Chapter XXXIII


Hangar 4 was large.  It could easily hold Air Force One and a squadron of F-40 fighter jets.  Instead there were four American SX-44 Space Taxis.  Neither Frank nor I had ever seen one.  They were used only by American Special Forces and even they used them sparingly.  They were the first space vehicles to make a powered ascent from space.  Once in space they could rocket to any spot on Earth with 24 soldiers or robot soldiers.  Once they push the button to come out of orbit it took only six minutes to zoom in and land.  It was an incredible tour de force entrance that created so much electro-magnetic disturbance that radars just did not see them coming.  After they had done their business they flew away as traditional stealth helicopters.  If fuel transports could be provided then they would return to space.  By “they” I meant mostly just the humans.  Weight was a factor since the SX-44s are first air lifted up around 40,000 feet by deployment transport jets in order to cut down on the fuel needed to get into low space orbit, so for the return trip since they don’t have the transport jets to give them a boost they have to shed weight.  They either pick up the robotic soldiers later or more likely, have them self destruct.   I could see Frank had a very physical reaction when he realized what he was going on a SX-44.  His pulse doubled and remained there for at least ten minutes.  If he was scared he did not show it on his face.  He was always good with showing a poker face.  The Princess’s heart rate was more like the other humans in the hangar.  Elevated, but not extremely high.

I don’t think the Monsignor or the Princess had a clue as to the merits of the three Space Taxis.  Also in Hangar 4 were forty Israeli Special Operation Soldiers and twenty Israeli robotic soldiers.  Any electronic communications I got from the robotic soldiers were encrypted and beyond my low level status.  Everyone was given a fresh combat uniform to put on.  Even I got one.  The robotic soldiers did not wear any.  Their skin was covered with a vast array of sensors, arms, and stealth equipment.  I had heard they could totally disappear in both visible and infrared spectrums.  The humans also wore invisibility uniforms that could hide their front to the enemy.  Their backs were always visible as that was how they kept from being killed by friendly fire. Communications could only come from the back as well.  All forward sensing had to be done by mini-drones.  They were plentiful and expendable.  In an all out battle where both sides had the latest technology the fighting would last no more than ten minutes. The one thing that robotic military tactics had brought the world was lightning fast wars.  The famous 1967 Six Day War between the Israelis and their Muslim foes would have lasted less than six hours with today’s technology.  Six hours to destroy the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies.  The reality is that the human soldiers would have trouble keeping up to the robotic soldiers.  Robotic soldiers could afford to advance into an area where they could not get 100% data of where the enemy was hiding.  If an enemy soldier jumped out and aimed at a robotic soldier the robot would have plenty of time to recognize the enemy and fire long before the human could aim his weapon.  A human had a better chance of living by jumping in front of a speeding truck.

Lt. Steinmann helped Frank and the Princess get dressed.  She was pretty simple to do.  She wore a military uniform with the international markings of a non-combat personnel.  Frank was given a regular Israeli uniform since he had agreed to carry arms.  Frank knew how to use a handgun, but the one he was to carry was the new American 9mm missile gun.  The bullets were actually small missile that could steer themselves.  The way they worked is that the first round would lock on and track what you were aiming at.  If you knew you hit your objective you pulled the trigger back to a second position and all the other bullets you fired would track to where the first bullet was.  So even if the target moved behind a tree or building the additional bullets would find their target. 

On Frank’s back was an Israeli backpack.  In it was more ammo, communication gear, several computers and a pod of micro-drones.  He was told he would not have to worry about the drones as they would be controlled by Col. Mann or the Control Center at the base.  The Lieutenant also gave him a hand held camera that would allow Frank to take both video or still photographs.  I would also do that, but in case “your civvy JAIC was blown to smithereens,” Frank could continue to cover the operation.  Both Frank and the Princess would wear tactical helmets that would allow them to hear all the chatter from H.Q. or from Col. Mann. 

“Remember you guys, if the Colonel or H.Q. gives you an order don’t question it.  He will have the intel.  Same goes with what I say as I will try and stay by you as much as I can” Steinmann said with a voice both calm and professional as he strapped on their helmets and connected them to their backpacks. 

“What is in my backpack, Lieutenant?” the Princess asked.

“You only have minimal stealth, communications and survival gear – that includes a first aid kit, food and water.  No weapons.  No drones – not even intel drones.  As a non-com you are given no option to join in the fight.”

Frank added with a smile, “You’re a sitting duck.”

Steinmann ignored the remark and continued, “About half the time the other side will avoid taking out non-coms.  Don’t worry about it.  If we see they are fighting dirty we will pull you both out,” Steinmann said trying to sound reassuring.  I’m not sure the Princess believed him knowing that the battle would most likely be over in ten minutes or so.

“One more thing.  Here on your sleeve is the switch to turn on your communication system.  This is important.  Leave it on from here on.  If you just say something then no one will hear it.  If you start by using a name the system will route it only to that person.  For example, if you want to talk to Huntington just say, “Huntington, give me a drink of water.” If you want to have whatever you say go to a group tell your com system to start a group.  For example, “Com start a group; Huntington and Monsignor and Steinmann.” That would mean all us guys could hear you, Princess, when you said anything.  To stop a group just tell your com to stop all groups.  If you don’t have a group and don’t start out with a name the com will just assume you are talking to yourself.  It will be recorded and be part of the data log, so be careful what you say.  Everyone understand?

We all said, “Yes Sir” in unison just like in those military movies humans like so much.

Just before we got sent through the recharging line, Steinmann gave me a special helmet.  He said this was so I could also hear the chatter since my receiving data systems were not used by the military.  The helmet was made out of the same armor protecting plastic that the soldiers had.  Too bad it couldn’t protect my brains as they were not in my head as they are with humans.  

Every so often there was a loud speaker announcement. The first one we heard was “80 minutes until launch.  The last one was “20 minutes to launch.”  That was when Steinmann headed us over to the recharging line.  It was once said that an army lived on its stomach, but in today’s world an army won or lost on its ability to keep its electronics powered.  Most weapons now used electricity to operate.  The US Air Force mostly used reusable laser missile.  The Navy hadn’t used chemical explosives in years.  They were all too heavy and too dangerous. 

The Monsignor joined us in the line.  During most of the preparation time he had been with the Col. Mann.  No doubt they were having top secret discussions. 

After all five of us were charged up Lt. Steinmann took us over to the Space Taxi we were assigned to.  Our vehicle had only about five other humans the rest were robotic soldiers.  We soon found ourselves slowly moving out of the hangar and onto the tarmac.  Soon I could feel us being hoisted under the wing of the deployment transport jet.  There was a surprising little amount of voices over the helmet earphones.  Mostly the officers checking their microphones for general chatter.   

Frank spoke through his com and said he had made up a group of the three of us – namely me, the Princess and the Monsignor.  I acknowledge that I heard Frank by saying, "Read you loud and clear.”  I could hear the Princess now and then the Monsignor as they all set up a group on their com system.  By the time we got that done I could hear the transports spinning up their engines.  Then I heard Col. Mann’s voice tell everyone to finish their check list and that the transports would be taking off in about five minutes. 

After that the Princess chimed, “Hard to believe in less than 15 minutes we will be in Norway and these guys will be fighting.  It takes longer to get ready than to actually fight.”

“We will see.  I just can’t believe Lutts would build his Laboratory without some surprise for intruders” the Monsignor said.

“True.  With three-dimensional industrial printers he could print himself an A-bomb blindfolded if he could get hold of the plutonium,” Frank said in a matter of fact tone.

“Okay, you guys, shut up.  I’m sure the Israelis have thought of everything,” the Princess said with a tone that showed she did not appreciate such talk of doom and gloom.

While we were not privy to the details of the operation I had formed a probable scenario.  Once the transport released us the rockets would kick in and bring us up to around 120,000 feet.  We would feel a G force of around three times that of normal.  Once we hit apogee our ascent would start and the G force would build up again, sometimes reaching five G’s.  It would be a quick rough ride with the intent of surprise.  Once on the ground the troops and robots would exit the Space Taxis and release a mix of intel micro-drones and defensive micro-drones.  The robots who can travel faster than the humans would move to their entrance points of the Laboratory.  Most likely they would pick two or three entrance points.  One or more would be just for the micro-drones.  They would pour in blasting through any barriers or resistance they might find.  Any unarmed humans would be stunned like Frank and the Princess were when they were in bed.  The robots would enter at least two entrances following the swarm of drones.  On the robots' heels would follow the human soldiers.  If a robot would come across Sir Terrance they would inform the humans and the humans would come to where Sir Terrance was.  As the goal was to also stop the deployment of the nano-vectors that would attack a human’s brain and kill their belief in religion that would be accomplished by taking control of the mechanism that controls the nano-vectors or destroying them outright.  We could see a lot of explosions if they decide to destroy the nano-vectors.  Once that was accomplished an orderly retreat with our human prisoners would take place.  If we fly back it would be hours before reached home base.  I imagine they must have a ship waiting for us in the North Sea as I can’t imagine any NATO country would allow an Israeli task force to land.  If they send from a ship a refueling transport we could refuel and be back in Israel in twenty minutes.  Frank should get a great exclusive story.  To be honest, I really did not see a role for the Princess, but the Israelis were being cautious.

After a fast flight up to 41,032 feet above sea level the transport dropped us and three seconds later the rocket engines slammed us back into our seats.  It was hard to tell if the G force was affecting the soldiers.  They had the same grim look as when they were in the hangar.  The rocket burn was only nine minutes and then we drifted up our projection arc until we started our ascent. 

I looked over at Frank as we were speeding over the earth.  He was looking out the window with the same look on his face the first time we went into orbit for our story about the sex trade on the moon.  I remember he wrote in an article about never taking life for granted.  He wrote, "I had seen films on space and even been to several 3-D Solidvision productions where you can’t tell the difference between fiction and reality, but nothing prepared me for the visceral reaction I would have upon actually being in space.  Perhaps it was looking down at where I had lived my entire life.  Seeing the earth float and spin so majestically with no hint of mankind visible from space I could not shake the feeling that space is real and the world of my life was the fiction.  That experience was humbling.  It put me in my place.”  I think Frank received over three thousand emails and messages from that article. 

The Space Taxi would start to fire its retro rockets to keep us from burning up.  Once when we achieved an elevation of about 80,000 feet the scram jets started up to make a powered landing.  Both Frank and the Princess maintained the same grim faces as the Israeli soldiers. 

The last SX-44s landed within two minutes of the first one that landed. We all piled out and Lt. Steinmann told us to hang back while the Special Op Team established a perimeter and achieved access to the objective.  It was amazing to watch how the robotic soldiers took the lead and never stopped moving.  About a minute into the operations Col. Mann announced all three access points had been established.  I could see Lt. Steinmann was talking to someone who we could not hear.  From his words it sounded like the other fellow was at the very forefront.  Finally Lt. Steinmann took us into the hangar that we had entered the last time we were here.  Once inside we saw three humans and one robot that belonged to Sir Terrance ground crew lying on the floor.  The robot looked damaged and the humans looked dazed, but alive. Around them were spent micro-drones.  There were no aircraft in the hangar.  Lt. Steinmann ushered us to the elevator.  Only one of our robots and an Israeli soldier remained on the surface.  The rest of the unit were already below.  We entered the elevator and took it down as we had before.

It was interesting to see how quiet it was once we reached the first underground level.  Suddenly, Col. Mann made an announcement that the American laboratory has been successfully destroyed.  We entered the meeting room where we had last talked to Sir Terrance and Lt. Mann said we would wait here while the unit finished securing the laboratory. 

The Princess took off her helmet and said to our group, "I did not think special operation attacks were so civil.  Where are the sound of bullets and explosions?”

Lt. Steinmann said, “So much of that is Hollywood.  An attack as quiet as a library would not sell many tickets.  I must ask you to put your helmet back on, madam.”

Reluctantly, the Princess complied.  The Princess was just in time to hear another update from Col. Mann, “Attention.  Maidstone has been secured.  No personnel were found present at Maidstone.”

Everyone, including the Princess had a quizzical look on their face.  Frank said, “That does not sound right.”

It looked like Lt. Steinmann was about to make a comment as he opened his mouth like humans do just before they start talking, but then he suddenly stopped and looked at a small screen he had on his right arm and also starting talking in a hurried cryptic military manner.  While he was doing that I started hearing what sounded like muffled explosions. 

Frank said, “I don’t like the sound of that.  What is it Lieutenant?” 

The Lieutenant looked up at his charges and yelled, “We need to get out of here immediately.  Run, run, run!”

It did not take more than a second for the Princess, the Monsignor and Frank to start heading for the door.  We all headed back to the elevator which was down a long hall.  Suddenly behind us everything went dark.  That same muffled explosive sound was much closer.  When I trained my visual sensors on the hall behind us I was confused.  A black wall of foam was rolling down the hall at about a foot a second.  Frank had turned and looked while not stopping his fast pace and said, “Shit.”  I did not think it looked like feces, but it did not look harmless.

Again Lt. Steinmann said, “Run.”  He had let himself fall to the rear and had launched about six micro-drones to attack the foam.  They whizzed towards the foam and were immediately swallowed by it.  It did not seem to make any difference.  Then there was that same muffled sound coming from ahead of us.  Everyone seemed to slow their pace and soon stopped once they realized this black wall of whatever it was now coming at us from both ends of the hall.  Lt. Steinmann was shouting into his helmet microphone that we were trapped.  Then we heard Col. Mann voice that now sounded shaken, “All personnel retreat to your SX-44 and prepare to vacate.”

Steinmann faced the wall of foam behind him and must have ordered all his remaining micro-drones to attack the wall to his right.  They all swarmed and did their best to penetrate the hallway wall.  Plaster dust filled the area behind him so thick I could not see the black foam.  I sensed that the micro-drones failed to get through.  From my infrared camera I could make out Lt. Steinmann who was now trying to fire his handgun into the hallway wall.  I could tell the wall was still not giving way.  He had failed to make an exit for us.  Then all of a sudden his infrared signature disappeared.  The approaching foam had swallowed him up.

Frank yelled, “Steinmann.  Steinman,” but heard no reply.  By now the foam was about 30 feet from us on both sides.  I wracked my memory banks to try and find a solution to save us.  I heard the Princess scream, “Help us, anybody.”  Frank was yelling in his helmet microphone to Col. Mann and the Monsignor was genuflecting and saying the “Pater Noster” which is the Lord’s Prayer in Latin.  Then the lights went out and I braced for my robotic body being swallowed whole by this foaming mass.  It was at this moment that the Monsignor’s prayers were answered.  An eight foot section of wall on our left side zoomed downward revealing a room that looked like a posh Edwardian room complete with gas lights and old 16th Century swords mounted on the walls between large book cases.  Frank grabbed the Princess and ran into the room.  I and the Monsignor were right behind them and no sooner we all in this room than the wall rushed up.  It was a close call.  On both ends of the raised wall that just saved us were traces of that black foaming death. 

Frank was the first to find his voice, “That was a close one.  What the hell was that stuff?”

“I don’t know, but I think we are the only ones left,” the Monsignor said in a voice that still sounded extremely stressed out.  Both Frank and the Monsignor walked over to the wall to look at the black foam.  Frank touched it and was surprised it was completely solid. 

“What a vicious little weapon.  Ever heard of it, Monsignor?” Frank said with almost awe.

“No, I think we might have witnessed its debut.  Another of Sir Terrance’s brainstorms,” the Monsignor answered.

“Some brainstorm,” Frank said shaking his head, “it took out the world’s best military unit.”

“Thank you, Mr. Huntington,” said a voice we all recognized.  From behind a high plush chair now stood Sir Terrance. "I appreciate the compliment.  Hello dear wife.  Greetings Monsignor Pietro, we finally meet in person.  You have been hiding in my shadows for a long time.”

Sir Terrance was wearing a suit of impeccable tailoring. One thing that surprised me now that I fully scanned our safe room was that all the lights were 19th Century gas lights.  There was even a real fire in the fire place.  Nowhere to be seen were any electrical device.  I surmised that was done to mask the room from prying sensors.  Neither I nor the robotic soldiers had sensed the existence of this beautifully decorated room.

The Monsignor’s face showed what looked like as raw hatred.  He sprinted to the wall and grabbed a 16th Century sword and made for Lutts.  Lutts stood there and did not make a move to protect himself.  As the Monsignor approached all of a sudden his face looked shocked.  The sword’s handle was melting in his hand.  In less than two seconds the blade fell to the ground.  At this point Sir Terrance reached into his pocket and pulled out a lovely pistol from the 19th Century and said, “Sit down, Monsignor and act more like a man of the cloth.  You must remember this is a safe room and so I don’t have any weapons here that could cause me risk.  Have you ever seen anything made out of gallium before?”  Not waiting for an answer the bemused Sir Terrance said, “It melts at about 86 degrees.  That sword you just melted with your hot hand and hot temper cost over $350,000 to make.”

“Terrance, I demand you release us,” the Princess said in her royal authoritative voice.

“I think, my dear, you are not in a position to demand anything.  After all, you have led these gentlemen here to either kill me or hand me over to the Jews.  Not to mention trying to stop my plan to save humanity.”

“You would destroy our souls in the process, Sir,” the Monsignor said in an acerbic tone.

Lutts gave out a low chuckle, “Many would say I was saving humanity from destroying itself due to all his vile religions. However, I have not brought you here to debate what is to me an old malodorous argument.  We must discuss what is going to happen to you.”

“Since you are the one with the gun, husband, I suspect you will tell us in your own good time,” the Princess said with an undercurrent of disgust.  She sat down in one of the posh chairs.

“So where did you move all your nano-vectors?” Frank asked as if he was doing an interview.

“Excellent question, Mr. Huntington.  Until I am done ridding the world of the scourge of religion I can’t say.”

“I suppose this failed visit by the Israelis has put you behind schedule?” Frank asked without any hesitation.

“Yes, that I must admit, but as you can see I anticipated intrusion.  I am disappointed that I will not be able to meet my Ides of March deadline.  All my personnel and materials at all three laboratories were safely and secretly moved two days ago.  I estimate you have delayed my new Age of Peace by a week.  In the scheme of things it is nothing,” Lutts said keeping the smirk he had had worn since he had stood to reveal his presence.

“Why did you not kill us?” Frank asked with a slight smile, showing he probably knew the answer.

“I realize you three have become sort of my involuntary biographers.”

“Do you expect a flattering account by us?”

“I think once humankind is free of religion they would realize your bias and read between the lines as to what a great step forward this is.  You will be seen as luddites who tried to stop progress.  Unfortunately, all revolutions must have a certain degree of destruction.  Without destruction you cannot create change.”

“This all sounds like one of those old James Bond films from the 1960s, Terrance.  Are you going to let us go or are we prisoners?” the Princess said with a degree of testiness.

“I thought you would like to visit Atlantis?” Lutts said with another chuckle.

“Plato’s fairyland?” the Monsignor quipped.

“No, my little Jesuit, my floating laboratory,” Lutts stated in a matter of fact tone while he walked over to a brass candle holder on the wall which he pushed downward.  The bookcase next to him now silently moved outward to reveal a very dark passage.


Chapter XXXIV



















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