Knome: The Forbidden Zone

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

Chapter 27 (v.1) - Chapter Twenty-six

Submitted: March 23, 2017

Reads: 99

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Submitted: March 23, 2017

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Tannis (Kessel)

Woodsen Hall

 

The Knomen Ambassador was escorted by the King’s Guards to Woodsen Hall.  The hall was populated by more than a dozen of the King’s ministers and aides who were all seated near the King’s empty throne. The King’s Defense Council, the Senate Leadership and the Prime Minister of the People’s Advisory Parliament as well as the Secretary-General of the Council of Governors were invited, and present.  Also, attending, representing the Royal Security Council, was its Executive Committee, led by Lord Havik Poul.

Ambassador Horak was led and directed to sit at the interrogation table, as it has often been called.  Seated at the same table on either side of the Ambassador was the AIA representatives, Jak Timson and Kenton Msedi.  As the King’s Herald entered the hall the whole assembly rose to their feet.

“All rise, his majesty, King Wilhelm Antilla IV, ordained Head of the Akadian States.”

As King Wilhelm took his seat the assembled followed suit, making sure to sit only after the King did so.

“Let the King’s court commence, let it be recorded,” the Herald proclaimed, and then he took his seat.

Ambassador Horak was disconcerted by the number of high officials in attendance at a simple inquiry.  Horak sat back in his chair and looked around taking notice of those he recognized and those he was unfamiliar with.  He understood that the matter regarding the King's son was serious, but what he was struggling to make sense of was, what elevated this simple inquiry to a level that required so many high-level officials to attend.

Jeanu Hetmond, the King's personal secretary rose and stepped to the center of the Hall.

"His majesty welcomes one and all to this hearing, he appreciates your attendance especially at short notice." Jeanu strolled near the table at which Ambassador Horak was sitting.  "Mr. Ambassador, thank you for your attendance here.  His majesty would like to supplement his appreciation for your informative contribution regarding the ongoing inquiry into the disappearance of Prince Wilhelm."

"May his majesty be informed of mine and my Governments willingness to aid in any form necessary in this matter, " Horak replied.

Jeanu turned and quickly glanced at the King and then again, he faced Horak, "He has been so informed." Jeanu held up a reader he had been holding.

"Mr. Ambassador, there have been some new developments in the investigation of Prince Wilhelm's disappearance. The details of that new information have been uncovered by our lead intelligence agency.  So, I will leave it to them to brief you on those developments.  Mr. Msedi."

Kenton, rose from the seat he occupied next to Ambassador Horak and walked around the table to occupy the place vacated by Jeanu.

"Mr. Ambassador, the evidence that we have uncovered, leads us to believe the Prince Wilhelm is on Knome.  The Prince stowed away on a shuttle that docked on the Corbellis that was destined for Knome.  Because he did not appear on the Corbellis' passenger manifest, we concluded that he was not aboard.  Since he was seeking to escape identification and we have footage of him entering the shuttle but not exiting, he may have remained hidden on the shuttle."

"Excuse me Mr. MSedi," Horak interrupted, "Are you saying that Prince Wilhelm remained on the shuttle during a Warp out?"

"The evidence seems to point to that.  After the warp out, the Corbellis officials reported an incident involving the shuttle Volton, that is the vessel in question, identification number ADA23423. After the warp out, the shuttle’s life support systems were engaged, even though the shuttle's registered operator reported the complete shutdown of all its systems. That indicates that someone engaged critical life sustaining systems after the shuttle's crew departed."

"May I, Mr. MSedi," Horak interrupted again.

"Please," Kenton replied.

"Do you have the declaration document for the Shuttle Volton? And may I have a copy."

Kenton quickly glanced at Jak whose face showed no discernable concern.

"Yes, we will supply you with a copy," Kenton offered.

"Thank you.  And you say that this shuttle was destined for Knome.  Does the declaration document state which port the shuttle was due to arrive at?"

"Yes, all that information is on the declaration document." Kenton added.

"Thank you.  I must say that after we came forward with information regarding the Prince's declared intention, as he confessed to one of my aides.  We immediately passed on that information to the appropriate authorities in my Government, and a thorough search was initiated on all vessels arriving on Knome from the Corbellis, which, I might add was higher than normal, but nevertheless, there were as we reported no positive results."

"Yes," Kenton continued, "We do appreciate your quick initiative in our behalf.  But new information, indicates that the Volton did not arrive at any Knomen ports.  The Volton's last known coordinates placed its destination somewhere within the Upai Dunes.  Once this became known to us, we employed the Enola, which was a Penal Transport Vessel to search those coordinates for the Volton."

Kenton made no acknowledgement that the action taken by the Enola would have been in violation of Knomen Air Space, which was conducted without the knowledge or explicit permission of the Knomen Government, nor did Ambassador Horak broach the subject, although he was clearly aware of the violation.

"The Enola reported finding the Volton and siting members of its crew. But Mr. Ambassador here's where things get a bit murky.  We believed the Volton crashed on the planet.  We have reason to suspect an attack on the Enola and the shuttle it dispatched to the planet that reported sighting the Volton's crew.  We have lost all contact with the Enola, and after analyzing an emergency information dump by the Enola, we suspect that the Enola came under a massive attack which, we believe, destroyed her.  We also lost contact with one of our communication satellites which we believed was also destroyed."

Ambassador Horak felt all eyes riveted on him, burning through him for answers that he did not have.  What he was hearing sounded like fantasy.  As he surveyed the faces around him, he could not since an amicable one among them all, in fact most he clearly recognized, as hostile.

"Ambassador Horak," King Wilhelm broke the deafening silence, "Can you provide any insight into these very troubling reports?"

Horak stood, "Your majesty, I wish that I could allay your concerns. I am having a difficult time processing all of this. I can say that the Knomen Government played no part in these alleged actions if they prove to be true.  Surely you are aware that my Government does not possess the capabilities to launch an orbital attack on any kind of vessel."

As Horak sat down he began to fit pieces of an unconnected puzzle in his mind.  He had from time to time come across perplexing events and situations that he had questioned before, only to be told that he need not be concerned.  Horak trusted his Government, and he trusted his leader Prince Yuri, implicitly.  But there were things he did not know, things that were kept from him.  But now this inquiry, these reports, the closing of the embassy, the recall of all Knomen citizens and the document that he had recently reviewed, all of it was starting to fit together and the image that it was revealing seemed ominous to Horak.  The document that he read, that he will soon make known to the Akadian Government, will cause an upheaval in Knomen-Akadian relations.

"Mr. Ambassador," again King Wilhelm broke the silence. "We urge you to engage your Government immediately in the effort to find and return my son.  We also demand from your Government an accounting for the lives lost in the vicinity of your planet. While we are not accusing your Government of the tragic action that have taken place against Akadian citizens, we are asking for an accounting of events that have taken place within your realm." 

King Wilhelm gestured to one of his ministers who stood.  "My Defense Minister, Collin Erlin," the King announced.

"We have dispatched the UKA Boriss, a Capital class warship to the vicinity, to the neutral region. We beg that you inform your government that this is in no way meant to be a provocative act. It is simply precautionary, surely you can understand.  If as you say, that your government is in no way involved in these actions, and we have no reason to doubt your word. well, we must be prepared to defend the life of the King's son."

Minister Collin returned to his seat, as the hall fell in silent anticipation for the Ambassador's response.

Horak, slowly stood, weighing his words in his mind.  "Your majesty, I will immediately engage my Government with your concerns and will with the greatest urgency implore my lord the Prince to mobile all of our resources in the search for your son.  I beg your release, that I may see to it."

"Granted," the King replied.  Ambassador Horak rose gathering his notes and was escorted out of the hall in complete silence.

 

Chakata Corridor (Knome)

 

The endless horizon of dirt and sky was constant as Wilhelm walked for hours with no sight of any structure or manmade edifice. He was beginning to doubt that he had been walking in the correct direction and recalled that Tukka had said that it would take only a few hours, but there was no entrance in sight. He decided to change course feeling he had made an error after Tukka left him. He turned around and could still see the plume of smoke rising in the sky behind him, but he couldn’t go back, he had to find that entrance.  So, he turned a few degrees left hoping that the adjustment would set him back on course. 

Exhausted and famished, Wilhelm continued on, dozing off from time to time, desperate for sleep yet desperate to find the entrance.  Suddenly, Wilhelm felt as if he was falling, which was confirmed when he opened his eyes. He reached out desperately for something to hold onto as his arms flailed in the air.  All he could see was sky and then he hit something hard and blacked out momentarily.  When he came to he was on his back, in pain and gasping for air.  He sat up gazing at the slip face he had tumbled over.  The wall was nearly ten meters high and something about it peaked his interest as he lay back down absorbing the pain thankful that nothing felt broken.

After some time, he sat up, noticing that the slip face was actually a stone wall, and that even the surface that he landed on was made of stone.  He looked around and noticed that the wall went on as far as he could see.  He turned to look behind and noticed some distance away another wall.  He quickly stood on his feet and was able to clearly discern that he was on a road that was walled on each side and went on as far as he could see.  If he wasn’t in so much pain he would have leapt for joy, he had found the Chakata corridor.

As he walked on he noticed that the walls were becoming higher as the road descended deeper into the planet’s surface. He began to notice a small dark anomaly on the horizon and as he continued to walk, getting closer to the object, it became larger and larger and more discernable.  Wilhelm felt encouraged as the huge entrance to the Chakata cavern was now clearly discernable.  He quickened his pace at the prospect of seeing Anya, thoughts of her flooded his mind.  He ran as fast as he could, and as far as he could, until he exhausted himself, after which he rested, repeating the effort, over and over again.  Finally, he stopped and took notice of the massive entrance to the cavern, doubling over out of breath, excited to be so close. The top of the cavern’s entrance was actually at ground level while the concrete surface descended below ground level so deep, that Wilhelm guessed that the corridor and cavern's entrance was maybe a hundred meters or more below the planet’s surface. The entrance was so wide and so high that it looked to be able to accommodate a large shuttle.

Before entering, Wilhelm pulled the black robe he had been carrying over himself, struggling a bit to get his arms through.  He adjusted the hood so that he could see out of the black meshed fabric mask.  Immediately he began to sweat profusely in the robe as he walked through the Chakata entrance.  He nearly tripped over the wide threshold of the massive tracking mechanism for the large doors he had noticed on each side of the entrance after he crossed over. 

Once inside the entrance, the road took a steep dive, so steep, that Wilhelm was having a difficult time staying upright.  He walked for a time to the right of the tunnel trying to reach the wall which as he got closer, he could see that the wall had a railing attached to it. Once there, it was much easier for him to walk while holding on to the railing, taking some of the weight off his legs.  But as he continued on and the road became steeper he felt like he was using the railing more like a rope, as if he was slowly descending a steep mountain.  After an hour in this effort his arms were ready to give out. Then all of a sudden, his foot found support. He planted his feet on that surface, thankful for a chance to rest his arms. The level platform he rested upon led to a long row of old shafts or lifts with some of the cabs missing.  Wilhelm found a shaft with its cab still present and he entered it.  Inside the cab there were many rails on which to hold, and one lever next to the door.  Wilhelm closed the lift door and held on to one of the rails close to the lever.  He moved the lever in the downward position, with no little effort but, nothing happened.  Then, suddenly, he was in the air, his body slamming against the lift's ceiling.  He held on tightly to the rail as the shaft free fell for what seemed like an hour or longer.  Wilhelm worked hard against the forces overwhelming him to get his feet planted back on the floor, especially after nearly losing the contents of his stomach, twice.

After managing to get his feet back on the floor, he sensed that the lift's descent was slowing, as the effort to stay upright was lessening. Wilhelm was surprised that the lift actually came to a slow and gentle stop.  He waited for some time in the cab before he realized that it was not going to open on its own.  He lifted the lever as it locked midway, and after a moment, the door opened. 

Wilhelm walked out of the lift a little disappointed.  He had expected to see a city and crowds of people, but he saw no one, and there were no structures of any kind, just a dimly lit pathway.  He sighed, despondent, wondering how much longer it would be before he could put his arms around Anya, so, with no other choice, he began to walk down the unknown path.

 

Mount Thaingor (Knome)
 
The cover of darkness clouded the small boat and its occupants from the scout ships that periodically flew over the island. One of their number had flew past the vicinity of the island, scanning the lake with purpose.  Teric had ordered Jasen and Kore to stop rowing as the ship passed over them and continued to fly out of sight over the island.
 
“Do you think they are looking for us,” Kore inquired, shaken from the experience.
 
“It may be part of their regular patrol,” Jasen wondered out loud.
 
“Let’s just get to the shore, we’ll have more cover on the island,” Teric replied.
 
With renewed effort and intent, they continued to row while intermittently searching the sky. They were less than ninety meters from the shore when Kore stopped rowing and sat up.  Still unnerved by their near discovery, he had been having second thoughts about their plan.  He broke the silence, calling out to Teric.
His call went unanswered as Teric had not heard him or had just ignored him.  Jasen stopped rowing, sat up and faced Kore.
 
“What is it?” 
 
Kore had been mentally debating their options even after they had decided on a plan.  One option was to take the Chakata corridor, enter the city and locate a means of communication.  Kore was sure that the military equipment he had seen was of Myan origin, even if there were no clear markings to that effect. Considering the attack on Udin and the repeated fly overs by scouts he was beginning to favor a path that was less risky.
 
“I’m just trying to resolve things in my mind,” Kore confessed, “If we find a military installation at this black site, and we can confirm that the Myans are heavily involved and, if we can infiltrate the site, locate a comm facility and transmit a warning message to Akadia, what then?
 
“What do you mean ‘what then,’ Jasen asked dubious of Kore’s conclusion.
 
“Don’t you see, a lot of high risk variables. I’m just wondering if this is our best option? Kore offered.
 
Teric stopped rowing.  “The problem with your assessment Kore, is that your looking at the whole mission. Don’t focus on the whole, focus on each part, in the moment.  We know what we have to do with regard to the overall mission, but focusing on that, when we should be focusing on getting to the shore is keeping you from helping us to get to the shore, understand?”  Teric turned and went back to rowing as did Jasen after a short pause. Kore thought for a moment and after getting Teric’s point, he went back to rowing also.
 
Reaching the shore, Jasen and Kore got out of the boat while Teric held it steady. Teric secured the boat to a cable made fast to a post on the shore, he then grabbed his pack and caught up with Kore and Jasen who had already started up the mountain.
 
Mount Thaingor was a large island with a dormant volcano, nearly thirty kilometers in diameter.  The island was rich and thick with flora, thriving in the fertile layer of dirt and ash.  Mount Thaingor like the rest of Knome contained many caves and caverns within the planet’s crust. Cave openings at higher elevations were visible to them as they began to climb. Looking behind, the fires at Thaingor forest casted an ominous reflection on the skies above. Teric felt sick at the sight, which filled him with a heightened sense of urgency.  He quickly overtook Jasen and Kore, taking the lead as they ascended.
 
The roar of an engine from another scout caused Teric, Jasen and Kore to take cover under some of the brush on the mountain. The ship sped from the vicinity of the island, coming closer to them than any had before, and then, it headed toward the plains near the forest.  Once the ship was out of sight Teric, Jasen and Kore came out from hiding and continued up the mountain. 
 
“Was it a Myan ship?” Jasen asked.
 
“I’m sure it was,” Kore answered, “It had no markings, so there’s no way to tell for sure. But I’m certain it was”
 
“Looks like it landed near the forest.” Jasen inquired following the ship’s path.
 
Teric had climbed quickly, reaching a ledge that led into a cave.  He looked down observing Jasen and Kore following, knowing, that it would take some time for them to reach him, so he decided to investigate the cave.  He walked towards the entrance of the cave, leaning in to have a look. He was trying to determine whether to climb higher or to investigate the cave.  Hoshushanna had explained that some of the caves led through to the inner surface of the island.  Teric walked in trying to sense the air currents in the cave.  As he walked further into the cave, Kore and Jasen had reached the ledge, dropping their packs to rest. 
 
Another ship appeared over the island causing Jasen and Kore to grab their packs and to dash inside the cave. This time the ship did not leave the vicinity of the island, it began to hover near their location.
 
“I think they’re searching for us!” Jasen called out to Teric.
 
Teric returned from the interior of the cave to where Jasen and Kore were hiding, just inside the entrance of the cave. As the sound of the ship diminished, Teric looked out of the cave in the direction of the ship’s path.  He could still hear the ship as if it were hovering searching in another location.  He then reentered the cave.
 
“I don’t think they’re searching for us,” Teric offered trying to reassure his team.  “It does add a wrinkle to our plan.  We need to be more cautious and deliberate about the actions we take.  As we move, be mindful of the need for cover.  I wanted to find a cave that would let us get through to the interior of the island which would be the perfect cover, but I don’t think this cave offers us that option.”
 
“I think it’s gone,” Kore said, surveying the sky. 
 
“OK, let’s move quickly, I think we’ll have to look for another cave higher up,” Teric advised.
 
Teric, Jasen and Kore left the cave and began the arduous climb for one of the caves at a higher elevation.

 


© Copyright 2019 James Washington. All rights reserved.

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