It was the end of another long day for Set. For a moment he reflected on the fact that it was close to the end of his fifteenth year of working towards the goal of gaining financial support from the Sakkaran government for the construction of space elevators. Back in 94, he had certainly never imagined that there would be so much resistance to development of a transportation option that was now made possible by what Set viewed as a long-awaited and welcome technical breakthrough.
Of course, it was true that most people had long ago given up on the possibility of ever building useful space elevators on worlds as large as Sakkara. In the "golden age of space elevators", two centuries before Set was born, conventional materials had been found that allowed space elevators to be practical on planets with gravitation fields up to about 0.4g, but most chemists had believed then that the ultimate strength of chemical bonds had been reached and that it would never be possible to use space elevators on worlds with higher gravity.
Then, unexpectedly, materials science was revolutionized by the discovery of high specific strength polymers of tessellanium quarpounds. At that time, Set was recruited into a tessellanium research and development project funded by the Futurist Party. The suitability of tessellanium for space elevator construction was quickly proven, but then the political and economic hurdles could not be overcome.
The economics of transportation weighed heavy on Set and the entire Futurist Party. Thousands of antimatter-powered spaceships carried cargo and passengers to and from the surface of worlds like Sakkara on a daily basis. The commercial spaceship fleets had been incrementally built up over many decades and most worlds like Sakkara viewed the large initial investment in space elevators as an unnecessary extra cost for interplanetary transportation. However, transportation specialists like Set were well aware of the indirect costs of flying spaceships through planetary atmospheres. Within 10 years, investment in a space elevator on a world like Sakkara would pay back its initial investment. Still, a political will had to be found in order to mobilize the planetary government and channel the funds initially needed to build space elevators.
At least, that was still the dream, even though the Futurist Party was funding the first two space elevators of Sakkara...and now they were nearly completed and functional. However, the Futurist Party had taken on too much debt and Set only viewed these first two elevators as proofs of concept. To handle all the passenger and cargo traffic of Sakkara about 50 space elevators would be needed. Government funding for elevator construction would greatly speed progress....working on its own, it might take a century for the Futurist Party to fund 50 elevators. So Set worked on, searching for ways to build public and government support for government funding for future construction of more elevators. But enough work for today...
Set turned his thoughts to the coming weekend that he would spend with Kat. During the construction of the elevators they had been meeting one weekend a month, alternating between Sakkara and where Kat worked, one of the two orbital stations for the elevators. There was a chance that Kat might come down to Sakkara this weekend using the down elevator, which was starting test runs. thumb|480px|right|Video celebration of soul mates: Set and Kat. Set tried to call his girlfriend, Katherine, to find out if he should meet her for the weekend at the spaceport or at the new down-planet elevator terminal. He had tried to reach her earlier in the day, but he had only been able to leave her a message. Set knew that she was not allowed to send or receive personal calls while working on the elevator, but surely she would be back to her office by now. Set wondered again if he should mention the troubling dream he'd had about her. He did not want to upset her, but he felt that the dream was important, and, after all, they frequently discussed their dreams since they both often had lucid dreams. Occasionally Set had a dream that seemed to be about the future and, since when he was quite young and one of his dreams of the future came true, he always paid special attention to any dream that had the "feel" of being about a future event. Set's dreams had always come true, or at least he thought so. However, he knew that there was a danger of only counting one's successes in such things, of not remembering all the failures and obviously wrong and silly predictions...not even counting them as predictions... but his dream had been so real....
Set had trained both his mind and his body according to the practices of the Order that had taken him in as an orphan. Growing up, he had been encouraged to make the most of his life and ultimately he had excelled in the technical field of materials research. Set was devoted to the idea that new scientific discoveries should be exploited for the betterment of all people. Towards those altruistic ends, he did not care by which means he was able to get more power... he would use his skills and position just to protect and help his people, he thought. Of course, he did not like power just for the sake of it, he wanted to be powerful for noble reasons... even his most selfish reasons, such as just to help his girlfriend towards their shared goal of building The Elevators, were reasons that he felt were clearly honorable. He had a different view on many things than most people of his age, for example, he considered some things to be beyond good and evil. Protecting beloved people, in his case, Katherine, was just a natural aspect of reality, as natural as gravity. It was disturbing to have a dream that seemed to threaten all of his careful training and efforts to gain leverage and control in life...
"His people"...Set reflected on the fact that he now thought in such terms. How had it come to this? In his youth, he had always thought in terms of making contributions to all of society, but know he could not deny that he identified with the Futurist Party and its goals. Other segments of society worked in opposition to the Futurist Party and Set could not look kindly on them. And, yes, he placed Kat in a special category. No doubt his loneliness as an orphan made him particularly sensitive to the wondrous experience of finding a soul mate. Increasingly his life had come to be defined by efforts to work as a partner with Kat. They discussed all aspects of their lives; each plan, goal, challenge and success. And Set dreamed about Kat.
Well, maybe this latest dream and his worries about Kat's safety were just in his mind, only. Really, it had to be nothing more than a night terror... yes, it was only that, and not some real danger near to her. It would be unfair to trouble Kat with such silliness when she needed her full concentration on her work. The problem with modern life was distance. Under optimal conditions, hyperspace communications could instantly link two people even on planets in distant star systems, but in other situations people were just too far apart. People had evolved under conditions where their loved ones were within easy reach, but now Kat was in orbit and it was not a matter of walking across town to see her. There were unavoidable physical limits; for example, spaceships jumping through hyperspace could not get too near to a star. The Swanzig radius, it was called. So, to get to an inhabited planet at another star system, interstellar travel always took some time. There was no way to speed that up. Antimatter engines had to be used to move a spaceship beyond the Swanzig radius and that conventional movement through space was never very fast. Similarly, the space stations at the ends of the space elevators in orbit were now almost as inaccessible as the Swanzig radius of Memphis. Once the elevators were in full use that would change, but now there were no regular spaceship flights to the stations and the cable cars were just starting to be tested. So, now, when he felt a need to be close Katherine, or at least speak with her, it was painful to be out of touch. Why now? Why a dream suggesting that Kat was in danger? Set tried to keep from imagining that his dream and apprehensions were actually related to the reason why he could not communicate with her. Set tried to get through to Kat by phone and email, but both of those attempts only returned error messages to Set. Was there some problem up there on the space station? He cursed the world and himself... why could he not contact her?
Set wondered: exactly what had been in that dream? It had been a series of strangely juxtaposed images and feelings that made no sense. Set was holding a baby, his daughter. But is was not the child of Katherine. Katherine was dead! Long dead. The bald little baby had transformed into a bald woman. With a shock, Set realized that she was the mother of his daughter. The dream had dissolved in the horror of Set's realization that Katherine had been murdered and then he had fallen in love with another woman. The face of that woman in the dream has washed away in a blaze of white light. Here in the light of day, Set felt shame for dreaming of another woman. His love for Katherine was something he could not imagine ever ending.
Katherine was feeling uneasy. She had woken up thinking about Set... feeling that she would not see him as planned. And that was absurd since they had been making definite plans to have their monthly tryst on the coming weekend. It only remained to be determined if she would be able to take her first ride down to the surface of Sakkara by elevator. Still, her schedule was a mess due to her team's hard push to complete work for the upcoming elevator test and she had to work an extraordinarily long day. Before going to bed she had viewed a recorded message from Set, but he had only left a short "hello" and he had not explained why he had called. Probably he just wanted to say 'hi' and ask about progress in her work. And she would not know until later in the day if she would be able take the elevator down to Sakkara or not...it all depended on the systems checks they would be performing over the next twelve hours.
Anyhow, she had no confidence in her intuition, and this premonition about not meeting Set was certainly wrong...if the elevator was not yet ready to be used then she would just take today's supply transport down planet.
Before meeting Set and getting to know his quirks she had never even thought in terms of intuition as something to pay attention to. She had grown up in a family with a proud history of producing engineers who trusted facts, not feelings. At first she had been amused by Set's interest in dreams as a possible window on the future. She had long enjoyed the experience of vivid and lucid dreams, but she thought of those kinds of dream experiences as recreation, just a way to let her imagination play and run wild. However, she recognized the fact that her mind was not "trained" in the way Set's had been, although she was still puzzled about the exact nature of the education he had received as an orphan. If he believed in dream visions of the future, who was she to contradict him? She was comfortable imagining that all her dream experiences were just in her own mind, but nobody knew for certain if special mental powers like precognition really existed. Anyway, even if it was unusual for a man of science such as Set (also an engineer) to believe in such things, maybe he was right about dreams being a true source of knowledge about the world...at least for him. Who could really know what goes on in the mind of another person? She knew of stories about famous scientists who had made progress in their scientific work after having useful dream visions. Besides, sometimes she had the sensation that Set knew exactly what she was thinking about....how weird was that? The extent to which Set knew her thoughts was spooky and went beyond what she could honestly accept as being due them being in a close and loving relationship.
But on this day, when she needed full attention on her work and her team's plan to make an elevator descent to planet, she could not calm down and put her worries out of mind. She found herself stepping out of the shower with no memory of having washed...all she was doing was worrying about seeing Set. All that week, until today, she had been feeling a sense of impending triumph as everything had fallen into place in preparation for the planned elevator test, but now her thoughts of meeting Set brought only a sense of looming danger. How could that be? It was illogical.
Or maybe not. Set was more than just an ordinary engineer, he was also a politician, after all, having risen to a leadership role within the Futurist Party. And politicians could always be the target for attacks. Moreover, she had seen that he was changing. That change was not a matter of Set turning to wrong deeds, it was just a feeling she had that he was increasingly hungry for power or progress towards his goals....he was pushing harder and harder to get government funding for space elevators. Set was always talking about the Futurist Party and fretting about its seemingly endless struggle against the ruling party. She could accept that he felt a responsibility to achieve success and obtain financial support for the goals of the Futurists and she had always known he was a workaholic, but she did not imagine that his drive and ambition had anything to do with him having a love for power just for its own sake. When they discussed their goals for the future he always explained that everything he did was for others. Even given his long devotion to the Party, he increasingly admitted to being tempted to push for budget increases and full funding for the elevators project, as he said, in order to support and protect her while she worked on that ambitious construction project...sometimes dangerous work that had her hanging in space above the planet coaxing untested equipment to life. For Kat, the depth of his concern for her safety and his devotion to the success of her work was was a thrilling part of the experience of his love. His dealings with her were always tender... but Set's single-minded drive for developing and applying space elevator technology seemed....dangerous. Was that what was tickling her unconscious and causing her to worry? Might Set push too hard and get himself in trouble? The more Set pushed the more it became clear that there were powerful forces pushing back.
It was time to go to work. She made a decided effort to try to think about what she needed to accomplish that day while working on the elevator car that was being prepared for testing, and those thoughts, or anything other than her anxiety about Set, had the potential to occupy her mind more pleasantly than all this worrying. But before going out, she could not avoid what was really on her mind, the idea of calling Set. She looked at her phone and wondered if it was damaged. It was very unusual. The phone indicated that her call to Set could not be made. Sometimes calls from space were disrupted, particularly if sun spot activity on Memphis was firing large amounts of radiation at Sakkara.
She quickly checked the space weather report and saw that solar radiation levels were low. There was no time to try to use chat or e-mail, modes of communication that were transmitted by a different system than phone calls. Anyhow, she was late for work so she better just go and stop worrying about Set and wondering why communications were disrupted. She set down her personal phone and attached the comunit she used for her work to her forearm. There were rumors that some workers on the space elevators evaded the ban on use of personal phones during work hours by having them implanted into their bodies, but she did not use those new machines that could be plugged directly into people's heads. She liked natural modes of communication and felt that kind of direct brain-to-machine linking was unnatural. She was devoted to advanced technology, but when it came to her body and her brain she tried to live in a natural way. She just had to live with the fact that she was always going to be out of contact with Set while she was up here in orbit and working at her job to build space elevators. She accepted that it made sense not to let workers be distracted by personal matters when so much expensive equipment and so many lives were at stake.
Katherine and all the workers who were building the down elevator space terminal lived in the rotating ring portion of the space station in order to have some simulated gravity. The need for such a rotating ring would end in Phase 2 of the elevators project when artificial gravity would be provided to the station using a set of antimatter reactor-powered graviton generators. However, the Futurist Party had to defer that expense. The goal of Phase 1 was to complete a bare-bone elevator facility. The "extras" would be added later.
There was a fleet of automated jet cars that shuttled people between the habitation ring and the main part of the station that was attached to the elevator cable. Kat got into one of the shuttles and barely noticed the car's artificial intelligence system chatting and describing what it was doing while it flew her to work. She had heard it all before, many times. For a moment she had a great view of the the Space Elevator that her team was working to bring online. It was a miracle of science... well, the principles behind it were quite simple and the basic technology had been in use for centuries....but on a human scale it was a wonder to see and work on a structure that contained thousands of kilometers of cable.
When the elevator cable moved out of her view behind the body of the space station she shifted her gaze to the planet. That was really the greater wonder, the life-sustaining world, Sakkara. She could see the lace-work of contrails left in Sakkara's atmosphere by spaceships. A constant and expensive process of stratospheric reconditioning was needed to protect the planet from the chemical changes induced by all the spaceships that daily went to and from the surface carrying passengers and cargo. Everyone took for granted that the antimatter engines of spaceships would heavily damage the environment and that was assumed to be the unavoidable price of transporting people and cargo into space. The entire population of the planet had to learn that it was "greener" and safer for the atmosphere to use space elevators. If more people realized that then Set's dream of getting government funding for space elevator construction might actually come true.
The jet car docked to the station and soon she was inside and being greeted by a robot assistant carrying her tools, magnetic boots and pressure suit. The robot automatically logged her into the integrated tracking and logistics system that coordinated the work site. She entered the Elevator's equivalent of an office building. This part of the space station would eventually be used to track all traffic passing through the station. Now it was where the offices were for the work crews that were bringing the elevator to life. She went to her office and turned on the computer that she wore on her arm. The video communications channels that normally provided links to her team members were not working. Weird. She checked her e-mail and again, nothing. The e-mail server seemed to be offline. What was going on? She opened a search channel to Globalnet and got a "no access" error. Maybe her computer was damaged in some way or maybe the whole space station was having network problems. She went directly to the office of the computer and communications support specialist.
"Carl, what's happening? I have not been able to..." Katherine shouted.
"...access Globalnet? Yes, it is not working." Carl answered.
"Right! And may I know...why is that?"
"You won't believe it but I have no clue!"
"What? Is that what you get payed for?"
"Well, yes. And to play online kakisi. No, really, I have not been able to find out why. It seems every form of communication is not working. Not even phones, be it to Sakkara or out of system via hyperspace. Some paranoid people have even been thinking about the possibility that this is an infosystem attack. Not even news services using holography or old TV are reaching us From Sakkara, and those broadcasts do not depend on satellite relay! People are panicked! I am surprised nobody told you when you got to work."
"Well, when I am on my way to work I try to avoid people. I hate gossiping. But I'm late today and it looks like everyone on my team is already down at the work site. So, we are under some kind of data disruption attack?" Even while asking the question Katherine could not really believe that it would be possible. She knew something of the history of such things, but infosystem attacks were something from the past and not seen since the days of the galactic wars. Well, out on the fringes of civilization pirates still sometimes used such methods, but here, in the heart of civilized space?
Carl replied, "I don't think so. Look here." He pointed to a video window on his data display. "We have the emergency direct fiber line that is embedded in the elevator cable itself...it hooks us right into the down elevator terminal on planet. That is still working. I've been in contact with the ground crew and Pablo is trying to trace the source of our communications problems-"
Katherine turned and looked at Carl's data display, which was the entire wall behind her. She noticed that there were half a dozen views of what she recognized as the elevator terminus some 40,000 kilometers below. At that moment they heard a loud noise that made them panic. Katherine saw the image of Pablo on the display and the image seemed to shake and wiggle. For an instant there was a look of fear on his face, then all the video feeds from Sakkara went blank. Katherine was stunned and continued to look at the display. Would the images from below return? Although Carl had been methodically trouble shooting the space station's communications problem and had seemed calm just moments before, Katherine vaguely realized through her shock and dismay that he was now shouting. Some words ran through her mind: "Calm down, remember we are not under attack..." but for some reason her lips just started to tremble. Fear had taken hold of her mind and no words could be spoken.
At the down elevator terminal station on Sakkara, Pablo Havolin was feeling frustrated. He'd been trying to help figure out the communications problems that had suddenly and mysteriously arisen at both the up and down elevator space stations. The problem was, the Futurist Party had no other assets in space and no immediate way to diagnose the problem...essentially all of the wealth of the party and its members had been poured into those two stations, with nothing left over. He'd tried to contact some of the major spaceship lines for assistance, but he was still waiting for his calls to be returned. Now he was listening in on increasingly hysterical calls that were coming down from the up elevator space station to the up elevator terminus. Pablo was thankful that today was a big day at the down elevator space station...it seemed that most of the crew up there was busy working rather than complaining about the communications outage. At that moment, he saw all of the video windows on the display wall from the down space station go blank. What now? Suddenly there was an unbearably loud noise like dozens of whips cracking and the room seemed to bounce. It seemed like earthquakes Pablo had previously experienced and without thinking he struggled to his feet and stumbled towards the door in an attempt to flee the building.
As Pablo made his way across the rolling floor he noticed that the video from the up space station had also been lost. All that was still showing on the display wall was video from the local down elevator terminus complex. Pablo looked in amazement at the image feed from the camera that normally was focused on the elevator cable. The cable was gone. Or, rather, it was raining down from the sky in twisting fragments. Pablo realized that the video from the space stations was gone because the elevators were damaged...destroyed. Pablo realized that the earlier communications problems had been preliminary to intentional attacks on the elevators.
Pablo left his office and turned down the hallway towards an emergency exit. Now he had to contend with other people who were also trying to get out of the building. At first, they pushed each other towards the stairs at the end of the hall, sometimes colliding and falling down since the whole building continued to shake and rock. Then it seemed that everyone was panicking and running at random. Co-workers who he considered to be his friends now seemed not to recognize him. He was pushed and even hit by people who were trying to escape. In the terror of that moment it seemed that they had completely forgotten about altruism...it was a pure struggle for individual survival. Suddenly the rush of running bodies thinned and Pablo could see why some people had been running towards him, away from the closest exit. That end of the hallway was gone. It looked like a giant knife had removed the end of the building. Through the hole at the end of the hallway he could see fragments of elevator cable continuing to fall from the sky, each striking Sakkara with a terrible crashing noise. He noticed a body of a man on the floor that was not moving. He approached his body and touched it, feeling blood soaked clothing. He was dead!
At that moment a fragment of elevator cable hit the center of his building and Pablo was thrown out through the hole in the wall. He had only fallen from the second floor and had landed on the grass just beyond a pile of twisted steel and plastic. His right shoulder and arm felt like it had sustained multiple fractures. When he could pull himself to his feet he looked back towards his building and saw fire starting to send smoke up from the twisted jumble of wall and floor fragments that remained standing. He could hear screams coming from what remained of the building. Pablo started to try to work his way through the blasted remains of the building towards the source of the calls for help, but the ground was still shaking with each new fragment of elevator cable that hit the ground. He saw a badly burned person stumble out of a wall of flames...nothing in his life time of experiences had prepared him for that. Another fragment of cable landed nearby releasing all its stored tension in a blast of pressure and sound that threw Pablo into the air. He sat up and now all seemed quiet. He put his remaining good hand to his ear and saw his own blood. It was the last image he saw before more cable landed directly on top of him.
At the down elevator space station, Katherine tried to make sense of Carl's shouting. "CQ! CQ! CQ!" Finally, a reply came back, "Tony, here. I'm not sure why the antennas are not working. My manual diagnostic nanites were inactivated as soon as I tried to use them."
Carl shouted at Tony, "Its not just the antennas! The communications line inside the elevator cable just went dead, too. It looks like the elevator cable has snapped! Radar shows recoiling fragments are headed our way. Evacuate the lower decks!"
Katherine realized that her team members were probably all on the lowest deck, getting the elevator car ready for a test run. If the elevator cable had snapped, the natural elasticity of the tessellanium quarpounds in the cable would fling the remnants of the cable back towards the space station. First, the communication problems and now this! It must be a calculated attack on the elevator! She asked, "Can't you call my team and tell them to evacuate?"
Carl replied, "All of our station communications systems rely on the antenna stations. Based on Tony's report, it seems they were sabotaged."
Katherine wondered: who would attack the space elevator? It was perplexing and her mind threatened to lock upon that simple question with disbelief, but she tried to think. What could be done to respond to this emergency? She remembered that the space station had a built-in antimatter engine for orbital corrections. She seemed to recall that the emergency protocol for an accidentally snapped cable, perhaps hit by a meteor, would include shifting the orbit of the station. However, at that moment she felt no acceleration. She asked, "Can't we shift the station out of the path of the cable fragments?"
Carl pointed to a diagnostics screen for the antimatter engine. "The diagnostics read 'all clear' but the emergency orbital adjustment has not initiated. Almost certainly the saboteurs took all of our critical systems offline."
Katherine suggested, "Try to get the engines online!" She slipped out of her magnetic boots and started making wild, top speed leaps that propelled her though the corridors towards the loading platform for the elevator cars. She was now desperate to reach her team and tell them the danger they were in. She had felt something was wrong today but had not imagined something like this happening. Her worries about seeing Set now made sense: if the elevator was under attack then maybe she would never see Set again. The danger of an accidental elevator cable break had been anticipate, but if the station's antimatter engines would not activate and move the station, then fragments of the elevator cable would pulverize the station.
Moving in microgravity always produced an odd sense of moving in slow motion, but now the feeling was particularly frustrating. She wondered how much kinetic energy would be available in the elevator cable fragments that were now approaching the station. If they could not maneuver out of the path of the fragments, would the entire station be demolished or just the lower decks? She did not know, but there was nothing else to do except to evacuate the lower decks. Katherine reached the loading platform and found the members of her team continuing to work through the systems checklist in preparation for the planned descent to Sakkara. Katherine shouted, "Everyone out! The cable snapped! Evacuate to the upper decks!" It took another minute of confusion and insisting before the entire team was out of the elevator car and headed towards the upper decks of the space station.
Then the pieces of the fragmented elevator cable began to slam into to space station, slicing it, room by room, corridor by corridor, like a leather whip ripping into the flesh of a man. As Katherine struggled towards the upper decks and depressurization warning alarms sounded she tried to push the terror from her mind and fill what she felt would be her last moments with sweet thoughts about Set and their life together that might have been.
At that exact moment, Set felt a strong pain and he thought he would faint. The nightmare images from his dream about Kat returned. Now he could see flashes of everything his girlfriend saw...but he did not know what was happening. His pain was her pain, mainly the terror of her scramble to get away from the bombardment of the elevator fragments. That experience of terror seemed to go on and on for hours, although it was only minutes. Then he felt her last thought, seconds before dying: she thought about Set and their lost future together and Set realized that maybe it was actual telepathic communication with Kat. Then he knew she was dead. Set shouted as no human had shouted before, he thought. He had lost his beloved girl, forever.
He accessed the news and found initial reports of destruction at the two elevator terminals on Sakkara. Both cables had snapped at nearly the same time, a coincidence that could only be explained by some kind of planned attack. Now he decided: whoever was guilty would have to face the consequences of his revenge. In his rage, Set promised that he would find and kill every person who had anything to do with the attack.
Set wondered if he would lose his mind...or had already, but what if it was not real? Maybe he only imagined Kat's death cries...it could not really be telepathy, could it? Anyhow, even if the elevator cables had been cut, Kat should be safe on the space station.
He continued to follow the news reports and eventually it became clear that his vision was true. The attack had started with disruption of communication, the two space stations had been out of contact for over an hour then the elevator cables had been cut. First, fragments of the broken elevator cables began falling on Sakkara, a deadly rain that lasted nearly fifteen minutes and resulted in heavy loss of life. Then, in space, the orbiting stations had been cut to pieces when their antimatter engines failed to activate and move them away from the cable debris. Finally, spaceships were diverted to the space stations, but no survivors were found. So, everything from his visions was true and Katherine was dead.
Set was haunted by his memory of that brief telepathic contact with Katherine. He thought: if only I had known what was happening, that telepathy is possible, I would have assured her one last time that I love her. But even through the pain of remembering the feel of Kat's mind dying, it seemed to him that there were other sources of telepathic contact whispering to Set...
Set cursed himself...again. Then he told himself that it was useless to flagellate himself based on hindsight and disappointment. How could he ever hope to know if he had acted wisely to shoot first and ask questions second when confronting telepaths of the Silver Tulipan Order? If he had been more cautious he might well be dead now. Who could know?
Still, what Set had learned recently was forcing him to re-think his strategy for dealing with telepaths. Set thought back over the course of events that had led him to recognition of the importance of the Silver Tulipan Order. Of course, it all started with his long-time political rival, Leone. Set had never gotten over the fact that Leone had defeated him in a close election for Counselor of Transportation, in spite of the fact that Leone had been the center of a scandal and had to give up the government spaceship he had improperly made use of. After the elevators disaster, even though Leone had been cleared of any wrong doing by a Justice Department investigation, Set still believed that Leone had been criminally negligent because of the inadequate level of security that had been provided by the Department of Transportation for the space elevators.
No matter how much Set would have enjoyed seeing Leone held responsible for the destruction of the Elevators, Set's main progress towards winning justice for those killed in the disaster came not from his efforts in the political arena but, rather, from making use of his newly recognized telepathic abilities. Immediately after Katherine's death, Set had found two telepaths on Sakkara who, Set could sense, had knowledge of the space elevators disaster. When Set confronted them, they claimed to have provided the Justice Department with information about those who had destroyed the elevators. Naively, Set had trusted them. After meeting those telepaths, Set linked them to the Silver Tulipan Order by following them with his telepathic sense. Then, with time, the evidence indicate that they had lied to Set and that they had never passed their important information on to the authorities. Although the original two telepaths had disappeared from Sakkara, Set had found and questioned other telepaths who were members of the Silver Tulipan Order. Those other telepaths had stubbornly refused (even under conditions of mental torture imposed by Set) to reveal the current location of the telepaths who had evidence about the elevators disaster. All Set had learned was that Silver Tulipan Order telepaths would accept death before betraying their comrads.
In the months after the destruction of the Elevators, Set had maintained a close watch on Leone and that had led to recognition of Leone's relationship with Sybil. Things had gotten interesting when Set discovered that Sybil was in the Silver Tulipan Order. Initially Set had been puzzled by Leone's apparent interest in a fringe religious group, Sybil's Silver Tulipan Order, a relatively small organization which seemed to have an unusually large number of members with telepathic abilities. Set had learned that he could detect telepathic signals from about one percent of people, but for most of those, their telepathic signals were weak and they were not even aware of the fact that they generated weak telepathic signals. True telepaths, with strong telepathic output and who could make use of their telepathy were quite rare. Set had learned that the majority of the dozen or so strong telepaths on Sakkara were members of the Silver Tulipan Order. However, after Set's abduction, questioning, and murder of two of those, all the others had disappeared, apparently moving off planet.
After Sybil had ordered some of her servants to install equipment on Leone's spaceship, it had occurred to Set that the work being done on Leone's ship might be some kind of pay-off for services rendered by Leone. To learn what was going on, and hopefully obtain evidence of Leone's corruption, Set had ordered the capture of one of the workers who had helped install the new equipment on Leone's spaceship. Using his telepathic ability and some aggressive questioning, Set had easily learned from that worker the purpose of the equipment. It was navigation equipment that would automatically guide Leone's ship to the h.1263522 star system.
Set had quickly gone to h.1263522 and found that h.1263522.2 was home to an impressive collection of telepaths, hidden in an underground base. Set was startled to find that h.1263522.2 was a Green planet, but that green shroud had done nothing to prevent Set's telepathic sense from leading him to the secret base for telepaths on that world. Set was still searching for the original two telepaths with information about the Elevators disaster, but he failed to find their unique telepathic mind signatures on h.1263522.2. Actually, there was one mind signature in particular that Set was looking for since it was strong and should be easy to detect. The other telepath had claimed to have a telepathic sense, but his mind had appeared to Set as almost normal, with only a very low level of telepathic impulses being emitted. Set doubted if he could detect that weaker mind pattern at a distance.
Set had found the defenses of h.1263522.2 to be unusual. Upon his spaceship's approach to that world, he had been bombarded by blasts from a battery of old fashioned energy weapons. More interesting had been what at first had appeared to be a fleet of spaceships in orbit, but rather than fight, those ships had all fled at high speed. Using his telepathic sense, Set could feel no minds on those spaceships, so he had ignored them. Set's modern shields had protected his spaceship from the energy beam weapons and Set had dropped down to the surface and captured the control center for the artillery battery. Set questioned the artillery commander and telepathically probed his mind....out had come the name: Haldus Order. Upon questioning about Sakkara, Set had seen clearly in the man's mind that "Silver Tulipan Order" was some kind of cover organization for the "Haldus Order". Set concluded that all of these telepaths were part of the same networked organization. Set had felt it was the wisest course to exterminate all the telepaths on h.1263522.2 as quickly as possible and an antimatter bomb had done the job. Set now had some regrets about destroying the underground base of those telepaths on h.1263522.2. His attack might have destroyed useful technology belonging to the Order, but it was only later that Set had started thinking about the possibility of telepathy-amplifying technology.
Set reflected on the strange circumstances that had led to him becoming aware of that secret base for telepaths. Really, it all went back to the election of 102. Set had discovered that when Leone was promoted from Trade Representative to Trade Negotiator, he kept the spaceship he had used as a Trade Representative. That was unprecedented. Sakkara had a half dozen Trade Representatives who were constantly moving from planet to planet and who essentially lived in their spaceships. Leone had served as a Trade Representative for 16 years before being promoted to the administrative position of Trade Negotiator. Traditionally, a Sakkaran Trade Negotiator mostly worked in an office on Sakkara and used hyperspatial communications for negotiations with other worlds. A Trade Negotiator might occasionally travel to another star system for a treaty signing ceremony, but they did not keep a government spaceship for their personal use. Heading into the election of 102, Set made a campaign issue out of Leone's use of a government-funded vessel as his personal spaceship while serving as a Trade Negotiator.
Leone had defended his continued use of the spaceship that had been assigned for his personal use during his years as Trade Representative. Leone documented his practice of going to other worlds for person-to-person negotiations and claimed that his spaceship essentially served as a mobile office for his administrative duties. In the uproar over the issue during the election campaign, the out-going head of the Department of Transportation withdrew Leone's authorization to continue using the government spaceship that Leone had long used. The Antiquist Party then launched a fund-raising campaign and bought Leone a new spaceship for his personal use. That had raised new issues that became a lasting controversy right through the election of 106. However, Leone won both elections and continued to serve as head of the Department of Transportation. Leone was good at his work and had successfully negotiated many lucrative trade deals for Sakkara: that was all that most voters cared about and they thought Leone made good use of his personal spaceship, even traveling extensively as head of the Department of Transportation. Set and the Futurist Party argued that when Leone was away from Sakkara visiting other worlds and building up relationships with important trade partners, he had ignored his other responsibilities such as making sure that the space elevators were adequately protected.
That dispute about Leone's spaceship had led to Set and the Futurist Party keeping a close watch on Leone's spaceship and the sources of money that funded its upkeep. Set suspected the nonprofit corporation that took donations and maintained the spaceship for Leone was secretly used by traders to funnel kickbacks to Leone. So far, Set had not been able to prove that, but he continued to keep a close watch on Leone's use of the spaceship and the donors who funded it. Each year the Antiquist Party tried to change the Department of Transportation budget so as to include a personal spaceship for the director, but the Futurist Party and other minority parties had so far always been able to block that new spending line from going into the approved budget. However, the careful watch kept by Set on Leone's spaceship had finally paid off when it allowed Set to realize that the Silver Tulipan Order had installed equipment in the spaceship for Leone's use. That led directly to Set's discovery of the secret base for telepaths in the h.1263522 star system.
But it had not been quite that simple, had it? Now that Set thought back, he recalled that the Futurist Party had received a warning, a tip about work being done on Leone's spaceship. Without that warning it was possible that nobody would have looked into the details of what appeared to be routine maintenance work on the ship. But that anonymous warning had led to questions being asked and it was soon clear that the workmen were not the usual maintenance crew. Investigation had linked the work men to the Silver Tulipan Order and then Set had ordered that they be captured and questioned. One of the workmen was captured....upon questioning and Set's telepathic probing, out had come the secret destination programmed into Leone's navigation system....
After destroying the telepath base, Set had stationed a few of his crew members on h.1263522.2. Set had wondered if other telepaths might arrive at that world, but Set had quickly returned to Sakkara. Set now planned to try to learn more about secret hiding places for telepaths from Sybil and other members of the Order who lived on Sakkara. If Sybil had known about h.1263522.2, she might be able to lead Set to the hiding place of the two telepaths he was seeking. Really, that was his only goal, to find again those two telepaths who had knowledge about the elevators disaster. After all this time, Set had found no other leads related to the cause of Katherine's death.
After his raid on the hidden telepath base at h.1263522.2 and upon returning to the Memphis star system, Set was informed by his Futurist Party allies that all the previously-identified high-level members of the Silver Tulipan Order, including Sybil, had suddenly vanished. Sybil and all the other "inner circle" members of the Silver Tulipan Order had seemingly disappeared from Sakkara or gone into hiding. Set directed one of his operatives in the Futurist Party to go into Sybil's home and try to find evidence of Sybil's location or plans. Set ordered his spy, "Hack into her personal database and examine her records and correspondence. In particular, I am interested to know any worlds she may have visited or communicated with by hyperspatial signals."
Set had left his forces on h.1263522.2 in control of the old fashioned energy beam weapons that world had used to defend itself against Set's attack and Set had given them orders to blast Leone's ship when he showed up. Now, as he moved through the Memphis star system towards Sakkara, Set received a message via hyperspace from his force at h.1263522.2 reporting that when Leone's spaceship arrived at h.1263522.2, Set's forces had made use the energy beam artillery, but Leone had gotten away. For the hundredth time, Set regretted the poor resources of the Futurist Party. The spaceship he was using was the only one available to the Futurist Party, and Set was not proud of the fact that he had funded it by extortion of money from a telepath who lived quietly on Sakkara using her telepathic powers to make money in the stock market. Deep inside, Set felt that maybe he should have stayed at h.1263522.2 until Leone's arrival, ambushed Leone's spaceship and finished him off...but, no, Set told himself: "I am not a murderer." He knew of no evidence linking Leone to a crime that was punishable by death. Still, it was disheartening that Leone and the Order were now working together.
Set was inbound towards Sakkara and contemplating the idea that he might be able to use his telepathic powers to find Sybil and the other missing members of her Order. Set had previously noticed that Sybil had some weak telepathic ability, as was common among members of the Silver Tulipan Order. Set let his telepathic sense expand and he could feel telepathic impulses emanating from the distant Sakkara. He was surprised to notice that there was now an unusually powerful source of telepathic signaling in the Memphis system. He applied the triangulation technique he had devised and located the position of that strong source of telepathic impulses relative to the position of Sakkara....it was in deep space, apparently another spaceship. After an hour of travel and triangulation, Set was certain that the other ship was headed out of the Memphis system, but that ship was not transmitting a navigation beacon and Set's radar could not detect it. Set altered the course of his own spaceship and tried to intercept the other spaceship, using only Set's telepathic sense for guidance towards the target.
Set found that there, in space, he could focus his telepathic sense on the other ship without any distraction from other minds on Sakkara and he sensed something familiar there....Sybil? And something else, a telepathic mind that was much stronger. Someone else was on that ship with Sybil. Set did not understand how he knew, but something told him that he was sensing telepathic signals from Kalid. So, Set guessed that Kalid was removing Sybil and the other high-ranking members of their Order from Sakkara. Strangely, the more Set "listened" to the telepathic impulses, the more it seemed as if a specific message was coming from that spaceship and Set felt certain that he 'heard', "This is Kalid, calling...please pay attention!." And Set 'saw' a set of navigation coordinates flash in his mind. Set could not perceive and remember the entire set of coordinates, but the beginning was clear enough, "h32". Then the other space ship went into hyperspace and suddenly Set was left 'listening' to only the hum of weak and distant telepathic signals originating on Sakkara.
At first Set wondered if he had only imagined being in telepathic contact with Kalid. Maybe this was some kind of Haldus Order trick? He called up information on h32 and saw that it was a low population star system not far from Earth. Set wondered: is Kalid trying to trick me into going to the h32 system? He felt not...Set had the distinct feeling that h32 was Kalid's destination. Set ordered his crew to set course for the h32 system.
When Set's spaceship arrived in the h32 star system he tried to again detect telepathic signals from Kalid, but he could not. Set detected an interesting hum of background telepathic impulses from several places in the h32 system, but nothing with the power and clarity he had recently experienced in the Memphis system. Set sighed. Set thought: well, maybe that telepathic contact with Kalid had been a trick of misdirection. Set ordered an immediate return of his spaceship to Sakkara.
Once back in the Memphis star system, again inbound towards Sakkara, Set renewed communications with his Futurist Party allies on Sakkara. Set received a report from the spy who had been able to penetrate Sybil's security perimeter and get into her house. The spy must have triggered some alarm while he worked to download Sybil's records and he barely escaped from Glen when the robot came into the house and caught the spy at work. The information that the spy had downloaded from Sybil's computer included her private correspondence. Most of it was well encrypted, but there was a readable message from one of Sybil's contacts in the Order named Danold. That message mentioned Ketar and Danold's deep distrust of Ketar. Set found that very interesting. Sybil and everyone in her secret "Order" had always tried to blame the Spaceship Guild and the Antiquist Party for the destruction of the space elevators. Ketar was the head of the Galactic Antiquist Party. Set thought about the old saying: "The enemy of your enemy might be your friend". Very well. Set decided that it was time to meet Ketar. The trail of Set's enemies had gone cold on Sakkara, anyway. He ordered the pilot of his spaceship to set course for Akara.
Before again jumping out of the Memphis system, Set ordered careful monitoring on Sakkara for possible communications between Silver Tulipan Order members. He decided to risk deploying the latest nanite-based surveillance devices that had been developed by Futurist Party-funded scientists. Eventually some of the high-level members of the Silver Tulipan Order would stick their heads up and try to make contact with others in the group. Set's fellow Futurist Party members had located a dozen Temples and training centers of the Silver Tulipan Order and homes of leaders of that Order. Set now ordered that listening devices be planted in all those facilities of the Silver Tulipan Order and its "Inner Circle" members.
Set also sent a hyperspatial message to Ketar and requested a meeting on Azur to discuss recent events on Sakkara.
Just before jumping to the Akara system, Set received a reply from Azur. "Ketar is on his way out of the Akara system. If you want to meet him soon, try jumping to HCC-2103."
Set checked the time stamps on that message and decided that Ketar's spaceship was probably still climbing out of Akara A's gravity well, but should soon reach the Swanzig radius from where Ketar would jump to HCC-2103. Set switched his next jump destination from Akara to that hyperspatial communications center.
A few hours later the two spaceships had jumped through hyperspace and were both near the HCC-2103 communications array. Set and Ketar did not actually get to meet face-to-face, but they established a private and coded com link. After they established their comlink, for a moment Set looked into the eyes of Ketar as they were displayed, magnified, on the wall of his control room. Set sensed a coldness emanating from Ketar and a shiver ran up his spine. Set imagined he was dealing with a man of decisive action who would not let soft feelings get in the way of doing dirty work that needed to get done.
Ketar looked at Set for a moment. Ketar was trying to guess why Set had contacted him. Ketar was in a hurry to get to his destination and he asked impatiently, "Well, what do you want?"
Set let his telapathic sense go out in search of signals from Ketar, but there seemed to be nothing out there, just an emptiness that unsettled Set. Set tired to quickly regain his composure and explain what was on his mind, "After the space elevators disaster on Sakkara I initially suspected the involvement of the Spaceship Guild and the Antiquist Party. The Silver Tulipan Order still claims that the Antiquist party was involved. Can you assure me that the Antiquist Party was not involved?"
Ketar was prepared to destroy Set's spaceship if he had to. A half dozen spaceships of Ketar's fleet were nearby, if needed. But Ketar was relieved to hear that Set was not making threats of any kind. Ketar replied, "Let them produce their evidence of Antiquist Party involvement in that disaster. I tell you this Set: don't let this "Order" trick you."
Set nodded. "I've been dealing with the Silver Tulipan Order in a very direct way. I assure you that I have no intention of letting them trick me again or escape justice for their involvement in the space elevators disaster. I want to know if you are able to help me bring justice to those who attacked the elevators."
Ketar was amused that everyone on Sakkara wanted his help. Ketar shrugged. "I'm not sure how I could help. I view all of this, including your war against the Silver Tulipan Order as a local Sakkaran matter."
Set shook his head, "This 'Order' is not just a local matter for Sakkara. I've learned that the Silver Tulipan Order is just a cover organization for the Haldus Order. I suspect that they have secret bases all around the galaxy"
Ketar was interested to hear that Set had reached the same conclusion as Ketar's own intelligence service. He pretended to be surprised, "The Haldus Order? That cannot be. They were wiped out back in the days before the galactic wars."
Set shrugged. "I suggest you stimulate your intelligence service to re-check their thinking about the status of the Haldus Order. When you do, I think you will become as concerned as I am about their powers and the danger they pose to the galaxy. Please keep this in mind: I'm willing to work with you against the Haldus Order."
Ketar nodded. "I'll give your advice a fair analysis. But I must also warn you...the Antiquist Party has well-established interests on Sakkara. If you disrupt those interests then you risk bringing the power of the Galactic Antiquist Party down upon you."
Set smiled, "I'm only interested in justice, not disruption. I intend to travel down the road to justice, no matter what twists, turns and difficulties lie along that road."
Ketar asked, "Why does that path lead you to me?"
Set explained, "I'm trying, without much luck, to find a couple of Haldus Order members who have information about the cause of the space elevators disaster. There are Haldus Order members on Sakkara who seem eager to blame the Antiquist Party for the destruction of the elevators. If the Haldus Order is hiding what it knows about the elevators disaster and trying to blame it on your Party, then...well, I'm curious what you think about that.
Ketar was glad to hear that Set was making no progress towards learning the cause of the elevators disaster. He said, "I've already warned you not to trust the Silver Tulipan Order...I extend that advice to the "Haldus Order" or any other cult of religious freaks. I certainly don't trust people who conspire within such secret societies. I'm not sure there is anything else I can tell you."
Set nodded, "Well, I'm stuck with nothing but cold leads and dead ends. I was just hoping you might be able to tell me something useful about the Haldus Order that would get my investigation of the cause of the elevators disaster back on track."
Ketar suspected that Set would be interested in the Latest Antiquist Party intelligence report about Kalid, but Ketar really had no interest in helping Set. He reached for the switch that would terminate the transmission. "Well, good luck with that. Feel free to contact me in the future if you learn anything new about the Haldus Order. Now, I have business to attend to and must continue my journey. Goodbye." Ketar cut the connection to Set and ordered his fleet to make the next jump through hyperspace.
The two ships went their own ways and Set ordered his pilot to plot a return jump to Sakkara. Set wondered if he should have shared with Ketar what he had learned about the Haldus Order Base in the h.1263522 star system. No, Set decided that he was still too uncertain about Ketar. Caution was still needed. However, it seemed that Ketar was not greatly concerned about events on Sakkara and that gave Set a feeling of confidence: Set felt that he could freely continue to pursue his program of trying to discover what evidence the Silver Tulipan Order had concerning the cause of the elevators disaster without worrying about intervention by Ketar and the Galactic Antiquist Party in what Ketar seemed to still view as a local Sakkaran matter.
Set returned his thoughts to Sybil and Leone. Set had originally assumed that the equipment Sybil had ordered installed on Leone's spaceship was only for navigation and would simply allow Leone to make contact with Kalid, but now Set was having second thoughts. It was Set's practice to routinely used his telepathic reception ability to scan Sakkara for other telepaths. In particular, he was always watching for the possible return of the two Silver Tulipan Order telepaths who had knowledge about how The Elevators had been destroyed. But rather than find such powerful telepaths, Set usually just detected weak telepathic impulses from people. For example, Set's attention had been attracted to Sybil's servant, Portia and Sybil's robot Glen.
While monitoring Sybil's actions, Set had previously noticed that Portia was a weak producer of telepathic signals, but she seemed unaware of her telepathic abilities. However, Set had noticed that Portia seemed to be able to summon Glen by making use of the relatively weak telepathic signals she could generate. Set had not been at all sure that he was interpreting his observations of Portia and Glen correctly, but now he brought up the report of the spy who had broken into Sybil's house and he carefully reviewed the details in that report. Set noted that it had been Portia who first noticed that the spy was in Sybil's house and at work downloading Sybil's computerized data files. Portia had apparently noticed unusual computer activity in Sybil's office and walked in on the spy while he worked. The spy had quickly subdued Portia, but then Glen had soon arrived and also confronted the spy. The spy had fled from Glen, content to make off with the data he had already downloaded from Sybil's database.
Set became fascinated by the idea that Portia might really be able to make telepathic contact with the robot, and that got him thinking about the idea that it might be possible to make machines that could receive or even amplify telepathic signals.
Set was still in space, returning to Sakkara from his trip to Akara when he got a new report about events in Sybil's household: the normal domestic routine in Sybil's house had been broken by a hyperspatial communication from Leone! Sybil's assistant Portia took the hyperspatial call from Leone and the listening devices Set had ordered to be installed recorded the call. Set now listened to that recording.
After listening to that call from Leone and his brief conversation with Portia, Set was pleased that he had already had a chat with Ketar. It now seemed clear that Sybil had schemed to bring Kalid and Ketar together, but based on his conversation with Ketar, Set felt that Ketar had no sympathies for Sybil, Kalid or their Order. If Leone had called Sybil to say that he was, "still planning to meet with Ketar," then it seemed possible that Set might now be able to find both Sybil and Kalid in the Akara system...if luck was with him. In any case, going to Azur and searching there for telepaths seemed a more promising course of action than just staying on Sakkara and wondering where Sybil and Kalid were. Set chuckled to himself and wondered what his pilot would say when ordered to again star plotting a jump to Akara.
But before Set gave that order, he thought some more about the possibility of telepathic communication with a machine. He decided to go to Sakkara before heading to Akara. Set had come to a decision: he would test the possibility of telepathic communication between Portia and Glen. What was needed was a controlled environment where the possibility of telepathic communication between Portia and Glen could be tested, rigorously. Set ordered that Portia and Glen be abducted from Sybil's house and brought to his spaceship for further study. Their abduction was accomplished with little difficulty by Futurist Party agents who made use of a field disruptor that effectively crippled Glen's robotic control circuits. As soon as Portia and the robot were on his spaceship, Set ordered his pilot to head outward away from Memphis and prepare for a jump to the Akara star system. Set tried a simple test of telepathic communication between Portia and Glen. Set locked Portia in one cabin and placed Glen in another part of the spaceship. Set then released Glen from the effects of the field disruptor. Glen immediately found his way to Portia's cabin. Set ordered his engineer to examine Glen and make sure that Portia and the robot were not linked by some kind of conventional radio communications or tracking system. Set ordered the engineer to check for the possibility that Glen had a means to detect telepathic signals.
Set again tried to contact Ketar. Set wanted to talk to Ketar about the idea that the Haldus Order might have machines that could detect telepathy. Set wondered if the Antiquist Party's intelligence network might have heard rumors about such a thing. If the Haldus Order did have telepathy technology, then who knew what tricks might be possible. Maybe they had a way of shielding telepathic emissions from their telepaths. If so, then the two Haldus Order telepaths with information about the elevators disaster might be hiding right under Set's nose...maybe they were still on Sakkara.
Set learned that Ketar was not in the Akara system, but Ketar's staff on Azur was able to redirect Set's call through hyperspace and eventually Set was able to again speakt with Ketar. Ketar asked, "What is it now, Set?"
Set asked Ketar if he thought the Haldus Order might be hiding secret technologies.
Ketar was eager to get his hands on the spaceship cloaking technology that the Haldus Order seemed to have, and he assumed that Set was talking about cloaking and decoy technology. Ketar wanted to obtain any secret Haldus Order technology for his own personal use, and he was not happy to think that Set was now aware of the existence of that technology. Ketar quickly decided that he needed to find out exactly what Set knew about the Haldus Order. The best thing to do would be to draw Set close, learn what he knew, then eliminate him. Ketar repled, "My intelligence service has reported some strange events such as a spaceship in the Polastis system that seemed to defy the laws of physics. Perhapse we should combine our resources and see what conclusions we can draw."
Set nodded, "As I said before, I'm happy to collaborate with you against the Haldus Order. I can tell you this: I have evidence suggesting that Kalid and Sybil might have gone to Akara."
Ketar laughed, "Is that your best information? Well, I can tell you: no, they are not on their way to Azur. They are in the h32 star system."
Set thought: so, Kalid and Sybil did go to h32! Set demanded, "How do you know that?"
Ketar explained, "Because I am here in the h32 system."
Set felt foolish for having gone to the h32 system and then failing to be able to follow Kalid's trail. Did Kalid really have a device that could shield his powerful telepathic emissions? An idea came to Set and he said, "I must warn you. Do not be over confident if you have Kalid in your sights. He was able to slip away from me after I followed him to the h32 system. I'm wondering if the Order has some kind of secret shield technology...."
Ketar did not like to hear that Set was in the hunt for the Haldus Order's technology for cloaking spaceships. The last thing Ketar wanted was the Futurist Party getting its hands on such a technology. Ketar wanted any secret Haldus Order technology for himself. Ketar said, "Well, I'd welcome any assistance you can provide. If the Silver Tulipan Order has secret technolgy then I'd of course be interested to learn the details. Where are you now?"
Set thought: was there a tremor in Ketar's voice? It occurred to Set that Ketar might also have lost track of Kalid. Set replied, "I'm just about ready jump out of the Memphis system. I had planned to go to Akara, but I'll change course to the h32 system. I'll contact you again as soon as I arrive" Set broke the connection and ordered his pilot to recalculate the hyperspatial jump, changing their destination from Akara to h32. As was his habit, Set connected to the mind/machine interface of the spaceship and helped with the hyperspace jump calculations. It seemed that with practice Set continued to improve his ability to find amazingly good solutions to the jump equations that would allow for jumps deeper into star systems than was usually possible. Now, intent on the prospect of trapping Kalid in the h32 star system, Set tried particularly hard to make a clean jump into that system.
In the h32 system, Ketar ended his conversation with Set and he chuckled quietly to himself. He was watching Kalid and Sybil eating lunch in the Haldus Order Temple of Esclagon. Ketar muttered to himself, "But I do not think I need much help tracking Kalid. No, not very much!"
Bahney was at Ketar's side and the machine thought it heard Ketar muttering about needing help. The robot asked, "Can I help you, Sir?"
Ketar replied, "Yes, I'm going to eat dinner and then go to bed. Alert me if there is anything unusual, particularly if Kalid tries to leave the Temple."
Bahney bowed, "Yes, sir." Ketar left Bahney's office and the robot shut off the display screen. Bahney received input from the surveillance devices directly; the display screen was only of use to humans. Bahney had monitored the Temple for decades, and now, suddenly the head of the Galactic Antiquist Party had arrived and explained the importance of Kalid. Bahney was prepared to watch Kalid through the night or for as long as Ketar thought necessary. The machine felt the mechanical equivalent of pride that so many years of dedicated but seemingly useless service here on Esclagon had now given way to a mission important enough to attract the personal attention of Ketar.
After Set's spaceship reached the h32 system he was pleased to find that he was reasonably close to the hyperspatial communications center for h32. Again he had managed to make a jump deep into a star system. Further, the date from the local navigation beacons indicated that little time had been required for his spacehip's structure to rematerialize here in this star system...it had indeed been a clean jump with little loss of time. He again contacted Ketar.
Ketar was in bed when Orchard contacted him, "Sir, there is another call from Set. He is now in the h32 system"
Ketar said, "Okay, connect us. Set?"
Set only had a voice channel to Ketar and there was a several minute latency, but they could talk. "Ketar? I just jumped into the h32 star system. Where is Kalid?"
Ketar replied, "I've got my eye on Kalid. I'd like to ask a favor of you. There is an interesting legal system here that makes it possible for us to charge Kalid and his Order with the destruction of The Elevators on Sakkara. h32.4 is the governmental center, so I want you to go to that planet and file charges against Set. My operatives on h32.4 are drawing up the legal documents, including evidence that Kalid is in the h32 system, and they will have everything ready when you arrive there. Since you are a resident of Sakkara and can make a personal claim for losses in the matter you can charge Kalid with the murder."
Set was surprised, but pleased by Ketar's plan. He asked, "Are you sure of your facts? In most star systems it would only be possible to request that Kalid be extradite back to Sakkara."
Ketar agreed, "But h32 is not a typical system...the rules here are rather archaic and barbaric."
Set would certainly research the legal system while on the way to h32.4, but for the moment he was willing to agree to Ketar's proposal. "Very well, I'll set course to h32.4, but how will I make contact with your people there?"
Ketar replied, "I'll have them contact you when you approach h32.4 and they will provide you with detailed instruction. Good night." Ketar broke the connection and checked the time. If all went well, when Set filed the charges against Kalid on Mars that would provide a legal pretext to take Kalid into custody. Ketar got into bed, but he was still uneasy about trusting Bahney. Ketar was used to dealing with human operatives, not robots. He knew that it was common to rely on robots here in this star system, but he just did not trust machines to have good judgment and common sense.
Ketar called Bahney and asked, "How is everything?"
Bahney replied, "Kalid went off to bed a short time ago. Sybil is in the lounge talking to some of the Temple residents."
Ketar did not want to leave anything to chance, "So, do you have a camera in Kalid's room?"
Bahney explained, "That would be a violation of Esclagon's privacy law. I have a robot stationed in the hall outside Kalid's door."
"Very well. Good night."
Ketar slept soundly. It was not until the morning when he discovered that Kalid had somehow slipped away from the Temple undetected and departed Esclagon in his spaceship.