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Tales From The Frontier *********************** 'The Giant Thargoid Eye' Chapter One - 'The Thargoid Spy' By Martin Wilson Not much happens usually day or night on the planet Convar 12. No life has ever evolved there and no colonists have ever settled there. Its a beautiful world with a humanoid-bearing atmosphere, so this may seem strange. Unfortunately Convar 12 has a neighbour, Convar 13, a very large gas giant, and this neighbour in planetary orbit terms gets rather close for 23 days of Convar 12's year. This sweeps Convar 12 in the most intense and varied radiation field yet known in the whole Galaxy, causing the planet to be completely sterilised. The meeting of these two worlds is so close that by rights it would be thought that Convar 12 would be pulled down into the larger planet's gravity, but Convar 13 spins on it's side, causing enough of a difference in gravity to allow Convar 12 to stay in it's own orbit. So Convar 12 is a rather quiet world, normally. Today however, something is afoot. Dave Hollis is chewing over a rather difficult situation. He's stuck up a hill on Convar 12, covered in white sand to avoid detection. He's got two rather pressing problems at this point in time. One problem below him; 12 Federation Navy ships of unknown design are parked on the plain. These craft are sporting the all-black colouring that signifies these are the special forces that deal with problems the rest of the Federation don't even know exist. Problems which are rather sensitive. Certainly, Dave has no idea what they're doing here and he's been watching them for 3 hours. He and his comrades (safely back on Paneer) need to know why the Navy are here. Problem Two; on the horizon is Convar 13, a red gas giant with a dark red Pole, like a huge eye looking straight at him. This also directly relates to why the Geiger Counter in his watch is moving steadily up the scale and making annoying little beeping noises. Given the fact that radiation is now reaching levels which aren't at all healthy, and that by leaving he would get chased and most definitely destroyed by the Navy, he continues to sit and play a waiting game. Dave racks his brain for some possible third option. He kicks his feet in the sand a few times as if the movement would increase circulation and perhaps cause that much-needed solution. His thoughts are slowly changing from how to survive, to the best way to die. He takes hold of his binoculars and sets them to the maximum magnification of two thousand times. The trouble with this is he just couldn't hold them still enough to concentrate on any of the Navy people moving between the ships down on the plain. After one mini brainstorm, Dave has sorted out various rocks into a small wall to rest his binoculars on, and now perhaps his eyes might get a chance to focus on something long enough to understand what exactly is going on down there, possibly even lip-read one of the men. Dave's wall was working very well, and now he looks down and surveys the scene. The Navy ships were laid out in three rows of four ships. One of the central craft is a different shape from the rest. Bulkier, but just as black. It was difficult, but Dave struggled with the lens back and forth to see if he could pull a name off any of the ships. The nearest was easiest it would seem, he thought. There was half a name 'Legless', but the second word only had the first 'L'. It was at this point that Dave heard something behind him. A low humming noise, and it was gradually getting louder, and he realised something was coming over the ridge higher up the hill. Dave dived into the white sand, struggled for a second or two to right himself so he could just peek out to see what was coming. He worried for a second if his Cobra at the top of the hill had been discovered, but he didn't see how. The Cobra had a full camouflage kit which activitated at the touch of a remote button, mimicking the surroundings and with zero energy emissions to avoid detection. The humming was now quite loud and was moving slightly away now, above the ridge going down the hill. Dave raised his head some more to get the necessary angle of view, and there it was. 'It' being the operative word; it was a Thargoid. Floating along on what looked like a rather comfortable chair with a totally rounded base. Some of the white sand was getting caught in the air around it, and you could see that some sort of spiral field was emanating from it's base. Dave was more interested in the Thargoid itself. He'd never seen a live one, and the dead ones are usually after some battle and are just pieces of the anatomy sewn back together in a best guess of how they fit together. This live one however didn't resemble the dead Thargoids as much as you would expect. The colour is the main difference. The live blood gives the body a bright green look; once dead it congeals into a black tar, and therefore so does the body colour. This Thargoid was going on eight feet tall. Two arms and legs, a torso with thick insectoid plating, and breathing done through the back and through the sides of its rear hunch. The head is similar to the house-fly with the eyes being smaller in relation to the fly's head. Can't be sure where the ears are; there seems so many little holes dotted around the head. The mouth is a visual nightmare, with thick fluids trailing between the long teeth top and bottom, which a spiked tongue intermittently cleans away. Strangely, the creature does not look threatening. Dave watches with total attention. The Thargoid continues to hover at the same place and looks down at the Navy ships. Dave watches as the Thargoid's metallic fly-like eyes vary their reflection as they focus. Dave then listens in amazement as the Thargoid reads out in rather poor but definite English, 'Legless Lizard'. The Thargoid then takes out some purple bag beside him, and pulls out a stick of something green and promptly eats it. Dave realises this Thargoid is a spy and interpreter for the Thargoids. Dave also notices that the Thargoid is enjoying eating the stick. This obvious pleasure surprises Dave; he'd always been told they're almost robotic in personality. After finishing the first stick, the Thargoid hunts for another in the bag. While the Thargoid is leaning to the right, Dave notices that the top of the Thargoid's head is transparent, and to his further amazement it looks like the Thargoid has a brain almost identical in size and shape to the human brain. The Thargoid returns to looking down on the ships. Its then the Thargoid looks visibly shocked. So much so that his next action is to turn the chair around and start hovering back up the hill. The Thargoid moves up and out of sight. This gives Dave a sigh of relief and then suddenly he feels a sharp pain in his wrist and lets out a small shriek. Dave's watch has given him a small electric shock; the radiation levels are now at a critical point, given the fact Dave has been on the planet almost four hours. Four hours with the radiation levels practically doubling every half hour. Dave's suit being the latest radiation-resistant design, without it he would have been dead within 15 minutes of leaving his ship. It would seem now an ideal time for Dave to retreat to his ship, which at least would give an hour or more of further radiation protection. Unfortunately, the ship itself had little in the way of radiation shielding technology. It merely protected due to it's thick metal hull. The dull hum of the Thargoid's floating chair had gone, and Dave ran as silently as he could up the hill to his ship, stopping instantly at the top when he could see the Thargoid's chair parked next to his Cobra. It must have flown nearby to the Cobra and detected it's metal hull. He could see the Cobra was moving slightly. Thargoids are high density creatures, and being 8 feet tall meant a weight equal to four men. Dave reached into his pocket for his blaster and set it to maximum. With this little blaster it meant one shot and then a 3-minute recharge. In other words either hit it first time or die. Dave stealthily approached his Cobra, expecting the Thargoid to exit the hatch at any time. He waited; he could hear the Thargoid shuffling inside. A loud thud and a tiny little cry indicated to Dave that the Thargoid had hit his head. A perfect moment to take the Thargoid by surprise. Dave quickly entered the hatch, finger pressed almost to the point of firing on his blaster. In an instant Dave was facing the Thargoid, which was rapidly turning round towards Dave. Dave's finger pressed a little harder, but then Dave could see the Thargoid had covered itself in an explosives belt, going from shoulder to shoulder. Dave's finger had pressed too far; the only course of action was for the gun to be pushed away from aiming at the Thargoid, and the blaster landed a blast into the corner by the floor, inches away from the Thargoid's foot. It made a pretty burn pattern, but luckily only hit thick metal panelling, which did not impair the strength of the hull. Dave looked at the Thargoid whose own blaster, a much more impressive device, was pointed directly at him. Unlike Dave, there was no actual reason for the Thargoid not shooting. Dave knew his number was up. His reaction was simply to close his eyes and await the blast that would remove his existence from the Universe. A blast that did not come. Five seconds later when Dave reopened his eyes, the Thargoid was again enjoying another one of those rather luminous green chews. The Thargoid moved his blaster to indicate to Dave to sit down by the console, and then reached into his bag to get another chew, even though he'd yet to finish his last one. It's next action was to throw a chew over to Dave. This time the Thargoid spoke. "Try it, you'll like it". Dave, now getting to grips with a rather unlikely situation, takes a bite. It is rather pleasant, he thought, before his mind goes back to pondering the reason why he hadn't been killed. "Do you like it?" says the Thargoid. "Not bad.... is this the last meal of a dying man?" says Dave. "Yes." was the rather abrupt reply from the Thargoid. "I'd better eat it slowly then." says Dave. At this point the Thargoid starts on a rather unlikely monologue. "You know, I was a human once. Apart from the fact you're about to die, I envy you. When I was a human child, life seemed wonderful and exciting. They killed my human body, killed a Thargoid's brain and put my brain into his body. I was only six at the time, but I still remember it. After they'd successfully done the operation we all had a good meal. I later found out that the meal was my human mother". Dave is amazed by the run of conversation coming out of the Thargoid. The Thargoid continues, "I hope I didn't give you the wrong impression earlier about me killing you, as I've never killed anyone. I just meant the incredible explosion that is about to occur on this planet, which will wipe out the whole inner system, possibly even the Convar star itself." "What?" says Dave. He had hoped that he would be given the opportunity to tackle the Thargoid in one last attempt at survival. "Mind you," says the Thargoid, "if you were to fly me in this Cobra to Convar 13, I could activate the hyperspace portal within it's atmosphere and we could escape this system, but you won't do that I suppose?". Dave senses a certain fear in the Thargoid's voice, as if to acknowledge that the Thargoid knows Dave wants to kill him. Dave continues to chew and comments, "The Cobra drive cannot hyperspace from contaminated or radioactive space, or enter a hyperspace portal, while the hull is contaminated; its to protect the point of exit from contamination". The Thargoid looks puzzled for a moment, then replies. "How about we fly up to it and position the craft so that the Escape Pod fires into the portal?" Dave looks at the Thargoid and says, "The only way this ship could withstand the radiation is to fly at full speed directly into the portal. Even then I doubt either of us would withstand the radiation. But there would at least be a small chance". The Thargoid replies, "Radiation is no longer an issue. The chew you have eaten is the seed to the production of highly absorbent cells in your body that collect radiation and emit their energy as light. The only side effect now is that you will glow as the radiation increases, just like my body glows green. The radiation will reach levels that may possibly blind us, such will be the light that our bodies emit. Also, now you have been permanently modified there is no reversal." Dave's mind is in total confusion. Why does the Thargoid care if he lives? How long will the Escape Pod provide life support with both of them squeezed in? Will it's structure support the weight of himself and the Thargoid combined? What lies on the other side of the portal? How long before the explosion takes place? "Excuse me," says the Thargoid "I know this is all rather confusing. If it helps at all, may I mention the fact that I've been sent on a suicide mission? I've completed the mission part, but I'm having difficulty with the suicide bit. My human brain, although heavily Thargonised, still has a strong survival instinct." This reassures Dave to some degree. The Thargoid continues. "My mission was simply to inform on the purpose of these Federation ships, which I have now transmitted." "What is the purpose?" asks Dave. "Well, I suppose telling you may build up some trust between us. Put simply, one of the craft below on the plain is in fact a Forced Atomic Device. A nuclear bomb based around a super dense atomic matrix. 400 times the atomic weight of Plutonium. So unstable that the bomb itself must generate an incredible artificial gravity to compress and hold the atomic matter. The bomb is simply detonated by turning off the gravity field. At this point the matter will instantly stretch out to about a five mile radius and then an instant later detonate. It's a very effective weapon, similar to the one the Federation used to destroy our Thargoid homeworld many years ago." "The Federation destroyed your home world? I never knew that." says Dave. The Thargoid looks coldly into Dave's eyes and says "Surely when your race attempts to destroy an entire civilisation, you know about it? Do you know of the sixteen other intelligent civilisations that have been destroyed by the Federation and Empire?". Dave's face drops. "All I know is that the Thargoids are an uncompassionate self-sacrificing race, out to colonise the Universe." The Thargoid replies "Thargoids lack compassion, its true, but they also lack hate; they simply exist, and do not conquer other races or destroy them. I've lived with them now for about thirty old world Thargon years and feel part of their community, even though I don't think like them. Because I am unique I am protected, and many Thargoids have died protecting me. You can't help but feel loyal to a race when they will die for you. But this important mission where an understanding of the Federation was required meant that only I was suitable". Dave "Didn't you say they fed you your own mother?" Thargoid "They did, but its natural for them to make use of all resources. She was killed after attacking a Thargoid science vessel. If she hadn't attacked, the Thargoid vessel would have left her alone." Dave "It seems to me you're spouting a lot of propaganda about the Thargoids. I've encountered Thargoid ships and they've fired first, and all I could do was run." Thargoid "Thargoids will attack any ship piloted by someone who is on file as already killing other humans. We can access Federation records just like your own craft. A Thargoid that kills a Thargoid is a completely defective creature who is terminated, and this rule is also applied to humans who kill humans." Dave "It sounds like you're judging us, which surely you have no right to do?" Thargoid "If we kill a human who kills humans, we are saving the life of other humans who don't kill other humans. It is Thargoid logic. You see, its all down to our different cultures." The Thargoid looks to the small window and notices the Federation craft are leaving, minus the bomb which has been left down on the plains. He also notices that Convar 12 is almost at it's nearest point to Convar 13. Dave leans over the Thargoid's shoulder to watch the last ship move swiftly out of view. A speed that no normal Federation ship can achieve. Dave's next action toggles the camouflage mode and the ship begins to whirr as it turns back into it's normal blue colouring. Dave also notices in a reflection from the console that his body is glowing quite obviously now, and the redness of his veins can be clearly seen. A final clunk sounds and the ship now has no camouflage. The Thargoid puts his blaster onto the console recess and sits down rather uncomfortably on the small Cobra seat at the end of the console, his head almost touching the roof which is lower at the cockpit end. Dave swivels his main chair round to press a series of buttons. The Cobra is now fully activated. A warning comes on, projected onto the main window "This Cobra is exceeding safe radioactive limits, no organic lifeforms are available to pilot it. Please input robot name and authorisation." At this point Dave makes up some token name that springs into his head and inputs his Cobra security code and the controls finally activate. A quick pull back of the stick and a press of the button for maximum thrust causes the Cobra to lift off. Luckily the Cobra is carrying hardly any cargo so the weight of the Thargoid is manageable, even though it makes the Cobra front-heavy. A quick left push of the stick positions it directly heading for Convar 13, and the Cobra starts it's journey. Dave looks to his left to see the Thargoid chewing on another stick while gazing out the left window. Dave looks behind to see a small explosion back on Convar 12. The Thargoid pips in "Thats not the bomb, thats just my hoverchair auto-destructing as I'm more than 50 miles from it; a security device for spies like me." Dave's radar picks up the departing Federation ships. No doubt they've picked up the Cobra now, but he doubts if they will follow him into the intense radiation zone of Convar 13. The thought crosses his mind though that they may detonate the bomb as soon as they are at a safe distance, which may be before he enters the portal. The Cobra continues onward. Both the Thargoid and Dave are glowing quite brightly now, so much so that Dave struggles to see the console, and there's a rainbow effect around the edges of his sight. The Thargoid comments "I'll go and remove the seat in the escape pod and you'll have to sit on me. We won't be long like that as there's 2,000 Thargoid fighter/bombers on the other side and one is bound to pick us up". Dave "What?!! They'll shoot the Escape Pod on sight, or kill me once they've picked it up... What the hell are 2000 ships doing there anyway?" Thargoid "You won't be killed, I promise you. In fact they'll probably replace your old Cobra with something they've captured. You've saved my life, you've shown you are not anti-Thargoid, so you won't be killed". Dave "Yes, but the 2000 ships?" Thargoid "They are ships to take on the Federation and Empire, if the space of the new Thargoid home world is invaded. In fact because the Federation are blowing up the Convar system because they believe Convar 13 is a Thargoid base, this may instigate a new war. A war which the Thargoids will win. However, the war will be fought purely against the military of both the Federation and Empire; no civilian populations will be attacked. However, it may be Thargoid policy to sterilise communities so that they cannot breed, allowing Thargoid communities to take their place later on. But this will only be for worlds where the Thargoids had originally been first to get to, and then been attacked and evicted from by the Federation and Empire. Also the 16 other intelligent civilisations will be recreated, as we have genetic material from all of these." The Thargoid continues to proudly state the intentions of the Thargoid race: "Finally, the Milky Way Galaxy will be fortified against incoming invasion from other Galaxies. Thargoid Galaxy probes have encountered 3 other races which are far more aggressive than any of the civilisations of the Milky Way. It is our intention to form a collective organisation which will prevent the Thargoids from being eradicated. Humans are needed for your greater fighting skills and faster reaction times." Dave "I can't say I believe all this, but as long as I'm not killed I'm happy." Thargoid "You won't be killed; the worst possible scenario is your brain will be implanted in a Thargoid body, and you become one of the Elite human-brained fighter / bomber pilots." Dave "I'd rather just die now." Thargoid "I assure you its a very remote possibility." Dave "It better be!". The Cobra craft is now entering the top layer of Convar 13's atmosphere. Dave and the Thargoid are really quite luminous now, and the whole interior of the craft is almost white with brightness. There's a small trail of dust behind the craft as the paint on the hull is crystallised by the intense radiation. All instrumentation is failing; it was never meant to cope with this level of radiation. Dave says "Where the hell is the portal?" Thargoid "Don't worry about that, the portal will find us, there's no way any craft can navigate in this thick atmosphere or radiation." The Thargoid pulls out a little control pad from a small pocket in its belt. Presses a few buttons. The Thargoid then says "The portal will now collect us and follow us through the exit, breaking off the connection with the Convar 13 system. In fact now I come to think of it, it should just swallow the Cobra, as the Cobra's navigation system won't see it approach". Dave is starting to lose sight with the intense brightness of the cabin, there's also a feeling like a wave of weakness going through his body; the radiation level is just too high. He slips off his chair and collapses onto the floor. The Thargoid isn't feeling much better, but remains conscious. The portal comes into sight. Like an ocean framed as a picture, it slowly approaches, warping space around it as it moves. Then a sudden immense circle of light fills the sky. This can only mean that the Forced Atomic Device has detonated. Such a massive explosion will only take minutes to hit Convar 13, as Convar 12 is only 200,000 miles away. The Cobra enters the portal, and the portal contracts and disappears with it. The connection with the Convar system will not be fully broken until they exit the hyperspace gateway. For the moment, the Cobra races through the gateway at magnitudes of light speed, closely followed by the portal gateway itself. Dave's body continues to glow, but the radiation field is gone and Dave goes into a rather deep sleep. The Thargoid, aware that Dave isn't conscious, starts a vigourous scratching session using one of his long insect-like arms. "This white sand gets everywhere". Next month (if I've got the time) Chapter Two 'Pete's City ship' Martin Wilson