82 - Schach dem Universum
Checkmate: Universe
Kurt Mahr

Upon exiting a restaurant in Terrania on December 10, 2043, Colonel Julian Tifflor is kidnapped, and submitted to an indoctrinator session. During this session, Tifflor learns about a plan developed by Rhodan to provoke a war between the Arkonides and the Druufs. This war will hopefully weaken both powers to the advantage of Earth. Julian Tifflor will pose as a deserter and the head of a nonconformist Terran group. His mission is to convince the Druufs that the Regent is going to attack them, thereby inciting them to act first.

Julian Tifflor receives additional instructions from Lieutenant Lubkov as well as from a post-hypnotic suggestion from Rhodan. Tifflor’s group seizes an old cruiser, the NEWBORN, at the Terrania spaceport and then they get under way in the direction of the temporal rift zone between the Einstein and Druuf universes.

Rhodan warns the Regent of Tifflor’s "treason". He hopes that the robot will give chase to the supposed “deserters”, believing Rhodan’s story that they will give the Druufs important Arkonide intelligence.

During the Terran Commando team’s journey towards the rift zone, the NEWBORN is intercepted by an Arkonide cruiser. Ras Tschubaï, who is part of Tifflor’s team, teleports on board and sabotages the reactor, provoking an apparently accidental explosion of the vessel. The NEWBORN then takes flight directly to the rift zone where the Arkonide ships continue to maintain a blockade. However, it is a camouflaged Druuf ship that first makes contact with the NEWBORN. It takes the NEWBORN under tow with a tractor beam, and pulls it through the temporal rift into the Druuf universe.

On Siamed, the Council of the Sixty-six sits in session, and the concern reigns: after a long status quo, the Arkonide vessels begin showing suspicious movement in the rift zone sector. Although it is actually ship redeployments in order to capture the NEWBORN, the Druufs are persuaded that an attack against their system is imminent, and that their slower temporal rhythm will handicap them in the battle to come.

Rhodan arrives in the rift zone with the DRUSUS and the KUBLAI KHAN in order to help Tifflor if needed and to be in contact with the secret base on Hades. He remains on his guard opposite the Arkonide vessels, in spite of the Regent's obvious kindness. Rhodan knows the Regent won’t hesitate to destroy him if the least occasion arises.

Tifflor makes contact with the Druufs on Siamed. He attempts to convince them that he disapproves of the Terran talks in progress with the Regent, and that the Arkonides are going to attack them with the blessing of the Earth. Tifflor asks to speak to the Council on Siamed, which he hopes to manipulate with the help of Ellert. But the Druuf representative assigned to him assures him that the Druufs already took all measures necessary in order to repulse an invasion of the Arkonide robot cruisers. In addition, the Druuf asks Tifflor to remain and assume command of one of their squadrons: his quicker temporal rhythm will somewhat minimize the disadvantage of the Druufs in this respect. Tifflor is appalled by this proposition, but if he wants to remain faithful to his role, he must accept. He scuttles the NEWBORN and embarks with his men on board of one of the Druuf vessels.

Pucky travels by transmitter from the DRUSUS to Hades in order to maintain contact with the telepathic transmitter previously implanted in Tifflor’s body.

Tifflor despairs because he won't be able to carry through Rhodan’s plan to push the Druufs into a vast offensive against the Regent thereby causing the loss of thousands of vessels on both sides. Fortunately his concerns are unwarranted since the Regent, more than ever convinced of the importance of capturing the Terran deserters, acts instead and sends twenty thousand cruisers through the temporal rift.

Tifflor and his men will be the first in line to face them. Tifflor himself is now in command of fifteen thousand Druuf units. Rhodan’s plan finally comes to fruition.

The detectors of the Druuf fleet signal the approach of the Arkonide squadrons. Thanks to their tactical expertise and to their faster temporal rhythm, the Terrans lead with success several attacks against the Regent's fleet. But the Arkonides adapt quickly to the maneuvers of the Druufs, and reestablish the balance. The losses on all sides are enormous. The Druuf flagship is seriously damaged in the battle. When Tifflor attempts to reach a lifeboat, he is wounded by a Druuf robot. Pucky detects Tifflor’s weakening telepathic transmitter, and goes back on board the DRUSUS to warn Rhodan.

While the two Terran battlecruisers get ready to enter the Druuf universe to rescue Tifflor’s group, the Regent suddenly attempts to destroy them, and they must make an emergency transit thru the temporal rift.

Tifflor’s men regroup on board of a Druuf lifeboat which is equipped for linear space flight. Marshall notices that the colonel is missing, and Tschubai returns to look for him. He is successful in rescuing Tifflor.

Andre Noir attempts to take over the Druuf pilot of the lifeboat, but the effort it takes is too strenuous for him and he faints. The Terrans are forced to wound the Druuf pilot. His thoughts then become easier to decipher for Marshall, and he reads in the mind of the wounded Druuf pilot that the lifeboat is equipped with a linear drive and, in addition, he learns how to fly the small vessel. Thus, the commando team succeeds in reaching the base on Hades.

The lifeboat is quickly disassembled and sent by transmitter on board the DRUSUS and the KUBLAI KHAN. Colonel Tifflor’s mission ends on a double success: both the Druufs and the Regent loose innumerable vessels, and the Terrans are in possession of a ship with a linear propulsion that they will be able to study.

The Druuf prisoner refuses the care of the Terran physicians and, as a result, dies.

Michael Mahoney 2012-09-13

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