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SURVIVAL ON MARS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER 8 : BETRAYAL FROM WITHIN

"Hold it right there!" ordered Lisa. "Drop your weapon and hand me the keys."

Kobie did as he was told. Lisa took the keys and freed the others while Peter, the first one released, kept an eye on Kobie to make sure he didn't try anything.

"It appears I underestimated you," admitted Kobie looking admirably at Lisa. "However, it also appears that you underestimated me."

With that, Kobie made himself invisible. The others searched frantically for him listening for any sound that might give his location away. Suddenly, they heard the door open and close followed by the sound of the door being locked.

"He's locked us in!" screamed Lisa.

"That's no problem," Shawn assured her. "I can shoot the lock off. He locked it so we wouldn't be able to follow him."

Shawn shot the lock off the door and Linda, Lisa, and Hank ran out hoping to find Kobie. Shawn wondered what happened to Peter. He looked behind him and saw that Peter was limping. The blast from Kobie's phaser had been more powerful than he thought.

"Are you all right?" asked Shawn with some concern.

"I have a bad taste in my mouth and I'm having difficulty walking, but other than that I'm fine," groaned Peter.

Shawn stayed with Peter and helped him up the steps to the main level of the castle. Hank, Linda, and Lisa were waiting for them.

"I'm afraid we lost him," said Hank.

"We can worry about him later," Shawn advised. "Right now, we need to find a way out of here."

All around them, the castle continued to shake as the green dog persisted with his attack. Part of the castle was already starting to crumble. Their first instinct was to try the main door, but that was where the green dog was. Their path was completely blocked. They would have to find another way out.

"Follow me!" exclaimed Lisa. "I know where the back door is!"

Actually, Lisa had only a vague idea where the door was, but she left hoping she would be able to find it. Meragus had used it when she was in her room, so she knew it wasn't too far away. As soon as she reached her room, she turned and darted inside it.

"Is this the back door?" asked Hank doubtfully.

"No," answered Lisa. "They're just a few things I want to take with me."

Lisa took the small treasure chest and a few other things that were small and easy to carry. Then, she remembered the clothes.

"Could you carry a few things for me?" she requested eagerly.

Peter was injured and Shawn had to support Peter, but Hank and Linda were willing to carry her possessions. They thought it was rather silly to carry so much stuff when there was no practical use for it, but they didn't time to waste arguing. The walls were caving in all around them and the whole ceiling could fall on top of them at any second.

Lisa glanced nervously at all the doors. They all looked alike. She couldn't tell the difference between one door and the next.

"This door," guessed Lisa picking the door and the far right.

She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw she had guess correctly. The five of them ran away from the castle as fast as they could not even bothering to look behind them to see the destruction. They could hear the loud crashes as chunks of the castle came loose and toppled the ground.

When they reached a place that provided temporary shelter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa put their stuff down and went after Shawn and Peter. From their vantage point, they watched as the castle was completely destroyed.

The green dog searched through the rubble obviously looking for something. It searched the entire castle for several minutes before finally giving up and going home leaving only a few crumbling remains of what was once a beautiful golden castle.

"I thought the aliens were in control of the green dog," said Peter. "Why did it suddenly turn against them?"

"I'm not sure it did turn against them," disagreed Shawn. "When Lisa broke the illusion, they had no reason to keep the castle so they ordered it destroyed with us inside."

"It sounds feasible," acknowledged Peter. "but why would it attack while Kobie clearly had the upper hand. It doesn't make sense. The green dog allowed us to escape."

"There are sixty aliens, or at least there were yesterday. Kobie is only one of them," Shawn reminded him. "Any one of them could be the green dog's master. For all we know, his master could have been killed and the green dog is seeking revenge."

"Maybe Kobie is in control of the beast," speculated Lisa. "and realized I had broken his spell when I started overacting. I don't believe in killing."

"You were acting when you ordered him to kill me?" gasped Peter. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was afraid of what would happen if Kobie knew the spell on me was broken," explained Lisa. "I had to pretend I was still under his spell so I could take him by surprise. My plan almost worked."

"It also almost got me killed," argued Peter.

"We can argue about it later," Shawn quickly cut in. "Right now, we need to get back to the escape pod and tend to Peter's injuries."

"I left the Martian revolver nearby," Peter recalled. "If one of you can find it, you won't have to slow down and wait for me."

"Where did you leave it?" asked Linda.

"Next to the tunnels," replied Peter. "I used it to lure the green dog away then doubled back. It should be fairly easy to spot."

"The rest of you wait here," commanded Linda. "I'll return with the Martian revolver in less than five minutes."

Linda was true to her word. Three-and-a-half minutes later, she returned with the Martian revolver.

"Everybody on!" shouted Linda over the noise of the machine. They all hopped on taking the trinkets Lisa had collected with them.

TIME : 9:15 A.M.
PLACE : Elsewhere on Mars

Kobie gathered the rest of his race together for an emergency meeting. For the time being, he would ignore the Earthlings knowing they couldn't hide forever and concentrate on something much more important to him, solidifying his power.

In the distance, the ruins of the gold castle reminded him that not everyone supported him. He looked into the crowd not knowing which of them approved of his leadership and which of them would like to see him dead, but until he did, he would have to watch his step.

"I have called you together to warn you that there is betrayal from within," Kobie began. "Some of our own people would jeopardize our mission to satisfy his own personal ambitions."

"You have just described yourself," cried a voice from somewhere in the middle of the crowd. "You are not our original leader. Our loyalty is to the Ruler."

"With the sad deaths of Corledo, Ceara, Sua, Zoin, and Trabo, I am the only surviving member of the group the Ruler placed in charge. Therefore, I am the ultimate authority on this planet until the Ruler himself says otherwise."

"Why don't you tell the Ruler what has happened?" protested the same person that had objected earlier. "Let him decide what to do about Earth."

"I'll tell you what," smiled Kobie. "We'll vote for our leader. Does anybody wish to run against me?"

The person who had interrupted him twice emerged from the crowd. He wasn't exactly the smartest or the best looking person in the galaxy, but he was a threat to Kobie's authority.

"I'll run against you," he stated.

"Very well," smirked Kobie. "I'll walk one way, you walk the other. Everyone else will follow the person of his choice and we'll see who has the larger group."

As they started walking off in two different directions, the crowd stayed where they were. Then, slowly at first, the people walked toward Kobie or toward his competitor. When everyone had decided, Kobie had the majority. His competitor only had fifteen people, slightly over a quarter of the people.

"Looks like I won!" bragged Kobie. "Those of you who didn't vote for me can either rejoin me or stay with your new leader."

Before they had a chance to decide, Kobie's guards fired into the crowd. Not one of them survived. They had all been fooled by Kobie's apparent kindness.

"This is not a democracy," he told the others. "I had the vote to see who was with us and who was against us. I know some of our enemies our still out there. Let this be a lesson for you. I will not tolerate defiance."

The crowd was more subdued after watching Kobie's enemies shot down. Kobie had become too powerful for their liking, but they didn't dare complain. They had just seen what happened to those who opposed him.

TIME : 9:25 A.M.
PLACE : The escape pod

Peter, Hank, Linda, Lisa, and Shawn finally reached the escape pod. They were exhausted from their ordeal with Kobie and his illusions, but they had one more obstacle be tween them and the escape pod. Gary was outside the escape pod door waiting for them to return.

"I heard you escaped," remarked Gary. "If you stay here, I'm sure Kobie won't come after you. He has more important things to do with his time."

Shawn did his best to ignore him and helped Peter inside. Once Shawn and Peter had made it safely inside without being harassed, Lisa followed suit gathering as many of her possessions as she could carry. She looked rather awkward carrying so much stuff, but Gary didn't seem to notice. He had given his full attention to Hank and Linda who for one reason or another didn't enter the escape pod. They just stood there staring him down. Not knowing what they were up to made Gary nervous.

"Why don't you return to the escape pod with the others?" he managed to stammer.

"Not until we break whatever control Kobie has over you," insisted Linda.

"Do you know what happened to Corledo, Ceara, Sua, Zoin, and Trabo?" inquired Hank. "Kobie killed them because they were a threat to him. He killed his own kind!"

"If he kills his own people when they get in the way, imagine what he'll do to Earth," added Linda. "How long will it be before you are no longer of use to him and what will happen then?"

"It is a small price to pay for the safety of the Earth," replied Gary.

"Are you really helping to protect the Earth," questioned Linda. "or are you preventing that from happening?"

Gary considered what Linda had just said.

"I'll think about it," Gary promised. "In the meantime, don't interfere with Kobie's activities."

"I can't guarantee anything," explained Hank. "I have a terrible feeling that, unless we interfere, the Earth is in terrible danger. We need your help."

"I'll think it over and come back when I've decided," Gary told them.

Hank and Linda entered the already crowded escape pod with the news that they had finally gotten through to Gary. They were surprised to see Peter trying to walk in the little space available to him. He was still limping slightly, but it was hardly noticeable.

"As good as new," Peter declared.

"Your friend has a bad habit of getting injured," lectured Shawn with mock seriousness. "You're going to have to keep him out of trouble."

"We'll do what we can with him," Hank assured him with the same mock seriousness.

Suddenly, Linda realized what Lisa had been doing.

"Did you eat my breakfast?" she demanded.

"Who me?" asked Lisa with her mouth full. "I thought it was my breakfast."

"And I suppose you thought my breakfast was yours too," Peter cut in dryly.

"Relax," commanded Shawn. "There's plenty of food for everybody."

"Are you sure?" doubted Peter.

"Yes," answered Shawn. "but you're going to have to eat fast. I want to examine the ruins of the gold castle as soon as possible."

"I don't want to go anywhere near that castle," argued Lisa. "It's caused me enough problems already."

"We have to go back," insisted Hank. "We need to find out what Kobie is up to."

"He has to be stopped," agreed Linda.

"You're outvoted four to one," Peter informed her. "We need to stay together. Kobie has been using his illusions to separate us. I think he's afraid of what we can do as a team."

"I'll go," conceded Lisa with obvious displeasure.

"Thank you," said Peter. "I know you're afraid of the castle, but the only way to conquer your fear is to return to the scene of the crime. Remember, we'll be with you every step of the way."

Unknown to them, Gary was just outside the door listening in on them. He quietly slipped away to report to Kobie.

TIME : 9:40 A.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

Kobie scurried about as if nothing had happened. The number of followers he had was slowly dwindling away, but he didn't seem to mind. All he needed was a few loyal followers, not a large group with questionable loyalties. When it was time to challenge the Ruler, he had to be absolutely certain his people were loyal to him, not the Ruler.

He still hadn't noticed Gary. Gary tried politely to get Kobie's attention, but Kobie was too involved in his work.

"Kobie," Gary called out. "Shawn and his friends are on their way to the ruins of the gold castle. They should be there by now."

Kobie finally looked up.

"All of them?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Gary. "They felt it important to stick together."

"I want you to follow them and stall them," ordered Kobie. "Keep them at the gold castle for as long as you possibly can. I need some time to finish my work."

Gary left immediately allowing Kobie to finish his work. As soon as Gary was gone, Kobie called for one of his guards.

"What is your request?" inquired the guard.

"I want you to find the escape pod and plant a bomb inside it," commanded Kobie. "Set it to detonate in two hours. Hopefully, we'll be able to destroy all the Earthlings at once."

The guard started to leave.

"Wait!" Kobie shouted. "Before you go, answer a question for me. If the Ruler and I gave you conflicting orders, whose orders would you obey."

"The Ruler's of course," replied the guard.

Without warning, Meragus crept up behind the guard and shot him. The guard fell without a struggle.

"That's what I thought you'd say," muttered Kobie. "Meragus, I want you to plant the bomb in the escape pod. This time, there are to be no survivors."

"Understood," acknowledged Kobie. "but what about the Ruler?"

"The Ruler left us on this uninhabited rock not caring whether we lived or died," Kobie roared with rage. "The Ruler will pay for the way he treated us! I am all powerful, master of illusion! I will show the Ruler! I will show the galaxy! They will bow down to me! I WILL BE THEIR gOD!"

Meragus left while he still could. He didn't know how Kobie had received the power to create illusions, but he had become obsessed with it. However he didn't mind as long as they shared a common cause, revenge. They both wanted revenge on Shawn and eventually the Ruler. The other Earthlings were guilty by association.

"Kobie is right about one thing," thought Meragus as he carried the bomb over to the escape pod. "The entire galaxy will feel our wrath."

TIME : 9:50 A.M.
PLACE : The ruins of the gold castle

By the time Gary found them, the others had been searching the castle for quite some timed They hadn't found what they were hoping to find, the secret to Kobie's powers, but they had made a few interesting discoveries.

They found Lisa's old spacesuit in what was left of the wardrobe room. It was undamaged, so they saved it thinking it might be of use later. The damage was heaviest in certain areas such as the main entrance and the main hallway. It was as if the attack had been planned by an intelligent creature.

"The green dog may be much smarter than we thought he was," realized Shawn. "He had a purpose when he attacked the castle, to kill Kobie and possibly us as well."

"What makes you think the green dog was trying to kill Kobie?" wondered Peter.

"At the time of the attack, we were down in the dungeon," Shawn began.

"The stairs leading down have been completely demolished, so has the main entrance, and the hallway leading from the stairs to the main entrance. If we had stayed down there any longer than we had, we would have been trapped down there or killed trying to escape."

"If we had been the only target, it would have been easier to let Kobie finish us off. Therefore, he must have had another target, most likely Kobie himself."

"I thought Kobie controlled the green dog," commented Hank.

"So did I," admitted Shawn. "but it seems highly unlikely that Kobie would order the green dog to attack the castle while he was in the dungeon. Kobie's too concerned with his own survival."

"Is there a third party controlling the green dog?" speculated Lisa.

"Quite possibly," continued Shawn. "However, there is another possibility. The creatured could have been acting on its own."

"Just when I thought I'd heard everything, you come up with something new," interrupted Shawn. "The green dog can't be intelligent."

"He's more intelligent than you are," snapped Linda.

"I'm here to help you," protested Gary. "I thought about what you said and I agree with you Kobie must be stopped. I have just the plan you're looking for."

"What's your plan?" questioned Shawn suspiciously.

"I know where Kobie's hideout is," explained Gary. "We could sneak up on him and attack him before he ever knew what hit him."

"It doesn't sound like a very good plan to me," criticized Linda. "They still heavily outnumber us. We can't survive a direct attack on them, at least not until reinforcements arrive."

"And when will reinforcements arrive?" inquired Gary.

"Sometime during the next twelve hours," Shawn replied.

Gary stopped to ponder the situation.

"I have an idea!" he exclaimed. "Let's look down in the dungeon. We might find something of value."

"We've been in the dungeon," responded Hank. "There's nothing of value down there."

"Maybe you didn't look hard enough," insisted Gary. "I heard that there's a very powerful weapon dcwn there. If we can find it, we'll be able to defend ourselves."

"Except for one thing," argued Peter. "Kobie fights using illusions."

"He can't attack us if he can't find us," Gary reminded him. "What you'll find down there will make it well worth your efforts."

"Let's remove the debris," ordered Shawn. "If Gary thinks it's that important, we should at least investigate."

Shawn and Gary immediately walked over to the stairs and started clearing out a path. The others stayed where they were. They were suspicious of Gary's sudden change of heart. He had done nothing to convince them he had changed his mind. The only thing he had given them was a promise that they would find a powerful weapon in the dungeon below.

"How did you learn about the weapon in the dungeon?" demanded Hank.

"I overheard Kobie and Meragus talking," Gary informed them. "Kobie was worried about a weapon he left behind in the dungeon. He was afraid that one of you would find it and use it against him. That's why I decided to team up with you. If we find the weapon, we can destroy Kobie and the Earth will no longer be in danger."

"There's still one thing that puzzles me," stated Hank. "Why didn't you tell us this when you first arrived."

"I wasn't thinking straight," stammered Gary. "I was trying so hard to convince you to investigate the dungeon that I forgot to explain why."

"I'll help," conceded Hank. "as long as you remain with us."

"I have no place to go," said Gary.

When Hank started helping Shawn and Gary in their effort to explore the dungeon, Peter, Linda, and Lisa did likewise. Even if Gary was still against them, there might be a shred of truth to his story.

With all six of them helping, it didn't take long before they had made a path to the bottom of the stairs.

"I'll need two of you to stay at the top of the stairs and keep an eye out for the green dog, Kobie, or anyone else that happens to come by," explained Shawn. "If you see anyone approaching, I want one of you to come down and warn us. The rest of us will explore the entire downstairs and see what we can find."

"If no one minds, I really don't want to go down there again," sighed Lisa. "I'll stay upstairs."

"I'll stay with Lisa," stated Linda.

"Me too," added Gary.

"No," argued Shawn. "We need to identify the weapon you've been telling us about. It is vitally important that you come downstairs with us since you know what to look for."

"I'll go," conceded Gary. "I'll find the weapon as quickly as I possibly can."

Peter, Hank, Shawn, and Gary descended into the darkness. Shawn led the way. His flashlight was the only source of light they had. He carefully scanned the room he was entering to make there was nothing to stumble upon or trip over.

The downstairs was nowhere near as damaged as the upstairs was. There were pieces of scattered debris every once in a while, but nothing they couldn't go around. Shawn stopped in front of a huge, wooden door.

"This is it," gasped Shawn trying to calm his nerves.

Slowly, he pushed the door open. The door made a hideous creaking sound. Shawn reminded himself that there was no one else there and pressed onward.

Next to the door, Shawn found a control panel. He opened it up and pressed a few buttons hoping they would control the lights He had guessed correctly. A bright light flowed gently into the dungeon and into the rooms beyond.

"Now we can split up and search," declared Shawn.

Peter, Hank, and Gary left to search elsewhere.

"Gary!" yelled Shawn. "I want you to stay with me."

Reluctantly, Gary obeyed. We had worked with Shawn long enough to know what would happen if he disobeyed his orders.

"See if you can find anything hidden in the corners," ordered Shawn.

The dungeon looked more or less the same as it had when they left it. The left wall still had chains hanging from it from when they were chained to the wall. In the back were various torture devices that Kobie never got a chance to use on them. The only type of weapon that fit Gary's description was the phaser Kobie had used on Peter. When Lisa ordered Kobie to drop his weapon, no one had bothered to pick it up.

"Is this the weapon you were talking about?" asked Shawn.

"Yes," lied Gary.

He couldn't believe his luck. There actually was a weapon down there Now that he had gained their trust, he could stall them that much longer.

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