Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.

Visit to an Empty Planet by Chris Meadows

Just a note for those of you new to Undocumented Features...if you've
never heard of it, you might want to check it out.  The FTP site is at
ftp.std.com, in /archives/anime-fan-works/Undocumented-Features/.  Reading
the previous _The Universe According to Chris_ stories and the _Hammer
Time_ stories might be a big help.

[Note: If you do go to check it out, grab the dp.uf.GUIDE.gz and
dp.uf.previews.gz files first.  At least the GUIDE file... -Zoner]

Without further ado, here it is...

                   [Altiversal Studios, Inc.]

             [In Conjunction with Eyrie, Unlimited]


          [A Chris Meadows UNDOCUMENTED FEATURES tale]


   To the new, newer, and prospective Eyrie authors...Philip-M,
     Sinapus, Mechaman, Ashura, Doc, and Kelly. Wouldn't have
     been the same without you guys.
   To the original Eyrie trio--Gryphon, Zoner, Rerob--as always.
     Wouldn't have EXISTED without you guys.
   To all those Eyrie authors inbetween--Hammer, pfloyd, R-type,
     anyone I've left out.  It's been real or something.
   To Vaughn, without whom we would have no Reality.
   To Gryphon, for the arguments and the compromises.
   To PCHammer, for the assistance.
   To Ratinox, for the listserv.
   To the Superguy authors, for obvious reasons.
   To Hasbro and Marvel, for Transformers Generation II (the toy
     line and comic books, not the TV show).  Thanks for giving
     it one more try, guys.
   To everyone else I've forgotten, as always.
   And to you.



                  --Visit to an Empty Planet--


   The man slid down a rocky crevice in the dark, his form lit
only by the occasional lightning flash in the foreboding sky.  He
landed in a crouch, straightening up but remaining hunched over
as he continued moving forward.
   The flashes of lightning revealed that this man's hair was
dark and cut close to his head, and he was wearing a pair of
thick goggles, angular constructions of metal and plastic, over
his eyes.  He was wearing a durable one-piece coverall garment,
with reinforced elbows and knees, sturdy boots, and a utility
belt from which several bulky instruments dangled.
   He was moving along the base of a large mountain,
half-crawling, feeling his way forward.  At last he rounded a
protruding boulder, and there it was.  A metallic, human-sized
bulkhead door, soiled and rusty from disuse.  The man rubbed a
bit at it with his sleeve, and it revealed the words, "WORLDS
below it in smaller type, "Authorised Personnel Only."
   The man detached something from his belt and unfolded it--it
was a standard Wedge Defense Force TR-580 personal sensor unit,
also known as a tricorder.  The glow from the screen illuminated
the wielder's face as he programmed it with several finger taps
to its touch-sensitive control surfaces.  The sensory
instrumentation at the top of the device also glowed, and the
standard scanning harmonic could be heard.
   Holding the tricorder in his right hand, the man reached up
with his left to tap the small pin clipped to his breast pocket,
the pin in the shape of a red and gold Autobot symbol.  "What do
you make of this, Temper?"
   The sensory data in the tricorder's small 2.4-inch screen was
momentarily overlaid with the face of a rather pretty,
blonde-haired woman.  "It looks like it hasn't been used in
years--decades, maybe!"
   The man nodded.  "Maybe there's no one here."
   "Hope it hasn't been hit by scavengers..."
   The man considered this for a moment.  "Unlikely," he
decided.  "The perimeter defenses were still active when we came
in, remember?  Anyone without proper WDF or 3WA clearance codes
would get the Magrathea treatment.  No, we should be able to find
the right stuff to fix your warpdrives in here."
   "I hope you're right, Chris."  The woman's face blinked off.
   Chris used his fingernails to pry open a cover to the right
of the door, exposing controls and lights underneath it.  He
pulled a fiber-optic cable out of a compartment on the tricorder.
"I'll link the tricorder to the locking mechanism, and we'll just
see if we can't get this thing open."
   "Right...working on it now."  The tricorder made some
whirring noises, and the door panel responded with a series of
sharp pings.  "Got it.  Should be opening at any moment."
   With an ear-splitting screech, the bulkhead inched its way
open, separating into two sections that retracted left and right
into the walls.  Retracting the cable and transferring the
tricorder to his left hand,  with his right he pulled a
distinctive wedge-like shape from a holster on his belt--the
Gallant 1000 handgun, one of few like it in existance.  A
modification on the Mars/Gallant H-90 handgun used by many
members of the Wedge Defense Force, it packed an impressive
amount of firepower in a rather small package.
   "Be careful," Temper admonished him.  "And keep scanning
constantly so I can see what's going on."
   "Don't worry, Katie..." Chris replied.  "Nothing's going to
get the drop on me."
   "Hmph," Katie sniffed.  "That's what Custer thought."

   Only the day before, Chris "Mako" Meadows and his
girlfriend-turned-Cybertronian-Veritech-Fighter Katie "Temper"
Tanner (also known as the CONSTELLATION) had been travelling a
seldom-used spacelane as part of a "tour" of the less-frequented
areas of known space.
   They'd run into a little unexpected trouble, in the form of a
mixed party of GENOM TIE fighters and Kilrathi Salthis.  Space
pirates looking for an easy kill.  Together, Chris and Katie had
been able to take out all but three of them, which fled, but
Katie'd taken a hit to her starboard warp nacelle that limited
her to Warp 1.  Fortunately, computer records had shown a 3WA
outpost within a few light-hours that had a very high probability
of having the proper parts to repair her.
   However, they'd been entirely unable to raise the outpost,
which was supposedly staffed by two full-fledged 3WA Trouble
Consultant teams and ten to twenty support personnel at all
times.  They'd also been unable to contact the dilithium mining
plants that were New Wales's sole settlement other than the 3WA
outpost.  This by itself had been extremely strange, but
furthermore, as the zebra-striped Veritech had started to make
its final approach, it had been warned off by a recorded message
stating that perimeter defense systems would fire on it unless it
transmitted the proper clearance codes.
   Fortunately, being from the now-defunct Wedge Defense Force,
Chris and Katie had clearances to spare, and were able to land
without much trouble.  And now the investigation began.

   The night-vision goggles Chris wore painted the corridor an
eerie shade of green as he advanced down it, Gallant at the
ready.  There seemed to be no power to the base's internal
systems whatsoever--even the emergency lights were shut down.
The tricorder was registering no signs of damage...just no power
   Chris's commbadge blipped, nearly startling him out of his
skull.  "Chris, I'm going to go check out the dilithium mining
   "You sure you're up to it?"
   "My autorepair systems have taken care of most of the battle
damage by now.  I'm leaving the warp pods at the landing site.  I
should be fine."
   "Okay.  Let me know what you find."  Chris tabbed the
commbadge to end the transmission and continued down the

   Katie Tanner hovered in Gerwalk mode a few hundred feet out
from the rugged industrial construction of the dilithium ore
mining/processing plant.  The huge building's towers thrust
unevenly hundreds of feet into the air, a dark silhouette against
an only slightly lighter sky.
   There were supposed to be dozens of spotlights all around,
illuminating the superstructures and shedding light on the
various catwalks and ladders intended for human or humanoid
workers.  There was supposed to be a brightly-lit landing pad for
the shuttles that transported refined dilithium to where the
great freighters would wait, parked in orbit, to carry a full
load of the power-producing crystals back toward the more
populated regions of the galaxy.
   But none of these were on.  The big factory was completely
   Katie Tanner hovered there long enough for her extremely
advanced sensor suite to register that there were no life-forms
inside, then shifted back to jet mode for the flight to the next
refinery.  And then the next, and the next.  But all four of the
plants told the same story: nobody there; no power whatsoever.

   Meanwhile, Chris had managed to find his way to the command
center of the 3WA outpost.  The tricorder showed him where the
emergency power controls were, and it was rather easy to operate
them.  After a few moments' hesitation, the lighting panels and
computer systems lit up.  Chris pushed up the night-sight
goggles.  "All right!!!  Hey, Katie--I got the 3WA base's
emergency power up!"
   "Well, let's hear it for the great mecha engineer, rah rah
rah," was Temper's sarcastic reply.  "I checked all four of the
dilithium mining platforms."
   "And?" Chris asked, sitting down at the command console after
dusting off the chair.
   "Nobody there, no lights, not even emergency power on."
   "Weirdsville.  I'm calling up the station logs.  Maybe
they'll shed some light..."
   "Chris?  What is it?" Katie asked after a few seconds of
silence.  "Chris?"
   "The last three log entries have been erased..."  Chris
tapped a few keys, skimming through it.
   "Interface the tricorder so I can take a look," Katie
suggested.  The tricorder Chris carried was one of those that had
been integrally linked to the CONSTELLATION's flight computers.
This had originally been because the computer needed the extra
processing power of the tricorders just to keep ahead of the lag.
Their recent processor upgrade on Cybertron had rendered this no
longer a necessity, but the tricorder link remained in case of
situations such as this.
   "I'll do better than that."  Chris moved to another console
and punched some keys.  "Subspace transciever array now online."
Within seconds, Katie Tanner's face appeared on several of the
smaller viewscreens, and the large one at the front of the room
began scrolling up data as Katie downloaded what information she
   Katie examined the logfile.  "Interesting.  They report
all systems are normal...but then someone's deleted the last
   "I think I might be able to retrieve them, at least
partially."  Chris's fingers played over the keyboard.  "Hold
on."  He reached into a pocket for his fiber optic interface
   "Wouldn't it be a better idea to get the main reactors on
line so we'd have power for my repairs?"
   Chris considered this.  "Yeah, you're probably right.  I'll
get on it right away."

   As Chris made his way down the now dimly-lit corridors toward
the reactor room, he continued to wonder where everyone had gone.
He'd seen no signs of any violence--no corpses, skeletons, laser
burns, nothing.  And yet, he'd seen no signs of anything else,
   He made his way to the observation deck, went out to look
around.  The darkness overhead was broken only by the occasional
flash of lightning, and not much could be seen about the terrain
outside except for the occasional sharp, rocky crag jutting up
against an only slightly lighter sky.
   Chris punched his commbadge, feeling the need to talk.  "Hey,
Katie.  I just stopped on the ob deck to look around.  Wonder
what this place is like in the daytime..."
   "According to chron, it's currently high noon," Katie
   "You're kidding me."
   "No, honest.  This is as light as it gets."
   "Sheesh!  What kind of person would choose to work in a place
like this?"
   "I understand that this was originally a Welsh colony," Katie
said.  "Wales's weather isn't generally that good to begin with,
and when you consider that many Welsh families have been miners
for literally generations, they're just the kind of people you
might expect to settle here."
   Chris nodded.  "I see."  He took one last look around, then
headed inside.  "Makes it all the more unusual that none of
them're here."

   One thing about 3WA equipment, Chris observed, was that it
was built to last.  Even left to stand, unused and uncared for,
for ten years or more, it needed surprisingly little in the way
of maintenance before it could once more be activated.
   Chris alternated glances between the main engineering console
and the cold fusion reactor which it operated.  Admittedly, he
wouldn't be able to tell anything about the unit's interior
functions by looking at the duranium exterior, but in a way, just
seeing its squat form was reassuring to one with his engineering
   "Okay...everything looks fine," Chris said into his
commbadge.  "I guess the automation should handle most of the
vital functions down here.  Transferring control to the C3
   "Acknowledged," Katie Tanner replied.  "Now that the running
lights are up, I'm coming in for a landing."
   "Roger.  I'll meet you on the pad."

   After ten years and more of it, coming in for a landing was
nothing unusual to Katie Tanner.  All she did was put her legs
down and push, and she'd touch down easily.  It wasn't hard, and
actually kind of fun.
   As she devoted a little bit of her attention to landing
safely, she chuckled at the thought.  If anyone had told her that
she'd look upon being a Cybertronian as even ACCEPTIBLE, let
alone FUN...She just wasn't sure how to complete the thought.
There were things she'd liked to do in her human body...things
that she hadn't known Transformers were capable of.
   But then, she wasn't actually a "true" Transformer, either.
She had quite a few Cybertronian parts--in fact, many of the
Valkyrie's systems, perhaps as many as 75% or even more, had been
replaced by Cybertronian stuff--but her brain was still organic
human, nourished by nutrient fluids produced by some sort of
replicator system, instead of the Cybertronian silicon and
crystal cerebral matrix.  This had the potential to cause some
problems, but due to the joint efforts of Wheeljack, Perceptor,
and Chris, the chance of such things as accidental binary-bonding
or brain concussion happening had been reduced to the point of
   She could experience all the pleasures a true Cybertronian
could feel--the momentary spike in power output from ingesting
the suspended-plasma energy matrix known as Energon, the
exhilaration of free flight, certain...other pleasures--but those
of being human were denied to her.  Which was something of an
annoyance.  She finally found the one person she was ready to get
serious about...and then she couldn't DO anything with him.
   Here he came now, she observed--raised into view on a small
elevator platform from the interior of the base.  From habit, she
swivelled her head/optics mount and zoomed in on him.  "Hey,
Temper!" he called, and she selectively amplified his voice to be
able to hear it above the ambient sounds of the outdoors.
   "Hey, Mako," she replied over her external speakers.
   "Hey.  Let's head down to the hangar deck.  Maybe there'll be
a clue of some sort there, and we can at least get started on the
repair work."
   What they found in the landing bay only added to the mystery.
The two TC teams' starships and all the various support craft of
the 3WA outpost were sitting here, powered down but intact.  Not
a one was missing, not a one was out of place.
   "Things are getting more and more odd," Chris observed, and
Katie could only agree with him.  She was beginning to get
somewhat jumpy, and kept peering around at odd shadows.  Which,
she told herself, was quite ridiculous since her radar and motion
sensors would pick up anything before it could get near her.  But
that still didn't do anything to help...

   Chris took one of the 3WA flight platforms (often referred to
as "trucks") to retrieve the warpdrive/booster pods where Katie
had left them, then set up shop in the 3WA starship/mecha repair
bay.  It would take a day or two, but he was confident that he
could have Katie's warpdrives up and running immediately.  All
the necessary parts and tools were there, and, better yet, there
wasn't anyone else around to disturb his work.
   But when Chris walked into the bay to start his work, he got
a bit of a surprise when he heard movement in the shadows behind
him.  "What the hell--?!"  He spun around, bringing his Gallant
up--and then the Highway Star motoslave berthed behind the
CONSTELLATION's cockpit along with Chris's DVR-152 Battler II
Cyclone stepped out of the shadows.
   "Hi, Chris!" Katie's voice projected from onboard speakers.
   Chris sighed.  "Oh, it's only you."  On Cybertron, they'd set
up the motoslave's onboard computer so that Katie could project
her awareness into it and operate it by remote.  This increased
Temper's mobility dramatically in situations where a Valkyrie
fighter's size was a problem.
   The motoslave nodded.  "Figured you might could use an
assistant."  The 'slave lifted its right arm, retracted its hand,
and extended a selection of tools.  Cybertronian technology had
improved it, too.
   "Okay.  Let's get to work, then."

   Over the next few hours, Chris put the damaged warp nacelle
back together, with Katie Tanner's help.  Chris had to admit, the
tool manipulators in the motoslave were certainly handy.  Under
his direction, Katie did a lot of the physical work herself.
   After some time had passed, Chris finally straightened out
his back with a series of resounding cracks, stretched, and
yawned.  "Katie, how long have I been at this?"
   The motoroid made a show of looking at its wrist.
"Umm...about six hours."
   "Yeesh!  Didn't know it was that long."  Chris put down his
hydrospanner and wiped some grease off his forehead with a
semidirty rag.  "C'mon, let's take a break from this and head
over to the nearest mining platform for some in-person
   "What about the logfile?"
   "That would involve engineering, and for now I want to get as
far from engineering problems as I possibly can."  Chris climbed
up to Katie's fuselage.  "Just let me retrieve the cycbike and
we'll go."
   "Just sneak out this glass of bourbon..."
   "Give it a rest, okay?"  Chris turned the unlatching handle
and lifted up the panel.  There was the (D)VR-152 Battler II
Cyclone, folded up right next to the empty space where the
Highway Star Motoslave normally resided.  He lifted it out,
lowered it to the ground, unfolded it into motorcycle form.
   It was probably the only Cyclone like it in that quadrant of
the galaxy, if not in existance as a whole.  He'd only made a
handful of the specially-augmented Cyclones that his friend Dave
Deitrich had designed centuries before, and most of the ones he
had made had probably been destroyed along with the WAYWARD SON.
The only other custom-Cyc he was aware of that was still in one
piece was Danilia's (D)VR-120A scaled-down Ferret light
Cyclone--and even that might have gone by the wayside, too, come
to think of it, since it had been ten years or so since he'd seen
   Chris shook his head to break this chain of thought, and
started slapping on his CVR armor.  As soon as it was in place,
he straddled the Cyclone and triggered its armor mode conversion,
then stepped over to the Highway Star motoslave, which Katie had
converted to its motorcycle form.  He straddled the giant
motorcycle, Katie revved her motor, and together they roared
through the giant bay doors and up a ramp that led to the

   Where ARE all the people? Katie Tanner wondered as most of
her conscious mind drove the motoslave across the barren surface
of New Wales.  While she'd been assisting Chris with the repairs,
she'd also been going through all the computer records she could
get her virtual hands on, but there'd been no clues whatsoever.
One day, all the people had been there.  The next, they hadn't.
Or the next THREE, anyway...
   Katie slewed to avoid a particularly large boulder.  "What do
YOU think happened?" she transmitted to Chris's radio.
   "Huh?"  Chris blinked.  He must have been deep in
introspection, the way she had been.
   "To all the people," Katie clarified.
   "Oh.  I don't know, Temper.  I was just thinking about that
myself.  It sure is peculiar."
   "I half-expected to see the word 'CROATOA' spray-painted on
one of the walls," Katie said.
   "Ha.  What most history books don't say about the Roanoke
Colony disappearance is that later expeditions to the Hudson Bay
vicinity happened to notice a tribe of Indians, some of whom had
light hair and English surnames.  Most mysterious
'disappearances' aren't anywhere near as mysterious or romantic
as they're made out to be."
   "What about Amelia Earhart?" Katie Tanner asked curiously.
"Didn't she disappear without a trace?"
   "Her plane went down near a Japanese-occupied island and she
and her copilot were shot as spies," Chris said.  "At least,
that's the widely-accepted theory.  I'm not sure whether or not
actual proof exists, it was so long ago that I read about it..."
   As Chris and Katie approached the mining platform, about
twenty miles away from the 3WA outpost, neither of them knew it
but they had been noticed.  Or, at least, their presence had
   Several small satellites, cloaked with the latest in stealth
technology, were positioned in geosynchronous orbits, thousands
of miles above the planet.  These satellites were equipped with
sensor suites almost as sensitive as those aboard the
CONSTELLATION, and they had immediately detected the reactivation
of the 3WA base's power.  Now, the infrared sensors had picked up
a heat trace, headed outward from that base.  Its course was
plotted, and preparations were made for closer observation.

   Chris and Katie Tanner-as-motoroid stood in the central
control tower of the mining platform.  There was absolutely no
power, not even emergency backup, within the platform.  Even the
batteries on the emergency lights were drained.  Chris was
currently using the motoroid's onboard generator to power one of
the computer workstations, at which he was currently searching
for answers.
   "I just don't get it," Chris said.  "It's the same story
here, too.  The commanding officer's log is normal up to the last
three days, then...zippo."
   "Have you tried to reconstruct it?" Katie Tanner asked.
   "I'm just going to download the complete database to my
tricorder and work on it later," Chris decided.
   "All right."  Trailing power leads, the motoroid stepped up
to the glassy expanse of the 360-degree panoramic windows which
looked out upon an unlit landscape.  "It's just so strange..."
She looked up through a hole in the clouds, unusual for that
planet's weather patterns, at the stars, damning her link to the
CONSTELLATION's nav computer which took it upon itself to
superimpose star charts with identifiers of star names and types,
solar system references, subspace anomalies, and the like.  All
she wanted to look at was the STARS, none of this referential
crap!  But it was the work of a microsecond to make it all go
away again, and stare up into the cosmos.  "Wonder how PCHammer's
doing now," she remarked, impulsively trying to change the
subject away from the puzzle that now confronted them.
   Chris looked up from where he was messing with the console
and his tricorder, which were making all sorts of beep beep tink
tink noises.  "Hard to say.  Last time we saw Hammer, it looked
like he was in a bit of a mess.  I hope he got his girl troubles
straightened out eventually...hell, I hope he finally realized he
HAD girl troubles."  He replaced the sensor probe in its storage
compartment and snapped the tricorder shut.
   The motoroid's head swivelled with a small "vrrrt" sound of
servomechanisms rotating.  "Hammer always seemed rather...
oblivious to problems that were close to home."
   Chris moved over to start disconnecting the leads from the
motoroid to the master control console.  "That's a bit of an
understatement," he allowed.
   "I wonder what's happened to him," Katie mused.
   "I kept up with the netnews while we were on Cybertron."
Chris disconnected the last cord, and the cables retracted back
into their compartment on the motoroid.  "There were countless
stories about 'Thunder Force' this and 'Thunder Force' that.
Planets saved, starships rescued, concert halls played--a new
wrong righted almost every week--sometimes every DAY, it seemed
like.  But next to nothing PERSONAL."
   The motoroid nodded.  "I wonder when we'll meet again--and if
they'll all still be there when we do.  And I--Hey, what's that?"
   "Huh?"  Chris looked up in time to see something streak
through the sky, glowing white against the black sky.  "Looks
like a meteor."
   "Oh, okay--no, wait a minute!"
   Chris looked at her (or, rather, at the motoroid).  "What?"
   Katie examined the charts and diagrams that were appearing
almost unbidden in her field of vision.  "System profile says
there's nothing around that could re-enter like that.  Nothing
remotely nearby, in fact--this system doesn't even have an
asteroid belt!"
   "What about the comsats?"
   "There's only the one, and it's still in orbit," Katie
   Chris retrieved the tricorder.  "Hmm.  As my brothers used to
say, this stinketh with the odour of dirty laundry."  He keyed
the sensors.  "I'm not getting anything.  Of course, that doesn't
necessarily mean much."  He slid the still-activated tricorder
into a special bracket on the inside of his Cyclone armor's right
arm, directly opposite the minimissile tubes.  "Shall we check it
   "Sure!"  The motoroid headed for the trap door, followed by
Chris in his Cyclone armor.  A few minutes later, they'd made
their way out of the mining complex.
   "Where'd that thing hit again?" Chris asked.
   "Right over...that way."  The motoroid pointed.  "Sensors are
picking up...something.  I'm not sure what."
   "Sensor display."  The tricorder, now interconnected with the
Cyclone's onboard computer, flashed diagrammatic readouts to the
CVR helmet's visor.  "Let's get a little closer, shall we?"

   Something was moving in the rubble and rocky debris nearby.
Its shadowy form was lit only by a faint glimmer from the stars
overhead, and backlit by the occasional distant flash of
lightning.  Whatever it was, it had a disk-shaped head atop a
cylindrical body, and more arms than a creature should by rights
   As Chris and Katie-as-motoroid neared the top of an
embankment, a hundred feet or so away, the thing emitted a series
of beeps and began to approach.
   Chris dropped to a prone position and examined the tricorder.
"Oh, crud.  It's a GENOM probe droid."
   "I think I'm beginning to realize just who we're dealing with
here," Katie Tanner opined.  "Shall we?"
   "You bet.  I'll go around to the right and distract it, then
you hit it hard."
   "Um, Chris, shouldn't *I* be the one to dis--oh, forget it."
Chris had left already.  "Whatever he says..." Katie muttered,
moving the motoroid around in the direction indicated.
   Chris crept over the rock as silently as he could in Cyclone
armor.  Fortunately, the infrared sensors allowed him to follow
the terrain easily enough, or he would have made a good deal more
noise.  The motoroid followed suit, but on the opposite side of
the probe droid.
   The droid's head swivelled; it seemed somewhat confused.  At
last, it decided to head for the approximate position of the
   "Oh, no y'don't..."  Chris kicked in the Cyclone armor's
thrusters, and he rose twenty feet off the ground on a pillar of
light.  The HUD targeting display flickered to life.  Distraction
or no, if he could nail this critter first, he would do so by all
   But then the probe droid turned, recognized the intruder
behind it, and opened fire with a blaster cannon.  One of the
shots struck Chris squarely in the chest, knocking him back and
down.  "Whoof!" he said as he landed.
   "You bastard!"  Katie Tanner fired her own thrusters, opening
up with the 75mm heavy rifle that motoroids normally carried.
Her rocket-propelled leap took her right up and over the probe
droid, which dodged her shots and fired twice in response.
   Chris got back to his feet, shook his head, and then saw the
battle in progress.  He ran forward, firing the beam guns mounted
between the missile tubes on his arm gauntlets, and dodged
another blast for his troubles.
   The motoroid touched down behind Chris, then grabbed him and
dodged to the left to avoid another volley of energy weapon fire.
"Whoa!" Chris gasped.  "That was close!"
   "Let's do this together.  Initiating linkup," Katie Tanner
   "All right, works for me," Chris replied.  The motoroid's
components parted, and reassembled themselves to fit around
Chris's Cyclone.  Connector cables went from the motoslave to
ports on the Cyclone, and fiber-optic cables slid into Chris's
datajacks.  Chris was aware of Katie's mental presence nearby, as
she was aware of his.
   *Linkup complete,* Katie thought to him.
   *Let's do it.*  They moved forward--and saw that the probe
droid was gone!
   *Jam all normal and subspace frequencies, NOW!* Chris thought
   *Even the one that I use for telepresence in this motoroid?*
Katie asked.
   *No, not that one.  But all the others, and if the droid
shows signs of transmitting on that one, then jam it too.*
   With a thought, Chris activated the motoslave's thrusters,
sending the combined mecha unit into an arc over the planet's
surface.  Then the sensors pegged the fleeing probe droid,
superimposing a blinking outline over the
otherwise-indistinguishable dark shape against the dark ground.
   *There he is!* Chris thought triumphantly.  The motoroid's
arm moved into position, and the 75mm rifle began firing.  And
then the mecha jinked right without warning to avoid a blaster
   *That was close!* Katie noted.  *Let's hurry up and
fin--uh-oh.*  And then Katie was gone, her telepresence withdrawn
from the link.
   *Katie?*  Then Chris noted that the jamming had been expanded
to cover the telepresence subspace frequency, and understood.
*All right, then...I don't need her help for this...*
   The motoroid, now entirely under Chris's control, dropped to
avoid another blaster shot and moved closer in.  The crosshairs
were locked firmly on the droid, and the reticule was moving
   With a thought, the motoroid's left arm fired a glowing ball
of light that bridged the gap between it and the probe droid.  On
impact, it sent electrical currents racing all along the droid,
momentarily outlining it in fluorescent colors.  The probe's
systems promptly deactivated, and it dropped to the ground.
Seconds later, Chris touched down beside it.
   He had just deactivated its systems with the deft application
of one of the motoslave's built-in tools when the CONSTELLATION
touched down fifty feet away.  As the cloud of dust kicked up by
its Gerwalk-mode landing settled, Chris shrugged out of the
motoroid and Cyclone and ran over to greet Katie.
   Within fifteen minutes, Chris had hauled the defunct probe
droid back to the 3WA outpost and was kneeling beside it,
conducting a minute investigation of its onboard computer
databanks with his tricorder.
   "Well?" Katie said at length, her Valkyrie form standing at
the other end of the bay, hands on hips.
   "It's definitely GENOM, no question of that," Chris said,
punching a few keys on the tricorder.  "If I could just make
sense of the operating system...ah, there we go."  The data
scrolled up on the 2.54 inch screen.  Chris's expression became
somewhat more grave.
   "What's wrong?"
   Chris stood up, closing the tricorder.  "We may be in
trouble.  I'm going to get to work on those logfiles."

   Chris punched keys on several keyboards with his left hand,
adjusted knobs and sliders with his right, "listening" to the
signals as they came through the fiber-optic datacable direct
into his head.  The enhance-and-retrieve routines that he was
running seemed to be working, judging by what he was getting over
the datajack.  Perhaps the logs would be ready for playback in an
hour or so.
   At least this was something that was in his field, Chris
reflected, entering a command into the computer.  Not necessarily
the engineering part, but the part that had actually been his
major in college--good old Electronic Media (media operation
emphasis).  He'd been snatched from his college life before he
could take many courses in his chosen field, true, but in the
centuries since, he'd had ample opportunity to go back to school
and finish it.  Just another set of clothes to wear, another flag
to wave.  Fighter pilot, squadron leader, mecha engineer, command
officer, Cybertronian tech expert, and Electronic Media
major--comm tech would probably be a better military way of
putting it.
   Cybertron could probably still use him, Chris knew.  Not to
mention Katie Tanner being now, for all intents and purposes,
Cybertronian.  Hell, any major armed force or nation could use
someone like him--just the mere fact of his three centuries'
accumulated officer-rank experience in the Wedge Defense Force
would probably have been more than enough to get him a one or two
star general's commission in any armed force of his choice.  Not
to mention the private sector...
   He could have stayed on Cybertron.  He'd been happy on
Cybertron.  So had Katie.  But then that bounty hunter had come,
and very nearly bagged himself an ex-WDF mecha engineer.  On
CYBERTRON, no less!  It hadn't helped matters any that Optimus
Prime had confided afterward that something very similar had
happened to him back in the 20th century, when the Transformers
had just been awakened from their aeons-long slumber beneath
Mount St. Hilary.
   And so they'd decided that a moving target was better than a
stationary one, and had embarked on their galactic tour.  They
hadn't run into any direct anti-WDF violence yet, but there had
been a good deal of anti-Wedge sentiment, at least on the worlds
they'd visited.  After the wild "hey, WDF is down, let's go out
and bag a Wedgie!" furor had subsided, it seemed that the general
public actually BLAMED the WDF for dissipating, going away,
leaving them to fend for themselves out in the cold darkness of
deep space.  There was no longer this half-mythical super force
that they could depend on to come to their rescue.  No more magic
bullet, no more guardian angels.  It was as if someone had shot
Santa Claus out in plain view.  It was irrational, true, but who
ever accused the human race of rationality?
   It was a dark time for the Rebel Alliance, Chris thought
wryly.  Look at the state of the galaxy--the 3WA's reputation
suffering, with one half of its star unit tearing up the cosmos
on a well-known vendetta every chance she got; the Salusian
Defense Forces occupied in another Kilrathi War (which one was
this?  the 21st?  the 23rd?); the United Galactica too small and
thinly-spread to have much effect against any major menace, what
with its major members involved in their own crises and too busy
to lend force to UG; Thunder Force just two small ships occupied
as often as not with space pirates--was it any wonder that the
galaxy was turning for succor to the only source of strength and
security left to it, the entity that was, ironically enough, that
which had destroyed the WDF in the first place and even now still
had bounties out for most of its former officers (including Chris
   That's right.  GENOM.  Oh, yes, people could SAY that the
worlds they were moving into had been "conquered," that was all
very well and good, but Chris had talked to survivors, political
refugees, and drifters who had been on some of those planets.  In
many cases, especially worlds out near the peripheries of settled
space, the governments had all but BEGGED GENOM to step in.  The
transfer of power was accomplished peacefully, the heads of state
were paid off and retired to their wealthy estates...it was only
AFTERWARD that the killing had begun.  Opposition groups were
purged utterly, and in some cases the gutters ran red with their
blood.  Nothing could stand in the way of GENOM's hold on a
world, once that hold was established.
   And that brought Chris rather neatly back to his present
dilemma, he reflected.  It looked rather like GENOM had designs
on this planet.  Or HAD had designs.  This planet was situated
rather well for a staging base for raids on some of the nearer
systems, none of which were yet under GENOM occupation, not to
mention the dilithium deposits that would come in quite handy in
starship construction and deployment.
   But if they'd actually been able to get this far--somehow
removing all the people on the planet without a trace--why hadn't
they claimed the planet now?
   That, Chris reflected, was precisely what he hoped to find
out by restoring the log tapes.  And about twenty minutes later,
he was finished.

   Chris clipped the tricorder to his belt and gripped the
floptical in his hand.  He could have used an isolinear chip,
the tricorder's standard media, but Chris liked the old floptical
disks--he still kept his music collection on one.  Besides, it
was kind of symbolic to Chris.  His last direct encounter with
GENOM had been summed neatly up on an optical disk that Hammer
had dubbed "Sonset".  This one would be the same.
   What he'd found out had set his pulse racing.  If the
recovered material was correct, every second they stayed on this
planet was a second too long.  He had to fix Katie and get out
fast, before it was too late.  "Come on, come on..." he muttered
as the elevator slid slowly (TOO slowly) down toward the hangar
   Chris stepped onto the metal deck just in time to see the
trademark bluish flare of warp engines powering up.  It took him
a moment to see that these engines were not Katie Tanner's.
   "I figured we'd need to get out fast," Katie said, her
amplified voice reverberating through the bay.  "And since my
warpdrives don't work yet, I figured this was the best way."
   "What way?"  Then Chris saw it.  A Predator-class starship,
built along traditional Klingon lines but altered slightly for
human occupation.  The flagship class of the 3WA.
   Pred-class starships for 3WA TC teams were extremely rare,
and were generally assigned only on the basis of a phenomenally
high success rate, a demonstrable need, or both.  As it was, only
one of the starships here was a Predator; the other was the
standard Wasp.
   There WAS kind of a need for a Predator here, Chris reasoned.
This outpost was the only bastion of military support in the area
for several lightyears at LEAST.  A Predator-class starship, with
its faster warpdrive and better weapons array, would definitely
be an asset, especially this close to unknown space.  And when
Chris saw the name emblazoned on the side, another reason for
this assignment became clear.
   The starship in question was the DEUCE OF HEARTS, named after
the TC team of the same name.  The Deuce of Hearts team was made
up of a married couple whose success rate was only 3rd or 4th
behind that of the 3WA's premiere TC team, the Lovely Angels.
After one incident involving the crash of a suborbital passenger
jet that they had been aboard as part of a case, the Hearts had
been stuck with the unfortunate nickname "the Flying Deuces," and
a temporary assignment to some middle-of-nowhere sector of space.
Apparently, New Wales was that middle.
   "Wow!" Chris said at last.  "How far is it from liftoff
   "I'd say maybe half an hour," Katie said.  "I've been
interfacing with its onboard computers and speeding things
   "Well, the sooner the better," Chris said.  He held up the
disk.  "I've got the whole thing right here.  Open up."  Katie
raised her canopy, and Chris climbed in.
   "So what's the word?" Katie asked, her face flashing on the
central computer screen.
   "The word is GENOM."  Chris slid the disk into the reader
he'd installed so long ago--one of the few components of the
CONSTELLATION that hadn't been changed, upgraded, or replaced
over time.  The contents appeared on the port screen.
   "You can go over this in detail if you want, but what I've
learned from viewing what I can find of Marshal Connery's
log--he's the head of the civilian law-enforcement division that
had jurisdiction over the mines--is that GENOM showed up on
January 9, 2298 with a fleet of twenty or thirty starships and
demanded their surrender or they'd nuke the planet.  The combined
might of the planetary defense systems and the 3WA starships
stationed here was sufficient to repulse about three GENOM
starships, so they had to surrender.  They were taken away in
transport ships, and that's that."
   "But that's almost four years ago!  Why isn't GENOM here,
then?" Temper wondered.
   "Well, I cross-checked that.  Seems that just about that
time, there was an uprising on a GENOM-held planet in this
sector, and they needed all available starships to put it down."
   "Wait a minute--what about the erased log tapes, the
planetary defense systems?" Katie asked.
   "Well...before Connery left, he planted matter-antimatter
charges in all four of the mine shafts.  With all that dilithium
there, we're talking the Kronos incident all over again.  They
were rigged to go off if a starship landed here without the
proper clearance codes.  He erased the logs so that there would
be no trace of what he'd done that GENOM could find and use
against him or the other prisoners."
   "That makes sense...I guess..." Katie Tanner said.  "What
about that GENOM probe?"
   "I dunno...they must have left recon sats in orbit or
   "But do you know what that would mean?" Katie asked.  "It
doesn't matter whether or not that probe droid's transmissions
got through...those satellites would have seen us landing!  And
if word of that gets back to GENOM..."
   "It might just remind them that we're here, which is
something we definitely do not need."  Chris looked over at the
DEUCE OF HEARTS.  "You'd better get that thing ready to go as
quickly as possible, Katie...we are long overdue to be somewhere
else about now."

   Ten minutes later, Chris stood inside the Predator's tiny
launch bay as Katie Tanner moved up into it.  The CONSTELLATION
fit perfectly, as Chris had known it would.  Almost against his
will, he found himself recalling the last time the CONSTELLATION
had been berthed in a Predator.  Katie Tanner had still been
human back then...but not for much longer.
   Chris shook his head to stem the flow of memories.  They
wouldn't do him much good now.  "Looks like you're all set,"
Chris remarked as the bay doors swung closed.
   "You bet!" Katie replied.  "Now, if you would, initiate
   "Okay."  Chris pressed a series of keys on the small launch
bay manual control console, and about a dozen cables and hoses
snaked out and attached themselves to various linkup hardpoints
on the CONSTELLATION, including some that were not typically
found on Valkyrie fighters.
   "Ah, now that feels better!"  Katie's face appeared on the
console's tiny screen.  "Linkup between CONSTELLATION and DEUCE
OF HEARTS computers complete.  I have the run of the ship!"
   "Plenty of room in there?" Chris asked.
   "A lot more than in the Connie's cyberspace.  Not as much as
some ships I've been in, but it'll do.  I think I'm going to like
it here."
   Chris laughed out loud.  Katie asked, "What?"
   "I guess that kinda makes you the CONSTELLATION of the
   "Hey, I'm Katie Tanner, not Kate Bush!"
   "'Who said anything about it hurting?  It's gonna be
beautiful, it's gonna be wonderful, it's gonna be paradise,'"
Chris quoted.
   "Oh, go 'find me the man with the ladder,'" Katie quoted
back.  "Get out of here."
   "That's just what we should be doing.  I'll see you on the

   Under Katie's expert control, the DEUCE OF HEARTS lifted free
from the hangar and blasted toward the sky.  Even as it did so,
it was scanned, registered, tracked by the orbiting satellites.
Ordinarily, this wouldn't have been any cause for alarm, since
there was very little the orbiting recon satellites could do to a
Predator-class starship.  However, as it happened, the satellites
weren't the only GENOM asset in the area.
   Chris sat at the bridge Engineering console, hands on the
manual overrides, paying close attention to the engine readouts.
The ship hadn't been used in years, and there was always the
minute possibility of engine failure.
   When he heard the alarm, at first he thought it was an
engineering problem.  A quick recheck of the instrumentation
revealed this not to be so.  "Katie, what is it?"  Then he
glanced at the main viewscreen and understood.  "Sheeit..."
   A fleet of twenty GENOM Ikazuchis had disengaged cloak right
in front of them.  Katie raised the shields immediately.
   "They're hailing us," Katie reported.
   "On screen," Chris replied, moving to take a position at the
   A British-looking individual with dark hair, mustache, and
beard came on screen.  "Calling 3WA starship!  This is Captain
Hugo Drax of the GENOM ship MOONRAKER.  You are ordered to stop
your engines and prepare to be boarded.  If you do not comply or
attempt to escape, we will destroy you."
   "Open a channel, Katie," Chris said.  "This is Lieutenant
Colonel Christopher E. Meadows of the Wedge Defense Force.  I do
not recognize your authority, GENOM ship, and will not surrender.
Do your worst."  He made a slashing motion with his hand, and
Katie ended transmission.
   "Standing by to drop shields and cloak," Katie reported, her
face appearing in a small screen on the panel.
   "No, not yet.  Wait until they're about to fire, then go into
evasive, pattern C, twenty degrees to starboard, mark fifteen."
   "That'll take us right alongside the enemy ship!" Katie
   "That's right.  Arm all weapon banks, stand by to go to warp.
We'll get 'em going past, and kick 'em going away."
   "What about the other ships?"
   "I think we're fast enough to avoid anything they can throw
at us."
   "They're charging their main gun!" Katie said.
   "Let's go!"
   The DEUCE OF HEARTS' engines flared, and it dashed forward,
sweeping out of the Ikazuchi's line of fire just as the main
cannon blazed.  "Lock and fire!" Chris whooped, stabbing his
fingers down on the keys.  Five photon torpedoes flew out of the
DEUCE's angry maw, slamming into various points along the
Ikazuchi's side, and multiple phaser and disruptor beams lashed
out.  The MOONRAKER's shields collapsed, and sections of the hull
imploded inward.  One blast immolated the bridge, breaching its
hull and exposing it to deep space.
   The DEUCE jinked and dodged gun blasts from the other ships,
heading for clear space.  Once it was free of the last vestige of
the planet's gravity well, warpdrives kicked in, and the Predator
was gone.
   "We made it!" Chris whooped, getting up from his position at
the helm.  "So...where do we head now?"
   Katie's image shrugged.  "I don't know.  I guess we continue
our tour."
   Chris grinned, and slid into the captain's chair.  "Awesome.
And we've even got a starship now!"
   "Maybe we should join Thunder Force," Katie suggested
sarcastically.  "They could use another starship."
   "Heh.  Well, I'm going down to the lounge to get something to
eat--I'm hungry!  Why don't you draft a report to the 3WA about
that abandoned base.  Even if I suspect the planet isn't going to
be there much longer..."
   Katie was slow to catch on.  "Huh?  What do you mean?"
   "I mean those antimatter charges are still in place.  And I
don't think that GENOM task force is going to let the planetary
defenses stand in their way.  Soooo..."
   "Uh-oh," Katie said.  "I'm glad we're no longer there."
   "So am I, Katie," Chris replied, walking to the turbolift
door.  "So am I."

   Amid the rubble of the bridge, the Buma known colloquially as
"Hugo Drax" shoved the toppled command seat aside and got back to
his feet.  The clothes and skin on the right half of his body
were dangling in tatters, revealing the silvery metal frame
beneath.  He looked down at himself, glanced around the bridge at
sparking consoles and the flickering, slightly staticky main
viewscreen, then looked up to where he could see the stars
through the gaping holes blown in the bridge bulkheads and
   Needless to say, this was Not a Good Thing, as far as his
employment prospects were concerned.  He'd fought his way up to
this position with superhuman dedication, determined to show Lord
Largo his skill and devotion.  Now he was in command of this
sector for GENOM, and was determined to make it work.
   He had been set back several years ago by the revolution on
Cypris.  It had been a particularly fervent uprising, and had
required all of the troops on board his ships to put down.  It
had been tempting simply to bombard the planet from orbit to put
an end to all resistance, but that would also have put an end to
GENOM's assets on the planet.  And as if that hadn't been enough,
word of the rebellion on Cypris somehow leaked to other planets
in the sector, and before he knew it, Drax'd had to split the
fleet up to put down half a dozen revolutions.
   It had been an interesting coincidence that there should
happen to be activity on New Wales just as Drax was finally ready
to resume his course of action regarding the planet.  It was
annoying to be sure that the WWWA ship had escaped--especially
since it had contained a Wedge Defense Force officer--but no
matter.  It would not escape the sector.  Once the planet was
secured, the remainder of the fleet would see to that.
   Drax looked up, ending his moment of introspection.  All
around him, the other Buma that made up the bridge crew, minus
the two who'd been caught in the decompression and blown out into
space, got to their feet as well.  As they were not wearing
humanoid synthskin, they had not been damaged in this respect.
As they returned to their consoles, the two evacuated Buma
dropped through the holes in the ceiling, thruster verniers
closing on legs and back.
   "Damage report," Drax said, his voice travelling via
short-range radio link in the airless vacuum of the room.
   "Not good, sir," the report came back.  "At least ten hull
breaches, damage to 32% of electronic systems, 18% of thrust
systems, 47% of envi--"
   "Enough," Drax said.  "Maneuver for a landing on New Wales.
I will commandeer the THUNDERBALL and leave the MOONRAKER here
along with a repair crew."
   "Sir, we're getting an automated warning from planetary
defense," the helms-Buma reported.  "Unless we transmit an
approved clearance code, they will open fire on us."
   "Order all other ships in the detachment to lay down a
blanket of cannon fire to all points on the planet except the
dilithium mining platforms.  Special emphasis on the 3WA
headquarters building."  He would not let something so feeble as
this planet's defense system stand in his way.
   "Aye, sir."  The barrage commenced, and within minutes, much
of the surface of the planet had been reshaped, obliterated.
   "Now, commence landing procedures."  Drax stood, hands
clasped behind his back, watching the flickering main screen as
the ships proceeded closer to the planet.  "If anything fires on
us, pinpoint and destroy it."  The planet was almost within his
grasp.  The dilithium mineral wealth contained within this barren
rock would be GENOM's, and he would undoubtedly be promoted out
of this desolate sector.
   "Aye, sir."  The helms-Buma manipulated his control board as
Drax looked on with approval.
   The ships came closer, closer, angling for landing.  As
expected, the few antistarship cannon and missile emplacements
that had escaped destruction in the barrage opened fire, and were
destroyed immediately afterward.  The MOONRAKER entered the
atmosphere, slowed, and prepared to touch down...
   And deep within the mining tunnels of the planet, the
antimatter charges primed themselves, prepared to detonate.
   "Sir, I'm reading an energy reaction beneath the surface of
the planet!" the helms-Buma announced.  "Multiple reactions!
They read as matter-antimatter charges, sir!"
   "What?!"  Drax suddenly realized the full import of this
statement.  "The dilithium mines!  Get us out of here at once!"
   "Aye, si--"
   The entire planet exploded in a massive fireball, the size
of--well, the size of a planet.  All the starships in the
MOONRAKER's detachment were instantly obliterated, all Buma on
board vaporized within microseconds.
   In time, the explosion dissipated.  Some of the giant chunks
of rock and magma were thrown clear out of the solar system by
the force of the blast.  Others never quite reached escape
velocity and were captured by the star's gravity, eventually
becoming a sparse asteroid belt.

   Meanwhile, the DEUCE OF HEARTS continued onward at warp
speed, leaving the sector without incident.  In the Predator's
small kitchen, fixing himself a submarine sandwich, Chris thought
about the planet they'd just left.  Some of the mysteries that
he'd found on that planet had been solved...but others remained.
What had happened to the inhabitants of the planet?  Where was
Marshal Connery now?  Chris didn't know, and knew he might never.
   But wherever he was, Chris thought, Connery would surely be
laughing now if he knew how well his trap had worked.  The
DEUCE's sensors had registered the massive EM spike from the
planet-sized explosion only moments ago.  It was certain that, as
close as they'd been to the planet, the GENOM fleet had been
   "Hey, Temper, how long 'til we arrive at the next inhabited
planet?" Chris asked, picking up his sub and taking it to the
   "About a day at our present velocity," Katie's voice replied
from a nearby intercom speaker.
   "Great.  Well, log into the subethernet and download the
latest issue of Galactica Today.  Might as well catch up on the
   And so, life went on...

                            THE END

        Written, produced, and directed by Chris Meadows

      Special thanks to Gryphon, who made it all possible

              Chris/Mako              Chris Meadows
              Temper                  Katie Tanner
              Hugo Drax               Michael Lonsdale
              MOONRAKER bridge crew   J. Random Bumas

            Written on-location on Planet New Wales
                 and aboard the DEUCE OF HEARTS

 This story has been altered from its original format.  It has
                been altered to fit your screen.

   Special Dedication: to rogue1, who has been misunderstood.

                     Superguy WWW homepage:


(If you want more credits, go and read "Visit to a Busy Planet."
                 Lots of nice credits there...)

This story is copyright 1994 Chris Meadows and Eyrie, Unlimited.
Permission granted to make one printed copy for personal use.  Permission
granted for electronic redistribution.  Permission for redistribution in
other forms of media (including CD-ROM) reserved to the author(s) (who
will undoubtedly say yes, but Chris likes being asked about that sort of
thing.  Makes him feel more self-important).

Chris Meadows          | Author, Team M.E.C.H.A., Crapshoot & Co.,
CHM173S@NIC.SMSU.EDU   | on the Superguy Listserv (bit.listserv.superguy)
CMEADOWS@NYX.CS.DU.EDU | Check out the Superguy WorldWideWeb homepage:
CMEADOWS@NOX.CS.DU.EDU | http://www.halcyon.com/superguy/superguy.html

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