Indra finally caught the invading craft on his radar and sped after it. Clearly the vessel had been hiding in the mountainous forests of the Southern Continent.
He began to scan the area the alien craft had suddenly vanished into and immediately realized he was dealing with a hidden base. Time to call in the cavalry.
Indra was on a scouting mission on Terra (the 3rd planet of the system) for Tarran High Command (the true one government of the 4th planet in the system) when he noticed the alien vessel emerge from the ocean and speed across the horizon at incredible speeds. At the time he was settled in a hidden spot in the nearby forest quite by accident or he would never have noticed “the event” as he was beginning to refer to the experience of watching a glowing craft emerge from the ocean. He had been chasing it for almost 15 minutes, in stealth mode, when he realized he was dealing with a ship of better technology than his.
Indra reached for the com. “Dheus, buddy, you there?”
“Dheus. I have an strange craft roaming around in a forest in the Lemurian continent. If we can bring it in alive and well and in one piece there may be some glory in it for us”
“Reading you loud and clear buddy. Which part of Lemu we talking about here?”
“I'm sending you the coordinates now. Anyone else in the area.?”
“Perk is up here somewhere. I can summon him. See you in 15 minutes.”
“Oh, one more thing. Can you guys stay in stealth mode please. I want this to be a surprise”
“Sure thing boss”
Dheus and Perk must have been shaking down the locals somewhere nearby, Indra mused. Picking on the locals of this planet had become something of a pastime of the Tarran Rangers Corp. A new creation of the Tarran High Command and The Monarchy charged with the task of patrolling the area around the two inhabited planets of Terra and Tara and making sure Tarans kept its military and territorial superiority. This meant everything from dealing with political dignitaries of the newly emerging advanced civilizations, clearly influenced by Tara, to chasing down common criminals who thought escaping Tara to Terra and hiding out there was a good option to escape justice.
That's what Indra had decided to say. That this was a regular chase after a particularly adept criminal. If he said he thought this was an alien craft he would probably get laughed at.
When Dhues and Perk arrived 35 minutes later Indra was parked on a grassy hill overlooking a fishing village next to a chain of mountains that Indra suspected to be the location of the craft's hideout.
Dheus and Perk parked their vehicles next to his and joined him on the hill slope. They smelt of beer, a local alcoholic beverage, so they had definitely been cavorting with the locals.
Most of the locals saw the Rangers or indeed, anyone from the planet Tarra, as “Gods”. The fact that the reduced Tarran gravity allowed Tarrans to grow larger than the average Terran or that the cooler environment had made them white skinned and light haired compared to their, mostly, dark skinned neighbors, worked in their favor as it made the locals think the Tarrans had stepped out of the Sun like some sort of Sun God. Being seen as a Sun God made hunting down criminals particularly easy. The fact that all Rangers carried a standard issue defense rod known as a stick which could fire electrical bolts across large distances, paralyzing or killing their targets, jut added to their Godlike mystique.
Indra was the largest of the group, at 6 feet 8 inches. Dheus the best looking but shortest at just 6 feet tall and Perk the goofiest looking with his lanky body at 6 feet 6 inches. They all had long blonde hair in a pony tail as was the fashion of the time and blue eyes. Standard everyday Tarran males. There was almost no one even close to this tall or brightly colored in the entire civilized regions of Terra, only the red-haired Nawans came close and they didn't like to mingle with the other locals and were very secretive of their appearance. Which the Rangers were thankful for as pretending to be Gods just made their job easier. Not to mention more fun.
“So what do you want us to do” Dheus asked he approached.
Just then the craft shot out from a cave in the mountain overlooking the fishing village and sped southwards across the ocean.
“Get that thing” Indra yelled as he ran to his ship.
Dhues was looking at it shocked while Perk was taking a picture of the craft like he was some sort of tourist. Just for a second. Then they ran to their ships and followed Indra out over the water.
“Tara 1 this is Indra can you track a vessel heading south over the southern ocean for me. Code 417.”
“Acknowledged Captain. Acquiring signal”
Indra had sent the request over the standard Ranger frequency so Dhues, Perk and the rest of the Ranger corp in range had heard what Indra had said and were probably connecting to their own satellite links to the Tarran High Commands signal being sent through Ranger viewing channels.“OK, so what's going on?” Perk asked.
“I think I spotted an alien craft”
“A UFO? You called us in for a UFO”
“You saw it, what do you think?”
“It could be an experimental vehicle from Tarran High Command”
“Than why is it running and why is Tarran High Command tracking it for us through their satellites?”
“Geez. This is bad isn't it?” No one responded Dheus' comment as a satellite feed connected.
The UFO was now clearly displayed across the Rangers viewing screen as they followed the craft to the Southern most continent of ice. It was so far ahead and moving so fast that it clearly was going to get where it was going without any Ranger interference even if they had wanted to interfere. If only he had thought of having one of the other Rangers take high orbit and track the craft from there. Indra thought. He didn't like being caught by surprise without a hidden tactic ready to deploy. Well, the past was the past. This vehicle had to be caught. He was having a very bad feeling about this. He was tapped into High Command through his wife and had heard nothing of such a vehicle which could mean that the rumors of alien spaceships from the locals were true. If the stories were true then Tara could be in very real danger. They needed Intel.
“Stay low. We don't want the craft to detect us. Keep com silence. Lets see where it takes us.”
“Why comm silence”
“Because we don't know what capabilities the craft has”
“Whatever, you just want some quite time. OK shutting up now”
It took 3 hours to catch up to where the UFO disappeared. With the satellite tracking the vessel they had the coordinates of its disappearance down to the meter so finding the underwater cave was easy. Getting in was another matter. They would have to call for an underwater ship or worse, go in there themselves. Indra had already decided he was going in and that there was no time to waste so while they were circling the areas from behind to find a hidden spot, Indra outlined his plan.
The other Rangers were brought up to date by Perk who snuck out to the other side of the island and, at a prearranged time, sent an encrypted packet of instructions in a short transmission burst that the Indra hoped they wouldn't detect. At the same time Indra & Dheus would be in position to enter the cave from their underwater hiding spot where they waited in their scuba gear. After sending the transmission Perk was to get in his ship and hover out of sight, ready to go to a high position as soon as their was any suspicious movement. Other Rangers had positioned themselves on other continents and at several location in space around the Horizon so the ship had no place to go. The trap was sent. The priority was to catch the occupant of the vessel for question.
Turns out the trap was unnecessary. When Indra and Dheus entered the cave. They had to swim but a short distance to discover a water free underground cavern but there was nothing there. No alien craft. No emissions of any kind too suggest that anything had ever been here. Indra was stumped. Dheus was spooked. Perk was confused.
The next day the rest of the Ranger corp, all 16 of them, were gathered in the underwater cavern with Indra, Dheus and Perk and making fun of them.
“Space travel is getting to Indra. He is seeing shining objects emerge and disappear into the ocean” said Kimpa with smirk.
“We saw it too” said Dheus & Perk simultaneously
“You too would believe anything anyone told you and would see it too given how inebriated you guys keep yourselves, dabbling in the local cults. Had any Soma lately and get lost?” Orph exclaimed with a hand gesture suggesting these three Rangers had lost their minds.
Soma was a mildly toxic brew from the Vedic regions which caused hallucinations and “spiritual experiences” or so claimed it's adherents. Dheus, Perk and even Indra had consumed this drug and had claimed to have visionary experiences. Indra even disapeared for a while in the Vedic Mountains and returned a different, more dangerously effective man. No one understood why and Indra never said anything. When asked about what he experienced in those mountains for seven years. He would just shrug and say “I was roaming around aimlessly”.
The jokes continued as the Rangers fanned out and examined this large, almost mile long, cavern. Rangers were nothing if not through. Any mistake of procedure could result in a court martial and not 1, not 2 but 3 Rangers had called them in so they had to investigate every inch of that empty cavern.
“You know what. Guys. Come here. Check this out.” Hunna was out in the Northern part of the cavern using close ranger sonar equipment on the cavern floor and walls.
“What is it” Orph called out
“It's not that I have something... its more like that I have too much of nothing being different”
“What do you mean” Indra's voice came out over the comm. Some of the other Rangers were beginning to move towards Hunna.
“I mean that there is no variation in the ground scans. As if our sonar was being blocked in a very specific way to show us a very specific image. Normally crust varies in thickness but not anywhere in this cave or on this island. It's picture perfect. Like a textbook. It's almost as if...”
The ground shook. Hunna looked up in horror.
A shiver of fear went through the Rangers. They were in an underground base. Probably at it's entrance. If a large ship came through they would all be burnt to a crisp.
Then the proud Rangers of Tara did something quite unbecoming of them. They ran like frightened school children towards the South side of the cavern. Towards the waterhole that would get them out of there. Less than half of them made it as the floor withdrew leaving nothing but an empty space. Dheus managed to jump and catch hold of the edge of a ledge further down from where the floor had suddenly withdrawn from.
The Rangers that had made it listened in horror as their teammates screams faded into the distance. Then the rushing air as if something large was coming up through the tunnel. A very long tunnel.
After a few minutes a gold and silver object the size of 10 of the Rangers ships emerged from the tunnel and entered the water hole and out the cave through it's underwater exit. It didn't seem to notice the Rangers in the water at the holes edge.
“There's a stairway on the side.” Indra's pained voice over the helmet coms broke everyone out of their shock. Lets move now” Indra jumped out of the water hole the Rangers had taken cover in and dropped down over the edge of the tunnel right onto a ledge running along it's side, a couple of meters from the edge, and started running towards Dheus who was beckoning to them.. at the top of a staircase that seemed to disappear into ta hole in the wall.
Perk sighed with relief. He didn't think Dheus had made it but he must have just caught the ledge and pulled himself up. He had to remember to treat him to something for surviving that. Maybe a couple of the local women and some Soma.
“Perk,snap out of it” Indra's voice came over the helmet com. “Go for back up”
Perk snapped out of his reverie and jumped back into the water grabbing scuba gear as he went down.
The Rangers entered one at a time and headed down the stairs. Everyone was now in combat mode. Their hats has expanded and were now covering their faces both to provide lintel on their environment and to provide safety through its variety of technological enhancements.
Right now their visors were amplifying the light on the staircase so the Rangers could see in the dark as they made their way through what seemed to be almost three miles of tunnel going straight down.
The enemy, which is how all Rangers were seeing their targets by now, clearly hadn't noticed 9 Rangers fall into their midst or they didn't care because there was no reaction. When they got to the bottom they understood why. The tunnel continued out horizontally into the distance. The unlucky Rangers bodies were splattered all over the floor which was a meter below the rest of the tunnel. One body was identifiable as Huna as pieces of the sonar equipment was still attached to him but no one went out to look. They had to remain hidden. But they looked at their former teammates glumly and shared a few stories about them while they scouted the area.
Indra, being the Captain of the Rangers began to take stock. He had 7 Rangers left including himself. Perk was outside, presumably calling for backup from Tarran High Command which could take up to a day to get here so they were on their own for now.
“OK. were going to do down this tunnel. Dheus and Apo with me. We'll take the right side of the tunnel. Zora, Zawa and Desu take the left side. Find what cover you can if another vessel approaches. Theraq, I want you to hide out in this area and use shortwave to communicate with Perk when he gets back. Maintain radio silence in our direction. If we don't return in 12 hours return to base and report on what happened.
The Rangers fell into their assign positions and began to trek down the tunnel at each end, leaving more than enough room for any vessel to pass through and hoping they wouldn't be detected if they lay flat in the corner if one did come by. They didn't have camouflage suits. It's not like they couldn't get them if they wanted to it's just that Rangers never needed that sort cover till now.
Indra could tell from the lack of comments that the Rangers were still in shock from this discovery and losing so many of their teammates in such a senseless way. With no honor or glory to speak of. Of course, they would all lie and said they died in battle against a formidable enemy. The Rangers were an independent unit that took an excessive amount of risk and thus took care of each other like family... and pretty much no one else. But who would argue with the only advanced people on this planet. They answered only to Tarran High Command. Not even the Monarchy could order them around, though the Rangers would make themselves available to the Monarchy if requested. They were like celebrities even to the Rangers. Tarran High Command didn't care what they did as long as their missions were accomplished. And that's what the Rangers did. They accomplished mission and this was now a mission. Indra felt pride well up in his chest for his little group of commandos. This might be their finest hour. A noble death. Time to find out what they have have in store.
OK. Enough chit chat. Lets move out” Indra commanded
“Yeah I want to kick some alien, or whatever or whoever they are's, butt” Dheus said with a hint of rage.
“No firing except on my command” Indra barked using his command voice
“Understood.” Dheus said with a sigh and the Rangers began their trek down the tunnel.