From the control room of XL8, Steve Zodiac and the others watched speechlessly as the rock Colossus advanced slowly towards them. It must have been hundreds, maybe even a thousand feet in height. But what exactly was it? Perhaps a form of sentient rock? Steve thought it was possible. He knew there had been rumours of rock lifeforms on Mars, but as the World Space Patrol’s jurisdiction fell outside the Solar System, it would be left to others to find out.
One thing Steve did know, they couldn’t just sit there and wait to be pulverized. He snatched up his personal radio and ordered Robert to fire at the creature’s back. The robot radioed an affirmative and in seconds a barrage of interceptor missiles burst from XL5 and slammed into the back of the Colossus. The huge life-form barely flinched in response to the powerful blasts. It turned and began moving towards XL5, which Robert was already piloting out of range at his captain’s order.
Perhaps, thought Zodiac, if Robert could distract the creature for long enough, it would give XL8 a chance to escape. With the immediate danger over, Captain Summers brought the crew of XL5 up to speed. XL8 had been on routine patrol when it encountered a previously uncharted asteroid field. They made a survey and were just conducting an in-depth sweep with their spacemascope, when the asteroids began to react and formed the Colossus.
After a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, during which they found their weapons to be ineffective, Summers ordered a full shutdown of main power systems in the hope of tricking the giant into leaving them alone. The gambit worked, but they dared not try to escape or make a distress call for fear of reawakening the creature.
Professor Matic nodded thoughtfully, intrigued by Summers’ mention of the spacemascope.
“What’s on your mind, Matt? Got a theory?” asked Colonel Zodiac.
“Maybe I’m going tooty, but I reckon I might have just that, Steve.”
Venus knew all too well that the professor’s theories usually panned out and prompted, “Tell us, Matt!”
Briefly, Matic outlined his hypothesis that the unusual radiation used in the spacemascope’s scanners may have reacted with the asteroids, re-awakening a previously dormant sentience.
Captain Summers leapt on the idea immediately, “I get the picture, Professor. As though the radiation was tuned to its frequency like a radioactive alarm clock!”
“Exactly, that’s my best guess.”
“Great, but what do we aim to do about it, Matt? How do we get this thing back to blissful slumber?” Steve asked, a touch of skepticism in his voice.
“Theoretically,” Matt continued, undaunted by Steve’s tone, “we could create an artificial anti-radiation field on the opposite, er, frequency as Captain Summers puts it.”
The team set to work double-time, modifying the scanner on the spacemascope to Professor Matic’s specification until he was satisfied. Steve called Robert and ordered him to return to rendevous with them. The robotic navigator reported the Colossus was still in pursuit. That was just what Steve wanted to hear.
All five of them assembled in the control room and watched as the speck of silvery light appeared in the distance, pursued by a great hulking dark shape. Soon the sleek craft passed XL8 at speed. The Colossus seemed to be ignoring the stationary cruiser, going after the moving ship.
At that moment, the professor activated the spacemascope by remote and locked its tracking scanner onto the heart of the Colossus.
The giant space creature stopped. It began to turn back, shuddering as if it was having trouble moving. Then it seemed to spot XL8 as if for the first time. It reached out with a huge rocky hand, sensing the cause of its predicament.
Just as it was preparing to strike, the Professor’s theory was proven correct as it stopped and began to break apart into it’s constituent asteroids.
But for XL8, the timing was a fraction too late. The nearest asteroid that had been part of the huge hand continued on course propelled by the initial momentum of the reaching creature. Before anyone on board could react, the asteroid struck the cruiser amidships. The vessel rocked as the explosion separated the craft in two.
Robert brought XL5 around and moved in close, calling on his radio for Colonel Zodiac and the others to respond. At last, weakly, Steve responded. Thankfully, they were all safe, if rather bruised and shaken. The reinforced frame of the control room had shielded them from the explosion, but left XL8’s Fireball Junior unable to disengage. They would have to spacewalk back to XL5, but after their recent encounter, that would be a walk in the park…