652 - Duell zwischen den Sternen
Duel between the Stars
H.G. Francis

TEMSYV, a company specialized in advanced research on energy, is headed by Mrs Martola. Her nephew, Pilon Bonhero, is back from a vacation and starts to notice strange behaviors in the management of the company. They are acting most strangely, turning down interesting contracts and making decisions without his presence. He hires Raven Hornisch, a private investigator, in order to understand the strange behavior of his aunt.

Bully and his team come to the conclusion that the Hetos must have spies infiltrated everywhere. They decide to hunt them down. A special group is formed, headed by Ribald Corello, the Supermutant. Their first assignment takes place in Manila City, where terrorists have tried to steal vital industrial information from one of the main Terran companies. Caught during the act, the terrorists captured five hostages and are holding them prisoner in a building. Bully thinks that the terrorists might be related to the Hetos.

Ribald Corello, Takvorian and Merkosh quickly defeat the terrorists and are able to rescue the hostages. It quickly turns out that they have nothing to do with the Larens, and thus, the Hetos Inspectors must be working in a much more secret way.

In the Martola company, the lead accountant is voted down and someone else takes his place. More than ever, Bonhero is convinced that someone is trying to take over the company. He receives a phone call from Prinz, the lead scientist, who tells him he thinks somebody broke into his lab. Bonhero immediately joins him into the building and just as he enters, he is shot at by an invisible aggressor and barely survives.

The day after, he decides to go and talk to his aunt, Mrs Bonhero, to set things straight once for all. Raven Hornisch first tries to talk him out of doing so but, unable to convince him, eventually joins him. At the moment where they enter Bonhero's office, the detective shoots at the old woman. Bonhero manages to kill him. The woman is still alive and taken to the hospital.

We then learn that she is an agent of the Laren. She was selected because of her resemblance with the actual Mrs Bonhero and she took her place three years ago. Now that she is in the hospital, she fears that a thorough brainwave examination might reveal her real identity. She manages to escape, killing a doctor and two guards on her way out.

The TEMSYV situation reaches Bully, who decides to send his team for investigation. After some research, Bonhero finds out that the Old Lady owns a yacht in a nearby harbor. He goes there and just as he is about to approach it, is almost killed by a heavy defense. As he thinks he is about to die, the mutants glider intervenes and rescues him, capturing Martola Bonhero.

Brought back for interrogation into Imperium Alpha, the lady is hypnotized by Takvorian and begins to reveal her story. Her name is Veila Wong. She took the place of Martola Bonhero three years ago, and the Old Lady was killed. Since then, she has been relaying information to several other agents she couldn't identify. She only knows of one other Hetos Inspector, Raven Hornisch, the man who tried to kill her, probably because she was becoming a threat to the whole organization.

Bully then gets to meet Ramon Prinz, who has completed his research in Imperium Alpha. The young scientist discloses his discovery to Bully : he has found out a way to detect Laren ships despite their SVE shield, so that they no longer can land on the Earth undetected.

One week later, an SVE ship is detected as it lands in a desert region. The mutant team is dispatched there to observe the Larens and find out about their intentions. Shortly after they started to spy on the ship, the Larens spot them and send a commando to capture them. As they are surrounded and about to surrender, the Larens suddenly return to their ship, which takes off. Balton then contacts Imperium Alpha to report the mysterious behavior of the Laren ship. He learns that Perry Rhodan is back in the Milky Way but the communication is interrupted as their ship is shot down. The reason for the sudden departure of the Laren ship is deceptively simple...

As soon as he learns about Rhodan's return, Bully takes off with Galbraith Deighton to meet with his friend, still on board of the SVE ship. He knows he made a terrible mistake, though : he should have let Perry know that a Laren ship was on Earth. But the information came in too late and now, it's likely that the SVE ship is fully aware that Rhodan is back in the Solar System.

Rhodan contacts Bully and says he has taken control of the ship, showing on the screen that Roctin-Par is now his prisoner. As he is reporting about his stay on the Laren world, Roctin-Par breaks free and with the help of his partisans, disarms Rhodan and his crew. The whole scene has been seen by Bully who is dumbfounded. It didn't fool Atlan, though, who suspects the whole thing to be a clever simulation. Meanwhile, the Laren SVE-ship is closing in on Rhodan's ship. Atlan and Bull observe helplessly as the fight between the two Laren ships start.

The ship of the rebels turns out to be more powerful than the other one, and Roctin-Par quickly destroys his opponent. Then they leave the Sol System and head for 21-NGC-3190 million light years away.

Cedric Beust

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