When I arrived at Smoot Station, everything went smoothly – no wonder, it is the best station with high-tech gear in a hundred light years or more. For a bit of cash I had my Cobra repaired and outfitted for combat. I even bought some extra straps to hold my science fiction collection when I recover it. It was time to head back and find me a piece of Cheese.
It was only 4 jumps back to HIP 5700, but some paper ship (Eagle with a pirate in it) tried to interdict me. Not a good idea. I guess he’ll have a lot of time to think about it in an escape pod. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. Jump, scoop some fuel, rinse and repeat.
As I finally reached the target system I changed my course to Bracewell Port. Only two thousand light seconds to go. I didn’t even use a longer, but safer route to the station. Yeah, I could get a little cocky while sitting in this beast. Nobody dared to interdict me now. After a few minutes of a smooth flight to the station I asked for landing clearance and quickly touched down on landing pad 34.
It was time to blend in and do some detective work. First order of business was to visit the market and figure out what bars were worth a visit. The huge hall was full of cargo containers with all sorts of goods and people shouting at each other to get better deals – often unsuccessful. Here and there I saw small auctions with rare goods and a few groups of people who looked like the sort you’d hire to “persuade” someone to do something they really would like to avoid. They were exactly the sort of people I needed right now.
I wasn’t very experienced with those sort of people, but I knew very well that confidence is key (fake it till you make it, right?) and I had to have a plan. I knew these people would back stab me at the first opportunity, so I had to be careful. I approached two guys that had the look they knew a lot more about the station than they would admit to the authorities. I casually introduced myself as Commander Han Solo (I just love fake names). The only thing I wanted to know was where to get a proper drink and a bit of fun at the side. Refuge d’Aphrodite was the place (To quote one of the guys: “Best Indi bourbon in the sector and if you ask for Melina, you’ll have a very good time.”).
I knew that from that moment on I was marked. And after I left it would take them less than 5 minutes to let their peers know I was coming. Unfortunately for them, I wasn’t going to part with my cash or life that easily. Getting in would be easy. Getting out… not so much. At a kiosk I bought a digital map of the station and stopped for a while to plan the escape. I had to find a route with a lot of corners to avoid possible bullets from the back and get me to a taxi as soon as possible. Having a lawgiver at my hip helps a lot too (Yeah, I named my side arm the Lawgiver, deal with it).
Full of fake confidence I called for a taxi. The problem with taxis is, that they can’t reach everywhere. You can use them to move along the docking bay, some big corridors, and hydroponics, but they can’t get you through the districts, as they’re half narrow streets and half corridors. There isn’t much open space on a space station. Still, you are able to reach the districts much faster by taxi than on foot.
This one was piloted by a girl. Her license plate showed her name to be Mira and she looked ten years younger than me (I’m 31 by the way). A distinctive scar on her right cheek and cold look were telling me that her upbringing hadn’t been painless and that she probably knew how to handle herself. Of course the gun next to her stick was a dead giveaway. When I mentioned where I wanted to go, Mira gave me a barely noticeable frown, but the taxi took off a few seconds later anyway. I guess she thought I was just another junkie or a lowlife. Her reaction told me all that I needed. I transferred a few credits and told her that I needed her taxi to wait for me for an hour. That’s when she became inquisitive. When I mentioned my need for a quick escape, Mira even offered cover fire (I think I have a pretty good idea where she got that scar).
I didn’t know her agenda and I knew this plan could go very wrong, but I was determined to find the bastard, who stole my most precious cargo. After we landed, I hid my gun under my jacket, and left the taxi. The Refuge d’Aphrodite was twenty minutes walking distance from the docking bay and I wasn’t in a hurry. Not that I was enjoying the view, the streets were dirty and smelled of urine, but I didn’t want to get to that establishment still catching my breath. Also, raising even more suspicion now would be kind of suicidal.
There it was, the proverbial den of ill repute. Now that I think about it, that moment was the last opportunity to let go of that sci-fi collection, forget about it and live happily ever after. I was made the moment I opened the door and a vaguely familiar voice greeted me. It wasn’t a friendly greeting. “I knew exactly how to make you come to me.”, were the words that tipped me off. Viktor Fade. I knew I had maybe five seconds to get out again and start running. I got out in three and still my jacket got bruised by a bullet. I knew he wanted me alive, but it was only for more unpleasantness for yours truly.