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THE TROUBLE WITH TERNI

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER TWO

"Glad to meet you, Detrina," he responded. "My name is Peter."

"I know!" she replied. "I saw how you single handedly captured one of the Ruler's greatest allies and prevented war from breaking out on Triax."

"Well I didn't really do that much." Peter cut himself short.

There was no need for false modesty. He knew that most people would not risk their lives the way he had done and could expect others to exaggerate his heroic deeds by idolizing them.

"Thanks," said Peter trying to hide the fact that he was blushing.

"What brings you to Terni?" Detrina wondered out of curiosity.

"Vacation!" exclaimed Peter. "I can't save the galaxy single handedly nonstop."

"You've come to the right place," Detrina informed him. "I've lived on Terni all my life. I was even one of the first ones born here and I can tell you from experience that there is no place better for vacationing, or for living for that matter."

"Perhaps you could show me around and pick out the best Terni has to offer," Peter suggested. "After all, I am new around these parts."

"I'd love to!" glowed Detrina as if she had dream all her life of doing so.

"So what do you like to do?" asked Peter to stimulate conversation.

Detrina looked up at the dome ceiling and noticed it was starting to get dark.

"I'll tell you later," she explained. "They're about to start."

No sooner had she finished speaking than a voice came on through the headphones. Peter adjusted his headphones so he could hear the voice more clearly.

"Since the beginning of time, man has wondered how to understand each others thoughts." the voice began. "There have been many advances in conventional technology through the written word, the telegraph, the telephone, and modern radio and laser relayed messages. However, none of these inventions are able to communicate thought directly. They all depend on some sort of interpretation. Then suddenly, about fifteen years ago, a breakthrough occurred on Terni."

Peter listened to the voice intently. His curiosity was aroused more than ever. He knew that Terni has invented the hologram thought projection device. There was much more to Terni than met the eye. Peter thought of all sorts of questions to ask Detrina when the presentation was over.

"A research team was working on a way to improve memory," the voice continued as a picture came up near the center of the dome. Peter guessed that it was a recreation of the historic event and he was right.

"One of the researchers was strapped to a series of electrodes similar to the ones you see before you and shown one hundred card with the numbers 0 to 9 on them, ten of each. Then, the cards were shown to him again in the same order. They hoped that the device would amplify his thoughts so he could memorize the cards faster and more accurately, but no one was expecting what soon followed."

"As the cards were being shown to him, he remembered which card was next. As that same instant every single person in the room had a mental picture of the card. It lasted less than a second, but it was enough for them to know that they had found a new method of communication. After several more experiments, they found that pictures of common household objects could be transmitted without too much mental effort."

"That was fifteen years ago. Today, the pictures we can transmit are much more complex and last much longer. However, we still have a long way to go before this becomes a practical form of communication. It has a range of only about fifty meters and it takes a considerable amount of effort to send messages for long periods of time, but there are great promises for thought projection in the next century."

"Don't expect to read minds though. One cannot receive messages until the other person sends them and since it requires some effort to send these messages, the odds of picking up hidden thoughts are astronomical."

The lights came back on. It wasn't enough for Peter to see everything clearly, but it was enough for him to make out the things around him. Detrina had all her electrodes in place. She had been there before and knew what was coming up.

"What do you thing of it so far?" asked Detrina. In spite of the headphones they could still hear each other quite clearly.

"I'm impressed," answered Peter. "What's next?"

"They're going to let us experiment with thought projection," Detrina explained.

"Please put on the electrodes in the proper manner," instructed the voice.

A long, boring series of instructions quickly followed. Peter would have been lost if he didn't have Detrina to look to for help. It was something that became easy after it was done once successfully. Some people in charge came by to make sure everyone knew what they were doing and helping those that needed it.

"Now I want you to get into groups of two or three and take turns projecting images of your childhood to one another," the voice commanded. "If you happen to be in your childhood, try thing back as far as you can remember."

Peter and Detrina looked at each other. They knew that they had already formed a group.

"You can go first, Peter," sighed Detrina.

Peter closed his eyes and concentrated on a simple childhood memory. A short time later, a picture formed of a young boy, about ten years old, on a small farm in Kentucky. It was night time and he was gazing up at the stars wondering what was out there.

Peter remembered that he had wished he could travel though space at the time. Little did he know that he would get what he had wished for. He looked at the boy as if he were a complete stranger even though he knew it was none other than himself, a long time ago.

"You miss your home world," Detrina stated sympatheticly.

Peter was amazed. That was exactly how he was feeling. He knew why he had been feeling sort of out of it for the past few days, but no one has stated it quite so simply. He wondered how she could know so much about him so easily. It was as if she could read his mind in spite what they said about it being astronomical.

"I sometimes worry about how my friends back on Earth are doing," Peter admitted.

"Why don't you go back to Earth and find out?" Detrina suggested.

"It's not that simple," explained Peter. "I promised I wouldn't return to Earth until a year after I retire. If I go before that time, some of my enemies might follow me and cause mass destruction. Earth is not capable of defending itself against the Ruler or any of the other major criminals. So for the sake of millions of innocent people, I must make Earth as unlikely a target as possible."

"I'm sure all that wouldn't happen just because you visited some of your old friends," declared Detrina.

"I'm still not taking any chances," Peter responded nodding his head in agreement that it was more a precaution than anything else.

Detrina realized it was her turn to share an image of the past. A picture soon appeared of a young girl about the same age as Peter was looking up at the stars. The background was the Terni Amusement Park instead of a farm in Kentucky, but the message was still the same.

"Copy cat!" scolded Peter affectionately.

The previous image faded and a new one appeared with Detrina and some of her friends talking in what looked like a school. Peter closed his eyes, but the image was still there. These images were picked up by the brain directly so a blind person could see them if any still existed. However, the pictures remained silent. The kids were talking, but not a word could be heard from any of them.

"When do you think the first talkies will come out?" Peter wondered comparing it to a silent movie. Detrina didn't understand.

"Not too many people can project two images in a row," Detrina smiled smugly.

Peter knew a challenge when he heard one and tried his best to project a second image. A picture appeared of Peter and some of his friends involved in a neighborhood football game. It was out of focus and blurry around the edges, but it counted as an image never the less. He gave Detrina a sheepish grin.

Without lifting a finger, Detrina created a third picture just as clear as the other two. She returned Peter's sheepish grin knowing she had won this time. Peter tried for a third image, but he had worn himself out. All that appeared was the equivalent of static.

"You win!" acknowledged Peter realizing that it wasn't much of a contest for her.

"We had a contest last year and I came in third place over all with seventeen consecutive images," Detrina told him to rub it in.

A few more demonstrations were given with both the small groups and the audience as a whole. Each time, a historical background was given as to how the advances came about.

When the presentation was over, Peter and Detrina walked out together into the sunshine. It was the first time Peter got a chance to see what Detrina looked like and he wasn't disappointed. She looked like she was in her mid-twenties with blue eyes and wavy, red hair coming down to her shoulders. She was wearing a white, synthetic type of clothing obviously made on Terni.

"What rides would you recommend?" shrugged Peter having no idea where to go next and remembering Detrina' s promise to show him around.

"The Galactic Peril!" Detrina shouted slightly hinting that she had seen Peter for quite some time before she introduced herself, at least long enough to know that Peter wasn't particularly found of roller coasters.

"No roller coasters," announced Peter as if he were talking to a crowd. "How about a water ride?"

"Or a haunted house," Detrina added brushing her hair back to one side. "I bet you'll be scared."

Peter didn't know if he would be or not, but there was only one way to find out. He followed Detrina toward the ghosts and goblins lurking in the darkness, waiting for some unsuspecting tourist to fall right into their trap.

TIME : 9:30 A.M.
PLACE : The M.W.G.D. base on Terni

Linda waited patiently for the others to explain to her what was going on. Shawn and Farlos had remained in the room with her while Terni had gone into a room that looked and felt like a freezer. Linda gave a loud sigh.

"Don't worry, Linda. I will make sure you get just as much vacation time as Peter, Hank, and Lisa do," Shawn reassured her. "I really appreciate what you are doing here."

"Could you at least tell me what's going on?" demanded Linda.

"In a minute," Shawn replied.

At that moment, Terni reentered the room and told the others that everything checked out and they all followed her into the freezer. Linda didn't know what else to do so she just tagged along behind them.

Linda felt the chill of the freezer and wished she had decided to wear something other than shorts. Shawn saw Linda shivering and understood her problem. He opened a compartment Linda hadn't notice before and pulled out a sweat suit. Linda put it on and felt much better.

It had been rather dark in the freezer, but someone turned on some lights on for them. Linda looked around and saw some silvery metallic objects that looked suspiciously like coffins.

"What are those things?" questioned Linda directing her question at Shawn.

"They are suspended animation chambers," Shawn answered. "Each one of them contains a living human being who has agreed to be placed in suspended animation for a period of ten years. These people are pioneers. Although people have been revived after periods of two years or less, no one as ever tried the process for such a long period of time."

Linda looked at the objects again. This time with a great deal of respect and admiration. She wondered how many people were involved with the experiment.

"There are fifty of them in all," Shawn continued as if reading her mind. "They were just placed into suspended animation yesterday. Our job is to transport them to a secret location where the security is much greater than it is here."

"All of them are well respected figures from all over the galaxy," stated Terni taking over the explanation. "If they fall into the wrong hands, the kidnappers could ask for just about anything they want."

It was hard for Linda to think about taking the "coffins" as kidnapping, but that was indeed what it was be. She thought to herself that this was one of the most unusual missions she had ever been involved in.

"The first thing we need to do is move the suspended animation chambers to the ship," commanded Farlos and then apologized to Linda for not telling her about the ship.

He explained that they had a ship near by that was large enough to fit all fifty suspended animation chambers into a refrigeration unit.

"No one would expect a cargo ship to contain the pioneers in suspended animation," he declared as he finished telling Linda what she needed to know.

Farlos and Terni each grabbed an end of the first chamber they came to and started carrying it over to the cargo ship. Shawn and Linda grabbed a similar chamber and did the same. When they got to the cargo ship, Linda didn't see anything special about it. She knew that that was the idea, but something told her that things weren't going to go as smoothly as they had been going. Something was bound to occur.

Linda kept her thoughts to herself and went back to get a second chamber. Soon, all fifty of them were safely inside the cargo ship. Linda removed her sweat suit and gave a sigh of relief when the work was completed.

"It should be ready to launch tommorow morning," declared Terni happily.

"I'm just glad we only have to worry about them for one day," stated Farlos without having to worry about whether or not the others agreed with him. "After that, the matter's out of our hands."

Shawn turned to Linda and smiled. "You are free to go. Take the rest of the day off," he told her.

TIME : 11:50 A.M.
PLACE : The center of the Terni Amusement Park

Peter and Detrina had gone on many rides together. Ironicly, the haunted house had been changed since that last time Detrina had been on it and it was Detrina who became scared. Peter took advantage of the opportunity and got revenge for loosing the battle of thought projections. Next, it was Detrina's turn to get back at Peter, so she took him on a nice, quiet water ride that she forgot to mention dropped about twenty feet at the end. While all that was going on, they were getting to know each other a little bit better. Peter was glad he had met Detrina. She was the first person that he got to talk to one on one without a crisis going on for a long time.

Unfortunately, the fun was over and Peter waited at the spot Hank had arranged as their meeting point. He wondered if Hank and Lisa had made any new friends like he had done. He couldn't wait to introduce them to Detrina and vice versa.

Peter started telling her about Hank, Linda, and Lisa and how they had stayed loyal to each other. He also told her about Shawn and how they had been close friends before and after he became leader of M.W.G.D. Detrina listened eagerly, especially the part about Shawn. Every once in a while, she asked a question which Peter would immediately answer to the best of his ability. There was once exception when the answer was classified information for M.W.G.D. officers only, so Peter told her so. Detrina seemed to understand.

"Tell me some more about yourself," encouraged Peter.

Detrina explained that she worked at the Triax section of the Galactic Museum. Both her parents had been born on Triax, so she was quite familiar with its history. She was currently on her day off and had decided to spent it at the amusement park.

"I'll have to visit the Galactic Museum," Peter remarked.

Just then, Peter made eye contact with Hank who was coming to join them. Detrina saw him too. For the first time since Peter had known her, she began to panic.

"Sorry I can't stay," she said abruptly. "I have some things I need to do. I'll meet you at this very spot around five o'clock."

Peter tried to ask why she had to leave in such a hurry, but by the time he overcame his initial surprise, she was already out of sight.

"How strange?" Peter thought to himself.

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