Chapter 1

At least we didn't have to wear uniforms! I felt a little silly as we were "sworn in" to be the Galactic Police Force. How in the hell could 8 people police a galaxy with approximately two billion sentient species living on trillions of planets? Well, the answer, of course, was that we couldn't! Everybody hoped that we would serve as a symbol of what the Galactic Council hoped to accomplish. Well, I wished us luck, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

We were issued a sort of uniform, I suppose. It was a copy of the skin-tight suit we had worn for Venta and I had especially asked for it. Our armament was a combination rifle and grenade launcher with all of the bells and whistles you could imagine. With this outfit, any one of us could have licked a whole army back on Earth.

The Galactic Council had no authority to pass laws, so we didn't have to worry about passing out speeding tickets and such. We were there to enforce diplomatic agreements among planets and to stop outright pillaging of planets unable to defend themselves. Our first job was an example of this latter situation.

It seams that there was a planet which was located in a very desirable sector of the galaxy, but its inhabitants, the Gralx, were just edging into learning agriculture. The Gralx had no way to defend themselves against sophisticated interlopers from other planets, and didn't even know that they had been conned when a local lordling sold his meager acres to a real estate developer out for a quick buck. The papers the lordling put his paw print on actually said that the developer had bought the whole planet and that the new owner could do whatever he liked with Gralxia.

So far, the developer, one Tar Orlo, was on safe ground as far as the Galactic Council was concerned. Then Orlo made his big mistake! Orlo had bought Gralxia without looking far enough into its characteristics: Gralxia's rotation on its axis was slower than its revolution around its star. In other words, Gralxia's day was 1.93% longer than its year! Now, this doesn't sound like much, but consider this: every 98 years, any spot on the planet went through a day-night cycle. So what? Well, every spot on the planet got hot enough to boil water as it faced the sun and then got cold enough to freeze water as it faced away from the sun. That's not most sentient's idea of a garden spot!

The Gralx were perfectly adapted to this cycle, of course, and simply moved to a new location when the weather got too hot or too cold. This would never do for Orlo's idea of permanently fixed cities where he owned apartments and sold housing lots. It looked like the only way to salvage his investment was to speed up Gralxia's rotation to give it a more "normal" day/night cycle. The question was: how to speed up the day without emptying the cash box?

Orlo consulted several "experts" and was told that all he had to do was move Gralxia's moons closer to the planet and that would cause it to speed up. In the process, the moons would probably break up and form rings, which would greatly enhance the property values because of the improved scenery. One of the "experts" calculated that it would only take 17 years for the planet's day to shorten to 25% of its year, which was acceptable for a majority of property buyers. Orlo could wait that long to make his profits, but he was unconcerned that this would probably wipe out the Garlx.

This is where we came in. The Galactic Police Supervisory Council (GPSC) ordered us to stop Orlo's plan to move the three moons of Gralxia by any means necessary. Well, if they had acted a while back (which couldn't happen because my team didn't exist then), getting rid of Orlo would have been sufficient, but, by now, he had sold stock in his scheme and it would go on with or without his presence.

Orlo's group had installed tractor and repellor beams on each of the moons and these would be used to move them closer to Gralx. In all three cases, the gang, oops, excuse me, group of investors had installed a fusion plant on each moon to power the beams. Ah, the obvious target! We had already learned how to kill a fusion power plant, so this part of the job should be easy. Later on, we could "persuade" each investor to pull his support from the project.

Galactic Ambassador Rik-Rik, the half bear/half alligator diplomat, had been appointed our contact person to liaison with the galaxy, so she arranged for us to inspect the type of fusion unit we would be attacking at the General Galactic Electric, Inc. manufacturing facility. GGE was very helpful and pointed out all of the most vulnerable points. They made a mock-up available for us to practice on, and we spent a week learning everything we needed to do to disable the unit.

We hoped they wouldn't be expecting us, so we split our team into three groups of 3, 3, and 2 members. Amy, Julia, and I were in Group Alpha; Jim, Augusta, and Justina were in Group Beta; and Cicero and Arthur made up Group Gamma. Amy, Augusta, and Arthur were the demolition charge carriers; the rest of us carried fuses.

All three power plants had been put underground and were reached by a single service tunnel in each case. There was little security planning in any of the installations, it was just cheaper to put the facility underground than it was to build housing for it. The complexity of the operation appeared to depend on the size of the associated moon; the smallest moon had the least elaborate construction. Group Gamma was responsible for this installation and they went in the same time as the other two groups. This turned out to be a mistake in planning on our part. There were no guards and Group Gamma simply walked down the tunnel and up to the power plant without being challenged. They set their charges and left; the charges blew just as Cicero and Arthur exited the tunnel. Write off one power plant!

This explosion alerted the other two installations and they were waiting for us. The guards were not professionals, they were just some goons with guns. Group Beta was nearly all the way to the power unit before they met any opposition. Jim was walking along the left wall of the tunnel while Augusta and Justina were on the right. They found their defenders when a bullet bounced off the wall beside Justina's ear. She squealed in surprise and that drew a mass of bullets as everybody on the defenders' side started shooting at her. She was hit in the head and knocked out, as well as being hit in several places on her body.

This really pissed Jim off, so he opened up with his grenade launcher and made a severe dent in the number of defenders they had to face. Augusta also began firing with her grenade launcher and the combination quickly opened up a path through to the power plant.

The were just outside the room containing the power plant, so Augusta went in to set the charges while Jim stayed with Justina to guard her body while providing a defense against any new attack. There were no more interruptions and Augusta was able to set the necessary charges quickly. Jim picked up Justina, which was no problem with his enhanced strength, and they ran from the tunnel just as the charges went off and the facility's power failed.

Group Alpha was delayed getting into the service tunnel because some alert individual had the sense to close and lock the main door as soon as trouble was reported. This caused several other doors to close automatically and we had to find our way through the maze of wiring in the control panel to force the door to open. I was the one stuck with that job since I was the only one to have any idea how the system worked. I fumbled around for a while and discovered that if I shorted the yellow wire to the blue wire with the red and green tracers, the door would open. I have no idea why, it just worked!

Some bullets tore in our direction as soon as the door opened. I did have the sense to jump away from the panel as soon as the door started to move so that I was not hit, but there were some close misses. Amy and Julia opened up on the defenders, who appeared to know what they were doing. There were some girders running along the roof, so I jumped to them. From the girders, I could see the defenders behind their barricade, so I popped them off with my grenade launcher.

I used my communicator to talk to the rest of the team, "You two check out the defenders while I cover you from here. Those guys look like pros, so watch for booby traps."

Julia's voice came back after a short delay. "These people are all dead. Should we continue on?"

"Yeah, you guys continue on the ground and I'll cover you from the rafters." We made our way for about 200 feet and came to another closed door. I said to Amy, "Short the yellow wire to the blue wire with the red and green tracers and the door should open. Be sure to jump back as soon as the door starts to move. I'll cover you from here and we'll try the same tactic as at the last door."

She jumped back when the door started to move and only one bullet hit her, fortunately in the belly where it would probably do no permanent harm, though it did make her grunt.

Julia returned fire and got the defenders' attention focused on her. That gave me time to move a little further in and see all of the defenders. Again, I shot them with the grenade launcher and quickly killed the whole bunch. Amy had recovered by this time, so we proceeded with our current arrangement.

We soon came to what must be the last door and Amy went to the panel to open the door as before. This time, when she touched the panel, there was a small explosion and metal pellets sprayed all over the room. A booby trap! The pellet velocity was not enough to cause us any harm, though an unenhanced individual would have been killed or, at lease, seriously wounded. Nevertheless, the pellets did sting and served as a reminder that we were dealing with pros.

There was a short delay and the door opened, controlled from the other side. Two people came to our side of the door to investigate and were shot for their trouble. Two more opened up with automatic weapons fire from inside the room on the other side of the doorway.

I could see them from my vantage point near the ceiling. So I opened up with my rifle set on automatic; they were situated on the power unit and I was afraid that a grenade explosion might make it difficult to set the demolition charges. Amy and Julia quickly set the charges while I maintained a guard position from my rafter location.

Once the charge timers were started, I jumped from my perch and we all ran for the tunnel entrance. I shorted the control wires and we got through the door just as the charges went off. In fact, the force of the expanding air coming out of the tunnel entrance blew us about 50 feet across the tunnel apron.

We were the last group picked up and we were back at headquarters in no time. Rik wanted a detailed report from each of us about the raid for release to the galactic press. We were surprised at this, since none of us had any experience with press releases, but Rik insisted that it was for our own good. We cooperated, but I can't say that it was with very good graces.

Nevertheless, we were instant heroes when our story hit the news links a short time later. Many of the talking heads on the Transgalaxy Video wanted us for personal interviews, but Rik was able to quash that, pleading that we were too busy saving the galaxy to have time for personal TV appearances.

Orlo tried to have us arrested for destroying his property and costing him gobs of money, but he was stopped when he was asked just which jurisdiction he thought we should be tried in. We had violated no galactic law, since there were no galactic laws. We had violated no law where there was a legal jurisdiction, since he had claimed that Gralxia and its moons belonged exclusively to his investment group and was outside all law. Orlo was steamed at us because he couldn't legally attack us, but that didn't stop his plans to "develop" Gralxia.

Orlo consulted more "experts" and got all kinds of advice about how to speed up the day/night cycle on Gralxia, but most were simply too expensive or too likely to damage the planet beyond salvage.

Our team had gone on to other things and pretty much forgotten the Orlo/Gralxia incident. We had learned a lot from the incident, though. We all went to school and learned all we could about picking locks, from the old fashioned mechanical locks to the sophisticated electronic ones. We also learned a lot about power generation and distribution, particularly electrical. And so on. If one of us thought of something that would be useful to know, we all learned it. We wanted to be the best educated cops who ever lived!

Then, one day, I got a letter from Orlo's spouse (one of three, his species had a very complicated method of reproduction) which begged for my team's help. It seems that, according to the letter, the Gralxia fiasco had not been Orlo's idea at all—he had been the unwilling front for a syndicate of crime figures. Orlo's children had been threatened with bodily harm, or even death, if he did not follow through on the Gralxia scam. The syndicate had now invested a large sum of money in the Gralxia operation and they wanted it recovered, since there looked to be little chance of profit.

Orlo had no way of recovering the money and did not have enough of his own to buy off the criminals, so they were threatening the children, again. I shared the letter with Rik and the team and Rik agreed that the plot was plausible. We all wanted to do something about this, but we didn't know what it could be. Amy suggested that we scare the shit out of the criminal backers and we might get them to leave Orlo alone, plus back off from new criminal ventures.

We thought Amy's idea was worth trying and could be a lot of fun, too. Rik suggested that we identify Orlo's backers by contacting Orlo's spouse who wrote the letter to get him to persuade Orlo to talk to us. This prompted me to write a letter asking for the names of the criminals.

We didn't hear anything for a while, and then I got the local equivalent of a telephone call from a panicked Orlo saying that one of his children had been kidnapped and that he was told that we might be able and willing to help. I replied that we would like to help, but we needed names and addresses before we could do anything. Orlo gave me the name and address of the head of the crime syndicate and, again, begged me for our help. He explained that he had to come up with a large quantity of money in 8 days if he wanted to see the child, alive, again.

I contacted Rik and asked to see him, immediately. We met in his office and I gave him the name Aha Jorse and asked what he could tell me. Rik whistled (have you ever seen an alligator whistle?) and said, "You're going after a hot item, there! He's the most powerful being in the galaxy's world of crime. You need to be very careful with Aha Jorse or you can be seriously hurt."

"I'm not worried. I believe that I can watch out for myself. Does he have any personal weaknesses we could exploit? What is he afraid of? Do you have a picture of him?"

"The only weakness I know of is that he is fantastically claustrophobic. There is a story that he was once trapped in an elevator for three hours with four bodyguards. He was the only survivor! Perhaps you could use that. I'll have to get you a picture of Aha."

"OK, that's great. I have an idea how we can use that claustrophobia. We'll move as soon as I get the picture. Thanks. Now, I'll let you get back to work."

I called the team together and told them my idea. They were all excited and wanted to know when we could start. "We can start as soon as I get that picture of Aha. We should have it by lunch time."

The picture of Aha Horse arrived well before lunch. He resembled an octopus with hands on the end of four arms. He was about 4 feet tall with his legs extended. This was a perfect size for what I had in mind.

I sent Cicero and Arthur out to purchase the local equivalent of a steamer trunk large enough to hold Aha. When it arrived, Cicero and I did a little work on it and we were ready to spring into action. One of the things that Cicero and I did was to attach a harness to the trunk so that it could be strapped to Cicero's back for carrying.

Aha was so sure of his invulnerability that he did not make much of an effort to secure his dwelling. He lived in a penthouse on the tallest building in the city and the only normal entry was through two elevators and a stairway. One of the elevators was a service/freight elevator and ran from the basement of the building to his kitchen. The other elevator ran from the lobby to the entryway for his penthouse. The stairs were off to one side and intended to be used only during an emergency. The servant's quarters were on the floor below the penthouse and access was through a special stairway to the kitchen. The elevators and stairway were guarded all day, every day, so Aha was sure that he was safe.

Our only problem was getting into and out of the penthouse, the rest of the operation was routine. We considered the problem and came up with a rather elaborate scheme. We planned to have a transporter put us on the roof of the penthouse. We would repel down to a window in the servants' quarters and break in. We could then take the elevator to the kitchen and go from there. Once we had captured Aha, we would go down the stairs far enough to escape the shielding field and be transported from the building.

Rik had arranged for us to use an empty warehouse as a holding pen for Aha. Since even we didn't know where the warehouse was located, we felt safe in using it.

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Story tagged with:
Science Fiction / Time Travel / Humor / Violent /