Ten minutes was all they needed. Shortly before ten minutes had expired, Peter heard a clicking sound coming from the other side of the metal door. A few seconds later the door opened and Shawn, X, Craya, and Armac approached the final barrier.
"We'll have you out in a moment," whispered X.
Some of the others began to cheer.
"Shh!" warned Peter.
The others began to talk quietly among themselves anxiously awaiting their release.
"That ought to do it," said Shawn.
There was a faint noise as the barrier slid upward. The others wasted no time getting out of the cell. They entered the hall and waited for X to tell them what to do.
"What are you doing here?" Peter asked Craya and Armac.
"After all you did for us, it was the least we could do," smiled Craya. the only ones who know our way around this ship."
"You have to save Lisa," pleaded Linda. "She's in the Ruler's clutches."
"That's her problem," snorted Ralax.
"Lisa risked her life to save yours," Peter reminded him. "You can't turn your back on her now that she needs your help."
"Oh yeah, watch me," shouted Ralax turning his back on Peter and the other and running toward the docking Bay.
"Good riddance," remarked Linda.
While they had been talking, Shawn had been busy releasing the others prisoners. Some of them scrambled toward the docking bay greatful for their chance to escape, but the other stayed loyally beside their rescuer waiting for his instructions.
"Shawn, I want you to take them to the docking bay and return them to Triax as soon as possible," commanded X. "Peter, Linda, Hank, and I will go after Lisa."
"I want to come too," whined Glidia.
"You can come," agreed X. "We'll rejoin you at the castle."
X's group crept upstairs leaving Shawn in charge of the others. They were remarkably quiet for such a large group.
"This way," Shawn said softly.
TIME : 1:15 P.M. (13:15)
PLACE : The simple looking office
Lisa tried to stall the Ruler by telling him about her past when she was a millionaire back and how she had to adjust to a new way of life. Unfortunately, she couldn't stall the Ruler forever. He was already growing tired of her long winded story.
Suddenly the door flew open and Yot rushed in out of breath from running.
"The prisoners are escaping," he wheezed.
Lisa smiled with the satisfaction of a job well done, but her smile didn't last long.
"Let them go," the Ruler replied.
Yot and Lisa stared at the Ruler with a puzzled expression on their face.
"We don't need to go after them, they will come to us," he continued. "After all, we have what they want."
The Ruler and Yot turned to face Lisa. Lisa leaned back in her chair not wanting to return their gaze. She was going to be the bait for the Ruler's trap and there was nothing she could do about it.
TIME : 1:16 P.M. (13:16)
PLACE : The docking bay
On the way to the docking bay Shawn encountered the bodies of a few of the more eager prisoners. Next to them was the body of a guard who had been stripped.
"At least some of them got away," he thought.
With such a large group to watch he couldn't keep track of everyone. It wasn't until he reached the docking bay that he noticed Craya, Armac, and Ralax had disappeared. He was worried about them, but for the time being he had to go on without them.
"Do any of you know how to pilot a shuttle?" asked Shawn.
Lontus and a few of the others raised their hands. Shawn organized them into groups of eight with each group taking a shuttle until only Shawn and Miggs remained.
"Why aren't you in a shuttle?" inquired Shawn. "There's still room for you in the last one."
"Why aren't you in a shuttle?" retorted Miggs.
"I have to look for the others," answered Shawn.
"I can do that," said Miggs. "They need someone to guide them and you can do a much better job than I can."
Shawn reluctantly agreed getting on the last shuttle leaving Miggs to find the other. As soon as Miggs left the docking bay the fleet of shuttles were safely on their way to Triax.
TIME : 1:17 P.M. (13:17)
PLACE : Elsewhere on the ship
Ralax searched long and hard for a guard. For some reason all the guards in the area had been dismissed. It was as if the Ruler wanted them to escape. Finally he came to one lone guard. He was disappointed, but one was all he needed.
"The people from M.W.G.D. have gone upstairs to look for one of their own," he explained. "If you hurry you can still catch them."
To his astonishment the guard pulled out a gun and shot him. Ralax spent the last few seconds of his life wondering what had gone wrong.
Once Ralax was out of the way, he decided to follow his advice. He ran to the staircase just in time to see Miggs starting up them. He killed Miggs before she even had a chance to react and started up the stairs looking for the enemies from M.W.G.D.
TIME : 1:18 P.M.
PLACE : The third flight of steps
X's group was slightly over halfway to its destination when Craya and Armac caught up with them.
"The Ruler knows you're coming," warned Armac. "at least a hundred armed guards."
"Someone's coming," X cut in.
After listening closely the others could hear it too. Someone was running up the stairs after them.
"There's only one of them. I'll take care of him," announced Craya.
"I'll stay here to help, just in case," said Armac.
The others hurried up the stairs. They had just reached the stop of the stairs when the guard turned the corner. Craya and Armac fired simultaneously killed the guard who haG killed Ralax and Miggs. After taking the guard's gun, Craya and Armac hurried to catch up with the others.
The others found Lisa in the office alone. She was sitting in the chair at the desk without any visible type of restraint. When she saw them her eyes opened wide with terror.
"Run!" she screamed. "Don't let them catch you!"
Tullen came out of hiding. He had been crouched behind the chair with his gun wedged in Lisa's back. From out of nowhere, the Ruler, Yot, and about twenty armed guards came running up behind them. They had nowhere to run.
Craya and Armac peeked out from behind the stairs door. They had to help out, but the two of them couldn't fight twenty armed guards by themselves.
"I have an idea," whispered Armac.
He told Craya his plan.
Unaware that Craya and Armac were still loose, the Ruler turned to Lisa's would be rescuers.
"You trained them well," the Ruler told X. "but not well enough. I knew they'd fall into my trap, but you are an unexpected bonus."
"You don't have us yet," retaliated X.
"What are you going to do?" taunted the Ruler. "You may survive a direct onslaught against my guards, but your friends certainly won't. Do you want to be responsible for their deaths?"
To emphasize his point Tullen grabbed Lisa and held his gun to her head. Lisa started to struggle, but thought better of it.
"Don't hurt her," pleaded X. "I'll listen to your demands."
"You've been around a long time, even longer than me," began the Ruler. "and over the years you have travelled to many parts of the galaxy. Some of those places have secrets that I could use to increase my powers. I want you to tell me as many of those secrets as possible or everyone else will die."
A loud crash was heard in the distance.
"Check it out," the Ruler ordered three of his guards. The distraction gave X the chance he needed. "Inside!" X shouted urgently.
Not knowing what to do the guards watched them enter the office and close the door behind them.
"After them!" the Ruler roared angrily.
One of the guards tried to open the door, but it was locked. Then they tried to shoot the lock, but it had no effect.
Tullen saw he was heavily outnumbered, but was prepared to fight it out. He fired at X hitting him in the center of his chest. To his surprise it had know effect. The next thing he knew X had returned fire knocking him to the floor. He immediately slipped into unconsciousness.
The others stared at X wondering how he survived Tullen's blast.
"I'm wearing a special laser proof armor," X explained. "Normally it limits movement, but I have a special version of it."
"The Ruler always has an escape route hidden somewhere. I need your help finding it."
Linda opened the top drawer of the desk and found a hidden switch. As soon as she flipped the switch a hidden trap door slid open underneath the desk.
"Hurry!" X commanded. "That door won't hold them much longer."
The Ruler's guards entered the room just in time to see X duck behind the desk and disappear. The guards followed hoping to catch them.
TIME : 1:25 P.M. (13:25)
PLACE : The bottom of the stairs
Craya and Armac had no trouble taking care of the three guards who had gone after them. Armac made noises at the bottom of the stairs while Craya remained hidden behind the door to the second level. As soon as the guards passed her she shot them from behind. Armac took care of the remaining guards.
They had done all they could. It was up to X to rescue the others.
"Look!" shouted Armac as a door opened in the ceiling with a slide coming out of it going almost all the way to the floor.
Peter, Lisa, Linda, Glidia, Hank, and X came down the slide in rapid succession.
"Get ready," warned X. "The guards are right behind us."
X shot the guards one by one until all the guards had been knocked out.
"Behind you! " cried Craya.
Craya and Armac were the closet targets for the new set of guards. Armac dove out of they way in time, but Craya wasn't as fast as she had been when she was younger. The first shot hit her in the leg. Craya keeled over in pain. The second shot put an end to her misery hitting her in the forehead.
X and the others returned fire. After half the guars had fallen the other half ran away. There was no one else between them and the docking bay. Armac ran to his mothers side looking for some faint sign of life. He began sobbing uncontrollably. His father had died the day before, now his mother was dead.
"The Ruler's killed everyone I've ever been close to," sobbed Armac. "My friends, my parents, even people I hardly knew have been butchered by the Ruler's guards."
"Don't let their efforts be in vein," X said softly putting a comforting hand on his shoulder.
Together they walked toward the docking bay. Peter looked behind him and noticed that Armac wasn't the only one who was crying.
"What's wrong?" he asked Lisa.
"It never should have happened," she replied. "If I hadn't tried my little stunt, she'd still be alive. Maybe I should quit M.W.G.D. All I ever do is get in the way."
"It's not your fault," Peter assured her. "If it weren't for your little stunt, other people would have died, people who are still alive thanks to you. It's your decision whether or not to quit M.W.G.D., but I'd like to have you around."
"I wouldn't realy quit M.W.G.D." Lisa assured him. "I just hope things go better for us in the future."
"I'm sure they will," predicted Peter.
TIME : 1:40 P.M. (13:40)
PLACE : The shuttle
Armac had stopped crying. He was gradually accepting what had happened and was ready to make a new start.
"I wish to join M.W.G.D.," he told X. "I've decided to change my name to Mac and spend the rest of my life fighting the Ruler and his empire. I don't want anyone else to experience the hardships I have suffered."
"Welcome aboard," said X.
Mac looked out at the stars and spotted his home star, Altair. No place in the universe had suffered from the Ruler more than Altair 7. Mac changed his name so the Ruler wouldn't know who he was, but he also did it for a more important reason. The name Armac was an Altair 7 name and everyone who heard it would know where he was from. He would have to bear the unjust burden of criminal association.
Someday he would tell the galaxy who he was, when Altair 7 became a respected planet. For now, he would have to wait.
TIME : 2:30 P.M. (14:30)
PLACE : The office
Tullen finally regained consciousness, but when he saw the Ruler looking down on him he wished he hadn't.
"Why didn't you stop them?" demanded the Ruler.
"I tried to," stammered Tullen. "I shot X, but he kept coming. I hit him. I swear I did!"
"Fool!" bellowed the Ruler. "If you had kept Lisa as a hostage you would have delayed them long enough for us to attack, but instead you go after X who wears protective armor. I am holding you responsible for their escape."
"Please," begged Tullen. "I won't make the same mistake twice. I can do better."
The Ruler cut him off with a shot to the heart. This time it wasn't on stun.
"Let that be an example to the rest of you," warned the Ruler. "No one fails me and lives."
Copyright MCMXCII, MCMXCIX