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The human race is in grave danger, but Denn Bornew, a sergeant from Tau Ceti, is prepared to risk everything in order to save it.In his escape, after stealing something highly important from the capital of The Galactic Union, the station on which he was travelling strayed to an unknown planetary system. Now that he is a wanted man, dangerous people hire the most famous assassin in the galaxy, Dasslak, to kill him. As he searches for Bornew, he will come across information that will help him to resolve issues from his own past.Interstellar journeys through wormholes; robots and space pirates; fugitives and assassins; impressive abilities, and strange events. This fantastical work of science fiction has it all.
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Heiner Flores Bermúdez
Translated by Rachel Christina Hopkinson
Written By Heiner Flores Bermúdez
Copyright © 2016 Heiner Flores Bermúdez
All rights reserved
Distributed by Babelcube, Inc.
Translated by Rachel Christina Hopkinson
Cover Design © 2016 Heiner Flores Bermúdez
“Babelcube Books” and “Babelcube” are trademarks of Babelcube Inc.
Chapter I: Escape Plan
Chapter II: The Government of The Galactic Union
Chapter III: Survival Plan
Chapter IV: A Legendary Man
Chapter V: In an Unknown World
Chapter VI: Assistance
Chapter VII: Home
Chapter VIII: Alpha
Chapter IX: Difficult Day
Chapter X: Cora
Chapter XI: Wait
Chapter XII: The Boy Who Lost His Name
Chapter XIII: Misfortune
Chapter XIV: The Augur
Chapter XV: Guilty
Chapter XVI: Revelations
Chapter XVII: Despondency
Chapter XVIII: Error
Chapter IXX: Encounter
Chapter XX: Decision
Chapter XXI: Desire for life
Chapter XXII: The Calm
Chapter XXIII: End of the Road
‘They’re going to attack us!’ he maintained, trying to attract the attention of those in high command. His efforts were futile. In the process, he lost his status, some even called him mad. “He lost his sanity!” they said. But that was not true, he was always right. It was useless; he had only managed to delay the inevitable.
This moment was revelatory. The forgotten rebels that everyone had given up for lost were not; they had only been preparing themselves for the moment of their revenge.
The man walked through the beautiful boulevard, trying to find some way of stopping what he had foreseen, but it was already too late. The penetrating sound of the alarms was almost as terrifying as the image itself. The sky darkened in the middle of the day, like when a moon interposes itself between a star and a planet. However, it was not a celestial body that was the cause. ‘What is that?’ asked one person. ‘What’s happening?’ said another. ‘They’re attacking us!’ cried the people who were running in terror. The sky was riddled with ships. Enemy ships. It was not the only place; the entire planet was under siege. It was not the only planet. It was not the only system.
The shots fell down upon the defenceless city like a hailstorm, snatching the lives of the innocent civilians who never suspected anything. The predictions had become reality; the attack had begun.
The planet’s authorities sent their entire arsenal in a desperate attempt to stop their destruction. Soldiers, ships, and the most lethal variety of weapons. Nothing worked.
Those who were running in the cities were unaware of the multiple battles that were unfolding simultaneously on other fronts. Space, Tau Ceti, the Solar System, and so many more.
When it seemed as if the battles could not be any more terrifying, the rebel ships opened their hatches, dropping their passengers over the cities.
The rebels, those who once served the humans, were coming to call in an old debt.
The infamous Colonizer robots, who centuries earlier had escaped into space, were returning home. Refusing any request for a truce, they destroyed everything in their path. The man’s visions had become reality, and nobody had listened to him in spite of his pleas.
One by one, all the planets of the primary systems fell before the powerful army of the malicious robot leader. The planet Earth, The Union’s capital, had not escaped the attack. Millions upon millions died, but that was only the beginning. The robot leader had one desire: to completely annihilate the human race. There were still many more systems left to attack. A dark age had begun.
Those who had survived were hunted down by the Colonisers. The Resistance fought to avoid extinction, whilst the power of the robots spread through the galaxy. One by one the systems fell, and the hope began to die.
All of that happened. All in a parallel universe.
He was convinced that he was doing the right thing. However, in the process, he had inadvertently dragged many people into a highly dangerous venture.
His name was Denn Bornew, a Sergeant of Tau Ceti, one of the primary planetary systems of The Galactic Union. A human, with chestnut coloured hair and light eyes. He usually presented himself as a serious man, but behind that reserved appearance, there could be found a kind person, who cared about others.
It had been over a year since his life had changed forever. Now, after so much time, he felt that he had to do something about it. It was then that he decided to take advantage of his position and embark upon one final mission; one that took him to the Solar System, in order to snatch from the Planet Earth something which, according to him, would change the destiny of the galaxy.
In his escape from the Solar System, he managed to slip away, making it to a passenger vessel. One of the sort which commonly transports all types of travellers to planets, moons and, of course, jump-gate stations.
The jump-gate stations, those gargantuan vessels that are rather more akin to cities, served as interstellar platforms, and kept open doorways in space the wormholes, one of the greatest discoveries of recent times.
Distributed throughout all the systems of The Galactic Union and other inhabited systems, the jump-gate stations, like oases in a desert, gave refuge to whoever was able to pay for it. Its hangars were constantly receiving all types of travellers, offering them all manner of services: repair and supplying of ships, rooms, restaurants, and shops, but mainly they were a melting pot of the most diverse collective. An incredible number of people lived and worked on them, and for many, they were the only home they knew. Not only did they connect the planetary systems via the wormholes, they formed an important part of the galactic economy.
That passenger vessel was not chosen by chance. Denn picked the one that would take him to S4-07, one of those very jump-gate stations that populated the system. His intention was to get as far away as possible from the terrestrial forces that would be after him as soon as they discovered that he had broken into that abandoned earthly laboratory.
He never planned to hurt anybody; his only objective was to escape the Solar System with his invaluable cargo, and the only opportunity for achieving that was through a wormhole, in order to circumvent his pursuers in both space and time.
Still undetected thus far, he managed to arrive at S4-07 on the passenger ship. He had chosen this station in particular knowing that there would be a considerably low number of travellers and routine maintenance personnel. The ship in which he arrived was one of the few that had permission to drop passengers off at that particular station.
Once there, he took over the navigation controls with ease. Nobody noticed his arrival into the control room. The only two people in there were left unconscious; the strange weapon he used since joining the Tau Ceti forces was enough to leave them out of action, discharging upon them a strong paralyzing electrical current.
He did not want to bring along with him any of the passengers from on board, so he triggered the evacuation alarm, in the hope that everybody who was still there would leave the jump-gate station in their ships, before making his own departure.
There really weren’t many people on the station. The majority of them had managed to board the ships and leave at the first sound of the alarm. However, he had not counted on the terrestrial forces detecting him before all of the passengers were able to get away, thus forcing him to bring along with him all of those still on the station.
He switched off the evacuation alarm, and made sure to block the hangar doors before crossing the first wormhole. He wanted to avoid those still on board potentially getting hurt or straying out into deep space, should they to try and leave in the ships, once his escape began.
He deactivated the station’s automatic position control, so he could manoeuvre it freely and, guiding it to his liking, he crossed the wormhole it was keeping open. By the time he came out through the other end, he had already crossed ten light-years in distance in an instant.
Without losing much time, he used the cutting edge system and opened a new portal in space, with the intention of steering the station towards it, and as such crossing through it. He planned on opening and crossing wormholes as many times as necessary, distancing himself enough from the Solar System to then later abandon the jump-gate station in one of the vessels that would be left in the hangar. Then, he would be able hide away in some un-policed planetary system, without harming any of the people on board.
It was a good plan. Nobody was going to be able to follow him. Any wormholes he opened would only stay active for a few minutes if the jump-gate station was not there to keep them that way. Once the station crossed through them, they then closed in a matter of moments. He was going to get away with it, or at least that was what he thought at first.
Following his plan and crossing portals, he distanced himself increasingly further from the forces of The Galactic Union’s capital, the planet Earth. At that point in time, nobody would yet know where they were. Soon, he would be able to abandon the station, concluding his escape. Or that is what would have happened had he not had such bad luck.
An unfortunate phenomenon occurred whilst S4-07 and its passengers were crossing one of the wormholes, which caused the station to jump a vastly greater distance, taking Denn Bornew and the remaining passengers to a totally unknown place.
The situation would become complicated even further; the systems in charge of opening the wormholes were left in a state of total disrepair after the unusual event. The jump-gate station and its passengers were now free-floating in deep space, with scarce resources, and grave damage to all of its systems.
The lights were flashing intermittently whilst an alarm was warning, with a penetrating sound to some three hundred people on the station, the very real need to evacuate.
When Denn ascertained that the navigation equipment was not responding, he doubted his plan. He reviewed the station’s screens, and noted that they were now in an unexplored place, and without any signals.
There was nothing more he could do, the station was not responding. He needed to get out of there as soon as possible.
“We need to move,” said Denn to his companion.
He quickly deactivated the block on the hangar doors, and they hurriedly left the control room that Denn had shut off access to earlier.
Just outside the exit to the control room, there was a corridor running parallel to it, with doors at each end; the doors that Denn had initially closed.
He imagined that there would perhaps be people on the other side of both doors, trying to get in, so he decided to escape through a ventilation duct.
“Help me up there,” said Denn to his special companion, pointing to the ventilation duct.
With help from his now accomplice, he removed the metal grating covering the duct, and got inside.
“Wait for me to go forward a bit,” he said, whilst he crawled further inside the duct. “Okay now, come up!”
They made their way through the duct until they arrived at another corridor that appeared to be empty. Although the view from above was not optimal, Denn decided that this place was safe to get out.
Bornew had studied the station blueprint fairly well, therefore he knew exactly how to get to the hangar, where they would board some vessel, in order to then escape.
In spite of his intrepid intention, he had never been particularly good at making plans, he always made it up as he went along, but this time he had been forced to come up with an effective one.
Hastily, they passed through the specific corridors in order to reach their goal, and when they finally managed to get to the hangar, they discovered that there were already people there.
He imagined that they had probably become trapped the moment he blocked the doors to the hangar, where there now only remained one ship.
The people were not a problem: Denn had on him his electric pistol. Intimidating them would be easy. Even so, he hesitated once more.
“This is a terrible plan!”
“What’s wrong?” asked his companion. “There are not many of them, we could demand they step aside, take the ship, and get out of here.”
“No. There is only one ship. How could I have been so careless? I should have thought about this.”
“What does it matter if there is only one ship? We only need one ship to escape.”
“It seems I haven’t been meticulous enough with the plan after all,” replied Denn, and laughed wryly.
Denn had not taken into account the number of ships that there would be on the station. Many people were travelling in their own vehicles, and others in passenger ships that were constantly coming and going from the stations. Furthermore, he knew that in all the stations, they counted on a few ships for evacuation, along with others more for defence, mining, rescue, and so on. However, after said exodus, there had remained only one evacuation ship, capable of carrying some four hundred passengers, in addition to having some extra space for cargo.
“I’ve thought this out so badly!” continued Denn. “If all the passengers had evacuated, we’d have been left on the station with nowhere to go, waiting for them to come and capture me, and take you back to Earth. We were lucky the rest of the passengers didn’t have time to get on that ship.”
“Why are you thinking about that?”
“We can’t do it.” Denn no longer looked so cheerful. “If we take the ship, we’ll leave all these people trapped here in the middle of nothing. Besides, where would we go in it? I’ve been such an idiot!”
Whilst Denn and his companion were talking, the people in the hangar began to approach them.
“Don’t worry,” he whispered to his companion before the people could reach them. “Nobody knows we’re the ones who took control of the station.”
These people could have been from anywhere. Some were workers on the station; others were passengers, people who had been making a stop, perhaps to have something to eat, or to look for a room in which to stay, maybe waiting for the next passenger ship that would take them to their destination. After all, the journeys through space could be long and gruelling.
Denn had been careful to block the doors to the control room and disable all of the cameras. Nobody on board would know that they were the ones who had commandeered the station. Their situation was not so bad. Denn was wearing his uniform, which identified him as a member of the Tau Ceti army, and therefore a member of the army of The Galactic Union. There was no reason for anybody not to trust him.
“So you’re a galactic soldier,” noticed one man. “Are you both all right?”
“Yes, we’re all right. What’s happening?” he bluffed.
The man was a security officer on the space station; he had been trapped in the hangar.
“We think that somebody took control of the station, but we’re not sure.”
“Are you serious?”
“We’re looking into it.”
“And what about all of you?” asked Denn. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, we’re all fine. There’s only one ship left, so we were waiting for everyone else in order to be able to evacuate the station, but they suddenly closed the doors, leaving us trapped in here. My security colleagues told me that they have been directing everyone in the station to the main plaza in order to try and keep them safe. We should go there.”
“I understand. What do they know of the person who took control of the station?” Denn tried to ascertain whether or not they were in danger, and this station officer could potentially enlighten him.
“Like I said before, we’re still not sure of anything. The captain and some other colleagues of mine are trying to get into the control room. For the moment, allow me to take you with these people to a more secure place. Being a galactic soldier, perhaps you’ll be able to help us somehow.” Denn nodded whilst the security officer continued. “My name is Senlar Belmy, I’m First in Station. And you, what is your name?”
Every single one of the Primary System’s jump-gate stations were controlled by The Galactic Union, and although their workers were not considered to be galactic soldiers, they formed part of The Union’s forces. First in Station was a rank given in jump-gate stations. It was the highest rank after captain, and was above Second in Station. Senlar Belmy was definitely one of the people who carried the most authority on station S4-07.
“I’m Denn Bornew, a sergeant of Tau Ceti.”
“Pleased to meet you. And the robot, does it have a name?” asked Senlar, pointing to Denn’s unique companion, the robot that had been complicit in the hijacking of the station.
Denn thought about it for a few seconds before answering, he still did not know what to call him. He turned around to face the robot and asked him:
“How do you want to be called?”
The robot was a test model, the first of a very special generation of robots. It was two hundred years now since its construction. It was all to do with a project led by a scientist by the name of Helagar Ust, who worked for A-Corp, a controversial private corporation well known for its technological innovations.
He had not been activated for a long time until the moment when Denn Bornew found him. Years earlier, Helagar Ust performed hundreds of tests with him, and after a time, he replaced him with an improved model. At which point, he was deactivated.
He was made of solidium, an extremely rare metal, well known for being exceedingly hard and light. His face, which was not very complex, was not capable of demonstrating expressions or emotions. After all, he was only a prototype.
When the project began, The Union placed its trust in A-Corp and financed the entire programme, in order to create robots specialised in tasks of colonisation of new planets. It was the beginning of the Coloniser project, which culminated in the creation of robots capable of thinking like humans.
After years of investigation, the Coloniser robots were completed, and put to the test immediately in terra-formation tasks on Venus.
This turned out to be a disaster.
The Colonisers rebelled against their creators in the year 2185. Three years later, they escaped into space, leaving no trace. Nothing more was heard from them, but the repercussions were enormous. Peoples’ insecurity limited the advance. Never again would they trust a robot that was capable of thinking like a human. As a result of all this, The Galactic Union prohibited the mass fabrication of such advanced artificial intelligence, and set out stringent regulations in the field. This was the type of robot that Denn was travelling with. A truly special robot.
“My model is C0-UN1,” replied the robot.
“Is he your robot?” Senlar asked Denn.
The robot turned his head towards Denn, interested in his answer. Bornew responded to his look with a smile, and answered Senlar’s question:
“He doesn’t have an owner: he’s a free robot.”
“I’ve never heard of a robot without an owner.”
They continued their way towards the place where the rest of the people were. It was a huge area. The main plaza, the station marketplace, was a circular space surrounded by shops of all kinds.
The plaza was a pleasant place. In the centre of it, a fountain of clear water reached majestically upwards. Trees and exotic plants gave freshness and greenery to the place, and multiple benches allowed visitors to the station to sit comfortably to chat, or simply to rest.
In the plaza, there were hundreds of people waiting for some explanation or indication from the station security. Denn was able to detect the unease in the air. Only a few were calm. There were men, women, and children. All human.
“Wait here while I find out what’s happening,” said Senlar.
Senlar moved away to speak with the captain of the vessel, leaving them there. A young boy, who had been listening to the conversation between them, approached CO-UN1, and asked him:
“What type of robot are you?”
“Type?” asked CO-UN1, surprised.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. Wow, not like any information or domestic help robot. Are you a battle robot?”
The majority of the robots of the time were manufactured with inoffensive appearances. After what had happened with the Colonisers, people did not want to be near a robot that looked powerful and dangerous. CO-UN1 was very different; he was designed for strength, agility, and speed; his appearance was that of a machine prepared for battle.
“That’s right, young man,” interrupted Denn. “He’s a battle robot. In fact, he’s my friend. We’ve been together in many battles.”
“Really? Cool!” the boy exclaimed enthusiastically. He turned back towards a girl, and beckoned with his hand for her to come over. “Dani, come and see this.”
Dani was the boy’s sister, a very pretty girl, with light brown hair and green eyes, and in her twenties; only a child for the times.
“My name’s Qein Dontes,” said the boy, “and this is my sister, Dani.”
“Pleased to meet you, I’m Denn Bornew, and this is my friend C0.
Dani looked at him with mistrust.
“So the robot isn’t just your companion, he’s your friend as well. Tell me, then, how is it that a moment ago I heard you asking him his name? Anyone would say it’s obligatory for a person to know the name of their friends.”
“The thing is, I’m not good with names. It happens to me all the time,” joked Denn. “What was yours?”
“Dani!” A look of vexation appeared on her face. Denn thought that she looked very attractive.
Before they could carry on with the conversation, Senlar interrupted. He came accompanied by the captain, who wanted to speak with Denn.
“Captain, this is Denn Bornew, the man I told you about.”
The captain had an ex-military look about him, of adult appearance, and with a forbidding face. His combed-back grey hair revealed his experience.
“So you’re the Tau Ceti sergeant that Senlar told me about. My name is Val Afkbar, I’m the captain of the station.”
To Denn, that name somewhat rang a bell. He was not sure where it was familiar from, but he had undeniably heard speak of ‘Afkbar’ at some point.
“Afkbar? That sounds familiar... Why does it sound familiar to me?” asked Denn. Senlar was looking somewhat uncomfortable; it was as if he wanted to silence Denn with his gaze. “Do we know each other?”
“No, we don’t know each other.”
Afkbar was the surname of a recognised family of space pirates that for years had been operating in a zone outside of the limits of The Galactic Union, a long way from the Primary Systems. However, they were well known enough for it to be almost obligatory for a member of the galactic army, like Denn, to have heard of them.
“Hmm! It’s funny, I thought I’d heard your name before.”
“It doesn’t matter. Since you’re a soldier from The Union, you could be of use. Will you allow me to take a scan of your iris?” Captain Val was not asking out of politeness, but rather because it was illegal to scan the iris without permission.
The captain’s intention was to confirm whether Denn Bornew really did belong to The Galactic Union army, verifying it on a database to which he had access.
Bornew agreed, accepting his fate. If on Earth they had sent the arrest signal for Denn before they were able to cross through the first wormhole, he would be at a loss. Alternatively, the signal would not arrive, since they were now many, many light-years away from any known system, and the database could only be updated near one of them.
“You can scan my iris,” said Denn, and in an instant, a novel device, a pair of augmented reality lenses over the captain’s eyes, which connected wirelessly to a bracelet on his wrist for processing data, scanned Bornew’s iris, confirming his identity.
“It seems you are who you say you are,” said the captain.
Denn felt an immense sense of relief at not seeing hostility in the captain. The order of capture had not arrived. He had passed the most important test in gaining the trust of the station authorities.
“If you want to help, Senlar will tell you the details,” said the captain, and immediately, without saying another word, turned on his heel, taking some of his subordinates with him.
“Did I say something wrong?” Denn asked Senlar, who was still looking a little uncomfortable.
“Are you stupid or something?” interrupted Dani. “Afkbar is the name of one of the most dangerous bands of pirates in the galaxy. He’ll most certainly belong to that family. He must have thought you were tormenting him for you to ask where you knew his name from.”
“Oops! I told you I was bad with names,” claimed Denn, with a laugh. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have things to talk about with this man here. It was a pleasure meeting you... Umm! ... What is your name?”
Dani took her brother by the hand, and left, furious.
“I’m only joking with her,” said Denn, addressing C0-UN1, who, had he been able to, would have answered with a smile.
Senlar rushed to speak first; he wanted to be sure to avoid any further interruption.
“Look, Denn, right now we can’t really properly know what our situation is. I’m going to get everybody together and explain to them what we know. Many of them are already suspecting that an intruder took the station, so hiding it won’t be of any use. The best thing to do is be open about it. Would you be able to help me? Your presence could give them confidence.”
“But first, tell me, do you know anything about who is responsible?”
“No. The men who were in the control room were attacked. They were rendered unconscious before they even knew it.”
“Are they all right?”
“Yes, they’ve woken up, and they’re not hurt, only a little dazed, although they’ll certainly wish they still were unconscious so as to avoid the scolding that Val’s going to give them...Let’s go and speak with the people.”
“Okay, let’s do it.” Denn walked calmly towards the centre of the plaza, with the intention of talking to everyone. He stood up on a bench and began: “Attention!” he said, as he waved his hands to get the attention of those present. “If you could all come closer for a moment, that would be appreciated... Attention please!”
Senlar looked at him, pleased; it was not necessary for him to gather all of the people, but he did it anyway. It turned out that Denn did have the charisma expected of a sergeant of The Galactic Union.
“My name is Denn Bornew, from the planet Nec. I am a sergeant in the Tau Ceti army. I’ve been asked to help the station’s authorities. I know you must all have a lot of questions. This man here is Senlar Belmy, First in Station. Let’s listen to what he has to say, and try to cooperate.”
“Thank you, Denn.” Senlar came forward in order to immediately take the floor.
It was important that he spoke to them. The atmosphere was filled with a thirst for some sort of explanation. The frightened faces worried Denn a little.
“Somebody broke into the control room,” began Senlar, “and for reasons still unknown, transported the station through several wormholes. Unfortunately, the jump-gate station’s system suffered damage, and we will be here for a while, at least until we manage to repair it. Furthermore, the person who did it has still not been located. We are working to find them, which is why nobody should move away from here.”
“How could this happen?” asked someone.
“Calm down, please.” Senlar could understand the peoples’ desperation, and knew that somehow he needed to reassure those present. “You should know that, at this moment, we are out of danger. In the station there are close to eighty security officers. We urge you all to share anything you feel is suspicious; our officials will be glad to listen to you. We have already regained the control room, and have isolated the remaining areas of the station. The first thing we must do is register on a database everybody still on board.” Two officers approached; they only needed their eye devices, which were connected to their wristbands, in order to call up the database. They put down some seats and sat down. “If I could ask you to form two lines so that these officers can take your information. It’s everything we can do for now, and as soon as there is news, we will share it.”
The people proceeded to give out the information requested of them by the officers, who with rapid hand movements in the air, input the data into those advanced devices on their eyes. Senlar moved to one side and, moving his hand, indicated for Denn to come closer.
“What’s wrong, Senlar?”
“Whilst we’re registering all these people, we’ll have time to study the situation better. As is the custom, two of the officers who have to stay until the end of the evacuation are mechanics, and right now they are trying to repair the systems. We’ll see what news they have for us.”
“How can I help?” asked Denn.
“The captain has sent four groups of ten people to inspect all areas of the station. He has asked me to stay here with several soldiers in order to monitor. The Second in Station, him over there,” he said, pointing to a man, “will be taking a further group to inspect. Could you and the robot join up with his search group? The robot’s sensors could be of help.”
Cooperating was the best thing that Denn could do. Now he already had a new plan. He was going to carry out any request from the station authorities, and wait until they repaired the jump system. Once it was finally fixed, and they were able to travel to some inhabited system, he would attempt to steal the evacuation ship, in order to continue with their escape.
“Just give me a moment to talk to the robot.” Denn moved away a little, and called over his companion, so as to speak in private.
“Are we in trouble?” asked CO-UN1.
“Don’t worry,” replied Denn, smiling. “In any case, the one who’d get into trouble is me.”
Before carrying on, he paused to make sure that nobody was listening to them, and after confirming that they would be able to speak freely, he continued:
“We're going to have to cooperate with these people. None of them suspects us, and we want to keep it that way. If anyone asks you anything, you just need to say that I bought you on Earth before coming to the station. That's all."
"But, didn't you say that we were friends in the army?"
"I think that everyone will understand that I was only trying to entertain the boy. Besides, if anyone were to ask, it would be fairly complicated inventing stories about the two of us fighting together in the army. Don't you think?"
"I would have liked to have been your friend in the army."
"We've only been together for a day, and you're already that attached to me? Do you not have any other friends or something?" Denn let out a laugh as he gave the robot a few pats on the back. He wanted to make him feel as though he were a friend.
“No, I don't. You only activated me yesterday. Do you remember?"
"Of course I remember. I'm only pulling your leg. That's what friends do." C0-UN1 felt happy; it was the first time that anyone had ever called him friend. "Don't worry, C0, something tells me that soon we'll be having a few adventures."
“C0? Why do you call me that?"
"That’s your name."
"No, my name is C0-UN1."
"Don't you like C0?"
"It's not that, it's just that it is strange to me."
"I'm not going to say all the letters and numbers in your name every time I want to talk to you, C0."
"I thought you were supposed to think like a human," said Denn in a joking tone. “There’ll be time yet to teach you various things. Now, let's go and see who the Second in Station is."
Denn and C0-UN1 approached the man. 'Hello!' he said, to no response. The Second in Station was not as friendly as Senlar. He was a contentious person who was constantly looking to making everyone else feel somewhat diminished.
He'd worked at the station for a little over a year, and just like Senlar, before being transferred to the station, he had been part of the Solar System army. They weren’t First and Second in Station for nothing. They had some qualities that were worthy of rewarding with a position of high command. But they possessed another distinctive feature which at that time frightened people. The same quality that brought about their transferral from the army to the jump-gate station. They had both suffered a strange change in their bodies.
Whilst on a mission with the Solar System army, upon travelling through a wormhole, their minds became connected with that of another being in a parallel universe.
Before finally discovering the wormholes, many scientists believed in the existence of a multiverse. An infinite quantity of parallel universes coexisting in an almost infinite space, but it was not until the period in which they began using the wormholes that this theory was confirmed.
And it happened precisely that, without prior warning, and without any explanation, some of these universes became randomly connected whilst a certain wormhole was being used. It was on several occasions that the strange phenomenon manifested itself; when a person was travelling through these wormholes, their body mixed with that of someone else in another universe, becoming one same being. One person receiving the other in one of the two universes. They called it convergence.
Many did not know whether the being ceased to exist in the other universe. At first, it was thought that only memories were transferred, but some more isolated cases allowed it to be ascertained that it was definitely not limited to memories. Sometimes, a convergence separates, forming two beings in one universe. Perhaps the subject was transferred from the other universe, or perhaps it was only a perfect copy.
A convergence is one of the most interesting mysteries of the universe. It is The Union of two lives. The memories of both beings are combined into one single body. Sometimes, the person changes very little: they cannot really explain the memories of the other being, but on other occasions the memories received are so vivid that the personality of the subject changes forever.
In that epoch, it was decided that any member of the galactic army who was to suffer a convergence was too unstable to remain in service. As such, there was the order to transfer all such people to less risky posts until further investigation into the matter was possible.
Denn still did not know it, but on the station he had already met some convergences. The First and Second in Station were working there because of it. He himself had a lot in common with them. A year ago, he had suffered a convergence. The memories that he obtained from the parallel universe were enough to impel him to carry out his daring plan: to steal C0-UN1 from a laboratory on the planet Earth.
“My name is Denn Bornew, and this is C0,” he persevered, addressing the Second in Station, who was still not returning his greeting.
"I'm not interested in the robot's name. They've told me you're both going to help us. Is that true?"
"It is," replied Denn. "I didn't catch your name."
"I didn't give it."
Denn hated him immediately. His name was Neil Gobi, an earthling from the City Below the Desert, descended from a family that had instigated a rebellion against a powerful nation on the planet.
Due to the problems of over-population being experienced on the planet Earth, in addition to the wars, many people were mired in poverty. His family had migrated from the continent of Europe, in the year 2060, in search of a better place to live, but the nation denied them entry. They created a city in a desert, and fought for decades until peace was agreed.
He had grown up amongst warriors. His father had made him enter into the galactic army when he was barely of age, where he participated in many colonisation missions until his transfer to the station. Neil Gobi was born in the year 2252. When he met Denn, he was already one hundred and eighteen years old.
In an earlier era, a person of that age would be on the brink of death, their face full of wrinkles and their strength decimated. But now, humans were different. They aged very slowly. The advances in genetic engineering had converted the human race into one of the longest living in the galaxy, and somebody of Neil’s age now was considered to be a young person.
“What do you want me to do?” Denn asked him.
“We’re going to search for the intruder throughout the whole of sector H. I want him alive.” Neil turned around, and walked towards a lift a few meters away from them, followed by a group of officers who were accompanying him. Denn stayed still for a moment whilst the rest were beginning to come past him. “Come on, move it,” scolded Neil, who turned his head to address Denn.
Denn turned his gaze to C0-UN1 and said:
“There’s nothing left for it, let’s follow him and put an end to this.”
Whilst Denn and the rest of the groups searched the vessel for an intruder they would not find, Captain Val Afkbar tried to find a solution to the predicament in which they found themselves. He had sent two technicians to try and repair the jump system, without any luck. In addition to that, he ordered them to communicate with any system or ship that might be found near the station, but there was not a single trace of any civilization anywhere near them.
All of the people still on the station were registered, and all of the resources they had on board were inventoried. Some four hours later, when Denn was finally on his way back, in the main plaza, he approached Senlar, who was now looking a little tired, surely from responding to peoples’ questions.
“That Neil’s a great guy,” said Denn, in an ironic tone.
“He’s certainly likeable.”
“He didn’t even want to give me his name; one of the guys had to do it.”
Senlar burst out laughing.
“Don’t worry about him.”
“I need to speak with the captain,” said Denn, in a more serious tone. “I want to know what he plans on doing.”
Senlar nodded, and getting up from his place, he asked Denn to follow him.
“Go ahead, I’ll catch up with you,” said Denn, who, before walking after Senlar, took a second to ask C0-UN1 to wait for him in the plaza. After doing so, he picked up his pace in order to reach Senlar.
Denn analysed him for a moment. Since Senlar had agreed without question to Denn’s request, it seemed obvious that the captain had given him the order to take him back with him as soon as he returned to the plaza. The captain would probably have several questions for him as well. After all, what would a Sergeant be doing all alone at a jump-gate station?
After a somewhat long walk, they finally arrived at the control room. The very one that Denn had taken a few hours earlier. Now, there were several people in there, perhaps trying to communicate with someone, or trying to repair one of the navigation systems.
“Through here,” said Senlar, and he pressed a button that opened a door in a wall, right there in the middle of the control room. A door that Denn had not noticed before.
It was the Captain’s Room; a small room that was accessed via the Control Room. How careless! How lucky there wasn’t anybody there when I was controlling the station!, thought Denn.
“Here is Denn, captain.”
“Thank you,” replied the captain, whilst Denn entered the room.
“I’ll go,” said Senlar, and he immediately closed the door so that the Captain and Denn could have a little privacy.
The room had an enormous picture window looking out into space, similar to the one in the control room. There, in front of said window, stood the captain, looking out onto the cosmos with his hands behind his back.
“Sit,” said the captain.
There was a desk separating Denn from the captain. He sat down in one of the two chairs pulled up in front of it, expecting the captain to turn around and sit in his seat.
“How has the search gone?” asked the captain. “Did you find anything?” he asked, and, without moving from his spot, continued contemplating the universe.
“I imagine you must already know,” answered Denn.
“I want to know what your opinion is,” insisted the captain. “Do you think the intruder escaped?”
Denn shifted a little in his seat so as to be more comfortable, and without hesitating, he answered honestly.
“He hasn’t escaped. The intruder is still here.”
The captain turned towards Denn. He was not trying to look threatening, but he maintained a seriousness that would make anybody uncomfortable.
“Still here? Maybe we haven’t searched enough. Perhaps he’s escaped somewhere. Will he be hidden?”
“Hidden in plain sight,” replied Denn, without faltering.
The faintest trace of a smile on the captain’s face appeared to show his satisfaction at Denn’s response; it was just what he was thinking.
“What is a sergeant from Tau Ceti doing in a jump-gate station in the Solar System?”
Denn did not display any nervousness; he seemed to be prepared from the start for an interrogation like this.
“That is confidential, captain.”
The captain shrugged his shoulders. It was the type of response he did not want to hear. It gave no room for finding out the truth.
“A moment ago, I found myself looking at your profile on the database... you are thirty years old... How was it that a little boy got to be sergeant in a Union squadron?”
“There are thousands of sergeants belonging to The Galactic Union armies, I suppose that many of them will be of a similar age to me, sir.”
“It’s not that common.”
Denn was not just trying to cooperate with the captain; in addition to that, The Union laws obligated it. The captain of a jump-gate station had a certain authority over medium ranks within the confines of the station, and although Denn was now a fugitive, the captain did not know it. To him, he was a sergeant who had to follow The Union laws.
“Captain, I don’t want to discuss with you whether or not I have the necessary aptitudes to have been promoted to sergeant; with all due respect, that’s a decision that has nothing to do with you.”
Denn was not irritated by the captain doubting him, it was understandable, even. What he was really worried about was the fact that he had come up with a rather loose plan: a plan that placed the crew in grave danger. His lack of experience had led to him putting innocent people at risk. He knew that it was all his fault, and he would have to do his utmost to revert the situation and get all of these people out of danger.
“Perhaps I've offended you?" asked the Captain, as he turned to face the window, to contemplate space once more.
"No, sir, that doesn't bother me, to tell the truth, the only thing bothering me is the situation we're in. Have they been able to repair the jump systems?"
The captain paused briefly before answering; a suspense that, without meaning to, managed to make Denn uncomfortable.
"No... And we won't be able to. We don't have the necessary resources."
After that response, Denn was no longer so calm. He had counted on them being able to repair the station systems. Now that he knew that was not possible, he felt afraid, not for himself, but for the lives of everyone else. They were lost in deep space thanks to his recklessness.
“There has to be some way, Captain! Are the technicians sure? And... The communicators? Have they been able to contact anyone?"
The captain noticed Denn's change in tone, the consternation that invaded him was obvious. He wondered whether it could be from fear of losing his own life, or whether it was the case that he was worried about everyone on the station.
"We haven't been able to communicate with anyone, we’re in the middle of nothing," replied the captain, and he carried on looking into space.
"Perhaps I could help, captain, I'm good at repairing things... If you'll let me take a look at the systems... I could..."
"I already told you. If professional technicians say it can't be fixed, then it's because it can't."
“But... at least we’ll be able to know our location, if we analyse the cosmos we’ll be able to find some known stars. Perhaps we could triangulate our position with some pulsars.”
“No, we don’t have a database for stars. And some of our instruments proved to be damaged. We tried to measure the distance to the centre of the galaxy, with definitely erroneous results.”
“What do you mean?”
“The results say that we are a much shorter distance from the centre of the galaxy than we ought to be. I’m not talking about a small error; the difference is enormous. Without a shadow of a doubt, the systems are not working as they ought to be. Even so, knowing where we are wouldn’t be of much use. Without the jump systems, we’re not able to go anywhere.”
The captain’s apparent calm managed to worry Denn even more, as he was still not managing to get to grips with how he could be so tranquil in the face of such a situation.
“But, aren’t you worried?” asked Denn, as he got up out of his chair. “Aren’t you concerned about the lives of all these people?”
It was a few seconds before the captain answered; it was if he wanted to add more tension to the moment.
“Perhaps you ought to calm yourself, Bornew, you’re supposed to be a sergeant, you ought to be capable of maintaining your composure in complicated situations.”
“How can you be asking me to be calm, sir? Aren’t you aware of the fragile situation we’re facing?”
“Don’t get impatient, with a little luck we’ll get out of this.”
The captain’s answer managed to tip the balance of Denn’s annoyance.
“Luck? You’re standing there, doing nothing, with no plan, just because you decided to put your trust in luck. Are you joking or something?”
The captain turned his head towards Denn for a moment, and looked at him for a second before turning around again to look into space.
“Who told you I don’t have a plan?” and he gave a brief pause. “Do you see that point in that area?”
Val lifted his hand and placed his finger on the window, pointing to a small mark in space. Denn approached a little, in order to see what the captain was talking about.
“Yes... I see it. What about it?” asked Denn, somewhat confused.
“Well that is my plan. That point you see there is a planet, and an hour ago I set course for it. We’ll see yet how our luck goes.”
A few short hours had passed since the hijacking of the station, and the high authorities of The Galactic Union had already gathered to tackle the situation. There was still no trace of the station, and Denn had already been added to the galaxy’s most-wanted list.
The Government of The Galactic Union, made up by its High Council, with its ten members and the Supreme Leader, were trying to reach a consensus regarding the measures to take.
As usual, its meetings took place in Capital City, a colossal underwater city constructed in a part of the Atlantic Ocean on the planet Earth. A city which functioned as the capital of the entire Galactic Union, in which all of the political issues and important decisions were dealt with.
Inside the Capital Palace, the Leader of The Union and his ten advisers were congregated in a hall that was completely isolated away from prying ears, seated around a circular table.
“Still nothing is known regarding the whereabouts of this Bornew,” said one of the most important members of the High Council, Voill Conner, the right-hand man to the Supreme Leader of The Union. “I have asked Tau Ceti to locate everyone he knew intimately so that they can be interrogated, in the eventuality that the situation is not resolved soon. There don’t seem to be many of them. His mother, his direct supervisor, and some soldiers from his squadron.”
“What about the station?” asked another. “Something so big ought to be relatively easy to find. With the great presence of ships and other stations in all the planetary systems, we ought to have news soon.”
“It isn’t that easy, Biherys,” said the next important member of the council, Yavar Afir. “If you had left Earth even once, you would know how vast a planetary system is.”
“I can hazard a guess... How many systems have been ruled out?”
“Seventeen,” replied Voill. “But it’s been barely a few hours since it was lost. As the hours go by, we’ll have more news. Even so, we certainly won’t know anything until the end of tomorrow.”
“We’re talking about the hijacking of a Solar System station... the central system of the entire Galactic Union... How is it possible this has happened? How does this leave our safety...? That is to say, this is where the capital of the entire Union is. It is unacceptable.”
“The public don’t know that it’s been a hijacking,” said Yavar. “What we have announced is that a failure on the station caused it to drift.”
“It’s only a matter of time before they know. This must be resolved immediately.”
The Leader of The Union, who was at the head of the table, not saying anything, got up out of his seat and walked towards a window overlooking the centre of the city constructed below the ocean. Everybody remained silent, waiting for his reaction, whilst he looked at the beautiful city full of sculptures, gardens, and fountains, populated by the most influential people in the galaxy.
He thought about all the people on the station in terms of their importance to The Union, and did not find the need to worry about them. All that mattered was what this meant for the reputation of the Solar System’s safety: the fact that one of its stations had been hijacked.
After analysing it for a moment, he came to the conclusion that that was not so important either. Now he was only worried by one thing: the robot that Denn had stolen from Earth.
“How is it that nobody knew about the robot’s existence?” asked the Leader of The Union.
The room remained silent; nobody dared to give an answer. It was as much a surprise to them that the existence of such a special robot on Earth had passed unnoticed for such a long time.
The laboratory from which it had been taken would not provide them with many answers, not after the explosion that Denn caused had reduced it to rubble. Even less the fact that this place had not been visited by virtually anybody for a long time.
It was Helagar Ust’s laboratory. He had used it during his whole life’s work for A-Corp, until the day in which he left the planet Earth, some twenty years earlier, supposedly for a convention in the Eridani System, to which he never arrived. Nothing more was ever heard of him again. A-Corp decided to shut down his laboratory, and not allow entry to anybody.
“Surely the old Helagar would have some dark intention in order to leave it in his laboratory without saying anything,” prompted Biherys.
“That bastard!” said the Supreme Leader. “He always defended his robots, even after the disaster they caused. He was very likely responsible. Where will he have got to?”
“Might he have anything to do with Bornew?” asked another member of the council. “It seems strange that this man knew exactly where to look.”
“Perhaps,” replied Voill. “Even so, it’s early days for jumping to conclusions. I made contact with A-Corp regarding the robot, and they deny all responsibility. They had no idea the robot even existed.”
The Supreme Leader was furious. The negligence of the people responsible for A-Corp was causing problems for The Union.
“I swear that if it wasn’t for A-Corp being such an important business for the economy, I would make it disappear immediately. How many problems have they given us? First the Colonisers, then the susceptibility in the semi-humans, and now this. Somebody bring me their president right now. He’s going to have to listen to me.”
“We’ve already sent for him, sir,” replied Voill. “He should be on his way.”
“Good... Capture Denn Bornew, whatever the cost. The lives of the people on board the station are of no significance. Finding that man is all that matters. I don’t know why, but I have a bad feeling. Why would somebody take such trouble to steal a robot that is an enemy to humanity? How did he know it was there? I suspect that what’s happening goes further than any of us can imagine.”
“We’ll take charge of it, sir,” reassured Voill, “don’t worry.”
“When Helagar disappeared, twenty years ago, I knew there would be problems for The Union...” The Leader paused, went back to the table, and, resting his hands on it, continued: “I have been in power for twenty-five years, I started just after the unfortunate death of the second Leader of The Union. The only reason my term is renewed every ten years is because I have done it in the best way possible. The first Leader lost his term after the events of 2215. Those sorts of things cause the people to lose confidence. I do not plan on giving way for the fourth leader. We need to find out how it is that this man knew about the robot, and why he took it, no matter the cost.”
“Sir, I assure you that we are doing everything possible to capture Bornew,” said Voill.
“You may go, all of you,” he said, and all the members of the council stood up, crestfallen, to leave the room. “Not you, Voill... Yavar.”
He had asked his reliable men to stay. The Leader of The Union needed to speak alone with them.
“What’s is it, Ebyem?” Voill asked the Leader.
“Remind me of what The Augur said, before his disappearance.”
“That is not important, sir. You are the legitimate Leader of The Union.”
“Remind me of it.”
Voill looked uneasily at Yavar. He was feeling worried about the Leader’s tone. After a short hesitation, he spoke:
“He said: ‘You’re not supposed to be who you are.’”
“I don’t remember very well, sir.”
“Yavar, do you remember?”
“Why is it important, sir?” replied Yavar.
“It was more or less what Voill said, sir... But you shouldn’t think about that... it doesn’t mean anything.”
“Something’s missing. Remind me of the whole thing please.”
Yavar had no choice, the Supreme Leader was going to insist everything that was necessary.”
“Very well... he said: ‘You’re not supposed to be who you are’.”
“He told me that the second Leader should not have died. That I should not have come to power. He said that something strange had occurred in this universe. He told me: ‘I still don’t know what the cause is, but in twenty years maybe I will’.”
“Why are you talking to us about this, sir?” asked Voill.
“Well, because those twenty years are about to come to a close, and I can’t help thinking that something bad is about to happen. Denn Bornew could be the beginning of something terrible.”
Denn did not know it, but he had managed to catch the attention of dangerous enemies. He had crossed a point of no return.
The captain had ordered that they travel to a nearby celestial body that appeared to be a planet. But the decision had required some deliberation.
Hours earlier, as Denn was alongside Neil Gobi, working on the search for the supposed intruder, Val had sent his technicians to try and repair the jump systems, without success. Upon discovering that there would be no way of putting the systems in working order, Captain Val approached the Control Room to explain the situation to the people who were trying to communicate, still unsuccessfully, with some system or vessel. He was going to explain the situation to his subordinates.
“Jin and Gor have not been able to repair the jump system,” he told them, “but the navigation systems appear to be in perfect condition. We have sufficient resources to survive on the station for at least eight weeks. But as you already know, we are in the middle of nowhere, and we can’t be sure that someone will come for us. We must take measures immediately, or we’ll all die here.”
“What do you suggest we do, captain?” said someone.
“That object you see over there,” he said, pointing into space, “is a star. Find out if there are planets orbiting it. Our only hope is to find a habitable planet.”
Thanks to the advances in genetic engineering, the human body was not the fragile entity it had been centuries before. Humans were now able to tolerate much greater atmospheric pressures than those on Earth, survive with limited quantities of oxygen, and tolerate high doses of toxic substances, such as carbon dioxide, without dying. Furthermore, the humans could now be exposed to micro gravity atmospheres for long periods of time without suffering significant damage, and acclimatise quickly to planets with strong gravity.
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