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Continue To The Next Chapter - Chapter 2

X LIVES!

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER ONE : THE RETURN OF AN ALLY

TIME September 30, 2014
PLACE : 150 km north of Megaplexx, Triax

Three soldiers wearily staggered back to camp. They were members of the Triax Royal Military Force and had been sent out to probe the entire area for any sign of the enemy. It was only a few days since the Ruler had declared war on the government of Triax, but there were already plenty of casualties. The Ruler wasn't as powerful as he used to be, but he was still powerful enough to cause great harm to millions of innocent Triax citizens. They had to stop the Ruler's troops before they could attack cities such as Megaplexx but before they could stop them, they had to find them.

So far, they hadn't had any luck. Either the tips they had received that the Ruler was in the area were incorrect or the Ruler's troops were much better hiders than they thought they were. In either case, their mission had to be considered a failure.

"Don't be so hard on yourselves," the party leader advised his subordinates. "Most tracking missions are unsuccessful when there are no decent clues to rely on."

"Can we stop and rest now?" complained Neurt, the youngest of the three soldiers. He had come fresh out of training only to discover that the real world was even tougher. He had done all that could be asked of any rookie and Antru, the leader, knew it.

"We'll rest here for five minutes, but no longer," Antru declared unpacking his possessions and taking a big gulp of water out of his canteen. He knew that they were less than a mile from camp and he didn't need to save as much water as he would have otherwise. "Yung-mai, keep watch in case something's sneaking up on us."

Yung-mai was the least tired of the three. She came from the desert regions of Triax were just being out of the shade would tire out most people. Her features, as well as her name, were similar to the Chinese people of Earth, but she had never heard of Earth. She had spent her entire life on Triax.

Suddenly, she heard the sound of a phaser battle off to her left. She immediately got the others to listen. They could hear it too and knew it could only mean one thing. The Ruler's troops were attacking and somebody needed their help.

It was a good distance away, but Antru was an expert at pinpointing the source of sounds. That was why he was picked to lead the search party in the first place.

"This way!" he shouted pointing in the direction he thought was the quickest way there.

It might have been the quickest way, but it certainly wasn't the easiest. All three of them suffered minor cuts and bruises as they pushed the bramble out of their way. Antru was still leading the way. The sounds were getting louder, so he knew they were going in the right direction. Then, just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The phaser battle was over.

Antru assumed the Ruler's troops had won and doubled the pace to make sure they got there before anyone had a chance to leave the battle area. However, when they got there, they found a pleasant surprise. They found half a dozen soldiers stunned and tied to a rock without any sign of who had beaten them.

The only clue was two simple words carved into the rock, "X LIVES!"

TIME : October 8, 2014
PLACE : M.W.G.D. Headquarters

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa were all in Shawn's office waiting for Shawn to come in and tell them what this was all about. Shawn had frequently called each one of them to his office individually, but rarely did he request for all four of them to show up at the same time. It didn't take a genius to figure out this was something important.

What confused them was that Shawn wasn't in his office waiting for them like he usually was. In fact, they didn't even know where he was. It was uncharacteristic of him to call them to his office for an important meeting and then not even bother to show up or leave an explanation.

Shawn was the leader of M.W.G.D. (Milky Way Galaxy Defense) which was created to protect the galaxy from interstellar criminals, especially the Ruler. Along with his high rank and status, he also had a larger than average office, large enough to seat the four of them comfortably. However, it still wasn't large enough for all of them to roam about freely at the same time. They were beginning to get restless. They had been in there between ten and fifteen minutes depending on when they arrived and it looked like Shawn wasn't going to show up.

If it weren't for the fact that he was the leader of M.W.G.D. and therefore their boss, they would have left a long time ago, but they knew he had a hard job and felt that the least they could do was wait another five minutes. A little waiting had never killed anyone, or had it.

They were just about to give up when Shawn came running though the door.

"Sorry I'm late," he apologized. "but my other quested were delayed."

"Other guests?" questioned Peter forgetting all about how upset he was that he had been kept waiting.

"Yes," Shawn began with the faintest hint of a smile on his face. "There are some people you have met before that will accompany you to Triax on your newest mission."

"So we're going to Triax," Peter thought to himself. He had heard that Triax was at war with the Ruler and wondered if and when M.W.G.D. was going to get involved. Even though he had been expecting it, it was still quite a shock to him, but not as big a shock as what happened next.

"These are the people who are going to be helping you," Shawn continued as the three newcomers walked in on cue.

The first one was "Mac". That wasn't his real name, but that's what most people called him. He had been working at M.W.G.D. longer than they had, but he normally gave other people their assignments and hardly ever left M.W.G.D. headquarters. Mac later told them that he felt like it was time he got involved in some of the action and volunteered for the mission. The second one was Doug Yosetsuchan. Only Shawn and Peter had worked with him before. He came from the planet Barchon and had warned M.W.G.D. of the Ruler's return months before it actually happened. To thank him for his early warning, Shawn had made him an M.W.G.D. officer. Then, there was the third newcomer.

Peter couldn't believe it! It was a girl in her mid-to-late-twenties with blue eyes and wavy, red hair coming down to her shoulders. She was wearing a navy blue M.W.G.D. uniform with the rank of Lt. Commander and looked ready to do whatever it took to defend the galaxy.

"Detrina!" exclaimed Peter running up and hugging her.

"I was able to convince Farlos and Terni to let Detrina off on parole if she agreed to work at M.W.G.D. for the remainder of her sentence," Shawn explained.

Peter was obviously pleased with the arrangement and Linda and Hank showed that they favored Shawn's actions by shaking hands with the three newcomers, but Lisa remained skeptical.

"Something wrong, Lisa?" inquired Shawn.

Lisa never was one to hold back her complaints. "She tried to kill us last time we saw her. She betrayed us all for just a few thousand credits."

"I tried to capture you," Detrina corrected. "If I were trying to kill you, you would already be dead and I spent 180 days in jail for it. I am against the Ruler just as much as you are and I am willing to help you defeat him."

"Until someone makes a better offer," Lisa remarked acidicly.

"Like you!" Lisa was stunned. Detrinia had been reading up on them and had learned that Lisa was a millionaire back on Earth and had bribed a few people herself. Fortunately for her, she was never caught.

"At least I have morale values," attacked Lisa knowing she had done some bad things in the past, but not wanting Detrina to know that she was sorry.

"Just give her a chance," insisted Peter. He couldn't believe it had been over six months since he had last seen Detrina. He too remembered how he had been tricked by Detrina, but he was more than willing to trust her, at least until she gave him a good reason not to.

"Oh, sure. You'd defend her, lover boy."

Peter lowered his head in shame. He had tried to make things better, but he wound up making things worse. He knew his view of the situation was clouded by his feelings for Detrina, but he knew the old saying that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Unless Lisa and Detrina learned to work together, their mission would be an automatic failure.

Lisa didn't normally go around insulting people, but she was very angry and was saying things she wouldn't have said otherwise. Her face was turning red with every blood vessel clearly visible. Her deepest rage was about to be unleashed at Detrina.

Shawn was hoping that Lisa and Detrina could talk out their differences, but he realized that things weren't going to work out that way. The only thing he could do was pull rank on all of them.

"ATTENTION!" Shawn yelled at the top of his lungs. They all knew Shawn meant business, so they each sat down in a chair as quietly as possible and listened intently on what they knew would be the details to their mission.

"As you know, the Ruler declared war on the government of Triax about two weeks ago and the Ruler's troops have been slowly taking over the rural areas of Triax. However, whenever they try to take over any of the cities, they are completely repelled by an unknown person or group of people who leave only the slogan 'X lives'."

A ray of hope brightened the room. Even Lisa looked up in eager anticipation. They wondered if X really was still alive and was just beginning to resurface, only now. When Shawn showed them the pictures some soldiers had taken, they knew that only a very talented person could have done that to half a dozen people. Even if it wasn't X, they had a very powerful ally assisting them.

"Your mission is to find out who is behind this and try to make friends with him. If it is X, I want you to do whatever he asks of you. Is everything clear."

The audience nodded.

"Good. Now I want you to put all your petty arguments aside. You'll have plenty of time to settle your differences after the mission is over."

The others knew that Shawn was talking to Lisa and Detrina in particular, but the advice was for all of them. The were bound to disagree on something, but they had to work together as well as they possibly could.

Shawn got up and walked over to the door. There were a few things left that he needed to take care of.

"One last thing," Shawn called after the others as they began to leave too. "Pack whatever you think you'll need. We're leaving for Triax in one hour."

After that, the group split up. Shawn went looking for somebody to place in charge during his absence. Peter and Detrina went over to Peter's office. They had plenty to catch up on. Finally, Doug and Mac went elsewhere leaving Hank, Linda, and Lisa by themselves.

"Why do you dislike Detrina so much?" Linda demanded bluntly.

"I don't dislike her," Lisa informed her. "It's just that I don't trust her after what she did to us last time and I think that we are giving her too much power too soon."

Hank and Linda agreed with her, as far as that aspect was concerned, but there were other things to consider.

"For Peter's sake, try to get along with her," pleaded Linda.

"It's Peter that I'm worried about the most," Lisa replied. "He's so gullible where Detrina is concerned. He'll give her almost anything without thinking and I'm afraid he's going to get hurt."

Lisa might have been hard on people who had wronged her in the past, but when it came to her friends, she was one of the most loyal people anyone could hope for. She would sacrifice just about anything to help a friend in need. Hank could see that her concern for Peter was sincere.

"I'm sure Peter can handle things," Hank reassured her. "He knows what Detrina did the last time and will take any necessary precautions."

Lisa reluctantly nodded in agreement and started getting ready for the trip to Triax. Hank and Linda followed close behind and didn't say another word until they were well on their way.

TIME : October 9, 2014 6:30 A.M.
PLACE : 150 km north of Megaplex, Triax

The ship that the M.W.G.D. officers were traveling in landed quietly in a small clearing in the woods, the same clearing the three soldiers were in when they heard the phaser battle. It was only a few minutes after dawn and the shadows still consumed everything in sight. Travel was going to be rather difficult for awhile.

Mac got out of the ship and began to look around for anything suspicious. Shawn preferred to have a lookout for two reasons. First, one person was harder to spot then a group of people and second, it reminded the others to keep their guard up making it less likely for them to be ambushed.

"All clear!" Mac reported back to Shawn when he was sure it was safe for the others to come out.

One by one, they stepped out of the ship and began to look around. It looked like a typical Triax forest, but they knew that they had more important things than trees to worry about. A single bird could be heard chirping in the distance, but other than that all was silent. Too silent for their liking.

"There's a war going on here, so stay alert," Shawn reminded them unnecessarily.

Shawn glanced down at his compass. Triax had an abnormal magnetic field which made ordinary compasses totally worthless, but his compass was made just for Triax and gave him a more accurate reading than most compasses found on Earth.

"This is near the first place that the 'X lives!' signs were found," explained Shawn. "It is still our best source of information about this incredible phenomenon."

"Hank, I want you to put my ship in a safer place and return as fast as you can. The rest of you will accompany me to the rock for an analysis of the area. Three soldiers who heard the battle first hand will be there to assist us."

Hank said good bye to the others and waited for them to leave the clearing. When they were a safe distance away, he reentered the ship and took off heading south toward Megaplex. He started to relax knowing that he had the easy job, at least until he returned when he was going to need all the help he could get. The others watched him leave until he was only a tiny speck in the sky. Then, they turned their attention to the matters at hand. Slowly and steadily, they made a path through the woods leading to the rock that plainly announced that X lives.

TIME : 6:37 A.M.
PLACE : The rock

The message carved into the rock was just as readable as it had been when it had first been spotted nine days before. Moss was growing on the rock, yet the message remained moss free as if it couldn't exist there, which it probably couldn't.

Antru stared at the message one more time hoping to see something he had failed to notice earlier. However the more he stared at it, the more evident it was that he had seen all there was to see. His commanding officer had told him that the leader of M.W.G.D. himself wanted to meet Neurt, Yung-mai, and him out by the rock where the message was and he wanted to be as helpful as possible. If the M.W.G.D. leader left a few goods words about him, it would almost insure him a successful career in whatever he decided to do for the remainder of his life.

He looked over at Neurt and Yung-mai. Being soldiers in the middle of a war, they were use to getting up early, but they were not use to being so exposed to the enemy. The three of them wouldn't stand a chance if the Ruler's troops found them, which they easily could. Then, they would be either captured or killed depending on what kind a mood the Ruler was in. They were scared, but they knew the risks when they first joined the Triax Royal Military Force and, if X was indeed still alive, their information might be the turning point in the war. All they had to do was wait for the M.W.G.D. officers to arrive.

Neurt jumped when he heard a noise, but he immediately pulled himself together.

"Someone's coming," he warned them.

The three of them crouched behind the rock, their best defense under the circumstances, and waited for whoever it was to show himself. When Doug came out into the open, they saw his M.W.G.D. uniform and knew that it was safe to come out. At last they could talk face to face.

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