The Warp Gate ring flickered into life a glowing portal opened and the SNV Omaha sailed out. Captain Thornton squirmed in his seat on the bridge. The United Earth Space Navy took pride in its starships but apparently not in comfortable seating arrangements.
'Who ever made this chair must have hated the human posterior!' Thornton groaned.
A helmsman then said: 'We are approaching Morningstar 157 Sir. '
The space station flickered into view, a large saucer shaped module at the top of a cylinder shaped module at the bottom.
'Opening a channel.'
'This is Captain Eric Thornton of the Space Naval Vessel Omaha.'
The screen flickered and an image of a blonde haired man in a green uniform appeared. The man smiled 'Eric, you arrived just in time. I've just opened a bottle of Jack Daniels! '
A red haired man then walked onto the bridge, he was wearing a light green uniform.
'Ah, we arrived then,' he said.
The man on the screen frowned. 'Who are you?'
'Detective Inspector Curtis Fry of the Interstellar Affairs Bureau. And you are?'
'Commander Clyde Brannigan, Administrator of this facility. Are you by any chance a relative of Phillip J. Fry II, the first man on Mars?'
'Yes, he was my great grandfather.'
Thornton coughed politely. 'Gentlemen, don't we all have something to discuss apart from our ancestry?'
Brannigan smiled slyly 'Thats our Eric, always business as usual! Very well then!'
The airlock opened with a hiss. Eric, Curtis and Ainsly Dorrance, CEO of Morningstar Systems Inc. walked out. Clyde walked into the Docking Area to greet them. His smile faded somewhat as he saw Ainsly.
'Mr Dorrance! What brings you to this neck of unexplored space?'
'My company designed all the space stations in this system. When someone disappears while on one of my stations I consider it a personal responsibility of mine to personally investigate the matter. What was his name?'
'Tobias Neubauer.' said Clyde briskly. 'A scientist working for the UESEA. He was traveling aboard a French starship, SNV Picard.'
'Who is the captain of the Picard?'
'And where is the Picard now?'
'That's near Galatea 4.' Eric said 'A Hyperillium mine if I remember correctly.
'You do.' Clyde said gravely. 'Thats where Neubauer was when he vanished.' he added to Ainsly.
Ainsly frowned a little then said 'Did anything unusual happen while the crew were aboard 157?' he asked Clyde.
'No unusual behavour?'
'They were rude to my crew and drank all the wine in the stations minibar. Thats pretty normal behavour for the French.' Ainsly smiled a little.
'Very well, then. Captain Thornton, take us to Morningstar 223.'
Clyde Brannigan stared out of the porthole at the Omaha's receding shape. He then sighed and walked away, shaking his head.
Morningstar 223 was smaller than 157, it was a small dome shaped structure located on a small 5 mile wide asteroid. The reddish-brown gas giant Galatea 4 dominated the viewscreen of the Omaha. The face of a man with a bushy brown beard appeared on the screen. 'This is Manfred Wernstrom, Administrator of this facility. Identify yourselves!'
'This is Captain Eric Thornton of the SNV Omaha.'
'I see....yes your transponder ID checks out. I apologize for the rude introduction, gentlemen. We have recently had a great deal of trouble with some of the space pirate clans.'
'What kind of trouble?' asked Curtis.
''And you are...?'
'Detective Inspector Curtis Fry, Interstellar Affairs Bureau.'
'I didnt know the ISAB sent its agents out this far into deep space without a flottilla of Space Naval warships.'
'You're saying we need backup?' asked Eric, a little nettled.
Wernstrom smiled a little then said 'I'm just saying that you are not the only one here whos looking for Tobias Neubauer.'
Manfred Wernstrom's office was small and somewhat cramped. Wernstrom sat behind his desk looking intently at the three men seated opposite him.
'Well, gentlemen' he said 'I guess you want to know about Tobias Neubauer.'
'We want to know if you have any information regarding Neubauer's whereabouts.' said Curtis curtly.
'You would be better off not knowing, Mr Fry.' Wernstrom said leaning forward so that his face was level with Curtis's. 'There are things in this universe mankind is not meant to know. Things mankind is better off not knowing.'
'Look, if you dont stop talking jibberish I'm gonna have Thornton lock you in his ships brig for obstructing an officer of the law.'
Manfred stood up 'What If I told you that none of this was real?' he said 'That we don't really exist and that we are just figments of some cosmic author's imagination?'
Ainsly patted himself on the chest. 'Yep,' he said 'I'm real all right'
'Are you?' Manfred countered back 'How can you be sure?The people that Mr Fry work for also work for people who have a vested interest in never letting the true nature of our existence get out. But they cannot deny it for long. The truth is out there.
'Did you just quote the X Files?' asked Thornton.
'Maybe.' Manfred said.
'Look do you know anything about Tobias Neubauer or not?' snapped Curtis.
Wernstrom stared at Curtis for a long time then said 'Doctor Neubauer was working on a top secret project codenamed: Paradighm.'
Thornton rolled his eyes. 'Not this conspiracy theory again!'
'Huh?' asked Curtis. 'During the 2060s there was this scientist, Leroy Quicksilver who was conducting research into time travel. But he failed so he lost his funding and the experiments were shut down.'
'Thats what they wanted you to think!' Manfred said 'But in reality his experiments were shut down because he learned too much!'
Huygens City, Colonial Capital of Titan, Titan
Jake Shepard, the President of Titan, paced the floor of his office, his hands shaking. He was filled with an emotion that was a cross between anger and fear with a bit of indigestion thrown in for good measure. The door to his office opened and Leela Fry came in. 'I'm not sure how long I can keep letting you use my moon as a base of operations for your little band of merry men.'
'You mean, I gather, the System Liberation Alliance?'
'Yes, that' Shepard snapped irritated at the mention of the groups name. 'You do know, that Earth President Sinclair has designated you a terrorist organization?'
Leela sighed, she did know. Morcian Sinclair was formerly the Vice President under Dwight Conrad. When the Department 13 scandal leaked, Morcian 'persuaded' Conrad to resign. However, he was
charged with war crimes. Before he could be arrested, however he escaped from Earth with a little help from former rival Doohan Graves.
'Thats not all,' Shepard continued. 'He is also seeking an alliance with the Durgians. He is practically
surrendering to them!'
'I know,' said Leela irritably 'I do read the same news you know.' 'So you also know that Sinclair has told me to hand you over to them or become an enemy of Earth. Now, I don't need to tell you how powerful the Earth Army is. So you can imagine what would happen if they had the Durgians as backup!'
'Are you going to had us over?' Leela asked, staring hard at the Titanian Presidents face. 'I-I-I just want to do right by my people!' He said at last. 'I will not allow them to come to harm.'
'We wont let them, you have my word.'
Shepard stared hard at Leela fo a few moments, then said 'Fine, just promise me this'll be all over soon!'
Outpost 12, Phalanx System
In a dingy bar on a dingy space station in a remote star system (of dingyness) Leo Wong was sitting at the bar, taking routine sips from his Centarian Vodka bottle. A tall shadowy stranger walked in wearing a hooded cloak that concealed his facial features. The bartender hardly glanced at him, shadowy strangers were ten a penny round those parts and he didn't care how shadowy they were as long as their money was good and they didn't try to use credit cards.
'This sure does bring back memories, eh Leo?' the figure said. 'Remember that bar back on Mars? It was just outside of Ariesville-'
'I didnt come here to talk about old times,' snapped Leo. 'You said you wanted to talk to me?'
'Ah yes, you see, remember how I told you on Decapod 10 that Amy's condition was uncureable?
Turns out I was wrong, the Malzanians have been experimenting with similar technology for centuries and have developed a cure.'
'But Malzani Prime is half way across the galaxy from here. Do have any idea how much jetlag I would have to deal with?'
'Not to worry, my Oriental friend, we don't have to travel that far!'
Joorik's Bazaar, Unit 15, Pavillion Level 6, Deck 9, Sector Alpha, Outpost 12, Phalanx System
The small store was littered with exotic alien paraphernalia. The beaded doorway to the back room parted and a short stubby turquoise blue alien with three eyes came out, a Malzanian.
'Leo,' Thaarg said 'Meet Joorik, Joorik, meet Leo Wong.'
'Hey I know you!' Joorik said 'youre that disgraced CEO who turned his daughter into a mass murdering human super weapon!'
'See, Leo, you're famous!' Thaarg said happily.
Leo rolled his eyes then said 'Look , Joorik, do you have this cure or not?'
'Err, not I'm afraid, but I know where to get it! There is a Malzanian science ship currently docked here. The MRV Yakkril. They are conducting secret experiments at a laboratory on the moons of Thor, thats the gas giant in this system.'
'What moon is the lab located on?'
'Its called Ludovic, I think.'
'How the heck are we supposed to break into a secret science lab?' Leo wailed.
'You leave that to me.'Joorik said. 'I learned a thing or to working for Malzanian Intelligence.'
'What, you mean they had a primer course on interstellar espionage?' Leo asked.
'Something like that.' Joorik said, smiling.