Dalton Quasar
in
The Doom Ship of Time!

A 6-Chapter Adventure of the Future


by D.K. LATTA
About the author

Previously: Quasar, Lila Volt and B-780 travel back to the Cretaceous Period aboard the derelict space ship, Sir John Franklin, which is mysteriously over-run by cavemen.  Investigating an energy source on the planet below, Quasar and Lila go to check it out, Quasar discovering humanoid lizard men and Lila discovering some sort of base camp.  Meanwhile, in orbit, a second Sir John Franklin appears.


Episode 4: "The Lost Crew"



 DALTON QUASAR STOOD MOMENTARILY FROZEN. He was surrounded by a village of lizard people, outfitted in loin cloths and armed with spears, a population millions of years -- and more than a few DNA strands -- removed from his own.

Yet one of the lizard people had spoken to him in Uni-speak, the Earth-language that was the common second tongue of all humans from his own time.

"What manner of man are you?" the creature had asked after witnessing the photonic blasts Quasar could discharge from his hands.

Quasar stared at him. "Uh, pretty unusual," he conceded after a moment, beating back his astonishment. Then, realizing he was still surrounded by hostile enemies, he squared his shoulders and, in his best, imperious voice, added, "But hardly alone. And you have witnessed but a portion of my true power."

"If that is true," said the creature, "then we are doomed. We cannot hope to resist the Army of the Slayers with ones like you at their vanguard."

Quasar squinted, noting a slight glint at the creature's throat, just below its verdant jaw. Suddenly he recognized it as a trans-lect collar, of the type used over the last few hundred years by travelling Earth explorers to translate their speech for alien contact. He frowned. He was willing to accept any number of coincidences, but that primitive lizard barbarians from more than 65 million years ago would happen to employ the exact same high technology that had been developed by humans only within the last couple of centuries was too much.

Clearly something odd was going on.

Abruptly, the creature's mournful words sank in. Quasar cocked an eyebrow at him and said, "Uh, Army of what?"

* * *

LILA VOLT KEPT LOW, LETTING THE LEAVES of the ferns act as a break between her and the imposing, bizarrely anachronistic fortress of mud and stone and advanced synthetic steel. She had stripped down to panties and bra because of the sweltering heat, her supple ebony skin gleaming with sweat. Like the fortress she attempted to sneak up on, she was a vision of contrasts, easily mistaken for some primitive, beautiful huntress, save for the Ray-gun in her hand and its accompanying belt wrapped around the swell of her nearly naked hips. From her belt dangled a few other technological doodads, including the scanner that had brought her here.

She dug at her eyes with the heel of her free hand, wiping sweat away, and peered up the sheer walls. There was no sign of anyone about. Yet according to her scanner, behind those walls was an artificial energy source. Had she encountered a land-based equivalent of the Sir John Franklin, the derelict space ship that had brought them here?

Was this place also devoid of its makers?

"Gotcha!"

Lila twisted as a wood spear came within inches of piercing her thigh. She continued the turn and kicked out, digging her foot into the belly of her attacker. He groaned and doubled over.

She stared at him, just for a moment, instantly processing his appearance. Bedraggled, and dirty, but definitely human. He was a white male, rather sun-tanned, with a thick beard and unkempt hair, his only clothing a crude skirt about his hips. There was something about the fabric, but she had no time to ponder as more figures burst from the surrounding bushes.

She ducked and slammed her shoulder into one man, then lifted, rolling him over her back and letting him sprawl heavily upon the earth. She whirled, teeth locked in a primitive snarl.

"Hey!" shouted one, his eyes going wide. "It's not--" He never finished his exclamation as a stun-burst from her Ray-gun sent him flying.

"She's human!" shouted another, recoiling back. "Uh, and she's armed!"

Lila frowned, suddenly realizing something further. She could understand what they were saying. They were speaking Uni-speak. Then she belatedly recognized what it was that had struck her as odd about their garments. The crude skirts and loin cloths were made out of a processed fabric -- uniforms, in fact.

She crouched in the middle of the group of men, and some women she realized, like a wild beast hounded by hyenas. Then a man pushed through the ranks of her attackers. Like the others he was bearded and suntanned, but underneath it all, a handsome man.

"My God," he whispered, staring at her. "Who...are you?" he gasped.

"My name," she let her eyes dart around, just in case it was a trick, a way to distract her, "my name is Lila Volt, I'm an Agent with Solar Security."

"Solar Security?" repeated the man. "Is that a branch of System Security?"

She opened her mouth to respond, suddenly gleaning an inkling of what was transpiring. System Security was the original name for Solar Security, some hundred and some years ago (plus 65 million years, to be precise). She almost said that, then stopped herself, realizing it might cause even more confusion.

"Well, whoever you are, you're welcome," said the man. His eyes roamed up and down her nearly naked form with a frankness and a glimmer she found at once flattering, and a little disconcerting. "More than welcome," he added significantly.

Lila almost blushed. "Who are you?" she asked.

"I'm Abram Kennedy."

She stared. "The first mate of the Sir John Franklin?" she asked, recognizing the name from the briefing she had received prior to being sent to investigate the space ship's reappearance.

He nodded. "Come. It's not safe to talk here -- dangers are everywhere."

* * *

AS LILA WAS LED THROUGH THE CORRIDORS of what she now realized was essentially a heavily fortified base camp, her mind was aswim with various thoughts, questions fighting with each other to be the first to spill from her lips. She also began to feel a little self-conscious. Obviously the crew of the Sir John Franklin had also conceded to the tropical temperatures and re-designed their flight uniforms into something more comfortable: the men skirts, the women shuka's that left legs and shoulders bare.

Lila, in her brief underthings, had gone a less modest route and was attracting more than a few stares. Not only was she beautiful, not only was she next to naked, but she was the first new face they had seen in -- how long? "How long have you been here?"

"How long since our ship was swallowed by that temporal anomaly?" asked Abram. "Must be close to seven or eight months. At first it wasn't so bad. After all, we were outfitted for exploration. Just because the time had changed shouldn't have meant too much. But it's been tough. I don't know if you've encountered any of the local fauna, but our weapons are only partly effective. And by now, almost all our energy paks have been depleted -- we're reduced to spears and clubs practically."

Lila recalled her own rather fruitless encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

"We took some heavy casualties at first," he said darkly. "Including the captain."

"I'm sorry," she said.

He shrugged. "Say...why are you here? A rescue mission?" he asked, eyes lighting up.

"Not exactly," she admitted. "I was caught by the same temporal vortex."

"Oh." He frowned, then grinned crookedly. "Well, you couldn't have come at a better time. After months, we're finally getting off this prehistoric mud ball and going home. You can come with us."

"Home?" Her eyes grew wide. "How? What will you use as a ship?"

"The Sir John Franklin, of course. That's a silly question."

"But...the cavemen," she said, confused. "They're still running loose. How will you take back command?"

"Cave--?" He stared at her, suddenly looking suspicious. "What are you talking about?"

"Your ship. It's overrun by some sort of primitive humanoids."

They had halted just outside a small room. Glancing past his shoulder, Lila identified it as a communications centre. Without taking his eyes from her, Abram said, "Cissy, get Yoshi on the horn."

"Yessir," said a blonde girl. In moments, an Oriental face shimmered to life on a viewscreen in the communications room.

"What's up?" asked the man on the screen.

"How's it going up there, Yoshi? Everything fine."

"No complaints, skipper. Why?"

"No cavemen running around underfoot?"

Yoshi gawked. "You serious, skipper?"

"Apparently not," said Abram, then signalled for the connection to be broken. He stared at Lila. "What's your game, lady?"

"But..." Lila fell back against the wall, clutching at her head. "This doesn't make much sense. I...I must be confused." If the Sir John Franklin was somewhere overhead, still peopled by its proper crew, what had she and Dalton Quasar and B-780 travelled on? She needed time to think, some way to distract Abram Kennedy from pressing her too hard until she had some answer to give him. "Uh, why...why was I attacked out there? Surely I don't look like a dinosaur. Didn't your people recognize I was human?"

"Sure, our scanners picked up human dimensions, but we just assumed you were one of them."

"Them?"

"Lady, we're at war..."

* * *

DALTON QUASAR SAT CROSS-LEGGED IN THE SILKY warmth of a straw hut's interior, munching thoughtfully on some sort of fruit. The pear-shaped fruit tasted like a cross between an apple and a grapefruit.

The food was fine, it was what he was hearing that made him frown.

The lizard man who wore the trans-lect collar was clearly the chief of the tribe and had been explaining to him the recent conflicts that had made their already arduous lives just that much more difficult.

"When the Slayers arrived, we did not know what to make of them. They had smooth skin, like the People," the People being the term the lizard folk had for themselves, Quasar realized, "but hair on their heads, like the rodents we sometimes hunt. Clearly they were not beasts, as they had tools and language -- but tools we had never seen before, and a language we could not understand. At first we hid from them, watched them, not sure what to think. But then they found us. They captured a couple of our people and took them away." Here the lizard man stopped, as if needing to compose himself. "We found the bodies weeks later."

"Bodies?"

"They had been killed. Their bodies horribly mutilated."

"Mutilated how?"

The lizard man gestured across his chest. "One had been cut open in a V, here, and his insides pulled out. But nothing looked as though it had been eaten."

Quasar frowned. "An autopsy."

"What?"

"Your kinsmen were...dissected. To understand better who and what they were."

Quasar had begun to glean something of the creatures' range of expressions, and a look of disgust now twisted his companion's scaly skin. "If they wished to learn about us, why did they just not ask?"

For that, Quasar could only shrug. As the lizard man continued his narrative, Quasar added what he was being told with what he already knew, assembling a picture of past events.

It was all becoming clear. The Sir John Franklin had been sucked through the time warp and arrived here some months ago; shortly after that the decision had obviously been made to establish a base camp. The time-stranded crew had set out with a kind of imperialistic vigour to learn about their surroundings, presumably figuring they could make it back to their own time with a wealth of historical data undreamed of by previous generations. They had captured and killed some of the lizard men, seeing them as no more than beasts.

It was hard for Quasar to even understand their actions. Even if the lizard men had been beasts, the crew's actions would not have been countenanced by any scientific body now -- now being the time Quasar and his two companions had lived in prior to falling through the time warp.

After the murder and dissection of the lizard men, war had begun between the humans and the lizards. At first it was a lopsided war. The humans had Ray-guns, scanners, and other advanced technology. According to the lizard chief though, they seemed to rely on them less and less, reverting to spears and clubs. Quasar had little doubt it was because their energy paks were running low. As well, their lack of familiarity with the laws of the jungle made them easy prey for Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptors, and other predators. The odds became a bit more even.

"Until you came," said the lizard, speaking through the trans-lect collar that he had claimed as a trophy from a slain human. The chief did not even seem to realize that it was translating his words into Uni-speak, or that it was translating Quasar's words into his tongue. "With warriors like you arrayed against us, we are lost."

"There seems to be a misunderstanding," Quasar said. "I'm not on anyone's side here. The humans you're battling are of my species, but they are not my allies. What I want is peace between you. Are you willing to talk peace if I can persuade the humans of the same?"

The lizard man regarded him skeptically for a long time in the sultry heat of the straw hut. Then he looked down. "This war has cost many fine young men. Yes, I will talk peace."

Suddenly a voice crackled to life on Quasar's comm-set. "Hello? Is anyone there?"

The lizard chief recoiled, stunned by this bodiless voice speaking from the ether. Quasar ignored him. "B-780, is that you?"

"Dalton Quasar?" rasped the voice. "Thank goodness. I've been trying various frequencies, hoping to reach you or Lila. What's happening?"

He looked at the historical omission staring at him wide-eyed from across the hut. "More than you'd believe. Lila and I got separated, but she should be O.K. She was headed for the energy source which I'm guessing is still being manned by the crew of the Sir John Franklin. They're still alive -- we've solved the mystery of their disappearance! But there's something odd. We misjudged the time. We're back in the days of the dinosaurs -- Cretaceous period, I think. There's no wway those cavemen on board the ship could've come from here. Is it possible the ship made a stop at a later period, first?"

"Or will make a stop," B-780 said. "That's what I've wanted to tell you. There's another version of the Sir John Franklin up here on the radar scopes. I'm guessing I'm on board a future version of that ship. Don't you see?" the robot said, his synthetic voice crackling with excitement. "We haven't solved the crew's disappearance...because it hasn't happened yet!"

* * *

LILA CLOSED THE DOOR OF THE SHOWER CUBICLE and, with relief, stripped out of her garments. She cranked on the water handle and sighed as water poured down over her naked body, washing away the sweat and the grime of the last few hours.

There were still things that troubled her. Where was Dalton Quasar? for one. What did the significance of the two Sir John Franklins portend, one still manned by its crew, the other a derelict? She also was a little worried about the crew she'd met here. The men and women of the Sir John Franklin had clearly been through an ordeal; they were ragged and nervous-looking, clearly, in the more extreme cases, pushed to the brink by the stress and hardship they had endured.

Still, they were civilized enough to have offered her a shower to freshen up, so she shouldn't judge them too harshly, she reminded herself.

Behind her, the shower door opened a crack, and burning, lustful eyes hungrily consumed her naked form...
 
 
 

Next episode ... "Mad Dogs and Lizard Men"


Previous Episode Next episode

  Table of ContentsPulp and Dagger Icon


The Doom Ship of Time is copyright D.K. Latta.  It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews.  (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)