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Planet of the Rovers

by Scott Oliverson


     In the next instant the screen blanked out to be replaced by the
symbol of STAR COMMAND and the names of the crew now all dead...

               COMPUTER VOICE

     Ace thought of the skull he had seen. It could have been
Kimmy's skull. Or the skull of her son or daughter, for all he knew.
Once again he buried his face in his hands and wept with grief.

               SPACE ACE
It's my fault, all my fault. Because of me they're all dead. They were
looking for me in the storm and crashed onto the same planet before I
did and now I am the lone survivor of STAR COMMAND. They're all gone.

     Colleen felt tears of her own form in her eyes as she tried hard
not to cry in front of her new friend but couldn't help it. Seeing
Kimmy struck down like that by enraged canines and probably the same
happened to Team Rocket, RoboCop, and Lightyear.

But we're all alive because of you Ace. I'm sorry you lost all your
friends whom you believed were coming to save you.

     Then she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, leaned in close
and began crying too...she wanted to share his pain & grief. Ace knew
she was trying to make him feel better, but when he glanced at her
gloved hands and then at her, he couldn't help thinking that the
trade-off seemed miserably unfair. And yet she felt sorry for him
because of what happened to his friends. And he promised to take her
home, if he ever returned that is. He studied the readouts on the
command console.

               SPACE ACE
There's a little power left in one of the fuel rods.

     Robyn looked at him nervously. The words meant little to her,
but the tone in his voice told her everything.

You're trying to find a way to leave us.
               SPACE ACE
I've been away from home for a thousand years. By now my parents must
be worried sick, believed I died or got lost in space and never coming
home again. Probably got the BAD NEWS from STAR COMMAND's headquarters
when all communication was lost from the starship. I've betrayed them
all, let them all down.

     He sat on the bridge of the STAR COMMAND for a long time.
Decayed as it was, damaged as it was, it was still his closest link to
home, and he did not want to leave. He spent time checking and
rechecking the ship's diagnostics, but the truth was there was little to
be done. What was damaged was beyond his ability to repair, and what
was undamaged was ready to be activated at a moment's notice. Finally,
Robyn appeared at his side again. She put a hand on his shoulder.

Would you come out? There is something you should see. <When Ace
hesitated, she said gently> This ship as you call it has stood here for
a thousand years. It won't go anywhere in the next few minutes.

     Ace nodded and stood. He followed Robyn up the corridor and out
into the afternoon sunlight. The landscape had changed. Where before
it had been barren, now it was filled with human figures. They were
all colonists of this alien planet, dressed in variety of clothing in
different color patterns and carried homemade weapons. All of them
carried packs on their backs. Women toted young children, men bore
long, sharpened spears, sai daggers, bo staffs, nunchakus, tonfa clubs,
swords, and such. All of them wore, on their faces, a look of
undisguised wonder.

               SPACE ACE
Great Scott! Who are they all? Where did they all come from?
               PERCIVAL MCLEACH
Your story is spreading through the towns & villages. They all want to
see the CHOSEN ONE who defies the Canine New World Order.
               SPACE ACE
Send them back. The nWo will massacure them all!
               ROBYN <Shrugs>
Back where? They've left their homes to be with you.

     A few colonists had been following the escapees on their journey
- observing their brave escapades and reporting back to the population
of Alpha Prime (The name of the planet) Ace took a step out of the
shadows of the STAR COMMAND's entrance. As he stepped fully into the
sun, the crowd spotted him. Instantly a cheer rose up.

               ALL THE COLONISTS

     It was a sound not just of applause, but of defiance, as well.
Not just of joy, but also of courage. The sound reverberated in his
chest, but he didn't know what it meant. Not knowing what else to do,
Ace walked out amoung them, waving & bowing, greeting each in turn,
smiling pleasantly, etc. They all reached to touch him, shake his hand
and so forth. On this planet of slave and enslaver, anyone who broke
the mold was BIG NEWS.

     Just then, Cruella De'Vile the maid, appeared before Ace.
Colleen stepped past him and embraced the woman gladly.

You survived! I knew you would. You were always a crafty one. But
what about the little...?
I have her right here dear. <Smiles> Come out my child, it's OK. <Calls
to the girl> It's safe here, no one's going to harm you.

     Colleen knelt down and smiled at the girl Robyn rescued. At
first she ducked her head behind Cruella's knee. But as the collie
cooed at her, waving playfully and making silly faces she peeked out and
giggled, laughed at her. Ace stared in stunned disbelief at Cruella,
who had been afraid to step out of her cage.

               SPACE ACE
You've been spreading the word. Quite a change in you madame.
I was in that cage for a long time. It took me longer to get out if you
know what I mean.

     The whole afternoon was spent telling and retelling the story
that few of the humans could believe. All that mattered ws that
somewhere in the galaxy was a place called Earth where humans did not
live in cages, where they mastered technology far beyond even the
abilities of the Rovers. As he repeated this over and over, Ace finally
understood the meaning of the cheer that had filled him with such
emotion. To them he was not a Star Lieutenant, or a defiant hero. To
them he represented a sense of something lost that lingered only as a
memory - a sense of pride in their own humanity.

     Suddenly a sentry's cry drifted toward him. It was picked up by
others as hidden watchers alerted the night-time camp that a rider
approached. Ace and the others stood as Richard Tyler rode up to their
fire, panic and fear on his face behind his glasses.

I saw them! <Dismounts> Canosapiens on the march.
How many senior Tyler?
As far as I could see T-Bolt. The whole nWo is coming!
Hunter has brought all his legions. That means the council has
capitulated. The general answers to no one but himself now.

     Ace had no idea how many soldiers Hunter could gather, but if it
caused that kind of concerned reaction from Thunderbolt, he was scared.
 He said to Robyn.

               SPACE ACE
Get your people away from here. They can go to the mountains, hide
somewhere while there's still time.
Sorry but they won't listen to me.

     Ace looked shocked. Then realized he was responsible for
bringing the colonists into this savage existence. He would not be
responsible for a massacure, too.

               SPACE ACE
OK, if they come here to follow me, I'll let them follow.

     The humans stood in a crowd, waiting for Ace to speak, tell them
what to do. He mounted his horse and chose his words carefully.

               SPACE ACE
This is a fight we can't win...break up and scatter, I'll draw them off.
 I'm the one they want, the CHOSEN ONE. Let's go now!

     He spun his horse around and willed the people to do as he
commanded. Somewhere in his heart he knew they would not. After so
many generations of slavery, the humans needed to resist. He stopped as
suddenly as he started. Turning he saw an awesome sight. The colonists
had not moved. They remained silently as they had been, refusing to
give up the bit of hope they had gathered from this experience. Ace
galloped back to Robyn. He didn't know if he was up to the task of
leading a rebellion. He didn't know if his life was worth risking for
people he never met before in a few short days.

               SPACE ACE <Sighs>
They don't understand. It's over, finished. There's no help coming.

     Robyn looked deeply into his eyes. She saw the hero in him.
She saw the spark he gave to her people, and she appreciated it. She
touched her hand lightly to Ace's face.

But you a GOD from the heavens. That's why they want to
stand by your side and fight with you against the nWo.
               SPACE ACE
Oh good grief. <Rolls his eyes> Well, <Thinks quickly> if they want to
stand up against the enemy and fight for their rights of freedom &
independence from the Rovers then so be it. <Calls to the colonists>
Listen up everybody! <They all stare at him> You wish to fight back,
take back what's yours? <All heads nod yes> You are tired of being
bullied, taunted, teased and abushed by BIG BULLIES like the New World
Order? <Again all nod> Then I will help you destroy the nWo! For they
too destroyed my friends, my allies I'll never see again.

     He gestures to the ruins of STAR COMMAND.

               SPACE ACE
I must avenge their deaths, not allow them to die in vain because of
me...So, are you all with me? <Everybody shouted "WE ARE WITH YOU CHOSEN

     The colonists all took up the chant "DEATH TO THE NEW WORLD

               END OF PART XXI

              Proceed to Chapter 22