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By ... Steve Lucky


"Don't go!" pleaded Glidia. "There's no telling what he'll do to you."

"Are you betraying me too?" snapped Ralax. "Let them go. The less we see of them, the better."

"I wouldn't talk about them that way," said Yot. "They are the only reason you're still alive. If they don't come, you will be destroyed."

"We'll be fine," Hank assured Glidia. "Nothing is going to happen to either of us, at least for the time being."

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa silently followed the Ruler down the hall.

"You're moving to slow. Faster!" commanded Yot reminding them that he had a gun and they didn't.

They went up four flights of stairs and entered a simple looking office containing a desk and six chairs. Peter knew there was something strange about the desk, but he couldn't figure out what he was. Suddenly, he realized that the desk was completely empty. It didn' even have a paper clip on it, (if they still used paper clips).

The Ruler sat down in the chair behind the desk.

"Have a seat," he said in a surprisingly polite tone of voice.

Everyone sat down except Tullen who stood guard just outside the door.

"Is there anything I can get for you?" asked the Ruler.

"No thanks," Peter answered firmly.

"Very well, let's get down to business," began the Ruler. "We don't know your names or where you come from, but we do know you work for M.W.G.D. We also know that this is one of you first missions. How much does M.W.G.D. pay you per year?"

The Ruler waited for an answer, but none of them responded.

"Whatever it is, I can give you twice that amount if you'll agree to work for us," the Ruler continued. "You won't have to enter anymore hazardous situations. All you have to do is tell us what we want to know about M.W.G.D. Headquarters and we will give you all the protection you need. You could be rich enough to live in luxury for the rest of your lives."

"No deal," stated Peter. "I've dealt with your kind before. As soon as we're no longer of use to you you'll leave us in the dust."

"That's your opinion," argued the Ruler. "How about the rest of you."

"No deal," repeated Hank. "We've dealt with your kind before."

"Whatever your plans are they will fail," predicted Linda. "You have made too many enemies over the years. Your enemies are already joining forces to fight against you, even if they don't normally get along. No matter what happens to us, your empire will crumble and you will be left with nothing."

The Ruler turned to Lisa.

"Do you agree with the others?" he inquired. "If you'll join me I'll give you four times the wealth I promised you before."

Lisa paused momentarily to consider the Ruler's offer.

"I don't want anything from you," declared Lisa.

"You're making a mistake," warned the Ruler. "If any of you change your mind I'll be more than happy to talk to you."

Yot and Tullen escorted Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa back to their cell.

TIME : 11:00 A.M.
PLACE : The cell

"What did they want with you?" asked Lontus.

"They tried to bribe us," Peter replied. "Naturally, we refused so they're waiting to see if any of us change our minds. They'll be waiting a long time."

"Are they going to feed us?" demanded Ralax. "They could starve us to death. Why don't you tell them what they need to know. What secret could possibly be so important."

"That is why you're not a member of M.W.G.D.," Linda remarked coldly. "If the Ruler finds out what we were up to most of the galaxy will suffer, including Triax. You say you do not like government, yet you let the Ruler walk all over you. If the Freedom Squad truly stands for what it believes in, you will help us defeat the Ruler."

Most of the Freedom Squad agreed with Linda, but Ralax was still not convinced.

"What's the difference between being ruled by the Ruler and being ruled by King Jake and Queen Lynn," he argued. "As long as someone is in charge of us we will never have freedom."

"And who is in charge of the Freedom Squad?" attacked Peter.

"I am," confessed Ralax. "but that is only for the moment. As soon as we are no longer controlled by the Triax government, I will relinquish my power and we will all be equal."

"How long do you think it will take before that happens?" questioned Peter.

"Years, perhaps decades," replied Ralax. "but we will eventually win."

"If you are truly against rule by the one, you should start with the Freedom Squad," lectured Peter. "Let everyone have an equal voice and let the rest of Triax learn from your example. It will work much faster than trying to overthrow the government."

"I've had enough of your suggestions," roared Ralax. "Your fancy ideologies didn't save you from the Ruler. If we ever get out of here, I hope we never see each other again. I hate M.W.G.D. and everything it stands for."

"Why do you have M.W.G.D.?" asked Peter.

"I don't have to tell you anything," snapped Ralax.

"M.W.G.D. is normally on the side of the people in power when a revolution occurs," explained Glidia. "It was established by the governments of various planets in the galaxy to protect their way of life."

"If you want to stay on the Freedom Squad, you won't say another word to them," commanded Ralax.

"Then I quit!" declared Glidia defiantly.

"Me too!" agreed Lontus. "They're the only ones that have been helping us. You haven't done a thing."

"If that's the way you want it, so be it," muttered Ralax. "but don't ask me for any favors."

"Don't worry, we won't," Lontus assured him.

TIME : 12:30 P.M.
PLACE : The bridge

The Ruler was comfortably seated in the command chair making sure everything was running smoothly. He was alertly surveying the room to see if anything was out of place. Finding nothing, he waited for Yot to return with the data he needed.

"Most of our contacts found nothing, however, our contact at the M.W.G.D. has discovered the identity of our guests," reported Yot handing the Ruler four printouts containing a picture and personal history of Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa. "There is a 99.97 percent chance that they are Peter Buckwell, Henry Taylor, Linda Myers, and Elizabeth Givens. All four of them come from Earth."

"Shawn comes from Earth," remarked the Ruler. "It is a very troublesome planet."

"They joined M.W.G.D. shortly after an encounter with Kobie, one of the agents we left on Mars," Yot continued. "They have shown remarkable courage defending the Earth from an unauthorized attack by Kobie. They greatly cherish the lives of innocent bystanders and will even sacrifice their own lives to save them."

"I think you may have discovered their weakness," smiled the Ruler. "If they'd give their lives to save an innocent bystander, what would they do to save each other?"

"Their loyalty to one another is quite admirable," agreed Yot. "If one of them were in danger, the others might confess to save him."

"Dismissed," ordered the Ruler. "Keep me informed if any new data turns up."

The Ruler was already formulating a plan. He would break their wills and destroy their spirits. Soon, they would be begging to confess.

TIME : 1:00 P.M. (13:00)
PLACE : The cell

Unaware that the Ruler had discovered their identity, Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa waited for a rescue attempt that Peter guaranteed would happen sometime in the near future. As time went by even Peter was getting discouraged, but he knew if Craya and Armac were captured they would be thrown in the same cell. With Arrin out of the way, the Ruler had no need to kill his wife and son. As long as they were still free a rescue attempt would come.

"Where are your rescuers?" demanded Glidia impatiently. "It's been almost three hours since you promised we'd be rescued."

"And we will be rescued," Peter assured her. "just have patience. It may take awhile but they'll be here. In the meantime, we have to tough it out."

The room, which had been filled with noise, suddenly grew silent as the Ruler, Yot, and Tullen returned.

"We have learned who you are Peter, Elizabeth, Linda, and Henry," started the Ruler.

"Don't call me Elizabeth!" shouted Lisa. "My name is Lisa."

"You have just confirmed your identity," smirked the Ruler. "I have learned I can't bribe you with material wealth, but perhaps I can bribe you with the life of one of your comrades. Five minutes from now I will pick one of you at random and kill you unless you tell me what I want to know. Five minutes later, I will do the same thing until one of you confesses or all of you are dead."

"I'll tell you anything you want to know," pleaded Ralax.

"I don't want anything from you," snorted the Ruler. "just the four from M.W.G.D. Remember, you have five minutes."

The room remained silent even after the Ruler, Yot, and Tullen left.

"Are you just going to let us be killed one by one?" accused Ralax.

"No," answered Lisa with a wink and a mischievous smile. "I'm going to tell the Ruler everything, if he gives me the stuff he offered earlier."

"You can't tell the Ruler M.W.G.D.'s most valuable secrets," protested Peter. "millions of lives will be in danger. Our lives aren't worth that kind of risk."

"Speak for yourself," retaliated Lisa. "I want to live as long as I possibly can and if that means being a traitor, fine. It's either them or us. I choose us and I'd advise you to do the same."

The Ruler, Yot, and Tullen returned a suddenly as they had left.

"I've decided to start early," sneered the Ruler pointing to one of the members of the Freedom Squad.

"Wait!" cried Lisa. "Will you give me twice the wealth you promised me before?"

"Yes," agreed the Ruler. "if you tell me what I need to know."

"How could you betray us like this?" demanded Peter.

"Easy," replied Lisa. "you should be thanking me for saving you life."

"Not if it means the death of millions of others," roared Peter.

Peter tried to strangle Lisa, but Hank and Linda held him back.

"Let me go!" insisted Peter.

"It's not worth it," Hank told him gently.

"I'll need some protection," stated Lisa. "He may try to kill me."

"Come with us," commanded Yot.

As the four of them left, Hank and Linda released their grip on Peter. Peter gave a sigh of relief.

"How much time do you think she bought us?" wondered Peter.

"Ten, fifteen minutes tops," Hank replied.