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SURVIVAL ON MARS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER 7 : THE SPELL OF THE GOLD CASTLE

"Don't let him in!" cried a voice with such authority that Linda froze in her tracks.

Peter had decided to try to wake Gary up one more time. This time, he was successful. However, he was just as surprised as Linda was when Shawn objected to Gary entering the escape pod.

"Why not?" insisted Peter.

"He was the one that stunned me," Shawn replied. "He must have taken Lisa."

Shawn's word was enough to convince them. He had been right about everything else. Linda hurried to the door not to open it, but to make sure it was locked.

"Will you at least let me speak to Shawn?" pleaded Gary. "I mean you no harm."

Shawn walked over to the door.

"Say what you have to say, but make it quick," he commanded.

"I'm sorry I stunned you," Gary began. "but I had to stop you from interfering. I do not want to kill you, but Kobie has ordered me to do so. If I don't, he will aestroy the Earth. All I want you to do is lie low for a few days so I can tell Kobie I killed you. If he doesn't suspect anything, both you and the Earth will be safe. For the sake of everyone or Earth, please don't interfere anymore."

"For the sake of everyone on Earth, I have to interfere," retaliated Shawn. "Either help us or stay out of the way. I need to know what you did with Lisa. Will you help us?"

"Yes," mumbled Gary sadly thinking about all the people on Earth he was betraying. "I took her to the gold castle for more of Kobie's experiments."

"What kinds of experiments?" questioned Shawn.

"I don't know exactly what they are," explained Gary. "but it has something to do with reconditioning her memory. They've been working with her ever since you landed. They call it the spell of the gold castle."

"That must be why Lisa kept wondering off in the direction of the castle," Linda realized.

"Is there anything we can do for her?" asked Peter.

"The best thing you can do is leave her alone," insisted Gary. "As long as they need her for their experiments, no harm will come to her."

"And what will happen when they're through with their experiments?" demanded Linda.

"I'll worry about that when the time comes," snapped Gary. "Just stay out of sight."

"It's our fault the others are in this situation," Shawn reminded him. "so it's our responsibility to get them out of it."

"If you let me in, I'll help you," said Gary with a suspiciously friendly tone of voice.

"I'm sorry, but we have no reason to trust you," lectured Shawn. "You told us yourself Kobie has given you orders to kill me. How do we know that this isn't some sort of trap?"

"Very clever," admitted Gary. "It was a trap. I will leave you alone for the night if you promise not to try anything. If you break your word and threaten the safety of the Earth I will be less sympathetic the next time we meet."

"You have my word that we won't try anything until morning," promised Shawn.

"Good," commended Gary. "I know what your word means."

Since Gary couldn't reenter the castle because he hadn't killed Shawn and couldn't enter the escape pod because the others didn't trust him, the only place where he could find descent shelter for the night was the cave the aliens had used to hold them prisoner. He headed in the direction of the cave trying to think of a way to convince the others to leave the aliens alone.

The others watched him leave. They could see that Gary was deep in thought and wondered what he was thinking about.

"Whose side is he on anyway?" wondered Hank.

"I don't think he's decided yet," answered Shawn.

TIME : June 11, 2010 8:00 A.M.
PLACE : Inside the escape pod

Shawn was the first to wake up. He got up and stretched for a few minutes before waking the others.

"We have to reach the gold castle as soon as possible. Lisa is in terrible danger unless we can get there in time."

The others heard what Shawn had said, but they weren't too thrilled about starting a new day that could be even more hectic than the previous one. Reluctantly the got up and immediately started toward the gold castle. In the distance, they could hear trumpets blowing. Something important was about to start.

"Do you think Gary will prevent us from reaching the castle?" inquired Hank.

"I think Gary will leave us alone for a while," replied Shawn.

The sound of the trumpets grew louder as the young man Lisa had met earlier made an important announcement.

"Presenting our new queen," he announced.

"We've found Lisa," declared Hank.

"If Lisa's their queen, I'm Abraham Lincoln," doubted Peter.

The young man continued, "Presenting Queen Lisa."

"Well, Peter," smirked Hank.

"Four score and seven years ago-" began Peter.

"Knock it off," snapped Hank. "I want to hear what Lisa has to say."

There was a huge crowd surrounding the castle. They weren't sure whether it was the aliens or just another illusion, but they weren't taking any chances. They kept their distance from the crowd remaining just close enough to see what was going on.

The crowd began to part as Lisa walked by them until at last she was in the middle of the crowd. The old man placed a crown on her forehead and the crowd applauded loudly. Lisa waited a few minutes for the noise to die down before starting her acceptance speech.

"Thank you! Thank you!" she said at last. "It gives me great pleasure to come here today and receive such a warm reception. As your new queen, I will do my best..."

Lisa continued for quite some time saying just about anything she could think of. The listened intently, even though her speech was quite boring, wondering how they could get a chance to talk to her face to face.

"We can't all try at once," Peter realized. "We'll attract too much attention. I'll go alone and see if I can get her attention."

Peter made his way through the crowd. To his surprise, that crowd was letting him pass. At last, he reached the center of the crowd. Lisa was directly in front of him.

"Lisa!" he shouted.

Lisa stopped her speech for the source of the voice that called out her name. It seemed vaguely familiar to her.

"Who are you?" she wondered still looking for him. "Where are you?"

"I am Peter and I am directly in front of you," he replied.

"I don't see anyone there," remarked Lisa. "I can hear you, but I can't see you."

Peter quickly realized that Kobie was preventing her from seeing him.

"You have to listen to me," cried Peter. "This is only an illusion. Please believe me. You must clothes your eyes and concentrate on what you know to be true. Y-"

The voice abruptly stopped as Kobie came over to see why Lisa had stopped her speech.

"Who were you talking to?" he asked.

"Somebody named Peter," muttered Lisa. "He wasn't making any sense."

"Peter is an enemy," Kobie told her. "He is very dangerous. If you see him, or anyone like him, again, let me know immediately."

With that taken care of, Lisa continued her speech as if she had never been interrupted.

TIME : 8:30 A.M.
PLACE : Near the gold castle

Peter was trying to talk to Lisa when she, and everything around her, suddenly disappeared leaving Peter completely alone on an alien world. Well not quite. Directly in front of him appeared a king with a magic sword.

"You must fight me!" he bellowed. "If you win, you will take my place as king. If you loose, you will not get a second chance to beat me."

"What if I choose not to participate," argued Peter.

"Then I will kill you," the king stated simply.

The king moved toward him with his sword wavering in the air, waiting to plunge it straight into his heart. Peter looked desperately around him to find something to defend himself with. A second sword, identical to the one the king was carrying, miraculously appeared by his feet. Peter picked it up and prepared to defend himself against the king's attacks.

A shield appeared before the king who picked it up and held it up in front of him. Likewise, a shield appeared in front of Peter who did the same thing.

"Let the battle begin!" ordered the king.

For the first thirty seconds, the battle was about even. Neither one of them was able to land a blow on the other. After that, Peter's inexperience started to show. The king advanced forcing Peter further and further back until he literally had his back against the wall. With a flick of the wrist, the king knocked Peter's sword out of his hands.

The king laughed as Peter started to shiver.

"Now to finish you off!" he yelled.

Suddenly the king was hit in the face with Peter's shield. The force of the blow caused the king to topple over. Peter was able to disarm the king by taking his sword away from him. Seeing that he was overpowered, the king dropped his sword and fled. Peter followed in hot pursuit. Eventually, he was able to catch up and knock the former king to the ground. Peter raised his sword level with his neck, ready to inflict the fatal blow.

At that moment, Peter came to his senses.

"What am I doing?" he thought out loud. "This is only an illusion!"

Peter closed his eyes and when he opened them again, everything was as it had been when he was trying to talk to Lisa. The only difference was that Lisa had finished her speech and the crowd was starting to disperse.

TIME : 8:40 A.M.
PLACE : In the back of the crowd

Hank, Linda, and Shawn waited patiently for Peter to return. They knew Lisa had paused briefly in the middle of her speech, but they didn't know Peter was the cause of it. All they knew was that Peter hadn't returned.

They were so busy concentrating on Lisa and Peter that they forgot to look behind them. They realized too late that Gary and several of Kobie's guards had their phasers point straight at them.

Shawn knew that Gary was partially under Kobie's control, but this was clearly Gary's own doing.

"Why have you turned against us?" demanded Shawn.

"As I've kept trying to tell you, Kobie will blow up the Earth if I don't do as he says," started Gary. "In the long run, what are our six lives compared to six billion."

"By helping Kobie, you might be responsible for those six billion people," insisted Shawn.

Gary refused to listen to such an accusation.

"I'm trying to save them, not destroy them," he cried out in anger. "I convinced Kobie to spare you, for the time being."

By the look on Gary's face, Shawn knew the conversation was over. Gary was convinced that he was doing the right thing and nothing anybody said would make him change his mind. They were led into the castle where Lisa, Kobie, and the old man were waiting for them.

"I've captured some spies," explained Gary. "What should I do with them."

"Let's let the queen decide," smirked Kobie knowingly.

"Throw them in the dungeon," ordered Lisa.

Linda and Hank couldn't believe their ears.

"Don't you recognize us?" pleaded Linda.

"Do you have any recollection of us at all?" added Hank.

"I've never seen you before in my life," snapped Lisa. "I said, 'Throw them in the dungeon!'"

"Right away, your majesty," snickered Gary and led the prisoners away.

"The only one left to catch is Peter," declared Kobie.

"How will we ever be able to find him?" wondered Lisa.

"I'm sure he'll be back," Kobie predicted.

"Why?"

"To kill you."

TIME : 8:50 A.M.
PLACE : Inside the gold castle

Peter watched the crowd disperse. He was disappoint about his failure to convince Lisa she was used, but that made him more determined than ever. He saw that the castle door was opened and decided to walk inside. He was halfway to the door when the old man who had introduced Lisa motioned for Peter to follow him. They walked without saying a word until they reached the side of the castle.

"It's safe here," he explained. "My name is Meragus and I'm on your side. I use to follow Kobie until I found out he killed the other leaders so he could all the power all to himself. There's no telling what he'll do next."

"Do you know where Lisa is?" wondered Peter. "If we can find and bring her out of the spell, she may be able to tell us what Kobie has in store for us."

"It's very risky, but I think I know a way to get to her," Meragus told him. "Follow me."

Peter followed Meragus into the gold castle and past some brightly lit rooms that had been dark and empty when he searched them the other day. Halfway down the hallway, Meragus turned left and descended a small staircase. At the bottom of the stairs were Kobie, Lisa, the young man, and the young woman. Peter tried to escape, but his path was blocked by two guards. Both of them snarled.

"This is the way I find out who is loyal to me," Kobie explained. "Those who are disloyal get vaporized. This trick is useful with my own kind, but I never thought it would be used to capture you."

"Did you hear that!" screamed Peter. "He kills his own kind without remorse."

"Don't waste your breath," snapped Kobie. "Lisa can't hear what we're saying."

"Will you at least let me talk to her?" insisted Peter.

"I suppose," Kobie conceded. "but don't expect anything out of it. She is deep under the spell of the gold castle."

"Lisa," Peter began. "You are in the middle of an illusion. You are not the queeen of this castle. You are a astronaut on Mars. You bribed the selection committee to come here. In order to break the illusion, you must close your eyes and believe it is so."

Peter was silenced by Kobie jamming a phaser into his chest.

"That's enough," he ordered.

"Let him speak!" commanded Lisa.

With obvious signs of disappointment, Kobie lowered his phaser allowing Peter to continue speaking.

"Thank you," continued Peter. "I know you don't believe me, but at least you're giving me a chance to prove what I'm saying is true. That shows you still have some free will. You must resist Kobie. He may kill you at any time without a second thought."

"I'm not doing much better. The last time I tried to talk to you, I wound up in another of Kobie's illusions and that was after I knew how to stop them. You've got to believe me!"

Lisa thought long and hard about what Peter had said. Peter and Kobie eagerly awaited her decision, each thinking they had won.

"Throw him in the dungeon," shouted Lisa. "Then, kill him."

"Lisa," gasped Peter in disbelief. "You've got to listen to me! Just give me a chance! Anything's worth a try!"

As Peter was led away, he could hear the green dog growling in the distance.

"As if I'm not in enough trouble already," Peter mumbled incoherently.

TIME : 8:50 A.M.
PLACE : The dungeon

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Shawn were each chained to the wall to Lisa's left as she entered to inspect the dungeon. Kobie followed close behind. Without warning, Kobie struck Peter in the face.

"That's for trying to kill the queen," he attacked. "I've decided not to kill you right away. Instead I will give each of you a slow and painful death, starting with you."

Kobie pointed to Peter. Peter tried to come after him, but his chains held him back.

"Shawn will be last," continued Kobie. "He will have the additional punishment of watching everyone else die."

"I'LL GET YOU FOR THIS!" yelled Shawn.

"I wouldn't worry about it too much," whispered Linda.

"Why not?" asked Shawn.

"The green dog will probably finish us off first," Linda replied.

Above them, people were starting to panic as the green dog attacked the castle. The whole castle shook as the walls started to crumble.

"It won't make any difference," insisted Kobie. "We're afe down here, at least I am. It is time to start the executions."

The others looked on helplessly at Kobie put his phaser inside Peter's mouth.

"You have learned that most phasers have a kill setting and a stun setting," Kobie began. "My phaser has an additional setting. A blast from this phaser won't kill you or knock you out, but you will experience excruciating pain. This is only a sample."

Kobie took the phaser out of Peter's mouth and pointed it at his left knee. As he fired, Peter cried out in pain.

"Let's see how you withstand a stronger setting," smirked Kobie turning up the power.

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