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By ... Steve Lucky


TIME : 5:40 P.M.
PLACE : The village

Not much had happened to Hank and Mac since Peter left with the Bamboo Princesss. They talked to some of the villagers and asked them various questions about the village, the city of Atlica, and Quintar in general. Based on the answers they received, they could tell that the villagers, male and female alike, were somewhat afraid of the people of Atlica.

The people of Atlica were much better off than their counterparts in the village. For one thing, Atlica was better equipped with more recreational areas and better medical facilities. For another, the people in the village were treated like second class citizens. The only people who came there were the ones who couldn't get into Atlica. Hank and Mac predicted that the people in the village would one day cause trouble for the people of Atlica. It might be generations before that happened, but they knew it was inevitable.

Their thoughts were interrupted when Peter came over to talk to them. Peter explained that the trouble was not in the village but in the city of Atlica itself.

"Someone in the city was having a conversation with the Ruler," he began. "The Bamboo Princess has come into the city to warn the others."

"What do you want us to do?" Mac wondered intently.

Peter had to stop and think. There really wasn't much he could do. They weren't allowed inside the city and any attempt to enter without permission would be seen as a hostile act and would ruin any kind of diplomatic relations they had managed to establish. However, there were other people they could turn to.

"We must warn M.W.G.D.," Peter said at last. "One of us will have to return to M.W.G.D. Headquarters and tell Shawn sooner than we had expected."

"Why can't we just send him a message?" inquired Mac thinking he had a much better solution.

"If we intercept the Ruler's signal, the Ruler can surely intercept ours," explained Peter. "We can't take any chances! One of us must talk to Shawn face to face. I don't want the Ruler to know we're on to him, yet."

Mac could see Peter's logic and agreed with it.

"I'll be back before you even know I left," he declared brashly.

TIME : 6:30 P.M. (18:30)
PLACE : Mistica's room

While Peter and Hank waited in the village, Mac was flying off to give Shawn an early warning, and Detrina, Lisa, and Linda were exploring the city, the Bamboo Princess was trying to find Mistica. People had pointed her in several different directions, none of which turned out to be correct. To make matters worse, Mistica wasn't stationary either. She was scurrying to and fro trying to collect the one vote she needed to create a tie. If she succeeded, the decision would be up to her to decide. If all went well, she thought that she might even be able to convince them to from an alliance with M.W.G.D. and the other planets opposed to the Ruler.

The Bamboo Princess was finally able to find Mistica by going to her room and waiting for her. Mistica arrived sooner than she had expected giving the Bamboo Princess a pleasant surprise. Mistica was startled when she saw the Bamboo Princess in her room, but quickly regained her senses. One look at the Bamboo Princess's stern face told Mistica that all was not well. Things were far worse than they seemed to be.

"Did you want to see me about something?" encouraged Mistica. The question itself was redundant, but she had known the Bamboo Princess.

"Yes," the Bamboo Princess replied slowly. "I heard the Ruler talking to someone inside this city and I believe all of you are in danger."

"Do you have any idea who the Ruler was talking to?" asked Mistica.

"No," answered the Bamboo Princess. "If I knew who it was, that would be the first thing I'd tell you."

"Do you have any idea at all?" Mistica asked again gently prompting her for a response.

No," the Bamboo Princess sighed sadly. "Not even a clue."

Mistica knew that the direct approach wasn't doing them any good, so they would have to approach the problem from another angle. She asked the Bamboo Princess to tell her everything she knew about the Ruler's invasion plans. Always eager to help, the Bamboo Princess began chatting away saying anything that came into her head while Mistica listened intently hoping to learn something that the Bamboo Princess had failed to grasp. When she was finished, Mistica knew more than she did before, but she still wasn't sure who the mysterious agent Quintar was or why the Bamboo Princess thought she was in such danger.

"Perhaps I'd better play it safe tonight," Mistica declared.

The Bamboo Princess could see a gleam of mischief in Mistica's seemingly ageless eyes that told her she was going to do anything but play it safe that night. Somehow she was going to catch agent Quintar in the act, if she wasn't caught first.

Mistica asked the Bamboo Princess if she would like to spend the night in the city, but she declined her offer. She had to return to the village where Peter, Hank, and Mac would be waiting for her.

Mistica was left alone in her room where she could formulate her plan in peace. There was no guarantee that anyone would help her, but she had to take that risk. The entire planet might be depending one it. After doing a careful section process in her head, Mistica decided on the one person who could help her carry out her plan without arousing suspicion. Knowing she had no time to waste, she contacted her immediately. The only other thing she needed in order for her plan to work was simply a little more time.

TIME : 6:35 P.M. (18:35)
PLACE : M.W.G.D. Headquarters

Cautiously, Mac approached the space station orbiting Quintar that was secretly the headquarters for M.W.G.D. No one was expecting him to return so soon, so he would have to go through several security checks before he could talk to Shawn. Mac figured he might as well get it over with and requested permission to dock. Needless to say, the people at M.W.G.D. Headquarters were suspicious of his sudden return.

Mac had convinced Hank and Peter that lie should go alone in case Linda, Lisa, and Detrina or the Bamboo Princess returned. At least one of them would be needed to stay and tell them that they were all right and since only one of them was needed to warn Shawn that the Ruler was on the move, Mac thought it best that he leave by himself. Peter and Hank reluctantly agreed and that was the last they saw of each other.

Now, Mac wondered if he had made the right decision. If one of them had gone with him, it would have been easier to explain his presence to M.W.G.D. As it was, he would just have to hope that they believed him.

To his surprise, the reply came from Shawn himself. They must have recognized his voice and considered it to be an emergency. It would save him valuable time to talk to Shawn directly.

"Why have you come back here alone?" inquired Shawn authoritively.

"I have some urgent news for you, but I was afraid the Ruler might be listening in so I decided to talk to you in person," Mac explained. There was still a slight risk that someone working for the Ruler might overhear them, but the risk was greatly reduced using short range communication. Even the Bamboo Princess couldn't pick them."

"Meet me in my office immediately," commanded Shawn.

He wasn't taking any chances either. They had to keep their location a secret or the Ruler might attack them. Shawn's office was the only place where they could be reasonably sure that they were having a private conversation.

TIME : 6:40 P.M. (18:40)
PLACE : Shawn's office

Both of them got to Shawn's office as quickly as they could. Every second they wasted gave the Ruler an extra second to prepare. Mac brought Shawn up to date by telling him everything that had happened to the since they landed on Quintar. Shawn took particular interest in the Bamboo Princess. Mac could tell that he had heard of her before by the way he looked up when her name was mentioned.

The last time Shawn had seen the Bamboo Princess, she was only a baby. It was shortly after she had been adopted by Mistica. Perhaps that was why he was allowed in the city. The council leader had a new daughter and everyone was in a good mood. It was only speculation, but it would explain why they agreed to make an exception to their all female policy.

"I can't join you on Quintar," Shawn told him when he was finally through talking. "If the Ruler attacks, I will be needed here. Hewever, I appreciate you bringing this news to my attention. I want you return to Quintar. If the attack hasn't started by this time tomorrow, you are to come here and give me an update on the situation. If the Ruler starts his attack before that time, I will send someone to tell you what to do."

Mac thanked Shawn for his time and trouble and began his journey to Quintar knowing that at least M.W.G.D. would be better prepared if the Ruler attacked.

TIME : 11:00 P.M. (23:00)
PLACE : Inside Detrina' s private quarters

Lisa, Linda, and Detrina were gathered together to discuss the day's events. They were all fairly sure that the vote would go in their favor, but they were not sure if the opposition would give them a chance to vote. From what they knew about agent Quintar, she would be able to stop the council from voting.

The problem was that none of them were allowed to explore the city on their own. They had to be accompanied by a guide making it almost impossible to investigate the area. For the moment, they felt like excess baggage. The policies and customs of the city were interfering with their job.

"They don't seem to trust outsiders very much," complained Linda.

"They have plenty of secrets to hide," agreed Lisa. "So many that it's impossible to tell which secrets are important and which secrets are trivial."

"I wonder how Atlica has managed to prosper as long as it has," added Detrina. "Without any males they would have to recruit new people every generation."

"This is the upper class of Quintar," explained Lisa. "More people want to come here than could ever live inside comfortably. That is why their security is so tight."

"It still doesn't seem like a nice place to live with all this secrecy going on," snapped Detrina.

She could sense that something dreadful was happening at that exact moment, but she was powerless to do anything about it.

"I agree with you," admitted Lisa. "but we're still going to have to be on our best behavior tomorrow. I don't want them to have any negative opinions of us before the vote."

The others understood the position Lisa was in. She didn't like the way they ran things any more than they did, but Shawn had put her in charge of the mission and she had to make sure Quintar joined the alliance if it was at all possible. Each of them knew it meant putting up with a few inconveniences in order to establish good relationships with the inhabitants, however, they felt like this was pushing thing a little too far.

"We can work out our differences with them tomorrow," Detrina assured them even thought she had her doubts. "We need to get plenty of sleep so we'll be ready for the vote tomorrow."

Linda and Lisa agreed and went across the hall to where their room was and retired for the night. Before they had even gotten ready for bed, Detrina was sound asleep. She had had a hard day and was glad to finally get the sleep she needed.

TIME : February 20, 2015 1:00 A.M.
PLACE : Just outside Detrina's room

Rosad and a pair of security guards burst into Detrina's room without warning. They began searching in any place they could think of for the evidence they need to convict her. At last they found it, a phaser that had been recently used. The same one that was used to kill Mistica.

Detrina had been sleeping soundly when they came in, but all the noise the security guards were making had caused her to stir. As soon as she saw that Detrina was starting to wake up, Rosad shook her and told her why they had come.

"You are under arrest for the murder of council leader Mistica," she explained.