On the Varnia, Paris was examining the pod’s contents. There were two devices which he set on the table in front of him. One looked to have some sort of inactive LED display. Several minutes were spent staring, trying to conjure up some explanation as to what was being looked at and where it may have come from. Why was it in a Fleet Safe Access Pod?
For the moment, the senior officers had seen enough and turned to leave. Paris was left with instructions to continue with full, detailed reports.
“Detailed reports”, retorted Paris once he was alone. “That’s the part of this job I hate.”
He sat down and began to write about the contents. Where appropriate in his report, he sketched out drawings of the objects.
He’d been at it for about thirty minutes when all of a sudden, he was startled by the sound of a faint whirring noise coming from one of the devices. The object’s LED screen lit up. He jumped back from the table.
“What the…” he blurted. Moving in closer to get a better look at the LED display, there were numbers and data flashing across the screen. He couldn’t read the words. They seemed to be the markings of some unknown language. None of it was familiar, except for the numbers.
“Why do I know these numbers?” Paris was talking to himself. He was trying to remember something but it was just beyond his reach, in the fog of his mind.
Things were starting to come clear to Zee. He had been tuning out everything around him, thinking and straining for insight and understanding to all these things he was pondering. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a door opening from behind him. Almost in unison, the chatter of the students stopped as heads turned to see a strange man walking down the aisle towards the front of the cabin.
The stranger made his way to the cockpit. There was a short exchange of words and then the man walked back to the door from which he’d come and quickly shut it behind him. Zee could hear the door lock engage from the other side.
A quiet murmur began to build across the cabin. Up until that moment, it wasn’t even known others were aboard the flight. One of the lead instructors stood at front and began to address the cadets.
“I know you have questions.” He started out. “I’ll answer them the only way I can. With the truth. You were not supposed to know anyone else was traveling with us. Our guest is a high ranking government official and his aides. They’re hitching a ride with us today. That’s all I can say for now. Our exercise will commence as normal. I want to make it very clear. You are not to discuss this with each other or anyone else. This is classified information. As far as you’re concerned, this never happened.”
He looked around the room. All eyes were fixed on him.
“Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes sir” the cadets replied in unison.
Mendelark was gloating, his pride and arrogance beginning to annoy Santora.
“You can go now”, The General motioned for his guards to escort him from the room.
Now Mendelark was annoyed. “How can he just send me off without so much as a thank you?” he thought to himself.
Santora was filing through the information and photos Mendelark provided. Stopping at one of the pictures, “Ah, the good Senator Michaels.” He turned the image so his guards could see. “This is the one we want.”
Santora pulled the next image. “The Senator’s shuttle. We grab him here.”
The next picture made the General pause. “And what is this, a picture of his daughter’s bedroom? Very good Mendelark, this will be of very good use. Perhaps you’re not so stupid as I imagined.”
There was a knock at the door.
Santora threw the pictures down on the desk. “Come”, he ordered.
Another of his guards entered the room.
“General, grid units have reported active beacons. Coordinates indicate older sensors, the ones we used to break into Teller Station. They appear to be moving, probably on a ship of some sort.”
Santora stood to his feet. Teller Station was something he hadn’t thought of very much over the past years.
“They’re active now?” He asked.
“So, they weren’t destroyed after all.” He thought for a moment. “Assemble an assault team. Breach that shift and secure the ship. Perhaps we can initiate an assault on two fronts instead of just one.”
Turning to the others, Santora was gleeful. “Come my friends! We’ve got a Senator to meet!”
It was “Go” time for the slingshot. Again the commander stood at front and barked out orders.
“Check harnesses. Everyone be sure you’re strapped in. Do not attempt to undo your seat belts and exit your seat or you will die. Stay put and secured and you’ll be fine.”
With that, he took his seat and buckled in himself. Everyone was silent and nervously waiting. The minutes seemed to take forever.
Zee’s eyes were closed as he processed through the mental drill he always did before jumping into the slingshot. His preparation was interrupted with his own question of whether or not the secret guests on board were prepared for what was about to take place.
There was turbulence. Zee knew it was the current’s wake and that entry was seconds away. He forgot about the strange travelers and was back in his drill, starting his breathing maneuvers.
Cadet Edwards heard Zee breathing funny and turned to ask him about it. But before he could get a word out, the ship hit the current. Ten seconds into the incredible thrust forward, all the cadets but Zee were unconscious and in hyper sleep.
The breathing exercises continued for another twenty seconds. Pressurization began to normalize within the cabin and the need to fight the effects of the sudden thrust was over. Zee handled it perfectly. Everything in the cabin was normal again.
The ship moved steadily and smoothly along the current. Zee was tired. He always was after Slingshot entry. It was due to the physical and mental exertion it took to concentrate and breathe properly. He sat back with his eyes closed and rested a minute. None of the instructors were moving either, for the same reasons.
There was no hurry. Hyper sleep usually lasted about forty five minutes. Plenty of time for a quick rest and then the fun would begin with the shaving cream. Zee heard the cabin door open behind him.
“Our travel guests must have handled it fine” he thought.
The commander rose at the front of the cabin and turned towards the man approaching down the aisle. Zee was taken completely by surprise as the very loud sound of a hand held EPW discharged. His body jerked from the sudden shock, but since he was securely strapped in, it went unnoticed, which was fortunate for him.
The commander took the blast square in his chest and was dead before hitting the floor. The other two commanding instructors were quickly to their feet in response, but within seconds, they both lay dead at the side of their comrade as well. The pilots were quickly taken out next.
Zee sat stunned. He knew to stay quiet and motionless, pretending to be in hyper sleep, as quickly, two more people were passing by him, moving down the aisle. One of them entered the cockpit to fly the ship.
“This can’t be happening!” he screamed inside. His heart felt like it would explode from fear.
“Get the senator out here now and sit him down. The General will want to talk with him.”
Zee cracked open his eyes a tiny bit and could see the man talking. He was the one that came from the room earlier and surprised them all before they entered the current. He closed his eyes again as the other stranger passed by towards the door at the back.
Seconds later, the man he assumed to be Senator, was being pushed along the aisle towards the now empty seats which were once filled with his commanding instructors.
“What’s going on here? This wasn’t supposed to happen. I demand to speak with whomever is in charge.” Zee recognized the voice. It was Senator Michaels. He knew his older daughter. They were friends.
“Shut up Senator and sit down. You’ll talk to him soon enough.”
The attacker who seemed to be in charge, turned towards his accomplice, “Find the key. It’s around here somewhere.”
It took several minutes, but the key was eventually found on the dead body of one of the pilots. There were locked hatches on the front wall. It was unsuccessful in opening the first three, but on the fourth it worked. The door opened, causing smiles to break out across the faces of the invaders.
Reaching in, a duffel bag was removed. The man tossed it onto an empty seat. Zee couldn’t immediately see what was going on, but by the sound of it, he could tell a case of some sort, with latches, was being opened.
Pulling the contents from the case, he held it up. “Dominic, here they are!” He exclaimed with excitement.
“Put em on the floor”, Dominic ordered. “About a foot from the wall and a yard apart. Make sure they’re secured to the seat legs. I don’t want them shifting from turbulence.”
Moments later, a series of electronic blips and beeps could be heard coming from the strange devices. “They’re activated”.
Zee had surprisingly calmed down, considering the seriousness of the situation. But he realized that whatever was going to happen, needed to happen soon. By his estimation, they’d been in the current now for about ten minutes, which meant there were only thirty minutes before hyper sleep would be wearing off and everyone waking up.
What would happen then? He was sure there would be no hesitation on the part of these invaders, to kill everyone else on board.
“I need a weapon” he thought. He could see the gun cabinet in front of the Senator. It was another locked hatch door, but Zee knew guns were on the inside. “I’ll never make it there and even if I did, I don’t have a key.”
His thoughts were interrupted by the voice of the lead attacker, Dominic. “Give me the picture so I can scan it.”
The other man, whose gun was now fixed on Michaels spoke. “Don’t try anything stupid Senator. You wouldn’t want to get yourself killed or any of these fine young people.”
He stepped back away from Michaels and pulling a photo from his shirt pocket, handed it to Dominic.
Zee watched carefully through barely opened eyes. A bluish beam emanated from the devices on the floor and onto the wall at the front of the cabin. The photo was held up and placed into the path of the beam. It seemed like only a few seconds until the image lit up as if catching on fire. Releasing it and stepping back, a fog seemed to form on the wall in the shape of a doorway.
Seconds later, a figure emerged from the misty entry and stepped into the cabin. Zee closed his eyes. His heart raced with fear again, he sensing the strong presence of evil emanating from this new stranger.