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Planet of the Rovers

by Scott Oliverson

CHAPTER X

     Colleen jumped to her feet, her chair clattering to the floor
behind her as she glared first at Hunter, then Huntress, then Balto,
Jenna and Lassie who all gave her shocked looks.

               COLLEEN
You are all mean and cruel! I've lost my appetite.

     She stormed up to her room, trying hard not to look like a
pouting child. The room was dark, but she found a match and by memory,
she walked over to a candle and lit it. Instantly a sweet odor filled
the air. Light from the candle illuminated the image of a canosapien
but in reality he was a half canomutant-half cybernetic machine! The
Rover smiled at her as though she had nothing to worry about.

               HUNTER
Undoubtedly, you are praying to Pyro for patience.

     Colleen whirled around to see Hunter standing in the doorway
grinning at her like a shy teenager about to ask a beautiful girl on a
first date.

               COLLEEN
Hunty, you have a habit of sneaking up on people.
               HUNTER
I never took you for the religious type.

     He pointed to the candle and the image of Pyro, the messiah who
had brought salvation to the dogs. And, if you believed the legend,
Pyro would return one day to lead them to paradise. Hunter made his way
casually into the room. Colleen said back, frown on her face.

               COLLEEN
And I never took you for the type to mistreat or abuse helpless
ani...<She stops herself>
               HUNTER
Helpless animals? <Smirks> Exactly. They are animals, Colleen. Argue
for the better treatment of animals, and you might bend an ear or two.
But argue for making them more than animals, and you'll wear out your
voice in the end.

     He reached for the candle and held his hand up to the flame.

               HUNTER
I have no patience for these society dinners. I only came to see you.
               COLLEEN
Then you have wasted your time.

     His hand went from the candle to her neck, caressing it, and
holding it too so she could not back away.

               HUNTER
My feelings have not changed since the last time we spoke. You know how
much I care for you.
               COLLEEN
You only care about my mother's influence. And your own ambition.

     She allowed him to nuzzle her for a second or two before pulling
away in disgust. He reached after her, but his hand clutched only the
scarf made by humans. Hunter curled his lip, showing his teeth. His
voice changed in an instant. The soft-spoken lover was gone, replaced
by a general hardened by war.

               HUNTER
I know about the trouble you caused today. I could have you arrested.

     But Colleen now could see him for what he was. A petty jilted
Rover in disquise.

               COLLEEN
What I did was right, If I have to, I'll do it again! <Glares back>

     Hunter shook his head sadly and backed away, his teeth still
long and bare in his mouth. When he reached the door, he said simply.

               HUNTER
You feel so much for the colonists...yet you can't feel anything for me.

     He said the word HUMAN like a curse. Then he was gone. General
Hunter left Lassie's house without saying goodbye. His long, strong
fingers swam through the scarf as he pondered this young female. She
was right he told himself. He wanted her for her mother's influence. A
general with such a strong ally in the council could do anything. But
he did also care for her, in his own way. Hunter reached for his horse
and barely acknowledged Exile as he mounted.

               EXILE
Commander, a moment, please.
               HUNTER <Looks darkly at him>
What is it now?

     Two canosapiens (aka Dylan and Bayson) melted out of the
darkness and stood at attention.

               HUNTER
What? <Demands, eyes narrowed, frown on face>
               EXILE
These soldiers insist on speaking to you, sir. They won't tell me what
it's about, but they insist it's urgent.
               HUNTER
Go ahead, tell me. <To himself> This should be interesting.

     As he listened, his eyes opened wide in shock & suprise!
Minutes later the soldiers led the general and sergant Exile through the
forest east of the city. It was the land Hunter knew well - he had been
there earlier that same day, driving humans from the orchards. The
colonists infested the fruit groves like fleas. Beyond the groves lay
an immense bog. Humans did not go there because of mosquitoes. Rovers
did not go there because there was nothing to be had there. The
soldiers had been stationed merely to watch for stray humans who might
wander that way from the orchards.

     When the soldiers signaled a halt, Hunter dismounted quickly.
He walked to the edge. Now and then something disturbed the water - a
fish or frog, and the surface rippled.

               HUNTER
Tell me again. You say you saw something?
               BAYSON
Something fell out of the sky.
               DYLAN
With wings of fire. And it was screaming.
               EXILE
Pyro. <He let the word slip>

     Hunter smiled to himself, an evil grin on his face. He was
suprised his 2nd In Command held the word in so long. For all his skill
at warcraft, Exile was a simple canine. He cared about 2 things only:
follow his god and take orders. That's what made him such a good
soldier of the New World Order. But these others, Hunter was not so
sure about.

               HUNTER
Are you sure you did not imagine this, dream it?
               BAYSON
No sir! Look! <He pointed to a line of broken trees>

     In the moonlight they stuck up like jagged, broken teeth.
Something had torn through them with great violence.

               HUNTER
Where is this thing you say you saw come down now?
               DYLAN
Splashed down in there. <Pointed to the lagoon> But not far from shore.

     Hunter put his hands at his waist, adjusting the heft of his
belt. His hand passed over the hilt of a sword strapped to its scabbord
and closed around the handle.

               HUNTER
Who else have you told?
               BAYSON
No one sir.
               DYLAN
We knew we had to come right to you.
               HUNTER
You did exactly the right thing and for that I shall reward you...NOT!
               EXILE
Commander?!
               HUNTER
Do not interfere sarge. <Gives glowering look>

     And before Exile's horrified eyes Hunter lunged forward and
struck down both his soldiers again and again with death blows from his
sword. Bayson & Dylan had no time to scream or cry out in pain or
horror as they collapsed dead at their leader's feet. Smirking over his
handywork the retriever stood over the lifeless bodies before turning to
face his sergant who still had the frightened expression on his face.

               HUNTER
Do you want to be next?
               EXILE
No sir, no! <Backs off> Please, don't kill me.
               HUNTER
Good. <Holsters his sword> Make sure nobody else knows of this mystery.
 I have a bad feeling about this, if what these soldiers say is true if
something did fall from the sky and splashdown in this lagoon, <His mind
goes back to the stranger, the human he tortured at Lassie's> Hmmm,
could this stranger be the one who came from another planet? If so,
then why did he come...I must find out!

               END OF PART X

               Proceed to Chapter 11