The Bezarna Express
As soon as the wrist wrings securing him to his seat released Laren Brightstar used every possible method known to intelligent lifeforms to compromise the spacecraft, hoping to alter its destination. If he could get to the controls before warp drive kicked in he had a chance. It didn’t take long, however, to discover that his intentions were vain.
He glared at the instrumention panel dangling lifelessly below a gaping hole in the opposing wall in angry defeat, wondering if its readings had been accurate or fabrications in the first place. His original plan had been to use its assumed electronic connections to hack into the ship’s avionics, but it had turned out to be no more than a cluster of wireless slaves embedded in a fake bulkhead. Now it didn’t even provide data, digital read-outs blank, having succumbed to his intrusion. It was almost as if the display was there simply to taunt them, expecting it would be ripped apart occasionally by those who knew anything about spacecraft avionics.
Still fuming with outrage, he pondered what else he might be able to do. The ship was much larger than it appeared from inside. The flightdeck was somewhere above, although trips such as this would be fully automated and lack an onboard crew. Reaching the flightdeck was impossible, their quarters a virtual prison enclosed by steel bulkheads impossible to breach. The interior had been drastically refitted to suit its macabre mission, the area he and his fellow prisoners occupied the original cargo hold, supplies and replacement parts kept in a similar compartment on the starboard side. The only exit was the airlock through which he’d entered and now led directly to the inhospitable vacuum of space.
At first he was surprised that the Bezarna Express was more than some surplus craft ready for retirement. In a practical sense sending such a high quality vehicle on a one-way, irretrievable mission appeared a dreadful waste. In the political sense, however, it was obvious that his captors had taken every possible precaution to assure it reached its destination. Ironically, they were being exiled in the fastest, safest, and most reliable spacecraft of its size ever built.
He was reasonably familiar with RA-681s like this one, coincidentally the same model as Igni’s which remained in an oblique parking orbit above Cyraria. The spacecraft were originally designed for HIO exploration, not warfare, and therefore lacked weapon systems. It was amazing that being defenseless and therefore vulnerable to attack didn’t result in numerous hijackings, yet he’d never heard of such occurring. On the other hand, threatening an official HIO spacecraft would make the perpetrator the target of the most powerful organization in the galaxy which was backed up by numerous fleets of warships, undoubtedly an adequate deterrent to such a foolish move.
Anger spent and the uselessness of intervention decided, he withdrew to contemplation once more, only now beginning to toy with reality. He slumped back in his seat and perused the others assigned to this oneway trip to hell with narrowed dark eyes. The spectrum of emotions displayed was vast with some still furious, others bitter, a few despondent and one still in sulky denial. He wasn’t sure where he fit in, as it varied moment to moment. He had to admit that the ambush had been aggravating to say the least, but far from unexpected.
That was the risk of sedition. Sometimes you got caught.
Playing dangerous games was nothing new, not by choice as much as circumstance. After his tour with the Space Command he’d completed his education in terralogy, the most peaceful and productive career he could imagine. What could be more constructive than making planets habitable? Little did he ever imagine that his first job with the HIO would eventually lead him where he was now, on his way to the galaxy’s premier prison outpost.
Of course the most important information to a terralogist dealt with planetary resources. Remote satellite surveys generally were limited to surface areas and took valuable time. And thus the birth of planetary tomography.
Tomography was done by reflecting radio waves from the atmosphere’s ionized shell. Numerous effects that ranged from weather manipulation to a detailed map of what lay below the surface could be gained, depending on frequency and power input. Unfortunately, while weather manipulation and control held great promise as a terralogist’s greatest tool, it was likewise the military’s most powerful weapon. Atmospheres stored tremendous amounts of energy in often unstable ways that a small, well-placed trigger could direct and release. Why not defeat your opponent by wiping him off the face of the planet with a monstrous storm? Violent cyclonic disturbances commonly known as pressure vortices or PVs wielded an incredible destructive force.
Other options included creating devastating tectonic disturbances like earthquakes or even volcanic eruptions to bring the enemy to his knees. Using tomography to survey vast regions for resources also played right into military areas of interest, such as logistics depots and weapons monitoring. Communications disruption and network design potential were in there, too, but, all that aside, no one was more surprised than the Space Command when evidence surfaced that the side band emissions were causing interesting side effects on the ground.
As their testing program progressed, confusion, disorientation, vertigo and dizziness, even a few rare instances of psi reception enhancement which constituted an increase in telepathic abilities, were not only reported but documented.
While such effects were a tremendous disadvantage to a terralogist pursuing peaceful exploration and development activities, the military immediately saw strategic applications. If they could control human minds, they could affect combat readiness and even the attitude of their enemies and captives.
About the time he was preparing his resignation packet his commission in the Space Command was reactivated and he was granted a Zeta5/NR clearance which allowed him full access to any and all development data. Quitting was no longer an option and his priority was no longer identifying global mineral resources.
His tenure with the project had been relatively short, terminated by an HIO treaty which forbade such weapons or their development. He’d seen to it personally that all the data got destroyed before he left, hoping to leave it all behind. But it appeared Project Spectra had come back to haunt him, thanks to a politically well-connected but mediocre research engineer named Augustus Troy who had been less than pleased with the project’s demise.
He wondered if he had it to do all again what he would do differently and came up blank. That he’d done tremendous good as a terralogist went without saying. But nonetheless, he didn’t miss the irony that Project Spectra would follow him quite literally to the end of his life.
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