By K. H. Scheer (= German issue #13, 1 December 1961)
Chap. 1, “Someone Always Gets It on the Dawn Patrol”
While on a reconnaissance flight launched by the Stardust II's auxiliary space-sphere S-7, near the fortieth planet of Vega on whose six moons the alien Topides are digging in, Major Derringhouse and Sergeants Rous and Calverman unexpectedly find their space fighters at the exact point of emergence of an armada of Topides from hyperspace. They come under attack and are heavily damaged almost immediately. Calverman's ship is hit worst, and he goes down in flames into the atmosphere of the fortieth planet despite Derringhouse's attempt to save him. Derringhouse's own fighter is damaged in the attempt but he is himself rescued by Rous.
Chap. 2, “Galactic Goal”
Perry Rhodan, Reginald Bell, and John Marshall are having little luck hashing out a trade agreement between Earth and Ferrol. The Thort of Ferrol and his Counsel [sic] of Ministers are sticking mainly on Rhodan's insistence on a Terran trading station enjoying full extraterritorial status on their homeworld. Rhodan breaks off negotiations for the day with a subtle reminder that the Topides have not been driven entirely from the system and that the Ferrons would benefit from further military exchange with Rhodan's people. As he and Bell are returning to the Stardust II, the S-7 screams into a meteoric emergency landing, bringing the severely injured Derringhouse to the mother ship's medical facilities. Major Nyssen, commander of the S-7, reports to Rhodan that the Topide base on the six moons is being heavily reinforced.
Chap. 3, “Rhodan's Ruse”
After checking on Derringhouse, who is resting still and unconscious in a bath of “biosynthetic cell-activating serum” (p. 39), Rhodan and Bell take a rather acrimonious meeting with Khrest and Thora. Thora is characteristically focussed on the barbarity of the humans and her desire to return to Arkon; Khrest uncharacteristically believes his search for the beings with the secret of eternal life has failed and adds his entreaty to that of Thora. Rhodan absolutely refuses to do anything that might lead to the detection of Earth by the galaxy at large. Even Bell thinks Rhodan treats the Arkonides with needless harshness. Then Rhodan unexpectedly asks for a wigmaker – to Bell's further mystification.
Retreating to the privacy of his own cabin, Rhodan secretly contacts Chaktor, the Ferron they first encountered, who is now a liaison between Terrans and Ferrons. He requests a secret meeting, which occurs shortly in a run-down part of the capital city. It transpires that Chaktor is a double-agent working for Rhodan. He has infiltrated the Ferron anti-Terran resistance. Rhodan sets in motion a complicated plan to discredit the resistance and remove the threat of the Topides in one fell swoop. The complexity of the plan unfolds gradually over the rest of the story.
Chap. 4, “Time is Running Out”
Chaktor leads his men in the resistance in their part of the ruse, which has Ishi Matsu shot down "fleeing" from John Marshall and André Noir – who are in turn shot down by Chaktor's men even as the "mortally wounded" Ishi throws a package to Chaktor in plain view of a crowd of onlookers. Chaktor and his men make their getaway.
Shortly after Chaktor reports success to Rhodan, the latter oversees the departure of Nyssen and the S-7, which is to jump through hyperspace to a set of prepared coordinates from which it is to send out a coded hyperwave message back to Vega.
Chap. 5, “Tricking a Topide”
Using his influence with the Thort, Rhodan has a high-ranking Topide prisoner, Chren-Tork, brought from a prison moon for questioning. Bell, in disguise and escorting the prisoner, lets slip something that confirms the Topides' suspicion that they were in error believing that the Arkonide distress signal they were following had originated in Vega. During the subsequent interrogation Rhodan and his men, including the “mesmeric mutant” Kitai Ishibashi, are disguised as Arkonides. Between the mutant and an Arkonide psycho-ray emitter, “certain ideas [are] firmly planted in [the Topide's] brain,” setting up the next phase of Rhodan's plan.
Chap. 6, “Beyond Imagination”
Chaktor begins the operation by freeing the Topide from a Ferron prison before he can be transported back to the moon. They flee Ferrol in a stolen Ferron destroyer. Rhodan meanwhile has taken the Stardust II on a reconnaissance cruise out of position to intercept them. Nyssen's broadcast is heard from light-years away in the Capella solar system, as is Rhodan's response ordering a massive fleet movement from Capella to attack the Topides in Vega – leaving “Rhodan's homeworld” denuded of its defenses! Thora, who has already scoffed that the intelligent Topides will never fall for such a ruse, is further offended by the very audacity of Rhodan's plan.
Chap. 7, “As If the Universe Had Come to an End”
To convince the Topides that they cannot stand against a massed attack by his people, Rhodan uses the Stardust II to carry out a demonstration strike that obliterates the smallest moon of the fortieth planet with a gravitation bomb even as Chaktor and Chren-Tork arrive at the main Topide base. Then Rhodan settles in as if to wait for reinforcements before the main attack.
Chap. 8, “Target of Doom”
The package received by Chaktor from the “Arkonide defector” Ishi Matsu contained charts and documents prepared by Khrest which located Rhodan's native world as the fifth planet in the solar system of Capella, 45 light-years from Vega. These documents, plus Chren-Tork's conviction that the Topide's attack on Vega in the first place had been based on a mathematical error, plus the prospect of a mass attack on the six moons that will leave Rhodan's homeworld defenseless – all this together convinces the Topide commander Chrekt-Orn to throw everything he has into a mass attack on “Rhodan's homeworld.” Derringhouse and Nyssen, carrying Tako and Ras Tschubai respectively, launch their fighters on a mission to extract their ally Chaktor. The mutants teleport in on a close flyby, find the Ferron, and manage to bail out a hatch just before the Topide ships make transition. Only after the Topides have departed Vega does Khrest harshly reveal his own modification to Rhodan's scheme – he subtly altered the hyperspace transition coordinates given to the Topides so that they are jumping not to the vicinity of the fifth planet of Capella but rather “into the very core of the sun Capella. … They'll never come back!” Rhodan is stunned at the Arkonide scientist's ruthlessness – but Thora philosophically points out that the Arkonides of old did not win their empire “with well-meaning words alone” (p. 113).
Another synopsis may be found at http://perryrhodan.us/php/displaySummary.php?number=13
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Notice that the cover of the US edition above has the banner "Third Printing." For some reason, and I've seen various information on this, the US editions from #6 to #13 were initially printed with art taken from the German covers by Johnny Bruck. Here's the first edition cover:
In second and third printings, however, Gray Morrow art and what would become the standard design of the US editions were introduced. My copies from this span of issues vary from one to the other. It is my understanding that US editions #1-5, however, had Gray Morrow art from the beginning. I may be mistaken, and have no idea what story may lie behind these variants.
Perhaps the most memorable “milestone” in this story is the unremarked (within the story) introduction of the term “New Power” to describe Perry Rhodan's new polity in the Gobi Desert. It appears on the back cover as well as on the first page of the second chapter. I call your attention to Al's comment to #6, The Secret of the Time Vault, that this is indeed one of Forrest J Ackerman's editorial changes to the series, perhaps because some critics identify the idea of a “Third Power” with the “Third Reich.” I've been unable to find the article he mentions in the comment, however. I thought perhaps it might be B. Kling, "Perry Rhodan,” Science Fiction Studies 4.2 (July 1977): 159-61 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4239110>, that I had found some time ago, but when I found it again it is clearly not the same. Kling does beat the fascist drum pretty hard, however.
Regarding Forry's changes to the series for an American readership, Martin Hansen's letter in The Perryscope, p. 123, bears quotation: “I've seen a few of the original PR magazines and I notice some of the names of the characters are changed, for instance Reginald Bull, Crest, etc. Why is this?”
FORRY RHODAN replies: “We thought the reasoning behind the change of Crest to Khrest would be self-evident to Americans (are you perhaps an alien in disguise?): Crest would inevitably make one think of a certain well-advertised toothpastewhich shall remain nameless,hence the respelling of the Arkonide's name. Bull we changed to Bell because in the German series he is nicknamed 'Bully' (we call him Reg) and while Bully may seem perfectly sensible to German ears you must admit that it sounds a little humorous to American and could easily misconvey his character. We left Thora alone (altho [sic] that is more than we can say for Perry, who seems to have more than a passing interest in her) because our readers will automatically pronounce the 'th' sound, very few realizing that in Germany she is thought of as Tora! Tora! Tora!”
I'm not sure exactly what Rhodan hoped to accomplish with regard to the Topides by his ruse. He even alludes to it once they have jumped out of Vega: “The only question that remains is what they'll do in that deserted system, devoid of any life. Of course, they'll find out right away that they've fallen into a trap and that they've become the victims of a deceptive maneuver.” What was to keep them from jumping right back to Vega? … Well, what except Khrest's modification?! I think this twist at the end in to Khrest's character will be the most memorable aspect of this story for me.
Derringhouse's healing tank (p. 39) reminds me very much of Luke's in The Empire Strikes Back.
A couple of stylistic comments:
Perhaps in 1971 the use of the term “retarded” as on p. 27 - “The Ferrons, whom Reginald Bell now regarded as somewhat 'retarded' ...” - was considered acceptable, but it definitely is not today. Times change.
On p. 21, the Thort of Ferrol's “Counsel of Ministers” should be a “Council of Ministers.” The words are often confused but are not interchangeable.
A few more questions:
Why, after the events of the previous story, is Khrest so convinced that his quest for the planet of eternal life has failed?
Why are the Ferrons so exercised by the prospect of a sovereign Terran trading post on their world when in the just previous story they accepted the establishment of a military base? Or at least the Thort did, albeit under pressure from Rhodan. I would imagine there was more to the opposition than we saw. (But is it just me, or is this issue pretty much forgotten by the end of the book?)
Wasn't it established several stories back that the teleporters Tako and Ras have the ability to carry someone along with themselves? Why then don't they just grab Chaktor from the Topides and jump back out into space rather than have to find a hatch to physically bail out?
I hope the synopsis above makes sense. This was, I think, the most difficult story thus far for me to summarize.
Cheers, and Ad Astra!