The Aregon Files, Volume 1

Operation Stargate #3

by Herbert Grosshans

A group of archaeologists has gone missing on Aregon. Aregon is not part of the Ventairian Empire, but it is controlled by Ventairian interest groups. There are rumors about a star-portal on Aregon and the Coalition is willing to risk everything to gain control over the portal and make certain is doesn’t fall into the hands of the Crows.

Even though there is a Scouts Base in Sirrissi, the capital of Aregon, information about the planet is sketchy. The Union sends Colonel Ronald Madigan of the Solar Union Special Forces, Major Anton Moretti of the Scout’s Special Forces, and Captain Lea Belancher of Solar Intelligence to find out what happened to the scientists. However, their real mission is to locate the star-portal.

The team has to endure sandstorms and freezing nights as it travels across an unforgiving desert, battle bands of renegades and at the same time try to get along with each other.

Once the location of the portal is known, the Coalition will execute a sinister plan to gain control over the star-portal. Madigan does not agree with that plan, but he has to follow orders or face the consequences, to be court marshalled being only one of them.


Chapter One


Wiping the sleeve of his shirt across his perspiring forehead, Professor Allan Drexler squinted at the blazing ball in the cloudless azure sky. He took off his wide-brimmed hat and brushed off the dust before putting it back on his head. If some giant would have put him down in this desert, he would never have guessed he was on an alien planet. It could have been in any desert on Earth, but he knew he was on Aregon, a planet 447 lightyears from the Solar System, one among twenty-five planets circling its primary, listed as Antar in the star charts.

Before coming to Aregon, he had done his research. Unfortunately, not much information was available about this strange planet. Aregon was the fifth planet in the system. It was populated by a diversity of indigenous races. Some of them were still primitive and not much smarter than the Gorillas that lived in the animal reserves on Earth; some had evolved to the level of Stone Age people, and some had reached a stage that history considered the Middle-Ages on Earth.

For thousands of years, every group on Aregon progressed slowly if at all, until an exploration ship from one of the minor spacefaring races discovered this peculiar planet. Nobody really knows which one anymore, but that’s when things changed. The land in the moderate regions on all six continents was dotted with rivers and beautiful lakes with sandy beaches. There were deserts, swamps, and jungles, like on most habitable planets, but Aregon had few destructive storms and adverse weather conditions, and soon Aregon became the destination of the affluent from different planets. They built elaborate homes around the best lakes and even created villages and small cities. These in turn attracted people looking for a better life, and others with different aspirations, not all of them desirable.

Since there was no central government and no authorities to control the influx of groups and individuals, Aregon turned into a hodgepodge of cultures with no order or laws.

The planet was in a region of space near the fringes of the Crow Empire and it didn’t take long until it drew the attention of the Crows. Soldiers of the Crow Space Force invaded the major cities and imposed the law of the Crows. Their so-called Peacekeepers patrolled the streets either on foot or sitting inside their oval one-person aircraft.

The Crows introduced order and justice, but it wasn’t always fair. They were quick to use their superior weapons and had no compunction shooting whoever they perceived as a threat or someone they believed committed what they considered a crime.

When the Crows invaded the planet, many feared they might close it to all visitors and extradite anyone who wasn’t a real native of Aregon, but that didn’t happen. Visitors meant money and they were a good thing to boost the economy.

Evidence of ancient civilizations that had flourished once on Aregon before the second wave of races began to evolve was everywhere. There were plenty of ruins with artifacts valuable on other planets. They were a treasure trove for seekers of fortunes. There was only one drawback; most of the ruins were in places not easily accessible. Some were in the many deserts, buried under the forever shifting sands, some high up in the mountains, and some even underwater.

The Crows did not let everyone visit these sites. Nobody was allowed without a proper permit. Applicants were screened and registered and they had to pay hefty taxes when leaving the planet with their treasures.

It was only inevitable for Aregon to also attract criminal elements from every planet in this sector of the galaxy.

Drexler was acutely aware of that. Before he set out on his search for evidence of an ancient civilization that built pyramids like the ones found on Earth, he was warned by the Crow authorities to watch out for a group of renegade Mollards that had managed to evade the security net of the Crow Enforcers.

The Mollards, one of the reptilian races, were savage and ruthless. Many of the pirate ships roaming the spaceways were manned by members from one of the Mollard species. The Crows didn’t know what this particular group was after, but they suspected them to be in this part of the desert.

He looked back at the small collection of temporary structures he and his team used as living quarters. It was tempting to go and relax in one of the habitats, where cool air provided a comfortable retreat, but he was determined to discover what lay hidden beneath the partially sand covered rock formation.

Ronald Bear, one of the students, left the excavator he operated and came over to where Drexler sat studying the small screen of the echo-resonator he used to map the unseen ruins below the surface.

“Professor Drexler, I have uncovered something you may find interesting. Want to have a look?”

Drexler rose from his sitting position and stretched his aching legs for a moment before walking back with Bear. Looking into the excavated hole, he saw a pyramid-shaped object sticking out of the ground.

“I didn’t want to dig deeper for fear of damaging anything. Could this be the tip of a larger pyramid?” Bear mused.

Drexler stared at the object. “I’ll have to set up the echo-resonator to see how far it extends below ground and the size of it before we do any more digging,” he said, barely able to contain his sudden excitement. So far, they hadn’t discovered anything that might confirm the rumors circling in the scientific community.

A team of Anorian archaeologists had been working this site for over a year when all its members mysteriously disappeared. The Anorians had unearthed ancient ruins of a settlement left behind by a mysterious race. According to information that had leaked during the year the archaeologists spent on Aregon, they had discovered artifacts thousands of years old. One was of particular interest. It was a large flat piece of an unknown substance. Etched into its surface were drawings of pyramids and images of men and women in long flowing robes. One drawing was of a man’s face that looked remarkably like the face of a human from Earth.

Unfortunately, the site had been destroyed by one of the nomadic races roaming across the surface of Aregon. The unearthed ruins were nothing now but rubble and all of the artifacts gone. The forever-moving dunes had done the rest to cover most of the evidence. It made Drexler’s job so much more difficult. It was like starting from scratch.

He looked again at the alien sun. “As much as I want to examine this closer, I think we should take a break and quit early. I find it extremely hot today. There is enough time tomorrow. This damn heat is making me tired.” He wiped his forehead again. “Getting too old for working in the field. I should retire and spend my final years behind a desk inside an air-conditioned office, studying the information you young people find.”

“You wouldn’t last long, Professor,” Bear said with a grin. “You’d get bored out of your mind in no time. Work like that is for old men. You’re not one of them.”

“Well, thanks for the compliment, Mister Bear. Unfortunately, you are wrong. I am not a young man. Perhaps I should take on the teaching position I was offered last year. That should be interesting.”

“Not for long. My father retired from working in the field and took on a teaching job. He hated it after a short time. You remind me a lot of my father.”

“What is he doing these days? Still teaching?”

The young man’s face clouded over. “He passed away shortly after I began working for you, Professor.”

“Sorry to hear that. What happened?”

“An explosion in the lab.”

“That’s unfortunate.” He paused, not knowing what else to say.

Bear saved him from his search for the right words. “Do you want me to get the others?”

Drexler nodded. “Yes, you do that. We’ll have an early supper. I’ll meet you all in an hour in the mess hall.”

They called it that, however, the dome wasn’t used only for eating but also other activities, including orientation meetings and lab work. It also contained the communication equipment.

Of the four habitats, the slightly larger one belonged to Drexler, one to his assistant, Rex Gambler, and the other two housed the six students. The three males shared one and the three females the other one.

There was another building, the one with the toilets, the showers, and the sinks. It was shared by everyone, including Drexler. Water was at a premium. With the original shipment, they brought along a huge tank, but the water only dribbled from the faucets, just enough to wash hands and face. The two showers were waterless.

Drexler took a deep breath of the cool air inside his dome, grateful for the luxury of having modern facilities. Not every exploration team was privileged to indulge in such comfort. He filled a cup with cold water from the dispenser and sank into his chair, sipping the water slowly, savoring every drop. The cool air was refreshing and helped him clear his head. The heat of the desert was getting to him. He wasn’t sure if working in this hot environment was preferable to the frigid temperatures he had to endure on his last assignment on Agrar, a rugged planet with large regions of frozen tundra. Of course, he had been a few years younger at that time, with more endurance and patience.

After the allotted sixty minutes, he walked over to the mess hall. His students were already getting their supper from the food-converters, another luxury he had lived without on other explorations. When he punched in his order, he gave silent thanks to the company that financed the research. Not for the first time he wondered why Argora Mining and Explorations was so interested in this site on this particular planet. How did they expect to recoup such a huge expense and still make a profit from what he would discover?

Shrugging, he removed his tray from the dispenser and took it to one of the small tables. As usual, he shared the table with Tara Lavelle, Hanna Swann, and Barbara Stone, the three females in his team. Hanna gave him a big smile when he sat down. Her teeth gleamed white in her dark face. “I hear Ronald unearthed something of interest.”

Drexler nodded. “That’s what it looks like. We’ll find out tomorrow if it warrants the excitement.”

“It surely was hot today,” Barbara said. “I hope this isn’t the beginning of a heat wave.” She brushed her blond hair out of her face with a quick movement of her hand. “I’m almost tempted to cut my hair as short as Hanna’s.”

“That hairstyle won’t suit you,” Hanna said. “You look better with the ponytail. That’s your brand.” She turned to Drexler. “What do you think, Professor?”

Drexler gave his head a little shake and smiled. “When I was still in the game, I preferred women with long hair, but that doesn’t mean I said no to a willing woman with short hair.”

“How about a bald woman?” Tara’s eyes sparkled mischievously as she put the question to him.

Drexler laughed. “I do have my limits.”

“I assume you’ve never had sex with an Anorian then?” Barbara smirked as she said that.

“Hey, are you forgetting this is Professor Drexler you’re talking to?” Hanna chided her. “You wouldn’t ask your grandfather about his sex life, would you?”

“I’m not that old,” Drexler said, smiling. “Old enough though to be your grandfather. To answer your question, no, I’ve never had sex with an Anorian. I’ve had dealings with the Anorians and I know the females are very beautiful and seductive.”

“In the Anorian race, the females are the dominant gender,” Tara said.

“I don’t know much about them,” Barbara admitted. “Do they have a social structure comparable to ours? What I mean, do they get married and have families the way we do?”

“They do, except their roles are reversed,” Drexler explained. “The males stay home and raise the children while the females roam the spaceways, fight their wars; in short, they do the stuff males in other races usually perform.”

“In other words, the males are the weaker sex,” Barbara mused. “I find that strange. Don’t tell me it is the males that bear the young, like the seahorses on Earth do.”

Hanna looked at Drexler. “Do they, Professor?”

“No, they don’t.” Drexler couldn’t help but laugh. “The Anorian females still bear the offspring.”

“That whole system they have appeals to me,” Hanna said. “The women have the children and the men raise them. What a sweet deal. I could live like that.”

“Why are you so concerned?” Barbara gave Hanna a curious look. “You don’t have to worry about having children, because you’ll never have sex with a man. You’re not attracted to men.”

Hanna nodded. “While that is true it doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t have children. There is always adoption or artificial insemination, you know. I would probably prefer that anyway, even if I were attracted to men.”

Drexler lifted his hands. “Okay, ladies. Let’s change the subject. I’m not interested in your sexual preferences.”

“One more question, please,” Barbara pleaded. “How about the Crows? Do they bear live young or do they lay eggs? After all, their ancestors were birds.”

“They lay eggs.” As far as he knew. The Crow Empire controlled a vast area in this sector of Space with many different varieties of the avian species. It was not impossible that some may have evolved into a species of livebearers. “By the way, the females lay the eggs, in case you’re wondering. Their social structure is somewhat different from ours. A family consists of several females and one male. Some females stay home to raise the young while the male and a few of the other females are in the workforce. I admit I’m not well informed about the Crows. Humans and Crows don’t usually interact, and I haven’t had much contact with them. This is my first assignment in Crow-controlled territory.”

He looked down at the untouched food on his tray. “If you’ll excuse me, ladies, my food is getting cold. I’m going to start eating. I suggest you do the same.”

Before going to his habitat, he went over to talk to Rex Gambler. “It looks like it’s going to be a busy day tomorrow. When Kannon comes back, can you give him a hand unloading the rover and stowing everything away?”

“Sure thing, Professor.” Gambler nodded. “Hope it won’t get so hot tomorrow.”

“You and I wish for the same thing. Well, have a good night.”

He went to sleep early that night, hoping for cooler temperatures the next day, but he found it difficult to fall asleep. The excitement of the discovery kept his mind busy with all kinds of speculations. Depending what they found, the company might even send additional researchers, which meant more people to control and to keep occupied. They’d have to replenish the food and water supply. They’d need more habitats. A larger base might attract undesirable elements to visit the camp and they would need armed guards. The more he thought about these things the less the much needed sleep would come.

His thoughts went to one of the students, Rick Kannon, who had taken the rover to the city to stock up on supplies. He had been gone now for four days and should be back the next day. Usually, he wouldn’t send a student by himself, but at age twenty-seven Rick was the oldest of his students and the most responsible and capable of them.

Getting up to drink a glass of water, he went to sit at his desk and stared at the blank screen of his diary, thinking of something to write but gave up after a few moments. If he got started writing, he’d probably stay up most of the night. Getting back to bed, he cleared his mind and tried to think about the enjoyable moments in his life.

The alarm clock woke him from a pleasant dream and he was surprised at how rested he felt. It would be a good day. He made a few notes in his diary and left his habitat to visit the lavatory.




"The Aregon Files, Volume 1" - Herbert Grosshans


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? Heat Level: 4