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Planet of the Rovers

by Scott Oliverson

CHAPTER XVI

     Beyond the lagoon stood a line of low-lying hills, some of them
reaching almost to the height of mountains. The hike was not difficult,
but the sun made the going hot. Robyn, Zak & Richard were best suited
for the journey, and seemed impatient with the others for slowing down.
 Blitz complained for the first few miles, until Space Ace threatened to
gag him with a tree branch. He was quiet after that. McLeach looked
exhausted before an hour passed. Colleen was determined to not look
like the pampered canosapien she was and kept steadily in the middle of
the small group. Thunderbolt simply endured.

     Around noontime they stopped for a brief lunch break, and Ace
found Colleen next to him, offering a canteen she and T-Bolt brought.
He closed his eyes and took a swig, feeling the cold water wash dust
down his throat. When he opened his eyes, Colleen was smiling at him,
her eyes so soft and friendly it made him uncomfortable. Ace grinned
back and offered her some energy bars from his med-kit.

               COLLEEN
What on earth? What's this.
               SPACE ACE
It's called energy bars or granola bars. Where I come from, on my
planet we eat these bars to help keep our energy levels up inside our
bodies and thus risk feeling wimpy or weak from lack of nourishment.
               THUNDERBOLT
That's interesting senior. Energy bars?
               SPACE ACE
Yes, they come in variety of flavors to your liking. <He layed them on
the ground> Peanut butter, chocolate chip, cinnamon & raisin, oatmeal &
raisins, etc.
               COLLEEN
Blimey, may I try one?
               SPACE ACE
Help yourself madame collie.
               RICHARD
Cool, that looks good.
               ZAK
Hey, I could use one of those energy bars too.
               SPACE ACE
Be my guest allies.
               PERCIVAL MCLEACH
Hmmm, granola bars? Never heard of them but I'll try one too.

     Ace passed around the bars and his own water canteen to share.
When Colleen offered her canteen to Robyn, she brushed it aside. As
they started walking again later, Colleen kept pace with Ace and said.

               COLLEEN
I have so many questions I want to ask.
               SPACE ACE
Get in line.
               COLLEEN
What are these...zoos you speak of? I don't know that word.
               SPACE ACE
Zoos are where you'll find our last few apes and such.
               THUNDERBOLT
What happened to the rest of them?
               SPACE ACE
Gone. After we cut down their trees and destroyed the rainforests of
Africa & Asia to make way for farmlands, some of the great primates were
captured and killed as trophys by poachers, evil people who do terrible
things to apes. Others were sent to zoos or wild animal parks to
protect from poachers, usually the infant babies whose parents were
taken away. <The rovers stare in horror> But there were kind people who
cared, protected the baby apes until they grew up again and were
returned back into the wild hoping they would survive on their own.
Others were locked in cages for our amusement...or use in scientific
experiments.

     T-Bolt said nothing, but Colleen reacted with outright shock.

               COLLEEN
That's...horrible!
               SPACE ACE <Nods>
We do worse to our own kind in the future.
               THUNDERBOLT
I don't understand. You seem to posess such great intelligence.
               SPACE ACE
You got that right K9. Yeah, we're pretty smart. And the smarter we
get, the more dangerous our world becomes.

     He said it because he believed it, but he also said it to break
the connection she was trying to establish with him. Her eyes kept
probing, pushing to open him up in some ways, and even his harshest
description did nothing to stop her.

               COLLEEN
You're sensitive. That's an uncommon trait in a male.

     Thunderbolt had no patience for sensitivity or personal
observations.

               THUNDERBOLT
Why don't your dogs object to the way you treat them?
               SPACE ACE
Our dogs can't talk, except bark, growl or howl in their own language
which makes it hard for us to understand what they are telling us.

     Colleen was suprised at this, too.

               COLLEEN
Maybe they choose not to, given the way you treat them.
               BLITZ <Snorts>
Dogs in cages. Right.
               ROBYN
Sounds like paradise to me.

     The hills before them rose up to a steep slope, and humans &
rovers alike found themselves using hands & feet to scramble upward.
Richard Tyler reached up for a ledge and hauled himself higher, his hand
grasping on to some sort of handle. He looked up to see what it was and
found himself staring face to face with an angry ape.

               RICHARD TYLER
AAAAAAAAAAAH! <Screams>

     He let go and tumbled backward, pinwheeling downhill until
someone wrapped him in their arms and held him up. It was Ace. Calmly,
the star Lieutenant pointed back up the hill.

               SPACE ACE
Relax, they're not real.

     A line of canines stood along the ridge of the hill, but they
were EFFIGIES - SCARECROW DOGS, nearly twice the size of Thunderbolt
guarding the land beyond the hills against invaders. Robyn looked at
the figures with a mixture of hatred and fear.

               ROBYN
The nWo put those anywhere they don't want colonists to go. Crossing
that line means certain death.
               SPACE ACE
What's so important on the other side of this hill?
               THUNDERBOLT
It leads to the ancient ruins at Calima.
               SPACE ACE <Suprised>
Great Scott, what on earth is Calima?
               COLLEEN <Explains>
Our ancient writings say CREATION BEGAN AT CALIMA. THERE, THE ALMIGHTY
BREATHED LIFE INTO PYRO, THE FIRST ROVER, IN THE TIME BEFORE TIME.
               THUNDERBOLT <Finishes>
There it is said PYRO WILL RETURN TO US ONE DAY.
               COLLEEN
Of course, most educated canosapiens consider such religious notions to
be fantasy make-believe. They are metaphors we use to explain our
origins. I doubt there ever really was a Pyro.

     Ace stared up the steepest part of the hill and casually passed
in the shadow of the EFFIGIES. The other Rovers followed with T-Bolt
prodding Blitz along. Tyler gathered his courage before anyone else
did. He leaped across like a boy jumping out of a frying pan and into
the fire. Zak his big brother followed, and then Robyn. All three of
them smiled. The boldness of their act carried them up the rest of the
slope. By late afternoon they had reached the peak. Ace took the
group's first step over the final ridge and looked down the other side.
 His heart sank.

     Streched out before him, as far as the eye could see, were
tents. He was looking down on a war camp of the New World Order! The
nWo battalion had set up camp in the only likely crossing point in that
region of the country. On either side, the hills rose up into even
steeper mountain country. The only safe way through lay in a narrow
valley carved out by a river. The encampment stood on the near side of
the river. Between the canosapiens and the slope where the escapees lay
hidden was a pen. Inside stood a small herd of horses. From behind a
tumble of rocks, Robyn watched the horses in fear.

               ROBYN
Monsters. <Whispers>
               SPACE ACE
What are you talking about?
               ZAK <Points at the herd>
I've heard they are posessed by the ghosts of great Rover generals.
               RICHARD
I've heard they eat flesh.

     Ace rolled his eyes, a strange look came onto his face.

               SPACE ACE
Whoohooa, these colonists are brainwashed than I can imagine. They're
just horses. They'll do whatever you tell them to do.
               ZAK <Shook his head>
We should cross the river another way. Over the mountains.

     Ace glanced up at the slopes to the right and left. Any detour
would add days to their march. And if the Messanger's signal was
accurate, he had one more day to reach his destination and freedom.

               SPACE ACE
I've got no time for that. We'll go through the nWo, the hard way.

     Blitz, who had taken as much abuse from this stranger as he
could stand growled, ears flat and eyes narrowed.

               BLITZ
Jah? And where should we bury your remains?

     But Ace was already gone before the doberman could finish.

               BLITZ
Now where did he go?
               PERCIVAL MCLEACH
He, just dissapeared like magic.
               COLLEEN
Blimey no! He didn't leave us.
               RICHARD
I sure hope not.
               ROBYN
He will come back, he has to.
               ZAK
I'm betting on that too sister.
               THUNDERBOLT
Aye carumba. <Rolls his eyes>

               END OF PART XVI

              Proceed to Chapter 17