The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
3 April YC 121
“Space divers?” interrupted I.
“Yeah, it’s a kind of tourists who like to explore curious space objects in spacesuits,” explained Gerhardt. “That lot was interested in unusual asteroids.”
I remembered the coral-shaped asteroid near which I found Gerhardt’s yacht and said, “I guess, I’ve got an answer to one of my questions.”
“Yes, they provided specific locations they wanted to visit and Uitra was the second one on the list. The first place was a spiral asteroid in Unpas, and everything was normal there: they put on spacesuits with jetpacks, went to the rock, took selfies and returned to the ship. Then, they said they did not want to undress and go back to the lounge between the first two stops because it was just a quick jump between systems; they preferred to wait near the airlock.
“When we arrived to the coral-shaped ‘roid in this system, I told my passengers that they could go out. They asked me to wait because they needed to fix some equipment. I didn’t care because they paid for the whole day – it was up to them how to spend their time. About half an hour later I called them again and asked if everything was okay. They said that all was fine but one of the spacesuits malfunctioned. I suggested to take one of the suits I kept for guests but they wanted to try and fix their own. The repairs were going on for an hour or so and all the while they were in a corridor where I didn’t have security cameras. I decided to establish a video link and sent a camera drone to the airlock. When I got the picture I didn’t immediately realise what was going on: all three passengers were wearing their spacesuits and one of them had a laptop connected to the ship’s network port. When they saw the drone one of them stood between the camera and the guy with the laptop trying to obstruct the view. ‘What the hell are you doing there?’ asked I and at that moment the main engine switched off and the capacitor got completely drained. Do you understand what it means?”
I knew the basic ship operation from skillbooks but it took me a while to put that knowledge to use.
“Um…” mumbled I buying some time and then it dawned on me, “You need the capacitor to start the engine, and you need the engine to charge the capacitor. So effectively you were dead in the water.”
“Exactly! Those fuckers hacked into the ship operational system and made sure that I couldn’t move.”
“That explains why your defences were untouched but I don’t understand why you told the Academy that you were attacked.”
“In a sense, I was attacked – from inside,” shrugged Ger. “Besides, it would take too long to explain everything that happened. All I wanted was a quick jump start by a remote cap transmitter.”
“But, I guess, you had to deal with the intruders first. Last time you told me about the hijacking attempt, you simply gassed the bastards.”
“Oh, this lot was much better prepared. Obviously, they had a Victorieux blueprint where they found all camera and network port locations, so they could hack the system out of sight. Plus, they probably knew about my little gas trick and wore the spacesuits.”
I looked at the charred walls and nodded, “I see. So this time you had to scramble out of your pod and get real physical?”
Gerhardt looked horrified, “No way I am going to leave the capsule to confront pirates in space! You can end up living in slavery for the rest of your days. Didn’t they teach you anything at the Academy?”
I remembered Tarumo’s lecture before the hostage rescue mission and said, “In fact, they did. But if it wasn’t you who caused this havoc then who?”
“Ah, you haven’t met Willi yet,” smiled Gerhardt and raised his voice, “Willi, will you please join us?”
After these words one of the wall panels slid aside and revealed an alcove which contained a two-metre combat droid. The robot stepped out and approached us.
“This is Willi, the latest Gallente model of a personal bodyguard. Willi, this is Vladimir Korff. Vladimir Korff is a friend.”
Willi turned to me and said in deep baritone, “Nice to meet you, Vladimir Korff.”
Startled by this address, I mumbled, “Nice to meet you too, Willi.”
Gerhardt looked at my astonished expression and laughed. “You can go back, Willi,” said he and the robot returned to its hiding place.
“Obviously, the pirates did not expect any kind of armed resistance,” continued Gerhardt, “so Willi’s appearance took them by surprise. Unlike you, those guests were not my friends, and Willi knew it. When he engaged the pirates, they tried to escape but ended up in the lounge where Willi finished them one by one.”
“I don’t understand,” said I, “if Willi was hiding in the lounge then he would block the way back. How did the hijackers get past him in the corridor?”
“They didn’t. They just ran away in the opposite direction but this corridor is circular so they returned to the lounge through another door. Tried to hide behind the furniture and, most unfortunately, behind the bar,” Gerhardt raised the bottle, drank the remaining liquor and threw it on the floor. “I need to find a way to tell Willi that bottles are friends too although I am afraid this concept may be a bit of a stretch for him.”
I chuckled and winked, “Maybe Mr Karimi might help you just as he helped you with Aura. Oh, by the way, I still owe you that million kredits that you paid for my Aura’s modification. Let me repay it to you now,” said I and produced my datapad.
Gerhard leaned forward and put his hand on the datapad screen, “Forget it. You don’t owe me anything. For that matter, it’s me who owes you for the rescue.”
“But that was an official mission, so if anyone is going to charge you for that it will be the Academy, not me. And you know that even if I was on my own I wouldn’t expect any remuneration from a friend. It’s not how friendship works.”
“I am fine with that but, by the same token, I don’t expect you to repay that million.”
“Oh, no,” objected I, “that case is completely different. You very clearly indicated that that sum was a loan and had to be returned.”
Gerhardt rolled his eyes, “I’ve told you that I meant it as a joke only. But if you are so hellbent on parting with that money, just transfer it to a charity of your choice. Honestly, if you send it to my account I will transfer it back to you.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll donate that money but will do it on your behalf,” said I and stuck my tongue out at him.
Gerhardt laughed, “Touché. I guess this is the best compromise we can achieve, what with both of us being as stubborn as we are.”
“Now that this is out of the way, can you tell me how you managed to kick-start the engine using a remote shield booster instead of a cap transmitter. What was that ingenious solution that Lassi was talking about?”
“Ah, I think we need another bottle for that,” smiled Gerhardt and went to the bar.