2 of 4 | Chapter 18

*

After the evening meeting, Steersman stayed behind in his office as usual. It was the moment he'd been waiting for all day. He had been trying nearly every evening for almost a year to get to a place, yet he had never succeeded; never succeeded in making it through the hidden passage to a place where he would finally get some answers. After the first two fragments, a third message was successfully deciphered by the code-breakers which excluded any doubt in his mind that he was the mysterious delegate, and it drove him mad.

knowledge demands sacrifice …

The last fraction echoed through his mind over and over again. It was the holy truth. He had paid the price.

In his office, he had created a place from where he regularly left the physical world. Several times, he felt that his mind hadn't wanted to return to his body. He almost felt sorrow at having to leave that place. At first, this feeling frightened him, and then he created an external intervention system so that he didn't suffer any physical harm. He set a time limit which he gradually increased until he achieved a three-hour ‘departure’, which he considered safe. Then one of his personal bodyguards simply shocked him with a low voltage electrical current on his bare feet, causing him to immediately return to physical consciousness. Though, he deemed it a rather drastic measure, he thought of it as a necessary evil, and it worked.

He lay back and closed his eyes. He pressed his chin to his sternum and felt his mind sink slowly into a soft, dark welcoming fog. He floated through and arrived to a familiar gloom that signaled the usual starting point. The start was always the same, but the place changed each time, making it impossible for him to map it out. This made it so hard to find anything, as he didn't know what anything looked like. He had thought of every possibility, both real and figuratively, yet what passage was he supposed to be looking for?

Here, none of the laws of physics existed, which meant that motion didn't exist either. He remained still, but wherever his mind decided to wander, the environment rolled towards him in rippling turbulent waves, sliding past him and surrounding him. Lines of energy tangled and wove into each other, writhing and shining with colors that lit the emptiness. Then again, there were the gloomy areas that dominated the space, areas where the darkness seemed to sit in dense patches with an intensity that he found disconcerting, and made him want to avoid those areas like the plague. They stirred restlessly, threatening. They held a blind secretive darkness that showed no signs of life or energy.

But now, for some reason, he was fascinated by them, and yet they were the only places into which he had not ventured.

He was determined.

He picked out a blue-black mass into which he guided his will, gradually accelerating towards it, but it didn't seem to get any nearer. He could almost feel the speed physically tugging at his stomach and the environment around him began to blur with the speed. He even could feel the wind on his face as he got faster and faster, traveling as fast as he could, yet his goal remained out of reach.

Then he suddenly stopped as realized there was no point in struggling. Then he did something that he had never tried before. He raised arms and, feeling them obey, he pushed them into the darkness, and froze instantly.

He could feel its surface at the ends of his fingers, an insane feeling that made his heart pound and nearly leap from his chest.

He grabbed at the dark mass and then everything vanished. He felt himself fall; not downwards, rather sideways somehow, or upwards. All sense of direction, all of his perceptions seemed to melt away to nothing. His mind became so confused that he thought he was dreaming; and then, he stopped suddenly, so suddenly that it jarred his head, but nothing impacted his body.

He looked around as his perceptions slowly returned.

He saw a group of figures some distance away. They stood facing each other, seemingly engaged in some kind of discussion. Their appearance was difficult to determine, but it certainly seemed that they had quite a few limbs. They had no really defined boundary between their bodies and heads, but a flickering darkness seemed to emanate from their heads.

They noticed the delegate and turned towards him one by one. Steersman had never felt so confused in his entire life. Oddly, he found himself on the ‘floor’, as if he had tripped. He felt the urge to stand up, but then everything disappeared; blinding lights shone all over his skin and he suddenly felt being ejected from their presence. In the corner of his mind, he could hear a short, deafening sound.

“What the hell just happened?” he asked aloud, opening the eyes on the couch. The robot guard stood next to him, motionless. It hadn't needed to wake him which meant that something or someone else must have intervened.

He found himself shaking, his mind racing with excitement and thousands of questions that bubbled through his thought processes. He wanted to go back, but he wasn't able to, he was not in the right state to be venturing back.

They might have been the aliens, he realized that sure enough, but most importantly he finally understood how he had managed to get there. Perhaps this was what he'd been looking for, this hidden passage. That was it, surely. He had found it at last! Yet, it hadn't led to anything.

He laughed, and then began humming with joy. He felt the urge to give the bodyguards high fives, but they just stood still, staring at him without emotion, waiting. Steersman couldn't contain his elation. He'd been looking for that damn passage for almost a year.

*

The next morning, when Steersman woke in his office, he was back to his old self, back to the man Karen had long wanted him to be. He had come back to life because he now knew what to look for. He had to wait for evening to be able to continue and, at first, that seemed the hardest part, but then realized that it wasn't. He now needed to make something of it all. He had been so focused on finding it that it had not occurred to him what he would do if found it.

That thought cast a damper on his elation and made him reconsider his options. He decided that, as long as he didn't know the answer, he wouldn't go back. First, he would prepare himself. He did not want to relive that confusion and perplexity again. There was nothing more disconcerting or unpleasant to him! Maybe it was that feeling that had pushed him out of there, but it didn't matter. The point was that he had seen them! He recalled the picture of them as they stood there, perhaps talking, a picture that was engrained upon his memories. There had been something dark and glittering, something on their heads, but their entire appearance was bizarre. They clearly had limbs, but as they all stood stationary, it was impossible to see how many they had. More, certainly, than humans. And their bodies were different. Incomparable, amazing!

 

Space fleet

Karen had chosen the surface of the Moon as the space feet assembly base. It had been built on the Earth-facing side of the moon, in a crater that was one hundred kilometers in diameter and the entire base was completely shielded from the sun by a thin foil screen. The screen protected the spaceship frames from direct sunlight which appeared to damage them, though they were resistant to any other form of energy.

Gravity on the Moon was one sixth that of the Earth, but it still kept workers and objects firmly on the ground. Because the weight of components was a fraction of that on earth, the construction work was being completed incredibly fast. The moon offered perfect conditions for constructing the three gigantic spacecrafts, each 14 kilometers long. The ships were christened Carapace I-II-III, named for their shape.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH