Writer- John Rankine
Screenplay- Kevin McCorry
"Moonbase Alpha status report. 2020 days after leaving
Earth orbit. Dr.
Helena Russell recording. Our course is taking us tantalizingly
close to a
lush, green planet. All our sensor and scanner readings indicate
environment, although at our current distance, it is not possible
any definite readings on sapient life and surface conditions.
And if there
is a culturally advanced civilization, it is not replying to
The Moon is expected to take a
tangential course at the extreme limit of the
planet's gravisphere, which gives us ten hours overall, and it
would take about that long for the preliminary survey team to
make a determination and to contact the inhabitants and seek
permission for settlement. Commander Koenig has therefore decided
on an expedited evacuation, with our fleet of
Eagles already filled and in space ready for transfer once the
go-ahead signal is sent from the survey team still on the planet.
So, as the
population of Alpha readies immediately for the go-ahead to colonize,
Reconnaissance Eagle One is taking off for a landing and surface
reconnaissance of the planet..."
Watchers in Command Centre saw Reconnaissance Eagle One hover
kilometre above Moonbase, rotate to establish a course, and arrow
Sandra Benes had the Eagle on the Big Screen with the blue, green,
planet as a backdrop. At a neighboring console was Alibe Kurand,
continued her transmissions to whatever civilization might be
"This is Moonbase Alpha. We come in peace. The ship approaching
planet contains our leader, Commander John Koenig. There is no
you. We ask that you meet him and hear what he has to say."
The corridors of Alpha were thronged with orderly lines of Alphans
the Eagles in the launching bays were already being loaded with
and belongings. The question was lodged in the heads of everyone.
the one? Had they finally reached the end of the line?
Aboard Eagle One, the hours peeled away. Koenig, dressed in his
blue sport jacket, switched the pilot controls over to automatic,
the Eagle flight computer to give them a smooth ride to the planet.
time to relax, to go into the passenger section and see what
had cooked up in the miniature galley. He looked over to Alan
was dressed in his usual grey-green jacket and smiling broadly
contemplation in the co-pilot seat.
"Want to join us for a coffee, Alan?"
Alan was upbeat and optimistic. Breaking off his jubilant, whistling
rendition of "Gee ma, I wanna go home," he said, "Nah.
Someone's gotta mind
the store. You go ahead."
John returned the smile. "Well, give us a yell if anything
Alan winked. "We'll do."
And with that, the Commander hit the button to release his harness,
rose, and walked into the Eagle One passenger section to join
and Tony Verdeschi, who were snacking, drinking coffee, and chatting
the new prospect increasing in size on the wall monitor. It was
see something of a land-mass distribution. Each pole had a dark,
cap. There was a broad belt of ocean. The equator had an archipelago
great continents, strung like beads on a chain. It would make
similar conditions. Except for the polar regions, there would
be no extremes
Maya, wearing her green anorak with red stripes, gave her report.
the equatorial land is close enough for interchange of populations.
populations started, they'd quickly be in contact. After a few
there should be a mostly homogeneous race of people."
Helena, dressed in her aqua-blue sport jacket, added, "But
depend on how far development went, before they began to spread
There could be as many ethnic types as we had on Earth."
"Still no readings on people, Maya?" Koenig asked.
"None. Sensors indicate traces of sulfurous gases in the
would suggest a civilization, past or present. But the only thing
I know of
that might affect our instruments in this way would be ground-level
"Great," Tony sighed. He was dressed in his usual navy
"But not to an exceptionally high or dangerous extent, Tony,"
replied. "Otherwise, I would get a definite radiation reading
They heard Alpha contacting Alan in the pilot section. Sandra
familiar voice was coming through the cockpit console. "Alpha
to Eagle One.
Moonbase Alpha to Eagle One."
Alan responded. "Eagle One. What is it, Sahn?"
"This will be the last transmission from Alpha, Alan. All
closing down. Eagle fleet assembled and ready to go."
Alan called through, "Did you get that, John? Any word for
The operation was running like a machine, but it was still on
with no visible end. John said shortly, "No comment. We
have no further
information. Only conjecture at this stage."
Alan softened it. "I read you, Sahn. Say good-bye to Alpha
for me. The
planet still looks promising. Keep in touch."
Helena could imagine the scene in Command Centre. Lights dimmed,
consoles silent, the hatch closing behind Bill Fraser, Alibe,
as they went to join the last Eagle. It had been home for a long,
and, in spite of the hazards, it had treated them well. They
had grown in
stature and understanding. Few communities, anywhere, could have
live together so well. It would stand them in good stead when
they come to
establish their colony. On the other hand, once the pressures
were off and
life could go on, even with mutual support and cooperation, there
be a change. There was something to be said for an immediate
survival, especially against a common enemy. It kept small differences
perspective. Politicians through the ages had known about that
John had always channeled the collective spirit of the Alphans
in a positive
way, and there was every reason to believe that so long as he
do so and the others went along, the Alphan community would fare
well in a
Maya broke into her reverie. "Helena, what do you make of
The Psychon had finally received a radiation reading in a localized
area. The printout which she handed to Helena was an analysis
levels on the central land mass of the continental chain. It
was the first
setback, and the implications were clear.
Helena recalled the S.S. Daria, the most salient comparison to
conditions on this planet. "A familiar picture. There was
accident. Epicentre, fallout. All a long time ago. Except for
a small area,
these levels are acceptable."
John cued her. "Long term?"
"There has always been radiation, from the Earth itself
and from the
Sun. The human race tolerates it, up to a point."
Maya interjected, "This looks like a local source."
Tony followed, "And we have to ask if it was natural or
Partly in disappointment, partly in relief, John heaved and sighed.
looked at Maya. "Check all the land you can reach. What
about life signs?"
The Psychon's alien eyebrows raised. "As we move away from
source, our sensors seem able to make readings." She paused.
starting to detect strong life signs in the seaboard areas."
The Alphans exchanged glances. This was the best indication they
have prior to descent that there might be some intelligent inhabitants,
which meant that they would have to be ready for all manner of
from welcomes to warnings to outright aggression. John went back
Alan in the pilot section. He slowly and pensively lowered into
his seat. In
his mind's eye, he could see the Eagle armada strung out over
the star map.
Already, some of the gloss was off the enterprise. Nothing ever
straightforward for long. With even low-level radiation, there
was the long-
term genetic danger. The race, still battling on the surface,
could well be
mutated out of their five wits. If so, then there would be no
expect that this planet could be suitable for Alphan colonization.
activated his console.
"Eagle One to Eagle Fleet Command."
Bill Fraser's always enthusiastic
face appeared on the screen. "Eagle Fleet to Eagle One.
I read you, Commander."
"Any problems at your end?"
"None. All personnel in good shape. Right on schedule."
"Keep a low profile on this one, Bill. Nothing definite,
but Maya has data on radiation. Still viable, but it makes for
reservations. This is a one-off exercise, and it has to be right."
Bill's eyes turned momentarily downward in disappointment, but
he was as easy-going and resilient as ever. Looking John back
in the eyes and smiling encouragingly, he replied. "I read
you. We'll stay in position and await your land survey report.
Good luck, sir."
John then turned his attention to the spaceship's course. He
piloted Eagle One in a descending spiral, smoothing out to the
north of the
zero latitude line. It would cross sea and land and take in many
zones, where sensors recorded life signs. The Eagle's heat shields
beginning to show signs of thermal agitation. They were moving
extreme, etiolated layers of the planet's atmosphere.
Maya took a reading of outside temperature; fifteen hundred Celsius,
through a golden glow of charged solar particles; a gradual drop
thousand and the spectacle of a multihued aurora; five hundred,
and Maya was
clocking a band of almost pure oxygen. There was a rapid shift
sixty, through a freak layer of heavy particles, and Eagle One
through the ionosphere.
Now there was more to see. Main geographical pictures could be
out. Mountain ranges, plains, the run of major rivers and a hint
Temperature dropped again through a cold layer of ozone; dropped
clock minus sixty, and then pulled back to an even zero as Alan
a kilometre over the highest peaks.
John called the expert. "Any comment so far, Maya?"
The Psychon was doing her best to keep a her voice level and
but there was no mistaking the satisfaction in it. "Sea-level
are close to 22 Celsius."
Helena joined in. "A Mediterranean climate, John. An orangery
Tony, always the wry one, commented. "And every orange radioactive."
Helena replied. "Not so, Tony. The radiation levels are
There's heavier screening from solar radiation and less natural
There were obviously local atomic events, but way back."
John heard her analysis and made his tentative summation. "You're
conditions will get better, and in fact, they're reasonable as
Alan sheered off from the mountain range and dropped lower, over
coastal strip edged with white lace, where the wine-dark sea
shingle and sand beaches. He said, "Where have all the people
Answer came as he went lower again and the landscape was peeling
below the hurrying Eagle. Helena's awed voice breathed over the
"Only look at that, John!"
Jacking itself up over the horizon was a pentagon of immense
When it was all plain to see, the scale was enormous. Five tower
each verging on two kilometres high, were set around a circle
to mark the
limits of a five-pointed star. At ground level, the design was
in pale-green translucent walls. The beaches were empty because
had gathered themselves together in one place. It spoke of strong
and positive planning. It also denoted a level of culture where
communication with a wandering moon would be no sweat.
Alarms sounded in John's head. He was expecting interceptor craft
streak out and cut them down. Then he was staring at the nearer
the answer was plain. A jagged fissure ran two-thirds of its
would be no attack. They were in tumbleweed country and passing
Alan asked, "Do we land, John?"
John had the answer ready. "No, we go on. There's no time.
We land if
and when we can talk to people. We need to know what the story
Eagle One's angular shadow fled on. There was no challenge. Spaced
along the seaboard, the silent, empty cities of the planet were
Whoever had built them had long gone.
The Eagle crossed a wide strip of brilliant blue sea and began
over another continent. This time, the pattern of building changed.
still on a mind-bending scale, but the ground plan was less regular.
was evidence of harbor works and in one, a massive freighter
was lifted out
of the sea and chocked at a crazy angle against the foot of a
Maya said, "Commander, radiation levels are right down.
This looks a
Before John could answer, Alan had something else on the forward
John checked it out. The scanner had it plain. By comparison
they had seen, it was a very small city, set on a peninsula between
river estuaries. But there was movement. Gnat-like air cars were
every quarter. Someone at last had grasped the notion that there
intruder approaching the hive.
Eagle One was diving out of the sun like a stooping falcon.
It could cut
a swathe through the rising air cars before their pilots knew
happening. Tony locked the main lasers on, and Alan was waiting
order with fingers on the buttons.
It would be no way to start a peace mission. John said, "Steady
go, Alan. Once across. Turn. Come in slowly, and hover over the
Meanwhile, John used all the power he had on the communications
send out a signal on fourteen-twenty, coupled with a simultaneous
repeat from the outside P.A. system. His voice reverberated around
"This is Commander John Koenig. We come from the moon which
your sky. We ask for permission to land in your city and talk
with you. We
come in peace."
Eagle One turned, still falling. Some of the leading air cars
height of it, and Alan looked dubious as he began the return
leg. There was
no answer from the ground. Seen closer, the cars had a black
finish which gave them the look of police tenders. They had formed
three squadrons. One was wheeling to keep station above the Eagle;
deploying to box it in, port and starboard; the third was holding
to support. There was no doubt- they were working a classic maneuver
force Eagle One down.
A single car peeled off the higher flight and bore in. Even before
succession of hammer blows thumped along the superstructure,
John had read
the message. He tried once more. "If you attack, we are
forced to defend. Do
not attack. We have no wish to use our power."
The message was either not received, or it was ignored. The sound
blows increased, and the Eagle began to rock. John turned to
Alan, "Fire as
Tony was manning the laser gun directional controls in the passenger
section and worked fast. "On target, Alan!" he shouted.
An eye-aching thread seared out of Eagle One's stern laser turret,
the air car was instant scrap, falling in a plume of black smoke.
"I say again," John hailed the other cars, "if
you attack, we are forced
to defend. Do not attack."
It was all strictly for the birds. Either the pilots were suicide
to a man, or they had been brainwashed into a death-or-glory
came in from every quarter. Eagle One was shuddering along its
although its destructive power was away and beyond anything the
put out, it was only a matter of time before the sheer volume
of small fire
carried away some key structures.
John said, "Out. As fast as you like."
Alan threw every gram of urge into a crash lift, and the Eagle
itself up in a spectacular thrust. There was a grinding jar that
ripple through the fabric. The damage-report panel threw up a
rash of red
hatchlings. An air car had finally penetrated Tony and Alan's
guard. Flaming like a torch, it was jammed definitively between
rocket tubes. Tony's station was a shattered wreck, and the Security
had been thrown backwards. He was uninjured, albeit dazed. Helena
witnessed the event and were promptly thrown back into their
as the spaceship arrowed downward. Tony staggered into his. Alan
falling gear every metre of the way, brought it down at a crazy
angle on the
slope of a sand dune, beside a wide estuary. Hover cars dropped
in a circle.
John considered the communications console. Acrid smoke wreathed
panel. Commlocks did not have the range to transmit a message
to where the
evacuation Eagles were. John knew that in the absence of the
at the appointed time, the Eagle armada would assume that the
party had been killed or captured and that the planet would be
for colonization. The Eagles would go back to base, since they
would not be
able to return if they went forward and attempted a search of
the planet for
the missing party. And so, there it was. John knew that his party's
hope of going home was now charred wreckage. Diplomacy was all
that they had
The hatch to the passenger section
was jammed by the buckling of the
frame. He left Eagle One by the pilot section emergency chute
and came down
ankle deep in warm sand. Carter followed him by the same route.
Maya, in the
form of a gorilla, had pried open the Eagle's main passenger
and, in her original form again, came rushing out to join her
Helena followed her, carring a medical bag. Tony was next.
From every angle, there was a black, uniformed figure walking
closing the circle. Tony reacted with the usual efficiency, and
in a second,
there was a stun/laser gun in his hand.
John said sharply, "Put it away, Tony. I'll try one more
here for a long stay. It's either communicate or die."
John walked away from the Eagle, straight-backed and head tall,
neither right nor left and aiming for a burly character, with
a green sash
from shoulder to hip, who seemed to be the top hand in the enterprise.
From ten metres off, he could read a single word in the local
Times Bold, on the leader's sash of office. It meant nothing,
unless it was
his name. "Spadec." There was a brief count when John
assumed that he would
never find the answer. Half a dozen handguns came into aim on
the centre of
his chest. Nerves crawling in expectation of the blast that would
open hatch on his Ka, the Alphan said, "Spadec, my name
is John Koenig. We
come in peace, but we were forced to defend ourselves."
The leader halted and raised his right hand. The handguns stayed
aim, but some of the tension drained away. They had been told
John's surprise at finding himself still drawing breath into
frame was compounded as the man spoke. He used a combination
of speech tones
which were the ultimate refinement of speech concepts, so that
elements were strange, the meaning was clear. It was a skeleton
unlock communication's door.
"I am not Spadec. Spadec is the controlling council of our
city. I am
Mestor, Senior Counselor for Security. Who are you?"
The information had been vibrating about the planet for some
John had to clamp down on mounting frustration to keep his voice
factual. "We are from Moonbase Alpha. Our Moon was blasted
from orbit around
its parent planet of Earth. We are seeking a place to live."
Turning his eyes over John's shoulder to regard Maya and quickly
refocusing them back on John, Mestor replied tersely, "That
Maya was about to speak, but John articulated first. "That
is Maya, from
planet Psychon. She joined us some years into our odyssey after
exploded. We share the wish to colonize a planet. Again, that
is our reason
for coming here."
Mestor had a high color, and the stand-up neck of his black tunic
tight fit on his thick neck. His eyes had a blank, fanatical
look, as though
he only listened closely to himself. He said, "You have
killed many of my
people. You will stand trial. Spadec will decide what is to be
The four Alphans had moved slightly and were five paces behind
Tony's laser was ready for a snap shot at Mestor. There was no
doubt, he was
likely to be the first to fall in any shoot out. But all around
there were handguns lined up on the Alphans. They would all die
in the first
John stalled. "Why did you attack us?"
"Only a fool would wait until an adversary had the advantage
Mestor raised his voice and went on. "I will clap my hands
five times. At
the fifth, my men will fire."
There was no way around it. Mestor could be bluffing, but the
car, embedded in Eagle One's tail, was proof that these people
own life cheap. John called out, "Stalemate, Tony. We have
nothing to lose
by showing a friendly spirit. Neutralize the charges and drop
Dejected and showing clear frustration, Tony did as instructed.
also threw down his weapon. Helena and Maya were unarmed. John
gave Maya a
clear, non-verbal signal that as they were seriously outnumbered,
would be gained at this juncture by a display of her powers.
conference was lost on Mestor, who was clearly fixated on the
of apparatus the Alphans had clamped onto their belts. "Drop
"They're our communicators. They have no offensive purpose,"
knowing that it was probably a pointless protest.
John knew so also and did not wait for Mestor's rebuke. "It
matter, Alan. Let's do as he says."
To Mestor, he said, "Perhaps your Council will understand
What is the name of this planet?"
"It is Megaron."
"And the city?"
"Are there many such cities? We have seen huge cities, but
Caster is the first to show any sign of life."
Mestor heaved in an obvious display of impatience. "You
ask too many
questions. We will ask questions. You are lucky I do not order
Tony was breathing heavily. His own patience was wearing thin.
"Execution?! Look, we only used our weapons in defense,
and we warned you
beforehand! If anyone is the aggressor, it's you."
John said firmly but gently, "Tony." He looked back
at Mestor. "We
appeal to your sense of justice. My Security Chief here is right.
fired in defense, and our warning communication will confirm
Mestor was impassive. "Enough. You will now be taken to
and interrogated, so that Spadec will have all the facts."
John raised his voice. "We've already given you all the
Mestor's minimal features turned to a stern grin. "We shall
directed the members of his own party to guide the Alphan prisoners
security complex. Ten men in total came forward and fell in,
two on each
Alphan. None seemed to have the slightest curiosity in Eagle
swung on his heel and strode away.
John looked at his watch. There was less than an hour to go before
Moonbase evacuation ran into the sand. He spoke to the Spadec
his left. "Do you have a communication system that I could
use to speak to
There was no answer. The man had understood, but the eyes that
turned to look at him had a blank, empty look. The Megaronian
interested. He had heard Mestor close the link, and it would
stay closed. He
shrugged and looked away. They reached the hatch of a hover car,
waited, thinking that all of the Alphans would stay together.
their two Megaronian escorts, each of the Alphans was led to
car. There was a little more non-verbal communication. The right-hand
prodded John with a stiff finger and nodded for him to climb
There was a pilot, seated impassively at his post, and a gunner,
standing with his head in a transparent dome that swivelled in
the revolving platform he was on. Elbows on a twist-grip firing
watched John come aboard.
Within thirty seconds, the air cars rose like disturbed flies
sand dunes and streamed in line astern for Caster. Unlike the
that the Alphans had seen, this one was horizontally planned
in its main
features. It lay like a cartwheel on a neck of land, that was
open sea to the north and by wide, sandy estuaries to the east
There was a broad, surface road around the perimeter and four
diameters ran like spokes, dividing the area into eight sectors
large, circular, central zone, which seemed to be laid out like
park. There were no tall buildings. Mostly, two storeys had been
enough. But in the centre, one or two long blocks ran to four
floors. It was
to the rear of one of these that the long line of air cars directed
and they peeled off the stick in threes, to drop onto numbered
spaces in the
Five circled the building, asking for permission to land. Then,
dropped to a close on the flat roof.
The pilot said, "These people are to be taken to the pound
interrogation. Spadec Instruction-- Fifty-stroke-two-one-four."
rose from his seat, grabbed his side pistol and motioned for
John to precede
him out of the air car. John did as he was bid.
The city pound was a dilapidated, pit-like place, sunken beneath
level and full of cells and adjoining corridors in various states
disrepair. The walls were mostly composed of stone, with the
doors and their
surrounding walls forged from cheap metal. The five Alphans were
and taken inside to the ground level entry area, which was filled
guards. They were then guided by five of the guards by elevator
to the deep
beneath-ground cell area, where they entered an office, which
was linked by
corridor to the cell which they were to occupy.
Two of the guards prodded the five Alphan prisoners into a short
corridor that led to their assigned cell. John turned to one
of his jailors
and said, "Just how long are we expected to wait here?"
There was no response. Again, the man's face was blank, almost
as if he
were sleepwalking or entranced. Tony, clearly at a loss for patience,
uttered heatedly, "You heard what our Commander asked. How
long are you
locking us up for?"
The response was curt. "Consider yourselves fortunate that
executed on the spot." He pointed his finger inside the
cell once the door
was opened. "Now, get inside."
The other guard waved his pistol threateningly at the Alphan
a mute but effective demonstration of the consequences of defiance.
Resigning themselves, the Alphans piled into the Megaronian pit,
door was locked behind them.
John peered around the perimeter of their cell. He saw a door
back of the right side wall. Assuming it was just another locked
for the time being, paid it no mind. In any case, Maya's conversation
Megaronians took his attention at the moment.
"They listen, but they don't hear. And with my sensitivity
molecular structure, I get the impression that their reactions
John eyed Helena. "Sedation?"
"That could be part of it. But sedation by itself tends
drowsiness and lethargy. They show no such symptoms. They're
active, but it's like their thought patterns are on a different
Maya interjected. "Certainly,
they don't understand about the Moon.
There's no curiosity about space at all. There was one in the
car who went on about Hyria. Anything bad was likely to come
Tony said, "It's as though they've been brainwashed."
Helena completed her diagnosis. "I'd say they have been,
literally. Low-level hallucinogens. Used in some ESP research.
Makes the subjects more sensitive to the power of mind acting
at a distance."
"Yeah, that's just what I was thinking. Exactly the same
"Me, too," said Alan and Maya, almost in unison.
John, a verbalizer, who tended to see the words he spoke as a
script in his mind's eye, had seen the sentence in full before
said it, just as he seemed to anticipate that Tony, Alan, and
going to respond in the way that they did. To his amazement,
he found that
he was receiving the same vibes that the others were having,
their thoughts were being read by each other. It was uncanny.
slowly, "Conditions must be specially suited to ESP. Or
they make them so.
It would explain how they act together so well."
John said, "If that's true, and there's no reason that it
you'd think they'd know the truth without all this aggro. They
we meant no harm."
Maya responded almost even before John had finished. "They're
defensive against people from Hyria. They believe we could be
Helena said, "They seem to think on the same wavelength
as each other,
and as our thoughts aren't similarly conditioned, they don't
thoughts as easily, at least not those that are unfamiliar to
them. So, they
assimilate us in their minds according to the social or political
of their planet."
The others nodded. It made sense, and, again, everyone had sensed
Helena's conclusion before she said it. Alan strode off to examine
door in the cell and found it to be slightly ajar. Peering inside,
a woman. Reclined on a stone couch, dressed in tattered rags,
white sneakers and an electrum bracelet. Dark hair brushed silkily
shoulders. As her eyes raised to behold her Alphan visitor, they
radiant golden brown hue. Her skin was uniformly tanned a pale
for a criss-cross of livid streaks denoting the physical trauma
from left hip to right shoulder.
She struggled to her feet and fell back, as though a wave of
put a surge on her clock. "Hey, over here!" Alan shouted
to his comrades.
They hustled over as Alan reacted to her fall in the usual fashion.
caught her and held her across his arms.
Some powerful instinct of caution cleared her head. Arm hooked
her neck, she hauled herself up to take a good look at the Alphan.
eyes stared into blue ones. Alan could see that he had been wrong
supposing that her eyes were one color overall. There were small
paler gold in the mix. They were as remarkable as anything that
he had seen
to date. Like the Egyptian symbol for a million, he was an astonished
For her part, the girl sighed deeply and relaxed. It was a vote
confidence that touched his heart. He carried and brought her
larger, outer jail cell, followed by the others.
Helena said, "You can't stand there holding her forever,
Alan. Put her
down, and I'll have a look."
Alan lowered her gently to the stone floor. He removed his jacket
put it underneath and around her. He was still in a state of
and Helena had to move him aside. "It's a girl. Anybody
would think you've
never seen one."
An honest man, he said, "I've not seen one with eyes like
this one. She
must be one of their own people. What's she doing down here?"
"Quiet down and give me a chance to find out."
In her own Medical Centre, Helena would have had it sorted out
minutes it would take to fix a couple of sensors. Working from
principles, with no medical gear, it took longer and was not
easy to be
definite. When she joined the others, she said, "As far
as I can tell,
there's nothing much organically wrong. She's suffered a lot
of pain. But
the cause seems more to do with food. I'd say she's not been
drinking for a few days. She needs water at least, or she'll
Alan decided to effect a second go at communication. The eyes
slowly, focused on his chest, and then looked at the stand-up
collar of his
tunic, which was nearer home. Putting two and two together with
analysis, the girl said, "You are being kind to me. Who
"Carter. Alan Carter. It's a long story. We came from space,
make contact with your people. They wouldn't listen."
"I am Rhoda. They are not my people... At least, they are...
Helena asked, "Why are they starving you?"
"They are not. It is I who will not eat their food. We know
there is a
drug added to the food or the water. So, I will take neither."
"Why is that?"
"Why?..." Rhoda was having to make an effort to concentrate.
would make me like them. I would not be able to resist the orders
Spadec. They beat me, but I would not eat. They can kill me,
but I will not
John said, "We have seen the word Spadec on the cars and
on the guards'
armbands. Now you are using it. What does it mean?"
"It is... a long story, as Alan says, but it stands for
Political, and Defense Executive Committee. That is the body
the city; but we believe it should now signify something different..."
Eyes closed again. Long, black lashes lay in even arcs on smooth
Helena said, "We shouldn't push her. She's had a bad time."
Rhoda was in a highly sensitive state, having been needled by
hunger and apprehension about whether she had actually reached
the end of
her personal saga. Added to the forces swilling about, which
to ESP, it made her aware of what was going on in Alan's head.
oblige. Such stunned approval deserved encouragement. She opened
again, looked directly at him, and managed a luminous smile which
in the intended way. Then, Rhoda was out again, and he was left
whether or not he had invented it all for himself or whether
had been any participation by Rhoda.
They had been so involved by this first rational contact with
Megaronian that the cell door had opened before anyone had noticed
had been unlocked and used for entry. A harsh, familiar voice
said, "Here is
food. Tomorrow, you will be interrogated by the Council."
It was Mestor in person, sharing entry with three guards and
trolley stacked with platters and covered dishes. John's quick
the odds was noticed. "Relax, Commander. You are not going
anywhere or doing
anything that does not have our approval. You might as well cooperate
that I can have the truth."
Koenig said curtly. "We have told you the truth."
Mestor scoffed. "That story of a wandering moon will not
do. I'm sure
you're from Hyria, and that one," he pointed at Maya, "is
a Hyrian mutant."
John sighed. There was no point trying to reason with this fanatic.
Mestor nodded at Rhoda. "That is an example of what will
happen to you if
you continue to be so obstinate."
One of the guards, Nergal, stepped forward. Alan was watching
rise and fall of his jacket as Rhoda breathed in and out, and
past him and started descending upon Rhoda to administer further
persuasion to dine. Rhoda saw Nergal's determined expression
before it was
plucked away. Alan had him by the collar of his tunic and his
swung him in an arc that thumped his head into one of the jail
walls. Nergal's fellow guard, Myndon, loosed off a shot, and
energy ball cracked into the stone lintel, five centimetres from
head. John and Tony, poised for action, froze as the weapon was
trained on them.
Thoroughly roused, Rhoda was sitting up. To Alan she said, "You
shouldn't have done that. They can't do much more to me, but
start on you."