- Vorstoß nach Arkon
AFTER 13 YEARS Perry Rhodan can at last fulfill his promise to Thora and Khrest; to finally return to their homeworld. He plans to travel there in the newly constructed Ganymede, the latest addition to the growing Terran fleet, constructed on Earth. He doesn't think it would be appropriate, nor smart to fly there in the Stardust II. The Ganymede is a gigantic cylinder over 2500 feet tall and 600 feet in diameter. They lift off and begin the series of five hypertransitions that will take them the Arkon.
But before they can reach it, they observe a great space battle, in which the superior Arkonide forces defeat their opponents. Rhodan sends out one of the new Gazelles to observe the action close up. They rescue one of the ships being attacked by the Arkon ships. They bring it aboard, where Khrest begins to examine the body inside. He determines it was a Motuner, a non-humanoid race of methane-breathers inhabiting the planets of an extensive solar system at the edge of their globular cluster. This development worries Rhodan, because the Motuners were dealt with so ruthlessly. Even Khrest is disturbed.
When the Ganymede is fired upon, they decide to leave the battlespace and continue on to Arkon. Opening a lane, using their matter transmitter to transport bombs inside a few key ships, they quickly exit the arena filled with over 3000 Arkonide battleships.
Thora arrives on the bridge and wants to know why they fled from the Arkonide fleet. Khrest explains that they identified themselves with the proper code, but were ignored. Rhodan speculates that a fundamental change must have taken place on Arkon and in the Empire during their absence. Arkonide ship commanders have apparently been ordered to look upon anything that gets in their way as an enemy. Not even the old code signals are good anymore.
Approaching the 5000 platforms surrounding the Arkon system, armed with the heaviest gunnery conceived, wasn't easy. The Ganymede approaches the defense ring at 60% the speed of light, broadcasting the ship’s code signal unceasingly along with other radio messages. The platforms do not answer. A firestorm breaks out; a glistening wall of vast, concentrated energy shoots toward the Ganymede. A burst of acceleration puts the Ganymede more than 120,000 miles away in seconds. After the last shots had been outrun, Rhodan slows the Ganymede down. After attempting to reach anyone via hypercomm, an ominous black shadow appears; a battleship of the Stardust II class! Thora’s voice comes over the intercom, telling them not to fire; they had finally contacted Arkon!
Thora is outraged at the arrival of the battleship that begins attacking them. She and Khest contact the ship and explain who they are. The ship stops attacking. She warns the commander that if they do not leave, they will be destroyed. The voice doesn't beleive her, but tells them to wait for another escort ship and departs. A short time later, their new escort appears.
They contact the ship and are shocked to see it is manned by...Naats! Rhodan and crew are ‘captured’ by a tractor beam and towed to the Naatral spaceport on Naat, where they and their ship are impounded, immobilized beneath insurmountable energy fields. They must contact the Arkonide authority on Naat, Administrator Sergh, to negotiate their release so that they may continue to their goal.
After hours of waiting, Rhodan takes Bell and Tako Kakuta with him across the spaceport to pay a visit to the administrator. They arrive at the administrator's funnel-shaped building. Tako teleports inside to look around. He is seized by a strong force that pushes him violently upwards. He forgot to reset his transport suit gravity nullifier. After falling into a flowerbed, he begins his recon. He doesn't know that he is being observed. He carefully studies the structure of the funnel house. He tries to locate stairwells or vertical corridors connecting the various levels of the structure but finds none. He returns to his companions to report.
Sergh's young deputy, Ghorn, notices the damaged flowerbed. It looks as if somebody had fallen into it from a considerable height. Ghorn reports his findings to the administrator. He inspects the damage and the footprints. He tells the aide to follow him to the security station.
Tako reports to Rhodan and he tells him to teleport back into the building to open the portal to let he and Bell in. Tako jumps back in, opens the portal, and awaits his friends. The trio locate the grav shaft and float up to the next level. They continue their search for the administrator.
Ghorn monitors their progress while Sergh reports to Arkon. Reggie finds and greets him... with his thermobeamer. He demands to speak with the administrator. Ghorn contacts Sergh and states he has an important problem to present to him. After closing the connection, Ghorn sees two more figures appear out of thin air; Tako and Rhodan.
Ghorn leads them to Sergh, who screams at the sight of them at first, but calms down enough so they can sit and have a chat. Rhodan demands the immediate release of the ship. Sergh states he is not detaining them; the Arkon Administration is. Rhodan wants the ship released before he must fight his way out. Sergh cannot comply.
Meanwhile, Thora and Khrest are invited to see the Administrator. There arrive and float up to meet Sergh. Sergh tells them what has befallen the Empire since they left. A great machine was constructed in the past, designed to take charge of the important functions in running the Empire, should its human rulers since down to a certain level of decadence and lethargy. The greatest of all positronic computers now runs the Arkon Imperium!
Thora is aghast. Khrest is depressed. They leave Rhodan and his companions alone with the administrator and his deputy. Rhodan orders the two up so they can release the ship. They pass through a series of antigrav shafts descending terrace by terrace. Their decent is suddenly altered and all are pulled downwards with irresistible force and hurled against the floor of the next lower room. A mento-monitor had registered Sergh’s urgent, anxious thoughts and had promptly reacted to them. Sergh had chosen this passage on purpose because he knew that its walls had such a built-in monitor.
Sergh, Ghorn and Tako lost consciousness as a result of the crash, but Rhodan and Bell were only stunned, until paralyzing nerve gas sprayed from jets in the room. All inhaled the gas and paralyzed, but Rhodan and Bell remain conscious, in a daze. A dozen helmeted figures emerge from the four antigrav shafts and pick up the immobilized men, transporting them upstairs. They are separated from the two Arkonides and placed in a dark room, shut off from the outside world. They succumb to the fatigue caused by the gas.
When Rhodan came to again, he had no idea how much time had passed. They work on a plan to escape. He sends Tako to recon. He discusses a plan to locate and destroy the tractor field generators and controls, to prevent Serge from holding them or any other ships. Tako returns and reports they are on the 43d floor, in what seems to be a prison or detention area. He orders Tako to take the thermobeamer, jump outside and carefully shoot off the door lock.
Tako disappears and soon the door is open. Rhodan and Bell rush out of the room. He sends Bell and Tako to locate the surveillance room, then Tako will return for him. Rhodan waits until Tako and Bell disappear, then sets out on his own way to confuse his opponent. He shoots out two windows, setting off an alarm, runs halfway around the funnel’s interior, forces entry into another room, then uses one of the antigrav shafts leading downstairs. This should confuse them! He reaches the 10th floor without a problem, but then his luck runs out and all hell breaks loose!
A man wearing a uniform shoots out of a lower tunnel, part of Sergh’s palace guard. He reaches into his side pocket to get a weapon or a comm unit. Rhodan jumps forward and knocks him unconscious. He procedes, fighting off Arkonides on every floor, until he reaches the antigrav tunnel leading down into the funnel stem, were he arrived at the room to wait for Tako.
Bell passes through a series of Sergh’s private rooms until he finally reaches the room Tako described for him. He activates the video instruments and the screens light up. He uses one to search the uppermost room of the funnel stem, finding Rhodan Tako. Rhodan tells him to keep watch over them.
Rhodan sends Tako ahead to search each room and describe the machines in each, searching for the tractor field controls. It takes six jumps until he locates it. He tells Tako to destroy a telecom device interfering with their communications. Bell sees both on his videoscreens and watches as Tako raises his thermobeamer, aims, and suddenly hears a roaring sound in his receiver as the telecom began to activate its energy reserves. He warns them that the telecom has a mento-fuse! It goes off and knocks all three unconscious.
Perry awakens in the sickbay of the Ganymede, surprised. Dr. Manoli tells him Bell and Kakuta are in the next cabin and that they had all arrived in unmanned gliders, accompanied by robots. He learns that Thora and Khrest's permission to fly to Arkon has been revoked, probably by the Robot Regent. Rhodan apologizes to Thora, but she says not to worry; she has faith he will find another way for them to return to Arkon.
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