TIME : September 18, 2011 9:00 A.M.
PLACE : M.W.G.D. Headquarters
It was hard for Peter to believe that it had been over a year since he joined M.W.G.D. It seemed like only yesterday he was battling for his life and the fate of the Earth or Mars. Since that time he had been exposed to countless worlds and cultures, each one slightly more bazar than the one before.
Travel came with the job. M.W.G.D. stood for Milky Way Galaxy Defense. It was an organization dedicated to protecting the galaxy from both internal and external threats. Because of the vast distances between galaxies, external threats were not that big a problem Beings from other galaxies rarely visited the Milky Way and when they did they were usually friendly. Even if they weren't, their numbers were so small that they were easy to control.
Internal threats was an entirely different story. The galaxy was filled with tyrants and dictators trying to expand their empires. The worst of the bunch was a being from Altair 7 known only as the Ruler. The Ruler controlled a sizable chunk of the galaxy. He, and people like him, was the main reason M.W.G.D. was created.
Even in the short time Peter had spent with M.W.G.D., the Ruler's empire had grown. Sometimes they succeeded in preventing the Ruler from taking over a planet, sometimes they failed, but once a planet entered the Ruler's empire it very rarely escaped.
Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa had spent most of their time at M.W.G.D. inside M.W.G.D. Headquarters filling out paperwork. Peter had developed a strong dislike for paperwork, but he knew someone had to do it. X, the leader of M.W.G.D., promised him some action if he did a good job. His work was satisfactory, but the only action he had seen had been back on Mars.
He thought the day would be the same as any other day. Shawn would tell them where the were headed and why they were going there Then someone else would be sent on a secret mission and he would be left behind to do the paperwork.
When Shawn approached him he thought it was business as usual.
"X would like to see you in his office," Shawn told him.
Peter looked up at him with a surprised expression on his face.
"Did he say what he wanted to see me about?" he asked eagerly.
"No, but I think this is your chance to see some action," Shawn explained.
"We're approaching the planet Triax. Triax is a very big planet so we'll need all the help we can get."
Peter knocked on the door to X's office.
"Come in!" shouted X. "Have a seat. The others will be arriving shortly.
"Others?" wondered Peter. "Who else is coming."
"You, Hank, Linda, and Lisa," X replied "You did such a good job working as a team on Mars that I thought you could work as a team on Triax. Since you come from Earth, the Ruler doesn't know much about you. He has heard rumors about what you did on Mars, but he still doesn't know what you look like. The longer we can keep him guessing, the better."
"At last," Peter thought. "a chance to fight the Ruler."
There was another loud knock at the door.
"Your just in time," stated X. "I was just about to explain your mission to Peter."
Hank, Linda, and Lisa sat down next to Peter and waited for X to give them the details.
"It was bound to happen sooner or later," X began. "The Ruler has stopped taking over little planets and has turn his attention toward Triax. Triax has a population of over three trillion or fifty-five percent of the galactic population. If he can ccnguer Triax he can conquer the rest of the galaxy."
"Your mission will be to find and protect an elderly man called Arrin. He was the leader of the resistance groups on Altair 7. He fought the Ruler long and hard more many years. When the resistance was finally crushed, he fled to Triax with his wife and son."
"The Ruler has promised a huge reward to anyone who brings back proof of Arrin's death. Arrin knows some of the Ruler's most important secrets. If we can find him first, he might be able to tell us what the Ruler plans to do next."
"You will be disguised as some of Triax's most dangerous criminals and join a band of outlaws known as the Freedom Squad. They have been robbing people near the last reported location of Arrin. I'm not entirely sure what the Freedom Squad's objectives are, but it's a good place for agents of the Ruler to hide. Under no circumstances are you to give away your true identities. There is no way of telling who you can trust and who you can't."
"As soon as you find Arrin and his family, you are to bring them back to M.W.G.D. Headquarters. In the meantime, you are to do everything the leader of the Freedom Squad tells you to do short of killing somebody. If you are captured by the police, the king and queen will give you a full pardon, but try not to get caught. If you are captured I'll have to send somebody else to take your place and by that time the Ruler's spies would have had more than enough time to find Arrin and his family. You are our only real hope of finding them."
"When do we leave?" inquired Peter.
"Shawn will take you down to the planet as soon as you are ready," X replied. "King Jake XXVIII and Queen Lynn I regret that they won't be able to see you before you start your mission but we must find Arrin as soon as possible."
"We'll be ready in less than five minutes," promised Peter.
Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa changed out of their M.W.G.D. uniforms and into Triax civilian clothing. It didn't take them long to adjust to the clothes because the clothes were remarkably similar to what they used to wear on Earth. They took enough food to last them a day. If their mission was successful, they would find more food before the day was over. They returned to X four minutes and forty-five seconds later.
"I told you we'd be ready in less than five minutes," Peter remarked.
"Good," commended X. "Report to Shawn in the docking bay."
Shawn was easy in spot. He had his ship in the center of the docking bay ready to take them to Triax.
TIME : 9:15 A.M.
PLACE : Somewhere on Triax
Triax was a Jupiter sized planet supporting humanoid lifeforms. Theoretically, it shouldn't have any life on it at all, yet it contained the majority of the galactic population. Another surprising thing about Triax were all the forests. There were forests from the poles to the equator and everywhere in between. Even though it had more people per square mile than Earth, the forests of Triax were just as large as they had ever been.
Shawn landed the ship in a clearing in the middle of one of the larger forests.
"The Freedom Squad's hideout is believed to be somewhere nearby," Shawn explained. "Good luck and be careful."
The others stood back as Shawn blasted off. For the first time since their encounters on Mars, they were on their own.
Peter looked at the forest that completely surround them. There were several paths leading away from the clearing, but none of them seemed to go anywhere.
"Any ideas?" wondered Peter.
"Let's take the path that leads downward," suggested Lisa. "It should lead to a pond or a stream. If they're living off the land like I think they are they'll need to stop and get some water."
"I think we should go up the hill," disagreed Linda. "From a high altitude they'd be able to see for miles in all directions giving them a good view of their surroundings."
"I don't think any of these paths lead to the Freedom Squad," considered Hank. "If they want to remain hidden they wouldn't have their hideout near a path where anybody can find them."
"Did you say you were looking for the Freedom Squad?" inquired a voice.
Peter looked up in the direction of the voice and saw a woman about his age sitting on a tree branch about five meters above him. Peter guessed that she had spotted them from a distance and wanted to spy on them. She must have reached them by moving from branch to branch.
"Yes, we're looking for the Freedom Squad," answered Peter.
"What do you want with the Freedom Squad?" she demanded. "We want to join them," declared Peter.
The woman chuckled loudly as she came down form the tree.
"What could you possibly offer us?" she wondered.
"We could offer you plenty of things," Peter replied confidently. "We know some secrets about the king and queen of Triax."
"What are they?" she insisted.
"If I told you they wouldn't be secrets anymore," smirked Peter.
"Clever," she smiled. "If you told me your secrets now, we'd no longer have any use for you. I'll take you to our leader. Perhaps you can tell him. My name is Glidia."
Glidia made her way through the trees in an apparently random direction. To Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa it didn't look like a path at all, but Glidia could see subtle signs that they couldn't. She had been on that path many times before and could find her way back to the camp blindfolded.
After a few minutes, they came to a small clearing with a campfire in the middle. The fire had been left unattended and was gradually dying, no longer needed now that the sun provided their light and warmth.
"Ralax! I have some visitors for you!" shouted Glidia.
Three men and a woman approached them from the opposite side of the clearing. The man in the back strode proudly behind his subordinates. There was no doubt in their minds that he was Ralax, the leader of the Freedom Squad.
"These visitors say they would like to join the Freedom Squad," Glidia continued. "They claim to know some secrets about the king and queen."
"The four of you are welcome guests in my domain," smiled Ralax. "You are welcome to stay as long as you want, but before you can join the Freedom Squad you'll have to prove yourself worthy. Do you even know why we call ourselves the Freedom Squad."
"You're tired of being ruled by kings and queens and want to establish a new form of government," guessed Peter.
"You're right except for one thing," Ralax told him. "We already have established our own form of government, anarchy. Everyone here is free to do as they please without some authority figure telling them what to do. We are as free as the birds in the sky."
"Impressive," remarked Lisa. "What do we have to do to join you?"
"I will give each of you a test to see if you've got what it takes," explained Ralax. "Before you try to steal anything in our name, you will be required to find something we've like already stolen. Who would like to go first?"
"I would," Peter volunteered.
"A volunteer so quickly!" exclaimed Ralax in genuine surprise. "We're going to get along fine. All you have to do is find the sacred symbol of the Trinity. Lontus will show you where to look."
"Follow me," ordered Lontus.
Lontus left in a hurry forcing Peter to run to catch up. Wherever they were headed, he was anxious to get there.
"Glidia! Miggs! Thllen!" Ralax called out after Peter and Lontus were out of sight. "I'd like to talk to you in private."
"Stay here," warned Glidia. "If you run away we cannot guarantee your safety."
Ralax, Glidia, Miggs, and Tullen walked in a straight line away from the other. When Ralax thought they were too far away for their conversation to be overheard he stopped them and asked them what they thought of the newcomers.
"They have to be police officers," speculated Tullen. "They're very different from our other recruits."
"Whoever they are they're not natives of Triax," reported Glidia. "They were probably sent here by the king and queen to spy on us. We have four potential double agents in our mists."
"Until we learn more about them, we won't tell them we have more than five members," commanded Ralax. "If they underestimate our number they'll underestimate our power. Jake and Lynn will learn nothing."
"What are we going to do with them?" panicked Miggs.
"I'll take care of them," Ralax assured her. "I'll send them on tasks so difficult that it will take days to complete. Unless they're really intent on joining, they'll give up and return to wherever it is they came from."
Hank, Linda, and Lisa looked up and saw that the Freedom Squad was returning. They seemed content to let them stay, but they could sense their mistrust.
"A sufficient amount of time has elapsed," stated Ralax. "Who would like to take the next test?"
Hank and Linda both volunteered. Ralax was pleased.
"It's against my normal policy," he began. "but I'll let both of you go at the same time. One of you will follow Glidia and look for the staff and crown of Jake XII and the other will go with Miggs in search of an ancient map of Triax made by an unknown explorer. I'll let you talk it over."
"I'd like to go after the staff and crown," stated Hank.
"Whatever you decide is fine with me," agreed Linda.
Hank and Linda walked to the other side of the clearing where Glidia and Miggs were waiting for them. Peter and Lontus had taken the opposite direction. It was clear that Ralax didn't want them working together.
Lisa watched them leave, then turned to face Ralax and Tullen. She didn't trust either one of them, but the only thing worse than being alone with them was going off on one of Ralax's crazy missions. She knew the next test would be hers. It wasn't exactly something she was looking forward to. Lisa guessed that since she had refused to volunteer, Ralax would give her the toughest assignment of all.
Tullen snarled at her letting her see the nasty yellow stain on his teeth. Out of all the untrustworthy people she had met, she trusted Tullen the least. There was something about him that reminded her of Kobie. She feared for the safety of the others. The Ruler wasn't far behind.
TIME : 9:45 A.M.
PLACE : A deserted church
Peter followed Lontus down a path that sloped gently downhill. They wanted to reach their destination fairly quickly, but they didn't want to tire themselves out in the process so they settled on a moderate pace.
Peter looked behind him with obvious concern. Even if he found the sacred symbol of the Trinity he would still have to take it back to Ralax. If he didn't come within a few hundred meters of their hideout, he'd probably never find it. He had a descent sense of direction and knew that they have been traveling in basically a straight line. All he had to do was retrace his steps. He assured himself that he could do it.
Suddenly Lontus stopped and pointed to a small building in the valley bellow them. Its humble splendor left no doubt in Peter's mind that it was a house of worship. A single dirt road lead up to the building which was surrounded on either side by various weeds and grasses.
Both the church and the dirt road looked like they hadn't been used in years. The church, though still sturdy, was starting to show its age. Even from a distance Peter could see that the paint was peeling and cracking.
"The whole building could use a good washing," thought Peter.
Peter's thoughts were interrupted by Lontus.
"This is as far as I'll take you," said Lontus. "Your on your own now. When you find what you're looking for bring it back to our hideout and we'll let you join the Freedom Squad. Don't tell the others, but I personally hop you succeed."
Lontus gave Peter a faint smile and disappeared quickly without a sound. Peter looked ahead and saw the path dropped sharply before intersecting the dirt road. Peter descended slowly. When he finally reached the bottom he was as dirty as the old church. He brushed himself off nonchalantly and ran up to the front door.
Surprisingly, the door was unlocked. He opened the door just enough for him to enter and slipped in slowly and cautiously. The only light came from a large window high overhead was a stand normally used by a choir or orchestra. In front of it was a large pulpit with an open book lying on it, their Holy Book. On the other side of the pulpit there was row after row of cushioned seats arranged in the traditional Judeo-Christian style.
Peter found a light switch in the corner, but only a few lights came on. Most of the light bulbs had burned out and no one had bothered to replace them. It wasn't as much light as Peter hoped for, but it was enough for him to read the book.
The book confirmed his suspicions that the Trinity was a branch of Christianity. Jesus had come to Triax several thousand years before he came to Earth. The names were different, the miracles were different, but the basic messages were still the same.
The similarities between the religion of the Trinity and the Christian religion were too numerous to be a mere coincidence. Such similarities served to reemphasize the values of Christianity. The theological implications alone were staggering.
Peter was so involved in the Holy Book that he didn't notice what was going on around him. An old woman, probably in her seventies, enter the church from a door to the side. She sat down and watched Peter who still hadn't noticed she was there. After about a minute of silence she spoke.
"Welcome, Peter, we've been expecting you," she announced.
"How did you know my name?" wondered Peter. "Who else is with you?"
Seeing the coast was clear, a young man about thirty entered the church and stood beside the old woman.
"I am Craya, Arrin's wife," the old woman explained. "and this is my son, Armac. We are the ones you've been looking for."
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