Commander James Pellton was very tired. He sat in an armchair in his cabin on board the BOURGOGNE and stared into space. It was that moment of tiredness when the mind hovered between reality and a surreal dream world and images that one saw were dragged and distorted into another world. There were people who would hallucinate or hear sounds that didn’t exist. All Pellton felt was an unbearable weight like cotton candy descending on him. He couldn’t and didn’t want to. He had a pad in his hand. But the grip of Pellton’s finger around the pad was no longer so tight. The pad could fall to the ground at any time. But what did that matter? There was a report on the pad that Pellton had received. A disaster. It looked like Praetor Scurra of the Lokubami had deployed a spy on Earth. That one had been infected with a virus that was rampant there. The spy took a particularly aggressive variant of the virus with him. Scurra would have had a chance to stop it all. All he should have done was quarantine the ships that had carried the spy. But a counselor stopped him. He thought that if these ships were to be quarantined, their names would be revealed. This would allow the crews of the ships to know that they had transported a spy and may even be able to identify him. Since he was a very good spy, you shouldn’t take any chances. Scurra did this. The spy died of the infection. And the virus had spread by now. It had come to Uranus through the servants of the Praetorial Fleet. It had spread through dealers. There have now been outbreaks on every planet in the solar system and the number of patients has increased. It was all a man’s fault.
Praetor Scurra had carried out the whole thing, of course. But the adviser who advised him to do so was named Kalgon of Arcadis. Its origins were long in the dark, because that didn’t seem to be its real name. Arcadis hinted at a region of Mars but wasn’t really helpful. Kalgon always hid behind a mask when he appeared in public. But it soon became clear that the man came from Jupiter’s moon Europa. He felt safe behind his mask and acted like a backward-looking reactionary who wished for the good old days that had never really existed. Those who knew him said he had a sense of purist thinking that ignores the complexity of topics.
Yes, he was like that. Everything was easy. Either black or white. No grays. Either you were for or against. Category 1 or Category 2. The advice Kalgon had given to the Praetor could also be explained by this false dichotomous way of thinking. There was interest in the Lokubami government in covering up a spy against the innumerable individuals in the solar system who may have become infected. Kalgon was not interested in these individuals. He was an ardent admirer of Praetor Scurra and would have done anything for him. And when it came to keeping Scurra’s filthy businesses below the surface, that was what you had to do. A question buried itself in Pellton’s mind. The spy! What about that? Why had Scurra put him on Terra, right now? Terra was already isolated from the community of planets of the Sol system.
And since the virus broke out there, quarantine has been tightened for the entire planet. Is it exactly this time that Scurra chooses to send a spy to Terra? What was so important that … “Commander Pellton, here is the bridge!” The radio conversation interrupted his thoughts. “Pellton here, I hear you, Bridge.” “I’ll send you a message on your pad. I think you’ll find it interesting.” “Understood.” Pellton gripped the pad tighter again and picked it up. A message appeared. Pellton’s eyes widened. “Pellton to bridge!” He called excitedly into the radio. “Here is the bridge, continue, Commander.” “The message you just sent … is that certain?” “It just came over the orbital radio from Uranus. Several agencies have confirmed it.” “Thank you! End!” Pellton sank back in the chair. They did it! The Lokubami senators and parliamentarians had rebelled against Scurra and called for his resignation. The time when the inflated self-promoter tormented the Sol system with his terrible tirades seemed to be over. But that had been thought before, when trying to drag Scurra to court for his myriad offenses. Scurra had hidden behind his position of Praetor and got out of it well. He could try that again. That could be a great day. But Pellton also thought of people like Scurras Vice Denarios. Or Kalgon of Aracdis. They wouldn’t go away. The fight had only just begun. But then the melody of a song came to Pellton’s mind. Always forward, step by step, there is no going back …
“And who is this … brother Jonathan?” LeCreux pulled his glass towards him and took a sip. He tried to act randomly. As if the answer to the question didn’t really interest him. As if he really didn’t know anything about this “brother Jonathan”. The opposite was the case. “Brother Jonathan, you don’t know him? Everyone here is talking about him!” The Lokubami sitting across from LeCreux looked excited. “Brother Jonathan is the secret counselor of the most splendid chosen one! He lets infinite wisdom flow into the chosen one, coming directly from the spirit of the universe!” LeCreux tried not to look negative. Over and over again there were rumors of a mysterious advisor who was issuing coded messages. This news spread like wildfire to Uranus and its moons. Many said that was total nonsense. LeCreux said that too. He was a scientist. Much of what “Brother Jonathan” said was sheer nonsense and easy to refute. But he had developed into some kind of religious figure. The problem was, it fitted into the “most splendid elect” narrative spread by the fanatical followers of Praetor Scurra. In a legend, which was nothing more than a bedtime story for children, a wise counselor is told who shows the chosen one the way. Now it looked like a real person was hiding behind this “brother”. But who? “And what makes you so sure that this brother Jonathan is really the praetor’s advisor?” LeCreux wanted to provoke his counterpart. “Ha!” Said the person addressed. “Brother Jonathan knows things that only the Praetor knows. And besides, the Praetor has already confirmed it!” LeCreux was surprised. He hadn’t heard that before. The praetor had confirmed that he was getting advice from this brother Jonathan? When and how? LeCreux looked around. The BOURGOGNE had been in standard orbit around Uranus for a good 48 hours. The captain had to be present at the praetor’s wedding, but during the ceremony Captain Haddock and his first officer James Pellton had been contacted because there was a problem. A fleet of Usovai’i had been floating around the solar system for some time. They had attacked at Oberon and now they were about to disrupt ASTROCOHORS CLUB communications. They had brought the ift into position. While the captain and his first officer on board the BOURGOGNE were trying to re-establish communication, teams from the science and security departments had gone to the planet. Officially, it was said that they were going on shore leave because the BOURGOGNE could not leave orbit due to an “inexplicable defect”. But that was just a story that was supposed to cover up the fact that the teams were supposed to interview the Lokubami people. The news that came from Lokubami had gotten stranger and stranger lately. It almost seemed as if the praetor had brought the planet’s press and media into his power, so that they only published what he wanted. They often spread propaganda about Sucrra’s opponents, Inkibus. And again and again Brother Jonathan.
The Lokubami, who sat across from LeCreux, pulled a small pad out of his pocket and switched it on. The two were in a bar of the worst kind. At least that was LeCreux’s verdict. It seemed logical to him to investigate here of all places. The worst and most repulsive nationalists who were ardent supporters of Praetor Scurra met here. The room was decorated with a banner. It was strange, but the words on it were written in Latin, an ancient, extinct language from planet earth. Lokubami had a soft spot for that. Presumably, using this language made them feel on an intellectually higher level. “Ubi nostrum pergit omnes abire” was written there in large, unfriendly letters. LeCreux had been studying a while ago, he was having trouble translating the words, but somehow it was about keeping the followers of Scurra together. LeCreux’s interlocutor was just such a supporter of the praetor. In the meantime the Lokubami had found what he was looking for: a video file. He showed LeCreux the small screen of the pad and ran the video. It was from Vulpnov, a broadcaster loyal to Scurra. And it was a recording of Scurra, an interview. “I have the greatest supporters imaginable,” he said. “What about Brother Jonathan? Your followers seem to be very fond of him. Does he advise you every day?” Asked the reporter. “Great advisor. He’s a great advisor. And he reports great things.” That was all. LeCreux nodded carefully so as not to attract attention. What the Lokubami saw as a major revelation was not really one. It was a flat phrase. Scurra had only said that the ominous brother Jonathan was a great advisor. He hadn’t confirmed with a single syllable that Jonathan was advising him. Scurra did that often, he remained vague so that his followers could pick out what he had meant. And once he got concrete, he had no problem lying. It was a common joke in the solar system that politicians always lie. Scurra had perfected that.
LeCreux was disappointed. On the other hand, should he have expected anything else? Scurra has built a web of lies since he became praetor. Why should it be any different now? In a few days, Scurra’s Senate opponent, Inkibus, would attempt to take the praetor’s seat. Nobody knew how the confrontation would end. But never in the history of the planet has it been so important that a praetor be removed from office.
“We’re in orbit!” Captain Haddock nodded in the direction of the navigational officer. Then he turned to his first officer. “Pellton, explain it to me again.” Pellton rolled his eyes. “Are you wasting time, Captain?” He wanted to know. “You will not be able to avoid it. With all the strange occurrences, especially around Uranus, we have to make a little good wind with the praetor.” “By going to his son’s wedding?” “It’s an event! And we are the BOURGOGNE! We have made a name for ourselves. Even with the Praetor of the Lokubami.” “Lokubami … I always thought that sounds like Wobani.” “Wobani? What is that supposed to be?” “I have no idea. I dreamed it as a child.” Pellton nodded. “I’ll have the shuttle prepared now. Then we’ll fly down to the planet.” “There is no other way.” Haddock sounded desperate. “People and their rituals. Why can’t you just marry quietly and in a small circle and leave innocent people like us outside?”
“This wedding is a wedding, a great wedding. Possibly the greatest wedding in the history of great weddings.” Now it was Captain Haddock’s turn to roll his eyes. He couldn’t understand. The man was just babbling. He made up words and let them fall unchecked out of his mouth. That was all. How the flying spaghetti monster had it happened that this man of all people was promoted to the post of praetor? Oh yes, in the same way that many praetors had been appointed: because they knew powerful men behind them. Lokubami’s electoral system was tainted and corrupt. That had been known for years. But none of those in power had dared to do anything about it. Not even the moderate praetors. That was kind of disappointing. “And of course,” continued the praetor, “a great wedding also includes a great son. Of course, he could only bear this great name that my parents gave me: Dvalo! As it should be, he has chosen the greatest bride. “ Praetor Scurro grinned. Haddock looked at Pellton in horror. Pellton looked just as horrified at Haddock. The grin didn’t bode well. The two fleet officers suspected what was coming. They hoped it wouldn’t happen. “Just watch out, my son,” said Scurro. “You have chosen a great bride that I might want to hit on myself.” Laughter broke out among the guests at the wedding. It was the kind of laughter a group would throw up when trying to flatter whoever had just made a bad joke. How could this comedian with residual hair, who called himself praetor, make a joke in the presence of his own wife about poking the bride of his own son – and that at the son’s wedding? That was disgusting in so many dimensions that well-known physicists would have to make completely new calculations. But that was what the praetor was known for. Haddock tried to put a smile on his face, but he couldn’t. He looked like a horror clown whose makeup had been stolen. “Are you not feeling good about the food, either?” Pellton asked softly. “You look like you’ve got a stomach ache.” Now Haddock really had to laugh. The Lokubam cuisine was not known for particularly delicious specialties. On the contrary, everything was somehow chopped into small pieces, added fat and sugar, and baked in too much fat before being served with drinks that contained so much sugar that they were barely liquid. And of course there had been steamed hoosheln for dinner. Hoosheln was a piece of massacred meat between the slices of what appeared to be an old, ragged bun. There was an indefinable mush on the meat, which ran out of the edges with every bite into the bun. Indeed, Haddock could already feel his stomach rumbling. In one article he had recently read a warning about steamed hoosheln. If you eat too much of it, it would destroy your taste buds.
“As a father, I can’t be more proud. And I was certainly a great father, as my son always said.” “Self-praise stinks,” Haddock whispered so only Pellton could hear. Scurro was a master of self-praise. “It couldn’t be nicer at this point. It’s a great time.” Scurro paused dramatically. Haddock, who had actually only listened with one ear and otherwise thought about it, got straight to the point. His instinct for danger spoke. He had heard many speeches from Scurro – too many, in his opinion. Scurro was a simpleton. He could not play sonatas on the keyboard of politics. It was only enough for something roughly equivalent to “All my ducklings”. He always did the same. And such a dramatic pause in speech, together with the arrogant look he had put on, meant nothing good. “I am particularly pleased,” he began, “that we have representatives from ASTROCOHORS with us today. There are great people who fought great battles, outside, by the shit hole in Azeria. The moon that the Terrans ‘Oberon’ after a legendary prince, although that gives the Azerians too much honor. “ In a legend of the planet Terra, Oberon was an elven king, and the Uranus moon was named after this figure. Azeria was called by its residents. Azeria was independent, as were most of Uranus’ moons. That had long been a thorn in the side of the Lokubami. “I’ve also heard the news that the aggressors are said to be a secret fleet of the Usovai’i. But my secret service … and it is a great secret service, maybe even the greatest secret service in the entire solar system … my secret service tells me otherwise. “ “What?” Whispered Pellton. “Does he know something we don’t know?” “Wait and see,” Haddock replied. “I bet it’s just a lie again.” “My secret service tells me the other moons have teamed up to take over Azeria because of the raw materials. So sad. The other shit holes are fighting another shit hole.” “Did the Praetor of Lokubami just accuse the governments of the Uranus moons of attacking one of their own?” Pellton asked in disbelief. “I told you so,” replied Haddock. “Let’s see how much he’s beating the nationalist drum again.” “We know it’s wrong!” Insisted Pellton. “The evidence…” “What evidence?” Asked Haddock. “We have the report from one of our agents. A Praetor Scurra will not recognize it. And that’s it.” “I’ve said it for a long time and I keep repeating it,” Scurra continued, “we of the Lokubami are chosen to restore and maintain law and order in the solar system. Perhaps we should start with this in front of our own door Great job. These are times of crisis and my political opponents have nothing better to do than hold me on in endless procedural questions. But they will not succeed. Senator Inkibus challenged me. Well, he should. But you will see, me will emerge stronger from the confrontation! Stronger and greater than ever. “ “When is the confrontation?” Asked Pellton. “In a few days,” replied Haddock. “He has to face the Senate and the representatives of the provinces. If his challenger Inkibus succeeds in convincing the senators and other politicians, there will be a change of government.” “Who is this Inkibus?” “Adjunkit Inkibus, Senator himself. Not necessarily the best choice, but better than what is currently in the position of Praetor. The procedure is quite complicated. It is on purpose, it was introduced so that the common people would not understand what going off. “ “We are a great people on a great planet. Today Lokubami belongs to us, tomorrow all the provinces …” What was that? Haddock couldn’t believe it. Was Scurra really talking about ruling the whole planet? Uranus itself was divided into two realms, Lokubami and Lokubami Aquilon. One tends to forget that in view of the Lokubami’s megalomania. So did Scurra want to conquer Lokubami Aquilon? “We will pacify the moons,” Scurra continued. “We will bring our great spirit over the planets of the solar system! And then we will have it, peace.”
The way Scurra pronounced the word “peace” sounded like a curse. Worse, all he said was a promise. He was determined to make that happen. “Pellton, remind me we’re going to be in touch with the Aquamarinon agent,” said Haddock. “I need to know a few things again.” “Why is that, Captain?” “It’s interesting, don’t you think? Scurra says stiffly that the attack on Oberon is an internal conflict between the Uranus moons. I want to know how he came up with it. And how do we know he’s wrong.” Pellton nodded. Then he noticed a light blinking on his bracelet. A visual signal that BOURGOGNE tried to contact him. He had muted the signal. “Captain, the BOURGOGNE is calling us. I’ll just ask what’s going on.” “Make it that way.” While Praetor Scurra continued to rant about his greatness, Pellton broke away from the crowd and walked a little way from the event. The wedding of Scurra’s son took place in a large building on a rock, from which one could see far into the country. Pellton went out on the balcony, making sure no one was around. Then he activated the communicator. “Pellton here. Speak, BOURGOGNE!” “Villers here, Commander. It is imperative that you and the captain return to the ship.” “Why what’s going on?” “The Ift is fully charged again. The field is interfering with ASTROCOHORS CLUB’s communication. We have to do something.” “And another interruption in communication. How could that happen?” “According to our scans, the Ift is being charged from Uranus.” “Uranus? Wait a minute, isn’t one of Scurra’s followers a director of a company that makes such technology?” “An arms manufacturer, sir. Yes, that’s right.” “Do we know that for sure?” “Absolutely.” “Then we have to bring this forward! We have to inform the Solar Federation.” “I hate to disappoint you,” said Villers, “but that won’t do anything. I remind you that Uranus is also a member of the Solar Federation and has a seat on the Grand Council? If we report this, the Federation can do nothing without it Do the Lokubani consent. Scurra will claim everything is misinformation and will refuse to investigate. “ “But what does he get by having a war on the doorstep?” Asked Pellton. “Oberon is a moon of Uranus!” “He can present himself to the senators and the people as a strong man.” Pellton nodded. “Yes. And turn the confrontation with Senator Inkibus in his favor. That’s his plan.” “What I still don’t understand,” said Villers, “what do the Usovai’i get out of it? Praepositus Pupepa is wasting energy and time on these skirmishes in the solar system. What does he want?” “Pupepa and Scurra are like twins. They could have the same parents. Both are power-obsessed and, to a certain extent, megalomaniac. Villers, you can assume that Pupepa is taking some advantage out of this. Otherwise, as you say, he wouldn’t waste energy and time.”
Pellton looked into the distance. He sighed. “I’ll let the captain know,” he said then. “Get ready to pick us up here. It was a boring event anyway.” “Nothing exciting happened?” “Scurra played the March of Nationalism and showed how great it is. And we ate extremely bad. The Lokubani just can’t cook. If you can even call the munching up of shredded ingredients cooking.” “A true royal wedding then?”
Pellton was on time. The shuttle brought him to the surface of the planet Aquamarinon. Now he stood there on a rock by the sea and waited. Actually, this description of the place was very strange. Aquamarinon, called “Neptune” on earth, actually consisted of 98% water. The land mass was the smallest in that world. He was waiting for a woman. The woman was one of the last of the Y agents. The group of agents was founded around 40 years ago. At some point after around 15 years there were no more new agents. But the agents who already existed more or less stayed on duty. Most recently, they were subordinate to BUREAU 07. The struggles that broke out in the SOL system did not follow any internal logic. ASTROCOHORS hoped to shed some light on the Y agents. What was the plan? Pellton saw a shadow in the water. Then a bald head appeared. A woman in her 40s got out of the water. She was wearing a black bathing suit. Pellton eyed her closely. Brown eyes. Was that really her? He hadn’t been told that the woman was bald. “The moon is blue,” said Pellton. “But I prefer creamy cheese.” “Where the antelope sucks, the crocodile sucks too,” replied the woman. “Interesting,” remarked Pellton. “May I ask for a match?” “I always use a lighter.” “That’s even better.” “Until it breaks.” Pellton nodded. “Are you Agent Y K?” The woman rocked her head back and forth. “Y K is the old name,” she explained. “Y V is correct now.” “What … what …” Pellton stuttered. He didn’t know how to ask the question. “Do you mean my hairstyle?” Asked the woman. Pellton nodded shyly. “The mutation,” she said. “She went on.” “Mutation?” “There are no more original people of Aquamarinon. Their DNA has been passed on to different people. How exactly, we do not yet know. But there are some who are amphibionids. I found it out by accident. I discovered that I can breathe underwater. But it didn’t stop there. “
She ran her hand over her bald head. “At some point I started losing my hair,” she explained. “It’s only logical, aquatic beings don’t need hair. That’s all.” “Okay,” said Pellton. “I’m sorry if I was indiscreet.” “It’s okay.” “Well, let’s get back to why I’m here,” Pellton said. “Did you find out something?” “Yes. The Usovai’i are preparing for what they call ‘the last battle’. It is supposed to take place sometime between October 31st and November 4th.” Pellton frowned. “What is that supposed to be – the final battle?” “It’s difficult to find out. But it seems like some kind of master plan. The Usovai’i also used agents on Earth.” “What?” Asked Pellton, horrified. “But that is extremely dangerous! What about the pandemic that is currently taking place on earth?” “As far as I understand, the Usovai’i prostate listens to an advisor who is only known to us by the pseudonym Kwan’us. This in turn seems to be an agent of the HIGH HAND.” “The HIGH HAND, of course,” said Pellton. “I would have been surprised. So the successors of the empire have now fully taken over the business.” “This is how it looks. I think we have to keep an eye on these kwan’us. The agent who was on Earth left the planet at 8:01 am local time today. Shortly afterwards, the computer system in the ATLANTIS malfunctioned . “ “Sabotage?” “Probably. The technicians are trying to find a solution. But that hasn’t worked so well so far.” Y V held out her hand to Pellton. She held a data disc in her hand. “Here, all of our results. Your specialists will be able to evaluate them.” Pellton took the disc. “Thank you very much!” He said. “We’ll see what we can do.” “Good! I’ll get back to you.”
While Pellton and Agent Y V were separating, the Usovai’i agent had arrived at the command ship. Little did he know he was infected. When he entered the command ship, he came into contact with other crewmen. Three of them got infected instantly. And that was just the beginning …
“Desert Hawk! Desert Hawk, do you hear me?” The voice came out loud over the radio. “I can hear you,” replied the radio officer in charge. “This is Desert Hawk. Send your callsign!” “This is DL02. Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! A large fleet has appeared out of nowhere and is heading for Oberon!” “Do that again! Did I understand you correctly, that a large fleet has appeared out of nowhere and is now heading for Oberon?” “Confirm! Use the long-range scanner! You will see them, the fleet consists of at least … oh, holy flying spaghetti monster! We’re counting over two hundred echoes! Do you see that too?” In the meantime, the radio officer had obtained information from a colleague. He had activated the long-range scanner as announced. Now he saw them too. “Yes,” the officer called into the radio. “We see them too. What is it? Can you give us details?”
“Desert Hawk” was a radio surveillance station for the Oberon Defense Facility. It was hidden in the desert, in a large rock. That should serve as a cover. The defense weapons were stationed in the desert around the station. “Usovai’i!” Said it over the radio. “It’s definitely Usovai’i! Small attack cruisers. Wait … some have opened their cargo hold doors. Something’s coming out! Combat troops! This is an invasion!” Somebody had called in the commander of the “Desert Hawk”. He was just stepping into the room when he heard the word “invasion”. “Invasion?” He asked. “What’s going on here? On the screen!” The radio officer activated the big screen. This took up one wall in the small room. It showed a signal transmitted by a satellite. Countless spaceships approaching the Uranus moon. The commandant took a deep breath. “Call the USS BOURGOGNE! They have been watching something for a few days. Let Captain Haddock know that it has started.” “Sir!” Said the radio officer. “I notice that the transmission to the other planets is getting worse and worse.” “I see here …” came a message over the radio. But what followed was hard to understand: “… object … radiation … disturbance …” “Repeat!” Ordered the radio officer. “We can not understand you!” “Obj … rad … ea …” The radio officer turned to the commander of the “Deser Hawk” station. “Sir, the signal is getting weaker and weaker. Could it be that the enemy launched Ift?” “Ift?” The commandant sounded horrified. “Ift is banned under the Venege Convention, it would be a catastrophe for our communications.” “If these are the Usovai’i, then they are acting on the orders of Prostat Pupepa. The Venege Convention shouldn’t really matter.” “You are right. Try to contact Cybernia. They should try to reestablish radio communications. What about the BOURGOGNE?” “I got a message through. I don’t know if it was heard, though.” “How far are the objects?” “Coming to orbit.” “And the communication between the departments of ASTROCOHORS CLUB?” “Is disturbed.” “Okay … Get everyone ready to attack. Get everything ready to activate the defense.”
“Well! Here comes good ol’ Charlie Brown!” Claude Feret pointed to a Terran with a round head and a strange hairstyle who had just walked into the bar. “Good ol’ Charlie Brown … yes sir!” He continued. “Good ol’ Charlie Brown,” he added. “How I hate him!” He said then. “You don’t?” Agathe Grzesiak, who sat across from him, shrugged her shoulders. “Little girls are made of sugar and spice,” she said. “And everything nice. That’s what little girls are made of.” After saying those cryptic words, Brown approached her table. “Rain, rain, rain,” he said. “Like watering a dog’s flower.” Claude frowned. “That is a strange sentence. Is that what you say in …” “Minneapolis!” Remarked Brown. “I’m from Minneapolis. And yes, my father always said that. I never understood what he meant by that.” Then he looked around. “Let’s go,” he said finally. “I don’t think any will come.” “I’m afraid I have to agree with you,” replied Feret. “I feel like I’ve been stuck here for seventy years. Apparently the promised contact person is a phantom.” “Probably”, Agathe confirmed. “The name alone sounded suspicious … Peppermint Patty, who is called that?” “What do we do now?” Asked Brown. “The mission has obviously failed. But we still have 48 hours before BOURGOGNE will contact us again.” “We could try to make our way to Dowalka,” suggested Claude. “If we can get cheap transportation, we could be there in six hours and meet with Pellton.” “Alternatively, we can sit here and wait,” said Agathe. “Will you still love me when you’re grown up and rich and famous and I’m just a poor little girl?” Said a woman. The woman had come to the table unnoticed while the three officers of the BOURGOGNE discussed their failure. “Uh …” Brown stammered. “Sure I will,” he answered the code the woman had just used. “And will you still love me when you get rich and famous and I have nothing?” “That will be different,” said the woman. She sat down at the table. “So you are the guys from BOURGOGNE,” she stated. “Then you … Peppermint Patty?” Asked Claude. “Yes. I hope you haven’t waited too long for me.” Awkward silence. Yes, they had waited a long time. The team, consisting of the three officers of BOURGOGNE, was abandoned here in Tropica shortly after Fulmen Grancolline won a few valuable computer chips by participating in the tournament of death. It turned out that there were hostile activities on Oberon that threatened the safety of the solar system. So Claude Feret, Agathe Grzesiak and Charlie Brown were sent on an undercover mission. They were practically abandoned. They were the castaways in Tropica. While they were investigating what the Usovai’i army was doing here, they made contact with underground fighters who wanted to provide them with information. And there she was, Patty the contact person. “Anyway,” said Patty, “I have highly confidential information here.” She slid a memory stick across the table of the little bar where the four of them were. “Troop movements, troop numbers, everything. I think the Usovai’i guy has big plans.” “Why are you helping us?” Asked Agathe. “If Pupepa gets away with his plans, I don’t know what will become of the known galaxy,” she stated. “That’s enough motivation for me. You will find a few more documents on the memory stick that fell into our hands in a bunker. Obviously Pupepa doesn’t want this to be known. He’s probably afraid that his reputation could be damaged. Although I don’t know if his reputation can be damaged. “ “Why?” Asked Claude. “What is it about?” “Did you know,” said Patty conspiratorially, “that the Great Leader of the Usovai’i is really descended from a Gunnafiri family? And not from any, but from the Hýnkel family.” “What? That means …?”, Feret began. “He’s related to the Great Dictator, yes,” Patty confirmed. “The G.D. is his uncle. Shocking, isn’t it?” “Well,” objected Agathe, “relationship doesn’t mean that you are of the same kind.” “But there are often attitudes circulating within a family,” said Brown. “It would explain a lot about Pupepa. How did that go about?”
“Pupepa’s father,” Patty explained, “was the youngest brother of the family. When the Stellar War broke out, the older brothers – including the GD – fought on the side of the empire. Pupepa’s father preferred to emigrate to Usovai’i Then made a fortune by providing for the Usovai’i troops, who set out from Kor Ywen in the battles of the Stellar War, in his pub, thus laying the foundation for the family’s fortune. “ “It was wise to change his name,” said Brown. “Yes,” answered Patty. “Now if you’ll excuse me. You have what you wanted and I’ve been here too long.” “Just a moment!” Demanded Claude. “What’s the name of your underground organization. Just in case we need to come to your aid.” “Very kind of you,” said Patty. She pointed out the window. You could see the opposite wall, which was sprayed with grafiti. In the colorful pattern was a picture of a white beagle. “It is,” she explained. “White Beagle, that’s what we call ourselves.” Then she said goodbye. The three officers of the BOURGOGNE waited a moment, then they left too. In their possession they now had a memory stick with a lot of sensitive information.
Now it had to be seen what one could do with the information. What a time to be alive “We need to contact Schulz somehow,” Brown said. “It will be a great story, it will be told in seventy years!” “And then in the end we weren’t here that long”, added Agathe. “It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown.”
“Captain’s log, supplement. Our destination is Planet Uranus. My orders are to examine the reaches of Azerim, a region on one of Uranus’s moons. Meanwhile I’m becoming better acquainted with my new command – this carrier vessel BOURGOGNE. I’m still somewhat in awe of its size and complexity. As for my crew, we are short in several key positions, but I’m informed that some highly experienced women and men will be waiting to join the ship after our visit at Uranus.”
“Why did I even agree to this?” Captain Haddock grumbled. He paced up and down the room. That wasn’t the mission! King Fulmen! Great idea! All they were supposed to do was bring Fulmen to the moons of Uranus. Apparently he had made so much impression there that he had been appointed “replacement king for life”. No, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t about several moons of Uranus, but only one: OBERON! “It was the only way, sir!” Said Pellton. Haddock sighed. “As always, you are right, Pellton,” he said. “That’s why you’re such a damn good first officer. Do me a favor and please never take a command of your own. I don’t see what I would do without you.” “Probably dying a gruesome death,” said Pellton, grinning. “And yet: How could I agree to this charade? We can see how it ends now.” “Oh, it’s not over yet.” The captain looked out the window. You had a wonderful view of the landscape. Kagnaszax Castle was on a hill overlooking a wide valley. The little town of Honeywood was down there somewhere. Primitive humanoids lived there in an eternal Middle Ages, it seemed. Although they had contact with the other worlds of the solar system, somehow the inhabitants did not develop any further. They went about their simple life, that was it. Sometimes an evil ruler would come and suppress them, then they would call for a hero who would defeat the ruler. And the status quo was restored. Episodic, almost like one of the old TV series.
This is how Fulmen Grancolline came up with the title of “replacement king”. He had defeated an evil wizard and earned the thanks of the people. King Fullmen! It was only logical that he should use his royal power to enlist the help of the Honeywood people. “And all because of a few computer chips!” Muttered Haddock. The unusual activities in the Oort cloud, which the BOURGOGNE had noticed a few days earlier, had also been observed by a drone. Or at least that was what Haddock and the ASTROCOHORS staff suspected. Because that drone had been shot down over Oberon and come down in the Honeywood area. But the recordings that the drone had made were saved on chips that were in an explosion-proof container. And the fleet urgently needed the information on these chips! It turned out that a few residents of the Azerim region had already recovered the wreckage of the drone. So King Fulmen should appear and at least demand the computer chips from the people. There and back again. Super easy, barely an inconvenience. Unfortunately, since the last visit, a new man had moved into Kagnaszax Castle. And he had taken the glittering chips. Of course, he didn’t want to give them out that easily. He wanted to have fun. “Sir, Fulmen is a good fighter,” Pellton confirmed. “He’ll be fine.” “I wish I had your confidence in the future! Why do you think it is called the ‘Tournament of Death’? Because the fighters are throwing cotton balls at each other?” “I’m surprised that there are still death tournaments in the solar system. The declaration banning …” “Pellton, thunder and grenades! Haven’t you got it?” Haddock scolded. “Declarations and laws that have been issued by the Supreme Council of the Solar System are beautiful declarations. In order for them to have an effect, they must be filled with life by the members of the planetary community! And here on Oberon of all places one does not feel bound by such resolutions! Death tournaments have a long, sad and gruesome tradition in the solar system. And it looks like we’re seeing their return these days! “ “That’s the bad influence of Prostat Pupepa the Usovai’i,” Pellton noted. “There is no longer any cohesion among the peoples of the planets, everyone only fights for himself.” “Maybe,” replied Haddock. “Recognizing that doesn’t solve our problem. Fulmen is supposed to take part in the tournament of death and defeat one of the best fighters in Azerim. Then we’ll get the chips.” “And with it the information!” “That worries me too.” “What are you worried about, Captain?” Haddock gave Pellton a piercing look. “What if Fulmen wins, we get the chips and find out it’s nothing.” “Nothing?” Asked Pellton. “You mean that …” “Right. We don’t know for sure that there is anything on the chips that will help us. So far we’re just speculating.” “In the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!” Pellton exclaimed. “Then we can only hope.” At that moment there was a knock on the door. “Who’s there?” Haddock called. “Groppler Norz!” Someone called through the closed door. “I am to inform you that the Exalted Ruler of Kagnaszax has decided that the Tournament of Death should take place in 20 minutes. Your presence is urgently required.” “We’re coming!” Replied Haddock.
Kagnaszax was a spacious castle complex with a large inner courtyard. This is where the tournament ground was set up. The square consisted of a large square bordered by wooden barriers. The so-called “Sublime Ruler” and his court had gathered around the square. Then there were the few crew members of the BOURGOGNE who had accompanied Haddock and Pellton. Just as the captain and his first officer arrived at the battlefield, Fulmen Grancolline climbed over the barrier and into the ring. Two assistants had been assigned to him. One of them handed him a sword. “Your opponent,” said the assistant, “wears the black mask of the best fighter in Rumaroma. It will not be easy to defeat him.” “Oh,” said the second assistant, “just say it as it is. It will be impossible for the stranger to defeat a person wearing the Black Mask.” “You give me courage,” said Fulmen with irony. At that moment, Fulmen’s opponent climbed into the ring. It was a massive man who was dressed entirely in black. And he wore a black mask over his head. “Captain,” Pellton whispered. “Could it be that this opponent is a black coat?” “A servant of the High Hand?” Haddock asked back just as quietly. “Quite possible. No idea where they all have their fingers in the game. Not intended punch line.” “I thought to myself, Captain. The situation is too serious to be antics now.” “Listen! Listen!”, A herald appointed for the tournament called out loudly. “The tournament of death is now about to begin. If the strange giant wins, the exalted ruler will hand over the glowing sticks to the strangers that we got from the crashed sky car!” “Let’s hope so,” said Pellton to Haddock. The stranger with the black mask had meanwhile also got a sword. “Let the battle begin!” Shouted the Exalted Ruler. The two opponents took position. “The battle will go on for a long time,” said the Exalted Ruler to his Herald. “My fighter is the best, and the giant doesn’t seem to be bad either. The light will go out in two hours, we should make sure that there is enough light so that the tournament can continue undisturbed.” “You expect the fight to continue into the night?” Asked the Herald. “But yes!” Confirmed the Exalted Ruler. “This is going to be a fight that will be read in the annals of Azerim! It might even be midnight by …” Puff!
There was a clapping sound. And the next thing you heard was the impact of the stranger’s body with the mask. This had fallen unconscious to the ground. It had happened so quickly that hardly anyone had noticed. Fulmen reacted very quickly. As soon as the fighters had got into position, he dashed forward, blocked his opponent’s sword with his sword, while he reached out with the other hand and struck. Fulmen hit his opponent in the face with his fist. And he fell like a sack of potatoes after the harvest. “The … uh … fight is … uh … over …” the Herald stammered. “The winner is the strange giant. I think so.”
The Exalted Ruler of Kagnaszax was speechless. So that was the “tournament of death”? The tournaments weren’t what they used to be! Not to mention the black coats! The captain was already standing next to the ruler. “The chips, please,” he said, “we’re in a bit of a hurry.” The ruler handed over the chips. And he decided to terrorize the people of Honeywood a little to compensate for the missed tournament. He would have done that anyway. But now he had every reason to!
“Bombs and Grenades!” That was Haddock’s way. He was always very direct. And when there was a problem, he was prone to curse. The reason for the sudden emotional outburst of the captain of the USS BOURGOGNE was a feedback he had received from his first officer. “Is that really confirmed?” Asked Haddock. Commander James Pellton shifted nervously in his chair. “Otherwise, would I report it to you if it wasn’t confirmed?” “Who made the discovery?” “Someone from science. They did a long-range scan and noticed the signal.” Haddock ran a hand through his thick beard. “Bombs and Grenades!” “You said that before, sir. The question is, what should we do now?” “Well, then I’ll make one of my famous wrong decisions … First of all, you will send the results of the long-range scan to headquarters. Tell the Chief Admiral if you have to! And second, we will take a closer look . LeCreux should come to the bridge! “ “LeCreux is already waiting on the bridge with the other command officers.” Haddock nodded. “I keep forgetting what an excellent first officer I have. Then let’s not keep the gentlemen waiting.” “Yes, sir!”
Seconds later, Haddock and Pellton stepped out of the captain’s ready room onto the bridge of the USS BOURGOGNE. In fact, all the command officers were already assembled, along with the bridge crew who were on duty. Pellton stepped forward. “LeCreux, please explain the details of your discovery to the captain again,” he said. “Well, actually it was my department’s discovery,” began LeCreux. “That doesn’t matter now!” Snapped Haddock. “Your report, please! Who will receive the Nobel Prize for the discovery, we can find out later.” “Well, my department did a couple of long-range scans. We examined various celestial bodies in the Oort cloud. You remember, your instructions were to find out whether alien spaceships could camouflage themselves as celestial bodies and hide in the cloud.” “I still have it in my head,” Haddock growled. “We first looked at the cloud and then selected a sector, because if you please, Captain, the Oort cloud is damn big. One of my officers suggested the sector because the density of objects is particularly high there. a spaceship could hide there particularly well. “ “And the jack of all trades was right!” “You could say that,” said LeCreux. “We weren’t really expecting to find anything. There’s more to studying the different structures of the ice meteorites. Then about twenty-five minutes ago the scanners made us aware of a meteorite with an unusually high iron content.” “Iron,” muttered Haddock. “I’m not a scientist, so if I’m wrong, correct me, but the celestial bodies in the Oort cloud are mostly made of ice. Right?” “Absolutely correct. The comets that cross the solar system come from here. The tail they form behind them comes from evaporating ice under the influence of the sun. Now the meteorites also have a solid core, but …” “But?” “We didn’t get any readings that would have confirmed that there was any ice there. So we started recording. And that’s when it happened!”
“Don’t make it so exciting! What happened?” Asked Haddock. “Before our eyes the unusual celestial body with a lot of iron and without ice turned into an ordinary celestial body with a small core and a lot of ice around it.” There was silence on the bridge. You could have heard a pin drop. “That means,” explained Commaner Pellton, “that a cloaking mechanism unknown to us has been activated. That is the only explanation for this phenomenon.” “Yes,” Haddock confirmed. “Meteorites generally do not change their composition spontaneously. Do we still have the object on the scanner?” LeCreux turned around. “Lieutenant Brown!” He called in the direction of the science station, which was in the far corner of the bridge. “What do the scanners show?” Phyllis Brown, a young scientist, replied without looking up from her panel: “It hasn’t moved. Or, it moves with the drift of the Oort cloud. Nothing unusual since then, we still get the same values.” Haddock moved towards the captain’s chair. “Then let’s have a look at that thing,” he said. “Show me the object in the overview.” The large main screen changed the cutout. Until just now he had shown the starry sky. Now there was something to be seen that vaguely resembled a cylinder. However, the surface appeared to be rough. And what’s more: the cylinder shone blue. Haddock bit his lip. “What are we up against here?” He asked aloud. “Nothing friendly, that’s for sure,” said Pellton. “Why else should they hide? And in the Oort cloud of all places?” “If I could make a suggestion, sir?” Brown asked from the background. “Oh please,” said Haddock. “I am grateful for any suggestion.” “Without wanting to stir up panic,” said Brown, “but would it be an option to do another long-range scan?” Haddock frowned. “What are you looking for?” “According to comparable objects. About the same size and composition and that glow blue.” Pellton sighed. “The only reason I don’t like this is that we could find something.” “What if it were so?” LeCreux asked. “Then we’re screwed,” Pellton stated.
“HOW MANY?” Haddock jumped up from his seat. Brown winced and clung to her pad. “We have discovered two hundred such objects in the immediate vicinity,” she repeated in a trembling voice. “And I’m afraid that’s not all yet.” “This is an invading army!” Exclaimed Pellton, who was standing next to the captain’s desk. Haddock glowered at him. “What else should it be?” Added the first officer. “Why would anyone hide out here instead of shouting an official hello?” “I think you are right,” said Haddock to Pellton. “But what kind of clout are we dealing with here? Can the BOURGOGNE stand up to such a power?” Pellton gave a short laugh. “Absolutely not. I looked at the data from the first object. If what we saw before they went into camouflage is correct, it is a spaceship about a third the size of BOURGOGNE. If there are over two hundred of these ships out there, they outnumber us. We’re not talking about little space scuttlers. Of course that depends on their firepower, but the numbers alone speak against us. “ “May I make another suggestion?” Brown asked hesitantly. “Oh, please, please! Unfortunately we are currently lacking suggestions!” Confirmed Haddock. “We can pretend we’re slowly withdrawing … let’s say we’re flying in the direction of Jupiter. We’ll continue scanning just to get an impression of the size of the force.” Haddock and Pellton looked at each other. Pellton shrugged and said, “Of course we can do that. I think that’s as good as anything. We can then coordinate with ASTROCOHORS what to do.” “As you think,” said Haddock. “But Pellton, one thing has to be clear: No quick maneuvers! Our friends out there must not immediately notice that we have discovered them!” “The way you put it, you assume they’ll notice it anyway,” Pellton stated. “Am I correct?” “Yes,” said Haddock. “It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s a question of ‘when’.” “Yeah, but …” Brown began. “Then what about our transmission when we discovered the first object? Won’t they already have noticed?” Haddock looked worried at Brown. “That’s right. Damn standard procedures, bombs and grenades!” “Don’t jump to conclusions, Captain!” Pellton interrupted. “So far they have been quiet. That can mean anything. Maybe they want to lull us into a false sense of security. But maybe they assume that we are not aware that they are there. Nobody knows. I suggest we follow Lieutenant Brown’s idea, but remain on alert. We are flying slowly and with no weapons systems activated. “ “Do it like this!” Ordered Haddock. “The navigation department should be ready, as well as the tactical department. Should we notice hostile activity, we must be ready to defend as quickly as possible.” “Aye, sir!”
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