- Delen waar ik niet zeker van ben zet ik tussen haakjes. -
Datum: 03 DEC 3007 Tijd 2148u Locatie: Brug van de IFNS Cutlass Vlaggenschip Bevrijdingsvloot
"Hoezo, het was niet helemaal juist?" barstte Harvir uit, niet in staat zijn verbazing te onderdrukken. Eventjes eerder was hij de strategische situatie aan het uitleggen aan Sundari, zodat ze kon beginnen aan een inzetplan voor de Archeologen. Het ging goed tot hij werd onderbroken door een dringende boodschap van de Newton.
1.8 In The Balance Date: 03 DEC 3007 Time: 2148hrs Location: Bridge IFNS Cutlass Flagship Liberation Fleet
`What do you mean, it wasn’t completely correct?!’ Harvir erupted, unable to contain his shock. Moments earlier he had been outlining the strategic situation to Sundari so that she could begin working on a deployment plan for the Archaeologists. It had been going well until he was interrupted by an urgent transmission from Newton. ‘Transmit all your findings over to Cutlass immediately,’ he ordered.
He sat for a brief moment, absentmindedly drumming his fingers on the arm of his command seat. What could a change in The Signal mean for the Fleet?
‘Comms,’ he said, catching the attention of his Communication Watch Officer. ‘Get Milton Lee up here right away, I want him to hear this too.’
Several minutes passed before the doors slid open and Lee strode onto the bridge.
‘What’s so urgent that you needed to see me right away? I was in the middle of some important research into the nature of—’
‘Stop.’ Harvir held up his hand to cut off the Professor. ‘I just received this transmission from Newton. Some of your colleagues have been reviewing your decryption algorithm to aid in future translations. They tested what they came up with against your original translation of The Signal. They say yours might not be entirely correct. Let’s listen to their version shall we?’ Before Lee had a chance to interrupt, Harvir started playing the new message.
I exist as Sal’diresh, last remaining Knight of the world Arkadia. Hopeless is our chance of survival. Those that remain exist here at Artalia, both final bastion for hope and final despair for the people of Arkadia. Any beings to hear, we ask please. Help us.
From starting, the beings whose name they gave as Oratan, came to this world. Sought not they to trade or learn. They did seek only to steal and kill. We met with them above the skies. We met with them on the land. Unlimited numbers had they. But led by the Knights, with technology of Arkadia superior, the people did hope.
Sundari frowned. She couldn’t hear any difference, but as she glanced towards Harvir she noticed he had gone completely still, his gaze distant. ‘What is it Toán?’
‘Unlimited numbers had they,’ Harvir said in a hushed voice. ‘Not limited. Unlimited.’ His eyes swung slowly to look directly at Sundari, the rest of his body seemingly frozen in place. ‘This changes everything.’
‘That’s not true,’ Lee said, with suspicious calmness. ‘It changes nothing. If there really were unlimited numbers of Oratan down there we’d have seen something by now, but we haven’t.’
‘How could you have missed such an important detail? Was your device just not up to the job and these other scientists had to improve it?’ Harvir demanded of Lee, as he struggled to regain control of himself. Sundari was amazed; both men had quickly picked up on the implications but seemed more intent on assigning blame than working out what to do next.
‘Hardly,’ Lee said scornfully. ‘I’ll admit that the device I created was put together in some haste, but I assure you that the translation process worked smoothly and accurately…’ Lee trailed off, finally noticing the chasm opening beneath his feet.
‘You lying… dammit, you knew!’ Harvir said, his voice angrier than Sundari had ever heard. ‘You knew your initial decryption wasn’t perfect! That one small change means we could be facing a hell of a lot more hostile forces than we expected. And you said nothing! You let us jump into this system knowing we could be facing an enemy that vastly outnumbers us!’
‘I had my suspicions but nothing concrete! Besides, the risk was still acceptable considering what there is to gain.’ Lee said, his voice rising angrily at the accusation. Despite his loud conviction, he was unable to meet Harvir’s eyes and instead addressed his comments to Sundari, hoping for support.
‘You are not the judge of what risks are acceptable to this fleet!’ Harvir roared. ‘I’ve had enough of you. Comms! Get a security detail to the bridge at the double. I want this man confined immediately for deliberately placing this fleet at risk.’
‘Wait!’ Sundari said forcefully. She had sat silently through the exchange up to this point. Since she had spent a large part of her life studying human behaviour, she knew that she needed to now intervene for the sake of the mission. ‘Commodore, you must realise that Professor Lee would have told you if he knew for certain his translation was in error, if only because his own life is at risk. But he’s not to blame as much as you’re making out. Be thankful that the scientists aboard Newton brought it to our attention before it was too late.’ Out of the corner of her eye she saw Lee’s smirk, but she wasn’t letting him off the hook. ‘And you,’ she said, turning to face Lee, ‘have to realise the gravity of your actions. These are peoples’ lives you’re playing with when you withhold information! How many discoveries do you think you’d be able to make if everyone was killed? This isn’t your laboratory where you can wait until you have proof. If you even suspect something is wrong you have to report it!’
‘Too late for reporting once there’s blood on your hands,’ Harvir said. ‘We’ll have to totally reassess our strategy. If we’d known this before leaving Earth we might not have launched at all. I’m sure the Admiral wouldn’t have allowed so many civilians to join with barely enough troops for protection. We may even have to abort the mission and return to Earth, taking what information we have so far.’
‘Toán, I understand what you’re saying, Sundari said in a gentler tone. ‘But everyone knew when they agreed to launch with the Fleet that there was a significant risk involved. That hasn’t changed. We know you’re worried about trying to protect us all and we’re grateful for the concern. But Milton’s right, we haven’t seen any trace of the Oratan anywhere, so it’s possible they don’t have the numbers implied by the Arkadian signal. Or they’re not here in those numbers anymore. Our approach has always been cautious, and with this new information we’ll be able to respond quicker if a significant threat does arise. Surely we don’t need to turn back?’ Sundari asked. ‘I’ll admit that we might not have to,’ Harvir said, relaxing a little as he recognised the truth of what she had said. ‘As it stands, our troops are on a one hour notice to move and we could have a forward command established within one week.’ Harvir said. He continued before the others could begin asking questions. ‘I know that you both have a lot that you’d like to say, but there’s a lot to consider. This is not a decision that I’m going to rush.’
‘Come on,’ Sundari said to Lee, grabbing his sleeve and dragging him from the bridge. She looked back at Harvir, giving him a confident smile. ‘I’m sure the Commodore will inform us of his decision in good time,’ she added as Lee opened his mouth to speak.
As Harvir watched the bridge door close behind Sundari and Milton Lee, he sighed heavily. He needed to think clearly and consider all options without interruption. His thoughts continued to chase themselves in circles. ‘Comms, I’m going to try and get some rest. I’ll be in my staterooms. If anything changes to our situation, notify me immediately.’
Seven hours later Harvir was once again in his command seat. The bridge crew furtively watched him from the corner of their eyes as they went about their work. He didn’t notice as his attention was dominated by one simple problem. How could one single word make such a profound difference? What had previous been an easy decision had suddenly become a hard one. He looked over at the Captain of Cutlass.
‘Captain, have the latest scans revealed anything new on the planet’s surface?’ He asked.
‘No, Sir. Conditions are unchanged. The troops remain on a one hour notice to move.’
There was a pause as Harvir took a final deep breath.
‘Launch the drop ships, Captain. I think it’s time we had a look at this planet for ourselves.’