Targus stood leaning against the wall on my bridge. None of the chairs were large enough for his huge frame.
“The Valarians are always slow to abide by the Galactic Forces Treaty even though they were one of the founding races,” Targus explained.
“What worries me is why won’t they let us at least speak to him via the comlink?” Coal put into words what we were all wondering.
Ma-rye-a hadn’t been able to reach Daniel via the NET or our comlink. We arrived a little over five earth hours ago and had spent that whole time jumping though the equivalent of black holes to find someone high up enough to let us enter Valaria.
For those of you who have not read about, or visited Valaria, it is an artificially built world. They found a yellow hydrogen giant star with a carbon based planet nearby. They mined the carbon, manufactured enormous, lightweight, but extremely strong Galvasien panels and built the multi-tiered sphere that surrounds the yellow giant. Each tier is powered by thrusters on the outside of the sphere that create the centrifugal force to keep gravity equal within. Each level is terra formed. The spheres are graduated in size, the largest being at the equator, the smaller being at the poles. There are shuttle bays that have access to the inside to transport the inhabitants and their possessions from one level to another. Because the sphere is built around the star the Valarians have unlimited power. The panels act as solar collectors of the star’s energy. The sphere is about 180 million miles across; plenty big for the Valarians and any future population growth.
The sphere at the equator is for recreational use. It is not permanently inhabited. This is where they set up the Galactic Treaty Days, or GTD, and where Daniel was hosting my birthday celebration.
No one entered without permission and the world is mostly closed to visitors except during GTD when it is open to any and all.
I knew Daniel was down there. I’d spoken with him the day I started out to head-off the MT crew at the navigational beacon. He was on Valaria checking the plans for my birthday party. He literally hung up on me because he said the Valarian officials had arrived. We both knew they would be looking him up as soon as we heard about the N.B. virus.
Now, we were being barred from entry into the planet or even from speaking with Daniel.
“Sam?” I said, calling out to my Security AI. “Is our backdoor still open?”
Sam and Ma-rye-a helped Tim and me sneak into an unguarded area of the Valarian world during the last GTD. At the time, we thought Daniel was kidnapped by the Valarian’s for developing the program to hack their N.B.s. Turned out he was being wined and dined during a lengthy negotiation session. Perhaps they were keeping him in the same place. I wouldn’t expect the MT crew to violate protocol, but I certainly could go in and check on him.
“Nope,” Sam said in a disgruntled tone. My AIs are more than programs, Daniel has given them the ability to grow the more they interact and I interact a lot on long missions with no one to talk to except them. You could hear in his voice he was disappointed he could not help me find Daniel. “They found out about your entry last time and they plugged that leak.”
I leaned back in my chair and let out an involuntary sigh of frustration.
“He’s probably deep in their systems trying to figure a way to stop the virus. You told me he can get really obsessive about his programming.” Damion was trying to keep my imagination from running screaming from the room.
I don’t know why I thought anything was wrong…but then again I did know…Last time he did this to me he swore he would never worry me like that again. Daniel always kept his promises to me. Something was very wrong.
Two days later the Valarian’s called us. Well, not really us, they wanted me to come down, but Targus insisted he go along too. The Valarian’s didn’t want him coming, but Targus stated flatly that I was not going without him. I think he was experiencing the same gut reaction to this request as I was…a bit of apprehension mixed in with a heavy helping of unanswered questions. And in any case, who am I to argue with a Walhmite officer?
The Valarians were a very territorial race. They were the cartographers of the verse. Here long before most other sentient beings ever got out of their caves or off their couches the Valarian’s were busy mapping the verse. They live off the coin and trade goods they make from selling their maps and access to the N.B. throughout the verse. Anyone or anything that messes with their business is usually bought out as Daniel was.
But, this felt different. For one thing the Valarian that made the call was a shade of blue I had never seen before. They are usually a mottled grey/white color. As soon as the planet’s rep showed his face on the screen Targus shut down the link from our end and told me no matter what, I wasn’t to leave the ship without him.
“He was angry,” Targus growled as he paced my bridge.
“Angry?” Damion questioned from the co-pilot’s chair. “I didn’t think they got angry.”
“I’ve only seen one go off once. I was in a bar after a Galactic Forces meeting on Gamma 4 and another Walhmite officer stepped on one of the Valarian’s tentacles. He apologized, but the Valarian was drunk. They can’t hold their liquor at all,” Targus said off-handedly. “Anyway it went from name calling to an all out brawl. When the Ground Forces showed up they had to close down the place in order to scrape the Walhmite officer off the walls.”
“The Valarian killed a Walhmite?” Damion and I are human. Neither one of us could picture anything besting a Walhmite.
“More like annihilated him,” Targus answered. “I was across the room and had to throw my uniform away. I couldn’t get the blood out of it.”
“Jeez,” Damion hissed.
“The Valarian was as blue as a summer sky on Rigil 4. Just like that one was,” Targus said pointing toward the now blank screen of the comlink. “He grabbed hold of the Walhmite and just kept slapping him against the floor and walls until there wasn’t anything left.” He stopped mid-bridge and turned back toward us all. “One of my fellow officers saw it coming when the Valarian started to turn blue. Warned me and pulled me back. Joked later about it and told me you never wanted to be around a blue Valarian.” Targus squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. Reliving that incident had really shaken him. “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.”
“You want me to contact Headquarters?” Coal asked.
“Only if we don’t return on schedule,” Targus replied.