While Forne tries to figure out a way to get on the Haul shuttle, the Haul find the tied down body of General Rowarl.




Rescue Operation

The room was filled with blood-red light. 20 Haul sat motionlessly in chairs that were built from flexible segments and which adjusted automatically to the body contour. No paw or ear moved. Everyone concentrated on the curved screens in from of each workstation. Due to the thin supports, the screens seemed to hover in the air. From above, they formed a U-shape around the Haul sitting in the open end. This way, every screen occupied the whole field of vision. Displayed on the screens were various views of space, artificially enhanced and enriched with useful information. They showed the debris field, which had once been a transporter. Rescue capsules, flight paths of rescue shuttles, areas with high radiation and other dangerous areas were highlighted. The specialists worked efficiently through the incoming data, created priorities, redirected shuttles, decided which rescue capsile should be salvaged first based on various inputs.

One screen showed a section of the surface of the planet below the ship. The responsible operatress had moved the view aside because the landing of a shuttle to pick up an unharmed Haul was nothing to waste any time on. She was working on the chaos in orbit when the computer notified her of an unusual event. «A Rabit One thought brought the view back in the center of her screen. Her current task as automatically pushed back on the shared stack. She watched a small figure leave the capsule. Another thought was enough to add the Rabit to the surveillance system. On the surface, a miniature drone dispatched from the array on the roof of the shuttle and started to follow the electro-magnetic signature.

A quick query revealed that a Rabit unit had crash landed earlier on the planet. After checking back with the rescue plans, she contacted the coordinator of the rescue unit that was about to embark to pick the pilot up. «My life for the house. You are lucky, he found us. I can send someone from my team to collect him.»

«My thanks,» the other operator said. «We will stay in orbit, then, helping with salvaging what's left of the HARIE. My life for the house.»

«My life for the house,» she replied and cut the connection. Her focus went back to the display. Virtual vision unfolded in front of her eyes so she could enjoy the descent of the shuttle on the nameless jungle. At the same time, she passed the task to pick up the Rabit on to a Haul inside. There must be at least a thousand plants in this clearing alone. The ship's engines must have driven away all the animals, though, because she saw no living thing except for a few thousand small insects crawling everywhere. The rescue capsule below still signaled status green but all attempts to contact the passenger failed. The operatress was starting to feel worried, especially since they were close enough that the passenger must have noticed their arrival by sound alone. Only, there was no sign of him or her.

Moments later, the rescue team disembarked and approached the capsule. Four soldiers took position around the shuttle, securing it the perimeter, even though there was no reason to assume a threat. She watched the progress on several monitors. When the first images from the inside filled her screens, she found she wasn't as prepared as she had thought.

The passenger was obviously dead despite the capsule's claims. His whole back was one open wound, burned down to the bone. Someone had sprayed artificial skin on it. But what puzzled the Haul the most: The corpse was tied down with rope at several places.

Long seconds, she stared at the image, searching for a reasonable explanation. In the capsule, the medics attached their devices to the body to see what they could do. The arrival of the first data broke the spell. Ashamed, the sensor operator laid her ears back. 'I really need to work on my self control,' she scolded herself.

Since the rescue capsule was obviously defective, so she requested a salvage unit to pick it up. The systems of the capsule still claimed that the Haul inside was alive and well. 'I wonder what could be wrong with it,' she wondered. The claims of the capsule had been the sole reason why it had been pushed back in the pickup list until now. She snorted angrily when the medics reported that there was nothing they could do.

His anger turned to despair when he was told the identity of the deceased and the time of death. 'General Rowarl! Just a few minutes ago! First their transporter and now the head of the house! Haul-Hau really is cursed with bad luck today.'


By now, it should be obvious that the two parties have a completely different idea what is going on. This was one of the reasons for me to write the story: How far could such a misunderstanding probably go? And how could it be resolved?


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