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.”

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