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Planet of the Rovers

by Scott Oliverson

CHAPTER III

     An elevator door slid open and Space Ace dashed down one of Star
Command's corridors. This one ended in a large wall made of
shatter-proof glass. Set into the transparent wall was a control panel
and scanner. Ace pressed his palm against the screen which flashed
briefly followed by a computerized synthisized voice saying.

               COMPUTER VOICE
Handprint confirmed. You may enter when ready.

     The door opened and he ran inside. A number of crew members
were already there. He glanced at Dr. Kimberly then gave a nod of
recognition to RoboCop the cyborg police officer of Delta City and the
bodyguard to Buzz Lightyear and two of the ship's officers aka TEAM
ROCKET Jessie and James! Buzz Lightyear the commander paced back and
forth anxiously as his crew studied a number of displays.

               JAMES ROCKET
We found it.
               JESSIE ROCKET
Correction, it found us.
               JAMES ROCKET
Oh right, I made a mistake.
               JESSIE ROCKET
No hard feelings. Check it out. <She points to the main viewscreen>

     On the screen Ace saw a cloud, a mix of dark and light colors
like a storm or thunderhead lit up by sunrise, rushing through space.

               ROBOCOP
IT'S MOVING LIKE A THUNDERSTORM OR MICROBURST SIR.
               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
That's what it is. An electromagnetic storm.

     Kimberly looked at her screen to confirm something.

               KIMBERLY
That's what's causing the blackouts on Earth.
               JESSIE ROCKET
It's...it's beautiful. <Can't take her eyes off it>
               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR <Smirks>
Oh yeah redhead? So's the sun till you get too close.
               ROBOCOP
THIS IS REALLY WIERD, MY PROGRAMMING NEVER DETECTED ANYTHING LIKE THIS
BEFORE.
               SPACE ACE
Could you be a little less technical?
               ROBOCOP <Explains>
I'M PICKING UP FREQUENCY PATTERNS. ALL ACROSS THE BAND COMMANDER, RADIO
WAVES, TELEVISION SIGNALS, THE WORKS.
               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
Tune them in Murphy.
               ROBOCOP
YES SIR. <Opens his receiver and switches to main screen> COMING ONLINE
NOW LIGHTYEAR.

     Instantly the bridge was filled with sights and sounds flashing
onto the screen. Ace caught images of familiar TV shows he always
enjoyed watching back home at the Institute as Dexter during his youth
consisting of cartoons, sports, action-adventure, sci-fi, etc.

               KIMBERLY <Curious>
What is all that?
               ROBOCOP
THAT...THING OR ALIEN INTELLIGENCE OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN IS SUCKING UP
SATELLITE RELAYS. <He hardly seems to believe it himself> IT'S PICKING
UP SATELLITES, CELLPHONE CONVERSATIONS, RADIO BROADCASTS EITHER
TALKSHOWS, MUSIC AND/OR SPORTING EVENTS, TV BROADCASTS EVERY ELECTRONIC
COMMUNICATION FROM EARTH FROM HILL VALLEY TO DELTA CITY AND PALLET TOWN.

     None of the crew members could hardly believe what Murphy was
telling them, especially Buzz himself.

               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
But some of those broadcasts either radio and/or television are 20-30
years old.
               SPACE ACE
Yes, I haven't listened to Old-Time Radio broadcasts before except on
audiocassette. Or even watched old-time TV shows either.
               ROBOCOP
AFFIRMATIVE ACE. IT's PICKING UP BROADCASTS FROM ALL TIME PERIODS OF
THE 20TH CENTURY AND 21ST CENTURY ERAS.
               KIMBERLY
Oh good grief. <Sounds like Charlie Brown or Lucy> That's alot of TV to
watch, especially choosing between hundreds of channels while trying to
decide what favorite show to watch at what time.
               SPACE ACE
I agree Kimmy 100 percent.

     The first bleep of an alarm sounded and then went silent.
Simultanously the entire ship went dark again. When the power once
again came online the crew stared nervously at each other.

               JESSIE ROCKET
Well, it sure knows how to get your attention quick.
               JAMES ROCKET
Yeah, when it talks...we listen. <And they both laugh>
               ROBOCOP
WHAT'S SO FUNNY?
               KIMBERLY
I didn't find that amusing.
               SPACE ACE
Never mind, they were only teasing. <Tries keeping straight face>

     Buzz was the first to recover his wits.

               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
All right rangers. Let's get to work. We'll start with a pass through
the core. Take initial radiation and gamma ray readings. <Nods to Ace>
Get your collie ready.
               SPACE ACE
Uh, sir, excuse me if I may ask. This is a waste of time.
               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
Lieutenant, we have standard procedures.
               SPACE ACE
And by the time you go through all of them, that electromagnetic storm
or alien intelligence could be long gone.

     Lightyear knew what his TOP pilot was lobbying for, and he was
prepared for it and said so.

               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
Sorry but the answer is NO. <Seeing Ace turn mad he explains> No manned
flights, too dangerous for ordinary pilots to venture out there without
knowing what the consequences or risk factors will be. First we send
out a canine dog. Then if it is safe, if the dog pilot returns unharmed
then we send out a regular pilot. Until then...no exceptions.

     30 minutes later Ace was standing next to the pilot's seat in
ALPHA POD, strapping Daisy in. He worked hard to hide his nervousness
from the collie. That was the most difficult part of Ace's job, but he
knew that Daisy's life depended on it. If Daisy detected fear in her
master, she would start to become afraid herself, and that might make
her forget all her training.

               SPACE ACE
OK, pet. <Pats her on the head> Just follow your sequence and then come
home. Understand? Come home like E.T. did in the movie, right?

     As he stepped back the collie whinned with fright. To reassure
her, Ace gave a thumbs up sign. The collie stared at him for a second
or two before selecting a paw-thumb and raised it up too smiling. Ace
grinned back, almost laughed and stroked Daisy's fur some more to calm
her down as she licked his face goodbye and nuzzled him for the last
time before the Hero Of Earth stepped back, gave a farewell salute to
which Daisy returned the gesture and the pod door was closed. It took
him 90 seconds to sprint back to the bridge. He plopped down at the
station elbow-to-elbow with Buzz Lightyear and slid on his headset.

               COMPUTER VOICE
POD AWAY, CLEARING THE STATION.
               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
Acknowledged.

     A countdown timer began ticking down the Hours-Minutes-Seconds
of the mission...On his own console Ace tracked ALPHA POD's flight path
as it looped once around the much larger Star Command and then streaked
away toward the electromagnetic storm. For a few brief seconds, ALPHA
POD's course looked picture perfect. Then the image started to blink.

               KIMBERLY
What's wrong?
               SPACE ACE
Aaaaaaaaugh! <Yells like Charlie Brown> Great Scott!

     He did not know his partner was leaning over his shoulder which
made him yell and jump.

               SPACE ACE
The blink indicates she's off course.
               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR <Business-like>
Lock on her with tractor beam.
               SPACE ACE
I can't, can't get a fix on her. She's not responding.

     Kimmy's eyes shifted to the medical readouts transmitted by the
vest Daisy wore displaying her heart & pulse rate, blood-pressure, etc.

               KIMBERLY
There's a surge in her heart rate. She's scared.

     Ace his face white as a sheet, frozen with horror in his eyes
tried to boost the signal, hoping Daisy would catch it and make the
changes needed to return to base. But instead of smoothing out, the
indicator showing the collie's course began to blink more rapidly, then
it dissapeared. Ace's breath caught in his throat as a silent scream
almost forced itself up through his body. He waited, expecting the
indicator to come back online. Then he waited, expecting someone to
tell him there was a malfunction. But there was nothing wrong with the
equipment, and the light failed to return.

               SPACE ACE
I lost her, my pet.
               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
Light her up again.
               SPACE ACE
I can't...oh s***, Daisy's dead, lost in space. What have I done? <Out
loud> I've killed her! It's all my fault!

     James, Jessie, Kimmy & RoboCop stare open mouthed-wide eyed at
him with shocked looks. What did he say they wonder?

               KIMBERLY
She's trained to come back to Star Command. <Tries to reassure him>

     Ace ignored her and spun toward Lightyear. He stared at the
commander wordlessly for a moment and then said.

               SPACE ACE
I await your orders sir.

     Buzz knew what Ace meant. They all watched as Lightyear slumped
into his seat, weighing his judgement against his admiration for Ace's
loyalty and honor. Finally he growled.

               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
We sit tight for now and wait.

     Ace glared, eyes narrowed, fists clenched and fought back the
urge to punch his friend in the kisser or protest but knew that would do
him no good because he would end up in the brig (Another name for jail)
or worse! Instead he slowly stood up, straightened his jacket and said.

               SPACE ACE
Very well commander. On second thought, with your permission
I'll...I'll fun some sequences in DELTA POD to see if I can figure out
what she did wrong.
               BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
Permission granted, go ahead Ace. But don't do anything stupid unless
you tell me first OK?
               SPACE ACE
Yes sir. <Salutes>
               ROBOCOP
BE CAREFUL ACE, DON'T WANT YOU SUFFERING THE SAME FATE.
               JESSIE ROCKET
I'm sure Daisy is alright, she's not dead.
               JAMES ROCKET
That is if we can find her in time.
               KIMBERLY
Good luck hero.
               SPACE ACE
Asta-la-vista-baby...I'll be back. <And he was gone>

               END OF PART III

               Proceed to Chapter IV