171 - Kampf der vier Mächte
Fight of the Four Powers
Clark Darlton

Following the distress call from the Kostana, the Explorer-5207 heads toward the Brulab-3 System. As a precaution, it warns Explorer-318 and its commander, Colonel Griffin Tuchmann. It first passes by the third planet and discovers that it is inhabited. This alien race has even mastered spaceflight. The commander of the Explorer-5207, Colonel Beto Hiesse, feels deep guilt for having missed so vital a piece of information. The ship then lands on the fourth planet, named Trio.

The inhabitants of the third planet, who are given the name Trios, have established bases on the fourth planet. It is they who attacked and destroyed the crew of the Kostana. A group of Trios commanded by the commander Barel-Kut attacks Explorer-5207 but it is wiped out. Only Barel-Kut succeeds in surviving but he is captured. Another group of Trios attacks the monster - the Shreckworm - set down by the unknown ship. This Shreckworm takes no quarter and only two Trios escape. Like Barel-Kut, they all are captured by the Terrans.

Help arrives from the third planet but they are destroyed without a lot of effort by the Terrans. During the fight between the Terrans and the Trios, the Shreckworm is strongly antagonized. It cannot distinguish between Trios and Terrans and considers itself betrayed. To take vengeance, it allows itself to be brought back aboard the Explorer-5207, which it then entirely devastates. Whereas the few surviving Terrans take flight and escape, it crushes Colonel Beto Hiesse under its mass. The Terran survivors make contact with the Trios and conclude a truce. A distress message is sent to the Explorer-318.

A ship of the Blues is enroute in the same space sector, in order to search for suitable planets to put down Shreckworms. But contrary to Terrans, they do not worry about whether these planets are inhabited or not. Gogol, the commander of the ship, shows an unexpected weakness towards the inhabitants of the planet Pergal, who display a calm philosophy when facing death. He decides to save the planet in spite of the hostility of the scientist on board - an agent of the government. They then receive a call emanating from the Shreckworm on Trio.

They arrive at the planet Trio, embark the Shreckworm, which they then put down on another planet and drop a reaction bomb that will kill all life on a quarter of the planet. All Trios and Terrans are killed. The Blues ship leaves in order to immediately warn its government that the Terrans have concluded a pact with the Shreckworms.

When the Explorer-318 arrives, it finds no survivors.

Michael Mahoney 2005-03-01

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