Disclaimers: The characters in this story are mine, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is coincidental. I originally started this story in 1992 or 93, with a man as the main character. In 1995, I realized that I liked stories with women as the main character better than ones with men as the main character; therefore I changed the main character to a woman.
Warning: This story contains material about lesbian relationships, nothing very explicit, but there. If you don't like that, don't read this.
On this topic: I am a man that is sexually attracted to women. That said, thinking back to when I started to be attracted to women, I found that I did not choose my sexual orientation. It just was, like the color of my skin. Unless I am a totally unusual human being, no one chooses their sexual orientation, any more than they choose their skin color. Therefore, no one is a sinner simply because of their sexual orientation. Any definition of sin involves a choice by the person sinning, even if it is the choice to do nothing. Therefore anyone, who is like me and did not choose their sexual orientation, is not a sinner simply because of their sexual orientation; no matter what that orientation is. I also believe that no one is exempt from sinning, or better than others, no matter what their sexual orientation happens to be.
Feedback: Any constructive feedback is welcome. You can presently reach me at email@example.com.
There was a yell; "There she goes!" as the spot light from the 4x4 momentarily illuminated the ground around her running feet. Gail Green, running for her life, ducked into the mouth of a narrow canyon, and for the moment, out of the light. The canyon turned up ahead, and a line of stones just before the turn gave her an idea how she might slow down, or lose, those who were following her. A little before reaching the stones she started climbing the right side of the canyon, angling up the side until she was beside the first stone and about ten feet above it. Deliberately stepping where her shoe would leave an imprint she jumped sideways back into the canyon landing on the first rock. Using the rocks as stepping stones she ran for the bend in the canyon. A couple of steps before she reached the bend a flash of light made her glance back to see if they could see her. It was only light reflecting off the side of the canyon no one was in sight yet. As Gail turned her head back her foot hit the last and smallest of the stones; it rolled under her foot sending her plunging head first at the stone ledge that jutted out in front of her at the turn. Putting up her hands to stop herself, she was shocked as they met almost no resistance while they disappeared into what looked like solid rock.
Instinctively ducking her head; she passed through the ledge, then rolled as she hit the ground inside, until she was brought up short by a stack of containers covered with a tarp. Groaning from the bumping and banging, she righted herself and leaned her back against the stacked containers.
As her head cleared, the cave was illuminated by the lights of the 4x4 as it turned into the canyon. The light was dimmed as if it came through tinted glass; so Gail assumed that the illusion camouflaging the cave mouth was still in effect, her recent passage through it had not damaged or turned it off. Even so, she thought it wisest to move around behind the containers, not knowing how well the illusion would hold in the stronger light from the vehicle.
As she settled behind the crates she groaned at the thought that this might be a secret stash of the people she was fleeing. That would be the end of her, and a string of bad luck that had started near sunset that evening.
She had driven out of town to try for some good pictures of the day's sunset. Parking behind an old building near the end of the old road that ran up to the town's abandoned airfield, she had walked around the perimeter until she had an unobstructed view of the setting sun. There she had set up her tripod and camera. She had taken what she hoped would turn out to be good exposures of the evening's display of color.
As she dismounted her camera and put its strap around her neck, it was nearly dark with just a little light in the sky. A car drove onto the airfield and stopped at the end of the runway. There it turned on its 4-way flashers. Then a 4x4 pulled up to the other end of the runway and put its flashers on. Gail thought, "this is weird". She collapsed her tripod and turned to start back to her car when a Cessna Centurion flew low over the field, then climbed slightly, slowing and putting down its landing gear. The pilot lined up with the vehicles' flashing lights and came down and landed on the runway. When the plane came to a stop, the vehicles came from the ends of the runway and parked beside it. Two people from each vehicle and the pilot from the plane got out and started to unload packages from the plane and put them into the 4x4.
Gail knew that no one would need to unload a plane on an abandoned airfield at night if they were doing something that was legal. That meant that she was in danger, maybe a lot of danger, if they found out she was around. The trouble was that to get to her car she had to pass near the people that were unloading the Centurion. Just then there was a commotion at the plane, two of the men started running in the direction of her car; while another of the men jumped into the 4x4 and turned on a spotlight and swung it around to point in the direction they were running. The pilot must have seen her car from the air and just mentioned it to the others.
Seeing the gun in the hand of one of the running men, Gail knew she was in a lot of trouble. They would easily find her car, and worse yet they would be able to find her name and address on the ownership that she had left in its usual place in the glove box. She headed towards the trees on the side of the airport away from the men and her car. Just before she reached the cover of the trees the spotlight started swinging around, and swept over her just as she entered the trees.
The starting of the 4x4's motor told her that she had been seen, her best chance was to hurry through the trees and find some kind of cover on the other side but away from this stand of trees. It was too small to hide her for long if there was a determined search.
Leaving the trees, she saw the mouth of a canyon about 100 yards ahead and to her left. She sprinted for the canyon, nearly unencumbered, having put her camera into her camera vest as well as having dropped the tripod just after entering the trees. While running, she thought, "If I can make the canyon before they come through or around the trees; they might think I am still hiding in the trees and give me a chance to get away." But her luck stayed bad, and as she entered the canyon the light from the spotlight on the 4x4 splashed over her again and someone had said: "There she goes!"
The 4x4 stopped where she had gone up the side of the canyon. Two men got out and ran up to the top of the ridge. After looking around they called back that the woman could not have gone that way, it was too open for someone to hide in the time she had since they saw her at the mouth of the canyon. They came slowly back to the vehicle checking the few bushes that dotted the side of the canyon. After reaching the vehicle, they walked beside it as it slowly continued down the canyon, spotlight swinging this way and that.
After the men and the vehicle disappeared from view Gail breathed a sigh of relief, then lifted the edge of the tarp to see what was under it. Since the vehicle's lights no longer lit the cave she used her hands to feel the boxes under the tarp. Some of them seemed to be padded, and others seemed to be made from some kind of plastic. Remembering the little light she carried to help in cleaning her camera lenses, she got it out and used it to see what her hands had felt. Her eyes confirmed what her hands told her; they also showed her that each container had something written on it, but in a script that she could not recognize let alone read.
Feeling tired from the after effects of having so much adrenaline in her system, Gail piled some of the padded boxes together to use as a makeshift bed; then she lay on them with the edge of the tarp as a cover. She only intended to rest a bit and plan what her next course of action should be, but after running over a few of her options her mind gave up and she drifted off to sleep.
Betir, the Hruan, was growing impatient. He was almost late in returning to his cache. He did not want to be late; the captain expected him to be ready to leave the planet and this star system on time. His problem was a bunch of local people; they were searching for something or someone near his cache. Even though he was cloaked to the point of near invisibility, he would have to come too close to one of the searchers to be sure to stay unnoticed. Then, the man that was in his way moved off to join another on the far side of his cache. At the same time he received the signal that the ship had returned and was ready to beam up him and his samples. Betir signaled back: "Wait, ready soon," as he made his way to his cache. He walked up to, and, after glancing around, through what looked to be an out thrust of rock at the side of the canyon. Turning off his personal cloak, he placed the container with his final sample of the local flora on top of the tarp that covered the rest of his samples. He signaled ready, and a moment later he, his pile of samples and the device used to hide his cache shimmered and was gone.
Down the canyon one of the searchers pointed at the out thrust of rock that was disappearing in a shower of sparkling light, saying, "Look!". His companion turned in time to see the rock fading to invisibility. "Wow", he said, "Am I glad we both saw that! The boss is going to find this hard to believe."
least we won't have to worry about the woman informing the police," said the
Gail was having a nightmare; she had run from some criminals and accidentally found a camouflaged cave to hide in. After falling asleep on some padded containers, she dreamed that someone woke her up by saying something in a language she could not understand. She was about to push the tarp off herself to see what was going on, when everything began to sparkle and started to disappear, including herself.
Almost immediately she sparkled into existence again; only now her head ached. It felt like someone had inflated a beach ball inside it. Through the pain she heard someone ask: "Safely aboard Betir?"
Someone, presumably Betir, answered: "Yes sir."
Groaning because of her aching head, Gail thought: "Now would be a good time to wake up." Instead she heard the first voice announce: "All hands, prepare for singularity drive. Auto sequence has started, singularity in ten seconds."
Gail could tell, in spite of the pain in her head, that her ears were hearing the same language that woke her up in the camouflaged cave; but now her mind was making sense of it. Only, what was a 'singularity drive', and how did one prepare for it? Groaning again she pushed the tarp aside and sat up.
She saw she was in a large room with piles of boxes or machinery scattered hear and there in it. The light in the room was about like that of a cloudy day, but just then it flashed a light pink and was accompanied by a low pitched wail: bwwaaahh! A second later the light flashed a deeper pink. The sound that went with it was a higher pitched: baaah! Gail got the message, it was a count down; but, looking around she could not see anyone to ask what to do. The light had gone from pink to red, to dark red, and now flashed a purple-red. The tone was now an ear piercing: rrieeeee!
This time there were no sparkles, Gail felt herself torn apart to sub-atomic particles and flung towards infinity in an ever-expanding sphere. An unknown interval later, she coalesced back into herself. She screamed at the pain she felt; as, now reassembled, her body made known to her the abuse it had just taken. As the pain increased, her mind shut down from the sensory overload, the room quickly faded to the black of unconsciousness.
Betir stepped out of the alcove housing the protective field that kept him safe from the effects of the singularity drive; and into the sound of someone screaming in agony. He hurried around his pile of samples and stared down at the limp form of a woman from the planet he had just left. He knew that the woman had screamed from the effects of the singularity drive. It was always painful, and sometimes fatal, to be unprotected at the moment of singularity.
After requesting for the ship's doctor to be sent to cargo bay #2, he called the captain over the intercom and explained the situation to him. Captain Faftir scowled at the speaker bringing him the final words of Betir's explanation. Even if Betir had been in a rush and had not checked for someone hiding among his samples, the transporter should have automatically detected, and left where it was; such a large, untagged life form. After acknowledging Betir's report, he called the doctor and told him to call him as soon as his patient came out of singularity shock.
Turning to the ship's navigator, he instructed him to see if there were any inhabitable planets near their present position. There was no way this person was going to be able to stand another singularity transition soon; even if she was protected from its full effects. Next he called engineering and asked them to check out the transporter to see why it malfunctioned.
A short time later security called and said the computer had succeeded in translating the victim's personal documents. Her name was Gail Green, a photographer. Most of the items found with her were mechanisms used to take still pictures or care for said mechanisms.
So miss unfortunate soul, your name is Green, thought Faftir as he looked at the view on the large navigational screen. It showed a vista of black space dotted with faint stars over most of its surface. These stars he knew were actually distant galaxies. Across the bottom stretched a carpet of stars that made up a spiral galaxy. They were near the edge of it and slightly above it. At the right side of the screen were the glowing gases and a few stars of a small cluster of stars. This cluster formed an irregular bump on the plain of stars forming the galaxy below them.
His musings were interrupted by the navigator saying: "Sir, there is an inhabitable planet in the cluster to our right and down toward the parent galaxy. It is about a days travel from here using our normal space drive."
"Good Mr. Matir," said Faftir to the navigator, "set course for that system." Turning to the pilot he said: "Mr. Vatir, as soon as the course is laid in take us there as fast as is consistent with safety."
Gail woke up feeling weak and with enough pains in various places to know she had been abused. She was lying on a bed naked, except for the sheet, in what looked like a small ward in a hospital. There were two other beds in the room besides her own, both of them unoccupied. She wondered how much, if any, of what she remembered having happened, had really happened.
A tall blonde man walked in the open door of the room and came up to the bed. "Can you understand me?" he said, "My name is Dr. Tatir." As he said this, it was translated and spoken in English by a device attached to his smock.
"Yes, I can understand with or without the translation," answered Gail. By the look on the doctor's face this was not what he had expected.
Turning off the translation device the doctor asked, "You can really understand without the translation?"
"Yes, to my ears it sounds like a meaningless bunch of syllables; but my mind somehow catches the thoughts expressed by the words."
But I just heard you speak fluently in Hruan," countered the doctor, "where did you learn it?"
Gail responded, "I do not know what language you hear when I speak; but I am answering in the only language I know, English."
"If we have time, we can pursue this later," said Tatir. "Do you know what has happened and where you are?"
Gail told him about running from the criminals and subsequent events, including the thoughts that some of the events might only have occurred in a dream.
"Well you can stop worrying that you dreamed the last part and start worrying what is going to happen to you now. You are on board the Hruan ship, Starloper. You just went, unprotected, through a singularity jump which has brought us near a galaxy in another universe. Your universe, and not just your home galaxy, is only accessible by a ship such as this that is equipped with a singularity drive. We cannot take you directly back to your planet, as even with protection, another exposure to the singularity drive so soon; would surely kill you. Even if we waited a week, another exposure to our main drive might still kill you. We do not have a week. In about two days, the dimensional rift that allowed us access to this collection of universes; will close and leave us with no way to go home. Excuse me I must inform the captain that you have regained consciousness and will recover."
Gail was confused. If she believed what she had just been told, she was cut off from all that had been normal. Nothing could be taken for granted. She would have to play it by ear, evaluating each situation as it arose. She mentally thanked whoever or whatever had delivered her from her pursuers. Still weak and tired from the trials she had just endured, she drifted into a sleep troubled by many dreams.
When she woke hours later, Gail felt stronger and overall much better physically; mentally she did not feel that well. She was afraid of what her options might be. It did not sound as if she would like whatever they turned out to be.
The doctor came in then and said, "The captain told me he is going to beam you down to the surface of a habitable planet we will reach in about three hours. We do not know whether it is inhabited or not. We will try to find out and let you know before we beam you down."
"When you say beam me down, do you mean the sparkly way I was taken from earth?" asked Gail.
"Yes," he replied.
A man entered with the clothes she had been wearing; only now they were clean. After dressing herself, Gail went with the doctor to one of the ship's dining rooms. There she enjoyed a meal of roast meat, something that looked like potatoes, something that looked and tasted like carrots, and some whole grain bread. During the meal the doctor speculated on her ability to understand and make herself understood in Hruan.
"There seems to be more connections between the various parts of your brain than I would think of as normal. You are not an exact copy of a Hruan internally, but you're close enough that I would expect the physical makeup of your brain to be more similar to ours."
"I think it happened when I was transported aboard," said Gail. My head felt like an over inflated ball, and I understood the message about preparing for singularity drive; but I did not know what to expect, or prepare for. Yet, just before I was beamed up, I heard someone speak something in Hruan and it did not mean anything to me."
"You think then," said Tatir, "that our transporter beam caused the alteration to your mind?"
"It is very likely," said Gail, "but I know that the singularity drive has also had some effect. I am more aware of things both internally and externally than before."
"The drive," replied the doctor, "affects individuals in any number of ways. The transporter should not have caused any change in you; except the normal one of a change in location."
Captain Faftir entered the bridge, and after accepting command from the sub-commander on duty; he asked for a report on the system they were entering. He was told that it had a few wandering asteroids and seven planets; all but the one closest to the sun had one or more moons. The third one out from the sun was the planet with an acceptable atmosphere. Time to reach orbit was half an hour; as yet there were no signs of intelligent inhabitants.
Half an hour later, Gail watched from the screen in one of the transporter rooms as the ship assumed orbit. Her camera equipment and vest had been returned to her. Her film had been developed and the images recorded. The slides had been given back to her so she would have something to help her remember Earth.
A siren went off and a yellow light flashed below the screen. A voice from the speaker announced, "Yellow alert, yellow alert, we have just been scanned from the planet below."
"Well," thought Gail, "I hope they are friendly."
A crewman came in and handed Gail a backpack and a canteen. He told Gail that there was food, a knife, a communicator, and a hatchet in the pack; just in case she was not able to immediately find her way to civilization. In spite of the Starloper being scanned, there was still no other indication of intelligent life down on the surface. The captain did not like it. He had the feeling that things could turn sour at any moment. "Any sign of the origin of the scanning beam?"
"No sir," said Lt. Patir at the weapons station. Immediately he continued, "Sir! We are now being probed."
"Through our screens?" injected the captain.
"Yes sir; the probe has logged onto the computer and is seeking information about crew and passengers on board."
"Where is it coming from?" asked the captain.
"From a square mile area of an oval lake near the central mountain chain," said Patir.
Punching the intercom, Faftir called out to the transporter room, "Mr. Sabtir, get the co-ordinates of a lake from Lt. Patir at weapons; and beam our guest down near it."
"Complying," said Sabtir.
Turning to the bridge crew the captain ordered, "Ready singularity drive!" "Set course for the rift and home."
Ten seconds later Sabtir called back, "Miss Green is safely on the surface near the lake."
"All hands prepare for singularity drive in five seconds," yelled the captain. To Mr. Vatir he said, "Take us out of here before that probe disables us." Five seconds later, the Starloper disappeared from under the probe. One nanosecond later the probe winked out.
within the planet, in a secret base under the mountains; a command was issued:
"All units to stand-by. A guardian has been sent; prepare for her arrival."
All over the base lights came on in rooms and corridors. Mechanisms, idle for
centuries, came to life. The base temperature was slowly brought up from the
10 degrees Celsius of the shut down mode, to 22 degrees C.
Gail watched with her new mental senses as the Hruan transporter created a path to the planet's surface; and sent her along it. She perceived how the process could be halted as the path was created; but did not wish to remain on the Starloper, so did nothing. She materialized in a clearing in the foothills of a mountain range. A good look around only gave her a view of more wilderness. The Hruans had said that they were sending her down near the area from which they had been scanned. If they had kept their promise, the installation must be hidden or camouflaged.
Gail took off the backpack the Hruan had given her and rummaged through it until she found the communicator in a side pocket. She called the Hruan ship, but received no answer. After trying for another five minutes, she gave up calling the Hruans; realizing they must have left for home. Instead she then spent the next half hour calling and listening on different frequencies; trying to make contact with whoever had scanned the ship.
When there was no response from the radio, Gail decided to look around. Across the clearing and slightly uphill there seemed to be a pear tree, it was just too far away to be sure it was a pear tree. Straining to see if it was truly a pear tree, she suddenly was viewing it from what looked like about two feet away; and yes, it was a pear tree. "Wow!" thought Gail, projected vision, as she mentally shifted her point of view around the tree. Since some of the pears were ripe, she thought about walking over to the tree to have some for a snack. Her mind then showed her a path or doorway to the tree; similar to the one she sensed while being transported from the Starloper to this planet. She grabbed her backpack and mentally stepped through the doorway; and there she was, beneath the pear tree; mind and body. Both stunned and elated at these new abilities, Gail sat beneath the pear tree munching on a pear as she meditated on these new developments. She thought about how she might use them to find the inhabitants of this planet.
She spent some time thinking on the many things that had happened over the last two days; and tried to put it into some kind of workable framework. When she thought of how impossible it would be to return to Earth, she shuddered. Even if she was able to acquire a spaceship of her own that had a singularity drive, she did not know how to use it to travel intra-dimensionally. She did not know much of anything about her own universe's space-time characteristics, that might help her to identify it from any of the other universes a singularity drive could take her to. Then some comforting thoughts came to her. She remembered that she had been helped in escaping her pursuers. Also that she now had some new and interesting abilities to help her survive and prosper in her new environment.
Standing up, Gail decided to use her projected vision to look for a place to camp for the night. The sun was definitely going down, and this was not a good place to camp. Looking to the top of the pear tree, she focused her attention there and found herself looking out over the landscape from treetop height. This did not give her the perspective she wished; so she thought about rising like a balloon. The tree fell away below her mental sight; and the landscape surrounding it opened to her view. At what she estimated to be 500 feet above the ground, she mentally stopped her ascent.
To the East, was a mountain chain that rose until some of the peaks were snow covered. Toward the West, the land rolled up and down until details were lost in the sun, hanging low in the sky. To the South, the terrain was cris-crossed by rocky ridges and deep valleys. It looked like difficult terrain to cross on foot. To the North, there was a lake in the next valley. Across the lake more tree covered hills could be seen. A small stream flowed from the south side of the lake; and wound through the north-west corner of the valley she was in.
Mentally swooping towards the stream, Gail spied a likely camping spot on the near bank. Now to get myself there, she thought. An eye blink later she was again looking out from beneath the pear tree with her physical eyes.
She picked a few pears from the tree; grabbed her backpack, and thought of the spot she had seen by the stream. There it was before her mental eyes; also visible, outlined in green, was the dimensional doorway connecting the stream bank to the place she was standing. Not physically stirring, she mentally walked through the doorway and was physically there, standing on the bank of the stream.
This mental mode of travel gets easier to do with practice, thought Gail. She walked up the bank into the trees and put down her pack and the pears she had picked, on a flat, grassy spot. She ambled to the stream, then she bent and scooped some water out of the stream with her cupped hand and tasted it. The water was clear, cold, and tasted good. She decided to use water from the stream for a part of her supper; if she did not get sick from drinking it, she would use the stream to fill her canteen in the morning.
Gail gathered some leaves from the bushes and trees and made a base on which she placed the sleeping bag the Hruans had provided. Rummaging in the backpack she pulled food containers out until she found one that translated 'stew'. She opened the container and set it down in the grass beside her. It was a good thing that she did; because the container felt hot by the time she let go of it.
In a minute the contents were steaming. Reading the label more closely Gail found that the opened container would keep the stew warm for the next five minutes; it would then start to cool off. Finding a spoon in the backpack, she enjoyed the warm food while watching the last rays of the setting sun turn the clouds orange and pink; then red and purple. After washing in the stream, Gail turned in for the night.
The next morning Gail woke up surprised that she had not had any trouble sleeping. Either nothing unusual or noisy occurred, or she had slept right through it. The sun was just touching the tops of the trees; giving the leaves a red-gold cast. The air was cool so Gail dressed quickly; then went to the stream to wash up before having breakfast. Burr, the water was cold; she hoped she would find the inhabitants of this planet today. She already missed the comforts of indoor plumbing.
After a breakfast of pears and some other fruits and berries she found growing beside the stream, Gail rinsed her canteen and refilled it from the stream. Looking around, she enjoyed the unspoiled country all about her. Rolling her sleeping bag and stowing it in the back pack, she thought: "this could be a good home if the natives are friendly." This brought her mind around to the days main project; try to find the planet's inhabitants.
A short way down stream she found a fallen tree with a branch in such a position that it made a good backrest while she sat on the trunk. Putting the pack down by her feet, she made herself as comfortable as possible on the tree trunk. Then she concentrated and sent her vision out and up, so that she followed the general course of the stream from about 200 feet up. After a while the stream joined another larger stream; together they made a river. Gail followed the river for the next half hour, as she had the stream; all she saw were deer and other wild creatures hunting their daily rations.
Sending her vision up about 5,000 feet, Gail looked for signs of habitation, roads, fields, buildings, dams, and the like. Nothing that signified people could be seen. Turning off her projected vision; she went, in the blink of an eye, from looking out over the distant river valley to looking out over the stream from her perch on the fallen tree.
While she did not feel strained from the mental exercise, she decided to take it easy with the new mental gifts until she had more time to become accustomed to them. Since the land down stream appeared to be uninhabited, she decided to walk up towards the lake in the next valley.
A hour later she looked out over the small lake. Nothing she could see around the lake, or while on the trip to it, suggested that there were any inhabitants about; not now, nor for some time in the past. People usually mark their passage with campfires, and other unmistakable signs. Paths made by feet are wider than most trails left by animals.
Gail knew that if the Hruans had done as they said, the beam that scanned the Hruan ship had come from the area around the lake that was before her. Therefore she was going to have to use her scanning ability to check the area thoroughly. Taking off her backpack, she settled herself in some shade and got to work.
Forty minutes later she was certain there was nothing man made nearby unless it was cloaked as the Hruan cache on Earth had been. She would have to check the rocks and trees to see if they were real or a projected illusion. Not in a hurry to start walking around tapping the rocks and trees, Gail decided to use her ability to check out the lake. Projecting her vision out over the lake she visually skimmed the water. Mentally bracing herself, she went below the surface without a ripple to mark her mental passage.
She sensed the water that surrounded her point of view, that is, she was aware of the water almost as if she were physically in it. She had experienced the same sensation of the physical presence of the air while mentally flying around the countryside; but it was more pronounced and noticeable in the water.
She followed the bottom contour as it sloped into the depths of the lake. As she went deeper she was aware of the light from above dimming; but was still able to see what was before her. It was as if she was touching what was before her, and therefore aware of each plant, or fish, or rock, more completely than when seeing them with her physical eyes.
As far as Gail could tell, the plants, fish, and other creatures in the lake were what would normally be fond in any mountain lake. Then her sense touched an immense bubble of what looked and felt like clear plastic. Inside the bubble was a complicated looking antenna array. "This is probably the origin of the beam that scanned the Starloper," she thought.
Gail decided to try and follow the connections from the antennas to their source; hoping they would lead her to this planet's inhabitants. Finding the conduit for the cables was not hard, but to her surprise she found that it angled almost straight down below the bubble. She followed the conduit down at what seemed like about 20 miles an hour; after a few minutes she started to feel a strain from expecting the conduit to end suddenly. Letting go of the strain by not worrying about missing the end of the conduit; she sped up the pace of decent looking for a major change in the rock or the pipe as her stopping point.
About five minutes later, she flew through the roof of a building along with the conduit and stopped herself. The main branch of the conduit continued on through the floor of this room. Five smaller branches left through various holes in three of the room's four walls.
Mentally following the conduit to the floor below, Gail found a large room filled with screens and display terminals of various kinds. No one was in the room and most of the screens were blank. There was only a large screen on the wall to her right that was on. It showed a view of space with what she took to be small notes, or messages, that changed every few seconds. Some of the notes were beside dots of light that slowly changed position across the screen. Except for its size it reminded her of a radar screen she had seen in an airport control tower. This was not finding the owners of this set-up; so she mentally went down through the rest of the building looking for someone in charge of the place, or its builders.
She left the building through the doors on the ground floor. She had, so far, failed to find anyone. In front of her was a garden or park; this stretched out to the left and right until it broke into patches of bushes and trees. Among these patches rose buildings similar to the one behind her except none of them had as many floors as the seven storied building behind her. Across the park in front of her, Gail could see a large open area. This area was so large that she could not readily see where it ended. The whole area was illuminated by some means that cast shadows as if it was the middle of the morning or afternoon.
At this point she stopped using her mental eyes and returned her attention to what her physical eyes saw by the lake. She did not know how safe this planet was; and did not like to be mentally somewhere out of her body too long. Checking the immediate area Gail found no cause for alarm. It was a beautiful morning. The sky was a deep blue with a scattering of fluffy-looking white clouds. The woods around the lake had only the usual sounds coming from it; wind in the trees, what sounded like squirrels chattering, and birds singing or calling out to one another.
Picking up her backpack she thought about the installation far beneath her feet; and there she was, mentally looking out from the same vantage point in front of the tallest building of the complex. Wanting to be there physically, she searched for and found the mentally activated dimensional door that would take her from beside the lake to the cavern; as she activated it she noticed that its edge had a green glow like the others she had used.
Instantly, she was physically in the cavern; looking out over the park in front of the tall building she thought of as the administration center of this underground base. A movement in the park to her right caused her to turn that way. Something was moving in the foliage near the building there. She was about to use her projected vision to see what it was, when a movement at the door of the building she was standing near, drew her fully around facing the doors.
What emerged from the door was a woman dressed in a green pair of pants and matching shirt with an emblem on it, just below the right shoulder. As the woman walked toward her Gail noticed that the woman's skin was neither dark nor particularly light; her hair was dark brown. She was about five feet ten inches in height. Then she stopped about three feet in front of Gail; lifting her hands waist high, palms up, she inclined her body forward slightly and said, "Greetings, Guardian! Welcome to outpost number twenty-nine, otherwise known as, Eldorado."
"Guardian? You must be confused; my name is Gail Green," said Gail. "If you are in charge here, you must be the guardian."
"No Miss Green, my name is Lira. I am the computer left in charge of this outpost." she answered. "The Guardians were recalled when something threatened their home world. What you see before you is the holographic projection of a woman; the image with which, I chose to greet you. When they left, the Guardians said that they would return; or, have someone sent to perform their duties of guardianship. When the first hundred years of my wait had passed, I stopped expecting the Guardians themselves to return. So you must be sent by them; even if you did not know by whom or to what you were being sent."
"I don't think I was sent at all," said Gail. "I have never met anyone that could have been one of your Guardians; so I could not have been sent by them."
"You do not understand, Guardian," said Lira, "anyone other than a Guardian or someone sent by them, would automatically trip the intruder alert alarms built into this base. You have not set them off; therefore you register as a Guardian, by definition that makes you a Guardian."
"You say that you have been waiting for over a hundred years for the Guardians to return; just how long have you been waiting for someone?"
"It has been 411 years since the recall," said Lira.
"I think you should check the circuitry for your intruder alarms," said Gail. "They must need re-calibrating after so long a time."
"They were re-calibrated at the time the Guardians left. They used the new technique of reading character through an analysis of a person's aura. That last re-calibration of the systems should be good for 6,000 years."
"Is there any other intelligent beings on this planet?" asked Gail.
"No there are not," responded Lira.
"What would you have me do?" asked Gail.
"You need information about this base and its capabilities if you are to run it successfully," replied Lira. "As well, your abilities must be tested; so I can better advise you of assignments that fall within those abilities."
The next week went by quickly. There were all kinds of tests and questions to find out what Gail was able to do. The reason she submitted to them at all, was that she felt it was the best way to show Lira, the base computer, that she was not really a Guardian. She also thought that it would be the quickest way of finding a way to have access to other living beings. Gail knew she needed to interact with other living beings to remain happy and stable.
She learned the layout of the base, a little each day, as part of the day's routine. Lira would take her somewhere new each day and explain what the equipment and/or area was used for. The first day she was shown the medical facilities. Lira had her take off her clothes and lay on one of the beds which automatically checked her physical condition. At the end of the examination, the sides of the bed came up and partially curved over her. Energy was emitted from the raised sides which bathed her from her head to her feet. This lasted for about 20 seconds, then the sides withdrew. Getting up from the bed Gail felt refreshed and invigorated. While getting dressed, she noticed that she no longer had her pubic hair. Looking more closely she saw that all her body hair had been removed. Feeling her face and head she discovered that she still had her eyebrows and eyelashes as well as the normal hair on her head. She was happy for the removal of her unwanted body hair and asked Lira how long it would last. Lira told her that it was permanent. The hair would never grow back.
On the sixth day she was shown a workplace at the edge of the base's landing field. Even though it was underground and was technically a hangar, it was so large, miles across, that Gail thought of it as a landing field. In this workplace at the edge of the field, was a ship that was stripped down to the inner framework. The pieces that belonged on the frame were in neat piles scattered around the framework. Lira informed her that this ship, the Dawn Zepher; was left by the Guardians because of its small size, just over 150 feet long, and the urgency of their departure. She informed Gail that she would help her with checking it for damage, and with rebuilding, it if Gail wanted her to. Since it was just what Gail was looking for, a way off this world, she told Lira that she would be happy to have help in trying to reassemble the ship.
During the second week after her arrival in the base, Gail started a routine of working on the Dawn Zepher in the mornings; and being instructed in reading and writing the Guardian language in the afternoon. She also learned spaceship navigation and galactic geography as part of the afternoon lessons. Working on the ship included the studying of manuals and computer programs on ship building and engineering. Lira helped by pointing out the updated drive and new screens that were to go into the ship. They were the main reason that the Zepher had been stripped down at the time of recall.
By the time all the sub-systems had been checked out and Gail actually was able to start to reassemble the Zepher, she had been in the base for over a month. By then she was used to getting her food from a replicator; a device that made up food, dishes, and drinks from energy, according to the recipes that were on file in the computer. She now wore green slacks and a shirt of the type Lira's projected image wore; with the jewel-ship insignia on the right front of the shirt. They were made of an easy care synthetic that was soft and light, like silk.
Gail found little difficulty with the Guardian language. She was able to remember almost everything she read as a consequence of her mind being altered by the events that had brought her to Eldorado. She found it more difficult to understand some of the engineering she was forced to study. All circuitry was superconducting type circuitry; where necessary, ADFOLANT [A Device For Ohm Lowering At Normal Temperatures] was used to reduce line resistance. The real oddball was a device called a Spin-dizzy power coupler. She hoped she could get the ship running without having to delve into the theory needed to be able build one. The food replicators could not be altered to make one. All the industrial replicators had been taken when the Guardians had left.
She was also having a problem with teleporting objects that she was not physically in contact with. Lira said that the tests she had taken; showed that this was an ability she had as a corollary to her ability to teleport herself. It was not very hard if she wanted to bring the object to herself; but if she was not at the position of the object to be moved nor at the object's destination, it was still difficult and time consuming to mentally connect the object with the desired destination. As a useful way to practice this, Lira had her spend an hour each day teleporting objects from place to place inside the base; as well as between the base and the planet's surface.
Taking every seventh day as a day of rest, it took Gail another three months to put the Dawn Zepher together. The Zepher was 150 feet long and 60 feet wide and 18 feet thick. There were two decks, each of which was eight feet from floor to ceiling. The drive, power generation, power storage and most of the other necessary machinery was on the lower deck. The galley, bridge, transporter, lounge, and cabins, were on the upper deck.
There was only one problem, the ship's drive would not work. It needed a Spin-dizzy power coupler and there wasn't one anywhere in the base, or on the planet. Luckily, the other systems such as life support, lighting, water, the galley, and the computer were all on separate circuits with their own power supplies. Lira said she could help Gail build a Spin-dizzy power coupler; but a few special tools would have to be made first. She suggested that Gail try teleporting the ship. "Just a short way out into the landing field," she said. "Then if that works, you can increase the distance; to the planet's surface, then to orbit."
Since Gail had nothing to lose, she gave it a try. Boy was she surprised when she moved the whole ship twenty yards out onto the landing field. The surprise, was that the ship seemed no harder to move than the many parts and tools that Lira had made her practice with.
Thinking that it might be even easier to 'port the ship from inside it, Gail teleported to the control room aboard the Zepher. Strapping into the command seat first, she turned all systems on and had the computer run a check of the ship; while it was doing that she did a mental scan of the ship herself. A minute later the computer reported all systems except the drive were in the green; the hull was secure and reserve power stood at one tenth of capacity.
The computer then said, "You may call me Dawn."
"Stand by for transfer to the surface of the planet Dawn. Scan for the lake there, we will arrive just over the water."
"Scanning," replied Dawn. "Stated destination is now on the main screen. May I remind you that the drive is off line?"
"Activate all sensors, and be prepared for a small bump. After transfer we should fall about a foot onto the surface of the lake." Mentally finding the doorway to the surface, Gail noticed that there were two doorways instead of one. One much larger and at an angle to the other, but both surrounded by a green glow. Thinking that the smaller door would only move herself without the ship, she activated the larger doorway. Two seconds later the Zepher was gently rocking in the waves on the lake's surface.
"Destination achieved," said Dawn, "co-ordinates check. No power surge or energy source detected. How was transfer completed?"
"I teleported the ship here," said Gail. "Now to try for an orbit. Can you give me a view of this planet as it would look from an orbit that would leave us over and stationary to the lake we are on?"
"Requested view is now coming up on the main view screen," replied Dawn.
Gail studied the picture on the screen; then sent her mental eyes out into space until she was viewing the planet from the perspective of the picture on the main screen.
"Are all systems except the drive still in the green?"
"Yes, said Dawn, you may attempt transfer at any time."
Gail mentally gathered the ship up and stepped over to the new position.
"Standard parking orbit achieved," responded Dawn.
For the next week Gail practiced moving the Dawn Zepher around the solar system and getting to know the ship, its sensors, and its energy screens. There were no weapons on the Zepher; neither hand held, nor built into the ship. The screens could be set to reflect back, in a tight beam, any energy that was directed against them. The screens could also be set to absorb and store energy in the ship's energy tanks--they could store way too much energy to think of them as just batteries--or just spread it out and dissipate it back into space.
There were six other planets beside Eldorado in the system. Only one of them was marginally inhabitable. On the local star charts that Lira supplied; the sun was known only by its number M-563. The cluster of stars it was in was slightly above the galactic plane. Since no one had found anything unusual or rare in the cluster; the space faring people of the galaxy it was near, did not trouble themselves with it, or the systems it contained. Everything in it could be had closer to home, with less expenditure of time and effort.
Back in the base, resting and evaluating her efforts; Gail was thinking of making a power coupler for the Zepher's engine. She thought that it would take about a month to construct one from scratch. It sure would have been nice to have had a spare one in the base.
She was interrupted by Lira calling her on the video in her quarters. "We have just received a distress call from the Hyperion, a space liner. Her engines broke down leaving her too close to, and falling towards a sun. The nearest help is at least two hours away. In about 45 minutes the Hyperion will be close enough to the sun for her screens to fail, killing anyone still aboard. There are lifeboats enough for everyone; but the crew has decided to gamble that they can repair the drive and break away from the sun in time. Do you wish to help them?"
"I am on my way!" said Gail; then ported to the Zepher.
On board the Zepher Gail asked Dawn for a systems check. All was in the green except for the drive. Reserve power now reading one quarter. When she had orbited the innermost planet she had added quite a bit to the ship's reserves. The manual said that when the reserves were below half the ship automatically absorbed power from any sun it was close to.
Gail ported the Zepher into orbit above Eldorado and asked Dawn to show her the co-ordinates for the system the Hyperion was in. A three dimensional chart of the galaxy formed over the table to the right of the command chair. Their present location near Eldorado's sun was designated by a green box. The Hyperion's position marked by a red box.
Using the chart as the territory, Gail reached out with her mind for the coordinates, scanned for the portal, and transferred the Zepher to the system the Hyperion was in.
"How far from Eldorado are we now?"
"1,514 light years", reported Dawn. "The Hyperion's exact location will be marked in the new chart of this system that is now forming over the chart table to your right".
"I am glad I did not know it was so far before porting us here. It looked quite close in the chart of the galaxy."
"We are about three light minutes from the Hyperion. It appears that they have launched two of their lifeboats. A view of them is coming up on the main screen."
There on the main viewer was the Hyperion; two lifeboats were in space heading away from the Hyperion and the sun. Both the Hyperion and the lifeboats were saucer shaped. The Hyperion was about a half mile in diameter.
Aboard the Hyperion the communications officer called out, "Captain, we are being scanned. The source appears to be a short distance away inside this system."
Captain Linstrom hoping that this might be a rescuer arriving earlier than expected said, "Put the source on screen and try contacting whoever it is."
On the viewer there appeared a small emerald green ship, shaped like a rectangular jewel. A few seconds later it disappeared; one second it was there, the next it was gone. Well thought Linstrom, it looked too small to be of any real help.
A couple of seconds later Mr. Tangacu, the ship's engineer, reported: "Sir radiation against our shields has dropped to normal levels, something is blocking the sun's output."
"Put it on the viewer", said the captain.
The viewer showed what appeared to be the same small green ship that had just disappeared. It now it hung a mile away in the center of a black circle, apparently some kind of screen, shielding them from the sun they were falling into. "No detectable drive emanations," said the engineer. "He is just hanging out there falling into the sun with us." "We are being hailed captain," said Rena Allstead from her seat at communications.
"Put it on the main screen," said the captain.
The picture that sprang to life on the screen showed a young woman with dark hair dressed in a green shirt and trousers that might be some kind of uniform.
"Hello, I'm Gail Green of the Jewel Ship, Dawn Zepher. May I be of assistance?"
"Thank you, said Linstrom, you already are helping by shielding us. My name is Samuel Linstrom, captain of the Hyperion."
"Captain Linstrom," said Gail, "My main drive is also off line; so I cannot just grab you with a tractor beam and tow you away from this sun. I do have a way to help, but I need to come aboard your ship."
"You have my permission to come aboard," said the captain.
Turning to the side Gail ordered, "Dawn transport me to the Hyperion's bridge."
A second later Gail materialized a few feet in front of captain Linstrom. To Gail the captain looked to be a man in his 50's with a full head of mostly grey hair. His blue eyes and demeanor spoke to Gail of good character and a devotion to duty.
"Since we have little time, I will just ask you to have the pilots of the lifeboats that have been launched to shut down their drives and prepare for docking with the Hyperion. This should not take more than 30 seconds so they will not be in any danger of falling back toward the sun," said Gail.
Linstrom deliberated, there is something I should remember about the shape of her ship and her manner. And there is something about the way she says things, as if there is no doubt in her mind of being able to do as she says.
"Very well Miss Guardian Angel," quipped the captain, "lieutenant Allstead, tell the lifeboat crews to cease acceleration for 30 seconds."
Twenty seconds later, both lifeboats were back aboard, each in its own docking bay. Gail had used the time the captain had taken to deliberate, to scan the ship and find where the lifeboats belonged.
"Both lifeboats are safely aboard captain," said Allstead.
"Very good," said the captain. "So Guardian, you can do what you say. Is there anything you need to take us out of our present danger?"
"Yes, I need the co-ordinates of your destination and to be shown a place on board I can put my ship. It is almost as easy to shift the ship a number of light years as it is to shift it the same number of light minutes. I might as well take you where you were going instead of just out of harms way."
"Mr. Barnan, our navigator can show you what you need while I check our status with engineering."
Gail went over to Mr. Barnan at navigation; while Lindstrom checked with engineering.
"Guardian," the captain thought, "I called her Guardian and she did not deny it. Calling her Miss Guardian Angel made me think of the legend of the Guardians. She should have denied being a Guardian if she knows the legend, and isn't one."
Gail was so used to Lira calling her Guardian, that she just did not bother to try and correct the captain, just as she no longer tried to correct Lira. Mr. Barnan showed her the co-ordinates for Nantica, their destination. It was the fourth planet orbiting a star located 30 light years away; diagonally towards the center of the galaxy and 20 degrees down from their present location. Gail sent the information to Dawn. Mr. Barnan also showed Gail that there was space in hold number 4, near engineering, for the Zepher.
Gail turned to the captain and said, "I will need to return to the Dawn Zepher for a minute or two to ready everything for the transfer to Nantica."
"Very well," said Lindstrom.
"Will your shields hold if I have my ship decrease from full coverage to zero coverage over a period of five seconds."
"They should handle that quite easily."
"Good, I will see you in a couple of minutes," said Gail, and disappeared from the Hyperion's bridge.
Appearing on the Zepher, Gail said, "Dawn, please contact the space port on Nantica; also, about one minute after I return to the Hyperion, reduce the energy collector to zero over a five second time span."
"Collector to zero understood," said Dawn, "Oakview space port on Nantica is coming up on the main viewer."
"Oakview this is Gail Green, captain of the Jewel Ship, Dawn Zepher. I am at the Hyperion's co-ordinates and will be transferring her to your space port in about ten minutes. Where would be a good place to park it."
"Oakview here, docking bay twenty is big enough and can be totally cleared in five minutes. Where are you? We don't have you on our screens. It takes ten minutes just to come down through the atmosphere."
"One second Oakview," said Gail. "Dawn, can you read their docking layout and put a transfer image on bay twenty?"
"Set it for nine minutes frommm....NOW. Oakview you should now have a light green image of the Hyperion on docking bay twenty."
"Yes, captain Green, the image is there but quite transparent."
"Over the next eight minutes it will darken and then will no longer allow anything to occupy or enter the area it occupies. Any thing that is presently in that area must be removed before then. As to where we are; with the Hyperion, approximately thirty light years out from you. See you in eight point six minutes, out."
"Joe, do you have anything on the beam that is creating the image at bay twenty?" Bert Alwine, Oakview tower boss, was worried. First the distress call from the Hyperion and now this.
"Well Bert, I have traced the beam generating it for as far as I can, more than ten light years. It is on a line with the Hyperion's reported position. I don't think anyone who can generate an image like that would be trying to play games with us at the distances that are involved."
Bert keyed the field speaker system on, "All personnel in the area of bay twenty; repeat, all personnel near bay twenty; you have five minutes to clear bay twenty of anything inside of, or near, the green image being projected onto bay twenty. The real Hyperion will be replacing the image at bay twenty in seven minutes."
A minute later Gail transferred back to the Hyperion and informed the captain that the Zepher's collector screen would shrink to zero in about a minute. The captain had ordered full power to the shields. A short time later the Zepher's screen, over a five second interval, shrank to zero. The Hyperion's screens deflected the sun's energy and stayed in the green.
The captain informed Gail, "The screens should hold in the green for at least a half hour."
"Good, said Gail, we will be at Oakview space port in just over five minutes. Could you please have someone show me to hold number four. It is time to bring the Zepher aboard."
"I will take you there myself," said Lindstrom, "Mr. Barnan, you have the bridge."
The captain led Gail to number four hold. When they entered Gail saw that it was about 100 feet wide by 200 feet long and about 25 feet high. The only contents were a few boxes and crates neatly stacked in the corner on the right.
"This will do fine," said Gail. "Dawn, do you have my present co-ordinates?"
"Prepare for transfer in ten seconds."
Gail mentally reached out, found the path to the Zepher and transferred the ship to the cargo bay. To captain Linstrom the ship just popped into existence before him. He expected to feel a blast of cold from it, as things out in space tend to lose their heat; but there was no wave of cold. He asked Gail about it. Gail told him that the method of transfer automatically adjusted the hull's temperature to match the destination.
Gail and the captain returned to the Hyperion's bridge. Once there Gail checked with Dawn on the time remaining to transfer. There was one minute left. She told captain Lindstrom; who gave the warning to the rest of the ship of the imminent transfer of the ship to Nantica.
Gail reached out to Nantica, searched for and found Oakview space port; then transferred the Hyperion and all aboard it to bay 20. They arrived one, one thousandth of a second later than the time Gail had specified. The bridge crew of the Hyperion watched the main viewer as the blazing sun was replaced by the tarmac and bustling activity of Oakview space port. After a few seconds of stunned silence; the crew gave a cheer.
Three hours later Gail was ready to leave. When she had waived her right to the salvage fee for saving the Hyperion, Linstrom had asked her why she had helped them.
She replied, "There is a truth that few seem to know, but applies to all who live: When others hurt, my happiness is diminished. When others suffer loss, so do I. This is a truth that does not change just because someone does not believe it. Those who do believe it, sooner or later, start trying to live it."
With a thoughtful look on his face, captain Linstrom had then helped her find a Spin-dizzy power coupler the right size for the Zepher's drive. He used his discretionary fund to pay for it. After picking it up he had his ship's engineer help her install it in her ship.
After transferring the Zepher out of the Hyperion, Gail had been contacted by the port authority and asked if she would take a special filter for a water treatment plant to Endor, a planet about 150 light years from Nantica. Gail agreed to the task, asking that the fee for doing so be held on account for her in case she had need of any other parts.
Gail received clearance from Oakview control. She had Dawn lift the ship at five gravities acceleration until they left the atmosphere. From there they continued to accelerate slowly until they were clear of any in-system traffic.
Captain Linstrom had Oakview control track Gail's ship until it passed out of range. As it passed from view, it was traveling at warp eight and accelerating. As the Zepher left Oakview's screens Linstrom asked if there were any ships near Gail's line of flight. A ship called Brit's Bonus was near the Zepher's course and about 2 hours from Nantica, traveling at warp 7. The captain had the operator call them and ask them to watch for the Zepher and report on its course and speed.
Ten minutes later Brit's Bonus called Oakview back, saying that a small ship matching the description given and on course for Endor, had just left their screens. At the time they lost it, the ship was doing the equivalent of warp 15 and accelerating, even though it remained in normal space.
Bert," said Linstrom to his friend, and Oakview's tower boss, "it isn't every
day you have a legend proven to be fact! I just wonder why the Guardians have
not been heard from during the last 400 years?"
Gloria Green had a serious problem; her small aircraft was losing altitude. The engine controls were damaged, it was shut the engine down or blow up. Her comm. unit was being jammed. It was obvious that someone wanted her dead. She had no idea who, and the bad part was it looked as if they had succeeded. She was out over the ocean with no possibility of reaching the nearest land. Still, using the onboard computer and available wind information, she plotted a course that would keep her airborne as long as possible, while she looked for an uncharted island.
Opening the control panel she traced the wires of the radar circuitry, until she found the damaged section next to the fused engine controls. She cut an undamaged section of wire from the fused engine controls and jumpered around the damaged section of the radar circuitry.
Now she had a slim chance of finding someplace to land. A quick scan with the repaired radar, showed there were actually two small islands inside her glide circle. She turned toward the largest one. Then she had a strange empty feeling inside. Knowing from experience, this was a warning from her subconscious mind, she plotted the best course to the other island. Finding the radar signal weak she turned off her ELT (emergency locator transmitter), and transponder. This boosted the power to the radar. In 20 seconds a 60 degree turn to the right would put her on the best course, wind-wise, to reach this smaller island. After making the turn for the smaller island, the empty feeling kept a tug on her thoughts until she had been on the new course for the smaller island for about ten seconds.
Fifteen minutes later she brushed the edge of a small storm system that had wet the island now looming ahead of her. Descending through 5,000 ft. she noticed a broken line of reflected light passing around the left side of the mountain she was approaching. She turned, hoping the lights were not a freak of nature. Rounding the mountain the line pointed to what looked like a long narrow grain field. When she was closer, Gloria realized that it was a grass landing strip someone had not kept up. There was an odd-shaped building at the far end of the field. Having no choice, Gloria landed on the field and coasted up to a stop beside the odd looking building.
Reaching down for the ELT switch she was stopped and temporarily blinded by an intense flash of white light reflected from the cabin wall. Blinking away the afterimage from the flash, she was hoping she was wrong about the cause of the flash. If she was right the little island she was on would soon be shaken by the shockwaves of an atomic explosion.
By the time her sight was back to normal, she was bounced and slung against her seat and its safety harness as the shock-wave of the explosion went by. Someone wanted to be very sure she did not survive.
The explosion came from the direction of the island she had first headed for, before she had shut off her ELT and transponder. As soon as things stopped shaking she reached for her seat belt but stopped when she saw a wall of water approaching the island. Appalled and numbed at the proximity of death rushing toward her, she still was able, in a detached, impersonal way, to noticed when she and her craft turned all sparkly and started to disappear. Immediately thereafter, she materialized inside a large room that made her think of a carrier hangar deck. Her head felt swollen like a balloon, and started to throb as if someone was pounding an anvil in it.
By the time Gloria undid her seat belt, she saw a man and a woman dressed in coveralls waving for her to come out. So she opened the cabin door and climbed out.
Holding out a bracelet, the woman signed for Gloria to put it on. When Gloria had put it on, the man asked, "Can you understand us?"
Gloria assured them that she could understand. She heard a translation of their words into her language from the bracelet. Also she was able to somehow understand the words they spoke directly; but she did not mention this to them.
The man then introduced himself as Geo Tataj and the woman as Merra, his wife. Gloria introduced herself, after which Merra welcomed her aboard the Ladybug; a new research ship of the Manew (their name for themselves) from the planet Locus.
Geo said, "We saw your predicament, and since we wished to learn more about your planet, its people, and its technology, we beamed you and your vehicle aboard."
Gloria thanked them for her rescue, and asked them how it was accomplished? Geo told her that the device that beamed her aboard was called a transporter. "It teleports objects from one location to another."
"We are about to start for home," said Merra. "We wish to warn you that our new phase-shift drive caused us to temporarily lose consciousness and/or feel very sick; when we first used it to come here. So in the interest of safety, we are about to try going home in two shifts instead of one."
"All hands, prepare for phase-shift. The ships the locals have sent up to investigate us are approaching on an intercept course. You have 2 minutes to find a place to sit or lie down. Let us hope for a smoother transition this time."
Geo said, "Please follow us."
He and Merra then led Gloria around a small ship on their left, and through a door and into a passageway. As the door shut behind them, Gloria was led into a room on the right side of the passageway. The room had padded benches and chairs scattered around the four walls and around the few tables near its center. As they sat down near the door, the PA announced: "One minute to phase-shift."
Gloria did not know what to expect, but from Geo's and Merra's tenseness and the apprehension on their faces, she knew using their new phase-shift drive was unpleasant, to downright dangerous.
minute later Gloria felt torn apart to sub-atomic particles and flung towards
infinity in an ever-expanding sphere. An unknown interval later, she coalesced
back into herself. She screamed at the pain she felt; as, now reassembled, her
body let her know the abuse it had just taken. As the pain increased, her mind
shut down from the sensory overload and the room quickly faded to the black
Gail had returned from delivering the filter to Endor two days ago. During those two days she gave the Zepher a thorough check. When her mind had not been too occupied by the work; she had been meditating on her recent adventure. What was she to do; now that she had a working space ship and was no longer tied to a specific location? She now realized that she probably could go anywhere she wished, with or without the ship; even Earth, even if it was in a different universe. If she did return to Earth there were the drug runners and whatever organization that was behind them on the lookout for her. She no longer felt any fear from such a source, but she had no desire to go back to Earth even if she never ran into the gangsters she had run away from. With her new knowledge and abilities she was sure she would stick out like a sore thumb. As soon as she openly used the Zepher or her abilities, she would be hunted down by any and all government agencies as well as any crooks that thought they might be able to control her. So going back to Earth was totally out. If she did leave the base, where would, or could, she go and not stick out like a sore thumb? From the reaction she got from the people she had met so far, she was not sure she would be able to fit in anywhere in the galaxy she was presently in. Especially if someone connected her or her ship to the Guardians.
Gail Green knew she had changed since leaving earth; but she had no real idea how much recent events had altered her from the person she had been: Gail Green, earth woman and photographer; but she was about to find out.
Just then Lira appeared, and said, "Guardian, thirty minutes ago, a large ship appeared within the solar system. One minute ago it started sending a distress signal, which identified it as a Manew research ship named, 'Ladybug'. A scan of the ship showed that most of the people on board appear to be unconscious."
"I am on my way," said Gail; then teleported herself to the Zepher's control room. There, she asked Dawn to show her where the ship was. Dawn plotted it for her in the navigation tank. It was 100,000 miles inside the orbit of the forth planet. It was roughly cylindrical in shape. In size it was two miles long and about two thirds of a mile thick.
Gail ported the Zepher to within 10 miles of the Ladybug. Scanning the ship, Gail found the hangar deck and ported the Zepher into it beside what looked to be a small aircraft. The hangar was pressurized with a breathable mixture, Dawn informed her, also, there was a Guardian aboard and nearby.
Gail scanned the area for nearby personnel to be able to find out the nature of the emergency. There was a man and a woman making a heavy go of stumbling down a nearby corridor and a woman in a room that opened into that same corridor. She was sitting and holding her head in her hands.
Porting herself into the corridor, Gail saw the stumbling pair turn and disappear into one of the openings along the sides of the corridor. Remembering the person in the nearby room, Gail decided to see if the person could give her some answers. Turning she walked back to the doorway on her left and stepped into the room. The woman on the couch slowly lifted her head to see who had come in.
When the woman's eyes finally reached her face, Gail was fascinated and felt a desire to drown herself in the woman's lustrous blue eyes. Gail was instantly certain that this woman was her soul mate. As she lost herself in the other woman's eyes, Gail became aware that their minds were reaching out and becoming one until she could not tell which one of them was thinking a specific thought. Though in two separate bodies, their minds were functioning as a unit capable of precise co-ordinated action.
Holding her aching head in her hands Gloria heard someone enter the room. Slowly looking up, she saw that it was a black haired woman dressed in green pants and a matching green blouse. Looking into her eyes Gloria was jolted by the realization that this beautiful woman was her soul's match. Then she became aware of Gail's mind reaching out to her. "I am Gail Green."
Gloria tentatively opened up to Gail and thought, "Hi, I'm Gloria Green." Welcoming her into her mind, she felt her mind meshing with Gail's, until their thoughts were so integrated they were mentally one being.
After the joy of discovery and newness passed, they slowly separated their minds and became two people again. Only now they found that any thought directed to the other person, was received before it needed to be verbalized.
Gail used her com unit to have Dawn transport them aboard the Zepher, showing Gloria both how to prevent being transported, if that was what was wished, and how to search out and find the mental doorway at any location to be able to teleport to any other location.
Gail asked Dawn to give Gloria something for her headache.
While Gloria drank the remedy Dawn dispensed for her, Gail asked Dawn to access the Ladybug's computer and find the home system of the Manew.
A couple of minutes later they were looking at a star in the navigation tank with a red square around it. Their present location was marked in green. Dawn gave the distance between them as 5,000 light years.
Catching Gloria's eye, Gail asked her to join minds with her. With just a little hesitation, Gloria complied, meshing her thoughts with Gail's. Together they mentally swept out and found the sun in the Manew's home system. A mental sweep of the area, found the home world to be the fourth from the sun. There were a few very large space stations in orbit around it. With a mental nod to each other, they fused into a single mental entity. Gathering up the Ladybug, they found the doorway to the Manew home world and took themselves and the ship through it to a position near one of the orbiting space stations.
Gail-Gloria contacted the station they were near and apprized them of the nature of the emergency aboard the Ladybug. Since the Manew had transporters, most of their part of the rescue work was done; therefore Gail-Gloria separated back into two distinct entities, Gail and Gloria. Mentally scanning the Ladybug for helpless people in places that would require a thorough search to find, they ported any people they found to the medical facilities on the three space stations circling the planet.
Once the crew of the Ladybug had been taken care of or accounted for, Gail and Gloria met with the engineers that beamed up from the planet. Gail introduced herself and Gloria.
Gloria told them that she would be departing with Gail when she left.
Gail informed the engineers that the nature of their new drive necessitated some form of protection for any people on board when it was used. She told them that she knew that there was a way to protect those on board from the effects of the new drive, but did not know what that protection should be.
The engineers thanked her, then asked her where her ship was. She showed them the Zepher in the hangar deck of the Ladybug.
"But it is so small," quipped one, "how could it be powerful enough to move the Ladybug?"
Not wishing the real method of moving the Ladybug to be known, Gail said, "You'd be surprised at what she can do. We must be on our way, good day to you. Dawn, please beam us aboard."
Once aboard the Zepher, Gail ported the ship outside the Manew's solar system. She then asked Dawn to plot a coarse 10 degrees left of the center of the galaxy and accelerate up to a speed of 500 light years a second.
After a minute on the new course checking to see if anyone was tracking them; Gail explained to Gloria that she wanted to leave the Manew a false trail. "As you may know from our mind meld, this ship, some people I have helped, and the computer caretaker of Guardian base 29, think of me as a Guardian. Since the guardians seem to be a well thought of legendary people with advanced technology, I feel we should keep our home location a secret as long as we can." "Dawn is Gloria a guardian?"
"Yes," replied Dawn, "she is the guardian that was aboard the Ladybug." A minute later She continued, "We have arrived at the specified vectors and are continuing on course at 500 light years a second. No one is presently within range of our detectors."
"Good," said Gail, I am taking us home. "Cut the drive, Dawn."
"Drive is off," replied Dawn.
Gail then ported the Zepher to guardian base 29.
to Eldorado Gloria!"
After leaving the Zepher, Gail took Gloria to the medical facilities and had her checked for injuries. She was happy to learn that Gloria was all right; that once her headache went totally away she would be completely well.
Laying on the bed while being checked by its diagnostics, Gloria was very glad that she knew that she could trust Gail. A lot had happened to her in a very short time. She had gone from being the prey of someone, or some group, on her home planet; to finding and being accepted by her soul mate. She knew that the mind meld that had taken place aboard the Ladybug had left them both with a lot of information about the other. It was going to take a while to be totally comfortable with all of that knowledge.
After being bathed with energy for a short time the sides of the bed she was on retracted again. She got off the bed and was given a set of clothes like Gail had on, a blouse with the Jewel ship insignia and a pair of slacks.
While she put them on Gail said, "I know that you are tired, and have had a lot of new things thrown at you today. I too could use a rest, so come with me and we will both grab some sack time."
Gloria nodded and followed Gail out of the infirmary and over to her quarters. There they undressed and got under the covers. There they cuddled together and let the warmth and caring each gave to the other ease the tensions and stress from their bodies until they drifted off to sleep.
Gail woke up first the next morning. She felt a sense of wonder as she looked at Gloria sleeping beside her. It was strange, but wonderful, to know Gloria was more than her friend. She knew that sometime that day they would become lovers. She had not expected that her soul mate would be another woman; but she was not worried or emotionally torn by the fact. She was just happy to have found her. She knew that she had found a priceless gift. She intended to treat Gloria just that way, as if she was a priceless gift. A gift to be enjoyed for who and what she was. She knew Gloria did not want to be put on a pedestal and admired from afar.
A few minutes later when Gloria woke up, Gail kissed her on the lips and said, "Good morning. How do you feel?"
"Just fine," replied Gloria. "I am glad that the last part of yesterday wasn't a dream. Even though I wouldn't mind if the rest of it had been."
Gloria did not find it embarrassing to wake up without anything on and being kissed by another naked woman. It felt right to be with Gail now, and she felt it would always be so. She had known that she liked women over men, but had not expected it would feel this right and good when she found the right one.
"Yes," said Gail and hugged Gloria. "We're stuck with each other. It's good we both wouldn't have it any other way. Come on, let's get a shower and get the day started."
So they got up and went into the shower. There they took turns washing and sexually playing with each other. This, they thought to each other, is how we want to be when alone together and in an appropriate place. Totally free with our own sensuality and our sexual attraction to each other.
That first day they almost didn't bother to put clothes on. Just reveled in the freedom of being at home, one with the other. They both felt that the other person was where her home was. Towards the end of the day, Gail did eventually get around to showing Gloria the parts of the base she had not already seen.
Over the next month, Gail, with help from Lira and Dawn; showed Gloria how to run the Zepher on her own if need be. As well, Gloria was shown how to use all the base facilities that Gail, herself, had so recently learned to use.
During this time Gail got to thinking about the way the Guardian computers could read a person's aura and know if they were a Guardian or not. She thought that it would be good to be able to have a device that would enable a person to see someone's aura. She talked to Lira about it and together they came up with the specifications need to build such a device. Gail then programed the tools in the machine shop and had them build a few of the devices that could easily be held in the hand. They looked similar to a small flashlight, but emitted an invisible beam that turned visible when it struck the aura of a person. Thinking it might show up some interesting things about space and the objects in space, she had a larger device made and installed it in the Zepher.
one morning Lira came to them with a problem. A star that had until recently
been behaving normally and been in a safe orbit; was now headed towards another
star. This was something Lira thought should be investigated and if possible
something done about it. Both Gloria and Gail agreed with her. Therefore they
both went aboard the Zepher and set out to investigate.
Penny Paterson was troubled. She was not comfortable with the idea of attacking a relatively defenseless race, even if it was necessary to ensure the survival of her own people. That was the problem; was it 'really', necessary to fight for a place to flee to, or was that only what the government and military leaders wanted them to think?
Entering the mess hall, she looked around for her friend and fellow scout pilot Terri Williams. Seeing her sitting alone at a side table, she went over to her and sat down. As she did so she had the sensation that someone was looking over her shoulder. It had been happening frequently over the last day or so, and was starting to make her edgy and out of sorts.
"Hi Terri. How is it going?"
"Hi Penny. Not too well. We aren't the only ones that think we should have spent the time and effort on finding an uninhabited planet, instead of organizing an attack on Vertris."
"What do you mean?"
"I have heard other crewmen talking. The rumors have it, that a habitable planet without intelligent life 'was' found. They say it was discovered about the time our government made its announcement about the rogue sun which will soon pass through our system and destroy our world."
"Let me know if you hear any more about alternatives to the war we are about to start," replied Sarah.
"I will Penny," said Terri.
"I have to go soon," said Penny, "I'm on duty in a few minutes. But I wanted you to know that something or someone has been watching us the last day or so. It is making me edgy even though I don't feel anything menacing along with the feeling of being watched."
"Thanks for confiding in me," said Terri. She knew from experience that her friend Sarah had an unusually strong intuitive sense. She was always right when she had a strong premonition or warning. "I hope you find something interesting on patrol. Goodbye."
"I will see you when I get back," replied Penny, then walked out to report to her scout ship.
Just under two hours later Penny was two hours flight time, at the fleet's speed, ahead of the fleet and slowing her armed scout ship down to match speed with the fleet. She was to remain out ahead of the fleet until she was relieved by her replacement. That usually was a four hour wait. She must not be the only one who was on edge, she thought. The usual distance the scouts were sent ahead of the fleet was only an hour's flight time.
Ten minutes later she was alerted by the ship's computer that a ship had been detected almost dead ahead. Looking at the readouts, Penny was relieved to discover that the ship in question was about 60 feet wide and 150 feet long; wider than her scout but otherwise similar in size.
After a more thorough study of her ships readouts, she began to worry again. While relatively small, the ship's power signature registered off the scale. Also no drive readings or internal readings could be taken. All sensors were stopped at the hull, so no idea of its means of propulsion, and therefore no estimate of its speed or ability to maneuver could be calculated. While no weapons could be detected, she wasn't reassured. Her ship's inability to sense anything inside the other ship, told her she could not rely on her ship's ability to detect weapons.
She started a deceleration curve that would leave her stopped a mile from the alien vessel. Then she gathered all the data she had, coded it, and sent it back to the fleet.
A minute later when she was sure the message she was sending was not being jammed by the alien, she decided to hail the ship.
"This is the Halthor scout ship Starjumper to unidentified ship, Greetings! Are you in need of assistance?" An image of a pretty, dark haired woman dressed in green formed on her communication screen. In the background was another similarly dressed woman; also with dark hair, but wearing it in a different style.
"Yes and No," replied Gail. "I am Gail Green captain of the Dawn Zepher. The other woman you see is my mate, friend, and fellow Guardian, Gloria Green. We have been waiting for your help as well as to help you. We can help you by changing the path of the sun heading for your system. We have been waiting for you, Penny; because the best solution to changing the sun's present path involves your help."
"What makes you think that I can help with changing the path of a sun?" replied Penny. "And how do you know my name?"
"We have been monitoring your fleet for the last two days, is how we know your name," answered Gail.
Well, thought Penny, now I know who was looking over my shoulder.
"As to how we know you can help change the sun's path, well; when we look for the best course correction, the best solution has a filament that runs out and touches you. This is how we became aware of your fleet."
"A Filament? responded Penny. "What is that?"
Turning to face Penny, Gloria replied, "It is something that can only be seen by the mind. "We will have to show you."
"Can you leave your ship and come aboard ours?" asked Gail.
The general isn't going to like me leaving my ship without orders, she thought. But I want to have a look at their ship and have a first hand impression of Gail and Gloria.
"Yes," answered Penny. "But I will have to suit up first."
"Putting on a space suit won't be necessary," said Gail. "Just put your ship on auto pilot, and tell us when you are ready. We will beam you aboard." Anticipating Penny's next question she continued, "It is an electronic means of teleporting ."
Nodding Penny checked over her ship, set the auto pilot, then signaling her readiness said, "I'm ready."
The bridge of her scout seemed to go all sparkly, and disappeared. It was immediately replaced by the bridge of the Dawn Zepher. Penny was now seated at the back of the bridge looking forward at Gail as she turned her seat to face her.
"Wow," said Penny, "that is some way to travel. Can you share the technology with us?"
"We do not give such knowledge to those who do not already have the technological base to properly understand it," replied Gail. "Let us get to the matter at hand so that the problem with the errant sun can be dealt with."
Penny would normally have been reluctant to trust someone she had just met, but her intuition was telling her these people could be trusted. "OK," responded Penny. "What do you want me to do?"
"Gloria and I will link minds with you and show you how we intend to set the rogue sun on a new course. Relax as much as possible and let us guide you into the linkage, don't think of expending effort to help. Once linked, just look for what needs to be done and try thinking of ways to do it."
Penny leaned back, closed her eyes and nodded as she said, "Ready."
A few seconds later she felt both Gail's and Gloria's minds touch her's in a strange non physical way. Remembering to relax, she mentally reached out a hand to each of them and took hold of both of them. Behind her closed eyes an image of a sun seen from a distance formed.
"This is the rogue sun," came a thought she somehow knew was from Gloria.
"Alright," thought Penny, "what do we do?"
"We look for the doorway through which it is best to send this sun so it stops being a problem now and in the future," came Gail's thought, loud and clear.
Along with the thought a number of doorways appeared near the sun. Each was edged with a different color. A red one, a purple one, a yellow one, and two green ones; one bright green and one darker. The lighter green doorway had a faint wavy line that reached out from it and touched Penny. She mentally followed the line to the doorway. When she reached the doorway, her perspective changed. She found herself now looking at the sun from very close up. Trying not to be distracted by the spouts and swirls of energy that seemed to surround her, she looked for the solution that she was supposed to find.
There, off to her right, she saw something that seemed off, not in sync with the rest of the energy all around her. Looking to find a cause, she mentally looked closer until she finally was able to make out that there was a subatomic particle that she sensed wasn't right. As if it was not of the here and now the same way the other energy particles were.
"This seems to be the problem," she thought to the others. "What can we do?"
"This is for you to do," thought Gloria. "Here is the way to look for the proper doorway that will correct the problem."
Penny allowed Gloria to tune her mind and turn her thoughts into the thought pattern Gloria was pointing out to her. Instead of a single doorway, she found herself seeing a multitude of miniature doorways which would set the alien particles' components into different paths. Using her mind as the others directed she sent the sub-particles through the many little doorways. This had the hoped for effect. The parent atoms changed to resemble the other matter around them.
Mentally backing off, the three of them again found the large green-edged portal and sent the sun through. Once they were sure that the new course the sun was on was a safe one, Gail and Gloria broke the connection with Penny.
It was then that Penny realized how much strain she had been under. Her mind throbbed from the emptiness that the cessation of mental effort left her.
Gail went to the replicator and ordered a glass of restorative for Penny and brought it to her. "Here, this should help," she said.
"Thanks," replied Penny. After a few sips she asked, "how long till the fleet gets here?"
"One hour and 45 minutes," replied Dawn.
Surprised, Penny asked, "How long did it take us to correct the rogue sun's path?"
"A little more than a minute, replied Gail.
"It seemed a lot longer," said Penny.
"Anything you do in the future of a similar nature will be the same," said Gail. "It will seem to take longer than it does, but it will get easier for you to do and not take so much out of you."
"But how will I be able to do anything without someone like you to help me?" asked Penny.
"The ability to teleport was already yours," answered Gloria, "You only had to be shown what to do. With practice, you will be able to teleport yourself or anything else you wish."
"Would you like a tour of the ship while you wait for the fleet to get here?" asked Gail.
"Sure, I would like that," Penny replied.
So Gail and Gloria took Penny through to the lounge, showing her its main features. And then doing the same with the cabins, and from there to engineering; which was on the lower level, along with energy storage, and the main drive. Penny marveled at how small and simple the drive looked for the size of the ship.
When they returned to the bridge Penny asked, "How long did it take your race to develop ships like this once they got into space?"
Gail answered, "This ship is over 400 years old. But Gloria and I are not of the race that made it. We too, are relatively new at being Guardians. The Guardians that were before us, those that left this ship when they departed more than 400 years ago, they started making ships of the Jewel design more than a thousand years after they regularly traveled in space."
The 'we too' did not please Penny, how could they imply that she was one of them? "But if you are not of the race that made this ship, how can you run it and know how to repair it?" she asked.
"The computer on this ship," replied Gail, "as well as the one in our home base, Guardian base 29, has taught us all we need to know; and anything else we can think to ask about. They accepted us as Guardians and treated us as if we were descendants of the original Guardians. The computers say 'Guardian' is who we are; whether any of our ancestors were of the original Guardians or not. It has something to do with positive character traits that in total add up to who we are."
"Why did you imply that I am a Guardian?"
"When we were working mentally together, did you feel anything strange or alien in that contact with us?" asked Gloria.
"No, what we were doing was strange, not who I was doing it with," answered Penny.
"We felt the same way," said Gail. "That is how we know that you can be a Guardian if you wish to be one. Do you think that we would show just anyone around our ship; or that Dawn would let us if we tried?"
"Are you saying I must go with you and be a Guardian?" asked Penny.
"No." replied Gail. "When, and if, you acknowledge that you are a Guardian is up to you. We think, because of your awakened mental gifts, you will sooner or later have to acknowledge that you are a Guardian . You will know when the time is right."
"We know you have doubts," said Gloria. "Pick a spot on this ship and teleport yourself there; and then back here."
"Alright," said Penny. "Here goes." She thought of the drive in engineering, mentally found and walked through the portal, and was there in engineering. Well, she thought, it seems so easy now; doing something that a few hours ago I would not have believed possible. Maybe they are right, I just might change my mind about being a Guardian in the future. She then ported herself back to the bridge.
"You may be right," she said. "But for now I have a lot to think about before I make up my mind."
"Just remember," said Gail. "You can come to us for advice, or for just a visit, as easily as you teleported back to the bridge just now. We have not yet found any limit to how far we can teleport."
"The fleet is now about a half hour from our position," Dawn informed them.
"I have an uneasy feeling about this," said Gloria. "Dawn, use internal energy to activate the energy deflectors and constantly scan for activity of any kind."
"Normally," Gail explained to Penny, "the deflectors are activated only when the ship's ability to absorb energy is overloaded or the energy is of a type that cannot be converted for storage."
"To keep you out of harms way we will beam you back to your ship, said Gloria.
"Thanks," said Penny. "Goodbye."
A few seconds later Penny was back on her scout ship. Sitting in the pilot's seat, she watched as the Guardian ship accelerated away towards the fleet at what should have been an impossible rate. Her instruments were barely able to supply an acceleration reading since the ship was already decelerating in front of the fleet.
While setting a course back to the fleet Penny paused. She knew she could teleport herself or other objects. After all she had helped teleport a sun. Why not teleport herself and her ship back to the fleet? She mentally set what she wanted in her mind and searched for the portal to accomplish it. A few seconds later she was a mile from her mother ship. She set her ship's drive to hold position relative to the Halcyon. She looked around and found the Zepher where she expected, five miles in front of the fleet matching its course and speed.
Penny activated her com unit and said, "Starjumper to Halcyon, permission to reenter the hanger."
"Halcyon to Starjumper, permission granted," came from the hanger traffic officer. "But you will have to tell us how you were able to pop into the middle of the fleet as you just did."
"I will be glad to show anyone who is able to learn how to do it," Penny replied while angling her ship towards the hangar doors.
Gloria and Gail hailed the fleet as they came to a relative stop five miles in front of it. "This is the Guardian ship, Dawn Zepher. I am captain Gail Green, please let me speak to whoever is in charge of the Halthorian fleet."
"I am admiral Ramadan," said an old gentleman, "I speak for our leader, the prince. What do you wish?"
"We are here to tell you that your planet is no longer in danger and that there is no need to attack the Vertris."
Ten minutes later Gail lost patience with Ramadan. His evasions and stubborn, bull-headedness was too much. She told him to prepare to receive her aboard his ship.
"Dawn project an image of me on the hangar deck of Ramadan's ship. Announce that I will be replacing the image in two minutes."
"Something is wrong," said Gloria. "They should not be so against checking to see if we are telling the truth."
"Yes," replied Gail. "That is why I had Dawn put an image of me over there as
bait to draw out the opposition. I intend to take some of the character lamps we made
to help me convince them."
Suiting action to words, Gail put on a belt with a half dozen of the lamps clipped to it. The lamps were about the size and shape of a penlight flashlight.
"Help me look for any of them that look to be a threat to me. Starting now to about five minutes after I port over there." said Gail.
"You've got it," replied Gloria. "Let's go to a full mind link as well."
"Good idea," answered Gail.
For the next minute they mentally scanned the area around Gail's projected image. Just before the time to transfer, they observed two different men aiming their weapons at the projected image. As if they intended to shoot as soon as the real Gail appeared. They were on a gallery overlooking the deck and behind the projected image.
Since they were linked, Gloria automatically took the man to the left of where Gail would actually appear. She would teleport the man and/or his weapon as needed.
Gail activated the two lamps she was holding, and narrowed their beams to have better effect at a distance. Ready, she ported to the deck beside her image just as it winked out. Facing the opposite way to her image, she caught each of the men in a beam from the character lamps in her hands. Both men had fired as her image had disappeared and she appeared. The one on her left had a large projectile weapon. Gloria ported the round from it out into space, then ported the weapon from his hands to the deck beside Gail. The one on Gail's right had a beam weapon which she allowed to pass through the space where her image had been for a half second before she diverted the beam, then ported the weapon down on the deck beside the weapon Gloria had just put there.
The men caught in the beams of the lamps almost disappeared behind the dark aura of their twisted character that was made manifest by the beams from the lamps. Their faces and bodies also were revealed as humanoid but definitely not human. A few seconds after realizing that those around them could see them as they actually were, the two beings activated a device attached to their uniform and were beamed out of the hangar deck onto a nearby cloaked ship. Gail and Gloria let them go as they only wanted to clear up the problem with the admiral in charge of the fleet.
Turning to her right, Gail played the lamps over two men approaching her. They seemed to have been distracted by the few seconds of drama that had just unfolded. Revealed by the lamps, their auras were a bright, light blue for the taller one and a bright light yellow for the shorter one on Gail's right. Catching the flair from each other's aura, they stopped and looked briefly at one another before continuing, stopping about five feet in front of Gail.
The shorter of the two, who was about Gail's height, said, "I am captain Herndon, this is my second in command commander Robson. Who are you and what are those devices you are pointing at us?"
Gail answered, "My name is Gail Green. I am captain of the Dawn Zepher, the ship holding position in front of your fleet." Turning the lamps off, Gail held them up and said, "These are character lamps. When pointed at a person while on, they reveal the persons aura. Since a person's aura gives an indication of their character, the lighter the color or colors, the better the person's character; and the darker the color or colors, the worse the person's character; they can be used to give an indication if a person is honest and above board. That they showed the two people that beamed out of here to be aliens was unexpected. You didn't know they were not human?"
"No, we did not," replied captain Herndon. "Could we borrow them to check if we have anyone else aboard who is impersonating one of my crew?"
"Yes, you may have five of the six I have with me," replied Gail. "Call some of your men over. We can test them with the lamps then they can start checking the rest of the crew."
Agreeing with Gail's suggestion, captain Herndon called five of his officers over, two women and three men.
First explaining how to read the color or colors of a person's aura; she tested them by shining the lamps on each of them. Gail then handed each of them a character lamp. She also showed them how to adjust the lamp to use it close up or farther away.
Before being dismissed one of the officers, lieutenant Dubois, asked, "How long will the charge last before the lamps no longer work?"
Gail replied, "As long as the lamp is whole, the charge will not diminish. They will work until something destroys the case or the entire lamp. Since I am sure your captain would also like to know how I measure up, shine your lamp on me lieutenant."
At a nod from the captain the lieutenant complied. The lamp revealed Gail's aura to be almost pure white with only a hint of green to it.
Captain Herndon turned to his officers and instructed them to check out a squad of marines with the lamps, and then make sure the marines were armed. They were to then each proceed separately with four of the marines for back-up and check the rest of the crew with the lamps.
After dismissing the officers, the captain asked, "Do you want to see the admiral now?"
"Yes," replied Gail. "Please take me to him. I truly wonder why he refuses to believe the danger to your system is over."
"I am beginning to wonder the same thing," said the captain. He led off to the left to a door which opened onto what looked like an elevator. After they entered and the door had closed, the captain said, "Bridge."
With a slight vibration and a muted hum the lift started off. Commander Robson
addressed her, "Captain Green these lifts travel both vertically and horizontally for easy access to most parts of the ship."
"Thanks for the information," replied Gail. "I am aware that most of your machinery works quite well. It is the thought processes of some of your leaders that I am wondering about. Since we had the help of one of your pilots in putting the sun back on a neutral course, neither your race's abilities or its general character is in doubt."
"One of our pilots helped you!?" asked Captain Herndon. "What is his rank and name?"
"The name is Patterson, as for the rank I think it is lieutenant," answered Gail.
Not wishing to reveal any more without Penny's permission, Gail was glad that the lift arrived at the bridge at that moment. The door opened showing a double-tiered room a little longer than it was wide. On the far wall was a view of space. In the center of the view was the Dawn Zepher almost hidden behind the screen that was stopping the energy of all the weapons of the fleet that had a clear shot at her.
As they stepped out of the lift the captain bellowed, "Why are we firing on that ship?"
A man with mostly gray hair standing to the left of the screen, who Gail recognized as Admiral Ramadan turned and said, "They are firing by my order, captain. That ship must be destroyed!" Then he noticed Gail just behind commander Robson, "Kill her," he yelled. "She must not be allowed to influence you with her lies."
Gail turned on her lamp and pointed it at Admiral Ramadan and said, "Take a good look, everyone, at who you are letting lead you to war."
The admiral seemed to disappear as the beam from the lamp made his aura manifest. In his place was an alien similar to the others. Basically humanoid, but with skin a dark grey color with a greenish cast to it. His face looked all angles and plains, with little or no ability to show expression.
Hearing the gasps of the other officers in the room, Ramadan looked around at their horrified faces. Knowing his masquerade was over he reached for a weapon attached to his belt. Almost before he was able to touch it, the weapon was laying on the deck at the captain's feet. A second later Ramadan followed his cohorts and transported from the bridge to the cloaked ship.
"Cease firing on that ship," ordered Herndon, "and relay the cease fire to the rest of the fleet." Turning to Gail he said, " I am sorry captain, I hope your ship has not taken any damage."
"You do not have to worry sir. Your fleet does not have any weapon or weapons that could harm my ship even if they were all used at once," replied Gail.
Almost as soon as all the ships had stopped firing at the Dawn Zepher, the person at the ship's tactical station called out, "Sir, something invisible is firing on the Guardian ship!"
Gail felt Gloria's shock, as the beam from the invisible ship touched one of the Zepher's hull plates for a few micro seconds before the screens adjusted to the unusual energy and reflected it back at the ship sending it.
On the Halthor flag ship the viewer showed the Zepher's screens flaring into prominence from the new attack. A second later the invisible ship was revealed by the energy being reflected back by the Zepher's screens. After about a half minute a second beam lashed out from the alien ship. This beam passed close to a nearby carrier, taking out a communication tower. It had apparently been aimed at a returning scout ship that disappeared a fraction of a second before the beam passed through the space it would have occupied.
Both beams then winked out, and the alien ship left the fleet at high acceleration; visible for a few seconds in a character lamp beam now being generated by the Zepher.
For the next ten minutes pandemonium reigned on the bridge of the flagship. Captain Herndon and commander Robson were kept busy fielding questions, first from the personnel on the bridge, then from various ships of their fleet. While this was going on Gail took advantage of the situation and used her lamp to check out the rest of the people on the bridge. To her delight, by the time order was restored, she was able to inform the captain that all those presently on the bridge were human and presumably from Halthor.
"Thank you, captain Green," he said. "That is good to hear. How did you get the alien's to break off their attack and leave?"
"We did nothing other than returning a portion of the energy they attacked with, which made them visible to everyone. Guardians do not attack anyone. They chose to leave for reasons of their own."
"It is still thanks to you they chose to leave, so I thank you," returned Herndon. "We will turn the fleet back toward Halthor as soon as I can co-ordinate it with the other captains."
"If you wish, it would be no trouble for us to make the change to the return course for you." said Gail.
When Herndon said he would appreciate the help, Gail had him to send the other ships warning that an instant course correction was to be made. When all were warned, Gail and Gloria teleported the whole fleet onto the course for Halthor. The only thing anyone on the bridge noticed was that from one instant to the next there was a different pattern of stars in front of them. The Dawn Zepher was still there in front of them matching their speed. That done Gail asked if there was anything else they could do for them.
"If you could loan us some more of these lamps," he said pointing to the one Gail had reattached to her belt. "We would be able to check for alien infiltrators much faster."
"That we can and will do," replied Gail. "Gloria, beam over 12 of the character lamps over to the flag ship please." Just after she finished speaking the lamps appeared on the bridge near her feet. "There you go," she said. "I have to see the scout pilot who helped us, then we will be leaving. I hope you have an uneventful journey home."
After the captain thanked her, she ported herself to the ship where Penny Patterson was. She appeared only a few feet from where Penny was surrounded by her shipmates. Breaking into the group Gail presented Penny with the remaining character lamp she had with her. After explaining its use, she made sure that those present knew that it was Penny's personal property. It was a gift for her help in setting the rogue sun on a neutral course.
Gail then ported back to the Zepher. Once on board she contacted the flag ship and said goodby. That done she told Dawn to head for home, no hurry.
While he was marveling at the speed of the Guardian ship's departure his navigational officer came up with their newly computed course and position. Seeing that she appeared agitated, he asked, "What is it lieutenant Brightmore?"
"It is our new position, we are on course for home, but we are a week closer to it at our present speed than we should be."
"If you are right," he said, "in less than a minute we should be getting queries from most of the fleet."
Twenty seconds later the communication station lit up like a Christmas tree from the incoming questions. Captain Herndon thought, It's nice to know that my going out on a limb in trusting the Guardians was appreciated! But the way they chose to show that appreciation, is very humbling. Since it shows that they could have destroyed us allif they had wanted to.
A half hour earlier, Penny Patterson was slowly approaching the Halcyon's hangar when she heard the order given for the fleet to open fire on the Dawn Zepher. She was appalled as the Zepher's screens flared into visibility as the fleet's energy beams struck them. She hailed the Zepher to tell them to get away while they could. But Gloria assured her, "Your fleet doesn't have the firepower to seriously test the Zepher's screens. But thanks for your concerns for us."
A few minutes later the cease fire order was issued and the Zepher was easily seen again, calmly waiting out in front of the fleet. Less that a minute later when the invisible ship started firing on the Zepher, Penny got an eery feeling of immediate danger. As if an evil person was looking at her from behind. Thinking it would be better to be aboard the Halcyon than outside its screens; she sought the portal to take her inside the ship's hangar. Finding it, she used it to port herself and her ship inside the hangar. She and her ship appeared on the hangar deck at the same time as a beam, from the now visible, alien ship, passed through where she would have been and took out one of the ships communication towers.
After leaving her ship, Penny did her best to play down her part in helping the Guardians. She knew she was going to be, at least figuratively, under the microscope, and hoped to dodge as much attention as possible. It didn't help her cause when Gail showed up and presented her with one of the character lamps as a gift of appreciation.
Gail took off the belt holding Penny's side arm and replaced it with the belt she had been wearing with the lamp attached to it. "This," she said, "should be the only weapon you will need from now on."
A few minutes after Gail left, Penny was glad to be summoned away from her fellow shipmates to her commander's office, even though she knew it would be the beginning of questions and test she would have been happy to forgo.
Heading for home aboard the Zepher, Gail and Gloria took stock of the damage done to the ship by the aliens weapon. There was a nearly circular gouge about one quarter inch deep carved out of the right front hull plate. Structurally it was insignificant.
But if they encountered any more of the aliens and they continued to be hostile, it was a weak point that might be taken advantage of.
"When we get back to Eldorado," Gloria said, "we will have to ask Lira if any of the other Guardian bases have been activated. They might have a replacement plate so we don't have to make a new one."
"Yes," replied Gail. "It would help if one is available. Also, seeing the aliens and how they were using the Halthorians to make war; it probably would be a good idea to return to your planet and see if the problems there had the same source. These aliens seem particularly hostile to anyone with Guardian characteristics."
When they asked Lira if there were any other Guardian bases activated they found out that there might be, but they could all be operating in extreme stealth mode as Eldorado presently was. All signals and communication were being monitored but no active signals were being generated to betray the base.
Gail instructed Lira to try and contact any of the other bases using the most discreet method she had available in the hope that the aliens, whoever they were, would not be able to detect or trace the message.
Later that day while they were setting up the machinery to make a replacement panel for the Zepher, Lira informed them that three Guardian bases on the far side of the galaxy had been activated as Eldorado had, by the return of one or more Guardians. They were bases 64, 94, and 104. The longest any of them had been active was a month.
"Give them an update on the present situation," said Gail.
"Warn them to keep as low a profile as possible until we can find out why the aliens are so hostile and we have found a way to deal with them," said Gloria.
the next month Gail and Gloria were kept busy helping ships in distress and
keeping war from breaking out between space faring peoples. They had to wait
until there was a break in the nearly constant alarms, before they were able
to finally install the new panel they had made for the Zepher's hull.
It was about a month since Penny had returned to her home planet with the fleet. There had only been a few shady characters found in the personnel of the returning fleet. The dozen corrupt people found in the Halthor government had been replaced. It was going to take a lot longer for everyone holding a position of responsibility to be checked; since the number of character lamps was limited.
Almost as soon as the fleet had arrived back at Halthor the preparations for transferring Halthor's population to the Vertris home world was halted. A few weeks after the fleet's return, the efforts to save who they could, from what they thought of as their doomed planet, were redirected into colonizing the planet that had been found before the fleet had set out for Vertris; and into looking for other suitable colony worlds. Penny Paterson was tired of trying to teach others how to teleport themselves, or objects, as she had learned from the Guardians. To date she had only been able to teach her friend, Terri Williams and a man named Daniel White. Tired of all the tests the doctors and scientists had been putting her through; as well as the strain and drain of trying to explain things that there were presently no words for, she decided enough was enough.
After telling Terri and Dan to refuse to try teaching others until some kind of tests could be formulated to screen out those who just could not learn; she asked for leave and the use of her scout ship to get away and rest for a time. Since she was now not the only one with the ability to teleport, her government granted her request. As it turned out it took a few days for all the paper work to go through.
The day she received permission, she teleported to her former scout ship and checked it out. After finding everything in order she took it into space. After looking at the star field for a time, her eyes were drawn to one of the dimmer ones in the upper left quadrant. She then teleported herself and her ship to its vicinity.
Arriving in the system, she found she was near an asteroid field. Using her scouts sensors she decided to do a little prospecting. There was one good thing that had come from all the rigamarole of demonstrating, and trying to teach teleportation. She could now teleport herself and anything else with ease. Another thing she perfected during the testing was using her mind to see things at a distance.
A half hour later she scanned the readings she had just received on an asteroid that was nearly 1,000 feet long by about 300 feet wide. A real puzzle it was. The readings she could get were clear, but they did not make sense. No chunk of rock should have an interior so dense that most of it was impenetrable to her sensors.
Deciding to get to the bottom of the mystery, she sent her mind sense out to the tumbling rock. Floating through the crust she directed her view deeper into the rock. She shortly encountered and passed through the hull of a large ship and into its interior. There were no signs of life. None of the ships screens or equipment seemed to be active either.
After a quick mental walk through the large ship without finding anything wrong, Penny decided to take no chances. Tuning her senses down to the subatomic level, she re-scanned the ship looking for oddities similar to the ones she had found on the rogue sun. When she had finished, she had found there were two areas that had atoms that had been altered. One area was in the power storage bay. The other was in the central computer. Her more thorough scan also confirmed her suspicion that the ship was one of the Guardian Jewel ships. Only this one was much larger than Gail and Gloria's ship was.
Ten minutes of further study and thinking on the problem of the altered atoms brought her to the conclusion that she would need to perform an almost simultaneous correction to the affected atoms of the two areas. Not one to procrastinate, Penny settled herself as comfortably as she could in the scout's command chair. Then she reached out with her mind and brought the affected areas into mental focus. She searched for and found the minuscule portals for the altered atoms of the central computer and sent them through. Almost simultaneously, she did the same to the altered atoms in the power storage bay.
Pulling her mental focus back to her body, she rested a couple of minutes. Then she teleported herself and her ship onto the hangar deck of the Jewel ship. After a few minutes she became aware that the large ship was, for a better word, waking up. Panels were coming to life, and the interior lighting of the ship was being turned on.
Her ship was scanned. After waiting a minute without any alarms sounding or other indications of something amiss, Penny was pretty sure that the computer that she had set free accepted her as a Guardian the way the Zepher's computer had.
Deciding to introduce herself Penny activated the scout's outside speaker and said, "This is Penny Patterson aboard the scout ship Starjumper. What ship is this?"
The answer came back, "This is the Guardian ship Sea Breeze. I seem to be encased in something that prevents me from breaking out of it, or of sensing anything beyond the encasing material. I therefore cannot tell how long I have been offline. I do not remember being encased in the substance. Can you help me break free Guardian?" "Yes I can," replied Penny. It does take me for a Guardian, she thought. "Just give me a minute to get set." Searching for the portal to free the ship, Penny discovered that the best one would take her and the Sea Breeze a million miles above the asteroids. After taking the ship through the portal, she found out why it would have been unsafe to remain closer to the material encasing the ship. As soon as the Sea Breeze materialized in its new position free of rock and whatever, a terrific explosion took place where the ship had been.
About a minute after the explosion, the computer addressed Penny, "I seem to have been offline for over 400 years. Do you know why I was taken off line and encased as I was?"
"No," replied Penny. "It may have something to do with the aliens my people encountered a while back. Access the Starjumper's data base and look for the file on the aliens. It will tell you why we should not approach any ship or planet without your screens up. Oh, by the way, how big is this ship?"
"This ship is 800 feet long, 250 feet wide, and 60 feet thick. Accessing data," replied Breezy.
Well, thought Penny, there went my option to not be a Guardian. I cannot let this ship go on its way without supervision.
A few minutes later Breezy said, "Guardian, there seems to be some kind of disturbance on or near the third planet of this system. Should we go and investigate?"
"The name is Penny," replied Penny. "Yes, we might as well investigate what is going on Breezy. Is it alright if I call you Breezy?"
"Of course," replied the computer. "Do you wish to change into Guardian attire in case there is a need to make our presence known?"
"That might be a good idea," replied Penny. "How soon will we arrive at the third planet?"
The ship replied, "We can be there as soon as you are ready. There are some clothes in the first cabin to the right; down the corridor opening you see in front of the ship you are in. Atmospheric composition, temperature and density have been adjusted within me to match those in your present location."
"Thank you," replied Penny. Grabbing the belt with her character lamp, she ported herself to the corridor, walked down it a few steps and opened the first door on the right. Inside the spacious cabin, hanging in a closet, she found some blouses and jackets with the jewel emblem of the Guardians. There were matching pants and skirts as well. She grabbed a blouse and a skirt and threw them on the bed along with her lamp belt. She quickly removed her outer clothes and put on the blouse, skirt and belt. The skirt was light but full and reached to her knees. Looking in a mirror she approved the way she looked. The clothes would help her confidence in meeting whatever was to come.
She teleported to the bridge, which was located near the front of the ship. Breezy greeted her with the announcement, "We will arrive in 45 seconds."
On the main view screen was a view of the planet they were nearing as well as a large ship in orbit that was firing at something on the planet.
"Are all systems fully operational?" asked Penny.
"Yes." replied the computer.
"Good." said Penny. "Raise shields and stop between the ship and whatever it is it is shooting at. And from now on, unless I tell you differently, you are to raise shields whenever we approach someone or someone is approaching us. The file you accessed from the Starjumper's computer about the aliens should explain why this is necessary. It will also explain how and why, you might have to modulate your shields if the aliens are around and decide to attack us."
As the Sea Breeze stopped between the planet and the orbiting ship, Penny took a look at what it had been firing at. On the ground was what looked like the beginning of a town. Near the northwest edge was the smoking wreckage of what was a space ship of some kind. Near the south side there were two shuttles or transports parked on hills overlooking the town.
"There is weapon fire inside the town." reported Breezy.
Looking with her mental sight, Penny saw that armored men were shooting at the town's inhabitants. She quickly teleported the armored men to a glacier far to the north, leaving their arms and armor behind, which dropped, forming a small pile wherever each of them had been standing.
While she was doing this, the orbiting ship had been using all its weapons in an attempt to destroy the Sea Breeze. Penny addressed the ship, "This is the Guardian ship Sea Breeze. Cease firing or you will join the men you had attacking the town on the glacier where I sent them."
A few seconds later the ship stopped firing. It then attempted to leave orbit but Penny had Breezy stop it with a tractor beam.
"Breezy, access that ship's computer and see if you can find out why they were attacking the settlement."
"Attempting data transfer," replied Breezy. "I have detected a weapon being fired about 3 miles southwest of the settlement. There are two human life signs in the area."
"Thank you," replied Penny. "Keep a tractor locked on that ship. Lock onto the two humans and beam them up here."
A second later the two humans appeared on the bridge to the right of where Penny was sitting. One was a young woman whose appearance and apparel attested to the fact that she had been running for her life. The other was a large man in light weight armor and holding an energy rifle.
Before he could point it at anyone, Penny quickly teleported the rifle and armor to the hangar deck. Leaving the man with a stunned look on his face.
Penny un-clipped her character lamp and pointed it first at the girl, whose aura was bright and clear, and then at the man, whose aura was dark and muddy looking.
"Why are you here?" asked Penny. "Why were you trying to kill these people?"
"They are enemies of our leader," replied the man. "He sent us here to destroy them before they could prepare to attack him."
"Who is your leader?" asked Penny. "Is he on the ship that brought you?"
"Our leader's name is James Desoto, replied the man. He is back at our home base awaiting our return."
"Do you know where your base is?"
"No," he replied. "Only the officers on the ship know its location."
Knowing a dead end when she saw one, Penny ported the man down to the glacier to wait with the other attackers. Turning her attention and the lamp back to the young woman, who seemed remarkably composed, she asked, "Who are you?
"My name is Priscilla Feldon." she replied.
"Can you tell me what is going on?"
"I do not know why we were attacked. We only landed here a month ago to start a colony. I do not know how we could possibly be a threat to anyone."
Penny had become quite proficient reading the truth from the person's aura while helping her government sort itself out after the fleet's return. Therefore she said, "I'm sending you to sick bay to be sure you are all right." Because of her earlier detailed perusal of the ship, she was able to point to a door on her left and say, "Go through the green door over there and to the second door on the right. Just go in and state why you are there and follow any instructions you are given. I would go with you but I must now deal with the ship in orbit and those who are still on it."
Sensing that the woman in the green uniform was a friend Priscilla asked, "Before I go, can I ask you who you are?"
"My name is Penny Patterson," replied Penny. Anticipating Priscilla's continuing curiosity she added, "You are aboard the Guardian ship Sea Breeze."
Priscilla said, "Thank you Penny." Then left through the green door as directed.
Penny turned her attention back to the ship being held by one of the Sea Breeze's tractor beams. She reached out mentally to it and scanned it as she had the Sea Breeze; looking for any explosive devices that could be used for self-destruction.
She found a half dozen chemical charges and the circuitry to detonate them, which she took care of by porting them to the sun. She did not find any molecular alteration of the ship's material at all.
Giving them one last chance, Penny hailed the ship and gave them one minute to stop fighting the tractor beam or they would all be sent down to join their comrades on the glacier. Forty-one seconds later the other ship stopped trying to break free of the tractor beam.
Priscilla Feldon came back through the green door looking refreshed and wearing a Guardian blouse and skirt.
"I hope you don't mind me wearing this," she said. "The medical unit in sick bay disposed of what I had been wearing and told me to put this on when it was done fixing my scrapes and bruises."
"No, that is fine," replied Penny. "I could use some help, and because you are wearing that, you will not only look the part; you will be my Guardian assistant. I am going to teleport over to the ship of the pirates, or whatever they are, and deal with them now. Come here and I will show you how to work the transporter so you can transport anyone you see trying to come at me from behind. You can put them down on the glacier where I put the others."
Two minutes later Penny ported herself over to the attacker's bridge. Only one of the people there tried to draw a weapon and instantly ended up joining the others on the ice field. Left behind, his weapon fell to the floor.
"Who is in charge here?" Asked Penny.
A man to her right answered, "I am the captain of this ship."
"Order all personnel to report to the bridge with a survival pack. They are to wait in line at the door until asked to enter," demanded Penny.
The captain complied. Penny then passed her lamp over everyone on the bridge. Each one was given time to grab a survival pack and then was ported to the glacier. When the bridge was emptied and the crew starting to line up at the door, Penny called Priscilla and told her to check on her fellow colonists and use the medical facilities on the Sea Breeze if necessary to help any of the injured. She then turned to the door and started calling people into the bridge to be checked out. Most of the crew ended up on the glacier with the others. A dozen she decided to port to one of Breezy's cargo bays for further questioning before deciding what to do with them. When there were no more people standing waiting to come into the bridge, Penny checked the ship with her mind to see that no one was hiding or unable to come and get checked out. The ship was empty. Apparently there had been no one aboard who had been a prisoner.
Penny returned to the Sea Breeze and found out from Priscilla that there had been only a few people that needed the ship's medical facilities. "Most of the injured died almost immediately from their injuries," said Priscilla.
"Please get into contact with whoever is in charge down there, and find out if they want to stay and try to repair the damage done; or if they would rather go to a different planet that is just starting to be colonized," said Penny. "Let them know that a large explosion has changed the orbits of a good many asteroids in the solar system. It will take a few years to be sure that none of them will be a danger to this planet. Just ask Breezy to teleport you down to the surface when you are ready."
It took a couple of hours for a meeting to be held and a consensus to be reached. The decision was made to leave and join the new colony that Penny would take them to. During this time, Penny talked with the people she had put in the cargo bay. After carefully questioning each one she found all but two of them had been acting on misinformation rather than lack of character. The two she put with the others from the attacking ship. The other ten were given a choice to join their former comrades or to stay aboard and be taken to Hillea. Penny explained that Hillea was a new colony planet of the world she used to call home. They all chose to go to Hillea.
A few of the colony's leaders were brought up to one of Sea Breeze's lounges. There they made contact with Chaldhc)a, their home world. They reported what had happened and what they had decided to do. Penny let them know that they could have any new technology that was on the attacking ship as long as it was shared with Halthor, Penny's home world. She also gave them the coordinates for Hillea, the new planet she was taking the colonists to.
The Chaldhc)a leaders attitude went from surprise at being contacted, to concern for their colonists as the story of the attack and rescue unfolded, to reserved approval of the colonist's decision to move to Hillea and share any new technology found on the attacker's ship. The knowledge that Priscilla Feldon, one of their colonists, was now a Guardian and would join the Guardians in keeping the galaxy safe from space faring predators, seemed to please them the most.
The rest of the day was spent, by most of the colonists, getting ready so they could leave the planet the following morning. Twenty of the colonists, those with skills related to the running of a ship were transported to the attacker's ship to learn what they could so they could operate it safely.
Penny and Priscilla used the time getting to know one another better. Priscilla told Penny that the only way she had been able to stay ahead of her pursuer was her ability to teleport herself short distances. Penny assured her that she would be able to help Priscilla extend her ability until she could teleport herself or anything else wherever she wished.
Penny took Priscilla on a familiarization tour of the Sea Breeze. Along the way Priscilla learned that inside the 250 by 800 by 60 feet deep hull, there were six decks; containing 5,000 cabins of various sizes, three cargo bays, a hanger, engineering, the bridge, a few medical bays, and ten recreation rooms that could be used for anything from board games to gymnastics.
Priscilla was surprised when Penny told her how recently she had found Breezy. She was even more surprised when Penny related to her the events surrounding her meeting with the Guardians Gail and Gloria, and the way they showed her that she was able to teleport.
The next morning Priscilla, using Breezy's transporters, helped Penny move the colonists from the surface up to the two ships. The new crew of the attacker's ship had decided to name it New Hope.
After everyone was safely on board, Penny teleported the attackers from the ice field to the settlement. They had their survival packs, some of their weapons the colonists had left behind, and whatever buildings, equipment and supplies they had not destroyed in their attack on the settlement.
Penny told them she was leaving a buoy in orbit that would warn any passing ships about who was down on the planet, and why they had been left there. It would remain until they developed a civilization capable of removing it from orbit, or until they had all died from disease, lack of cooperation, or some natural disaster.
Penny had the crew of New Hope head for Hillea at the best speed their ship was capable of, while she followed. After about an hour it was evident that it would take them about three days to reach Hillea. Since Penny thought it would be time well spent in learning, for the new crew, about their ship, she decided to make it a normal trip instead of teleporting both ships to Hillea's solar system.
Luckily Priscilla only had to show the other colonists aboard Breezy how to use the replicators to obtain food and clothing once, then she was free for the rest of the trip to Hillea to join Penny in learning the Guardian language and any other subject they found interesting while perusing Breezy's data base.
One of the things they did was replicate Penny's Guardian lamp. Besides food replicators, Breezy had large replicators that could produce almost anything. They also made sure that Breezy could project the lamp's frequency in all directions so the Egos could not sneak up on them.
After delivering the people to Hillea, Penny left a report with the colonial authorities there. The report was something to show Halthor's officials so there would be no trouble. The home world authorities had some experience with Guardians; therefore Penny knew that now that she was officially a Guardian, Halthor's government would respect any arrangements she made. The report was also an assurance that she was alright, but would probably not be seeing her former friends and relatives very often. She also checked to see if one of the colonists was qualified to fly her scout ship, Starjumper. When she was satisfied that there were at least a half dozen qualified people to fly it, she removed all her personal belongings from the scout and teleported it down to the colony's landing field. The colonists really appreciated the gift.
One of the things they learned on the trip to Hillea was that Breezy was assigned to Guardian base 36. After making sure that nothing belonging to the colonists was accidently left on board, Penny instructed Breezy to head toward the base of the attackers.
Since they had nothing to slow them down, it only took them 3 hours to arrive near the planet where the leader of the attackers, James Desoto, was supposed to be waiting. All they got for their trouble was to see, and mark the course, of a small ship leaving its orbit of the planet and heading away at high speed. The reason they saw the ship at all was that Breezy was broadcasting the character lamp frequency that canceled the Egos' cloaking device.
The few people left at the base on the planet checked out as normal humans, but with character problems. Penny and Priscilla put a beacon in orbit to monitor the system in case the Egos came back. They left the base's personnel to do whatever they wished now that the Egos' influence was gone.
Penny told Breezy to head in the direction of Guardian base 36 but not directly
at it. An hour later, and a long way from the attacker's base world, Penny teleported
Breezy to the system that contained Guardian base 36. The base was on a small
moon of the fourth planet in the system. They landed the ship in front of the
main building on the base. On leaving the ship they were greeted by Leila, the
base holographic caretaker.
Sara Stone a dancer, who also sang and played the piano; and Deirdre Demerest an engineer were on a shuttle together. Neither knew the other before the meeting of their fellow passengers as everyone suited up before entering the shuttle.
They, and a dozen others, were on their way down to a mining operation on a planet without enough oxygen to support humans. The shuttle had just left Tendre, the planet's moon, where their company had established a base for the mining personnel on Trempe, the planet. The base on the moon was there as a place to come to unwind and relax away from the planet's harsh environment.
The moon possessed a breathable atmosphere and mild climate, but lacked any ore deposits large enough to make mining them worthwhile.
Fifteen minutes into the flight, a meteor about 20 feet across was about to cross their flight path well ahead of them. The crew had put the image of the meteor on the cabin monitor. Sara was startled when she saw what appeared to be a transparent image of something in the meteor's path. Before she could say anything the meteor had struck whatever it was. The meteor was deflected from it's course as well as broken into several pieces. Most of the pieces headed almost straight for the shuttle.
The pilot did his best to avoid the chunks of rock, but could not avoid everything. Some of the smaller pieces hit the shuttle damaging the engines and breaching the cabin. Luckily no one was hit by the piece that tore open the cabin.
Because they all had spacesuits on the cabin decompression would not be an immediate problem. The loss of most of their drive power, and the fact that they were now headed toward the now completely visible ship that the meteor had hit, was a very big problem. The meteor must have damaged whatever had been making the ship invisible.
John Chan, their pilot, informed everyone that the large emerald green ship they were heading towards seemed to be drifting. He was going to try to slow them down so they would not hit it.
Sara asked him, "Wouldn't it be better if we tried to somehow dock with it? It doesn't seem to be damaged by the impact. If anyone is on it, hopefully we can try to help one another."
"That might be our best bet," he replied. "Our radio is out of commission so it might take either of our bases an hour or more to realize we are in trouble."
Sara could see on the cabin monitor that Mr. Chan was having a hard time changing the damaged shuttle's course to match the path of the other ship. He only had partial power, and even that was not totally usable since the damage stopped him from using it evenly. The more power he sent through the drive the more it wanted to make the shuttle spiral out of control.
It was no surprise that the best the pilot could do was to bring the shuttle to a course that would pass about 50 feet from the large emerald green ship. Luckily the shuttle had some magnetic grapples on long cables. Mr. Chan fired them off as they neared the ship and was able to use them to help match course and speed with the larger vessel and then reel the ships together.
While they had been approaching the ship, Sara had a chance to take a better look at it. It was about a thousand feet long, about 200 feet thick, and looked to be about as wide as it was thick. The outer hull was in the shape of a cut gem. The top and bottom were flat, but the front, back and sides were beveled and angled as if it was a very large, cut gemstone. Whatever it was made from looked semi-transparent like a real emerald. But when they were almost docked with the ship, Sara could tell that the semi-transparency was a surface effect illusion of the hull material, not a fact.
Deirdre Demerest volunteered to help John, the pilot, see how much if anything, of the damaged parts of the shuttle could be repaired. While they did that Sara and a few of the others who realized they were in the way of the people who were trying to patch the holes in the cabin; volunteered to leave the shuttle and look for a way into the larger ship. While they had been approaching it no one had seen anything that resembled hatches or any other means of entering. Calls made to it on the suit radios had not received any response.
Since all aboard the shuttle were veteran space travelers, no one had panicked as yet; even though most of them had never experienced a major emergency before. Their suits would keep them alive for at least a day; so, barring any more accidents, no one felt immediately threatened.
Sara was probably the calmest one of all. She knew that she could almost certainly teleport herself back to the moon they had just left. It was farther than she had ever tried to go before, but she was almost certain she could reach there if she tried. It was something that she would rather not have to do though. It was not an ability that was an every day part of her culture. She did not want to spend the rest of her life being studied or forced to do things she did not want to do. But she could go and tell those on the moon of the disaster if anything else threatened their survival.
Sara and her companions left through the shuttle's airlock, making sure they closed its doors even though there was no air in the cabin. They did not want to cause a problem if the others succeeded in patching the holes in the hull.
Once outside, they split up to cover the most area in the least amount of time. Sara headed for the far side of the ship. In about five minutes she was on the side hidden from the shuttle. Since she could still not detect any way in and was out of sight of any of the others, she decided to try porting herself into the ship. She knew that if she was quick no one from the shuttle would even know she had been inside.
A second later she was inside the ship in what appeared to be a corridor. The only light in the corridor was supplied by her suit lamp and flashlight. There was no atmosphere according to her suit instruments and no heat. Unless she was in a sealed off part of the ship, there was no possibility that anyone living was on board. There also was no artificial gravity. She decided to demagnetize her boots and pull herself down the corridor by grabbing the doorframes as she passed them.
As she moved along, she used her suit radio to try and contact her shipmates outside on the hull. No luck. The hull, or something else was blocking her transmissions.
Near the end of the corridor she came to a large door on the left side. It had symbols she could not read on it. But also there was a smaller door set into the larger one that resembled a bulkhead door on an ocean going vessel. She was able to figure out its mechanical mechanism and opened it.
Inside she found a large room that had a number of panels and work stations. Some of them had a few lights glowing on them, mostly red or yellow. Pushing herself farther into the room, she could tell that she was presently in at least one of the control rooms of the ship. Engineering, probably, as there seemed to be a lack of any screens to show anything outside the ship. She could also tell that she would not be able to tell if this ship could be powered up and salvaged on her own. She would need the help of one or more of the others.
Standing before one of the large panels she watched as the yellow light at the left end of a long bar graph type of gauge, lengthened slightly and changed to green. Just after the gauge changed to green, some lighting panels were activated. The room was now dimly lit as if the emergency lighting was now on.
These changes helped make up her mind. Salvaging this ship and getting it up and running would probably be worth any trouble that came from revealing her ability to teleport to the others. Taking a good look around to fix the room in her mind, she ported herself out of the ship, appearing a few feet from the shuttle airlock. She had been gone for about fifteen minutes.
Looking around she did not see anyone that seemed to have seen her just appear near the shuttle. Sara used her suit radio to contact the pilot, "Mr. Chan, Sara Stone. I have a way to enter the ship. There is apparently no one alive on board. I will need someone with engineering training to help figure how to power up its systems and see if they are functional."
"Very good," he replied. "We have been able to get the radio functioning well enough to contact the base on Tendre. The only ship there capable of rescuing us is undergoing maintenance and will take a few hours to be put back together so it can come and get us. Deirdre and I have done all that can be done with the shuttles hashed up systems. She can go with you and see if this ship we are attached to can be fixed. She will be with you shortly."
A couple of minutes later Deirdre emerged from the shuttle airlock carrying a couple of cases of instruments and diagnostic tools. Sara reached out and took one of the cases then put her free arm around Deirdre and said, "Put your arm around me as mine is around you."
Deirdre did so but gave Sara a questioning look.
"Now just give me a minute to concentrate," continued Sara. "The way inside is not a where to enter, but a how." She then pictured the room in the ship she had just left, found the doorway to it with her mind and mentally walked through it.
Inside the room Sara took to be the ship's engineering station, she started to relax. At the same time, she felt Deirdre tense up. "Were here," Sara said. "I think this is this ship's 'engineering' room."
"But how did we get here?" asked Deirdre.
"I teleported us here," replied Sara. "Its an ability I have had for awhile but for obvious reasons have kept it a secret. I feel that getting this ship up and running, if we can, will be worth letting the cat out of the bag so to speak."
With a puzzled look on her face, Deirdre released Sara, stepped back a pace, and replied, "I guess my questions about teleportation will have to wait for a bit."
She opened the case she carried and placed it on a bench at the side of the room. "Open the case you have and follow my instructions Sara. We don't want to blow ourselves up by missing any clues."
Sara, glad to be off the spot for a while, did as Deirdre asked. For the next twenty some minutes they checked out panel after panel. After they checked the last panel, Deirdre said, "I think I can restart things safely, but everything is so different than what I am used to, that I am not sure. You say this bar gauge was shorter and yellow when you first saw it?"
"Yes," replied Sara. "It has also edged past this mark where it was when I left."
"It looks to be a minimum power mark. At least that much is needed to run the ship's emergency lighting," said Deirdre. "I am assuming we cannot contact the others through the hull?" she queried.
"That's right," replied Sara, "I tried while I was inside before. If we aren't able to power up the ship's systems the only way to communicate is to teleport outside."
"You can watch this panel for me while I bring the ship's systems online one at a time. Let me know if anything appears to cause a problem."
"Okay," agreed Sara.
After saying, "I am going to start by feeding a little power to what I think is the main generator," Deirdre closed the circuit to the generator. Seconds later a faint humming could be heard. The red light on the panel before her went from red to green.
"I have a green light here," said Deirdre. "What does it look like there?"
"One of the red lights here has changed to green," replied Sara. "Otherwise everything is the same."
"I am now going to try life support," said Deirdre. "This ship won't do us much good if we cannot be comfortable in it."
After feeding power to life support Deirdre watched the lights she took for temperature, pressure, and atmospheric composition change from flashing red to a steady yellow. "The process has begun. Everything still okey over there Sara?"
"Yes," she replied. "I have more green and yellow lights instead of so many red ones."
"Good. I am now going to route some power to the main computer."
For about a minute after activating the computer nothing much happened. A few minor circuits that Deirdre took to be diagnostics of some kind were all that were activated. Then in a manner of speaking, 'all hell broke loose'. System after system was activated. Lights on all the panels in sight were changing from red to yellow or straight to green. The life support indicators flashed over to the green. "Check your suit gauges Sara. Life support shows all green."
A check of their suit's gauges confirmed that the atmosphere, composition, pressure, and temperature, of at least this room, were now OK.
Immediately after another light changed to green in front of Sara, she felt the weight of acceleration or gravity. In short order, all the lights on the panels changed over to green and the lighting in the room increased until the room looked as bright as day.
Soon after a voice came from one of the panels. Sara could not make out what was said but thought the first word sounded like guardian or maybe guardians. "Could you make any sense out of that?" she asked Deirdre.
"No. I don't think I have ever heard anything like it."
Stepping towards the panel, Sara said, "Hello. We do not understand you. We mean no harm. Our ship is damaged and we seek help."
Seconds later she was answered, "You come from the damaged small ship that is clinging to my hull?"
Surprised at the quick assimilation of their language Sara replied, "Yes. A meteor glancing off this ship fragmented and damaged our shuttle. My name is Sara Stone and the person with me is named Deirdre Demerest."
"Welcome aboard Guardians," replied the computer. I am the Jewel ship 'Callisto'. What do you want me to do?"
"We would like to help our friends outside to come inside if possible," replied Deirdre. "Then we would like to return to Tendre. Tendre is the moon nearby with an atmosphere."
"That can be done," came the reply. "Would you like to supervise from the bridge?"
"Yes," replied Sara. "Can you direct us there?"
"I will transport you there. It will be faster," came the reply.
Immediately after, both Sara and Deirdre were enveloped in a sparkly light. A second later they could see that they were in another room with some panels, some seats, and a large number of screens.
"This is the bridge," came the computer's voice from one of the panels.
"Can you bring the others inside the way you transported us here?" Sara asked.
"Yes," answered the computer.
"I think I better talk to them first, so they know what is happening," said Sara. "Can we have a link between our suit radios and those outside?"
"Link established," came the reply.
"This is Sara Stone," she announced. "Deirdre and I have been able to activate all this ship's functions. We are about to transport you inside. This is a warning that you will be enveloped in a sparkly light. Don't worry it doesn't hurt."
"You will bring us all inside at one time?" asked Mr. Chan.
"Yes," replied Sara. "In about a minute." Then she gestured for the link to be broken.
"Link terminated," replied the computer.
"Can you beam them all in here with us?" asked Deirdre.
"No I cannot," came the reply. "They are not Guardians as you and Sara are. They will have to be transported to another part of the ship."
Sara asked, "What makes you think we are Guardians?"
"Two things," came the reply. "One: You were the ones who reactivated this ship. Two: This ship has built in devices that monitor and read a person's character. These devices tell me that you are Guardians. Where would you like the others put?"
"Can you bring in the damaged shuttle as well? Do you have a room large enough for it?" asked Deirdre.
"Then," said Deirdre, "Bring them into the same room that you put the shuttle in."
"I am transporting them to the hangar deck," replied the computer. "You can see it on the small screen to your left."
By the time the women turned to the screen, they saw the last of the sparkly light of transport fading away; revealing the damaged shuttle and three space suited figures standing beside it. There seemed to be nothing else in the large space.
"Computer..." began Sara. "Darn! I don't like to just call you computer. Do you have a name?"
"This ship is called Callisto, correct?" she continued.
"Yes," answered the computer.
"Then," Sara asked, "how about Cali for a name? Since you sound feminine."
"That would be satisfactory," answered the computer.
"Were the Guardians the builders or owners of this ship?" asked Deirdre.
"Yes," replied Cali. "They were both the builders and owners of this ship.
"Good." said Sara. "Please set course and take us to Tendre. And while we are en route, transport us to the hangar deck where our shipmates are."
Sara and Deirdre appeared on the hangar deck near the shuttle. Most of the other shuttle passengers were coming out of the damaged shuttle into the hanger to take a look at the ship they were now in.
Sara and Deirdre took off their helmets to show the others that the atmosphere was safe to breath. Deirdre thought that Callisto's environmental settings were a deliberate match of their own. The readings she got before being beamed to the bridge were too close to be coincidence.
"Wow!" said Chan after removing his helmet. "That was some trick. Can you tell us how you did it?"
"The computer running this ship did it," replied Sara. "It was some sort of electronic teleportation."
"We want to warn you that, for some reason, the computer running the ship will not allow the rest of you access to most of the ship," Deirdre said.
"Why is that?" asked Maria Parker, one of the other shuttle passengers.
"Mainly because it has taken us for members of the race that built this ship. They were called Guardians," replied Sara.
"We are on our way to Tendre and should be there soon," said Deirdre. "It won't matter that you will only get to see the inside of the hangar."
There was a chime, then the computer announced, "We are now in orbit about Tendre."
"Please open a channel to the space port below," said Sara to the air. Causing a puzzled look to appear on the face of more than one of the people around her.
"Some of the functions of this ship seemed to seep into my mind while we were restoring its systems," Sara replied to the looks she was receiving.
"Cannel open." replied Cali.
" Tendre space port," said Sara. "This is the Jewel ship Callisto. We have the damaged shuttle and its passengers aboard. Where would you like us to set them down?"
"Anywhere near the repair hangar on the north east corner of the field will do," came the reply. "Is everyone safe and sound?"
"Yes," replied Chan when Sara gestured for him to speak. "The passengers and crew are all well. The shuttle is badly damaged and needs major repair."
"When can we expect you to land?"
"The Callisto will not be landing," replied Sara. But you can expect the shuttle and its personnel to appear by the hangar in about a minute. Callisto out."
She then walked over to the nearest wall and activated a panel. "Cali, display a view of Tendre's space port." When a view of the space port came up on the panel she pointed to a spot in front of the appropriate structure. "Beam the shuttle and all of us down to this point and wait further instructions," ordered Sara.
She walked back to her companions. An instant later they were all enveloped in the sparkly light. They, and the shuttle, materialized in front of the repair hangar micro seconds later.
Two hours later, after everyone had a thorough check up and something to eat and drink, Sara and Deirdre were escorted to commander Mayberry's office in the port authority wing.
During the meal Sara and Deirdre had discussed the probable outcome of their acceptance as Guardians by the ship. They agreed that if it looked like the authorities were going to try to control them to have access to the ship; they would get back aboard the Callisto and leave.
When they entered Mayberry's office, he looked up from perusing two open files on his desk and gestured for them to sit in the chairs placed before his desk. As they sat down Sara noticed that their escort had remained in the room and shut the door. She thought that this did not seem to be an auspicious beginning to the interview.
Mayberry was a medium size, middle aged man. He looked to be in fair physical shape, the fit of the uniform he wore made this evident. "Miss Stone and Miss Demerest, the reports I have been reading about you and your recent adventure have raised more questions than giving answers," he began. "The first is: 'How did either of you get into the ship before its teleportation device was functional?'"
"That will be answered by the end of this meeting," replied Sara.
"Very well," continued Mayberry. "When are we going to have access to the Callisto and its technology?"
"Only those recognized as Guardians by the ship will ever have access to the Callisto or its technology," replied Sara.
"But you and Deirdre are so recognized by the ship," said the commander. "Willingly or not you will give us access to the ship and its technology."
"That implies that you are willing to try and force us to co-operate," said Sara. "If we are not here you will not be able to force us to do anything."
Deirdre looked at Sara as if to say, 'What are you trying to get us into?'
"You think that guards with weapons can hold us?" asked Sara. "Look," she said pointing to the floor to the right of Mayberry's desk. The guards' weapons appeared there.
The guards took a step towards Deirdre and Sara still sitting in the chairs facing Mayberry. The one on the right disappeared. The second guard was able to come one step closer before he disappeared.
"You see," said Sara. "You cannot deal with just me. How could you hope to deal with what the Callisto can bring to bear?"
"What have you done with the guards?" asked Mayberry.
"They were teleported to the front doors of this building," replied Sara.
"Who are you?" asked Mayberry. "Or should I ask, What are you?"
"I am the person your records say I am," replied Sara. "Those records are not as complete as they could be, but until now I hid my talent. I could not see any other way to keep myself and the others with me alive, so I revealed my abilities. As your attitude shows, I was wise to keep my abilities secret."
"What do you intend to do?" asked Mayberry.
"We will leave," replied Sara. "But before we do I want you to know that we will be stopping at our home world and dropping off a recording of this interview. Also, the others that were with us are exactly who they seem to be. Other than reporting what they saw and heard they will not be able to satisfy your greedy nature."
Sara turned to Deirdre and said, "Deirdre, ask Cali to beam you aboard ship."
With a smile on her face Deirdre said, "Cali, please beam me back to the Callisto."
An instant later she was enveloped in a sparkly light and then was gone.
"You see," said Sara. "We are always under Callisto's watchful eye. Even if you had been able to render us unconscious, we would have been taken to the ship and revived. I warn you again, do nothing to our fellow passengers. They are innocent bystanders. You will not have to deal with me or Deirdre again unless we find out that you did not heed this warning."
Sara then teleported herself to the Callisto.
Five seconds after Sara left, the guards re-entered Mayberry's office.
"They have gone," said Mayberry. "Retrieve your weapons and report to your commanding officer."
Reaching to his comm. panel he pushed a button and asked, "Has the Callisto left orbit?"
"No sir. The ship is still...wait! It is leaving orbit now."
"Track it as long as you can and let me know where it is heading."
Two minutes later space port control came back on the comm. "Sir, the Callisto is heading for our home system. Its speed at last contact was about top speed for one of our fastest couriers. But a half minute after Callisto left orbit," he continued, "another large ship was detected decelerating towards us. After greeting the Callisto, it altered course away from us again. The whole time we were able to track it, the other ship was traveling at least twice as fast as the Callisto was when it went out of range."
"Thank you, control," replied Mayberry. Well, thought Mayberry, when I mess up I really mess up!
When Sara arrived on the bridge of the Callisto she asked, "Cali, can you show us a chart of the stars within a hundred light years of our present position?"
"Yes," replied the computer.
A field of widely spaced stars appeared in the air before Sara and Deirdre. The image took up a two foot cube of space. A green dot was visible beside the star at the center of the cube.
"We are the green dot," said Cali.
"How many stars are 21 light years from our present position?" asked Sara.
"Just one," replied Cali. A red circle appeared around the star.
"Take us out of orbit and head for that star system. Accelerate until we reach a speed that will get us there in about 12 hours," ordered Sara. I want us to have some time to rest before we arrive." "For future reference Cali, the system we are headed to is our home star system."
"We are going to drop off a tape of Mayberry and his tactics?" asked Deirdre.
"Yes, among other things," replied Sara.
"We are on course and at specified speed," reported Cali. "Also we are being hailed by Star-runner, a Trans-Galactic passenger ship."
"Open a channel," said Deirdre. She continued, "This is the Guardian jewel ship Callisto, Deirdre speaking. What can we do for you Star-runner?"
"We received a distress call from the system you just left. Is everything all right?"
"Yes," replied Deirdre. "We have taken care of it. Everyone is safe and sound."
"Thank you, Deirdre. We will resume our original course. Star-runner out."
After watching the other ship alter its course Sara asked, "Where are the nearest cabins Cali?"
"Out the door on your right, starting with the third door on either side of the corridor," replied Cali.
"Come on Deirdre. Let's go see what kind of accommodations this ship has," said Sara.
"OK," said Deirdre. "It has been an eventful day."
They went down the designated corridor and looked at the first four cabins, two on the left and two on the right. They decided to use the two on the left since they had a connecting door between them. The only difference between the two, was the color scheme and a few accent pieces.
"How are you feeling?" asked Sara.
"Not too bad," replied Deirdre. "I don't think there has been time yet for it to sink in that we are on our own."
"I have known for some time that I was either going to be a government prisoner of some kind, or off on my own as we are now," said Sara. "Therefore this is not something I was not expecting in one way or another. If you want, we can search for some way you could live on our home world with a new identity."
"No," said Deirdre. "That just isn't me. I would rather learn what I can about the Guardians and this ship. At least I won't have to worry about someone always being after me."
"Do you know how Cali was able to hear you when you asked to be beamed aboard?" asked Sara.
"Yes," replied Deirdre. "I was aware when the device was placed into my brain during our first transport. I didn't know what it was for, but I knew it was put there."
"I seem to be able in some way to absorb, or just know, some knowledge about the ship and some of the Guardian technology," said Sara. "In that way, I know that besides being a communicator with the ship, it can function as a translation device, if you need it to, so you can talk to someone who does not speak a language you already understand."
"That is good to know," said Deirdre. "I suppose we should still try and learn whatever language the Guardians speak. It may help us to learn and understand more about this ship that has become our new home."
"Oh," said Sara. "When you said that I had the information pop into my mind that this ship has a home, Guardian base 43; otherwise known as Hunter's shadow."
"That is something we will have to look into after we leave Tarrasa," said Deirdre. "Cali, can you contact Hunter's shadow and tell us if it is operational and if there is someone still there?"
After a short pause Cali replied, "Hunter's shadow is still operational. There is no Guardians there at present, but the base computer is passing along some information that originated from Dawn Zepher, a ship out of Eldorado, which is Guardian base 29. They warn about a shadowy race of beings, using cloaked ships, that seem to be stirring up trouble in various ways. They have the ability to take on the appearance of other races, and seem to like to work behind the scenes to make a mess of things. We are warned to run with energy screens engaged and to be prepared to alter their output. I am also receiving data on devices that can be built to unmask the trouble makers or their ships if we run across them."
"Are the Guardians from Eldorado descended from your builders, or are they like us, Guardians because you computers think we are?" asked Sara.
"I don't know at this time," replied Cali. "If you want I can contact them and find out."
"Not right now, thanks," said Sara. "It's just one more thing to do after we tie up the loose ends on Tarrasa."
"Is there any clothes on board that we could use?" asked Deirdre. "Neither one of us brought anything with us."
"I have put a selection of normal Guardian clothes in each of your closets," replied Cali. "If there is anything else that you desire you can select from a catalogue which is a part of the ship's data base. Then using the number beside it you can use one of the replicators to make it."
"How about food?" asked Sara. "I am too hungry to be able to rest before I eat something."
"You can make a selection of food, similar to the clothes, from the ship's data base and ask a replicator to make it," replied Cali. "Or you can just ask something from the replicator and if what you ask is clear enough and/or within its capabilities it will make it for you."
"Sounds great," said Deirdre.
"Yes," said Sara. "Let's try it out."
After a good meal together, eaten while sitting at a table in Deirdre's cabin, Sara said good night to Deirdre, went to her cabin and went to bed. Both she and Deirdre had instructed Cali to wake them three hours before they were to reach Tarrasa. As it turned out they were both up about a half hour early.
They both had put on the Guardian clothes that Cali had placed in their closets. Deirdre wore pants and a blouse. Sara wore a knee length skirt and a blouse. Both sets of clothes were nearly the color of the ship, emerald green. Each blouse had a patch on the right side with an inch long jewel the shape of the Callisto. In an arch over and below the jewel the name of the ship was repeated it red letters.
Sara was looking at how the new clothes looked on her when Deirdre entered her cabin. "Hi Deirdre," said Sara. "How do you like the feel of the material these clothes are made from."
"I think it is great. It is light and soft, and does not seem to wrinkle easy," replied Deirdre.
After a good breakfast, they discussed what they would do when they reached Tarrasa. Sara was an orphan and had not left any close friends on Tarrasa so it was decided that she would be the one to deliver the copy of their interview with Mayberry to the authorities there. Deirdre had a mother, father, and some close friends she wanted to say goodbye to. So they decided she could be busy doing that while Sara made their new status as Guardians known to the government.
"It's hard to believe that only a few days ago our lives were what anyone would call normal," said Deirdre. "Now I am on my way to tell my relatives and friends goodbye, maybe for the last time."
"I hope you don't come to hate me for dragging you into this," said Sara.
"No," replied Deirdre. "It is not your fault. It's Cali that put paid to my life as it was. You didn't know any more than I did about what was going to happen when we reactivated this ship."
"Try and remember that if you start missing your old life," said Sara. "Let's go to the control room and ask Cali to show us how to work some of the controls so we don't have to keep asking about everything."
Deirdre thought it a good idea, so they spent the next few hours learning how to operate some of the control stations found on the bridge. When they were about a half hour from Tarrasa, Sara said, "I think you have the potential to teleport as I do or you would not have been able to sense when Cali put the communicator inside your head."
"You may be right," said Deirdre.
"Would you like to try and see if you can?" asked Sara.
"Sure," replied Deirdre. "How do we go about it?"
"You think of where you want to be, then you look for the way there from where you are. For me I see a doorway or portal edged in green. Then you mentally walk through the portal. If you do it right you end up where you want to be. If there seems to be more than one doorway, always take the one with the green edge. If there isn't one with a green edge it is better not to go there at that time."
"OK," said Deirdre. "I will see if I can move myself over to the other side of the bridge."
Thinking of where she wanted to go Deirdre looked with her mind to see if she could see something like Sara had described. At first there was nothing but her mental image of where she wanted to go. Then she became aware of an opening to the side of her mental image of where she wanted to go. It did have a green border, so she moved a mental image of herself through the opening.
Now standing where she had wanted to go she said, "Wow! That did not seem as hard as I thought it would be."
"Yes," said Sara. "There are probably others who can do it, but don't think that it would be a good idea to let others know they can. You should practice doing it whenever you are not likely to be distracted; until you can do it almost without thinking."
"OK," said Deirdre. "It might be just the way to see my friends and relatives to say goodbye."
"Yes," agreed Sara. "It would probably help them to understand why you are not going to see them often, if ever again."
When they were in the last ten minutes of their trip to Tarrasa, they were hailed from the planet; apparently Mayberry had sent in a report to try and soften his superiors' view of the report Sara was about to deliver.
"Tarrasa space control, this the Jewel ship Callisto," replied Deirdre. "We are here to deliver a report on recent events that took place on and near Tendre."
"Do you wish to land?" asked the man at Tarrasa's main space port.
"No," replied Deirdre. "Just give us a parking orbit two hundred miles up and away from other traffic."
"Head for the coordinates I am sending you and establish your orbit on a heading of 251 degrees. Report when orbit has been established," responded Tarrasa space control.
When Callisto was in the assigned orbit, Sara transmitted, "Tarrasa space control, Callisto is in the orbit assigned to us. Please transfer me to the person in charge of colony administration."
"Very well," replied Tarrasa space control. "I am transferring you to the offices of Mr. Fuentes, our colony administrator."
The picture on the screen changed and a young lady's face replaced that of the person from space control. "Hello," she said. "Mr. Fuentes office. Heather speaking, how may I help you?"
"Hello Heather," replied Sara. "I am Sara Stone. I wish to deliver a report to Mr. Fuentes about what happened recently on Tendre."
"He is out right now but will be back in about a half hour," said Heather. "But his time is booked solid this afternoon. Can I make you an appointment for tomorrow morning?"
Thinking that it would give Deirdre more time to say goodbye to her friends and relatives, Sara replied, "That will be fine."
"Would 9:30 be alright? asked Heather.
"Yes," replied Sara. "Thank you." Seeing the question on Heather's face she said, "I do have your coordinates. I will beam in tomorrow morning. Callisto out."
Sara cut the connection on her as Heather mouthed the words, "beam in?".
"Well," said Deirdre, "since your appointment is for tomorrow, why don't you come with me today and meet my relatives?"
"Good idea," replied Sara. "Picture one of your parents and think of going to them. When you see the portal, go."
So Deirdre did as Sara suggested. A few seconds later Deirdre was gone. After instructing Cali to let them know of any problems, Sara ported herself to Deirdre's location. There she found Deirdre hugging her mom.
When Deirdre became aware that Sara was there, she introduced her to her mom. After exchanging the usual small talk when meeting someone Deirdre said, "I might as well go find dad so we won't have to tell our story so many times. Be right back."
When she disappeared a second later Mrs. Demerest looked a little stunned. So Sara said, "Don't worry. She is fine. What you saw her do is part of who she is now. It is nothing to be afraid of."
Seconds later Deirdre reappeared, accompanied by her father. After introducing her father to Sara, and Deirdre's parents had settled down a bit, Sara and Deirdre took turns relating the events that had taken place since the beginning of the shuttle accident.
Once their story was finished Sara suggest they take Mr. and Mrs. Demerest to the Callisto, have some food, and give them a partial tour of the ship. "It might help to reduce their concern for your safety," she said to Deirdre.
After a leisurely meal and a tour of the Callisto, Deirdre teleported herself and her parents back to their home for the night. Sara stayed aboard Callisto and made sure she had everything ready for her appointment with Mr. Fuentes, then went to bed.
The next morning promptly at 9:30 Sara appeared in a shower of sparkling light in front of Heather's desk. She greeted the startled woman, "Hello. I'm Sara Stone. I made an appointment to see Mr. Fuentes today."
She held out her hand and Heather hesitantly reached out and shook it. Apparently somewhat reassured that Sara was real and actually there by feeling her hand firmly gripped by Sara, Heather toggled the intercom and said, "Sara Stone is here to see you sir."
"Good," replied Mr. Fuentes. "Please send her in."
Pointing to the door behind and to her left, Heather said, "Right through there."
Entering, Sara saw Mr. Fuentes standing behind his desk. He was a dark haired man about six feet tall. He was dressed in the usual manner of most of the planet's businessmen. His expression was more questioning than hostile, though it was still on the cool side as he greeted Sara and asked her to sit down in the chair in front of his desk.
After sitting down Sara leaned forward and handed him the recording of what had happened in Mayberry's office, and a report of what had led up to being called to that office. "These," she said, "you may keep for your records." She then waited while he read the report and viewed the recording.
When the recording ended Mr. Fuentes sat for a minute thinking, then said, "I see we will have to replace Mr. Mayberry. It may also be wise to look into the tests we give to people applying for positions of authority. Is there anything else you wish to bring to my attention?"
"Yes," replied Sara. "Because of what happened, Deirdre Demerest and I have become Guardians. We can no longer be considered to belong to Tarrasa or its people.
We will now be answerable only to ourselves and any other Guardians we encounter."
Receiving a look of concern from Mr. Fuentes Sara continued, "From what we have been able to understand so far, the Guardians were, and probably still are, people who watch over this, and possibly other galaxies. We answer legitimate calls for help from anyone. Our main task is to prevent a war between worlds from happening. While this is our main goal, we are also mandated to do anything else we think will promote peace and well being among the people of this galaxy. We may help or interfere in anything that comes to our attention, or not; whichever we decide at the time."
She handed him another recording and said, "Because we were born here, we give you these specifications for better communication devices. With these you will be able to communicate with anyone in the galaxy. Besides being able to ask for help from us or other Guardians, you will be able to talk to any of the other races who have ships in space."
"Thank you," said Mr. Fuentes. "I will try to see this is used wisely."
"You are welcome," said Sara. "We hope you never really need to call on us. If there are any questions that come up about the communicators, or anything, while Callisto is still in orbit, just give us a call."
Sara then ported herself back to the Callisto.
She used the rest of the day and the next learning the Guardian language and what she could about the workings of Callisto.
Deirdre returned at the end of the second day, happy that she had been able to say goodbye to her friends and relatives.
Sara told Cali to head for Hunter's shadow, but not directly. "Plot a course for a system past where the base is and about 10 degrees out from a direct course to the base."
A few hours later there was no one in detector range. Sara carefully looked at the position of the base on the star chart, then teleported the Callisto to that system. Hunter's shadow was on a planet, with a breathable atmosphere, the third planet from the sun in the system. Unlike Eldorado, Hunter's shadow wasn't underground. It was however, cloaked and disguised so few would be able to find it if they were looking for it. Upon leaving the ship after landing, they were greeted by the base hologram.
"Welcome to Hunter's shadow. My name is Tabitha. It is good to have Guardians here again."
"Thank you," replied Deirdre. "How about giving us the two penny tour Tabitha?"
"Right this way," replied Tabitha, leading the way.
Gloria and Gail were finally headed for Gloria's home planet. They were going mainly to find out why someone there had tried to kill Gloria; but with running into the aliens, that they had decided to call Egos, they had an extra reason for doing a little investigating.
When Dawn Zepher entered Gloria's home system and headed for Grande, her home planet, they were hailed from Grande.
"This is Grande control, to unidentified ship. Why are you here? We do not welcome visitors," said the man who appeared on their screen.
"This is the Guardian ship Dawn Zepher," replied Gloria. "We have come to find out why someone tried to kill me."
"You must not come to Grande or you will be fired upon," replied the man.
"We are Guardians," replied Gloria. "We do not threaten anyone or accept threats. We are here to serve and protect. If you threaten us, you threaten the galaxy you are a part of. To do this is insane. If you continue to threaten us, or attack us, we will consider you to be insane and act accordingly."
Just before the screen went blank the man had a troubled look on his face. Five minutes later Dawn Zepher was in orbit above Grande.
Right after announcing entering orbit, Dawn said, "There are two missiles headed our way. They were fired from a satellite orbiting 30 degrees ahead of us."
While Gloria checked the satellite for personnel, Gail teleported the missiles' war heads to Grande's sun. When Gloria reported that the satellite was uninhabited, Gail teleported the missiles back to the satellite. They reappeared two feet from the satellite headed straight for it and under full acceleration. Even without their warheads, the satellite was nearly vaporized by the missiles' impact.
"That was new," said Gloria. Grande did not have any such satellites in orbit when last I was here."
"Well what we just did should give them something to think about before they try to attack again," said Gail. "In the mean time why don't you find one of Grande's leaders and beam him aboard for testing."
"Capital idea," said Gloria. "And I know just the man to look up, Carl Keteman. He was head of one of the provinces when I left." Gloria sent her mind down into the government buildings in Grande's capital, Grandara. After a bit of searching she found him in a meeting with ten of the other provincial leaders.
Thinking it would be better to confront them as a group, Gloria told Gail of the change in plans, checked her character lamps, then had Dawn transport her down to the conference room.
Only about half the people in the room saw the sparkling entrance Gloria made. By the time the others turned to see what caused the look of surprise on the others' faces, the sparkling was done and Gloria stood there in her Guardian uniform.
"Greetings, Mr. Keteman, ladies and gentlemen," said Gloria. "For those of you who do not know who I am, I am Gloria Green. I was born on Grande as you were. I have become a Guardian and no longer hold allegiance with this, or any other planet or group. All Guardians are protectors of the galaxy and any who live in it."
"There are two reason I have returned to Grande. They may actually be connected. Over a month ago I was snatched from the jaws of death by a space ship which had jumped into Grande's system and whose crew was using its scanners to study life on Grande. Someone on Grande had sabotaged my ship so I would die. My rescue by the people on the space ship indirectly caused me to become a Guardian.
The second reason I have come to Grande is that we have run across an alien race that likes to hide behind the scenes, using cloaked ships and devices that make them appear to be human in shape. These beings seem to be bent on causing chaos of one type or another wherever they are.
"You believe that one of these beings might have been responsible for the attempt on your life?" asked Mr. Keteman.
"Yes, we do," replied Gloria. Thankful that Carl still seemed able to grasp the situation without a lot of explanation.
"We only have your word that what you say is true," said Mary Sarazen. "How are we going to find these beings, if they exist. You say they can look like any human?"
"We have come up with a device we call a character lamp," replied Gloria, touching one of the lamps attached to her belt. "When you shine it at a person, you can see their aura. If they are human the lamp will enable you to know their general character, and allow you to tell if they are lying when you have some experience reading an aura. When the person you use it on is one of these aliens, you also see them as they actually look, without the disguise."
Taking one of the lamps from her belt Gloria stepped up to the table, switched the lamp on, and placed it on the table so it pointed at her and stepped back.
"As you can see," she said. "My aura is mostly white with a shade of green. The lighter and brighter the aura is, the better, or purer, the person's character is."
"Now if you will all take turns stepping up beside me, we can kill two birds with one stone. First, we can all be sure none of us is an alien in disguise. Second, those of you who doubt the ability of the lamps to do what I said, should see enough by the time we are done to know that they work."
Carl Keteman was the first to step into the beam from the lamp. His aura was blue-white and not as bright as Gloria's. This vindicated Gloria's perception of his character from their previous association on Grande. The others in the room came forward to be tested one by one; some of them reluctantly. As a group they surprised Gloria. None of them had auras that were dark. All of them tested out average or above average in character. The biggest surprise was Mary Sarazen. Her aura was as bright as Gloria's with a slight red tint to it.
"Is Mr. Johnson still the planetary leader?" Gloria asked Mary.
"No," replied Mary. "He was replaced by a man named Harry Defalco about a month ago, when an assassin almost killed Mr. Johnson."
"Were any of you aware that our ship was fired at when it entered orbit around Grande?" asked Gloria.
All present denied knowing about the attack on Dawn Zepher.
"If I give each of you a character lamp and show you how to use it, are you willing to help me find out if there are any aliens behind the attack?" asked Gloria.
Carl Keteman answered, "I believe we all would be willing to help, as none of us wish to allow aliens to make a mess of our society. We make enough mistakes on our own."
Gloria had Gail send down a lamp for everyone in the room. After the lamps arrived and were distributed, Gloria explained the few simple controls. After telling them to trust no one with a dark colored aura, even if they were human, she asked Carl and Mary if they would go with her, as witnesses, to see Mr. Delfalco. Both of them agreed, so the three of them went to find the planetary leader while the other provincial leaders left for their own offices.
They caught up with Mr. Delfalco just after he returned from an overseas trip. Because of the reporters gathered around, he did not see Gloria or the two with her until he had taken a half dozen steps from his vehicle. When his eyes finally saw Gloria he jerked to a halt. After a few seconds of startled silence, he pointed at Gloria and shouted, "Kill her! Kill her! She wants to destroy me!"
A few of his guards drew their weapons. The two who started to point them at Gloria had them disappear from their hands and land in front of Carl and Mary.
"How is she attacking you, Mr. Delfalco?" asked Mary Sarazen. When there was no answer from Mr. Delfalco she continued, "We just want to shine a little light on you to see if you are for real."
When she finished speaking she turned on the character lamp in her hand and pointed it at Mr. Delfalco. In the light from the lamp the tall dark haired man disappeared and was replaced by an alien whose face and body was all angles and planes. The aura surrounding the body was almost black.
There was a gasp and drawing back by the people able to see the change that had taken place. The alien, seeing his other guards draw their weapons and point them at him, knew that the charade was over. He called out to Gloria, "You cannot win!" then disappeared.
Gail monitoring the situation on Grande had Dawn broadcast the character lamp frequencies and therefore caught sight of one of the aliens small ships leaving orbit. She instructed Dawn to keep track of it as long as possible without leaving orbit.
It took a week for the government on Grande to straighten itself out, appoint a new leader, and check for any aliens in government offices or positions of power. Gloria was happy that Mary Sarazen was given the job of planetary governor. It took another day and a half to sift through the records and find out the who, and why, Gloria had been attacked before she had left the planet. Everything pointed to the alien posing as Harry Defalco. Working mostly behind the scenes he convinced others in power that she was a danger to them. It seemed that the aliens were able to recognize people that could not be manipulated by them and so were a danger to them.
It would take months to sift through Grande's population to be sure that there were no more aliens on the planet. Gail and Gloria gave a hundred character lamps to the officials on Grande to make the job easier.
Mary, the new planetary governor, assured them that she would see that it would soon be mandatory for all people in government and places of power to be periodically put under the lamps to be sure they were who they were supposed to be and not an alien impersonator.
that things were back on an even keel, Gail and Gloria left for home.
When they returned to Eldorado, Gail sent out a message to all the other Guardian bases giving the two courses they had plotted while tracking the aliens. They also asked if anyone at the other bases could supply additional information about where the aliens might be based.
By the end of the day she had seven negative replies and three positive replies with attached alien course plots. One of them was from Penny Patterson now a Guardian calling base 36 her home.
All five of the course plots intersected inside a small cluster of stars two thirds of the way to the galactic center. There was a cloud of gas, dust, or whatever that obscured most of the stars of the cluster.
Taking a look at the data in the star chart Gloria said, "This stinks to high heaven. Whatever is at the point where the courses intersect, they want us to come there; and not for a vacation either."
"I agree," replied Gail. "The question is do they want us one by one or all together?"
"Let's get together with the other Guardians and see if they think the same about this as we do," suggested Gloria.
So they sent out a message suggesting a meeting with the Guardians from the other ten bases. The meeting was to take place at Hunter's shadow in two day's time if all were agreeable. If someone could not make it there, another place of meeting could be accepted.
In less than an hour they had an answer from everyone. The time and place were acceptable to all.
When everyone was assembled at Hunter's shadow, Gail was surprised to find that everyone there had become a Guardian within the last six months. The oldest of them was 34 years old, the youngest 20. All were women, most of them dark haired, the rest various shades of blonde. One of them, Rana Roper, a dark haired woman 25 years old, did not have a ship of her own of any kind. Two of the others, Tamara Simmons and Alicia Amberton, did not have a partner. Gail suggested that Rana pair with one of these people, at least until they had dealt with the Egos.
When all the information from the Guardians who had encountered the Egos had been put together and looked over, everyone agreed that whatever existed in the nebula where the course plots crossed, it was intended to harm the Guardians who went there. Even so it never crossed their minds that they should stay away and play it safe until more information was available.
At the end of the meeting Rana Roper approached Alicia Amberton and asked if she could join her on her ship, Nark Hunter, for the mission to the nebula.
"Sure thing," replied Alicia with a smile. "It has been lonely sometimes, rattling around in old Narky."
So they all boarded their ships. Dawn Zepher was the smallest, Tamara Simmons's ship was the next smallest at 400 feet long. The other eight ranged from 800 to 1200 feet long. All were gem-shaped and looked to be made from huge pieces of emerald.
They formed up into a three tiered triangular formation. The middle tier was composed of four ships, three forming a triangle, with Dawn Zepher the fourth ship in the center of the triangle, equidistant from the other three. The other two triangles formed by the remaining six ships were slightly smaller and centered over and under Dawn Zepher. Two seconds after it was formed, the formation left at high acceleration for the Egos nebula.
An hour later captain Linstrom aboard his ship Hyperion was startled when the ship's collision alarm went off for a few seconds then went silent. When he checked with navigation about the cause of the alarm he received a shock. Ten ships in an odd, triple tiered, triangular formation had been recorded as they passed by within ten light minutes of Hyperion's course. They had been going so fast, that from detection to being too far away to detect only took five seconds. The real shock to captain Linstrom was that he recognized that they were Guardian ships. Having dealt with a Guardian before he knew a bit of what they were capable of. Who or what was stupid enough to make the Guardians believe that they were worth the attention of at least ten of them and their ships?
The Guardian fleet stopped about a light year from the edge of the egos' nebula. The idea was to proceed slowly and with caution from there; checking everything they encountered on their way into the nebula. Just after starting to move slowly, as space speeds go, toward the nebula; their plan went up in smoke. A dark purple beam of energy emerged from the nebula and struck the Guardian formation. It was good that their shields were up and ready. For the first quarter second it was in doubt that the shields would hold. After that they were using the energy of the beam itself to generate the screens that stopped it.
Gail was the leader of this expedition as she and Gloria were the first Guardians, time wise, to make contact with the Egos. It was tradition that the first Guardian to make contact with a situation became the leader of any group formed to deal with the problem. Since leaving Hunter's shadow all the Guardian ships had established constant communication links with each other. So Gail said, "Change of plan. Everyone except Tamara Simmions will link with me and Gloria. Penny, with Priscilla helping, will concentrate on the sub-microscopic elements of what we encounter. Sara and Deirdre will monitor the rest of us and provide protection if we are mentally attacked. The rest of us will do the best we can to find the source of the beam and extinguish it. Tamara, your job is to monitor our ships to see all is well while we are mentally absent; as well as informing us of any additional attacks or changes that we should know about.
Penny and Priscilla were the first to merge minds with Gail and Gloria. Then sometimes singly, sometimes in pairs, the others joined in. The massed minds settled into harmony, with the Gail/Gloria mind the unquestioned leader. Together they left the fleet and headed into the nebula.
They could have gone anywhere in a second or so; but they were looking for clues. They particularly wanted Penny to have time to detect atomic or sub-atomic anomalies. She soon found some. The gas and dust particles of the nebula were apparently being held in place by sub-atomic changes in their composition.
Using the power of the Guardian minds that were joined with hers, Penny reached out and changed a cubic light year of the altered gas and dust back to normal.
Ten minutes later she had repeated the change a thousand times, to a thousand cubic light years of dust and gases. The areas she had done first were now collapsing in upon themselves in various patterns. Few seemed to be collapsing towards the center of the area affected. Gravity fields, solar winds, and the composition of the debris in the changed areas were the reasons for this. The patterns being formed in the dust and gasses made sure that the nebula would be of keen interest to astronomers and other scientists for at least a few years to come.
With the masking material of the nebula essentially neutralized, it was easy to see the array that was producing the energy beam that was attacking the Guardian ships. There were a dozen generators arranged in a double hexagon, feeding into a central projector that produced the beam.
After the array's components were scanned for altered matter and changed where necessary, the linked Guardians teleported the generators into 12 of the areas where the gases and dust of the nebula were coalescing. The projector was sent, in pieces, into the nearest star.
The Guardians unlinked and went back to their ships. Gail thought it best if everyone was fresh and rested, particularly Penny, when the Egos were confronted. Back aboard their ships the Guardians realized that they had been under a strain while mentally linked that had not been apparent until they were no longer linked.
After resting for two hours, Gail had the fleet move into the nebula. While linked they had sensed where the Egos were. They now cautiously headed toward that portion of the nebula.
When they were within a light year of the Egos' position, they were able to see a large ship that appeared to be stuck in some kind of ripple or fold in space, partly in the Guardian's galaxy, and partly somewhere else. The part that could be seen was over a mile long. It tapered slightly towards the end that could be seen, but was a thousand feet wide for most of its length. By the time that Gail halted the fleet ten light minutes away, they could see, because of the projected character lamp beams from their ships, that there were seven other ships of various sizes nearby.
Almost before the Guardians halted their ships, the Egos opened fire. Three beams came from the large ship and at least one from each of the other ships. As before the Guardian ships, after the first quarter second, had no problem repulsing the Egos' attack.
Gail had everyone mentally link together again. When linked, they took care of the seven smaller ships first. They did so by searching out the hangar aboard the larger ship that the smaller ships had come from and then teleported them back inside it.
The larger ship was a much harder problem. They had to find a way to get it unstuck without making a mess of what was on either side of the ripple it was stuck in.
They looked for a door or portal that would take the Egos back to where they came from. On the macro level all they could find were dark red portals that they knew meant extreme danger for anything passing through them.
It was Penny looking on the sub-micro level that found what they were looking for. Instead of changing the sub-electronic portions of the Egos' ship to match the Guardian's space-time, they needed to change any portion of the ship that did match their present space time to match the portions of the ship that were made up of the altered matter. In other words they had to change the parts that were normal matter back to alien matter.
The others in the link did their best to tie themselves more closely to Penny and lend her strength and support as she lined up the billions of portals that were needed to transform the material of the ship. To have everything work right, all the matter of the ship had to be changed simultaneously. Looking on what looked like an ocean of tiny green rimmed portals, Penny sent the command that sent the sub-particles through them.
The Egos' ship disappeared. For a fraction of a second after it did, the ripple that had held it was still visible. After that the ripple disappeared and space returned to normal.
Some of the condensing sections of the nebula were being drawn to other sections. It would take at least a few years to say with any accuracy what form the resent changes would make in the nebula's overall composition.
After un-linking the Guardians decided to return to Hunter's shadow for a celebration. They were not sure that all the Egos in the galaxy had been taken care of, but they now knew what to do if they ran into any that might have been left behind.
They spent the next two days celebrating and getting to know one another better. Unlike most humans they did not use alcohol or other drugs while celebrating. They all knew that enjoying good food and other people's company was not made better by drinking beer, wine, or taking any other drug.
When it was time for everyone to leave, there was only one change in addition to Rana Roper deciding to stay paired with Alicia Amberton. Priscilla Feldon decided to pair up with Tamara Simmons instead of staying with Penny Patterson.
They did all agree that they would all meet at Hunter's shadow again in six months, whether any of them visited with any of the others before that or not. Happy that they had been able to rid the galaxy of some major trouble makers, the Guardians left Hunter's shadow to Sharon Stone and Deirdre Demerest.
Gail and Gloria headed for Eldorado. Penny Patterson set course for base #36. Rana Roper and Alicia Amberton head home to base #44. Mary Bird and Lydia Snow told Rain Harvest to plot a course home to base # 5. Carla Cameron and Judy Gentry left in Rain-cloud and went home to base #104. Tamara Simmons and Priscilla Feldon told their ship, Choices to 'take us home', which was base #94. Kerry Carsberg and Kathy Pool set Riptide on course for base #73. Barbara Bede and Crystal Carstairs told their ship to head for home; so Typhoon departed for base #64. Tawny Tewksberry and Andrea Lowe left in Stormrider and traveled home to base # 52.
When Gail and Gloria were back at Eldorado, Gail said, "Maybe we can have a honeymoon now that the Egos are no longer a problem."
"Yes," replied Gloria. "Let's make sure we can have the time off by getting some of the other Guardians to respond to any emergencies in our area."
"Good idea," said Gail. "It was obvious that most of the other couples were as sexually attracted to each other as we are. They probably will be happy to cover for us so we will feel obligated to do the same for any of them that want to have a honeymoon."
"Let's go shower and make plans where to go before calling the others," said Gloria.
Because they decided to shower together, it was the next day before they got to decide where to go. The kissing and playing they started in the shower, continued after they dried off and continued on their bed.
The next morning when she woke up Gail thought, "Well I am sure, now, that it was the best day of my life; when I was torn from Earth and relocated to my new home. Otherwise the happiness I have now would have never been." Feeling Gloria beginning to stir beside her, she started kissing her awake.
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