In one realm, the governing body of the United Frontier Alliance is faced with the indoctrination of a controversial species. When a mission to expose the potential adversary fails, a chain of circumstances unravels.
Two Frontier agents discover an alternate dimension when they become displaced from their own. Stuck in exile on an alien planet, they find themselves caught between a similar state of disorder.
A colossal invention has divided the culture in civil unrest. With its activation once again set to commence, some fear that it has the capability for more than just harvesting the universe.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.48(d)|
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The Interlink Phase 1Enter the Sonic
By Robert Klardon
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Robert Klardon
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFrozen stellar winds churned the intermingling elements of cosmic density, and a bright star seemed to leave its place. It penetrated the void of speckled light with gradual impulse thrust, distorting a patch of space behind. The Boriculan-class freighter hauled whatever was demanded between the various colonies.
Shipments of borite were frequent out of that particular star system. But on that occasion, something else besides mineral rock traversed through its tarnished hull.
An exhausted crew of mostly engineers and maintenance hands woke from their stasis chambers. Navigation horizons prompted a rerouting back to manual control as senses were slow to recover.
Before most had noticed the decompressed seals and adjusted to the artificial light, two luminous hives were already long-abandoned. Receding wisps of hatchway compression gave way to the steady placements of flesh to sectioned alloy into the passage depths.
Hands fastened cinch clasps to their loosely fitted coveralls as they made their compact descent into the secluded infrastructure. Their weighted thuds were muffled by clanking shaft hydraulics and a steady hum of turbine revolutions as they dropped past the last five rungs.
The two passengers crouched into a tighter labyrinth of layered pipework, where a vent-hatch was pulled from its magnetic latches. Residual traces of courtesy light splashed subtle hints of fluorescent hue along the tarnished walls. Backsides shuffled into the darkened crawlway as dilated pupils relaxed to a calmer field of floodlight blue.
An oily stench lingered from the drainage girders, tainting nostrils with its chemical aroma. They slid to rested leans between the crossmembers. Still partially crouched in the four-foot-high space, one occupant began shedding his garments.
He left the cuffs hanging past the waist, waiting to pull the rest off. With arms nestling on knees, he stooped back down. An impatient glance willed his more meticulous comrade to find the niche in the bulkhead wall.
Caressing fingertips probed the gritty surface. His precise vision focused on the slightest perforation or groove. "Here it is," he quietly announced, lifting the exposed edge of panel free above a side drainage grate. A reflective sheen filled the void as he pulled it closer, tossing an airtight sack to his partner.
They quickly examined the contents, sifting through the layers of uniform and gear before stripping down. The internal hum of aft modulation decreased, inducing a glance to a wrist unit. Minute to second index factors counted down with less than fifteen remaining before their entry into the belly of the beast.
Orbiting in distanced unison from the converging starship, the space station Reigus-three prepared for the eminent docking. Normally, unfamiliar ships were forbidden from straying into the Alpha Klengari sector. But in compliance with Frontier trade agreements, the doors of diplomacy were finally opened between the United Frontier Alliance and the controversial reptoid species.
Their mutual cooperation was not without reward. They anticipated the formal indoctrination to join the exclusive ranks of the UFA. But their acceptance brought scrutiny from certain league members, who questioned their checkered past. Doubts were churned with unfounded rumors-things that could negate their compatibility with other worlds.
Under strict mandates of the Alliance code of conduct, all aspects of their operations concerning trade, planetary development, and sociological interests, had been observed for the last forty years. With the probationary period nearly completed, the resident inspectors were scheduled to rotate out for the last time.
Aft boosters flared to a minor glow as the small transporter left the brownish haze of stagnant atmosphere behind. Distancing itself from the planet's gravitational pull, the craft was brought into the shuttle bay with a tractor beam.
Inside, the team of mostly Boriculan inspectors waited, trading displaced stances for aimless wandering. Anticipation grew with every delayed moment of their deliverance. Anxious glances strayed between the highlighted proximity screen and the nearest gap of spaceglass.
"ATTENTION," said the announcer from the intercom terminal. "STARFREIGHTER CRICHON ARRIVING IN TWELVE MINUTES. ALL FRONTIER INSPECTION PERSONNEL STAND BY FOR DEPARTURE AT DOCKING PLATFORM B."
Amid the exchanges of pre-celebration and the collection of gear, the presence of Klengaran security doubled in seconds. Their reactions seemed more calculated than routine, as if preparing for something other than a patriotic sendoff. But they were a paranoid species, with instincts grounded in measures of constant control.
While the extent of the crew was busy with operational tasks back on the freighter, the two informal guests moved from the shadowed crevices below. Climbing up to a main passage, they paused at a compact hatch.
With half a counter-turn and a labored pull on the centered grip, a light wisp of pressure lowered the panel to the hinge locks. They pushed the used satchels into the chute and sealed it up. A gloved fist slammed the decompressor switch, blowing the contents into space.
They moved in likened stride toward the cargo hold, taking up waiting positions between the thick beams. Masked eyes looked the other over as they shifted side holsters and checked seams between the thin layers of ethilon rubber. The last thing they needed was one slip of false skin to blow the whole mission.
As the freighter neared the station, residual vibration shuddered the deck girders with the pull of increased gravity. It stirred a nervous swell in the gut. Yet only one of the two had the capacity to feel, a natural trait inherited by most beings with a beating heart.
The other had an artificial pump that circulated essential fluids throughout its engineered body. It was agile and durable, and fear was obsolete. Its positronic drive could adapt to any specific task, regardless of danger or insurmountable odds.
Spartus was an Erindali native. He resented being assigned with an android. It was taken as an insult that the agency didn't have enough faith in his abilities that they needed a machine to clean up the mess if something went wrong.
In light of the sensitivity of the mission, though, it was understandable. It was the Alliance's last chance to find anything incriminating that would justify denying the Klengarans from joining the universal assembly. He loathed the prospect, and he considered it an honor to help muddy the pool.
Sonic conduction echoed within the conversion wells. Reduction boosters brought the ship to a parallel halt. Stabilizer beams took over, drawing its hull closer to the blinking platform array.
Latch mounts to the extension portal locked firmly in place. Neon rails lighted the way to salvation for the eager passengers as they started for the entranceway.
Before one foot could even cross the nonskid threshold, the bullish Klengarans rushed ahead. "We authorized to conduct a routine sweep," said a lead guard. "Nothing to be alarmed about."
He brushed past a welcoming crew member, whose warm demeanor turned sour as the guards stormed through with side-arms raised.
They spread out with equal haste, dividing their ranks to simultaneously cover all areas, popping vent hatches and spotlighting crawlways to scour every inch. Handheld thermo detectors swept over registered bodies, homing in on any proximity blip.
The two agents waited, listening to clumping boot-heels echoing from the distance. "It's showtime," Spartus said, starting toward the opposite end of the cargo hold. "You'd better be worth the trouble."
"I don't quite know what you mean, sir. However, I assure you that I am accustomed with most-"
"Save it," Spartus added. "It's time to split up." He moved quickly toward the exit as the droid nodded, his programmed directives taking over.
Walking toward the opposite hatch, the droid approached the oversized doors. Alternating blips on the wall display turned green, and hydraulic retraction parted the sluggish seal.
Blaster tips stemmed forth as an indexed glow centered into polygon signature blips. He scanned the lone presence, genetic highlights registering into biological formation on the mini screen.
"Tec je-loc cho," ATOM said, telling them it was secure. His positron frequency link fed the right bio-pattern into the guard's spectral analyzer. It was a standard Semtac fluxometer with an unshielded micron drive; an easy hack.
Hard stares relaxed at the same time grips eased off trigger hilts.
The guards peered around, satisfied enough to move on as ATOM stepped past the monitor array. The curious guard continued to rotate a fix on him.
A surge interrupted the display, pixel traces fading to a residual upload of user mode settings. He smacked its side, shaking his head as the thermograph readings normalized.
The senior guard at the entrance port was intent on staying as long as it took, despite the waiting stares from passengers and crew. "Squad one, report," he grunted, knowing he would have to call off the charade before long.
"Nothing out of ordinary, sir. All crew and passengers accounted for."
"Excuse me, sir," interjected the commander of the vessel. He boldly stepped forward, matching brown eye to yellow. "But we do have a schedule to keep."
The guard reluctantly nodded, having superseded the bounds of protocol long enough. "All squads fall in," he ordered, laboring a spiteful grin. "Have a safe journey, fellow star-traveler."
Merging bodies mixed into the flow of exiting security forces, leaving any thoughts of mistrust in the pit of disregard. Klengaran divisions reassembled throughout the station, presuming the order was meant for all hands. The last few stragglers jogged to the hatchway, mustering into formation among other neutral ranks.
Caution lights to the platform doors prompted closure as the portal gap receded. The wide stretch of glass gave up a broad glimpse as the freighter drifted free. Gravitational thrusters pushed it to a safe distance before igniting to full power.
With almost equal timing to the bright glow of booster exhaust, celebration erupted. Having negated any reports of willful intrusion, weapons were traded for ale caskets and pint jiggers to launch the festivities in style.
It wasn't hard for Spartus to spot his displaced sidekick, who stood practically motionless. He needed to get him out of there.
Improvising, Spartus grabbed a bottle, toasting and laughing as he threw an arm over ATOM, leading him past carousing bodies. "Try to act natural before you get me killed," he whispered, pushing the umber flask into his partner's clawed grip.
ATOM was still confused as to the exact response. Like most special service units, he was designed for tactical and intelligence gathering. Customs of social interaction couldn't be programmed, only learned and integrated through experience. But there was little time for the tutorials of proper etiquette.
Spartus tried to play the part for both of them. Keeping the droid close, he gradually backed away toward the nearest open corridor. A crowd of bodies blocked the way, forcing them back into the mix of debauchery.
Then, from the adjoining side of the lounge, a host of female Klengara joined in, stripping off uniforms and gear as they mounted tabletops. Their seductive whims drew all closer, opening a quick window for retreat while most stood entranced.
"Now's our chance," Spartus said, glancing around to catch any eyes wandering in suspicion. All pupils were fixed to bare breasts and slick curvatures of backsides that had them falling over their own tongues.
Putting some distance between them and the mob, they relaxed their pace. Lighted side rails stretched for seemingly miles into the connecting passageway, where the station's lesser half housed more sensitive operations.
The larger portion, resembling an enclosed stadium dome, was mostly living space and the shuttle bay, which was part of the problem. Eventually, they would have to make their way back to the central terminal to have any chance of escape.
Spartus was plagued with all kinds of what if scenarios. He envied the artificial mind for not having to deal with conflicting thoughts or anxiety. "This is your stop," he said, pausing at an aft junction stairwell. "How much time do you need?"
Calculating distance to relative incursion factors, ATOM left two-point-three-four seconds open for random infallibility. Every system had its own safeguards integrated. "Fifteen minutes should suffice my objective."
Spartus reset his wrist display. "You'd better be right. Because once the mainframe goes, you won't be able to access a courtesy monitor, let alone the sub-net processor."
He put the countdown in motion as ATOM's internal chronometer did likewise, descending the length of stairwell. "And remember to stay off the lifts," Spartus added. "See you back here," he hoped, moving on toward the aft engineering sector.
Spartus's task was less complex but far more dangerous. Once the droid liquidated their hard drive, he needed to ensure that all communication and operational systems were rendered useless.
It felt like a suicide mission any way he sliced it, playing escort to a ten million mega-credit piece of hardware. Yet he was the expendable one. In a worst-case scenario, the droid could always jettison itself into space and get picked up by the nearest Frontier cruiser.
Following his uploaded proximity schematic, ATOM scaled down a shaft past a few more levels beyond the main access tunnel. Picking up the light hum of alternating conduction, the filament electrodes in his neuron cortex tingled the closer he got to the resonating source below.
Through the grated tier gaps of the walkway, he could see the hexagonal outline of the doors. Minor tech personnel in yellow lab suits kept to their terminals and alcove stations, paying him no mind as he reached the platform's end.
With palms resting against the brace rail, he glanced down. The sub-relay station was centered at the bottom of a thirty-foot drop. Access stairwells on either side of the platform tier were twenty-plus yards away. He started for the right, not even gaining three feet before a hatch opened beyond the one fallible route.
A roving guard stepped through.
The droid leaped over the rail, slamming hard after the light freefall only seconds from being seen. The more solid deck plates absorbed what should've been a loud impact.
He waited beneath the concealing girders of the terrace as the steady clomps faded past. Glancing up, he tracked the guard's dark undersoles moving beyond the opposite threshold.
The neon glow from the minor hatch panel beckoned him as ATOM scanned for any sign of an internal frequency transponder. He needed to make sure a signal wasn't going to be sent to the control room before entry. All the circuits were localized, yet it wasn't that common of a space. It served as backup to the main control net in case of a loss or disruption in power.
Probability factors were high that a general probe would eventually be picked up once he interfaced with the actual terminal inside. But that's where his partner would take over, creating the proper diversion to shut the whole place down.
With the time factor depleted to twelve-point-nine, he accessed the uploaded code in his memory banks. A minor bleep sounded as sequencing digits filled the linear glow, and the resistant seal gave way, pulling the doors into the wall grooves.
Electromagnetic field levels were strong. He felt the residual currents radiating off his conductive shielding.
With a quick tap on the side panel, the doors clamped shut. Secluded among blinking power relays and humming condenser modules, the elements regulated a similar life beat to his artificial one.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the station, Spartus followed a seemingly endless stretch of pipework. Venting conduction gases issued remnants of stagnant exhaust from overstressed seams.
The continued flow of reformulated ore had taken its toll over the years. On an average day, the facility could process twenty-five thousand tons of raw borite. Combined with urridium and zurene, the three minerals made up the extremely durable and highly demanded compound triliberum. Having an abundant surplus of the borite ore, the refined mineral was primarily shipped to the main processing plant in the Andromeda sector.
Empty conveyor bays and shaft basins remained silent from the usual flow of daily toiling. Labor crews were scuttled around the centralized borite mixer, air-blasting the grinding wheel clear for the next batch.
Excerpted from The Interlink Phase 1 by Robert Klardon Copyright © 2010 by Robert Klardon . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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