658 - Flug in die Dunkelwolke
Flight into the Dark Cloud
Kurt Mahr

Hotrenor-Taak has asked his assistant, Loremar-Hunut, to investigate the mysterious and unauthorized teleportation that occured within Imperium Alpha a week ago, as the Empress of Arkon was about to take off. The Laren quickly finds the transmitter in the deep recesses of the base and walks through the arch. He arrives in an empty cave and decides to wait for someone to show up.

Rhodan is immediately informed of this breach in their secret place and, after talking with Atlan, decides to send Ribald Corello. The giant-headed mutant enters the transmitter and talks briefly with Loremar-Hunut, telling him his enemies are not those he thinks. Then Corello disappears.

Loremar-Hunut reports to Hotrenor-Taak but in the middle of the conversation, he starts to aggress the Emissary of the Hetos. He draws his gun and shoots Hotrenor-Taak. An unseen protection shield saves Hotrenor-Taak and he kills his assistant who, he has quickly figured it out, has been hypnotized by the resistance.

Rhodan decides to investigate the Dark Cloud that Roctin-Par mentioned as concealing one of his bases. Hotrenor-Taak does not prevent Rhodan from leaving but lets him know he will have him followed closely. Actually, Roctin-Par sends two spies on board Rhodan's flagship. The first one is quickly uncovered by the crew but Rhodan, who knows his enemy better, suspects that it was too easy. Further investigation reveals the presence of the second spy who is eventually captured. He dies before he can answer Rhodan's questions.

The Marco Polo emerges near the Dark Cloud and after some time, a small Laren ship appears. Roctin-Par has come to greet his friends and also to staff Rhodan's crew with pilots able to navigate in the Cloud. Before he comes on board the Marco Polo, Roctin-Par asks Rhodan to hide Icho Tolot, the Haluter, because the pilots he is bringing along with him have a strong feeling against Haluters.

Roctin-Par comes on board the Marco Polo, accompanied by two humanoid-looking creatures calling themselves Vincranians. Rhodan greets them in Lemurian language, bewildering Roctin-Par. The two Vincranians are indeed descendants from the Lemurs.

Thanks to the two Vincranian pilots, the Marco Polo safely makes it to a lonely planet called Black Mantas. The atmosphere of the planet is shining with sparks caused by the contact of the dust particles that populate the dark cloud. Shortly after they land, Icho Tolot unexpectedly reveals his presence to the two Vincranians, who run away in fear. They steal a glider and leave the ship. Rhodan follows them in a cave but triggers a trap that shuts him inside, destroying a mysterious altar. The two Vincranians are nowhere to be found and Ras brings Rhodan and his team safely to the Marco Polo.

However, the explosion has broken the fragile balance that allowed the planet to keep orbiting. Soon, it is shaken by violent earthquakes and Rhodan has no other choice but to order an immediate take off. As soon as they are airborne, the Marco Polo is violently hit by the dust particles. It seems the protection field will not be able to sustain such a pressure for long. Against the recommendation of the scientists, Rhodan orders a blind linear flight. Just as they are about to proceed, an unknown ship appears.

The person that contacts them looks like a Vincranian but turns out to be from another race. They are called Terkhetans and tell Rhodan that they have been spying on them and thought the Terrans might need their help. They demand a retribution for their assistance and Rhodan accepts to give away one of his shuttles, but asks that this new technology will be used for flight purposes and not warfare. The Terkhetans accept.

The Terkhetans lead the Terrans and Roctin-Par out of the dust cloud, to Prov, a planet belonging to the resistance. There, they are trained by the Terrans and quickly depart with their new shuttle. Shortly after, the shuttle explodes. Rhodan explains that he had deactivated all the weapons on board the shuttle but he had a protection installed. If the Terkhetans try to rearm the weapons, a nuclear bomb will go off.

With the connection finally made with the Laren resistance and therefore, access to the Laren technology, Rhodan finally starts to regain some hope.

Cedric Beust

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