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JETPACK

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER TWO

TIME : 9:20 P.M. (21:20)
PLACE : A storage room

Unaware of what had happened to Peter and Linda, Hank and Lisa continued to explore the hideout. The room they were currently in was filled with food and supplies other than drugs and weapons.

"Looks like they have enough food to feed twenty people for six months," said Hank.

"Or a hundred people for one month," added Lisa.

In the distance they could hear several people approaching. For the first time Lisa noticed the trail of mud leading into the storage room. She looked down at her feet and saw that they were still covered with mud.

"Stay here," she ordered. "I'll lead them away from here."

Hank crouched down in the corner and tried to make as little noise as possible while Lisa left the room and continued down the hall pretending she didn't know she was being followed. It wasn't long before the guards caught up with her.

"Freeze!" shouted the head guard. "Come here and don't make any sudden moves."

Lisa's heart sank. Not because she had been caught, but because one of the guards was searching the storage room. Fortunately, he didn't search very throughly.

"I don't see anyone else," he reported.

Hank couldn't believe his luck. The guard had walked right past him. Hank waited patiently for the guards to leave then waited three minutes after that before he came out of hiding. He didn't have a chance of rescuing Lisa, but he could help her by getting a message to M.W.G.D. Headquarters.

It wasn't going to be easy. Now that the guards had found a trespasser, they were bound to be looking for others. Hank made his way to the door and took a quick peek outside. Seeing no one, he pressed on with a grim determination.

TIME : 9:21 P.M. (21:21)
PLACE : Xancorra's office

It wasn't a good day for Xancorra. Nothing seemed to be going right. The last thing she needed was a message from the Ruler, but the Ruler had sent her one and she was obligate to hear it.

"I have receive your message and I know that you have been spotted," the Ruler began. "I am on my way to see to matters personally. In the meantime, proceed with normal operations. Soon it won't matter if they know where we are or not."

"Under no circumstances are you to let M.W.G.D. know we know we've found us. Perhaps we'll lull them into a false sense of security. I'll take over when I arrive. The advantage is still ours. You better not let me down."

Xancorra was absolutely furious. The Ruler was coming to relieve her of command. If that happened, she wouldn't get a second chance to be in chance. She had to do something to impress the Ruler while the hideout was still under her control.

"Xancorra," greeted one of the guards on the intercom. "We've captured an intruder. She is wearing an M.W.G.D. spacesuit. She claims she's alone, but I have a feeling that there are others lurking about."

"Bring her to me immediately," ordered Xancorra. "I want to question her."

Just when she thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. The Ruler was already on his way, now she would have to tell him about intruders. Her very life was in danger.

There was a knock at the door which almost made her jump.

"I've captured two intruders and I thought you'd like to see them," boasted Bortar.

"Why didn't you tell me this when you first caught them," snapped Xancorra. "I'd like to know about intruders the instant they're discovered."

"I wanted to surprise you," stammered Bortar.

"Surprises like this I don't need," she shouted. "Send them in. I'll deal with them."

Peter and Linda were led into the room. Xancorra, who had been yelling at Bortar, suddenly changed her expression and greeted them in a friendly manner.

"Sit down," she smiled. "Would you like a glass of water?"

"No thanks," Linda replied coldly.

"I'll take a glass of water," said Peter.

"Bortar, bring us two glasses of water," ordered Xancorra.

Bortar left the room grumbling. Xancorra turn to her two guests and smiled. Like the Ruler, Xancorra gave her prisoners more respect than her own subordinates. Peter and Linda weren't fooled by it. They knew she was only being friendly because she wanted some information.

"You've caused me a great deal of trouble," Xancorra remarked casually. "You are you and who sent you here. I know you work for M.W.G.D., but I want specifics."

Peter and Linda both remained silent. Bortar reentered the room, handed Peter and Xancorra a glass of water, and left still grumbling about something. Peter took a small sip of the water. He hadn't realized how thirsty he was. He drank until the glass was completely empty. Ignoring Xancorra, he put the empty glass on the floor and folded his arms.

Xancorra drank her water one sip at a time. She could wait for them to talk. They weren't going anywhere.

"Did you come alone?" she asked once she was finished with her water.

"Yes, we came alone," answered Peter.

"Liar!" roared Xancorra. "We captured someone else in an M.W.G.D. spacesuit just like yours. Are there only the three of you?"

"Yes," said Peter.

"You're still lying," snapped Xancorra.

"What makes you say that?" wondered Peter.

"I can see it in you eyes," Xancorra replied.

Peter remained silent. He realized he never should have opened his mouth in the first place. A few minutes later, Lisa arrived escorted by two armed guards. She looked fearfully around the room and at Xancorra. She gave Peter and Linda a meek smile but said nothing.

"Don't be afraid. I have no intention of hurting you or your friends, if you cooperate, Xancorra assured her. "Have a seat. Would you like a glass of water?"

"Sounds good," agreed Lisa.

"Bortar, bring us another glass of water!" Xancorra yelled into the intercom. "Earlier I was asking your friends what you names were and who send you, but they refused to talk. Perhaps you could shed some light on the subject."

Lisa turned to Peter and Hank looking for advice. When Xancorra wasn't looking, Peter put his finger to his lips. Lisa understood the message and remained silent.

"So you don't want to talk to me," snapped Xancorra. "I'd strongly recommend talking before the Ruler arrives. His methods of interrogation are much more painful than mine. I'll have the guard take you to a cell until you are ready to talk. If not, the Ruler will deal with you."

When Bortar returned to give Lisa her water he was accompanied by six armed guards.

"Take our guests to the empty cell," commanded Xancorra. "GIve them all the food and water they want, but nothing else."

TIME : 10:00 P.M. (22:00)
PLACE : A police station on Darius

Ramos, the chief of police, was telling X about the increased drug traffic on Darius and other planets in the Rigel system. X listened carefully and trying to find a pattern in the drug shipments. Suddenly X's communicator started beeping urgently.

"Excuse me," apologized X. "I have a message from Shawn and I'd like to talk to him in a private place."

"Feel free to use my office," said Ramos.

"I read you," whispered X once he was inside Ramos's office. "Report."

"We have found the Ruler's hideout," explained Shawn. "It is hidden one kilometer below the surface of Relvac. Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa are inside the hideout gathering information, but they might need our help."

"I have activated my homing device," X told him. "Pick me up as soon as you can. I will accompany you back to Relvac."

"I'm on my way," stated Shawn. "Over and out."

X turned to Ramos with a grave expression on his face. Ramos hadn't heard the conversation between X and Shawn, but he could tell it wasn't very good news.

"Thank you for letting me use your office," started X. "I'm afraid I'll have to ask you for an even greater favor. Could you accompany me to Relvac? You might be able to identify some of the drug dealers."

"Why would you want to go to Relvac?" wondered Ramos.

"Shawn has found the Ruler's hideout," answered X. "We believe that is where the drugs are kept, and more importantly, where the weapons are kept. If we can capture the hideout, it will be a major setback for the Ruler."

"I'll ask my supervisor for permission to go," exclaimed Ramos.

He asked and received permission in less than a minute. His supervisor wanted to put the drug dealers out of business as much as M.W.G.D. did.

"Are you ready to go?" asked Shawn entering the building.

"Yes," X replied. "and so is Ramos. He's coming with us."

"Do you want the hideout surrounded?" inquired Shawn.

"Not while Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa are still inside," answered X. "I'll have to go in alone and rescue them. After they're safely out of the hideout, you can have our troops surround their hideout, but not before."

Shawn, X, and Ramos left at once for Relvac.

TIME : 10:05 P.M. (22:05)
PLACE : Inside the Ruler's hideout on Relvac

Hank proceeded with caution. He guessed correctly that he was the only one left. The guards were searching for him, but it was still a low priority. Whenever he heard someone coming, Hank took cover until whoever it was had left.

Eventually he found the door to the docking bay, but it couldn't be opened without the proper security access code. His only alternative was to get a message to M.W.G.D. Headquarters before he was discovered.

An extensive search led him to the communications room. It was occupied by only two people. Neither one of them was armed and both of them were involved in a conversation with one of the supply ship. Hank listened to part of the conversation.

"I have a supply of Rigelian phasers," said the pilot of the supply ship. "Should I put them in storage?"

"Negative," replied the communications officer. "We've been discovered. Take the weapons to the main base on Darius."

"I'm on my way," responded the pilot.

Hank realized that things were much worse than even X had suspected. They had discovered their main hideout, but there were minor hideouts spread throughout the Rigel system. They might have everything they need to wage war. They were just waiting for the right moment to attack.

Hank knew he wouldn't be able to talk long, so he would have to make he message as brief as possible. After deciding what he would say he ran into the communications room and set the controls to brodcast his message on all possible frequencies. The soldiers tried to stop him, but they couldn't prevent him from getting out his first few sentences.

"The Ruler has hideouts throughout the Rigel system," Hank warned to all who could hear him. "They are preparing for war. Most of the drugs and weapons are stored underground on Relvac They have-"

Hank was cut off by the soldiers who had called for reinforcements. Like the others, Hank was taken to Xancorra to be interrogated. Even though things looked bad for him, he was smiling. His message had gotten through.

It was heard by Shawn, M.W.G.D. Headquarters, and the police on every planet in the Rigel system. It was also heard by the Ruler.

TIME : 10:10 P.M. (22:10)
PLACE : The cell

Peter, Hank, and Linda had removed their cumbersome spacesuits and were relaxing in the relative comfort of their cell. It was the nicest place they had ever been held prisoner in. The walls, floor, and ceiling were white and well padded reminding Peter of an insane asylum. There were two doors on either side of the entrance. One led to a bathroom, the other to a closet.

Lisa had pulled out her diary and was beginning to write in it.

"Do you take that thing with you wherever you go?" inquired Peter.

"Yes," Lisa replied. "I want to record my thoughts while they're still fresh in my mind."

Before Lisa had a chance to finish, five armed guards entered the room. Peter and Linda recognized the one speaking as Bortar.

"Xancorra wants to see you again," he explained. think you'll be more willing to talk."

Peter, Linda, and Lisa started to put on their spacesuits.

"Leave your spacesuits behind," ordered Bortar. "We don't want you trying to escape.

"Maybe Hank made it to the outside," Lisa whispered as they were led down to Xancorra's office. "They might be getting desperate to find out what we know."

Lisa's hopes were destroyed when she saw Hank sitting down talking to Xancorra.

"Welcome," said Xancorra. "We've been expecting you."

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