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Eagle 31

Authors: author
Categories: Adventure
Characters: Anton Gorski
Episodes: Set during Breakaway
Show Year: Y1
Rating: PG
Date: 2012
An Eagle pilot's experiences during the breakaway
Average Rating: No reviews.

Ellis met two commanders in one week. The first was Anton Gorksi, his tour of Alpha abruptly suspended. The second was John Koenig. A man returning to power after the Ultra probe disaster three years ago. Ellis smiled as he thought of the politics preceding the decision to reappoint him as Commander. He considered Koenig to be reasonable as far as commanders went, and on hearing that Gorski was to stand down he felt a sigh of relief carry through the base as the ordeal of uncertainty passed. Rumours were hot off the grapevine. A fact that worried him as his wife Rachel was the source. She'd been busy lately as Main Mission became a pressure cooker of conflicting information. The Meta Probe was in trouble with disruption to training flights on the far side of the moon, and Gorski was out.

Ellis checked his instruments and watched the rear scan of the Earth for a few seconds, the blue and white sphere receding as the returning Eagle Two pushed him and his passenger to the moon. He switched to the forward scanner and took in the view of the distant moon, a shining crescent to his left. He thought about Koenig sitting in the passenger section listening to the relayed message from Simmonds. He wondered what they talked about, and then shrugged to himself. He would never know. Perhaps when the message was over he would show Koenig some approach shots of the Meta probe launch platform.

"Eagle thirty one, you are clear for landing..."

He acknowledged the clearance from Paul Morrow, guiding the Eagle over the sprawl of Alpha's warm lights and positioning above the red marker of launch pad one. He switched to the landing program and the Eagle settled onto the cold metal.

It was a few minutes wait while Koenig disembarked, probably meeting Bergman, before he received a clearance signal and the boarding tube retracted. A soft jolt signalled the elevator descent and the Eagle slid below the surface and into the underground hangers of the launch area.

In the apartment he shared with Rachel, any good news quickly evaporated.

"I've been barred from main mission," she said. "All second grade techs are out."

He stared back at her, unable to hide the shock on his face, "what's going on?"

"I don't know" she replied.

"Something with Gorski?" he wondered aloud. "Koenig is here, and they're keeping the lid on everything."

"I'm back on duty on the Thirteenth," she said. "I'll have missed all the information by then."

"What do you think it might be?" he asked her.

"The Meta Probe," she frowned. "Remember the virus infection story? I think it's a cover. I heard Gorski ordered the line commanders to keep Carter in the dark about what's happened to Frank."

Ellis sat down. His thoughts turned to his friend. The best man at their wedding. He took a breath, formulating the conspiracy in his head, "Gorski can't get the probe launched, so they fire him and they bring in..."

He watched the realisation dawn on her face.

"They bring in a fall guy," she finished for him. "They're never going to let Koenig forget the Ultra Probe. Now they want him to fix the Meta Probe and if it goes wrong again they'll have a guy to blame."

He picked up her train of thought..."heads will roll and then he'll be out, and guess who'll be reinstated as a golden boy?

"Gorski," she added. "If Koenig pulls this off, things will be different." she shook her head. "Just before I got escorted out of main mission..."

He interrupted, "you were escorted out?"

"I told you. Security barred us all."

"Unless they found the leak?" he suggested.

"No, they haven't. I got this out of the room," he watched Rachel produce a silver disc from her left boot. "They didn't even search us."

He watched Rachel walk to the small scanner built into the work station on the far wall of the apartment. He sat as she slotted the disk and watched as she narrated over the images, "this is the last radiation check at Area Two." Ellis watched Nordstrom and Steiner drive a moon buggy through a laser barrier and stop at a radiation check point.

"This goes on for a while, keep watching."

"No sound?" he asked and leaned forward in his seat as Nordstrom and Steiner began to fight and struggle until the crazed astronaut ran head long into the closed barrier, bounced off and fell head first onto an outcrop of rock. The recording surrendered to static.

He turned on Rachel, "what the hell is going on?"

"I'm really scared!" she cried.

He held her and looked over her shoulder at the static, then still holding her shoulders he brought his face close to hers.

"I have to go back on duty tomorrow. I'll ask Alan if he's seen Frank."

"Stick to the plan?" she asked.

"Always. Get to Eagle 31 and well be off this rock in minutes."

"I love you."


He smiled and kissed her.

Alpha night was two hours away when they lay down together and slept.

The worst week of his life began when he took the assignment to fly a security crew to Earth after their six month rota. After five miserable days on Earth without news from Rachel, he held the controls of Eagle Two once more with the most powerful official he would ever carry sitting in the passenger section; Commissioner Gerald Simmonds. A massive security blanket covered Alpha and Earth communications, and the fate of Eric Sparkman and Frank Warren remained a mystery. Carter had been tight lipped, meaning the section chief knew everything.

He manoeuvred the Eagle over the curve of the moon, leaving orbit and descending to final approach when a sight so devastating left him open mouthed and so stunned that he almost missed the turn over navigation beacon Delta. Stretched below the Eagle like a molten lake of black rock and metal sprawled the cold ruin of Nuclear Disposal Area One. He thought about calling in and asking Morrow what had happened, but he doubted he would get an answer. Ellis turned over the beacon and headed for Alpha, the vast plain of fused rock falling quickly away as he concentrated on his flight plan to the farthest launch pad. After the Commissioner's departure his Eagle descended swiftly to the underground bays and he ran for the exit doors as soon as they opened. Carter was waiting for him, a look of horror and betrayal on his face.

"Frank and Eric...are dead," said Carter. The words made no sense. The surroundings began to blur as if dissolving around him and without a word to Carter he walked to the travel tube. He had to see Rachel.

He met her at the corridor junction to their apartment and she ran into his arms. They were aboard a sinking ship in the ocean of space. She cried as rescue suited personnel jogged passed them.

"Come with me," she said and pulled him away from the Communications post.

In the soft lighting of their apartment, he listened.

"Tech two operatives are back in Main Mission. Collins, the shuttle pilot," she stated. "He's dead. He went crazy and tried to smash his way through an outer window almost taking Bergman and Koenig with him."

"The virus?"

"There's no virus," she said. "It's radiation sickness. A kind they don't know about."

"I saw Area One," he replied. "I flew over what was left of it...bringing Simmonds here. What else?"

"They sent a remote Eagle into Area Two. It crashed. Something about a magnetic surge."

He thought for a minute. "Wipes the navigation programs."

"Oh God, what are we going to do?"

He bit his lip, trying to organise. If something went wrong they had the Eagle plan, but this was a different problem. It looked as if half the moon might go up in an explosion to rival the big bang. "I don't know," was his only answer to her question.

"It's getting worse," she said. "They're going to call you out there, I know it. They were talking about the heat rising in Area Two. Bergman suggested they rip up something and spread the mass over a wide area?"

He nodded, understanding Bergman's plan. His comlock signalled for attention. As he raised it to face level, he watched Rachel back away from him. It was Carter. "Ellis? Report to your Eagle at once, this is an emergency."

"What's going on, Alan?"

"Can't say, we need everyone here quickly for briefing."

"On my way."

He broke the connection and holstered his comlock. "I have to go."

"Please don't," she pleaded.

"There might be time."

She shook her head, the beginnings of tears forming, "Bergman said there wasn't."

Holding formation, Ellis took Eagle Thirty One and followed Eagle Twenty Six to grid C Nine over Disposal Area Two. The task was simple. The Eagles carried winch units and he was ordered to pull back the radiation covers, lift a canister out and release it outside the perimeter. His first three passes went well, then the onboard navigation data from Main Mission began to scramble. He called Morrow, "thirty one to base, experiencing navigation failure to secondary systems."

"Hold, thirty one," came the reply.

Ellis hovered over grid C nine and watched Eagle twenty six return to the disposal area.

"Main mission to thirty one, increase altitude by ten," instructed Morrow.

"Copy," he replied.

On gaining altitude the guidance problem stabilised but the Eagle felt sluggish and disobedient when he attempted to turn. Communications buzzed with voices as other Eagle flights joined the mission. He overheard Eagle Fourteen's pilot report a navigation problem similar to his own and he remembered the conversation with Rachel. The magnetic field was expanding and reaching for his ship, trying to drag him into the dust. Another pilot requested an altitude increase of one hundred. Any higher and they use all the winch line.

Ellis disagreed with his guidance computer's data informing him of a gradual change of pitch when it was clear from his stabiliser readings that he remained level, "thirty one to base...reporting navigation failure..."

He caught sight of a plume of dust in his rear scanner and frowned, thinking it to be an Eagle setting down in an emergency. If the navigation failed completely he would do the same. Another spray of dust erupted on his scanner and the communications channel spread Morrow's voice to all vessels...

"All Eagles return to base, abort the mission, repeat, all Eagles return to base immed...."

Ellis turned his ship but the failing computer forced him to tilt at too steep an angle and the lunar surface slid under him at an increasing speed. He fought the controls, swearing and cursing as warnings spread across the forward panel. The engines screamed at him. His Eagle faced the huge disposal area and he looked from his instruments and out of the forward port to see lunar dust erupting and scattering canisters high above the glare of the perimeter lights. Flame and wreckage climbed in powerful and silent motion as his dying computer dragged him spinning toward the maelstrom. He flipped a panel and overrode the Navcom, hitting two large red buttons simultaneously. The rear engines blasted into fresh life and he pulled back on the stick. Eagle thirty one roared and banked away from the towering explosions marching on legs of fire toward his ship. The world melted into a white glare and a brilliance filled his head and eyes. In a second of panic he believed the sun had come to the moon. A massive vibration caught his ship and devoured it as he released a rescue location beacon and assumed crash position. The dust rushed up to meet him and a cold dead darkness followed.

He awoke, blinking. Panic gripped him and he checked his suit. The helmet was sealed, his suit and oxygen functioning and he looked at the naked night of outer space. The Eagle no longer surrounded him. He climbed from the pilot's seat and turned in a circle until he found the ship several meters away, partially buried in the dust, the pilot's section like a broken insect's head; a frail skull that ejected him on impact and deposited him and his seat onto the surface. The winch unit had separated from the main structure of the Eagle. If he'd had the standard passenger module he'd have a place to wait with fresh oxygen and survival rations until rescue. It had always been the plan with Rachel. They had never felt safe on Alpha, but the duty shifts were the highest paid in the human race so they planned a two year run after which they would return to Earth in semi retirement. He would return to commercial flying to keep a little money flowing. Ellis took a last look at the crashed Eagle and turned his back on it. He had no choice but to walk.

If his calculations were correct he should reach the base in eight hours. He had oxygen for ten and would allow himself a thirty minute rest. It would be tough going, but he could do it. He promised himself he would find Rachael as he wandered like a lonely microbe over a giant burned out cell.

He walked for six hours. His oxygen consumption proved inaccurate and the unforgiving mathematics of survival revealed the errors of his equations with the exertion of walking and climbing over crater rims, adding uncalculated time and precious breath. A serious pain in his legs drained his strength and resolve and he faltered on discovery of wreckage blocking his path. Eagle superstructures lay in drifts by ragged rock faces. He found a charred comlock, the name burned from it by intense heat. A space helmet filled with dust and frozen blood made him jog faster in the direction of the base. Paranoia gripped him. What if the base had gone? The whole disposal area had ignited. He wondered about the dust displacement. There would have been enough thrown into the low gravity to bury Alpha three times over. His thoughts coalesced into one collective conclusion as he checked his oxygen and fought back the fear.

Something glinted near a crater rim. He squinted. He had one hour of life remaining in his suit, but he was sure he had seen the object. He began to run. The object glinted again. It was colour coded yellow like the technical section on the base. At first he couldn't make out the overall shape of the object as the sweat from his brow ran into his eyes but he kept up his pace and shouted with the joy of recognition until he stood in front of the moon buggy. He scrambled on board, praying fate would not cheat him with a dead vehicle, but the buggy started and leapt ahead as he stepped on the power. He drove at full speed in the direction of the Alpha, hearing himself cheer and laugh.

Ten minutes of oxygen remained when the buggy topped a ridge and all the breath ran out of him. Moonbase Alpha sprawled like a massive metal spider's web, its lights burning brightly. Ellis looked up with relief but emotion died on his face as the sweat turned cold on his the Earth moved rapidly away from lunar orbit.

Copyright (c) 2012. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
All stories are the property of their respective authors.

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