"Critical Mass" (official)
"A Black Hole Affair" (mine)


Seth Hill

Teaser -- Notes -- Synopsis -- Neat Stuff/Food for Thought -- Snapshots -- Quotes
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The League sends a "dead" planet into an area where there is almost enough mass to form a black hole, with hopes of destroying a large MM breeding ground. When it turns out that there's somebody on the planet they're using to make their black hole, Jayce and Co. race the time left until critical mass to try and rescue him.




It is that gray period just before dawn on a deserted, rocky world. Flora and Gillian watch the cloud of dust kicked up by Armed Force as Jayce drives away from the ramp. Gillian explains that he can't figure out why Herc would have landed the Pride on this strange planet, and Flora speculates that it probably has something to do with money.

In Armed Force (AF) Jayce and Oon follow Herc's tracks. Oon wonders why Herc's tracks are so zigg-zaggy, and Jayce comments that that's just the way Herc thinks sometimes. They catch up to Herc, who is driving Spike Trike (ST).

When Jayce demands to know what's going on, Herc doesn't even appear to hear him. Herc reads from a piece of paper, deep in concentration. "Twenty north..." Herc mumbles to himself, "...fifty east...."

Annoyed, Jayce says: "This better have something to do with that signal we were following from my father." Jayce uses AF's claw to grab the back end of ST and lift it in the air. The vehicles' drive wheels now spin uselessly, and both vehicles come to a stop. Herc now notices that Jayce is there. "Huh? Hey, what are you doing?" he asks in surprise.

Atop the cliffs surrounding the two Lightning League (LL) vehicles, Monster Mind (MM) troops gather their forces and look down upon our unsuspecting heroes.

"Jayce, you take all the fun out of life," Herc says with a sigh. As he talks, he gestures with the rolled up paper he's been reading, and accidentally drops it. Jayce picks it up and glances it over. "Be careful," Herc says, "That map's a thousand years old!" Jayce grins up at him. "Buried treasure?" asks Jayce.

Meanwhile, the MM atop the clifs decide to make their attack. Oon notices them, and with a great deal of effort manages to stutter out a warning. Jayce and Herc jump back into thier respective vehicles. Jayce fights bravely against the troopers. Herc, though caught off guard by the attack, also manages to fight well. Together, the two of them clear a path through the masses and race back to the ship, with the MMs in pursuit.

ST roars up the ramp, but at the last minute, Jayce turns AF back around to face the approaching troops and uses AF's claw to pick up a large boulder. "Watch this, Oon," Jayce says. Then pivots the claw around in circles to gain some momentum and pitches the boulder out towards the advancing MM troops. The boulder rolls and bounces along the ground. Some of the troopers at the front of the line see it coming and try to take evasive manuevers, causing a pile up with the troopers behind them. Just moments later, the boulder crashes through the tangle of troopers, scattering them every which way. "Strike!" yells Jayce, before turning AF up the ramp.

Sawboss watches the Pride's escape through the eyes of his troopers. "Flee while you can, Jayce... we'll meet again soon," he promises.


Some time later, Jayce, Gillian, Oon and Flora stand around the pilot's console, all staring at Herc accusingly. "Don't look at me that way!" complains Herc, pulling out is treasure map and setting it down on the console before him. "In case anybody's interested, this happens to be a map to the treasure of Zornadu. Won it in card game on Altair seven."

Jayce and Gillian grin at each other, and Flora reaches for the treasure map. "This ought to make a great paper airplane!" she remarks. Herc hastily grabs the map back. "Hands off, spinach nose," he says.

Oon glances up at the monitors and notices a huge mass of MM vines just outside, and that the Pride is flying right toward them. Oon stutters out a warning, and Herc takes immediate, evasive action. Jayce and Gillian grab on to the pilot's chair and the console. Oon goes flying toward the back of the bridge. Jayce manages to catch Flora's hand and keep her from facing a similar fate. "Herc!" yells Jayce. "Okay," Herc snaps back, "it's not my day. But with a small course correction...." Herc magages keep the ship from getting tangled in the MM vines outside.

Now out of immediate danger, our heroes realize that they're on the edge of a whole galaxy that has been taken over by the MM. Gillian remarks that, fortunately, nobody has lived in the area for centuries. But the League still has a problem. "My father's signal came from somewhere on the other side... can you get us through?" Jayce asks Herc.

"That's what hyperspace drive is all about, kid," says Herc. He switches on the hyperdrive, and all over the bridge, control systems begin to spark and hiss. When the crackling stops, Herc checks system status and learns that, with the exception of life support and rocket power, everything has just burnt out--including the hyper drive.

"How long to repair the hyper drive?" asks Jayce. "Oh, a month easy--if it isn't worse than I think," replies Herc.

Meanwhile, Gillian has been studying the situation outside with a great deal of interest. "Fascinating," he remarks. "The vines have pulled all the planets in this galaxy so close together it could form a black hole... ah, just a bit more mass."

At the words Black Hole Herc goes to get out of the area as fast as possible. But Jayce tells him to wait, and asks Gillian how much more mass is needed. Gillian does some calculations, and concludes that a middling planet would be adequate. "Let's do it!" decides Jayce.

"Kid, you don't fool around with black holes... even to get a galaxy out of your way!" Herc says. But Jayce argues his point, adding that they'd also destroy a large MM breeding ground. Concerned, Flora asks Gillian why he would think of destroying a planet on purpose. Gillian reassures her that they would only use a dead planet in such a scheme.


Later, the Pride orbits a rocky, misshapen planetoid. Gillian remarks that it's perfect--quite dead and littered with old rocket parts. They land and begin to make preparations, while Herc works to repair some of the broken systems on the barge.

Flora, for a moment, feels as though something's alive on the planet. But the life-form detector is still broken and though the league orbited the planet, they were unable to find any sign of life. Unsure of her feeling (it's kind of fuzzy), Flora relents, and Jayce goes to ignite the rockets that will propell the planet into the infested area.

Jayce connects the jury rigged controls for the rockets, and after checking that the barge is ready for liftoff, starts the ignition. The Pride lifts off. As the planet gets a little closer to the infested area, MM vines snake through space and twine around it. Gillian remarks that the vines will help pull the planet in faster. There are now three hours until critical mass.

Flora gets a sudden feeling. "Again, I feel it!" she exclaims. "Someone's alive down there!"

Worried, Jayce asks Herc if the life-form detector is repaired. "Not that it makes any difference now, but, ah... sure," Herc replies. He turns on the scanner, and it zeroes in on one human life on the so called dead planet. Everybody looks at the readouts with horror.

"We have to go back!" Jayce exclaims. "Kid, you finally broke the string on your yo-yo. Forget it!" Herc replies.

"We have three hours to save an innocent person. We can do it!" Jayce argues. "Two hours and fifty minutes," Herc corrects him, "and we can't."

Frustrated, Jayce turns to Gillian and begs him to do something about Herc's stubborn refusal to go back to the planet. Gillian uses a spell to diddle with Herc's treasure map, and then uses more magic to bring the map to Herc's attention. Herc looks at the map... and then calls out in alarm: "The lost treasure of Zornadu... it's buried on that planet!"

Immediately, Herc brings the Pride around and starts making preparations for landing, calculating how much time he's got under his breath: "Nine minutes to land, six minutes to where the X is... seven minutes to dig...."

Watching the life form detector, Jayce and Gillian realize that the person on the planet must be underground, and that's why they missed them on the orbital pass. They locate where the person is, and Herc tells Jayce that he's in luck--because it's the same place Herc's treasure map shows. Jayce and Gillian grin at each other behind Herc's back.

Once they're spotted by the MM troops on the ground, Herc tries to plow his way past them, but whatever he meant to do... the landing accelerator breaks and keeps him from doing it. Instead, the barge plows into the vines, and ends up landing in the middle of a lot of troopers. Sawboss sees the League's arrival and is pleased. Confidently, he pronounces that this time, Jayce will not escape him!


Troopers and vines rush in to attack the barge. Jayce and Oon rush out, with Jayce driving Drill Sergeant. Herc follows in Armed Force. Herc fights like a demon, mowing past MM troops with his guns and flipping them with the claw. "Hey, you never fought like this to save the universe!" Jayce observes, impressed by Herc's moves on the battlefield. "Kid, you got your crusade, I got mine!" Herc responds, even as he trounces another trooper. The combination of Jayce, the other league vehicles, and Herc with treasure on the brain are too much for the MM troops. The last cornered KO trooper looks from Armed Force to Spike Trike to the other LL vehicles, then turns on its wheels and runs away.

Herc immediately whips out his map and starts driving off in search of his treasure. Jayce sets Spike Trike and Trail Blazer to guard the ship from further MM attacks, then drives back to meet Gillian and Flora on the loading ramp. Jayce hands Gillian the root. "Remember, if we're not back in one hour, leave. Keep trying to find Father!" Jayce says.

"You're coming back, Jayce. You will," insists Flora in a frightened voice. Jayce doesn't say anything. He just looks at her, then kneels down and gives her a long, wordless hug--as though he's not sure if he's ever going to see her again. Then he jumps to his feet, sprints off to Drill Sergeant, and he and Oon drive off to try and rescue the human that's somewhere beneath the ground.

Wiping away tears from her eyes, Flora clings to Gillian. Sadly, she points out that Herc has gone off in a different direction to where Jayce is now drilling down into the earth. Mumbling about his forgetfulness, Gillian diddles Herc's treasure map again. Thinking he was reading his map wrong, Herc now follows Jayce down Drill Sergeant's tunnel. "Remember, kid, the human down there is yours," Herc says, "but the treasure's mine."

Meanwhile, the planetoid slips closer and closer to the cluster of planets and MM vines in space. Flora watches the countown worriedly. There's now only 1 hr 25 min until the critical mass. "When will they get back?" she asks. Gillian promises that it will be soon. Meanwhile, MM troops have returned to attack the barge. But Gillian has installed a new armor plating on the hull, and all the beating and pounding from the troopers has little effect. Sawboss sees that the plating is keeping his troopers from getting into the ship, so he tries a new tactic. The vines rip up some of the burning rockets and plunk them down on either side of the pride with the business ends pointed towards the ship.

Jayce and Herc emerge from Drill Sergeant's tunnel to find a huge underground chamber with evidence of giant, ancient stone buildings and dozens of immense pillars holding up the ceiling far overhead. "Wow, what a civilization this must have been!" remarks Jayce in awe. "What a rich civilization!" Herc agrees excitedly. "Oh, baby, I finally hit it big!" About then, Herc notices that his treasure map no longer fits the situation. He shrugs it off, figuring he's still got fifty-eight minutes to check the place out.

Back on the barge, the situation has deteriorated. The rockets pointed directly at the barge have caused the temperature inside the ship to skyrocket, and have caused Spike Trike and Trail Blazer to malfunction. Gillian takes Flora down to the vehicle parking area to try and find a way to protect her from the heat.

Jayce and Herc drive through the underground ruins, calling loudly for the human they know is down there somewhere. So far, they haven't found anyone, and now only thirty minutes remain until critical mass.

A warning shot seems to come out of nowhere. Jayce and Herc stop their vehicles and see a short, scruffy old man standing atop a ledge of stone. The man points his rifle at them again, muttering about cliam jumpers. "The name's Happy Trails," says the man, "and I've been prospecting this claim for twenty years. Come on down, real slow."

Mindful of the rifle, Jayce, Oon and Herc climb out of their vehicles. "This planet's going into a black hole in less than half an hour. You have to leave," Jayce tells the man. "Just the sort of cock-eyed story a claim jumper'd make up--" Happy Trails starts to scoff, but that's when the MM troopers arrive and the shooting starts. Jayce, Oon and Herc scramble for the vehicles. Happy Trails skitters down the ledge and joins Jayce in AF, and our heroes drive off before the MM troops can run them down.

As they flee, Happy Trails leans out AF's open canpoy, firing at the persuing troopers with his rifle. "More claim jumpers, that's what they are! DAG NABBIT!" the salty old prospector yells.

Jayce takes stock of the situation, realizing that they need a plan. He thinks of all the rock being supported by the giant pillers and calls for Herc to retreat. "Lure the MM into the center!" he commands. "It's our only hope!"

Meanwhile, in the toasty oven the barge has become, Flora tries to cool Brock off by throwing a bucket of water on him. Gillian sprays something icy on an area of which is now glowing red hot. For a moment, the terrible heat is blocked. But the moment doesn't last long. The ice coating is melted away, and the heat comes through again. Worried, Gillian mutters to himself about how his solution isn't strong enough, and that the time is running out until critical mass with no sign of Jayce, Oon and Herc. "Where are they?" Gillian wonders.

The MM troops in the undergound city close in our our heroes. A Terror Trooper gets in a lucky shot, knocking Jayce and Happy Trails right out of Armed Force's open canopy. As the Terror Trooper closes in for the kill, Jayce keeps his wits. He spies a grenade in Happy Trails' back pack, and throws it towards the trooper. The Terror Trooper catches the grenade in its "mouth", and is then put out of commission when the grenade goes off. The trooper stops dead in its tracks, and other troopers crash into it, piling up behind it.

Jayce runs back to Armed Force. Oon joins him there, and Happy Trails now climbs into Drill Sergeant with Herc. Oon urges Jayce to hurry... then spies trouble. "Master, look out! Behind you!" Oon shouts. Now back behind AF's controls, Jayce closes the canpy and looks behind. A horde of MM troopers are closing in on them again. Sawboss's image appears. "Give up, Jayce!" Saw Boss snarls. "Your position is hopeless!"

Jayce swings AF around and picks up a giant boulder with the claw. He throws the boulder towards the advancing enemy troopers, who actually have enough sense to get out of the way this time. The boulder bounces harmlessly by. "Your desperation is pitiful," Sawboss says, almost with glee.

But Jayce wasn't aiming for the troopers. The boulder crashes with tremendous force into one of the ceiling pillars, knocking the pillar from its base. As the pillar falls, it upsets another pillar, which knocks down another, and the chain reaction is begun. The ceiling begins to come down. Jayce and Herc drive thier vehicles towards the edge of the cavern. "All the way back!" Jayce cautions. "We don't have and inch to spare!"

As stonework crashes down all around them, Herc and Happy Trails catch a gleam out of the corner of their eyes. The stone buildings crumble away to reveal a giant golden citadel. "My treasure!" shouts Herc. "Mine, daggit!" argues Happy Trails. "We'll fight over it later, old timer," Herc says, changing Drill Sergeant's course.

"Incredible," Jayce muses. "There really was--" but then he sees that Herc is driving towards the golden citadel instead of towards the cavern wall and a way out. "Herc, no!" he yells. He drives up behind them and clamps on to the back of Drill Sergeant with Armed Force's claw.

"Hey, let go!" Herc yells. "Dag Nabbit!" adds Happy Trails. The two watch in horror as the ceiling collapses over the citadel, buring it beneath tons and tons of rock. With the path to their treasure blocked, Herc makes a retreat.

The cave in causes huge fissures to open at the surface around the Pride. The rockets are swallowed by the ground. On the bridge, Gillian holds the root gingerly in one hand, while working the ship flight controls with the other. "What are you doing?" Flora asks, horrified.

"I'm afraid, child, that there is no more time," Gillian says in a heavy voice. "The root must be saved above all, though I wish it were otherwise." Flora, watching the monitor, sees Drill Sergeant break the surface not far away. "Wait!" she yells happily. "Gillian, they're back! It's them!"

Our heroes rush for the ship. Herc takes over as pilot, and speeds the barge away from the congregation of planets. Behind them, the dead planet is pulled into the cluster. Suddenly, all the planets collapse in around a common center of mass. Space and light are pulled into the center of the newborn black hole. The massive energies of formation toss the Pride about. Our heroes have a bumby ride, but under Herc's expert control, they manage to escape the area in time. In moments, the black hole has formed, and instead of the mass of planets and MM vines, only normal space remains behind the ship.

Herc sits dejectedly in the pilot's chair. "I can't believe it... I'm leaving the lost treasure of Zornadu behind," he says unhapilly. "That ain't Zornadu, you idiot," says Happy Trails. "It's Koobla Kee!"

Herc frowns "And I got a map that proves--" he starts to argue, but Jayce cuts him off.

"Gillian made your map," Jayce confesses. "Herc, I'm sorry."

"But what an interesting coincidence," Gillian says. "that there should actually be a treasure!"

"Yeah," says Herc sarcastically, slumping down in his seat. "Very interesting."

Curious about their new passenger, Flora asks Happy Trails how he managed to survive alone on that dead planet for twenty years. Happy Trails explains that the ship that dropped him off comes back every five years or so with supplies, and that the League can just drop him off on the nearest inhabited planet.

"If we pass one. But we can't go out of our way. We don't have the time," says Jayce. "Suit yourself, sonny," Trails replies. "I know a thousand long songs to help pass the time away."

As banjos play in the background, Happy Trails begins to sing (loudly, and quite off key). "Oh, I'm the lonesome prospector, diggin for gold in every space vec-tor, but the planet I call hoOoOoOoOoooooome!"

As Jayce, Gillian, Oon and Flora cover their ears, Jayce quickly tells Herc to find the nearest inhabited planet. Herc can only smile.



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Episode 5: "Critical Mass"
Teaser -- Notes -- Synopsis -- Neat Stuff/Food for Thought -- Snapshots -- Quotes
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(Episode guide page created 4/18/98; last modified 9/6/98)
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