MENTAL ESSENCE
PAGE 59
     After a memorable passing through a debris field, they made good time to Multanina.
    "I swear I lose ten years every time I go through one of those." said Pace.
    "Now we look well-traveled." said Trent.
    "Dents are not a good thing." Halmara quipped while feeling her forehead.
    "It's a good thing we're not the only ones looking for Ventan." Orin said, looking at a scanner showing billions of lights emanating from thousands of cities.
    "Is there a protocol for entering their space?" asked Aukous.
    ''None on record, and it seems to be a very busy place." said Trent.
    "Hulmara!  Are you keeping up on the mapping?" asked Aukous.
    "Yeah." she replied, adding, "Why?".
    "Might have to make a hasty retreat.  Knowing where to go through that debris field might be real handy." Aukous replied.
    "Trent, are there Ventan type codes being used in communications?" asked Pace.
    "There are many forms of communications being used.  I have sampled only a small percentage of them, and of those most are in universal.  The others could be domestic languages, or just electronic transfer coding, but none pattern Ventans preferred
linguistics." Trent replied           .
    "Perhaps we should just scan planets, then land on the most likely." said Pace.
    "Good idea.  That would save a lot a time." Halmara answered.
    "Aukous, you are coordinating with the others - right?" asked Pace.
    "Yes." Aukous replied.
    "Let's stay at one of the small lodging facilities while we scan." Orin suggested.
    "Why small?" asked Halmara.
    "Inconspicuous." the Doc stated.
    " Any interesting life forms out there?" asked Halmara.
    "So far the life forms here are as biologically similar to us as they are to each other, as we are to each other." the Doc said.
    "Here's a small business with only ten rooms for rent." said Orin.
    An hour later they stood in front of the six rooms they had rented.
    "Well now we know why they had eight vacancies." stated Halmara.
    The structures were in severe need of repair, and disinfecting.  They decided to try something a bit posher.
    "I have located three archives and two active data bank's, none seem to have reference to Ventan." Trent announced.
    "How many data banks are there?" asked Aukous.
    "Hundreds.  Maybe thousands." Trent replied.
    "Let's rent a transport and have a look around." suggested the Doc.
    "After something to eat.  I'm starved." said Orin.
    "Good idea.  I noticed a place accosted the street when we checked in." Holmara said.
    One glance at the menu, they knew they were in for something new.
    "My translator says a lot of this stuff is served raw." said Pace.
    "Mine too.  Maybe we should ask." said Holmara.
    "Do not eat anything that is not cooked.  I may not be able to treat you if there are unknown pathogens." said the Doc.
    They settled for some safe looking desserts.
    "Trent, where is the most likely place to find the most data storage?" asked Aukous.
    A city called Imta.  There seems to be a lot of electronic activity there." Trent said.
    "And we are on our way." Orin proclaimed, and pushed the transport to its limit.
    "Imt is on the other side of the planet.  Maybe we should check out of the hotel." Halmara said.
    "Not to worry, these transports can make the trip in ten minutes.  Besides, I'd rather not hang around a place we're spying on any more then we have to." Aukous replied.
    "There's a very large amount of electrical activity within each of the buildings with the orange-colored logo.  It would take me years to decipher even a small portion." Trent said.
    "That's another not good thing." said Pace.
    "Wait.  Wait a minute.  Ventan sent us directions to his mansion after we left Sairree.  There must be a leased two boosters between where he was and we were.  Therefore, perhaps there are records of data streams.  Ventan probably used those boosters, and others around his mansion for communications all over the place.  In fact, he would have known choice." Trent hypothesized.
    "I'll ask the military to acquire the records if there are any." Aukous said while almost jumping on the control panel.
    "Most of his interests were within five light years.  Therefore, if there are records, we can trace him to the surgeon who made the first alterations, and then to the next one." said Pace while typing furiously on her link.
    "I'll bet he killed his first surgeon.  We should look to see if there were any mysterious deaths of surgeons." said Orin while opening a link.
    "I'll check on his transport maintenance.  Maybe there was some unusual damage or something." said Halmara.
    "At least some of his enterprises must of had insurance." said Aukous.
    "Transports from other systems refueling near his place." said Pace.
    "As I recall, all communications in that region are bounced all over the place because of the number of small companies providing services. And, deliveries coming or going would have been recorded." said Orin.
    "The military would have checked all these things.  Besides, Ventan would always be on gourde for nosy beings trying to catch him doing something illegal.  If I were him, and I had a place that looked anything like those pictures show, I'd want lots of good stuff, legal or not.  So, if there is a shipping depot near there, then I bet there is a tunnel.  He could afford it." said Pace.
    "According to this, the closest shipping center is on the fringe of a town called Neppton.  Looks like a long way." said Aukous pointing to a location on the surveillance photo.
    "Who owns this place.  If deliveries went there, a tunnel would be easy." asked Halmara, pointing to small complex near Ventans massive estate.
    "We'll have to go there.  No link info of land ownership." said Aukous.
    "That's about a two-week trip.  Stasis, or sightseeing on the way?" Asked Halmara.
    "I vote for stasis till we get to Rustion.  If we stop there, we can come up with a reason for going to Ventans planet." Doc added.
    They all agreed, and hit the stasis chambers.