2342 - In der Kaverne des Laboraten
In The Caverns Of The Laboraten
Hubert Haensel

The Terminal Column is active not only in the standard universe, but also in many other ranges of the multiverse. In one of these foreign universes, the most important task for a TRAITOR task force of three hundred thirty thousand Traitanks is the conquest of a space sector, which contains the gate to the Cosmonucleotide TRYCLAU- 3. It comes to a horrendous battle with the Cosmocrats, with which masses of Traitanks are destroyed. Nothing is known about the origin and composition of this fleet. Anyway, at least one cobalt-blue cylinder of the Cosmocrats is involved in the fighting. However, TRAITOR remains victorious, and the Cosmocrat ship is driven away.

Jothadún, who belongs to the race of the Effremi, participates in this battle as an insignificant crewmember of a Traitank. The Effremi live in colonies (which they call nests) on many units of the Terminal Column and due to their perfect memory for numbers are used predominantly as managers and for planning. When his ship is destroyed, Jothadún saves himself with an escape capsule, in which the Dual Deputy Captain Yuegorensch also escapes. The dual being is badly injured, but Jothadún renders first aid and thereby saves Yuegorensch's life. The Dual Deputy Captain recognizes that Jothadún possesses a special gift: He is to a large extent resistant to Strangeness effects. Yuegorensch therefore arranges for the Effremi to be transferred to the service ship CRULT, after his injuries are cared for in the Skapalm bark TERGOSA. The CRULT is one of several command centers of the Terminal Column, an enormous space station, which serves as base for the True Progress Antakur of Bitvelt.

Here Jothadún is first tasked to carry out the repair and re- equipment of those Traitanks, which were damaged in the battle around TRYCLAU-3. He is happy to discover several Effremite refuges in the CRULT. He even finds a new woman, with which he lives together for the next few years. When the Chaos squadron administered of him is restored to full duty, Jothadún is shifted to work in the Chaos pit and the Cavern of the Laboraten, which is in the base of the shaft. An artificial Strangeness value is kept up there, because the Laborat, a supposedly immortal, monstrous predator, which is held here, can survive only if its environment has the proper Strangeness value. As a result, the people dealing with it need the ability to keep shifting between the two Strangeness regions.

The Laborat resembles an enormous larva equipped at the front end with tentacles. It can affect its victims mentally. With the tentacles, it inserts eggs into its victims, where they mature in the hosts and can also affect it mentally. Normally, when the egg finishes developing, the creature then bursts out of the host body. The pit workers, to whom Jothadún now belongs, harvest these eggs in a dangerous procedure. The Column Anatomists then genetically manipulate the eggs, so that they will not continue to grow within their host, but will use their mental forces in such a way so that they force an absolute loyalty to the Terminal Column in their hosts. The modified parasites carry the name Claws of the Laboraten. Jothadún discovers that he can pacify the Laboraten with the singing typical for his people.

After some time Jothadún is appointed to work in the center of the service station: the silver tower, which is also called the Office of the True Progress. He is appointed a member of the Chaos Phalanx. It is a group of Strangeness resistant individuals, who are the only crewmembers that can remain active in the service station, as it is moving from one universe into another. All the other crewmembers are drugged unconscious for their own protection. Such a change is soon approaching: the CRULT has received the signals of a CALLER in the Milky Way. During the preparations for to the universe change Jothadún meets Antakur of Bitvelt himself. The True Progress appears to be a twenty-six meter tall and nine meter wide, internally illuminated statue of crystal, and because he moves so slowly, changes in his body stance become recognizable only after days pass. The True Progress has two humanoid heads, two legs and four arms.

As the CRULT is transferring into the Einstein universe, it comes to feedback effects with the artificially produced Strangeness in the Cavern of the Laboraten. The Laborat falls into a painful rage, kills some pit foremen and puts itself into mortal danger. Jothadún gathers the courage to go up to the beast and use his singing to calm it down. The True Progress, who can communicate mentally with other beings, later personally praises him.

Meanwhile, the Galactics still suspect nothing of all this. They only register the fact that an enormous object has materialized at the former location of the CALLER. The first six new VRITRA cannons are installed into large Terran and Arkonide combat ships, and one of them is transferred to the New USO for installation into the TRAJAN. On May 10, 1345 NGE Reginald Bull plans a commando mission to free Roi Danton, in whose death nobody wants to quite believe…

Jerry Schneiderman 2006-10-23

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