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Planet of the Rovers

by Scott Oliverson

CHAPTER XVII

     Star couldn't believe her run of bad luck. First the batallion
under her command got called up for active duty to guard some
Pyro-forsaken pass in the middle of nowhere; then she lost 3 hands of
cards in a row to her brother Xander. When it was his turn, Xander
grinned a big doggie ear-to-ear grin and slapped down a winning card.

               XANDER <Chuckles>
Pyro smiles on me. It must be my lucky day.

     As he reached for the pot (Another name for container holding
the cash) Star couldn't stand it. She grabbed her brother's wrist.

               STAR
You win too often. What have you got up your sleeve?

     Xander's face tensed and he held up both arms and pulled up the
sleeves of his green t-shirt.

               XANDER
Oops, nothing here and nothing there. Does this answer your question
sister?

     The other players grunted and Xander again reached for the pot,
but Star hadn't been born yesterday.

               STAR
Not so fast, all of them.

     Without waiting for her brother to comply, she reached down and
pulled up one of Xander's pant legs. Nothing. Then she pulled up the
other revealing Xander's left foot and the playing card he held between
his toes.

               STAR
Why you double-crossing cheater!

     Enraged, she jumped up and shoved Xander backwards. Xander
rolled in the dust, roaring in anger. Commander or not, no one shoved
him like that or accused him of playing dirty.

               XANDER
How dare you?! I'll teach you manners to push your sibling around.
               STAR
Yeah?! <Sneers> Come on! Let's rumble bro.
               RICKY
Uh-oh, things are going to get hot around here.
               ALETHIA
I got a bad feeling about this.
               PENNY
Uh you two? <Tries getting their attention>
               STAR
Back off dalmatian, this is not yours.
               XANDER
This is between the two of us.
               SPIRIT
Hold it! Horse approaches. <Cups ear>

     Both Star & Xander turn in the direction of the sound of a
galloping horse coming towards them and a familiar rider stormed into
their midst. Leaping off his horse in midstride and landing amoung them
as gracefully as a boxer or wrestler but solid as a rock. Star
recognized him as Exile, Hunter's right hand man.

               EXILE
Who is in charge here?
               STAR <Straightened up>
I am, sergant. <Salutes> They...they did not tell me you were coming.

     Exile scowled at her, delivering a look that indicated it
shouldn't make no difference whether he was announced or not.

               EXILE
This camp is a disgrace. Reminds me of the CIVIL WAR camps of the 1860s
between the North and South.

     Star and Xander gulped, trying to breathe. This was not a
social visit. Exile continued.

               EXILE
Some humans have escaped from RoverCity.

     The batallion commander was relieved. Was that all?

               STAR
If they come this way, we'll crush them.
               OTHER ROVERS
HAIL THE NEW WORLD ORDER! <Raise arms in the salute>
               EXILE
These colonists are different. They travel with Rovers and the CHOSEN
ONE.

     Star, Spirit, Penny, Ricky, Jeff, Alethia, Sierra, Dervish,
Huntress, and the other nWo Rovers laugh & giggle at the impossibility
of the statement, but Exile cut them off.

               EXILE
You find this amusing?
               XANDER
N-no, sergant!
               EXILE
I'm assuming command, I will personally make sure this camp is prepared.
 If anyone enters this valley, I want to know about it.

     The roar of Exile's voice could be heard almost all the way to
the horse pens, where Ace was at that moment slipping between the slats
of the corral and jumping onto the back of a brown stallion. When he
tugged the mane, it turned on command and he grinned at his companions.

               SPACE ACE
Who's next?

     When no one moved, he frowned.

               SPACE ACE
Then I guess we're saying goodbye here.

     At this mild threat, Colleen took a hesitant step forward.

               ROBYN
Wait! <Protests> You can't go. You're afraid of water.
               COLLEEN
Well, <Scoffs> You can't go lady, you're afraid of horses.

     Ace trotted his horse forward and pointed at Robyn.

               SPACE ACE
You want ride? Grab a fistfull of mane and hold on. <Looks at Colleen>
You want to cross? Horses are good swimmers. They will carry you.

     Thunderbolt, as always silent until necessary, said.

               THUNDERBOLT
You're assuming the nWo won't kill you first. I've just seen Hunter's
sergant ride into camp.
               SPACE ACE <Studies the K9>
Sounds like he scares you T-Bolt.
               THUNDERBOLT
I trained him myself. He should scare you senior.

     Blitz rattled the chains around his hands and feet.

               BLITZ
Well, good luck everyone, have a pleasant ride. Obviously, I can't go.
 So if you don't mind...

     Ace suprised all of them by producing the key to the chains and
unlocked them.

               ROBYN <Furious>
You're letting the hostage go?
               SPACE ACE
No, but he can't wear the chains if he's riding with us.
               BLITZ <Laughs>
HA! There's no way...
               COLLEEN
Oh yeah fluffy? <Sneers> You will ride with us whether you like it or
not. And if you try to escape, I'll tell Hunty Wunty that we bribed you
to help us escape from RoverCity.
               BLITZ <Looks brave>
I'll deny it.
               THUNDERBOLT
Si, a very large bribe.
               BLITZ <Chokes>
Of all the...one or two little indiscreations in my past, and they come
back to haunt me! <Spats> The whole thing's suicide! Ride through an
army encampment? Only a human would think this could work.

     Ace flashed a smile. He reached into the Messanger box and
pulled a device that looked like the gun which he still carried with him
that T-Bolt tried to destroy but did not. This one was fitted on the
end with a flare.

               SPACE ACE
Attitude, <Boasted> is the first human freedom in the future and beyond.

     Exile had hours of work left ahead of him, but even duty was put
aside to his prayers. He knelt down on a woven tapestry in front of an
icon of Pyro. He bowed his head and began to pray. As always, he asked
for the strengh to be a better canosapien. He also asked for Pyro to
grant his wish desire to be amoung the first to bathe in the glory of
the devine's light. He opened his eyes, startled to find himself
surrounded by unearthly light - light so bright it seemed to burn right
through the tent.

               EXILE
Huh? What-the? <Startled by the light>

     He jumped to his feet and ran outside, half expecting to see the
figure of the PERFECT ROVER appear in the heavens, descending, its arms
reaching out for him. What he saw was not nearly as personal, but still
filled him with awe. A ball of fire drifted slowly across the sky.
Small pieces of fire spat from the fireball's tail, wafting down on the
camp like fireflys. One spark drifted close to Exile, and he reached
out for it - but it vanished as it fell into his palm.

               EXILE
Eh, where did it goski? <Totally confused>

     When his sharp ears heard the distant sound of thunder, he
thought first of the ancient prophets who had foretold of Pyro's return,
predicting he would reappear to the sound of trumpets mighter than
thunder. nWo soldiers milled all around Exile, but suddenly his
military mind knew something was wrong. This thunder was the sound of
horse hooves.

               EXILE
Stampede!

     Even as he spoke the batallion's entire herd came down the main
avenue of the camp, scores of pounding hooves tearing up the soil near
the riverbank. Soldiers scattered before them. Exile dove to one side
as the first few horses charged past him. Rising to his feet, the husky
canosapien caught a glimpse of the CHOSEN ONE on a horse's back and knew
he had been FOOLED! The canosapiens were slow to react, but once they
understood what had happened, they charged the stampeding horses with a
vengence. Suprisingly, one of the horses veered toward the nearest
group of Rovers.

               EXILE
Where did he come from? <Recognizes him> Wierdboy?!
               BLITZ
Help! Help! Don't hurt me. I'm on your side.

     Exile waved the soldiers on. Whether Blitz was telling the
truth or not, if he survived the whole event, he would only make things
more complicated. Exile liked things to be simple.

               EXILE
Ready your weapons, fire at will!

     The canosapiens dropped to one knee and pulled back
mini-catapults. Seconds later, the catapults launched fireballs of
their own, fist-size balls of flame that sizzled through the air. One
of them singed the hair on Blitz's neck.

               BLITZ
Hey! <Shrieks> Frozen eye, don't shoot me!

     He pulled tightly on his horse's mane. The steed stood on two
powerful legs for a moment, and then came to a halt.

               BLITZ
Move your a** you 4-legged freak or I bite your tushie!
               JEFF
Yo Blitz! Eat s***. <Charges him with spear>
               BLITZ
Aaaaaaaaaaah! <Screams>
               SPACE ACE
Oh no you don't stupid greyhound. Yeeeeehaaaaw! <Shouts the infamous
Dukes Of Hazzard rebel cry>

     He saw the soldier and veered around, galloping past Blitz and
slapping the horse on the back. The horse whinnied in terror, reared up
and started forward again as the soldier arrived, stabbing at empty air.
 Not slowing a bit, Ace raced past a watch fire and leaned over,
snatching a firebrand from the edge of the flames.

               SPACE ACE
Hmm, this should come in handy, hehehehehehe...<Giggles> Hi, Ho, Silver,
Awwwwwaaaaaaay! <Yells the Lone Ranger cry>

     Then he hurled it into the nearest tent. By the time he'd
wheeled around, the tent was already ablaze, and seconds later the
neighboring pavilions had been lit by sparks, as well. In moments the
camp was burning. The horses reached the water and, hurtling in a
mindless rush, plunged in. In the middle of the pack, the horses ridden
by the humans and Rovers did not hesitate either. McLeach, Zak, and
Richard were across first, with Thunderbolt close behind and Blitz and
Robyn following. Ace was urging his horse to catch up with them now,
but he looked back, realizing that Colleen had fallen behind. He could
see her slowing her horse down as the river approached, the water
illuminated by the still-burning flare.

               SPACE ACE
Come on!

     She did not answer. Beyond her, Ace could see a canosapien nWo
soldier approaching, and by the broad shoulders and angry gait he could
tell it was Exile himself.

               SPACE ACE
Hurry! Before he catches you, move it!

     But still Colleen hesitated. She was terrified of the water.
Finally, her knuckles gripping the horse's mane until they were nearly
white, kicked her horse forward. But at that moment Exile came within
range. He raised his right arm and began to swing a bola around. The
whir of its 3 weights began a high whistle, and then he released it.
His marksmanship was dead on target. It wrapped itself around the legs
of Colleen's horse, and it went down, sending the collie crashing into
the sand. From the far bank, T-Bolt saw his ward fall.

               THUNDERBOLT
EXXXXXIIIIILLLLLLLE! <He roared>

     On the near bank, Exile stopped, recognizing the sound of that
voice.

               EXILE
Comrade T-bolt? <Frozen with terror> Blood-brother!

     That hesitation saved Colleen's life. While Exile just stood
there like a statue, she scrambled to her feet and ran for a steep rock
shelf at the river's edge. With nowhere else to go, she began to climb.
 Suddenly Ace appeared at her side, leaping from the back of his horse
to cling to the rocks just below her. He climbed after her for a
moment, until they were 20 feet up, with the river below them.

               SPACE ACE
Colleen, no time to argue. You have to swim.
               COLLEEN
I can't! I don't know how. <She looked at the water>

     Ace spared a glance back and down. The whole New World Order
was moving with terrifying speed towards them, shouting, yelling,
screaming and waving their weapons in anger & rage. He grabbed the
collie's hand.

               SPACE ACE
I won't let you drown, I give my word of honor. Grab onto me and I'll
keep your head above water, I promise.
               COLLEEN
You, you will...? Promise you won't let me drown?
               SPACE ACE
I promise, now come, quick! Deep breath, count to 3 and jump! You will
go under but I'll pull you right back up again.

     Together they closed their eyes, took deep breaths, held it and
leaped off the rocks, holding tightly to each other and dissapeared
beneath the waters. On the far shore, T-Bolt and the colonists watched
helplessly as the Rover and human vanished beneath the water. Exile's
soldiers reached the riverbank and began to launch fireballs into the
water but the missiles fizzled harmlessly on the surface. While T-Bolt
watched the water anxiously, the humans grabbed the shackles they'd
carried and approached Blitz again. But the doberman slave trader, who
was licking the burn on his shoulders, looked at them with an expression
of sincere resentment on his face.

               BLITZ
No, wait. There's no need for those now.
               ZAK
Says who? <Frowns>
               BLITZ
Says them! <Points to burn marks> They tried to kill me...like I was
nothing but a miserable...<Caught himself>
               ROBYN <Sneers>
Like what? A miserable colonist?

     The canosapien trembled - for once, his bravado and his gift for
gab failing him. He said simply.

               BLITZ
Please, I have nowhere else to go.

     To everyone's suprise, the poacher stepped in front of Robyn and
said to the doberman.

               PERCIVAL MCLEACH
Then you belong with me, friend. <Held out his hand>
               BLITZ
Wha? Friend, me. <Looks shocked>

     Zak surveyed the scene...the New World Order on the far shore
shouting in frustration but unwilling to cross. Thunderbolt scanned the
unbroken surface of the water but failing to find any sign of Colleen or
Ace. Finally he said.

               THUNDERBOLT
We are the only ones who made it. I say we should stick to our own
kind.

     Robyn agreed in her heart. Although dealing with T-Bolt and
Colleen and Blitz on a more equal level had opened her to new
possibilities, she had to think of herself and her friends first. She
said to the german shepherd.

               ROBYN
It's no use. Nothing will ever change.
               RICHARD TYLER
Look! <He pointed into the water>
               EVERYBODY
WHAT, WHAT? <All turn to look>
               RICHARD TYLER
There! I see someone coming out of the water, it...it's Ace! And he's
got Colleen, he saved her!

     Sure enough, rising out of the dark river, sihouetted by fires
throughout the camp, was Space Ace. Hair wet and matted, hung down over
his face, water dripping off his clothes and arms wrapped tightly around
his neck, was Colleen with Ace holding onto her body with both arms. It
was a shock to them all - a human rescuing a Rover, a canosapien holding
onto a human for support and comfort. It was a thing never before seen
in the history of their world. Ace staggered onto shore and then gently
placed Colleen on the ground, nearly collapsing from the effort.
Thunderbolt rushed forward and gathered the collie into his huge arms,
searching for injuries. Robyn pushed past McLeach, Zak & Richard to
Ace, who was soaked through and shaking all over. He bore deep cuts on
his shoulders & neck.

               ROBYN
She hurt you. <Touches the wound>
               SPACE ACE <Winced>
She was holding on pretty tight because I promised her I would not let
her drown even though we were holding our breaths underwater at the same
time to avoid being hit by the flying missiles.

     Robyn carefully gathered a clump of leaves from the ground. She
dipped them in river water and then slapped the matted leaves onto his
cuts.

               ROBYN
I'm sure she was, I've seen how she smiles at you.

     At first, Ace did not understand her meaning: then he reacted
with a start.

               SPACE ACE
She's a collie!
               ROBYN
A female collie.

     Ace shuddered at the image Robyn's words conjured. Then he felt
a sting from his wounds.

               SPACE ACE
Ow! Ouch! Is this stuff supposed to be helping?
               ROBYN
These are goma leaves.
               SPACE ACE
I don't care if they're potpourri, <Said sharply> They sure don't feel
like they're doing me any good.

     Robyn pressed the leaves deeper into his wounds.

               ROBYN
First your body will tingle, then you'll feel dizzy...and then...<Said
seriously>...if you don't start growing fur, you'll be cured.

     Ace started to react, but then finally caught the grin in her
eye. Robyn broke into a full grin and laughed.

               SPACE ACE
Thanks alot, I've seen plenty of unbelieveable stuff today. The last
thing I need is sarcasm. <But he laughed too>

     Colleen seem to grow tense watching the intimate moment between
the two humans. She bounded towards them.

               COLLEEN
Excuse me, ahem! <They both stare at her> Sorry, I hope I'm not
interrupting you two jokers but...the nWo will head downriver until they
find a crossing. We should keep moving.
               ROBYN
Oh, thank you madame collie.
               COLLEEN
You're welcome lady.
               SPACE ACE
I say we keep going like she said. The sooner we find my ship the
better I have to escape from this nightmare world.

     Zak, McLeach, T-Bolt, Blitz, Richard agreed and they set off
again. Unfortunately they did not know they were being watched by two
pairs of eyes. But they were not the eyes of canosapien.

               END OF PART XVII

               Proceed to Chapter 18