Far away, on Spectra, inside the secret underground base in the Damruk Mountains, Jason was lying on his back on the floor.
Not only was he still dizzy and nauseous, but the paralytic tranquilizer Captain Baldrik had shot him with prevented him from standing or walking and there was no indication that it would be wearing off any time soon.
But then, Jason had hit the Captain and his soldiers with feather stunners and they wouldn't be conscious again any time soon.
They had apparently been taken to a medical ward, but the soldiers who had found them all lying on the ground outside had dumped Jason here, on the floor of what appeared to be some kind of control room. Several of them now stood guard over him, awaiting Zoltar's orders as to what to do with him. They'd found his gun and taken it away from him. It, and his badly damaged wrist communicator, lay on a nearby table.
There was nothing for Jason to do, as he lay there with his eyes closed, except to think, and remember…
An apartment in a city… An old lady, Rian, she took care of me, Mala visited whenever she could, took me to the park across the street…
The gleaming red pod, made of the most heat resistant material known, was poised over the deep shaft, ready to be launched deep into Spectra's mantle.
"Awaiting coordinates and detonation timing, Sire," announced a voice.
"Your mantle reactor was to save, not destroy Spectra," intoned the Great Spirit in a cold voice from the wall of his audience chamber within the base.
"It will, Oh Luminous One," said Zoltar hastily, gesturing with one arm, "Soon we will have near infinite energy at our disposal!" He held his arms aloft and spread them wide for emphasis.
"The reaction is out of control, the planet's mantle unstable!"
"The mantle procedure will restore stability, I assure you," declared Zoltar, brandishing his hands before him in a show of confidence, "Then, we will truly have the power we need to conquer all!" Zoltar smiled as he clenched his fists.
"Do not attempt to deceive me," replied the Great Spirit, "I know what has happened to Captain Baldrik. You need his expertise for the procedure, and you have lost it!"
The Spectran deity's face began to flash in harsh patterns of erratic lines, a rare show of fury.
"Fear not, Oh Great Spirit," gasped Zoltar, "I worked closely with Baldrik on all the preparations, and I swear I know enough!" He waved his arms beseechingly before bowing his head and raising a hand to his chest in a deferential salute, "I will yet save Spectra."
"The ancient temple here," replied the Luminous One more quietly, "Was built for me, when I first came to Spectra."
"Have you not always been here on Spectra?" asked Zoltar, his head snapping up in surprise.
"I am older than you can possibly comprehend, Zoltar, but I have not always been here," replied the Great Spirit enigmatically, before shifting to an imperious tone again. "Win Mala's son over to our side or force him to collaborate, but above all, succeed with the mantle procedure!"
Zoltar bowed again, saying "I live only to serve you, most Glorious One," before turning and departing the chamber.
"You have failed me too often, Zoltar, for me to trust in your competence now," said the Great Spirit to himself, once alone, "I will make preparations of my own…"
His eyes turned a sinister shade of red.
The tall coils of the deep seismic energy detectors were glowing near the ceiling of the large room that housed the controls for the mantle procedure.
The four soldiers who had worked most closely with Captain Baldrik and Zoltar (those who had not fallen prey to Jason's feather stunners, that is) were seated at a long console before panels of buttons, dials and instruments. Zoltar presided over them, sitting further back in a throne-like chair. At his side was a small table holding a bottle of wine chilling in an ice bucket.
"The directional coordinates and detonation timing has been set, Sire!" announced one of the soldiers.
"Let us begin," said Zoltar. He downed a large swig of wine, but snapped his fingers as one striving to show confidence.
A small table covered with a glass dome now rose up from the floor before him. The dome retracted, exposing a large yellow button with the red Spectran symbol upon it, the pressing of which would begin the mantle procedure.
Zoltar paused, casting back his cloak and clutching his hands together, cracking his knuckles.
"Closely track all incoming mantle data, planet wide," barked Zoltar, hunching over to stare anxiously at the yellow button, his fists clenched, "Quick, precise analysis will be vital!"
It was fortunate that the four soldiers had their backs to him as he stared, trembling, at the yellow button; they did not see the two tears that fell from his eyes.
"And the pods' positions and timing…" he whispered to himself.
"To our success!" he yelled grandly, and slammed his fist down on the button.
Lights began to flash on the console, and beneath a large and prominent number display.
The first of the many, many pods to come was conveyed along an elevated track towards the deep shaft that had been constructed to give them ease of access to the planet's mantle.
"Remember," Zoltar was telling the soldiers as the first pod slid into the device over top the shaft, which then began to rotate to bring the pod into the correct launch position, "As long as the mantlemeter does not reach the end, there is time to succeed with the procedure."
The pod now in the correct position, its wheels aligned precisely on the guide rails that would direct it down into the planet's liquid mantle, it was sent on its way…
"Keep me apprised of all energy output from the mantle, planet wide, where it is both dangerously high and low," continued Zoltar, "I will determine exactly where to send either cadmixium or plutantrium pods, and exactly when they must detonate."
The first pod disappeared into the dark depths of the shaft.
In his office at the Federation headquarters on Earth, President Kane held a telephone in one hand and a cigar in the other.
"Zark's decoding a top secret message," he said, "That's been sent to me?"
He stubbed out his cigar in an ashtray. "And you don't know who it's from?"
He was silent for a moment, listening.
"He thinks it's Spectran? Why not through the usual… hmmph, diplomatic channels?
He hung up the phone then.
"Very odd…" he said quietly to himself, staring across his office.
The pod plunged from the planet's crust and into the glowing magma of the Spectran mantle.
There it exploded, releasing and dispersing its contents through that region of the mantle, deep beneath the planet's surface.
But all was not well on the surface of Spectra. In a distant mountain range, lava suddenly burst forth from the ground and spewed into the air as the whole region shook violently in a severe earthquake.
"Dangerous high readings!" cried one of the soldiers as a needle on one of the console's many instruments began waving erratically.
Even the base itself was affected by the earthquake. Bits of debris fell from the ceiling of the procedure control room as the soldiers stared up anxiously.
"Sire," asked one soldier apprehensively, "Is this… normal for the procedure?"
"Do not panic!" yelled Zoltar, extending one arm in a quelling gesture.
"I know what I am doing! Everything is in order! I will study the newest incoming data, but in the meantime, continue with the pod sequence that I have set!"
He clenched his hand, swinging his arm angrily.
In his office, President Kane stood up suddenly in shock, a telephone held tightly to his ear.
"An underground revolutionary movement, on Spectra?" he gasped, now clutching some papers on his desk anxiously.
"Yes," came Chief Anderson's voice through the receiver, "Their message claims they want Federation support, though we don't know who their leader is."
"I'm on my way over!" declared President Kane, hanging up the phone and striding quickly from his office.
Even as he did so, the Phoenix flew past the many skyscrapers visible through his office's large window.