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THE GHOST PLANET

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER TWO

"Not quite," the Ruler informed him expecting such a reaction out of Vondwin. "They are impostures. They had a special metabolism that allows them to take the physical features of any given person with only a simple operation. They once impersonated the king and queen of Triax and would have gotten away with it if those four hadn't have stopped them and put them in jail where they remained until only recently. Now, they want revenge."

The impostures made angry faces to emphasize the point.

"I think together, you will be more than a match for them," the Ruler continued. "The three of you can make plans on your own. I have business to attend to elsewhere."

With that, the Ruler left the planet and headed back to his home on Altair 7. While Vondwin and the impostures were busy making plans, he would take a vacation and wait for the results. He hoped that Vondwin could succeed where he had failed.

Vondwin had learned everything he could about Shawn and his personal staff. Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa were each just as powerful as Shawn was. They just didn't get as much attention. Vondwin was prepared to remedy that. He stared at the two impostures and wondered how they could bear such a striking similarity to Peter and Lisa.

"Why did you choose Peter and Lisa?" Vondwin asked them.

"We have a score to settle with Shawn's personal staff," the one who looked like Peter sneered thinking only of revenge. "The reason we chose Peter and Lisa over Hank and Linda is because Peter and Lisa are closer to our natural appearance. The closer to our natural appearance the people we're impersonating are, the less painful the operation is and I don't like pain."

"Then don't fail me," warned Vondwin sounding more and more like the Ruler.

The three of them knew that the soon they could come up with a plan and carry it out, the better the results would be. In less than a minute Vondwin had an idea. One that they would never suspect until it was too late.

TIME : 7:25 P.M.
PLACE : The edge of the deserted city

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa slowly worked their way up to the deserted city the whole time having the strangest feeling that they were being watched. Whenever one of them turned around, whatever it was disappeared, but they knew something was there. A ghost planet was bound to have a few "ghosts" in it.

As soon as they entered the city, they were met by a glossy-eyed woman. It was one of the brainwashed scientists.

"So the place isn't deserted after all," Peter thought to himself.

"I'm glad you're here!" she exclaimed in gratitude. "We are a team of research scientists and we were conducting an experiment when suddenly we were hit by an earthquake. A few of us escaped, but most of us are trapped in that building. We need your help."

She pointed to the tallest building in the city.

"I didn't know there were any earthquakes on Alpha Memory," Peter said suspiciously.

"We didn't know there were either," she agreed. "That's why it got us completely by surprise."

She sounded convincing because in her mind the earthquake had actually occurred, but Peter still had his doubts. However, if there was the slightest chance she was right, they had to at least check out her story, trap or no trap.

The four of them split up. Peter went into the building because he suspected a trap and didn't want anyone else to take the risk, Hank and Linda ran back to the ship to get medical supplies, and Lisa went to look elsewhere for any more victims.

The building looked dark and empty. Everything about it looked sinister and, to make matters worse, Peter had the feeling once again that he was being watched. Peter got a good grip on himself and slowly pulled open the door. He stepped inside and looked around.

There was a sudden noise behind him. Peter pulled out his gun and turned around ready for a battle. To his relief, it was the door automatically slamming shut behind him. He gave a sigh of relief and continued searching. His eyes hadn't completely adjusted to light yet, but he could make out some stairs in front of him. He was about to go up them when he saw another scientist at the top with some kind of bottle raised above his head. It was obvious that he was going to throw the bottle and Peter, thinking it was some kind of explosive, didn't want to stick around.

He darted to the door. At the same time, the scientist threw the bottle. The gas spread instantly throughout the entire building. Somehow, Peter had managed to reach the door. He had inhale some of the gas and it was starting to make him drowsy. All he wanted to do was sleep. He felt so sleepy. Nothing else mattered as long as he was able to close his eyes and lie down letting all his cares slip away.

Peter fought the effects of the gas and staggered out the door. The door automatically closed behind him sealing the gas inside. Peter knew he hadn't gotten out unharmed, but he was still not out of danger yet. He was so dizzy that he had lost his sense of direction.

Hank and Linda were on their way back to the ship when they heard Peter's cry for help. They turn a round and saw Peter slump into a sitting position leaning against the wall.

"Don't worry, Peter! We're coming!" yelled Hank rushing to his aid.

Linda hesitated for a split second and then followed Hank. It was obviously a trap, so the medical supplies weren't needed. If Peter needed medical supplies, they could tale him back to the ship.

Peter closed his eyes for a few seconds before Hank got there to revive him.

"Snap out of it," Hank encouraged him. "Get ahold of yourself."

"Somebody in there threw some type of gas at me," Peter explained. "I was barely able to get out alive."

Peter sat up straight. His head was beginning to clear up. He started to get up, but Hank told him to stay seated for a few minutes to make sure he was feeling better.

While Hank helped Peter recover from his ordeal with the gas, Linda kept a lookout for signs of the enemy.

"There's no sign of them," she reported.

"Lisa!" exclaimed Peter. In all the confusion they had forgotten all about her.

"Lisa?" Hank called out after her since Peter wasn't in good shape.

"Over here," she cried running to rejoin the others.

"Peter was attacked by one of the Ruler's soldiers," Hank informed her. "Did you come across anything out of the ordinary?"

"No," Lisa replied. "Only the ruins of a fallen city."

"I wonder what the Ruler's up to?" Linda inquired out loud to get the others thinking.

As if to answer Linda's question, an army of robot guards approached them. Their guns were by their sides, always loaded and ready to be fired. Peter got to his feet. The robot guards were rather expensive so Peter knew that the Ruler was protecting something he considered to be highly valuable. The robots were also more accurate with their weapons than their human counterparts so they couldn't wait around for the robots to reach them. if they were caught, they were as good as dead.

The four of them walked, so they wouldn't attract attention, back to the ship. The robots were programmed only to keep them from going too far into the city, not to pursue them, so the four of them were safe, for the moment.

As soon as they reached the ship, they started planning how to carry out their mission. They couldn't sabotage anything if they couldn't even get to what needed to be sabotaged in the first place. They had to come up with a way to elude the robot guards and any other humans working for the Ruler.

"We could go around the city and enter from the other side?" suggested Linda.

"No," argued Hank. "They would be expecting us to try something like that."

"Maybe there is some way we could disable the robots like we did on Barchon," Peter recalled.

"No, all the robots here work independently. We would have to repeat the process hundred of times," Hank insisted. "How about using the Alpha Memory Computer?"

"Great idea!" Linda agreed with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. "Now where is it?"

Hank didn't know.

"How about you, Lisa?" wondered Peter. "You've been awfully quiet lately. Do you have any ideas you're willing to tell us or are you going to write them all in your diary?"

Lisa stared at him blankly.

"You remember. Your diary?" Peter repeated. "It was just a joke. I'm sorry if I've offended you. We just put too much pressure on ourselves and take it out on each other. We would like to hear any ideas you have, but if you want to just liste

n, that's fine with us too." "Oh, yeah! My diary!" Lisa stammered nervously.

She went in the ship and started looking for it. When she finally found it, she started looking over some of her previous entries. It was almost the end of the Earth year 2014 A.D., so they diary was almost full. She had plenty of reading to do.

After several hours of resting and debating various ideas, they decided that Linda's suggestion was the best. They decided to enter the city at a point 135 degrees to the left of where they had previously entered since the robots would expect it to be a full 180 degrees. Once inside the city, they would immediately run inside one of the buildings figuring all the robots were on the outside. The ship was equipped with a gas mask for each of them, so the gas would no longer be a problem.

They had a bigger than average lunch to make sure they didn't get hungry and started on their long journey. In spite of the temperature being relatively cool as it always was on Alpha Memory, they started sweating after walking only a few minutes. None of them could explain it, but they didn't have a chance to stop and figure it out. They had to press on.

Once again, they felt as if they were being watched. Sometimes it was one person and sometimes it was a group of people, but someone was always watching them. However, when they turned around, no one was there, yet they knew that they were being watched.

Lisa seemed to be the most concerned about the "ghosts". She felt like she was being condemned for something she didn't do. She didn't think it was fair that she couldn't see them, but as long as they didn't attack them there was no need to worry.

The time before the "ghosts" went away after awhile. This time they remain with them even after they entered the city.

Hank wiped the sweat off his brow. The was no sign of the robots, but the whole thing smelled like a trap. The others wanted to rest after their long journey, but Hank urged them onward They couldn't afford to rest with the "ghosts" still following them and the robots somewhere in the city.

Hank picked a path for them to travel on, but Lisa could see danger ahead.

"Let's go this way," she suggested pointing in the opposite direction. "It will take us to the center of the city."

The others saw no reason to disagree and followed her keeping a sharp look out for "ghosts", soldiers, and robots. Peter thought he saw a shadow behind him and called out a warning to the others. They fought about searching for its owner, but they knew that every extra second they spent in the city would increase their chances of getting caught. They had to press on and risk the possibility that whoever it was might warn the Ruler.

Everything became silent. They could no longer sense the "ghosts" or hear the sound of the wind. The silence seemed to be warning them of danger up ahead.

"Even a ghost planet should be more active than this," Linda declared suspiciously. "It's as if even the ghosts have died."

"Maybe they have," Peter stated grimly. "We've got to find that weapon."

Lisa led them down a dark alley the turned out to be a dead end.

"We took a wrong turn somewhere," Hank muttered in disgust.

"No we didn't," mocked Lisa as Vondwin, the brainwashed scientists, and some of the robots appeared blocking off their only escape route. "May I introduce Vondwin, the Ruler's new second in command."

Hank, Peter, and Linda were stunned. They couldn't believe that Lisa would betray them. They believed that all of M.W.G.D. could betray her and she would still remain loyal to their original cause. Now, their beliefs were shattered.

"Why?" stammered Peter barely able to say even that one word.

"I'm tired of the way everyone's been treating me!" Lisa cried in anger. "Maybe the Ruler will give me more respect!"

With that, she pulled out a gun on them.

"Drop your weapons," she commanded.

The others had no choice but to obey. Lisa picked up the weapons and gave them to Vondwin. Then, she looked them over deciding which one to kill first. Her eyes firmly rested on Peter. She raised the gun to his head. Peter faced her as bravely as he could waiting for her to pull the trigger.

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