[Richardís ship comes down to land at the Chandoblis headquarters. He steps out and begins to walk across the landing pad. He stops, thinking and idly watching another ship like his own come in. The ship lands and Sarah steps out.]
Sarah: (in high spirits) Hey, Richard. [slight pause] Boy, Iím sure glad to be back here finally.
Richard: (distractedly) Hi Sarah.
Sarah: You could sound a little happier to see me after Iíve been stuck in the middle of nowhere on some backwater planet for six months.
Richard: (still partly elsewhere) Yeah. Sorry. Iím glad youíre back safely and everything. Itís just. . . Iím going to have to talk to Caerwon; I donít know what weíre going to do.
[Sarah walks over to where Richard stands pensive.]
Sarah: (softly) What happened?
Richard: An LSP outpost on Nraglia, a mostly uninhabited frontier planet, went silent. It didnít seem like much to me, but Caerwon seemed to think it could be something bad. I guess he was right. I was sent out with three other guys, and as we approached Nraglia everything looked okay and we didnít see anyone else about. Then we were attacked. The ships were totally alien Ė not like any design found in the LSP. There were swarms of light fighters and one of the biggest capital ships Iíve ever seen. [pause] My comrades died, all three of them, but I. . . , I still donít know how I did it, but somehow I survived. [He is silent then, thinking.]
Sarah: Itís amazing you made it out.
Richard: Me. Yes. One in four, and more by luck than anything else, I think. But the others perished, and I could do nothing but watch. . . . Frequently the Chandoblis are called upon by the LSP to establish law and order, keep the peace, ensure justice. All too often in this we face violence and even death, though we are sworn to spare all that we can. Usually, though, we return safe and successful, our mission having saved lives. [pause] I know. I canít let it bother me, for I fear that hard times and grim deeds such as we have never known await us all. I have faced death before, Sarah, but this is different. What has my mission accomplished but death?
Sarah: It seems you have discovered a new threat to the LSP. I think we will all be very grateful to you that we were forewarned. (speaking gently) You cannot blame yourself for the deaths of your comrades. Four men in starfighters cannot be expected to face an armada.
Richard: True. . . true. . . you are right. But it is not very common that three Chandoblis are slaughtered by bloodthirsty aliens. And that was just the beginning.
Sarah: Just the beginning!
Richard: Well, I got down to the surface. That was an adventure in itself; Iíll give you all the gory details later. Anyway, I found the place already destroyed. The outpost had been overrun by some weird red-skinned aliens. Building had been burned, and there were bodies. . . and body parts everywhere. Everyone in the base Ė human and khadoum Ė was dead. And. . . Tom Johnston was dead too.
Sarah: Tom Johnston?
Sarah: He seemed the best of our year in training. You knew him better than I did, but he always seemed such a promising Chandoblis. And. . . and now heís dead.
Richard: (softly) Yes. He was very promising. He was stationed in that outer sector a year out of training. Thatís a lot of trust being placed on him out there nt the unknown. He told me once that the other two were much older than he and more experienced.
Sarah: There were two others out there?
Richard: Yes. They died too I suppose, but somewhere else. Tom escaped and made it to Nraglia. Much good it did him.
Sarah: God. I donít even know who weíre fighting and already people we know are dying. And why. . . why have they attacked us?
Richard: I donít know. Iíve never seen such wanton murder and destruction, but they hate our guts. Thatís for sure.
[They stand there, and for a moment no one speaks.]
Richard: Well I have to go talk to Caerwon.
Sarah: (dazed and half elsewhere) Yes.
[Fade out as Richard walks away across the landing pad, and Sarah just stands there dazed.]
[Richard is sitting in Caerwonís office. Caerwon sits, pensive, at his desk. Richard has just told him his story.]
Caerwon: (speaking slowly at first) You said the beings you saw were humanoid and red-skinned, had three-fingered hands with claws, and had what you referred to as ďhead tails.Ē
Richard: Yes. Little tentacle-like things hanging down from the chin. Three of them. Red like the rest of the body. They did not serve any function that I could see.
Caerwon: Yes. I understand what you mean. And I was correct in the other details of the physique?
Caerwon: I know of no beings like what you describe. Humans and khadoum are of course the only sentients known to the LSP, although there are sightings and travellerís tales. Wair! You know of Sileth Karr, right?
Richard: I know that he was one of the greatest Chandoblis ever. He disappeared on some sort of exploratory mission I believe. That is all I know of him.
Caerwon: Yes. People donít give it much thought now, but the full story is really quite interesting. But first tell me. . . [He walks over to a filing cabinet and after a short search retrieves a photograph of an Alassani which he holds up. Camera zooms in on photograph.] Is this the type of being you saw?
Richard: (surprised) Yes, it is. . . . How does that relate to Karr?
Caerwon: Those are the beings that attacked Karr and are presumed to have killed him.
Richard: How is that?
Caerwon : Fifteen years ago the Chandoblis organized an expeditioin to explore the uncharted space beyond the borders of the LSP. Sileth Karr was asked to lead the expedition. It was to be a great enterprise for the Chandoblis and the LSP. We were to begin again the exploration of our universe. It was to be the first of many voyages that never came to pass, for things did not exactly go as planned.
[A great ship is shown flying through space. The scene shifts to the bridge where several people are at work behind various computers and controls.]
Copilot 1: All systems are go for hyperspace.
Pilot: Engage hyperdrive. Stand by for jump to lightspeed.
[As the ship accelerates, the camera is behind the pilot. He stands motionless behind the vast control panel, along which sit the several copilots, staring ahead into space. The stars brighten and elongate toward a central point. The starfield shrinks until the universe is seen as a small luminous circle surrounded by black nothingness. Camera switches to outside the ship as the ship disappears from normal space.]
[Sileth Karr stands beside the Pilot waiting to see the new star system they will soon emerge into.]
Copilot 2: We will exit hyperspace in ten seconds.
Pilot: stand by for hyperspace exit.
[Ten tense seconds pass and nothing happens.]
Pilot: What the. . . Weíre still in hyperspace.
Copilot 2: (reading from a screen) Hyperspace exit aborted. Whatís that?
Copilot 3: The navcomputer isnít working right. Itís giving totally improbable coordinates.
Copilot 1: All systems report working properly.
Copilot 3: Well, theyíre not.
Copilot 2: Itís now saying ďEstimated time until hyperspace exit: 120 minutes.Ē Thatís strange; our destination coordinates have changed!
Sileth Karr: Can you change them back?
Copilot 2: Maybe [He is busy for a few moments at the computer.] Destination coordinates are locked in and cannot be changed.
Pilot: It looks like we have two options. We can use the manual override to leave hyperspace now, or we can wait and see where the ship takes us.
Karr: If we use the override we will not have the safeguards that stop us from entering real space inside a star or planet, correct?
Pilot: That is right. We could come out anywhere. I guess itís your call, Mr. Karr. Youíre in charge here.
Karr: I would not take undue risks. For now we wait.
[A picture of the Eagle Nebula appears on screen. The camera zooms in to somewhere within the gas cloud. The ship, entering real space, suddenly appears. Switch to the starship bridge.]
Pilot: Weíre in the middle of a nebula.
Karr: But which nebula? Have we any idea where we are?
Copilot 3: Iím afraid the navcomputer is still malfunctioning.
[A planet moves into view in front of the ship. It is blue and green Ė Earth like.]
Pilot: We have come out near a planet. From itís appearance I would even guess that it is habitable.
Copilot 1: That is not much to go by, sir. Many planets have surface water and abundant flora, but not breathable atmospheres.
Pilot: Then do an atmospheric scan.
Copilot 1: Right away sir. [pause] Well, I guess you were right.
Pilot: (joking) well of course. Iím always right.
Copilot 1: (continuing) Atmosphere looks good. Principally oxygen and nitrogen. Moderate CO2 levels. Ozone in upper atmosphere. Trace amounts of argon, methane, and other gases. Seems pretty Earth-like really. An amazing coincidence, but a lucky one.
Karr: That it certainly is, if chance it truly was that brought us here.
Pilot: Well, Iíll get the technicians to work on the navigation system. In the meantime shall we send a party down to explore the surface. This is an exploratory mission after all.
Karr: Yes, that is our purpose and our duty. It is that task we have been entrusted with by the LSP. I will lead a surface expedition as soon as one can be organized.
[Sileth Karrís daughter (a woman in her 30s) enters. Sileth and the comera turn to face her.]
Daughter: If I may counsel you, my father, I would warn you of the path you choose.
Sileth Karr: Why is that? What do you fear?
Daughter: I do not know entirely; I see only shadows. But I feel some evil fate awaits you on that planetís surface.
Pilot: If you Chandoblis always decide things based on feelings, itís a wonder you ever get anywhere.
Sileth Karr: (coldly) I will choose my own path. I do not invite you counsel. [Turning back to his daughter.] How came you to fear so much for me.
Daughter: I was meditating when it came to me. I neither saw nor heard; I only felt. I felt a great pain and then I felt that you were gone from the world. It was like what I felt when mother died.
Sileth Karr: That memory pains me. Speak not of it.
Daughter: I am sorry. (continueing.) When I felt what I have just described, I sought to look into the future and to see. It seemed that you stand at a crossroads. Leave this place and no harm shall come. But if you venture to the surface, there you shall remain. I saw our ship returning home, but you were not with us anymore.
Sileth Karr: I am not unmoved, and I will proceed with caution bearing your words in mind. But I will not turn from this exploration, for that would be to turn from my mission. Of my own volition I have taken these responsibilities upon myself, and I carry the trust of the LSP and the Chandoblis. [slight pause] Besides. . . I feel it is right that I explore this planet. The path before me is one that I am meant to take.
Daughter: You feel that you are meant to take this path, but you feel no hint of danger on it?
Sileth Karr: Even the wisest often fail to foresee their own ends. I take your premonitions seriously, and I will heed your warnings. But if you seek to persuade me to abandon my mission, you will not sway me.
Daughter: I only wish to tell you what I have felt and seen that you may better choose your course. I do not seek to counsel you to take one path or another.
Sileth Karr: I thank you for your information. Knowledge of the tentative future is a powerful tool if we wish to shape the future that is in fact to be.
Daughter: You are welcome to any service that I may provide. Still, I hope my fears are all unfounded. The future is an ever-changing thing. What I have seen may never come to pass. [Exit Daughter]
[A communications officer comes up behind Sileth Karr.]
Comm Officer: Mr. Karr?
Comm Officer: Weíre receiving a transmission from the planetís surface, sir.
[The two begin walking toward the communications console. As they walk the officer tells Karr about the transmission.]
Comm Officer: The transmissions are in standard radio waves not hyperspatial radio. Theyíre not primitives down there but they donít seem to be space-faring yet. At least they began by talking not shooting Ė thatís always a positive sign.
Karr: Are these audio transmissions?
Comm Officer: Audio and video. Thereís some short blue guy blabbering on in a language none of us can understand a word of.
[They reach the console. Several people are crowding around it looking intently at a small screen. Karr moves through them and looks at the screen. Camera shift to show screen with a Sneila on it.]
Sneila: Nazag grana kalimna Yirish alna ashi Sneila.
Karr: Greetings from the League of Spacefaring Planets. We come in peace.
Sneila: Quanda malna san?
Comm. Officer: It seems pretty clear they donít speak English. I donít know if itís worth trying anything else. If they havenít made contact yet, they probably donít know any of our languages.
Karr: Maybe. I have a feeling weíll manage to communicate with them somehow though. . . . Letís see [He speaks slowly now. He has learned the Khadoum language, but is rusty.] Gre. . . ne. .† .ria. . . na. . . a. . . l. . . er. Ranlin, how does it go in Khadoum? Iím rusty and my pronunciation always was atrocious.
Ranlin (laughing) That it certainly was.
[Ranlin, a khadoum, steps up to the console and speaks.]
Ranlin: Grenarīa naíal Mandaln gah Shegida Scalni. Non calry zah ladn.
[The Sneila looks extremely surprised and then speaks in the khadoum tongue. It is not his first language but he is fluent in it.]
Sneila: Pardah lasn frery zaíal lagdrī gakeni?
Karr: Why. . . you. . . . Whatís he saying?
Ranlin: He asks why I speak in the base tongue!
Karr: The base tongue?
Ranlin: Thatís what he says. Strange as it seems. I would guess his people have somehow had contact with mine in the past. Maybe a ship crashed here once or something. Why they think us base I do not know.
[Ranlin turns back to the console.]
Ranlin: Pardah lasn dahnry ďnal lagdrī gakeni?Ē [Subtitle: Why do you say ďthe base tongue?Ē] Mak frery zaíal lagrī gaíal Khadoum. [Subtitle: I speak in the language of the Khadoum.]
Sneila: Nal nalry trahggamy an lagdrī hisani. [Subtitle: It is traditionally a servile language.] Nal avrū nalrū nahnmy nal lagdri gah sregfar gō lusdar. [Subtitle: It has always been the language of surrender and submission.]
Ranlin: Nal nalry nal lagdrī gaíal opīta gah mak gō ravry lah non nan crekahī gah hisanitā. [Subtitle: It is the language of my people and has no connotation of servility to us.]
Sneila: Non vrawryt, kekah zan nalry sudi, frah māna lasna. [Subtitle: If that is true, we will treat you as equals.] Non, nal sneila, vrānry laíal shegid lasna. [Subtitle: We, the sneila, welcome you to the planet Yirish and invite you to visit the planetís surface.]
Ranlin: (to Karr and others) Well, theyíre quite welcoming and invite us to come down for a visit. I donít see any reason we shouldnít accept.
Karr: We should prepare a shuttle immediately.
Ranlin: (to communications console) Non fandary daíal kākarn gah lasna lasna, gō non
Āntaryt nal galinrēnant gah lasna. [Subtitle: We thank you for your kindness, and we will accept your invitation.]
[A shuttle flies out from the main LSP ship and towards the planet. It lands on a landing pad surrounded by a crowd of sneila. Sileth Karr emerges to great cheering. He is followed by several others. A sneila leader walks up to him and they shake hands. Camera freezes for a moment on this scene and then changes to a new scene.]
[Several scenes appear and then vanish on the screen: Karr and other LSP/Chandoblis representatives dining with sneila leaders; Karr and his daughter walking along the streets of a sneila city; Karr standing alone by the shore of a Yirish sea; Karr and a group of humans, khadoum and sneila walking across a plain. In the background Karrís voice is heard.]
Karr: The sneila are a kind and welcoming people, delighted to have visitors from another world and to show us their own planet. It is strange, but I do not think we are the first visitors they have ever had. Somehow they are acquainted with the khadoum tongue, but they consider it a servile language. They have a strange mythology too, and in it the khadoum language is spoken by the servants of great emperors of the sky. And even now they speak with fear of an ancient name Ė Alassani. It is all a hard puzzle to piece together.
[The scene changes to show the LSP ship in orbit around the planet. As the ship sits against the black, star-speckled, background of space, an armada of Alassani ships emerges suddenly and silently from hyperspace. They move ominously forward and then open fire on the LSP ship.]
[On the bridge an officer is speaking to the pilot]
Officer: Weíre being attacked by too many ships. Weíre manning every gun weíve got and weíve diverted as much power as we can to shields, but this isnít a military vessel. We wonít survive if we stay here!
Pilot: Weíve still got people on the surface. Can we contact them?
Officer: Communications should still be working, sir.
Pilot: Tell them to get back up here so we can leave!
[A shuttle flies up from the landing pad and, under heavy fire, approaches the LSP ship and lands in a docking bay. Miss Karr, emerges first and the pilot walks up to her.]
Pilot: Miss Karr, I am very glad to see you alive. [He surveys the group of people that have now all come out of the shuttle.] Is your father not here?
Miss Karr: No. He and a couple others left the city shortly before we got the message that we were being attacked. They were going to another city practically on the other side of the planet. I relayed the transmission to them, but I donít know if it was received.
Pilot: Do they have a shuttle?
Miss Karr: They were in a Sneila aircraft. Thereís still one shuttle down there, but itís back in the capital city.
Pilot: [Turns to an underling.] Prepare a shuttle to retrieve Sileth Karr and whoever else is with him.
[Scene changes to the streets of a Sneila city. Alassani troops and tanks are moving along it killing any Sneila they see. Some Sneila are fighting back, but they are being overwhelmed. Karr stands tall and powerful in the middle of the street. He is flanked by two other Chandoblis and several Sneila. Karr alone is unarmed. The Alassani army advances. Karr does not move. A tank fires a large plasma slug at the group. Karr raises his hand and energy radiates from it. The plasma dissipates harmlessly.]
Karr: You think that is enough to kill me?
[A fight ensues. Karr hurls psychic energy at the Sneila, killing many. But they keep coming. Some come from behind, flanking the defenders. One by one Karrís allies die as the Alassani advance in on them.]
[A shuttle flies out of the LSP ship and toward the planet. Scene changes to inside the cockpit.]
Shuttle Pilot: Shuttle 7 to Sileth Karr. Do you copy?
[Karr pulls out a commlink with one hand and holds it to his ear even as he holds back enemies with his psychic powers.]
Karr: Karr to Shuttle 7. I copy.
Shuttle Pilot: How many of our guys are still down there with you.
Karr: None. Iím afraid theyíre all dead.
Shuttle Pilot: Well I guess itís just you to rescue then. Be ready to hop in; I donít think we can stay long.
Karr: You wonít be able to land.
Shuttle Pilot: Weíll lower a cable. Or you can jump in.
[The shuttle flies down towards the city, but is met with anti-aircraft fire. It pitches wildly as it is hit by a continuous barrage of fire.]
Shuttle Pilot: Weíre losing our shields. We canít survive this much longer.
Karr: Youíll never make it. Thereís no sense killing yourselves. Return to the ship. Forget about me.
[On the bridge of the main ship a radio crackles. Karr speaks.]
Karr: This is Sileth Karr. Iím surrounded down here, and thereís nothing that you can do about it. A shuttle can never make it through. You are fighting an armada you cannot hope to defeat. Return to LSP space now, without me.
[The pilot runs over to the console and speaks.]
Pilot: But. . . Mr. Karr. . . we canít leave you.
Karr: If you stay you will all die. Against that my life is nothing. You must leave. Now!
Pilot: But. . .
Karr: You have a duty to the men and women on that ship that you cannot forget. You must leave now.
Pilot: Yes sir.
[Karr stands in the middle of a street littered with bodies. He is encircled by the Alassani army and still hurling psychic energy at them, slaying hundreds.]
Karr: Whatever powers have ordained this fate for me, I defy thee!
[Scene changes to show Karrís daughter. She sits alone meditating and suddenly cries out.]
Miss Karr: Father! Did I not foresee this doom? Did I not warn you? (softer) But I could not save you.
[Return to Caerwonís office.]
Caerwon: And that is the story of Sileth Karr. The LSP exploration ship returned safely. But nothing has been heard since of Sileth Karr, or Sneila, or Alassani.
Richard: And you think that these beings. . . these Alassani are what attacked me?
Caerwon: That appears to be the case.
Richard: So what do we do now?
Caerwon: Nothing. We wait.
Richard: Nothing! Theyíve already slaughtered one outpostís worth of LSP citizens. How many more die before we take notice?
Caerwon: I doubt that taking Nraglia was their main objective. Soon they will show themselves more openly and, in doing so, reveal their full strength and numbers. Then we and the LSP shall act.
Richard: I fear what the future holds.
Caerwon: Do not let fear rule you or cloud your judgement. Prepare yourself for the future, for, whether it holds good or evil, you must meet it.
[Interlude 1 ends. Load Level 3.]