Infinity Afterglow / Episode 12: Secret Tech

Secret tech hidden in an underground vault

an epic space opera by Mark laporta

A piece of secret tech hidden from view for 1000 years is now an object or avarcious desires. Mark Laporta’s Against the Glare of Darkness novels have been widely acclaimed across traditional and alternative media, and now he brings us a new entry in this expansive sci-fi universe. Read this new serialized space opera from the beginning,

Caligreth’s plan to steal the thousand-year-old Kadervax was simple. As Deputy Archivist, he had unlimited access to public records. That enabled him to compile a complete list of the security personnel who guarded the device day and night. He needed only to find the best operative to impersonate.

His equally comprehensive access to each guard’s personnel files made the selection easy. A guard known as Doldrameth was far and away the best choice. Close to retirement, known to be shy and largely silent, he was most likely to be ignored by the rest of the night shift. That would guarantee that Caligreth had every opportunity to infiltrate, find the exact coordinates of the frame-shift device and transmit them to Eldrinaj, who would them use the working prototype of the Kadervax to transmat it out of the secure facility before anyone has a chance to react.

Should Caligreth succeed, he would be guilty of two major crimes, of which theft would have been the lesser. In a society of shape-shifters, impersonation was more than identity theft. It was a deeply held taboo that only the most depraved souls would dare to break. Unless, that is, a particular soul had no more or less use for societal norms than an Earthly python has for the hog it devours. To the Deputy Archivist, getting his shape-shifting hands on a device of such power was easily worth the opprobrium of his peers. At the same time, the argument was moot. Caligreth considered himself peerless.

Against that background of egocentric delusion, the location, sedation and confinement of Doldrameth must have seemed as normal as the turning of the seasons. In fact, the two conspirators disabled, sedated and confined the real security guard as soon as possible after the they confirmed their plans.

Mere hours later, Eldrinaj used the working prototype of the Kadervax to send a shape-shifted Caligreth into the heart of the government facility where the full-scale version was housed. By prior arrangement, he was able to reach Eldrinaj on an encrypted feed that she could pick up with the personal scanner embedded in her forearm.

“How does it look?” her voice vibrated in Caligreth’s hidden earpiece.

The Deputy Archivist glanced around him with some satisfaction. As he’d assumed, his hostage Doldrameth had been assigned the graveyard shift. The secure facility was as empty as a spent bottle of his favorite Velmachrian brandy.

“It looks like the security is tighter than before,” he said. “Probably due to the Quishik outbreak. The real test is … yes, the storeroom holding the Kadervax is surrounded by a heavy e-mag field.”

“Is that a problem?” asked Eldrinaj. “I mean, if we have the coordinates.…”

Despite being alone, Caligreth shook his imitation head.

“We don’t know exactly what principle the Kadervax works on,” said Caligreth. “Unless you can decipher Dr. Vaxioleth’s article. If I’m right, transmission could get stuck in the e-mag field, with the device partially dematerialized and the transmat beam traceable to my quarters.”

Eldrinaj felt her narrow neck grow tight.

“So what now?” she asked.

“We abort,” said Caligreth. “Yank me out of here. I have another approach we can try.”

Her heart sinking, Eldrinaj worked the prototype as instructed. Within a split second, her co-conspirator appeared to her right. Caligreth’s face reddened as he glanced around.

“Watch the dispersion ratio,” he snapped. “Told you that a hundred times. You nearly had me stuck inside my sofa.”

“Just remember how much you depend on me,” said Eldrinaj, “and there won’t be a problem.”

“Don’t threaten me, you ornithological nightmare,” said the Skryntali, “I can slither out of anything.”

The wily Olfdranyi cocked her head to one side.

“Even steel?” she asked. “But why waste energy arguing? What’s your plan?”

“We go looking for the Kadervax in Time,” said Caligreth. “Preferably the far future, when everyone will have forgotten about it.”

“That’s a big chunk of Time to explore,” ’said Eldrinaj.

But Caligreth explained that the functions of the Kadervax — its ability to change any object’s temporal coordinates — derived from its sensitivity to changing temporal fields.

“The Quishik breakout caused a massive disruption of spacetime,” said Caligreth, “right in the vicinity of those temporal transponder/gravity modulator chains they built. If we bring the prototype to one of them, we should find the spot where Time itself was inverted.”

“Wait, are you saying some part of the future was tossed back into its own past?” asked Eldrinaj.

“Won’t know until we look,” said Caligreth. “But that’s our best shot. The only alternative is flinging out transmat waves to every set of future coordinates starting with the next hundred cycles on, until we get lucky.”

Eldrinaj smiled and glanced at her personal scanner.

“Location of the Quishik breakout,” she said, and called up a holographic display that marked its coordinates with a bright yellow circle.

“Right,” said Caligreth. “We’ll take the prototype there and use it to zero in on the anomaly I’m sure must be there. How soon can you be ready to leave?”

“Don’t know about me,” said the Olfdranyi. “But you’re ready to go right now.”

Caligreth’s eyes widened as Eldrinaj grabbed the prototype and entered a series of commands.

“What do you mean?” he shouted. “Put that down. You can’t possibly….”

“I hear the view of the dwarf star is magnificent,” she said. With the flick of a toggle switch, the treacherous Olfdranyi sent the power-mad Skryntali thousands of parsecs away to an airless void — from which no amount of slithering could save him.

^^^

A new episode will appear next Saturday, and each Saturday until the story is done. Read Episode 13 now.

Read Ungent Draaf’s earlier adventures in Mark Laporta’s novels Probability Shadow and Entropy Refraction, which are available at a bookstore near you, on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. Mark Laporta is also the author of Orbitals: Journeys to Future Worlds, a collection of short science fiction, which is available as an ebook.

Image by Kalyee Srithnam.

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