SPACE CASES – The Catalina Chronicles
Episode 1 – The Parallel Life
Written by Nathan Broyles
Based on Space Cases™ by Bill Mumy and Peter David
(Author's Note: The story Catalina tells derives from an episode of Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark titled "The Tale of the Unfinished Painting", which Jewel Staite played the lead role in)
The stars were bright in the night sky on Yensid, a planet which orbited around the great sun, Amosh. The people who inhabited this planet were intelligent beings who were knowledgeable in the sciences and technological advances. Major futuristic-style cities were built with buildings lining the sky. Looking up at the stars from a telescope inside her bedroom was a young woman with chin-length, rainbow-colored hair.
Catalina was finishing up an astronomy homework assignment. Her guardian parents, Mr. and Mrs. Draak, home schooled her while she was living in this dimension. Mr. and Mrs. Draak are the biological parents of Suzee, Catalina's alternate-dimensional best friend. While she was in this new and strange dimension, Catalina lived a relatively quiet lifestyle. She misses the exciting adventures she had aboard the Christa. She misses her friends that she shared these adventures with. She even missed Miss Davenport's lectures, which was hard to believe. She wants to go back so badly. Suzee would tell Catalina how things are going with everyone on the Christa. Catalina is happy every time she hears about her friends, knowing that they are doing well.
It has been a year since Catalina has lived on Yensid. In that time period, the young Saturnian has been less dependent on Suzee in finding answers to questions and solving problems, but Suzee is never far away if she needed her. Her friendship with Suzee became stronger than ever after Suzee saved her from the explosion that sent her into this dimension. Catalina's dream is to become a chief engineer aboard a starship. Ever since she engineered the Christa, her passion for learning about mechanics, warp physics, and diagnostics of starships has grown tremendously. Mr. and Mrs. Draak have been helping her reach that dream by teaching her the same skills that Suzee takes for granted. Mr. Draak, a plump and jolly middle-aged man with purple hair, served as the chief engineer aboard the starship Cecilia before marrying Mrs. Draak, a tall, skinny woman with flowing deep-red hair with blue streaks who works as a medical specialist at a hospital in the city. Their other daughter, Suzaa, who had long, curly purple and red hair tied in a pony tail, is only seven years old but already into the sciences. Catalina would tell Suzaa stories about her adventures aboard the Christa, the crazy argument her and Suzee got into over naming a comet, and the many times she cheated death.
Catalina finally finished her charting plot and put it away and prepared for bed by putting on rainbow-colored pajamas, cleaning her teeth, washing her face, and recording the day's events into her log. Before she turned off the lights, she picked up an electronic palmpad of some sort that advertised a trip to the mountains. Catalina smiled when the video ended. She was excited about waking up the next day because she and the Draaks planned the day to go camping in those mountains, which were located in a refuge area outside the city. After many months of straight studying, the young Saturnian needed a day off. She was especially excited about doing something fun for a change.
"Good night, Suzee," she said to her invisible friend. Catalina switched off the lights and fell asleep.
The next morning, Mr. and Mrs. Draak, along with Suzaa, were eating breakfast from the computerized table while waiting for Catalina. A person could enter anything they wanted for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between and it would automatically appear on the table. Although this technology has not been developed in Catalina's dimension, it was standard technology for Yensidians. The three Draaks were wearing comfortable clothes for the outdoors.
"Where is that Catalina?" asked Mrs. Draak. "I hope she didn't stay up too late."
"Good morning, everyone!" shouted a cheerful voice coming from the turbolift. Catalina skipped towards the table wearing rainbow-colored hiking clothes and gear, but she tripped and fell over due to the excessive weight. The three at the table laughed, but Catalina just frowned out of embarrassment.
"What do you have in there, your entire closet?" asked Mr. Draak jokingly.
"Ummm…I'm just coming prepared. You know, you can never be too sure what you need when you'll need it," replied Catalina as she stood up. She put her luggage on the floor, took her seat at the table, and selected 'Kalshjuice' and 'Kyshik Eggs Scrambled' from the console, which instantly appeared in front of her. Catalina began eating.
"So Catalina, how is your star chart project coming?" asked Mrs. Draak.
"Oh Glenda, you shouldn't even be bringing that up," said Mr. Draak. "The next few days out in the mountains should be a total retreat from anything and everything. These days, not many Yensidians enjoy the true sense of nature. They're always stuck in their laboratories and behind consoles working day-in and day-out. I'm surprised we haven't fallen over from all the stress. But we are going to enjoy ourselves like we do every year. Hiking, canoeing, swimming, fishing, and we can even watch the stars."
"I'm very excited," replied Catalina. "Back on Titan, camping was out of the question. I mean, who would want to camp out in a cold, frozen wasteland? I really appreciate you guys letting me go with you."
"I'm glad you're enthusiastic about it," said Mrs. Draak. "You see, Suzee never liked camping, especially when she got poison ivy for a week. Ever since then, she always stayed home to work on her projects."
Catalina giggled, but Suzee told her to "shut up".
After breakfast, the three Draaks and the young Saturnian headed out to the docking bay and put their luggage inside the cargo hold of a small ship that Mr. Draak dubbed Velocitor. He designed it himself in a 15-year project and has been using it ever since then. The ship is large enough to carry an average family but could accelerate far beyond the speed of light. Mr. and Mrs. Draak walked to the cockpit in the front of the ship. Mr. Draak took his seat at the helm on the left and Mrs. Draak took the passenger seat on the right. Catalina and Suzaa took their seats in the section of the ship immediately behind the cockpit. The two parts of the ship were separated by a wall with an open passage in the middle.
"All strapped in, kids?" asked Mr. Draak from the cockpit. Both Catalina and Suzaa acknowledged. Mr. Draak then activated the controls on the drive console and the Velocitor launched out of the docking bay into the sky. The ship flew around large structures and under passages in the city until finally it reached the edge. Catalina and Suzaa looked out the window in amazement. The landscape was filled with rolling green hills with trees flowing towards the horizon. The ship flew directly over a river which streamed towards a huge lake surrounded by a ring of open land and an outer ring of trees at the base of tall mountains. Mr. Draak landed the ship in an open spot near the lake.
"Here we are," he said as he pushed the button to open the door to the ship. The four grabbed the luggage from the cargo hold and walked outside, taking a deep breath of fresh air. Catalina looked around in amazement as her feet touched the green grass. She spotted a flock of birds flying graciously over the lake that clearly reflected the blue sky above.
"Catalina, while me and Mrs. Draak set up camp, I need you to take Suzaa to gather some firewood" said Mr. Draak.
"But can't you just use a flame pedestal?" asked Catalina.
"Oh no no no. You see, we're doing everything the old fashioned way. It's no fun if we cheat ourselves with technology all the time. When you're in the outdoors, you must become a part of the outdoors. Who knows? You may find something interesting on the way."
Catalina smiled, but then frowned as Mr. Draak turned to set up the tent. She was not used to having to do manual labor, even if it was as simple as gathering a few sticks and logs in the woods.
"Yeah yeah, whatever Suzee," said Catalina after her invisible friend said "I told you so." and headed into the woods with Suzaa following.
"But you know Suzee, it's beautiful out here. So maybe I'll get used to it."
"Are you talking to my sister?" asked Suzaa as the two were walking together.
"Yeah, I am," replied Catalina smiling at the young Yensidian.
"When is she coming home? I…miss her…very much."
Catalina kneeled down to Suzaa's eye level and placed her hands on her shoulders with a firm smile. "I don't know. But we're working on it. Both of us. We both want to go home so badly. Suzee tells me everyday how heartbreaking it is to be away from you and your parents for so long. I'm sure we'll find a way. I promise. Oh, and Suzee is saying hello to you right now. She says she loves and misses you."
"I love you too, big sister!" said Suzaa cheerfully.
Catalina stood up and started picking up large sticks from the ground. Suzaa picked up a bunch of small sticks but then saw an amazing sight in one of the trees.
"Look Cat, an owl!"
"Shhhhh," said Catalina putting a finger to her lips. "You don't want to scare it away." The owl was sitting in a large nest. Another owl which was assumed to be the mate flew down and perched in the same tree. It brought back food of some sort that it caught in the woods. The two girls smiled.
"Nature certainly is amazing," said Catalina.
Later that day, Mr. and Mrs. Draak along with Suzaa decided to go scuba diving in the lake. They didn't need any special gear because Yensidians had both gills and lungs and could breathe in every atmosphere except for space. Saturnians like Catalina, however, were not so fortunate.
"Ya know, I can always let you borrow my emergency kit," said Mr. Draak standing in waist-deep water in his body suit next to Mrs. Draak and Suzaa. "I have it just in case I want to go scuba diving but my gills aren't functioning properly."
"That's okay. I don't like getting wet," said Catalina.
"Suit yourself," said Mr. Draak as he and Mrs. Draak and Suzaa walked towards the center of the lake and dove underwater.
Catalina walked slowly back towards the campsite and engaged in a conversation with her invisible friend.
"Well, it's just you and me now Suzee."
"Okay, I admit it. Saturnians are not hydrophobic; I'm just a wuss."
"Oh you're going to regret it if you tell any of the crew this. I'll tell them about how you start having tremors and break down and cry when there's no light around."
Suddenly, Catalina saw a flashing light from one of the distant mountains. She could not tell what it was, but she got the idea that someone else was out here. The young Saturnian stared as a light breeze blew through her face. Turning away, she took a seat upon a rock lying by the lakeside shore. Looking outward towards the lake, she used this opportunity to focus on a few things. She thought to herself "Am I truly in Paradise?" Catalina could not ask for a better life than what she is living right now. The Draaks were like a third family to her, and they treated Catalina as if she was one of their own. They were helping her pursue her lifelong dream to become a chief engineer. Her life on Titan was mundane. Her life on the Christa was interesting but dangerous and full of odds and ends. They were fun times for Catalina and she did want to go back. But on Yensid, she feels she is at peace with herself. The birds, the trees, the hills, the mountains, and the lake. From home, she would have had to travel all the way to Earth to see such an amazing site. But here, it was like it traveled to her. Everything was going her way. Everything she ever wanted, she had here. Almost everything. Something was missing, and she felt it in her heart.
Catalina picked up her purse made of spung skin and examined it. She plainly remembered the day she first came to this dimension with an amputated spung arm. That arm belonged to Warlord Shank. She made that arm into the purse she holds now. The young Saturnian was happy to be alive and not a million particles floating in space, but one image comes to mind every time she looks at her purse – Harlan. Despite their brutal rivalry ever since they first met, over time she developed strong feelings for him. She remembered the kiss she gave Harlan moments before they departed for the last time. She faintly saw the look in his eyes before the air lock separated the two of them, but she realized right at that moment that he truly loved her. Just thinking about that moment, Catalina formed tears in her eyes. She knew that Harlan wished that he went in her place. Even after a year, it was still very painful thinking about it. But Catalina had hope. She knew one day things would go back to the way they were when she was on the Christa. Right now, she would trade everything she had to go back.
A few hours later, the three Draaks surfaced and walked towards the shore. Catalina was sitting back at the campsite playing a game on her palm computer.
"Woo, that was fun," said Mr. Draak taking a seat by the fire circle. "You really missed out, Cat. It's like discovering a whole new world down there."
"Oh, that's okay," replied Catalina. "Gave me time to be one with nature…"
"With a palm computer?"
Catalina was red in the face. "Um….hey I saw a light flashing earlier up in the mountains. I think we should check it out. There might be something there."
"Ahhh, great idea lassie. We'll take a hikin' trip tomorrow."
Suzaa ran up to Catalina and opened her hand, revealing shiny rainbow-colored rocks. "Look, big sister! Look what I found!" she exclaimed with excitement.
"Oh, those are so pretty," said Catalina in amazement. "Can I have one?"
"Sure you can," said Suzaa. Catalina picked the rock of her choice, gazed at it for a moment, and put it safely in her spung-skinned purse.
When nighttime fell, the four sat around the fire to tell stories, ranging from ghost stories to folk tales to humorous instances they've experienced. No one had more stories than Catalina.
"So there was this young Saturnian named Cassi who was into art. She would always sit outside and draw pictures of the terrain and the skyline. Cassi envied other peoples' artwork, believing that her own was inferior. One day, a young girl in a black dress and hat wanted to take her picture. She did so but then ran off. Her hat fell off, but the girl kept running without noticing. Cassi tried to stop the girl, but she was too far ahead. Cassi followed her to what appeared to be a shop of some sort. She went in, but the girl was no where to be found. Cassi did see amazing paintings on the wall, however. An old lady by the name of Mrs. Bhrams appeared and told Cassi after she asked that no such girl stopped by the place, but she would be more than happy to hold on to the hat for her. Cassi was so drawn in by the artwork that Mrs. Bhrams offered to show her around. So Cassi accepted, and there was a painting of a dance scene that was unfinished that caught her eye. Mrs. Bhrams asked Cassi to finish the painting. The freaky thing was during the time Cassi worked on the painting, she noticed a number of girls who were also working on paintings disappeared like they didn't even exist. Mrs. Bhrams would say a certain girl is not going to come back to paint for her because of 'other plans'. What freaked out Cassi at this point was the signature on the paintings that certain girls worked on was Mrs. Bhrams's signature, even though Cassi saw first hand that one of the girls signed. Later, Cassi found a cupboard of some sort with all the paintbrushes. Cassi reached for one and heard someone scream. She reached for few more and felt even more screams. It was as if there were souls trapped inside these paintbrushes! When Cassi finally finished her painting, Mrs. Bhrams asked her to sign it. Cassi said she didn't want to sign something that wasn't even hers in the first place, but Mrs. Bhrams insisted because Cassi's talent was in the painting. So she signed the painting, and she all the sudden found herself in an ongoing dance much like the one from the painting she worked on. Mrs. Bhrams took the painting and lit it on fire, knowing that Cassi's soul was trapped inside, but Cassi came to her senses, found her paintbrush, and snapped it in half, bringing her back to reality. Cassi confronted Mrs. Bhrams, who turned out to be an ancient demon that thrived on the souls of young Saturnian girls. Cassi took the paintbrushes and threw them into the fire that Mrs. Bhrams already started. The lost girls suddenly appeared back in reality and Mrs. Bhrams burnt to a crisp. The End."
"Lovely, wonderful," said Mr. Draak clapping.
"Very intriguing, Catalina," said Mrs. Draak.
"I have so many more to tell," boasted Catalina. "Like the time I escaped from the Prison of Luff, or how I almost fell off the Stargaze Tower back on Titan."
"That's enough for tonight," replied Mrs. Draak. "It's now time for bed. Look, Suzaa's already fallen asleep." Suzaa was lying on the log asleep wrapped up in a blanket. Mr. Draak gently picked Suzaa up and headed inside the tent. Mrs. Draak and Catalina followed. They were already dressed and prepared for bed, so they went straight to their sleeping bags.
"Good night, everyone," said Mr. Draak.
"Good night," replied Catalina. The young Saturnian cuddled her pillow, but she did not fall asleep immediately. She was excited about hiking the next day and finding out what that flashing light on top of the mountain really was. Part of her thinks that it's something extraordinary, but another part of her is skeptical of what it really could be. Whatever it was, she would find out tomorrow.
The next morning, the four put on their hiking gear and sat by the fire for breakfast. Mrs. Draak was cooking flapjacks and pieces of meat. Mr. Draak carved a walking stick with his pocket knife. As Catalina was eating, she suddenly saw the flashing light again.
"There it is!" shouted Catalina.
"Ah, so it is," said Mr. Draak, who also saw the flashing light. "Maybe someone is up there."
"Do you really think it's a good idea to be walking to suspicious places?" asked Mrs. Draak.
"Glenda, we're out here to explore and have a good time. If there's something we see that's worth checking out, by golly we're going to check it out. Right Cat?"
"Yeah, of course," replied Catalina smiling.
The four started heading up the mountain trail with Mr. Draak wearing a straw hat leading the group, followed by Mrs. Draak, Suzaa, and Catalina. All four of them were carrying walking sticks and knapsacks. Along the way they saw the wonderous view of the valley below. They also spotted several hawks that flew up and down the mountainside. The trail was long and tiring on everyone's feet, so they decided to take a rest in a wide open area on the trail. Catalina knew they were close, and she was more curious than the other three.
"Hey, um, Mr. Draak? I'm just going to check what's around the corner here real quick. I won't go far," said Catalina.
"Okay, dear. Just be careful," said Mr. Draak.
Catalina walked around the bend only to find a dead end, but she saw a brown mechanical device standing by the wall. It stood on four legs and had a round, shiny, flat clear surface at the top of it. She went to examine the controls. There was a large dial on the side of the machine. Catalina turned it clockwise and a light illuminated from the clear surface. Catalina looked at the machine in shock, discovering that this is where the flashing light came from.
"Someone must have been up here. But who?" Catalina asked herself. She looked up and it appeared that there were steps built into the rocky wall that lead up about 12 feet to an opening of some sort. Catalina began to climb the steps.
"Well Suzee, I hope curiosity doesn't kill the cat…pardon the pun," she said as she was climbing. When Catalina reached the top, she stood before what looked like a hangar bay. Inside was a large ship. Catalina was familiar with the type of ships from Yensid, but this one was unrecognizable to her. It looked like a cruiser of some sort. It was long, wide, and had a dark grey hull. The young Saturnian walked slowly towards the ship. All of the sudden, two men with thick black armor and black spiky helmets walked out of the ship. Catalina froze.
"Look, an intruder!" said one of them pointing straight at Catalina.
"Sound the alarm!" shouted the other one.
Catalina turned around and ran as fast as she could back down the mountain trail with her heart pounding as fast as ever.
"Where is that girl?" said Mr. Draak heading up the mountain trail with Mrs. Draak and Suzaa following. Catalina skidded down as fast as she could and met the Draak's midway on the incline of the path.
"Guys, we have to get out of here, NOW!" shouted Catalina, but it was too late. About seven of the same armored humanoids quickly crawled down from the mountain edge with their claws.
"Cat, take Suzaa and run back to the ship as fast as you can!" demanded Mr. Draak.
"But what about you?!" cried Catalina
"We'll hold them off, just go!"
Catalina ran down the mountain trail holding Suzaa's hand tightly. She felt as if she never ran so fast in her life. She reached a curve in the path where two more of the armored men crawled down the mountain wall. They held long black spears in their hands and advanced towards Catalina and Suzaa. Suzaa quickly hid behind Catalina, who released a loud scream that emitted sonic waves, knocking the two armored men back towards the mountain wall. Part of the wall started to collapse as a result of Catalina's scream, causing several huge rocks to fall on the two men. Catalina and Suzaa continued running down the path. Suddenly, Catalina slipped on some rocks and fell over the edge.
"BIG SISTER!!!" shouted Suzaa as Catalina rolled down the slope, disappearing in the set of trees. At that moment, Suzaa was grabbed from behind by one of the armored men. This one actually had large black wings. Suzaa screamed as she was being carried away. He flew her back up near the top where the strange ship was. Mr. and Mrs. Draak failed to fight them off, seeing as they were bounded by their hands and knees and guarded by four of the armored men. The winged man did the same with Suzaa and threw her into the guarded circle.
Mr. Draak was furious. "If you hurt her, I'll…I'll…"
"Do what?" asked a mysterious voice. A short pale man with long black robes, sunglasses, and a black hat appeared from the shadow of the cave. "Let me introduce myself. I am Lord Magus of Pehgus. I serve the Great Queen Jennu. Our little trap worked perfectly. We knew attracting traveling Yensidians in a remote area on their planet was the best way to go. And who am I to find out of all people? Mr. Yavis Draak, the famous engineering genius. I certainly am lucky. As our hostages, your planet shall certainly be at the mercy of the Pehgan Empire."
"Sir, there was one more. A girl with rainbow-colored hair," said one of the winged men flying in. "The other squadmen have lost trace of her. She's nowhere to be found."
"She could not have gotten far," said Magus. "No matter, she won't get very far out here, and she will never leave this planet alive. Our forces are on their way to destroy this planet. Take the hostages into the ship and throw them into the brig. We have more important matters to attend to."
"Aye, sir," said the winged, armored man. He and a couple other armored men assisted in carrying Mr. and Mrs. Draak along with Suzaa into the ship.
Catalina only rolled about halfway down the slope of the wooded mountainside before breaking her fall on a tree trunk. The young Saturnian was bruised and scratched from the impact of the fall. She stood up and looked around. She was alone now. Worried, tired, and out of breath, Catalina stumbled while attempting to walk down the slope. She saw a ship fly through the sky into space, which she recognized as the ship docked inside the cave. Catalina fell on her knees and began to cry.
"Suzee…what do I do? Your family may be dead because of me and it's all my fault! Now I'm lost in woods alone!" Tears streamed from Catalina's eyes. Suzee demanded that Catalina stop crying, get up, and head back to the Velocitor to fly and catch up with them.
"Shouldn't I just tell someone? Why does it have to be me?" Suzee replied by saying that she doesn't have time and she had total faith in her to save her family.
"I hope you're right, Suzee. I think you're nuts, but you're right, I have no other choice." Catalina wiped the tears away from her eyes and stood up. She took out her palm computer, which could track where the Velocitor is since she left her charging mechanism on the ship. The young Saturnian found her way back to the campsite. She didn't have time to pack up the camp, but that wouldn't matter much if the Pehgans destroyed the planet. Bringing only what she needed, Catalina rushed into the ship and took her seat at the helm. Suzee assisted in telling Catalina how to fly the ship. Catalina activated the controls necessary to power up the ship and then used the navigating controls to fly the Velocitor straight into space.
"I will get your family back, Suzee. They are my only responsibility now." Catalina sat firmly at the controls of the helm as the Velocitor flew into high orbit.
-To Be Continued-