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SURVIVAL ON MARS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER 5 : IMPOSSIBLE ODDS

TIME : 7:30 P.M. (19:30)
PLACE : The cave

Peter watched as the others were taken into the Control Room one at a time. Hank, Linda, and finally Lisa were each given a chance to join Kobie in his conquest. All of them refused. Each time his offer was rejected, Kobie became madder and madder. By the time Lisa defied him Kobie was burning with rage. He personally accompanied Lisa to the cave and made sure all the prisoners were inside.

"I gave each of you a chance to join me, but you refused," shouted Kobie. "Now, you will pay the price. I will not feed you until you give in to my demands. In a few days, you will starve to death. You have plenty of time to change your minds, otherwise you will die a very slow and painful death."

"How long did you say it would be before reinforcements from M.W.G.D. arrived?" wondered Peter.

"Three or four days," replied Shawn. "They don't realize how serious the situation is."

"If we can find some water, we can survive for three or four days," insisted Peter.

"Speak for yourself," snapped Lisa. "I have no intention of going that long without food."

"If you do what they want, millions of innocent people will die," protested Peter.

"I didn't say I'd do what they want," corrected Lisa. "All I said was I had no intention of staying here waiting for help to arrive."

"Any ideas?" inquired Hank.

"Not yet," admitted Lisa. "but I'll think of something."

"It might interest you to know that your doubles are in the Aries 7 and are on their way to Earth," Kobie informed them.

"It will take twenty days to get there," retaliated Peter.

"I can wait," insisted Kobie. "You managed to kill Trabo, but the rest of us won't die so easily. When you're ready to talk, call for one of the guards. I'll be waiting for you."

The others waited awhile before continuing their conversation.

"Do you think they can hear what we're saying?" wondered Peter.

"I don't think so," Shawn began. "It didn't sound like they heard anything we said earlier. As long as we talk quietly, I don't think we have to worry about being overheard."

"We have to warn Earth," insisted Peter.

"I agree with you," continued Shawn. "but if we rush into things without thinking things through, things will only get worse. We have to come up with a plan."

TIME : 7:40 P.M. (19:40)
PLACE : The Aries 7

Zoin, Corledo, Sua, and Ceara had repaired the Aries 7 and were on their way to Earth where they would be greeted as Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa. As Peter had said the journey would take twenty days, but the results would be well worth the time they had spent in space. They would have total control over the Earth.

"Kobie to Corledo. Kobie to Corledo. What is your current status?" asked Kobie.

"Everything is going smoothly," Corledo replied. "We left Mars about ten minutes ago and are on our way to Earth. What is your current status? Did you get any of them to join us?"

"What happened to Trabo?" added Ceara.

"I regret to inform you that Trabo died about an hour ago," Kobie told them sadly. "None of them wanted to join us, but I'm sure they'll change their minds. I locked them up in the cave without food or water. When they get desperate enough, they'll do anything I say."

"Trabo's wounds weren't that serious," argued Sua. "When we left he was starting to recover. He shouldn't have died so suddenly."

"It was a surprise to me too," agreed Kobie. "It was as if one of our own was trying to kill him."

The four of them sensed what Kobie was hinting at.

"You killed Trabo!" attacked Corledo. "You have always been trying to take command away from us. This time you have gone too far. You are suspended until further notice."

"It's too late," warned Kobie. "Your power means nothing without the ability to enforce it. You should have suspended me before you left."

"A missile is headed straight for us!" exclaimed Zoin. "Impact in sixty seconds."

"Take evasive action," ordered Corledo.

"No good," cried Zoin. "The missile is guided. This ship is too slow to outrun it."

"Call off the missile," commanded Corledo.

"Even now you still don't understand," Kobie continued. "I am taking over and there's nothing you can do about it. All of you will be dead in less than a minute."

"We'll give you command, just call off your missile," insisted Ceara.

"What for?" reasoned Kobie. "There's nothing you can give me that I don't already have. Your survival is a threat to me. The only way to eliminate that threat is to destroy you."

"You've gone mad," shouted Sua.

"Maybe I have," agreed Kobie. "but knowing that isn't going to help you. If I had followed your plan, it would be months before we could call the Earth ours. With my plan, I will take over the Earth in only a few days. Soon, even the Ruler won't be able to stop me. Enjoy your last few seconds, while you can."

Kobie listened with delight as the four of them cried out in terror. Suddenly, their cries were silenced. The missile had hit its target.

TIME : 9:00 P.M. (21:00)
PLACE : The cave

"Let me out!" cried Lisa. "I want some food! I'll contact Earth, anything!"

One of the guards opened the door.

"Calm down," he advised. "If you cooperate, you'll get all the food you want."

The guard stepped inside. Suddenly, Gary knocked him to the ground. Before he could recover, Shawn had taken the gun away from him.

"I don't want to hurt you," Shawn told him gently. "Don't cause trouble for us and we won't hurt you."

"Help! Help!" screamed the guard.

Kobie stunned the guard and waited. There had always been two armed guard whenever they opened the door and Shawn suspected the other guard was out there waiting to blast his head off as soon as he pcked it outside. The other crotched down in the back of the cave. Shawn had the gun, so it was up to him to find the other guard.

Shawn got as close to the ground as possible and looked outside. No one was there. He instinctively knew something was wrong and returned to the safety of the cave. He did so just in time. A shot appearing to come from nowhere hit the spot where his head had been a second earlier.

Shawn leaped out of the cave and returned fire. He hit his target and breathed a sigh of relief. Had he missed he wouldn't have gotten a second chance. The guard slumped silently to the ground giving them the chance they needed to escape.

"Hurry!" yelled Shawn. "He may have called for help."

Shawn led the way back to the spaceship. They moved as quickly and quietly as possible stopping only once to pick up the phaser from the fallen guard.

"We have to get to the ship before they do," Shawn explained urgently.

"With your ship on its way to Earth, my ship is our only link with the outside world and our only source of food and water. If it's destroyed, we're as good as dead."

They tried to get back to the ship before anything else happened, but problems seemed to keep running into them.

"Oh, no. Not again," groaned Peter.

The giant green dog was directly in front of them blocking their way to the ship. It growled menacingly at them. It vaguely remembered them from previous encounters and was determined not to make the same mistakes. The green dog approached them looking fiercer than ever.

Shawn and Gary carefully aimed their phasers.

"Aim for the neck," commanded Shawn. "And wait for my signal before you fire."

Everyone held their breath. The green dog knew they were more powerful then their size would indicate and approached them with caution. Gary rested his finger nervously on the trigger. He stared coldly into the green dog's eyes.

"Fire!" yelled Shawn.

Shawn and Gary fired simultaneously at the center of the green dog's neck. Its moments were slowed considerably, but the green dog continued to approach.

"Again!" ordered Shawn.

This time the shots were longer and more intense. It seemed unaffected at first, but after a few seconds, it settled down and went to sleep.

"We'd better run past him while we still can," warned Shawn. "There's no telling how long it will last."

TIME : 9:08 P.M. (21:08)
PLACE : The Control Room

Kobie was preparing to launch his attack on the Earth when he was disturbed by two of his guards.

"The prisoners have escaped," began the first guard. "Both guards have been stunned. We heard one of them cry out for help, but by the time we got there, it was too late."

"They're probably headed back to the other ship," continued the second guard. "That is the only place where they can find food and water."

"As long as we know where they are, we can keep them from interfering with my plans," sneered Kobie. "Get all the guards and tell them to surround the ship. Shawn is to be killed The rest are to be captured alive if at all possible. Is that understood?"

"Yes," both guards replied in unison.

"Good," remarked Kobie. "Now get to work."

Both soldiers left to carry out their orders. For the first time since he decided to take over, Kobie was getting nervous. It was only a matter of time before they found out he had killed the other and when they did, they would try to bring him to justice. He made a mental checklist of who would support him when the news leaked out. They were the ones he would place in charge of the others. If he could control the upper ranks, he could control them all.

TIME : 9:15 P.M. (21:15)
PLACE : Shawn's ship

Peter, Hank, Linda, Lisa, Shawn, and Gary made it back to the ship unharmed. They were tired and exhausted, but it was nothing they couldn't recover from after a little rest. Shawn handed each of them a glass of water.

"Thanks," gasped Peter after finishing the water in record time.

"That really hit the spot," agreed Linda. "It's just what we needed."

"I have contacted M.W.G.D. Headquarters and explained our situation," Shawn explained. "Help should arrive in about twenty-four hours. In the meantime, we have to avoid danger if at all possible. I would advise you to stay in the ship. Last time, they captured us; next time, they might not be as friendly. We have refused to do what they wanted and escaped at the first possible opportunity. We are a threat to them and they won't rest until they have taken care of us, one way or the other."

"They're surrounding the ship," warned Hank.

"We got here just in time," declared Shawn. "They knew where we were headed the whole time."

"What choice did we have?" wondered Peter.

When Hank first called attention to the fact that the ship was being surrounded, there were only two or three guards around the ship. In the short time they had been talking, that number had increased to ten or twelve.

Shawn quickly handed Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa a phaser. They were still outnumbered, but at least the odds were a little more even.

"You don't expect us to go out there and fight them," protested Lisa. "We've never used weapons like these before. The odds are impossible."

"I'm not giving you phasers so you can go out there and fight them," insisted Shawn. ""I'm giving you weapons so you can defend yourselves."

"I don't believe in killing," stated Lisa. ""Even if they're trying to kill us, we have no right to kill them. If we do, we're no better than they are."

"Where were your moral values when you bribed the selection committee?" demanded Linda.

"Bribing is one thing, killing's another," she answered.

"If it will make you feel any better, the phaser is on a stun setting," Shawn assured her.

The group looked outside the ship in all directions. The guards had encircled the ship and were waiting for them to make the first move.

"Relax," advised Shawn. "We have the advantage as long as we remain inside."

"I am Meragus," announced one of the guards. "We mean you no harm. Turn Shawn over to us and we'll let you go."

The others looked at Shawn.

"They remember me from the battle fought here two years ago," Shawn began. "They want revenge for their humiliating defeat. If I turn myself over to them, they may let the rest of you go like they said they would."

"It's not worth the risk," declared Peter.

"If they want one of us, they'll have to get all of us," agreed Lisa.

"In that case, there's only one thing to do," Shawn mumbled and began to set the controls for flight.

Unexpectedly, Gary darted out of the ship. He had had enough of being discrete. With his phaser set to kill, he fired at the first guard he saw. It was a direct hit. The guard fell head first to the ground, never to move again. Gary aimed his phaser at another guard, but by this time they were ready. Meragus fired at Gary, hitting him in the back of the neck. Gary tried to fight the effects of the blast, but the effort was too much for him. He collapsed from exhaustion about a second later, just like the green dog did.

"Gary is still alive," Meragus reported. "However, he won't be for long unless you hand Shawn over to us."

Before the others had a chance to react, Shawn yelled, "Strap yourselves in! Prepare for take off!"

"We can't leave Gary," argued Hank.

"He'll make a valuable hostage," reasoned Shawn. "They can threaten to kill him the next time we meet. I'd like to take Gary with us, but we really don't have a choice."

The guards saw what Shawn was doing and left the area as quickly as possible taking Gary with them. With a loud rumble, the ship rose slowly into the air.

"What do we do now?" asked Peter over the roar of the engines.

Peter's question was answered when Hank shouted, "Missile approaching!"

"How long 'till impact?" questioned Shawn.

"About thirty seconds," Hank replied grimly.

Shawn brought the ship to a complete stop and waited for the missile to hit.

"Don't panic," advised Shawn. "I know what I'm doing."

The others calmly waited for the moment of impact. Thirty seconds later, there was a tremendous explosion leaving no trace of the ship. It had been completely vaporized.

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