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A HEART OF ICE

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER TWO

The five of them were searched immediately to see if they were carrying any weapons. When they came across one, they took it and threw it in a pile a good five meters out of their reach. After they were satisfied that all the weapons had been removed, they pushed the prisoners around rather roughly and forced them to accompany them on a short journey to meet the person in charge.

Linda began searching for a way out. Although the guards were overconfident about trusting themselves to keep the prisoners in line without tying them up, they were still a very formidable opponent. There was only one guard for every one of them, so Linda thought they could escape by taking off in different directions and forcing the guards to split up. The passage was too narrow where they were then to try it, but Linda saw that it intersected with another passage later on.

Peter saw the way Linda was looking ahead and suspected what she was up to.

"I wouldn't try it," he recommended. "All the guards are armed and would shoot you down without a second thought. This is not the time for escape."

Linda didn't like it, but she knew Peter was right. They had originally entered the fort to find out where the weapon was and who was behind it. By just going along with the guards they would find out who was behind it and, if they escaped afterwards, they might find out where the weapon was as well. Instead of trying to escape, she'd just let the enemy do the work for her.

Doing nothing was not an easy thing to do. They were being constantly bruised by the guards who relentlessly continued to push them around. Finally, Lisa stumbled and fell to the ground, hard. From her new position, Lisa looked up at the guard who had pushed her and saw him laughing at her. That was all she could take.

"Stop pushing us around!" Lisa yelled at the guard rising to her feet. "We can walk on our own! If you don't stop pushing us around I'll-"

"You'll what," interrupted the guard pointing a gun at her.

He wasn't use to being yelled at, so Lisa's remarks had put him in a rather foul mood.

"I'll ask you not to," sighed Lisa knowing it was futile to argue with him.

The guard pushed Lisa once more, just for spite. This time Lisa managed to keep her footing. She turned around and gave the guard a hostile look. The guard returned the look with a sinister smile. He had won for the time being.

The others were united in their feelings against the guards, the guard who had pushed Lisa in particular. They were determined to teach the guards some manners if they ever got the chance.

At last, they entered a large room that looked like a central planning room. The room was full of people scurrying every which w;ey to complete their given tasks and, in the center of the room, was the guy they had been looking for planning every detail of the attack plan. He turned his attention to the guards when he saw that they had brought the invaders to him just like he had ordered them to do.

"You may go now," he told the guards in a manner that sounded more like an order than granting them permission.

Even though the guards had left, they knew that it was still not the time to try to escape. They were probably in the center of the fort in one of the most heavily restricted rooms next to the room with the weapon in it. With their weapons still confiscated, they would have an even harder time trying to escape then they would have had earlier. The man in change wanted to talk to them, so the best thing they could do was listen.

"So we meet again," Kental greeted him unemotionally.

"You two know each other?" Hank whispered in surprise.

Hank was whispering so no one else could hear him, but Kental had nothing to hide. He talked freelv as if in defiance of the so-called emperor of the galaxy.

"He used to work for the Ruler," Kental declared as if it were something the scared Frigidan didn't want them to know. "He was working on developing the ultimate weapon that would enable the Ruler to take over the galaxy. Apparently, he has succeeded, but now he wants the galaxy for himself."

"You don't know half of it," said the master villain before Kental could continue with his side of the story.

He knew the truth about himself and the Ruler much more then Kental did end he was more than prepared to tell it.

"Do you see this scar?" he demanded pointing to the scar on the right side of his neck.

The others knew was a rhetorical question because it was the first physical characteristic brought to their attention other than the fact that he was from Frigida. He saw that they had seen his scar even though they refused to answer, so he continued with his story.

"It was given to me by none other than the Ruler himself. I had worked for years developing a new weapon for him. It was the most powerful thing ever seen in this part of the galaxy, but when the Ruler got his hands on it he said I was no longer useful. He tried to kill me and make it look like an accident."

"I made the mistake of going to Altair 7 to deliver the weapon in person. He provided me with my own private quarters suited to my body temperature, so I thought it was safe to remove my Thermal Protection Suit. I was wrong."

"As soon as I was about to go to sleep for the night, the Ruler set the temperature in my room to 60 C (140 F). That's hot even for you, but for me it should have been fatal I thought I was going to die. Then, I suddenly realized that I had to survive. I had to have a chance to get my revenge."

"The first thing I did was look for my Thermal Protection Suit, but the Ruler had already made sure it was gone. I had to get out the hard way. Somehow, I managed to crawl along the floor until I reached the door only to find that the Ruler was standing there waiting for me."

"He laughed and placed his hand on my neck causing a bad burn scarring me for life. 'You're a long way from home,' he taunted me in mockery. 'Perhaps you should go back where you came from.' The burn was more painful than anything I ever imagined, but my desire for revenge kept me going when I seemed beyond all hope."

"The hall was much cooler than the room, but it was still well above freezing and I had a good distance yet to go before I reached the docking bay. To make matters worse, some of the Ruler's soldiers had spotted me and they weren't to particularly found of Frigidans."

"I fooled them by pretending I was unconscious. They left me alone assuming I was either dead or soon would be. When I finally reached the docking bay, my lungs were half flooded and I was hopelessly gasping for breath."

"Most people would have died there, but I was smart enough and angry enough to keep going for the few extra seconds I needed to reach safety. Holding my breath for dear life, I crawled inside my ship. The temperature was still set the way I like it, as cold as possible. I collapsed to the ground releasing a loud sigh of relief knowing that I was going to live after all."

"Even then, my troubles still weren't over yet. The Ruler quickly found out that I made it back to my ship and ordered the docking bay sealed off immediately. I got out just in the nick of time."

He paused due to his emotional reaction to his own story. He was filled with anger and resentment for the way he had been treated and his eyes burned with a rage the others had never seen before, not even in the Ruler. The beaten, battered Frigidan truly had a heart of ice.

"To add insult to injury," he continued rubbing his scar and remembering how he had gotten it. "the Ruler never used my weapon. He scrapped it and used the Omega Ray instead. I had spent years perfecting the ultimate weapon for nothing."

Peter, Hank, Linda, and Lisa had heard stories like that many times before. Each time the story was told in a slightly different way, but the basic idea was still the same. A scientist was working for the Ruler in an attempt to build the most powerful weapon ever created; however, when the weapon was finally completed, the Ruler would either kill or discredit the scientist and take full credit for inventing the weapon himself.

At that very moment, there were thousands of people spread all over the galaxy trying' to invent some type of weapon that the Ruler would use against them. Peter seriously wondered why people continued to build weapons for him. Maybe it was only a matter of time before all the surviving scientists that the Ruler discredited would team up and personally attempt to kill the Ruler.

Kental had spent most of hiss life on Frigida, so he wasn't as familiar with events occurring elsewhere in the galaxy. Even so, he knew enough to know that it was a typical experience for someone who made deals with the Ruler.

"So now you've perfected your ultimate weapon and you want your revenge on the Ruler," Kental assumed in a casual manner.

The scarred Frigidan's eyes burned with a hatred even more intense than just a few before.

"At first, that was my intention, but later on I changed my mind," he screamed clinching his fists in rage. "I realized that the Ruler wasn't the only one who treated me with contempt. Everyone in the galaxy had some sort of bigotry against Frigidans just because we can't land on any other habitable planet without some sort of Thermal Protection Suit. How about on Frigida! All I have to do is rip open that suit of yours and you would freeze to death in seconds."

He pointed an accusing finger at Linda because she was the closest. Linda instinctively examined her suit for any rips confirming what he had just said. However, the man clearly in charge still wasn't satisfied and turned to face Kental.

"And you!" he began accusingly. "You betray your own kind by working for M.W.G.D., an organization designed to make sure that Frigidan stay in their proper place, and when people like me try to give Frigidans their long deserved respect, you track me down like a common criminal."

His voice had been slowly getting louder while he was talking until he was practically yelling and the others knew that he was truly insane.

"ALL OUTSIDERS ARE MY ENEMY!" he declared as if daring the wind itself to defy him. "I will start with the Ruler by destroying Altair 7, but I won't stop there. I'll have only just begun. Triax will be my next target, then the Rigel and Vega systems, and I will keep going until all the habitable planets are like Frigida and I shall be emperor of the galaxy. No one will be able to stop me, not even M.W.G.D.."

"What are your terms of surrender?" asked Linda knowing good and well what the answer would be.

At that moment, the self-appointed emperor of the galaxy made a statement that proved that in some ways he was even crueler than the Ruler.

"There are no terms of surrender," he stated coldly. "I have given you too many chances to surrender already. It is obvious that you are not going to change you ways."

The scarred Frigidan changed his tone of voice so that he sounded almost friendly.

"If you tell me some of the vital secrets of M.W.G.D., I will let you join me. I might even make you governor of a planet or two that you can call your very own."

The others didn't buy his phony friendship tactics for a second.

"I thought you said there were no terms of surrender," attacked Hank reminding him of what he had just said.

The man in charge called for his guards who immediately came running to the aid of their master. He knew he had waited too long to get any information out of the prisoners. Now, there was only one thing he could do with them.

"Take them and put them in the blast furnace," he commanded the non Frigidans because they were the only ones who could survive just being near it. "and make Kental is thrown in first. He can be an example to other Frigidans as to what will happen to them if they defy me."

As they were slowly led away, Kental could see the scarred Frigidan smiling with great delight. His only happiness came at the expense of others and, upon seeing them carried off to their doom, he was satisfied at last.

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