There they go

The captain of the BOURGOGNE and Professor Yefimov stood in one of the conference rooms of the headquarters of ASTROCOHORS CLUB. Both wore the prescribed mouth and nose protection and kept their distance. The mood was a bit depressed.
“We have good prospects, I would like to say,” said Yefimov. “But we still have a lot of work to do. What happened to the HIGH HAND 13th Fleet?”
“They have retreated to the edge of the solar system,” replied Captain Haddock. “So we are still cut off from the galaxy. I will restructure my team and then we will look for ways to break the blockade.”
Yefimov nodded. “I’m sorry to have to decimate your crew, but we also need staff here at headquarters,” he said.
“It’s a sad thing,” said Haddock. “But it was only a matter of time. You see, many of the people who work on board the BOURGOGNE were already here under my predecessor. We were actually just waiting for something to change. That seems to have happened now. “
“I hope you don’t hold it against me.”
“No, as I said, it was a matter of time. And with special challenges awaiting us, renewal is perhaps more important than ever for the ship’s crews too.” Haddock looked directly at Yefimov. “Take good care of my people,” he said then. “They are good people. They do an excellent job.”
“Definitely,” Yefimov confirmed. He raised his hand. “Since we still have to keep our distance due to the pandemic, I do not shake hands,” he added. “But rest assured, it would have been a particularly warm handshake.”
“Thank you,” said Haddock. “I appreciate that. Good-bye, maybe we’ll see each other again.”
“Good luck for the future.”
With that, Haddock left the room. He went to his shuttle that would take him back to the BOURGOGNE. Yefimov stood alone for a while and thought. Then he set to work on the tasks that awaited him and his people.

Encounter with Evil

The ATLANTIS base conference room was hectic. Messages were passed on as they came in.
“The BOURGOGNE reports, second squadron of enemy spaceships destroyed, a third is on the way to Uranus!”
“The HEART OF GLASS destroyed another squadron.”
“The radar has lost contact with the alien space station.”
At the last report, Admiral McCloud pricked up his ears. He crossed the room to one of the tables. It was Commander Gibeur herself who was in charge here.
“What was that?” Asked McCloud. “Enlighten me.”

Gibeur called up an image on a small pad that showed a section of the solar system. In the middle of the picture was the planet Uranus and two markings: “BOURGOGNE” and “FREEDOM BALLOON”.
“We have received a message from BOURGOGNE”, explained Gibeur. “During the fighting, a huge space station suddenly appeared, here.”
Another point appeared in the picture. The point moved out of the shadow of the planet.
“How can such a huge thing come to this planet unnoticed?” Asked McCloud.
“We don’t know, sir,” admitted Gibeur. “We did not receive any radar echo before either. Perhaps the surface of this station consists of something that camouflages it. In any case, the FREEDOM BALLOON shot at the alien space station, whereupon it withdrew. See, here!”
The screen showed how the point of the alien space station was moving faster and faster from Uranus. The course was away from the planet’s orbit towards the edge of the solar system when suddenly the point disappeared.
“What has happened there?”
“We don’t know, sir! The station may have made itself invisible to the radar again. We also have no further sightings of the station. It seems to be something like a command ship. It seems to be identical to a station, that Grand Admiral Prawn was looking for. “
“Prawn,” McCloud growled. “Could it be that he was on the space station?”
“Possibly. We don’t exactly know. But it would look like him and his HIGH HAND.”
The HIGH HAND! Yes, in fact, fueling a conflict is exactly what the HIGH HAND would do. An internal war in the solar system. At the end of the conflict, someone will be the leader. Scurra thought it was him. He would be the space emperor. But the mysterious leader of the HIGH HAND, Prawn’s Commander, wanted this title for himself. And he wouldn’t share, not even with Scurra.

“Sir!” Someone called at that moment. “Message from Jupiter: the alien forces are withdrawing!”
“The same from Mercury!”
More and more identical messages came in. It was always about the attackers withdrawing. But the radar revealed that they were not gone. They withdrew to the edge of the system. The blockade would then remain.
Commander Gibeur activated the large main screen again and looked at the map of the solar system. “For now it looks like we’ve won,” she said. “But something is wrong.”
“Yes,” confirmed McCloud. “Because we didn’t win. We just held out long enough for the enemy to lose interest. Now this enemy is gathering at the edge of the solar system and is waiting to strike again.”
Gibeur looked at her pad. “What I see here, we are lucky enough that Lokubami is under control and we will see a new praetor today.”
McCloud nodded weakly. “Still that. But we saw how sensitive it all is. We stood on the precipice of fascism. One step further and the solar system would have plunged into chaos. We have to do something.”
“What do you have in mind, Admiral?”
“I’m going to make a very lonely decision now. Maybe it’s wrong. But like I just said, we have to do something. Our weakest point is undoubtedly the Earth. The Terrans are unable to cope with the diversity they offer Galaxis offers to deal with. We have to do something first! Make Terra wise again. Something like that. “
“And how is that supposed to work?”
“I will consult with my fellow admirals. But I think we will transfer this task to the ASTROCOHORS CLUB. We had this team, this Ostap Yefimov and his people. They seemed to be quite capable. They should take over the task To redesign ASTROCOHORS CLUB. Hell, we have to redesign ASTROCOHORS as a whole.“
The admiral turned to the door. “I’ll have a talk with the officers in a moment,” he said. “If the enemy shows up again, let me know!”

Iteriú Rangatira’s Finest Hour

Captain Haddock was standing in front of his seat. He was watching what was happening on the main monitor of the bridge very closely. The outboard cameras had already captured them: spaceships, a total of 24. They had broken out of the ring of siege that had encircled the solar system for some time and were heading for Uranus.
“The ship is on alert!” Reported Commander Pellton. “We can strike at your command.”
“Very nice,” said Haddock. “Unfortunately I don’t have an exact strategy. A squadron of combat ships heading for Lokubami. Who is the squadron leader of our ships?”
“The boss himself, de la Valliere.”
Haddock nodded approvingly. “I should have guessed. He’d rather fly such a mission himself. Open a channel to Valliere for me.”
An officer in the background of the bridge activated the communication. “Valliere is on the line!” He finally said.
“Here is the bridge,” said Haddock. “Valliere, can you hear me?”
“Clearly and clearly,” was Valliere’s voice over the radio. “We’re ready to go. Any important last words?”
“No. You have full freedom of action for this mission,” replied Haddock. “The goal is clear: The squadron must not reach Lokubami! Should individual fighters get through, the BOURGOGNE is ready as a second line. It would be nice, but that is not a must if you would just damage one of the fighters so we can bring it in and take a look at it. “
“We do what we can, sir. I can’t guarantee anything.”
“All right. Then you have approval. If the going gets tough, the HOOD would still be nearby and would support us.”
“Understood, sir. We’re starting now.”

The BOURGOGNE space fighters met their opponents at a safe distance from the planet and a wild battle ensued. Haddock and Pellton watched the whole thing on the monitor from the bridge.
“Do you notice how strangely these alien space fighters move?” Asked Pellton.
“Indeed,” said Haddock. “The movements are extremely jagged and very difficult to follow, especially with a cannon. But sometimes the response time is very long. What can that mean?”
“I don’t know if it’s important for now, but I think these space fighters are unmanned.”
Haddock turned his head and looked at Pellton. “Remote controlled or flown by computers?”
“I think more of the latter,” Pellton mused. “The fast movements speak for it. And then, when too many impressions come at once, the computer no longer responds and reacts too late. There is a reason why we even use people to remotely control the unmanned space fighters and not computers. “
“The human brain under stress is superior to any computer,” said Haddock. Then he turned to the communications officer. “Open a channel to Valliere for me.”
A few seconds later the radio connection was established. “Valliere here! It’s difficult, but we should be able to do it!” Reported Valliere.
“I believe you, but we noticed something that might make your work a little easier,” said Haddock. “It looks like the space fighters are unmanned and controlled by computers. If we create enough distraction, the computers will be overwhelmed and the space fighters will slow down.”
“Sounds logical. What do you suggest, Captain?”
“We’re going to fire a few shots from the ship’s cannon,” said Haddock. “Light energy that just sizzles a bit. But the space fighters have to react to it first.”
“All right! We are prepared!”
The captain gave the order: “Con, fire the on-board cannon with minimal energy in a ring around the alien space fighters. Try not to hit our space ships!”

The strategy seemed to be working. The shots of the BOURGOGNE caused a distraction and more and more of the foreign space fighters fell victim to the fire of Valliere’s squadron. Victory seemed near. And whenever victory seems to be near, a law of nature wants it, something happens again.
One of the bridge’s navigators answered. “Sir, I’ve got an echo on my radar! It’s huge …”
Pellton checked the radar. “There’s something coming from the back of the planet,” he said. “Is that … Can that be a moon?”
“No sir,” said the officer. “It’s not a moon. It seems like a space station!”
“Too big for a space … station …”
At that moment it was also visible on the screen. A huge sphere with a brown surface emerging from the shadow of Uranus.
“Is that supposed to be a space station?” Asked the communications officer. “Looks like a goddamn coconut!”
“And on which palm tree is it supposed to have grown?” Asked Haddock sarcastically. “Con, realign cannon, full power. I don’t know what that is, but it doesn’t look friendly!”
A message was heard over the radio: “BOURGOGNE Warning! We are now taking action. Keep distracting the space fighters!”
Pellton looked at Haddock in confusion. “Who was that?”
One could see a laser beam that shot past the BOURGOGNE towards the foreign space station. The beam struck the surface of the sphere and caused a couple of explosions.
“Sir! You won’t believe it,” the navigational officer exclaimed enthusiastically. “This is the FREEDOM BALLOON! It shot at the station!”
In fact, the FREEDOM BALLOON went unnoticed alongside the BOURGOGNE. Now she fired a second time. The second shot also hit. The alien space station changed course, away from the planet, and increased speed.
The face of a Lokubam woman appeared on the main screen of the BOURGOGNE. Haddock and Pellton looked amazed.
“But …” Haddock stuttered. “How can that be? You are still on board the FREEDOM BALLOON?”
The woman was Iteriú Rangatira, the representative of Adjungit Inkibus. That Inkibus who, after winning the confrontation, was to take over the office of Praetor of Lokubami.
“Yes,” answered Rangatira. “Tell me, Captain, how can I just wait on the planet while I know there is danger? The uprising a few days ago was just a foretaste. What happened today should be the main thing. And we know still not whether a few militias will strike on the planet after all. “
“But … the ceremony is supposed to take place today!” Said Pellton. “And you’re still on the spaceship.”
“I still have eight hours,” said Rangatira. “That’s enough to take me on a shuttle, fly to the planet and be there in time for the ceremony.”
“Sir,” interrupted the communications officer, “a message from Valliere. The enemy space fighters were destroyed. But the radar reports a second squadron approaching.”
“With all due respect, madam,” said Haddock, “but you should get to the planet as soon as possible. We’re going to do a bit of cleaning up here. See that you fix this with the militias so that they can Ceremony can be done, okay? “
“I’m afraid you are right,” admitted Rangatira. “I will leave the FREEDOM BALLOON in the hands of its capable captain.”
“I can provide escort to your shuttle,” said Haddock. “So that you arrive safely on the planet’s surface.”
“I gladly accept that.”
Haddock turned to Pellton. “Let our second squadron take off as escort for the FREEDOM BALLOON shuttle. In the meantime, we’ll stir up the space fighters a bit.”
“Yes, sir!”

The Memory Bank of Scurra

It should be over at last. Votes, meetings, elections. Everything was done, the senators had discussed things and always came to a conclusion. And the result was that the days of Dumno Dvala Scurra as Praetor of the Lokubami people were numbered. The last time the mood had turned against him was when the armada of unknown warships had emerged that had sealed off the Sol system from the outside world. For a long time it had been assumed that these ships had been sent at the behest of the prepositus of the Usovai’i and that the prepositus and Scurra made common cause to bring both areas under control. There were still people protecting Scurra and saying it had nothing to do with it, but that seemed too incredible. Indeed, most of Scurra’s supporters were adamant that these warships would bring salvation. Heracle S. Nevikobros, a failed actor, had taken the lead in a quasi-religious movement and fueled such conspiracy myths. He spat poison and bile at everyone who disagreed with him, adding to the negative mood on Lokubami.

But now a delegation of MPs was on their way to Scurra’s office. They should tell him the result. But they had a fear, for Iteriú Rangitara had returned from her mission and had confirmed that the foreign warships were in contact with militias loyal to Scurra. Still, none of the senators wanted to believe that Scurra would really attempt a coup. If they brought him the news of his disempowerment, they believed, he would be furious and say nasty things, but that’s about it. They thought he was a whisk. He would make a lot of fuss and then pull away like he always did. They had no idea how wrong they were.

They entered the office. Dumno Dvala Scurra sat at his desk, surrounded by computer screens. He looked up.
“Master Speaker of the House,” said Scurra, almost delighted. “Then I assume that we will finally have a result.”
“Prepositus Scurra,” said Sylvanya, the appointed Speaker of the House of Senators, “I must inform you that, according to the will of the House and the people, you no longer hold this office. It is the will that Adjungit Inkibus will replace you . “
“I see,” said Scurra. “So it’s treason.”
“The procedure followed the rules,” said Sylvanya. “Contrary to your constant allegations of manipulation and corruption, not a single piece of evidence has been found. The government will …”
“I AM THE GOVERNMENT!” Scurra yelled.
Then something happened, the extent of which none of those present could initially grasp. Scurra picked up a data stick, a memory bank that was used every day. He slipped it into a slot on his desk. A question mark appeared on one of the screens. Scurra’s gaze darkened.
“Execute Order 88.”

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash
Dominos falling
 Riot in the streets
 Baby this time
 There's no retreat
 There's no surrender
 A devil is rising
 A shadow from the past
 Feeding the flames with fire
 On the edge of fury
- "True Survivor" by Jorgen Kjell Elofsson / Johan Bengtsson

The USS BOURGOGNE was in orbit around Uranus. Captain Haddock was sitting in his chair on the bridge, looking through various messages on a data pad. It finally seemed to be over. The reports that came from Lokubami were cautiously positive. The process of forming a government and how the area’s head of state was appointed were also too complicated. On the other hand, of course, he knew it was on purpose. It was about the fact that in Lokubami a power-hungry elite had secured their benefices for decades and centuries. This worked best with a system that was as complicated as possible. In fact, democratic factions had always managed to outmaneuver the system and create a moment of truthfulness. Just like at this moment, or so it seemed. So now the MPs would go to Scurra and …
Commander Pellton came running to the bridge.
“Captain!” He exclaimed excitedly. “Scurra – he speaks to the people!”
“About time,” said Haddock. “Time to end this unworthy spectacle and finally turn to the right problems …”
“No, Captain, he’s calling for an uprising!”
“WHAT?”
Pellton turned to the communications officer. “Put on the channel of the Lokubami government! Quick!”

The communications officer turned to his desk and hit a few buttons. The large main umbrella of the bridge came on and the portrait of Dumno Dvala Scurra appeared.
“I’ll say it again,” they heard him speak, “Go to the seat of government! Don’t let yourself be stopped! I’m always with you, I’m your supporter! Now you have to support me so that this country can be transformed … to FIRST SOLAR EMPIRE! My new empire will be the greatest empire we have ever seen here and it will be a great empire. The worlds will look up again to the Lokubami, as it should be. Because we are the regents of the solar system! “
“That … he didn’t say,” Haddock stuttered.
“Yes, sir, he did,” Pellton contradicted.
“HIS new empire? Who does he think he is? The space emperor?”
“Sir!”, The communications officer interrupted, “I get reports that a mob is making its way to the seat of government in Lokubami. The barriers and protection forces are being overrun.”
The officer pressed a few buttons again. The picture on the screen changed. You saw an outside view of the government building and people approaching it. People started breaking windows and kicking doors.
“Sir, I’m hearing a speech from Kalgon of Arcadis on another channel,” said the communications officer. “He calls for a revolution and demands unconditional submission to Scurra’s new empire.”
“Sir, Lieutenant Allaire is down there!” Said Commder Pellton.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Captain, as you remember, after what had happened over the past few days, there should be observers down there. Neutral observers. Lieutenant Connie Allaire was chosen by us.”
“Wait a minute – and where is she exactly?”
“She is with the delegation that was tasked with informing Scurra of the outcome of the discussions.”
Haddock jumped up from his seat. “You’re telling me that Lieutenant Allaire is down there at the center of the riot?”
“That’s what it looks like.”
“What can we do?”
“Not much, sir. We can only intervene if there is an official request. From the Lokubami government. And that government, whether we like it or not, is still headed by Scurra at the moment.”
“He’s never going to call on anyone!” Said Haddock. “He wanted exactly what was happening!”
The captain turned to the communications officer. “See if you can contact Lieutenant Allaire!”
The officer turned to his desk. He made a few adjustments, then spoke into a microphone: “Lieutenant Allaire, this is BOURGOGNE. Do you hear me?”
It took a few seconds, then the officer’s face brightened. “I have her!”
“On the speakers!” Ordered Captain Haddock. Then he said into the room: “Here is the captain! How are you, Lieutenant?”
“I’m fine. What’s wrong?” Allaire said over the radio.
“Haven’t you noticed anything yet?”
“Praetor Scurra activated a memory bank and played a recorded speech. Then he retired to the private chambers and has since refused any contact. Why? What is happening now?”
“Planned!” Scolded Haddock. “That hellhound planned it all!”
“Of course he did,” Pellton agreed. “Since the moment he realized that he would no longer hold his office.”

“Captain,” said Allaire suddenly, “strange noises can be heard here. What is happening?”
“Now listen carefully to me!” Said Haddock urgently. “You have to get yourself and the others to safety! The speech that Scurra played there had its full effect. Right now an armed mob is invading the seat of government. We cannot say what else will happen.”
“I see,” said Allaire. “Is there anything you can do to help us?”
“I would love to. But according to the regulations, it is still an ‘internal matter’ at the moment. We must not intervene if we are not requested.”
“Scurra will never make a requirement,” Allaire said. “I’ll ask the spokeswoman for the house if she can achieve anything. One more question, Captain, you say the mob is invading here? What about the security service?”
“It was overrun or, as far as I’ve seen it, hardly offered any resistance.”
“I see. I will now go to safety. If there is something like safety here in the building.”
“Take care of yourself, Lieutenant!”
“Yes sir! Allair out!”

Order and Progress

Everyone in the ASTROCOHORS headquarters was excited. More and more of the transmission lights came on. There, another one! And another one!
“Eighty percent!” Someone shouted.
Shortly afterwards: “Ninety percent!”
The control center was almost at full capacity again. Communications Officer Legrelle had just opened a channel and saw the portrait of Commander Victor Araujo Sousa on his screen.
“We just saw it,” said Legrelle. “So it’s normal for you too?”
“We still had a few problems,” Sousa had to admit. “But I think we should be back to full performance now.”
“Good thing you didn’t get discouraged, sir!”
“Never!” Replied Sousa. “They say we have the warrior’s soul here. As long as one is still standing, we won’t give up! Report to headquarters that we are online again!”
“Yes, sir!”
Legrelle smiled. A warrior’s soul …

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

French Stories and a Tiny Smile

It was the first time. The first time in weeks, no, in months. The adjudant looked very carefully. Yes, there it was! A smile! A small smile, tiny. But it was there. Lieutenant Commander Nadège Devereaux smiled. The adjudant was intrigued.

“You’re smiling,” he said to show his amazement.
“Yes,” replied Devereaux. “Finally again.”
“So the message you received is positive?”
“Absolutely. That’s a response from Division Y-128. They say they have re-established connections.”
“That means …” the adjudant began.
“Yes,” interrupted Devereaux. “Our department is back online too. We can send messages. The warriors have returned.

Photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash

And the Water full of Starfish

Being back in the water felt good. Nat Anders relaxed for the first time in weeks. Even if the situation in which the solar system found itself was anything but relaxed. In addition to the warlike atmosphere, the outbreak of this virus from Earth had now also been added. But Nat was back on Aquamarinon, and that mattered to her right now. It was her moment. Even if Aquamarinon wasn’t actually her home planet.

(c) ASTROCOHORS Command

But Aquamarinon, now that she was aware of her true nature, was the closest thing to home. She still wondered when and how it had happened. Why was she one of Aquamarinon? How did she come to earth? And why had it been kept a secret from her?

No, she said to herself sternly as she drifted through the blue waters. No questions! Not now. The universe was a swirling mess. No questions. Not now. Just rest. Nat knew her colleagues were still busy with different things. The attack on the perimeter of ASTROCOHORS had left deep scars. Everything was still not back on track. Nevertheless, she had been given rest. She liked that. These colleagues were very friendly. She had had that feeling from the start. Since joining the team, everyone has cared a lot for her.

Her colleagues gave Nat a moment to relax. Everyone knew that it would be different very soon. But what would she expect. Scurra, behaving more and more like a dictator, gave more and more insane orders. He was just about to destroy democracy on his planet. Was that it?

And then this outside invasion. An armada that was about to completely seal off the solar system from outside influences. Were the intelligence agencies right that this invasion was from the Usovai’i? Was it something to do with the thing that Nat and her friends witnessed some time ago? The space tunnel? Was that it?

Oh no, more questions. It wasn’t the time for questions. But she noticed that the relaxation did not want to come completely. Whenever she tried to empty her mind, new questions always came up. It was just so busy. Scurra, the Usovai’i and ASTROCOHORS. And the virus. So much.

The ocean of Aquamarinon. Infinite. And the water full of starfish.