Past Unsafe Limits! The indicator light on the terra-cycle’s display screen flashed the message with annoying regularity. Spear could feel the wheels slipping out from under him, threatening to leave the ground and send himself and the cycle into orbit around the asteroid. The Colonel felt he had no choice however. His co-pilot and friend was being attacked by a strange creature who possessed enormous strength and could function in the airless environment of the dead rock. Any monster that rugged was a serious threat, and Spear still had a dozen miles to cover before he would reach Nelson’s location.
The cycle hurtled over a boulder and sailed for fifty yards before landing on the jagged surface. The vehicle wobbled, but Spear compensated with lightning reflexes. Not too much further now, he thought to himself. He had to be alive. He just had to be!
A glint could be seen on the horizon. The reflected light from the massive planet Jupiter provided a faint glimpse of something metallic ahead. Spear knew it had to be Nelson’s terra-cycle. Twisting the accelerator to maximum, Spear willed the cycle ever faster. It shot across the desolate expanse of rubble toward the shining object ahead. Within seconds, Spear could make out the terra-cycle clearly along with the still form of Nelson on the ground.
Once he was within a few yards of his friend, Spear leapt off his vehicle and bounded over to the prone Nelson. Spear bent down and grabbed him with both arms. “Clark, are you all right? Say something?”
For a few agonizing seconds, Nelson made no move. Then a deep exhalation fogged his visor and a slight moan was heard on Spear’s helmet speaker. Spear felt his heart beating again. “Thank God, I thought you were dead.”
“Almost,” Nelson sighed. “I managed to bash the beast’s head in with the nuclear charge I was holding. He ran off, but not before his claws tore a hole in my suit. I managed to repair the hole with the emergency kit in my pocket, but I must’ve passed out right afterward. I don’t have much oxygen left.”
“Do you think you can operate the terra-cycle?” Spear asked.
“I doubt it,” Nelson forced out. “My leg is pretty banged up from the monster’s claws.”
“Then you’ll have to ride in the storage compartment of my cycle.”
“We haven’t finished placing all the charges.”
“We have to hope that 24 are enough,” Spear said, grimly. “You have to get back to the ship. I have the rest of the charges out of my cycle in a jiff and I’ll come back for you.”
The storage compartment was not the most comfortable accommodation, but Nelson could not complain. With 98% of his oxygen already gone, he needed to get to the rocket in minutes or he was dead. Spear shot toward the rocket at speeds never attempted before on a terra-cycle. Spear quietly mused that it would be nice to have someone from the World Records Organization around to clock his speed. Then the gleaming tower of silver steel that was the Transtar 12 loomed over them. Without delay, Spear wrestled his wounded comrade from the small compartment and jogged over to the gang plank. Once on board, he slammed the button which retracted the plank and sealed the airlock. Nelson and Spear shared a look of relief. They had made it, just barely.
“We’ve reached the explosion point,” O’Hanlon said.
Spear took a deep inhalation and held it. His finger hovered over the detonation button on his control panel. Nelson looked over at Spear quizzically, “Something the matter, Colonel?”
Spear shrugged. “I was just thinking, those creatures we encountered on the asteroid. Somehow they are able to survive on that godforsaken rock. No water, no food. How? Such amazing beings. Do I have the right to just wipe them out with one push of a button?”
“Are you kidding me?” O’Hanlon barked. “You saw what those things did to Nelson. How can you feel sorry for them?”
“It’s all right, Riley,” Nelson interjected. “I think I understand what the Skipper is saying. They would be fascinating subjects for study. But Colonel, we don’t have the luxury of debate. Billions of people on earth will be killed if that asteroid is allowed to stay on its present course. We can’t be concerned about a few aliens when we have a whole world to save – our world.”
Spear smiled at his friend. “You’re right, Clark. I was just musing. Stand by for blast, and let’s hope we planted enough charges. In five – four – three – two – one.” The Colonel pressed the button and flipped the monitor display to the rear cameras. Without a sound, the giant ball of jagged gray splintered into a shower of rock. From their vantage point, it looked like a volcano spewing forth its magma and dust into a massive plume. Then the shards of an unformed world flew into the void of space and the dust cloud thinned. The three men collectively released deep sighs and wipe their brows. Spear reached for the yoke on his panel. “Right, let’s set a course for – “
“Wait a minute, Colonel,” O’Hanlon interrupted. “What in the cosmos is that?”
Spear looked back at the monitor. As the dust cloud continue to dissipate, a gold football-like shape appeared just behind the fog of detritus. The object, almost as big as the asteroid that once filled that point in space, moved forward, beyond the cloud. As its details became clear, everyone on the Transtar 12 tensed. Lights flashed along its sides and a frosty dome sat atop the saucer shaped object. Spear knew in an instant that this was an alien spacecraft, and it was big enough to hold the population of New York City.