Megan took her place in the center of the room, placed the crown on her head, and waved as she vanished in a ball of blue light. She appeared inside the moon base. A second white glowing orb appeared with her illuminating the room. She looked around. “Orion, can you get me a translation of these walls?”
“As you command,” Orion answered.
She entered the large central hallway with the smaller white orb leading the way. She made a right turn and walked to the end, down a flight of stairs into the transporter control room. She stopped at the control panel. “I’m guessing the controls should be set to transport back to Earth.” Megan touched the golden amulet in the panel.
A low humming sound began and in a few moments the ceiling illuminated along with the control panel and the jewels within it. She watched as the triangular jewels in the three staffs above the panel at the edge of the walkway illuminated.
She walked around and up the stairs looking through the doorway into the cube-shaped room. There was a channel of something that looked like mercury that ran around the walkway on the outside of the room. At each corner was a column running from the floor to the ceiling. Around each column were large, silver-colored metal coils that ran from the mercury around the columns and into the ceiling. In the center was a square sea of mercury with a walkway leading from the doorway to an island of stone.
Cautiously, Megan walked to the center. The low humming sound became louder until she could feel the vibrations. “What if I transport into a place that’s caved in?” The sound came to a crescendo then she was gone in a flash of light.
Jud and May watched the screen. The glowing orb Orion sent with Megan was still hovering in the transport room.
“Where is she?” May asked. “Where did she go?”
“I lost her,” Orion answered.
“Egypt!” May exclaimed. “Turn this thing around!”
May grabbed the controls and pointed Orion toward Earth. She grabbed hold of the thrust control. Earth became larger in the viewer. In moments she began searching Egypt. “What if she was right? What if she materialized inside of a place that’s caved in?”
May moved Orion slowly over northeast Egypt while Jud and Orion scanned for any signs of Megan or the crown.
“I don’t understand,” May said. “Orion can track the crown anywhere it goes.”
Orion looked at May with a puzzled expression. “Mostly.”
“What do you mean ‘mostly’?” May yelled waving a hand at Orion.
“If it’s on Earth I should be able to find it,” Orion answered. “I was not aware the moon transporter only transports things that have mass. The orbs are energy, they do not have mass.”
Megan found herself in a very dark room, the crown’s protective blue glow around her. She felt for a wall, arms outstretched, walking slowly. Her foot found the edge of a ledge. She pulled back feeling for the floor. “Drop off here.” She knelt and felt the ledge with her hands. “Cold, very cold floor. Gravity doesn’t feel right.” A blue light glowed from below. "It’s a reflection. Mercury maybe? It’s a room like the one I transported from.”
She crawled along on the floor following the edge of the ledge until she found a walkway and felt her way along it. “Very cold, very dark. Where’s Orion’s orb?” Megan swallowed hard. “Orion doesn’t know where I am.” Megan felt her way on her hands and knees until she found a doorway then stood. She made her way through the door to a stone wall. The blue glow from her crown afforded some light for her to see, but not very far.
“Where am I? Why isn’t my crown working right?” Megan mumbled to herself. “Why do I have such a bad feeling? Orion, can you hear me?” She listened but got no answer. “That transporter did something to my crown.”
She began moving along the wall until she tripped over something and fell. Her hand touched something dark near her face. “Ahhhh!” she screamed as a bulbous head with large eye sockets turned toward her. She backed away. “Dead gray, mucho dead, deceased dead even.” She brushed her hands together and cringed to think she had touched the thing. She sat on the floor and leaned against the wall with the dead alien at her feet.
She felt along the wall until she bumped into something. She ran her hands along a metallic shaft that ran up from the floor. In a kneeling position, she felt something metallic above her. Running a hand along it she found another metallic arm reaching back to the floor. Unable to stand she moved on her hands and knees feeling the bottom of the metallic object above her. Another metal arm reached toward the floor. She continued counting. “It has eight legs.” She moved back until she could stand. In a moment an image appeared in the blue glow a foot from her face. Her blood ran cold. Reaching around her head was a set of frightening metallic claws with razor sharp edges.
“It’s a…” Megan moved slowly backward. “It’s a great big metal spider.” Again she took a slow step backward. “Dead, I sure hope it’s dead.” Bumping something on the floor, she looked to see another dead gray. One of the spider’s legs pierced its body.
Carefully, Megan stepped over the body. “Must be five feet tall. Spider robot, killing the little gray aliens.” Megan placed a hand over her heart. “Heart still beating.”
She turned. A light moved at the end of the hallway revealing shadows of doors and debris. “Someone’s down there.”
She felt her way along the hallway around the loose stones and debris. She stepped over another dead gray moving toward the light. Finally, she kneeled beside the doorway. Her heart raced. Slowly she leaned out looking into the next room. Suddenly she was blinded by something moving directly in front of her. She jumped back to the side of the door. “I can’t see!” Megan exclaimed. “Spots, great big spots! Something moving, something small on the floor.”
Megan slid away from the door as her eyes began to adjust. The light came near then through the door. She backed away trying to see. “It’s a robot,” she said softly. “A little robot.”
The light turned toward her illuminating the hallway. She put a hand up to block the light. “You don’t look so dangerous,” she sighed in relief. “But where in the world are we?”
Megan looked down the hallway from whence she had come. The spider robot was clearly visible now. The dead bodies and broken places in the walls and ceiling were now illuminated. “Toto, something tells me we are not in Kansas anymore.” She looked at the robot on the floor beside her. “And you don’t talk, do you?”
She looked into the room the robot had come from. “What in the world is this place?”
Some light came through a crack in the far wall. Debris and large metallic tubs were strewn across the room along with dead alien bodies and pieces of the walls and ceiling.
“I think I’m going to be sick.” She turned to find the little robot camera looking directly at her. The robot ran its light up and down her body giving her the once over. She blocked the bright light with a hand then something on the robot caught her attention.
“N.A.S.A.?” She read the letters on top the robot. “You have got to be kidding!” She looked around the hallway and back into the room with all the broken vats. “Orion, can you hear me?” She looked at the robot. “I guess the thing transported me onto a movie set you guys used to stage that moon landing. Well, if NASA knows where you are they know where I am. Someone’s going to have questions, like why the hell I didn’t bring a flashlight.”
Megan made her way through the room with the vats and dead bodies. She crossed the next room moving toward the crack in the wall where the light was coming in. She looked out at a steep stone slope leading upward. She looked up. High above, she saw an oddly colored sky. To the right she saw a metallic arm with a camera looking down toward her.
“I can create my own orb.” Megan closed her eyes and a small blue ball of light about the size of a marble appeared in front of her. Her new orb shot into the sky and as it did she was seeing what it saw. It stopped, turned, and looked down. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. “I’m inside the face on Mars.” She zoomed the orb down to the rover and looked inside. “And those are astronauts.” Megan saw herself from the backside on one of the monitors inside the rover.
Megan looked behind her to see the little robot watching. She leaned down and looked at the little robot’s camera. “You bunch of chicken-shits.” She shook her fist. “Sent a robot in here to do your work for you.” She walked past the robot through the debris. She paused and looked at the vats and dead bodies. She inspected one of the broken tables. Everything that had been on it was now strewn across the floor. Entire sections had been torn from the wall and were now in pieces. Cabinets that had once lined the walls above the tables were also broken and spread across the room along with their contents. She crossed her arms as a shiver ran through her. She backed away from a dead gray. Her eyes moved up along a crack in the wall to a huge segment of ceiling that looked like it could fall at any moment. Carefully she made her way back into the hallway where she first met the little robot. Reaching the door she looked back to see the robot following. She waited until it caught up.
“All right, we know we are inside the face on Mars. We know it’s a structure made by, uh, Martians I guess. We know it’s full of dead grays and a big robot spider.” She looked at the little robot as it shined its light down the hallway. “We know there’s a top secret mission on Mars and we know you have a light. All right, let’s see where this goes.”
Megan started down the hallway peeking through doors when she could. Most of them were blocked by debris, some of them with the ceiling filling the room. Now and then she would push a dead body or broken blocks out of the way so the robot could follow.
As they arrived at the giant spider robot. Megan looked it over then kicked a leg. “You piece of junk, you scared the hell out of me.” She pointed at the little robot. “Why couldn’t you be cute like him?”
Megan made her way around the spider robot and over the dead bodies. She did not see the lights on the head of the spider robot begin to flicker.
Inside Rover One, Jen, Roger, and Tony watched the monitor. “Ok, it’s a girl,” Roger said, “a girl without a spacesuit.”
“How can she breathe?” Tony asked.
“How come she isn’t frozen solid?” Jen exclaimed.
“There’s a blue glow around her that appears to be coming from the triangular jewel in her crown,” Roger responded.
“An energy field,” Jen speculated.
“We are all hallucinating,” Tony said. “Space sickness - I’ve read about it.”
“Where did she come from?” Jen asked.
“She came out of that hole.” Roger pointed at the video screen.
“I never could have figured that out,” Jen responded sarcastically.
“She’s from Earth,” Tony responded.
“How did she get here?” Roger asked.
The three watched Megan clearing the path so the little robot could follow.
“I can’t make out what she’s saying,” Jen said. “The air’s too thin.” She snapped her helmet on. “You guys can stay here if you like, I’m going in.”
Roger hit a button and another boom extended from the rover, this one with a pulley and cable. Jen reached for the button to open her door. The video from the little robot went black.
“It’s out of range,” Roger reported.
Megan stood at the top of a long flight of stairs. “You any good at climbing stairs?”
The little robot’s camera went up and down.
“Are they still watching?”
The robot moved the camera side to side.
“Let’s see where this goes.” Megan started down with the robot following. Megan stopped and looked at a body on the stairs. “See that, Toto? That’s a human, not a gray.”
The robot’s camera scanned the body.
“You want to know what I think?” Megan asked as the little robot’s camera turned toward her. “I think something really freaky happened here. I’m talking about twisted, perverted, really sick shit.”
The robot looked at the body then continued to follow Megan to the next landing.
Megan walked along another hall, now and then stepping over bodies, until she came to a large transparent doorway. She looked at a sign above the door. Suddenly the doorway lit up and slid aside.
“Cripes!” Megan yelled. “All right, nothing to worry about Toto.” She stepped through the doorway. “A subway station.”
One of the transport cars sat on a side track leaning slightly. A pile of dead bodies was under the front of the car.
“See that, Toto. That’s what happens when you drink and drive.” Megan pointed. “That driver must have been on crack cocaine.” She walked toward the wreck. Looking down, she noticed something she hadn’t seen before. In the pile of bodies were several that were clearly half human and half gray. She sat down on the walkway. The robot moved up beside her and shined its light on the pile of bodies.
“That’s what happened. Someone bought a Monster Maker and started making monsters up there.” She pointed upward. “No, something else is behind all this. Something, what is it?” Megan’s instincts told her she was missing something. Something moved behind her. She spun around. Jen stood on the walkway. The little robot’s camera and light turned toward Jen. Megan got up and approached the astronaut reading her name tag. “Marshal?” She pointed back at the pile of bodies. “Those people were infected with something that came out of that lab upstairs.”
Jen tried to read Megan’s lips. She pulled a writing pad from a Velcro on her suit and wrote her name on it then showed Megan.
“Jennifer.” Megan nodded.
Jen smiled being able to read Megan’s lips to some degree.
“You can’t hear me, can you?” Megan shook her head and touched her ear with a finger.
Jen shook her head then scribbled the word ‘NO’ on her pad and showed Megan. ‘Thin air’ she added.
Megan read the words then took hold of Jen’s gloved hand. The blue glow moved over Jen. “Can you hear me now?”
“Yes,” Jen answered. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Megan smiled noticing the cameras on both sides of Jen’s helmet. “Your people will be looking for me long before you make it back to Earth.” Megan shook her head. “Then again I might need a ride home.”
“How can you be here?” Jen asked.
Megan tapped her crown with a finger. “It’s not working right and I can’t take it off to fix it.”
It was clear to Jen that Megan was in distress.
Megan turned slowly looking around the room. She pointed at the bodies on the ground under the transport. “The grays found a way to rewrite people’s DNA. It got loose and that’s why the other aliens destroyed Mars. These poor sick people were just trying to get away when the subway car hit them. But there’s more. The grays were sick. They weren’t always grays. Before that they were something else. As near as I can tell they were working in the genetics lab trying to fix what had happened to them. This was an accident. They weren’t trying to start a war with the Martians.” Megan shook her head.
Jen looked at the pile of bodies. “Did the grays, or the beings the grays were before they changed, cause this or did someone else do it to them?”
“I don’t know.” Megan shook her head. “I wonder if they were running to get away from that spider robot.”
“Spider robot?” Jen asked.
“Yeah, you had to pass it in the top hallway,” Megan answered.
Jen shook her head. “I didn’t see any spider robot.”
“You couldn’t have missed it. It blocked most of the hallway.”
Jen shook her head. “I didn’t see it.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
The two turned around. The spider robot stood in the doorway looking directly at them. Suddenly a burst of light flashed from a weapon on top the robot striking Megan and knocking her down. The blue energy fluxed around her changing colors until it was very pale blue. Sparks flew from the cannon as the robot tried to fire at Jen but the weapon failed. Jen fumbled for her P.B.W. dropping it into the subway channel. “That’s not good!” She watched as the robot approached.
Megan’s ears popped as she got up from the floor feeling unusually cold. “Huge power drop, low pressure,” she thought aloud as she fought off a dizzy spell.
The two backed toward the edge of the platform. Megan grabbed Jen’s arm as the spider robot moved toward them.
“That’s a very bad thing,” Megan said. “It’s an extermination robot.”
“Explain,” Jen said. “I’m beyond the capacity for rational thought.”
“They used it to kill the grays.” Megan felt for the stairs leading down into the subway channel.
“We aren’t grays,” Jen said as she followed Megan.
“I don’t really think that thing is working correctly. It’s been parked up there for more than ten thousand years.”
“Its brains are no doubt rusty then.” Jen stumbled for the last step.
“I really don’t like the way that thing is looking at us,” Megan gasped. “And I can’t take another hit like that last one.”
“What do we do?” Jen asked as they backed toward the wrecked subway transport.
“You’re asking me?” Megan gasped. “I didn’t even bring a flashlight!”
Jen saw her P.B.W. on the ground just below the spider robot.
“See that gun I dropped?” Jen pointed.
“Yeah,” Megan said.
“That should stop it. But I can’t move fast enough in this suit.”
Megan moved toward the gun, the spider robot tracking her. She paused. The little NASA robot moved on the walkway, looked toward Jen and Megan, then at the spider. The spider robot turned toward the little robot.
Megan moved toward the gun. The spider robot turned toward her then stepped off the ramp onto the track floor. Megan backed up grabbing Jen’s hand as they both moved toward the subway transport.
“It knows the little robot isn’t a threat or a target,” Jen said.
“Maybe so, but it doesn’t know the difference between us and a gray,” Megan said. Megan pulled at the subway transport’s door as the spider robot moved slowly toward them. “Nope, something’s wrong with it.”
“How do you know it was killing the grays?” Jen asked as she tried to help Megan while watching the spider robot.
“Because it had grays under three of its spiked feet when I found it,” Megan explained. “Open, you piece of junk!” she yelled. She pulled again and the door finally gave way.
Megan backed up and pushed Jen into the transport. She glanced at the spider robot just as one of its spiked feet swung down toward her. She jumped backwards. The leg came down piercing the floor between her feet. She fell backwards as Jen caught her and pulled her away from the door. The spider robot tried to reach them swinging a leg inside the door. Its lights dimmed. The monster’s movements slowed then stopped.
“Must not be using copper tops.” Megan watched the robot.
Jen looked for an exit. The left hand door was against the wall. She looked at the back. “Back there.” Jen moved toward the back, stepping over bodies.
Megan got up still watching the spider. Suddenly the lights on the robot came on. It swung wildly with its two front arms piercing holes in the side of the transport. Megan stumbled backwards falling over the bodies.
The robot moved along the side of the transport testing for weak spots. It ran a pointed foot across a window making a terrible squealing sound. The transparent windows were harder than the metal that held them. By the time Jen was positioned at the back of the vehicle so was the spider robot.
“That didn’t work so well,” Jen said.
“Really? Looks like it worked perfectly to me,” Megan responded holding the back of Jen’s spacesuit.
“What?” Jen asked.
“Do you want the good news or the bad?”
“What?” Jen exclaimed.
“It’s no longer at the door.” Megan pointed at the open, badly damaged door.
“It can move around the outside faster than we can inside!” Jen exclaimed.
“Yep, we are going to die in here.” Megan trembled from the cold. She looked at the pale blue glow around her arms. “My crown’s messed up,” she sighed. “If I don’t fix it or get home quick I’m not going to last much longer.”
“Roger? Tony? Please respond,” Jen called over her radio.
“Just like men, never around when you need them.” Megan shook her head. “Orion, where the hell are you!”
“I guess they both stayed up there to watch the rover and run the winch,” Jen said.
“Like I said,” Megan responded.
Megan sighed. “He’s my spaceship and he’s suppose to be looking out for me.”
“Where is he?”
“Good frickin’ question!” Megan watched the spider robot through the glass.
Again the spider robot dragged a sharp claw along the side of the transport causing both women to watch with great concern. Finally, Megan closed her eyes. A moment later she opened them. “Transport’s off line. God what else could go wrong?”
Jen looked at Megan. “Hell, yes, it’s wrecked.”
“I don’t mean this transport. I mean that thing damaged my crown when it shot me.”
“We need a plan,” Jen said.
“No shit!” Megan looked at the glowing camera eyes on the robot watching them. “If you can distract that thing, I’ll make a run for the pistol. It can’t watch us both.”
“Might work,” Jen said.
“Please tell me you have a better idea!” Megan begged.
Jen looked at Megan and shook her head. She pointed at the door as she moved near the window where the spider robot was watching. “Get ready.”
“Ah shit!” Megan exclaimed.
Megan looked at the bodies on the floor. “I could crawl. Maybe it won’t see me. It might be better than trying to race it to the door.” Megan crouched looking under the seats.
Jen saw Megan going under a seat then waved a hand at the spider robot. Its eyes flashed red as two of its claws dug into the window. “Yeah, you big piece of worthless scrap,” she growled. “Go, girl.” Megan began crawling under the seats. Jen waved a fist at the robot.
The spider robot dug its claws into the roof and shook the transport violently. Megan looked back to see Jen motion for her to continue. She continued to crawl on her belly pushing frozen bodies out of her way as she went. “God I hope I don’t get something and die from this,” Megan muttered to herself.
“Over here!” Jen yelled hitting the glass as she saw the robot turn its attention toward the door.
Again the robot grabbed the transport shaking it violently. As it did the claws broke through the roof and began tearing the metal toward the window.
Megan pulled herself up near the door. She looked at Jennifer as she tried to remain hidden from the robot.
“You’re only going to get one shot at this,” Jen said knowing that Megan couldn’t hear her. She looked at the spider robot at the window then moved as far as she could against the back of the transport. The robot followed, watching Jen as she moved. She looked at Megan and nodded. Cautiously, Megan slipped out the door. Seeing her chance, she ran for the gun. The robot turned from the transport. Seeing Megan, it pursued.
“No!” Jen yelled and hit the window.
The spider robot moved toward Megan. She grabbed the gun and fired hitting the spider. It paused momentarily.
“What’s wrong?” Megan fired again hitting the robot in the head.
Jen jumped from the transport moving toward the back of the spider. “It’s on stun!” she yelled.
Megan ran down the dark shaft. “I’ve got to get a life!”
The spider followed. Its metallic legs knocked chips from the tunnel floor. Jen ran after the spider. Megan turned and fired again hitting the spider. Again the robot paused. She looked at the gun this time noticing the power display. “Hah!” She found the power control. Just as she did, the robot moved toward her. She fired holding the beam directly on the spider’s head. The beam cut through the metallic monster. It fell, knocking her to the ground. Jen ran around the fallen robot. She saw Megan lying there with blood dripping from her forehead. She attacked the robot hitting and kicking it with her hands and feet.
Megan struggled to pull her left hand from under the robot then reached out and grabbed Jen by the leg. The blue glow moved over her. “I think it’s dead,” Megan said weakly.
The little NASA robot shined a light on Megan.
Jen tugged trying to lift the robot. Megan struggled to pull herself free. She looked at the NASA robot. “I could use a pull.” She took hold of the little robot then looked at Jen. “Try again.”
This time as Jen lifted, the robot pulled. After several attempts Megan finally pulled free. Jen inspected Megan then shook her head. “I have no idea how you managed to do that without breaking bones.”
“It’s all right.” Megan held to Jen as she stood. “I don’t think I’m going to last much longer anyway.”
“Who are you?” Jen asked.
Megan trembled from the cold, fighting back the pain as she straightened up and brushed some of the dirt from her clothes. “I really need a new outfit,” she said softly to herself. Suddenly the gun on top the spider robot exploded showering them with sparks that glowed as they fell to the floor. “One with bullet proof technology.”
“Oh my!” Jen exclaimed trying to catch her breath.
Megan’s eyes began to glow. The crown throbbed with power, warming her. “You can call me Ember.” She watched one of the glowing embers on the floor. She looked at Jen. The blue energy intensified around her lighting the tunnel. “Ember Reign.”
“Ember Rain?” Jen asked.
“That’s R-e-i-g-n.” Megan patted her crown with a hand.
“So you’re not a Martian?” Jen asked.
“How many Martians do you know who speak English? Come on name one,” Megan answered with a wink. “Time for me to go.” She patted the little robot on the camera. “Toto, you’re absolutely adorable.” She closed her eyes, clicked her heels together three times and said, “There’s no place like home.” The blue light around her became bright then vanished taking Megan with it.