2260 - Im Arphonie-Sternhaufen
In the Arphonie Star System
Horst Hoffmann

After a buffeting and disorienting flight through the breaking down DISTANCE TRAIL, Rhodan, Atlan and the crew of the SWORD find themselves in the Arphonie star cluster. Although they do not come out at all close to Castle Kherzesch, they do end up in the middle of a hornet's nest and are hunted from practically the minute they appear. Beside units of the Kybb-Cranar and the Kybb-Traken the target system is swarming with thousands of units of an up to now unknown type: Discus-shaped ships with 1,200 meters of diameter, 700 meters of height and up to six cylinder-shaped modules in their upper and lower sides. In addition, a Kybb-Titan is stationed there, which likewise immediately takes up the pursuit. With an extreme strain Zephyda and her Sources succeed in forcing the SWORD to enter hyperspace with below the minimum normal entry speed, however, the pursuers discover the bionic cruiser over and over again very quickly, so that the Motanas are granted no rest.

Help for the SWORD comes from an unexpected side. When the ship must flee once again before the cylinder discuses, they are destroyed by the dozen by a gleaming hyperphysical apparition that suddenly appears, which reminds Perry and Atlan of a 15 kilometer long whale that can move in space at an absurdly fast speed. This "whale" seems to be interested, however, above all in destroying the SWORD - once again Zephyda must give her all; they make it into hyperspace, but then she falls unconscious and the SWORD re-enters the normal continuum in empty space. When some cylinder discuses again attack after a little while, the SWORD cannot flee, but must position itself to fight. A hundred ships suddenly appear, which look like oversized bionic cruisers, but have a white color and use a transition engine. These `white cruisers' guard the SWORD while the discus ships receive reinforcement by a Kybb-Titan. The white cruisers have no chance against it, but then two "space whales" intervene. Before them, even the Titan seizes flight.

However, as the "whales" attack both parties, all the white cruisers can do is attempt to escape. The SWORD is anchored and carried along by one of the white cruisers. They manage to escape the whales and end up in a system with no planets. The commander of the foreign ship announces himself over a holo-connection – he appears to be a Shozide, who calls himself General Traver…

In an apparently meaningless B-story, one of the Sources on the SWORD had smuggled aboard a pet. It turns out to have been pregnant and during the trip through the DISTANCE TRAIL, the babies are mutated in the womb into destructive monsters. They are birthed as soon as the ship comes out of the passage and proceed to start eating through everything inorganic in the ship. They are finally stopped when Rhodan orders Ecophage to bleed all the air out of the ship as they are beginning to eat into the ship brain's casing, thereby suffocating them to death.

Jerry Schneiderman 2005-03-10

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