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THE RULER RETURNS

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER FOUR

"Observant as always, Peter," the Ruler remarked as he moved in closer until he was face to face with his captives.

The bald man was impressed that the Ruler knew Peter by name. He was obviously a very powerful enemy and probably his ticket to a rapid promotion.

"Peter will trouble us no longer," he thought to himself pleased with his job.

"What are you going to do with us?" demanded Peter.

He had seen the Ruler before and wasn't about to start trembling in fear as most people did when they saw the Ruler.

"You have caused me a great deal of trouble throughout the years," the Ruler admitted. "but Shawn is my real target. I will use you as bait to catch him."

Peter knew that unlike himself, Shawn would be killed at the first opportunity. Shawn knew this and would not take a foolish risk, even if Peter's life depended on it.

"He won't come," declared Peter.

"Then it will be too bad for your little friend," the Ruler replied unveiling a gun and pointing it straight at Orn's chest.

Orn, who had seemed unconcerned about what was happening to them up until that point, suddenly began to panic. It was as if he had just realized that his life was being threatened. He looked to Peter for advice. Peter had none.

The Ruler turned to his soldiers.

"Is everything ready?" he asked.

"See for yourself," a voice answered that sounded remarkably familiar.

Two more figures came into view, the king and queen of Triax.

"Androids!" shouted Peter knowing better than to believe they were the actual king and queen.

"Close," agreed the Ruler. "but not quite. You are looking at the latest in surgical technology. These people have been operated on to look exactly like King Jake the twenty eighth and Queen Lynn the first. An amazing similarity if I do say so myself."

"And I am going to wage war upon Altair 3," said the phony king.

"Not until I say so," snapped the Ruler.

"Of course," apologized the other.

"On to Capitol City," the Ruler commanded.

As the others slowly left the room, the Ruler turned back to Peter and Orn.

"As you can see, this cell was made to hold a dozen people," the Ruler stated with an evil hint of sarcasm in his voice. "The two of you should have plenty of room to wonder around and do just about anything you please. Have fun!"

With that, the Ruler shut and locked the cell door. Peter and Orn were trapped inside. Strangely enough, Orn still didn't seem all that worried. Peter knew that Orn knew something the rest of them didn't. He just didn't know what.

TIME : 1:58 P.M.
PLACE : The elevator

Hank scanned over all the functions his multi-purpose gun could do. He distinctly remembered that it could be used as a cutting device. Escape was going to be easier than he thought.

He began cutting away at the elevator wall. Linda saw what Hank was doing and began to help him. Soon, they had cut out a small hole just large enough for them to squeeze through one at a time.

Surprisingly, no one was guarding the outside. They had grossly underestimated Hank's ingenuity. Hank and Linda turned their attention to finding Lisa.

Tracking Lisa was not that hard as long as she kept her gun. Hank also remembered the homing device and communicator. It wasn't long before he picked up Lisa's signal.

"According to the homing device, Lisa should be right in that house over there," said Hank said pointing to Abria's house where Lisa was indeed staying.

"You go to the house and try to find Lisa," Linda ordered. "I'll try to find an easy way down to the valley. We'll keep in touch."

Linda held up the gun that could be used as a communicator to emphasize her point. Hank nodded to indicate that he understood and started off for the house as quietly as he could go.

Linda waited until he was out of sight then started down her own path. The path she had chosen was not clearly marked and turned abruptly at sharp angles. Linda often lost sight of the path, but somehow she always managed to find it again.

She knew that her job was much more dangerous than Hank's, but she had planned it that way. She felt like she hadn't done much ever since coming to Triax and she wanted to make up for it. When Linda felt like a significant amount of time had elapsed, she tried to communicate with Hank.

"How's it going Hank?" she asked.

"Just fine," Hank replied. "I am over half way to the house and there are no soldiers in sight."

"Keep it up," encouraged Linda.

"You too," Hank advised also knowing that Linda had the more dangerous job. "Over and out."

Linda felt much better after talking to Hank. What she didn't realize was that she had been spotted by one of the soldiers while she was talking. A small group of soldiers were headed in her direction.

Linda tried to run, but it was too late. The soldiers fired a warning shot missing Linda by about a foot. Next time their aim would be more accurate.

"Drop your gun," ordered one of the soldiers.

Linda obeyed. The soldiers, three in all, quickly surrounded her and marched her back towards the elevator.

"At least Hank made it safely," she thought even though she wasn't quite sure she was right.

TIME : 2:01 P.M. (14:01)
PLACE : The prison cell

Orn still wasn't worried. Peter couldn't stand it anymore. He had to know Orn's secret.

"What are you hiding from me?" Peter demanded.

Suddenly, their cell door opened and a man walked in carrying all their possessions. It was the older man they had met back at the elevator.

"I am Teglos Cormond of the Triax Royal Secret Service," he explained to Peter as he returned their belongings.

Peter turned to Orn in amazement.

"I never would have guessed," he declared.

"Go to the house where my wife, Abria, is staying," commanded Teglos. "Orn knows where to go. She will help you get to wherever you're going."

He paused to see if anyone else was in the area and then continued.

"I want you to stun me. I'll tell the others that a friend broke in here and rescued you."

Reluctantly, Peter stunned Teglos as he was told do to and ran down the hallway. By this time, his mental map of the place was quite good and he knew exactly where to go to escape. Orn did his best to keep up with him, but eventually fell behind. He wasn't as good a runner as Peter was.

Peter looked behind him and slowed down so Orn could catch up. The few seconds he would have saved was not worth the importance of sticking together. At last, they reached the elevator.

"Looks like Linda and Hank have been here," said Peter noticing the small hole in the elevator.

Unlike the others before them, when Peter and Orn stepped out of the elevator, there was a soldier waiting for them. Peter saw him and dove into the bushes nearby. Orn was not as fortunate. A phaser blast hit him in the middle of his chest.

Clutching his chest in pain, Orn sank to the ground. His body was limp and unmoving. All bodily functions ceased.

Peter easily stunned the lone soldier, but he had more important things on his mind. He dragged Orn's body to the bushes so they could hide from the search parties that were to arrive. He checked Orn for any signs of life, but none were to be found. Then, Peter remembered the Xanamite. He took out the small vial and opened it applying a few precious drops to the wound in Orn's chest. The miraculous healing drug lived up to its name. Instantly, his wounds began to heal. Orn slowly opened his eyes.

"Whew! For a minute, I thought you were a goner," sighed Peter.

"So did I," agreed Orn.

TIME : 2:04 P.M. (14:04)
PLACE : Just outside Abria's house

Slowly and quietly, Hank approached the house. He knew that Lisa was inside, or at least her gun was, but he did not know what her condition was. Anything could have happened to her, but there was only one way to find out. Taking every precaution he could think of, Hank opened the door just a crack and peered inside.

"It's O.K.! It's a friend of mine!" Lisa yelled when she saw Hank's face.

Hank knew he was welcome when he saw Lisa safe and sound, so he came inside. Lisa introduced Hank and Abria to each other and the three of them started talking to each other as if they were old friends, which in the case of Hank and Lisa was quite true. After they had chatted for some time, Hank felt the time had come to get down to business.

"I hate to break this up," interrupted Hank. "but we have to go back to Capitol City and warn the king and queen."

"Quite true," acknowledged Abria. "Just follow the path to the right. It will take you straight to the village below. From there, you should have no trouble finding a ride to Capitol City and don't worry about the soldiers. The path is too close to a populated area and the Triax People for the Ruler prefer to remain discreet."

Hank and Lisa thanked Abria for her trouble and walked out the door. Lisa even went as far as delibrately dropping most of the money the king gave her to repay Abria for her time and effort, not to mention the dress she was still wearing. Abria walked out with them to make sure they followed the right path and did not go back inside until they were safely out of sight.

As they walked along the path, Hank and Lisa exchanged accounts of what had happened to them since they split up. Lisa was saddened by the news of Linda's capture and the questionability of Peter and Orn. It was more important than ever that they reach Capitol City in time to warn the king and queen. She just hoped it wasn't too late.

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