R. (Becky) Eisenhuth
In spite of its obvious absurdity, none of the Alphans were laughing about their predicament. As a matter of fact, the entire situation was wholly not amusing.
John Koenig blamed himself. As Moonbase Alpha's Commander one would think he would choose to be a bit more careful, particularly after the warning they received a few years before at Terra Nova. The sudden appearance of this new planet was something mysterious and potentially dangerous so why did he so easily yield? The question was easily answered. He and his people were overly anxious to see what the planet had to offer. How could they hold back when blue sky and green grass beckoned?
On a visual level, the only flaw that could be found, and one had to pause to consider it as such, was that Alpha's probes had detected life. Human beings were already living on the planet's surface.
Perhaps, the Commander thought, that was the true reason he was so eager to make contact with this new world. There were people here and they weren't hiding from him! Did they know Alpha was on its way? Could they see the moon? Were they intelligent? Was an exchange of information in the stars?
"Commander," Maya, always the voice of scientific stability on Alpha, spoke: "It's looks wonderful but I'm still concerned. Why isn't the planet on any of our star charts? Why didn't it pick up sooner on our instruments?"
Questions. There were always questions.
Smiling, Helena placed a firm hand on the Psychon's shoulder. "We're in deep space, Maya. We've seen a multitude of phenomena since we left Earth. You have been witness to a few out of the ordinary events yourself. Some things just can't be explained."
"But do we risk a reconnaissance?" Alan Carter asked. He leaned heavily against the wall computer in Command Center, "I'm all for it but it's up to you, John."
So, it was done.
Once on the planet's surface the Alphans were greeted with a major problem. They were unable to communicate with Alpha. All of their instruments were useless. Still, Koenig was wary when asked if they should set off a warning beacon. Were they in any real danger?
Now, several minutes later, here they were. The Commander's landing party, consisting of Alan, Sandra, Helena, Maya and himself, were standing in a circle - backs to one another - staring at a wider circle of young boys. They were holding sharp spears in a clearly threatening motion and, like the planet, had come from no where to surround them.
"Did the Captain send you?" asked one of the children.
"Captain who?" Carter questioned.
"HOOK." came a chorus of voices.
"Hook?" Helena asked, not entirely certain it wasn't a joke.
One boy, with soft brown eyes and who looked around ten years old, seemed to have recognized something in Helena. He lifted his spear and held it loosely by his side. "You're not Indians and you're not mermaids ...so you must be from the Captain's ship." he surmised. He stared at Helena with an intelligent, searching expression. After awhile, he said: "I am Jimmie M. Bee, First Officer."
Helena smiled at the boy and he smiled back.
"We need to talk with an adult." Maya said, beside Helena, "Perhaps your mother or father."
Jimmie's smile faded and a nervous laughter arose from the other boys.
"You will find no grown ups here!" a voice, a distance away, called out. "They're against the law. Sorta."
Koenig and the others looked up and saw the boy who spoke. He was standing on a large boulder, right next to the Eagle, and appeared to be around thirteen years old. His hair was auburn and unruly and he was clothed in brown-green rags, like the other children, but he was tall and slender and obviously well respected by the soldiers under his command. He jumped from the boulder and landed effortlessly on his feet. The Alphans were surprised that he hadn't hurt himself.
The boy inspected the adults with suspicious eyes, noting their reactions to him. He looked them over, one at a time, until he saw Sandra. Then, for the briefest moment, he smiled. "From where do you come?" he asked John, assuming correctly that he was their leader.
"You wouldn't understand." Koenig said, "Is there no one older than you here?"
"It's true that I'm not as old as you, but my men do follow my orders." He was annoyed with Koenig's seeming arrogance.
"I apologize." John said, "I'm John Koenig, from planet Earth."
A whisper moved around the circle of boys.
Jimmie Bee spoke excitedly into his leader's ear, "Peter, we've always had to bring them here. They never came on their own before! And they're so ..."
"Quiet." The boy lifted a hand to shush his first officer. After a thinking pause, he looked up again at John and said: "I have visited your planet before. My name is Peter Pan."
All of the spears dropped away.
John had read the book when he was young. A countless number of motion pictures and cartoons had been based on this character. Not once had it ever occurred to him that the boy from Never Neverland was real.
Looking around the campfire he and his people were now sitting by, Koenig couldn't prevent a small smile. Here was Peter Pan and his 'lost boys' telling he and the Alphans about Captain Hook and the Indians. And, John knew, there were so many things that had yet to be mentioned. There were mermaids and dark, mysterious caves. There was a large hallowed out tree Peter and his boy's called home and ... there was more but John couldn't remember what it was.
Most of the younger children had lost interest in the adults and were running about them, wild and free, playing games of war and Hide n Seek.
"We're not the only tribe here, you know." Peter said. He bit into the flesh of a cooked chicken leg. "There are others. Some even have girls in them." He stopped eating and looked at Sandra for a moment, "I knew a girl from your planet once."
"Wendy?" Sandra asked.
Peter looked confused. "No ... Her name was Gwendolyn. We called her Winnie. She came here with her brothers and stayed awhile." A look which bordered on anger entered his eyes, "But she had to leave and when you do that, you can never come back. It's the law." Unexpected, he smiled and tossed the chicken leg into the fire. "You look like her." he announced and folded his hands.
Helena noted the first stages of puppy love and wondered if that could be used to their advantage in some way. She hated to be devious but, in spite of these children's outer innocence, they were not above using force if they felt a situation called for it. And, being boys without the advantage of motherly influences, anything might set them off.
"Where do you all come from?" Maya asked.
Helena was able to see the hidden frustration in the Psychon's eyes and wondered what was making her upset.
"Various places." Peter said, "The lost boys come with me if they're not happy at home. There have only been a few times when they wanted to go home again." he spoke this last sentence with pride.
"And you just let them go?"
"Yes. Why wouldn't I?"
"What if they tell about your world here?"
"What if they do?"
Peter and Maya suddenly stared at one another, challenging.
John saw the potential for a rather ugly outburst so he diverted Peter's attention with another question.
Helena, who was sitting beside Maya, touched her arm and whispered, "What's the matter?"
She whispered back, "I have no metamorphic powers here. I've tried to change on a number of occasions but simply can't do it." Maya leaned into Helena, "I fear he's doing something."
"Peter? But, you're not sure."
Peter Pan, oblivious to the women's conversation, stood. "You can do whatever you like while you're here, Commander Koenig," he said, "but you better be careful of Hook. His men are always coming to shore and causing trouble."
"But you really wouldn't mind if we decided to live here ... forever?" John appeared to be asking for a second time.
"It doesn't matter." Pan shrugged, "But you're not allowed to get into our way. We don't want mothers and fathers and hope that you'll respect our wishes." The hardness in Peter's eyes suddenly softened when he glanced at Sandra, "Would you like to come with me? I can show you the mermaids!"
Sandra looked at her Commander who appeared far more amused than forbidding, "Well. ..yes. I'd like that very much. Only, can Alan come with us?" she asked and looked over at the pilot who winked at her. As sweet as Peter seemed, she didn't want to be left alone with him.
Peter didn't look at all happy with her request, "Yeah, sure." he said, with little enthusiasm. He then motioned for them to walk with him into the woods.
"Be careful." Koenig called and added, "Keep sharp."
Alan nodded and followed behind Sandra.
Jimmie Bee took a hold of Helena's right hand, "I know where there are some really big flowers. Lots of colors. You wanna go?"
Helena looked from the boy to John. "I think Maya needs to have a talk with you." she said to Koenig. Helena then squeezed Jimmie's hand, "We won't be long." She then allowed the boy to pull her down a path.
Maya spent the next half hour explaining her suspicions to Koenig.
"I don't know if I agree with you, Maya." John said, "It's true that Peter *is* hiding something but I don't think it has anything to do with you or your powers. He doesn't even know you're a metamorph. And, while I don't know what he's hiding, I tend to believe he's not a liar. A mixed up boy, sure, but one who's a leader and respected by his followers."
"There may be something else." Maya thought aloud, "I was talking with Jimmie Bee before he left with Helena and he said, almost without thinking, that there were some children on this planet who have lived for over a hundred years."
"What? Do you think he was teasing?"
"I don't think so, Commander, but whatever it is that is keeping the children young could be the same thing is affecting me and might ..." she paused abruptly, knowing he wasn't going to like what she said next, "Commander, it's showing all the signs of radiation. A unique radiation but deadly just the same."
"Do you think the children. ..?"
"They've probably been here long enough to adapt. And, being children, they may be shielded by their youth."
"But there ARE adults here too."
"Men and women who have lived here all of their lives." Maya said, "They're as immune as the children."
"What you are trying to tell me," Koenig began with a disappointed sigh, "is that we can't live here."
"If we do, we will all die in a short time."
"COMMANDER!" Jimmie M. Bee ran down the path and into his arms. "They have her!" she shouted, out of breath. "I tried to fight but there were too many of them. They just pushed me aside!"
Koenig gently shook the boy, , 'What are you talking about? Where is Dr .Russell?"
"It's the pirates! The pirates have the lady!"
Helena had been kidnapped by Captain Hook!