Log #217 – Dead end

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I followed the tracks of the settlers from the Moreland Hills. But we blocked our own path.

“You’re looking for what, please? Letters?” I stared at Brubacker in disbelief.

“Yes. Aruhso is blackmailing me. He wants me to canvass all the settlements on the planet Hurston. He wants me to collect letters and pieces of equipment there.”

Aruhso, the annoying guy we had as janitor on board the Carrack during the crew project. It turned out that he was behind the project and the events. All just to have a laugh and lead a few idiots around by the nose. And now he seemed to want to have another joke. Husky was also anything but enthusiastic. He sat on the floor, at a loss for words.

Shaking my head, I turned my gaze away from Brubacker and looked out of the cockpit window again. We were flying towards a bay with a rusty brown oil platform in the middle. I didn’t feel like playing Aruhso’s games at all. But for one thing, I didn’t want to let Brubacker down and for another, we had a common path. He was looking for letters in this place, I was following the trail of Jeff Goldstein and the fugitives from the Moreland Hills. A jolt went through the spaceship. Hermieoth had landed on an open area of the oil platform.

When I disembarked, a post-apocalyptic scene revealed itself to me. Pale light fell from a sky covered in brown clouds onto the old, dilapidated oil platform. The floor consisted of individual rusty and bent metal plates. In some places you could see the water under the oil platform through holes in the floor. In the middle of the platform were several buildings and two high towers with steel cables stretched between them. A large, black, smoking flame was blazing from a thick pipe that protruded diagonally into the air.

The apocalyptic atmosphere was intensified by the absence of people. We saw no one. No reception committee approached us. So I walked straight to the buildings. After a few steps, I reached a covered area. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then I saw them in the shade of the canopy. Some in civilian clothes, others in armor and armed.

I took a step to the side into the shelter of a cargo crate and hesitated. The atmosphere was tense. The wind blew through the facility, metal creaked and windmills squeaked. But nothing happened. There was no aggression from the residents. I cautiously broke away from my cover and spoke to one of the residents. The answer was a grumpy growl.

As no one wanted to talk to me, I began to search the rig. No one seemed to mind. Maybe it was because they thought I was one of their own. Was it because of the armor I was wearing? I had found it in another junk settlement and it matched the armor of the inhabitants here. At some point I found entries on a laptop about arms deals with Jeff Goldstein. So Jeff had actually been here. But I found no reference to the refugees from the Moreland Hills. But something else. The inhabitants of the oil platform weren’t just any scrap metal collectors. They belonged to the Dusters. A gang of criminals.

Thoughtfully, I climbed onto the pipe from which the smoking flame was shooting. When I reached the end, I was struck by an enormous heat. I held my hand protectively to my face. What did it all mean? It was no surprise that the Dusters were doing business with an illegal arms dealer like Jeff Goldstein. But what did the peaceful residents of Moreland Hills have to do with this gang? Richard had broken away from the group and gone his own way as an arms dealer. Was this the price Jeff Goldstein had paid for bringing them to Microtech?

My thoughts were interrupted by Brubacker’s voice on the radio.

“I’ve found an O.”

“Good, then we can fly to the farm on the other side of the island now,” I replied impatiently.

I made my way back to the landing site. Just before I reached our spaceship, I heard shots from a Gatling. I looked at Husky, who was standing next to me. We both ran off in the direction the shots were coming from.

After a short sprint, we were back at the buildings. We found Hermieoth lying on the ground, shot, right next to a sandbagged sentry armed with a Gatling gun. Brubacker stood by in horror. One of the inhabitants of the oil rig was just leaving.

An argument broke out between Hermieoth and Brubacker. Despite Hermieoth’s warning, Brubacker had been shooting around with the Gatling. One of the Dusters wanted to put an end to it. Unfortunately, he hit Hermieoth instead of Brubacker. The mood between the two was in the cellar.

My patience was also wearing thin. “Come on, we’re flying over to the farm now. I’m flying.”

During the flight to the farm, I noticed a tower in the middle of the island. I landed and the group split up. While Brubacker, Husky and Hermieoth continued on foot, I flew to the settlement in the spaceship. Weeping Cove was similar to Moreland Hills, only bigger. In the center of the settlement were the buildings, from which the plantations ran away like the spokes of a wheel. I was just about to land when I saw lights in the corner of my eye.

About a kilometer away, a tower and a building could be seen further down in a bay. I changed course and as I flew over I could see that the building had ‘BAR’ written on it in big pink letters. What had Jeff Goldstein written in his diary? The residents had become talkative over a cozy beer? This had to be the place where Jeff and Richard had met. The place where the settlers from the Moreland Hills lived before they came to Microtech. I was on the right track. I was sure I could find out where the settlers originally came from and why they were persecuted on Hurston. I extended the landing gear and landed the spaceship behind the bar.

The bar was well frequented. This time I wanted to take things a little slower and not bombard people with questions straight away. I took a bottle of beer from a metal bucket with ice cubes. It fizzed when I opened the bottle. I looked around, raised the bottle in greeting to the other guests and drank it down in one go. Then I took a second bottle and drank that in one go too. Suddenly my head felt a little spongy. When I took another bottle from the bucket, I realized that my hand-eye coordination was impaired. Anyway, if I wanted information, I had to drink with the residents. I was just about to mingle when Hermieoth, Brubacker and Husky walked in.

Together we made a raid on the beer supplies. We started throwing the empty beer bottles into a bucket in a corner. After a few bottles, Husky escalated. He took his med-gun, waved it around and then injected himself with some kind of medication. Some of the guests took cover behind tables and stools. Husky seemed to provoke this. He was practically shouting at the guests.

“Hey, what’s wrong with you? Never seen a med-gun before? It’s harmless. This is what a gun looks like.”

Husky suddenly pulled out his pistol and shot several times in the air. Most of the guests ran out of the bar, screaming. The few who were still there took cover or threw themselves on the floor.

“Great,” I thought. We couldn’t build up any trust with the residents like this. Annoyed, I grabbed the next bottle of beer and another and another and another. It didn’t take long for my knees to buckle. Staggering, I walked towards a red sofa. But I missed it and landed lengthways on the floor next to it. Right next to the blue bucket into which we had thrown the empty beer bottles. I groaned once more, then my eyelids fell shut.

I had no idea how long I had been lying there. When I woke up again, the bar was as good as empty. Husky, Brubacker and Hermieoth were gone. The few guests who were still there looked at me disparagingly and didn’t want to talk to me. There went my trail to the origins of the settlers from the Moreland Hills.

As if out of spite, I grabbed a bottle of beer, left the bar and walked to the jetty that led out onto the water. At the end of the jetty, I slumped heavily into a rickety white plastic chair. The jetty was over, my search was over, I was literally at a dead end. Or were there other settlements where I could get information? At the moment, however, there was nothing I could do but wait for someone to pick me up. As I listened to the sound of the waves, the sky slowly brightened. The clouds changed color from black-grey to red-brown.

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