Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

We’d found some bizarre planets before, but this one required a whole new category of its own. I maneuvered my one-man exploratory craft toward the strange surface. The rest of the crew waited aboard Wanderer in high orbit. Some called this place “Swiss Cheese World”, others… “The Wiffle Ball”.

Life form readings were strong yet muffled. I could see nothing except endless klicks of porous rock punctured by countless holes of all sizes. They ranged in diameter from microscopic to gargantuan. Yet they revealed nothing but the inky blackness within.

As I approached a really big one my comm crackled to life. “This looks like it Lieutenant, sensors can’t find a bottom. Prepare to dive.”

I skimmed along the porous surface a few dozen meters above the alien stone and followed the contour as the ground fell away into the massive black crater. My floodlights kicked in and I continued to monitor my descent into the depths. Then suddenly I reported, “Wanderer, I have another crater in the side of the main shaft. Looks like it heads off horizontally roughly southwest. Shall I investigate?”

“Negative,” came the reply. “Maintain course.”

I continued downward, passing more and more offshoot tunnels as I went. Finally, after several hundred klicks, the way below appeared to narrow and bend to the north. I reported this and was told to continue for as long as it appeared safe. Onward I raced laterally, the planet’s surface now far, far above me, nothing but my green floodlights showing me the way through the abyss. Suddenly the tunnel widened into a larger chamber, the black ceiling a kilometer above me. I reported to Wanderer that another enormous downward crater lay ahead, one that might enable my further inward exploration. It was immediately decided that I should proceed.

I dove into the blackness again, and found a near-vertical shaft that ran for almost another hundred klicks until it angled toward near horizontal as well. But I continued to happen upon other openings that allowed my further inward progress. And then finally, when I was almost out of radio contact with Wanderer, I saw something… a dim light below. I reported this and the faint voice told me to proceed with extreme caution.

They didn’t have to tell me. Sweat poured from my forehead as I approached the growing light at the bottom of the hole. Suddenly my eyes opened wide. “Wanderer, I didn’t notice it before but my sensors are picking up a damn near breathable atmosphere, and it’s getting thicker!” My earpiece crackled but I could make out no discernable communication. On I raced, toward the end of the well, toward the brightening light.

I cared not that I had lost contact with the command ship. I had taken this job because I was an explorer through and through. I grinned as my little vessel burst forth into the interior of the hollow planet. I laughed aloud as I suddenly soared over endless alien jungle, and then wept openly as I spotted what looked like primitive villages below!

I looked up into the hot glow of the massive rotating molten core suspended high above like a miniature sun, locked there in the exact center of this amazing world’s gravity. And I shouted, “Hooray! This is it! This is what it’s all about!!!”

Oh you can be assured, I would eventually retrace my steps back up through the porous labyrinth… but for now I just wanted to remain a little bit longer, and bask in the glorious golden glow, of my fantastic discovery!


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