General Santora was a hard man. He had little tolerance for carelessness and mistakes, especially when it came to military operations. He expected perfection from his soldiers and when they failed to deliver, he wasn’t very happy.
Early reports indicated a successful abduction, but now the news had changed. His carrier was just arriving on the scene.
Walking into the containment zone, their target lay just short of death, a spear through his chest. Doctor’s worked aggressively trying to save him. Santora recognized the weapon as belonging to the local Edokians.
They were considered to be a troublesome people group living in the region and who often waged war against his troops. Though never a serious threat, if not payed attention too, could cause considerable trouble, such as now.
Over the years, Santora had taken control of Narantu and other surrounding systems, through a series of deceptions and lies directed against the Darian Tri-Council. Believing him, relationships with Daria were broken, and alliances formed with the General instead.
It had turned into a reign of terror fueled by lies. Edok had been unaware of the slavery they were now bound in, hooked on the bread he provided them; but that was changing.
A small faction of people were slowly waking up and realizing their mistake of breaking ties with Daria. They wanted to re-align. But under present conditions and their weakened frame of mind, they saw themselves as no match to resist.
“Captain, Walk with me.” The General turned towards the soldier who was coming up behind him. He continued to speak. “How did this happen? This zone was supposed to be cleared prior to the abduction.”
Captain Pablov knew Santora wasn’t happy and would hold him accountable for the failed mission. He nervously tried to shift blame,
“Sir, somehow these savages eluded the containment team and pulled our target through as we arrived. We cut them down with Electronic Pulse Weapons but before we could get them all, the target was hit with the spear.”
“And what is he doing here?” The General pointed to the body hanging from the tree.
“After the target was speared, he fell back through the shift zone into his realm. An extraction team was retrieving him when the person you see hanging, entered the room. They were forced to bring him through as well.”
“Captain, did you read the briefing that was handed out prior to this operation?” Santora knew the answer already.
Pablov didn’t want to reply. The thought entered his mind to lie, but he knew it would backfire and decided against it,
“No sir, I didn’t read it. I asked my advisors to brief me on the operation and was going strictly by what they were telling me.”
With a swing of his arm, Santora caught Pablov across the face with the back of his hand, knocking him to the ground. “Captain, you realize how important this target was to us. It took us years of searching and preparation to find him. Every step to get him to Garen Four was meticulously planned.”
Pablov tried to talk but the General cut him off. “Do you know who the man is hanging from the tree?”
Pablov didn’t know.
The General continued, “Had you read the mission briefing, you would have recognized that’s our spy, who provided us the necessary information about our target. He also verified the book. Were you able to retrieve the book?”
He held out his hand, “Give me the book Captain.”
Pablov was hesitant as he didn’t know what book the General was referring too, “I’m sorry sir, we didn’t find it.”
The Captain took another strike across the face, this time from a boot.
Santora pulled a radio unit to his mouth. “Send Marko to me at once.”
An acknowledgement crackled across comm. The General continued to address Pablov.
“Because of your carelessness, our mission stands in jeopardy of failure and may all be in vain. This is unacceptable. We have no book and the one person who owned it is about dead and can’t be questioned. We therefore have no way to break into the Teller System. For your family’s sake Captain, you had better hope he survives.”
“General, Sir?” Marko approached.
“Marko, I’m promoting you to Captain.” Marko looked nervously at Pablov who was propped on one elbow, still lying on the ground and bleeding from his nose and mouth.
The General continued. “By the looks of our failure to control this zone, there’s probably a considerable mess on the other side. Put together a cleanup team and permanently shut down this site.”
Marko knew what this meant. They were to destroy the shift zone and erase any evidence of the link between Garen Four and Edok.
“Yes Sir.” Marko saluted.
He didn’t want this job, but he knew there wasn’t any choice. If not careful, it would be just a matter of time before he was in the same position as Pablov and the three others before him.
“And Captain,” the General added. “Take Pablov and hang him from that rope until dead.” Santora pointed to Claudio hanging from the tree.
Pablov pleaded for his life. Marko didn’t want to do it, but it was his life if he refused. He called for assistance of some soldiers standing nearby who took Pablov into custody and lead him away, rather, dragged him to his execution.
Confusion marked the start of the day at the Garen Four Art Festival. All the participants except for Edmund Carr were gathered, but not a single staff person could be found. It was as if they had all vanished.
The explosion that soon followed took out several city blocks. A crater, filled with debris, marked the spot where the hotel once stood. The Garen Four Art Festival was officially over and any evidence of the morning abduction completely erased.
The new Captain Marko now turned his attention to the local cleanup at hand. A final check of the hotel room for the book had been ordered, before closing down the Garen Four site. But no book had been found.
He issued a new order. There was to be an extensive search conducted around the Edok side of the abduction site. Teams were formed to sweep every inch of ground for several hundred yards.
It wasn’t in vain. Many pages were uncovered. For the moment, Marko had gained strong favor in the eyes of Santora.
A translator confirmed the writing in the book was about Teller Station and the Teller System. It was beginning to look like not all hope was lost.
The more difficult issue now, was that in most of the images gathered from the ripped pages, there weren’t many which were usable. Those that were intact were pictures of objects and items, planets and stars, but not really any that were of locations within the station itself.
Even for the lack of good ones though, Santora wasn’t without opportunity. At least one picture was usable and it was evident from what was recovered, that other pages existed. They just needed to be found.
Teams were again dispatched to search more ground this time. If they could find them, there was the chance of identifying other places of entry.
The workable image they did have, was a picture of a storage room on the station. It would give them initial access. Data teams were firing up field generators to power the holograph scanners.
The question was, would there be a good enough scan to create a successful entry point? It was unclear just yet, since there was obvious damage to the page.
Holograms which served as portals, could be generated from photographs. Other kinds of pictures and paintings could be used as well, as long as the artwork contained photo realistic qualities and matched the actual location it was supposed to represent. Photos were usually better for this type of entry and in those times when the artwork was handmade, the image crafted was very specifically rendered for the situation, so that it was a match. This was how Santora was breaking into many worlds.
Of course, he had to have help from the peoples he conquered. Some poor fool, even though working under the pretenses of what were actually nothing but lies, was always ready and eager to help secure the images, or do something of the General’s bidding.
By giving such willful aid, authority for exploitation was granted. The legal grounds for occupation by Santora and his men was guaranteed. Without it, he knew Daria could rise up against him and force him out.
The Darian’s, a highly advanced race and political Monarchy, touched many worlds. Those not directly governed by it, depended on the Darian’s for council and guidance in matters of law and governance. Even Santora was subject to their decrees, though he would never admit it to those he conquered.
Well-hidden also was the fact, that he was once one of Daria. Until he was banished for treason and stripped of his authority there, he and many other Darians, who foolishly followed him. Thus he was driven by great rage to hurt everything they valued.
Because Santora was only able to execute his plans on the basis of having willing accomplices, he had worked hard to find cooperative participants. In this case, it was to get the book about Teller Station into the hands of Edmund Carr.
There was also the meticulous planning, which led to the infiltration of the Garen Four Art Institute and festival. All the pieces had fallen into place. Now he could only hope it wasn’t in vain.
Several minutes later, a scanner projection grid displayed a somewhat skewed but usable hologram.
“Contact me when final entry is ready.” Santora ordered. With that the General departed the scene.
The room being projected on the jungle floor wasn’t very big. A small reconnaissance team was assembled, three persons in total, for initial entry.
Their job was to jump worlds using the holo projection, set the coordinate broadcasting systems in place, which would then link Edok to the closet. Once all necessary links were stabilized, the door of the closet would be forced open and a strike force moved into the station.
There was great risk involved in this plan. The door of the closet was closed and therefore, no one could see or know what was actually on the other side.
Santora was going on assumptions, that the closet could actually provide entrance into Teller, but what choice did he have? It was now, or start over again.
The three reconnaissance soldiers gathered at the entry zone of the projection. The first soldier armed his weapon and cautiously stepped in. While just at the edge, he could still be seen from Edok. For him though, he was in the closet, no longer able to see the world from which he had just come.
Motioning for the others to follow, he stepped further into the room and disappeared. The next two soldiers moved in as well. For those on the strike force, it was now a matter of watching and waiting, to make sure nothing unauthorized entered Edok from within the projection.
The first soldier was in position, weapon trained on the door to guard against possible entry that would expose them. The second followed up, setting detonation charges which would destroy this gateway if it became necessary. The third man had the role of assembling the coordinate transport system and broadcast beacons and getting those placed.
Transport beacons were used to establish fixed coordinates back to Edok. The broadcast beacons obtained a lock on the coordinates of their current position in the closet. Then using the transport, information was sent through the hologram to base camp, where data teams were assembled and waiting.
In this way, generators operating in Edok to maintain the hologram wouldn’t be needed, since the actual coordinate data could be used to maintain a location lock. It could take some time to dial in and get the links established. Grid Units now under the charge of Captain Marko would monitor and adjust the connection as necessary.
Strategic care was taken when establishing and transporting coordinates. Entry points were usually chosen where access was hidden. If the secrecy of the access could be maintained, easier entry in and out of a system could be accomplished, making infiltration more prone to success.
In spite of the unknown of what was beyond the closed door, the location provided a somewhat good entry point since it could be accomplished in relative secrecy. Providing, of course, that the closet wasn’t used very often. There was no way to know for sure.
A lone ship, on the other side of the galaxy and far from the danger awaiting Teller, traveled slowly through space. Its occupants unaware of the disaster being perpetrated light years away, a disaster that, if unstopped, would eventually make its way here, to this seemingly peaceful quadrant.
The glowing mist, visible to their sensors, emanated beautiful and brilliant colors year round. Surely, its glory was the result of reflections dancing off the billions of particles, all moving in magnetic harmony around multiple other planetary systems and currents.
Just then, a small solar wind, more like a blip, passed around them at an unthinkable speed. It continued on towards the great colorful galactic ocean, shimmering red and orange ahead. This was no ordinary dust bowl glistening in the far beyond. It was Daria.
The assembly had gathered, at the announcement of a messenger bringing news. The Darian Tri-Council were seated on thrones and surrounded by several elders, all waiting to hear.
“And what news do you bring?” asked the King.
“My Lord”, the messenger bowed low before the Tri-Council. “As you foresaw, Santora has begun to make his move against Minas Terra.”
The King looked at his son. “His fury is great because of your rising. He will try to destroy all those who align with us and who come between him and his desire for this throne.”
Standing, he now addressed the assembly. “For centuries, our people have provided guidance and peaceful leadership throughout this quadrant and others. We have held diplomatic relations with many worlds. Alliances have been forged and unfortunately, in recent years, broken through the selfish ambitions which have blinded the eyes of those who now align with your fallen brother.
We have warned them, to not be deceived by his guile. But they must be left to choose. We will not force ourselves on them. Our voice will be only as a whisper, quietly showing the way.
Santora’s defeat must come through those he oppresses. They enter willingly into dangerous agreements with him and by their wills, they must end them. And when they do, we will not leave them standing alone. We will enforce the decrees made long ago.
“And what of the boy my Lord?” asked the messenger.
“Protect the boy,” answered the King. “He has an important role to play in all of this.”
The messenger bowed himself and departed.
In the closet, LED lights indicated a successful link on the broadcast beacons. It had taken three hours to acquire. Now the beacons were transmitting coordinates through the transport.
Captain Marko’s grid team jumped to alert. Data was coming in.
Admiral Tucker had addressed the troops and was now seated at his desk. Soon he would be finished with paperwork and head to the science deck to get Zee. His quarter’s bell rang.
“Come” He responded.
The elevator door slid open and in walked his staff assistant, Major Sloan.
“What is it Sloan?” asked the admiral.
“Sir, we just received an alert from security. It appears that someone has hacked into one of our grid coordinate subsystems and is downloading data.”
“Is it the honey pot?”
“No sir, it’s a mainline system. It contains coordinate data for Teller Station. There’s nothing very important about it since the data being collected is already available to the public. But it does cause concern that it’s being accessed via a break in.”
“Have tracers determined the source of the intrusion?”
“Yes sir, but that’s what doesn’t make sense. It appears a receiver and transmission device of some sort is being traced from the Deck forty two maintenance closet. Both signals seem to be emanating from there.”
“I.T. thinks it’s a glitch in the system” Sloan continued. “Perhaps due to construction in that area. But just to be sure, we have physical security checking it out.”
“Thank you Terrance. I appreciate you keeping me informed. Let me know what they determine.”
“Yes sir.” Major Sloan headed for the elevator and exited.