fspring Ch. 033byTalemaster©
After half a day in space we were far enough away from gravitational influences and Pedro engaged the hyperdrive. Four hours later we were in open space again, the destination planet straight ahead about twelve hours away. I was on the bridge with Pedro and Juan. A scan revealed there were no ships within detecting range.
"Alright boys, this is where we start to cheat."
"Yes. I want you guys to enter in your log the presence of three Oktonian warships, keeping their distance, but monitoring us."
"Are you nuts? Falsifying logs, they bung you in the can for that."
"Not out here they don't. We are outside Federation jurisdiction. We can do what we like here. They can't check this sector. In other words, they can't prove we are lying."
"Perhaps. But why?"
"If the Federation thinks this sector is uncontrolled and undefended they'll land a Federation cruiser and take possession within days. It will just become another fucked up, corrupt Federation planet. If they think the Oktonians have warships here they won't go anywhere near it and we have the world to ourselves."
"The Oktonians wouldn't let the Federation land here. They'd quickly mobilise their fleet if the Federation were to violate the proscribed zone."
"There is no Oktonian fleet. That's why we have to invent one. Let me tell you about the great Oktonian bluff. Before we begin, can you please ask Feng to come to the bridge and bring his computer with him."
Pedro did as I had asked. When Feng arrived we connected his computer to one of the big screens on the bridge. The machine contained all our files as well as the Oktonian library.
I gave Pedro and Juan essentially the same presentation I had given to the Tai-pan.
"You can see now that we have to maintain the Oktonian bluff at all costs," I concluded. "As long as the Federation thinks this sector is heavily defended we can do here what we like. If they were to find out the real situation they would go all out and annex the entire sector."
"Who knows of this?" asked Juan.
"The four of us, the Tai-pan and the Oktonian negotiator, of course, but he doesn't know that we know. I don't know how much Talla is aware of, probably the lot."
Pedro and Juan exchanged glances and nodded to each other.
"Alright," said Pedro. "Well go along, subject to some conditions."
"And they are?"
"I have the finest crew in the known universe, They will go wherever Juan and I go. They do this because we have no secrets from each other. I want you to give them the same presentation you just gave us. They must know what we are going into."
"Agreed. Anything else?"
"Yes. Assuming the planet is as suitable as we think I want to set up shop there. It will be great to have a home base away from Federation control. I want my own patch with total autonomy over my area."
"I thought you might ask for that. Also agreed."
"One more thing. When we get back to Okton4 the Federation will want to see a bit more than the logs. I want my computer man and Feng to doctor the monitor records to show the Oktonian presence. When the Federation asks I'll refer them to you. You can then authorise the release of any data you want them to see. It'll make the whole scam more believable."
"Good idea, I'll go along with that."
Feng was grinning. He loves shit like this.
"Alright, then let's have a drink and after that you can brief my crew."
"While we are at it it might be a good idea to include Jack in the briefing. He needs to know anyway."
"I have no problems with Jack. By all means let him attend."
There wasn't much to do. It would still take some hours before we reached Olympus. The plan was to put the Pygmalion about two hundred miles above the planet surface perpendicular to the equator. She would remain there for a complete rotation of the planet. The Pygmalion, being a scout ship, was equipped with state of the art scanners and sensors. They would give our scientists a good idea of what we were in for.
I went to the mess room to get myself a beer. The mess room on the Pygmalion seats about forty people and is adjacent to the galley, separated only by a servery. Ben and Talla were in the galley cooking. They barely acknowledged me with a wave and returned to what they were doing. Talla was really coming out of her shell now. She was far more animated and lively than I had ever seen her, as she explained to Ben the finer points of Oktonian cuisine. I asked what they were cooking and Ben said 'Green Gunk'. When I queried the term he explained that Talla's name for the dish was unpronounceable and since it looked like green gunk he had named it thus. It appeared to be a very involved procedure.
I could see they were having fun making the stuff so I left them to their cooking and went to see Pedro and Juan on the bridge.
The first thing I noticed was the big screen showing Olympus and to the left eight of the big Oktonian ships in formation. They were still a fair distance away but it was clearly visible what they were. They looked intimidating.
"A bit of an overkill perhaps, but it'll do," I said.
"That's my doing," said Pedro. "I tried to put myself in the place of an Oktonian commander. If it had been me controlling this sector I would have been worried someone might try to use a cleared path into the forbidden zone as a means to infiltrate. Better to show up in strength and be ready for any eventuality."
I couldn't fault Pedro's logic.
"I bow to your superior knowledge, Pedro. It'll certainly get the Federation to think twice in case they get ideas."
"They'll think more than twice when they see what these two arseholes have done." Pedro pointed to George, his computer man, and Feng. Both were grinning from ear to ear.
Pedro hit a button on his console. The picture on the big screen disappeared and showed the bridge of the Pygmalion with Pedro and Juan at the controls. The screen showed static, as it does when the ship is in hyperspace. Then the screen cleared and showed Olympus and the Oktonian fleet. At the same time the bridge audio cut in.
"Approaching spaceship. This is Fleet Commander Tiri of the 85th fleet. You have entered proscribed space. Switch to comm channel 20, identify and state your business."
Pedro switched channels. The screen showed an Oktonian commander. He wore black body armour with silver insignia and a black helmet. Though still typically Oktonian, his features showed nothing of the softness Oktonian females are famous for. A prominent nose, clear, penetrating, dark eyes and a scar on his right cheek gave the impression of a soldier who had seen more than one battle.
"Greetings, Commander Tiri," said Pedro. "This is Captain Rodriguez of the scout ship Pygmalion on a joint venture mission with your government to Olympus."
"Welcome, Captain Rodriguez. We are aware of your mission. You are cleared to proceed. Please keep audio channel 31 open in case you need assistance. We will monitor your progress."
"Thank you Commander Tiri. Clear space to you and your fleet."
"Clear space to you too, Captain Rodriguez and good luck."
The screen cleared and showed the Pygmalion approaching Olympus.
"I've put into my log that you have given orders to document the entire journey. That was George and Feng documenting our reception. If I were you I would show this shit to the Federation. 85th fleet! They can do the numbers. They'll do anything to keep the Oktonians sweet."
"A stroke of genius, I admit, Pedro. Who came up with the Oktonian commander?"
"That was George," said Feng. "He is another gaming nut. He used a picture of Talla to create the avatar.
"Which brings me to something else. I couldn't remember where I had filed Talla's biometrics so I had to do a search.
"George and I went to get a beer and something to eat in the galley while the machine was doing its thing. Juan was there making enchiladas. He made some for us as well, so it took a while until we got back. Imagine our surprise when we found two records of Talla on the machine. The second record had much more information on her than the one I had uploaded. It was part of the Oktonian library I had put on the machine.
"To cut a long story short, there is a personnel file of every human and faerie working in the spaceport amongst the records. Including the personnel file of Mr. Alfred Dalrymple alias Olaf Harkon, direct descendant of the famous Captain Harkon. I thought this might interest you."
Feng handed me a printout of Al's file. I glanced at it, more to ascertain it was the real thing than out of interest for the data. It was the real thing alright.
It had been clear for some time that a confrontation with Al was inevitable. Feng had suggested we needed to convince Al that we not only knew much about what went on on Okton4, but that we had in fact been on the mainland.
We had gone together there one day and shot a video showing us both on the square in front of the academy, in the port and outside the reactor. Feng had even included some footage of me driving the electric car I had purloined.
Now seemed as good a time as any to deal with Al and hopefully bring him on side.
Pedro has a small briefing room he uses for meetings with his crew. It has a large screen and a computer terminal. It only seats about a dozen people. I asked him if I could use that and told him what I needed it for. He had no objections.
"You can monitor the meeting if you like," I said to Pedro. "I just don't want to freak Al or Talla out if there are too many people in there. This is rather delicate."
Pedro said he understood and might do just that to see how I handled the situation.
An hour later all was set. Feng, Talla, Al and myself were in the room. I started by rolling the footage Feng and George had created of our encounter with the Oktonian fleet. Al looked as if someone had hit him over the head with a baseball bat. Talla just sat there.
"This is what I am going to show the Federation," I said. "It is complete bullshit, a total fabrication, but you already know that, Olaf. Don't you?"
"What did you call me?"
"You are Olaf Harkon, Merit Level 36, a direct descendant of Captain Harkon himself, aren't you?"
"I have no idea what you are talking about."
I wasn't going to argue the point, I simply handed him the printout of his personnel file.
Talla's wings fluttered like the wings of a butterfly in flight. According to Trevor, that meant she was highly amused. Talla was laughing.
"Where did you get that?" Al was getting flustered.
"Never mind where I got this. I need some answers, and you, Al, are going to give them to me. I know about the Oktonian scam, about your overlords and about your human colony on the mainland. But, there are holes in my knowledge and I need you to fill them for me."
"I don't know where you got this printout. It's no proof of anything, just fabrication. I will tell you nothing."
"I've been to the mainland, Al, so has Feng."
"I don't believe you."
"Roll the footage, Feng."
Feng pushed a button and there it was, our stroll through the plaza, the car, the port, the reactor ... everything.
At the end of it Al was a beaten man.
"This is going to destroy us," he said and wept.
"Stop it, you idiot. We are trying to liberate you, from your overlords and from the Federation. If I had wanted to hand you over to the Federation I could have done it months ago. I want to see the humans and Talla's people control their own affairs, without fear or pressures from outside.
"One word from me and your overlords would be vapour amongst the stars. But that would mean you would come under the yoke of the Federation. You would be emasculated and Talla's people would become little more than domestic animals to be bred on the planet and exported all over the known worlds. I would be a poor excuse for a man if I would lend my hand to something like this."
"You will get us all killed. You have no idea what you are interfering with. The Torgons are utterly ruthless. They would wipe us all out if they knew that security has been breached. And they can do it too. They are still bragging about the time when they wiped out the Darnaqs, a race of over one billion people, in the space of one generation."
"Actually we do have an idea what happened. We suspected something like this when we found out about the deserted cities."
I explained to Al the model Feng and I had developed.
"And you came up with all this just because of some missing heat signatures?"
"Short of an alien technology that did not generate heat as a by product, which I considered extremely unlikely, that was the only model which fit the known facts. Feng and I went to the mainland just to make sure we were in the right ballpark."
"Well, you've come pretty close. More or less this is what happened."
"There is one thing that puzzles me. Those Torgons you are talking about, why don't they maintain a presence on the planet surface? You would think there are enough of them either too old to have offspring or simply not interested in raising a family. These could stay on the ground and keep things going rather than rot away in the ships."
"When the virus was first released it affected only the Darnaqs. Apart from making them sterile there were no major side effects. The mutated virus that affected the Torgons was not as kind. Almost as soon as the infection took hold there was pain which did not abate and got progressively worse over the years. Some Torgons went insane, in others limbs started to die off and had to be amputated. Thirty years after the invasion no Torgon on the planet surface was left alive. Most had died a horrible death, many had committed suicide. Poetic justice perhaps for what they had done. The Torgons remaining on the ships are terrified of the disease."
"And you are supposed to find a cure or vaccine for them. Something you won't do. It would be suicide to bring these creatures back onto the planet's surface. You are stringing them along. The way I see it you've probably had a cure for decades."
"Frank must know," said Talla, who had been quiet until now. "There is no virus any more, none has been detected for eighty years. They couldn't even keep a culture alive in the laboratory. The virus can only survive for so long without a host."
"Are you trying to tell me, Talla, that there is nothing stopping the Torgons from reclaiming the planet except fear and their ignorance of the facts?"
Al had lost all colour in his face. His hands were shaking.
"Don't listen to her," he said, "What would a dumb faerie know."
"I only have to look at you to know that Talla is speaking the truth. This must be your society's biggest secret and Talla has just put it on the table. As to dumb ... Talla and her people are not dumb, they are different. It is your society who is dumb for not seeing that it is a matter of poor communication rather than mental dullness."
Suddenly the whole game had taken on a different complexion. I had to think this over and discuss the new scenario with Feng who had not said a word since we had entered the conference room.
"Look guys, let's break it up for now. We'll discuss these things some other time."
No one was more relieved than Al when I got up and went to see Pedro. Feng followed me.
The mood on the bridge was sombre when I arrived. Pedro and Juan had evidently been listening in on our meeting.
"We are sitting on a ticking time bomb," said Pedro. "This is going to get hairy."
"Relax Pedro, this time bomb has been ticking for eighty years. Nothing is going to happen. Even if the Torgons were to hear of this, they would probably think it was a ruse to lure them to the planet surface and let the virus take care of them once and for all. Don't forget, they know they have no friends on the planet, not after what they did. They will do nothing until they get their supercomputer and even then they will wait for results. We have time enough to develop a plan to get this entire sector under our control and build an empire to rival the Federation."
"Are you nuts? You can't do that."
"Just watch me. I've got a plan. It's still a bit rough in places, but I'll get that ironed out."
"Care to tell us about it?"
"Yes. Give me a few days. I need to speak to Talla first. The Faeries play a large part in my plan. I need to find out if my theories about her people are essentially correct. I also need to find out where that fucking Pumpernickel goes. I have a suspicion most of that stuff goes to the Torgons. I could ask Al, but he is too freaked out at the moment to be of much use. Talla will know. She'll tell me."
"So where do we go from here?"
"We carry on as planned with the Olympus project. That's what we're here for. The other stuff comes later. And now, Gentlemen, I'm ready for a beer."
Talla was sitting in the mess room having a beer when we got there. Feng and I got ourselves a can and joined her.
"You've adjusted well, Talla," said Feng. "Have Trevor's boys been teaching you bad habits?"
"No. Talla had beer before. Talla likes beer."
"Yes. Don't we all." Feng lifted his can to Talla. "Cheers."
"Talla knows Frank and Feng travel."
There was no doubt what she meant. If Feng was surprised he didn't show it. He did ask her however how she knew.
"The Goddess told Talla. Without help from the Goddess travel is not possible."
"Who is this Goddess of yours Talla?" I asked.
"Talla cannot explain the Goddess using human language. The Goddess will show Frank and Feng herself. The Goddess will decide when."
"And you, Talla, do you travel?"
"All Talla's people travel. It is part of other."
"And humans, do many humans travel?"
"No. Only you and Feng."
"Why, Talla? Why are the two of us so privileged?"
"Because it is necessary. That is all Talla knows."
This conversation wasn't going any further. Just as well, as all the gang arrived for a drink and a meal. Talla got up and helped Ben to put the food into the servery. Al looked very confused and very unhappy. I had to do something.
I went and got two cans of beer, handed one to Al and told him I needed to talk to him. Reluctantly he followed me into a corner away from the others.
"Tell me, Al," I said as we sat down, "why are you so afraid of the Torgons? What have they got over you that's got you so terrified?"
"They have told us that we must come up with a cure for the virus infection. If we don't, as a last measure, they will sterilise the entire planet to make it safe for their people. It's not their preferred option because it would mean turning the whole planet into a desert and they would have to spend centuries to make it liveable again. However, they left us in no doubt they will do just that if we don't come up with a solution."
"And you believe they can do this?"
"Have you seen their warships? Of course they can."
"They've got you bluffed the same way as they've hoodwinked the Federation. These are not warships. They can't be. Tell me, when they first invaded, how many Torgons landed here on Okton4? According to my calculations about one and a half million, give or take a hundred thousand. Am I right?"
"Yes. That is what we've come up with."
"And they arrived here in eight of these large ships, or were there more."
"No, eight is correct as far as we know."
"Then there would have been a lot of support gear, machines and so forth to make colonisation possible."
"Yes, according to our records they brought a lot of equipment with them."
"Are you noticing something? By now even these large ships are becoming rather cramped with all the gear and people we know they contained. But it gets worse.
"Ships this size cannot travel through hyperspace. That's why no one builds them this big. They also had to come from very far away or they would have gone back when they realised their situation was hopeless. I estimate they probably travelled for a century or more to get here, which means enormous machines to guarantee survival. Things like air regenerators, hydroponics for food, water recycling plants and nuclear reactors to provide the power. Not to mention the shuttles required to transfer the people and their gear to the planet. Are you with me so far?"