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THE BARCHON DICTATORSHIP

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER III

Shawn handed them his phaser. He thought he could keep them occupied long enough for Peter and Hank to get there. Even with only one phaser they could still win a phaser battle against them if they had the element of surprise.

"Do you know how many people would like to have you where I have you now?" the leader bellowed feeling as if he were all powerful. "I could go all over the galaxy and sell you to the highest bidder, but I have more style than that. I am going to show the entire galaxy what happens to people who oppose me."

Shawn didn't know the full meaning of his last statement, but he knew that there was something very sinister behind it. His lack of concern for the missing member that Shawn had replaced told him that he didn't care for anyone's life except his own. A fact that Shawn hoped would lead to his downfall.

TIME : 2:47 P.M. (14:47)
PLACE : Approximately 10,000 km from Barchon

Linda had returned from the Rigel system to M.W.G.D. Headquarters hoping to get a chance to rest. However, when she got there Mac, a long time friend of hers, informed her that she was needed on Barchon immediately.

Griping would do her no good since Shawn wasn't even there to tell her why she was needed on Barchon so badly. Mac did his best to explain the situation to her, but that was not normally his job and he wasn't sure what Shawn had in mind himself. All he knew was that he needed Linda's help.

Linda tried to make the best of things by thinking of peaceful thoughts on the way there. It had been a though week for her and things weren't about to get any easier.

Her thoughts and complaints were suddenly interrupted by an M.W.G.D. distress signal coming from the planet. In no time, she had traced the source of the signal and found out that it was coming from the foot of Mt. Veneb. Cautiously, she checked the area for any signs of danger and quietly landed about two hundred meters away, close enough for her to walk to the source of the distress signal but not close enough to arouse suspicion.

She drew out her weapon and prepared to investigate the distress call.

TIME : 2:53 P.M. (14:53)
PLACE : The foot of Mt. Veneb

Once again Lisa made her way over to the ship to see if the distress signal was still functioning. She gave a meek smile when she saw a small light flashing inside. Help was on the way.

"What are you doing?" demanded her captor.

"Nothing," Lisa replied innocently though it was clear that that wasn't the case.

"I see what you're doing," he declared trying to sound like he knew more than he actually did and failing miserably. "You're trying to sneak inside your ship so you can get away. Well it's not going to work. Get away from there!"

As time went by, he had become less hostile to her and put the gun away. Now he was pointing the gun at her once more as he had done at the very beginning. Lisa slowly backed away from the ship. She had no reason to remain there once she knew that someone was responding to her distress signal. Since he thought that she was trying to escape in the ship, that was what she wanted him to believe.

Her captor smiled with satisfaction as she returned to where she had been before.

"I know your friends will come back for you," he sneered. "and when they do, I'll be waiting for them."

At that same instant a shot rang out apparently from nowhere and hit him in the back. His expression was one of utter disbelief as he tried to see the person that shot him. To his dismay he found that he was unable to move. The shot had been too much for his system and once again he fell to the ground.

"So you'll be waiting for me," mocked Linda returning Shawn's phaser to Lisa.

"Stunned twice in one day," Lisa stated almost sympathetically. "Maybe you shouldn't have gotten out of bed today."

"Maybe I shouldn't have gotten out of bed today," snapped Linda. "Is there anyone else I have to rescue?"

"As a matter of fact there is," Lisa informed her and told her about Shawn's capture.

"I had to ask," Linda sighed.

TIME : 2:54 P.M. (14:54)
PLACE : The top of Mt. Veneb

At about the same time that Linda shot the man who was once again their prisoner, Peter and Hank reached the top of the mountain and the base that was built there. They were delayed by a few encounters with the robots, but without help from the central computer Hank was no match for them.

The main entrance was guarded by too many robots, so they had to look for another way in. They found a small door to the side guarded by a single robot.

"Haven't we done this before?" Peter inquired.

Just like before, Peter threw a rock on the other side of the robot to distract only this time the robots couldn't communicate with each other so Hank could shoot it without fear of retaliation. Peter tried the door, but it was locked. This time the enemy was a little bit more cautious about underestimating their abilities.

"Stand back!" warned Hank.

Peter moved a safe distance away before Hank blasted away the lock. There was a loud explosion, but that was unavoidable. Since Shawn hadn't rejoined them like he had promised, they figured that something must have happened to him. They would have to stay alert.

Peter glanced upwards and spotted a half hidden security camera. He tapped Hank on the shoulder to get his attention and pointed to the camera.

"I think we might have been spotted," he whispered making sure he couldn't be overheard.

Hank remained calm and motioned for Peter to go directly below the camera, the only place in the entire room where he couldn't be spotted. Hank did the same thing and together they moved silently along the wall to the other side of the room. Once there, they searched the room to see if there were any other camera. They found none and decided that it would be safe to talk or at least worth the risk.

"This is a big place for three people to hide in," remarked Peter. "not to mention Shawn. Do you think we should risk splitting up so we can cover more ground or stay together in case we're attacked?"

"I don't think they're hiding from us," said Hank evenly. "We can assume that they have blown Shawn's cover in which case they would know they we'd have to eventually come here. I suspect that they are in the most secure room in the entire base to make sure that it would take as long as possible for us to get to them. I also suspect that such a room would be in the heart of the base."

"Which way is that?" asked Peter.

"Since we entered from the side, I figure that if we keep going in the direction we're headed in now, we will eventually reach it," Hank replied.

"Well then what are we waiting for?" Peter wondered.

The two of them continued in as close to a straight line as they possibly could keeping a sharp eye out for anything suspicious. With just about the worlds worst timing, Peter and Hank ran straight into another robot. It fired at them and they got out of the way only seconds before the shot hit the wall next to them. The wall would never be the same again. There was a large scorched place on the wall about half a meter in diameter where the shot had been.

Hank returned fire once again hitting his target. The robot toppled over remaining motionless. Their presence would soon be known to the enemy.

"I wish I had a weapon of some sort," griped Peter.

"You can use mine," suggested Hank handing him his weapon.

"What will you use?" Peter inquired seeing that they were no better off than they were before.

"I'll improvise," Hank responded determinedly. "Besides, I'm getting tired of shooting robots and thought I'd give you a chance."

"Thanks," Peter said dryly. "I think."

Peter got to use the phaser sooner than he wanted to. Another robot came into the room looking even more menacing than the others. Peter shot it, but the robot kept on coming. It was damaged, but not defeated.

Before the robot could return fire, Peter shot it again hitting it in almost exactly the same place he had hit it before. The robot lost its balance and began firing wildly missing them by several meters. Peter fired yet another shot hitting the robot a third time. This time the impact, combined with the damage from the other two shots, was too much for the robot. Just like the other robots, it fell to the ground with an unspectacular thud.

"They seem to be getting tougher as we get closer to the center," stated Peter. "At this rate, I'm not sure if we'll be able to handle the next one."

"Try to stay optimistic," advised Hank. "We've made it this far."

They were getting close to the center and both of them realized that the hardest part was yet to come. They had to find and confront the three remaining members of the dictatorship, find Shawn and free him if necessary, and help the people of Barchon repair the damage they had caused. Things were not going to be easy for them.

TIME : 3:00 P.M. (15:00)
PLACE : The heart of the base

The three remaining members of the dictatorship were asking Shawn many questions, none of which he was willing to answer. Some of the questions he didn't know the answer to, but he wouldn't even tell them that. They tried to torture him, but Shawn remained oblivious to their questions. He would just take the blows when they came.

The leader knew that they couldn't hurt Shawn to badly. He was to valuable a hostage. If someone knew that they had been torturing him, they would be less likely to give into their demands. It was clear that Shawn knew this too. Even in the hands of the enemy, he was taunting them knowing they couldn't strike back too forcefully.

One of the dictators gave Shawn a hard punch in his right kidney. Shawn was tied up and unable to defend himself. His body was covered with bruised and he winced at the new edition to the collection. Shawn watched the person who had given him his most recent bruise as he walked out the door and rounded a nearby corner. His traps still hadn't been discovered and were as deadly as ever. One of his traps was in that general area and Shawn kept on hoping that the man would accidently bump into it.

In the distance there was a loud explosion. Shawn's little booby trap had work. The other two ran out of the room to see what had happened leaving Shawn alone. He couldn't believe that they were stupid enough to leave him in the room by himself, but he wasn't going to stop to marvel at it He had to take advantage of the situation while it lasted.

Shawn was tied up pretty securely, but the best knots in the world couldn't hold him forever when he was tied with simple, ordinary rope. With a great deal of effort, Shawn managed to wiggle his hands about. A few seconds later he found one of the knots and began to untie it. Eventually, he was able to move his hands as freely as he normally could. He got to work on freeing his arms. Once his arms were free, it was fairly easy to undo the remaining knots and, less than sixty seconds after they had left him alone in the room, he was up and moving about.

Shawn looked around the room for a weapon, but he thought that that was asking for too much. They hadn't expected him to get loose, but even so they weren't going to take the risk of leaving him alone in the room with a weapon. If they had, it would have been all over for them.

As quietly as possible, Shawn left the room and headed in the opposite direction of the one the others had traveled in. They would be steaming mad when they returned and Shawn didn't want to stick around to see them in that condition.

The one who had fallen victim to his trap wasn't killed, but he was badly hurt. He was covered with blood making the injury appear worse than it really was and moaning in pain. The others showed concern for their comrade by supporting him as they made their way back to their headquarters. When they got there, they found the door wide open. Inside they found the rope the had used to tie Shawn up with scatter across the floor. Shawn was nowhere in sight. The leader of the group imagined that he could hear Shawn laughing at them which made him boil with anger.

"He's gone!" he roared in anger. "Go after him and don't come back until you find him!"

The one that was still healthy obeyed at once. The wounded one went over to the medical supplies to treat some of his wounds. He knew that he was also supposed to look for Shawn as soon as he was finished. As long as he was still able to move about, he would have to help search.

TIME : 3:03 P.M. (15:03)
PLACE : The central computer

Linda and Lisa didn't take any chances with their prisoner like they had before. This time they took him to a jail in a neighboring town. The people gladly agreed to take care of him pleased to see that the dictatorship was rapidly loosing its power.

Alone, Lisa wasn't able to move the prisoner very far, but with Linda's help she was able to drag him into the ship and take him to the appropriate area, a simple jail cell where he could never hurt anybody again.

With that part of their mission taken care of, Linda and Lisa turned their attention towards rescuing Shawn. They found out that there was no place on Mt. Veneb where they could land their ship which was probably why the dictatorship had picked that spot as their base. The only way to reach the top was on foot.

After a while, they reached the central computer was and saw a crumbling building surrounded by hundreds of robots scattered about in pieces. The few robots that were still in one piece were deactivated and didn't look like they would be reactivated any time soon.

"Looks like Hank and Peter have been here," Lisa stated humorously.

Lisa remembered the path Shawn had told Peter and Hank about half the time that it took them to find it since she didn't have any robots to distract her. She and Linda continued to make good progress as they made their way up to the top of Mt. Veneb where the others were. Both of them were armed so they could look for robots in two different directions allowing them to move faster.

Peter and Hank had made the way easier for them, but they still had some problems to deal with before they could catch up. There were still many robots between them and the base that were still functioning. After Peter and Hank had been so successful in that area, the robots began to swarm in the general vicinity to make sure nobody tried something like that again. Linda and Lisa had their work cut out for them.

TIME : 3:05 P.M. (15:05)
PLACE : Near the heart of the base on top of Mt. Veneb

Shawn carefully chose his path so he could avoid the robots and their evil masters. If everything worked out, he would would be reunited with Peter and Hank in a few minutes.

Peter and Hank had heard the explosion caused by Shawn's booby trap and knew that they were getting close to their destination. Hank considered where the explosion had come from and thought it would be wise to give the area a wide birth. Peter agreed. It was risky enough without looking for trouble.

Peter, who was leading the way since he had the gun, suddenly stopped when he heard someone approaching from their left. He led Hank to what he thought was a good hiding place where they waited to ambush the stranger. However, instead of one of the enemy, it turned out to be Shawn who had been looking for them ever since he escaped.

"Shawn!" exclaimed Peter in a mixture of surprise and relief.

"We have to get out of here," warned Shawn who had no time for small talk. "They've found out that we have captured two of their number and will do anything to stay in power. Since we know they'll come looking for us, let's meet them on our term. I know a perfect place just outside the base where we can set up our defense. By that time, Linda and Lisa should be able to join us and swing the odds in our favor."

Peter handed their only weapon to Shawn.

"I have a feeling you're going to need this," he said sternly.

The weapon had originally belonged to one of the dictators before Hank, and then Peter, had used it. Shawn felt it was ironic that the remaining members of the dictatorship might become victims of their own weapon. Unfortunately, they only had one phaser and they enemy could bring out hundreds of robots to accompany them. The odds were dead set against them.

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