84 - Rekruten für Arkon
Recruits For Arkon
Clark Darlton

A conference takes place in the Solar Imperium’s Government headquarters between Rhodan, Bell, Khrest, Atlan and Captain Gorlat of the Solar Defense. In one year, the rift between the Druuf Universe and the normal universe will be closed again. At that time, the Regent will once again be able to turn its whole attention to the search for Earth. Anticipating this future threat, Rhodan decides to finally bring the rule of the Regent to an end: either by destroying it or by deactivating it by means of a security device which both Khrest and Atlan presume exists. The first problem is to arrive incognito on Arkon. The path passes thru the planet Zalit.

Jeremy Toffner, agent of the Solar Defense, has been stationed on Zalit for three years under the identity of Garak, the promoter of fights between animals and gladiators in the arenas of Tagnor, the global capital. Rhodan asks him to watch for any unusual activity by the Arkonides on Zalit.

Several weeks later, the Zalite government encourages the recruitment of volunteers in the Arkonide fleet . And many Zalites already whisper that forced conscription could be coming soon. The birds of bad omen are right: the Arkonide admiral Calus of Monizer disembarks on Zalit and states that the number of Zalite volunteers is not enough as far as the Regent is concerned.

The business relationships and friends of Garak ask him to hide them in the old catacombs under the arenas: they don't want to serve as cannon fodder for Arkon. Garak himself falls under the mobilization order. Therefore, Toffner decides to disappear in his turn, and sends a report to Rhodan on the evolution of the situation on Zalit.

The message from Jeremy Toffner reinforces Rhodan’s idea: to reach Arkon disguised as Zalite draftees. A group of two hundred men is prepared: surgical intervention and elaborate make-up, as well as indoctrinator sessions, in order to give them the appearance and the knowledge of true Zalites. Jeremy Toffner is assigned to find a discreet shelter where the matter transmitters can be installed. He gives this mission to Hhokga, a Zalite friend who is too old to be drafted by the Arkonides. Hhokga chooses a cave site between Tagnor and the city of Larg. He sets up a radio beacon there.

The DRUSUS makes a very quick pass by Zalit, and by fictiv transmitter, sends matter transmitters to the coordinates demarcated by Toffner in the caves. The DRUSUS immediately leaves once this action is complete but not before being detected by the Arkonides. The CALIFORNIA, with the commando team on board, emerges near Zalit and several Arkonide surveillance vessels.

The CALIFORNIA avoids the interception squadrons and, via the matter transmitters, the two hundred men of the commando team disembark on Zalit, in the cave prepared by Toffner’s people. From the caves, the teleporters reach the catacombs in Tagnor and the commando team begins to get settled in.

Meanwhile, the supreme ruler of Zalit, the zarlt Kosoka, endures the reproaches of admiral Calus for his lack of readiness to obey the Regent's orders. While throwing into question the Regent's methods, Kosoka submits to the admiral.

In order "to wake the good will" of the Zalites, admiral Calus begins a set of daily speeches that are televised throughout Zalit. He is listened to attentively by Rhodan, and by Sergeant Roger Osega who presents a close physical resemblance to Calus. The biologists and the surgeons of the commando group turn Osega into an exact copy of the admiral.

Pucky and Ras Tschubai teleport Calus-Osega into the office of the authentic admiral, and bring back the real Calus to the catacombs. Calus-Osega plays the admiral's role marvellously, pronouncing the propaganda speeches to the people, and enforcing the Regent's orders, to include making all Zalites pass before a draft board. The Terrans will utilize this opportunity to enroll themselves in the Arkonide fleet. Tako Kakuta will be the first among them: to avoid being stopped by a robot, he brings other volunteers with him.

The Terrans with Kakuta include the hypno André Noir. Some robots are reprogrammed to obey them, and Noir takes the Arkonide officers under his control. This action facilitates the incorporation of 150 Terrans of the group, who are finally joined by Rhodan, Bell and Atlan. Major Rosberg remains with 50 men on Tagnor in order to reinforce the Terran position and to keep contact with Calus-Osega by way of the mutants.

Toffner, who can now once again move freely throughout the city thanks to a pass signed by the false admiral Calus, travels to meet Hhokga in Larg. He puts his friend in charge of forming a caravan, supposedly to bring back animals for the arena games. In reality, the caravan will actually transport the matter transmitters from the caves to the underground catacombs in Tagnor.

Michael Mahoney 2012-09-12

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