Disclaimer: Space Cases and all related characters are the creations of Bill Mumy and Peter David. They belong to Nickelodeon, who should have known better, and CISNAR productions. They do not belong to me. Havelock and Estrella are mine.

Note: The lines that Havelock quotes in the first scene are from a poem by W.B Yeats.

From his Crossways book "The Indian to His Love" Note: this picks up where Forget-Me-Not left off.

"Optical Illusions" by Karen


EMAIL: karrenia_rune@yahoo.com

A flurry of colored scarves leapt up into the air like butterflies emerging from their hiding places in the magician's sleeves. As they climbed higher, the scarves looked almost as bright to look at his robes, a mix of blues, oranges, and purples. His tanned skin was flushed, shiny, and brown as if from spending too much time in the sun. His black hair was streaked with gray, which gave him a salt-and-pepper look. With a quick snapping motion of his wrist, he gave the scarves another twist and released. They hung motionless in the still air above the heads of the audience. In the background, competing for the attention was the sounds of the Moravian spaceport activity.

The scarves sailed around the heads of the audience caught in a strong gust of wind and then arced downward as if seeking someone out. They circled Catalina's rainbow hued hair and then folded themselves up as neatly as her aunt back on Titan had once shown how to properly fold a napkins for a for a formal dinner. With that in mind Catalina reached for the scarves and tried to snatch one out of the air, but her fingers slipped
through them as if they had been made of smoke and not cloth. "Now, we shall turn dross into purest metal gold, in short, ladies and gentlemen,
I shall endeavor to perform something that has never been attempted before," he paused a moment, and then cocked his head to one side as if thinking something throng.

He glided towards the far end of the stage and glanced towards where ships docked on the landing bays. He shook his head, then continued. "At least not done within the living memories of anyone now present. Now I, Havelock, Illuminator extraordinary, will attempt a feat so astounding it will amaze and delight you. But," he trailed off, holding up the index finger of left hand, `a feat of this magnitude will require volunteers from the audience."

Catalina raised her hand, and then nudged Bova with her elbow, as hands shot up in all the rows ahead and behind them. "Oh, come on, it'll be fun," she whispered.

"You're beginning to sound like Rosie."

"Please," Catalina said, then turned back to face the stage again.

From the back of the stage where curtains had been hung in place of a backdrop, a girl with black hair came forward at a silent head nod from Havelock the Magician, and stepped down the three steps from the stage to the ground. She cocked her head to one side, as if thinking something through for a moment. Nodding to herself, she smiled, and came forward to where Bova and Catalina where sitting about the fifth row back.

She escorted them up the three shallow steps that led to the stage, and with a few whispered words indicated that they were to take their places at in the center of a square drawn in white chalk roughly the same size as a garden plot. Estrella glided over to a table, poured some water from a pitcher into two matching pewter cups, and had them each take a swallow. With that accomplished, she looped a pair of gold bracelets over their wrists. She withdrew behind d the curtain at the back of the stage.

Havelock smiled at them, and raised his arms as the wind flapped his robes around him.

He allowed the moment to draw itself out, then glided over to where Catalina and Bova where standing inside the chalk square. Removing a scroll from one of his numerous pockets, he unrolled it, smoothed it with his long narrow fingers, and began rolling off arcane words in a magical language.

In the distance, he could see the Christa`s silver hull glinting in the Basra's sunlight. A corner of this mouth twitched in a sad smile but it was hidden under his beard. He then turned his attention to the task at hand. He began chanting in a solemn and melodious, yet carried clearly to the expectant audience like the wind rubbing against tree branches.

` "Here we will moor our lonely ship/And wander ever with woven hands,

Murmuring softly lips to lip, along the grass, along the sands. Murmuring how far

Away are the unquiet lands. / Here we alone of mortals are.

Hid under quiet boughs apart. While our love grows an Indian star, a meteor of

The burning heart, one with the tide that gleams,

the wings that gleam and dart.

`The heavy boughs, the burnished love.

That moans and sighs a hundred days:

How when we die our shades will rove,

When eve has hushed the feathered ways.

With vaporous footsore by the water's drowsy blaze.
'" Havelock concluded.

When the last syllable had passed his bearded lips, the silence thundered around everyone gathered around the stage. Bova and Catalina stood in the middle of chalked square felt a tremendous ripple pass through them, which began at their feet, up through him, all the way to the roots of their hair, and travel in an invisible arcing wave towards their ship.

When they had a chance to catch their breath and recover from the shock, they saw that

the Christa had been shrunk down to the size where it was no bigger than a child's toy.

In fact, it reminded Catalina of the scale-model she had once seen Suzee call up from the ship's computer memorybanks, which showed the blueprints of the ship.

"Hey!" Catalina shouted, but if he heard her it was lost in the cheering of the audience and the roar of engine as it fired off before launch

Havelock pivoted on his heels, his red cloak trailing behind like the wings of a bird of prey swooping down on its prey. He kept one hand on the toy-sized ship, and with the other he withdrew a bottle, and then fished around in his pockets and came up with a cork. The motion and the gusting wind made it hard to follow his movements. Catalina could just catch a glimpse out of the corner of her eye as he stuffed the now encapsulated ship into his pocket, and walked off the stage into the surrounding crowd.

"Did you see that?" Catalina nudged Bova and then rubbed her eyes with her

hands trying to get rid of the odd gritty and numb feeling that swept over her.

Bova just sighed. He had been watching the magician's act along with the rest of the crew of the Christa, and had been paying close attention to how the man spoke, moved, and when he paused and didn't' trying to guess at the man's style, and learn from it. In the back of his mind, he had been toying with the idea for a couple of weeks at trying his hand at couple of tricks. In fact, he had even downloaded a few tricks from the SpaceNet, with hopes of working a few himself. "The Great Bovalini, that's me," Bova muttered under his breath. 'I remember trying to the bed-sheets out from under Suzee's bunkbed when I was trying to wake her up, should work the same on a tablecloth with stuff already laid on top of it," Bova absently thought

"What's wrong?" Catalina asked.

"Nothing," Bova replied. In the back of his mind he thought about trying his hand at a few magic tricks. He had been paying close attention to how the magician moved, spoke, gestured, and paused. He tried to guess at his style and learn from it. Bova had been toying with the idea of trying a few simple tricks. In fact, he had even downloaded some from the Christa's Infocore and from the SpaceNet. "The Great Bovalini, that's me," he muttered under his breath.

"What did you say?" Catalina asked.

"Never mind," Bova replied.

"We have to go after him!" Catalina said in an urgent whisper.

"We?" Bova shook his head. "Are you crazy? He's a magician. Look, I don't know if

I told anyone this or not, but I didn't. That's no ordinary smoke and mirrors trick or

Illusion, he actually shrunk the Christa!"

"Magic or not, we can't just stand here and let him get away with it!" Catalina shouted.

"We'll never find them, we don't know where to look," Bova argued, miserably

collapsing onto one of the stone benches lining the open-air theater.

"Of course we will!" Catalina replied, nervously back and forth in front of him.

"Pardon me, might I be of some assistance," a light tenor voice inquired, lightly tapping Catalina on her right shoulder.

Catalina left off pacing and turned to the face the new girl. She was about the same age, with dark hair and gray eyes. She wore a outfit that was made of up a shiny gray pants that looked almost silver, a white sleeveless undershirt with a black leather vest worn over hit, with a v-slit neck. She wore one of the multi-covered scarves that had been used during the performance bound up in her black hair.

"Huh?" Catalina said.

"Pardon me for not introducing myself properly," she inclined her head slightly,

But I couldn't help overhearing, and I noticed that you were in some distress," she said.

"Hey, don't I know you?" Bova demanded.

"Allow me to introduce myself, I am Estrella Ellis," she inclined her slightly.

"Catalina, and this Bova. Can you help us?"

"I will most certainly try," Estrella replied, shaking her head and shuffled her feet.

"That magician, the one who called himself Havelock, he's taken our ship and our friends captive," Catalina exclaimed all in one breath nearly succeeding in toppling over onto Bova and then knocking each other onto the ground. Catalina blushed red in embarrassment got to her fee and brushed herself off.

"You mean to tell me that Havelock shrunk your ship and then took those aboard captive?" Estrella asked.

"Why didn't he tell me this is what he had planned?"

"That's exactly what we're saying, Bova yelled.

"Then it is imperative that we get it back, and that is something that

I can definitely help you with," Estrella said cocking her head to one side as if thinking something through. "Come with me, and we will acquire transportation, and the means to rescue your friends."

"Where?" Bova asked.

"To Havelock's Inner Sanctum, we find one and we will find the other," Estrella said.

"How do you where to find him?" Catalina asked.

"Because I live with him," Estrella replied.

"You do?" Bova asked.

"He's my father," Estrella replied over her shoulder, as she walked towards a small town and away from the spaceport. "Follow me, I'll take you to him."

Catalina and Bova hurried to keep pace with Estrella as she headed off to the east, and farther away from the noise and activity of the space port.

Meanwhile

Commander Goddard halted in mid-stride and glanced at Miss Davenport who was leaning up against the far wall where the jumptubes where located. At that instant, he suddenly felt like fainting, although in the back of his mind, he had to admit she'd had very few panic attacks lately, "Bully for her." he absently thought. "She's making progress, they all are. Now what in the hell is going on?" he demanded just as the ship rippled around him.

The movement started beneath his feet, and just as he was about to open his mouth and ask Thelma to check the scanners to see if the planet Moravia was subject to seismic tremors. He felt the waves shake the deckplates as they began sliding beneath him, forcing the rest of the crew to grasp onto their control consoles and hang on. The walls expanded and the ceiling seemed to be coming down on top of them.

Even Radu, with his Andromedan inherent balance was having difficulty standing when another `ripple' passed through the ship.

Harlan and Rosie collided into each other and then clung together to stay upright.

"What the hell was that," Harlan whispered to Rosie.

"I wish I knew," Rosie whispered back.

Goddard cleared his throat about to open his mouth to ask if everyone was more or less all right, when the ship shuddered and they artificial lighting in the Command Post went dim, flickered on and off for about five minutes, and then went completely black.

*****

Elsewhere

Havelock leaned back in his padded leather chair and lit his pope bowl. He watched as the smoke wound around the pipe's rim and the smoke curled into the air and around his beard. He puffed for a long time while the mildly narcotic sterego that he grew on the plantations outside of his mansion relaxed him. It wasn't the same, as the tobacco that had grew wild on his homeworld of Titan, but it was close enough.

Later, after the sterego had burnt itself out and the pipe had gone dark, much like the light coming in through the mullioned windows. Havelock stirred in his chair to ease of

Stiffness of being in one position too long. He stood up and pulled out a cloth to clean the pipe after dipping into a basin of water that had been warm, but was now tepid. As he did so, he cocked his head to one side as if thinking something through.

Perhaps this whole thing has been a mistake? Admit it to yourself, old man, even if you won't admit to anyone else. This has been a brilliant cap on an otherwise undistinguished career in The Illuminators Guild, and sometimes-obvious honor has to take a backseat to necessity. What is it they say? Oh yes, some offers are just too good to

refuse. I had no choice. So, why is my daughter giving me the cold shoulder treatment.

I did this for her. This Spung Warlord is not a man who takes `no' for an answer."

With those thoughts running through his mind, he glided swiftly down the hallway, looking for his wayward daughter.

"Mi hija!" he called. "Estrella, where are you, girl?" Why won't you answer me?

He called his daughter's name several times and went out to the hallway to see if she was eavesdropping at the door to his study, as she sometimes did. Seeing no one, except the few remaining servants, he glided down the hallway to her bedroom and knocked on the door. Nothing. "Perhaps she went to the marketplace before coming home from the spaceport, nothing to worry about," he said aloud, talking to himself.

Later

When the odd rippling sensation subsided, the crew of the Christa picked themselves off the floor. On orders from Commander Goddard, they checked for injuries, and then turned to check the readings on their consoles to be certain the ship hadn't sustained any damage.

"I don't know about everyone else, but I feel all blah and kind of squashed, like

I'd been stuffed into a box that was too small for me," Rosie said, as she gulped in a deep breath of oxygen.

"I know how she feels," Miss Davenport groaned, rubbing a bump on her head.

"Whatever that rippling sensation was it's likely some outside force pressing down on the Christa," Goddard remarked, then turned to Rosie, "Check the scanners.

It might have been some kind of attack"

Rosie turned to her console and bent her to the controls. "Everything checks it out,

Commander, only," she shook her head, "only, it's that we're no longer at the spaceport."

"Where are we?" Goddard sighed.

"I don't know," Rosie said.

"We'd better find out," Radu said.

"Only one way to do that, and that's to check out what's happening outside of the ship," Harlan shrugged, and headed towards the exit.

Harlan stumbled over a sheer edge and would have tumbled headlong, several hundred feet to a dimly seen ground below, if Radu and Commander Goddard hadn't grabbed an arm. Together the yanked Harlan back onto the narrow shelf where the ship now perched.

"We'll need light to see," Goddard remarked, blinking in bright light, trying to adjust to the sudden change.

"Light?" Thelma echoed. Then the android made a minor adjustment to the palm of her hand, and it lit up. Goddard made a 360 inspection of the place and discovered that were in a huge high-ceiling room. Adding warmth to the otherwise chill room was a large

fireplace. Facing the fireplace several comfortable leather chairs, above which hung portraits of men and women mounted above the four doorways at each of the point of the compass. Most likely these led to other rooms in the building. Potted plants and flowers scattered around the room added their own splash of color.

Under other circumstances, Goddard would have found the place almost cheerful, and would have liked to take the chance to explore, but at the moment, he was more concerned with the safety of his crew, and where they were.

"If I recall correctly, back on the jungle planet where we crash-landed, the Spung Hunters use a shrinking device," Davenport said, not liking to be reminded of the time because her shrunk her down and placed in a small cube that made her claustrophobia to act up something fierce.

"Yeah, they shrunk me down and forced me to run a maze with that Kirsh kid," Harlan added.

"That's not much help right now," Radu muttered.

"These Spung hunters," Rosie added, walking away from the clock, "All they were after was the Rhombi, poor thing, and they only wanted it for its spit, because drinking it, ugh, would give them tele..."

"Telekinesis, the power objects just by thinking about it," Goddard replied.

"That actually might be helpful right now," Goddard remarked, craning his neck upward uncomfortably at the underside of a coffee table that was coasted with a thick layer of dust. He sneezed and glanced back down at his boots.

"This shrinking." Goddard trailed off, then turned to Thelma.

"Yes, Commander," Thelma replied.

"The device they used," he prompted.

"Yes, the Laumarians invented the basic technology, and the Spung stole it," Thelma chimed in.

"They claimed they `liberated it," Rosie said.

"Semantics," Miss Davenport added.

"Depends on your point of view, " Commander Goddard finished. "Whatever,

at the moment we have important things to worry about, like how to get out of this predicament."

"We can't stay up here," Rosie gulped. "I don't think I've felt this small before."

"It's a matter of perspective," Davenport said.

"Rosie's right. We'll have to find someone way down to the ground floor and then find the person responsible for shrinking us and the ship," Goddard said.

"At this size, there isn't much we could do to coerce him into restoring us back to full size," Davenport said.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Goddard said, bringing a hand to his temples to try and rub away a lingering headache, then indicated that Thelma should carry the bottle that contained the Christa.

"All right, first things first, Thelma do you have rope?"

"Of course," Thelma replied, and fumbled around in a sealed recess, as the shipboard android's violet eyes glazed over until only the whites showed, then she pulled a length of rope that was badly tangled into coils, but with several minutes of work they managed to untangle it. Thelma picked up the bottle, the Christa's silver hull glinting dimly from the light of torch and leaving dust motes along the glass surface of the bottle.

"We'll need to find something to anchor it to, and then climb down to the ground floor," Radu said.

"Are you certain this is a good idea?" Davenport asked nervously, taking one brief glance down.

"Beats staying up here, "Harlan muttered, still a little shaky from his near tumble.

"This place is creepy," Rosie shivered, as she came forward and peered over the ledge.

"I'm open to suggestions," Goddard muttered under his breath, gesturing to Harlan and Radu to help anchor the rope to a solid-looking knit-knack carved in the shape of a harp. They tied it in a secure knot to one of the pins, then directed them in how much rope to play it out, by measuring the distance to the dimly seen ground.

Once that was done, he told Thelma, Rosie and Miss Davenport to go down first, followed by Radu, indicating that he would go last,

Miss Davenport walked over, and biting her lips to keep from screaming, grabbed the rope in both white-knuckled hands and shinnied down. When she reached the ground, she yanked on the rope to indicate that she had made it, and it was ready for the next person.

Thelma came down next, who raised her hand, causing the light from her mechanical torch to waver, and cast odd shadows. Rosie went down next, in her nervous accidentally
using too much heat of her Mercurian talent to burn through a few of the rope fibers.

Harlan went next, and then Radu and Commander Goodard.

When they reached the ground floor, they discovered that ordinary objects like tables and bookcases, and chairs now loomed over them like giant forest trees.

"What were you saying about things being a matter of perspective?" Goddard asked.

"Well, look on the bright side, Rosie began then paused as if waiting for a forthcoming sarcastic rejoinder from their resident pessimistic, Bova.

`What bright side? Which never came, because he wasn't there.

"Size is relative and what I meant earlier about semantics, which is the study of language usage, if anyone here had been paying attention to their lessons, " Miss Davenport said primly, "is very much subjective."

"Eye of the beholder and all that jazz?" Harlan remarked.

"Yes," Miss Davenport snapped, her patience wearing thin.

"Now I know how a mouse feels, scampering in the nooks and crannies of a house,"

Rosie remarked as she and Radu stood staring up at the grandfather clock carved with scrollwork, lining the far wall of the curio room in which they were trapped. She focused her sight on the odd wooden bird that kept popping out of its small wooden house and letting a teeth-jarring squeak." Our objective is finding the person who did this and convincing them to undo it," Goddard nodded encouragingly at Rosie.

"Easier said than done," Davenport muttered.

"Even if we do, get back to full size, how do we get the ship out?" Harlan asked.

"One crisis at a time," Goddard replied.

Meanwhile, Bova and Catalina climbed up the wall of the mansion using the ivy that choking its walls as hand and footholds. Bova refused to look either up to see how far was left to climb or to look down to see how far the ground was should one of them slip and fall and bring the rest with them. A few tense moments ensued, as Catalina wanted to scream in frustrated impatience. She held her breath instead, knowing that there were three very good reasons to keep silent. She counted them on the fingers of her left hand, as Estrella put her fingers to her lips for silence. 1) Catalina's sonic scream, even modulated would be audible to the mansion's wardens; two, it would attract attention it would trigger the magical defenses that Havelock had set up around his mansion.

With that in mind Estrella paused a moment to mutter the cantrip that would nullify the defenses. Once that was done, she undid the latch and slide inside the building. Once she was in, she opened them all the way and gestured that Catalina and

Bova should follow her.

Once inside she let them rest, to get their bearings and catch their breath.

"We're here. Now what?" Bova gasped.

"Knowing my father, and what we've all seen back at the spaceport, your friends and your ship will be among the other items that's he's collected over the years," Estrella said.

"Great, but how do we find them?" Catalina asked.

"Did anyone think to bring along a magnifying glass?" Bova muttered under his breath.

"Would you stop it," Roise gasped.

"I have an idea about that. I've been thinking about that on the way here," Estrella said. "There are two ways to go about a situation. You can either think about the problem or think about the solutions to the problem. I have a box that we can use to counteract the spell." She pulled out small oblong box silver and turquoise box with raised etched letters in a language that Bova and Catalina could not read.

"This will bring your friends back to normal size, and then together we will see about setting matters right."

"Let's get this over with," Catalina said, pushing herself to her feet from the soft cushions where she had collapsed and stood up straight. Bova just shook his head and followed after them in single-file.

**

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew tramped across the plush giving pile of the carpet that Miss Davenport took to be some kind of Oriental carpet.

Its geometric patterns made her dizzy trying to follow where one left off and other began. Each hexagon, square, rectangle and triangle was bigger than all them had they been standing on top of each other's shoulders.

"It's like walking across a forest or a desert and coming across footprints of a giant:

Suddenly immediate and minuscule world in which they found themselves made the tiniest details come into focus: Such as the dust bunnies that rose up beneath their feet, the curved feet of footstools, couches, and chairs blocking their path.
It's like that dumb maze all over again," Harlan remarked to himself.

With Thelma providing the only light source, they made it to staircase leading up to the second floor, a seemingly endless count of marble stairs wound up into the darkness of the floors beyond.

"I never realized what a pain it must be being this small," Harlan remarked.

"Does anybody have any idea how long it will take us to go up all those stairs?"

"It's the only way out," Radu said.

They began to climb, scrambling forward, pulling themselves up onto the first of the cool polished stones, the light from Thelma's makeshift torch making the steps gleam like alabaster. Slowly, one foot in front of the other, they climbed, pulling with sweat-

Slippery fingers, sometimes pausing for a moments to catch their breath. Step after step went by beneath their feet, until last they felt fresh night air on the faces coming through an open window and carpet running the length of an elegant hallway.

Just then, a thudding sensation rippled through the floor as loud as the beating of their hearts, and the gasping for breath. Trying to react to what they could only assume was dangerous and they tried to scramble to their feet, but collapsed back down to the floor.

Catalina spotted the tiny figures huddled on the stair's landing and rushed forward with a happy and relieved shout, the wind of her passing almost sent them tumbling back down again. She stopped at a loss as to what to do next. Then recalling what Bova had mentioned about bringing along a magnifying glass rummaged around in the many pockets of the gray, standard issue StarAcademy jumpsuits that all cadets wore, and found what she was looking for. She pulled the device out and peered through it.

They stood up and shouted something that she couldn't hear, apparently they recognized that she and the other two with her weren't a threat. But they were so small, she bit her lips to keep from crying, and they all shouted to make themselves heard that she couldn't understand a thing.

Estrella came to stand beside her and brought out the turquoise and silver box. With a fingernail she undid the clasp on the lid. With her free hand she removed a slender tool and made some adjustments before and they waved the box over the tiny figures.

Once that was done, there came a loud whooshing of air through their ears, like the sound where there's a sudden change in cabin pressure, and then everything spun out of focus, forcing everyone to close their eyes, and instants later, when they could stand upright and open their eyes again, everyone was their correct size.

**

After everyone had finished hugging and checking if everyone was all right, Goodard took charge of the situation, "Thelma, do you still have the `ship in the bottle?"

"Yes, Sir," Thelma replied.

"Good, now let's get this over with."

**

Confrontation


Estrella led the way as the group down the branching hallways of the mansion, as she flung a handful of a silver dust into transparent shields that held, then flickered and sputtered back into nothing, as if they weren't even there.

"I don't understand why my father we do this," Estrella muttered to herself.

"He's never needed to put up defensive barriers inside before."

***

They found Havelock in his reading chair, his pipe lit and a fireplace burning. At first, no one felt inclined to make the first move.

A brief staring contest ensued, until Estrella marched forward, and took the pipe away.

"I think you owe these people some answers."

"I don't owe them anything," Havelock muttered as he set his book down on a nearby table.

"How did you shrink the Christa," Harlan demanded, fidgeting and shuffling his feet.

"My dear sir, please do not caroming about in here, there are several very rare, and very fragile items here, that I went to great lengths to acquire. I would appreciate it if you did not damage them," Havelock remarked.

"How could you do such a thing?" Rosie demanded.

"The more urgent question, as matters stand," Goddard said, "Is how we undo it."

"Agreed. " Miss Davenport seconded.

"I didn't have much choice in the matter, my dear. I was hired by one of the Spung warlords," Havelock replied.

"The only Spung warlord that would have any interest in the Christa or in us," Radu said, "would be Warlord Shank."

"Yes, that's the one," Havelock replied, nodded.

"But why?" Harlan wondered.

"Because I didn't have any choice!" Havelock snapped. "Don't look at me that way,

Estrella,' half-turning away from Harlan as he glowered in her general direction.

"Do you have any idea what kind of predicament I was in? Do you? Of course you don't.

"We've had more than a few encounters with the Spung ourselves, Warlord Shank himself more often than any of the others," Goddard remarked. "I still don't think I understand why you did this, or what you would get out if it."

"I'm suspecting your hand in this, dear," Havelock remarked absently to Estrella,

`meddler in other people's affairs...." He trailed off. "Very well, since you will insist

on forcing it out of me, we can conduct this business in at least a civil manner.

If you must know, the only reason to go along with what Warlord Shank proposed was

Because," he took a deep breath, "I was under some finical difficulty, and without knowing anymore about Warlord Shank, he made me a deal that I just couldn't turn down."

"Have you received any sort of communication from Warlord Shank since the time you captured us?" Miss Davenport asked, feeling a bit dizzy and nervous at the prospect.

"No," Havelock replied. "If Warlord Shank reneged on his part of the bargain, I doubt that I would be surprised right now."

"What were the terms of the deal?" Goddard asked.

"That I would capture the Christa and her crew intact, if at all possible, then hold them

as part of my collection of miniatures until such time as Warlod Shank felt inclined to lay claim to them," Havelock replied.

***

"There might be a way of making this up to them," Estrella said.

"Girl, hold your tongue," Havelock snapped at her.

"What did you have in mind?" Goddard asked.

"Well, from what both Catalina and Bova have told me, they've been trapped in this

part of the galaxy for some time now, and are trying to get back home. If we could provide a means of shortening their trip by half, don't you think we should?" Estrella said.

"Fine, give them that? In fact, give them everything we have? Why don't we just let them take it all," Havelock began shouting, standing up and waving his arms about wildly in the air.

"This a spaceport, and as you may have guessed we're not native to Moravia," Estrella said, then shrugged. "In any case, we have the working blueprints for a solar-ion powered prototype engine that would help provided the needed thrust and propulsion to carry it

skyward.

"Just like the Christa's ion-glides!" Catalina exclaimed.

"What you're suggesting is a trade?" Harlan asked.

"Not exactly," Estrella replied.

"My kingdom for a Compupad, "Goddard muttered under his breath, wondering why it was suddenly so hard to do computations in his head, he turned to Thelma. "By increasing the efficiency of the ion-glides and incorporating with this solar-heated device with the only readily available rocket fuel in space, what does that work out to?"

"One moment, Commander," Thelma replied. Her eyes glazed and then she turned again to face him. " It would entail ionization of the electrical charges that connect the Christa's engines with its ionglide drivers. The electrons can receive the energy need to generate escape velocity either by absorbing the photons with enough energy or by colliding with another atom.

"That energy can then being taken up in increments, like the rungs of a ladder,

and the energy gained, and the collision takes place at a high velocity, one or more of the electrons may gain enough energy to escape," Goddard nodded.

"The effect of the excited state depends on the amount of absorption lines that are

formed by an atom. The wavelengths will vary. The spectrum of an atom changes drastically when it has been ionized, because the arrangement of energy levels will be altered."

"And this will work, it shorten our trip home?" Miss Davenport asked.

"I think that this will shorten your trip by almost have the time of the seven years

it would take you to reach the StarAcademy," Estrella said.

"If we incorporate this propulsion system into the Christa's engines, it will take us approximately, 480 days, 2 weeks, and 40 seconds to return to the StarAcademy." Thelma said.

"Then what are we standing around for!" Harlan exclaimed. "Let's do it!"

"At ease, Mr. Band," Goddard said, with a tired, fond smile. "We'll do it. That's is if the offer still stands?" he demanded of Havelock.

"It does," the other nodded.

"I dunno, Commander," Harlan muttered, "I mean, there have been times in the past when we thought we'd found a shortcut, and it usually turned out to be a dud, or for some reason we couldn't use. I just hope that isn't the case here."

"I don't see any other alternative, do you, Mr. Band?" Goddard replied.

"No? Then I say, what have got to lose by trying it?"

END



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