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Continue To The Next Chapter - Chapter 12

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SURVIVAL ON MARS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER 11 : DREAMS AND ILLUSIONS

TIME : 12:10 P.M.
PLACE : The underground chamber

Peter studied the map carefully. It was one thing to find the solution to a maze on paper, but it was another to actually be inside the maze. The entire maze could not be seen, only bits and pieces. Peter tried to find out which tunnel corresponded to which path on the map. He double checked to make sure he was right before walking down the appropriate tunnel.

At the bottom of the map was a message. It said, "DO NOT try to destroy the diamond with your phasers. The only way it can be destroyed is by smashing it."

Peter didn't have anything to smash the diamond with, but he had to concentrate on one thing at a time. After he found the diamond, he would worry about finding something to smash it with.

The light they had brought with them was the only source of light in the area. It was obvious that the tunnel had been deserted for a long time. Kobie had picked a good place to hide the master diamond. If X hadn't have shown them where it was, they wouldn't have found it if they spent one hundred years looking for it.

As continued to twist and turn or their way to the diamond, they noticed a faint glow in the distance. As they got closer, the glow grew brighter.

"We must be getting close," Peter remarked.

"Look out!" shouted Linda.

The others quickly took cover from ... nothing.

"What did you see?" wondered Peter.

"I thought we were being attacked," Linda replied slightly embarrassed.

"More illusions," sighed Peter. "At least now we know what causes it."

They turned right into a different passage. The new passage would take them straight to the diamond. The passage was well light almost as if someone had installed lights there. As far as distance was concerned, it wasn't very far to the diamond, but Peter knew the last few meters would be the toughest. They would have to pass through some very powerful illusions in order to reach it.

TIME : 12:14 P.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

Kobie felt a chill sweep through him. He sensed that he was in terrible danger. Someone was approaching the diamond, the source of his power. He didn't want anyone else to know about the diamond. That was why he did it in the first place.

He didn't like the idea of being forced to share his power with someone else, but, under the circumstances, he didn't have much choice. If someone had to find the diamond, he would rather have it be someone he could control, not the Earthlings who were clearly uncontrollable.

"The Earthlings have been spotted in the tunnels below the gold castle," he announced to anyone that could hear him. "It is vital that they are found and killed before they can cause any damage."

He repeated his message three times to make sure there was no doubts what he meant. With luck, the diamond wouldn't be spotted at all. His soldiers would be upon them in a matter of minutes.

In the meantime, Kobie would unleash the full extent of his powers. Soon they wouldn't know what was real and what wasn't. They wouldn't live long enough to find the diamond.

TIME : 12:15 P.M.
PLACE : 750 meters below the Martian surface

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa abruptly came to a dead end.

"I thought you said this tunnel would lead us to the diamond," complained Lisa.

"According to the map, it should," defended Peter. "I don't understand it."

"The diamond!" exclaimed Hank.

He picked up a large rock and threw it at the side wall. The rock bounced off the wall and bounced harmlessly away.

"Of course," Peter realized. "This tunnel does lead to the diamond."

"What are you talking about?" wondered Linda. "This tunnel leads to a dead end."

"We only believe it leads to a dead end," corrected Peter. "It's another one of Kobie' s illusions."

To illustrate his point, Peter walked through the wall. A few seconds later, he returned, picked up the rock Hank had used, and walked back through the wall.

"See, it's not that bad!" Peter shouted to them from the other side of the wall. "One good thing about Hank's illusion is we now have something we can use to smash the diamond with. We'll have to take turns carrying it, but we don't know if we'll find any more rocks lying about."

Hank, Linda, and Lisa followed Peter through the wall. Even after seeing Peter pass through it, they still expected to bump into something solid. They kept having to remind themselves that it was only their own subconscious trying to trick them.

When they passed through the imaginary wall the found, to their dismay, another imaginary wall.

"Don't get discouraged," Peter called out to them. "There are only five of them."

Suddenly, there was a brilliant flash of light. Even covering their eyes wasn't enough to keep the light out. After the flash was over it took them a few seconds for their eyes to readjust.

"Help!" cried Peter. "I can't see a thing!"

Hank, Linda, and Lisa came rushing to his aid. When they got there, they saw that Peter had put the rock down and had his hands out in front of him feeling for the wall.

"The flash was too bright for me," explained Peter. "I've been blinded."

Lisa walked over to him and put her arm around him.

"I'll guide you to the diamond," she assured him. "Give me the map and I'll take you the rest of the way."

"Could someone hand me the rock?" requested Peter.

Linda picked up the rock and gave it to him. It seemed remarkably light for its size, nowhere near as heavy as Linda thought it would be. Then she remembered they were not on Earth. They were on Mars which had a much weaker gravity.

Lisa went first guiding Peter every step of the way. Hank and Linda followed close behind. The glow from the diamond had become bright enough to light the entire room making traveling much easier.

Hank heard footsteps behind them. It sounded like three or four people running after them. At first, Hank thought it was another illusion, but as the sounds grew louder Hank realized that they were being followed and their pursuers were gaining rapidly.

"Someone's coming," he told the others. "Linda and I will hold them off. You two continue to the diamond. Destroy it as quickly as you can. We won't be able to hold them off for very long."

Peter and Lisa doubled their pace. It was up to them to destroy the diamond.

The glow from the diamond became brighter and brighter until at last the diamond was within sight, at least for Lisa. Peter still couldn't see a thing.

"I see the diamond," said Lisa.

"Take the rock and smash it," commanded Peter.

Before Lisa had a chance to grab the rock, she heard a high pitched ringing in her ears. The next thing she knew, she had lost her balance. She fell to the ground and slipped into unconsciousness.

Peter couldn't hear the ringing sound or see what had happened to Lisa, but he did feel how limp Lisa's arm became before she release her grip. Peter put down and started feeling the ground hoping to find her.

"Lisa?" he cried out desperately. "Lisa!"

Peter finally managed to feel Lisa's leg. Her body was still warm, but quite limp. There was no way Peter could revive her anytime soon. He was their last chance to destroy the diamond.

TIME : 12:18 P.M.
PLACE : Still in the tunnels

Hank and Linda backtracked to a point where the passage grew narrow. The enemy would have to come one at a time. Hopefully, they would be able to pull off a surprise attack. If that didn't work, they wouldn't stand a chance. The sound of the footsteps had stopped momentarily. The silence made Linda uncomfortable. When they were running, she could tell exactly where they were. Now, she could only guess.

"They've probably stopped to give themselves a chance to get organized," whispered Hank.

It didn't make Linda feel any better. If they were stopping to organize themselves, the chances of a successful surprise attack would be greatly diminished.

The footsteps started again. They were not as loud or as fast as they had been before. Kobie's soldiers were slowly and silently headed in their direction. Hank held his breath not daring to make a sound. Linda held her breath too. She was sure they had been spotted and Kobie's soldiers were moving in for a surprise attack of their own.

As they came closer, it became clear that this was not the case. The soldiers had no idea where Hank and Linda were. The soldier in front stepped directly in between Linda and Hank with no idea what was in store for her.

Linda fired. The first soldier went down. Hank simultaneously fired at the next soldier. He too went down. The two remaining soldiers returned fire, but Hank and Linda had remembered to keep low. The shots went over their heads. Hank and Linda fired again. Both of them hit their target and the final two soldiers collapse.

Hank and Linda had no time to celebrate their victory. They heard many more footsteps approaching. This time, it was a group of about ten. They couldn't expect to win a phaser battle against such odds even with the element of surprise.

It was too late to run. They would have to stay and fight. Peter and Lisa needed some time to destroy the diamond and it was their job to give it to them, no matter what.

TIME : 12:19 P.M.
PLACE : Less than 5 meters from the diamond

"So close, yet so far away," thought Peter.

Things didn't look good for any of them. Hank and Linda were fighting a phaser battle against at least twice their number, Gary was up against even greater odds, Lisa had passed out again, and the Earth could be destroyed in a moment's notice. Peter had tried everything he could think of expect praying.

"God," he pleaded. "Please help me find the diamond so I can destroy it. If not for me, then for the people of Earth. They don't even know they're about to be destroyed."

Peter felt a tremendous surge of heat. Sweat dripped down from his forehead. As he wiped off the sweat with his hand, he realized that the heat was coming for a single source, the diamond!

Peter picked up the rock once more and staggered toward the diamond. The heat became unbearable, but Peter urged himself onward until at last he reached the diamond. The heat was starting to make him dizzy. It was now or never.

He lifted the rock over his head and sent it crashing down on the diamond. There was a gigantic explosion followed by a barrage of color. Peter stared openly into the darkness. There was still a faint glow from the fragments of the shattered diamond, but all the pieces put together would be nowhere near as powerful as the original diamond had been. The illusions were over.

Peter looked down and saw Lisa beginning to stir.

"What happened?" groaned Lisa.

"Would you believe a miracle from above?" questioned Peter.

"You destroyed the diamond?" she asked hopefully. "And you can see!"

"My blindness was caused by the diamond," Peter explained. "When I destroyed the diamond, my vision was restored."

"We'd better find Linda and Hank," recommended Lisa. "They're going to need our help."

It didn't take them long to find Hank and Linda.

"Good job," commended Peter when he saw the four soldiers they had stunned.

"There was a group of about ten or so approaching, but they fled before they ever reached us," Hank reported.

"Kobie must have given them new orders after the diamond was destroyed," speculated Peter. "Now that he no longer has the power to create illusion, his first concern is saving his own neck."

"Gary!" exclaimed Hank.

"Do you think you can make it back to X and Shawn on your own?" asked Peter.

"Yes," Hank replied.

"Good," continued Peter. "According to the map, one of the tunnels is a short cut to the control room, probably an emergency exit. I'm going to go down it and see if I can find Gary. I'll meet you at the spot where the escape pod use to be."

Peter darted down the tunnel knowing that it was vital for him to reach Gary in time. Hank, Linda, and Lisa went at a more leisurely pace. Kobie's soldiers were still down there somewhere. There was no need to attract attention.

"Peter's always rushing into things," Linda remarked. "Do you think he'll be all right all by himself?"

"If he can smash the diamond without being able to see, I'm sure he can find Gary," insisted Lisa.

TIME : 12:21 P.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

Kobie knew the diamond had been destroyed. He no longer possessed the power to create illusions. His plan to attack the Ruler had been foiled, but he could still get revenge on the people who had beaten him by destroying their home planet. The only goal left open to him was the destruction of Earth.

"How many missiles are available for launching?" he demanded.

"Twenty-two missile," Meragus answered quickly.

"Launch them all," ordered Kobie. "I want to destroy as much of the Earth as possible."

At that moment, Gary entered the room. He looked exhausted from his efforts to get there, but his exhaustion was overshadowed by his determination to save Earth.

"Your too late," bellowed Kobie. "The missile have already been launched. You were a fool to trust me. I can have my guards kill you now or wait until the Earth has been destroyed. Which will it be?"

Gary looked down at the phaser still in his hand. Then, he examined the guards. Including Kobie there were three of them. They were expecting him to ask to be killed after the Earth was destroyed then look for a way to escape. They weren't expecting him to attack. Since they were unprepared he would probably be able to kill one of them before the others reacted.

"Which will it be?" repeated Kobie a little more forcefully.

"You!" shouted Gary firing at Kobie with his phaser set to kill.

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