Spaceship M-13 is heading home from a deep-space probe. The three-man crew checks in with McCauley, who tells them that they have a press conference after they return. Once they end communications, the crew spots an approaching meteor storm. Major Summers applies full power to try to clear the cluster, but one meteor strikes their ship. Johnny Ferrell and Al Lewisham confirm that everything is working normally. McCauley checks in to warn them not to attempt re-entry while they are off-course and Summers explains the situation and requests new data.
Later, McCauley and Summers meets with General Norgath The ground crew foreman, John Dolan, brings in the piece of debris recovered from M-13 and everyone realizes that it’s no meteorite. It’s a piece of refined metal, turned on a lathe. McCauley speculates that they may have hit debris from another nation’s unreported ship. Norgath cancels the news conference to avoid publicity and has McCauley analyzes the data and find an orbital path for the debris.
Back in his office, McCauley meets with reporter Carey Stoddart. Stoddart wonders what happened but McCauley stonewalls him and simply tells the reporter that the crew is fine. When the colonel returns home, his wife Mary greets him and she asks about the M-13. McCauley tells her the same thing that he told Stoddart, and they’re interrupted when McCauley receives a call that Ferrell was killed in an auto accident when he was driving home from the base. He plunged into a road excavation after the emergency lights mysteriously went out.
Later, Dolan analyzes the debris and informs McCauley, Summers, and Captain Swanson that it has unique properties that they have been unable to duplicate. The metal keeps its shape up to 6,700 degrees. McCauley informs Summers that the two of them plus Lewisham and Swanson, taking Ferrell’s place, will rendezvous with the cloud of debris and bring some back. They then go out to the press conference and McCauley warns the others not to speculate about the possibility that the metal was developed by another nation.
As McCauley goes to the press conference, he finds Stoddart waiting for him. The reporter informs him that Lewisham drowned in a boating accident that morning. Summers insists that Lewisham was a great swimmer and Stoddart asks for a comment. He points out that two of the three crewmen have died in mysterious and violent accidents. Stoddart points out that Summers may be next but McCauley dismisses his suspicions. As they leave, Summers contemplates the piece of metal.
Stoddart soon runs a story about the mysterious deaths and the possibility of a jinx. McCauley meets with Swanson and Summers at home and expresses his unhappiness over drinks. He figures that he can make Stoddart out as a fool once they bring more of the spaceship debris back and have it properly analyzed. That night in bed, Mary asks McCauley if Swanson or Summers are superstitious. She admits that she is but McCauley dismisses her concerns and goes to sleep.
The next day, McCauley, Dolan, and Swanson meet for the final briefing with Norgath. Summers isn’t there and McCauley is unable to raise him in his quarters. They begin without him and Norgath explains that the derelict will be in optimal position in 72 hours. McCauley and Dolan are satisfied with the ship modifications. They’re interrupted when they get word that Summers was accidentally electrocuted in his bathroom, and McCauley dismisses Swanson and Dolan.
Stoddart visits McCauley later and offers his condolences about Summers’ death. McCauley isn’t interested and ushers him out as Swanson arrives. The captain explains that he was ordered to report to psycho-testing for certification and asks if McCauley has doubts about him. McCauley admits that he has doubts about both of them and goes with Summers so they can be tested together.
Once they’ve been certified, McCauley, Major John Bowers, and Swanson lift off and rendezvous with the derelict cluster. Dolan takes control while McCauley and Swanson go outside to gather some samples. McCauley goes first to see if the debris is radioactive. Once he confirms that it isn’t, Swanson starts taking pictures. He finds one piece with a calibrated dial and numbers that he doesn’t recognize. McCauley touches him on the shoulder, startling him, and then takes in a piece of debris while Swanson keeps taking photos.
Once McCauley has secured the debris, the ship goes into re-entry and the hull reaches temperature safety levels. McCauley takes it back up but the chain holding the debris snaps. Swanson goes back to secure it before it pierces the engine room bulkhead, only to discover that it’s jammed. McCauley goes back to help and orders Bowers to change the ship’s altitude so they can push it back. Bowers takes it down but warns that the temperature is reaching critical. He finally has no choice but to bring it up and the debris falls over again before Swanson can clamp it in place. McCauley has Bowers repeat the maneuver and hold the altitude. Swanson finally manages to clamp the debris in place and wonders if it’s alive... and cursed.
Later, McCauley is at home with Mary, waiting for Swanson to get there. She nervously worries that something may have happened to Swanson just as the doorbell rings. It’s Swanson, who explains that he’s late because he walked over. Mary complains that Swanson scared her half to death and goes to check on dinner. Swanson asks McCauley if he’s heard from Bowers, and McCauley jokingly claims that the major went on a mountain-climbing trip. He then assures Swanson that Bowers is in town and will be at the press conference the next day when they announce their findings.
The next day, Norgath addresses the press and shows them the debris. He explains that the results were so provocative that the Pentagon enforced a press blackout. McCauley then explains that the fragments have been orbiting the earth for the last five hundred years. The debris was a rocket from another world destroyed by a meteor. They have no idea where it came from, but a low-temperature seal bearing remains fluid at minus 60 degrees. The chemists also found microscopic bubbles of chlorine gas, suggesting that the builders may have evolved in an atmosphere containing chlorine. Based on the fragment, they have created a mockup of what the spaceship may have looked like.
Later, McCauley is at home and Mary keeps checking to make sure that he’s okay. Stoddart comes over and informs them that Swanson suffered his own version of the jinx: he got married. Share this article with your friends