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QUINTAR

By ... Steve Lucky

CHAPTER FOUR

TIME : 7:30 A.M.
PLACE : The neighboring village

Peter, Hank, and Mac had spent the night in the village along with the Bamboo Princess who felt it her responsibility to stay with them. She had never completed the people in the village, but it was important for the four of them to stay together.

All of them had gotten up reasonably early, but the day's problems started sooner than they expected. They hadn't even eaten breakfast yet when came up to greet them. The Bamboo Princess recognized her immediately and realized that Yazzle wouldn't come to the village unless it was a dire emergency. The others seemed to sense this too and turned to her expecting bad news.

"Mistica had been murdered," she said gravely. "and Detrina is the leading suspect. A trial will be held in a few hours. In the mean time, she is being held in one of our jail cells. Under the unusual circumstances, we will allow one, I repeat ONE of you into the city. She specifically asked for Peter."

The four of them looked at each other trying to absorb all the information at once. Detrina was on trial for the murder of council leader Mistica. Considering that a close friend of hers had just been murdered, the others thought that Yazzle was handling the situation quite well. They could tell that she thought Detrina was innocent and didn't want their tragedy compounded by destroying their bonds with M.W.G.D. She also had a look about her as if she knew something they didn't, something she could use as a last resort in case the Ruler attacked. Unfortunately, they couldn't depend on hunches.

Peter sighed heavily and agreed to see Detrina. He had been wanting to see her again, but he wished that it would be under better circumstances. The Bamboo Princess knew that Yazzle was referring to the males when she said that only one of them could enter and decided to go with Peter and Yazzle. The effects of her mothers death had yet to surface. It is hard enough for an adult to take such news, but for a six-year-old, the fact was unbearable.

"We'd better hurry before the villagers realize where we're going," warned Yazzle.

Peter wasn't sure what the villagers had against them going to Atlica, but he didn't want to stick around to find out. With everything happening so quickly, the Bamboo Princess provided them with transportation so they wouldn't have to go to Atlica on foot. Speed was vital if they wanted to save Detrina.

TIME : 7:45 A.M.
PLACE : Detrina's jail cell

Linda and Lisa had slept through the night's events and weren't told what had happened until they tried to go into Detrina's room and found it sealed off. They quickly went over to see Detrina and ask her what was going on. Unfortunately, Detrina didn't know any more about the situation than they did. All she knew was that she had been framed for a murder she didn't commit spoiling any chance they had of winning the vote.

"How long have you been here?" inquired Lisa. To her, the vote had become secondary. Proving Detrina's innocence was her primary concern. They could worry about the vote later.

"A couple of hours," Detrina answered. "I've been asleep for most of it.

"Why do they think that you're the murderer?" wondered Linda. For all she knew about Atlica's laws, they might have to defend her at her trial. If that was the case, they needed to learn as much as they could about the situation.

"They found the murder weapon in my room and say their computer detected me in Mistica's room around the time of the murder," replied Detrina. "They tell me that I will probably be convicted unless new evidence is turned up to prove my innocence. Appareraitly, around here everyone is found guilty unless proven innocent."

At that moment, the three of them were joined by Peter, Yazzle, and the Bamboo Princess. They expected to see Yazzle and were puzzled by the strange little girl that was with her, but Peter attracted the most attention. He was the first male to enter the city in well over a month, but he didn't look very happy about it. He had come to see Detrina who had asked to see him. If it weren't for her, Peter would have never been allowed in the city and he knew it, but he would have to put his complaints about their laws and customs aside until Detrina was out of danger.

Detrina's eyes lit up when she saw that Peter had come.

"Peter!" she exclaimed. "Am I ever glad to see you. They're going to give me life imprisonment maybe even execute me."

"Get a hold of yourself," Peter advised her. "I know you're scared. I would be to if I were in your situation, but panicking isn't going to do any good. If we can find out who agent Quintar is, we might be able to prove who the true murderer is."

In spite of Peter's optimistic talk, he was almost as worried as Detrina was. They were bound to find out that Detrina had worked with the Ruler in the past and that would spell trouble for all of them.

Lisa scanned the room looking for anything that might have been used to frame Detrina and happened to glance down at Peter's medallion. He hard been given one to. She remembered Yazzle saying something an indentification code registered by the computer and had a good idea why the computer detected Detrina in Misttica's room at the time of the murder.

"How do these medallions work?" she asked hinting that she was on to something.

"Inside each medallion is a homing beacon set on a specific frequency," explained Yazzle. "The computer keeps track of which frequency belongs to which person. That way we can tell where all our visitors are at any given time."

"And who has access to the computer?" Lisa insisted.

She knew that she was asking for top security information, but she thought that, under circumstances, Yazzle would give their an answer.

"Only the members of the council and a few others, like myself, who have the council's permission," answered Yazzle more concerned with trying to be helpfull than with keeping secrets. "If the computer receiced a phony signal, if would have to have been a member of the council. I'm positive about that."

Brain storming seemed to be contagious. While Yazzle was confirming Lisa's suspicious, Peter was formulating an idea of his own. He pulled the Bamboo Princess aside to talk to her privately.

"Remember how you were able to identify the Ruler's voice?" he began. "Well you still have the spied voice recorded. See if you can record the voices of the members of the council and see if any of them can be identified as agent Quintar."

The Bamboo Princess felt rather foolish.

"I should have thought of that myself," she sighed.

"You have done more than you're fair share already," complimented Peter. "It's about time the rest of us started helping out."

"Keep the others here," she commanded. "I know exactly where to go."

With his plan taken care of, Peter returned to the others while the Bamboo Princess slipped quietly away to take care of business elsewhere.

"What was that all about?" inquired Lisa.

"Just another one of my ideas," Peter replied with a mischievous grin on his face.

Linda took one look at the grin she had seen so may times before and cried out, "Oh, no! We're doomed!"

She was joking, of course, but the others took it very seriously.

TIME : 8:00 A.M.
PLACE : The Council's Chamber

The three remaining council members were involved in an emergency session to decide who would become the new council leader and who would become the forth member of the council. They were so involved with restoring the council that they failed to notice the Bamboo Princess standing just outside the door recording every word the said.

"I think Yazzle should be our choice to join the council," announced Cameri. "No one else is capable of voting on the M.W.G.D. issue in such a short amount of time. She has served us loyally for years and it's about time we rewarded her for it."

"Are you sure we should vote on such a sensitive issue in the middle of a crisis?" argued Goppi. "I agree with your choice, but we are not prepared to hold a vote any time soon. It will take us at least a week to establish any form of normality. The M.W.G.D. issue can wait until then."

Fearful of being discovered, the Bamboo Princess crouched down beside the door and continued to record their conversation. As soon as Rosad said something, her task would be completed. As calmly as possible, she got down on her knees and waited for Rosad to speak.

"This crisis, as you call it, is only going to get bigger if we don't carry on with business as usual," warned Cameri. "I don't expect us to have the vote in only an hour as we had planed to, but we should vote sometime today. The Ruler might attack us at any moment. We need to be prepared!"

"It is agreed. Yazzle will join the council," interrupted Rosad to prevent Cameri and Goppi from fighting. "The next issue at hand is to decide who will become our new council leader."

The Bamboo Princess had heard all she needed to hear and quietly crept away to return to her castle. If Peter was right, she would need to have the results before Detrina's trial. Unaware of this, the council continued their session.

"What about you?" Goppi suggested to Cameri. "If your so concerned about going on with business as usual, maybe you should take over as council leader."

Cameri shook her head.

"You're the oldest," she reminded Goppi. "In the past, it has been the most experienced council member who becomes council leader. You are by far the most experienced of the three of us."

"I agree," added Rosad letting them know her opinion. "Goppi would make an excellent council leader."

"If both of you are in agreement, I will take over as council leader," said Goppi. "My first act as council leader will be to bring this session to an end. Rosad, I want you to tell Yazzle the good news. The four of us will vote on the issue of whether or not to join the alliance against the Ruler at noon tomorrow. Dismissed!"

The three of them left the room pleased that their crisis was coming to an end sooner than they had expected it to, but appearances could be deceiving.

TIME : 8:15 A.M.
PLACE : Detrina's jail cell

Peter kept his promise to the Bamboo Princess and kept the others occupied by telling them about the Bamboo Princess. They were fascinated with her and asked Peter plenty of questions. Peter did his best to answer them adding as many interesting details as he could think of about her castle.

Peter gave them subtle hints that he was stalling them while the Bamboo Princess went on a fact finding mission. The others understood and tried to comply by telling Peter about their experiences in Atlica. They knew that someone was monitoring them, so they tried not to say anything important without letting on that they knew they were being watched.

All of them lost track of the time that went by. They didn't realize how long they had been talking until Rosad came over to join them.

"Congratulations, Yazzle," she smiled. "You are now a member of the council."

"I'm honored," she replied smiling meekly as if she had been expecting it.

The others started congratulating her, but Rosad was quick to break it up.

"Visiting hours are over," she stated coldly. "You will have to leave now. Yazzle will escort the male to the guest room."

As a member of the council, Yazzle no longer had to take orders from Rosad, but she liked the people at M.W.G.D., so she did her old job one last time and guided Peter to the guest room.

After Peter and Yazzle separated from the others, Peter noticed that people were staring at him. It made him nervous until he remembered that he was the only male in the city. Then, he looked to see how they felt about his presence there. Some didn't like the fact that a male was in their city and wanted him to leave as soon as possible, but most of them welcomed him. They knew that not just any male was allowed in Atlica, so he had to be someone important. Peter moved his hand along the left shirt pocket until it rested on the M.W.G.D. badge he was wearing. Even in the female dominated city, the badge gave him status.

At last they came to a reasonably large bedroom near the center of the city with doors leading to a closet on the left and a bathroom on the right. Looking around the room, Peter quickly figured out that the guest room was a room the council had set aside for their male guests when it was necessary for one to be there.

On the dresser next to the bed was an open book with a list of names and dates in it. It was a list of all the males who had been in Atlica in the last one hundred years. Peter noticed that the most recent name on the list was dated over a month ago.

The room was seldom used. Peter checked the page before and found Shawn's name.

"Shawn will be interested to know that I was in Altica too," Peter thought to himself.

Seeing how interested Peter was in the book and knowing that he wanted to add his name to the list, Yazzle handed him a pen and left to join the other members of the council.

TIME : 9:00 A.M.
PLACE : The Bamboo Princess's castle

The Bamboo Princess flew to her castle at maximum speed. Once there, she hurried to the computer and tried to match agent Quintar's voice with one of the members of the council. She thought she was alone. She wasn't. A shadowy figure began creeping toward her while she was concentrating on the computer. The figure was less than four meters away by the time the Bamboo Princess finally noticed her. She couldn't believe her eyes!

"Mistica!" she exclaimed as if she had seen a ghost.

"Agent Quintar never bothered to check what she had shot," Mistica began. "Yazzle and I created a stuffed dummy that looks just like me to spend the night in my bed. Your warning probably saved my life."

"Yazzle knew you were still alive?" she gasped.

"I needed someone to help me," explained Mistica. "I would have let you help except I feared that that would put you in danger."

"I was about to find out who your murderer was," the Bamboo Princess stammered feeling rather foolish.

"I have a pretty good idea who it is," declared Mistica. "but I would like to see if I'm right. Goppi disappoves of us joining the alliance against the Ruler while Cameri and Rosad are all for it. I think Goppi has something to hide."

The Bamboo Princess played back the tape and waited for the computer to find a match. Cameri's voice was first on the tape. No match. Then, Goppi spoke. The computer identified Goppi as agent Quintar. The Ruler's ally was the new council leader.

TIME : 10:00 A.M.
PLACE : The High Court of Atlica

The High Court of Atlica was similar to most small court rooms on Earth, expect for special cases, such as this one, when the council leader became the judge and the other council members became the jury. Goppi planed to get the trial over with as quickly as possible. Regardless of the outcome, the council would not able able to join the alliance before the Ruler attacked. It might have worked if it weren't for two very unusual witnesses.

Everyone was stunned when Mistica and the Bamboo Princess walked into the courtroom, even Yazzle who knew that Mistica was still alive. Detrina couldn't believe her eyes. She was sure they were going to convict her. They couldn't charge her with murder if the person she had supposedly killed was still alive.

Mistica pointed an accusing finger at Goppi.

"As you can see, I'm still alive!" she shouted in anger before explaining things to her people. "Goppi has made a deal with the Ruler. She is to leave Quintar defenseless while the Ruler attacks and in return, the Ruler will leave her in charge of what's left of this planet so he can go out and conquer another world."

The people of Atlica had a hard time accepting this. Goppi had been a member of the council for over ten years and they had trusted her with their lives. However, if there was one person they trusted more than Goppi, it was Mistica. Mistica had been on the council for over twenty-five years and council leader for ten. If she said someone had betrayed them, they had been betrayed.

Goppi saw that the people were on Mistica's side, but she knew she still had the advantage.

"I can still tell the Ruler it's safe to attack," she announced. "He's out there waiting for me to give the word."

The security guards drew their phasers and pointed them at Goppi, but Mistica told them to lower their weapons. Stunning or killing Goppi wasn't going to help them any.

"You're too late! Mistica cried out boldly. "After I left the city, I talked to Shawn and some of the members in the alliance. Each of them have sent several battleships to defend us. Tell the Ruler to leave the area at once and we will be merciful on you."

"You had no right to do that," complained Goppi.

"Camei, Rosad, and Yazzle have agreed to join the alliance. That's a majority vote. Since I am still alive and chose not to retire, I am still council leader. Therefore, I can remove you from the council. You have five seconds to surrender before I let the security guards open fire."

Goppi was extremely angry with Mistica, but she still had her senses. There was no point in committing suicide. She got out her communicator and spoke with the Ruler one last time.

"Mistica's called for reinforcements," she reported. "I am now in their custody. They want you to leave the area at once."

"I will leave for now, but I promise I will return, next time with a more capable agent," snapped the Ruler with more than a hint of disappoinent in his voice.

He was beaten for the moment.

Atlica, and the rest of Quintar, immediately started to celebrate. Mistica had given them victory over the Ruler. The first people to congratulate her were the officers from M.W.G.D..

"How did you manage to get in touch with the other planets so quickly?" wondered Lisa.

Mistica looked real serious for a second, then showed the fear in her that she had managed to keep hidden until that moment.

"I was bluffing," she said honestly.

TIME : 2:00 P.M. (14:00)
PLACE : The neighboring village

Shawn, the other M.W.G.D. officers, and the members of the council had all gathered at the village to celebrate their new alliance. The council had agreed to reduce the punishment for people who entered the city and agreed to let males in more frequently. Eventually they would push toward equality, but that was in the distant future.

"What was it like to be the only male in the entire city?" inquired Hank.

"I really didn't get a chance to enjoy it that much," Peter responded nervously. "I was too worried about Detrina."

"Hardly anyone ever does," admitted Mistica. "Most visitors come during an emergency. Shawn was one of the few exceptions."

"It was a pleasure seeing you again," Shawn told her sounding like he was getting ready to leave. "Maybe next time I can stay a little longer."

"That reminds me. You never did tell us what you and Mistica talked about the first time you met," Peter recalled.

Shawn chuckled quietly to himself.

"How to avoid being assassinated," he replied.

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