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THE GHOST PLANET

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER FOUR

"Its O.K.," X said calmly showing some concern for her. "They've told me about your problem and I will do everything within my power to make sure you get you memory back."

"I can get my memory back?" inquired Lisa looking up with delight. She didn't think there was a cure for her amnesia until then.

"A long time ago, the people of Alpha Memory developed a gas that allowed them to control other people," X explained. "It's effects were similar to what you've been experiencing, so I believe the Ruler has somehow found a way to reproduce the gas. It was believed to be incurable until a cure for it was discovered. It was recorded in the Alpha Memory Computer."

"I already tried that, but I couldn't find anything," cut in one of the elders who was still sitting at the table.

"The cure is too complex to be accessed from one of the terminals," X replied. "It has to be computed on the Alpha Memory Computer itself."

As always, X showed his respect for the leaders by looking up to them and silently asking for permission before speaking. He had been the leader of M.W.G.D. long enough to know how tough it was to be the leader of a planet or a tribe or an organization of any kind. That was why he had retired from M.W.G.D. and preferred to work alone.

"But we don't know where the Alpha Memory Computer is," protested the elder.

"I DO!" X declared bluntly.

Lisa looked up at him and showed the slightest hint of remembering something. Not a thing or an event, but a feeling. He knew where to find the best computer in the known universe and Lisa had known he knew.

"I'll take her there and return when we discover a cure," X insisted. Taking full responsibility for what had happened, X guided Lisa to where his ship, the XX2 waited for them to take them where they wanted to go.

TIME : 9:15 A.M.
PLACE : Inside another ruined city

The XX2 was designed for speed and combat, so it wasn't the most comfortable ship in the world; but the trip lasted less than a minute, so it wasn't that big a deal. The ship was made to normally hold only one person, X, but there was also a passenger's seat in case in case X needed to take someone to someplace in a hurry, like he did right then.

The second city wasn't that much different than the first city, although Lisa couldn't remember the first city. They were both devoid of life with only block after block of crumbling buildings to remind them that life once existed there. However, in this city, there was one building that looked different than the rest. It was the tallest building in this city, though not outstandingly so, and had some kind of hieroglyphics carved on either side. At the center of the deteriorating buildings, it was remarkably in tact as if it were self-repairing which they later found out it was.

X and Lisa entered the building which instantaneously triggered some kind of switch.

"Welcome," greeted a friendly voice. "I am the Alpha Memory Computer. What can I do for you."

Lisa was surprised to hear such a friendly voice coming from a computer. Instead of a deep, booming voice like she had expected, it was a pleasant tenor. As Lisa looked around, she realized why the Alpha Memory Computer was so powerful. The entire building was the computer. Over one hundred stories of the most complex circuitry ever imagined. Each section dedicated to a certain function enabling the computer as a whole to carry out highly complex functions at lightening speeds.

"I am X and she is Lisa," X stated slowly. The computer began to whir obviously recording their name.

"I see that X has been here before," the computer responded. "His voice print matches those previously recorded by someone with that name."

Lisa was amazed that the computer could remember X by just the sound of his voice. Even if he had given a different name the computer would still have been able to identify him correctly. No access code was required.

"My friend seems to have some form of memory loss," X explained and the computer recorded.

Its memory was so vast that it could record one hundred thousand years of trivial information nonstop without it effecting any of its other functions.

"I suspect it was caused by some kind of gas similar to what was used on Alpha Memory before the holocaust."

The computer was programmed to know that X was looking for a cure, otherwise he wouldn't be there, so it began checking its memory banks for a record of a gas that fit X's description. Out of all the functions the Alpha Memory Computer could do, its main purpose was to record information and store it until somebody needed it. It had a record of every major historical event that happened on every planet in the galaxy for the last two hundred years.

At last, the computer stopped searching.

"I have the information you need," it declared rather smugly for a computer. "Would you like a print out of it."

"Yes," replied Lisa wanting to have her say.

The computer made a noise similar of that of any other computer printing out the need data. Lisa could see it was ordinary ink on ordinary paper. She remembered enough about other computers to know that in even the most advanced technology, some things still remained the same. (To be fair the computer had the options of silent printing, rapid printing, and printing with a special ink on a thin metallic substance that was even thinner than paper, but of course Lisa didn't know that.)

When it was though printing, Lisa took the printout and gave it to X. X read the printout thoroughly noting every little detail that provide a clue to a cure.

In general, it said that the gas was only effective while the person was sleeping. If one managed to stay awake, the gas would have no effect. However, if the person fell asleep, he would loose his memory then and each time the person fell asleep from then on until the process is stopped. There is a gas that can stop people from forgetting, but there is no way they can get there original memory back by artificial means. However, the strong willed can get their memory back by remembering strong emotions. Joy, grief, anger, fear, and the simple will to survive have all been proven effective, but less than one person in ten are ever truly cured.

"Am I strong willed?" Lisa asked X hopefully.

The Alpha Memory Computer mistook it for a question for to answer.

"Yes," it replied unemotionally.

"You would have to be strong willed in order to ask that question," X added. "Can you reproduce the gas that stops the forgetting process?"

"Yes," it answered. "I can pump the gas into the room you are now in."

"I am going to leave the room now," X told the computer. "As soon as I am gone, I want you to pump the gas into the room."

Understood," the computer acknowledged. "Creating the gas now."

Lisa was scared, but she knew that if she wanted her memory back, it was something she would have to go through. She couldn't get her memory back if she forgot everything she had learned every time she went to sleep.

Lisa jumped when she heard a hissing sound. X had left the room sooner than she thought he would. This gas, unlike the kind that had given her amnesia in the first place, was colorless. The only way she could tell it was there was by the way it made everything else look blurry. Lisa slowly breathed the gas into her system and felt a strange spinning sensation inside her head.

"Not again!" she cried just before passing out.

TIME : 9:30 A.M.
PLACE : Vondwin's secret lab underneath the first ruined city

After loosing the real Lisa to the "ghosts", the phony Peter reported to Vondwin fearing his retaliation. To his surprise, there was no punishment, only an alternative plan.

"All you have to do is find her again," Vondwin stated simply after hearing his story. "You are still disguised as Peter, so you can use that to your advantage. She will remember vaguely that Peter is a friend of hers, but she will not remember any of his personality traits. Your job as an impersonator will be even easier than usual."

"But I don't even know where she is?" he protested. "It's a similar protest to that one of the elders used about locating the Alpha Memory Computer and Vondwin had a similar answer to what X had used as a response.

"I do," boasted Vondwin. "I beat the tribe at their own game and silently followed them back to their cave. I have told one of the robots its location and it will guide you to the proper spot, but be sure you aren't seen with the robot or you'll blow your cover."

"Won't they recognize me as the one who captured Lisa?" he wondered not having too much confidence in Vondwin's plan.

"That was the imposture," Vondwin declared. "You will claim to be the real Peter."

Although he was still not satisfied with Vondwin's plan, the phony Peter was in no position to argue, so he found the robot guide and slowly stared of for the cave of the lost tribe of Alpha Memory.

TIME : 9:45 A.M.
PLACE : Inside the Alpha Memory Computer

X gently nudged Lisa until she began to stir. She had collapsed on the floor as soon as the gas took its effect and had remained there for quite some time. X waited to make sure the gas had been completely pumped out before reentering the room. There was no need for both of them to pass out. Eventually, Lisa sat up and stretched.

"How long have I been like this?" she asked.

"Precisely 27 minutes and 4.71 seconds," the Alpha Memory Computer responded.

"Answering my questions can be annoying," she scolded.

"Well we know the gas worked because you fell asleep without loosing any more of your memory," X said trying to put her in a good mood and then thinking better of it. "Remember, let your feelings come to the surface as often as possible. Strong emotions are the only way to get your memory back. Now, we'd better find Linda, Peter, and Hank and see if they can do anything to help you."

As the two of them left to return to the XX2, and from there to the cave where the tribe was, Lisa yelled, "Thank you!" to the computer just in case it had feelings.

"You're welcome," the computer responded.

"Maybe the Alpha Memory Computer has feelings after all," Lisa thought to herself. "It has everything else."

TIME : 9:50 A.M.
PLACE : The entrance to the cave of the lost tribe of Alpha Memory

Peter finally reached the mouth of the cave and saw Codin breaking off small pieces of a stick and tossing them into the fire, just like he was doing when he first met Lisa. The robot had long since returned to the city, so Peter knew that he was on his own.

"Hello," he shouted stepping up to the boy and offering his hand in friendship. "My name is Peter, I'm a friend of Lisa's. Have you seen her anytime recently?"

"My name is Codin," he replied. "and yes, I have seen her. She left with someone called X to find the Alpha Memory Computer. Lisa lost her memory and they're trying to give it back to her."

"She what?" cried Peter trying to sound shocked.

Codin told him all he knew, then, Peter asked if he could stay there and wait for Lisa to return. Codin told him that he could.

He didn't have to wait long before X and Lisa walked into the cave as if it were nothing unusual. Lisa seemed to recognize him, but he couldn't tell for sure.

"X! Lisa!" he exclaimed running over to greet them. "Am I ever glad to see you!"

Lisa was about to return the greeting, but X stopped her. His suspicious had been aroused. Codin went to tell the other members of the tribe that X and Lisa had returned while X started looking Peter over. Soon, the tribe filled the room except for some space at the very center where they had allowed some room for Peter, X, and Lisa.

"If you really are Peter than tell me, what is the secret password for entering M.W.G.D. headquarters when I was in command?" X inquired aggressively.

"Which one?" he stammered hoping there was more than one. The moment he said it, he knew what the answer was but by then it was too late.

Not thinking, he tried to grab Lisa and use her as a hostage. The attempt was not only unsuccessful, but it encouraged the tribe to attack him. The imposture was surrounded and didn't stand a chance against the entire tribe. He lasted about five seconds.

"We could have gotten some valuable information out of him," X roared in anger. "You shouldn't have killed him."

"Why not?" demanded one of the younger tribe members who did not share X's moral values.

"Because we don't believe in killing," Lisa replied surprised by her own aggressiveness.

She had remembered her basic moral beliefs especially her belief against killing. Her strong emotions had already given her part of her memory back and she knew it was only a matter of time before she remembered everything again. X was proud of the way Lisa had told them outright that she didn't believe in killing.

X had always tried to find a logical excuse for following his moral values, the most common being that they could get some information which was true in every case. No matter how little they knew about the Ruler, they could always get some kind of information out of them and every little bit helped, just like the fragments of Lisa's memory that she was able to recall.

Lisa tried to gather all her thought into some kind of orderly fashion. The more she could remember, the more likely she was to remember something else. Above all, she had to remember her feelings about the past. Just like the Alpha Memory Computer had told her, strong emotions seemed to be the most effective at getting her memory back.

X looked down at the dead body. Even then it was hard to distinguish him from the real Peter. Suddenly, X knew what the Ruler was up to. If he had someone impersonating Peter, it would just as likely to someone impersonating someone else and with Lisa having disappeared without a trace, it would be a perfect opportunity for them to strike.

"Come one!" X shouted urgently.

"Where are we going?" Lisa wondered.

"To find Peter, Hank, and Linda," stated X. "Unless I'm mistaken, they are in grave danger. We have to find them and fast."

Lisa didn't remember who Peter, Hank, and Linda were, but she knew that they were friends of hers. She thought that helping them might give her her memory back, and even if it didn't, helping them was something that she had to do.

"We're coming with you," declared one of the tribe members as about ten of them ran after X and Lisa who were already walking at a rapid pace. They knew their friends might depend on it.

TIME : 11:30 A.M.
PLACE : Where the M.W.G.D. ship had landed

After searching for a long time, they finally found the ship that Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa had landed in. Unfortunately, the ship was empty. They had started on their second journey into the city and had been long gone by the time X and the others had gotten there.

Lisa stumbled through her belongings looking for something she might remember and came across her diary. She picked it up with great delight and began to read it. If anything could enable her to remember her feelings in the past, her diary would.

She began to grow frustrated as she read about things she couldn't remember. She had experienced so much, yet there was nothing that she was able to recall. Frustration wasn't one of emotions listed on the list of strong emotions, but it could lead to other emotions, such as anger, the were. With a grim determination, Lisa continued to read her diary.

X decided that Peter, Hank, and Linda must have gone into the city and told the others to follow him over there. Lisa marked her place and took the diary with her. It wasn't helping her at the moment, but she knew it would eventually.

On the way there, they spotted four figures journeying to the city from a different direction. It wasn't anybody who worked for the Ruler. They wouldn't be out that far without any robots to protect them. It wasn't any members of the lost tribe of Alpha Memory either) leaving only one other group of people it could possibly be. The M.W.G.D. officers!

As they got closer, they could make out the shapes of Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa. The real Lisa stared at her imposture. It was like looking into a mirror. She couldn't believe how similarly the two of them appeared, even close up.

Lisa knew her duplicate was leading her friends into a trap, yet for the moment she was powerless to prevent her from doing so. Her faced burned. She wanted to put the imposture in jail and throw away the key for destroying her good name.

X saw how angry Lisa was and tried to calm her down. Even if it would help her get her memory back, it just wasn't a healthy emotion to have.

"We'll stop her," X assured her. "As long as we don't do anything drastic."

Lisa realized that X was right and settled down and tried to enjoy being a "ghost". The entire tribe was good at following people without being seen or heard. Their very lives depended on it.

The four that they were following seemed to know they were being watched but they could never prove it because they never saw anyone. X was especially careful to make sure Lisa was safely hidden since she wasn't as good at hiding as the others.

When they entered the city, they could no longer stay together and remain hidden so they had to separate. X stayed with Lisa knowing that she had a score to settle with her imposture for what she had done.

The phony Lisa led Peter, Hank, and Linda down a dark alley.

"That alley leads to a wall ten feet high," X recalled showing his knowledge of the city "I know another way to get there."

X ran in what looked like a series of random directions. Lisa followed close behind knowing that it wasn't a series of random directions, but a path leading to the other side of the wall. When they got there, they could some people talking on the other side. They climbed the wall to get a closer look making sure they remained hidden. All was quiet.

"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 the weapon."

X and Lisa got ready to spring into action the moment they were needed.

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

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

"Why?" stammered Peter after a short silence barely able to say even that one word.

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

They did so. The phony Lisa picked up their weapons and gave them to Vondwin. Then, she looked Peter, Hank, and Linda over deciding which one to kill first. Her eyes firmly rested on Peter, the one who had warned the king and queen of Triax about the trap they had set up for them which eventually led to her arrest. It was time for her revenge. She raised the gun to his head and put her finger on the trigger.

"I wouldn't count on it!" yelled a voice from behind her.

"Lisa!" Peter exclaimed. He had figured the other Lisa was an imposture. The real Lisa would never point a gun at his head.

"We have you surrounded," bluffed the imposture keeping her gun pointed at Peter.

She knew her hostage was the only thing protecting her from the real Lisa's wrath.

"It is you who are surrounded," Lisa corrected as the ten tribe members who had accompanied X and Lisa came out of hiding, each with a gas mask and a bottle of the substance Vondwin had created, or more accurately recreated.

One of them had found the secret entrance to Vondwin's secret lab and found thousands of bottles of the formula, some gas masks, and some weapons. With most of Vondwin's forces going after Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa, it was easy for them to destroy the few remaining robot guards and sabotaged the lab to make sure the formula couldn't be used to harm any more innocent people. The M.W.G.D. officers didn't know it, but the lost tribe of Alpha Memory had completed their mission for them.

Vondwin looked at the tribe in fear. They wouldn't be afraid to use the gas because they already had their gas masks on and Peter, Hank, and Linda had gas masks with them leaving Lisa and X as the only ones on their side unprotected and of the remaining two, Lisa was now immune to any further effects of the gas and X was powerful enough to keep himself from inhaling any of the gas. They thought Vondwin would be forced to surrender.

However, Vondwin noticed that they forgot to take their only apparent disadvantage into consideration. They were heavily outnumbered. Vondwin ordered the robots and the scientists to attack while he attempted to escape in the confusion that followed.

The phony Lisa tried to do the same thing, but the real Lisa spotted her. She climbed down the wall and took off after her with a vengeance. The imposture saw how rapidly Lisa was gaining on her, she knew that she couldn't get away and took the only option left to her. She threw down her weapon and began to wrestle with the real Lisa.

By the time Peter arrived, he saw two identical Lisas wrestling with each other and Lisa's diary lying in front of them, ignored. Peter couldn't tell who was who.

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