32 - Ausflug in die Unendlichkeit
Infinity Flight
Clark Darlton

Commodore Topthor, a Galactic Trader, descended from Arkonides, belonged to the clan called the Mounders. His clan had discovered the location of Earth. One of his crew, Grogham, asks why arenít they plundering the planet yet. Topthor states that business deals are out of the question here. They have encountered serious competition for the first time. In barely ten years this Rhodan has managed to create an interstellar power out of this formerly backward planet. He possesses a mighty fleet, whose ships attack them. This is an open declaration of war.

Grogham points out that it was Orlgans who seized two of Rhodanís ships and tried to pump his men for information. Topthor looses his temper, but then explains why they are here. He reveals that Rhodan is seeking the Planet of Eternal Life and that Rhodan knows where this legendary planet can be found. He is planning to go there to get new weapons to defend Earth. If he succeeds, it would mean the end of the Springer superiority in the galaxy. But if they beat him to it, it would be a fantastic business deal for them. Grogham agrees.

Perry Rhodan did not have a lot of time left. The Arkonide Empire was alerted to Earthís existence. The Stardust II was racing toward the transistion point to begin the journey to the Planet of Eternal Life. Rhodan has a discussion with Bell why they need to go back. Bell brings up a good point about the previous trip: several years had passed while on Wanderer. Rhodan says not to worry: heíll simply ask the immortal being, master of time and space, to even out the time difference. Bell laughs, wondering why IT would do that for them. Neither had the slightest inkling of the existence of the Mounders shadowing him.

Topthor follows the Stardust II after it left the Solar system at a safe distance. After the Stardust II jumps, he orders his eight ships to follow. Upon exiting the transistion, Rhodan begins to search for the Planet Wanderer. IT sends them a little welcoming surprise, in the form of a woman! She seemed familiar to him. Although he knows it is just another one of ITs jokes, he plays along.

Bull recognizes her as Stella Rallas, an Earth movie star, whom he is enamoured of. She approaches the terrified Bull and kisses him. As he begins to enjoy the kiss, IT whisks her away, leaving him holding empty air!

IT then speaks to Rhodan telepathically and tells them to shut down their engines in preparation to enter his realm. The Springer ships also return to normal space five light-hours away from the Stardust II. Topthor watches as the Stardust II begins to disappear, like a lunar eclipse. It looked as if something ate the ship. A full alert signal spread instantly throughout Topthorís fleet. They began to search for the Stardust II.

Rhodan tells IT they he has come to ask a favor. IT invites them to the Great Hall to discuss it. During their conversation on the trip to the Great Hall, IT is distracted momentarily. IT just observed the death of a solar system more than 200,000 light-years from there. Millions of years ago, this solar system drifted out of its galaxy and the inhabitants of the second planet tried to detach their world from the sun in order to transfer it to another solar system. But the planet turned into a super-nova. Now that system has two suns and no inhabitants.

Rhodan asks if it can be undone. IT says: Why not? It would be fun. While Rhodan was looking at the automatic calendar he felt he was becoming invisible. IT snatched him away! Rhodan lost consciousness. He awakes inside a tiny craft on its way to the Planet Barkon, on the rescue mission he suggested to IT.

IT assures him that, being a master of space and time, they can save the Barkonides and return to Wanderer in a fraction of a second, even though to Rhodan, several weeks may have passed. Rhodan is startled to discover that IT is now he! IT assumed his form and exists inside him. Together they will save a solar system. They travel for over two days Earth time, far outside the Milky Way.

After arrival, meeting and greeting the Barkonides, Rhodan begins to see why they are trying so desperately return. There are no stars in their skies: they are utterly alone. They resembled humans and Arkonides, in more ways than one.

With the aid of the television scanner, Rhodan acquaints himself with the history of the planet Barkon. He discovers they this world had been colonized by the Barkonides. For some inexplicable reason their solar system detached itself from the gravitational pull of the rotating Milky Way and slipped away from it at a right angle.

As the pictures end, Rhodan explains that even he cannot bring Barkon back into the community of the stars they left so long ago. He thinks heíll be able to help them though. They make a special request of Rhodan: they would like to scan his memories to see what life is like in the galaxy now. IT tells him it is OK; IT will take over and show them the future.

Eight weeks pass. The time has come for Rhodan to project his thoughts onto a screen. IT takes over and shows the Barkonides what they want, but Rhodan thought he was lying to them. The next day, they reveal their secret to Rhodan: the interior of the planet Barkon had been hollowed out for the entire population to find accommodations to live, procreate, and develop further for many generations to come, during the long journey back to the Milky Way. Touring the power drive that will move the worldship, IT locates and surrepticiously repairs the error that would have caused the reactors to overload and destroy the planet. IT jumps ahead and sees that they have successfully began their voyage.

They take their leave of the Barkonides and begin the long journey home. An hour short of their return, IT asks Rhodan to tell him in his own words what he came to IT for. He tell IT that he needs the ultimate weapon to remove the threat to Earth. He states that only Rhodan has the strength to unite the galaxy, so he will give him the weapon on the condition that it only be used in defense, never attack. He is going to give him a fictive tele-transmitter, to teleport atomic bombs and whatever into the enemy ships.

Rhodan returns to the Stardust II exactly one second after he faded away. They land at the city to receive the gift. Homunk greets them and begins supervising the installation of two transmitters. After two weeks, they were ready to depart. Rhodan asks IT for one more favor: to ensure they return to normal space without a significant amount of time passing, as was in their previous visit. IT agrees to adjust things for them so they return only ten minutes after disappearing. Homunk entered the command center and tells Rhodan he can leave now. Rhodan asks him how does the weapon work. Homunk tells him to find out for himself. He tests it by transporting a bomb into the depths of the nearby ocean. Far out in the ocean a huge wave arose, piled up into a gigantic cone, then collapsed. White vapors ascended in whirling clouds into the artificial sky. A tidal wave swept toward the shore, flooding a large part of the coast. Then it began to rain. IT began laughing. IT then reminded him about the restriction placed on the use of this weapon. They depart. IT also has one more gift for Reggie. He teleports Stella Rallas to his quarters!

Upon reemerging from Wanderer's realm, they are confronted by the sight of the ships of the Springers. Rhodan orders the new weapons ready to fire. Topthor couldnít believe his eyes as his fleet begins to vaporize one attacking ship at a time. After all but three ships were destroyed, he orders a retreat. Rhodan watches them vanish as he procedes on his own course.

After Stella Rallas causes a minor commotion, IT finally takes her back, but not before playing one last trick on Bull. Imagine TWO Reginald Bulls confronting one another! IT freezes time for all execpt Rhodan and asks him to assist IT to observe something that is taking place this very moment on Topthorís ship. He tells Rhodan of the plan to drop an Arkon bomb onto the ice world where Tifflor, Gucky, and crew are stranded. He wisks Rhodan's mind away to Topthor's ship so he can read the message Topthor is about to transmit to Etzak.

He returns to the Stardust II, ready for action, as the countdown to transition commences. Never before had Rhodan been thinking so much prior to a transition as today; never had the time seemed so long; and never had Bull kept so silent.

They jumped, arriving safely back at the Beta-Albireo system, where the Springers await them. In his subconscious mind was the residue of a question he had been asked during the leap. "Did you understand it NOW?" It must have been the voice of the Immortal. Rhodan replies he did not, but thanks IT for showing him a fraction of ITs eternity.

Mark Gearhart 2006-03-21

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