2306 - Die Kristallbörse
The Crystal Exchange
Horst Hauffmann

The Springer patriarch Jorgas Etoto smells the possibility for a mega-deal on February 25, 1344 NGE. An Arkonide wants to buy thirty kilograms of Khalumvatt from the Galactic Trader. After the hyperimpedance rose, the market value for it lies at twenty-four billion Galaxs.

But there is a tiny problem standing between the Springer and the Arkonide, who has two bodyguards with him. The buyer would like to see another test sample, but Etoto does not have one, because he is a swindler. In the face of potential profit he orders one of his sons to get another ‘sample’ from their brand-new ship, although on LE-GORGEOUS, the Crystal Exchange, crystal forgery stands under the harshest punishment and the mysterious Treasurer, the ruler over the space station in the orbit of Lepso, is considered a hard case.

It is Etoto’s bad luck that the Arkonide is an expert, and as it turns out after the scam is blown, his bodyguards are actually Kralasenes. All the people involved are stopped on the spot by the intervention of the Exchange-guard. In short process, the Treasurer reads out the punishment for the Springers: they are condemned to a lifelong banishment from LE-GORGEOUS. A very hard punishment, considering that the Crystal Exchange has cornered the market on hypercrystal trade. The Springers depart foaming at the mouth with rage.

Before their ship disappears into linear space, they still have a chance to sell their practically worthless Howalgonium, about 1.6 metric tons, to two Terran commercial agents, Solomon G. Gill and Inez Hatcher, both TLS agents working undercover by order of the LFT to buy as much Howalgonium as possible. This, formerly the most valuable hypercrystal, has fallen to a market value of two Galaxs per gram, but the LFT has developed a new top secret procedure to stabilize the delicate crystals.

Meanwhile, D. Manning Ostro, one of the best contract killers, has been hired to go to LE-GORGEOUS to kill Amanda van Veer, a rich aging Terran female, who has got her money through seven inheritances and eight separations. She is a fervent gambler who used to be on the BASIS, but has now changed to the LE-GORGEOUS, because the BASIS caught onto her games. But Ostro has not only killing on his mind; he has had himself implanted with neuro-chips from his earnings, with which he can hack directly into computer nets, and he wants to hit the jackpot.

Meanwhile, the two TLS agents notice that a bug exists in their Howalgonium storage area. They take this as an occasion to steal their way to the Treasurer, because they fear problems for the LE-GORGEOUS also. In the protection of deflector fields they penetrate into the office area of the Treasurer, but it turns out that he is already waiting for them. He reveals himself to them as Roi Danton, Colonel of the New USO, Perry Rhodan’s son and since 1337 NGE - the moment when the Taxit organization took control of the LE-GORGEOUS from a private syndicate - the Treasurer. Danton recognizes immediately that something is going on, and sends his Exchange-guard to secure the agents storage area. But the bug was only a bluff, and six blackmailers have gotten access to the legendary Exchange-Treasury by this diversionary maneuver.

At the same time, Ostro kills his target and afterwards catches the scent of big money available. He hacks into the computer net of LE-GORGEOUS, while Danton and the TLS agents quietly allow the ultimatum of three days to pass, the guests on LE-GORGEOUS are evacuated. Only Danton knows that the Exchang-Treasury does not really exist and all the Khalumvatt is fake, but the blackmailers do not know this.

When the ultimatum period has expired, the six blackmailers blow themselves up, but accomplish liitle because strong protection screens activated. The danger seems to be averted, but now Ostro reveals himself because he controls the whole station through the network. At the last minute agent Gill has the idea to save them. He gets Danton into the bathroom, which is the only place not monitored, by tradition, and has him overload the admission capacity of Ostro’s neural chips, which literally burns his brain out, saving the station at the last minute.

On March 1, 1344 NGE three of the three hundred meter wide carrier ships of the LFT fleet arrive under the escort of the DISCOVERER ship HERNANDO DE SOTO, to take the 8.7 metric tons of Howalgonium which the two agents bout back to Terra.

Note: In a subplot a Posbi and his Matten-Willy are on the station. The Matten-Willy loses its Posbi and later discovers him dead. The strange thing is that the Matten-Willy is still receiving a moving signal that matches its Posbi’s signal. It finally tracks the signal down and meets a duplicate of his Posbi. It turns out to be an unknown life form that calls itself ‘Observer’. He tells the Matten-Willy that the Posbi is not really dead, but he needed his mind and matter to accomplish his mission. He explains that even if the Posbi’s biological mass is returned to the shell and reactivated he will not be the same. Observer then dissolves and evaporates, leaving one very distraught Matten-Willy behind.

Jerry Schneiderman 2005-10-30

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