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ARIES 1

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER FOUR : A SMALL VICTORY

Troy saw the ships start to leave and knew he had to hurry. The ship wasn't in the best of conditions after their emergency landing, but it was still in good enough shape to do what he had in mind. He caught up with the Ruler's fleet and destroyed two ships in the back that blocked his course. He was headed straight for the Ruler.

Another ship ran into him altering his course. Troy was wounded from the collision, but he still wasn't through. With a superhuman effort he crawled over to the bomb. He set the bomb for ten seconds and ejected it out of the back of the ship. Then, he slipped into an unconsciousness from which he would never recover.

The bomb hit another ship and exploded prematurely. The ship flew out of control eventually hitting one of the Ruler's personal guard ships that always surrounded him wherever he went. Both ships were destroyed. Unfortunately, Troy would never know how successful he was. Five seconds later his ship crashed into the Martian surface.

The attack squads were on their way to attack Earth when they received new orders from the Ruler.

"Forget about Earth," he commanded them. "X is dead. The resistance is crushed. Now there will be no one to stop us from taking over the galaxy. Return to base!"

The Ruler told Yot to lead a group of one hundred soldiers to assist the ground team. The rest of them returned to Altair 7 including the Ruler. Troy had died a hero, but X and the others still weren't safe quite yet.

X, Shawn, and Rynn were stunned by Troy's sacrifice. They saw the Ruler's ships leaving and, although they weren't sure how, they knew that Troy had something to do with it. For a moment, the three of them stood there unable to decide what to do next.

X was the first to break the silence.

"We can't let his effort be for nothing," he said softly. "We have to find a way to help the others."

"You're right," agreed Shawn full of sorrow at the loss of his friend. "We have to keep going."

Silently, the three of them headed back to where they had stolen the ship. A battle was bound to be going on there. Shawn still had Gary to think about.

TIME : 9:07 P.M. (21:07)
PLACE : 3 km north of the base

Gary didn't have things any easier than the others did. He was caught in the middle of one of the fiercest battles he had ever witnessed. As he dived for cover, a girl in front of him was struck down by one of the enemies' phasers. She gave out a scream of pure terror as her body went limp and fell to the ground never to move again.

They were slowly advancing pushing the enemy further and further away from the base. However, the cost was enormous. Over half of them were either dead or wounded and their ranks were getting thinner by the minutes. Their only consolation was that the enemy's casualties were almost four times as great. It was just a question of which one of them was going to give in first.

Then just when it looked like the Ruler's troops were going to surrender, Yot Montesula and his army of one hundred soldiers arrived on the scene. They were much better trained than the people they were fighting and much better prepared too.

From his position of temporary safety, Gary counted the people from M.W.G.D. who were still able to fight. There were only nineteen of them including himself. It looked like they were going to get slaughtered.

One of the people from M.W.G.D. offered to surrender. He was immediately shot at. The Ruler had told them that no one was to be left alive. This battle would be to the death. There was no place to run and no place to hide.

"Retreat!" one of them yelled seeing that no one else was taking charge.

Gary was first to realize what was going on.

"No!" he cried. "It's a trap! Stay exactly where you are!"

The others hesitated for a few seconds. Then they saw that Gary was right. The enemy soldiers had blocked off their escape route. They were sandwiched in.

Gary peeked out from his hiding place and shot at one of the soldiers.

"Direct hit!" he exclaimed in delight although no one was close enough to hear him.

No sooner had he finished speaking than the soldier he had hit collapsed to the ground. Gary gave a nod of satisfaction. If he was going to be killed in the battle, he was going to take as many of the enemy soldiers as he could with him.

He felt a little less brave when he saw another of his friends go up in smoke bringing the total down to eighteen. If there was any hope, it lay in the hands of X and the rest of the group that had stolen some of the enemy's ships.

"They're going to have to do something soon," Gary thought to himself.

For the first time in years, Gary was truly scared.

TIME : 9:12 P.M. (21:12)
PLACE : The base

X, Shawn, Rynn and the others that had stolen some of the Ruler's ships all regrouped at the base. Unfortunately, it didn't look like the same base they had left. The Ruler's troops had finally managed to break inside. They had sabotaged everything not caring what its purpose was or why it was there.

The base had been evacuated before they broke in so nobody else was hurt, but they still didn't like the idea of the Ruler's soldiers probing around their personal property. X selected a handful of them to go into the base and track down those who remained in the base. The rest of them got back into the spaceships to help those who were still fighting the Ruler's force at that very minutes.

Once again Shawn had to say good bye to someone. Rynn was one of those picked to search the base. Neither of them said a word as they parted company, but they each knew how the other one felt. Their main concern was to end the battle without anybody else getting hurt.

With some of them staying at the base, X and Shawn had a ship to travel in once again. Shawn decided to stay with X because he was the only one who seemed to know what he was doing. X still had the XX1 stashed away in a secret location, but it was too far away. They would have to be satisfied with a stolen ship in fair condition.

TIME : 9:20 P.M. (21:20)
PLACE : The battle site

Gary crouched down in his hiding place knowing he couldn't stay hidden for very long. The enemy had been very quiet. He knew they were up to something. Then, he found out what they were up to, the hard way.

They began to hurl an advanced type of grenade at the M.W.G.D. survivors. The first one was launched just in front of Gary. He got out of the way without a second to spare. Instead of an explosion, the grenade gave of f an electrical charge. Gary had no doubt that it would have been fatal. He could hear the grenades going off all around him.

Gary dodged a second grenade and knew he couldn't keep dodging them forever. He was just about to attempt a direct assault against incredible odds when a voice ran out loud and clear. It was X. He had come back for them after all.

"This is X," commander of the M.W.G.D. base on Mars and arch enemy of the Ruler," X began. "If you want to come after me, meet me in the mountainous region to the northwest of here."

Yot and the others were stunned. They had been told that X was dead, but that was unmistakably X's voice that they had heard. X had chosen his spot well. They could clearly hear him, yet they couldn't tell which direction the sound was coming from.

"If you do not cooperate," X continued. "I will instruct my army to blast you away without the slightest hesitation. You have two minutes to respond."

X had deliberately made his threat sound similar to the Ruler's to make sure he had their attention. The Ruler's troops stopped attacking thinking that if X was still alive, he might still have an army waiting to attack them. Yot was the only one with enough guts to try and confront X directly.

"How do we know you're not the only one in this so called army of yours!" he shouted at the top of his lungs.

It was Shawn who replied.

"I am Shawn Cobalt from Earth, commander of the Aries 1," he announced in a similar manner to what X had done. "I can assure you that we have enough people to carry out X's orders. If you want to live another day, come to the mountainous region to the northeast of here. This is your final warning."

There was a long silence while Yot considered his options.

"Agreed," he said at last. There was no reply.

Gary slumped back into his hiding place as he watched the enemy soldiers withdrawal. For the first time, he noticed that blood was coming out of his right arm. He hadn't been as lucky as he thought he had been dodging the first grenade and had been too busy fighting to notice.

He walked over to where some of the wounded were already being treated glad to be alive. Someone rushed over to him to bandage up his arm and make sure it was treated properly. He could relax at last.

TIME : 9:35 P.M. (21:35)
PLACE : The mountainous region near the base

Yot was not the Ruler's second in command for nothing. He suspected that they were walking into a trap, but he didn't see any alternatives. He sent a few soldiers on ahead of the others to see if they would spring any traps. Nothing happened.

About a minute later, he sent a few more soldiers on ahead. Still nothing happened. Yot was beginning to get upset that he couldn't figure out what X was up to.

Not to far away, Shawn was crouched beside X waiting for him to give the word to attack. He too wondered what X was up to. People from M.W.G.D. were hidden all over the mountain range. For once, they had the upper hand.

Most people would have attacked, but X had told them not to attack until he gave the word. They had the power to attack before, but X knew that it would put too many people in danger. They had to strike at just the right moment.

Yot sent a few soldiers on ahead. At last, the number were to X's liking. He ordered them to attack. The soldiers were too spread out to work together. In addition, the M.W.G.D. people had all the good hiding places. The soldiers were trapped out in the open.

Yot was torn between two choices. He wanted to stay and fight, but he knew he couldn't risk getting captured. Reluctantly, he ordered them to retreat. Some of the soldiers automatically protected Yot as he ran back to his ship and left for Altair 7.

"I knew X wouldn't die that easily," he muttered out loud. "I will order the soldiers to build more robot attack ships. Eventually, I will beat him, but it's going to take more than we have now. Thanks to the Ruler, someday I will rule the galaxy."

TIME : July 31, 2008
PLACE : The base

The battle was finally over. Shawn and Gary were united, most of the Ruler's troops had fled, and those who remained were quickly captured. Only forty three people from M.W.G.D. remained compared to sixty prisoners. They were going to have a tough time maintaining control of things.

"Some of our people have returned to M.W.G.D. headquarters," X explained. "They will send reinforcements as soon as possible."

X paused and then continued. "We won here, but it is only a small victory. The Ruler will strike again and we must prepare for him. We will have to suffer through even greater losses than this, but we will win in the end."

After his rather short speech, he got into the XX1 and took off. The survivors watched him go knowing that it wasn't the end, it was only the beginning.

Shawn and Gary gave each other a hug. The Ruler didn't consider the Earth worth attacking, yet. However, their losses were very real the greatest of which being Troy. Shawn had told Gary how Troy had died trying to save the others, not to mention Earth. Together, they mourned his death.

They launched an interstellar probe in his honor. It was his dream to fly into unexplored regions and they thought that perhaps now he would finally get his chance.

TIME : August 3, 2008
PLACE : Mars

X had returned just in time to mark the seventh anniversary of the launch of the Aries 1 with a surprise for Shawn and Gary. The old leader of M.W.G.D. had resigned and X had taken his place. His first act as the new leader of M.W.G.D. was to appoint Shawn as his new second in command. It was an unpopular move since Earth wasn't considered an advanced planet, but the others gave in and agreed to it.

"I'm not sure if I'm ready to handle such a big responsibility," Shawn admitted honestly. "It's such a large jump from where I am now."

"You, Gary, and Troy have adapted to our way of life faster than anybody I know," X replied. "You have taken responsibility for Troy and Gary and for the other people that have worked under you. I am sure that you will make a fine leader of M.W.G.D. someday."

Shawn gulped nervously. "I'd just settle for being second in command for now," he said. "I know you will make a great leader."

After a short discussion, Shawn and Gary both decided to stay on Mars. This time, Shawn would be commander of the base and Gary would be second in command. Shawn had a feeling that more people from Earth would come and he wanted to be there to help them adjust to life with M.W.G.D. as X had done for him.

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