...
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 22
  1. #1
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default Project Odyssey (A Metal Hero story)

    Plot
    In the near future, a new golden era for NASA has been born as Project Odyssey, manned exploration of the solar system, begins with fervor. It’s the 1960s redux; astronauts are heroes again. Or such is the wish of one Oliver Hensley, commander of the Yankee Clipper. But when the first deep-space ship, the Odyssey, disappears without a trace, the future becomes in doubt until a strange asteroid is discovered drifting through space. With this find begins a fight for Earth’s survival and a revelation of just what awaits mankind in the depths of the universe.

    Characters
    Cytector Users Cytectors (Cybernetic Tectors) are metal-armor spacesuits designed for maximum mobility and comfort. Equipped with a variety of tools and gear, their intended purpose was for exploration only. With the Phytomorph outbreak however, the Yankee Clipper crew must now use them for battle.

    Name: Oliver Hensley
    Codename: Aurum
    Position: Commander
    Bio: Oliver was a student of Perry Shankar, the commander of the Odyssey. When the ship and its crew disappeared, he was chosen under a previous recommendation by Perry to command the Yankee Clipper. A romantic at heart, Ollie grew up on the stories of NASA’s race to the Moon. Now with manned space exploration returned, he desires to bring back the glory days and make history himself. Though the Odyssey crew is presumed dead, he also hopes to one day try to find them.

    Ollie holds reservations about the potential militarization of space and the use of the Cytectors for combat, but nevertheless won’t hesitate to leap into action when need be.

    Name: Christian Decker
    Codename: Azure
    Position: Pilot
    Bio: In the footsteps of the first NASA astronauts, Christian is a Navy pilot who was recruited and mentored by Lincoln Cartwright. He has a flair for sarcasm and will eagerly antagonize “self-righteous elitists”, notably Debbie.

    In contrast to Oliver, he’s a fan of the science fiction/fantasy aspect of space travel and has no qualms over a “space arms race”; but like the commander, he shares a desire for adventure. He in fact relishes flying the Clipper in daring maneuvers, and will often overexert the ship in the process.

    Name: Valentina Burshteyn
    Codename: Rouge
    Position: Flight Engineer
    Bio: An engineering student from Russia, and Oliver’s classmate. While she can handle the simulations well enough, she retains a nervousness toward space travel and will often lose her focus in tight spots. Aside from Mission Control, Val is the hardest on Christian for his reckless use of the ship, but seldom ever gets heeded.

    Name: Debbie Montague
    Codename: Thallos
    Position: Mission Specialist
    Bio: Ambitious and impressionable, Debbie is one of Dr. Mendoza’s students and devotees. Like her, she has adopted her distaste for militarization, and naturally often clashes with Christian. An incident on the Shepard Station has left her confined to work onboard ships and denied use of a Cytector, a position she openly resents.

    Other Characters
    Name: Seraphina Urgiles
    Bio: A young architect and a friend of Valentina, Seraphina had fellow friends and classmates within the Odyssey crew. She took the Odyssey’s disappearance especially hard, and eventually was transferred to the fledgling moon station. By day she builds, but by night she spends hours driving around the lunar desert, lamenting her sense of uselessness.
    Because of what befell the Odyssey, she is extremely doting toward the friends she has left, even to the point of jeopardizing her own career.

    Name: Perry Shankar
    Bio: Perry Shankar is the face of the Project Odyssey. Highly learned in the sciences (and perhaps somewhat eccentric in the classroom), he came to the U.S from India as a lecturer and director of Odyssey before being chosen to command the first flight: a flyby of Mars. Both the ship and the crew disappeared, but Perry has suddenly been spotted in the middle of the Phytomorph attacks.

    Name: Lincoln Cartwright
    Bio: A representative and go-between for a military contracting firm, Lincoln Cartwright recruited Christian into the Odyssey Program, and is Christian’s first loyalty. Cynical and stubborn, Lincoln is one of the staunch advocates for the “space arms race” to defend Earth against possibly hostile extraterrestrials, and was one of the proposers of the Cytector suits. As a result he’s gained a fair amount of enemies, most notably Dr. Mendoza, and to his great resentment been labeled a crazed militarist fearmonger by the scientific community. (An image further enhanced by his taste for after-dinner cigars.)

    Despite the accusations, Lincoln possesses a deep knowledge of various subjects, including biomechanics, space aviation, and an ability to piece together tools from seemingly pieces of junk.

    Name: Ira Mendoza
    Bio: Ira is the head of the Station’s Science Division and Debbie’s professor. She is Lincoln’s most ardent opponent and continually insists that the Phytomorphs be captured and studied rather than destroyed.

    Name: Toby Reynolds
    Bio: A rookie with no flight experience beyond Earth’s orbit, but shares Oliver’s romanticism of NASA and already looks up to him. Being a mere observer of events he seeks to make sense of everything that's going on, even if his repeated attempts do nothing to achieve this goal. Toby craves involvement, even if nobody but Oliver will yet acknowledge him.

    Name: Jaden Tien
    Bio: A friend of Christian’s and former Odyssey candidate from Taiwan, Jaden dropped out of the program for unknown reasons (and was thus replaced by Oliver). Now he pilots a crewless shuttle between Earth, Shepard Station, and the Moon in a tedious pattern. But when the Phytomorphs begin invading, he takes a particular interest that implies hidden knowledge.

    Name: Astro
    Bio: Astro is a robot created by the same group that designed the Cytectors. He was to be the first of a series of mechanized astronaut-soldiers that could operate in ET environments without the same hindrances as humans, but the program was shut down upon public criticism. The crew of the Odyssey had taken him with them as part of a secret objective, and now he’s been rumored to be a possible reason for their disappearance.

    Astro can use almost any weapon, making him an unexpected and considerable threat.

    Name: Kenmer Ranew
    Bio: Kenmer is a self-proclaimed “Space Sheriff in training” who has traveled from the planet Tyche to Earth to destroy the Phytomorphs. Like Oliver and Christian he seeks adventure, and will sometimes rush into things to indulge the desire. Upon coming to Earth, he adopts the name “Kenmer Ranew”.

    Name: Carver Santana (aka “Osiris”)
    Bio: A NASA bureaucrat who has been keeping a particularly keen eye on the Phytomorph invasion.

    Mechas
    Yankee Clipper – One of the next-generation spaceplanes used by NASA to explore deep space. With their nuclear engines and use of one burn-tangent flights, trips to other planets and moons have been cut down substantially.
    Viking – a canopied ATV stored inside Yankee Clipper.

    Surveyor – A tank that can split into a jet half and a cannon half.

    Falcon – An alternate spaceplane created by Industries. In contrast to the Clipper’s graceful ray-like design, this one bears the shape of an ominous bird of prey. While ultimately rejected for the Odyssey missions, it regularly performs training flights around Earth.

  2. #2
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    *The Cytector suits were designed by me. The other images were taken from various websites.

    Chapter 1: The New Frontier

    Somewhere near Mars, a severely damaged shuttle floated in the dead vacuum of space. The entire back end was ripped to shreds; only the main cargo hold and cockpit remained intact. Inside the cockpit, the crew of the crippled ship lay motionless. The walls were burnt, and blood stains speckled the windows. A large piece of debris, what had been the ship’s minimal weapons system, slowly drifted into oblivion, but was ignored by the observers. In the main cargo hold, a shutdown robot remained dormant, with several key parts on the ground as though it had been previously taken apart.
    The door suddenly creeked open as one of the observers who had left their ship opened the hatch and entered the dead ship. The figure examined each of the crewmembers. They were alive… but barely. One of them, seemingly the ship’s commander, caught the figure’s interest. A hand grasped his head and turned it slightly to the side. The figure gave a nod for the others still abroad the other vessel.
    The figure now entered the cargo hold. There on the floor were several machine parts...and a cyborg of some sort nearby. A small tube-like sensor on the side of the robot’s head turned on in reaction to the intrusion, and a red light upon it started to flicker. Soon after though, the light dimmed and eventually died out entirely.
    Back in the cockpit, the commander woke up. For a moment he didn’t know here he was, but he heard mechanical sounds and the footsteps of the intruder. At once he got up and checked the pulse of the closest crewman. Finding one, he breathed a sigh of relief and began slowly following the source of the noise. He came across the figure as it slowly placed all of the parts of the robot together with surprising skill. The light turned on again, alerting the figure to the commander’s presence. The figure dropped the robot to the floor and grabbed the man. “Ma*buzzsh*e*shhche*sth*busshhe*ou?"
    “...What?”
    But the figure was addressing the others.
    ”Ma*buzshe*r”

    The robot reached out with a hand, which looked to have had two of the fingers torn off, indicated by the wires dangling out.
    ”Re*cushuh*r m*buzzhse*” The figure pointed to the robot. A retort from the observers’ ship stopped it from saying anything else to the astronaut. Instead it read the name patch on his shirt with the same level of difficulty as a modern human deciphering a caveman’s scribbles.
    “Sh….an….kar”


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Months later*

    The Yankee Clipper sailed through space like a gentle manta ray. Inside his cramped cabin, the young Commander Oliver Hensley awoke with a start. He banged his head against the roof of the bunk and swore, attracting the attention of someone outside. The door to the cabin slid open to reveal the Clipper’s Pilot, Christian Decker.
    “You all right?”
    Rubbing his forehead, Oliver lay back down. “Shouldn’t you be at the helm?”
    “It’s on manual. I didn’t feel like staring at nothing.”
    “Not like you to be so lax” Oliver said in jest with a cocked eyebrow.
    “Debbi and Val are in there.”
    “How comforting…”

    Without waiting for an invitation, Christian stepped inside sat down on the floor next to Oliver’s bed. Oliver had to chuckle. Christian had been in the U.S. Navy before becoming an astronaut; yet the two things that made him balk were the crew’s Flight Engineer, Valentina Burshteyn and the Mission Specialist, Debbie Montague.
    “Do you know how annoying it is to be lectured on flying by a girl who hates flying?”
    “Can’t say I do.”
    “And then hearing that kid yapping about that stupid rock we found - ”
    “You mean the asteroid that looks to have actual life on it?”
    “If that’s what it is. The kid won’t shut up about it.”
    “Dr. Mendoza’s rubbed off on her” Oliver observed impartially. The asteroid in question had been found by the Clipper crew during their current “run around the block” of Earth’s neighborhood. The surface and interior was populated by what appeared to be seed-like pods. This was clearly a monumental discovery, though the rather accidental way they had stumbled across it made it seem less so. Debbie, as the scientist of the group, had immediately insisted that Mission Control cancel the rest of their flight so they could rush back to Earth with their find.
    “Still” he continued, “you can’t blame her for being excited. I’m surprised you aren’t just a little. We’ll be famous.”
    “I know you want that. Me, I’m flying just flying ships.”
    Oliver propped his head on his hand. “Are you saying I want to be some star?”
    “Oh don’t hide it. You’re the biggest fanboy in NASA. You want nothing more than to be the next Neil Armstrong or Alan Shepard.”
    “Well…” Oliver smirked and lay back down. “I guess I wouldn’t mind that...”
    Christian snorted. “Well when you get your ticker tape parade, don’t forget to give your humble colleague Mr. Decker some credit.”

    The shuttle began to shake like a plane encountering turbulence. Christian grumbled as he got up and headed back to the cockpit. Inside he saw Valentina with her hands tightly gripped on the console.
    “Where have you two been?!” she demanded through her Russian accent.
    “Will you relax?” chided Christian. He shooed her away and adjusted some dials and switches. “I can’t have you throwing a fit every time the ride gets bumpy.” He looked at her. “What are you doing as an engineer if you hate flying so much?”
    “I didn’t ask for this job” Valentina snapped, rubbing her neck in slight embarrassment at being scared for nothing. “They were short of crewmen and chose me.”
    “They drafted you.”
    “Yes!”
    “Well, losing a ship like the Odyssey will do that. The first deep space flight disappears without a trace. No wonder there aren’t any volunteers these days.”

    Val and Oliver exchanged glances. The Odyssey was the first of a series of spaceplanes designed after the scrapped Lockheed Martin X-33 shuttles, part of NASA’s Project Odyssey. Perry Shankar, one of their professors and a quite popular one at that, had been commanding the mission. The loss of that first ship now left the future of the program in doubt. This, if not anything else, had made Oliver even more determined to make his mark and make NASA great again.

    The young commander turned to Debbie, who was studying a computer pad filled with data on the recovered asteroid. A camera image of the pods floated on the screen.
    “There’s something odd about those things” Oliver said as he read the screen.
    “All the more exciting” said Debbie with a twinkle in her eye. She looked to Oliver like a child on Christmas morning itching to open her presents.
    “Just wait till you find they’re weird rocks” muttered Christian without turning. Debbi sneered but said nothing. One of the pods started to twitch ever so slightly.
    “There!” Debbie exclaimed. “One of them moved!”
    “Sure it did” sighed Christian.
    “Look for yourself then” Debbie challenged, waving the pad in Christian’s face. But then a message from Mission Control came in. Christian snorted at Debbie and casually flipped a switch.
    “Reading you Mission Control.”
    “I must say, you’ve messed up a whole month of scheduling with this detour of yours.”
    “All in the name of science” Christian sighed.
    “What’s our course?” asked Oliver, taking a seat beside Christian, while Val and Debbie seated themselves behind.
    “You’re set to dock at the Station.”
    “The station? You don’t want to get this to Earth?” Oliver noticed Debbie shift uncomfortably in her seat
    “Normally we would, but you did throw us a curveball here. For now let’s take it to the station and get a good look at this thing.”
    “Got it...Christian, take us around and set a course for the Station.”
    “Yes sir.”
    “How are the Cytectors holding up?”
    “Good so far. In fact I should check how the recharge is going. I think I overexerted a bit getting the rock inside.”
    Oliver got up and went toward the back of the shuttle to a small room. He opened a control panel and a screen turned on, revealing a schematic of his Aurum Series Cytector suit.


    This was the next generation spacesuit: a metallic suit that allowed for maximum mobility. It had the same basic design as the classic spacesuits of the 1960s, but was far less heavy and bulky. To a layman it might even look like one of those fancy military suits of armor from video games. Of the crew, he, Christian and Valentina had been authorized use of the suits. Debbie, for reasons he wasn’t aware of, had not.

    “Ollie, I suggest you strap in” said Christian over the intercom. “We’ll be home in a few.”
    Oliver headed back to his seat. The lights above them started to flash in a rhythmic code. Sometime later Earth came into view, floating like a blue jewel of life in an otherwise cold, dead expanse. Orbiting above the planet was the immense Shepard Station, an American –built space lab and observatory that accommodated NASA, ESA, JAXA, and many other space agencies.


    The lights above the crew started to flash again as a low whine began to emit.
    “Steady as she goes” said Christian. He ignored Valentina as she scoffed quietly to herself. Oliver followed another deep space shuttle, the Kitti Hawk, drifting away from the station while they slowly navigated into a docking point. A loud clang and a jerk, and they were firmly locked.
    “Now the fun begins.” He saw Debbie’s eyes barely containing her excitement. As she headed off to meet the science team that would pick up their cargo, he looked once again to the screen showing the pods on the asteroid. For a moment he thought he saw a slight twitch like Debbie had proclaimed… but then shrugged it off and exited the vessel with the rest…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In the middle of the night, a golden sphere slowly descended down onto Earth, gently coming to a stop on a large hill. Inside the sphere was a man with a battered, disheveled appearance. He looked out over the landscape and, with some hesitation, extended his hand outward. A sharp pain shot through his hand as he touched the sphere and he recoiled, shifting backward with a limp.
    A strange voice then filled his ears. The sphere shot up into the sky. The man within could only look back on the planet as he was taken away…
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A large business building had been brought out by NASA a few months ago. Men and women in uniform were moving in some equipment into the building. A limo pulled up to the building and stopped by trucks that were moving in and out. A driver opened the door to the limo, letting out a man in black sunglasses and business suit. Carver Santana, a NASA official whom had surprisingly risen quickly through the levels. On his jacket, over his heart, there was a strange insignia sewn on.

    Another car drove by, stopping before the man. Out stepped a similarly dressed man and woman. “Looks like things are going accordingly, Mr. Santana” said the woman.
    “It would appear so. Soon, we'll get ready for our next big push.”
    The second man took out a computer pad with a list of openings in the heirarchy of the organization.
    “Are you still meeting with the Senator, Darcy.”
    Darcy nodded. “With a little coaxing, we'll have them on our side in no time.”
    “Take some of the photos of Europa and Enceladus with you. I want this done quickly.”
    Darcy chuckled. “Aren't we a little moody?”
    Carver smirked. “He is too close to his dream. You won’t stand to have it dashed by some ignorant politician, would you Kirk?”

    Kirk said nothing. Carver continued with Darcy. “Once we are set, we'll finish up research and development in the nuclear rockets. The spaceplanes you’ve made are leaps and bounds beyond those primitive shuttles gathering dust in museums. But you must go faster and farther if you are to be significant.”
    Kirk and Darcy looked at each other. Not only had Carver come out of nowhere to reach this level, he had an odd manner of speaking, as though he were an outsider. Carver turned to them, seemingly ignoring their exchange.
    “Well, shall we tour the facility?”
    The three of them entered the building and took a look at the massive pieces of rocketry being deposited and assembled. Some miles away in the middle of nowhere, these rockets and ships would be tested. Carver chuckled to himself for reasons only he was privy too…
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Christian was bored. He leaned back in his rolling chair at the front of the long table. The NASA administrators studied his face for any sign of response. The silence was long and seemed to make the whole room tense. Finally one of them spoke up.
    “Well?”
    Christian had already decided his answer, but loved to make the debriefing sessions tense like this.
    “Well? What do you think my answer is? You can tell those bureaucrats they can take their proposal and stick it up their ass. I have a good thing going here and I am not about to throw it away to become your little hippie spokesman!”
    The man was shocked.
    “Lieutenant… I can’t believe you would keep supporting Mr. Cartwright on this - ”
    “Then you underestimate my tenacity, sir”

    Christian stood up and shoved his rolling chair behind him. “I've considered both sides of this, in my view, stupid argument, and I don’t think you people would be dumb enough not to consider Mr. Cartwright’s point. There’s a great big unknown out there. It only makes sense to be prepared for anything. Peace through strength, as President Eisenhower said. Now if you want to talk to me about something else, go right ahead, but if not, you know where to find me.”

    The administrators were fuming. Christian walked briskly out of the room. Despite their annoyance, they didn't attempt to stop him.

    The sun streamed into his quarters through the window as he stepped inside. He pulled out his chair and sat down in front of his desk. For a long time now he had been receiving pressure from NASA to say something against Lincoln Cartwright, the representative of Industries, a contractor that developed both military and space vehicles for the U.S. Cartwright, among others, was leading the position that NASA should arm its astronauts and space-faring machines lest a hostile force ever revealed itself. The scientific community, on the other side, was at the frontlines in repelling him. The debate had now reaches a crescendo, with neither side backing down. Christian, now a member of the Odyssey Program’s new flagship crew, was caught in the middle. Cartwright had recruited him into NASA and had been something of a mentor to him during his training. In a way his zeal for space travel reminded him of Oliver. Being asked to turn on him like this seemed akin to betrayal.

    He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling, sighing deeply. His desk was cluttered with papers, most of them reports and scientific articles, the latter which Debbie loved to throw at him and Oliver as though they were complete dunces. Christian had slacked off on reading them. He took one paper, skimmed the cover, and tossed it back on the pile. He’d rather take a nap than read this drivel. He crossed over to his small bed and flopped on it when suddenly an alarm went off around the station. Christian got up and went to the door just as someone busted in, his face red and panting.
    “What’s going on?”
    “Something is attacking the labs!”
    “Attacking? What are you talking about?”
    An explosion some distance away caught their attention. The man pointed in its direction and then ran off with a bunch of people. Christian muttered a few choice words as he headed that way.

    He rushed to the lift; fortunately it was still operating. He stepped inside and rode it to the upper level of the Station. He stepped outside and ran through a long hallway lined with instruments and specimens brought from Earth, when an explosion rocketed through the level. Fire suppression systems immediately kicked in, but Christian could see through the smoke people strewn about covered by debris. As he tried to get one of them to safety, he saw what appeared to be a yellow mist drift through the corridor from the direction of the labs…
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Oliver leaned against the large panoramic windows of the Station’s observatory. It had been Perry Shankar’s favorite spot; on rare occasion he would even bring his class to the Station to teach here, so that, he said, his students could get a first-hand view of the marvel of space. Right now Oliver could see the large blue sphere that was Earth moving below. He watched the clouds move as he lost himself in thought.

    It was just how Shankar had liked things. Oliver had taken to emulating his teacher by coming here, but since the disappearance of the Odyssey he had found himself coming here less often… true, his workload had increased, but part of it was that coming here felt like he was paying homage to the dead. And Oliver still couldn’t believe that Perry Shankar was dead.

    The place was all but empty. Having suddenly felt exhausted from the trip, Oliver left the window and reclined on a couch nearby. Above him was a picture in a frame hung on the wall that someone had taken some time ago. On it was one of Shankar’s classes that he and Valentina had been in. Most of them were smiling or making funny expressions, while Oliver himself looked almost a bit too reserved. Valentina had commented on that afterward; she said he was too serious. Oliver snorted to himself. Maybe he did take himself a bit too seriously. He loved that NASA was entering another golden era and he would be part of it, but he wasn’t going to usher it in single-handedly. Perhaps loosening up would be good for him. But then he had quickly been given command of the Yankee Clipper and his own crew after the Odyssey was lost, and he once again became the ambitious would-be hero.

    Out of all those smiling faces, many had become members of the Odyssey crew. Oliver lay there staring at them, wondering if back then they had had any idea of what would befall them. He certainly hadn’t; since the loss Oliver had forced himself to be stronger, tougher...how to live up to Shankar’s expectations. They all had big shoes to fill.

    An alarm suddenly went off around the station. Oliver then heard the faint hiss of the fire suppression system activating. Like a shot he was off the couch and in the hallway, looking for answers. In the back of his head however, he had a dreadful feeling.

    Oliver ran against the flow of fleeing personnel and turned on his communicator.
    “Christian! Val! Debbie!”
    No response for a few seconds, then Christian’s voice came through.
    “Ollie! Where are you?!”
    “I was in the observatory! What - ”
    “I’m on the lab level. I think something exploded!” Christian panted as he tried to drag as many people as he could out of the rubble to a medical team.
    “Exploded?!”
    “Well I don’t know, but it looks like it. Plus I see a yellow mist coming this way!”
    “Mist...” Oliver ducked into a corner as more escapees piled through. “Christian, what lab did the asteroid get sent to?”
    “Lab 3 I think…. Oh no, you don’t think - ”
    “Where’s Debbie?”
    “I don’t know! I don’t see her!”

    A horrible vacuum-like sound then echoed through the lab section. One of the people gasped.
    “Hull breach!”
    “What?” Christian whipped around. “Is there anyone else on this level??”
    “If there are there won’t be for long!”
    “Chris, get outta there now!”
    “There might be people still here!”
    Oliver cursed under his breath. An announcement was blaring on the intercom system ordering people to relocate to the cargo bay.
    “Chris, meet me at the Clipper. I’m going to find Val!”
    Just then Val’s voice came in. “Oliver??”
    “Val! Where the hell are you?!”
    He heard an explosion on her end which drowned out her answer.
    “Val! Can you reach the Clipper??”
    “I ------ I don’t think so!”
    “Alright, use one of the training modules. Chris and I will use the ship!”
    “What about Debbie?”
    “Pray she made it out. Now go!”
    “I’m heading over, Ollie!” said Christian. He left the rest to the emergency team. Oliver dashed to the docking gate where he met his teammate.
    “You’d better hope we don’t get court marshaled for this” said Christian as they readied the ship for departure.
    “We need to keep the ship safe.”
    “A bunch of astronauts running away while people are stuck on a crippled space station? That might hurt our image. Or more specifically, yours.”
    Oliver cocked an eyebrow. “I’m not that obsessed, Chris.”
    “The docking clamp is jammed.”
    “No one is there to clear us.”
    “Shall we force it then?”
    Oliver paused a moment, then nodded. “Go.”
    They fired the engines. The Yankee Clipper tore itself from the docking gate, dragging with it pieces of structure, and flew away from the station…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Valentina scrambled through a gate leading to a docked training module. These small ships, reminiscent of the crew modules of the Gemini and Apollo missions, were used by new astronauts to practice flying, rendezvous and docking.
    “Set course to Earth. We’ll meet up later!”
    “But… how do I fly this thing??”
    “You’re kidding, right?”
    “Damnit, it’s been a while!” Valentina swept her hands over the controls, frantically trying to get away from the crippled station. The module shot away like a bullet down toward the Atlantic Ocean. Valentina felt it buckle and saw the outside turn red-hot as she entered the atmosphere.
    “I don’t know if it can hold through this heat.”
    “Prepare the chutes” called Christian over the communicator.
    The immense heat burned through the outside of one of the rockets, causing an explosion on the back of the module.
    “One engine’s gone!”
    “Switch to manual control and aim for the water!”
    That I know!”
    “Hold on Val!” called Oliver.

    The module’s parachutes activated and slowed the descent, making Valentina breathe a bit easier. She felt the module plunge into the sea and quickly released she forgot to release the floaters.
    “Did you get the trajectory?” Oliver asked Christian.
    The Clipper’s console flashed lights and brought up a map. A crimson dot indicated Valentina’s location, but then it began to fade out.
    “What’s going on?” asked Christian
    “She’s sinking” Oliver realized.
    True enough, Val’s module was steadily sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Inside she struggled to get out of her gear. She only had enough air for a couple of hours at most. But swimming up to the surface was impossible. She banged her fist against the wall, cursing her stupidity. Her only hope now was that someone saw her descent.

    Suddenly she saw something through the small window. A tentacle was slithering around the outside…
    No… not a tentacle… a vine.
    A net of vines surrounded the ship and, using a series of gas-filled pods to float upward, lifted the ship to the surface. Valentina tried frantically to open the pod door. The vines however smashed their way inside through the window. Valentina ducked and rolled away from them as they spread out. She kicked one to the side as it came close. Escape was impossible… unless…
    She saw the Eject lever by the cockpit’s chair. Seizing this last chance, she dove through the grasping vines into the chair and yanked the lever. A hatch opened and the chair was hurtled at full force away from the ship. Valentina, having not bucked herself in, held on for dear life and prayed she wouldn’t vomit. She crashed again into the water a safe distance away. Gasping and spitting out water, she clung onto the floating chair and looked around for anyone to help her…
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Valentina suddenly woke up to find herself in the sickbay of a naval aircraft carrier.
    “W.. where am I?”
    While still a bit dizzy, she lifted herself from her bed. A nearby doctor looked up. “Oh...you’re up. Are you alright?”
    “You saved me. Thanks.”
    “What happened? We got word of an incident on Shepard Station and then found your ship’s homing beacon out here.”
    Valentina’s eyes widened as she remembered the past few hours.
    “Something attacked the station… I tried to evacuate with my crew but couldn’t reach them in time… so I took a module and landed here.” She looked wide-eyed at the doctor. “Did you find the ship?”
    The doctor furrowed her eyebrows. “I don’t think we should talk about that here. Let’s leave that for your debriefing.”
    Valentina groaned and flopped back on the bed, holding her head. The doctor smiled reassuringly. “Just lie down and relax. You’re in no condition to move around after ejecting the way you did.”
    Valentina then received an alert from her communicator lying on a bedside table.
    “Can I answer that?” Without waiting for a response, she took the call.
    “Val?”
    “Ollie! You made it!”
    “That’s my line. Where are you?”
    “I’m – Where am I?” she asked the doctor. “You’re on the USS Horizon” she replied.
    “Horizon, eh? My old ship” Christian interjected.
    “What’s happening??” Valentina demanded.
    “I’ll fill you in later; right now Chris and I need a place to land. Just hang in there.”
    “Where’s Debbie?”
    “Still on the Station I think. Right now I’m just glad you’re safe. I’ll call you back as soon as we can.”

    He cut off the transmission and looked to Christian.
    “Houston, we have a problem” the pilot muttered. A bad joke, but nonetheless true…

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)
    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    The plant-like alien creatures begin attacking Earth. With no other options, Oliver and Christian use the Cytectors to fight them; Debbie’s past comes back to haunt her as an investigation begins.

  3. #3
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    Chapter 2: Shining Heroes

    The module’s parachutes activated and slowed the descent, making Valentina breathe a bit easier. She felt the module plunge into the sea and quickly released she forgot to release the floaters.
    “Did you get the trajectory?” Oliver asked Christian.
    The Clipper’s console flashed lights and brought up a map. A crimson dot indicated Valentina’s location, but then it began to fade out.
    “What’s going on?” asked Christian
    “She’s sinking” Oliver realized.
    True enough, Val’s module was steadily sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Inside she struggled to get out of her gear. She only had enough air for a couple of hours at most. But swimming up to the surface was impossible. She banged her fist against the wall, cursing her stupidity. Her only hope now was that someone saw her descent.

    Suddenly she saw something through the small window. A tentacle was slithering around the outside…
    No… not a tentacle… a vine.
    A net of vines surrounded the ship and, using a series of gas-filled pods to float upward, lifted the ship to the surface. Valentina tried frantically to open the pod door. The vines however smashed their way inside through the window. Valentina ducked and rolled away from them as they spread out. She kicked one to the side as it came close. Escape was impossible… unless…
    She saw the Eject lever by the cockpit’s chair. Seizing this last chance, she dove through the grasping vines into the chair and yanked the lever. A hatch opened and the chair was hurtled at full force away from the ship. Valentina, having not bucked herself in, held on for dear life and prayed she wouldn’t vomit. She crashed again into the water a safe distance away. Gasping and spitting out water, she clung onto the floating chair and looked around for anyone to help her…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Valentina suddenly woke up to find herself in the sickbay of a naval aircraft carrier.
    “W.. where am I?”
    While still a bit dizzy, she lifted herself from her bed. A nearby doctor looked up. “Oh...you’re up. Are you alright?”
    “You saved me. Thanks.”
    “What happened? We got word of an incident on Shepard Station and then found your ship’s homing beacon out here.”
    Valentina’s eyes widened as she remembered the past few hours.
    “Something attacked the station… I tried to evacuate with my crew but couldn’t reach them in time… so I took a module and landed here.” She looked wide-eyed at the doctor. “Did you find the ship?”
    The doctor furrowed her eyebrows. “I don’t think we should talk about that here. Let’s leave that for your debriefing.”
    Valentina groaned and flopped back on the bed, holding her head. The doctor smiled reassuringly. “Just lie down and relax. You’re in no condition to move around after ejecting the way you did.”
    Valentina then received an alert from her communicator lying on a bedside table.
    “Can I answer that?” Without waiting for a response, she took the call.
    “Val?”
    “Ollie! You made it!”
    “That’s my line. Where are you?”
    “I’m – Where am I?” she asked the doctor. “You’re on the USS Horizon” she replied.
    “Horizon, eh? My old ship” Christian interjected.
    “What’s happening??” Valentina demanded.
    “I’ll fill you in later; right now Chris and I need a place to land. Just hang in there.”
    “Where’s Debbie?”
    “Still on the Station I think. Right now I’m just glad you’re safe. I’ll call you back as soon as we can.”

    He cut off the transmission and looked to Christian.
    “Houston, we have a problem” the pilot muttered. A bad joke, but nonetheless true…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In a large conference room within the new building, a large screen was profoundly set up on the wall. Carver Santana was there alongside Darcy Stackleback. Kirk Wilders had already taken a seat at the head of the table opposite the screen. On the screen, Senator Tom Ferretic’s face came into view while the other attendees were still filing in. Carver noted Darcy’s annoyed “tch”. Ferretic was never a patient man.

    “Thank you for accommodating us, Senator” she began in as diplomatic a tone as she could muster.
    “So I am to accept this little invitation of yours without knowing just what you plan to do? Come now Ms. Stackleback . . . you know me far better than that to assume I’ll jump on whatever proposal you have because the public has déjà vu space fever.”
    Carver chuckled. “Hmm . . . I figured since it was us, you'd be intrigued enough to take it.”
    “Oh do not make a mistake. I am very intrigued. But . . . I will need more information if I am to even validate such an offer.”
    “I told you this was a waste of time” Darcy muttered to Carver.
    “I must say, your undue caution surprises me, Senator. If you’re intrigued by our findings, surely you must advocate our funding.”
    “In case you have forgotten, Mr. Santana, the first ship of your brand-new manned flight program vanished without a trace. You’re damn right I’m cautious about letting you send more people out there.”
    “Well sir, if every king and Company balked whenever an explorer was lost at sea, you would never have discovered the New World.”
    Ferretic and some others gave Carver odd looks. The way he used the word “you” and his casual dismissal of the Odyssey was strange, even for someone of their position.
    “Nuclear rocket technology has allowed man to travel far beyond what he thought was possible. Mars, Europa and Enceladus are the three crown jewels in your realm of conquests. You’re using the Odyseey as an excuse; I say use it as a motivation. I don’t think they would have wanted to end the program before it even fledged. Plus, for purely practical reasons, our launch window is closing rapidly. It’s now or never.”

    Carver looked at Ferretic confidently. Ferretic ran a hand over his face and rested his chin between his thumb and index finger.
    “You are rather convincing, Mr. Santana” he said at last. “I will consider your proposal.”
    Darcy hid her smile. Carver bowed his head respectfully.
    “And now if you will excuse me, I must attend to other matters. You’ll receive word from me soon.”
    The screen faded out. Before anyone could even commend him, Carver rose out of his chair and walked out of the room with a big smile on his face, leaving the rest to carry on the meeting without him…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The lab level of Shepard Station was under quarantine. The people on board were confined until further notice while an investigation of what happened went underway. Debbie sat alone in a large meeting room, feeling quite small (which was probably the intent). She flexed her hands and tapped her feet, not out of fear, but of impatience. This was not her first time here.

    She had been among a select few to work with the botanist Ira Mendoza aboard the station. A few months ago a fellow recruit, Sam Ames, had found out that an extraterrestrial environment had an unusual effect on Arabidopsis thaliana, mouse ear cress, commonly used for studying plant genetics. Such a discovery would have had significant impact on botany and horticulture on future space colonies. Sam was fast becoming a star… until one day when the lab he worked in was mysteriously burned and his work destroyed. Debbie Montague had been his key rival, and thus a suspect of sabotage. Debbie denied the whole thing and had Mendoza’s full confidence, but with no solid evidence pointing one way or the other, the incident was never resolved. As a compromise, she ended up being banned from working on the Station and relegated to working onboard ships. The resentment still remained, a fact that now wasn’t lost on the investigative committee as she now sat there waiting for the round of questions.

    “Ms. Montague” said the inquirer as he came in at last. “I would say it’s good to see you again, but the circumstances won’t permit that.”
    “I didn’t do it” she said quietly.
    “You were with the team that brought the… specimens into Lab 3. Were you ever alone?”
    “…. For a moment.”
    The man noted this down. “How can you really think this was deliberate?” she snapped. “I don’t even know what these things are! How could I use them to do anything?”
    “You seemed to be sure they were a lifeform when speaking to your crewmates.”
    “Wait…. You recorded our conversation??”
    “Recording the events of a flight is standard procedure, Ms. Montague” said the man with a cocked eyebrow. “Surely you know that.”
    “You were just waiting for something like this, weren’t you? You couldn’t nail me before so you’re jumping on me now.”
    “You say you had nothing to do with this.”
    “Of course I didn’t!”
    The man still seemed suspicious. He continued scribbling into his pad.

    “We’ll be asking Dr.Mendoza and the rest of the staff about this as well. You’re free to go for now.”
    “Thank you” said Debbie curtly as she leapt out of her chair and strode to the door.
    “You want to work on the Station again, don’t you Ms. Montague?” the man asked before she exited. Debbie turned back to look at him. “That can be arranged.”
    “On what?”
    The man smiled. “We’ll be in touch.”
    Debbie cast a wary eye on him before leaving the room…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Oliver and Christian drifted in orbit around Earth. Since escaping the Station they had been in and out of contact with Mission Control as they frenziedly tried to deal with the situation.
    “How long are they going to keep us hanging?” asked Christian. “We’re running out of fuel; we have to either go back to the Station or land.” He looked at Oliver, who seemed to be staring into space. “Hey, are you listening?”
    “What? Right” said Oliver with a start. “I was just thinking about that asteroid we found.”
    “You think it’s related to this?”
    “You said you saw a yellow mist coming from the labs, and Val said there were vines attached to her ship when she landed. But the Horizon didn't find anything when they recovered the ship”
    “So you’re saying we picked up an alien plant that then attacked the Station, got brought to Earth, and then disappeared on its own?”
    “Sounds like something from a sci-fi movie. But I think you might appreciate that.”
    Christian smirked. “If it’s true then I think this might be fun.”
    “Of course you’d think that.”
    “But back to the issue. What are we going to do now?”

    As if to answer him, a call from Mission Control came in again.
    “I was beginning to think you’d forgotten us” Christian quipped.
    “We’ve managed to get the Station under some level of control” came the reply. “The labs have been quarantined, and we’ve already started an investigation.”
    “Nice to see you’re so on the ball. Now what about us? We can’t stay up here forever.”
    “For now, come back down to Earth and we can figure out what to do from here.”
    “What are we going to do?” asked Oliver. “From what the Horizon has said, there was nothing on the module that Val came in. That thing she described must have gone off somewhere.”
    “We’ll handle it once you get down here. Please set your course.”
    “Yes sir” Oliver sighed.

    They began maneuvering the Clipper for landing in Florida…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On a hilltop outside a large city stood a menacing creature resembling a bipedal Venus Flyrap. The creature rolled headfirst down the slope, spreading out long vine-like limbs as it went. It came upon a busy highway leading into the city and rolled right into the traffic. Cars and trucks swerved out of control; some even flipped over as the limbs knocked them off their wheels. It didn’t stop until it entered the city, upon which it unfurled again and began to rampage.
    While this was going on, another creature had appeared in the same city. This was the one that had hitchhiked on Valentina’s module; like the Flytrap creature it resembled a plant: a strangler fig. It went down the streets, grabbing anyone close by and suffocating them in its vice grip. Chaos soon erupted.
    Some distance away, the golden sphere with the disheveled man inside descended from the sky and landed on a building. He watched from inside his prison in frustration…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Clipper glided through the clouds and appeared over the airstrip. Through the communicator Oliver and Christian could hear a ruckus inside Mission Control.
    “Something wrong down there?” asked Oliver.
    “It seems… some creatures are attacking the city.”
    “What??”
    Christian turned on a monitor that captured local broadcasts. A news feed of the two plant-like monsters came through.
    “What the hell are those things?”
    “Look at that one” Oliver pointed to the strangler fig. “That looks like what Val described.”
    “But it’s walking. Hell, it is like something from a sci-fi movie.”
    “You’re cleared for landing” said Mission Control.
    “What about those things?”
    “What do you expect to do? You’re not soldiers.”
    “Actually, I am ex-military” Christian smugly corrected.
    “You’re in no condition to do anything. You’re flying a spaceplane, not a fighter jet. Plus you have nothing to fight them with. Come down and let the proper people deal with this.”
    “Sir” said Oliver with a solemn tone. “We brought these things here. We should get rid of them.”
    Mission Control had no response.
    “We’re going in.”

    Oliver shut off communications and turned to Christian.
    “Can you fly us over there?”
    “Do you have to ask?” said Christian. “The question is, can we stay aloft?”
    Orion smiled. “You’ll find a way.”
    “I guess I will.”
    Oliver patted him on the shoulder and moved into the back of the ship. He quickly changed into a black spandex-like jumpsuit and entered a small chamber. A console on the side of this chamber indicated the specs for the Aurum Cytector.
    “Fly us in close as though you’re going to land. I’ll jump out then.”
    “Roger.”
    Oliver took out his TectorKey, a device shaped like the grip of a gun. He inserted it into a slot and turned it to the side. A strong light bathed him, and pieces of metal armor began appearing from various storage spaces and latched themselves onto Oliver’s body and each other. A helmet went over his head and locked into place. His eyes were still exposed, but then a solid black mask came over them, and over that a black visor. The eyes of the mask turned on and glowed an electric blue. Lights and whistles activated all over the body. The chamber door swung open.


    The blue eyes switched off. Oliver opened the hatch of the ship and looked down below. The Clipper was now flying low over the city, near where the strangler fig monster was attacking. Several people looked
    up at the low-flying ship and screamed, thinking it would crash. “Let ‘er rip!” called Christian. Oliver leapt out, tackling the creature and rolling with it over the ground. Christian pulled up just before the Clipper crash-landed, but not before sending a parting shot to the creature as it fought this new hero.

    Oliver jumped back at the shot, and then tackled the fig again. Its vines ensnared him and began to crush his body. Ollie grabbed a vine and, using the Cytector’s enhanced strength, tore it off him and wrestled away from the rest. He reached for the metal “backpack” behind him and brought out an arm attachment with a small chainsaw. This was meant for cutting through rocks, but it would suffice for this. Oliver dodged and swung the vines, cutting them apart one by one and then stabbing the creature in what looked to be its chest. The gas sacks attached on the chopped vines exploded simultaneously, throwing Ollie to the ground. When the fig monster charged forward again, Ollie noticed a gas sack still attached to the body. Seizing his chance, he reached into the pack again, brought out an arm-attached cannon, and fired at the sack. The monster shrieked as the explosion hit it dead on, and crumpled to the ground. Dead.

    Oliver panted. He was starting to feel strange; this didn’t normally happen when he used the suit. He got up and stumbled toward the creature to make sure it was dead. The visor and mask rose up, exposing his sweat-drenched eyes and nose. Suddenly an explosion ripped across his back and sent him spiraling to the ground. The Flytrap monster appeared; it had fired a shot of digestive acid from its mouth. Oliver turned over and tried to get up, but found the suit to suddenly feel heavy and constricting. What was going on?

    The Flytrap pounced, but was brought down by a powerful shot from behind. Christian was standing in his Azure series Cytector suit.


    The eyes on the mask glowed bright red through the visor. “You all right?” Christian called to Oliver. Oliver gave an OK sign and got to his feet. Christian flexed and cracked his knuckles.
    “I’ve been waiting to try this out.”
    The Flytrap hissed. It released a bunch of hinged Flytrap leaves filled with digestive acid at Christian. Unfazed, he fired his cannon again at each of them, blowing them to pieces. Next he brought out a flamethrower attached to a tube from his backpack and unleashed a stream of fire at the monster. Acid that had dripped over its body went ablaze, sending off explosions and steam. Oliver went in and finished with a slice across the midsection with his saw. The creature fell over scorched and defeated, but not before releasing some spores that drifted with the wind away from the scene.

    Oliver fell on his knee, exhausted.
    “You sure you’re ok?” Christian asked. His visor and mask retracted so Oliver could see his eyes.
    “Something’s up with the suit” he replied. “I never felt this way before when using it.”
    “Hmm” Christian swung his arms a bit and shook his legs. “It’s starting to feel heavy for me now…”
    Oliver looked down at the creature before them and at the strangler fig creature a few feet away.
    “The bigger question is what these things are.”
    A small crowd had begun to gather to see both the monsters and these two astronauts in full gear, looking more like hi-tech soldiers than explorers. Police and rescue workers poured in and began clearing the area off. Then a team of soldiers arrived in tinted SUVs and began filing out to assist the local authorities. One of the soldiers came up to Ollie and Chris.
    “Please come with us.”
    They looked at each other and then followed him, avoiding the stares and hollers of the gathered onlookers…

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)
    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    More of the plant-like creatures begin appearing on Earth. Lincoln Cartwright and Ira Mendoza clash once more on what to do with them as the Yankee Clipper crew become the only team that can stop them; Oliver discovers the man in the golden sphere and his identity.

  4. #4
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    Chapter 3: New Life

    The Flytrap pounced, but was brought down by a powerful shot from behind. Christian was standing in his Azure series Cytector suit.

    The eyes on the mask glowed bright red through the visor. “You all right?” Christian called to Oliver. Oliver gave an OK sign and got to his feet. Christian flexed and cracked his knuckles.
    “I’ve been waiting to try this out.”
    The Flytrap hissed. It released a bunch of hinged Flytrap leaves filled with digestive acid at Christian. Unfazed, he fired his cannon again at each of them, blowing them to pieces. Next he brought out a flamethrower attached to a tube from his backpack and unleashed a stream of fire at the monster. Acid that had dripped over its body went ablaze, sending off explosions and steam. Oliver went in and finished with a slice across the midsection with his saw. The creature fell over scorched and defeated, but not before releasing some spores that drifted with the wind away from the scene.

    Oliver fell on his knee, exhausted.
    “You sure you’re ok?” Christian asked. His visor and mask retracted so Oliver could see his eyes.
    “Something’s up with the suit” he replied. “I never felt this way before when using it.”
    “Hmm” Christian swung his arms a bit and shook his legs. “It’s starting to feel heavy for me now…”
    Oliver looked down at the creature before them and at the strangler fig creature a few feet away.
    “The bigger question is what these things are.”
    A small crowd had begun to gather to see both the monsters and these two astronauts in full gear, looking more like hi-tech soldiers than explorers. Police and rescue workers poured in and began clearing the area off. Then a team of soldiers arrived in tinted SUVs and began filing out to assist the local authorities. One of the soldiers came up to Ollie and Chris.
    “Please come with us.”
    They looked at each other and then followed him, avoiding the stares and hollers of the gathered onlookers.
    The man in the sphere looked on from his perch. His eyes lingered particularly on Oliver as he went to and inside the vehicle. Soon he too was taken away and brought back to his prison…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Oliver and Christian had been taken to a NASA facility and promptly removed of their armor and given a thorough examination. A far cry from the heroic welcomes of the astronauts of old, Oliver thought to himself, but given the circumstances he couldn’t really expect much. The Yankee Clipper had landed on autopilot on the landing strip, and their gear and clothes had been recovered. As Oliver redressed himself, the doctor came to give his evaluation.
    “How are you feeling?”
    “Better now. Do you know what happened to the suit?”
    “The Cytectors weren’t designed for combat. Nor were they designed for use on Earth. The gravity here puts an extra strain on both the suit and the user. You only received a taste of what happens with prolonged use; a little longer and the suit would have locked up completely. You would be stuck inside and constricted.”
    “Really? That seems like quite a design flaw.”
    “Or a flaw in its use” the doctor gave him a slightly critical look. “Didn’t they go over this with you when you received the suits?”
    “Not really.”
    The doctor snorted. “No, I wouldn’t think so. Mr. Cartwright couldn’t take a blot on his record.”

    Oliver frowned. If Christian was here he would have had something to say to this man… speaking of which, where was he?”
    “Where is Christian?”
    “We already finished with him. Last I checked he was speaking with Mr. Cartwright and Dr. Mendoza with Ms. Burshteyn, right after a debriefing with the administrators. I think you should start looking for a new Pilot if he keeps pissing off the higher-ups like this.”
    “What, for coming to bail me out and letting the ship land by itself? Would they rather I faced those… things alone?”
    “The way I hear, you two shouldn’t have tried fighting them at all.”
    Ollie felt the critical glance again and felt it best to leave. “Can I go?”
    The doctor nodded and waved him off. Oliver went through the ward and asked around for Christian and Val’s location. When he did find them, he saw them standing before two large screens watching two middle-aged people arguing. One was Dr. Ira Mendoza, and the other Lincoln Cartwright.
    “Ollie! Just in time for the fight” said Christian cheerfully. Valentina frowned at him for his apparent nonchalant attitude.

    “Oliver” Cartwright greeted. “I’m glad you could make it.”
    “I take it you know what happened?” said Oliver as he came forward.
    “I really think you two overdid it” Mendoza jumped in.
    “Do you really expect them to ask nicely for them to behave?” Catwright snapped back. “Lives were at stake, they did what they had to and thank God it wasn’t worse.”
    “So we should destroy the first ETs we come across simply because they get loose?”
    “Are they now more valuable than human lives?”
    “I believe!” interrupted Val loudly. “I believe the remains of the two were recovered.”
    “Hmm, well that will have to do” said Mendoza. “We managed to put down the one that attacked the Station. I and my team are working on it as we speak.”
    “Nice to see us on the ball” said Christian.
    “Hopefully we can find some answers” added Oliver, hoping to ease the tension.

    Suddenly an alarm went off outside the room.”
    “Now what?” asked Val. Christian pulled up a screen that showed a news feed of a group of five creatures roaming in the wilderness.
    “More of them!” Val groaned. These creatures seemed to be modeled on Sequoia trees, with thick hides and strong limbs.
    “What do we do now?”
    “What else?” Oliver was already down the hall, TectorGrip in hand.
    “If you’ll excuse us, we have some exterminating to do” said Christian. He broke off the comlink before Mendoza could say anymore, gave a smirk to Val, and followed after Oliver.

    The trio ran into the testing room for the Cytectors.
    “Hold it!” said one of the techs there. “You can’t go out there!”
    “You have a better idea?” Oliver asked, pushing him aside.
    “You still haven’t recovered from your last use of the suits” said the tech, pushing back. “Plus in case you didn’t get it before, these are not combat suits.”
    “We know. But they’re the best we have so far.”
    The tech sighed. “Then you need a plan on how to face them.”
    Valentina looked at a screen showing the monsters. “We can try bringing them in that open field and then bomb away.”
    “Bomb with what though? We can’t take the Clipper.”
    “Try this” the tech opened another screen showing a tank-like vehicle in a small hangar.
    “Surveyor?” asked Oliver. “But that’s just an explorer.”
    “Well of course it is, and you’re not commandoes either. But it has some strong firepower, so you can make some use of it.”
    He held them back before they could enter the suit-up chambers. “Now remember, don’t strain yourselves. You can only use the suits for a limited time with Earth’s gravity. Try to make this quick, and maybe we can get through this with our necks intact.”
    “In more ways than one” quipped Ollie.

    *Insert Song plays*
    (‘Holding out for a Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler)

    They changed into the black jumpsuits, entered the chambers and inserted the Grips into the proper slots. A few seconds later, they reappeared in their designated Cytectors: Aurum for Oliver, Azure for Christian, and Rouge for Valentina.






    “Val, you take Surveyor. Chris and I will lead them to the clearing” Oliver instructed. He and Chris went one way, while Val headed the other toward the hangar…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Some time later Christian, coated in his Azure Cytector suit, charged towards the five advancing Sequioa monsters. He drew his blaster from his pack and stood his ground.
    “You know, you ruined a perfectly nice afternoon for gentlemen like myself.”
    He fired a shot at the center monster, but the tough bark-like hide merely absorbed the impact. It responded with a great swipe from an elongated limb, sending Christian into a tree. Oliver came running in over a raised road and jumped from the ledge, saw in hand. While three of the monsters continued forward, one of the last two began fighting with the Aurum user.

    Christian recovered to meet the three. He opened a console on his forearm and pressed a set of buttons. “Speed Mode” said the voice of the suit’s computer system. Christian spun around and launched a volley of laser blasts at the monsters.

    While all this was happening, a small craft flew over the battlefield. Inside, the pilot kept track of the power levels of the monsters and noted the two people in metal suits trying to fight them…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Christian and Oliver were thrown in a pile together by the Sequoia monsters. They slowly advanced on them as they tried to rethink their strategy.
    “What now?” said Christian.
    “Keep drawing them out until Val arrives.”

    Suddenly from out of thin air, great blasts of energy were fired at the two astronauts. They were thrown off their feet and clattered to the ground, only to be blown away again as more blasts came down.
    “What the hell is that?!” spluttered Oliver.
    The blasts came again. Oliver and Christian ran and somersaulted away from them. The Sequoia monsters continued on their way.
    “Damnit Val, where are you?!” yelled Christian into his microphone as he barely dodged another blast. Oliver noticed the monsters getting away.
    “I'm gonna try to take out at least one bad guy today...”
    Oliver ran toward them. The blasts now focused on him as he ran. Oliver activated the Speed Mode on his suit and dodged each blast as they came. Upon reaching the monsters, he leapt up and swung across with his saw. He cut off a small limb from the lead Sequoia and finished with a stab to the side, but the blade barely punctured it.
    “What??”
    A massive trunk-like arm was smashed into Oliver’s face, sending him flying back into the lone wall of a demolished building and falling back down to the ground with a bunch of plaster. His armor was smoking, the visor was cracked, lights were blinking on and off erratically, and the suit was beginning to feel heavy.
    “Aurum!” Christian yelled before another blast sent him flying away.

    A squadron of small fightercraft suddenly materialized out of nowhere. Three fins came out of the top and sides, and a thin, curved tube resembling the lure on an anglerfish was perched at the front. They started firing again, keeping Christian and Oliver off their feet. Oliver was already having trouble, as his suit was beginning to lock up. As a last resort, he drew out the flamethrower from his pack and created a ring of fire around the monsters to keep them corralled. Christian started unloading shots towards the mystery fighters to little avail. They were outgunned.
    A rumbling sound then echoed over the ground. Oliver and Christian turned to its direction. The large rover vehicle, Surveyor, was rolling into the battle.
    “Val!”
    “Sorry to keep you waiting” Valentina quickly flipped a throttle. Surveyor extended its large cannon and opened fire on the five monsters, destroying them in a matter of seconds. As if in response, the fighters began attacking the rover. Valentina tried to zigzag the bulky vehicle on her way to the others.
    “Quick, Val, use the Jet! Ollie and I will take the Tank!” Christian bellowed as he and Oliver ran to meet her.
    “How about you fly and I take the Tank?” asked Val.
    “Stop complaining!”
    Val sighed and disengaged the docking clamps. The jet half, Sky Surveyor, took off and began dogfighting with the unknown fighters.


    Oliver and Christian got inside the two-man cockpit of the tank half, Land Surveyor, and rolled beneath them, firing on their highly maneuverable targets as best they could.


    After a short while, the fighters suddenly vanished as fast as they had arrived.

    Val clumsily brought the jet down to the ground next to the tank. Christian got down and looked around to make sure they were gone.
    “Nice first run team. ”
    The trio all removed their helmets and ruffled their sweat-matted hair. Oliver leaned against the side of the tank clutching his torso. “This is going to be a problem if this keeps up.” Christian and Val now began feeling his discomfort.
    “Well, what do you think of all this? Where did those fighters come from?”
    “No clue…”

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In his lightless prison, the disheveled man heard his captors speaking to each other. They had been watching the battle through a screen on the floor of the vessel.
    “You failed.”
    One of the captors snapped at him in the unintelligible tongue. Another one said something to the first one, and then fiddled with a lone console. The man gulped; he knew what was coming next.

    The golden sphere encapsulated him once more, and he was teleported down to the surface…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Seraphina Urgiles groggily rose from bed in her quarters on the moon base. Her nap had lasted longer than she had planned; now she was late for her second shift. Ruffling her long, dark hair, she watched the Earthrise through her window. Pictures did no justice to such a sight; but even so, she would rather not be here.

    When she had been transferred here, the Odyssey had just disappeared on its maiden voyage. Many of the crew had been friends and classmates of hers. The fact that they were suddenly gone, and that there was not a thing she could do about it, had left her most distraught. The transfer to the moon base was supposed to have gotten her mind focused on her work. But now that was somehow becoming more and more difficult.

    She hastily combed her air and put on her uniform. Going out the door, she bumped into a familiar face coming down the hall.
    “Jaden!”
    Jaden Tien, a Taiwanese ex-pat and former NASA astronaut candidate, now a courier to and from Earth.
    “Oh, it’s you. Isn’t this your shift?”
    “It is. I’m late.”
    “I’ll give you a ride then. I’m heading that way anyway.”
    They walked to a buggy used for short rides through the tunnels of the base, much like those seen in airports, and began traveling down to the dock where Seraphina worked. Through the windows could be seen the scaffolding of the incomplete base, rising up to meet the black expanse of space. No dome yet surrounded the base; those working on the infrastructure had to don spacesuits. While not as bulky as the ones of old, these were still far from the versatility of the Cytectors and thus hard to work well in. It was the one part of the job Seraphina hated.
    “You might as well leave your hair as is if you’re gonna keep wearing those suits” said Jaden as he cast an eye on her tossing her wavy mane. “No one can see it anyway.”
    “Are you saying I want attention?”
    “You seem to be getting it.”
    The girl snorted. “I haven’t even thought of that for so long.”
    “Still hung up on the Odyssey?”
    Seraphina sharply tuned to him. She was used to Jaden’s bluntness, but this was particularly sensitive for her. “Don’t start that again.”
    “What, that you can’t let things go? What happened happened, and - ”
    “Don’t say there was nothing I could do.”

    Jaden shrugged. Seraphina decided to change the subject. “Where are you off to?”
    “I’m supposed to pick up the remains of the two aliens that came to Earth.”
    “You mean those plant things that Ollie and the others brought back and attacked the Station?”
    “Indeed.”
    Seraphina looked out the windows toward Shepard Station far in the distance. “I hope the gang is alright.”
    “Christian’s been in tight spots before, he’ll manage. Ollie too.”
    “I didn’t know you knew Ollie.”
    “… I don’t. Not really… we only met a few times.”
    Jaden seemed uneasy about the subject. Luckily they had arrived at Seraphina’s dock. She jumped off and waved.
    “Have fun.”
    “Maybe we should switch jobs. I hear you’re quite the gardener.”
    Seraphina chuckled. “Not in this desert. I’ll see you soon.”
    Jaden gave a small salute and drove away to his shuttle. Seraphina gave another wistful glance to her homeworld and wondered if Oliver and the Clipper crew… if her friends… really could manage this time…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Open books, piles of loose paper and an old computer filled the desk of Cartwright’s office as Oliver, Christian and Valentina searched for any info on the alien creatures.
    “I don’t see what the point of this is” said Valentina. “We’re not going to find anything useful here.”
    “It would be better if we had an actual piece of them to look at ourselves” said Oliver. “But we’re going to meet Mendoza and Debbie on the Station tomorrow, and they’re sending some of the remains of the Flytrap and Sequoia.”
    “We could have done that ourselves” said Christian as he worked on the computer. Suddenly a low hum filled the air.
    “What’s that?”
    Oliver looked out the window. A radiant golden orb was standing off in the distance.
    “I’ll go check it out” he said and went out the door.
    “Ollie!” Christian called but got no answer. He looked to Val for a moment and then together they followed him.

    Oliver ran toward the orb. Inside it was a disheveled man wearing what looked like a NASA uniform. Oliver suddenly felt his heartbeat increase. The man turned his head and he saw the face of… Perry Shankar.
    “Professor!”
    Perry’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oliver!”
    “Professor!” Oliver ran toward the orb but it was then taken up into the clouds and disappeared. Oliver stared after it in shock. Perry Shankar was alive! But how… why?
    “Ollie!” called Valentina as she and Christian caught up with him. “What is it?”
    “Shankar’s alive!”
    “What??”
    “I just saw him! He was in this gold sphere, but it disappeared!”
    “What?” Christian looked all around and saw nothing. A strong gust of wind blew in. The three of them stared up into the darkened sky…

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)
    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    Oliver and Jaden unexpectedly meet again on the Station; Debbie conceives how to win back her reputation; Cartwright assigns the Yankee Clipper crew the Falcon to fight the newly-named Phytomorphs; Perry Shankar appears before the crew again in the midst of battle.

  5. #5
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    Chapter 4: Divisions

    A squadron of small fightercraft suddenly materialized out of nowhere. Three fins came out of the top and sides, and a thin, curved tube resembling the lure on an anglerfish was perched at the front. They started firing again, keeping Christian and Oliver off their feet. Oliver was already having trouble, as his suit was beginning to lock up. As a last resort, he drew out the flamethrower from his pack and created a ring of fire around the monsters to keep them corralled. Christian started unloading shots towards the mystery fighters to little avail. They were outgunned.
    A rumbling sound then echoed over the ground. Oliver and Christian turned to its direction. The large rover vehicle, Surveyor, was rolling into the battle.
    “Val!”
    “Sorry to keep you waiting” Valentina quickly flipped a throttle. Surveyor extended its large cannon and opened fire on the five monsters, destroying them in a matter of seconds. As if in response, the fighters began attacking the rover. Valentina tried to zigzag the bulky vehicle on her way to the others.
    “Quick, Val, use the Jet! Ollie and I will take the Tank!” Christian bellowed as he and Oliver ran to meet her.
    “How about you fly and I take the Tank?” asked Val.
    “Stop complaining!”
    Val sighed and disengaged the docking clamps. The jet half, Sky Surveyor, took off and began dogfighting with the unknown fighters.



    Oliver and Christian got inside the two-man cockpit of the tank half, Land Surveyor, and rolled beneath them, firing on their highly maneuverable targets as best they could.


    After a short while, the fighters suddenly vanished as fast as they had arrived.

    Val clumsily brought the jet down to the ground next to the tank. Christian got down and looked around to make sure they were gone.
    “Nice first run team. ”
    The trio all removed their helmets and ruffled their sweat-matted hair. Oliver leaned against the side of the tank clutching his torso. “This is going to be a problem if this keeps up.” Christian and Val now began feeling his discomfort.
    “Well, what do you think of all this? Where did those fighters come from?”
    “No clue…”


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Oliver looked out the window. A radiant golden orb was standing off in the distance.
    “I’ll go check it out” he said and went out the door.
    “Ollie!” Christian called but got no answer. He looked to Val for a moment and then together they followed him.

    Oliver ran toward the orb. Inside it was a disheveled man wearing what looked like a NASA uniform. Oliver suddenly felt his heartbeat increase. The man turned his head and he saw the face of… Perry Shankar.
    “Professor!”
    Perry’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oliver!”
    “Professor!” Oliver ran toward the orb but it was then taken up into the clouds and disappeared. Oliver stared after it in shock. Perry Shankar was alive! But how… why?
    “Ollie!” called Valentina as she and Christian caught up with him. “What is it?”
    “Shankar’s alive!”
    “What??”
    “I just saw him! He was in this gold sphere, but it disappeared!”
    “What?” Christian looked all around and saw nothing. A strong gust of wind blew in. The three of them stared up into the darkened sky…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On a large watermelon farm, some field hands had gathered around to see something strange. A series of giant vines had sprouted and given forth large, black fruit. Black watermelons weren’t in and of themselves unusual, but these ones were leaking a pungent, non-viscous corrosive liquid. One of the workers put on a pair of gloves and carefully plucked the melon from its vine. The liquid dripped to the ground between his feet. A moment later the melon blew apart, burning the people and sending them flying.

    Other melons like it also began exploding. The liquid splattered onto the foliage and, with the help of the sun’s heat, ignited them into flame. A bunch of the giant vines rose and retracted back around the body of another of the aliens. Melons large and small hung off the body. The alien threw some of these at another group of field hands who had begun to flee, hurling them in the air as well. The whole field was soon ablaze…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Yankee Clipper launched from Cape Canaveral early in the morning, carrying Surveyor and the two-man rover Viking inside its payload bay. The flight directors had been hesitant to have the ship fly again after its reckless descent by Christian and Oliver’s hands, but the issue of the plant-like aliens was too pressing. The crew was to meet with Lincoln Cartwright and Dr. Mendoza in person on Shepard Station. Another ship was bringing in the remains of the Sequoia creatures at the same time as their arrival.

    On the Station, Debbie stood waiting at the airlock anxiously. She then saw Toby Reynolds, a NASA astronaut candidate and a friend of Oliver’s, come up beside her.
    “Morning,” he said cheerfully. Debbie gave a polite smile back. The first time they had met she had gently declined a drink from him. Ever since he had kept trying to break the ice with her, so to speak. He wasn’t one to take a hint.
    “If you’re waiting for Oliver, you’ll have to wait till our meeting is over.”
    “I know. I just want to say hello. I haven’t seen him in a while, not since before you all went and found that asteroid.”
    “I don’t think you should speak about that too casually.”
    “Why? You think we’re being watched?” Toby asked with a mock hushed tone. “Is there a conspiracy afoot?”
    “It’s unprofessional” said Debbie in a slightly annoyed tone. “Don’t you have a training session today?”
    “You want to chase me away now?” Toby smirked. Debbie sighed and kept her eyes on the airlock. There was no getting rid of this guy.

    The Clipper finally arrived. Debbie and Toby moved toward the airlock at the same time, but Debbie managed to cut Toby off and reach them first.
    “Debbie!” greeted Valentina.
    “Are you all alright?” she asked importantly, seemingly to remind everyone that she was a part of this team of heroes.
    “I’ll throw you to those freaks and you can find out” muttered Christian. He waited for Debbie’s retort, but this time she held her tongue. Toby jumped in front of Oliver like an excited child awaiting a present.
    “Toby. What are you doing here?” Oliver said, smiling.
    “I thought I’d give you that hero’s welcome you keep wanting.”
    “One man? I hoped for a bit more.”
    “Yeah. Maybe something involving ticker tape and a key to the city” added Christian.
    “Well they’re already talking about you. NASA won’t come out and say it, but they’re glad you’re getting them all this attention.”
    At this Oliver felt a small bit of discomfort. But he put it aside once he looked back to Toby’s excited face. He had become something of an idol to him and, truth be told, he did enjoy the admiration.
    “Still flying those training modules?” he asked as the group left the airlock and moved down the hall.
    “Unfortunately. I think I was in the running for the Orion’s crew but after all this they’ve put everything on hold.”
    “You wouldn’t have missed much. NASA’s still jittery about the Odyssey that they’re not going to let us go out past our back yard anytime soon.”
    “Actually, maybe I can get in with you people. You are missing a Cytector user, right?”
    Oliver looked to Christian uncomfortably, who only shrugged. Debbie hid a glower.

    They reached another airlock where a team of scientists were wheeling away the remains of the Sequoia creatures for analysis. At the rear of the line was, to Oliver’s surprise…
    “Jaden?”
    Jaden Tien looked at Oliver and startled. An awkward silence permeated the scene for a moment before Jaden plucked up the ability to speak.
    “Oliver.”
    “You’re the one who brought the stuff.”
    “Yeah. I got the order last night.”
    “Hmm.”
    The others looked from Oliver to Jaden and back, not knowing what to make of it. Valentina finally cleared her throat and bade them continue on their way.
    “Be careful with those things” Jaden warned. “I think one of them twitched on the way here.”
    They looked at each other nervously. Oliver however kept his gaze on Jaden. This was the man who would have had his position as Commander if he hadn’t suddenly quit the program. Since then he had wanted to find out why, but for some reason could never bring it up. He felt as though the reason was something he didn’t want to know.

    “Coming, Ollie?” Christian asked.
    “Right, let’s go.”
    Jaden nodded his head as a good-bye, but Oliver paused one moment more. “We should get together some time.”
    Jaden seemed surprised by the invite. “Alright” he said regardless. “Just tell me when.”
    Oliver smiled and went away with the others. Jaden looked on after them until they disappeared.

    At the labs, Debbie stopped. She caught the gazes of the scientists and understood their meaning.
    “Don’t mind them” said Valentina as the remains were wheeled in. “The doctor wanted the crew to meet with her, and that includes you.”
    It wasn’t much comfort. Debbie sighed.
    “I’ll meet you when Mendoza calls us” she said and left…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Debbie sparred on a small punching bag in the Station’s empty gym. What had happened today proved what she had felt these past few days: she was a liability. Even her position on the Yankee Clipper wasn’t certain, what with the whisperings of the Phytomorph attack on the lab still going on. She needed a way to win back her reputation.

    But how to go about it? She wasn’t allowed in the labs and couldn’t use a Cytector. If worse came to worse she could wait for a truly dire situation and steal one. But the better way would be to earn everyone’s trust and get them both as a reward.
    “Hmm. I guess I'll take the second route for now. But if that moment appears I will not hesitate.”
    In the past, Debbie always fought for what she wanted and took care of anything in her way. But this time that approach could only hurt her more.

    Debbie resumed hitting and kicking the bag until she felt blisters on her knuckles. She lay on the floor, completely exhausted. Dr Mendoza would be calling the crew in later today; she intended to make her first move then...

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Perry Shankar slinked through the dark corridors of his captors’ vessel. This was one of the few opportunities where he was free to roam around the compound, so to speak. He waited to see whether anyone was around, and then ducked into a small hallway off limits to all but the top brass.

    Stealthily he snuck through the twisting path, careful to avoid any run-ins, until he found a small console in the center of a small chamber. Knowing he had little time, Perry tried to access the console based on what he had seen his captors do with the controls to his cell. But their language was something far beyond his comprehension. Perry smacked his fist on the console. He had to find out where his crew was. But how could he do it, when he didn’t even know how to start?

    Someone was coming. Perry reluctantly hid himself in a corner and watched as the…. Man, for lack of another term… accessed the console with such ease and paused, as though suspecting that someone had been here. Perry slowly backed away through another hall and moved back to his cell…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Phytomorphs?” Christian asked skeptically as Dr. Mendoza briefed them on what they had learned about the alien creatures. “Sounds rather uncreative.”
    “It fits them” Mendoza said briskly. “But you can come with something better.”
    “Maybe I will” said Christian. Debbie joined the doctor in disapproval of his rather negligible complaint. Christian paid them no mind.
    “Anyway, we’ve found out a great deal about these… creatures, despite all that’s happened. I won’t bore you with all the details but there are two things I think are most relevant.

    She brought up microscope images of the cells from all the recovered aliens on her computer screen. The strangler fig was named #1: Ficus, the Venus flytrap #2: Dionaea, and the Sequoias #3: Sequoia A, B, C, D, and E. “First thing to note, they use hydrogen peroxide as a body solvent as opposed to water. It can act as an anti-freeze, which may be how they managed to survive the cold of space for so long.
    “They still had to have been dormant to travel that long without food” said Lincoln Cartwright, also in attendance. “And have something to shield them from radiation.”
    “We’re still working on that. The other thing we’ve found is…” Mendoza paused. “Much of its DNA matches that from Earth plants.”
    “Earth plants that they resemble?” Valentina asked. Everyone looked around at each other. How was such a thing possible.
    “How is that possible?” asked Oliver for the rest.
    “Perhaps someone engineered them” said Christian. All turned to look at him.
    “Are you seriously offering that as an answer?” asked Debbie.
    “You mean it couldn’t be done? I somehow doubt aliens could have DNA so nearly matching stuff from this planet.”
    “Or maybe it’s simply convergent evolution” Debbie responded.
    “Besides, what about the rest of their bodies?” asked Oliver. “The DNA that’s not matching? Where did that come from? Even if someone created his own genome to make these things, how could they have gotten onto an asteroid?”
    “I don’t know” said Christian. “But something is strange here.”

    “Before we decide where they came from, let’s focus on figuring out what they are” interjected Mendoza.
    “We can’t ignore this” said Lincoln. “If these things are artificial, we have to find out who made them and why.”
    “Right now I’m more inclined to believe these are natural lifeforms” Mendoza retorted with a touch of dismissal. Already she thought she imagined what Lincoln would do with this information. Maybe restart his arms race nonsense with new vigor. “And until we learn more, I would implore all of you not to damage them too much when they appear.”
    “Well it’s easier to say that here than when you’re down there with them” said Christian.
    “We still have to try” said Debbie. She looked at Mendoza. “I’ll be in charge of recovery.”
    “Says who?” said Christian. “We can’t have you running around picking up whatever these things shed while they’re running around attacking people. You don’t even have a Cytector.”
    “I appreciate that, Debbie” said Mendoza approvingly. “You are the designated scientist of this crew. This is your job.”
    “One that I intend to do” Debbie said while staring unblinkingly at Christian.

    Lincoln then received a message for him. As he took it, the others saw his face turn grim.
    “Speak of the devil” he said. “Another one has appeared.”
    The Clipper crew sprang into action, but Lincoln ordered them to halt.
    “What?” Oliver asked.
    “Don’t take the Clipper. It can’t maneuver well in the atmosphere, and it’s undergunned.”
    “What else do we have?”
    “Lincoln -” warned Mendoza, guessing what he had in mind.
    “Follow me.”

    Lincoln led them to an airlock on the other side of the station from where the Clipper was. There was the large ship Falcon undergoing maintenance after a recent training run.


    “You’re giving us the Falcon?” asked Valentina in surprise.
    “More like a loan” said Lincoln. “Now is as good a time as any to test it fully.”
    “You’re not giving these people a war machine” said Mendoza indignantly.
    “This is a war” said Lincoln. “Whether you will admit it or not. These things are a threat, and right now we’re the only people that can defeat them. And anyway, this isn’t a war machine. It’s a better prepared version of those tin cans you and NASA call spaceplanes. I always told you there were bad things out there. Maybe now you will heed me.”

    The crew boarded and undocked from the Station. The controls were similar to the ones on the Clipper and its sister ships, so piloting this larger vessel was easy enough. On the way they stopped by the Clipper and transferred Surveyor and Viking into its payload bay. Then it was straight to Earth and their target…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It was a peaceful day in the city. People were going from place to place. On some of the public buildings were posters of Project Odyssey, proudly announcing NASA’s future of space travel.

    The watermellon Phytomorph appeared on top of this building, and looked around at the many people passing by below. It raised its limbs to the sky and released a windfall of melons to the populace. Some were knocked down by the impact, others stopped to examine the peculiar fruit, wondering where they came from. Moments later the streets were rocked with explosions. Some of the melons’ acid splashed onto the building’s Odyssey poster and quickly dissolved it.

    The Falcon came flying over the city. Christian drove Viking out of the hangar in midair and landed bumpily in a park. From there he sped down to the main street, avoiding the sprays and puddles of acidic juice.
    “This doesn’t look good…”
    He came to a stop and noticed dozens of people lying on the ground, many of them burnt or disfigured by the exploding melons.
    “Shoot... Ollie, can you see where the thing is?”
    Inside, Oliver quickly scanned the area and found the monster. “It's on top of that building!” He relayed the information to Christian’s helmet computer. Christian glanced up and saw the watermelon Phytomorph.
    “Yup..that'd be him”

    *Insert Song plays*
    (‘Holding out for a Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler)

    Deciding to take it by surprise, Christian switched his Cytector to Speed Mode, leapt up on top of the building, and slammed his elbow right into the back of the monster’s neck. It stumbled forward, but threw a smaller melon at Christian, who reflexively caught it.
    “What the...!”
    Blasted off his feet by the small explosion, Chris slammed into the ledge of the building, almost falling off.
    “You two had better come down here!”
    He retrieved the arm cannon from his pack and started firing while walking towards the monster...

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Perry Shankar was teleported to another rooftop inside his spherical prison. All he could do was watch and see what would happen…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Christian shot and dodged the vines and melons coming his way and leapt off the side of the building. Then he streaked up a different side of the building, withdrew a long pickaxe from his pack and swung down on the monster from the side. It shrieked and flopped onto its back. The red eyes of Chris’s helmet glowed as he detected more explosive melons being formed. Before it could use them, he fired his cannon at each, making them explode while still attached to their parent. The monster now lay still.

    Debbie ran up the stairs and burst onto the rooftop.
    “I hope you left something to take back” she mumbled as she went toward the monster.
    “What are you doing??” Christian held Debbie back.
    “This is our chance! Get something before - “
    “Before what? Did you not see what this thing has done?!”
    “So you’re just gonna kill it like some wild animal??”
    “I’m glad we understand each other.”
    “Look out!” called Valentina suddenly. The Phytomorph had revived and threw two more melons at them. Christian jumped in front of Debbie and shielded her from both, forcing him to his knees. It escaped the roof and began moving toward the opposite side of the city.

    “It’s getting away!” Val exclaimed. She looked at Oliver, who was suddenly looking down.
    “What’re you doing?”
    “Look!”
    Oliver pointed to the adjacent rooftop. Perry Shankar was still there within the gold sphere.
    “Professor!”
    “I told you I saw him!”
    “But what is he – where is he going??”
    Shankar had begun to move in the same direction as the Phytomorph.
    “After them!” Oliver yelled. “Now!”
    Val fumbled with the controls and followed them. “Azure, keep on their tail!”
    “What about the kid?” Christian was already on street level, leaping into Viking.
    “Don’t mind me. I’ll try to get some of this acid at least…”
    Oliver paused. “Fine. We’ll call you when we’re done.”
    “Try to keep it intact!”
    Christian scowled. “Don’t count on it.” He drove away after Falcon…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Falcon flew just behind the fleeing alien. Oliver charged up the twin cannons on either side of the ship and aimed dead on. Two beams of energy were shot, swirling in the air and combining into one large beam, and was about to hit its target.... until Shankar came in between the two.
    “What - ”
    The sphere around him deflected the blast so that it hit a nearby building instead. Debris flew everywhere; a whole side of the building had been taken out. The Phytomorph made gurgling noises and made its escape.

    Christian arrived. He eyed Shankar carefully.
    “So what happened all that time you were away? You decided to team up with a bunch of space plants?”
    Oliver and Val now appeared on the ground. Their visors and masks were retracted. Shankar cast a sad glance toward them, his former students.
    “Professor.”
    Shankar did not reply. Christian removed his helmet and shook off the sweat.
    “Well, are you gonna say anything? You vanish for all this time and now when you come back, you’re helping these things? You’d better have a damn good explanation.”
    “Chris!” Oliver chastised.
    “You shouldn't have come here...” Shankar said quietly and slowly.
    A beam of energy fired from an invisible source nearby. Val pressed a button on her suit and thrust her hand forward, forming a small energy shield forward. The beam harmlessly dissipated upon impact.
    “What are you doing?!” Oliver cried. He ran forward to Shankar and tried to hold him, but the sphere pushed him back.
    “What is all this?! Where have you been, where are the others?! What’s going on here?!”
    But the sphere had begun to move skyward, seemingly being pulled away.
    “Where do you think you're going?” Christian used the jet boosters on his suit to propel himself after Shankar. He brought out the pickaxe and attempted to hack the sphere. Instead, a bolt of energy zapped him and shut down his suit, forcing him to crash back onto the ground.
    “I’m sorry.”

    Shankar was gone. Oliver and Val rushed to Christian’s side.
    “The suit’s shut down completely. We’ll have to pry it off him.”
    “One more demerit to add to my record” Christian mumbled.
    “Why is Shankar doing this?” Val asked.
    “I don’t know” said Oliver. “But we’ll have to find out later. That melon guy is still loose.”
    The mask and visor locked back down, and he used his scanner to find the monster’s biological signature.
    “He's in the mall! Let’s go!”
    They got Christian into the ship and let it fly on remote. Then Oliver got inside the driver’s seat of Viking, with Val riding behind, and sped toward the mall…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    They arrived only to see find nothing.
    “Damn. Lost him.”
    They got out of the rover. Valentina scanned the area. “I don’t see any – wait… Ollie, behind you!”
    Oliver was smacked from behind by the Phytomorph and crashed into a car. Val brought out the arm saw from her pack and hacked away, managing to sever some vines. The monster then jammed a melon right onto her blade, causing it to explode over her and send her to the ground. The saw as melted and the right half of her armor was burnt.
    “My suit’s shutting down!” she called to Oliver. Oliver saw yet more melons now being sent flying and rolling down the street and toward fleeing civilians. Falcon suddenly appeared above them, firing blast after blast at the fruit before they could reach their targets. On their visual feed the two could see a tired Christian giving them a small wave.
    “Nice timing, Chris” said Oliver.
    “There’s more where that came from. Look ahead.”

    Screeching towards the scene, Surveyor plowed towards Oliver. Oliver jumped inside and brought the vehicle in between the alien and the people. Aiming the cannons, he quickly made short work of the melons and fired some more shots to knock the monster to the ground, careful not to obliterate it. Val brought out her flamethrower from her pack and finished it off with a dose of fire.

    Debbie finally arrived on foot to see the dead alien. Valentina was lying next to it and Oliver was stumbling out of Surveyor.
    “Barbecued melon. Yum.”
    Debbie smirked at Val, who tiredly reciprocated.
    “You all right?”
    “Oh, fine. Just peachy” said the Russian with a touch of sarcasm. Either missing or ignoring it, Debbie set to work on the creature. Oliver stood above Val and gave her a nod of approval, then raised his head with the smoke toward the sky, wondering what on Earth had happened to Perry Shankar…

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Carver Santana was watching the news footage of the watermelon Phytomorph, now being called “#4: Citrullus” when he heard a knock on his office door.
    “Ahh...Darcy. What a pleasant surprise.”
    Darcy Stackleback looked at the TV screen with a tinge of revulsion.
    “What are those things?” she whispered. Carver turned to her. “They’re what you’ve been searching for all these years, is it not?”
    “… Sir?”
    “ETs.”
    “Oh… well yes, but not like this.”
    “What did you expect to find out there?”
    Darcy said nothing. Carver flashed a quick smile to ease her. “But let’s put that aside. What can I do for you?”
    Darcy fidgeted. “I’m not sure we can put it aside. Senator Ferretic wants to talk to you first thing in the morning.”
    Carver sighed. “Three guesses what that may be about. Thank you, Darcy.”
    “Are you heading out now?”
    “Hmm? Oh, you all go ahead. I have some last-minute things to take care of.”

    Darcy nodded and shut the door behind her. Carver took out a screen and looked at the specs on it.
    “Fifty-eight percent effectiveness.... not good enough.”
    His cell phone began to vibrate on the desk. Carver casually picked it up and answered.
    “Yes?”
    Upon hearing the person at the other end, his voice suddenly seemed to decrease by an octave or two.
    “I’ve seen it… They need improvement… The next one is already active? Good… I’ll await the results.”
    He hung up and placed the phone back on the desk, then turned off the TV...

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)
    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    As another Phytomorph is hunted, the prototype robot Astro taken with the Odyssey suddenly reappears and attacks the Yankee Clipper team; Jaden hints at his reasons for leaving; Carver Santana begins closely observing the team.

  6. #6
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    Chapter 5: Ghost In The Machine

    Falcon flew just behind the fleeing alien. Oliver charged up the twin cannons on either side of the ship and aimed dead on. Two beams of energy were shot, swirling in the air and combining into one large beam, and was about to hit its target.... until Shankar came in between the two.
    “What - ”
    The sphere around him deflected the blast so that it hit a nearby building instead. Debris flew everywhere; a whole side of the building had been taken out. The Phytomorph made gurgling noises and made its escape.

    Christian arrived. He eyed Shankar carefully.
    “So what happened all that time you were away? You decided to team up with a bunch of space plants?”
    Oliver and Val now appeared on the ground. Their visors and masks were retracted. Shankar cast a sad glance toward them, his former students.
    “Professor.”
    Shankar did not reply. Christian removed his helmet and shook off the sweat.
    “Well, are you gonna say anything? You vanish for all this time and now when you come back, you’re helping these things? You’d better have a damn good explanation.”
    “Chris!” Oliver chastised.
    “You shouldn't have come here...” Shankar said quietly and slowly.
    A beam of energy fired from an invisible source nearby. Val pressed a button on her suit and thrust her hand forward, forming a small energy shield forward. The beam harmlessly dissipated upon impact.
    “What are you doing?!” Oliver cried. He ran forward to Shankar and tried to hold him, but the sphere pushed him back.
    “What is all this?! Where have you been, where are the others?! What’s going on here?!”
    But the sphere had begun to move skyward, seemingly being pulled away.
    “Where do you think you're going?” Christian used the jet boosters on his suit to propel himself after Shankar. He brought out the pickaxe and attempted to hack the sphere. Instead, a bolt of energy zapped him and shut down his suit, forcing him to crash back onto the ground.
    “I’m sorry.”


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Carver Santana was watching the news footage of the watermelon Phytomorph, now being called “#4: Lanatus” when he heard a knock on his office door.
    “Ahh...Darcy. What a pleasant surprise.”
    Darcy Stackleback looked at the TV screen with a tinge of revulsion.
    “What are those things?” she whispered. Carver turned to her. “They’re what you’ve been searching for all these years, is it not?”
    “… Sir?”
    “ETs.”
    “Oh… well yes, but not like this.”
    “What did you expect to find out there?”
    Darcy said nothing. Carver flashed a quick smile to ease her. “But let’s put that aside. What can I do for you?”
    Darcy fidgeted. “I’m not sure we can put it aside. Senator Ferretic wants to talk to you first thing in the morning.”
    Carver sighed. “Three guesses what that may be about. Thank you, Darcy.”
    “Are you heading out now?”
    “Hmm? Oh, you all go ahead. I have some last-minute things to take care of.”

    Darcy nodded and shut the door behind her. Carver took out a screen and looked at the specs on it.
    “Fifty-eight percent effectiveness.... not good enough.”
    His cell phone began to vibrate on the desk. Carver casually picked it up and answered.
    “Yes?”
    Upon hearing the person at the other end, his voice suddenly seemed to decrease by an octave or two.
    “I’ve seen it… They need improvement… The next one is already active? Good… I’ll await the results.”
    He hung up and placed the phone back on the desk, then turned off the TV...


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Within his darkened cell, Perry Shankar seemed asleep. The sound of his approaching guard revealed otherwise, as he bolted to attention. The being was cloaked in the shadows, but he could feel his cold eyes, glowing like two small stars from the black shape of his body, upon him.
    “You…. Machine… fixed” he said in a broken attempt at English. It would have been rather comical in another time and place. Shankar wondered what he meant. The figure then stepped aside to reveal the silhouette of a robot standing behind.
    “Fun time.”
    Shankar couldn’t help but suppress a laugh. The being’s eyes reflected fury, but he departed without any response. The robot followed, its mechanical sounds echoing forebodingly throughout the hall…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “I don’t think we’ve ever done this yet” said Oliver. He and his crew had gathered in his quarters on the Station for a private dinner he and Val had made.
    “As long as you don’t make any glorious speeches” said Christian as he brought out a bottle of vodka, “I’ll eat here every night if the food is this good… or looks, anyway” he added with a wary eye on Valentina’s dishes.
    “You doubt my culinary skills?”
    “If they’re as bad as your flying…”
    Valentina snorted and sat herself beside Oliver. Christian took one head of the table, while Debbie sat opposite Val and Oliver. The door chime rang, and Toby came in.”
    “Toby” greeted Oliver. “Just in time.”
    Toby quickly seated herself next to Debbie and gave her a small salute. Debbie only returned a smile as a polite nothing. ‘What is he doing here?’ she seemed to ask Oliver with a disapproving gaze toward him. Oliver chose to ignore it; Toby had asked about her in private before, although he knew she didn’t like him. He wouldn’t blow this into something bigger than it was.

    Christian started to pour Valentina a glass of the vodka.
    “Oh no, I don’t drink.”
    “What? A Russian who doesn’t drink vodka? I’m shocked.”
    “I hate the taste.”
    “Even worse!” Christian clutched his heart in mock astonishment.
    “I’ll take it” declared Debbie. Christian paused a moment and obliged her. Toby began to dig in. The chime rang again, and Jaden stepped inside.”
    “Oliver” he greeted quietly. The others looked at each other quizzically.
    “Jaden. Come in” Oliver pushed out the chair at the other head of the table, inviting the Taiwanese to dine.

    The conversation unsurprisingly, and even expectedly, fell to the baffling Phytomorphs.
    “I’m telling you, something’s wrong with this picture” said Christian as he gulped down his vodka.
    “Come on, do you really think anyone will buy that they’re artificial?” Debbi retorted.
    “Why not? Haven’t we been looking for ETs all these years? Why would you suddenly ignore the chance? Plus Shankar appeared with them. What does that mean?”
    “Maybe he helped create them” Toby offered.
    “What??” Oliver and Valentina cried in unison. Jaden shot a look to him.
    “What if the Odyssey’s disappearance wasn’t an accident?” Toby continued hurriedly. “What if it’s all some cover-up for something?”
    “Shankar wouldn’t be involved in this” Oliver said firmly. “Assuming they are artificial or are related to us at all. Remember when he told us he declined that offer to work on bioweapons?”
    “He said he doesn’t work on anything he doesn’t trust will be used wrongly” added Val.
    “So he’s not a pacifist” said Jaden. “Only cautious”
    “Well… yes” said Oliver, not expecting such a question.
    “How about those fighters, then?” offered Christian.
    “They could be from another country” Debbie chided. “Why do you automatically jump to UFOs?”
    “I’ve never seen fighters designed like that” Christian replied.
    “What do you think, Jaden?” Toby quickly asked.

    Oliver studied Jaden’s face. The man seemed lost in thought.
    “I’m not sure what to think yet” he said.
    “You know something, don’t you?” Toby accused, thinking he deciphered Jaden’s expression.
    “What could he know?” asked Debbie. “You’re just a courier, aren’t you?”
    Oliver and Christian eyed her reproachfully, but Jaden remained quiet for a moment.
    “You wanted to know why I declined the Clipper, Oliver” he said suddenly, making Oliver twist around. “I learned something just before I did, and I couldn’t take it.”
    “What did you learn?”
    “There is a conspiracy, of some kind. But whether it’s to do with these aliens I can’t say for sure. But it’s pretty likely that it is.”
    “Who told you this?” Valentina asked in a hushed voice.
    Jaden turned away. “I never heard his name, but he looked like some big shot.”
    “You turned down the Clipper just on some rumor you were told?” Oliver asked incredulously. He couldn’t imagine giving up such a position based on such claims. “Have you told anyone else about this?”
    “No. Somehow I felt it wasn’t a thing to speak lightly about.”
    A silence fell over the group for a moment. Then Christian spoke.
    “You should tell at least some people” he said. “Besides us. If something is going on, we need to have people on our side.”
    “Whose side am I on, though?” Jaden asked. Christian frowned at that. Debbie only shook her head. “I should tell Seraphina” Jaden added.
    “Oh” said Val. “I haven’t talked to her in a while.”
    “Well here’s something to gossip about.”
    Oliver smirked. The tense atmosphere around the table soon lifted and the rest of the night passed without incident…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Two days later. Aurum, Azure and Rouge landed in a glade of trees on the outskirts of the city in search of a Phytomorph that recently had been spotted.
    “Where is it?” asked Valentina.
    “Maybe it moved on already” said Oliver. “Or was never here at all.”
    “Wait - ”

    Christian pointed to a thick yellow mist, similar to what he had seen when the Phytomorphs attacked the Station. The mist surrounded them and yellow pollen stuck to their armors, detonating soon after contact. The Phytomorph appeared out of the mist as they were thrown to the ground. A giant orchid-like blossom adorned its head, and smaller buds decorated the body. A sweet aroma wafted from the creature, quite belying its true nature.
    “I see why you don’t like flowers” muttered Christian to Valentina.
    All three brought out their arm cannons and fired. The head exploded and released a shower of pollen and volatile nectar-resembling liquid. This immediately set the ground ablaze as it splashed down, the air temperature having made it highly reactive. They made to fire again, but a black figure suddenly leapt in from nowhere and knocked them away in three directions.
    “What the hell??”

    A shiny black robot stood between the Phytomorph and the crew. A put-on mask covered the silver expressionless face beneath, but the eyes glowed a pale white as they stared emotionlessly at the crew. Save for the mask, the robot’s body was nearly identical to their Cytectors.

    Oliver rolled over on his knees and stood back up.
    “… Astro?”
    “What?” asked Christian. “That’s Astro?”
    “What’s it doing here??” demanded Valentina. She stared at the robot with slight fear.
    You will not interfere” Astro dictated in monotone.
    “Interfere? Interfere with what?” asked Christian. “He doesn’t want us to weed the garden?”
    “Astro” said Oliver, retracting his visor. “Where is the Odyssey? What happened to the crew?”
    Do not disrupt the experiment
    “What experiment??”
    Astro fired two smoke grenades from his forearms. Through the smoke, he leapt forward and slashed the trio with blades that replaced the mini-grenade launchers. Valentina responded with a stream of fire from her flamethrower. Christian dove in with his saw and slashed from the side. Astro caught the saw on his arm and made no reaction as the circulating blade cut across his metal plating. With one punch he sent Christian flying back, but missed Oliver’s swipe to the legs with his long pickaxe. The robot fell over and Oliver managed to puncture his chest with the tool. Astro grabbed the axe’s long shaft and sent a surge of electricity through it to Oliver, shocking him enough to make him topple over. Oliver’s Cytector went on the fritz from the surge. The robot returned to his feet.
    You will not interfere!
    “So you keep saying” said Christian as he got back up. “What are we interfering in? Better yet, where the hell did you come from? Can you say anything besides two lines?”
    Astro stared at the three astronauts in silence. They now all stood in a triangle around him, trying to anticipate the next move.

    “Where is the Odyssey?!” Oliver demanded again.
    Astro said nothing. Behind them the orchid Phytomorph had recovered just enough to shed the buds on its body into the growing fire. Once done, it slumped over and was consumed by the inferno, releasing a haunting wail.
    “What do we do now?” asked Valentina to the others through the private frequency.
    “I want to recover him” said Oliver. “But I’m not sure how to do it. “Someone’s definitely tampered with his programming.”
    All contaminants must be purged.” said the robot suddenly as he aimed his weapons again. Christian pressed a button on his forearm console. Viking sped to the rescue and rammed into Astro, stopping just in front of the team. Astro crashed and rolled into the fire. He seemed not to notice the flames however, allowing them to lap over his body. Oliver and the others ran to catch him, but a wall of fire separated them and the machine. Some moments later they saw a single aircraft, the same type that had appeared when the Sequoia creatures attacked, fly rapidly into the clouds and disappear.

    “First Shankar, now this” said Valentina.
    “I think Mr. Cartwright has some explaining to do” said Oliver.
    Christian glanced at him. “Are you saying he has something to do with this?”
    “His company created Astro. There must be some reason he’s acting like this.”
    “And what’s he have to do with those ships? Where are they from??”
    Oliver thought for a moment.
    “ ‘You will not interfere.’ What could that possibly mean?”
    There was nothing more they could do but try to handle the fire before the fire departments came down. The deposited buds lay forgotten…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “You what??” Carver Santana thundered into his phone. He scowled further as he heard the explanation of the person at the other end.
    “You’re jeopardizing the project by bringing that thing out. Our presence might be discovered.”
    More scowling at the response.
    “I would have handled them. You’ve only things more unstable….. What? Well that’s good news at least. I shall keep you informed.”

    He hung up and removed a small translator from his phone…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On the moon base, Seraphina was having a late dinner in haste by herself, when she received a call from Jaden from Shephard Station.
    “Jaden” she greeted in surprise. “What’s going on?”
    “I’m coming back in the morning” Jaden responded. “There’s something I need to give you.”
    “Oh?” Seraphina smiled. “You got me a present?”
    “Not exactly” said Jaden. “I don’t know if you’ll like it.”
    “What is it, then?”
    “You should see it in person. I’ll see you soon.”
    Seraphina was puzzled. “Oh… ok then.”
    “Good night”
    “… ‘Night.”

    Seraphina sat back. Jaden was usually discreet in his style, but this time he seemed particularly dubious...

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)
    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    The Orchid Phytomorph’s offspring begin attacking en masse; Ira Mendoza concedes to development of bioweapons to use against them; Carver Santana meets and speaks to Oliver; Perry Shankar appears before Oliver; Jaden delivers Seraphina evidence of a conspiracy.

  7. #7
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    Chapter 6: A Growing Conspiracy

    “You wanted to know why I declined the Clipper, Oliver” he said suddenly, making Oliver twist around. “I learned something just before I did, and I couldn’t take it.”
    “What did you learn?”
    “There is a conspiracy, of some kind. But whether it’s to do with these aliens I can’t say for sure. But it’s pretty likely that it is.”
    “Who told you this?” Valentina asked in a hushed voice.
    Jaden turned away. “I never heard his name, but he looked like some big shot.”
    “You turned down the Clipper just on some rumor you were told?” Oliver asked incredulously. He couldn’t imagine giving up such a position based on such claims. “Have you told anyone else about this?”
    “No. Somehow I felt it wasn’t a thing to speak lightly about.”
    A silence fell over the group for a moment. Then Christian spoke.
    “You should tell at least some people” he said. “Besides us. If something is going on, we need to have people on our side.”
    “Whose side am I on, though?” Jaden asked. Christian frowned at that. Debbie only shook her head…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A shiny black robot stood between the Phytomorph and the crew. A put-on mask covered the silver expressionless face beneath, but the eyes glowed a pale white as they stared emotionlessly at the crew. Save for the mask, the robot’s body was nearly identical to their Cytectors.

    Oliver rolled over on his knees and stood back up.
    “… Astro?”
    “What?” asked Christian. “That’s Astro?”
    “What’s it doing here??” demanded Valentina. She stared at the robot with slight fear.
    You will not interfere” Astro dictated in monotone.
    “Interfere? Interfere with what?” asked Christian. “He doesn’t want us to weed the garden?”
    “Astro” said Oliver, retracting his visor. “Where is the Odyssey? What happened to the crew?”
    Do not disrupt the experiment
    “What experiment??”
    Astro fired two smoke grenades from his forearms. Through the smoke, he leapt forward and slashed the trio with blades that replaced the mini-grenade launchers. Valentina responded with a stream of fire from her flamethrower. Christian dove in with his saw and slashed from the side. Astro caught the saw on his arm and made no reaction as the circulating blade cut across his metal plating. With one punch he sent Christian flying back, but missed Oliver’s swipe to the legs with his long pickaxe. The robot fell over and Oliver managed to puncture his chest with the tool. Astro grabbed the axe’s long shaft and sent a surge of electricity through it to Oliver, shocking him enough to make him topple over. Oliver’s Cytector went on the fritz from the surge. The robot returned to his feet.
    You will not interfere!
    “So you keep saying” said Christian as he got back up. “What are we interfering in? Better yet, where the hell did you come from? Can you say anything besides two lines?”
    Astro stared at the three astronauts in silence. They now all stood in a triangle around him, trying to anticipate the next move.

    “Where is the Odyssey?!” Oliver demanded again.
    Astro said nothing. Behind them the orchid Phytomorph had recovered just enough to shed the buds on its body into the growing fire. Once done, it slumped over and was consumed by the inferno, releasing a haunting wail.
    “What do we do now?” asked Valentina to the others through the private frequency.
    “I want to recover him” said Oliver. “But I’m not sure how to do it. “Someone’s definitely tampered with his programming.”
    All contaminants must be purged.” said the robot suddenly as he aimed his weapons again. Christian pressed a button on his forearm console. Viking sped to the rescue and rammed into Astro, stopping just in front of the team. Astro crashed and rolled into the fire. He seemed not to notice the flames however, allowing them to lap over his body. Oliver and the others ran to catch him, but a wall of fire separated them and the machine. Some moments later they saw a single aircraft, the same type that had appeared when the Sequoia creatures attacked, fly rapidly into the clouds and disappear.

    “First Shankar, now this” said Valentina.
    “I think Mr. Cartwright has some explaining to do” said Oliver.
    Christian glanced at him. “Are you saying he has something to do with this?”
    “His company created Astro. There must be some reason he’s acting like this.”
    “And what’s he have to do with those ships? Where are they from??”
    Oliver thought for a moment.
    “ ‘You will not interfere.’ What could that possibly mean?”
    There was nothing more they could do but try to handle the fire before the fire departments came down. The deposited buds lay forgotten…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On the moon base, Seraphina was having a late dinner in haste by herself, when she received a call from Jaden from Shephard Station.
    “Jaden” she greeted in surprise. “What’s going on?”
    “I’m coming back in the morning” Jaden responded. “There’s something I need to give you.”
    “Oh?” Seraphina smiled. “You got me a present?”
    “Not exactly” said Jaden. “I don’t know if you’ll like it.”
    “What is it, then?”
    “You should see it in person. I’ll see you soon.”
    Seraphina was puzzled. “Oh… ok then.”
    “Good night”
    “… ‘Night.”

    Seraphina sat back. Jaden was usually discreet in his style, but this time he seemed particularly dubious...


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Shankar caught sight of three of his captors conferring amongst themselves with Astro in the room. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but they seemed to shudder at one point. One cast a look at Astro, who was ignoring them. In fact the robot seemed completely inactive… until Shankar saw the yellow eyes staring right at him. Astro remained motionless, and the three speakers did not take notice. Shankar nonetheless decided it was best to make himself scarce…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Seraphina was waiting for Jaden at the lunar base docks when he arrived from the Station.
    “You were waiting for me here?”
    “I had a feeling what you had for me wasn’t something to wait on.”
    “Follow me.”

    Jaden said nothing more until they arrived at his quarters. Had Seraphina not known better she would have thought no one lived here: only a few possessions and sticks of furniture could be seen. It looked as though he had started to move in but never got beyond the most basic items. She waited tensely as Jaden locked the door behind them and took out a small box from a locked drawer.
    “Here” he said in a hushed voice. “This is why I turned down the Yankee Clipper command.”
    Seraphina opened the box and saw a CD lying inside.
    “Where did you get this?”
    “Some NASA admin passed it to me some time ago. I never got his name.”
    “Have you looked at what’s inside?”
    “It’s a bunch of photos and documents that seem to insinuate…” Jaden paused a moment, as though wondering if he should continue.
    “What?” Seraphina pressed.
    “Insinuate that there’s something going on at NASA that they don’t want us to know about.”
    Seraphina suddenly had an odd feeling. “Do you know what?”
    “The disc doesn’t elaborate. But I’m getting a feeling that the Phytomorphs might have something to do with it.”
    “NASA knows for a fact that ETs exist? Why would they want to hide that while saying the opposite?”
    “Any number of reasons” said Jaden. “But whatever they are, I felt I couldn’t take the job Oliver now holds. The Odyssey astronauts are being used for something beyond mere exploration.”
    “Are you giving this to me now?”
    “I want you to see it. Before now I haven’t told anyone. But don’t let anyone else see it.”
    “Of course” said Seraphina. Jaden did not meet her gaze. He was now looking uncomfortable. “Well… I’ll see you later then?”
    Jaden nodded. Seraphina left and walked briskly down the corridors of the base, keeping the box close to her and avoiding any attention…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “There’s a problem here” said a researcher to Dr. Mendoza via video link. A team on Earth had recovered some of the remains of the orchid Phytomorph and were now relaying the data to her on the Station. Lincoln Cartwright was with her, and Debbie was with the researcher on the ground.
    “What is it?” asked the doctor with apprehension.
    “From what we’ve ascertained from the Phytomorph’s genetic makeup, it doesn’t have just orchid DNA, but also jack pine.”
    “Jack pine” said Lincoln thoughtfully. “Don’t they need fire in order for their seeds to germinate?”
    “Yes” said the researcher. “And hence our problem.”
    He turned the camera toward a screen that showed a video feed of the orchid/jack pine hybrid’s seeds beginning to sprout in the fires while they were being put out.
    “No fully grown ones were seen” he continued. “But it’s likely they’ve dispersed by now. Their ‘pollen’ and ‘nectar’ are highly flammable. If you shoot them in the wrong place they can release it and ignite the area, and then more of them will be born.”
    “How can we stop them?” Lincoln pressed.
    Debbie noticed some hesitation in the researcher’s expression. “There is a probability that an RNAi-containing substance can keep them from reproducing. Basically, the RNAi would bind to the DNA and prevent the expression of the genes responsible for producing the ‘nectar’. If we dose them with it and wait, they’ll be unable to release the liquid and encourage a fire. We’ve had some success with normal orchids in the past, but we can’t produce such a concoction here. Your lab will have to do it.”
    Debbie shot a look at Mendoza. She expected her to lash back in outrage at suggesting that she create what essentially was a bioweapon. No such reaction occurred, but she did return a frown.
    “Thank you for your help” Lincoln said. “We’ll get on it.”

    Lincoln cut off the link and looked at Mendoza.
    “I won’t do it” the scientist whispered firmly.
    “Those things are on the loose. People are going to get killed.”
    “So you want me and my team to start making weapons for you?” The woman rose. Though shorter than Lincoln, she did present herself as rather imposing when she wanted. “I’m as concerned about Earth as much as anyone” she said “So don’t try to put yourself up on a pedestal. But I won’t actively try to maim or kill something we should be studying further, nor stray from what my goal for this lab is.”
    “Is that what you will tell the people down there who will get hurt because some wild plants attacked?”

    Mendoza scowled. Lincoln kept his eyes on her, waiting for a response that would please him. Unlikely, he thought to himself.
    “Do you know how to do something like this?”
    “Of course I do” said the doctor. “Don’t confuse my refusal with incompetence either, Mr. Cartwright.”
    “If this is the only way to treat with these monsters, you had best sort through your blind ideals and get to work on his idea.”
    Lincoln turned to walk out of the room, but paused and looked back. “It’s a dangerous universe out there. Start acting like you know it.”
    Mendoza watched him leave and sat back in her swivel chair. She turned away on it, thinking about what she was going to do…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Insert Song plays*
    (‘Holding out for a Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler)

    The hybrid orchid-jack pine Phytomorphs divided into dozens of groups and began attacking several towns and cities at once. Oliver flew over one city in Jet Surveyor.
    “This is bad.”
    He saw a group of Army tanks start to roll down the streets and the city limits and fire on the monsters. To Oliver’s dismay, each blast that obliterated one of them only spread its seeds all around. Those that landed in fire quickly sprouted and joined the attack.
    “They’re just making more and more of them” he groaned to the others.
    “Tell them to stop!” said Debbie. She was driving Viking through this war zone while Christian and Valentina were hurrying to meet the tanks in Land Surveyor.
    “What can we use instead though?” asked Valentina.
    “For now, keep them away from fire. At least then the seeds won’t sprout” Oliver commanded. He descended low and released a set of caulking grenades over the fires created by the destruction. As Christian proceeded to warn the military not to use any more explosives or pyrotechnics, Oliver fired laser beams at groups of Phytomorphs, killing them quickly.

    But even so the aliens were proving to be more than they could handle. They released streams of pollen that melted anything it touched, even the well-armored tanks and vans. Debbie swerved left and right to avoid getting hit, but the rover really wasn’t meant for such situations. She dodged a projectile from one Phytomorph so sharply the rover flipped on its side, throwing the girl onto the street. Debbie regained her bearings in time to see a trio of Phytomorphs closing in on her. She backed up against a streetlight, fear now overtaking her scientific inquiry. But the three were shot in the back by an arm cannon. Christian appeared behind them as they fell before Debbie.
    “Take your sample and please get out of the way” he said. “And for God’s sake, try not to break the equipment” he added, indicating the overturned Viking. He expected a scowl from the girl, but instead saw an unexpected look of fear etched on her as she stared at the dead aliens at her feet. A tear even formed under her eye. Feeling compassionate all of a sudden, Christian knelt down and gently brought Debbie to her feet, and led her to a safer location.

    The two halves of Surveyor rendezvoused and docked. Oliver and Valentina aimed their arsenal at the remaining horde.
    “We’re running out of ammo. Make every shot count” Valentina whispered.
    They fired upon the aliens while having the vehicle slowly crawl toward them. The aliens however released their pollen mist over the road. The windshield and cameras were coated with the viscous substance, and the caterpillars jammed upon sticking to the surface. To their horror, the two astronauts saw that the fluid was taking in heat from the machine and starting to ignite.
    “Get outta there!” yelled Christian, who had seen everything. Oliver and Val bailed out just in time; Surveyor was engulfed in an inferno as the fluid burst into flame. Taking their cue, the creatures released their seeds which stuck themselves onto the body like Velcro.

    Valentina removed her helmet and tossed back her sweat-matted hair. The good news was that the explosion had taken out the parent aliens. The bad news was that Surveyor was now severely burned and covered with seeds. And before they could do anything about that, another of the strange fighter craft suddenly appeared out of nowhere and carried the crippled tank away via levitation. The army tanks tried to bring the craft down, but it easily dodged their shots and disappeared.

    Carver Santana lowered his binoculars. He had watched part of the battle from afar on the cliff top near the city.
    “I wasn’t expecting that” he noted to himself as he saw Surveyor being stolen away. He returned to his car and disappeared…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It had been a peaceful, sunny day, and now Christian observed an evening of chaos. Buildings were demolished and people were still in the rubble. The aliens had left behind a complete wreck. It would take years for this city to recover.
    “Will the good doctor still say not to destroy these things?” Lincoln Cartwright asked sadly as he stood beside the astronaut. He lit a cigar and leaned over the railing, looking down on the wreckage. A critic, particularly one who might not know the differences between cigars and cigarettes, might have taken offense to this gesture, but Christian could see the hurt in his eyes. The cigar was more to help him collect himself and think.

    Children were crying. Mothers were panicking. For all his bravado in front of his crewmates, Christian’s heartstrings tore at the sight. Who was behind this? What were they thinking? Perry Shankar was supposed to be one of the new heroes of NASA, and now he and that robot Astro were running around with these monsters.
    “It makes no sense” he said bitterly. “Something else is going on here beyond a bunch of aliens running loose.”
    “You’ve been hearing the rumors, then” said Lincoln.
    “What rumors?”
    “You’re not the only one thinking there is a conspiracy afoot. Even in my circles you can hear the whispers. Not even whispers in some cases. Some people are boldly stating it on the Net.”
    Christian gave a small smile. “I’ll bet some say you created them to justify more weapons development.”
    Lincoln didn’t laugh, indicating that Christian wasn’t far from the truth. His smile vanished. “I’m sorry.”
    “Don’t be” said Lincoln. “I stopped paying attention to those people long ago.”
    “Well, I didn’t hear anything. I thought of it myself. But I guess it’s obvious enough for anyone to see it, except Mendoza and Debbie.”
    “I fear it’ll be too late when they see what’s going on” Lincoln sighed. He took his unfinished cigar from his mouth and stomped it out on the ground. “I’ve lost my appetite.”
    Lincoln reminded Christian of the old-fashioned uncles from yesteryear. Usually he could turn to him for reassurance, but this time even he looked shaken.

    A car pulled up behind them. Carver Santana climbed out from the back and gave a small wave.
    “Mr Cartwright. Mr. Decker. Good evening.”
    “Mr. Santana” Lincoln greeted back in slight surprise. He bade Christian to come forward.
    “Christian, this is Carver Santana. He works in the administration.”
    “Mr. Santana” Christian greeted. He had never heard of him, but from his appearance he seemed like a big man on campus, so to speak.
    “Is there any more news on the creatures?” asked Lincoln.
    “Not a word” said Carver. “Frustrating, isn't it? You go from world to world, trying to create fresh starts for humanity, only to find it crash down again in a new battle.” He gestured to the ruined city below. “Down below is our fate. We'll never escape it but through death.”
    Christian frowned. “What are you saying, then? That we shouldn’t try to explore space?”
    “I sometimes wonder if humans are ready to stray outside their home” Carver replied. “If you pardon my candor.”

    “Why did humans go into space in the first place? Did they expect to find some meaning to the universe out there? Would they be enlightened? Look what happened now. You found something you couldn’t understand and let it loose like Pandora’s box.”
    “Are you blaming my crew for this?” asked Christian with a tinge of anger.
    “No no, Mr. Decker. Please don’t take offense. I couldn’t blame you.”
    Something about the word “couldn’t” seemed odd to Christian, but he put the thought aside. “Maybe you're right. Maybe life itself is just a chance result, and maybe the equation of the universe revolves around adding and subtracting chaos. Maybe me and you aren't even here right now. Maybe our brains are just playing tricks on us. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe you don't even exist and my subconsious is just trying to teach me a lesson. But whatever the truth is, everyone needs a reason to live.”
    He hung his head a bit.
    “Your reason could be radically different than mine. It could be Truth, Justice, the American Way....it could be revenge or love...hell it could be for liquor and getting high. You could think you're serving a higher power, or it could be just plain survival. But without a purpose, you let the chaos control you. If you don't fight it, what’s the point of living?”
    “Ah” said Carver, now taking a keen interest in the young man. “How are we supposed to do the right thing, when everyone else thinks they're doing the right thing? How are we supposed to even know what the right choice is? Is there even a right and wrong?”

    Christian looked to Lincoln, unable to answer.
    “That’s what being human is all about” said Lincoln. “We make the choices, and we reap the consequences.”
    Carver studied the two of them for a moment. “Come” he then said. “I have something I think you should see.”
    He invited them into his car. They then went in the direction of Carver’s home…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Oliver awoke suddenly from an uneasy sleep. He had decided to go to bed early after today’s exhaustion but could find no peace even there. What he would have given to syphon all his nagging thoughts out of his mind for one second, just to clear his head. Voices bounced across his head, echoing through the caverns of his brain. Cries and screams....and a tangled web of vines strangling everything in its wake.
    “Get out of my head…”
    But his mind paid no heed. Oliver sighed and dragged himself out of bed. He stood against the window, washing his face with the cool night air.

    What are you doing sulking...those people need you.
    Oliver ignored the voice in his head.
    Stop doing this to yourself. Come on, hero-in-training. You can handle this.
    The voice felt too real now.
    You are my successor for a reason.
    Shock crashed over him like a tidal wave.
    “Shankar?”
    “Oliver.”

    Shankar was standing outside in his golden orb of a prison. Oliver rushed outside to meet him.
    “Professor… what are you doing here? What happened? What is all this??”
    “Calm down” Shankar admonished. “First off, there are motives behind what is happening. You and your crew have a motive too. Contain those monsters and protect Earth as best you can. That’s all I can tell you right now.”
    “Why? Just tell me what’s going on!”
    “Listen to what you've been told, and go by what you’ve learned. You have the brains, the guts, and the power. Now just be sure to use those brains.”
    Oliver shook his head. He felt like a brand new rookie again.
    “You're ready Oliver. Do me and Odyssey justice. One day I will escape and tell you all you want to know.”
    “Escape from whom??”

    Shankar was gone. Despite his frustration, Oliver felt strangely peaceful. As though he finally had a grasp on what he was doing. With that new found calmness he walked back to the building…

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)
    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    Carver brings Christian and Lincoln to his home and explains the origin of the rumored conspiracy; the Clipper crew rushes to retrieve the stolen Surveyor; Seraphina sees what made Jaden leave the Odyssey program.

  8. #8
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    Chapter 7: Salvage Operation

    “Here” Jaden said in a hushed voice. “This is why I turned down the Yankee Clipper command.”
    Seraphina opened the box and saw a CD lying inside.
    “Where did you get this?”
    “Some NASA admin passed it to me some time ago. I never got his name.”
    “Have you looked at what’s inside?”
    “It’s a bunch of photos and documents that seem to insinuate…” Jaden paused a moment, as though wondering if he should continue.
    “What?” Seraphina pressed.
    “Insinuate that there’s something going on at NASA that they don’t want us to know about.”
    Seraphina suddenly had an odd feeling. “Do you know what?”
    “The disc doesn’t elaborate. But I’m getting a feeling that the Phytomorphs might have something to do with it.”
    “NASA knows for a fact that ETs exist? Why would they want to hide that while saying the opposite?”
    “Any number of reasons” said Jaden. “But whatever they are, I felt I couldn’t take the job Oliver now holds. The Odyssey astronauts are being used for something beyond mere exploration.”
    “Are you giving this to me now?”
    “I want you to see it. Before now I haven’t told anyone. But don’t let anyone else see it.”
    “Of course” said Seraphina. Jaden did not meet her gaze. He was now looking uncomfortable. “Well… I’ll see you later then?”
    Jaden nodded. Seraphina left and walked briskly down the corridors of the base, keeping the box close to her and avoiding any attention…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The two halves of Surveyor rendezvoused and docked. Oliver and Valentina aimed their arsenal at the remaining horde.
    “We’re running out of ammo. Make every shot count” Valentina whispered.
    They fired upon the aliens while having the vehicle slowly crawl toward them. The aliens however released their pollen mist over the road. The windshield and cameras were coated with the viscous substance, and the caterpillars jammed upon sticking to the surface. To their horror, the two astronauts saw that the fluid was taking in heat from the machine and starting to ignite.
    “Get outta there!” yelled Christian, who had seen everything. Oliver and Val bailed out just in time; Surveyor was engulfed in an inferno as the fluid burst into flame. Taking their cue, the creatures released their seeds which stuck themselves onto the body like Velcro.

    Valentina removed her helmet and tossed back her sweat-matted hair. The good news was that the explosion had taken out the parent aliens. The bad news was that Surveyor was now severely burned and covered with seeds. And before they could do anything about that, another of the strange fighter craft suddenly appeared out of nowhere and carried the crippled tank away via levitation. The army tanks tried to bring the craft down, but it easily dodged their shots and disappeared.

    Carver Santana lowered his binoculars. He had watched part of the battle from afar on the cliff top near the city.
    “I wasn’t expecting that” he noted to himself as he saw Surveyor being stolen away. He returned to his car and disappeared…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A car pulled up behind Christian and Lincoln. Carver Santana climbed out from the back and gave a small wave.
    “Mr Cartwright. Mr. Decker. Good evening.”
    “Mr. Santana” Lincoln greeted back in slight surprise. He bade Christian to come forward.
    “Christian, this is Carver Santana. He works in the administration.”
    “Mr. Santana” Christian greeted. He had never heard of him, but from his appearance he seemed like a big man on campus, so to speak.
    “Is there any more news on the creatures?” asked Lincoln.
    “Not a word” said Carver. “Frustrating, isn't it? You go from world to world, trying to create fresh starts for humanity, only to find it crash down again in a new battle.” He gestured to the ruined city below. “Down below is our fate. We'll never escape it but through death.”
    Christian frowned. “What are you saying, then? That we shouldn’t try to explore space?”
    “I sometimes wonder if humans are ready to stray outside their home” Carver replied. “If you pardon my candor.”

    Carver studied the two of them for a moment. “Come” he then said. “I have something I think you should see.”
    He invited them into his car. They then went in the direction of Carver’s home…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Carver Santana’s car arrived at his home. It was in the middle of a gated community, but somehow seemed unremarkable compared the more opulent houses nearby. Christian saw Lincoln give a hint of a sneer as he studied the neighborhood, and smiled to himself. Contrary to popular opinion, Lincoln hardly frequented the locales of the rich and/or influential.
    “Come in” said Carver, inviting them to sit in the parlor. The two guests took a seat on the couch. A few moments later Carver set down a bottle of liquor with three glasses, and stoked the fire in the fireplace.
    “So, Carver” said Lincoln after a sip. “What is it you wanted to show us?”
    “Ah, right to the point” said Carver. “Actually, there is some telling to do before the show.” He looked at Christian. “I suppose you'd like the whole story of Project Odyssey. I like telling stories by the fire.”
    “Whole story?” Christian cast a suspicious eye to Lincoln, but the shrugged. “Let's hear it. I'm in the mood for a story."
    Carver sat down in a chair facing the couch and took a gulp of liquor, savoring the taste for a moment.
    “The very first rumors began when the Apollo Program began. Even before the Eagle landed on the Moon, the organization was quietly dropping the idea that it was all an elaborate hoax.”
    “You mean the idea that it was all done on a stage set?” asked Christian. “You’re saying NASA itself started that?”
    “NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in conjunction” said Carver. “Why would they do this? To throw the emerging conspiracy theorists off the trail to the real secret: that evidence of ETs had already been found on the Moon.”
    “Well that’s never been proven, has it?” said Lincoln, gently swirling his drink. “I’ve read all the books. Nice reads, but nothing solid. Not enough for me to hang my hat on, anyway.”
    “Oh it’s all true” said Carver. “NASA confirmed we are not alone decades before this new little project was even announced. Simply put, Odyssey was conceived more as a salvage program than exploration.”

    Christian and Lincoln looked at each other. The stars were now starting to dot the blue-black sky. Carver looked out the window and seemed to stare for a moment at the bright Sirius before returning to his guests.
    “Are you saying” said Lincoln at last, “that NASA knew about the Phytomorphs and sent the Odyssey to find them?”
    Carver pressed his lips together. “No. No one was expecting this. I cannot confirm the validity, but I have heard that the higher-ups had wondered if the Odyssey had been taken into Phoebus.”
    “They think they went into a moon?”
    “Moon? Mr. Decker, Phoebus is an ancient space station hollowed out from an asteroid.”

    Christian’s eyebrows shot up. Lincoln set his empty glass on the table, not saying a word.
    “Ok then” he replied. “Let’s say I believe all this. If NASA thought the Odyssey was taken into Phoebus, why hasn’t it sent a team to find them? Why are we wasting time flying through dead space pretending to test our ships?”
    “And what would we tell the people? That the first astronauts to reach another planet were abducted by aliens that we knew about all these decades? Look at the panic these plant creatures have caused. Imagine an actual ET civilization with malicious intentions!”
    “Well what are we going to do? Someone has to go out and find that ship!”
    “Mr. Decker, the Odyssey is lost” Carver said gently but firmly. “There is nothing you can do but salute them and continue the mission. Eventually humans will land on Mars and every planet and moon in this solar system. You did reach the Moon despite Apollo 1, after all.”
    Christian sighed. “Why are you telling us this?”
    “Because there is a conspiracy and, as the people fighting this invasion, you ought to know what is really going on.”

    “I don’t believe it” said Oliver through Christian’s comlink a few hours later. The driver was now chauffeuring him and Lincoln from Carver’s home to their residences.
    “I didn’t think you would” said Christian with a ghost of a smile. “But I doubt he would bring us all the way out here just to pull our leg. Especially not after another attack.”
    “Maybe there is something underhanded here, but I can’t imagine NASA being behind it. They wouldn’t do this to Shankar and the others.”
    “In any case, perhaps we should have another chat with Jaden.”
    “When is he coming back from the Moon again?”
    “We’ll go up there ourselves and ask him.”
    “Oh. Well, I’d better bring my camera.” Christian nodded good-bye to Oliver and turned off the link.
    “There’s not much to look at up there” said Lincoln. “It’s just a desert with gray sand.”
    “Mr. Santana would disagree with you” said Christian with a grin. Lincoln however continued to look grim.
    “I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about that man that’s…. unsettling.”
    Christian’s grin vanished. Lincoln could be quite shrewd. Might there be something more that Carver Santana wasn’t telling?

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the middle of the night, an army team caught sight of the escaped Phytomorphs, along with Surveyor, regrouped in a desert. Wasting no time, three helicopters descended from the sky and flew over the creatures, spraying the crude RNAi weapon developed by Mendoza and her team. The creatures hissed and started to retreat, taking Surveyor with them…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Walking through the dry desert with the sand whipping over his metal suit, Christian headed towards a nearby rock formation. Upon closer examination, he found a hidden passageway leading underneath the structure. He walked down into a cave dimly lit by glistening rock and the occasional bioluminescence of cave insects. Christian walked further within until he found the wrecked Surveyor placed unceremoniously in the bottom of a small underground ravine. Surrounding the tank were dozens upon dozens of Phytomorphs. Sensing the astronaut’s presence, they began waving their limbs and climbing out the pit.
    “Heel, boys”
    Christian brought out his flame thrower and began to dose the creatures with fire. As hoped, this time they were unable to feed the fire with their nectar. More kept coming to replace the fallen, forcing him to fall back. Gradually he began leading them toward the surface…

    Until the sound of machinery came from behind. Christian glanced back and saw Astro barring his path.
    “You again? Move over, I’ll play with you later.”
    Do not interfere
    Christian grumbled and turned the flame thrower on the robot. Astro didn’t flinch; he ran through the fire and punched Christian in the chest, sending him crashing into a wall and scattering the insects. The Phytomorphs began to close in on him. Quickly he shot several blasts from his arm cannon at the horde and more still at Astro. This seemed to halt his approach, and he backed down.
    “What’s going on down there?” Oliver called through the comlink.
    “Nothing I can’t handle. Just be ready when we get out.”

    Christian rolled away from Astro as he attacked again and blasted him at point blank, then made a dash for the exit. As the creatures pursued, Astro shot Christian in the back with a small missile stored in his arm. Christian flew out of the cavern and skidded onto the sand, a trail of smoke and sparks behind him. Stumbling back to his feet, he saw the monsters rushing him, but Oliver and Valentina leapt down from Falcon, showering them with scorching flames while the ship fired upon them.

    Astro returned and attacked without warning. The three were soon caught in a mob of monsters, trying to kill them one by one while dealing with the crazed robot.
    “What are you doing??” bellowed Lincoln from Falcon as the trio was knocked around by Astro. “Use the Attack Mode!”
    Oliver seemed hesitant. Christian waited a moment and then flipped a small switch hidden on the Cytector’s waist. Electricity jumped from one of his palms to the other, building up energy. Soon a large electrosphere was formed between them. He cocked his arms back to his hip and launched them outwards again, aimed at Astro. The robot was thrown back down into the rock. His head and one arm broke off his body as it sparked and sizzled. He stumbled, tried to stand back up, but fell to the ground with a clatter. Christian collapsed as well, all the power in his suit drained. He tore off his helmet and panted heavily.
    “Geez...took more out of me than I thought...”
    Oliver and Val rushed to cover him as the Phytomorphs approached.
    “So... any ideas?"
    “Let’s rule out shocking them for now” said Oliver, glancing at the fallen Christian. “I say shoot them again” he added to Lincoln.
    “Fine. You go on and retrieve Surveyor.”
    Oliver sprinted into the cave. Valentina leapt up and grabbed one of the cables dangling over Falcon’s side. She took potshots at the creatures while Lincoln fired massive blasts from the ship’s cannons. Oliver meanwhile descended into the ravine and took care of the remaining creatures inside before reaching the tank. Soon the horde was completely taken out, and the desert field was littered with fire and dead bodies. After some fiddling Oliver managed to push Surveyor to the surface.
    “Well that takes care of that” muttered Christian as he sat up. A sudden movement then caught his eye. Astro’s torso was stirring and was preparing to fire.
    “VAL!”
    Val saw the set of missiles flying from a launcher on Astro’s back. With no time to scramble inside, she leapt from the cable as the missiles hit the Falcon’s underside and engines. Lincoln and Debbie wrestled frantically with the controls as the vessel careened to the ground in a thick cloud of black smoke. Three of the mystery fighters then appeared out of thin air, retrieved Astro, and lobbied a parting shot at Christian and Valentina. Oliver tried firing back but the ships disappeared once more. Oliver slammed his hand against the console…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvHwooCOTH0"]*Insert Song plays*[/ame]
    (‘Openhearted’ by Real Life)

    Nighttime on the Moon. Seraphina drove her rover across the lunar desert until she reached the edge of a small cliff overlooking a vast valley. She got off and looked through her helmet over the edge. Large and small craters pockmarked the landscape. In the distance she thought she could see strange sparkles hovering in mid-air. It wasn’t something she had seen before in her midnight drives, and she might have taken a closer look were she not preoccupied.


    The contents in Jaden’s disc had disturbed her greatly. NASA had known of ETs for decades, and this resurgence of the “Go Fever” of the 1960s was in truth their attempt to retrieve ancient alien artifacts. Seraphina was reminded of the book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Was the Odyssey just a space-faring Hispaniola sent to recover a fabled, hidden trove? And had the crew known all this, or were they merely pawns? This last question troubled her the most. She had had friends on that ship. Now she had to consider whether or not they had been used in a decades-long deception.

    Seraphina hurled a rock over the cliff. She felt as useless as she had the day it was announced the Odyssey was lost. Supposing there was a conspiracy, what could she do? Jaden had had this information for months and had done nothing. At least so it seemed. And what was the connection, if any, to the Phytomorphs? Seraphina watched the rock land softly in the dust. The sparkles caught her eye again for a second. A moment later she made up her mind; first she would find out what Jaden intended to do about this, and then she would tell the Yankee Clipper crew all they knew. Maybe they could all fit the pieces together before things got worse…

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)

    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    The Yankee Clipper crew head to the Moon to meet with Jaden, but are attacked on the way by a new Phytomorph; Toby Reynolds steals the Thallos Cytector; Perry Shankar escapes from his captors and flees to Earth.

  9. #9
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    Chapter 9: Maintain Silence

    A training module was speeding up to the Clipper. Its engines were beginning to splutter.
    “What the hell?” asked Lincoln.
    “Those modules aren’t designed for long-distance flight” said Valentina. “Who’s in there?”
    The module flew in closer to the ship. Oliver activated the binocular function in his helmet’s mask and the blue eyes lit on. Inside the module he made out the eyes of the helmeted pilot: Toby Reynolds.
    “Toby!” He switched his radio frequency to that of the module’s. “Toby! What are you doing here?!”
    “Giving you a hand!” Toby fired the low-power lasers the modules were equipped with for shooting small meteors and other troublesome debris. The Phytomorph was ripped from its vine and floated away. Toby now shot forward to finish it off, but the creature seized this chance to latch onto the module instead. It maneuvered its barbed vines all around the vessel, tearing it apart piece by piece. Oliver had by now gained a more stable position on top of the Clipper and grabbed a nearby handhold.
    “Toby!”

    Toby tried to shake the monster off, but the module was losing power fast. Every system was shutting down. A vine even broke through a window and went straight for his face. He beat it back furiously and wrestled uselessly with the controls.
    “Eject, Toby!” Oliver ordered. “Hit the self-destruct and eject!”
    “The modules have a self-destruct?” Debbie asked incredulously. But now one answered as they watched the scene anxiously. Toby punched in several codes and threw the ejection lever. Oliver expected to see a standard NASA spacesuit, but instead he saw his friend clad in none other than the Thallos series Cytector.



    Oliver was shocked. How and where did he get that suit? Toby released a long robotic hand from his pack and ripped a vine wrapped around the Phytomorph off its body seconds before the module exploded, taking it with it. Unfortunately Toby was too close and took the impact head-on. The Cytector went on the fritz and shut down. He was locked in the suit. Paralyzed.

    The damaged Clipper flew in slowly to intercept Toby. Oliver jumped from his perch, floated toward Toby and quickly dragged him back safely inside the ship. As the crew took off the helmet and worked to physically remove the suit from him, Toby flashed them a cocky smile…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Perry crept his way through the hangar until he found a fighter undergoing maintenance. He watched as its pilot took two things that looked like keys and inserted them in the control panel. White and purple light flowed from the console and the craft began to flutter with activity. The pilot was turned away from Perry and was about to enter the vehicle. Seizing this chance, Pery flung himself out from his hiding place and onto the being, successfully wrestling his away into the cockpit instead. His hand passed over a glowing circle on the console and the ship suddenly lurched forward, closing up the cockpit and turning on a screen where the window would otherwise be. Perry saw the open hangar doors directly before him and, not knowing what else to do, passed his hand over the circle again. The craft now sped up. Perry could hear loud echoes of what sounded like gunfire coming from outside. Gripping the console, he issued a silent prayer.
    The craft escaped the hangar. Perry slammed his hand on the circle and slid it up, hoping that could send him toward Earth. Behind him a squadron of fighters was in close pursuit, firing as they went…


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The inquiry had been going on for hours. A bored Toby turned to an even more bored and irritated Debbie (They had been the first to be questioned and were now alone in the room) and decided to lighten the mood.
    “Don’t start” she growled at him, seeing his intent. “I’m not in the mood.”
    Toby shrugged. “So how long do you think they’ll hold us?”
    “I don’t know. We wouldn’t even be here if you hadn’t stolen my suit and chased after us.”
    “You might not have made it were it not for me. Oliver might be drifting out in space somewhere.” Toby looked directly at Debbie. “And what do you mean, your suit? You were passed over for a Cytector.”
    “It would have been mine, but then I was framed and they cast me aside. Anyway, you’re not authorized to use it either, you’re still a trainee. You’ll be lucky if they don’t throw you out of the program.”
    “Are you gonna tell me why you came here?”
    Debbie sighed. “Aren’t you at all concerned about your career? Why do you always pull these crazy stunts? You think people are going to respect you?”
    Toby suddenly looked thoughtful. “Maybe you worry too much about yours.”
    Debbie was livid. She was about to lecture him more but the rest of her crewmates came into the room.
    “How’d it go?”
    “Terrible” said Oliver. “The guy probably suspected we’re hiding something even though he bought our delivery excuse.”
    “Shh!” Val scolded hastily. Her eyes darted around the room, silently hinted that they could be listening in.
    “So they apparently asked us all the same questions” said Christian. “Not surprising.” He jerked his head toward Toby. “At the end of this you should expect either a discharge or your own command. That was some nice flying out there.”
    “Don’t encourage him!” Debbie snapped.
    “Hey, that’s what we need in this program. More ace pilots, less whiny lab nerds.”
    “Where is Mr. Cartwright?” Val interrupted, attempting to diffuse the argument.
    “Don’t know” shrugged Oliver. “They might be spending more time on him. This was all his doing, after all.”
    “What could they do to him?” asked Toby.
    “Don’t worry about Lincoln” said Christian. “He’s a very adept man. Besides, NASA really can’t afford to lose him and his company since they outsourced part of their development program.

    A moment later Lincoln came in looking tired and irritated, but undefeated.
    “Everything go all right?” asked Oliver.
    “Well enough. For now we have to stay on base until they’re fully satisfied with our story. Which is just as well since the Clipper needs to undergo repair.”
    “That gives us plenty of time to visit Jaden” said Oliver.
    “Yes. But not before a shower and some sleep. There’s an oiliness about those people that makes me want to cleanse myself” Lincoln said quietly. “Let’s get outta here before there are any more trumped up charges.”
    They left the quarantine room together without a commotion. Like Valentina, they all now had a suspicion that they wouldn’t be left alone during their stay…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Dawn. On a farm somewhere in the U.S., a boy awoke to a strange sound coming from the sky. Curious, he peeked out his window and saw something careen toward and crash into the field some distance from the house. Without even changing, the boy jammed on his shoes and raced out the site. He found the strange craft in ruins in the center of the field, surrounded by a ring of burned and uprooted crops. He peered excitedly, expecting some kind of fantastic alien like those from the movies. Instead he saw an Indian man roll away from the wreckage and shakily get to his feet. Perry Shankar saw the boy and froze in surprise.
    “Go home, kid” said Perry. “It’s not safe here.”
    Before the boy could respond, another loud hum permeated the air. Several black objects of the same design as Perry’s crashed ship were coming down over the field. Perry dove toward the boy, gathered him into his arms and began to run. The ships swooped in low and fired shots after them. In minutes the field was full of smoke-filled craters. One ship aimed a blast at Perry’s feet, throwing him several yards forward until he and the boy were at the field’s edge. He dropped the boy and rolled violently to the edge of a nearby road. The boy landed in a heap right on the road. Perry scrambled back up and ran to him just as the ships were upon them.
    “Keep running and don’t look back!”
    The boy stood still in fear and wonder.
    “GO!”
    He shoved the boy away and he complied, running down the road as fast as he could to find help. Perry was surrounded by the ships as they formed a ring in the air above them. He shut his eyes tight, waiting for the final shot that would finish him.

    But suddenly a car appeared up the road almost out of nowhere coming toward the scene. The ships hovered for a moment and then flew back up into the sky, disappearing behind some clouds. Perry looked on after them in puzzlement, then back to the car that had stopped in front of him. The rear door opened and out stepped Carver Santana. Perhaps even odder than the ships’ sudden disappearance was the complete lack of surprise in Carver upon seeing the long-lost astronaut. Instead he smiled as though he had been expecting him.
    “Mr. Shankar. How miraculous that you have returned home.”
    “Did you see those ships?!” Perry asked excitedly, pointing to the sky.
    “I saw them. I know what is going on, so you don’t need to explain. So just come with me and we can sort this all out together.”
    Perry suddenly felt ill at ease. But what other option did he have?
    “Quickly Mr. Shankar, before the public finds out what’s happened here and every news group and government agency comes after you.”
    Perry slowly approached the car and got inside with Carver. Soon they had vanished from the scene, and a few hours later the sleepy town was harangued by media of every sort, all focusing on a boy’s alleged story of a man crashing a spaceship in a field and being chased by alien craft…

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Clipper crew and Seraphina arrived outside Jaden’s quarters.
    “All right. Hopefully this will go smoothly” said Oliver as he rang the door chime.
    “Any reason it won’t?” asked Debbie.
    “You want a list?” Christian looked around briefly for any potential eavesdroppers. Jaden answered the door.
    “Come in” he said without a greeting. The guests crowded into the unadorned abode and looked around for anything to sit on.
    “I have a feeling I know what you’re here for.”
    “You’re right” said Christian. “I’ve heard two strange stories about our role in space, yours and Mr. Santana’s. I still don't understand what you know and why, and that’s why we're here.”
    “All I know I gave for Seraphina to see.”
    “That’s not enough” said Seraphina. “We want answers. What the hell is going on here?”
    “And this time tell us everything” added Valentina.

    Jaden was silent for a moment. Oliver crossed his arms and waited impatiently for him to speak.
    “I’ll start from the beginning” said Jaden at last.
    “Always a good place to start” said Oliver.
    “I was originally going to be the Commander of the Clipper, as you know. After the Odyssey disappeared the Project was put on hold while NASA tried to figure out what to do next. It was then when I was visited by this person who said he was a high-level NASA member, who gave me the disc that I gave Seraphina.”
    “And according to that, NASA ‘s real goal is to find ancient alien treasure” said Seraphina.
    “My question is, what do you intend on doing with this?” Oliver asked. “Why did he give this to you in the first place?”
    “And are you sure you can’t recall his name?” added Christian. Deep down he had a feeling he could guess the identity, but he kept his face expressionless.
    “I’ve asked myself that. Maybe he wanted me to spread the message. But then why not do it himself, I asked. And who would believe it anyway? This is all stuff people have heard before.”
    “But you have evidence from an actual NASA official” said Oliver.
    “I actually wondered if he even was from NASA” said Jaden. “So in the end I decided to just keep it safe, but I couldn’t take command. Something about the whole thing still irked me.”
    “And then the job got passed to this kid” said Christian, sticking his thumb toward Oliver. “Aren’t you proud?” he added with a jestful smirk to his friend. Oliver frowned at this.

    “Now that the Phytomorphs are loose” said Lincoln now, “you decided now to tell people about this?”
    Jaden nodded. “I’m sorry for throwing it onto our laps so suddenly. But now I’m positive something bad is going on.”
    “We might have provoked some alien race” said Toby, slightly excited by the possibility. “Maybe we’ll have a real war of the worlds.”
    “God forbid” muttered Lincoln. Shaking his head, he looked on all the younger folk. “For now all we can do is keep countering these creatures. Leave the investigating to me from now on. We need you all focused on taking them out.”
    “Us too?” asked Seraphina, gesturing to Jaden? “But we’re not part of the crew.”
    “You’re in on the conspiracy theory” Lincoln replied. “Keep that disc safe. Who know who might want to get their hands on it.”
    “I’ve kept it hidden up till now” Jaden shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.”
    “All right then. Now we should get back to Earth, if they’ll ever clear us to leave.”
    “What if the creatures attack while we’re here?” asked Valentina.
    Lincoln smiled. “My company has been fitting the weapons Mendoza’s team has developed into the military arsenal program. If they appear, you will get to see them in action.”
    The crew was surprised. This was the first they had heard of this. Debbie in particular was pensive. Just how far would Lincoln go to capitalize on the Phytomorph plight?
    “The doctor will throw a fit, of course” laughed Christian. “But you’re probably looking forward to that, aren’t you?”

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The lab was closing for the night. One of the members, a recent graduate named Marisa, knocked on the door to get the attention of her colleagues. Petri dishes of Phytomorph cells and notes were laid about, testimony to days’ worth of exhaustive study with little usable results.
    “Hate to break up this party but we kinda need to start closing up.”
    The others mumbled their responses. One gave a loud unstifled yawn. But as they were putting their samples and papers away, the echoes of shouting came wafting their way.

    Two security guards ran past the room and saw the group.
    GET OUTTA HERE! NOW!!
    They ran off without elaborating. Echoes of gunfire now reverberated through the halls.”
    “What the hell?”
    Not known for her caution, Marisa came out into the hall to see what was going on. What she found was a black robot with an arm cannon pointed at her chest. Before she could even scream two shots brought her down.
    “MARISA!”
    Her friends gathered around her lifeless body and met her killer.
    Do not interfere.”
    Two more were shot dead. The remaining three turned tail and ran as fast as they could. Astro entered the lab. Two mini-missile launchers emerged from his shoulders and a flame thrower ejected from the palm of his left hand. Within seconds the lab was destroyed, along with the Phytomorph samples and notes.

    Some time later, Astro emerged from the building. All the labs holding Phytomorph samples and data were now ablaze. Bodies of those who had interfered littered the halls. Astro removed his mask and stared at his destruction, feeling nothing. The mission was a success. Before the fire department arrived, the robot disappeared into the darkness…

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)

    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    A new Phytomorph begins attacking Earth en masse, but are countered by soldiers equipped with Mendoza’s weaponry; Perry Shankar discovers Carver Santana’s secret; Toby Reynolds proposes to help Debbie win the Thallos Cytector.

  10. #10
    Member Black Fang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    6,965

    Default

    Chapter 10: Escalation

    A car appeared up the road almost out of nowhere coming toward the scene. The ships hovered for a moment and then flew back up into the sky, disappearing behind some clouds. Perry looked on after them in puzzlement, then back to the car that had stopped in front of him. The rear door opened and out stepped Carver Santana. Perhaps even odder than the ships’ sudden disappearance was the complete lack of surprise in Carver upon seeing the long-lost astronaut. Instead he smiled as though he had been expecting him.
    “Mr. Shankar. How miraculous that you have returned home.”
    “Did you see those ships?!” Perry asked excitedly, pointing to the sky.
    “I saw them. I know what is going on, so you don’t need to explain. So just come with me and we can sort this all out together.”
    Perry suddenly felt ill at ease. But what other option did he have?
    “Quickly Mr. Shankar, before the public finds out what’s happened here and every news group and government agency comes after you.”
    Perry slowly approached the car and got inside with Carver. Soon they had vanished from the scene, and a few hours later the sleepy town was harangued by media of every sort, all focusing on a boy’s alleged story of a man crashing a spaceship in a field and being chased by alien craft…


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Two security guards ran past the room and saw the group.
    GET OUTTA HERE! NOW!!
    They ran off without elaborating. Echoes of gunfire now reverberated through the halls.”
    “What the hell?”
    Not known for her caution, Marisa came out into the hall to see what was going on. What she found was a black robot with an arm cannon pointed at her chest. Before she could even scream two shots brought her down.
    “MARISA!”
    Her friends gathered around her lifeless body and met her killer.
    Do not interfere.”
    Two more were shot dead. The remaining three turned tail and ran as fast as they could. Astro entered the lab. Two mini-missile launchers emerged from his shoulders and a flame thrower ejected from the palm of his left hand. Within seconds the lab was destroyed, along with the Phytomorph samples and notes.

    Some time later, Astro emerged from the building. All the labs holding Phytomorph samples and data were now ablaze. Bodies of those who had interfered littered the halls. Astro removed his mask and stared at his destruction, feeling nothing. The mission was a success. Before the fire department arrived, the robot disappeared into the darkness…


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *Opening Theme plays*
    (Tokusou Exceedraft OP Instrumental)

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    An Earth day had passed since the meeting with Jaden. Debbie now ambled aimlessly through the halls of the lunar base, staring out at the desert of gray sand without looking at anything. She then came upon the sight of someone in the Thallos Cytector moving around outside the base in a corralled space. Toby must be testing the suit out, thought Debbie wistfully.

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lq6MpUMOp4"]*Insert Song plays*[/ame]
    (‘Flame’ by Real Life)

    He was leaping, rolling, and blasting at large boulders. With the chainsaw drawn from the pack he punctured more boulders, and with the long pickaxe he cut the ground and smaller rocks. Debbie entered a small room near the airlock and sat in front of an intercom as she followed Toby dodging his way through a set of exploding charges. Toby enjoyed the weak gravity and how he could bounce around so easily. He jumped off a rock and went a bit too high. Moving quickly he activated the mini-thrusters on the back of the suit and gently landed back down.
    “Having fun out there?” Debbie called through the intercom. Toby turned toward her direction. The yellow eyes on the suit’s face mask glowed brightly through the black visor.
    “Why hello ma’am” he greeted in his usual cheer. For once though, Debbie didn’t rebuff it.
    “I guess someone on the board must like you if you’re still wearing that.”
    “Quite. They told me today they liked my initiative and rewarded me. I might even get a post on the next mission… whenever that is.”
    Debbie nodded with a forced smile. She was reminded of her unfair demotion. Toby came back inside the base and a few minutes later exited the decompression/decontamination chamber and removed his helmet. Seeing a spare towel placed on a shelf, he grabbed it and rubbed the perspiration from his face and hair.

    “What’s the matter?” he asked, seeing the disheartened look on Debbie’s face.
    “Nothing. Just that… well, that should be my suit.” Her attempt against self-centricity failed.
    “Ah, right.”
    “I mean, I am in the science division, the Thallos series goes to us” she mumbled. “Just saying -”
    “I’m also in science” said Toby. Debbie gave a surprised look. Toby didn’t come off as the academic type. “Surprised, are you? Didn’t think that high of me, right?” Debbie smiled uncomfortably, but there was no malice in Toby’s tone. She didn’t know if she found that more annoying, or discerning, than him just outright telling her off for being a jerk.
    “What’s it like wearing that suit? How does it feel?”
    Toby flexed and rotated his arm for a moment. “It’s essentially an exoskeleton, it has every tool you might need out there, but you feel like you’re wearing nothing. Only thing I would add is an air-conditioner for your head. I can’t imagine it’s good for you girls’ hair.”
    “I’d risk it” said Debbie quietly. Toby studied her for a moment, leaning against the console. What he would say next might have been unthinkable for anyone else with ambition, maybe even Debbie. But Toby was a guy who could take pity on his peers despite all that. Either that or he was a sucker for sad girls.
    “I’ll give the Cytector up if you keep trying to earn it” he declared. Debbie turned to him in amazement. “Go prove those admins wrong.”
    “You’do that? What about your career?”
    “I’ve already earned some points with NASA. Helping a friend out won’t knock me down that far.”
    Debbie felt touched, and even a bit ashamed. But she hid it from Toby and nodded with a smile.
    “Alright, if that’s what you want. Don’t get comfortable in that suit.”
    Toby winked. “Speaking of, let me get out of this and grab some food.”
    He left Debbie with a recharged drive. She would show all of them she wouldn’t be cast aside…

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Overnight, a shower of large seeds had been spread all over a large park in the center of a major city and dosed with a sort of liquid fertilizer. The next morning, the seeds had already sprouted into patio table-sized organisms resembling squashed pitcher plants. A wreath of leaves adorned their bases and long tentacle-like vines innocently rolled and flopped on the ground, making the plants looks almost like slow-motion dancers.

    As the morning passed, a crowd of people now gathered in the park to see this anomaly. The wiser ones soon realized what this was and kept their distance, but the more risk-taking came close to the plants for a better look. One of these, a kid on his way to school, took out his phone and tried to snap some pictures that no doubt would be posted on the Web in mere seconds. He managed to get one shot when a tentacle caught and dragged him inside the acid-filed ‘pitcher’, digesting the poor fool and leaving his phone splayed on the ground. Soon the park was in panic as the plants caught and ate more and more people and animals as they tried to flee. The acid emitted a sweet fragrance that put those close enough in a deep torpor, allowing them to be easily ensnared and devoured.

    Three military helicopters flew into the city airspace and landed on the park grounds. A team of soldiers filed out of these choppers. All of them were clad in armor produced by Lincoln Cartwright’s company and bearing the weapons made by Dr, Mendoza’s lab.
    “Ok men” instructed their leader. “Let’s see what these things can do.”
    The soldiers began firing large heavy bazookas at the Phytomorphs, lacing them with caulking material. From the helicopters they fired rounds of bullets containing flammable liquid.
    “Everyone form a perimeter around the park! Don’t let any of these weeds get out!”
    He waved a group of soldiers to the frontal area of the main edifice of the park, a Greco-Roman style structure consisting of a hall of pillars. At the center was a large inner garden and fountain surrounded by pillars and the building itself. The commander grimaced; in a few moments this place might fit in well with the preserved ruins of ancient Greece.

    The weapons were having their effect, but the monsters continued on undaunted. For the rest of the day, the echoes of shouts and artillery fire permeated the city...

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Perry looked around Carver Santana’s house as he was brought inside. A bit too fine for his simple taste, but right now he was glad to sit down in a soft chair. How long had he been a prisoner in that ship? He had lost track of the time, though he could tell that much had passed. “We need to speak to NASA and the feds as soon as possible” he said at once before Carver could say anything. “There’s something terrible going on.”
    Carver turned on the TV. There was simultaneous news coverage of Perry’s crash-landing and attack by new Phytomorphs in a large city being countered by a team of soldiers. Perry looked at the latter and turned quickly to Carver, but the man was strangely passive.
    “Something is going on” he said. “But first we need to establish your story. How did you get back to Earth?”
    Perry began telling him about all that had happened since the Odyssey’s arrival at Mars. “Those beings… I don’t know what they are. And I don’t know what’s happened to my crew. They could still be up there and I never ran into them. We have to act fast.”
    “Patience, Mr. Shankar.”
    “Patience for what?” Perry rose to his feet. “Just what the hell do you know about this, Carver?”
    “Quite a lot, actually.”

    Carver was smiling. Perry was feeling more uncomfortable by the minute.
    “I will admit, you and Mr. Hensley’s crew have been an annoyance. But despite your efforts our experiment has gone through quite nicely. The Phytomorphs, as you call them, are a perfect weapon.”
    “Weapon? For whom?” Perry stared into Carver’s eyes, searching for answers. Suddenly he came to a realization and started backing away.
    “I’m afraid you can’t leave just yet, Mr. Shankar” said Carver, taking a step forward. “Not until we clear some things up.”
    This was impossible. Yet it seemed clear to Perry that Carver Santana was not what he appeared.
    “What are you going to do?”
    “Don’t worry, I shall not harm you. But if you leave before we’re done, he will.”
    The familiar sound of mechanical footfalls came from behind Perry. Without turning, he could feel Astro coldly aiming his weapons at him.
    “You’re one of them.”
    Carver only continued to smile…

    TO BE CONTINUED
    *Ending Theme plays*
    (‘Faith of the Heart’ from Star Trek: Enterprise)

    Next Time
    *Next Episode Promo Theme plays*
    (‘Spielban yokokuhen ongaku’ from Jiku Senshi Spielban)

    The Yankee Clipper races back to Earth to fight off the new Phytomorphs; Dr. Mendoza publicly denounces Cartwright and his company and resigns.

Similar Threads

  1. metal hero resurrection?
    By Amakuza_Itahitsu82 in forum Henshin Justice Unlimited
    Replies: 74
    Last Post: 10-27-2014, 03:53 AM
  2. Metal Hero
    By Black Fang in forum Henshin Justice Unlimited
    Replies: 69
    Last Post: 05-16-2009, 03:39 PM
  3. Best 90s Metal Hero?
    By The_Next!!! in forum VERSUS: The HJU Poll Forum
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 01-01-2009, 10:48 AM
  4. Personal story/Project: Dimension Sentai AeonRanger
    By Machdude in forum Justice Fiction
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 02-22-2008, 10:25 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

» Community

» Site Announcements

RatingTitle, Username, & Date Last Post
Chroma Squad Fan Film!
HenshinJustice.Com
03-23-2017 04:30 PM
03-23-2017 04:30 PM
by HenshinJustice.Com
Not Too Late to Watch...
HenshinJustice.Com
03-21-2017 04:05 PM
03-21-2017 04:05 PM
by HenshinJustice.Com
Honest Trailers: Mighty...
HenshinJustice.Com
03-21-2017 03:43 PM
03-21-2017 03:43 PM
by HenshinJustice.Com
Revisiting the...
HenshinJustice.Com
03-21-2017 12:02 PM
03-21-2017 12:02 PM
by HenshinJustice.Com

» Sponsor

...

» Recent Threads

RatingTitle, Username, & Date Last Post
Yesterday 01:20 PM
by Toku Prime
Yesterday 11:14 AM
by Toku Prime
03-25-2017 09:56 AM
by Toku Prime
03-25-2017 12:09 AM
by PalleteRider

» Advertisement

...
Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v4.3.0