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  • He sat in the indoctrination class and scratched the spot on his arm where they had inserted the translator under his skin. His head was filled with all the strange facts they had been teaching him. Twin stars with three sister planets making an elliptical orbit around both stars. If you drew it out on paper, which they insisted he do, it looked like a big figure eight demolition derby racetrack back home with three separate cars barely missing each other as they crossed orbits in the middle. In the center of each circle was a star.

    When they first exited their capsule they were surprised to find themselves on what looked like the apron to a hanger at an airfield. They were surrounded by a group of uniformed creatures carrying some short stick like weapon and forced into a large hydrofoil. Then transported past a series of small hangers and into a much larger building. They were held there and given the translator injections. Then they were questioned, separately about their mission. It didn’t take long before they were released as backward aliens. When their captors found out they had come from Earth in that capsule there was much laughter. “So, the backward Earthlings have finally tried to join the civilized galaxies?” was how one of the instructors put it during their first class.

    They learned the three wormholes were portals to each of the three sister planets and used for commerce and/or warfare- much like Earth’s oceans. In times of peace they were shortcuts for delivering goods and services between the worlds. In times of war, shields covering the portals had been built and destroyed many times. At the moment they were at an uneasy peace and that could change at any time. They worried aloud about the envoy they were expecting from another galaxy. The ship was overdue and carrying a new shielding material for the wormhole entrance.

    The wormhole connected to the larger wormhole or space tunnel system, STS as they called it, and had been used for exploration of other galaxies, including his. Each of the sister planet’s populations had traveled to Earth and claimed sections of it for themselves. When he expressed disbelief, they showed him holograms of ancient crop circle like carvings. Only visible from high altitudes, they were the same pictures he had seen in books back home. Books wondering about ancient civilizations and aliens. Each sister planet had planned future expansion on Earth. The only thing stopping them was the constant fighting that went on between them.

    The Captain mentioned that they had passed a large ship about halfway through the tunnel and wondered if that could have been their much awaited envoy. They asked exactly where and the Captain looked at him for verification. They allowed him to retrieve his data from the capsule and he gave them a fairly accurate location in the tunnel. They became quiet and then there was speculation that they had been sold out. The envoy could have taken one of the other tunnels and delivered their shielding material to their enemy. But which enemy? And how soon could they expect to be attacked?

    There was a sudden whirlwind of activity as each of the hangers under the tunnel entrance were lowered underground. The contour of the area changed slowly into a concave shaped bowl. He saw instantly that this would act as a reverse blast shield that would intensify any explosion back up the tunnel entrance. A fairly effective defense, if the shield was strong enough to withstand the blasts. He could only imagine the affect it would create inside the tunnel.

    They launched two small space craft into the tunnel to act as an early warning system. They would hover at the other end and only return if they saw other craft exiting one of the other tunnels. They would be relieved after a six hour watch by another pair of fighters. This would continue until an attack occurred, or their planet approached the apogee of their orbit and gravity shifted as they were thrown out of one orbit and sucked into the other. At that time, no travel through the tunnel was allowed. The tunnel narrowed until it was impassible and stayed that way until the second star regained control of their orbit.

    During that time was when an attack from the other planets was usually initiated, if indeed they were going to attack. They would sit at the entrance to the tunnel and simply lob whatever weaponry they had perfected into the entrance. This could go on for days until they had cleared the first stars influence. Only one planet at a time was affected by this phenomenon, as only one planet’s orbit entered the danger zone at any time. The tunnels to the other two planets remained open for business the entire time.

    The crew of the capsule had been given living quarters underground near the hangers. Other than sticking their heads out to marvel at the twin suns in the midday, there wasn’t any work they could be doing. He was able to find an adaptable power source for his unit and started sending his reports back to Earth again. He didn’t really think they were being received, but it gave him some purpose.

    The Captain and his first mate began to quietly explore the insides of one of the fighters. They felt sure they could operate it. What the Captain didn’t find was a supply of oxygen for the trip home. They must keep that in another area. The entire crew, including he were sent out to find that source.

    The relief fighters were coming in and out of the entrance every six hours and landing for refueling and replenishing their oxygen supply. He was able to wander over to watch how they managed it. Apparently they had some kind of capsulated oxygen pill they swallowed to produce a continuous supply to the bloodstream while in space. He didn’t have to feign astonishment and the Crew Chief was happy to explain exactly how it worked. One pill would supply eight to ten hours of oxygen to the system. He oohed and aahed appropriately and noted where they were stored. He realized they probably were kept in each hanger in the same place. They just didn’t know what to look for before.

    He reported back and they located the supply of pills in their own area. They started making plans for their return journey. They would take one of the fighters and make their escape at nightfall. He noticed the relief fighters didn’t return and it was only a few moments before the guardians came out of the tunnel and landed. Sirens began sounding overhead and they could feel the changing in the gravitational pull. They weren’t exactly lighter or heavier, but walking became a challenge. They would drift in a sideway direction when they tried to move forward. Like a drunk walks, or a sailor when he first gets ashore. A little queasiness, but nowhere near the TSC sensations of the tunnel.

    Just when he was adapting to that, the explosions started. He was knocked off his feet by the first blast and looked around at his fellow crew members. No one was hurt in the first blast, but they decided to stay put and not move around until someone else came looking for them. Obviously the hole had closed up and one of the sister planets had declared war. They would just have to wait until the hole opened back up and hope they could make their escape during the confusion, if they lived that long…
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