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"Meeting The Man-O-War"© 2004 S.T.
Landing At 'Benito-Base'© 2004 S.T.
"Benito-Base Main Building" © 2002-2007
All graphics by Stephen Turner
(Ralph, the Troupe [and a guest] return to the Terran solar system)The shuttle persona circuits heralded imminent touchdown in the area of the east coast of Panamerica formerly known as New England, now known as Plymouth. They had twenty seconds. From the cockpit window, Avril, Ralph and Hanquong could see an incredible overcast of mauvishly dark cloud cover that seemed to stretch for hundreds of miles once they got under it.
The surface of their beloved Earth was dark. Dark and cold...bitingly cold, as if it hadn’t felt sunlight for months, maybe years. The shuttle and its escort touched down at a huge spaceport near the shores of what once had been ancient Rhode Island. The port must have spread for at least two hundred acres and looked completely paved over...not a blade of grass anywhere. It also had the undeniable feel of a military base! Plain colors were in evidence everywhere, except where “ECF this” and “ECF that” were stenciled or in relief, which seemed like every other wall. Architecture could be described as functional geometric with delicate spires jutting into the sky and vast trapezoidal buildings dotted all over the port’s portentously expansive, flat surface.
The “ECF” insignia was a stylized lightning bolt slicing through a globe highlighting the Atlantic with the east coasts of North and South America and the west coasts of Eurasia and Africa visible through the large letters “ECF” spread out across it in a rounded, elongated gothic-block style. This insignia was plastered on doors, large vestibule walls or where ever the ECF thought it would be the most imposing. It was the UFN meets Mussolini!! Ralph was impressed by the psychology of it all, but he had to know...just who or what was at the root of the ECF!?
(More excerpt after the following illustrations....)
"On The Way To G.V."© 2007 S.T.
"After The Rescue"© 2007 S.T
"Woonsocket Vegetation"© 2006 Stephen Turner
"MarsShield: Protecting the Sovereign State of Mars"©2003 S.T.
"There They Go!"© 2005 S.T.
Forward Flying Fortress"©2004 Stephen Turner
"The Nitrate Mission Begins"© 2005 S.T
"The Nitrate Mission Return"© 2005 S.T.
"Patrolling the Perimeter"© 2007 S.T.
“Colleagues....I do not like this! The fascist ambience is accablant! I have never in my life....” Vendredi, sometimes the teacher riding herd on her classroom of siblings, rushed to quiet the oblivious Mondidi.
“Shush, Mondidi! It would pay to behave ourselves considering the story we have to tell them. Complaining will only alienate them!”
Ralph, Avril and Hanquong were taken into a large conference room after they entered an enormous trapezoidal edifice. The security staff here obviously had remote sensors, because none of the party was physically searched before proceeding past the reception area, where the troupe was left, under guard, to wait for their own interrogation. The cockpit crew themselves were facing twenty rather tight-looking military types who all stared as they were ushered in by what looked like either sergeants or lieutenants of the most rigid demeanor.
Captain Jordan Draper, director of the base, was a little less stiff than those around him. It was he that Ralph had communicated with over the comm link on the shuttle. He, however, cast a very dubious eye at Hanquong who, though humanoid, did indeed look quite different from an ordinary Earther. His appearance, in fact, was causing quite a commotion in the room as the majority of eyes in it appraised him disapprovingly. Even Draper dripped acid when finally breaking the ice with the three.
“Which one of the humans of you is Ralph Krimson....?” Ralph winced just the tiniest bit at the phraseology.
“I am, sir. And who may I ask do I have the pleasure of...”
“Captain Jordan Draper, ECF Land Forces and Moonspace Reconnaissance. I’m the person you talked to up....there.” He pointed upward, feebly, all the while eyeing Hanquong, whose strange appearance almost made it allowable. He continued.
“When you mentioned extraterrestrials, I assume you meant the illustrious third among you, am I correct? What is...it’s name...?”
“He’s not an ‘it’, Captain...he’s a he! Just like you and me. Hanquong here and I have developed quite a close relationship over the years....”
“Excuse me. That’s ‘Hong Kong’, like the ancient far eastern city....?”
“No...‘Hahn-kuwong’. He hails from a planet in the Betelgeuse system. Um...does this culture keep astronomical records going back a millennia...?”
“Then you might remember reading about a rift opening in the northwestern, early autumn sky west of the constellation Draco back in 2657....”
“Why yes, it’s still there, as a matter of fact.”
“Well, before the appearance of that fissure, there was a flare-up of a quasar. It would be recorded as astronomical neo-entity 560, near the constellation of Orion. At that time, and I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, I was on a colonizing mission for the apparently now-defunct UFN, comprising the establishment of bases on both Titan and Iapetus in Saturnspace. After the completion of that mission, the combined effect of those two celestial aberrations threatened to nearly destroy the gas giant planets of our system....”
“That would be the Great Disruption. When was this...precisely?”
“Twenty six fifty seven point eight. Right after the Great Robotic Advance in the UFN. The bases were established as Nova Terra I and II. I assume they were probably destroyed by what you call the Great Disruption. Aside from the expulsed raw power of the two anomalies, there was the molecular suction of the rift and the undertow of the magnetic attraction of the quasar, both of which served to pull me at hyperlight speeds toward Orion and into the orbit of one of the planets of the Betelgeuse system and there I stayed in the company of Hanquong and his colleagues for roughly twenty years, Earthtime. I admit freely that this is a far-fetched story, but every grain of it is the truth, I swear! The clones were originally part of the Titan colony, but through similar circumstances, ended up in the same system, but on a different planet, lush, but uninhabited. Again...the truth.”
“That, Mr. Krimson, is a fantastic tale! Do you seriously expect us to believe you?”
“You can check old IMO records, if they’re microfiched. Or you can ask any one of the clones...or better yet, the living proof right on front of you...ask Hanquong!”
“Mr. Krimson...you must know, as every living creature in this solar system knows, that the Earth, the mother planet, has been at war with the Mars colonies your precious UFN started for, oh, the last 400 years....”
“No, honestly, I didn’t! The fourteen of us just completed a 225 year voyage from....” Draper cut him off, dripping more acid.
“...From a star system 500 to 650 light years away, and we all know there were no hyperlight vessels in the UFN fleet! Come on, Mr. Krimson...who do you work for? Guerropolis Prime, New Guerropolis or Venus’ Refuge....?”
“‘Venus’ Refuge’?! Captain Draper, whether you believe it or not, neither I nor my friends outside have been in this solar system for more than a thousand years. I have no idea where or what Venus’ Refuge is!" Draper looked as if he were starting to give Krimson and company the benefit of the doubt. Some of the acid had disappeared from his voice.
“Those are the colonies on the other side of Mars, Mr. Krimson. Here, let me introduce you to Dr. Potovar and Major Hagendorf, our base psychiatrist and security overseer here. We have devices, harmless to humans, I hasten to add, that will unequivocally get to the bottom of this! Gentlemen....?”
With that, the two yeoman-types that brought the expatriates in ushered them to another room, this one filled with elegant-looking, but nonetheless ominous-appearing devices, made, presumably, for the purpose of extracting the truth better than any strength of sodium pentothal ever could. The other eleven were thrown in with them.
“Assassins!! Assassins!! Go ahead and do your worst! You’ll get naught out of me! The mollusks of Mauritania will be as lubricious sailors by comparison!” Ralph winced. Mondidi could cook it for all of them if she didn’t shut up immediately! Fevrier tried everything he could to quiet her down, and it eventually worked, though she still muttered on unintelligibly.
After they were brought into the room, two men in white, presumably testers or lab technicians, burst in and made a beeline for Hanquong. Preliminary tests to make sure he survives an inculcation designed exclusively with humans in mind, perhaps? Even Ralph was not sure how compatible his physiognomy was to human conditions. His constitution, if it followed his inborn athletic superiority symmetrically, would definitely be stronger than most humans’, but what about the mass of the Earth as opposed to Sonsuang. What about the lesser ozone in the atmosphere. In the twenty years he was there, Ralph had never determined, much less even been interested in, whether the elevated ozone in Sonsuang’s atmosphere was actually crucial to life there, specifically the humanoid life. Nonetheless, Ralph didn’t object when his “stepfather” was tested by these pillars of rectitude for the reason that anyone who could live under that profusion of ozone on Sonsuang had to be indestructible! Mondidi was another case altogether. She squirmed and fought like a child visiting a 20th century dentist for the first time to have a firmly anchored tooth pulled. Invoking every noble quote from all the “righteous rebellion” roles she, her sisters or the Garçons ever played, she carried on like a street brawler resisting police intervention. Charlotte Corday, Jean Valjean, Hamlet, Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, Ruth, Deborah...she finally ended her tirade definitively with a blurted and wide-eyed “Give me liberty, or give me liberty!”
To no avail. She was probed with the others, and, to everybody’s amazement, was released with the others with a clean bill of health. She was, however, the only one applauded as she left the room, defiantly, under guard.
It spoke volumes for the spirit of the privately valiant.
"In The Moon-Earth Corridor"© 2008 S.T.
"WE-1 Patrolling Martian Frontier"© 2002 - Stephen Turner
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