108 - Die Wüste des Todes
Desert Of Death's Domain
Kurt Mahr

On the planet Lepso, a certain Gérard Lobson consults with a Doctor Zuglert who ages suddenly before his eyes. He speaks of a liqueur and a danger for the Earth. Overtaken by panic, Lobson runs away. Shortly afterwards, the Terran frigate FLORIDA, returning from the Blue System where the screen of energy reformed itself, receives an emergency call from Zuglert but the communication is suddenly cut short. The FLORIDA's commander, Major Kindsom calls Lepso but Neary, the Terran Trade Mission Inspector, is unaware of any such call from there.

Colonel Nike Quinto of Section III sends Major Ron Landry to Lepso because other emaciated old men have also made their appearance, only to immediately disappear. Having arrived on the planet, Landry is taken in charge by a taxicab whose driver is Goszulan and appears talkative. He informs Landry that for the last two or three years, people on the planet are agitated more and more. In his hotel room, Landry meets an extraterrestrial, a Muddy, who searches for one of his fellow species members.

Landry himself begins to investigate Zuglert's case. He has an accident while taking an antigrav elevator and finds Gérard Lobson, who absolutely wants to make him drink a certain liqueur. As he is threatened by two Springers and an Ara, he is obliged to drink. He is imprisoned in a cellar with Lobson, and feels now full of energy. Lobson tells Landry that he has also been stopped by the three men and forced to drink the elixir.

When a Springer comes to look for them, he is cut down mysteriously. Lobson and Landry slip away and make it to the Terran commercial trading post. At the restaurant, where Lobson wanted Landry to drink the Liquitiv liqueur, an old man appears suddenly. Landry wants to take him into custody but policemen seize the old man instead. Landry and Lobson take a taxicab of which the driver is none other than the Goszulan who Landry already met. They follow the gyroplane of the policemen into the desert of Sukkussum. The driver removes his mask and is revealed to be Larry Randall, a colleague of Landry. He knows that old men are always brought into the desert, to a city whose center is occupied by a pyramid.

In the pyramid city, Randall and Landry see other zombies, among them the missing Muddy. They are then confronted by priests of Baalol, the Antis. After a mental fight, in which the Earthmen receive the help of the Muddy, they take flight and are able to regain their car. Lobson disappears. Then Lobson reappears and threatens them. In fact, he is with the Springers. The Liquitiv liqueur creates an effect of familiarization and Lobson tells them he became the slave of it. It's origin is unknown, one only knows that it was launched onto the market a dozen years earlier. The liqueur first has an effect of rejuvenation which produces the feeling of familiarization and at the end of twelve years an abrupt physical decay occurs.

The agents of Section III manage to escape and return to Earth where Rhodan interests himself in the problem mainly due to the implication of the Antis. Several agents return to Lepso and infiltrate the Temple of Baalol while passing themselves off as old men. As a result, Landry finds Zuglert. Zuglert tells them that twelve years earlier he had worked with a biologist named Edmond Hugher who developed the Liquitiv. From the beginning, Zuglert took some precautions in regards to Hugher. He has a photo in his possession of Edmond Hugher which he gives to Landry.

Landry is interrogated repeatedly by the Baalol priests but finally succeeds in escaping. A cargo ship simulates a crash on the city-temple, which in turn allows for the recovery of all infiltrated agents.

The photo of Edmond Hugher is revealed to correspond to the features of Thomas Cardif (Rhodan's son).

Michael P. Mahoney 2007-01-20

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