The Phantom of Choice

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28

“What is the plan now?“

Of course, the question was directed at me. Of course, the person who asked was waiting for my answer. But I was so stunned, I couldn’t remember, how to use words to form a sentence.

Deep breath.

Deep breath first then we decide.

I inhaled air into my lungs and then let it out again. And one more time. One more.

“Where is the signal coming from? Can you give me exact location?”

“Working on it,” Duncke started to push the buttons. “The signal is not coming from the planet. Sensors are giving an unknown object flying close to the moon of the planet. Seems like, there is a satellite flying around it. It is keeping stable distance and speed.

“Any activity going on the planet’s surface?”

“No, nothing. I don’t think, they noticed our presence yet.”

“Good. Fly to the moon and land on the opposite side of the satellite. Stay hidden, so it will not notice us. One team will go explore the satellite; the other will go on the planet.”

“The planet is populated. And with quite large number of inhabitants. Sensors are still counting but already reached over hundred million life signs,” Duncke was very surprised. There is no wonder, the chance of finding new planet this highly populated was almost impossible. And that made my worries even worse.

“On the satellite will go Lamreak, Zorach, Ancelmus and Peyton. To the planet me, Zorach, Ligriv and Knave.”

“You said me twice,” Zorach noted.

“If it is Spectre planet I need you down there. But the satellite is very important too. If the planet is useless and you are down there and not on satellite... Damnit!”

“Maybe I can help,” Lamreak said calmly. “Few months ago, I was working on a new observing technology that is able to transmit sound and video from both sides simultaneously.”

“Is there not something like that? I mean normal communication?” Srura asked.

“Not like this. The communication device is huge. And it is not very useable on person. I was working on a much smaller version, that anyone could take anywhere,” Lamreak explained.

“How small?”

“Contact lenses. You will put it into your eye; they contain a special fluid that will allow transitions of all sorts, therefore you will be able to hear and see everything, the other person wearing it, will.”

“You know, we don’t have much time so start talking, I hate asking so much on such short time.” Of course, I am getting nervous. We are short on time.

“The only problem is I don’t know how to make it possible to transmit between more than two people. I did not perfect the process of transition so well. Another problem is that the lenses need to release the fluid constantly, and so they are slowly dissolving in the eyes. The highest time they lasted was four hours. But maybe if...” Lamreak bit his lip thinking deeply. “I have an idea, but I have no clue if it will work or not.”

“Currently, I am taking everything.”

“If we controlled the transmission manually, we would be able to regulate who will be sending and who will be receiving.”

“Great, how do you want to do that?”

“I need to write a program, it shouldn’t take too long. And someone will need to stay on ship to change between channels.”

“Duncke and Srura are staying. How long till you finish the program?”

“Maybe thirty minutes? It shouldn’t take too long,” he already started with pressing buttons.

“Okay. Ancelmus, help him. I want everyone ready in the hangar in forty minutes.”

“We will land in about eight minutes, please, everyone, stay on your positions,” Duncke informed us. I think, the only members, who didn’t hear him were Ancelmus and Lamreak. Those two were busy deciding who writes what. They made a very good team.

The landing was smooth. We found a forest, where we could easily hide the shuttle. I let Knave check on life signs, but he didn’t find any. Only after confirmation, we slowly moved outside the shuttle.

“Communication check, Verya, do you hear us?” suddenly I heard Lamreak’s voice in my head. For a second, I saw him opening a corridor inside the satellite.

“I hear you and see you loud and clear. How are things on your side?” the images and sounds from my head disappeared.

“It is the first time, I am trying this on myself, and I have to admit, it is very confusing sometimes. But I hear you well. Image is clear too.”

“Okay let’s hurry up, until this lasts. Do not, I repeat, do not stay away from the Pathfinder for more than five hours. After the lenses dissolve, you have an hour to return on the board of the ship. Is that clear?”

I heard six confirming voices. Damn that was too confusing.

“I am getting a reading of a building. Direction two-two-seven from our position. Seems like, there is something important inside. It has a good security system; I see at least three security cameras. I will get more information, once we get closer,” Knave said after he stopped checking the small monitor on his forearm.

“Okay, we are going there. Keep it low, we don’t want any attention. We will see where we are.” Knave first made a step towards the direction.

Following his footsteps, I was looking around. It looked so much like the forests, I knew from home. This planet didn’t seem that different from what I was familiar with. After all, many planets with life had same or very similar conditions on them. Maybe life needs certain conditions to be able to exist.

“It seems like a very small forest. I am getting more readings from our surroundings now. There are buildings all around us, but very few have that high security,” Knave was walking and looking into the monitor.

“The one, we are heading toward, seems very important then.”

“We will soon find out. We are close.” Knave was right. After few more minutes, I started to see the lights from that huge building and shortly after the huge building emerged from the trees.

“Zorach, can you read it?” I focused on a big rock in front of it with unknown writing. Few seconds later, I saw a corridor inside the satellite.

“No, it’s not the language.” Seconds after, the images from the satellite were gone.

I felt a dose of relief. We were not on the Spectre planet. We were not in that great danger. The relief was replaced by stress. How it was possible, we don’t know about such advanced planet? That cannot be true. This kind of highly developed society existing without our knowledge? That was not possible. Something was very, very wrong here.

“I am getting signal from seven people inside the building. Every one of them is armed. I am activating defence mode to stand by,” Ligriv interrupted my thoughts.

“Wait, what?”

“There are seven people inside the building, everyone is armed,” Knave repeated his words.

“We need to get inside,” I slowly walked towards front door.

Knave stopped me from opening them: “there is some sort of alarm device installed on them. If you touch the door now, it will inform the guards. I will disable it.”

“Okay, hurry.”

Few seconds later, we entered.

What the heck is this place? The big entrance hall was full of stuffed animals, bones, shards, pictures, wooden weapons, rocks, clothes. Each one of them was placed next to the entrance to another corridor, each one of them having a special name, as I guessed from the plate next to it. It looked like someone took things, people are using every day, and then put it here. Maybe a store? Storage rooms? But with more fear in it.

I gazed into one picture. The man on it looked very familiar. I took few steps into the corridor and inside I saw it. A person, as if it was taken right from my village.

“Verya, I think I know this planet. You need to get away from there, fast!” I heard Srura in my head, repeating the words. But I was so amazed.

“Verya! We need to go!” Knave pulled my hand. Still, I was stunned. I couldn’t take a step forward. “Verya!!” Knave held my shoulders and shook me.

“Go,” was the only word I was able to say.

A man was standing in the door way. He was shocked at first to see us. Then he started to talk loudly. I did not understand a single word he was saying. The man was shouting more loudly. He pulled out a weapon and aimed at us.

“We are not here to harm you. We came in peace. We are leaving now,” I said, trying to calm him down. He pointed the gun at me, but didn’t react otherwise. I don’t think he understood. “We are going away now,” I informed him and took a step closer to the exist – right where he was standing.

He fired the gun at me, but Knave was fast enough to pull me away. He ended up with open wound on his left arm.

“Defence mode active. Initiate protection,” Ligriv started to shot at the man. He fell on ground touching a wooden stick next to him. Annoying sound of alarm rang in my ears. It was louder than my voice ordering Ligriv to stop.

“Back to the shuttle now!!!” I shouted with my lungs full of air and run towards the exist.

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