Ken Hines

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					THE NOVUM CHRONICLES

         By

      Ken Hines
                                        THE NOVUM CHRONICLES




                                                    PROLOG




  1. Onboard an orbiting Soyuz Space Station - The two cosmonauts were carefully examining their

find, trying to determine its source. "Colonel Razinov, when I picked this object up, I thought it was

definitely American. Now I am certain that it is not American. I don't know who it belongs to!"

exclaimed flight engineer, Major Maleeva. Earlier that day, Maleeva was outside the Soyuz craft

when a two-foot by 3-foot piece of space junk drifted close to the spacecraft and caught his attention.

Maleeva captured the metal object and notified the mission commander. Razinov looked at it and

notified mission control in Kiev. Mission control couldn’t identify but was interested and ordered it to

be brought aboard for examination. The mission commander, Colonel Razinov, intently examined the

object and said, "Maleeva, this looks like some type of robot but I have not found any markings that

make sense. Mission control is very interested and I'm certain that they will make the necessary

arrangements to find out what it is when we get it back down on the ground." May 1986



  2. Small mountain village outside Lapaz, Bolivia - A weathered, leathery-faced old man, obviously

wise in the history of his people, is telling his young grandson one of the stories passed on to him by

his grandfather… and his grandfather before him. "The teachers came to our land many, many ago,”

he said.” “They came from the stars in shiny flying boats and they knew the gods. The fruit that you

pick from the trees and the corn we use to make bread were brought with them. They gave it to us so

we would not starve and they taught our people how to grow other foods. They taught us how to make


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calendars and how the earth turns so the days are broken by nights. My son, we owe everything to

these teachers." Circa 1650 AD



   3. Aboard the USS Princeton in the Gulf of Mexico - The ship was assigned to search for a drug

runner's aircraft that supposedly crashed in the vicinity. Everything was routine and becoming rather

boring for the crew. Suddenly, the vessel's sonar identified some unknown wreckage at a depth of 750

feet. Using a mini-sub, the crew brought a roughly, ten by ten foot section on board.                It had the

thickness of thin cardboard and the jagged edges resembled the edges one would expect to find in an

aircraft that blew apart.

   "Captain, based upon the curvature of the object, it is obviously some sort of aircraft," replied the

Engineering Officer. "The plane we're looking for is a Beechcraft Bonanza and this doesn't look it

came from a Beech. If it isn't the one we're looking for, could it be from one of the commercial birds

that fly this route to South America?" asked the Captain.

   "Sir, if it is from an aircraft, it is definitely not ours, either military or civilian. I can't identify the

metal. It’s as light as paper but we can’t cut it with a saw or drill a hole in it… it’s just too hard. It

looks like some sort of aluminum alloy but its strength is unbelievable." Nov 1992



   4. Small clearing outside Hydrabad, India - A group of local villagers are standing on a rock

overlooking a large, circular area, approximately 300 meters in diameter and free from all vegetation.

One of the more vocal elders speaks up, "Listen to me! This ground has been cursed! My grandfather

told me about it when I was a boy. If you walk across it, it will blister your feet. The blisters will not

go away and, in time, you will die. It is the devil’s work for sure!" Circa 1050AD



       5. An isolated area in Siberia - Undetected by human sensors, the tumbling object grew hotter


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and hotter from the friction of the earth's atmosphere. As it moved lower and lower into the thick

atmosphere, the object's skin became bright orange from the heat. It was quickly coming down in a

flaming ball. People in Anchorage, Alaska could see the object streak across the sky as it headed west.

Villagers on the Japanese Island of Hokaido reportedly could also hear it as the sonic boom trailed

across the earth's surface. Seconds before it impacted into the swampy, Siberian forest, the on board

power generator reached critical mass. The object exploded with the force of a ten kiloton nuclear

bomb and directly below, vegetation and other life was vaporized. Outside the epicenter, trees were

felled for miles. The resulting explosion was so powerful people in the western European countries

could see an eerie glow in the pre-dawn eastern skies. May 1906




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                                                 CHAPTER ONE




      Sailing under clear skies and the gentle swells of a smooth sea, the "Orion" and its five-man

crew were returning from a very successful, five-month exploration in the South Atlantic. An

observation of the activity on the sixty-two foot long vessel revealed nothing out of the ordinary.

      Patricia Delos was at the helm. With the craft set on automatic pilot, she had her feet propped

up and was reading the news printout that came across the wireless at 1200 hours, GMT. Tensions

were still high between the Russians and Americans over an accident with one of their destroyers and

the USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf Enterprise in the Indian Ocean. The Russians were protesting the

US involvement in Iraq’s affairs during the Middle East Conflict of 2002. "Same old shit," she

thought as she laid the printout down and scanned the horizon.

      This portion of the South Atlantic was not very heavily traveled and Pat silently wished that she

would spot another vessel's silhouette on the horizon. Meeting another vessel in these waters would be


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the first indication that they were nearing civilization.

      Below deck, in the small, but well-equipped lab, Steve Westfall and the exposition's lead

technician, Mike Hammel, were finalizing the assessment of a nodule found on the eighth collection

point. Under contract with Southern Mining Corporation in Atlanta, Mike was anxious to deliver the

3000 ton of manganese nodules found in the seas east of the Falklands. Using the estimated value of

$25.00 a pound, they had a small fortune on board.

      The previous assessments revealed nodules with routine but valuable amounts of magnesium,

nickel and iron along with traces of gold, titanium and various other elements.

      "Mike, I have a gut feeling that the nodules from number eight will put us on the cover of

Time," Steve said, as he scanned one of the nodules under the low-power scope.

      There was something different with number eight. It was about twice as light as other nodules

of similar size. Preliminary analysis revealed an unknown element of extremely lightweight yet

diamond-like hardness. Its potential couldn't even be estimated at this early date but its rarity would

certainly mean that it would be valuable to SMC.

      "Yeah, I think you may be right, Steve. I've gone through three blades on this one and I'm still

only about a half inch into the surface," replied Mike as he turned the power off and watched as the

saw screeched to a halt.

      Pulling the nodule off the still-smoking blade, he summoned his lab partner, "Steve, how about

lending me a hand. I think we'd be better off trying to split this with the wedge."

      "OK, I'll be right there," Steve said as he turned the light off the scope and moved around the

counter to where Mike was looking for the right-sized wedge. He looked at the teeth on the still hot,

diamond-coated blade and was amazed how much the teeth had been worn.

      "Jesus Christ! These damn things are harder than we thought. Look, the diamond tips on this

blade have melted!" Steve said as he wet his finger and gingerly touched the discolored blade.


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"Spizzzzzt!" "Damn, that fucking blade's hot!" he screamed.

       Mike looked at his partner and had a hard time holding back his laughter, "Steve, you beat all

I've ever seen. You knew that it was hot enough to melt the carbide tips, but you still had to touch it.

You're either stupid or dumb." Mike added, "Hell, I would have had a better chance of using a butter

knife to cut through a cinder block." He lifted up a hardened steel wedge. "Here, Steve, take the

hammer and give it your best shot."

       Steve grabbed the hammer, hoisted it with his right arm and took careful aim. "Piiiienng" went

the wedge as Steve struck it slightly off center. The nodule failed to budge and appeared impervious to

their feeble attempts to split it. Reaching for the large, five-pound hammer, Steve said, "this damn

rock is opening this time."

       Again the high pitched ping was heard as Steve struck the nodule with a healthy blow. At the

moment of impact, the 4-inch nodule split apart, and one half ricocheted off the walls. The other and

slightly larger of the two barely missed Mike's arm and bounced off a storage cabinet. It came back

with near equal velocity and struck Mike squarely in the ass. It then fell to the floor, coming to rest

near the two technicians' feet.

       "Owwww," screamed Mike, as he grabbed his ass. I bet that will leave a mark to be proud of."

       Steve noticed that Mike took the brunt of the larger piece but his attention was focused on the

nodule near his foot. "Mike, we have two pieces," he said.

       "Great," exclaimed Mike. "Now, let's see what the layering looks like under the scope," he

added, still rubbing his cheeks.

       Steve picked the piece off the floor and placed it under the scanner. Turning the low-power

light on, he peered through the eyepiece, looking for the centuries of build-up that should be evident in

the layering.

       "Mike, this is strange. There are no zero strata lines on this thing. It doesn't appear to be a


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nodule after all. It looks like it is a piece of metal or glass that was molten at one time and then cooled

down quickly. You know, kind of like pouring molten lead into a bucket of water. You get lots of

little, round balls."

          "With the number of these that were scattered around site eight, we may have come across the

point where an ancient meteorite crashed," Mike said as he tried to calculate the value of the find for

SMC. Trying to remember his college physics, he vaguely remembered that molten metal would form

almost perfectly round balls when dropped into water.

          "Steve, see if you can identify any of the alloys while I draft up a report to send ahead to SMC.

I think it will be a good idea to inform the biggies in Atlanta of what we've found."

          Seating himself down at the computer, Mike soon had a draft message completed. As he got up

from the computer and turned toward the hatch, he turned toward his partner and said, "I really have a

funny feeling about this find, Steve. I can't tell you what it is, but there's something nagging at me.

Anyway, I'm going to take this up to Ralston and have him send it out. Be back in a couple." Mike

removed the diskette and quickly left the lab, heading up to the communication room.

          As Mike entered communications, he noticed Ralston sitting at the transceiver. "Danny, could

you send this out immediately? It's the preliminary report on the modules we found at site number

eight."

          "Sure, Mike. I'll get it out and let you know when they acknowledge," Ralston replied.

          "Good... I'll go back to the lab," Mike said. Pausing a second or two, he added, "Dan, you

might want to come down after you send that out, there's something you might find very interesting

about those nodules we picked up on site number 8."

          "Ok, I'll stop by in a few minutes. Just let me send this out and I'll be right there."

          Ralston, like the other members of the crew, had several jobs. Having the technical skills of a

computer, radio and electronic engineer was certainly helpful in his getting hired, but the real clincher


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was that he could receive and transmit Morse code. Morse code or radio printer transmission was

often necessary because it used low power and could travel great distances. During the last two months

there were many times the Orion lost connectivity with communication satellites and Danny provided

the ship's only link to the outside world.       With all the advanced technology in the world of

communications, it was funny that the only means of communications in some of the blacked-out areas

in the Southern Hemisphere was using the ancient mode of high frequency Morse code.

       As he had the High Frequency radio already active and was in contact with Atlanta on a routine

radio check earlier in the day, he decided to send it in Morse. Anyway, he needed the practice.

       "Interference is higher than normal but shouldn't cause any difficulty, he thought as he began

transmitting.   On his third line, Ralston noticed a heavy increase in the amount of magnetic

interference, and suddenly, all communications were out.

       A check of the equipment revealed nothing out of the ordinary, yet there were no signals to be

heard... only a hum that sounded somewhat like a transformer that was pulling an excessive amount of

power.

       At the helm, Pat was still relaxing. The Orion was equipped with the latest navigational gear,

including an autopilot that could even sense basketball-size debris in the water. Pat prided herself in

not just being able to install this radar system and perform any maintenance that was needed; she was

also responsible for engineering most of the equipment.

       Suddenly the autopilot kicked off and the ship turned hard right.             The magnetic and

gyrocompasses were both spinning erratically and the Orion listed heavily to port as it continued its

hard, right turn.

       Instinctively, Pat reached for the throttle but the sudden turn knocked her off the chair. "Oh

shit!" Pat cried as she slid across the steel deck, frantically grabbing for anything that was stationary.

Finding nothing to grab hold of, she hit the bulkhead with her ass and didn't suffer any personal


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damage other than to her pride.

       Slowly, Pat pulled herself back across the floor, fighting the centrifugal force of the turn. Soon,

she crawled to the captain's chair and was able to pull herself up. Quickly, she grabbed the throttle and

jerked it all the way back, stopping the propeller's bite.

       Abruptly, the Orion slowed and came to a dead stop in the water and bobbed in the gentle

swale. Using the intercom, Pat informed the crew about the problem with the compasses and rather

embarrassingly apologized for the sudden turn.          "Guys, I don't know what happened. Before I

check it out, let's make sure we don't have any serious injuries. As I call you, make sure you account

for everyone. We don't want to lose anyone overboard" she said over the intercom. "Mike, are you

and Steve all right in the lab?" she asked.

       "We're Ok Pat, but we have one hell of a mess down here. There's broken glass and tools all

over the place," Mike said.

       "Ok, I'll get back to you... Ah, Danny, how are our comms?" she continued. "Was there any

damage to any of the radio gear?"

       "Pat, I've lost all comms down here, but there's no equipment damage. I don't think the boat

caused the communication outage either. The only signal I can get is this loud tone that covers the

entire frequency spectrum. Let me check it out, and I'll bring a report up to you later," Ralston replied.

       "Ok, thanks Dan," she said.

       She was about to ask about the status in the galley when her eyes switched to the sonar.

Something very unusual appeared to be stationary about a mile below the surface. It was too deep to

determine its exact size or shape but it was definitely a solid object.

       "Could it be a Russian or American submarine playing possum?" she thought silently. The

depth at this location was more than seven thousand feet and something was oddly strange about this

encounter.


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       When Pat came across the intercom, Steve and Mike were still pulling themselves off the floor.

The sudden turn had broken a lot of glass and there were thousands of dollars worth of nodules rolling

around on the floor. They proceeded to pick up each nodule and place it into its proper container.

Mike, grab Steve and get up here fast! There's something I think you should see," she exclaimed in a

voice that bordered on hysterical.

       Steve got to the helm first with Mike right behind.

       "What the fuck happened, Pat? Did we hit something in the water?” Steve hurriedly asked.

       "No! We didn't ram anything… and don't get so pissed," she replied. "We were cruising in

open water … I had my feet propped up and drinking a cup of coffee. Then, all hell breaks loose. I get

knocked on my ass. Coffee’s spilled all over the deck. Basically, things are just totally hosed up here.

Look, I'm sorry for the autopilot failure, but there was nothing I could do. Anyway, I'm glad you both

came up. There's something I want you to see. We have something big and stationary about five

thousand feet below us, and I suspect it caused the autopilot failure," she said to the two technicians.

       "Could it be a submarine?" queried Steve as he gazed through the sonar illuminator, head

pressed tight against the rubber sides.

       "You know, that's what I thought at first. But look at its paint on the sonar. I've had both

Russian and U.S. submarines pass directly underneath and they have a definite pattern. This thing

almost fills the entire screen, and it's over a mile down."

       "Couldn't a whale show up like that on the scope?" asked Mike.          Pat, having more expertise

in sonar, looked up at Mike with a frown and answered, "Mike, a whale will show up as a gray speck

at this depth. It could possibly be a super-huge school of small fish like tuna or maybe some sort of

krill. I don’t have the slightest idea what it is. One thing I can tell you for sure is that it's not from a

whale. Besides, whales don't do poltergeist shit to your ship."

       "What's the depth? It could be an active volcano extending thousands of feet above the ocean


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floor", remarked Steve.

      "That was my second choice. But I checked the charts, and, if it is a volcano, it had to come up

within the last year. Hell, this isn't the most traveled water in the world so the charts could be out of

date. But we have the latest data updating our charts constantly, and the earth-mapping satellites long

ago would have identified a volcano. Frankly, guys, I don't know what it is."

      "Well, it may mean another two or three days before we can get these nodules to Atlanta, but

my curiosity is running high. I'd like to find out what the fuck is down there and how it is causing this

many problems", Steve replied. "Hell, even if it is a volcano, we may have a unique opportunity to get

some great under water footage of a volcano's birth." It was clearly obvious that he was very excited

about the possibility of doing some real exploratory work.

      Mike frowned at Steve and countered, "I hate to break up your National Geographic dreams,

Steve. Before I can give the OK to go down, I want to find out what SMC has to say since our cargo is

expected within the week. You know how excited they are to get their hands on these nodules we’ve

collected. Frankly, I doubt if they’ll give the ok to delay delivery one day. Tell you what, I'll get them

up on the horn and get back to you in ten minutes."

      Mike quickly exited through the hatch as Steve began planning the exploration details in his

head. Pat realized that his trip to the comms room would be wasted since Ralston reported all comms

were out. But he left in such a hurry that she didn't have time to say anything. Looking at Steve, she

could tell from the look on his face that he had decided to go down in the one-man sub. “You know

Steve, Mike will not be able to contact SMC because all comms are down. I realized that before he

took off in such a hurry, but it looked like he was on a mission!” Steve laughed at the thought of Mike

trying to contact his bosses and having to make a decision on his own.

      Ralston was still trying to raise SMC when Mike entered the communication room. "Dan, do

you still have them up?" he asked.


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        "No, Mike, I ain't got shit up. I lost SMC when I was transmitting your message, and I don't

have the slightest idea what the hell happened. I've searched the entire spectrum, and the only signal I

can get is this steady hum", Ralston said, as he passed the headphones to Mike. “I thought I told

everyone that all communications were out and I’d let you know when they came back up.”

        Mike grabbed the headphones from Ralston and placed them over his ears. "Yes, I heard your

announcement but I was hoping that you had already worked things out,” he said as he intently listened

to the noise coming through the headsets. “Dan, we're over something big in the water and could this

be causing the communication problems as well as destroying all navigational aids?" asked Mike.

        Ralston, finally asked a question directed to his field of expertise, could only give a response of,

"I'd have to know what's down there." "Mike, the signal covers most of the high frequency spectrum,

and I don't know of any radio transmitter with that capability. The latest submarines have all types of

whiz-bang high frequency transmitters, but nothing like what you're hearing. I couldn't even begin to

guess what would send that type of signal. I recommend that we get Steve to go down there and find

out."

        "Wait a damn minute. Before we go off and waste time on a wild goose chase, I want to find

out what SMC wants."

        "That's great", countered Ralston. "Without any contact with them, it looks to me like you're the

boss.... So let's go on down."

        Before Mike could even gather a response, Ralston was out the door and on his way to the deck.

By the time he got there, Steve and Pat were already uncovering the mini.

        "Mike told me that we have something real big down under. What do you think it is, Pat?"

asked Ralston.

        Pat pondered a second before responding, "Danny, I don't know what we found or what found

us. Steve thinks it may be the top of a volcano, but the image is just too cylindrical. If there aren't any


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problems with the sub, we should find out in a couple of hours though."

       Within a half-hour, the majority of the checks had been completed. Still yet to be completed

were the comms and cameras. As expected, the low frequency comms were the only means of

communication that seemed to check out all right. The only problem would be that the mini-sub

would be at the very limit of their effectiveness. Wire comms were much more reliable, but they

proved to be too cumbersome, added extra drag to the sub and took a great deal of time to set up.

Cameras, located on all four quadrants of the sub, were loaded with special, light-sensitive film.

       Steve checked his emergency ascent equipment although he knew that, at the depth he was

descending, he had little chance of making it to the surface alive should anything go wrong.

       At 4:45 in the afternoon, everything was ready and Steve got in and secured the hatch. Ralston

had Steve on the very low frequency transceiver and could barely hear him through the steady hum

coming through the earphones. "Steve this thing is really putting out the power. It's got the entire high

frequency spectrum hosed and is also bleeding across the ver low bands. I suspect that it will affect all

frequencies. I'll keep running com checks with you as you go down." Steve answered, "Pat, that will

be fine. I'll keep my ears on!" Pat operated the crane that lifted the mini-sub over the side and she was

already in position.

       "Dan, how do you hear me?" Steve asked over the microphone attached to his headphones.

       "You’re real weak but I hear you partner. There's a lot of static coming through, but I think that

we should be able to work with it though. Uh, I'm passing control to Pat and she'll guide you into the

water," Ralston answered.

       "Steve this is Pat. I've got you attached and will be dropping you over the side shortly. When

you go under, I'll guide you until you have visual contact or as far as I can. Then you will be on your

own. For God's sake, don't take the headphones off," she continued. "Remember, if you begin to have

any difficulty, the automatic recovery system will bring you back up. Do not turn this off. Do you


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understand?" she asked.

    "Yeah-yeah, Pat. I know the routine. Let's go!" Steve said rather abruptly.

       When the mini-sub was launched, everyone got involved, even the Puerto Rican cook, Carlos

Ortega. Certified as a Master Deep Diver, Carlos went over the side and unhooked the mini when

given the signal from Pat.

       Mike operated the video camera, recording the deck operations, but he also had his diving

equipment, on in case he was needed in the water.

       After being unhooked, Steve looked out the small glass porthole and gave a thumbs-up sign.

With hands back on the controls, he turned on the forward thrusters at 4:57 and began the slow descent

to the dark, cold depths. The sub was equipped with the latest navigational equipment but the

interference from the object and below them was creating havoc with the read-outs.

       Passing through one thousand feet, Steve began positioning the mini from instructions based

upon the Orion's sonar, which was one of the few pieces of equipment that seemed to be working

properly. He wanted to descend slightly below the object and to come up on it from the North. In

constant communication with Pat on the surface, Steve continued down into the silky depths, making

wide, descending turns.

       "Steve, you are approximately 100 feet directly north and still 3000 or so feet above the crest.

Continue to fall at 70 feet a minute", Pat said, talking like an air traffic controller. With eyes glued on

the sonar, Pat had to make sure that the images of the object didn't merge with the small paint detecting

the sub. If she ordered a descent that caused the sub to strike the object, the results could be

catastrophic. When the mini-sub was one hundred feet above the object, Pat passed the coordinates to

Steve, and he assumed control.

       Steve could barely make out what Pat was saying at this point, the static was just too strong.

"Pat, our comms are really getting fucked up. I'm not certain that you can hear me, but I'll keep


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talking.    Hey, wait a second...I have something in the distance, but I am unable to make it out."

Speaking with the confidence of many hours in this machine, Steve continued a steady flow of

communication, "object is solid and I'm moving directly across the top. This thing somehow looks

vaguely familiar, I've seen it somewhere before", Steve added.

       "Pat, it appears to be almost flat, but there may be a slight bulge in the middle. Ah, how... or

rather can you tell me if I'm going across the center of this thing?" Steve asked.

       "Ah Steve, we're not sure what you are saying. You're really coming in broken. The sonar is

starting to breakup too. Suggest you return to surface. Do you copy Steve?" she asked.

       Steve could only tell that Pat was keying her mike; he could not make out the slightest word. "I

take it that I'm pointed fairly near the center," Steve said as he slowly he stopped the mini-sub mere

inches above the object. He grabbed the control lever and waved the outside arm around as if it was

loosening up its muscles. Water jets cleared some of the algae buildup off the objects surface and

Steve focused the camera on the mini-sub's outside hand. Slowly, Steve applied pressure trying to

scrape or scratch the surface. Even the hand's built-in scriber failed to leave a mark. Steve closely

examined about a ten-foot square but could not identify the type of metal or locate a seam. Finally, he

concluded this part of the examination and started the forward thrusters. Soon, he was skimming the

surface of the object, looking for something to confirm what he suspected.

       "Pat, I think I have a drop off coming up in about 20 feet.... I'm now passing over the side." As

he spoke, it hit him like a drum! "Yeah, that's it. This thing looks just like the top of the Superdome in

New Orleans... completely encrusted with barnacles and debris from years in the water." Descending

to a point below the side of the object, Steve asked, "Pat, how long did it take me to pass over the

surface?"

       Without an audible response from the surface, timing was up to him. Steve estimated that it

took him about five minutes to completely pass over the object. "Holy shit! At my speed of a steady


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two knots, this means this son-of-a-bitch is over five hundred meters across," Steve said. "Stand by,

Pat; I'm going to make a pass underneath!"

       Steve deftly maneuvered the mini sub over the rounded edge of the object and turned back

toward its center.    Turning the lights up and directing their beams upward, he began moving

underneath the object. At first he didn't notice it. Something was strange and different but he had a

difficult time realizing just what it was. Suddenly, Steve realized what was different. There was

absolutely no static coming across the headsets. In fact, there was nothing coming through the VLF

receivers… absolutely nothing! The sudden silence was welcome but a bit frightening.

       However, on the surface, Pat had no idea what had happened. Though she could not understand

what Steve was saying, she had been able to tell that he was transmitting. As long as he was saying

something, he was Ok. Now, there was no indication that he was transmitting… nothing, except for

the constant static. Without the garbled voice, Pat could not determine what was happening below.

As far as she could tell, the mini sub could have been crushed by an under water landslide. Without

any way to go down to that depth, her only option was to wait.

       Instinctively, she called out, "Steve.... Steve, come on in."

       Now that the occasional interruption in the static coming across the headphones was gone,

Steve immediately knew what had happened. Still he tried to contact the Orion, "Pat! Can you read

me?"

       With each query on the mike, the only response was absolute silence. According to the

emergency operating instructions, he was to immediately ascend to the surface. He should have turned

around but decided to make one pass under the surface and then go back up.

       At first the surface underneath appeared to be exactly like the top, except for fewer barnacles.

The cameras were fixed upon the surface of the object as the mini-sub slid by, and Steve almost

missed the large, shadowy shape that was passing by on the starboard side. His head turned toward the


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shadow and he turned the sub to his right and inched slowly forward. The shadow was a large, dark

shaft that descended a good twenty feet below the object. Steve decided to circle the shaft and then

head back to the surface to the surface. He started the timer and began circling the shaft. Seven

minutes later, the mini-sub was at the starting point and Steve did some quick calculation. At a

conservative meter a second, the circumference of the shaft was approximately 400 meters and this

meant the diameter was about 100 meters across. "What was this used for?" Steve asked himself. He

wanted to find out if it was solid underneath and dropped the mini-sub down. As he dropped below

the outer edge, he guided the sub toward the center of the shaft. He had not moved more than five feet

from the outside edge when lights suddenly came on, illuminating the entire inside of the shaft.

"Could this be an entry way?" he thought.

      Knowing his air situation would soon become critical, Steve continued to steer the mini-sub

towards the center of the shaft and began rising up into its interior. He was always known to be a risk

taker but this time, risk wasn't a concern. It was as if he was being pulled toward the source of the

light by some unknown force... an internal force from within himself… or from within the vessel!

      At first, Steve thought the light was caused by a reflection of the sub's lights. He switched off

the exterior lights of the mini-sub. He expected to be enclosed in darkness, but the lights were not

originating from the mini-sub. Whatever the case, the lights got brighter as he moved up the shaft.

      With a suddenness that was surprising, the mini-sub broke through the surface, and, through the

limited vision of the small portholes, he could see several rows of lights.

      He was at the point where he could safely make it back to the surface so he had to make a

decision on continuing. If he continued and stayed down longer, a safe assent would be questionable

at best. "What the hell," he thought as he slowly cracked the seal of the hatch and was greeted by a

high pitch hiss of air that rushed into the sub. Steve felt the increase of pressure in his ears.

Swallowing continuously, he managed to maintain equilibrium of sorts. Ever so slowly, the pitch of


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                                          THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
the hiss decreased until it was no longer audible.

      The tell-tell signs of the sudden increase in pressure were already starting to show. His ears felt

like they were imploding into his skull. Even continual swallowing barely made a dent in the pain.

His knees ached. As he tried to close his fists, Steve felt as though each finger was in a splint. His

head was pounding and the pain grew with each second under this pressure.

      Though he was just minutes away from unconsciousness and death, Steve was without any fear

of being in a life and death predicament.

      Ever so slowly, he climbed the ladder and looked into a dimly lit room that had what appeared

to be a power panel on one wall. Another contraption, resembling one of those magnetic hooks that

hung from cranes in wrecking yards, was located directly above the sub. There were several openings

around the wall about ten feet above the floor. There were some cables fastened on the walls,

apparently part of a lighting and communications system.

      Though it appeared to look like a well-equipped hanger, there was something very odd about

the room. Climbing out of the sub and rolling off and onto the floor of the room, it suddenly appeared

to Steve that the hanger was sterile. There were no marks to be seen. No oil or fuel spots on the floor.

Nothing! It was as if he was in a surgical room of a modern hospital.

      Steve was having a hard time concentrating on his surroundings as his eyes were already

beginning to lose their ability to focus. The pain in his head was reaching a point where he would be

unable to think clearly enough to make any sort of rational decision. Swallowing seemed to ease the

pain for short periods, but it quickly returned. Each time was worse than before.

      Steve moved toward the panel and tried to read the markings over each light. Appearing to be

much like the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, he now realized his first suspicions were correct. He

was aboard a craft that had come from another world.

      "How? When? Who? Why? Where?" The questions seemed to be coming a mile a minute


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                                       THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
through his head. Unfortunately, none of them seemed to have an answer.

       The increased pressure at this depth was taking its toll on Steve's body. His legs felt as if they

weighed a ton, and the pressure on his chest made each breath more difficult than the last. He knew

that he would collapse if he were subjected to this pressure much longer.

       The control panel had to be the key to open the passageways into the rest of the craft and to

equalize the pressure. "Is that what I want to do?" he asked himself.

       "Who knows what sort of creature or creatures would be lurking behind the ports? Anyway,

what the fuck? I'll be dead if I stay in this pressure much longer," Steve thought to himself.

       He pushed the first light and nothing seemed to happen. Before his finger touched the second

light, something odd began to take place. The mini-sub lifted out of the water and was suspended in

the air, and the floor of the hanger closed underneath. When the two sides came together, Steve felt

himself collapsing back to the floor. The pressure had overcome any ability he had to remain upright.

Lying in a fetal position on the cool floor, he now welcomed the relief from the pain that

unconsciousness and, eventually death, would bring. Certainly, death should have brought on a sense

of deep fear. Yet, Steve was strangely without any fear. If anything, he had a strong, peaceful feeling.



       The next conscious feeling Steve had was the sense of a gradual decrease in the pressure.

Strangely, no sound of air passing through air locks could be heard though. Soon, pressure had

returned to almost normal atmospheric pressure and the pain in his head quickly began to subside.

       Still lying in the fetal position, Steve opened his eyes. "It's like looking through the eyes of a

patient in an old grade B movie," he thought as blurred images began to register. He was looking at

the bright color of the mini-sub and it soon returned to being clearly visible. The body still ached but

at least he could move various parts. He slowly turned over and placed his hands under his body and

rose to his knees and hands.


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                                        THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
       Bracing himself against the wall, Steve slowly placed his weight on his legs and lifted himself

up. "Thank God," he thought as feelings were quickly coming back. After a minute or so of moving

his arms and legs, he was nearly back to normal.

       With the sub suspended in the air, Steve knew that he had removed any possible chance of

returning to the surface alive. If he could select the correct button that opened the hatch and set the sub

back into the water, he might have a slim chance of making it to the surface. "At least I'd be dead up

there and not in some alien craft," he said to himself softly.

       "Now, which button to I push?" he asked himself silently. There was little chance of selecting

the correct button that would open the hatch but he had to try.

       "Hell, I don't even know which button lifted it out," he thought. Without pondering that thought

for very long he pushed another light. Again, before his finger touched the control panel, things started

to happen. This time the sub began to slowly move toward one of the bulkheads. It seemed that the

craft was going to run right into the wall when the wall opened to reveal a large, dark room.

       As the door opened a light in the room grew brighter as the door opened. Following the mini-

sub, Steve could now see inside. It was a hanger with at least ten craft parked, each parked exactly in

the middle of painted circle.

       "Jesus Christ? Here I am right in the middle of a whole fucking fleet of flying saucers," Steve

thought silently to himself.

       The mini-sub was gently set down in the middle of a painted circle. Somehow, it looked like it

belonged there next to the saucers. It seemed to be kin to the larger, sleeker-looking contraptions, as if

they were distant cousins. Both types of craft were round and the main difference was the various

tools and collection devices hanging off the mini-sub. There were two different-sized saucers, and the

smaller ones appeared to be roughly about four times larger than the mini-sub.

       He was now entirely inside the parking area and the door that he had just entered closed behind


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                                          THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
him. As it closed, the light in the original hanger dimmed until it was totally dark just before the door

closed. Steve walked past the mini-sub, and up to one of the smaller saucers. It was about 30 feet in

diameter and looked like the classic description of two saucers placed together. There were no

windows or lights to be seen, but each had a steep ramp or ladder on its underside.

        Being tall, Steve had to bend down to get underneath, and yet his hair brushed against the craft's

underside. At this point, nothing was going to stop him from actually getting inside a real flying

saucer.

        Climbing up the ramp, he entered the craft. It was unbelievable how cramped it was inside.

There was a solid, metal, round wall in the center and a walkway circling it. Moving around the center

wall, Steve could see what had to be the control panel. Three seats were in front of it and all had

similar controls with a video display terminal. A much larger video display appeared to be attached to

the wall in front of the center terminal.

        Continuing on around the walkway, there were several doors. Each one was opened like a child

would open a special present, savoring each magical moment. Several of the doors revealed small

chambers that had fairly thick padding. Steve could only speculate that they were some sort of

sleeping quarters.

        One of the chambers revealed what had to be a utility closet, complete with all types of

equipment whose use was beyond all comprehension.             Yet, some of the equipment was easily

recognizable. There was a long handle with some sort of bristles attached, much like an ordinary

broom.     Another chamber was an odd shaped room that appeared to be some type of toilet facility.

The final door opened to reveal a larger compartment that had three chairs and a small table between

them.     "The galley," he thought as he opened one of the cabinets. It appeared to be neatly stocked

with foil wrapped packages.

        Steve reached up and took one down and opened it, revealing a thick, glue-like paste. “This has


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                                        THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
to be some type of food, “he thought to himself. Steve stuck a finger in the package a retrieved a small

amount. The taste was sweet and unlike anything he had ever tried before. Yet there was something

oddly familiar with it. Taking a larger portion, he realized that it was a copy of the latest camping food

packages. Taking down another with different markings, he was surprised to see the same red-colored

paste. However a taste revealed something entirely different. This one tasted exactly like peaches.

Caught up in the excitement of eating this strange food, Steve had completely forgotten about what

must be happening twenty-five hundred feet above him on the surface.

       On the Orion, the initial panic of losing communications had developed into a feeling of despair

since Steve had been under the surface for over three hours and originally had a maximum of two

hours of air. The batteries would now be running down, even if he were operating conservatively.

"Why didn't we take the time to fully charge the batteries and give him full tanks?" Pat thought to

herself.

       She realized that if Steve were still under the surface, there was little or no hope of finding him

alive. The only possible chance of finding him alive was that somehow he had been caught in an

underwater current and had surfaced miles away from the Orion. Though Pat realized it was hopeless,

she tried to contact him on the low frequency comms, but her only response was the same steady,

interfering static coming out of the speakers.

     Mike, Ralston and Carlos were all occupying vantagepoints on the Orion, each searching the

horizon for a glimpse of the orange mini-sub. "Mike, I'm going to circle the area. Try and keep a

sharp lookout on the starboard side," Pat said.

       "You got it," replied Mike.

       "Turning toward the bow, where Carlos and Dennis were positioned, Mike shouted, "We're

going to circle the area now. Let's keep a sharp lookout."

       Both men acknowledged with a nod of their heads as they continued to scan the horizon for a


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                                          THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
glimpse of the bright sub.

       Pat fired up the engines and began to circle the area in ever widening circles. Her fifteen years

of experience kept her at the helm, following the guidelines for search and rescue operations. But

something inside told her it would be a futile attempt.

       "If only we had communications," she thought.

       Steve knew what the crew of the Orion would be doing now, but there was absolutely nothing

he could do about it. Anyway, there was too much to do down below.

       After sampling several different packages, he realized that he was wasting time. "Let's get back

to checking this ship out", he thought as he found his way to the ramp and back into the large hanger.

       Now, outside the saucer, he surveyed the hanger. It appeared to be so huge that he couldn't tell

for sure where it ended. His first observation of the number of craft seemed to be fairly accurate but

there were several areas where markings indicated others had been parked at some other time.

       Moving to the exterior wall, Steve made a complete circle of the parking area. He counted six

small craft and five of the larger variation. He counted his steps as he made his way around the room

and was up to 589 as he approached the area where he started. Quick mental calculations confirmed

his earlier approximations on the overall size of the vessel. "I estimate this thing to be well over 500

meters in diameter," he said out loud, even though no one else was present.

       Something odd occurred to him after his short jaunt. "There are no doors," he thought.

"Somewhere there has to be an exit to the other parts of the ship. Now to find it!"

       He made his way past the mini-sub and the fleet of saucers toward the outer bulkhead. Every

thirty meters or so, there was a painted character of some type directly over a light.

       Coming up to the first one, the wall opened - just like the automatic doors in a super market.

The opening doors revealed a room about twenty feet square.

       "This has got to be an elevator," Steve mused to himself as he stepped inside. Quietly, the doors


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closed behind him and he felt an upward movement.

      After a smooth stop, the rear walls opened to reveal another walkway that apparently circled the

ship. Lights were on in the immediate area, but he could see that the lights dimmed in the distance as

he looked down the corridor, eventually turning into blackness.

      Turning to his right, he began walking down the circular hallway. With every step, the lighted

portion grew in front and diminished behind him. "A method of conserving electricity," he thought,

feeling more and more comfortable with each step.

      The corridor was about twenty feet wide and there were markings and lights similar to those

near the hanger elevators. These had to be openings and were distributed every fifty feet or so.

      When he came to the first one, Steve turned toward the door and it opened to reveal a room, not

unlike a classroom. There were chairs clustered in several circles, and a TV monitor was on the floor

in the center of each group. Looking at the character on the outer wall, he noticed it looked like one

that he saw on the small saucer. "Must be a number," Steve thought to himself.

      Moving back into the corridor, he continued moving in the same direction. Doorways appeared

to be fairly evenly spaced and Steve opened them one by one.

      "Supplies of some sort," he thought as he simply looked in one of the rooms.

      When one of the doors opened, he recognized it was another elevator and again he repeated his

earlier actions. After moving up, the doors opened, and he found himself in a similar hallway, yet it

appeared to be much smaller. The lighting came on as soon as the doors opened and preceded him as

he moved around the corridor. The first door he opened on this level revealed a series of lockers and

benches. "This looks like a locker room, and it must be where they shower and clean up," he thought,

expecting to find an alien in one of the shower stalls. But there were no aliens in this room as he

quickly scanned the rows of lockers and showers. Each stall had an outlet extending from the wall and

was like a gym shower room.


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                                  THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
      Leaving the shower room he encountered another one of similar style, again without any

inhabitants.

      The next room that opened revealed a room with canisters that contained several hundred

casket-like contraptions with glass tops. Most had their door opened. Entering the room and moving

up to one of the caskets, he could tell that they were used as a sleeping area, and he took a guess about

their other possible uses. Scanning the room it was evident that there were a few whose doors were not

opened. Steve moved up to one of the closed caskets and peered through the glass window.            The

contents revealed an infant child and it was obvious that it was dead. The body was frozen and there

was surrounded by some sort of vapor - much like how liquid nitrogen would appear if it encased such

a body. The other closed-door caskets also had people in them; some infants like the first, but a few

contained what appeared to be adults.

      One of the canisters contained something that was in a flight suit of some type, complete with

helmet and faceplate. The contents of the helmet were not discernible. It almost looked like raw meat

that had been put through a modern meat grinder.

      "I wonder what happened to this unlucky soul?" Steve silently asked himself.

      "Could some of these people be in suspended animation?" he thought as he toyed with the idea

of trying to awaken them. Deciding not to try to bring them out of their deep sleep, Steve moved on

out of the room and again entered an elevator where he moved up to the next level.

      This corridor was much smaller than the others were, and Steve reasoned that he must be at the

top of the vessel. The hallway was about eight feet wide, but the circle was much narrower. He

opened a room that appeared to be a small cafeteria that contained tables of chairs. Again, there was

the strange absence of people.

      It was almost as if he now wanted aliens to be aboard. "What happened...Where is this vessel

from? Where are the occupants and what happened to them?" he thought as he scanned the rather


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                                           THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
compact room.

       Leaving what had to be the dining area, Steve came upon a room, which appeared to be a

control room of some type. It was strangely similar to the bridge that used to be shown on the old Star

Trek television show. There were several video monitors and terminals positioned at various points

throughout the room. "Spock sat there, Captain Kirk here and what's her name set there," Steve said

out loud as he physically pointed out each's location to himself.

       It didn't take much to realize that he was on the bridge, and it was here that he knew he would

find what he was looking for.

       The terminal in the center of the room apparently was on as its screen was lit in soft, amber

light. "Lieutenant Zulu, I presume," he said, staying with the Star Trek characters. Steve quickly made

his way to the terminal as if it contained the key to this vessel's existence.

       Turning the chair around to sit himself down at the keyboard, the shock of seeing the body fall

to the floor caused his heart to skip a beat.

       Steve's first thought when the body fell was that something or someone was alive and was

attacking him. He jumped back a good three or four feet and hoped that he wasn't going to have a

heart attack.

       After a couple of seconds (that seemed like hours) he realized that the body, now lying on the

floor, was no threat to him and he inched closer to examine the alien.

       The body came to rest in a fetal position on the floor. When Steve moved the chair, he could see

that it was a rather short adult male. The sanitized atmosphere had preserved the body extremely well,

but the limited moisture in the air had shrunk the skin to a prune like consistency.

       It was wearing a gray robe and coverings on his feet that strangely resembled a pair of canvas

tennis shoes.

       Steve gingerly reached down and grabbed a leg to pull the body away from the console and into


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                                      THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
a relatively open area. The body was extremely stiff as the fluids that held the body rigid during the

first weeks or months of death had long since dried out. The leg however straightened itself out as

Steve pulled, making a sound similar to the cracking of dry bread stick. The body belonged to a man

that appeared to be about 75 years old. He had a soft white beard that matched the thinning hair on his

head and, if it wasn't for the sunken eyes of death, he could have been described as a good-looking

man.

       A quick examination revealed nothing that showed him to be unlike any other human, and there

was no indication as to the cause of death. Steve moved him about ten feet from the terminal and

again set forth to get into the computer system.

       The keyboard had thirty-two keys arranged in three rows. The top row contained ten keys and

Steve guessed that they were a simple numbering system based upon the decimal system. Striking the

first key on the upper left, the symbol on the screen duplicated that on the keyboard.

       "This is like an IBM PC," Steve thought as he struck the other keys. He soon discovered that

the over-sized key on the right side of the keyboard was apparently an "enter" key, and he expected the

computer to come to life at any time. But, with each entry, the screen returned to the same display.

       After spending thirty minutes or so trying to get information about the computer, Steve had

almost decided further efforts to break into the system would be futile. Sitting back, watching the

screen, he pondered his next move.

       Suddenly, the screen went blank then came on with a view of the room that was filled with

canisters. It showed the entire room and slowly zoomed in on one of those in the first row. After a

view of about 5 seconds, a figure of a man entered the canister and the lid closed. As Steve thought

about the screen's image, the entire sequence repeated itself. Again, the figure entered the canister and

the lid closed. "This is like a video instruction tape and they want me to get in the canister," Steve

thought to himself. Yet there was something strange about this… he watched the event again and it


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                                       THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
struck him. The person entering the canister was Steve, himself. Same clothes, same hair, everything

was him!

        As he thought about the new information handed to him, his eyes slowly focused on the lifeless

body lying on the floor. Ever so slowly, he felt himself being drawn forward.

        Kneeling beside it, Steve's hand gently touched the head and he felt the wrinkled but

surprisingly smooth skin of the forehead. There was a strange kinship between the two men, and Steve

now felt very comfortable. It was as if there was an unknown type of communication that passed

between them.

        "Why am I nodding my head," Steve thought as he quickly came back to reality. For the first

time since he entered the shaft, he fully understood the finality of his situation.

        Steve dragged the body to the side of the room and left through the same door, which he

entered. Going back to what appeared to be the cafeteria; he entered and looked around the facility.

He found packets similar to those in the small vessels and took a handful to one of the tables. Soon, he

filled up on a gooey substance that tasted like mashed potatoes and gravy. Somewhat satisfying his

hunger, Steve left the dining area and went to the room, which contained the canisters.

        Almost as if he was in a trance, Steve found himself being pulled toward a particular canister...

the same one that was on the computer screen. "This is the same feeling I had when I was by the

body," he thought. Without thought, he stepped up and sat down in the canister, then reclined on his

back.

        The next conscious thought he had was the realization that the door was closing on him. He

knew he should be full of fear but there was none. Steve could hear a slight hissing sound and the odor

of wild flowers grew stronger and stronger. Soon, he felt himself drifting off in a restless sleep.



        Back on the surface, Pat reluctantly called off the search as the last rays of daylight were


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                                       THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
vanishing behind clouds on the western horizon. Communications were still out, but hopefully would

return, once they got out of the area of disturbance caused by whatever was beneath them.

       Mike stepped through the hatch, slowly shaking his head. Pat could see the sadness in his eyes.

"I shouldn't have let him go down, Pat. I could have stopped it, but I didn't, said Mike."

       "Mike, don't take it so hard. We all could have stopped him or at least made sure he went down

with more air and fully charged batteries...but didn't," she said trying to console him.

       After a short period of silence, Mike said, "I don't know what happened, but I would guess that

he was exploring the sides of a volcano and somehow triggered an underwater landslide. When the

rocks hit the sub, Steve lost control and was buried underneath mountains of debris."

       "I guess that will have to do. I can't think of anything else that may have happened...You don't

think there's any hope of finding him alive, do you?" asked Pat.

       "Christ, Pat, he's been under the water for over four hours and only had two hours of air. The

tanks were never filled from the dive he made on site number 8. I made the suggestion to not fill them

up because we weren't going to have any more dives and SMC will have to do a complete check of the

sub in Georgia. Anyway, Steve and I both agreed that he had approximately two hours of air still in

the tanks. Uh, that's measuring on the outside, too," answered Mike in a rather quick tone. "We need

to get back and report the accident to the authorities so let's remain here overnight and depart first thing

in the morning."

       "Ok, Mike. I'd like to give him a few more hours anyway. Thanks," Pat said.

       Now asleep in the canister, Steve failed to notice the soft white noise being fed into his

unconscious mind.      The system was preparing his brain to receive and store large amounts of

information.

       "Am I dreaming?" Steve thought, not knowing that he was being fed information while he was

sleeping. Somehow, the thought process was extremely active and he seemed to be living the dream...


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                                         THE NOVUM CHRONICLES




                                                   Chapter Two



      Deserted... If a visitor happened to be on the vessel, he would think that it was totally deserted.

With the exception of lights on certain power panels and the occasional flicker of a computer display,

there were no indications of life. The only sound indicating man's presence was the occasional whir of

a computer tape as it updated the life support systems and made an entry into the ship's log.

      The vessel was the Novum from the planet Altus. The Alturians were routinely destroying the

environment and recent wars sped up the process. Past the point of repairing the damage, the Alturian

Race was destined to become extinct in the near future. The creative thinking of a small consortium

came together in the later years and The Novum Project was put into place to ensure the continuation

of the species. With little fanfare, Novum lifted off and had begun her colonization mission. Though

several centuries had now passed since the actual lift-off, the large vessel appeared to be in exactly the

same pristine condition.

      The main computer, located in a room next to the bridge maintained control of the Novum. Its


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                                       THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
navigational accuracy seldom required course changes. Even then, a short, ten to twenty-second surge

of the lateral magnetic drivers put the large vessel back on course.

      The main computer was also in control of five robots, positioned at various points on the vessel.

Two were manufactured to work in a vacuum and were on station outside the vessel. These were the

ultimate in technology. At various times during the voyage, they were dispatched to repair exterior

skin damaged by small meteor contacts.

      Normally, the meteors were destroyed or repelled before becoming a threat but every-so-often, a

pebble-sized body would escape the scanners and impact on the vessel. If the pebble were extremely

hard and had great speed, it would rip a small hole in the outer skin. Sensors would pick up the

decrease in pressure and the robots would begin their task of repairing the damage. From impact to

total repair, the time required rarely exceeded a few minutes. Critical components such as the

computers and fusion reactors were shielded to prevent a catastrophic calamity from occurring.

Fortunately, the critical components were adequately protected and never required repair by any of the

robots.

      The scanner peered out in all directions and, if contact with a foreign body was imminent, laser

weapons were automatically aimed and fired. When the Novum was passing through areas of heavy

space debris, the lasers were in constant action. This was done so smoothly that anyone on the bridge

would not have any idea of it happening.

      On one occasion the scanners picked up something identified by the computer as a non-natural

object. Automatic queries were transmitted attempting to determine what the object was, and if it was

transporting life. Regulations prohibited bringing foreign objects aboard during non-manned periods

and the object was destroyed as it failed to return the proper response. It may have been a vessel

carrying a small crew on a flight requiring a hibernation period. If it were such a vessel, the crew

would not have any idea what happened. They would not be able to gain any sort of consciousness


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before their bodies disintegrated in the vast void of space.

        The bridge, computer area and communications center were located on level 1 along with the

living areas of the humans that manned those systems.         During manned portions of the voyage this

level was a constant buzz of activity. The bridge would have the Captain or one of his assistants at the

helm and the navigator would be on his station by the navigational computers. Other officers and

crewmen were assigned to the bridge but could be released by the Captain during periods of inactivity.

        Now, the scene was totally different. With the exception of the variable blinking of the

computer lights, there was absolutely nothing happening on the deck.          Pressure was decreased to

conserve air and the temperature was lowered to below freezing. The computers, which controlled the

ship, operated much more efficiently under these conditions anyway. There were several safety

devices installed that would prevent opening a hatch to any level until the atmosphere could support

life.

        Level 1 also contained the entrance to the magnetic fusion reactor, which supplied the power to

drive the Novum through the galaxies. It was in the central core of the ship and the only evidence of

its existence was a low, barely audible hum of its generators. The generators provided the electrical

power to channel the gravity/anti-gravity drivers.

        While the gravity/anti-gravity power systems or as it had come to be called, "GAG", had been

around for quite sometime, this ship contained the latest in technological advances. It had the ability to

zero in on an object light-years away and direct all gravitation force to that object. In the case of this

voyage, the last 100 years had the gravity selector pointed at the center of the nine-planet solar system's

sun. In effect the ship was falling from billions of miles above the sun.

        The falling increased the overall speed of the craft. Soon, automatic systems would reverse the

process and activate the anti-gravity system to slow the vessel, much like a positive pole of one magnet

pushing against the positive pole of another.


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       As the ship passed a specific point in its deceleration, it would train the gravity system toward

the destination planet, and it would "fall" toward that point. Then, as the ship reached the correct

velocity, it would again slow. The final portions of the voyage would have the system reversing itself

continuously, controlling descent.

       A large portion of level two was entirely devoted to life support canisters. In total, there were

two hundred and forty-six life forms stored in a deep sleep. The length of the voyage was a little over

five hundred years, and the hibernation period slowed the growth rate to approximately 4 percent of

normal. This meant that each life form would age only sixteen to seventeen years during the voyage.

       Twenty-eight adults between the ages of twenty and thirty were chosen to lead the colonization

voyage, serve as members of the crew and handle the medical services. Nine doctors were required

during and immediately following the awakening process. Seven adult crew members were selected to

control the vessel after the colonization teams were brought out of hibernation. Another six adults and

their wives were selected to lead the young adults in the colonization procedures.

       With a median age of fifty-five or so upon arriving at the destination, it was doubtful if adults

could be reproductive in the New World. The remaining group of colonists were between one and four

years of age when the voyage began. The mean chronological age of the younger colonists was 20.4

years, thereby insuring an ample number would be available to continue the race.

       Three adults and three children succumbed to various forms of illness during the voyage with all

but one person dying. The lone survivor of the sick was a female child but she was diagnosed as

having severe brain damage by the life support computer. Since the colonists didn't have the resources

or ability to properly care for such a child, the computer terminated her life by filling the canister with

liquid nitrogen.

       With all the advances previously made in hibernation, the common cold still proved to be a

killer. Somehow, a dormant virus comes to life at some point in the hibernation process, and the result


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                                       THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
is a mild cold and a rise in body temperature. The rise in body temperature creates a bigger demand

for oxygen, and it also increases the aging process. If the virus isn't contained quickly enough, the

body will suffocate or die of old age.

       When a death occurred, the monitoring computer immediately shut off all life control functions

and injected liquid nitrogen into the capsule. This process prevented any further spread of the virus

since a common cold could completely wipe out the entire group of colonists.

       It was expected that the mission would lose approximately five percent due to death while in

hibernation. Losing only seven during the voyage was well within mission expectations. With only a

few more days to go until the colonists were awakened, it was doubtful if any others would be lost.

       Level three contained supplies that were needed when the colonists arrived on the New World.

The first and only scouting report on the designated planet dictated what supplies would be needed and

these were manufactured and loaded during the early preparation of the voyage. This report was from

historical information obtained from probes attempting to seek out other life forms. The reports

utilized information received during Altus' discovery and scientific era and the probes identified many

planets that had the necessary ingredients to support life. Based upon this information, it was safely

assumed that intelligent life would also be present on most of the planets.

       The probe's mission report also mentioned that there could be numerous types of life on each of

the planets, both plant and animal. However, the third planet in the nine-mooned solar system seemed

to have the best chances of supporting life similar to that on Altus. It was about the same size, orbited

one sun and approximately three quarters of its surface was covered with water. These were primary

reasons for its selection as the colonization site.

       Midway during the mission, unmanned scouting reports were dispatched in advance to verify

the planet's capability to sustain life. Thought the actual vessels didn't return they continue to

download vital information that is was fed into the mission's main computer. The computer verified


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                                         THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
that, in addition to plant and animal life, the planet seemed to have human life forms present. This

scouting mission also scanned the planet and had selected several preliminary sites for colonization.

      Supplies were to include implements for cultivating food, basic construction equipment and

various other instruments of basic early technology. These were packaged and stored so that the new

colonists could easily identify them when they awoke from their hibernation.

      Level three also contained classrooms and laboratories where the young people would be taught

the needed skills for sustaining life on the New World. Their adult leaders would teach most classes

while those requiring technical skills used the latest in computer technology. The selected children

underwent psychological testing, and all were above average in cognitive skills. They should be able

to handle the most complicated instruction with relative ease.

      The lowest level contained the transportation craft. In all, there were six transport shuttles, each

capable of carrying fifty people with all their necessary supplies. There were also ten other three-man

craft that would serve as primary transportation for key personnel to each selected colonization site.

      The smaller vessels were originally designed to be fighters for the wars taking place in Altus.

For this mission they were destined to be used primarily for transportation, but they had limited

capability for self-defense. However, there were several safeguards to prevent any future pilot from

using them in a manner that could endanger the overall mission. Each of the small transport shuttles

had several laser weapons and their combined destructive power was enormous. To prevent any abuse

of these powerful weapons, secret codes were programmed to restrict their use.

      During the colonization planning stages, the subject of weapons created controversy. Some

elders came from a military background and thought that weapons were the cure for any problem.

These people wanted weapons to be issued to all colonists but fortunately, that measure was vetoed by

less violent members of the planning board.

      The abuse of weapons was the primary reason for the necessity of the colonization mission.


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Two separate countries on Altus had a minor conflict, which accelerated into a major global nuclear

confrontation. This was the main activity that brought an end to their present-day world.

      Prior to the war, and when man began to create havoc with the environment, Altus was a

healthy planet; life was good, and there was little want or need among its people. Now, over fifty

percent of Altus was void of life, and adverse weather was decreasing the livable area at a steady rate.

Within three years there would be no living human on the planet.

      The shortage of livable land areas created conflict between countries, especially the so-called

"industrial nations." After destroying their own land, the people of the advanced countries moved into

areas barely able to sustain life. The increased burden placed upon the new land, coupled with a

massive increase in population density, created havoc for all. Small fights erupted, often leading to

large-scale killings. It was at this time, the Novum Project was devised. A joint effort of peace loving

factions from the two major powers, Messinia and Pravar came together to try and find a cure for the

planet's predicament.

      Though the countries were officially at war with each other, this select group of people had the

unofficial blessings of the leaders of the warring countries. When one of the major war-fighting

vessels was captured, the leaders appeared to look the other way. In fact, they knew the reason for her

capture and allowed it to happen.

      Bud Svann was one of the groups which seized the vessel and move it to a deserted location,

safe from the on-going conflict between the warring factions. As an air force officer and pilot he was

secretly allowed to join the movement. He was instrumental in converting the war-fighting vessel into

the peaceful looking Novum. As the threat of nuclear war edged closer to reality, the project was

hastened. The project was launched in secrecy almost six months to the day work began.

      The elders did not want to infect the new colony with the plague of nuclear weapons. Since

personal laser weapons were disapproved, and none would be going on the mission, any weapons that


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                                        THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
would be available to the new colonists would be those that they were able to manufacture themselves

using the available resources on the planet.

      Eventually, the elders knew that the descendants of the colonists would learn the basics of

nuclear power, and that weapons of great power would be developed. Hopefully, the lessons learned

on Altus would be passed down, and the new world's destruction would be prevented.

      The small vessels were equipped with laser weapons, but for any one to be activated, distinct

and separate codes had to be entered into the mother ship's main computer. Six of the leaders had each

been given one of the codes, and for the system to be activated, three separate codes would have to be

entered.

      Additional safety devices were installed to prevent the laser systems from being activated after

the colonies were in existence. This measure was taken to prevent any one colony from using them to

destroy another.

      The ship recently de-accelerated to 55.35 thousand miles per second and would arrive at the

crew revival point in thirty minutes. The main computer initiated procedures to activate atmosphere

and other life support systems throughout the ship. It raised the temperature and oxygen levels on all

decks and turned on other systems that would be needed soon after the initial wake up of the leaders

and medical personnel.

      Seven hibernators were selected to be activated initially.        The mission commander, his

executive officer and five medical personnel would be the first awakened. First, the oxygen level

would be increased and then the temperature would increase. If the increase was too fast, the body

may go into shock. If the increase is too slow, the body and brain could be deprived of life-giving

oxygen. If either one of these events happened with the first group, the results would be catastrophic.

      The commander was important, and he had experience in organizing and leading such a

mission. He was also one of the few on board with first-hand experience with vessels of this size and


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capability.   Just as important were the members of the medical crew. Without them, the entire

mission would be susceptible to diseases and to injuries.

       Doctor Kos Javel was upset at first. He was having a remarkable dream that probably occurred

during the last few minutes of his sleep. Just out of med school, he was with his childhood sweetheart,

enjoying a picnic in a mountain meadow. The dream was very real to him and they were past the

kissing and touching. He had her blouse unbuttoned and bra unhooked. Her breasts were beautiful...

the sun highlighted their round curves. His hand had a firm grip, and he was gently pinching the right

nipple when the vision began to fade.

       "No! No! Don't go away now. Why is it going away? If I can go right back to sleep, maybe I

can get it back", he thought as he felt the first rays of consciousness jabbing him like a sharp pick.

Javel then noticed that his right foot was asleep, and the constraints of the hibernator and monitoring

cords prevented him from rubbing it. Slowly, ever so slowly, he regained his senses and realized

where he was and what he needed to do. He unhooked the feeding tubes that supplied him with the

nutrients that had kept him alive for five centuries.

       Captain Svann was next to regain consciousness. He awoke rather quickly and his first feeling

was cold. Having undergone a shorter hibernation on a previous deep-space mission, he remembered

the feeling of being cold. "I sure wish they would cover us with blankets before we were put under,"

he thought as his eyes began to make out certain foggy images through the clear, glass plate.

       Svann could make out the blur of the lights, at first completely out of focus. Soon, he could see

the different bulbs themselves, and then he noticed the monitor. The monitor was trained on the

hibernation room, and it slowly scanned the entire room.

       Other medical personnel were soon aroused, and they came back to life about the same time.

The lids opened simultaneously, but no one jumped out of the bed that they had been in for the last 500

years. Javel was the first to grab the handles and lift himself into a sitting position. "God! These


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joints feel as if they belong to an old man," he thought before realizing that his body had aged 20 years.

       One by one, the others rose to the same position and then raised their legs over the side of the

hibernators. Getting up quickly would leave their legs like rubber, completely without any control or

support.

       The only stimulus the legs had received during the last 500 years was a periodic electrical shock

applied to various muscle groups every hour or so. This action merely kept the body from atrophying,

and it was not a total substitute for exercise.

       Javel's voice broke the long silence that had taken place on the Novum. "Good morning,

gentlemen. Before you try to walk, you need to get full circulation in your legs. Rub them hard and

get the blood flowing before you exit your canisters."

       Javel was also the first to notice that canister number 4 had not opened, though he could not

recall who was inside. That would be his first chore, once he was on his feet.

       Slowly, Javel turned his body to face the side of the canister. Sliding down ever-so-slowly, he

eventually touched down, nearly collapsing from the body weight. He rose to his feet still holding

onto the side of his canister. He moved around to the end and grabbed a hold onto the canister next to

him. Slowly, he moved around it and was standing next to number four.

       Looking inside he saw that it was the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Hippus. He

read the measurements on the read out on the side of the canister and could see that Hippus was dead.

Pulse - zero; blood pressure - zero; and body temperature - minus 236 degrees Celsi

       "Did he die during the voyage or during the awakening, Kos?" The voice was from Captain

Svann who was now standing by his canister.

       "Don't know at this time, Sir. Let's get the others up and I'll check with the life support

computer. We don't want to take a chance on contaminating any of the others," replied Javel.

       "Right! Let me know when you find out what it was that killed him. He's the first recorded


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casualty of the mission, you know."

       Javel ignored answering the Captain since he needed to get the rest of his medical staff up and

moving about.

       The chief medical officer, Doctor Marc Karuz was the next one out of his canister, and he

worked his way to number four. "What do you think happened, Kos?"

       "Don't have the slightest idea, Sir. Looking at his face, he was probably in some sort of pain.

Look at his grimace."

       "Yeah, I noticed that too." Turning toward Captain Svann, he continued, "Bud, I'll check the

monitor to see if he succumbed during the voyage." He moved toward the nearest terminal, three

canisters away. Not having his legs up to strength, Karuz fell to the floor on his second step.

       The first sound was a snapping sound and then the thud of a body hitting the floor. Javel heard

the snapping sound just prior to the thud. The accompanying scream confirmed what Javel dreaded....

a broken bone.

       During this phase of the awakening, every medical hand was needed on deck to handle the

emergencies that were certain to occur. Javel had a serious look of concern on his face as he realized

the possibilities that might require every doctor.

       Javel lowered himself to the floor and crawled over to Karuz.

       "Damn it! I'm sorry, Kos," Karuz said softly. Just an old man...no, just an old, dumb man. I

should have realized that I now have the bones of a fifty year old man."

       Kos Javel hid his concern by reassuring his old friend and colleague, "Don't worry about that,

Mark. The rest of the staff are all coming around, and we'll be Ok. Let's check this leg out."

       Without touching the leg, Javel could tell that the right fibula was broken. Fortunately, it didn't

look like a compound fracture.

       "Marc, it looks like your fibula has been fractured just below the knee. When we get our legs


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back, we'll get a scan and get the leg immobilized."

         "I'll be Ok, Kos. Go ahead with the wake up. Don't worry about me," Mark answered.

         Javel moved back over to the nearest canister and pulled himself back to his feet. "Everyone be

careful moving about. Hold on to something solid until you have your legs working again."

         Javel, assuming the command of the medical team, continued, "Garca, get an injection of

kilomyne solution ready for Doctor Karuz. He's broken his fibula and will be in a lot of discomfort."

         "Right, Kos. I'll take care of him. Do you want me to get the scanner?" queried Garca.

         "Get it if you can. If it's not readily available in the first locker, then wait until later. We don't

want another doctor down," Javel said as he turned away from the two.

         Garca moved from his canister and slowly took a step to the nearest hand-hold. He felt good.

The feeling in his legs was coming back quickly, and he could walk fairly straight if he kept his steps

small. He made it to the nearest locker and opened the doors.

         The drugs were kept in a locked container and it amazed Garca that he could remember the

coded combination. After opening it on the first try, he pulled out a bottle of kilomyne and opened a

syringe. Garca turned toward Karuz and smiled. "Just a second and we'll take care of your pain, sir."

         The other doctors were beginning to move around, and Javel moved toward the terminal. He

wanted to determine when the Exec died, and hopefully, the computer would know the exact time of

death.

         Javel had a computer background and was one of the designers of the system that monitored the

life support systems during the hibernation process. After a few entries, he got his answer.

         "When did he go, Kos?" Karuz asked as he was getting his injection.

         Javel maintained his attention on the monitor as he answered, "The monitor showed that he was

alive prior to the awakening process. It is possible that he had a heart attack. We won't know for sure

until we complete an autopsy. Never the less, we will still keep his body frozen. Can't take a risk of


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contamination."

      In the meantime, Captain Svann moved to where Karuz was lying on the floor. He listened

intently to Javel. "Ok, thanks, Kos for taking the time to find out when he died. You know, he was a

real good friend of mine, and I need to let his sister know," said Svann.

      Javel knew that the Exec's sister would not be alive after five hundred years but decided not to

say anything to Svann at this time.

      Captain Svann was standing and keeping movement going in his legs. He watched as Garca

gave Karuz his injection of kilomyne. "With all our advances in medicine Doc, why haven't you guys

got something that keeps us from growing old?" he asked.

      "Damned if I know, Bud. When we do though, I'm going to discover it, and we'll both take a

double dose," replied Karuz as he could feel the powerful effects of the kilomyne injection beginning

to take hold in his body.

      "You guys know what you got to do. I'm going to go up to the bridge and check the ship's log. I

want to see if we're still on track. I'll also check the computer to see if it has received any word from

home. I'll let you know what's happening as soon as I get any information."

      As he was leaving the hibernation bay, Svann turned around and said, "Let's pray that we still

have a home." Deep inside, he knew that Altus was gone.

      One of the other doctors removed the scanner from the locker and handed it to Garca. Garca

moved the scanner slowly over the leg and looked at the video screen. It showed the break perfectly,

and he turned it around where Karuz could see it.

      "Sir, as you can see, we got a real clean break. Should get you put back together in no time."

      The kilomyne had taken its effect, and Karuz wasn't really sure what he saw but he nodded as if

he did.

      Javel had himself and three other doctors available to help the next group. This time, they


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would awaken two more doctors and the remaining crew members. The crew members would be

needed at various points on the ship.

         The colonists would eat processed food, but there was still some preparation that needed to be

completed.      One of the crew members would be the kitchen staff. His job was to supervise the

preparation of freeze-dried food. The remaining crew members were assigned to the bridge to assist

Captain Svann.

         As there were some members of the medical team available, the awakening process would

begin on command from the floor. If Javel failed to respond, the computer would prevent any other

awakenings until checks and rechecks were made to determine the cause of the first team's failure.

Javel personally designed this portion of the revival program to ensure he didn't place people in

jeopardy if something was wrong on the ship.

         Javel moved to the terminal and entered the correct response. The screen answered, "Response

acknowledged. Now awakening canisters number 8 through 28." An amber light on each of the

selected canisters came on instantly. This indicated that the awakening process had begun and could

not be stopped at this point. The medical staff was already moving from canister to canister checking

the life support systems. If problems were noted, emergency measures could be taken to keep them

alive.

         Fortunately, there were no major problems with this group and all personnel were brought out

of hibernation without incident. With the addition of the remainder of the medical personnel, Javel

was confident that the others would be brought out of hibernation on schedule.

         Each of the remaining groups contained various numbers of young adults with two leaders for

each group. In the case where a member died during the hibernation process or was incapable of

continuing the mission, replacements were taken out of the final group.

         Each leader had spent the hibernation period with the same group he would be with during the


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training and colonization period. As the younger members of the team were awakened, their leader

was there by the canister. In some cases, the elder person was recognized, but most of the leaders had

physically changed and were unknown.

       Don Einstram was thoroughly involved in a dream through the eyes of a three year old lad. He

was playing with his dog, and his dad was walking up the path. As usual, his dad lifted him and gave

him a great big hug. This time, there was something strange. Dad did not quite look the same. He had

a large beard and.... "

       "Don! Don! Wake up, son."

       Now sitting, Don slowly came out of his sleep. Focusing his eyes on the origin of the voice, he

searched for something familiar. "Dad, is that you?" he asked.

       "Yes son, it is. I'm right here with you. Your mom is also here and standing right over there,"

the elder Einstram said, pointing to a nearby canister.

       Gloria Einstram was standing over her daughter going through the same procedures as her

husband. The children looked at each other with eyes just beginning to focus.

       "Don, is that you?" Gretchen asked.

      "Gretchen! You look so different. You're an old person!" Don said excitedly. He then turned

back toward his father and said, "Dad, you're older too! Wait.... “He grabbed his beard, gingerly

touched his face and felt small wrinkles on his temples.”Hey, I'm old too!" he exclaimed.

       "That's right, son, I figure you're about 29 or 30 now," said Al in a reassuring voice.

       Kos Javel watched as the younger Einstrams were awakened. In their minds, they remembered

themselves as young toddlers. Now, they were fully grown. Don had a fully developed body and had

a rather full beard. Gretchen's development was even more remarkable. She was now fully developed

with breasts and the typical feminine curves.

       As with the Einstrams, each of the other colonists awakened and lifted themselves out of their


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canisters. As they did so, their leader handed them a robe to cover their nakedness. Kos noticed that

they were without any shame of being naked and they looked at their robes with slight puzzlement.

Being in a deep sleep for years resulted in each being extremely groggy. Though they underwent

specific sleep training during their sleeping periods, the suddenness of everything happening at once,

left them in a stage of bewilderment.

      After an entire group was awakened, they were moved into one of the areas on level two where

short psychological tests were administered. The life support computer carefully monitored their

health, but there was no way to measure the emotional impact of the past 500 years. For most, their

adjustment went well. However, some were not able to handle the trauma of the sudden awakening.

These were singled out to be placed in special training programs that were designed to help them adapt

to the changes.

      In each of the cases, the special training was helpful to some extent. From the beginning of the

sleep training periods, essential subjects such as speech and language were incorporated into all

phases. Dreams were introduced which provided a lot of group interaction. The entire program was

designed so each individual would possess roughly the same basic knowledge they would normally get

in childhood. There were a few young colonists that had some unstable qualities requiring their

respective leaders to spend some extra time.

      Following the psychological tests, the leaders held a discussion group that explained what was

happening and answered questions.

      Don was now fully awake and his sleep training was beginning to pay off. He understood about

the colonization mission and about the other groups. However, the events leading up to the period

they went into their deep sleep were cloudy.

      "Dad, what happened on Altus?" he asked. "How come we had to leave?"

      "Son," Al said, as he addressed the entire group. "Few of you can remember much about the


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place we came from. We came from a planet far away. Altus was our home and it was a very

beautiful place. In the beginning, we had plenty of land and food for everyone. We failed to protect

what we had and ignored signals from the planet telling us that all was not well. Eventually we

destroyed it with pollution and we were greedy. We took much more than it could give."

      "This greed started long before the time we began our trip and a long time before my time. We

were warned about the consequences of our greed, but few heeded those warnings. Eventually, we

reached a point where the Altus was unable to support herself, let alone us."

      Slowly making eye contact with each of the group, he continued. "Tempers rose among the

various countries and the people fought.... first with words, then with actions. In time, the smaller

conflicts turned into battles, and eventually, a major war erupted. That was the point that life, as we

knew it, would never again be possible on Altus."

      "Fortunately, some of our leaders back then, had outstanding foresight. They banded together

and even got together with a similar group from Pravar. Their purpose was to send a colony vessel out

to plant the seed to give our people another chance."

      As if he was speaking to each person individually, he added, "Each one of you was selected to

continue our race. A few were lucky enough to have your brothers and sisters with you and some even

had their parents assigned as the group leaders. Most of you were infants whose parents believed in

our dream. They sacrificed themselves when they gave you up so that you could carry your family's

blood line into the New World."

      As he finished, a loud silence came over the entire group. A few eyes were filled with tears as

images of moms, dads, brothers and sisters shot across the synapses in the brain.

      Al broke the silence. "Now, everyone, let's get cleaned up! Showers for the ladies are in that

room," pointing to the door where his wife was standing.

      The females got up and quickly moved in that direction.


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      "Now, let's do our thing. First a shower... then a haircut and a shave. I'll show you how to do

both," Al said to the males in the group.

      Gretchen was one of the first in shower, and the warm water felt good as it hit the skin. The

others in the group soon followed and Gloria showed them how to lather the hair with soap and work it

in using the fingers. "Doesn't it feel good?" she asked to no one in particular.

      "Ow! It is burning my eyes!" exclaimed one of the youngsters.

      "Oh yes, I forgot to tell you. Keep your eyes closed when you are washing your hair. The soap

will burn your eyes. If it still gets in your eyes, don't worry. You can rinse it out with clean water. It

won't hurt long," Gloria added.

      Following the shower, the hair cutting was next. Al was ready with the scissors and quickly cut

Don's own hair to slightly above shoulder length. "See how easy it is?" he said as he proudly displayed

his work to the group. "Next, we shall cut the beard. It is generally much thicker than the hair on top

of the head, but these scissors should do a very good job at keeping it trim," he added as he clipped the

major portion of Don's growth.

      As he was cutting the men's hair, the women finished their showers. Gloria was helping them

understand how to manage their menstrual cycles. One of the odd things about hibernation for women

was that when they were brought out of the sleep period and body functions began catching up, the

sudden change caused a heavy menstrual cycle. "Take some of this cloth, fold it loosely and place it

between the legs," she said, wishing that the leaders would have allowed each colony to have an ample

supply of sanitary napkins.

      "We have to hold this?" one of the girls disgustingly asked.

      "How long will it last?" another asked.

      "Oh, not long. It comes about every 28 days and only lasts for a few days." Gloria answered.

"It isn't really that bad. Be thankful that we at least have some cloth here. When we are in the new


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colony, you will have to use material that we find or make ourselves."

       Having finally answered most of the girls' questions, Gloria helped them in cutting their hair. In

the process, she showed how to take care of it as well as performing other body hygiene functions.

       After a short period, each had their shower, hair cut, and taken care of other body needs. Each

was given a robe and it took care of the chill in the air following the showers. Al and Gloria

assembled them so they could take a tour of the Novum. They were heading for the door when the

announcement came over the intercom that breakfast was being served in the galley.

       "Real food," exclaimed one group member.

       "That's right, real food," someone else echoed.

       At this time Al, as leader of the group, joined in. "It's been quite some time since we had some

real food to put in our stomachs. What do you say about making the galley the first stop on our tour?"

       It was unanimous. Everyone wanted something to eat as their first stop. Together, they made

their way to the galley and were presented with a form of breakfast. The meal consisted of fresh bread,

hot soup and a warm juice. Everything was reconstituted but, to the taste buds of the eager and hungry

colonists, it was perfect.

       Following their quick breakfast, Al took his group on a tour of the Novum.




                                                  Chapter Three




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                                       THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
      The ship that once seemed to be dead was now bustling with activity. Each leader was tasked to

complete the training that each colonist received during the hibernation period. The canisters had

speakers installed, which were connected to the main training computer. It used a training procedure

that was designed to activate memory sensors in the brain while the person was asleep. For the last

thirty days, each colonist was fed information needed on the new planet. They learned about body

functions including all sexual functions. Also included in the learning process was how to complete

simple mathematical and logical problems, some knowledge on their new world, and an overview of

the entire mission.

      The "learning during sleep" had been around for quite some time, but this was the first time it

had been used during hibernation. The computer had the entire data base for the new solar system

with emphasis on the third and only habitable planet. The young colonists should have retained an

average of ninety percent of the information presented during their thirty-day long class. With the

information on the New World, they had a much better chance for a successful colonization.

      The leaders did not know much more about the New World than the students but had

experience in leadership. The elders who planned the exhibition knew that leadership would be the

key if the new colony were to survive. The leaders worked with their individual groups and helped

them in learning to live and work together.

      Captain Svann observed the training process and delighted in watching the young colonists'

antics. It was as if each and every one was his own child, and he was watching them grow and learn.

      He especially enjoyed conducting tours of the bridge. With programmed sleep training some of

them learned enough about the mission but very little about the Novum herself. As a result, most were

in awe with the modern equipment used to control the Novum. Svann especially enjoyed answering

questions from the curious students and even put some in the Captain’s chair.

      Certain individuals were selected to pilot the individual transport craft and they were


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undergoing training in the simulators.   Once they discovered how to coordinate their hand

movements, their training accelerated tremendously.

       Zander Vood was selected by the computer to be a pilot and underwent additional training to

prepare him for this ordeal. His second day following the awakening was spent with the other

designated pilots in the hanger area. They went over each craft, learning how it operated and basic

location of instruments.     Information absorbed during the sleep period was now cemented into

permanent memory as he touched and manipulated specific parts.

       Zander approached the simulator and opened the door. At once the images he had experienced

in his dreams were clarified. "There... those are the directional drivers," he quietly said to himself.

Smoothly, he slid into the pilot's seat and automatically initiated the procedures for the pre-flight

check. When they were completed, the panel glowed a bright green and the program’s response was

immediate. "Shuttle 3, this is Novum control. You are cleared for immediate departure via main exit

shaft. Standby for exit sequence. Once you are outside the Novum, maintain parallel course until you

receive further instructions."

       He applied power to the small craft and gently lifted off the surface. He felt the jolt as the hoist

locked onto the small craft and positioned in the exit shaft. As he was released from the magnetic

grasp, Zander dropped free of the comfort of the mother ship and into the black emptiness of space.

Without the scanners, he was forced to rely on the accuracy of the navigational equipment. According

to the instruments, he was flying directly off the Novum's left side. Somehow, his brain was trying to

tell him that he was edging closer and closer to the mother ship. Instinctively, he wanted to turn hard

left and increase the distance margin.

       Forcing himself to watch and believe the monitors, Zander's shuttle flew straight and level.

Soon, he received clearance to depart the area and follow a precise navigational course. The first

portion of the exercise was to move away from the Novum on a precise heading at a precise departure


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speed. "Easy," he thought to himself as he again switched on the exterior cameras.         A lack of

response to the request for external monitors reminded him that this was a simulated training exercise,

although it was extremely realistic. There was a definite high-pitch whine from the mag drivers and a

steady vibration could be felt through the seat. He completed the required navigational course and

soon found himself closing in on the Novum. The simulation on the screen looked exactly like the real

thing and as he approached closer, it filled his screen. Zander dropped his craft under the much larger

mother-ship and suddenly he was grabbed by the automatic docking system.

      On the third day after awakening from their sleep, there were groups of new pilots ready to

undergo actual flights outside the ship. One of the instructor pilots was Lieutenant Commander Hal

Groppin, and he would personally take the first student out for his initial flight. Groppin was there

with them and observed the way they reacted to various situations. His job was not to teach them to

fly. However, with their training they could all fly circles around him. He and the other instructors

were there to simply lend a bit of experience and human touch to their training.

      Zander was designated to be the lead student pilot and the entire crew was ready to observe the

mission's first flight outside the mother ship. He preflighted his ship under the watchful eye of

Groppin and found everything ready to go. Both strapped themselves in for the maiden training flight

and the small vessel silently moved closer to the launch chamber. The magnetic lifts grabbed the

vessel and lifted it into position. The inside chamber was sealed and the outside hatch opened. With a

surprising quickness the small shuttle fell through the chute and was soon floating motionlessly in the

void of space.

      "Applying lift off power," Zander said through the mike. "5.... 10.... 15.....20. We have 20

percent power," replied Hal as he viewed the power register.

      "Roger, Sir," responded Zander.

      "What a view!" Vood thought as his vessel was gently guided outside the "Novum". After


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clearing the main ship, Vood rechecked the on-board systems. "All's green, sir".

       "Then let's see what this bird will do. Put us on course 90 degrees out from the Novum,"

replied Groppin, silently wishing that he were at the controls.

       As power was increased to the driver systems, a soft hum was heard coming from the generator

system that drove the Gravity/Anti-Gravity or, as they were better known, the GAG drivers. Groppin

again said, "OK, Zander, you got green on the drive. Now what?"

       Vood, anxious to get going responded, "Hold on, we`re going to move away. ...Now!"

       Directing the anti-gravity towards the "Novum", the ship quickly moved away on a heading of

nine zero degrees. The video display showed his position, attitude and direction of travel on the screen

along with the current status of the craft.

       Continually accelerating, the craft was soon miles away from the "Novum" when LCDR

Groppin ordered, "Let's parallel the "Novum's" course and maintain the same speed."

       "Roger, Sir." Vood had anticipated this maneuver and, with the calmness of a pilot with

hundreds of hours, he gently moved the control lever and adjusted the power of the anti-gravity driver.

Abruptly, the ship began to slow and turn. Soon it appeared to be motionless in space. In actuality, it

was moving at the same speed as the mother ship, which it had left.

       The path of the "Novum" was still directed toward the star in the nine planet system and was

pulling the training flights along with it. The star was visible in the far distance and looked like many

other stars from this location.

       "Zander, if you keep this up, you'll be conducting the training flights for the rest of the student

pilots." Groppin knew that each student would be prepared mentally for these training flights, but he

was still surprised that Vood could control the craft as well as an old-time pilot that sweated hundreds

of hours over the controls. Achieving and maintaining motionless flight was a maneuver that Groppin

still had problems making, and here is a new pilot that did it perfectly the first time!


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       "Ok, let's move to the starboard side of Novum and maintain a parallel course exactly 750

meters from her leading edge," Groppin barked into the throat mike.

       "Roger! Moving up and over at this time." As if it was programmed by the computer, training

flight number 1 moved up and across the Novum, passing directly in front of the bridge.

       Captain Svann was on the bridge at the time and was monitoring the training flight on the

scanner. As it passed in front of the bridge, Svann couldn't help but feel extremely proud of the young

pilots displaying their skill.

       Slowly, Vood eased the craft to a stop exactly 750 meters from the Novum. "Sir, craft is

positioned as directed. Do you have any further requests?"

       "No, I don't have any requests. The only thing I wanted to get done was to give you some time

on the controls. You are handling the ship better as well or better than our Force One pilots back on

Altus. Zander, how would you like to take us for a spin and see what this thing will do?" Groppin

asked his young student.

       Vood gave a quick glance at Groppin, and his smile echoed his answer.

       Seeing the response, Groppin said, "Let me get clearance from the bridge and we'll do some

flying."

       "Bridge, this is Training Flight 1. Request clearance to depart vicinity of Novum and conduct a

scouting mission."

       Captain Svann, recognizing Groppin's voice, replied, "Trainer 1, you have clearance to

maneuver throughout sectors on starboard side of the Novum. Do not venture farther than five

thousand kilometers and maintain data communication at all times."

       "Roger, Novum," Vood answered, taking control of the craft. He again directed the anti-drivers

toward the Novum and applied full power. It was as it the two pilots and their craft fell from a table.

With each second's "fall in the vacuum of space," their speed increased about 33 feet per second.


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Continuing to accelerate, they approached, matched and surpassed a thousand kilometers per hour in

less than 20 seconds.

       "What a thrill!" Hal thought as their craft quickly moved away from the Novum.

       "Take her up to five thousand kilometers per hour then cut power," Groppin said over the

intercom.

       It took slightly less than a minute to reach the speed and Zander immediately cut the power.

Immediately, they were thrown into weightlessness. It was Zander's first experience with it since there

was an artificial gravity generated on the Novum.

       "So, this is what being weightless feels like?" Zander asked as he watched the checklist pad drift

past his face.

       Groppin grabbed the pad and said, "Roger, Zander. As long as we maintain a steady speed, we

will experience this. Kind of different, isn't it?"

       "Yes Sir. If nothing happens to alter our course, we would continue to travel at this speed and

direction until we come into the gravitational pull of a star or planet. Isn't that right, sir?" he asked.

       "As long as we don't run into anything or have it run into us, we would continue. I don't think

you will find this exciting after a minute or so. How about trying some rolls and then let’s turn left 90

degrees and accelerate another 10 percent," ordered Groppin.

       "Roger, Sir," replied the young pilot as he put the craft through its paces, never even coming

close to losing control or committing an unsafe maneuver.

       Meanwhile, back on the Novum, Captain Svann had ordered Training Flights 2 through 5 to

exit the Novum and go through their own flight checks. Each training flight met with the same success

as number 1.

       "It's too bad that the sleep training hadn't been perfected and put to use before," Svann thought

as number five requested and was granted permission to maneuver his craft.


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                                       THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
      The pilots that were selected to fly the larger transport vessels were also undergoing similar

training but their emphasis was on safety. In actuality, both groups of pilots could fly any of the

vessels as the controls and handling characteristics were almost identical.

      The transport pilots knew that they would eventually be separated from the colonists but their

mission was to provide transport support until each colony had established itself in the new world.

      Zander had now been outside the Novum for slightly over an hour and felt like he could

continue flying the shuttle forever. The shuttle's scanner picked up the other shuttles as they departed

the training area and it seemed as if each pilot was having his own special type of fun.

      "Sir, would you like to fly her a while?" asked Zander.

      "Zander, I was beginning to think you'd never ask," he replied. Hal gingerly took the controls

and the sudden jerking of the shuttle indicated that a new set of hands were controlling its drivers.

"Looks like I need some practice before I would have the skills that you younger pilots have," said Hal.

      "Well sir, after all, it has been many years since you flew and remember we each logged over

300 hours during the hibernation portion of the voyage," responded Zander as he sensed a slight bit of

embarrassment in the elder pilot.

      After a fairly lengthy first flight, the bridge ordered all shuttles back on board in preparation for

the beginning of deceleration. Zander, who was now back at the controls put the shuttle into a long

arcing turn back toward the Novum.

      Soon a faint speck of light appeared directly in front of the shuttle, and it grew larger with each

minute. From ten kilometers, the size of the Novum was inspiring. Basking in the slight glow of a

nearby star group, the light blue metal finish gave her almost a moon-like appearance.

      The automatic systems on board the shuttle had already slowed the smaller vessel’s speed and

Zander smoothly maneuvered her underneath the mother ship to be brought back on board.

      As it happened, Zander and Groppin were the first out and the last returning. However, none of


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the other pilots seemed to notice, nor did they show any concern. They were all so excited about

having flown that one pilot getting more flight time was trivial.

      Flying shuttles was not the only type of education taking place. Training programs of various

other types were on going throughout the Novum at the same time. The majority of the training

involved less technical procedures as the elders that planned the colonization mission wanted to reduce

the amount of technology available to the colonies.

      It had now been a week since everyone was brought out of hibernation and most of the training

had been completed. Everything was on schedule and deceleration had begun.

      The Novum had traveled 32.78 light years and was breaking at a steady three meters per second.

It was a relatively slow breaking process, but it did allow other activities to continue. During the final

three days of travel, all personal movement on the craft was restricted to thirty minutes every ten hours.

At all other times, everyone was to remain in their canisters while a breaking process of two hundred

meters per second was steadily maintained.

      The final hours before achieving orbit would be a period where everyone would be confined to

their canisters as the Novum went through the final maneuvers to establish an orbit above the planet's

surface.

      During the deceleration procedures, the Novum's flight crew was on the bridge. Special seats

were configured to provide protection to the crew yet allow them to access certain control functions.

Though the system was establishing the correct breaking drivers automatically, the crew was present in

case something went wrong.

      As the large vessel made numerous short and sluggish movements, Captain Svann was in his

customary seat on the bridge. His mind was not on the events that were now taking place. He was

reviewing the final report on the number and causes of deaths during the last five hundred years. The

initial shock of lowering the body temperature had caused three of the infants to go into lethal shock.


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The others had succumbed during various other parts of the voyage while most of the adults died due

to viral infections. Six adults died during the last forty years, including Svann's old friend, Jon Hippus.

The autopsy reported that Jon had a coronary thrombosis at the start of the awakening process. Even

if help were available, it would probably have been to no avail due to the severity of the attack.

        "The really sad thing is there is no one to write to tell of the sadness he felt with the loss of a

friend," Svann thought to himself.

        There should have been several reports from home, but the only report was received over four

hundred years ago. Knowing the situation when we left Altus, it was doubtful if there would be any

life as we knew it.

        Closing his eyes, Svann could only imagine what was taking place today. The stench of death

would be long gone, and the only living things crawling on the surface would be certain insects. The

indestructible cockroach would undoubtedly survive. It may have undergone several mutations, but it

would most certainly survive.

        Most of the buildings and monuments would still be standing. The clouds would probably be

miles thick and there would be a constant rain... an acid rain that would cause a burn if it touched the

skin.

        "God, how stupid we were," he thought. "We had such a beautiful world. Svann couldn't even

be sure how the sequence of events came about to cause the destruction of the world.

        The destruction of Altus and how it came about had been taught to each colonist but it was

doubtful if they would realize the real impact of such an abuse of power. "I pray that they remember

what happened so they won't repeat the mistake," he thought as he slowly dropped off to sleep.

        "Captain... Captain." The voice seemed far off as Svann slowly came back to reality. It was the

voice of the communications officer, Jeeva Speens. "Sir, we just got a report from Altus. The main

computer just brought it up. It looks like it was prepared prior to our departure and designated to be


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released at a specific time. Would you care to see it now?" she asked.

       "Yes, of course... ah, bring it up on my screen and let's have a look," he sleepily responded.

       By the time Svann could turn and focus his eyes on the screen, the message was there. Slowly,

he read the grim results.



       FROM: ALTUS **LEN HOLLAND, MINISTER OF STATE**

       TO: NOVUM **CAPTAIN Svann**

       RELAY POINT: ALPHA BASE 9, 10,11,12

       BUD, THIS WILL BE THE FINAL MESSAGE FROM ALTUS. AS EXPECTED WE WILL

ALL BE GONE WHEN YOU READ THIS MESSAGE. ALL HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR

RACE BELONGS TO YOU AND YOUR MISSION. I PRAY THAT YOU WILL LEARN FROM

OUR MISTAKES AND KEEP YOUR NEW FOUND PARADISE INTACT.

               GODSPEED TO YOU ALL

       LEN HOLLAND

       Captain Svann read the message several times, and after a few minutes of thought, called his

communications officer over. "This message carries something very important. I want it passed to

every screen on the Novum and would like each elder to make sure each one of his students read it.

Do it right before the next meal...it will give them something to talk about as they eat. I also want to

pass out the following schedule," he added, as he handed the hand written schedule to her.

       FROM: CAPTAIN Svann

       TO: CREW, LEADERS AND COLONISTS ABOARD NOVUM

       I TRUST THAT EVERYONE HAS READ THE FINAL MESSAGE FROM ALTUS. WE

WILL SOON BE ARRIVING AT OUR NEW HOME. THE COMMENTS FROM MINISTER

HOLLAND HAVE TOUCHED US ALL.


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          THE FOLLOWING IS SCHEDULE OF DECELERATION BREAKING:

                  DAY 187550 1900-2400 HOURS

                  DAY 187551 0030-0900 HOURS

                  DAY 187551 0924-1730 HOURS

                  DAY 187551 1815-2400 HOURS

                  DAY 187551 0035-0925 HOURS

          AT 1115 HOURS ON DAY 187551 THE NOVUM WILL INITIATE ORBITING

`PROCEDURES AROUND THE NEW WORLD AND ALL PERSONNEL WILL BE REQUIRED

TO REMAIN IN THEIR CANISTERS UNTIL ORBIT IS ACHIEVED.                           PERSONNEL NOT IN

THEIR CANISTERS COULD BE SUBJECT TO SEVERE INJURY. I LOOK FORWARD WITH

GREAT ADMIRATION ON EACH OF YOU AS YOU MAKE HISTORY IN THE NEW WORLD.

          BUD SVANN, CAPTAIN OF THE NOVUM



   The automatic control system of the Novum was functioning flawlessly. It had redirected the anti-

gravity drive system on the third planet, still billions of kilometers away. Though it only appeared as a

tiny speck, it’s affect on the Novum gently slowed her speed.

   The large vessel had passed the outer three planets and was moving behind the orbit of the sixth

planet.     The rings of the planet reminded the adults of Altus as it had rings made of ice and debris

from a long since destroyed moon.

          Kos Javel took a moment out of his busy medical schedule and went to a monitor that was

displaying the ringed planet. He was totally engrossed in the display and didn't notice Juni Teewak

come up behind him.

          "Beautiful, isn't it?" she whispered in his ear.

          Kos didn't reply but reached behind and his hand met Juni's. His gentle squeeze gave her his


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answer.

      Juni went to the same medical school as Kos, but graduated years later. She had just completed

her internship when she was selected to be part of the colonization mission.

      Kos and Juni had been selected to remain on board the Novum when the colonization teams

departed. That suited them just fine because they wanted to be together, even if it meant they would

not have a permanent home on the planet.

      Kos always seemed to be totally wrapped up in his work but Juni was very special to him and it

showed. It was not in the sense of two lovers walking hand-in-hand through the park. It was more of a

sort of hidden love. It was in the way he would lose his train of thought when she walked into the

room. Or it was the way his face brightened whenever their skin touched. In reality, Kos wanted Juni

more than anything.

      Prior to the mission, Kos and Juni knew each other only because of their medical profession.

He thought she was pretty and very nice. But his studies kept him from ever making the first move.

      Kos was tending Juni's canister during the awakening procedure, and he was in awe of her

beauty. They were both almost fifty years old chronologically, but he thought she looked like a mature

woman still in her thirties. Her breasts were perfectly shaped, and it was obvious that she had

benefitted from the automatic exercising program during the sleeping process.

      Juni, looking up through the glass of her canister, saw the long beard and flowing hair. At first

she didn't recognize who or what was outside her canister. Soon, she discovered that it was, in fact,

Kos. He was the extremely handsome, young doctor that never seemed to notice her.

      Following their first haircut and shower, Kos was sitting in the cafeteria drinking some juice

when Juni she walked in. In her new robe, she looked like royalty. "What a pretty sight," he said in a

barely audible voice.

      "Excuse me. You're Doctor Javel, aren't you?" she asked.


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       "Yes I am. And I remember you, too. You're Doctor Teewak, right?"

       "Yes, but please call me Juni," she replied.

       Without hesitation, Kos said, "Juni, that's pretty. Please join me. I'm having some juice before

going back to check on the people that didn't make it." Pausing, he added, "Oh, yes. By the way, I

prefer to be called Kos."

       “Then Kos it is. Do you need any help?" she asked.

       We're not going to do any autopsies, but just a quick check to see when they died and try to

determine the cause of death. It won’t be very exciting, but I'd love the company," he replied smiling.

       Following that initial encounter, Kos Javel and Juni Teewak were together most of the time.

       Kos gently squeezed the smaller hand inside his and, in a rather shy, shaky voice, he asked,

"Juni, since we are going to be together on the Novum, will you.... ah.... rather, do you think we could

... ah ... sort of ... live together?"

       "Kos, if you are asking if I would like to sleep with and make love to you, the answer is yes. In

case you don't happen to know it, I'm in love with you," she answered. "I've been sending you

telepathic messages during the last five-hundred years. Didn't you get them?" she joked.

       "I was wondering where those little probes were coming from," he replied, smiling at her subtle

sense of humor.

       Juni paused for a moment and then continued, "Kos, your face was the first thing I saw when I

came to in the hibernation chamber and I want it to be the last thing I see when I die."

       Kos turned around and held Juni by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. For the last five

hundred years, the only time he held a woman, let alone kissed one, was in his dreams. This was a

totally new experience for him as he slowly drew her lips to his and kissed her with the experience of

long-time lovers.

       The Novum gently slipped behind the ringed planet and continued on its journey toward the


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third planet. Captain Svann, like many other adults aboard, had a tear in his eye as he gazed at the

monitor. Squeezing his eyes to stop the tears, Svann thought back to Altus.

       Svann couldn't think of the past too much as he had much more important things on his mind at

the moment. He needed to ensure the vessel was prepared to maneuver through the asteroids that were

between the fourth and fifth planets. "Lieutenant Macao, check out the laser system to make certain

it's working Ok," Svann ordered as he took his eyes off the ringed planet.

       "Roger, Sir," Macko answered. Lieutenant Macco continually checked and rechecked the laser

system. Still, he checked the system again. "Sir, we are registering 333 laser shots per hour. That's

up 132 from the last hour and 155 more than the previous hour to that. It looks like we are moving

through a trash pile. They're mostly small rocks and debris, less than 50 centimeters across. They are

large enough to cause some significant damage but small enough to be disintegrated by the lasers."

       Svann was convinced of the scanner and laser capabilities, but he was more worried about the

larger asteroids. If one got through the scanners that was over 500 centimeters across, it would destroy

the Novum and end its mission.

       "Lieutenant, check the long-range scanners and see if we have any larger objects in our path,"

Svann ordered.

       "Roger, checking now, Sir", the young lieutenant responded.

       Macco called the long-range scanner report on the monitor.         It showed that in 86 minutes, a

forty meter object would pass directly in front of the Novum. To be on the safe side, at ten minutes

before contact, the drivers would point at the object and push it away.

       Macco entered the commands into the computer that would automatically do this and then

reported, "Sir, we have a forty meter object that will be pushed aside in approximately 76 minutes.

Other than that, I don't see anything that the automatic lasers won't be able to handle."

       Though he knew that the bridge crew wasn't really needed, Svann was glad that he had an


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excellent team. They worked well together, and with computer assistance, the Novum could handle

any situation.

       Svann paused as he answered his young officer, "Ok, Lieutenant, thanks. Get back to me if any

problem comes up." "Roger, Sir." replied the smiling Macco.

       On the lower levels, various teams were making last minute checks on what they would soon be

encountering. The unit that would be colonizing Peruvia in the Southern Hemisphere with the high

mountain range knew that they could be encountering primitive groups of humanoids. Their reaction

could be hostile, and if it were, certain measures must be taken. The one rule was that killing other

humanoids will only be done if one's life is immediately threatened, or if the entire mission was

endangered.

       Ben Delos was the designated leader for this unit, and he was satisfied with his team's

preparation. Of course, he would feel safer if he would have laser weapons at his dispersal, but he

fully understood the rules that the elders had established during the mission's planning. Their mission

was to establish a colony among the current population, build friendships and eventually intermingle

with them. He knew that in time there would be interbreeding among the two races, but that was

planned and was part of the natural process.

       The Peruvian Colony consisted of fourteen males and fourteen females, and they had already

begun to pair off. If a leader would step in and attempt to pair individuals off, utter chaos would come

about. It was much better to let nature take its course. If there were some unpaired individuals after

thirty days or so, then the leader would attempt to organize activities that would lead them to pair off

with each other. For the colonization mission to work best, the maximum number of couples would be

needed.

       Ben, like most of the leaders, was accompanied by his wife. While he and Mari could not have

any children, their job was to serve as the matriarch couple for the rest to model themselves after.


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These two would serve perfectly.

        Jorge and Kadi Pavalo were leading the unit that would settle Yucatari, which was north of

Peruvia. They were to colonize an area that connected two large landmasses. There were some

natives in that area and they seemed to be related to their southern neighbors.

        The pairing of couples in Jorge's unit had not gone quite as well. There was one female that

five males were trying to seduce as their mate. Then there were females that had their eye on a male

that didn't have any interest in them. He even had one male that seemed to have his eye on another

male.

        "Kadi, what are we going to do? We got a male in the group and he seems to have a liking for

other males. And the rest are going after the same female. You know, I'm surprised none are putting

their eyes on you," Jorge jokingly said to his wife.

        Kadi, enjoying the humor she shared with her husband, reassured him saying, "Hon, don't

worry. Given time, these young people will certainly get other things straight."

        The other five teams had similar problems. Initially, each colony would have limited contact

with the others, but the plan was for them to develop their own individualities. By separating the

various teams, the elders had hoped the colony's development would be a more natural process and

therefore stronger.

        Novum passed through the asteroid belt and had even pushed the large one aside. There were

only seven recorded hits with foreign bodies and all were minor. None penetrated the Novum's outer

skin. Continuing on her course, the Novum was ready to begin the final deceleration process.

        Several warnings were broadcast throughout the ship, and, following the final warning, the

anti-gravity drivers were directed towards the planet. The power was gradually increased and the ship

began to slow at a steady rate.

        This was the first heavy deceleration that Kos experienced and he thought to himself, "This isn't


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bad. It couldn't be more than two times the regular force of gravity."

          The force kept getting stronger and stronger as the ship slowed. Eventually, it was impossible

to raise one's arms or legs but still the pressure increased. Luckily, the change in force was slow

enough to allow the body to adjust.

          Eventually, the increase stopped and the pressure remained steady. After a given amount of

time, the computer slowly began to decrease the amount of power and the pressure decreased. When

the deceleration reached zero, an announcement was made for all members to move with caution until

their bodies had adapted to the pressure of deceleration.

          Everyone got up, took care of their personal needs and met in the cafeteria. There was only a

short time until they had to get back in their restraints and the braking process repeated. Again, the

deceleration and an increase in pressure followed the announcements.

          During the second deceleration period, the Novum passed through the orbit of the fourth planet.

It was on the opposite side of the star so it couldn't be seen from this point.

          The final period had the Novum continually applying braking maneuvers and coasting as the

computer was making constant changes. Eventually, the time spent in deceleration decreased and

everyone on the ship cheered at the announcement of achieving orbit around the destination planet.

          Captain Svann proudly made the announcement and put the video on the monitors so all crew

members could get a view of their new home. The beautiful blues and swirling whites made the scene

look like paradise.

          "How could anything be so breathtaking?" Kos whispered in Juni's ear. "Unbelievable," was

her only response.

          All over the Novum, eyes were glued to monitors. Each pair was anxiously scanning the

picture, trying to find the exact point where they would be spending the rest of their lives and their

future.


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         66
                                         THE NOVUM CHRONICLES




                                                   Chapter Four



          Now in orbit above the New World, the activity aboard the Novum had increased ten-fold.

Each of the individual teams were checking and rechecking their supplies and loading their respective

transport vehicles.     Some were saying goodbye to friends that they had made during the last few

weeks. The leaders were also bidding their farewell to old friends and reminiscing about the past.

          The bridge was also bustling with activity. Captain Svann ordered scout vehicles to make a

final check of the areas designated for colonization. He would ride aboard Scout 1 with Zander Vood

at the controls. They would be visiting the area around site number 1, or Peruvial as it was to be

called.

          Svann was designated to remain on board the Novum for his lifetime and not be colonist. He

did not want to miss out on any opportunity to visit the planet's surface. Any opportunity to get off the

Novum, even if for only a few hours, was thoroughly welcomed.


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       With on a few minutes before the mass flights, the hanger area was a beehive of activity. Vood,

along with the other transport and scout pilots, was busy checking his assigned vessel, Shuttle Number

1. Zander walked around the craft checking the magnetrons, which were positioned on the edges of

the circular vessel.

       Simply put, the magnetrons were nothing more than powerful electromagnets that were super

cooled with liquid nitrogen. Unlike ordinary electromagnets with north and South Poles, magnetrons

could take the field from one of the magnetic poles and change its polarity. This change also

dramatically increased the magnetic pull of each unit.

       By regulating the amount of current going to each magnetron, Zander could focus the magnetic

pull to a very fine line that, while in space, would reach a point millions of miles away.

       Operating in a frictionless environment, the craft's acceleration theoretically would be a

continuous eleven meters per second. It would continue to increase at this rate indefinitely...

eventually, even surpassing the speed of light.

       The scouting mission that obtained the information, in which the Novum mission was planned,

discovered a unique phenomenon. Using the same propulsion technology, the scouting mission

recorded surpassing the speed of light in only 55 years. Analysis of its flight data revealed that as the

speed increased, the rate of fall also increased. Since this was completely unknown technology,

scientists on Altus could only speculate as to the cause. Some claimed that as a vessel increased speed,

other gravitational pulls diminished, this increased the effectiveness of the main source. Others

claimed that as the speed increased, friction from light decreased, thereby, increasing the speed of the

vessel. Whatever the reason, the Novum recorded passing the speed of light in 55.234 years.

       Attaining a maximum speed of 2,678,400 miles per second, the Novum was traveling 14.4

times faster than the speed of light. While speed had its advantages, it also had several disadvantages.

For every second spent in acceleration, an equal amount was required to slow down. This placed the


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life forms under heavy amounts of physical stress, and normal life would not be possible under these

conditions for any length of time. Fortunately, everyone was in hibernation during this period, and

their life support functions were reduced to the minimum required.

       Another disadvantage with potential disastrous consequences was that the Novum was traveling

through areas before the on board scanners could determine what was in front of them. Fortunately

again, the ship failed to hit anything undetected.

       Even with the amazing speed of the Novum and the smaller shuttles, the amount of electric

current they needed to operate was minimal. This was due to the liquid nitrogen that was pumped

through each magnetron. Batteries provided the power whenever the craft was operating in a confined

area like the hanger deck. Once outside, the craft operated as a generator with the coils spinning just

inside the outer skin.

       No matter how remote an area, there would always be some magnetic field present. A distant

star or planet generated a magnetic field, thus providing the energy required to produce electricity. The

system was also designed so that whenever the drivers didn't require maximum magnetic power, the

unused portion would be directed across the coils. This capability generated more electrical power that

increased the power of the magnetic field, which generated more electrical power.... and so on. Once

up to speed and operating in the vacuum of space, the Novum and her shuttles could operate

indefinitely without external power. With the availability of this unlimited power source, these vessels

could travel the galaxies.

       Vood, having completed all outside checks, climbed the ladder and entered his craft. "What a

machine!" he thought as he entered the narrow corridor, turning right to move to the control console.

Positioning himself in the command seat, he went through the flight deck checklist.

       His assigned co-pilot, Hal Yakov, joined him in the cockpit, picked up the checklist, and called

out each item from the list as Vood activated the various systems.


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                                           THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
       "Batteries?"

       "Got five green," answered Zander.

       "Mag coupler?"

       "All couplers registering green."

       After completing the first portion of the checklist, Zander powered the system as he prepared to

complete the operating checks. "Mag voltage in the green?" he asked into the mike while giving his

co-pilot an inquisitive eye.

       "Roger, ready to lift off the deck," replied Hal.

       Slowly, Zander increased the power to the odd numbered magnetrons, and the craft began to lift

off the hanger deck. As it lifted off the deck, he brought the power back, and the craft was motionless,

ten centimeters off the deck.

       Hal had the same number of hours as Zander Vood, but he was not selected for the left seat

because the pilots in command position had all performed flawlessly. Yakov had made a very minor

error in positioning the aircraft after his training flight, and this error had caused him to not be selected

as a command pilot. Still, he felt honored to even be a part of this glorious mission.

       "Let's complete the check list 'cause I think Captain Svann will be on the deck shortly and I'd

like to be ready to be first out," Zander said as he made a review of the checklist and handed it to his

co-pilot.

       Eyeing the next item on the list, Hal responded, "Roger, Zander.            What's the temp in the

mags?"

       "Got green in all. Number 15 is the warmest, and it's still minus one six five," said Zander.

       "Ok. Zander, it looks like she's ready to fly. Should be one hell of a sight?"

       "You bet," replied Zander as he eased the shuttle back to the deck. Zander, like the rest of the

scout pilots, was day dreaming about being one of the first colonists to see the New World.


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       Captain Svann stepped out of the elevator as the door opened onto the hanger deck. Pilots and

crews were busily preparing their craft for this exploratory mission and most didn't even notice that the

Captain was on the deck.

       The craft nearest the elevator was number five, and Svann walked over and climbed up the

ladder. "Good morning, gentlemen."

       Number Five's pilot noticed the new person in the craft and was taken back that the Captain was

visiting his shuttle. "Good morning, Sir. Are you going with us today?" the pilot offered, though he

knew that the Captain was simply making his rounds.

       "No, I'm tagging along with Zander Vood but I'll be with all of you in spirit. I hope you have a

beautiful and pleasant flight today," replied the Captain.

       Svann, having made his appearance, moved on to the next craft and eventually was at the base

of the ladder leading up to Zander Vood's Shuttle Number 1.

       He climbed the ladder and entered the corridor. Yakov noticed him coming and got up from the

right seat. "Sir, why don't you take the right seat on this flight," he asked.

       Yakov made the offer, but he hoped the Captain would refuse. He knew that Svann would love

the opportunity to sit in the right seat, but he also knew that the Captain wasn't checked out for this

craft. He knew that he was very safe with his offer.

       "No, Hal. You have earned the right to have that seat. I'd probably bang up the sides getting out

of the Novum, anyway. I'll be just fine in the jump seat," Svann replied.

       "Roger Sir," responded Yakov as he fit himself back in the right seat.

       "Captain, welcome aboard. We've completed the check list, and we're ready to go," Zander

said. He was having a hard time holding back his anxiety.

       Captain Svann seated himself in the jump seat, put on his headset and answered, "Zander, if

you're ready, contact the bridge and let's be off."


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      "Roger Sir." Zander paused a second before going external to the bridge, "Novum, this is Scout

1. We're secured in slot 1 and ready for departure."

      His headsets brought his answer, "Scout 1, this is the bridge. You're cleared to move to

chamber and exit. Contact navigation control upon clearing the Novum."

      "Roger," Yakov replied as Zander steadily increased power and brought Scout 1 off the deck.

Slowly he turned the craft and moved toward the exit shaft. The automatic winching system picked

the shuttle up and gently placed it in the shaft. The door closed, and following de-pressurization, the

outer door opened and Scout 1 drifted outside the Novum.       Immediately the spectacle of the huge,

blue planet filled the screens. The three were taken back by the beauty and couldn't say a word.

      Zander was the first to come back to reality, "Novum control, this is Scout 1, outside the

Novum at this time. Request permission to exit orbit."

      Navigation control responded, "Scout 1, this is navigation control. Permission granted. Have a

great flight and good luck."

      Zander started the dynamos spinning and directed the low-power drivers toward the planet. The

craft smoothly moved away from the Novum and dropped lower in orbit. Zander had the control and

looked forward to operating the vessel in the atmosphere of the New World.

      Slowing the rate of descent as he began entering the outer layers of the atmosphere, Zander tried

various maneuvers to get a feel of flying the ship in an environment totally different than working in

the vacuum of space. He was amazed at the response the shuttle had while in the grasp of the planet's

atmosphere.

  The exterior skin registered a dramatic increase in temperature and they knew it was from friction

with the atmosphere. Although in no danger of melting the skin or causing severe structural damage,

he continued to slow the shuttle. With each second, the ebony blackness of space grew lighter as they

descended.


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       The main computer on board the Novum began mapping the surface of the New World as soon

as orbit was established. With the exception of the Polar Regions, detailed information was recorded

and entered into a database. Scout 1, as well as the other shuttles, downloaded the information prior to

the departure and could safely navigate their craft. A map was displayed on one of the consoles and

Captain Svann pointed to a spot.

       "Zander, I want to check out that area. That's the area that was originally selected as the site for

Peruvial. How about heading us in that direction?" Svann asked.

       "All right, Sir," replied Zander as he made a gentle turn. At the same time he reduced power to

the vertical drivers, causing the shuttle to descend a bit faster.

       A layer of clouds obscured the tremendous vision of the ocean below. Eventually, the sleek

craft broke free of the clouds and into clear weather. All three members of the scouting mission were

aghast at the beauty of this paradise. The deep blue of the depths gave way to the greenish blue of the

shallows and then the brown color of the reefs. Next the craft passed over thick vegetation with a deep

green color.

       At an altitude of 5000 meters, Zander maintained a heading of 270 and zipped across the lush

landscape below. After slowing the craft to 800 kilometers per hour, specific sights became visible in

the dense vegetation.

       Captain Svann directed monitor number three on a downward scan and could make out several

rivers, one of exceptional size.

       "Zander, can you take us down to about 500 meters above that large river? If we follow it

upstream, it should lead us to the designated site for the colony of Peruvial," Svann asked through the

intercom.

       "Roger Sir. Moving down at this time," replied Zander.

       Also slowing the forward speed, the craft was directly above the river, traveling at a relatively


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slow speed of 300 kilometers per hour. Below them the wide river spread out for about a kilometer on

both sides and its size was truly remarkable.

       Hal Yakov noticed it first. "Zander, look at the starboard monitor. I see some smoke. Let's

check it out."

       "Ok, Hal. I got it in my sights." replied Zander as he turned the craft in that direction, slowing

its forward movement at the same time. He made a slow pass over the area when Svann spoke."

       "Gentlemen, I believe we have our first look at humanoids from another world," said Svann, not

taking his eyes off the scene below. "Zander, can you hold us motionless, for a while? I'd like to get a

better look at these people."

       Slowing and eventually stopping, Zander responded, "Sir, we're now holding steady. Do you

see any people?" asked Zander.

       On the ground, a group of Amazon Indians were going through another day. The hunters were

out in the bush, and the only occupants of the camp seemed to be women, children and older adults.

The children were first to notice the strange bird in the air. Frightened, they ran inside their shelters

and screamed. Their parents and grandparents also hid from this strange sight, less they get snatched

up like the way an eagle takes a monkey out of the forest canopy.

       One youngster, who Svann guessed to be around two years old, walked out in the camp opening

and gawked at the noiseless bird. His mother ran out and grabbed him by his arm and quickly took

him into another shelter. To her, the strange bird in the sky could be signaling the end of the world.

       Yakov noticed the response of the natives below and said, "Zander, we're scaring the hell out of

these people. Let's move on up river. There are probably more camps along the river."

       "I agree with you, Hal. Ah. Captain, is it all right to move on upstream?" he asked.

       Captain Svann still had his eyes on the monitor as he gave his reply, "Ok, Zander. There's

nothing else to see or do here for the time being. Let's leave them alone."


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                                        THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
       Slowly, the craft turned back upstream and began moving. They encountered five more camps

with similar results. The natives were all afraid of this new, strange bird that would take them away in

a heartbeat.

       Zander could have continued to check out this beautiful, thick jungle and its mysterious

inhabitants forever. However, they did have a mission to complete. Applying power and climbing

back to 5000 meters, he again moved West on a heading of 270.

       Steadily, the jungle crept up, and it seemed to get thicker with each kilometer. In the distance,

mountains loomed upward to above 6000 meters.

       "Captain Svann, we're coming upon the colonization site. It should be just on the other side of

that peak directly ahead of us," Yakov said as he quickly cross-checked the navigational chart

displayed on the monitor.

       Skirting the left side of the peak, the lush green gave way to a barren desert. Zander brought the

craft to a standstill about a thousand meters above the high mountain plain.

       Svann was leaning forward in the jump seat, trying to get a better view of the proposed site.

"This is even much prettier than I had imagined. I wonder if the other colonies are as scenic as this

one." Zander heard what Svann said and quickly responded, "Captain, if that's an offer for us to check

out the other sites, I'll be available whenever you decide to go."

       "Count me in too," added Yakov.

       "When I do visit the other sites, I'll be sure to schedule Scout 1, gentlemen.        But, in the

meantime, we need to land here and check the site out from the ground. Zander put her down

somewhere around the middle of this area."

       With the deftness of a pilot with a multitude of hours, Vood eased the craft down to a perfect

landing.

       Hal was first to get up and move back to the hatch. He then opened the door and the ladder


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automatically descended. "After you, Sir," he said as Svann made his way to the hatch.

         By virtue of his position, Captain Svann was the first one to step down, and he cautiously took

the rungs one by one. Vood and Yakov soon followed, and the three of them moved away from the

craft.

         The three explorers were dressed in their white robes and were totally unprepared for the bitter

cold wind that struck them in the face. Yakov was the first to say anything. "Brrrrrr, this place is

really cold," he said as he pulled his robe tighter around his body.

         "Hal, I have to agree with you. But, before we move on, let's look around," Svann said as his

eyes recorded the features of the land that had been selected for this colony.

         To the west, stood a mountain range of enormous height. Clouds obscured the tops, but they

had to exceed six thousand meters. They appeared to drop straight down to the barren plateau that the

three were now standing upon.

         "I don't think I would like to be assigned to this colony," said Hal, shaking his head. He had

seen about as much as he wanted to, and he was ready to get back into the warm shuttle.

         "I agree with you, Hal. I wouldn't want to be assigned to this colony either. But, all indications

are that there's a wealth of minerals under the ground here."

         Continuing to scan the horizon, Svann added, "Zander, let's get back up and move about 300

kilometers east. As I recall, there was more vegetation there and the climate should be considerably

warmer."

         "All right, Sir. I'm ready when you are," replied Zander as he turned back toward the shuttle.

         The three explorers reentered the shuttle, and Hal secured the hatch. As he moved around

Captain Svann, he remarked, "Sure feels good to get out of the cold, doesn't it Sir?"

         Still shaking, Svann responded, "It sure does, son."

   Once buckled in their seats, Zander applied power to the drivers, and the craft lifted up and turned


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toward the east. Accelerating quickly, they covered one hundred and fifty kilometers in a couple of

minutes. He then activated the anti-drivers and the craft slowed, even quicker than it accelerated.

       "Sir, we've gone exactly 300 kilometers. Do you see anyplace that you would like to check out

closer?" Zander asked through his mike.

       Svann was watching the monitors, as he replied, "Ah. Yes, Zander. You can you put her down

on that peak over there. There appears to be a clearing of some sort on top."

       "Can do, Sir.... Hal, do you want to handle the controls for this landing?" Zander asked his

copilot.

       "All right, but stay close. This will be my first landing other than setting her down inside the

hanger," said Hal.

       "Don't worry. I won't let you be the cause of the first tragedy on this planet," replied Zander in a

reassuring voice.

       Yakov took the control and turned the craft towards the designated peak. Easing the power

forward, the craft began to move forward. Coming upon the peak, he eased back on power and

brought the craft to a dead stop over the clearing.

       "All right, now ease back on the lower drivers," Zander said. He could see the uneasiness in

Hal, but he was handling the craft with superb precision.

       "Ten meters.. five.. four.. three.. two.. One... We're on the ground. Good job, Hal. Shut her

down, and let's check this place out."

       Exiting the craft, the three explorers noticed the drastic change in climate. The weather was still

a bit chilly, but there was much more humidity in the air.

       Together, they walked to the edge of the peak and peered out. The foliage just below the peak

was dense undergrowth. There were gigantic trees growing in the low areas and the entire region

seemed to be much more inviting than the other site to the west. In the distance to the west, the tall


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mountain range was barely visible through the haze.

      There appeared to be a deep valley directly below the peak on which they were standing.

Pointing downward, Zander said, "Look, down in the trees by the river. Did you see it?" he asked.

      "See what, Zander?" asked Hal.

      "There was a man of sorts, and he was swinging in the trees. He was the strangest looking

person I've ever seen… and he was completely covered with hair."

      "Hair... what do you mean, hair?" asked Svann.

      "Sir, he had hair all over his body."

      The three looked down toward the vicinity where Zander was pointing. Hal saw it first.

      "Yes, I see it too. Look! There's several of them. No! Wait a minute. I think I can count at

least ten of them in the trees. They're amazing!"

      Svann concentrated his vision on the area and finally responded, "I see them, too. I don't think

they're humans. It appears that they are some sort of animal life akin to humans. Listen to them,

they’re making some sort of howling sound."

      With that encounter, the colonists were first exposed to a species of monkey that would be

forever called, "Howlers!"

      They watched the monkeys for a short time longer and then they separated and continued to

explore the peak and the nearby surrounding area. With almost every glance and each step, a new life

form was seen.

      Zander was engrossed with following the antics of a smaller species of monkey when the

worried shout from Hall reached his ears.

      "Hey! Hey! Zander... Captain Svann come look at this."

      The two hurried to the far side of the peak where Hal was peering off in the distance. "I thought

I saw an aircraft flying. Then I realized it was a bird," he exclaimed pointing toward a nearby peak.


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       I saw it fly over there and his wings were not flapping! Not once! That's when I thought it was

a plane. When he landed on the cliff of the peak over there, he flapped his wings, and that was when I

realized it was a bird I was looking at. Let me tell you, though, he's nearly as big as the shuttle."

       The three stared in the direction of the peak, but they were not able to distinguish anything that

resembled a bird.

       After a three or four minute wait, Svann spoke up. "Gentlemen, we need to get on with our

survey. Let's complete it, and we'll do a flyby on the peak it. Maybe, just maybe, we will catch a

glimpse of this large bird."

       "This spot sure beats the hell out of the first place gentlemen. I think I'll change their location to

here. The peaks may cause them some logistic problems but that biting cold at the first site would

make them extremely uncomfortable.          What do you guys think?" Svann asked his two fellow

explorers.

       Zander, answering first, said, "Sir, if it were me, I'd take this place over the other without

hesitating one little bit."

       "Count me in on that too," added Hal.

       "Ok, let's get back in and get a photograph and infrared or IR print of this location. I want the

future settlers to get a good picture of this site," said Svann as he felt very confident with his site

selection change.

       Again, Hal handled the controls and took the craft straight up to an altitude of 10000 meters.

Holding the shuttle dead steady, he said, "This should give us a fairly good picture of the area, Sir."

       Zander activated the cameras and the entered the data to get an IR shot. "All pictures have been

taken, Sir. What next?"

       "Let's go see if we can find this bird that excited Hal so much. I'd like to spend more time here,

but we do need to get that information back up," said Svann.


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       Hal was ready to relinquish the controls to the pilot-in-command, but Zander shook him off.

"Hal, you can fly this thing as well or better than I so you take us to where that bird landed. We'll get a

good look at him, maybe a picture or two and then head back to the Novum."

       "You got it. Hang on tight," said Hal, happy for the opportunity.

       Hal sharply turned the shuttle and quickly dropped down in altitude. He adjusted the monitors

and directed them at the cliff area where the bird landed. Nothing could be seen at first. But, as the

shuttle grew nearer, three gigantic birds spread their 3 meter wings and flew from the cliff.

       Zander recorded three camera shots and the freeze frame on the monitor showed the three

magnificent birds in anticipation, jumping out and soaring. "Great shot," said Hal.

       Svann sat in his seat with his eyes glued to the monitor. "That's five times bigger than the

biggest bird ever recorded on Altus, guys. They're beautiful, aren't they?"

       "Sure are, Sir," Zander responded. "Ah.... don't you think it's about time we headed back, Sir?"

       "You're right Zander. Hal, how about taking us back to the Novum?"

       "Ok, Sir," Hal responded as he applied gradual pressure to the controls that activate the lateral

drivers. Hal accelerated the shuttle rather quickly, and was soon skimming over the jungle at 1000

meters. He got a reading on the Novum's current orbit as he piloted the shuttle on an easterly heading.

Quickly, the craft shot through the clouds and into the deep blackness of space.

       "Got a read out on the Novum and she should be just coming over the horizon. Do you have her

yet, Zander?" asked Hal.

       Zander was reviewing his scanner and replied, "Roger, I got her on the scope. Let's try out the

auto-pilot and see if it can bring us in."

       "Roger, "said Hal as he entered some numbers into the on board computer.

       "Coordinates have been entered and auto-pilot is now activated," said Zander.

       The craft made a minor correction in heading and moved up and out. Like the pilots, the


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computer seemed to handle the ship with perfect precision.

      Slowing down at the exact time, the shuttle was placed in line with one of the other shuttles that

visited one of the other designated colonies. In unison, the two craft moved at the same speed and as

the first disappeared inside the shaft, the computer smoothly maneuvered Scout 1 into position.

Slowly, the stars melted away to the blackness inside the shaft.

      The monitors picked up the writing that welcomed the returning pilots and passengers. As the

doors opened into the receiving chamber the monitors immediately picked up the brilliant lights.

When their apertures regained their correct size, the inside door was opening and the wench had the

shuttle in its grasp. It lifted Scout 1 with her three-man crew and smoothly moved them until they

were directly over their designated parking area.

      The automatic systems began turning equipment off as soon as it wasn't needed. As the door

opened, the last of the power systems was turned off.

      "Let's double-check, Hal. I don't want to leave something on and have a dead battery the next

time we fly," said Zander.

      "Ok... Starting at the top of shutdown lists," responded Hal.

      "Mags?"

      "Off and in the black," said Hal.

      Captain Svann was up and moving toward the door as he listened to the two pilots going

through the check list. "Excuse me, gentlemen. Thanks for the flight. You both did a superb job of

flying today. We shall do it again soon," Svann said as he turned back toward the door.

      "Sir, it was our pleasure and... just give us the word. We'll be ready to go again whenever you

make the call," said Zander.

      Both pilots watched the Captain disappear as he climbed down the stairs and head towards the

hanger elevators. The first thing Captain Svann did when he returned to the bridge was to get a


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reading on the other scouting missions. "Sir, all but two have returned, and we have them on the

scanners at this time. They should be on the hanger deck in about 10 minutes. Do you want me to

give them any further instructions?" The voice was coming from the new executive officer,

Commander Len Dawsen.

       "No, just have them enter their report into the computer and send the reports to my terminal as

soon as they are filed. I'll be in my room if you need me, Len," Svann replied.

       The captain left the bridge and went to his room where he lay down, planning to get a quick

nap. Before he could drop off to sleep, the first report came on his screen. It was from the Indus

colony. It didn't say anything that was out of the ordinary with the exception that they had a close

contact with one of the natives.

       The other reports, including his own, came over the monitor. Not seeing anything particularly

unusual, Svann continued with his napping plans.

       The leaders gathered together in the afternoon to cover the scouting reports for each

colonization site. This was to be the last scheduled meeting where all leaders would be present until

they got together on Indus in another five years. Captain Svann chaired the meeting and looked

forward to a productive planning session.

       Standing at the head of the table, Svann addressed the group. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are

about to embark on our race's future. Our meeting today will update each colony's leader with the

other's plans. I'll begin this meeting by reporting on the scouting reports that have just come in. I think

you each have a copy in front of you." Each leader had a copy of the recent scouting reports of each of

the colonies including pictures of their terrain features.

       "The first colony we'll review is Peruvial," Svann said. "I personally flew along on that mission

as the leader Ben Delos stayed aboard the Novum, and I must say, Peruvial is an interesting location.

As you can see in your report, I've changed the central location to a point about three hundred and


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twenty kilometers east of the original site."

      "The reason for this change is due to the extreme changes in the climate. As you know it is late

spring for that hemisphere and the temperature was well below freezing when we landed. The

vegetation indicated generally cold temperatures year round. However, 300 kilometers East and a drop

of three thousand meters in altitude gave us a 40 degree rise in the temperature. The plant growth in

the new area is conducive to the growing of food and there is also an abundance of different plants,

and many interesting animals. There are sufficient minerals in the nearby areas to also allow for the

production of all metals and other required items for the colony."

      "There's another thing I would like to add, you will have neighbors. We discovered several

camps of humanoids that are located within 20 kilometers from the central location. We have very

little information on them at this time, but I expect the colonists of Peruvial will soon make contact

with these humanoids and establish relationships."

      "Scout 1 flew over several of the colonies and was observed by them all. As you could expect,

the humanoids we encountered acted as if they were afraid of us. We observed a hysteric mother grab

her child by the arm and drag him away from the open areas of their village," he said.

      Continuing, he added, "As I mentioned earlier, we also discovered some interesting animal life.

There appears to be hundreds of varieties... unlike anything we had on Altus. Here's an image of a

couple of the birds we encountered," he said putting the digital image on the screen.

      Several "oohs and ahs" were heard as the image came up.

      "There were at least three of these birds sitting on the rocks. At first we could only see the one,

but as we got closer, three leaped off the ledge. They have a wingspan greater than 3 meters and are

simply magnificent."

      Svann had the audience captivated, "Another animal we encountered appears to be much like

the fossil remains of our predecessors on Altus. The Ohpans were what many believed we descended


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from, and after observing their behavior in the wild today, that possibility does exist. They seem to

live in the trees and we counted as many as 100 of the creatures in a large tree near the site."

       "Captain!" The voice was from Ben Delos. "Do the animals seem to be a threat to us?"

       It was obvious that Ben was concerned for his colony's safety.

       "Ben, I can't answer that question. All I can say at this point is that they seemed to be very

timid, yet extremely curious. However, we did not see any behavior that would indicate anyone would

be in any grave danger."

       Captain Svann continued, "The second colony is located about 2000 kilometers north of

Peruvial, and it will be described by Jorge Pavalo."

       Jorge rose and spoke, "We are going to call this colony Yucatari as it reminded us of the resort

area back home. Yucatari is located in a tropical area and has thick vegetation. The area should be

very good for growing crops, and there's an abundance of minerals."

       "We, too, have primitive humanoids as neighbors, and they appear to be linked with the natives

of Peruvial. They observed us when we landed but showed no hostile actions. Like the Captain

reported, our neighbors also seemed to be afraid of us. We plan to make contact and try to establish a

working relationship with them."

       Jorge continued, "We also observed the Ohpans at our site. They were thousands of them.

They are extremely agile as they swing from branch to branch and never, I repeat, never did they seem

to be a threat. As a matter of fact, we spent the better part of our trip simply watching them watching

us... it was rather humorous."

       "Overall, I think that Yucatari has an excellent climate and will be a great place to live. Our

potential to succeed as a thriving colony is great."

       Captain Svann continued, "Good. Thanks Jorge. Next is Europa, reported by Al Einstram."

       Al was excited when his turn came. "Everyone, I must say that Europa has got to be the most


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beautiful place on the planet. We first toured the area by air and then landed at the central site which is

located by the river we're naming Generva, after the river we all remember on Altus. The climate is

similar to the country of Nordam back home with good grass land. There is an abundance of game,

including wild cattle of some variety. We think that we should be able to domesticate them with a

little time. We have no indication of any humanoid life on Europa, but we would look forward to the

time that we do locate some and establish friendly relations."

       "Our fourth site is Indus and Meesho Digani was on board the scouting mission. Meesho, tell

us about Indus," Svann said as he introduced the leader of Indus to the other leaders.

       Meesho Digani rose and addressed the forum, "Fellow colonists, Indus has a variation of

climates. The area is bordered on the north by an exceptionally high range of mountains and on the

South by a warm water ocean. The West is extremely hot and arid while the East is tropical. The

central part is where the planned colony will be located and appears to be a blend of the two extremes."

       "There were natives present when we landed and we have made contact. We didn't recognize

their tongue, but we should be able to communicate in time. They seem friendly although I think that

they looked upon us as some sort of God. They have domesticated some animals and have done some

primitive farming. It should be an interesting and productive colonization site."

       Moving away from the podium, Meesho turned back and added, "Oh, by the way, I wish to

name our central site after my wife Lidia, who passed away during the hibernation process."

       Again taking the stand, Captain Svann added "Meesho, I wish your colony great success in

Lidia."

       "The fifth site leader is Sadah Ramagan, and he was aboard the shuttle that scouted Syrias."

       Sadah rose and addressed the group, "Of all the sites we've heard about so far, I must say that

Syrias seems to be give us the biggest challenge. We found very little drinkable water and growing

crops will be very difficult. There is water under the ground, and I think that we will have the


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technology to lift it to the surface, but it will take time. However, to exist until then, we will be

required to take additional supplies."

       "There are some natives, but they are scattered. We made no contact during the scouting

mission. From our observations during the short scouting mission, I would say that establishing a

working relationship with these people will be difficult at best."

       Again Captain Svann rose. "We all remember seeing pictures of the final site. It is located

5000 kilometers West of Peruvial. It is a tropical island surrounded by warm, bountiful waters.

Pacifica was scouted by Samar Tuipapa. Samar, what's Pacifica like?"

       "Captain Svann, I'm going to address Al Einstram's comment about Europa being the most

beautiful spot on the planet. Al, I've seen pictures of Europa, and you're right, you have a very

beautiful colony."

       It was quite obvious to everyone in the group that Samar Tuipapa had liked what he had seen.

Beaming with enthusiasm, he continued, "Pacifica is a paradise. We have a beautiful group of islands

and there's an abundance of food already growing." At this point, one of Samar's young colonists came

in carrying a basket of fruit. "Gentlemen, we brought this back with us today. Please try one. The

long yellow one has a hard peeling on it and has a similar taste to the banas fruit that you may

remember. The other rather big item was one found growing on a small bush. The outside is hard but

the inside is very sweet and juicy. I'm sure you will like the taste. There is also an abundance of fish

and food to be obtained from the ocean. As I said, it is a paradise."

       Continuing, he added, "we did not encounter any natives living on the islands, and there are no

indications that any existed in the past. Therefore, it's doubtful that we will have the same opportunity

to establish any relationships as can the other colonies."

       The group then discussed other details about the colonization and how interaction with the

natives should be handled. The question of self defense and how to best apply it dominated the rest of


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the discussion.

      Indus requested to have personal laser weapons but the request was denied since there was a

requirement of a majority vote to get them. The only other site that voted "yes" on the weapons issue

was Syrias, though they did not request the weapons for themselves.

      At first, Ben Delos favored allowing weapons to become part of each colony's equipment, but

he relented at the last moment.

      The leaders all requested that the doctors aboard the Novum be allowed to become part of the

colonies, but this was against the mission plans that had been laid down long ago. After much

discussion on this matter, Svann tabled the issue by saying, "Gentlemen, having doctors at each of the

colony sites would be a great benefit. However, as you all know, our doctors have been trained in a

multitude of areas and could upset the planned speed of the colonies' development. I'll have to give

this matter some serious thought, and I'll give you my answer after I run some simulations in the main

computer. I'll give you my answer in the morning."

      It was apparent that the matter of medical assistance was not open for any other discussion, and

the forum discussed other items that were of interest to the various leaders.

      Following the conclusion of the meeting, Captain Svann led the group in prayer - followed by a

toast of the last bottles of wine brought from Altus.




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                                                  Chapter Five



      Slowly, pilot Hal Steppan eased the power back on the drivers and the vessel responded. It

descended through the clouds and slowed to 500 kilometers per hour. The outside cameras were on,

providing a birds-eye view for the colonists aboard. They were being transported down to begin their

new lives in the colony that would home to them and their descendants.

      Europa's leader, Al Einstram and his wife Gloria, felt fortunate to have been selected for this

colony. They both came from Nordam in the northern portion of Altus, and the climate on Europa

appeared to be quite similar to what they were used to. Al and Gloria were also one of the few leaders

that had their own children on the mission as colonists. Don and Gretchen Einstram were born during

the cold war period leading up to the destruction of Altus.

      Don was paired with Silva Borman and both were happy with the arrangement. They were

sitting together viewing the same monitor, cautiously holding each other's hand. Having been together

for just a few short weeks, the strong feelings of love hadn't yet blossomed. Hopefully, working


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together during the day and enjoying the privacy of each other at night, the bonding would quickly

come.

        Gretchen was one of the odd individuals not paired with a single mate.         She, along with

Dorthea Richter, was selected to be matched with Feld Grimmon. Initially, she was scheduled to be

assigned to a different colony to prevent any inbreeding with future offspring, but Al requested and

was granted an exception. Gretchen wasn't totally pleased with the prospect of having to share her

man, but at least she was still with her family.      She and Dorthea had Feld in between them, and

each cautiously held his hand as their eyes were glued to the monitor.

        Keeping the craft about 2000 meters above the ground, Hal was on a heading of 180 degrees.

According to the on board computer map, there should be a large mountain range coming up in about 5

minutes. Below, he could see thick forests of pine and rivers flowing in the valleys. "This has got to

be prime farming land," he thought to himself.

        On the horizon, he could make out mountains that seemed to rise thousands of meters into a

deep blue sky. They were covered with snow and there were glacier flows between the peaks. Hal

turned the outside cameras on the mountain range so his passengers could get a view of the beauty of

their new home.

        In the back of the vessel, Al Einstram leaned over and gently kissed his wife. "I love you," was

her response to his sudden gift of affection. Turning their eyes back to the monitor, both were eagerly

looking forward to living out the remainder of their life in Europa.

        Hal turned on the loudspeakers and announced, "Folks, we are currently coming up on a

mountain range that lies between your colony and a warm-water sea to the south of us. In time you

will probably venture down in that area, but now we are going back about 300 kilometers to the center

of Europa. If anyone sees something that they wish to get a closer look at, let me know via the

intercom, and I'll take you down."


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       Hal put the craft into a gentle bank and made a slow right hand turn to a heading of 360 degrees.

The mountains gave way to rolling hills that seemed to continue forever. As he came upon a large,

slow river they had already named Generva, he recognized that this was the river that flowed by the

designated center of Europa's planned colony. Dropping down to 1000 meters he kept the craft

directly over the river and followed it on its northerly course.

       Europa was the only colony that didn't have any humanoids sighted during any of the scouting

missions. This meant that once down and settled in, they would most likely be the sole inhabitants of

this beautiful land.

       Coming up on the designated site, Hal slowed the ship and touched down in a meadow between

two small hills blanketed with soft, full trees. Before lowering the ramps, he was to make a double

check that everyone was designated to be in that colony. Even with all the checks that had been made,

there was bound to be someone that got on the wrong craft that was supposed to be assigned to another

colony.

       Going through the entire list, all forty-one passengers aboard were at the right place. "Well,

ladies and gentlemen," Zander announced. "It looks like we have arrived safe and sound. Before we

begin to unload the supplies, everyone disembark and take a look around.           While you are out and

about, Dick and I will prepare the cargo for unloading. We should have everything ready for you in

about three hours, so try and be back at that time... oh, by the way, have a good time."

       Excitedly, forty-one anxious colonists scrambled down the ramp and out from under the ship.

The warmth of the sun beat down upon them for the first time in over five hundred years.

       Directly to the south was a thick, almost black colored forest. It extended as far as the eye could

see with an occasional clearing. To the west and north, the meadow extended to the edge of the river.

It was truly a beautiful site, and each of the colonists was aghast at the sheer beauty.

       "The young people have never felt the sun, Al," Gloria said as she looked up into a clear blue


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sky.   "I know, hon. I forgot just what it felt like myself. It does feel good, doesn't it?"

       "Uhmmm, yes it does," she replied.

       Don, holding Silva's hand, walked over to his mom and dad. "Dad, is this anything like where

you and mom lived on Altus?"

       "Something like it, son. As I recall, we didn't have this many trees around, and the grass wasn't

quite as high. I believe it's prettier here than back at home. What do you think, Gloria?" the elder

Einstram asked.

       Gloria smiled at her husband and said, "Al, this is the prettiest spot I've ever seen. Let's go

down by the river we saw from the air. It should be right over in this direction."

       "I'd love to... ah, Don, would you and Silva care to join us?" he asked as his wife led him off

toward the north.

       "No thanks Dad. Silva and I want to walk around the area by ourselves." It was his first

opportunity to be totally alone with his future wife, and he wanted to make the most of it.

       Al and Gloria were joined by several other young couples as they made their way toward the

river. Most were venturing out on their own, discovering new things with each step. The insects were

abundant and each step forced many to take to the air. The butterflies and bees were forms of life that

were completely unknown and were admired by the people who invaded the insect's worl.

       Don watched his parents make their way through a meadow toward the river. He reached for

Silva's hand, and the two young lovers began walking through the lush, green grass toward cluster of

trees that he had eyed earlier.

       As they walked along, no words were spoken. Both were enjoying the newness of touching

another human and walking through thick fields of grass. They entered the clump of trees and could

see a small clearing just up ahead. Moving around the trees he made his way to that spot.

       Don turned toward his future mate and said, "Silva, I am really growing very fond of you. I


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noticed you just after you were helped out of your hibernation canister, and I was hoping that we

would be in the same colony. I expected the worse when I asked dad if you were going to be with us.

When he said that you were, my heart exploded. There, you now know how I feel about you. How

about you? Are you happy with the selection of me as your mate?"

       "Don, I'm happy with you as my mate. I'm not sure if I can live up to your standards though.

But, I'll give it my best try."

       The pair finally reached the clearing and Don turned toward Silva and kissed her upon the lips.

       Silva, not knowing what was happening had tightened her lips.

       Not knowing exactly what to expect, he sensed hesitation from Silva. "I really am not sure how

we are to go about this, and I guess we are both really tense," Don said, trying to make her feel

comfortable. "Let's sit down here and relax. We will have plenty of time to learn about each other."

       Don plopped himself down on the soft, spongy ground and leaned back against a tree as Silva

sat herself down right beside him. Above them, high in the trees, came a high pitched sound.

       Startled, Silva cried out in a hushed voice, "What was that?"

       Don reached around and pulled her tighter as his head turned upward toward the sound that was

continuing.

       "Look up there. On that limb, it's a bird of some type. It's a pretty sound that they make. Do

you think he's telling us hello?"

       "No", she answered, "I think he's telling you to try and kiss me again."

       Silva turned her head toward Don as he pressed his lips once again upon hers. This time, his

kiss was met with relaxed lips, slightly opened. After holding the kiss for some time, he pulled away.

"I don't know about you but I like kissing," said Don like a kid with a brand new toy.

       Continuing the kissing, he noticed a strange feeling was coming from deep inside his body. He

was wearing a gown like everyone else but there was something growing from his body. "Silva, I'm


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getting an erection and, I know all about reproduction, but I'm really not certain what to do next. This

is a very strange feeling!"

       "Leave it to me. I've had a lot of experience," she replied jokingly.

       Lifting his gown up over his legs, Silva uncovered him and his erection was huge. "During our

sleep training, we learned some basic facts on the human anatomy. I remember being taught about the

male erection and how it was to be used to deposit your seed, but it's amazing that it could grow so big

from that little thing that was between your legs earlier."

       Don looked at her with a surprised look and said, "Hey, it wasn't that little!"

       Silva was amazed at this anatomical discovery and continued. "As I recall, you men can

masturbate this by pulling the skin back like this." With two fingers, she held him and pulled the

foreskin back. "Now, you're supposed to eject sperm from the end. Go ahead and let's see what it

looks like," she said, expecting him to be able to ejaculate on demand.

       Don hadn't been exposed to a conscious erection and had never masturbated. Therefore, he

didn't know exactly what to do to complete the procedure. "Silva, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to

do to make the sperm come out. I don't think it is done from the thought process though. Grab it as

you would grab a handle and move it back and forth...at least that's how I think it is done. By the way,

it does feel very good when you touch it!" he instructed.

       Silva grabbed it as she would grab a handle and pulled it down, then up, then down, then up. It

wasn't long before he moaned, and she stopped suddenly.

       "Don, I'm sorry. Did, I hurt you?" she asked.

       "No," he replied. "It actually felt very good. Keep it up and let's see what happens next."

       She again grabbed it and continued from where she left off.         His right arm reach over and

rubbed her neck and upper back. "That feel's so good," he moaned as he felt feelings he never thought

possible.


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       All of a sudden, he felt this strange quivering in his groin and his hips began to move,

countering Gretchen's hand movements. With a burst, he had the first ejaculation in the new world.

       Silva stopped the movements when Don began releasing his sperm, but she kept her hand in

place. After the last spurt, her hand slowly began moving up and down, squeezing out the last bit of

liquid, while telling him to "come on."

       "That was really something," she said as she turned her head up and kissed him.

       She then released her hold of the handle, and, with a finger, touched a glob of sperm. Looking

at it, she said, "you know, in this little bit that I have on my finger, there are thousands of little things

swimming around."

       She then took the finger and touched it to her tongue. "It has a salty taste, too."

       "Hey, look. Don, it's shrinking," Silva said as she pointed towards his retreating member. "You

want to try it again? I bet we can make more sperm this time. I'll move it harder."

       "No, Silva. Let's wait a while. I'd like to see your anatomy, now."

       Laying down on the bed of pine needles, she pulled up her gown and said, "Ok."

       "Don't just pull it up. Take it all off. I want to see the whole thing.

       He helped her as she lifted the garment over her head. Remembering all the terms that he had

learned during hibernation, he pointed each part of her anatomy out. "Here's the vagina and around it

you have the vulva. This little protrusion above it is called the clitoris, isn't it?"

       "I don't know," she said softly. "But when you touched it, I had a funny feeling. Touch it

again."

       "Oh, yes. That's it. You know this will be fun," she added. Don, lifting his finger off the

clitoris, moved his hand up to her breasts. "These are what you use to feed your young, aren't they?"

he asked.

       "Yea, I think so. Pretend you're a tiny baby and suck on one. I want to see what it will feel like


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when I have a baby."

       Feeling rather stupid playing like a baby, Don made sure no one else was coming and took her

left breast in his mouth and began sucking. Immediately, he noticed that the nipple got much harder.

       "Don, that feels good, too. You really know how to make me feel good all over."

       After a few of minutes, Don again felt that burning sensation again in his groin.

       Looking down, he noticed that his member was again standing erect. "Silva, guess what? I've

got an erection again. Shall we try to have intercourse."

       Pausing a few seconds while she contemplated what was asked of her, Silva responded, "Ok,

let's see. First, you have to stick it in the vagina and then eject the sperm."

       She spread her legs as he positioned himself above her. He grabbed his erection, but could not

find the vagina.

       "Here, let me help. I can feel it when you are in the right spot. When I tell you, push it in." She

grabbed him and positioned him directly outside the opening.

       "Ok, push it in." she said.

       With one thrust, he pushed it in.

       "Oh!" she screamed out loud. " That really hurts. Please take it out."

       Quickly he withdrew and gazed down at her vagina. "Silva, I broke you, and you're bleeding.

I'm sorry. I'll never do that again."

       "Don't worry about it Don. I remember learning that the woman has a lining inside the vagina

and it is painful when it breaks. The pain isn't supposed to last real long though. Let's wait a minute

and we can try it again. Meanwhile, while we wait you can suck my breast some more it you want.

       Laying himself beside her, Don reached over and grabbed the right breast as he put his lips

around the left. "I kind of like this too," he mumbled, still holding onto her breast.

       After a couple of minutes, Silva noticed her hips making small movements again. "Ok, let's try


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it again. This time push it in real slow."

       Again, he positioned himself over her. She held him, and when he was positioned just right, she

let go. Without any words from her, Don slowly inserted himself inside her.

       "Slow, please go slow," she said, not wanting the same experience she had earlier.

       He had finally pushed himself inside her all the way and, without knowing it, his hips began to

lift and push. With each push, his actions increased as did hers. Don felt the same sensations building

as when Silva masturbating him, but this time there was something different.

       When the intensity became too much to bear, a feeling unlike anything they had every felt come

over both of them. Don's orgasms came in multiple bursts and with each throb, Silva had great

feelings of her own.

       As the warm feelings of satisfaction swallowed the two lovers, they collapsed in each other's

arms. It seemed like hours since they had left the vessel and that they should be going back. Their

help would be needed to unload the supplies.

       Don lifted himself up and then reached out a hand to Silva. "That was much more fantastic than

I imagined. If it feels that good to everybody, and this is how people reproduce, then I predict a

population explosion in the very near future."

       Silva just looked up at her lover and smiled. She kissed him passionately and mouthed the

words, "I love you."

       They put their robes on and, holding each other's hand, left their secret spot of passion and

returned to the ship. Most of the others had returned and were in the process of unloading the supplies.

       Al noticed them coming out of the woods but pretended to be devoting all of his attention to the

task of accounting for the supplies. When they came up to the transport Gloria was the first to speak.

"There you two are, did you find a good place to erect your shelter?"

       "Mom, I think we found the erect ah ... I mean the perfect place to erect our shelter," Don said.


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For the first time he felt embarrassed for what had just happened.

       He and Silva then walked up the ramp and into the ship, leaving her with an odd look on her

face. "Al, do you think..."

       Al interrupted his wife saying, "Gloria, I don't think we have anything to worry about."

       The major item in the supply list was food to last until they became self-sufficient. They would

need the food until they built spears and bows for hunting. They had the technology to build weapons

with greater killing power, but didn't yet have the resources. Those would come in time.

       Limited medical supplies were available but did not include the advanced medicine and

equipment available on board the Novum. The majority of the available medicine was not included

since the elders that planned the exposition wanted the colonists to develop the items themselves.

       The planners must have known that it was impossible to have included all the items that the

colonies would need, and, if they relied only on the supplies they brought, it would be catastrophic if

and when those supplies ran out. For the colonies to succeed and flourish, they had to developthe

skills to build their own supplies and equipment for the future.

       After the last load of supplies had been moved off the transport vessel, Hal Steppan and his

co-pilot joined the others outside.

       Al lead the entire group in a prayer, and then they prepared their first meal on the planet.

       For some reason most of them thought the food tasted much better on the planet's surface than

on the "Novum."

       With the meal completed, the crew of the transporter boarded the craft and raised the ramp. It

then began emitting a low, barely audible hum.

       The colonists all began to move back as the ship lifted off the ground. After gaining a height of

about one hundred meters, it slowly began moving to the east. It then accelerated and climbed higher.

Within just a few minutes, it had disappeared in the distance.


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       Europa was now on her own.

       The Pacifica transport, carrying thirty-four colonists and two leaders, was skimming over the

blue ocean at five hundred meters. Zander was at the controls and directed the scanner toward the

island of Pacifica directly ahead at three hundred kilometers.         The monitors in the passenger

compartment were on, showing the ocean as the craft passed over.

       Samar and Leslie Tuipapa were sitting together, their eyes glued on the monitor. "Oh Samar, I

can't wait to get there. It's going to be wonderful."

       Like the other colonies, Pacifica also had more females than males. There were twelve men and

most had at least two women selected as mates. One young man had four women select him as their

mate, and he agreed with their selection. Samar didn't like the four women to one man, but the leaders

were not to directly interfere with the mate selection process. He hadn't heard any complaints anyway.

       All of a sudden the monitors changed to show a large, volcanic island covered with palm trees

and dense undergrowth. Zander made a direct pass over the center of the land mass, and the cameras

revealed the inside of a sleeping volcano. A small stream of smoke and steam was slipping out of

several vent holes inside the cone. The scouting mission had performed some seismic tests, and there

was no danger in the volcano erupting within the next three hundred years.

       Passing over the island and back out over the sea, the passengers were treated to the spectacle of

beautiful coral reefs and undersea growth. Madi Amalulu remembered much about the ocean from the

teaching and was very anxious to get in the water and see how it feels upon the skin.

       Madi had two wives and both, Lana and Vena had received the same teaching about the ocean.

       "Girls, as soon as we touch down, I want the three of us to stay together, and let's walk along the

beach. We want to claim the prettiest spot for our home site."

       Each nodded her agreement as the craft continued on its island tour.

       On the loudspeaker, Zander addressed his passengers. "Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see,


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we are now moving around the island of Pacifica. It is about 30 kilometers long and 20 kilometers

wide. If you were to walk around it, you would cover about 135 kilometers before you arrived at your

starting point. As you have learned, there is an abundance of food on the island and in the surrounding

waters. This island is also part of a chain of islands, and Pacifica is approximately in the middle of the

chain."

      "There are however, some cautions about which I must tell you about. While the ocean looks

warm and inviting, it could be host to a variety of animal life that may be deadly if you don't treat them

with proper respect. We don't know for sure just what type of life there may be under the waves. If

they're anything like the oceans on Altus, there could be thousands of creatures that may be harmful.

The water itself has undertows and currents that will quickly carry you out to sea. So, when we touch

down, please be careful."

      Unable to find an open area large enough inside the tree line to set the vessel down, Zander

selected a fairly large expanse of coral reef that seemed to extend all the way to the beach. He set the

ship down very carefully on the beach and, after being sure that one of the landing legs wasn't going to

slip down a hole in the sandy surface, he lowered the ramp and turned off the auxiliary power system.

      As with the other colonies, the residents of Pacifica were also given the opportunity to make a

quick exploration of the island before unloading the supplies.          Thirty-four anxious passengers

scrambled down the ramp and assembled in a mass while Samar Tuipapa addressed the group.

      "I don't want to hold you people too long. I know that everyone is as anxious as I am to check

this lovely island out. I want to caution you again on swimming in the ocean. As Zander said earlier,

we don't know for sure just what is out there. We don't have anybody that can swim real well. So, for

the time being, swimming in the oceans or bays is not allowed. There will be plenty of time in the

next few days to learn how to swim and we will all enjoy the sun and water together. So, for now, stay

out of the water."


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       As the group started to disperse and go their separate ways, Samar added, "Oh, by the way.

Let's all try to be back in 3 hours and help unload the supplies."

       Madi Amalulu took his two women down to the water's edge. The three of them were going

from tide pool to tide pool, eagerly taking in the multitude of life in these small bodies of water.

       Finding a brittle star, Vena called Madi over. "Madi, Madi come over here quick! Look what

I've found. It's a beautiful animal with long, thin legs." Both, Lana and Madi came over to the edge of

the tide pool, and Madi reached in the warm water and extracted the delicate object.

       "You shouldn't touch it, Madi! Don't you remember what Samar told us? It may be able to bite

or sting you," Vena said.

       Madi held the twitching bit of sea life in his hand and said, "These are fascinating little

creatures. They're just like the ones that were in the oceans on Altus. I remember the sleep training

about sea life. But I don't remember much about these little creatures though."

       Lana had an exceptional ability to recall the information that was taught during hibernation and

offered her information, "This little animal is a mollusk that feeds on plankton and other microscopic

animals in the ocean. Generally, it remains hidden during the day and comes out from under a rock or

crevice to feed at night."

       Vena didn't want to be left out of her discovery and decided to ask a question, "Lana, there's so

many of them. Are they edible?"

       "I don't think I'd like to eat one Vena. But I don't think that there's anything in them that would

hurt you," Lana replied.

       Tossing the creature back into the water, Madi added, "I don't think I would like to try one

either."

       "Girls, I really like the water but we'd best be getting out of the sun. As I recall, the sun emits

some rays that can burn your skin and the pain can be unbearable if you stay out in the sun too long.


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Let's go and sit down in the shade of the palm trees over there," pointing to a small cluster of trees that

grew just inside the tree line.

         Lana was not quite ready to go and said, "You and Vena go on over. I'll be over in about 15

minutes. These tide pools really amaze me."

         "Ok, but don't spend too long. We need to stake out an area for our shelter," Madi said. As the

two left the beauty of the water, Lana moved over to the next tide pool. There she found another

world, teeming with life.

         Madi and Vena had reached the relative coolness of the shady palm trees and sat down facing

the blue ocean. From this vantage point they could keep an eye on Lana and enjoy the great view.

         "Madi, are you really happy with having Lana and me?" Inside, he knew this was coming and

after a short period, answered, "I'm very happy with both of you. I know I haven't been very

affectionate, but that's because I don't want to make the other one feel bad."

         Taking her hand and squeezing it, Madi turned to her and added, "Besides, I'm not really sure

how to go about showing my affection."

         "That makes me feel much better," she said. "Lana and I both felt like you were ignoring us

because you weren't happy with us. She'll enjoy hearing you tell your true feelings too."

         Lana had came across a cut in the coral where the reefed dropped off into deep, dark-blue water.

Standing on the edge, she could look down and see the glittering of fish as they swam in the strong

current. Trying to get a better view of the life in the deeper water, she leaned over the edge and peered

into the depths.

         She didn't see it, but somehow she felt it coming. Looking up she could see an exceptionally

large wave that broke over the reef, and its suddenness didn't allow for her to brace herself against its

force.

         The sheer power of tons of water slammed her down upon the coral. Her hands automatically


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grabbed for unseen handholds in the sharp surface as the wave attempted to shove her toward the

beach. Her main concern was to hold out long enough to grab another precious breath.

      The strong current subsided and quickly reversed its direction. The current now rushed over her

feet, caught her body and flipped it over.     Her handholds now gone, Lana desperately grabbed for

another. Suddenly, she was over the edge of the reef and there was nothing to grab. At first she felt

the sudden change in temperature. Then came the grasping for air before the water pouring off the reef

took her head under. "I've got to grab onto the reef," she thought as her flailing hands couldn't find

anything solid to grab onto.

      Rising to the surface, Lana desperately gasped for another breath of air, but inhaled only water

as the churning surf again pulled her underneath the surface. She felt the coarse sand slide across her

back as the current pulled her violently through a cut in the coral and dragged her scrambling body

across the ocean floor. Momentarily, she felt the motion stop as another surge prepared to throw her

back through the cut. She could see the dark, razor sharp coral race toward her face but was unable to

move her hand fast enough. There was a slight burning sensation as the salt water made its way inside

the cut, triggering nerve cells. Again, the surge ceased and Lana's last conscious thought was of the

beautiful sunlight reflecting a kaleidoscope image in the crystal clear water.

      On the shore, Madi saw the wave building and thought it was funny that Lana was going to get

soaked. "Look! I think Lana is going to get a little wet," he excitedly said to Vena.

      The waved continued to grow, quickly towering over Lana. Both saw Lana's face turn toward

the wave, then back toward them on the beach. It was as if she was questioning what was happening.

      All of a sudden, Lana was not visible on the reef. "Vena, I don't see her. She may have gotten

knocked off in a tide pool. Let's go and see if she is all right." They both got up from where they were

setting and hurried out to where they last saw Lana.

      When they got to the edge of reef Madi saw that Lana wasn't standing next to a tide pool but


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was next to a cut into the coral reef. Just off the edge was deep water.

         The foaming of the surf made it difficult, if not impossible, to see her in the water. Madi sent

Vena back to the transport vessel to get help, but he knew that by the time help arrived it would be too

late. "If only I could swim," he thought as he fought with the temptation to jump in and rescue her.

         Peering into the water, Madi could see Lana's limp body slide along the bottom. The tide was

coming in and a new set of waves was building out beyond the edge of the reef. As the first crashed

over the reef, Madi ran back toward the beach, stopping as the foaming surf hit him about waist high.

As the water receded, Madi followed it back out trying to keep tabs on Lana's last location.

         Vena found Samar near the shuttle and called out to him, "Samar...Samar!! Lana fell into the

water and Madi and I couldn't find her. Help us!"

         Others had heard the commotion and made their way toward the spot where she fell into the

water.

         Samar was the first one to reach the scene. "Madi, can you see her anywhere?" he called as he

tried to see through the foaming water.

         "Samar, she's right off this reef. The waves are starting to get larger though. Please be careful,"

he shouted.

         As Madi was talking, Samar was shedding his robe, and dove into the water, swimming out past

the reef.

         Madi quickly yelled for the others to stay back and braced himself against the force of another

breaker.

         Zander was in the main group and filed his way through the group. He then turned toward the

bulk of the colonists and, in a commanding voice, yelled, "get back on the beach, now!"

         On his second dive under the surface, Samar located Lana and brought her to the surface.

Pulling her to the edge of the reef, Madi reached out and pulled her limp body out of the water while


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Zander reached out his hand for Samar. Samar grabbed Zander's arm and pulled himself out of the

water. Madi was the only one of the three that was prepared for the large wave that slammed them

down. Samar was the only one in the group that had any experience with the ocean, and, instinctively,

held the limp arm of Lana and let the current take them toward the shore. He felt relieved when he

saw Madi holding onto her other arm and Zander holding onto her legs. As the wave started to recede,

Samar dug in and braced himself against the force of the water that was trying to pull them back out.

       As the water receded below the waist, he shouted. "Hurry, let's get her out of the water before

another wave catches us."

       Quickly, Madi began pulling Lana toward the shore, finally, hoisting her limp body over his

shoulder. Soon, they were off the reef and onto the soft, warm sand.

       All of the other colonists were now gathered around... each trying to help in their own way.

Madi looked around and caught Vena's eye. He breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that she did not also

get caught in the waves. "Vena, please check the others. Let's make sure that we have everyone

accounted for."

       Vena quickly added the numbers and each was accounted for. She past the information back to

Madi, "Madi, they're all here."

       Up until now, death was a term that had been placed upon the unknown people that had died

during the voyage of the Novum.

       "Surely, she's not dead, " Madi thought as he held Lana's head in his lap, blood still oozing out

of the deep coral cuts in her head.

       The abruptness in Samar's voice brought him back to reality, "Madi, lay her flat. I'm going to

try to revive her." Samar, recalling the life saving procedures from his military training, alternated

lifting her arms and pushing on her back. After several minutes, Lana still showed no sign of life.

Blood was continuing to ooze from the multiple cuts on her face and body.


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         "Madi, I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do for her now."

         Hearing this news, Vena turned toward Leslie and broke down. "Why did she have to die?" she

asked.

         Leslie, tried her best to comfort the younger Vena, but she didn't know what to say to take the

pain of death away. Holding her and providing the comfort of a shoulder was all that she could do at

this time.

         Lana's death had taught Madi the frailty of life and the power of the ocean. He knew that the

mystery of the waters held dangers beyond belief, but he never thought that they would arise to affect

him. Though he would now treat the ocean with the greatest respect, he was still enthralled with its

beauty.

         The first official function for the people of Pacifica was to organize and conduct a funeral for

the body of Lana. It was a simple burial. A grave was dug in a clearing near the area where the

transporter had first landed and than Samar Tuipapa said the eulogy. Madi held a tight grip on Vena's

hand as the words were spoken.

         With Lana's death, Pacifica began its colonization on a sad but human note.




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                                                    Chapter Six




      Orbiting above the planet's surface, life aboard the Novum was again returning to a slow pace.

The transport vehicles had long since returned, and the crews were assigned caretaker duties on the

mother ship. It had been six months since the colonists were flown down to the surface and boredom

was now the basic pastime on board the huge vessel.

      A few of the pilots and most of the Novum support staff were allowed to be transported back

down to the planet to augment colonies that were short personnel.

      Captain Svann reluctantly agreed to follow the rule of minimal interference after establishing

the colonies. Knowing that the first few months would be critical to each colony's survival, he wanted

to make frequent supply trips to each site. Deep down inside, he knew that the planners were right,

though. If the new settlements were to survive, they must become self-sufficient.


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       He also toyed with the thought of bending the rules and transporting certain medical personnel

down to each settlement. "After all, having 13 medical personnel aboard the Novum meant that there

would be one doctor for every crew member," Svann thought as he reviewed the list of doctors.

       He decided to call his old friend, Dr. Marc Karuz and get his opinion on which doctors should

be transported to the surface.

       Doctor Karuz was still recovering from the broken leg he suffered when he first came out of

hibernation. Consequently, he had a noticeable limp. Svann couldn't help but notice it when he

walked onto the bridge.

       "It looks like the leg's still bothering you a bit, Mark."

       Walking around the middle terminals, Karuz set himself down next to the Captain. "It does

give me some trouble, but nothing with which I can't cope. Lately, it seems as if I have a hard time

getting it warmed up in the morning though. Anyway, you didn't ask me to stop by on account of my

leg. What's on your mind, Bud?"

       "Mark, I've been thinking about sending some of the medical personnel down to the colonies.

We both know that the elders did not intend for the colonies to be provided with the knowledge that

these doctors have, but it is taking their lives away from them. I wanted to get your opinion on this...

ah, I guess what I really want, is for you to say it's a good idea," Svann said as he poured them both

some tea.

       "Bud," Karuz said, studying the swirling action of the tea leaves. "The medical teams were not

designated to be a part of the colonization team because they had knowledge that was not available to

the other colonists. You know as well as I that the elders wanted the young people to develop those

skills on their own and that any interference from us could have a negative influence on the entire

mission."

       "You're right, Marc", replied Svann speaking as a friend to friend. "But, I'm finding it very hard


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to explain to the doctors we have aboard why they can't be part of a colony. Kos and Juni have asked

that I marry them. They're too old to have children, but there's no reason that they shouldn't enjoy a

wonderful life down in one of the colonies."

      "Captain, they could have a wonderful life in colonies," Marc responded in a tone that carried a

note of officiality. "Let's say that you do send them down to the colonies. With their basic knowledge

of chemistry and of the physical sciences, they could develop things which would be eons ahead of

what the colonies' normal development could do. Can you tell me the long term effects of such a

development?" "I don't think so," Marc continued.

      "I still think that they should go, providing they assure us that they will not use their knowledge

in their colony's development," Svann said. "I'll speak to each pair and try to impress upon them the

importance of their lack of involvement," he continued.

      As Karuz was contemplating the captain's plan, Svann added, "The transporting of the medical

staff down to the planet's surface means that only you would be left aboard to handle any medical

problem that should arise."

      Rising up to leave, Dr. Karuz rather abruptly replied, "With the availability of the equipment

available aboard the Novum, I shouldn't have any problem handling the medical details for the

remaining crew. But let me go on the record, that I'm thoroughly against this idea, Bud."

      Svann watched his friend walk off the bridge and the door slide shut behind him. He took a sip

of tea and sat looking at the door for some time as his mind drifted off to future settings down in the

colonies.

      When they got the news about going down to the surface, Kos and Juni were elated. "Kos, this

will be wonderful! Yucatari wasn't my first choice, but it sure beats having to spend the rest of our

lives aboard the Novum," Juni said as she looked up from packing their supply kits.

      "I'm looking forward to it too. But, there's something that tells me something will go wrong


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with this. I can't say what it is, but there's bound to be something that will go wrong."

       Looking at the frown on her mate's face, Juni reached out and touched his arm. "What could go

wrong? As long as I have you with me, I'll be happy."

       Each of the medical teams made their memorable trips around the Novum; each spending an

extra bit of time in the canister room and in the medical facility.

       Soon, all six teams along with most of the remaining crew members were aboard one of the

transport vehicles, moving away from the Novum and arcing toward the planet below.

       "As planned, our stops will be Indus, Syrias, Europa, Yucatari, Peruvial and then Pacifica,"

Zander announced over the loud speaker.

       "We are ordered to spend a minimal amount of time on the surface so have everything ready

when we land. We should be at Indus in approximately 10 minutes."

       Not wanting to alert the colony, Zander set the transport vehicle down about 2 kilometers away

from the original site. As the ramp was lowered, Doctors Jamie Girod and Orman Nasti quickly

gathered their supplies and said their good-byes.

       After they were outside the safety limits, Zander eased the ship off the planet's surface and

quickly departed the area. Total time on the ground was less then 3 minutes.

       With each stop, two additional members were placed in the colonies. As they came upon

Yucatari, Kos and Juni were ready to leave. Juni gave her close friend, Suni Malani, a final hug and

joined her husband as he left the craft. Suni was joined by Doz Volan to become part of the Pacifica

colony.

       As they were walking away from the landing site, Juni and Kos looked back as the transport

craft silently rose and departed to the west. The colony of Yucatari should be about 3 kilometers to the

east and they began walking in that direction.

       The tops of the trees blocked out most of the early morning sunlight preventing a lot of plant


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growth on the forest floor so walking wasn't extremely difficult. Occasionally, there was an opening in

the trees and the amount of plant life on the ground made passage through these areas almost

impossible.

       As they walked, the monkeys and birds in the trees sounded warnings of intruders in the area.

Kos and Juni had never heard these sounds before and were amazed by the high pitches the animals

could make. Occasionally they would catch a glimpse of a monkey high in the forest canopy or see

another type of animal skirt across the ground in front of them.

       "Juni," Kos said quietly. "These must be the man-like animals that were observed during the

first scouting missions. Let's hope that they are friendly."

       "They are kind of cute, Kos. Surely, they couldn't harm a person... Do you think?"

       "I don't think they will hurt us," Kos replied confidently.

       Both felt the presence of another human at the same time. Kos's hair stood up on his neck as he

made a quick glance to his right and then to his left. By the time his eyes focused, the only movement

was an occasional bird darting from branch to branch.

       Eyes were watching them but as Kos turned his head to where he thought the other person was

hiding, there was nothing but trees and jungle. Still, they knew they were being watched and the urge

was to run, but Kos held Juni's hand and they continued at their original pace.

       Walking into a clearing, they spotted one of the shelters that had been erected by the colonists.

A few of the colonists were gathered around and peering inside one of the shelters. Kos and Juni were

still unnoticed as they walked up and stood beside the group.

       Listening to what was being said inside the shelter, he immediately recognized Kadi Pavalo's

voice, "The first thing we should do is lance the wound."

       "Kadi, go ahead and make the cuts. I'll get some water so we can cool him down a bit." Kos

then recognized Jorge's voice.


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      Juni, recognizing a medical emergency, was the first to offer assistance. "Mister Pavalo, maybe

we can be of some assistance," she said in a rather take-charge voice.

      The colonists, gathered at the shelter's doorway, turned to the strange voice and a few

recognized them from the Novum. "Jorge, Doctor Javel is here," said the one nearest the door.

      "Kos, is that you?" asked Jorge still kneeling beside the unconscious body on the floor.

      "Yes Sir. Juni and I were sent down by Captain Svann to join you as colonists." Kos pushed

himself inside as he continued, "Sounds like you have some problems here. What happened?"

      Jorge, rising to meet the two new members, answered "Meesho was down by the swamp and

met with one of the local natives.    Apparently, he was bitten by one of the nasty snakes we have

around here."

      Looking at the discoloration and swelling of the leg that was bitten, Kos wished that he would

have been allowed to bring along his medical supplies. Unfortunately, Captain Svann did not allow

anything extra to be transported down and the two doctors had to make use of what they had.

      "Kadi, let me have a look at that leg. You probably have the right idea, but we don't want to do

any unnecessary cutting if we don't have to." Moving to the side, Kos knelt beside the young native

and looked at the leg and did not like what he saw.

      Juni had joined him at this time and she said, "Kos, the discoloration in his thigh indicates that

the venom is moving up the body. I think we should open the wound as soon as possible."

      "I agree, ah.. Kadi hand me your knife, and we'll open the leg up."

      Taking the knife in his hand, Kos made a deep incision that immediately begin to bleed. "Juni,

put a tourniquet around the leg just above the knee. We need to restrict the spread of the venom," he

continued.

      Juni had already began the procedure and the flow of blood was reduced to a slow ooze in a

matter of seconds. Both doctors began to work the leg trying to move the deadly toxins toward the


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opening that had been cut. After a few minutes of squeezing and massaging the leg, the tourniquet was

loosened, and a bandage was tied around the wound. The bleeding had stopped, and there was nothing

else to be done at this time. Kos, looked up from the young boy and for the first time, his eyes met

with Jorge's.

       "Jorge, there's nothing to do now but wait. It would be good if we had some kilomyne to inject

in him. But, since we don't, we wait," he said as he wiped the blood from his hand and the two shook

hands. Now standing, Juni gave Kadi a hug. "It's a good thing that you two are here. We weren't

really sure of what to do with this person," Kadi said as the two women released each other.

       Juni answered, "With luck, he'll come out of it and will only have a slight scar to show."

Continuing, she said, "so tell me what has happened in your first few months at Yucatari?"

       "Well, actually we are right on our plan," Kadi replied. "We've pretty much discovered which

plants we can eat, and the other night a pig was killed. Somehow, it had wandered into the camp and

was rummaging through the supply shelter. Dana saw it go in and called Jorge. Well, let me say that

he has a very quick swing using a hoe. The first blow knocked him unconscious, and then Dana cut

the throat. You can imagine what kind of commotion that caused around the camp."

       "That was our first taste of native meat. I must say, it was very good. It reminded me of the

outdoor cookouts we used to have back home, though this was quite a bit more messy," she continued.

       Jorge added, "We have started planting some of the seeds we brought, and we should have some

Alturian vegetables before too long. Anyway, what persuaded Svann to allow you to come down to

the surface? I thought that was against what the elders had planned?"

       "As you may imagine, he did place some restrictions on us," replied Kos. "First of all, we are

not allowed to use our training to speed up your development...even if there are emergencies. You

might say, we almost had our first violation with the young lad."

       "Speaking of the young man on the floor, surely, he will have someone looking for him. What


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do you think they will say when they learn that we have him here?" Kos asked.

        "I can't really answer that, Kos. We have had numerous sightings of the natives, but as of yet,

we have not made contact. I guess we may be making contact in the near future, "Jorge added, looking

down at the young boy lying on the mat.

        "I'll have someone stay with him while we get you two set up in a shelter. Oh, I take it that you

don't have any problems about staying together," Jorge asked.

        Juni interrupted, "Kos, I think it may be appropriate to tell them that Captain Svann married us

don't you think?"

        Before Kos could say anything, Kadi said, "That's great news. I'm so happy for the both of

you."

        Outside, they surveyed the area and picked out a small clearing for their shelter. Jorge and a

couple of the other colonists helped Kos cut some small trees, and put up a rough looking shelter while

Kadi took Juni on a short tour of the area.

        The next few days found Kos and Juni bringing the young indian youth back to good health.

Following the first day or so, his recovery was routine. He was eating again, and it really wasn't a

surprise when they found him gone one morning. Apparently, he had left early in the morning while

the rest of the settlement was asleep.

        Juni was the first one in the shelter and she was shocked to find it empty. "Kos," she screamed.

"Come quick. Our patient has left!"

        As Kos entered the shelter, his voice reassured her, "Juni, we both knew it was only a matter of

time until he would be well enough to go back to his own kind. I just hope that he passes on our good

treatment, and just maybe, it will help us to establish relationships with our neighbors."

        The following day, as the site slowly began to awaken from a hot, steamy night's sleep, Kos

strangely felt the presence of something just outside their doorway. Opening the door, he noticed a


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freshly killed peccary that had been left. Turning back to his wife, he said "Juni, I think that we have

received our first payment for services rendered!"

       During the next few years, life was good in the New World. The leader's conference on Indus

following the fifth year should confirm to Captain Svann that the colonies were developing as planned.



       Periodic overhead photographs were taken of each of the sites, and various sensors on board the

Novum revealed Indus and Syrias were more advanced than the others. Analysis of the data did not

reveal anything that was determined to be of any major consequence. However, recent scannings

revealed some disturbing facts about Indus.

       Svann checked and rechecked the readouts and pondered his options. After a few minutes of

deep thought, he called Zander to meet with him and discuss the transportation plan for the upcoming

conference to be held at Indus. As Zander entered the bridge, Captain Svann was sitting at the helm,

even though the Novum was entirely computer controlled. "Zander, thanks for coming," Svann said in

a fatherly voice.

   "With only a few of us left aboard there are a few things I'd like to talk to you about. I know you

think this meeting is to discuss our upcoming trip down to the surface but there's something else you

should know. Sit down and I'll get some juice for you."

       Zander sat himself down on a seat next the Captain's helm, and he watched the screen which

projected the view from the Novum. He saw that picture almost every day for over five years, but it

was still as magnificent as it was the first time.

       "Kind of pretty, isn't it?" Svann said as he handed a glass of chilled juice to his young friend.

       "Yes Sir. I was just thinking of how it looks as pretty now as it did when we first went down

years ago," replied Zander.    "It sure does," said Svann. "You don't remember it, but Altus once

looked like that. It's a shame we destroyed it."


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      After a brief period of silence, Svann was the first to speak. "We pretty much followed the plan

that our elders had laid out for us. The only major exception was that we sent the doctors and most of

the pilots down to join the colonists." He continued, "We, or rather I, had hoped and prayed that they

would stay in the background.      Unfortunately, our hope may be in vain because the sensors on the

Novum have picked up some heavy electrical and magnetic activity centered around the Indus and

Syrias colonies."

      "Sir, are you saying that they are developing a magnetron already?" queried Zander with a

puzzled look on his face.

      "Zander, I pray that they haven't, but I have a gut feeling that they're working on something and

may develop a magnetron in the near future. It's unfortunate, but each doctor that we sent down has

the knowledge and capability to come close, if not develop a full-working magnetron including nuclear

power generation."

      Svann then turned to face his young friend and said, "You know, Zander, I don't have many

more years left, and there are many things I need to leave with someone who can be trusted. You are

the only one left aboard the Novum that I feel could carry out certain procedures if they are called for."

      Zander now had a very serious look upon his face. Up until now, he had thought that everything

on the planet's surface was going along as planned. "Sir, I appreciate everything you're saying, but

there's nothing going to happen to you and...."

      Before he could continue, Svann cut him off, "Zander, just sit back and listen for a minute. If

my guess is right, Indus has developed a prototype magnetron and they're probably working on it with

Syrias. We are scheduled to go down in 10 days, and I want to make sure we are ready in case

anything unusual happens."

      "What has convinced you that they are working on a magnetron, Sir?" Zander asked.

      "The Novum is taking a continuous magnetic reading on the planet's surface, and has located


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some moderately high-level magnetic activity a few kilometers from the Indus site. It's much too

powerful to be labeled a natural occurrence too. Anyway, there's far too much for me to pass on to you

in this format, so I need you to sleep in a canister this evening that I've programmed for you. It will be

faster and much more thorough than anything I could pass on to you. For your information, you will

learn everything about the Novum and the colonization plan."

        "As a result of this knowledge you're about to receive, you will be totally responsible for the

success of the colonization mission when I go. Let me know when you are going to sleep and I'll

program your canister," Svann said.

        "Sir, I still don't think it is necessary but I'll be ready. I'll sleep in canister number 122... that's

the one that I spent the voyage in," Zander added.

        Knowing that the meeting was over, Zander got up from his chair and turned toward the door.

Just before exiting, he turned and said, "Sir, that sure is a pretty site. Let's not let them ruin it!"

        That evening, Zander laid himself down in number 122, not knowing what would happen in the

next eight hours. Soft, white noise began as soon as the door closed and immediately, he started to

drift off. After he registered sleep on the canister's computer, Captain Svann started the learning

program that would make his young man the Novum's next captain.

        At first, it seemed like a dream about life on Altus. There were peaceful scenes followed by

death and destruction, the voyage of the Novum and the vessel itself. It was as if he were a part of the

ship herself. His dream carried him into the reactor area, through the internal processors of the

computers and even into the weapons system.

        After a solid eight hours he slowly began to come out of his sleep. As he awoke, Captain Svann

was there at his canister, looking through the glass.

        "Good morning Zander. Did you have a restful sleep?" asked Svann, as the glass door swung

open.


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       At first he was puzzled as to why the Captain was there to wake him but slowly he began to

realize what he had just experienced. "Yes Sir. It was quite enlightening."

       Climbing out of the canister, Zander and the Captain made their way to the lounge that was next

to the bridge. As they walked, Zander noticed the hum of the nuclear generator, and for the first time,

realized what was going on inside the thick walls. He was silently amazed that he knew exactly how

every component on the Novum worked. It was a comfortable yet burdening feeling he thought to

himself as they turned into the lounge.

       After getting their food and sitting at one of the tables, Zander turned toward the Captain and

said, "Sir, I agree with you. All evidence indicates they are producing the magnetron in Indus. I also

believe that they have the capability to construct a primitive, but never-the-less, destructive nuclear

weapon."

       "When you go down to the conference, I'll fly down on my own and check things out because

your disappearance from the conference will definitely cause an alarm," Zander continued.

       "That's a good idea Zander. I'm asking Hal to fly me in the large transport and you can come

down in one of the smaller vessels. Just remember, we must be prepared for the worst," Svann, added

as the two finished their breakfast.

       The next few days were spent preparing for the conference. According to published itineraries,

all personnel aboard the mother vessel would accompany Captain Svann, and the only person

remaining aboard the Novum would be Zander Vood.

       Hal was surprised that he was named to be the pilot but didn't say anything because he wanted

the chance to visit the planet again. He also relished every opportunity he got to fly outside the

Novum.

       On the day before the leader's meeting, Zander was in the hanger and watched as the remaining

crew members and transport pilots boarded the transport vessel. He made his way through the now


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quiet corridors and into the bridge as he guided the vessel outside the Novum.

         As soon as they had departed the area and began the arc toward the planet's surface, Zander

relived the experience of the last few days. They had been exciting with a lot of learning taking place.

"The next few should prove to be just as exciting," he thought.

         Europa was the first site to be visited and, as the vessel sit down just outside the location of the

first settlement, Captain Svann was the first one down the ramp.

         Europa's leader, Al Einstram was there to meet him along with his son Don. "Al, it's great to

see you again," Svann said as he opened his arms for an embrace of his long-time friend.

         "Bud, it's good seeing you again... you remember my son Don?" Al asked as his arm reached

back toward his son. "Don has kind of taken over the colony here at Europa. At our age, we don't

have the stamina that these young kids do," he added.

         Reaching for the young Einstram's hand, Svann said, "Don, it's good seeing you again, too. It

looks like you have done a fine job here on Europa."

         Turning back toward Al, he added, "Where's Gloria? I bet she's as robust as she was back

home."

         The look on Al's face told Svann what had happened. "Bud, we had an extremely cold winter

last year. Gloria and most of the other colonists caught some type of disease. They had a very high

fever and developed a rasping cough. Gloria and four others died. The doctors you sent down helped,

but there wasn't much they could do without the proper medication. That's one of the things we'd like

to discuss at the conference."

         "Come on Captain, enough bad news. Let Don show you Europa and our newest members.

Don has been rehearsing this tour and presentation for quite some time. I'll just tag along behind," Al

added.

         As they made their rounds through the settlement, Don pointed out newly planted fields full of


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grain and vegetables. The families that cared for the fields were beside them, and greeted their Captain

as he stopped and met each one again. Svann was amazed that there were so many children; they

seemed to be everywhere.

         "Don, how many children do you have in Europa now? There seems to be sixty or seventy

young faces," he asked as they made their way around the settlement.

         "Sir, we have had 54 children born here and, unfortunately we lost 24 during or just after birth.

We would have lost more if it wasn't for Doctor Carlson... Bud, I must tell you, Otto has really been a

blessing to us.

         Finishing their short tour, Bud turned back around to Al and said, "Al, we've got some other

stops to make before we get to Indus. Who are the five you have going from here? They need to get

aboard the transporter so we can get there before it's dark. We have several stops to make along the

way."

         "Bud, the other three are waiting at the vessel. Doctor Carlson, Alder Soveenson and Jecca

Leev will be joining Don and me," he replied as the group began its trek back through the village.

         As they arrived near the transport vessel, Svann said, "Don, you and your father have really

done an excellent job here. The planners of the Novum Mission would be proud of what you have

done."

         Not expecting nor prepared to reply, the young Einstram smiled softly.

         "Well, gentlemen, shall we be on our way?" asked Svann in a fatherly tone.

         The Europeans joined the crew from the Novum, and, after they were seated, Al Yakov gently

raised the vessel off the ground and departed to the west. Their plan was to pick up five colonists from

Pacifica, Peruvial, Yucatari, Syrias and then land at Indus in the late afternoon.

         Hal accelerated quickly, and the craft with its occupants climbed into the very edge of space.

Within a few minutes they had crossed over Europa's land mass, and the bright blue of the ocean


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below was shown on the cabin's monitors. Another hour and they were crossing the land to the north

of Yucatari, but at this altitude there were few visible landmarks.

   With most of his passengers asleep in the back, Hal slowed the shuttle and headed further west.

Pacifica was now in darkness, and this was to be Al's first night landing on the planet.

       Soon, he had the craft circling the island. The colonists had built fires in a clearing, and this

was easily spotted from the air. Al deftly maneuvered the shuttle past the palm trees and maintained a

perfect hover prior to easing it down to the ground. The ramp was lowered, and Captain Svann walked

down followed by the colonists from Europa.

       "Good morning, gentlemen," said Madi Amalulu.

       "Good morning to you, Madi," answered Svann. "Ah, where is Samar Wilson?"

       "Sir, Samar's not alive. He died about three month's ago while out fishing. He was fishing from

a boat,... actually a tree which was hollowed out. Some of the other colonists saw it overturn in the

heavy surf and Samar's body was never found. It was a very sad day for us Captain," said Madi.

       Doctor Carlson spoke up, "Samar was a good friend. We knew each other very well on Altus.

Madi, can you tell me where Samar's wife Leslie is?"

       Again, Madi answered, "Yes Sir, she said that she was going to be out when you came in."

Madi turned away and directed his attention on the thirty or so colonists. Leslie,... Leslie Tuipapa," he

cried out.

       Out of the darkness and into the clearing lit by the glow of the fires was an older lady. It was

Leslie. "Otto, Otto Carlson, Samar's going to be upset when he finds out that you came down. Samar's

out fishing and he's been gone most of the night. He should be coming in anytime, and he'll be tickled

that you're here.

       Otto could see that Leslie did not accept Samar's death, but there wasn't much he could do about

it. "You're right, Leslie. I really wanted to see him too... I bet he's catching a big fish, too."


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         Leslie looked into Otto's eyes with a very puzzled expression upon her face. She stared at him

for a long period... much like she was expecting him to disagree with her.

         She was still staring when Madi's wife gently pulled the elder lady away. Madi quietly said to

Svann, "Captain, she's been like this ever since Otto was lost at sea. She spends every waking moment

down by the sea. She just stares and stares out to sea, waiting for Samar's return. We all love her, and

we're making sure that there's someone staying with her at night and during the day. We're trying to

watch her to prevent her from walking into the water to join her husband. Kind of sad, isn't it," he

asked.

         "Yes, Madi. It is," said Svann.

         The news about Samar's death put a lid on the introductions for a short time. Eventually, Svann

and the other visitors made the rounds and visited with each colonist. However, unlike Europa, this

colony was experiencing a much higher death rate among new born.

         "Let's see, Pacifica started with twenty-six, didn't it, Madi?" asked Svann.

         "Close Sir. We actually started with twenty-four counting the Tuipapas," said Madi. We've

only had thirty-two births in the last five years. The sad thing is that there's far too many dying at or

right after childbirth. Out of the thirty-two children, only twelve are still alive."

         Swan quietly nodded his head in empathy.

         The group used the very limited lights from the fire to light up as much of the settlement as

possible. The entire tour took only about fifteen minutes, but that suited everyone just fine. They had

a long day ahead of them, and the sooner it got going, the better.

         Madi Amalulu selected only himself and his wife Vena to go to this meeting, and they joined

Captain Svann and Europa's colonists at the shuttle's ramp. Waving to the residents of Pacifica, the

group walked up the ramp and into the craft. Hal raised the ramp, and soon the shuttle and its

passengers were headed to the colony of Yucatari.


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      This short voyage took slightly over an hour, and they approached the colony just as the sun's

rays were gingerly touching the forest floor. Al had his landing site picked out and very smoothly set

her down and lowered the ramp.

      Expecting a crowd of most of the colonists, Svann was surprised when we walked down the

ramp. Nobody was there! The others followed behind him as he made his way to the settlement.

Stopping at the first hut, Svann was about to knock on the edge of the opening when, from behind him,

he heard, "Bud, is that you?"

      It was Kos Javel. "Bud! Boy is it good to see you! We didn't expect you until tomorrow. You

have really caught us unprepared. Please make yourself at home and I'll get the others up."

      Going to his hut first, Kos awakened his wife. "Juni! Juni! Wake up. Captain Svann and the

others are here. Hurry and get up please. We need to get everyone else up too."

      Slowly Juni came out of her slumber. At first she didn't understand what her husband was

yelling at her but it quickly set in. "Captain Svann is here! Oh my. I'm not... we're not ready for

them," she said.

      Outside the hut, Svann and the others could hear what she was saying. "Juni, don't worry about

it. There's really no problem. We'll get Jorge Pavalo up and then we'll be leaving for the colony of

Indus. Go back to sleep and we'll see you when we return in two days. I promise that we will spend

more time with you."

      Juni didn't pay much attention to what he was saying as she was already at the door before he

had finished. "Captain, there's no way I'd be able to let you come and go without saying hello and

getting a hug," she said as she opened her arms to him.

      Kos had already departed to awaken Jorge. Soon, most of the camp was outside their shelters,

crowding around the visitors.

      Jorge walked up to Svann and took the opportunity to also get a hug when Juni finally let go.


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"Bud, it's really super seeing you, but I must tell you, we didn't expect you until tomorrow. Uh, let Kos

and I just wash our faces and clean up a bit, and we'll be ready to go," he said.

       Jorge and Kos left the group together, and made their way to the edge of the stream that ran next

to the camp. There, they washed their faces and removed the sleep from their eyes. Soon, they were

back with the others, and heading back toward the shuttle. Like the other colonies, the group of

leaders left their homes with their families and friends waving.

       Another short flight brought the group to Peruvia.

       Ben Delos was holding Mari's hand as the shuttle arrived at and circled the Peruvial site. By

their side was a small child of about four years, holding onto Don's free hand. "Gano, that is one of the

vessels I was telling you about. They go very fast. Would you like to fly in one?" Ben asked his

adopted son.

       The young lad had heard him but was definitely afraid of this big object that flew down from the

sky. He grabbed the leg of the elder Delos and put it between him and the shuttle as it was landing.

       Bud spied his old friend as soon as he started down the ramp. "Ben! You're looking super," he

said as the two converged. Ben was sort of dragging and carrying Gano on his leg.

       "And what's that you have wrapped around your leg Ben?" said Svann.

       "Oh that's a youngster that Mari and I adopted when his parents failed to return from a trip into

the mountains," answered the elder Delos.

       "Two of your colonists! Did you send out teams to look for them?" Svann asked.

       "Yes. We sent out several times on several occasions. Each time they came back without a

trace. We don't have any idea as to what happened to them. It wasn't just them. There have been

other teams when they set out to explore the mountains to the west. I have been up there several times

myself, and the area is not very hospitable," said Ben.

       "Yes, Ben. I remember the area. That was the first place we landed on this planet and I recall


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very vividly the biting cold of the wind," Svann said.

      Kos Javel had made his way up to Bud, and put his hand out to Ben. "Ben, it's really good

seeing you. Is Doctor Garca around?" he asked.

      "No, Kos. Garca was in one of the teams that we have lost in the mountains. We're not certain

as to what happened to them. It's been over three months since the last group left, and we now fear the

worst," said Ben.

      Bud could see the sadness building in Javel's face. "Kos, we'll cover the area with the scanners

to see if we can locate them. If they're alive, we should be able to spot the heat coming from their

bodies."

      Wanting to give ample time to the search, Svann asked that the team delay touring Peruvial so

they could run a quick infrared search of the mountain area. "Let's all get back on the shuttle, and we'll

have Hal make a few passes over the mountain range area. If we're lucky we may be able to locate

your missing people," he said.

      After everyone was on board, Hal took the vessel up and turned it west toward the high

mountain range. He had the scanners on and directed downwards. They picked up several blips of

warm-blooded animals, but each one turned out to be one of the mammals native to this land.

      After several passes over a broad area, Svann made his way to the control room. "Hal, I don't

think there's a chance of finding them alive. There's at least a foot of snow on the ground at the base of

the mountains, and the temperature has to be well below freezing. Let's call the search off and go on to

Syrias."

      "All right Sir," responded Al.

      Syrias was almost the complete opposite of Peruvial. While hovering over the area west of

Peruvial, the thought of humidity and cold temperatures chilled everyone to the bone. Syrias was the

exact opposite. Hot... very hot, with almost zero humidity."


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       As soon as the ramp lowered, the blast of hot dry air hit the passengers. Al Einstram was the

first to speak, "Do you feel that?" he asked. The question was not addressed to anyone in particular

and didn't require any response.

       The sun was at its peak and the brightness took everyone by shock.

       "Ouch! Ow.. Ow.. Ow.., exclaimed Madi Amalulu as he took a couple of steps onto the hot sun-

baked sand. "Madi didn't have any sandals or shoes on and was forced to return to the relative

coolness of the ramp. "Go on without me," he said.

       The group took a quick tour of the colony at Syrias and each was glad that his colony wasn't

faced with the unpleasantness of this desert.

       Syrias' leader and the colony's doctor, Jihad Bessel, boarded the Novum to make the last hop to

the Indus colony.

       Arriving at Indus just before the sun set in the west, Hal made a quick pass around the

settlement before landing east of the village.

       Meesho Digani met them as the ramp lowered and the passengers exited the craft. Firmly

shaking Svann's hand, he said, "Sir, welcome to Indus. I'm sure you will be pleased as to our progress.

Let me show you Lidia."

       As each of the various colonies' leaders exited the shuttle, they were each met by one of the

colonists from Indus. Though they didn't necessarily know each other extremely well, they were all

Alturians, and the close attachments were obvious.

       Moving down the path, away from the transport vessel, Captain Svann could tell that the style

and structure of the individual shelters were years ahead of their planned development.

       "Meesho, I'm surprised at Indus' progress. I see that you have milled lumber supporting your

shelters. How did you come about that so soon?" Svann said with an air of officiality in his voice.

       "Sir, we've had that for about a year now. We built a mill up the river and have taught the


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natives how to operate it."

      Sensing more than seeing the frown in Svann's face, Meesho paused and said, "Captain, I know

you may not agree with what we're doing, but we didn't see anything wrong with using the technology

that we had among the colonists. We're simply trying to make things more comfortable for everyone."

      "Meesho," said Svann. "I'm not here to judge you but am simply here to meet with the leaders

from all five colonies. If you have exceeded the plan for technological developments, that issue will

be raised tomorrow."

      "I suspect that it will. We have planned for this discussion for some time," said Digani as he

escorted Svann to a shelter that resembled a hotel room. A fan was slowly turning in the ceiling and

there was a crude electric light installed. "As you can see, Sir, we have all the comforts. It's not the

Novum, but it's the best we can do for now," Meesho said as they entered the room.

      "I can see that," answered Svann trying to hide his uneasy feelings. "If you don't mind, I'd like

to spend a few minutes alone while I make some last minute notes for the meeting tomorrow."

      "Ok, Sir. We have a dinner planned for everyone in two hours. Do you want me to send

someone for you at that time?" asked Meesho as he was leaving the room.

      "That will be fine," said Svann. "Two hours should be plenty of time. I'll see you then and

thanks for everything."

      The mere fact that Indus was generating electricity indicated that he was right in some of his

assumptions. "How are they generating this power, and where are the generators located?" he thought.

 There were so many unanswered questions and so little time.

      Meanwhile, aboard the Novum, Zander had prepared his vessel with scanner equipment and had

activated the laser security systems. Though the plan had called for several codes to be entered by

several leaders to activate any of the laser systems, Captain Svann, and now Zander, knew how to

override this safety factor. Closing the hatch behind him, he buckled himself in the left seat.


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        After going through the start-up procedures, Zander automatically reached for the microphone

to contact the Novum's bridge. He caught himself before speaking, realizing that there wasn't anyone

on the vessel, let alone the bridge.

        Slowly, he lifted his small craft off the deck and maneuvered it through the hanger doors and

positioned himself over the exit hatch. The outer doors opened and he slipped the vessel out and away

from the Novum. Looking back at the mother ship, he watched it decrease in size as he quickly moved

away.

        Within minutes he had broken through the upper layers of the atmosphere and descended to ten

thousand meters above the planet's surface. His plan was to make several high speed runs across both

colonies, Indus and Syrias.

        All scanners were on and the data was fed into an on-board computer. Following two runs on

both colonies the monitor pointed out areas of intense electrical radiation.

        Indus had two locations of electrical radiation; one of these also contained an area of intense

magnetic disturbances. "That's one that I'll check out close, " he thought as he turned his craft toward

the west to make a scanning pass over Syrias. Syrias showed only one area of significant electrical

activity. "If they have a magnetron, it's not on," he said to himself.

        He now turned north to make a pass over each of the other colonies to see if they too were

building similar systems.

        On the planet's surface, an Indus colonist came by and knocked on Captain Svann's door. "Sir,

we are about ready to start the banquet," the voice said.

        Opening the door, Svann recognized the face but couldn't place the name.

        "Good evening, young man. I'm Bud Svann, and who might you be?" he asked as he stepped

outside.

        "Sir, my name is Ramey Bongee. I'm one of the original colonists here on Indus. Welcome," he


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said as he stuck out his hand.

      Svann shook his escort's hand as the two moved off to the site of the banquet.

      The banquet site was a covered area, complete with palm leaves on the roof. All of the other

colonies' representatives were already seated with most of the representatives from Indus.

      Meesho Digani got up from his place as soon as he noticed Captain Svann walking up and

moved over quickly to greet him.

      "Good evening, Captain, would you do us the honor by joining us at our table?" Digani asked.

      Putting on the diplomatic front, Svann replied, "Certainly, Meesho. I'll be glad to join you.

This is quite some set up you have here."

      "Yes it is. We're quite proud of what we've done," said Digani.

      As they reached the table where the Indus group was seated, the others in the group got up, and

Meesho introduced them in turn.

      "Captain, this is Doctor Girod. Though you may not agree with everything he has done, his help

to the people of Indus has ensured our survival."

      Captain Svann reached out and shook the hand of the doctor that was creating so many second

thoughts to the decision he made five years earlier.

      "Jamie, it's good seeing you again. It's been quite some time hasn't it?" asked Svann.

      "Captain, it certainly has.    And how are things on the Novum?           You know I miss the

conveniences we had aboard her." Girod said.

      Svann could even hear the sarcasm in his own voice as he replied, "I imagine you have missed

the niceties we have aboard her. Let me tell you though, with the technological advances I see here in

Indus, it may not be long before you have them all down here."

      Svann added, "Oh, by the way, I don't see Orman Nasti around. How's he doing these days?"

      "Sir, Orman is busy working with some of the natives up the river. He planned to be back this


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evening, but if he couldn't break away, he said to pass on his regards," replied Girod.

       Somehow, Svann sensed a problem with the fact that Nasti wasn't going to be at the banquet.

After all, this was the biggest thing to have hit the colonies in the last five years, and when one of the

originals can't make it because of pressing issues, this created some concern. Svann selected Orman to

be one of the pilots that was sent down with the doctors. While the pilots did not have the same

amount of knowledge that the doctors had, they could provide enough information to construct a

working magnetron or, worse yet, lethal, magnetic weapons.

       After meeting the others at the table, Captain Svann sat down, and, to his surprise, natives were

serving the food. First, their cups were filled with fresh citrus juice.

       Taking a drink, Svann noticed the unique taste. "Meesho, this juice is delicious. What fruit is it

from?"

       Meesho picked up one of the oranges in a fruit basket. "Sir, because of it's color, we call it an

orange. We've grown a fondness for it here on Indus, and we have some plants for you to take to the

other colonies so that they too may enjoy it."

       "Good. They'll surely enjoy this," Svann said as he took another drink.

       Next on the menu were various types of vegetables, some that were native to the planet and

others that were brought from Altus.

       Doctor Girod took the initiative and described each food as it was sampled. "Captain, the

potato we brought with us and I'm sure you'll enjoy the freshness of it. The white vegetable is a small

grain that grows rather quickly and provides plenty of carbohydrates. The local natives call it rice, and

when they introduced us to it, we also adopted the name. Kind of tasty isn't it?"

       "Jamie, this is really good. I can't tell you how much I appreciate having fresh vegetables," said

Svann as he took another bite of the rice on his plate.

       Next, the natives serving the food brought in a cart that had a roasted pig neatly arranged on the


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top. It had been carved and the captain was the first to be served. As he looked down at the succulent

meat, he couldn't help but think that just maybe he was wrong in his thinking.

       "Maybe it would be best for each of the six colonies to accelerate the technological

developments. After all, what could be wrong with them having comforts like this in the other

colonies?" he thought to himself as he took his first bite of fresh meat in over 500 years.

       Following the meat, the natives brought several different types of fruit to each of the tables,

none of which, Svann had tried before.

       "Gentlemen," Svann said, trying to get the attention of the group. "So far what I've seen here at

Indus can only be called good for Alturians and their life in the new colonies. I'd like to discuss the

possibility of having similar developments in Europa and the other sites. I think you would all enjoy

the comforts we are experiencing here on Indus," he added.

       Meanwhile... Above the planet's surface, in the small transport vessel, Zander Vood had just

completed the passes over Europa, Yucatari, Peruvial and was heading toward Pacifica. As he came

upon it, the sun's rays were just breaking the horizon, and it made a beautiful site.

       "What a gorgeous place," thought Zander as he systematically turned on each of the scanners.

Again, they revealed nothing out of the ordinary.

       Leaving this tropical paradise behind, he gradually increased the power to the magnetrons and

soon was flying east over Peruvia. He could make out the hazy outline of the coastline as he left the

mid-day rays of the sun behind. In total darkness he came upon Indus, and he used the electrical power

source as a beacon. Making a slow pass at a thousand meters, he used the outside cameras to visually

check out what was on the ground. Within the colony itself, Zander could see several lights that were

on, and there was a gathering of people under some sort of outdoor roof.

       He also located and identified the other transport vessel. It was several hundred meters away

from the central area of Lidia and had all of its systems turned off. The actual site wasn't what


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concerned Zander. He wanted to check out the electrical and magnetic disturbances he had located

about 20 kilometers north of the settlement.

      Turning his craft in that direction he dropped down to five hundred meters above the forest

below. Again he turned on his scanners, and when he made a low slow pass over the disturbance's

center, the magnetic readings were exceptionally high.

      Zander silently hovered directly over the area and made visual and digital recordings of the

entire area. The mere magnitude of the level of disturbances indicated that there was a partially

operational magnetron.

      His sensors located a cleared area about 300 meters from the site and he set his craft down.

Lowering the ramp he quickly made his way down and headed toward the cluster of buildings that

housed the magnetic disturbances.

      Coming up on an isolated building, Zander could see wires leading into the structure. The wires

were probably coming from a remotely located generating source. "I'll trace those wires and check out

their generators after I finish here," he thought as he made his way around the building looking for a

window or doorway.

      He soon discovered that the building was in actuality a shelter with the southern side open.

Inside, he could see a rough looking magnetron that was suspended about 4 feet above the ground.

Speaking to himself, he said, "Looks like we found a working mag."

      Spending a few more moments making some visual estimates of the mag's size and design,

Zander decided to trace the source of power and began to track the wires to their source. Following

them to the northwest, he estimated he traveled about a kilometer when he began to hear the low roar

of water rushing. The sound grew louder with each step, and soon he came upon a small dam that was

erected on a narrow stream. Water was being channeled through an operating turbine, and it was

turning a generator which provided the electrical power to the settlement of Lidia and to also run the


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magnetron.

       Knowing that this information would be needed and appreciated by Captain Svann, Zander

made his way back to his transport and was soon back in the air. He made another pass over Lidia and

then climbed back into the dark skies.

       His scanners located the Novum, and the on board computer vectored the craft back to home

port. Soon the craft was parked, and he descended the ramp.

       Reliving the last few hours he made his way to the bridge to make his entries into the Novum's

log.

       ENTRY NUMBER: 15234

       MISSION DATE: 37201 AA

       NARRATIVE: DISCOVERED ELECTRICAL POWER GENERATOR 22.7 KILOMETERS

FROM LIDIA ON A BEARING OF 347 DEGREES. TRACED WIRES TO APPROXIMATELY 1.3

KILOMETERS WHERE THEY HAVE A WORKING MAGNETRON. APPROXIMATE SIZE OF

THE MAGNETRON IS 1.5 BY 2 METERS, INCLUDING THE COILS. ESTIMATED WEIGHT IS

ROUGHLY 1200 KILOGRAMS.                  IT WAS SUSPENDED ABOUT ONE METER OFF THE

GROUND.

       RECOMMENDATION:                   THIS    DEVELOPMENT       EXCEEDS       THE     PLANNED

TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS. RECOMMEND THE SITE BE DESTROYED AND THE

INDIVIDUALS RESPONSIBLE BE TRANSPORTED BACK ABOARD THE NOVUM.

       Now finished with his log entry, Zander requested a status of the Novum. Almost immediately,

the screen came back with the main systems on the vessel. Satisfied with the read out, he went to the

lounge to get a bite to eat before turning in.

       He kept himself busy for the next few days playing chess with the on board computer, awaiting

the return of Captain Svann and the remainder of the crew.


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        Zander had them on the scanner as soon as the transport broke through the atmosphere and

entered the voidness of space. Checking the monitor he ensured that the tracking signal was on and

the computer was ready to bring the ship in. Verifying that everything was operationally green, he

made his way to level 4 to meet the Captain as soon as they docked.

        "Captain, how was the conference?" Zander asked as soon as the party began descending the

ramp.

        "Hi there, Zander. Oh, the conference went well. I learned and saw some things that I hadn't

anticipated. How about giving me a few minutes and we'll talk more on that later," replied Svann.

        Svann placed his hand on his mentor's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "There's a lot we

need to discuss. Oh, by the way, Zander, I brought you something I think you might enjoy. Here, try

one of these," Svann said as he handed him an orange.

        Zander took it and looked down at it with a puzzled look. "What is this, Sir?" he asked.

        "It's a new fruit that they introduced us to on Indus. They call it an orange. The peeling comes

off fairly easy, and the meat of the fruit is exceptionally tasty. I think you'll like it," Svann said.

        As the two of them walked towards the nearest elevator, Captain Svann asked, "By the way,

how did your trip go? Did you locate the source of the electrical activity?"

        "Yes Sir, Zander replied. They have a power generator and have built a working magnetron.

They are much farther along than we thought. I have it all written into the ship's log."

        "Ok, Zander. Let me grab a quick shower and I'll meet you on the bridge in...let's say 30

minutes," Svann said as he turned into the crew's room on level 1.

        Entering the bridge, Zander couldn't help but sense that Captain Svann had changed his opinion

about the timing of certain events on the planet's surface. He sat himself down at the main terminal

and watched the computer as it recorded everything that was happening on the Novum.

        Somehow, Zander found watching the terminal go through its motions was very relaxing.


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        Captain Svann wasn't even noticed when he entered the bridge area and the sudden breaking of

silence caught Zander off balance.

        "You look really relaxed, Zander. So tell me. What kind of magnetron have they developed?"

he asked.

        Half jumping and half turning, Zander looked at the Captain and replied, "Sir, they have

dammed a stream and channeled water through a turbine that is turning a generator. I wasn't able to

take a measurement of the amount of power, but they are producing more than enough to drive a small

magnetron. The site of the magnetron is about 1 point 3 kilometers from the dam and is fed by two

wires. It's very primitive but it works well. I predict that they will have mobile units within a year or

two."

        "Meesho Digani told me all about the generating system. I even had electric lights in my room

if you can believe that. He neglected to tell me about the magnetron, though. Why do you suppose

they didn't want to tell me about that while I was attending the conference?" asked Svann.

        "Sir, I don't know. Maybe they're afraid that you won't allow them to complete it," replied

Zander.     Calling up the log entry from the computer, he continued, "Captain, it's also my

recommendation that we destroy the magnetron and generating site and recall the technology experts.

According to the mission planners, I'm certain that's what they would have recommended."

        "Zander, before you go any farther, let me tell you what I saw at each of the settlements," Svann

said, sensing an uneasiness in his young commander. "Europa and the other colonies seem to be eons

behind the colony at Indus. With the exception of Europa, I also saw a lot of unhappiness and

problems at the undeveloped sites. This unhappiness was not evident on Indus. At first I was going to

stand fast on my feelings about exceeding their rate of development. But, after considerable thinking, I

don't really believe they are violating specific items in the planned mission."

        Thinking to himself, Zander thought, "the captain is saying that he doesn't agree with what the


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planners wanted to avoid."

          "You don't think the same thing could happen here too?" he asked.

          "No, I don't, Zander. I honestly think that our colonists would avoid such a disaster.

          Sir, I disagree with you. According to the mission plan that I received in my sleep canister the

other day, they are in direct violation. It will only be a matter of time until they have a major conflict

between the colonies and one will surely destroy the other... especially if they have the power and use

of a magnetron. And Sir, as you know, that was the reason for the Novum's mission in the first place!"

          "Well, Zander, if you saw first hand what was happening on Indus, I'm sure you would agree

with me. Everything they have done has not only given them some of the comforts of technology but

has also enhanced their chances of survival. They are living comfortably, and I don't ever see the

situation arising where a conflict would result in fighting," Svann said with a slight air of authority.

          Svann could tell from his expression that Zander wasn't convinced and tried to put him at ease

by adding, "I've also made the decision to assign a large transport to each of the colonies so they can

pass technological achievements from one colony to the other with ease. The pilots remaining on

board will also be join the colonies so everyone will have a transport capability. Zander, though you

obviously don't see it the same as I do, I firmly believe that the planners would agree with my

decision."

          With that final statement, Zander got up and turned toward the door. Prior to exiting he turned

back toward the captain and said, "Sir, let's not allow them destroy this planet."

          Svann watched his young pilot walk out of the room and wondered how he could convince him

that the colonies would benefit from an accelerated development.

          The following day, six transport pilots had their vessels ready for departure to the colonies.

They were to be used for primary means of transport so each colony would benefit from visits to the

others.


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      Zander Vood was at the helm of the mother ship as each vessel left the area of the Novum. He

couldn't help but think that this decision was wrong, and in the end, would be detrimental to the

success of the overall mission.

      The departure of the transport vessels and their crew left only four people on board. Zander was

offered the opportunity to go down to the planet but declined as he knew that someone would have to

remain with the Novum forever.

      That left only himself, Captain Svann, Doctor Karuz and the computer technician, Don Allen.

      With Zander's knowledge of the Novum's operating capabilities, he could probably fix anything

that went wrong with the computer system. It was also doubtful if the situation would ever arise since

none of the computers had experienced any significant problems in over five hundred years of

operation.

      Never-the-less, Don declined the offer to leave and requested to remain aboard the vessel that

had been his home for most of his life.

      One by one, each of the six transports pulled out of the area as they made their way toward their

future home bases. Sensors on board tracked and recorded each movement of the transport vessels so

they could keep track of all movements between the various colonies.

      Sitting at the main terminal in the bridge, Zander tracked each vessel to its destination, and he

observed the indications when each landed on the planet's surface. He was surprised to see that the

vessel assigned to Europa only remained on the ground a short time and was back in the air within

fifteen minutes. It appeared that Hal Steppan was heading back toward the Novum. "What could be

going wrong?" Zander thought as the transport hooked onto the vectoring beam from the Novum.

      "Novum control, this is Europa Transport. I'm returning. The leaders on Europa did not want

me to stay there and ordered me to depart. I'll give a full report upon docking."

      "Roger, Hal. I have you on the scope, and you can connect with the tracking beam on five point


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one," replied Zander through his handset.

         Captain Svann had come upon the bridge during the last transmission and spoke through the

other handset, "Roger, Europa Transport. We'll be waiting on the bridge. Come up as soon as you

dock."

         Within minutes, the transport was back on board the Novum, and Hal was walking into the

bridge.

         "Hal, What happened down there? You were supposed to stay on Europa and serve as their

transport vessel in case they needed to travel to any of the other colonies," Svann said with a bit of

anxiety in his voice.

         "Sir, I landed and was met by the leaders of the colony and Al Einstram said that he had given

the matter a lot of thought and believed that we were in direct violation of the mission plans.     He

declined the offer of the transport, and said the Europa would continue to develop according to the

plans that were handed down by the planners on Altus. He also requested that he not have any future

contact with the Novum or any of its crew on this matter. He also said he didn't want any information

on any of the other colonies outside of an outright disaster to the entire mission plan."

         "Al said that?" asked Svann.

         Before Hall could answer, Zander, watching the scanner said, "Sir, I believe we have another

transporter making its way back. This one appears to be coming from Pacifica."

         Svann looked at the scanner as if he hoped he find something wrong with the equipment.

         "What's happening down there?" he asked as he listened to the radio transmission.

         "Novum control, this is Pacifica transport. Request tracking beam for return to base."

         Zander turned on the tracking beam as he gave his reply, "Roger Pacifica. We have you on

scope, and you're locked on tracking beam. Captain Svann requests you report to the bridge upon

docking."


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                                     THE NOVUM CHRONICLES
       "Roger, Novum. Estimate docking time thirteen minutes."

       Again, a colony had refused the support of the Novum. The pilot that flew the mission reported

that the leaders of Pacifica wanted to preserve their simple life style and were happy with their current

situation. They did not desire to have a transport at their disposal.

       At first, Svann felt as though the two colonies were countermanding his authority but soon those

feelings were pushed aside.

       "Zander, I guess there's no way we can force them into an advanced technological world, is

there?" he asked.

       "Sir, I don't see how. I also must say that I agree with what they are doing even if that feeling

will put me in a minority aboard the Novum," replied Zander.

       "I'd like to take a trip down and personally talk to them. Would you like to go along with me,"

Svann asked. Zander replied, "Certainly, Sir. Let's go on down."

       Soon Zander was piloting a small transport, heading toward Europa.

       "When we arrive, let's set down in the middle of the settlement," Svann said, wanting to display

a slight show of force.

       "You got it, Sir," replied Zander as he slowed the descent of the craft. We have the colony

directly in front of us about four thousand meters."

       Zander set the vessel down in the middle of the settlement and lowered the ramp. As the two of

them walked down they could see Al Einstram walking up to meet them.

       "Hello, Bud. I told Don that we would probably see you very soon," Al said with a slight smile

upon his face.

       "Hello, Al. Hal Steppan reported that you declined the offer to help you and Europa with

technological improvements. I thought we agreed that it would be in the best interest of everyone if

we accelerated the development of all the colonies," Svann said as the two friends shook hands.


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         Responding in a rather authoritative voice, Al said, "Captain, I didn't agree with what had

happened on Indus, and I don't think that the original planners would agree either. As you and I both

know, I don't have any control over what happens on any of the other colonies, but I do for Europa. It

is my strong feeling that eventually, this rush in developing will be detrimental to us, and I don't want

it. I don't want it for myself, and I don't want it for Europa."

         Zander could see the determination in Al Einstram's face, and his voice reinforced that feeling.

Svann sensed the same determination and knew that any attempt to convince him would probably

create animosity among the two long-time friends.

         Reluctantly he said, "Al, if that is your decision then I'll respect it. I'll also pass on to the other

colonies to not interfere with Europa and to allow you to continue to develop and grow at your own

pace."

         The two friends embraced, and Svann could tell that this would probably be the last time the

two would see each other. "Al, I sincerely wish you and your people the very best. There will be no

further contact from the Novum," said Svann as he turned toward the transport.

         Zander had already started up the ladder and didn't notice that Svann had turned around and was

talking directly with Al. Following the short conversation, Svann entered the small cabin and said,

"Zander, let's go. We've completed our mission at Europa." Svann was watching the monitor as the

craft lifted up and departed to the south. Gently, a soft tear fell from his eye and slowly ran down his

cheek.

         Soon, the two were airborne and Zander set a course for Pacifica.

         "Zander, I don't see any need to go to Pacifica. I think it would be best for us to just let them go

in peace. Let's stop by Indus and pass on this information to Meesho Digani."

         "Roger, Sir. Heading to Indus at this time," replied Zander as he banked his machine to a course

that would bring them upon the colony of Indus.


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        As they came up on Indus and the settlement of Lidia, Zander identified the two large transports

on the ground. "Sir, it looks like Syrias's vessel is here too," he said as he placed the smaller transport

near the other two.

        "That's good. We should be able to pass on the information about Europa and Pacifica to both

parties," replied Svann as he assisted Zander in turning off systems.

        After landing, Zander lowered the ramp and the two climbed down from their craft and out from

underneath. Fortunately, both leaders were at this colony and this eliminated having to visit each site.

Meesho Digani and Orman Nasti were walking up to the shuttle to meet their guests.

        "Good afternoon Bud," said Meesho.

        "Afternoon Meesho. Hello there, Orman. It's been a long time since we've seen each other.

How have you been?" asked Svann.

        "Just fine Captain," replied Nasti.

        "I've got some news to pass on to you about Europa and Pacifica. I'd like to tell you and Sadah

the same thing. Where is he by the way?" Svann asked.

        "Sadah came over this morning and is doing some work up at the dam site," said Meesho. "If

you want we can fly up there and you can pass it on to us both," replied Meesho.

        "Ok. That will do just fine. I'd been wanting to see the site anyway."

        Soon, they were all aboard Indus' shuttle and later landed in the clearing which Zander used

earlier. Zander followed in the smaller shuttle and set down near the others. The walk through the

jungle to the site was relatively easy. Fortunately, there had been quite a few trips along this path in

the past few months and it was getting very worn.

        "Captain, I'm pretty sure I know what you are here for. The other colonies want us to help them.

I expected that, and let me assure you that I'll do everything I can to help them in every way," Digani

said.


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      "No Meesho.       You're not even close. Europa does not wish to have any accelerated

development because they believe that it would violate the wishes of the elders," said Svann.

      Meesho was about to continue the discussion when he noticed someone coming.

      Sadah Ramagan was walking down from the generating site and met the group on the trail.

"Captain Svann, Zander, I'm really pleased to see you both," he said.

      "Good afternoon Sadah," replied Svann. "I hate to ask you to go back to the dam site, but that's

exactly where we were heading. As the matter of fact, we were going there to see you. I had some

news to pass on to you and Meesho, and since you were at the dam site, I thought it would be a great

opportunity to check it out. Care to join us?

      "Sure. I'd love to," said Sadah.

      On the way up the trail, Captain Svann passed on the news about Europa and Pacific. Everyone

agreed that the decision was theirs to make, and, if the colony wanted to be isolated, then they would

ensure that their wishes would be respected.

      "Bud, we won't venture into their territory. We had thought about setting up some sort of trade

with the other colonies, but that was for some time down the road. Now that they have requested non-

interference, those plans are gone," said Sadah.

      "I'm glad that we're in agreement," Svann said as the group had arrived at the dam site.

      "As you can see, Bud, we have a fairly primitive electrical generating plant here. With the lack

of proper equipment, there's not a lot we can do. But it does give us some creature comforts," said

Digani.

      Zander was about to raise the question of the magnetron he noticed on his last visit to this site,

but Digani beat him. "Captain, I think you should also know that we are working on a magnetron. We

are not planning to use it for anything other than as an aid to move heavy objects from place to place.

Sadah reports that one of his colonists has designed a fairly elaborate building, and the magnetron will


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certainly be of help in its construction?"

       Svann took on a look of total surprise. "A magnetron... you have built one?" he asked.

       "Yes Sir. We have a very small one but when it is running, it takes almost all of the generating

capacity of our plant. What would you say about providing some of the materials from the Novum to

help with its construction," asked Digani.

       Svann's surprised look now turned to one of anger. "Meesho, under no circumstances will the

resources on board the Novum be allowed to be used on any of the colonies. You know as well as I

that this was specifically prohibited by the elders. The Novum will soon be sent into the sun to prevent

such a thing." Lying to the group, he continued, "These are the specific requirements from the group

of elders and the ship has already been programmed to do that."

       Zander had a hard time maintaining a straight face when the Captain said this, especially the

part about the Novum being cast into the sun. He knew as much about the mission as Svann, and there

was no mention of these safeguards.

       "I see," said Digani. "I didn't think that you would go for the idea anyway."

       "No I won't," Svann replied. "Personally, I don't even like the idea of Indus having a magnetron

at its disposal. The power of the magnetron could be enormous," he added.

       With that, he turned back to the trail. "Zander, I think it's time that we best leave."

       Svann and Zander left the three leaders at the dam site and made their way down the trail. As

they were climbing up the stairs into the shuttle, Svann turned to the two larger transport vessels that

we still parked side by side. "You may be right, Zander," he said.




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                                                 Chapter Seven



       Soon after arriving on board the Novum, Svann made arrangements for the two pilots who were

scheduled to be with Europa and Pacifica to be transported down to Peruvial and Yucatan. Marc

Karuz had also requested to be taken to Europa to live out his days and Svann immediately granted his

wishes.

       The following morning, Vood preflighted the shuttle, loaded his three passengers on board and

departed the mother ship. He made quick stops at the three sites and didn't bother about making a

routine flyby on the other colonies.

       Svann was in the bridge watching the planet below on the monitor and didn't even notice

Zander walk in. As he walked by the Captain, he gently touched a shoulder to communicate his

feelings.

       "Oh, hi, Zander. I didn't even hear you come in. Did they all get down all right?" he asked.


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       "Yes Sir, I dropped Doctor Karuz off first and then the other two. For some reason I wanted to

get back here as quickly as I could," he said.

       After a short period of silence, Svann said, "I understand. It kind of grows on you doesn't it?"

       "Yes Sir, it sure does."

       With the departure of the two pilots and Karuz the Novum was often silent...

       The three remaining inhabitants of the Novum quickly had their daily routines established.

Following the ten-hour sleep period, Zander would go to the bridge and review the recent activity that

had taken place on the planet. He would then join the Captain and Dan for breakfast and brief them on

the current situation below.

       Rarely, was there anything significant to report other than the progress with the magnetron's

development in Indus. Lately, even that event was failing to register.

       Dan's official function was to keep the computer system aboard the Novum operating. The only

time he had to perform any maintenance function was when he had to replace a part in one of the

robots or personnel transporters.

       Once, a robot had worn out a synthetic track and there were no replacements aboard. Somehow,

Dan had manufactured a track and had the robot up and running in only a matter of hours.

       Periodically, Zander would take one of the smaller shuttles out. He explored the entire planet's

surface and especially relished in exploring both polar regions. He discovered strange and beautiful

forms of life on each of his scouting ventures. Thee animals in the polar regions seemed to be more

unique than all the others.

       Bringing photographs back to the Novum, Zander would show them to Captain Svann and Don,

trying to entice them to join him on one of his trips. They enjoyed seeing the pictures but neither

seemed to have any desire to leave the mother ship. On one occasion, Zander talked Svann into

joining him on a trip to the southern polar region. Svann's eyes were glued to the monitor during the


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over-flight and, after landing the shuttle near a large penguin rookery, he was like a child walking

among the strange creatures.

      "Zander, what strange animals. We did not have anything like them on Altus. What do you call

them?"

      "I haven't named any of the different animals! I'm just enjoying trying to see as many as I can.

Let's get back in the shuttle. I want to show you an even more amazing animal."

      Together, they walked through the multitude of penguins and climbed the ladder into the

shuttle. Zander lifted the shuttle off the ice and slowly moved out over the icy cold water. He was

watching the monitors, looking for a specific sight. He spotted one in the distance and gently changed

direction. Skimming over the top of the waves the shuttle slowed, eventually coming to a dead stop

over the water.

      Zander eased back on the drivers, and the shuttle gently entered the cold water. He could sense

the captain's eyes glued on him, and he waited for the verbal response.

      "Zander, what are you doing?"

      "Hold on a second, Sir. This next sight will simply amaze you," Zander replied.

      "Ok, but... but how does the shuttle maneuver under the water?"

      "Just fine. Of course, we can't move nearly as fast, but she's much more responsive. Here, take

the controls for a second."

      Svann gingerly took the control and made a gentle right-hand turn. "You're right Zander. The

controls seem to be much more responsive than when the shuttle was flying in the atmosphere or in

space. Ah... how deep have you taken one of the shuttles?" he asked.

      "Sir, there are not any instruments that measure depth. I would estimate that we are now about

30 meters under the surface and I don't think that I've been any deeper," Zander replied.

      Continuing, he said, "Sir, the thing I want you to see is now in the forward monitor. What do


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you think this is?"

       "Oh my! Zander, this fish is huge. He's got to be three or four times larger than this shuttle

we're in."

       As the shuttle moved closer, the image in the monitors filled the screen and soon, only a small

part could be seen. Zander, sensed a concern for their safety with Svann's response and brought the

shuttle to a dead stop. Because of the size of the fish, it may be able to cause some minor damage the

much smaller vessel. A sense of relief came over him as the monitor soon picked up the entire fish as

it swam away.

       Svann was the first to notice something strange about the fish other than its huge size. "Zander,

look at its tail. The fins are parallel to the surface. The fish on Altus had tail fins that went up and

down."

       "I never noticed that difference, but there's also something else that's strange about him too.

Every minute or so, it rises to the surface and sprays vapor or steam into the air... not from its mouth

either. He expels the steam from the top of his body. Here, watch. I'll show you what I mean," Zander

said as he directed the shuttle back to the surface.

       Soon the shuttle was stationary about 50 meters above the surface of the ocean and Zander

unbuckled and got up from the seat. "Sir, I have the autopilot on and let's open the door. We'll get a

great view."

       Svann got up and the two made their way back to the door, and it slid open, revealing a fantastic

view of a blue whale rising to the surface.

       The large beast crested, expelled and took in another deep breath. It gently slid beneath the

waves, only to repeat the feat again and again.

       Svann was the first to speak, "I think that this animal isn't a fish at all. It seems to breath air,

and its species was not known to us on Novum. Have you seen others like her, Zander?"


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         "Not exactly like her. There seems to be several similar types of animals, but each seems to be

a little different. I've also seen them swimming together, and I even saw what appeared to be a mother

and baby swimming together."

         Together, they watch the regal-looking animal continue on its way until it was almost out of

sight.

         "Boy, this wind is cold!" Svann said.

         "Ok, Sir. Let's close the door and we'll head back up to the Novum.

         "Good idea. But I want to thank you for showing me this. The animals we saw today were

absolutely amazing. Thanks for talking me into this, Zander," Svann said smiling.

         "Captain, I'm very honored that you joined me," Zander said as he applied power to the drivers

and the shuttle quickly climbed back into the cool, confines of space. In a very short time, they were

walking out of the hanger deck together.

         Another exciting time that Zander enjoyed was when Captain Svann visited one of the sites, and

he tried to get down to each site at least once a year. He always had Zander fly him down, but

occasionally, would operate the craft with Zander sitting in the other seat. As requested, Svann

avoided stopping by the colonies of Europa and Pacifica, though he always flew over each site on his

way back up to the Novum.

         One day during the twenty-third year of colonization, the Captain failed to join the others for

breakfast. There had been other times when one of the three declined the offer to have breakfast but

they had always contacted one of the others on the intercom. However, today there wasn't any call.

         Zander made his way to the Captain's quarters and his knocking failed to get any response.

Zander quietly opened the door and peered inside. The captain was not in his sitting room and Zander

ventured into the bedroom. At first he thought the Captain was still asleep and started to leave the

room quietly.


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       "Zander, is that you?" The volume was so low that Zander almost disregarded it as sounds

coming out of the air vents. He turned and peered back into the bedroom and noticed the Captain's

eyes were open.

       "Sir, you weren't down for breakfast and I was concerned. Are you feeling all right?" he asked.

       "Zander, I've been feeling exceptionally tired lately. I'm getting old and there can't be many

more days until I pass on."

       "Later on today, I'd like for you to take me down to Europa. I made an agreement a long time

ago with Al Einstram, and he said that I could spend my last days in his colony. Of all of our sites, that

one is most like home," Svann said.

       "Of course Sir, if that's your wish," responded Zander. "Just let me know when you are ready

and I'll take you down. Uh... Did you want to stop by any of the other sites?"

       "No. I don't even want the other leaders to know that I'm not aboard the Novum. I think that

my sudden departure could stir up things at some of the sites," Svann added.

       "Yes Sir, I understand. Can I help you pack anything?" Zander asked.

       "Zander, thanks for you offer, but I'm not taking very many things. I'll be all right."

       "Right Sir. I'll be on the bridge when you're ready to go. Just give me a buzz," replied Zander

as he made his way to the central room.

       Just before he left, he turned back to the door leading to the bedroom, and said, "Sir, I guess it

that it's all right for me to brief Dan on your decision."

       "If you would, I think that you should just tell Dan that I'm going down to Europa for a few

weeks... Sort of taking a break from the Novum."

       "I understand. I will keep it to myself," Zander said as he left the Captain's quarters and made

his way back to the lounge on level 1.

       "How's the Captain?" Dan asked as Zander walked in.


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          "Oh, he's all right. He's just getting some things together to take a trip down to the surface. I

think that he's planning to spend a couple of weeks at Al Einstram's colony."

          "He will enjoy that," Dan said in a voice that convinced Zander he believed the story. "Oh, by

the way, Zander, I took the liberty to put your breakfast back in the bin. It should still be warm."

          "Thanks, Dan," replied Zander.

          Forgetting breakfast, Zander made his way back to the bridge and sat down at the main terminal.

The Novum was passing over Indus, and he put the scanner on his screen. "Funny," he thought as he

realized the scene hadn't changed in quite some time.

          The screen revealed the same power level as it had during the past year, and he had the gut

feeling that somehow things were being hidden from the Novum's scanners.

          Zander was still at the terminal when Svann walked in. "Zander, I've just made the rounds on

the old ship, and I'm ready to leave now. Are you ready to go?"

          "Yes Sir, let me just place this terminal in stand-by mode," Zander replied as the screen went

blank.

          The two of them slowly walked through the corridor on level 1 and made their way to level 4.

Zander noticed a tear in the Captain's eye as he tried to realize the deep feelings that were going on

inside.

          "It's very hard to say goodbye to her, Zander. She's been like a living being to me. We've been

through a lot and always came out shining. You know what you must do if you have to leave her, don't

you?" Svann asked.

          "Yes Sir. Be assured that I'll do whatever is necessary," replied Zander as the elevator doors

opened on level 4.

          Dan was in the transporter bay as the Captain and Zander walked into the hanger area. "Sir, I

hope you have an enjoyable stay. Remember that Zander and I will keep her in good shape until you


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get back," Dan said in a reassuring voice.

       "Dan, both you guys are worth your weight in gold. The Novum couldn't be left in better

hands," Svann said as he hugged Dan.

       Zander opened the hatch to the craft and waited for the Captain. "Dan, I'll drop the Captain off

and should be back in a short while. I may do a little refresher flying while I'm out, though. I've got

the scanners programmed to pass on any radio contact to the intercom so I can get hold of you if I need

to," Zander said as the Captain climbed up the stairs.

       Closing the doors and seating himself in the left seat, Zander activated the on-board systems of

the transporter. Svann called off the checklists, and everything was in the green. "Sir, if you're ready,

let's go," he said.

       Slowly, power was applied and the transporter eased its way to the center hatch. Soon the two

were outside the Novum and begin to pull away. The monitors were trained back toward the mother

ship just as the two vessels were breaking out of the planet's shadow.

       "She makes a pretty picture, doesn't she?" Svann said.

       "She surely does. Sir, do you want to make a pass around her?" Zander asked.

       "No, Zander," replied the aging captain. "I don't think I have any tears left in my body. Let's

just go straight to Europa."

       Zander applied steady pressure to the drivers and, within minutes, the transporter broke out of

the clouds with the Europa site directly ahead. The area around the original location was a beautiful

patchwork of green. Crops were planted and growing and the entire scene looked extremely peaceful.

       When the craft touched down and all systems were deactivated, Zander opened the hatch and

the Captain was the first down. Don Einstram was the first colonist there, and he opened his arms to

the Captain.

       "Sir, welcome to Europa." Svann met the young Einstram with a warm embrace.


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        "Don, it's good to see you again. This colony looks so very beautiful from the air. Where's your

father?" he asked.

        "Sir, dad died last winter. With mom gone and the death of Marc Karuz, he just couldn't

continue. He was old and passed away one night in his sleep. He told me that you would be coming

down one day, and we have a place ready for you. Can I help you with your things?" Don asked.

        "All I have are these two bags," replied Svann.

        Two young lads ran up and picked up the bags and fell in stride behind the three as they made

their way through the village. "Captain, your house is up here on the right. It was dad's and he

specifically requested that we hold it open for you."

        "Don, I'm sorry to hear about your dad. He was my best friend. I'm glad that he passed away

peacefully though. Oh, by the way, do you remember Zander Vood?" Svann asked.

        "Of course. How have you been, Zander? Do you get down to the other colonies very often?"

Don asked as he turned toward him.

        "Don, I get down occasionally, but I've really never visited a site as such. Normally, it's just at

the landing site and that's it. I really like what you have built here, though."

        When the three arrived at the house, the two lads brought the bags in and quietly left. Svann

was the first to enter and remarked, "Don, this is great. I think I'll really like it here."

        "Captain Svann, you were and will always be welcome here.             Remember, this is your home

too."

        Don turned toward Zander and said, "Zander, I want you to know that you are also welcome

here. If you want, we can prepare a place for you."

        "Don, I appreciate it, but I need to get back to the Novum. We left Dan aboard and she's too big

a ship for one person to man. As the matter-of-fact, I need to be getting back to her real soon." He

could feel the tears building over the loss of his captain who was his friend.


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       Svann stood and turned toward the one person that he had left to fulfill the mission. "Zander,

thanks for everything. I am very proud of you and what you have done. I wish you peace and

happiness," he said as he gave a fatherly hug to Zander. This time it was Zander who couldn't hold

back the tears.

       He looked into the eyes of the man that became his father and said, "Sir, remember, I love you."

       Zander left the two and slowly made his way back to the transport vessel that was now

surrounded by young kids, eager to get a view inside the unknown craft. As he walked up to the edge,

the kids moved away as if they were instructed to do so.

       For the first time, Zander felt like an outsider...one who didn't belong. By the time he climbed

the stairs, all of the children had left the area and he was again alone.

       He quickly activated each system and noticed only green on the panel. Soon the craft was

slowly rising above the village and he made a quick departure to the south. Rising above the

mountains, he decided to make a scanning run over the colonies of Syrias and Indus to see if he could

detect up anything that was missed by the Novum.

       As he passed over Syrias, the scanners failed to notice anything out of the ordinary, but when he

passed over Indus, the system registered extremely high electrical and magnetic readings. Zander

made a gradual turn and another run over Indus... this time with the recorders on.

       "Let's get this data back on board the Novum and run it through the main computer," he thought

as the readings were again extremely high.

       Zander contacted Dan just prior to docking and when he climbed down the ladder, Dan was

there to meet him. He was surprised to see Dan dressed in vacuum gear.

       "Dan, you're dressed to go outside the vessel. Is anything wrong?" he asked.

       "I completed a routine check of the robots and number 2 is outside, but I'm unable to get a

response from it," said Dan. "It may be stuck somewhere, so I'm going outside to get a first hand look.


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 If I can, I'll fix it outside. If I can't, I'll bring it back with me. It will give me something to do for the

next few days! Anyway, I should be back inside in a few minutes."

      "Ok, I'll be on the bridge and monitoring you," Zander said as he made his way to the doors.

      As he entered the bridge and sat down at the main terminal he quickly entered the correct code

for the main computer to access the recorder on transporter number 1. Soon, the readings came back,

and it was evident that the people on Indus had been hiding developments on the magnetron.

      "They're shutting the system down every time the Novum is passing over," he thought. "Why?"

He was still deep in thought on this subject when Dan's voice came over the intercom.

      "Zander... Zander...can you hear me?"

      "Roger Dan, I hear you. Have you located the robot yet?" he asked.

      "I've located it, and it's jammed in the lateral driver assembly," Dan replied. "It looks like it is in

pretty bad shape, but what I'm concerned about is the driver. One of the arms may be bent. Can you

go through the system and move driver #2 to the right about twenty degrees? That should free her up

and I'll be able to grab her. Whenever you're ready." he said.

      "Number 2 should be moving at this time," Zander replied as he entered the change into the

system.

      Dan pulled the robot free as the driver moved around; one look told him that this robot would

have to be used for spare parts. The driver supports had crushed the communication devices and they

appeared to be beyond repair.

      "Zander, I'm bringing her back on board. The driver appears to be all right, but it really did a

bangup job on the robot. I'm bringing it on board now."

      Dan tucked the robot under his arm and began to make his way back to the port. The first

indication that something had gone wrong was the slight hissing sound he could hear. He felt the

slight prick on his side as he tucked the robot under his arm but didn't think any more about it. That is,


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until he heard a slight hiss that grew louder with each second. Before he could react, the hissing grew

to a loud rushing sound as precious air rushed out through the ever growing opening in his suit. As his

body began to react to the tremendous decrease in pressure, he felt his chest expand against the suit,

then an excruciating sharp pain in the head… then he lost consciousness.

       The main computer was monitoring the life support functions and flashed the alarm on Zander's

monitor. This was the first time this function had been used, and, at first, Zander thought there was

something wrong with the system.

       "Dan, I got a reading on the monitor that you're having some trouble. What's happening out

there?" he asked.

       "Dan.. Dan.. Come in please," Zander desperately shouted into his mike.

       When his repeated attempts to contact Dan over the intercom failed, he knew something had

drastically gone wrong.

       Turning on the outside video monitors, Zander could see that Dan was still attached to a tether

line, but it was whipping through the vacuum being propelled by the exhaust of air passing through the

suit. In the distance he could also see the robot moving slowly away from the Novum.

       Reacting quickly, Zander got in a pressurized suit and made his way to the port and opened the

door. This was the first time he had walked outside the Novum, and he was floored by its tremendous

size. It was about forty meters to the point where Dan was tethered, and Zander made his way there.

       He grabbed the tether line and pulled it slowly toward him while Dan was still being whipped

around like a doll on a string. As he pulled him nearer, the violent action decreased, and Zander could

finally get a view through the face plate.

       There was nothing that could be recognized. Blood and internal organs were smeared on the

face plate and liquid was spewing out the small hole under the left arm. Acting instinctively, Zander

pulled the lifeless body to him and turned off the air which stopped the jet action.


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       Zander couldn't bring himself to look at the mangled object he was bringing back on board the

Novum. He simply had to get it back inside as soon as possible. To let emotions control him at this

point would endanger his life, and he couldn't let that happen.

       Entering the ship through the port and pulling the other suit through, Zander started to close the

outer door when he noticed that the tether line was still outside. Reaching down to pick up the line and

to pull it inside, Zander could tell that it wasn't a tether line at all. Entrails had been forced outside the

suit and were dangling in space.

       Zander felt the churning in his stomach and jerked the remains inside the ship, and he quickly

closed the door which automatically pressurized the lock.

       "Get the helmet off," he thought as the pressure on his stomach increased to the point of

explosion. Just as he pulled the helmet over his head the first of several waves of food and bile burst

out...some which went outside the suit but most hit the circular face plate and dribbled inside.

       After a period of heavy vomiting and dry heaves, Zander began to again feel his senses were

recovering. He climbed out of his suit trying to refrain from looking at Dan's exploded remains.

Finally regaining his composure, he stuffed Dan's guts back into the suit and disconnected the cables.

Dragging the suit and body to the interior door he left it to get a personnel transporter to help him

move it to the canister chambers.

       Taking the first vehicle he found, he was soon back at the exit chamber and pulled next to Dan's

body. Fortunately there was a small platform on the back of the transport so Zander didn't have an

exceptional amount of trouble lifting the body and placing in on the back.

       When he arrived at the canister room he had to park outside the door and to drag Dan's body

across the room and then lift it up and place it in one of the free canisters.

       At first he thought about taking the remains out of the flight suit, but decided to leave the body

as it was and put the entire contents in a canister although the feat required much more effort due to the


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increased weight. After some heavy lifting Zander was able to get the body into a canister and close

the lid.   He turned towards the canister's control panel and entered some basic information. As he

entered information concerning the death of a body, the canister lid tightened down and a liquid

nitrogen began flowing into the compartment. This caused the contents of the flight suit to be almost

immediately frozen solid.

       In sort of half daze, Zander made his way to the shower room, and he turned on the nearest

outlet. He then walked under the shower and removed his flight suit. Still in somewhat of a stupor, he

felt the warm water ping away on his naked skin. "This feels good," he thought as he relived the past

few minutes over and over. He turned the other showers on and lay down in the middle of the floor

with heavy streams of water pouring over his body. Hopefully, it would also wash away the sad

memories of the day.




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                                                 Chapter Eight



      It had now been years since Dan's accident, and Zander had yet to leave the Novum. He didn't

like the idea of leaving the vessel without anyone aboard, but that wasn't the only reason for his

decision to remain aboard. Zander had a gut feeling that the evolution of the colonies would run out of

control, and he didn't want to be a part of it. Not knowing what the consequences of such a conflict

would be, he wanted to ensure that the Novum remained secure. At first, there was also another

reason. Following Don's death outside the ship, Zander seemed to enjoy the vast solitude of the

Novum.

      At times the solitude became extremely overbearing and he felt as though he had to abandon the

ship. Several times, he had made his way to the shuttle craft, and, on a couple of occasions, had even

started the magnetic gyros turning. Each attempt was met with the same outcome... Zander quietly

shut the system down and slowly made his way back to the bridge and the quiet... the god awful quiet.


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      "I've got to get back down to the surface and check things out," Zander decided one morning as

he threw down some of the freeze dried food. "One of those oranges would be great too," he said to

himself.

      He made his decision and this time he'd stick to it. "But first, there are some things I need to do

to the Novum," he thought. Zander knew that if one of the colonies would ever gain control of the

Novum, they'd have the capability to easily control each of the other colonies. That would have to be

prevented, even if it meant the loss of the Novum herself.

      After a quick hour's work, Zander had the Novum programmed only to open the bays after a

certain code had been transmitted to the approach control system. Any unauthorized attempt to enter

would trigger an automatic alarm, and, if they continued, the invading craft would be hurtled back into

the planet's atmosphere.

      Convinced that all appropriate measures had been taken, Zander began to look forward to the

trip. After all, it had been quite some time since he had visited Yucatari and then his favorite colony,

Peruvial.

      Zander checked and rechecked the safeguards and left in shuttle number 1. Quickly breaking

through the various layers of atmosphere, he zipped over the broad jungle area east of Peruvial. He

recalled the first time he had made the same trip. It was the original scouting mission with Captain

Svann. It appeared that some of the native villages were still there, but he didn't stop to see if he got

the same reactions as before.

      Soon he could see the structures at the original Peruvial site. Somehow, they had erected

extremely large structures "Probably with the help of the magnetron on-board the transport vessels," he

thought.

      "This place is really different. The last time he saw the colony at Peruvial, the colonists were

living in shacks," Zander thought to himself. He passed over the larger transport which was docked at


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an area which seemed to be large blocks of granite that had been laid very tightly together. It was

obvious it hadn't been flown for quite some time.

      By the time he set his craft down and turned off the electrical systems, he had several people

around his craft. He looked for the only face he could remember, but he could not identify Ben Delos

in the group.

      The group remained silent and gazed at Zander and the small shuttle. He was about to say

something when a blur came up from his right side.

      "Good morning Sir," announced a teenaged, dark-skinned man with obvious Alturian features.

"We haven't seen this vessel before. Which colony are you from?" he asked in wonderment.

      "I'm from the Novum and have stopped by just to say hello to Ben Delos. Is he around?" asked

Zander.

      The young man had a puzzled look on his face, "Oh, sorry, Sir, Mister Delos was killed some

time ago. His wife is still living in the mountain city, though. You want me to take you there?"

      "Yes, I would enjoy seeing her again. Is the...uh, mountain city very far from here? By the way,

what do they call you, my young friend?" he asked his inquisitive and energetic friend.

      "Everybody calls me Gano, Sir," the young lad replied. "The mountain city is not far at all, we

should be there plenty before dark time comes."

      "Gano, let's take my ship. It will save us a lot of time. Have you ever flown in one of these

vessels?" he asked.

      "Oh yes, Sir, but not for a very long time. This bird here, we have no one that is not afraid to try

and fly it. I would fly it but the elders say no. I guess that they are afraid that I will break it. Maybe

they are right, but it would be much fun." said the young Gano.

      "Gano, before we depart, how about introducing me to these people. I recognize them as

Alturians but I can't quite place the faces to names anymore," asked Zander.


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      "Ok," Gano replied, as he grabbed the stranger's hand and pulled him toward the group.

      As they moved closer to the cluster of people, the group split and ran into the jungle. "Come

back! Come back! This man will not hurt you," Gano cried out.

      None of the colonists came back or even acknowledged the youngster's voice.

      "Why did they run away, Gano?" asked Zander.

      "I don't know Sir. Maybe they thought that you were sent by Mister Digani."

      "Mister Digani? Do you mean Meesho Digani from the colony of Indus?" Zander queried his

young friend.

      "Maybe. I don't know for sure though. Mister Digani came last year and had big argument with

the Mountain People. He killed three… maybe four before he left in his flying machine."

      Zander pondered the colonist's fear and their quick departure for a few seconds. "Well Gano, it

doesn't look like meeting them was such a good idea. Let's go on up to the mountain city and see Miss

Mari. Here, climb the ladder and we'll be off. We can talk as we fly to the temple city," continued

Zander.

      The two climbed up into the small craft and were soon airborne, and Gano had his eyes glued to

monitor. "Which way do we go, my young friend," asked Zander.

      Gano pointed to the monitor on the right side and said, "Go that way, Sir. It's located on the

other side of that steep mountain on this picture."

      Zander eased the craft in that direction and the monitors pointed out mountainous terrain

covered with a thick jungle foliage. "This looks like it would be a very difficult walk to the temple

city, Gano."

      "Oh no, Sir. There are no big rivers, and the path is very wide," Gano replied.

      Realizing that his new found friend could be a wealth of information, Zander slowed the craft to

a crawl so he could find out what happened to the pilots that were assigned to Peruvial.


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       "Gano, what happened to the men that used to fly the other craft?"

       "I do not know for sure, but I think that they got sick. You may have to ask Miss Mari. I'm

sure she will know."

       Zander continued the conversation and found out how they used the other transport to move

large rocks that had been cut from granite walls. He also learned about a confrontation with some of

the local natives several years ago where many of the original colonists had been killed. Apparently,

the last visitors from another colony was over two years ago when Yucatari's leaders came down to

pay their respects to Ben Delos. There was something about Meesho Digani and this bothered Zander

more than anything else... he had to find out why the colonists were afraid of him!

       "A lot has happened here," thought Zander as he moved around the large, thickly forested

mountain and up to the structure on top. It was extremely large and looked like a huge fortress.

       Gano, seeing the mountain or temple city as it had become to be called, said, "Sir, you can land

her just on the other side of the large wall. There is a flat area there, and it is made of stone."

       Zander located the landing site and gently set the craft down. Again, the craft was surrounded

by many people, most looking like a mixture of natives and Alturians. As the door opened and the

ladder was extended, Gano quickly made his way down.

       "The Novum has come," he shouted to the crowd that seemed to be growing larger every

minute. As Zander climbed down, he noticed that every eye was trained upon him. Gano grabbed his

hand and led him to one of the older men. "Mister Ramon, this is a pilot from the Novum. He's very

nice," Gano said not able to contain his excitement.

       "Zander Vood, isn't it?" asked the older man.

       "Yes it is. And who are you?" asked Zander.

       "It's understandable that you shouldn't remember me. It has been many years, but I was in one

canister over from you... The name is Ramon Orton," replied the man.


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       "Ramon, so many years have passed, but I must say that I remember seeing your name on your

canister at least a thousand times. You're looking fit and trim."

       "Well, you're not looking too bad yourself.         Everyone is eyeing your pale skin though,"

continued Ramon.

       "Ramon, young Gano told me about Ben Delos and that I could speak with Ben's wife, Mari.

Would you tell me where I could find her?" he asked.

       Gano, standing to the side, grabbed Zander's hand and said, "Sir, I will take you there. Come,

let's go."

       As Gano led him away, Zander turned back toward Ramon and said, "Ramon, let's continue this

conversation later. I'll be back to the craft in a couple of hours."

       "Ok, that will be fine. There's a lot I want to talk to you about," replied Ramon as Gano quickly

led his friend around a large wall.

       They climbed stairway after stairway until they came up to an entrance way that seemed to lead

into a wall. "Sir, Miss Delos lives here. She has servants, and they will lead you to her. Do you wish

for me to come too?" Gano asked.

       "Sure Gano. You can come too," said Zander.

       One of the servants, possibly native in origin, was near the area where they landed and observed

the scene. She was behind Zander and Gano as they wound their way up to Mari Delos's. Zander

didn't know she had followed until she spoke. "Sir, I will take you to Miss Delos. Though, I will

caution you, she has not been feeling well lately and will likely chide you for the least thing. Here,

follow me."

       Zander fell in stride beside the young and extremely striking woman. He could tell from her

appearance that she was also part native and Alturian. She had the high cheek bones of a native but

the skin tone of an Alturian. Like the other inhabitants, she was bare-chested, and the sight of her


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beautifully shaped breasts created a strange feeling inside Zander's head.

       His body had aged roughly fifty years, but was still a virgin. In fact, he had never even had a

close relationship with a female. Strange thoughts crept into his head, most of which seemed to deal

with the unknown.

       She was the first to speak, "My name is Lona. My father was one of the original colonists. His

mate died during the second year and he took a wife from the neighboring native settlements. When

he was killed during a trip in the jungle, my mother went back to her people. She did not think that her

people would accept me as one of their own, and so she left me in the mountain city. It was then that

Miss Delos took me into her house. I heard Ramon call you Zander Vood and you too, are an original

colonist. That must be exciting."

       "Lona...I'm not really a colonist. I don't know how much you know about the colonization plan

but I was one of the few that was selected to remain on board our mother ship. I've spent most of my

life aboard a large craft that is orbiting around this planet," said Zander.

       He was really having a hard time keeping his eyes off Lona's beautiful body, especially her

breasts. "Why am I so fascinated by her breasts?" he thought as he and Lona walked on.

       Fortunately, they soon arrived at a large sitting room where an older lady was lying on a bed.

"Miss Delos, I have brought a visitor. He is from the Novum and his name is Zander Vood. Do you

feel able to talk with him?" asked Lona.

       With a surprising amount of energy, Mari Delos rose from her bed, and, with piercing eyes,

looked directly at Zander. "It's about time you came down...Bud Svann couldn't come himself, huh?

He had to send someone else to check on us, huh?"

       "Uh, Mari, Captain Svann has passed on. He has left the Novum in my hands and I'm now the

last one aboard. I'm sorry to hear about your husband. He was an excellent man and a great leader."

       Continuing, he added, "From what I can gather on my perch up above all of this, all of the


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colonies are growing and doing quite well. But, each is totally different from the others. You have a

unique beginning here I must say."

       For the next hour or so, Mari told him about the building of several settlements, about the

conflicts with the natives and how progress had been slowed when they lost their pilots to sickness or

other catastrophes.

       Zander told her all he could remember about the other colonies, especially Europa. She seemed

eager to hear about old friends.

       Mari also passed on some information about Pacifica that came as a complete surprise to

Zander. Mari said that Ben would periodically fly over Pacifica to see how they were progressing. He

knew that they had elected a non-interference role, and he honored that by never landing there. He had

reported that colonists had spread to many of the surrounding islands and everything seemed to be

going well.

       "On one of his passes over the colony," she said, "he found something that shocked him. Ben

said that a volcano on the Island of Pacifica had erupted, completely wiping out the original colony.

He checked the other islands, and they had a smattering of people still left. Somehow they must have

been already on the other islands or had enough warning to leave Pacifica before the volcano erupted.

He hoped that they would be able to continue."

       Continuing, she added, "You know, Ben really wanted to go there and help those people, but,

because of what Captain Svann had passed on, he somehow kept himself from ever stepping foot

there. Personally, I think that we should have done something for them since they were and still are

our brothers and sisters."

       "Mari, I planned to go by Yucatari when I leave here, but I think I'll also visit the Pacifica site.

If there's a need to help them, I'll get back with you, and we'll do something for them. If not, I'll let

them go on as planned," said Zander.


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       After an hour or so of swapping other tales, Zander stood and said that he had promised to talk

with Ramon, but he accepted her offer to eat with her and spend the night in her house. She called for

Lona to show him the way and the two of them walked down to the landing site.

       Zander's conversation with Ramon was similar to that with Mari. Ramon wanted another pilot

and seemed to be angered when Zander told him that there were none available. Ramon couldn't

understand why Zander didn't want to stay at Peruvial and fly their craft. It was obvious that Zander's

response couldn't satisfy Ramon so he skirted the issue whenever it came up.

       Ramon also reported that a few years ago, Meesho Digani came and tried to take the Peruvial

shuttle. Somehow, he knew that they had lost their pilots and the shuttle was not being used. As they

were trying to gain access to its interior, several of the Peruvial colonists made an attempt to stop

them. Meesho or one of his people ended up killing a Peruvial colonist. They were not able to get

inside our shelter and eventually left.

       After talking for an hour or so, Lona came up and said, "Zander, it is time to return to Miss

Delos. She likes to eat at this time each day."

       Though Zander was convinced that the conversation with Ramon was by no means complete, he

excused himself. "Ramon, please forgive me, but I promised Miss Delos that I'd eat with her this

evening."

       Ramon, hrrummfed, "Sure. I understand. Our problems or concerns are not important enough."

       "That's not true," Zander answered. "I don't know what I can do for you or your colony. But I

promise that I will do something."

       Zander and Lona began the trip back to Mari's house. Zander noticed Gano standing by the wall

and stopped. "Lona, could my young friend here, have dinner with us?"

       "Miss Delos won't mind," Lona replied as she turned toward the young lad. "Gano, come on up

with us and fill your stomach." She looked up at Zander and whispered, "He eats with us all the time."


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       Dinner was not an elaborate procedure, but the food was good and there was plenty of it.

Zander was seated on the floor between Mari and Lona. Gano was opposite Zander and it amazed him

that such a young, small boy could put such a large amount of food away.

       Following dinner, Mari showed Zander his sleeping quarters which consisted of a pad that was

stuffed with wool from one of the native animals. A skin from one of the same animals was there to

cover him when he slept. The skin was soft and pliable and the warm fur would later be appreciated

since the temperature was dropping rather quickly. Zaner thought it should provide a comfortable

sleeping arrangement.

   Mari bid her goodnight to Zander and Gano then returned to her own bedroom. Zander tolked with

Gano for a few minutes about life in the Mountain City before the young man. Since there was

nothing else to do, Zander laid down and was soon asleep.

       The presence of another person in the room caused his hair to stand on end. Opening his eyes,

Zander could barely make out a silhouette of a woman though the dim light coming through the

doorway. He followed her movements as she lowered herself to the floor and eased herself over to the

pad, joining him under the skin. Not knowing what was happening, Zander's first sense was her hand

gently touching the hair on his chest.

       He started to say something but before he could get the words out, her finger touched his lips,

silently telling him to keep quiet.

       Now, her lips touched his shoulders and worked their way up to his neck while the soft touch of

her fingers worked their way down, past his navel, to his manhood which was already expanded to its

maximum limits.

       Soon, she moved her body on top of his, and his arms wrapped themselves around her, and he

held her tight. Feeling her breasts pressed against his chest was unlike anything he had ever imagined!

For seemingly eons, he had imagined what this feeling would be like and he was now actually


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experiencing it!

       As she gave him a complete body massage, her hand guided his anxious member to its proper

place between her legs.

       Instincts controlled him as he automatically thrust his hips up. Up into the depths of her very

soul. She softly moaned with pleasure as she met his every thrust with an equal one of his own. The

pressure kept building until he exploded deep inside her and every sense organ in his body tingled.

       She collapsed on him, and their mass was one as the warm, glowing feelings passed over them.

Much too quickly, she rose from over him and left the room as quietly as she entered.

       Zander lay there quietly for a few moments, and then he fell into a relaxing sleep, unlike any he

had ever experienced.

       Zander's next conscious thought was Gano standing over him and saying, "Sir... Sir... It's

morning. Are you ready to get up? At first, Zander was not sure of his surroundings, then the events

of yesterday and last night flashed through his brain.

       "Oh.. Good Morning, Gano. You're here early aren't you?" "Yes, Sir. I told you I would come

early. Shall we go?"

       "Sure, replied Zander as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Give me a minute to wake up, and

I'll meet you outside."

       Gano left the room and Zander slowly arose and put on his robe. This was the first time he had

slept on such a pad, and his back felt stiff. As he left the room, Lona came out of another room and

her eyes met his.

       "Good morning, Lona," he said.

       "Oh, good morning. I trust you had an enjoyable night's sleep." Zander looked at her with a

smile on his face and said, "unlike any I've ever had before."

       He then bid his good bye to Mari and Lona escorted him to the door. "Zander, are you coming


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back to Peruvial?" she asked.

      He reached toward her and held her gently by each shoulder, "Lona, I'll certainly be back again.

Soon, too!." He again felt the passion in his groin.

      With that, he and Gano made their way to his transport shuttle. He was glad that he was

departing before the other colonists had awaken. He didn't feel like nor have the time to continue the

discussion with Ramon. Quickly, Zander walked around the craft to ensure that some curious person

hadn't removed or damaged something. With everything looking good, he bid his goodbye to Gano,

climbed aboard and departed to the west.

      Crossing the high mountain range, he soon was over an ocean and heading toward the colony of

Pacifica. His scanners picked up the group of islands directly ahead and he made a slow pass over the

original colony site. The volcano was still active and spewing out smoke that extended high in the

atmosphere. He made a slow pass around the original island but could not find any part that was

spared the destruction.

      The other islands did not seem to have any active volcanoes on them although they were all

from volcano origins. Selecting one, Zander set the craft down and lowered the ladder.

      As he stepped on dry ground, several of the island's young inhabitants were gathered in the

surrounding palm trees. A few of them came up to the edge of the clearing and eyed him in a curious

manner. It was evident that all of them were born on the planet as none were old enough to have been

original colonists. He quickly surveyed the group and could see that they seemed to be healthy and

evidently not suffering from a lack of support from the Novum.

      One of the more courageous of the group slowly ventured forward, as if to challenge the

newcomer.

      Zander held out his hand and said, "Hello. My name is Zander."

      "Maaalo! Maaalo!" the young, tanned islander yelled.


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       "Maaalo... What's Maaalo?" Zander said to himself.

       "Several of the other males in the group also ventured forth about this time and they began

chanting, "Maaalo... Maaalo."

       He knew their intentions were not going to be peaceful when he observed one pick up a stone.

Moving very slow and steady, Zander backed away from the group, towards the shuttle. He was at the

base of the stairs when the stone was hurtled through the air.

       "Clang!" went the stone as it bounced off the upper surface of the shuttle, inches away from

Zander's head.

       Quickly climbing the ladder, Zander had the shuttle closed and initiated start up procedures.

       The young natives began backing up as the sound of the mags began turning grew louder and

louder.

       As the shuttle's system lights turned green, Zander lifted off the ground and hovered

motionlessly about 100 meters above the group of young, frightened colonists. Making a slow pass

around the smaller, but safer island, the monitors revealed a series of shelters and areas where food

crops were grown. He felt confident in the continued existence of Pacifica and, just as quickly as he

arrived, departed the area. Of all the colonies, he felt that the Elders would be most proud of how the

one of the island of Pacifica turned out.

       The young descendants on the ground stood quietly and watched him leave. They heard of

these things from their elders but never had they seen one.

       Suddenly, the apparent leader of the group, stood defiantly and raised his fists in the air and

shouted, "Maaalo!"

       Coming up on the colony of Yucatari, Zander made a couple of passes around the original site

wanting to get a good picture from the air. He was surprised that their buildings closely resembled

those in Peruvial. Mostly composed of heavy rock, it was obvious that they also used their transporter


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to move them in place.

         "Something was oddly strange about Yucatari," he thought as he made his second pass around

the colony.

         "Where are the people?" he said to himself as he skirted the village and the farm land.

         Finding a clearing near the center of two large structures, he set his vessel down and left the

systems on standby.

         Lowering the ladder and climbing down, he expected to see a lot of activity on the ground. But

there were only a couple of people walking up toward the craft. He recognized one of the men as Kos

Javel.

         "Kos... Kos Javel, how are you doing?" Zander asked as soon as the doctor came near.

         Kos reached out a hand to greet the visitor saying, "Zander Vood, glad you're finally here. I

guess your monitors picked up the activity and Captain Svann had you come down to investigate,

huh?"

         Zander had a perplexed look on his face. "Investigate... investigate what? The monitors on the

Novum hadn't picked up anything unusual. What's happened?" he asked.

         Kos could tell from the perplexed look on his face that Zander didn't know anything about what

had happened. "Zander, as you may or may not know, we began our development working closely

with our brothers to the south. After Ben's death we sort of lost touch with them and began working

on our own."

         "We even started a new colony in the warm waters about a thousand kilometers to the east. It

was a beautiful island, full of fruit, and the waters around it were bountiful. We called this paradise

Alturia after our home," Kos related.

         Pausing for a few seconds," Kos continued, "Zander, let's go down to my hut, and I'll fill you

end on what has happened... I'm surprised that you haven't heard."


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       "All right. Give me a second while I shut her down," Zander said as he climbed back aboard his

shuttle. Turning each system off, his mind was conceiving what could have happened here in the last

few years.

       Putting the shuttle on standby, Zander climbed back down and said, "OK, Kos, she's secure.

Why don't you begin filling me in as we walk."

       As the two of them walked through passages with ornate carvings on the walls, Zander passed

on the news about Captain Svann. When he finished, Kos recalled the events from the past few years.

       "Indus discovered what we were doing and agreed to help...As the matter-of-fact, they seemed

intent on helping. They sent a portable magnetron that enabled us to free our transporter for other uses,

and things seemed to be going very well. The island that we selected was coming along very nicely

until the trouble began."

       Interrupting, Zander said in an excited tone, "What trouble?"

       "Relax my friend, I'll cover all the details for you. It seems that Meesho Digani brought a

couple of the natives from his area and they were being treated like slaves... That's exactly what they

were; they were slaves. Well, our philosophy was to work closely with the natives and treat them as

equals so we objected to the way that Digani and his people were treating their people."

       Continuing, Kos said, "Work still progressed, but tensions grew higher and higher. They finally

broke when one of our natives had a conflict with a colonist from Indus. The native was killed in cold

blood, and Digani refused to allow us to bring justice upon his colonist. It was obvious that we

wouldn't be able to continue to work with them and requested that they leave Alturia."

       "At first they seemed to acknowledge our request and were preparing to leave when Digani

demanded that they had a sovereign right to the island too, and, if anyone was to leave, it should be

us."

       "We tried to negotiate our way through this problem but to no avail. Soon after our feeble


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attempt at talking out this problem, small fights erupted with both sides using their tools as weapons.

Unfortunately, many people lost their lives.

      The two men had arrived at Kos' quarters, and Juni met them at the door. She looked at Zander

for a considerable length of time before speaking, "Zander Vood, isn't it? Are you also one of Digani's

horde?"

      Kos could see the anger and hurt in his wife's eye as he broke in, "Juni, Zander is not with

Indus. He has just come down from the Novum and knows nothing about what has happened. I was

just telling him about the events on Alturia."

      Offering a seat to Zander and sitting himself down, Kos continued. "We had almost five times

the number of people that Digani had so we eventually pushed them off the island. They departed in

their transporter and we thought that the incident was over and would soon be forgotten."

      "I had come back to Yucatari for some supplies and when we went back to Alturia, it was gone.

There wasn't a trace of our colony...no buildings... not even a island anymore. We had only been

gone a couple of days, but there wasn't anything left. I think that Indus somehow sabotaged the

magnetron and created a huge explosion that erased Alturia off the planet."

      "Zander, Can you use your sensors aboard your craft or the Novum to see if there is any residual

magnetic activity in that area?" Kos asked. "I'd also like to find out what exactly happened to the

beautiful island we were building."

      "When I go back to the Novum, I'll give that area a thorough check. I don't have the capability to

make a magnetic check from the shuttle. Better yet, why don't you and I fly over the area where the

island was and you can show me exactly where it was located," Zander said.

      Kos agreed. Soon, the two of them were aboard the shuttle, traveling to the spot that would

have been Alturia. As they were in transit, Kos continued to relate the series of events.

      "We lost over fifty men and women, all colonists or descendants who were working on Alturia.


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That left us with only 13 males of pure Alturian blood. We will come out of it, but it will take many

years to get back to where we were... especially since we do not have a transporter to help us move

from place to place."

      Zander interrupted him at this point, "What do you mean, you don't have a transporter

anymore?"

      Kos answered, "Yes, we lost the transport about a year after the incident at Alturia. It seemed

that whenever we used it, a vessel from Indus or Syrias would always be monitoring our movements.

We could not rid ourselves of them."

      "Well one day, the transporter did not return," Kos continued.          "Several days later the

transporter from Indus stopped, and the pilot said that he was monitoring our vessel a couple of days

before and that it was trying to lose them. Indus followed closely as our ship was moving across the

ocean low and fast. The pilot said that somehow it clipped the surface of the water and began tossing

end over end. The next thing he says he saw was a huge explosion, and pieces of the transporter were

scattered over several square kilometers."

      "Kos, do you believe this pilot?" asked Zander.

      "Yes, I believe him. I also believed him when the pilot said Digani did not know that he

stopped by Yucatari to inform us what happened. After all, he had nothing to gain by telling us,"

replied Kos.

      They were now over the area making a slow turn around the area that used to be the island.

From this altitude of 5 kilometers, the color of the water indicated shallow water in an area that

roughly resembled the shape of the island.

      "That could be the island," said Kos as he viewed the various monitors. "Zander, can you take

us down to just over the water, and let's see if we can get a better view?"

      "Sure, hang on and we'll go right down to the surface," said Zander as he dropped his craft down


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to the blue-green water. When the door opened and the ladder was lowered, it extended into the clear

water. From their vantage point, rectangular shapes could be made out that indicated some sort of

structure about five meters beneath the surface of the water.

       Kos was convinced that the signs that they could see from above the water's surface was Alturia,

but declined to dive to verify his findings. There was nothing they could do about it anyway.

       The two men spent the next hour or so flying around the island as Kos pointed out several

landmarks that could be seen in the clear blue-green water. Zander descended and flew underwater for

a good portion, and the monitors revealed what would have been a very beautiful city. One monitor

revealed a partially collapsed building and Kos quickly got excited.

       "That dark structure there," Kos said as he pointed to a roughly rectangular foundation, "that

was to be a school where Juni and I were going to teach the youngsters about their history."

       Zander looked at the monitors and sensed the hurt in his friend's voice. "I'm very sorry for you,

Kos. Deep inside, I'm feeling very guilty that I failed to put a stop to Captain Svann's allowing certain

colonies to use the technology of the Novum and her shuttles. It appears that they were abused... in the

interest of greed and a lust for power."

       Not wanting to spend another night away from the Novum, Zander continued, "Kos, I need to

get back to the Novum soon. If you're ready, let's go back to Yucatari."

       As they were flying back to Kos' home, he asked Zander, "What do you think we should do

about this?"

       "Kos," Zander replied, "I don't really know what we can do. I don't think you have anything to

gain by taking Indus on. Why don't you leave everything to me, and I'll come up with something."

       After dropping off his passenger, Zander headed back toward the Novum. Picking up the

tractor beam as he left the atmosphere, Zander entered the code, sat back and let the computer bring

him in.


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      Soon, he was inside the docking bay and he remained in his shuttle a few extra minutes

pondering the series of events that had occurred on the planet below.




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                                                   Chapter Nine



       After landing and exiting the shuttle, Zander made his way to the bridge and set down at the

main terminal. He wished that his friend Dan was still alive because he needed to get into the

computer system and bring up some old scanning data files. Zander knew how to do it but this was

right in Dan's area of expertise. Besides, it would be good just having another human on board to talk

to.

       "Dan's not around anymore and I might as well get on with it," he thought as he began to make

his key entries. He queried the computer to list all recorded transporter flights on the planet during the

last ten years trying to isolate the one flight where Yucatari's transporter went down. A few minutes of

computer searching revealed an extremely long list of flights, of which Zander isolated those involving

Yucatari's craft.

       Soon, he found the last flight of Shuttle 4 and there was no termination of the flight. It departed


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Yucatari at 091325 local time and was airborne for a little over fifteen minutes. It was flying on a

heading of 087 degrees when its automatic systems ceased reporting. There was no indication of a

crash, but with the reporting system it had on board, there was nothing to report a crash should it occur

instaneously. The pilot would have had to report a problem and then additional emergency reporting

would take place.

       Zander now isolated the flights by the Indus vessel and found that it was flying in the same area

when the crash occurred.

       "Kos said that Indus' pilot said that he was monitoring Yucatari's flight and that they crashed

trying to get away," Zander thought.

       "Funny... Indus' heading at the time when the Yucatari shuttle's reporting stopped was 285.

Almost straight on," he said, talking to himself. Something in his mind was telling him that there was

something else to this story... "but what could it be? Could they have discovered how to somehow arm

their shuttle?"

       Further checking the events on that particular day, Zander isolated an unusually heavy magnetic

reading in the area of the crash. "The level of magnetic disturbance was much higher than normally

recorded from a routine flight," he thought. "Could it be a result of the crash?"

       Isolating exact times of the disturbance and then the final report from #4, he found the final

report came in .7 seconds after the initial magnetic burst.

       It hit him like a drum. "Indus turned on his anti-mag drivers directly the other shuttle!" He

knew that the sudden magnetic push would have thrown the transporter into a heavy dive. With

enough altitude and time the pilot may be able to recover but, if he was traveling fairly fast and less

than 3000 meters in altitude, he would impact before he nor the automatic systems aboard the vessel

had the opportunity to recover.

       Zander knew that something had to be done and whatever it was, the result would affect the


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entire mission. Before he did anything that could destroy the colonization mission, he would need to

weigh all possible outcomes. He fed as much information into the main computer as possible and

instructed the output to be played into a sleep canister.

       He then stopped by the lounge and grabbed a bite to eat before retiring for the night. Zander

didn't realize how tired he was as his mind thought of Lona and the events of his only night on the

planet. Soon, he was sound asleep and the output began.

       "Alarms ... What's causing the alarms to go off?" he thought. At first, Zander thought he was

dreaming but the reality of the shrill alarm quickly brought him to a conscious level.

       Rising fast, he jumped out of his canister and made his way to the bridge as the terminal flashed

the warning.

       "FOREIGN OBJECT APPROACHING... CONTACT IN 3.45 MINUTES."

       The automatic system would destroy the object at 1 minute prior to contact so Zander had to

work fast and identify it if he could.

       He brought the object up on a monitor and was surprised to see that it was a transport vessel

from one of the colonies. "What is it doing here," he thought as he turned off the automatic systems

aboard the Novum. "And why isn't it using the tractor beam?"

       Opening up all frequencies, Zander issued a warning, "Transport vessel approaching Novum,

Acknowledge. You are not allowed to return to the Novum for any reason. Repeat... you are not

allowed to board the Novum. Turn about or the automatic systems will destroy your vessel. You have

two minutes."

       No response...

       Again he issued the warning and getting no response. After several warnings, Zander decided

to give the final one, "Transport vessel approaching Novum.              This is your final warning.

Acknowledge or be destroyed in ten seconds." There was again no response but the transport vessel


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quickly slowed to a stop.

       Zander verified that his radio signals were being transmitted and, as he visually monitored the

vessel, he said, "Transport vessel. This is Commander Vood of the Novum. You are in violation of

mission plan. What is your purpose?"

       He waited for a response but there was nothing. It was almost as if the vessel was dead in

space. Several other transmissions received the same lack of response.

       "I need to find out their intentions," Zander thought. "It just may work," thinking of a ploy to

discover what they planned to do.

       Soon a small transport shuttle left the Novum and made its way very slowly to the larger vessel.

The larger craft was about 10 times the size of the shuttle and, as the smaller brother circled it, the size

difference revealed on the monitors was quite obvious.

       With a sudden jolt, the smaller shuttle was jerked into a tractor beam from the larger vessel.

The power differential of the two craft made it impossible for the smaller of the two to break away and

it was, in effect, the larger one's prisoner... much like an octopus grabbing and holding prey in its

tentacles.

       Zander switched on his microphone and transmitted a call, "Transport Vessel. You have locked

me in your tractor beam. What are your intentions?"

       Unlike before, the radio silence was broken. "Zander, relax. This is Meesho Digani and I'd like

you to open the Novum for us."

       "Meesho! Stop what you are doing. You are in direct violation of the mission directives,"

Zander replied in his microphone.

       "Zander... Zander. We are expanding our colonies in the best interest of Alturians all over this

planet. It is not in our interest to harm any of our brothers," Meesho said over the radio. Continuing,

he added, "We are severely hampered with some minor problems with refining our magnetrons and


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need the support of the Novum. Please open the Novum to us and join in our efforts to make a new

Altus. You are welcome to join us as our brother."

       "Meesho, I've sworn to uphold the Elder's wishes and will not offer nor allow you or anyone

else to gain entrance to her. Please don't try to board her on your own, there are many safeguards that

will destroy you before you could gain entry.        If you do make it on board, the Novum will

automatically enter into a self-destruct program. Please heed this warning and release me now,"

Zander replied.

       "We thought that you would not allow us to get inside. In that case, you will accompany us

down to the planet's surface and we'll force your shuttle open. Doctor Girod has developed a way to

make you tell us what you know. Zander, it will be much easier on everyone if you just open the

vessel up now. What do you say?" Meesho asked.

       Zander pondered what Meesho said and elected not to give a reply. Meesho waited a short time

for a response but none came. Finally, Jamie Girod spoke into his microphone in a stern voice,

"Zander, you're being very foolish. You leave us with no choice but to take you down to Indus for a

short visit."

       Zander thought he recognized the voice as that of Doctor Girod but there was no need to say

anything else at this point.

       The larger vessel had the shuttle in its invisible grasp as it turned away from the Novum and

made its way back toward the planet below.

       After the two vessels departed the area, Zander knew exactly what had to be done. A gut

feeling told him something like this would happen but he thought that somehow, the larger vessel

would destroy the smaller trying to gain access to the Novum itself.

       Anyway, he had a lot to do and very little time to do it. The scanner reported that the transport

still had the shuttle in tow and will soon be nearing the Indus colony. Hopefully, they wouldn't find


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out that Zander was still on board the Novum... Until it was too late.

       Zander sat at the main terminal and began imputing instructions into the Novum's main

computer. At first he couldn't feel the change but soon, he could tell that the monstrous vessel had

began to slow. It was not designed to travel very long in a sub-orbital environment so every move and

turn had to be gradual and speed had to be controlled very carefully.

       On the bridge, Zander could feel the gradual buffeting caused by the ship moving through the

upper layers of the atmosphere. Temperature gauges on the outside of the Novum registered a high

increase in the skin surface. The speed slowed and she was over the South Pole when the monitors

started picking up images on the surface. Some of the images triggered synapses of the time Zander

and Captain Svann visited the frozen landscape. "That was a great trip," he thought to himself as he

left Antarctica's land mass behind.

       Now deep into the atmosphere, the Novum's speed slowed and the skin temperature started to

decrease. Zander kept her ten kilometers above the surface and headed north. The Novum maintained

altitude as it passed over the last of the ice fields and ahead lay open ocean with an occasional ice berg

drifting lazily in the current.

       As she approached the target area, the Novum began a slow descent, eventually stopping at an

altitude of five hundred meters above the water. Soon, she came to a dead stop over a deep, dark blue

stretch of water. Slowly, ever so slowly, Zander reduced the altitude. When she first touched the cold

water, Zander could almost feel the huge vessel shudder. Much like a child dipping her toe into the

water of a cool pool then decide not to go swimming.

       Zander, eased her on down, eventually covering her round top with foaming water. "Had her

hiding gone unnoticed?" he wondered as she began to descend into the depths. If somehow the other

colonists had discovered the location of the Novum, Zander was prepared to destroy her. Thereby,

preventing anyone ever using her power to defeat other Alturians in battle.


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      Slowly, the giant mother ship descended into the cold dark depths of the ocean. With each foot,

the pressure of the water caused her to moan and crack. It was as if she was complaining about being

out of her element. Accustomed to travel at light speed in the frictionless vacuum of space, she was

now forced to a couple of hundred feet a minute.

      A scan of the undersea terrain found a fairly flat area that would be suitable for the Novum's

final resting spot. Zander eased her down and, after reaching a point about twenty meters above the

ocean bottom, he initiated an anchoring process that would hold her steady in the current.

      Eventually, all movement ceased and the Novum was alive and well in her new home, almost

three kilometers beneath the surface. All systems reported green with the exceptions of the external

robots. They were not designed for operation under water and each one broadcast an alarm to the main

computer as they were submerged. They were primarily designed to repair damage from meteorite

damage and it was doubtful if the Novum would ever again come into contact with anything from

another world!

      Ensuring all systems were in the green and the computer had complete control over the Novum,

Zander made arrangements to depart. There were certain things that had to be done and shuttle #1 had

to be readied.

      Activating the weapon systems aboard his craft normally required several leaders having to

enter specific codes but an alternate method had been passed to Zander in his first training sleep.

      He entered the codes but was kind of surprised to see the weapon system light go into the green.

Normally, he would have gotten a blue light reading indicating that these systems were inactive.

      Indus now had one of these small craft in its inventory. In time they would surely learn how to

by-pass the safeguards and they would then have the power of laser weapons to assist them. Zander's

mission at this point was to prevent this from ever happening... no matter what the cost.

      Inside the small shuttle, Zander felt quite comfortable. After all, he had spent many hours in her


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in the last few weeks. Recording green on all systems, including the seldom used weapon system,

Zander slowly eased her over the opening to the shaft.

       Pressure increased as the doors opened and the water rose in the shaft, stopping just below the

level of the bay's floor. Like with the Novum, Zander could feel his small craft shudder when she first

touched and then descended into the cold water.

       As he dropped down the shaft and into open water, he wondered if he would ever see the inside

of the Novum again. Bidding a fond goodbye to his home for many, many years, he quietly slipped

away and up to the ocean's surface.

       The shuttle operated underwater the same as it did in space or in the planet's atmosphere. The

only difference was the speed limitations and, though it could probably travel at great speeds

underneath the ocean's surface, this feature was never tested in this particular craft.

       As he broke through into the atmosphere, the sun had set and the clear, night time sky of the

Southern Hemisphere was pictured in one of the monitors. No longer was he and his shuttle

encumbered with the confines of the water...they were free once more.

       Taking magnetic readings on the exact location of the Novum, Zander kept his craft low and

fast over the water. He wanted to make it to Indus before the sun came up. Passing over the land mass

that came to be called Africa, he could see scattered lights indicating that Syrias had spread her

colonies to the new continent.

       Zander purposely avoided flying directly over Syrias as he wanted to ensure that he avoided all

detection. After clearing the area of the Syrian colony, he turned to the north so that he could come up

on Indus from over the large mountain range. This was the route that contained the least population.

Thus, his chances were much better to avoid detection.

       If he was captured, Zander knew that there would be no stopping the Indus colony from

controlling the entire planet and all her inhabitants.


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        Zander could make out the ragged mountain peaks below him as he passed over their snow

capped tops.      Abruptly, the mountains stopped and dropped several thousand meters to a flat plain.

He could see lights in the distance and slowed his shuttle down and dropped her right above the tree

tops.

        Passing the generating station on his right at about five kilometers, his scanners picked up the

electrical energy that it was putting out, which was a thousand times greater than the last time he

checked it out.

        Zander was now about one to two kilometers north of Indus' landing site and was creeping

along at tree top level looking for a suitable place to set her down. Luckily, he found a clearing just

big enough to set his shuttle down and came to a dead stop above it.

        Tuning the scanners to try and isolate the activity in front of him, he could identify the magnetic

signals of two vessels. "Hopefully, one is the shuttle that had been captured from the Novum," he

thought. He realized that if the shuttle's magnetic field wasn't operating, Digani would have gotten

inside already and that could mean that he had discovered how to by-pass the controls for the weapon

system.

        Taking a magnetic compass, he could read the direction of the strong magnetic disturbance and

quietly made his way there. The jungle undergrowth here was extremely heavy, making walking a

slow and tedious process. "At this rate, it would be day light before I arrive at the site," he thought as

he hacked his way through the vines.

        Just as the first rays of sunshine began to lace the upper branches of the forest with their life

giving energy, Zander could make out the sound of people talking. They appeared to be coming from

directly in front of him about 25 meters. He could now also make out a clearing just ahead.

        Zander dropped to his knees and crawled up to the edge of the clearing and couldn't believe his

eyes. There, in front of him, were the leaders of both Syrias and Indus, trying to obtain entry into the


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shuttle. Meesho Digani had the access plate off and was working on something at the leading edge of

the small craft.

       Zander observed their progress for a few moments, realizing that they were on the right track.

Through that access door, they could trip the emergency switch that would blow the hatch off. There

were several safeguards in place to prevent this from happening, but in time, the group would gain

access to the inside of the craft. Once that happened they would have access to the heart of the system

and it would only be a matter of time before they got everything they needed to get her weapons

system operating.

       He knew what he had to do and it had to be done while both groups were at the same site.

Quietly easing back out of his hiding place, he turned and began to retrace his steps back to his shuttle.

It should be easy he thought but, after walking a few hundred yards realized that he had already

slipped off his trail.

       "I can't get lost at a time like this," he thought. He started to hasten his steps and soon

discovered that he was making circles in the jungle.

       "Why didn't I leave the shuttle system on," he silently asked himself. If he had left the shuttle

on standby he could get a magnetic reading on it and find his way back with the compass.

       Zander knew that his time was limited and he could search for hours and never get any closer to

the shuttle. "What about getting a reading on Indus and back track from that," he thought.

       "It just might work," saying to himself.

       This probably wouldn't put him directly on his landing site but by following the opposite

heading and traveling the same time as he did during the night, he should be close.

       Finally, after an extra hour or so of walking he heard some excited voices talking in a dialect he

couldn't understand. Peering through the thick foliage, he could make out two natives and they were

standing beside the shuttle! The ladder was extended and Zander couldn't remember if he had left it


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lowered.

        One of the natives was starting to climb up inside still talking in a very excited manner. The

other was still on the ground, looking very nervous. They were both armed with spears and Zander

was unarmed. If he rushed them, they could injure or kill him with their weapons and the mission

would be a failure.

        Looking around, he found a small rock and tossed it so that he hit the back side of the shuttle. It

apparently made a loud noise inside the cockpit because the native that was on the ladder, quickly

jumped off and ran to the edge of the clearing.       The other, not wanting to take on the unknown by

himself, quickly followed.

        They were standing by the edge of the clearing and one was motioning in the direction of Indus

and talking fast. With a sudden movement, they were gone, into the jungle. Zander could only

speculate that they were going back to Indus and tell Meesho Digani what they had found. He must act

fast.

        Running to the shuttle, Zander took the rungs of the ladder by two and quickly closed the hatch.

A quick check showed that everything seemed to be normal inside and he started her up. Power came

on quickly and he climbed up out of the jungle and applied power to the drivers.

        Staying just over the tops of the forest until he was confident that he was well outside the visible

range of Indus he climbed up into the upper atmosphere where he could fly much faster.

        Zander turned her toward the west and headed for Peruvial. He wanted to see Lona again but

there was something else he had to do that was more important.

        Climbing into the upper edge of the atmosphere, the shuttle touched the edge of space as it sped

its way west. As he came up on the large land mass, Zander slowed the shuttle and descended and was

soon in the clouds. He picked up the automatic signal from Peruvial's transport vessel and quietly

came up from the east.


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         The sun was almost ready to break the horizon when Zander came upon the colony. He could

barely make out the shuttle which had been silent for years. Fortunately, it was so early in the morning

the site seemed to be deserted. "Just as well," he thought. What he had to do, he could easily do better

alone.

         He landed next to the still silent transporter. "I wonder why Indus hadn't captured it?" he

wondered as he walked around the large ship, checking for any exterior damage that could have been

made. Not finding any dents or other defects that would keep her from flying, Zander lowered her

ramp and climbed up the ramp and walked into her bridge area.

         He set himself down in the pilot's seat and started the activation sequence. With the exception

of minimal battery power, everything appeared to be in good working order. The internal magnets

began turning but would not cycle fast enough to generate the amount of power needed to lift her off.

"There must be something the pilots did to secure it," he thought. Quickly he began trouble shooting

to determine the cause. Zander knew more about the operating systems than anyone and it only took a

couple of minutes to discover and disable the crude governor system the pilots installed to prevent

someone from taking the craft.

         He then powered up the reactor and left her running to charge the electrical storage system.

         He was walking down the ramp as Gano came running up. " Mr. Zander, I saw your vessel

come up and ran over a fast as I could. You are going to fly the big ship, huh?" he asked.

         Zander continued over to the smaller vessel as he said, "Hello there Gano. I just came backto

take this shuttle. Since you are not using her here, I've come to take her away. She has another

mission."

         Zander climbed the ladder and was soon climbing back down with a tool box in his hands.

         "Sir, Lona has been talking about you all the time. She says that you will probably come to stay

with us here and be our pilot. Is she right?"


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      "No, Gano," Zander said. "I would like to do that but there is something else that I must do for

us all. When you see Lona, tell her that I would if I could but I won't be able to come back."

      Young Gano joined him as he climbed the ramp into the larger transport. Zander made his way

to the reactor and began to make some adjustments to the operating system. All the while, Gano was

talking a mile a minute.

      "Sir, I could help you do what ever you need to do. I would like to help you... Can I come

along with you?" he asked.

      Zander stopped what he was doing and looked at his young admirer. "Gano, you are my friend

but what I have to do could be very dangerous. You will be needed here for the future of Peruvial."

      Gano didn't know exactly what his friend meant but silently nodded his understanding.

      Zander finally made all the changes to the reactor system aboard the transporter and tightened

the cover plate down. "Well, that's it Gano. Let's lock her up," he said.

      They both walked down the ramp and Zander reached up and turned the switch that raised the

ramp and locked the hatch. He then moved Gano to the side and hugged his young friend.

      "Gano, I must leave now and I don't think I will return. Remember me to all who follow you.

You are the seed for the future. Take care of Lona and Mari for me, ok?" "Yes sir, I will always look

after them. You can count on me," replied Gano.

      With that, Zander climbed the ladder to his shuttle and applied power. He rose and drifted

directly over the larger of the two vessels. Activating a tractor beam, he locked onto the larger vessel

and the two craft became one. They rose straight up as Gano watched from the safety of a hill a few

hundred meters from the ramp.

      He was actually flying both craft as he quickly departed to the East. "The first step is now

completed," he said to himself as the two vessels flew over the dense jungle.

      Zander and the two vessels were still over a thousand kilometers west of Indus when his


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scanners picked up a vessel that was on an intersecting trajectory.

       "They probably have me on their screen," he thought as he activated the laser system aboard the

shuttle. The craft was flying straight and level and, a sudden change in direction, told him that they

just picked him up on their scanners.

       Zander turned toward them and attempted to lock his tracking beam on their reactor. The pilot

must have known what was happening as he put his transport through hard turns that made tracking

difficult. Having the larger transport attached made Zander's job almost impossible.

       After several minutes of chasing the larger transport and not being any closer, Zander turned

away. "They just may fall for the ploy," he thought as he confirmed the laser activation.

       Soon, his scanner picked up a vessel closing in on him from the rear. They were coming in

from slightly above and Zander knew what the tactic would be. "They're going to try and push me into

the ground with their anti-drivers," he quietly said to himself. Preparing for a hard push from an

invisible force, Zander was still unprepared for its violence. He was being thrown to the surface and

would certainly crash if he didn't escape.

       The logical counter move would be to try and gain altitude straight ahead but Zander directed

his drivers down toward the planet. This sudden change in direction caught the larger transport

completely unaware as the pilot expected Zander to climb and try to break free of the beam.

       Going into a steep dive, Zander was quickly out of their anti-driver beam and completed an

outside loop that left him underneath and slightly behind the larger vessel.

       The forward lasers were locked on their reactor almost immediately. Zander applied steady

pressure on the weapons switch and a orange colored laser beam was locked on Syrias' vessel.

Though the Syrian pilot tried to maneuver his craft and escape the tracking lock, the laser beam

continued to strike the vessel at its critical site.

       It took only a few seconds for the lasers to burn through the outer hull and then into the


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magnetic reactor itself. By the time the reactor shield began to melt from the intense heat of the laser,

the crew had been cooked. As she began to arc toward the ocean below, Zander turned off the lasers

and banked away.

       Aboard the transport, the reactor began to go through an uncontrolled burn. Soon, the action

reached the point of uncontrolled nuclear magnetic fission. The shuttle's monitors picked up the

brilliant flash of the explosion just above the ocean's surface.

       Zander desperately hoped that Indus hadn't been aware of what had just happened. Thankfully,

they were basking under a bright sun or were too occupied with their attempts to gain access to the

small transport.

       As it was, the explosion went unnoticed.

       Zander climbed up into the edge of space and was maintaining a geosynchronous orbit directly

above the Indus colony. Far below, his scanners reported that there were still two vessels on the

ground and both were emitting strong magnetic signals.

       "Good. They're still on the ground and that means they haven't heard or seen the action in the

air," he thought as he checked out the remote capability of the transporter he was carrying.

       After releasing the larger of the two vessels, Zander began moving the transport vessel around

via a remote control. This was the first time this capability had been used and he wasn't exactly sure

how it worked. A few minutes of practicing turns, increasing and decreasing speeds, he felt confident

in the next step he had to do.

       The monitors aboard his shuttle were passing signals from the transporter while his craft, the

small shuttle, remained motionless in the upper reaches of the atmospher. Zander turned the larger

transport toward Indus and watched the monitors as the site grew larger and larger.

       Meesho Digani was working on the emergency switch connections in the access door and was

almost ready to test it when he noticed people pointing toward the sky. Through the hazy clouds he


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could make out a transporter and at first thought it to be the Syrians coming back after destroying the

Novum's shuttle. The natives reported that they discovered Zander's shuttle in the jungle and that it

left the area immediately after discovery. Meesho did not know who was flying the shuttle, but began

to realize that Zander was not really in the shuttle they captured from the Novum. He sent the Syrian

vessel out to search for him and, if they found him, their mission was to force him into the ground.

          "Why are they coming straight down?" he thought. He was still thinking the transporter

belonged to Syrias when the bright light took his vision.

          In less than one thousandth of a second, everything within one kilometer of the site was

vaporized. Other members of the colony were scattered around the area though few would survive the

next few hours. Many of those that did make it through the initial explosion would probably die in the

next few days.

          The fortunate people that were outside ten kilometers from the impact area would have roughly

a fifty percent chance of living another year. Even at that, their lives would be changed forever.

          Zander watched the site grow larger and larger in the Peruvian vessel's monitor before all

transmissions were lost. He knew that as the transporter struck the ground at that high rate of speed, it

would break apart and the reactor material would fuse into a critical mass. Having three magnetic

reactors in the immediate area meant that there would actually be three times that amount of poisonous

debris.

          Switching on the monitors of the shuttle, Zander observed the last of the fireball. As the

mushroom cloud climbed higher and higher in the atmosphere he moved to the side and observed the

destruction on the ground below him. It made him sick to imagine what the people around the

immediate area went through during the last few seconds of their lives. Slowly, he turned his ship

around and left the area, not wanting to see any more of the destruction he caused.

          Zander would have liked to go back to the Novum but he had to undo the damage that had been


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done by Meesho Digani and his counterparts on Syrias as well as Indus. This meant that he would

have to make another trip to Syrias and destroy any of their developments that had to do with nuclear

or magnetic development.

       He didn't look forward to destroying anything else, especially if it meant killing any of the

colonists in the process. But, nevertheless, it had to be done and he was the only one that had the

knowledge and capability to accomplish this gory feat.

       Before heading East toward Syrias, Zander flew north to the power generator and destroyed it.

Originally, a crude generating plant, it now used a magnetron device to provide the magnetic field

necessary to generate a thousand times more electricity. In a matter of seconds, the area was reduced

to mere ruble and the colony of Indus was returned to a basic beginning.

       "Now for Syrias," he said as he turned his shuttle toward the west.

       This was the first time he had closely observed the colony at Syrias as he made a slow fly-by

with all scanners operating. The scanners didn't pick up anything out of the ordinary but there were

some structures that he wanted to check out.

       As Zander set the shuttle down on what appeared to be a dry lake bed, he observed several

individuals coming up to the shuttle.       "Strange clothing," he thought as he tried to ascertain their

intentions. Hopefully, they would be friendly but, if they weren't, he'd have to deal with that issue too.

       "Well... here goes," he said aloud as the hatch opened and the ladder lowered. One of the

individuals that was nearest walked up and leaned underneath the leading edge of the shuttle. "Sir, are

you from Indus?" he asked.

       Zander, judging from the man's features that he had to be one of the original colonists, replied,

"No. I'm from the Novum." He could see that there was a questioning look on the colonist's face and

thought it best if he fabricated a story.

       "I just came from Indus and they are still working on the vessels. I needed to make some checks


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to ensure that everything was still going well and was told to come on by myself to Syrias. The others

may not arrive for several more hours or they may even remain there overnight."

       "Very well, then. Can I be of assistance. I am Oman and I too, am one of the original

colonists." Oman then turned and pointed to the other two men that were standing by the edge of the

shuttle. "This is Jeelom Olish. Jeelom is also one of the original colonists. The other is a local native

that has taken up residence with us," Oman said, trying to be helpful.

       Zander moved away from the ladder and out toward the leading edge where Jeelom and the

other gentlemen stood.

       "Oman, I'm glad to meet you. As I recall your canister number was one hundred and thirty

three, wasn't it?" Zander asked,

       "Close. One hundred and thirty four to be exact. How do you know this, may I ask,"

questioned Oman.

       From the initial conversation, Zander could tell that these people did not know anything about

the transporter capturing one of the shuttles and thought it best to keep that information to himself.

       As he shook Jeelom's hand, Zander said, "And you were in canister three four, weren't you?"

       Jeelom seemed to be impressed with the stranger's memory and said, "that is correct. How can

you know this as there were so many of the canisters aboard the Novum?"

       "You see, I've spent most of my days aboard the Novum and I see the canisters each and every

day. It was just a couple of hours since I last seen the inside of one," he added.

       Jeelom looked at his friend, Oman and remarked, "Oman, that is news to me. I thought we were

told that the Novum had left the planet to return to Altus."

       "Apparently, that is not so Jeelom," replied Oman as he looked to Zander to confirm what he

had said.

       "Gentlemen, you are correct. We had thought about traveling back to Altus but the world that


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our parents knew is now gone and will forever be a wasteland. Captain Svann, our mission's leader,

decided long ago not to attempt the journey back because of the uncertainties."

       "I see," said Oman. "Now, how can we help you here?"

       "I have some questions concerning some of the equipment that your leaders were working on

and they said that I could take a look and there would be someone here to answer any questions I had.

Can we see what they have been working on?" Zander asked.

       "Yes, of course. I believe that Ozlot is there now. He is the only one here that has any

knowledge of the work being done. The others are much more knowledgeable but, as you know, they

are still in Indus," replied Jeelom.

       The local native left the trio and went off on his own as the three began walking toward the

shelters that Zander had seen from the air. As they came up to the first one, they were met by another

colonist.

       Zander was the first to speak, "You must be Ozlot. I am Zander Vood from the Novum."

       "That is correct, I am Ozlot. What is the reason for your visit?" replied Ozlot.

       Oman broke in saying, "Ozzie, Zander was ordered by Captain Svann to see how we were doing

in Syrias. He may be able to help us."

       "Oman, I understand that, but I was left with instructions to not let anyone in the experimental

area," replied Ozlot as he kept a watchful eye on the stranger.

       "Ozlot, I've also been working with Meesho Digani at Indus and they should soon have a laser

capability there. But, I'm sure you know all about that. Anyway, you have your orders and even

though it may mean that we'll lose several days of work, I'll just go back to Indus and help them out,"

Zander said, hoping that Ozlot would take the bait.

       Zander turned toward Oman as said, "Sir, thank you for your help. I'll be sure to mention how

helpful you were to Mr. Digani. He'll certainly appreciate that. I'm not sure what he will say about


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Ozlat's helpful attitude though. Anyway, Ozlat is simply following orders blindly and isn't allowed to

make decisions for himself. Now, I'll guess I'll head on back."

       He hadn't taken more than five steps when Ozlot called out, "Mister Vood, since you are already

here at Syrias, I guess you shouldn't waste the trip. Come, I'll show you what we have." He then turned

toward the other two and added, "Oman, you and Jeelom are not allowed in the area as you know.

Please wait here."

       Oman and Jeelom acknowledged Ozlot's last statement by sitting down as the two began the

short walk toward the first of three buildings.

       The contents of the first building didn't really contain anything that Zander recognized as

terribly sophisticated. There were some tools along with various other supplies but nothing to warrant

their destruction.

       As they approached the second building, Ozlot informed him that this one had a magnetic

reactor that was built from parts salvaged from the crashed Yucatari transport. "I believe that the

reactor will be tested within the next month," Ozlot informed him.

       "Yes, I've heard that you are almost ready to test it. I was concerned more about the possibility

of contaminating the rest of the colony with radiation leakage," Zander lied trying to make his story

believable.

       Ozlot was afraid that he now was passing out some information that would somehow come

back on him and said, "Sir, that is my understanding. Of course, when it is to be tested, we will make

sure that all safety practices will be followed." He now felt uncomfortable that a stranger was

inspecting their area and he didn't know what the results of the inspection would be.

       Zander could sense his uneasiness and responded, "Don't worry Ozlot, I'm not here on a

head-hunting mission. Nothing I will pass on to Captain Svann will hurt the colonies of Syrias or

Indus."


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      Pausing a few seconds to let Ozlot's confidence build back up, Zander added, "Now, let's take a

look at the other building." Ozlot felt a little better about the stranger and said, "All right, follow me

and I'll show you what we have. This shelter contains the experimental laser equipment that we have

been working on."

      Ozlot uncovered a rough-looking laser that was manufactured from pieces of scrap from the

wreckage. "This looks crude but it throws a fairly intense beam out. Let me turn in on and I'll show

you how it operates." Zander was impressed that they could have progressed this far in such a short

amount of time. He sat silently by as Ozlot turned the equipment on and waited for the oscillating

crystals to warm up to operating temperature.

      Ozlot handed Zander a pair of eye glasses and said, "put these on to protect your eyes." Zander

donned the protective glasses and watched as Ozlot proudly showed off the laser's capabilities. The

narrow beam of light was directed at a metal plate and burned through in a matter of seconds.

      Though it was a laser with limited capabilities, Zander knew that in time they would have

developed this concept into a weapon of extremely powerful capabilities.

      "Very impressive, Ozlot. You guys have really done a super job here with your limited

resources. I think that Captain Svann will be extremely pleased at my report."

      "My friend, I believe I have seen all that I need to see today. I'll head on back and pass on my

report to Captain Svann, Zander said as he turned toward the door. Just before leaving the building, he

turned back to Ozlot and asked, "Ozlot, are you planning to be here in the next 10 minutes or so?"

      "Yes. I'll be here until the others get back from Indus. We can't afford to leave this equipment

unguarded, you know," replied Ozlot.

      "Poor guy," Zander said in a barely audible voice.

      "Excuse me Sir?" asked Ozlot.

      "Oh nothing, Ozlot. I was just mumbling to myself," replied Zander as he was leaving.


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       As he came upon Oman and Jeelom who were waiting at the spot where Zander and Ozlot left

them, he said, "My friends, would you walk back to my vessel with me. There is something I would

like to tell you." Both men took up his step as the three made their way to the small shuttle.

       "Oman, you have a very important mission on this planet. As you may or may not know, the

elders on Altus laid out some specific guidelines to be followed by all of the colonies. Most of the

colonies have followed those guidelines fairly close but Indus and Syrias may be straying from what

the elders had planned for. Magnetic and nuclear weapons destroyed our ancestors on Altus and they

did not want the same thing to happen to their descendants on this planet. I'm afraid that the colonies

will destroy themselves long before they have a chance to develop and grow."

       He continued, "remember my friends, should something happen, please try and always get along

with your brothers. They will need your help as you will also need theirs. If you shed their blood, a

part of you will also die."

       They reached the shuttle craft and, as he climbed up into the vessel, Zander turned back to his

friends as made one last request, "Oman.. Jeelom, this area and those buildings will soon be

destroyed. Please gather your family and move to the south. At least five kilometers from the site and

do not venture upon it for many years. The land around the buildings will be poisoned."

       Both, Oman and Jeelom were silent after hearing what the stranger had just told them. As the

ladder retracted into the vessel, Zander made one last statement, "Tell everyone that they will have

exactly sixty minutes before this will happen. Get your family and leave now! Leave and don't look

back or come back to this area for any reason. To do so will mean you will die!"

       With that last statement Zander set down in the right seat and activated the drivers. He turned

the vessel north and flew directly over the experimental area. He needed to give Oman and the others

time enough to leave the area. During the hour he flew around the area with the scanners activated and

tried to locate another area with exceptional magnetic or electrical fields. None were found and


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Zander soon had the shuttle near the reactor area. Slight pressure on the control lever brought the craft

to an area that was about one thousand meters due South of the three buildings.

       The other monitors were following the other colonists in the area and there was a lot of hastened

activity as each family quickly moved south. Within ten minutes, it appeared that all had evacuated

the area with the exception of Ozlot. Zander thought it was ironic that Ozlot had sealed his fate

because of his knowledge of laser weapons. If he was allowed to live, then one day he might just

develop another and the colonies would be right back where they are today.

       Zander made a thorough scan of the area around the buildings and Ozlot was the only colonist

to be seen as he stood outside the center building, loyally guarding the equipment as he had been

ordered.

       With a careful squeeze, Zander activated the forward lasers aboard the shuttle and the deadly

beam was directed at the first of the three buildings.

       The intense heat melted all the metal tools and fused them together. The building soon

collapsed around the destroyed equipment. The unlucky Ozlot had retreated inside the second building

as the beam was directed upon that. The shielding of the reactor took a couple of seconds to burn

through and the steam pressure caused a fairly large explosion that scattered radioactive material for

several hundred meters as well as level the building. Ozlot's remains were also scattered in the

explosion.

       The building that contained the laser went to waste pretty much the same way as the first. There

wasn't any explosion, just melted equipment including the ancient laser. Some time in the future,

some relic hunter will sort through this heap of melted metal try to determine what caused this

equipment to melt away. Many theories will be tried but it was doubtful if anyone would come up

with what really happened.

       Zander eased back on the pressure that activated the lasers and the narrow beam of light ceased


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to shine. He turned the vessel around to again survey the area to ensure that minimal loss of life had

taken place. His monitors picked up Oman and his family.

      They were silently looking up at this small vessel that just destroyed the part of their colony that

was labeled secret.

      They and the other colonists at Syrias were still watching Zander's craft as it grew smaller and

smaller in the eastern sky. Zander approached Indus from the West. It had now been over five hours

since the nuclear explosion that destroyed the two vessels and much of the area around them.

      Silently, he hoped that what he had done was in the best interest of the colonization mission.

      The scanners aboard the shuttle picked up heavy doses of magnetic radiation around the area of

the explosion a few hours ago. Through the monitors he could see that the destruction was extremely

widespread.

      Everything within one kilometer of the center was vaporized and, for another two hundred

meters, there was partial vaporization. Outside of two kilometers, there was heavy destruction but

nothing was vaporized.      The destruction that rained down on this virgin land would never be

completely erased and there would be countless stories of how it came about. It would take thousands

of years for the earth to recover enough so the hardiest seed could take hold and grow.

      Moving out to the edge of destruction, Zander could identify bodies that had been burned to a

crisp and others that were still going through an agonizing death. He wanted to do something for them

but there was nothing he could do at this point. He felt a great pain in his stomach as he began to grasp

the death and destruction he had caused.

      Silently, the shuttle turned away and moved on.




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                                                  Chapter Ten



      Death and destruction lay behind Zander's shuttle as he made his way back to the Novum.

Knowing that this would be the last time he would be venturing outside the Novum, he decided to go

by Europa and bid a final farewell to Captain Svann. He made a smooth turn and was soon heading

northwest.

      As his craft approached the lush green meadows surrounding the colony at Europa, Zander

changed his decision about landing. "If Captain Svann's still alive, he may be able to read my

emotions and determine what all has happened," he thought.

      Making a left-hand turn, he soon had a faint tracking signal from the Novum that grew stronger

as he neared her location.

      Arriving at Novum's approximate location, the monitors revealed nothing but deep, blue-green

ocean and perfectly concealed the large vessel that was hidden far below her surface.


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       Keeping the needle centered he knew when he passed over her as it swung 180 degrees. Zander

slowed his vessel down and made a gradual turn to the right as he dropped down to just above the

waves. The shuttle had minimal forward speed as she entered the water and began the track down to

her home.

       Zander watched the monitors, searching for the first glimpse of the large Novum. Scanners

reported that it was 55 meters ahead but the lack of light at this depth made it very difficult to locate.

Switching on the tracking beam, the shuttle was almost inside the shaft when he caught the first

glimpse of her dark surface.

       As he rose up the shaft, the monitors picked up the lights in the bay, and the sudden brightness

caught Zander's eyes unprepared. The shuttle was automatically lifted out of the water and silently

moved to its parking spot, where he was gently set down.

       Zander set there in silence for what seemed like hours as he thought about leaving the Novum

unmanned and spend the rest of his days in Peruvial. The Novum would probably not be needed in the

future and could even go unnoticed until the end of time, but there was still the mission requirements

that kept him leaving her for good.

       He opened the hatch and the ladder extended. The clunk of it hitting the floor of the bay

brought him back to reality and he slowly got up from the pilot's seat. Taking the steps one by one,

Zander looked around at the other craft parked on the floor of the bay. His mind flew back to the time

when the student pilots were testing each one and putting them through their paces. "What a bustling

hub of activity," he thought.

       "No more," he thought as he walked toward the elevator. Its doors opened and Zander was

inside going up to level one, where he made his way to the bridge. Turning on the ship's log he made

entries that covered the events of his last trip outside.

       After completing the log's entry, Zander reviewed the final portion of the mission plan. The


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elders knew that with normal development, the new colonies would be entering the nuclear age in

approximately eleven thousand years. It would take another five hundred before they would discover

how to harness the power of magnetism to transverse millions of miles in the vastness of space in just

a few minutes.

      Sensors aboard the Novum would be monitoring specific types of activity on the planet. It was

to identify their progress and, when the development turned destructive to the planet, the Novum was

to send forth a messenger to issue a warning to all people. Originally designed to monitor the activity

from the far reaches of space, Zander had to make some program changes in the main operating

computer.

      When man first lit up the morning sky at White Sands New Mexico, a sensitive sensor in the

Novum would pick up the minute change in the radiation levels. Other nuclear explosions would also

register but, the decreased ability of the Novum to register them would probably fail to activate the

warning system. Changes in temperature, increased bombardment of ultra violet rays and changes in

the chemistry of the ocean would also be registered.

      Eventually, the level would be sufficient to activate the alarm and a signal would be generated

from the Novum. Not to anyone in particular but to mankind as a whole so that they could learn about

what happened on Altus and the colonization mission that followed her destruction. Originally, this

was planned to have been a descendent of the original colonists to go forth and issue the warning, but

Zander had to program the computer to send the warning via radio transmission. Hopefully, after

learning about the beginning of modern man, the colonies will alter their ways and direct their energy

toward protecting the planet and their way of life.       The mission planners thought that if this

information was provided they could prevent history from repeating itself.

      Zander checked the transmitter and everything seemed to be in good working order. The

computer would begin scanning the planet and, when certain events were recorded, she would sound


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the call. Assured that everything was in good working order, there was nothing more for Zander to do.

       The next few hours were horrible. The computer terminal used to keep him occupied with tasks

to perform or he would pass time watching the planet pass by below him. But, now, underneath the

ocean, there was little for him to do. He could literally feel the walls closing in around him.

       He knew that he was deviating from the established procedures but he had to leave. Having

tasted the food on the surface and having breathed the air, he could not spend another night on the

Novum. He had to live out his life on the planet's surface. Zander had tasted love during the one night

he spent in Peruvial and he had to return.

       Loading some basic supplies in his shuttle, Zander stopped by the canister room. He walked up

to Dan's canister and looked down at the frozen pressurized suit. Dan was in there somewhere and

Zander said a short prayer for his friend. He then made his way to the flight deck climbed on board

one of the smaller craft and was soon underway. He felt good with himself as he departed the Novum

and set a direct course for Peruvial. The sun was just coming up over the horizon as he set the shuttle

down near the temple. No one was up at that hour and his quiet craft didn't waken anyone.

       He soon had her secured and quickly walked up the steps to Mari Delos's section. The early

morning sun was just beginning to cast its glow upon the stone construction and Zander turned around,

sat down and watched the break of dawn. He was completely awestruck and, for the very first time in

his life, Zander felt alive... truly alive.

       After watching the sun break the horizon and climb into the skies, he retraced his steps from the

last time he was here. Zander located the room that he had slept in before and unrolled the mat. He

laid his things which he brought with him in a corner of the room and stretched out on the mat. Good

thoughts ran through him mind as he began to drift off in a deep sleep.

       He awoke several hours later and Lona was in the room, setting on the floor, leaning back

against the wall. Her eyes were upon him and a soft smile caressed her lips. "Good Morning," she


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said. "I thought that I would never see you again."

       "I couldn't stay away. I needed a home and I need someone... Lona, I need you," he said. She

crawled over to where he lay and gently touched his face.

       "Thank you for coming back," she said. "Thank you for coming back to me. I too, need you."

Lona continued, "Gano told me that you came back to take the transport and he also said that you said

you could never return. My heart died when I heard that and, if there were some way I could have

gone to you, I would have gone that day."

       Zander reached up and ran his fingers through her hair, gently massaging her scalp. He pulled

her down to him and their lips met. The kiss felt so good and he knew that he would have had the

elder's blessing.

       About at that point, the quiet solitude of the two lovers was broken by the shrill voice of Gano.

       "Zander! Zander! Mister Vood! I knew you would come back. I knew it!" It was young Gano

who had spotted the craft and knew that his friend had returned. Running into the room and almost

making the couple into a trio on the mat, Gano knew that he had interrupted something.

       "Oh, excuse please. I didn't know that you were busy. I'll wait outside," Gano said as he

quickly turned around and made his departure.

       Zander stopped his young friend and said, "Gano, come back in please."

       As the young lad slowly poked his head around the corner, Zander motioned him inside. "Good

morning my young friend. Yes, I've come back. I've come back to stay... I've come home, Gano." As

he said that, he gently squeezed Lona, making her smile.

       During that first day, Zander explained to Lona and Mari some of things that had recently

happened at the other colonies. He also said that he would have to spend the last of his days aboard

the Novum to ensure that the final portion of the mission was fulfilled. Neither one would have

understood what he meant with the "final portion," so he did not explain it fully. Mari and Lona both


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silently nodded their approval and never questioned Zander about it.

         One of the first things that Zander did while at Peruvial was to erect a shelter for the shuttle. He

enlisted Gano's help and the young lad gladly volunteered. "Sir, I know where the best rock is. If you

are going to build a shelter for the flying ship, then you must use only the best rocks."

         "You're exactly right, Gano. Let's go," replied Zander.

         Gano showed him where the granite blocks were cut and with the help of some other colonists,

cut enough to build a shelter. Though the shuttle was the smaller version, Zander devised a sling that

made the transport of the granite blocks a simple task.

         The shelter was completed in three days and mostly due to an increase in the number of people

helping. They all heard that Zander was giving rides in the shuttle to all the folks that helped and they

all wanted to share the experience. They silently hoped that after the shelter was completed, Zander

would volunteer the shuttle for other construction uses.

         "We helped you build your shelter, Mister Zander. Will you help us complete our work on the

mountain city?" one asked.

         Against his better judgment, Zander acknowledged their help and offered to pilot the shuttle for

various construction projects.

         He soon learned that human nature leads people to expect more and more due to greed. "At

some point I'll have to refuse to use the shuttle," he thought to himself.

         That time came much soon than he anticipated. After completing a project that took a week to

complete, the leader of the colony showed Zander the future construction schedule. "Zander, the

shuttle will be used to build several of our new cities. The city of Titican will be our greatest and it

will be beautiful," Alfod said as he pointed out the location on a hastily drawn map he drew in the

dirt..

         Zander realized he shouldn't have ever allowed the shuttle to be used in the first place. "Alfod,


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the shuttle should not have been used to build anything. I was wrong in using it to build the shelter

and then was wrong using it to move stone for your projects."

       "But Zander, it will make it much easier. Surely, the mission leaders would not have a problem

with us using it to build cities," Alfod argued.

       "No, Alfod, you're wrong. They left specific instructions to not allow anything from the Novum

to be used to benefit the colonization. However, I will use it to help build these shelters. After we

complete this work, I will put it up and it will not be available for further use."

       This decision did create some alienation with the Alfod and the other leaders as they wanted to

decide when and where to use the shuttle to help in the construction of new structures.

       When he parked the shuttle that evening he took extra care in examining her condition. Inside,

the cockpit area was filthy from all the dirt that had been tracked in. There were times that the shuttle

was parked in the rain and mud and the legs were caked with the stuff. "Thank heavens for the

shelter," he thought. The damp climate wasn't the best for her and any protection from the barrage of

rain that fell here would be helpful. Taking her out every other month or so would also break some of

the dust and dirt off and keep her in good flying condition.

       Every year, Zander would make a trip by himself and travel to the Novum to ensure that

everything was still in working order. With each trip he could see what the effects of being in the

ocean was doing to the old ship. Barnacles were collecting on her skin, especially around the areas

that had some sort of projection. The movable drivers were encrusted completely after the first year as

well as sections around the shaft.

       Meanwhile, Zander took Lona as his wife and they took up residence with Mari and she

appreciated the company. They had their first child during Zander's second year in the colony and four

more followed in the coming years.

       During his first years with the colony, Zander declined to become one of the leaders and tried to


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stay out of the internal affairs as much as possible.

      He spent most of the time walking around the area, and discovering new and strange rock

formations, caves and animals. Gano, now in his twenties, was with him on each trip and Zander

treated him as his own child.

      On many occasions, he took his children as well as the other children out with him on his

excursions. There, he told them about their beginnings... how their parents came to this land and why

they had to leave their old home.

      He soon became to be known as the teacher and he relished his new found occupation. Though

no one in the colony had ever saw a penguin, a whale, an elephant, or a lion, Zander taught the children

about them.

      He told them about the planets, the sun and the stars; how to calculate the time of day and

predict when the snows would come to the highlands. He explained to this how the buildings were

arranged so the sun would shine on the same spot on the same day, year after year.

      Several of Zander's students were exceptionally bright. His eldest son, Bud was by far the most

interested in astronomy and science.      Bud, who was named after the Captain of the Novum,

constructed a series of models that were used to quickly determine the time of the season.

      "Father, like you taught me, this model is based upon the track of the sun during its daily trek

across the sky. We can determine when was the best time to plant crops, "Bud said as he proudly

showed Zander his model and explained how it worked.

      It made Zander feel very good when he accompanied his son as he explained the model to the

leaders. They thought the idea was so remarkable that a version would be included in the settlement

that was being constructed.

      Gano, on the other hand, was not exceptionally bright. As a youngster, he was teased by the

other children. Still, he was obviously Zander's favorite. They were together most of the time and


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Gano worshipped his older mentor and father.

      There was one period of several weeks when Gano disappeared. Zander was worried about his

safety and spent each day searching the jungle areas for the youngster who was now fifteen. No one

could help him overcome his grief when his daily searches would turn up nothing. Lona tried to

comfort him at night but to no avail. Tempted to use the shuttle to search for Gano, he even powered

her up on a couple of occasions. Each time he shut the shuttle down, and reminding himself of the

commitment he made to not use the technology of the Novum or her shuttles for the advancement of

anything other than the survivability of the mission.

      After ten days or so, Zander had resigned himself into believing that his friend and adopted son

was dead. Ever so slowly, he again devoted himself to teaching the other young children in the colony.



      When Gano showed up one day after his lengthy disappearance, Zander was bursting with joy.

Realizing that Gano had left on his own accords and was not in any danger, the feelings of joy turned

into anger. He purposely avoided Gano during the day and refused to allow him to set in on the

classes. Gano was hurt but continued to stayed near.

      On the day Zander was to take the shuttle up for the monthly flight, Gano joined him on the

walk to the shelter. "Gano, you cannot go up with me today," he told the youngster.

      "Sir, please let me go with you. There is something I want you to see from the air. Please let

me go with you today," requested Gano.

      "What is it you want to show me?" asked Zander.

      "I will show you. It will make you feel good... I hope. Can I go?" he asked again.

      "Ok. You can come along. But, let me tell you something. When you left without telling

anyone where you were going, I was worried. My only thought was that you were killed by a snake or

met with some other death in the jungle. Don't ever do anything like this again. Do you understand


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me?" Zander angrily asked.

        "Yes Sir," he answered, smiling.

        Both strapped themselves in their seats and Zander lifted the shuttle off and moved her out of

the shelter. "Now, where is this thing you wanted to show me?" he asked.

        "Take us toward the mountains. It is on the plain at the base. I think you will be able to see it

better if you fly higher," he said.

        "Ok. Tell me when we're high enough," Zander answered as he applied lifting power to the

drivers.

        At somewhere around five thousand meters above the ground, Gano said, "There, that should be

high enough. Please don't point the monitors toward the ground until I tell you. Ok?"

        "Gano, I don't know what you're going to show me but it had better be good," Zander jokingly

said.

        "Sir, you can turn the monitors on the ground now."

        Zander flipped the switch that turned the monitors on and scanned the plateau. "Amazing!

Gano, this is what you did while you were gone?" he asked as he viewed the monitor.

        "Yes. Do you like it?"

        "It's amazing, Gano. I like it very much," Zander said.

        Below them, spread over a kilometer was a drawing of an animal which Gano had created by

moving thousands of rocks. They were placed so that the image looked like one of the antelopes that

roam this area.

        Gano noticed the broad smile on Zander's face. "I made it so that when you fly you can spot the

animals from very high. They will help to guide you home. Good idea, huh?"

        "Very good idea, Gano. These will certainly help me find my way back to the mountain city."

        The two looked over the area for a few more minutes, taking in Gano's art work from various


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altitudes. Zander turned toward Gano and asked, "How about seeing something you've never seen

before?" he asked.

       "Oh, yes. That will be very fun," Gano said.

       Zander turned the shuttle west and flew over the top of the high mountain range.

       "What's that?" Gano asked, pointing to the monitor.

       "Gano, that's a large ocean. It goes for thousands of kilometers before it lands upon shores of

lands as large as ours. But, there are some islands that are not very far off and they have some very

strange animals. Do you want to see them?" he asked.

       "Oh, yes. I like to see animals especially the different kinds," Gano answered.

       Zander quickly dropped in altitude and zipped over the coast line. Within minutes, he had the

Galapagos Islands on the monitor. Circling the islands, he landed on the larger and lowered the ramp.

       Gano was the first down and the first animal he saw was the large turtles. He had seen lots of

turtles that lived in the streams near the mountain city but never... never saw one as large as this.

"Mister Zander! Look at this. This is a turtle that is as big as a rock. Look!"

       "Gano. You are right. This is a turtle and he's very, very big. If you look around, you will see

that there are very many of these," he said as he pointed out several others in the area.

       "Yes, I see them," Gano answered.

       Zander showed him the other animals on islands before returning home.

       After they landed and secured the shuttle, Gano turned toward Zander and said, "thank you for

taking the place of my father. You are a very good father."

       Zander held out his arms and Gano quickly took the offer of a hug. They held the hug for quite

some time and together they walked back to the rest of the family.

       Somewhere around his fifteenth year on the planet's surface, Zander felt a deep pain that seemed

to be growing inside his chest. Otherwise feeling healthy, he queried the Novum's computer about the


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symptoms during his last visit. The computer diagnosed his symptoms of shortness of breath, dull

pain and feelings of being frequently tired as one of several problems.

       The computer further requested that several tests be performed aboard the Novum and the

information would be automatically fed into the on-board computer. Blood tests, urinalysis and x-rays

were taken and the results were crunched into the computer. Zander expected the worse and when the

screen confirmed his feelings, he wasn't surprised.

       Zander pondered his options. He knew that he could go back to Peruvial and live out his

remaining life. With this choice, he'd have to destroy the shuttle but that shouldn't be too much of a

problem.    This also created another problem which would prove to be much more difficult to

overcome. How would he get the message to the person who discovered the Novum far in the future?

       This problem meant that he had to remain on board the Novum. He couldn't even go back to

the surface for one last visit, lest he be unable to return. Making this critical decision lifted the isolated

feeling from Zander. He no longer felt totally alone. He was with the spirit of Don and the other

colonists on board as well as all the Alturians down on the planet's surface.

       He felt proud and confident that he would be there to pass an all important message to the world

when it needed it most.

       Gano spent the last of several days waiting for Zander to return from his trip to the mother ship.

When he hadn't returned after the fifth day, Gano went to visit Lona.

       Though she never fully adopted Gano as one of her own, she knew and respected Zander's

feelings toward him. She could see the sadness and concern in the young man's face when he walked

into the room. "Lona, Mister Zander still has not returned. Did he tell you anything before he left?"

Gano asked.

       "No, he did not tell me that he was going to stay. Gano, he thought that something was wrong

with him as he seemed to be coughing quite a bit lately. If we still had the doctors in the colony they


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may have been able to help him. But, as you know, we don't. Zander's feeling was the only thing he

had to go on and he said that he may not be able to return. He cared for you very, very much and did

not want you to worry. Here, come here and give me a hug," she said holding out her arms.

       Gano quickly took the offer and hugged her tight. "Thanks Lona. I love him very much and I

know he will come back some day."

       "Yes, I think you're right, Gano. He will return one day."

       Gano missed his father and thought that if Zander ever tried to return to Peruvial, he may need

some more help to guide him home. "The picture of the antelope and llama would not be enough... he

needs something else to help him find his way," Gano thought to himself.

       Beginning when he was just a young man, he spent the remainder of his life building directional

signs on the flat plains to the west of the colony. On some days, he had help from Zander's children or

other colonists but most of the time, he was by himself when he made pictures and designs over vast

areas of the plain.

       Having flown before and seen the high plain from the sky, Gano knew that these symbols could

be seen clearly and they would someday help bring his friend home.

       On board the Novum, Zander spent most of his time at the terminal. The computer had certain

games programmed into it and these kept a lot of his time occupied.

       On his last day, Zander was again at the terminal when it asked him if he wanted to play a game.

Zander, responded to the affirmative but never began the game. He quietly fell asleep in the chair and

slowly the life ebbed from his body.

       The computer tried in vain to get a response from him and, after a few minutes of no response,

it closed the circuit.




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                                                  Chapter Eleven



      At first, Steve couldn't remember where he was or what happened. As he began to come out of

his restless sleep he thought this entire experience, including the Orion and Novum, had been nothing

but a simple dream. Nothing more than a dream.

      The lid of the canister was closed and his limited vision through the glass plate revealed items

that now seemed to be familiar. As he slowly came out of his slumber, the items in view became more

and more familiar. The canister automatically opened and Steve rose into a sitting position.

      He turned and looked at the other canisters in the room with him and was surprised that he

knew the story behind each one that was closed. Eyeing the canister three rows over, he quietly said to

himself, "there's Dan." The others with closed lids also held a person and a story, the executive officer,

Jon Hippus and all the others.

      "Amazing," he thought as he lifted himself out of the canister and stepped toward the door. Just


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above the door was a time piece that Steve could now read. "And I thought that was some sort of sign

for the exit," he said to himself as he realized that he had been asleep for about 22 hours.

         Almost automatically, Steve turned in the rest room even though he had not been in the room

before. As he was urinating, the events experienced in the dream replayed themselves in his conscious

mind and the significance of his new found knowledge began to sink in.

         He could feel his stomach growl as it signaled its need for food. "There will be plenty time to

eat but I need to terminate the alarm first," he said silently to himself as he left the rest room and

headed for the bridge.

         As the door to the bridge opened automatically and he entered the room that controlled the

vessel, Steve turned his head toward Zander's body and thought about the responsibility he had and the

anguish he must have suffered for his important decision made thousands of years ago.

         Pausing for a moment, he spoke to the body as if it was a live human being, "Give me a moment

and I'll help you into bed, Zander."

         He then turned on the input switch on the terminal that had given him such a hard time earlier.

The screen jumped to life and, using a minimal number of keystrokes, Steve accessed the alarm

routine. He turned off the transmitter that had been broadcasting continuously for the last eighteen

hours.

         Up on the surface, the Orion was still searching in wide circles and most of her equipment was

still hampered by the interference. Pat quickly discovered what equipment worked and what didn't and

could almost maintain a somewhat, normal operation. The electrical navigation equipment was still

erratic and there were no communications outside the ship. Ralston was reporting that he was

beginning to receive some type of communications, but not good enough to identify their source.

         With a suddenness that surprised her, all interference ceased. The magnetic compass held a true

reading and the navigation equipment quickly found the Orion's location.


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       "Pat, the radios just came back to full operation." The voice was Dennis Ralston's who was still

on duty in the communication room.

       Pat, speaking through the intercom, answered, "Roger, Dennis, I have the same thing up here on

the bridge. All of a sudden, all interference has ceased. Uh.. do you have any idea what caused it?"

       "The only thing I can even come up with was that it was some type of transmitter that was

putting out one hell of a strong signal," he answered. "I'm going to try and raise some other vessels

that may be in the area. If you need me I'll be in the radio room, Ralston added.

       "Roger, Dennis," Pat responded. Suddenly, she stopped. "Holy shit, guys. The volcano or

whatever the fuck it was, is now a hundred feet deeper and is continuing to drop. This is strange... it

was probably some sort of cave in and it may have broke the mini sub loose. Let's get back to the

observation points and give a close eye for her blinking strobe lights."

       Each of the crew members made it to the designated point and peered out into the darkness.

The morning sun was just starting to light the eastern horizon as Mike thought, "it should be light

enough to pick up floating debris in about half an hour."

       Suddenly, Pat shouted from the bridge, "Guys, I have a couple of vessels that are on the radar at

this time. One appears to be about 50 miles out and is heading our way," she said as she peered

through the dark, Atlantic night to catch a glimpse of the vessel coming toward them. "Dennis, you

best get back to the comms room and see if you can pick anybody up on the radio."

       "Roger, Pat... Uh... Carlos. How about keeping an eye on the port side for me," Dennis

requested as he left his post.

       "You got it, Denny."

       Soon, he was back in the communications room and had all communication equipment up and

running.        He transmitted a call on the international shipping band and raised several vessels, none

of which was the one heading toward him. Switching to the military channels, he soon made contact


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with the USS Price.

      Activity was high aboard the USS Price. Their Naval Security Group detachment on board

intercepted the signal which the Novum was emitting and were trying to locate its origin along with

trying to identify the type of transmitter. National and military overhead collectors that were orbiting

the earth first picked up the signal. The banks of computers at the National Security Agency tried in

vain to identify its country of origin. Nothing could be found to identify who, what or why it was

being sent. Due to it's intensity they had first assumed that it was some type of jamming signal that the

Russians were testing. It received a class three priority for identification, which meant that military

vessels or aircraft would be immediately dispatched to locate and identify.

      At first, national intelligence assets didn't have any Russian Naval vessels within 300 miles and

the Price was ordered to the scene at full speed. Using direction finding equipment they were able to

isolate the signal to a ten kilometer radius which should be ample accuracy to locate anything floating

on the surface.

      The signal was jamming their radar and external communications. When it ceased they picked

up the Orion on their radar and it appeared to be directly in the center of the area of concern. The

commander of the Price initially identified them as being a Russian trawler that had been operating in

that area a few weeks earlier.

      Another blip was found to be heading at high speed toward the area. It was coming from the

east and had not been identified. "Captain, the electrical intelligence computer reports that the new

signals match those of Russian vessel, a Smolensk Class Destroyer to be exact," said the exec.

      "What the hell is a Russian destroyer doing down here? Try and find out from NSA what she

has been doing in the South Atlantic, who she is and get back to me A.S.A.P," said Captain Williams

as he eyed his executive officer in his usual stern manner.

      Pat turned on the automatic pilot and was watching it closely when the intercom suddenly


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jumped to life. "Pat, the vessel you had on radar is the USS Price. They were heading toward the

source of the interference and they want to check out the Orion. They've requested permission to

board. So, what do I tell them?" he asked.

        "Dennis, tell them they have permission. We'll also remain here and let them come to us. I

guess we'll tell them about Steve and what has happened during the last twenty some odd hours."

        Pausing a second, she added, "Dennis, ah don't tell them anything about the mini over the air.

Let's do that on a face to face basis. I don't think we should let that information get out to every ship in

the area."

        "Roger, Pat," Dennis answered. "I won't pass that on to them," answered Ralston as the

intercom again went silent.

        The sun was already in the sky as the American destroyer pulled up alongside. The Orion was a

small ship to be an ocean going vessel but it really looked small as the USS Price pulled up beside her.

Her commander was Captain Williams and he was the first one to board the Orion.

        Pat was there to greet them as they boarded and she put out her hand. "Good morning Captain.

I'm Pat Stuart, the captain of the Orion."

        Williams was surprised that the captain of the Orion was a woman, but was still very business

like.

        "Good day or should I say, good morning ma'am. May I see your registration papers?" asked

Captain Williams.

        She handed him her registration papers showing the Orion to be a research vessel owned by the

Southern Mining Corporation in Atlanta. "Here Captain, I'm sure you will find everything to be in

proper order," she added.

        As he quickly checked the papers, he said, "Yes, ma'am. I don't anticipate any problem. What

are you and your crew doing so far south?"


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      As I said earlier, the Orion is with the Southern Mining Corporation and we were on an

underwater exposition looking for manganese nodules in the South Atlantic. We have been out for

almost six months and were on our way back to Atlanta."

      "Manganese nodules, huh? Did you find any?" he asked.

      "Yes Sir. We found quite a few different varieties. If you care to see some of our samples, we

would be glad to show you," Pat answered.

      "No. No thank you. We were in route to investigate an electronic disturbance in the area and

wondered if your vessel was somehow involved."

      Pat broke him off and answered, "Sir, we didn't originate the signal but we have certainly been

involved."

      Williams refolded the papers and handed them back to Pat.

      "Ma'am, these appear to be all in order. Why don't you tell me what you know about the

signal," he asked.

      While Pat related the incident with Steve and the mini-sub, the boarding party checked out the

Orion, wakening her crew in the process. The lieutenant from the Naval Security Group detachment

brought the party back to the bridge. A simple shake of his head old Captain Williams that they did

not find any unusual radio equipment aboard.

      Pat continued to relate the incidents of the last 36 hours days and, after she finished, she asked if

the U.S. Navy would assist in searching for whatever remained of Steve and the mini-sub. "Captain,

we have one of our crew down below and there's probably little or no chance that he'd be alive but, if

possible, we would like to try and recover his body. Could you help us?" she asked.

      Captain Williams assured Pat that they would make every attempt to locate the mini-sub and

said he would also enlist the help of other vessels that were in the area. He also recommended that the

Orion and her crew continue on home.


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       "Captain! We have the Russian vessel approaching fast. What are your instructions?" he asked.

       "You take your men and get back on board the Price. I'll be joining you in a second," he quickly

answered.

       Turning back toward Pat, he said, "Captain, it would be best if you get the Orion moving and

vacate the area as fast as possible. We're not sure of the Russian's part in this and we're prepared to

find out. The situation could get hot and it would be much safer for you to be totally out of the

picture."

       "Ok. We'll leave the area immediately," she answered.

       Pat acted as if she bought his suggestion to continue home. Privately, she had convinced herself

that the Orion would not totally leave the area until something definite was found out.

       Pulling away from the Orion, Captain Williams thought about what had happened on board the

smaller vessel. After some discussion with his radio experts, they came to the conclusion that it would

be impossible for any radio to transmit that strong of a jamming signal from underwater.

       "Gentlemen, it doesn't look like the signal came from the Orion. Therefore, it had to originate

from another surface ship... probably a Russian vessel," Williams said.

       Turning toward the communications officer, he sternly asked, "what are the Russians doing

now?

       "Sir, they're about 5 miles off the port side and approaching fast. They're also peppering us with

all types of electrons. It's as if they suspect us of something," the Lieutenant said.

       "Don't show them a fucking thing. Tel them we're looking for a sailor from the Orion that fell

overboard and that we don't need their help. I don't want them to volunteer to help us look for the lost

sailor underneath the sea!" he added.

       "Roger Sir. Shall we try to communicate with them then?" the Lieutenant asked?

       "Yeah. Go ahead and ask the routine stuff. Don't mention anything about the signal. Just pass


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on the info about the lost sailor. Oh yeah, let's get everyone on the ship to all hands, but don't sound

the signal. We don't want to get them too excited. These guys have been pretty trigger happy lately!"

       "Aye-aye, Sir," he said as he made his way toward the exit.

       Williams stopped him just short of the door, "Prepare a message for other U.S. vessels that may

be in the area and ask them to be on the lookout for a mini-sub... Encrypt it SECRET CODEWORD,

but don't release it until I give you the Ok. Understand?"

       "Yes Sir, I got it," the Lieutenant said as he turned and quickly left the bridge.

       On board the Novum, Steve had just finished eating and could feel the gradual descent of the

Novum as she dropped back down to the ocean floor. He was making his way back to bridge when he

felt the gentle touch of the vessel coming to rest just off the sandy bottom.

       Steve took a transporter to the bridge to help move Zander's body. As he lifted him up off the

floor, Steve tried to be careful as he moved Zander to the transporter's right seat.

       Driving right up to the canister, Steve soon had Zander's body inside and then lowered the

temperature by injecting liquid nitrogen into the canister.

       Steve said a silent prayer to Zander, Don, Hippus and the ancestors that would forever remain

aboard the Novum and quickly departed the room for the bridge. He needed to update the logs for the

last fifteen thousand years.

       He was in the process of making the last entry when the scanners picked up the vessels on the

surface. At first he thought one was the Orion and the other was a vessel that had come to join the

search for him and the mini-sub. As they got closer he could tell that both were too big to be the Orion

and he tried to determine who they were.

       Steve could only speculate what the consequences could be if one of the major powers obtained

the technology that was aboard the Novum. He couldn't let that happen no matter what the cost! If

either one or both of the vessels on the surface discovered what lay on the ocean floor below them, it


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could upset the delicate balance of power that supposedly existed.

       He quickly made his way to the hanger deck and walked up to shuttle #1. Climbing the ladder

and then closing the hatch, he felt like he had somehow done this many times before.

       After thousands years of non-use, the shuttle was a little hesitant to allow her systems to be

turned on. With a little coaxing the shuttle's magnetic reactor slowly came to life. It took a little

longer than usual but eventually, Steve got green lights on all systems, including the laser systems.

       Acknowledging ready, the shuttle was gently lifted up and passed directly by the smaller

mini-sub as it made its way to the center hatch. The shuttle was now in the water, moving down the

shaft. Clearing the opening, he quickly initiated the lateral drivers and headed toward the northeast.

       Steve moved her away from the activity before rising to a depth that she would be detected

aboard either of the two vessels. He was about fifteen kilometers away when he turned the shuttle up,

towards the surface.

       The USS Price and the Russian destroyer were scoping each other out. "The sun-sa-bitches are

looking at us, too!" Williams said as he peered through the binoculars. Both, thought the other was

involved in the radio transmission that brought everyone together.              They had their respective

electronic ears on, trying to learn some secret about the other's capability.

       Both vessels also picked up the shuttle on their radar at the same time. "Captain! We have

positive contact. Range, 3 miles; bearing, 345 degrees!"

       "They got another fucking boat in the area! Radar! Get me a ident on it. I want it identified,"

commanded Williams.

       "Aye-aye, Sir."

       There was a momentary pause before the silence was abruptly broken. "Sir! The boat has just

lifted itself out of the water. We have radar contact and... yes! yes! We have visual contact. Target is

moving away fast."


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       "Get me an ident! Godammit, I want a fucking ident on this craft. Draw a picture or get a

photo... I don't care. Just give me a positive ident," Williams said, sounding desperate.

       After breaking away from the water and climbing up and away from the two military warships,

he was soon about fifty kilometers away from them both. Steve stopped her at an altitude of 5

kilometers and remained motionless while he observed the reactions of the two vessels.

       By reviewing the monitor and scanner information, he recognized them as being and American

and Russian warships... "the worst possible scenario," he thought.

       The American vessel was the first to move. She began heading directly toward the shuttle's

location and, almost immediately, the Russian vessel took up a parallel course. Both warships were

cutting through the water a few hundred meters apart. Each trying desperately to out do the other.

       Activity aboard the Price had increased a hundred-fold.         Captain Williams was trying to

identify the aircraft. "Lieutenant, what type of craft is that? Do you have any sort of ident?" he asked.

       "Sir, we can't get a positive identification from this distance, replied the Lieutenant. "We also

haven't been able to isolate any communication between it and the "Prozdon."

       "OK, but keep your ears on. I want to get as much information on this bird that we can," said

the Captain.

       The level of activity aboard the Russian destroyer Prozdon was similar to that on board the

Price. Her captain had all sensors operating and was also trying to identify the new American aircraft.

       After a couple of minutes of watching the two destroyers, Steve dropped down in altitude and

brought the shuttle to a dead stop just above the water's surface. As they approached him, still over

ten kilometers away, he activated the forward lasers and pointed the left one ninety degrees to the left

and the right one ninety degrees to the right.

       Directing the drivers to a point directly between the ships, he quickly accelerated to supersonic

speeds. The Russian destroyer was the first of the two to turn on its air defense systems and quickly


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locked onto the approaching aircraft.

       Each warship was ready to knock the other's airplane out of the sky as they waited for any sign

of hostility from the small aircraft.

       This hesitation was too much as Steve was soon passing between the two at a speed

approaching three thousand kilometers per hour and both lasers were turned to full power.

       Before either Captain could react, each vessel had a neatly burnt line where the laser had

partially melted the metal in the hull.

       Passing directly between both destroyers, Steve slowed the shuttle down and brought her to a

sudden stop about 10 kilometers to their rear.

       Most people on the bridge of the Price were not able to react fast enough to catch a glimpse of

the shuttle as it sped by at a little over three thousand kilometers per hour. Captain Williams picked it

up visually about a kilometer out but it was here and gone within seconds. Immediately as it passed

between the ships, they were rocked by the shuttle's sonic boom.

       "Dammit! The fucking thing just blasted us with her sonic boom. Did anyone get a good look

at her?" he asked, directing the question to anyone in the control room.

       The exec was at the helm and was first to answer, "Captain the son of a bitch was here before I

could focus my eyes on it."

       A young seaman was just outside the bridge and walked in, wide mouthed. "Holy Jesus," did

you see that," he said.

       The captain turned toward the young man and asked, "did you get a good look at it?"

       "Yes Sir," he replied. "This is going to sound crazy but it looked like a flying saucer. Yeah,

that's what it was... a flying saucer."

       The exec started to stop the young man when Williams interceded. "Hold it Harry," he said. "I

thought I saw the same thing."


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       He handed the young man a piece of paper and asked him to draw what he saw and turned his

attention back to the intercom. "Intelligence, did you guys get any readings from it during its fly-by?"

he asked.

       "Yes Sir," came the reply. Williams recognized the voice as that of the lieutenant speaking,

"Sir, it was moving at 3150 kilometers per hour and she hit us with some sort of laser beam. The

object is now stationary at ten kilometers off our stern."

       At precisely that moment another deck officer quickly entered the bridge and exclaimed,

"Captain, we've been hit with an unknown type of weapon. It looks like we have a weld line going the

entire length of ship. And, it not only hit us, but it did the same thing to the Russian ship!"

       The Prozdon had already begun turning around to where the unknown aircraft was hovering.

As Williams was told this, he too, ordered the Price to make another run at the UFO.

       "Captain, the Prozdon has activated her missiles. I believe she's going to try and shoot it down!"

exclaimed the exec.

       "The hell she is. Turn on target tracking radar for the AIM Twelve System. I want to beat them

to the punch," said Williams.

       Soon, both warships were again heading toward the same target. Again, they were on a parallel

course. At this point, neither warship seemed to care who the aircraft belonged to or what its purpose

was. They were intent on bringing it down.

       Steve was watching the monitors and trained the forward lasers on the two approaching ships.

Squeezing the trigger, an orange colored beam of light was directed toward the bow of each vessel.

Quickly, a hole was burnt through the thick plating and into their interiors.

       The Russian vessel was the first to launch a surface to air missile with the Price soon launching

one of its own.

       Steve quickly identified the hostile missiles that were heading his way and, before he could


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react, the automatic systems aboard the shuttle had locked onto them both and they were magnetically

shoved into the ocean's surface.

       "Sir! We lost the missile. As the matter of fact, the Russian missile malfunctioned too! Both

missiles were jammed and impacted into the water."

       A call came in from the second deck in the forward compartments. "We've taken a direct hit.

There's a six-inch hole where the hostile aircraft hit us with some sort of laser weapon. It burnt

through the outer hull and eight bulkheads before it was turned off. It could have kept it on longer and

burnt completely through the ship. Captain, I believe it was a warning shot."

       The exec responded quickly, "Damage report. What do we have down there? Any damage in

the engine room?" he asked.

       "Sir, we have a entry point. It was not a projectile though. It was some sort of laser light. It

melted its way through the bulkhead but wasn't strong enough to continue. One of the diesel engines is

scorched where the light hit it but it did not burn through. No casualties to report other than temporary

loss of vision due to the bright light."

       Harry turned toward the Captain, "Sir! shall we fire another missile?" he asked.

       "No! Harry, I don't think we could take its reaction to our firing another missile. Let's hold

stationary for a while and see what happens. I don't think that this thing belongs to the Russians

because of the way they're acting. It looks as if they are coming to a stop too."

       "Roger, Sir. The Prozdon is now stationary. And, you're right. They also took a direct hit in

their bow."

       Steve, still stationary, was looking directly at his adversaries. "Both are now still. Looks like

the laser may have did the trick, huh?" he silently said to himself. He didn't want to press his luck with

these two ships and quickly moved up and away from them both. Soon, he was about 100 miles and

knew that each of the vessels would soon begin to pursue their prey.


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      With luck, he could lead them out of the area and away from the Novum. He knew that he had

assumed the responsibility for the remaining portion of the Novum's mission. He now had to

determine the best way to continue the mission of the Novum."




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