If anyone had been in the desert to see what was happening at the ancient canal lock station they would have seen a strange sight. A group of men was being led by a man holding what looked like a small pyramid shaped object that seemed to be pulling the lead man along. There was no one else to see what has happening and Tim McGiness was being pulled along.
"Captain, the key is pulling toward that sand dune," Tim said, struggling with the small tetra.
"Number Two, this is the Captain," he said into his belt radio. "Aim the ray cannon at the sand dune directly in front of us. Fire when I give the signal,"
"Order acknowledged, Captain,"
Flipping twin switches on the main control panel caused the ship's ray cannons to extend. Number Two sat at the gunners controls and aimed the starboard ray cannon. Swinging the aim point to the sand dune, Number Two paused a moment as the aim point passed over the Captain. For a moment an idea flashed in his head of blasting the Captain and taking command of this ship. As quickly as the idea came into his head it left when he realized that the Captain, feared as he was, held the loyalty of the crew. Moving the aim point to the sand dune Number Two informed the Captain that he was ready to fire.
"I suggest we get behind those old walls," said the Captain.
When everyone was behind the walls, the Captain ordered the ray cannon fired. Even through the thin air of Mars, they felt the terrible heat and blast of the ray cannon. When the dust settled, the sand was gone and in its place was a small dome shaped structure with a blast hole in it from the cannon.
Patting the butt of his blaster the Captain said, "after you, Tim and no tricks."
The closer they got to the dome the more Tim realized that this was not just another of the canal lock stations that dotted the planet. Climbing through the blast hole Tim could only see dark shapes at first. As his eyes got used to the dim light he could make out another tetra, just like the one on the Moon.
"Let the small tetra go to the large one, professor," the Captain said.
Placing the small tetra on the floor of the dome Tim let it go and immediately it flashed toward the larger version of itself. The small tetra zoomed along the floor and almost flew onto the top of the larger tetra. Tim watched and waited but nothing happened.
"I warned you about tricks. Make it go transparent. NOW!" screamed the Captain, touching the butt of his blaster.
"I didn't even know the first tetra was going to go transparent so how could I trick you?" answered Tim.
Before the Captain could reply the sound of the ships ray cannons firing caused everyone to freeze.
Using his belt radio, the Captain asked what was happening.
"Captain, a Patrol cruiser has ordered us to surrender. I fired the cannons to give you some time to return to the ship so we can escape," Number Two said nervously.
Quickly looking at Tim and then the still opaque tetra, the Captain aimed his blaster at Tim. "Good bye."
Just as he was about to squeeze the trigger a blast from the Antares' ray cannon shook the ground. Taking advantage of the confusion, Tim ran behind the large tetra. When no ray blast came, Tim looked from behind the tetra to see the Captain and crew running toward their ship. Tim realized that the Captain would not leave either the large tetra or himself in one piece. Tim ran toward the open blast hole they had used for an entrance. Waving his arms wildly, Tim hoped that someone aboard the Patrol ship would see him.
"Try and contact them again, Sparks," Comet said.
"I have Skipper. They either didn't hear us or don't care ab.....," A too close ray blast shook the Antares, interrupting Sparks.
"She is firing up her engines, Skipper. She's making a run for it!" exclaimed Rusty.
"Hold the ship steady, Rusty. I'll only have one shot to topple their ship," Comet said.
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Everyone in the control room of the Antares held their breath as Commander Comet took a careful aim at one of the landing struts of the other ship. With great resolve, Comet aimed the ray cannon and pressed the firing button. The energies from the ray cannon flashed across the distance between the Antares and the Ganymede ship in a tiny fraction of a second. Another fraction of a second and one of the landing struts on the Ganymede ship buckled. With her engines not at full power, the Ganymede ship began to topple over.
Feeling his ship shake, the Captain of the Ganymede ship then felt his ship start to fall.
"Full emergency power to the engines!" he screamed.
"Commander, they are trying to power their ship from falling over. I think they're going to make it," said Rusty.
"Not if I can help it," declared Comet. Aiming both ray cannons at once is a tricky business. Comet had the aim points of both cannons set to either side of the other ship's engines. He pressed the firing button and there was a flash on both sides of the other ship as the ray blasts shut down the other ship's engine. The other ship fell onto the sand and skidded for several hundred feet before coming to rest. There was no return fire from her.
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"Land as close to that dome as you can, Rusty," Comet said, while grabbing his personal blaster and rocket pack.
Tim was never so happy to see a Patrol Ship as he was now, even though this ship was kicking up quite a bit of sand. He looked and in the distance could see a column of smoke start to rise from the Ganymede ship. Tim almost felt sorry for them.
With the arrival of two more ships from the local Patrol Base, the crew of the Ganymede ship were transported to Solar League HQ for trial. Comet and crew were with Tim in the dome as he told them about everything that had happened.
"So you see, Dan, that you came just in the nick of time or I'd be dead now."
"I'd give a year's pay to find out why this tetra didn't turn transparent when the key was placed on top. It worked on the one on Luna," said a disappointed Tim.
While everyone else was talking about how lucky Tim was, Omniac examined the large tetra. He walked around it and then said, "I have the answer, professor, to the failure of the key."
Now everyone stood and stared at Omniac. Could this machine have the answer?
"Tell us, Omniac, why the key doesn't work," asked Liana.
"If you will examine the key you will see markings on each face. These same markings are also on the larger tetra. By matching the markings the key will work and the whole tetra will turn transparent," intoned Omniac.
"There are no markings on either tetra, Dan. I think this robot needs some maintenance," said Tim.
"We see no markings, Omniac. Are you sure they're there? " asked Comet.
"Yes, Commander. The markings are there. I did not register that human eyes do not see into the ultraviolet spectrum," With that statement, Omniac turned on his built-in ultraviolet projector and the markings glowed an eerie green. Tim turned the key so that the markings matched. At first nothing happened, then slowly the tetra turned transparent to reveal a metal tablet with what looked like a star chart carved into it.
When the news of Professor Tim McGiness' discovery on Mars was made public it rocked the foundations of science. The metal tablet was a map and timeline showing how The Others came from outside our solar system had journeyed to Mars and helped the local natives as well as exploring the Moon and Earth. After the Martians had been given advanced knowledge, The Others departed back into the infinite void of space.
"Well, Omniac, looks like you were wrong about one thing," Rusty said.
"What was that, Cadet Rusty?"
"You said that we would find a treasure of technology and all we found was that The Others from somewhere helped the Martians and then left. Hidden history was found, not treasure."
If Omniac could smile he would have when he said, "If you will examine the tablet you will find three small icons that correspond to the tetras. One on the Moon while another is on Mars."
"You said three, Omniac. Where is the third?" asked Liana.
"When The Others entered the solar system they left a tetra on the last planet in our system, Pluto. When humankind has advanced enough to explore to the edge of our system, then we will be ready to open the large tetra on Pluto. You will note that the icon for the tetra on Pluto is larger than the others, indicating that the actual artifact is much larger. A treasure awaits,"
"With the key safely locked away at Solar League HQ we know that when humankind is ready the knowledge will be used for the benefit of all," Commander Comet said.
© 2002 John Dunaj
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All text, illustrations, photographs and design are © 2001-2002 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.