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 travelled back to the Cretaceous aboard the derelict spaceship Sir John Franklin whose crew is missing and which is over-run by cavemen.  Also a cave painting of Quasar himself was found on board.  On the prehistoric Earth, Quasar discovered a race of humanoid lizardmen, and Lila found the crew of the Sir John Franklin, the two races fighting a war.  But then a second Sir John Franklin was discovered in orbit--apparently a past version of the ship our heroes travelled on--and this is the ship the crew is from.  So whatever happened to the crew of the Sir John Franklin, has still yet to occur.  Got it?  Good, 'cause we can't make it any clearer!


Episode 5: "Mad Dogs and Lizard men"



 B-780 MOVED HIS MECHANICAL HANDS over the console controls, scanning different radio frequencies. The silver-coated robot had managed to contact Dalton Quasar down on the prehistoric planet Earth, now B-780 wanted to reach Lila Volt, who had become separated from Quasar. Unfortunately, he did not know the exact frequency used by Lila's wrist-comm.

The robot glanced at the open doorway. A howl echoed eerily through the corridor outside, but sufficiently distant that he was reasonably convinced the cavemen running wild through the lower decks had not yet made it to this level. But it was only a matter of time.

B-780 had not bothered to mention to Quasar his fear that he was not alone up here, that there was something other than himself, and other than the primitive cavemen, wandering about. A third lifeform that did not want to be discovered. Yet.

The robot fingered his Ray-gun and continued scanning frequencies, carefully avoiding the main channels for fear of drawing the attention of the other ship orbiting the Earth. The ship, B-780 figured, might be a past version of the vessel he was now on -- whatever had happened on board this ship, wiping out the crew and filling its corridors with sub-humans, was yet to happen over on the other ship.

And he could not warn them, without creating a time paradox that might doom them all.

* * *
DALTON QUASAR SAT IN THE STRAW HUT of the chief of the lizard men, the pre-historic reptiles that were the humans of the dinosaur era. After eliciting a promise from the chief that he would talk peace with the marooned crew of the Sir John Franklin, Quasar was now faced with the prospect of approaching the crew's base camp as an emissary for creatures they regarded as their enemy.

Such musings were shattered by blood-curdling screams coming from outside in the village.

"What the hell?" he demanded.

The chief leapt to his feet, mouth splitting into a fearsome-toothed snarl. "Too late." he hissed, snatching up his spear and racing outside. Quasar followed.

What he saw made him blanch.

The lizard people were locked in a bloody fight with men that looked nothing like what he had expected. Instead of well-coiffed men and women in flight uniforms, he saw ragged, emaciated figures, dressed in rags, carrying spears and clubs no different from those used by the lizard people. Clearly, the crew had not been fruitful in this prehistoric environment.

"Stop!" he yelled, but his scream went unheeded.

A human drove his spear into the back of a fleeing lizard female. A man went down, his skull caved in by a lizard club.

"Stop!" Quasar said again, and this time, it was a command. This time, it was backed up by more than just good intentions. He held forth his hands and fired stun-level photonic bursts into the on-coming humans -- the humans being the aggressors, at least in this particular skirmish.

Two men were knocked from their feet, and other humans staggered to a halt, stunned. Which shocked them more -- a strange man fighting on the side of the lizards, or a man who was firing light beams from his bare hands -- Quasar couldn't say. A man screamed and flung a club at him. He turned, and fired, this time using more energy, and the club exploded into dust.

For a moment there was quiet. No one moved, lizard or human.

Then the human interlopers turned and fled back into the bush.

He watched them go, aware that this was definitely going to complicate his intention to act as a peace envoy.

* * *
LILA VOLT STOOD IN THE MAIN COMPUTER centre of the base compound established by the marooned crew of the Sir John Franklin. Out of deference to the prehistoric heat, she was dressed only in her brief undergarments of panties and a bra, while around her nearly naked hips was drapped a carrying belt from which dangled her Ray-gun. Beside her was Abram Kennedy, the ship's second-in-command, now promoted through attrition to commander. He was dressed in a crude skirt fashioned from his flight uniform.

"We've been working on these calculations for months," Kennedy explained, gesturing at numbers beetling across a screen. "We figured a wide spread of radium charges just above the ionosphere will reactivate the temporal vortex. Then we fly through. However, we've re-rigged the ship's polarity, did some things with magnetics that even I don't understand, but our best scientists do, and what should happen is we get thrown forward in time instead of backward. Then, at the appropriate moment, we fire a second radium spread, and we should pop out into normal space. Presto, we're home."

"How can you be sure you won't overshoot your time?" Lila asked.

Kennedy glared at her, his eyes dark and sunken from the long months of his exile in this inhospitable time period. He looked ready to snap at her and she instinctively took a step back. The whole crew made her a little uneasy. When she had had a shower earlier, she had had the paranoid feeling that she was being watched.

But all Kennedy said was, "We know what we're doing. We're under no delusions that we'll come out right when we left. But even ten or twenty years off is better than 65 million years. Don't worry. It'll be safe enough."

Lila smiled politely, but she wasn't so sure. Obviously he was assuming she would come with them, but that was because he assumed she was from his time. But she, Dalton Quasar, and B-780, were from 150 years in the crew's personal future.

Worse, she was not at all sure things would be "safe enough".

After all, she and her companions had arrived on a derelict version of the Sir John Franklin -- a version peopled by blood-thirsty cavemen. Cavemen that shouldn't exist for another few million years. And here was Kennedy plotting a course into the future. Did the ship not make it? Did it end up popping back into normal space during the age of the Neanderthal Man? And if so, for what reason did the crew transport those primitive humans onto the ship?

There were still too many questions. And, at this point, she was reluctant to be forthcoming with Kennedy, at least until she had communicated with her companions.

She didn't want to live the rest of her life constantly fleeing dinosaurs, but she wasn't sure going with the crew of the Sir John Franklin in their leap back into the future was any more promising.

As Kennedy guided her from the computer centre, she glanced back. What she needed was to get a copy of their calculations to B-780, to see if all their plus and minuses balanced out.

"Sir!" A man came stumbling around the corner, panting hard. "Our war party has returned."

"Good," said Kennedy, looking too satisfied.

Lila frowned. He had told her about how they were in a conflict with a local species of humanoid lizards -- though he had been suspiciously vague about what had initiated the hostilities. As a Security Agent she understood the perogative for self-preservation. She just didn't think he should enjoy it so much.

"Not so good, sir," said the messenger. "They were routed, and they're telling the strangest tale I've ever heard. About a man, like us, fighting on the side of the lizards. A man who can fire energy beams from his bare hands."

Lila stiffened involuntarily, but she didn't think either of the men noticed. That description could only be Dalton Quasar -- but why was he fighting on the side of some lizards against his own kind? Whatever else happened, she definitely needed to establish contact with her companions. She also allowed herself a momentary surge of relief, knowing that Quasar was still alive.

"Lila?" a voice muttered.

She jumped, and instantly put a hand over the communicator on her wrist, thumbing the volume way down.

"You say something?" Kennedy asked distractedly.

She coughed daintily. "Just a catch in my throat."

"Well, come on, I've got to find out what's going on." Kennedy and the other man raced down the corridor and Lila followed, but slowly, allowing them to pull ahead. When they rounded a corner and were lost to sight, she put her wrist-comm to her face and turned up the volume again.

"B-780? B-780, are you there?"

"Lila?" the voice came back. "Thank goodness. Where are you?"

"I'm with the crew of the Sir John Franklin -- they're alive and--"

"I know. Quasar told me. Listen, you've got to get out of there. Whatever occured to make the ship we found a derelict has yet to happen. Do you understand? You could be in danger--"

"I figured that," agreed Lila. "But they've been doing some calculations on how to induce a spatial rift that'll take them home."

There was a pause, then B-780 said, "I'd like to take a look at that."

Lila smiled to herself. "I thought you might. It might be our only way home, too. I'll try and sneak back into their computer centre. Things have become complicated, though, 'cause Dalton's apparently taking shots at them. Can you patch me through to him?"

"I think so. Hold on a minute."

Lila waited, shifting nervously from foot to foot, glancing about her. It was tricky enough when she was just worried about creating time paradoxes by telling too much about what she knew, but since they were at war, and one of her companions was on the other side, she could just as easily be taken for a spy. She danced her fingers on the butt of her Ray-gun impatiently.

Then: "Lila?"

"Dalton, what the hell's going on?"

"I'm hoping to stop a pointless war."

"By firing on the human crew?"

"Oh, that," he laughed, a bit strained. "Well, they were the aggressors. Anyway, I'll be flying en route to you shortly."

"I don't know if that's a good idea. I don't think you'll be welcome."

"I'll have to risk it. B-780 tells me they may've figured a way back to our century?"

"Yes, but I need to get a copy of the data for him to go over."

"O.K. But whatever you do, get out of there before they attempt to take off."

"Yes, mother," she quipped. "Out." She dropped her arm, feeling slightly more confident now that communication had been established between the three of them -- she wasn't quite so alone. Then she turned and started back toward the computer centre.

* * *
DALTON QUASAR STOOD IN THE MIDDLE of the lizard village, looking around at the wounded laid out. The battle had ended hours ago, but the damage lingered long after, as it did in any war, no matter the era. This was all so senseless, he thought bitterly. But if the humans were truly preparing to leave, perhaps it would be over soon.

He looked around for the chief. "I'm leaving," he said. "Hopefully I can stop the attacks."

The lizard man looked at him, then said, "I don't think so. But you are brave to try. I want to show you something first, though."

Bewildered, Dalton followed him in a weaving route between straw and mud huts, till they came to an open clearing. An elderly lizard woman sat hunched before an array of stone shards. After a moment, Dalton realized the shards sported crude paintings on them.

"She is the chronicler of our tribe," said the chief. "Recording events for future generations, for posterity."

Dalton frowned. Whether the lizard people lived another hundred years, or a hundred thousand, posterity was not ultimately in the cards. No human paleontologist would even realize they had existed.

The chief gestured proudly at one slab.

Dalton looked...and his mouth dropped open. It was a painting of himself. The very painting he had observed on board the derelict version of the Sir John Franklin when they were first sucked into the time warp.

"She began it when you first arrived -- it was meant to depict an enemy of the People," said the chief, slightly chagrined. "But, of course, now it will be altered slightly, showing a friend of the People." When Dalton said nothing, the chief's scaly features adopted an expression the equivalent of a frown. "Are you displeased?"

But all Dalton Quasar could see was the image of that slab on board the Sir John Franklin. And with it, other primtive artifacts that had not really blossomed into their full significance until this moment.

They were the spoils of war.

Clearly the humans would attack the village again, they would win, and they would haul various trophies back to their ship.

Before he even began, he knew his peace mission would end in failure.

* * *
LILA DRAPED HERSELF PROVOCATIVELY in the doorway to the computer centre, which was hardly difficult given her brief garments had only ever been intended for view in the most intimate of company. Her kinky black tresses were like a mane around her face, her supple ebon skin glistened over firm muscles.

"Hi there," she said, smiling.

The lone technician swiveled in his chair...and almost fell out of it on seeing her. "Uh...hi."

"Abe...uh, Mr. Kennedy," she said it as though she was used to calling him Abe, "asked me to tell you he's looking for you."

"Oh?" He looked around. "Um, I should wait..."

"Nonsense. I'll man your station." She stepped forward and dragged him gently from his chair. Then she sat down in his place, wriggling her nearly-naked bottom on the seat. "I'll keep it warm for you." Then she giggled, as though she'd said something cleverly naughty. "Then we could, y'know, talk when you get back."

He stared at her for a moment. Then his eyes rolled up momentarily into his head, and he muttered, "Oh, momma," and turned and stumbled from the room.

As soon as he was gone, Lila turned efficiently to the computer console and instantly called up the proposed time-jump data. Then she activated her communicator, pulled it from her wrist, and plugged it into the computer. The technology may've been 150 years old by her standards, but fortunately things hadn't changed too much in that century and a half. "Are you getting this," she asked.

"It's coming through now," came the robot's voice. "Oh, yes, this is very interesting. Yes, fascinating. Remarkable that they were able to..." B-780's voice drifted off.

"B-780?"

"Um, I'm not sure. I'll have to go over these numbers more carefully. I think they may've miscalculated. I can't be sure. It's so complex. But if I'm right...the results will be nothing like they intend, or we anticipated--"

Suddenly the communicator was smashed by the butt of Lila's Ray-gun. Only Lila wasn't holding it. Kennedy had slipped it from her belt while she was focused on B-780's voice, and now she found herself staring into its muzzle as Kennedy and some other crew members surrounded her.

"Get up," snapped Kennedy.

Hesitantly, she did. "Listen to--"

"Shut up, you traitorous witch," hissed Kennedy, a wild gleam in his eyes. "I don't know who you are, or who you're working for..."

"I mean you no harm," she said. "I'm just trying to get home, too. But a different home, a different time."

"Kill her, captain," hissed the computer technician, obviously feeling humiliated by how she had manipulated him. "She's working with the lizards."

"Look," she said quickly, "just let me go. I'll leave."

"Oh, no," grinned Kennedy. "I've got better plans for you. You show up here, making fools of us, flaunting yourself like a Martian whore -- I've seen you, the way you act, and dress, jouncing around in the shower when you knew I was watching..."

Lila's dark skin paled slightly. "You were...what? You're insane." She looked around, but the other men were clearly liking Kennedy's train of thought.

"Let's take her with us," said Kennedy. "She'll be fun on the trip home."

* * *
"QUASAR," B-780's VOICE CAME THROUGH his receiver, "you've got to do something."

"What's happened?" he said.

"It's Lila. Her signal went dead. I think they may've caught her. Her life could be in danger. Whatever you do, Quasar, don't let them take her back on board the Sir John Franklin! If they do...it's all over for her. Their calculations are wrong!"

Quasar looked around desperately. Lila was in grave danger, either from instant execution, or from partaking of whatever bizarre fate awaited the crew of the Sir John Franklin in their second trip through time. Meanwhile, the lizard village was in danger of instant annihilation -- assuming the crew was readying to leave,, they'd have to attack soon. If he didn't warn the village, they'd be wiped out, but if he did, he'd be altering events he knew had already transpired.

He didn't know what to do.

Next episode ... "Last Stop - Infinity!"


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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.)