Operation Stargate #2

by Herbert Grosshans

Assuming the existence of a Star portal on the planet Savanna to be a secret, the humans don’t know that the Accilla, the Spiders, and other spacefaring races are fully aware of it.

Jeremy Sheppard, a newly appointed Captain of the Solar Space Force to the military outpost and Dennis Collins, a civilian, must join forces to thwart a conspiracy to control the Star portal.


Chapter One


Jeremy John Sheppard stuffed his duffle bag into the overhead compartment and took his seat on the shuttle that would take him down to the surface of Savanna.

He was happy to see the long journey through space come to an end and to soon assume his new position on Outpost Alpha. One month cooped up in a transporter far from being a luxury liner, with a bunch of eager fortune hunters, scientists, and settlers looking for a new life on an alien planet, was one month too long.

“Hey, Sheppard,” a familiar voice said beside him. “I just realized something. All this time on the ship you never told me about your plans on Savanna.”

Sheppard turned his head to look at the short, stocky man who had taken the seat beside him, a man he had no particular wish to associate with. “What makes you think I would have told you?”

Daniels chuckled. “As always, the mystery man. Are you by any chance one of the convicted criminals they send to frontier planets to serve out their sentence doing hard labor?”

“Hardly.” Sheppard had no intention telling the man details about his life. It was nobody’s business, especially not Daniels’.

“Let me take a guess. You’re, obviously, not a scientist. Neither are you a farmer, since you’re traveling alone. You claim you’re not a convict. That only leaves miner, fortune-hunter, scout, or Space Force. Or might you be a doctor?” He shook his head. “No. Not a doctor. You don’t have the slim, cultured hands of a medical professional.” He gave Sheppard an inquiring look. “Well? Am I close?”

Before Sheppard could respond, a voice over the speaker said, “Please, fasten your seatbelts. We’ll be lifting off in a moment. The ride will be a bit rough. We’ve detected some turbulence in the upper atmosphere, but there is nothing to be worried about. This is just an advisory.”

“This is so typical,” Daniels commented. “Why does the government hire a private company to take settlers to an alien planet? It’s all about profits. They don’t invest any money in upgrading. This shuttle is an outdated version and shouldn’t be used any longer. Turbulence in the atmosphere shouldn’t even be an issue.”

Sheppard was happy for the subject change. “Whatever gave you the idea that Earth’s government actually cares about settlers? They are happy to get rid of a few people, and they don’t give a crap to which planet they migrate or if they survive. Savanna is far from the regular trade routes and too close to Spider-controlled space. The Solar Union doesn’t have much interest in colonizing the planet. The only ships coming here are the ships of the Trading Commission and the ones bringing new settlers.”

“I know all about that. It’s the abundance of blue diamonds that attracted the Trading Commission, never mind that Savanna is an ideal planet for humans to colonize.”

Sheppard chuckled grimly. “Are you forgetting that Savanna is already occupied?”

“You mean the Cats?” Daniels grunted. “From what I understand, they are not numerous. This planet is sparsely populated. There is plenty of room for us humans.”

“What about the reptilian humanoids living in the jungle? Don’t they count? Or the desert-dwellers? Don’t they have a right to live unmolested?”

“Sure, they do, but that’s how the universe works, my friend. A superior species invades a region and, as their numbers grow, eliminating the weaker or less advanced species. If you know your history, you know how the Americas were colonized.”

“I’m not ignorant of Earth’s bloody history. Millions of indigenous people were murdered by the Spaniards, the English, and the French in the name of their king. What audacity. To land on the shores of a foreign land, plant a flag, and claim it in the name of a king or queen? What gave them the right? Sadly, nothing has changed to this day. Take Chrysalis, for instance. The inhabitants were wiped off the planet’s surface, because they refused to buckle under and work in the mines for the humans.”

“Bad example, Sheppard. They were murdering the colonists in their sleep. They burned down whole villages, killing all the humans in their homes. They destroyed crops and poisoned the water. We had no choice. It was either them or us.”

“We could have left,” Sheppard argued.

Daniels laughed. “Are you kidding? That planet was full of valuable resources Earth desperately needed.” He gave Sheppard a sidelong glance. “What the hell are you? Some kind of priest or do-gooder?”

“I am neither.” Sheppard sighed and leaned back into his seat. “I’m going to take a rest and calm my nerves. I know I’ll need them when I get down there.” He closed his eyes, ignoring Daniels, but there was no opportunity to relax.

The advisory had not misled them. They did get into turbulence, and the shuttle was rocked back and forth with sudden drops that made Sheppard question the ability of whoever sat in the pilot seat. Most likely it wasn’t even a human pilot. The sounds of protest and subdued curses from the other passengers didn’t help, either. A couple of children were crying, and their mothers tried to convince them there was nothing to worry about. One woman shouted that everyone was going to die, that God didn’t approve of humans leaving their planet of birth to spread the evil that was humanity to other planets.

“Somebody should tell that stupid woman to shut up,” Daniels cursed beside Sheppard, who was not going to argue that point.

The shaking stopped, and the rest of the flight was relatively calm. Sheppard wished for windows to see the landscape below them, but the walls of the shuttle were smooth and unbroken. He had no idea if it was day or night on this side of the planet.

“Did I tell you I’m an engineer?”

“More than once.” Sheppard sighed. He was looking forward to being rid of the forever talking Daniels. From the beginning of the journey, the man had latched onto him like a magnet to a piece of metal, difficult to remove. He had to listen to Daniels’ life story at least half a dozen times. To make it worse, it was a boring story.

“My specialty is bridges.”

“I know that, too.”

Daniels wasn’t discouraged. “Did I ever mention that I designed a bridge on Backwater?”

“You might have. I’m sorry, I don’t remember.”

“Then let me refresh your memory. It is actually a funny story.”

“I believe I remember it now. It that the one where the monkey-like natives were the first ones to cross the bridge?” Sheppard had no intention to listen to it again.

“That’s the one. I just love telling it.” Daniels chuckled. “Perhaps you would like to hear it again?”

Sheppard took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Perhaps another time, Daniels. Right now, is not a good time.”

“Does that mean you and I will stay in touch?”

“We’ll see. It’s a big planet.”

“Almost as big as Earth. Apparently, Savanna is not much different from Earth. I mean it’s got seasons, and the weather is pretty much the same. Fewer oceans, which means more landmass, which is great.” He chuckled. “Also, plenty of rivers where bridges are needed. I shall be busy.”

“I wish you luck.” Sheppard smiled thinly. “Remember, this is not Earth. Neither is it Backwater.”

Again, he was saved by an announcement. “We are approaching Crystal City and will be landing in fifteen minutes. Please, make sure you’re wearing your seatbelt. Good luck to everyone. It has been a pleasure to be of service.”

“As if a computer experiences pleasure,” Daniels said with contempt. “I’m looking forward to living in a society that is not run by computers. That’s one of the reasons I left Earth and came to Savanna. Life will be more relaxed and basic here. That will be my pleasure.”

“I hope you won’t be disappointed. Life on a frontier world is not a picnic. It can be harsh and difficult,” Sheppard commented.

“You’ve had experience?”

“I have.” Sheppard didn’t elaborate. The sudden complete silence and lack of vibration told him that the shuttle had landed. He unbuckled and waited for the announcement telling the passengers to disembark. A slight breeze in the air signalled that the outer doors had been opened.  The announcement came a moment later. “Time to go,” he said.

He waited for Daniels to get his personal luggage bag before getting his own, and then he followed the short man to the air-lock. The air entering the shuttle smelled fresh and crisp, and he was looking forward to breathing real air instead of the recycled air in the transporter for the past month.

Taking a deep breath, he climbed down the steps toward the alien soil of a new frontier world. It wasn’t his first time on a new world, but this time it was different. He was not here of his own free choice.

Looking around the spaceport, he saw more than a dozen shuttles standing on the tarmac. Theirs had been the last one to leave. Some of the shuttles carried passengers, most of them new colonists looking for a better life. A number of shuttles carried only supplies and the belongings of the colonists.

Sheppard shouldered his large duffle bag, his only possession. Most of what he needed would be supplied.

He bumped into someone and mumbled, “Sorry.” Then he realized it was Daniels.

“Hey,” Daniels said. “I guess this is where we part ways.”

“It seems that way.” Sheppard wasn’t sorry to see the last of the short, chatty man.

“I think I see my ride.”

“Don’t you have to go through immigration first?”

Daniels shook his head. “Not me. I have special status. I’m not really an immigrant.”

“Neither am I.” Sheppard looked and spotted a vehicle speeding toward them. Even from this distance it was clear it was military. Only the military and the Solar Trading Commission were allowed to possess modern weapons and equipment, which included transport vehicles. The small, armored bus stopped in front of the two men. One of the two troopers on board jumped out. He saluted sloppily and said, “Captain Sheppard?”

Sheppard nodded and stepped forward. “That would be me.”

The trooper looked at a device in his hand, gave Sheppard one more look and turned his attention to Daniels. “Then you must be Major Daniels,” he stated and saluted again.

Daniels waved it off with one hand and chuckled. “I guess I must be. Relax, trooper. Let’s not get too formal.”

Sheppard threw him an astonished look. “I thought you were an engineer?”

With a smile, Daniels said, “I am. I just forgot to mention that I’m an engineer with the Solar Union Space Navy. So, you’re a Captain. Hmm. The mystery man has been unmasked. It seems we’ll be seeing much more of each other in the future.” He made a motion with his hand. “After you, Captain Sheppard.”

Sheppard took his seat with some misgivings. Major Daniels! That meant Daniels was his superior.


"Savnna" - Herbert Grosshans


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