Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter 25

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-five

 

The Raid

 

 

 

Wilma Deering stood ramrod straight in her flight suit, her helmet under her arm.  “With your permission, Admiral, Hawk, Morse and I are ready to go down and rescue Buck.”

Asimov’s mind raced with all he had learned in the last hour, his thoughts like so many mice all going in different directions.  While what Hawk had brought back was certainly no surprise, it didn’t make decisions any easier.  “They could very well kill Buck if you attack right now,” he said, thinking of the worst-case possibility.   “And yourself as well.”

“There is no evidence that they even knew Hawk flew over them,” Wilma countered. 

“No, but they will certainly know when you blow out their fence,” the admiral said.

“We’ll fly directly in and land,” Morse said.

Asimov walked in front of his desk.  “The surveillance showed a tremendous amount of defensive firepower.  You have to blow that out before you can do anything.”

“That’s why there will be three ships,” Wilma argued.  “Two to blow out the perimeter and the other to land and go in.”  She moved her helmet to the other arm, a sign of her nervousness.  “Admiral, we have to do something!  Buck is there.  He is a prisoner.  He is probably being tortured.  Do you honestly think that Kormand will just let Buck go?” 

Asimov sighed and turned back to the surveillance scan.  It showed the various defensive batteries in different colors depending on the kind of defense it utilized.  “There are so many.  I . . . it’s so hard to authorize three more people to risk their lives.”  Straightening up, he turned back to his second in command.  “But we have been stymied at every turn, dictated to by a maniacal despot.”  He sighed.  “Wilma, do you truly think this is the only chance that Buck has?  Have you explored all the options?”

“What options, Admiral?  I only see two.  Wait until the Council sees fit to send a military ship and hope that Buck is still alive by then?  By our best reckoning, Buck has been in Kormand’s hands for at least four days, probably more.”  She paused and her body sagged a bit.  “For all we know, Kormand has had his revenge and Buck is already dead.” 

Asimov looked Wilma directly in the eye.  “The real question is if you feel that the three of you can go down, do what you plan and safely come back home.   I can’t condone the useless sacrifice of more of my crew for one man, no matter who he is.”

Wilma felt anguish and despair threaten to engulf her.  “We have to try, Admiral.  Kormand has done so much to us and the worst thing he has done is to make us afraid to do anything.  Don’t you see?”

“Yes, I am afraid that I do see and in my heart and soul I wholeheartedly agree with you.  But you have to also realize, you don’t have camouflaging devices, you will be detected as soon as you leave the Searcher and they’ve been squawking ever since we moved within the orbit of the system’s fifth planet.” 

“Admiral, if I could have gone in, I would have on the spot, you know that,” Hawk said. Asimov nodded.  “Now we have concrete evidence, Kormand is holding one of our people against his will.  We have the obligation to try and rescue that person.” 

Asimov sighed.   “May God watch over you all.  Be careful, please.”

Wilma nodded, and motioning to the others, she almost ran from the room.  Soon the three Earth starfighters were streaking through space.

Asimov stood looking at the closed door.  “All of you come back, I don’t think I could stand losing anyone else.”

 

 

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“You have evidence of what?” Erik Kormand demanded.

“A very well disguised ship doing surveillance of the compound,” the smaller man said. 

“When?” Kormand growled.  He paced a few feet and then turned to stand in front of the man who was reporting to him. 

“An hour ago.”

“And why was I not informed an hour ago?” he asked, looking out the window at the softly waning early morning darkness.

“It was not detected until I did a check of our own surveillance system and noticed an anomaly, sir,” the man replied.

“Where did this ship go?  Were there any communications?” Kormand asked.

“The compound surveillance system isn’t built to pick up interstellar communications, sir, but it appeared from the trajectory of the craft that it rendezvoused with the research vessel standing outside the star gate from Mendalis, sir,” the smaller man reported. 

“Put the spaceports on high alert now,” Kormand ordered. 

As the communications tech was sending the message, Drishel entered the room and said, “Our councilman just contacted me and informed me that a Galactic Council military ship is being dispatched to help find the Searcher’s missing crewmember and to find you,” Drishel said.

“Good,” Kormand replied.  At least something was going right.   “Has the disk been dispatched yet?” 

“Yes, sir, approximately three hours ago.  They were able to get it done much faster than expected.  Our contacts in Brix should have it in their hands now and it should be on Cronis via sub-space in another couple of hours.   Just about the time the ship is ready to disembark.  The Council ship will probably get here in about thirty hours,” Drishel said. 

“And by then they will not only be gunning for Rogers, but they’ll be coming here, as well.  This is a hell of a time for my compound to be raided,” Kormand growled. 

“What?  What do you mean, General?” 

“It seems the Searcher has found the means to run camouflaged surveillance ships.” 

“What?  How?” Drishel asked, shocked. 

“General!!  Three starfighters have scrambled from the Searcher and are heading for Mendalis!  They are heading for the compound!” 

“Alert all defensive units.  Alert starfighter defensive units in Asher and in Brix!   Tell them to get in the air now!” Kormand cried. 

“How did they find out?” Drishel asked. 

“Their surveillance got through our defenses; but that is neither here nor there,” Kormand paced the length of the room. 

 “Fighters from Asher Defense and Brix Defense Fields One and Two have left the ground and are heading to rendezvous with the Searcher’s fighters.”  

“Will they meet them before they get here?” Kormand asked.

“Yes, it appears that at least the Asher contingent will.”

“Excellent, now we have to get ready for the arrival of the Galactic marines tomorrow,” Kormand said. 

“Shall we pull the weaponry out of the arsenal?” 

“No, you idiot!  Do you think that even with the majority of the population of Mendalis on my side that we would be a match for the firepower of a Council warship?”  Kormand rubbed his chin in thought.   “No, we will take what is most important and leave.”  He turned to his aide and gazed meaningfully into his eyes.  “You do have the survey sheets for that cave system on the plateau?” 

“Yes, General.”

“Good.  I want Dr. Crix and his team to discreetly dismantle their prototype device and gather all their records and leave here before the night is over.  I want nothing left behind to indicate anything other than a secure compound.  Other than records, there is really nothing else that can’t be replaced,” Kormand said tersely.  “Just before they are ready to leave for the caves, I want two shuttles to take off, one heading for the main Brix spaceport and the other for the north spaceport.  I want them to fly low, as though trying to avoid surveillance, but not enough to actually do it.”  Kormand looked at all of his subordinates.  “I also want a coded message sent to Brix from one of the shuttles telling them to expect my arrival.  Do you all understand what to do?”  Everyone nodded.  

“Sir, Asher starfighters have engaged the Searcher starfighters,” the communications tech interrupted.  “Two of ours have been destroyed or crippled, but the Brix contingent is only two minutes from engagement.”  There was a very long pause in which no one said anything, no one even breathed.  “Another crippled ship, but the Searcher ships have broken off and are heading back out into space.  Apparently they saw the Brix starfighters.”

Kormand laughed.  “Very good.  I don’t think they’ll try a stunt like that again.  We should have the day and tonight to prepare to leave.”  He turned to his aide.  “Keep our guest occupied and out of the way in the main complex.  I don’t want him to know what we are doing.  I’ll join you later.” 

“What about that ship that did the surveillance.  Do you think they’ll use it for another raid?” the communications tech asked. 

Kormand rubbed his chin.  It was very obvious from that aborted attack that the Searcher had a pretty good idea that Rogers was here.  It had not been an attack, but a rescue mission.  “Very good thinking, Mark.  You are right; they could very well try.  I want you to relay a message to the Searcher, minimally coded, through our headquarters in Brix, letting them know that if they try to attack again, they will get their package neatly bundled in a coffin.  Disguise it enough that it will not incriminate me, but not so much that they don’t get the message.”

“Yes, sir.”  

Kormand turned to Drishell, “I want you to set up an attack of that Freeosh settlement to the east of here.  Don’t take a great number of men, but make sure you have enough manpower for the job.  There will be no communication on this one.  Have everyone ready to go by midmorning tomorrow.  And I want you to make sure Rogers receives that which will increase his aggression.  Get it from my sister.”  He turned to the smaller man.  “Keep monitoring everything.”  The man nodded   He turned back to Drishel.  “I also want you to work with Glindon to make sure that there is some kind of record of ‘Brandt’s’ affiliation with me left where it will be found here when the Galactic Marines get here.”  

“Under his real name, of course?” Drishel said. 

“Of course,” Kormand replied with a smile.

“I’ll get on it right away, General,” Drishel said and with a nod of his head, he left. 

Kormand gazed around the room, one he had filled with the opulence of this planet and others before it.  Like before, he would only take that which he most treasured and needed, leaving the rest for his planetary flunkies, or in this case, the galactic council.  Then he would move to another part of the quadrant, taking all he needed to set up his operation again. This time the work would be completely secret and completely under his control.  And when it was ready, he would be invincible. 

 

 

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Everyone sat in the ready room, discouraged and angry.  The only movement was from Wilma, who was pacing.   Hawk stood near one wall, his arms folded, his face inscrutable, but to those who knew him, the signs of anger could be seen.  Dr. Goodfellow came in and just behind him was the admiral.  Morse stood up, but Asimov waved him back into his seat. 

“First of all, I am truly grateful that you all came back alive.  Somehow, someone must have picked up on Hawk’s visit, because otherwise they wouldn’t have known to be on alert and wouldn’t have been in the air that quickly.”   Asimov sighed and sat down.  

“Admiral, I request that we take Hawk’s ship and try to breach that compound by stealth,” Wilma said.

“Sit down, Colonel,” Asimov said with another sigh.  “You are making me nervous with your pacing.   The reason that I was a bit late getting in here is because we are catching ten kinds of hell for our little action.” 

“But….” Wilma began. 

“No, I am not laying any blame except where it belongs, on my shoulders.  And for what it’s worth, I don’t regret the attempt at all.   We had to try something.”

“Who is protesting, Admiral?” Hawk asked.  “Other than Mendalis, that is?”

“We received that protest, of course, to which I told them that if they would release our kidnapped crewmember, we would leave their planet.  Then we received a council communiqué that censured our action and told us not to do it again, to which I told them that if there was any feasible way we could rescue our kidnapped crewmember, we would. Then there was the coded message coming in, the path of which was so convoluted that we couldn’t trace it.  It warned us that they would send Buck back in a coffin if we tried another sortie like that last one.  Obviously it was from Kormand and I had no way to respond to that one.” 

No one said anything for a moment.  Asimov smiled wryly and added, “Now for the good news; a military cruiser has been dispatched to meet us here.  And just a few minutes ago, based on your survey information, Hawk, the ship has been given sanction to use whatever force necessary to find Kormand.  They should be here in about a day and a half.” 

“So we can’t do anything in the meantime?” Wilma asked, her frustration evident on her face. 

Asimov shook his head.  “No, but they aren’t pre-warning the planetary government this time, so that will give us a very clear element of surprise.” 

“In the meantime?” Hawk asked, understanding Wilma’s irritation.

“In the meantime, we make preparations to go down as soon as that ship gets here.  It will take us that long to work out the bugs in that camouflaging system on your ship, Hawk,” he said in reference to the damage the new device had done when Hawk had made the transition to deep space after his second pass.  “And to fit another starfighter with the camouflaging capability as well,” he added, gazing meaningfully at Wilma.  Her eyes glowed with anticipation. 

 

 

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Sreena was in the med lab when Drishel sauntered in.  Of all the people in Erik’s organization, she detested Stephen Drishel the most.  He was arrogant, boorish and sneaky.  Somehow, Sreena felt that her brother really believed what he was preaching, even though he did have a vengeful streak in him.  Drishel, on the other hand, had a sadistic tendency, thoroughly enjoying the killing and torture of the aliens he had encountered.  And he also had designs on her, feeling that if he could be essential enough to Erik, that her brother would push her to marry him.  Sreena shuddered at the thought. 

“I need something that will increase one’s emotions and paranoia.”

“Why?”

 

“Erik wants to set your friend, Brandt, free, but not without something that will endear him to a Galactic Council welcoming committee.”

“But if he is hyper-vigilant, they might kill him,” she protested.

“I don’t have time to debate this, Sreena,” Drishel snapped.  “Erik ordered it.”  He took a breath to calm down.  It irritated him mightily that he had worked with her, been in proximity with her for all this time and here she was feeling emotions for an amnesiac Directorate pilot after only a few days knowing him.  “Look, Sreena, Erik wants him captured, not killed, so whatever will do the job without getting him killed will be fine.”

Sreena was a bit confused.  She knew Erik was setting Brandt up as a traitor, but she had thought they were still working on it.  Everything seemed so rushed and she wondered what else was going on.  She had hoped that she would have had more time to think of a way out of this for Brandt as well as herself.  Now that seemed to be out of her hands.  She felt stabbings of guilt, knowing that Drishel’s tale of capture, not killing, was just that-- a tale.  Sreena believed that Erik would not be broken-hearted if Brandt were killed during this operation.  Sreena couldn’t refuse Erik’s order, but she might be able to temper it to allow Brandt to be safely taken into custody.  Again the awful pangs of guilt washed over her and she also felt the inevitable shame at her lack of fortitude. 

She saw Drishel’s eyes narrow.  “All right,” she told him and walked into the small room that served as a pharmacy.  Srecosinin is time release and should do the trick without causing so much personality change that Brandt would be killed.  “How do you plan on administering it?” she asked over her shoulder as she pulled down a small packet of the personality-altering drug.  

“Drinking water, I presume,” Drishel answered. 

Good, she thought.  That will make the drug easier to dilute.  Aloud she said, “Excellent, the drug I am thinking of will work better if it’s ingested that way.”  Turning back to Drishel, she found him almost right behind her, leering.  Thrusting the packet of powder in his hands, she said nervously, “This will do what you need.  Just add it to his drinking water.”  She wrote the directions on the package.

“Thanks,” Drishel said with a grin.  “Erik will be pleased.”

“Yes, I’m sure.”  Sreena pushed past him.  “If you will excuse me, I have a great deal of work to do.” 

“Of course,” he said, irritated at being brushed off yet again.  Someday, Sreena Kormand, I will bed you.  You’ll be mine.

 

 

 

 

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