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Continue To The Next Chapter - Chapter 13

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SURVIVAL ON MARS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER 12 : THE SACRIFICE

Kobie took the full force of the blast. He staggered backwards until he hit a wall, but Gary continued to fire. He knew Kobie had absorbed enough energy from his phaser to kill him five times over, but Gary still wasn't satisfied. He wanted to be absolutely sure Kobie was dead.

The guards watched with indifference as Kobie's body disintegrated before their eyes. They didn't like Kobie very much anyway and were glad to see him destroyed.

"Stop the missiles!" ordered Gary after Kobie had been reduced to a pile of dust.

"We can't," stammered the first guard. "The missiles have already been launched."

"I know the missiles can all be controlled from this room," attacked Gary. "Call off the missiles or I'll do the same thing to you as I did to Kobie."

The first guard pretended to comply with Gary's demands while the second guard tried to shoot Gary from behind. Fortunately, Gary saw his shadow and knew what he was up to. He turned around and shot the guard at point blank range. The guard immediately slumped to the ground with smoke pouring out of his chest.

By the time Gary turned his attention back to the remaining guard, he had activated the alarm. When he heard the alarm, Gary panicked for a split second. He quickly recovered from his initial shock, but by the time he did, the guard had his phaser pointed straight at him.

"I've got you now!" he gloated.

It was clear that the guard intended to kill him, but before he could, he fell to the ground unconscious, the victim of Gary's unexpected companion. Gary turned to see who had fired the shot expecting to see X or Shawn. He was surprised when it turned out to be a member of the crew of the Aries 7 unaccustomed to the technology of M.W.G.D..

"Where are the others?" he asked.

"They're trying to stop the missiles," Peter replied. "We can join them. I've found a secret passage nearby. Kobie seemed to be the only one who knew about it and now that you've killed him, we should be able to hide there indefinitely."

"It's too late to hide," argued Gary. "The others won't be able to stop the missile all by themselves. We've got to help them. I can destroy the missiles by remote control if I can learn how to work the computer. All I need is a little more time."

"Don't you hear the alarm?" demanded Peter. "Soon this room will be swarming with guards. We can't stay here."

"Oh yeah!" retaliated Gary. "Just watch me. You have five seconds to leave the room."

Peter decided to stay. Gary pushed a few buttons and a large metal door came down.

"I've sealed off the entrance," explained Gary. "No one else can enter unless I decided to open the door."

"In other words, we're trapped in here," Peter said glumly.

Gary looked up at the radar screen and saw the current status of the missiles.

"In about thirty-five minutes the most populated cities on Earth will be destroyed unless we can stop the missiles," Gary shouted above the constant ringing of the alarm. "Since we don't know which button to press, we'll have to try them all."

Peter pressed as many button and switches and dials as he could get his hands on. One of the switches controlled the alarm which mercifully stopped ringing, but the radar showed that the missiles were still headed for Earth.

Once the alarm stopped, Peter could hear noises on the other side of the door. Kobie's guards were on the other side trying to get in. Peter heard the sound of a blow torch accompanied by a small reddish glow at the bottom of the door.

"They're forcing their way in!" cried Peter.

TIME : 12:22 P.M.
PLACE : The XX1

Using laser radar, X and Shawn could see that the diamond had been destroyed. They had a quiet celebration in the safety of their ship. Shawn secretly hoped that that would be the end of Kobie's threat, but that was not to be. A few minutes later, the missiles were launched.

"How many missiles?" wondered X.

"Twenty-two in all," answered Shawn.

"I only have fifteen missiles left," declared X. "I'll stop as many missiles as I can, but the only way to destroy all of them is from the source. Do you know the code to activate the missiles' self-destruct mechanism."

"No," confessed Shawn.

"It's real easy to remember," X assured him. "On the right side of the control panel are three buttons. Push the green button first. Wait five seconds, then push the yellow button. Wait three seconds, then push the red and the missiles will self-destruct. Do you think you can remember it?"

Shawn repeated X's instructions.

"Good," commended X. "You must get to the control room as soon as possible. Hopefully Gary will be waiting for you."

Shawn crawled out of the ship and ran after Gary.

As soon as he was a safe distance away, X took off after the missiles. He could destroy fifteen of them with his own missiles. For the remaining seven, he would have to improvise. If worst came to worst, he could ram his ship into one of the missiles, but that would be a last resort.

TIME : 12:25 P.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

On the radar screen, Peter and Gary could see the missiles being destroyed one by one until only seven remained. However, the last seven continued toward their respective targets.

"X must have run out of missiles," said Gary. "It's up to us to destroy the rest of them."

Peter glanced down at the door Kobie's guards had created at the bottom of the door. It was almost completed.

"This is Meragus," announced their leader. "We know what you have done. We are giving you one chance, and only one chance to surrender. Surrender now and we will treat you humanely, otherwise I can't guarantee what will happen to you. Will you open the door for us now or do we have to break in."

Gary noticed a small pack of highly powerful explosive in the corner of the room. It wasn't much, but it would have to do.

"Peter, crotch in the corner of the room and cover your face," ordered Gary. "and promise me that you'll do whatever it takes to destroy those missiles."

"I will," promised Peter.

"I am opening the door right now!" Gary shouted to Meragus.

As soon as the door was open, Meragus stepped into the room. Gary quickly shot him and ran at the others still clutching the pack of explosives. One of the guards shot at Gary. The charge from the phaser activated the explosives killing all of them except Peter and the guard he had stunned earlier.

It took Peter a few seconds to fully comprehend what Gary had done. He had given his life to make sure Peter had a chance to stop the missiles. He continued working with the buttons, dials, and switches in various combinations hoping to stumble upon the right sequence.

He closed the door once more. The next set of guards would be able to finish cutting through the door in less than a minute, but every second he could get was important.

TIME : 12:30 P.M.
PLACE : The mountain range

Shawn chose to reach the control room by going over the mountain range. It would take longer, but it was the only place in the immediate area not crawling with Kobie's guards. From his position, he could see the guards scurrying about and knew which places to avoid.

Next to the control room, his destination, was a pile of bodies. He was too far away to indentify the bodies, but he guessed that the bodies belonged to the enemy. If his friends had been killed, they would be searching for him, but they weren't. Someone had to be causing more trouble than he was and he guessed that it was Gary in the control room.

None of the bodies were moving about. They had probably either been stunned or killed leaving no one between him and the control room. He hurried down the mountain hoping to get there before more guards did.

When he was about halfway down the mountain, he was spotted by a large group of soldiers. The leader pointed him out and sent half the group after him. Shawn thought about running, but that would take him away from the control room. Even if he did manage to elude the guards he might not be able to get back there in time.

Shawn dropped his phaser and approached them with his hands in the air. The soldiers eyed him suspiciously expecting his surrender to be some sort of trick. One of them walked over to where Shawn had dropped his phaser, picked it up, and examined it.

After they were absolutely sure he was alone, they brought him back to the others. Their leader pointed to the pile of bodies.

"Are you responsible for that?" he asked.

Shawn looked in the center of the pile and saw Gary. His best friend, his companion from the Aries 1, his only connection with Earth for two years, had been killed in an act of senseless violence. He wanted to break down and cry, but he reminded himself that millions of lives, each just as important as Gary's, were still in danger.

"No," answered Shawn. "I suspect Gary wired himself with explosives in an attempt to destroy Kobie."

"Kobie is dead," their new leader informed him. "Meragus is too leaving me in charge. I personally don't care whether Earth is destroyed or not. I know we've lost. However, we may be able to negotiate for our freedom. As second-in-command of M.W.G.D., you'll make a very valuable hostage."

"If you let me destroy the remaining missiles, I will do everything within my power to reduce your sentence," pleaded Shawn.

"As I said before, I don't care whether or not the Earth is destroyed, but I do care what happens to you," he said authoritively. "If I let you in the control room, you could lock us out like your friend did."

A faint smile returned to Shawn's face. Someone was still inside. Gary had not died for nothing. He was protecting whoever had come after him. Somehow, he had to tell whoever it was how to destroy the missiles.

"Could you at least let me talk to my friend?" requested Shawn. "You can stay right beside me and make sure I don't try anything foolish."

"On one condition," he snapped. "Grant us immunity and allow us to return to Altair 7."

"That's two conditions," argued Shawn. "and I don't have the power to grant either one of them."

"Too bad," he sighed with almost genuine pity. "Looks like it's up to your friend on the inside."

Shawn offered little resistance as he was dragged away. He guessed that they were going to the cave he had been placed in earlier. Once he got there, he could plan a way to escape. Even if he was killed in the process, he had to make sure the missiles were destroyed.

All of the soldiers stayed together except for one who broke away from the group. Shawn didn't pay too much attention to him. He had other concerns on his mind. Fortunately for Shawn, the deserter did pay attention to him. He had had enough of following orders and decided to act on his own. He thought that M.W.G.D. would offer him immunity if he succeeded with his plan.

TIME : 12:35 P.M.
PLACE : Where the XX1 used to be

Hank, Linda, and Lisa hurried to rejoin X and Shawn only to find that the XX1 was nowhere in sight.

"Kobie must have launched the missiles," stated Hank.

"We'd better get to the control room," advised Lisa. "All the vehicles around here are missing or destroyed."

"Not all of them," Linda recalled pointing to the Martian Revolver.

It was still in perfect working order. The three of them climbed aboard hoping to reach the control room in time. They had just started when one of the aliens stood in front of them motioning for them to stop.

"I think he's trying to surrender," Hank realized.

It was the deserter. As soon as they stopped he climbed into the vehicle.

"Shawn has been captured," he explained. "They're going to use him as a hostage. I can lead you to him."

"Why do you want to help us?" Hank asked suspiciously.

"I never cared too much for Kobie or his ruling class," he replied. "I want to stop them from destroying your planet, or any other planet for that matter."

"We can use all the help we can get," smiled Hank. "Lead the way."

The deserter led them to the spot where they had once been imprisoned by their duplicates. There were four guards in front of the door. They eyed the foursome suspiciously, especially the one from their own race who chose to associate with the enemy, but they didn't go after them. Their duty was clear. They were to guard the prisoner, no matter what.

"How good are you with a phaser?" wondered Hank.

"I should able to hit them from this distance," the deserter replied quickly figuring out what Hank had in mind.

They drove closer to the guards. They stopped and looked at them for a few seconds. The guards instinctively pulled out their phasers and waited to see what the Earthlings and the deserter would do next.

After a few seconds, they started to drive away. The guards lowered their phasers.

"Attack!" yelled Hank.

Hank, Linda, Lisa, and the deserter each fired at the guard they had preselected. Three of the guards fell to the ground. Lisa missed her target by inches. The remaining guard returned fire hitting the Martian Revolver. The right rear wheel was totally destroyed causing them to come to an abrupt stop. The guard was about to fire again, but Hank was prepared. Hank fired hitting the guard in the center of his chest. He tried to fire back, but it was too late. He collapsed just like the others.

Lisa tried the door but it was locked.

"Stand back!" yelled the deserter.

He turned his phaser up a notch and fired totally destroying the lock. Shawn opened the door and crawled out glad to be free once again.

"Who's your new friend?" Shawn inquired.

"My name is Vloon," explained the deserter. "I am here to help you."

"We can't you the Martian Revolver any more," Linda said grimly. "We'll have to go the rest of the way on foot."

"Follow me," commanded Vloon. "I'll show how to get there quickly without attracting attention."

TIME : 12:40 P.M.
PLACE : The Control Room

Only fifteen minutes remained until the missiles would collide with Earth and, as far as Peter knew, he was the only one who could stop it from happening. He noticed the communicator and tried using it to contact X, Shawn, or anyone who could help him stop the missiles. Unfortunately, it was out of order and beyond his ability to repair.

Peter was so busy trying to stop the missiles that he didn't notice that the guard he had stunned was slowly regaining consciousness.

He pretended he was still unconscious to give himself a chance to collect his thoughts. He remembered Gary killing the others. He was about to kill Gary when someone hit him from behind. He realized that the person who had stunned him and the guy at the controls were one in the same. He looked around the room in search of his phaser. Three phasers had been casually thrown in the corner. Then, the guard looked at Peter. He still had a phaser on him. He had to grab the phaser before Peter realized he was awake. The guard waited patiently. At last, Peter turned to the radar screen to see how much time he had left. At the same time the guards leaped to the corner and grabbed his old phaser.

"Drop your weapon!" ordered the guard.

Peter did as he was told. The guard took the weapon and put it in the corner with the others.

"Why didn't you kill me like the others?" the guard demanded.

"The others were killed by Gary," Peter replied. "He felt it necessary to kill them in order to save the Earth. I thought stun would be sufficient. I'd kill you only if I had no other choice."

"Where is Gary?" questioned the guard.

"He's dead," said Peter. "Your people were trying to get inside so he took a pack of explosives and detonated it in the center of the crowd."

The guard gave Peter a sickening smile.

"Are you the only one left?" he asked.

"As far as I know," Peter answered truthfully. "Hank, Linda, Lisa, Shawn, and X may still be out there, but I have no idea how to get in touch with them."

After a short paused he added, "How did you recover so quickly?"

"I'm asking the questions here," roared the guard. "You should be glad I haven't killed you."

Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

"Peter, let us in," commanded Shawn. "I know how to stop the missiles."

"Don't let them in," insisted the guard jabbing the gun into Peter's chest to emphasize his point.

"Even if I don't let them in, they can cut through the door," warned Peter. "The guards were almost finished when Gary stopped them. Even with ordinary phasers they should be able to finish the job."

The guard looked at the door giving Peter the chance he needed to open it. The guard turned angrily back to Peter. It was clear that he intended to kill him, but before he could Hank crawled under the door and stunned him.

"Not again," cried the guard just before passing out.

With no time to loose, Shawn run to the controls and found the three buttons X had told him about. He pressed the green button. Five second later he pushed the yellow button and three seconds after that he pushed the red one. Nothing happened.

"Are you sure you pressed the right buttons?" asked Lisa.

"Yes," Shawn assured her. "It just takes some time for the missiles to receive the signal."

Thirty seconds later the missiles exploded.

"We did it!" Shawn exclaimed. "I wish we could tell Gary we succeeded."

Peter looked at him sadly.

"If only I could," he sighed.

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