Rogue Planet (Dan Dare)


Rogue Planet (Dan Dare)

Rogue Planet was a Dan Dare story that ran in the original Eagle comic from Volume 6, Issue 48 (Dated 2 December 1955) to Volume 8, Issue 7 (Dated 15 February 1957). It was drawn by Frank Hampson and Don Harley.

ynopsis

Dan and his companions arrive on Cryptos by torpedo, but Flamer is missing. The search for him is soon ended by more pressing needs: they have landed on a geyser bouncer, a floating island that has been blown clear of the surface of Cryptos by natural gas. They have been able to salvage nothing from their ship apart from two Crypt parachute balloons. Dan, Digby, Lex and Lero can use these to escape the geyser bouncer, but the Tri cell must wait for it to naturally return to the surface.

They are far from Chakra, the Crypt capital, and must cross a jungle to once of the settlements on the coast to find a boat to Chakra. In the jungle, Digby encounters a small, tame and intelligent creature with an elephant-like trunk, which he calls "Stripey". Stripey follows the party.

Before long, Dan hears a drum, which sends Lero into despair: the Phant invasion has started, brought forwards as a result of Dan's earlier space battle with a Phant fleet. Dan and Lex go to investigate the drumming, leaving Digby with Lero. In Dan's absence, a Phant war machine appears and seized Digby and Lero, taking them to a slave party bound for the mines of Phantos.

Dan and Lex follow the sound of the drum and locate the Phant invasion base. They are considering teaching the Crypts guerilla tactics when Stripey appears, carrying a shoe that Digby lost when he was captured. Dan and Lex follow him back to the slave transporter, where they rescue Lero and Digby. The Phant guards, however, then notice that "the freak" -- meaning Digby -- has escaped, and threaten to put the other slaves to the sword. Dan and company attack, and the Phants, softened by the one-sidedness of their encounters with the Crypts, are easily overcome.

Dan and Lero lead the captured Phants into the jungle, planning to maroon them on a geyser bouncer. Digby and Lex try to salvage food from the slave transporter. Lex finds a purple pill, and eats it. A few minutes later, he goes berserk, and starts smashing everything in sight. On his return, Dan overpowers him, and force-feeds him with one of Lero's yellow food pills, which brings him back to his old self. This gives Dan an idea: Phant aggressiveness and Crypt gentleness could be caused by their food-pills, and in that might lie the solution to the mission.

Dan leads his crew towards the Phant invasion base. Having captured a Phant space suit and a translator device, Dan goes into the Phant base on a spying mission. Stripey follows him, and is soon caught and nearly slaughtered by Phant guards. Dan saves him, but gives himself away in the process. Gogol, the Phant commander, calls the "Super Phants", Triangle, Circle and Square to see if they have heard of creatures like Dan. They have not, and, convinced that nothing but empty space lies outside the system of Los, Gogol concludes that Dan is a warrior robot of Crypt design. He resolves to dismantle him to find how he works.

Stripey finds Dan, who gives him a message for Digby, with orders to head for Chakra and organise resistance, and not to attempt a rescue. In the fight Dan stages to help Stripey get away, Gogol decides that Dan must be taken to Phantos and brought before the mighty "Orak". He orders all operations suspended until then. In Gogol's ship, en route to Phantos, Stripey re-appears with a package for Dan from Digby.

On Cryptos, Digby, Lex and Lero reach the coast and discover an abandoned fisherman's boat. They decide to use this to reach Chakra, by taking it to the rapid "Balto" current, which takes them to Chakra in two days.

Meanwhile, Dan arrives on Phantos. He is brought before Orak, which turns out to be a giant metal being that rises from a pit. Dan again tries to fight Gogol and the Super-Phants, but, weakened by thirst, he is overcome, although Orak orders that he not be harmed. Orak then disappears underground, and Dan is left alone.

He is then shocked at being given a flask of water by Flamer. Flamer explains that he had been knocked out when his torpedo was hit, and deflected from the course to Cryptos. But the torpedo's landing gear worked automatically, and touched down safely on Phantos. Soon after, Flamer saw the Crypt ship brought to Phantos for examination and, that night, ran to the wreck and salvaged all he could, before setting up camp in the Phantosian jungle. He has also learned that the Phants are immune to the paralyser pistols he salvaged from the wreck, but that they cannot stand water.

Flamer hides and watches as Orak re-appears. Gogol returns with some "mecho-brain" Phants, and is ordered to put Dan to the "aqua-test" before dismantling him. The aqua-test involves being lowered into a river by rope. A Phant would die on hitting the water, but Dan would still be at risk of drowning. Flamer, however, dives in after him, cuts the rope, and they manage to get safely back to the opposite shore.

They are then attacked by Gogol, but Stripey ends the fight by using his trunk to fire a jet of water at the Phant, who collapses dead on the ground. Dan and Flamer are now free to return to Flamer's base and plan their next move. They decide to steal Gogol's ship and return to Cryptos in it. As they approach it, they see the three "Super-Phants" going aboard, and Dan decided to capture the ship with them on it as hostages. He takes a disintegrator rifle on the raid, and is forced to kill Square with it before the others surrender. Dan and Flamer then head for Cryptos.

At Chakra, Digby and Lex have witnessed the Launching of the "Kra", the giant space ark that will take the children of Cryptos, along with specimens of its flora and fauna on a thousand-year journey until they can return and rebuild Crypt civilisation. In space, Dan sees the "Kra" and asks the Super-Phants why they never destroy it. He learns that the Phant invasion is simply a form of bloodsport, and the Phants want the Crypts to be able to rebuild their civilisation so that the Phants can destroy it once more.

In Chakra, Lex has used some Crypt message rockets with crude warheads attached to make a simple ground gunnery, and plans to use it against the first Phant ship to come close. Ironically, this is Gogol's captured ship, and Dan is forced to make a crash landing in the sea. In the confusion, the Super-Phants seize control of the ship. When Lex and Digby sail out to the wreck, they too are captured.

While the Phants take the Earthmen back to shore, Stripey, unseen, takes a trunk of water from the sea, and on land, takes the first chance to fire it in Circle's face, killing him. Triangle surrenders once more.

Lex unveils his masterplan. Going on the theory that the food pills are the cause of the Phants' brutality, he has made purple, Phant-style food pills filled with the Crypt food formula. Now, he has a chance to see if his theory works. Triangle is allowed to eat a few of the pills, and a few hours later, he has lost all his aggressive urges. The next part of the plan is to use two ships that the Earthman have had specially built to bring down the next Phant food shipment and switch its cargo with Lex's pills.

Taking over the Phant ship proves easy: its crew are so shocked at being fired at that they abandon ship in an escape pod. Digby and Lex go after the pod, while Dan spacewalks over to the mother ship. Flamer then brings his smaller ship aboard the Phant craft, but has bad news: Digby and Lex's ship has malfunctioned and is on a crash-course towards the Phant invasion base.

Digby manages to land outside the base, but he and Lex are then set upon by the crew of the pod. Knowing that they must stop the crew warning the base about the capture of the Phant ship, they risk a fight with the crew, at the end of which Lex is the last man standing.

Dan and Flamer take the captured ship to Chakra where it is loaded with the substitute pills. Then, accompanied by Triangle, they take the ship to the invasion base, and land as close to the wreckage of Digby's ship as they can. Triangle speaks to a Phant patrol, but gives the game away. Meanwhile, Lex and Digby arrive, disguised in Phant uniforms, and attempt to get the Phants to surrender, only for Dan to shoot them down from the transport ship's onboard guns.

Fortunately, Flamer has switched the ship's guns to para-ray (a Phant version that can freeze them). Digby and Lex are awakened and the pills unloaded. When the Phant patrol are given anti-para-gas they awaken, eat the pills they find, and are thus pacified. The patrol then, following Triangle, take the food pills to the invasion base. The troops all eat the pills and are converted to a peaceful lifestyle.

But this is just a small section of the population of Phantos. The task now is for the Earthmen to convert the entire Phant race to the new food. It would take years to ship enough food from Cryptos, and, even if they did that, how could they make the Phants eat it? Triangle convinces Lero that all the necessary minerals are abundant on Phantos, so all they need to do is change the formula in the Phant factories. Only Orak can give such an order, so Dan, Digby, Lex, Flamer, Lero, Triangle and Stripey all head back to Phantos to try to force Orak to give the command.

The plan on Phantos is for Triangle to claim that he has taken Lero, Digby and Flamer prisoner, and that Lex and Dan are his guards. The prisoners are to remain unharmed before they are bought before Orak. This nearly works, but Orak's warrior priests, the Kruels, intercept the party and insist on their right to judge whether or not the prisoners are worth bringing before Orak. Interrogating Triangle, they realise that he has changed, and a fight breaks out. Dan's party win the fight, when Orak emerges from the depths.

Orak still insists that nothing exists beyond Los, and that it will destroy anything that tries to touch it. But Dan guesses correctly that he is immune to Orak's defences -- a water cannon. He and Flamer jump aboard Orak as it submerges once more. In the depths below Dan sees what he suspected: Orak is a machine, supplied with parts from an underground factory, and powered by solar cells. The first Kruels presumably built Orak, and, after they died it continued to feed the Phants the information they gave it, including giving the periodic orders for the attack on Cryptos.

Inside Orak, Dan attaches his translator unit to its speaker systems, and then brings the robot up to the surface. The Kruels have seized the others again, but Dan orders them to give the prisoners to Orak. He then orders them to bring the controllers of the Phant food factories to him next morning.

The plan works, and peace comes to Phantos. Triangle has Orak taken out of its sacred mountain to show the people that it was just a robot. All the Earthmen now have to do is recall the Kra, then head for home. Lero then surprises all by announcing that he must die: he has lied to his friends, and by the Crypt code, he must end his life, alone in space. Dan, on learning the truth, gives chase and tells Lero he forgives him: Cryptos needs him.

The Kra is recalled, and, when the ship is ready, the Earth party heads for home. When they are spacebourne, Dan explains the truth about the lie Lero told: the anti-acceleration cabinets he had the Earthmen use on take off were really "suspa-cells", suspended animation chambers. The truth is that the party were in them for five years on the way to Cryptos, and will be on the way back. Lero had been scared that, if they knew it was a ten-year trip, nobody from Earth would have volunteered. But, five years later, the ship reaches Earth, and the crew climb out of their suspa-cells feeling as though only a second has passed.

Dan expects a major flap at Spacefleet HQ. But Spacefleet HQ is as silent as a grave. What has happened on Earth in the last ten years?

Notes

*This story is the second in a four part story arc, which is collectively known by Dare enthusiasts as the Cryptos Saga.


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