Leone and Aristark completed their hyperspace jump and arrived in the h32 star system. Their spaceship automatically engaged the sublight drive and put them on course to the r121:23:45 d45:143:23 z1.9347 coordinates. Aristark helped guide the spaceship's artificial intelligence in a search for a ship near the specified coordinates.
At the same time, Leone was searching for an alternative target. Something from his dream about Kalid made Leone think that the coordinates were for a planet rather than a spaceship. But Leone had examined the data for the h32 system and had found that there was a significant asteroid belt with a minor component near 1.9 atronomical units. "Okay. I've initiated a scan for asteroids near the specified coordinates."
Aristark said, "If Kalid is using the Osiris Order technology for hiding spaceships our scans may show us nothing."
Leone agreed that was a worry. "I wonder if the Osiris Order might have developed another technology that allows you to penetrate their shield. Maybe the equipment that was installed on this ship has such a capability."
Aristark complained, "As far as I can tell, the Osiris Order technology that we have on this ship is not under our control, so even if it has such a capacity, we do not know how to make use of it. In any case, it will take us most of a day to reach those coordinates. If Kalid has a ship there then from this distance we will only detect it if it is transmitting a navigation beacon."
Just then they received an automated signal welcoming them to the h32 system and requesting that they transmit their flight plan. Of course, their ship had automatically done so as soon as they had jumped into the system. Leone said, "There does not seem to be much spacehip or communications traffic in this system."
Aristark nodded, "I do not think I have ever previously visited such a low population star system before...this is a real "end of nowhere" star system. I wonder why anyone ever bothered to settle here."
Leone examined the navigation records for the star system that had been transmitted to them along with the welcome. These local navigation records were more detailed than the limited information available in the standard Empire astrogation database entry for system h32. Leone said, "Well there is a planet within the likely habitable zone for this star, right at one astronomical unit from the star. However, the records indicate that planet is not inhabited....but there is a small base on its airless moon."
Aristark was reading through the same local navigation records. "The largest population in this system is on the fourth planet, a terraformed world with little water and little air."
Leone realized that most of the spaceship activity in the system was associated with the fourth planet, called "h32.4" in the navigation records. "Oh, I see! They are continually capturing water-containing comets and asteroids and sending them to the fourth planet. They are also sending water from the third planet to the fourth. Wow! The third planet is covered with water!"
Aristark was surprised. "A water world with no human habitation? And they are doing major terraforming to get more water to the fourth planet? That makes no sense."
"Oh my graviton!" Leone was horrified by a new realization. "The third planet is a Green Planet!"
Aristark asked, "Green goo? Well, that explains why nobody lives on the third planet. I wonder why the standard Empire astrogation database entry for system h32 does not mention the existence of a Green Planet in this star system."
"First Flammis and now this system. I'm starting to wonder if Green Planets are significantly more common than we are usually told."
"And I wonder if there is some special association between the Osiris Order and Green Planets."
Leone asked, "Why would there be such an association?"
Aristark shrugged, "When we were at Flammis you suggested that a Green Planet might be a good place to hide a secret base. Maybe the Osiris Order routinely makes use of Green Planets as hiding places."
"I've been thinking that if the Osiris Order originated on Earth, maybe they would have selected a nearby and low-population system for their first base off of Earth. Maybe h32 was the location of the first Osiris Order training center off of Earth." Leone's thoughts swirled with possibilities. "There are many things we can ask Kalid."
Aristark asked, "What was it about your dream that made you think that the coordinates are for a planet?"
Leone could not put his feelings into words. "It was just a feeling. Early in the dream everything felt like there was another ship approaching our ship, then when the coordinates appeared, I was thinking about trees and mountains...scenes like the terrain of the part of Sakkara where I grew up. And there was something that had the feel of 'orbit'....I can't really explain it."
Aristark suggested, "If we are looking for an orbiting asteroid at about 1.93 astronomical units from the center of this star system, then we can estimate the expected orbital speed for such an asteroid."
Leone said, "Yes, we do not want to go directly to the coordinates that were given in the dream. The asteroid would have moved on in its orbit to a new location."
Aristark used the Thot interface to adjust their flight path slightly. "Okay, I asked Thot to make an adjustment to our course. We are now on route to the best guess estimate of where such an asteroid should be."
Leone was pleased that Aristark seemed willing to be guided even by Leone's hunches. "I've requested from the inhabitants of this system any records they have for the positions of asteroids near 1.9 astronomical units from the center of the system. The asteroid we are looking for might be in their database already."
"If it is an asteroid we are looking for. I still expect Kalid to be in a spaceship. I do not understand why he would be sitting on some asteroid in the middle of nowhere."
Leone suggested, "Most of the inhabitants of this system live in space stations or in bases on airless moons and asteroids. It might be perfectly normal for Kalid to be at such an asteroid base in this system, maybe a base long used by the Osiris Order."
"But would Kalid give out the coordinates to such a base? Now we have broadcast our destination as being those coordinates. If the Osiris Order is so secretive, surely Kalid would not send us to the location of a secret base, not when we have to broadcast our destination for all to see."
"Yes, I agree with your analysis. Maybe these coordinates are just a safe destination for us that Kalid does not mind having us reveal. We shall see. Maybe Kalid will contact us before we reach those coordinates and re-direct us to another destination."
Aristark chuckled, "Maybe you should sleep in case Kalid wants to contact you again."
Leone grinned. "I expect our next communication from Kalid will come by conventional radio communication. But maybe if I exercise now I will be ready to get to bed early and wake about the time we reach a sensible scanning distance from our destination."
Leone went to the gym and exercised for two hours. When he returned to the main control room, Aristark had news. "You were right. Our destination is a microplanet called Esclangon. It has a population of about three million people."
Leone was pleased. "Really? I actually dreamed the coordinates of a known planet?"
Aristark provided additional information from the extensive insystem asteroid-tracking database. "Esclangon is a small asteroid, but it even has a moon. They sent us a request for more details on our flight plan. They want to know if we intend to land on Esclangon, go into orbit, or if we will just be passing by."
Leone sat down, connected to the Thot interface and reviewed the data that had been received from Esclangon. "Of course, everything depends on Kalid. I'm tempted to send a reply asking if Kalid is a resident of Esclangon."
Aristark suggested, "Maybe we should just request permission to land on Esclangon. If Kalid contacts us before we land then we can change our flight plan at that time. I've been on this ship for nearly a week and I'm more than ready to get off for a while and see some new sights. I'm not the great space traveler that you are."
Leone chuckled. It was true that he had spent a large part of his life traveling around the galaxy. Before becoming Planetary Counselor for Transportation, Leone had served as a traveling Sakkaran trade negotiator, arranging for interstellar trade with other planets around the Empire. But it was true that a typical space flight involved just a few days on a spaceship and then you were at your destination and had a chance to get off your ship for a while. "Okay, I'll just say that we intend to land. I'll emphasize that I am an official of the Sakkaran Department of Transportation and let them imagine a reason for our visit....I won't mention Kalid."
A short while later Leone said, "Okay, I sent a reply to 'Esclangon', but I still do not see the name 'Esclangon' in the navigation database....that name is only in the radio message we received from Esclangon."
Aristark explained, "The database just uses a number code for the asteroid. Apparently the local residents have a name for the rock they live on."
"Yes, I see the asteroid '1509' in the database and its orbital parameters clearly are the same as those of Esclangon. In my experience, system navigation databases usually include the local names of planets, but even their major population center, the fourth planet, is only given a number designation...'h32.4'. It is almost as if they have purposefully not put common names into their database."
Aristark wondered, "Maybe that is the local custom. Where I grew up on Sakkara adjacent towns did not agree on names for the roads, so most people just used the numerical street numbers designated by the district authorities rather than the different street names used by each town."
Leone said, "Hmm, I guess it is possible that multiple groups of settlers came to this system from Earth and each group gave the planets different names. For example, I see that Esclangon is classified as a member of the 'Hungaria' asteroids. In my reading of Earth history I noticed that there was a national group called the 'Hungarians' in Standard Galactic. This star system is so close to Earth that it may have been colonized before the Standard Galactic language was widely adopted."
Leone did sleep during a large part of their approach to Esclangon, but he had no more interesting dreams. Aristark saw no more interesting power surges in Sybil's mysterious equipment.
Finally they were on final approach to Esclangon. Leone was delighted to find that Esclangon looked like some kind of exotic flower with a nimbus of space stations around the asteroid and a network of interconnecting space elevators. The surface of the asteroid was obscured by the cloud of associated space stations, but it was studded with thousand-story-tall towers. Their spaceship efficiently glided on autopilot through the tangle of structures and into a vast sub-surface space dock and to a waiting chamber that was close to the size of their ship. Soon the chamber was sealed and pressurized and Aristark popped the hatch.
Leone and Aristark emerged from the ship and were met by a robot who said, "Welcome to Esclangon. I am your guide, Frank. How may I serve you?"
Leone replied, "Thanks for your welcome, Frank. I am Leone and this is Aristark..."
The robot interrupted, "Yes, I know. I am fully programmed and aware of your radio transmissions. You are from Sakkara, but we received no communication from Sakkara warning us to expect a delegation of planetary officials. I therefore assume that you are here on personal business, not official Sakkaran business."
Aristark explained, "We are both members of the Antiquist Party. For this trip, we are functioning as members of the Antiquist party and we are attending to Antiquist Party business."
Frank said, "I see. If you intend to engage in political activities here on Esclangon then you must first register your political party with the Secretary of Sate on Mars."
Leone was surprised, "There is no local branch of the Antiquist Party in this star system?"
Frank replied, "I see in the records that there was an entry for the Antiquist Party many decades ago, but its registration has lapsed. Apparently the Antiquist Party concept never took root here in this system. You will have to re-activate the registration. I believe political party registration requires the signatures of of at least two residents of the h32 system and a five credit registration fee. Do you two intend to apply for residence? If so, that is another five credit fee, for each individual."
Aristark laughed. "I have no intention of applying for residency in this backwater system. We are here to meet someone. When we have had our meeting, I intend to leave and never return."
Leone asked, "I'm having some difficulty understanding your accent. Did you mention 'Mars'... m .. a .. r .. s ?"
Frank replied, "Yes, that is the name of the fourth planet, which is the center of our political structure."
Leone was familiar with the term 'Mars' in the context of Earth history. Leone had read an ancient legend in which 'Mars' was the name of a star known to ancient Astrologers on Earth as a harbinger of war. Leone wondered why this system had selected 'Mars' as the name of their chief planet and political center. Possibly the history of this star system was dominated by conflict and war, particularly if it was originally settled by multiple competing nationalistic groups from Earth. Leone's thoughts were inerrupted by Frank....
Frank asked, "Who are you planning to meet?"
Aristark replied, "We are here in order to meet with Kalid".
Frank said, "There are seven people in system who might be the 'Kalid' you refer to. None of those seven live here on Esclangon. Do you have more specifics, perhaps biometric data for the Kalid you know?"
Leone replied, "I've been told that Kalid was born on the world Flammis. Also, I've been told that Kalid is a member of the Osiris Order."
Frank's body language changed. "Let us leave the space dock. Come into the office." The robot led Leone and Aristark through a door and into a small but comfortable room. They sat down around a work bench and Frank offered food and drink. A second robot quickly arrived with cups and poured hot tea for the two humans. Then Frank said, "I've never heard of 'Flammis'. However, there is a Temple of Osiris here on Esclangon. I've contacted that Temple and asked if they know 'Kalid'. You have been invited to visit the Temple."
Aristark asked, "Invited by who?"
Frank replied, "I contacted a robot at the Temple. I believe that robot contacted one or more humans who instructed it to issue the invitation."
Leone asked, "Where is this Temple? How to we get there?"
Frank gestured to a wall and a complex three dimensional map of Esclangon appeared. "The red dot indicates our position here at the space dock complex. The blue dot shows the location of the Temple, which is also a subsurface structure about four kilometers from here. I can guide you through the tube system to the Temple."
Aristark drained his cup of tea and stood up, "Very well, let's go."
Leone lingered a moment over his tea. "This is excellent tea. What world is it from?"
Frank replied, "That variety is from a space station in orbit around Mars. I believe the claim is made that it is one of the few varieties of tea that has not been genetically modified from its original form as it existed on Earth."
Leone drank the last of the tea in his cup and stood up. Frank led them through the back door, down a short hallway and into another smaller room that seemed to only hold a man-sized hole in the floor. Frank explained, "We must drop down this tube to the transport level. Just step in, keep your legs together and your arms at your sides and relax. If you panic and want to over-ride the autopilot, just spread your arms outward. You will stop moving and I will pull you out of the drop tube." Without further comment, Frank took Leone's hand and pulled him to the tube.
Leone had used similar drop tubes in buildings on other worlds and on space stations. He relaxed and dropped through the floor. He looked up and saw Aristark following just above. The maximum drop rate was about twenty kilometers per hour, so it took nearly a minute to reach the transport level of the asteroid. At the bottom of the drop tube Leone, Aristark and Frank were each deposited in a small cubicle. As soon as Frank landed the low walls of the cubicles retracted into the floor and Frank led them through the large chamber towards a horizontal transport tube. The first transport was just a local feeder but it quickly took them to a high-speed tube car. They sat down and the car quickly accelerated to a high speed. In two minutes they traveled several kilometers through the interior of the asteroid.
The car stopped and they exited the car. Frank said, "This is the tube station for the Temple." He led them to another drop tube which propelled them up to the Temple.
When Leone exited the drop tube he was face to face with another robot who said, "Welcome to the Temple of Osiris." The robot repeated the greeting a moment later when Aristark emerged from the tube.
Frank emerged last and said to the other robot, "I leave these guests in your care." Frank disappeared down the tube.
The new robot said, "I am Bahney."
Leone stared at Bahney. While Frank had been largely ambisexual with modest hints of male characteristics, this robot was clearly modeled on the human female form and was wearing a colorful and short silk robe. Most dramatically, the robot's synthetic skin was tinted a deep green.
Aristark was also shocked by Bahney's appearance, but he recovered his wits first, glanced at Leone and then asked Bahney, "Can you take us to Kalid?"
Bahney replied, "Frank told me that you are looking for someone called called 'Kalid', but as far as I know, there is nobody called 'Kalid' on Esclangon. You also mentioned the planet Flammis. There is a planet called 'Veritas Flammis' in our records. At one time there was a Temple of Osiris on that world, but it was destroyed 194 years ago, with great and tragic loss of life."
Leone asked, "Do you know anyone named 'Kalid' who is associated with the Osiris Order?"
Bahney said, "As you may know, our Order has been persecuted and marginalized for many centuries. We now take sensible precautions to protect members of the Order from harm. I'd prefer not to discuss our membership here in this transport tube chamber. Will you come with me to my office?"
Aristark replied, "Very well, lead the way."
Bahney turned, opened a door and led them down a short hallway, through a second door that opened into a darkened chamber. Inside the dark room, Bahney paused and let the eyes of the two humans adapt to the low light conditions. Bahney spoke, "This is the Ring of Stars."
Leone looked up and as his eyes adapted he began to see what looked like stars. "This is your temple?"
Bahney explained, "Technically, this entire complex of chambers is the Temple, but the heart of the Temple is in the central chamber beyond that wall. This Ring is the access hallway to the central chamber. Since you are not members of the Order, you cannot enter the central chamber."
Aristark asked, "Are we under a glass dome at the surface of the asteroid?"
"No, we are far under the surface. What you see is a simulation of the night sky of Earth as it appeared thousands of years ago above Egypt."
Bahney led the way along the Ring. Leone asked, "Do you know that on may worlds Egypt is thought to be a mystical fantasy land?"
Bahney produced a musical human-like chuckle. "Yes, I am aware of that. What of yourself?"
Leone replied, "I would be thrilled to see evidence of Egypt. For example, I have been told that the great pyramids of Egypt have never been found on Earth."
Bahney explained, "Sadly, the Pyramids and all of Egypt were obliterated in a great catastrophe. It is futile to search Earth for the Pyramids." Bahney opened a door and led them out of the Ring of stars. They went down a short hallway and through another door into Bahney's office. The offer of food and drink was repeated and another robot brought tea.
When Leone and Aristark were settled across the desk from Bahney with their cups of tea, Leone said, "This is different tea than what Frank gave us, but it is also very good."
Bahney commented, "I see that Sakkara is not a major tea-consuming world. Things are different here; we have many varieties of tea. Of course, as a robot, I have little knowledge of what humans find pleasing in a drink."
Aristark asked, "Now that we are in your office, can you speak more openly about Kalid?"
Bahney replied, "I have heard of a Great Master named Kalid, but let me explain something. The Empire has long imposed severe restrictions on the inhabitants of this system. We are under constant watch, so very little information reaches us from other worlds where the Osiris Order is active."
Leone said, "We were recently in the Akara star system. Are you familiar with their history?"
Bahney nodded her green head. "Yes, Azur was the last major site of significant resistance against the Empire. The people of Azur suffered mightily at the hands of the Emperor. This star system has suffered in its own way. Under the Emperor nobody is free, but here we are under particularly strict imperial restrictions. Other branches of the Osiris Order wisely keep their distance from us. In fact, this Temple here on Esclangon is the public face of the Osiris Order. We are the designated target for all persecution against the Order. It is hoped that we can draw the ire of the Emperor and thus save the rest of the Order from similar attention."
Aristark said, "Most people of the galaxy think that the Oiris Order is a lost part of ancient Earth history, something like the legend of Atlantis."
Bahney smiled, "That is good. We are happy to avoid attention....as a misunderstood minority group we have often become a target for persecution by others."
Leone asked, "If a Master of the Osiris Order from another planet came to Esclangon, would you be aware of that visit?"
Bahney frowned, "That is an interesting question. We do have a rather constant, if small, stream of visitors. We ask few questions. People come, study, meditate, usually they depart. A few stay and join our community."
Aristark asked, "Is there any way we could let your recent visitors know that we are here. Maybe one of your guests is Kalid traveling under another name."
Bahney nodded. "An interesting idea. Very well, I will make sure that all of out guests are aware of your arrival here. How long do you intend to stay?"
Leone explained, "We might not be able to meet Kalid here, so it is hard to say. My hope is that Kalid is here waiting for us and will contact us soon."
Bahney suggested, "I can offer you the temporary use of modest rooms here in the Temple. If you plan to stay more than a week, I suggest you find permanent housing....there are many available residences around Esclangon, either subsurface or in one of the orbiting stations."
Aristark said, "Thank you for your kind offer. The transportation network here is efficient, so potentially we could just stay on our ship. It did not take very long to get over here from the space dock."
Leone said, "If we are going to stay here a few days, I would like to study any public historical records you have here at this Temple. It seems most efficient if I just stay here."
Aristark agreed, "I have no objection to staying here for a few days. I am more than happy to get off of the spaceship for a while. I have little interest in history, but I would like to learn about the justice system here."
Bahney nodded. "Yes, I understand that you are the director of the Sakkara Justice Department. If you would like to visit the Esclangon Government Center, I can provide you with a guide."
Bahney provided a brief tour of the Temple complex then showed Leone and Aristark to their rooms. Another robot then took Aristark to the Government Center and Bahney took Leone to the Temple library facility. The library had some public displays of images from Egypt. Bahney said, "I wanted you to see these displays. All of the library records can be accessed by the equipment in your room."
Leone was impressed by the holographic projections of images from Egypt. Walking through the museum-like display was almost like being in Egypt and walking in the shadow of the Great Pyramids.
They exited the Egypt display and Bahney introduced Leone to the robotic staff of the library.
Leone asked the Chief Librarian, "You have no human staff?"
The robot replied, "Sometimes a human takes interest in the records and becomes the Chief Librarian. The last such retired about 19 years ago. All of Esclangon only has about thirty million human inhabitants, so most jobs are left to robots. There are over a billion robots here serving the human population."
Leone spent the rest of the day in discussions with the library staff. Leone had never previously interacted with anyone who took seriously the idea that Egypt had been a real place. Earth began to come alive in Leone's mind.
Late in the day, when Aristark finally returned to the Temple they had a late dinner and discussed their days. Leone felt that he had learned more about Earth history in one day than he had learned in the past 50 years. Aristark described the Esclangon legal system which seemed very close to a direct democracy system in which exercising the judicial functions of society was part of the civic duties assumed equally by all citizens.
Tired and filled up with the excellent food served in the Temple's dinning room, Leone and Aristark walked back to their rooms. Aristark said, "Here's a wild idea. I'd like to visit this star system's seat of government on the fourth planet. If I left in the morning I'd spend about a day getting there, I could spend a day there and then another day on the return trip."
Leone laughed, "I'm still thinking Kalid should show himself at any moment. What if he does and you are not here?"
Aristark shrugged, "Find out what you can about the technologies the Osiris Order has. Try to get Kalid to agree to help stop Set's murderous rampage. If Kalid does show, send me a message and I'll get back here as quickly as I can."
Leone agreed to the plan and looked forward to three more days of learning Earth history. "Maybe you should just go to the ship right now and start your little side trip right away."
Aristark moaned, "You are mean task master. I was expecting one night of rest off of the ship, but you are right. If I depart now and sleep on the ship I'll speed everything up by eight or ten hours."
Leone shrugged, "Do what you feel comfortable with. I'm not trying to rush you back onto the ship."
"No, you are correct." Aristark stopped one of the green-skinned Temple robots. "I'm a little uncertain about how to return to the spaceship docks. Is there a robot available who could help me?"
The robot said, "Ah, Director of Justice Aristark. Are you leaving us so soon?"
Aristark replied, "I'm going to make a short visit to Mars. I'll be back. And Leone will be staying here while I'm gone."
The robot nodded. "I see." Another robot approached.....it was Frank. "Frank can take you."
Frank held a small device. "Alternatively, you can just use this. It will guide you through the transport tubes."
Aristark took the hand-held device, which appeared to be a standard directional assistant. "Thanks, Frank. I'm surprised you are still here...I assumed you had returned to the spaceship docks. This will do the trick, or I'd welcome your company."
Frank explained, "I'm the standard hospitality robot. There are about six million copies of me around Esclangon."
Leone now realized that this Frank-model robot had green skin, so apparently it was assigned permanently to the Temple. The other "Frank' had not had green skin.
Aristark said to the green Frank, "Oh, I see." Aristark turned to Leone, "Okay, I'm off. I'll be back in a few days, or sooner if you call me back."
Leone opened the door to his room and fell onto the sleep platform. Within a few minutes he drifted into sleep.
Sybil was saying something. At first Leone thought he was dreaming, but then he opened his eyes. It was Sybil, and he was awake, sprawled on the sleeping platform of his room at the Temple. Sybil stood just inside the door of the room, smiling. "Sorry to wake you up. You must be very tired to have fallen asleep so quickly. I'll come back in the morning."
Leone sat up. "No, stay! Its just been a long day...I'm trying to synchronize to local time."
Sybil sat down in a chair. "I was in the Temple all day and just learned that you had arrived today. Frank told me that you came with Aristark but that he is now on his way to Mars."
Leone checked the time. "He might not have reached the docks yet. Should I call him back? Are you here with Kalid?"
Sybil explained, "Kalid and I arrived here about three days ago. Kalid left me a message. He also left Esclangon....he said that he had to investigate something. Very mysterious!"
Leone was finally fully awake and let his eyes drink in the sight of Sybil. She had tinted her skin a faint green and her hair was done up in an intricate set of knots. He was not really surprised to find her here, but he was alarmed by the idea that Kalid would suddenly go off 'to investigate something'. "Kalid gave no indication of where he is going or when he will be back?"
Sybil went to the room's data terminal and pulled up the message from Kalid. "When you hear this, I'll be off Esclangon. Someone followed Leone to this system. I'll be back when I figure out what is going on."
Sybil inactivated the terminal. "That's all I know. I assume by the look on your face that you did not know you were being followed."
Leone thought back to the events of the past week. "I've been wondering if we were followed all the way from Sakkara, but I did not really have any evidence. But let me tell you what I do know and what has happened..."
Leone told the story of the battles at Flammis and in the Akara star system. Sybil said, "When you tried to contact me after you were attacked at Flammis, I was already on my way here with Kalid. Kalid arrived on Sakkara about the same time that you were attacked and he warned me that I was in danger, too. Kalid was able to monitor what was happening to your spaceship by making use of the equipment I had installed. After you were attacked in the Akara system Kalid felt it was important to contact you and try to make you come here."
"I still do not know what is going on." Leone asked, "Who attacked me at Flammis? Why did Ketar's forces attack me in the Akara system? Who might have followed me to this system?"
Sybil seemed lost in thought for half a minute then she said, "There are aspects of this that I'm still not clear on, but Kalid thinks Set is responsible for the attack on Flammis."
"Ah, so you think Set followed me from Sakkara to Flammis?"
"No. The Osiris Order base on Flammis was attacked about a day before you got there."
"I did have about a day delay between when you told me to go to Flammis and when I actually left Sakkara. I spent that time reading about the Osiris Order."
Sybil asked, "Why did you delay?"
Leone replied, "Ketar wanted Aristark and I to find Kalid. Aristark was very busy and needed a day to get things under control at the Justice Department."
Sybil nodded. "I see. And then the second attack near Azur, Kalid thinks that Ketar has recently learned how to detect the Osiris Order identification beacon."
Leone did not know what the implications were of that. "So Ketar is at war with the Osiris Order?"
Sybil shrugged, "Somehow Ketar has decided that it is in his interest to attack any ship with the Osiris Order beacon. I do not understand why."
Leone wondered who could have followed his spaceship to this star system. "After we left the Akara system and we were in interstellar space waiting for the ship to be repaired, there was a scanner transient...something was detected at extreme range. If that was another ship following us..." Leone thought about his lucid dream. "I had a dream about another ship..."
Sybil said, "When Kalid told me that he had contacted you in a dream, I started thinking back to a dream I once had. I never told you this, but...do you remember when we first met?"
Leone nodded. "I've been thinking about that a lot since I learned that you are a member of the Osiris Order."
"It was the first week I knew you, I had a dream about you. Actually, it was a dream about our grandchild. I was old and our grandchild was asking me about you. You were dead, but I was telling your granddaughter about you. We were looking at a video of you...you were very famous...I was very proud of what you had accomplished in your life. Our granddaughter was going to take up your work..." Sybil wiped away a tear. "Do you think I'm silly?"
Leone got off the sleeping platform and went to Sybil. He took her hands and pulled her to her feet. They embraced and just held each other for a long time. Finally Leone said, "I've been wondering if telepathy during dreams is a way for two people to communicate and decide if they are right for each other. I also had a vivid dream soon after we met....I've never had a similar experience until Kalid contacted me telepathically."
Sybil asked, "You dreamed about me? What was your dream about?"
Leone told the dream in full detail. Sybil started to laugh and when Leone was done telling about the dream she said, "So you thought I was stone cold, eh? As I recall you kept hitting on me for weeks after we met."
Leone chuckled, "I did not want to give up. I was having far too much fun with you. I thought you were just this nerdy student who did not know how to lighten up and live a little. Actually, I wanted you to live a lot...I wanted you to live your whole life with me."
Sybil held Leone at arms length, "I could not tell you that I was a member of the Osiris Order. Since I could not tell you the truth, I could not involve myself with your life."
Leone asked, "Could not, or would not? What if you had told me thirty years ago what you finally did end up telling me a week ago?"
Sybil replied, "I'm not very good with hindsight, but maybe you would never have become head of Transportation and maybe I would never have told you to go to Flammis and maybe Set would never have murdered all those innocent people on Flammis...."
Leone asked, "How many died there?"
Sybil shivered and snuggled against Leone's chest. "From what Kalid has hinted to me, I suspect it was many thousands...all of Kalid's family....all the people who were dear to him."
Leone was shocked. "I see. So is this how wars come about? Ketar wants to avenge the millions who died on Azur. Set wants to avenge those who died on Sakkara. Kalid wants to avenge those who died on Flammis. Will it ever end?"