It was a fine day at Space City. The tropical sun was warm and bright, the breeze was soft, and Commander Zero was, for once, happy. As he sat in the control room atop the great tower, he could see at a glance that all traffic was running smoothly, no aliens were threatening any of the United Planets, and even Lt. Ninety was quietly busy monitoring local space traffic. Yes Sir, he thought, it doesn’t get any better than this. Then his phone rang.
Not the least bit troubled by this disturbance in his perfect day, he lifted the receiver and spoke into it. “Space City, Commander Zero here.”. The voice on the other end of the line was one very excited Professor Mattic, of the Fireball XL5 crew. “Commander! I’ve just made an astonishing breakthru! You must come down to my lab at once!”. Zero could feel a small cloud begin to pass over his sunny day. Still, he thought, maybe the old toot has found something important. “Okay, Professor, I’ll be down right away. Lt. Ninety! I have to go see what Professor Mattic has come up with now. Call me at his lab if anything comes up.” Ninety looked up over his console, “Yes Sir! I’ll call you if anything happens.” “See that you do!” said Zero as the lift door closed.
Zero arrived at Mattic’s lab in Space City a few minutes later. Already there were Steve Zodiac and Doctor Venus. Mattic must have called them, too, he thought to himself. Steve and Venus were standing behind the Professor as he gestured at the bright, blinking console before him. “Ah, Commander! You’re just in time to witness the first contact with another dimension!”, Mattic crowed. Zero looked at Steve and Venus, who just shrugged. Apparently, they didn’t know any more than he did about this. “What do you mean “another dimension”, Mattic?”, Zero asked. That cloud was getting larger and darker as this went on...
Mattic beamed at him, triumph in his eyes. “Just what I said, Commander! Theory holds that there are other dimensions existing alongside ours in the same physical space simultaneously. We can’t see them because they exist in different planes from us.” He indicated the contraption busily blinking in front of him. “My new invention can allow us to view events in other dimensions! Here, I’ll dial up a nearby one and we’ll see it on the screen.” He twisted a dial and pushed several buttons in sequence. Then he pulled a lever down and the large screen above the console lit up and displayed what looked like a picture of Space City!
“Hmmph!”, said Zero. “You got me all the way down here just to show me the scene from one of our own security cameras?” That cloud was now completely covering Zero’s sun and beginning to flash with lightning... “Now, wait, Commander - Maybe Matt just needs to make an adjustment.” Steve elbowed Matt as he said that, and Mattic frantically checked the instruments. Confused, he looked up at the Commander and said, “No, it’s not from one of our security cameras, Commander...It’s from another dimension!” Steve stepped forward. “Matt, can we turn the view? Can we look around?” “Oh, come on, Steve! You can’t believe this old toot has actually tuned in on another dimension? How can Space City exist in another dimension? It’s just impossible!”, Zero nearly shouted. That cloud had become a hurricane of disbelief and anger for him. His peaceful, sunny day was shattered now.
“Now, Commander,”, Mattic said, “It’s entirely possible for two dimensions to have parallel events. One theory even posits that a new dimension is created from every choice we make. This is obviously a case of a parallel dimension to ours. Let me focus in on the Fireball spacecraft there in the foreground...maybe we can learn more from it.” Mattic slowly turned one dial, then another, and another. The view changed as he did so. The huge silver spacecraft became the center of the image, then loomed larger and larger. “Oh, Matt!”, Venus cried, “look! It’s Fireball XL5!”. Sure enough, clear and plain on the screen were the white letters “XL5” against a red stripe on the tail. The near finpod also bore the logo in black on a yellow stripe. Steve swallowed hard, then said, “Matt, train the view on the nose. I think they’re getting ready for a launch, and I want to see who’s flying her.”
Mattic turned more dials, and the view shifted until they were looking into the glass cockpit of Fireball Junior at the front of the craft. Sure enough, there were two figures setting into the seats there. “Zoom in!”, said Steve, and as the screen zoomed they all gasped. There was Colonel Steve Zodiac, although in a different uniform, sitting in the pilot’s seat, making ready for takeoff. In the co-pilot’s seat was a black robot, with glowing eye-ports. It looked like an ebony Robert! The other-dimensional Zodiac’s uniform was also black, with dark red trim. “Matt! you’ve done it!”, Steve shouted, slapping Mattic on the back. Commander Zero slumped into a chair. Great! he thought. Now I’ll have to call the General, and there will be endless meetings. I’ll never get any work done!” He sighed, then turned to the group. “Okay, people, settle down! Mattic, continue to observe this so-called “parallel dimension” while I call the General and fill him in on your discovery. Steve, you and Venus stay here and serve as witnesses to what’s going on. We may need you to confirm all this hoo-ha when the General comes. He turned and left the lab to return to the tower.
“Matt,”, Steve said, pulling a chair close to the console, “any chance your gizmo can bring in sound as well as pictures? I’d love to hear what’s going on!” “Sure, Steve.”, Mattic answered.
“Let me adjust this circuit here...”, he motioned to Venus, “Venus, please throw that red switch over there by you...Thanks.”. Speakers in the wall on either side of the great screen crackled into life.
“Space City control, this is Major Steve Zodiac ready for takeoff. All weapons are loaded and armed. We confirm our mission to attack and destroy the planet of Platonia. Awaiting final count-down to launch.” The three friends looked at each other in horror. “No!”, Venus cried. “This cannot be! The World Space Patrol would never attack a friendly planet!”. Matt, still in shock himself, said, “You’re right, Venus, but this isn’t OUR World Space Patrol! We’re observing a parallel dimension, another world separate from our own! It may be that our counterparts there are at war with Platonia.” Steve was angry. “No, Matt! The WSP would NEVER destroy a planet as helpless as Platonia, even in war! They don’t even have a military space force!” The speakers were still on, and the next voice they heard chilled them to their very marrow.
“Fireball XL5, this is General Zero, Space Aide to the Emperor himself. The Emperor sends his best wishes to you and your loyal crew on this important mission. You must destroy the Platonians and their world for daring to disobey the Emperor! Death to all who will not submit to the Empire!”. At that, the black-suited Zodiac and the ebony Robert gave a Nazi-like salute and shouted, “All hail the Empire!”. “Oh Steve!”, Venus sobbed, “What can we do to prevent this tragedy? There must be something!” Mattic’s brow was furrowed deeply. “Say...”, he began, “I think I might have an idea!”. Steve was on his feet in a second. “What, Matt? How can we stop this?”. “Well,”, he bagan, “We can’t go there directly, but I think I might be able to get a Neutroni radio signal across the dimensional barrier. Maybe we can warn the Platonians about the attack.”. Steve shook his head. “No, that wouldn’t help..they’d be defenseless against Fireball...”. Venus looked up suddenly. “Wait! What if we could talk to that other Steve Zodiac? Maybe we could convince him to abort his mission! Oh, Steve, we must try!”. “You’re right Venus. I’ll talk to him. Matt, get your Neutoni radio warmed up. I’m going to call Commander Zero and fill him in.”
Commander Zero was still talking to the General when Steve rang through. Lt. Ninety answered the call, but told Steve the Commander was talking to the General. “Listen, Ninety, I have to talk to the Commander right now! Events are taking place in the parallel dimension we need to stop! Get him down here quickly!” Ninety gulped. He was sure to incur the Commander’s wrath if he interrupted what appeared to be an unpleasant call to the general, but he was also sure he’d catch it if he didn’t do as Colonel Zodiac had ordered. He hung the receiver up gently and walked over to the commander, who was clearly having trouble with the General.
“But General, I know it sounds tootie, but Mattic has really come up with something this time! Yes, I know about the theory of parallel dimensions...no, I don’t think it’s a joke...no sir! I’m certain it’s the real thing!...”. Zero glared up at Ninety as he tapped him on the shoulder. Covering the mouthpiece with his hand, he snarled, “Dagnabit, Lieutenant! I’m trying to talk with the General! What’s so blamed important?”. Ninety told him what Zodiac had said. Zero turned back to the phone and said, General, I have to sign off now. Colonel Zodiac has informed me that there is some sort of trouble brewing in Mattic’s lab and I have to get down there right away...Yes sir, I’ll be expecting you in one hour. Thank you sir...Goodbye.” Hanging up the phone, he mopped his brow with a handkerchief. To no one in particular, he shouted, “This had better be good, Mattic!” and bolted for the elevator. Ninety studiously kept his eyes on his situation board.
Back in the Professor’s lab, Steve was pacing back and forth. “Professor! Have you reached the other dimension Fireball by Neutroni yet?” “Now Steve,”, Mattic drawled, “be patient. This is the very first time anybody has tried to send a Neutroni signal across the dimensional barrier! I’m working as fast as I can. But, what will you say to the other Steve?” Venus looked over from the console of the dimensional televiewer. “Steve, they are taking off now!” Sure enough, the other Fireball had ignited it’s booster sled rockets and was beginning the takeoff run down the track. They could see the fire and smoke belching from the sled’s rocket motors, then the bright explosion that signaled Fireball’s main engine igniting just before the track ran out and the sled separated as the great ship sailed upward.
Commander Zero burst in just then. “What’s all this about a problem in the other dimension?” he said. He looked at the screen and saw the other Fireball dwindling in the distance. “Matt!”, Steve said, “how do I change the focus of the viewer to keep her on screen?”. “I’ll do it,”, Matt said, “The Neutroni transmitter is ready for our broadcast. You take this seat so that you can talk to them.” He brushed past Zero as he moved from the transmitter console to the viewer console. “Dad-Drat it all!” Zero shouted. “What in the name of space is going on?” Venus rose and crossed to Zero’s side. “Commander, we have heard the other Fireball’s orders to destroy Platonia! We are going to try and talk to the other Steve Zodiac and get him to abort his mission!”. Zero now doubted his sunny day would EVER return.
Steve keyed the Neutroni transmitter’s microphone. “Attention! Major Steve Zodiac of Fireball XL5! I must speak with you. Please respond on this frequency immediately!”. On the screen, they could see surprise on the other Zodiac’s face. He picked up his microphone and spoke. “This is Major Steve Zodiac of the Terran Imperial Warship Fireball XL5. Who dares to break radio silence?” “Looking at Commander Zero, Steve keyed his mike again. “Major Zodiac, I am Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. We exist in a parallel dimension to yours and have observed your takeoff on your mission to destroy the planet of Platonia. I urge you to abort your mission immediately! The Platonians have no defenses against your weapons! You’ll slaughter millions of innocent people!” An evil smile played across Major Zodiac’s features. Venus turned her head from the sight. “Yes, I know the consequences of this mission, but no one may defy the Empire and live! I am loyal to my Emperor, and will perform any task he gives me for his greater glory!”. Matt made a slashing motion across his throat to Steve. Steve muted the microphone. “Steve, I believe he thinks his loyalty is being tested by his Empire. He doesn’t believe we’re really from another dimension!”. Zero could stand no more. He moved to the Neutroni console and keyed the mike. Steve placed his hand over the microphone before Zero cold speak. “Sorry, Commander, but if he won’t believe me, why would he believe you?” Zero released the microphone key.
“No, Steve!”, Venus said suddenly. “He will believe Commander Zero! His orders came from General Zero in his dimension. If our Commander will speak like his General, he may abort!”. Understanding lit up Matt and Steve’s faces immediately. “Commander,”, Steve began, “have you ever seen any of the old World War Two films in the Space City library?” “Of course I have!”, Zero said. “One of my hobbies is the study of Earth’s past global conflicts.” “Great!”, Matt said. “Okay, Commander, we need you to speak like one of the old Nazi Generals, and tell that Steve Zodiac to abort his mission. It’s the only way!”. “Uh, I’ll replay the orders General Zero gave Fireball before takeoff.”, Matt said. “That should show you what we’re talking about.” He pressed a couple of buttons on the viewer console and the General’s voice issued again from the speakers. Zero listened intently, obviously surprised. “Wow!” he whispered to himself, “I’m a General in that dimension!”. Venus, back at his side without his noticing, whispered, “But an evil General! We like you better the way you are!”, and she gave him a radiant smile that tore the stormy clouds from his mind. “Let’s do this!”, he said.
Handing him the Neutroni microphone again, Steve nodded.
“Attention! General Zero calling the Imperial Warship Fireball XL5!
Acknowledge!”. On the screen Major Zodiac stiffened and hastily grabbed
the microphone from it’s clip. “Major Zodiac of the Imperial Warship
Fireball XL5 acknowledging you, General!”. Zero gave a grim smile. “Major,
your mission is aborted! Return to base immediately. Do NOT ask questions!
Obey! Zero out.”. Zero released the key on the mike and set it on the
console. On the screen, Major Zodiac looked at the microphone, over at the
ebony Robert, then replaced the mike in it’s clip and began to turn the
ship around. Cheers rang out in the lab, as everyone surrounded the
Commander to congratulate him on his saving of the other-dimensional
world. Zero let it go on for a moment, then realized that the General wa
due to arrive at any moment. “Okay, this is done! The General will be here
any time! Get this place cleaned up! Get those recordings ready for him to
review! And make sure my transmission to the other Fireball is
recorded properly! Smiling and feeling as good as he had earlier, he
strode out of the lab to the hovercar that had brought him from the tower.
General! He had been a General in that other dimension! Maybe, he thought,
just maybe there is hope for me here
This story previously appeared on the UNITY CITY website, hosted by Robin and Pauline Day, webmasters of the Space City website.