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THE TROUBLE WITH TERNI

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER THREE

As soon as Hank and Peter got together, Peter told Hank about his strange experience with Detrina. Hank had seen her run away when he approached and thought it was rather odd.

"She must not want me to meet her for some reason," Hank stated just to get the fact out into the open. "The question is why."

Peter knew that Hank was looking to him for an answer. After all, he had been with Detrina for almost three hours. Peter tried to remember every detail of what had happened as if he could find a clue to explain her strange behavior. However, nothing she had said or done indicated any reason to avoid Hank.

"I don't know," Peter conceited. "We did make plans to meet here at five. I'll ask her then."

At last, Lisa arrived to make the trio complete. She too was informed about Detrina and how she had appeared and disappeared so suddenly.

"Be careful, Peter," warned Lisa. "It sounds like you're in over your head."

Peter nodded and said that he would take her warning seriously.

"Let's go to the hotel we'll be staying at and get some lunch," suggested Peter.

TIME : 12:20 P.M.
PLACE : The restaurant at the Galactic Executive's Hotel

Peter, Hank, and Lisa were able to get in touch with Shawn, Linda, Farlos, and Terni and all of them were gathered at the same table waiting for their lunch. They exchanged stories bringing each other up to date with what was going on around them.

"So we're going to protect these people in suspended animation until they can be transported safely to another location," said Hank trying to sum up their mission.

He had been involved in one of the earlier suspended animation programs and was surprised to learn how much progress they had made in that area.

"That is more or less correct," agreed Shawn. "but we are not going to put a full security team on it. We do not have enough security to defend our frozen friends from the kind of attack the Ruler might try, so the best thing to do is not call attention to it. Just treat it like an ordinary cargo ship."

Hank would have asked another question, but their food came and Hank was hungry. Peter, who was normally a fast eater, was moving at a snail's pace. His mind was preoccupied with Detrina and why she had chosen to be so mysterious. Peter was attracted to her in spite of her odd behavior. She was one of the few people who understood what made him tick.

Peter watched the others eating and talking about trivial matters and knew he couldn't let Detrina bug him forever, so he began to eat adding his part to the conversation. Soon, Detrina was almost forgotten.

TIME : 4:35 P.M. (16:35)
PLACE : The Jetpack Arena

Peter, Hank, Linda and Lisa had been on many rides both separately and together. At last they were ready for some fun with the jetpack. Surprisingly considering his dislike of roller coasters, Peter was quite good with the jetpack. They had played jetpack related games before with Peter winning most of them simply because the others didn't know how to use a jetpack, but this time the others were waiting.

Peter had successfully kept Detrina out of his mind since lunch, but as five o'clock approached he eagerly awaited their second meeting. He wondered where they would go, what they would do, and whether or not she would explain why she left so suddenly.

"I'll play you in a game of knock down," challenged Linda.

Knock down was a rather simple game consisting of two levitation disks of different colors, two padded sticks, a playing field, and of course two jetpacks. The object of the game is to knock down you opponents disk to the ground with the padded stick before your opponent does. Since the rules were rather simple, knock down was played all over the galaxy.

"Let's have a tournament," insisted Peter who was fascinated by tournaments and knew Linda's challenge was directed towards him. "The winner between Linda and me will take on the winner between Hank and Lisa. Winner takes all."

The others agreed to this, even though they figured Peter would win. Each of them got a disk the same color as the clothes they were wearing; red for Linda, green for Peter, yellow for Lisa, and blue for Hank. Linda and Peter took the playing field for the first game in the series. The moved their respective disks to the proper place and height.

"Are you ready?" asked Linda enthusiasticly.

"Ready!" Peter shouted back to her as play began.

Peter tried to play his best, but he couldn't help getting sidetracked by thoughts of Detrina. Linda noticed Peter wasn't playing as agressively as usual and quickly took advantage of the opportunity. Peter was caught off guard as Linda easily knocked Peter's disk to the ground. However, Linda wasn't satisfied with her victory.

"What's wrong? I know I can't beat you that easily," Linda declared.

"Nothing," Peter replied. "I just need some time by myself."

Peter quietly left the Jetpack Arena and headed toward the center of the amusement park. When he got there, Detrina was already there waiting for him.

"Peter!" she exclaimed as she came running up and hugged him. "I thought you weren't going to show up!"

Peter checked to see if he was late, but he wasn't. In fact, he was quite a bit early.

"What made you think I wasn't going to show up?" Peter demanded. "And why did you run off earlier when Hank arrived? My friends don't know what to think about you and I am having some serious doubts about you myself."

"I looked at the clock and saw I was late for lunch. I had promised some of my friends I would have lunch with them and I couldn't afford to be any later than I already was," Detrina explained and then added, "I'm sorry."

Peter accepted Detrina's apology and her unusual explanation. Under the circumstances, he didn't have much as a choice.

"Would you like to meet my friends now?" Peter encouraged her.

"Let's go for a walk first," argued Detrina.

Peter agreed to walk with her. After all, that was how he got the shirt he was wearing. The two of them began talking as if they were old friends even though they had known each other for less than a day. As they continued to walk, they started holding hands. Eventually, they had their arms around each other.

"Have you ever had a girl friend?" Detrina asked abruptly.

"Don't you think you're rushing things just a little bit," Peter stammered.

He knew what Detrina was really asking. Although he had several girl friend back in high school, he had been more or less a loner since then. He didn't think he was ready for a serious commitment with someone he had met so recently.

"Relax," Detrina ordered as she removed her arm from around his neck. "I'm not going to bite."

"Maybe we'd better change the subject," blushed Peter trying to out of the conversation in one piece.

Peter and been letting Detrina pick the direction to walk in. He suddenly realized that they heading out of the amusement park and back to the hotel.

"Where are we going? If we're going to the Galactic Executives Hotel we might as well get a ride there," Peter proposed. "I enjoy walking, but not that much."

"Good idea," complimented Detrina. "That's exactly where I want to go."

TIME : 5:00 P.M. (17:00)
PLACE : The Jetpack Arena

Hank had beaten Lisa and faced Linda for the championship. With Peter eliminated, the game was even money. A crowd began to gather as Hank and Linda played an incredible game. Whenever it looked like one of them was going to win, the other would make a brilliant defensive move putting them right back where they started.

"It looks like its going to last awhile," announced Lisa as the unofficial official.

It did. A single game knock down usually lasted about five minutes, but this game had gone on for a full fifteen minutes with no sign of it ending any time soon. Both Hank and Linda were getting tired. Each of them was wondering when the other one was going to drop. It looked like the game was going to was going to last forever and it might have if Linda hadn't made one last desperate move.

Linda flew under Hank leaving her disk unprotected. Hank might have won if he had been expecting it, but Hank didn't know what was going on. He charged at Linda's disk hoping to knock it down. Too late he realized he had fallen right into Linda's trap. She rose up to Hank's disk and with one mighty thud. It was close though, Linda's disk hit the ground half a second later.

Lisa pointed to the blue disk, the official signal that it had hit the ground first, and then to Linda, the official signal that she was the winner. There were cheers and jeers from the crowd as Linda took her victory lap around the playing field.

As the three of them left the arena, Lisa suddenly asked, "Where did Peter go?"

Hank and Linda had been too busy playing each other to know that Peter had left.

"He's probably with Detrina," Hank replied noting the time.

"There is something very peculiar about her," stated Lisa not knowing how right she was.

TIME : 5:15 P.M. (17:15)
PLACE : Near the cargo ship

Peter and Detrina had taken a ride to the Galactic Executive's Hotel. From there, Detrina wanted to walk a little further and Peter followed. They soon passed the cargo ship containing the fifty suspended animation chambers.

"What's in there?" Detrina wondered pointing to the cargo ship.

"That must be the ship Shawn was telling me about," Peter recalled. "You better not go in there."

"If you don't let me look inside, I'm going to look anyway," Detrina insisted.

"All right," Peter conceited. "I'll let you look inside, but don't touch anything."

"Thank you!" Detrina exclaimed giving Peter another hug.

Peter hadn't been inside the ship before, so he had to guess what most of the things were. Detrina listened half-heartedly removing a small metallic object from her pocket and placing it on one of the control panels. Then, she took another small metallic object and placed it off to the side. Both times, she made sure Peter wasn't looking at her when she made her move.

Detrina stayed with Peter until the guided tour was finished. Then, she suggested that they head back to the amusement park so she could meet Hank, Linda, and Lisa. Peter figured out the only reason Detrina headed in that direction was so she could see the cargo ship, but he didn't know why or how she knew about the cargo ship in the first place.

"You are getting stranger by the minute!" Peter declared.

Detrina just smiled. Her work was complete.

TIME : 5:23 P.M. (17:23)
PLACE : The Galactic Peril

Lisa and Hank had just finished introducing Linda to the Galactic Peril when a man dressed in an M.W.G.D. uniform approached them.

"Come quickly!" he commanded. "There is trouble back at the cargo ship. One of the main computers has been sabotaged."

"I know where to go," Linda told the others. "Follow me."

With Linda's guidance, they got to the cargo ship fairly quickly. They noticed the M.W.G.D. soldier that had told them something was wrong didn't follow them, but they hardly gave it a second thought. As a precaution, each of them took a weapon before entering the ship. Linda entered the ship first with Hank and Lisa close behind. They searched the ship throughly to make sure no one else was on board. Then, they checked the main computers for any sign of sabotage. They found a few bugs, but it didn't seem like enough to be considered an emergency.

Then, Lisa found the cause of the computer's malfunction. It was the object Detrina had placed on the control panel. She removed the device and the computer began to function normally.

However, their troubles were far from over. A soldier from Altair 7, the Ruler's home planet, was hiding in some nearby bushes. He waited until he stopped receiving signals from the cargo ship indicating that the M.W.G.D. officers had found and deactivated the first object. Then, he pressed a small button on a remote control device in his hand and the second sabotaging object was activated. The only difference was that the second object didn't effect computers.

They had just deactivated the first device and were beginning their search for others when the small metallic object hidden off to one side began to release some sort of gas. Lisa was the first to feel its effects. The others thought she was just having another one of her dizzy spells until she passed out.

By this time, Linda and Hank were starting to feel the effects of the gas themselves. They tried to grope their way over to the door and get some fresh air, but it was no use. The soldier from Altair 7 had come out of hiding and blocked their only exit. In their weakened state, they couldn't get the door to budge.

"Stay low," order Hank trying to take control of the situation, but Linda had passed out too.

Hank knew he couldn't get out, so he tried to look for the source of the gas. He crawled in the general direction the gas was coming from, but fatigue overcame him too. He collapsed within an arms length of the source of the gas.

The M.W.G.D. soldier who had first warned the others that the ship was sabotaged approached the soldier from Altair 7 not as an enemy but as an ally.

"How did it go?" questioned the soldier from M.W.G.D..

"Perfectly," the soldier from Altair 7 answered. "The Ruler will be very pleased with us."

TIME : 5:29 P.M. (17:29)
PLACE : The Terni Amusement Park

Peter and Detrina had returned to the amusement park hoping to find Linda, Lisa, and Hank. At least that was what Peter was looking for. Peter was becoming more and more suspicious of Detrina and her sudden changes in behavior, but he had little idea what lay in store for him.

"If I know my friends, they're probably on the Galactic Peril," Peter suspected.

Detrina gave Peter as mischievous smile. "Are you sure you don't want to go for a ride on it?" she asked knowing what the answer would be.

"Yes," Peter stated bluntly.

"It's hard to believe that someone who infiltrate the Ruler's hideout is afraid of roller coasters," she remarked.

Peter looked at Detrina in astonishment. He had put two and two together and knew what she was up to.

"That was a top secret mission," Peter bellowed. "You couldn't have know about it unless... "

Peter was cut off in mid-sentence by Detrina who casually pointed a gun in his face.

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