The much anticipated second book in the Khellen trilogy.  The fascinating tale that started in the  Cygnus Arm of our Galaxy doesn’t disappoint.

“They look like big, upright turtles to me, with just half a shell on the back.”

“These are different, some kind of mutation. Note the shape of the head, the bigger cranial capacity … they have a predatory look about them.”

Mesmerizing interaction at every level between the aliens and humankind makes for a great read for sci-fi lovers.  

In Store Price: $AU22.95 
Online Price:   $AU21.95

ISBN: 1-9211-1839-3
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 173
Genre:  Science Fiction

By the same author: The Khellen Gift


Author: John A. Kirk 
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English



(see The Khellen Gift)    


   By 2157 Humans had established bases or colonies on Luna, Mars, Altair-4 and Epsilon Cygni 5 and their latest exploratory voyage under the command of Captain Susan N’gami had reached the binary Jhoonan system.

   On Janus, a moon of Jhoona-5, a rock fall killed one crew member and seriously injured computer scientist and astro-navigator James Balfour who was rescued and saved from death by the Khellens

   The Khellens, from the Cygnus Arm of our galaxy, were on their own voyage of exploration following the path of an ancient race who had traversed the galaxy 100,000 years before, establishing bases on several worlds along their path at roughly 8,000 Light-year intervals.

   The Khellens believed these bases included the planets Khellen, Traggha, Khandor, Epsilon Cygni 5 and Terra (Earth) and that the Old Ones had intervened in developing oxygen-rich atmospheres and may even have influenced the evolution of selected species.

   In healing Balfour’s wounds, the Khellens had altered his DNA so that he now had their 800 year life expectancy and could use their cell regeneration process to prolong his life and, on his recovery, they had met with Susan and the rest of the Terran crew and followed them back to є-Cygni-5.   There, they offered Humanity the gift of a process and biological agents that would enable humans to greatly increase their longevity through DNA modification.

   Balfour now a hybrid creature, more Khellen than human, left with the Khellens accompanied by friend and electronics engineer Elias Whitfield who also underwent the DNA changes made to Balfour.

   When they returned to Terra 5 years later, having searched for traces of the Old Ones in the є-Cygni system, they found chaos.   The DNA modification process had not been applied with due care by the 6 major political Federations on Terra, resulting in 106 million deaths in the Americas , India and the Sino-Asian bloc and there had been mutations too and the refusal of some humans to participate leaving Terra with 2 genetically different “Human” populations.

   The Khellens, unable to help resolve the disaster which some humans regarded as an alien plot to exterminate Humanity, departed with James, Elias and Susan N’gami, who was in love with Elias, to continue on the trail of the Old Ones along the Orion Arm of the galaxy and after a 70-year journey in suspended animation, they came to the ancient pyramids of Shaarg-4.   They were able to deploy the Old Ones’ mechanism generating a negative energy beam that opened a conduit which the Khellen starship and half its crew entered for the intergalactic voyage to Andromeda, the Milky Way’s nearest big neighbour.   The remaining Khellens headed back to their home world in a fleet of small cruisers carried by the starship, a 300-year suspended-animation trip across our galaxy at their maximum speed, with all the knowledge that had been accumulated on their voyage before the starship entered the conduit.







Strangers in a strange galaxy; re-acquaintance;

we become the hunted;  traces of pyramids.



            The alarm pulsed shrilly and insistently. The android inserted a steely digit into the plug-in on the console and the data stream from the ship’s hull sensors flooded its neural plasma. The fingers of the left hand responded to the new information, pressing buttons on the console and the great starship began to respond, changing course, beginning a spiral turn, up and left.

            A19 removed the connecting digit and standing up, clumped to another control panel on the wall, which displayed the status of 64 life-support cocoons and began to press control buttons.          

* * *  

            My arms were pinned under me, my legs immobilized: no matter how I struggled it was hopeless. And now there was a faint sound, a distant roaring, a stirring of air on my face and I could see a light approaching … the train. The roaring grew louder. I felt my body being buffeted and someone shouting my name: with every ounce of my will I tore my left arm free.

            “Quit pounding me, Hokjan.”

            “Then sit up, James.”

            “Where’s Njeen?”

            The cool lips against my cheek answered that one as her long arm helped me upright.

            “Jeez, it’s cold.”

            Hokjan was rubbing my legs as Njeen slipped my plyton jacket around my shoulders.

            “I’m okay,” I said. “I can get up.”

            In another moment I was on my feet.

            “Walk up and down,” said Hokjan.

            I obeyed, shivering.

            “Man, I’ve just got to have some coffee.”


            Slowly we walked along the dim, green-lit corridors past Main Control: I’d got my uniform and my boots on with Njeen’s help, but moving was still an effort.

            The dining room door hissed open and we entered and moved to the table where 7 or 8 figures were slumped in various states of inertia.

            “How are ya buddy?”

            “Fifty-four percent,” said Elias. Only his eyes and lips moved.

            “What’s the story Akjnar?”

            Even Akjnar looked lethargic as he put coffee in front of me and I sipped slowly.

            “The androids wakened us; Torkaz is looking at the ship’s logs.”

            Rheejen stood at his side and he slid an arm around her as she leaned against him.


            Ten minutes later, I was on my second cup of coffee and I’d stopped feeling cold: the Khellens were moving almost normally, Elias was nearly his old self and Susan had started to look organized. Hokjan, Rheejen and Taark were preparing some substantial food and the door opened to admit Torkaz, Sagmar and Lorkan … Sagmar almost broke my left arm with a friendly pat.

            Torkaz spoke. “The collision sensors activated: I assume we exited the conduit and are now somewhere on the galactic fringe of Andromeda. The androids responded with standard course change 5 and then woke Akjnar, Hokjan and myself.”

            “Ship’s status?” Asked Akjnar.

            Sagmar replied. “Ship secure, no damage and there is no immediate threat.”

            He paused and sipped his goosh. “I’ve armed weapons and set screens for pattern 8 so that when we deploy, we’ll have a more irregular profile to electro-magnetic scans: from a distance we’ll look pretty much like a small comet.”

            “Well done,” said Akjnar.

            “Do we know how long?” I asked.

            “We don’t know, James,” responded Hokjan. “All I can tell you is that the cocoons have not registered even one regeneration cycle.”

            “So less than 100 years,” I mused.

            “For us,” said Akjnar. “If we exceeded light speed then time would have stood still for us relative to our galaxy and Andromeda: by Terran or Khellen standards it could be anything from 100 to 20,000 years at our normal maximum time/phase speed … we and the ship just aged less than 100 years.”

            The enormity of that thought silenced me for a while: maybe 20,000 years, maybe no more Terra or humanity as we had known it: strangers here and strangers there now.

            Borgan and Ernal came in and sat down with some goosh. Borgan took a sip of the dark blue liquid and swallowed appreciatively as we waited for his update.

            “Well I can’t tell you precisely where we are but I can say that we are in a galaxy, presumably Andromeda: I can confirm that in a day or two by triangulating with the Milky Way and M33. Without any recognizable star patterns to work with, I can only add that we are about 50,000 light years from the galactic centre and a few degrees above the plane of a spiral arm.”

            “What triggered the collision response?”

            “I don’t know for sure,” said Borgan. “A brown dwarf I think, but it’s way behind us now and ahead there is a star system, about 3 days away at 0.75 light, below and right.”

            “If we really want to look like a comet we had better slow down,” said Torkaz.

            “Not yet,” said Akjnar. “First job is to start mapping this system and pinpointing the planets, that’s for Borgan, Ernal, James and Rheejen. Taark, you and Njeen check yourselves out and see if you can determine from normal vital signs just where your bodies seem to be in your own regeneration cycles … if you are close to the end, we have time to regenerate before we reach the star system ahead. Torkaz, you with Elias, Sagmar and Lorkan check out all our power systems and make sure we have no outstanding maintenance or unit failure predictions to address: then check our nuclear fuel and see how much of that 1000-yr supply we have left. Hokjan, you, Su-zen and I will wake the others.”  

* * *  

When we reconvened 5 hours later, we had some answers but they didn’t mean much. Torkaz was able to say we had consumed only 7 per cent of our nuclear fuel, consistent with a passage of less than 70 years and Njeen’s analysis of her body energy indicators against her regeneration cycle benchmark, indicated she was 65+ years through a 100-year cycle … we’d all regenerated prior to entering the conduit. Neither of these pieces of data could tell us how much ‘normal’ time had passed outside the conduit.


Borgan, Ernal and I had scanned and mapped the solar system ahead and identified a main sequence yellow star of about 3 times the mass of Terra’s sun and with 15 planets including a belt of debris between the 6th and 8th, much like the asteroid belt in the Terran system and indicative of a 7th planet that had been destroyed and fragmented. It was a trinary system with a distant white dwarf, and a closer red giant. As would be expected, the inner 3 planets were mostly small, high-density and with atmospheres stripped by the intense solar wind. There were several gas giants in the 8th to 12th orbital positions and 3 small ice-planets farthest out. That made the 4th, 5th and 6th planets as the best bets for the ‘home’ of the Old Ones assuming that they would have established the conduit such that the Andromeda end was close to an inhabited world or base of some kind. I’d noted that there was a distinct presence of oxygen in the atmospheres of the 5th and 6th worlds and in the orbit of the fragmented 7th.


            “The 4th would be uninhabitable by our standards”, I said. “It’s like Venus only worse, with a day that’s twice as long as the year so that means every second year would be a constant blaze of radiation and every other year night at near absolute zero.”

            “No vacation spot, then,” said Elias.

            “Any oxygen in the planetary atmospheres?”

            “Fifth and sixth planets,” replied Borgan. “The sixth both spins and orbits a little faster than Terra, about 280 20-hour days to a year: and it’s smaller and slightly less dense so lower gravity, about 0.91 of Terra.”

            “Check for microwave radiation in the 263 GHz range like we found on Traggha and Shaarg-4 … if we are correct we should find some traces,” said Akjnar.  

* * *  

            Njeen pressed closer against me under the quilt as we lay together: she had been surprised that I’d wanted to make love the first moment we had alone.

            “Don’t say I make too many demands on you,” I teased, “it’s been 67 years since the last time.”

            Her laugh was musical.

            “For a human male, having the female permit this joining is a reaffirmation of the special commitment to each other,” I said. “When she no longer welcomes it, it is a sign to him that her commitment is dying.”

            “I am not a human female, but I understand what it means to you and in any event, my own wish for this joining is undiminished: it means as much to me.”

            We were silent for a moment.

            “Your best friend seems to have become very close to Akjnar,” I remarked, “judging by the way they were leaning on each other.”

            “It was very obvious wasn’t it,” laughed Njeen. “We did not have time to talk much before we went into the conduit, but she told me they were lovers and that she was so happy she understood how it was between you and I.”

            “I am pleased for them,” I said. “She is intelligent, resourceful and beautiful and it will enrich his life and the lives of all of us if they are happy together.”

            “She also has discovered in herself, as I did, an irresistible desire for this mating.” And as she spoke she rolled on her left side towards me and I felt the long fingers sliding across my ribs.  

* * *

             Susan felt the sudden tightening of his arms, the tensing of his body just before he came and then, the first surges of her own climax and immediately wrapped her thighs around him, her head going back, back arching, hips pushing: she gave a short intense cry as the orgasm surged through her loins. Afterwards they lay quietly, in a delicious languor, their bodies still tingling exquisitely.

            “You are a good boy to give me such big ones.”

            “We try our best, Ma’am,” said Elias Whitfield lazily, shifting slightly to give himself leverage and then rolling over, pulling her on top and pulling the sheet up over them.

            He held her with one hand, caressing her bottom almost absent-mindedly with the other, feeling her wriggle slowly, to get comfortable, but carefully to prevent the separation of their genitalia.


            “Another day and time to get useful I think,” said Susan some time later as they lay there still entwined.

            Elias sighed reluctantly, removing his encircling arm and she slowly withdrew from him. “I’ll shower first,” she said, “you want to put some coffee on?”

            “Sure thing,” replied Elias.

            They were dressed and eating when she spoke across the table.

            “What will we find here I wonder?”

            “The Old Ones maybe: I wonder how they will have evolved in 100,000 plus years since they were in our galaxy.”

            Susan looked at him. “I wonder why they never came back.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “The ruins on Traggha and Shaarg-4 were 100,000 years old, it’s hard to understand why they never came back if they had intervened in the evolution of those worlds to create oxygen atmospheres for future colonization: but if they had come back, there would surely have been some more recent structures.”

            He stood up, wiped off their utensils and put them in the irradiation chamber. “I’ll see you at 12:00.”

            He intercepted her at the door, held her and kissed her. She returned the kiss, enjoying the tenderness of the moment.

            They left the cabin together.


            We were within 4 billion kms of the outer planetary orbits and closing. We’d slowed to a mere 30,000,000 kph to give our comet cover some credibility though it was still way too fast. We were not screened in terms of a defensive posture but had adopted pattern 8 to present a more irregular electromagnetic profile.

            On the bridge Akjnar was talking to Torkaz when Susan entered.

            “Hi Su-zen; we have a sensor contact about 1 billion kilometres ahead or 34 hours, a metallic object.”

            “Do we take evasive action?”

            Akjnar replied. “We initiated screen pattern 8 and did a course change to a parabolic solar orbit immediately afterwards: we will pass fairly close to the object.”

            “What data have we got on it?”

            “It isn’t very big,” replied Torkaz; “spherical, about 15 metres in diameter, probably either a remote sensor device and/or a guidance beacon of some kind.”

            “Either way, we can expect others,” said Susan.  

* * *  

            A bunch of us were grouped around the big table in main control a full day later and Akjnar was doing the talking.

            “Su-zen’s point is a good one though; it would appear they never came back to our galaxy.”

            “If this ship had been on an intergalactic voyage and we returned to find Terra or Khellen destroyed, what would we do?” I asked.

            “So you think they inhabited the 7th planet, James,” said Torkaz.

            “I don’t know,” I said. “I’m just trying to think of likely scenarios and the first one that comes to my mind is this: they set off on a round trip … maybe the round trip was from Andromeda via M33, then the Milky Way and back to Andromeda. Whatever, they use a conduit to get to our galaxy and they enter on the Cygnus Arm side work their way along the Khellen, Traggha, Khandor, Terra route and exit from the Orion Arm heading back to Andromeda. All this takes them say 2000 years or more and when they pop out the door at this end, big surprise, no home planet … what do they do?”

             “Answer, stock up on fuel and anything else you can salvage from the remains of the planet … assuming it’s approachable and not a radiation hazard … and then head for the nearest of those worlds that you’ve been re-engineering to see if any of your main population escaped the catastrophe.” That from Elias.

            “Well,” said Akjnar, “there seems to be two things we can do in the short term; we’ll check out this object and try to estimate when the 7th planet broke up … assuming it was less than 100,000 years ago normal time, the age of the Old Ones’ pyramids on Traggha, then there may still be residual energy traces from the cataclysm.”

            “And we can also keep our sensors tuned on the 5th and 6th planets with the oxygen atmospheres,” said Torkaz.

             Nine hours on and Lorkan called out suddenly.

            “What is it?” asked Akjnar.

            “Energy output from the beacon has just jumped 300 percent.”

            “We’ve been detected.”

            “Not just detected; identified as no comet,” said Torkaz.

            “Commander, the object has left station and is coming toward us.”

            “Okay Lorkan, maintain course.”

            “Closing rapidly, Commander: 20 minutes away at 0.03 light.”

            “Set up defensive pattern 10, 70 per cent power. Sagmar, ready 2 anti-matter projectiles.”

            “Screen now, Lorkan,” said Akjnar 15 minutes later and in seconds our green energy shield became visible 5 kilometres ahead.

            “It’s not slowing, looks like an attack approach to me,” I said.

            “You think so, James?”

            “Let’s just call it a premonition,” I replied.

            “Full power to screen, Lorkan,” ordered Akjnar.

            It was just in time: in moments an eye-searing beam of energy burst from the closing object and impacted on the Khellen screen which immediately began to dissipate the surge.

            “It’s enormous power Commander, we can’t hold this more than minutes,” said Torkaz.

            “Fire AM projectile; power inner screen the instant the projectile passes the 3-kilometer boundary.”

            Sagmar fired the projectile and in the next instant, the inner screen showed green: as the projectile pierced the outer screen, velocity passing 0.24 Light, the beacon’s beam immediately invaded and the inner screen became incandescent as it strove to dissipate the energy. Three seconds later the huge starship trembled as an enormous shock wave washed over its entire structure.

            “Holy shit,” I said, awed at the matter-anti-matter reaction.

             “The object is destroyed, Commander,” said Sagmar.

            “Analysis of that energy beam, Torkaz?”

            “Very high energy Gamma-ray photons mostly, the visible, low energy component was about 20%: without our screen there would have been photo-nuclear disruption of the hull and likely fission reaction … it would have been all over very quickly.”

            “Gamma-ray laser,” muttered Elias, “that’s the kind of defensive weapon that indicates negotiation is not an option.”

            “Yes,” said Akjnar thoughtfully. “If we assume the Old Ones created it, something was a major threat to them.”

            “How close were we to the object when it activated?” I asked.

            “About 10 million kms,” said Lorkan.

            “We will keep a minimum 15 million kms from any more we detect,” said Akjnar. “We should assume there is a network of them and that they can communicate: if they are able to increase power output our screen may not be able to deal with it next time and, next time, we’ll again initiate screen pattern 8, it may be that we were detected before the object activated itself but, because of our profile, it did not see us as being the kind of intruder it was designed to eliminate.”  

* * *


            “Any trace in the 263 GHz range?” enquired Akjnar next day.

            “There is,” I answered, “but there’s a lot of microwave background right across the scale. The most prominent source of 263 GHz seems to be in the asteroid belt where the 7th planet would have been but again, that’s the strongest source of all frequencies; when that planet went it must have been a massive explosion.”

            “We’ll head for there anyway,” said Akjnar. “Keep a close watch on the instruments for any potentially lethal radioactivity build-up.”

            We had cut speed and were now traveling at 8,000,000 kph, still a bit fast for the stray comet image we were trying to project but, even so, it would take 2 weeks to get to the orbit of the fragmented 7th planet. In the meantime we were scanning everything in the system and we had identified one larger body circumnavigating the solar mass in the same orbit as the debris of the 7th planet but itself traveling a tight elliptical path at 60 degrees to that orbit and 85 degrees to the horizontal.

            Borgan had speculated that it must have been a moon of the destroyed planet, which made sense to me.

            We had named the yellow main-sequence star Brzeel-1 after a Khellen High Councilor and the red giant was thus Brzeel-2 and the white dwarf Brzeel-3 … that meant the moon was designated Brzeel-1.7.1 in our scheme of things, being the main (number 1) moon of the 7th planet, even though the planet was gone.  

* * *  

We had a busy 11 days of work checking and rechecking the operational status of a variety of equipment, particularly vehicles, weaponry and scientific gear and, at the end of it, we had traveled over 2 billion kms and had another 790 million kms or 8 days travel to do at 4,000,000 kph. Most of my time was spent analyzing data from those outer planets we came closest to but there was little to be found that made the outer planets much different from Pluto in the Terran system and the gas giants that occupied the 8th to 12th orbital positions were similar in many respects to planets like Jupiter or Neptune: predominately hydrogen, methane, nitrogen atmospheres, multiple planetary ‘rings’ and tens of orbiting moons ranging from asteroid-size chunks of rock up to major satellites of 3-4,000 kms in diameter; and all but 1 of the 5 radiated heat as a result of the enormous pressure in their cores.

One other beacon had been detected of the type that we were forced to destroy, but we never came even remotely close to it and our ‘comet cover’ presumably held good: we were trailing some ionized gas which gave us a faint if unspectacular ‘tail’ in keeping with our disguise.


            Grunting from the pain burning in my pecs, I completed my 200 push-ups and slumped to the floor watching as Elias did his last few.

            “What do you reckon?”

            “I reckon I’m about 60% stronger.”

            “Me too,” I answered. “Which means I’m not quite as strong as Njeen.”

            “And Susan is looking mean and muscular these days; I like it,” said Elias.

            “We’re not in the same league as the Khellens though.”

            “No, but we have faster reflexes, greater foot speed, greater agility and only 80 per cent of their body weight.”

            I sat up.

            “What are you up to in Engineering right now?”

            “Working with Zeedet, Jaard and Torkaz on ways to improve our defensive screens in case we get attacked by another beacon.”

            “Zeedet is the brown one?”

            “Yeah. What are you up to?”

            “I’m mostly still doing scans of the planets in this system looking for traces of the Old Ones. There seems to be a definite microwave signature from that moon, Brzeel-1.7.1: I mean in the 263 GHz range like the Old Ones’ pyramids.”

            “So we’re heading that-a-way, I guess?”

            “Yep.” I stood up. “Let’s go meet the girls and get some food.”

 And with that we headed for the change rooms.  

* * *  

            Rheejen punched keys and overlaid the image on the one from the previous day and highlighted those pinpoints of light that had moved to some significant degree in the time. She continued with the next sector and the next after that slowly, over the hours, identifying all objects in a surrounding 5 billion kilometer sphere where significant movement had been made relative to the Khellen starship.

            If Akjnar was correct in his speculation that there was a network of communicating beacons, it was possible the ships position, course and speed had been transmitted to that network before the attacking beacon had been destroyed.

            The station at which she sat was in the centre of a spherical lab, held in place by magnetic force: all around was a projection of the surrounding galaxy.

            The computer program highlighted objects that had moved significantly then, one by one, the highlights were removed as they were identified as known bodies in the system: the 3 stars, the 14 planets, moons of the planets, asteroids and a couple of comets. When that was done, a further parameter was factored in to leave highlighted only those remaining objects moving towards the Khellen vessel and on an intercepting trajectory. There were 9.

            She put the display refresh on automatic and hailed Borgan.

            “Borgan, there are 9 objects closing on us in the plane of the planetary disk and they appear to be in 3 groups.”

            “Are you sure?”

            “I’m sure.”

            “How close?”

            “Varying from 30 million to 40 million kilometres and by my reckoning, no less than 6 would arrive near us simultaneously and the other 3 shortly after. They will intercept before we reach Brzeel-1.7.1: it can’t be coincidence.”

            “Are they more of the beacon objects?”

            “No. Much slower, speeds in the 250,000 to 350,000 kph range.”


            “I believe they are spaceships and my readings indicate they may be powered by fusion engines.”

            “Tell Akjnar, Rheejen; then load the schematic into the main solar system model and join me in Main Control: I’m going there now.”  

* * *  

            “What do you think?” asked Borgan.

            “I think it is a coordinated intercept,” replied Torkaz.

            “Su-zen?” asked Akjnar.

            “I agree; 9 ships closing from 3 directions would not be required to investigate one beacon that was no longer transmitting.”

            “There’s something else,” said Elias. “I don’t think these objects would belong to the Old Ones, assuming the beacon did: it’s different technology, much less sophisticated.”

            “Yes,” agreed Torkaz.

             “So, whoever controls the ships learned how to use the beacons but haven’t been able to reproduce the technology,” mused Akjnar thoughtfully; “that’s a very interesting thought.”

            “What have you in mind, a quick time/phase jump?” asked Elias.

            “Not for the starship, but perhaps a cruiser with 6 crew, 2 androids and an ATV: make the jump from the cover of the starship and get to Brzeel-1.7.1 unseen while the rest of us lead the attacking ships away.”

            “So there’s a chance to explore Brzeel-1.7.1 unmolested and undetected,” I said.

            “We ought to be able to easily keep ahead of the chasing ships and likely their weaponry will also not pose a major threat.”

            “There is no way to tell what weapons they have,” said Torkaz.

            “No,” replied Akjnar, “but what are the only real options? Missiles with nuclear fusion warheads, particle beams, collimated high-energy photons and anti-matter. We can take out missiles before they get near us, we can screen against beams of electrons or protons and we can reflect gamma-ray lasers. Maybe they have anti-matter, but it seems unlikely if their engine technology is only nuclear fusion.”

            “So,” I said, “the master plan is for the starship to make like a moving target but staying out of range while the cruiser heads to Brzeel-1.7.1 looking for traces of the Old Ones such as pyramids?”

            “Right, looking for pyramids and an answer to the question ‘What happened to the Old Ones?’” said Akjnar. “There have to be pyramids and we need them to get back to our galaxy, but the second issue is also important.”

            He continued. “Will you take command of the cruiser Su-zen?”

            “Of course.”

            “I’d say you’ll need 5 or 6 crew and 3 androids: in addition to yourself an astronavigator/pilot, one medic/biological specialist, an engineer, maybe 2 and one or two security personnel.”

            “What will your plan be in the starship?” said Susan.

            “Borgan says there are 2 spikes in the 263 GHz range and the other is on the 6th planet. We’ll lead these ships out to the edge of the system and then take a time/phase jump to the far side of the solar mass roughly in the orbit of the 6th planet and we’ll find a way to hide till the planet comes by … we’ll check out the other spike.”

            “How do you want to stay in touch?” asked Elias.

            “I hadn’t thought of that,” admitted Akjnar. “I’m open to ideas, because we don’t want our transmissions to be intercepted.”

            “I thought we’d use microwave radio with a 263 GHz frequency.”

            “That is very clever Elias,” said Torkaz.

            “I thought you’d like it,” said the enigmatic engineer.

            “I like it too,” said Akjnar with an appreciative smile. “So who will you take, Su-zen?”

            “Because of our close working understanding, I’d like James and Elias, Njeen for the biomedical specialist, Jaard and Sagmar or Lorkan: preferably both if you can spare them.”

            “And in terms of the androids, I’d like A04 who assisted me with the Old Ones’ workstation back on Shaarg-4,” I said.

            “All right, take Sagmar and Lorkan, A04, A07, A19,” said Akjnar.    



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