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SURVIVAL ON MARS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER 9 : KOBIE'S PLAN

"It looks like an ordinary phaser," Shawn noted suspiciously.

"It has an extra setting," Gary told him. "There's a special way to activate it, but I don't know what it is."

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were making your story up as we go along," remarked Shawn.

He looked directly into Gary's eyes. Gary returned the glare evenly.

"I'm only telling you what I know," snapped Gary. "That may not even be the gun he was talking about."

Shawn looked to see if he could find the extra setting, but there was no sign of one.

"Perhaps we should see what Peter and Hank are doing," suggested Shawn.

It wasn't long before they found Peter searching the empty jail cells.

"Have you found anything?" asked Shawn.

"Not yet," replied Peter. "Hank's at the far end. Maybe he found something."

They were about to go over to see what Hank had found when Linda cried out, "The green dog is coming!"

Peter, Shawn, Gary, and Hank scampered up the stairs to take a look for themselves.

TIME : 10:10 A.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

"I have placed the bomb in the escape pod," reported Meragus. "It is set to detonate at precisely noon, in their time."

"There's one more thing I want you to do," began Kobie. "Get a group of twelve to surround the ship and make sure all the Earthlings are inside at the time of the explosion. I don't wont them to escape like they did last time."

"Even Gary?" wondered Meragus.

"Especially Gary," snapped Kobie. "He is only helping us because he thinks we will spare the Earth. As soon as he finds out Earth is our next target, he will turn against us. He is no longer to be trusted. The sooner we get rid of him, the better."

"Should I start preparations for the attack on Earth?" inquired Meragus.

"Preparations are already under way," answered Kobie. "The missiles we have will be made to look like nuclear weapons from Earth in the 1990's. We won't be able to destroy all of the Earth, but we won't need to. All we need to do is hit a few select targets. I will make them think the missiles came from another country and, within a matter of days, they will destroy each other. All we have to do is sit back and watch."

"My powers of illusion proved effective on our test subjects. Given enough time, they can resist its effects, but only if they know it's an illusion. With the real damage our missiles will cause, the people of Earth will never suspect it to be an illusion."

"What if they don't destroy each other?" wondered Meragus.

"Then I will launch another attack, and another one until they do," sneered Kobie. "Like all races, their patience is finite. They will retaliate eventually. By the time they discover we're behind it, it will be too late."

"I will carry out your orders immediately," said Meragus.

He turned and left.

TIME : 10:15 A.M.
PLACE : The ruins of the gold castle

Although they couldn't see the green dog, they could certainly hear him. It wasn't an angry growl, but it still scared them to know that he was near. Unlike Kobie, the green dog's actions were unpredictable. The next roar was the loudest one yet.

"He's getting closer," announced Shawn.

"If the green dog is intelligent, maybe we should try to communicate with it," suggested Peter. "It's been scaring us and captured me once, but it hasn't tried to kill any of us. Maybe we can be friends with it."

"How do you expect to communicate with it," griped Gary. "We obviously can't talk to it."

"There are millions of ways to communicate," Shawn reminded him. "Talking is only one of them. If we stay where we are without attacking it or running away, he may understand our peaceful intentions."

"And if he doesn't, we're all dead," added Gary.

"I'll go first," volunteered Peter. "No point in putting all of us at risk. The rest of you can watch from a safe distance."

"If one of us has to be at risk, it should be me," insisted Shawn. "You left the Earth less than a month ago. I've had nine years of experience dealing with aliens."

"You may know more about life in outer space," admitted Peter. "but I know more about the green dog. He took me to his lair. Besides, your experience makes you too valuable to risk. You're the only one who can stand up to Kobie."

"You have a point," agreed Shawn. "Just be careful."

"I will," Peter assured him.

Peter walked in the direction of the roars while the others followed from a safe distance. It wasn't long before Peter spotted the green dog, however, to his surprise, it hadn't spotted him. It was looking to the side trying to find something.

"Hello!" shouted Peter.

He never thought he would be trying to get the green dog's attention.

The green dog turned to Peter and growled loudly. Peter felt the urge to run away, but he kept his feet planted. It growled again sounding more vicious than ever, but Peter stayed where he was. After a few more growls the green dog became less hostile. He started wagging his tail like a normal dog and looked playfully at Peter.

Seeing it was safe, the others started approaching Peter slowly and cautiously. The green dog ignored Peter for the moment and growled at the newcomers. However, they would not go away. In fact, they continued to come until they were right beside Peter.

The green dog stared at the peculiar humans for a few moments. None of them made a sound Each looked at the other wondering what kinds of secrets they kept hidden away. Then, suddenly, the green dog left them returning to the safety of his lair.

Peter and the others didn't know what to think of their encounter. The only thing they knew for sure was that the green dog was not as hostile as they had originally thought. Nowhere near as cruel as Kobie.

"I think we should head back to the ship," Shawn stated uneasily.

"But we haven't finished exploring the castle," protested Gary.

"Are you trying to keep us at the castle?" demanded Shawn.

Gary lowered his head.

"No," he sighed. "I'm just not sure returning to the ship is a good idea."

"I understand your concern," Shawn told him. "but if we in any one place for too long, Kobie is sure to find us. The only way we can stay hidden is if we keep moving. Reinforcements will arrive shortly. Then we can search more throughly. If we're going to form an alliance with the green dog, I will need to get some things from my ship."

"Why don't we vote on it," suggested Hank. "All those in favor of returning to the ship say, 'Aye!'"

"Aye!" hollered everyone except Gary.

"Those opposed," Hank continued.

Silence. Gary knew he had lost and didn't even bother to speak.

"Very well," conceded Gary. "we'll return to the ship, but don't say I didn't warn you."

TIME : 10:30 A.M.
PLACE : The escape pod

The six of them returned to the escape pod unaware that the ship had been surrounded. With his powers of illusion, Kobie made the others appear invisible. They entered the ship not knowing there was a bomb inside set to detonate in ninety minutes.

Shawn checked the food supply. They had enough food to have normal rations for at least four days. With reinforcements coming later day, they had plenty of food to spare.

"What are you doing?" asked Lisa with some concern.

"I'm going to take some food to the green dog," Shawn replied. "It's the best way to prove we want to be friends. Relax, we have plenty of food."

"Better take some food with you when you leave," advised Peter. "There's no telling when we'll have another chance to rest."

"We have you surrounded," Kobie announced over the ship's emergency radio. Do not try to leave the ship. Anyone attempting to leave the ship will be shot down immediately."

Shawn quickly responded.

"You're bluffing," he accused coldly. "We just entered the ship and there was no one there."

"Perhaps you should look a little more closely," taunted Kobie.

Shawn looked outside and saw that Kobie was telling the truth. The ship was surrounded by twelve aliens. They were a good distance away, but they couldn't leave the immediate area without running past at least one of them. They would be sitting ducks.

Shawn wondered why the aliens kept their distance from the ship. They seemed to be afraid to come near it.

Shawn felt the others pushing behind him trying to get a good view and decided to give the others a chance to look. Peter got a little too curious and started to step outside. All of the aliens pointed their phasers in Peter's direction. Peter suddenly changed his mind and decided that the best view was from inside the ship.

"We're trapped!" stammered Peter. "What do we do now? We can't leave the ship as long as those aliens surround us."

"That's it!" exclaimed Shawn. "It will work. We'll take off and land someplace else."

"What about the missiles?" wondered Lisa.

"We'll have to make it a short trip," Shawn began. "If we land within a minute after takeoff, Kobie won't have a chance to lock onto us. It will use the last of our fuel, but it's the only chance we've got. Where would you like to land?"

"How about the other side of the gold castle?" suggested Lisa.

"The other side of the gold castle it is," declared Shawn. "Strap yourselves in. Prepare for takeoff."

The ship started to rumble as the engines ignited. Slowly and steadily, the ship rose into the air. Peter looked out the window at the ground below. Once the ship was in the air, the aliens started to scatter not knowing what to think of the situation. As they continued to their destination, Peter saw the familiar mountain range and the gold castle beside it. They went a good distance beyond just to make sure they'd be safe when they landed.

As they started to land, Kobie spoke to them again.

"Clever!" confessed Kobie. "Perhaps I've underestimated you again. However, your victory is short lived. Even as we speak, my guards are on their way over to you with orders to kill you if you try to leave the ship. You do not have enough fuel to try a stunt like that again, so I'd advise you to surrender and stay in your new home."

"Do you get the feeling Kobie's still experimenting with us?" asked Peter. "I do."

"He wants us to stay in the ship for some reason," remarked Linda.

Shawn remembered how the aliens had kept their distance and thought he had figured out why. He looked at the others with a grave expression on his face.

"I think we should go back and explore the gold castle," ordered Shawn. "That is our only chance of defeating them."

"What's gotten into you?" protested Peter but he was cut off when Shawn put his finger to his lips.

He motioned for the others to follow them.

When Shawn left the ship, instead of heading to the gold castle, he headed around the castle to the mountain range. The others followed not knowing what to expect. When Shawn felt he was far enough away from the ship, he stopped and waited for the others to catch up.

"I couldn't tell you what I was planning to do while we were still inside the ship because I believe the ship's been bugged," he explained. "They must have been keeping their distance so we wouldn't get suspicious. Kobie probably wanted to listen to our reactions when we found out we were trapped."

"What do you have in mind?" inquired Linda.

"We're going to pay the green dog a visit," replied Shawn. "Peter, do you remember where the green dog's lair is?"

"I think so," said Peter. "but I didn't exactly get there on my own power."

"I remember where it is," Hank cut in. "I had to find Peter and rescue him."

"Lead the way," commanded Shawn.

"Hold it!" shouted Gary as they started to leave. "Are you sure we know what we're doing? The green dog might cause us more harm than good, especially if we invade its lair. We need some time to think it over."

"Time is the one thing we don't have," insisted Shawn. "If you don't want to come with us, you don't have to, as long as you stay out of our way."

Gary ran back to the ship. In spite of all his warnings, they still insisted on stopping Kobie. After so many failures, he could only hope that the Earth would be spared.

As soon as he was inside the ship, Gary contacted Kobie using the emergency radio.

"This is Gary," Gary began. "Shawn and the others have gone to the green dog's lair in an attempt to make friends with it. They know the ship is bugged."

"The ship isn't bugged," corrected Kobie.

"Well they think the ship has been bugged," continued Gary. "They are waiting for reinforcements which should arrive in about twelve hours."

"Stay where you are," ordered Kobie. "My guards will take care of them."

Gary was going to wait silently in the ship, but part of him had broken free from Kobie'ss conditioning. Part of him had to insure the safety of his friends.

"Promise me they will not be hurt," he demanded. "To his surprise, Kobie didn't get mad at him."

"I promise you they will return to the ship alive," Kobie assured him. "You have served me well and I will soon reward you for it."

Gary smiled. If Kobie spared their lives, they would finally realize that Kobie wasn't after them. He was after his own people.

Silently, the bomb ticked away.

TIME : 10:50 A.M.
PLACE : The green dog's lair

When they finally reached the entrance to the green dog's lair, the green dog wasn't home. They were more relieved the disappointed, at least for the moment. They would have time to explore the lair's contents.

Cautiously they entered the lair and began to look around. The cave was dark and cold making them feel unwelcome.

"Look over here!" shouted Peter. "There's a large diamond shaped hole in the back of the cave."

The others came over to see for themselves. Lisa stared at the hole with wonder and amazement. It was three meters high and two meters across. A diamond that size would be worth billions of dollars, if she could get it back to Earth.

"Someone must have been here before us," suspected Peter.

"Kobie!" exclaimed Shawn.

"Where do you think he would hide a diamond that size?" inquired Lisa.

Before anyone could answer her question, Kobie's entered the cave with their and ready. There was no doubt that they would shoot if provoked.

"What happened to the green dog?" demanded Linda.

"It's probably scared out of its mind by now," said one of the guards. "The illusions work better on him than they do on you. He has no way of fighting them."

"Return to the ship and no one will get hurt," a second guard chimed in.

"How did you ever manage to find us?" asked Hank.

"I refuse to answer any more of your questions," snapped the first guard. "Now start moving."

TIME : 11:15 A.M.
PLACE : The escape pod

Gary waited in the ship as Kobie instructed. There wasn't much he could do except wait. He tried to take a nap, but his mind was too active. He thought about the others and wondered if he had done the right thing.

Gary jumped when the door opened. Peter, Hank, Linda, Lisa, and Shawn stepped inside. By the looks on theiri faces, Gary guessed that it hadn't been their choice to enter the ship.

"What happened?" inquired Gary innocently.

"We ran into Kobie's guards," explained Shawn. "They sent us back to the ship. I thought we took plenty of precautions. I wonder how they found us so fast."

"I told them," announced Gary to everyone's surprise.

"But why?" cried Lisa.

"To prove to you that Kobie doesn't want to kill us," replied Gary. "If you leave him alone, he'll leave us alone. Earth is not his target, it's the people who deserted him. You should be thanking me. I asked to spare your lives and he did."

"I'd rather strangle you than thank you," shouted Linda.

"Calm down!" commanded Shawn. "Fighting with ourselves isn't going to help us any. Everyone grab a phaser. There are six of us and only four of them. If we are going to attack we'd better do it now while the odds are still in our favor."

"You can count me out," announced Gary. "I don't want anything to do with any more of your plans."

"Suit yourself," said Shawn turning to the others. "When I give the word, I want you to open the door and fire at the first guard you see. Are you ready?"

"Ready," answered Peter.

Everyone held their breath.

"Now!" yelled Shawn.

The attack was a success. The guards were totally unprepared for their sudden attack. Even though Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa were inexperienced in phaser battle, they were somehow able to hit their targets.

"Where do we go?" asked Linda.

"Anyplace Gary doesn't know about," Shawn replied.

Gary watched the others leave. He had tried to warn them, but they still wouldn't listen. This time, he wouldn't ask Kobie to spare their lives. The bomb continued to tick away.

TIME : 11:16 A.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

"The first missile is ready for launching," reported Meragus. "We're waiting for you to select a target."

"Washington D.C.," said Kobie without looking up. "The next one will be headed for Moscow."

"Whenever you feel like launching it, just push the red button," explained Meragus.

Kobie pressed it immediately. The missile left the launching pad on Mars and headed straight for Earth where it would destroy the capital of the United States.

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