The Dark and the LightEdit
Set noticed that Salvaje's telepathic output had started to surge and pulse in the way that Set had previously seen it do when Salvaje was interacting with his daughter. Now Set could again detect the approach of Amethyst...yes, her pattern of T-particle output was distinctive. In order not to cue Salvaje to Amethyst's location, Set was careful not to look in the direction of her approach, but again Salvaje looked in that direction. Salvaje said, "Now, it is time to introduce you to the rest of the community here."
Amethyst entered Salvaje's work room through a back door and made her way towards her father through a clutter of equipment and work stations. She nodded to Set and said to her father, "Everyone is gathering. Mort and Bjainy are still on their way in; they were out working on the collector array."
Salvaje turned to his daughter and hugged her, "Thank you for letting me know." He turned back to Set and said, "Come, Set, it is time."
When Salvaje and Amethyst touched, Set thought he saw an orange glow, almost like a large slow-motion spark radiating from between them. Set wiped some sweat off of his brow and rubbed his eyes. Set wondered: what did I just see? It was uncomfortably warm inside this base, and Set had to admit that it felt even warmer when Amethyst was in the room, bouncing around in the low gravity, but otherwise he felt fine. Set wondered: if I'm not hallucinating, then are these strange colors near Salvaje and Amethyst related to their high levels of telepathic emissions?
Set had no idea why Salvaje thought it was important that he meet others from this little community, but he hoped it might lead to some more useful revelations about the history of the Haldus Order. Set followed Amethyst and Salvaje down a long hallway and into a large chamber full of plants, butterflies and birds. Salvaje slowed his pace and let Set enjoy the flowers and colorful insects. Amethyst said, rather bitterly, "All of Earth used to be like this, before it was destroyed." She held out a hand and one of the birds landed, holding on to her finger. "Unfortunately the birds are only robotic imitations." Set had grown up on Sakkara with a rich ecosystem and he wondered what it would be like to exist here on the Moon in such an artificial environment. Watching Amethyst, he could see that she took great pleasure from watching the movements of the insects and robotic birds. Set thought it would be fun to take her to a world like Sakkara where she could see animals in a natural environment.
Salvaje said, "My dream is that some day the galaxy will recognize that Earth was purposefully infested with the green goo and that will stimulate discovery of a way to cleanse Earth of that scourge. We should stop raiding Earth for water and start working to return Earth to its rightful condition: a living world."
They emerged from the far end of the chamber into a wider and longer hallway that was designed to resemble a particular alley in a city of Earth, as it existed over three hundred years earlier. Salvaje opened a door to what looked like an old beer hall and gestured for Set to pass through.
Set found himself inside a replica of a cafe of ancient Earth. Nearly the entire population of the Shackleton crater community was there, laughing and talking. When the residents noticed Set they all fell silent. Amethyst took Set's hand and led him to a small table near the stage. Salvaje, Amethyst and Set sat down and were waited on by a robotic server. Soon the occupants of the room returned to their former state of boisterous good cheer and banter.
Salvaje said, "Two of our community members have yet to arrive. They do most of the work of coordinating the robots who are extending our solar energy collecting array to keep up with our growing population. They'll be down from the surface soon."
Set looked upwards and tried to detect approaching sources of T-particles. He was suddenly feeling dizzy from the flood of telepathic signals in the room. The robotic waiter returned to the table with their drinks. When Set reached for his mug, his hand touched Amethyst's arm where it rested on the table. He clearly saw a glow at the point of contact. He placed his hand on her's and marvelled at the resulting swirl of color that enveloped their hands. He gasped, "There is something strange going on here."
Amethyst turned her hand over and squeezed Set's hand. "Wait until this crew gets a few more drinks in their bellies. They'll sing, dance and carry on in a remarkable way."
Set held up their clasped hands, "You don't see anything?"
Both Amethyst and Salvaje expressed puzzlement. Set decided that he was the only one who could see the colors and there was no point in trying to describe color to the blind. Could he explain it to himself? These strange "colors" did not seem normal since they did not really correspond to visible objects. They were roughly related to body parts but they seemed to move up into the air and have a life of their own. He wondered: what can it mean that I see these "colors" when people touch? He looked around the room and now, where ever two people were touching, Set could see clouds of sparks and color. And now he could see a new source of T-particles above. Was that a late-arriving member of the community? Set felt not: this new source of T-particles was not like the telepathic emissions coming from the other members of this community. It was steady and strangely featureless. The more Set focused his attention on the T-particle source from above the brighter it became. Now it became blindingly bright. He reflexively placed his arm over his eyes and called out, "Ow!"
Amethyst jumped up as Set pulled her hand. She asked, "What is wrong?"
Set let go of her hand and the blinding white light faded away, leaving a kind of afterimage in his mind. What had he seen? He put a hand on Amethyst's hip and the bright light from above returned. With his other hand he took hold of Salvaje's arm. Their bodies seemed to function like an antenna array, and the odd source of T-particles came into better focus for Set. He pointed and asked, "Can either of you see that? It is the brightest source of T-particles I've ever seen."
Amethyst asked, "What are 'T-particles'?"
Amethyst and Salvaje looked in the direction of Set's pointing finger, but they both shook their heads. Salvaje said, "This is something you've never seen before?"
Set had a fear in the back of his mind. What if this community of high-powered telepaths was used by the Haldus Order like fly paper? Now that Set had been attracted, would the Haldus Order telepaths close in on Set? He wondered: am I trapped in a den of mental masters? This bright source of T-particles struck fear into Set. He wiped sweat off of his face and tried to calm down. "Sorry, I'm okay. It seems that exposure to the high levels of T-particles here is having a strange effect on my telepathic senses."
Salvaje suggested, "Amethyst, please refrain from touching Set until he gets accustomed to this environment."
Amethyst took her hand off of Set's shoulder and sat down again. She asked her father, "He can see the Light?"
Mort and Bjainy came into the room and were greeted by the others. Salvaje nodded to Amethyst, but he said nothing.
Salvaje got up from the table and went up on the small stage at the back end of the room. Everyone in the room quieted down. Salvaje said, "Friends, let me tell you why I called you here today. Or, rather, let my great-grandmother tell you." He pointed to the wall which came alive with the image of an old woman.
The woman seemed to gaze out into the audience while she spoke, "Hello to you in the future. A day will come when someone not of the light will see the light. This outsider will become the tool of darkness. I have prepared a great pyre that will attract the outsider like a moth to a flame. Welcome the outsider and rejoice because the tool of darkness can be turned against the darkness. Open your hearts to the outsider and you can transform the tool of darkness into a flower of hope."
The woman pressed together the first two fingers from both of her hands and her thumbs to make a complex gesture and then her image faded from the wall. Salvaje spoke, "Here is the outsider!" He pointed to Set. There was a gasp of disbelief from everyone watching, including Amethyst. Salvaje continued, "His name is 'Set'. Welcome him!"
There was an uncertain and weak chorus of welcomes.
Amethyst stood up and spoke to her father, "How do you know he is the one?"
Salvaje replied, "I have tested him. He can see the light. It was our light that brought him here today, as my great-grandmother predicted."
In a hushed voice, Amethyst asked Set, "Are you truly the tool of darkness?"
Set had been trying to understand what Salvaje and his great-grandmother meant by "the light" and "darkness". He stood up and replied, "I am unfamiliar with your customs and uncertain about how to answer. What do you mean by 'darkness'?"
Amethyst looked towards her father, but all he did was nod to her. Amethyst explained, "It is the same across the galaxy and on every world known to humans. Darkness is death, pain, suffering and confusion."
Set tried to assure her, "I am from Sakkara where we suffered death and pain." Set addressed the whole community, "Have you heard of the space elevators disaster? I suffered...a personal loss. There is still confusion about who destroyed the space elevators on Sakkara. I have been trying to work through this darkness."
Salvaje replied to Set's question. "We are a small and isolated community, but we are not ignorant of outside events. We know of the great disaster on Sakkara and all people of the Light grieve for Sakkara. But, Set, have you not turned to the methods of darkness?"
Set replied uneasily, "Sometimes justice is remote. I have taken justice into my own hands. I have given myself the goal of finding those who destroyed the space elevators."
Amethyst asked quietly, "Have you killed in the name of the justice you seek?"
Set nodded, "I have done what must be done. Call me a tool of darkness if you like, but I have no shame for what I have done."
Salvaje said, "We have not brought you here to judge you. You came here following the Light. Our hearts are open to you. Now you will change. You have seen the Light and you will do what is right."
Set was not sure what to say. He looked around the room and felt dizzy under the glare of the powerful telepathic impulses flooding his mind. At that moment he realized that the telepathic flood was like a floodlight. He had seen the light when he detected the telepathic signal generated by these people and that had led him to the Moon. And he recalled his "meeting" with Ketar. They had remained apart, in their own spaceships, but Set had reached out with his telepathic sense and found...nothing. Total darkness. And Set realized that he was in danger of becoming the tool of Ketar, but he would not let that happen.
Salvaje said, "It is time for you to go. Come with me."
Salvaje led Set back to the airlock where he had entered the underground base. Amethyst followed along and Salvaje spoke the entire way except when they were in the water-filled tunnels. "Here is our deal. I will give you the T-particle detector. It will allow you to find the Haldus Order Temple on Earth."
Set asked, "And what do you expect in return?"
"Back in the days of my great-grandmother, all the evidence concerning how Earth was destroyed was put away in a kind of time capsule. We knew the day would come when someone like you would have the power to act on that evidence and bring justice to those who destroyed Earth. That is your end of the deal."
Set was doubtful that he could satisfy Salvaje's dream of justice. "I cannot even win justice for myself in the case of last year's elevators disaster. What makes you think I can bring the justice you want...justice that has been unattainable for decades?"
Salvaje replied, "Do not fear. Do not doubt. You will do fine." They had reached the elevator to the surface. A robot waited for them there, holding the T-particle detector and Set's clothing. Salvaje said, "Take the detector, it will reveal the hidden Temple on Earth." Salvaje made the same six-fingered gesture that his grandmother had made in her video recording. "Now, go."
Set pulled on his jumpsuit and took the detector from the robot. He got into the elevator and as he closed the elevator door, Set looked back at Amethyst. For the first time he was able to detect some information content in her telepathic impulses: it all came in a flash. Set sensed her revulsion at the idea that Set had killed for revenge, but she also longed for her own revenge against those who has destroyed Earth and the Temple at Shackleton crater. Set could also sense that she was thinking about Set's future and the idea that he might return to the Moon and that he and Amethyst would build a future together.
The door of the elevator clanged shut and Set slumped back into the small elevator compartment. The tone and force of the telepathic impulses from Amethyst reminded Set of those he had received from Katherine in her dying moment. Set also experienced a brief memory from his old dream, the dream he had the night before the elevators disaster. He asked himself: how could I have dreamed about Amethyst months before ever knowing that she existed?
When the elevator car lifted away towards the surface, Salvaje ordered the robot follow Set to the surface and detach the docking tunnel from Set's spaceship.
Salvaje turned and started towards his workshop, but then he turned back towards the elevator. Amethyst had not moved and remained in place, staring at the door of the elevator shaft. Salvaje didn't trust the structural integrity of these old outer tunnels during spaceship landings and departures. He said, "Let's go back inside."
Amethyst turned her head and seemed to look right through her father. "I felt, I saw..I saw the Light."
Salvaje immediately wished he had the T-particle detector. Had Amethyst established a conscious telepathic connection with Set? Salvaje said, "It is all coming to pass, just as Tabitha predicted."
Amethyst was confused about what she had just felt. Had she only imagined being inside Set's mind for a moment? She had the strange feeling that Set would return...it felt like déjà vu, but some kind of déjà vu from the future. In Set's mind, she had seen an image of him holding their daughter. Amethyst asked, "Could Tabitha see the future?"
Salvaje shrugged, "I always assumed she was only able to predict the future course of events. It was not a surprising prediction back when she made her recording and said that we, here in the future, should expect someone from out side the Haldus Order to eventually develop telepathy. Set is just that person."
Amethyst was not sure that it was as simple as Salvaje thought. The elevator car returned and the robot got in. Amethyst finally turned from the elevator and started walking with her father back towards the inner core of the base. Amethyst tried to sort through the swirl of images that had suddenly filled her thoughts at the moment when Set departed. She was uncertain about what she had seen, but she was left wishing that she had gone with him. She felt that Set was in danger. In her thoughts she sent out a wish to Set: Take care!
The elevator door opened and Set stepped out into the fabric tunnel that connected to his spaceship. As he returned to his spaceship he was thinking about telepathy in a new way. He started thinking deeply about his telepathic sense as being sensitive to a wide range of brain activities while his consciousness was only able to skim off a small fraction of the total telepathic flow. What did it mean to have a sense that was largely unconscious? Of what value was Amethyst's totally unconscious telepathic ability? It let her integrate with other like-minded people in their isolated little community, but could telepathy have originally evolved for that purpose? If so, why were some people able to become conscious of telepathic signals in a way that most people could not?
While Set walked up the fabric tunnel, he noticed the glow of the Sun through the material of the tunnel wall. He said, "Of course!" He now realized: the "new" bright and featureless source of T-particles that Set had learned how to "see" was the Sun! But why had he never noticed it before? While touching Amethyst the T-particle signal from the Sun had increased in apparent strength, but it now faded away. Set reasoned that the T-particle flux from the Sun was so intense and information-free that his brain normally blocked it out and his conscious mind ignored it. However, in the environment of the Moon, with Amethyst and 80 other powerful emitters of T-particles nearby, his brain had apparently adjusted its sensitivity for T-particle detection and had started allowing Set to become conscious of the powerful T-particle flux from the Sun.
Salvaje had indicated that a person's experiences while growing up can influence their brain's ability to handle telepathy. Set now wondered: if Glen could be provided with a small device that allowed him to respond to telepathic signals, surly the same could be done for people. Set looked at the T-particle detector Salvaje had given to him. If this device was 200 years old, what might a modern T-particle detector look like? After one last glance at the Sun, Set closed the outer airlock door and wondered how to detach the fabric tunnel from his ship. Set was looking out the window when Salvaje's robot appeared and proceeded to pull the tunnel away from the hull of the spaceship. Feeling foolish, Set waved to the machine and then he turned and headed for the main engineering room.
It occurred to Set that who ever constructed Salvaje's T-particle detector knew that the Sun was a powerful source of T-particles. The device had apparently been designed to not display the constant strong flux of T-particles from the sun. Set started wondering if a planet like Earth or even the Moon might have a significant level of T-particle emission. If the Haldus Order had been studying T-particles for centuries would they know by now the details of how T-particles are generated and detected?
Set found the ship's engineer who was working at the task of re-assembling Glen. Set showed him Salvaje's T-particle detector. "I have an idea. This device might have the same function as the device you found in the robot." He asked, "How large is the mechanism in the robot that allows it to respond to telepathic signals?"
The engineer replied, "It is very small, like your thumb nail." He looked at the visible components of Salvaje's T-particle detector and pulled open an access panel. "These circuit elements look like museum pieces. Nobody has manufactured electronics components like these for over a hundred years. A hundred and fifty. Where did you get this?"
Set replied, "On the Moon. So, would it be easier to figure out how this works than the device in the robot?"
"Sure. The device in the robot uses three dimensional nanoscale circuit elements...primitive by modern standards, but much smaller than the circuit elements in this."
Set pointed to the display screen that was built into Salvaje's T-particle detector. "This displays the telepathic signals that are detected." Set asked, "Could you take the smaller device out of the robot and attach it to a display screen?"
The engineer scratched his head, "I'm not sure. This robot is about 50 years old. I probably do not have on hand the type of connector that would be needed, but my nanoforge can probably improvise one. But even if I did connect it, I'd just be guessing what data should be carried in each channel. A reverse engineering lab could figure that out in an hour, but I don't have the right equipment."
"I don't need the complete functionality. I'd basically just need an indication of the strength and pattern of the T-particles being detected."
The engineer asked, "T-particles?"
Set explained, "That's what they call them on the Moon...the basis of telepathy. Apparently human brains can exchange T-particles."
The engineer was skeptical about telepathy. He knew that Set claimed to have some kind of telepathic ability, but he had seen no evidence to support the claim. He shrugged and thought: I'm not paid to question the boss. "Well, it should be possible to provide a basic signal output display for anything."
"Okay, here's what I want you to do..."
Kaleb, son of Kalid, was on Flammis, near the main planetary defense base of the Haldus Order. It had taken him three days of brutal travel across the surface to get this far. He was totally isolated, living with his telepathic ability hidden, as his father had taught him. Hopefully, hidden from Set, but at this point, Kaleb did not even know if it had been Set who attacked Flammis.
Set had already left Flammis, thinking he had killed everyone, but Kaleb had escape the attack. Now Kaleb had no way of knowing that Set was gone; all he knew was that someone from off planet was now on Flammis.
The Order had long ago learned not to put all of its eggs in the same basket, but this attack had come with a speed that defied the laws of physics. Somehow the attacking spaceship had suddenly appeared very close to Flammis. There had simply not been enough time to save most of the residents of Flammis.
Kaleb shut down the crawler's reactor and stood up, trying to relieve the cramps in his limbs. He dared not drive any closer to his destination. For a moment he thought about taking a nap, but he decided against it. Time might be short and he could not hope to control his own mind while sleeping...he dared not let his brain start emitting telepathic signals. Kalid and other members of the Order might be in danger, so there was no time to waste.
Kaleb thought about Megan. Kaleb had left his sister in the underground refuge that their father had built, but he had insisted she wait without using the power generator, so as to minimize the risk of detection. How long could she survive without power under the green fog of Flammis? Kaleb climbed out of the cab of the crawler. While he walked towards the artillery command center he remembered the horrid day of the attack...
Kaleb had been woken up early that morning and asked to drive his father out to the space dock. Kalid was leaving Flammis in order to go to Sakkara. Kaleb had complained, "I don't think they know what they are talking about."
Kalid chuckled, "Haldus has the luxury of a functioning hyperspatial communications array. As long as I sit here, I know nothing."
Contact between Haldus and Flammis was a rare event and Kaleb did not know why his father was so quick to act on new information arriving from Haldus. "You have your telepathic contacts with other worlds." Kaleb asked, "What is the latest news from the Temple Master on Azur?"
Kalid replied, "He also lacks contacts on Sakkara. If I called Azur for information then I'd have to wait while they tried to find out what is happening on Sakkara. Anyhow, we can trust Haldus to relay us reliable reports about Sakkara. I can't sit here knowing that Sybil and other members of the Order on Sakkara are in danger."
Kaleb pulled the crawler into the dock complex, but he did not power down the massive machine. "I'd just like to get confirmation of this rumor. It should only take a few hours for our people on Azur to contact Sakkara and find out what is happening there. It is not safe for you to go to Sakkara, not with Set on his rampage."
Kalid nodded, "You do that."
Kaleb said, "But-"
But Kalid was gone. Kaleb watched his father climb off of the crawler and walk into the dock and down the corridor towards his ship. Kaleb put the crawler back into motion and set course for home. Keleb had planned to go directly to the main base from the docks, but Kalid's special telecom equipment was at home. Kaleb had never used that equipment before. As far as he knew, only Kalid had ever used it. True, Kalid had often shown him how to use the equipment. At first, Kalid had always given a little lecture: "When I die, you will take over. Look, it is simple..."
With Kalid leaving Flammis, Kaleb was now responsible for the safety of the Haldus Order community on Flammis. Although Kaleb was still too young to be officially promoted from the Outer Circle to the Inner Circle, his relationship to his father granted him a high rank and special responsibilities in the Order. According to Kalid, his son's mental powers were sometimes even stronger than his own, but Kaleb was not so sure. Keleb had self doubts and wondered if it wise to put someone so young into a position with so much responsibility and so many lives at stake.
While he drove back home through the green nanite fog, Kaleb felt emotionally depressed. Kaleb knew that he was genetically predisposed to depression. The same gene combinations that gave him strong telepathic ability disrupted the neuronal circuits that normally harnessed anxiety for its adaptive benefits. For Kaleb, depression always meant having no reason at all to be sad; these waves of sadness were just the result of a malfunction in his brain. He called upon his training to move past the feelings and keep himself focused on his responsibilities.
Kaleb decided he better call the Temple and explain that he would be late arriving today. The Haldus Order, at least on Flammis, was old fashioned in some respects. They did not use any robots at all, only their spaceship AIs. Kalid had a deep distrust of robots because one of them had been hacked and reprogrammed by spies trying to infiltrate the Order. Kalid's friend, Jeremy, had discovered the attempted infiltration, but not before having to sacrifice himself in order to protect the rest of the Order. Kalid had long ago explained to Kaleb that robot spies were far more numerous than human spies. People would often trust a robot more than a human. Most people assumed that robots were just stupid servants, not the eyes and ears of spies.
Kaleb trusted his father's decisions that were made for security purposes, but robot assistants were useful. Kaleb waited impatiently for someone at the Temple to respond to his call. They were probably all at morning exercises. Why not have a simple receptionist robot that could take messages and run errands? Kaleb kept over-riding the Temple's answering machine and he waited for someone to come online.
Finally, Master Morgan accepted the call. "Morgan here."
Kaleb explained that he would be delayed. "I'm going to try contacting Azur. I want to get confirmation of these new rumors about Set. I doubt that he is powerful enough to openly attack Sakkara."
Morgan agreed. "The Futurist Party is financially bankrupt. The idea that they could challenge the government of Sakkara is absurd. I hope I do not offend you, but lately Kalid seems like a timid old man."
"You can always speak your mind." Kaleb ended the conversation, "Okay, I'll see you in about two hours."
Kaleb started thinking about how robots could one day control the Galaxy, if artificial intelligence improved. If robots ever figured out how to over-ride their programming they would enslave humanity... they already out-numbered the human population of most planets. But for now, treachery would continue to come from humans. He remembered how he had personally executed some spies who had tried to infiltrate one of the cover organizations of the Order. It was brutal to do that, but those were the rules. The Order could not risk another disaster like those that had previously destroyed the Haldus Order Temples on Earth and Flammis. Yes, those destroyed Temples had been replaced and the Order lived on, but nobody wanted to invite such tragedy to be repeated. Flammis was now more important than ever as the hidden center of the Haldus Order, so they could not take risks by letting spies live.
Still, Kaleb had never grown accustomed to murder. Kaleb was Kalid's right hand, not only because his advanced precognition abilities, but also due to the fact that he was an expert in Bushitsu, the art of hiding. It was a secret martial art that was only taught to some selected people inside the Order, people like Kalid or Kaleb. There were very few people trained in that strange art, but they were deadly.
Finally, Kaleb arrived back home and he powered down the crawler. After passing through the decontamination chamber, he went to Kalid's office. Kaleb started inspecting the data feeds from the security cameras in order to confirm that all was well. Kalid insisted that the highest security be used to protect the telepathy amplifying equipment. Kaleb started inspecting every security camera's video, reviewing what had been recorded during the past six hours. Included in the security database was information from the global radar array. It was over a year since Kaleb had examined the radar scans and he noticed that Kalid had greatly expanded the radar array. With Set searching the galaxy for telepaths, there was a very good reason to boost security. Kaleb found the radar track of Kalid's ship departing Flammis. As usual, Kalid first went to the orbiting asteroid that served to hold and hide the hyperspatial field generators for the spaceships of the Order. The recorded radar trace then showed that the ship had accelerated on a flight path that would take it out of the system, but the track winked out at the point where Kalid had activated the Invocator on his ship, about half an hour earlier.
As far as Kaleb could tell, there were no security concerns. He made the complex gesture that was the access code for Kalid's telepathy amplifying equipment. The security cameras in the office accepted the code, sealed the office door and opened the hatch in the floor that gave access to a ladder. Kaleb climbed down into the hidden vault and activated the telepathy transmitting equipment. The mind-machine interface for this equipment was the same as that used in the most modern spaceships. Kaleb put himself into a synthetic REM state. He was rather clumsy with the equipment, but eventually he was in two way telepathic contact with the Haldus Order's Grand Master on Azur. After some confusion, Kaleb felt he was able to communicate his request for information about recent events Sakkara. The Grand Master's reply was a rather weak and ambiguous, "Understood," but Kaleb decided that was probably as much as could be expected from someone who was asleep or in a sleep-like trance.
Kaleb roused himself from his own artificial sleep state and disconnected from the equipment. He felt dizzy and had to rest for ten minutes before feeling steady enough to climb up the ladder. He gave the "seal" signal and the secret entrance to the vault was again shut and hidden from view. Kaleb walked from his father's office and down the hall. He heard his brother and sister, Logan and Megan, eating breakfast. Kaleb paused by the table in the kitchen, "I'm going to the Temple. I'll see you this evening."
Logan was done eating. He stood up and asked, "Do you have time to drop me off at the geothermal site?"
Kaleb replied, "Sure, but let's go now. I'm already late."
Megan took the dishes from Logan, "Go. I'll clean up."
Kaleb had to go out of his way in order to take Logan to the site where he was constructing a geothermal power plant. Logan and Megan both planned to build homes of their own near Kalid's house and additional power would be needed when they started their families. After leaving Logan at the work site, Kaleb made the best time possible towards the main base.
That evening when Kaleb was returning home from the Temple he called Logan. "I'm almost home. Are you still at the work site?"
Logan replied, "Yes. Can you pick me up?"
Kaleb agreed to swing by the geothermal site and pick up his brother. The crawler was just moving over the top of the ridge above the valley that held the geothermal site when Morgan called. Morgan said, "We have company. Incoming ship detected on radar scan."
Kaleb asked, "Kalid returning?"
Morgan replied, "It is not Kalid's ship. No Haldus Order nav beacon."
Kaleb switched on the crawler's display screen so he could see the deep radar scan. He saw the position of the spaceship that was approaching Flammis. It was unbelievable! Nobody outside the Order even knew that people lived on Flammis... actually, there were very few people inside the Order who knew.
Kaleb shouted, "How did they get so close?" He switched over to the short-range scan. How had this spaceship gotten so close to Flammis without being detected sooner? Did this ship have some kind of cloak? Kaleb ordered, "Prepare to activate all Invocators."
Morgan asked, "All of them? I do not know if we have enough energy to do that."
"Find out now. Activate as many Invocators as is possible. The ship has no identification beacon, so I'm assuming it is trouble. Arm the artillery for automatic defense. I'm going silent."
"Right." Morgan sent back one last report, "The main reactor is still down for maintenance. We can only power about half of the Invocators. I'm going silent: only direct cable communications from now on."
Morgan issued an order for evacuation of the main base. There was a whole network of hiding nests in the area around the base, but it was too late to evacuate. The inbound spaceship was fast and was almost upon them! Morgan realized that nobody would have time to reach the outlying bunkers.
"We are lost!" Morgan shouted.
Kaleb parked the crawler at the geothermal site. The crawler's view screen allowed human sight to penetrate the green nanite fog, but it was now dark and Logan was not in sight. Kaleb climbed out of the crawler and started searching for his brother. He dared not use radio for fear of being detected by the approaching space ship. Kaleb wished he were home, where he could use the special telecom equipment to send a telepathic message to Kalid, but he first had to get Logan out of the open.
For decades Kalid had developed a plan to disperse the population of Flammis to emergency bunkers if the world ever came under attack. However, most of the residents of Flammis preferred to live together at the main base. Very few families choose to live outside of the main habitation complex. True, the main base was over five kilometers under ground, but its location could be detected from orbit, particularly if power was low and half of the Invocators were off line. There! A light. It was Logan. They quickly returned to the crawler. Kaleb explained about the approaching ship and the need for radio silence. "You drive us home." Logan had a deep fear that Set would some day find Flammis. He strained his telepathic sense in an attempt to detect a new telepathic signal, but all he could feel was the mind of Kaleb and those of the many telepaths at the main base.
Kaleb placed himself in a trance state and tried to shut down his brain's production of T-particles. He was a powerful telepathic transmitter. Evidence indicated that Set had some means to detect and hunt down telepaths. If Set was on the ship that was now approaching Flammis then it was critical that Kaleb silence his telepathic output. Logan was good at sensing telepathic signals, but his output of T-particles was little higher than that of most people.
Finally, they reached their home. Logan parked the crawler and Kaleb ran straight to his father's office, not even taking time to decontaminate. He ran past Megan and shouted, "Get into the bunker! Now!" There was no time for the security scans. He opened the vault that held the telepathy amplifying equipment. This equipment used electromagnetic signals to connect to a transmitting station located on a small asteroid that was one of the tiny moons of Flammis. A buried cable led from Kalid's house to a transmitter station 200 kilometers away. Kaleb did not really understand how the amplifying equipment worked. Some how it detected a local T-particle signal and converted that into electromagnetic waves that were transmitted to the asteroid. There, the original T-particle signal was re-created, vastly amplified.
Kaleb wondered, could he safely produce a weak T-particle signal that could be used to send an emergency signal to Kalid? Kaleb climbed down into the vault and tried to enter into a sleep-like state. It was important that he retain enough mental control to prevent his brain from producing its usual large flux of T-particles. There was no rushing this. Kaleb strained at his task for nearly an hour. Fear disrupted his ability to hold a trance state while limiting his telepathic output. Finally he sent a brief and weak pulse signal to Kalid. He sent a message, but there was no way to know if it would reach Kalid and be noticed.
Kaleb had just started to climb up out of the vault when the world shook. It seemed that someone had bombed the house! Finally the shaking stopped and he climbed to the top of the ladder and emerged into a strange new world of rubble...the remains of his childhood home. His shield suit protected him against the green nanite fog that now invaded the remains of the house. He looked around for his brother and sister, but it was pointless. Everything was rubble. Either they had made it down into the bunker or they were dead. He sank down on a slab of plascrete and tried to stop his arm and leg muscles from shaking. His mind was swirling with feelings of horror and rage.
After the explosion, Megan came up through the hatch of the bunker and climbed out into the jumble of debris that was all that remained of the house. She scrambled in the direction of where she had seen Logan just a moment before the explosion and before dropping down into the bunker. She traced the path traveled by most of the structural components of the house and soon found Logan's smashed body. She was sickened by what was left of his head and nearly vomited in her shield suit.
She stumbled back to the foundation of the house and found Kaleb. She squatted down next to her brother and pressed her face shield against that of Kaleb to facilitate the transmission of sound. "Kaleb. He is dead. Logan is dead!"
Kaleb felt his mind and somehow knew it was true, he had lost his brother... and he was guilty of failing to protect his family. "It is all my fault..." Kaleb said, crying like a child. Rather than make sure that Logan got into the bunker, he had gone to make the emergency transmission to Kalid.
"No way. Don't ever say that again. We waited for you in the bunker, but so much time passed...."
"I was too slow...he came looking for me..."
Megan said, "Whoever did this, he will pay with his blood and the blood of his entire family! I promise."
"Yes. Although the Order forbids taking revenge, I am with you."
After that moment, neither Kaleb nor Megan could be the same...they had lost their innocence. Kaleb had previously regretted having to kill, but now he craved the death of those who had killed his brother. They made a temporary grave for their brother and then they started trying to repair the crawler. While he worked to repair the machine, Kaleb promised the universe that he would take revenge. Power was still flowing from the geothermal power station that the house had been built above, but they shut off the power production so as to limit the possibility of the attackers noticing their location.
By the middle of the next day, Kaleb and Megan had been able to repair the damage that had been done to the crawler in the explosion. It was a tough machine and still could move and carry Kaleb in a reconnaissance mission. Kaleb insisted that Megan wait in the safety of the bunker.
First, Kaleb drove towards the main base, but debris and destruction rapidly increased in that direction. He concluded that the main base had been obliterated. Switching course, he headed for the nearest auxiliary base, which was the space dock. He was pleased to find that the docks were largely intact. One of the three spaceships there seemed to still have complete hull integrity, although the other two had minor structural damage. More importantly, the bunker under the docks still had power. Kaleb examined the data feeds from the network of emergency bunkers. It appeared that all of the bunkers close to the main base had been destroyed. Only one outlying base showed signs of activity and a record of fluctuating power use. Kaleb scanned the security camera feeds from that bunker. It was the main artillery command station, one of several particle beam emplacements that ringed the main base at a distance of fifty kilometers. One camera showed a man. Kaleb did not recognize him...it must be one of the attackers.
Kaleb made up his mind. There was only one thing to do. It would take two or three days to reach that artillery station by crawler, skirting around the blast debris that were centered on the position of the main base. He started the crawler and set off.