TIME : February 19, 2015 6:00 A.M.
PLACE : Inside the city of Atlica on Quintar
From a distance the city of Atlica looked just like any other city on Quintar, or any other planet in the galaxy. It had tall buildings extending as far as the eye could see and historical sites telling the story of how Atlica was founded. It had places to work, rest, and play both above and below ground. However, two important details distinguished Atlica from any other city.
First, the population was entirely female. No males were allowed in the city without special permission from the four member council which governed the activities of the entire city. Many males had tried to enter the city unauthorized for one reason or another. None of them ever lasted very long and were either imprisoned or killed depending on the circumstances. Although myths described it as a place of luxury, it was really a place of hard work. There was not much time for rest and relaxation.
The reason for this was the second distinguishing feature of Atlica. Is was located in the middle of the Kahobii desert, the largest desert on any inhabited planet in the galaxy. The desert covered over half the planet making getting there quite difficult and leaving a virtual impossibility.
The people of Altica were not totally cruel to their male visitors who were denied access. They had built a small village with a mixed population to give them food and shelter for their journey back home. Ironically, it was where they kept those they had imprisoned for breaking into the city. In spite of their female chauvinism, no one had ever seriously threatened the city. That was about to change.
"Agent Quintar to the Ruler. Agent Quintar to the Ruler," whispered a woman from somewhere inside the city.
She was alone in the room, otherwise she wouldn't have tried to make contact with the Ruler. Even a member of the council had to be careful when contacting an outsider, especially one as dangerous as the Ruler.
"This is the Ruler. Go ahead agent Quintar."
The spy could breath again. She had made contact with the Ruler without being discovered, but the hard part was yet to come.
"I am ready to proceed with the assassination of council leader, Mistica," she reported.
"I am preparing my invasion fleet," explained the Ruler. "As soon as you give the word, we shall attack Quintar and put you in charge of the planet, under myself of course."
"Thank you," she replied. "It is a pleasure to do business with you."
She ended the communication immediately knowing that a long conversation was bound to be discovered. Little did she know that part of the conversation had been picked up by an outsider who reported it to M.W.G.D..
TIME : 8:30 A.M.
PLACE : M.W.G.D. Headquarters
Shawn notified his personal staff to report to his office at once. They responded promptly. In less than five minutes, all of them were assembled.
"We have just received a message from an anonymous source that the Ruler is planning to invade Quintar," Shawn began. "This is the tail end of a conversation between the Ruler and one of his spies."
Shawn played the tape of the conversation he had received to the others. Even with the quality of their recording devices, the message was hard to make out. Only a few key words could be heard like Quintar and invasion.
"The Ruler's location could not be identified," Shawn continued. "but the spy was in the city of Atlica, one of the few remaining large scale matriarchies in the galaxy I know it was not a hoax because our computers clearly identified one of the voices as the Ruler's. He is planning something big so we need to get there as soon as possible. We are now headed for Quintar at maximum speed."
"Are we all going to Quintar?" asked Peter knowing why they were there.
"They won't allow us to," replied Shawn after a moment's hesitation. "Atlica is strictly women only. Occasionally they let a man enter the city, but it's a very rare occurrence."
"Have you ever been in the city?" wondered Lisa who could see the smile on Shawn's face.
"Several years ago, I was invited to the city by council leader Mistica," said Shawn proudly. "I am good friends with her which is why I think she'll allow you to enter the city. However, there are some things you will need to remember."
"The guys are not allowed to speak until they have permission to do so. The girls can speak almost any time they want except when the council in session. None of you are allowed to enter rooms that have been closed off. They do not want visitors to see all parts of the city and all of you are to ask the council for permission before doing anything out of the ordinary. If you follow those rules, I am sure you will have a good time."
"You're not coming with us?" inquired Detrina.
"Only six of you will be going; Peter, Hank, Linda, Lisa, Mac, and yourself," stated Shawn. "Lisa will be in charge for obvious reasons."
Lisa was surprised to hear that she was in charge, but welcomed the opportunity to take command. Back when she was still on Earth, Lisa had been in charge of a number of servants, out that seemed like ancient history to her.
"Don't worry. I'll take care of things," she assured him.
"I would come with you except if the Ruler attacks, I will be needed here to help fight him or call for help if necessary," explained Shawn. "Most of us need to stay here. Only those few that I have chosen will go down to the surface. The rest of us will stay just outside the system so the Ruler can't find us easily. Those of you leaving for Quintar will depart in five hours. Take whatever you think you'll need for your stay because I don't know how long you'll be down there."
Shawn dismissed them. Most of them left to continue whatever it was that they were doing before Shawn had called them together leaving only Shawn, Peter, and Detrina.
"Can I help you?" Shawn insisted. He could tell by the look on their faces that the two of them wanted to talk to him about something.
"What exactly is the purpose of our mission?" Peter demanded politely.
He knew that Shawn had not told them everything.
"I was going to tell you when you were about to leave so the others wouldn't overhear," admitted Shawn. "The fewer the number of people that know what you are up to the better, but if you insist on knowing everything now I will tell you. You are to pinpoint the spy and keep her from doing any harm. At the same time, I need you to help form an alliance with Quintar against the Ruler. Quintar has been neutral in issues concering the Ruler. I tried to convince them to join forces with Triax and Altair 3 in fighting the Ruler, but they said that it was not their concern."
"When I was spreading my message to the people of Quintar, Mistica invited me into the city of Atlica. I was all excited. It was one of the few things I have done that X didn't do first. Anyway, Mistica listened to me and knew that something had to be done to stop the Ruler. Unfortunately, her associates did not feel the same way. It wasn't a total loss though. Mistica is now council leader. Maybe other people will listen to her now that she is powerful. I only hope it's not too late."
Peter and Detrina listened to his story attentively. After he had finished, they were a little more sure about what they were doing, but they still had their doubts. Somehow, they knew that something bad was going to happen to them in the near future.
"I used to work for the Ruler," Detrina reminded him. "and I know the Ruler has more up his sleeve than a simple inwasion plan. There has to be something else to it."
She used an old Earth expression that she had learned from Peter to get her message across. As always, the Ruler was using other people to do his dirty work. She couldn't believe that she had been gullible enough to help him out once. It was a mistake she was determined not to do again.
"You're probably right," agreed Shawn. "but until you land on the planet, we can't tell what the Ruler's up to. Take every precaution of course, but you are needed on Quintar."
"We'll do our best," declared Peter.
"I know you will," confirmed Shawn. "You haven't let me down yet."
The two of them left leaving Shawn alone once more. They still had their doubts, but they knew that the only way to solve them was to go to Quintar and actually do something about them. Since time would neither speed up nor slow down for them, they had five hours left before they had to leave for Quintar, plenty of time for them to get themselves together.
TIME : 1:30 P.M. (13:30)
PLACE : The main lobby at M.W.G.D. Headquarters
The six who had been chosen to go to Quintar were gathered together waiting for Shawn to give them some final instructions before they left. Like he promised, Shawn went into detail about the exact purpose of their mission.
"The council on Atlica is the key to forming an alliance with Quintar," Shawn informed them. "If you can get the council to agree on taking action against the Ruler, the rest of Quintar will follow suit. The people there look to Atlica for advice. In spite of being so restrictive, Atlica is one of the most powerful cities on the entire planet. Each city has their own government, but they can unite fairly quickly under the leadership of the council."
"Is everyone ready?" asked Lisa.
The others nodded. They knew that Lisa was going to do a good job.
"Then let's go," she commanded full of confidence and new found energy.
They wasted no time in getting to their ship. It fit the six of the comfortably with plenty of room to spare. Lisa decided to go ahead and announce that they were coming so things would be less hectic when they got there. There was still a chance that Peter, Hank, and Mac would not be allowed in the city.
"Calling the city of Altica," announced Lisa casually. "My name is Lisa and I am in charge of a party of six M.W.G.D. officers, three male, three females. All of us wish to enter your city and discuss a possible attack from the Ruler."
After she was through speaking, there was a long silence. Lisa began to wonder if they had received her message at all. Finally, a reply came from one of the council members.
"Greetings, Lisa. My name is Rosad," said a voice from the city down below. "I am one of the members of the council that governs this city. We have taken a vote and decided that you and your two female companions are welcome in our city, however, the males will have to stay behind."
Lisa turned to the others, the males in particular, to see how they felt about Rosad's terms. They had been expecting something like that to happen, but they seemed to understand that things like that were bound to happen.
"Go on without us," advised Hank. "We'd only slow you down anyway."
"We'll do what we can to track down the spy from outside the city," Peter assured her. "If necessary, only one of you could establish diplomatic relations with the council."
"We've been separated before and we'll be separated again," Mac chimed in.
"If all of you agree, the three of us will go on into the city," stated Lisa sympathetically. "If we find out anything important, we'll be sure to let you know and I expect you to do the same for us."
Everything was settled. They could relax for the remainder of their journey, at least until they got to Quintar.
TIME : 2:00 P.M. (14:00)
PLACE : The main entrance to Atlica
Lisa, Linda, and Detrina arrived at the main entrance. They had said good bye to the others and waited patiently for someone to take them to were they were supposed to be. Soon, a young woman came out of the city to greet them.
She appeared to be about thirty years old with blue eyes and brown hair. Her clothes were a bright white coming down to her knees. She wore a brown pair of sandals on her feet that looked like they were brand new though they could tell that the sandals had been worn for a considerable length of time. She smiled at them and handed each of them a medallion attached to a chain that could be worn loosely around the neck.
"Keep these on at all times," she warned them. "It registers your identification code to the computer. Without them, you'll be in big trouble."
They put the medallions on as they were told to do.
"I am called Yazzle," she continued. "I was sent here to welcome you to Atlica and take you to see the council. Follow me."
They followed her through a large gate that separated Atlica from whatever was lurking in the Kahobii desert. As they passed through the city, Lisa, Linda, and Detrina looked at the many sights and sounds going on around them. To their right was what looked like a park with plenty of young girls running freely playing what looked like a game of tag. A group of older women were sitting in the shade watching them. It looked like they were having a good time, but they wondered what life was truly like for them without any men.
As Yazzle continued on to the council, they noticed a building considerably larger than the others directly in front of them. It seemed to have a personality of its own which was majestic and dignified as if it knew that it housed the more important functions in the city.
"Is that where we're going?" asked Linda.
"Yes, that's where we're going," Yazzle answered unnecessarily.
In spite of its size, the building felt warm and inviting. As they got closer, they lost sight of the top of the building making it appear to stretch out to infinity. Lisa had seen buildings that were taller on many other planets including Earth, but none of them were quite as impressive as the one before her.
The building lost some of its splendor, however, when she saw a security guard at the door. She was dressed in a military style uniform which easily identified her as a security guard, but there was no reason to hide it. The door she was guarding was the only door that could be opened from the outside and from her position she could see in all directions making it virtually impossible to sneak up on her. On the rare occasion when she felt like events were beyond her control, she could summon help with the simple press of a button.
She eyed the newcomers suspiciously as they started up the stairs leading to the door she was guarding. She was about to get up to investigate when she recognized Yazzle who held up her hand indicating that everything was fine. However, the security guard was still not competely convinced and asked the newcomers for their identification code when they reached the top. The three of the held up the medallions so she could get a good look at them.
Disappointed that everything checked out, she reluctantly let them enter the building. On the other side of the door were two more security guards. They were much friendlier than the other one was. They even tried to start a friendly conversation with the newcomers.
"Good afternoon, and welcome to the main complex," said the older of the two guards.
"They're from M.W.G.D.," explained Yazzle. "They're here to see the council."
The two security guards looked up with interest.
"It isn't very often that the council allows visitors," remarked the younger one. "You must have a message of vital importance."
"Are we in any kind of danger?" inquired the older one. She was more serious than her counterpart knowing that M.W.G.D. only concerned themselves in matters of galactic importance.
"Not yet," Lisa replied. "but we have reason to suspect that something big is on the horizon."
The security guards knew not to probe any further. Lisa gave them a subtle hint that she had classified information. Whatever it was that she had to say, she would say it to the members of the council first before discussing it with the general public.
Yazzle led Lisa, Linda, and Detrina to an elevator on the opposite side of the building and took them to the next to last floor where the council discussed matters of top priority. They had taken Lisa's message very seriously.
Directly ahead of them was a well lit, carpeted hallway with vast numbers of paintings on either wall. Without being told, they could tell that the hall could only lead to the council. Walking as if the slightest sound would cause a major catastrophe, they followed Yazzle though the large double doors at the end of the hall.
Inside was a fairly large room with historical artifacts scattered all over it. In the center of the room was a long, rectangular shaped table with four people seated at the far end. It was the members of the council.
To their right were two women who looked like they were members of the upper upper class. One was in her mid-thirties with short brown hair stopping several inches above her shoulders. The other one was well into her fifties and had dark hair which she let hang loosely about her. To their left was another wealthy looking women. She was around forty years of age and had light colored hair which she kept in a pony tail.
At the head of the table was an elderly looking woman who had the attention of the other three council members. She was council leader, Mistica. In spite of her age, she was fairly attractive with her silver hair glistening to reveal her not so wrinkled face. Their was no doubt in their minds that she was more powerful than the other three combined. She was the first to acknowledge their presence and invited them to sit at the table.
Lisa chose to sit on the left side next to the woman with the lighter colored hair and Linda sat next to her. To balance the two sides, Detrina sat on the other side across from Linda. The council members introduced themselves. As they already knew, the council leader was Mistica. The women with the short brown hair, the long dark hair, and the pony tail introduced themselves as Rosad, Goppi, and Cameri respectively.
"I see the three of you got here safely," stated Rosad who had talked to them briefly just before they arrived on Quintar. "I understand that you think the Ruler might attack our beloved city."
"I think the entire planet is in danger," Lisa cut in quickly. "We intercepted part of a conversation between the Ruler and a spy somewhere in this city."
Detrina eyed the council members suspiciously. She knew that even they were not above suspicion. In fact, she thought it was more likely than not that the spy was a member of the council because the Ruler would only trust someone in such a high position with plans of an upcoming invasion.
"Do you have any idea where the spy might be?" wondered Goppi.
"No," admitted Lisa. "The message was picked up by an independent source, but Shawn took it very seriously and I have a feeling that we should do the same."
"Sounds like we have our work cut out for us," Cameri added gravely.
TIME : 2:45 P.M. (14:45)
PLACE : The neighboring village
Peter, Hank, and Mac were still waiting for news from the others. They had found out some things about the city of Atlica from some of the villagers, but nothing to prepare them for what happened next.
Peter had decided to work off his excess energy by going for a short walk. He was told not to go very far because the Kahobii desert was a dangerous place to travel alone. knowing how hot is was, he made sure his canteen was completely filled before starting off.
It wasn't long before he reached the edge of the village. He took a deep breath, wiped the sweat off his forehead, and took a sip of water from his canteen. He was deciding whether to turn around and head back or continue on for a little while longer when his thoughts were interrupted by a large cloud of pink smoke directly in front of him.
Peter quickly fumbled around for his communicator while slowly backing up away from the smoke. To his surprise, the smoke remained in a localized area as if somebody was controlling it. Even more surprising was a little girl about six years old who stepped out of the smoke like it was something she did every day.
She was dressed in clothes not much different from those found on Earth right down to a pair of old fashioned blue jeans. She spotted Peter immediately and motioned for him to come to her. Peter gave a little girl a puzzled look. There was something about her that made her appear more intelligent than the average adult, but she was still young and inexperienced.
Peter glanced behind him one more time to see if Hank and Mac were on their way. There was no sign of them. Peter had to act on his own. Slowly he walked up to her and extended his hand in friendship not knowing what to expect.
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