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A Trip To The Moon - Part 2

3-4 December 1966

Part One

       The realms of science in this day of "modern living" on Earth are at least a thousand-fold beyond the conceptions of our forefathers of the late 19'Th and early 20'Th centuries. Who at the turn of the century could conceive of a box which could reproduce in color a scene a thousand miles away? Who among these inhabitants of the "good old days" could dream of a light beam capable of cutting steel, of a ship that could travel to the moon and the planets, or traveling to anywhere on Earth in scant hours?

       I'm sure everyone has heard a song from "Oklahoma", which in part relates that "Everything's up to date in Kansas City, they've gone about as far as they can go." There is nothing which can be relied upon so much in man as the attitude so well-expressed in that song - that man has learned all there is to know, and that anything that we may find in the future will come as no surprise to us. We are truly modern.

       Yet, with each passing year, nay, with each day, almost, there comes upon the scene something which was unsuspected by anyone. We continue discovering things which defy explanation by our known rules and theories. At first we laugh at them, calling them nonsense, and shutting them out from our minds. It is easy to ignore something which simply doesn't fit.

       Yet, in the back of our mind, there lies a little gremlin, a tiny bug that gnaws away at our contentment, and makes us wonder. We begin to ponder upon the new things. Surely it is easy to reject that which is new and strange, but we begin to realize that despite all our laughter and our wise dismissals of the thing as fantasy or nonsense, still it remains to haunt us, disturbing our closed shells of thought, and costing us sleep.

       So it has been with the subject of flying saucers, men of other worlds, and contacts with superior beings from beyond the sky. At one time in the not too distant past, anyone who proclaimed belief in saucers took his reputation in his hands. He was made the laughing stock of his social circle, the butt of crude jokes, the village idiot, as it were. Pity the fellow who met these riders from the stars and dared to tell of it

       As with everything else, things change. To paraphrase an old saw, time wounds all heels. Through advancing knowledge and understanding, a subject loses its critics, and becomes respectable, if still controversial. They who chose to laugh find themselves in the position of swallowing their previous words, and begrudgingly admitting that they were hasty in their judgments. So it has been with the subject of flying saucers.

       Today there is an interest in this field which would have been unheard of ten years ago. Prominent scientists have announced, if not belief, then at least a healthy interest in the subject.

       The news media have become more open in presenting sighting reports, and have become critical of those who suppress the information on the subject, especially the governmental bodies. Magazines have carried dozens of articles on the topic, and it is not uncommon to find on the newsstands books and magazines devoted exclusively to the flying saucer field.

       What has caused this remarkable shift in emphasis? Knowledge. As time goes on, and more and more people see eerie things in the skies and on the ground, it becomes increasingly difficult to hide one's head in the sand and wish these things would just go away. No matter how much we try to hope them out of existence, they continue to show up, and become increasingly difficult to explain as anything but what they are - spacecrafts from other worlds.

       The age of the saucer is upon us. It is only a matter of time until belief is universal, and the critics become the criticized. Once again, the last laugh will be on them, and there will be much partaking of humble pie around the world. In the meantime, while this change in attitude is going on, the people in these crafts must content themselves with very limited communications with us, relying upon a few stout souls to pass on their information regardless of the consequences. Until such time as understanding removes fear and ridicule, the "contactees", as we are called, will remain among the persecuted. So be it. We knew what we were taking upon ourselves when we got into the ring, and we must fight the good fight or be beaten. This is the way it shall ever be - the few precede the many.

       Enough moralizing. That is not my forte, and there is still much to relate.

Part Two

       The remainder of our tour of the Archimedes base was uneventful. I was shown more things than I could ever hope to understand, more than I could possibly describe in this limited account. From the "probe lab", where exact duplicates of every Terran space shot since Sputnik I are kept, to the Solar Lab with its mass of equipment monitoring the sun, to the Psych Research Unit, probing the depths of the human mind, I was surrounded constantly by a level of technology which places us in the same relationship to them as a week-old infant has in comparison to Einstein. There is no way we could hope to achieve this phenomenal level in a thousand years without their aid.

       We had just finished our brief visit to the Physics section. There had been a feeling in my subconscious during the tour which gnawed at me, and finally I expressed it to Master Kalen-Li. "I may just be paranoid, but things are too quiet around here. The way that fracas with the Kalrans was going on a few hours ago, and now this place is calmer than a bishops' picnic. I don't like it. Do the Kalrans usually give up that easily?"

       Kalen pondered my point momentarily, and then replied, "No, now that you mention the fact. I've not known them to retreat when they thought they might yet take the initiative. I must agree with you. They are being strangely inactive. This may indeed portend difficulties."

       He switched on his communicator and in seconds was calling to Lunar Control in Plato. They affirmed that the Kalrans were suspiciously inactive, and that nothing of consequence had occurred for several hours. It caused them a good deal of uneasiness as well, as such inactivity is unlike the Kalrans. They suspected that something foul was afoot, and that we'd soon know either way. They'd let us know immediately if anything unusual was sensed, and signed off. Replacing his communicator in its case on his belt, he turned to us and with a shrug of his shoulders, said only, "Who knows?"

       We crossed the room, and stopped at the teleportal. Orii had set our destination on the control console, and we came within a foot of the doorway, when a sharp, thundering blast of power shattered the silence and the serenity. A violent, quake-like trembling shook the walls and floor, throwing us off of our feet, dislodging equipment that crashed to the floor, and cracking the walls of the room. Our first thought was to get out before the entire room collapsed around us, burying us under tons of lunar rock.

       This fear was soon displaced with another, as the lights pulsed for a few seconds, and then died. In the residual phosphorescence, we watched the electrical equipment shut down. Our attentions turned as one to the teleportal. It had shut off with everything else. A note of worry tinged Orii's usually confident voice as he said, "The door system isn't on base power. This is most serious. I think perhaps our power stations might have been attacked."

       Adding to the sense of fear, we realized that we were no longer at near-Earth gravity, and were experiencing the odd sensation of abnormal lightness. Orii said, "Be careful how you move. You could overcompensate and sustain injuries."

       Astra found my hand in the little light that remained, and clutched it tightly in her own. She said nothing. There was only silence, a deep, sepulchral soundlessness broken only by rapid breathing. We were left in isolation, a hundred feet below the surface of the moon, with no means of escape. The thought came to me that this might very well be our tomb. I shuddered reflexively and tried to calm my fears, feeling utterly helpless for the first time since I had been there, and wishing for something to happen either way.

       In the excitement and confusion, I had forgotten the penlight in my pocket. I brought it out and switched it on, and swept its beam across the room, surveying the situation, stopping on each of the members of the party and the lab personnel. As its glow relieved somewhat the tension in the room, I recalled aloud an old slogan: "You never get a dud with Eveready." A few nervous laughs broke the stillness. In order to relax things a little more, I said, "Well, nobody's missing. So, who has a shovel?"

       As my question died out, the lights flickered momentarily, then stayed on and increased to full brightness. Simultaneously, we felt the return of the near-Earth gravity. The equipment that had not been damaged or demolished resumed operation. Quickly, the technicians made their way around shattered glass and twisted metal to switch off all nonessential apparatus. Kalen's communicator beeped, and he pressed the receive button. It was Lunar Control.

       "Control, this is Kalen-Li. What's happening?"
       "A shock bomb, sir. Between Archimedes and Flammarion. It took out our main power feeders. All the bases are on standby power now. Archimedes reports major damage, to the point of being disabled. The magnetubes have collapsed going to and from Archimedes. A scout has been dispatched to pick up your party and bring you back to Plato. The technicians think they can repair the most important equipment in the labs, until replacements can be brought in from Korendor via teleport."
       "Shall we wait here, or go to another point in this base for pickup?"
       "Wait there, sir. We can't guarantee the effectiveness of the teleportals until they've been tested. If they sustained damage, you could be killed if you try to use them."
       "Well, that's a sound argument for remaining here, I must say. I'll call when I board the scout. If an emergency arises, let me know at once."
       "Yes sir. Lunar Control clear."

       I was full of questions. "What is a shock bomb, pray tell?" Orii answered, "It's an explosive device designed for use against underground installations. It concentrates its energy into a cone of power which is projected downward into the ground in the form of an intense, short-duration pulse - a shock wave, if you will - which can cause massive damage to anything directly under it. We were evidently on the perimeter of its influence, else we would be buried now. The Kalrans use it a great deal against this type of base.

       I was silent for several minutes, considering different angles. "I was just thinking," I said, "about how that bomb could have been set to obliterate this base, and yet it was used to wipe out a power feeder. It seems to me that this is more a tactic of harassment than an act of war. Apparently, the Kalrans would like to have you leave this system, without actually engaging you in combat that would be as destructive to one side as to the other. Your bases would make excellent centers of operation for them as well, so it would be to their advantage to leave them intact. Do you agree?"

       The Master was meditative. "Indeed, I must concur. I don't believe they will attack for that reason. We might be safe because of those facts. Encouraging... I think." His communicator signaled. He was informed that the scout was overhead, and to prepare for immediate transport. Seconds later, our group began to fade out and vanish one by one. I followed Astra, and in an instant I was aboard a rather small and business-like scout, heading at high speed for Plato. There were no frills on this craft - no fancy carpets, flowers, or pretty pictures. Everything aboard it had a function related to ship operation, and included in this retinue, added recently, were three powerful disruptors. They were taking no chances on being caught unarmed.

       About ten miles from Plato, a blip appeared suddenly on the radar scanner. It seemed to come from nowhere. I soon discovered that it had. It was teleported there, and a quick optical lock showed it to be an unmanned, armed Kalran scout. Before we had an opportunity to zero in their disruptors, it fired a salvo of thermal darts which exploded almost simultaneously around our ship. We managed to establish a force screen but not before some of the raw energy caught us. A tremendous blast of force, like a mighty hammer, slammed into the scout, sending it reeling wildly, and throwing us around like rag dolls. It was several seconds before we recovered stability. The crew of the scout locked the fire control on the enemy craft, now only a mile away.

       An instant before we fired, the robot let loose another volley of darts. The disruptors caught the craft squarely, and it vaporized in a ball of fire. The explosion took out most of the darts, but three escaped and were upon us in seconds.

       Two missed. One did not. It exploded a few hundred feet from us, sending its searing energy directly at us. Our little scout was rocked mercilessly by the awesome power. Many pieces of equipment, even fastened as they were to the ship, were torn loose and thrown violently across the cabin, to crash loudly against the far wall. We were flung sideways, but managed to stop ourselves before we hit the panels around the room's edge. Several of us were cut and bruised by the flying objects and the hard landing we made.

       It took a moment to regain control. We then proceeded quickly to the base, to safety. As we were entering the opening in the floor of the crater, the communications panel crackled with news of three large war ships headed toward this vicinity. I muttered, "So much for one theory." We slipped into the hangar, and were berthed a moment later. As we left the scout, we stopped to survey the damage. The hull had been melted in spots, and had sustained a long crack across the bottom surface. The entire ship showed the effects of the blistering heat. Its surface was pitted and burned, as if a torch had been swept across every inch of it. We thought for a moment upon how close we had been to crashing. If the crack had opened, it would have been fini. I commented to Astra that living with one foot in the grave wasn't my idea of a relaxing weekend tour.

       Within minutes, an electric car driven by a young security officer came to pick us up. We remained silent on the short trip to the Lunar Control room. Things were similar to a beehive as we entered, with messages crackling back and forth between bases, girding for a possible assault. The white noise jamming still wiped out most radio communications except for the personal communicators, which were on a frequency of their own. They were being used to maintain contact with a group of fully armed carriers which had been dispatched to meet any potential ganger from the approaching warships.

       The Master joined the base Commander, Orvin-Selat, at the communications panel. A laser transmission was being received from a ten-scout reconnaissance mission to examine the Kalran fleet at close range. A pilot was speaking in short, gasping sentences. "... encountered armed scouts. They attacked, at least thirty of them... can't handle them all. My ship is the only one left. Don't know how long I can hold out. Disruptors are overheated. We can't..."

       The transmission was cut off as the laser light vanished. Orvin mumbled, "Damn!" He then ordered, "Contact the teleport section and have them reproduce bodies for those men. We're going to need everyone here." The console operator responded instantly, and a quick barrage of orders and acknowledgements followed. The Commander turned to Kalen-Li. "Master, it would appear that the Kalrans have decided upon open confrontation. As the head of the Terran project and of these operations, it is your decision as to what we are to do."

       All eyes turned to him expectantly, waiting upon his words. For a long moment, he was lost in thought, apparently weighing every factor and every option in order to make the wisest choice possible. Finally, he spoke, his words well-chosen and with a tone of final authority. "If the Kalrans present any threat to the security of Earth, or to our operations here, they are to be repulsed, and if necessary, to be destroyed, using all weapons at our disposal, barring none." So saying, he turned and slowly walked toward the observation screen, again lost in thought.

       A few seconds later, everyone was galvanized into action. Laser transmissions were sent to the carriers, relaying the information and the orders, with crisp confirmations coming back in seconds. On the viewscreens, an image from a carrier was being relayed via laser. The three Kalran warships loomed large in the view, menacingly closing in on the carriers. From the center ship, a probe dart was dispatched. A quick disruptor blast took it out before it had gone ten miles.

       It had been no more than a test with an unarmed dart by the Kalrans, to determine the extent of the Korendian weaponry aboard the carriers. They now knew that the ships carried high-powered and very accurate disruptors, and as a result they stopped their approach. They were approximately 3000 miles apart, facing each other, each daring the other to make the first move.

       I was curious. "Why don't they use force screens, and let them shoot those darts to their heart's content?" Orii replied, "For one thing, because while the dart's power is stopped by the screen, so is the disruptor's. We can't fire OUT with the screen up. It is necessary to maintain peak firepower, because they could fire darts at Earth, forcing us to lower the shields to destroy them. It is better to keep them down and avoid unnecessary difficulties." This was a logical explanation, so I returned my attention to the viewscreen.

       For long moments, the opposing fleets sat staring at each other, unmoving, unyielding. Occasionally a dart would flash from a Kalran craft, only to be blown apart a few miles out by a blast. It had begun to appear as though the situation were stalemated, when a barrage of darts was launched simultaneously from the three Kalran ships. The disruptors cut loose instantly, eliminating most of the deadly darts. A few managed to reach the carriers, causing damage to the hulls and internal apparatus. The response was massive. The carriers sent a simultaneous blast of sheer power at the Kalrans, enveloping the marauding war crafts in a searing ball of hellfire.

       The reactions of the force shields and the disruptor blasts were at once beautiful end fearsome beyond description. Thousands of long tongues of energy leapt from the protective shields, confronting the approaching waves of power in an awesome blaze of naked fury, with a magnificent mélange of brilliant colors, rivaling the most spectacular auroras. As quickly as this breathtaking display of offense and defense commenced, it subsided.

       The return to normal revealed that the last disruptor fire had penetrated the Kalran force shields, and had wrought considerable damage upon the war crafts. It became apparent that they had been at least partially disabled because, in an obvious effort to avoid further such devastating confrontations, the Kalran force regrouped and made a hasty retreat to their main fleet near the Mars orbit. This was sufficient cause for expressions of at least relief if not jubilation among those present in the Plato control room.

       The next few minutes went by quickly, in a garbled flurry of excited conferences and conversations. Things had begun to quiet down somewhat when Commander Selat interrupted with a most welcome piece of news. "We have established a sub-space laser contact with Alliance headquarters on Alandra." Kalen moved quickly to the communications console and switched on the transmit circuits.

       "This is the Master Kalen-Li RETAN, head of the Project Terra operations. I have very little time, so I request full attention to what I am about to say. For approximately three galuns, this solar system, specifically our bases upon the satellite of the planet Earth, have been under systematic harassment, and only moments ago, our armed carriers fought to a standstill a number of war crafts of Kalran Empire registration. We are maintaining a Red Alert status in all sections, and are on emergency power at this time.

       "I have given orders to do whatever is necessary to prevent this Kalran task force from endangering Earth, to the extent of mortal combat and, if necessary, destruction of the Kalran fleet. I have not, I repeat, have NOT, as yet declared any state of actual warfare upon the emergency communication frequencies, as I am hoping that the last encounter with our forces has dissuaded the Kalrans from further attacks. I realize that this is perhaps wishful thinking, as I know as well as you the Kalran mentality, and its fanatical tenacity.

       "I am therefore requesting immediate dispatch of a squadron of fully armed war crafts to be prepared for any eventuality that contact with an equally-equipped Kalran fleet may cause to ensue. We shall attempt to keep them in check until this fleet arrives, but we are not in a position to stop a full assault by their total forces, which we have estimated at fifty Class 1 and a hundred Class 2. In addition, they have added a new and more potent form of thermal dart to their arsenal, which is several magnitudes more powerful than those registered in our records. We recommend that this information be supplied to the fleet commander for suitable precautionary measures. I await your reply."

       He switched to receive mode. There was not a sound or a sign of movement to be detected anywhere in the room.

       After an eternity of waiting, a deep, resonating voice filled the room. "I am Elder Master Alen-Adar ETRON, officiating Council chairman. We have duly considered your report, and wish to advise you that we had in fact suspected that this was the case when we lost our regular subspace communications with your base. This break in our channels, plus reports that a Kalran fleet was traveling in sub-space in the general direction of Earth, caused us to initiate our own state of Red Alert. We then ordered a full squadron of war crafts to deploy to the Earth's vicinity at the earliest possible moment.

       "These ships are being readied as I speak, and shall be at your service within a galun. This delay is required because of the necessary preparations that must be made. As you know, our warships have not been utilized in many cendrols. Although they are kept in constant readiness, it does require some time to prepare them for actual combat. We are, however, assured that they will be with you within the one galun period. We advise you to maintain full Red Alert until..."

       His voice abruptly faded into oblivion. The console operator dejectedly reported that some mass had intervened somewhere between Alandra and the Moon. Probably it was a Kalran sh1p which had caught sight of the tight beam of light as it left subspace and passed through some dust, and decided to terminate this devious way around their radio block. We took solace 1n the knowledge that help was on the way, however, and that we had long enough communication to offer this new feeling of hope to us.

       The information evoked the same reactions as it was relayed to each of the lunar bases in turn, and then via laser to the Earth bases. Jubilation seemed to grow with each passing moment, until...

       "COMMANDER! MASTER! They're coming. The entire Kalran fleet. They're coming this way." The agitated shout of the radar technician was like an electric shock to everyone. In seconds, the entire assemblage was in action. Kalen ran for the communications board and slammed it into the transmit mode. "HEAR THIS, ALL UNITS! The Kalran fleet has begun an approach which can only signify imminent attack. I want every available armed ship deployed around Earth as soon as possible. This is a full WAR ALERT!"

       He spun toward the com operator, and barked, "I want immediate contact with Massachusetts base control on laser transmission." The startled technician responded with a curt, "Yes sir!" His fingers flew over the controls, and within five seconds, he handed the mike to Kalen, and said, "You're on, sir." Kalen's voice mellowed somewhat, as he said in an apologetic tone, "Thank you, son. Base Control, this is Master Kalen Li RETAN. I have ordered full War Alert, and have commanded full dispatch of all available armed ships to a position above Earth. The Kalrans are coming en masse, and we can assume nothing else other than that they are prepared for full combat. I want this same order relayed to all craft centers - that all crafts are to be immediately deployed to their assigned areas, to stand by for further communications. Keep this contact beam open at all times until further notice. Plato Control clearing."
       From Earth, a quick reply. "Orders understood, sir. They are being relayed at this moment. Massachusetts Control clear, but standing by."

       The radar technician spoke up again, reporting, "The Kalran fleet is within twenty million miles, and closing at approximately 0.8 light velocity, but slowing gradually. Computers predict contact within five minutes. The news dismayed the Master quite evidently.
       "Craft control, this is Kalen-Li. Status report on my orders."
       "This is Craft control. All armed ships have been dispatched to assigned positions as per general procedures, and will be in readiness within three minute."
       "Massachusetts Control calling. Orders have been executed and all armed scouts and carriers in our craft bases are being prepared at maximum pace. They should be in position within five minutes."
       "Kalen Li here. Five minutes is too long. Tell them to go faster than they can. The Kalrans won't wait for them"
       "Acknowledged. Massachusetts Control clear and standing by,"
       "Klaren-Kolat, Fleet Commander, calling Master Kalen-Li."
       "Kalen-Li here. Go ahead."
       "Our first ships have assumed their assigned places, and the remainder of our force should be in position within two minutes. I will inform you when we are ready."
       "Thank you. Plato by."

       "Mass. Control here. Our first ships are being sent out at this very moment, and that... one second... Montana Craft Center reports completion of dispatch of all armed ships... New Mexico base has affirmed the same... stand by... Austrian Craft Center confirms full deployment... Peru and Brazil centers have also acknowledged complete dispatch of all armed ships. Standing by."
       "Kalen Li here. Maintain contact with your ships, and hold this channel open. Plato Control clear."
       "Kalran fleet is now at ten million miles and velocity has been reduced to six-tenths light."
       "Hipparchus Control, this is Kalen Li. I want an immediate visual contact on the Kalran fleet. I don't care how you get it, but when you do, connect it via telescreen to us at once. I want to be able to size up our opponents with more than just radar readings."
       "Hipparchus acknowledges. Your order has been relayed. One moment... technicians report that telescopes have visual contact and are locked on target. Telescreen is being connected and should be in operation in a moment... it should be on your viewscreens now. Hipparchus by."
       "Kalen-Li here. Thank you. Plato is clear."

       Our attentions turned as one to the telescreen. A massive fleet of very military-looking spaceships was rapidly expanding on the viewscreen. The Master studied it intently for a minute, and then resumed his place at the communications panel.

       "This is Plato Control. Kalen-Li speaking. I have seen the extent of the Kalran fleet and at this moment I am ordering initiation of Defense Pattern 27, to be effected subject to further orders. All units remain in contact."
       "Mass. Control. All ships report position is now as per procedural arrangement, and are awaiting further instructions."
       "Massachusetts Control, Kalen-Li. I have initiated DP 27. Relay this to all your crafts."
       "Master, the Kalran fleet is at one million miles and has stopped moving." We watched the screen intently. The Kalran fleet had indeed halted any motion, and we awaited their next move with bated breath. We had only a few moments to wait. As we observed, the fleet began to split up into groups, with each unit moving off in a different direction. It was apparent that they had decided to encircle Earth, and fire off a many-pronged assault simultaneously, hoping to overwhelm our forces with sheer firepower. We had fears that they might succeed, because our resources were limited, even with the Earth-based ships in the fight. We began to wonder if the Alliance fleet would arrive in time, because apparently the Kalrans had intercepted the communication and decided to launch an immediate assault to do its damage before the fleet could arrive.

       They surrounded Earth at a height of about 100,000 miles, and began to close in as a group. The Master saw that DP27 would be futile, and hit the com switch. "All control sections, attention. The order for Defense Pattern 27 is countermanded, repeat, countermanded. All ships are to take on these groups without regard to procedure. If they attack, shoot to kill. These are final orders, Plato Control clear."
       "This is Fleet Command. Orders countermanding DP27 acknowledged. We have relayed shoot-to-kill clearance to all crafts."
       "Very good. Radar, is there any trace of the Alliance fleet?"
       "None yet, sir. Our range is only 5 light years subspace.
       "Shout out as soon as they are in range."
       "Yes, sir!"

       "Fleet Command. The Kalrans have begun firing darts... we're holding them off so far... don't know how long we can go on if they start shooting in numbers. Our disruptors are equal to the task, but we can't put up screens, so we're vulnerable as hell if one of those darts gets through. All our ships have opened up with all banks of disruptors. We've hit a few of the Kalran ships glancing strikes, but we haven't disables any yet... MY GOD! THEY HIT IT! IT'S EXPLODING!"

       On the screen, a bright flash of bluish light appeared off to one side of Earth's disk. The frightening account continued. "It's going up in flame. Darts by the dozen hit it all at once... no chance to avoid it... the entire carrier was disintegrated... our other ships have opened a mass assault with disruptors on the Kalran attacker... they hit it... What an explosion! It must have been armed to the hilt. The blast took its companions with it... our firepower has been redirected to another group of ships. We can't hold out too much longer... our disruptors won't take this full-power firing much longer... Fleet Command by for instructions."
       "Kalen Li. Stand by for instructions. In the meantime, hold on as best you can. Radar, what's happening with the Alliance squadron?"
       "Nothing yet, sir... WAIT... THEY'RE HERE! THEY'RE COMING!"

       With a massive signal strength which overrode the jamming, the subspace radio blasted into life. "Plato Control, this is Captain Remon-Torek of Squadron Control. We will be in your area in one minute from entry into normal space. Requesting status report and instructions."

       "This is Plato Control. Master Kalen-Li RETAN, Project Terra leader, speaking. I hope your receivers are as good as your transmitters. The Kalrans have mounted a massive assault on our ships which have been scattered about Earth. One carrier has been destroyed already. We can't hold on any longer. The Kalran firepower is beyond our capacity to resist any longer. They have the new thermal darts by the thousands, and may be equipped with disruptors of their own...... stand by."

       "Fleet Command. Another carrier has been disabled, we cannot stop their assault. They are unleashing salvos of darts at Earth itself, forcing us to divert our disruptors to stop the darts rather than concentrating on the warships. They are going by us... we're powerless..... WE HIT THEIR HQ SHIP... AGAIN... IT'S IN FLAMES... IT JUST BLEW TO PIECES! THERE'S NOTHING LEFT BUT FRAGMENTS!"

       As the news was pouring in, all channels opened simultaneously. Within seconds, all the carriers and scouts had established themselves on the War Alert frequency. Kalen was about to communicate with them when the telescreen technician shouted ecstatically, "THE ALLIANCE SQUADRON IS HERE! LOOK!"

       We turned as a group to the screen, and cheered with a deafening roar. From nowhere, a tremendous fleet of Alliance warships had come into view and were rushing headlong at the Kalran invaders. The enemy, seeing this sudden turn of events, swiftly positioned themselves over major cities and let loose with hundreds of the deadly darts, fired straight down. The ships already there focused exclusively on chasing and destroying them before they could reach the ground, wiping out millions of people as they slept, worked, or played.

       Seeing that this wasn't successful, the Kalrans abruptly joined themselves into a loosely-knit group, and opened fire on the approaching Alliance crafts with both darts and disruptors. The combination, plus the suddenness of the assault, caught the squadron off guard. Before they could react, three ghastly balls of horrendous energy erupted in the vanguard of the squadron. Waves of unthinkable force swept over the squadron, as the matter-energy power packs exploded with dazzling light and infernal fury.

       Recovery from the assault was quick. The Alliance ships threw up force shields. They drove onward, ever closer, tossing aside the massive barrage of lethal missiles and disruptor blasts. The fleets were mere hundreds of miles apart when one ship broke from the ranks of the Alliance squadron. The rest of them stopped, as did the Kalran task force. This lone ship, carrying a full force shield, shot at a blurring pace at the enemy group. The Kalrans opened up with all they had upon the lone craft.

       The concentrated firepower might have had an effect upon the ship eventually. No one was to know. As it entered the Kalran grouping, it suddenly dropped its shield and detonated itself. It is difficult to describe in words the results of this single pulse of hell-born energy. It was almost invisible, as most of its energy was in the infrared region, but its effects were without any doubt. Three nearby Kalran ships were almost instantly reduced to vapor. Two, farther from the explosion, were flung as if by some huge, invisible hammer blow, and they were reduced to nothing as violent internal explosions tore them apart like dynamite in a glass jar. The others attempted to get out of range, but the wall of heat caught up with seven of them, reducing them to white-hot, shapeless masses of molten metal.

       It was done. The remaining Kalran ships scattered and plunged into subspace. All was still, quiet, lifeless.

       We stared in a daze at the viewscreen, watching numbly the slowly cooling vapor clouds, the wreckage that once was interstellar space ships, and the drifting puffs of dust and metallic shreds that dispersed slowly into the emptiness of space.

       The toll was more than machines, however. 185 men and women of the Alliance had been the victims of this horrible encounter, and no one could guess how many Kalran lives had been lost. Some, but not all, had new bodies awaiting them, but the rest were forever gone. Many good people were lost.

       For fully five minutes everyone remained silent. One could read the expressions of dismay, awe and sadness in their faces. They had seen the advancement of thousands of years laid aside for a few hours of primitive violence. It seemed that no matter where we go, we find some who would not allow others to live in peace, and who would force a race that desires only to serve, to be wanted, to love and be loved, to resort to animal savagery to put a stop to the dreams of conquest. The Alliance had tried every available route in attempting to convince the Kalrans to forget Earth and this system, but the Kalrans had no use for diplomacy, tact and reason.

       As a result, the Alliance had been forced to take off its kid gloves, and slip on the brass knuckles. Perhaps it was all for the best. As I write this several months later, I know that the Kalrans and the Alliance have had no further difficulties of any sort, even though the Kalrans had reestablished an observation post in this system again. Perhaps they finally learned that to play with fire is to be burned. If this lesson made them a bit warier of war, if it made them less anxious to rely on brute force to gain their goals, then it served a purpose. It offers hope that those who died did so not in vain, but in the quest for the eventual establishment of true peace in the galaxy.

       The hour was now late, and much had occurred. It was decided that it would be best that I return to Earth at this time. There was a great deal of work to be done to piece together the remnants and to resume normal lunar operations, and in this I would be of no help to them.

       So, the time came to part company once again. It was with heavy heart that I did my friends farewell and began the long journey home. I was silent during the return trip. There was so much to digest, so many beliefs to reconsider, so many misconceptions to change, so many new facts to digest and assimilate. No words could express my thoughts, so I said nothing. Astra understood, and offered only her company and her warm understanding of my feelings.

       Her head upon my shoulder, her hand pressed into mine, her soft gentleness like a soothing massage to my ravaged soul - those things offered me much comfort and courage for the years ahead.

       As our little scout touched down silently outside my home, Arta was there to greet us. We exchanged places, and, with a last embrace and kiss from my star lady, I bid Godspeed to my friends. Seconds later, the small disk lifted off and rose into the night chill, slowly at first, but ever faster. In a moment it had slipped beyond the veil of night and was gone. I stood unmindful of the cold and the silence, caring for nothing but these fine, wonderful people,

       Finally, I grew weary, and went in to rest. It had been twenty-six hours since my last sleep, and it would be welcomed -- or would it? Would I relive the fearful hours in my dreams, or wou1d I drift into blissful remembrance of those sweet, tender moments with my heart's delight? Whatever might come, I was ready. A few minutes later, I dropped onto my bed, lay my head back, and left the world once more,



© 2008 Robert P. Renaud -- all rights reserved