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Sphinx

Old TempleEdit

After arriving at the Temple, Sybil had tried to dine, but she found that she did not want to eat. Leone could tell that Sybil was ill, so he located the Temple's doctor, a robot. The robot was a new model with a sophisticated T-particle detector and even a T-particle emitter for testing the telepathic sensitivity of human patients. The machine quickly noticed that Sybil had a sensitivity to T-particle signals of the type produced by the Haldus transport grid. The robot gave Sybil a nanite remedy to counter the effects of close proximity to the transport grid.

The robotic doctor and Portia had put Sybil to bed, then they came out into the hallway where Leone was pacing. Portia said, "She's asleep."

Leone asked the doctor, "What is wrong with her?"

The robot explained, "Sybil is sensitive to the powerful telepathic emissions from the grid. I've exposed her brain to a special type of nanite that will prevent her neurons from resonating with the grid. My advice is that she leave this star system as soon as possible."

Leone suggested, "Kaleb is planning to return to Earth soon. My spaceship is still in the Solar System. Maybe we can get a ride with Kaleb."


Sybil woke up with a bad headache. She got out of bed and promptly crashed her head into the ceiling of her room. She had forgotten just how little gravity there was here. This Haldus Order base was located on a very small planet in orbit around a supergiant star. That star was known within the Order as Haldus, although most star atlases used the name Epsilon Aurigae. Sybil wondered what the local residents called this world. She consulted the room's dataport and found that the residents here called this little world "Almaaz".

After a quick shower, Sybil felt better. She dressed in local clothing that had been provided in the room by the Temple. She left her room and knocked on the doors to Leone's and Portia's rooms, however, there was no response so she went to the Temple's common room. A robot directed her to the dinning hall where she found Leone and Portia already eating breakfast.

Portia asked, "Are you feeling better?"

Sybil nodded. "Much better! And I feel like eating...I'm very hungry."

Leone signaled to a robot. The machine came to their table, bowed to Sybil and said, "Your wishes, madam?"

Sybil giggled. She could not get used to the archaic and formal habits of the robots on Almaaz. She ordered a large meal and then listened while Leone described what he had been able to learn about the museum spaceship. The museum was in orbit above Almaaz and accessible by space elevator.

A team of robots brought Sybil's food and served it with a flourish. The head waiter asked, "Is there anything else?" Then departed. "Enjoy your meal."

Sybil asked, "Exactly what is in the museum?"

Leone activated a display screen that was built into their table and showed Sybil a list of the historical collections held onboard the museum ship. "It looks like most of the material dates from the years since Earth became a Green planet, but there is also this," Leone pointed to the display, "Mysteriously called 'the Egyptian collection'."

Portia said, "I still do not understand all this talk about Egypt. I thought it was a fairy land, like Oz."

Leone told Portia about the Temple library on Esclagon and its museum-like display with images of the Egyptian pyramids. "I wonder...if Earth has been frequently visited by people from Haldus...well, maybe the common practice on Earth of building pyramids was inspired by those off-world visitors."

Sybil nodded, "Right. If the visitors knew about the tetrahedral conduit array, they might have tried to explain to Earthlings how they had come to Earth and the story could have ended up leading to the construction of pyramids on Earth."

Portia was skeptical, "In ancient times it may have just been convenient to build in the shape of a pyramid if you wanted a tall monument."

Leone said, "I'm intrigued by the idea that the original Haldus Order Temple in Egypt might have been an observatory. Somehow the ancient Egyptians figured out that Haldus is a source if T-particles. I'm picturing a narrow tunnel leading into the interior of an Egyptian pyramid. Maybe such a tunnel could be used for sighting stars."

Sybil shrugged, "Yes, a hole in a pyramid could be used to sight stars, but how would anyone be able to associate the T-particle emissions from the transport grid with light from Haldus? Unfortunately, that robot on the research ship said that the original Haldus Order temple was lost when the oceans rose."

Portia suggested, "Maybe it is still there, on the bottom of the sea."

Leone shook his head. "I'm afraid it was destroyed by the explosion that obliterated Egypt, but you are right, it might have been there for centuries...hidden...unfortunately nobody knew to look for it back then."

Portia asked, "Do you believe that Egypt was destroyed by an exploding spaceship? In school I learned that Earth was destroyed by a black hole."

Leone rubbed his chin. He was looking at the remains of Sybil's breakfast. He asked Sybil, "Are you going to eat that?"

There was one piece of fruit left in Sybil's bowl. She replied, "Go ahead, I'm stuffed."

Leone ate the strawberry-like fruit and then said, "It might not be a matter of Earth being destroyed by either a black hole or an exploding spaceship. A problem with antimatter drives in spaceships is that if you push antimatter engines too hard then they start producing black holes."

Portia complained, "Yes, I know, but I've never understood that."

Leone shrugged. "It is fairly well understood physics. If you get the antimatter reaction going too fast then there is a huge graviton flux. You might go for days like that, but eventually, by a quantum mechanical fluke, a black hole will form."

Sybil nodded, "I've heard all this before, but it still makes no sense. The black holes you are talking about are tiny and they evaporate almost instantly."

"Yes, this is where it gets interesting! A black hole can either evaporate or grow, but in the antimatter reactor that 'choice' is governed by the chaotic conditions of the ongoing conversion of mass into energy. There is a slim chance that the black hole will grow. In practice, spaceship engineers have simply set a limit on the power output allowed for the reactors of spaceships. That limit keeps black hole production from getting out of hand. But imagine what might happen, once in a thousand years: an unusual chance event in a spaceship's reactor might produce a large black hole that could cause the reactor to go out of control and trigger a tremendous explosion."

Portia shook her head, "I don't believe that. I took an antimatterics course in school and it was made clear that even if you rupture an antimatter reactor the power output can only decline. Spaceships have often been destroyed in space battles and they do not release the amount of energy that was needed to make that huge blast crater on Earth."

Sybil stood up and said, "We cannot resolve such mysteries by talk. Let's go visit the museum. Maybe the answers to Earth's mysteries await us there."

The transportation system of Almaaz was efficient and they were soon riding a car up a space elevator towards the museum. The view was fantastic. The transport grid hung in space over Almaaz like a vast spider web. Sybil found that by looking at the grid she could control what remained of her feeling of disorientation. She was intrigued by the flashes of color that rippled across the grid. She said, "I wonder what causes those little sparks."

Portia asked, "Sparks?"

Sybil nodded, "Ya...can't you see the colors?"

The inhabited part of Almaaz was on the back side of the planetoid, shielded from the intense stellar radiation emitted by Haldus. The disk-shaped transport grid hung in the sky above Almaaz, illuminated by Haldus. Leone described what he saw, "It is a milky blue, refracting the light of Haldus. I see no other colors. And I do not see why it is called a 'grid'."

Sybil activated the dataport of the elevator car and brought up on the display an image of the grid. That image looked like what Leone had described. "Interesting." She turned back to look directly at the grid through the plastiglass window of the elevator car. She could clearly see multi-colored flashes pulsing through the grid. She closed her eyes. The colors were still there." Sybil said, "Oh, my."

Leone wondered if Sybil's illness was returning. He asked, "Do you want me to request an emergency descent?"

Sybil shook her head. "No, I feel fine. I've long been able to see colors associated with people, but now I'm seeing colors on this grid. My brain must be interpreting the emissions of the grid as if they were human emotions. It is very beautiful."

The elevator reached their stop and Sybil reluctantly opened her eyes so she could see to walk. When they stepped out of their elevator car they were inside a large space station that hung in stationary orbit over Almaaz. They were greeted by a robot who recognized them. The machine said, "Welcome, Sakkarans. How may I assist you?"

Sybil explained that they wanted to visit the museum. The robot agreed to be their guide. While they walked to the museum the machine explained, "Sybil, I see that you are of the Inner Circles. You can enter the Temple. However, Leone and Portia can only tour the public areas of the museum."

Sybil was surprised. "What are you talking about, machine? A Temple is always open to visitors."

The robot insisted, "Not in this case. Do you wish to enter the Temple or will you stay with your friends on the public tour?"

Sybil replied, "I'll start with the tour."

"As you wish." They had reached an airlock and there was a line of waiting visitors. The robot explained, "Sybil, if you want to go to the Temple then you can go right on in; there is no wait for that."

Leone suggested, "You should go. I'm afraid that we will learn little on the public tour. Go ahead and visit the Temple."

Portia said, "I'm not sure it is a good idea for Sybil to go by herself. Sybil, are you sure that you are healthy? Are you still dizzy?"

Sybil decided to go look at the Temple. She said, "I feel fine. The tour takes almost an hour. I'll meet you back here in an hour, okay?" She left her place in line and entered the airlock that was the entrance to the museum.

At the inner door of the airlock she was stopped by another robot. It said, "I will take you to the Temple, Priestess." Sybil followed the machine through a network of corridors. She began to feel that the robot was leading her around in circles. She could easily keep her orientation because of her telepathic sense and her ability to see the "colors" of the transport grid in her mind. Sybil was pleased by that sense of being oriented. She had never previously been conscious of a source of telepathic signals that was outside of her range of vision. She had extensive training in seeing human auras, but she had never become particularly good at it.

Finally she complained to the robot, "Where are you taking me?"

The robot replied, "We are almost there. The temple is well hidden, for good reason." In fact, the museum had been designed to hide the Temple. The museum and the Temple were actually two different spaceships. When the museum collections had grown large and it was decided to use some of the materials to publicize the true history of Earth, a second, larger spaceship was added to the museum and used for the public museum displays. However, for security reasons, even Haldus Order members who visited to the Temple were made to believe that it was a single compartment within the spaceship that comprised the public part of the museum. Finally the robot opened a door and gestured for Sybil to enter the Temple.

This spaceship compartment held two statues of sphinxes. The one on the left was made of stone, the one to the right was made of some synthetic material. The compartment was not large and the two beasts filled most of the room. Sybil turned to the robot and asked, "Is this it? You call this one room a Temple?"

The robot asked, "What were you expecting?"

In her studies of the historical Egypt, Sybil had seen images of sphinxes, but she wondered why a Temple would be devoted to the display of two sphinxes. Sybil wondered out loud, "Is this a test? If I do not know what to look for then nothing will be revealed to me?"

The robot replied, "The Temple is open to you, Priestess."

Sybil hated it when robots were evasive. She strode towards the space between the two statues in order to try to see what was on the other side of the room. She thought: sphinxes are often guardians-

At her approach, the metal sphinx came alive. Its head morphed from human to animal and back again. Sybil froze in amazement and waited for her racing heart to slow. The sphinx head kept morphing. She touched the statue and felt the warm metal surface shifting its shape. She asked the robot, "This came from Earth?"

The robot replied, "No, Priestess. That statue is from Polastis III."

Sybil had heard of that world since there was a Haldus Order Temple there. She could not remember the whole story. She knew that Polastis was a star on the fringe of explored space. A Haldus Order colony had been established there early in the space age and then it was later abandoned.

Her heart stopped racing and she continued on to the back of the room. The room lights dimmed and a holographic image of an old man appeared and began to speak, "The teleguide array on Polastis III was the key to revealing the transporter function of the conduits. Unfortunately, the ability of the conduits to trigger catastrophic explosions of antimatter reactors was not recognized until after the destruction of one of the nodes in the Polastis array. The search for other worlds with intact arrays continues."

"All available evidence suggests that the Polastians were amazingly similar to humans. It is estimated that the last Polastian on Polastis III lived about thirty four million years ago. Some of their artifacts survived intact until human colonists arrived. The sphinx you see here is a typical example of Polastian art."

"I supervised Haldus Order research on Polastis III, from initial human colonization until destruction of the array. To those of the future: be warned! Yes, explore. We must always push on into the galaxy. However, do not be reckless! Learn from the disasters on Earth and on Polastis III. Beware of the danger of mixing antimatterics and conduits. Fare thee well."

The hologram vanished and Sybil turned around. The room lights came up and she could see the robot standing there on the other side of the room. The sculpture from Polastis was again motionless, frozen with a human head on an animal's body. Sybil asked, "Who was that?"

The robot replied, "Master Olmo."

Sybil had never heard of "Olmo". Her contact with the Haldus Order beyond Sakkara had always been through Kalid. She walked back to the front of the morphable sculpture and closely examined the face and skull. Was it human? Or was she looking at the head of a Polastian?


Sybil spent an hour carefully examining the Temple, but she found nothing else of interest. The robot then led her back to the designated meeting place. While they walked the robot spoke to Sybil, "You are of the Inner Circle, Sybil. You know the rules for protecting the secrets of the Order. Polastis is an even greater secret than the Haldus grid."

Sybil and the robot reached the entrance to the museum. Leone and Portia were there waiting for her. She asked, "Is it worth my time to take the tour?"

Portia replied, "I could see it again."

Leone outlined the key aspects of the tour. "As expected, the Egyptian collection is the high point. They have actual material from ancient Egypt. However, most of the museum displays document a war between the Haldus Order and the Spaceship Guild. The evidence in there is greatly embarrassing to both the Spaceship Guild and the Antiquist Party...if it is true."

They got back in line. Sybil asked, "You think the evidence is fake?"

Leone shrugged. "I know enough about history to be skeptical of the stories told by either side that is fighting a war."

Portia commented, "The tour is very dramatic, showing the lows of the Haldus Order, such as the destruction of its Temples on Earth and on the Moon, but ending with the clear expectation of ultimate victory for the Order."

Leone nodded, "In many ways it comes across like propaganda designed to keep up the spirits of the troops. You will be able to judge for yourself." They were now being shadowed by two robotic guides. Leone looked over his shoulder at the two robots. He asked Sybil, "What did you see in the Temple?"

Sybil looked at their robot guides and she decided that it was safest to say little in front of the robots. "It was very small, a kind of a time capsule. There were some ancient artifacts, including an ancient Egyptian sphinx."

Leone said, "Really? Fantastic! The artifacts on the tour are all small objects in plastiglass display cases. They are all labeled, 'British Museum' and were apparently recovered from Earth after Egypt was destroyed."

Sybil tried to fabricate an excuse for why most people were prevented from visiting the Temple; she wanted to provide Leone with a line of thought that would distract him from asking too many questions. "I actually touched the sphinx. I guess the people who run this museum just do not want hordes of tourists running their hands over their most prized display objects, so they reserve them for members of the Inner Circles."

Leone nodded. "Most museums only allow trained researchers access to their most important holdings."

They completed the tour and returned to the space elevator. Their robot guides finally stopped following the Sakarans. As the elevator car descended towards the surface of Almaaz, Sybil was again looking at the "colors" that she could sense in the grid. Leone asked, "Do you think it is safe to talk here?"

Sybil knew that Leone must be eager to hear details about what was in the Temple. She replied, "I'm sorry Leone, but I'm going to have to ask you not to push me on this. I once told you that there are some things you have to ask Kalid." She would say no more.

Leone said half jokingly, "I wonder if Kalid is real. I do hope to some day meet him."

Portia said, "I would like to see him, too, and ask him if he foresaw all this as my destiny when he rejected me from the Order."

The CaseEdit

Elevatorsdisaster

The day after their visit to the museum, Sybil was awakened by Portia calling, "Turn on your comunit. Set's murder trial started!"

The day before, Megan had warned the Sakkarans that Set's murder trial would soon begin. The trial was being held in a special Almaaz court for sensitive matters of interest to the Haldus Order. Sybil found the data stream of the court proceedings that was being provided to the Temple. When her display screen showed the correct data channel, the judge was already speaking, "...this to take less than a day. The defense will have its day tomorrow. I expect to have my verdict ready three days from today. Now, is the prosecution ready to present the case?"

"Counselor Orylie, representing the Court...I'm ready to outline the murders committed by Set of Sakkara."

The judge said, "Proceed, but remember: keep it short and to the point."

"Yes, sir! Let me begin with the matter of Set's telepathic ability. We've traced the source of his genes for telepathic sensitivity. His parents were Haldus Order Inner Circle members on Polastis III. They died in the explosion of 61 ANE. Set was then relocated to an orphanage on Sakkara. His companion, Katherine, who died last year in the space elevators disaster, was also born on Polastis III and was raised by an adopting family on Sakkara. Katherine had a strong genetic predisposition for telepathic transmission. The telepathic abilities of Set and Katherine were not recognized while they were growing up. During their years together, their minds interacted on an unconscious level which allowed them both to develop their telepathic abilities. Set did not become consciously aware of his telepathic ability until Katherine died."

Counselor Orylie displayed an image of one of the destroyed elevator facilities on Sakkara. "After the elevators were destroyed, Set telepathically detected a Haldus Order telepath on Sakkara and learned of the existence of evidence pointing to involvement of the Spaceship Guild in the elevators disaster. That evidence was given to the Sakkaran government, but Aristark, the head of the Sakkaran Justice Department and an Antiquist Party member, suppressed the evidence. Set assumed that the Haldus Order was involved in a cover-up of the cause of the elevators disaster and began to hunt down Haldus Order telepaths using his telepathic ability. After Set murdered two telepaths, the Order called into hiding all of its telepaths. Set also murdered two Sakkaran Justice Department authorities. Most recently, Set learned the location of Flammis from a Haldus Order member, who Set also killed. Set then attacked Flammis from space, killing an estimated 2,300 residents."

Counselor Orylie concluded the summary of the case, "There are other lesser charges that could be prosecuted, such as Set's attempted murder of Master Kalid, but in the interests of brevity I will only press the murder charges. As I have outlined, Set is a mass murder, having willfully acted through many weeks to systematically murder thousands of innocent people who he erroneously blamed for the death of his companion, Katherine. With your permission, I will now call witnesses and present documentary evidence to support these murder charges."

The Judge said, "Proceed." Counselor Orylie began to present the details of the case.

There was a knock on Sybil's door. She opened the door and let in Leone and Portia. Portia could see that Sybil was watching Set's trial. Portia said, "I don't see Set at the trial."

Leone said, I've been reading about the justice system on Almaaz. Apparently the first day of a trial is given over to the prosecution and the defendant is not even present."

Sybil commented, "It sounded like the defense will be offered tomorrow."

Portia added, "And the judge promised a verdict on the third day! I wonder where Set is being held? Who will defend him?"

Sybil was surprised to hear concern in Portia's voice. She asked, "What defense is there? I doubt if Set will try to deny these charges."

Leone said, "According to my reading, there is a central government complex that includes all of the Almaaz police and judicial facilities."

Portia had been learning how to use the Almaaz communications network. She activated the comunit in Sybil's room. "I want to speak to Set of Sakkara. He is being held for trial."

A robotic operator said, "Electronic communication with prisoners is impossible. Visiting hours for today have started and will end in nine point three hours."

Portia ended the call and listened for a while to Counselor Orylie while he entered as evidence the genetic records for Set, Katherine and their parents. "This is boring and irrelevant. I'm going to visit Set and see how he is doing."

She marched to the door and turned back to ask Sybil, "Do you want to come with me?"

Sybil declined. "I have no interest in seeing Set. I'm content to let justice be done."

Portia asked, "Will justice be done?" She left the room.

Leone noted, "She really seems concerned for Set."

Sybil shrugged. "She was Set's prisoner. It is a well known psychological phenomenon...victims of abduction often develop a sympathy for the criminals who held their life in the balance."

Leone suggested, "Maybe I should go with Portia."

Sybil shook her head. "Do you remember our deal that we agreed to on Esclagon, to share information? I've been thinking about something I saw yesterday, and I think you should hear about it..." During the night, Sybil had become deeply worried that the Spaceship Guild or the Antiquist party had some terrible weapon that could trigger antimatter reactors to run wild and produce explosions like the two that had destroyed Earth and Polastis III. The museum tour had emphasized the idea that an exploding spaceship had destroyed Earth and the Spaceship Guild had then hidden that fact from the galaxy in order to protect their economic interests. It was bad enough if the destruction of Earth had been an accident...it would be far worse if that spaceship explosion or the one at Polastis III had been triggered intentionally! She hoped that by sharing her worries about this with Leone they might be able to find a way of learning if the Spaceship Guild had really destroyed Earth intentionally.


Portia finally was allowed to see Set. Set came into the room where Portia had been waiting for six hours; he was flanked by two robots. Set said, "They finally let me go. I had to listen to the entire case against me."

Portia asked, "It is over then? The case is closed?"

"Well, the evidence is now on record. Tomorrow I get to offer a defense."

Portia wondered why the trial was being moved along so rapidly. How could anyone prepare a defense in the few days since Set's arrest? "Have you had a chance to prepare your defense?"

"There has not been much for me to do. There is a very efficient legal team that handles such things. I've just made a suggestion or two."

Portia observed, "You seem calm and resigned to the outcome."

Set reflected on the fact that he had changed. Until arriving in the Solar System he had been aggressively searching for those who had killed Katherine. He had lived for revenge. That had begun to change on the Moon. Set now realized that his life-long antagonism to the Antiquist Party's regressive technology policies paralleled the long running struggle between the Haldus Order and the Spaceship Guild. With the information provided by Salvaje, Set could now see the galaxy in a new way. And, of course, since being on the Moon his mind and telepathic sense was working in a new way. He chuckled, "I committed myself to finding those who destroyed the elevators. The path to that end has become clear. Portia, would you do something for me? No matter what happens to me, will you do something...just make sure that Aristark and Ketar have their day in court."

Portia said, "I'm not sure that I can promise that. I've heard that Ketar might be dead and Aristark's brain has been destroyed."

Set nodded. "Please, promise..."

Portia said, "Okay...if I can, I'll see that justice is done for those who died in the destruction of the elevators."

"Thank you. You are a true friend."

Portia said, "Don't give me that, Set. I'm not your friend. Let me tell you why I came here today..."

Set braced for a rant from Portia.

Portia continued, "I've never been able to understand evil people. I'll never understand you, but I want to know...do you feel bad about all the murders you committed?"

Set was silent for a long time and Portia wondered if he would speak. Finally he did. "Ask yourself this, Portia. Imagine that somehow, back when I first learned of the existence of telepathy, that Kaleb was not on Sakkara. Imagine that I never became aware of the Haldus Order until Kalid came to Sakkara some day. What would have happened to the investigation of Katherine's death?"

Portia thought about it, but she did not like hypotheticals. "What do you want me to say? In your fantasy world those who attacked the elevators would have escaped notice and nobody would have ever linked Katherine's death to the Spaceship Guild?"

Set nodded, "Exactly. But take it further. We are now in the position of being able to reveal the role of the Antiquist Party in turning Earth and Flammis into Green planets. If we have to count bodies, how many have been killed by the Spaceship Guild and by men like Ketar? When I was on the Moon I was asked to make sure that the galaxy learned the truth about Earth. I'd gladly give my life for that, since it seems that the destruction of Earth and the destruction of the space elevators an Sakkara have both been covered-up by the Antiquists. Of course I feel bad about all those who died at my hand. I'll live with that for the rest of my days....but I still feel it is better that I did what I did."

Portia tried to perform the horrific calculations suggested by Set. Did 10,000 deaths caused by your enemy justify 3,000 deaths caused by you? She could not think in those terms. She thought about what she had seen at the museum, the evidence suggesting that the Spaceship Guild had intentionally turned Earth into a Green planet in order to hide the fact that a spaceship explosion destroyed Earth. Even if Set was only reacting to others who could perform such evil acts, did that justify Set's actions? She thought: all killing is bad! Portia felt ill sitting there and looking at Set while he calmly performed such callous calculations. She ran from the room.

DefenseEdit

The next day Set and his court-appointed defense team were in the courtroom. The judge asked, "Who will speak for the accused?"

Set replied, "I will."

The judge warned, "Set, you are not familiar with our justice system. I suggest that you let one of the appointed counselors speak for you."

Set explained, "They are advising me, but only I can speak for myself. I may not know your customs but nobody here knows me or my life."

The judge countered, "I'll be the judge of that. Yesterday I heard more about your life than I wanted to. Are you claiming that all that evidence was false?"

"I never said that."

The Judge shrugged and asked, "If you are attempting to establish a basis for an insanity defense then you-"

One of the defense counselors interrupted the judge, "Objection! I request that the trial be terminated. The judge is clearly prejudiced against the accused and is attempting to discredit-"

The judge held up his hand and the counselor instantly fell silent. The judge said, "Your point is taken. It was with reluctance that I agreed to hear this case. I did so only after the entire rank of judges on Almaaz recused themselves. Since I am the most recent immigrant to Haldus, I was specifically asked to hear the case. There is no less biased judge available. Now, the clock is running on your time, Set. I suggest that you restrain your advisers from making hair-splitting objections. Get on with your defense."

Set chuckled, "I suppose you are also the judge of what constitutes "hair-splitting". I'll have to rely on you to continue to chastise the counselors as needed. Am I allowed to recall witnesses who testified yesterday?"

The judge replied, "I have reviewed your list of desired witnesses. There is only one name on the list I have. Do you intend to call multiple witnesses?"

Set shook his head, "I'd like to call Kalid, Ketar and Aristark, but the counselors have informed me that 'justice' on Almaaz will have to proceed without their testimony."

The judge nodded. "That is correct, but you can call Kaleb back." The judge looked around the court room. "Kaleb, come forward."

Kaleb was sitting in the gallery with about eighty Haldus Order members. The trial was not open to the general public. Kaleb stepped forward to the part of the room where the cameras were pointed. Set thought over what Kaleb had said in court the previous day. He had provided an account of the attack on Flammis and the death of Logan.

Set grabbed Keleb's arm. A squad of robots rushed forward and restrained Set. The judge demanded, "Why did you assault Kaleb?"

Set replied, "I did not assault him, I tried to establish telepathic communication." Set had been given a double dose of nanites to dull his telepathic sensitivity. The forceful signals from the grid still dominated his telepathic sense and he could not feel Kaleb's mind. He asked Kaleb, "Are you blocking your telepathic output?"

The judge did not let Kaleb reply. "Set, what does that question have to do with this case?"

"I'm trying to get the truth from Kaleb. If I could feel his mind then I could tell if he is being truthful."

"Set, keep your hands to yourself. All testimony from witnesses will be verbal." The judge said to Kaleb, "Let me remind you. You are still sworn to speak the truth." The judge signaled to the robots and they let go of Set, but remained close by.

Set continued, "I was puzzled by your testimony yesterday. In his introductory and concluding statements, Counselor Orylie stated forcefully that I murdered some 2,300 people on Flammis. Did you or did you not testify to that effect?"

Kaleb replied, "I only testified about my brother's death."

"Interesting. Maybe I was dozing and missed it. Was there any other witness from Flammis yesterday?"

"Megan was ready to testify, but she was not called."

"So, there was no proof that I killed anyone on Flammis. Do you agree?"

Kaleb shook his head. "I testified that your crewmen were placed on Flammis immediately after your spaceship attacked and destroyed the main Haldus Order base on Flammis. Everyone knows that you murdered Logan and 2,300 others."

"I see. Since everyone knows this, there is no need for evidence?"

"The judge has asked for brevity. Nobody doubts the adequacy of the evidence...not even you."

Set laughed, "You must be reading my mind...you are correct. Not even I doubt that evidence. The problem is, we have not yet heard all the evidence. So far we only heard what Counselor Orylie wanted the judge to hear. Kaleb, have you ever heard: the truth, the whole truth..."

Kaleb completed the ancient incantation, "...and nothing but the truth."

"So, the whole truth...I left two crewmen on Flammis and I told them to watch for additional Haldus Order members. I sensed that there might be an additional telepath on Flammis, but I returned to Sakkara. That telepath was you, correct?"

"Yes."

"Tell me, when did you first notice my approach to Flammis?"

"I had about an hour of warning before you dropped an antimatter bomb on the main base."

"A whole hour? I flew to Flammis at 5 gees of acceleration.  You detected me thousands of kilometers away? Did you detect me telepathically?"

"No, I'm not a good telepathic sensitive. You were detected by an automated planetary defense system."

"Interesting. That system uses Haldus Order telepathy devices?"

"Your spaceship was detected by radar."

"So, you detected a ship, but you did not know it was my ship."

"True."

"So, I'll repeat my question that you evaded. When did you first notice my approach to Flammis?"

Kaleb crossed his arms. "I'm not going to change my answer."

"So, you assume that the ship you detected was my ship and that I was on board and that I ordered the attack on Flammis."

"Yes."

"But you have no proof for those assumptions."

Kaleb asked, "Are you saying that those assumptions are wrong?"

"I'll leave such judgments up to the judge. So, you assumed that I killed your brother and countless others and you still hate me for that, correct?"

"I've been trained to control my emotions. I now know your motivation for attacking Flammis, that you wanted revenge for the death of Katherine. I know that something went wrong with the justice system on Sakkara. I cannot hate you for striking out in rage."

Set asked, "Why not? Most people find it easy to hate. When I met you a few days ago, it was clear in your mind: you hated me."

"True."

"You were able to control your hate because of your training in 'mental powers'?"

"Yes."

"Are you a member of the Haldus Order?"

"I was introduced as such yesterday, in this very room. Did you sleep through that, too?"

Set smiled at Kaleb's barb. "What is your rank or position in the Order?"

"I'm Outer Circle."

Set nodded, "Yes, but what does that mean? I've only known of the existence of the Haldus Order for a short time and I must say, you folks do not make it easy to get to know you. Translating "Outer Circle" into conventional language: you are a novice, correct?"

"Yes."

"Were all novices on Flammis alerted to the arriving spaceship the day that Logan died?"

"No."

"Eh? Why not? Let me guess...you were the only Outer Circle member who knew...am I right?"

"Yes."

"Tell me, what makes you so special?"

The judge asked Set, "What is the point of these questions?"

Set spoke to the judge, "I was told that I can question the reliability of witnesses."

"True, but even a novice is competent to testify about the death of a brother."

Set chuckled, "One would hope. Are you a member of the Order? Can you vouch for the the reliability of these fanatical combatants who have been at war for centuries?"

The judge asked, "War?"

"Yes, the war between the Order and the Spaceship Guild." Set turned to Kaleb, "You are a soldier in that war, are you not?"

"I'm not a soldier."

"Use whatever term you prefer to use. Isn't it true that you have hunted down and killed members of the Spaceship Guild? Isn't that the task you were engaged in the day I first met you on Sakkara?"

Kaleb wondered how Set knew that he had killed some agents of the Spaceship Guild. Was Set's telepathic power strong enough to have seen that in Kaleb's mind? Kaleb thought: well, it might not be very hard to detect those thoughts, since I think them every day.

Set was only guessing, based on fragments of Kalebs mind that he had previously touched telepathically, but judging from the guilt on Kaleb's face, Set now felt certain that he had guessed correctly. Set pressed on, "So, why does a mere novice go out around the galaxy hunting down agents of the Spaceship Guild and why...well, what exactly was your position and authority on the day of the attack on Flammis?"

"Since Kalid was off planet, I was responsible for the safety of my people."

"A novice was in charge of 2,300 people? And your brother, he is a novice too? Two novices were running a Haldus Order spy operation on Sakkara the day that the elevators were destroyed?"

"No, Logan was never taken into the Order."

"Why not?"

"He was too young."

"Too young to be initiated, but old enough to be on that mission to Sakkara?"

"Yes."

The judge interrupted again, "Set, the day only has so many hours. Do you plan to ask some questions that are relevant to this case?"

Set replied, "This is a problem of your creation. If you had not rushed the prosecution yesterday then I would not have to ask all these questions today."

"How is anything you have asked about today relevant to the case against you?"

"I've already answered that, Judge. I'm exploring the reliability of this witness, the only witness available to me. I'd prefer to spend my time with Kalid, Ketar and Aristark, but by your rules and restrictions I'm forced to take this path. And even with this forced upon me, you still keep harassing me for following this line of questioning. This seems like a strange system of justice."

The judge seemed bored, "Just get on with whatever it is that you think you are doing, but don't forget, today is your only chance to offer a defense."

Set asked, "What if it takes more than a day to dig through Kaleb's evasiveness?"

The judge replied, "I've seen no evasiveness, only silly hair-splitting by you."

Set smiled, "I feared you would be the sole judge of 'hair-splitting'."

Now the judge was angered. "I'd hold you in contempt, but I'm not sure if you are insane."

Set asked, "Can I continue with my questions or do you want to continue insulting me?"

"Get on with it."

Set asked Kaleb, "Why was a novice put in charge of the Haldus Order colony on Flammis?"

"Because of my special training."

"Describe that special training."

"I'd rather not."

Set asked, "Is this standard Haldus Order secrecy or are you trying to protect yourself from self-incrimination?"

The judge called Set to his desk. "Are you intending to make criminal counter charges against Kaleb?"

"No. I'll leave it up to the 'justice' system to file charges."

The judge pointed his finger at Set, "I'm tired of your games. What crimes are you implying?"

"It looks like it was a case of criminal negligence to put a novice in charge of the defense of a planet."

The judge said, "You don't know what you are talking about."

Set asked the judge, "What about you? Are you a member of the Haldus Order? Can you explain the practice of making a novice responsible for the lives of 2,300 people?"

"No, I'm not a member of the Haldus Order. This is called the Haldus star system, but most of us who live here are not associated with the Order."

"Then I ask that you let me continue so that we both can learn the answer to my question."

The judge said, "This time was allotted for you. It is just my responsibility to warn you when you are wasting your time, but it is your choice. Continue if you must."

Set turned back to Kaleb, "Since you will not answer my question, I'll guess. You were put in charge because you are Kalid's son...am I right?"

"I was the most qualified."

"List your qualifications!"

"That is a private Haldus Order matter."

Set suggested, "You were in charge because of your telepathic ability?"

"Yes."

"Tell me, what was the role of your telepathic powers in the defense of Flammis?"

"Not much. I tried to call Kalid back home, but it was too late."

"So, the defense of Flammis was by conventional means?"

"Largely."

Set turned to the judge and asked, "Are you going to let Kaleb of the hook this easily? Does he get to avoid answering my questions just by saying, 'that is a secret of the Haldus Order'?"

The judge replied, "The Haldus Order is not on trial here. If you were asking questions that were relevant to this trial then I'd ask Kaleb to answer."

"Your bias is showing, Judge. My questions are all relevant."

"I do not see how."

"You do not want to see. This is a show trial designed to get rid of me."

"No." Set and the Judge stared at each other. The judge finally said, "If you are done with the witness-"

"I'm not done. I'm just frustrated by your failure to make the witness testify. However, I'll continue. Set turned around and approached Kaleb. The robots stepped between Set and Kaleb.

Set asked Kaleb, "Describe the conventional defenses of Flammis."

"We mainly depended on a ring of particle beam generators."

"So, you attacked my ship with those artillery pieces?"

"Yes."

"Just to be absolutely clear, you ordered that they fire on my ship."

"Yes."

"Before I attacked Flammis."

"Your ship did not identify itself."

"Is there a navigation message broadcasting in the h.1263522 system warning spaceships to identify themselves?"

"No."

"So you ordered an attack on my ship, with no warning."

"It was clear that you had come to attack Flammis."

"No."

"Yes."

"No. I came looking for you. For an instant I sensed your mind, then you hid yourself." Set suggested, "Just think what would have happened if you had shown yourself and spoken to me."

"You would have interrogated me and killed me, just as you did before to other telepaths."

"So you assumed....then you placed your personal safety ahead of the 2,300 souls you were charged to protect."

"You would have killed me then killed all the others. I hid so as to prevent you from finding and killing even more people, including Megan."

"If, rather than hide, if you had been a man, then we could have returned with Logan to Sakkara and provided his evidence to the authorities."

"I did not know that you were on the attacking ship. Even had I known, I could not have guessed your plans."

"So you hid and opened fire on my ship and brought destruction to your people...because you did not know." Set turned to the judge. "Yes, it looks like a young novice was put in charge, he made poor choices and other people paid with their lives."

The judge asked, "Are you done with the witness?"

Set replied, "I'm just getting to the questions I want to ask. So far this has just been preliminaries."

The judge ordered, "Then get on with it."

After having stood so close to Kaleb for so long, Set was now detecting some of Kaleb's telepathic output. The feel of Kaleb's emotions and the look on his face told Set that Kaleb was not happy about the choices he had made. Set asked, "After Logan died, what did you do?"

Kaleb was silent for a long time, then he wiped a tear from his eye. Set turned to the judge, "Since Kaleb refuses to answer even simple questions, I guess I'll need to call another witness. His sister Megan was there and can answer this question."

The judge looked around the courtroom. "Megan is not here. I still do not-"

Kaleb quietly said, "Leave her out of this."

Set asked, "What did you say?"

Kaleb replied, "I cried."

"What?"

The judge said, "The witness needs to speak louder."

Kaleb repeated. "I cried. After Logan died, I cried."

Set nodded, "I'm more interested in your actions as the one in charge of the defense of Flammis. In particular, 2,300 people died, but you got yourself off that miserable Green planet. How did you do it? Is it your special Haldus Order training that allowed you to walk away while those you were responsible for died?"

For a moment hatred flared again inside Kaleb, then he regained his self control. "After your attack, there was one undamaged spaceship left on Flammis. We used it."

"I see. By 'we', you mean you and Megan."

"Yes."

"But isn't it true that there were other people on Flammis? What happened to them?"

"There were no other survivors. You came in so fast that nobody could be evacuated to the bunkers. I still do not understand how you got there so fast."

"I did not specify 'survivors'. There were two other people on Flammis. What happened to them?"

Kaleb nodded, "Well, there were two off-worlders."

"I know. I left them on Flammis with orders to watch for members of the Haldus Order. When you left the planet, they must have seen your spaceship, or were you cloaked?"

"They were dead before we used the spaceship."

"Dead? They were dead? Let me guess." Set could see the horror in Kaleb's mind. "You killed them."

"Yes." Now Kaleb cried. People in the gallery started talking.

Set went to the table where the defense Counselors sat and he pretended to confer with them. One of the Counselors asked Set, "Why are you badgering the boy? This will not help your case."

Kaleb was getting himself under control. Set returned and got as close to Kaleb as he could, pressing against the robots where they formed a protective wall in front of Kaleb.

Those present in the gallery continued talking. The judge said, "Quiet, please."

Set said, "Let me guess. You tried to escape from Flammis in the ship, but my two crewmen fired on you. You retaliated and killed them."

Kaleb said, "They participated in the attack. They deserved to die."

Set went to the table where the defense Counselors sat and he picked up two booklets. He gave one to the Judge and threw the other to Kaleb. "The two crewmen you killed, they were Drassa, an expert in nanotechnology and Ennekoulm, a psychologist." Set did not bother to mention that he had selected both Drassa and Ennekoulm mainly because of their past military service. "They were not essential to flying my spaceship, so I assigned them to temporary duty on Flammis. They both had families. Ennekoulm had four children. Drassa and Ennekoulm were scientists. They never hurt anyone. You killed them. Was it standard Haldus Order protocol that you followed when you killed them?"

Kaleb did not want to think about how he had killed those two off-worlders. Kaleb had been full of rage and he had simply used his Bushitsu training and snuck up on them. They never knew what hit them. Set grabbed the booklet out of Kaleb's limp fingers and turned to the page showing Ennekoulm's family. "Nice looking kids, Eh? Beautiful wife. But none of that matters to the Haldus Order, does it?"

Kaleb put his face in his hands and wept.

Set turned and spoke to the judge. "There has been a war going on between the Haldus Order and the Spaceship Guild. I blundered into the middle of that war and got caught up the crazy secrecy and spy games. Fine, make me your scapegoat. Pat Kaleb on the back and let him return to the war...call it justice." Set walked back to the where the defense Counselors sat and he said to them, "I'm done."

VerdictEdit

Hieroglyphics

Captain Leto agreed to Kaleb's proposal, and the day after the end Set's trial she reported to the Johann Fritsch Memorial Space Docks on Almaaz to take command of a newly constructed spaceship. Kaleb had made it clear that the Hans Ludendorff B was still undergoing space worthiness trials and that the Haldus Order had not been expecting it to be pressed into service for another year. Leto had commented, "I'll do anything to avoid having to fly a commercial space liner."

Leto found her staff already on board and performing a complete systems diagnostic. There was also a crew of 35 technicians who were carrying out the final detailing work and system integration checks for Hans Ludendorff B. Leto's communications officer greeted her and said, "Kaleb just called in and specified a launch in two hours. Is that going to be possible?"

Leto shook her head, "Sometimes we get paid to do the impossible." She quickly consulted with the crew and found that there were no critical systems problems. The Crew Chief told Leto, "The toilets might not flush, but this heap will fly."

The communications officer told The Captain, "The dock attendant just called, we have passengers on the way."

Leto activated the intercom. "This is your new Captain, Leto. We launch in two hours. Sorry about the short notice. Any crew members who need to bug out, I understand. Come to the main control room for check out...see deck officer Klein. I need a squad of robots to the main airlock, now."

She returned to the main air lock, wondering if Kaleb would bother to provide a passenger list. She chuckled and thought: why not just open the door and see who came aboard?

Leto popped the hatch and saw Leone and Sybil waiting to come in. "Oh, no, not you!"

Leone said, "Thanks for the warm welcome, Captain."

Leto complained, "The poor old Hans Ludendorff only lasted through about an hour of your company."

Sybil was not willing to take the blame, "Send your bill for damages to Ketar...the Antiquist Party can afford to reimburse you."

Leto signaled to a robot and said, "Show these passengers to cabins on the upper deck."

Sybil and Leone boarded the spaceship and Leto could see Set and Portia coming along the docks. Leto had heard about the verdict in Set's trial, so she was not really surprised to see him. She said, "Welcome aboard, Set." She apologized to Portia, "And, um, I'm afraid I forgot your name."

"Portia."

"Oh, yes. Sybil's assistant. Are you the 'Portia' that was mentioned yesterday by the Judge?" When announcing his verdict, the Judge had introduced his ruling by mentioning letters received from Ben Olmo and Portia.

Portia replied, "I assume the Judge was talking about my letter."

Set asked Portia, "What exactly was in your letter to the Judge? After reading a letter from you, I'm surprised he didn't lock me up and throw away the key."

Portia was worried that Set was not feeling enough humility. "Yes, the Judge definitely let you off too easy."

Set shrugged, "He probably just felt sorry for me, since nobody will ever answer my questions."

Portia said, "Oh, I'll tell you what was in my letter. I just don't want to humiliate you by repeating my comments in front of the Captain."

Leto said, "I believe the Judge specifically ordered that steps be taken to deflate Set's ego as part of his rehabilitation. I'm busy now preparing for liftoff, but won't you both join me for dinner? I'd love to hear what was in your letter, Portia."

Portia replied, "Very well. Thank you for the invitation, Captain." They went into the ship with a robot to guide them to their cabins.

Captain Leto called the dock attendant, "Are any other passengers for Hans Ludendorff on their way in?"

"Kaleb and his sister just went through the gate."

"Thanks. Do we have a confirmed time for undocking?"

"Not too busy this evening, Captain. Your departure is the only one scheduled. You can go anytime you want."

Leto called the control room and asked how many crew members would be getting off the ship. The communications officer said, "None that I know of. They seem to be a dedicated group. Anyhow, I told them we'd be back to Haldus within a week, so they all seemed fine with the idea of a quick trip to Earth."

"Right, but don't promise them a chance to set foot on Earth. Ketar's fleet might still be on the prowl." Leto cut the connection to the control room. She could now see Kaleb and Megan coming up the ramp to the airlock. "Welcome aboard."

Kaleb again thanked the Captain for agreeing to take on this assignment on such short notice. Leto shrugged, "The only doubts I had concerned Ketar. When I heard that he was found in his crashed ship and that he was seriously injured, those doubts started to evaporate. I'm willing to risk going back to the Solar System now...particularly if all of our passengers are volunteers for this trip."

Growing up on Flammis, Kaleb and Megan both knew well the horrors of human exposure to the green goo. Somehow Ketar had survived, unconscious and exposed to the goo for almost a day before his crashed ship was found on Earth. Kaleb imagined that Ketar would probably spend the rest of his life wishing he had died in battle. The Captain personally showed Kaleb and Megan to their cabins. "I'll try to have you on the Moon within three days. Please join me for dinner this evening after we launch."

Megan accepted the invitation. "Thank you, Captain, we'll be there."


Three hours later Sybil was watching the Haldus transport grid from the observation balcony in the banquet hall of the Hans Ludendorff B. Set and Portia came into the hall. Portia sat at the Captain's table between the communications officer and the Captain. Set joined Sybil at the window. "I'll be glad to get away from that thing."

Sybil noticed that Set's intense gaze was focused on the transport grid. She asked, "Do you see it too?"

Set could guess what Sybil was talking about. "The colors? Yes, it is beautiful. I find that by concentrating on the shifting pattern I can almost imagine a meaning in it all."

Sybil suggested, "Well, as I interpret the sentence that the Judge imposed on you yesterday, you have been tasked with helping the Order make sense of all this." She gestured towards the grid, but she meant all of the unanswered questions about telepathy and who ever had built the grid.

Set complained, "I'm rather overwhelmed by everything the Judge laid at my feet."

Sybil laughed, "Well, he sentenced you to community service. He specified no fixed duration, so I assume he intended it to be a life sentence."

Set grunted. "Lucky for me I'm an old man."

Sybil laughed. "Ha ha. No excuses! I intend to make sure that you do not cheat your sentence by avoiding the hard work that needs to be done." Sybil reflected on the fact that the Judge had called into question the thousands of years old practice of the Haldus Order hiding its secrets from the rest of humanity. He warned that within a few years it would be possible to start constructing teleguide conduits on all settled worlds. The Judge had not mentioned it explicitly, but based on what she had learned in the Old Temple, Sybil guessed that there would have to be a moratorium on spaceship travel close to conduit arrays in order to prevent spaceship explosions. The judge predicted that there would be a huge demand for space elevator construction and that the economic power base of the Spaceship Guild would be eroded. Sybil asked Set, "Do you believe the Judge was right about the changes that are coming to the galaxy?"

Set shrugged, "Haldus seems to be the technology capitol of the Order. I suspect the Judge knew what he was talking about. Still, I'd be happy to just get back to building elevators on Sakkara." Set would welcome a way to reduce the power held by the Spaceship Guild and the Antiquist Party. If space elevators and teleportation arrays replaced the use of spaceships for travel to and from the surfaces of planets then that would deprive the Spaceship Guild of much income.

Set found himself in an ironic situation. Black hole production in spaceship engines seemed to be the fundamental basis of explosions resulting from teleguide conduits causing antimatter reactors to go out of control. Somehow, the huge T-particle fluxes channeled by the conduits caused black holes inside in antimatter engines to grow and trigger an explosion. The ironic thing was that the Futurist Party's new reactor design completely eliminated the production of black holes. So Set had a choice. He could remain silent about the new reactor design and let the Spaceship Guild suffer loss of their planetary transport monopoly or he could save the Spaceship Guild from financial ruin by spreading word of the new reactor design.

Sybil shook her head and pulled her gaze away from the transport grid. "No, you won't get off that easy. You must realize by now just how special you are. Kaleb wants you for an expedition to Polastis. That's where the Order now plans to try creating a complete teleguide array. Apparently the research team on the old Hans Ludendorff was nearing completion of a replacement conduit for the array. The plan was to try to integrate it into Earth's damaged teleguide array. However, the Order now feels it is not safe to continue working on Earth. Apparently two of the ships in Ketar's fleet limped home to Azur. Polastis is off the beaten track, so Kaleb says that the plan is now to switch off and try to build a functioning teleguide array on Pollastis III. The big fear now is that unless the conduits can be correctly coded, they won't work. Until they find -or you train- some other telepaths who can see the coded signals produced by the conduits you are going to be in demand."

Kaleb had talked to Set about Polastis and he knew the matter was not as simple as what Sybil suggested. Set shook his head. "You realize that story is just an excuse for dragging me off to Polastis, don't you? I told Kaleb that with a T-particle detector it is possible to automate detection of the coded signals that are emitted by the conduits. He's a liar and I know it." Set pointed to his head, "I can read Kaleb like a book. There is some secret at Polastis that the Order needs help with, but nobody wants to tell me what is going on."

Sybil could tell that it would be difficult working with Set on any basis other than complete honesty and openness. Set grabbed Sybil's hand. There was a flash of "light" when their hands touched and Set got a glimpse into Sybil's mind. "Not you too! See, even you are keeping the secret from me. This won't do."

Sybil yanked her hand away from Set. "Stop peeping into people's minds, Set. It's rude. Look, there are too many things up in the air right now. Give it some time and give the Haldus Order some space. We really are still trying to recover from the loss of Flammis and the old Hans Ludendorff. Luckily all of the research data from the Hans Ludendorff was backed up at Haldus, so all their work can be replicated. The Haldus star system is a major center for telepathy research, but I understand that Flammis was also important, so future work will be slowed. Many people are never going to forgive you for the attack on Flammis, even if it is your discovery of the conduit codes that ultimately makes teleportation possible. Anyhow, you can't expect the secrecy habits of four millennia to crumble over night."

Set chuckled, "You'd be surprised at the kinds of things I can expect. In case you have not noticed, I'm an idealist and a Futurist and a dreamer."

Everyone had now arrived for dinner and the Captain struck her glass with a knife. The room became quiet and Leto spoke, "Welcome aboard the first flight of the Hans Ludendorff B. For those of the crew who I have not yet had a chance to meet, I must introduce myself. I am Captain Leto. I will meet with each of you individually before we reach Earth. Well, we are actually going to Earth's Moon, but if we have time, shore leave on Earth will be arranged. Now, before we dine, I want to warn you that our first jump will come in about a two days, after we have climbed out of the Haldus gravity well. For those of you suffering from the effects of being close to the grid, I'm sorry, but until we either reconstruct a functioning conduit array or find an intact one on some planet, there is no quick way out of this star system. I'll get us to the jump point as quickly as possible, so expect high gee conditions starting soon after dinner. But after the long climb, we'll make a couple of quick jumps and then we'll be in the Sol System and less than a day's travel from the Moon. Now, please enjoy your meal."

Portia was the hit of dinner. She ate little and spent most of the meal talking, first describing the long letter she had sent to the Judge then going into a detailed account of the time during her abduction by Set. She spoke at her usual high speed. Most of those at the Captain's table had never heard the story of how Set had discovered the conduit array, so they were enchanted by her story, which she told with flair. During desert, dance music started to play and the communications officer asked Portia to dance.

Set was left sitting with the Captain as they watched the dancers. Leto mused, "Well, now I know what Portia said to the Judge...and I feel like I know her life story."

Set mumbled, "An hour listening to Portia talking only seems like a lifetime."

Leto laughed. "She's an interesting young woman...don't you think?"

Set shrugged, "She reminds me of Katherine, which makes me sad." Having said that, Set realized that Portia reminded him of Amethyst. He started thinking about the Moon.

Leto asked, "So, now all I need to know is: who is Ben Olmo? Clearly it was not Portia's letter that got you a light sentence."

"Light sentence? That foolish judge put me into a position where people now expect me to solve 200 years worth of the galaxy's troubles. It's absurd." For a minute Set thought about Salvaje. Really, he was the one who had started it all by expecting Set to bring to the Galaxy the truth about the destruction of Earth. Salvaje had been certain that the Antiquist Party just needed to be held accountable for its actions, but Set now knew that it was more complex than that. However, it looked like the whole galaxy would eventually know the truth. Not this week or next year, but maybe within ten or twenty years. At the very least the Haldus Order secrets related to teleportation would come out and with teleportation on the galactic stage the power of the Spaceship Guild would wither away.

Leto saw that Set was lost in thought. She tapped his arm and repeated, "Ben Olmo?"

Set tried to think of what to say to the Captain. Surely Salvaje wanted no attention on his little community. "Olmo is just one of many who want the truth about Earth to be known. And I think he is right. That is the key to everything. Humanity is crippled as long as our history is hidden and replaced by lies."

The Captain frowned, "Well, I suppose you know better than I ever can, you are the telepath, I'm just a mere mortal."

Set muttered, "I never asked for telepathy. I'd gladly give it up and just go back to building elevators with Katerine. That would have been a good life."

Later, when everyone was heading back to their cabins, Leto said good night to Set. "You know, the only people who can be trusted with great responsibility are those who do not seek it out...those who are forced to take up a great task. I trust you, Set."

Set felt embarrassed by the Captain's words. "Well, I hope this all works out. I'll need all the help I can get."


Three days later the Hans Ludendorff B entered into orbit around the Moon. Sybil, Portia, Kaleb and Megan took a life boat down to Tranquillitatis base where Kalid was recovering and now was no longer in critical condition. Leone transferred over to the spaceship of the Martian Militia which had finally come to the Moon to pick up Felice.

Before going down to the surface, Sybil had said to Leone, "I thought you'd want to at least meet Kalid after having gone half way across the galaxy searching for him."

Leone said, "I'm anxious to get back to Sakkara. I'll go to Mars and get my spaceship and then come back to pick up you and Portia. Maybe I'll have a chance to see Kalid then."

At Tranquillitatis base, Kaleb and Megan rushed to Kalid and embraced him. After they had a chance to catch up with each other, Sybil, Portia, Kaleb and Megan took Kalid out of the hospital for dinner. Kalid started the meal with a toast to Logan and "all those lost to us", then he seemed to enjoy the outing. He asked, "So, what should we make of the coded signals Set found coming from the conduits? And where is Set, any how?"

Sybil suggested, "I think he did not want to face you. He really does feel bad about what happened on Flammis."

Kalid shook his head, "Not a minute goes by that I'm not sorry for leaving Flammis that day, but none of us can live in the past. The future is here now."

Portia said, "I spent a lot of time looking at those codes. I studied codes in school. What I think is...you know, a language is a code."

Sybil nodded and said, "Hieroglyphics."

Only Kalid knew what she meant. "Yes, imagine a language that is discovered, say carved in stone on Polastis III. How can we hope to understand such a language. Can we hope to even recognize the digitized and coded language of the beings who built the Haldus grid?"

Kaleb said, "The Temple Master of Almaaz is planning an expedition to Polastis. People are saying that if we are going to build a new conduit and activate the teleportation array on Polastis III then we are going to have to break the conduit code. It looks like there has to be some complex communication between the Haldus grid and the conduit array in order to achieve accurate teleportation."

Kalid said, "We shall see. The future is always a great adventure! Thank you all for coming and updating me on everything. I think it is safe to say that the galaxy is changing...it is time to break the grip of the Spaceship Guild and bring the galaxy out of its slumber. I've been feeling very isolated here. I'm ready to get back to work. I'd love to go back to Polastis. I was there once, during the evacuation, after the conduit array was destroyed. I flew a ship full of the blast survivors back to Sakkara. I'll never forget their look of emptiness and loss, particularly the orphans. I've often wondered what happened to those lost little children..."

Megan said, "There are some bits of information that came up during Set's trial that you should know..." They explained to Kalid that Set was born on Polastis III, orphaned by the explosion and then moved to Sakkara.

Kalid nodded, "We could check the records, but I suspect I was the one who transported Set to Sakkara...he would have been about three years old at the time. I am pleased that he has now decided to use his telepathic powers for the good of the galaxy."

It was late and Sybil said her goodbyes to Kalid, "I'll be returning to Sakkara with Leone. I hope to see you on your next visit to Sakkara. We have several very promising potential initiates awaiting your attention."

Portia had a question for Kalid, "When you refused to initiate me into the Order, did you foresee my future?"

Kalid signaled that Portia should come close. He took her hands and said, "Your mind is as before...I could tell that you would never develop much telepathic power. However, I did sense that you would play an important role for the Order, so I asked Sybil to watch over you. I think everything worked out well, don't you?"

Portia smiled and nodded. She had long been haunted by self-doubts and anguish over not being allowed into the Circles, but Kalid's comments filled her with joy.

Sybil wondered if everything had worked out well. Sybil had grown up with Glen and she was sad that he had been destroyed. She commented, "I'm sorry that Glen was lost in the battle on Earth. He deserved a better fate."

Portia shrugged, "Now we can get a modern robot." And she was thinking: what a relief it will be to have one that I can talk to!


Set took a lifeboat down to the surface of the Moon. Captain Leto arranged for some special docking equipment and Set went down with a robot.

Set let the robot fly the lifeboat. He could see the Earth sitting in space, its green clouds almost seemed to glow. For a moment Set once again wondered about Polastis. What was the big secret about Polastis III that nobody would talk about? Set put that question aside. Eventually, if the Haldus Order really wanted his help they would have to let him in on that secret. The other question haunting Set concerned Earth. If it was a combination of conduit activity and a nearby antimatter reaction that had destroyed Egypt, then who had been using the conduit?

The robot landed the lifeboat on the little landing pad on the rim of Shackleton Crater. Set explained to the machine, "Just wait until I get into the elevator, then detach the docking ring and return to Orbit."

Set had no trouble getting into the elevator. He was amused that there were no locks or keys needed to get in. He nervously undressed besides the little pool of water where he had first gotten his lunar baptism. Could he navigate the maze of water-filled tunnels? He thought so: he could just keep moving towards the nearby telepathic signals. He could clearly sense the mind patterns of Salvaje and Amethyst. More importantly, Set was now able to sense the positions of both the Sun and the "Eye of Haldus". He chuckled to himself, "It's like having a built in compass." thumb|480px|right|Watch this video after completing the story. Set felt a little silly about sneaking in like this. He had tried to call from orbit, but had gotten no reply. Officials at Tranquillitatis base told him that there was no known way to communicate with Salvaje's little community at Shackleton...they would only speak by radio when it served their needs.

Set told himself: Salvaje will be pleased to hear about the changes that are coming to the Galaxy. He took a deep breath and dove into the water. After ten minutes of swimming, panic started to set in. He decided that he was swimming in circles because the tunnels were circles leading nowhere. He tried to go back to the entrance, but now he could not find any places from which to leave the water-filled tunnels...all he could find were the regularly spaced air pockets for breathing. Telepathic signals now seemed to be on all sides, so he was sure he was in the heart of the base. He was focusing on Amethyst's mind pattern and Set now felt that she was very close. Suddenly the water seemed to flash with colors. Amethyst took hold of Set's hand and pulled him to an opening.

Their heads came out of the water and Amethyst said, "What were you doing in there? These tunnels are designed to lead nowhere unless we open the exits."

Set felt foolish, but happy to see Amethyst. "I tried to call you, but nobody seems to know how to make contact with this base. How did you find me?"

Amethyst explained, "You triggered the alarm, then I recognized you. Come on." She pulled Set out of the water. She looked at Set's chest, "What happened to your hair?" Set had remove the hair from most of his body. Amethyst commented, "Well, I approve. You almost look human." She pointed to her head, "Anyhow, I could sense that it was you, and that you were lost."

Set smiled. He looked at the swirl of colors where Amethyst held onto his hand and he found that he could make sense of some of the patterns in the T-particle emissions from her brain. "No, I'm not lost." He looked at the flashes of color where their hands met and then at the colors in the 'Eye of Haldus'...there was something similar in the patterns. "Not any more."

THE END.

Note: now that you have read the novel you might want to read some more details about the characters and major plot elements of the story. Also, you can help write the next Kalid novel.

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