300 Die RSS Dragon auf
ihrem Weg durchs Sonsyst

Return to sender

von Jack van Ipenburg

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Like every port in history, Luna-Port was buzzing with travellers. They waited for their shuttles to leave, and moved from their seats in the waiting hall to the venmachs in the corridors and from there to the kiosks with the newspapers and magazines or the hiseq, and back to their seats to repeat the walk within a quarter of an hour. All languages from sonsyst made a cacophony overruled by the almost inhuman voices of ComSyst, announcing flights and delays.

Leuvenhook walked through the crowd towards the long line of check-in desks. He carried the flight plan and the crew visa in a small secure suitcase. They needed to be stamped and signed before the RSS Dragon could take off to the military base on one of the Jupiter orstas. It had always been a problem travelling into a military zone without the right stamps, visa and clearances.
He lined up in the queue for TravServ and waited. It was hot in Luna-Port, and he wiped the sweat from his brow. He wanted something to drink, but unless he wanted to delay the departure of the RSS Dragon, he could not leave the queue. Others had already lined up behind him.

The young man who stood directly behind Leuvenhook was a typical jack-of-all-trades, who tried his luck in space. He had dusty boots on, wore worn trousers of tough fabric and a daring T-shirt saying where the nups should stuff their arrogance. An old black leather jacket hung over his not very muscular shoulders to complete his lacking taste for fashion. Most of his face was covered with a large pair of sunglasses and the shadow of a beard. His rusty dreadlocks hadn't seen a hairdresser in months - he was the shabby type that had dysfunctional hiseq in his vessel and didn't bother. He foamed ZPT from the corners of his mouth like a junkie. Leuvenhook knew there was probably a SLL tucked in the young mans belt, hidden by the leather jacket. He knew the kind. They were around in any orsta.
"Hot in here, isn't it, mate?" the young man said friendly. Leuvenhook nodded, and held his suitcase tight. He didn't trust those kind of guys.
"Fancy a drink?" The young man held a sealed can of FruWas in his gloved hand. "I trade this stuff, this is one of the samples I've gotten from the factory and should hand out for free. Have one." Leuvenhook took it, his thirst being bigger than his distrust. It tasted good, although a bit too chemically sweet to his taste. He emptied the can, and read the label before throwing it in the waste basket. "Desintegraten plastic tisue wen toucen," the label warned. "I'm Quint, on my way from Terra to Mars, with some conts of FruWas. Where are you going, mate?" Quint smiled, and put a new ZPT in his mouth.
"I'm on my way to the outer planets," Leuvenhook said carefully. The young man nodded, and said nothing.
Leuvenhook moved forwards in the line, it was his turn to get his papers stamped.

"CPO Cornelis Vincent Leuvenhook from the RSS Dragon?" The desketeer from TravServ read Leuvenhooks papers. He nodded. She even pronounced his name right.
"On behalf of the RSS Dragon you want to get permission for crew and vessel to travel to the military orsta of Jupiter?" He nodded again. "Your mission is to deliver some small parcels and mail to the crew of the orsta and classified information to the officer in charge?" She was right again and the CPO told her so.
She closed the window of her desk and walked with the papers through a green sliding door. It was a secret what the desketeers did behind the door, but Leuvenhook reckoned it involved many litres of kafsur. He waited a bit impatiently, hopping from one foot to the other. He needed to see a hiseq soon. He tried to distract his mind by reading the advertisements for the new Harmonizers and Kids-Andro 500-series on the wall.
"Another drink?" the young man behind him offered.
"No thanks," Leuvenhook said uncomfortably.
Quint took another ZPT. In his sunglasses, Leuvenhook saw the desketeer come back. He turned around to face her.
"Here are your visa," she said. "These are the transferdoks you need to enter the orsta. Here is the flight plan for the Jupiter orbit. Please notice that you have to confirm the plan to Base Jupiter with the ZuKo on the datcar inside this envelope. Please do read the supplet before opening." She handed the sealed and stamped envelope and let Leuvenhook sign for it. "Then here is the scheme for the lastrefu frequencies in the Jupiter orbit. And these are vouchers for the rautels you might visit with the Dragon during your journey, including free chips for the casino, and this is a key chain with our logo; if you open the TravServ logo like this, you see there are some kosctabs inside for your convenience, although we hope you won't need them. Please enjoy your space journey. The shuttle to the RSS Dragon will depart in approximately half an hour. Goodbye, mister Leuvenhook. We hope you chose to use TravServ again on your next flight."
"Goodbye, miss," Leuvenhook answered her flashing smile. He stepped aside to put the papers carefully in his secured suitcase, and let the young man talk to the desketeer. The trader placed a pile of papers on the desk.
"Are you sure you don't want another free sample of FruWas?" Quint distracted Leuvenhook from closing the suitcase as the desketeer had left through the green door. "You know how the delays are on Luna-Port. Might take a while before you can board your shuttle." Leuvenhook looked in the face of the man, facing his own eyes in the sunglasses. Quint foamed through his smile, like he was rabid. "It's for free."
Leuvenhook thought about the FruWas, but refused. It made him need hiseq much too soon.
Two hours later, Leuvenhook followed the orders of ComSyst and left the waiting hall to the flextu. He saw the shabby FruWas trader near a venmach, eating frykart with ketchup. The man waved friendly at him in recognition, and Leuvenhook nodded back. He hurried into the flextu, finally going home - at least, he thought of the RSS Dragon as home.

The journey from Luna-Port to Jupiter had been a long and boring one. Nothing extraordinary had happened, which was good for the crew. They had enjoyed the casino in the rautel they had visited in the ring and MSM Mallah had even won some nice prices, including the plant that now decorated the 'postbox' on the RSS Dragon.
During the journey, Leuvenhook had had plenty of time to read through the Complete Lastrefu Handbook, version 2. "1001 supplets explainen in tecnical detail!!!" as the cover said, "Excitable new features, optimal usen of system!!!".

A long distant voice came over the lastrefu, suffering interference on one of the relais-stations.
"Come in, unknown vessel, this is Base Jupiter: please identify. Repeat: come in, unknown vessel, please identify to Military Base Jupiter."
"Base Jupiter, this is the RSS Dragon. I repeat, this is the RSS Dragon."
"RSS Dragon, we have been awaiting you. Please give ZuKo. Repeat: please give ZuKo."
"ZuKo niner, fiver, two, zero, zero, dash, niner, aleph."
"RSS Dragon, please confirm: ZuKo niner, fiver, two, zero, zero, dash, niner, aleph?"
"ZuKo niner, fiver, two, zero, zero, dash, niner, aleph: confirmed."
"Welcome RSS Dragon. You may enter our orbit now. Please refer to the flight plan for further details. Repeat: refer to flight plan for further details. Our pilot will stay in contact with you on the DiCom secure frequency. Please switch to DiCom secure frequency, repeat: please switch to DiCom secure frequency. Over and out."
"See you, honeybums."

Quint put his his feet with the dusty boots on the dashboard of his ship, between his SLL and his copy of the RTG, leaned back and lit a cigarette. It was better than the ZPT he had every time he saw the 'No smoken, low air!' signs. Glad he had gotten rid off the ZPTs, he inhaled and gulped down some FruWas mixed with dried gin.
"That's easy," he told his Rosteu, and closed his eyes, giving the Rosteu full control of the ship.
Relaxing reggae music came through the old ComSyst. There was no need for a real ComSyst because Quint was the only one aboard the ship. The loneliness was nearly suffocating when he pedalled his fafueap through the empty corridors of the huge vessel, only hearing his own echo and the hissing of the machines. That's why he had connected an antique ghetto blaster to the ComSyst, just to cover his own echoes. Sometimes he felt so lonely in the ship, he started talking to the Rosteu, telling it repeatedly how awfully boring and tedious space was. And that he didn't really like his cargo, 500.000 litres of FruWas, that he had to sell to the population of sonsyst who didn't like it much either.
Or he talked to the picture of his fiancee that he had glued to the dashboard. "I'm gonna get you, honeybums," he told her then. "I'll free you of your duty on the orsta. They shouldn't have send you there. I'll keep the promise, I'll return."
The large fracves he had, was once a battleship that was heavily damaged in the battle for freedom of '26/'27. But Quint had mended the damaged parts, replaced some items with spare parts from other space-wrecks and painted it in the colours of a normal cargo ship. Then, he had ran out of money, so the bridge was still a ruin, like the crew quarters, the galley and the hiseq. However, the battle systems of the vessel were still fully functional and loaded.

Leuvenhook sat in the 'postbox' of the RSS Dragon and switched the lastrefu on to get in contact with Base Jupiter. As soon as CS Weasley had seen the threatening formation of defence ships, he had asked Leuvenhook to contact the orsta.
"Come in Base Jupiter. This is the RSS Dragon to Base Jupiter. Please answer, Base Jupiter, this is the RSS Dragon." The CS stood behind Leuvenhook, listening in the door-opening. Mallah's large plant left no room for more persons than just the CPO.
"RSS Dragon, please give your ZuKo. Repeat: please give your ZuKo." Leuvenhook held the datcar in his hand and slid it into the reader.
The monitor stayed empty.
"Maybe you've put it in upside down," the CS suggested. He sounded tense. From where he stood, he could not see the defence ships closing in on the RSS Dragon, but he knew they were out there. Leuvenhook took out the datcar and checked it, then put it in again, the right way up. The monitor stayed empty.
"RSS Dragon, do you read me? Please give your ZuKo, repeat, give your ZuKo. Please confirm reading."
"Base Jupiter, this is the RSS Dragon. We read you loud and clear. The datcar with the ZuKo that has been assigned to us, is empty. I repeat: the datcar with the assigned ZuKo is empty."
The lastrefu sounded like it sighed.
"RSS Dragon, without the correct ZuKo we can't grant access to orbit. Please stay out of orbit. Repeat: without ZuKo we can't grant access."
Leuvenhook looked up to his CS. "What are we going to do now?" he asked. The CS took the microphone from Leuvenhook and bellowed in it. "This is CS Weasley of the RSS Dragon. We have got cargo for the base. Please give us access to the base, so we can hand over our cargo."
"Access denied," the receiver said in its interfered voice.
The CS's face turned a dangerous hue of red. "This is the RSS Dragon. We are forced to charge double rate for the cargo if we return to sender, as stated in the RTG. I repeat, we have to charge double rate."
For a while, the receiver just spat out interference signals. Then the voice of Base Jupiter returned. "RSS Dragon, you have been granted access to orbit two hours ago with a correct ZuKo. We can't allow access again without correct ZuKo. Please leave orbit. I repeat: please leave orbit."
CS Weasley put down the microphone. "Those greenfeeted military rats on that stinking Swiss cheese of an orsta," he cursed. "We'll return to Terra and return the post to sender. At double rate. They will have to pay again, if they want us to come back to the outer planets. People like that give me a headache."
Leuvenhook saw the bright logo of TravServ on the table, and offered his captain a kosctab. The captain thanked the CPO and swallowed the tablet. It was only a matter of seconds before foam formed on his lips.
Then, Leuvenhook knew who had stolen the ZuKo assigned for the RSS Dragon.

***


© Bettina Lege 2006 / 2017, eMail schreiben,
© Yaghish / Jack Schlimazlnik (homepage), 2003 written for the Leuvenhook Universum by Bettina Lege, alle Urheberrechte beim Autoren,
letzte Änderung am 07.04.2015.