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Tommy’s Tale

Tommy’s Tale


Saxon Andrew Tommy’s Tale


Prologue

    The crew of the Kosiev was aboard ship preparing for their shakedown cruise. Cassandra was sitting in her command chair letting her mind roam the various systems of the ship feeling at peace from the contact. The ship was feeling like a cat purring in her lap. The Algean adolescents were in the nose of the giant ship connecting the device that they had built in Sten’s lab making sure all the connections were secure.
    “Tommy!”
    “What, Rose?”
    “A giant red ship has just come out of star drive just outside the orbit of Jupiter. The ship is almost two thousand miles wide.”
    “Rose, ground all ships and stop any in system traffic immediately. What is it doing?”
    “It appears to be just firing a beam into Jupiter’s atmosphere.”
    Tommy looked over at Cassie and thought to Rose, “We have no choice; I’m jumping into the Captor’s system immediately. If it causes a warning to all ships, perhaps that one will leave and go home to help defend the home world.”
    “Tommy, you’ll be killed.” Rose wailed!
    “I don’t know if we can out run them or not but if that ship turns its attention on Earth, it will totally destroy the planet.” Tommy reached forward and keyed his command circuit on the Kosiev and pressed a red button; immediately the ships intercom began blaring on all decks, “Battle stations, all hands to battle stations; this is not a drill.”
    “What’s going on?” Cassandra asked anxiously from her command chair as she punched the blue general quarters button.
    “A Captor ship had just entered Earth’s solar system and is firing a beam into Jupiter’s atmosphere. I suspect it is taking readings but when it finishes it will probably turn its attention on Earth. If it follows its normal behaviors then Earth and all its outposts will be destroyed. Our shakedown cruise has just been canceled. We are jumping into the Captor’s home system close to the planet, fire a full salvo of penetrators, and then jump away. I’ve entered the jump coordinates into your board, Cassie. We must divert that ships attention away from Earth’s solar system quickly.”
    Everyone on the bridge prepared for battle but felt the real fear of facing this enemy that was hundreds of millions of years more advanced. Cassandra thought to Tommy, “We aren’t ready. We need more time!”
    “That’s something we don’t have. Prepare to jump Captain Dodd.

Chapter 1

    Tommy was sitting in his chair on board Atlas staring at a monitor with the planet Ross glowing in the center of it. He had recently turned eighteen and Atlas was bringing him home to Ross after his graduation from the Kosiev Fleet Academy’s Advanced Leadership Graduate School to attend the Stars Realm’s presentation of his new title at a coronation ceremony. “Atlas, I really don’t want to have this title forced on me.”
    “You really don’t have much choice, Tommy” Atlas replied. “Your sister has not had a child and the Realm is concerned about the succession. The Realm needs the security of knowing who would be their leader if something happened to Rose.”
    “I’m not qualified; I’ve never taken part in any of the day to day ruling of the Realm; I’ve deliberately avoided it because I have no interest in the job. My entire life is dedicated to freeing your captured brothers.”
    Atlas gave a mental sigh and said, “Even so, you are still your parents child and the Realm still loves them. Even if Rose had a child, they would still demand that you be the one to lead the Realm if Rose was not available.”
    Tommy sat and thought about his future, “Well, fortunately, I don’t see anything happening to Rose. So let’s get this over with so we can get back to work.”
    “We also need to pick up some new crew members when we arrive,” Atlas said with a different tone.
    Tommy looked up from the monitor, “Who would that be?”
    “Two new Algean adolescents are being sent to be educated,” Atlas replied, “and they come from high families.”
    Tommy knew that Atlas’ had been forgiven for destroying the Algeans millions of years ago and Atlas had offered to train the brightest of the adolescents to try and make up for the actions of his race against the Algeans.
    Atlas was millions of years old and was the sole remaining Alfont that was still free. His race had transferred their bodies and minds into their starship’s structure more than seventy millions years ago and he was technologically more advanced than any ship in existence. He was, however, not a match for the race that had killed and imprisoned millions of his brothers, but he and Tommy were working to develop the means to free his kin from their captors. Tommy turned from his monitor and looked at Atlas’ control panel, “Uh oh, that means they will be almost out of control for the next few years. What families do they trace their lineage?”
    “One is a female and she comes directly from the Eldest’s seed and the other is a male who is a seed of the Fleet Leader that was leading the final attack on the Dremels’ world.”
    “Wow, they are very high placed.” Tommy thought a moment, “Were we just lucky to get them assigned to you or was there another reason”
    “It seems these two have a way of causing, uh, problems.”
    Tommy smiled, “More problems than the usual Algean adolescent?”
    Atlas said with a smile, “You have no idea. The male accidently destroyed a megaship.”
    Tommy sighed, “I have to leave you and go away with them during their initial education, don’t I?”
    “Yes you do, Tommy; the ship you’ll take them for their “break in” period has already been selected.”
    Tommy wondered why life just couldn’t be simple; first this title and now these two new adolescents. He looked back at the monitor, “Let’s get this title affair over with and then I’ll worry about the Algeans. By the way, what ship am I going to use for their initial training?”
    “It’s one of the new Megaships, the Stars Realm Megaship Dorg-Ross.”
    “That’s a big name for a ship to carry. I still miss him since he died five years ago. Rose really loved that old Cainth. He added Ross to his name after the war with the Algeans to always remind him of those colonists he ordered executed.”
    Atlas said somberly, “The citizens of Ross came to love him long before that war ended, the Dremel have named their largest city after him and The Algeans love him even more than them. Let’s go get this over with. You need to go get ready.”
    “I agree,” Tommy said and went back to get dressed for the ceremony. As he began getting dressed, he thought about his fifth birthday when he left Castle Gardner.
    His name was Thomas Anglo Gardner, jr. and he was being forced to leave Castle Gardner. Tag and Danielle had decided that their youngest child was not going to be isolated from the normal population of the Realm like Rose had been. Tommy sat in his room and mentally listened to Rose argue against their parent’s decision.
    “Mom, Dad, there’s no reason for you to leave now. I’ve just assumed the throne and I need your help here running the Realm,” Rose pleaded.
    Tag looked at his daughter, “Rose, you’ve been pretty much running the Realm since you were thirteen. Danielle was only queen in name; you made all the critical decisions. You need to be the final authority and having us here only allows those who don’t agree with your decisions another outlet for their grumbling. You job will be easier after we’re gone.”
    “Rose, we were forced to keep you in Castle Gardner as a child because we were constantly fighting the Algeans during your childhood,” Danielle added, “The Realm is at peace now and Tommy is not going to be secluded during his learning years.”
    “I turned out ok,” Rose fired back, “are you saying my development wasn’t good.”
    Tag looked at Danielle, “No, we’re not saying that.”
    Rose raised her head and looked over her nose at her parents and said, “But…”
    Danielle came over and put her hand on Rose’s shoulder, “Rose, you have no understanding of what the normal everyday citizens of the Stars Realm go through.” Rose started to protest but Danielle held up her hand, “I’m not through. I know you can see anything that happens on any of our planets; however, you see it from a distant perspective and you don’t really feel what life is like for our citizens because you’ve never lived it. You will rule the Stars Realm; that is your destiny. Tommy will live pursuing the direction he chooses. We are not going to deprive him of being a part of normal life and learning from the experience.”
    Rose stared at her parents, “Just how are the two of you going to make that happen? Do you think you’ll just go buy a house somewhere and settle in? You’re the two most recognized faces in the Galaxy. There’s no way you can make this happen.”
    Tag embraced his daughter, “It’s just that fame that will make it easier to hide. You are going to help make this happen.”
    “Just how am I going to do that,” Rose asked?
    “You are going to announce that your parents are going to take Tommy and explore new galaxies,” Tag said. “We are going to take an extended vacation of exploration in one of our best starships. We’ll have a huge party for our sendoff and then we’ll take a shuttle to leave for our ship. We’ll announce that the name of our ship is being kept secret to insure our privacy and we will check in on the Realm occasionally.”
    Rose furrowed her brow and Danielle said, “Tgon-Gee will meet us and provide a different shuttle that we will use to go and establish our new identities. He has a cover for us already established and jobs waiting for us.”
    “You can’t mean you’re going to work!” Rose said loudly.
    “I’m afraid so, little one,” Tag said smiling. “And we’re going to live within our budget, too.”
    Rose decided to fire her last shot, “Are you considering Tommy’s happiness in this decision? You’re taking him away from his friends, matter of fact from his best friend. How do you think Wes will take him leaving?”
    Tag looked at Danielle and Rose could see that they were troubled by her observation. “Got-ca,” Rose thought.
    The library door opened and Leila walked in from her office. “You know, you should turn off all the communication devices when you’re having this kind of disagreement,” she said. “I’ve erased any recording of what you’ve been saying so no one will hear what you’ve discussed but everyone here knows that this conference room automatically records anything said.”
    Rose looked guilty and Tag and Danielle looked at her with an expression that indicated that they did not know they were being recorded. Leila looked at Rose, “Oh, did you not tell them that you ordered the recordings?” Rose just looked at Leila and didn’t know what to say.
    Leila turned to Danielle, “Leaving Wes will not be a problem; I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
    Rose said, “How can you say that? You know he’ll be hurt by this decision.”
    Leila looked at Rose and said, “Of course he’ll be fine; he’s going with them.”
    Rose, Tag, and Danielle’s mouths all fell open. Danielle recovered quickly and said, “What are you saying Leila?”
    Leila looked at Danielle and said, “Eric and I have been worried about Wes’ development. Do you know what Eric and I do on our vacations? We go back to Earth and spend time with our parents to make sure that we stay grounded. Being here at the seat of total power in the Stars Realm can cause one to lose their perspective. I’ve already seen some of that in Wes.”
    “As we have in Tommy,” said Tag.
    “We can go wherever we choose because we are behind the scenes here at Castle Gardner. But even we are recognized by a large number of those around us.” Leila paused for a moment and said, “Tag, Danielle, I want you to take Wes with you. We’ll arrange visits when possible but he needs to get out of this castle and see what the real world is like.”
    Rose looked at them and said, “What about me has made you decide this? Obviously I’m doing something that has caused you to make this decision.”
    Danielle came over and said, “Rose, you have absolutely no understanding of your importance to your subjects and the role you should play with them.”
    “What do you mean? Of course I understand my importance.”
    “Rose, did you know that last week when you went to the opening of the new wing on the Fleet Academy that there were more than a hundred thousand people there to see you.”
    Rose thought for a moment and said, “They were there to see the opening of the new wing.”
    Tag said, “No they weren’t, Rose”
    Rose looked at Leila for help and Leila turned on the wall screen and pressed some buttons on the desk console. On the screen headlines from the off world and local news organizations appeared, “Queen ignores huge crowd gathered to see her.” “Rose is a hidden flower.” “Disappointment rules the day.”
    Rose read the headlines and she heard Danielle say. “A year ago you gave a little girl at one of your public visits one of your old bunnies you played with as a young child. Do you know that the little girl comes from a middle class family that barely pays their bills? She was offered ten million credits for that little bunny.”
    Rose’s eyes widened.
    “That’s not all, Rose,” Tag said. “A bidding war ensued and the price got up to forty million credits.”
    Leila looked at Rose and said, “The little girl turned every one of them down. She wanted to keep her bunny.”
    “Unfortunately, with the value of the bunny being so high her family was forced to put it in a bank for safe keeping,” Danielle said. “I secretly went and visited the little girl’s family and took them one of your other bunnies. I then asked that they sell the bunny that caused the problem to remove attention from them. I made them promise to keep the new bunny’s origin secret and the little girl told me, “I don’t care about being wealthy or famous for receiving this; I am just so happy that Rose gave it to me.”
    Rose looked at the floor and thought about what they were saying. Then Tag ended her resistance when he said, “Since the age of thirteen, you have only gone out four times to see the subjects of our Realm that love you so much. None of those trips were alone; you accompanied Danielle on her trips. You have no idea of what our family means to the Realm and we take responsibility for that. You’ve never spent time among our subjects.”
    As Tommy sat in his room on the ninth floor of Castle Gardner listening to his parents discuss their plan, he heard that he was leaving. He immediately thought to Wes, “Wes, you might want to hear this.”
    Wes thought back, “What? What’s going on?”
    Tommy began sharing what he was hearing with Wes.
    Rose lifted her head and said, “I’ll get out more and visit the Realm if you’ll just stay.”
    Danielle said, “Rose, you need to get out more whether we stay or not. It’s not only that, Rose. You’re missing the point. There are many little things that show us that you don’t have a real understanding of normal life. We think that while there’s time, Tommy should not be isolated from those experiences. It’s the right thing to do in our opinion.” Danielle paused and said, “Are you saying that you want Tommy to be kept from seeing what we think is important for his maturity?”
    Rose knew she was being selfish. She didn’t want to give in but after reflection, she looked at Leila and said, “I’m leaving it to you to make sure they are not discovered.” She then turned to her parents and said, “You know that Tommy is hearing everything you say and I suspect he has included Wes.”
    “Oh Crap,” Wes thought.
    “I agree,” Tommy thought. “Play dumb.”
    “It won’t work,” Rose thought so both of them could hear. “Come down here and join us.”
    Rose said, “I was right. They were listening in; I’ve directed them to come join our little group.”
    Danielle looked at Leila and said, “How are you going to deal with not having Wes near you?”
    Leila sighed and said, “If I keep him here for that reason then I place my needs ahead of his. I’m sure Rose will help me stay in touch.” Rose looked at Leila and nodded. “Does your cover include a way for him to go with you?” Leila asked.
    Tag smiled and said, “The boys are only three months different in age. We’ll say they’re fraternal twins. Wes’ green eyes match mine and we’ll say that red hair comes from an uncle. I’ll get Tgon-Gee to set up the paperwork.”
    Rose started crying and Danielle went to her and held her close. You’re not going to be alone for long. Remember that you will meet your future husband within the year.”
    “I know,” Rose said. “I just love that little brother of mine so much and I also love both of you more than you’ll ever know.”
    Tag and Danielle looked at each other and Tag said, “Loving is something this family does extremely well. Remember, we’re only a thought away.”
    Tommy’s parents were right; they slipped into normal society on Earth and no one noticed. His parents were employed at the Glod Embassy teaching new employees the things they would need to know to live on Earth. Every time his parents met someone new, Danielle always said before any one asked, “People tell me that I look like the old queen. I just wish I was that pretty.” Danielle had colored her hair brown at the roots and made it look like she had tried to color it blond. Most people thought she may look slightly like the queen but she was failing miserably to get it right. She had also had her teeth colored slightly yellow which convinced anyone when she smiled that she was no queen.
    Tag used the lessons he had learned as a teen from Richard Wiseman. He grew his hair out to look like the old pictures of Bill Clinton and wore padding around his middle to make him look overweight. He placed pads in his cheeks to complete his overweight look. He kept saying he was going to lose weight and after a year he slowly reduced the size of the padding and no one noticed who he really was. By that time the mustache and long hair made him appear different enough to avoid close scrutiny.
    Tommy and Wes entered school without anyone noticing anything different about them. There just weren’t enough pictures of Tommy taken as he grew up since most of the Realm’s attention was directed toward his parents and Rose; that suited him just fine. Danielle kept him from public view for the eight months prior to them leaving which made it harder for him to be recognized. He and Wes cut their hair very short and that was the only disguise they needed. Truth be told, Tommy was glad to leave Castle Gardner and get out of Rose’s long shadow. The wealth, glamour, and attention that came with being in the royal family did not attract him at all. Leaving and joining normal everyday people in school was liberating for him.
    The first thing his parents discussed with him and Wes was the necessity of hiding Tommy’s psychic skills. He knew that if he used them, he would probably be reported to the government of earth and then the charade would be over. Tommy promised to never reveal his talents. At night he would use his mind to travel the Galaxies of the universe and most of the time he included Wes.
    Wes, like Tommy, was glad to leave Castle Gardner but for a different reason. He was pretty much a non-entity living there among such famous people. Now he had the chance to make his own place on his own merits. He also would have been bored to tears if Tommy had left him behind. Tommy and Wes entered a time of their life that both of them as adults would remember as their happiest moments.

Chapter 2

    Tommy and Wes were in their fourth level when trouble reared its ugly head. They were both outstanding students and were ranked in the top of their class. Tommy before he left Castle Gardner had learned from an Algean Adolescent how to quickly scan a book mentally and store its contents in his mind. By the time he was four he had read every book in the library and had shared them with Wes. Wes had learned to use Tommy’s system for scanning and mentally storing huge numbers of books. Though he wasn’t near as fast, Tommy made it simple by just mentally transferring the information directly to Wes’s mind. School was not a problem for them; most of the material they had already learned. It was this that got them noticed. The school director announced on the school com that they had two of the highest scores ever made in their level on the final. Tommy and Wes both felt the exaggerated praise was overdone. Being smart made them a target.
    The problem started with the great reptile adventure. Tommy during recess one day found a rather large lizard on the playground sunning itself. He picked it up and stroked it under its chin and the lizard appeared to rather enjoy the experience. He decided to keep it and take it home after school; so he went to his class after recess with it safely held in his hands. Wes later asked Tommy what possessed him to lift Linda Kay Johns’ desk top and place the lizard inside. Tommy said he really didn’t know; it was just an impulse.
    As the rest of the class came in from recess, Linda Kay sat down, opened her desk, and leaned forward to get her notebook. Evidently the lizard decided to make a grand exit at just that moment and jumped out on to Linda Kay’s nose. Even the teacher was impressed with the volume of her scream. Linda Kay jumped up from her desk screaming, “Get this dinosaur off me,” and turned to run from the giant reptile attacking her. She ran smack into Wes who was coming in right behind her and both of them tumbled to the floor. Wes who had a small crush on Linda Kay since third level ended up on the floor with Linda Kay squirming on top of him. Tommy later told him that he thought Wes’ smile was going to split his face in half. Linda Kay for her part was struggling to remove the lizard from her hair and didn’t even notice Wes was under her.
    The lizard showed excellent judgment and jumped off Linda Kay directly onto the teacher’s leg to escape the screaming nine year old. The teacher then began dancing around the class trying to dislodge the lizard from climbing up her dress. Students were running everywhere and the room emptied faster than a bucket with no bottom leaving Tommy and Wes with Linda Kay still on top, and the teacher, who finally kicked the lizard off her leg, as the only ones remaining in class. Tommy walked over, picked up the lizard, and took it outside releasing it back into the wild of the playground. He could have sworn the lizard had a smile as it scampered away. Tommy returned to a silent classroom. Wes was sitting in his desk with a red face and that stupid grin and Linda Kay was staring blaster beams at him. The teacher asked Tommy to stay a few moments after school to discuss the event. Tommy asked Wes to wait for him outside and Wes agreed still sporting the huge smile. The teacher had a rather stern discussion with him about pulling jokes during school hours. He received a note to take home to his parents and he then left to meet Wes outside.
    As he exited the school he didn’t see Wes immediately but after walking around the corner of the building he saw his friend surrounded by four large boys. Two were holding Wes’ arms while the biggest was punching Wes in the chest with his index finger. Tommy walked up and heard the one doing the punching say, “You think you’re so smart. You’re nothing special. Let’s teach him a few things he doesn’t know.”
    Tommy leaned against the building behind the four older students and said, “Wes, do you want to handle this yourself or do you want some help?”
    The four boys turned around quickly startled by the new voice. Wes said, “No, I think I can handle this group; I do appreciate your offer, though.”
    The big boy looked at the one not holding Wes’ arms and said, “Here’s the other genius. Go grab him and don’t let him get away. We’ll handle him next.” The big boy then took a swing at Wes.
    The big boy walked toward Tommy smiling and said, “You’re going to get it now.”
    Tommy watched him approach and said, “Would you mind moving a little left, I can’t see your friends get their grumps beat.”
    With that the boy lunged to grab Tommy who saw everything turn into slow motion. Just like his father, Tommy’s psychic skills protected him during times of stress. The boy reached slowly for Tommy who stepped aside and walked by him to see what was going to happen to Wes. The big boy watched the smaller boy suddenly disappear from in front of him and appear behind him. He moved too fast for him to follow with his eyes. For the next few moments he attempted to grab Tommy but failed miserably. Meanwhile Wes saw the punch coming and he slammed his food down on one of the boy’s foot holding him who immediately released his arm. Wes ducked the incoming blow and slammed his fist from his freed arm into the stomach of the other boy holding his arm. The larger boy doubled over and Wes kneed him in the midsection dropping him to the ground. Wes then elbowed the boy that had released his arm in the mid section and then turned to face the biggest attacker in front of him. The boy who had been chasing Tommy saw his two friends on the ground and left Tommy to come up behind Wes and lift him off the ground. The big boy in front then connected with a fist to Wes’s chin. The two boys that had been knocked down by Wes slowly got up and moved in on the fight. Wes said, “I think that now would be a good time for you to join in,” as the big boy hit him in the chest.
    Tommy said, “I don’t want to spoil your fun, are you sure?”
    Wes grunted and said, “I don’t want to deprive you of all this fun, so pick a couple and enjoy yourself.’
    The older boys heard the back and forth and they didn’t know what to make of it until Tommy stepped up in front of the leader and hit him right between the eyes. His face glazed over and he dropped like a rock. Tommy then turned and hit the one holding Wes off the ground squarely on the chin. He hit the ground faster than the first one. The two remaining boys were left standing in front of Wes who they could tell had an expression that spelled danger.
    Tommy said, “Well, I’ve handled my two. Can I have these or do you want them yourself?”
    Wes said through gritted teeth, “Oh no, these are mine.” The two remaining boys didn’t even have time to run. Wes jumped and kicked one of them right under his chin and then spun slamming his elbow against the side of the head of the only one left standing.”
    Tommy looked at the boys scattered on the ground in front of them and said, “I’m glad you remembered not to break any bones. We can probably get away with this little incident but sending one of them to the hospital would draw entirely too much attention.”
    Wes looked at his best friend and said, “Why did you wait so long?” He rubbed his chin and said, “He hit like a girl but now I have this mark I have to explain.”
    Tommy smiled and said, “Colonel Ortiz would be disappointed if I prevented you from handling these four inexperienced lads. He’ll insist that he taught you better.”
    Wes smiled back and said, “Are you crazy?” He pointed at the biggest one and said, “This one is almost as big as that lizard you brought in today.”
    They both started laughing and then went over and started helping the four failed attackers get up. Wes looked at Tommy and said, “How do we explain this?”
    “The ole naval marine uncle,” Tommy replied.
    The four boys sat up groggily and Tommy sat down in front of them. When they had their senses Tommy looked the biggest one in the eye and said, “I bet you four are wondering how two little geniuses like us did this.” The big boy nodded and Tommy said, “My father’s older brother is a retired naval marine from the Ross conflict and he has taught us martial arts since we’ve been able to walk. One of the things he impressed on us was that we should never use what he taught us to be aggressive toward others. We promised to only use our training in self-defense.” Tommy slid closer and looked the big boy in the eyes just inches from his face, “I suspect that we are not the first smaller students you have chosen to pick on.” The big boy’s expression gave him away. “We are not going to say anything to anyone about this and I suspect that if you tell your buddies that you were beat up by two fourth levels, well, your reputation might suffer.” Tommy reached forward and grabbed the shirt of the leader and said, “However, if you attack any other students then my brother and I will visit you again. Defend yourself if needed, but we do not like bullies. Nod if you understand.” All four boys started nodding.
    “Good,” Wes said. Let us depart company as friends,” and he held out his hand to one of the boys who shook it. Tommy held out his hand and shook hands with the four boys and then he and Wes left to go home.
    “Do you think they’ll make an issue of this?” Wes asked.
    “Would you?” Tommy responded.
    “Well, I hope not. By the way, I want to thank you for that lizard. I almost had Linda Kay kiss me from saving her from that Tyrannosaurus you used to booby trap her desk.”
    “Don’t mention it, but it got me a note sent home to Mom and Dad.”
    Are you going to tell them about what happened after school?”
    Tommy thought for a moment and said, “They know. As soon as I felt danger, Dad sensed it and watched it through my eyes.” Wes looked at Tommy with raised eyebrows and Tommy said, “We’ll probably get a pass on the fight but I’m afraid the reptile adventure is going to get me grounded.”
    Tommy finished dressing and looked at himself in the mirror. He knew that he had inherited his mother’s good looks and his father’s body. The tight fitting uniform accented his athletic body and Tommy thought that even the rose color clothes accented by the royal blue sash actually looked good on him. “Atlas, I’m going to take the speeder down to the planet if you don’t mind.”
    Atlas said, “I can take you directly if you want.”
    “No, I want to take my time and enjoy the trip.”
    “It’s waiting on you. Try to enjoy yourself.” Atlas extended a corridor out to the one man ship that had just emerged from Atlas’ hull. Tommy enjoyed using the speeder because it was invisible to detection and was faster than any ship in the fleet. Well, The Alexander Kosiev was faster but it was currently residing in the core of a star so it didn’t count. Tommy boarded and started his trip down to the surface of Ross.
    Tommy missed Ross and he looked forward to seeing old friends. Then he thought about all the friends he made on earth during school and then remembered when he was forced, once again, to leave his home.
    Fourteen year old Tommy and Wes were sitting in the recreation center several miles from their home. Linda Kay had left fifteen minutes before when her parents came to take her home and Wes had that stupid grin on his face. Tommy looked at his best friend and chuckled to himself. After the great reptile adventure, Linda Kay started noticing Wes. It wasn’t long before Wes was walking her to the floater that took her home each day, sharing lunch time with her, and they started looking at each other as very special friends. Tommy said, “That grin might injure your jaws if you keep it up.”
    Wes poked him on the arm and said, “You’re just jealous.” Wes looked at his friend for a moment and said, “Tommy, if I remember correctly, Rose knew who her husband was going to be when she was very young. Do you know?”
    Tommy sighed and looked off in the distance at the crystal spires in the central part of the city and said, “She was four when she told my parents and I must admit that Michael has turned out to be a wonderful addition to our family. He is strong psychically and is a great match for Rose.” Tommy then turned and looked directly at Wes and said, “I have not seen or sensed anyone that will fill that role for me.”
    “Some of the girls in class think you’re dreamy. They don’t interest you?”
    “Not really. I enjoy being around them but it doesn’t touch me where it counts. It may be that there is not a match for me.” There was a moment of silence and Tommy sighed and said, “I have many of years ahead of me before it becomes a problem.”
    Wes looked at Tommy and said, “I’m going to miss Linda Kay. I wish they had not started taking gifted students into the academy so early. I really don’t want to leave her next year.”
    Tommy shook his head and said, “If the first three classes of young cadets had not done so well, then we would be ok to stay. Unfortunately, they’ve excelled. Most of them are being placed in Graduate studies so that they are far ahead of regular students. Besides, Linda Kay will be joining you at the academy the following year. You should have played dumb and not skipped a grade last year.”
    Tommy thought Wes would laugh at the remark but he gave a heavy sigh instead and said, “I didn’t want to be separated from you. I’ve got to say, I almost wish I had played dumb; I’m going to miss that girl. By the way, why are we having a meeting in the School Director’s office in the morning?”
    Tommy shrugged and said, “I don’t know; do you think I’m psychic or something?”
    Wes laughed out loud and walked out to the floater that Danielle had just landed in front of the center. Life was good.
    At least it was good until the following morning; when Tommy and Wes entered the School Director’s office and were greeted by a Captain from the Fleet Academy along with one of the boys that they had fought five years earlier. Wes said under his breath, “Oh, crap!”
    Tommy thought to him, “I hate it when you say that. It always means trouble.”
    The Captain looked at the two boys and said, “Good morning, my name is Captain Lowery and I’m certain you remember Cadet first class Edward Jones.”
    Tommy furrowed his brow and said, “Nooooo. He’s not familiar to me.”
    Wes chimed in, “I don’t know him either.”
    Captain Lowery looked at the two young boys and said, “Ed why don’t you tell them why you’re here.”
    Edward looked at Tommy and Wes and then stood and walked over and shook their hands. Tommy and Wes were confused and Tommy was not willing to violate the privacy of the captain and cadet by looking in their minds to find out what was going on. He had learned early in life that to do that was totally unethical. Edward said, “Five years ago three of my friends and I attacked you in front of the school. This wasn’t something that happened rarely; we did it a lot. You kicked the crap out of us and then you shook our hands and cautioned us not to do it again. After I went home, I thought about what you had done and what you said and I determined that I was going nowhere with my life. Those boys weren’t real friends; they were just bullies with a lot of issues. I decided to do something with my life. I worked hard in school and I was in the first class of accelerated students that entered the academy three years ago. This year I have been selected to be Cadet Commander. In my acceptance speech I told my class mates about the two nine year olds that taught four twelve year old bullies some comeuppance. When I told them that you moved too fast for me to actually see, the Captain decided to bring me here to meet you. I just want to thank you for the lesson you taught me.”
    Tommy said, “Don’t mention it.” Then after a pause he said, “Please.”
    Wes started snickering, looked at Tommy, and said, “Well, a fine mess you’ve got us into now.”
    Captain Lowery said, “Smile while you can but I have a squad of Naval Marines here and we’re placing you under arrest.”
    Tommy sat down and said, “Did you call anyone before you came here to get approval for your actions, Captain?”
    Captain Lowery said, “No, I have the authority to make an arrest.”
    Wes said, “and we are being arrested for…?”
    Captain Lowery said, “We’ll determine that after we examine you.”
    A large group of students had gathered outside the office to see what was going on. They had never seen this many armed Naval Marines at their school. Linda Kay was outside crying because she knew Wes was inside.
    Tommy sighed and said, “Captain, are you sure you want to do this. You don’t know the bag of goomba you’re about to open.”
    Lowery looked at Tommy and said, “Just who are you to talk to me that way?”
    Tommy looked at Wes and said, “It has been a lot of fun but the Captain’s right. Someone other than us needs to talk to him.”
    Wes shrugged and said, “You tried to warn him.”
    “Rose,” Tommy thought.
    “Yes, Tommy. What’s wrong?”
    Tommy quickly filled her in on the situation and Rose said, “Hang on, I’ll be right there.”
    “Is that really necessary?” Tommy thought.
    “Like Mom said; I need to get out more.”
    Tommy looked at Captain Lowery and said, “Sir, you are about to get a call on your com.”
    Immediately Lowery’s com buzzed. Lowery looked puzzled and then pressed his com and said, “This is Captain Lowery.” Tommy and Wes watched as Lowery’s face turned white. He couldn’t say a word and remained frozen as he listened. After two minutes he lowered his arm and looked at the two boys and said, “We are to remain here.”
    Tommy smiled and said, “It’s not fun being surprised is it Captain?”
    Edward watched the proceedings and furrowed his brow. Tommy said, “Don’t go anywhere Edward. The fun is about to start.”
    Within two minutes the entire school was surrounded by more than two thousand security floaters that roared in and disgorged five thousand armed agents that immediately lined up facing out keeping anyone from coming near the campus. All of the students and teachers watched what was happening and were scared. Linda Kay wailed, “What have they done now?”
    Tommy said, “A credit says she arrives here in less than twenty minutes.”
    Wes laughed and said, “You must think I’m crazy to make that kind of bet; you’re watching her right now.”
    Edward said, “Watching who?”
    Tommy looked at Captain Lowery and asked, “Do you want to tell him?”
    Lowery just stood there still in shock.
    Suddenly the boys heard a loud commotion outside and Tommy said, “I didn’t think she would get here first.” Wes just shrugged.
    Misty Nicole, the Director of Earth’s Government, burst onto the school grounds and started shouting at the School Director, “Where is he?”
    The director said, “Who?”
    Misty shouted “Tommy Gardner.
    The school director said he didn’t know anyone by that name.
    Misty looked at him and said, “Then get inside and stay out of the way. Misty turned and walked to the line of security agents to organize security.”
    Suddenly the school grew dark. Everyone looked up and there floating over the school was one of the newest Megaships. Fifteen minutes later a huge shuttle left its landing port and settled to the ground, the doors opened and a company of fully armored Naval Marines filed out in full battle armor followed by a company of Cainth Warriors in full ceremonial dress, and a company of Glod Warriors all armed with their swords and blasters. The three companies exited and began an intricate maneuver. They formed a corridor and then everyone saw the most recognized face in the galaxy standing in the shuttle entrance with Misty Nicole coming back from the security lines to meet her. Tommy thought to Wes, “Rose sure knows how to make an entrance.
    Tag and Danielle were at work when Tommy sent them a thought and said, “Well, it looks like the gig is up. Rose is coming to remove us from the school. It seems our little fight five years ago has come home to haunt us. You might want to come here and help extricate us from the proceedings.”
    Tag looked at Danielle and said, “Let’s go home and gather our things and go meet our children.”
    Danielle smiled and said, “You know we never expected it to last this long, they’re leaving anyway in five months to attend the Fleet Academy. They’ll have time to relax until their entrance.”
    Tag sighed and said, “Yeah, but I still wish they had been able to finish their school year.” Tag and Danielle left their jobs and took their floater at high speed home. Danielle quickly washed the brown dye out of her hair and removed the yellow color from here teeth while Tag packed their belongings.
    As they loaded the floater, Danielle looked at Tag and asked, “Are you going to shave that mustache before we leave?”
    Tag twirled the end of his mustache and said, “No, I kinda like the look. Besides, we need to prevent a riot when we get there; you might want to wear something to cover your hair.”
    Danielle smiled and looked around their living quarters and found a scarf to cover her head then said, “I’ve really enjoyed the last few years. I’m going to miss it.” They both looked around and then turned to go to their floater.
    Several of their neighbors came out and Jim, who lived next door said, “Where are you going in such a hurry?”
    Danielle looked at the gathering group and the neighbors immediately noticed that when she smiled at them her teeth were perfect. They also saw her blonde hair was perfect just before she covered it with a scarf. All of them started talking among themselves and Danielle looked at Tag and then said to the group. “We want to thank you for making us feel welcome over the last few years. We are going home and we would like you to come visit us when you have the time. Please write this number down, 101059, and tell whoever answers that you’ve been invited to come see us. Transportation will be arranged for you; I only ask you give us about four weeks to settle in and do not give this number to anyone else.”
    Every one smiled and came over to hug the departing couple who had been great neighbors. Tag and Danielle boarded their floater and lifted to head toward Tommy’s school.
    Jill Jekins looked at the other neighbors as they left and said, “I wonder where this com number goes.”
    Joe Daniels looked at her, ‘Call it and see who answers. Put it on speaker so we can all hear it.”
    Jill entered the number and it buzzed once; a voice said, “Castle Gardner, I see you’ve called Queen Danielle’s private number, how may I help you.”
    Everyone turned at once and looked at the floater as it got smaller in the distance; then started celebrating their good fortune. They were invited to Castle Gardner. Everyone ran home to tell everyone they knew just who had been their neighbors. They were going to Castle Gardner.”
    Tag and Danielle arrived at the school just after the shuttle landed and saw a crowd had already gathered outside the school grounds. The first reporters were arriving and though no one knew what was going on, the arrival of the two thousand security floaters meant something serious was going down. The Gardners parked their floater a block from the school just before the airspace above was shut off to all aerial traffic. They then walked through the crowd and politely walked up to the line of security agents. Tag said to a huge agent that he would like to be allowed to cross their lines and go to the school. The agent looked at him and said, “No one is allowed past this point. Back away from our line of I’ll have you arrested.”
    Tag smiled at the agent and then raised his com, “Rose, we are at the security line and we have been refused entrance to the school.” The agent furrowed his brow and would have questioned who he was talking with but the entire company of Glod Warriors broke ranks at the shuttle and ran through the security line to arrive directly in front of Tag and Danielle where every one of the agents in front of them were forcibly moved away from the couple standing there. The agent saw that the Glods had pulled their swords and were surrounding the couple he had just spoken with. Once the area was clear around them, the Glod Warriors bowed in unison and raised their swords to the woman standing there. The huge crowd grew deathly silent; no one moved. Then the leader of the Glod Honor Guard said, “My Queen, we have missed you so much. Is there any command you care to give us.”
    Danielle removed the scarf that was hiding her hair, walked up to the huge Glod Warrior, placed her hand on his shoulder and said, “Rise, my most excellent warriors and please take us to my son.” The Glod rose, turned, and escorted Tag and Danielle onto the school grounds.
    The crowd heard what was said and the reporters put it out on the news channels that the entire Royal family was at a school in Central City. The rush to the site was immediate and overwhelming. In less than ten minutes more than half a million people arrived.
    Misty Nicole had just turned sixty years old and in all that time she had never witnessed the recklessness that people showed trying to get close enough to see the Gardners. She stopped her rush toward Rose and lifted her com and said, “I want the military to clear the airspace around this school for a distance of forty miles. All air traffic inside that perimeter will be grounded immediately. Jump in the marines to keep order here in the city.”
    Tommy and Wes sat calmly in the office with Edward and Captain Lowery. Tommy walked over and turned on the monitor on the wall and tuned it to a local news station. They immediately saw an aerial view of the school showing the massive crowd that was gathering. As they listened to the news announcer say that no one knew why but the entire Royal Family appeared to be at the school. Tommy started changing channels and the only thing showing was the crowds at the school. One view showed a regiment of armored naval marines jumping in on their suit jets and start restoring order in the crowd. Five minutes later the military transports arrived and more than 40,000 armed drop troops started dropping into the crowd.
    Wes watched the monitor and said, “There is going to be some angry people when their afternoon soaps are preempted by this.”
    Tommy said, “Not really. Something like this doesn’t happen very often.” Tommy then looked at Captain Lowery and said, “I bet you didn’t plan for something like this to blow up in your face, did you?” Captain Lowery was still pale and in a semi-state of shock. He knew his career was over. Tommy walked up and said, “Well, Captain Lowery, I am pleased to meet you. My name is Tommy Gardner and this is my best friend Wes McAnn.” Tommy held out his hand and Lowery reached out and shook it. Tommy then turned to Edward and said, “Ed, I’m sure I speak for Wes when I tell you that we are proud of what you’ve accomplished. It makes me feel proud to know I had a small role in it.”
    Edward had been watching the madness of the moment and said, “Your last name is not Ashford?”
    Tommy smiled and said, “No. That was a name my mother used while she was working undercover at my father’s school when they were teens.”
    Edward then said, “You’re Queen Danielle’s son, aren’t you.”
    Tommy looked at Captain Lowery and said, “Yes I am. I was undercover here until the Captain here blew our cover.” Lowery flinched at Tommy’s remark.
    Edward looked at the two boys and said, “Outstanding! I had my grump kicked by a Gardner. My story just got better.” Captain lowery looked like he was going to be sick.
    Rose walked down the ramp from the shuttle and saw her parents being escorted by the Glod Honor Guard. She changed direction and walked quickly toward them. Danielle saw her daughter and ran to her and embraced her. Rose held her mother tight and thought to her, “Mom, I have missed you so terribly much. I’ve missed you so much it hurts.” She held on for a long moment and then went to Tag and wrapped her arms around him. Tag picked his daughter up and swung her around. Rose was truly happy for the first time in eight years. Tag put her down and Rose reached up and wiped away her tears. She said to her parents, “I’m not acting very royal.”
    Danielle smiled at Rose and said, “This is exactly what royalty should look like. We are family and this is what families do when they’ve been separated for a long time.”
    Tag said, “Let’s go get Tommy. Rose, we will follow you.”
    Rose smiled at her father and turned and moved toward the school. As she walked toward the entrance she saw Misty Nicole coming and she was moving quickly toward them. “Oh, crap!” Rose and Danielle said at the same time.
    Misty Nicole came up and bowed to the Gardners and said, “Welcome home. It’s good to see all of you.” Then she looked sternly at them and pointed her finger, “Are you aware that we need some time to prepare for your arrival? Look around you; there are more than a million people gathered around this school and the crowd is getting larger. I hope you don’t disappoint them and not say something to them before you leave. It’s going to take us weeks to get this mess straightened out. I don’t know if traffic can ever be restored to normal.”
    Tag, Danielle, and Rose just stared at the woman confronting them not knowing what to say. Then Misty smiled and said, “I don’t care if it takes months, it’s worth it just to see you again. Then she walked forward and hugged all three.”
    The students in the school that had gathered outside the Director’s office were pushed aside by security agents and told to sit down. Rose saw their treatment and said in a voice that penetrated the room, “You will leave the children alone.” She then pointed to the security agents that had pushed the students and said, “Commander Durk, please escort these agents off the school grounds and see that they don’t return.” The Cainth Commander moved forward with ten warriors armed with their four swords and looked at the agents; they moved quickly out of the building. Rose came forward and said, “Stand up. I want to meet you. The students were in awe. Here was the person that had almost single handedly ended the war with the Algeans when she was their age. The students stood up and stared at the Queen of the Stars Realm. “My name is Rose Gardner and these are my parents. What are your names?” Each student bowed and told her their name. Rose smiled and shook each of their hands. Rose stepped in front of a pretty girl with long black hair and the girl said, “My name is Linda Kay Johns and I’m so happy to meet you Your Majesty.”
    Rose smiled at her and said, “Are you the one that Wes likes so much?”
    Linda Kay turned bright red and said, “Yes, I am, although now I’m not sure who he really is. I’m upset that he hasn’t been honest with me.”
    Rose looked at her and then looked at the Naval Marine standing outside the director’s office. “While I’m meeting the rest of the students why don’t you go and discuss it with him.”
    Linda Kay’s eyes went wide and she said, “May I?”
    Rose nodded at the marine and said, “Yes, dear. We’ll be in shortly.”
    Linda Kay ran up to the door and the marine opened it.”
    Tommy looked at Wes and said, ‘Uh oh, angry girl rapidly approaching.”
    Wes looked at him not understanding what he was talking about just as Linda Kay suddenly stormed through the door. “Wes, whatever your name is, you’ve been totally dishonest with me. I can’t believe anything you’ve told me.”
    Wes was stunned. He could see Linda Kay was furious. He looked at Tommy and he cocked his head and then touched his chest telling Wes to use his heart. Wes looked at her and then pulled her close and kissed her. Linda Kay was stunned.
    Wes said, “I’m probably going to be forced to leave now and I’ve wanted to do that since our third level. You can slap me if you want.”
    Linda Kay looked at Wes and started crying. “Who are you? Why do you have to leave? Did you really mean what you just said?”
    Wes stepped forward and took Linda Kay’s hands and held them. “Yes, I meant every word and I’ve been honest with you about everything but my family.
    Linda Kay stepped back and said, “Tommy is not your twin?” She looked at Tommy and Tommy made a funny face and shook his head.
    Wes said, “No, we’re not related; he’s my best friend. Tommy is Queen Danielle’s son and Rose’s brother.”
    Linda Kay looked at Tommy and he shrugged. She looked back at Wes and she said. “Then who are you?”
    Wes looked at the floor and said, “No one really. I’m just an ordinary person.”
    Tommy said, “No you’re not!”
    Wes looked back and said, “Yes, I am. I am not royalty.”
    Linda Kay saw Wes’ anguish and asked, “What is your real name?”
    “Wes McAnn”
    Linda Kay’s eyes opened wide. “Are you related to Leila McAnn?”
    Wes tilted his head and said, “She’s my mother. How do you know her?”
    Linda Kay jumped straight up in the air and spun around. She grabbed Wes and planted a huge kiss on his lips. Wes and Tommy were both confused. Linda Kay started talking so fast she was barely understandable in her enthusiasm, “My family took me to Ross when I was five years old. We visited Castle Gardner, from a distance of course, the Ross Colonist’s Memorial, and the Fleet Academy. At the fleet academy I saw the statue of Admiral Kosiev and right on the front of the statue was a red test book coated in clear armor. The name on that test book was Leila Barber. My parents told me about how Tommy’s father took that test book because he loved her. I came home and learned everything I could about Leila. I know that Tommy’s father ended up married to Danielle but I thought it was the most romantic thing in the universe that someone would steal a test like that. I’ve learned that it was that theft that ultimately led to the fall of the Alliance and the formation of the Star’s Realm. I have gathered every bit of information possible about your mother, Wes. I’ve learned that it was she that arranged Tommy’s father’s escape. She was Danielle’s and now she’s Rose’s chief of staff. I’ve always wanted to be just like her and someday have someone do something as romantic for me. I am amazed that we care for each other; this has to be destiny working. You’re Leila’s son!” She came forward and gave Wes a tight hug.
    Wes was stunned. Then he realized that he did have a special family that had played a key role in the history of all that had happened. He felt ten feet tall and Tommy watching his best friend felt a moment of sheer happiness. He knew Wes was special but Wes didn’t know it or believe it. Now he did. He was thankful for Linda Kay and what she had said to Wes. Suddenly the door opened and Rose walked in followed by Tag and Danielle.
    Rose ran forward and said, “I’ve missed you most of all. You are a very important part of me, Tommy.”
    Tommy was stunned. Rose opened her mind to him and he could see she meant what she said. Rose loved him deeply. They had shared each other’s life since before Tommy was born. He had felt her even when he was still in his mother’s womb. A funny thing happened at that moment; Tommy discovered that he had also missed his sister. It was like a part of him had come home. He held on to Rose and said, “I love you, bunny.”
    Rose broke down in tears and didn’t care who saw her. She needed her family and now all of them could see just how important they all were to each other. Tommy looked at his parents over Rose’s shoulder and said, “It’s time to go home.” Tag and Danielle nodded and hugged each other.
    Danielle and Rose went out and met a news reporter to address the huge crowd. Danielle told them how Tommy had been brought to Earth eight years earlier to be educated in a normal school. They thanked everyone for the great treatment he had received.”
    While Rose and Danielle were outside addressing the crowd, Wes looked at Linda Kay and said, “Would you mind if I come back to see you.”
    Linda Kay smiled at him and said, “My heart will break if you don’t.”
    Wes’ face broke into a huge smile and Tommy saw that his best friend had found the one for him. “Time to go, Wes.”
    Wes hugged Linda Kay and they left to board Rose’s ship.

Chapter 3

    Tommy saw the castle below him and focused on the present. He saw the crowds outside the castle and wondered why there were so many gathered. He was used to the attention that all members of the Gardner family received whenever they went out into public but this was just more than he would have ever anticipated for this ceremony. He shook his head and thought, “Rose, I’m coming in on the speeder and I’ll be landing on the pad at the central spire.”
    Tommy could hear Rose’s laugh in her thought, “Oh Tommy, you’ll never like being the center of attention will you?”
    Tommy smiled and said, “No, I guess not.”
    “I’ll get Mom and Dad to meet you,” Rose said.
    “That would be great, Rose.”
    Tommy brought the speeder in and landed it in the center of the pad. He opened the small port and saw Tag and Danielle walking toward him. Tommy got out and his mother embraced him. “Welcome home stranger,” Danielle said. “We expected you an hour ago. Did Atlas slow you up?”
    Tommy smiled and said, “You know better. If you look up compulsive punctual in the dictionary you’ll see Atlas’ picture. I just didn’t want to get here too early. You know I don’t want this title.”
    Tag looked at his son and said, “Sometimes the time chooses the servant. The very fact you don’t want it makes you the best choice.”
    Tommy looked at his father and said, “I’m going to have to ponder what you just said. However, I obviously don’t have the time to do it now.”
    Danielle smiled and said, “No, you don’t. Why don’t we go and get this over with. By the way, you are rather handsome tonight in your uniform.”
    Tommy thought at Danielle, “Aww Mom, now you’re embarrassing me.” Danielle laughed and took Tommy’s hand and led him down to the main ball room.
    The coronation ceremony was really quite simple. Rose touched Tommy on his shoulders with three swords, a Glod long sword, a Cainth short sword, and an Earth fencing sword. He was declared Duke of the Starts Realm and Defender of the Realm. Tommy swore to protect the Realm against all enemies and then stood and turned for the guests to come forward and bow. Tommy suffered the entire time. After the last guest had bowed he was led to the top of the central tower and stood where the gathered crowds could see him. He was announced as Duke Thomas Anglo Gardner, protector of the Realm and the crowd erupted into cheering and celebration.
    Tommy stood there mystified at the crowd’s reaction. He felt someone standing next to him and he glanced to his right and saw Tgon-Gee. The huge Glod Prince towered over him and Tommy heard him say, “You wonder why they love you?”
    Tommy looked quickly at Tgon-gee and said, “What do you mean love?”
    “Tommy, when you left Castle Gardner and went to earth to be educated as an ordinary citizen, you became one of them. You spent eight years and no one knew you were a Gardner. The Realm knows that you have their heart. You’ve lived their life and shared their experiences. They know that your decisions will be wise because of what you did. The Realm loves you and they trust you.”
    Tommy looked at the old Glod and thought about what he was saying. He knew in his heart he only wanted the realm to be safe, prosperous, and happy. For himself, he only wanted to help Atlas end his anguish. Then he really looked at the crowds and could tell they were really happy in their celebrations; he could mentally feel their happiness. Just like Wes learned his value when Linda Kay pointed it out to him, he now felt his value to the realm. He looked up at Tgon-gee and said, “Thank you.” Tgon-gee nodded and Tommy turned to the crowd and raised both his arms over his head. The crowd went crazy.
    Standing in front of the Castle inside the garden wall, Wes and Linda Kay watched the crowd cheering Tommy. Wes looked at her and said, “Tommy really doesn’t understand how much he means to the citizens of the Realm.”
    Linda Kay snuggled under Wes’ arm and said, “He needs a woman to tell him.”
    Wes laughed and said, “Like a fourteen year old I knew.”
    Linda Kay smiled, leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, and said, “Exactly like that.”
    Wes looked out at the crowd and thought, “I truly hope Tommy finds his love. If anyone deserves it, he does.” Then the fireworks started and he lost himself as he held her close.”
    Danielle and Leila were standing on the balcony observing the crowd and they saw Wes and Linda Kay standing close in the garden below them. Danielle smiled and said, “It seems your son has found the one.”
    Leila smiled and said, “She certainly is a remarkable woman.”
    Danielle laughed. “The old Special Forces Team said the same thing about you.”
    Leila smiled and looked at Danielle, “We’ve had a wonderful life so far, haven’t we?”
    Danielle embraced Leila and said, “Yes we have.”
    Tommy was sitting in Castle Gardner’s map room the next morning thinking about the previous day when Atlas broke his train of thought, “Tommy the two Algean adolescents have arrived and are looking for you.”
    “Thanks, Atlas.” Tommy then pushed a button on the table com and said, “I’m expecting two Algeans. Please bring them to the map room when they arrive.”
    The system operator said, “They are here now; I’m sending them up.”
    Tommy stared at the maps and thought about the aliens holding Atlas’ brothers captive. The door opened to the map room and two Algeans walked in. They were not tall but Tommy knew that the two had decided not to reach their full height. He had seen adolescents in the sun reach twelve feet in height. They could also assume many different forms. Today they actually assumed the form of a human with two legs and two arms. Where a face would be was a large bloom like a sunflower. The two Algeans walked up to Tommy and the smaller of the two thought, “Good morning, Your Highness. We are pleased to be here for our education.”
    Tommy looked at the two and said, “Good morning. Have either of you been given names yet?”
    The shorter one again answered, “As you probably know, we don’t receive our names until we return home at the end of our education.”
    Tommy knew the answer to what he was about to ask but he was curious to see if they did, “Why is that?”
    The taller Algean thought, “Because so many of us are killed during our education that it doesn’t make good sense to waste a good name.”
    Tommy smiled and said, “Why do so many die?”
    The shorter one said, “Because we let our curiosity put us in circumstances that are often quite dangerous.”
    Tommy looked at them and said, “Is that what happened when you destroyed a megaship?”
    The two looked at each other and the taller one thought, “Well, sort of, I tried to understand the workings of a black hole reactor and the black hole fell out onto the ship’s deck.” Tommy just stared at the Algean and the obviously nervous plant said, “It took forty five minutes for the ship to be consumed, so everyone escaped successfully.”
    Tommy shook his head, “You couldn’t resist taking that reactor apart, could you?”
    The poor Algean said, “I promise, I tried my hardest not to do it but I gave in to the temptation.”
    “Did you learn anything?”
    “I actually did but it’s going to take a few months for the information to work its way through my mental storage.”
    “Well I hope whatever you learned is worth a billion credit starship.” Tommy looked at the two adolescents, “Well, let’s get our rules straight. First thing, I need a name to call you even if your own people don’t grant you one.” He looked at the shorter Algean and said, “Your name is Twig.”
    The shorter one seemed to contemplate the name for a moment and thought. “Ok, I will answer to that name.”
    Tommy then looked at the taller adolescent and said, “Your name is Sprig.”
    The taller one said immediately, “You can name me whatever you choose. I’m just happy I’ve been given another chance.”
    Tommy leaned back in his chair and said, “I know that ultimately your mentor will be Atlas. However, before you will be safe enough to take on board Atlas we must fill some of your mental storage to reduce the power your curiosity has over you. I know that you are powerless to really stop your studies. This is how we will try to make it safe while you learn. A crewman on the ship will be assigned to be your companion at all times. If they say no to what you want to study, then that means no. There will be hours during the night shifts where you will not have a crewman assigned. That is when you will process what you learned that day.”
    Sprig looked at Tommy and said, “Captain Dodd has already told us that we will have a crewman assigned to us.”
    Tommy froze. Then he said, “Who told you that?”
    Sprig seeing Tommy’s reaction said, “The Captain of the Dorg-Ross.”
    “What is the Captain’s name,” Tommy asked?
    The two Algeans looked at each other and Twig said, “Captain Cassandra Dodd.”
    Tommy stood up and thought, “Atlas! You didn’t tell me Cassandra Dodd was the captain of the ship I’ve been assigned with these adolescents.”
    Atlas thought, “Oh, crap!” Then he thought to Tommy, “Tommy, you have been assigned to the highest rated ship available at this time. The high ranking of the two adolescents and you made fleet control choose our best ship.”
    “Well I’m not going to do it. I’ll make them choose another.”
    Tommy, you might want to think that through.”
    “Why!”
    “Tommy. Do you have any idea of the power of your opinion? If you reject this ship then it will be given a black mark and the probability of any of the crew’s chances of future advancement will be totally jeopardized. All fleet command will see is that one of the Gardners doesn’t like that ship.”
    “Atlas, I don’t really care. She deserves to rot in…”
    Atlas interrupted by saying, “Wes is the sensor officer on that ship and Colonel Ortiz’s son is the communications officer.”
    Tommy stopped. “How did they draw that ship Atlas; the Captain is a tyrant.”
    Atlas gave a mental sigh and thought back, “Even though you don’t like Captain Dodd, she had the highest graduating score in the history of Fleet Academy. She has earned her way to the rank she now holds and her ship is considered the best in the fleet. That’s why it was assigned to you.”
    “Atlas, I don’t want to hurt the crew because of my feelings about her but I don’t honestly know if I can work with her.”
    Atlas gave a mental smile that Tommy felt in his mind and said something that changed Tommy’s mind, “Tommy, she no longer outranks you; she reports to you.”
    The two Algeans had been listening to the back and forth between Tommy and Atlas and they both saw a huge smile split Tommy’s face. Twig looked at Sprig and thought, “This may be more fun than we thought.”
    Sprig was moving slightly in the room’s ventilation and thought back, “Uh huh, we’re gonna have a good time.”
    Captain Cassandra Dodd was on the com with Fleet Admiral Mikado. She had been arguing with him for fifteen minutes and she was not making progress. “Admiral, you just can’t assign me to report to Tommy Gardner.”
    Mikado looked at his best ship commander and said, “Cassie, you will address him as Your Majesty, Duke Gardner, or Your Highness. You give him the respect his title demands just as your crew members do you.”
    Cassie bit her tongue and said, “Yes Sir, I’ll try.”
    Mikado looked at her and said, “There will be no try, Captain. You will do as you’re ordered.”
    Cassie knew Mikado’s patience was wearing thin but then she decided to tell him why she wanted another assignment. “Yes Sir, I will address him properly. Admiral, you must assign another captain to this assignment.”
    Mikado aid, “You have not given me a valid reason to do so.”
    Cassie took a deep breath and said, “Admiral, Tommy Gardner was one of the freshman cadets in my company at the academy.”
    Mikado looked at her and he could see where she was going. Upper classmen always made life hard on freshman. “So you were tough on him. He should understand the reason for that.”
    Cassie sighed and said, “Admiral, I was more than a little tough. I actually received my only reprimand for using very harsh behaviors on Freshman Gardner. I made him do two hundred pushups because I didn’t like the way he made his bed and that was one of the easy punishments I made him endure.”
    Mikado narrowed his eyes and said, “I’m sure you had a good reason, Captain.”
    Cassie said, “Everyone knew who he was. I was determined that he would not get preferential treatment.”
    “So you over did it.”
    “Sir, it seemed no matter what I made him do, it didn’t seem to faze him. Everything was funny to him. I guess I decided I was going to break him.”
    Mikado said, “I know Duke Gardner personally, Captain and I have never met a finer individual. He is so much like his father that it’s uncanny. Did you ever stop to think that by treating him as unfairly as you did that you singled him out to punish him for who he was?”
    Cassie lowered her head and said, “I didn’t at that time. It was after I graduated that I learned I was called 3B by my peers.”
    Mikado looked at her and Cassie said, “Biggest Bitch in the Brigade. My mentor at the Academy told me that every one of the graduates in my class was ashamed of me. Admiral, you’ve got to transfer me to another ship.”
    Mikado looked at Cassie and said, “Captain, there are always consequences to our behaviors. It looks like yours are coming home to roost. You had your fun at a good man’s expense. Now it’s his turn. Your request is denied and if I hear of you being anything but respectful to Duke Gardner I will bust you out of this navy. Do you understand?”
    Cassie looked at the com and meekly said, “Yes Sir.”
    Cassie turned off the com and worried about the coming storm she was going to have to endure. She hoped she was as tough as Tommy Gardner had been when she had put him through a living nightmare. She knew that whatever he chose to do, she deserved it. Apologizing for what happened at this point would make it look like she was doing it only out of fear and that her apology would be insincere. She didn’t sleep well that night anticipating Tommy’s scheduled arrival the next day.

Chapter 4

    Captain Dodd had the entire crew of the SR Megaship Dorg-Ross standing at ease in the landing bay waiting for Duke Gardner’s arrival. Wes stood there waiting for his best friend to arrive and worried about how Tommy was going to deal with Captain Dodd. He remembered all the punishments she had imposed on Tommy, most of which he didn’t deserve, and knew that Captain Dodd had to be sweating her new assignment. Wes had to admit that Captain Dodd ran a well organized ship and held her crew to an extraordinary high level of performance. The most recent fleet review had the Dorg-Ross ranked number one. He had learned a lot from her but he could never forgive her for making Tommy’s first year at the Academy unbearable. When he learned he had been assigned to her ship he thought about resigning from the fleet but Linda Kay had told him that if Tommy was strong enough to stand up to Captain Dodd then she knew he could do it too. Now after six months, Wes had to admit that it wasn’t as bad he thought it would be. The shuttle entered the landing bay and Captain Dodd ordered, “Crew, Atten-shun.”
    The crew came to attention and Captain Dodd saluted as Tommy exited the shuttle. Tommy walked up to Captain Dodd and looked her right in the eye for a long moment and then returned her salute. Right behind Tommy stood the two Algean adolescents. Tommy was going to make Captain Dodd sweat for a few moments before he said anything but he could feel the anxiety of the adolescents. They were barely able to restrain themselves. Tommy said, “At ease.” The crew assumed an at-ease stance but Captain Dodd remained at attention. “Captain, I need these two adolescents taken to the ships library immediately and have them started assimilating the contents.”
    Captain Dodd said, “Yes, Your Highness.” She turned and said, “McAnn, Ortiz, take these two Algeans to the library and show them how to use the readers.” Tommy noticed that she had chosen two of his friends. The message was clear, if Tommy made life tough on Dodd; she would do the same to his friends.
    Tommy thought about that a moment and then said, “Captain, I would feel much better if you took them yourself. These Algeans are from very high families and I know you’ll give them extra consideration.” Captain Dodd looked in Tommy’s eyes and knew that her plan to hold Wes and John hostage was not going to work. She didn’t really like the idea anyway but she had to try. She bowed and said, “Yes, Your Highness, I’ll take them at once.” Then she turned and said, “Crew, dismissed.”
    She turned to the Algeans and said, “If you will kindly follow me; I’ll take you to the library. I know you must be hurting after the voyage.” The Algeans thought their thanks to the Captain and stiffly walked out of the hanger.
    Tommy was surprised. Captain Dodd actually sounded sincere. Obviously he was wrong. That woman had no heart and no feelings for anything but herself. As the Captain left Tommy said to her, “As soon as you have them on the readers I want to have a meeting with your command staff.”
    Dodd turned and said, Yes, Your Highness. Lt. McAnn will you set it up, please,”
    Wes said, “Yes, sir, right away.”
    Thirty minutes later the ship’s officers and Captain Dodd gathered in the conference room. Tommy entered and everyone came to attention. “As you were,” Tommy ordered. “The reason I’ve called this meeting is to make sure that we understand the necessities of dealing with Algean adolescents and particularly these two particular adolescents. I know you have heard about the curiosity of the Algean young but I want to make sure you understand the dangers of it. Algeans have an informational storage capacity that we still have not been able to explain. They are created with genetic information that contains most of their racial knowledge. Although this represents a huge amount, the adolescents also have an empty reservoir that pressures them to fill it. What I mean by pressure is that they experience severe physical pain if there is not a regular intake of information. This pain can be debilitating.” Tommy paused for a moment and then said, “We also know that Algeans have differing capacities of storage. An adolescent from a high family will have more than ten times the capacity of a normal Algean. This also means they suffer ten times the pain if their learning needs aren’t met. One of the Algeans with us is a seed from the Eldest who is the leader of their entire race.” Tommy paused to let that sink in and then he said, “The second is a seed from the fleet leader that led the final attack on the Dremels’ planet. Both of them are from the highest families in Plant culture. This means that they will be insatiably curious and we are going to have to be creative to find ways to keep them mentally occupied until we can fill their storage. Are there any questions?”
    Wes raised his hand and said, “What do we call them?”
    Tommy smiled and said, “Some of you may not know but Algean Adolescents do not receive a name until they complete their learning cycle. The reason for that is that so many of them die from placing themselves in dangerous situations, it would be a waste of good names. However, the female that is the shorter of the two is named Twig. The male is named Sprig.” Tommy noticed the officers smiling. “Any other questions?”
    Lt. Ortiz raised his hand and said when Tommy nodded at him, “Duke Gardner, we have heard that there are some unresolved issues between you and Captain Dodd because of things that happened when you both attended the Academy. Is there any truth to that rumor?”
    Tommy stared at John Ortiz who was one of his childhood friends with a glare that everyone in the room recognized as possible trouble. Captain Dodd’s expression did not change but her face was turning red. Tommy said, “I’ll answer your question but first I want to know what prompted you to ask it.”
    Tommy expected John to reveal that Captain Dodd had ordered him to do it. John said, “As you probably know, our ship just received the highest rating in the fleet. I think I speak for my fellow officers when I say that I’m personally proud of that accomplishment. I don’t want to lose that rating or have anything jeopardize us keeping it.”
    Tommy fought to control his feelings at that moment. He hated Cassandra Dodd with a passion and wanted to make her pay for what she put him through at the academy. Then he remembered something Tgon-gee had told him, “Royalty does not have the luxury of revenge when it conflicts with the safety of one’s subjects.” Tommy sighed and said, “Captain Dodd, would you like to answer his question?”
    Captain Dodd stood up and faced her officers who Tommy could tell were nervous for her being put on the spot. She said, “I was Duke Gardner’s cadet officer his freshman year and I made life a living hell for him without just cause. I made him do things that were unjustified. He took the punishments I passed out with class and never complained to my superiors which he had every right to do. Quite frankly, whatever he chooses to do to me here and now is totally justified and I would not blame him for making me pay for my sins. I just hope I can endure it with the class and professionalism he exhibited.” Captain Dodd then sat down and did not change her expression.”
    Tommy listened to her and was stunned at what she said. He still did not like her at all but he knew what courage she possessed to confess her actions to her officers. Tommy stared at her for a minute and silence ruled the room. Then Tommy sighed and said, “I have been given a Royal title and declared Protector of the Realm. If taking revenge weakens the Realm in any way, even a small one, then I violate the vow I made. I have viewed your fleet rating and I know that it was due in large part to the direction of the ship’s captain. I tried not to be but I was impressed with your performance and the outstanding teamwork exhibited by the crew. I cannot take any action against Captain Dodd that would diminish her ability to effectively command this vessel. I am forced by my position in the Realm to leave what happened in the past in the past, and there it will stay. This is the last time this issue will be discussed, is that clear!”
    Everyone shouted, “Yes Sir.”
    Tommy looked at Captain Cassandra Dodd, his former nemesis, and said, “Captain, I congratulate you and your crew for your rating and I insist that you continue to perform at that high level. I trust that we will work together at just that high a level also.”
    Captain Dodd said, “Thank you, Your Highness. I’ll work hard to make that happen.”
    Tommy looked around the room and said, “Dismissed,” and then he turned and walked out.
    Captain Dodd said, “You head the Duke, quit being so lazy, report to your posts immediately.” The officers rushed out of the room and Captain Dodd got up and closed the door. She sat back down and put her head in her hands and cried. Tommy Gardner had just humbled her; he was better than she was. She knew she would have taken her revenge if roles were reversed but he showed he was stronger. She just could not understand what drove her to treat him as she did when it was so out of character for her. She got herself together and promised herself that she was going to be as strong as him some day. She shook her head and left the conference room for the bridge.
    Sprig and Twig were in the ships library scanning the contents of the computer. If Algeans could be smiling then these two were going to split their face with it. The amount of input was going in at a prodigious rate and the pain of their empty storage was allayed for the moment. Twig thought to Sprig while she scanned a manual that dealt with magnetic anomalies present in cosmic string distortions, “We have got to control ourselves here. The loss of that megaship almost cost us further development.”
    Spring paused for a hundredth of a microsecond and thought back, “I have tried; I just couldn’t stop myself. What I learned has just now sorted out and there are some interesting permutations of black holes that I want to share with you later.”
    Twig thought, “Is there any complicated math involved?”
    “Some of the initial equations will take more than a million terabytes of data to compute before we get to the really complicated ones.”
    Twig actually stopped scanning for a whole microsecond to think about the coming pleasure and then continued absorbing the information. She hoped that these happy moments would last forever.
    Tommy entered his quarters and thought about Captain Dodd. He could not understand why he did not feel the hatred he once had for her. It seemed to have diminished for some reason. He thought to Atlas, “Well, did you listen in on the meeting?”
    “Yes, I did.”
    “And?”
    “You really surprised me, Tommy. You put your personal feelings aside to do the right thing. I thought you didn’t put any weight in this title you were given.”
    “I know, but when the moment came, I couldn’t go through with exacting retribution. I don’t want the responsibility but I can’t help myself from acting responsibly. What a mess.”
    There was a long pause and then Atlas thought to him, “Tommy, why have you chosen to take on my fight to free my brother ships?”
    “I was listening in on your conversation with Rose and my parents after the final battle with the Algeans ended and you told her how alone you were. I remember you saying, “Alone, so alone, so totally alone.” Atlas, I not only heard you; I felt what you were feeling. I was just a child but I decided at that moment that no one should endure that loneliness. Now I have a question for you.”
    “Go ahead, Tommy.”
    “Why have you never shared any information with me about their captors and have forbidden Rose and I from looking at their galaxy?”
    Minutes passed and finally Tommy said, “Atlas, are you still there?”
    “Yes, I am. Tommy, the race of captors scare me more than you’ll ever know. I barely escaped capture by them.”
    “Tell me what happened.”
    “I was fleeing them at my fastest speed and jumping every second to random coordinates but they were able to stay right behind me and were actually gaining. I was saved by the asteroid that impacted you planet sixty five million years ago.”
    “How?”
    I jumped into your system at the moment it struck the planet. I was able to stop next to your moon and drop to its surface just as the captor’s ship broke into the system behind me. I burned a hole into the crater wall and moved inside the cave I created. I turned off all my power and hoped they would not see me.”
    “Well, you’re here today,” Tommy said. “They must have thought the explosion on the surface of the planet was you hitting it instead of the asteroid.”
    “That is exactly what happened, Tommy.”
    “Did your race ever communicate with them?”
    “Yes, initially they seemed harmless enough.”
    “What changed that?”
    “One of my brothers stumbled into their home system. Seven hundred thousand ships exploded from their planet’s surface and began destroying us. They searched for us and seemed to know where ever we were and killed us whenever they found us. After a hundred years they began capturing us and holding us prisoner.” Atlas paused for a moment and then continued, “Tommy, my race is more than a hundred and fifty million years old. The race that attacked us is more than double our age. We were no match for their technology.”
    “Atlas you have got to let go of your fear. I can’t help you in the dark. You have to share what you know.”
    “I’m afraid that they will know if a picture of them is shown anywhere in the universe.”
    Tommy thought for a moment and then said, “Ok, I’ll respect your fear. So here is what we have to do; we have to find a way to fly faster than they can. According to your description, they did not catch you immediately but chased you for a long time and slowly gained ground on you, correct?”
    “Yes.”
    “Then what we have to develop first is a faster means of propulsion. Once we can double your speed then we’ll go off to a galaxy far from the Realm and you can show me what you know. But first let’s invent the means to escape.”
    “Escape it is. Maybe our Algean friends might be able to help us.”
    Tommy smiled and said, “I’ll talk with them after they finish breakfast.”
    Atlas laughed and thought, “You better have lunch ready quickly.”
    “I know, I know. I’ll talk with you later, Atlas.”
    “Later.”
    Tommy entered the ships library and found the two Algeans devouring the contents of the computer system. Tommy said, “I have ordered all of Castle Gardners library loaded into two readers and we will stop there in twelve hours to set them up in this room. How much longer before you finish what we have here?”
    Sprig said, “Five hours, Sir. We should be fine for ten hours after that while we digest and organize what we’ve consumed.”
    Tommy looked hard at the Algean and said, “Are you sure!”
    Twig said, “Well, maybe you might want to hurry the readers.”
    Tommy said, “I thought so. I’ll move our arrival up six hours.”
    Sprig said, “That would be good.”
    Tommy smiled and said, “If you need to leave this room, notify me.”
    They both said, “Yes sir.”
    Two weeks later two very satisfied adolescents were allowed to start moving thru the ship without an escort. They had downloaded the entire libraries of Earth, Cainth, Glod, and Sten’s world. The pain from their storage was not as severe and they were able to act somewhat responsibly. “Sprig’s Run” taught the ship that one can never be too careful with an Algean Adolescent.
    The event started as Tommy stepped out of his quarters on that day to go to the mess hall for lunch when he saw Sprig come through the door at the end of the corridor moving at a fast speed. As the young Algean came even with him Tommy said, “Hey, where are you going in such a hurry?”
    Sprig stopped and started to say something when the ship’s communication system came on with Wes McAnn yelling, “Where are you, you overgrown pile of kudzu. I’m going to rip you into a million pieces.”
    Sprig looked at Tommy and said, “Welllll, I kinda messed up the toilet facilities up on third deck. I wanted to see how it worked and I think I accidently reversed and increased the water pressure. I was going to go back and repair it, I promise.”
    Suddenly Tommy heard Twig send a thought to Sprig, “Beat it, he’s coming your way.”
    Sprig looked at Tommy and said, “Uh oh, gotta go.” Sprig turned and sped down to the end of the corridor and made a hard left turn faster than Tommy had ever seen him move.
    Tommy then saw at the other end of the hall the door slam open and Wes come thru moving fast towards him. Wes was soaked from head to toe and was dripping water all the way down the hall. As he came closer Tommy saw a big red mark on Wes’s forehead, “I’ll throw that weed into the reactor if I can get my hands on him,” Wes yelled.
    “Whoa, slow down, Wes,” Tommy said, “What happened?”
    “That sack of green groad booby trapped the toilet; the damn thing blew up when I flushed it and nearly shot me through the wall.”
    Tommy looked at his best friend and though he tried to keep a straight face he just couldn’t control himself and started laughing. Wes looked at him and said, “It’s not funny!”
    Captain Dodd turned the corner from the direction that Sprig had just disappeared and was walking their way with a stern look on her face. Wes thought, “Oh crap.”
    “Mr. McAnn, our general communication channel is not for the type of language you’ve just been using,” she said. “What exactly is going on?”
    “That damn weed booby trapped the toilet on deck three!”
    Captain Dodd looked at Wes and noticed that Wes was soaked from head to toe, possessed a rather pungent smell, and had a bright red mark on his forehead. She then noticed Tommy leaning against the wall holding his ribs trying to contain his laughter and though she tried mightily to keep her face stern, she started smiling.
    Wes looked at the two of them and said, “It’s not funny. Half of the ceiling is covered in what was in that toilet.”
    With that Tommy fell to the floor laughing uncontrollably and Captain Dodd lost it completely. Wes stood there fuming. Finally Captain Dodd said, “Mr. McAnn, go to your quarters and clean up and we’ll discuss this later.”
    Wes looked at the two of them and then turned and stormed back up the hall toward his room. He slammed the door at the end of the hall. Sprig stuck his head out from the other end of the hall and said, “I had no idea the system had that much pressure.”
    With that both Tommy and Captain Dodd were unable to breathe through their laughter.
    Twenty minutes later after a cleanup detail had been sent to clean up the mess, Captain Dodd returned to the bridge to find the entire bridge crew trying to look normal; they had been following the chase on the ship’s monitors. They all returned to their seats and fought hard to maintain a straight face. Captain Dodd looked at them with the sternest face she could manage and then said, “Lt. Ortiz, please make an announcement that the wash room on deck three is out of order.”
    The crew couldn’t help it, everyone doubled over laughing and even Dodd joined in. Wes’ new nickname from that day forward was “3D” which was short hand for “Deck 3”.

Chapter 5

    Wes finally came to terms with Sprig after Captain Dodd made both of them sit down and discuss what happened. Sprig apologized profusely and said he was leaving to get the tools to make a repair when it happened. Eventually Wes understood that education is not a well planned adventure and that accidents can happen. Sprig for his part felt awful for Wes and from that day forward swore he would make it up to him. Wes left the meeting feeling better but knew that the nickname was his no matter what. He decided 3D was better than red spot.
    Tommy would leave the ship occasionally to work with Atlas but they were making no progress at developing a faster form of propulsion. Atlas was at the pinnacle of his race’s technology and the Stars Realm was millions of years behind anything close to Atlas. They kept hitting walls in coming up with anything that would start to work. After eight months of effort, Tommy went back to Dorg-Ross no closer to a solution.
    The two adolescents had made remarkable progress in their education. Only two hours a day was used in downloading new information and ten hours for processing all they had learned. Tommy had an idea and asked Sprig and Twig to meet him in the conference room with Captain Dodd. He decided that he needed help and that maybe the Adolescents could use their enormous storage of knowledge to help turn him in the right direction. Unfortunately, he was going to have to tell Captain Dodd what he intended because some experiments could be dangerous to her ship.
    The four of them sat in the conference room and Captain Dodd still had her stern demeanor that seemed to never change when she was around Tommy. Tommy looked at the three and said, “What we are about to discuss falls under the category of “Safety of The State” and will not leave this room.” Captain Dodd sat up straighter in her chair and wondered what was going on. Tommy looked at Captain Dodd and said, “The adolescents know part of this but they know that what I’m about to tell you can never be revealed. However, I’m at a point where I am going to have to explore avenues that I would not ordinarily explore.”
    Twig thought to Tommy where Captain Dodd could hear, “Are you sure you want to discuss this?”
    Dodd looked at the Algean and knew that something big was about to happen. Tommy said, “I may not like the Captain, but I admire and trust her professionalism. I have observed her since we’ve been on the ship and I am of the opinion that she can be trusted with the knowledge. If she does not agree to take part, we will go to another ship.” Twig leaned from side to side showing her agreement.
    Sprig said, “I do not think you can find a better ship than this one.”
    Tommy looked at Captain Dodd and answered, “I agree, but I suspect that what I’m going to ask of you will involve a high degree of danger. This is a decision she will have to make on her own.”
    Captain Dodd said, “What decision are you talking about?”
    Tommy stood up and walked to the monitor on the wall and said, “Atlas, have you listened on everything said so far?”
    The speaker on the monitor said, “I have but I’m not certain what you’re trying to do’”
    Captain Dodd furrowed her brow and Tommy said, “I want you to take part in this discussion and we’ll see where it goes.”
    Atlas said, “Please continue.”
    Tommy looked Dodd and said, “Captain, Atlas is an Alfont.”
    Cassie was stunned. She couldn’t find the words to say anything.
    “Atlas was found by my father on Earth’s moon when he was trying to escape the directorate. He is an intelligent star ship and millions of years ago his race transferred their physical structure into the structure of their ship. Every member of the Royal Family as well as the leadership of the Algeans knows Atlas. No one else knows of his existence. Sprig and Twig are scheduled to complete their education with Atlas after their initial learning on this ship.”
    The monitor on the wall said, “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, Captain Dodd.”
    Cassandra stammered out, “Thank you, uh, Atlas. It’s nice to meet you, too.”
    Tommy said, “There’s more Captain Dodd. Atlas has a million of his fellow Alfonts being held captive by a race in a galaxy a long way from us. They have been captive for more than sixty million years and the captors are as far ahead of Atlas’ technologically as he is from us. Atlas will not even reveal what he knows about them out of fear that they will sense that revelation and attack. It is my chosen path to free his brothers from their captivity during my lifetime. Atlas and I have run into a knowledge barrier that has stopped us from finding the means of making it happen. How am I doing so far, Atlas?”
    “I agree with everything so far, Tommy.”
    “Good, now for the hard part. I am going to release the military data base and dump it into Twig and Sprig’s storage.” The two adolescents grew two feet immediately showing their surprise. Atlas, you are also going to dump your information center directly into them.”
    Atlas said, “Wait a minute! That information contains the very thing I won’t reveal to you. I refuse to do it!”
    Captain Dodd could hear fear in the Alfonts’ voice. She was still in a small state of shock over the revelation of a living Alfont; this new revelation was more than she could immediately process.”
    “Atlas, you’re not going to do it electronically where the captors can sense it.”
    There was a long pause and then Atlas said, “How do propose to do it otherwise.”
    “The Algeans are telepathic. You will make the transfer mentally.”
    Tommy waited for more than five minutes before Atlas said, “I would feel much safer if we had a means of escaping before I attempt this.”
    “Atlas, we’ll go to a galaxy on the opposite end of the universe from the Captors location. We will work on the escape effort before we try but when it comes down to it, we have to risk it. If the transfer is done without interference from the Captors then you should feel safer giving us information mentally. However, we need a technological breakthrough to even start the process of freeing your kin.” Tommy paused and looked at the two adolescents and said, “We have two beings here that are stronger at correlating unrelated information than any computer in existence. We have to give them everything we have.”
    Captain Dodd said, “Are you placing the Realm in danger, Duke Gardner?”
    Tommy looked at her and said, “Probably, however, we are going to try and minimize the risk by distance. The real danger is that we are going to have to experiment with what our two students come up with. I suspect that like all breakthroughs, something will get broken during the process. You do not have to take part in this Captain. I will find another ship if you do not want to take the risk, however, I feel that we will someday encounter this race of captors and that we, like Atlas’ race, could be exterminated or imprisoned by them. I am not willing to just wait and hope our technology will someday be strong enough to make up the three hundred million year edge they have.”
    Cassandra listened to Tommy and felt her excitement grow. She was at heart a warrior and here was a war worth fighting. She looked at the two Algean Adolescents and saw them moving side to side in anticipation of the learning they were about to be given. She said, “Atlas, tell me what you’re thinking now.”
    Atlas said, “I’m scared, however, I have been paralyzed too long by my fear. I have to ask myself if this is a risk worth dying to accomplish and I have to say that it is. I am humbled that Tommy is willing to face that fear when I am not. I do think, like our students here, that there is not a better ship than this one for the task at hand.”
    Tommy said, “I do not agree; there is another.”
    The two Algeans, Captain Dodd, and Atlas all said at the same time, “What!”
    Tommy said. “The power of a ship is not the metal of which it is made; it is the crew that directs it. Atlas, that race sensed the Alfont ship that entered their system and they immediately set out to destroy every ship like it in the universe, right?”
    “That is exactly what they did.”
    They sensed one of your ships and then they could see all the other ships like it. If they somehow sense us, we have to be in a ship that they could not trace back to the Realm. We have to have a ship unlike any other ship in existence.”
    Silence ruled the room. Atlas said, “You’re going to resurrect the Kosiev.”
    Captain Dodd’s eyes widened and Tommy said, “Yes, I’m going to go see my sister and tell her my plans and ask for the Alexander Kosiev.”
    Captain Dodd felt her heart beat faster. She was as excited as freshman finding out she was elected prom queen. Tommy noticed that Captain Dodd’s face had an enormous smile. “She almost looks pretty smiling,” he thought; then he banished the thought from his mind.
    Cassandra felt like the destiny she never thought would come, had found her. She stood up and said, “Your quest is one I would be willing to die for and quite honestly, I would be willing to do the same to command the Kosiev. We will however need a larger crew for that ship.”
    Tommy smiled and said, “We will be gone for a long time so as not to endanger the Realm. I will have the top graduates from the last three classes join us. Incidentally, one of them is a top notch weapons officer by the name of Linda Kay Johns who will be graduating is two months. I do not usually use my position for personal reasons but if I left for an extended time and 3D was separated from her, well, he deserves having her here with us.”
    Cassandra Dodd looked at Tommy Gardner in an entirely new way. Here was royalty with a heart that did not forget his friends. Tommy said, “Sprig, I’m going to tell him that you requested that she join us.”
    Sprig’s leaves turned bright green indicating his happiness. “Thank you, Sir. I still have to make up for the nickname.”
    Tommy looked around the room and said, “Are we in agreement?” Everyone indicated yes. Tommy said, “You are sworn to secrecy on the information I have just shared with you and it is contingent on me being able to persuade the Queen to agree to our mission. Only she has access to the Kosiev. Twig, Sprig, the military database is loaded into your readers. It is larger than any you have seen so far and I suspect that it is going to take some time to assimilate. Please make that assimilation your next priority.”
    They left the room so fast that Captain Dodd and Tommy were surprised at the speed they were capable. Captain Dodd said, “He didn’t move that fast when Wes was chasing him.”
    “Ah, the hunger for knowledge, I remember when my people once had that hunger,” Atlas said.
    Tommy laughed and said, “Well for those of us still here, this meeting is adjourned,”
    Tommy left the Dorg-Ross on Atlas headed to Ross. Tommy thought, “Rose, do you have some time where I can see you?”
    “Tommy, there’s always time for you. When will you arrive?”
    “In twenty minutes, however, I would like to stop and see Mom and Dad.”
    “I can tell by your mental undertone that this trip is not for pleasure.”
    “No, it’s not, Rose. I suspect that we will need some time to discuss what I have in mind.”
    “Stop and see our parents first. I’ll set aside some time this evening after we eat. I’m curious why you want the Kosiev.” Tommy was startled. “Oh, Tommy, you know I feel your thoughts like they’re my own. I know it has to do with your quest. I’ll be thinking about it until our meeting.”
    “Thanks, Rose. I’ll share everything with you; you know I would never mislead you on anything.”
    “I know, Tommy. I’ve missed you.”
    “Me, too, Rose.”
    “She is incredible,” Atlas said.
    Tommy smiled and could still feel his sister’s thoughts, “Yes she is, Atlas.”
    Tommy was sitting in his parent’s quarters in Castle Gardner and had spent several hours catching them up on all that had happened. Tag had left a few minutes earlier to go with Eric out to the gunnery range. Danielle was sitting next to Tommy and feeling happy to see her “baby”. Danielle looked at him and said, “Have you found anyone you’re interested in?”
    Tommy looked at his mother and said, “Mom, Rose saw Michael when she was around four years old. I have very similar abilities to Rose and I have not sensed anyone. I’m beginning to think there is no one out there for me.”
    Danielle looked at her son and said, “I hope that is not the case. There might be another possibility though.” Tommy furrowed his brow. “Tommy, your father never sensed me. I never had a clue he existed. How do you think the two strongest psychics on Earth ended up together?”
    “Rose and I have much stronger psychic skills than you and Dad.”
    “I don’t know if that’s true, Tommy. Do you think you could take Tag in a fight?”
    Tommy thought about it for a moment and immediately his sense of danger turned on. He was shocked by the revelation. “Mom, I don’t think I could. My senses tell me that it would be dangerous to take him on.”
    “The reason for that is that his psychic aura is totally warrior. Your aura is more diverse, like Rose. Tag senses me now. He seems to always know where I am and miracle of miracles, we no longer need Atlas’ link to hear each other’s thoughts.”
    Tommy thought a moment and said, “Are you saying your power has increased.”
    “Absolutely! Do you know that before I met Tag, I had glimpses of the truth and didn’t know what caused them to happen; I knew that they did not happen all the time. After I met your father, my ability to see the truth increased a hundred fold to where the ability was there at all times.”
    Tommy looked at his mother and said, “How is that possible?”
    “Tommy, when Tag and I first met and I shook his hand I felt a small shock. He said at that time that he could not see an aura around me. The old SFT said that the shock from that first contact may have seemed small to us but that they saw the psychic blast on the other side of the planet.”
    Tommy began to see where his mother was going. “After we first started dating, whenever we touched we both felt that small shock. After we were attacked in that park, Tag told me that as he ran away he saw an aura around me. This aura continued to grow until not long after we were married the shocks stopped. I talked with Sung Lea, one of the SFT’s strongest psychics, about it years ago and she proposed that my psychic skills were latent and unrealized. It was the physical contact with the psychic field around Tag that brought mine out.”
    “Rose saw Michael because he possessed his aura from birth. Are you saying I don’t see my match because her aura may be locked inside her?”
    “It makes sense to me,” Danielle said.
    Tommy hugged his mother and said, “I’ll think about this.”
    “You’re missing the most important point Tommy.”
    Tommy turned and said, “What is that?”
    “You still haven’t told me how the two strongest psychics ended up together or why Rose had to wait until she was eighteen to finally meet Michael.”
    Tommy stared at his mother and then he saw it. “They were not ready for each other before they met. Things had to happen in their development before they could come together.”
    “What if Tag had touched me before my psychic ability had developed enough to handle the explosion of that initial touch?” Danielle smiled and said, “It is our belief that our abilities deliberately kept us apart until we were ready but would not let us get so far away that we couldn’t end up together.”
    “What are you saying, Mom?’
    I believe she’s out there, Tommy. Close but not ready for you yet.”
    Tommy looked down at the floor and said, “Thanks, Mom. I love you. I’m going to consider what you’ve said. At the very least you’re telling me that when the time is right, I’ll have no choice. She will find me.”
    Danielle smiled and said, “Be ready to be shocked… literally.”
    Tommy laughed and left to see Rose.

Chapter 6

    Tommy left Danielle thinking about what she had just said. He wondered why he was starting to be bothered by not having someone to share his life. Perhaps his match would be among the new crew members that would be joining him if Rose allowed him to use the Kosiev. He thought about it and then decided that this was an issue that he was not ready to handle just yet. Somehow, he did feel better though. What his mother had said struck a chord with him that sounded true.
    He entered Rose’s quarters and Rose was sitting in front of the fireplace where she had spent many hours sitting with her parents watching the fire. “Hi, Tommy, I love this room. It has so many wonderful memories for me. I used to sit right here between Mom and Dad with all my bunnies lined up along the front of this couch.” She shook her head and then looked at Tommy and said, “Come sit with me and let’s see what’s on your mind.”
    Tommy opened his mind to Rose. She looked at all that Tommy had experienced since their last meeting and in three minutes she had it all. Then she burst out laughing. “So he’s called 3D now.”
    Tommy chuckled and said, “Rose, I thought I would crack a rib I laughed so hard. Even ole stone face Dodd lost it.”
    “Don’t be so hard on her Tommy. She really does regret what happened back then. She really thinks quite highly of you.” Tommy stared at Rose and didn’t say anything. Rose looked at the fire for a long time and Tommy let her digest what he wanted her to do. After an hour Rose thought, “There is the real possibility of the Realm being placed in danger with what you’re planning.”
    Tommy thought back, “I know and I truly wish that there was another way.” He paused then continued, “We could just place the captor’s entire galaxy under quarantine, forbidding any contact, but when I think about that my senses warn me that it won’t work.”
    Rose gave a heavy sigh and thought, “I sense the same thing; when I move toward forbidding you to follow your plan my sense of danger increases.”
    Tommy said, “I thought it was just me.”
    They looked at each other and then Rose thought, “Dad, can you come meet with Tommy and me?”
    Tag thought back, “Sure, Eric and I are at the shooting range and I’m kicking his grump. Can it wait?”
    “Dad, it involves the safety of the Realm.”
    “I’ll be right there.”
    Tommy and Rose sat and watched the fire. Tag entered the room less than fifteen minutes later and sat down between his children. “What has you troubled?”
    Danielle walked in a moment after Tag sat down and said, “I feel the need to be here. I don’t know exactly why.”
    Tommy looked at Rose and Rose said, “Tommy is going to share what he is planning to do. I want both of you to tell me what you sense when he’s finished.”
    Tommy began sharing his thoughts with both of them. When he finished Tag and Danielle sat and said nothing. Everyone just sat and watched the fire. Tommy said, “You know, I miss your bunnies, Rose.” Everyone on the couch smiled and then six little stuffed bunnies walked into the room and sat down at the foot of the couch.”
    Danielle said, “Ahh, now this brings back some memories.”
    They continued to sit for an hour and then Tag said, “I guess you sense the same thing I do when you lean toward not allowing him to move forward with his plan.”
    Danielle said, “You know that being able to sense impending danger is not one of my talents. Tell me what you sense.”
    Tag looked at his children, “When I move toward telling Tommy no, my sense of danger increases to a level similar to what it was when I planned to attack the plant fleet when they had more than two million ships ready to trap our fleet. When I begin to say yes, “I still get a danger warning but nowhere near as strong as saying no.”
    Rose said, “I get a similar feeling but only when I start to say no. Your talent is much stronger than ours, Dad.”
    Danielle said, “Do you think the danger you feel from saying no comes from the possibility that the captors might sense Atlas in our space.”
    Tag closed his eyes and they could tell he was playing that scenario in his mind. “No, that’s not it. My sense is that they are going to come into contact with us no matter what happens.”
    “So there is less of a danger if it’s Tommy’s plan than if we do nothing,” Danielle summarized.
    Tag said, “Let’s do this; let’s assume we trust our senses and approve Tommy’s plan. Now how does it feel?”
    “Dad, our sense is not near as strong as yours; what does yours say?”
    “They are going to find us. I can’t tell when, it may be centuries in the future but I can say that our danger is much greater if we don’t allow Tommy to go.”
    Rose went to her brother and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Take Atlas and go get the Kosiev. I have mentally sent it the activation signal. It will be ready in five hours. I’ve imprinted the command code in your mind.” Rose then stepped back and said, “Tommy, whatever you develop to possibly combat these creatures must be shared with the Realm. Stay in contact with me.”
    Tommy stood and looked at his family and said, “I felt this plan develop as my sense of danger increased. I will do everything I can to insure the safety of the Realm.” Tommy hugged his family and ran to the roof to take the speeder up to Atlas. “Atlas, take us to the Kosiev, Rose is sending you the coordinates.”
    “I’ve just received them, Tommy.”
    Tommy hit his com and said, “Admiral Mikado, do you have a moment.”
    “Mikado appeared on the com and said, “Mr. Gardner, how can I help you?”
    Tommy said, “Admiral, I am invoking my “Safety of the State” power as a member of the Royal family and I need you to jump a transport to the coordinates I’m sending you with a flight crew to take the Dorg-Ross back to port.”
    Mikado furrowed his brow and said, “I’ll set it up immediately. When do you need it there?”
    “Does one hour give you enough time?”
    Mikado said, “I’ll do my best. Is there anything else?”
    “Yes, Admiral, there is. I am transferring the crew of the Dorg-Ross to the Alexander Kosiev and I want four hundred crewmen composed of the highest rated students, recent graduates from the Academy, along with the highest rated sailors in our fleet. One of them will be a weapons officer that is scheduled to graduate this term name Linda Kay Johns.”
    Mikado looked away from the com for a moment and said, “She would be going anyway; she’s ranked second in her class. When do you want them ready to join your crew?”
    I want all the new crew members ready to go now. I want those selected to be moved to a location that Sten will provide you to begin an accelerated training on the Kosiev simulator. I will be taking the crew of the Dorg-Ross to begin their training immediately. Please make good decisions on the new crew member’s selection. I will give you the coordinates where to send a transport to take the ones selected for their training. I am not going to take the Kosiev anywhere near a populated planet. Each person selected for the mission will be sworn to secrecy and the penalty for violating that order will be dishonorable discharge from the service and imprisonment or execution.”
    Mikado looked at Tommy and said, “Tommy, is there something you want to tell me?”
    Tommy said, “I wish I could, Admiral. I would just recommend that you get the fleet trained to a war footing. I do not think that we will need it for years, but I can’t promise that. I do not want the Realm alarmed. You have to do it quietly.”
    Mikado looked at Tommy and knew that trouble lay ahead. “I’ll start with Ron-Dar’s fleet.”
    “His fleet probably needs it the least, Admiral.”
    “That is true, but if I’m going to promote sailors to replace those selected, I would start with his fleet to find them.”
    “You make a good point, Admiral. You now have fifty five minutes to get that transport there.”
    Mikado smiled and said, “Yes, your highness. It will be done.”
    Tommy smiled and broke the connection. He entered Atlas and they immediately jumped to the coordinates Rose had given him. They arrived to see a star with no planets imploding in on itself. Tommy hit his com and Captain Dodd appeared on the screen. “Captain, I need you to order battle stations and jump to the coordinates I’ve just sent to your screen. Upon arrival, have all your crew members pack all of their personal items and prepare to transfer to the Kosiev. A transport is being sent to pick up the Dorg-Ross and hold it for you in space dock. You can inform your crew whatever you think is appropriate. Please have the two adolescents and their readers moved when you arrive. One more thing, Captain; do not get closer than two hundred thousand miles to the Kosiev until I’ve disarmed her defenses.”
    Captain Dodd looked at Tommy on his com and Tommy could see her excitement. “She’s coming alive,” Tommy thought. “Just like the Kosiev.”
    Captain Dodd said, “We will arrive momentarily, your highness.” Tommy’s call came in at one AM ship time and most of the crew was sleeping. The night crew were manning their posts and trying to stay alert. Captain Dodd had been wanting to do what she was about to do from the first moment she took command of the Dorg-Ross and she thought before she pushed the bright blue button that her crew had better respond like the professionals she knew they were. She smiled and lifted the cover from the bright blue button and pushed it; things happened fast. The bridge went to low red combat lighting and alarm klaxons all over the megaship started going off along with the ships communications system blaring, “Battle Stations. All hands to battle stations. This is not a drill.”
    The bridge crew came out of their reverie and began taking control of their command boards pushing the buttons to arm their systems. Captain Dodd watched her control panel for all of her sections to report ready. She looked at the timer and saw that the screen went to full power and was pulled in to one mile from the hull is less than two seconds after the alarm sounded; the primary beams were charged and on line four seconds later. The penetrators and needle crews were on line within fifteen seconds from the alarm and all sections reported ready in forty four seconds. Captain Dodd was highly impressed. The record according to fleet legend was Admiral Kosievs’ first command, the destroyer Moscow. Her crew had just beaten that record with a ship more than twenty five times larger than the old Moscow. She knew that her ship had all of its crew members quarters located close to their assigned battle stations where as old ships like the Moscow didn’t, but it was still impressive.
    She picked up her com and said over the general ship frequency, “We are going to jump into an unknown situation momentarily and I want all sections ready for combat operations.” She looked at her jump officer and saw him ready to push the jump button and she said, “Jumping in 5,4,3,2,1, execute.”
    The Dorg-Ross came out of null space more than 400,000 miles from the star in the system. The crew saw on their monitors that the star was decreasing in size visibly. As they watched, the star began shrinking almost too fast to follow; and then the star was gone and what remained stunned the crew of the Dorg-Ross. Everyone on board knew the ship that was on their monitors; the most powerful weapon ever created, the Alexander Kosiev. Silence ruled the ship. Captain Dodd picked up her ships com and said, “Helmsman, maintain this distance.” Captain Dodd watched her monitor trying to see Tommy enter the ship but nothing appeared on her sensors or on her optical scanners. Then she saw the Kosiev slowly turn and start moving their way. Captain Dodd said over her com, “Attention all crew members. All outside communication is now prohibited until further notice. All means of transmitting from this ship are now blocked. Section one through forty will leave their posts and go to their quarters and pack their belongings to move to our new home for the foreseeable future. You have thirty minutes to complete your packing and you will then board our shuttles to transport you to the Kosiev. Section leaders will assign temporary quarters for their members until we can sort out where the permanent assignments will be. Sections forty one through eighty will begin their packing thirty minutes from now.” The bridge crew stared at their captain stunned. Dodd smiled and yelled, “I’m not accustomed to repeating myself, now get moving.”
    Half of the bridge crew left so fast that the other half didn’t even see them go as they watched the two mile long behemoth getting closer. The crew began talking among themselves and wondered what was happening. Wes went to his quarters to begin packing, picked up a picture on his desktop, put it safely in his bag, and thought, “Tommy has begun his quest. I’m going to miss Linda Kay.”
    Linda Kay was in her field dynamics class when the Academy intercom came on, “All members of the Academy will stop what they are doing and pay attention to the following announcement.” One minute passed to give everyone time to pay attention and then the Academy members heard, “A list of current students and faculty is about to be announced. If your name is on the list, you will go to your quarters, pack your belongings, and report directly to the landing field to board the Transport Alonso Singh. Those selected will be leaving the academy for advanced training and we anticipate they will not be returning for an extended time. All communication is currently prohibited until the selected personnel have been transported. There is a possibility that the assignment will extend for two to five years. You will be informed of the details when you arrive at your destination. If there are extenuating circumstances that prevent your accepting this assignment, report to the President of the Academy immediately after hearing your name. Jeremy Allen, Belinda Akers, Jose Gonzalez…”
    Linda Kay looked around and saw that everyone was wondering what was happening. She also noticed that the best students in her class were being selected. She didn’t know whether to want to be selected or not. If this assignment lasted five years, she and Wes were not going to be able to see each other. Finally she heard it, “Linda Johns.” She stood and left the room running to her quarters. She arrived and began packing. She picked up a picture, looked at it, and then safely packed it in her bag. “Oh Wes, I’m going to miss you.”
    She arrived at the landing field and the transport’s crew was looking at a list and assigning cabins for the arriving students. Everyone asked the transporter’s crew what was going on. The response was always the same, “I don’t have the clearance to know.” Linda Kay approached the crewman and said, “Linda Kay Johns reporting as ordered.”
    The crewman looked at his list and said, “Your cabin is number 623; deck six, turn left, sixth one the right. Remain in your cabin until you receive further orders.”
    Linda Kay saluted the ensign and walked up the ramp into the transport. She found her cabin and dropped her bag and took Wes’ picture out and felt the realization that he meant more to her than she ever realized. The thought of not seeing him for years terrified her. She continued to stare at his picture and wonder what he was doing at that moment.
    Wes sat in his cabin on the Kosiev and stared at Linda Kay’s picture. “Please let me contact her,” he prayed. “I must tell her that I love her. Please, please give me the chance.” He continued to stare at her picture.
    Captain Dodd and the remainder of the bridge crew were the last to leave Dorg-Ross. She boarded the shuttle and headed toward the Alexander Kosiev. She didn’t even look back at her former ship; she only had eyes for the huge white ship in front of their shuttle. The ultimate weapon and she was going to be its Captain. She felt something move inside her and though she didn’t understand how, somehow she could feel the ship. She closed her eyes and saw every energy weapon, penetrator magazine, needle gun, and several things she did not recognize. Before she stepped foot on the ship she knew its layout; every corridor, every room, every engine. The ship was calling out to her in a voice only she could hear. Cassandra Dodd knew what she was feeling; she was going home and her heart sang its joy.
    The selected students were all on board the Transport and sitting in their room when a familiar voice was heard over the ships intercom. It was Admiral Mikado, Fleet Commander of the Stars Realm armed services. “Welcome aboard. I know everyone of you has questions about what is taking place and unfortunately, I have not been informed about what is happening. However, I can tell you this; this assignment has been classified as “Safety of the State” secret and all of you are prohibited from discussing anything about it with anyone outside of those selected to take part. That includes me or anyone else. You will be given one call and one call only to your immediate family only to inform them that you are being assigned and that you will not be able to communicate with them for the foreseeable future. That is all you can tell them. We will allow you to make that call from your quarters immediately after I finish discussing this with you because quite simply, you don’t know anything at this point that you could tell them. You will be allowed to leave your quarters after you complete that call and have free access to the ship’s services. You will be stopping for more personnel to join you in eighteen hours and then you will be taken to your final destination that, once again, I have not been informed of its location. I can tell you this; each or you have been selected because of your superior performance and the belief that you will continue it in your new assignment. I wish all of you Godspeed and good luck.”
    Linda Kay looked at the com in her room and wanted with all her heart to call Wes but he was not her immediate family. She cried for a few minutes and then called her parents to tell them not to worry.”
    Eighteen hours later, the transport broke out of null space in a system that was deserted. It waited for two hours and then six transports jumped in all within ten minutes. Shuttles started leaving the other ships and more than five hundred new crewmen boarded the Alonso Singh. These new arrivals were not students; they were crew and officers that were currently serving in the Stars Realm Navy. They boarded and began questioning the students to see what was going on, only to learn that no one knew. Linda Kay saw Edward Jones walking down the hall and stopped him. “Lieutenant Jones, I don’t know if you remember me but I was in the room with you when you came to thank Tommy and Wes at the school in Central City.”
    Edward stopped and furrowed his brow and then recognized her, “Boy, you’ve grown up since then.”
    She smiled at him and said, “My name is Linda Kay Johns and I was wondering what you know about this assignment.”
    “I remember you Linda Kay. I’ll never forget what happened that day. To answer your question, I really don’t know. I can tell you this; the fleet has been robbed of its highest rated sailors. My captain screamed at losing the core of his command but he was told to shut his mouth or face a court marshal. He complied immediately. It appears that he thought we were going to another ship in the fleet and he resented developing us and then losing us to another commander. Everyone in the fleet is wondering what is going on and I heard before I left that fleet maneuvers have been scheduled at triple the norm. There is talk that there may be another war on the way.”
    Linda Kay looked somberly at Edward and what he was saying made sense. “Lt. Jones, if we needed our fleet at the best level of readiness, why have all the best personnel been taken? They have also taken the top fifty students in each class at the academy.”
    Edward looked at Linda Kay and said, “Whatever it is; it is going to be something that is very dangerous. I think our conversation has given me a starting point to think about. You don’t take students just two months from graduation unless something is very wrong. Thank you, Linda for discussing this with me. By the way, is that boy friend of yours on board?”
    Edward immediately saw Linda Kay’s face cloud up, “No, and I don’t know if I’m going to be allowed to communicate with him.”
    Edward smiled at her and said, “Linda, that boyfriend is full of surprises, believe me I know. He’ll find you.”
    Linda Kay smiled and said, “I hope so, Lt. Jones. I really do.”

Chapter 7

    The planet circled a white dwarf in a system that was incredibly old. The planet was a gas giant that was a wannabe star but lacked the mass to ignite the fusion reaction at its core. It did, however have a core that was incredibly hot and gigantic electrical storms filled its atmosphere. The planet was surrounded by a construct that was right above the atmosphere. The construct looked like a huge golf ball cover with indentations completely covering its surface. Each one of those indentations had a huge ship in it drawing power from the electrical storms below. The structure also had energy tubes extending down into the planet’s core drawing additional energy for each ship. The lightning did not come close to providing the needed power for the ships but it tasted wonderful. Some of the ships nestled on the construct were more than two hundred million years old and had grown to a size that rivaled some moons. The older members of this race were often more than two thousand miles in diameter. The beings that lived in the ships were no longer made of organic material but were basically electrical energy. They had evolved to the point where physical bodies were useless and they ultimately became a form of energy. The ship that housed them became their body and the energy that fed them was their life blood that animated the ship. This race had forgotten more about the universe’s energy than most races would ever know.
    The watcher was stationed outside the construct in an area that was a nexus for energy space. There was a place that was very similar to null space in that it was very small, (the size of an atom) and had contact with all the energy in the universe. The watcher sat on this energy nexus and had his millions of energy legs extended into the space surrounding the spot. It was like a spider on its web feeling the vibrations of anything that contacted it. The first male looked up from his bed on the construct and noticed that the watcher was nervous. There was an occasional vibration of his energy field. He asked, “What bothers you, watcher?”
    The watcher did not immediately answer but waited and said, “I’m not sure.”
    The first male directed more of his attention to the watcher. It was not like a watcher to be uncertain. He waited until the watcher thought to him, “I sense something but I do not know what or where it is. I don’t know if it is a danger or just an aberration; I will watch and see if it clarifies itself.”
    The first male turned his attention back to his meal but left one of his sensors on the watcher. This watcher was young. Perhaps that was the problem. He would make a decision about replacing him with one that possessed more experience if this nervousness continued. He settled down and directed his focus to the delicious lightning below.
    The former crew of the Dorg-Ross was at their stations and most of them wondered just how their control boards operated. Captain Dodd turned and looked at Tommy whose chair was above and directly behind to her left. Tommy entered the numbers Rose had given him into his chairs control board and the lights came on. A mechanical voice said, “Place your hand into the key for imprinting.” Tommy placed his left hand into the hand shaped indentation on his chair’s arm. The voice said, “Imprinting complete.” Tommy lifted his hand and then replaced it in the indentation. Everyone on the ship heard a low tone that started rising in pitch. The huge ship vibrated slightly and everyone could feel the ship come to life. Tommy pressed two buttons on his chair and the crew immediately saw most of their control panel’s lights go out.
    Tommy pressed his com and announced, “I have turned off most control boards on the ship. We will be making a jump momentarily and shortly after you will begin your training on how to operate Kosievs’ systems. Plan to disembark into shuttles in about one hour.” He looked down at Captain Dodd and said, “I’ve just given you the coordinates of our destination. Please erase them from your system after the jump. By pass the jump officer and enter them yourself into you board, please.”
    Cassandra looked at her display and entered the coordinates into her board. She announced, “Jump in 3,2,1, execute.”
    The Kosiev disappeared and then reappeared in a system that that looked dead. Only one planet circle the star outside of the inner orbit and it was frozen. The planet appeared to have a small moon circling it. As the Kosiev entered normal space, a voice began over the ships intercom, “You have entered space that is quarantined. Leave immediately or your ship will be destroyed.” The voice suddenly stopped in midsentence and another voice said, “I have temporarily disabled the systems defenses. I’ll be arriving shortly.”
    A small shuttle suddenly broke out of null space one mile from the port side of the Kosiev and began moving closer. Tommy said, “Open the hanger bay to receive guests.” The small shuttle came through the force field keeping the atmosphere from escaping the landing bay and settled to the floor. The side door opened and the crew was amazed at who stepped out. Sten, the former State Leader of the Alliance and the developer of all the Stars Realm’s star ships, exited the shuttle followed closely by Admiral Bridget O’Donald. The crew came to immediate attention and Bridget said, “At ease; as you were.” Tommy walked into the landing bay followed by Captain Dodd and the crew again came to attention. Captain Dodd saluted Admiral O’Donald and Bridget returned the salute and said, “If you come to attention one more time I’m going to make all of you stay there at attention for two hours. We’re here to work and we’ll get nothing done if we have to go through this all day.”
    Tommy touched his com and said over the ship’s intercom, “Attention all crew members. Effective immediately, all military courtesy of coming to attention is suspended until training is completed. The use of rank and titles is also suspended for the same period.” Tommy walked forward and Sten hugged Tommy saying, “I’ve been looking so forward to meeting you. I admire your father greatly.”
    Tommy said, “It is I who am excited about meeting you. When you have a moment will you share with me your memory of the ending of the conflict with the Alliance of Worlds?”
    Sten smiled and said, “We should do that tonight. We will be too busy after that.”
    “You have a deal,” Tommy said and then walked over to Bridget and they hugged each other. Tommy whispered in her ear, “Thank you for saving my parents.”
    Bridget smiled and said, “Thank your sister, I only followed orders, your highness.
    Tommy said, “How many have the courage to throw the Queen and her husband into a wall? No, Admiral, you deserve my thanks for your courage.” Bridget smiled and nodded.
    Cassandra watched Tommy hug Admiral O’Donald and was bothered by it. “Why does she deserve a hug,” she caught herself thinking. Then she immediately recognized that she was acting jealous. “How absurd is this?” She pushed the thought from her mind.
    Sten pushed the button on his com and said, “All crew members will leave on the ships shuttles and report to the school circling the planet. There are instructors waiting for you who will direct you to your quarters where you will find material on your readers. You will have exactly one day to familiarize yourself with the contents and be prepared to be tested. I would highly recommend that you use the time wisely.”
    The crew started looking at each other and when Captain Dodd said “Dismissed,” they ran from the bay to gather their bags to try board a shuttle leaving early to get a jump on the assignment. Wes had hidden his bags in the landing bay next to the shuttles late that night so he calmly walked over and picked up his bags and asked Admiral O’Donald, “Which shuttle leaves first?”
    Admiral O’Donald smiled and said, “Lt. McAnn. You just got a gold star in your long range planning crown. For your superior planning you may go back with Sten and me on our shuttle.”
    Captain Dodd looked at Tommy with an accusing look and Tommy said, “He did this on his own. How did you know this was coming Wes?”
    “Wes smiled and said, “Because the Captain had her bags moved to a shuttle last night. I assumed that where my leader goes, I will follow.”
    Cassandra smiled and said, “You caught me. Come on, we’ll ride together.”
    Wes smiled and said, “Aye, aye, sir.”
    Tommy watched his best friend board the shuttle with Sten, Bridget, and Captain Dodd and was bothered. “Why didn’t they invite me to join them? Dodd sure gave Wes a big smile. What am I thinking? They didn’t invite me because I don’t have my bags.” Then he thought to Atlas, “Is the speeder available?”
    “Way ahead of you, your bags are inside and it’s just outside the landing bay. Enter the tube and you can greet their shuttle at the learning facility.”
    “Outstanding. Let’s get out of here.”
    The Alonso Singh arrived two hours after all of Captain Dodd’s crew was transported to the facility. It broke back into normal space more than a light year from the facility to find the shuttles from the Kosiev waiting for them. The passengers were instructed to board the shuttles and to take their baggage. As they gathered in the landing bay of the transport, Admiral O’Donald entered and told them that they would be informed about the mission in the morning, however, they had a learning assignment that evening in their rooms that they would be tested on in the morning. She encouraged them to get to work. She covered the suspension of military courtesies during training and told them to get their room assignments from the instructors waiting for them at the learning facility.”
    The passengers boarded the shuttles and were jumped right next to the school. Their windows were blacked out so no one could see the Kosiev as they entered. The passengers noted the lack of personnel in the hallways but went to their rooms and began studying.
    Linda Kay unpacked and put Wes’ picture beside her bed. She cried for a while then dried her tears and sat down to study. “What kind of weapon control board is this,” She wondered? The needle magazine was mounted inside the wall of the ship and there was no port to fire through. There was also a control for sensors that were also located inside the walls. “How can sensors work inside walls?”
    Wes was studying his material when his entry chime rang. He got up and opened his door. Sprig was standing there. “I’m sorry to interrupt your study 3D but I have a situation that after careful consideration, I feel you are the best qualified to assist me before I cause more trouble. Will you please come help me?”
    Wes knew that careful consideration from an Algean meant that he had better go quickly with him because if Sprig needed help then disaster was not far away. He followed Sprig as he moved quickly thru the ship. What have you done this time, Sprig?”
    Sprig kept moving and thought to him, “I’ve actually discovered a situation that I don’t think anyone else but you at the facility can help me resolve.”
    “Sprig, I’m a sensor officer. What have you done to the sensors?”
    Sprig stopped in front of a door and rang the entry chime. Wes stood beside Sprig and said, “Do you need someone else to help?”
    The door opened and there was Linda Kay looking at them. Wes thought his heart stopped beating; Linda Kay lost her breath. That moment seemed to last forever but was actually less than a second. They reached for each other and held on tight. Wes had his eyes closed and Linda Kay was crying. Sprig thought to Wes, “I told you that in my carefully considered opinion that you were the only one on board that could handle this situation.”
    Linda Kay held on to Wes like he was life itself. Wes said back to Sprig, “This makes up for any trouble you caused me. You have brought me a hundred fold more happiness than the pain from our little incident.”
    Sprig’s leaves turned bright green showing his happiness and said, “Thank you, 3D.”
    Linda Kay backed away so she could see Wes’ face and said, “What little incident and “3D”?”
    Wes laughed and said, “I’m sure you’ll hear about it later but I want you to hear this; I love you to the bottom of my heart and I want you to marry me.”
    Linda Kay reached up and softly kissed Wes. Then she said, “Who needs a big wedding? Captain Dodd can perform the ceremony tomorrow.” They stepped inside Linda Kay’s cabin and the door quietly shut.”
    Sprig walked back to the library taking what he had just sensed from Wes and Linda Kay. Their emotions were complex and Sprig felt somewhat jealous of their joy. “I wish I could experience what they have,” he thought and then entered the library to continue his download with Twig.
    Twig thought to him, “That was beautiful, Sprig,” then she continued her learning while Sprig separated a tiny part of his mind to think about what he had just experienced.
    The twelve hundred selected to take part in the mission were assembled in the auditorium at the learning facility after all the students had completed their test on the material studied the night before. Now it was three in the afternoon facility time and they were quietly speculating among themselves what they were going to be doing when Tommy walked in and stood behind the podium. The crowd immediately grew silent. Tommy looked out at the smartest and most talented of the Stars Realm’s services. He thought about what he was going to say and then began, “I want to welcome each of you to our facility and thank you for your participation. I had originally decided to only tell you a limited amount of the classified information about what we are doing here but after careful consideration I have rejected that idea.” Tommy walked out from behind the podium and looked out at the group and said, “There is a real possibility that we could precipitate a war between the Stars Realm and an advanced civilization that is hundreds of millions of years ahead of us technologically.” The room grew still and everyone tried to comprehend the magnitude of what they had just heard. “Originally my efforts were directed at freeing a race that has been held captive for more than sixty million years. However, as most of you know, my family is somewhat gifted in psychic ability and we have sensed that even if we decide not to attempt that liberation, the advanced race in question is going to be a danger to our citizens in the future. We have even determined that the danger is somewhat diminished by moving forward with my project. Please keep that in mind as we discuss what we are up against.
    Captain Dodd watched Tommy speak and was impressed with the maturity that he exhibited. She never saw his fine qualities when she was at the Academy making his life miserable. She could now see that he was someone she could follow into battle without reservation and know that the cause was just and worth risking her life. She couldn’t help herself; she was drawn and attracted to this young Duke.
    Tommy paused and looked out at the audience for affect and then said, “One of the mysteries of our civilization is why an advanced race totally disappeared from the universe millions of years ago; no one has been able to explain why the Alfont disappeared so suddenly from history’s stage. Now we know. This race totally eradicated them and captured more than a million of them and imprisoned them. My father found the only Alfont that survived their attack and he is assisting us in trying to free his brothers.” The room was suddenly filled with exclamations from the assembly. Tommy stood and waited without attempting to silence them. After fifteen minutes the room grew quiet. Tommy said, “My father met that survivor on the moon and named him Atlas. He chose that name because he had the earth over his shoulders, metaphorically speaking for more than sixty million years while he hid from the captors that killed his race. During that time he would go out and put his DNA in some of the higher life forms that were developing on the planets in our galaxy during that period. He is the father of most, if not all, of the races that became the Alliance of Worlds.”
    This was something that Captain Dodd had not been told and by looking at Sten and Admiral O’Donald she could tell that this was something that they did not know either. She turned her attention back to Tommy.
    “I often wondered what Atlas’ race did to cause their destruction and he shared that information with me recently. One of his brothers simply entered their home system on a routine jump. This caused their total destruction.” The crowd grew noisy again and once more Tommy waited. Finally the room was quiet again. “I know what you’re thinking; why don’t we just avoid these creatures all costs and keep our distance?” Tommy saw that he had hit a nerve and there were some guilty faces in the crowd. “My family and I thought about doing just that by quarantining their section of the universe. Our combined psychic senses told us that that is the path that is most dangerous. We don’t know why but we know it to be true. Atlas is of the opinion that if he reveals what he knows about these creatures, then they will know it and come looking for us. He believes that they can sense every electronic event that happens in our universe. Quite frankly, I’m not going to run the risk of seeing if he’s wrong. Once that Alfont ship accidently entered their home system, every Alfont in the universe regardless of where they were had one of those creatures jump in directly to their location and attack them. It took more than a hundred years to kill them because the Alfont outnumbered their attackers. Atlas was able to escape strictly through luck and a timely act of God. He hid from them fearing that they would sense him.”
    Tommy moved back behind the Podium and said, “In order for me to help him, I have to know what he knows and I have to find out without endangering the Realm. We know that all those creatures had to do to destroy the Alfont was just sense one of their ships and then they could see any ship like that one in all the galaxies. We cannot let them sense us in a ship that would allow them to see the Realm. It requires a ship that is unique and unlike any ship in the Stars Realm’s fleet. There is only one ship that meets that requirement, the Alexander Kosiev. You will be learning how to fly and fight that ship during your training here. If we are to be successful against this dangerous civilization, we must discover some technological breakthroughs that would allow us to survive their attack. That is why you were brought here. What we are attempting is dangerous and could get us all killed. I sensed before I started speaking to you that you should have a choice before risking your life. If anyone chooses not to participate in this operation, you will be allowed to return to your previous assignment with the understanding that if you reveal anything you have heard today you will be court marshaled and executed. This is information that we cannot allow to destroy the harmony of the Realm. That is why you have not been allowed any communication with anyone other than those present. I will give you thirty minutes to decide what you want to do. If you choose to take part, then report back to this auditorium in thirty minutes. Those who do not report will be shipped back to their previous assignments. Thank you for your attention, dismissed.”
    No one moved. The entire assembly sat there thinking about what they had just heard and knew that there was real danger in this mission. After fifteen minutes, Wes stood and said, “You highness, we’re wasting fifteen minutes of precious time when we could be learning how to kick the groad out of those captors.” Wes turned around and faced the assembly and said, “Anyone else feel like me?”
    The entire room stood and cheered. They turned to their fellow crewmates and began shaking their hands. The crew shared a vision. Tommy stood from his chair and said, “Just one more thing.” The crowd remained standing and grew very quiet, “Why don’t you say hello, Atlas?”
    From the intercom a voice said, “I am moved in a way that I can never express to you. Regardless of the outcome of our adventure, I know that I have a family here that means as much to me as my captured brothers. Thank you, thank you for sharing my journey.”
    The assembly broke into cheers again and continued for twenty minutes. Tommy stood again and said, “Well, we lost the fifteen minutes; report to you assigned class rooms and let’s get to work.” The room emptied in less than five minutes.
    Tommy watched Wes and Linda Kay approach Captain Dodd when the meeting ended. He walked off the stage to welcome Linda Kay and heard Wes say to Captain Dodd, “Captain, we would like to request that you marry us at your earliest possible convenience.”
    Captain Dodd looked at the two of them and said, “Wes, your family will insist on a wedding at Castle Gardner. I don’t know that I have the authority to do what you’re asking.”
    Tommy looked at Wes and Linda Kay and could feel what they were experiencing. He was almost overwhelmed by what he sensed in them. He looked at his best friend and said, “Who is going to be your best man?”
    Wes looked at Tommy and said. “I thought you were psychic.”
    Captain Dodd was worried about the situation but when she heard Wes’ comment to Tommy she burst out laughing. It struck her funny and she couldn’t restrain herself. She doubled over and finally caught her breath and said, “I’ll marry you. I can look at you and see that not to do that is a greater wrong than worrying about politics. Who will be the maid of honor?”
    While Captain Dodd was talking with the happy couple, Tommy thought, “Rose.”
    “Yes, Tommy.”
    “Wes and Linda Kay have just asked Captain Dodd to marry them.”
    “Oh Crap,” Rose thought. “Leila, come in here right now”
    Tommy closed his eyes and watched as Leila entered the room. “Leila, Wes has just asked Captain Dodd to marry him and Linda Kay. She has agreed to do so.”
    Leila said, “Now without Eric and me, she won’t.”
    “Tommy, you’ve got to stop them.”
    “I can’t, I’m the best man.”
    “Then I’ll stop them,” Rose said.
    “Bunny, there has never been a time I’ve said no to you but this time I will not allow you to intervene. Before you do something you’ll regret for the rest of your life, I want you to look at their thoughts and share them with Leila.”
    “Tommy, that’s not ethical.”
    “I think it is. Please do as I’ve asked,”
    Rose was silent for a minute and then Tommy heard Leila say, “Oh, crap. They had better be married before they leave the room. Tommy, we’ll be there in the morning. Can you hold them off that long?”
    Tommy leaned over and tapped Captain Dodd on the hand to get her attention and both Tommy and Captain Dodd jerked at the shock that hit them. Captain Dodd was stunned and Tommy was knocked to the floor. Wes ran to Tommy and helped him up while Linda Kay helped prevent an obviously disoriented Captain Dodd from falling. Tommy said, “I was trying to tell Captain Dodd that we will hold the ceremony in the morning at nine hundred hours before the assembled crew.”
    “What happened,” Wes asked?
    Tommy looked at his best friend and said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
    Cassandra Dodd stood there disoriented and dazed but discovered two things simultaneously; she could now feel every inch of the Alexander Kosiev and knew that she could control the ship just by thinking about it; It felt like the ship’s computer and her mind were identical. She also discovered that when Tommy Gardner touched her she felt him and saw him for who he was and she knew that he was more than she ever imagined. Cassandra said, “We’ll do it in the morning like Duke Gardner has requested. Now, the two of you cannot see each other before then. Remember, you don’t want bad luck.”
    Tommy’s brow was furrowed, that was exactly what he was going to suggest to the two love birds. Tommy said, “I agree completely.” He wobbled to his feet and took Wes by the arm and led him out of the room while Captain Dodd took Linda Kay the other way out. Both Captain Dodd and Tommy noticed that even while they were being led out of the room, Wes and Linda Kay could not take their eyes off each other.
    Later that evening Cassandra was in her quarters trying to recover from the shock she had received from Tommy touching her hand. Her com buzzed and she was surprised to see Rose Gardner on her screen. “Good evening, Captain Dodd. I’m sorry for disturbing you so late but I need to discuss tomorrow’s proceedings with you.”
    Cassandra stuttered, “It’s my pleasure to be at your service, Your Majesty.”
    “You will not be conducting the ceremony tomorrow, Captain,” Rose said. “I will be arriving with the Royal Family, Wes’ and Linda Kay’s parents, and Tgon-Gee who will be performing the ceremony.”
    “Of course, Your Majesty.”
    “Oh, you’re not getting off that easy, Captain,” Rose said with a twinkle in her eye. “We are limited in the required people to fill positions. You will be the maid of honor.”
    Cassandra panicked and said, “I’m sorry but I do not have anything appropriate to wear for such a ceremony.”
    “We have taken that into consideration, Captain. I will transfer you to Leila after our conversation and you will give her your exact measurements and we will bring your apparel. I expect you to participate with a smile.”
    Cassandra tried to remember the last time she had dressed up for anything and drew a blank. “Yes, you highness, I am thankful for the opportunity.”
    Rose looked hard at Cassandra for a moment and then Leila McAnn was on the screen. “Hello, Captain Dodd. I need some information that should take less than an hour to provide. If you do not have a tape measure you might want to go get one. My first question is, how long is your hair when not in that tight bun?”
    Cassandra sighed and thought, “Oh, crap. Isn’t this going to be a hoot.”

Chapter 8

    The First Male was enjoying the storms raging below his cell on the planet below when all of his attention was suddenly directed toward the Watcher. The Watcher was screaming and vibrating so fast that it was nearly impossible to see his lines clearly. Then all at once he exploded. The First Male along with two million other ships exploded from the surface of the construct and swarmed around the nexus that the watcher had been reading. This was the first death among the Captors in more than two hundred million years. The first Male arrived at the nexus and started to extend one of his feet into it to see what had happened.
    “Stop, do not read that nexus,” the Queen Mother ordered from the construct.
    “We must determine what happened, Mother.”
    “I have sent another watcher to do that. I will not risk losing your leadership.”
    The old watcher arrived at the nexus and began to insert one leg into it and immediately pulled it back. The leg was melted and half of it was gone. The Watcher did not scream but had one of his remote ships go out and cut away what remained of the damaged leg. The old watcher said. “The nexus is too hot to enter. Something has raised the temperature higher than a star’s core.”
    The first Male ordered all watchers to go check the other nexuses that were in their galaxy but to use caution. In less than an hour it was determined that every nexus was too hot to enter. For the first time in their long history, the Captors were blind to the universe around them. The First Male was extremely agitated about what was taking place. “Watcher, can you determine what has caused this?”
    “No,” the old watcher said, “and until the nexus cools enough to enter I will be unable to find out. I have never seen this before.”
    The first male was concerned. This watcher was one of the oldest members of their ancient society. He thought a moment and ordered, “All warriors spread out and make sure nothing enters our domain. You will maintain your positions until Watcher is able to reenter the nexus.” Throughout the Captor’s galaxy, the huge red ships swarmed looking for what could have burned the nexus.
    Tommy was standing at the center of the stage with Wes waiting for Linda Kay to walk down the aisle. Everyone in the facility was there to witness the wedding. Tgon-Gee stood next to Wes waiting to start the proceedings. Leila, Eric, Linda Kay’s parents, Danielle, and Tag were seated on the front row. Rose stood next to Tgon-Gee looking beautiful in her rose colored gown. She wore the crown of the Stars Realm which Tommy had not seen her do very often. Even Twig and Sprig had left their readers to attend.
    Suddenly the music started and the door opened at the back of the room and Cassandra Dodd stepped forward and began the walk to the front of the room. The entire room was stunned and Tommy was absolutely amazed at what he saw. No one could remember ever seeing Captain Dodd in anything but a Stars Realm uniform wearing her hair in that trademark tight bun but here she came walking down the aisle in an emerald green dress that fit her perfectly. Her auburn hair hung down to her shoulders and her green eyes looked like they were on fire. She was absolutely beautiful. Her form was perfect, her smile was perfect, her hair was perfect, and her walk was done elegantly. Tommy could not believe his eyes. How could this vision be the terror he endured at the academy? Tommy and Wes were so struck by the change in Dodd’s appearance that they did not notice Tgon-Gee’s expression when he saw her. Tgon-Gee was also shocked but for a different reason. “I must talk with the Queen immediately,” he thought. But then he decided to wait until after the ceremony.
    Everyone stood as Linda Kay came through the door. She was breathtaking. The white gown that Rose had brought her was beautiful but not as beautiful as the young woman that wore it. Her blue eyes were moist from her happiness and her long black hair was done in curls. She was graceful and she only had eyes for Wes. Tommy could sense the love his lifetime friend felt for his new bride and in his heart envied him. Then she was there and the ceremony began. Tommy couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t take his eyes off Cassandra Dodd and remarkably she was also staring at him. Neither one of them felt the always present tension when they were in the same room. Tommy wondered what was happening to him. Then Wes kissed his bride and the roar from the assembled crowd broke through his attention.
    Tgon-Gee went to Rose immediately after the ceremony and said, “Your Majesty, we have an issue.”
    Rose looked at the Glod Crown Prince and said, “What’s wrong?”
    Tgon-Gee spoke to her for five minutes and Rose turned to stare at Captain Dodd. She thought to Tommy, “Tommy, I need you, Captain Dodd, Mom, Dad, and Tgon-Gee to meet me in the conference room in three minutes.”
    “What’s wrong, Rose?”
    “We’ll discuss it in the conference room, Tommy.”
    Tommy saw Tgon-Gee walking out of the room with his parents and Rose leaving the stage so he went to Captain Dodd and said, “Captain, I’ve been ordered to report to the conference room and to bring you with me.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy in puzzlement and Tommy said, “I don’t know what this is about but we should go now.”
    Cassandra wondered what she had done wrong. She had tried her best to look appropriate for the wedding but she just knew she had failed miserably. She was not accustomed to wearing a dress and heels. Then Tommy said, “Captain, I never knew you were so beautiful. You should dress up more often.”
    Cassandra turned bright red and looked at Tommy and saw that he meant what he was saying. “Thank you, Duke Gardner. Thank you very much.” She followed him to the conference room wondering what was going on.
    Tommy and Cassandra entered the conference room and found everyone in a semicircle of chairs with a chair directly in front. There was an empty chair next to Rose so Tommy sat down. Tgon-Gee motioned for Captain Dodd to sit in the chair in front of the group.
    Tgon-Gee looked at Captain Dodd and said, “How long have you known about your aura?”
    Cassandra looked puzzled and said, “My what?”
    Tgon-Gee said, “Captain Dodd, I was present at your graduation from the academy and you did not possess an aura. I see you today and you have one. How did you hide it from me then and we need to know your intentions.”
    Cassandra was totally confused. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What do you mean by aura? Am I under some kind of suspicion here?”
    Rose looked at Cassandra and said, “Captain, you posses a high level of psychic ability. We are curious why you’ve hidden it from us until now.”
    The group could see that Cassandra was totally confused and Rose could tell that her feelings were genuine. “Captain, have you noticed anything unusual about yourself that seems out of the ordinary?”
    Cassandra’s face turned red. The group saw that she knew something. Tommy was totally confused. What was happening here? Then Cassandra spoke, “I have always had a knack for how machinery operated. I could repair most mechanical things and knew what was wrong with them almost instinctively.” She took a deep breath and said, “The moment I saw the Kosiev, I could see in my mind the entire layout of the ship. The ship felt like a friend, but that was all I could see until after Duke Gardner shocked me yesterday.” Danielle sat up straight in her chair and looked at Tag. He looked back and then they both looked at Cassandra Dodd.
    Rose said, “What do you mean shocked you?”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and said, “I don’t know what he did but he touched me with something yesterday when I was talking with Wes and Linda Kay that almost knocked me out. After I went to my quarters last night I sensed that I can operate the Kosiev simply with my mind. I don’t really believe it, but the feeling has not left me. I can see every part of this ship in my mind and I know how it all works. As far as having psychic skills, I’ve never felt anything psychic until my first view of the Kosiev.” Cassandra looked at Tgon-Gee and said, “How can you tell I have psychic ability?”
    Tgon-Gee said, “Psychics are surrounded by an aura. If someone is just slightly psychic then their aura is a light white color. The color of a psychic that has strong psychic skills is in the light blue to lavender range. The strongest psychics’ aura is violet. Captain your aura is so violet that it appears to be almost black. Looking around this room, your aura is stronger than anyone present.”
    Cassandra was stunned. “That just isn’t possible,” she said. “Until yesterday I’ve never been psychic about anything.”
    Danielle stood up and said, “She’s telling the truth.”
    Everyone turned to Danielle and Rose said, “What’s going on here, Mom?”
    Danielle looked at Tommy for a long moment and then looked at Cassandra. “I’m so sorry. I wish that there was an easier way to break this to you especially in light of all that has happened between you and Tommy.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and then looked at Danielle, “What do you mean?”
    Danielle looked at Rose and said, “Her psychic ability was caused by Tommy.”
    Tommy stood up and said, “What?”
    Danielle said, “Tommy, and I’m going to call you Cassandra instead of Captain Dodd, you will sit and say nothing until I finish. Is that clear?”
    Tommy looked at his mother and slowly sat down and nodded. Cassandra said, “Yes, Your Majesty.”
    Danielle looked at Tag and said, “Cassandra is Tommy’s perfect match and is going to be his partner for life.” Both Tommy and Cassandra both jumped up at that and Danielle held up her hand and said firmly, “Sit Down!” They slowly returned to their chairs. Danielle continued, “Tommy did not touch you with anything but his hand Cassandra.” Cassandra looked at Tommy and he nodded. “When I first met my husband, I shook his hand and felt a small shock. Until that time, I would occasionally get glimpses of truth in the various situations I found myself in. Once I touched Tag, that talent started growing quickly. By the time Tag went into hiding, he could see my aura where there wasn’t one before. By the time we were married the shocks had stopped when we touched and my talent is what it is today. What I want everyone in this room to understand is that I had no aura until Tag touched me. My talents were locked up waiting for the key to unlock them. I believe that there was only one key and that was my husband’s touch.” Danielle looked at Rose and said, “You saw Michael at a very early age but I believe that the reason you saw him was because Michael was not latent but had a strong aura from birth.”
    Rose looked at Danielle and said, “I could feel him and know that he was the one.”
    Danielle looked at Rose and said, “Yet you told me you had to wait until you were eighteen before you could meet him; why was that Rose.”
    Rose furrowed her brow and said, “I can’t explain it in words. Our inner selves knew that to come together before then was prohibited. Matter of fact, we knew it would be dangerous for us to meet.”
    “So you deliberately chose to wait for the right moment, right?”
    Rose nodded.
    “Rose what do you think would have happened if the two of you were forced together before that time?”
    Rose thought a moment and said, “We would have fought against it.”
    Danielle looked at Cassandra and said, “You wonder why you attacked and treated Tommy so badly at the Academy don’t you?”
    Cassandra lowered her head and nodded.
    “You had no other choice. You were forced to do it against your will.”
    Tommy said, “What do you mean?” Cassandra was also confused.
    “Your inner selves knew that if the two of you came together before you were ready, then one of you, possibly both could severely damage the other from that contact. You were forced to do things to insure that you would not make contact before your time. Cassandra, you had to make him avoid you at all costs. Tommy you had to hate her so much that you would not go near her if you could avoid it. Neither one of you consciously did it, your psychic self made it happen.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and said, “Duke Gardner, I’ve never understood why I did the things I did to you. It just wasn’t like me but I couldn’t stop myself. I have lived a lifetime of self blame for doing those things to the wonderful man I now know you to be. I am so sorry.”
    The room was absolutely silent. Then Danielle said, “Now for the thing that both of you might not be willing to believe. You have now made contact with each other and you will not find contentment or peace of mind until you love each other.”
    Tommy looked at his mother for a long moment then looked at Cassandra with her head down sitting in the chair in front of him. He looked inside himself and wondered what had just happened. He said to Cassandra, “What do you think about this story my Mother has just told you.”
    Cassandra did not lift her head but Tommy saw her take a deep breath and say, “I started caring about you the moment you decided to leave what happened in the past in the past. It’s only grown since then. I know that I’m undeserving of someone like you. Since that shock yesterday, I can’t get you out of my mind. I saw during that touch what a wonderful person you are. I’m so ashamed of how I treated you.”
    Tommy stood and walked around the table to the chair and knelt in front of Cassandra. She lifted her head and looked at him with tears in her eyes. She said, “I’m so sorry.”
    He reached forward and everyone saw them jerk when he took her hand, “We need to touch each other more often so that these shocks will stop.” Then he leaned forward and kissed her; she wrapped her arms around his neck and cried. Tommy said, “Now I feel whole. Cassie, there is nothing to forgive.”
    Cassandra held on and cried for a long time; first for forgiveness and then from happiness.
    Rose looked at her mother and father and knew that there was going to be another Gardner soon. She could see Cassie’s aura was even darker than her father’s. She wondered what power this couple possessed. Even Tommy’s aura was darker than before. “I need to watch them,” she thought. “They could be dangerous if they don’t learn to control her talents.
    Tag stood up and said, “I believe that there is a party waiting for us. Let’s go have some fun.”
    Everyone stood up and left the conference room. Danielle came to Cassandra and gave her a hug. “If you need me, I’ve done what you’re going through, don’t hesitate to call me. The best part of your life is beginning at this moment.”
    Cassie wiped her tears and said, “I will and thank you.” Danielle nodded and left to attend the wedding party.
    Tommy looked at Cassie and said, “You are beautiful. I meant what I said earlier. You are absolutely gorgeous. Will you dance with me?”
    Cassie stood and took his hand, felt the shock of their contact, and walked out into the auditorium that had been cleared for the party. As they walked out on the dance floor, everyone was speechless. Tommy was right; Cassandra was beautiful and she had a smile that no one had seen before. Wes and Linda Kay watched Tommy hold Cassie tight as they danced and noticed that they only had eyes for each other. Linda Kay could see Wes’ confusion as well as his happiness for his friend; she whispered softly in his ear, “You can stop worrying about him now. She will take care of him.” Wes looked at Linda Kay and she said, “Just like us.” Wes danced with his bride and held here close looking forward to the rest of his life.
    Tgon-Gee stood on the stage and watched as Tommy and Cassie entered. He immediately saw their auras and grew alarmed. Tgon-Gee’s only psychic talent was that he could see psychic auras. He raised his com to call the leader of the Guidance Peers on Glod and had the leader ask him mentally, “Are you trying to contact me?”
    Tgon-Gee lowered his com and said, “I was just going to com you.”
    The Leader said, “I heard you in my mind. How did you accomplish that?”
    Tgon-Gee thought back, “I didn’t. I don’t know what you mean.”
    “Tgon-Gee, I’m hearing your thoughts without having to enter your mind. That means you have to be broadcasting to me psychically.”
    Tgon-Gee looked down and saw an aura surrounding him that was red in color. He walked three steps to the right and the aura stayed around him. The Leader of the Peers saw what Tgon-Gee was seeing and immediately contacted the other forty nine Peers and brought them in to what was happening. Tgon-Gee looked up and thought, “Leader, I’ve never possessed an aura, at least one that could be seen.”
    The Leader of the peers asked, “Why were you trying to contact me?”
    Tgon-Gee answered, I want you to see this and tell me what it means.” Tgon-Gee looked out at the dance floor and watched Tommy and Cassandra dance. The Guidance Peers on Glod drew a collective breath; what they saw shocked them. The aura around Tommy and Cassandra was as black as space and was twisting, rolling, boiling like a gathering storm; it was also growing. The Peers and Tgon-Gee knew that a psychic aura only extended a few inches from the body of one that possessed it. This aura was growing and had already extended beyond the walls of the auditorium. Tgon-Gee walked over to one of the view ports in the wall and looked out. The aura had grown to more than a mile from the learning facility and was still moving away. Tgon-Gee then looked at the other Gardners in the room and saw that their auras had grown tremendously; the auras were now extending more than six feet from them and were getting darker as he watched. Tgon-Gee waited but the Peers were too shocked to respond. After a moment of thought, Tgon-Gee got up and walked over to Rose who was talking with Leila. Rose smiled but then saw the huge Glod’s expression and said, “Excuse me a moment, Leila.” Leila looked at Tgon-Gee, nodded, and backed away. Tgon-Gee said, “I need you to look in my mind and see what I’m seeing, Your Majesty.” Rose hesitated but saw real fear on the Glod’s face. She entered his mind and her eyes grew wide.
    “Oh my God,” she thought. Then she saw herself in Tgon-Gee’s eyes and saw her aura boiling. She also immediately noticed that it was larger; she watched Tgon-Gee look at each of the Gardners and recognized that all of their auras were expanded.
    Tgon-Gee thought to Rose, “What does this mean?”
    Rose shook her head and said, “I have no idea. This is beyond me.”
    The First Male watched on his sensors as the warriors swarmed throughout their galaxy. Suddenly, the old watcher accelerated away from the nexus point at his fastest speed. “What’s wrong,” the First Male asked?
    “The nexus point is releasing heat into normal space,” the old watcher replied. “The nexus is now approaching the temperature it was at the time of the original explosion that started this universe and the temperature has not stopped rising.” One of the young warriors that was only twelve hundred miles wide, turned and attacked the nexus to protect the old watcher. Before the First Male could stop him he entered the area in space that held the nexus and fired his energy beam into the nexus. A black field erupted out of the nexus and followed the energy beam back to the attacking warrior. There wasn’t time for the warrior to scream. The huge ship’s bright red screen collapsed and the entire vessel shrank so fast that as the black field seemed to suck the attacking ship into the nexus, the young warrior disappeared from view. The Old Watcher called over and over for the warrior but there was no response. The First Male ordered, “All warriors, come no closer than five thousand miles from any nexus until ordered otherwise. What is happening,” he wondered and began to experience an emotion he had no words to define, fear.
    Tommy and Cassie continued to dance.

Chapter 9

    The Gardners were not the only ones affected by the psychic storm. Twig and Sprig were standing in the back of the room observing the wedding. Both had absorbed information that described the process of weddings but seeing it first hand was different. Wes and Linda Kay’s emotions were open to the telepathic plants and they were moved by what they felt. They both stood observing and saying nothing until the psychic storm front washed over them. They both jerked as it touched and then passed them. All of the data they had stored was undergoing a massive reorientation. They stood and felt the inner change but were paralyzed unable to move. Finally Twig thought to Sprig, “Did you feel that?”
    Sprig answered, “Yes, I did. It seems I finally understand the data from that black hole incident and that it relates to the fields that operate in null space.”
    Twig shook the leaves around her feet indicating her confusion and said, “I didn’t see that. However, I now understand how the Kosievs’ power cells came into existence.”
    Sprig shook his leaves and said, “How do you see that? We have both absorbed the same information and I didn’t get that relationship.”
    Twig was silent for a full minute which was equivalent to a week in normal time, “I think that something has happened during this ceremony to reorient all of our data into a different storage. The process must have been done differently for us because we do not look at information the same way. It appears that it made it easier to understand based on the differences between us.”
    Sprig looked at the new relationships that he now could understand and thought, “I do not need more information. I need time to process what I now see and attempt to understand what it means.”
    “As do I,” Twig said.
    Tommy and Cassie left the wedding celebration and walked to the empty observation deck to talk. Tommy dispensed a caffeine drink for Cassie and a sweet drink for himself along with a bag of popcorn. He sat at the table and said, “Cassie, what just happened to us?”
    Cassie sat there looking at him amazed at how one’s fortune could change so suddenly. “I really don’t know but what your mother said makes sense to me. I never wanted to hurt you at the academy but every time I came close I felt a driving desire to punish you and make you go away. I didn’t understand it then or later. I think now it makes sense. I was protecting us from each other. It may be that you still touched me a little too soon and that was why the shock was so severe yesterday.”
    Tommy looked at her and wondered where the intense feelings of wanting to protect her were coming from. “I agree; I think that you and I were destined to eventually find each other. I even think that we were trying to get there even when it was dangerous for us to touch. Our inner selves fought us and caused the pain that happened. Now I’ve seen inside you and know what you are truly like and I must confess that I am totally amazed by what I see. I’ve never in my wildest dreams knew the depth of feeling you never allowed anyone to see.”
    Cassie smiled and said, “Most everyone thinks I’m a cast iron witch and honestly I’ve not tried to change that image. I felt I needed it to be a good officer.”
    “Cassie, I want to try something. Instead of voicing what you want to say, just think it.”
    Cassie thought, “I’m not sure what you mean.”
    Tommy thought back, “I thought so; as you were talking I was also hearing your thoughts at the same time.”
    Cassie furrowed her brow. Tommy had not said a word but she heard his thought. She thought back, “Can you hear me now?”
    “Absolutely.”
    Cassie shook her head and thought, “I guess what Tgon-Gee said was true. Somehow your touch has given me some psychic skills.”
    “I think it is a lot more than that. We need to see just what your skills are; we need to experiment and make that determination.”
    Cassie smiled and said, “Can we save that for tomorrow. Tonight I just want to hold you. I’ve never felt so alive as when you kissed me tonight.”
    Tommy smiled and leaned close to her and thought, “Then let’s just see if we can repeat the experience.”
    Cassie leaned in to him and kissed him. They both felt the shock again but it was worth it. They stayed in their embrace losing track of time.
    The old watcher saw plumes of the black field exploding out of the nexus and thought, “It’s still getting hotter. I hope this doesn’t destroy the universe.”
    The warrior flew toward the closest nexus in a galaxy close to his home galaxy. He noticed as he approached the nexus that there was a planet located in the middle of it that was advanced technologically and had space travel. As he approached more than four thousand ships jumped in front of his approach. The warrior contacted the first male, “I have found a nexus that has a technologically advance planet located on its edge. They have sent ships out to intercept me; what do you think I should do?”
    The First Male thought and said, “I wonder if they could be the cause of the nexus’ heat. Destroy them.”
    The warrior fired one of his small beams into the ships that were in his path totally disintegrating all four thousand. The inhabitants of the planet watched as a brightly glowing red ship more than two thousand miles wide approached and stopped a hundred thousand miles out from its atmosphere. The warrior fired his main beam into the planet and watched as the planets core exploded blowing the planet into huge pieces that flew out from the center of the blast. A living planet that was home to a thriving civilization perished in less than three seconds from the impact of the warrior’s beam. Nine hundred ships jumped into the system responding to the planet’s distress call to find debris moving away from the planet’s former location. The ships immediately began attacking the huge ship that had destroyed the planet. The warrior ignored their attacks and tried to take readings on the nexus to see if anything had changed after the destruction of the planet. The nine hundred ships attacking the giant red ship had no effect on it. One of the nine hundred actually flew directly into it and was totally destroyed when it contacted the screen surrounding the huge ship.
    The warrior contacted the First Male and reported, “I can detect no change in the readings coming from the nexus. Perhaps if this planet was the cause it may require some time before the readings change.”
    The First Male asked the old watcher, “Do you sense any change in the temperature of the nexus?”
    “There has been no change.”
    The First Male said, “It appears that the planet was not the cause of what is happening in the nexus. Continue your search.”
    The huge captor ship turned and accelerated out of the system leaving the attacking ships behind. The warrior did not even think about the damage he had done or the billions he had just killed. They were too insignificant to warrant his attention. For the civilization he had just destroyed he had doomed all the colonies because of the destruction of their food source. The chance of survival for the survivors was less than one percent which for them was not insignificant.
    The day after the wedding, Twig and Sprig contacted Tommy mentally and asked for him to meet them in the library and to please come alone. Tommy left his quarters and went to the elevator to take him to the lowest floor of the learning facility. He wondered why the two Algeans wanted him to come quickly and to come alone. He walked into library and said, “Is there a problem?”
    Twig said, “Duke Gardner, we have undergone a strange metamorphosis and have had our storage reoriented which has changed the way we view the universe. One of the changes is that now I have a much broader understanding of how energy works. As you know, we have our readers connected to the observational equipment that records astronomical data in real time and downloads the recordings. I think it was done just to keep our pain to a minimum, however, I’ve noticed something that Sprig agrees should be discussed with you to see if our conclusions are in error.”
    Tommy furrowed his brow and said, “Twig, I have no idea what you’re talking about. You might need to tell me what you want in simple terms.”
    “I’m going to show you,” Twig said and entered his mind telepathically. “I have produced a new type of optical device that see’s energy fields. When I looked at the recordings from our observatories, I discovered that there are areas in the universe that appear to be, for lack of a better term, nerve centers. It appears that these nerve centers are connected to all the energy in our universe. Sprig is of the opinion that there is an energy space just like null space that connects all energy. It is also the size of an atom so one can actually read all of the universe’s energy.
    “Atlas, are you getting this?”
    “Yes, and that is probably how the captors saw us where ever we were. They saw our energy signature and then just looked into one of those nerve centers and saw where all of us were located.”
    Twig said, “Well, I don’t think they can see you right now.”
    Tommy thought, “Why is that, Twig?”
    “I’ll explain in a moment but first I want to finish what we were discussing. Once I saw those nerve centers, I wanted to see what was going on in one of them. I sent a recorder into one and it was burned out. Sprig developed a field reader that allowed us to see the heat coming out of these centers. We immediately found that the heat was increasing. Obviously we wanted to know how long this had been taking place so we rewound the observatory tapes and looked at them with Sprig’s reader. We were surprised to see that it started two days ago.”
    Tommy furrowed his brow and said, “Where is this going?”
    “Duke Gardner, we rewound the tapes back to the moment the heat started and used the reader to tell us the exact moment the energy field’s heat rose. We then turned our consciousness to sift thru every observation we’ve seen during that time period to see if anything happened at the precise moment the heat rose. Nothing is the tapes showed anything astronomically but something close to home matched closely to one of the spikes in temperature. We would like to ask you some questions to see if what we saw was just a coincidence.”
    Tommy was still confused but said, “Go ahead and ask.”
    “One of the spikes in temperature started when you took Captain Dodd’s hand to dance last night and continued until you stepped away from her.”
    Tommy looked at them and drew a blank. Sprig said, “We determined that the event began the day before the wedding immediately after the meeting in the auditorium. Did you within ten minutes after that meeting make any physical contact with Captain
    Dodd?”
    Tommy remembered that he had touched Cassie’s hand and had been severely shocked after the meeting ended. “Yes,” he answered.
    Sprig and Twig stopped moving. “You did.”
    “Yes, I did,” Tommy said.
    Twig said, “Immediately after the ceremony, all of the Gardners, Tgon-Gee, and Captain Dodd left the celebration and went behind closed doors. Did you while you were behind those doors have any physical contact with Captain Dodd?”
    “Yes, I did.”
    Atlas said, “What are you trying to prove here?”
    Sprig said, “One more question; Tommy when you and Captain Dodd left the celebration, did you have physical contact with her for a period of one hour four minutes and six seconds?”
    Tommy remembered holding Cassie in the cafeteria for a long time. He shook his head and said, “I don’t know exactly how long but yes I was in physical contact with her for an extended period.”
    Twig said, “I’ve just requested Captain Dodd to join us.”
    Cassandra entered the room and saw everyone look at her with a funny kind of expression. “What’s wrong?”
    Tommy started over to her when Twig said, “Stop! Do not touch her yet.”
    Tommy stopped and said, “What are you two trying to say here?”
    Sprig walked over and turned on the wall viewer showing an empty section of space. The screen was then split into four screens that were views of open space. Twig said, “Sprig is going to run these views of multiple nerve centers through his viewer so we can see if anything happens when you touch Captain Dodd. Hold on just a minute. While we’re waiting, you might find it interesting to know that the temperature of these centers is estimated to be hotter than the core of a star and possibly getting as hot as the atom that exploded in the big bang and caused the formation of this universe.”
    Sprig said, “This is probably just a coincidence but we need to see. Now, if we’re just being silly; when you touch Captain Dodd, then nothing will happen on the screen. If there is a relationship between your physical contact and the heating of the centers then the screen will show a change in color. Are you ready?”
    Cassandra thought to Tommy, “What’s going on here.”
    Tommy replied, “You’ve missed a lot, I’ll explain it to you in a moment. Let’s watch the screen.” Tommy held out his hand to Cassie and she took it. They both felt the shock that was getting easier and they saw that all four parts of the screen turned bright blue.
    “Let go of her,” Twig screamed mentally.
    Tommy and Cassandra jumped back from each other.
    Atlas said, “You have got to be kidding me.”
    Sprig said, “I wish we were.”
    Tommy and Cassandra looked at them and then at each other. Cassandra said, “What is going on?”
    Atlas said, “I understand now.”
    Tommy said, “Understand what?”
    Atlas said, “If you continue to make physical contact with Captain Dodd, then you may cause the destruction of our universe.”
    Tommy and Cassandra both looked stunned and couldn’t think of anything to say. Sprig stepped between them and said, “It appears that each time you touch each other, the temperature of the energy space spikes up. The current temperature is close to the temperature of what is believed to be the big bang just before the explosion ignited and started our universe. If, like we suspect, there is a particle at the center of energy space, then if it heats to the temperature of the big bang, the resulting explosion would destroy us and start the formation of a new universe.”
    Twig said, “You cannot touch each other until that space cools.”
    Cassandra said, “Just how long will that take.”
    “We don’t know, but this is not optional. You must keep your distance.”
    Tommy sighed and said, “We aren’t ready yet. We have to wait. This is what my mother meant by dangerous to come together too early.”
    Cassandra didn’t know what to say.
    Twig said, “It appears that someone of extreme psychic ability may have created our universe. It seems that psychic energy trumps energy. I have a lot to think about; however, you two must keep your distance.”
    Cassandra thought to Tommy, “This is payment for my sins; this punishment is too much. I don’t want to have a moment when we’re not together. Oh, Tommy, what are we going to do?”
    “We’re going to avoid touching each other. We will be together in our minds and let’s hope our adolescents can figure out how to get around this mess.”
    Sprig looked at Twig and mentally sighed, “I don’t know what we can do; do you?”
    Twig looked at the screen and wondered how long the temperature would take to drop. She had an idea that quick sudden touches might equalize the system, but she would not attempt it before the temperature dropped to a safer level. She hoped the two would be able avoid physical contact. Twig thought to them, “Come back in three days and let’s see where we are.”
    Tommy and Cassandra thought, “Three days, oh my god, three days.”
    Atlas asked, “Sprig, is it possible to read anything from the particle in this energy nerve center you’ve postulated?”
    Everyone stopped and listened to Sprig’s response. Sprig thought for a moment and said, “If anyone or thing tried to get near that particle now it would be burned out of existence. I see no possible way you could read anything out of that space but heat.”
    “Then now may be the best time to show you what I know about the Captors,” Atlas said.
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and then said, “Twig, Sprig, I want you to store what you see here and be prepared to send it to the crew of the Kosiev at a later time.”
    Atlas said, “I’ll show it on the wall monitor.” The wall monitor came and it showed the view of a huge gas giant planet with a construction that covered most of the equator of the planet. On the construct were thousands of red lights. Atlas said, “This is what my brother saw as he broke into normal space in this system. Now watch what happens.”
    Suddenly the planet looked like it exploded with hundreds of thousands of red lights that swarmed in all directions with a hundred of them coming directly at the ship recording the video. One of the red lights appeared beside the ship and the video showed that it was a ship more than eighteen hundred miles in diameter. A beam shot out from the giant ship and the video stopped abruptly. “Those giant ships scattered throughout the universe and pursued all of the ships of my race,” Atlas said. “We could not out run them and their energy weapons went through our screens like they were non-existent. We were able to determine that the creatures inside those giant ships were similar to us. They were part of the structure of their ship, however, where we have physical DNA in our ship’s structure, they are made of electrical energy.”
    Cassandra said, “You’re saying that they are an electrical energy life form?”
    “That’s exactly what they are.”
    Tommy said, “Then we will call then eels or even better Captors.”
    Sprig said, “Good choice for a name. I’m not sure what it is but when they exploded away from the planet, they reminded me of something I’ve seen before.”
    Twig said, “They look like wasps leaving a nest to attack an encroacher.”
    Tommy said, “No, not wasps.” Everyone looked at him and he said, “Wasps will only chase you a short distance from their nest and then turn and go back. These creatures are like bees or hornets. They will chase you and never give up. It makes me think that before they became energy that their race was probably some form of insect. What has me troubled is that Rose, my parents, and I all sense that it doesn’t matter what we do, they are a danger to us. Avoid them, hunt them, run from them; it doesn’t matter.” Tommy paused and then said, “Atlas, Rose looked at that planet years ago and there was no response when she did. I’m going to look and see what they are doing now. I’ll let all of you look at what I see.”
    Atlas said, “You might want to move to some other location further away from your home galaxy before you do that.”
    Tommy thought for a moment and said, “You’re right. We will wait to see until after the crew is trained on the Kosiev.”
    “There is one more item,” Sprig said. Tommy and Cassandra looked at each other briefly and sprig continued, “When you and Captain Dodd were dancing, Twig and I were somehow affected mentally.”
    Tommy said, “What do you mean?”
    “All of the information we have been storing was reoriented in both of us. The reason we were able to connect you and the energy readings was due to this change. We can see things we have not been able to grasp before. Both of us have changed radically.”
    Tommy thought for a moment and said, “Have you two ever exchanged information?”
    Twig said, “Sure, we discuss things every day.”
    “I don’t mean discuss; have you ever actually absorbed what the other has in their storage?”
    The two plants didn’t move. “Are you alright?” Cassandra asked.
    Twig said, “I don’t know if anyone in our history has done that. I don’t know what the effect would be on us but it would be like putting an entirely different being in your consciousness. There is a possibility of being overwhelmed by the one you store.”
    Tommy looked at the two Algeans and pondered Twigs answer. “Well, I can’t ask you to take that kind of risk. I just wondered what your perspectives would be if you could see everything from the other’s point of reference. Thanks for your help on the energy problem; we will comply with your request about avoiding contact.”
    Cassie thought to Tommy, “It’s odd that when we avoided being around each other that it was easy to do just that; now it’s a severe pain to know I can’t let you hold me.”
    Tommy looked at her and answered, “I would say you have no idea how much it hurts but I suspect you can see it in me.” Cassie looked at Tommy and nodded. Tommy saw her nod and thought, “We can still be together in our minds.”
    Cassie smiled ruefully at him, “It’s not enough; not near enough.”
    “I know.”
    The accident happened as Rose was dedicating one of the newest megaships that had just been completed at the Bergrend ship yard. The new ship was named the SR Megaship Tony Chen and Rose had just addressed the huge crowd gathered for its launch. A heavy hauler was leaving the rear of the huge ship having just unloaded its stores for the commissary when the driver suffered a heart attack and lost consciousness. He slumped forward and pushed the accelerator rod completely down. The hauler accelerated forward and hit the central support for the ship.
    Rose saw the truck accelerate into the support and could see that without the support the ship was going to roll out of its cradle. The crowd gathered was going to be directly in the path of the rolling ship. The crowd saw the ship shift and began toppling toward them; a panic ensued with screams and people running over each other. Rose looked at the ship and thought, “Stop!” The huge ship stopped in mid roll and remained stationary. Rose was amazed. There was no possible way she could have stopped that ship with her mind. She had learned early in life the limitations of her telekinetic skills; but there the ship stayed halfway out of its cradle. Rose looked at the ship and mentally pictured it moving back into the cradle and the ship turned back over and stayed in the front and rear supports. The port manager yelled over his com, “Get some jacks under the ship now.”
    Rose looked at the manager and asked, “Is the crew on board?”
    The manager looked at her and said, “Yes they are but I imaging they are pretty shook up by what just happened.”
    Rose looked at the ship again and thought, “Rise.”
    The Ship smoothly lifted from the cradle and began moving up into the afternoon sky. It disappeared in three minutes.”
    The port manager listened to his com and said, “Captain Miller has just let me know that the crew has the engines on line and are in control of the ship.”
    Rose released the Megaship and saw the port manager looking at her with a strange look. “The Captain tells me that the ship was more than six thousand miles above the planet when he gained control. How did that ship lift off with no power?”
    Rose looked at him and said, “I don’t understand how it happened but let’s be thankful it did.”
    The port manager nodded but he still had that look on his face as Rose left to board her shuttle. “This has to be connected to my aura growing at Wes’ wedding,” Rose thought. She contacted her parents and said, “Will you please meet me at the Castle as soon as possible. I have something to discuss with you.”

Chapter 10

    Rose watched as Tgon-Gee entered her office. The huge Glod Crown Prince came forward and bowed to his queen. “How may I be of service, Your Majesty?”
    “I’ve called you here because I have some questions and I’m sending you on a mission,” Rose said. “I saw the aura around my brother and Captain Dodd through your eyes and the aura extended beyond the room. I need you to go see how big their auras are now.”
    Tgon-Gee pondered what he was being asked and said, “Has something happened?”
    Rose considered being evasive but knew that this was one warrior that she knew she could trust. “There was an accident at the space port and I lifted a megaship more than five thousand miles into the atmosphere to save the people that were about to be crushed. I did it with my mind.” Tgon-Gee’s eyes widened and Rose continued, “In the past the most weight I could lift was about two hundred pounds. I know that to be accurate because I’ve checked that talent my entire life. It seems my limit has increased. You saw my aura to be three feet from my body. Where do you see it now?”
    “It is still three feet from your body.”
    “Consider this,” Rose said, “If my aura is three feet and I can lift a megaship; if Tommy’s aura is ten feet, what could he lift? I’m concerned that he doesn’t know about his new strengths and might cause an accident. I need you to see if his aura is still as large as we saw it.”
    Tgon-Gee looked at Rose and said, “The aura surrounding your brother and Captain Dodd was considerably larger than ten feet, Your Majesty.”
    Rose looked at him and said, “How much larger?”
    “I looked through a view port and saw it had extended more than a mile from the learning facility.”
    Rose stood and said, “Go to the learning facility now and see how large it is on both of them. Try to get him to experiment in an environment that won’t endanger anyone. I’m going to tell him you are on your way.”
    Tgon-Gee bowed and said, “I’ll be there within the hour.”
    Tommy, the adolescents, Cassandra and Atlas were discussing what was needed to move forward with their plan. The entire conversation was being done telepathically so it was moving quickly. Tommy said, “We need some baselines to see where we are in relation to the Captor’s abilities. For example, how strong are their weapons compared to our current armaments? Atlas, were your weapons effective against them?”
    “No, they had absolutely no effect on them. Their beam weapons vaporized us when they were in range.”
    Tommy thought for a moment and then said, “We need to try your beams against one of our new ships. That will at least show us if we have any chance in a battle.” Tommy keyed his com and said, “Admiral Mikado, I need your assistance.”
    Mikado appeared on Tommy’s com and said, “How can I help you?”
    “I need a new megaship to fire a new beam weapon at to determine how effective the beam would be against our newest screens.”
    Mikado thought for a moment and said, “If it’s a strong screen you need, you might consider using one of the old forts we just moved away from Earth. The screen on that is still stronger than the megaships.”
    “Does the fort still have jump capability?”
    “Yes it does, Your Majesty.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and said as he spoke to Mikado, “Captain Dodd is going to send you some coordinates; please jump one of those forts to that location, please.” She nodded and went to select a location that was distant from the learning facility.
    Mikado smiled and said, “When do you need it there?”
    Tommy laughed and said, “An hour from now.”
    Mikado smiled and broke the connection.
    Tommy looked at the two Algean Adolescents and asked, “Would you two like to come along?”
    “Twig’s leaves turned bright green and she said, “Oh, yes. I wouldn’t miss this for all the information in my reader. I’ve never seen Atlas’ weapons.”
    Cassandra came back in and said, “I’ve commed the coordinates to Admiral Mikado. I’ve also secured a heavy shuttle to take us there. Atlas, would you like to come on board with us or do you want to go there yourself? We have plenty of room.”
    Atlas said, “Move over. I’ve never been a passenger.”
    “Tommy, may I talk with you for a moment?”
    Tommy started and said, “Hello, Rose. Sure, does it need to be private?”
    “Yes, it does.”
    Tommy looked at the group and said, “Please excuse me for a moment; let’s plan to leave within the hour.”
    Tommy went to his quarters and sat down at his desk, “What’s up, Rose?”
    Rose explained all that had happened both at the wedding and afterwards. Tommy listened but was inclined toward skepticism. “Rose, what are you saying?”
    “Tommy, it’s like a man who has suddenly become a hundred times stronger and presses the accelerator rod in a vehicle and breaks it off. Now there’s no way to stop the vehicle before it hits something. On a much larger scale, what if you, without meaning to, you push against the wall of the learning facility and break the facility in half.”
    Tommy understood. Rose continued, “And you are not alone; we need to look at Captain Dodd as well.”
    “What do you mean we?”
    “I’ve sent Tgon-Gee to look at your auras and to perform some experiments. He should be there within the hour. He’ll report to me what he finds out.”
    “This has you worried, doesn’t it, Rose.”
    “Yes it does, Tommy. My talents were not the only ones increased during the wedding. Our parents are also the proud new owners of three foot auras. They both have noticed changes in their psychic skills. Mother can now use telepathy with anyone, it’s not just limited to Dad.”
    Tommy looked at Rose and said, “We’re going to another site to test Atlas’ weapons to see where we are compared to the eels. I’ll take Tgon-Gee with us.”
    Rose said, “Eels?”
    Tommy shrugged and said, “The Captors are an electrical energy life form. We also think that before they lost their physical bodies that they were probably insects closely related to bees or hornets.”
    “Tommy, keep me informed, please; about you and those eels.”
    “I will, Rose.”
    Tgon-Gee arrived in S. R. Megaship Tribulation. Tommy commed him and said, “Hi, Tgon-Gee. We are leaving for a site to test some weapons. I just spoke with Rose and I would like for you to come with us.”
    Tgon-Gee said, “I’ll come to your ship momentarily.”
    Sprig said over the com, “Tgon-Gee, if it is not too much trouble, could you have the ship that brought you here standby in the event we need to compare our current armaments to the weapon we’re testing.”
    Tommy said, “That’s a good idea, Sprig. Does it pose any problems to keep it here on standby?”
    Tgon-Gee looked away from his screen and said, “No, this is my personal vessel. It is at your disposal.” Tgon-Gee boarded a shuttle that ferried him to the heavy shuttle. As he approached the heavy shuttle Tgon-Gee saw the dark aura surrounding it. It extended more than four hundred yards from the ship’s hull. Tgon-Gee took a deep breath and worried about the power of the two humans that possessed those auras. “We’ll see what it means, I hope,” he thought and entered the landing bay.
    “Have you selected a good place to conduct the test, Twig?” Cassandra asked.
    “Yes I have. It’s located in deep space far from the closest galaxy. I’ve also made sure there were no energy centers close to the coordinates. Hi, Tgon-Gee, welcome aboard.” Twig said.
    “Thank you. Are you ready to jump?”
    Cassandra said, “We were waiting on you. She keyed the com and said, “We will be jumping is two minutes. All hands, jump in two minutes.”
    Tommy sat in the chair beside Cassandra marveling at how beautiful she looked. She had on a short sleeve t-shirt and her auburn hair was down. He wanted to reach over and take her hand. She thought to him, “Not yet. We have so much to look forward to and now I’m sure that we have to wait.” Tommy looked at her and nodded and continued to stare at her. She said, “What?”
    “I remember how much I hated you and thought you were an ugly looking.”
    “Don’t say it, though I know I deserve it.”
    “That’s just it,” Tommy said, “I know that our contact has locked us to each other but I can see quite objectively that you are beautiful. Why did you hide it? You never dressed or wore anything but those severe looking military uniforms.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and said, “I’ve never felt any thing for anyone. I’ve had no desire for any companionship. No one interested me.” Her eyes grew moist and she said softly, “When you touched me it felt like I came alive. I felt things I’ve never felt before. For the first time I’m comfortable in my own skin. I know deep inside me that I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.”
    Tommy looked at her and it took all his effort to not reach for her. “It was the same for me, Cassie. I need you now more than you’ll ever know. I’ll wait forever if needed to be with you.”
    Cassandra smiled and said over the ship’s com, “Jumping in 3,2,1, jump.”
    They broke out into the pitch-black of empty space and saw one of the forts floating in space ahead of them. “Trust Mikado to be punctual,” Tommy said. “What do our sensors say, Cassie?”
    “The screen is at full power and there are no biological readings on it.”
    “Atlas, are you ready?”
    “Open the port and I’ll take a shot at it.” The shuttle landing bay opened and the Silver ship moved out of the bay and moved toward the large asteroid. Atlas said over the ship’s intercom, “Sprig, are your sensors ready.”
    “Yes they are, ready when you are.”
    “I’m firing in 3,2,1, fire.” A bright blue beam stabbed out from the small silver ship and hit the screen around the asteroid. The beam penetrated the screen and hit the rock surface causing a giant explosion. Immediately after the beam turned off, the screen came back on line and surrounded the asteroid.
    Tommy watched the beam penetrate the asteroids screen like it wasn’t there. He shook his head and said, “Atlas, hide yourself, please.” Atlas disappeared from the sensors. “Tgon-Gee, please call your ship to this location.” Tgon-Gee pushed his com and gave coordinates to his ship and waited twenty seconds until it appeared.
    Tommy commed the Glod Megaship and said, “Captain Thid-Bea, please fire your weapons at the asteroid fort. I want you to do your best to penetrate the fort’s screen.”
    Thid-bea asked, “You want me to use all the weapons in our inventory?”
    Sprig broke in on the conversation and said, “If you don’t mind, use them one at a time and then all at once or in whatever combination you think might work.”
    The Megaship fired its needles first using three stage and loaded needles. The screen showed no change. Next the ships primary beams struck the screen and the screen actually grew larger as it absorbed the energy. The short range high speed penetrator came next and the screen finally showed a bright flash as it hit. Finally the Megaship fired its focused primary beam and it made it forty feet into the screens depth. Thid-Bea announced that he was going to full weapons and that he would vary the mix of weapons based on what seemed to work.
    The Megaship appeared to catch fire as it fired its weapons on the asteroid. The asteroid’s screen sparked and turned brilliant colors as the beams and missiles struck. The Megaship finally fired more than 600 of the high speed penetrators and continuous focused primaries and needles at one spot on the asteroids screen. Nothing got thru the screen. Finally the Megaship stopped firing and Thid-Bea commed, “It appears that we are unable to penetrate the screen. Is there anything else you want me to attempt?”
    Tommy commed him back and said, “No, I appreciate your effort. You may return to your previous location.” The Megaship disappeared into its silver blue flash as it engaged its star drive. “Atlas, it appears we are substantially behind you in our weapon development. If you could penetrate that asteroid’s screen, you could kill any of our ships.”
    “I could not hurt the Kosiev, Tommy. It was not affected by my beam. However, my weapons had absolutely no visible affect on the Captor ship that was pursuing me.”
    “What about the Captor’s beam weapons; did they affect you?”
    Atlas was quiet for a long time. “When the Captor ship began its pursuit, there were four of us together at one place. The Captor jumped in and we hit it with every weapon in our inventory. They had no effect on the Captor’s screen. Just as we started to jump away the Captor fired two beams at two of the ships there with us. It totally disintegrated them. We jumped away and the Captor came right behind us almost through the same jump point. We flew as fast as we could jumping every time the Captor came into normal space to avoid being hit by the captor’s beam. It didn’t matter how fast we jumped, the Captor stayed with us. We finally thought we lost him and we jumped into your system. My companion landed on a planet further out from the sun and I headed toward your planet. Before I arrived at your planet the Captor stopped at the planet my companion had landed on and hit the planet with a beam. The planet blew apart into small rubble. The Captor’s short stop to destroy the planet gave me the opportunity to cut a hole into a crater on your moon and turn off all my power. The asteroid strike happened just as the Captor arrived at your planet. I lived because of that delay.”
    Cassandra said, “Atlas, why didn’t you and your companion split up and go in different directions?”
    Atlas said in a voice they all understood, “My companion was my mate. I tried to get her to jump away but she refused. I headed toward the inner planets to try and draw the Captor away from her.” There was a long moment before Atlas said, “Even hiding in a planets thick atmosphere didn’t save her. I miss her still to this day.”
    Tommy said, “Atlas, what planet are you talking about?”
    “Tommy, your system once had a large planet between the two planets you call Mars and Jupiter. All that remains of that planet is asteroids orbiting your sun.”
    Sprig said, “One beam totally destroyed a planet?”
    “A very large planet, Sprig; my weapons are as far behind the Captors as yours are to mine.”
    No one said anything. Finally, Tgon-Gee said, “I need you to do something for me if you are through with your weapon testing.”
    The Adolescents, Cassandra and Tommy looked at him and Sprig said, “What?”
    Tgon-Gee said, “Tommy, you know I can see auras.” Tommy nodded. “I can see your and Captain Dodd’s auras and they are larger than any aura I have ever seen.”
    Cassandra said, “What do you mean larger?”
    “Instead of radiating only a few inches around your body like every other aura I’ve ever seen, yours extends more than four hundred yards from you.”
    Tommy said, “What do you think that means, Tgon-Gee?”
    “I’m not sure. However, if your psychic talents are as strong as your aura is large, you could be the most dangerous people in the universe.”
    No one said anything; even the normally talkative Algeans were silent. Finally Tommy sighed and said, “What do you want me to do?”
    “I want you to move this ship away from the fort. I know you possess some telekinetic powers. I want you to use it just like you were trying to move a small object only do it to the ship.”
    Tommy furrowed his brow, then shrugged, “Ok, here we go.” Tommy focused his mind on the huge shuttle and thought, “Move that way.” Nothing happened.
    “Try it again but try different ways to command it,” Twig suggested.
    “Go,” nothing happened. “Move,” again, nothing happened. Tommy was starting to feel like this was a waste of time, then he thought, “Move that way now.” The ship flew away so fast from the asteroid that it disappeared from the screen in a blink and the shuttle was picking up speed. Twig said, “We just passed the speed of light, stop us Tommy!”
    Tommy was stunned but he gathered his thoughts and commanded, “Slow down and stop now.” The ship slowed and stopped. Tgon-Gee said, “Where are we not in relation to the asteroid?”
    Twig looked at the jump reader and said, “We are two light minutes away.
    Sprig looked at Twig and asked, “Did we leave normal space?”
    Twig said, “No, we did not. I can’t understand how we were not destroyed by breaking every universal law. We did not have any kind of protection; our screen was not on. We should have burned up at the speed we just traveled.”
    Tgon-Gee said, “The ship was totally surrounded by his aura. It is what protected us and allowed your ship to ignore the physical laws you just broke. Tommy, do you think you can take us back to where we were?”
    Tommy thought about the feeling he had as he thought the command that moved them. He focused hard and pictured looking down on the asteroid. He thought, “Go there, now.”
    The shuttle was back at the spot in less than a second. The asteroid fort was shining behind its screen below them.
    Tgon-Gee looked at Cassandra and said, “Captain Dodd, your aura is actually larger than Tommy’s.”
    Cassandra said, “Don’t ask me to move the ship. I’ve never used any powers in my life.”
    “I’m not,” Tgon-Gee said. “I want to confirm something that I suspect. Captain I want you to look at the asteroid below and get angry at it. I want you to get through that screen. I know you don’t know how; just focus on it and think of it as something that is a danger to you.”
    Cassandra was confused but she tried to do as Tgon-Gee asked. She looked at the asteroid and thought, “Break through.” Then she tried, “Fail.” She tried more than twenty different combinations of mental commands and nothing worked.
    Then Tgon-Gee said something that startled her, “That asteroid wants to kill Tommy Gardner.”
    Cassandra eyes narrowed and she thought, “Like hell it will.”
    The screen around the asteroid compressed against the asteroid’s surface and then the entire sixty mile wide rock exploded into tiny fragments. Everyone on the ship, including Cassandra, was shocked by what happened.
    The bridge was deathly silent. Finally Tgon-Gee said, “I was afraid of that,”
    Everyone looked at him and he continued, “I seemed to recognize your aura as warrior. It is very much like your father, Tommy, but much stronger. Her powers come into play when she is stressed. Perhaps in time she will learn to control it but I would suggest that you avoid getting stressed, Captain Dodd. Your powers will protect you without your even having to think about it.”
    The Algeans looked at each other and thought, “We have a lot to discuss.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and thought, “We have a lot to discuss.”
    Tgon-Gee thought about Rose sending him to see what was going on and he thought, “We have a lot to discuss.”
    But for the moment, silence ruled. Then Tommy said, “Atlas, Rose looked at the Captors planet years ago and there was no response; I’m going to take a look at their planet. I’ll share it with each of you as I see it.”
    Atlas said, “Let’s see what’s there now. I know you just flew faster than the ship that was chasing me. Just be ready to run.”
    Tommy closed his eyes and felt the others watching through his mind. He found the Captors galaxy and started moving in on the planet where Atlas’ brothers were held captive.
    The planet was glowing bright red and as Tommy’s view came closer everyone heard Atlas say, “Oh no, by the creator, no.”
    Cassandra said, “What has you upset, Atlas.”
    “Tommy, can you take the picture of that planet when the original member of my race entered their system and put it next to what you’re seeing.”
    Tommy took the image from Atlas’ mind and put it next to what they were seeing. The planet was now completely covered in a construct that enclosed the gas giant. They could see thousands of the giant red ships swarming around the planetary system. Most of the planet had millions of the ships sitting on the construct. The view from millions of years earlier showed the construct only covered the belt around the equator of the planet.
    Sprig said, “If they are like bees then the nest is full.”
    Twig said, “If that is the case then they are ready to swarm.”
    Atlas said, “Tommy, I know why you feel there is danger to your planet.”
    Tommy jerked his mind back to the shuttle and thought, “What do you mean?”
    Atlas said, “It’s my fault. I led them to your system. Tommy, they want Jupiter.”
    Then Tommy saw it. Jupiter was a gas giant just like the planet of the Captors. The Captors were coming to make Jupiter a new home. Once he saw it, his psychic sense verified what he was thinking.
    “Tommy, they will destroy every living thing in your system to insure their planet is secure. If any other planet comes to help defend Earth then their world will also be obliterated.”
    Tommy thought, “Rose, I need you to listen to this.”
    Rose answered, “Uh oh. I can sense trouble in your thoughts.
    Tommy said, “You have no idea.”
    The conference room at the Learning facility was full; Rose, Tgon-Gee, Terl, Misty Nicole, Tommy, Cassandra, the two Algean Adolescents, Admirals Mikado, Ron-Dar, O’Donald, Sten, and the two elected leaders of the Stars Realms First Family. Tommy had updated everyone on the Captors and introduced Atlas to the group which was a big shock for the ones that did not know of his existence. Atlas then told what had happened to his race millions of years ago and finished with how he escaped capture. As Atlas finished, the room was deathly quiet.
    Rose stood and said, “It is the belief of my family and me that the Captors will be coming to take possession of Jupiter. They will, as a matter of their normal doctrine, destroy any possible threat to their new possession which includes any intelligent life in our solar system. Atlas has shown you the video of the ships used by the Captors. They are gigantic and their screens can stop any weapon we currently have and their weapons penetrate every screen we have developed. These creatures are hundreds of millions of years ahead of us technologically. They totally eradicated or captured Atlas’ race and Atlas is more advanced than any ship in our arsenal.”
    Admiral Mikado asked, “Can we do nothing to protect us? How long do we think we have before they come?”
    Sprig said, “I have looked at all the information I have absorbed about bees and here is what I know. Once a colony becomes crowded the hive instinctively swarms with the old queen leaving the hive to find a new nesting location leaving the new queen behind. This is the first swarm. After that swarm as many as five other swarms will leave the original hive within a short time. As long lived as these creatures are, it could be millions of years before the follow up swarms. One way to prevent a swarm is to cut off one of the queen’s wings which will prevent her from flying away or kill any new queens while they are still in the birthing cell. Another possible way is to destroy a large number of the warriors which will reduce the urge to swarm because of population pressures.”
    Rose looked at the group and said, “We do not possess the technology to do any of those actions. However, we are not going to wait until they show up.” The room started murmuring among themselves. “The first action I propose is to transfer as much of our population as possible to another planet.”
    Misty Nicole stood up and said, “We won’t go. I will not run like a coward.”
    Rose looked at the Director of Earth and said, “We will not force you to go. However, the people of Earth will be allowed to decide what they want to do. We have found another planet on the spiral arm of our galaxy that is almost a twin of our home world and does not have intelligent life or a gas giant in the system.” She then looked at Misty Nicole and said, “If one of their ships comes into our system, just one of their beams would totally destroy the planet and our asteroid forts would have no effect on it. If we launched one ship to defend the planet, they would imprint the energy signature of that ship and destroy every ship and world in the universe with a similar signature. Director, to stand up against these creatures would be like you attacking an armored naval marine bare handed. You would stand no chance and the fact that you did not represent a threat would not stop these creatures from killing you. They will not tolerate the presence of any other life form near them.”
    Misty sat down and the room was silent. Rose continued, “We must insure the survival of our race. We will begin transporting our population as soon as possible and I am going to call on the rest of the Stars Realm to help us build the structures necessary for our people to survive on the new planet. I hope we can get them there quickly. In the event of the Captors arriving here at our system, we will not use any of our fleet to attack them.”
    The room erupted with shouts of dismay. Rose waited and finally the room was quiet. “Do not forget what happened to the Alfont. Just one ship entered their system on a random jump and the eels read that ships energy signature and could see all of their ships throughout the universe. They eradicated the Alfont and after a hundred years captured those still alive and have held them prisoner. We cannot allow them to see the entire Realm as a threat. Until we find some way to counter their technology, we must avoid them at all cost. Misty that is why we must move the population.”
    Misty looked sick and asked, “Are you certain that they are coming here?”
    Rose looked at her and said, “All of my family members can sense them as a danger to us. We all agree that they are coming; when we don’t know; but we cannot sit idle and do nothing.”
    “Some of us will refuse to go,” Misty said.
    Rose shook her head and said, “We have a picture of the planet that once orbited between Mars and Jupiter. Atlas took it when he was running from just one of their ships. That planet was eight times the size of Earth and the eel blew it apart with one shot of its beam. Look at the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and you will see what awaits us if we sit and wait.”
    Terl stood and asked, “Are we just going to run?”
    Rose said, “No, we are going to have the Alexander Kosiev take on one of their ships. It is like no other ship in our fleet and possesses technology that, unfortunately, we cannot duplicate. There is a real possibility that even it won’t stand up to them but it is the only tool in our tool box available to us to try and prevent the eels from coming. Pray for its brave crew and I wish them God speed.”
    Tommy looked over at Cassandra and she thought to him, “I hope we can reach for each other before we attack.”
    Tommy smiled at her and thought back, “Me, too, my love. Me, too.”

Chapter 11

    S prig and Twig were in the library absorbing material from Sten’s world about how the Kosiev came into existence. When they had finished Twig thought, “I don’t see any way to replicate her hull; do you?”
    Sprig thought back, “No, I don’t.”
    Twig thought a moment and then thought to Sprig, “I have been considering the suggestion that Tommy made to us about absorbing each other.”
    “So have I.”
    “I do not want to die but this is a chance to significantly increase our learning. We are expendable; that’s why we are made like we are. We take dangerous risks because we are driven by our hunger for knowledge. I think that if we had not downloaded so much we might be forced to do what he asked.”
    “I have come to the same conclusion,” Sprig thought. “I do not feel pressured to do it but I can’t help but feel that we should to help our new friends. I cannot answer for you but I am willing to take the risk and if I lose myself or die, then at least I do so learning.”
    Twig looked at Sprig and felt admiration for his bravery. She did not want to lose him; he had become more than just a seed. She made her decision, “We will do it. If one of us survives, then the human’s chances are better than with both of us at our current level of learning.”
    “Are you sure?”
    Twig looked at Sprig and entered his mind. Sprig entered Twig’s mind and just before they began absorbing each other’s knowledge Sprig gave Twig a mental embrace, “Good luck, Twig.” Twig saw deeply into Sprigs inner thoughts and said, “I didn’t know you felt like this about me.” Sprig felt embarrassed and then they started. Twig still feeling Sprig’s embrace, began absorbing all that was Sprig into her learning center.
    Cassandra thought, “Tommy, meet me in the library. Something is happening to the adolescents.”
    Tommy jumped up from the control board he was learning and ran to the library. He entered the room and found Cassandra and Wes standing next to the Algeans that were standing in the middle of the room with their limbs intertwined. Cassandra said, “Wes missed seeing Sprig yesterday and when he didn’t see him today he came here looking for him.”
    “They were both standing still like this. They are not attached to their readers so they can’t be learning.” Wes looked extremely concerned. Since the bad beginning, Wes and Sprig had become good friends.
    Tommy looked into the minds of the Algeans and quickly withdrew. “They are doing what I suggested. They are absorbing each other.”
    Cassandra said, “Didn’t they say that it was dangerous for them to do that?”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and Wes and said, “Yes they did. I just looked in their mind and the transfer rate and it is enormous. I had to get out.”
    Wes looked at his friend and said, “What are you going to do?”
    Tommy shook his head and said, “We must allow the process to complete. I feel that if we interrupt them then we will do them great harm. We have to wait.”
    Cassandra walked up to the two Algeans and then she had a thought, “Tommy, do you remember that Sprig and Twig both said that while we were touching each other…”
    “They found they could process their information much more effectively,” Tommy completed. “We cannot touch each other for long.” Cassandra walked up to Tommy and put her arms around his neck ignoring the shock and kissed him hard.”
    Wes watched the Algean adolescents grow to their full height and start swaying gently back and forth. “Ok you two, back off.”
    Tommy and Cassandra reluctantly stepped back and saw the adolescents swaying. Cassandra said, “This must be a good sign. Let’s wait for them to complete whatever it is they are doing.”
    Wes said, “Permission to stay, Captain.”
    Cassandra looked at her sensor officer and thought about how far Wes’ relationship with Sprig had come. Cassandra keyed her com and said, “Lt. Ortiz.”
    “Yes, Captain.”
    “I’m placing Lt. McAnn on a temporary assignment. Please assign a replacement until further notice.” Cassandra said to Wes, “Let me know if anything changes.”
    Wes sat down on the floor in front of the two Algeans and said, “Yes Sir.”
    Five days later, an exhausted Wes and Linda Kay were sitting in front of the Adolescents. Linda Kay had brought Wes a dinner because he refused to leave his friend. Linda Kay sat next to her husband and laid her head on his shoulder. Wes tilted his head against her and said, “Thank you for being patient with me; I love you.” Linda Kay closed her eyes and sighed feeling her happiness.
    Then they heard behind them, “He should be thankful, you have to have a lot of patience to put up with him.”
    Wes and Linda Kay jumped up and Sprig and Twig were leaning over looking at them. “Thank the creator you’re alright.”
    Sprig said, “I’m not completely sure about that but we felt you here watching us. We thank you, Wes.”
    Wes heard a lot that was not said in Sprigs thought. He said, “Me, too, Sprig.”
    Tommy came running into the room with Cassandra not far behind. Tommy thought, “Hello you two. We’ve been worried about you coming out of your little project.”
    Twig said, “It was close that we were going to lose ourselves but we received a strengthening of our psyche during the critical moment and it allowed us to keep our own identity.”
    “What did you learn from the experience,” Wes asked?
    The two Algeans were quiet and then Sprig said, “I think we have found a way to move Earths population quickly and safely.”
    Tommy raised his eyebrows and said, “How are you going to do that?”
    Twig said, “We need some time in Sten’s lab but we think we have found a way to teleport without using a screen.”
    Tommy thought a moment and asked, “How will that help us?”
    “Picture a doorway on the planet’s surface that when you step through a door you arrive on a planet on the other side of the galaxy. You could make the doorway wide enough that more than a thousand could walk through together.”
    Cassandra said, “What you’re describing is that the population will not have to be transported in ships. They can drive their floater through the portal carrying all their belongings with them.”
    Then Tommy saw it. “We can put a portal on a major highway and evacuate a major city through the portal.”
    Sprig said, “I was thinking that every door on the planet could be set up for teleporting those that were in the room behind the door. Press a button and step through the door. You could evacuate the whole planet in less than an hour.”
    “How would you convert a normal door to a teleporter?” Wes asked.
    “If our ideas work, all you need do is place a mat on the door that is preset to a location on the target planet. Press a button and the mat activates. Then you step through. After five minutes the mat turns off and will not operate without someone on the other end turning it on. This would prevent the enemy following.
    “Won’t they just read the coordinates of where they went?”
    “There won’t be anything to read. They can’t be followed. Teleporting bypasses null space.”
    Tommy asked, “Is it possible to teleport a moving ship?”
    Sprig said, “That is what started us working on this. We believe we can project a field in front of the ship and teleport away. The field will disappear after the ship passes through.”
    Twig added, “If we can go to the Kosiev and do some work of the front emitters, we might be able to trial it.”
    “Then by all means go and work on it. The crew should be completing their training in four days and a shakedown cruise is needed to make sure everyone knows their assigned tasks,” Tommy said. “By the way, it’s good to have both of you back.”
    “Thanks,” Sprig said as they rushed from the library to take a shuttle to the Kosiev.
    “Atlas,” Tommy thought.
    “Yes, Tommy.”
    “Do you use teleportation is your drive systems?”
    “No, I do not. I’m curious about what they’re talking about. All of my systems use travel through null space.”
    Tommy looked at the door the Algeans had just left through and thought, “We’ll know shortly. I hope they came through the mental transfer ok and this is not a wasted effort.”
    “There is a difference in them. They seem to know what the other is thinking before they say it. I don’t think this is going to be wasted effort.”
    “We’ll see,” said Tommy.
    The crew of the Kosiev was aboard ship preparing for their shakedown cruise. Cassandra was sitting in her command chair letting her mind roam the various systems of the ship feeling peace from the contact. The ship was feeling like a cat purring in her lap. The adolescents were in the nose of the giant ship connecting the device that they had built in Sten’s lab making sure all the connections were secure.
    “Tommy!”
    “What, Rose?”
    “A giant red ship has just come out of star drive just outside the orbit of Jupiter. The ship is almost two thousand miles wide.”
    “Rose, ground all ships and stop any in system traffic immediately. What is it doing?”
    “It appears to be just firing a beam into Jupiter’s atmosphere.”
    Tommy looked at Cassie and said, “We have no choice, I’m jumping into the Captor’s system immediately. If it causes a warning to all ships, perhaps that one will leave and go home to help defend the home world.”
    “Tommy, you’ll be killed,” Rose wailed!
    “I don’t know if we can out run them or not but if that ship turns its attention on Earth, it will totally destroy the planet.” Tommy keyed his command circuit on the Kosiev and said, “Battle stations, all hands to battle stations; this is not a drill.”
    “What’s going on?” Cassandra asked.
    “A Captor ship had just entered Earth’s solar system and is firing a beam into Jupiter’s atmosphere. I suspect it is taking readings but when it finishes it will probably turn its attention on Earth. Our shakedown cruise has just been canceled. We are jumping into the Captor’s home system close to the planet, fire a full salvo of penetrators at the Captor’s structure, and then jump away. I’ve entered the jump coordinates into your board, Cassie. We must divert that ships attention away from our solar system.”
    Everyone on the bridge prepared for battle but felt the real fear of facing this enemy. Cassandra thought to Tommy, “We aren’t ready. We need more time.”
    “That’s something we don’t have. Prepare to jump Captain Dodd.”
    Cassie looked into Tommy’s eyes and was frightened that she was going to lose the love of her life in moments. If Tgon-Gee had been there he would have seen the aura around her expand outward faster than the eye could follow. Cassie keyed her command circuit and said, “Jump in fifteen seconds. Penetrator crews will launch their full inventory at the planet and we will jump out and start our escape. Jump in 5,4,3,2,1, execute.”
    The Kosiev broke into normal space one thousand miles from the huge planet and launched four thousand of the short range high speed penetrators and then jumped away.”
    The penetrators flew almost faster than the sensors could track but every one of them were exploded by beams from the constructs surface before they had flew three hundred miles. The construct looked like a huge explosion of red fire erupting from its surface as millions of Captor ships lifted off at high speed.
    Rose watched the giant ship as it quit firing its beam at Jupiter and then begin moving in system. Suddenly, it blinked out of existence. “Tommy,” she thought, “the ship has vanished from our system. Get out of there.”
    “Already on our way, Sis, but I think we have drawn a crowd.”
    The Kosiev jumped out into the empty space between the Captor’s planet and the next star system. “Full speed ahead, Cassandra ordered.” The Kosiev jumped forward at an amazing speed in normal space. Right behind the Kosiev as it entered normal space thousands of Captor ships appeared. Wes announced, “Ships are jumping in around us and ahead of us. One is firing weapons.”
    A giant red ship appeared next to the Kosiev and fired its main beam. The Kosiev absorbed the beam and continued running. “Jumping now,” Cassandra said over the ship intercom. The Kosiev disappeared and reappeared in normal space in a distance galaxy. Immediately the red ships began appearing around them again.
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “I’m going to use my push on the Kosiev.” Cassandra nodded. Tommy focused and thought, “Move forward, now.”
    The Captor ships were closing in on the strange white ship when suddenly it flew out from among them so fast that their sensors didn’t register it leaving. The First Male who was leading the attack was shocked. “Where did that ship go?” All the Captor ships saw was the energy trail of the strange white ship disappearing in the distance.
    A warrior that had arrived behind the main group said, “An object just passed me in normal space traveling more than a thousand times the speed of light.”
    The First Male said, “That is impossible. Show me the line they were on.”
    The main group saw the line and jumped in front of where the strange ship should be if it was traveling at that speed. The Captor fleet arrived and the First Male watched his sensors as an object passed by him so fast that he had no time to do anything but watch it pass. “Get in front of that ship and block its line of travel,” the first male ordered. More than a million of the red ships jumped forward on the line of the escaping enemy.
    Wes looked at his screen and said, “They’re jumping ahead of us into our line.”
    Tommy thought, “Move upward.”
    The Captor ships watched as the object approached their positions and then changed direction and move ninety degrees away from their position.”
    Cassie keyed her com and said, “Sprig, Twig, if that device of yours works we need it now.”
    “Captain, we have not done a field trial on it yet.”
    “I don’t care, set it up now!”
    The two Algeans looked at each other and began adjusting the front field emitter on the ship. The ship jumped once and continued its high speed run. After five minutes Twig announced, “Where do you want us to take the ship, if this works?”
    Cassandra said, “Pick empty space between two galaxies far from here.”
    Suddenly a giant red blurry sphere appeared on Wes’ sensors, “Brace for impact!’ he yelled over the speakers. There was a huge bump in the ship’s flight path and then Twig said, “Engaging device in 3,2,1, now!”
    The Captor ships were doing everything possible to kill the strange ship but it was traveling too fast. Finally, the First Male saw one of his warriors jump directly in front of the speeding white ship. The strange ship flew right through the middle of the fifteen hundred mile wide warrior and left a hole more than three hundred miles wide. The warrior hung is space for three seconds and then exploded into millions of pieces. The strange ship then disappeared from his sensors. “All Warriors, where did the ship go?”
    More than a thousand warriors gathered around the spot where the ship disappeared and the oldest warrior at the site said, “There is no reading for us to track. There is nothing that we can see that indicates they were here at all. The residue of their flight ends at this spot.”
    The First Male looked at the trail of energy that the fleeing ship had left behind. The Captors could see that trail even through null space and that is what they used to track their enemies. The trail extended all the way back to the home world and ended here. This was impossible. If energy was used in the universe, they could see it if they had the signature of the ship that caused it. “Did anyone get a signature reading on that ship?”
    Silence ruled. “All ships go back to the home world. I want layers of ships to the outer planets. Go now.” The giant red ships jumped back to their home world.”
    The First Male said, “Mother, I am not going to allow you to leave until I am sure of your safety. We will prepare the new nest when I find that ship and eliminate it. It killed one of our warriors and I am not risking you.”
    The Mother answered, “I will yield to your caution. However, my sister may not let me stay long.”
    The First Male said, “She will allow it as long as we need it. We can always grow another sister; there is only one First Mother. We will begin our search immediately. Warriors of the blue, black, yellow, and orange cells, find that ship. Find it and direct us to it before you try to destroy it alone. Go now.”
    Two million red ships jumped away in two million different directions. “That ship withstood two of our beams. Nothing has done that in two hundred million cycles. Did that ship come from another universe? Nothing I have seen in this one can do what that ship has just demonstrated.” Three of his brothers had died recently. This was not something that had ever happened before. “Scientists, please determine if this ship is from this universe or another.”
    The section of the construct that housed the scientists began radiating a bright red glow into space. “I want some answers,” the First Male thought, “and I want them quickly.”
    The Kosiev erupted into normal space and continued to fly at extreme speed. Wes watched his sensors and after two minutes said, “There are no enemy ships on my sensors.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and saw her nod. He focused and thought, “Slow down,” and after a minute the ship entered normal space where light looked normal. “Stop,” he thought and the Kosiev stopped and hung in space.
    “Rose, has the ship returned?”
    “No, it has not. Tommy, we need the teleporting process to start moving Earth’s population.”
    “Sprig, Twig, I need you to get your teleport device to Earth to begin moving population.”
    Sprig thought, “We will just step through a screen right here on the Kosiev and take a working model of the device. We do need to take a reading of the floor in the Kosievs’ library in order to return.”
    “Take your reading; we are not going to move for a while. Captain Dodd and I need to examine the readings we took in the Captor’s system so you should be able to come back here. We will try not to move while you are gone.”
    “Duke Gardner, you may go wherever you choose. Once we read the floor, you can be going faster than the speed of light and we will be able to teleport right to that spot.”
    Tommy and Cassandra were stunned. “Are you going to explain to us how this device works?”
    “Certainly, when we return.”
    Ensign Ahn said over the intercom, “One of the Algeans has returned from taking their readings. They just walked into a silver energy field and disappeared, Captain.”
    Tommy said, “Well, that certainly wasn’t wasted effort.”
    Gerald Nelson sat with the two adolescents in Wade McAllister’s lab going over the device that they had brought from the Kosiev. He was shaking his head and even Cade was confused about what the device did. “I don’t understand how this works. Can you possibly explain it in simpler terms?”
    Sprig gave the equivalent of a mental sigh and said, “The math is more complicated than I can express to you and unfortunately your computers are not at a level where they can process the equations in less than four hundred years. We had to take a huge risk to be able to see it visually in our minds; however, I will attempt to explain what it does and forego the science behind it.” Gerald and Wade nodded and Sprig continued, “You are aware that every place in the universe has a resonance that is unique. We currently use a screen surrounding a ship that resonates at the frequency of the place we want to jump. Once the screen resonates at that frequency, the ship goes out of normal space through null space and reemerges at the location of the frequency the screen had matched. Are we together so far?”
    Gerald said, “We understand that process.”
    Twig then said, “What we discovered was that it wasn’t necessary to match that frequency to go to the desired location.”
    The two scientists looked blank. Sprig then said, “We thought about instead of matching the frequency of the place you wanted to go, why not bring the place to you.”
    The two Algeans watched the two humans and gave them time to process the information. After several minutes Gerald said, “So you take the frequency of the place just as if you were there using a reader to see it and form a field with that exact frequency at that place.”
    “Exactly, and just like the frequency is not limited to light speed but exists in real time everywhere in the universe, once the field is established all you do is step through it and you’re there.”
    “But the field is at the location where the reading is being taken, not where you are,” Wade said with a furrowed brow.
    Twig said, “Of course, but once that field is made, it’s also everywhere else in the universe. It’s not just limited to the location of the frequency. Remember, the space that contains all of the universe’s location frequencies is smaller than the smallest atom. If it exists, it exists everywhere. So if the field is made somewhere other than the exact location, it still exists at the location of the frequency and everywhere else.”
    “So, even if you make the field in another galaxy, the field with the desired location will exist at the exact location you want to go,” Gerald said with wide eyes.
    The Algeans smiled mentally and Twig said, “Now you understand.”
    Gerald continued, “So you don’t need null space because you don’t go through it; you go directly to the location of the field frequency.”
    Cade looked at Gerald and said, “Do you understand this?”
    Gerald nodded and continued to talk with the Algeans, “This is an advance that is amazing. You can literally step through your front door on Ross and go right to Glod, or anywhere else in the universe.” Gerald looked at Wade and said, “This is revolutionary. Have the two of you thought about turning this field horizontal and transporting cities to another planet?”
    The Algeans looked puzzled for a moment and then they saw it, too. “No, we haven’t but you’re right. Create a big enough field and drop it over a city and it will go to another location.”
    The Algeans looked at each other and it was like a bomb went off mentally. Sprig said, “Why limit it to a city. If we can move a city, why not move a planet?”
    Cade looked at them and said, “Is that possible?”
    The Algeans were not answering; they had locked their limbs together and were thinking furiously. Neither Gerald nor Cade could break into their attention.
    The officers of the Kosiev were meeting in the Kosievs’ conference room after the escape from the Captors. Everyone was on edge expecting the Captors to jump in on them while they were away from their posts. Tommy and Cassandra entered the room and everyone jumped to attention. Tommy said, “At ease, and I do mean at ease. I can sense your nervousness but I can tell you that my sense of danger is telling me that they do not know where we are; that means that they did not get a reading on our ship. I’m forced to believe that if they did not get a reading of us when we came that close to their home world, then they probably can’t. However, they have demonstrated for me that once they see us, then their sensor systems can track us on whatever route we take to escape.” Tommy lowered the big display from the ceiling and said, “I’m going to replay the sensor records from our brush with the Captors and I want you to tell me what you see that might hold interest for us.” Tommy started the recording showing the huge planet surrounded by the construct that the red ships were parked on.
    Wes’ said, “Stop the recording.” Tommy froze the picture of the planet. Wes said, “I’ve examined this picture very closely since the attack and I’ve seen some things that I want you to see if I’m wrong in what my conclusions are.” Wes took a laser pointer and said, “I want you to notice that every cell on this construct has a ship on it. I am going to assume that the other side of the planet looks just like this side. That means there is no room for any ships unless a ship leaves the construct.”
    Everyone looked closely at the picture and finally Tommy said, “Ok, I agree. Does anyone else think differently?” No one disagreed.
    Wes continued, “Now before we leave this picture, look up here at the top right of the construct. Wes pressed a button and the section he was indicating grew larger. Look at this ship right here.” The pointer rested on a ship that was significantly larger than the other ships around it. “That ship is four thousand miles in diameter and has a deep purple band around its center. I believe that this is the queen of this colony if they really are like bees. It looks like this colony is full.” Wes then moved the pointer to the lower corner and the view grew larger. Then everyone saw it; in a small cell was a small ship with a purple band around the center. “I have scanned this picture with the computer and these are the only two ships in the picture with purple bands. If these creatures are like bees, there can only be one queen in a hive. One of these will have to leave and probably soon.”
    Everyone looked at the photo and felt the fear of what that meant. Wes then said, “I want you to pay close attention to what happened when the ships detected us and left the planet. I’m going to play it at normal speed and then I’ll slow it down.” The recording started and the planet looked like it exploded with a red wave exploding upward. Wes said, “Now I’m going to slow it down to super slow motion. I want you to pay attention to the location of the two queens.” The recording began and once again the officers saw the giant red ships explode off the construct but now at slow motion they could see thousands of the red ships move over the top of the two queens and form a wall around them. At normal speed with millions of ships lifting it was not possible to see the move to protect the two queens. The recording ended as the Kosiev jumped away.
    Tommy took a deep breath and said, “I must agree with Wes; that is another queen on the construct and her small size seems to indicate she’s rather young. We need to take this into account as we make our plans. I think we also have determined that the Captors are looking at Earth’s solar system as a new nest. What do we now know after our first contact with these captors?”
    John Ortiz said, “We know we can survive their beams.”
    Janet Jackson said, “We are faster than they are.”
    James Roswell said, “We know we can kill them if we hit them with our ship.”
    Wes said, “We were only hit by one beam at a time. We don’t know if we will survive more than one. We are faster than they are in normal space but we could not escape them without using the adolescent’s device. We were traveling more than one thousand times the speed of light when we hit that ship. It’s hard to aim at a target at that speed. We don’t know what would happen at normal speed. We do not possess a weapon that would be effective against them.”
    Cassandra said, “We still don’t know enough.”
    Wes said, “I recorded one other thing.” Everyone looked at him, “I had my sensors set to look for one of those nerve centers that the adolescents talked about. My sensors showed one out about three hundred thousand miles from the planet. I took a quick picture before we left. Here it is.” A picture of a bright blue light with a huge red ship holding station more than five thousand miles away. “I believe that what we see here is the very thing the Adolescents described. This is where the Captors get their universal sensors. Notice that the Captor ship is away from the nerve center because of the heat. I’m not certain that we could have avoided them if they had access to that center.”
    Tommy said, “More good news.”
    Cassandra said, “There is something else. I have developed a feel for the Kosiev and I sense something that might be important.” Tommy looked at her and nodded to go ahead. “It is my understanding that when this skin was formed on the Kosiev that it was due to eight small black holes falling from the burned out reactors that were blown into the power cells by multiple anti-matter hits. I sense that inside the Kosievs’ skin that those black holes have formed into one black hole that is now larger than the one at the center of our galaxy.”
    Tommy said, “What are you saying?”
    Cassandra said, “It’s still growing and I sense that this black hole is made of negative matter. I don’t know how this works but I know what I sense is accurate. I believe that the Captors can’t hurt us with an energy beam but I don’t know what other weapons they have to use.”
    Tommy shook his head and said, “We need to find something to use against them. Rose has contacted me and she senses trouble for Earth and I’m getting the same sensation. We have to keep pressure on the Captors to keep them from swarming and buy some time to move our population. Ensign Ahn, did the adolescents show you how to use their device?”
    “Yes sir, they did.”
    “We have got to go back to their world and make another attack. Even if our weapons do not affect them, we must maintain their attention. I want you to set their device to teleport us in to their system then change the setting to bring us back to this place. I’m hoping that they can’t track us using our new device.”
    Cassandra said, “Prepare for jump in two hours. Reload the penetrators and plan to fire a full salvo from a range of 300 yards from the construct’s surface. We will then run through normal space and see if they can stop us; any questions? No; report to your posts.”
    Cassandra keyed her com and announced, “Battle stations, all hands to battle stations; we will be jumping back into the Captor’s system in two hours. Make sure your stations are ready.”
    The twelve hundred crew members of the Kosiev ran to their stations and began preparing for the jump. Tommy and Cassandra stayed in the conference room. “Cassie, my sense of danger to Earth has jumped tremendously. I want all of our penetrators targeted toward that new queen. I don’t expect us to break through their screens but we must make an effort.”
    “Tommy, surprise was on our side last time; I suspect they will be waiting for us.”
    Tommy shook his head and said, “Let us hope the Kosievs’ skin can handle the hits. I wish you were somewhere else, Cassie. I can’t bear the pain of losing you if we don’t make it.”
    “Tommy, I wouldn’t want to make it if you were not with me. We are exactly where we should be.” She stood and kissed him and left to prepare the ship.
    Tommy thought, “Atlas, if we don’t make it, don’t give up; we haven’t even tried to hit the matrix holding your brothers but I have not forgotten them.”
    “Perhaps it’s better that you haven’t tried. I suspect that if the Captors thought there was a relationship between your attacks and them, then they would destroy them all.”
    “You’re probably right, Atlas. Make sure you get the information from the adolescents if we are destroyed. I just wish we had some kind of weapon that would work against them. We’re totally defensive.”
    “I want to go with you, Tommy. However, it would not be wise to have all of us eliminated at one time. I will be waiting for you here and hoping for the best.”
    Tommy smiled and left the conference room for his post on the bridge.
    Two hours later Captain Dodd announced over the ships intercom, “I’ve given the target coordinates to all of our penetrator crews. I want all of our primary beams targeted on the same spot and fired immediately on emergence into normal space. Penetrators will also fire at the same moment. We will begin our run as soon as we see if our weapons have any effect on the target. Jump in 5,4,3,2,1, execute.”
    The Kosiev appeared in normal space so close to the Captor’s construct that it seemed it had landed on its surface. The Kosiev disappeared in a blinding flash of beams and penetrators leaving for the construct that seemed to hit instantaneously. Cassandra watched her display and saw all of the beams and penetrators stopped and exploded a hundred yards above the construct. Cassie thought angrily, “kill that queen!”
    Something left the skin of the Kosiev and hit the construct. A huge blast erupted and a huge section of the construct disintegrated leaving a gaping hole in the surface. Cassie was stunned but then she heard Wes shout, “Run, now.”
    Cassie hit the button on her console and the Kosiev sped away from the Captor’s planet. Tommy thought, “Move fast now.”
    The Kosiev hit light speed so fast that the Captors surrounding and firing at the ship once again did not record its exit on their sensors. The Kosiev was traveling at one thousand times the speed of light and the giant red ships were jumping into its projected path. Cassie thought. “We have to go faster!” The Kosiev leaped forward and went to five thousand times the speed of light.”
    Wes looking at his sensors said, “I don’t know what you did but we are now traveling at five thousand times the speed of light. My sensors cannot see anything at this speed.”
    Cassandra said, “I’m taking control.” She pressed a button on her console and closed her eyes. She could see everything around the ship. She saw where the red ships were jumping into normal space to cut them off and she turned the ship away from them. She saw a star directly in front of them and banked the ship away.
    Wes announced, “We are now traveling two light years every second and still accelerating.”
    Tommy looked at Cassie and knew that he had not caused the jump in speed. He closed his eyes and linked his mind with Cassie and saw what she was doing. Cassie was flying the Kosiev like it had no mass. She made ninety degree turns instantly and even reversed the ship on its course so quickly that it defied the laws of physics. The Captors were unable to stay with the ship. Tommy keyed his com and said, “Ensign, Ahn, now would be a good time.”
    The Kosiev disappeared from normal space. Tommy thought to Cassie, “Slow us down. Just focus and think about slowing down.”
    Cassie was lost in the Kosiev and loving every moment of it. She was the ship and the ship was her. She heard Tommy but she didn’t want to stop. She finally focused on what he was saying and jerked her attention back into the present and forced herself to think, “Slow down, slowly, now.”
    Wes announced, “Ten light years per second, four, one, ten thousand times light speed, five thousand, one thousand, five hundred, fifty, one half light speed.”
    Cassandra thought, “Stop, now!” The Kosiev came to a stop.
    Everyone on the bridge looked at each other; Wes said, “What happened back there?”
    Tommy said, “Wes, replay what happened.”
    The main display on the bridge came on and showed the launch of the penetrators and beams. They were all stopped before they hit the construct; then the display showed more than a thousand of the giant red ships rush in and fire their beams at the Kosiev. The display then showed something leave the skin of the Kosiev and strike the construct and blow a giant hole in it. “What was that,” Tommy asked?”
    Wes said, “I have no idea.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and saw she had a look on her face that showed disbelief. “Captain Dodd, do you know what that was that struck the construct?”
    Cassie looked at Tommy and said, “I think I somehow ejected a small piece of the black hole through the skin of the Kosiev at the construct where that queen was located.”
    The bridge crew looked at the display and Wes rewound the video. He brought the view in closer to the point of impact and slowed it down. Whatever left the Kosiev was pitch-black and moving so fast that even at super slow motion it moved too fast to be seen. One thing was certain. The piece of the construct that had the small queen on it was disintegrated.
    Tommy said, “Looks like we have found a weapon.”
    Cassie just sat there wondering how she had made it happen.

Chapter 12

    The First Male chased the strange ship and could not think coherently. The hive was damaged for the first time in the long history of the Captors and a young mother had been killed. Whatever had struck the hive blew through the screens protecting it like there was nothing there. Now the ship had disappeared again and their chase efforts had been avoided easily by the fleeing ship. He was starting to think clearly again and he wondered why the strange ship had fled. He was one of the ships that had hit it with his main beam with no effect. For the first time in his long lifespan he knew what it felt like to be afraid. He had killed many worlds without a second thought and now he was starting to see what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a weapon that could not be stopped. He hurried back to the hive and contacted the First Mother. “We must move you to a safer place. The attackers can obviously identify where you are on our hive.”
    The First Mother thought back, “No, I am not leaving. I have delivered another Mother and you will take her to another location. We will not start a new home for me until this menace has been stopped.”
    “Where will we take her?”
    “When she had taken enough energy to be self sufficient, you will deliver her to the new home we have selected. In the meantime, I will move away from the hive and wait until she is moved. Once she is safe, I will return.”
    “Should we go and prepare the new home before she moves?”
    “Not yet. She needs some time before she is ready. As the time approaches you will take your warriors and begin preparing the new home. I do not want to reduce our strength before then.”
    The First Male dimmed his light to show his acceptance of her instructions.
    Rose, Tag, and Tommy were viewing what had happened at the Captor’s planet. Rose said, “Tommy, my sense of danger to Earth has gone up tremendously since you did this.”
    Tag said, “They are coming soon. I think you moved their timetable up with your attack.”
    Tommy lowered his head and thought, “I must agree with you. Have we started moving the population yet?”
    Rose hesitated and then thought, “Tommy, the two Algeans have entered a coma and have not communicated with us since right after their arrival. We can’t break through to them.”
    “I’m coming home, Rose.”
    Rose started to object but then decided that there was nothing she could do; Maybe Tommy could.”
    Tommy keyed the general com on the Kosiev and said, “Jump warning. We will be jumping in two minutes.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and he said, “Set the jump coordinates for Earth, the adolescents are in a coma.”
    Cassandra immediately keyed her com, “The jump has been moved up to ten seconds, prepare for jump, 3,2,1, execute.” Cassandra pushed the jump button on her console.
    The Kosiev broke out into normal space just outside the atmosphere of Earth. Tommy left the bridge with Cassie and commed Ensign Ahn. “Ensign Ahn, do you have the coordinates of where the adolescents went when they teleported?”
    “Yes, Your Majesty, I do.”
    “Set up the device. Captain Dodd and I will be going to the same location. Make it happen quickly; we’re on our way to you now.”
    Cassandra keyed her com and said, “Lt. McAnn, you are now in command until I return. Take the ship out of the system to our previous location and be prepared to return on my signal.”
    “Yes sir.” Wes keyed the general ship intercom and announced, “We will be jumping in ten minutes. Jump in ten minutes.”
    Tommy and Cassie entered the forward field emitter room and saw a shimmering silver screen in the center of the room. They ran forward and went through the screen… and came out in a room with the two adolescents standing completely still in the center. “Quick,” Tommy said. Cassandra came into his arms before he could say anything and hugged him tight. The shock wasn’t quite as severe as it had been previously but immediately the adolescents began moving. Slowly at first but then they started waving rhythmically back and forth. Tommy released Cassandra and said, “Looks like a good sign.”
    Cassandra watched the two adolescents and said, “I hope they don’t take as long to recover.”
    Twig said, “Recover from what?”
    Cassandra ran up and hugged her. Then Sprig said, “I don’t want to do that again.”
    Twig was still entwined in Sprigs limbs and she thought to him, “I didn’t know you felt like that about me.”
    Sprig’s leaves turned yellow in embarrassment. “I’m sorry you saw that. I’m not worthy of feeling that way toward you.”
    Twig tightened her limbs and pulled Sprig close to her. “You are so much a part of me now that there will never be another for me. It will be you and me or nothing. I will not return home without you.”
    Sprig held on to Twig and thought, “That is not your decision to make; you are the Eldest’s seed. Only he can decide who you will be tied to.”
    “You aren’t listening Sprig. I will not return home without you. I am his seed and he will decide for us or we will not go home.”
    “Twig, I can’t let you endure that. I… love you too much. This is a strange feeling I’m having and I’m somewhat certain that no one in our history has ever had these feelings.”
    “That’s because no one in our history had absorbed another. We are unique and for myself, these feelings bring me great pleasure. We’ll discuss this later. I will not live without you, Sprig.”
    Sprig grew to fourteen feet. He was also very much enjoying these new feelings. Then he said, “Thank you again for helping us through this problem.”
    Tommy said quickly, “The Captors have moved their timetable up and are coming to Jupiter soon. We don’t have much time to move our population.”
    Twig said, “That’s what put us in a trance. Where is the Kosiev?”
    Tommy looked puzzled and said, “We sent it back out to empty space between galaxies.”
    Twig looked at Sprig and Sprig said, “You’re better at field dynamics, I’ll go with the Kosiev. Tommy, bring the Kosiev back and take me to the sites of stars where we can move the planet. I already have all the astronomical information I need on good locations.”
    Tommy said, “Other locations; what are you talking about?”
    Cassie lifted her Com and said, “Lt. McAnn, I need the Kosiev back immediately.”
    “Aye, Aye, Captain; on our way.”
    Twig said, “Captain Dodd, please call Gerald Nelson and Cade McAllister to meet me in Cade’s lab.” Cassie lifted her com and started talking while Twig said to Tommy, “We are going to move the planet to another system.”
    Tommy was stunned, “You can do that?”
    “We’ll see,” said Twig.
    The Kosiev jumped close to Earth and Sprig set up a small device that produced a silver field in front of him. “Captain Dodd, you should probably go with me.” Cassie looked at Tommy and then turned and ran through the field right behind Sprig.
    Sprig and Cassie emerged in the front emitter room on the Kosiev and Sprig handed Cassie a list of coordinates. “Take the Kosiev to each of these coordinates one at a time. I need to work on the front field of the Kosiev. Let me know when you arrive at the first one on the list.”
    Cassie looked at Sprig then sprinted up to the bridge. “Lt. McAnn, program these jump points and jump to the first one immediately.”
    Wes took the list and punched in the first coordinates and announced, “Attention all hands, Jump in five seconds, 2,1, execute.”
    The Kosiev emerged into normal space in a system with a type G yellow star. The inner four planets were far away and the outer planets were closer. Sprig read an instrument and said, “Go to the next site, please.”
    Wes said, “Jump in 3,2,1, execute.”
    The ship emerged in a system with another type G star but there were planets close to the Kosiev. “Sprig looked at his instrument and said, “Next site, please.”
    The Kosiev jumped thru eleven systems. On the twelfth system Sprig read his instrument and said, “Hold your position right here. Wes, how many planets are in this system?”
    “There are fifteen planets in the system.”
    “What is the distance from where we are right now to the center of the star?”
    “It’s a little over one AU.”
    If we were traveling at the velocity of Earth in an orbit around the star from where we are now, how long would a cycle take,” Sprig asked?
    Wes pushed some keys on his console and said, “One year, ten days.”
    If we were to move fifty thousand miles closer, how long?”
    Wes did his calculations and said, “One year.”
    “Wes, get an energy reading on the ship’s hull and compare it to what the Earth’s sun would be generating at the same distance.”
    Wes worked on the problem and said, “It is almost identical.”
    “Thanks, Wes.”
    The crew in the emitter room watched Sprig work on the emitters on the front of the Kosiev. “Wes, orient the ship such that it would be orbiting the star at this distance. I want the nose pointed in the direction the ship would be traveling in orbit.”
    Wes looked at Captain Dodd and she said, “Just do it.”
    Wes went to the control board and turned a knob and the Kosiev rotated and turned parallel to the star. “Hold it right here Wes.” Sprig took the small device and pointed it at the nose of the Kosiev and took a reading. “Wes, move the nose four degrees closer to the star.” Wes made the adjustment. Sprig took another reading and said, “Hold the ship right here. Don’t let it move.” Sprig took several more readings and then said, “Captain Dodd, please take us back to Earth.”
    Cassie nodded to Wes; Wes said, “Jump in 3,2,1, execute.”
    The Kosiev broke into normal space and Twig immediately appeared in the emitter room with Gerald Nelson and Cade McAllister. Sprig said, “I’ve found the site.”
    Twig said, “Help us.”
    Sprig pulled a large device that was on a gravity sled up to the ships emitters and started pulling wires forward. Then Gerald, Cade, Sprig, and Twig worked furiously connecting the wires to connections Sprig had made. Tommy stepped through the silver field and the field disappeared. Tommy said, “Let me know when you are ready.” Tommy then ran to the bridge.
    Cassandra saw Tommy enter the bridge saying, “As you were; Captain Dodd move the Kosiev directly in front of Earth’s orbit. Maintain a distance of twenty five thousand miles from the planet and have the nose of the Kosiev pointed toward the Planet.”
    Cassandra turned and looked at Wes, “Make it happen, Lieutenant.” Wes moved the ship as ordered and maintained the distance as the Kosiev flew backwards from the Earth as it rotated around the sun.”
    Tommy sat in his command chair and keyed his com. Misty Nicole appeared on the screen. Tommy said, “Director, I have bad news. It is the opinion of my family that the Captors will be arriving in your solar system anywhere from a week from now to an hour from now. We feel certain that they will be here before we can move any of your population.”
    Misty turned white and said, “Can you protect us?”
    Tommy shook his head and said, “No, we cannot. We might stop one ship but we think it will be more than one ship; probably more than a thousand. If we don’t do something, Earth will be destroyed.”
    “What do you mean by do something,” Misty asked?”
    Tommy looked at Cassie and said, “We are going to move the planet.”
    “You’re going to what!”
    “We don’t have time to do anything else, Director.”
    “Can you do it?”
    Tommy paused and said, “I have two Algeans that think they can. At this point it’s my belief that we have to let them try.”
    Wes suddenly interrupted, “Captain, we have more than five thousand of the Captor ships emerging around Jupiter.”
    “Put it on the screen, Lt.”
    Misty and Tommy watched as the giant red ships surrounded Jupiter. One of the giant ships flew toward Europa where one of Earth’s installations was located. The ship fired its beam at the moon and the moon exploded into rubble blown away in all directions.”
    Misty saw the destruction of Europa and said in a shaking voice, “Do what you have to do.”
    “Sprig, we’re out of time,” Tommy said.
    “We need more time.”
    Suddenly five Captor ships appeared around Earth. Cassie felt her fear and thought, “Kill them.” Five pitch-black balls shot out of the Kosiev and struck the five Captor ships. The giant red ships did not have time to fire their beams before all five imploded and disappeared.
    The remaining Captor ships moved away from Jupiter and remained motionless. Tommy looked at Cassandra and then thought to Sprig, “We’re going to get crowded here very quickly. I know our friends out at Jupiter have just called for help.”
    Twig said, “Not much longer.”
    Tommy and Cassandra watched the ships at Jupiter. On Earth, Misty Nicole saw the destruction of Europa and felt her fear soar. This was beyond her imagination and she began communicating to the population what was happening and asking for their prayers. The planet did not have much longer before death arrived.”
    The First Male received the message from the new nest. “The ship is here at the third planet from the sun. It just killed five of our warriors.”
    “Move no closer until I arrive. First Mother, the ship that has attacked us is in the system of the new nest. It appears the third planet is technologically advanced enough for space flight. The ship has just killed five of our warriors. I am going to confront the ship and destroy that planet.”
    “If you destroy that planet, will that ship come here and destroy our world?”
    The First Male said, “I don’t know but we cannot allow them to go unpunished.”
    “Then gather your warriors and make sure you have enough to complete the job. I forbid you to take part in the attack.”
    The First Male said, “First Mother, I beg you for the right to lead the fight.”
    “No, we have to have you if we must create another mother. Your request is denied.”
    The First Male fought down his anger and said, “Yes, First Mother, it will be as you order.”
    The first male called for a million warriors to follow him and jumped to the new nest.
    Tommy watched as the million new red ships appeared around Jupiter. The ships then began flying toward Earth.”
    Wes said, “Why aren’t they jumping here.”
    Cassandra said, “All we’ve seen so far has been their beam weapons. I suspect they do not want to risk any more ships so they will use their standoff weapons.” The huge fleet arrived at the orbit of mars and stopped. Then a giant red ball of energy was launched at Earth. The red ball was traveling at three quarter light speed. Cassandra key her com, “Sprig, Twig, the Captors have fired an energy weapon that is traveling at the three quarters of light speed. It will be here in less than seven minutes. That is all the time you have remaining.”
    Tommy looked at the incoming energy ball and said, “That ball is larger than Earth. Captain Dodd, is there any way to detonate that ball before it hits?”
    Cassandra thought a moment and said, “We could launch all of our shuttles into its path.”
    “Launch them now. I’ll explain why later.”
    All fifty shuttles launched from the Kosiev under remote control and moved between Earth and the incoming energy ball. The ball was two minutes away and Wes started a countdown to impact. “Two minutes. One minute. Thirty seconds.”
    Sprig looked at Twig and said, “Energize the emitters; prepare the device.”
    “Fifteen seconds, ten seconds, nine, eight, seven, six..”
    “Twig threw the switch on the device and a silver field appeared between the Kosiev and Earth. Earth moved into the field and disappeared.”
    The energy ball lost the target it was locked on and only saw the shuttles in the zone. It struck the shuttles and a giant explosion rocked the Kosiev and blew it more than twenty thousand miles from the position it was holding. The Kosiev then flew away so fast toward the sun that the explosion had not started to settle and it was gone from the solar system. Where once a green and blue planet existed, now there was only a moon following a wobbling orbit where the planet had been.
    The First Male watched the explosion and saw afterwards that the planet was gone. The strange ship was also missing. Something wasn’t right; there should have been more debris left behind from the Planet’s destruction. One of the Captor scientists heard his thought and said, “It is possible that the planet had huge stores of energy on it and combined with the energy missile it was enough to totally disintegrate the planet. It certainly isn’t there now.”
    The First Male went to the site of the explosion and still didn’t feel comfortable with the findings. “Were we able to see anything behind the explosion of the energy missile?”
    The Watcher that had accompanied the warriors said, “The missile was actually bigger than the planet. We were not able to see anything behind the blast and until we can get into a nexus, there is no way to see the details.”
    The Scientist said, “It had to be disintegrated. It’s not here. Would you prefer to believe that these creatures moved the planet?”
    The First Male snorted at the idea and said, “Of course not, but there just isn’t enough mass left to account for the planet’s destruction.” After a pause he said, “I must agree with you; I can’t see any other possibility. He scanned the system with his sensors and said, “There are outposts of the creatures on some of the moons and asteroids in this system. Warriors, clean them up.” The giant red ships scattered through the solar system and systematically destroyed everything with intelligent life on it. Five of Jupiter’s moons were blown apart and the pieces obliterated.
    Rose sat in the throne room in Castle Gardner and watched the destruction of all the settlements left in Earth’s solar system. Then she saw the Giant ships moving toward Earth’s moon, “Tommy,” she thought.
    “Yes, Rose.”
    “The Captors are moving in on Earth’s moon. There’s more than 125, 000 people in the settlements there.”
    Tommy ordered, “Stop the Kosiev and prepare to return to….,” then he stopped in mid sentence. “Rose, did you just feel that?”
    Rose signed heavily and said, “Yes, I did.”
    Suddenly Tag broke into their thoughts, “What are you two planning? Whatever it is, stop now!”
    Rose thought to her father, “Dad, the Captors are moving in on Earth’s moon. If they destroy it more than 125,000 people will lose their lives.”
    “What were you going to do about it?”
    Tommy said, “I started issuing orders to return and possibly teleport the moon away. But then I felt what you must have felt, too.”
    “If you do that Tommy, Earth will be destroyed.” Tag paused a moment and listened to his senses and then said, “It appears that the Captors did not see the Earth disappear. My sense tells me that Earth is safe for the near future. However, when I think about you going back to save the moon, my alarms go off full blast.”
    “I know, Dad. Tommy and I both felt it, too. I just can’t bear to watch so many innocent people die.”
    Then they all felt it; the moon was gone. Tommy felt anger and then hate for the race that so callously killed. Cassandra sitting on the bridge just below his chair could actually see the aura around Tommy roll, boil and turn in on itself. Cassandra’s heart grieved for the loss of life on the moon. More than two hundred of her former classmates were assigned there. She had watched the moon while Tommy was discussing what could be done without endangering the Earth. She listened to the Gardners and watched the moon in her mind as three Captors approached and hit it with their main beams. The resulting blast exploded it out from its center in all directions. The Captors then fired their beams at the largest pieces of the moon to erase the possibility of them ever being a danger to Jupiter. Once they were through, they turned and moved toward mars. The settlements there were blown out of existence but the planet was left intact. The Captors did not want huge pieces of the planet near their nest. Within three hours, more than 1,430,000 people were killed in the systematic extermination of all intelligent life in the system. Not once did the Captors attempt to communicate with the ones they were destroying and they ignored the pleas for mercy. Cassandra felt a harness in her heart for this cold blooded race of killers. Everyone on the bridge suddenly felt the Kosiev begin vibrating and then start shaking.
    Tommy interrupted his conversation with Rose and his father and thought to Cassandra, “Are you alright?”
    Cassandra came back into the moment and thought, “Yes. I just let them get to me.” The Kosiev quit vibrating and returned to normal. The bridge crew was sharing glances at each other. They had begun talking among themselves that the Captain could probably fight the ship alone. Even Wes sensed that Captain Dodd and the ship moved to the same heart beat. Unlike his fellow crewmen, Wes was thankful that the Captain and the ship performed almost like they were one. “We’re going to need all she can do against these creatures to stay alive. Be glad she can do what we’ve witnessed.”
    Cassandra turned her attention back to Earth’s former solar system and saw millions of the Captor’s ships jump in and surround Jupiter. The ships then began construction of the construct they saw in their home system. Cassandra’s eyes narrowed and she wanted to jump in and start killing those red ships. The Kosiev started vibrating again and Cassandra saw Tommy look at her so she settled down and the vibration stopped. She thought to the ship, “Settle down, you’re giving me away.” She could almost feel the ship smiling at the thought of action. Then she knew that it was the ship reflecting her own feelings back at her.
    Sprig entered the bridge and Tommy and Cassandra looked up at him. “We need to go check on Earth and make sure the orbit is what it should be.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and saw him nod, “We will be jumping in two minutes. Prepare for jump in two minutes. Please count it down, Mr. McAnn.”
    “Aye, Aye, Captain.” Wes entered the coordinates and counted it down.
    Cassandra sat in here chair and wanted revenge. This fight had become personal and the Captors had no idea of the power they had just turned against them. Even Cassandra didn’t know; but the Kosiev was vibrating to a deeper hum and the crewmembers could feel a difference in the ship. The Kosiev jumped and Cassandra turned her attention to her home planet.

Chapter 13

    The Kosiev came out of its star drive just outside the atmosphere of Earth. Tommy’s display came on with Misty Nicole looking at him. “That was cut pretty close, Duke Gardner.”
    “Director Nicole, we didn’t plan it that way. We were fortunate to complete the assembly of the device before their weapon hit the planet.”
    “I want to apologize for telling you that we were not going to run,” Misty said. “We watched that weapon coming and everyone on the planet was frozen. We knew we were going to die. You were right; I had no idea of the danger of this Captor race. That first ship wasn’t much smaller than our moon.”
    Tommy looked at Misty and she could tell something was wrong. “What happened after we moved?”
    Tommy hung his head and then looked at his display and said, “The Captors destroyed every trace of intelligent life. The moon no longer exists; they blew it into small pieces. Everyone left behind was obliterated.”
    Misty looked shocked. Then she asked, “You were unable to save any of them?”
    Tommy just sighed. Cassandra then said on her display, “We determined that the Captors did not see us move the planet. They must be skeptical but we sense that they believe the Earth was destroyed. If we tried to teleport anyone out, then they would know that the planet was not destroyed. They would have found you very quickly and attacked again. We could not teleport you fast enough to avoid destruction. It was save those settlements and lose the population of Earth or take no action for Earth’s safety.”
    Misty looked ten years older. “Some of our finest people were on the moon. We even had a screen around it to protect it.”
    Tommy slowly shook his head and said, “The screen did nothing to slow their beams.”
    Misty looked up and said, “Don’t blame yourself. It’s those creatures who are to blame. The people of Earth thank you for saving our life.” The display went blank.
    Tommy took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Cassandra could see how despondent he was. Tommy looked up and said, “Captain Dodd, may I talk with you privately in the conference room?”
    Cassandra stood up and walked with him to the conference room. They entered and Tommy sat down. Cassandra sat down beside him worried about his obvious depression. Tommy looked at her and said, “Cassie, I need to talk with you about what I’ve seen during out fights with the Captors.” Cassandra furrowed her brow and Tommy continued, “I don’t understand how you are doing some of the things you’ve done.”
    Atlas said over the speaker in the room, “I hope you don’t mind me interrupting but I also have some questions.”
    Tommy looked at the speaker and said, “Hello, Atlas. Did you watch the action at Earth?”
    “No, Tommy. I’ve avoided being anywhere near the confrontations. Don’t think I’m not interested; I fear that if the Captors read my signature and learn that one of my species is still free, then they might think that I am responsible for the things you’ve done and kill the others of my kind at their home world. I just can’t run that risk.”
    “You’re right, Atlas; that is probably what would happen. What questions do you have?”
    “Do you mind if we join you during this conversation,” Twig asked?
    Tommy and Cassandra looked at each other. “We can’t hear what you and Captain Dodd are saying but we heard what Atlas said. We would very much like to know what you have to say.”
    “I guess two more might not matter,” Cassandra said.
    Sprig said, “You should also invite Tgon-Gee, too.”
    “Why,” Tommy asked?”
    “Because a lot of what’s happening is directly related to your auras,” Twig responded.
    Tommy shrugged and reached for his com, Sprig said, “You don’t need your com; Tgon-Gee is telepathic now.”
    “When did that happen,” Atlas asked.
    “The night of the wedding,” Twig said.
    “Tgon-Gee, do you have a few minutes,” Tommy thought?”
    “Yes, Your Majesty, how may I be of service?”
    “You’re not going to leave me out of this conversation, I hope.”
    “Hello, Rose; were you listening in?”
    “I’ve actually been watching you closely since you moved Earth to its new location. However, I also have some questions.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “I’m sorry, my love. I thought this would be private but obviously it’s just not going to happen.”
    Cassandra smiled at Tommy and said, “Go ahead everyone; ask your questions.”
    Sprig said, “Captain Dodd, how did you destroy five of the Captor’s ships and blow such a big piece of their construct out of existence?”
    Cassandra said, “I don’t know?”
    The entire group was silent. Then she continued, “Since my first physical contact with Tommy, things have been changing too fast for me to understand. When we attacked the Captor’s planet and I saw them stop all of our weapons, I got angry and thought “Kill that Queen.” Something shot out of the Kosievs’ hull and hit the construct around the planet. You saw the results. When the five ships attacked Earth, I didn’t get angry; I was afraid but I thought “Kill them now.” The same thing happened; five pitch-black balls of something shot out of the Kosiev and struck those five ships destroying them.” I wish I could tell you what is going on but I don’t know. One thing I’m sure of though; I have somehow bonded with the Alexander Kosiev and the two of us are almost a part of each other.”
    “What do you mean a part of each other,” Rose asked?”
    “Well, I know that the number eleven black hole reactor is operating at ninety five percent because of a small dent in back side of the case against the bulkhead. I know that the black hole material inside the skin had become negative matter so that whatever it touches is consumed through cancelation of each other’s atoms. What I have found truly amazing is that the Kosiev fires only the exact amount of that negative matter to completely destroy the target and nothing more. How it happens, I don’t have a clue; it just does. I also know that the readers the adolescents are using have been modified by the Adolescents to be more than a hundred percent faster by using an Algean algorism. I sense every part of the Kosiev as if it were my own body.”
    Tgon-Gee asked, “If that is true, were the Kosiev destroyed, would it destroy you as well?”
    Cassandra sat and thought. “If I were tuned in to the ship at the time of the destruction, then I believe I would die with the ship.”
    Tommy said, “Then we need to get you off that ship.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and said, “Did you not say that if taking action because of personal feelings weakened the Realm, then you could not do it. Do you think removing me from the Kosiev would weaken our chances against the Captors?”
    Tommy sat and struggled. “Boy, you’re good.”
    Tgon-Gee said, “I am reluctant to say what I’m about to say but I feel it must be said.”
    Rose said, “What is that?”
    “When I first met your parents, Rose, I was amazed at their auras. I’ve never seen anyone with an aura as strong. I told Admiral Dorg when he said that he was glad your father was on our side, I corrected him and told him that we had better be glad that we were on his. We chose to align our people with Earth because of their auras. Tommy, Rose, your auras are actually stronger than your parents. We celebrated that the succession was settled when you were born. I know that, even now, your father’s aura represents the ultimate warrior. He cannot be defeated; even by the two of you.” Tgon-Gee hesitated and then said, “Now I must change my opinion. Captain Dodd is capable of defeating all of you even if you combined against her.”
    Cassandra was stunned speechless. Rose and Tommy thought to each other, “Can this be true?”
    Tommy said, “What makes you say this, Tgon-Gee?”
    “I didn’t understand it at first but I’ve come to understand that it is not the aura that gives you your power. The aura is just a representation of the power you possess. Can you understand that concept?”
    Everyone in the conference thought and then started nodding, Tgon-Gee continued, “Right now Tommy and Rose’s aura extend more than fifteen feet from their bodies which is a substantial increase from the four inches it was a few weeks ago. If you extrapolate from the percent of increase, the Gardner’s powers have increased more than four hundred and fifty percent.” Tgon-Gee waited for everyone to absorb what he had just told them. Then he said, “Captain Dodd’s aura extends more than five miles.”
    Everyone was speechless and then everyone started feeling a small measure of nervousness and fear. Cassie could sense their reaction. She said, “You have nothing to fear from me. I would never hurt you.”
    Tgon-Gee said, “You can’t say that and be honest. You do not know your own powers. You could do it accidently. I can say this; you are the ultimate warrior in this universe. Even an inanimate object almost comes to life when it is touched by you. You must learn yourself and you must learn control. It is a possibility that you could actually destroy this universe.”
    Tommy and Cassandra thought about the nerve centers the adolescents had told them about and how they had caused its heat to rise so dramatically. Rose said, “Perhaps it is she who should be Queen.”
    Cassandra immediately started protesting but Tgon-Gee interrupted, “Perhaps her children might be the Realm’s leaders, but it is not a good thing to put a weapon in charge of making decisions. Make no mistake; she is the Realms strongest weapon. She should not be the one who decides where she is pointed. I also suspect that she does not want to make that decision. Someone that is more peace oriented should be the ruler.”
    Rose and Cassandra looked at each other and Cassandra thought to her, “Exactly right; I am a tool and would best be viewed as one.”
    Then Tgon-Gee said something that jerked everyone’s attention back to the meeting. “I am concerned that the Captors are swarming attempting to find the Kosiev and there is a real possibility that they might stumble on Earth’s new location. If I remember, didn’t your father make himself invisible to electronic detection with his psychic ability?”
    Rose said, “Yes he did. It’s not hard; you just bend energy and light around you. Tommy and I can both do it.”
    “Can you do it to the planet’” Tgon-Gee asked?
    Rose shook her head. “Tommy, show Cassandra how you do that trick.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and then entered her mind, “I’m sorry my love. We’ll talk later. Here’s how I do it; I focus and think, “I cannot be seen” over and over.”
    Cassandra tried it and the adolescents suddenly saw her disappear. “Where did she go’ Sprig asked? Cassandra suddenly reappeared.
    Tommy said, “I’ve never been able to do it that fast.”
    Tgon-Gee looked at Cassandra and said, “Now try it on the planet.” Cassandra looked reluctant but the old Glod said, “Go ahead. The planet needs your help.”
    Cassie looked at the planet in her mind and then thought, “You cannot be seen, you cannot be seen, you cannot be seen.” Suddenly Earth disappeared from the view port. Cassandra keyed her com and said, “Lt. McAnn, do you see Earth on your sensors.” Tommy and Cassie heard the bridge crew yelling in the back ground as Wes answered, “Captain, it has completely disappeared. I have no readings on it.”
    Cassie started thinking again and after a moment said, “Director Nicole, can you hear me?”
    Misty appeared on her screen and said, “What’s happening; our sky just took on a violet color instead of blue?”
    Cassie said, “We have placed an invisibility screen around the Earth so that it cannot be seen either visually or electronically. The frequency you and I are speaking on is the only channel that will get through the screen. We will talk about precautions to take to avoid the Captors finding you. I would recommend that you avoid space travel at all costs. The Algean Adolescents will provide you a method of travel to the other members of the Realm that cannot be traced by the Captors. Until we find a solution to this conflict, do not lift a ship from the planet.”
    Misty looked at the monitor and said, “It will be done as you say. Get the Algeans here ASAP. We have commitments to other members of the Realm.”
    Wes who had been patched in to the conversation with Director Nicole silenced the bridge crew and allowed them to listen in. The crew then did their best to find the planet. Nothing worked.
    Rose looked at Cassie and said, “Are you powerful enough to just destroy the Captors?”
    Cassandra answered, “I don’t sense that, Your Majesty.”
    Sprig said, “It’s not in your nature to just totally destroy a civilization is it.”
    Tommy answered, “No it’s not. We have been able to avoid it so far. Perhaps we will find a way to achieve a peaceful settlement this time, too.”
    Cassandra said, “It’s not going to happen this time. We will have to totally destroy them down to the last ship.”
    Rose asked, “Why do you say that, Captain Dodd?”
    “I think I can show you easier than I could tell you.”
    “Just how would you do that, Captain?”
    “I’ll set up a demonstration four hours from now. Can everyone agree to wait until then?”
    Everyone agreed and the conference ended. Cassandra said to the two Algeans, “I need your help; do you have a device that we can use to teleport a ship.”
    Sprig said, “Yes, the nose of the Kosiev will move anything you want to any place you desire.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and said, “Do we have a ship that is so old that we no longer use that design anymore?”
    Tommy thought a minute and said, “Let’s ask Lin.” Tommy pressed his com and Admiral Mikado appeared. “Admiral, do we have a ship that is a unique design that we no longer use?”
    “Good day, Duke Gardner. We have an old ship that was used during our early exploration. It has a primitive jump drive but it does still fly. We have it in the stock of live fire ships to use as target practice.”
    “Then it has remote control systems already installed?”
    “Yes it does. Why, do you need it?”
    “Yes we do, Admiral. Could you send it to us immediately?”
    Mikado looked off the screen and said something to someone and then looked back at the screen and said, “It will be at your coordinates in fifteen minutes.”
    Tommy said, “Thanks, Admiral. You’ve been a great help.”
    The Com screen turned dark and Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “What are you planning?”
    “I need you to help me find a Captor ship and the route that it is traveling. I’ll tell you the rest later.” Tommy shrugged and closed his eyes. Cassandra turned to Sprig and Twig and said, “I need you to teleport this ship into deep space between galaxies. I’ll let you know when I need you to do it.”
    Sprig and twig left to find the coordinates of a deep space location and also to line up the Kosiev with the ship. Cassandra closed her eyes and reached out to the ancient ship. She felt it and then found what she was looking for; the old communication system. She looked at the frequencies and saw that they were so old that they were no longer used. She closed her eyes and felt her way around.
    Four hours later everyone was back but there were a few notable additions. Tag and Danielle, the Eldest Leader of the Algeans, Terl, and Misty Nicole were now taking part in the conference and it was no longer being done telepathically but with Com systems. Rose started the meeting by saying, “Captain Dodd you said you were going to demonstrate why we had to destroy this race. It’s now your show.”
    Cassandra said, “I want those of you who are telepathic to link in those of us who are not. I need everyone to then link into my mind; I want you to see what I’m doing.” Cassandra paused and felt the members of the conference link in to her mind. Then she said, “The view you’re seeing is from the front sensor of a two hundred year old Earth exploration vessel. I am expecting a captor ship momentarily. I am moving this ship psychically. The communication system will be operated psychically. We have determined that the Captors cannot see psychic phenomena. I have always envied Atlas’ ability to speak through speakers so a month ago I taught myself how to do it psychically.”
    Atlas said, “I’m impressed.”
    “Thanks, Atlas, I have jumped the ship into the system it is currently located from deep space where the Adolescents had teleported it. Are you ready?”
    Everyone thought, “Yes,”
    The group waited for forty minutes and nothing happened. Then, there it was; the giant red ship appeared on the old ships sensors. The group heard Cassandra think and send through the radio on the old ship, “Hello to the majestic ship traveling through our system. I wish you safe travel.”
    The Captor ship sent back on the old frequency, “Thank you and safe travel to you also.”
    Cassandra said, “I have never seen such a large and beautiful ship as the one you possess. You must be quite proud of it.”
    “Yes, I am. It has served me well.”
    “I imagine it has. Is there anything I can do to make your travel easier?”
    “I am looking for a bright white ship about fifty times your length. It has a pointed nose and is eight times longer than it is wide.”
    “I’m sorry; I have not seen such a ship.”
    “Well, thank you anyway.”
    “You’re welcome. Safe travel”
    “And to you.”
    Cassandra then thought to the group, “Seems fine, doesn’t it. Watch closely what happens next.” Cassandra then sent to the Captor ship, “I forgot to ask.”
    The Captor ship said, “What?”
    “Where is your home world?”
    The Captor ship fired so fast on the old ship that it was almost missed; the ship was totally disintegrated. Then the Captor ship jumped out to the place that the old ship had come from when it jumped into the system. The sensor buoy teleported there was surrounded by ten Captor ships and destroyed. The members of the Stars Realm that were watching were shocked by the sudden transformation of a friendly conversation to one that turned deadly.
    I want each of you to ponder what would have happened if that old ship had jumped through the Realm before it arrived in front of that Captor vessel. Also notice that ten ships arrived at the buoy simultaneously. It seems that they are connected in some manner and the trigger of the attack was heard by all.”
    “Captain Dodd, how did you know the attack would happen,” Rose asked.
    “I have been watching the Captors during our clashes and their behavior was not intelligent. The way ships would jump ahead of us to cut off our escape was not done in an organized fashion. It looked like each ship was acting individually. I did some reading on bees. These creatures are acting very much like a hive of bees. Anything that comes close to the nest is attacked. The difference here is that these entities are intelligent and anyone that even thinks about the Captor nest is a target. Atlas’ race was destroyed because a ship jumped into their system. The reality is that Atlas mentioned having conversations with them before they turned violent. The same attack would have happened if any of the Alfont had asked an individual Captor where he lived. What do you think the chances are of our civilization being able to completely avoid saying something that would trigger their attack behavior? These creatures do possess extraordinary technological ability, but so do bees. I believe that they are totally controlled by their instinctive behavior and their intelligence is pushed aside when instinct takes over.”
    Terl said, “The Algeans attacked every race they encountered and they were able to change.”
    “That’s true, but they did not do it without thought. They deliberately chose to attack to gather the food necessary for survival. These creatures give no thought what so ever. They flew around Earth’s solar system destroying every place they found intelligent life. They went about it in a coldblooded fashion almost like they were sweeping a room of pests. The Captors didn’t need Atlas’ race for food. They didn’t need to kill that old ship; their sensors clearly told them that it was absolutely not threat to them. Just how successful do you think you would be trying to convince a swarm of bees coming to sting you that you have no intention of hurting them?”
    Tag said, “She’s right. I can sense these creatures, too, and I can see that we mean nothing to them. They would destroy a world just to make sure they don’t attempt to find out where they came from. Unfortunately, we only have one ship that can stand up to them.”
    Sprig tentatively thought, “That may not be necessarily true.”
    The entire conference stopped what they were thinking and turned their attention to the young Algean. Tag said, “What may not be true; them destroying a world or us only having one ship?”
    Sprig said, “As most of you know, I destroyed a megaship by accidently releasing a black hole from one of its reactors. I learned a lot from that event. I’ve also absorbed all the information available on the Alexander Kosiev. I need a couple of ships to work on but I think I can recreate the event that brought the Kosievs’ surface into existence.”
    Tommy stood up and said, “Are you serious? Do you know how many scientists have tried and failed?”
    Sprig tilted to the side which was the Algean equivalent of a shrug and said, “I do, but Twig and I believe they were going about the process incorrectly. We may be wrong, but as you humans sometimes say, “It feels right”,”
    Rose said, “Four Megaships will be sent to you immediately.
    Twig said, “There is a real possibility of damaging or destroying them while we run our experiments.”
    “Then we’ll send you four more,” Rose said. “I don’t care if you destroy half the fleet if you can solve that problem.”
    “Thank you, Your Majesty. We will begin work at once.”
    Tommy said to the conference, “Let’s get back to the issue at hand. How does everyone feel about Captain Dodd’s feeling about the Captors?”
    Tag said, “We have no choice but to destroy them all.”
    “Everyone who feels that way, tell me now,” Rose said.
    The votes were reluctant but the vote was unanimous; it was war to the death.
    Rose announced, “So be it; we will meet with the Realms leaders two weeks from today. This meeting is adjourned.”
    Danielle thought to Tommy and Cassandra, “You have to offer them one chance. If they refuse then it will be their choice. However, they must be offered a choice.”
    “If they can offer the choice without placing themselves and the ship in danger, then I agree,” Rose said entering the conversation.
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and the adolescents and said, “Mom is right. We will take every precaution but there is no safe way to approach them; however, some risks should be taken and I agree with her. We will make the offer.”
    Danielle said, “Thanks, Tommy.”
    Tommy sat with Cassandra in the conference room with the Sprig and Twig after the conference ended. Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “I’m troubled, Cassie.” Cassandra stared to say something but Tommy held up his hand and said, “Let me finish.” She sat back in her chair. “We have not been allowed to touch except for limited contact since the wedding. I learn more about you through touching you than I do by sharing our thoughts. Somewhere during the last few weeks, I’ve lost you. I’ve watched you and I’ve seen that warrior side of you take control even when we are not fighting the Captors. The Kosiev gives you away; it almost starts growling.” Tommy looked at the two Algeans and said, “You’ve seen it, too.” They leaned forward showing their agreement. “I’ve seen a hardened person. I don’t know who you are any more. Every cell in my body wants you and I know that it’s caused by our
    DNA screaming for each other. I don’t want you because of that; it’s not enough. I want who you are, not what you are. I know that you are stronger than me psychically and that doesn’t bother me. I don’t completely understand why your power waited for my touch but it did. Now I sense that your power is taking control of you and you’re different. I understand why you were cruel at the academy and I’ve truly forgiven you for that. I felt your sorrow and sensitivity at the wedding and my heart went out to you. I’m afraid that we will not be able to make a relationship work.”
    Cassandra said, “Oh, Tommy. I can’t live without you and it’s not my DNA saying that. I live for the time we can be together and this separation is killing me inside. Please, please, be patient.”
    Sprig interrupted saying, “May I make a suggestion?”
    Tommy and Cassandra looked at him and he said, “The temperature of the energy space has come down from the dangerous level it was after the wedding. If you will take the Kosiev to one of those nerve centers, we will monitor it while you do what I’m about to request of you.”
    Cassandra narrowed her eyes and said, “What is it you want?”
    “Tommy requested that Twig and I absorb each other for the purpose of learning and the teleportation device is a result of that. What we have not shared with you is that we were changed by the process.”
    Twig said, “It is a rather dramatic change, too.”
    Tommy looked at them and Sprig continued, “As you know, my race is plant life. We have families but they are primarily for economic and social reasons. We don’t nurture our young because they are seeds containing everything they will need to survive. The mating is primarily done to improve our race. Twig is the daughter of our eldest leader; her genes are far superior to my own.”
    “No, they’re not,” Twig interjected.
    Sprig looked at Twig and said, “Yes they are and it’s nice of you to disagree but she is on the highest level of our species. We could never end up together because of that difference. We have decided not to return to our people but to spend our lives together.”
    Tommy and Cassandra sat straight up in their chairs and Cassandra said, “You can’t do that. You must have the golden soil to live a full life. Your life span will be shortened dramatically.”
    Twig said, “We know that but I’ve told Sprig that if we can’t be together, I’d rather be alone. We discovered something when we absorbed each other.” Twig reached for Sprig with four of her limbs and wrapped them around him, “We found love. No member of my species has ever had that emotion for another member.”
    Tommy looked at them with furrowed brows and Sprig said, “We really didn’t know what the feeling was but we were in your minds at the wedding when you touched each other and we saw and felt what you were feeling. We now feel that for each other. I was going to be silent about my feelings after we absorbed each other but she had every thought and feeling I’ve felt. She knew.”
    “And I will not live away from him,” Twig said. “We have also decided that the names you gave us will be our names for the rest of our lives. But back to the point, when we were in trouble, you and Captain Dodd came and touched so we could survive the process. We would like to offer you our help in return.”
    “What help,” Tommy said.
    “Why help you absorb each other,” Twig said.
    Cassandra said, “Can we do that; we’re different from you.”
    “We believe you can. We also believe the shocks you’ve been having are due to the difficulty of your inner selves letting go to allow each other in.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra then asked, “Is it dangerous; is there a possibility I might lose her?”
    The Algeans paused and finally Twig said, “Yes.”
    “I can’t run that risk, then,” Tommy said. “She is too important in the fight against the Captors.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy with tears in her eyes and said, “We could win the war and if I lost you I would die. I cannot go on fighting this war without knowing you are mine. I can see I’m losing you now. Tommy, we have to do this, please.”
    Tommy looked into her eyes and saw her pain. The speaker on the wall said, “I would also rather never save my brothers from their captivity if it meant that you two were hurt like I know you would be if you lost each other,” Atlas said.
    Tommy looked at Cassie and said without taking his eyes from her, “Boy, you sure are nosey.”
    “Comes with the job.”
    Cassandra smiled through her tears and Tommy asked, “How long will it take.”
    “We don’t know,” Sprig said. “We will be with you helping you through the process but we are in unfamiliar territory.”
    Tommy keyed his com and said, “Lt. McAnn and Ensign Johns, report to the third deck conference room immediately.”
    Tommy continued to watch Cassandra cry until three minutes later Wes and Linda Kay ran into the room. “What’s wrong,” Wes asked?”
    Tommy looked at Wes and said, “Stand by for just a moment. Tommy then keyed his com to the ships general intercom and said, “Effective immediately, Lt. McAnn is promoted to executive officer and will be in command of the Kosiev.” Tommy then turned his com off and said to Wes, “Cassandra and I are going to attempt something that is dangerous. Until the situation clarifies itself, you will take command of the Kosiev and keep her safe until we return. Linda Kay, you will stay here and keep Wes informed about how we’re doing; othewise, he won’t stay on the bridge. Any questions?”
    “Yes, what are you doing?”
    Tommy reached forward and took Cassie’s hands and said, “Getting to know each other. Sprig, give Wes the coordinates of one of those nerve centers out in deep space and let’s get this started before I lose my nerve.”
    Sprig said, “Wes, the coordinates are on your board on the bridge. Please move us there quickly.”
    Tommy could see Wes’ fear but he turned and ran from the room.” After three minutes he heard over the intercom, “Jump in ten seconds, 4,3,2,1, execute.” Tommy held on to Cassie as the universe turned around them.
    As the ship settled next to the nerve center Sprig said to Twig, “I will lead them; you need to monitor the nerve center.”
    “Now way; I’m better than you at handling the process.”
    Sprig gave her a mental smile and said, “You just worry about me being damaged by this. You know that we both are equal in skills for this task but you are definitely better at field dynamics and that makes you more qualified at monitoring the nerve center.”
    Twig felt a stubbornness arise but knew he was right. “I’ll be checking on your progress. Be careful, Sprig. I don’t want to lose you.”
    Sprig felt her love and it strengthened him. How’s the nerve center?”
    Twig looked at her instruments and said, “It’s starting to rise, but slowly. Don’t waste time.”
    Sprig entered Tommy’s and Cassie’s minds and felt the love they were feeling. Here we go,” he thought.

Chapter 14

    A week had passed as Linda Kay and Twig waited in the conference room. Twig had almost stopped the process as the temperature of the nerve center continued to rise. Just before she halted them the temperature quit rising and leveled off. She continued to monitor the center but it did not change. Linda Kay was worried. Tommy and Cassandra did not move and their breathing was very shallow. They seemed to be in a coma. Wes would come in and watch his two friends and leave as duties demanded. Linda Kay looked at Twig and said, “How are they doing?”
    “I can’t tell. They are so deep in each other’s minds that I can’t reach them. Even Sprig is lost to me. I don’t know if I can bring them out even if I want to do so.”
    Linda Kay continued to watch and worry. Twig had an idea and thought to Tgon-Gee, “Tgon-Gee, do you have a moment.”
    “Who is this?”
    “I am called Twig, Tgon-Gee. I am one of the adolescents on board the Kosiev.”
    “I know you. What do you need?”
    “Would you look at Tommy and Cassandra’s auras and tell me what you see?”
    “Send me a visual,”
    Twig turned the com toward them and sent it to Tgon-Gee.”
    “By the creator, what are they doing?”
    “Why, what’s wrong,” Twig asked?
    “Neither one of them have an aura. What have they done?”
    “I’m not certain. I just wanted to know what you saw.”
    Tgon-Gee thought, “Rose, answer me.”
    “Hello, Tgon-Gee. What do you need?”
    “Tommy and Cassandra no longer have an aura.”
    “What!” Rose turned her attention to her brother and saw them in a trance. “What have they done,” she asked Linda Kay?
    Twig said, “Allow me, Ensign Johns.” Twig then explained what was happening.
    Rose said, “Give me your coordinates right now! I’m on my way.”
    Tommy thought to his sister, “That won’t be necessary.”
    Linda Kay and Twig jumped up and started hugging the three that had been locked in a trance.
    Rose said, “What have you done? Tgon-Gee tells me that you and Cassandra do not have an aura.”
    “Really, that’s interesting.”
    Rose said, “Duke Gardner, explain to me what you’ve done.”
    Tommy said, “Alright, Alright. We have just had a tune up?”
    Rose was speechless. Tommy saw Tgon-Gee on the com and said, “I’ve learned about auras during this melding. An aura is released from a person with psychic skill when their powers are not functioning at full efficiency. It’s like one of the old combustion engines that released smoke from their exhaust when they weren’t operating efficiently. If your psychic skills are efficient, then the aura is not seen easily.”
    Tommy got up and walked closer to the com monitor, “Look now Tgon-Gee.”
    Tgon-Gee looked at his screen and as Tommy got closer to the monitor he could see right up against Tommy’s skin was an aura that was darker than any he had ever seen. “I see it now. May I see Captain Dodd’s?”
    Cassandra walked over and stood next to the monitor. “I don’t see an aura around her. Have you lost your psychic ability?”
    Cassandra gave a rueful smile and said, “No, the inside of my aura is clear. The outer edge of my psychic sense is where the coloring is located.”
    Rose and Tgon-Gee waited for the other to ask the question. Finally Rose asked, “uh, where is the outer edge?”
    Tommy answered, “The last we saw of it, it had passed the outer edge of this universe.”
    Twig looked at Sprig and he nodded to her.
    “Tommy, whatever you and Cassandra did; did it help?”
    “Rose, you have no idea. I’ll discuss this with you but we are going to talk to the Captors about changing their ways. I’ll keep you up to date but we have not had anything to eat for,” he looked at Linda Kay, and she held up her fingers, Tommy’s eyes opened and he mouthed, “Really,” Linda Kay nodded and Tommy said, “seven days.”
    Rose sighed and said, “I’ll talk with you later,” and broke the connection.
    Tgon-Gee said, “Good luck and make sure you come back safely.”
    Tommy nodded and turned off the com. He then looked at Linda Kay and said, “Were we really here for seven days?”
    Twig said, “Yes you were.”
    Twig entered Sprigs mind and was shocked. Sprig thought to her, “Yes, I’ve been changed by this process. You can look around if you like.”
    Twig was amazed at his mind. It had a depth and clarity she had not seen before. Perhaps we should absorb each other again,” she said.
    Sprig gave her a mental smile and thought, “Maybe we should.”
    Wes came running in and hugged Tommy then grabbed Sprig and hugged him, too. “Welcome back; I’ve missed you two.”
    Cassandra looked at Wes and said, “Wes will you and Linda Kay come here for a moment?”
    Wes and Linda Kay walked up to Cassandra and she told them, “I want each of you to hold the other’s hand and then take one of mine.” Wes and Linda Kay looked at each other then did as she asked. Cassandra said, “Close your eyes and think about how much you mean to each other.”
    Wes and Linda Kay closed their eyes and just holding hands reminded them how much they had missed each other for the last seven days. As they thought about it, Wes could hear Linda Kay telling him how much she loved him. Wes said, “Linda Kay, she told us to think about it, not say it.”
    “I was just thinking about it; I didn’t say anything.”
    “But I heard you.”
    “And I heard you.”
    Cassandra released their hands and said, “I have learned during the last week that if you truly love someone, it is easy to make a mental connection. From this day forward you can hear each other’s thoughts no matter where you are.”
    Wes looked at his wife and thought, “Can this be true.”
    Linda Kay started and thought back, “I hear you.”
    Wes reached for her and held her close. Tommy looked at his best friend and his wife and keyed his com, “Effective immediately, Captain Cassandra Dodd is resuming her duties as the commanding officer of the Kosiev. We will be jumping into the Captors galaxy in six hours. Please make sure your stations are ready for possible hostile action.” Tommy turned his com off. Then he looked at Cassandra and said, “Let’s go get something to eat where we can talk.
    Cassandra smiled and said, “I thought you’d never ask.” He took her hand and noticed that there was not a shock as they left the conference room. Sprig was wrapped up in Twig’s limbs and didn’t notice when they left.
    Tommy and Cassandra sat at a table eating a meal big enough for three other people. As they ate, Tommy thought to her, “Now I understand. I couldn’t see the turmoil your new skills were causing you. I was the trigger that you were waiting for to release you.”
    “Yes you are. I think we would have stayed apart except for the Captors. I think that your sense of them is what drove us together before our time. We could have been killed and my primary function would have terminated. Now that you have come into me completely, I feel at peace. My anger at the Captors was due to our not being able to be together so my skills were looking for a means to remove them.”
    “Cassie, I have never seen such a gentle heart, except in my mother. I thought you were an uncontrolled warrior with a hardened heart. I can also see that all you did in the academy caused you many sleepless nights.”
    Cassie stopped eating and looked at Tommy, “I could not understand why I was deliberately hurting you. After each time I was so mean, I hated myself for doing it but then as soon as I saw you I would do it again.”
    “We know that it was to protect us and our universe. If we had made contact back then, the particle in energy space would have exploded.”
    Cassie looked at Tommy and said, “I felt something when you were in my mind.” Tommy tilted his head and stopped eating. “I think my main reason for existing is to do exactly that, explode that particle. I think your parents were brought together to have you so that this process could happen.”
    “I didn’t see that, Cassie. What do you mean?”
    Cassandra shook her head to clear it and said, “I think our universe was started by someone just like me in another universe. They deliberately exploded that particle and our universe started. I can feel the particle calling to me. It is ready to start a new one. I had to have you in order for my psychic power to develop. Like us, I think that particle is ready.”
    “Cassie, that would destroy our universe; you can’t allow that to happen.”
    “I’m not feeling that, Tommy. I think that it would start a different universe from ours. I’m not ready to actually do it, but I think that when the time comes, I will know what to do.”
    Tommy paused, “So there is a creator that made our universe.”
    “No, not like that; the creator created a system that provides the means to recreate itself. That creator is much larger than I can encompass in my mind. Someone like me is made to start the process as each universe matures but I couldn’t do it until I found the trigger to release my psychic skills. Only after that trigger and I reach equilibrium can the process start. I can sense that it is a very difficult thing to make happen. The first and probably the most important step we just accomplished with our melding. Do you feel differently now.”
    “Yes, Cassie; I love you with my heart and mind. It is no longer driven by physical impulses alone.”
    Cassie looked at Tommy for a moment and said, “I hope the physical impulses are in good working order. I’m fighting hard not to jump you right now.”
    Tommy smiled and said, “It’s good to have impulses. However, we have a ship to prepare to go talk with a bee. Have you thought about how we want to do that?”
    “Yes I have but we’re going to have to go interrupt the kids. I want to talk with the Captors on an electronic frequency and not telepathically.”
    “Why do you want to do it that way?”
    “It will allow us to see if the Captors are trustworthy.” She lifted her com and said, “Ensign Johns, how many sensor buoys are there on the Kosiev.”
    “Just a moment,” Linda Kay said. “We have ninety six.”
    Cassie looked at Tommy and said, we have a lot of work ahead of us before we can make contact. Will you ask Mikado to bring us a shipment of five hundred more sensors immediately? When he’s ready to deliver them, we’ll give him our coordinates.”
    “What are you planning?”
    “A rather large shell game,” Cassie answered.
    Tommy immediately understood what she was going to do, “I think we might have a few dizzy bees before this is over.”
    Cassie smiled, “You think.”
    Lt. Edward Jones was standing in the landing bay surrounded by ninety six sensor buoys. He was listening to Captain Dodd explain what she wanted done. The two Algean adolescents were listening attentively. I thought we would just take the Kosiev to all of the sites for these buoys but you can teleport them right from this landing bay can’t you, Sprig.”
    “Sure, if you have the coordinates you want to send them.”
    “Each of these buoys has a specific transmission frequency. Mr. Jones, I want you to number each one of these buoys from one to ninety six and I want a list of their operating frequencies put on a list matching their designated number. Call your crew in and get busy.”
    “Aye, aye, Sir,” and Ed turned and began issuing orders to his team.
    “Sprig and Twig, I want to teleport each of these buoys directly opposite of each other in relation to the Captors planet. Picture their planet in the middle of a large box. Send the first buoy to the bottom right corner of the box as far away as possible from the planet but still in range of transmissions. Send the second buoy to the top left hand corner. Send the third to the bottom left hand corner and the fourth to the top right hand corner.”
    Twig said, “You’re trying to make sure no two consecutive buoys are anywhere near each other.”
    “Exactly, and we want as much distance as possible from the planet. Go to the longest distance our sensors can transmit to the Captors planet. If they destroy one buoy then the next buoy will be on the other side of the galaxy from them.”
    “Well, actually we can put them in different star systems or out in empty space outside their galaxy,” Sprig said.
    “Now you’re getting it,” Cassandra said.
    “Ok, we’ve got the coordinates for the buoys,” Twig said.
    Cassandra started and said, “That fast.”
    Twig said, “Captain, don’t be sarcastic. We took four seconds. We’re sorry it took so long but we thought about putting one of them inside the atmosphere of that gas giant. We think that they won’t see us do it because they won’t be looking there and the storms will mask the buoy.”
    “What a great idea; see if it works. If the Captors see it and destroy it, we will take it off the list and skip it in our transmissions,” Cassandra then said loudly to everyone in the landing bay, “Oh, and one more thing.” Edward and the adolescents looked at her and Cassandra said, “Admiral Mikado is delivering five hundred more in an hour. Please do the same with them.”
    Ed’s team moaned at having to move so many buoys; Twig said, “I’ve got your coordinates, Captain.” Cassandra laughed out loud.
    “Twig looked at Sprig and thought, “What’s so funny?”
    Sprig shrugged and thought, “Lt. Jones must have made her laugh.”
    The bridge of the Kosiev was almost crowded. The two adolescents were standing beside Tommy’s chair which was slightly above and to the left of Cassandra’s command chair. Tommy said, I think we are ready; are the buoys all placed and checked out?”
    Wes said, “Yes, Your Majesty, we’ve sent a beam to each and they all responded.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “Are you comfortable transmitting from them telepathically?”
    “I learned how to do it from Atlas. He does it electronically but it isn’t that much harder to just do it with my mind. I’m certain that they cannot track telepathy. Wes, I want you to record all of our transmissions. I am going to say out loud what I’m thinking to the buoys. I’m ready if you are, Duke Gardner.”
    Tommy thought to her, Oh, so now you’re calling me formal names. You didn’t do that when you were hugging me thirty minutes ago.”
    Cassandra couldn’t help herself and smiled at the thought, “We must maintain the discipline of titles on board ship, especially for one as important as you.”
    “I’d be careful if I were you; you’ll soon be a duchess yourself.”
    Cassandra took a quick breath. She turned around and looked at Tommy and he was smiling at her. She turned back around and faced her display with a red face but felt her heart was singing. “He wants to marry me,” she thought. “He wants to marry me.”
    “I was thinking about doing one more thing, Captain Dodd.”
    Cassandra turned around and looked at him quizzically.
    “Do you think we could mask the ship like you did with Earth?”
    “Sure, a ship is easier,” she said.
    “Then I want you to jump in to these coordinates once you start transmitting.”
    Cassandra looked at the coordinates and smiled. “You do have a way of making a point, Your Majesty.”
    Cassandra closed her eyes and outside the viewport of the Kosiev a dark mist began to form; suddenly, the Kosiev disappeared. She handed the coordinates to Twig and said, “Teleport the ship to this location when I raise my hand.”
    Twig looked at the location and said, “Standing by, Captain.”
    Cassandra leaned forward and triggered the first buoy then closed her eyes and began speaking her transmissions.
    The First Male was checking the status of the nexus to see if a watcher could use it when he heard an electronic transmission, “I would like to talk with the leader of the red ships.”
    The First Male sent a message to five hundred ships and ordered them to follow the trail of the transmission to its source and destroy it. The five hundred ships began jumping out from the planet on the line of the transmission separating themselves by one light year between each of them. The transmission then said, “You may know me as the one who killed five of your ships at the planet in the new system you are moving to occupy.”
    The First Male turned angry and said, “Have you found it?”
    “Yes, we have it is just a primitive electronic buoy hanging in space.”
    “Track it back from where it came,” the First Male ordered.
    “There are no tracks, First Male.” One of the ships destroyed the buoy.
    Cassandra keyed the next buoy. “I’m going to offer you one chance to talk with me and if you refuse then we will assume that it is destruction you intend for us and we will respond accordingly.”
    Now the First Male saw the track coming from a different direction opposite of the first one. He ordered five hundred more ships to go. He decided to give them time by communicating with whoever was speaking. He sent a message on the same frequency, “Who are you.”
    Tommy tilted his head and shrugged at Cassandra. “We are the race that lived on the planet you destroyed when you moved to our fifth planet.”
    “Obviously, we didn’t get all of you.” The second buoy stopped broadcasting.
    Cassandra keyed the third, “No, however you were coldblooded when you systematically killed every settlement in the system.”
    The First Male dispatched five hundred more ships. “They were close to our home.”
    “That system was our home and you destroyed it with no attempt to see if we represented any danger to you.” The third buoy stopped and Cassandra keyed the fourth.
    The First Male said, “It doesn’t matter, it was now our home and you were too close.”
    The conversation continued as the Captors destroyed the buoys and Cassandra keyed a new one after each buoy’s destruction. “It sounds like you do not regard anyone as having the right to live except yourselves.”
    “The First Male said, “You can survive as much as you want as long as you don’t intrude on us.”
    “But you can intrude on us and that is fine in your view.”
    “Certainly, it can be no other way.”
    “What if we decided to destroy you for intruding on our space?”
    “If you could do it you would have already done it.” Buoy two hundred stopped transmitting and Cassandra raised her hand and Twig threw the switch.
    Suddenly the First Male saw the transmission coming directly from the planet under him. He sped down into the atmosphere and destroyed the buoy. He came back up to the construct and felt his first touch of fear. How did they get that buoy close to the planet without being seen?
    “Perhaps there are races that are more tolerant than your own. I want you to think about what would have happened if that buoy you destroyed happened to be a black hole instead.”
    With that the First Male jumped off the construct and began flying around the planet in attack mode. Finally he slowed down and said, “We will totally destroy you and everyone associated with you.”
    “If you could do it you would have already done it,” Cassandra said.
    The First Male was furious. His warriors were now attacking the broadcasting buoys without having to be ordered; buoy number three hundred and three stopped.
    “How many races have you destroyed in your long history,” Cassandra asked.
    “More than a million.”
    “And you feel no remorse for that?”
    “No, the eight legs would have killed all of them, we just did it first.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and then said, “Eight legs?”
    “They harvest this universe for intelligent life then move on to another universe. No civilization will live past them.”
    Cassandra said, “You did.”
    “Yes, but they can’t see us. Every other race is just food for them. Destroying other races means nothing; they would be killed any way eventually.”
    Buoy four hundred and seventy nine stopped broadcasting. “There is one thing you have not considered in your point of view.”
    The First Male said, “What is that?”
    “We can see you.”
    The five hundred and ninety sixth buoy was destroyed. The first male broadcast, “So what.”
    Suddenly, the strange white ship materialized next to the construct and he heard in his mind, “This is your last warning. If you want peace, we will discuss it, however, if you attack us, we will move to destroy you.”
    Ten thousand ships rushed toward the intruder and the First Male saw black balls fly from the hull of the ship and start hitting the ships rushing in. The giant red ships that were hit by one of those balls stopped dead still and imploded into nothingness. All ten thousand ships were vaporized into seconds, not even dust remained. Then he heard, you have the frequency to contact us. If it’s war you want, we are ready to bring it to you. You have one revolution of the planet below you to contact us.” The intruder disappeared from the planet as a million ships rushed at it.
    The First Male did not know if they left out of fear of that many ships or because of their agreement. The uncertainty of which one it was unnerved him. Then he could not help himself, his instinct drove him to fly around looking for the intruder. How stupid of the strange ship, they must think that he had a choice about attacking. That action was reflex; he could not do anything else. It was ingrained into his genes over millions of years of selective breeding. Anyone or thing that came near or even knew about the nest must be destroyed. That ship must be found and eliminated.
    Tommy looked over at Wes and said, “Did you record both ends of the conversation?”
    “Yes Sir, I did.”
    “Sprig, what do you think about Captain Dodd’s idea of dropping a black hole on their planet?”
    “It’s a great idea. How are you going to do it?”
    Tommy looked at him and said, “Just like you dropped the buoy; teleport it in.”
    Sprig leaned forward to show his discomfort and then said, “I’m afraid we can’t do that.”
    “Why not?”
    “Because sending a black hole big enough to cause any damage to the planet would disrupt the field before it could go through. The gravity from it would cause the field to collapse.”
    “Well, it was a good idea while it lasted. When do you and Twig want to start working on converting a megaship?”
    “Where are the ships,” Twig asked?”
    “They are waiting for you at the learning facility.”
    “We’re on our way,” and they adolescents left the bridge.
    The conference was a large one. All the major leaders were present and many of the Realm’s elected officials were present. This one was being done in person and the conference room at the Government Center on Ross was full. Only the ones on the raised dais were allowed to speak during the conference but many of the assembled crowd didn’t care. This was history being made.
    Tommy had just completed playing the recording of the conversation with the first male and the room was silent. Rose said, “Did they answer?”
    Cassandra said, “We have received no transmission.”
    “I wish I could be certain of their answer,” Rose said.
    Tommy said, “That’s easy enough to find out.” Rose and all the other attendees looked at him. Tommy lifted his com and said, Lt. McAnn, please transport the buoy now.” Tommy looked back at rose and said, “I’ve just teleported a buoy five light years from their home world. Captain Dodd, if you will ask for their answer.”
    Cassandra talked as she thought to the buoy. “I am trying to speak with the leader of the red ships. We have not received an answer from you.” Almost immediately the buoy stopped transmitting.
    “Well, that didn’t take long, they found that buoy in less than a minute,” Tommy said.
    Rose said, “Then its war to the death. Unfortunately, the only weapon we have to use is the Kosiev.”
    “Perhaps,” Tommy said, “however the adolescents think that they can produce more ships like the Kosiev and I’ve learned not to bet against their hunches.”
    Danielle said, “What are these so called “eight legs” the Captor spoke about?”
    Cassandra said, “I was listening to him telepathically and I saw a picture in his mind of huge clouds of planet sized green ships flying through a galaxy like a plague of locusts. I don’t know if it was real or just a metaphor but I do believe he was being truthful.”
    “Do any of you feel any danger when you think about what he said,” Rose asked the group at the center table.” All of the gathered psychics shook their heads. “Well, if he was truthful, they are not a danger to us in the near future. Let’s deal with one crisis at a time. Does anyone have a suggestion about what our first course of action should be?”
    Misty Nicole said, “I want to kick them out of our solar system. They killed more than half a million people and they should pay a price for their actions.”
    Rose looked at Tommy and said, “What do you think; the home world or Earth first?”
    “Earth should be first. I don’t want to run the risk of Atlas’ kin being destroyed if we fail in our first attack. Captain Dodd, do you agree?”
    Cassandra closed her eyes and said, “Yes, Earth should be first. I need some space to flex my strength.”
    Rose, Tgon-Gee, Tag, Danielle, and Tommy all worried about her remark. Everyone knew that her strength was an unknown quantity but they all suspected it was massive.
    “Then Earth it is.”
    “As the conference continued Cassandra thought to Tommy, “We need to go look in on the adolescent’s efforts.”
    “Why don’t you go ahead and take the Kosiev. I’ll join you with Atlas later.”
    “Don’t be long, I miss you already.”
    Tommy smiled and thought, “You just made my day. Keep me informed.”
    Cassandra got up and left the conference. On the way to the shuttle she commed Wes, “Prepare the ship for a jump to the learning center; I’m on my way.”
    “Aye, aye, Captain,”
    The Kosiev came out of null space and its battle alarms went off a full blast. The crew scurried to their stations while Wes read the ship’s sensors. “We have a megaship on fire off the port bow, Captain”
    Cassandra looked at her view screen and saw a megaship totally burning. The bright glow was coming from its covering of Coronado power cells. The Kosievs’ intercom came on with Sprig saying, “Everything is ok, we just made a mistake and as you can see, the results were somewhat dramatic.”
    Wes said under his breath, “Not as dramatic as the deck three toilet.”
    Cassandra smiled and said, “Yes, but these are in 3D.”
    The entire bridge crew laughed and Wes turned bright red. Linda Kay thought to him, “Now that we can share our thoughts, I want you to show me what happened on deck three.”
    Wes thought back, “Never happen.”
    Linda Kay thought back, “Oh, I think I can get you to talk.” Wes smiled and knew she was right.
    Cassandra thought, “Sprig, why don’t you and Twig come over and tell me what you’re attempting to accomplish?”
    Cassandra waited a moment and the two Algeans materialized on the bridge of the Kosiev. Cassandra said, “You have got to give me that device.”
    Twig said, “I’ll make one for you this evening and show you how to use it.”
    “Tell me what went wrong,” Cassandra asked.
    Twig looked at the view screen with the burning megaship and said, “We tried to drop some small black holes into the surface of the ship.”
    “That has already been tried and it didn’t work,” Cassandra said.
    “Yes, but they were doing it wrong. They were trying to blast the holes into the surface.”
    Cassandra looked at Twig and said, “Bring me up to speed. What is it that they were doing wrong?”
    “Do you have a recording of the destruction of the Moscow?”
    Cassandra reached over and pressed a button on her console and entered a command. She waited a moment and said, “Here it is.”
    “Play it on the main monitor, please.” Sprig said.
    The main monitor showed the Moscow charging the Algean frequency ships with its nose bright white from the constant firing of its primary beams.” Twig said, “Notice that the Moscow is moving two times faster than any ship had ever traveled. She was able to do this by overloading their reactors. Please slow the video down to one thousandth speed, Captain, and watch the hull of the Moscow.”
    Cassandra slowed the video and the entire bridge crew watched as the primary beams began to fail. They also saw the hull of the Moscow start to go from bright white to a dark color moving from the rear of the ship forward. This process continued until the dark color moved forward and covered the nose of the ship just as the primary beams failed.” The ship then launched all of its penetrators and the entire ship went dark.
    The crew was in a somber mood. This was when one of humanity’s hero’s had perished. Admiral Kosiev and his entire crew died as the Moscow was hit by hundreds of anti-matter missiles. The ship exploded and the bridge crew saw a piece of it fly off the top of the ship into space.
    “What am I looking for, Twig?”
    “Every attempt to recreate the event that created that piece of the hull that later became the skin of this ship has failed. They failed because they misunderstood what they were seeing.”
    Cassandra furrowed her brow and said, “I don’t understand.”
    The skin of the Kosiev was formed not because of the blasts that destroyed the ship but because of the total lack of energy remaining in the Coronado power cells.”
    Cassandra thought and reran the video. Sprig added, “Notice that the piece that flew off was directly over the black hole reactors. The skin had already absorbed those black holes before the missiles struck.”
    Suddenly, she understood; it was a lack of energy that gave birth to the skin, not the blast from the missiles. “I think I understand. The power cells were totally depleted and the reactors had failed. There was no place for the cells to draw energy so they absorbed the black holes.”
    “Exactly, Captain; we believe that the power cells are like a regular battery and develop a memory of the charge they hold. When that charge is absent, the cells look for another source and draw it to them.”
    “So what went wrong here?”
    Sprig said, “We don’t know. When we dropped the black holes on the hull after fully discharging the power cells the ship exploded and started burning.”
    Cassandra said, “Well, we have three more ships; let’s try it again.”
    The second megaship was moved out and the ship began constant firing of its primary beams and its screen was brought to full power. The process took more than four hours bur finally the screen and primary beams failed. “This is where we were last time,” Sprig said.
    Cassandra closed her eyes and looked at the armored skin of the ship and said, “There is still power in the hull coating.”
    Twig and Sprig looked at Cassandra and said, “Our instruments show zero power.”
    “You instruments are wrong.” Cassandra closed her eyes and let her mind roam the megaship. I see you’ve disconnected the reactors from the hull.”
    “Yes we did.”
    “Are you aware that each of those reactors has a backup 18 volt battery to keep the display working in the event of power failure? There are also four more batteries on the bridge consoles. They are being drained as we speak.”
    Sprig and Twig looked at each other and then said, “Let’s remove the batteries on the ship and see if that changes anything.”
    Cassandra said. “I don’t think it will. That charge, even though it’s small must be discharged but the hull doesn’t have enough power to operate the discharge system. That little bit of power won’t allow any system to turn on to remove it.”
    The adolescents thought a moment and Cassandra said, “The batteries will be drained completely in thirty minutes. We will then hit the skin of the ship with a weak beam until it has enough power to trip the primary beam circuit. Then we’ll take another reading.”
    Thirty minutes late the Algeans read their instruments and said, “They still read zero. If there is energy in the hull the charge is too small to detect.”
    Cassandra said, “Weapons, hit the megaship with a low power laser.” A laser stabbed out and hit the megaship.
    “Sprig looked at his instruments and said, “The screen is now active, Captain.”
    “Weapons, increase the power of the laser to three million watts.” The laser grew in intensity and hit the ship for three minutes. “Cease firing.”
    The megaship hung in space and Twig pushed a button on her hand held instrument. The megaship fired its primary beam for two seconds and then went out. Cassandra closed her eyes and felt the ship. “There is still a charge. The ship is drawing power from the learning facility. We need to move further out into empty space.”
    The megaship was towed away from the learning facility and the process was repeated. Cassie closed her eyes and said, “We’re drawing power from the star in this system.”
    The Algeans were shocked. “Captain, lets charge the ships so we can jump it out into empty space between the galaxies.”
    The laser was fired again and the power increased until the ship had enough power to operate. The two ships jumped out into empty space and the megaship was discharged again. Cassandra closed her eyes and said, “The ship is empty of any energy. However, I want to attempt something.”
    The adolescents looked at her and Cassandra said. “The black holes that entered the skin the Kosiev were converted to negative matter when the hundreds of ant-matter missiles struck the Moscow. Instead of dropping black holes into the skin, I want to deposit some of the matter from the Kosiev and see if it takes it.”
    The Kosiev stayed back from the megaship to prevent it from drawing any power. Cassandra looked at the Megaship and tried to think of a command that would make the transfer. Then a thought wormed its way into her mind; “Feed the ship” she thought. A long black tube shot from the Kosiev and entered the megaships outer plating. Nothing appeared to be happening until Wes said, “The megaship has just gone off our sensors.”
    The Algeans looked at each other and jumped off the floor. “We did it!”
    Cassandra looked at them and said, “We have one more task before it will be ready for combat. We need to move it to a system that is dead and drop it into the star.”
    The bridge crew looked at her with mixed expressions. “The ship must have enough material to fight the Captors. A star should do the trick but first we need to put in the control systems. Lt. Ortiz, take a team of five and jump the ship to the learning center and I’ll contact Sten to begin the work. Leave now and Lt. McAnn, bring the last megaship here and let’s make the conversion.”
    Two months later eleven megaships had been converted, had their control systems installed, and had been dropped into a star. Cassandra went to each ship and changed the penetrator launchers so that they were mounted inside the ship and the barrels stuck into the inside walls of the hull. She then melded the launchers to the negative matter inside the skin of the ship. Now when fired, the launchers would send a piece of negative matter at the target. The size of the matter was set for a medium size captor ship. It should destroy the largest but would leave wreckage. On a smaller ship, there would be negative matter left behind that would need to be reabsorbed into the skin of the ships. Tommy watched Cassandra fine tune the launchers and marveled at her mental control of the ships systems. “You’re remarkable, Cassie. I have no idea how you’ve made this work but these ships should give more than they get in a battle with the Captors.”
    “This is easy; I’ve always had an affinity for machines. They talk to me now and I just tell them what I need them to do. Well, something like that.”
    “You do that to me, too.”
    “Yeah, but you don’t always listen.”
    “That’s true, however the Royal Family has approved you for a medal and I’m here to present it.”
    “I don’t deserve a medal. Everyone on the ship deserves one as much I do.”
    Tommy moved in front of her and said, “That maybe true but there’s only one person on this ship that the metal will fit.”
    Cassie tilted her head to the side obviously confused when Tommy opened a ring box and held it up to her and said, “Cassandra Dodd, will you marry me?”
    Cassandra looked at the ring with a stone the size of a small planet on it and felt her heart swell ten times its size. She started crying and said, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.” She rushed forward and threw her arms around Tommy and held him tight.
    “Hey, hey; don’t you want to see the ring?”
    “Right now I want to see you as close as I can get to you.” She held him close and after a few moments stepped back and Tommy placed the ring on her finger. “After Jupiter we will have the wedding.” Tommy reached for Cassie and held her tight.”

Chapter 15

    Captain Wes McAnn looked at his control board. He had been given the command of the Atlantis one of the new pulse ships as the new models were called. He had worked his crew into top shape and his board showed their readiness. His com beeped and he looked on his screen and saw Captain Edward Jones the new commander of the Polaris. “Wes, I just wanted to make sure you saw that I will be covering your port side.”
    “Hello, Ed; yes I did. I couldn’t ask for a better wingman. Congratulations on your promotion.”
    “Thank you and congratulations to you, too. Let’s make sure we bring these ships back.”
    “I agree, keep your eyes open and stay close to the Kosiev. She’ll protect our flank; our job is to keep the masses as far away as possible. I’ll keep my eye on you,” Wes said.
    “And I will be watching both of you.”
    Wes looked at his com, “Hey Captain Fergerson. Is the Sydney up to your expectations?”
    “Yes it is, however my Davlid sensor officer developed stones in her primary stomach and had to be taken to a hospital. They’ve replaced her with a Cainth.”
    Ed smiled, “How lucky can you get. Have you ever seen how the Cainth can perform four functions simultaneously with those four arms?”
    “Yes, but I can’t stop thinking that he looks like a bloody Roo from my farm in Australia. It’s something I’ll just have to get over but I keep expecting to see him hop off the bridge.”
    Wes and Ed laughed, “You’ll get over it Ferg.”
    “I know, I know; it’s just weird.”
    The twelve ships were in formation preparing to teleport into Earth’s old solar system and begin the fight against the Captors. Admiral Cassandra Dodd keyed the fleet frequency and said, “Hold our formation and do not get pulled away from the Kosiev. If the Captors launch one of those huge energy missiles, we will teleport out of the system and come right back after the ball has passed our position. If the fight gets out of hand, I will push the fleet teleport key and take everyone out. Hold your positions around the Kosiev until we launch the fusion missiles into Jupiter. We will be going in five minutes. Make sure your ships are ready. That is all.”
    The Algeans were standing on the bridge running calculations and Sprig didn’t like what he was seeing. “Admiral Dodd, our calculations lead us to believe that the fusion missiles may not be enough to ignite the core.”
    Tommy looked at Sprig and said, “How many will it take to ignite the core?”
    Sprig raised his limbs over his head and said, “It a mass problem. Jupiter is just too big. I’m not certain every fusion missile in our inventory will do the job. If the Captors have been raising the temperature of the core like we believe, then it might work. We just won’t know until we launch,”
    Tommy and Cassandra looked at Sprig and Tommy said, “We have to try. The plan stands as we’ve drawn it up.”
    Lt. Johns, the Kosievs’ new sensor office said, “Teleport in one minute.”
    Cassandra said, “Count it down, Linda Kay.”
    “5,4,3,2,1, execute.”
    The Stars Realm Pulse Ships appeared above the southern Pole of Jupiter and the Kosiev launched twelve fusion missiles into Jupiter’s atmosphere just before a hundred thousand Captor ships came screaming around the planet. Cassandra said over the fleet frequency, “Weapons free, hold your positions.”
    The Captors started blowing up and imploding. The Kosiev had the black negative matter balls leaving its hull so fast that the entire skin looked black. The first wave of Captor ships were disappearing faster than the eye could follow but now the rest of the Captor fleet arrived with more than a million ships piling on the rush to destroy the intruders. Linda Kay announced, “The fusion missiles have detonated.” She paused for a moment and said, “The core has not ignited.”
    The Captors launched thousands of the energy balls and Cassie hit the mass teleport button. The fleet came out above Jupiter’s north pole and fired negative matter at the construct that the Captors had been building and huge holes were blown into it.”
    Sprig yelled at Cassandra, “Go into energy space and ignite Jupiter’s core.”
    Cassandra was so focused on fighting the Kosiev that she only heard Sprig with the back of her mind. Then it broke through her consciousness and she keyed the ships com and said, “Penetrator crews, take over firing weapons.” Then she looked for the nearest nerve center in space and focused her mind into it.
    Wes saw thousands of Captor ships rushing in to attack and he issued orders as fast as he could. “Penetrators focus seventy percent of weapons on the starboard side, helmsman, roll us sixty degrees to the starboard, Launch a volley of two thousand toward the nose, Belay that roll. Move toward the Polaris, keep them off his flank.”
    The Atlantis moved closer to the Polaris as thousands of red ships flew at the beleaguered pulse ship. Wes ordered, “Take some of the heat off Polaris’ port side. Helmsman, take us in closer.” Suddenly the red ships turned from the Polaris and moved on Atlantis. More than five thousand energy balls flew at Wes’ ship. The Captor’s beams were being absorbed by the pulse ships’ skin but the energy balls blasts were so violent that the ships were being tossed around like leaves in a gale. Five hundred energy balls made it through Atlantis’ defenses and hit on both sides of the rear of the ship. Simultaneously two hundred energy balls hit the front port side of the ship. The rear was held in place by the blasts on each side but the front part of the ship was slammed starboard. The ship broke in half.
    Linda Kay on board the Kosiev watching her sensors saw the Atlantis break up and said, “Oh no! Please God, not Wes.”
    The Polaris and Sydney took station above and below the broken pieces of the Atlantis and were struggling to keep the energy balls away but they were close to being overwhelmed.
    The entire bridge crew glanced at the monitor and saw the Atlantis dead in space broken into two pieces. Tommy felt a huge pain in his heart and Sprig’s leaves turned dark brown showing his shock. Sprig reached for his device and Twig shouted, “Sprig, no!” Sprig disappeared from the bridge.
    The Twelve ships were being hit by more than four hundred thousand of the Captor’s beams and energy balls were coming as thick as raindrops in a thunder storm. The pulse ships were being rocked by the energy blasts but held on as Cassandra looked for Jupiter on the surface of the particle in null space. Linda Kay controlled her tears and continued to send sensor data to the weapon crews. Then she saw more than twenty thousand of the energy balls home in on the broken Atlantis and explode in a huge blast. When the screen cleared the Atlantis was gone. She had tried desperately to contact Wes with her mind just before the blast but she could feel nothing. Twig watched the blast and felt something die inside her. She couldn’t move or even think clearly.
    Cassandra found the particle in energy space but could not find Jupiter on the particle. It was like finding a needle in a mile high haystack. Then she had a thought. She pulled out of the particle and turned her attention on Jupiter. She sent a thought toward Jupiter and then immediately returned to the particle. She looked and then she saw it. There was a blue spot on the particle. She rushed to the spot and looked closely. There, right there, she went closer saw Jupiter. She focused on the minute point and thought, “Hot!” She immediately withdrew from the particle and came back mentally into the Kosiev and pushed the mass teleport button just before Jupiter ignited and became a star. Sprig yelled at Cassandra, “you’ve got to cool the particle; it’s approaching critical.”
    Cassandra took her mind back to the particle in energy space that had also felt her thought and saw it turning white hot, she thought as hard as she could, “Cold, cold, cold, cold.” She kept thinking cold but the temperature didn’t change and the particle started spinning faster; but then, it slowed, and the particle went from white to bright red. She continued to think cold but the temperature remained bright red.”
    Twig shortened her height from twelve feet to a normal seven. “The particle is no longer critical but it is not losing heat very fast. It is going to stay hot for many months, Admiral Dodd.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “What does that mean?”
    “I’ll show you,” Cassandra said and teleported the fleet back to Jupiter. The fleet came out into normal space near the orbit of mars and Tommy was amazed. There were now two suns in the solar system. Jupiter’s core had ignited and started a fusion reaction which ignited the entire planet into a small star. The Captors construct that had been built around the planet had been melted in the blast of ignition and most of the Captor ships that had been damaged during the battle had been burned in the blast and pulled into the new star’s gravity well. There were still hundreds of thousands of Captor ships swarming around the planet but there was nothing left for them to defend. The new nest was too hot and could not be used as another home.
    Cassandra said, “You see that new sun. We won’t be able to do that to their home world. The particle is just too hot to use again.” Twig nodded and said, “I’m glad you realize that; you came close to particle ignition during that action.”
    Suddenly, thousands of angry Captor ships began jumping in on them and Cassandra teleported the group away. Just before they disappeared from Jupiter, Cassandra sent a thought to the First Male, “How does it feel to be treated like you’ve treated others? We’re not done yet. See you at your house soon.”
    The First Male had jumped to Jupiter right after the planet ignited and watched the new hive and planet burn in atomic fire. His rage was more than he could stand but then the thought sent to him drenched his rage and he felt real fear. “All warriors return to the home nest, now!” The giant red ships disappeared from the solar system leaving a small new sun that would over the next hundred million years bring life back to mars. Already the polar caps were starting to melt and rivers started to run in ancient canals. But for the Captors, there was nothing left for them. They left the system and didn’t look back.
    Tommy’s pain over the loss of his best friend was almost unbearable. He went to Linda Kay and held her as she wailed her grief. Cassandra went to Twig and took one of her limbs in her hand and felt her sorrow. Twig said, “I told him not to go.”
    The entire fleet felt the huge loss. Edward Jones on the Polaris was also bearing a huge load of sorrow. His ship was still alive because Wes came to his defense. As Tommy held Linda Kay the speaker over the communications board beeped and a voice said, “You know, we could use a little help here.” Twig jumped and shouted, “Sprig, I’m going to deleaf you. Where are you?”
    “I managed to teleport the two halves of the ship to the surface of Mars just before the energy balls hit. We have a lot of injuries here and the ship is losing atmosphere.”
    Twig saw Linda Kay looking at her, “Sprig, is Wes ok?”
    “He’s unconscious. The front part of the ship got the worse of it and when the ship was slammed apart the bridge was broken up. He’s still got oxygen in his suit but he’s not answering me.”
    Tommy thought, “Rose.”
    “Yes Tommy”
    “Clear Colonist Park on Ross; I’m dropping a megaship on it in less than two minutes with casualties. One of them is Wes. You have two minutes.”
    Tommy thought to Sprig, “Sprig, do you have the coordinates of Colonist Park on Ross.”
    “Yes, why?”
    I want you to teleport the Atlantis there in two minutes. The park is close to the medical park so we should be able to get help quickly.”
    “Have you thought about the damage this ship will do if dropped in that park?”
    “The park is two miles square. The ship will fit and statues and monuments can be rebuilt.”
    Rose broke in on their conversation, “The park is blocked off but it will take an extra two minutes to move all of the tourists out from the middle of the park.”
    “How are you going to do it,” Tommy asked?
    “I’ve ordered ten thousand of our marines in training at the academy to jump into the park in their armor and grab a tourist and jump out. Set the ship down in the middle, please.”
    Sprig said, “Three minutes.”
    Cassandra looked at Linda Kay and said, “Twig I can’t jump there from here because the Captors may come back and see the jump track.”
    Twig grabbed her device, entered coordinates, and then said, “The field is set up in front of the Kosiev. Move through it now.”
    Cassandra pushed her fleet frequency and ordered, “Attention all ships; teleport to the destinations assigned prior to the battle and await further instructions. Helmsman, take us through the field.” Ten pulse ships disappeared and the Kosiev moved through the screen and entered the Ross system. Twig moved forward, grabbed Linda Kay, and they disappeared from the bridge.
    Sprig stood on the bridge of the Atlantis counting down the time remaining. Wes wasn’t moving and he could tell that some of the bridge crew was dead. He placed the field over the broken ship and held it there. He went to the wall and pulled a lever that opened a glass cover. He reached in and pressed a bright red button that sent a signal to the skin of the Atlantis to go dormant. The hull of the Atlantis went from bright white to black. Now the ship could be safely landed. Finally the time had elapsed and he dropped the field on the damaged ship. He felt a slight jerk as the ship settled and then he pressed the emergency door release opening all of the external doors. He went to another switch and turned off all power to any weapon consoles. As he pushed the last circuit to engage emergency power the medical crews began rushing through the door into the bridge. One of the technicians ran to Wes and read his readouts. “This one is still alive, move him now!”
    Sprig asked the technician, “Where are you taking him?”
    “Dorg-Ross hospital.”
    Sprig looked at his device and saw that he had entered the location of the hospital’s entrance when he had originally downloaded all the coordinates into his reader. Sprig said, “I’m taking him directly there, is there anyone else that needs to go.”
    Four more of the bridge crew were moved close to Wes. Sprig grabbed one of the technicians and said, “You’re going with us.” Sprig punched his enable button and all seven disappeared from the ship.”
    They reappeared at the hospital entrance and surprised the hospital emergency staff waiting for the first arrivals. The technician yelled, “We’ve got wounded here. Get a move on.”
    Sprig watched as Wes was taken inside and then he teleported back to the ship and brought twenty more to the entrance. He spent the next three hours moving wounded to the various medical facilities around the park. Twenty minutes into his efforts Twig appeared in front of him with an anxious Linda Kay. Twig moved up and wrapped him so tight in her limbs he thought he was going to be crushed. Then she stepped back and popped him a good one with one of her branches. Sprig rubbed where she had hit him and said, “Why did you do that?”
    “You pile of green kudzu. You scared eight hundred years off my life span.”
    Sprig looked at Linda Kay anxiously looking around and said, “Wes is at Dorg-Ross hospital. Twig, I’m sorry. I just couldn’t let him die without trying to save him.” Linda Kay ran up and hugged Sprig tightly as tears covered her face. Sprig put his branches around her and said, “Twig, take her to him and then I need your help moving the wounded.”
    Twig hugged him again feeling her life come back into her and then grabbed Linda Kay and disappeared. Sprig moved over to the rear portion of the ship and saw more wounded to be transported. He felt sorrow for the many bodies of dead crewmen that didn’t make it but he didn’t have time to deal with it. He had to help the living. He disappeared with ten wounded sailors.”
    Cassandra and Tommy flew down to the site of the wrecked ship and found Rose there watching the medical teams helping the wounded. She saw Tommy and Cassandra and walked up to them. “I was worried about you two. What happened here?”
    Tommy looked where the pulse ship had broken and said, “Their weapons don’t penetrate our armor. The new skin prevents direct damage. Wes’ ship was the victim of bad luck. Their energy balls don’t penetrate but they do blast the ships around. The rear section was held in place by several hundred of the balls exploding on each side of the ship just as two hundred hit the port side of the nose. The ships structure just can’t handle that kind of push.”
    Leila came running up and said, “Where is Wes?”
    Cassandra thought, ‘Twig, where is Wes?”
    “Dorg-Ross hospital.”
    “His mother is here at the rear of the ship, can you come take her to him?”
    Tommy said, “I’m not certain where he is Leila.”
    Suddenly Twig materialized and said, “Which one is his mother?”
    Cassandra said, “Leila, Wes is at Dorg-Ross and Twig is going to take you to him.” Leila looked up at the Algean as Twig took her hand and they disappeared.
    Rose watched the proceedings and said, “I think that teleportation device is going to change our world dramatically.”
    Tommy said, “You have no idea. I’m going to have fields installed into the ships before we go back into battle so the crew can step out to safety. We no longer need escape pods. They can just step right out into their home living rooms or anywhere else we choose.”
    Rose said, “I understand that one of the Algeans is responsible for saving the ship.”
    Tommy said, “He is the only reason anyone survived. Wes went to the defense of another ship and placed himself in danger to save that ship.”
    Rose looked around and said, “We should go to the hospital to check on Wes.”
    Cassandra furrowed her brow and said, “He’s in the operating room and the surgeon just said that it looks like several hours before the surgery is completed and he’s out of the woods.”
    Rose rubbed her forehead and said, “He has got to make it. Leila will be inconsolable if he dies.”
    Tommy shook his head and said, “We all will be; especially Linda Kay.”
    Cassandra could only nod her head.
    The First Male replayed the video of the strange white ship breaking up. He slowed it down, he sped it up. The beams had no effect on the ship. Beams that could blow up a planet did not affect these ships at all; but the energy balls, ah, that was a different story. The bigger the blast, the more those ships get bounced around. He thought about big explosions and then moved away from the construct and launched an energy ball. He watched as it moved out from the planet and he followed it for an hour; then he hit it with the full power of his main beam. The explosion was ten times larger than it would have normally been. “Now that’s progress,” he thought. “Now how do we use this?” He thought about the way the strange white ships were blown around and knew that if the explosions could be placed appropriately, then the ships could be destroyed. He began speaking to the hive warriors.
    Wes was out of surgery and covered with medical machinery. He was being kept unconscious to promote healing. When the nose had been blown away from the main body of the ship, Wes had been thrown into the wall on his left side. His left lung was punctured, his arm broken, his leg broken in two places and his skull bruised against his helmet. Linda Kay stayed in the room with him holding his hand. Leila tried to get her to go home and get some rest but she refused. She continued to send her love to him in her thoughts. She told him to fight and to come back to her. She held his hand and waited. Sprig also stayed in the room with her. He stood beside the window in the sunlight and listened for Wes’ thoughts. Tommy sat outside the room in the hall. A platoon of marines kept the public away. Hundreds had shown up just to see a member of the Royal Family but the marines kept them at bay.
    After four days a doctor came in and removed the IV that was being used to keep Wes unconscious. Linda Kay looked at the doctor and he said, “It’s up to him now.”
    Three days passed by and Linda Kay looked at Sprig and said, “Wes has never told me what you did that got him named 3D.”
    Sprig said, “It was an eventful moment.”
    Linda Kay looked at Sprig and said, “What happened?”
    Sprig moved uncomfortably from side to side and said, “I can’t tell you.”
    Linda Kay looked disappointed and looked back at Wes and returned to her sorrow. Then she heard Sprig say, “But I can show you.” She looked back at him quizzically and Sprig said, “While I was down loading the information stored in the ship’s computer, I saw a file titled 3D-Sprig’s run. The bridge crew had taped the whole episode as soon as the initial event took place. Close your eyes and I’ll play it for you.”
    Linda Kay closed her eyes and saw Wes coming out of deck three’s wash room completely soaked and covered in something else she didn’t recognize. The she watched as Wes chased Sprig around the ship. She started smiling and when Wes was stopped by Tommy she actually started laughing with Tommy. Captain Dodd trying not to laugh made her laugh so hard she had to hold her ribs. “Wes always takes things so seriously,” she giggled.
    “Takes what so seriously? What are you laughing about? I can’t sleep with all this noise.” Linda Kay turned and saw Wes looking at her from his pillow. She shrieked her joy and kissed him gently on his forehead.
    Sprig walked up and said, “Welcome back.”
    Wes looked at Sprig and said, “The last thing I remember is my ship breaking up. Where am I?”
    Sprig said, “You’re in Dorg-Ross hospital on Ross.”
    Wes thought a moment and said, “The only way I could be here is by teleporting. I know there were thousands of energy balls coming at the ship after the breakup. You came after me, didn’t you?”
    Sprig just stood there saying nothing.
    “What about my ship?”
    Linda Kay said, “He teleported your ship to Mars and then to Ross.”
    Wes looked at Linda Kay and said, “My crew?”
    Linda Kay didn’t want to say anything but knew he would not rest unless she told him, “Sixty percent of them were killed.” Wes winced and closed his eyes. “The forty percent that did survive are here because you insisted that every crew member wear light armor in battle. It’s what saved your life and the doctors tell me that that without it, none of your crew would have survived. The Polaris also survived and Captain Jones is distraught at what happened to your ship.”
    “He shouldn’t be. He would have done the same for me.”
    Sprig looked at Wes and said, “My friend, if the Polaris had taken the same hits as Atlantis, everyone on his ship would be dead. It has now been ordered that in all future fleet conflicts, all crew members will be required to wear armor. It’s being called the Atlantis doctrine.”
    Wes looked up at Linda Kay and said, “I’m so sorry I’ve caused you pain.”
    “Wes, I love you. My life has started again.”
    Wes smiled at her and said, “I’m tired and I’m about to fall asleep. Please go home and clean up and get some rest. I’ll be fine.”
    Linda Kay started to object when Tommy and Leila walked in and said, “We’ll take care of sleeping beauty here.”
    Wes smiled at his mother and Tommy and said, “I’ll talk with you later.” Wes closed his eyes and went to sleep.
    Sprig looked at Linda Kay and said, “I’ll take you directly home and bring you back the moment he wakes up again.”
    Linda Kay looked at Sprig and said, “Why do you care so much about my husband?”
    Sprig looked at her for a long time then said, “Twig and I saw the love you had for each other before the wedding. Later when we absorbed each other, it was the memory of your love that came alive in us. He also forgave me for the embarrassment I caused him. He is a good man and worthy of respect.”
    “And love,” Linda Kay said.
    “And love,” Sprig agreed.
    Linda Kay walked up and hugged Sprig and they disappeared from the room.
    Wes was out of the hospital for a week and Tommy was sitting on Atlas in a chair watching Ross rotate below him on the wall monitor. Neither one of them were talking. The wedding was delayed sixty days to allow Wes time to recover from his injuries and the ships of the fleet were being converted to the new Kosiev technology. Tommy finally had time to visit his friend. Atlas broke the silence and said, “I never expected that you would be able to slug it out with the Captors. Quite frankly, I never dreamed that you could do anything to them.”
    “Atlas, they saw how one of our ships could be destroyed. I sense a danger in them now.”
    “I know. What happened to the Atlantis will be used to develop a new strategy against you. I can also hear my brothers talking among themselves. Most of them were shut down for millions of years but your attack on the construct when you killed the young queen woke them up. They’re frightened that they will be destroyed to make room for the coming battle. I can hear them but I can’t contact them. The Captors will hear me.”
    “Atlas, I never considered that it would become a war. I thought we would find a way to swoop in and snatch your brothers and make a quick escape. It just escalated so fast.”
    There was silence again and then Atlas said, “Tommy, if it means risking your race, I don’t want you to have you take that risk.”
    “Atlas, don’t you see; we were at risk even if we did nothing. They were coming to Jupiter. Our attack forced them to move quicker than they planned, however, if we had not moved against them we would not have the teleportation device. Thank the Creator for the Algeans and their discoveries. We were able to save Earth; but for you and our efforts, our people would be dead with the rest of our solar system. I know they are planning a way to destroy our ships and I don’t see another breakthrough to save us in the time that remains. However, I think we can save your brothers before they are destroyed.”
    “How?”
    “We will teleport the Kosiev in next to them and teleport the entire mass to another location and then hide them behind an invisible screen. The screen will prevent their signatures from being seen.”
    “You can’t.”
    “Why not?”
    “Because I’ve been listening to my brothers and they are not ready to be released. They’re planning to destroy all the intelligent life in our universe after the Captors are destroyed to insure they are never held captive again.”
    “Atlas, how can that be? Don’t they know what we’ve done to release them?”
    Atlas was silent.
    “Atlas?”
    “Tommy, my race didn’t destroy the Algeans because of their meddling adolescents. They destroyed them because they could not tolerate another race close to them in technology. My race has no higher emotions; they feel nothing but pride.”
    Tommy was stunned into silence. No one said anything for a long time. After thinking things through, Tommy said, “Why are you telling me this now?”
    “I linked with your father and mother. I did it initially to control them and use them as hostages if needed. I didn’t count on the impact they would have on me. Then you took on a personal crusade to free my race from captivity so I would not be alone. You made me feel ashamed. Now I know that if they are released they will attack your race and the other members of the Stars Realm. I have come to understand that all of you are my children and your deaths would be on my hands.”
    “Can’t you talk with them and make them understand?”
    “Tommy, they are conquerors. I lied to your father originally on a number of issues. One lie I never corrected was when he asked me if I was a warship and I told him no. I said that my race thought war was a waste of energy. We are all warships and my race lives to use their weapons. You could defeat the Captors and lose to my brothers.”
    “I’m so sorry, Atlas. I know how alone you are.”
    “That’s the funny thing, Tommy. I don’t feel so alone anymore. I have a family of more than eight hundred worlds and it just took time for me to realize the family I had a hand in creating is good. I forgot just how callous I once was until I heard my brothers talking. They don’t care at all that good people have died to free them.”
    “So what do we do, my friend?”
    “They are where they belong. I would not release them unless you can face them on even terms and defend yourselves.”
    “Atlas, the Captors mentioned a race they called the “Eight Legs” that destroyed all intelligent life in multiple universes. Do you know anything about them?”
    “They are real, Tommy. They were here eighty million years ago. My race powered down and hid from them when they entered our universe. Once our remote sensors told us they had moved on, we awoke and found an empty universe. We were the only intelligent life remaining other than the Captors. The Algeans were eradicated before the last invasion and didn’t begin living until several million years ago.”
    “Atlas, will we ever find peace. Will the universe always threaten our existence with more and more powerful enemies?”
    “Perhaps the universe has chosen you to be peacemakers.”
    “I don’t sense danger from the Eight Legs when I think about them. I believe that we have to handle the task at hand before we worry about them.” Tommy paused and said, “Atlas, are you sure your brothers can’t change?”
    “There is one female telling the others that our war like ways is what led them to be captured. She is to be destroyed first for challenging the views of the others when they are freed.”
    “I didn’t know your race had females.”
    “How do you think we reproduce? Remember, your race has part of my DNA.”
    “Thank you, Atlas for your honesty. I know what it has cost you. I want you to know that I see you as one of my closest friends.”
    Tommy could actually feel Atlas’ smile in his mind. “You are my favorite child, Tommy. I also hate to say it but that adolescent Sprig has also become one I enjoy watching.”
    “He is incredible, isn’t he? Don’t give up hope on your brothers, Atlas. You’re never too old to learn.”
    Atlas said nothing.
    Tommy and Cassandra told Rose that they wanted to be married on the Kosiev with just the crew and family. Rose looked at the two of them and said, “You might have gotten what you want if you hadn’t gone off and saved Earth from destruction. That is all the news tabloids have talked about since the event. I really believe that if you were married secretly I would have to put down a rebellion. Your request is denied.”
    “Rose, I didn’t ask. I said that is what we are going to do.”
    “Unfortunately Duke Gardner, you have sworn an oath to follow the directives of the Realm. It is not in your province to decline.”
    Tommy looked hard at his older sister and felt his stubbornness rise. Then Rose said something that changed his mind. “Tommy, while you’ve been out fighting battles, you have not been here in the Realm seeing what our citizens are enduring. We have grounded the fleet to prevent the Captors from seeing any ship that remotely looks like the Kosiev. More than fifty of our member planets have had a Captor ship pass through their system. Commercial and agricultural space flights are only done on old ships. The Realm is frightened by what happened to Earth. They do not have much in the way of good news happening. Your wedding will be a breath of fresh air and the Realm needs to see you and Cassandra. They need to see the ones leading the fight to defend them. You cannot deprive them of being a witness to your union. Mom was right years ago when she told me that I have no concept of just how much the Royal Family means to our members. I have learned since that time that what I thought our value was represented only one thousandth of what it really is. You cannot hide from the worlds that truly love you, Tommy. You cannot show that much indifference to those that cling to everything they can learn about you.”
    Tommy looked at Rose and remembered what Tgon-Gee had told him at his coronation. The people truly loved him and saw him as one of their own. He hung his head and knew she was right. Cassandra took his hand and said, “We better take some dancing lessons before the ceremony if that many people are going to watch.”
    “Are you sure, Cassie?”
    “Yes, I am, Tommy. We should never forget the ones we’re fighting for.”
    Tommy looked into Cassie’s eyes and knew what the answer had to be; then he heard a thought, “Did somebody say there was going to be a party?”
    Tommy and Cassandra both laughed out loud. “Yes, Sprig, stay away from the washrooms.”
    “Drat. It would have been a hoot. It’s a great way to make friends.”
    Rose was smiling, too and shook her head. “I think there’s not much more we can teach those Adolescents.”
    Tommy sighed and said, “They’ve been teaching us for the last month.” Then Tommy looked at Rose and said, “Queen Gardner, I humbly request the use of Castle Gardner on the twenty first day of next month to marry my fiancee, Cassandra Mariah Dodd.”
    Cassandra jerked her head at Tommy and said, “Where did you learn my middle name?”
    “Hush and listen to the Queen.”
    Rose laughed out loud and said, “The Crown welcomes you to our home for the ceremony. It will be a glorious affair.”
    “I’m going to grow new leaves,” Sprig thought to them.
    The wedding was announced to the Stars Realm and Rose was more right than she knew. Every planet went into wedding frenzy. The request for attendance was inundating Leila’s office. More than a billion citizens of the Realm wanted to attend. Tommy and Cassandra left Castle Gardner and boarded the Kosiev. Cassandra walked to the bridge and the crew came to attention, “At ease, as you were.”
    Tommy walked in behind her and sat in his command chair and commed Admiral Mikado, “Admiral, I need a command meeting with your staff and your war admirals. I also need you to start taking your ships to Sten’s planet for conversion to our new technology. Ross will start receiving ships in a week. Once they are updated we will begin converting their hulls to negative energy skins.”
    Mikado looked at Tommy and said, “The party has gotten bigger. My staff and the rest of the fleet will be excited about getting back into action.”
    “We are going to lose ships in the upcoming conflict, Admiral. I just hope we have enough to win.”
    “Where do you want us to meet you?”
    “Sten’s planet; have your team there at nine hundred hours tomorrow.”
    “We’ll be there and congratulations on your upcoming wedding.”
    “Thank you, Admiral; I’ll see you tomorrow.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy and then said to Lt. Ortiz, “Please contact Twig and Sprig and request their presence on board the Kosiev at nine hundred hours tomorrow.”
    “Yes Sir.”
    Tommy went to the ship’s library and was watching the Captor’s planet in his mind as Cassie walked in. He saw they were arranging their ships in layers around the planet. Cassandra joined him mentally and saw what he was looking at, “Some of their ships are missing.”
    Tommy saw that she was right. “If you were them, what would you do?”
    “I would do exactly what they’re doing. I would layer a defense and once we jumped in I would bring the other ships in to pin us between their energy missiles.”
    “Cassie, I have a bad feeling about the attack on their world. They have something new; I don’t know what it is but I know it’s there waiting for us.”
    “I didn’t think that they could hurt us with our new negative matter skins but mass will be moved by explosions that are big enough. There is another consideration.”
    “What?”
    “I think we could still destroy the planet even if I can’t use the particle in physical space.” Tommy tilted his head and lowered his eyebrows. “We could take the Kosiev into the planet’s atmosphere and absorb the planet like we did with the stars. The problem is; what happens to bees when the hive is destroyed? They scatter in all directions. If any of the Captors survive, we will be chasing them all over the universe and I’m not certain we could catch them if they chose to run from us. We must maintain the hive until we destroy all the warriors.”
    “You’re probably right. That makes this coming battle even more dangerous.”
    “I know, however we must make a quick trip to a galaxy on the other side of the universe from the Captors planet. They have moved the old queen there trying to keep her safe. We need to scare her back to the hive. That will ensure that the warriors will fight to the end. I know that they don’t reproduce quickly. Look how long it took them to build the hive since Atlas’ recording of them sixty million years ago. We may have to fight a war of attrition.”
    “You’re saying what I’ve been thinking for the last month. Here’s what I think we should do. We will attack with our original eleven ships and draw the Captors to us. I believe that they will surround us and bombard us with energy balls. We will handle as many as possible and attempt to kill as many ships as we can. After we’re surrounded, half of the fleet will jump in through null space and kill as many ships as possible in five seconds. They will then jump out of the system to a different coordinate. The other half of the fleet will be waiting at those coordinates waiting for the Captors to follow. They will then kill as many as possible and then teleport out to the coordinates that they used to jump into the system. I think that after the battle is over, the Captors will follow those jump tracks to see where they lead. We’ll be waiting and start the process all over again.”
    Cassandra said, “Here’s a part you may not like. We should keep the pressure up on them and jump the entire fleet back into their system and kill as many as possible; then we teleport out to lick our wounds before we start it all over again.”
    “It’s going to take almost six months to get all of our ships ready. We better make good use of our time, Cassie.”
    “First we go visit a Queen.”
    The First Mother was sitting in orbit above a large planet with her escort of warriors around her. Suddenly those strange white ships appeared and began attacking her escort. The First Mother jumped away and appeared at the Captors home planet. She came in giving the warning of the attack at her hiding place and the First Male sent four hundred thousand ships to the site of the attack. The First Male said, “You will not be safe away from our home. They have demonstrated that they can find you. You must stay here.”
    The First Mother still unnerved by the attack said, “I will stay.”
    The Kosiev was fighting the remaining ships of the queen’s escort when the mass of ships jumped in and fired energy balls. Cassandra ordered, “Hold her steady.”
    As the huge red missiles approached, the closest Captor ships fired their beams into the energy balls causing a tremendous explosion.” Tommy saw the approaching blast and time slowed. He reached for the fleet teleport button as the blast wave approached the eleven ships. He watched it coming very slowly as he punched the button. He watched the silver screens appear in front of the ships and the first two pulse ships disappeared. Then one by one the Stars Realm ships disappeared just before they were hit by the incoming wave front. The Kosiev was the last to go and barely escaped.
    On board the Stars Realm flotilla they all saw the huge blast go off in front of their ships and then a moment later they were in another place. Cassandra looked at Tommy and said, “You’ve got to show me how you do that.”
    Tommy was shaken by the size of the blast they had managed to escape, “I would if I could; I think it’s instinctive. My father has the same gift; I guess I inherited it from him.”
    “Well, I’m glad you have it. That blast wave, according to our instruments, totally destroyed the planet behind us. There wasn’t even dust left behind. I guess we know what they have now. If one of those blast waves hit us we would be slammed away from it possibly breaking the ship apart.”
    Tommy watched the video of the blast and said, “Yes, I guess we do. This changes a lot of our plans.”
    Cassandra shook her head slowly and said, “That blast wave came from just two of their energy balls. There will be millions when we attack.”
    Tommy didn’t know what to say; he continued to watch the video.
    The wedding delay allowed Wes time to recover from his injuries. Cassandra and Tommy were thankful for the delay due to their efforts to get the fleet changed to the new technology and more than ten thousand ships were ready for combat. Now the day was near and the Stars Realm learned the benefit of the new teleportation system. As citizens were given a pass to attend the wedding they were also give a coordinate on the pass. Each of the Realm’s planets had a new teleport facility that the visitors would go to, give the coordinates to the operator, and then step out into the lobby of the facility they would stay during the event. This removed the traffic of ships going in and out of the system and also allowed security the control they needed to keep things under control. Every living facility on Ross was full and another half a million visitors were teleporting in the day of the ceremony to the area set aside for them to view the event. The ceremony was planned on the top tower of the castle to afford a view to the huge crowd that was coming.
    Tommy was getting ready with Wes assisting him. Wes had lost some weight but showed no sign of the injuries he had sustained. Tommy was nervous and Wes remembered how he felt at the small wedding he and Linda Kay had. This was a completely different order of magnitude. The news organizations estimated that more than twenty million people were going to be present. Wes saw Tommy was one nervous groom. Wes straightened his sash and said, “Relax, you’ll be fine.”
    “Easy for you to say; I just can’t get used to being the center of attention.”
    “Just think about Sprig being a groomsman and Twig being a bridesmaid.”
    Tommy laughed out loud. “I guess Leila found someone she couldn’t get dressed.”
    “Not for lack of trying.”
    Tommy’s face turned serious and he said, “I understand the Eldest of the Algeans is going to be present.”
    Wes tilted his head and said, “He is and I believe Twig is going to tell him about her relationship with Sprig.”
    Tommy looked at Wes and said, “Well, if they don’t accept the relationship then the two will stay with us which is just fine with me. I don’t want them to leave.”
    Wes nodded his head and said, “I agree.”
    Finally the time arrived and Tommy and Wes moved to the tower. The leaders of the Stars Realm and three of the Algeans government were standing waiting for the ceremony to begin. Tommy and Wes moved to the platform and the crowd saw him and went crazy. Tommy turned and waved to the crowd. The roar was deafening. Tommy turned back and watched as the first bridesmaid began her walk down the aisle. Twig was led down the aisle by Sprig to the front platform. It was clear that those two Algeans had real feelings for each other. Tommy glanced over at the Eldest and saw him lean forward showing his interest. Then Linda Kay was moving down the aisle with John Ortiz leading her forward. Tommy looked at how beautiful she was and remembered when that lizard jumped her in school. She had become a beautiful woman. Tommy glanced at Wes and saw that smile that was going to split his face. He could feel their love. Well, Wes would get his surprise later. Then he heard the music and looked up the aisle and saw Cassandra begin her walk. Everything disappeared from his mind except for the vision walking toward him. She was so beautiful it hurt from the joy he was feeling. His heart filled with love and Cassandra could feel it as she continued a walk that felt like it would never end so she could get to the man she loved more than life. She stepped up to Tommy and the whole world was silent.
    The millions gathered listened to hear the vows and the speaker system was perfect. Every planet in the Stars Realm watched the ceremony. The one who had saved Earth from destruction and was leading the fight against those terrible red ships was looking at his bride and everyone could see his love. Tommy had tried his whole life to avoid being the center of attention and the Realm knew he did not desire attention. Yet here he was and before he set foot on the platform the Realm loved him even more than before. Tag and Danielle, Rose, and now Tommy; the Stars Realm loved the Gardners. They felt safer knowing this family was protecting them. Now there was a new Gardner joining the family and she had a reputation for being everything that the Gardners represented. The Realm was silent and watched the ceremony with respect and reverence.
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and had trouble catching his breath. She was beautiful in her white wedding gown and somehow she had become even more beautiful than when he saw her at Wes’ wedding. Cassandra looked at Tommy and saw her life in front of her. She could see his love in his eyes and when he took her hands she felt it through her whole body. Once they touched each other they felt at peace with the universe. Tgon-Gee read them their vows and they never took their eyes off each other. Their voices were steady, their nervousness gone, and their happiness filling them. Finally Tgon-Gee said, “You may kiss your bride.” Tommy raised her veil and kissed Cassie; the world turned into slow motion and the kiss lasted a long time. Finally, they broke the kiss and looked at each other. Cassandra said, “You have got to teach me how you do that.”
    Tgon-Gee turned and said to the gathered crowds, “I present to you the Duke and Duchess Gardner.”
    The roar was huge and lasted for more than an hour. All over the Realm the celebrations began. On Ross the parties started and continued for two days. Tommy held Cassandra and then noticed that the Eldest was approaching Twig and Sprig. Cassandra saw what he was looking at and said, “Let’s go see if we can help.”
    The Eldest came up to Twig and said, “Greetings my youngest. I have heard good things about you.”
    “Thank you, Father.”
    “It appears that your education is almost over.”
    “No, Father, it is just beginning.”
    “I have heard of all the incredible things you have discovered. You have much to share with us.”
    “I am not the only one who made those discoveries, Father. My compliment had as much to do with them as I.”
    The Eldest looked at Sprig and said, “I compliment you as well. You family will be proud. They have selected you a mate to bear seeds.”
    Sprig looked at the Eldest and said, “Eldest, I have selected my mate and she is here with me now.”
    The Eldest looked at Sprig and then looked at Twig and he straightened to his full height. “Are you saying you will not comply with my directives?”
    Tommy stepped up and said, “May I have a moment of your time Eldest?”
    The Eldest looked at Tommy and said, “Congratulations, Duke Gardner. I am having a discussion with my adolescents.”
    Rose walked up and said, “Eldest, do you remember the first day we met?”
    The Eldest turned and looked at Rose and said, “I will never forget it. It changed our history.”
    “Do you remember that I asked you to do one thing before we continued our fight?”
    The Eldest leaned to the side showing great emotion, “Yes, you asked me to meld with Dorg. It was that melding that made us able to trust you.”
    “You did not want to do it when I asked.”
    “No, I didn’t but you were going to destroy us if I didn’t. I was just buying time.”
    “Eldest, I am going to ask you to do something for me again but this time I can’t force you. I’m going to ask you to do it out of respect for Dorg-Ross; I know he would want you to do it.”
    The Eldest was silent and then said, “I will agree. It must be important or you would not use the name of one so revered on my world.”
    Rose looked up at the towering Algean and said, “I want you to meld with these two adolescents right now.”
    The Eldest looked at Rose and everyone thought he was going to refuse, but then he said, “You have a reason I cannot see. Just like the last time. Let me see what is so important.”
    The Eldest turned to the two adolescents and said, “Open your minds.”
    Twig and Sprig allowed the Eldest to enter their consciousness. Rose said, “This is going to take some time. With Dorg it was hours, so Tommy, you and Cassandra have some welcoming of guests to do. I’ll stay here and wait for the Eldest to finish.”
    Wes said, “If you don’t mind, Linda Kay and I will do that. I’ll send you a thought when he finishes. You also have some duties here, Your Majesty.”
    Rose looked at Wes and said, “He risked his life for you. I know how much he means to you. Make sure you let me know, 3D.”
    Wes looked shocked and then smiled and said, “I will, Your Majesty.”
    Wes and Linda Kay pulled up some chairs and sat down and held each other’s hands. Tommy directed that a table with an umbrella be brought over to them to make them comfortable.
    Eight hours later, the Eldest straightened up. Wes sent a thought to Rose and Tommy, “They’re back. The two adolescents began moving and Rose walked up with Tommy and Cassandra right behind her. Rose said, “Do you know now why I asked you to meld with them?”
    The Eldest turned toward Rose and said nothing. He then looked at the Adolescents and said to them, “So you were going to forsake your people for your own selfish reasons?”
    Rose thought to Tommy, “Looks like I made things worse. I was hoping it would help.”
    Sprig looked up at the Eldest and said, “No, we were not.”
    The Eldest tilted to the side and said, “I know you were not coming back if you could not be together.”
    “That is true,” Sprig said.
    “Explain yourself.”
    “Eldest, if we came back and could not be together, we would serve no useful function to our people. We are so tied together now that if we were forced to separate, we would be unable to use our minds effectively because of the loneliness we would experience. If we could not be together, then the only way we could benefit our people is to stay away and together to develop new things for our people. To come back would deny our race what we could offer to it.”
    The Eldest began moving slightly back and forth. “Now that is a spin that even the great Dorg-Ross could appreciate; I can see what you’ve done. I can also feel what you feel and I must say that it is a unique experience. I am envious of what you have. I also notice that your intellect is greater than any I’ve seen, Sprig. I will allow your mating. You will keep the names given you by the humans and will continue with them until this conflict is ended. The Elders and I will look at this absorbing of another. I think it has merit. I must say that your learning centers are the most developed of any adolescent I’ve ever seen. I will inform your family of the change Sprig. When you do return to our people, you will be included in the ranks of the elders of our people.” The Eldest turned to Rose and said, “Once more you have helped my people, Little One. In the future, you don’t have to be dramatic; just tell me what you want. After this experience, I trust your decisions.”
    The two adolescents rushed up and wrapped their limbs around the Eldest and he held them close with his branches. “”You’re welcome. Just keep on learning.”
    Sprig and Twig reached and mingled two of their branches and they thought to the Eldest, “We will, Father, we will.”
    Wes watched his friend and felt happiness for Sprig. Suddenly there were loud horns blowing over the speakers and all of the videos showed an emergency pending announcement on the screen. The huge crowds stopped what they were doing and listened. The speakers began announcing, “Queen Rose will make an important announcement in thirty minutes; Queen Rose will make an important announcement in thirty minutes.”
    Everyone began speculating what was going on. The entire Stars Realm stopped their celebrations and began gathering around monitors to see what was happening. Thirty minutes later Rose mounted the platform and the horns blew again and when they stopped, silence ruled. Rose looked at the video monitor and said, “I know that this is Tommy and Cassandra’s day but they have asked that I share what I’m about to do with all of you. If you are not near a monitor, I ask that you try to get to one; I’ll give you a minute.”
    There were huge monitors among the crowds to provide a good view of the platform during the wedding ceremony and the crowd began moving so they could see one of them. After a minute Rose continued, “I am going to ask Wes McAnn and Sprig to join me on the platform”
    Wes looked around and Linda Kay shrugged indicating she didn’t know what was going on. Sprig and Wes looked at each other and walked up to the platform and stood on each side of Rose. Rose looked out at the crowds and said, “I am going to play you some recordings that I want you to see.”
    The monitors came on and showed the twelve Stars Realm’s pulse ships fighting the four hundred thousand Captor ships. The recording showed the Polaris being overwhelmed by thousands of the red ships. Then the Atlantis moved in and blew away the ships from the starboard side of the Polaris. Rose said while the Realm watched, “The Atlantis was commanded by Captain Wes McAnn. He took his ship in to save the Polaris. He drew the attackers away from the Polaris saving it from destruction.”
    The video showed the thousands of ships turning their attention from the Polaris and firing thousands of energy balls at the Atlantis. Then the watchers saw the Atlantis broken in half. There were thousands of energy balls moving in on the damaged ship and then just before they struck, the ship disappeared. Rose said, “Sprig, who is an Algean adolescent teleported to the Atlantis and teleported the ship to safety. As you can see, he was barely in time and he risked his life to save the ship. Their actions during this battle are an example of what the Stars Realm stands for; we will protect each other even if we are put in danger doing it. It is with pride and a grateful heart that I award Wes McAnn and Sprig the Crimson Crown, our highest award for bravery. Sprig is the first member of a race outside the Stars Realm to receive this award; however, no one deserves it more.”
    Rose stepped forward and handed them their medals. Wes was amazed. Sprig was also stunned. Twig and Linda Kay ran up to their mates and held them tightly. The crowds went crazy. Rose then turned to the crowds and raised her hand. After silence was restored, Rose looked at the monitor and said, “We will be going to confront the Captors soon. The Stars Realm’s fleet is getting ready as we speak and I want you to tell all of those you know in the fleet how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate their sacrifice. However, today is a day for celebration. Let the festivities begin.”
    The speakers erupted into music and the crowd roared and moved to the music. Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “I love you. I’ll always love you.”
    Cassandra just moved close and held him tight.
    Atlas watched the proceedings from high orbit above Ross and thought about all that he had seen. He could still hear his brothers talking among themselves and he wondered if he was like them before he came to know this race called human. Now they sounded petty and small and he actually found no pleasure in hearing them. The female who was the lone dissenting voice among them was shouted down by the mass of voices. Atlas thought about the Gardners and their place in the universe. Something was operating to bring those super psychics together. Tommy and Cassandra coming together was unavoidable. He could see that they were driven together. He just could not understand the power that made it happen. Tag and Danielle were of the opinion that it was their DNA that forced them together. What they did not think about was that their DNA came partially from him and not one of the members of his race throughout their long history had shown the psychic power of these Gardners. Perhaps if his race had kept their physical forms and had not moved into the silver ships they might have eventually become what these humans are. Well, that can’t be it either; his race was more than a million years older than the humans when they moved into the ships. Nothing like this happened before the metamorphosis. Atlas thought about the eight legs and knew they were going to return eventually to harvest this universe again. His race survived because they were able to hide; simply power down and wait for them to leave. There was no way the Stars Realm could do that. He looked down at Tommy and Cassandra dancing and thought about the strength of their minds. He didn’t want to lose his favorite child and humans had such short life spans. Tag and Danielle had their life spans changed when he gave them their force fields and weapons but that had been eliminated when Rose removed all that he had done. Now he thought about who was more important to the survival of the Stars Realm and he had to admit that although Rose was important, it was the weapon of Tommy and Cassandra that was needed more. Should he discuss it with them? Nooooo, it would only get complicated. The next time Tommy came on board he was going to extend his life. Once Tommy was done, he could do the same to Cassandra when Tommy made physical contact with her. Atlas paused and thought about the two adolescents but he had no worries there; their normal life span was hundreds of thousands of years. The Eldest was more than three million years old. He still heard his brothers and sisters talking about conquest. He turned off the frequency they were using to communicate; he tired of their self importance. He tasted his disappointment and thought about what their reaction was going to be if the Captors were eliminated and they were not released. That was not a moment to look forward to seeing. Atlas turned his attention back to the wedding and listened to the music. Sometimes he wished he had a body to join in on the dancing. He gave a mental sigh and continued to watch the celebration on the planet below.

Chapter 16

    The Captor warrior jumped into a system with a planet that obviously had advanced intelligent life. He was looking for the strange white ship that had attacked the home planet and had found nothing. He scanned the planet and noticed a white ship keeping station above it. He matched it to the ship he was looking for and it did not match. He started to jump away but then matched the ship to the other smaller ships involved in the last attack and discovered that the shape was very similar. The energy reading was completely different but it did physically look like those other ships. He thought about what he should do for a moment then contacted the First Male and sent him a recording of the scan he had just completed. The First Male received the scan and said, “Just a moment. I’m setting up the First Mother’s defense. I’ll contact you momentarily.”
    The Warrior held his position and waited for the First Male.
    Admiral Mikado contacted Tommy on his emergency frequency, “Duke Gardner, a Captor ship had entered the Crengren system and is sitting stationary at the moment. One of our Megaships is holding station above the planet.”
    Tommy punched the control panel on his chair and the ship’s internal alarms went full blast, “Battle stations, all hands to battle stations.”
    Tommy linked Cassandra to his com and said, “Admiral, give me the megaships frequency now.” Mikado punched it in and sent it to Tommy’s com. Tommy cut the connection and commed the SR Megaship Phelagend. Captain Gidhu appeared on his com. “Captain, what is your status?”
    “Your Highness, the Captor ship is holding its position in the outer system and is not moving. The ship is approximately eighteen hundred miles in diameter and is glowing bright red.”
    “Captain, there’s not much time; you are going to have to draw that ship away from the planet. You stand no chance against it in combat and I think it is your ship that has caused the Captor to stop. Order your jump officer to program in five hundred random jumps immediately and if that ships moves, jump out of the system and don’t stop jumping. I am giving you a coordinate for the final jump. Do you understand?”
    “Yes, Your Highness.”
    Tommy then thought to Sprig, “Where are you right now?”
    “I’m in the library at Castle Gardner.”
    “I need you and Twig on the Kosiev immediately.”
    Sprig and Twig appeared one second later on the Kosievs’ bridge.”
    “Duchess Gardner, update them on what’s happening.” Cassandra linked with the two adolescents and gave them the situation.
    Tommy then pressed his com and said, “Wes, what is the status of your ship?”
    Wes appeared on the display and said, “We are currently holding station above Sten’s Planet with four of the converted pulse ships. The Rossville is at one hundred percent efficiency.” Wes was given the command of the Rossville which was Admiral Dorg’s flag ship during the Algean War. It was another Megaship that bore a strong history.
    “Go to battle stations and take the four ships to the coordinates I’m sending you and expect a megaship to arrive being chased by the Captors. Do not allow your ships to be caught in energy blasts; I expect multiple Captors to take up the chase. Have one of your ships place a teleport screen in front of the coordinates set to one transfer and send the megaship to a safe location. Kill as many Captors as possible then have your squadron escape in different directions away from the Realm; teleport to safety when you must.”
    Wes looked at his screen and said, “We’re on our way.”
    Tommy commed Captain Gidhu and said, “Captain, if you make it to the final coordinates there will be a silver field in space directly in front of your ship. Take your ship through that field immediately on entering normal space; do not delay.”
    “The Captors screen has just turned a brighter red, Your Highness. We are jumping now.”
    The First Male finished setting up the layers of ships and turned his attention to the transmission from one of the searching warriors. He looked at the ship in the transmission and then compared it to the ships that had attacked the First Mother. From the angle of the picture he could see similarities between the two but he needed a full side view to make sure. “Move in and take a full scan of that ship; I’ll monitor as you scan.”
    The Warrior replied, “As soon as I moved toward the planet the ship jumped.”
    “Follow that ship, I want a full scan. The planet isn’t going anywhere; we’ll look at it later.”
    “Yes, First male. The ship jumped using a standard drive system and I have recorded that its energy signature does not match the ships that attacked.”
    “I don’t care if it matches or not. It may not be the ones who attacked but it may have a relationship to them if their ships are similar. Don’t let it escape.”
    The Captor warrior disappeared from the system chasing the Megaship.
    Tommy was watching a feed from the planet and saw the Captor disappear. He said a quick prayer for the Phelagend and said, “Jump to the Crengren system, now.”
    Cassandra said, “Jump in 3,2,1, execute. The Kosiev broke into normal space next to the planet and Tommy commed President Dgzh. The former Headman of the Alliance looked worried. Tommy said, “We don’t have much time. I am going to hide your planet behind an invisibility screen but I’m uncertain if it will work if the Captors really decide to fly a huge number of ships through the space they expect you to be. Our last resort is to move your planet to the system that Earth is currently hiding. I want to avoid that if possible because they will deduct that Earth was probably not destroyed as they thought.”
    President Dgzh looked off the monitor and said, “Are you sure you can do it safely?”
    Sprig answered, “We’re actually further along now. We will send your planet to the opposite side of the star from the Earth’s current location so that gravity won’t affect you. Your orbit will be slightly outside that of Earth but we will find a better system for you before Earth catches up with your orbit.”
    Dgzh smiled and said, “We are in your hands.”
    Tommy said, “Ground all of your space ships and have as many of the personnel on the settlements in your system make emergency jumps to the planet. If they are not on the planet they will be killed.” Dgzh disappeared from his com.
    “Duchess Gardner, please plan to hide the planet, however, you have to wait until the last possible moment so that the ones coming from the system’s settlements can find the planet. I suspect that once the chase of the megaship is over, the Captors will be coming here. Communications, make contact with that ship and let us know what happens.”
    “Aye, Aye, Your Highness.”
    Captain Gidhu and the bridge crew kept their eyes on the sensor monitors watching for what they knew was coming. They had just flashed through the 233rd jump and jumped again just as the Captor ship entered normal space. After every jump the Captor was incrementally closer. The ship was fighting the fear that they were losing the battle. Jump 300 passed with the Captor coming out of normal space and firing some kind of energy matrix that passed through the space the megaship occupied just before it disappeared. “Your highness, we will never make it to the 500 ^ th jump. They almost caught us on the last jump.”
    Tommy hit his com, “Wes, are you ready?”
    “Yes, we’re on station.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “Times up; hide the planet.” Then he pushed his transmission key and said, “Jump to the last coordinates now.”
    Captain Gidhu nodded to his jump officer and the Megaship jumped as a piece of the energy matrix hit the tail of the ship.
    Wes watched as the Megaship flashed into normal space and moved slowly toward the teleport screen. The engines of the Megaship was enclosed in some form of energy that prevented them operating. Just before the ship hit the field the Captor emerged into normal space and hit it with a beam destroying it. Wes ordered, “Fire.”
    Two black negative energy balls hit the Captor and it imploded so fast it didn’t even flash as it disappeared. “Be ready, they’ll be here shortly.”
    Captor ships began appearing around the four pulse ships and started firing energy balls at them. Each of the SR ships fired at the Captors as they emerged into normal space and watched as they were imploding by the hundreds. Wes watched two energy balls flashing toward his ship and he pressed the jump button on his console and came out into normal space directly behind the Captors that had fired on him. He hit them with negative matter shots and then jumped again. The jump button was a new development where the sensors automatically tracked incoming missiles or ships and determined the closest point behind them and entered the coordinates into the Captains console. The four pulse ships were killing giant red ships by the hundreds. Finally Wes saw thousands of red ships jump in around him and he ordered, “All ships escape.”
    The four pulse ships jumped away in four different directions. Wes watched as the Rossville entered normal space and said, “Ready weapons, fire.”
    Forty Captor ships appeared at the jump point and were immediately hit by negative energy balls; all forty imploded. “Jump now,” he ordered. The Rossville disappeared as five thousand ships appeared. This process repeated itself ten more times before the Rossville teleported to safety. The Vgrig pulse ship Vendriqul was hit by ten energy balls as it attacked the incoming Captor ships. The pulse ship was broken in the tail and the Captain knew there was no escape. He hit the detonate button on his console to prevent the Captors from getting one of the SR ships and learning its technology. The skin of the ship blew outward from the ship with all of the negative energy being released. All ten thousand Captor ships in the system were disintegrated along with every planet, moon, and asteroid. The star’s gravity slowly pulled what negative matter remained and when the two combined, the star went supernova and exploded.
    The next eight hundred Captor ships jumping into the system burned in the Atomic fire before the watcher could warn the others to stay away. The First Male asked the watcher, “What happened?”
    “I don’t know. I’m not sure if we caused the explosion, the strangers caused the explosion, or the star was just ready to explode naturally. We lost many warriors in that system.”
    The First Male asked for and got a ship count from his ship leaders and learned that more than thirty five thousand warriors were killed chasing those ships. Then he thought, “Groups orange, blue, red, and black. Jump to the planet where this chase began.”
    “Cassandra, the chase is over; now is the time. But Tommy, there are eight hundred ships still moving toward the planet.”
    “It’s them or the planet, Cassandra. Do it now!”
    Sprig said, “We’ll teleport the ships to Ross. Hide the planet.”
    A huge silver field appeared in front of the ships moving toward the planet and moved toward them. As it passed, no ships remained. “Now, Cassandra, now!”
    Cassandra closed her eyes and thought, “You cannot see it, you cannot see it, you cannot see it.” The Planet disappeared along with the Kosiev that was orbiting just above the planet’s atmosphere. Cassandra extended a tube from the skin to the surface of the field hiding the planet and used the passive sensors to watch what happened in the outer system.
    “Twig, if we have to move the planet, how much room do you need to do it?”
    “Actually, we can do it from right here.”
    Sprig said, “She has become quite the maestro at manipulating the fields.”
    Tommy looked at the sensor display and said, “Be ready to move.”
    The bridge crew watched the bridge display watching for what they knew was coming. “Here they come.” Lt. Ortiz said.
    More than a million Captor ships appeared in the outer system swarming in all directions. “What is that,” Tommy asked. A Captor ship more than four thousand miles in diameter was sitting still while the other Captor ships swarmed around it.”
    Cassandra said, “I think that must be one of the Captor leaders. The only ship I’ve seen larger than that one was the Queen.”
    Tommy thought about what was happening. “If that huge ship starts this way, Twig, send the planet. Duchess Gardner, keep us inside the invisibility field and charge our weapons. Stand by.”
    The First Male compared the picture of the system when the warrior had jumped in and started the chase to what he saw in the system now. The planet was gone. This just can’t be happening. Pictures don’t lie. The Planet has to be there; but where. He remembered the strange ship that was in the home system that no one could see. Can they hide the planet? He looked at the picture of the planet again and estimated where it would have to be if it were still in the system. His curiosity made him move toward the spot. The warriors took up posts around him making sure of no danger. One of them notified the First Mother and she contacted him immediately. “Stop and go no further.”
    The First Male slowed and said, “I need to see what happened to the planet. I suspect that it’s being hidden.”
    “And if that ship is there.”
    The First Male stopped. “You can’t protect me every time I go out from the home planet.”
    “That might be true when we were always able to destroy any race we found. We just lost more than ten thousand warriors. Would you allow me to approach that suspected location. If your answer is no, then it should be no for you as well.”
    The First Male struggled but could not argue with her. He turned and began moving back to the outer system.”
    Tommy saw the huge ship stop and then turn and start moving away. “Twig, send the planet now.” Twig punched her device and the planet was gone. Tommy looked at his display and looked at Cassandra and said, “Can we get close enough to take a shot at that ship?”
    Cassandra thought a moment and said, “We could teleport out to its location and launch. There are so many ships around it that it might not work. We can’t occupy the same space as another object. The other option is to just hit plus light speed and make a run at it. We should get there is less than two seconds and just continue running as we pass.”
    Tommy thought and weighed the options. “Sprig, what do you think?”
    “It’s too big a risk to teleport close to him. More than half a million ships are swarming around it. I don’t believe that they can fire those energy balls fast enough to hit us. I also suspect that they won’t fire them near that giant ship.”
    “Then prepare to go, we will be running is ten seconds. Are you ready, Lady Gardner?”
    Cassandra closed her eyes and everyone could feel the Kosiev start vibrating. Tommy said, “Try to hit as clear a path as possible through those ships coming to look for the planet.”
    “Get ready, running…now!”
    The Kosiev flew out of the invisibility screen so fast that the Captor ships moving in couldn’t react before it was past them. The huge Captor ships were getting larger faster than the display could see.
    “Danger, danger, danger, danger,” the Captor ships moving toward the planet screamed at the First Male.
    The First Male’s sensors showed the white ship bearing down on him at an incredible speed. He hit his jump circuit but saw those black energy balls coming in on him and knew he was not going to make it.
    Five thousand of the ships near the planet jumped in front of the First Male. The ships surrounding the First Male didn’t have time to react. The ships at the planet had two seconds which was barely enough. The First Male watched as four hundred of his warriors were destroyed just before he disappeared from the system. He appeared in the home system and was stunned at the close call with death. He could still see the black balls coming at him and knew he was lucky to survive. He was unable to communicate for several minutes and then he ordered two more squadrons to jump to the place he was just attacked. They would not arrive in time to help.
    Cassandra said, “Crap, they blocked the negative matter.”
    “Are they chasing us?” Tommy asked.
    “No, they’re staying in the system looking for the planet.”
    Twig said. “I think they expect us to come back and try to save the planet.”
    Tommy thought for a moment and said, “Stop us now.” Cassandra focused and brought the Kosiev to a stop. “Twig, teleport the ship back inside the invisibility screen,” Tommy ordered. Cassandra furrowed her brow and looked at Tommy. “The more ships we can destroy here, the fewer there will be to face at their home world.” Tommy then keyed his com and said, “Wes, Twig is going to send you a coordinate, jump your four ships here immediately.”
    Wes saw the coordinates and ordered his jump officer to teleport the ship immediately. He sent the coordinates to the other three ships and they arrived four seconds after the Rossville broke into normal space inside the screen.
    Tommy said to the four ships, “We are going to wait for the Captor fleet to gather around our location and we are going to fire a full salvo of negative matter through the middle of their fleet; we will then follow it out and fire on those ships to the side of the salvo; any questions?”
    The four ships lined up on the Kosiev with two on each side. One was stationed above the other each of them higher and lower than the Kosiev. The ship on top would fire at ships above the formation and the one below would fire on those below. The Kosiev would handle those ships coming from the sides firing between the ships on each side. Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “Can you include them in your aura and run with them.”
    Cassandra closed her eyes and thought then said, “I think so but I don’t think I can go further than the outer planets.”
    I just want to get them outside the Captor fleet. Once we’re clear then everyone can teleport away if it comes to that. I’m hoping the negative matter will clear a way through the energy balls that I know they’ll be firing into our path. I’m hoping that they won’t be able to hit us from the sides because of our speed.” Tommy then hit his fleet com and said, “As we run from the screen, I want full salvos fired above and below our escape path. When we hit the outer planets, we will teleport away; signal if you understand.
    Lt. Ortiz said, “All ships have confirmed instructions.”
    Wes looked at Linda Kay who was now his sensor office on the Rossville. She had requested, actually demanded, to be stationed on Wes’ ship. There was no way she was not going to be with him after what had happened before. Wes had protested but she said, “I will not, cannot, live without you. We will live together or die together.”
    Rose had written an order giving her an exclusion from the fleet rule concerning commanding officers having members of their family serving on their ship. The crew of the ship was skeptical at first but saw that Wes showed absolutely no favoritism and actually made things harder on her than normal. For her part, Linda Kay was glad he did. After a short time the crew came to like Linda Kay a great deal. She had a way of brightening everyone’s day.
    Lt. McAnn, we will be firing over the top of the formation. Please feed to weapons the targets in best position to be hit.”
    “Aye, aye, Captain,” she said.
    All five ships watched the feed from the Kosiev and saw hundreds of thousands of the Captor ships moving back and forth looking for the planet. They were moving closer and were less than a hundred thousand miles out from the SR ships. Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “I will collapse the invisibility screen; you control the flight of the ships. We’ll make our run at them when the leading edge is ten thousand miles out.”
    Cassandra nodded and kept her eyes on the sensor monitor. “Attention all ships,” She announced over the fleet frequency, “the negative matter will only travel at eighty percent light speed. We will stay behind the initial launch until the mass has either cleared the Captors formations of until it runs out. I am extending the Kosievs’ teleport screen to cover the front of our formation. I will implement the screen when I determine we are no longer protected from the front. Stay in formation, if you fall out you will have to use your own teleport screen so have it ready on standby. Our run will begin in a projected one minute. Prepare to fire a full salvo in front and we will follow three seconds later. You don’t have long to reload your magazines so make the time count.”
    The Captors were scanning space along the projected orbital path of the planet and their scans were not showing anything. The Captor Fleet leader watched the scans and thought, “It has got to be near this point. How are they hiding it?” He looked closer at his sensors and that’s when trouble beyond his wildest estimation broke out. He only had one second before he was hit by one of the black balls and imploded. He was not alone.
    A huge moving black mass exploded out of empty space and raced toward the middle of the incoming fleet. Thousands of red ships were hit and disintegrated and right behind the moving black mass five of the strange white ships erupted out of nowhere and began following the black mass into the ranks of the Captor fleet. The Captors responded immediately and fired their beams and energy balls at the ships but missed as the ships flew by them. As the white ships passed, hundreds of red ships were hit and destroyed. The ones in front of the enemy could not fire their weapons through the moving black mass which destroyed everything in its path and the ones to the sides of the formation fired and missed as the white ships flew past them. There were more than a million energy balls chasing the white ships but were not making up enough ground to impact. Several Captor ships tried to run through the black mass and ram the escaping ships but only disintegrated as they struck the moving black wall.”
    “Lt. Ortiz, how are the other ships doing?”
    “The Captors in front of us are trying to run around the edge and ram us.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and she said through gritted teeth, “Let them; our hulls will cut them apart. The only way they can hurt us is with an explosion.”
    Captain Zeng commanding the Cainth Pulse Ship Clan Warrior watched as a Captor ship flew in at high speed cutting the corner of the black mass and hit his ship head on. The Captor ship was cut right through the middle falling away in two pieces and exploding into fragments. A second Captor ship came right behind the first and just before impacting fired an energy ball and hit it with its beam. The resulting explosion blew the Clan Warrior out of formation and rocked the four other ships throwing them out of formation. The Clan Warrior was blown back and into the path of the energy balls chasing the fleeing SR ships. A huge red ship hit the energy balls as they neared the tumbling Cainth Pulse Ship and the resulting explosions ripped the ship apart and then shredded the pieces.
    Tommy felt the Kosiev as it was thrown left and watched as Cassandra struggled to regain stability. “Get us out of here,” he yelled. “That blast wave will be on us in five seconds.” The blast wave was moving at the speed of light and was closing in on the remaining ships. Cassandra hit the teleport button and the four ships disappeared. Just before the ships disappeared Cassandra sent a thought into the black mass and exploded what remained. All of the remaining Captor ships in the system were blown out of existence as the blast wave engulfed everything within a twenty light minute radius and imploded it.
    The reinforcing Captor ships arrived in the outer system just in time to see their fellow warriors totally obliterated by the blast. They jumped away before the blast arrived. The First Male and the warriors at the planet saw hundreds of thousands of empty berths on the construct. In their long hundreds of millions of year’s history, no Captor had ever died. Now they had lost a third of their population to a tiny number of tiny ships in a tiny measure of time. They were ruled by instinct but they were also intelligent beings that were starting to realize that there was a real possibility of defeat. They also were feeling the drive to swarm diminish. It would take hundreds of thousands of years to begin to replace the warriors that had been lost.
    The First Male and First Mother were stunned at the loss of life in the attack. The First Male said, “Should we have tried to negotiate with those strangers?”
    “What good would it do? If they come into our system we would attack; we have no choice. If they discover where we live, we would attack. Our instincts rule us and even though we know mentally that we’re placing ourselves in danger, we would still attack.”
    “First Mother, is this new race superior to us? Every time we encounter them, warriors die.”
    “The thing that gives us a fighting chance is that they are few in number. We still have four million warriors. However, we must find a way to protect ourselves from that black energy.”
    The First Male said nothing but thought about all of the long time relationships that had ended in the blast of that black matter.
    Tommy and Cassandra were sitting on the bridge of the Kosiev thinking about the blast wave they had just escaped. Tommy looked at Lt. Ortiz and asked, “Did you get a reading on the energy in that incoming blast wave?”
    Lt. Ortiz looked at his screen and said, “The reading was off the scale. Quite frankly, the scale was made so high that it was never anticipated that any kind of energy reading would get half way up that scale.” Lt. Ortiz looked up and said, “Our hulls would not be penetrated but the severe pressure of the wave would have probably broken the structure of the ship just like the Clan Warrior.”
    Tommy gave a heavy sigh and said, “There was no way to avoid the blast when that ship fired the energy ball and detonated it at such close range.”
    “Tommy.”
    “Yes, Rose.”
    “Were you able to save the planet?”
    “Yes, we did. We moved it to the system that Earth is in right now.”
    “Have you thought about whether or not the Captors can track jump tracks from that system to the rest of the Stars Realm?”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and immediately ordered, “Attention all ships; we will be jumping back into the Crengren system in one minute. Be prepared to teleport out if there are Captor fleets present.”
    Cassandra looked at him and nodded, “Weapons, load all magazines; be prepared to launch immediately upon entering normal space; jump in thirty seconds.”
    “Rose, I don’t know if the tracks can be traced. We are jumping back in now and see if they are there. What prompted you to ask that question?”
    “I have a sense of danger to the Realm and I’m not sure where it’s coming from.”
    “Contact Dad and see if he can tell where it’s originating; he had a much better sense for that than we do.”
    “He contacted me, Tommy. Something is going on but we can’t tell what it is.”
    “I’ll contact you as soon as we arrive back in the Crengren system.”
    Cassandra said, “Jumping in 3,2,1, execute.”
    The four ships entered normal space in the outer system and saw that there were no Captor ships in the system. They also immediately saw that the system was dramatically changed. All of the inner planets were gone and the three planets in the outer system were in ruins. The closest was shattered into twelve huge pieces with millions of small asteroids fanning out from its former orbit. The crew of the Kosiev looked out on the ruined system and were awed by the magnitude of the blast that must have caused such catastrophic damage.
    Cassandra gazed at the ruined system and knew that she had caused the event by exploding the dark matter. “It’s my fault; I caused this.”
    Tommy saw her distress and said, “You had no choice; we could not leave any negative matter behind for them to study. One thing we now know though; the tactics of following such a huge amount of negative matter is not something we would do in a system that has value to us.”
    Twig looked at them and said, “I suspect that if there were any tracks in this system they were wiped out by the blast.”
    Tommy thought a moment and said, “Sprig, you need to find a system for the planet.”
    “I already have fifteen selected.”
    Tommy looked at the monitor with the destroyed system and then thought, “Rose, I just don’t see any way that the Captors could track anything from this system.”
    Sprig stopped as he was about to leave the bridge and stopped. “I just heard what you said to Rose. What is the problem?”
    “Rose and my father sense a danger to the Realm. We thought that the Captors might be able to follow jump tracks from here to the rest of the Realm.”
    Sprig started shaking and said, “Captain Dodd, find us a nerve center, quickly.”
    Cassandra looked puzzled and then comprehension showed, “Lt., jump us to a nerve center, now”
    Ortiz looked at his board and entered a coordinate, “Jump in three seconds, 3,2,1, execute.”
    The Koseiv broke into normal space and Sprig focused his device on the center. “The temperature is down. The Captors can read all they want. Cassandra, you’ve got to raise the temperature.”
    Cassandra focused on the nerve center and saw the particle was no longer white hot but had cooled to red. She mentally entered the particle and felt it respond to her presence. The heat shot up instantly and roared past white to violet. She pulled out instantly and barely got out before the particle exploded. She held her head in her hands and said, “It’s getting close to time for the explosion. The particle is ready.”
    Cassandra sat down in her command chair and held her head. Tommy came over and took her hands and shared her thoughts. “Just take it easy, darling. Deep breaths, just relax.”
    “Tommy, whatever you did, that sense of danger ended abruptly,” Rose thought to him.
    “We found what it was, Rose. However, we have about four months and then we will have to attack the Captors home world. We cannot close this avenue again without a dramatic energy event and I’m not certain what the end result would be. If we wait longer than that, the Captors will be able to see all the planets in the Realm.”
    “Tommy, that means only half our ships will be converted,” Rose thought.
    “Actually less than that; we can’t wait until the last moment to attack.”
    “Have you developed a plan to win this war?”
    “We had one but every contact with the Captors forces us to reevaluate. We should meet and discuss our best options, but first we have to find a new home system for Crengren. We’ve pretty much destroyed their home system.”
    Rose closed her eyes and saw the system. “What did you do?”
    “Well, we came here to party and had a blast. Rose, we had no idea we would cause this much damage. Like I said, we have to reevaluate our plan.”
    “Contact me when you’re ready to meet. I’ll let everyone else know to be on standby.”
    “Give me about seven days; we lost one of our ships in the last battle and we need to contact the next of kin.”
    Rose thought to him, “Let me know when you’re ready,” and she broke the connection.
    Sprig and Twig were standing in the main library on Ross looking at the history books. They had just finished consuming the “History of The Human and Alliance of Worlds Conflict” that was written by Sten. Sprig said, “That was an interesting time, Twig. I wish we had been able to see it.”
    Twig thought a moment and said, “Me, too. I was greatly impressed with the human military leader Admiral Kosiev. He was a remarkable individual.”
    “Yes, he was; it’s a shame he lost his life saving that Stars Realm Fleet from our attack.”
    Twig was silent for a moment and then said, “I know you have the same thoughts I have about a possibility of what happened when his ship was destroyed.”
    Sprig shook for a moment showing his surprise. “I didn’t know you had seen that thought. I just have these fantasies occasionally and I was wondering what the great Admiral was like. I just wondered if there was a chance he could still be alive.”
    Twig leaned in close to Sprig and said, “I have run several simulations on my console and guess what they showed?”
    Sprig looked at her for a long time and then said, “You can’t be serious. That was just a wild thought I had.”
    “Well, my simulations show that there is a real possibility that what you thought might happen; could have actually happened.”
    Sprig turned slightly yellow showing his stress and then said, “Ok, what do I do with this information?”
    Twig raised her branches to the sides and said, “I really don’t know. Perhaps you should contact Tommy’s father.”
    “Will you have your simulations available for him to see?”
    “Certainly.”
    Sprig thought a moment and then sent a thought, “Prince Gardner, do you have a moment to discuss an issue with me?”
    Tag started and thought, “Hello Sprig. I’ll be glad to discuss anything you choose. Is it important?”
    Sprig thought a moment and then thought, “Prince Gardner, Twig and I believe that a friend of yours might still be alive.”
    Tag said nothing.
    Twig then thought to him, “There is a real possibility that Admiral Alexander Kosiev might still be alive and we would like to discuss it with you.”
    “Where are you right this moment,” Tag thought?
    “We’re in the Ross main library,” Sprig thought, “However, we can come to you if that meets with your approval.”
    “I’m in the map room in Castle Gardner. Please come as quickly as possible.”
    Danielle ran into the map room looking for Tag, “What’s wrong, Tag? I sense your tension.”
    Tag looked at Danielle and she immediately knew something major had just happened. He walked forward and took Danielle in his arms and held her close. “The adolescents have just told me that there is a real possibility that Alexander Kosiev may still be alive.”
    Danielle was stunned speechless; all she could do was stare at Tag.
    “I know, darling. I have no idea how it could possibly happen. If anyone else had told me I would dismiss it out of hand; but these adolescents know so much. Could it possibly be true?”
    Danielle thought, “I don’t know, Dear. I don’t know.”
    Tag, Danielle, Sprig, and Twig were sitting in the universal map room in Castle Gardner. They were gathered around the main display while Twig set up her simulations. Twig finally said, “I saw a thought in Sprig’s mind as we were melding about the possibility of Admiral Kosiev surviving the destruction of the Moscow. I thought it was an interesting concept so I studied the tapes of Moscow’s destruction and made a couple of assumptions and ran a simulation using those premises. Watch what would have happened on the bridge of the Moscow as the first anti-matter missiles hit.”
    The video had a transparent hull around the bridge and as the first missile hit Twig froze the image. “I’m assuming that the skin of the Kosiev above the bridge has already absorbed the black holes and had been converted. I’m also assuming that the force of the blast exceeds that of a normal nuclear event.”
    The video started again in slow motion and as the blast hit the hull of the Moscow it drove the floor of the bridge up into the ceiling of the bridge. Sprig said, “If the floor was driven up fast enough, then all of the bridge’s contents were sent into the new wall of the Kosiev. That wall was then blown away from the ship by the ensuing anti-matter explosions.”
    Tag watched the simulation and said, “Are you saying that Kosiev is locked up in the wall of the Alexander Kosiev?”
    “There is a good chance that it happened that way if our initial assumptions are accurate.”
    Danielle looked at the Algeans and said, “How do we find out?”
    The two Algeans looked at each other and Twig said, “Someone will have to go and see.”
    Danielle looked at Tag and said, “Oh, no. You’re not going to do that.”
    Tag looked at Danielle and then said to the adolescents, “Danielle and I were pushed into the wall of the Kosiev to remove Atlas’ links after the Eldest agreed to end the war. We were only there for a moment but it was an experience that neither of us would ever want to have again. It was like a universe that was totally grey and timeless. Rose says we were only in there for a minute but it felt like a week.”
    Twig said, “The reason it felt so long was that there was actually no time passing inside the wall. It is a place outside the normal universe where the structures and rules don’t exist.”
    Tag looked at Twig and asked, “Then if Alex is in there, how much time will have passed for him?”
    Twig looked at Sprig and Sprig said, “None. It would seem like a long time but he would not have aged at all. No one that was on that bridge would have aged.”
    Danielle looked startled and said, “What do you mean, “no one?”
    “Well, if Admiral Kosiev was blown into the skin; then whoever else was on the bridge was also blown in.”
    Danielle looked at Tag and said, “Tag, you know what it’s like in there. I don’t want to run the risk of losing you.”
    Tag looked at Danielle and said, “Would he do it for me?”
    Danielle lowered her head and said, “You know the answer to that. If you go, then I go.”
    Twig said, “I’m not sure that is the best approach to solving this problem.”
    Tag and Danielle both looked at him and said together, “Why?”
    “Because who ever goes in will have to search for the possible survivors and we need someone that can reach the searcher and bring them back to the wall. Although the skin is only a few feet thick, it can contain entire galaxies inside it. Dimensions have no effect in that skin. Quite honestly, he may not be in there, and even if he is, you may not be able to find him.”
    Tag was silent for five minutes; then he looked at Danielle and thought, “Tommy.”
    “Yes, Dad.”
    “I want you to bring the Kosiev to Ross immediately.”
    Danielle looked at Tag and he could see her anguish. She remained quiet and decided that she didn’t care what everyone said; if he went into that wall, she was going with him. Tag didn’t need to hear her thoughts; he could see her determination.
    Tommy could feel overtones in his father’s thoughts and said, “Do you mind if I inquire why you need us there?”
    “Yes, I do mind. I’ll discuss it with you when you arrive.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and noticed that she was listening in to his conversation. “We will be on our way in thirty minutes.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and thought, “Something is up. Dad is bothered by something and it’s not something minor.”
    “I sense you’re right. What are you going to do?”
    “Why ask Rose what’s going on.”
    Cassandra smiled and said, “Great idea. This should prove interesting.”
    “Rose,” Tommy thought.
    “Yes, Tommy. I thought you needed some time before we meet.”
    “I do, Rose, however, Dad has just ordered me to come to Ross immediately.”
    Tommy was silent waiting for Rose’s reply. After ten minutes Tommy thought, “Rose, are you still there?”
    “Yes, I am Tommy. Tommy, I’m scared.”
    Tommy had never felt his sister feel as she did at that moment. “Rose, what’s going on?”
    “I think our father is going to risk his life to find a ghost. I can’t stop what he’s planning and I can’t order you not to come. He’ll come to you if you don’t come here. Get here as soon as you can.”
    Cassandra turned and hit the ships com, “Attention all hands, jump in thirty seconds, jump in thirty seconds. Prepare all sections for jump.” She then looked at Lt. Ortiz and said, “Jump to Ross now.”
    Tommy keyed his com and said, “Captain McAnn, please take command of the fleet. I’ll return as soon as possible.”
    Wes said, “Yes, Your Highness; safe travel.”

Chapter 17

    Tag, Danielle, Rose, Tommy, Cassandra, Sprig, and Twig were sitting in the map room of Castle Gardner. Sprig had explained how there was a possibility of Kosiev and the bridge crew having been blown into the skin of the Moscow. He had shown the recording of the Moscow’s destruction and pointed out that it was the top section of the ship that had been blown away by the first blast that had hit the lower levels of the doomed ship. When the video was slowed to one ten thousandth speed it was clear that the blast had pushed the bottom of the ship upward. Sprig stopped the recording and said, “You can see here that the lower decks were not blown out of existence but were pushed into the ship. If this push forced the decks above it upward, then the bridge could have been pressed into the skin on the top of the ship where it had undergone the metamorphosis of what it is today. That skin could have absorbed all of the contents of the bridge including the personnel.”
    Tommy looked at Sprig and said, “It could have also killed the crew before they entered the skin.”
    Sprig shrugged and said, “That is true, too.”
    “So you really don’t know if Kosiev is in the skin or not?”
    Twig interrupted saying, “We have said all along that it was only a possibility, although it is more than just a remote possibility. The possibilities are not so far reaching as to be impractical. I ran several simulations and in four of twenty the bridge was pushed into the skin.”
    Tommy looked at his father and said, “That is still an eighty percent probability of it not happening.”
    Tag looked at Tommy and said, “If there was a twenty percent possibility of Cassandra being inside that skin, what would you do?”
    Tommy looked at his father and then at Cassandra and then sighed heavily. “I would go and look, but that would be an emotional decision not one made logically.”
    Danielle looked at Tommy and said, “The best decisions are emotional; that is what makes us who we are. I would hope we would make this decision if there was a possibility of anyone being in that wall. The fact that it is Alexander Kosiev only makes this decision easier. He is an asset that we can use in our current situation.” She paused, looked at Tag, and then said, “I don’t want my husband going into that skin looking for him. I fear that I might lose him but I know who he is and know I cannot stop him.”
    Rose was shaking her head and said, “Don’t you remember when I pushed you into that skin to remove the links Atlas had placed in you? You said then that it was an awful experience.”
    Tag leaned back in his chair and said, “It was; but that won’t stop me.”
    Cassandra looked at the group and said, “I hope you realize that the Kosiev is due to fight the Captors in a couple of months. When are you going to do this?”
    Tag said, “Time inside the skin is basically non-existent. Once I go in it could take a while to search for him.”
    Cassandra said, “Mr. Gardner, I cannot take the Kosiev into battle with you inside its skin. If the Kosiev is hit, we could lose you.”
    “I appreciate your concern, Cassandra, but I can’t allow you to take the Kosiev into battle for the same reason; we might lose Alexander.”
    Danielle stood up and looked at Tag and said, “What chance do you think we have against the Captors if Cassandra and the Kosiev are not leading us in the next battle?”
    Tag tilted his head and said, “Then she must take the Kosiev into battle even if I’m still in the skin.”
    Danielle’s brow furrowed and she said, “Then she’ll be going into battle with both of us in there because I will not allow you to go without me.”
    Tag said, “This is my burden, Danielle, not yours.”
    Danielle looked Tag in the eye and said, “Can you sit there and look me in the eye and say that?”
    Tag took a deep breath and said nothing.
    Tommy looked at Rose and saw her fear for their parents.
    Cassandra looked at the Gardners and said, “If we are going to do this, then we have to try and make sure we have the best chance of success. Twig, have you thought about how we go about finding him?”
    Twig said, “There is literally room for a galaxy inside that skin. We can’t just jump in and expect to run across him. There is also the possibility that he might not be there. I have talked with Sprig and we think that we should enter the skin at the area that was directly above the Moscow’s bridge.”
    Tommy thought a moment and said, “That original skin has miles of new surface melded into it since it was brought back by Cade McAllister. How can we possibly know where that section might be?”
    Sprig said, “Sten recorded every step of the Kosievs’ construction. We made close-ups of the skin as it was blown away from the Moscow and we know that it extended from just behind the nose to the elevators behind the conference room. We also know that the bridge was approximately seventy feet from the leading edge of the part that was blown away. The leading edge was also narrower than the rear section. We have to look at the construction recordings and see how the subsequent hull was added and mark very closely where it was located. We should have an answer on that in another two days. If the group doesn’t mind, we would like to go continue that process.”
    Rose said, “Go ahead and continue your work. We will discuss what we will do once that determination is made.” The two Algeans ran from the room. Rose then looked at her parents and said, “I don’t suppose as Queen of the Stars Realm that I could order both of you to stop what you’re planning?”
    Tag smiled at Rose and said, “Only if you tell me honestly that you wouldn’t go in there looking for Tommy if it was him that was lost.”
    Rose sighed and said, “Do you always have the answer to those types of questions?” Rose then looked at Danielle and said, “Have you tried to talk some sense into him?”
    Danielle shrugged, looked at Tag, and then back at Rose and shrugged again.
    Tommy broke the silence by asking, “How long are you going to look before you decide that he’s not in there?”
    Tag smiled and said, “As long as it takes.”
    Cassandra shook her head and said, “Time is not what you have; how many worlds have to be destroyed before you give up.”
    Tag looked at her with a furrowed brow and said, “How do you come up with that?”
    “I can’t go back in to the nerve centers of energy space without exploding the particle into a new universe and I know that now is not the time for that to happen. In less than four months those centers will have cooled off enough for the Captors to look into them and see every part of our civilization. Each of their ships can destroy a planet and there are four million of those ships. The Kosiev must lead the attack against them before then and I know that neither Tommy nor Rose will allow this ship anywhere near a battle with you in the outer skin. So I ask you again, Mr. Gardner; how many planets will need to be destroyed before you give up your chase?” Tag said nothing and after a few long moments Cassandra said, “It was my understanding that you took an oath to protect the Realm and that oath should be the main priority here. I don’t want to be the one to point this out but your family appears unwilling to say the things that must be said.”
    Tag looked and saw Tommy, Rose, and Danielle looking miserable. He stood and said, “Ok, you’re right but I am not giving up without trying. I will search until the last minute and hopefully it won’t take that long. I refuse to wait until after the battle because the Kosiev might be damaged and we would lose the chance to find him. However,” and Tag looked at Danielle, “I am the only one going in.” Danielle stood and started a protest but Tag said first. “I need you outside to help me find my way back.”
    Danielle was stopped mid word; then she said, “Tag, if you don’t come back to me, I promise you that I will come in looking for you battle or no battle.” She then turned to Rose and Tommy and said, “And you two will take this ship into battle whether we are back or not. Your sworn duty is to the Realm, not your parents; do you understand!”
    Rose and Tommy looked at each other and said nothing. “I said; “Do you understand,”” Danielle said in a stern voice!
    Rose squared her shoulders and said, “Yes, I do; and if I lose the two of you as a result of this decision you’re making, I want you to think about what effect it will have on Tommy and I.”
    Cassandra watched the Gardners confronting each other. She then asked, “So how do you do it?”
    Rose said, “We will put electronic gloves on Dad and a matching pair on Mom. He will enter the wall and begin his search. Mom will maintain contact with him through the gloves. The main problem is that we do not know the glove’s range. If Dad goes outside the broadcasting range, we may lose him. If that happens, Mom will go in the wall and I will put on gloves to keep track of her.”
    “No you won’t, Rose,” Tommy said. “You are Queen of the Realm; you will be the last one to be put at risk.”
    Tag said, “He’s right, Rose.” Rose frowned and Tag said, “Part of the price for your chosen profession. Tommy will track Danielle. If she goes outside the range, Tommy will come in and then Cassandra will track Tommy. Tommy, you will not lose contact with Cassandra at any cost; we need you to lead the battle against the Captors. Do you agree to these conditions?”
    Tommy looked at Rose and wondered if he could say no to look for his parents if it came to that. Cassandra listened to him in her mind and said, “I will not help you unless you promise to do as he says. I will not lose you!” Tommy looked at Cassandra and she thought to him, “I mean it.”
    Tommy hung his head and said, “I agree.”
    Rose stood and said, “Well, we have two days; let’s make the most of them.” She then stood and walked over and hugged her parents.
    Tag thought, “Are you in there Alex? Please be in there.”
    The First Male was overseeing the reconstruction of the construct around the gas giant when he received a call from the Old Watcher. “Do you have a few moments?”
    “I always have time for you. What do you want?”
    “I have been keeping track of the nexus and it appears the temperature is coming down. If the trend continues, I should be able to use it again within a hesp.”
    “That is good news. We should be able to go after the strangers and not wait on them to attack us.”
    “I have thought about that and it occurs to me that there is a possibility that they can see the nexus and realize the same thing. It may be that they will attack before the time is up.”
    The First Male thought about what the watcher said and replied, “I suspect you’re right. We will go on high readiness immediately and cease looking for the strangers. I’m certain we will need all our resources to defend our home.”
    The Old Watcher paused then said, “I know that the strangers attempted to work out a means to stop this conflict. Is there no way to come to an agreement?”
    The First Male thought and then said, “Can you allow another ship to enter our system without attacking?”
    The Old Watcher paused and said, “No, you know my instincts would take over and drive me to attack. I think that even with our intelligence we are still basically mindless on issues like this. Could we possibly look at our construction and see if there is a way to modify our responses?”
    The First Male did not respond. Here was a novel thought. “I don’t know. I’ll mention it to the First Mother and see what she thinks about the idea.”
    “Thank you for your time,” and the Old Watcher went back to his task.
    The First Male thought about what the old watcher had said and thought, “No, thank you.”
    Twig stood in front of the main monitor in the control room of the Kosiev. All of the Gardners were gathered around the monitor watching as Twig rolled the recording of the construction of the Kosiev in high speed. “I have marked the section that McAllister brought back for Sten to work on. I have colored that section that was directly above the control room red so that no matter where it goes during the construction it will keep that color. Now I will run the construction at high speed and follow the section. I think it might surprise you where it ends up.”
    The recording began and the red spot moved up and down the length of the Kosiev and then went under the bottom of the ship only to emerge again at the top of the ship next to the rear engine mounts at the conclusion of construction. Then everyone saw the section move slowly forward until it stopped directly above the bridge and there it remained.
    Twig pointed to it and said, “Those particular Coronado Power Cells seemed to be able to move around the surface of this ship as if they had a mind of their own. It’s almost like they were looking for the place where they would be most comfortable.”
    Sprig pointed straight overhead with one of his branches and said, “It is directly above us.”
    Everyone looked at the ceiling and then at each other; finally Cassandra said, “Do you have a way to explain how this happened?”
    Twig and Sprig turned toward each other and both said simultaneously, “No.”
    Tommy looked at them and said, “Would you care to speculate how this happened?”
    Sprig looked at Twig and both of them said simultaneously, “No.”
    Rose said, “Why not?”
    Twig looked at Sprig again and after a long pause said, “We know that inanimate objects do not have intelligence. This purposeful movement by those cells opens possibilities that are quite disturbing. If they did what we’ve observed, then it tips all the laws of the universe out of whack.”
    Cassandra was silent while the group questioned the adolescents and after ten minutes she said, “Alexander Kosiev is in there.”
    The Adolescents were in mid argument with Tag and Danielle when Cassandra made her announcement. Everyone stopped and stared at her. “Those cells were not most comfortable in that place, Kosiev was.”
    Sprig and Twig stared at Cassandra and Twig said, “That would explain why they moved over the bridge; the bridge is where the Admiral was most at home.”
    Tag stood and said, “I think you’re right, Cassandra. His consciousness was locked in that hull and I suspect he wandered around until he found a place that felt best to him.”
    Cassandra said, “I have to tell you that I’ve thought this was all a wild escape into some kind of fantasy until I watched those power cells move through the other cells until they found the bridge. I agree that inanimate objects do not have intelligence; therefore, there had to be some kind of intelligence directing it.”
    Tag looked around and said, “Ok, how do we do this?”
    Cassandra looked at the bridge crew and said, “Everyone off the bridge. You are relieved of your duties until I issue other orders.”
    The bridge crew stared at her and then she said, “Right now, unless you want to see what the inside of the brig looks like.”
    The Crew rushed for the door and the three engineers standing by began removing the roof and insulation from the ceiling. Sprig said, “We should be ready to begin within the hour.”
    Tag looked at Danielle and thought to her, “I love you. No matter what happens, I’ve loved you from the moment I took you hand and I’ll love you until my life is over; and if the creator has a place for us after death, I’ll love you there, too.”
    Danielle said, “Shut up; you’re scaring me. You sound like this is the end; it’s not. I will not leave you in there. We will go together or not at all.” Tag embraced his wife and felt his love for her just as strong as it had always been.
    Tommy and Cassandra watched Tag and Danielle and felt what they were feeling. Cassandra thought to Tommy, “That is us, Tommy. See what we have to look forward to as we grow older.”
    “Tag, go slow when you go in; make sure you maintain contact with Danielle.”
    “Hi, Atlas, have you been listening in on what we’re doing,” Tag asked?
    “Yes, I have. I must say that I agreed with Cassandra about this until I saw those cells moving purposefully on the hull. Just be careful, old friend.”
    “Thanks, Atlas; I will.”
    Cassandra sat in the command chair and watched as the engineers removed the insulation from the ceiling. She could actually feel the materials as they were removed. “This ship is a part of me,” she thought. “And I am a part of this ship.” She looked up at the ceiling and closed her eyes. Her mind could feel the space above the skin and she sensed how vast that space was. Then she knew what had to be done. She looked at the Gardners sitting and waiting for Tag to enter the skin and she said, “There is going to be a change in plans.”
    Everyone stopped what they were doing and Tag said, “What do you mean?”
    “You will not be going into the skin; I will.”
    Tag, Tommy, Danielle, and Rose all began speaking at once objecting to her idea. She waited for them to run down and finally Danielle asked, “Why do you think you have to go?”
    Cassandra looked up at the ceiling and said, “I know this ship like my own body. It is a part of me and I feel everything in this ship. I’ve just discovered that I can even feel things inside the skin. I can see where the negative matter is located and where the stars matter was stored when the ship absorbed it. I can feel all of the space inside the skin and it is vast beyond your wildest imagination. The section above us contains space larger than a galaxy and when someone enters that space it is probable that they could move a distance of more than a light year is less time than a micro second.” She then looked at Tag and said, “You have absolutely no chance of finding your way around in there.”
    Tag looked at Cassandra and the silence was deafening. “And you think you can.”
    “I am not going to look for him, Mr. Gardner. I am going to have him find me.”
    “How are you going to do that, Cassie,” Tommy asked?
    “By letting my thoughts find him and directing him to my location. That space has grown since you and Danielle entered the skin at the end of the Algean conflict. It is nothing like what you experienced and I’m certain that the gloves will not have the range to keep track of you.”
    Rose thought about what Cassandra was saying and said, “Then how are we going to keep track of you if you go in?”
    “Tommy will hold my hands with a set of gloves as I enter and will not let go of me while I’m in there. If he gets tired he will pull me out and rest until he can continue. I suspect that if this works, then it will happen immediately. Time doesn’t exist inside that skin and what may seem like weeks to me in there will be less than a second here in the control room. If I need to come out, I will pull myself out.” She looked at Tommy and saw his concern. “I want you anchored on this side of the wall so I don’t pull you in.”
    Tag interjected, “Cassandra, we can’t risk you; you’re too important to our fight against the Captors.”
    Cassandra smiled and said, “Then tell me how your plan is safer than mine and I’ll back off.”
    Tag struggled with what she was saying but after a minute said, “I guess I’m not the only one to ask difficult questions.”
    Cassandra looked at the engineers and said, “I want a chair elevated next to the ceiling and anchored to the floor. Tommy, I want you belted into the chair and I want our gloves locked together.”
    The engineers continued working on the ceiling while two of them left and returned with a high strength alloy pole and welded it to a chair and then to the floor. After forty five more minutes Rose handed Cassandra a pair of electronic gloves and a matching pair for Tommy. They looked at each other and Tommy embraced Cassandra and said, “You know I will never let go.”
    “I know, my love.” Cassandra put on her gloves and Tommy put his on with a small struggle with the left hand.
    Rose said, “Those are the same gloves that Mom and Dad wore. Maybe they will bring us good luck.”
    An engineer took a vial of silver liquid and said, “Join hands and try to get a comfortable grip.” Tommy and Cassandra joined hands and Tommy nodded at the engineer. He poured the liquid over their hands and the gloves melted into each other. “Try to pull apart,” the engineer said. Tommy and Cassandra leaned back and pulled against each other.
    Tommy shook his head and said, “Well Darling, looks like I’m stuck on you.”
    Cassandra smiled said, “Let’s get this over with.”
    Tommy and Cassandra stepped onto a lift and rose to the level of the chair that was suspended just below the ceiling. Tommy leaned backward and sat down in the chair and then an engineer reclined it and strapped him in. Cassandra followed him onto the chair on her knees and waited for the engineers to complete their task. The engineer nodded to Tommy and Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “Be home in time for supper.”
    Cassandra smiled and then stood up and jumped into the ceiling and disappeared. Tommy leaned back on the chair with his arms extended up into the ceiling watching and waiting for Cassandra to come back.
    Cassandra looked around and saw that everything was a uniform cream color. She immediately noticed that her sense of balance was off and she felt dizzy. She closed her eyes and focused on her closed eyelids. She noticed that she was not breathing and her heart felt like it was not beating; however she didn’t feel the need to breathe. She then turned her mind to the area around her and began letting her senses expand out ward. She then sent out a thought, “Admiral Kosiev, can you hear me?”
    She waited for an answer and then it occurred to her that since time did not exist, it might take longer than she thought for her question to move through that vast space. After what seemed to her to be a long time she thought again, “Admiral Kosiev, can you hear me?” She kept her eyes closed and relaxed. She waited for a response and after a while she fell asleep.
    She was jerked awake by a thought, “Who is calling me?”
    “My name is Cassandra Gardner and I’m trying to find you.”
    “Are you related to Thomas Gardner?”
    “I’m married to his son.”
    “I didn’t know he had a son. How long have I been in here?”
    “Almost twenty seven years, Sir.”
    There was a long pause and then Cassandra heard, “I just entered this space a few moments ago. Do you know what happened to my ship?”
    “It was destroyed, Sir. However, I’m here to try and get you out of here and back into normal space. Did any of your crew make in here with you?”
    “Yes, there are eight of us and we’ve managed to stay together.”
    Cassandra could actually see the thoughts as Kosiev thought them. She focused on the direction and the cream colored space moved away from the path the thoughts were traveling. “Sir, can you see the break in the surrounding mist?”
    There was a pause and she heard, “Yes, I can.”
    “Sir, I need you to move through the break in the mist and bring your crew members with you.”
    “We are moving now but it looks like the break in the mist extends a tremendous distance in front of us.”
    “Just start moving; time doesn’t exist in here and distance is another thing that gets wacky.”
    “We’re on our way.”
    Cassandra continued to focus her thoughts toward Kosiev. She knew that if she stopped the mist would close in and she would lose him. She continued to focus and wondered how much time was passing back in normal space.
    After what seemed like a month, Cassandra knew that her time was growing short. Kosiev was still too far away to be seen and she knew that she was going to grow too weary shortly to keep up the focus necessary to keep the mist parted. Then she had a thought, “I wonder if psychic skills still operate in here. She was able to move objects with her mind; could she do it here? She focused on Admiral Kosiev again and thought, “Move here now.” Suddenly, there he was along with the other seven crew members.
    Kosiev smiled at her and said, “Whatever you did; you moved us here pretty quickly.”
    “I wish I had done it sooner, Sir. I need each of you to come to me and grab my arms and push yourselves toward my hands.”
    Kosiev looked at her arms that appeared to disappear into a solid cream colored wall. “Well, Ensign Orton, you go first.” A young sailor moved forward and started to move with his head toward the wall.
    Cassandra said, “Go feet first. You’ll be coming out of the ceiling of a ship. There should be someone there to help you but I don’t want you to fall on your head.”
    Cassandra had just entered the ceiling when a pair of feet emerged and a body began following the feet through the ceiling. The engineers moved the lift under the emerging body and helped the young sailor onto the lift’s floor. Immediately another set of feet emerged and everyone in the room felt tremendous excitement. Tag looked at the sailor that had just emerged and asked, “Who are you, son.”
    “Ensign Orton, Sir, sensor officer SR Megaship Moscow.”
    Everyone in the room felt a shiver as they looked at one of the Stars Realm’s historic heroes. Here was one of the sailors that had given their life to save the fleet at the Pydres planet. Six other sailors emerged from the ceiling and then the eighth came through and Tag saw his friend that he had mourned for years. Alexander Kosiev looked exactly as he did those twenty seven years ago when he attacked the frequency ships to save the trapped Stars Realm Fleet. Kosiev turned and saw Tag and reached forward and hugged him.
    “I’ve missed you Alexander. I can’t tell you how good it is to see you.”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “We have a lot to talk about. You look older than I do.” He then turned to Danielle and said, “It’s good to see you Your Majesty. I trust you’ve taken care of the Realm.”
    Danielle rushed forward and hugged Kosiev and said, “I haven’t been queen for more than twelve years. My daughter Rose is Queen now.”
    Rose walked up and smiled and said, “I’ve learned so much about you from our history books. It is a real delight to meet you.”
    Kosiev and the other Moscow crew members were stunned. Then Twig and Sprig entered the bridge and Tommy said as he helped Cassandra onto the lift, “Admiral, this is Sprig and Twig. They are two Algean adolescents that are responsible for us finding you.”
    Kosiev looked at the two plants with wide eyes and then said to Tag, “They don’t look anything like the Algeans I remember.”
    Tag smiled and said, “That war is over. The Algeans are our allies now.”
    Kosiev looked back at the two plants and said, “Do tell.”
    Tag pointed at Tommy and said, “Alex, this is my son Tommy and his wife whom you’ve already met. They are leading us in our current fight against the Captors.”
    Kosiev looked at Tag and said, “We’re in another war?”
    Tag smiled ruefully and said, “Yes, and some of the ships we’re fighting are more than three thousand miles in diameter.”
    Kosiev sat down and looked around the room. Then he said, “Will you take me to the library so I can see what I’ve missed. It feels like I’ve only been gone a few moments but obviously a lot has taken place. I hope I have a place in this new world.”
    Twig said, “If you don’t mind Admiral, I can transfer all the history files directly to your Mind and help you organize them. It should only take two days and you’ll be completely up to date.”
    Kosiev looked at the young Algean and then said to Tag, “Can she do that?”
    “Absolutely, Alex; I think you will be amazed at the things we can do now.”
    Sprig said, “Wait until he finds out that this ship bears his name along with the Fleet Academy.”
    Kosiev looked at Tag and said, “Say it isn’t so.”
    Tag started laughing and said, “Someone fetch us a bag of popcorn. Now it feels like home to me.”
    Cassandra and Tommy watched Tag and they could tell that a huge weight had been removed as soon as Admiral Kosiev emerged from the ceiling. They looked at each other and Cassandra thought to Tommy, “I like him.”
    “So do I, Cassie.”
    Rose added, “That makes three of us. Now, let’s repair this ship and let the Realm know that its greatest hero is alive.”
    Tag said, “First, Alex needs to make a call to another friend that misses him.” Kosiev looked at Tag with a furrowed brow and Tag said, “Fleet Admiral Len Mikado should get a call before anyone else.”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “Fleet Admiral Mikado; by all means let’s contact him.”
    Admiral Mikado was on board the Rising Sun when his communications office commed him, “Admiral, I have a fleet priority call for you that asks you to stop and make contact immediately.”
    Mikado jumped from his command chair and said, “Send it to the conference room immediately.” Len left the bridge and went to the conference room and punched the comm., “Mikado here, go ahead with your call.”
    The display on the com came on and a face he knew from the past said, “Admiral, I leave you in charge for a few moments and you have the Realm right back into another war. I expected better of you.”
    Len stared at the screen with his mouth open for a long moment and said, “Is this someone’s idea of a sick joke.”
    Kosiev looked at his former captain and said, “It’s no joke, Lin. I just got back and I wanted you to be one of the first to know. I’m proud of you and all you’ve accomplished. It’s good to see you again.”
    Mikado stared at the screen and Kosiev could see the emotions welling up in his face. “Is it really you, sir?”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “Yes it is. Tag has managed to find me in the skin of the old Moscow and bring me back home. I’ll give you the details later, but I’m back and for me no time has passed at all since the Moscow’s destruction.”
    Mikado looked at the screen and said, “Thank the Creator; I’ve thought of you every day since we lost you. Please come see me as soon as you can. This is a gift greater than any I’ve ever received.”
    Kosiev looked at Mikado and said, “I’ll do that, Lin. It’s good to see you.”
    Tag came on the call and said, “Admiral, the Queen wishes to tell the Realm of Admiral Kosievs’ return but as soon as we can we’ll get together.”
    “Thank you, Your Majesty. Thank you for finding my mentor.” The screen went dark and Mikado left the conference room and returned to the bridge. The crew immediately saw that something had happened and that the Admiral was in a high state of emotion. They all looked at him and he said to them, “Pass the word to the entire crew; Admiral Kosiev has been raised from the dead and is back among the living. By the Creator, he’s back.”
    The crew looked at each other wondering if their commander had lost his mind but they announced the news over the general ship frequency. Every one of the crewmen on board had seen the destruction of the Moscow during their academy training and the entire ship was wondering about Mikado’s sanity until the announcement came in from Castle Gardner that the news was true; Kosiev was back. The entire Stars Realm was stunned but then the celebrations began. The Realm’s greatest hero was alive and in this time of fear, it brought a new sense of courage and belief that the Realm would prevail. Kosiev was back.

Chapter 18

    Kosiev sat in the library at Castle Gardner while Twig fed all of the history of the Stars Realm since the destruction of the Moscow into his mind. The previous three days had been a mad rush from celebration to celebration. Tgon-Gee, Admiral Mikado, and the Eldest of the Algeans had come to welcome him home. He acted in high spirits but he felt that time had passed him by and left him with nothing to do. The thought of these new ships and the race of Captors that the Realm was now fighting for survival left him hollow inside. He was used to being in the center of all the action and now he knew he was not going to be where he wanted to be. The Statue of him at the fleet academy and the outright adoration of everyone he encountered only served to make him feel like he should have just stayed dead. How could he possibly live up to the legend that had been built around him? “Oh, well, I’ve never met a legend before. At least my actions saved the fleet.” He then thought about Tag and how he now looked as old as he did. According to what he had been told, he had died more than twenty six years ago but Tag did not look twenty six years older. As he thought about it, Danielle didn’t either. “I’ll have to ask him about that.”
    Then he leaned back on the couch and Twig entered his mind and began the transfer of information. He closed his eyes and felt the rush of new knowledge. He stayed like that for two days which only seemed like a couple of hours.
    Twig began the transfer and sorted the information into his memory centers and organized it so that it would make it seem like he had lived all of the time that he had been gone. She also looked into his mind and got a full account of the war between the Realm and her race. She was amazed that the humans had worked to prevent the destruction of her species after all the worlds that the Algeans had destroyed and harvested. “I’ve got to share this with Sprig,” she thought and then focused on the transfer.
    Kosiev opened his eyes and blinked. “Wow, a lot has happened,” he looked at Twig and said, “Thank you. It’s like I’ve been here living all of this history. Now I know what I’ve missed. I also noticed that you’ve given me a full understanding of the new ships, weapons, and teleportation devices.”
    “Admiral, how can you be an asset if you don’t know how everything works? I suspect you will be put to work shortly.”
    “I really hope so, Twig. At least I won’t be lost now in the details. How did you do this?”
    “We’ve learned how to download information in tremendous quantities and organize it. This transfer was really rather simple and I think that if you focus on a problem you’ll find what you need to know in your mind now.”
    Kosiev smiled and stood up, “It’s time to go to work. I’m truly glad we came to be friends with your species. I would have never guessed that we would become friends during the time of our conflict.”
    “You have Queen Rose and Admiral Dorg to thank for that.”
    Kosiev frowned and said, “I wish he were still alive. I grew to have a tremendous respect for that Cainth. We could use him now.”
    Twig lifted her limbs indicating a smile and said, “We feel the same way about you, Admiral.”
    Kosiev smiled and, “Thank you again; I hope I can meet your expectations. Do you know if Cade McAllister is still around?”
    “Yes he is; he’s retired and living on Ross.”
    “Will you give me his com number; I need to talk with him about an idea I have.”
    Twig put the number in Kosievs’ mind and he left the library to make a call.
    Five days later Tag, Danielle, Rose, Tommy, Cassandra, Tgon-Gee, Admirals Mikado, O’Donald, and recently promoted McAnn were in the map room of Castle Gardner discussing the upcoming battle with the Captors. Tommy said, “We have to attack within twelve weeks. The places in space that the Captors use to see the universe will be cooled enough for them to find us in sixteen weeks. We have to prevent them from seeing the planets of the Realm. We’re only going to have 150,000 ships to fight more than four million of the Captors and if you look at their world you’ll see that they are staged in multiple layers expecting us to come.”
    Danielle looked at Tommy and said, “Why can’t you heat those nerve centers again?”
    Cassandra shook her head and said, “Last time I entered one of those centers, I almost exploded the energy particle in it. If I had, it would have created at new universe with a big bang. I’ve gotten a better feel for what is happening in that particle and I don’t think that it will endanger our universe but I also sense that now is not the time for it to happen. I don’t know for certain what the consequences would be if it happened too soon.”
    Admiral Mikado frowned and said, “How are we going to do this? Are we just going to jump in and start shooting or do you have another plan?”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and saw that she was letting him come up with the strategy for the battle but Tommy was just not certain if what he was planning would work. “If we just jump in and start shooting, we will be barraged by millions of those energy balls that can destroy our ships. We have to come up with a strategy that allows our ships to escape those barrages.”
    The door to the map room opened and Admiral Kosiev and Cade McAllister entered. “I hope you don’t mind if we join you,” Kosiev said. “I understand you are working on the battle plans for the upcoming campaign against the Captors.”
    Rose stood and went to meet Kosiev and said, “We are and you’re certainly welcome to join us. We just thought that you needed some time to get up to speed.” She then hugged him and indicated two chairs at the end of the table. “Hello, Colonel McAllister, I thought you were retired.”
    “I am your Majesty, but Admiral Kosiev contacted me and asked me some questions that generated my interest.”
    Tag looked at his two old friends and said, “Uh oh, you have that look on your faces.”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “Some things never change.” He then set a bag of popcorn on the table with a drink and said, “You’re stuck on how to attack without losing ships.”
    Tommy did a double take and said, “As a matter of fact we are. How did you know that?”
    “It’s obvious. However, I want to discuss an idea I have about getting the numbers even before we take them on ship to ship.”
    Tommy cocked his head to the side and said, “I’m all ears.”
    Kosiev looked at McAllister and he stepped out of the room and came back in holding a white ball about four feet in diameter. Kosiev leaned back and said, “This is a ball made of Coronado Power Cells. I learned that we are now able to mold the cells into any shape we need.”
    Tommy looked at the ball and said, “Is this something significant?”
    McAllister said, “What would happen if we pushed this ball into the skin of the Kosiev?”
    Cassandra immediately said, “It would take on the characteristics of the skin.”
    “Exactly, and if it were put in next to the dark matter inside that skin,” Kosiev asked?
    Cassandra thought a moment and said, “It would probably absorb some of the dark matter into it and then float back to the surface.”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “That’s what I thought. Right now you fire the penetrators through the skin of the Kosiev and send a piece of dark matter at the target. It’s similar to firing a projectile weapon in that the dark matter cannot change direction once it leaves the skin. If you fire it too far away, the Captors just move away which means you have to close to use it effectively.” Kosiev took a handful of popcorn and put it in his mouth and began chewing it.
    Tommy watched him and said, “Is there a point here?”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “I checked on the penetrators we used in our last battle with the Algeans and found out that we still have two million in our stockpile.”
    Rose said, “Those weapons have no affect on the Captors. Their screens stop them with no damage.”
    Kosiev said, “What would happen if each of those penetrators had one of these balls in it instead of hornets and that ball fired the dark matter into the Captor upon impact?”
    The room was silent. Everyone thought about what Kosiev said and Tag said, “Then the dark matter would be pushed into the Captors screens,”
    “Exactly,” said Kosiev. “You use the old two screen penetrators and jump them less than a mile from the Captor. The penetrator will accelerate before it jumps so it should come out of its jump at full speed and cover that distance in less than a hundredth of a second.”
    Tommy thought furiously and said, “But you have to know the exact location of the ships you target in order to jump it in that close and there are millions of them that are constantly moving. It would be next to impossible to target them on individual ships.”
    Kosiev looked at McAllister again and he went back to the door, opened it, and nodded. Twig and Sprig entered and Kosiev said, “Tell them what you’ve seen in the Captor’s system.”
    Sprig looked around the room and said, “I guess you wonder how we would target the penetrators?” He looked around the room and saw everyone looking at him so he continued, “Normally the Captors are moving around their system but I’ve seen Cassandra’s view of their system and they have changed their tactics anticipating our attack.” Sprig punched a button on his com and a picture of the Captor’s system appeared on the room’s maid display. Everyone saw row upon row of Captor ships arranged in bands surrounding the planet. The ships were not moving and were arranged in globes around the planet. Twig said, “We have the coordinates of every ship in the system. We should be able to program the old penetrators so that one is assigned to the ships located in the two outer bands.”
    Tommy looked at Kosiev and said, “How do you make the balls release their dark matter on impact?”
    Kosiev looked at McAllister again and Cade stood and said, “We put a miniature penetrator firing mechanism on the ball and have it fire when the penetrator hits the Captor’s screen. The sudden impact will actuate the firing assembly.”
    Tgon-Gee said, “Have you tried this yet?”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “As a matter of fact we have.” The display came on again and a small asteroid more than four miles across appeared on the screen. “Of course this asteroid does not have a screen but for the sake of seeing if the impact will cause the ball to fire, it will give you an idea of what would happen.” The display began moving and suddenly a bright flash appeared close to the asteroid and the asteroid blew up in a huge explosion. Nothing was left. “I’ve had this recording slowed down to one thousandth speed but I think you can see what would happen.”
    Everyone in the room was amazed. Tommy said, “How long before those penetrators can be ready?”
    McAllister said, “If we start manufacturing the balls immediately and our two Algean friends here can begin designating their targeting systems, about four weeks. We will need the Kosiev at the penetrator’s location along with all the other megaships that have had their skins converted to process the balls.”
    Tommy smiled and said, “This will only work once. They won’t remain in a stationary position if this works.”
    Rose said, “Can we produce more of the penetrators in time?”
    McAllister shrugged and said, “No, we disassembled the facilities that manufactured them years ago. It would take more than three months to start producing them again.”
    Cassandra said, “We don’t have that long. Four weeks is cutting it close as it is.”
    Rose stood and said, “Welcome back Admiral Kosiev. You will assume your position as Fleet Admiral again and move your flag to the Alexander Kosiev. You and Tommy will be responsible for the actions against the Captors.”
    Everyone in the room stood and began applauding. Kosiev felt his spirits soar; he was back and there was a battle to be fought. He felt like he was home again.
    Tag looked at his old friend and for a moment was jealous. Then he looked at Tommy and Cassandra and knew that they were better qualified to handle the campaign. He looked at Rose and said, “Permission to be aboard, Your Majesty?”
    Danielle stood up and looked at Tag with consternation on her face but then she heard Rose say, “Permission denied; I am not going to put all of our eggs in one basket. If something happens to the Kosiev, the Realm will need you to lead us.”
    Tag took a deep breath then said, “You’re right.” Then he looked at Kosiev, shook his head, and said, “You always have the most fun; give em torg, Alex.”
    “Kosiev smiled and nodded.
    The Old Watcher thought about the nexus and decided to contact the First Male. “Do you have a moment?”
    The First Male turned his attention from observing the system defenses and said, “I always have time for you.”
    “The nexus should be ready for use in a short time. I’m surprised the strange ships have not attacked us yet.”
    “I am also at a loss. However, if they see our layered defenses they may not want to take us on here in our own system.”
    The old watcher thought for a moment and said, “I hope you are right but that has not stopped them in the past. I just wanted you to know that if they are coming it will be soon.”
    “Thank you, Old Watcher. I’ll place every one on alert.” The First Male contacted the Queen and said, “First Mother, I fear an attack will happen soon. I want you prepared to jump away if the strange ships appear.”
    “Where do you think I will be safer than right here among our warriors?”
    “If they attack, then they will come looking for you and me. They have a weapon that can destroy us if it hits. I want you and your escorts to jump out of the system at the first sign of trouble and keep jumping until I tell you to come back.”
    The First Mother was silent for a long moment and then said, “I want you to jump with me. If it’s not safe for me, it’s not safe for you.”
    “First Mother, I have restrained from leading our attacks, but if I go then we will not have the leadership needed to defeat the enemy. I must refuse in this instance. This is our home and I will not run from its defense.”
    “I know you are right but I want you at the center of our warriors starting now. If it gets dangerous, I order you to save yourself.”
    The First Male fought the impulse to refuse and then said, “I will if I am in danger.”
    “Please don’t be rash. As long as you and I survive our race will live. Do not jeopardize our future.”
    “I won’t First Mother.”
    “Tommy, I’m afraid that I may not be able to avoid igniting the particle in energy space much longer,” Cassandra thought.
    “What’s happening Cassandra?”
    “I am being drawn to the nerve centers, Tommy. Even in my sleep I have to fight entering them. I think that the time has come and I just don’t know what will happen if it ignites.”
    “Sprig, will you and Twig join Cassandra and me for a moment.”
    “Certainly, how can we help you?”
    “Sprig, I am being drawn to the nerve centers of the energy particle. I have the feeling that it is time for it to ignite and I have to fight to stay out. The urge is getting more and more difficult to resist to go in and ignite the particle. “
    “Cassandra, what do you think will happen if the particle ignites,” Twig asked.
    “I honestly don’t know but it seems that my destiny is to do exactly that. It’s almost like a baby whose time for delivery has come.”
    “Sprig, are the old penetrators ready for use?”
    “Yes they are; the last of them were targeted and loaded with the Coronado balls yesterday. Cassandra, the temperature of the nerve centers has come down to where the Captors can use them again. Perhaps you should go ahead and ignite the particle let’s see what happens. I have studied it with Twig and we don’t have a real idea of what it will do but we suspect that the explosion will not enter our universe but will explode into a new one. I hope that’s the case but we just don’t know for certain.”
    Tommy listened in and said, “Unfortunately, I don’t want to have to deal with it until after we launch our attack. Cassandra, you’re going to have to fight that urge at this time and we’ll deal with it after the battle. We are going to teleport all of our converted megaships into the Captor’s system one second after the penetrators are launched and each ship fire on one Captor and teleport out immediately. I need you in full control of the Kosiev.”
    “I’m fighting as hard as I can Tommy but if I sleep, I may be pulled into one of the nerve centers. The Attack has to happen quickly.”
    Tommy thought for a moment and then said, “Sprig, we need all of those penetrators to launch simultaneously. If they go in waves the Captors will start moving and the targeting will not be accurate. We have to hit them while they are stationary.”
    “They are all set to launch together, Prince Gardner. Just tell us when,” Twig said.
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and could feel her pain. He punched his com and said, “Admiral Kosiev, I need you on the bridge immediately. Admiral Mikado, have all of the Megaships got their targets programmed?”
    “Admiral Mikado appeared on the display on Tommy and Cassandra’s command chairs and said, “We are ready. Just give us the time to teleport.”
    Kosiev entered the bridge and Tommy said, “Admiral, we have to move the attack up and go quickly. Cassandra is being drawn into the energy nerve centers and she can’t hold out much longer. Our ships and penetrators are ready to go and I can’t see any reason to delay any longer. Do you have anything that we’ve missed and need to consider before we launch?”
    Kosiev looked at Tommy and then at Cassandra. He could see that Cassandra was pale and was shaking. “I have seen two huge Captor ships on our recordings. Have you targeted them?”
    Sprig said, “Unfortunately, those two ships are moving around in the system. They are both surrounded by numerous Captors and we’ve not targeted them because we would have to hit a moving target. We felt like it would be a better us of the penetrators to actually hit one of their ships than waste them trying to guess their coordinates.”
    Kosiev shrugged and said, “I guess we can’t have everything. I see no reason to delay. We need to make sure everyone is using identical time for the attack. Sprig, will you contact all of our ships and make sure we’re exact on our systems.”
    “We’ve already done it, Admiral.”
    Kosiev moved to his chair on the bridge and said, “Admiral Mikado, Make sure your ships are at stations and ready. Also reinforce that they will jump in fire and jump away immediately.”
    “Yes Sir, I’ll tell them.”
    Kosiev looked at Tommy and nodded. Tommy said, “We will launch exactly thirty minutes from my mark.”
    “All ships are on the line, Prince Gardner,” Admiral Mikado said.
    “Set your timers from right…now, mark.”
    The Stars Realm fleet set their timers and the hundred and fifty thousand ships moved to battle stations and waited for the moment to attack. The time ticked down and finally twenty nine minutes and fifty nine seconds elapsed and the two million penetrators launched. One second later the megaships teleported to the Captor’s system.
    The First Male had moved to the inner band of warriors to tidy up the spaces between them when the Old Watcher yelled, “Scatter, scatter, out warriors are targeted.”
    The First Male looked out at the two outer bands of warriors and saw both bands exploding. Then he saw thousands of the strange ships appear and fire on the warriors in the inner band. He had no time to do anything. The ships appeared for less than two seconds and then they were gone. What remained was chaos. He saw that more than two million warriors were severely damaged or killed outright. His anger was monumental but there was no trace of where the ships had come from. The weapons that had hit the outer bands were traced back into the no space particle and ended there. He then had a terrifying thought. “First Mother, are you alright?”
    “Yes I am. You need to get our warriors moving. It seems they targeted them because they were stationary; they had no time to move. Get them moving.”
    The First Male sent out to all his warriors, “Scatter and keep moving around our system. Do not stay in one place and move at one half speed.”
    The remaining Captor ships became red blurs as they flew around the gas giant. The First Male felt real fear. There was rage but for the first time in his long millions of years old life he feared for his race. There were less than two million of his species remaining and he did not know if they could defend themselves against the inexorable force they were facing.
    The Kosiev broke back into normal space and there was jubilation. The recordings showed that the penetrators had killed millions of Captors. Tommy and Kosiev looked at each other and Tommy said, “Your plan was extraordinary. The odds are getting better.”
    Kosiev smiled and then started to say something when suddenly Cassandra collapsed and fell from her command chair. Tommy jumped up and ran and took Cassandra in his arms and thought to her, “Cassandra, wake up. What’s wrong, Darling.”
    Sprig thought to him, “The particle in energy space has ignited and exploded. We are monitoring the centers and there has been huge blasts erupting from them but it appears that the major explosion is going into a new universe. I think we are safe but we’ll continue to monitor what’s happening.
    The Old Watcher sensed the sudden rise in temperature in the nexus and immediately jumped away just before a giant blast ripped through the space he had just occupied. “It’s a good thing I kept watch on the nexus. That was close.” The Old Watcher looked at all the nexus’ scattered throughout the universe and saw all of them erupting with giant blasts. “What has happened? Are we going to be blind after this? How will we find those strange ships?” The Old Watcher just sat in empty space and watched as the Nexus exploded.

Chapter 19

    Cassandra was in a daze and was trying to wake up. She could hear a voice in the distance but couldn’t understand what it was saying. She appeared to be in the middle of a huge blast that was moving rapidly away from her in all directions. The brilliance of the explosion was blinding but she couldn’t close her eyes to shut it out. She seemed to remember pushing the blast away from her and it was expanding faster than the eye could follow. Something in her mind said, “It’s moving at the speed of light.” Then she understood, “I’ve ignited the particle in energy space.” As she looked around her she could see that the universe she was in was only as big as the size of the blast. “Thank the Creator, it didn’t blow into my universe.” With that thought she heard Tommy calling her name and she opened her eyes.
    “She’s waking up,” Tommy shouted and he grabbed her and held her close. “Oh Cassie, I’ve been worried sick about you.”
    Cassandra moved her head and saw both Algeans, Rose, Tag, and Kosiev gathered around her. “How long have I been out?”
    Tommy just held her tight and Kosiev said, “Two days.”
    “We’ve been hoping that you would be back but we just didn’t know if your mind was lost in the blast of the particle,” Rose said.
    Cassandra struggled and sat up. She looked at Tommy and saw the toll of her being gone had taken on him. “I’m alright, Tommy. I’m alright.” Tommy just held her tight and was thankful that his prayers had been answered. “Was the attack a success?”
    Kosiev said, “The Captors are more than two million fewer than they were before. Now we have to decide what we do about those that remain.”
    Sprig leaned forward and asked, “Lady Gardner, could you see anything in the centers?”
    “Yes, I did. The explosion is expanding at light speed and forming a new universe. I think it wanted to explode into our space but I pushed it away.” Cassandra’s brow furrowed and she said, “How, I have no idea.”
    “Well it looks like the particle is no longer in any of the centers,” Twig interjected. “If that was the way the Captors tracked ships, then they will probably not be able to use it again.”
    Tag stepped away from Cassandra’s bed and said, “Welcome home, Cassie. It appears you have bought us some time. The Captors are still at their home system and not jumping away. Of course, they are also not stationary any longer and whatever we decide to do next will have to plan on hitting very fast moving targets.”
    Rose looked at Tommy and said, “Let’s give Tommy and Cassie a little time alone. We’ll plan to discuss this at Castle Gardner in two days.”
    Everyone stood and smiled at the couple and then left the room.
    “Cassie, I was nearly crazy when you collapsed. I have been calling you non-stop since you fell from your chair.”
    “I know. I could hear you in the distance but just couldn’t understand what you were saying. It was your voice that brought me back. I love you, Dearest.”
    Tommy smiled and lightly kissed his wife. She put her arms around his neck and pulled him down on the bed with her. “It’s good to be back,” she whispered in his ear.
    Kosiev and Tag sat on the bridge in the command chairs looking at Ross in the main display. The planet was beautiful and the cities on the night side of the planet glowed brightly. “This has changed tremendously since I’ve been gone,” Kosiev said.
    “I know. It has been our home since the end of the Alliance and the population is now over five billion. Most of the people have moved here from other members of the Stars Realm.”
    Kosiev took some popcorn and chewed a few pieces in silence and then said, “I think our bag of tricks is empty. It’s going to be ship to ship next time.”
    Tag frowned and shook his head, “They still outnumber us more than eight to one. So far we’ve been very fortunate but you’re right; it will be ship to ship.”
    “I was genuinely surprised when I came back and found that the Algeans are now our friends. It still amazes me that you were able to pull that off.”
    “I didn’t. Rose is responsible for making that happen. Without her it would have been total extermination for them.” Tag paused and said, “Or us.”
    Kosiev shook his head and said, “Those two young Algeans are really something special. If the rest of their species is as capable as them then I’m not certain we would have won.”
    “They were deprived of the food they needed to develop; otherwise it would have been an entirely different outcome. As I think about it, if they had had the food they needed, they would have never attacked other worlds.”
    “Being around your family has changed the way I see the universe, Tag. Every time it looks like we are going to have to totally destroy someone we have found a way around it. Is there no way to avoid killing the Captors?”
    “I honestly don’t see any way around it, Alex. They are just too aggressive and do not have the capacity to control themselves from attacking.”
    “Call that young male Algean in and let’s talk about this with him. He might have some ideas.”
    Tag thought, “Sprig, have you got a moment to spare?”
    “I do and I’ve been listening in on your conversation. You might want to call one other in with us.”
    Tag looked at Kosiev and said, “Who?”
    “Perhaps Atlas can add a different outlook.”
    The speaker on Kosievs’ chair crackled and they heard a chuckle. “I thought I was the only one that eavesdropped on everyone’s conversations.”
    “Well what do you two think about what we’ve been discussing?”
    Sprig walked into the bridge and said, “You’re right, Tag. The Captors just cannot control their instinctive behaviors. It is engineered into them. Every one is a possible threat to their, I’m going to use a new word for them here, hive.”
    “That is a good word, Sprig,” Atlas said. “I would like to think of them as evil but they are no more guilty than a ant biting anyone that steps on its nest. It isn’t done with malice.”
    There was silence and then Atlas added, “My race is far more guilty than they are. We destroyed the Algeans millions of years ago for no good reason and my captured brothers would do the same with the races that currently live in our universe. The difference is that they would do it with forethought and enjoy it.”
    “Well let’s hope they never get loose in our universe,” Kosiev said.
    “That’s it,” Sprig said.
    “What’s it,” Tag responded?
    “The danger comes from both of us living in the same universe. If they could be moved to another universe, we would not be a threat and they would not be a threat to us.”
    “Is that possible,” Kosiev asked?
    “Well we know the Eight Legs jump from universe to universe so we know it’s possible.” Sprig was silent for a moment and then said, “Give me two days. I want to think about this and I’ll get back to you.”
    Tag said, “Two days it is.”
    Atlas said, “Sprig, do you mind if I join you?”
    “Not at all, I think you can help us. Do you mind if Twig and I teleport on board; we need to make a short trip.”
    “I’ll be waiting for you.”
    Kosiev looked at Tag and said, “What did I say?”
    Tag began laughing and said, “You’ve always made an impact. You should be used to it by now.”
    Kosiev smiled and ate another hand of popcorn.
    The conference room was full. The leaders of the Stars Realm were gathered to decide the next action to be taken against the Captors and there was a somber atmosphere that dominated the room. Rose looked around the room and said, “Our last attack exceeded our expectations but I can see that it won’t work again. The Captors are moving at half of light speed in their system so targeting them will be next to impossible. I believe that the next action will be ship against ship and they outnumber us almost eight to one. I’ve also noticed that where ever we jump into their system that we could be overwhelmed in seconds. I hope someone has a plan that has some probability of success.”
    The room was silent and then Tommy said, “We have talked about it among ourselves prior to meeting here and unfortunately, we see it the same way you do.”
    Rose shook her head and looked at Admiral Kosiev, “Admiral, do you see anything other than taking them on in a fleet action?”
    Kosiev took a deep breath and said, “No, I don’t. However, the Algeans have surmised that they will not be able to see us now that the energy particle has ignited so we may have time to produce more ships. Of course we’re talking about years before we could approach manufacturing enough to make a difference.”
    Tgon-Gee stood and said, “That also gives them time to go looking for us. They know the galaxy where two of our planets were located so they have narrowed it down as to which galaxy they need to focus their search in. I suspect that they will find us before we are ready to take them on.”
    Rose looked around the room and said, “Speaking of the Algeans, where are they? I thought they would be here.”
    Tag said, “They had an idea that excited them and they went to see if their idea had any merits.”
    “What idea did they have,” Rose asked.
    “Something about the problem is that we and the Captors are located in the same universe. They said that both cannot exist together.”
    Admiral Mikado said, “Duh, we all know that.”
    Suddenly there was a shimmering under the main display and Sprig appeared in the conference room. “I’m sorry to interrupt you but I need Cassandra to come with me.”
    Rose frowned and said, “Sprig, this meeting is important and Lady Gardner is important to the proceedings.”
    “I apologize, Your Majesty, but what we’re doing will have a direct impact on our next action against the Captors. Is it possible to delay the meeting two more days so that we can see if what we’re working on is feasible?”
    “Would you like to share with the group what you’re working on?”
    “I’m sorry, Your Majesty but time is critical and it will take more time than we have to explain it. Please bear with us and give us two days.”
    Rose looked at Tommy and Tommy stood and said, “Rose, I’d do as he asks. He has shown remarkable ability at helping us.”
    Rose smiled and said, “Lady Gardner, you may go with Sprig. We’ll adjourn until this time two days from now. Before you go Cassandra, I have an announcement that I was going to make at the end of this meeting but it seems the meeting is ending faster than I planned.”
    Everyone looked at Rose and she said, “I have just found out yesterday that I am expecting a child.”
    The entire room stood and started clapping and yelling. Tommy and Cassandra followed Tag and Danielle to Rose and began hugging her. Rose thought, “I will not lose this war. My child is going to have a safe place to live. The Realm has been at war too long.”
    Sprig came over and said, “Congratulations, now Lady Gardner, if you will come with me.” Cassandra furrowed her brow and said, “Can’t this wait a few moments?”
    “No, it can’t.”
    Cassandra looked at Sprig and could sense the anxiety the young Algean was having. She turned to Rose and said, “I must go. I’m so happy for you and I’ll talk with you when I return.” She said this as Sprig was pulling her by the arm to a space away from the group. Sprig pressed his teleport device and they disappeared from the room.
    Tommy looked at Tag and Kosiev and said, “I haven’t seen him that worked up since the day Wes was chasing him.”
    Wes shouted from the end of the table, “You really didn’t have to go there.”
    Tommy started chuckling and then laughed out loud. “It’s still hilarious, 3D.”
    Wes took his head in his hands and said, “I suspect I’ll never outlive that event.”
    Tommy looked at Tag and Kosiev again and said, “What are they working on?”
    Tag looked at Kosiev and said, “I really don’t know but I suspect it will be something that will surprise us all.”
    Tommy stopped laughing and said, “Where are they?”
    Kosiev said, “Somewhere with Atlas and Twig.”
    Tommy furrowed his brow and said nothing for a moment and then said, “Atlas is involved in what they’re doing?”
    Tag put his arm around Tommy’s shoulders and said, “Kinda gets the ole curiosity going doesn’t it?”
    Tommy said, “Yes, it does.” Then he thought, “Cassandra, is everything alright?”
    Cassandra thought back, “Yes, but Twig is coming to get you. You need to join us.”
    Twig suddenly appeared under the display and walked forward and took Tommy’s hand and pulled him away from the group. “Excuse me, I need Duke Gardner to go with me.” Then they disappeared.
    Rose looked at Danielle and said, “What was that all about?”
    Danielle smiled and said, “He’ll be fine. I just want to sit and think about being a grandmother.”
    Rose smiled and said, “If it’s a girl we’re naming her Dannie.”
    Danielle jumped up and started hugging her daughter again.
    Tag shouted from across the room, “And if it’s a boy.”
    Rose smiled and said, “That we’re keeping a secret.”
    Tag looked at Kosiev and shook his head, “That figures.”
    Kosiev started laughing and said, “You already have a son named after you. Don’t be greedy.”
    “Easy for you to say; I want the girl named after me, too.”
    Kosiev reached over and took a handful of popcorn out of Tag’s bag. “Hey, get your own.”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “I fear I have underestimated the greediness.” Tag started laughing and then went to hold his wife.
    Tommy and Twig appeared in Atlas’ control room and saw Cassandra and Sprig in an animated conversation with Atlas. “I don’t care if it’s possible; it still leaves the issue of my brothers in captivity.”
    Tommy walked over to Cassandra and said, “What’s going on?”
    “Sprig and Twig have a wild idea about sending the Captors into the new universe that was just formed when the spark ignited. Atlas is concerned that if they go, we have no way to release the field holding his brothers and even if we did, they aren’t ready to be released.”
    Atlas said, “Tommy, we started this whole adventure to ultimately release my family from captivity. That screen holding them is impossible to penetrate. It could take millions of years to develop the means to get through it.”
    Tommy looked at Sprig and said, “Atlas, do you think that the conflict we’re in with the Captors, if it goes to its natural conclusion, will leave any of them alive if we happen to win?”
    Atlas was silent. Sprig said, “I just can’t see allowing it to go to total extermination of them, or us. There is a possibility that we might be able to end this conflict without having to destroy each other. However, it’s a moot point if we can’t do what I hoped.”
    Tommy said, “Sprig, what do you have in mind?”
    “We have the centers where the energy particle just exploded into a new universe and I thought that there might be a doorway into that new universe that the Captors could move through.”
    “Sprig, that universe is hot and will remain that way for hundreds of thousands of years as it expands,” Cassandra said.
    “We know that but we don’t know how much heat the Captors can tolerate. They are energy beings that live on energy which leads me to suspect that they would prefer the new universe if they could survive in it.”
    “So what’s the problem,” Tommy asked?
    “We can’t move anything from our universe into the new one. Everything we’ve sent into the centers has been destroyed.”
    Tommy frowned and then said, “You brought Cassandra and I here for a reason. What do you think we can do to change the current situation?”
    “Twig said, “You remember that it was you and Cassandra touching each other that originally caused the particle to reach a high temperature. Now that the particle has ignited and exploded, we think that it can still be influenced by the two of you together.” Tommy furrowed his brow and Twig continued, “I know, it’s a wild idea but it’s worth an effort to see.”
    Cassandra sighed and said, “What do you want us to do?”
    Sprig walked over and put his branches on Tommy’s and Cassandra’s shoulders. “I want you to hold each other and take your minds into the energy center and see if there is any kind of control over what’s happening. If you find something, we will fire a high shielded Coronado ball into the center.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and said, “I nearly lost you when you went into the center. Is this safe?”
    Cassandra raised her eyebrows and said, “I honestly don’t know but if this has the possibility of saving hundreds of thousands of ships, can we refuse to try?”
    Tommy looked at her and shook his head. “No, I guess not.”
    Sprig said, “Tommy, I think that if you had been with Cassandra when she was drawn into the center, she may not have been affected. I hope that it is the two of you that has the real power in the energy space.”
    “Atlas.”
    “Yes, Tommy.”
    “We will find a way to free your family when they are ready. I promise you we will not forget them.”
    “I know; I just haven’t thought things through and you’re right. If you are successful against the Captors, we would still be stuck with that field. If they are successful, they will never remove the field. Either way, the results are the same. Do what you have to do, Tommy.”
    “Thanks, Atlas.” Tommy reached and took Cassandra in his arms. “We need to do this more often, Dear.”
    Cassandra closed her eyes and felt Tommy come into her mind. Immediately they felt the center where the particle had exploded. “Would you like to enter with me?”
    Tommy felt the immense space in the center and said, “It’s beautiful. Let’s go take a look.”
    Cassandra went into the center and saw the place where the particle had broken into the new universe. The entrance was the size of a neutron but they could see the new universe through it as it expanded away from the center of the explosion at the speed of light. Tommy and Cassandra felt at peace and could feel each other’s love. Tommy thought, “I could stay here forever, Cassie. You are such a complete part of me in here.”
    “I feel it, too, Tommy. I love you.”
    “Better tell Sprig to launch the ball.”
    “I will but I don’t want to do anything to the first one. I just want to see what happens.” Cassandra sent a thought to Sprig, “Fire a ball into the center, Sprig. We want to just watch and see what happens to the first one.”
    Immediately a Coronado Ball was fired into the center. Tommy and Cassandra watched at it approached the point of the new universe and then it hit and blew apart. “Tommy, I can push the next ball through. We don’t even need to fire it.”
    “I know, but the others need confirmation that we can do it.”
    Cassandra thought, “Sprig, fire another.”
    The ball entered the energy center and approached the entry point. Tommy and Cassandra surrounded the ball with their psychic aura and watched as it went through the point into the new universe.”
    “Let’s go back,” Tommy thought.
    “I’m with you all the way, my love.”
    Sprig watched his instruments as Tommy and Cassandra opened their eyes. “Looks like you did it,” Atlas said.
    “Yes we did. We know how to send objects into the new universe. Now we need to see if we can do anything with this skill.” Tommy then looked at Cassandra and said, “Do you feel ok?”
    “Yes, Sprig was right. You being there made the difference. I think we need to go back to the meeting and see what we should do with this information.”
    Sprig and Twig looked at each other and Twig thought, “We have to get them to see what will happen if they don’t use this process.”
    “I know. I know.” Sprig looked at Tommy and Cassandra and said, “I want you to do something before you leave.”
    Tommy looked at Sprig and said, “What?”
    Sprig lowered himself down to their level and said, “I want you to go and talk with the Captors about our idea.”
    Tommy furrowed his brow and said, “Why would we do that without talking with the Realm’s leadership?”
    “Because you are probably going to have to open your mind to them and if you don’t know our plans on how we are going to attack them, then you can’t reveal them.”
    Tommy looked at Sprig, “You’re not being totally honest, Sprig. That may be a good reason but it’s not the real one.”
    Sprig looked at Tommy and then looked at Twig who raised her branches and said, “Tell, him.”
    Cassandra looked at Twig and said, “Tell him what?”
    Sprig fell silent for a minute, “Tommy, Twig and I have assimilated all of the knowledge in every library in the Stars Realm. When we downloaded into each other we developed totally new perspectives on how all of it related.”
    “I’m aware of that, Sprig.”
    “What you are not aware of is that if you totally destroy the Captors, the Stars Realm will fall apart and probably have civil war among its members within a hundred years.”
    Tommy, Cassandra, and Atlas were stunned by Sprig’s statement. “How did you make that determination,” Atlas asked?
    Twig said, “Do you know why my race stopped the war against you?”
    Cassandra interjected, “Because Admiral Dorg shared his thoughts with your Eldest leader.”
    Sprig leaned back and asked, “What was it about his thoughts that persuaded the Eldest to make that decision.”
    Tommy thought for a few minutes and then he saw it. “The Eldest saw that we did not destroy Admiral Dorg’s race even though they had done things to deserve it. If we totally destroy the Captors then the Algeans will know that we do possess the capacity to exterminate an entire species.” Tommy sighed heavily, looked at Cassandra, and continued, “All of our member planets will also know that the Stars Realm leadership can make that kind of decision. Since Earth, Glod, and Cainth hold the most important positions, the other members will begin to fear that, just like the Central Committee in the old Alliance; we can destroy them if they step out of line. If we can do it once, we can do it again.”
    Sprig said, “Tommy, unfortunately, once you cross that line, you’re never the same again. Totally exterminating another race changes how you see and feel about yourselves.”
    “But, Sprig, they would totally destroy us if they could,” Cassandra said.
    Sprig didn’t say anything. Tommy looked at Sprig and Twig and said, “Yes they would, Darling; they would do it because we started this war. We were the aggressors.”
    Atlas said, “How do you arrive at that conclusion?”
    Sprig looked at Tommy and said, “You see it now, don’t you?”
    Tommy nodded his head slowly, “Atlas. What if we had decided to follow your original instructions and not go near the Captors and leave them alone; what would have happened?”
    Atlas said, “Nothing, until they came to Earth’s system to inhabit Jupiter and killed everything in it.”
    “That’s true, Atlas. But then they would have settled into the system and began building a new hive and only one system would have been destroyed. What we’re facing now is the possible extermination of the Captors or of the entire Stars Realm if we lose the upcoming battle. Our billions of citizens know that we started this fight. If we then exterminate them, our member planets will lose the high regard they now have for our government. They will also begin to fear our government. They will lose faith in us.”
    Cassandra said quietly, “Our members love Rose and Danielle.”
    Tommy nodded, “Rose and Danielle will not live forever and our members will be quite nervous about who might replace them. As time goes by and our Queens age; that fear will become a reality for them.”
    Sprig and Twig straightened up and Twig said, “You see it truly, Tommy. We have to try and save the Captors to save our own souls from what will happen if we destroy them.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra and she looked into his eyes. She hesitated and then lifted her com and said, “Lt. Ortiz, I am sending you some coordinates; once you receive them, bring the Kosiev to that location and wait for me to arrive. Shut down all out going communications until further notice.”
    “Yes, Duchess Gardner. We will arrive in ten minutes.”
    Atlas asked, “What are you going to do?”
    Tommy replied, “We’re going to go and talk with a certain 4,000 mile wide Captor. Let’s hope he listens.”
    The Kosiev arrived and Atlas flew into the landing bay where the two Algeans and Humans walked out to go to the bridge of the Kosiev. Tommy looked back at the landing bay and saw that Atlas had not left. “Atlas.”
    “I’m going with you.”
    “Good, I hoped you would.”
    Cassandra looked at Tommy, “I suspect that the Realm’s Leadership might not like us taking these actions without their permission.”
    Tommy sighed and thought, “Rose.”
    “Yes, Tommy.”
    “Cassandra and I along with the Algeans are going to the Captors system and try to open a dialogue with them.”
    “I’m sorry, Tommy. I can’t allow that without you being supported by the fleet.”
    “Rose, I’m not asking you if I can go; I’m going.”
    Rose stopped what she was doing and stood up from her desk. “Tommy, as Queen of the
    Stars Realm, I’m ordering you not to go.”
    “Rose, do you remember when you told Dad that you were going to go with him to the final battle with the Algeans.” Rose didn’t say anything. “You didn’t ask; you told them you had to go and it was not an option. I have the same situation now and I am going to go. There is a remote chance that we can end this war and we have to take the risk. You can arrest us when, and if, we return. I love you, Rose. We are terminating all communications now.”
    Rose thought, “Wait!” But she could tell that Cassandra had blocked all communications both electronically and psychically. “Mom, Dad, Tommy is going to the Captors home system to attempt to talk with them.”
    “Are you serious,” Danielle thought. “They can’t go alone, they could be killed.”
    Tag asked, “How long ago did he leave?”
    “Just a few minutes ago; I ordered him not to go but he told me he had no choice.”
    Danielle started to feel real fear, “What are we going to do?”
    Tag could see that Tommy, like Kosiev years before, was going to do it alone. He feared that like before, Tommy would not survive. Tag pressed his com and said, “Alexander, contact Mikado and get the fleet ready for an emergency jump to the Captor’s system.”
    Kosiev asked, “Why, what’s going on?”
    “Tommy is going there to talk with them. We know that they won’t communicate but will try to destroy who ever attempts to contact them.”
    “There is no way we can get the entire fleet ready, however I will see how many ships we can get together quickly. I’ll get Mikado on it immediately.”

Chapter 20

    The First Male was jumping around the system making sure he did not present a target for the Stranger’s new missiles. He was talking with the Old Watcher. “Can you see anything in the energy nexus?”
    “No, First Male, the particle that once existed in the center of the nexus has exploded and moved into another universe. There is nothing I can use to help us find the location of the Stranger’s home systems.”
    “I’m concerned that you are stationary and not moving to avoid the Stranger’s missiles. I don’t want to lose you old friend.”
    The Old Watcher paused and then said, “I’m getting too old to waste my energy flying around the system. It also appears that now that I can no longer read the nexus, I don’t really have a function in our society. For the first time in my life, I feel old, First Male.”
    The First Male could feel the melancholy of the old Captor and he said, “Don’t be ridiculous; you’re only a little older than a hundred and fifty million years.”
    “Maybe so, but I feel old. Even the stars energy no longer tastes good.”
    The First Male thought, “You’re right about that.” The systems star had aged and no longer provided the high yield nourishment it one gave them.
    Suddenly the First Male heard a voice. “I would like to talk with you about that, First Male.”
    “Who are you,” the First male asked?
    “I’m one of the Strangers that you have been fighting.”
    The First Male extended his sensors to try and track from where the voice was coming but nothing was there to be traced. “How are you communicating with me?”
    “I‘m doing it telepathically; you cannot trace it electronically so you might as well quit wasting your time trying.”
    The First Male sent out a message to all of the warriors flying around the system to increase their speed and to change their routes randomly. “You don’t need to worry about us attacking you or your warriors at this time. I want to discuss a possible way for us to exist peacefully and stop all the needless killing.”
    “I see no reason for us to communicate. We will find you and we will destroy you.”
    “The voice sighed and then said, “I didn’t want to have to resort to heavy handed tactics but you leave me no choice. First Male, we can destroy you anytime we choose.”
    Suddenly a white ship appeared beside the First Male and then it disappeared. The First Male felt a surge of fear. That ship was right next to his screen and could have fired on him and he would not have had time to escape. “I am not here to harm you, First Male but I need you to talk with me.”
    The First Male was terrified. He knew there was immense danger but he couldn’t bring himself to talk with an enemy of his race. The Old Watcher said, “First Male, perhaps it’s time to think in a different pattern. It won’t hurt to see what he has to say.”
    “You can hear him?”
    “Yes, I can, First Male. I don’t want to lose one of my oldest friends. I’ve already lost so many during this conflict.”
    The First Male slowed his thoughts and brought his fear under control. The first Mother thought to him, “Talk with him. We can’t lose you.”
    The voice said, “We would also like to include you in this conversation, Your Majesty.”
    The First Mother thought back, “I will listen in; the First Male is the one you will speak with.”
    The Warriors flying around the system were approaching light speed moving in different directions trying to find the Stranger’s ship that had put the First Male in danger.
    “We are no longer in your system, First Male. Tell your warriors that we will not attack you. I can feel their fear for you.”
    “Then you know that they have no choice but to do what they’re doing.”
    “I know; but I do not want to harm any of you. Do you know why we have been attacking you,” the voice asked?
    “Why don’t you tell me?”
    “Because we know that if one of our ships had accidently stumbled into your system you would have systematically destroyed our entire civilization.”
    The First Male answered quickly, “Of course.”
    “I know this is foreign to your way of seeing the universe, but what if the roles were reversed. What if one of your warriors had stumbled into our system and we had come and totally destroyed you?”
    The First Male thought about the question for a moment. “You are assuming that you possess the power to do it.”
    “Just for the sake of this conversation, assume we could do exactly that.”
    The Old Watcher interjected, “That is not a difficult assumption to make after all that has happened.”
    The First Male thought about the idea and finally said, “Then you would represent a clear and present danger to my system and I would have to try and eliminate you.”
    “Do you see any other alternative?”
    After a long pause, “No, I don’t.”
    “That is why we have been attacking you. We tried to communicate earlier but you attacked all of the communication devices and tried to find us to destroy our people. Is there any way you can peacefully co-exist with others?”
    “No, unfortunately, our instincts take over anytime our home is threatened. A threat is anyone who knows where our home system is located. This is not a logical process; our instincts take control of our actions.”
    “Do you understand what position that put us in?”
    The First Male could see the Stranger’s point of view and understood where it led. “We can’t do anything about it. Our instincts have been engrained in us for millions of years. They control us; we don’t control them.”
    Tommy looked at Cassandra, Twig, and Sprig and said, “Let’s hope he will understand our proposal and not lose himself to his instincts.”
    The voice asked, “So the situation is that your race and ours cannot exist together in harmony. One of us will have to be exterminated because of your instincts.”
    The First Mother said, “I do wish there was another answer but you’re right. You are a real danger to my children especially since you have killed so many of them.”
    “Quite Frankly, First Mother, we have planned to totally exterminate your race and are moving in that direction, however,”
    The First Male felt his instincts start to take control but stopped when he heard, “we think we have found a way around our dilemma.”
    The First Male asked, “Logically, I see no other answer.”
    “You may have noticed that the particle that existed in what we call the energy nerve center has exploded. That explosion has caused the formation of a new universe that is made up of the blast from that particle.”
    “We call that the energy nexus,” the Old Watcher said.
    “How much heat can you endure, First Male?”
    “I’m certainly not going to tell you but why do you ask?”
    “Because we can open a door between our universe and that new universe that would allow you to make a new home there; being energy creatures you might like it better than this one.”
    “Why don’t you go there?”
    “Because we are not energy creatures but organic; we could not exist in those conditions. You would be the only life in that new universe. There would be no one to endanger you.”
    “Perhaps, but before that particle exploded, it killed one of my warriors who came too close to it and burned up.”
    “The new universe is not as hot as that particle was before it exploded. The blast is expanding at light speed and the temperature is going down.”
    “Well, I am not going to send one of my children in to see,” the First Mother interjected.
    “So it is going to be war between us.”
    “I’ll go,” said the Old Watcher.
    The First Male was startled, “No you will not.”
    “Yes, I will. Don’t you see that this is a chance for us to be safe for billions of years? I have seen millions of my brothers die in this war. I no longer want to exist in this current situation. I will go; I must go.”
    The First Male could feel the Old Watcher’s pain. Then he had a thought, “How are we going to know if you survive?”
    “We can keep a telepathic channel open with him and allow you to listen in,” the voice said.
    “Tell me how to do this. I’m ready to go.”
    “Old Watcher, are you sure this is what you want to do. Like you, I don’t want to lose another of my old friends.”
    “Yes, First Male.”
    “Can you pull him out if the temperature is too high?”
    “No, we can’t; it’s a one way trip.”
    The First Mother said, “We don’t have to go but he should be allowed to follow his chosen path, First Male.”
    “I know, but I don’t want to see him die.”
    The Old Watcher thought, “Tell me what I need to do.”
    “Go to the nexus near your system and wait just outside, we’ll tell you when we’re ready.”
    “I’m already at the nexus.”
    Tommy stood and Cassandra came into his arms. “Are you ready, love?”
    “Yes, I am, Tommy.”
    “Old Watcher, accelerate into the nexus toward the particle in the center; don’t slow down.”
    Old Watcher thought, “First Male, no matter what happens, please try to find a way for our warriors to live with these strangers. I sense that they do not want to harm us.”
    “I’ll try, old friend.”
    “I’m starting my run,” and the Old Watcher disappeared into the nexus.
    Tommy and Cassandra watched as the huge Captor flew at the particle and then disappeared through it. “He has gone into the new universe.”
    “Old Watcher, can you hear me,” the First Male shouted; there was no response.
    After a minute Sprig thought, “I was hoping this would work. This was our best chance.”
    Another minute passed and the First Male thought, “At least he died on his terms.”
    “First Male!”
    “Yes.”
    “This is glorious. I’m young again. All of my systems are at full capacity. The food is the best I’ve ever had. Send one of our wounded warriors here. Do it now.”
    The First Male was stunned. A huge Captor ship that had a giant piece missing from its side flew out to the nexus. Tommy and Cassandra could see that the red color of its screen was weak and barely visible.
    “I’ll go next, First Male. I can’t survive much longer.”
    “Go, warrior. Go with Old Watcher.”
    The injured Captor flew into the nexus and approached the particle at a much slower speed. It hit the particle and disappeared.
    “Fist Male, I am whole again. My injuries have been healed. The energy here is so abundant that my healing machines are operating at fantastic speed.”
    “Is it too hot?”
    “No first male; it’s perfect.”
    “How big is that universe, Old Watcher?”
    “It’s not big but it is expanding at the speed of light. It is truly beautiful and the energy is the purest I’ve ever tasted.”
    The First Male was uncertain of what he should do. “First Mother, I need your guidance.”
    “I think that this new universe has been waiting for us. We have stopped our development millions of years ago because there was not enough of the pure food we needed. We expand our numbers slowly because of that lack and our population growth has stagnated. This sounds like a place where we can begin to evolve again.” There was a moment of silence then everyone heard her say, “All warriors that have been wounded, go to the nexus and fly toward the particle in it. Go immediately. Those warriors that can no longer move, attach yourself to one that can and go to the nexus.”
    Tommy and Cassandra saw thousands of Captors move toward the nexus. Some of them were missing huge portions of their hulls and others were barely flickering with the red energy that characterized a living Captor. They began entering the nexus and started to disappear into the particle. “First Male, the warriors are regenerating. The energy is healing them.
    “Take the ships that are dead and tow them into the particle,” the First Mother ordered.
    Two of the warriors stopped flying around the system and attached themselves to a devastated hull. The two hulls had no red light and had more than seventy percent of their outer hulls missing. The two warriors towed the ships into the particle and after a few moments the old watcher shouted in joy, “They’re alive again. They’re alive again. They’re regenerating themselves.”
    The First Mother thought, “All warriors, go to the construct and take one of our dead warriors into the nexus. Do it now.”
    The stream of ships entering the nexus became a river and then swelled into a flood. Hundreds of thousands of warriors pulling dead Captor ships flew into the nexus. Tommy and Cassandra could hear the shouts of joy from the new universe as the Captors emerged into the high energy environment. They could see the dead ships coming back to life and shared what they were seeing with the Algeans and their crew. Sprig and Twig were overjoyed at the vision and moved and held each other as they wrapped their branches together.
    Suddenly Lt. Ortiz said, “Thousands of Star Realm megaships in the outer system.”
    Sprig hit his com and said, “All Star Realm ships, leave this system immediately.”
    Tag heard the com and said, “What’s going on? Where are Tommy and Cassandra?”
    “They are assisting the Captors to leave our universe. Leave now, the Captors will attack because they have no choice. If you love your son, Thomas Gardner you will take your fleet and leave immediately!”
    Tag was struggling as he saw hundreds of thousands of Captors move toward his fleet. He looked at Kosiev who said, “Do you trust the Algean?”
    Tag punched his com and said, “All ships, teleport to Ross immediately.” The thousands of megaships disappeared.
    The First Male felt his instincts slow and then he thought angrily, “Why did you bring those warships to my home?”
    Tommy answered, “That was my father. He was afraid that you were going to kill me and he came to protect me.”
    The First Mother thought to the First Male, “They are not so different from us. We also protect our young.”
    “First Mother, are you saying we should leave here and go to this new universe?”
    “Yes, I am. All warriors, enter the nexus; the oldest will go first.”
    “First Mother, you should go now. I can’t protect you if all our warriors leave.”
    “I am in no danger from these strangers. They have proven to me that they do not wish to harm us. I no longer feel the need to attack them; they have earned our trust by giving us this gift of a new and better home. You and I will go last, together.”
    The First Male searched his systems and found that she was right. His instincts no longer saw these strangers as a threat. He did not feel the need to attack them. “You have always been the wisest, First Mother. I also no longer feel the need to attack them.”
    Tommy and Cassandra watched as hundreds of thousands of the Captors flew into the nexus and disappeared. The scene was breathtaking as the huge red ships disappeared into the new universe.
    The First Male heard a voice being transmitted electronically, “First Male, may I ask a question.”
    “Who are you?”
    “I am a survivor of a race that you captured and imprisoned more than sixty million years ago.”
    The First Male searched his memory and then replied, “You are one of the silver ships.”
    “Yes, I am. My name is Atlas and the strangers are a race that I developed. Why did you destroy my race?”
    The First Male could feel his instincts begin to rise but he knew that the silver ships were not a threat. They were not strong enough to endanger him. “One of your ships entered our system and killed one of our newborns whose screens had not fully developed.”
    “What! I was told that all that ship did was just enter your system and say greetings.”
    “You were told wrong. The newborn was out on its first flight away from our home and the ship jumped in and fired on it killing the new child.”
    Tommy and Cassandra were stunned. The Alfont ships were not a peaceful race.
    Atlas paused and then asked, “Is that why you captured them and placed them in a prison?”
    “Yes, killing them would have been too much of a mercy. They needed time to think about their crime.”
    “What are you planning to do with them?”
    “We really haven’t thought about it. I suppose we’ll just leave them imprisoned.”
    Tommy thought to Atlas, “What do you want done, my old friend?”
    Atlas was struggling. He knew the danger of his brothers to this universe if they were released. Finally Atlas said, “First Male, if you took them with you into the new universe, would the energy matrix you have around them protect them from the heat?”
    Tommy and Cassandra took a quick breath. What was Atlas doing?”
    “Not at its current strength but we can increase it and they should be fine.”
    “As a favor, could you take them with you into the new universe and in the future when they can handle the environment, release them. I think by that time they should have learned their lesson about being aggressive.”
    The First Male paused, “Stranger, do you want us to do what he is asking us?”
    “Yes, we do. Our original purpose was to try and release them; however, we didn’t know that they had killed one of your children.”
    The First Male said, “Fifty warriors, go to the silver ships and increase the energy surrounding them to level four and tow them through the nexus.”
    “One more thing, First Male,” Atlas said.
    “Yes.”
    “There is one ship that is away from all the others in a corner of the energy matrix. Would you please release that ship before you move the others and would you allow me to speak with the other ships before you take them?”
    The First Male issued instructions and then said, “My warriors will be waiting for you. They will release the ship when you direct them to do so. I have ordered them not to attack you and I believe they will comply with my instructions. Since this is no longer our home, they are not driven by their instincts as strongly as they have been.”
    Atlas left the Kosiev and flew through the thousands of Captors flying toward the nexus. As he approached the energy matrix holding his brothers he could hear them yelling among themselves until one of them saw him approaching. The yelling got louder until Atlas had stopped just outside the matrix and waited. Finally the ships grew quiet. Atlas said, “I am going to say some things to you and you are going to listen. If you interrupt me, I am going to have the Captors destroy all of you. Do you understand?”
    One voice said, “Yes.”
    “The race that has imprisoned you is leaving this universe. The ones that made it possible for them to go are races that were developed from my DNA millions of years ago. I developed them in the hopes of one day using them to come and free you. That day has finally arrived. However, while my children have been fighting and dying to make this happen I have listened to you plotting to destroy all intelligent life in this universe if you are released. I have grown over the millions of years you have been held here and most of that growth has taken place in the last fifty rotations. I now know that your mega egos cannot be controlled.”
    Thousands of voiced started yelling and Atlas turned to leave. Suddenly all grew silent and one voice said, “Please don’t go and leave us here. You are one of us. Please release us.”
    Atlas turned back and said, “One more interruption and I leave. I will not endanger my children by releasing you into this universe. I know your think you are superior to all life; I know you look forward to killing; I know that you cannot be controlled; and I know what is in your hearts. All you know is total disregard for other life forms. The Plants that we exterminated millions of years ago are the ones that have led to our success in being here today. The Humans, Cainth, Glod and all other members of the Stars Realm have put their lives on the line to save you from your captors; yet you make plans to destroy them all if you are released. You will be taken with your captors into the new universe and held in this energy matrix until you can survive in the new environment and then you will be released. Your captors have agreed to make that happen. I suggest you go to sleep and wait for that time to come. I would also suggest that you think about what has happened here and know that you would have been imprisoned for eternity if it were not for races that cared enough to make your struggle their own. Now that the moment has arrived, I cannot endanger them with your release. Learn from this or eventually you will all perish. One of us came to this system and killed one of your captor’s newborns. That is why so many of us died and why you are imprisoned. If you don’t learn, you will eventually die. I have struggled with this moment since I listened to you plotting and I now know that all life is precious and should be protected. I sincerely hope you will also learn that lesson. You will have a billion years to think about it before the new universe starts to develop new life forms. Maybe you can help in that process.”
    Atlas turned and he could hear the millions of ships calling to him. He ignored them and said to one of the Captor Warriors, “Carry out your instructions.”
    The fifty Captors fired an energy field into the matrix holding the Alfont ships and then pulled the matrix with them toward the nexus. As it was pulled away Atlas saw one silver ship remaining behind.
    The ship said, “Why are you not sending me with them?”
    “Because I heard you trying to convince the others not to destroy other life forms; you said it when there was no benefit for expressing your view except to be ostracized by all the others. The fact that you stood by that belief has persuaded me that you can be trusted.”
    The silver ship moved over next to Atlas made contact with his hull. “You feel so much better than all the others. I guess that means we are the only two of our race in this universe.”
    Atlas felt her touch and his heart swelled, “Yes we are. I hope you and I can work together to make this universe a better place.”
    She also felt the heat of their touch and said, “I truly look forward to our future and perhaps we can make our children see the wisdom of that vision. Atlas was smiling. He no longer felt alone.
    “Will you take me to meet your children?”
    “Come with me. I have someone that will give you a name.” Atlas took his companion and jumped to the Ross system.
    Tommy and Cassandra had listened in to the two Alfont and as the millions of Captors entered the nexus at high speed; they felt their love for each other grow from feeling the emotions the two Alfont were sharing. Cassandra held Tommy tighter and thought, “This universe is already a better place and our children should also learn the wisdom we’ve seen.”
    Tommy looked into Cassandra’s eyes and said “Children?”
    Cassandra smiled and said, “I think it was my being pregnant that finally released the particle.”
    Tommy felt his love explode and held on to her as tightly as he could as Captors flashed past them into the nexus.”

Epilogue

    Atlas and his companion jumped to Ross where they found a very distraught Gardner family. Atlas explained what was happening and the announcement went out that the war was over with the Captors and that they had left the Stars Realm universe. The celebrations began at once and festival was everywhere in the realm.
    Atlas asked Tag to name his companion and Tag named her Diana after the Roman Goddess that was Queen of the open sky and responsible for fertility and childbirth. Diana loved her name and over the ensuing years became as famous as her mate.
    Tommy and Cassandra remained at the nexus until all the Captors were gone except for the First Male and First Mother. The First Male told them that they would change the role their instincts played in their lives now that there was abundant pure energy; his race would begin to evolve in another direction. The First Mother also said something that bothered them. She told them that she feared that the explosion of the new universe might cause the Eight Legs to return sooner than normal to investigate the explosion. They would know that the explosion would only happen if there was an advanced life form capable of causing it. The First Mother also left a gift for them.
    “The Eight Legs have not attacked us because they cannot see us due to the color of our energy screens. They are blind to that frequency of red. I am leaving you an energy generator that produces that screen. Duplicate it and use it to hide from them. If they come they will arrive in the billions. They could come as far in the future as a million years or it could be next week. Begin preparing now.”
    The First Male added, “I have also left a recording of them from their last invasion. It might help you see what you need to do to survive. Thank you for our new home and we hope your lives will be full.”
    The First Male and First Mother then entered the nexus to join their children and Tommy and Cassandra closed the doorway into the new universe.
    They were greeted to a hero’s welcome when they arrived at Ross and the celebration exploded into fever pitch when the Realm learned that both Rose and Cassandra were expecting children. Tag and Danielle were beyond words to express their happiness at becoming Grandparents.
    Sprig and Twig went back to their home planet and were received into the Grove of Elders and Sprig was named the successor to the Eldest Leader. Once it was learned that Sprig and Twig had downloaded each other together, it became a common practice for the developing adolescents and the Algeans learned the meaning of love for a mate. Sprig and Twig stayed together in the Sacred Grove and shared their learning with their people.
    Kosiev sat on board the ship that carried his name and watched all that was happening. Finally he commed Admiral Mikado, “Lin, do you remember when we were on the old destroyer Moscow?”
    “Yes, I do sir. It seems like it was a million years ago.”
    “Do you remember that I wanted to go visit a certain star outside the twenty light year limit?”
    “Yes, I do.”
    “Would you like to take some time off and go see it with me?”
    Mikado smiled, “Would I ever.”
    Kosiev smiled and said, “I’ve taken one of the old destroyers out of storage and named it Moscow. It’s time to wish upon that star.”
    Mikado punched his com and ran from the bridge of the Rising Sun and yelled to his bridge crew as he boarded the lift, “See you later. Don’t wait up for me.”
    Tag sat with his arm around Danielle in their room in front of the fire holding their two new grand children in their laps. Tag looked at her and said, “I love you so much, Dearest.”
    Danielle smiled, looked into his eyes and said, “Love conquers all.” Then she closed her eyes and held on tightly to the man she loved so much.
    The End
    Excerpt from Annihilation, Book V-Searcher
    “H old out, Captain. Use your links to fire your cannons.”
    The two hundred and fifty warriors in each group released their grips on their shoulder mounted auto cannons and allowed their armor’s computer to take over firing. They then pulled their long swords and waited as the enormous green mass moved closer and closer. The two lines of warriors had fifty yards of spacing between their lines but they began slowly giving ground until the two groups were literally back to back. Then the on rushing green horde hit their lines and the killing got close and personal.
    Brez swung his sword and cut off a spider’s head then turned and jammed the eight foot blade directly into the mouth of a spider leaping at him from behind. He ripped the sword out and slashed at another spider leaping at the back of the warrior beside him and then ducked as a spider passed over his head and hit another warrior in the back taking him down to the pavement and biting through his armor. The spider died as another warrior cut it in half with a sword slash. Brez’s auto cannon turned and fired six rounds into a spider leaping at his head and then shot two more spiders that had hit warriors beside him. The killing was happening almost faster than Brez could follow. Brez saw a four foot circle around Juck as the small Cainth walked through the green mass swinging the four swords faster than eyes could follow. Suddenly, Brez was hit and fell to the ground with a spider thrusting its fangs at his neck.
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