This story first appeared in Issue 11 of the SIG! Fanzine, Autumn 1984, published Brendan J Sheehan and David W Nightingale, in UK. Text and pictures taken from the fanzine. Story by Robert Reid and drawings by Steve Kyte.
This story is posted without the author's or the artist's permission - with due acknowledgment - hoping to attract their attention. If you wish it to be removed, please contact the webmaster without any delay.
After seemingly countless encores, pop superstar Kate Kestrel managed to escape the rapturous applause of her massive audience at New York's Carnegie Hall and returned to the tranquility of her dressing room. She had a visitor.
"You took your time," said her guest, looking at his watch.
"Sorry, Tiger. I don't like to disappoint my fans."
"And had you forgotten that this particular fan was treating you to dinner tonight?"
"Of course not. I NEVER forget appointments like THAT!"
The crowds had long gone when Kate and "Tiger" Ninestein slipped out of the stage door to Kate's gleaming red sports car. "Like it?" she enquired.
"Sure," replied Ninestein, "but I'd feel a lot safer if we'd used Hudson.”
"Oh, come on Tiger! Can't you forget the Terrahawks for one evening?"
"You know my motto, Kate - expect the unexpected." He looked up at the dark but cloudless sky. "I wouldn't be surprised if Zelda were cooking something up right now."
"Whateverr it iss, I don't warnt any!" The buck-toothed alien turned up his nose at the green liquid bubbling away on the hotplate. Zelda's silver-topped cane crashed down on his knuckles.
"Impudent oaf! Why must you always be so preoccupied with your stomach? This little conncoction is my latest weapon in my fight against the despicable Ninestein."
"what's wrong with our monsterrs?" wailed Yung-Star.
"They have all FAILED, that is what's wrong!" Zelda shrieked. "They may yet have another chance; however, my little potion here is guaranteed to cause havoc on Earth, in one way or another."
As Zelda spoke, the beaker containing the potion slowly disappeared.
"M'mm, that was delicious," said Kate, wiping her mouth with a napkin.
"At these prices, it should be," Tiger commented dryly, looking at the bill. "Still, we may as well go the whole way. More wine?"
High above them, in the derelict NASA Mars base, Zelda could hardly contain herself.
"Now watch, Yung-Star, as my little potion takes effect!"
Ninestein and Kate drank a toast to her new single. "This wine's not bad," he remarked. "Well, Kate, you were.... something wrong?"
The singer's eyelids were heavy, and she touched her forehead. "I feel kinda faint. It's maybe the aftermath of the concert, but I've never felt it this way before."
"You've had a long day. Come on, let's go home - and I'll drive."
Ninestein helped her out to the car. No sooner had he pulled away from the kerb than Kate slumped forward in her seat, unconscious.
"How is she, Mary?"
"No change, Tiger," Mary Falconer replied. "It's been nearly 12 hours - maybe we should call a doctor."
"I am a doctor. And I diagnose that you need some rest - you've been up with Kate all night."
Mary shook her head. "I'm 0.K."
"Get some rest," repeated Ninestein. "I don't want any more casualties. I'll get one of the Zeroids to watch her."
He returned to the lounge of the White House, where Sergeant-Major Zero was winning a game of chess with Lieutenant Hawkeye.
"How is she, Tiger?" asked her co-pilot.
"No change. Zero, could one of your Zeroids fly Hawkwing?"
"Sah, there is nothing my men cannot do," replied Zero indignantly.
"Good. In that case, you can assign one of them as nursemaid to Captain Kestrel. I want to know if she so much as makes..... "
Mary's scream brought Ninestein and Hawkeye rushing to Kate's room. Mary buried her head in Ninestein's shoulder, sobbing heavily. "It - it just happened. Right before my eyes!"
The two men stared at the figure on the bed. Ninestein could only mutter, "Flaming thunderbolts!"
The prostrate figure in the pink nightgown was unmistakeable, but the face, wizened, wrinkled and ugly, was not that of Kate Kestrel.
"There's only one person capable of doing this," said Hawkeye. Ninestein nodded. "Zelda!"
The Imperial Queen of the planet Guk was cackling demoniacally. "Success! Success!"
"But I don't understand, Zelda," said Cy-Star, innocently. "How can this help us?"
Zelda's laughter was cut short.
"How? How? Any idiot could see how? Miss Kestrel is a celebrity on Earth. She obviously cannot make an appearance in her present state, and as I have the antidote I will be able to name my price. Prepare my ship!"
"Dr. Ninestein, we have a contact!"
Tiger groaned as the face of Lieutenant Hiro appeared on the VDU.
"I knew it. Trajectory Mars to Earth, right?"
"Exactly," affirmed Hiro.
"O.K., keep your eyes on it. Zero, get one of your Zeroids on Hawkwing. Off you go, Hawkeye - this is a 10-50!"
Ninestein took up his position in Battlehawk with Zero beside him in the seat normally occupied by Mary Falconer.
"I hope you know what you're doing, Zero," he said doubtfully.
"Sir, I may not be as pretty as Captain Falconer, but -"
"Did someone call my name?"
Ninestein spun round. "Mary! I told you to get some rest!'
"'True, but you can't operate Battlehawk without me, can you?"
"I'm not about to find out, am I? But if you so much as yawn... all right, move along, Sergeant-Major."
Once Battlehawk was airborne, Ninestein checked the position of the alien ship.
"It should be landing in about three minutes, Doctor," Hiro told him, "some 30 miles from your present position."
"Ten-Ten. I want to know when it lands."
"No need, Tiger," Hawkeye's southern drawl broke the airwaves. "I got it in my sights right now. Taking aim..."
"Ten-Zero, Hawkeye. Let it go. That's an order."
"A wise decision, Doctor Ninestein." Zelda's voice echoed around the Battlehawk's cabin.
"I was wondering when you'd make an appearance, Zelda. What have you done to Kate?"
"All in good time, Ninestein. You will receive the antidote if you agree to a little meeting."
"Name the place, Zelda."
"Approximately ten miles from your present position, there is an old tin mine. I think that is as good a place as any."
"I'll be there in ten minutes."
"One more thing, Ninestein," rasped Zelda, "come alone!"
"Zelda, you have my word there won't be another living soul with me."
"Don't go, Tiger!" pleaded Mary, "it's a trap!"
"Obviously; but with Kate's life at stake I can't do much else, can I?"
A gust of wind blew a clump of tumbleweed across the deserted tin mine's mouth as Ninestein waited at the rendezvous point.
"Glad you could make it, Doctor."
He spun round to find the alien queen staring him in the face.
"Ah, there you are Zelda. Now, the antidote..."
"Not so fast, clone. Miss Kestrel's present condition may look rather grotesque to you Earthlings, but I think she looks rather attractive."
"Fortunately we don't all think like you, you -"
A savage hissing made Ninestein look down. One of Zelda's cubes sat at her feet, straining to attack his mistress' adversary.
"You told me to come alone!" he snapped angrily.
An evil grin cracked Zelda's face. "Yes, Ninestein, but I did not say I would do likewise. You will receive the antidote for Miss Kestrel in return for one thing... the Battlehawk!"
She sighed wearily. "You disappoint me, clone. Now I will have to dispose of you. Kill him, my pet!"
Hissing wildly, the cube raised itself on its rear end. There was a flash of laser fire, and the box erupted into a thousand pieces. A deep snigger came from the roof of the mine entrance.
"Perfect shot," Zero smirked, "though I say it meself!"
"You double-crossed me, Ninestein!" rasped Zelda. "You said you'd come alone."
"I said there wouldn't be another living soul with me. I didn't say anything about Zeroids."
Fuming, Zelda dematerialised, but her voice lingered: "I will be back, Earthling!"
"Thanks, Zero. Now 1et's get back to Battlehawk."
"Well?" Mary asked eagerly, "what happened?"
"Stalemate. The asking price was too high."
"Oh, Tiger! How could you? Surely nothing is more valuable than Kate's health?"
"Let me put it this way, Mary: how would you like to walk back to Hawknest?"
"You mean - BA'I'I'LEHAWK?"
"As Hiro would say - exactry!"
"So what now?"
"Well, Zelda may have failed to get her hands on Battlehawk, but I have a theory that she'l1 try for something else. Let's get back to Hawknest. Hawkwing?"
"Thees ees Hawkweeng, Doctor."
"WHAT? Oh, a Zeroid; I forgot."
"That's right, Sah," said Zero proudly, "that there is 2-3, one of my best."
"Really? Return to base, Hawkwing."
Immediately on their return Mary checked on the patient.
"How is she, 5-5?"
"I'm afraid to say, no change in Miss K.," rhymed the Zeroid, "it has to be dead, I think she's -"
"FIVE-FIVE!" Zero rolled in, "kindly keep your comments to yourself! You is a Zeroid and Zeroids is not supposed to think!"
"I think he's right, Sergeant-Major," Mary whispered.
Zero spun like a top, eye-sockets bulging, "Ma'am, I am surprised at YOU! You must be optimistic!"
"lt all depends on Zelda," Mary said, tears trickling down her face, "Kate's life is in her hands."
The deep baritone snores told Cy-Star all she needed to know. "Your mother is asleep, Yung-Star," she reported in a whisper.
"Goorrd," purred Zelda's son, "now to put ourrr little plan into operation." He leaned over Zelda's crystal. "Doctor Ninestein. Can you hearrr me?"
Space Sergeant 101 couldn't believe his sensors.
"Lieutenant, I have a contact - from Mars!"
"Did you get that, Doctor Ninestein?" asked Hiro.
'Ten-Ten, Hiro. Patch it through."
'Doctorr Ninestein, this is Yung-Starr. Can you hearr me?"
"I can hear you. What do you want?"
"We have heard Miss Kestrel perrform," the alien gurgled, "she makes beeautiful music. We would like to help herrr."
"I have a sample of my motherr's antidote potion here. You can have it in return for a .... gift?"
"Mary! Hawkeye! Get in here quick!"
"Wat is it, Tiger?" Mary rushed into the lounge.
"Yeah," drawled Hawkeye, "like, where's the fire?"
Ninestein held up a small phial filled with a green liquid. "This is the antidote!"
"You mean Zelda just gave it to you?"
"Well, not exactly. Let's see if it works."
They trooped through to Kate's bedroom. Mary lifted Kate's head and put the phial to her lips; when it was empty, she gently laid her back on the pillows. Then all three stood back as an amazing transformation took place.
"Look," Mary gasped, "it's working!"
Like a second skin, the wrinkles disappeared from Kate's face and her dark, pert, features emerged. She blinked slowly, and looked at her colleagues staring down at her.
"Wh-what happened?" she murmured.
"Welcome back to the land of the living," said Mary, "how do you feel?"
Kate sat up. "A little tired, I guess; but I'll soon work that off with a couple of tunes on my synthesiser!"
"Ah - I'm afraid that won't be possible, Kate," Ninestein told her.
"Why not, Tiger? I feel fit enough to play - and right now I can feel a tune comin' on!"
TWAANG! SCREECH! BRRANGGG!
Zelda careered out of bed as an unearthly sound broked her slumber, "What in Space-name are those infidels up to?"
She soon found out.
Yung-Star and Cy-Star were literally throwing each other around the room as Yuri, the space bear, slammed his paws down on the keys of a gleaming white synthesiser.
"What is going on here?" the Space Witch yelled above the din.
"Isn't this fun, Zelda," giggled Cy-Star, "we're dancing!"
"Dancing? DANCING! Cease this nonsense - NOW!"
Yuri stopped playing. The aliens stopped dancing. Zelda examined the instrument.
"Where did this.... monstrosity come from?"
Ninestein gave it to us," Yung-Star told her.
"Nine - no, you didn't! Tell me you didn't!"
"Yes!" giggled Cy-Star, "we swopped the synthesiser for the antidote!"
"AAAGHH! Fools! Idiots! Imbeciles! If I ever get my hands on you -" Zelda gave chase, waving her cane menacingly above her head.
"But, Zelda," wailed Cy-Star, "music SOUTHES the savage breast!"
"It appears," Yung-Star told her, "that we have struck a sourrr note with my motherrr - YEEOWW!"