Their drop capsules safely hidden, Altron
Assig, the head of Shlavka Infiltration Team Six turned towards the other three members of his squad. “Check your vocalizers.” He instructed as he carried out a careful inspection of his people. Nodding his head in approval as he examined the latex-like outer skin covering and artificial hair of each of his people, ensuring that there were no tears or rips that might reveal that they were not truly Halenoi, but were in actuality, disguised Shlavka. The vocalizers were an important element of disguise. When the Shlavka made their first contact with the Halenoi, they had adopted the ruse of appearing in mammalian form in an initially successful effort to lure their intended victims into a false sense of security. However, the early vocalizers, even though they were able to cover up reptilian speech patterns, suffered one critical flaw—they produced a rather distinctive sound that easily marked the user as not being Halenoi. The current models though, could much more accurately imitate Halenoi speech. Now, it took either very well attuned ears or the use of special equipment to determine whether a vocalizer was being used or not.
Following their repulse from the Halenoi home world, the Shlavka had been carrying out infiltration missions of various sorts—intelligence gathering, resource accumulation, kidnappings, and, as was this team’s mission, acts of sabotage and assassination. To be assigned to an infiltration squad was a mark of honor for any Shlavka, to have survived more than one infiltration mission gave one even more prestige, which translated to better living quarters, more luxuries, and more plump and tender livestock from the Halenoi who had the misfortune of being taken away by the Shlavka and transported back to their homeworld ten years earlier. And to lead a mission of this importance—for Assig this could mean promotion to Shafran
, the command of his own infiltration squadron, and…his choice of livestock—maybe even a Halenoi herd to call his own.
After inspecting the last of his team, Assig allowed his Second to carry out a similar process for him. With the Second’s nod of approval, the team leader spoke, “Our orders are simple—we are to infiltrate the Halenoi research facility at Kallyna, sabotage the prototype star drive they are suspected of building and…” he emphasized as he distributed photographs of a pale-skinned violet haired middle-aged Halenoi woman, “…kill this woman and as many of the rest of her research team as possible. Her name is Dr. Alyta Tyee and she is the project leader. While we want to terminate as many of her scientists as we can—it is urgent that she die. We believe that she is the driving and creative force behind the project. Her death will set the Halenoi back for revolutions—possibly tens of revolutions. It is vital for the survival of the Race that we succeed. Are there any questions? Good. Let us be on our way.”
“Their automobiles seem to run primarily off of fuel cells.” Lieutenant Collins noticed as the landing party walked past a beautiful copper-hued vehicle parallel parked on the street in front of the library. The gull-wing like door of the car opened to reveal a well-coiffed chestnut-haired man wearing a brownish leather jacket and matching slacks and carrying an attaché case. The door closing behind him, the man slipped coins into a meter in front of his car. Giving the ladies a brief flirtatious grin, the man made his way down the sidewalk, entering a building next to the library.
“Another result of reverse engineering.” Alexei noted with a frown.
“Yes, Sir.” Cilla affirmed as the foursome made their way up the library’s concrete steps. “Prior to the Shlavka, the Halenoi relied on fossil fuel as their primary energy source.”
“So…In a way…” Jennifer mused, “The Halenoi have the Shlavka to thank for their rapid technological advancement.”
“Perhaps.” The Bear acknowledged, “They paid a high enough price for it.”
Entering the library, Cilla at once spotted a section devoted to computer access in a room behind a counter manned by a man and a woman.. “Circulation desk?” The Dutch communications officer guessed. “We might have to get permission to use their terminals.”
Nodding his head, Alexei agreed, “Very well, Ms. Oudekirk. Go.”
Approaching the woman behind the counter, Cilla flashed a polite smile, “Hello. My friends and I are new here and we were wondering if we could access a terminal?”
Jerking her head towards the man at the other end of the counter, the green-haired woman answered back in a bored tone, “Aric is in charge of electronic resources. Go to him.”
“Whatever.” Cilla replied with a snort as she walked down to where an attractive, fairly young man with dark-green hair and light skin stood. Approaching the man, the willowy Cilla spoke up, “Hello…I need some help.”
“Hello.” The young man replied, his lips turning up into a smile as he saw the tall blonde standing on the other side of the counter facing him. “What can I do for you?”
“I need to access a terminal…”
“Of course…your ident card please?” The clerk asked as he held out his hand.
“Here.” Cilla replied as she handed him a fake identification card that she and the rest of the landing party had been issued. Hope we got them right
. Cilla thought as the man perused her card.
“You’re a long way from home.” The man remarked as he swiped the card in a card reader.
Crossing her fingers behind her back, Cilla plastered a polite smile on her face, “Yes. I plan to start school here next term.”
“The Kallyna Science Institute?” Aric asked as he handed Cilla her card back.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the Dutch officer responded, “Yes. Electronics.”
“That’s a coincidence.” The youth grinned, “I’m going there too—except I’m in aerospace engineering.” Pausing for a moment as if unsure whether he could continue, Aric took a deep breath, “Maybe we’ll run into each other on campus—perhaps go for some jarrok?”
“Doubtful…” Cilla replied in a suddenly frosty tone. “My terminal?”
“Oh…” Aric exclaimed, somewhat disheartened by the willowy Cilla’s coolness towards him. “Terminal three…”
“Thank you.” Cilla responded flatly as she quickly turned away from the poor dumbfounded clerk.
Watching as her rival walked away from the counter and into the computer lab, Jennifer shook her head, “What is her problem? She didn’t have to brush that poor guy off so rudely.”
“That’s our Ice Princess.” Collins whispered back. “That sap got off lucky compared to how she’s treated some of the guys I’ve known who’ve tried just talking to her.”
“Stow the useless boltovnja
!” The Bear ordered in a low growl that immediately silenced the two junior officers standing with him. Jerking his head towards what appeared to be a casual reading section, Alexei commanded, “We can wait over there until Lieutenant Oudekirk is done.”
“Come in Alec. Grab yourself a drink from the bar and have a seat.” Commander Strakan invited, gesturing towards the bar.
“What’s going on, Ed?” The ruddy-faced Alec inquired as he made his way to the bar. Taking a glass, he placed it under a dispenser. First, the dispenser dropped two cubes of ice into the glass. Then, he pressed another button, causing a yellowish liquid to be dispensed into the glass. Taking his drink, he made his way to Strakan’s desk, sitting in a comfortable chair opposite his superior. “I received an urgent call to come in and when I asked why, I was only told that you would fill me in…”
Taking out a small leather case from underneath his jacket, the commander opened it, offering a dark cheroot to the man sitting across from him before taking one for himself. As both me lit the ends of their cigars, Commander Strakan explained in a solemn voice, “Several hours ago a shuttle piloted by your son and carrying Lieutenant Myra Alys was lost in transit from Danae Base. I’m sorry, Alec.”
Listening silently, his face a blank mask, Colonel Freman sipped his drink. “Was it the Shlavka?”
“We think so.” Strakan replied. “Possibly a Shlavka infiltrator. We think they might be going for Project Sunrise.”
“When do you want me there?” Alec asked as he finished his drink.
“Look, Alec…” Commander Strakan began only to be cut off by his second in command and friend.
“Ed…I know what you’re going to say—to take a few days off…give myself time to grieve…but I’ll be ok.” Shaking his head, Alec pleaded, “I need to do something…anything…”
Taking a deep breath and exhaling, Strakan relented, “All right, Alec. Colonel Restof has things in hand at the research facility, but I’m going to need someone at Danae Base. I want to know how these infiltrators are getting in and I want that leak plugged.”
Standing up, Colonel Freman put his cheroot out in an ashtray as he set his glass down. His face a grim mask, the colonel vowed, “Consider it plugged.”