Slowly the ship spiralled through space, its course unchanged
How long it had been out there, no one knew...
* * *
The fringes of the Gradian system.
All has been quiet since the attack from the Dark Nebula,
several years earlier. Still, the Gradians have realized that
they must remain vigilant. The forces that swarmed out of the
Dark Nebula took them by surprise, and destroyed ninety-nine
percent of the Gradian Army. If it had not been for the efforts
of four pilots, flying the Vic Viper, the Lord British Space
Destroyer, the Falchion Beta, and the Jade Knight, Gradius
surely would have fallen before the dark forces.
One of the many patrol ships that has been sent out to patrol
the fringe, the Xaerous Hunter, quietly moves along its
preassigned route. Little does the crew of the Xaerous Hunter
know, but they're about to have an encounter that will almost
spell certain death for the people of Gradius...
* * *
"Commander, we've picked up something on sensor array one."
The commander of the Xaerous Hunter got up from his command
chair and moved over to the sensor tech that had spoken. He
looked at the readings on the screen and frowned.
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it's a little over 16 meters long."
"Put it on the main viewscreen. Let's see what this thing is."
"Yes sir," the tech said as he punched in the necessary
commands. A few moments later, the viewscreen was filled with
the view of a starfield... and in the center of the screen, a
small speck was slowly drifting.
"Increase magnification," the commander ordered.
The image on the screen jumped forward. The commander couldn't
quite make it out, but after checking his readings, the tech
"It appears to be some form of... starfighter, sir."
The commander's eyebrows raised slightly.
"Sensors detect no power emanating from the craft," the tech
continued. "It appears to be drifting."
"Hmmm," the commander said. "It's a derelict, then?"
"It would appear so, sir."
"Don't tell me it's a leftover from the Third Bacterion War."
"No sir. The configuration of the ship does not match any known
Gradian or Bacterion vessel."
The commander thought for a minute.
"Maybe it's a derelict from the Salamander Armada, or a wreck
from the Armada of Annihilation. Run a check."
The tech punched a few keys on his console, then sat back and
shook his head.
"It doesn't match any known vessel from either armada, sir."
The commander was running out of ideas.
"Could it be a wreck from the war that happened a few years
The tech ran another check, and once again shook his head.
"It doesn't match the configuration of any ship that we fought
that came out of the Dark Nebula. In fact, the computer has no
match for it at all. It's a design completely unknown to us."
"Fascinating," the commander whispered. Then, in a louder
voice, he said "Lock a tractor beam onto it, and bring it into
the main hangar bay. I want to take a closer look at this ship."
"Yes sir," the tech said as he manipulated the necessary
* * *
The starfighter drifted closer to the Xaerous Hunter.
Suddenly a soft blue beam of light shot out the Xaerous Hunter
and enveloped the starfighter. Slowly its spiral slowed, then
stopped as the tractor beam fully grasped it. A set of doors
slowly opened on the bigger ship as the tractor beam slowly
guided the starfighter toward the bay entrance.
The starfighter slowly moved inside the hangar bay. The tractor
beam gently set the starfighter down on the hangar bay floor,
then shut off. The bay doors closed, and the bay was
repressurized. As soon as repressurization was complete, a
group of engineers swarmed into the bay.
One engineer jumped up onto the top of the starfighter, close
to the cockpit. He peered inside the cockpit... then suddenly
let out a startled yelp, and jumped off of the starfighter. He
ran to the wall, and slammed his hand against the
"Hangar bay to bridge!"
"Yes?" the commander responded.
"Sir, you should come down here... there's something that you
"I'm on my way."
* * *
A few minutes later, the commander walked into the bay. The
engineer that had called the bridge walked over to him. The
commander took in his first good view of the starfighter. He
noticed some writing on the side of the ship... clearly
stenciled beneath the cockpit were the words R-9 UNITED EARTH
"United Earth Federation?" the commander said. "I've never
heard of it."
"Sir," the engineer said. "I found something in the cockpit
that you really should take a look at."
Without a word, the commander followed the engineer to the
starfighter, then they proceeded to climb up on top of it. The
engineer peered back into the cockpit, then looked back at the
The commander leaned forward and saw what it was that the tech
had seen... and recoiled in disgust, muttering an ancient
Latisian curse. He took another look inside the cockpit...
"The poor devil," he whispered.
Inside the cockpit was the skeleton of a man in a flight suit.
A name, Allen, was clearly visible on the helmet.
That wasn't the worst of it.
The torso area of the flight suit had been shredded... ancient
dried blood was clearly visible splattered across the legs of
the pilot, and was also covering some of the instruments in the
cockpit. Where the pilot's abdomen should have been were the
remains of an ungodly looking creature... it's head had been
caved in by some kind of blunt object. On closer inspection,
the commander was startled to see electronic components merged
with the organic parts of the creature.
The commander took one last look at the pilot, then jumped off
of the ship and walked up to the communications panel. He
pressed a control.
"Sickbay, we need a team to the hangar bay."
"Yes, sir," came the voice of the chief medical officer.
The commander turned back to the engineers.
"Have you been able to get anything from the ship yet?"
"No sir," one of the engineers replied.
"Keep at it, then... and if you get any information out of the
ship's databanks - if it even has databanks - let me know
"Yes sir," the engineer replied.
The commander turned and left the hangar bay, passing the
medical team as they rushed in.
* * *
An hour later, the commander was on the bridge, his mind only
partially on the Xaerous Hunter's mission. His thoughts kept
drifting back to the mysterious ship in the hangar bay. Upon
returning to the bridge earlier, he had done a search for the
United Earth Federation, but had turned up nothing.
"Hangar bay to bridge."
The commander snapped out of his reverie and slapped a control
on the side of his chair.
"You've found something?" he asked.
"Yes sir. We've downloaded what appears to be the ship's log.
We're ready to go ahead and have it transmitted to the
bridge... there was some picture degredation, but it is
"Go ahead and transmit," the commander said. He cut the
connection and turned toward the main viewscreen.
The viewscreen suddenly came to life with the image of a man in
a flight suit... the skeleton from the ship, the commander
realized. Yes, the name Allen was visible on the man's helmet.
Static played across the screen, but the picture was still very
As the commander watched, the man on the screen started to
speak. It was clear to the commander that he was in a great
deal of pain.
"Log entry... 26, Commander... Allen reporting. The battle with
the... Bydo has not gone well. My squadron has been wiped out.
I'm the... only survivor."
Allen paused for a second, then continued.
"We engaged... the Bydo at Wolf 359. They were merciless...
they wiped out almost the entire... fleet. The battle lasted
for almost... an hour. Finally our lines... broke, and the Bydo
had... nothing to stop them... from reaching Earth. I was hit
by a glancing blow, which... knocked out my engines and sent me
flying uncontrollably... through space. I've only just...
Allen stopped speaking again... whatever was causing him such
pain was clearly getting worse. He closed his eyes, then
"I just discovered that I've been... impregnated with a Krell
embryo. I don't... know how it managed to get through my...
shields, but it's lodged itself in my abdomen. Even... now, I
can feel it... it's moving..."
Suddenly Allen's eyes went wide, and a splatter of blood
sprayed the screen. Allen screamed in agony... his anguished
scream intermingled with a menacing hiss - the creature we
found in the ship with him, the commander realized. With a good
deal of effort, Allen pulled a tool out of his flight suit and
proceeded to smash the creature, which was out of range of the
"Die... die... DIE!!!" he screamed as he continued to smash the
creature. Finally the hissing subsided with a rasping gurgle,
and Allen's arm dropped to his side. He was clearly dying.
"They... must... be... stopped..." he rasped. Suddenly
proximity alarms went off inside the cockpit of the fighter.
His eyes widened one last time as he saw what had triggered the
"A... mega... battleship..." Allen said with his last breath.
Then a huge explosion shook the screen, and laser fire could be
seen penetrating the canopy. The canopy shattered, and the
noise of decompression became the white noise of the static
that now filled the screen.
The commander watched all this in horror. The bridge crew had
all stopped what they were doing and were staring at the
screen, varying expressions of horror and disgust on their
faces. The static cut out, and the viewscreen returned to a
view of the starfield in front of them.
The commander turned away from the viewscreen and shakily
pressed the button on his chair that opened a channel to
the hangar bay.
"Bridge to hangar bay," the commander said quietly.
"Were there any more log entries?"
"None that we've been able to retrieve yet. We're still working
on downloading as much information as we can from the ship."
"Keep at it then. If you find anything else out, let me know
Suddenly all of the lights on the bridge dimmed, and an
unearthly roar could be heard coming from somewhere deep
inside the Xaerous Hunter! The bridge crew immediately sprang
into action as the commander swiveled to face the viewscreen.
"Report!" he yelled.
"We just had an energy burst come from sickbay!" one of the
techs yelled. "It caused a minor power fluctuation... it seemed
to be some kind of focused beam. I'm trying to trace it now."
He slapped the control on the side of his chair again. By now,
the roar had subsided, and the lights had come back up.
"Bridge to sickbay!"
"Sickbay here, sir," came the shaky voice of the chief medical
"What the hell just happened?"
"That corpse we pulled out of the starfighter... we were trying
to extract the creature from the body. It had been... fused
with the corpse somehow, so we were using a laser to try to cut
"So what happened?"
"The laser... we cut into the creature itself, accidentaly.
When the laser touched one of the electronic parts of the
creature, it went dead... and the creature suddenly opened its
eyes. My theory is that somehow it drained power from the
laser," the CMO said. "Then the creature rose into the air...
The commander's mouth went dry. The energy burst, he thought.
"Hold on for a minute," he said.
He turned to the tech that had spoken.
"Have you been able to trace that energy burst?" he asked
The tech swiveled in his chair and looked at the commander.
"I have," he said. "It was a focused beam, and it passed
through our hull like it was nothing."
"Where's it headed?"
"Deep space... back the way we just came."
The commander swallowed... hard. Then he turned his attention
back to the comm panel.
"What happened to the creature after it roared?" he asked the
"It just dropped back onto the table," he said. "It hasn't
moved since - and we're not picking up any life signs coming
"Notify me immediately if there's any change in the creature...
even if it moves just a millimeter, I want to know about it."
He cut the channel and turned back to the tech that was
tracking the course of the beam.
"Any theories as to what that beam was?" he asked.
"The only thing I can think of would be... some kind of a
signal," the tech replied.
Allen's dying words suddenly raced through the commander's mind.
They... must... be... stopped...
The commander's blood went cold. He turned to his
"Send a message to Gradius," he ordered. "Let them know what's
happened here. In the meantime, I'll be in my quarters."
As the communications officer opened a channel to their
headquarters on Gradius, the commander stood and left the
bridge. The doors slid shut behind him.