LASER MOON - ONE

 

LM-1 / Asteroid Belt

2O64: Economic failure of the superpowers at the end of the Twentieth Century has led to the formation of the Global Space Development Agency, or GSDA, in the 21st. One of the new mega-corporations; Interglobe, has developed self-contained laser mining stations and placed them in orbit between Mars and Jupiter where asteroids are reduced to their basic minerals and the ore is loaded into re-usable shuttles and launched back to Earth and the Corporate Ocean Recovery Areas. The mining of the asteroid belt has proven quite profitable and the international nature of the crews insures that all future profits will continue to be shared equally among the nations of the Earth. Onboard LM-1; the first station to enter service back in 2O61, one such crew prepares to trigger the high-energy phenomena that are the core of the mining operation. An event so intense that it can be seen from Earth and has earned their ship the nickname "Laser Moon".

Command Pilot; Hans Albrecht (Germany), and his Co-Pilot/Medical Officer; Hera Davis (United States), have maneuvered the giant ship into range of 49 Danae; a typical planetoid roughly 4,6OO ft. in diameter. Chief Engineer; Theo Wilson (Great Britain), activates the tractor beam that slowly begins to pull the huge asteroid into the Laser Bay. Mining Technician; Dutch Oliver (Australia), initiates the sequence that will molecularly eviscerate 49, Danae while Chief Geologist; Lorianne DeLuc (France) and Research Scientist; Ishido Noshimo (Japan), anxiously scan the flood of data displayed on their banks of monitors as the riches of an alien world are electomagnetically transferred from the mile diameter external field into the inner containment sphere; itself dwarfed by the Laser Bay. Download Specialist; Murphy Janella (South Africa), fills the four waiting ore shuttles in preparation for launching upon their pre-programmed trajectories. Science Officer; Yuri Belyakov (RSFSR), conspicuous in his absence, has preferred to remain engaged in personal research within his lab. A lab unique to LM-1.

Not one of the eight member crew suspects that before tomorrow, their lives will either end, or be transformed beyond recognition.

 

 


 
 


STATIONS!
        

During the meal/party that follows every successful operation, the crew once again question Belyakov about his activities as they celebrate their rotation home, which is now one "rock" closer. Belyakov responds in kind, dressing each one down in a friendly, yet condescending, manner before getting to his pet gripe. His distaste for his present posting is obvious, and he has just begun his personal discourse on True Science and the incredible mystery of the Universe, when the proximity klaxon goes off, startling everyone and sending them back to their stations. 

Though previously undetected and uncharted, the asteroid, already in the tractor beam, looks normal enough. It is not until Lorianne notices some bizarre readings that anyone thinks otherwise. Finally, Ishido alerts Hans to the presence of a definite, symmetrical shape hidden within the asteroid. Dutch, however, feeling the effects of the party more than the others, has punched his buttons and the mining operation has already begun. Anxious moments drag by until all thoughts of home vanish. The containment sphere is filled not only with raw materials for the Third World but also by a shape so utterly alien that the crew; stunned and silent as the helpless mouse before the swaying snake, literally does not know what to do. Each one sees the shape differently and as some gape while others tremble, it is Hans, who finally recognizes the danger to his vessel and orders the tractor beam reversed in order to repel the intruder. The shape reflects back the energy directed at it, exploding the containment sphere and shaking the ship itself until Theo manages to shut down the beam. After frantic minutes of damage-control assessment, it is discovered that several major systems are, in fact, down or disabled. Hera convinces Hans that the immediate danger has passed and that a strategy session is in order. Belyakov agrees and suggests that he and Ishido begin a proper investigation of their "invited" guest. Hans sends Lorianne with them, orders Dutch and Murphy to check out the ship status and asks Theo and Hera to join him on the bridge while they await the results.

 

 Belyakov & Ishido / Science Station

Scan after scan yield amazing results until the two scientists agree that they are, in fact, looking at an object of alien design and manufacture. An object that was encased within solid rock at least 2OO,OOO years ago. An object that appears to be in perfect, perhaps operable condition. An object with an interior and openings leading into it. Openings framed with symbols of some sort. Symbols that may form either a welcome or a warning.
 
 

Hans, Theo & Hera / Bridge

While the Command Pilot and his First Officer listen, Theo explains that the asteroid belt was once thought to be the remains of a planet that had orbited between Mars and Jupiter and that what they have discovered may be an artifact of a highly advanced civilization, pre-dating life on Earth by hundreds of thousands of years. He inserts a data disc and the three listen to the disturbingly familiar story of Shan; Fifth Planet from the Sun. At the end of Theo's presentation, they realize that a signal remains though the data disc has ended.

 

A signal; more noise than speech, but speech nonetheless, broadcast from the intruder filling the laser bay. 

 

Lorianne / Geology Lab

 Disobeying orders, Lorianne returns to her station where she re-checks her initial findings. Fighting an almost uncontrollable urge to look out her observation port at the terrifying shape that still threatens the ship, she files a Mineral Rights report detailing her discovery of an unknown substance and naming her family as heirs. Frail and frightened, her terror of the unknown continues to grow until it becomes a corporeal being; an ocean of fear in whose depths she is swallowed by the Nightmare from which she will never awaken. In a cruel parody of the very method used to pull apart the objects of her study, the glass of the observation port flows into eight tentacles that pull her, face first, into a hell that only she can see. Her mind destroyed, the assault that follows is not just upon her body but on her soul as well. Not even the splintering of bone and the slurping of blood can drown out the scream that echoes throughout the ship, leaving only a memory as it crosses the stars into regions unseen.
 
 

Dutch & Murphy / Central Engineering

The only thing that could have been worse than the realization that the Ion Venting System was history and that the ship would blow within four hours was hearing the scream they had both just heard.
 
 

Bridge

The discovery at the observation port a grisly memory, the seven remaining crew members gather to discuss the situation. It is decided that Belyakov and Theo will attempt to resolve the IVS problem while Hans and Murphy will take a pod and explore the Artifact. Ishido will monitor their progress while Hera; in command during the EVA, will work with Dutch to try to re-establish contact with Earth.
 

 

Hans / Artifact Interior

Upon entering the Artifact, Hans cannot stop running the dark side of the Shan Tape through his mind. More and more, he is convinced not only that the story of a highly civilized race that wiped itself out and then destroyed it's own planet with fantastically powerful energy weapons is true, but that he is, in fact, standing within one of those very weapons. Convinced even further that he must destroy it, he moves toward a central console, intent upon disabling it.
 
 

Murphy / Pod Interior

Semi-conscious and temporarily blinded by the ferocious, arcing energy beams that have just reduced the Command Pilot to a pool of smoking blood, Murphy, his only thought a babbling plea to return home to Earth, fumbles with the controls of the returning pod. As if in response to the childish whimpering of his confused mind, Murphy's body is pulled through the glass of the pod, torn apart and distributed equally amongst the metallic dust and rock shards that drift toward the ore shuttles that he himself had begun loading only hours before. 

 

Ishido / Science Station

Having watched the demise of both Hans and Murphy on his monitors in horror and disbelief, Ishido is too shocked to move. His Oriental composure and detachment vanish in an instant however, as he realizes that he cannot move. His fingers have melted into the keyboard and the chair has molded itself to his spine. Thousands of electrical tendrils pierce his eyes and fill his open mouth as he remembers to scream. Billions of bits of information race into his brain, burning out synapses and searing new trails across virgin tissue. The in-pouring of data fills his tiny skull until it distorts and then shatters, spraying the room a human being once worked in with a new fluid more to the liking of the thing that now sits at the console.
 
 

Hera, Belyakov, Dutch & Theo / Bridge

Only four remain to review their situation. The IVS is totally disabled and the tremendous forces generated by the mining of two asteroids in a row, are running rampant throughout the ship remaining systems. The Artifact is silent save for it's continuous message, and to all appearances inactive but since its discovery five hours ago, three crew members have met horrible deaths and Ishido hasn't checked in. Dutch, painfully sober, is sent to find him while Hera and Theo explain to Belyakov why she must return to the Artifact. He laughs off their theory that the cause of all their problems is a remnant of an ancient, planet-wide energy network; a mere construction whose geometry and composition amplify and manifest the subconscious thoughts of all who encounter it. Finding only agreement in Theo's eyes however; Belyakov reluctantly agrees to monitor her EVA from his lab while Theo returns to Central Engineering.
 
 

Dutch / Corridor Four

Cursing the failure of the emergency back-up systems to light this part of the ship, Dutch picks his way through unfamiliar debris as he nears Ishido's station. As his eyes adjust to the light, they focus on a monstrous apparition. He is surrounded by a blasphemous tunnel of broken bones and glowing circuitry, ruptured organs spouting liquid coolant and gouged eye sockets burning with gigawatts of malevolent energy. Energy that is directed at him as what remains of Ishido shoots incandescent ripsaw current into the Australian's bodily orifices. A few moments of sizzling and sputtering and Corridor Four, mutated even further, falls ominously silent.
 
 

Theo / Central Engineering

Theo is a defeated man as he watches the read-outs describing the destruction of his ship. Mercifully unaware of the bio-mechanical nightmare choking the ship from Corridor Four, he is unable to understand the structural changes sweeping through LM-1. He warns Belyakov who suggests that they meet in the escape module, just in case. Before he can nod in agreement, Central Engineering is flooded with the flashing red strobes that precede the tractor beam sequence. A quick, reflex look at the Systems Status Display board is all Theo gets before the awesome power he used to control is focused, first within the room and then within his own body; a body pitifully inadequate to contain it. As he is vaporized into the component atoms from which he came, Theo glimpses a future that he is the first to see and the vision brings a smile to his vanishing face as Central Engineering implodes, crippling LM-1 and sealing the fates of the surviving man and woman who remain behind.
 
 

Hera / Artifact Interior

Sitting on a cliff of solid gold, looking out across an emerald sea; Hera opens herself to the unnamed constellations spinning above her and lets their ancient light pour down into her. Tears come to her eyes as the new life inside her reaches out to control the glowing world around her. Hera feels her daughter; already far wiser than all who have gone before, growing in the wisdom only a mother can impart. The tears stop, as together, they reach out to the one man who can act before it is too late. The man who can relay their message of what lies beyond Mankind's petty limitations; beyond the line on the cosmic map labeled "Here Be Monsters." They alone, know where the monsters truly live for they alone, have witnessed the fate of one planet that learned the lesson too late. They only hope that Belyakov and the Earth will listen, while they still have time.
 
 

Belyakov's Lab / Det -15 minutes

Hurriedly grabbing logbooks and computer printouts, Belyakov prepares to leave his lab and the research he had conducted in it. All thoughts of alternate universes and the hyper-spatial portals leading into them have vanished with the deafening concussion signalling the death of the ship. Turning toward the hatch that leads to escape; to life, he is stopped in his tracks when his private terminal is activated. Suspecting a final message from KGS, Belyakov is totally unprepared for the truth revealed by the electronic dialogue that follows.
 
 


I AM ... FREE.

Belyakov stares at the statement on the screen, suddenly oblivious to the chronometer behind him. Hesitantly, he types his response.

 HERA?

YURI.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED? YOU HAVE BEEN GONE
OVER TWO HOURS. 
ARE YOU STILL INSIDE THE ARTIFACT?

YES. LISTEN CAREFULLY.
I AM CREATING A NEW FILE IN THE SHIPS MAINFRAME. 
IT WILL BE CALLED LM-1A.

Belyakov, notes in astonishment, that the mainframe has, in fact, been accessed and that the file is being created. He arranges for his own copy and the obligatory Krasnoyarsk Ground Station back-up.

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS FILE 
WILL EXPLAIN MUCH,
INCLUDING THE DEATHS OF THE CREW 
AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SHIP. 

HOW?

 The unseen chronometer ticks off thirty seconds.

THE ARTIFACT IS ONE OF FOUR IDENTICAL STRUCTURES, 
WHICH WHEN ORBITED TETRAHEDRALLY 
ABOVE THE SURFACE OF THEIR DESIGNERS HOME PLANET, 
ACTED AS FOCII FOR A PLANET-WIDE
ENERGY NETWORK THAT ONCE PROVIDED IT'S BUILDERS
WITH ANYTHING THEY DESIRED. 
IT'S SOLE PURPOSE WAS TO SENSE
AND MANIFEST THE NEEDS OF THE SHAN RACE. 
IT PERFORMED THIS FUNCTION PERFECTLY.

WHY DID IT KILL THE CREW? 

Ten more seconds. 

YOU MUST REALIZE THAT THE SHAN NETWORK 
WAS DESIGNED, BUILT AND FUNCTIONED 
LONG BEFORE THE CIVILIZATION WE KNOW; 
WITH ITS HISTORY OF GREED, CONQUEST, FEAR AND
BARBARISM EVOLVED. WHEN WE ENCOUNTERED THE 
NETWORK, IT WAS CONFRONTED WITH A RACE 
FAR REMOVED FROM THE PERFECTION OF ITS BUILDERS.

YOU ARE SAYING THAT THEY KILLED THEMSELVES?

UNFORTUNATELY. EACH MEMBER WHO DIED 
WAS INCAPABLE OF AN INITIAL RESPONSE OTHER 
THAN A VARIATION ON THE FEAR OF DEATH;
AN END TO EXISTENCE UNKNOWN 
TO THE BUILDERS OF THE NETWORK.
MOST SUCCEEDED ONLY IN VISUALIZING, 
IN EXTREME DETAIL,
THEIR OWN VIOLENT DEATH
UNDER THE MOST AGONIZING CIRCUMSTANCES. 

PERCEIVED AS THEIR OWN PERSONAL NEED.

DOES THE NETWORK STILL EXIST?

THE OTHER FOCII EXIST BUT ARE NOT 
CURRENTLY ALIGNED.

HOW DO YOU KNOW THESE THINGS?

WE ARE ONE WITH THE NETWORK.

Icy fingers caress Belyakov's spine as he searches for words and finds only one.

WE? 

WHEN I INVESTIGATED THE FOCUS WE HAD DISCOVERED,
I DID SO WITH RESPECT AND AWE. 
THE MOMENT I CROSSED ITS THRESHOLD, 
I FELT A QUICKENING; AN INTERNAL EXCITEMENT 
WHICH I KNEW WAS BEING MEASURED AND RECORDED. 
AS I HAD NO FEAR, ONLY MY HOPES AND DREAMS
WERE MADE MANIFEST.
MY WISH WAS GRANTED.

The five-minute alarm goes off in Belyakov's ear alerting him to the very real danger he is in.

I AM ... PREGNANT.

The Russian fills with anger at the thought of having wasted his time.

ALL INTERGLOBE FEMALES ON ACTIVE FLIGHT STATUS 
ARE ROUTINELY STERILIZED. PREGNANCY IS IMPOSSIBLE.

YURI... THE SHAN NETWORK HAS PERFECTED ME 
AND IN PERFECTING ME 
IT HAS GIVEN ME A DAUGHTER WHO WILL, 
HERSELF, BE BORN PERFECTED. 
WHEN SHE IS READY, SHE WILL RETURN TO EARTH: 
TO THE MOUNTAINS THAT BEAR HER NAME
AND THE EARTH WILL RECOGNIZE HER. 

ALL IN THEIR OWN WAY.

ALL IN THEIR OWN TIME. 

THIS IS HER WISH. 

WHAT IS YOURS?
 
 


Memories of starlit nights spent in
the Urals and the young astronomer that awoke the next morning, determined
to have a star named after him, vanish as Belyakov throws the system destruct
switch and turns away, unaware that as he steps through the escape module
hatch, his screen flares, once more, with life. A new life with a new voice.
        

MAY YOUR WISH COME TRUE, DR. BELYAKOV. 


DETONATION

Twenty meters into its first and final flight, the escape module is engulfed by the light of a million suns, but not before Belyakov glimpses a face forming in the increasing brightness surrounding him. It is a face seen only in hidden records, briefly glimpsed, during his first tour at Krasnoyarsk. A face that once had a name. Vasilynka.

The rapidly expanding brilliance reaches out 25O miles in every direction until it and all in it, comes to rest, in peace; a new light in Earth's night sky, a true Laser Moon whose radiation, sweeping across the infrared and microwave spectrums finally finds voice in common radio waves. The cyclic message is heard by all but understood by few.
 
 


ZVEZDA YACNIA,
ZVEZDA CVETLIYA,
PERVIYA ZVEZDA YA UVEZHOU SEVODNYA VECHEROM.

 YA POZVHELIYU YA MAHU,
YA POZCHELIYU YA MAHU CHESTVO EMYET TO SHTO,
YA POZCHELIYU SEVODNYA VECHEROM.

 ZVEZDA YACNIA,
ZVEZDA CVETLIYA,
PERVIYA ZVEZDA YA UVEZHOU SEVODNYA VECHEROM.

 YA POZVHELIYU YA MAHU,
YA POZVHELIYU YA MAHU CHESTVO EMYET TO SHTO,
YA POZCHELIYU SEVODNYA VECHEROM. 


NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH "Laser Moon"

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