Galaxy at War

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Chapter 5: Space Debris

Roy had learned that the ship he was on was designated as a Saresii Courier and operated under charter of the Science Council.

It was a Henjiitah Class cruiser and 600 meters long. It had the outer appearance of an elongated bulbous plant leaf and reminded him of the thick water filled fleshy leaves of the Glow bush. The ship was not green however but had an iridescent color of pearly pale orange. The ship was called the Gayimeera and since it was not a Union Fleet unit it did not carry the USS prefix and only the Captain was a Union Fleet officer, the rest were members of the Science Council explorer corps.

The Gayimeera approached a tremendous space station, and passed through force field membranes into a hangar where Union Battle ships found room to spare. The Gayimeera appeared tiny and like an exotic bird compared to the massive Union Battle ship that was serviced in the next berth.

Cara explained to him that this was a Gigamon Station and it had a diameter of 36 kilometers. Roy could not really envision anything that big man made, especially after they had debarked and he stood on a slide belt looking up a 3500 meter Uni Design Battle ship, it was bigger than the highest mountain on Green Hell. It blew his mind when Cara said that this was only one of sixteen battleships currently serviced and that the station had room for two hundred at the same time.

Only Partner remained pretty much unimpressed and sat behind him on the Slide-belt, enjoying the ride.

A green uniformed Klack apologized for checking their CITIs and explained that this was a procedure required due to the current war condition.

Cara stopped for a moment as if to orient herself and Roy could not blame her, They had entered what was called the outer Ring Concourse and according to a sign he spotted, it went all the way around the stations equator for almost 114 kilometers.

Slide-ways, People movers, Ride Bots, Taxis and Inter-station transports moved troves of beings in both directions. There were civilians, but far and few between. Union Fleet black was predominant, perhaps the crew of the battle ship getting shore leave explained the dense crowds.

Cara pointed to the left. “I booked us rooms at the Sheraton. There we can get settled. While I am here I might as well report in. In the mean time you are free to explore the station if you like. Tomorrow we go down to Humongous, where I like to introduce you to a friend of mine, it is eager to meet you.”

She was technically his guardian and he promised Uncle Sam to behave and take the great and rare opportunity to go to college on Sares.

While he really liked Cara, he wasn’t so sure he would enjoy Sares, if the ship was any indication of the culture he was about to experience. “Sure sounds like a plan.”

He said aloud and added, “Is there some sort of Saresii outpost here?”

She approached a Taxi stand and said. “No, we are full Union members there aren’t any Saresii embassies or outposts. I was ordered to take you to Sares, however I am still a PSI Corps officer and there is a field office here, it is common practice for an operative to report in to a local post.”

She hired a larger open Taxi that also allowed room for Partner. Roy followed his big animal onto the hovering transport flyer and said. “Who ordered you to do that?”

“You have an important appointment with the Wurgus on Pluribus and since I care about you, Command decided that I accompany you to Sares and pick you up from there for the Wurgus meeting. That was our original plan, even before all these events as you recall.”

He realized she would not be there on Sares while he was going to College there. “Where will I stay? I don’t know anyone.”

“My parents have eagerly offered to take you in. No worries you feel at home there in no time.”

-“”-

Cara was gone to report to whoever she had to go. Roy had taken a long shower in the hotel room and was now with Partner outside the Hotel and wondered what he actually wanted to see or explore. The station was big and impressive and certainly had great recreation facilities but nothing really attracted him.

He felt a lit forlorn and a wave of homesickness came over him. He longed to be outside in his beloved jungles. Union installations always appeared clean and orderly and there was rarely anything green.

A group of teenagers perhaps his age spotted him. They were all dressed in something like Space suit combinations. One of them came over in a relaxed manner and grinned with an open friendly face. “I’m Sobyr and I noticed your side arm and simply had to get a closer look, it’s a TKU 9 right?”

“No, it’s a TKU 12 and I am Roy by the way.”

The boy was about his age from the looks of it perhaps ten centimeters shorter. He had a bright blue skin and coppery hair.

Sobyr turned to the other four beings and said. “That Dirtsider carries a genuine T12, how whamo is that?” To Roy he said. “Don’t take offense calling ya a Dirtsider. It’s how we Insiders call pretty much anyone not from Belle Station.”

“No worries, I wasn’t.” The open way the other guy acted appealed to him.

The other four also came closer.

There was one that looked like a lizard, it had bright green skin. It was not a Shiss as it had neither four arms, nor those leathery wings. The lizard being had a long, agile moving tail and was taller than the others, it had muscular hind legs.

Then there was a cute olive skinned beauty with black shimmering hair cut to a chin length bob and an adorable upward pointing nose.

The third had an all chrome skin and looked like an android and Roy wondered if he was an X101 or a Stellaris. He didn’t know how to tell the difference , but the silvery guy was clearly not an adult.

The final member of the group was the most alien and had the appearance of a Burrow Digger centipede keeping about one third of its body upright. Unlike the centipede life forms of Green Hell, the upright half lacked the many small feet the rest of the body had, instead there were two quite human proportioned arms but with hands of only two very long fingers tapering in sharp claws and a similar long thumb. The face of the alien being was split horizontally and vertically almost like a pie and each section had a bulbous red pupil-less eye.

The blue skinned teen said. “You and your silent huge friend look lost. We know this station like no one else. Just tell us where you want to go and we can get you there.”

Roy shrugged. “Not really lost, I have just no clue what to do. The ship I came with has a three day stop over and I am supposed to keep myself busy until we go on to Sares.”

“Why don’t you hang with us until then? Maybe I start by introducing us to you.”

The blue skinned guy took a step back and pointed his flat hand at the girl and said. “That lovely sheila here is Aat Amenemhat. Her family is from Petra and her father is the Station Security Chief. Then we have Ncchsi, she is a Maggi-Suron all the way from the Spinward Sector, her mother runs the Med Center here. Alejandro Rivera is a Stellaris, just got his new skin yesterday and is probably the only Stellaris insisting to be Puerto Rican.”

The chrome skinned teen said . “I am not the only one, my family roots are from Puerto Rico Terra and my dad says that is very special. We Stellaris are made of human DNA after all and ours came from there.”

Sobyr smiled and then pointed his hand at the centipede. “Meet Pictfram. Perhaps he is the first Xiptin you talk to, as they have joined the Union only very recently.” Finally Sobyr tapped his thumb against his own chest and said with a sigh. “Yes I am Thauran and what makes matters worse of a Noble family but don’t let that scare you off. ”

Roy greeted them all and said. “I am Roy Masters from Green Hell and that is Partner, he isn’t really sentient but a very smart pet. He’s a Fury Beast.”

The Xiptin crawled closer to Partner and its truly alien face split four ways as he said. “It is a magnificent animal and I heard lot of stories of Green Hell. From what I have seen it must be paradise with wonderful mud pits.”

Roy could not believe his ears. There was a member of a species he had never even heard off, saying nice things about Green Hell. “There is a stretch of many square miles of bogs and mud pits not so far to the east to where I used to live.”

The Xiptin’s voice did not seem to fit the being, it sounded almost like a singing voice of a trained opera singer and the centipede intoned what he said in a melodic way. “We only have a Mud tub in our home here and would love to dig into a real deep bog, but then I probably would not survive the competition that resides in those mud pits of your planet.”

Roy actually smiled from ear to ear now and said. “Green Hell is dangerous yes, but if you don’t disturb the balance and go with the flow instead against it, I am sure I could find you a bog you could enjoy.”

The Saran girl had a fine smile and held up her PDD. “Guys they declared the System open again. Let’s go out there before the professionals pick all the good stuff.”

Sobyr nodded and said to Roy. “Want to come along?”

“Sure, it isn’t anything illegal right?”

Sobyr made an insulted face, “Her father is the security chief, mine is the Station Commander. We might not always be angels Roy, but this is a Union Military installation and not a Civilian world. Even the world Illegal is illegal here.”

The Stellaris said. “Marines are the police here.”

Roy apologized. “I am sorry, I just promised to stay out of trouble and this is pretty much my first time off planet. Yes I would love to tag along.”

Sobyr had long lost his frown and smiled again. “It’s all good. Just follow us. We need to get you an EVA suit as well.”

-“”-

Roy and Partner followed the group to a large Inter Station transport access point and they all boarded the next tube car. There was plenty room for them all.

The Lizard said. “I think we need to tell Roy what it is we are going to do.”

Alejandro agreed with a nod and said. “There was a space battle just a few hours ago and the system was just declared safe, meaning open for civilian and commercial traffic. The fleet is certain all enemies are either gone or destroyed.”

Sobyr made a wide gesture with both of his arms. “We are born and raised on this station, and there is only so much to do, even on a big one like this. So we are taking our Bison out there and see if we can scavenge some debris. Space ship metal scrap is valuable and sells good on our Xchange.”

Aat, the Saran girl sat down and crossed her legs while looking up from underneath her black bangs. “While there weren’t any space battles in this system before, we usually go scavenging in the Nolbu ring. That is our local asteroid belt with lots of abandoned mining bases and all kinds of junk. We think we can find us some space battle debris and junk.”

Alejandro the chrome skinned Stellaris added. “They say sometimes you can find even artifacts and things still good to use. Space law allows salvaging and anything floating out there is free for the taking. A few hundred Credits extra isn’t so bad you know.”

Roy nodded. “I saw part of the battle as we came in, and I sure could use a few extra credits, but I never been outside in a space suit.”

Pictfram spread his thin arms. “It took me quite a bit to get used to EVA, but you humans seem to have a natural skill for it. We going to show you the basics and you be as good as we all are by tonight.”

Sobyr agreed. “The suits will do most of it and the rest is like diving in a real big ocean.”

According to Sobyr they were almost at the bottom of the Space station now after the ride with the IST.

Pictfram said. “When you saw the station from the outside you might have noticed a green glowing ball all the way on the bottom of it, right?”

“Yes I did and if I recall correctly from school I think it is the Gravo Anchor that keeps the station where it is.”

The centipede made his four way split face move in a quite disturbing fashion and said. “Yes and we are just 600 meters above it. This part is called the Station’s basement and that is where all the private storage bays and hangars are.”

Alejandro brushed a key card over a locked door and said. “This is a small docking bay we use.”

What Alejandro called a small docking bay was to Roy still a very big cavernous room and in its center stood an old rugged, tough looking boxy shaped and somewhat ugly space ship. Roy estimated it to be perhaps sixty meters long and twenty high and wide. It had large flexible mechanical manipulator arms attached underneath the ships cockpit windows.

The Stellaris opened the boarding ramp. “All aboard the Calypso. We are leaving soon.”

Roy made wide eyes. “You guys have a space ship of your own?”

Passing by Roy to climb aboard the Saran girl said. “It is only a very old surplus Long Range Bison. It was used by the engineers who built the station. It’s almost 300 years old. We restored it a little.”

Alejandro was next climbing in. “It has ISAHs but only for in-system flights. It can’t go FTL. Maybe you know that by law any Ship with a Union registration able to go TL must be piloted by someone who has passed the federal Shipmaster test. But no one would even call a brand new Bison a ship, this is more like a space boat.”

Nosy as he was Partner stomped right on in and Sobyr made an inviting gesture. “You’re next unless you changed your mind.”

Roy went over the short belly ramp into a small cargo hold . Sobyr right behind him said. “No it isn’t a ship officially but to us it’s the Devastator.

Pictfram was all excited and wiggled his long fingers and his tail.“Roy, your Partner beast has licked over my tail pincers, they are very poisonous. We need to get it to a Vet right away.”

Roy received nothing but friendly excitement and happiness from Partner. “Not to worry Pictfram, he can eat and swallow pretty much everything and poisons won’t harm him. When Partner licked you he meant to express that he likes you.”

“What an amazing life form, indeed.”

Partner now felt even more happy as he was the center of attention and the Saran girl started to pet him. He raised his head so she could scratch his throat. She coed.“Oh isn’t he adorable and so soft.”

Roy grunted. “Keep that up and you need a bigger cargo hold, for him swelling with pride.”

Alejandro and Sobyr had climbed up a metal ladder with railings and sat behind the controls of a small command deck.

Ncchsi held out a space suit and said. “This should fit you. We don’t have an auto dresser but you can use our tiny hygiene cell to change.”

Alejandro said. “It’s a good one, Roy. A genuine SII – EVA Engineer 7. Father insisted we had all our suits checked by the Suit Technician before he allowed us to use them.”

Roy thanked them and went to get changed. Somehow his mood has improved greatly. This unexpected little adventure and these five beings he felt were well on their way to become friends of his was of course the reason. He also looked forward to go EVA and wondered how it would be.

-“”-

They were almost 4 light hours from the station and near the orbit of the second most distant planet of the Kappa Andromedae system. So far their external cargo bay held a few pieces of twisted metal scrap, collected with the manipulators, and now according to Sobyr they were approaching the area of the main engagement.

Out here in the small ship Roy got a real sense how big space really was and to find some scrap was actually not that easy. Especially since the little bison had only the most rudiment sensors.

Roy didn’t mind. He learned lot about the Xiptin, the Sarans and how it was for teenagers to grow up on a space station. In turn he had shared with them how it was to be on Green Hell and of course they asked him about the most recent events as they knew Green Hell was at the center of the reasons for the war after all.

The most reliable sensor they had were actually Alejandro’s eyes. His engineered eyes could see further and make out things in space no normal human eye could. He interrupted Ncchsi who was just about done explaining Roy the features of the Space suit. “Sobyr drop us to 20 km/sec and turn a little towards Galactic North and about five dots up on the Z axis. I think I saw a reflection, high albedo.”

It became quiet in the small craft and everyone was gripped by a sense of anticipation, even Roy.

After a few minutes, Sobyr the Thauran teen said. “I don’t know how you do it but I got a substantial piece of mass on the scanner now.”

Alejandro leaned forward and was starring out the forward view port. “It’s a big section of a T cruiser, the T bar is gone but most of the forward section is still there.”

After about six or seven minutes of more silence, Sobyr said. “I read some very faint energies.”

Roy asked “Could there be still live Kermac Warriors?”

Sobyr turned and said. “Highly unlikely, I can see the thing now. There is a gaping hole where the bridge was and another one at engineering, life support is completely gone. Besides we don’t have life sensors, but if we can tow that thing to the station we get enough credits to afford better sensors.”

Roy went back to the Hygiene room and detached his PDD from the Bio seal suit he had left there and then with it climbed up to Sobyr. “This is a SII Science Scanner with PDD function. My mother gave it to me before she left. I don’t think it has a terribly good range but it has the finest sensors you can fit into a hand-held, according to her at least.”

Alejandro took it. “And you’ve been jealous of our Bison. “That’s a genuine Science Corps – Mark 16. Sell it and you could afford a working Surplus Bison for sure.”

He activated the thing and played with the controls. “Let’s see according to these on screen instructions the sensing distance can be increased by reducing sensitivity. To do that activate Sensor Program GS...” The rest of his sentence he mumbled as he started to adjust the programming of the device.

Xiptin raised more of his body of the ground and demonstrated just how long his usual curved and coiled body really was and looked over the shoulder of Alejandro without using the ladder. “Our Stellaris is a genuine Science Nerd. He probably dreams about your gadget ten weeks after you’re gone.”

Alejandro protested without taking his eyes of the Scanner. “That is simply not true, nine weeks max.”

The chrome skin covered Stellaris voice trailed off again and then he said. “Well I can’t detect any life, but there are several active energy sources. It appears to be nothing bigger than an emergency computronic or emergency lighting.”

Sobyr pulled up the soft transparent hood from his helmet collar and said. “Well let’s check it out before the professional Salvagers come and take it from us. Possession is the name of this game” Then he closed the helmet and the thing became a rigid bubble.

They divided the cargo hold with an energy curtain and Roy said to Partner. “Sorry, you got to stay behind. There isn’t a spacesuit that fits you.”

Partner blinked, then sneezed and the emotions he got from Partner were a little confused but he sat down on his hind legs. Xiptin patted the beasts side. “No worry I keep you company as someone has to stay behind in the ship and that is me this time.”

Roy also folded his helmet up and he could feel his own pulse rate go up as Sobyr opened the cargo bay doors. The Thauran was the first to push himself out and Roy took a deep breath and then pushed off right after the Girl. Space seen through a view port was spectacular, but seeing it through a refraction free space suit helmet was overwhelming and no word in Roy’s vocabulary could describe what he saw, it was so completely different to any experience he had before. Even sitting on the balcony bubble of the Silver Swan. His mind had lost all sense of up and down. A short burst of his suit thrusters had accelerated him towards the ominous dark shape only noticeable because it blocked out starlight behind it, he had the distinct feeling as if he would fall, but he had no idea if he was falling up or down. His stomach felt very queasy and he had to swallow hard to keep it down, but as he neared the shape he could now see details inside the razor sharp circle of light from his chest mounted lamp, he forgot about his stomach and he no longer felt sick . He saw a twisted and torn hole in an otherwise smooth metal surface. Alejandro, only wearing a thruster pack as this was the environment his kind was designed for, shot past him and so did the lizard. They had reached the hole, Roy was still about 150 meters away as he watched Sobyr use the hull breach to enter the wreck.

Suddenly he felt imminent danger. His unusual awareness made his entire body tingle and he somehow knew they weren’t alone.

The sudden feeling made him touch the thruster controls, the wreck became bigger and way too fast. He remembered the instructions they had given him and pulled the joystick to activate the counter thrusters. Braking speed so rapidly that he banged his forehead against the helmet plate and then he flew backwards away from the wreck.

He noticed something black and ominous right next to him, keeping perfect pace with his noob attempts to fly a space suit. He also noticed the last of his new friends had disappeared inside the wreck.

Finally he managed to stop his momentum into a slow drift, then tried to pull his TKU but the darn weapon would not come out of the holster. A red light he never seen before blinked at its butt.

The light of his chest lamp illuminated a big black four legged beast with fangs and glowing white horns. Only now he calmed down enough to notice the waves of excited emotions, Partner was floating right there without any protection, moisture and traces of atmosphere had coated the animals coarse neck fur with ice

Neither the deadly radiation of deep space nor the frigid airless conditions fazed his friend.

“I should have known that you don’t need a space suit.” His voice rang hollow in his helmet, but he did not really need words to communicate with his friend. Still the fine hair on Roy’s back were standing on end giving him goosebumps. The feeling of something or someone hostile had not subsided. His own PDD, not that it would do him any good was still with Alejandro.

While he was still aboard the little ship, Aat had shown him how to activate the Helmet Comm. He repeated her words as he stared on the controls at his left underarm. “Press these two control stubs of the wrist control panel at the same time.” But which ones again, there were eight.

He pressed two and loud music pounded his ear and a voice proclaimed. Thank you for tuning on to Channel 9988 Pertharian Terror Metal all day long...”

He managed to turned it back off. His friends were in some kind of trouble and he could not even get the suit’s communication working, or pull his own gun.

Yet had to find out what was going on and help them if necessary. He planned to regain a little momentum, approach the hole and take a peek inside.

Without any reference point to his eyes he completely miscalculated the true distance to the wreck and again was way too fast, missed the wicked looking torn edges of the torn metal by less than a centimeter and collided hard with someone wearing an alien battle suit. The impact had enough momentum to throw the other being hard into a bulkhead, Roy tasted blood, cursed his decision to participate without a little more training and passed out.

-“”-

Roy saw his mother and she wore a steel collar around her neck, except for a few rags she was naked. She was covered with dirt and her beautiful hair chopped, not cut, by someone who wanted to hurt and humiliate her. She was sitting against a rock wall eating what looked like a raw onion. There were dozens of humans all around her looking the same. The filthy individual staring into nothingness next to her was his father. She suddenly looked up and directly at him. Her mouth formed the word. “Roy!” He tried to reach her, get to her, but he didn’t notice his own arms, or legs and somehow he knew he was dreaming.

With this realization he woke and recoiled in horror as a decapitated, mutilated body of someone floated right before his eyes.

Sobyr was right next to him looking down with a concerned face and talking behind his helmet.

Roy pointed to his and shook his head.

Now Alejandro came into view and pressed two studs on Roy’s underarm. “...tivate the helmet comm like this, before the system takes verbal commands.”

Roy got up and almost floated away but Ncchsi caught him and then his boots connected to, what technically was a wall, but up and down became meaningful again.

There were at least five dead Nogoll and the terribly mutilated body belonged to a Kermac, at least that what Roy suspected.

Sobyr looked sick and frightened. “Your beast saved us all. I never seen anything like that. He ripped Nogoll in shielded battle suits to pieces while it ignored blaster fire head on.”

Roy still tried to get his bearings. Ncchsi said. “Your move took a lot of courage too. Ramming that Nogoll like that, he was about to shoot me.”

Roy finally managed to say. “What happened?”

Sobyr pointed town the corridor. “This segment had survivors after all. Shielded in suits. That’s why we didn’t pick them up I guess. As we came in they waited for us and wanted the access code for the Calypso.”

He made a guilty face. “I gave it to him as the Kermac came in.”

Roy knew the feeling and said, “They did the same to me with their Psionics, not so long ago.”

Alejandro said. “Two of them took Aat to the Calypso and said they would kill her if your beast didn’t stop or if we call for help.”

Roy looked around and said. “I don’t see Partner.”

Alejandro pointed to a spot where a dead Nogoll floated. “It simply disappeared just a few moments ago.”

Roy wondered if Partner was gone to get his special kind of help again, he closed his eyes and he could feel partner, the beast appeared a second later right next to Roy. Looking at his friend and master and the emotions Roy felt were like a question, wanting to what Roy wanted it to do.

Alejandro had moved to the ragged hole.

“The Calypso is gone.”

The Thauran tried hard to stay calm, as his chin trembled. “Sorry for getting you all in this mess.”

Roy said with a fatalistic grin. “At least it isn’t me alone who always gets into the middle of things. We do need to tell the authorities, they will know what to do. There is fleet and a Psi Corps post at the station.”

“I wish we could but we pulled the GalNet modules from all suits, yours too and tossed them.”

Ncchsi hissed. “Even I was not immune to the Kermac influence.” Roy looked around.

“And I even a little felt sorry for those Paper skins. The Galaxy is better off without them. I just wonder why they let us live.”

Sobyr pointed to Partner.“They were afraid of your animal and could not control it. I think they knew it would shred them to pieces if they killed us, at least that is what I think.”

Roy wondered how far Partner could teleport. His animal did leave the Silver Swan and re-appeared on Green Hell many light years distant. Partner seemed to understand his thoughts and transmitted the images of the station and that it was able to get there.

Roy said. “Sobyr, your father is the Station commandant, right?”

“Yes, and he will ground me for the next twenty years if we ever get out alive. Not that there is any chance they find us out here.”

“Partner can teleport to the station but he can’t tell them what happened and I can’t tell him where Carla is since I don’t know, but he can take you there and you will be able to get through to your father. He will know what to do.”

“I won’t let you two behind. I let you into this mess so you go.”

“I will not get through to your father or anyone fast enough. Aat and Picfram’s life are in danger. Who knows where they go with that ship of yours, since it can’t go Trans-light.”

Alejandro said. “He’s right. We are reasonably safe, just hurry up.”

Sobyr wanted to argue, but Roy managed to explain his plan to Partner with easy to understand mind pictures, Partner nudged Sobyr into the back and both disappeared.

-“”-

Ncchsi stood by the hole and said, “They are gone for about a standard hour now. Do you think they made it to the station?”

Roy had walked deeper into the corridor turned and said, “I don’t have a real connection at this distance, but I know he doesn’t feel any distress. I am sure they made it.”

Alejandro walked up to Roy and he too shined his light down the corridor.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know, but I had this feeling that there was something dangerous nearby when I was still outside and even though the Kermac and the Nogoll are either dead or gone, I realized I still have this feeling.”

“It’s your first time in space and we are in anything but a perfect situation. There are dead bodies that creep me out; it’s normal to feel that way.”

Roy tried to pull his weapon still without success.

“I am a Greenie we have an ability to sort of sense danger. I still feel it.”

Then he cursed. “I wonder what happened to my TKU, it feels as it was glued to the holster.”

Alejandro looked closer and said.“This is a genuine Union Marine weapon and the TKU holster is in deep space mode. The mag-lock has engaged so it won’t float away.”

Alejandro opened the a little compartment on the weapon and retracted a band and locked the flexible thing around Roy’s wrist and said. “It looks like you haven’t customized the settings yet. It is in lanyard mode now.”

The red light went off as Roy tried and the weapon could be pulled easily.

“I should be called green and not Greenie. I never checked the weapon for anything other than if it was charged.”

He did feel a whole lot better with the TKU in his fist pointing at the sealed door down the corridor.

“I think we should check the rest of this wreck just to make sure there aren’t any more surprises.”

Ncchsi said. “There is one already, we’re moving.”

Alejandro pushed himself off and floated to the hole and went outside. His voice said. “Sure enough this wreck just grew a set of Kermac engines, two pods and they are active.”

He came back in, I can’t be sure but I think we are accelerating with about 500 klicks to the second.”

“You mean like FTL engines?” Roy asked.

“Yes, the Kermac version of Isah Pods. My Stellaris senses could be off as we are inside the field but if I am right we will hit the threshold in about an hour.”

“This isn’t a wreck either, “Said Ncchsi. “That hole hasn’t been made by a weapon, there is no damage behind it to suggest a TL load going off in here and any other weapon would make a hole with tears to the inside.”

Roy went to the door. “Why would they leave a ship capable of going trans-light in exchange for a shuttle that can’t leave the system? I think we better find the answers before the answer finds us.”

His effort to get to the bottom of this was stopped as the door would not open. It was a solid metal door and the simple enough looking controls were inactive and the handle didn’t budge. So he went back as far as he could dialed his TKU to six and fired. The recoil was enough to break the mag field bond of his boots and push him back into another wall and a thick blinding bright bolt hit that door with many million degrees of heat and a few hundred tons of kinetic energy. Whatever the Kermac designers hoped the door would withstand, they did not include a TKU 12. It was ripped out of the frame, pulverized to a cloud of molecular ashes.

Not waiting for the others, they weren’t armed anyway, he rushed through the corridor as fast as his boots let him and stormed into the breach. There was no one and he was certain now they were alone on the ship

The room he breached was in his opinion as big as the rest of the wreck. As alien as they were, he recognized several fuel tanks and the machinery all the way in the back looked like the part of the wreck ships engines.

The rest of the room was occupied by an elongated oval object. Even though he had seen Wurgus writing and symbols only once and very briefly. He was certain the writing was Wurgus.

Alejandro and Ncchsi had now also entered and Alejandro stared at the writing and said. “This is a Wurgus Sun Bomb. Ten or twelve are enough to make Kappa Andromedae go Supernova.”

The Stellaris went to an asymmetric shaped screen displaying moving symbols and then he said. “This one is set to go off in 58 minutes, two seconds after it goes trans-light.”

“Would the station not be able to detect us now?”

Ncchsi spread his arms. “It is accelerating very slow. It didn’t jump into the system. They probably think it’s a Scavenger.”

Alejandro said still studying the display. “According to this there are 12 similar ships all accelerating towards the sun. Once they go trans-light they can’t be stopped, they reenter space inside the sun and...”

Roy suddenly understood that the entire attack was just a cover to get these bombs in place. The Union so confident in their weapons, they underestimated the Kermac. They didn’t have Translocators but that didn’t mean they were impotent. They were second only to the Union in the Milky Way Galaxy and didn’t become so big by being complete fools. Ncchsi was obviously thinking along the same lines.

“They took a page out of the Terran book, this is what United Terra did with the Xunx and the Freons. Maybe what happens here happens in more Union systems right now.”

Alejandro said. “Operation Steam Roller. Only this time we are at the receiving end.”

Roy felt stupid despite the situation and said. “What kind of roller?”

“Long ago and before there was a Union, Earth send fleets of robotic long range bombs to every known Xunx planet and obliterated a few hundred planets all at the same time.

What if the Kermac do the same and try to blow up a few hundred suns. Fake space battles, bringing fake wrecks like this into the systems...no Quasi space signatures then slowly accelerate. If they take out core worlds like Terra, Blue Moon , Thebes and so forth that could break the Union.”

Roy somehow knew that this was exactly what was happening, the Union would be severely crippled or perhaps even destroyed in one single sweep, in less than 49 minutes.

-“”-

Roy still stared at the read out of the bomb. Alejandro pointed to another small screen showing a three dimensional graphic of the local system, with its sun in the middle and eleven other green dots that approached that sun, now passing the orbit of the eighth planet.

If Alejandro was right there were less than 20 minutes left for the bomb carriers to reach trans light speed and jump into the sun.

“Can we stop it?”

Alejandro did not take his eyes of the controls and said. “Wurgus Tech is considered TL 10 and that is way beyond me.”

Roy looked at the bomb and said. “Maybe I can make it detonate and thus warn them. There was no hesitation or arguing, the Stellaris and the Maggi Sauron nodded, knowing that this meant their certain death. Ncchsi said.

“Do it!”

Roy didn’t want to die either but if it meant they could stop this bomb and thus show the station that there was a serious threat, then it was worth it. He pulled the two spare energy cartridges he had in his belt and glued them with Space suit emergency seal tape to the huge bomb. He was just about to aim his TKU at the cluster when Alejandro said. “Wait!”

Roy lowered the gun and said, “You’re right! You two go outside they find you. No need for all of us to stay. I can blow this thing alone.”

“That’s not what I meant. Three of the other bomb ships just blinked out, and now two more.”

“Blinked out? Did they jump already?”

“No I think they are being destroyed. Three more just went.”

Roy still held his blaster. “We need to be sure they are being destroyed the longer we wait the less time they got to react.”

Alejandro rushed to the Fuel tanks and yelled, “Roy, don’t shoot the bomb. Shoot at that Distributor junction I am highlighting with my chest light.”

Roy did not ask why he simply did. The TKU bolt slammed into the contraption, his new friend had pointed out. The effect was spectacular and frightening. Whatever it was melted to slag and open pipes started to burn with a bright green fire. Roy and his friends were wiped of their feet, tossed at least 30 meters across the room and then slammed into the machinery at the rear of the ship. This time however Roy managed to twist and turn his body so he collided with his feet first and was able to lessen the impact. Alejandro however tore a rip into his chrome skin and blood appeared freezing instantly. Roy pushed himself off and pressed his hand over the wound.

“Everyone alright?”

Ncchsi appeared next to him holding a roll of Suit tape and said, “I think I broke my tail but other than that I am alright. Let me get some tape over Alejandro’s wound. Underneath that skin he is as vulnerable as you and me.” Alejandro tabbed his ear and then his voice came on.

“I am sorry but I had to stop us. The safest way was to cut the fuel supply at the distributor before it goes to the antimatter generator. I knew we would decelerate fast, but not instantly as that would have surely killed us.”

“That saved us but what about the rest?”

“Because I am receiving Standard radio. I needed to make sure they don’t shoot at us.”

Ncchsi said. “We are not safe yet. We are still near a bomb that goes off very soon.”

“Then we should leave as fast as these suits go, Partner can find us out there I am sure.”

At that moment Union Marines rushed in and it was due to their training that they didn’t shoot the teenagers. Their transmitters dialed in on the radio frequency of the suits and one of them said, “United Stars Marine Corps, let’s get out of here.” Partner also appeared next to Roy, feeling exhausted but proud. Roy patted his Partner.

“Good Job.”

One of the Marines simply grabbed him and instead of walking flew in this confined space with a speed that made Roy dizzy. They were free and the Marine went Super luminal with his suit and Roy a few seconds later. Roy yelled. “Partner!”

-“”-

As they came out of Quasi Space a few seconds later they were near the station. The Marine pointed into space and Roy looked and saw a bright new star appear and linger for a few seconds, then it twinkled back into nothingness. Roy at the same time lost all contact to his animal. It was like before, when Partner went to get help, there was a sudden emptiness in his mind. However Roy did feel the exhaustion of his friend. He didn’t even have a chance to tell Partner to get out.

“Did anyone see Partner?”

-“”-

Roy and the other teenagers, all of them stood in the big office of the Station Commandant. Commodore Sybor, the Thauran father of Sobyr, Cara and a bunch of officials faced the Teens. Roy was close to tears and had to use every ounce of self control. No one had seen Partner. An alien bomb strong enough to kill a sun had been simply too much for even his formidable friend. Cara had told him just moments ago that the psionic power of teleportation was the rarest and most energy consuming of all Psionic powers.

The Commodore said. “Thanks to the heroic acts of these Teens we were able to prevent a war changing catastrophe. Especially thanks to Mr. Roy Masters and his remarkable teleporting beast. I was torn between scolding you for doing such a foolish thing, but the deed far outweighs any wrongdoing. Now I understand that, the beast has been lost in the blast of the last Sun bomb. There is little I can say to this, but as helpful and instrumental this animal was, it was still an animal and we can be glad no sentient life has been lost.”

Roy had tried to be brave and collected but that was too much. He jumped forward and punched the Thauran in the face.

“Thanks to this animal your blue butt is still attached to you and you can make speeches. Partner was not just an animal. I loved him and he was my friend!”

Two Marines seemingly out of nowhere grabbed Roy and the Thauran came up with a bleeding nose and two teeth missing.

“Your actions of today do not condone your behavior. Marines take him to the hold, while I consider charges!”

-“”-

The Marines manhandled him rather roughly and stripped him of his suit and things and threw him into an Auto-dresser that fitted him with a transparent suit and then marched him to a holding cell. He noticed a Kermac and four Nogoll dressed the same way in a similar energy curtain secured spartan holding cell.

One of the Marines said, “Punching the Commodore was a stupid thing, boy. He’s going to rip you a new one. You must be nuts, doing that for a teleporting dog.”

Roy tried to punch the Marine as well, but the suit held him and his effort was in vain. “You are a stinking coward. Making insults while I am tied up.”

They pushed him in the cell and the Marine said. “Oh shut up, you seem to be a trouble maker. So cool off in there. If you’re lucky he let you go after 30 days, and then I wait for you and show you what it means to insult a Marine.”

The two activated the curtain and walked off. Roy was emotionally down to his last nerve. He should have never left Green Hell. Nothing went his way the second he had left Green Hell.

From the Kermac plot to destroy his planet to the stupid idea to go to Sares to college. No one really cared about him out here. Cara only followed orders so he could swoon the Wurgus. He meant nothing to her. She didn’t even say a word as he was dragged out. Partner was dead and he was in jail. What would Uncle Sam say if he heard that he was arrested and sent to jail for punching a Union Fleet Commodore. Everything was so much bigger than him and so beyond anything he knew about. Oh Partner why did you come back for me? You already have been safe! He sat down on the smooth cod and started crying. He did not know what to do, who he could turn to for help. Partner was gone and so was any illusion of a future that held anything for him. He was utterly alone.

-“”-

He did not know how long he had cried and he must have fallen asleep.

This time there was no dream of his mother. He was certain he imagined things but there was a warm heavy arm on his shoulder and as he looked up a man sat next to him, the energy curtain was gone and the marine that mocked him stood there with a black eye and with a face of pure fright.

“Everything is going to be alright, Roy.”

The man next to him wore an all black uniform, his calf high boots polished to a mirror shine. He was tall and had a physique as if he could go toe to toe with a Pertharian

The man’s face was rectangular, with a very pronounced chin and jaw line. There was a scar from his left eye to his mouth. The blonde hair cut high and tight. The man’s eye were gray as steel and there was an eerie inhuman quality to them.

Next to him sat Admiral Richard Stahl the eternal Warrior. The living immortal legend.

None of his legends however reported that he had a warm and caring voice and a very human heart. The Immortal still had his arm on Roy’s shoulder and then produced a piece of white cloth out of a pocket.

“It’s an old fashioned handkerchief, but I have found no high tech alternative that really substitutes.”

Roy felt suddenly very embarrassed for his tears and his conduct and took the handkerchief and wiped his eyes,

“Sir, I don’t belong out here. In my jungles I knew what to do. Out here I can’t even fly a spacesuit without making a fool out of myself.”

“This is just how I felt, the first time I left Earth.”

Roy looked up with disbelief in his face, “Sir, not you! Everyone knows you are...”

“I was a young Marine Lieutenant on a planet that knew nothing of Aliens or Faster than light travel. A trip around our planet, aboard an airplane back then took many hours longer, than it took me to get here after I heard what happened. When I saw the first Xunx, I almost shit my pants.

Even today I wonder if all this isn’t simply too big to a simple Pre Astro Marine. They did not teach Faster than light weapon tactics at Parris Island or at Quantico and because I am blessed and cursed with immortality, I saw more friends die than I can count and yet everyone of them left an empty spot in my soul. When the day is over Roy I am as alone as you feel right now, my last relative died 2800 years ago.”

Roy completely forgot his misery for a moment.

“Sir, I had no idea. You can come to Green Hell anytime. I am sure Uncle Sam would be delighted!”

A deep smile parted the chiseled features of his hard face. “Thank you Roy and might just do that too, but first let’s get out of here

“Am I not charged with something?”

“Nobody filed any charges and the Commodore clearly understood the errors of his ways. You are the Unions biggest hero after all.”

“I don’t want that. It was Partner and not me.”

“I know Roy. I made sure your name and the details were kept out of the news, but that does not mean I and a few others don’t know about it and we won’t forget it either. Twenty Five Star Systems could be saved. You saved Billions of lives by sending Sobyr and Partner to the Station. Thankfully we have instantaneous communication and the magnificent Bellebees who instantly sent out the correct orders to every System Defense.”

“And Partner paid for it with his life.”

Stahl got up.“Then I have a surprise for you.”

Roy also got up and followed the Immortal Admiral. Stahl pointed his finger at the marine with the black eye.

“Mocking a prisoner, any prisoner is simply not acceptable behavior for a Marine.” The stout marine trembled at Stahl’s gaze and gasped.

“Sir, no Sir it is not. I volunteer to run the Concourse twice with full gear, Sir and I will correct my behavior.”

“Accepted.”

The Kermac in the other cell came to the field screen and waved at Stahl. Stahl pushed the two way audio and barked.

“What do you want?”

“I recognize you. You are the one they call the Immortal Warrior. You are our greatest enemy but they say you are integrity personified. Tell me what will happen to us?”

“As despicable your act was , we are at war and you are now a prisoner of war.”

“I knew our lives were forfeit the moment we stepped aboard the bomb carriers. I mean what will happen to all of us, the Kermac?”

“I am no psychic. I can’t predict the future, but I assure you I will do my part to retaliate in kind.”

The Kermac looked distressed and defeated, “We know of you. No Wizard will ever admit to it but we fear you.”

“If you have something to say, say it now. I am wasting time.”

“I know of another plan and I am willing to reveal it, for certain concessions.”

“Sorry I don’t make deals with enemies.”

Stahl tabbed his Wrist Com. “Alycia can you come down to the Prisoner hold and talk to our Kermac inmates. He has something about another Kermac Scheme.”

To the Marine he said. “Make sure they can’t lift a finger or kill themselves before General Lichfangh was here.”

Stahl waved Roy and said. “I still need to show you your surprise.”

-“”-

Roy was once more dressed in his Bio-Seal Suit and had his belongings back. A marine handing him his things told him that the Immortal himself ordered them to get it all.

As he stepped out of the Security Office he saw Stahl talking to a pretty woman in an US Army Uniform. He waved Roy over.

“Alycia I want you to meet Roy Masters a very resourceful young man I greatly respect.”

The Woman had a Cara quality to her and while she had some similarities to a Saresii, he had the distinct feeling she was not of that race.

“Nice to meet you indeed Roy.”

In all the misery he still felt, he could not deny the uplifting effect of the Eternal Warrior treating him like a friend.

“It is an honor, Ma’am.”

Her eyes had an even more penetrating quality than those of the Admiral.

“No one has told you yet?”

“Told me what?”

“The station went under a Saresii Psi Shield as the last bomb exploded. It was feared there could be Kermac Psionic attacks to follow.”

Roy had no idea what that supposed to mean. The Woman glared at Stahl.

“Go take him to his animal!”

“Take me to my ani..PARTNER is alive?”

The woman said, more to Stahl than to Roy.

“The boy and the beast have a very strong Psi bond. The Shield has severed it. They both think the other is dead. The Brig down here is even stronger shielded.”

Stahl grunted. “I still hate Psionics in the first place.”

Roy grabbed the arm of the Admiral. “Sir where is Partner?”

“They found your beast floating in an almost catatonic state. He is with your new friends. I take you to them.”

-“”-

The second he stepped out into the corridor he could feel Partner again and a heart beat later, with a loud bang, Partner appeared. Roy immediately slung his arms around the big neck and kissed and hugged his friend, while he was licked. It was the second time today Roy could not keep back his tears.

The waves of love and emotions he received from his partner had never been as intense. The Universe simply wasn’t as big or as scary while he had his friend and was not alone after all.

Stahl interrupted him after a while.“I am sure glad you two are back together, but I do need to go back to my duties.”

Stahl pointed to Roy’s PDD.

“I added my personal call code. If you ever need me, call.”

Stahl padded Partner and then turned and walked away. Only now he noticed Cara and his new friends standing a short distance down the corridor. He did not let go of Partner as he walked up to them.

Cara gave him a scolding look. “I said explore the Station, not half the Galaxy.”

Roy said. “I am nothing but an assignment to you. Stowed away on Sares till it is convenient for the Wurgus Conference. I promised Uncle Sam to be good, but no one ever asked me if I even want to be here.”

It came out like a flood. “I thought you be there at Sares and now I know I am just orders and you decided to put me up with your parents. I don’t know them, could you not tell me that and asked me?”

He pointed at partner and said. “And then you let that prick talk like that when I thought Partner was dead?”

She took an actual step back. “I am sorry Roy. I know things haven’t been easy for you since I met you, but I thought we were friends. I called the Admiral to let him know what happened and he actually left his ship and took a space train half across the quadrant to come here personally. You physically attacked and wounded the Commandant of this base. No matter how insensitive and callous his comment was it was a serious thing.

Yes I understand your emotional state at that time, but everything went so fast you gave me no time to react or even say anything.”

She looked sad and a hurt and added. “I volunteered to help you from the day I heard you parents got killed. If my help was not adequate then I am sorry. Go back to Green Hell or whatever.”

Sobyr looked troubled. “I came to apologize for what my father said and did and for the mess I got you in. I really am sorry, we all felt enriched by your presence and would like to thank you for everything you did, saving our lives and all.”

Aat, also made sad eyes. “If you go back to Green Hell we won’t have a chance to get to know you better.”

Roy suddenly felt rotten for snapping that way at Cara. What she said was true of course and she had his best in mind and never was anything less than a friend. Cara stepped forward and simply gave him a hug and pressed her soft cheeks against his. “I am sorry Roy. I don’t know what it is I can do but I will try to be a better friend.”

What do you say if you wished you never said something that hurt a friend in the first place? He wanted to say something but she said. “Telepathy has its good sides too, apologies are easier because we can feel if they are sincere. Can we forget what happened and simply go from there?”

Roy was on the verge becoming a man and Cara felt lovely, soft, warm and had a faint but heavenly scent. He said. “Yes please. I did not mean what I said. It was just so much. I think I still want to go to Sares. If everything I experienced was a lesson then I learned that I have to catch up with what I missed in school”

She held him at arm’s length. “I said it before, deep down you are wise young man, Mr. Masters.”

She actually looked a little embarrassed and added. “Why don’t we all got to Arthur’s and have pig out dinner and we all catch up. You and your new friends and of course, Partner.”

-“”-

Roy learned that Sobyr went to his father right away and thanks to the presence of the PSI corps they found the Calypso right away and had no problems to use Tech Stop and Paralysators to overwhelm the Kermac and the Nogoll and free Aat and Pictfram. Sobyr’s father alerted the Bellebees and they instantaneously issued the detailed orders to ten thousand Union Fleet posts where Kermac battles happened and thus Union forces were able to avert a terrible catastrophe in the proverbial last minute. Cara explained that the Bellebees had no natural eyes or ears, no arms or faces but still were a tremendously important member of the Union. Bellebees had the ability to remember collectively every little detail over thousands of years and easily correlate the most minute detail with a million other details and come to a sensible solution. They were as efficient as any computronic but added intuition, creativity and a certain level of emotional response to a solution only living beings could.

For this ability the Bellebees were a part of Fleet Command and able to react to a wide spread problem in a fast and decisive way.

This was the reason the Kermac attacked this system as well, as they correctly identified the Bellebees as powerful asset member of the Union.

Sobyr’s father was a true Thauran and could not apologize directly to a “Non Thauran” but he expressed his apologies to Roy via his son.

Sobyr assured him that had nothing to do with Stahl coming during a war and despite all the events half way across the Galaxy to intervene.

It was primarily the fact that Roy was instrumental in saving Sobyr’s life. Of course having the Immortal Admiral breathing down his neck made more than just a deep impression on the Station Commander and just about anyone.

That Stahl had been on Pluribus at that time and only a Space Train ride away from Belle Station was beside the point.

They had all a great dinner at an Arthur’s Swine and Dine and even Partner participated by eating the wrappers, entire cups of soda, cup, ice straw and all, two pepper shakers and an entire napkin holder Pictfram tossed in Partner’s direction, much to the delight of the others.

The plan they agreed on was that Roy would visit Humongous with Cara the next day and then have a whole day with his new friends before they had to resume their journey to Sares.

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