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SURVIVAL ON MARS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER 10 : HELP ARRIVES

TIME : 11:20 A.M.
PLACE : The edge of the solar system

X, the leader of M.W.G.D., had heard Shawn's distress call and decided that he should come to his aid as soon as the possibly could. His ship, the XX1, was the fastest ship known to exist. He had left the other M.W.G.D. ships behind and hurried to Mars before Shawn, Gary, and their four friend from the Aries 7 were killed.

Suddenly, X picked up a small, fast moving object leaving Mars and heading straight for the Earth. He double checked his sensors and confirmed that it was a nuclear missile capable of destroying an entire city. Shawn and the others would have to wait. His first priority was to stop the missile.

X raced to the missile and zeroed in on his target. Then, he launched a missile of his own. The two missile collided destroying each other. The resulting explosion was too far away from both Earth and Mars to affect them in any significant way.

With the missile destroyed, X hurried back to Mars to find the Earthlings.

TIME : 11:21 A.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

Kobie kept track of the missile as if left Mars on a nonstop collision course with Earth. He eagerly awaited the destruction of Washington D.C. followed by every city on Earth.

"Today the Earth, tomorrow the galaxy," he thought.

Suddenly the missile exploded prematurely. He couldn't believe it.

"What happened to the missile?" he demanded.

"It was destroyed by a rapidly moving object," replied the voice on the other end.

"X!" roared Kobie. "He should be helping me. We have the same goal in life, to destroy the Ruler. He can't stop all our missiles. How long will it take to launch all our missiles simultaneously?"

"Several hours," answered the voice.

"Start working on it immediately," ordered Kobie.

He had suffered minor setbacks before. It wouldn't be the first time X had caused him trouble. Quickly, he made a general announcement to everyone under his command.

"Forget about the Earthlings," he commanded. "X is here. He is to be killed on sight. I will give a promotion and huge bonus to the first person who brings me proof of his death."

Kobie smiled. He had grown more powerful since his last encounter with X. If he could defeat X, he could certainly defeat the Ruler.

TIME : 11:23 A.M.
PLACE : 50 meters from the escape pod

X felt it best to find the others as quickly as possible. There was no telling when another missile would be launched at Earth.

He spotted the guards and realized that the problem was worse than he thought. He examined the guards. It would be awhile before they revived. X's acute senses detected someone moving around inside the escape pod. Cautiously, he approached the ship not knowing if friend or foe was inside. He was relieved to find out it was only Gary.

Gary heard the door opening and thought it was Shawn and the others returning after another unsuccessful mission. He was surprised to find instead a hooded man dressed entirely in black except for a large, while X across his chest.

"X!" he exclaimed. "I thought you wouldn't be here for another six hours."

"I got here as soon as I could," X began. "I thought you could use my help while you're waiting for the rest of M.W.G.D. Good thing I got here when I did. Someone launched a nuclear missile at Washington D.C.."

Gary was stunned. He had trusted Kobie not to destroy the Earth, or any part of it. The others kept warning him that Kobie was not to be trusted, but he wouldn't listen. Now, X had told him that Kobie launched a missile at the capital of his own country. He was sorry he had ever made a deal with Kobie and vowed to kill him or die trying.

"The others left to find a way to stop Kobie. I elected to stay behind," reported Gary telling as much of the truth as he wanted to tell for the time being.

He was ashamed of the deals he made with Kobie.

"Do you have any idea where they went?" asked X.

"No, they wouldn't tell me," Gary answered truthfully.

"No matter," said X. "I'll find them."

Gary followed X out of the ship and watched as X looked for some sort of trail. X could notice things other people couldn't. Soon he was able to figure out the direction they had left in after their battle with the guards.

"This way," he told Gary.

"The gold castle's in that direction," explained Gary. "Maybe that's where they're headed."

"Gold castle?" inquired X.

He was many things, but he wasn't a mind reader.

Gary did his best to explain the gold castle, Kobie's mysterious powers, and the arrival of Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa. X listened attentively. He had an idea where Kobie's powers came from and, with the help of the others, he was sure he could neutralize them.

As soon as Gary was finished telling X his story, a loud roar could be heard in the distance.

"What was that?" wondered X.

"That was the green dog," replied Gary. "He's a story all to himself."

TIME : 11:40 A.M.
PLACE : The underground chamber

"This was a good idea of yours, Peter," complimented Shawn. "Kobie will never think of looking for us in here, and neither will Gary."

"The underground chamber is too complex to have been created naturally," Peter remarked. "There has to be a reason why it was created, other than for hiding."

"Perhaps I can explain," interrupted a friendly voice directly behind him.

Peter turned to face the stranger. He was dressed in black and was wearing a mask, but there was something about his eyes that told Peter he was on their side. If one of Kobie's bunch wanted to hide his identity, he would create an illusion.

"I am called X," X began. "I am the leader of the Milky Way Galaxy Defense, or M.W.G.D. for short. My job is to protect the galaxy from internal and external threats."

"Kobie fired a missile at Washington D.C., but X destroyed it," Gary cut in.

He had had some trouble trying to keep up with X through the maze of tunnel. He finally managed to catch up just as X was explaining the purpose of M.W.G.D..

"Will he launch any more missiles?" wondered Hank nervously.

"Unless we can stop him," answered X with a sense of urgency in his voice. "If he does, I will be alerted immediately. I should be able to destroy it in plenty of time. The only problem is if he launches a number of missiles simultaneously, I won't be able to stop them all. We can't afford to give him another chance."

"You can help me out by telling me everything you remember about the illusions you experienced and anything concerning diamonds."

"We've seen diamonds all over the place," recalled Peter. "There were diamonds in the walls of the gold castle, there, there were diamonds in the cave Kobie held us prisoner in, and there were diamonds on some of the dresses Lisa brought back to the ship."

"Don't forget the large diamond shaped hole in the green dog's lair," added Hank.

X looked at the dress Lisa was wearing. It was completely covered with jewels.

"I'd recommend changing clothes as soon as possible," X advised her. "Those jewels act as a focal point for Kobie's powers. Stay away from all jewels, especially diamonds, if you possibly can. The further away you are from the jewels, the weaker Kobie's powers become."

Lisa felt uneasy. The dress she was wearing endangered not only herself, but anyone who came near her. She suddenly understood why she was the main victim of Kobie's illusions. Kobie had taken advantage of her greed, her desire for wealth and power.

"Linda, I'm going back to the ship to change. Could you come with me?" she asked.

"If you're going back to the ship, we'll need to go as a group," insisted X. "It isn't safe for the two of you to travel by yourselves."

"Is it safe for me to be near you?" objected Lisa.

"Kobie will probably be after me," stated X. "After all, I was the one that destroyed his missile. As long as you stay with me, you'll be safe."

"What makes you so sure you can protect us?" inquired Lisa.

"Experience," X replied. "I've been with M.W.G.D. since it was first created forty years ago. I am very accurate with a phaser and I'm immune to Kobie's illusions."

"Sounds good enough for me," declared Lisa.

All seven of them climbed out of the underground chamber and headed back toward the escape pod and the XX1. On the way, they took turns telling X about the illusions they had experienced. When they were finished, X gave them his theory on Kobie's powers.

"An advanced race from another galaxy built a series of diamond shaped objects that could amplify the powers of the mind," X began. "Each diamond had a different function. Although that race left our galaxy a long time ago, they left these objects behind. Somehow Kobie has found the one that controls dreams. All the illusions have come from your own subconscious, not from Kobie."

"When you experience these illusions you are actually walking through one of your own dreams. As with a dream, sometimes you forget that it is only a dream. Kobie can suggest, but he cannot control. If you find yourself in another illusion remember you are in control."

"The large diamond shaped hole you found in the green dog's lair was probably where the diamond used to be. All we have to do is find out where the diamond is now and destroy it and Kobie will loose his powers."

"What about the green dog?" wondered Peter.

"That's a mystery to me too," admitted X. "My best guess is that the radiation from the diamond cause an ordinary dog to increase its size tenfold and turn green. The green dog wil not pose a threat to us as long as we stay out of its way."

"Is that your ship?" asked Hank pointing to the XX1.

"Yes," answered X with pride. "It's the fastest known ship in the galaxy."

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa looked at the ship with wonder and amazement. They wondered how something so technologically advanced had ever been created. It made the greatest accomplishments of Earth seem small by comparison.

Next to it was a simple escape pod, the object they had been forced to call home.

Lisa ran to the escape pod glad to see a sense of normality had been restored.

"Stop!" warned X. "I detect explosives inside the escape pod. The explosives are starting to become unstable. The ship is about to explode."

Lisa halted.

"How long do I have?" she shouted back.

"I don't know," confessed X. "but the ship will exploded sometime in the next five minutes."

To everyone's surprise, Lisa darted inside the ship. With the ship about to explode, every second was precious. She couldn't afford to waste any of them.

The first thing she found was her diary. She kept it and started rummaging through her collection of treasures she took with her from the gold castle. To her dismay, she found that most of the items had jewels either on it or in it. In fact, there was only one item that didn't.

At the bottom of the pile was an ordinary T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. She wondered why she would take clothes like that from the gold castle, then she remembered that those clothes hadn't come from the gold castle. They were the clothes she had taken with her from Earth.

She grabbed the clothes and the diary and ran back to the others as fast as she could go. Instead of being glad to see her like she thought they would be, they were upset with her for going inside the ship when she knew it was about to explode.

"What were you doing in there?" demanded Peter. "You could have been killed."

"That was a very foolish thing you did," scolded Linda.

"You risked your life for what? A change of clothes and a diary?" added Hank.

Lisa was about to protest when the escape pod suddenly exploded. Lisa and the others took cover as the dust and smoke went flying by them. When the dust and smoke finally cleared, the escape pod was an unrecognizable pile of metal.

Lisa started to cry. She had acted foolishly.

"I'm sorry," she cried. "Sometimes I just don't think things through."

"We're sorry we yelled at you," said Peter speaking for all of them. "We just don't want to see you get hurt."

"You can go to the other side of my ship and change," X told her. "I have a few things I need to do."

X climbed inside the XX1 and pushed a series of buttons.

"What are you doing?" asked Peter.

"I'm trying to find out where Kobie hid the diamond," X replied. "The diamond gives off a certain type of radiation. If I can trace the radiation, I'll find the diamond."

X pushed a few more buttons. There was a loud beeping sound as a print out appeared. X handed Peter the print out.

"I have used laser radar to create a map of the tunnels below. The red spot is the diamond," he explained. "It should be fairly simple for you to get there."

"Aren't you coming with us?" wondered Peter.

"No," replied X. "I'll need to stay here in case Kobie launches more missiles and I'll need Shawn to stay here and help me."

"You can't both stay," protested Peter. "We need one of you to help us find the diamond. We're not used to life in outer space."

"Shawn is the only one who can help me track the missiles," insisted X. "If there was anybody else who could do it, I'd let Shown stay with you, but there isn't. Protecting the Earth is our first priority."

"You probably know more about the tunnels than we do. You've been inside the tunnels longer and have had a chance to explore the place. I can map the tunnels, but I can't tell you what you'll find inside. Your guess is as good as mine."

"If you need experience, you'll have Gary with you."

"With all due respect, I'd rather go to the control room and confront Kobie," explained Gary "They can handle destroying the diamond without me."

"What do you plan to do once you find him?" questioned Shawn.

"I'm going to kill him before he destroys Earth," roared Gary.

"You realize that such a mission is clearly suicidal," X persisted.

"I don't care," cried Gary. "It's my fault he's this powerful, therefore it's my responsibility to stop him."

"Why is it your fault?" wondered X.

Gary confessed the deals he had made with Kobie thinking the Earth would be spared.

"You haven't betrayed anyone," X assured him. "The only mistake you made you made was giving in to the demands of a terrorist. If you think going after him will help, you have my permission to go for it, but don't feel like you're required to redeem yourself. Keep your mind on the task at hand."

As Gary started to leave, Lisa returned wearing her old clothes. She was close enough to hear everything that had been said.

"I'm going with Peter," she announced. "and I promise not to make any more careless mistakes."

"I'm glad to hear it," smiled X. "They'll need your help."

Peter held out the map and let the others look over his shoulder. He traced a path with his finger.

"That looks like the best route," agreed Hank.

Peter got out the snack he had brought with him and started to eat.

"Better eat now," Peter advised the others. "We may not get a chance to eat once we enter the tunnels."

Hank, Linda, and Lisa followed Peter's advice. They said good bye to X and Shawn and made their way to the tunnels eating what little food they had brought with them.

Shawn scrambled into the XX1 with X. They would be safe. He worried about the others, but X was right. The safety of the Earth had to come before their own safety. He glanced down at the scanners. No missile in sight.

"How long do you think it will be before Kobie launches another missile?" he asked X.

"It depends on how long it will take Kobie to assemble them," replied X. "If he's anything like the Ruler, he will launch them at the first possible opportunity."

"I hope we have a long wait ahead of us," sighed Shawn.

"Me too," agreed X.

TIME : 12:01 P.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

Meragus entered the room accompanied by two guards. One look at their solemn faces told Kobie all he needed to know.

"Have you found X or the Earthlings?" attacked Kobie knowing that they hadn't.

"No," said Meragus. "We lost contact with four of our guards. Their last reported location was in the vicinity of the escape pod. We believe they were attacked by the Earthlings."

"When did this battle occur?" demanded Kobie.

"About half an hour ago," murmured Meragus. "However, I do have some good news. The escape pod just exploded."

"How many people were on board?" Kobie inquired anxiously.

"I don't know," Meragus admitted. "but the survivors, if there are any, have no place to hide. Soon they will surrender."

"They do not surrender!" roared Kobie. "They keep coming after us. Eventually, they'll find a way to beat us. We have to stop them before that happens. Send as many people as you can possibly spare to the spot where the escape pod used to be. X and the Earthlings are to be killed on sight."

"Meragus, I want you to double your efforts on the missiles. The sooner they are ready for launching, the better."

"It will be done," promised Meragus.

Meragus and the two guards started to leave.

"Wait!" Kobie called out after them. "I want the two guards to stay with me. If they get desperate enough, they might come after me. I need some protection."

"You can count on us," the first guard assured him.

For the first time since X destroyed his missile, Kobie relaxed.

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