Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 9 (2)

“Hans? Wake up.” Hans sat bolt upright in the dark room. He had recognized the half whispered voice as Alfie and he had sounded worried. “Hans?”
“Alfie? Why are the lights off?” Hans tried to clear the cobwebs out of his sleep his brain.
“Shhhh, keep your voice down and get up now.” Hans felt Alfie tugging at his arm with an urgency that was unusual for him.

Hans rolled out of bed and crouched down as he started to make out the shape of things from the dim light that snuck in underneath the door. What stood out the most was the fear that was evident all over Alfie’s face. He was not a man that scared easily.
“No time to explain, but I need to get you and your friends out of here.” Alfie moved quickly towards the door and looked both ways before signalling for Hans to follow him. They communicated without talking, Alfie taking point and signalling for Hans to go to Duke’s room while he headed into Honora’s to retrieve her.

It didn’t take long before they were all making their way down the hallway and back into the alcove that was empty of sentries this time. Alfie led the way once again as zigzagged down the endless corridors. Hans was starting to feel like a rat in a maze when they finally reached a dead end with a door that said ‘No Exit’ in bold red letters.
Alfie pulled out a small kit and started fiddling with the electronics until a small light on the device started to glow green. He pushed it open and motioned them through to the outside world. Hans knew enough to hold his breath, but he had neglected to warn Duke or Honora who began coughing as soon as they took a breath.

Alfie was right behind them and pulled some rebreathers out from behind a cement block where he had probably hid them earlier. He passed them out to everyone and put on his own. He motioned for them to follow him once again. They moved slower now, it was too easy to lose someone in thick smog that surrounded them.  
Even with the rebreathers they couldn’t last long in this environment so Hans knew that they wouldn’t be going far. Sure enough, Alfie stopped short at another door. He pressed a small button beside the door and waited. It didn’t take long until it opened and the muzzle of a gun poked out before a face peeked around the corner. As soon as the person recognized Alfie the door flung open fully and the gun muzzle pointed past him into the smog.

Hans, Duke and Honora followed Alfie inside and the door closed quickly behind them. They all waited for the ventilation system to take care of the smog that had followed them in before removing their rebreathers.  Hans spoke up as soon as he got his rebreather off. “What the hell Alfie?”
“I’m sorry, but I told Admiral Falun about what you told me. His reaction concerned me so I kept an eye on him and the first thing he did was contact Special Forces. He already knows about the aliens from what I can gather. Whatever you’ve stumbled upon is much bigger of a cover up than you think it is.” Alfie glanced at the person who had let them in, a young girl who was listening intently to the conversation. “We need to finish this discussion in private.”

Hans tried to get his thoughts in order as he followed Alfie through yet another maze of corridors. They ones looked a lot less cared for than what any Hans had seen before. He knew that there were places in this city that had been nearly abandoned, but he had never had the chance to visit one of these areas till now.
Alfie led them to what looked like a common eating area and cleared the room of all other people fairly quickly. He motioned for Duke, Honora and Hans to take a seat at one of the tables. They sat in silence for a few moments, Alfie just sat there, pinching the bridge of his nose for a few minutes before he sighed and looked them all in the eye.

“I’m sorry this went so horribly wrong, but I think it might be time to figure out plan B. I don’t suppose any of you had a plan B?” Alfie looked at their downcast faces and frowned. “No plan B. Well there are a lot of other letters in the alphabet.”
“What exactly happened Alfie?” Hans asked.

“He was planning to kill you all… I think. I’m not entirely sure actually, but I know now that you can’t trust him. I’m not sure anymore who we can trust outside of the bloc and even then I wouldn’t trust most of them with this kind of information.” Alfie suddenly slammed his fist on the table. “Dammit. This wasn’t supposed to happen like this. How could I have misjudged him so much?”
Hans placed a hand on Alfie’s fist. “Some people are just better at putting on a false front, we’re just lucky you figured it out now instead of later. You saved our lives Alfonzo. We’re grateful.”

Alfie collapsed on to one of the benches and shook his head. “We need to come up with a plan of action. We can’t just go public, it wouldn’t work. They’d want to check their facts and the government will shut them up.”
“Unless we don’t go to the media.” Duke said and everyone looked at him expectantly. “I know of some people that if I can get a hold of them can put me in contact with a certain sub-set of society that might be able to hijack the newsfeeds.”

“That would only give us this planet and not the rest of the United Worlds. We need to go big and let everyone know what is being hidden from them and why it’s being hidden. The why, I believe, would be critical and we don’t know why.” Alfie said.
“To be honest, we need a lot more information than that to make this work. Sure we have proof that aliens exist – well that at least one alien exists, but what about this other race he talks about. Are they really as he says they are? Can we trust this alien? There are a lot of questions that are unanswered that have nothing to do with the government cover up.” Hans stared at the ceiling trying to gather his thoughts. “I believe him, but no one has had the same experience I’ve had.”

“So, where do we start?” Honora said. She was leaning against the wall a part from the group.
“We start with finding people in the right places to get us the information we need. I have contacts all over the place in all levels of the government. I can put the word out for what we’re looking for. It might take time, but someone is bound to find something.” Alfie seemed to be brightening up. “Until then we’ll just have to lay low.”

“If it takes too long though then we may as well have done nothing.” Hans didn’t want to sound discouraging, but he knew better than the others what the Afoixox would do when they got here. He wasn’t willing to just wait around and let it happen.
“Then what do you suggest?” Alfie fixed him with a hard stare, but Hans wasn’t going to back down.

“I don’t know, but sitting around and waiting for a chance that someone might stumble across something isn’t my idea of getting things done.” Hans kicked at one of the chairs sending it flying across the room. “I want to actually do something.”
“Still aren’t happy with sitting on the sidelines are you? Always have to be the best and in charge. Well, look where that got you Hans; injured, mindwiped and working for Global Flight Tech on some stupid frontier planet.” Alfie stood up and leaned towards Hans. “Why won’t you just let me help you? We have some good people, some incredible people in this organization and we will find something quickly. So sit down, shut up and let me do what I do best.”

Hans shut up and sat down. No one spoke for a few moments and as they each tried to gather their thoughts. Alfie stepped away from the table. “Sorry Hans. I’m going to arrange for lodging for a few days and I’ll get a message out through the network.”
“Remind me one day to ask what that was really all about. It may be none of my business, but I really don’t care because that was the first time I think I’ve ever seen you actually do what someone told you to do.” Duke said to Hans who just ignored him.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 9 (1)

Hans held the gun steady at the sound of someone approaching the crate that he had been calling home for the last few days. He prayed that it would be Alfonzo, but he knew that it was better to be safe than sorry. He only hoped that Alfie opened his crate before any of the others.

He heard the key’s being depressed on the numeric lock and waited, finger on the trigger. The first light he had seen in days assaulted his eyes. He had grown accustomed to the dark and he found it difficult to make out the face of the person above him.
“Hans?” It was Alfie. His voice sent waves of joy through Hans as he lowered the gun.

“It’s great to hear your voice.” Hans held up a hand and felt Alfie grasp it and pull him out of the gel that he had been nestled in. Once he was out, Alfie hugged him as if he was trying to squeeze Hans into two. “I’ve missed you.”
Hans hugged Alfie back just as hard. “I’ve missed you too. I can’t believe it’s been so long.”

“You stink though.” Alfie took a step back, his nose wrinkling.
Hans just laughed. “Some things just never change do they? I have two other people with me. I know they say three is a crowd, but I was hoping you wouldn’t mind.”

“Sure, but perhaps you should be the one to open the crates. If they’re anything like you I’m bound to lose a limb or maybe even something really important.” Alfie lead the way to the next crate over.
“You mean like your handsome face?” Hans found the crate that he had put Honora in first and punched in the key code to unlock it. He opened it carefully. “Honora, it’s me, Hans. We made it safe and sound.”

A delicate arm stuck and waved. Hans grabbed it and helped to pull Honora out of the gel. Little bits still clung to her hair still and she started combing through it before she even noticed that there was a third person with them. She stopped awkwardly and stared at Alfie.
“Honora, this is my good friend Alfonzo Ansanza. Alfie, this is Honora. She’s technically my employee.” Hans spoke as though they were meeting somewhere more civil instead of in an AFSF warehouse.

Honora stuck out her hand, realized there was gel stuck to it and changed it to wave instead. “Nice to meet you. Where’s Duke?”
“I’ll find him next and then we should probably get out of here.” Hans glanced at Alfie who nodded. He glanced around and saw the serial number for the crate that Duke had chosen. He repeated the process of letting him out and made the introduction for Alfie. Duke didn’t bother to shake his hand, but gave him a good hard stare instead.

“I really hope we can trust you as much as Hans seems to think.” Was what he finally said.
Alfie returned his stare and said mildly. “He can trust me more than even he thinks he can. Now, we better get out of here.”

Alfie led the way to the door. He popped his head out first before waving them all through. He took a small device out of his pocket and pressed a small button on it. Hans looked at him with a question in his eyes and he smiled. “Temporarily cancels out the cameras. It’ll buy us a little bit of time, but not much. We need to move fast and quiet.”
Hans nodded and followed Alfie as he jogged up the aisle. He seemed to be leading them through a maze and it wasn’t long before Hans felt entirely lost. Every now and again Alfie would produce the little gadget and press the button. Finally they stepped on to a lift that started moving upwards.

“We’re going to be moving through the occupied corridors now. I won’t be able to shut the cameras off here without being noticed. Just keep your heads down and hopefully you will not be recognized by any human or machine.” Alfie led the way confidently and Hans longed to walk in the same manner, but he kept his head down to set a good example for Honora and Duke.
It felt like they had been walking forever when Alfie finally stopped in front of a set of doors. He passed a keycard through the reader and followed it by leaning into a retinal scanner. After a few seconds, the door opened to two large uniformed men with guns at the ready.

“At ease men, these are my guests.” Alfie waited for them to step aside motioned everyone to come in. As soon as the door closed behind them he breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s okay you can stand up straight now. No one will be monitoring these circuits.”
Hans took the opportunity to stretch as tall as he could. He caught Alfie watching and gave him a wink which brought forth a small grin. Hans grinned as well and looked around for a place to sit down, but there was nowhere nearby, it was just a small alcove with another door up ahead.

“I’m guessing we’re going through there?” Hans gestured towards the door.
“Yeah, and you’ll have to excuse the accommodations. Only place I could think of to put you that no one would work would be the holding cells.” Alfie grinned. “Wouldn’t be the first time, eh Hans?”

“And once again you’ll be the reason behind it.” Hans laughed and clapped Alfie on the back. “So what about setting up that meeting with Admiral Falun?”
“I’m working on it. I think it might be better for him to come to you than the other way around. I’ll leave the doors unlocked for you guys so you don’t feel trapped. I’ve had all other detainees moved to another area so that there will be no one around to bother any of you.” Alfie unlocked the door and locked it into the open position. “If you need anything these are my hand picked guards. Just ask and they will get it for you.”

"How about a hot bath so I can get this stink off of me?” Honora plucked at her clothes and wrinkled her nose. “And something else to wear?”
“Not a problem. This is where we keep the officers so they have all amenities. Baths are at the end of the hall.” Alfie turned to one of the sentries. “See to it that they all have some clean, nice clothes to put on and I’m pretty sure some real food and drink is in order as well.”

The sentry gave a nod and headed out. Hans started to head towards the cells with Duke and Honora when Alfie grabbed his arm. “Wait just a sec. I need to talk to you.”
“Is this going to be a private conversation?” Hans asked.

“Yeah,” Alfie turned to the other sentry. “Can you just step outside for a moment?”
Alfie waited till the door had closed fully before asking what he needed to ask. “What is really going on?”

Hans knew this question was coming and had spent the four days composing an answer to it. “I’ve made first contact with an alien species. His name Ohaehim and he warns of another race that is heading this way to wage war on the galaxy called the Afoixox. I’m convinced that the AFSF are already aware of one, if not both, species and are keeping it secret. I don’t know why, but I do know that it cannot be kept a secret for much longer. If war is coming, then we need to be prepared.”
“You found an alien?” Alfie blinked a few times and tried to get his thoughts in order. “A real alien, that’s amazing! What a break through. Simply incredible.”

Hans grinned at the Alfie’s enthusiasm. “I have proof. More than just my own words, I know you believe me, but I wasn’t expecting the Admiral to take my word. We have video and something else…”
“Something else?” Alfie cocked his head to one side. “What sort of something else?”

Hans removed his gloves and held up his left hand. He merged and separated his adjustable tentacle hand for Alfie to see.
“Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting…” Alfie reached out and touched Hans’ left hand. “It’s so smooth.”

“It took a little getting used to for me as well.” Hans slid his gloves back on. “So now you know.”
“I know and I can only imagine how fun having an adjustable tentacle hand could be.” Alfie leered at Hans who only laughed.

“You have someone now. So don’t go getting any ideas.” Hans shook his head and laughed some more. Alfie hadn’t changed one bit since academy. “I’m going to go get cleaned up now. You just get the Admiral here to see me.”
“He’s going to be shocked you know. Might even give the old man a heart attack, but I’ll make sure he understands just how important this is.” Alfie smiled and saluted Hans. “Always knew you’d do something big one day. Just hadn’t thought that this is what the something big would be.”

Hans turned his back on his old friend and headed towards the bath. He knew he could definitely use one right about now – not to mention a real bed. Four days in that putrid gel didn’t make for good resting conditions.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 8 (6)

Once he was safely in his office he made three similar piles of supplies and then sent a note to Honora and Duke to join him. It didn’t take them long to get there. He waited till the door was closed and locked before speaking.

“We have everything we need here and I have a plan. Number one thing is to let me do all the talking. I know the lingo and I know how to act so just follow my lead. We have uniforms and pass cards to get us in the front gate. No guarantee they’ll work past that point, but we can try. If they need them again and they don’t work a silent alarm will go off.” Hans looked at his friends to make sure they understood everything he was saying. They both just nodded for him to continue.
“I know exactly where we need to go now. I had a visitor last night with information that I trust. So we won’t be wandering around for too long looking for the shipping containers that we need to hide in. I have food, rebreathers and weapons for us. If luck will have it we won’t need the weapons, but we will need the rebreathers and food. It’s a three or four day trip and, as you know, these containers will not be scanned or treated for biologicals by the normal methods. Instead, they will be gassed as that is the safer option for decontamination. We should be safe, but make sure you have that rebreather on once you feel the containers being moved again. Any questions?”

Hans waited for someone to say something, but there was just silence. Hans couldn’t help, but smile knowing that he was taking such a risk with people that he could count on. It was a good feeling and almost reminded him of being in the forces again. He handed each of them a pile of stuff.
“I’m going to go run an errand. Duke, you can take a break a few minutes later. Honora, you are assigned to be doing maintenance on one of the planes that just happens to be parked in a different hangar. None of us are leaving here together – that bit is important. We don’t want anyone to suspect anything. We’ll meet up at the abandoned Leonberger hangar on the other side of the port. You both know the one I’m talking about?”

Both Duke and Honora nodded. Hans continued. “Once we’re there we’ll have to move quickly. We’ll get changed into the uniforms and hire an automated car to get us to somewhere nearby the AFSF base. From then on, just follow my lead. If I salute, you salute – that sort of thing. Don’t say anything unless someone speaks to you directly. Got it?”
Once again both Duke and Honora nodded their acknowledgements. Hans passed them some empty crates that he had for them to put their stuff in and they both left without saying a thing. Hans had to admit it was the most efficient meeting they had ever had. He only hoped that things would continue to go this smoothly.

It wasn’t long before they were all gathered in the abandoned Leonberger hangar trying on their new uniforms. Hans was studying the uniforms closely, trying to find any anything about them that might give any of them away, but he had to admit that they looked authentic. Each of them memorized the names on their uniform so as not to be caught off guard. Best part about the uniforms were the amount of pockets, they were able to store everything they needed without any extra packs that might draw attention.
“I have to say that you look pretty good in a uniform Hans.” Honora gave him a good look as the climbed into the automated car that was waiting for them. Hans caught Duke rolling his eyes and suppressed a chuckle.

“Well I was in the forces so I do know how to wear a uniform well. It was always good for picking up dates.” Hans shrugged and gave the machine their destination. It was silence in the vehicle as they travelled. It was twenty minutes before they arrived in the area near the AFSF base. Hans paid the fair in cash so as not be traceable.
“Okay, this is it. If you want to turn back, now would be the time to do so. No one is going to hold it against you. We all know that if this fails there is not coming back. We are going to go down fighting.” Hans knew that neither of them would turn around, but he wanted to give them the option. “Alright, follow me.”

Hans led the way to entrance for the AFSF. He knew there would be a human sentry or two posted and he wasn’t surprised to find someone there. He just sauntered up to the gate and swiped his keycard as if it was something that he did every day. The light shined green and he pushed on through the gate. Duke and Honora followed his example with their own cards, each gaining access immediately.
Having studied the layout of the compound, Hans knew exactly where he was going, he turned right and skirted around the edge of the compound towards a large warehouse area. Thankfully, they didn’t bump into anyone. “Keep your eyes peeled for warehouse number 1B. That’s the one we need.”

It took them about fifteen minutes of searching before they found the warehouse they needed. Hans stopped short and ducked behind another building where they couldn’t be seen. “There’s two sentries posted outside the door to the warehouse we need.”
“What are we supposed to do?” Honora took a quick peek around the corner to see for herself as she asked.

“Kill them?” Duke rested his hand on the weapon.
Hans shook his head. “That would be discovered too quickly. We need to get them gone, but I don’t know how we can do it without raising suspicion.”

“Can’t we just tell them that we’re here to relieve them or whatever?” Honora looked hopeful, but Hans shook his head to that idea as well. He ran a million scenarios through his mind, but nothing seemed like a good idea.
“This is ridiculous.” Duke said and stalked off towards the warehouse before Hans could stop him. Hans and Honora peeked around the corner to watch Duke as he walked right up to the warehouse and started talking to the sentries who appeared to be ignoring him completely.

“What’s he saying?” Honora asked. Hans shook his head, but he desperately wanted to know what was going on over there. They were all in this together. Hans took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the building and started walking towards to Duke who still had his back to him. He had taken out a cigarette and was lighting it – a definite not allowed on any base.
“Petty Officer Breent, what do you think you’re doing?” Hans put on his best officers voice and he knew it worked when the sentries went suddenly stiff and started staring straight ahead.

Duke spun on his heel, dropping the cigarette as he did so and surreptitiously stepping on it to put it out. He saluted and stood as stiff as the sentries. “Nothing, sir.”
“Slacking again are you. I ought to report you to the Commander about this. You are on a short leash Breent. You’re supposed to be double checking the inventory for the shipment today and that leaves at 1600 hours. It’s almost 1530 hours now.” Hans saluted back so that Duke could drop his arm.

“Yes, sir, I was just about to do so, but I couldn’t find my keycard.” Duke played the part of the inept soldier well and Hans knew all too well exactly how he should respond.
“Sentries, please let Petty Officer Breent in to do the inventory. We don’t have time to dig up another keycard for him.” Hans directed his attention to the sentries who didn’t even bother to question him. No one wanted to further anger an already angry officer.

“Get to it now Petty Officer or I will have you brought up on charges for something by the end of the day. “ Hans gave a practiced sneer that he had seen many an officer to during his life. “Perhaps I’ll just stand in on this inventory just to make sure you don’t mess this up as well.”
“Yes, sir.” Duke gave a near perfect salute again and marched into the warehouse. Hans followed him and a quick glance told him that Honora was just two steps behind him holding a nearly neutral expression. As soon as the door closed behind them Hans gave a sigh of relief and restrained himself from jumping up and down for joy.

“Okay the shipment IDs that we’re looking for are BAQ456-7773 through to 7777. We each need to get into one of those crates and we should be good to go. Hopefully those sentries don’t question the fact that we don’t come out before this shipment leaves. If they do it may just be game over for us.” Hans told them before they headed off in search of the crates.
“Found the crates.” Duke’s booming voice echoed through the warehouse despite the fact that he was trying to be quiet. Hans jogged towards the sound of Duke’s voice and found Honora had already beat him there. He double checked the numbers on the crates and grinned.

“Good job, I have the code to get into these.” Hans started punching the numbers in and saw a small light glow green. He opened the top on the crate, holding his breath as he did so. Hans tried not to smile at the cries of disgust that came from Duke and Honora.
“It’s a specialized gel compound that is used for shipping extremely delicate electronics. It’s perfectly harmless, but it doesn’t smell really good. It’s the only thing that can keep these components from degrading due to radiation.” Hans motioned towards Honora. “Get in, you’ll get used to it.”

Suppressing a gag, Honora accepted help up into her crate and settled in with a splooch. Hans closed the lid on her and it locked automatically. He opened up another two crates. “See you on the other side.”
Hans vaulted over the edge of the crate with grace. He waved at Duke and pulled the lid down to enclose himself in the crate. He wasn’t looking forward to four days in the gel, but at least it meant that they would all make it to Earth safely and undiscovered.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 8 (5)

Hans went over the diagrams and figures that Alfie had sent through for him and it answered a lot of questions. He hadn’t been sure what to look for or expect once he had gotten into the AFSF base, but this filled in all the holes for him. At the end of it all was a personal note that he wondered if the Lieutenant had read or not.

Hans,
Not sure exactly what you’ve gotten yourself into, but I’m glad you trusted me enough to let me help you out. If you manage to pull this off then I’ll be waiting to spring you out when you get here. I should be able to hide you for a bit, but there is no way you can go undetected for long on Earth outside of a very few places like the Sanctuary.

I’ll get you a meeting with the Admiral. He knows the kind of person I am and while he’s not a member, he does agree with us and approves of our goal. I’m sure you’ll be able to trust him with whatever it is that you know. It’ll be good to see you again if, or rather when, you make it.
Cheers, Alfonzo.

For the next few hours Hans sat and worked at memorizing all the details he could so that they would be able to pull off what they had planned. There were a few more things that he would need to make it a viable plan as well that he hadn’t thought of before. He’d need to get a hold of Chimmey for these items as well. It would look suspicious for him to buy these things in the middle of the night.
Hans sent the message and was surprised at how quick Chimmey replied telling him where and when to meet him. Hans wasted no time and headed straight out for the meeting place mentioned – a small cafĂ© that was actually very close to where he lived.  It was always open and Hans had to admit that it was the perfect sort of place to meet.

He had only been here once before, but it had left quite the impression on him. It was bright, well lit with giant booths that almost guaranteed privacy. There were always people in here, but it was never full. Even at this time there were five other people in the place by the time Hans arrived and that did not include Chimmey who was waiting in one of the back booths where he said he would be.
Hans slid into the seat across from Chimmey and ordered a drink from the automated menu. It was also one of the other good thing about this place, no servers – just the automated system and the noticeable security.

“I was not expecting to hear from you so soon. What is it that I can do for you?” Chimmey spoke in a low voice so as not to be overheard.
“I wasn’t expecting to have to contact you so soon either. I need a few things by tomorrow as well. It’s important that I have these things.” Hans pushed the list that he had made earlier across the table to Chimmey at the same time as drink order arrived. Hans sipped at the caffeinated beverage as Chimmey read carefully through the list.

“I can do this. It’s an interesting list, but as I said, it is not my business what you do with my products, I am only in the business of supply and demand not information.” Chimmey slid the list into his front pocket and stood to leave, but stopped halfway out of his seat before sitting down again. “I know I say this is none of my business, but after your warning tonight I have to ask one thing.”
“I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to answer you.” Hans decided that it was better to let the question be asked than to refuse it and raise further suspicion.

“All your requests of me, they have all been related somehow. I’m very curious about what you’ve been up to, but I won’t ask that. What I want to know is if I’ll be able to find out one day why you are doing what you’re doing?” Chimmey asked.
“I think one day everyone is going to know what we’ve been doing.” Hans said. It was a safe enough answer because it was true. Everyone would know soon enough if they succeeded.

Chimmey just nodded and got out of the booth. He tapped his front short pocket and nodded at Hans before leaving. Hans finished off his drink before leaving. It had been a late night already and tomorrow was going to be even longer.
*****

Hans was nervous the next day at work as he waited for the package to arrive via courier. Duke and Honora had both checked in several times already. Anyone watching would have seen the stress on all their faces, but for now they all had to act like business as usual.
At exactly 1400 hours the courier arrived with the package and Hans signed for it directly. He took it straight into his office and looked through the packages to be sure that everything he had asked for was in there. Hans smiled as he opened the packages and discovered that there were a few extra items that he hadn’t expected – including a small note from Chimmey.

I have a feeling you’ll find some of these items useful. No charge.
 Hans collected all the items and placed them into a crate in the corner of his office. There were just a few things that he needed to borrow from work to get everything they needed. Hans locked his office door on his way out and walked across the hangar. He smiled and acknowledged those who called out to him as he went by.

Hans opened a storage locker on the far side of the hangar that contained some of the items that he needed. He grabbed three rebreathers and glanced back over his shoulder to make sure no one was watching him. He slipped the items into one of the stocking crates that were piled up beside the locker. He walked over to the next locker with the crate.
Hans punched in the keycode for the locker and opened this one with more an extra glance around, but no one was paying any attention to what he doing. He grabbed three small arms from the locker and dropped those into the crate as well. He closed the locker quickly and took another glance around.

He had one last locker that he wanted to visit although Chimmey’s additions to his package meant that it wasn’t quite as necessary, but Hans wanted to be prepared. He carried the crate to the largest locker. He didn’t pay much attention to what he was grabbing out of this one. He just pulled random packages off the shelves and dropped them into the crate as well.
Hans started back to his office when one of the techs called him over. Hans walked over and placed down the crate a few feet away, happy that the guns were well covered by the food packages. “Hi Mattie, what’s up?”

“I was just doing the work for this new shuttle and I found a few discrepancies between what we were told and what the PID is showing.” Mattie held up her mobile diagnostic pad for Hans to see. He gave it the once over.
“I’ll give them a call and I’ll see about getting this sorted out. Just forward those results to my office.” Hans turned to go and grab the crate as Mattie set about sending the details to him.

“Stocking up for a party boss?” Mattie called as he walked away. Hans nearly froze in his tracks, but as he turned around he pinned a smile to his face and laughed.
“Yup, nothing like a bit compressed food bars to lighten up any party. Actually, I was just going to write these off these since they’re about to expire soon. Might as well get to it now rather than have them accidentally end up on a flight.” Hans smiled and headed back to his office relieved that she hadn’t bothered to ask any more questions.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 8 (4)

“It goes both ways Chimmey. Anyone asks, you don’t know me or Duke. If they show you a picture just say we gave you fake names and wanted to trade in some luxury goods from Earth. Just stay quiet or you might never do business with anyone again.” Hans said.

“Is that a threat?” Chimmey pursed his lips and tried to take a better measure of the man standing in front of him.
“It’s not a threat. It is just the reality of things. I actually like doing business with you as well because you can get things done and I appreciate that. I’m just telling you that the kind of people who will be asking these questions are not the kind of people that you’ll want to be talking to.” Hans glanced over at Duke who unlocked and opened the door to the hangar.

“You are an odd one Hans, but you can be assured that I have a code by which I live and no matter what you are in to, I won’t be talking.” Chimmey grabbed the box and headed out. Duke closed the door behind him and locked it again before walking over to Hans.
“Do you really think you should have told him what you did?” Duke asked.

“He’s been fair with us and I think we ought to let him know that there is a danger for him if he says anything to anyone.” Hans shrugged. “He got the message I think. I’ll put more faith in fear than I do in some nebulous thief’s code.”
“Have it your way, don’t forget to turn Alice back on this time.” Duke headed out. Hans waited for him to leave before addressing the computer.

“Alice, can I be assured that there were no recordings at all of that meeting and you’ll replace it was the proper footage?” Hans walked towards the door as he spoke.
“There were no recordings made. I will replace the missing footage, sir.”

Hans stopped for a second and shook his head. He almost thought that he had heard emotion in Alice’s voice, but that was impossible. No AI was that advanced yet. “Thank you Alice. Your work is much appreciated.”
There was no response to his statement and he stepped outside, locking the door behind him. Hans half considered de-personalizing the work computer, but that was silly. He was just anthropomorphizing and there were more important things that he needed to focus on.

After he got home that evening Hans sent a quick message to Alfonzo that he had gotten the package and was thrilled with everything and was planning on even using some of the products tomorrow. It was a very straightforward message and he knew Alfie would get what he meant.
Hans went over his plans for tomorrow trying to plan for every eventuality. He glanced back over the information that Alfonzo had sent to him again and sighed. No matter how he cut it, this was going to be risky. Armed Forces Special Forces were not known for their lax security or inattention to detail. Hans know that he’d be able to pull it off alone, but with Duke and Honora in tow it became far riskier than he liked.

He was interrupted from his thoughts by a buzz from his door. Hans glanced at the time, surprised that anyone would be calling at this late hour. There were only two possible people he would expect at his door and he didn’t think either of them would stop by without calling first. Hans brought up the camera for the front door, but didn’t recognize the caller.
Hans turned the intercom on and kept his voice light and cheery. “Hi there, how can I help you?”

“Hans Reginald Beaulieu?” The stranger glanced around for the video pickup and found it easily.
“Depends on who’s asking.” Hans was immediately on guard. There was no reason for anyone who didn’t already know him to be out here looking for him.

“I’m Lt. Courtney Williams. A friend of ours requested that I drop by and pay you a visit to discuss a business arrangement that you have for tomorrow afternoon. There is some vital information that was too sensitive to be disseminated via traditional methods.” She didn’t smile, she just stared into the camera and waited patiently.
Hans hesitated for a moment before speaking. “What’s the code word, Lieutenant?”

Lt. William looked at the camera confused. “Code word? Look, I’m just doing a favour and, frankly, I’m taking a risk just being here. I’m only going to ask one more time because I owe it to A-, our mutual acquaintance.”
Hans thought studied her in the camera and decided that it might just be worth the risk to let her in. “Okay, give just one moment.”

He put his glove back on and grabbed his gun, just to be safe, before telling the computer to let the guest in. Lt. Williams glanced over her shoulder as she stepped through the door. The way her eyes took a survey of the outside and inside before the door closed told him that she wasn’t looking for backup, but just being careful to be sure that she wasn’t being watched.
Hans stood across the room from her and held out his hand. “You can stop right there.”

She stopped just a few steps inside the door her face all business again. “I can understand your caution, but I assure you that I’m really here for the reason I’ve stated. I wasn’t informed of the exact situation, but I’m guess you have some pretty powerful enemies out there.”
“What sort of information do you have?” Hans ignored her comment about his enemies and just focussed on what was important to him. He needed to know if she was legit or not.

Lt. Williams glanced around the flat as if searching for something before glancing back to Hans. “Are you sure your place is safe?”
“I was trained to be AFSF. I check the place myself every day. It’s clean.” Hans tried not to be impatient with her, but he did appreciate her caution. It was a very smart question to ask in this situation.

Her eyebrow rose for a quick moment at his comment, but she just nodded her understanding to him. Looking him the eye the entire time she reached slowly into her jacket and pulled out a notepad. She held it out to him.
“What is it?” Hans wasn’t quite willing to approach her yet. He was beginning to believe that she was telling the truth, but he wasn’t one hundred percent sure yet and he was going to wait until the moment when he had no doubts left to trust her.

“It was an encoded message I received in a regular batch of transmissions from Earth. It looked pretty standard, which I think was the point, but when I decoded it, it was red sealed and addressed to myself from Commodore Alfonza Ansanza. Knowing that, I was able to decode the message and it gave me instructions to find you and bring you this information.”
Hans could feel the light bulb in his head turn on as soon as he processed what she was saying. He suddenly know that this was someone that he would be able to trust. One more question would make all the difference in the world. “You’re one of his people aren’t you?”

She gave a half smile. “If you know about that than you know I can’t tell you that.”
“Of course you can’t or you’d be a blockhead.” Hans grinned and wondered if she’d get the joke or not. He noticed the corner of her lip twitch upwards, but that was all the emotion she showed. Still, it was enough for Hans to know that she knew the joke.

“Can’t say I’ve ever been accused of that, then again, if I had I wouldn’t be here right now.” She proffered the notepad again and this time Hans approached her to take it. He glanced over the contents, looking up at Lt. Williams on occasion to keep an eye on her.
“This is going to be really useful.” Hans placed the notepad on the table and felt a small weight roll off his shoulders. “Lt. Williams, you are a godsend. I’ve been stressing over this plan all night and this takes care of a few things I’ve been troubled over.”

“I’m not sure what your plans are, but when you do implement your plan make sure that notepad is destroyed completely. Neither I, nor anyone else, would like to be implicated in what is going on and if that finds its way into the wrong hands… Well I don’t need to explain what’ll happen if you know why our mutual acquaintance trusted me with this information.” Lt. Williams held out her hand and Hans reached out grasped it in his own.
“Good luck.” She said and pumped his hand once before releasing it. “I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”

“More than you probably know.” Hans replied. “Thank you and I’m sorry about earlier, but I can’t be too careful.”
Lt. Williams nodded and let herself out of Hans’ flat. He watched her leave on the monitor before picking up the notepad again. He couldn’t believe that Alfie had done all this just because Hans had asked for help. Hans smiled at the notepad as he read through it in more detail.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 8 (3)

Hans placed a notepad on the table and waited for his friends to read it through. It was easy to tell from the looks of disbelief that they had finished. Duke picked up his drink and knocked it back in much the same way Hans had.

“That is-” Duke started to say.
“I said that word is banned from this conversation.” Hans sipped at the liquid in his glass and glanced over at Honora who appeared to be deep in thought. “You’re awfully quiet.”

Honora lifted her glass and smiled. “To brilliant ideas and even more brilliant friends.”
“What?” Duke and Hans spoke in unison as Honora took a sip of her drink.

“It’s brilliant, this plan. It’s bold and daring and no one will ever suspect a thing. I mean, yes, it’s difficult to pull off, but that shouldn’t stop you. It’s not like any of us were able to think of anything better at all.” Honora took another sip of her drink and leaned back in her chair.
“You’re right about that, but it’s not going to be even close to easy. It pretty much amounts to suicide. If we get caught or anyone suspects a thing than it’s all over for us.” Hans stared into his glance not willing to meet their eyes. “In fact, death could be a blessing if we’re caught. We could be banished to one of the penal colonies. I’ve seen those places. Death is better.”

“She is right and if this is the only way to do it, then we need to do exactly what you said and banish the word impossible from our vocabulary. We’ll figure this out or die trying. I’m not in any rush to end up in a penal colony either.” Duke filled his glass to the rim and took a large sip.
“So success or death is our new motto?” Hans looked at Duke with surprise. This was the last thing that he had expected from him.

“Sure, if we’re going to do this than we can’t go by half measures. It’s all in or nothing. And you can stop looking at me like that.” Duke said. “I know I may not trust or believe that alien monstrosity that we found, but you do and I do believe that people need to know the truth. So, yeah, success or death.”
“Catchy motto.” Honora said and then placed her drink on the table. “Let’s get to work then. What do we need to know to make this work?”

“Well the message here just contains the most basic things we need to know like what the plan is and when we need to have it done, but there is a lot we don’t know. Like how to get into a secure facility, where to find the shipment that we need and what, if any, special equipment we might need to be able to hide out for this length of time.” Hans ran a hand through his hair.
“Maybe it’s time to call in that huge favour we’re owed?” Duke asked.

“Well, we didn’t need to disappear yet, but we may still need that favour if things go wrong.” Hans sighed. “Then again, the favour might not cost that much. Plus, I have all these new luxury items to trade in so that might help a bit.”
“I’ll set up the meeting with Chimmey.” Duke said. “Besides, I think he’ll be happy to have some repeat business since he did seem quite impressed with you.”

“Tomorrow night. At the hangar again, we don’t have any night flights going out that night so there won’t be any staff in.” Hans finished his drink and smiled honestly for the first time since he had decoded the message. “I guess for the rest we’ll just have to wing it.”
“You don’t have to sound so happy about that.” Duke grumbled, but he was smiling too. This was their best shot, probably their only shot at getting to Earth undetected and there was nothing left to add to this conversation. Duke finished off his drink and headed out with Honora.

*****
Hans once again was careful to make sure that everything was ready for their elicit meeting. This time, he made sure Alice was not recording at all. This was one conversation he wanted to make sure never got out. He had all the good that Alfie had sent him in a box ready to go. He stood in the middle of the empty of hangar for Chimmey and Duke to arrive.

“Hans. So good to see you.” Chimmey waved as he walked over to where Hans was waiting for them. Duke took a little longer as he stopped to make sure that the door was locked behind them.
“Hi Chimmey. Duke explain anything of what we need to you?” Hans glanced over at Duke who gave him a terse shake of his head.

“Not a word. He was very vague about why you wanted to see me, but he did say that you had some product for me.” Chimmey glanced at the box and then back up at Hans.
“A few luxury items from Earth. I’m pretty sure you’ll find a market for them since they’re hard to come by this far away.” Hans gave the box a nudge with his foot and Chimmey knelt down for a closer look.

“I can definitely handle this for you, but considering that I am the one owing you right now it makes me worried about what you might be about to ask of me.” Chimmey stood up and glanced at Hans through narrowed eyes. “Very worried because you look very serious.”
“We need to get into the AFSF base with no one knowing better. We only need to get in – not out.” Hans shared a glance with Duke before looking at Chimmey expectantly.

“Just in? You aren’t planning on coming out?” Chimmey shook his head hard. “No, don’t tell me I’m thinking it would be best if I just don’t know. In or out, doesn’t matter that is a very hard thing to pull off.”
“I know, but can you get a coded passcard or something that will give us access to the facility? We need maybe an hour.” Hans held his breath as Chimmey gave the request some thought.

“I’m thinking I will be a very rich man because what you are asking for sounds like a fancy way to commit suicide, but I know a way we can get you in there. It won’t come cheap, but that isn’t a problem.”  Chimmey pulled out a small notepad and handed it over to Hans. “Sale of the plane went very well for all of us. This is your share.”
Hans looked at a number was pleasantly surprised. “That’s’ more than you thought it would get. I think we’re in pretty good stead here for you to pull off a miracle, but there is still a chance that we may need to disappear eventually. Don’t forget that.”

“I haven’t forgotten. If you like I can make some headway on that as well for at cost.” Chimmey tilted his head. “Being prepared may come in handy for you.”
“I think that might be a very wise idea. There would be three of us who would need to disappear. Duke, myself and a girl as well.” Hans said. “Now, about getting into the AFSF compound? We need to do this tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” Chimmey nearly yelled out. He cleared his throat and lowered his voice. “That is asking a lot. Normally something like that could take days. I have contacts, but-”
“No one else will know about this. I don’t care how much you trust your contacts, but no one else can know. Am I clear on this?” Hans took step closer to the diminutive criminal. Hans wasn’t tall, but he still towered over Chimmey who took an instinctive step back.

“Very clear.” Chimmey straightened out his suit. “I will have someone drop off a package tomorrow evening.”
“Send a courier no later than 1400h tomorrow. That is when we need it by.” Hans took a step back to where he had been standing before.

“You aren’t making this easy at all, but I can get you a passcard. It might not stand up to a more thorough check, but it ought to get you in the front gate at least.” Chimmey frowned, clearly unhappy with the request.
“And uniforms, we need two-” Hans started saying, but Duke interrupted him this time.

“Three uniforms.” Duke glared at Hans who returned the look.
“Fine, three.” Hans told Chimmey. “One for myself, one for Duke there and something for a girl that is about your size.”

“Uniforms are easy enough. That passcard is the hardest part, but I’ll get it done for you. I’ll send a courier tomorrow before 1400h. This is going to cost you.” Chimmey shook his head again. “You are crazy, but I still like doing business with you. Just remember, you get in there and get caught – you don’t know me.”

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 8 (2)

It was several days more before the package finally arrived at Hans’ place. He inspected it carefully, not sure what to expect, but nothing seemed unusual. He opened it to find a letter and several very nice luxury items from Earth.
Hans took everything out and placed it on the table with letter. He looked at all and chuckled. Alfie had stuck to their hastily concocted cover story and sent items that were not available on the frontier worlds. It wasn’t anything Hans could use, but he knew someone that might give him a pretty penny in trade for them.
That meant everything he needed to know was in the letter that hadn’t even been enclosed in an envelope. If anyone had checked out the package they would have been able to read it easily. It meant only one thing, that there was a secret message within the message that Hans was going to have to figure out. It was something Alfie had often done in the academy – even in many of his reports that he handed in.

Hans read the letter over a few times. Some of the wording was a little odd, but nothing stood out right away. He had known that it wouldn’t have been obvious, but he had hoped that it would be easier than this. He tried a few of the more basic ways to find a message that Alfie had taught him, but he kept coming up with gibberish.
Hans rubbed at his temple trying to assuage the headache that he could feel starting to come on.  He wished that he could call Alfie, but that would have given everything away. A letter could have been sent electronically, it would have been quicker, but Hans knew that this way the evidence could be more easily destroyed.

Grabbing a spare notepad, Hans forced himself to try everything he could possibly think of to find the message that was hidden in the letter. He needed to find it soon as well. He had already seen people giving his gloved hands strange looks and he wanted to stop hiding it as soon as he could – and, more importantly, he needed to warn the government about a war that was coming.
He copied the contents of the letter over to the notepad so that he could work with it better. I circled words and letter and wiped his alterations in an attempt to find a hidden message. It was late by the time he put the notepad aside to get some rest. He had the next day so that meant he would have all day to try to figure it out.

Hans sat down to the puzzle with fresh eyes the next day. Hans was sure he had been going about it all wrong the night before trying to find a straight up message within the letter. He knew the answer was in there, but it would have been far better hidden from prying eyes. No combination of words within the letter made a new message, but there was one special code that Alfie had always talked about trying to perfect. It was a complicated way of coding a letter, but complicated was what was called for.
Hans slowly went through the letter and started the difficult task of rewriting it with the necessary changes. It was a few hours of tedious work before Hans was sure he was on the right track. A new message was starting to form that made sense. As the sun set, Hans finally had a complete message and he was sure that this was what he needed to be reading.

Hans checked the time before calling Duke at home to invite him over. He kept his tone casual and light.
“Hey, Duke. I was just putting together a good meal and I was just thinking it would great to have some good company. Why don’t you and Honora come on over for dinner? Maybe pick up something to drink on the way. What do you think?” Hans didn’t give Duke a chance to even say hello just in case he said something that they might all regret.

“Dinner? I take it you’ve got something good then?” Duke asked.
“Yeah,” Hans breathed a small sigh of relief that Duke had caught on right away. “I think you both are going to enjoy this meal. So, what do you say?”

“I think I’ll be right over. Anything in particular to drink?” Duke asked, almost as an afterthought.
“Whatever you think you might enjoy. Just stop somewhere.” Hans wanted to roll his eyes, but he kept himself under control.

“Gotcha. See ya inna bit.” Duke hung up the connection first.
Hans knew that Duke and Honora would only be about twenty minutes. He decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have something for them all to eat. He thought about his limited cooking abilities and decided that simple was best and started cooking.

Hans had just finished putting the meal together for any potential onlookers when his buzzer called for his attention.  He walked calmly to the door, trying to focus on putting a friendly smile on his face. He opened the door to find Duke and Honora with similarly fake smiles on their faces as well.
“Come on in guys. Dinner is ready.” Hans stepped aside and tried to ignore the look of surprise on Duke’s face that there really was food waiting for them.

“Brought some scotch, hope it’ll do.” Duke handed over the bottle as he walked in with Honora right behind him. Hans closed the door as quickly as he could and let the smile fall from his face.
“Scotch is probably the best idea. Eat if you’re hungry because you might lose your appetite once I tell you what the plan is.” Hans walked to the table and sat down at his plate.

“Glad to hear there is something. I was starting to worry that you really did just call us over for dinner.” Duke eyed up the food before taking a seat and filling his plate. “Looks good though.”
Honora followed suit with a more moderate amount of food. “Yeah it does look good and I think some food right now does sound good.”

Hans didn’t bother to respond. He placed some food on his plate as well, but didn’t bother touching any of it. He had lost his appetite at the realization of Alfie’s plan for getting them on to Earth with no one knowing. He knew that he should eat, but he just couldn’t quite bring himself to do so right now. His mind was still reeling.
“So, what is this master plan that your friend came up with?” Duke asked between bites of food.

“After dinner, we’ll break open that scotch of yours and then we’ll talk.” Hans forced a piece of food into his mouth and swallowed. “Eat up.”
“Hans, are you okay?” Honora put her fork down and gave her boss the once over. “You’re looking a little pale.”

“I’m fine. You’ll understand soon.” Hans leaned back in his chair and eyed up the bottle of scotch.
Duke pushed his plate aside and narrowed his eyes. “I’m thinking I’d rather know what sort of plan as you this worried.”

Hans stood up from the table, walked into the kitchen and grabbed three tumblers. He set them down and poured a good measure of scotch into each glass. He pushed a glass towards Duke and the other towards Honora before picking up the last glass and raising it into the air.
“I would like to propose a toast to the impossible. May the word be forever banned from the upcoming conversation.” Hans knocked back the drink in one gulp and refilled his drink. Neither Duke nor Honora had even touched their glasses yet. “Drink up, we’ve got a lot to talk about and it starts with this.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 8 (1)

“Hans, long time no see. How is life on the edges of civilization treating you old buddy? I hear the women out there are all kinds of wild.” Alfonzo grinned from ear to ear at the unexpected call from his old friend.

“Life is pretty darn good out here. You ought to try leaving the comforts of Earth behind every now and again.” Hans laughed. He had forgotten how much he enjoyed talking to Alfie. It had really been a long time since they had spoken to each other. “I can’t say much about the women, but that’s always been your department.”
“Not for the last few months. I’ve been a woman kind of man. I may have actually met my match.” Alfie said his grin getting impossibly wider.

“No shit? Someone has actually managed to keep you? She must be a hell of a woman to manage that. I’d love to meet her sometime.” Hans was impatient to get to the reason why he was calling, but he knew that he had to go through the motions in case anyone else was listening.
“Ah, she is incredible.” Alfie sighed and leaned back. “But I’m sure you didn’t call me just to make small talk about my love life or yours. What can I do you for buddy?”

“You know me too well.” Hans had almost forgotten how well Alfonzo knew him. They had been inseparable friends when they were in academy together, but they had gone separate directions after graduation. Still though, it was good to have someone he could still count on like Alfie.
“Well, spit it out already. I’ll help you anyway I can.” Alfie leaned in closer to the video pick up on his end as the smile faded from his face. “Not in trouble are you?”

“Not exactly, but I was wondering if you were still working under Admiral Falun?” Hans asked.
“Of course, I love E&E. Couldn’t imagine me spending my days anywhere else. In fact, we just found a new planet that we’re considering opening up to –” Alfie cut himself off. “But you aren’t calling about that. Sorry, it’s always exciting when a potentially habitable planet comes up.”

“No worries, I get that.” Hans smiled. “What I actually wanted to ask you was where Admiral Falun was hiding these days.”
“The Admiral, eh?” Alfie raised his eyebrows. “Thinking of returning to the service or should I not be asking?”

“Something like that.” Hans said.
“Hmm, I see. Not my business really, but he’s on Earth for some meetings. Big stuff going on here, but I might be able to pull some strings and get a message to him for you. He’s been busy though and I can’t guarantee anything.” Alfie glanced at something off screen and frowned. “Hold on a second.”

Hans waited as the screen went fuzzy for a moment and then cleared up again. Whatever had just happened, Alfonzo was looking distinctly worried now. He looked back into the video pick up and kept his voice low. “That frequency was being monitored. I blocked it, but we only have a few minutes before they find this signal and unscramble it. What the hell are you into man?”
“It’s complicated, but I need to get in to see the Admiral. I have a feeling I can trust him with what I have to say. I know I’m being monitored, but this is of the upmost importance.” Hans spoke as fast as he could.

“You’re coming to Earth?” Alfonzo didn’t bother to hide his surprise.
“Yeah, but we need to get there under the radar. Any ideas?” Hans asked.

“One or two, but it’s risky. Are you sure you want to do this?” Alfonzo frowned. “And when I say risky, I mean almost impossible.”
“If that’s where the Admiral is, then that’s where we’re going. I need –” Hans stopped talking at the moment Alfie held up his finger. “So, do you think you could get me a few of those Earth luxuries out here? As much as I love the frontier it really is lacking in a few things.”

Alfie faked a laugh and grinned. “I’ll send a few things your way. I’ll even send it express ‘cause I like you so much.”
“Thanks Alfie. And I promise, I’ll stay in touch better in the future.” Hans smiled. He had to admire how great his friend was at subterfuge.

“Ciao.” Alfonzo said and the screen went black.  Hans leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. He had been hoping that he would be able to count on an old friendship and the risk had paid off better than he had imagined. Not only did he have the information he needed, but they now had an inside man.
Hans had no idea what Alfie’s was plan was, but he was sure it would be better than anything he could come up with on his own. Hans grinned as he remembered back to the old days when they had been in the academy together. Alfie had always been up to something. It was because of him that Hans had learned to become such a good planner and liar.

Of course, this was more than just getting into and out of a little bit of trouble, this was defying an entire branch of the government. He had no idea what sort of clearance Alfie had since they had never really talked about work even when they were both in the service. Hans was pretty sure that he played more of a roll in the government than he had let on. For now, though, all he could do was wait to see what Alfie had sent him.
It was the next day at work when Hans called Duke and Honora into his office to tell them the news about his conversation with Alfonzo although he was careful not to mention his friend by name. It was bad enough that Alfie was risking his job for them and Hans didn’t need to make it worse for him. Plausible deniability was the keyword in this.

“Are you sure we can trust him?” Duke asked, once again being the one to bring up the negative.
“I’m pretty sure I can trust him more than you.” Hans said. “He may be high up in the Armed Forces, even I’m not sure exactly what he does or how much clearance he has, but he is completely trustworthy. Plus, he has very strong inclination towards anti-establishmentarianism.”

“Anti-establishment-what?” Duke looked at Hans as if he had suddenly sprouted an extra head.
“It is the word that my friend uses to describe his political beliefs. What is really important is that he believes that the best way to bring down a corrupt government is from the inside.”  Hans suppressed a chuckle as he thought back to his time in the academy. “Let’s just say, if we don’t trust the government or Armed Forces then this is the guy we want to be on our side.”

“But you have no idea what this plan of his is?” Honora asked.
“We never had time to discuss it. Whatever he did only gave us a few seconds of, hopefully, unmonitored conversation. I’m pretty sure we’ll find out soon enough.” Hans mentally calculated the fastest a package could get from Earth to Cantun. Even if he had sent it within the hour it would take days to arrive, if not longer.

“Do you think whoever is watching is going to intercept the package first?” Hans frowned at the thought that he had just voiced, but it was a very real possibility.
“I’m counting on it and I’m sure my friend is going to be expecting them to do so as well. I have no doubt that whatever he is sending is going to be very well concealed.” Once again Hans was reminded of something from back when they were in the academy together. “In fact, I think I know exactly how he would have concealed it.”

“Let’s just hope that this friend of yours is half as clever as you seem to think he is.” Duke stood up to leave as he spoke. “Cause it’s not just your life or his that’s on the line here – it’s me and Honey as well. Not to mention that alien of yours.”
“He’s not my alien.”  Hans rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to work. “I’ll let you know when the package has arrived. Until then there really isn’t much we can do. Getting to Earth is the hardest part of our plan. Once we’re there, I have a feeling that everything will fall in to place fairly quickly. Call me an optimist.”

“I’d call you an idiot.” Duke grumbled only just loud enough for Hans to hear him as he walked out. Hans chose not to respond to that comment. He knew that Duke was more than likely right, but he was not willing to give up the hope that it would be okay.