Colonel Jeff Barton returns for the first manned expedition to Venus and receives a parade through the streets. He's hailed as the hero of the hour and gives a statement talking about how he'll rest in one of the first shelters built on Mars that his flight to Venus was a test for. His wife Ann watches Jeff's statement on the TV and then tells him that she's glad to have him back. As they kiss, the steaks on the fire burn and Ann goes to get the salads. Once she's gone, Mike stares at the grille in the fire place and suffers a bout of dizziness. He collapses on the floor and when Ann returns, she finds Jeff passed out on the floor.
Later at the military headquarters General Matthew Claiborne and Jeff arrive and Claiborne directs Jeff to his new parking spot where he's been promoted as a brigadier general. They go inside where the reporters are waiting and ask Jeff who else will be working on Project Vulcan, the colonization of Mars. Jeff refuses to say if Venus can support life. The technicians come over and congratulate Jeff, and show him the new environment test chamber they built while he was in space. They ask him if he noticed any equipment failure in the eight minutes when they lost contact with him, and Jeff feels a sudden chill. Jeff and Claiborne go to a committee hearing for financing for Project Vulcan
At home, Ann turns up the air conditioning, and Jeff turns it down while putting on a sweater. His wife brings him hot coffee and she notes that he drinks a lot of coffee as he works on h is calculations for Project Vulcan. She jokingly calculates his rate of coffee consumption and drinks the coffee, saying that it feels luke warm to him. Ann reveals that the coffee in the pot is steaming, and Jeff shrugs it off, but his wife comments on it and says that he's been away from her for a long time. She points out that he hasn't really come home to her yet, and Jeff assures her that he loves her anything in the world and she's the best of all possible worlds. They kiss and then Jeff abruptly tells her to leave so he can go back to work. As Ann goes up on the patio and looks up at the planets, telling them that Jeff loves her better than them, Jeff shivers again. He slams the patio window shut and turns up the heat, and irritably tells Ann that he's cold. Ann asks why he fainted the other day, and Jeff dismisses it as a fainting spell and brushes her off. Once Ann goes to bed, Jeff looks briefly at the steaming coffee.
The next day, Jeff goes to his personal doctor Dr. Mike for an examination. He asks Jeff for some medicine so he can get through the next few days until the committee hearing. Jeff abruptly says that he doesn't want the base doctors to check him, and demands a pill to keep him going. Mike reluctantly agrees and tells him to stay warm and get plenty of rest.
Later at the office, Jeff asks Construction for additional soundproofing on the spaceship cabin but doesn't explain why. Construction complains about the heat and Jeff claims that the air conditioning isn't working. As he goes, Construction notes that the AC is turned off, turns it on, and leaves. Jeff turns it off and puts on a coat.
That night in bed, Jeff sleeps and dreams of his trip to Venus. He moans and remembers a wraith-like plant creature, and wakes up screaming. Ann wakes up and holds him, assuring him that he's all right, and says that he's cold as ice. She takes his temperature on Mike's orders and discovers that he's running a temperature.
The next day Jeff meets with Phil, the botanical expert, and asks if there could be a tall growth on the surface. He says that he's short of breath but just needs breath. Later at home, Ann tells Jeff that Mike called asking to see Jeff at his office the next day. She asks her husband what's going on, and doesn't believe him when he says it's nothing. Jeff claims that his body adapts in space and is readapting when he returned to Earth. He says that he wanted Mike to give him a lift and the space doctors mess around too much, and assures Ann that it's just until after the hearing. He talks about how he always wanted to fly and his life's purpose is to lead the search for new worlds and new knowledge. Ann has him promise her that he'll just work for a few more days and then take a long rest,. and tells him to go back to work. Once he's alone, Jeff shivers more and his hand shakes.
Jeff goes to a steam room to warm himself up. He turns up the steam to increase the temperature and dozes off on the bench as the temperature goes up into the danger range. Jeff dreams of the flight to Venus and approaching the planet, orbiting it. The radio briefly shuts off as the hull temperature increases, and Mission Control says that he'll pull out at 20,000 feet. The ship plummets into the atmosphere and Jeff loses radio contact with Mission Control. As Jeff tries to pull the ship up, he sees the Venusian landscape below him and the plant creature hovering in the mists, peering in at him. Jeff screams in terror.
The attendants try to open the steam room door and find it locked. Inside, Jeff convulses in his dream and his hands start to mutate, becoming webbed. The attendants hack down the door, turn off the steam valve, and Jeff walks out, unharmed.
Later, Jeff meets with Mike and tells him what happened. He doesn't remember his dream and wonders what's wrong with him, and Mike notes that the chemistry of his body is changing and he's never seen anything like it. Jeff shows him his mutated hands and begs Mike to do something, and Mike tells him to immediately see his space medics. He gives Jeff a report to take with him, and once Jeff leaves, Mike makes call.
At home, Ann hears Jeff recording his speech for financing from the committee as he huddles by the fireplace. He wavers briefly and Ann comes out to check on him. His blanket is on fire and Jeff doesn't notice. Ann runs over and puts out the blanket, and sees Jeff's hands which have further mutated. She starts to call but Jeff smashes the phone and moans in pain. Ann faints and Jeff staggers around the living room and tosses his papers in the fire to make it burn hotter before leaving.
Jeff drives to the base and when the guard stops him, the astronaut punches him and drive sin. The guard calls for backup while Jeff drives to the HQ. The guards capture him and tie him up as he tries to destroy his files. The space doctor gives Jeff a tranquilizer but has no idea what is happening to Jeff. Claiborne and the doctor meet with Mike and Ann, and Mike says that Jeff wouldn't go to the space doctors. He shows them the blood tests revealing that Jeff's blood no longer matches any blood type known to exist. The doctor admits that he doesn't know what Jeff is going through or even where to start. Ann tells Claiborne to find out what happened on Venus during the eight minutes of radio silence, and the doctor agrees.
The group talk to the drugged Jeff and Claiborne repeats what mission control said to him before they lost contact. When he doesn't answer, Ann tells Jeff that he's home and repeats what he said about her being his best world. She begs him to come back to her, and Jeff mutters about how there was a darkness and the sounds began, and the "thing" stared at him through the porthole and got inside of him. Claiborne wonders what to tell the appropriations committee, worrying that the project needs Jeff's confidence. Ann listens and says that Jeff never gave up, and asks why Claiborne isn't helping. Mike notes that Jeff's temperature was almost normal after the steam bath, and suggests that he work with the mind, give Jeff a full transfusion, and then drug him and expose him to lots of heat. Meanwhile, Ann has to keep talking to Jeff to keep him focused. Claiborne suggests using the environment chamber to raise the temperature around Jeff and the space doctor agrees.
They put Jeff in the chamber and raise the temperature while Ann keeps talking to him. Jeff hallucinates seeing the creature outside and panics, and Ann talks about his childhood and how she wishes she could have been with him. It's 205 degrees in the chamber, and Ann tells Claiborne to give Jeff very minute until the hearing.
Time passes and Jeff moans in pain. Mike has Ann talk to keep Jeff focused, and she says that she heard her speech and is proud of him. Jeff finally passes out as the time for the hearing approaches. Mike warns Ann that Jeff isn't perspiring despite the heat. Jeff wakes up and sees Ann at the port. He gets up and asks her for coffee, and says that he heard everything that she said.
Later at the hearing, the committee thanks Jeff for his contributions to the country. Ann and Mike are outside, and Ann tells the doctor that she heard the speech and is sure the committee will give Jeff everything he wants. The space doctor wonders if they'll have to treat Jeff with heat and sedation to hold back his condition. Claiborne comes out as the committee laughs, and says that Jeff held up his hands and revealed that they were gloved but said that he spilled hot soup on his hands. Jeff comes out and says that the committee will give them all of the money they asked for. Ann tells him that she loves him, and notices that he's perspiring for the first time since he returned from Venus. Jeff realizes that it's warm, and Mike figures that he's coming around by himself. The doctor calls for the experts, and Jeff and Ann kiss.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 30, 2019