What started as a peaceful mission of exploration quickly became a nightmare fight for survival.
Steve Zodiac stared around the huge chamber deep below the surface of Planet 90. It looked much like an Earth courtroom with the rows of polished metal seats behind him and the raised bronze platform ahead.
However, the alien known as Gozahar was as far from the typical image of a respectable judge imaginable. His grotesquely swollen head pointed straight at Zodiac. The six yellow eyes examined him minutely, as though deciding where to strike first. Two of Gozahar’s hands were clasped in front of him, while the other two made gestures to the assembled spectators, emphasising his words.
Gozahar’s voice was raspy as he spoke, “Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol, you are accused of the crimes of trespass and espionage. You landed on our world without authorisation or stated intent. You and your compatriots infiltrated our city and may well have carried out the full extent of your devious mission if you had not been apprehended by our security forces. How do you plead to the charges as stated?”
Colonel Zodiac controlled himself. He knew the charges were false and that he and XL5’s crew had simply been exploring the planet without malicious intent when they were captured. He chose his words carefully. “Mighty Gozahar, you and your people are obviously an advanced civilisation. However, my crew and I had no way of knowing your race existed below the surface of this planet. When we landed, it was for the purpose of peaceful exploration. We did not resist when your security personnel arrived, nor did we show any force of our own.”
Gozahar’s harsh rasping voice interrupted, “Yet you carried weapons into the heart of our city! Weapons that could have been used to destroy us!”
“Exploration can be hazardous. We carry weapons for personal defence only, never for unprovoked attack.”
“And how can I be sure that you are telling the truth? This may be nothing more than human deception.” Gozahar said, his yellow eyes unblinking as he shot Zodiac a look that was filled with scorn.
Zodiac spoke firmly, putting as much weight behind his words as he dared, “If we had wanted to destroy you, it would have been easy to do so. Our weapons are powerful and highly accurate. We had plenty of time to shoot your people down before they reached us. But that is not how we operate. We mean you no harm. We are here because of a simple misunderstanding.”
Gozahar leaned back in his bronze judgement seat and considered this. “Hmmm… What you say could be true, but are you prepared to prove it?”
“How can I do that?” Zodiac asked, his mind racing at what might be coming next.
“You boast that your weapons are powerful and accurate. Our weapons are also designed to be likewise. It has been some while since our fighting champion has been given a worthy adversary as a challenger. So, this is what we shall do. A contest! A contest to determine who is the finest marksman, with you facing our champion.”
Zodiac knew there must be more to it, a catch of some kind. “What will that achieve?” he asked.
“It is simple: If you score higher than our champion, I will overlook this intrusion and allow you and your crew to leave on the condition that you promise never to return.”
“And if your champion scores more points than I do?”
Gozahar’s face showed the glint of a devious smile as he replied, “Then your ship will be destroyed and your compatriots will be killed – one by one.”
As if to emphasise the point, a section of the wall spun around to reveal Venus, Matic, Robert and Zoony shackled to the other side.
“Now, Colonel Zodiac, what do you say to that?”
Zodiac looked to his friends, then straight at Gozahar.
“I say that you’ve got a deal.”
TO BE CONTINUED…