At the Joyland Amusement Park at night, a security guard checks the space ride. He hears a noise inside and checks on it. Someone is moving in the upstairs compartment, and the guard goes up the stairs. A bird-like alien humanoid is working on the controls, and he uses his medallion to vaporize the guard.
The next day, people arrive at the park. In the false spaceship, Dave Crowell is providing narration for the trip through the galaxy for the one passenger. He finishes philosophizing about the possibility of life on other planets, and "space stewardess" Mara Matthews joins him. She figures that Dave doesn't belong there since he's too smart, and Dave says that he's a drifter.
Dave "lands" the ship and tells Mara that he's drifting from a hyperactive imagination. She points out that he's reading Kant in the original German, and suggests that he take her out to lunch. Mara goes down to the passenger compartment and gives the closing spiel, and the boy leaves. The alien waits until Dave goes downstairs and then emerges from hiding and watches as Dave and Mara talk about lunch. She feels like they're being watched, and Dave dismisses her concerns. Mara asks what he's drifting toward, and if he's looking for a wife or a girlfriend. Dave says that the eyes of her conscience are watching her, and Mara says that she and her conscience understand each other.
Once Dave and Mara leaves, the alien goes back to working on the controls. Dave and Mara hear the sound but it doesn't repeat itself and they leave for lunch. The alien contacts his homeworld of Empyria and reports that the conversion is completed without notice, and he will have the chosen humans enter the spaceship.
Denise Ward is at the carousel, and Sue Ann Beasley is eating lunch as her husband Arjay bangs on a soda machine trying to get a bottle. Denise and Sue Ann both hear a noise coming from the spaceship ride. Sue Ann goes over to Arjay, who complains that the machine cheated him. A teenager, Tommy "Nebs" Shadbury, comes over and easily gets three bottles, and Arjay goes back to pounding on the machine. Sue Ann reminds him that they came there for a good time and leads him away.
Sue Ann and Arjay go to the carousel and the alien Empyrian approaches them. He says that he's as human as they are and gives them complimentary tickets for the space ride. The Empyrian suggests that Arjay may have been compelled to come there to escape from reality, and says that the escape is free. Sue Ann takes the tickets and the Empyrian walks off. Arjay figures that no one wants to go on the ride, and Sue Ann says that she does. Her husband snaps at her and then apologizes, and assures her that he'll make it up to her someday once he finds his opportunity.
On the carousel, Denise sits with Buddy and their friend, Buddy Lyman. They wait to go the luncheon being held in honor of Buddy's football team, and Tommy jokingly tells Buddy that he is the team. Once Tommy goes to get some more pop, Denise asks Buddy what he's going through. He asks if she loves him, and asks if she would love him if he wasn't a football hero. The carousel starts and the Empyrian catches Denise as she staggers. The Empyrian apologizes, claiming that he forgot he was in costume, and offers them free tickets to the space ride. They take the tickets and he leaves.
The Empyrian goes to the mock spaceship and tells Sue Ann and Arjay that Mara will take their tickets. He goes in and the Beasleys discover that the door is locked. Tommy, Buddy, Denise, Dave, and Mara arrive and the Empyrian hides in a compartment as Dave enters the "control cabin". When Dave turns on the mock radio, a strange sound plays on it.
Mara welcomes everyone to the ship and has them fasten their seatbelts. Dave comes down and asks if Mara heard the sound from the radio. Mara dismisses it as nothing, and Dave welcomes the passengers. The Empyrian emerges and watches, and notices that Arjay isn't wearing his seatbelt. The alien hides as Dave comes back up, then emerges, stuns Dave with its medallion, and goes downstairs. He apologizes to Mara , says that he hoped not to reveal himself until he was needed, and tells Mara to strap herself in.
The passengers assume that it's part of the show, and the Empyrian tells Arjay to fasten his belt. When Arjay refuses, the Empyrian tells him to enjoy the show by pretending the rules apply. Arjay objects and the Empyrian says that he cannot let him leave or be bashed to death. He threatens to disintegrate Arjay without a trace, and Sue Ann tells her husband to pretend like the rest of them are. Intimidated and puzzled, Arjay does so and the Empyrian goes upstairs. Mara is waking up Dave, and the alien stuns him again. Mara yells at everyone to get out, and the Empyrian grabs her and tells the passengers to seat themselves. Mara says that it's real, and the Empyrian tells them that he'll explain later and they have nothing to lose but their lives.
The Empyrian goes back to the controls and launches the fake spaceship for real. The ship flies up into space and heads through the solar system, everyone unconscious from the gravitational force of liftoff. Dave wakes up first and confirms that they're really traveling through space. He turns to find the Empyrian studying him.
The others wake up and Dave comes down to tell them what happens. Mara is still unconscious, and Dave wakes her up. Arjay says that what happened isn't fun and heads for the door, and Dave stops him and says that they're really in space. Stunned, Arjay sits back in his seat and the Empyrian comes down. He welcomes everyone to the universe, and Denise panics and demands that the Empyrian remove his mask. She tears his tunic, revealing his alien feather-covered skin, and breaks into hysterics. She blames Tommy for now going to the luncheon and Dave escorts her to her seat.
Buddy asks everyone if they're just going to let themselves be held prisoner, and complains that Dave is a fake captain. He tackles the Empyrian and Arjay urges him on. The Empyrian knocks Buddy back with his medallion, and Tommy tells him that Buddy takes bribes and threw the game. He says that Buddy is a big hypocrite, and Buddy grabs him and says that he never liked him. Tommy stumbles back and falls into the airlock, activating it. Mara screams when they see Tommy's corpse on the viewscreen, drifting off into space.
The Empyrian says that his race was given the freedom to soar above their destinies, but confined themselves to their homeworld. He explains that an asteroid with an atmosphere similar to Earth's heading toward Empyria, but if it's colonized then its course can be redirected. The Empyrian explains that it deliberately chose them because it probed minds and found no desire to actually leave Earth. He chose the humans who had the least to leave behind and the most to gain in an undistorted world.
Dave tells the Empyrian that he needs scientists, not discontented dreams. The Empyrian says that they only need one scientist--Dave--and the asteroid will strike Empyria in 82 years. Dave figures that it's not enough time, but the Empyrian says that their science is four centuries more advanced and Dave's genius can absorb the information. The alien figures that Dave still wants to use his genius for good and noble purpose, and Dave tells Mara that the government offered him prizes and riches. All he had to do was let them make "suggestions". He wanted to pursue the mysteries that he preferred rather than the government's. The Empyrian says that he's giving them all the chance to defend their planet, and explains that when the asteroid strikes Empyria, Empyria will collide with Earth.
Buddy figures that they're lucky to get another chance, and Denise says that she doesn't need another chance. The Empyrian tells her that she wanted an honest felling for another human being and didn't have it. He asks if she would love a cheat as she loved the hero, and tells everyone that none of them have anything to lose. The Empyrian asks if Arjay will mourn the loss of a non-existent rainbow, and if Mara will miss a love affair that had no moral right to start. The alien then turns to Dave, who says that maybe they could all use another chance. The Empyrian invites him to join him and help plan everyone's future.
Buddy tries to comfort Denise, who begs him to take her home and says that she still loves him despite what he's done. Buddy admits that he doesn't know how, and Arjay figures that Dave can. Sue Ann figures that Dave wants to go, and Arjay says that Dave wants a chance to boss them around as slaves. He suggests that if they take away Dave then the rest of them would be no use to the Empyrians.
Dave and the Empyrian go over the calculations, and the Empyrian says that he doesn't understand the logic behind human thoughts. The human tells him that it's hard for humans to do something about today's catastrophes, much less the ones decades off. Mara overhears them and says that half the population of the Earth would volunteer to go anywhere else in the universe to prevent catastrophe. She says that she's willing to go because of the company she's been keeping and goes downstairs with Dave following her.
Arjay approaches Dave and Mara, and meteors bombard the ship. The Empyrian steers the ship through the meteor storm and confirms that no one was hurt, and Arjay asks Dave if he can convince the Empyrian to take them back to Earth. Dave says that he couldn't even if he wanted to. Arjay draws a knife and advances on Dave, shrugging off Sue Ann when she tries to stop him. He explains that the Empyrians can't use them if Dave dies. They struggle and Denise tries to help Arjay. Mara grabs Denise, and the Empyrian disintegrates the knife and comes down. He confirms that Dave is okay, and then wonders how he can be so wrong about people. The Empyrian says that it was a second chance, not a punishment. Dave tells it to take the rest back because they aren't any use to him, and he's not sure if he can. Mara points out that they were holding on to each other when the meteors hate, and admits that she doesn't know if it's what she really wants.
Dave tells the Empyrian to ask for volunteers the next time and he'll get many who will come willingly. The Empyrian agrees and goes to reverse their course.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 17, 2019