By Thomas Mc
Authors Notes : This is an 'alternate reality (A/U)' story and a sequel to 'Castaway'. It is also a 'The Last Starfighter' crossover. . . - On a R&R trip back home to Earth Alex Rogan notices a disturbing similarity between the reclusive Cutanian race and the popular descriptions of the Central Park Creature of New York urban legend.
Alex Rogan had been the Supreme Commander of the Star Legion for a bit over eight years yet every day still seemed to present him with something new that he had never dreamed could exist. Just this morning, he had spent meeting the newest batch of recruits to the Legion and had encountered a representative of a race that looked like a cross between a carrot with six eyes and an octopus. Of course the biggest surprise was seeing his own little brother, Lewis, among the new recruits. He had a sneaking suspicion that he had Centauri to thank for the presence of his little brother.
Counting himself, that would make two Starfighters recruited from a planet that wasn't even aware of the Star League's existence yet. Earth was still considered too primitive and warlike to be invited into the Star League. In fact Earth currently enjoyed 'Protected Potential' status which meant that other advanced races were forbidden to have any contact with it until it was deemed advanced enough to be invited to join the Star League. That evening he had gone home and informed Maggie of the appearance of his brother among the new recruits. While eating dinner, they discussed inviting Louis over as soon as he finished his basic training.
After dinner while reading some of the older Star Legion reports, Alex glanced over at his wife Maggie playing with their two children, (seven year old Stephen, and five year old Veronica) and smiled. The Star League was a wonderful place to raise children but he knew that eventually he would have to take them back home to Earth if they were ever to have a chance to have families of their own. Maggie looked up at him and smiled back then returned her attention to their kids.
Alex went back to his reports. He had recently set himself the goal of learning the history of the Star Legion and its heroes. There were a lot of great stories to be found there. Both of his children loved it when told them some of those stories at bedtime. Their favorite story however was still the story of how their father became the leader of the Star Legion.
He finished the current report and went on to the next one. He looked at the date code at the top of the report and did a little mental calculation. This one was from about thirty-seven years ago. That would make it just about when the Gunstars were first introduced. That ship had changed the face of space warfare and made the Star League undefeatable. Eight years ago he and his navigator Grig in a single Gunstar Mark II had taken out the entire Kodan invasion fleet. Two years ago the first Gunstar Mark III, based on many of his recommended improvements, had rolled off the line. Now eighty percent of the Gunstars in the fleet were Mark III's.
Alex set his memories aside and turned his attention back to the report. This one was about Zamiis and Zoria of the Cutahnian race. (Another race that he had never seen or heard of.) According to the report they were the only two of their race ever to serve in the Legion. In the three short years that they had served with great distinction in the Legion they had racked up a very impressive list of exploits. At the beginning of their fourth year they had been assigned a new Gunstar from the first production run. For about two months they had distinguished themselves in five separate encounters. Then on a supposedly routine escort mission they had been caught by surprise and destroyed.
Alex remembered once shortly after the birth of Stephen, Grig had commented that his and Grig's record had surpassed even Zamiis & Zoria. Now he finally understood what Grig had meant and how much of an accomplishment it had been.
Alex turned to the last page and stared at the pictures at the top of the personal information sheet. There was something about their appearance that seemed vaguely familiar. It would be quite accurate to describe them as lion-men. He read down further and made another interesting discovery. It turned out that the father of Zamiis was the current Cutahnian Ambassador.
Alex put the report down when Maggie reminded him that it was time for the children to go to bed. He herded them into their bedroom and as they prepared for bed he told them a story taken from the report on Zamiis and Zoria.
That night as they lay in bed Alex and Maggie talked about Earth and their plans for a visit to their home planet next month. "Have you decided where you want to go while we're there?" Alex asked.
Maggie thought a moment then responded. "I think I want to see New York again, maybe take in a Broadway play and explore Central Park. I had so much fun there last year."
Alex thought it sounded like a good idea.
~ o ~
Alex thought that Zadoranis, the Cutahnian Ambassador, looked so very regal with his strong leonine features and his thick snow white mane. This had been the Ambassador's first visit to the headquarters of the Star Legion since the death of Zamiis and Zoria, so many years ago, and he had insisted on meeting the legendary Alex Rogan in person.
After the initial introductions, Zadoranis mentioned that his son had served in the Legion. Alex nodded and remarked that he had read about the exploits of Zamiis and Zoria. That seemed to open the flood-gates and they ended up spending the next hour and a half talking about the Ambassador's son and daughter-in-law.
Eventually Ambassador Zadoranis had to leave for a major diplomatic meeting with the other members of the Star League. He thanked Alex for his time and interesting conversation then he departed. Alex was left with a healthy dose of respect for the Ambassador that was the equal of the respect he felt for Zamiis and Zoria.
~ o ~
As soon as they arrived on Earth, Alex and Maggie stopped first at the trailer park owned by his mother. Stephen and Veronica both cried out in delight as they rushed into their grandmother's waiting arms. They spent two days with his mother catching up and seeing the other long time residents of the trailer park.
The children were looking forward to spending a week with their grandmother as well as being able to play with Uncle Beta and Aunt Beta while Alex and Maggie went to New York. Uncle Beta and Aunt Beta were both top of the line beta units (humanoid robots) that looked and acted more or less like Alex and Maggie in order to cover their absence from Earth. Most of the long time residents knew all about Alex and Maggie but the Beta units did keep the authorities from noticing their absence. The beta units also were very helpful to Alex's mother and Maggie's grandmother.
After two days Alex and Maggie headed off to New York leaving their children in his mother's care.
~ o ~
Alex and Maggie were enjoying a romantic ride through Central Park in a horse drawn carriage. The driver pointed at the carrousel. "One of the oldest reported sightings of the Central Park Creature was right over there." Alex made a derisive snort. This was the third time they had heard that particular urban legend mentioned during their visit to New York. The driver continued. "I know you don't believe, but I tell you the creature does exist. I saw it once with my own eyes."
Maggie perked up. She found urban legends fascinating. "You actually saw it? What did it look like?"
The driver grinned over his shoulder at her. "It was a couple of hours after dark. I had just dropped off my last fare of the day and was headed back to put up my horse for the night when I saw this couple walking through the park. The woman was very pretty and the man was running to catch up with her. A bunch of gang members cornered them and I thought they were in real trouble when the Creature came bounding out of the shadows roaring like a lion at the same time that some female detective came in from the other direction. It was incredible. He was built like a man but he had the face of a lion." The driver was talking over his shoulder without really looking at them so he missed the surprised look on Alex's face but Maggie did see it. The driver continued. "I only saw the Creature for a minute but I will never forget what I saw."
The drivers description had sounded so much like a description of Ambassador Zadoranis that Alex couldn't help but wonder if there was a connection. Could there be a Cutahnian running around loose in the Central Park Area? If so, was it an unauthorized intrusion on a restricted world or possibly a castaway?
~ o ~
That evening after they returned to their hotel room Maggie turned to him in curiosity. "Why did you get so rattled when that buggy driver described the Central Park Creature to you?" She had her suspicions.
Alex replied as he dug through his luggage. "That description is an almost perfect match to a very reclusive Star League race called the Cutahnian. Ah, here it is." He pulled out a multi-band radio that he always carried with him. Unlike the typical run-of-the-mill multi-band radio, this unit could receive frequencies that earth science couldn't even detect yet. "Now let's see what we can see." He turned on the receiver and selected a band. Static was his only result. He frowned as continuing adjustment only produced static. Finally he sighed. "Well it was worth a try."
"Maybe the similarity of description is just a coincidence." She remarked sympathetically.
"You're probably right . . ." He again changed the band, setting it for a frequency that was a closely guarded secret, and this time was rewarded with silence broken by the occasional fits of static. His eyes opened in surprise. "There is a live carrier wave." He muttered.
"What does that mean?" Maggie asked.
"There's no signal. It's like a radio is transmitting on the restricted military band but there is no data being sent." He responded.
The next moment there was one irregular sick sounding beep. Despite the weakness and distortion of the sound Alex knew that sound. A second later the sound was repeated
With a stunned look on his face Alex shut off his receiver. He looked up at Maggie as he spoke. "There's a disabled Gunstar somewhere close by. The signal is very weak and erratic but it is definitely a Gunstar emergency beacon carrier wave."
As far as Alex knew there were no unaccounted for Gunstars. He frowned, remembering the Ambassador and the story of his son. "Could it be? . . . Naw, it's too absurd . . . isn't it?" He sent a message to Grig asking if there were any records of missing Gunstars.
A couple of hours latter Grig reported back that he could only find two reports of missing Gunstars. One was a twelve year old report of a missing ship that was thought to have fallen into a star and therefore was never found. The other was the Gunstar of Zamiis and Zoria. They found a debris field where the ship disappeared but there was not enough material to account for the entire mass of a Gunstar so though it was publicly listed as destroyed the internal Legion records listed its final dispensation as uncertain / possibly MIA.
After a few moments of contemplation Alex responded. "Grig I need you to report to the Star Legion headquarters that I have located the possible remains of a Gunstar here on Earth and to send a recovery team. Then I want you to contact Ambassador Zadoranis, and inform him that I may have found the remains of his son's Gunstar. Also there is a 'very remote', and strongly emphasize the words 'very remote', chance that I may have found evidence of either his son or his son's mate here on Earth."
That night he went to bed his mind whirling with the possibilities. The next morning he was told that the recovery team was on its way and they made plans to meet after dark on the north side of the Turtle Pond. Alex had himself and Maggie shifted to a larger four bedroom suite so that they would be able to host whoever showed up.
~ o ~
Alex was shifting nervously as he watched a group of young people passing near his position. He knew that Grig and Centauri were coming but that was all. Two minutes later he noticed three figures approaching his position and tensed up as he prepared for any eventuality. He relaxed somewhat though he was very surprised when he recognized his little brother Louis. The second figure he soon recognized as Centauri's human disguise. The third figure however was heavily cloaked and hooded.
As they approached the third figure glanced quickly around then pushed back his hood. It was Ambassador Zadoranis in person. Alex was stunned. Zadoranis stepped forward his smile exposing his fangs. "It is a pleasure to see you again Alex Rogan." As Alex continued to stare at him in surprise he continued. "I do not know why you are so surprised to see me here. Did you think I would not come if there was even the slightest chance that Zamiis or Zoria might still be alive and trapped here on this planet?"
Alex finally responded to the ambassador. "I understand but you realize that such a possibility is very remote." He glanced at the rest. "Even if it is their ship, that doesn't mean that either of them is still alive."
Zadoranis nodded. "Still it is a possibility; therefore I had to come." He cocked his head. "Just I was exiting our shuttle I detected a presence from somewhere in the city. It was fleeting but strong. It could have been one of them."
Alex raised his eyebrows in surprise at this latest bit of news. After a minute he asked where Grig was and was informed that Grig had stayed behind aboard the salvage ship.
~ o ~
The twins were asleep in their beds, and Vincent and Catherine were relaxing in their rooftop garden celebrating. Doctor Peter Alcott had just verified what they already knew – Catherine was pregnant again. Tomorrow Catherine would break the news to Joe and Sammy at lunch. Just twenty minutes ago they had seen a falling star shoot across the sky and they had both made wishes. Catherine had wished for another boy just like his father and older brother. Vincent had wished that some day he would be able to tell his children where he and they came from.
Vincent suddenly became very alert. Catherine clearly felt his surprise and uncertainty. "What is it Vincent?" Catherine asked.
Vincent shook his head. "I'm not really sure." He shrugged. "I thought for a moment that I was sensing one of the twins but it was . . . different." He shrugged. "Whatever it was, it's gone now."
Catherine placed her hand over her belly. "You were probably just feeling junior here." She smiled up at him. "I remember how surprised you were the first time you sensed the twins. You didn't know where it was coming from."
Vincent shook his head. "No . . . this was different. I was aware of the baby's presence as well so I know it wasn't that. It was something else and I felt it sensing me during that short contact."
~ o ~
The next evening, shortly after dark, Maggie, Centauri and Ambassador Zadoranis stood on the empty dock staring out at the East River. Once they had fired up the tracking receiver they had quickly traced the intermittent signal to the mouth of the river. A quick scan had located the remains of the ship about fifty yards from the location of the beacon. Alex and Louis had dived down to where the scanner placed the remains. Bringing down the necessary recovery equipment greatly increased the chances of exposure so before they could begin the difficult and dangerous salvage operations they had to uncover the wreckage and verify that it was indeed the remains of a Gunstar.
They had been there for a couple of hours when Maggie shivered from the cool damp morning air. Ambassador Zadoranis sensed her discomfort and enfolded her in his long warm cloak. She glanced up to thank him just as he became very alert and started scanning the shore. "Someone is watching us." He pulled his hood further forward to more effectively hide his face.
"Maybe we had better get out of here before someone report's to the local authorities." Centauri remarked as he too began looking around nervously.
"What about Alex and Louis?" Maggie asked.
Centauri took out his communicator. "Alex, Alex, are you there, Alex?"
"I'm here." Replied Alex's slightly distorted voice.
"Alex, we are being observed. We are going to take the ambassador back to the suite and return later." Centauri responded. "We will come back when you are ready for us to pick you up.
"That sounds like the best option. These remains are buried pretty deep and it will take a while to dig down to them." Alex replied. "I will contact you if I need you."
The three of them jumped into their vehicle and hurried back to the hotel room to wait for word from Alex and Louis.
After spending most of the night digging in the silt at the bottom of the river, Alex and Louis found only large chunks of melted slag buried there. They signaled Centauri who came to pick them up and returned them to the hotel suite to report what they had found.
"There was nothing left worth the danger of a recovery operation." Alex told them. "If you add the total amount of mass we detected down there with the amount of debris found where Your son and his mate disappeared, you have nearly enough to make up a complete Gunstar." Alex paused to consider the next step. "Tomorrow night we will go back and try to recover the beacon transmitter. We can hopefully positively identify the ship by the transmitter's serial number if it is readable. Even without that final proof, I'm pretty confident that that is your son's ship down there."
~ o ~
Early that morning Vincent and Catherine had gone below and were eating breakfast in the dining chamber before she headed off to work and Vincent began his Friday literature class. Vincent noticed Jamie and Mouse staring at him and acting strangely. Vincent called them over and, after a moment's hesitation, they reluctantly came over. As they approached Vincent sensed their nervousness and uncertainty. He also noticed that they kept glancing at Catherine.
"Jamie, Mouse, you both seem to be bothered by something. What is it that has upset you two?"
They both again glanced nervously at Catherine then Mouse lowered his head and shuffled his feet. Jamie seemed to be trying to come up with the right words when Mouse blurted out. "Last night . . . Vincent at dock with girl." Then he lowered his head again.
Catherine stared at Mouse in surprise a moment then spoke. "You must be mistaken. Vincent was with me last night."
Jamie finally spoke up as she stared at Vincent. "We both saw you. Mouse and I were scrounging at the East River Docks looking for . . . gizmos . . . when we spotted you standing on the dock with a dark haired woman and some man. Then you looked over in our direction and the three of you hurriedly left the docks."
Catherine and Vincent looked at each other a moment then Vincent responded. "This person that you say was me . . . What makes you so sure it was me?"
Jamie replied. "There wasn't a lot of light but I caught a glimpse of his face and I saw his hands pretty clearly when he pulled his hood forward." She shook her head. "But I would swear he looked just like you."
Mouse jumped in. "Saw face, saw hands, looked like Vincent." Then he seemed lost in deep concentration for a couple of seconds. He glanced up at Vincent looking confused. "But white, fur all white"
Jamie looked at Mouse in surprise. "White? . . . I didn't notice that but it was difficult to be sure of anything. The lighting on that dock was very poor."
Catherine was a bit worried now. "Jamie, I think we need to alert the helpers and everyone Below to keep an eye out around the dock area and the subways. You can tell them what to look for." She started to turn toward Vincent then stopped. "And Jamie, tell everyone to keep their distance. I don't want anyone getting anywhere near to this . . . person."
~ o ~
After Jamie and Mouse left Vincent turned to Catherine, his concern plainly evident in his eyes and through their bond. "Are you thinking it might be another vigilante like Jason?"
Catherine nodded grimly back. "That is exactly what I'm afraid of."
~ o ~
That morning at work Catherine told Joe of her suspicions. Joe told her that he would give her any help she needed to find the Vincent look-alike. At lunch with Joe and Sammy she told them that she was pregnant. Sammy squealed with delight then informed Catherine and Joe that she had just found out this morning that she was also pregnant. Joe just sat there stunned. His wife and his best employee were both pregnant at the same time.
Around dinnertime Joe and Sammy came over to the brownstone to talk to Catherine about the Vincent look-alike. Catherine, Vincent and Joe met with those that would be involved in the docks surveillance and gave them last minute instructions. Joe had agreed to keep the police out of it until the stranger and his intentions had been identified.
That night after the twins had been put to bed, Vincent noticed that Catherine was having difficulty getting her mind off of the unidentified person that Mouse and Jamie had seen. He started rubbing her shoulders to get her to relax. Then his ministrations started taking on a more intimate range until all other considerations were driven from her mind by their loving.
Continued in Part 2
'Beauty and the Beast' and its characters are owned by Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures.
'The Last Starfighter' and its characters are owned by Universal Pictures and Lorimar Film Entertainment.
No infringement on copyrights is intended. This story is presented merely for the enjoyment of fans. Original concepts and story elements may be used by other authors as long as appropriate credit is given.