VENTRAL OBSERVATION DOME - VIEW OF OUTER SPACE: Melkonis is seated in the dome, upside-down, peering down into space. He also wears the protective suit. Standard, upside-down, climbs into the dome. It is dark and eerie here, under the stars of interstellar space. A few glowing panels provide the only illumination.
STANDARD: I thought I'd find you here.
MELKONIS: I was thinking of a line from an old poem: "Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink." All that space out there, and we're trapped in this ship.
STANDARD: That's the one about the albatross, right?
MELKONIS: We can't even radio for help; the carrier wave wouldn't reach its destination till long after we'd died and turned to dust. We are utterly, absolutely alone. Can anybody really visualize such a scale of distances? Halfway across Creation...
STANDARD: We came out there, we'll go back. A long time by the clock, but a short time to us.
MELKONIS: Time and space have no meaning out here. We're living in Einsteinian equation.
STANDARD: I can see you're putting your spare time to good use. (leans forward and taps him on the knee) Let me tell you something: you keep staring at hyperspace for long enough, they'll be peeling you off a wall. I've seen it happen.
MELKONIS (smiles at him): We're the new pioneers, Chaz. We even have our own special diseases.
STANDARD: Come on -- let's go above and see how they're coming with the gear.
BRIDGE: The whole crew has assembled. Faust is unfolding several yards of shimmering metallic netting. Hunter hands out five thin rods, like metal broom handles.
HUNTER: These have portable generators in them. They're insulated down to here -- just be careful not to touch the end.
He demonstrates by touching the tip of one of the rods to a metal object. A blue spark leaps.
FAUST: Might even incinerate the damn thing.
STANDARD (sharply): I hope not.
HUNTER: Don't worry, it won't damage it, it'll just give it a little incentive.
STANDARD: How do we locate the creature?
FAUST: With these. (He picks up a small portable unit)
FAUST (CONT'D): Tracking device. You set it to search for a moving object... It hasn't got much range, but when you get within a certain distance, it starts beeping.
Standard takes the device and studies it.
STANDARD: These will be very useful. At least we won't have to go digging around in closets with our bare hands. All right, here's the battle plan: we're going to break into two teams and start systematically covering the ship. Whoever finds it first, catches it in the net and ejects it from the nearest airlock. Clear?
ROBY: Even simple.
Standard shoots him a vicious look, then continues:
STANDARD: For starters, let's make sure the bridge is safe.
Faust takes the device and turns it on. He scans it around the room.
FAUST: It's clear.
STANDARD: All right -- Roby and Melkonis will go with Faust. Hunter and I will make up the second team.
They start doling out the equipment.
STANDARD (CONT'D): We'll all carry communicators. We want to keep in constant touch.
CORRIDORS IN SHIP: Melkonis and Roby carry the net, while Faust walks directly behind it, carrying the tracking device. He continually scans it from side to side.
FAUST: Nothing yet... nothing... we can move pretty fast as long as there's nothing on the tracker.
OTHER CORRIDORS: Standard and Hunter move silently along. Standard is forced to serve a double function, carrying one edge of the net and the tracker as well.
CORRIDORS: Roby's team is moving at a fairly brisk pace, when:
FAUST: Hold it. (Faust's tracker is BEEPING, and a small light flashes)
FAUST (CONT'D): I've got something.
Immediately, they grow very tense and start looking around.
ROBY: Where's it coming from?
FAUST (peers closely at tracker and frowns): Machine's screwed up, I can't tell. Needle's spinning all over the dial.
MELKONIS: Is it malfunctioning?
Faust turns the tracker on its side, and the needle stabilizes.
FAUST: No, just confused. It's coming from below us. (They all look down at their feet)
INTERIOR - MAINTENANCE LEVEL: Roby, Melkonis, and Faust come carefully down a set of crude metal stairs, into a drab, functional section of the ship. The corridors in this level are lit by rows of bare bulbs in the ceiling. The effect is ugly and confining. They stop at the foot of the stairs and move into position, spreading the net across the corridor.
FAUST (looking at tracker and nodding down the passageway): That way.
They begin to walk down the passageway, footsteps clanging on the raw metal flooring. It is extremely dark.
ROBY: What happened to the lights?
FAUST: Bulbs burned out, nobody bothered to replace 'em.
They switch on the helmet lights. CAMERA FOLLOWS THEM AROUND A COUPLE OF TURNINGS, AND THEN:
FAUST (CONT'D): Hold it. (They all stop quickly, almost stumbling)
FAUST (CONT'D): (whispering) It's within 4 meters.
Roby and Melkonis heft the net, each keeping his prod in hand. Faust, prod in one hand and tracker in the other, has the unpleasant job of approaching the source of the signal. He moves with great care, in a half crouch, ready to leap back at any second, prod extended, constantly glancing at the tracker. The tracking device leads him right up to a small hatch or door in one wall.
Behind his plastic mask, sweat is pouring down Faust's face as he sets down the tracker and reaches for the little door. He raises the prod, grasps the door handle, yanks it open, and jams the electric prod inside. WITH A NERVE-SHATTERING SQUALL, A SMALL CREATURE COMES FLYING OUT OF THE CABINET, EYES GLARING, CLAWS FLASHING. Instinctively, they throw the net over it, but:
ROBY (very annoyed): Oh, hold it!
They open the net and release the creature. IT IS THE CAT. Hissing and spitting, it scampers away.
MELKONIS: We're making fools of ourselves!
Roby's COMMUNICATOR BEEPS.
ROBY (into communicator): Yes!
STANDARD (over, filtered): We've got it up here! It's trapped! Get up here fast!
ROBY: Where are you?
STANDARD (over, filtered): Food-storage room!
ROBY: We're coming! (They dash for the stairs)
CORRIDORS IN SHIP: Roby, Faust, and Melkonis charge down the hallways until they arrive at:
CORRIDOR OUTSIDE FOOD STORAGE ROOM: Standard and Hunter are waiting for them, in hysterics.
HUNTER: We saw it inside and slammed the door on it! It's in there now!
On the other side of the door, CRASHING AND BANGING can be heard.
ROBY: What's it doing, having a seizure?
STANDARD: It started crashing around right after we locked it in.
ROBY: Now what?
STANDARD: I guess we open the door and net it.
HUNTER: I hate to open that door.
Again the thing can be heard CRASHING AROUND INSIDE.
STANDARD: It looks completely different from the first one -- it's more like a worm with legs... and tentacles.
FAUST: Well we better do something.
HUNTER: Maybe we don't have to. It's trapped in there. We could just leave it in there all the way back to Irth.
STANDARD (snaps): Don't be an idiot.
FAUST: I know what we can do. We can pump poison gas into the room and kill it. Through those ventilator slots there.
He indicates a row of slots in the bottom of the door.
ROBY: Hey, wait a minute! That's all our food supplies in there! We can't pump poison gas all over them!
STANDARD: Once we kill the thing we won't need the food any more -- we can go straight into hypersleep. Also, it sounds like that thing is already doing a pretty good job on our supplies; it may be fouling them all.
ROBY: You win.
FAUST: Somebody gimme a hand, I'll get the stuff.