Writer- Kevin Peterson
Screenplay- Kevin Peterson
Script Editor- Kevin McCorry
Commander John Koenig sat at his
desk in Command Centre, staring at the Big Screen. Everyone was
staring. Professor Victor Bergman said that what they
saw there was possible, given certain conditions. The planet
which was now only a dot on their monitor screens was far too
close for comfort. Far too close because their scanners had not
detected it. Uncomfortable for them because their scanners still
did not register it.
"A space mirage?" John had asked Victor.
"Well, John, I suppose you could call it that. When a planet
seems to be
a projection from an alternate area of space, there's probably
term for it."
"So, you're sure?"
"'Sure' is not a word I'm fond of as a scientist, but the
the known facts."
"We could live there?"
"If the atmosphere conditions and the temperature are appropriate,
if the planet can exist for us- certainly. But that's a lot of
Apparently the planet is a 'doorway' into an alternate area of
none of the forces usually surrounding a planetary mass are radiating
this space. Probably those things only radiate as far as the
"So, it doesn't matter how close we pass. Can't orbit. Won't
affected by it."
"No. If you were thinking of a reconnaissance, time is of
"How come we can see it, then?"
"That, John, is a matter of metaphysics and philosophy."
John gazed at the image of the bizarre planet on the Big Screen
grew rather entranced by it until Alan Carter commented, "It
closer inspection, Commander."
John concurred. "Yeah. Who knows, it could be the planet
for, despite the enigmas."
"Either way, we should take a closer look," Alan replied.
John was decisive. "Okay. We're going. Alan, get Reconnaissance
One on Launch Pad Four and meet us there in ten minutes."
"Right, sir," Alan said. He walked out of Command Centre
as John turned
to Victor. "Victor, you're in command. You, Sandra, and
scanning and report any readings you happen to get." John
looked over at
Security Chief Tony Verdeschi, who was seated at one of the far
perpendicular desks. "Tony, you're coming along. Contact
Dr. Russell and
tell her I want her to join us."
With that, Koenig left Command Centre and headed to his quarters
prepare for the trip.
Alan stood at the travel tube to Launch Pad Four. Tony was
at his side,
chatting amicably. Both were dressed in anoraks with the Alpha
patch on the left shoulder. Alan's anorak was blue. Tony's was
jackets had not yet been distributed on Alpha; so, except for
John, who had
a khaki vest to wear while on Moonbase, and some senior staffers
coats, the Alphans did not as yet wear over-garments while on
However, for members of reconnaissance teams, anoraks were now
Minutes later, John arrived, dressed in his own anorak, which
orange-pink in color and had its own upper-waist belt. The three
the tube and took seats to wait for the fourth member of their
"Very strange to be going to a planet that by all rights
there," Tony commented.
"Well, let's hope it will be there. I wouldn't want to burn
fuel for nothin'," Alan said with a broad, good-natured
The doors to the boarding tube opened, and a slight rush of wind
heralded Dr. Helena Russell. Blond and dressed in her slacks,
light-blue anorak, she regarded them with an official air. He
into a smile. "Come on, you slow-poke varmints."
The tube reached the Eagle on the pad. They all piled in with
gear. Within minutes, they were on their way. John and Alan were
cockpit in the nose cone, and Helena and Tony were in the passenger
the forward part of the Eagle's middle section.
Sandra Benes watched the Eagle lift off and recede toward the
She wished her colleagues well on their voyage and tried not
hoping. So many planets, so many disappointments. On this occasion,
hopes on for size was especially difficult with Paul's recent
collapse and reassignment outside of the Alpha command structure.
between Paul and herself had deteriorated during Paul's rough
time, and she
blamed herself for not seeing the signs of trouble for Paul.
The rest of the personnel in Command Centre were looking up to
planet, and the Hunger was starting to awaken in spite of themselves.
for a new world. Hunger for a new life. What they did not suspect
the planet also hungered for them.
Aboard the Eagle, John frowned. "Can't even get a spectrographic
analysis. So, why the hell can we see it? Victor thinks maybe
license, whatever that means."
"Well, we can't worry about it right now," said Alan.
"We're about to
enter the atmosphere, and if Victor is right about that being
barrier..." He shouted back into the passenger section.
Alan kicked in the retro engines as the gravitation of the planet
grabbed them. Helena almost imagined that the Eagle was breaking
up as Alan
faltered with the controls. They all felt the sickening vertigo.
as it had hit them, it was gone, and the Eagle was stable.
They quickly pierced into the thick cloud cover, and Tony manned
analysis equipment while Helena monitored the small video screen
seat. Alan piloted and John navigated. The murky white of the
interior drifted at the ports.
"Well," John called back at them as Tony and Helena
"We're getting readings all right, or would be if it wasn't
for all this
static," said Tony with a grim face.
Helena added, "The only relief I can find in it is that
anything. But to get here and not even tell if we can breathe
"We'll have to suit up, then." Koenig looked over at
Alan and said, "If
we continue to get a negative reading on atmosphere, we'll put
spacesuits on upon landing."
They finally broke through the underside of the clouds. They
eyes downward to the land below and gasped as one.
High above the Moon's surface, drifting in a slow orbit, was
form. It rolled endlessly in zero-G void, eyes and lungs exploded,
frozen lips in an open-mouthed snarl of stupid rage, hands locked
claws. Robed in black, its grotesque pirouette was described
in spiral by
the lengths of cloth. One would think it was dead. It was not.
And now, it was willing itself out of orbit.
It passed from dark into the reflecting light of the nearby planet.
Something within its body was stirring and, like those living
a Hunger. But unlike that of the others, this Hunger was voracious
consuming. Its roll slowly ceased, and it faced the shrouded
planet as if
observing it with its shattered eyes. The Moon began to recede
below as the
figure started an inexorable trek toward the planet, gathering
pure force of will.
The Eagle swooped above the panorama of the scene below. Those
surveyed the jungle-thick landscape. Everywhere, the color was
rich and vibrant. It would have been beautiful had it not been
they saw was the lurid stuff of nightmares. Mountains were stark
purple monoliths. Green lakes hissed with effervescence and teemed
glistening, half-seen things of a hideous shape. As the landing
nearer, they became aware of blood-curdling shrieks which split
the air. The
noise came from flopping, winged creatures that looked fleshy,
Alan exclaimed, "I don't believe it! How could things like
Helena had come into the cockpit. She answered him. "There's
telling. Especially on a planet from another universe. The rules
aren't the same there. Or here. Wherever."
John sighed slightly as he stared out at the conglomeration of
trees over which they were passing low. "Another strike-out.
Staying here is
out of the question. Helena, do you think we ought to--?"
Gigantic jaws of crimson teeth snapped out at the ship from the
with crushing force and connected with a front wing. Tentacles
from the leaves toward the Eagle.
"Alan!" Tony yelled. They heard the metal rip and twist.
with the ship, his face clenched with effort. The Eagle's motors
with power, but the grip of the mysterious creature stayed locked
Alan increased drive power to maximum, the Eagle started to tilt
but the tug-of-war finally ended, the Eagle the victor. They
"Set this thing down somewhere safe," John ordered.
The ship was
pitching and yawing.
Tony, looking at the wall video screen in the passenger section,
shouted, "Fore starboard at two o'clock."
Helena adjusted the monitor in the pilot section. She saw the
picture. "Whatever it is, it's growing from the trees."
The Eagle plummeted into a wide clearing, emergency retro rockets
in desperation. It pulled up slightly and settled into a nest
engines cutting off simultaneously.
John sighed loudly in frustration as he released his harness
up. Alan and Helena were beside him waiting for his next command.
those suits on."
Tony came forward and joined in as they removed the spacesuits
hangers and climbed into them. They removed guns from the Weapons
attached them to the holsters on their spacesuit belts.
"On with the helmets, everybody," John directed as
they finished suiting
up. Tony and Helena put satchels over their shoulders, and Alan
scanner to assess damage to the ship. "Ready? Out!"
John commlocked open the
Eerie silence reigned in the huge clearing which was almost like
savannah. A light-blue mist covered the ground rather like a
smokey fog, and
the clouds were low and boiling.
"Stun guns ready." They fanned out and scouted a short
the fallen ship. When the Commander was satisfied that they were
the moment, his voice came over the helmet radios. "All
right, Alan, assess
the damage to the ship and have Alpha send two Eagles to lift
this mess out
of here if we can't use it. Tony, you stay with me. Helena, as
long as we're
here, take samples and make your recommendations. If we can't
stay, maybe we
can at least take some of this abundance with us."
They worked in silence- disappointed, angry, and thankful that
The black-robed figure entered the outer reaches of the atmosphere.
started to warm. Ice became liquid, cold hands flexed in pain,
renewed eyes managed one horrified state before they were burned
sightless once more. There was no breath to scream as the clothing
sheared away in consuming fire. Blood boiled. Flesh sizzled and
ran liquid and burned. The body streaked into the clouds, a blackened,
phoenix on wings of flame that knew its agony, its name, and
Alan hastened into the downed ship and activated the cockpit
communications console. "Eagle One to Alpha. Come in, please."
Victor's anxious face appeared. "Alpha here, Alan. What's
going on? Did
you make a landing?"
"A crash-landing, more like it. Victor, we've got a problem.
grabbed at the left-front wing of the ship and nearly tore it
"What sort of something? Is everyone all right?"
"Yeah, we're all okay. We don't know what attacked the ship.
hidden in a clump of trees. Our Eagle is okay to finish any recon,
not spaceworthy. You're going to have to send a couple of Eagles
to lift us
and Eagle One out of here."
Victor nodded. "I'm sending Booster Eagles Three and Four
Then, his attention was diverted to Sandra's console. "Hold
on a second...
Sandra's getting an energy reading from somewhere in your sector.
fast. Difficult to tell you how near since the planet doesn't
There was a shout from behind Alan. His faced turned away from
for a moment. "Stand by, Victor." The screen blanked.
Alan ran out to the
exterior of the ship and joined the others as they watched what
a meteor blaze across the bizarre sky.
"Whew!" Tony exclaimed. "Like hellfire."
The apparent meteor impacted several metres away from them, at
of the horizon. Alan raised his commlock. "Victor, a meteor
has just come
down, and ground-zero is a bit close, if you ask me. We'll keep
Alan reattached the communicator to his belt and stood with his
his hips, looking at the rumbling dust cloud that rose in the
"Commander, can I go and check it out? The Eagles won't
be here for a good
John in his spacesuit bobbed like a buoy as he nodded. "Sure.
a quick look and get back here."
Alan jumped into the cockpit of the damaged Eagle as the others
clear. He hit the release stud for the nose cone locks. They
let go with a
drum-bang as he eased to life the tiny twin engines along the
rim of the
nose cone. He hit the main pod engines and lift rockets at the
elevating the front part of the ship so that the detaching nose
given a push upward. Once Alan had taken off, the remainder of
eased back down.
Helena went back to her work examining the mucky soil and the
celia-like grass which moved and rustled of its own volition.
said, intent on her project. No answer. She looked up. Koenig
with the binoculars, spying at the edge of the clearing. She
could hear a
whistling in the distance. She got up and walked toward him.
"John, what is
"Well?" She stood beside him.
"Over there," he said, handing her the binoculars.
"Almost too hard to
see. I think they're being sneaky."
Helena peered through the instrument. "Who? I don't see
She saw what looked like two low-set creatures which moved only
slightly, as if watching them. The disturbance made them small,
and a point
of light shone from both of them. Something else. Something she
was not even
sure at first that she was seeing. A dancing glamor of reflection
in the air a short distance in front of the things.
She started back from the binoculars. "They're gone."
"Do they remind you of anything, Helena? Try to think!"
She felt disoriented. John shook her slightly. "Um... I
"We've seen them before, or one like them. The Dragon, Helena.
Helena's face cleared, as if a laser cut through the smog of
"That's why I feel so strange. The hypnotics." She
grabbed his arms. "John,
an entire planet!"
"Their home world. It fits the facts, as Victor would say.
came running over. "Dig up some of those small hatchets
out of the Eagle and
rig up something to strap them on our suits, preferably on the
explain to him what this is about. I have to think."
of Victor's report on Cellini's monster flashed into his head.
the uncanny, one-eyed, octopod carnivore discovered by Cellini
Ultra Probeship disaster of 1996 and which later crossed the
path of the
runaway Moon, lured Cellini into battle, and killed him before
John was able
to administer a coup-de-grace to the beast, the Bergman paper
cannibalization of life-force seems to suggest that its methods
sustaining itself indicate a nature not strictly dependent on
factors... When one is confronted with an instinctual design
in the presence
of no apparent self-regarding intelligence, one can be led to
observation (to paraphrase Shakespeare) that there are more things
heaven and hell than are in our philosophy..."
He raised his face toward where he imagined the Moon to be and
word aloud. "Hurry."
A minute later, Tony came running out of the Eagle carrying three
hatchets and several rolls of fabric. He handed a hatchet to
Koenig as he
said, "I could only find three, Commander."
"They'll have to do. Helena, you take the third for now.
When Alan comes
back, give it to him and stay in the Eagle." John rapidly
hatchet to his right leg, twirling the fabric and tying it to
act as a
strap. Tony and Helena did the same, all the while looking up
toward the perimeters of the clearing.
on Alpha, Victor, Kano, and Sandra watched the vector of the
release. It peaked, its motion stopped completely, and reduced
to a pattern
that looked suspiciously like... a life reading. Victor looked
"David, run a computer check. Are we receiving a life reading
from that same
David Kano walked over to the Command Centre wall computer and
the necessary keys. He removed the print-out. "Computer
verifies. A definite
life reading." He exchanged perplexed glances with Victor
and Sandra, and
Victor activated the nearest communications console to report
the finding to