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WAR IN THE RIGEL SYSTEM

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER TWO

None of them dared to make a sound. Even Rextol held his breath as the soldiers came nearer and nearer until they were less than twenty meters away.

"I thought I heard something," one of the soldiers reported to the leader of the group. "They've spotted us."

"They know what we're going to do," another soldier agreed fearfully.

"No one has spotted us," declared their commanding officer. "and even if they have it won't make any difference. We'll go in and out before they ever know what happened."

Ramos wanted to come out of hiding and fight, but Hank held him back.

"We can't afford to blow our cover," explained Hank. "at least not yet. Rextol will warn Geffah and the others. With his jetpack, he can go much faster than we can."

"I know I heard something that time," insisted the first soldier.

"Search the area," ordered the commanding officer. "Look for anything unusual."

"Someone's watching us from above," warned a third soldier.

"Don't let him get away!" roared the officer.

Rextol knew he had been spotted and quickly flew out of the range of their phasers. He didn't like the idea of leaving his friends behind, but he didn't have much of a choice. Rextol headed back to the base to warn Geffah promising himself that he'd return as soon as possible.

"We're too late," grumbled the first soldier.

"For him maybe," agreed the commanding officer. "but he was probably just a lookout. There may be others hiding nearby."

Once again Ramos wanted to take the initiative. Jariah had similar feelings. The others stopped them, but they too agreed that a fight was inevitable.

"If we're going to fight, we'll have to do it in an organized manner," whispered Peter. "Since they slightly outnumber us, we won't have a chance if we attack them directly. The only way we can win is if we spread out and attack them from many different directions at once."

"Hank and Lisa will attack them from the left. Linda and Jariah will attack the from the right. Ramos and I will attack them from where we are. We will attack first. I don't want the rest of you to reveal your location until the attack has already commenced. They don't know our numbers yet and might think there are fewer of us than there actually are. If they misjudge our numbers, we can make them pay for their mistake."

The group silently split up with Hank and Lisa going to the left, Linda and Jariah going to the right, and Peter and Ramos staying low getting ready to start the attack. The enemy soldiers had split up too in an attempt to find them. Two of them were headed straight toward Peter and Ramos. Ramos readied his phaser anxiously waiting to fire.

The soldiers slowly moved closer still not knowing Peter and Ramos were less than five meters away. The soldiers had stopped to investigate something which turned out to be a twig one of them had stepped on. After a brief pause they continued their search.

"Now!" yelled Peter as soon as he thought one of the soldiers had spotted them.

Peter and Ramos fired simultaneously. Both of them hit their targets. The other soldiers turned to see what was happening. Suddenly they were hit by the others. The few who remained tried to find who was firing at them, but they were well hidden. The last soldier fell to the ground without firing a single shot.

Peter immediately began to search the guards and found some explosives similar to the kind they were using.

"Apparently they were on the same type of mission we're on," said Peter. "They were going to blow up the M.W.G.D. base."

"Do you think there are any more of them?" wondered Lisa.

"Like us, I think they were on their own," replied Peter. "but they might try again."

"Rextol must have had a chance to warn them by now," declared Hank. "We'd better wait for him. We need all the help we can get. The Ruler is going to be ready for us."

TIME : 8:00 A.M.
PLACE : Somewhere in the jungle

Rextol returned to find the eight soldiers unconscious, stripped of their possessions, and tied to four large trees.

"How did you manage to defeat them all by yourselves?" inquired Rextol. "I'm impressed."

"It was fairly simple," smiled Peter. "We split up and attacked them from three different directions at once. They never knew what hit them."

"I've been teaching you how to use a jetpack, perhaps you should teach me how to fight on the ground," Rextol remarked.

"It will be my pleasure," agreed Peter. "As soon as we get a chance."

"We've tried to question them, but they refuse to talk," Ramos quickly interrupted.

"I didn't think they would," said Rextol. "This group is some of the Ruler's most loyal soldiers. He wouldn't send just anybody in the direction of an M.W.G.D. base."

After making sure the soldiers were securely tied they continued their journey.

TIME : 8:05 A.M.
PLACE : The Ruler's stronghold

The Ruler was personally overseeing operations on Darius. He didn't want anyone to invade the base and steal the valuable weapons as happened on Relvac. Yot was by his side as always ready to give the Ruler's orders to the others. Occasionally the Ruler even let him give an order of his own, a privilege few others could claim.

The only other person in the room was Xancorra. Xancorra was once in charge of the Ruler's secret hideout on Relvac, but the hideout fell into the hands of M.W.G.D. Yot told her she would get a second chance at command but the Ruler wanted to oversee things personally. It wasn't an official demotion but she had been reduced to watching the war instead of participating. Fortunately for her, she was still valuable to the Ruler. It was only a matter of time before he gave her a chance to redeem herself. In the meantime she kept quiet and waited until she was needed.

"All things considered, the attack is going smoothly," snapped the Ruler. "If we still had the base on Relvac things would be going ever better."

Xancorra said nothing. She didn't think it was her fault the base had been taken over but she knew better than than to provoke the Ruler, especially when he was angry.

"Our spies have failed to reach the neighboring M.W.G.D. base," reported Yot. "We lost contact with them fifteen minutes ago."

"No matter," sighed the Ruler sounding more disappointed than he wanted to sound. "Every planet in the Rigel system is hurting. Several thousand people can't save a population of billions. What information have you been able to obtain from the prisoner?"

"He refused to talk," replied Yot. "He says he comes from M.W.G.D. base and was on a mission to find our headquarters. That much we were able to figure out on our own. He also says he came here on his own, but that is highly unlikely."

"Is that the extent of your knowledge?" roared the Ruler angrily. "I don't care how you do it but get some information out of him. Use whatever means you think are necessary."

"It will be done," Yot assured him as he left to carry out the Ruler's orders.

"My team of spies has been disabled by somebody," suspected the Ruler. "I think we found the group who humiliated you on Relvac. This is your last chance, you will not get another one."

"I understand," groaned Xancorra. "They will not give me the slip this time."

"I want you to capture one of them alive, I don't care which one, and bring him or her directly to me," commanded the Ruler. "The interrogation might prove interesting. The rest of them are to be killed. I only need one of them to get the information I need. The others will just mean trouble. Don't come back until you've killed them all except the one I need. If you come back alone or if there is any sign of a rescue attempt, I will order my soldiers to hunt you down and kill you on sight. Are there any questions?"

"No," replied Xancorra. "I understand my orders."

"Good, follow them," ordered the Ruler. "You are dismissed."

Xancorra left wondering why she ever decided to work for the Ruler, but the only person she hated more than the Ruler was Rextol. It would be a pleasure for her to kill the people he had worked so hard to train. She took a handful of the Ruler's guards and set off to find the intruders.

TIME : 8:15 A.M.
PLACE : Elsewhere in the jungle

"Be quiet," warned Jariah. "We're nearing the Ruler's base. This is where I last saw Yoblic."

"Don't worry," said Peter. "We won't activate the explosives without Yoblic. Do you have any idea where they might have taken him?"

"No," replied Jariah. "None of us have actually been inside the base. The map you saw earlier back at our base is our best guess at what the inside looks like. It was based on information received from our spies."

"I have a copy of that map," declared Rextol unfolding the map on the ground so they could all take a look at it.

The copy was no better than the original, if not worse. Parts of the base were drawn in very lightly as if the drawer of the map was unsure about what he was drawing. Other parts were left entirely blank. Parts of the map were drawn with great detail but they were few and far in between.

"This isn't much to go by," complained Ramos.

"I know but we have to get him out of there," pleaded Jariah.

"Peter, do you feel like leading a rescue attempt?" inquired Rextol. "You're the most suited for the job."

"I'll do my best," promised Peter. "Who is coming with me?"

"You can't go without me," insisted Jariah. "I never should have let him go by himself and I won't rest until I see him again."

"I'll go too," volunteered Lisa. "I've been a prisoner of the Ruler before. It was not a pleasant experience and I don't want anyone else to have to go through it."

"Three should be enough," stated Rextol. "The rest of us will place the explosives around the base. As soon as you are a safe distance away we will detonate the explosives destroying the base beyond repair."

"It's time for us to split up. From here on I can no longer be your lookout. It will be too easy for them to spot me from the air. I'll have to stay on the ground."

The group wished each other good luck and went their separate ways. Peter, Lisa, and Jariah crept around to the back entrance. Only two guards were visible, one at either side of the entrance. Peter and Jariah hid on either side of the door leaving Lisa the job of decoy. Confidently she strode right between the two guards before they had time to react.

"Stop where you are!" commanded one of the guards. "This is a restricted area."

"I'm looking for someone named Yoblic," Lisa informed them. "Could you tell me where he is?"

The guards looked at her wondering why she had bothered to come. Both guards removed their weapons and pointed them at Lisa threateningly. They were just about to take Lisa in as a prisoner when Peter and Jariah fired. The guards fell to the ground with a loud thud. There was no doubt that they would be unconscious for at least several hours.

"Good job," complemented Lisa.

"You didn't do that bad either," remarked Peter.

The three of them entered the Ruler's stronghold not knowing what to expect. Looking at the map, they made their best guess where Yoblic would be kept and headed in that direction. They soon came to a single guard who was as surprised to see them as they were to see him. The guard offered no resistance when they stunned him.

A few minutes later they reached the area where the map became sketchy. Knowing that they would have to reply on their instincts more than the map, they quickened their pace. They didn't want to stay in the same place for very long.

They turned the corner just as a large group of soldiers passed the spot they had just left. Greatful that they hadn't been spotted, they continued silently keeping a sharp eye out for trouble.

They had guessed correctly the spot where the Ruler usually kept his prisoners. Unfortunately, all the cells were empty. Yoblic had been taken someplace else to be interrogated.

"Where could he be?" cried Jariah. "We'll never find him."

"Stay calm," commanded Peter studying the map. "This is only a minor setback. If the Ruler wanted to interrogate Yobic, where would he take him?"

"It would have to have plenty of security," speculated Lisa. "Probably in the very center."

"Then that's where we're headed," declared Peter.

"We can't go to the center of the base," protested Lisa. "It will be crawling with guards. We'd be captures, if not killed, before we ever reach Yoblic."

"Finding Yoblic was our sole reason for coming here," Peter reminded her. "We have two choices. Either we continue our search for Yoblic or we desert him. Which will it be?"

Lisa looked at Jariah's stern face hiding her deep concern for Yoblic and knew she couldn't desert her when she needed her the most.

"We'll continue to the center of the base," conceded Lisa. "but I'm not particularly found of the idea."

"I'm not fond of the idea either," sympathized Jariah. "but we don't have any choice."

The three of them made their way to the heart of the Ruler's stronghold.

TIME : 8:45 A.M.
PLACE : The interrogation room

Yoblic could barely see what was directly in front of him. His whole body was covered with bruises. Yot and the soldiers under his command continued to ask Yoblic questions and beat him if he lied or refused to answer even though he was slipping into unconsciousness.

"Who besides you knows our secret location?" demanded Yot.

Yoblic, as battered as he was, gave Yot a cold look of defiance. Yot motioned to his soldiers who gave Yoblic one hard blow a piece. Yoblic groaned when they hit him, but other than that he remained silent. Yot stared at him angrily.

"I don't know why you're making things so hard on yourself," he said. "If you cooperate, the beatings will stop. All we want is some information. I'll ask you one more time. Who else knows our secret location?"

Yoblic still refused to answer. He was staring at the floor. Once again the soldiers beat him. This time it was more than he could stand. He fell to the floor motionless.

"We won't get any answers out of him while he's unconscious," Yot roared angrily. "Take him back to the cell and give him a chance to recover."

The soldiers carried Yoblic's limp body back to his cell. On the way they passed Peter, Lisa, and Jariah. They couldn't believe their luck. The soldiers were bringing Yoblic back to them saving them a trip to the center of the base. They hid and waited for the soldiers to go past them. Two of the soldiers were too busy carrying Yoblic to worry about looking for trespassers and the rest didn't seem to care who was in the area.

As soon as the soldiers had moved past them, Peter, Lisa, and Jariah picked their targets and fired. Only the two soldiers carrying Yoblic remained who immedaitely surrendered. After setting Yoblic on the ground as they were ordered, they were stunned to prevent them from going to get help.

Jariah ran to Yoblic's side and started tending his wounds. She tried to revive him, but his wounds were too severe. Peter helped Jariah carry Yoblic to safety while Lisa acted as a look out. They managed to make it halfway back to the exit before Lisa heard anything unusual, but when she did she knew it was a search party.

"Someone's coming," she warned.

The three of them quickly carried Yoblic out of sight and hid with him while waiting for the soldiers to pass. Under normal circumstances the soldiers wouldn't have bothered looking for them, but Yot discovered the soldiers that had been stunned and reported it to the Ruler. The Ruler was furious and demanded that Yoblic and his rescuers be captured. The soldiers feared for their lives. They had to capture the invaders.

Peter, Lisa, Jariah, and Yoblic had hidden well, but the soldiers were searching everywhere for them. They knew they would be caught eventually. Peter motioned for Jariah to follow him.

"Stay here," Peter told Lisa. "No sense in all of us getting caught. When the soldiers leave return to the others and tell them what has happened. We'll be counting on you."

Peter and Jariah came out of hiding and brought Yoblic to the soldiers.

"Don't shoot! We surrender!" shouted Peter.

"You have caused us plenty of trouble," said one of the soldiers. "The Ruler will torture you for hours if not kill you. You never should have come here."

"Look at him," commanded Peter pointing out Yoblic's numerous bruises. "The way you treat your prisoners is a disgrace. It violates every code of decency."

"We are not responsible for the interrogation of the prisoners," the soldier informed him. "All we do is capture them."

"That is no excuse," scolded Peter. "How can you work for someone who tortures even his own people?"

"The Ruler has promised us that we will be members of the upper class once he established his empire," said the soldiers.

"Do you expect him to keep his promise?" attacked Peter. "If you do you're in for a major disappointment."

Peter's hopes fell when he looked at the soldiers. They would remain loyal to the Ruler no matter what Peter said. Either they didn't believe Peter when he told them the Ruler would betray them or they didn't care. The soldiers had no reason to arouse the Ruler's anger. As long as they obeyed the Ruler, they would be treated reasonably well.

"If I were you I'd start telling the Ruler everything I know about M.W.G.D.," advised the soldier. "With three of you, the Ruler can choose who he wants to keep alive. The one who gives him the most information is the one who gets to live. March!"

Peter, Jariah, and Yoblic were marched back to the cells. Lisa waited until they were out of sight then quickly left to find the others. Without anyone slowing her down, she made good time. In a matter of minutes she was outside the base. Worried about what the Ruler would do to Peter, Jariah, and Yoblic she hoped she could find the others in time.

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