[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
1/ A TIME TO LIVE, A PLACE TO DIE
Rhodan’s boots left a deep imprint in the moist sand. A gentle breeze stirred the surface of the big lake
and raised foamy crests. Shells and colourful stones covered the shore.
On a steep incline behind Rhodan rested the mighty
Solar System
on its landing struts. Even to the
Imperium’s Administrator who was accustomed to the sight, the 200 meter heavy cruiser looked like a
menacing prehistoric monster in these surroundings.
Rhodan stopped and deeply inhaled the clear air. The cargo hatch of the
Solar System
opened and a
loading beam swung out. The wiry figure of Lt. Chad Tuncher emerged in the opening as he gave his
instructions.
For the firstime Rhodan looked at the man who stood a few steps away at the shore. "Where would you
like to have the house set up, Khrest?" he inquired.
There must have been a special sound in his voice that made the old Arkonide come over and put his
 hand on Rhodan’s shoulder. "You don’t agree wholeheartedly with my wish to live the last days of my life
in this place, do you, Perry?"
"It goes against my grain to leave a friend all alone," Rhodan replied quietly. His face betrayed no
emotion but even a less observant man than Khrest would have noticed Rhodan’s tightly clenched fists.
"I know what meaning the word ‘friend’ has for you," Khrest said. His voice sounded clear, belying his
old body. However there was no denying that the life of the Arkonide scientist neared its end. Neither
Khrest nor Thora, the late wife of Perry Rhodan, had received the cell shower on the planet Wanderer
and were not granted the gift of eternal life. The skill and medical knowledge of the Arkonide physicians
enabled them to prolong Khrest’s life but they could not perform miracles beyond the limit of biological
science. Khrest had attained a philosophic attitude in which he adequately faced reality. He felt that his
death was imminent. He went to Rhodan and requested his transfer to this planet. He was already too far
alienated from the world of Arkon to return to his homeworld. Neither did he wish to die on Earth. With
grim irony he had explained to Rhodan that he did not want to end his life in a bed surrounded by
‘mourning barbarians’.
The Arkonide told Rhodan of a small solar system, 6381 light-years from Earth and heretofore unknown
to the inhabitants of Terra. Its yellow sun Soltyp was orbited by 5 planets and had been discovered many
thousands of years ago by the Arkonide Ufgar after whom the system was named. The second planet
was a little larger than Mars and contained an abundance of water and oxygen. Its gravity measured 0.84
G. Primeval forests and oceans covered the planet but there were no intelligent beings present.
Khrest had chosen this world on which to live out the waning days of his life and Rhodan finally
acquiesced to the urgent plea of the scientist and left Terrania with him aboard the
Solar System
. Now
they had arrived to select a suitable location.
"Look out down there!" Lt. Tuncher bellowed. At the same moment he recognized that it was Rhodan
who was in his way. "I beg your pardon, sir," he shouted, more subdued.
The house suspended on the hook of the crane began to sway. Tuncher yelled angrily, waving his arms.
"Are you guys trying to wreck the house?"
Several harassed men appeared at the hatch to see why he bawled them out and the lieutenant growled
in disgust.
"Is this the right place, sir?" Tuncher inquired.
"Yes," Rhodan confirmed. "You can put it down here."
Suspended on a steel cable, the prefabricated building was slowly lowered to the beach, accompanied
by a constant stream of threats and epithets by Tuncher. Finally it touched the sand in perfect condition.
"How do you like it?" Rhodan asked Khrest.
"It looks much too luxurious," Khrest observed with a smile. "I imagine you didn’t try to economize."
Rhodan replied sadly. "It’s a tiny house and we can never compensate you for what you have done for
my people."
"Whatever I have done I did gladly and of my own free will," Khrest answered with a fleeting sparkle in
 his reddish eyes. "Only few beings are fortunate enough to further the advance of a great race. The
Earthlings were always like children to me who had to be protected and guided. But this phase has
ended. Humanity has outgrown its infantile stage and taken its place among the stars. I am confident that
a great future awaits this race if it acts as in the past and there are always men like you, Perry."
"Let’s take a look at your new home," Rhodan suggested, changing the subject. "You have a modern
spacejet with hyper-propulsion system and hyperradio at your disposal. You will be left here without
physicians to help you in case you need medical care. So you have the possibility of returning to Earth at
any time or call for help. In addition I’m going to leave 2 combat robots with you. The probability that
intelligent aliens would land here is extremely slight but I don’t want to neglect taking it into consideration.
However, in case this should happen, you must try to keep the spacejet from falling into the wrong hands.
It contains the latest propulsion system and electronic equipment which are vital to the Solar Fleet and
must be kept secret from hostile alien powers at all cost."
"I promise you I will guard the flying disk with my life," Khrest assured him. "You won’t have to worry
about it."
They went together to the house. Khrest walked with a slight stoop, breathing rather heavily. His white
hair flowed down to his shoulders. Despite his age he was still a very impressive figure.
When they reached the building, Rhodan explained with an inviting gesture: "The door opens
automatically as soon as you approach it."
They entered the building and were immediately surrounded by its cozy warmth.
"Here I will sit in the evening and look out at the lake," Khrest said quietly as he stepped to the large
window. "My eyes will be here but my thoughts will be elsewhere."
"Are there any thoughts on which you haven’t pondered?" Rhodan asked in the same quiet tone.
Khrest put his hands on the windowsill. Although the glass of the window was non-reflective, Rhodan
believed he could see the face of the Arkonide in it.
"I’m an old man," Khrest said. "At my age many things look different. One gains a certain detachment."
"You will be lonely," the Administrator took another tack. "The robots will wait on you, prepare your
meals and guard the house but perhaps you would like to talk to a human being now and then."
Khrest turned around and looked into Rhodan’s eyes.
"I’m looking forward to being alone," he replied unemotionally. "You still see in me the active Arkonide
scientist." He shook his head and his long hair undulated on his shoulders. "You must accept me for what
I am, a tired old man."
Before Rhodan could make a reply, Lt. Tuncher rushed in with a red face. "Excuse me, sir," he panted.
"These clumsy bunglers didn’t set the house down right—it stands cockeyed."
"It’s not straight?" Khrest wondered. "I didn’t notice it."
"I’ve just measured it," Tuncher reported excitedly. "The floor on which we stand is slanted 1° away
from the shore."
 "One degree?" Rhodan was astounded. "Really, Lieutenant, how could you let this happen?"
Tuncher swallowed nervously and looked questioningly at Rhodan. "What shall I do, sir?"
"Take your men and unload the spacejet and the robots," Rhodan ordered.
Tuncher snapped to attention and was about to rush out again when he was called back by the voice of
the Administrator. "Tuncher!"
"Sir?"
"Watch it that the spacedisk is set down properly. I don’t want you to tell me that it is 2° off."
"Yes sir," Tuncher stammered in confusion.
Khrest laughed in amusement as the lieutenant trotted off. "If he runs into a horned burrower, he will
really flip his mind."
"These animals are supposed to be very dangerous," Rhodan commented with arched brows. "You’d
better be careful where you walk, Khrest."
"Of course," the Arkonide agreed. "I’ll also look out that none of the acidthrowers gets close to me.
These beasts are much too excitable. I wouldn’t care to be a target of their streams of concentrated acid.
Ufgar has described these two animals very thoroughly in his report on this planet."
The tall lanky man with the almost haggard face gazed at his old friend. "We will mark this world on our
stellar maps as Khrest’s Planet," he declared. Before the Arkonide could protest, he continued: "The
spacejet which we leave for you will be protected by an energy screen. When you want to board the little
spaceship you will have to transmit the code signal to deactivate the protective screen."
"You don’t take any chances with an old man like me, do you, Perry?"
"No," Rhodan replied. "Tuncher also brought a little motorboat for you which you can use to fish on the
lake. Please tell me if there is anything else I can do for you."
They left Khrest’s new home and watched Tuncher and his crew unload the spacejet. The disk-shaped
spaceship had been constructed in secrecy and measured 35 meters in diameter. The sleek lines of its
dome merged into the even surface. The bubble accommodated a small crew and the most modern
equipment of the Solar Fleet. The design of the ship enabled a single pilot to operate it by himself.
Khrest, who was familiar with the gigantic battleships of the Arkonide fleet, did not conceal his
admiration. After the machine had been moored on the ground, he remarked approvingly: "This is another
proof that I’m no longer needed. People who can build such fine products are able to take care of
themselves. The Earthlings have achieved so much in a relatively shortime. Perry, regard me as a symbol
of an epoch which has run its course. Youth will take my place and I will soon be forgotten."
"Mankind will never forget you," Rhodan assured him. "Your departure will leave a gap that cannot be
closed for a long time. Looking at it in this light, you are only too right when you speak of the end of an
epoch."
 They spent the next few hours walking along the shore while the crew of the
Solar System
was busy
putting the last touches on Khrest’s abode. In their conversation long forgotten events were brought back
to life. Rhodan continued in his attempts to make the scientist return to Earth with him but Khrest’s
decision remained unshakable.
Finally Lt. Tuncher appeared to report that the work was completed and the
Solar System
was ready to
take off again.
"The crew wants to say goodbye to you," Rhodan said.
They were about 600 meters from the heavy cruiser. Khrest gravely shook his head. "Give the men my
regards and convey my best wishes to them," he said.
Rhodan stood still. His hand touched the Arkonide’s arm and Khrest, who had shared Rhodan’s
company for years and years, felt that the Terranian had trouble finding the right words. "Don’t say
anything," Khrest begged softly. "Just go."
Perry Rhodan took the hand of the old man. They looked once more into each others’ eyes. For a
moment the pressure of their hands intensified. "Thank you, my friend," Rhodan whispered hoarsely.
Then he turned abruptly around and followed Lt. Tuncher.
Khrest stood motionless, following them with his eyes. Rhodan and Tuncher ascended the steep incline
without turning around. Khrest squinted into the low sun behind the
Solar System
. Next to the mighty
vessel the two men looked like ants. Then they disappeared altogether.
Minutes later the sphere lifted off, borne by its powerful engines and propelled by the thunderous forces
of atomic heat. The ground began to tremble and Khrest’s ears felt a pain.
At the altitude of 2000 meters the ship’s crew chose its own way of saying goodbye to Khrest. A
flaming beam shot from a gun turret and coloured the sky blood-red. A last salute to a great friend of
mankind!
"Famal Gosner!" Khrest whispered. It was an Arkonide expression meaning "Farewell!"
Soon the
Solar System
vanished in space. Khrest slowly walked to his little house at the shore of the
lake. He was in no hurry. An old man waiting for his death.
Khrest had no inkling that his solitude was destined to be disturbed with sinister intent.
2/ THE THREE FUGITIVES
Golath was seriously worried. The air purification system was on the verge of breaking down. Although
there were some oxygen tanks aboard the
Kaszill
, not Golath, Liszog nor Zerft had been able to
discover them.
The
Kaszill
was already no more than a wreck when they were locked up in the ship and chased out into
  [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]