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Planet of the Rovers

by Scott Oliverson


     A house protecting the spring stood lonely and still in the
darkness. Suddenly, something powerful struck the inside of the door,
rattling the entire house. A second blow smashed the door to pieces.
Out stepped Thunderbolt, his old body more than a match for a simple
door. Behind him came Colleen, and then the humans. Space Ace walked a
few paces out of the springhouse and then bent over, hands on his knees,
gasping for breath. They'd run through the dark, near an airless tunnel
leading to the house for what must have been an hour before they reached
a set of stone steps that led up to the well. None of them had a chance
to speak during the run or think. But now with a full moon set for the
night, they rested in the fields beyond the city walls.

     Robyn, who held herself in check during their flight, now burst
into silent sobs. No sound came from her, but her shoulders shook as
she choked back her tears. Colleen walked over to her and put a hand on
her shoulder to calm her down.

I...I am sorry. Your father Mr. Sevile was a brave man to lay down his
life so you could be spared as your brother.

     All the years of oppression and indigities she suffered came
rushing back in an instant.

You don't know anything about my father!

     The blond-haired girl leaped for Colleen, her hands outstreched.
 Colleen stepped back, assumed a martial arts stance but Robyn kept
coming. Suddenly Colleen lashed out with a sidekick that dropped the
human to the ground forcefully.

I teach you manners to assault me! Don't forget I am a master of the
martial arts of karate.

     By that time T-Bolt had stepped between them, looming over Robyn
like a mountain, and Zak & Richard gotten hold of Robyn. But she would
have none of it.

               ROBYN! <Twists free of Ace and runs>
Sister, come back!
Don't run off, you'll get lost!

     But she took off for the trees...

               SPACE ACE
We have to go after her.
We have to be smart, or it won't matter whether you catch up to your
woman or not. Hunter will be after us.

     Ace followed Robyn with his gaze, but then wrenched his thoughts
back to even more pressing matters. He looked at the springhouse with
its broken door.

               SPACE ACE
Will someone think of this way out of the city?
               COLLEEN <Nods>
They'll have to, when they realize we're gone. Someone will think of it
sooner or later. They will follow the tunnel.
No, I'll see to that. You go ahead and I'll join you later.

     He strode over to a boulder nearby as tall as he was and began
to push it toward the springhouse. Strain showed on his face, but the
rock moved easily until it blocked the doorway.

Now it's safe to go, the New World Order will have a hard time getting
through that roadblock so to speak.
               SPACE ACE
That's what I call using your head T-Bolt.
Si senior. <Grins>

     They raced after Robyn...Ace jogged next to Colleen.

               SPACE ACE
Thunderbolt...he's no servant or butler.
               COLLEEN <Keeps eyes on the trees>
Thunder was a general and a good one in the nWo. But he opposed Hunty,
and he ruined his career. My mother took him in.
               SPACE ACE
I'm glad he's on our side.
I couldn't agree more.

     As they reached the line of trees, a pair of angry eyes peered
out a crack left by the boulder. Then a pair of strong hands began to
push against the rock. They caught up to Robyn easily enough. Although
she would not speak to Colleen, her only friends were her two brothers
Zak and Richard, and she waited for them. Too tired and too preoccupied
with their own thoughts, they traveled in the dark silence for hours.
Finally the sun began to lift over the distant hills, and the forest was
filled with a pale light.

               SPACE ACE
Here it is, X marks the spot.

     He stopped and pointed up to the treetops above him - trees with
broken tops and midtrunks blackened by a passing fire. He followed the
burn path like it was a beacon, until he came to the edge of the lagoon.

               SPACE ACE
This is where I flew in and crashlanded.

     The other humans and Rovers alike looked confused and un-nerved
by all the damage.

               COLLEEN did all this?
               SPACE ACE
My retro burners. <He saw the word meant nothing to her or the others>
They were part of my ship. They help slow the ship as it comes down.
               ROBYN <Fascinated>
I don't understand. <Touches burned tree trunk> You flew down from the
               SPACE ACE <Laughs>
Well, fell down is the politicaly correct statement.

     T-Bolt gave a low growl that sounded very much like disbelief.
Colleen looked at her bodyguard.

I'm sure he will explain everything.
How can he explain what can't be true.
               SPACE ACE <Had enough>
I'll tell you what can't exist, you! <Points to the Rovers> Talking
canines. This whole place is like a nightmare to me.
He's insane.

     But Ace didn't care what anyone said. All that mattered was
finding his pod, and finding a way out of this madness. He walked to
the water's edge and took a step in up to his ankles. Colleen started
to follow, but T-Bolt held her back.

               SPACE ACE
What's wrong?
Dogs can't swim. We'll drown in deep water.
               SPACE ACE
What?! <Almost laughs> Ridiculous. All dogs know how to swim, why back
on my world in my time dogs are great swimmers, know how to paddle their
way through water when out hunting with their masters for ducks and
such. Everytime they get out they shake their coats dry again. <Laughs
to himself> Dogs can't swim, great scott.
That's why we pray for rain everyday.

     In the growing light, Ace spotted an oil slick. Without another
word he dove under the water. It was cold and muddy. It wasn't deep,
but it was cloudy, and Ace could just make out the outline of his pod, a
white dome resting on the bottom of the lagoon. On shore, the canines
and humans began to shift nervously. Without the CHOSEN ONE, they felt
a bit lost.

How long can a human, especially a strange one who's not one of us hold
his breath beneath the water?

     Robyn was not one to put up with anticipation for long. She
dived in after Ace over the objections of her brothers. After a few
seconds, she too saw the strange pod. She stared in astonishment. She
kicked her feet and reached out, touching the side of the pod, her
fingers tracing the letters UN-NATO STAR COMMAND without knowing what
they meant. Just then Ace came out of the pod carrying a metallic box.
 He felt something touch his leg and recoiled, only to realize it was
Robyn. He nodedd to her, but her eyes were no longer on him. He turned
to look in the direction her eyes were bulging.

     A canosapien soldier stared back at him! Ace started in fear,
but the face of the mutant was frozen in a look of utter suprise &
horror, eyes sightless and unblinking, mouth open in a silent scream and
no bubbles came out. There was another canosapien beside that one, and
he was dead too. They both floated in the water, but were weighted down
by something. It gave them the odd appearance of standing on the bottom
of the bog. Ace slipped past the dead Rovers and pulled Robyn after
him. By the time his lungs were burning, and he pushed himself up to
the surface with Robyn beside him. He swam until his feet touched the
muddy bottom. Then he waded to shore, his clothes heavy with water,
dripping off his hair which hung matted over his face. The Rovers &
humans stared dumbfounded at him, watching and not knowing what to do as
he knelt down.

               SPACE ACE <Smirks>
So, tell me don't go near the water, eh?
That's right.
               SPACE ACE
Then ask me this, why are there two canines down there at the bottom?

     Everyone reacted in suprise, but it was Thunderbolt who raced
first to the conclusion.

It appears someone else knows about you and wanted it kept secret.

     Ace opened the box he'd taken from his pod and pulled a device
smaller than a laptop computer. He flipped it open and began to power
it up. He thanked TEAM ROCKET who packed the emergency kit to survive
even a full-force crash landing. Richard, unable to contain his
curiousity, peeked into the metal box and began to inspect the other
items. He found a compass, flares, medi-kit, field rations in small
bags. None of them made sense to him. The small laptop gave a loud
SQUAWK! Canosapiens & humans jumped alike.

Blimey, what is that?
               SPACE ACE <Tunes the device>
It's called a Messanger. It keeps an open frequency with my ship so I
can talk to them.

     Colleen came closer, sniffed and stared at the machine.

It talks? <Curious look>
               SPACE ACE
With radio waves. <Waves hand in air> Radio waves. Invisible energy
that floats all around us.
This is sorcery, magic.
               SPACE ACE
Correct my K9 ally, science. I just have to monkey with it a little.
Excuse the expression.

     T-Bolt would have protested further, but the Messanger suddenly
bleeped loudly. Ace didn't know whether to be suprised or delighted.

               SPACE ACE
Bingo! I've got contact. <Studied screen> Jeez, they're already here.

     His face became one of pure joy. Finally his friends were
coming to rescue him at last.

               END OF PART XIII

               Proceed to Chapter 14