THE OTHERS
BY
JOHN DUNAJ


Chapter 1


Sometimes adventures start with simple events.

Private spacecraft are a rarity. What with the cost of just the construction of the hull alone being so high as to place ownership beyond what any one individual could afford. It was a matter of pride that Tim McGiness was at the controls of his own ship. The fact that he had purchased it third hand and had to do most of the work himself to make her space worthy did not matter to Tim. The Loki was all his! He was taking a long sabbatical from his teaching position at the Rocket Patrol Academy to hunt down what many considered a legend.

Some of the other professors at the Academy thought that Tim was wasting his time looking for The Others as the ancient Martians called them. Everyone agreed that The Others were just the Martian version of mythology. Everyone but Tim, that is.

Having obtained landing permission from the Lunar Government for scientific purposes, Tim steered his ship to the Far Side of the Moon. Sighting several landmarks Tim adjusted the Loki's heading and pitch till she was over the landing area. Tim was certain he would have the proof he needed to prove that The Others were real.

 2002 John Dunaj
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The simulator at the Academy had given Tim enough skill to obtain his license to operate a Class 3 spacecraft but Tim was still nervous about the landing maneuver. Tim watched the Lunar surface get larger and closer as the Loki slowly settled down to the surface. Tim finally took a breath when the contact light flashed. He had landed in one piece.

After adjusting his spacesuit and checking, for the third time, the power cells and air tanks, Tim entered the airlock and pressed the cycle button. At first, Tim felt nothing but he knew that the air was being removed from the airlock. The telltale light changed from green to amber. The pressure was less than that of the control cabin. Finally the telltale changed to red. The airlock was at the same pressure as outside or in this case there was no pressure.

Setting foot on the Lunar surface for the first time Tim was struck by the stark beauty of the Lunar landscape. The deep shadows, sharp mountains, and craters of all shapes and sizes were everywhere. Tim was lost in the sight when the timer in his suit beeped.

Checking his watch to make sure, Tim could not believe that five minutes had elapsed. Now I understand why there are timers in the suits. he thought. A man could just stand staring and run out of air and not know it. Yes, it was a good thing to have the timer go off every five minutes.

 2002 John Dunaj
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Heading in the direction of a low row of jagged peaks, Tim followed the footprints of all the other scientists that had come to this location before. Shining his flashlight into the deep shadow between mountain peaks, Tim saw The Pyramid.

The first explorers of the Moon had made an accidental discovery of The Pyramid while tracking magnetic anomalies in the mountains. At the time of the discovery, the Martians were known. The Pyramid was attributed to them and much of the excitement of the discovery cooled down. Every few years a scientific team or just one scientist would try to understand why the Martians built the thing.

It always irritated Tim that everyone called the object The Pyramid. It really was a tetrahedron with the top apex missing. Taking careful measurements of the top of the Object Tim smiled. Heading back to his ship he soon returned to The Pyramid with another object that look like it could fit the missing piece.

 2002 John Dunaj
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Sucking a deep breath, Tim slowly placed the small tetra on top of the large tetra. It fit perfectly. Tim was about to shout for joy when The Pyramid began to turn translucent then transparent. Inside was a globe of the planet Mars. Quickly using the small camera he had brought alone, he snapped several photos.

Looking closer at the globe Tim could see that there was a large structure placed near the intersection of two of the main canals near the equator. The next clue to this puzzle would be there. After removing the small tetra, the whole structure returned to its normal appearance. Tim slowly turned and started heading back to his ship. Next stop Mars!

* * *

"Message coming through, Skipper. Level 5 priority,"

"Level 5? Isn't that the highest level?" Princess Liana said.

"Yes, it is, Liana," replied Commander Dan Comet. Commanding Officer of the Rocket Patrol Cruiser Antares.

Rising from his command chair, Comet leaned over Sparks as the message was received and recorded on punch tape. When the complete message was recorded, Comet placed the punch tape into the decoding machine. With a slight whirring sound the tape entered the machine and out came a paper tape with printed letters on it.

Reading the tape, Comet said to the Antares helmsman, "Rusty, change course to the Far Side of the Moon. Near the location of The Pyramid,"

"Roaring rockets! The Pyramid! Aye aye, Skipper, changing course,"

"Dan, what's wrong? You look troubled," said Liana.

"A member of the Rocket Patrol has been abducted. Professor Tim McGiness is missing,"

"I know him Skipper." "So do I Skipper," said both Sparks and Rusty.

"Yea, we both took his course in exo-archaeology," said Rusty.

"Exo-archaeology!" exclaimed Comet. "I'm amazed that the two of you would sit through a class like that,"

"Well .... we were told that girls liked guys who ...," Rusty sheepishly replied.

Letting out a slight chuckle, Comet smiled and shook his head.

"I guess the shakedown cruise is over. Right, Skipper?" Said Sparks

"Yes, it is,"

* * *

Several hours later the Antares was on an approach course for a landing on the Far Side of the Moon.

"Sir, ship approaching," exclaimed Lieutenant Connors to his Commanding Officer, Captain Bovan.

"That would be the Antares, Lieutenant. Signal her to land in the designated area,"

It was a routine landing and Commander Comet and crew were eager to find out the facts behind the abduction of the Patrol archaeologist.

"Wish it was under different circumstances but welcome to Independent Luna, Dan," said Captain Bovan.

"John? John Bovan? That really you? How long has it been?" said Comet.

"Three years but who's counting. Glad you're here Dan," said Bovan as he and Comet shook hands.

"I'll give you all that we know about what happened. Professor McGiness was granted a permit to inspect The Pyramid. McGiness informed Lunar Patrol that he was landing two days ago. One of our Patrol craft flew over three hours later and spotted the Professor near The Pyramid,"

"One of the conditions of the landing permit was that Professor McGiness had to call into Lunar Patrol HQ once every 24 hours. The only transmission was when he landed. After he failed to call in a LP craft was dispatched and found the professor missing," Bovan said.

"What are you holding back John?" asked Comet.

"Let's take a little ride and I'll show you," said Bovan.

 2002 John Dunaj
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The main means of moving about over the Lunar surface was by small ground car that the locals called bugs. How they got that name is anyone's guess but it might have to do with the fact that they have six wheels.

"Be sure to strap yourself in good, Dan, as it's going to be a bumpy ride," said Bovan with a smile.

When they both were strapped in Bovan pressed the drive controls and the six electrically powered wheels started to turn. Gesturing to Comet, Bovan plugged in his helmet mike into a junction box. Comet did the same and wondered what was going on.

"This is the only way that I can talk without being overheard," said Bovan.

"When you see what I am going to show you, then you will understand why the secrecy."

They journeyed for about ten minutes. Comet was glad that he was strapped in as the bug lurched every time they drove around some of the large boulders and craters. The bug came to a stop, suddenly, and Bovan pointed to an area that had been used for landing a spacecraft.

"Spacecraft were only permitted to land in certain places near The Pyramid, Dan. When the LP craft came looking for the professor they found this landing site," informed Bovan

"Look at that Dan and tell me what kind of ship made those landing marks," said Bovan.

At first, Comet looked at Bovan. Comet knew Bovan was experienced in identifying landing marks as anyone in the Patrol. Looking at the landing marks, Comet identified them as from a Condor class ship. The Condor class was used for transferring small amounts of cargo or a few people. They had been superseded by the larger Delta class.

"Those are Condor class marking John. You know that as well as I," said Comet.

"I was hoping that you would say something different," said Bovan with a sigh.

"Only one Condor class ship has lifted off in the last twenty four hours."

"Let me guess," said Comet. "She bore the rising sun and hammer?"

"Now you know why the secrecy, Dan. The Ganymedes have been buttering up the Lunar Council for the last year. They want to establish diplomatic and trade relations. The Lunar Council wants to keep a lid on anything that could stop that," said Bovan.

"I used the pretext that this case involved a member of the Rocket Patrol to call in the Patrol. I'm afraid that this hot potato is now in your hands. Sorry Dan, I didn't know it was going to be you that the Patrol would send," said Bovan.

"I'm glad that I'm on the case as I have a little matter to settle with the Ganymedes," said Comet.

The journey back to The Pyramid site was done in silence. Both men knew that a lot rested on how this case turned out. For Bovan, it was the hope that his government would see through the smoke and mirrors of the Ganymedes and for Comet, the Peoples' Republic of Ganymede was an evil that had to be stopped from spreading its influence into the Solar League. What puzzled both men was why a professor of exo-archaeology was abducted in the first place.





Chapter 2

2002 John Dunaj



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All text, illustrations, photographs and design are 2001-2002 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.