Future Mars



Kalid and his wife

Kalid's spaceship was entering into orbit around Mars and negotiating a flight path for docking at one of the orbiting space stations connected to a space elevator that could take him to the surface. Since h32.4 had a relatively low gravity, it had long been served by space elevators.

Kalid monitored his ship's artificial intelligence and thought about the strange man who he now pursued. Kalid tried to keep from falling into a mindless rage as he thought about the fact that Set had murdered nearly the entire population of Flammis. Only Kalid, who happened to be off planet during the attack, and a few others, had survived.

Kalid was having trouble thinking clearly. He could not control or repress his complex mix of feelings. He felt both depressed and angry at the same time. These dark moods seemed to be something that no spiritual technique could heal. Set's attack on Flammis had revived haunting memories of the last moments spent with his wife and he could not dismiss the pain that came from the fact that now he would never again see either her or his son again. He knew what he had to do; submit Set to the justice system, but he doubted that he could do that. Now it was personal. Kalid reflected on his long life of careful training in the control of his own mind, but now he was lost. This was a danger his Master had warned about: Kalid had allowed himself too much love of his relatives and the existence of such an external force with so much control over him was dangerous for a man like Kalid.

Kalid had hoped that by coming to this star system he might be able to accomplish some damage control. The Grand Master of the Haldus Order Temple on Azur had reported to Kalid on the way Ketar's defense fleet had attacked Leone's spaceship. Because of the way Leone had used the Invocator to escape from Ketar's forces, it was clear that Ketar now understood that it was possible to cloak a spaceship. Kalid thought: Katar had prepared a lavish welcome for me on Azur, so it seems likely that Ketar had hoped that Leone would bring me to Azur. Almost certainly Ketar now associated cloaking with the Haldus Order. If so, then this was the worst breech of Haldus Order security ever. Kalid now had to act to repair the was unacceptable that anyone outside the order know that such technology existed.

Kalid knew that the Spaceship Guild kept constant watch on the Haldus Temple of Esclagon. Kalid's hope had been that by going to Esclagon he might draw Ketar out of the Akara system and into the open, but then, somehow, Set had appeared! Kalid wondered if Set had been keeping a special watch on Sybil, but if so, how could anyone have followed them through hyperspace? If Set could use his telepathic powers to follow people through hyperspace then why had Set's spaceship come here, to Mars, rather than to Esclagon? Did The Futurist Party have spies in this star system? There were just too many unanswered questions.

Now as he drew near to Set, Kalid needed to think everything thorough in a logical way; he could not afford to follow his desire for revenge, he needed to calm down. It had been easy for Kalid to track Set's approach to Mars, but now Set's relatively weak telepathic output was lost in the haze of telepathic output that surrounded Mars. Kalid suspected that Set had gone down to the surface of Mars, but he had no confidence that he could find Set down there. There were quite a few telepaths on Mars and all those other minds confounded Kalid's ability to lock onto Set's mind pattern. To do so would take Kalid's full powers of concentration, but the sadness that plagued his own mind was something he could not avoid. Kalid felt that he would eventually get past his great loss by using his advanced energy handling and relaxation techniques, but he did not want to use those methods at this time. He still needed to feel his losses, at least for a while, as any human would. It was something he had learned while being under training at the Order: he should not use his skills to overwrite his true feelings. If he did that then he would stop being a man...he would become some kind of robot.

Master Kalid felt desperate, something he had not experienced since he was young. Kalid knew he had grown soft and he had come to rely on the comfortable fact that everything on his home world had been carefully controlled and peaceful. He had to change his patterns of thought and face the reality that now chaos was reigning. Set was completely out of his mind and nobody knew to what extent Set would let his madness continue to spread violence and death around the galaxy. Kalid took a deep breath and made a special kata in order to take some fresh energy and lead it to his mind. Kalid's mind was in a borderline state and he needed that energy to avoid falling apart emotionally. In addition to his desire to capture Set and maybe, indulge the illicit desire to take revenge on him, there was also the feeling of guilt for not having been able to protect Flammis.

Some minutes before Set's attack on Flammis, Kalid had felt something. He knew that feeling very well, it was his sense of danger. He had a brief vision and could see his family in peril. At that moment, he understood that it was a vision from the future; they would be attacked. Kalid did not know when the attack would come and so he wanted to go back home as soon as possible, but he had hesitated for a few seconds. He recalled the vision and tried to judge if it might be a false vision, maybe a stray thought that was just triggered by stress. But no, he was sure: his mind never gave him false images of the world. He had really seen the future. With no further delay he had commanded his ship's AI to change course and go back to Flammis. He had departed from Flammis less than a day before, so it would not take long to return, but it was too late. Before he knew that, Kalid had tried to see more details of the impending attack.

Kalid retired to his cabin and closed it hermetically. No sound and no light could enter the room so there was just the sound of his breathing. He had to quickly enter into a conscious REM state, he had no time for anything more. He put his mind in a blank state and performed all the energy forms in the correct order: those katas, taken from ancient martial arts, could put his mind in a special state of relaxation and trance. After that, he went to his bed and relaxed his muscles. He felt a strange sensation, the spaceship was entering hyperspace, did not matter...all distractions must be dismissed from his thoughts. He then visualized the planet Flammis. After a moment, he could see Flammis directly with the eye of his mind. His mind penetrated the surface of the planet, found the under ground city and he could sense horror...the people of Flammis were being attacked by a spaceship. His vision blurred and he could only hear screams of terror and sense much pain. At that moment he recognized the death cries of some of his friends and relatives and that made him lose his concentration...he woke up.

Kalid knew he was not really guilty for having failed to protect Flammis. He could not have gotten back to the planet in time to help, but he also knew he had left the planet for strange and unusual reasons. He would probably never know if he really needed to leave home just at that time, but he had sensed that Sybil was in danger and so going to Sakkara had become a special mission he felt he had to accomplish... or at least try to accomplish. Kalid knew that there is a reason why it is so hard to predict the future with any certainty: the future was constantly in the process of being created. Kalid's rational mind knew he could not have avoided his true fate, but his emotions told him otherwise. It was an unfamiliar dichotomy of mind for Kalid. He now knew his weak points, his emotions that he could not control, and he also knew that Set could exploited them. Set had crushed Kalid's mind discipline completely by slaughtering the population of Flammis. Now Kalid was rushing to confront Set on Mars... rushing blindly into a confrontation with Set which Kalid had been cautiously avoiding for months.

Kalid tried to calm his mind. He was losing his self-control. Hate was something for weak minds, he knew that. But at that moment, his mind was cracked. He only wanted revenge... or justice, at the bare minimum. Kalid had underestimated Set and now he was dealing with the consequences for his failure.

Now, almost a week had passed since the attack on Flammis and his anger was almost completely transformed from an initial raw reaction to a new stable mind set. What remained for Kalid's rational mind was the thought: Set was mentally disturbed and had been driven to homicidal rage by his own personal loss. However, while the red fire of anger had mostly faded from Kalid, his depression had grown stronger. On a rational level, he knew his life's mission and the Order were more important than his family or himself, but by losing his family he had lost all hope, everything he ever personally cared for on the emotional side of his mind. The centuries-old purpose of the Order was too abstract to truly motivate a man. Only one thing was moving Kalid's mind: the need to bring Set to justice. The Order was now of second importance. Kalid knew it was temporary, but who could say when he would recover his faith in the Order... the Order that could not save Flammis, in spite of all its power? Kalid tried to think rationally about the matter and wondered if he would have enough time to plan his "justice" or would he be forced to act instinctively...which would be dangerous now with his emotions still so raw.

Really, the Order did not matter anymore. And not only the Order... after the death of his relatives, his life would have no purpose. Long ago, in the years after Flammis had been attacked the first time, the Order had believed that it could safely return and hide under the veil of the green clouds. With time, it had come to seem like a great joke, hiding an important base for the Order right under the nose of those who had previously attacked Flammis and turned it into a Green planet. He had lived to protect Flammis, but he had failed, completely. Now what good would he do in the world? Was it even possible for a man like Kalid to use revenge as a reason to keep on living? Truly, he was sickened by his own desire for revenge. He searched his soul and found no other reason... or maybe there was one: to protect all remaining members of the Haldus Order from extinction. It seemed that Set's attacks were premeditated and becoming increasingly daring. Maybe Set now wanted to destroy the whole Order and not only those with telepathic powers. In that case, there was a reason for him to live... he decided that he would not feel guilty for Set's murders again, ever.

For a moment, Kalid entertained another idea: self-sacrifice. Maybe it could be arranged that Set would only try to kill him. Maybe Kalid could make a deal and let Set kill him, but, no, Set would not do that. There was nothing special about Kalid, Set would happily destroy Kalid first then move on to exterminate the entire Order....even complete innocents like Sybil. And anyhow, it was a promise. He had promised Jeremy he would always protect Sybil. Kalid vowed that he would not fail Jeremy as he failed his family.

For a few minutes Kalid watched the surface of Mars and he marveled at the progress being made in terraforming this world. It was an inspiring sight. He could remember how Mars had looked so lifeless when he first saw it, but now its surface was sprinkled with small lakes and wide regions of green growing plants. Well, mostly it was still cold-resistant algae in lichens, but it was a start. Then his thoughts relentlessly returned to his troubles and he again felt repentance for not having been able to prevent the deaths of his family members. He felt as if he was sinking in his own mind and that his life was not worth living....but then, slowly, his thinking shifted out of this rut and somehow he knew these feelings were not new. He told himself: yes, I just keep thinking obsessively about the same things. And it did not matter either. His life had no purpose... He fatalistically thought: maybe my only remaining purpose is to be a martyr for the Order. If he could have only saved his f... but what was he remembering now? How could have he forgotten about that? Yes...he had already felt these things before...years before. Kalid felt a powerful sense of something unusual like déjà vu. Finally he recognized the source. It had been at his first meeting with Sybil... when he tried to enter her nervous system. At that time he had not been able to understand what had happened.

At that session with Sybil he had been deeply shocked by his failed attempt to explore Sybil's mind and by the way she had escaped his created dream, but now he finally realized that at that time, so many years ago, a message had been sent ahead to the now. At that time he had sensed the future and he had wanted to sink in his sadness, oblivious to life and the world. There had been no way, back then, for Kalid to know that he had glimpsed the future...this very moment. No, this was no typical deja vu experience, it was a telepathic loop in time that amplified the feelings and the emotions arising from the fact that his son and thousands of others had been slaughtered. Now that he understood the source of the force that was driving him to despair he could shift his focus and see that the important question was: why? Why had this loop been created? How could Sybil trigger such an amplification of thoughts and how could she have pushed his mind to the future? Kalid now realized that whenever he was near her he always felt a familiar sensation. It was a kind of background noise, and he had always previously let it simmer in his subconscious.

And it was familiar indeed... It was the same feeling as when he had been near Jeremy, her father. Maybe she had the same gifts as Jeremy but in a hidden form. Kalid had often tried to engage in a telepathic conversation with Jeremy, but he always ended up tired, depressed and the conversation never took place. It was as if Jeremy was instinctively shielded against a mind intrusion. Maybe his daughter had developed the same skill. Kalid thought of Jeremy as a powerful emitter of telepathic particles, one of the most powerful Kalid had ever known. Maybe Sybil had grown up constantly exposed to that invasive flux of particles and so her mind had found ways to get rid of them, not allowing them to enter her own mind. And maybe that was why Kalid had been kicked out of her mind. But that was not all. Somehow the force of Sybil's mind had allowed Kalid's mind to see the future then. If that was an innate (although hidden) power of hers, then Sybil could be a key person inside the Order. Kalid had left her at Esclangon...but was she safe from Set's wrath?

Reacting to this new realization about Sybil's abilities, Kalid made one last effort to understand Set. Kalid did not really want his last deed to be destroying Set or even bringing him to justice. After all, Set had suffered a great loss and probably had felt exactly these same feelings, that everything in his life was now devoid of meaning. And Kalid feared that Set's command of telepathy was mightier than his own. At least Set seemed smarter or trickier. Was Set attacking Kalid specifically? There was no real basis for enmity between them. Had Set decided to destroy the entire Order? Kalid and the Order were so off balance that they had started down the path of working with their traditional enemy, the Antiquist Party. How had it come to this, how were things going so wrong? Kalid could not understand what the key was to Set's behavior. There was no reason at all for the slaughter at Flammis. Kalid knew Set very well and knew that Set was not a murderer, at least not a blind one. There must be some conspiracy somewhere, Kalid sensed it.


Mars elevator with ship

Kalid had pressed himself and his ship at the maximum limit of acceleration, but Set had reached h32.4 nearly twelve hours before Kalid. How has Set jumped so deep into this star system? Well, it did not matter, he was now just minutes away from docking.

Kalid quietly cursed himself for having left Sybil behind at the Haldus Order Temple on Esclangon. Everything at that Temple was totally bogus, just a show piece designed to confuse and distract the enemies of the Order, but Kalid had not told Sybil that truth. She had quickly figured out for herself that the Temple on Esclagon was unique and she had even developed a kind of fascination for it... and Kalid hoped that Esclangon had provided a distraction for Sybil and a safe place for her while waiting for Leone to arrive.

Kalid wondered: was it truly safe? He felt now again the full force of a desire to protect everyone around him. Sybil was like a daughter to him, he did not want to lose her as he had lost his wife and son. It was possible that no other star system in the galaxy had as many Spaceship Guild spies and agents as this one. Of course, it was often sound policy to hide things right under the noses of people who were looking for them. Somehow the Spaceship Guild, or at least the Antiquist Party, had recently renewed its interest in the Haldus Order. Was Ketar simply attracted by Set's rampage on Sakkara or did his interest go deeper than that?

In any case, Kalid had been taken by surprise by Set's arrival in this star system. There was no point in trying to invent excuses for his failure to anticipate this. Kalid had traveled most of the way from Esclangon to Mars while completely shielded by his Invocator in order to prevent Set from knowing that he was on his way to Mars. Kalid was carefully blocking his own telepathic emissions and he had relied on the Invocator to track Set to Mars. However, upon reaching Mars Kalid had to uncloak and negotiate with the authorities who seemed particularly irked that Kalid had been traveling in system without using a standard navigation beacon.

Still, Kalid was granted a landing birth for his ship. He had been slapped with a fine, but soon enough he was riding an elevator down to the planet. It was good to get off of the spaceship. At least some activity would help him try not to think about his lost relatives. Kalid's strategy now was to get to a safe location and then allow his telepathic emissions to leak out to Set in an attempt to attract Set into a trap. However, when Kalid stepped out of the elevator car he was met by a squad of robots and a member of the citizen militia. The militia member was a frail woman who called out. "Halt, Kalid! In the name of the people of Mars I place you under arrest."

Everyone within earshot stopped moving through the elevator terminal and looked at Kalid. Kalid felt a sudden burst of anger... his loss had caused a slight personality change in him...he no longer had mastery of his emotions. He took a deep breath and took control of his mind again. This situation was completely unexpected....or did this have to do with his cloaked travel through a populates star system?

Kalid said, "What is the charge against me?"

"We will take you to your accuser so you can hear the charges from their source."

Two of the robots stepped forward and took hold of Kalid's arms. He gave no resistance. He was quickly taken to a small office where another militia man waited. All the robots remained outside. The man said, "Please sit down."

Kalid sat on the small stool that was in the middle of the room. He was still wondering: who was his accuser? The militia man said, "My name is Alfred. I happened to be on militia duty today when word came to me that you were coming down to planet and that you should be arrested. Don't bother to ask me what is going on. We'll both find out in a few minutes, or I'll let you go free."

The wall in front of Kalid came alive with a view of Set. Kalid could not restrain the sudden burst of hate that flooded his brain. So HE was the accuser... it made no sense. Kalid was looking for Set in order to take him to justice for his crimes at Flammis and now Set was accusing him? Besides, Kalid had long thought Set only sneak attacked, but his attack on Flammis and now this indicated that Set had become bolder. Set was now seeking revenge for his personal loss by all means possible. Kalid realized that it had only been with the unexpected help of Sybil's unusual powers and the telepathic loop in time that he had managed to prevent himself from going down that path himself. Kalid stayed quiet while analyzing his opponent.

Alfred said, "Are you Set? Do you have charges to issue against Kalid?"

Set spoke directly to Kalid, "I'm impressed. Less than a day after I turn to the Martian justice system and there sits the Great Master!"

Alfred turned to Kalid, "I'm sorry to have wasted your time, you are free to go. There are apparently no charges-"

Set shouted, "Wait! I have charges!"

Alfred turned back to face Set. "Then state the charges without further delay."

Set said, "I've already read the charges into the record."

Alfred muttered under his breath and looked at a small data display. "I see that you are both from outside of this system. Let me explain what is going on. Kalid, about ten hours ago Set filed charges against you here on Mars. Set, you are now required to state the charges."

Set said, "The charge is conspiracy in the case of the attack on the space elevators of Sakkara, a case that includes multiple murders and other criminal subcharges."

Alfred said, "Thanks. Kalid, how do you respond to these charges?"

Kalid said, "I had nothing to do with the attack on the space elevators of Sakkara. Plus, I doubt he has any proof of those "charges". These are nothing but false and fabricated charges."

Alfred said, "Okay, the magistrate who heard these charges from Set has seen written documents that Set has entered into the judicial record as supporting evidence from these charges." He handed the small data display to Kalid. "These are the documents that Set submitted to the magistrate."

Kalid skimmed through the displayed documents. "Most of these documents have nothing to do with me. It looks like the few that do relate to me are false claims about where I have been and what I have done during the past several months." Kalid was relieved now that he could see the documents. They could do no harm to him.

Alfred asked, "So, Kalid, do you dispute the validity of these charges?"

Kalid replied, "I do."

Alfred said, "Kalid, by our law, given the charge of murder that has been made, you must appear before the magistrate in order to dispute these charges. How long will it take you to read the evidence and prepare your response for the magistrate?"

Kalid replied, "I suppose it will take several hours."

Alfred took back the datapad from Kalid. "Okay, the magistrate has an open time slot in about 18 hours. I just reserved that time slot for this case. Kalid, you will remain in custody until the hearing and you will be transported to the magistrate for the hearing." Alfred looked at both Kalid and Set. "Is there any other business for today?"

Set gave a sneering smile and mock salute to Kalid and his image faded. Kalid said, "This is absurd. I hope that I will be able to bring a counter suit against Set for false imprisonment." He could not remove Set's smile from his mind. He imagined that same smile had been there while Set was slaughtering the population of Flammis. Kalid promised that he would never again hesitate to go after Set, even at the risk of his own life. Set was someone who should be stopped at any cost.

Alfred shook his head. "Ug. I suggest you just focus on what you will say to the magistrate in your own defense. Now, I have no facilities here to hold you, so I suggest that we go directly to the Hall of Magistrates. Are you ready to go?"

Kalid stood up, "I'm at your disposal." Kalid sighed in resignation to the fine trick Set had engineered. Chasing around the Galaxy and flying into conflict at maximum acceleration were games for the young. Kalid had to ask himself: was he up to this challenge? Was it time to pass his responsibilities on to a younger member of the Order?


Alfred and Kalid walked side by side through the subsurface passageways with the robot guards following along behind. Alfred asked, "Have you visited here before?"

Kalid replied, "During my adult life it has been my practice to visit the Home World at least every ten years."

Alfred paused and looked around, particularly he looked back at the robots. "Over here." He led the way to the far side of the chamber they were in. They reached a row of small glass compartments that opened out onto a huge subsurface chamber. Kalid was awe-struck by this view of a huge subsurface space, in his experience this vast scale was only rivaled by the underground cities of Azur. Each time Kalid saw human constructs on this kind of scale he was edified and awed.

Alfred ordered the robots into one glass compartment, closed the door and pushed a button. Their compartment started moving down the wall of the huge subsurface chamber and was soon out of sight. Alfred led Kalid into the next glass compartment that slid over into place next to them. Alfred spoke quietly, "I've lived here all my life, but I'm told that almost nobody in other star systems around the galaxy knows that this is the Home Star System."

Kalid nodded, "That is true, very few indeed know the truth. I feel it is my duty to come back to Earth every ten years or so.... it helps remind me that I still have much to do in my life, particularly when I get too self-involved."

For a minute, while their glass-walled transport chamber moved down the wall, Alfred and Kalid enjoyed the view. Alfred looked at Kalid as if for the first time. "What are your self-involvements? Why did you come here today?"

Kalid replied, "I wanted to find Set, but he found me first. I figured he was up to no good. Little did I know that he had found a new way to attack me. I had incorrectly imagined that the worst he could do was to kill my family." At that moment Kalid could not repress his grief and it triggered a new feeling in his body. His long forgotten and apparently cured itching in the back suddenly struck again. It was many years since he had felt that unpleasant sensation. Kalid wondered if this was a warning from his body that something was challenging his immune system. Maybe it was just random activation of his spine neurons, due to heavy stress or repression of feelings.

Alfred was shocked. "Set killed your family?"

Kalid nodded, took a deep breath and said "Set killed my son and thousands of others." Each time Kalid thought about his loss it opened the wound again, but it was a reality his mind had to live with.

Alfred asked, "Do you intend to make that a formal counter-charge when you go before the Magistrate?"

Kalid said, "I do not know. Is there some way I can get legal advice? I have no experience with the legal system here."

Kalid wondered if it would be possible to use conventional legal system tools to get revenge and bring Set to justice for the slaughter at Flammis. Maybe the legal system here provided an opportunity to strike back. But Kalid's master had always said that it was better to avoid a direct confrontation... always the principle of no-resistance. This time everything was different. Set had attacked first and the only way to neutralize him was by striking back, that was, taking Set to justice. Kalid expected further attacks by Set and something had to be done. Set was now apparently trying to put Kalid in prison while he would be free to go about his business. And beyond what was going on here in this system, Kalid had to protect the entire Haldus Order too. Would Set stop his rampage before he slaughtered every member of the Order? Kalid had worked to convince Set that the Haldus Order had nothing to do with the destruction of the space elevators on Sakkara, but Set had simply murdered the Haldus Order representatives who volunteered to explain things to Set. Was there something deeper than revenge motivating Set? Maybe Set knew something about the secret Haldus Order technology...

They had reached the end of their ride down the cliff face and their glass compartment dove into a tube. Alfred said, "We have very few professional legalists. By our law, ordinary citizens are called upon to run the legal system. If you want my advice, I'd say defend yourself against the charges from Set. If what you say is true, it should not be hard to get yourself released. Then, rather than involve yourself further with our legal system, go back to your home world and file charges against Set on your own world where you know the legal system better."

Kalid nodded, "That sounds like reasonable advice, except for the fact that Set has exterminated every man, woman and child in my world."

Alfred said, "I'm sorry. Clearly I know nothing about your life and this case." After five more minutes they emerged from the transport tube and slid into a small debarkation chamber. They exited their glass compartment and the squad of robots fell in behind as they walked to the Magistarium.

Kalid soon found himself locked in a suite of comfortable rooms with a standard data terminal. He read through the "evidence" and confirmed that someone had tried to fabricate a case against him. Certain that he could defend himself against the charges, he then tried to sleep and recover from the punishing high-acceleration flight from Esclangon to Mars.

Kalid did not sleep very long. His sleep had refreshed his mind and now he was ready to reply to Set's charges. He had asked for heaven's counseling. Upon waking he called for food and wrote a short rebuttal of the charges that had been made against him and sent it to the magistrate who was handling the case. Not long after completing that task, another member of the militia arrived to lead him before the magistrate. Kalid was somewhat surprised to find himself in a room with over a hundred spectators. When he commented on the size of the audience, the militia woman said, "Many more are watching remotely. Your case is rather sensational by our standards. Now, here's the magistrate."

The magistrate was also a woman. She came into the hearing room and said hello to Kalid and then chatted for a minute with the militia woman. Apparently they knew each other from outside of court or had previously met during other court cases. She then looked around the room and that was enough to stop all conversations and bring everyone to silence. She then said, "I'm magistrate Felice. Is Set present? No? Okay, that does not really matter. Kalid, are you ready to defend yourself against Set's charges?"

Kalid replied, "Yes. The charges are fabrications. I had nothing to do with the destruction of the space elevators on Sakkara." He spoke for twenty minutes and increasingly noticed that everyone in the room seemed bored, Kalid had a sententious and monotone voice. Finally he said, "Magistrate Felice, I am unfamiliar with your legal system. I'm open to any guidance you can provide to me. It seems like nobody here is particularly interested in what I am saying."

Felice said, "Well, that does not matter, I am obliged to listen even if I am bored."

The gallery erupted in laughter. Kalid's mood brightened considerably. "Well, I'd be happy to change topics if it is doing me no good to refute the 'evidence' page by page."

Felice said, "I think you've made your point about the quality of the evidence against you. Frankly, the fact that Set is not here to cross examine you speaks volumes. I might send a memo to the Department of Justice on Sakkara suggesting that they investigate Set and the charges he made against you."

Kalid said, "Set is a wanted man on Sakkara already. I suspect this 'case' will be of little interest to the Sakkaran authorities".

Felice explained, "One of our rules is that if anyone makes false charges against someone else then they are to be held accountable. If Set returns to this world, he could face murder charges because of the murder charges he made against you. However, I suspect that he will never return. It seems likely that he just wanted to draw you into the open and distract you. We are very concerned for your safety and we have taken great precautions to protect you from possible harm."

Kalid nodded. "That is wise. Set recently led an attack on my home world during which the entire planet's human population was exterminated. I suppose it is possible that Set would like to see the same fate for me."

Felice asked, "How did you escape the fate of everyone else on your planet?"

Kalid replied, "Myself and a very few others were off planet on routine business."

Felice said. "I see. Is there any other business you wish to bring to my attention?"

"I have no idea what is considered appropriate."

Felice shrugged. "We have set aside this time to listen to you and anything that is on your mind. For example, I personally wonder if you have any idea why Set would come here from a great distance in order to make these charges against you?"

Kalid said, "I cannot argue against the reason you suggested... to bring me into the open, possibly for an attack on my life. When I learned that Set had returned to this system-"

Felice interrupted, "Eh? What is this? I had assumed that Set had never previously been to this star system."

Kalid shrugged, "He was also here a few days ago. I was interested in trying to learn where he went between his earlier visit to this system. I've been told that he visited Sakkara to commit a kidnapping and that he met with the Governor of Azur."

Felice asked, "What is the source of your information?"

Kalid replied, "I have been in contact with the Grand Master of a Temple on Azur. He reported to me that Set had a meeting with the Governor of Azur, Ketar. I'm also in contact with a Temple Master from was her assistant who Set kidnapped."

Felice frowned. "You seem to be saying that Set was here, Set met with the Governor of Azur and then Set returned here and charged you with murder. That seems like a strange course of events. Can you make sense of any of this?"

Kalid sighed. "I think Set first came to this star system while following the Temple Master from Sakkara, who had fled her home world out of fear for her safety. I believe Set may intend to kill her, too. Maybe Set wanted to get me out of the way or tie me up in a legal proceeding for a time."

Felice asked, "Is she traveling with you? Is she still in orbit?"

"No. She is visiting Esclangon."

Felice said, "I see. You are a bubbling source of much interesting information."

Kalid acknowledged her comment with a half bow. Kalid said, "It might also be relevant that Ketar has been politically active on Sakkara."

Felice snorted. "Indeed. I'm familiar with Ketar; he is politically active across much of the known galaxy. I must say, Ketar and Set seem to be strange bed partners." Again the gallery laughed.

Kalid did not like to be making a circus of justice, but this was a way to strike back at Set. Kalid realized that what was really needed was to return to Sakkara and bring Set to justice there. The dirty laundry of Sakkara and the Order was apparently entertaining for the people of Mars, but getting in zingers against Set in this forum was pointless.

Felice continued, "Well, I'm speaking metaphorically. Ketar is rumored to have a long-standing financial agreement with the Spaceship Guild. Based on my research into Set and Sakkara, it seems that Set is no friend of the Spaceship Guild and has in the past charged them with involvement in the attack on the Sakkaran space elevators. What could Ketar and Set have in common?"

Kalid was rather surprised to hear the magistrate speaking so knowledgeably about Sakkara and doing so in such a public forum. Beyond the humor and playfulness, the magistrate had a brain, indeed. Kalid decided to ask what might be an embarrassing question for Felice. Now it was time to test her honesty. "Since you are familiar with Set, why did you arrest me and not Set?"

Felice replied, "When I got a report on Set from Sakkara, I tried to find him, but he seems to have disappeared. Apparently he is no longer on Mars. By that time, this court session had already been scheduled and so I decided that you should have a chance to publicly refute the charges Set had made against you."

Kalid decided he might as well take this opportunity to pitch in and contribute what he could to sorting out mysteries. He had his mouth open and was about to report what he had been told by the Grand Master of the Temple on Azur, but he noticed a familiar face in the gallery. The man was just now walking in and taking a seat on the end of one of the crowded benches was Aristark.


Upon seeing Aristark, Kalid started thinking about Haldus Order intelligence reports he had seen from Sakkara, particularly a report from Sybil about the days after the attack on the space elevators.

Felice asked, "Were you going to say something more?"

Kalid replied, "Yes, I would like to tell you what the Grand Master of the Temple on Azur told me." Kalid did so while still thinking about Aristark. He had to split his mind processes into two streams. "The Temple Master of Azur told me his theory about the 'strange partners' of Ketar and Set." Kalid was careful not to continue the joke about them. It was not time for jokes; it was time for justice. "That theory suggested that maybe Set and Ketar have a common interest in causing civil unrest. The Temple Master of Azur suggested that maybe Ketar and Set planned to use the destruction of the space elevators on Sakkara as justification for attacks against their enemies."

Felice chuckled, "I take it then that there is no evidence to support the idea that Ketar and Set worked together to plan the destruction of the space elevators on Sakkara."

Kalid had never taken seriously the ideas of the Grand Master of the Haldus Order Temple on Azur. While talking, he had been thinking furiously about Aristark and the fact that Aristark had been in position to hide the identities of the true perpetrators of the attack on the space elevators. Kalid was mentally exploring the idea that there was a conspiracy to hide the truth about the disaster and Aristark was the instrument of that conspiracy. Or, Kalid had to ask himself, was he thinking in a paranoid way just because of his loss? Time would tell. Clearly, Aristark had been in position to hear from Leone about Sybil's belief that Kalid could be found on Flammis. Aristark had delayed their trip to Flammis for a day during which Set had learned of the existence of Flammis and sent an attack force to exterminate the population of Flammis. Why would Aristark, the head of the Sakkaran Department of Justice, do these things? Money, politics? Suddenly it all made sense to Kalid. Aristark was Ketar's key contact on Sakkara. Ketar had recently ordered his growing fleet to attack all Haldus Order ships. It made sense that Ketar would also order Aristark to help make use of Set to attack Haldus Order facilities like the secret base on Flammis.

Kalid said, "I agree that there is no available evidence to support the idea put forward by the Grand Master of the Haldus Order Temple on Azur. However, that is just an an example of an attempt to try to understand strange events such the recent unprovoked attack on a Sakkaran spaceship in the Akara star system and the murder of all inhabitants on my home world. The question is, who would have been in a position to order and to benefit from those attacks?"

Felice was profoundly disoriented and largely unfamiliar with the details of Sakkaran politics and she did not know anything about Kalid's home world. "Well, if you can rule out the involvement of our "strange bed partners" Ketar and Set, then who can you suggest as a more likely perpetrator?"

Kalid replied, "In the case of the destruction of the elevators on Sakkara, a more compelling theory has been produced by the Temple Master on Sakkara. You can find a printed copy of that evidence report on my spaceship, in orbit. Figuring heavily in that report is a high official of Sakkara, Aristark."

A robot came forward and whispered in Felice's ear. She looked towards the gallery and said, "I'm told that by strange coincidence, the head of the Department of Justice on Sakkara, Aristark, is in this room."

Aristark rose to his feet. "I am here." Kalid looked at him, analyzing every move and the colors of his aura. Kalid said to himself: here was the type of person who could betray a friend, definitely...for a price.

Felice nodded to the robot and it went into the gallery, took Aristark's arm and led Aristark to the front of the room where Felice and Kalid stood. Felice said, "I assume that you are familiar with the details of the investigation into the destruction of the space elevators on Sakkara."

Aristark nodded. "Of course, I am in charge of that investigation."

Felice looked doubtfully towards Kalid. Kalid knew that in such games of chess it was traditional to start by taking a pawn. Kalid said to Aristark, "According to the Temple Master's report on your investigation, two members of the Silver Tulipan Order provided you with the names and precise location of two of the people who helped destroy the space elevators. Rather than take those two suspects into custody, you let them escape from Sakkara." Kalid knew that these charges against Aristark were only speculation, but it would be interesting to see Aristark's reaction.

Aristark grew deep red, he did not expect to hear these charges from Kalid. Felice asked Aristark, "Is this true?"

Aristark was trembling with rage and did not trust himself to any case, he need not incriminate himself. Kalid could read guilt in Aristark's aura. Kalid decided to try to end this game of chess and trap the king. He went on, "The interesting question is: why? Why would a trusted and high-ranking Justice Department official such as Aristark subvert the investigation into the destruction of the space elevators? The report of the Temple Master on Sakkara included the name of a powerful and famous person from off of Sakkara who arranged to pay Aristark handsomely to keep secret the identities of those who destroyed the space elevators. That famous person, the great traitor in this case, that person's name is-"

Aristark flung himself on Kalid, acting impulsively and driven by a surge of adrenaline in his blood. Blades of sharp composite extended from inside Aristark's hands and sliced into Kalid's neck. Quickly the robot pulled Aristark off of Kalid, but not before Kalid's blood showered Felice and the front row of the gallery of spectators. Five squads of human militia and robots quickly cleared the courtroom. Aristark was bound and placed in a locked room. Kalid was given emergency medical treatment on the floor of the courtroom. After Kalid was stabilized and taken away to the nearest hospital, Felice noticed that the courtroom cameras were still on. She said to a robot, "Please shut off the cameras."


Continue to Chapter 12

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