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SURVIVAL ON MARS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER 4 : A FAMILIAR FACE

"You have to get up," shouted Hank. "for Linda's sake."

Peter remembered what the taxi driver had told him back on Earth. He shouldn't worry about what others expected out of him, only what he expected out of himself.

"I'll try," he smiled.

Peter surprised himself by getting up remarkably quickly, even with Hank helping him up.

"Let's find Linda," said Peter.

TIME : 11:45 A.M.
PLACE : Deep inside the underground chamber

Peter and Hank hurried into the tunnel Linda had to taken to see why she was calling for help. They found her clinging desperately to the edge of a bottomless pit, at least it seemed to be bottomless. She had found another way out, but something had caused her to slip and fall into the bottomless pit. She was clinging to the edge for dear life.

"Don't worry. We'll get you out," Hank assured her.

"Avalanche! Look out!" screamed Linda.

Hank was able to get out of the way in time, but the avalanche hit Peter with full force knocking him into the bottomless pit. He grabbed Linda's leg on the way down. Linda had to support Peter's weight as well as her own. It was up to Hank to save them both.

Hank lowered his arms into the pit so Linda could grab hold. On Earth, Hank would not have been able to pull up both Linda and Peter, but on Mars it was not that difficult.

"Thank you," gasped Linda as soon as she was out of the pit.

"It looked bad for both of us," agreed Peter.

"How often do the avalanches occur?" wondered Hank.

"There have only been two of them since I got here," answered Linda. "One pulled me into the bottomless pit and the other did the same to Peter. I think if we start now we can make it to the surface safely."

"Than what are we waiting for?" inquired Peter.

Halfway to the surface they heard someone else calling for help. It sounded like a man about 40 years old from somewhere in the United States. How he got there totally baffled them. They quickened their pace to find out who their visitor was and why he needed help.

When they reached the surface, they saw the green dog and the two people he had cornered against the mountain range. One of them was a white, male in his early forties. He was the one they had heard screaming for help. The other was a black male slightly younger than the first. He had remained silent.

"How can we help you?" Peter called out to them.

Once again, the dog turned and headed in Peter's direction. The two strangers took advantage of Peter's distraction, picked up the phasers the had dropped and fired simultaneously at the back of the green dog's neck. It wasn't enough to kill it, but it was enough to make him run away in pain. The fight wasn't worth it.

"Thank you for saving us," began the older of the two men. "I am Shawn Cobalt and this is my assistant Gary Smith. We both work for M.W.G.D.."

"What's M.W.G.D.?" interrupted Peter.

"Milky Way Galaxy Defense," Shawn continued. "Our job is to protect the galaxy from hostile threats. We're glad we received your message. We agree with you that the Earth might be in danger."

While Shawn was talking, Hank tried to remember where he had heard those names before.

"You were on the Aries 1!" he suddenly exclaimed. "It was believed you were killed when you crashed on Mars nine years ago."

"They're probably thinking the same thing about you," said Shawn.

"What happened to Troy?" asked Hank.

"Let me start at the beginning," insisted Shawn. "An advanced civilization landed on Mars in 1995 to study Earth to see how far Earth had advanced. When we landed in 2001 they talked to us and explained their situation. We agreed to stay and tell them all we could about the Earth. In return, they made me second in command at M.W.G.D.."

"Unfortunately, not all of the are friendly. A galactic Hitler who calls himself the Ruler had been terrorizing the galaxy for years. His troops are everywhere including here. We fought the Ruler two years ago and just barely managed to survive. Troy was killed acting as a decoy to save the rest of us."

"We lost a member of our crew recently," sympathized Peter. "Lisa was poisoned by some type of toxic gas."

"A blue mist?" questioned Shawn.

"Yes," responded Peter. "How did you know."

"She's not dead yet," explained Shawn. "She is only in suspended animation. We have to get her to my ship immediately. The longer it takes us, the greater the chance she will die."

TIME : 12:10 P.M. (12:10)
PLACE : Inside Shawn's ship

The technology on Shawn's spaceship was completely alien to Peter, Hank, and Linda. Earth was unlikely to develop such a technology for thousands of years. However, the thing that concerned them was whether or not the advanced technology could be used to save Lisa.

Lisa was on the other side of a large, glass window leading to a small room which was completely empty except for a large computer on the wall opposite the window and a small bed in the center of the room on which Lisa had been placed. The room became blurry as a thick gas was pumped into the room.

"The gas will revive her in about thirty seconds," Shawn assured them.

About thirty seconds later, Lisa opened her eyes and looked around to see where she was.

"Huh? What's going on?" she asked groggily.

The others began celebrating. She was alive! They were all alive and accounted for. The only thing they needed was to find a way to return to Earth. The room Lisa was in began to clear up as the gas that revived her was pumped out and fresh air was pumped in. After a few minutes, Gary led Lisa out of the room and over to where Peter, Hank, Linda, and Shawn were waiting for her.

Lisa had many questions floating through her head. She wondered who the two strangers were, what had caused her to pass out, and what had happened to the green dog. However, one question seemed more important than all the rest.

"How did I get here?" she inquired.

Shawn briefly explained what had happened to her and retold his story about M.W.G.D. and the Ruler. Peter, Hank, and Linda listened attentively to every word Shawn said hoping he would explain the illusions or the green dog. When he had finished, they knew as much about the illusions and the green dog as they did when he began.

"Where did the green dog come from?" Hank asked directly.

"I'm not entirely sure," admitted Shawn. "but I believe some of the Ruler's soldiers brought a monster from a planet unknown to me and used their powers of illusion to make it look like a green dog."

Hank told Shawn and Gary what had happened to them since they landed on Mars hoping they could tell him something about the gold castle, but they seemed just as perplexed as he was.

"The Ruler's soldiers didn't have the power to create illusions until only recently," explained Shawn.

"Basically, they look just like we do. After the battle I told you about, most of them fled. However, a few of them chose to stay behind. We have been keeping an eye on them all this time. We didn't hear much out of them until about a month ago."

"I started seeing things that were impossible to explain. When I finally found out they were only illusions, I heard hundred of voices laughing at me."

"Hundreds of them?" Peter stammered.

"I believe that was also an illusion," Shawn told him. "There may be as many as a hundred of them out there, but only a few of them have the power to create illusions. If all of them had such powers, we'd be seeing illusions nonstop. They must need a chance to rest. If we can find them and attack them while they're resting, we might be able to defeat them."

"Do you have anything to eat?" wondered Lisa.

She wasn't concerned with defeating the illusionists. All she wanted was something to eat.

"Yes, we do," replied Gary. "We have enough food to keep us alive for 150 years."

"With Lisa around, don't count on it," snapped Peter.

"Lisa is right about one thing," declared Shawn. "You need a chance to rest and recover. Help will arrive in a few days. In the meantime, I can heal some of your injuries. Peter, you said your back was hurting."

"Yes," said Peter. "but first I'd like to know more about the help that's arriving."

"Reinforcements from M.W.G.D.," explained Shawn. "They are looking forward to meeting you. They hope you'll join us in our fight against the Ruler."

"All I'm concerned with right now is getting back to Earth," Peter informed him. "I don't think we're prepared to fight the Ruler."

TIME : 4:30 P.M. (16:30)
PLACE : Still inside Shawn's ship

Peter, Hank, Linda, Lisa, Shawn, and Gary spent some quality time getting to know each other. The first four explained what life was like on Earth in the twenty-first century and the other two described life with M.W.G.D..

Peter was the first to appreciate their advanced technology. His back felt as good as new, he had had the best meal that he could remember, and he was finally free from his cumbersome spacesuit. Everything seemed to be going great, yet somehow he could sense that something was wrong. It was something simple, but he couldn't figure out what.

All the equipment was in its proper place. Shawn and Hank were talking about space travel. Nothing wrong there. Linda and Gary were in another room talking about something that had nothing what so-ever to do with space travel. Lisa was.. .Lisa was missing!

"Hank! Linda! Shawn! Gary! Come quick!" shouted Peter. "Lisa has disappeared!"

Gary, who was closest to the exit, took a quick look outside. "I see her!" he yelled. "She's headed toward the gold castle."

Lisa was walking very slowly as if she were in some kind of trance.

"If we hurry, we can catch her before she gets there," Gary added.

The five of them took off after Lisa as fast as they could go. Hank was still concerned about leaving the ship without his spacesuit, but Shawn assured him that the blue mist was deliberately caused by the enemy. It didn't happen naturally.

Lisa knew she was being followed, but she didn't seem to care one way or the other. She continued toward the gold castle as if she didn't have a care in the world.

"Lisa," cried Peter. "where are you going?"

Lisa ignored him and continued toward the gold castle. She didn't notice them or pretended not to notice them until they finally caught up with her.

"I was on my way to the gold castle to see if I could find anything valuable to take back to the ship," she explained innocently.

Before they had a chance to yell at Lisa for leaving the ship without telling anybody where she was going, they found themselves face to face with ... themselves. Peter thought he was staring into a mirror expect it was not a mirror image of himself. It was an exact duplicate.

"My name is Ceara," said the one who looked like Lisa. "and I will be replacing Lisa on your journey back to Earth. In addition to myself, Sua will be replacing Linda, Kobie will be replacing Gary, Zoin will replace Peter, Corledo will replace Hank, and Trabo will replace Shawn. The people on Earth won't be able to tell the difference."

"There are sixty of us and only six of you, so I wouldn't try anything stupid if I were you," warned Kobie.

"We have you surrounded, but if you surrender now we might let you live."

Peter looked around and saw that Kobie was telling the truth. There were at least sixty of them, possibly more. All of them looked like someone they might meet on Earth.

"You can either surrender or die," snapped Corledo. "Which will it be."

"Here is your answer!" Gary retaliated.

He took out the phaser he had brought with him and kept hidden until he needed it. It was set to kill. He aimed his phaser at Trabo and fired. Trabo went down, however, his victory was short lived. Kobie returned fire. Gary took the full force of the blast and fell to the ground.

Shawn removed his phaser to defend Gary, but one of the aliens shot him from behind. He too fell to the ground.

"Does anyone else want to try anything?" mocked Kobie. "They are not dead yet, but they will be if you don't surrender."

"Why do you want us to surrender so badly?" attacked Peter. "It is obvious that you could kill all of us and still carry out your plan, at least the part of the plan that you bothered to tell us."

A warning shot was fired missing Peter's head by inches.

"The next shot will be fatal," promised Kobie.

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa looked at Shawn and Gary. They still weren't moving. There was no doubt that they would be next. The four of them looked at each other. All of them knew they had only one choice.

"We give up," conceded Peter.

"Take them to the cave," ordered Kobie.

TIME : 5:00 P.M. (17:00)
PLACE : The cave

At last Shawn and Gary regained consciousness.

"Where are we?" groaned Shawn.

"What happened to us?" Gary chimed in.

"You were stunned by the enemy," explained Peter. "After that, we were forced to surrender. They marched us into this cave and sealed the entrance."

The cave was lit by the fluorescent glow of thousands of tiny diamonds in the walls and roof of the cave. It wasn't a very bright light, but it was enough to allow them to see each other.

"We're completely surrounded by diamonds, yet I'd give them all up for another minute to walk on the Earth," stated Lisa dramatically.

"We'd still be on the Earth if you hadn't bribed the selection committee," snapped Linda.

"Break it up!" shouted Peter. "The last thing we need is fighting among ourselves. We need to work together and find a way out of this mess."

Suddenly a door opened at the cave entrance. It was Kobie accompanied by two armed guards. It was clear that it was not the best time to attempt to escape. The guards were prepared to use their weapons and showed no reluctance to do so.

Kobie pointed at Peter. Peter felt a chill inside him. Whatever they had in store for him, he wanted no part in it.

"Peter will accompany us," commanded Kobie. "The rest of you will stay here."

Peter turned to the others for some kind of support, but they offered none. Reluctantly he walked out of the cave with one of the guards in front of him and the other behind him.

"Come back scon!" Lisa called out after him.

Kobie was the last to leave closing and locking the door behind him.

"Peter will be returned to you shortly," he promised. "In the meantime, you should get some rest. I will talk to all of you one at a time."

"Kobie, are you still there?" asked Shawn.

There was no response.

"I think he's gone," said Gary. "It's safe for us to talk."

"What did they want with Peter?" questioned Lisa.

"Have you ever heard of the expression divide and conquer?" Shawn began. "They want to know more about the Earth, but we won't tell them anything as long as we're together. They hope that if they ask us one at a time, they'll get more information out of us."

"I wonder if Peter knows what they're trying to do," sighed Hank.

"I hope so," said Linda. "for all our sakes."

TIME : 5:05 PM. (17:05)
PLACE : The Control Room

Peter was led into a room filled with all kinds of sophisticated devices. They were similar to the ones in Shawn's ship, only much larger. Peter guessed that it was some sort of weapons system. The two guards left to guard the entrance leaving Kobie and Peter alone in the room.

"This is the Control Room," explained Kobie. "From here, it is possible to communicate with any communications device on Earth that you wish to use. I am sorry for the way I have treated you and your friends. I would like to be friends with you."

"Then why don't you release us?" demanded Peter.

"We're not sure if we can trust you," replied Kobie.

"You're not sure if you can trust us?" Peter cried angrily. "What reason have we to trust you?"

"We have nothing against you or the people you came here with," Kobie assured him. "However, Shawn and Gary are corrupting you. They are dangerous! All we want to do is contact Earth and explain we come in peace, but we need one of you to reassured them of our peaceful intentions."

"What peaceful intentions?" snapped Peter. "All you've done is scare us with your illusions. When we finally meet you, you take our image and capture us threatening to kill us if we don't do exactly as you say. If it weren't for Shawn and Gary, Lisa would have died. As far as I'm concerned, all your intentions are hostile."

Kobie changed his size and shape he resembled a minotaur.

"It is clear that you are willing to sacrifice your own life and the lives of your friends, but are you willing to sacrifice a billion lives?" he bellowed. "If you don't tell them that we come in peace, I will destroy North America. I can either conquer the Earth or destroy it. The choice is yours."

Peter was unimpressed with both his form and his threats.

"Your powers may be great," admitted Peter. "but they're not that great. You can't destroy North America any more than I can. I'm tired of seeing what you can disguise yourself as. Show me what you really look like."

"As you wish," Kobie complied in a tone that was less than friendly.

The minotaur disappeared and was replaced by a small, humanoid creature slightly over a meter tall with eyes that burned with rage.

"Don't underestimate me because of my height," warned Kobie. "I'm as deadly as I ever was."

"I'll treat you just as I always have," mocked Peter.

"You're right. I can't destroy North America at the moment," confessed Kobie. "but I will soon be able to. I will conquer the Earth with or without your help, but if you help me, I will reward you with treasures beyond your ability to comprehend. I might even make you ruler of the Earth."

"I will not help you, in fact I will do all I can to stop you," Peter boasted.

"You will regret your decision," Kobie promised acidicly. "Guards! Take the prisoner back to the cave. I will find someone a little more willing to help out."

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