105 - Die Geisterflotte
Phantom Fleet
Clark Darlton

All is quiet in Terrania, the capital city of Sol. Meanwhile a vessel takes off from the Blue System on an unknown mission. Rhodan does expect a new Akonide attack, but in what form? Atlan calls to inform him that a mysterious vessel has landed without incident on Arkon III - the location of the Arkonide arsenal and the Robot Regent. The mysterious vessel crossed all defenses without meeting the least resistance! Rhodan decides to travel to the planet with his flagship, the Drusus, leaving Bell on Earth to handle current matters.

During its flight to the Arkonide System, the Drusus is contacted by Geral Khor, an Arkonide based on Salex IV. He asks for Rhodan to join him in order to confide to him an urgent message for Atlan. On the planet, Rhodan learns that nothing functions any longer: the Regent does not emit impulse anymore and, as a result, all machinery and vessels have stopped. Shortly afterwards, Atlan calls and confirms that the Regent and even all of Arkon III is surrounded by an unknown and impassable energy field. All industrial facilities and vessels - in short, everything that is actually controlled by the Regent - is non-functional and chaos threatens to break out….

At the same time Major Bellefjord who commands the Kénia, a frigate of the Terran Fleet, is keeping the Blue System under surveillance. He notices the appearance of a hole in the protective field of the Blue System at the time of the exit of the mysterious vessel and gets authorization to cross with the Kénia before the hole closes again.

The Drusus, with Rhodan and the mutants at his side, arrives on Arkon I. The flagship then gets under way for Arkon III but all attempts by Tschubai and Kakuta to teleport across the energy field are revealed to be futile. Only Pucky can teleport onto the surface of Arkon III with the help of the fictive transmitter.

On Arkon III Pucky no longer recognizes the planet nor any of its reference marks. Forced to nose about everywhere, he learns that the Akonides arrived two days earlier with their vessel and erected a temporal field that returned the planet backwards 15,000 years to the days of the Imperator Metzat III. The Akonides have convinced Metzat that a quarrelsome people from the Sol System have approached much too closely to Arkon.

As used to be the custom in that time, the Imperator wants to send a fleet of 30,000 ships to the Sol System in order to bring its inhabitants to submission.

Ten hours have passed since Pucky's departure. Colonies of the Arkonide Imperium have begun to realize that the Regent is out of service and, as a result, they begin to rise up and to seize deactivated robot-vessels. On his side of the temporal field, Pucky succeeds in embarking on a shuttle that is leaving for a reconnaissance mission to the Sol System. This permits him to cross the temporal field and to inform Rhodan of the situation.

Since Metzat III wants to conquer Sol and not to destroy it, Rhodan asks Bell not to react to the hostile Arkonide fleet that approaches him. This proves effective since, upon the arrival of the Arkonide squadron in the Sol System, its commander, Gagolk, meets no resistance and hesitates on how to proceed.

On the Drusus, Rhodan learns, thanks to the P-Brain on Venus, that there was, around 15,000 years ago, a ship that overflew Arkon III two times and then left after leaving a unique crater of 2 km of diameter on the planet. He deduces from this information that a vessel equipped with the new linear propulsion system had luck in crossing the temporal field. He embarks therefore on the Ralph Torsten piloted by Bellefjord. Pucky is given the mission to deposit a bomb on the planet where the Akonide vessel is located.

The Ralph Torsten speeds along toward Arkon III and crosses the temporal field without incident. Pucky teleports down to the planet’s surface while the vessel begins its second orbit of the planet.

On Earth, Gagolk disembarks and demands to meet the chief of the Solar System and to ask him to submit to the Great Imperium. He is finally received by Bell but the interview degenerates quickly because Bell gets agitated. Thereafter, the Arkonide fleet launches its attack against the Earth and, enraged, Bell throws himself at Gagolk. However, he only meets emptiness. The Phantom Fleet disappears at the same moment as the first bombs reach the terrestrial atmosphere!

On Arkon III, Pucky succeeds in placing the bomb close to the Akonide vessel. He returns aboard the Ralph Torsten that immediately leaves. The bomb explodes shortly afterwards thereby destroying the Akonide spacecraft. As a result, Arkon III is once again back in the present time. The Regent immediately begins to re-establish order in the Arkonide Imperium.

Disaster has been avoided at the last moment.

Michael Mahoney 2005-04-10

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