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Planet of the Rovers

by Scott Oliverson

CHAPTER XX

     Space Ace didn't know how long he sat there in the semidarkness
of the tunnel. He was miserable and it showed on his face as he cried
again and again, face buried in his hands, tears running down his
cheeks.

               SPACE ACE
Dear lord, oh god. This can't be real, it can't be happening to me, not
now, not now! <Sobs> What happened to my shipmates?!

     The ship that should be arriving to rescue him had crashed here
thousands of years before. That island of hope, the rock of rescue to
which he'd clung, had sunk. It was now a ghost ship of his former crew.
 Eventually, though, life roused him. He had been reduced to the same
primitive level as the humans he met on this world, but like them, he
resisted the urge to lie down amoung the old bones and die.

               SPACE ACE
I must find out how the crew perished, did they survive the crash? If
so, where are the dogs, the students we brought with us? And how did
Buzz, James, Jessie, Kimmy and RoboCop die!

     He staggered down the hall to a "CAVE" that was once a room.
There were small caves set into the walls, and Ace knew immediately
where he was. THE ANIMAL LIVING QUARTERS. Against one wall, Ace saw
the remains of a sign that he had read either three days or 30 thousand
years ago. It had once read "CAUTION: LIVE ANIMALS" But most of the
letters had faded away, and only a few remained. CALIMA. Ace staggered
on to meet his final destiny.

     Eventually his feet carried him to a dead end. The wall before
him looked like it was made of rock and dirt, but Ace knew that
shatterproof glass lay somewhere beneath. With his bare hands, he
chipped away at a section of dirt until he saw the hand scanner. On a
whim, he blew dust off the scanner and pressed his hand against it.

               SPACE ACE
Well, here goes nothing. Open sesame!

     For a moment, there was nothing. Then a sound whirred out of
the scanner. The wall began to shake. Suddenly it rolled back,
shrugging off untold thousands of years, dust, muck. Awestruck,
delighted, miserable all at once, Ace staggered onto the bridge of the
STAR COMMAND. Robyn & Colleen found him there, lost in thought. They
moved hesitantly, as frightened by this place as Ace was warmed by it.
They moved to either side of him on the bridge, which posessed a light
of its own.

               ROBYN <Whispers>
What...what is it?
               SPACE ACE
It, it's my ship. The STAR COMMAND or what's left of it anyway.
<Gestures around the bridge>
               COLLEEN
But these ruins are thousands of years old.

     Ace shook his head. It was impossible. All of it was
impossible.

               SPACE ACE
I was here...just a few days ago.

     He moved over to a control board - or rather to a mound of earth
that hid a control board. He dug away six inches of soil until the
command keyboard appeared. Ace lit it up with a few touches. A date
popped onto the top screen, it read: "5021.946"

               SPACE ACE
Oh my god! <Breathes in horror>

     He worked the board. More lights went on all around the room.
Robyn & Colleen watched as if in a dream. Ace found the tracking lever
and activated the scanner.

               SPACE ACE
Now I shall have my answers to this riddle or puzzle.

     On the small screen before him, he saw a graphic display of the
current scan. The signal it displayed was the mate of the one picked up
by his Messanger box.

               SPACE ACE
Whoohooa, great scott! This is what my Messanger was picking up. The
STAR COMMAND. <Confused> But how could this all happen? What had
brought the STAR COMMAND here? <Asks himself>

     He moved to another section of the bridge and began to excavate,
finally tearing away a chunk of rock to reveal a different command
station.

               COLLEEN <Curious>
What are you doing now?
               SPACE ACE
Accessing the database. Every ship keeps a visual log - a way for them
to tell their story from start to finish. And maybe a way for me to
find out what became of my crew.
               COLLEEN
But it can't still work, can it?
               SPACE ACE <Shrugs>
This ship has a nuclear power source with a half-life of forever. In
theory, all the operating systems should work.

     He watched the board come to life and summoned the data log.
The wall before them lit up, shocking and blinding everyone else in the
room. This "CAVE" that had been dark for centuries was now bathed in
bright light. The screen sputtered and flared, not because it
malfunctioned, but because the images in the log were disjointed or
corrupted. First came the shadowy figures appearing IN and OUT of the
screen through the static and a frantic, scared voice calling out...

               UNKNOWN VOICE
Mayday...mayday!...help us...massive turbulence...request
instructions...mayday, mayday!...

     Robyn, Colleen, Zak, Richard, McLeach & Blitz stared in
confusion and puzzlement at the voices and images wondering "WHAT WAS
THAT ALL ABOUT?" Then the system automatically searched back for the
next undamaged bit of information. It stopped, suddenly, and Ace found
himself looking at TEAM ROCKET! Jessie and James the two former Pokemon
thieves and friends of Ace. He hit the PAUSE button as Blitz said.

               BLITZ
Who are they? Friends of yours?
               SPACE ACE
Yes, they used to work with me on STAR COMMAND long ago. Jessie & James
known as TEAM ROCKET.
               THUNDERBOLT
Why do they call themselves that name? <Curious>
               SPACE ACE
How should I know? <Frowns> They used to experiment with the canine
students onboard our ship, <Explains> we would train them to live and
work in outer space, piloting survey pods into space to seek out
intelligent alien life on other planets and such.
               ZAK
Very interesting...dogs trained to live in space.
               COLLEEN
Blimey, <Rolls her eyes> I didn't know.
               SPACE ACE
That's because you <Points to her, Blitz and T-Bolt> were once former
members of the crew. But so much time has passed that you forgot all
about the future or what happened after the crash of this ship that is
if you survived.
               BLITZ
What?! You mean we were on this ghost-ship when it fell?
               THUNDERBOLT
Impossible senior!
               SPACE ACE
See for yourself canines, behold. <Hits the PLAY button>

     Once again the images of James & Jessie came online as both TEAM
ROCKET scientists began speaking. They looked badly burned and scarred
as if surviving the crashlanding and post-crash fire.

               JAMES ROCKET
We were searching for a pilot, lost in an electromagnetic storm...when
we got too close, our guidance systems all went offline...
               SPACE ACE
You couldn't find me. Because I was punched forward through time.
               JESSIE ROCKET
We've received no communications with Earth since we crashlanded. This
alien planet is uncharted and uninhabitated...we have no idea what
galaxy this world is in, or if there are any lifeforms...I hope they are
friendly and not hostile...

     Robyn, Zak, Richard & McLeach frowned a little. They didn't
like the sound of that...ALIEN LIFEFORMS INDEED!

               JAMES ROCKET
We are trying to make the best of it. The dogs we brought along have
been very helpful in trying to repair as much damage to the ship...they
are stronger and smarter than we imagined.

     Colleen shifted uncomfortable at the sound of this, so too did
Blitz and Thunderbolt.

               JESSIE ROCKET
Unfortunately...Lightyear died in the crash, <Ace's face went white with
horror> did not survive. RoboCop was killed too, all his systems
malfunctioned and we lost him...We, myself, James and Kimmy are the lone
survivors of STAR COMMAND, without Ace...lost in space forever...

     Ace almost felt another scream rise up inside his body while
sitting frozen in his chair (Buzz Lightyear's command chair) but fought
it back down. The image dropped away into static and garbled viuals.
He scrolled forward, looking for the next uncorrupted data file. The
static was replaced by the image of Dr. Kimberly - but not as the young
redhead woman Ace had known. Her hair was now silver and gray, her face
looked careworn. There were noises in the background like the sound of
heavy hands pounding on a door.

               SPACE ACE
Kimmy...<Whispers his friend's name> What happened to you?
               KIMBERLY
The others have fled with the children to the mountains and forests <She
was saying> The dogs are out of control. I have no idea what made them
turn against us and strike down Lightyear & RoboCop, killing them before
they could stop them, now Team Rocket is gone too.

     Again Ace's face froze with horror at the sound of that, not
Jessie & James! Killed by the rampaging dogs?

               KIMBERLY <Continues>
One male named Pyro, who I raised myself as a puppy, has taken over the
pack. He's extremely brutal.

     An especially loud BOOM made her flinch, and her voice cracked,
but she went on.

               KIMBERLY
We have some weapons but...I don't know how much longer we'll last.

     She glanced over her shoulder. A look of resignation settled
over her. She was a woman who just seen death coming for her and knew
there was no escape.

               KIMBERLY
Maybe I saw the truth when they were young and wouldn't admit it. We
taught them too well. They were apt pupils.

     There was a sudden, disjointed blur, and four growling dogs
swept across the camera image. Dr. Kimberly vanished but not before
screaming in terror before her cries were cut off by the sounds of
biting, tearing, snarling, etc.

               KIMBERLY
Pyro! No, no stay back...stay away from me, I warn you! Don't
you...no, no Pyro! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
               SPACE ACE
KIIIIIIIIMMMMY! <Screams her name>

     Then suddenly a large canine appeared directly in the camera
lens and let out a massive roar. A paw covered the lens, and all images
stopped.

               END OF PART XX

               Proceed to Chapter 21