After five days had elapsed with no further communication from Commander Koenig’s party on Klandra, Alan Carter finally snapped.
“That’s it, I’m taking a rescue team down there, now”
“The Commander told us to wait,” Paul Morrow replied, “You’re not going to make anything better by charging in like a bull in a china shop!”
“What if they’re in worse shape than they first thought? Huh? Maybe they haven’t been able to get another signal to us. They could be in real trouble down there, Paul!”
Paul held Alan’s gaze for a moment. He sighed, “Alright. I agree with you. In fact the more I’ve thought about it the less sense it makes. We’ll be out of Eagle range soon and the Commander must know that. Okay Alan, you’d better get a full recovery team down there on the double!”
“On it!” Alan yelled, already rushing out the door of Main Mission.
Minutes later Eagles 2 and 6 blasted clear of their launch pads and set course for the planet Klandra. Inside Eagle 2, Alan Carter was tense. He operated the ship to ship communication system, “Eagle 2 to Eagle 6 – I haven’t been able to get through to Eagle 1, so we’ll have to assume they managed to reach their intended landing site. We’ll start there.”
The Eagles began their entry through the planet’s atmosphere and, after a turbulent descent, they emerged above a mountainous region.
“I’ve seen more inviting spots in the middle of the Outback,” Alan muttered as he began scanning for a trace of the missing craft, “Eagle 6, break off and commence search pattern in area Bravo – we’ll start here.”
There was a brief acknowledgement and Alan watched the other Eagle bank slightly and move off in a westerly direction.
“Eagle 2 calling Commander Koenig – Do you read me? Over.”
Alan waited for a response, but didn’t expect to get one. He tried again and again as he piloted the Eagle through its search pattern.
“Nothing,” he said aloud. Then, turning to Bill Fraser, he asked, “Everything ready back there?”
“Yes, we’ve got it set up to treat casualties – if we can find them…”
A sharp crackle of static and an excited voice from the radio broke in, “Eagle 6 to Eagle 2 – we’ve found them! We’re sending you our coordinates!”
“Confirmed, Eagle 6, we’ve got ’em! We’re heading your way!” Alan called back, turning the craft onto the new heading.
After a few minutes Alan and Bill could see the two Eagle craft on a plateau below. Eagle 6 had landed next to the broken remains of Eagle 1. Alan reckoned it looked in pretty bad shape, but knew he’d walked away from worse crashes.
He triggered the descent motors and brought Eagle 2 in for a perfect touchdown beside the others. He saw Greg Hansen and Charlie Grover already at work trying to free Eagle 1’s airlock.
Alan and Bill grabbed their emergency gear and exited the craft, rushing over to Greg and Charlie.
“It’s jammed tight!” Greg said, indicating the buckled hatchway.
Alan dialled code on his commlock, “Commander, can you hear me? It’s Carter.”
There was no response.
“Commander, if you can hear me, the door’s jammed. We’re going to blow the emergency bolts – keep away from the starboard door.”
Alan waited a few more seconds then motioned the others to move back. He opened the battered emergency release panel beside the door and pulled the lever inside.
A couple of sharp cracks rang out as the explosive bolts blew and the door fell outwards, forming a makeshift ramp. Alan and the others raced up it and into the passenger module.
For a moment, Alan thought his heart had stopped. John, Helena and Victor lay eerily still across the rows of seats.
Then Victor moved slightly and Alan rushed over to him, almost tripping over a cargo container in his relief.
“Professor! Are you alright?”
Victor blinked as his eyes adjusted to the harsh light streaming into the dimly lit module from outside, “Alan? Is that you?”
“You’d better believe it!” Alan replied then turned to the others, “C’mon fellas, let’s get them back to Alpha, pronto!”
24 hours later, Alan entered the medical centre and was delighted to see John, Helena and Victor looking much better.
Doctor Matthias smiled as he waved Alan over, “I know you’re anxious to speak with them, but try not to tire them out – especially this one, as she’s under orders to rest and ought to know better,” he said, indicating Helena.
“No argument here, Bob,” Helena replied, “Believe me, I’ll be taking all the rest I can get…”
“What happened down there, Commander?” Alan asked, unable to wait any longer.
“We’re still not sure,” Koneig replied, “After we lost contact the first time, we had to make an emergency landing. Everything seemed to be okay for a while, aside from this and a few other minor injuries,” he gestured towards the bandage around his head, “Then we lost comms altogether.”
“But why the message not to come after you?”
“To be honest with you, Alan, I don’t even remember sending that message,” Koenig replied, raising a hand to his temple, “But you know something? I had the oddest feeling that we weren’t welcome down there.”
“I had the same feeling,” Victor added, as a spark of curiosity lit in his eyes, “Nothing I could define, mind you, more of an intuition.”
“It was the same for me,” Helena said, “I’m very glad to have gotten away from the place.”
Koenig smiled at Carter, “And that’s thanks to you, Alan. We’d never have made it if you hadn’t disobeyed my orders, even if they were orders I don’t recall giving.”
“Aww heck, Commander,” Alan chuckled, “I guess you can let me off with a warning this time!”