The nexus odyssey, p.39
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       The Nexus Odyssey, p.39

           Hylton Smith
 

  Sadat took some time in replying. “I can tell you that he is tolerated in Kuwait. His mother is Kuwaiti but he has been refused dual citizenship many times. He has a valid visa and his mother inherited considerable estate from her father’s passing. There is an imposing property included in the inheritance which he uses. He does not appear to travel outside of the USAr. He has a Russian wife and estate lawyer, and the latter often journeys between Kuwait and Moscow. As far as tracking him is concerned, that would be better left to a Kuwaiti national, for many reasons – not least that your people would not really blend in there. This could be arranged but may take a little time. As I have said, he is already being scrutinised continually. I am led to believe that this is because most of the oil sheiks are nervous of his intent.”

  “Well that is fantastic Mr. Sadat. If he is always being shadowed, it removes my concern. He would perceive this as more of the same if he suspected surveillance. Thank you for your invaluable help.” Koppelt was relieved as he was receiving reports that Mikhail Korolev was proving to be very elusive. Blacked out vehicles, emerging from private estates, with some frequency, rendered it almost impossible to know whether he was inside. He was going to need more manpower.

  ********

  As Red informed Alex 2 of their intent to ascend to the door he simultaneously opened the way with his laser to a red sector ‘tram’. When they had entered a number of options flashed on the map and others remained unlit. Without hesitation Red entered the white, then the sector route icons and ultimately the centre three-dimensional reference values. Off they went with silent efficiency. Upon arrival and exit from the tram, they were confronted with an additional choice – a tram to one of the pentagons. Nielsen was modestly proud of out-guessing the Symbiant. Red was quick to acknowledge intuition was for once ahead of logic drawn from experience. “You were right Mr. Nielsen, this means that there should be a direct tram to another pentagon from somewhere in the red sector. We just did not find it yet.”

  Nielsen was magnanimous. “Quite understandable really, they are very large sectors.”

  Having located the central vertical tram they found the ascent was almost without sensation, yet they arrived in a few seconds. It did not require a code for the door; an internal ‘switch’ did the trick. The awaiting trio beamed as they emerged, as this meant they were not dependent on the Hindenburg craft for the rest of the exploration. When asked about the pentagons, Red said they did not yet know anything about their function. He added, “The priority must be to explore this complex; it is massive and must contain crucial information.”

 

  Chapter 26

  At last Newton was nearing docking preparation. Beth was visibly more upbeat as the prospect of seeing Elke again edged closer. Scillacci found it difficult to look at her without betraying the suspicion in which she was now held. Carvalho was more circumspect – entreating her to take some quality time with her family before re-engaging her career. “Have you decided what you’ll do?”

  “No, but I have decided what I will not do. I won’t be taking up any position, no matter how interesting or rewarding, which completely cuts me off from my sister. I have, according to my father, some lucrative offers pending, but I will take my time.” Carvalho pressed a little further. “You mean you won’t work outside of Germany?”

  “That’s not what I meant. On Mars there was no way back except via mission return. I did resolutely waive the first chance to come back but it was the most difficult decision of my life. I would, however, like to think something will whet my appetite in Europe.”

  Scillacci jumped in, “The Commander has suggested that, apart from attending Jussi’s memorial service in Beijing, if the family are willing, we should go to the real funeral in his homeland. I agree.”

  Beth stuttered at the sudden predicament. She had just confessed that she stalled coming back to see her sister (presumably before she had obtained the analytical data), and Pykonnen’s funeral in Finland was fixed. Her dilemma was two more days waiting to see Elke, or seeming pretty shallow by missing the send-off of someone for whom she confessed she had feelings. “I’ll have to think about that. I must admit I feel I should go, but I..I, I am torn... I think I have already committed to be at my family reunion. I should have thought... er… considered this earlier. I’ll try to see his family at the memorial service and apologise. Do you think they will understand?”

  Carvalho genuinely scolded her. “Well I’m sure they will. After all, they don’t know you, whereas we perhaps had expected more. Never mind, it can’t hurt Jussi anymore.” The Commander left to speak with Dane and Finn. Beth poured out the tears. “Oh Sophia, do you feel the same as he does?”

  “Not quite,” lied Scillacci, “it’s just a surprise – as we are going as colleagues – whereas you had an emotional bond with Jussi. I try not to be judgemental in these situations; I’ve encountered all kind of reactions in my medical career, so I tend to take professional distance when the deceased is discussed. You have to do what you have to do.”

  ********

  The exploration team had descended in the tram to the ground floor and split into two groups again to begin mapping this great centre of learning. The first blank which was filled in was a dedicated console showing that the dividing line outside was in fact a huge set of horizontally opening doors. However there were so many inviting areas that they agreed to get a general feel for all sectors before getting into minute detail on any. As the revelations in the chasm had promised they were logically segregated. The red sector in which they now stood was dedicated to information about their history seen through the leaders of the time. There were distinct differences in physical appearance through the ages according to the visual representations which were displayed. The yellow section complimented this somewhat, with the periods divided by explanations of these differences, and why they had been implemented, rather than a natural evolvement. It could be viewed as ‘transplant’ history. The green section was devoted to the age of the sphere, almost ‘religiously’ delineated from previous eras, in the same way as humans talked of dates as either BC or AD. The blue sector dealt with the codification of principles by which their evolution had been shaped, not exactly laws but accepted practice. The white section was confined to space exploration and the breakthrough which enabled them to embrace interstellar travel. Also the white sector had a control section for the massive outside doors. The irresistible urge to open them materialised in the exposure of a huge silo; it had mounting platforms capable of housing machines which would be of awesome proportions. The platforms were empty. The white section also told of a pentagon manufacturing unit associated with this sector. It struck Red, because of his experience at Pandora’s Rift and Utopia Planitia, that the Rabo input for the trams was much simpler. He knew that the three dimensional coordinates specified the location within the cube without the need for colour or level input. He pondered whether this meant that there were different groups of individuals, categorised by aptitude, some of whom would struggle with the retention of all possible 3D references within the cube.

  ********

  Pascal 2 had been informed by the Symbiants who studied Utopia Planitia that all possible data had been extracted. He then instructed Bee and Ruski to organise the final trip. They were to bring as many Hindenburgs as possible using the earth movers and other ground traffic via the new road. They were to leave the odd vehicle along the route at intervals similar to the charging stations to cover for emergency or breakdowns.

  Once this was achieved he wanted those Symbiants to be available for forestation or transfer to Echus Chasma. The forestation growth continued to impress – it was beginning to be self-generating and just needed a final push to achieve this objective. Its own climatic cycle was slowly but steadily raising oxygen and condensation levels. There was also tenuous evidence that sub-surface soil temperature differences were diminishing between night and day.

  The rock sampling at Pandora’s rift had b
een virtually completed before Finn had left for Earth. Dan continued the monitoring of boreholes and implemented Finn’s recommendation to drill more. The ice water supplies were mounting and Dan asked Van de Ende to use one of the small pumps, delivered with the flat pack cargo by Newton, with a tube heated by some solar fabric from a spare Hindenburg, to drain it away from the hot spot. The objective was twofold – to avoid cooling the boreholes and produce a reservoir which could supply Marineris by pipeline in future. He registered the need for a large suction pump to be added to the cargo of Columbus.

  ********

  Sadat’s people had really done a job on Vanovyvic. They had even managed to obtain data hacked from his computer system in Kuwait. However, the comprehensive operation had not yielded any indicator which would throw specific suspicion on him in this plot. The picture on Korolev was becoming more interesting. One of his trusted aides was a Russian living in Germany. Her residence permit was granted recently and Koppelt switched his attention to this woman. He checked her out with Ledovskaya, who did not recognise the name but promised to ferret out any links with Korolev.

  Within a couple of days she revealed that this woman was kicked out of the Russian secret service early in her career. She had operated in Britain and was suspected of being a double agent. As she was pretty lightweight, in fact little more than a trainee, it had not required her disappearance. She was fed disinformation and the British washed their hands of her; on return to Russia she was declared unsuitable. She had changed the name she used, but not through any official channel. She now called herself Caterina Tsiolovsky. Koppelt was sure he had Beth’s new contact and although it was a gamble, time was not on his side. He decided to concentrate all surveillance on Beth and Tsiolovsky.

  ********

  Xiang would have liked to have been able to simply bask in the abundant and exciting revelations at Echus Chasma, but the imminent arrival of Newton, the Columbus crew announcement, the FBI involvement, Mike’s lone task, and Koppelt’s updates, all ensured he was burning a lot of nervous energy. He also had the small matter of Pykonnen’s memorial to oversee. The family members were already in Beijing to witness the transference from the space elevator to the place of prominence for the ceremony. He had instructed Carvalho to detain both Finn and Dane on board until the body and the family had been united and moved on. Then the two Symbiants would be collected by medical staff and escorted to quarantine. They would not be exposed to the media at any time. A private jet would whisk them from quarantine directly to Quebec, where Mike would take care of the rest. Once Scillacci, Beth and Carvalho had cleared decontamination they would have an obligatory session with the media. Beth was then expected to attend the memorial before making her way to Germany under Koppelt’s microscope, while the other two would be required for further briefing.

  ********

  Xiang had confirmation that the FBI had rounded up those fronting the consortium. This was a big success for them on the drugs front and bought some time for Beijing with regard to Scarlet O’Hara. However, there was still the Russian, and he could inspire those who would be prepared to deal in the crystals, even though he was not in the drugs market. He decided, after consultation with Alex 2 and the Executive that a statement would be released to the media. It read - ‘There has been much speculation concerning the red Martian crystals and their ability to replicate life forms. This speculation increased as a direct result of the live replication of Suliman Ali following the return of Copernicus. It is necessary to correct some of the misconceptions which surround these crystals. Although the composition is known but classified, we can absolutely allay any fears that the Council for Human Exploration, governments or individuals can manufacture them from this data. The chemical ratio of elements is simply the ‘skeleton’ of the crystal. The replication mechanism is a development of the Progenitors and that knowledge is exclusive to them. Even the Continuance does not have access to this fundamental information’.

  Although he expected some interpretation that this statement was a cover up or economical with the truth, it was reasonable to believe it would prompt any new entrepreneurs to check the facts before entering an imaginary market, the downside being that if the message was successful, there would a refocusing by the same people on finding crystal of Earthly origin.

  ********

  Alex 2, Keriakis and Yamamoto reported that the top three levels of the coloured sectors forming the cross seemed to be ‘offices’, as they had small aquamarine screens at every station or desk. The three floors below that were reminiscent of planning or research; and the bottom three were for receiving and distributing goods, within and onward from the cube. Red and Nielsen had by then determined that the black, orange, indigo and violet sectors were living quarters. The first impressions, back at Utopia Planitia, that the Rabo did not seem to have a hierarchical civilisation, were wrong. The black section contained the most spacious and elegant living space. The violet sector was less ostentatious but still quite roomy. The indigo accommodation was functional without frills and the orange section offered only basic needs and space. There was still much to explore in this vast construction but there was also the lure of the pentagons. Since they had a very good general outline of how the cube operated they opted for the pentagons, and the white one had to be first.

  As they arrived they suffered an anti-climax; this pentagon was small in comparison to their interpretation of data at the cube. They were guilty of premature judgement. This pentagon was the inner arrival/departure zone of a colossal manufacturing complex. The adrenalin levels rose again when they saw components of spacecraft and assembly plans; it appeared as though they were just waiting for the new shift to arrive and put them together. It took them hours just to walk around the perimeter. This was too important to delay informing both Marineris Central and Beijing. Pascal 2 duly passed on the breaking news, and this was beginning to snowball on Earth as an equally significant moment to the discovery of the Continuance.

  Chapter 27

  The Beijing service for Jussi Pykonnen had inherited an additional dimension with the Martian discoveries at the cube and pentagon. It forced the usual speeches into a subordinate role. His life had not been terminated without purpose; he was an integral part of a new gateway for the human race. His family could scarcely concentrate on events because of requests by the media for interviews and future rights to his life story. It also prompted Beth to declare that the family should be given private closure. “I honestly feel, Commander, that you and Sophia should reconsider your intent to burden Jussi’s relatives further with the presence of outsiders in Finland. They have been overwhelmed by this circus and the least they deserve is to be left alone from here.” She was feeling good about reversing the mantle of guilt.

  “You’re right Beth. I can’t deny what you say. Anyway I guess Xiang will want to get this briefing over quickly. I hope all is well with Elke and I’d like to think we will stay in touch.” He gave her an enthusiastic if insincere hug.

  Scillacci said that there was no need to repeat Carvalho’s sentiment and she wished her all the best in whatever career she decided to follow. They kissed each other on both cheeks and then Beth walked away; she did glance back and wave. There were no tears. As she checked out of her quarters later, and came to her pre-booked taxi to the airport, she at last breathed a sigh of relief. It was a relief which lasted no more than six short minutes. She recognised the man who entered the cab from somewhere, yet protested that it was a private booking and she was in a hurry, with a flight to catch. The driver shrugged his shoulders innocently and the ‘intruder’ showed her his accreditation as Hanson, working for Beijing intelligence. “We are going to the airport Miss Eisentrager and you will not miss your flight. We will need to have a short meeting there and all will be explained.”

  Her mind was racing. Were they onto her? Why did he say she would not miss her flight? Was it in connection with Jussi’s death? Why did he not contact her at Beijing HQ? There was no
further conversation en-route to the airport. He paid for the taxi. He hailed a porter and instructed him to take her luggage to a private room. They followed behind. Her silence gave way. “I must check my luggage on to the flight.”

  He ignored the request saying only, “Follow the porter.”

  As they entered the room her heart sank. She was greeted with a smile and cursory welcome from Koppelt. Hanson left them alone.

  ********

  The Rabo spacecraft assembly charts were incredibly detailed and painstakingly explained except for the means of moving from departure point to destination. The procedures of incorporation and principles of operation were there, but not the actual theoretical laws of physics which enabled the energy required, either in quantity or source. This more or less confirmed to the two Symbiants that there must have been a ‘gift from the gods’ somewhere along the line. However, that in itself was a paradox if that gift had come courtesy of the Interference. Their understanding was that one criterion for their involvement was a basic comprehension by the species of the subject matter under scrutiny. Although the Rabo had achieved some creditable technical success, there was no evidence yet that their evolutionary research had advanced far enough to be an acceptable recipient of such a favour. Red and Alex 2 conferred and decided that there might be some clue to this in the historical red or white sectors back at the cube. Red left the group to do a thorough search on this specific point. Yamamoto and Keriakis stayed to catalogue as much as possible and attempt to find an exit leading to the surface. If there was no such exit the implication of how to get an assembled craft out would pose great problems. The only other possibility appeared to be time-consuming shipment of sub-assemblies to the cube and completion in the silo. Alex 2 and Nielsen returned to the inner pentagon and boarded a direct tram to the pentagon which connected to the blue sector. This pentagon was totally populated by offices and Alex 2 deemed them to be for Rabo ‘lawyers’. This would wait. The next clockwise tram took them to the pentagon connected to the green sector. Again the assembly and highly detailed manufacturing flow charts of the sphere were in evidence, and this was partitioned from a clean room production line. However, there was a gap in explanation of the exact theoretical derivation of the knowledge. There were more than three hundred steps in the process. The next stop was the yellow sector pentagon connection. This was becoming a repetitive picture. The history of artificial transplant surgery was on show as well as the up to date (at that time) clinics with operating theatres. It looked like a fitting plant for an automobile carcass to inherit wheels, engine, steering etc. The missing explanation of the chemical background was less of a surprise this time. The last stop before returning to the inner pentagon was the red sector/pentagon. Both Nielsen and Alex 2 had waited until this stop before declaring that there was only an inner pentagon on the line from the cube’s white sector. The others were missing this feature. This stop did not need too much in the way of technical elucidation; it was the equivalent of the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. The exhibits were perfectly preserved ‘mummies’ and were arranged in a slightly menacing, upright stance. They were accompanied by plaques, denoting their span of office and achievements. Alex 2 remarked that the dates were only ‘post sphere’ era, implying that the previous leaders referred to back in the red sector ‘library’ were somewhere else, maybe even their homeworld.

 
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