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X LIVES!

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER THREE : X APPEARS

TIME : 6:00 P.M. (18:00)
PLACE : Just outside the camp

The day had been uneventful. Most stories had been told and many theories had been given, but nothing out of the ordinary had happened. All of them knew that when the Ruler did nothing it meant that a major attack was coming in the near future and they had better prepare for it.

The attack began sooner than they thought it would when several soldiers reported that the Ruler's troops were approaching from all sides. Quaff sounded the alarm and the soldiers scurried about preparing for the biggest battle of their lives. All of the sudden, terror struck from the inside when the six Altair 7 soldiers escaped fully armed with stolen weapons provided by the jailer. Unfortunately for him, he was shot down by the soldiers as soon as he provided them their freedom.

The enemy soldiers wasted no time probing the camp for the M.W.G.D. leader. Unknown to them, Shawn and the others weren't even in the camp. They had gone to check on the approaching troops in an attempt to find their weakness. So far, he hadn't seen anything. Little did they know that all they had to do was look in their own camp to detect the damage caused by the enemy.

The enemy soldiers tried to stay hidden while they searched, but they were discovered anyway and the panic that resulted was enough to give Shawn and the others a warning.

"Something's happening back at the camp," Mac warned.

They were just about to help with the problem in the camp when the problem came to them. All six soldiers had somehow been able to find them. They concentrated their fire power on Shawn. Quaff knew who they were after and place himself between Shawn and the enemy. He was shot down, but not before the others had a chance to react.

"Scatter!" Shawn commanded. Having the advantage in number, Shawn planned to attack them from several directions at once.

When they all took off in a different direction, the enemy soldiers hesitated before deciding to go after their main target. Suddenly, Neurt and Yung-mai fired at them from behind, each of them hitting a soldier. The four who remained took cover. They didn't care about killing Shawn anymore, only making it back to safety. They fought fiercely, but hopelessly outnumbered they lasted another two minutes.

Peter, Detrina, and Lisa had gotten back together again. They never truly separated. Detrina had followed Peter knowing he would lead her to safety and Lisa had followed them both not trusting Detrina's motives. Eventually, Peter realized hex was being followed and decided that if the three of them were going in the same direction, they might as well stay together. For the first time, Lisa and Detrina agreed on something and agreed to cooperate until the crisis was over.

"Look up ahead," ordered Peter.

From their current vantage point, they could see the Ruler's troops approaching. There were hundreds of them and they knew the troops were closing in on them from all directions, so they had to multiply that number by at least four.

"That's not the worst of it," added Detrina pointing in another direction.

An enemy scout party was within a hundred meters of them getting closer by the second. Peter, Lisa, and Dextrina hadn't been spotted yet, but it was only a matter of time. They had to get out of there as quietly as possible before it was too late. Dextrina found a large tree with plenty of leaves. Odds were the enemy wouldn't bother to look up if they didn't know anyone was there.

Lisa and Detrina were able to climb the tree, but before Peter had a chance to he was spotted by the scout party. Peter immediately surrendered. The leader of the scout party searched him for any weapons or signaling devices of any kind. He took great interest in Peter's M.W.G.D. badge and knew that this was no ordinary prisoner.

"M.W.G.D., huh?" he laughed in mockery. "What are you doing here?"

"I was sent to investigate the 'X lives! signs to see if there was in legitimacy in the rumor that X was still alive," Peter said making his voice sound more fearful than he really felt to lull the scout party into a false sense of security.

"I meant what are you doing here?" repeated the scout party leader trying to make Peter even more fearful of him.

It only had the reverse effect when Peter figured out that the scout party was inexperienced.

"I was at the camp when some of their prisoners escaped resulting in mass confusion. We all scattered hoping to avoid people like you," Peter replied not even bothering to sound frightened.

Peter knew that they wouldn't believe any lies he could think up on the spur of the moment, so he simply told them a partial truth leaving out key information. A better trained scout party would have asked for more information about who he was with, but Peter was gambling on their inexperience and it paid off. The scout party tied Peter's hands together and led him onward as they continued to search elsewhere leaving Lisa and Detrina by themselves.

Detrina looked at Lisa sympatheticly.

"I know you don't trust me," she began. we're going to save Peter."

"All for one and one for all," agreed Lisa, at least Detrina thought it was an agreement since she knew nothing about The Three Musketeers.

The two of them climbed down from the tree and began to follow the scout party at a distance.

TIME : 6:20 P.M. (18:20)
PLACE : Somewhere in the woods

Shawn had been running for quite some time and looked for a place to rest. When he first took over X's job as the leader of M.W.G.D., he had no idea how many people would want to see him dead. Hardly a day went by without him having to face at least one assassination attempt. He wondered how X had survived as long as he had. He sat down and streched closing his eyes for only a few seconds.

When he looked up again, he was greeted by a hooded man dressed entirely in black except for a large white X across his chest. The only part of him that was visible was his eyes which expressed great knowledge and wisdom. Shawn had seen enough people impersonate the man to knew that hex was the one he had been waiting for.

"X," Shawn gasped in disbelief "It's been a long time."

"Perhaps a little too long," X confessed glad to talk to his former second in command now that he was in charge. "I was stranded on Earth for a long time before I was finallv rescued."

At the mention of his home planet, Shawn ignored all the questions he wanted to know about what had happened to X and asked how things were going on Earth instead.

"Earth is a wonderful place," X explained. "All their nations are working together for the first time in their history and they are making advances at an ever accelerating place."

Even though his face was covered by the hood he always wore, Shawn could tell that X was smiling. X had always liked Earth for one reason or another. He was the one that made sure Shawn was treated with respect and even appointed him second in command at M.W.G.D. From there, Shawn became leader after X disappeared.

"If you want to take over as the leader of M.W.G.D., there are no hard feelings," Shawn informed him assuming that was what X wanted to do.

"I'm afraid my days as the leader of M.W.G.D. are over," X sadly remarked. "I am 78 and not getting any younger. Even for my people, 78 of your years is considered the end being middle-aged. I will do much better working alone, occasionally helping you out from time to time."

X signaled to a friend of his and she came out into the open. She had been close enough to hear the conversation between Shawn and X, yet Shawn had failed to notice her and with all the attempts on Shawn's life his senses were very acute.

Shawn looked over the most recent arrival. She was dressed in a loose-fitting, full length dress that looked like something the queen of Triax would be wearing. It was purple with black edges. Her hair appeared striped with both black and light brown features. It was brushed back over her forehead and behind her shoulders. She had a short, black necklace around her neck with a blue and purple jewel in the center shaped like a raindrop and a similar jewel hanging in the center of her forehead. However, what Shawn noticed most about her was her eyes. Deep violet pools reflecting both youth and wisdom. When he looked at them closely, he thought he could see a blue X in the middle of them.

"My name is Maylin," she acknowledged softly.

"She's the one who wrote the messages," X added. "Even I couldn't have taken on all those guards all by myself. She is extremely good in all types of armed and unarmed combat and will be a great help to you in the future. I want you to take Peter, Hank, Linda, and along with you to the Grand Canyon of Triax. There we well be able to defeat the Ruler. Now, if you'll excuse me I have some other business to take care of."

Both of them protested X's departure, but by the time they opened their mouths, he was already gone.

TIME : 6:35 P.M.
PLACE : Elsewhere in the woods

Lisa and Detrina continued to follow the scout party that they thought held Peter captive. So far, they had gone undetected, but their luck was about to run out. As they made their way towards the scouting party, Detrina slipped and fell with a loud thud. Even the least experienced scout party would check out a noise as loud as that one. Lisa and Detrina scanned the wilderness for a place to hide, but it was too latex. They had been discovered. The two of them were marched back to the scout party for questioning.

To their surprise, Peter was nowhere to be seen. All the members of the scout party that they had seen before were there, but not Peter. They had been following them the entire time and didn't see anything unusual, so they couldn't figure out why Peter wasn't there. All they could do was hope hex had escaped.

A shot rang through the air and the air and the leader of the scout party when down in pain. The rest of them began to panic. Someone was firing an infrared laser at them and they didn't know where it was coming from. Then, another one went down, then another until Lisa and Detrina were the only ones who remained standing.

They knew it could only mean X was in the area, but it wasn't X who came to see if they were all right.

"What are you doing here?" Peter demanded.

"Trying to rescue you," replied Lisa blushing with embarrassment.

"Well you're not doing a very good job of it," smirked Peter.

He knew he wwasn't going to have the upper hand for long and wanted to use the situation to his advantage while he still had the chance. Besides, as long as they had a common foe, Lisa and Detrina would work together which was what he wanted.

"How did you get away?" Detrina wondered. It was a question Peter knew he would have to answer eventually, so he might as well get it over with. "I saw X!" he exclaimed. "When the scout party stopped to rest, he untied by bonds and led me to safety. The reason they couldn't figure out where the shots were coming from was because X and I were attacking from opposite directions."

"Where is X now?" asked Detrina.

Peter looked around. There was no sign of him except for what he had carved on a nearby tree, "X LIVES!" This time, the message was from X himself leaving no doubt as to his existence.

"It looks like he's disappeared again," sighed Lisa.

The three of them chose the quickest path back to camp. The Ruler's troops would be upon them soon. Things were just like old times.

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