The 3rd book in the Khellen Trilogy

I stared into the viewing screen at the violet sky as escape pod 3 descended to the landing pad. Epsilon Cygni was well above the horizon now and its light bathed the buildings of the base and the township. I looked sideways at Elias.
“It has changed some in 500 years,” I said.


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ISBN:   978-1-921919-55-8  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 192
Genre: Fiction

Also by John A. Kirk 


The Khellen Gift

The Zhin Mutations

The Blue, Blue Hills of Xuhl


Author: John A. Kirk
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2012
Language: English




Time waits for no man or Khellen … but, if it

flies, then not always at the same speed. 


   The lights were dim; energy conservation was a big part of the normal routine of life on a starship.

   Akjnar slowly paced the floor of the planning room off Main Control as he waited for his command team to assemble, get some goosh or coffee to drink and take their seats; it was the closest he would ever get to a display of impatience. His team were not tardy or unmotivated, it just took some finite time to bring them together; but any time he did not have all the facts at his fingertips was a time when he was unhappy, as they all knew well.

   “You first Torkaz, Engineering status.”

   “The ship is functioning within normal operating parameters with one reactor hot and one on stand-by. There are a couple of minor unit failures or failure predictions to address but they do not affect ship’s power or propulsion systems.”


   “Defensive and weapons systems are fully operational. I’ve put defensive screens on lowest power setting but they are not activated. I have energized the G-ray laser but it is on stand-by setting; the other weapons systems are not powered at this time.”

   “Hokjan, do we know how long?”

   “I have checked the independent cocoon logs and they indicate we were in the conduit 78 years: M33 was further from our galaxy than Andromeda.”

   “Our position, Borgan?”

   “Commander, you will be relieved to hear that I have identified the nearby star patterns and we are two months out from Khellen on a heading that will keep us more than four billion kilometres away.”

   “Excellent; we have exceeded even my expectations.”

   “Commander, there is a problem,” said Borgan.

   “What is the problem?”

   “By my evaluation, based on computer modelling of the Khellen system, the relative position of the planets in the system is not compatible with an elapsed time of 521 years which is how much time we have spent travelling by our computer reckoning since we left Khellen … the model is based on Terran years.”

   “Based on your analysis of the current position of the planets, how much time has really passed?”

   “The planetary positions are closest to values in the model of 193 or 687 years; obviously 193 years is impossible since we took 353 to get to Shaarg-4 before we even entered the conduits.”

   “You are saying that 687 years have passed on Khellen although our computers have recorded only 521?”

   “Yes,” replied Borgan.

   “Not only that,” interrupted Hokjan. “By our shipboard time reckoning, 521 years have passed since we left Khellen, but I don’t think we have aged significantly while we have been in the conduits; in biological terms we are only about 353 years older … that’s a separate issue of course.”

   “Right now, I’m most interested in the relative positions of the cruiser fleet commanded by Sheena and Gavlan,” said Akjnar; “and Su-zen, Lorkan and the others in C2-4.”

   “Well,” said Borgan, “if 687 years have passed since we left Khellen and it took 353 years to get to Shaarg-4 via Terra before we split up, then they would have had about 334 Terran years to make a return trip that we estimated at 330 years in the slower cruisers by the slightly more direct route … they would have made it back to Khellen about four years ago if those estimates were accurate.”

   “That is exactly what I was getting at,” said Akjnar. “There is no point planning to rendezvous with Sheena and Gavlan if they have already reached Khellen.”

   “Where will Su-zen and the others be now?” asked Torkaz.

   “Assuming they successfully returned to Andromeda in the estimated 24 years and activated the conduit at Brzeel-1.7.1, they will have been in that second conduit en route to Shaarg-4 for about 54 years. They would have about 18 years conduit time to go as we calculated but, since we are now in normal space-time, that will be 36 years to us.”

   “Borgan, find me an asteroid to hide behind,” said Akjnar.

   “Yes, Commander; may I ask why?”

   “We need time to think on several subjects. Firstly, since we have been gone from Khellen for over 680 years, then we hardly belong there anymore … who knows how they will have evolved in seven centuries. Secondly, if we are not going to intercept Sheena and Gavlan because they have already made it back to Khellen four years ago, then we may be better going directly to Terra to meet up with Su-zen. Thirdly, after talking to Torkaz, I want to think about building our own conduit-generating mechanism on board the starship: maybe we can jump over to Terra in ‘the blink of an eye’ as James would say. And so, while we consider these issues, I don’t wish to be detected by anyone.” He emphasized the last word.

   There were nods of understanding.

   “It is possible that, armed with the knowledge brought back by Sheena and Gavlan, another Khellen expedition is even now heading for Terra or Shaarg-4,” observed Torkaz.

   “Yes, that is another possible complication,” said Akjnar.


* * *


   “Release me, Shee-teh,” he used the affectionate term for lover.

   “I have not finished with you yet,” she said dangerously.

   “There is no more to take from me,” he said gently.

   She relaxed her clasper muscles, released his penis and rolled her body to one side. He turned, gave her a final kiss and sat up.

   “Two hours,” he cried looking at the digital clock: “what kind of a creature are you, I will be old and withered a hundred years before my time.”

   He heard her purring softly and turned to see the red eyes, ablaze with her pleasure, staring up at him.

   “You would not have it any other way.”

   “You are correct as always.” He smiled at her, his own eyes bright.

   “What is so important you leave your Shee-teh only partially satisfied?”

   “It is a question of time; I must find a way to cross a galaxy in the wink of an eye.”

   “Can we do this?”

   “Perhaps; Torkaz is investigating.”


* * *


   “Are we secured behind the asteroid?”

   “Yes, Commander: it isn’t much bigger than we are so we have no difficulty pushing it along and we have established a full sensor array on the far side,” replied his Engineering Sub-Commander.

   “So; what do you think about starship-based conduit generation, Torkaz?”

   “I’ve discussed with Jaard and we both wish Elias could have been here and involved. Obviously we can create three generators producing negative energy beams and a focusing mechanism, by replicating what we have seen on the pyramids of Shaarg-4 and Brzeel-1.7.1; and the starship is big enough that we could construct them on the outer hull in the same relative positions as the planetary-based configurations, about 200 metres apart.”

   He paused for breath and continued.

   “The problem is the control mechanism. We can produce and focus three negative-energy beams to create a conduit opening but we do not know with certainty how to target a desired location. A close approximation, such as we have achieved with very minor tinkering of the Old Ones’ settings on Salac-4 to bring us here, is not so critical from galaxy to galaxy but from point A to point B within a galaxy, this is more hazardous; interstellar space is not so empty as the intergalactic void … to be out by a billion kilometres might put us right in the middle of a star system with no time to slow down before we smashed into a planet or some other orbiting body, including the star itself.”

   “But we could create the beam generators and focusing mechanism and test that setup to the point of generating a conduit opening and we know we can generate continuing negative energy pulses to negotiate passage through a conduit,” mused Akjnar. “How could we test directional control?”

   “We could rig an escape pod with a negative pulse generator and send it into the conduit to a target area with its engines programmed to bring it to a complete halt at the other end: we could even program collision evasion manoeuvres on exit until the pod was halted and then we collect it and see how close to target we were.”

   “I suppose that would take some time?”

   “Yes, Commander: at maximum time/phase speed, to make an inter-stellar hop of say five light-years, which would be a reasonable test for conduit delivery of a pod, it would take us six years to arrive and locate the pod assuming it was somewhere near the intended target area. And probably we’d need four or five test runs so it could take 30 years to get it right.”

   It was a sobering thought.

   “But the alternative,” said Akjnar, “is that it will take Su-zen and the others 36 years from now to reach Shaarg-4 and us about 330 years to get there and that is no good at all.”

   Torkaz regarded him thoughtfully.

   “If we could establish conduit-generation capability aboard the starship and get good directional control, we could be completely independent of the Old Ones’ mechanisms.”

   “I knew you would understand, Torkaz. Not only that; the Salacians’ mechanisms may require maintenance: we had to adjust the system on Salac-4 for intergalactic ‘drift’ and we don’t know if the Tragghan system is even operational, or whether we could get to it through the hostile Zhin.”

   “The Zhin are another potential problem; we don’t know how they have evolved since we were at Traggha 580 years ago.”

   “Good point, Hokjan,” said his commander. “We might be wise to make our first ‘hop’ to Traggha and check on that.”

   “If we are successful in establishing our shipboard conduit-generating capability, with good directional control, we might then consider disabling the pyramids at Traggha,” said Torkaz.

   “There’s no need,” replied Akjnar. “Then we make our second ‘hop’ over to Terra and єCygni-5, meet with Su-zen and the others and together check on the Terran evolution.”

   “But the big problem remains building the directional control mechanism: so far we’ve only adjusted the Old Ones’ mechanism back on Salac-4 and we don’t have that equipment here. And we do not know the principles by which it works, so building an equivalent unit from scratch will be difficult,” said his Chief.

   “Maybe we could take the unit from Traggha,” said Sagmar, “and bring it aboard.”

   “How long to Traggha at maximum time/phase?” Borgan asked.

   “It took us a hundred years last time from Khellen, but we have improved the efficiency of both reactors and our MAM drive since then,” replied Torkaz.

   “Not only that,” said Sagmar; “we had only one reactor powering the MAM drive back then to conserve fuel but today, we have plenty of nuclear fuel from our salvage operations in the Brzeel system.”

   “That’s true,” agreed Torkaz. “With both reactors hot and the MAM drive flat out in the safety zone, we might get there direct from here in about 70 years.”

   Akjnar summed it up.

   “By which time Su-zen and her crew would have reached Shaarg-4, upgraded the pyramid receivers and be 34 years along the way to єCygni-5 and Terra with about another 34 years to go which would give us just enough time to establish and test directional control of our shipboard conduit-generation system and still intercept them before they reach their goal.”

   He smiled at them, pleased.

   “I believe we have a plan so, for the next few days, we have time to work out some details: Torkaz, how to get the most from the engines; Borgan, the best course to Traggha to take advantage of gravitational ‘slingshot’ opportunities; Sagmar, you can supervise work on the resolution of our minor equipment failures and failure predictions. Hokjan and I will advise the rest of the crew and prepare everything for a suspended-animation voyage to Traggha. Anything else?”

   “I need four days, Commander,” said Torkaz: “to complete the programming and testing of the three new androids.”

   “Very well, Torkaz; four days it will be.”


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