Knome: The Forbidden Zone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 2 (v.2) - Chapter One

Submitted: February 12, 2017

Reads: 174

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Submitted: February 12, 2017

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(Neutral Region)

 

The cold silence of space, was broken by a burst from the engines of the Ankara CS7, a communications space station.  The engine burst caused the lumbering vessel to slowly rotate in a circular direction.  Smaller retro engines began firing, slowing down the ship’s rotation until it virtually halted its movement.  The Ankara CS7 and ships like it, were the eyes and ears of the Akadian government's security and intelligence apparatus. Stationed in the neutral region near the border of the declared air space of the Knomen republic, the Ankara monitored every kind of signal in the region, including those emanating from the surface of Knome.  It was one such signal that caused the Ankara, to shift its position, so as to receive a high priority transmission.

Reverberations from the engine burst caused the Ankara's captain, who had just fallen asleep, to awaken.  Captain Tobi Kwan, jolted out of his bunk in a semi-state of panic, slamming his head into an overhead pipe that shared his quarters.  He slipped out of his bunk, cursing and grimacing from the pain. The Ankara's main engines, were very rarely fired, and then, only for major course adjustments or emergencies, but always with the captain's approval. He dressed as quickly as his panic and throbbing head would allow. Accomplishing that feat, he hurried in the station’s cramped hallway, and made his way to the ship's bridge. Tobi began to jog, trying to recall who of his twelve-man crew was on duty as he prepared a stinging rebuke.  He could now feel the retro engines trailing off and the movement of the ship slowing. Being as isolated as they were, they had to conserve the precious little fuel they had, and a main engine burn would drop their reserves to a very noticeable level.

As he entered the bridge, no one noticed.  The three-man crew on the bridge were in a state of high activity. Tobi remained just below the command deck, not wanting to interrupt his crewman in what was an obviously important task.  As the crewmen barked commands, statements and questions at one another, he gathered, that the station was in the midst of locking in, a very important transmission, which was very rare.  He watched them as they frantically but perfectly performed their duties. As the crewmen began to relax, signaling to Tobi that their task was completed, he stepped up on to the command deck, which knee-jerked the crewmen to stand in attention. 

“Alright, let’s have it!” Tobi ordered.

Lieutenant Elton Seck, confident in his action and with no noticeable nervousness in his voice explained.

"Sir, the transmission was high-priority, it was coded and it originated on Knome.  Our reception level was at thirty percent and if you remember Sir, the power failure on the Main2 rotors. The risks at that level of getting a clean and complete signal were low.  I made the call to shift."

Tobi, let the silence linger for a moment, he had already concluded the scenario that Elton explained and knew that the right call had been made.  If fact, once he realized that Elton was on duty, his stress level had lessened.

“What was the source location?” Tobi asked, and with that change of subject he signaled to the crew his acceptance of Elton’s explanation.

“The North Polar region, the Thaingor Mountains.” Elton replied.

A low beep originating from the ship’s sensor desk, diverted Tactical officer Stru Fedder’s attention from the conversation as he sat at his Monitor in response to the alert.

“Do we have a lock on that source?” Tobi asked.

“We did momentarily, based on the emitting signal, but it dropped. We attempted to relock the source by widening the area, but got nothing, no bio-identification or signature of any kind. We did lock on to the location, snapped the coordinates and packaged it into the retransmission.” Elton explained.

“Well, maintain the lock and schedule an intermittent scan on those coordinates,” Tobi ordered as he turned to depart from the command deck, “I’m going back to my quarters and I’m going to reclaim my time, if you don’t mind.”

“No, sir,” Elton replied.

“I will get Mason on that rotor, he won’t like it, but we can’t have a repeat of this incident.” Tobi added as he left the bridge.

“Sir. Captain!” Stru shouted.

Tobi walked back into the bridge, “What is it?”

“Sir, long range scanners just picked up a phantom formation of ships.” Stru excitedly replied.

“Details?” Tobi demanded.

“Scanning, sir,” Stru replied.

The other crewmen quickly went to their stations and began monitoring their respective systems.

“Stru, give me something,” Tobi asked as he stepped up on to the command deck.

“Six phantoms… small, one or two-man vessels,” Stru added, “I’ll know more as soon as they are in range of our intermediates.”

“Maybe we don’t want them to get that close, anyone else got anything? Tobi asked.

“I’m raising communication now sir, sending alerts in the standard dialects,” Communications office Ken Simur replied.

“Sir, the phantoms are on an intercept course with the Ankara,” Stru yelled.

“What?” Tobi replied as he walked over to the scanner. After verifying Stru’s read, he stood up, “Ken, raise the threat level.”

Raising the threat level would call all of the Ankara’s twelve crewmen to emergency operations. 

“How much time do we have?” Tobi asked Stru.

“Hard to say, their accelerating.”

“Give me a range,” Tobi demanded.

“10 standard minutes,” Stru replied.

“Ken, any response to the comms package?” Tobi asked.

“Nothing,” Ken replied.

Now in sensor range, the ships were closely monitored for hostile action. 

Tobi now ordered a second engine burn instructing Elton to move the Ankara out of the Phantom ships current trajectory. 

The ship’s second engineer entered the bridge.  “Hey, what’s going on?” No one responded to his question.

The Ankara slowed into its new location.

“ok, Stru,” Tobi asked anxiously.

Stru pummeled his fist into the console, cursing. “Sir the ships are changing course. Sir they’re back in an intercept course with the Ankara.”

“Captain” Stru yelled. “the ships have moved into attack formation and I’m reading an energy builds in their weapon systems.”

There was a moment of silence as all considered the implication of that information.

“Ken, issue a distress package and sound the evacuation alarm.” Tobi ordered.

Sirens began blasting as amber warning lights began flashing throughout the ship.  Off-duty crewman began to make their way towards the evacuation deck.  On the Bridge, Tobi was raising the Ankara’s meager defenses and ordering the three crewmen to head to the Evacuation deck.  Alone on the bridge, the captain tried to hail the oncoming ships, one last time. 

“This is a United Kingdom of Akadia vessel, you are on an intercept course with a defenseless ship, please deviate and adjust your coordinates.”

Silence.

“This is a United Kingdom of Akadia vessel, you are on an intercept course with a defenseless ship, please deviate, and adjust your coordinates!”

There was no response to the Captain’s alerts. Tobi stood up to leave for the evacuation deck, but stopped when he heard or felt a thump, as if someone, with all their might, banged on the outside of a metal door.  He heard it again.  And again.  And then it was a constant roar, as he felt the Ankara give way under the barrage.

The six phantom ships pounded the Ankara as they crisscrossed one another, orbiting the space station, breaking down its shield. Soon the Ankara’s shield generator gave way under the assault, leaving the Ankara vulnerable to the naked fire power of the attacking ships. Soon the Ankara began to rock under the barrage of laser bolts.

As Tobi left the bridge, he stopped and returned after a jarring hit to the Ankara’s viewport.  He heard a loud cracking noise and noticed the viewport’s thick glass, shattering.  Tobi did not move, he realized that he would not make it to the Evac Deck.  He just watched, as the viewport’s glass, became filled with shatter points. 

First, he heard an extremely loud high pitch sound as the vacuum of space, began to claim the air pocket, that was the Ankara CS7.  And just as quickly as he heard it, he felt his stomach, eyes and ears collapsing, his breath escaping, it felt like he was being pulled from the inside out.  And that, was his last thought.

The Ankara was now in hundreds of pieces as the ships continue to attack, targeting the larger pieces of the ship until the evacuation pods were the largest parts of the Ankara that remained. The Evacuation pods, designed to sustain the life of an occupant for five standard days, drifted away from the debris field.  As the Phantom ships maneuvered into formation, departing from the area, one ship broke formation and arced back, targeting the seven pods that escaped.  It blasted one pod after another until all seven were destroyed.  Then the lone ship, rejoined the others, as they departed, in to the unknown, from which they came.

 

Tannis (Kessel)

Akadian Intelligence Agency complex

 

An entourage of half a dozen men, made their way through one of the many halls of the Akadian Intelligence Agency headquarters, termed, the Gauntlet. Very few people occupied this particular hallway, only those with the highest security clearance were allowed.  Still, the few that were there, cleared the path for the stoic faced group as they strode through the various security checkpoints along the way.  Pacing the group, was the Intelligence Agency’s Director, Jak Timson, flanking him, was his assistant Grian Mage, they were followed by several department heads. Each of them, carrying small briefcases, were trying to keep up with the Director, while not outpacing him.

They had been called to an emergency briefing, by the Intelligence Agency’s Strategic Interpretation and Analysis group (SIA), who monitored and interpreted all communications streams received by its myriads of agents and COMSATs (Communication Satellites), scattered covertly or overtly throughout Moorbia. Reaching, then entering the small briefing room, they found it already occupied by other key Intelligence Agency members and SIA support staff.  Kenton Sedi, a Division Chief was standing at the podium.  He stood silent as the invited members took their seats and were offered refreshments along with a copy of the briefing notes. 

Jak waited for the assembled group to take their seats. Jak was tall and stocky, he was a large man, deceptively strong, his muscles had muscles.  His face was hard with dark circles beneath his dark brown eyes that matched his dark brown hair which was graying at the temples.  Jak nodded to a security guard once the room was relatively quiet.  The guard left the room, closed the door and stood guard at the entrance.  Jak stood to signal for silence, to which the group, obediently complied.  He took a drink of the water provided for him, cleared his throat and began.

“I don’t need to tell you the importance of this briefing before the full intelligence board, the fact that we are all here bespeaks the serious nature of the information that we will be discussing today.  No leaks, gentlemen.  We have received a communique of the most sensitive nature.  But before we brief you on that information, and deliberate on its implications, I believe we should have a little history lesson for some of you out of the loop on this.  Please pay close attention, it is important to our discussion that will follow.”  Jak gestured toward the man standing at the podium.  “Kenton Sedi, one of our Section Chief owns the Knomen portfolio, I asked him to do a run down on some of that history and answer any question you might have, OK.”  Jak nodded towards Kenton.

As the ambient noises dissipated, Kenton, from his podium dimmed the lights as a large wall monitor switched on.  Kenton was of average height, average weight, average looks and above average intelligence.  He was personally recruited by Jak, one of his many pet projects. It was the one thing the Intelligence community had against Jak, he often went outside the well-established channels to staff the agency. Kenton, was not military, nor was he a graduate of Hamlin. He had attended an affordable, little-known university somewhere in Tannis.  Kenton, however, had scored within the top five percent of new recruits to the Agency, outperforming those with better education, credentials and connections.  With all of his disadvantages Kenton would have been rejected, had it not been for Jak.  And Kenton did not disappoint. 

Taking a deep breath, Kenton began his presentation with a history of the Intelligence Agency's operations regarding the Republic of Knome, particularly since Knome achieved its independence from Akadia some fifty years ago.

“Since then our relationship with the Knomen government has steadily improved. We’ve had some bumps along the way, not unexpected.  However, five standard years ago, the Knomen government informed our government of negotiation it had entered into with the Myan Imperium. We were also informed that Knome had signed direct trade agreements with the Myans. This was a colossal failure on the part of this Agency. Needless to say, we were sufficiently dressed down for our lack of foresight in this matter. Tannis of course, was livid. Threats were issued, but Knome did not back down.  That crisis was resolved through Nova.  A treaty was signed allowing the Myan trade agreement to go through, barring the exchange of any offensive or defensive military equipment, and, dependent on inspections of cargo vessels that arrived within Knomen air space.”

“Two standard years ago, the Knomens took a major step toward Balarium refinement and they informed us of their intentions to expropriate a minor share of their Balarium reserves, which they developed in cooperation with ISO, Mya’s largest petroleum corporation. Ortell was reluctant at first, but, it was made clear to them that they had no say in the decision. There was nothing they could do, so the deal went through. Again, we were totally blindsided by this move from the Knomens.”

A hand rose, but before Kenton could call on him, Miam Ern, a junior SIA member spoke up. “How did the Myans acquire the technology to refine Balarium anyway?”

Jak spoke before Kenton had a chance to answer.  “Believe it or not, that is an ongoing investigation, suffice to say, we don’t know.  Espionage? Most likely, but we have no certain leads on that.”  Jak leaned back into his chair while gesturing for Kenton to continue.

“In the last several years, Knomen trade with Mya increased exponentially, which left us without a proper mechanism for appropriate inspection of all Myan cargo vessels arriving at Knomen ports.  This has left us with a weakened inspection regime, totally inadequate per the risks. Believe me, with some of our past failures in mind, this Agency has been raising the red flag regarding this issue for quite some time. And as many of you may be aware, we have been formulating a strategy with the Treaty Enforcement Board to resolve the discrepancies in our Inspection regime.”

“Where are we on this?” asked Miam.  Kenton looked towards Jak, waiting for him to answer, when he didn’t, Kenton spoke up.  “Not far enough, those efforts have been delayed as has many concerns raised regarding Knome, which, I will get into shortly.”

“At the moment, we are inspecting one out of every ten vessels that arrive at Knomen ports.”

 That statement elicited cries of disbelief from some of the attendees.  Kenton allowed the disruption for a moment before continuing.

“It was about this time that Knome nationalized its mining operations and it refused to renew its mining contract with Ortell Corp.  And, as other corporate contracts came up for renewal, they were dismissed by the Knomen government.  Finally, Knome broke off all contracts with Akadian mining corporations and deported all their officials. Tannis received a tremendous amount of pressure from those corporations, but again, what could we do, with the Myan Empire as a growing player in the Balarium industry, the risks of taking a stand were too great, again there was nothing we could do. While those actions were disruptive for a time, the Mining operation were soon back up to par, even though the management was now being controlled by the Knomens themselves.  Our corporations were still controlling eighty percent of the refining operations of Knome's Balarium, but that too began to decrease rapidly.  I believe we are at about sixty percent at the moment.”

Kenton stopped to down a glass of water. 

“With the Myans moving more and more into the refining of Balarium, they began to peel away contracts, particularly of those it had some influence over, in the Inner Core.”

“Tannis, was getting nervous over this situation, with over a trillion in losses, they came to us for answers.  We gave them what we knew, which was not much, but they wanted more.  We started getting inquiries about these restricted areas on Knome.  Huge areas on the surface of the planet were now being patrolled, and arrests were being made, even of their own people who strayed into those areas. Tannis tasked us to investigate.”

The monitor began to display images of sites on Knome, restricted sites that began to appear in conjunction with the increase in Myan trade. 

“At last count, there were over eighty such sites on the surface of the planet, most in the Northern polar region. In response to our briefing to the Royal Security Council, they tasked this Agency to discover the reason for the sudden appearance of these restricted areas on Knome, and, to uncover their purpose. Direct talks with Knomen officials yielded no answers."

An image of a communications space station appeared on screen.  Kenton explained. "We employed the Ankara CS7 in the detailed imaging of the planet.  Study of these areas yielded no actionable intelligence.  So covert missions were planned, and executed. And then, this, happened." 

The monitor displayed an image of two men being arrested by Knomen officials.

“Several covert agents were discovered, tried publicly in Knomen courts and then deported from Knome. This, you may remember, was a diplomatic disaster and it put a halt to some delicate, secret initial Ingression talks with Knome in protest.

The Knomen government had initiated Ingression talks with Tannis. These were low level discovery talks, but, the discovery of those agents, ended those talks for several months.  When they resumed, the RSC scrapped the missions, and the agents were recalled. Then we all learned, that the Knomen Republic, applied for admittance into the United Kingdom of Akadia.”

“Now, although those missions were halted, contact was lost with one lone agent on Knome, until recently.” Kenton sat down behind the podium. A distorted video image filled the monitor screen.  The video image struggled for focus as it jerked violently in various directions as if the camera person was running hard over rough terrain. Even with SIA’s modifications to the video stream it still was difficult to identify anything on the screen. Then suddenly the image became steady as the lens began adjusting, panning in on a distant object.  As the image zoomed forward toward its target, the focus was sharpened. A ship became discernable for a few seconds followed by heavy distortion. Then the image panned upward as the distortion rendered the it unwatchable and then it went dark.  As the video ended there was a low rumble of voices in the room as Kenton stood. 

“This video stream was transmitted by that agent.  The lost agent continued the mission and discovered something quite disturbing, thirty-seven seconds of images unnaturally distorted."

Kenton introduced Usef Herms, the Senior Interpretations Officer on the case.  Usef stood and directed attention towards the screen.  He gave a technical and visual analysis of the scrubbed images from the video transmission. He explained the scale composition of the image, plotting the landscape and producing satellite images of the suspected area where the video was recorded. 

A three-dimensional holograph of the area appeared above the conference table as the overhead lights brightened. The area of focus, was zoomed in on the three-dimensional holograph, in sync with the corresponding video transmission that now appeared on the wall monitor.  As the video focused on the distant object and froze, it did so on the corresponding holograph.  The object of focus, now appeared large in the holograph.  Usef paused, rotating the object using controls in his hand.

“This is what our lost agent discovered.” Usef gave the controls to Kenton and sat down as Kenton stood. 

“We believed that our agent lost his life getting that transmission to us." Kenton paused. "We were able to separate the initial distortion stream, which was artificial as someone did not want this information to leave the surface of that planet.”

“Now not long after the transmission was received and retransmitted, we ceased receiving the Ankara CS7’s transponder beacon.  Kenton paused to let that thought sink in.  SIA, has determined that the ship appears to be a Myan slayer-class fighter with modification or updates, and they have signed off on it”.

Kenton sat down as the room fell into reflective silence.

Director Timson broke the deafening silence and thanked the presenters. He stood up and look around the room.

“We’ve had a number major lapses in our intelligence regarding Knome, which, I believe has lead to the current flux we find ourselves in today. We have to get ahead of this one, gentlemen. Comments, Questions,”

Assistant Director Grian Mage was the first to speak. 

“What led to your conclusions that this was of Myan design?”

SIA’s senior researcher, Cursan Yinesk stood.

“The Knomens are incapable of developing a vessel like this, they don’t have the knowledge base nor the resources needed. This is a very sophisticate craft. Our experts analyzed the image and with a few modifications, this is a Myan Slayer-Class vessel.”

Cursan tapped his handheld and an image of the craft from the transmission appeared on the monitor alongside an image of the Interceptor an Myan Slay-class fighter.  There was verbal acknowledgement from some in the room to the side by side images of the two ships. “This is of Myan design.” Usef sat down.

“Why would Knome violate treaty agreements, when they are in the midst of Ingression talks.” Grian asked. 

Usef stood up again. “I can’t answer that, but in view of the transmission, coupled with the loss of the Ankara’s transponder beacon soon after the retransmission of the package, without drawing conclusions here, this incident bears further investigation at least.” 

“Could we raise the appearance of these, restricted zones, in the Ingression Talks,” Interior Chief Nevell Osange asked. 

I don’t think we can,” Director Timson replied. “It had been raised in the past and those inquiries were dismissed by Knomen officials, in fact, they were rather annoyed by our repeated inquiries into, “matters that did not concern us.” And considering the delicate nature of these talks, the RSC dropped it and will not go near that area of query at this stage.”

Kenton stood.

"What I am trying to understand is why would Knome take such measures to maintain this, secrecy, when once they are admitted to the Union, whatever they are protecting will be revealed.  Why go so far as to kill an agent, and why destroy the Ankara, allegedly of course.”

“If Knome didn’t destroy the Ankara, who do you suspect did." Personnel Chief Rals asked.

Kenton still standing explained, "Any answer at this moment would be speculation, and although the worst possible answer to that question has already crept into your minds, we have no solid reason to suspect that such a provocative act was perpetrated by the Myans.” 

“I have to say that it has always disturbed me that, at the start of the Ingression talks, Knome’s trade with the Myan Empire, more than doubled,” Chief Rals admitted. Something is going on, that doesn’t fit with appearances,” He added.

Director Timson brought silence to the room after Rals statement elicited other questions that others at once began to ask.

“I think we have enough questions, what we need is answers. This issue was priority one gentlemen. I want your undivided attention and your total effort engaged on this.”

As Jak spoke an aid began sending secure assignment briefs to each member’s case deck device.

“Please refer to your case assignment and update me every third standard hour of your progress. What you report will make up what Kenton and myself will be presenting to the Royal Security Counsel.”  Timson then, dismissed the meeting.


© Copyright 2019 James Washington. All rights reserved.

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