The building looked bad from the outside. Most of the systems were down, not just communications, and there was smoke billowing out the front doors. Some of the fires had just been extinguished. People waited at the door and others ran up to Bobbi with reports as Bobbi, Glen and Alice made their way inside. Bobbi never stopped walking so everyone had to keep up. Some chose to walk backwards. They stared at Glen and Alice, but since they were with Ms. Brooks, no one bothered them, and no one hesitated to speak in their presence. The first thing they all heard was that there were reports coming in from around the globe on the emergency short-wave frequencies. They were in code, of course, and that took a bit to translate without the computers functioning properly.
“They hit offices around the world at more or less the same time.”
“It looks like a very coordinated effort, but we drove them off and so did most of the other operations centers.”
“A couple of F-15s flew over from the capitol and the attackers did not appear ready for that kind of fight. They got out, but the fly-boys managed to disable one of their landers.”
“We hauled it into the back barn which is why you didn’t see it.”
“We got a prisoner on ice.”
“Personnel.” A woman spoke above the din. “Three dead and seven wounded. All others accounted for apart from your crew.”
“Readouts indicate a standard plasma propulsion system.”
“Weapons appear laser-like with minimal disrupter effect.”
“Hold it.” Bobbi reached a door, stepped in and let Glen and Alice in with her, but kept all of the others out. “Give me five minutes, then I want to hear the report from personnel first.” She nearly shut the door before adding, “Oh, and they are called Vordan. Start a search if the mainframe is still operational.” She shut the door firm and loud and looked at Alice. “The truth is we are all just paper pushers.” She took the big seat behind the desk and let out a great big sigh.
“Bobbi was a file clerk when I met her.” Glen grinned.
“I probably file more things now than ever,” Bobbi responded with a grin of her own.
Glen sat in the chair that faced the desk and fiddled with the pens in his pocket. Alice opted for the couch where she could keep an eye on the two of them, and on the door.
“Well?” Bobbi said the word but her tone showed the exasperation at having to say it out loud.
“Well what?” Glen was thinking. Alice was about to say something when Glen continued. “Sounds military to me, coordinated like that. You said battleships on the moon?”
“We just called them that because we did not know what else to call them. Lincoln calculated that they were about the size of battleships or maybe air craft carriers.”
“Yes, where is Lincoln?” Glen asked. He remembered the man from several past encounters. Not the bravest fellow. CIA if he remembered correctly.
“Disappeared,” Bobbi said. “About the same time we discovered the Vordan.”
“Not likely a coincidence,” Glen said.
“Could not possibly be,” Bobbi agreed.
“Too bad because I bet he could have everything summed up by now in that little notebook of his.” Glen pulled a pen and pretended to write like he was holding a little hand-sized notebook. He also made a face which Alice felt must have been a fair caricature because Bobbi laughed, softly, before she burst out with it.
“Glen. I have three dead.”
“I know,” Glen said.
“I don’t understand,” Alice admitted. She was feeling rather useless at the moment. Glen smiled for her as he explained.
“They send a ship into the Carolinas. I assume you had no trouble tracking it.”
“Easy,” Bobbi said. “We know they have two dozen or so ships outside the atmosphere, but normally we can’t track them at all. They don’t show up on any of our systems. We only know they are there because of the night shadow effect.”
“Night shadow?” Alice asked.
“Call it the eclipse effect. They show up by blocking the incoming light of the stars; like the old witch flying across the face of the full moon. Anyway, this time they want to be seen to get Bobbi and her crew to follow in force.”
“We figured it was a set-up and alerted Washington and prepared to defend ourselves, for all the good it did, but Boston figured out who they were after and so we had to go.”
“You?” Alice looked at Glen. “But you don’t die.” She felt she understood that much whether she believed it or not.
“No, but as a baby I would not be much of a threat to them, especially for the first nine months.”
“I see. Of course.” Alice gulped. “You mean I could be your mother someday?”
Glen lowered his eyes as he looked at her. “Right now, I could be your father, and don’t worry, I have no intention of dying any time soon.”
“I see,” Alice repeated herself. “So if this outfit, organization or whatever…” She waved her hands to indicate the building and everyone in it. “If they don’t follow the Vordan ship, you get killed, but if they do follow, they take away a big chunk of their defensive capabilities and their headquarters becomes vulnerable.”
“That sums it up,” Glen said, but before he could add a thought there was a knock on the door. Lockhart came in. His wheelchair had plenty of self propulsion options, but it looked like he preferred to have Boston push him around.
“Interrupting, I hope,” he said.
“Director. You have a whole line of people waiting outside.” Boston spoke overtop.
“Shut the door,” Bobbi insisted, and turned quickly to Glen. “So what are you going to do?” She asked.
“I need to get Alice started on her job,” Glen said. He leaned forward and took a clean page from Bobbi’s legal pad, then he used his pen to write the words, Kargill, Reichgo and Zalanid on the paper and handed it to Alice. “There are other spellings, but what you want is to corral the legal freaks in this place and get them all working on digging up whatever they can find on the Reichgo-Kargill treaty, terms and conditions, clause after clause.”
“Treaties.” Alice said the word and shook her head softly.
“Think binding contract. We need something we can use legally against the Vordan.”
“Will I be arguing in some galactic court or something?” Alice sounded uncertain about that prospect.
Glen laughed. “No, but here is the quick scoop.” He sat back down in his chair and motioned the others in close as if he was about to tell the secret of the universe. “The second Reichgo-Kargill war is about to break out and they will spend the next hundred years or so fighting each other to a standstill. So, for the second hundred years, they gather allies, well, the Reichgo mostly get help. The Kargill doesn’t like anybody much. It just barely tolerates the Zalanid, and, well, anyway, anyway. The Vordan enter on the Reichgo side, and eventually are given faster than light technology, but that won’t be for a hundred and fifty years or so. Even then, when the Reichgo and Kargill are wiped out, and I mean they exterminate each other, and the third hundred years finds everybody fighting everybody, we don’t run into the Vordan until long after the peace. You see? That’s what I don’t get. The Vordan are so far away, at sub-light speed it would take years to get here, but a hundred years ago they did not have the technology. What are they doing here, now? How did they get here?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Alice said. “But the technology seems pretty advanced if you ask me.”
“Uh-huh.” Boston was agreeing and nodding her head. This time Lockhart and Bobbi both looked at Glen.
“Believe it or not, on their home world they are not that far ahead of us, technologically speaking. They are war-like and have ambitions since some fifty, or maybe a hundred years ago their probes confirmed that there are not only planets around some of their neighboring stars, but a semblance of intelligent life in two places. They poured their resources into developing the means to reach and subjugate those poor alien races, and maybe that war-like drive is the reason the Reichgo took them as allies. I know that was the case with the Orlan and the Bospori; but at this point, they have simply driven themselves into space and into war. They aren’t concerned about saving their planet, or greening it, or making nice with everybody. Do you know what they would do with a rogue state? Boom-de boom, boom. Hang the fallout. Problem solved.”
“Bospori? You mean Martok?” Alice asked. Glen nodded while there was another knock on the door. A head poked in.
“One more minute,” Bobbi shouted and the door shut quickly. “So, Traveler. What will you be doing? Don’t think I forgot the question. I’m not that old, yet.”
Glen shifted in his seat. “Yes, well. I want to get Alice started and then I thought I might go interrogate your prisoner.”
Alice shook her head in a definite no. “I mean, I don’t mind the legal work, whatever, but I’m not leaving your side. Don’t think I am going to miss talking to an alien.” Glen looked hesitant so she added, “Every accused person needs a lawyer.”
“We will read him his rights.” Lockhart laughed and with a look at Boston, they turned back to the door. Alice rose. Glen asked a question of his own.
“And what will you be doing?”
“Me?” Bobbi thought that was obvious. “I’ll be glued to this chair for at least the next twenty-four hours. I sometimes wonder if you did me a favor.” Glen suggested she accompany them, but only with his hands. She shook him off. She knew her duty. “Go on,” she said. “Let me know what you find out.” And they left.