33 - Eiswelt in Flammen
Snowman In Flames
Clark Darlton

In space near the planet Snowman, the Springers Etztak and Orlgans wonder about the mission of Tifflor and his group. The Terran cruisers SOLAR SYSTEM and TERRA continue to harass the Springer ships. Worn out, Etztak decides to kill the Terran group on the planet. Pucky detects the approaching Springer vessels and destroys two of them. The mouse-beaver also suggests to Tiff and his companions that there is life on the planet: he has captured foreign thoughts.

Etztak receives the message from the Mounder, Topthor, informing him of the likely arrival of Rhodan with new weapons which are unstoppable. His pride hurt by the resistance of the Terrans, Etztak decides to destroy the planet Snowman by nuclear fire and waits for the STARDUST II. The Terran battleship makes a brief appearance and, thanks to the fictiv transmitters, destroys two ships of the patriarch.

Rhodan immediately goes into another transition again, this time towards the Earth, fearing an attack against the Terran home world in his absence. And indeed, Topthor is back with eleven vessels, intent in gaining a foothold on Earth. Rhodan sets out to fool the Mounder, making him believe in the existence of a second battleship of the STARDUST class with the same super weapons. Topthor rises to the challenge and pursues his course toward the Earth.

Topthor’s quadron passes the orbit of the Moon. The Mounder remains deaf to the warnings of Rhodan. The STARDUST is forced to annihilate nine of Topthor’s eleven ships. As a result, Topthor flees with his remaining two ships and warns Etztak. Earth is safe for the time being.

Orlgans lands on Snowman with his vessel, the ORLA XI, in order to plant and ignite an Arkon bomb. His moral scruples are overcome by his fear of Etztak. Eberhardt and the robot are trapped in their underground cave by a random shot from one of Orglan’s ships. At the same time, Pucky, Tifflor, Kergonen, Orsons and Hifield head toward the large underground cavern lodging the mysterious creatures that the mouse-beaver has detected. The cavern has a lake and an artificial sun. The mysterious creatures are hibernators. They are intelligent plants similar to tulips but possessing the gift of mobility. In addition they are powerful telepaths and, as a result, they have identified the threat posed by the Springers in the space around the planet Snowman.

Orlgans sets the fuse of the Arkon bomb which has been buried at the north pole of the planet. Etztak informs him about the defeat of Topthor at the hands of Rhodan. The Terran cruisers return and attack with new resolve. The ORLA XI takes off. Pucky teleports onto Orlgans’ ship and accuses him of the murder of the indigenous plant population of the planet. He has named the telepathic plants “Semi-Sleepers”. Orlgans pleads ignorance and obedience to the orders of Etztak, but the mouse-beaver forces the ORLA XI to land. He orders the crew to leave the vessel, then he destroys the ship. The Springer crew, to include Orlgans, is abandoned to their fate on Snowman which is doomed to destruction.

Félicie Kergonen begins the task of saving some specimens of the Semi-Sleepers. On the surface, the shipwrecked Springers flee before the nuclear fire that ravages the planet, but they are surrounded by water and the nuclear fire catches up with them. Without hope of any outside help, they prefer to commit suicide.

Ras Tschubaï teleports to Etztak, carrying an ultimatum from Rhodan. Etztak is told that he has 10 hours to give up his enterprise and to leave the Beta Albiréo system. Etztak and his ship captains decide to fight until the bitter end. When Major Nyssen learns that Snowman is doomed to be destroyed by the nuclear fire, Rhodan understands that the Springers have forfeited the 10 hour ultimatum, and he immediately goes on the attack with the STARDUST II.

The situation becomes critical for Tifflor’s group, isolated on the flaming hell of Snowman. The ice cover of the planet melts and the underground cave is now at the bottom of a sea. The robot Aubrey begins to dig a tunnel upwards from the cave in order to escape to the surface.

Etztak’s ships attack the two Terran cruisers. While McClears resists with the TERRA, Nyssen leaves with the SOLAR SYSTEM in search of Tifflor’s group. Meanwhile, Tifflor’s group manages to escape from the underground cave and take refuge on an intact island. The cave of the Semi-Sleepers has been flooded and the plants perish by drowning, with the exception of the fifty taken in an insulated case by Tiff’s group.

The STARDUST II finally arrives. Before this reinforcement, the Springers retreat in order to regroup. Rhodan follows Nyssen and sends back the SOLAR SYSTEM to the TERRA in order to cover the planet from a renewed attack by the Springers. Marshall locates Tifflor and his companions, whose thought impulses were scrambled until then by the presence of the Semi-Sleepers. Rhodan sends a destroyer by fictiv transmitter to the group. Then he destroys the fleet of Etztak with the exception of two vessels, whose crews will be able to spread the story of their terrifying defeat to other Springers throughout the galaxy. The surviving Semi-Sleepers are transplanted in Terrania.

Michael Mahoney 2009-01-21

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