stood at the door for a while and looked into my apartment. Through the window, I could see the focused white beam of the spotlight on the whale statue moving slowly through the night. The light in the apartment dimmed until only the ambient lighting gave off an indirect glow. It was time, the stars were waiting. With a soft sigh, I turned around and left.