-- Chapter 23
1. "This is unreal,"
Ireana thought. The Theites were abrasive, but not
2. They were intuitive, but not psionic which worked in her
favor. The last hour had contained the emotional content of a
lifetime and pushed the limits of her tolerance. "I survived
M'tro-1 -- I can survive anything," she reminded herself, then she
quietly prayed, "Come on, Corlos -- any time! I was supposed to
be an evaluator, not a hostage!"
3. Onimex was invisible and taking notes; this was the first time
that a Constitutional asset had ever set foot aboard an Elite
destroyer. Since the Theites had it -- they might as well figure
it works. The problem with a battalion of SJ's is lack of
specialists. They are awesome pilots -- but reverse engineering
is not a job
requirement. Networked saucers are a tremendous resource, but
without avatars, are insufficient for the task.
4. The comedy of errors reached it's apex when she was brigged
with none other than Dal El. She had seen posters of him and
didn't know quite how to react... the dreaded 'Vice-Elite' brigged
aboard his own ship... with
her. When the reality set in, she stopped trying to second
guess things, "We're in for a wild ride," she realized.
El intuitively interpreted her grin; possibly
a reaction to the dark comedy of
errors that he experienced too. He wasn't without his own dark
sense of humor, and being brigged aboard his own ship was the first
item on the list. Her uniform was unique -- one he had never seen
before. SJ's on foot, are fully trained shock troops who
thoroughly enjoy rare departures from routein. The Kor Youth
aboard simply didn't know what hit them; a ship invasion had never been
considered a realistic defense scenario: Not against 100-to-1
odds with no notice or even a clue.
rendered an inquisitive facial salute,
that one might expect the "Number Two" personage in Kor's
Universe to render. His rank was unchanged, despite the
Ireana acknowledged Dal El's non-verbal gesture and returned one of her
own. He accepted it but didn't understand the
symbolism; possibly a new Kor Youth
"She must have been really bad," he thought, "to brig her with
me?" He had no other cellmates, and the crew was
9. Ireana was tuned-in, but maintained a rigid
indifference since it seemed to reduce Dal El's suspicions. Had
she been any less poised, it might have weakened
her tactical advantage.
"She must have been quartered someplace where I never
go," he was surmising, "I would have given her a second glance if I had
seen her before. She's not one of the natives?" It made
that the Theites would isolate Dal, since he was wanted, "but who is
this vixen, femme fatale?" he
wondered. He knew SJ SOP because he used to be one -- when he saw
the number of B'lines, he told the Captain, "There is no defense
against this -- tell the Kids to stand down." He knew the SJ's
would shoot first and ask questions later, and Elite destroyers were
not equipped for expeditionary service or pirate contingencies -- there
had never been a need. "We're the ones who are supposed to be
feared -- not the other way around!"
11. He returned his attention to her, "She's
attractive." Everything about her was alluringly
curious, "How did this get by me?" he asked himself.
12. "Guards!," Ireana
thought, "Is he really that taken by me?" She felt like a school
yard whore being sized up by the alpha dog. "I hope this scene
13. Dal wasn't psionic by a Vejhonian standard,
that didn't mean he was completely inept. He
not detect a psionic imprint or her implant-link to
Onimex. The Thite occupation
was a pretty good cover. Ireana, on the other hand, saw through
a spotless glass window. She had never attempted to 'think'
from a 'Kor' perspective, but from what little she knew about Kor --
Dal El was a walking encyclopedia of everything she wasn't supposed to
know. "He loves him," she concluded.
14. Strangely, the other Elite prisoners were her
siblings; psychologically disfigured into something psionically
unrecognizable. Kor's hybreds were like machines whose only goal
was to please Kor. "This enemy occupation is killing them," she
"They're almost terrorized: Their armor has been
chinked." Dal was a lot more calming
to her than she expected him to be.
15. "Could she be one of Kor's special agents?" he
wondered. State Security Agents were never rostered on ship
manifests per SOP, and Dal wrote the SOP.
he tortured himself with the many possibilities, he deduced, "She has
to be one of His special agents." Kor planted an agent
aboard each ship to report back to him, and nobody knew who it
was. "After eliminating all other possibilities, the one
remaining, no matter how unlikely, must be the truth:" It had to be
17. "So that's it then," she thought privately, "That's my
cover." If he was preceiving her in that capacity, then she would
play along, "Now... how do I do this?"
On M'trol-1, it was said that Dal El was the shadow architect behind
that he was in fact, more responsible for the atrocities committed
in Kor's name, than Kor was.
He was brilliant and faultlessly loyal, "Who wouldn't want... such an
20. Ireana felt relaxed enough to probe some
of the Theite occupation personnel. They were having problems
with the ship. Thousands of expert pilots and navigators
were on hand, but no engineers. They were fumbling with the
and discussing whether or not they were going to 'push' the destroyer
back into Theite space. They were attempting to tractor the ship
away from Earth's early warning grid while the saucers distracted
native first responders, "Figure out how to say 'it's a solar flare' in
their language, and shut down their electronics," O'Helno
The natives couldn't see the B'lines, so a "solar flare warning" in any
Earth language might explain EMF-related malfunctions and sensor
ghosts. "DON'T hurt the non-combatants," O'Helno
21. "Guards!" Ireana realized, "The acceleration
wave is off and all of this is happening in plain view...
above..." She held short of saying the name. The Theites
didn't name it. The Cacci Dai chart referred to it as,
"Dirt." The Elite prisoners called it, "718." She turned
her face away from Dal El, "What
conquest number was M'tro-1?" Her mind translated the psionic
symbol for Sol III into Earth, but the transliteration was
meaningless. Nobody knew Earth's proper name except her, because
she had visited the shell's surface. Mother felt no urgent need
to teach her compliment the shell's proper name. "Dirt," as
it was written on the nav chart, was sufficient.
22. Nobody knew M'tro-1's name either. Elite
conquests had 'numbers;' "Why name a condemned shell? What are
they afraid of?" she wondered, "What compels a species to annihilate
23. She returned her gaze upon Dal El who made a
charming first impression, "How does someone like that, end up in a
place like this? He doesn't fit the monster stereotype," she
reasoned. Then she remanded herself, "I'm trying to shellanize
someone who isn't even shellan: He is what he
is. But at least he's consistent."
24. Dal didn't wear anything on his
sleeve. In an altruist manner of
speaking, his faultless devotion to Kor made him a Saint. She
see that Kor appointed an Elite guard to protect
Dal when he was away. Most of the psionic details Dal had only a
vague inkling of.
He had intimate
conversations with Kor and a computer-like memory: An
intelligence gold mine! "Am I starting
to like him?" she checked
herself. She understood why Corlos didn't abduct him in the first
place: His mind was too precise and lacked sufficient abstract
for extra-cognitive extrapolation; a virtual antithesis of Dayton's
mind. Everything known about Kor's regime was Dal
El's propaganda first: There was little to glean in that
area. Dayton, on the other hand, was entirely
abstract and answered all of the unknowns. Ireana had to pinch herself.
26. "This...defrocked Theite destroyed
M'trol-1! Maybe he didn't command of the attack, but he and Kor
are one and the same."
"What's taking Corlos so long?" she asked impatiently.
28. "There's no off switch on the scrambler," she
psionically heard a Theite technician report to his boss. "Maybe
I'm safer right here," she reconsidered.
After Dal had undressed Ireana for the 40th time, the magic moment
finally came. "They know who I
am," he said in perfect Vejhonian,
"but what are you doing in here?" There was a long pause, "with
me?" It wasn't an intentional stab at romance; it just sounded
30. "Oh really?" Ireana thought, "Is that a pick-up line or a
31. Onimex interrupted, "Just maintain the
charade: Corlos knows our situation and will retrieve us once the
Theites figure out how to get the scrambler off-line."
32. "I almost forget you were still here," Ireana
complained, "which is where?" "I'm outside your cell," Onimex
answered, "I've been to all kinds of places."
33. "So, can you disable the scrambler so that we
can leave?" she asked. "It's hard-wired and passive, just like a
Cardship," he replied, "It doesn't have an off switch. But that
hasn't stopped them from looking for it."
34. "Like a Cardship," she repeated. "Like a
Cardship," he confirmed. "You're in contact with Corlos?" she
asked. "The scrambler and the comm line are different," Onimex
clarified, "They won't take the chance." Ireana knew that -- she
was just anxious to leave. "The mess in this system has not
diminished either," he added, referring to the convergence of energies
at that point in space, that Dayton was sent to investigate in the
first place. Onimex concluded that the Cardship's time
displacement was the principle dynamic that triggered the alarm at
Onimex’s voice came back, "Your orders have been
amended by Daniel: You are to assist Dal El in an escape and I am to
assist you. It is imperative that your
escape appear as though
your psionic abilities alone
are responsible. Corlos calculates a
chance that Dal El will assume that you are an Elite Covert Operations
assigned to his ship. Elite SOP. ECO's
report directly to Kor. Dal El is not
in their chain-of-command and he knows that. Daniel
says, 'If you assume the role -- he'll believe it.'"
36. "Somehow, I feel like I knew that was going to happen,"
sighed, "but thanks for the confirmation. So
Daniel's involved too?"
37. "Corlos knew that a set of anomalies would
converge at this point in space, but they didn't have precise details,"
Onimex answered. "And we can't just go back and start
over," Ireana said. Corlos is chartered to
intercept and correct unnatural deviations per se, but not to change
time itself. "It's always the right time -- it's never the right time,"
they both could
hear Alma saying in jest.
38. "It's just getting better by the minute," she
resigned. "Don't stress over this," Onimex suggested, "let me
-- all you have to do is follow my lead. Trust me -- I'm a
"I'm probably going to smack you when I see you again," she said.
She admired his
biocybergenic balls, "Is that an Ellipsis thing?" she asked.
"You're on..." he interrupted. "OK," she warned him psionically,
"Let's do this!"
Elite Dal El," Ireana said with the cold, calculated
elocution of any well-trained Kor Youth, "I am to remove you from this
41. Her tacit self confidence confirmed that she was indeed one of
and Dal was immediately taken by her. His suspicion was
confirmed. He let his breath out while she read his
thoughts: He bought it, hook, line and sinker, beyond any shadow
42. "Of course," he accepted cordially; flattered to hear her
voice. Finally, a project that he had personally
was actually helping him in an urgent time of need. This time, he
looked forward to being led off the ship, rather than moved liked a
43. Dal was fully aware of what Kor's hybreds could do, so he
had implicit confidence in her abilities. His goal was to try not
to fall in love, "Let me
guess; if you tell me -- you have to kill me?" he
said facetiously. "If you only knew," Ireana thought. She
let her glacial stare serve as an answer, because she would have done
a lot more than simply set him inside a docking collar like a potted
plant, if set at liberty.
44. "Vice Elite Dal
El," she said, “You must do exactly as I say until we are clear
this ship.” "By all means," he cordially shrugged.
45. "I think I'm beginning to see the
humor in this," Onimex injected; amid the many streams of
hyper-data, he could hear Dayton's voice admonishing him to 'appologize
once.' Sometimes he felt haunted by his own co-located
46. Onimex had downloaded the ship's schematic and determined the
most logical escape route, "Approach the forcefield and gesture as
though you are deactivating the field with your... 'amazing prowess,'"
Ireana motioned for Dal El to hold fast while
she approached the forcefield. She performed a
Tai Chi motion and the forcefield deactivated. Dal nodded in
approval. It was always impressive to see the SuperKids in
48. "It's not really
deactivated," she explained, "I've only made a hole so that
we can pass
without alarming the guards."
"Cleaver," he agreed. 'And smart too.' She led him to
an exterior corridor and then
turned left, as directed by Onimex.
maze through the ship practically required a computer
to navigate, which proved that she had been aboard
along. She led them on the least traveled, most direct path to a
bay and evaded all notice enroute. The odds were staggering -- a
testament to her training. She made it look easy. The
incarcerated Kids, being psionists, knew the SJ's would kill them if
they even twitched: It was suicide to escape confinement with
nowhere to go.
utility bay was a revamped maintenance hangar occupied by two
ships. There was a long-range passenger sled and a messenger ship
tethered to the upper
deck by a wench. The hanger was not inspection ready, with
disassembled appliances and minor works in-progress cluttering up the
deck space, so the Theites
ignored it as a room with no believable
52. The messenger ship was the
ship in the Elite inventory. Since it had no tactical purpose, it
was tied to the ceiling because SOP required one to be aboard. It
had no weapons, frills or amenities, but it could close the gap between
points very quickly. Not as fast as a B'line, but fast enough for
53. Onimex disconnected the messenger ship's reporting system and
the ship. He completed the pre-flight, powered up and severed the
umbilical before the landing struts touched down. The
wench hook disconnected and the hatch opened, all of which seemed like
deft demonstration of
suave psionic prowess. Dal El was simply dazed by her
abilities. He had seen Kor walk through walls and knew for
certain that she was one of His.
54. With the grace and formality of an Elite
perfunctionary, Ireana extended her arm and invited Dal El to
first, as was customary ever since the docking collar episode. He
so convinced of her authenticity that he never once considered that his
escape was staged. An enemy would not go through such elaborate
theatre when they already had him in the brig to begin with.
There was nothing to question regarding the motive.
While the Theites were still learning how to
read the destroyers systems and schematics, Onimex disconnected the
ship's transponder and initiated the 2nd phase of his escape
plan. Technically, they were off the grid now. If a
disconnect warning alerted a console
somewhere, it would join a myriad of other
system warnings that were being ignored. Fortunately, Onimex knew
exactly which console to disconnect, and made a young navigator think
that he had plugged a reader into the wrong port.
B'lines outside had thinned down to normal patrol formations which
meant that nobody could see them. Earth was a feint speck in the
dealing with thousands of UFO reports. The SJ's were having some
fun. Earth's meteorologists attributed the unusual
excitement in the ionosphere to a solar flare. The
shimmering specs were weather balloons.
57. Onimex sent a message
to flight ops, "We're testing an Elite sled for
evidence of industrial
espionage; and to bring additional charges against Dal El."
58. He used O'Helno's transmission code which nobody would argue
with since he was the CO and IC
59. Onimex engaged interdimensional
velocity before the ship cleared the utility bay; a plausible error in
an unfamiliar craft. A career ending error otherwise.
60. "Does Kor have anything that fast?" a
navigator asked, "Power up!" "Where's it going?" the weapons
officer asked. "Says it's O'Helno," the pilot replied, "Should
we?" he asked. "A'zoth," the weapons officer sighed, "I
don't think he wants to race." O'Helno was famous for testing new
designs, so it wasn't out of the ordinary, just curious. "Call
him to be sure!," the pilot ordered, "Outta range," nav
replied. "Frack!" the pilot shout-whispered. "We didn't see
anything!" the weapons officer suggested. Everybody sighed,
"Yeah, so stand down... what's the matter with you?" the pilot rebuked
facetiously. "Your girlfriend!" nav relied.
61. Just before departure, Onimex summoned O'Helno for his
technical expertise to a
part of the destroyer that did not exist. O'Helno had once
that he could navigate the
entire Universe blind-folded, so it was not likely that he would stop
anyone for directions.
62. With no evidence of a pursuit, Dal El was
confident that Ireana had succeeded, "You do know
how to make an exit," he quipped. He was happy about the escape,
but dreaded explaining to Kor how he lost a destroyer and the
one of the new ones. Where chivalry goes, it would
have been better if his ship had been destroyed, rather than captured
fully intact. To his credit, he would accept full responsibility
for the loss since he gave the order to pursue.
63. Ireana respected him more for accepting
responsibility, and then censored herself for thinking from an Elite
perspective; she was playing the part a little too well.
"How's Kor going to react?" he wondered, "All of the classified
systems were taken intact." This was a catastrophic
loss, and he was in charge when it happened. He turned his
back to Ireana to get his mind off of the unknown.
will beseech the Master to decorate
you highly for this unprecedented performance," he said, "if He doesn't
kill me for
losing His ship."
66. "A true statesman," Ireana thought privately although Kor
wasn't likely to kill him. She would never forgive him for
destroying M'tro-1, but she could pity his current plight: He
was not a villain in his own eyes.
67. The very idea of thinking like an Elite
operative forced her to re-check her
"I stay alive by following orders," she reassured
"And with a little improvisation," Onimex injected. She ignored
Onimex and checked for any trace of a B'line pursuit. All
clear... "Like I would know if B'lines were behind me."
69. "Vice Elite
Dal El," Ireana said, feeling much more proficient, "It
appears that the enemy is not in pursuit. My authority terminates
once you are safe from all contingencies. We may proceed to a
Dal El replied, "217 013 224."
71. Ireana's hand reached toward the coordinate
console and Onimex keyed
in the coordinates for
her, giving the illusion that her psionic prowess did it. Voice
interaction was still standard on civilian vessles, but the military
preferred buttons to avoid course deviations from idle jock talk during
72. "I'm extremely impressed with your abilities,"
Dal said. Ireana returned a courteous nod, but said
nothing more. She was a natural. "You must have been an
incredible find for Him," he said to the forward window. He was
not soliciting a response, "a well-trained masterpiece." Dal was
accustomed to one-sided conversations with hybrids, so the
dialogue did not disturb him.
73. The new coordinates caused an asteroid
warning to activate while an onboard computer plotted an evasive course
to skirt the debris.
74. The coordinates pointed to an area in the
center of the belt, but nothing was there. "Vice Elite
Dal El," came a harsh voice; one practiced in cold formality, "The
will meet you shortly
your arrival." "Acknowledged," Dal El replied. He
grew more pensive as the ship neared the rendezvous point. Not
that she ever wanted to be... but she was glad that she wasn't him.
75. "I can't answer your questions right now," Onimex said, "but
Kor knows who I am. We'll be in more
danger if I remain."
The concept of meeting Kor alone petrified her, "I'm sure we're
beyond the converged anomalies," she reasoned, "why can't I be
76. "Daniel wants you to stay here," Onimex
replied, "This is the closest we'll ever get to Kor. He says,
'keep doing what you're doing and you'll be OK.' I
get off this ship." His future self had tipped him
77. Onimex increased
his dimensional shift and passed through the vessel's
hull into free space. Corlos locked onto him and
accelerated his trip
home. "Goodbye," Ireana said meekly. He didn't hear
her. The next Act rested entirely upon her, and her alone.